the irresistible fleet of bicycles

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going to seed

Basket with a variety of green beansphoto from EdiblePortland

Anthony said: Look at this bean. We need several things from this bean. We need this bean to stand up straight, to be interested in climbing the pole like it’s supposed to. Not, I’ll climb the pole some years, and other years, it’s too much work. We need this bean to be able to be picked by hand. We don’t need this bean to be strong enough to be thrown into a huge truck, transported, and put through some heavy machinery. We need it to be soft enough to be edible—you want it to taste great. We need a short season, because this is where we live. We need this bean to be comfortable in our zip code. And I never thought you could ask all of these things from one plant.

An interview by Lolo Milholland in The Lucky Peach goes in depth to a remarkable seed savers strategy. Her interview with Anthony shows innovation and precession in the fine world of plants. Read the full feature article Going To Seed!

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the food shortage lie

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The Food Revolution and the War for Our Minds
BY JONATHAN R. LATHAM, Rural America In These Times

By conventional wisdom it was excellent news. Researchers at Iowa State University demonstrated in 2012 that organic farming methods can produce yields almost as high as pesticide-intensive methods. Other researchers, at the University of California—Berkeley, reached a similar conclusion. Indeed, both findings met with an enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but only if one misses a deep and fundamental point: that even to participate in such a conversation is to fall into a carefully laid trap.

The strategy of Monsanto’s PR—and that of about every major commercial participant in the industrialized food system—is to promote a single overarching big idea: that only industrial producers in the food system can produce enough for the world’s future population.

To be sure, agribusiness has other PR strategies, such as claiming agribusiness is “pro-science” and its opponents are “anti-science,” but the main plank has for decades been to create a cast-iron moral frame around the need to produce more food.

If you go to the websites of Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta, Bayer and their bedfellows, they immediately raise the “urgent problem” of who will feed the expected global population of 9 or 10 billion in 2050.

Likewise, whenever these same organizations compose speeches or press releases, or videos, or make any pronouncement designed for policymakers or the populace, they hype the same urgent problem. It is their Golden Fact, their universal calling card. And as far as people who are unfamiliar with the issue are concerned it wins the food system debate hands down, because it says, if any other farming system cannot feed the world, it is irrelevant. Only agribusiness can do that.

Yet this strategy has a disastrous foundational weakness. There is no global or regional shortage of food. There never has been and nor is there ever likely to be. India has a superabundance of food. South America is swamped in food. The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Europe are overflowing with food. In Britain, like in many wealthy countries, nearly half of all row crop food production now goes to biofuels, which are in essence a scheme to dispose of surplus agricultural products. China isn’t quite as overwhelmed with food, but it still produces enough to export and grows 30 percent of the world’s cotton. No foodpocalypse there either.

Even some establishment institutions will occasionally admit that the food shortage concept—now and in any reasonably conceivable future—is bankrupt. According to experts consulted by the World Bank Institute there is already sufficient food production for 14 billion people—more food than will ever be needed. The Golden Fact of agribusiness is, at bottom, a lie.

Continue full article here!

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article: west coast grange wars


On one hand you have an established order that, while quick to conjure its Populist origins, appears threatened by the kind of grassroots change it once championed. On the other, a contingent of rogue Grangers—progressives decidedly less interested in nostalgia than their national counterpart—attempting to breathe new life into an aging system that doesn’t seem to want the CPR.

[ …]

“There’s a contestation around what the Grange will be,” says Von Tscharner Fleming. “Right now, the Grange present is captured by a pretty corporate voice. The original Populist voice of the Grange is not present on the national level. We called our project Grange Future because we’re claiming an interpretation. We’re saying: the future’s a long time and we’re going to be here and we can use these buildings and this infrastructure.”

In a captivating article feature on In These Times, John Collins takes on the history of The Grange, the recent polemical schism between the California Grange and the national organization, and Grange Future.

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do farmer’s want to be sexy?

photo credit: Donagh Heffernan/ Irish Farmer Calendar

How Do Real Farmer’s Feel About Their Industry Being Sexed Up?
Lori Rotenberk, Grist, 

Donagh Heffernan was living his life, running a dairy farm in Ireland’s scenic Philipstown Cappawhite County Tipperary, when he got a call informing him that he was sexy. Ciara Ryan, the voice on the other end, had run an ad in search of good-looking, good-natured, and willing agricultural men to pose for the Irish Farmer Calendar, a project she’d hatched to help raise funds for Bothar, a charity dedicated to overcoming world hunger and poverty via livestock production.

Heffernan’s sister, Bird, had nominated her 25-year-old brother, who was at first aghast, but soon fell for the cause. He appeared in the calendar somewhat shirtless, dressed as a scarecrow stuffed with straw, and also as an artiste, bare-chested in a field with an easel.

Ryan sold out the 2,500 copies of the 2010 calendar, and popularity grew each consecutive year. This year’s edition sold more than 5,500 copies for 10 Euro (about $11) apiece, with a quarter of those to the U.S. Entries are now underway for 2016, and Ryan is talking to an American literary agent about a photo book.

“We are a farming nation and the photos include lovely country scenery, showing Ireland at its finest — and Irish men at theirs,” Ryan says, but “these farmers are very shy, so it’s difficult to get them to apply.” Read the full article.

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sidebar about sea urchins by janelle orsi, our lovely lawyer


A commons cannot survive within conventional structures, which are highly permeable and designed for ease of buying, selling, and profit-maximization […] How do we structure commons governance to prevent corruptions, to serve all stakeholders, and to function efficiently?

Read On lawyers and sea urchins, a sidebar for the latest edition of STIR magazine! You can pre-order the latest issue, Law and Social Change here.

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usda develops label to verify “gmo free”

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

USDA’s move comes as some consumer groups push for mandatory labeling of the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The certification is the first of its kind, would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “USDA Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the new certification in a May 1 letter to USDA employees, saying it was being done at the request of a “leading global company,” which he did not identify. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

A USDA spokesman confirmed that Vilsack sent the letter but declined to comment on the certification program. Vilsack said in the letter that the certification “will be announced soon, and other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”

Companies can already put their own GMO-free labels on foods, but there are no government labels that only certify a food as GMO-free. Many companies use a private label developed by a nonprofit called the Non-GMO Project. The USDA organic label also certifies that foods are free of genetically modified ingredients, but many non-GMO foods aren’t organic. To read more, click HERE!

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the joy of slow computing

Well-meaning people have, for a good many years now, been forming a “consciousness” about where their food comes from, who produces it, and how. This gets tedious. But it’s also sensible, given how important food is in our lives. Computers, it would seem, deserve similar attention. They are constant companions; they shape our experience. Many of us entrust to them not only the results of our life’s work, but the time we spend carrying it out. Perhaps they’re worthy of a similar tedium, too.

Click HERE to read more…


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