the irresistible fleet of bicycles


2 Comments

the open source ethos in agroecology

DOC040417

Illustration by Freya Yost

The following paper, submitted to the Greenhorns by Freya Yost, Vice President of A Growing Culture, traces the building blocks of Agroecology (local knowledge, resilience, cultural traditions, working with nature) and analyzes them within the context of our current technological culture. This is a long but compelling piece, scholarly without being a sludge to read, accessible in tone and content, and we highly encourage everyone to read it. 

The basic premise is something that we know intuitively without necessarily having articulated it: that Agroecology is an inherently open source tradition whose knowledge and genetics have been co-opted, constrained, and privatized by for profit– to the great detriment of small farmers and ecological networks. The paper’s author casts our eyes simultaneously forward to the internet age and down to myccorrhizal networks to find hopeful models for creating egalitarian ways of producing and disseminating information to small farmers. The ultimate suggestion here– and it’s one of grave importance– is that those of us who are invested in the success of regenerative and sustainable growing ought also to be deeply committed to the overturning of proprietary development models and privatized knowledge systems. As the author writes:

All these dimensions make farming one of the most demanding and knowledge-intensive professions in the world. Sadly, because farmers are also some of the poorest people on Earth, lack of information can have devastating effects. Entire regions are vulnerable to being forced to adopt proprietary practices. Lack of information access puts farmers’ autonomy at risk. Open is not just an environmental issue, it is also a social justice issue.

The Open Source Ethos 

Open access is an ancient public good. 

Western discourse around open access has largely been restricted to academic, scholarly communications circles. In fact, many friends and colleagues have told me they first encountered open access when, after graduating from university, they were confronted with the fact they no longer had access to school databases; or when online article searches reached the dead-end prompt “click here to pay for access.”

The internet now provides a free platform for sharing knowledge. How is it possible—or even socially just—that so many of us can’t get access to scholarly research? Isn’t society propelled forward by access to the science, literature, and art of the world’s scholars? What if that research is publically funded? These are the primary concerns that drive the open access movement.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

talking empires: cotton and capitalism

Cotton Farmers

Want to dive deep into the relationship between the history of cotton farming, capitalism, and the global economy? Then Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History, is your man. He’s a historian who knows all things cotton and his book was described by the New York Times as:

…a major work of scholarship that will not be soon surpassed as the definitive account of the product that was, as Beckert puts it, the Industrial Revolution’s “launching pad.”

More than that, “Empire of Cotton” is laced with compassion for the millions of miserably treated slaves, sharecroppers and mill workers whose labors, over hundreds of years, have gone into the clothes we wear and the surprising variety of other products containing cotton, from coffee filters to gunpowder.

If you don’t, however, have the time to read all 640 pages of Sven’s book, check out the video in the link below. It’s a recent lecture that he gave at the New School in New York that’s guaranteed to make you more informed and super smart!

https://www.c-span.org/video/?324267-1/empire-cotton


Leave a comment

what an english sheep farmer has to say about rural america

Wood Farm Barn Rustic Weathered Old Barn Wood

“But for my entire life, my own country has apathetically accepted an American model of farming and food retailing, mostly through a belief that it was the way of progress and the natural course of economic development. As a result, America’s future is the default for us all.

It is a future in which farming and food have changed and are changing radically — in my view, for the worse. Thus I look at the future with a skeptical eye. We have all become such suckers for a bargain that we take the low prices of our foodstuffs for granted and are somehow unable to connect these bargain-basement prices to our children’s inability to find meaningful work at a decently paid job.”

James Rebanks in the New York Times op-eds last week explaining why the stakes are so high, but missing all the reasons to hope… (This is the part where we say, YOU, Greenhorns! From your draft-powered farms to your new resilient corporative models, there are a lot of new energy in rural America. And, thank you!)


Leave a comment

thinking like a commoner

think like a commoner, greenhorns

If you’ve not heard of David Bollier, now is as good a time as ever.

Bollier is an author, activist and blogger that spends a lot of time researching and thinking about the commons. He has written a number of excellent books looking at ways in which economies and communities can transition to commons based systems.

