the irresistible fleet of bicycles

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apocalypse pig

The last antibiotics begin to fail…


On Thursday, researchers from several Chinese, British and US universities announced in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases that they have identified a new form of resistance, to the very last-ditch drug colistin—and that it is present in both meat animals and people, probably comes from agricultural use of that drug, can move easily among bacteria, and may already be spreading across borders.

This is very bad news. To read more, click HERE.

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bread is broken

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 12.51.33 PMOn the morning of July 13, like most mornings, Stephen Jones’s laboratory in Mount Vernon, Wash., was suffused with the thick warm smell of baking bread. Jones walked me around the floor, explaining the layout. A long counter split the space down the middle. To the right was what Jones called ‘‘the science part,’’ a cluster of high-tech equipment designed to evaluate grain, flour and dough. Jones, who is 58 and stands a daunting 6 foot 5, calls to mind a lovably geeky high-school teacher. He wore dungarees, a plaid shirt, a baseball cap and a warm, slightly goofy smile. Two pairs of eyeglasses dangling from his neck jostled gently as he gesticulated, describing the esoteric gadgetry surrounding us. The 600-square-foot room, known as the Bread Lab, serves as a headquarters for Jones’s project to reinvent the most important food in history. Click HERE to read more!

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plant breeding for local food systems


The rapid growth and co-option of the local agriculture movement highlights a need to deepen connections to place-based culture. Selection of plant varieties specifically adapted to regional production and end-use is an important component of building a resilient food system. Doing so will facilitate a defetishization of food systems by increasing the cultural connection to production and consumption. Today’s dominant model of plant breeding relies on selection for centralized production and end-use, thereby limiting opportunity for regional differentiation. On the other hand, end-user-driven selection of heirloom varieties with strong cultural and culinary significance may limit productivity while failing to promote continued advances in end-use quality. Farmer-based selection may directly reflect local food culture; however, increasing genetic gains may require increased exchange of germplasm, and collaboration with trained plant breeders. Participatory farmer–breeder–chef collaborations are an emerging model for overcoming these limitations and adding the strength of culturally based plant breeding to the alternative food movement. These models of variety selection are examined within the context of small grain and dry bean production in Western Washington.

Read the full study (pdf)

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bread reimagined

The Bread Lab is arming bakers with a whole new set of grains.

Once upon a time, there was white flour and whole-wheat flour, and that was about it. In California, I’d watch my chef friends return from the markets with diverse hauls of amazing produce and think, Wait, what about us bakers?

At Tartine, I’ve always tried to use as many interesting grains as possible, including lesser-known varieties like kamut. (It makes a melt-in-your-mouth chamomile shortbread that puts white-flour shortbreads to shame.) But the alternative grain movement has been really taking off in recent years, thanks to The Bread Lab, run by Dr. Stephen Jones in affiliation with Washington State University. He and his team work with thousands of unique strains of wheat, and over the years have created many new varieties. They select and breed grains that are sustainable and affordable enough for farmers to grow—and delicious enough for chefs, brewers, and consumers to buy. Click HERE to read more!

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hand labor, tractor labor and horse labor: a question of power and scale


By Jelmer Albada

When considering the potential utility of draft animal power on the modern 21st century farm, I like to begin from the perspective of examining those farm models where all the work was done by hand. That hand work was done with a lot of care and precision and with great attention to detail towards the soil and the crops (these methods persist in our times in small scale community gardens and among some subsistence farmers). I have heard about, read about, and also have first-hand experience practicing these cultural gardening techniques involving hand labor and find it useful and inspiring to use these methods as a springboard from which to examine where draft animal power can be most useful and where the hand work can readily be improved upon. My conclusion is that there are many areas where a horse can do a better job in replacing the hand work, and that live horse power will usually not be ”over-kill”, as could be the case by introducing a tractor into a relatively small-scale operation. In this light, the horse could be viewed as a four-legged employee of the farm, always ready to take on the big and small jobs.

Read on here!

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how many bicycles would it take to power the internet?


Oh, just “a mere two billion bike generators, with 8 billion people pedal- ing.” That’s right, as it turns out, the entire population of the earth (and then some!) would need to pedal at once to power the internet by bike generator.

How do we know? Well, we were curious, and so we did an internet search to find that a smart lady named Jane Anne Morris had already asked the question in her essay “Eat, Sleep, Click: The Bicycle-Powered Internet.”

I didn’t check her math, but the logic seems sound. Oh man, guys, this entreating read is  going to make you rethink some things…

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how i edited an agricultural paper (once)

How I Edited An Agricultural Paper (Once)

By: Mark Twain

Friday, Oct 18, 2015, Rural America

I did not take temporary editorship of an agricultural paper without misgivings. Neither would a landsman take command of a ship without misgivings. But I was in circumstances that made the salary an object. The regular editor of the paper was going off for a holiday, and I accepted the terms he offered, and took his place.

The sensation of being at work again was luxurious, and I wrought all the week with unflagging pleasure. We went to press, and I waited a day with some solicitude to see whether my effort was going to attract any notice. As I left the office, toward sundown, a group of men and boys at the foot of the stairs dispersed with one impulse, and gave me passage-way, and I heard one or two of them say: “That’s him!” I was naturally pleased by this incident…

Read on here!


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