the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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pint-sized tea estates

tiny-tea-farm

Photo Credit: Subrata Nagchoudhury

When we normally think of tea farms, we picture massive estates and thousands of acres of that familiar dark-leaved perennial shrub. In North Bengal, however, creative farmers, gardeners, and entrepreneurs are both thinking outside and shrinking down the box. Subhash Sarkar, a retired government worker, is leading the charge:

While this region in North Bengal has always been associated with tea, small gardens like that of Sardar, measuring between an acre and 25 acres, are a relatively new feature and are rapidly coming up. Their owners say that if an acre of paddy yields Rs 6,000 a year, a tea plantation of the same size fetches them at least double the amount if not more, excluding expenses on labour, fertilizers and pesticides.

With small-scale tea farming looking increasingly feasible and earning farmers twice the payback as rice, the suburbs outside of Bangladesh’s major cities may soon be dotted with productive patches of Camellia sinensis.

Check out the photos and learn more about North Bengal’s burgeoning small-scale tea farms by clicking HERE.


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speaking your truth: in honor of every human being marching in the women’s march tomorrow

audre-lorde-in-front-of-a-007

I once had the great privilege of living for a while with a lovely and formidable witchy nature woman in Maine. She had the following passage from Audre Lorde‘s The Cancer Journals posted on the inside of her bathroom door, and I have since followed suit. I cannot tell you what good it does for the spirit, to read this first thing every morning! But tomorrow morning, oh on this morning of mornings, I wanted others to read this too as we take to the streets to speak our collective truths; may we also  listen as allies to women of color, and may we remember, may we be bolstered by the words of those who have marched before us. 

“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.

I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”


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crop planning resources for farmers

crops_kansas_ast_20010624

‘Tis the season for nailing down your crop plan for the Spring! (Hypothetically, this would have been on our to-do lists for early December ago, but I can’t be the only one whose holidays got the better of her business agenda, right?) Is this your first time crop planning? Looking to upgrade your system? Maybe you’re feeling a little lost or a little down-to-the-wire. Here’s a collection of resources to make the process a little easier:

1. Penn State’s guide to making plans for the season: specifically for CSA farms, but this advice is adaptable to market and whole sale farms as well. Basic, comprehensive, and
2.  “Crop master” spreadsheet to model off of: comprehensive, super-logical, easy to follow, and easy to replicate– provided you are familiar with inserting formulas into spreadsheets.
3. A template that you can edit: a template from Tom Becker of Sunseed Farm, which will potentially save first-time veggie farmers a lot of time and energy: the sheet includes already-made formulas and already input crop information. Note: will have to be adjusted to reflect individual USDA zones.
4. Collection of great links/resources on the subject: “everyone’s brain works differently.”


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another model for financing farm starts

Kristopher Flack from 2015 New Farmers Almanac

Kristopher Flack from 2015 New Farmers Almanac

Let’s talk about money folks.

How do we go about starting farms? Some of the main barriers new farmers face are access to training, access to land, access to funding. We’ve definitely noticed that in the last 10 years there has certainly been an increase in training opportunities, from more farms offering better employment, institutions offering curriculum around sustainable ag, and organizations, with as similar mandate to ours, helping connect budding agrarians.

But land access and funding remain serious challenges. While farmers continue to create novel approaches to financing their operations (CSA’s, community borrowing) we clearly need more recognition and support from the financial industry to help get new farms off the ground. Continue reading

farm hack, atelier


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commons based technology: a glimpse inside l`atelier paysan

farm hack, atelier

Farmer, tool hacker, organizer, and self styled agricultural anthropologist (and, we’re proud to say, a GH blog editor) Samuel Oslund takes us on a journey into les Rencontres de l’Atelier Paysan. Les Rencontres is a yearly gathering of farmers from across France, hosted by our French farm hacking heroes  l’Atelier Paysan (roughly The Peasant’s/agrarian Workshop).  The event is a hands on skill sharing celebration, filled with food, good wine, and some fairly strange music. Continue reading


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big thoughts

Small farmers movements and defending subsistence both depend on a new worldview. We can’t think in a mechanical rational way and personally relate to nature. We also can’t  patriarchy and capitalism and simultaneously do something about today’s sexual division of labor – or colonialism.

Though the revolution is coming from the bottom up (and could only come that way) it still feels great to have an institutional elite reaffirm the coming of a new way of seeing rooted in wholeness and interdependence. Physicist David Bohm takes all the cold scientific abstractions we’ve had jammed in our ears since we were kids and begins making it human.

 


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forget the champagne this NYE: we found lost apple cider

Shacksbury Orchard out of Vergennes, VT is collecting  lost apple varieties and creating remarkably distinctive hard ciders from them. In the best thing since Rodolph came to the Island of Misfit Toys, the orchardists have grafted a Lost Orchard, propagating 12 carefully selected wild and heirloom apple varieties to over 1000 trees. No where near VT? Not to worry! You can find their ciders around the country and even order online.