the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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TPP signing represents corporate wish list; farmers, consumers and the environment lose

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The newly released IATP statement on the Feb. 3 signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership reflects the major flaws with the trade agreement and the growing TPP opposition in the U.S. and around the world. The signing doesn’t mean the TPP is a done deal. It’s now up to Congress to authorize changes to US laws under Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority to make them compliant with the trade deal–a controversial and uncertain process that can still be stopped. Read the statement.


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yeah baby! cover cropping makes the NYT front page

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David Kasnic for the New York Times

I can almost hear organic farmers across the country rolling their eyes, cover cropping: this is news? And, I know, I know, you’ve been doing this for years— but, yes, actually there’s some real good news here: New York Times writer Stephanie Strom’s report, “Cover Cropping: A Farming Revolution with Deep Roots in the Past,” indicates that the tide of mainstream agriculture may be moving towards more sustainable practices.

Case-in-point #1: Some large-scale midwestern grain growers are actively working cover crops into their rotation.
Case-in-point #2: In Maryland, “the state reimburses farmers for the cost of cover crop seed and has been informing them about the impact that fertilizer runoff has on Chesapeake Bay.”
Case-in-point #3: Even Monsanto is investigating cover crops. “Monsanto, together with the Walton Family Foundation, recently put up the money to support the Soil Health Partnership, a five-year project of the National Corn Growers Association to identify, test and measure the impact of cover cropping and other practices to improve soil health.”

We were skeptical of a few of the articles claims– namely that “new” no-till technology contributes to erosion and degrade microbiology in the soil– but we’re still ready to count this article as a victory for all the extension agents and small-scale farmers who have been championing this technology from the beginning.

“We’ve never seen anything taken up as rapidly as using cover crops,” said Barry Fisher, a soil health specialist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the Agriculture Department.


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carbon farming gives hope for the future

From wellnesswarior.org

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The concept of carbon farming is relatively simple. The industrial agricultural system we’ve developed over the last 60 years, while being incredibly productive, robs the soil of carbon and other nutrients. Carbon, in the form of soil organic matter, is the thing that gives soil life. Techniques like cover cropping (never leaving the fields bare), no-till farming (leaving the soil intact while preparing and planting), crop rotations and carbon banking in perennial plants, take carbon from the atmosphere and lock it up in the soil. Soil-1, climate change-0. And the benefits of soil carbon sequestration go beyond reducing GHGs. Using the term “regenerative farming” Debbie Barker and Michael Pollan explain in a recent Washington Post article:

Regenerative farming would also increase the fertility of the land, making it more productive and better able to absorb and hold water, a critical function especially in times of climate-related floods and droughts. Carbon-rich fields require less synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and generate more productive crops, cutting farmer expenses.

In fact, research shows that in some regions a combination of cover-cropping and crop rotation vastly outperforms conventional farming. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

One of the problems, as Eric Toensmeier explains in his upcoming book The Carbon Farming Solution (to be released in February) is that carbon farming is not a one-size-fits-all venture. Cover-cropping may work in the southeast where winters are shorter, but may not work in northern Minnesota, for example. For more farmers to take up these practices, they need the assurance that they will work for them economically, and this type of assurance will come through research. But, research dollars for agriculture in the U.S. are not exactly flowing to sustainable agriculture.

To read more, click HERE!


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from corn-fed to vegetarian to freegan to vegan to meat eater

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Photo by Kristine Leuze

Would you describe yourself as a long-time farmer and environmental activist?

Not at all. I used to be a redneck. I used to race cars and motorcycles and snowmobiles… I was a motorhead. I don’t want people to think I was always like this, because then they’re like “oh, they were just brought up that way by parents that…” it’s like no, no: I was raised by wolves.

I ate nothing but garbage growing up. Until I was probably in my early 20s I ate nothing but shit. Like, garbage, American, supermarket food. When I would go shopping, I would buy the cheapest food I could possibly find, I was literally after the cheapest calories I could possibly find at the supermarket, right up until my mid-20s.

