the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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the soil commons

Many of the most widely used antibiotics have come out of the dirt. Penicillin came from Penicillium, a fungus found in soil, and vancomycin came from a bacterium found in dirt. Last year, researchers from Northeastern University and NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals and their colleagues identified a new Gram-positive bacteria-targeting antibiotic from a soil sample collected in Maine that can kill species including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Moreover, the researchers have not yet found any bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic, called teixobactin. Their results are published  in Nature.

To read more of this article and the innovative (and biodiversity driven) bacteria culturing method, click HERE!


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yikes!!!!! the future of agriculture or science fiction?

In a recent ECONOMIST article, the future of agriculture is controlled by computers, genetic manipulation, big data, and the assumption that we humans know what is going on with soil-plant relationships (*sarcasm*). This article reads scarily of science fiction.

“Farms, then, are becoming more like factories: tightly controlled operations for turning out reliable products, immune as far as possible from the vagaries of nature. Thanks to better understanding of DNA, the plants and animals raised on a farm are also tightly controlled. Precise genetic manipulation, known as “genome editing”, makes it possible to change a crop or stock animal’s genome down to the level of a single genetic “letter”. This technology, it is hoped, will be more acceptable to consumers than the shifting of whole genes between species that underpinned early genetic engineering, because it simply imitates the process of mutation on which crop breeding has always depended, but in a far more controllable way.”


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real estate boom pinches a produce supply in the hudson valley

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Photo by Preston Schlebusch for The New York Times 

STONE RIDGE, N.Y. — Apple trees have blossomed, and soon fruit will begin emerging at Elizabeth Ryan’s orchard in the Hudson Valley. Before long, her harvest will head south to Manhattan, where Miro Uskokovic, the pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern, will use it to create an apple and carob cake, while Michael Anthony, the executive chef at the Studio Cafe inside the Whitney Museum of American Art, will turn it into an apple compote spread over pie dough and covered with a streusel.

Ms. Ryan’s apples are also on school-lunch menus and sold at farmers markets all over the city. Her farm, Stone Ridge Orchard in Ulster County, is part of a rapidly expanding pipeline that carries fruits and vegetables from farms across New York State to consumers clamoring for fresh ingredients grown in soil not far away.

But the demand for locally grown foods is colliding with another powerful force: a booming real estate market, particularly in the Hudson Valley, driven by waves of newcomers from New York City, perhaps drawn by the region’s natural beauty, more relaxed pace and less expensive housing. The boom is gobbling up family farms as owners choose to cash in on the surging value of land rather than grapple with the perennial challenges of slim profit margins, high taxes, long hours and fickle weather.

The number of farms in New York State has been declining steadily, to 35,537 in 2012 from 38,264 in 1997, according to the most recent five-year census conducted by the Department of Agriculture. And since 1982, real estate development has swallowed more than 471,000 acres of the state’s farmland, according to data compiled by the American Farmland Trust, a preservation group.

Now a group of New York City lawmakers has teamed up with another preservation group, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, to create a plan to preserve the region’s existing food system. As part of the initiative, lawmakers are seeking for the first time to set aside money in the municipal budget for the preservation of farmland in the Hudson Valley.

“The risk to farmland is a risk to healthy food for New York City residents,” Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, Democrat of Manhattan, said.

Get the full story HERE!


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how rural new mexico shares water during drought

“We have the wrong world view here in the West, the idea of unlimited expansion, and it just doesn’t work,” she says. “I think land-based people who generally live on a small scale know that there’s a limited good. The basic idea is that shortages are shared.” Sylvia Rodriguez, professor emerita of anthropology at UNM

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Photo credit J.R. Logan/Taos News

Norbert Ledoux beams with pride when he sees his acequia brimming with spring runoff on a sunny May morning.

Ledoux, a young farmer from Talpa, has 2 acres of beans, peas and other vegetables planted. Water in the ditch likely means a bountiful harvest. Enough crops to feed his friends and family, with plenty left over to sell at his roadside farm stand.

“This year, we have a such an abundance that we can’t possibly use it all,” says Ledoux. “Everybody is content.”

Three years ago, things weren’t so cheerful.

On this same day in 2013, there was less than one-fifth the flow in this stream, the Río Grande del Rancho, which feeds more than a dozen other acequias — community-operated irrigation ditches that double as political subdivisions in New Mexico. By the middle of June, there was almost no water at all. Amid that devastating drought, acequia leaders revived a water sharing agreement originally drafted to weather the brutal drought of the ‘30s.

At the time, Ledoux was a mayordomo – a ditch boss who monitors and manages an acequia. He says that first deal was struck to help the whole valley get through the dry spell.

“Everybody was losing their crops,” Ledoux explains. “So a few ancestors of mine – uncles of mine and my grandfather – got together with the mayordomos and implemented this water share project.”

Read the whole High Country News article HERE!

 


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premature deaths on the rise in rural areas

Where you live should not determine how long you live. New research shows it does.

Americans have enjoyed increasingly longer lives over time. Advances in medicine, a decline in fatal car accidents, and falling violent crime rates mean we are living longer.

But new research shows a reversal of this trend for some. If you are rich, geography doesn’t matter. Your expected lifespan is still increasing. But if you are poor, geography matters. In parts of the country we see an actual reversal of the trend.

geography of life expectancy map

The trend is also correlated with increasingly fractious politics. The Washington Post found that the places where middle-aged whites are dying fastest are the same places where presidential candidate Donald Trump is performing best.

To read more of this article from the Center for Rural Affairs, click HERE!


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does food tech hurt small farmers?

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Does Food Tech Help Farmers?,”was the central question of a Civil Eats article from last week. Reporter Dave Holt spoke to several small scale CSA and market farmers about their experience with the recent glut of internet startups– from Farmdingo to Good Eggs– asking mainly if e-commerce was good for business. Some farmers said yes, some said no. Most indicated that regardless of the relative benefits and costs of partnering with online distribution companies, doing so is becoming increasingly necessary. In the words of one farmer interviewed, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

 

But the farmers say they were disappointed, when, after being Farmigo’s loyal customer for several years, the company (backed by $26 million in funding) “came into the market we’ve developed over the past 25 years and started competing with us.”

We’d love to hear what you think. Let us know in the comments section if you use or have used an e-commerce platform for marketing and how it worked for you!


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metro buses converted into mobile food markets for low income neighborhoods

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“Back in 2010, the city of Toronto (in Ontario, Canada) decided to launch a program that converts old unused metro buses into mobile grocery stores called Mobile Good Food Markets, and ever since, they’ve been traveling across the Toronto metropolitan area selling affordable fresh food. They have been especially successful (and helpful) in low income neighborhoods.”

Reblogged from The Black and Minority Business Blog. Read the whole post HERE!