the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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how to intelligently argue for increasing land access

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The United States is entering a period of significant land transfer; an estimated 400 million acres will change hands in the next 20 years as farmers retire and sell or pass on their land. This is equivalent in size to the Louisiana Purchase and represents half of the farmland in our country.

Running with a crowd of like-minded earthy hippy commie-pinko queer progressives doesn’t always teach one the skills necessary to defend her morals when they are challenged. Which is why I am a big advocate for teaching yourself how to argue points that may seem obvious but— for seemingly mysterious reasons— are not accepted by the population as a whole. Towards this goal, I’d like to share something with you.

This article, co-authored by Ecology Center staffers Leah Fesseden and Dani Gelardi, appeared fabulously in the Greenhorns email inbox last week and concentrates particularly on the historic exclusion of people of color, women, Native Americans, and other disenfranchised communities from access to agriculture land and capital.

We approach a period of time in which both 400 million acres is transitioning from old to new owners and the price of farmland continues to increase dramatically. The issue of barriers to land access is particularly salient. Briefly detailing 300 years of institutional racism, the authors argue that we need to be doing everything in our power to lower barriers to entry for beginning farmers— and particularly those that come from historically disadvantaged populations. They have three suggestions as how best of go about this:

1. Advocate for changes to the farm bill

2. Support local programs like Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), that work to lower the barriers to entry for beginning farmers

3. Support local producers through markets, direct orders, and CSAs

And I’d add one more suggestion: read more!


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merry merry men and maidens of the forest of dean

beet the bullly

Despite the brutish encroach of bailiffs and foresters, farming activists in the UK continue to squat the 40 acres of Yorkley Court Community Farm. Since 2012, forty or so residents have established a biodynamic farm and off-grid settlement of treehouses, greenhouses, and a “sphere of high energy improbability” in the Gloucestershire woodlands.

By all accounts, the rightful owners of the property died in the 1800s leaving no clear heirs to the land. The land had been largely neglected until 2012, when the activists set up shop. This past year, the solicitor trustees sold the land out from under them to a local business man who’d like to evict the residents of Yorkley Court and develop the woodland. Residents have no intention to yield to pressure to leave.

“Many protest sites see people parachute in for a purpose, the land isn’t quite so important,” says resident and unofficial spokesperson Frank White, “We have a connection to the land, one which is shared with the community. We’re taking unused land and living off grid. We’re not anti-this, or anti-that, we’re creating a new form of society, one that is healthy, one that can survive.”

Read the original article here and follow developments at the Yorkley Court Community Farm Facebook page.


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the classic american glyphosate meal

Go to a local fast food joint, get the classic American meal of a double bacon cheeseburger, fries and a soda and you are participating in a glyphosate-based food system. The cows (producers of the beef and milk for the processed cheese product) and the pigs (source of the bacon, all ate genetically modified Roundup Ready corn, soybeans and/or alfalfa.

The bun is made wheat that was sprayed with glyphosate just before harvest. The sweeteners in the bun, the ketchup, and the soda are made from genetically-modified corn or sugar beets. The fries are usually cooked in one or more of the following oils, cottonseed, canola and/or soy – all genetically engineered to resist death by Roundup. Even the bubbles in the soda come from genetically modified corn sprayed with glyphosate!

Currently, almost all non-organic animal products, processed foods, vegetable oils and lots of food additives depend on crops sprayed with glyphosate. To read more about glyphosate and it’s effects, click HERE!


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on decay: dental, moral, and otherwise

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In delightfully unsurprising news for conspiracy theorists, a recent paper published in PLOS Medicine Journal reveals a rather crooked historical alliance between the National Institute of Dental Research and the cane and beet sugar industry.

The distillation of the story is alarmingly familiar: federal health organization caves to pressure from big ag and industry groups, turning a blind eye to risk to Americans’ health.

Thousands of internal industry documents analyzed by the paper’s authors reveal that the Sugar Industry knew as early as 1950 that sugar was a key player in dental decay. In order to prevent dentists from doing what dentists arguably do best (handing out apples on Halloween?), trade organizations attempted to deflect attention from the sugar question towards research on enzymes that reduce dental plaque and a dubious vaccine against cavities.

The study notes that a whopping “78% of a report submitted to the NIDR by the sugar industry was directly incorporated into the NIDR’s first request for research proposals” for its National Caries Program (NCP), whose purported goal was to eliminate tooth decay in America. Meanwhile, the NIDR neglected to call for research that would potentially damage sugar industry interests, and, when the agency launched the NCP, it omitted this kind of research from its priorities.

The Sugar Industry responded to the paper by calling its tactics “‘a textbook’ play from the activist agenda.”

To which we say, “Carie on!”


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how big money buys off criticism

Robert Reich has a recent post called The Big Chill: How Big Money Is Buying Off Criticism of Big Money. It describes the subtle yet insidious ways in which big money controls forums in which conversations of change might otherwise take place, and the silence that is purchased from non-profits and universities who have wealthy donors to please.

Photo of Robert Reich

As Reich writes:

“It’s bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It’s also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money.”

It’s well worth reading. The allies we may think we have may have strings attached.


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labor, solidarity!

Baja labor leaders learned tactics from their efforts in U.S.

From the LA Times

Before Fidel Sanchez led protest marches this month against growers in Baja California, he fought for higher wages from tomato farmers in Florida.

Justino Herrera, who dons an Army fatigue jacket during labor talks, once led a work stoppage against an abusive labor contractor in Oregon.

Eloy Fernandez said he draws from his union organizing experience in California to keep angry protesters in San Quintin from resorting to violence.

“People get rowdy, but we don’t want that,” Fernandez, who helps run a makeshift camp of striking laborers outside a government building, said Thursday. “We just want to show our presence. To show the government that we are raising our voices. That’s how we did it over there.” Click HERE to read more!

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