From his latest book Think Like a Commoner:

 In our age of predatory markets and make-believe democracy, our troubled political institutions have lost sight of real people and practical realities. But if you look to the edges, ordinary people are reinventing governance and provisioning on their own terms. The commons is arising as a serious, practical alternative to the corrupt Market/State.

The beauty of commons is that we can build them ourselves, right now. But the bigger challenge is, Can we learn to see the commons and, more importantly, to think like a commoner?

Recently Bollier gave a lecture in Athens about the emerging commons economy in Greece post collapse.

Here is a link to the English lecture.

And here is link to Bollier’s blog.


Leave a comment

save the rainforest: revisiting an old battle

rainforest

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research

Some bad news from a recent article in the New York Times:

A decade after the “Save the Rainforest” movement forced changes that dramatically slowed deforestation across the Amazon basin, activity is roaring back in some of the biggest expanses of forests in the world. That resurgence, driven by the world’s growing appetite for soy and other agricultural crops, is raising the specter of a backward slide in efforts to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change.

Large American-based food giants such as Cargill are fueling this destruction, as they look for increasingly remote areas, where regulation and protection laws are limited, to source their crops. There’s also some next level hypocrisy going on, as Cargill and other similar companies had signed deals in recent years promising to curb their role in deforestation.

You can read the entire article HERE (highly recommended!), but this is a reminder that no cause can be forgotten: stay vigilant! Also, give some thought to your soy consumption, in its many iterations:

A major culprit is the cultivation of soy, which has jumped more than 500 percent in Bolivia since 1991, to 3.8 million hectares in 2013, according to the most recent agricultural censuses. Little of that soy is consumed domestically. The vast majority is processed and exported as animal feed in a commodities trade that serves a global appetite for hamburgers, chicken and pork.


Leave a comment

california is blessed with rains, but what about other regions?

sahara-mali

Photo Credit: Jeanne Menjoulet

After 5 years of severe drought, a series of winter storms has drenched and flooded California. Over 40% of the state has had its drought restrictions lifted and the Sierra’s have been swallowed by snow.

But what about other regions in the world? Climate change and severe drought have wreaked havoc across West Africa. Subsistence farmers are finding they simply can’t get by, causing mass migration and dangerous treks across the Sahara and through destabilized countries. A recent article in the New York Times, with personal stories, maps, videos, and stunning photography, tells the whole story.

“Climate change on its own doesn’t force people to move but it amplifies pre-existing vulnerabilities,” said Jane McAdam, an Australian law professor who studies the trend. They move when they can no longer imagine a future living off their land — or as she said, “when life becomes increasingly intolerable.”

Folks, this is a must read, especially for those interested in global agricultural and climate issues!

Check it out HERE.


Leave a comment

agrarian economics: a letter from a young farmer

kevin-morin-photo

I met Kevin Morin in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, a town on the outskirts of Montreal, and home to some of the last vestiges of agricultural land on the island metropolis. At the time Kevin was working for the Cooperative farm Tournesol. Recently Keven and Nikaela Lange both won the Beingessner Award for Excellence in Writing for essays outlining hopes for the new farming economy. Below we have reprinted Kevin’s essay with permission from National Farmer’s Union and you can find both texts on the NFU site.  

Kevin’s letter poses a question that I think many of us ask each day as we sweat and plant, weed and harvest, email clients, pour over spreadsheets and budgets, then pass out exhausted: is the current system of economic evaluation compatible with ecological agriculture and a sustainable future?  This last week I had the good fortune of seeing Dr. Vandana Shiva give the keynote address at NOFA Vermont and once again I was reminded that, like Gandhi’s call for spinning and making clothing by hand, farming is a simple but profoundly revolutionary act. 

My Future Vision for Canada’s Farming and Food System

by Kevin Morin

While talking about backyard cereal breeding, an old Cape Breton farmer once told me that the agriculture there was so far back that now they’re ahead. And if you were to have a cereal killer oatmeal stout from the Island’s own Big Spruce Brewing, you may be inclined to believe that.

I dream of a farm of my own someday, cows in the pasture, neat rows of cabbage…. Think of the rainy days spent in the woodshop, the brisk November mornings crouching in the greenhouse, a woodlot to keep me busy over winter and spring. To farm such a mixed enterprise like that of our grandparents is no romance. Continue reading