the irresistible fleet of bicycles


Leave a comment

read: with only 60 years of harvests left, how do we transform our food systems?

chagford-1-759x500

credit: Indie Farmer 

Elise Wach from the Indie Farmer wrote an article published last week that explores the necessary trajectory of the future of farming. At a time when industrial agricultural systems are depleting our soil and placing quantity of produce and profit before quality and ecological health, this discussion is crucial. She also addresses the myths and misunderstandings attached to the local and organic food and farming movement.
 “Ecological and local food movements – and the farmers supporting them – are not trying to be elitist. They are trying to survive. In our current socioeconomic system, which ‘externalises’ the social and ecological costs of production, farmers tend to have two main choices – quality or quantity. They either produce for luxury niche markets (e.g. organic salad leaves, fancy preserves and veg boxes) or produce as much as possible through increasing their farm size (a strategy largely influenced by land area-based subsidies) and using industrial practices that destroy the soil, wildlife and water.”
 It’s a fantastic article that gets to the core of the problems in the current global food system, saying:
“It is clear that the existing food and farming system is not serving the public interest. It is also clear that efforts to change our food system through existing socioeconomic models have not worked. The problem isn’t organic. It’s capitalism.”
To read the full article by Indie Farmer, click HERE


Leave a comment

the peasantry fight for control

19170704_Riot_on_Nevsky_prosp_Petrograd.jpg

Street demonstration in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) after Provisional Government troops open fire, July 4, 1917. Viktor Bulla / Wikimedia

In a recent article about the 1917 February and subsequent October Revolutions, Jacobin magazine discuss how, as in so many other revolutions, boiling point was reached in the fields and among the peasant class. The peasants were discounted by many at the time, on the right and left alike as ignorant and unimportant, or in the word of Marx as “the class that represents barbarism within civilization.”

Throughout 1917, however, these supposedly backward people surprised their supporters in the intelligentsia with their clever revolutionary activity. While each region and village had its own nuances, the main structures of this largely self-generated politics shared many characteristics.

First, the peasants banded together to form village committees. They also called these organizations peasant committees, although trusted non-peasants were sometimes allowed to take part: teachers, priests, and even landowners found themselves participating in committee activities. The rural workers quickly excluded anyone from those groups who tried to dominate the organization.

Click HERE to read the full article.


Leave a comment

the year that ended dangerously: the ETC’s ireverant, snarky, and spot-on end of year review

etc_kitty_kitty_cartoon

The ETC’s Report also contains this fabulous comic.

Every year, our friends at the ETC (stands for Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration) puts out an, as they say, “irreverent,” year-end recap– and this year’s is out now! We’ve compiled a brief list of the highlights from the 2015 edition of the ETC’s yearly End of Year Review:

  • Comparing itself to the Grinch that Stole Christmas when complaining about the Paris attacks, the ETC explains how in the proceedings the Climate Activists “lost time and ground that we can’t recover.”
  • Turns out phytoplankton are carbon sequesters.
  • The Good and the Bad news coming out of the tech sphere (gene drives, AI, Ben and Jerry’s, Technology Bank…)
  • Whimsical historical anecdotes from the year (good moral boosters)
  • And this favorite quote: ““Let’s be clear about this, our company was dishonest. And in my German words, we have totally screwed up.”
  • A not-to-be-missed reading list!
  • Clairvoyant prophecies regarding 2016.

Read it here!


Leave a comment

we are all flint

DIN_4844-2_D-P005.svg.png

The same forces that have made the Flint disaster possible are the same ones
that are bent on privatizing public water supplies and preventing a just
resolution to the growing world climate disaster.

The following is an excerpt from a Statement from SxSW Experiment about the water crisis in Flint, MI. The experiment is a powerful grassroots coalition of Latino, African American, and low income communities hailing from the American South and Southwest and working to incur racial and socio-economic justice in their regions and across the country. (Sidenote: Their website contains a wealth of amazing resources and information for social justice activism.)

