the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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Jonathan Cobb holds soil from Green Fields Farm in Rogers, Texas.

Rick Haney, gangly and garrulous, paces in front of a congregation of government conservationists, working the room for laughs before he gets to the hard data. The U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist points to an aerial photograph of research plots outside his facility in Temple, Texas. “Our drones took this shot,” he says, then shakes his head. “Kidding. We don’t have any drones.”

Forty sets of shoulders jerk in amusement. Paranoia about the federal government is acute in Texas, and Haney’s audience—field educators from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of a corps of around six thousand that works directly with farmers nationwide—hail from around the state. They’re used to suspicious scowls from farmers, who are as skeptical of the feds as they are of the outsiders who dwell on the downsides of agriculture. For the most part, the people in this room are both: feds and outsiders.

But what if those downsides—unsustainable farming practices—are also bad for a farmer’s bottom line? It’s the question Haney loves to raise during training sessions like this one, which the NRCS (today’s iteration of the Dust Bowl–era Soil Conservation Service) convenes around the country as part of a soil health campaign launched in 2012. Haney is a star at these events because he brings the imprimatur of science to something many innovative farmers have already discovered: despite what the million-dollar marketing campaigns of agrichemical companies say, farmers can use less fertilizer without reducing yields, saving both money and landscapes.

“Our entire agriculture industry is based on chemical inputs, but soil is not a chemistry set,” Haney explains. “It’s a biological system. We’ve treated it like a chemistry set because the chemistry is easier to measure than the soil biology.”

To read more, click HERE!


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vt: 3rd annual lamb roast at stitchdown farm

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In order to welcome the glorious re-emergence, the giving of life, impending abundance and forthcoming superfluous energetic demands, we invite you to join us in our annual roasting of the sheep, drinking of beverages and reveling in the company of peers.

We here at Stitchdown believe strongly in the power of gathering, and we believe gatherings are most efficaciously executed with copious doses of fire, meat, beverages and labor.

All are welcome! All ages welcome! Only humans please! If you must bring animals, please ensure they are in or under control, as we have neighbors not far and livestock on the farm.

We’ll provide lamb, beer and bread and send a hearty call provide what you are inspired to bring. If musician, bring your instruments and rock out. If baker, bring a 17 layered cake decorated in the image of spring. If gamer, bring your group games. If have any other cool identity or hobby, bring your other cool and delicious things to share with everyone!

Rain or shine or snow. Camping available.  To RSVP, click HERE


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whether its worth it to fly?

There are many people who write articles about why they don’t fly.  There are also many articles by people about why they do.  What I haven’t yet seen is someone who did fly, writing with hindsight about whether the journey was worthwhile or not.  So that’s what I want to do here, a kind of cost-benefit analysis of the trip.

The first point I want to make is that for me, deciding to make this trip was a really big deal.  We can do all the things we like at home to reduce our carbon footprint, but one substantial flight throws that out of the window.  As Ed Gillespe writes in his recent book ‘Only Planet’, the record of his round-the-world trip without planes:

“Flying makes the world seem small.  But let’s face it, it’s not.  It’s a 25,000 mile journey around the equator.  That’s a bit more than a stroll in the park”.

He adds:

“Travel is a gifted privilege not a given right.  Think about this next time someone argues they ‘deserve’ a holiday”.

The US is a very, very long way from the UK.  We calculated the amount of carbon used to get there, for internal flights while there and the journey home again, for both Peter and myself.  We did this using three different carbon calculating websites, and took an average of their (surprisingly varied) results.  My total was 3.4 tonnes (14,804 miles), and Peter’s, who only came on the first part of the trip, was 2.08 (8,776 miles). For context, the average UK carbon footprint is 14 tonnes (when you include aviation).  To reach a point consistent with the challenge of climate change, our footprints should be falling to around 3 tonnes, so a trip like that is a big deal.

To read more, click HERE!


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where to invade next

Academy Award®-winning director Michael Moore is back with WHERE TO INVADE NEXT: a provocative and hilarious comedy in which Moore will stop at nothing to figure out how to actually make America great again.

Just in time for election season, America’s favorite political provocateur, Michael Moore, is back with his new film, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. Honored by festivals and critics groups alike, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT is an expansive, hilarious, and subversive comedy in which the Academy Award®-winning director confronts the most pressing issues facing America today and finds solutions in the most unlikely places. The creator of FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE has returned with an epic movie that’s unlike anything he has done before—an eye-opening call to arms to capture the American Dream and restore it in, of all places, America.


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another film to screen in your town, grange, or church basement

Racing Extinction: The Film

In Racing Extinction, a team of artists and activists exposes the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way we see the planet. Two worlds drive extinction across the globe, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species. The international wildlife trade creates bogus markets at the expense of creatures that have survived on this planet for millions of years. And the other surrounds us, hiding in plain sight — a world that the oil and gas companies don’t want the rest of us to see. Using covert tactics and state-of-the-art technology, the Racing Extinction team exposes these two worlds in an inspiring affirmation to preserve life as we know it. From the Academy Award® Winning Filmmakers of “The Cove”

To buy this film or check out a screening, click HERE!


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act now to prevent the soon-to-be largest chemical and gmo seed company in the world

If you thought Monsanto was bad, this could be even worse: Chinese chemical giant ChemChina has begun a $43 billion merger with Swiss-based seed and pesticide company Syngenta to create one of the largest chemical and GMO seed companies in the world.

This proposed merger could have huge ramifications in the U.S. and across the entire global food system, where only six companies now control 75 percent of the world’s seed and agricultural chemical business.1 Further consolidation would put our food production system in the hands of even fewer multinational corporations, with the potential of unchecked use of more toxic chemicals and GMOs in our food supply.

A bipartisan group of members of Congress is calling on the Obama administration to more aggressively scrutinize the merger, with the potential of stopping it from moving forward.2 We must act now to pressure the Obama Administration to stop this dangerous merger before it’s too late.

To act, click HERE.

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