Down to Earth is a podcast about hope. As climate change collides with our industrial food system, we focus not on doom but instead on people who are developing practical, innovative solutions. We invite you to meet farmers, ranchers, scientists, land managers, writers, and many others on a mission to create a world in which the food we eat is healthy—for us, for the land and water from which it springs, for the lives and livelihoods of the producers, and for the planet. This podcast is produced in collaboration with the Quivira Coalition.
It’s called protaculture, and Robert Olivier has made it accessible using an invention he calls the “biopod.” The idea is simple: put food waste into an enclosed space with the black soldier fly to bioconvert the food into proteins and fats that can then be used for livestock feed. Unlike composting, the biopod can even be used to convert animals products. The paradigm shift he proposes is this, what if we didn’t need to grow corn and soy to feed livestock? What if we could do it with our food waste alone.
Fair Food: Field To Table is a video project of the California Institute for Rural Studies, a nonprofit research organization whose mission is to “increase social justice in rural California for all residents, building sustainable communities based on a healthy agriculture.” Their research takes a keen look at the often-obscured lives of California farm workers in the form of research reports, videos, and action plans. They form strong relationships with grassroots organizations and farm worker communities in order to “turn research into action.”
Needless to say how important and progressive this work is.
We recently ran a piece from VPR on farmers and the difficulties of accessing affordable health insurance – this is surely a topic that requires some serious thought and discussion in the years to come.
Wrapped up in our general well being is the taboo topic of mental health and as we invest our bodies, savings, and futures into the land, it can be a serious challenge to keep the spirit and mind at peace. Whether you are starting or running a business, changing fields, underpaid, or just exhausted, farming can be incredibly stressful work. So following on this theme we’d like to recommend the Ruminant’s recent episode on farmers and mental health.
The Ruminant is wonderful podcast and blog that discusses ideas, issues, and inspiration for today’s agrarians.
So give yourself and hour, pour glass of wine or warm a cup of milk. curl up and listen in on what is an important conversation for all of us to be having.
One thing that is clear when you look at Oggún’s website, watch its videos, and study its tractor, is that this a no-frills organization. No frills: just results. And that is precisely why we love them and it so much.
In his ever-relevant essay “In Distrust of Movements,” Wendell Berry writes that the local food and land movement must “content itself to be poor,” because, “We need to find cheap solutions, solutions within the reach of everybody, and the availability of a lot of money prevents the discovery of cheap solutions. The solutions of modern medicine and modern agriculture are all staggeringly expensive, and this is caused in part, and maybe altogether, because of the availability of huge sums of money for medical and agricultural research.”
What we see here, in the Oggún tractor, is exactly what kind of practical, pragmatic results come from a thrifty approach. Accessing Cuba’s local food shortage, Cuban-born Horace Clemmons and his business partner Saul Berenthal quickly realized that Cuban farmers needed technology that was simple, rugged, and easy-to-repair. And then they asked, why don’t tractors like this already exist, tractors like the original Allis Chalmers G that farmers in the US used in the 1950s? They suspected that stock-based shareholder business models might be to blame: too much money and the input of too many people with money who just do not understand the problems of small farmers.
So, in the grand spirit of Farm Hack, they used open-source technology to build a tractor with all off-the-shelf parts. Thus, repairs can be done in the field and in small local machine shops. Oggún adapted its business model to keep over-head costs low, partner closely with other local businesses, and never develop products that are planned for obsolescence. The tractors is made in Alabama, but it’s available to and possibly revolutionary for small family farmers all around the world.
Tune into Greenhorns Radio today at 4:00 PM to hear Locky Carton, Oggún partner and graduate of the University of Iowa’s agricultural business program, speak more about this exciting project. If you can’t tune in today, don’t forget that a podcast version of our show is always available at the Heritage Radio Network!
Accelerating Appalachia is a “word HUB for sustainable business,” providing training to, coordinate mentorship for, and encourage financial investment in organizations who are “solving big problems with their business models.” They work predominantly with women entrepreneurs, look to support students, and have even had farms in their accelerator program. If all of this sounds revolutionary for a business incubator, it is. What does this all actually look like on the ground? Tune into the Heritage News Network today at 4:00 PM to hear that and other questions answered on Greenhorns Radio.
In case you missed it, this week on Greenhorns Radio, we spoke to Miles Teitge, of Syringa Mountain School in Idaho about Waldorf Education, biodymanic farming, and why young farmers should think about moving to Idaho. Enjoy a bonus interlude of fun ambient noise from 8:08 to 12:46.