Read the entirety of “We are All Flint” here.

There is another critical question: How do we address the infrastructure
crisis throughout the United States? As in Flint, this issue
disproportionately burdens communities of people of color and of
low-wealth. This is not simply a question of failure of public
investment. It reflects a deep structural problem that threatens to
create future public health disasters.

The deeper message of Flint goes beyond the dangers of human error or
even negligence, and beyond the actions of state governments that would
facilitate the impoverishment of our people. It is about a crisis in the
U.S. that threatens the lives and well-being of a growing majority of
the population.

The neoliberal model of development that underlies the strategic
political policies in Michigan that led to this crisis has as its
cornerstone the privatization of public resources and public services.
This model is supported by both major political parties and bankrolled
by those who have accumulated tremendous wealth at the direct expense of
people of color and of low-wealth.

It is a mode of development that is rooted in the systematic undermining
of the right to democratic participation by limiting the capacity of
local people to impact the formation and implementation of public policy
… whether in Flint, across the US, or in other parts of the world. The
same forces that have made the Flint disaster possible are the same ones
that are bent on privatizing public water supplies and preventing a just
resolution to the growing world climate disaster.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Flint, who are on the
frontlines of the struggle for democracy. We share their struggle for
democracy and for a transition to a just society that more fully values
human life and development.


Leave a comment

call for submissions for the new farmers almanac

il_570xN.712987180_nehi.jpg

Time to submit to the NEW FARMER’S ALMANAC vol. III

Agrarians and stewards of all types, young and old, seasoned and greenhorn, we want to hear from you! We’ve begun the process of compiling submissions to the New Farmer’s Almanac: vol III. Awash in fascinating content, we want more!

The upcoming Almanac will explore the theme of The Commons, drawing from folklore, mathematical projections, empirical, emotional and geographical observations of theory and praxis. As farmers we hold space in many interwoven commons—the carbon sequestered in the soil, the water cycling through our landscapes, the biodiversity of the insect resources living among our operations, and all the other natural and human-crafted systems in which we function.

Possibilities for our shared future would seem to rest on how these intersecting commons are governed, particularly at the juncture of humanity and ecology where we make our workplace. In re-visiting the Almanac format we assert our version of Americana—one which might better lay the cultural groundwork to serve the information needs of today’s young farmers, field hands, and land workers of all kinds—and equip ourselves for the challenges of rebuilding the food system and restoring a more democratic, more diverse, and more resilient foundation for society.

We face a dystopian future, with guaranteed-unpredictable weather, the impending collapse of the fossil fuel economy, endlessly consolidating monopolies, and a country that is, for the first time in our history, majority urban. That’s why the Almanac is a utopian publication, one that reminds today’s farmers about the foundational concepts of an agrarian democracy—themselves utopian.

But we also reject the self-propelling logic of techno-utopia—dependent upon extraction economies which, through enclosure of common resources, bleed out our land, resources, and people. We orient ourselves instead toward the words of Ursula Le Guin, who reminds us that our intent in utopian thinking should not be “reactionary, nor even conservative, but simply subversive. It seems that the utopian imagination is trapped, like capitalism and industrialism and the human population, in a one-way future consisting only of growth.”

We want to hear from you on your engagements with the Commons and all its intricacies—marine and terrestrial, tragic and elemental, constantly under assault and yet inexorable in the persistence of its promise. Send us astronomical data, exercises in cooperation, reading lists, games, poems, rants, historical accounts, animal handling instructions, illustrations, guides to any and all aspects of farming and stewardship, recipes, health suggestions, thoughts, dreams, plans, schematics, even computer code if you’ve got some that’s applicable. We’re open to everything!

Text submissions should be around 700 words. Visual materials should be submitted as 600 dpi grayscale images, formatted as .tiff, .psd, or .jpg files.

If you’ve got ideas and want to run them by us beforehand, please do so by Jan. 10, 2016. Submissions are due by Feb. 1, 2016!

