Part II of our videos for nature lovers this morning continues with this magical song by Maggie Rogers, a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter. Written while she was training to be a nature guide in Alaska, the song draws on Maggie’s more traditional training as a folk musician but is also heavily influenced by the catchy club dance music she discovered in France. Personally, we think putting this on repeat is the perfect way to wade through the spreadsheet-laden swamps of crop-planning.
On March 15th, the Obama administration released a draft offshore drilling plan for 2017-2022 that includes 10 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and 3 in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska. This proposed drilling plan puts our communities, wildlife and environment in danger — all so oil companies like Shell and BP can increase their profits. The Obama administration has the power to stop it — but it needs to hear from you.
What is it about the ruthless sea? An acculturation in agricultural landscapes, full of flower buds, dewdrops, fresh hay, kittens and baby lambs cannot prepare you for the hard, chilling mechanics of a mechanized fish harvest. To my tender agrarian eyes, the fishing business is brutal. We may call them “stewards of the ocean” but lets face it—they are killing fish.
-Severine on the Alaskan fishing commons in “A Farm Organizer Visits Fish Country: Part II,” for In These Times. Read the rest of the article here!
“For many terrestrials, and certainly for me, the ocean and fisheries are a foreign place. We cannot see into the sea and don’t know much at all about what goes on there, except perhaps familiarity with the blanket-term “over-fishing.” Young agrarians of the rangeland know well that a blanket critique—that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service’s policies lead to “over-grazing,” for example—is not enough. Indeed after decades of handing over mining, drilling, grazing and mineral rights on public lands, there’s a flank of the environmental movement calling for privatization of over 400 million acres of public lands. Another flank, the Rainforest Action Network, is calling for a moratorium on the sale of mineral rights on public lands.
We need to look more closely. We need to survey what we already know. And we need to build from there.
Some of us have followed the campaigns against factory fish—the Costco victory against GMO salmon, GMO soy oilbeing sold as pelletized fish food and the pollution caused by fish farms. And we have heard hype about aquaculture projects and been confounded by this glamorization of international fish farm development projects. We use kelp supplements for our dairy animals and soil mix, but don’t know much about the controversy behind them. For the most part, we aren’t much connected as producers with fisher people whose fish-meal we farmers buy. (I hope this article may woo a few young farmers to study across the boundary of the seashore and help us discover our common causes.)
So, what’s the difference between a well managed and a poorly managed commons?”
This past Fall, Severine travelled to beautiful Alaska and wrote three comprehensive articles based on her experience for In These Times. From Halibut festivals to fish processing boats to the rugged Alaskan homesteaders, she explores three questions fundamental to her journey:
- What can the farming community learn from the highly managed, and highly abundant commons of Alaska? Are these lessons applicable to land?
- What do young agrarians have to learn from the governance and politics of a wild fishery?
- What does a wild fishery have to learn from the cultural activities of agrarian organizers?
But maybe you’re still not sure why young farmers should care about the ocean? We’ll be posting a few short excerpts on the blog throughout day, and we suspect they might just change your mind.
NPR’s The Salt: “Alaskan Farmer Turns Icy Patch of Tundra Patch into a Breadbasket.”
But tapping that ultra-rich soil takes time. To prepare the land for farming, Meyers starts in June when the permafrost ground begins to melt a bit. He uses a tractor to clear the low-lying mossy lichen and other tundra plantlife that act as an insulator to keep the permafrost cold. Then, in July, he plows fields to loosen the soil and dislodge the remaining native plant roots.
In all, Meyers must spend as much as two years working a piece of land before he can plant it. And even then, the ground below the soil in which he farms is still ice.
Leif Albertson, who worked for Meyers for three summers prior to his current post as a Bethel-based extension agent for the University of Alaska, says Meyers’ farm is as magical as “Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. ” Visitors can transport themselves from the tundra to the jungle just by stepping into one of Meyers’ greenhouses. It could mean a difference of 40 degrees between the chilly tundra air and in the greenhouse.
If you’re curious about learning more, check out Meyer’s Farm website, which has photos, press, and audio from an interview with the farmer.
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, located in Fairbanks, Alaska, is now accepting applications for their 2016 farmer training program! Calypso’s Training Program is an intensive experiential education program focused on providing the skills, inspiration and experience necessary for participants to embark on starting their own small farm with confidence. A small group (5-6 people) of aspiring farmers participate in the program each year — allowing for a high level of personalized attention.
This training program immerses you in farming and self-sufficiency, therefore the majority of the training is experiential and field and farm based, however the program also includes, topical workshops, a creative farm business planning project, discussion groups, visits to other farms and involvement in farm-based youth education. For more information about the program click HERE.
Dates: May 2nd – October 5th, 2016
Tuition: $3,500 for the season