When did that start to change?

Well, I met a girl that I ended up getting married to and she was vegetarian, and so I started eating a vegetarian diet. Which is still completely disconnected and completely clueless as to what your eating and where it’s from, it’s just you’re not eating meat. And that’s where I was at for probably a good eight years, until my early 30s.

Eating shit tons of grain, lots of dairy and cheese, but just no meat.

But then I met a guy in Tasmania that basically just said “Dude, what are you doing?” and kind of told me in a very blunt manner that what I was doing was really not conducive to what I was telling myself I wanted to do, which was actually care. He just told me the blunt truth, and I couldn’t refute what he was saying. It was tough… but, like…

A lot of people, when you tell them the truth, they get pissed off, because their egos can’t handle it, and so they want to dismiss what the person said, but I couldn’t do that in this situation. I was just clueless and when this guy gave me a clue, I couldn’t return to being clueless.

Keep reading HERE.


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a gut feeling

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Last August we shared a New York Times piece on a new and growing body of research that suggests that the bacteria living in the human digestive track plays an intricate role in the production of hormones and regulation of mood. Research featured in that article found a correlation between certain strains of bacteria and psychological woes such as depression and anxiety. One study fed mice a strand of bacteria that made the mice act as “though they were on prozac.” It was awesome and kind of earth-shaking, and if you haven’t read it yet, you probably should.

That all being said, our sweet farming fermentation fanatics, are you ready for this stuff to get even more bananas? Check out this article out of an October edition of the Scientific American. Research explored here showed that fecal transplants between mice were able to dramatically change a mouse’s character. For instance, a bold mouse, when given a transplant from a shy mouse, become shy. A normal mouse, when given a transplant from an anxious human, becomes more neurotic. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

By all accounts, our micro biome is shaped by many factors– from our mother’s experience during pregnancy to whether or not we were breastfed to what kinds of bacteria we encounter in our every day life. We can imagine that research on bacteria might have the potential to explain all kinds of public health phenomena, from chronic depression to the obesity epidemic.

In the meantime, we’re hedging our bets by increasing our kimchi consumption.


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What is it about the ruthless sea? An acculturation in agricultural landscapes, full of flower buds, dewdrops, fresh hay, kittens and baby lambs cannot prepare you for the hard, chilling mechanics of a mechanized fish harvest. To my tender agrarian eyes, the fishing business is brutal. We may call them “stewards of the ocean” but lets face it—they are killing fish.

-Severine on the Alaskan fishing commons in “A Farm Organizer Visits Fish Country: Part II,” for In These Times. Read the rest of the article here!


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why agrarians should care about fishing

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“For many terrestrials, and certainly for me, the ocean and fisheries are a foreign place. We cannot see into the sea and don’t know much at all about what goes on there, except perhaps familiarity with the blanket-term “over-fishing.” Young agrarians of the rangeland know well that a blanket critique—that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service’s policies lead to “over-grazing,” for example—is not enough. Indeed after decades of handing over mining, drilling, grazing and mineral rights on public lands, there’s a flank of the environmental movement calling for privatization of over 400 million acres of public lands. Another flank, the Rainforest Action Network, is calling for a moratorium on the sale of mineral rights on public lands.

We need to look more closely. We need to survey what we already know. And we need to build from there.

Some of us have followed the campaigns against factory fish—the Costco victory against GMO salmonGMO soy oilbeing sold as pelletized fish food and the pollution caused by fish farms. And we have heard hype about aquaculture projects and been confounded by this glamorization of international fish farm development projects. We use kelp supplements for our dairy animals and soil mix, but don’t know much about the controversy behind them. For the most part, we aren’t much connected as producers with fisher people whose fish-meal we farmers buy. (I hope this article may woo a few young farmers to study across the boundary of the seashore and help us discover our common causes.)

So, what’s the difference between a well managed and a poorly managed commons?”

-Severine on the ocean commons, in “A Farm Organizer Visits Fish Country: Part I” for In These Times. Read the whole article here!

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