Send submissions to almanac@thegreenhorns.net

Questions or further information needs? Email us at the above address.

Onward!

Information about the 2015 New Farmer’s Almanac here, for sale here.  More on our 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac (on sale for $20) here. Questions about the 2015 Almanac? Send us an email


Leave a comment

REQUIRE READING: the TTP, local farming, and what you need to know

On July 20th, as part of Maine Sail Freight events, the Greenhorns are hosting a training on the secret trade deal TTP and TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) at a public waterfront park in Portsmouth’s Strawberry Banke.

If you can’t make it, this is your required reading: Maine Agriculture and Food Systems in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Why? Sometimes, it’s hard to even imagine that something as abstract-sounding as the Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could affect small-scale agriculture in the United States. The reality, however, is that the proposed free trade agreement could have devastating repercussions throughout the entire United States food system. International trade agreements are, for better or worse, already intricately woven into our national food policy, federal food prices, and governmental regulations– and the TTP has the potential to further limit state and local sovereignty over markets.

The issue is complicated, and TTP talks have had limited transparency, but it is essential that farmers and food activists in the US understand what is at stake. Which is why we cannot more highly recommend this investigation on how the TTP would affect Maine Agriculture and Food Systems, co-authored by the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy and the Maine Farmland Trust as part of the Citizen Trade Policy Commission and Maine Fair Trade Campaign.

Ultimately the paper’s authors conclude that,

“It is impossible to accurately predict the real impacts of these changes in tariff and non-tariff barriers on specific sectors of agricultural production in Maine. The bigger question is how the changes that could result from TTIP would affect the state’s food sovereignty, i.e., farmers’ efforts to produce sustainable crops at fair prices, consumers’ demands for healthy and affordable foods, and their joint efforts to support local economies.”

The document is relatively short (given the complicated nature of the topic), easy to understand, and well-worth a committed read. The paper suggests that the trade agreement may have far-reaching and potentially catastrophic effects on many aspects of Maine’s agricultural sector including farm-to-school programs, attempts to support and promote local food systems, Maine dairy farmers and cheese producers, and GMO labelling initiatives. Though the assessment is geared specifically towards Maine, the issues it discusses are not unique to Maine alone, and it is useful for anyone looking to understand how international policy might affect domestic and local affairs.

Read it here!

The Maine Fair Trade Campaign’s next meeting is  Wed. July 15, 2015
Place: Viles Arboretum, 153 Hospital St, Augusta ME.


Leave a comment

how to intelligently argue for increasing land access

unnamed-5

The United States is entering a period of significant land transfer; an estimated 400 million acres will change hands in the next 20 years as farmers retire and sell or pass on their land. This is equivalent in size to the Louisiana Purchase and represents half of the farmland in our country.

Running with a crowd of like-minded earthy hippy commie-pinko queer progressives doesn’t always teach one the skills necessary to defend her morals when they are challenged. Which is why I am a big advocate for teaching yourself how to argue points that may seem obvious but— for seemingly mysterious reasons— are not accepted by the population as a whole. Towards this goal, I’d like to share something with you.

This article, co-authored by Ecology Center staffers Leah Fesseden and Dani Gelardi, appeared fabulously in the Greenhorns email inbox last week and concentrates particularly on the historic exclusion of people of color, women, Native Americans, and other disenfranchised communities from access to agriculture land and capital.

We approach a period of time in which both 400 million acres is transitioning from old to new owners and the price of farmland continues to increase dramatically. The issue of barriers to land access is particularly salient. Briefly detailing 300 years of institutional racism, the authors argue that we need to be doing everything in our power to lower barriers to entry for beginning farmers— and particularly those that come from historically disadvantaged populations. They have three suggestions as how best of go about this:

1. Advocate for changes to the farm bill

2. Support local programs like Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), that work to lower the barriers to entry for beginning farmers

3. Support local producers through markets, direct orders, and CSAs

And I’d add one more suggestion: read more!