the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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bill nye the science guy now supports monsanto?

“I went to Monsanto and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there, and I have revised my outlook. And I’m very excited about telling the world. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.”   -Bill Nye

In his book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, published just last November, Nye reiterated these points. His concern about GMOs centered mainly on unintended consequences of growing them over large expanses—he cited the example of crops engineered to resist herbicides, which have been linked pretty decisively to the decline of monarch butterflies, which rely on abundant milkweeds, which in turn have been largely wiped out in the Midwest by GMO-enabled herbicide use. Nye praised certain GMOs, such as corn engineered to repel certain insects, but concluded that “if you’re asking me, we should stop introducing genes from one species into another,” because “we just can’t know what will happen to other species in that modified species’ ecosystem.”

Now, Nye’s doubts have evidently fallen away like milkweeds under a fine mist of herbicide. In a February interview filmed backstage on Bill Maher’s HBO show (starting about 3:40 in the below video), Nye volunteered that he was working on a revision of the GMO section of Undeniable. He gave no details, just that he “went to Monsanto and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there.” As a result, he added with a grin, “I have revised my outlook, and am very excited about telling the world. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world!” Click HERE to read more!


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what nobody told me about small farming

Jaclyn Moyer, a small farmer and writer in Northern California, has an article at Salon on not getting by as a small farmer. She describes a situation familiar to many of us, that “90 percent of farmers in this country rely on an outside job, or a spouse’s outside job, or some independent form of wealth, for their primary income.”

Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.

She writes:

“On the radio this morning I heard a story about the growing number of young people choosing to become farmers. The farmers in the story sounded a lot like me — in their late 20s to mid-30s, committed to organic practices, holding college degrees, and from middle-class non-farming backgrounds. Some raise animals or tend orchards. Others, like me, grow vegetables. The farmers’ days sounded long but fulfilling, drenched in sun and dirt. The story was uplifting, a nice antidote to the constant reports of industrial ag gone wrong, of pink slime and herbicide-resistant super-weeds.

What the reporter didn’t ask the young farmers was: Do you make a living? Can you afford rent, healthcare? Can you pay your labor a living wage? If the reporter had asked me these questions, I would have said no.”
Read the rest of Jaclyn’s essay at Salon >>

We’d love to hear your comments on Jaclyn’s piece and your stories. How do you make farming work for you? Do you see outside employment as a long-term necessity or as temporary, a transition point from our modern day urban professions back to farming? What would most help you, as a new, small or someday-maybe farmer?


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monsanto shareholder meeting gets heated!

Article from the Wall Street Journal

Monsanto Co. has long been a lightning rod for debate, but at its annual shareholder meeting Friday, the biotech-seed company was tagged with blame or credit for an even larger number of issues than usual.

The sometimes emotional, nearly two-hour meeting sounded at times like a daytime talk show, minus thrown chairs and shouting. Critics charged Monsanto with responsibility for spikes in diabetes and autism, among other human and environmental problems. Springing to Monsanto’s defense were farmers, its own employees, and a nun who praised its efforts to reduce water use.

The meeting at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters tested CEO Hugh Grant’s stated determination to more directly engage critics of large-scale agriculture and genetically modified crops.

For some environmentalists and advocates of organic farming, Monsanto has become the poster child for a kind of industrialized farming reliant on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, including the company’s trademark Roundup.

Advocacy groups that had purchased Monsanto shares and submitted shareholder resolutions focused on corporate governance used some of their time at the microphone to lambast Monsanto over human health problems, particularly in children, which they attributed to widespread use of Roundup, a formulation of the chemical glyphosate.

“I’m imploring you to choose a new direction,” said Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, who spoke at length. “Stop poisoning our children.”

Monsanto’s Mr. Grant, who noted that he was the father of three children as well, responded that myriad studies had shown “no linkage” between Roundup and the maladies described by Ms. Honeycutt.

To read more about this meeting, click HERE.


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beast burger. made 100% from plants and tastes like a burger

*This article is controversial in certain farmer circles. Farmers who subscribes to holistic, regrarian, Allan Savory or other styles of pro-livestock management outlooks may find this article to be a bit of vegan propaganda. Regardless, we’re putting it on the blog because a burger made from plants that tastes like a burger is pretty cool. *

More protein than beef. More omegas than salmon. Tons of calcium, antioxidants, and vitamin B. In their secret R&D lab, the scientists at Beyond Meat concocted a plant-protein-based performance burger that delivers the juicy flavor and texture of the real thing with none of the dietary and environmental downsides.

It was called the Beast Burger, and it came from a Southern California company called Beyond Meat, located a few blocks from the ocean. At that point, the Beast was still a secret, known only by its code name: the Manhattan Beach Project. I’d had to beg Ethan Brown, the company’s 43-year-old CEO, to send me a sample.

And it was vegan. “More protein than beef,” Brown told me when I rang him up after tasting it. “More omegas than salmon. More calcium than milk. More antioxidants than blueberries. Plus muscle-recovery aids. It’s the ultimate performance burger.” To read the rest of this article, click HERE!


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study shows air and rain samples in the mississippi delta region contained >75% glyphosate in 2007

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 8.58.14 AMThe US Geological Survey concluded a study in which samples of a variety of chemicals were traced in the air and rain around the Mississippi Delta agricultural region. Glyphosate and its degradation product, aminomethyl-phosphonic acid (AMPA), were detected in ≥75% of air and rain samples in 2007.

Read the abstract of this study HERE and for your viewing pleasure, watch this Jeckyll meets Hyde (it’s mostly scary information, but in a heroic food production light) video by the USGS below!


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news from europe: land grabbing

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is currently preparing an own-initiative opinion on land grabbing in the EU and its implications on family farming.

The purpose of the hearing is to take stock of this phenomenon in the EU, to discuss the impacts of this process on family/smallholder farming, employment in rural areas, access to land for young people and environmental resources, as well as to gather views from civil society and relevant stakeholders.

The European Economic and Social Committee has established a study group to explore the issue of land grabbing/ large-scale land acquisitions in Europe. After consulting a range of public, private and civil society actors, and conducting a fact-finding mission in Romania, it organised a public hearing on 4 November in Brussels, to present and discuss the preliminary draft opinion “Land grabbing – a warning for Europe and a threat to family farming”.

The latter clearly identifies “increasing globalisation and the ideology of the free movement of capital” as a key factor of land grabbing. It highlights:

  • How land grabbing leads to the decline of the European model of family farming, rural depopulation and the correlated decline of jobs, biodiversity and food security.
  • It asks for greater regulation of land ownership and land use.
  • It calls on the European Parliament and the Council to discuss whether the free movement of capital with regard to farmland should be unrestricted, to investigate the impact of various EU policies on land concentration and to encourage a transition from industrial scale to smaller production units.
  •  It asks for member states to be allowed to set up an upper limit for the acquisition of farmland and to establish state institutions which would study and monitor land ownership and uses.

To read more of this article, click HERE


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great press!

New Life at Sonoma County’s Historic Granges
by Mary Callahan for The Press Democrat

grange

A surge of interest in natural foods, local sourcing and environmental sustainability is bringing new life to the Civil War-era Grange movement, driving participation and restoring its relevance among modern folks yearning for connection to one another and to the food they consume.

The Sebastopol Grange — part of the nationwide farmers alliance that spans 147 years of agricultural development, economic expansion and vast social change — is among the groups that are thriving, its membership surpassing 200 people just a few years after its existence was threatened.

“It’s a process of revitalizing community,” President Jerry Allen said. “It’s going on all over, and it’s sure going on here.”

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