Miles has interned at the Herb Pharm in Williams, OR, and continued his education at Seed School (with local legend Bill McDorman), and the Fungi Perfecti mushroom cultivation course (with visionary Paul Stamets). He joined the Mountain School shortly after it opened, inspired to learn and teach principles of permaculture and the gardening arts; be it cultivating vegetables, gathering medicinal herbs, grafting trees, laying out hugelkultur beds, bee-tending, greenhouse design, poultry care, humane composting, worm wrangling or the like, there is a lifetime of learning on this path!
As Conan writes in a September article on Medium.com, “One year ago, a series of spills dumped toxic palm oil effluent into the Pasión River where it runs through the municipality of Sayaxché in Guatemala’s Peten region. The spills were the latest in a long history of abuses associated with Guatemala’s palm oil industry — Continue reading →
Ben Dobson grew up in Hillsdale, New York, on a small organic farm and started his first agricultural business in 2001. After two years on his own, he joined forces with his father Ted Dobson and managed the fields at his salad and tomato farm in Sheffield, MA, from 2003 through 2006. Since then Ben has started, managed, and overseen the sale of two agricultural businesses: One of which, Atlantic Organics, founded in 2007, was the largest organic vegetable farm in the state of Maine. The other, a company called Locally Known LLC, founded in 2008, was a salad processing company that sold pre-packaged ready to eat salads to Whole Foods Market, Hannaford Bros. and Trader Joe’s supermarkets in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic regions.
In 2013, Ben joined Stone House Farm as the Organic Transition Manager, and in 2016 he became their Farm Manager. He planned and oversaw the implementation of an organic transition on the 2,200-acre Stone House Farm property, and developed a non-GMO feed and grain business to sell their grain. The farm is now expanding its grain operation to include organic grain from other farms in the region.
Ben also heads Hudson Carbon: a research project conducting long term research across several sites on Stone House Farm and two neighboring farms. Hudson Carbon monitors the economic impacts and ecological effects of organic farming systems regarding carbon sequestration. Collaborators in this project include the Rodale Institute, The Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and Scenic Hudson. This winter Hudson Carbon will be launching a website with sections dedicated to farmers, science, and the public.
Farmer David Fisher with his draft horses. Photo by David Charles/NPR.
The GH radio is still on break, so if you need to satiate your weekly hunger for radio stories about farming, let me suggest this great piece by NPR’s the Salt about Natural Roots Farm, a CSA farm in western Massachusetts that uses smart systems, ecological growing techniques, and draft power to create self-reliant farm systems that rely as little on fossil fuels as possible.
Though short, the interview with farmers David Fisher and Anna Maclay touches on the discontent with consumer society that drives many of us into the fields, the idea of right work, and the emotional tolls that perfectionism can have on a farmer’s relationships. In fact, we can’t help but wish that the interview could somehow open up to explore these topics in more depth.
Oh, and breaking news! NPR reports that small-scale vegetable farmers are perfection-seeking idealists.
Where does Dorn Cox find the time to get so much done? Dorn is a founding member and board president of farm hack, is director of Greenstart, and– as his bio on their webiste totes– on his 250-acre family farm in Lee, NH, “has worked to select effective cover crops, grains and oilseeds for food and energy production, and has designed, constructed, documented, and shared systems for small-scale grain and oil seeds processing, biofuel production, and no-till and low-till equipment to reduce energy use and increase soil health.”
Also, in his spare time, Dorn find time to contribute to our Almanac. You won’t want to miss this interview. Tune in, as always, at 4:00 P.M EST to Heritage Radio Network.
Live on Heritage Radio’s Greenhorns Radio show this Tuesday, we’ll interview farmer Erica Frenay of Shelterbelt Farm in Ithaca New York. Erica also works for Cornell’s Small Farms Institute, and her bio on their page should give you an idea of how many rich topics of conversation this interview might follow.
Erica began working for the Small Farms Program in 2006. A former co-manager of Cornell’s student-run farm, she graduated from Cornell in 1998 and moved to Oregon to serve in AmeriCorps. Erica spent 6 years in the Pacific Northwest, working as Project Coordinator for an agricultural land trust and then as Executive Director of an urban educational farm in Portland. In 2005 she completed a 2-year program in Holistic Management. During her long and indirect journey back to Ithaca, Erica and her husband lived on a permaculture farm and nursery in the San Juan Islands for a year, and spent another year working on farms and building with clay and straw in New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Australia. They returned to Ithaca to settle down in the summer of 2005, and five years later started Shelterbelt Farm. Now she works part-time for the Small Farms Program and part-time producing sheep, beef, duck eggs, honey, fruit, and veggies on her farm.
Amanda Swimmer wild-harvests local seaweed in her home in British Columbia to sell for food and medicine. She talks to Greenhorns Radio about local foods, added value products, and the value of our ocean commons on the Heritage Radio Network this TUESDAY DEC 6 at 4:00 p.m.