the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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rerural: notes on engaging with our towns

gaspesie

By Samuel Oslund

Urban-rural disconnect, elite-working class divide, pancakes vs waffles, oh the ever increasing list of simplistic binaries that are the focus of so much airtime these days! It seems the ‘enemies’, whichever side your on, are pretty clear.

Or are they? Perhaps the very nature of ‘Othering’ each-other is the surest ways to deepen rivalries while distracting us from the real architects of oppression.

In the after-wake of the Occupy movement many of us were left with questions of how to make actual change happen. It’s still debatable whether Occupy was a ‘success’, but one very important thing we learned from that movement was just how inaccessible and out of touch those in power have become. Given how removed we are from the highest seats of decision making, the traditional forms of political engagement have become, at best, a way to prevent things from getting much worse, a status quo with a downward leaning trajectory. Continue reading


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know your abattoir: there’s a shortage of local slaughterhouses, and it’s kind of a big problem

764px-willem_bastiaan_tholen_-the_slaughterhouse_sun

The following cross-post comes from Field Notes from Maggie’s Farm, the blog from the Learn to Farm Program at the Farm School, and serves as an announcement of an exciting ongoing future partnership between this program and the Greenhorns Blog. Today, Farm School student Sophie Mendelson gives us a compelling run-down of the current quiet bottleneck crisis in sustainable meat– and what to do about it. 

Now in its 28th year, the Farm School in Athol, MA provides comprehensive educational programming in agriculture for youth, visiting schools, and adults. (Read more on their programming here!) Watch for more original posts on this blog from Sophie Mendelson, a student in their Learn to Farm Program, talented writer, and past and future farmer.

Know Your Abattoir: How to Keep Sustainable Meat Sustainable
by Sophie Mendelson

If consumers want local meat, they need to go to bat for local slaughterhouses.

At Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, MA, they play classical music on the kill floor. Cattle carcasses—seemingly as big as dinosaurs—hang by the hock from metal hooks fitted to a track in the ceiling that winds around the perimeter of the cathedral-like room. As the carcasses move along the track, they are divested of their blood, their skins, their internal organs, their heads, their hooves, and ultimately their integrity as a saw divides the animals neatly down their line of symmetry. This is how a “side” of beef is made.

The door to the holding pen opens and there is a great rattling as a cow enters the first segment of the indoor chute. A worker steps forward to urge the animal into the final compartment of the stunning pen, but this is a smaller cow, and instead of proceeding smoothly through the Temple Grandin-designed system, it begins to turn in the chute—an option not available to a larger animal. The worker attempts to redirect by prodding the cow from behind; metal clangs as the animal presses against the bars in resistance. The worker prods again, with little luck.

Noticing the commotion, another worker makes his way over to the chute. Instead of pushing from the rear, this man approaches the cow’s head. He reaches through the bars and strokes the cow’s chin. The animal stills. The man leans forward and appears to whisper something to the cow. Then, gently, he takes the cow by the ear and guides it into the stunning pen.

Continue reading


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know your chocolate: a resurgence in small cacao farms in Costa Rica

cacao-seed

Photo Credit: Yellow Seed

The 20th century history of growing cacao in Costa Rica is a sad yet familiar story. Large corporations moved in, bought large swaths of land, and insisted on growing only a small number of cacao varieties. These varieties were extremely productive, but not as unique and tasty as others. This industrial, undiversified method of growing cacao lined the pockets of these large corporations for decades, but they had no answer to an aggressive fungus that wiped out their crops and led to a collapse in the industry in the 1970s.

Luckily, throughout this destructive era, small farmers saved and passed down native cacao seeds that could still thrive on the island. Fast forward to the present day and a booming global chocolate industry, small farmers (with the help of trustworthy B-Corporations) have led a resurgence in growing cacao in Costa Rica.

Small farmers to the rescue!

Yellow Seed, a non-profit “conscious trade project”, tells the whole story HERE. Check it out!


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in defense of hydroponics

national_organic_program

The latest post in our ongoing discussion about the inclusion of hydroponics in the National Organic Production standards comes from Helen Lee, a sustainability specialist, consulting and promoting local and sustainable businesses who currently works as a brand ambassador for a maple water company and holds a Master of Science degree in Sustainable Food Systems from Green Mountain College in Vermont. While her opinions diverge from the Greenhorns’ stance that hydroponics should not be included in organic, we’ve reprinted her submission here today on account of its well-researched facts and the spirit of lively debate. Also, of note, another nuanced opinion in favor of hydroponic inclusion comes from Food Hub manager Michael Powell and appears in the comments section here.

I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree with Matthew Hoffman’s opinion. I have recently obtained my MS in Sustainable Food Systems and, at Green Mountain College, I studied with one of the people who helped write the original NOP standards.

Hydroponics is neither the ultimate nor the hackneyed solution to solving our current food system crises. A better question to pose would be, “when and how do hydroponic systems fit into a sustainable food system?”

It is a fallacy to think that any system, hydroponic or otherwise, can ever be fully removed from its surrounding environment or from the rest of the supply chain. From the construction materials used to the resources utilized in production and distribution, everything is ultimately connected.  There can be no one ultimate solution in such an interconnected ecosystem. Furthermore, it is misguided to think the NOP standards specifically focus on soil health or that all organic certifications are equal. Continue reading


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sharpen your pencils: essay contest for a dream farm

farmcontest

Did you have the experience of entering a coloring contest to win an over-sized Easter bunny, or perhaps a pie baking competition for gift basket filled with all manner of goodies? I clearly remember those moments from my childhood – moments that now seem quite unrealistic in terms of how things actually work in the world.

But wait!

Here’s the equivalent over-sized Easter bunny for the young agrarian: Award-winning architect-turned-farmer Norma Burns has decided to give her beautiful farm away in an essay contest.  Norma has been growing herbs, vegetables, and cut flowers on the certified organic, 13 acre farm for the last eighteen years. Continue reading


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fictional playbooks for totalitarian dystopia

Signs of resistance - from bustle.com

Signs of resistance – from bustle.com

The rally of people and movements contra the new President has been incredibly heartening. From the Women’s March, to the 100daysofresistance, we are seeing a powerful civic backlash that America has not witnessed for decades. For years people have conjured up Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm references when talking about the state and leaders that seem have little imagination when it comes to their tactics.

In keeping with that theme of stranger than fiction, one very interesting part of the recent protests is the art and posters that we’re seeing are drawing heavily from literature that foretells eerily similar worlds. At The Woman’s March on Washington there were hundreds of signs that nodded to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale, the amazing feminist take on dystopia. Continue reading


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occupied territory farmers tell their needs

Calendula seed

Calendula seed

From Via Campesina, the organization of peasants and agrarians across the world, comes a list of needs from farmers living and working in the occupied territories of Palestine. In early November a delegation of representatives from social, political, unions, and farmer organizations from Spain met with the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine to discuss needs of the rural communities.

From the statement:

[We see] the path toward Food Sovereignty as a tool for resistance, a way to feed their population and to maintain their culture and identity, to survive the violence of the occupation and to remain on their land – a path that in addition unites them in brotherhood with peasants and farmers throughout the world.

Continue reading