the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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the conversation continues: hydroponics divorce people even further from the stewardship of the land

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This recent submission to our series on whether or not hydroponics should be considered organic comes from Joanna Storie, a Doctoral candidate in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of Estonian University of Life Sciences. She takes a similar stance on hydroponics to our last contributor, adding that hydroponics are not sustainable agriculture in that they divert attention from strengthening rural economies and reinforce urban ways of being that divorce people further from the land.

Have something to add? Email submissions to greenhornsblog@gmail.com.

In your recent blog you asked the question on whether hydroponics is organic or not and I have to agree that it is not. The following statement sums it up for me:


“Hydroponics may be a fine way to grow food and it might be an important part of how cities feed themselves in the future, but it’s no more a form of sustainable agriculture than producing wood fiber in a laboratory is a form of sustainable forest management.”

It also worries me that Hydoponics divorce people even further from the idea of stewardship of the land– which is something that makes the urban areas increasingly vulnerable, because– even if they can produce food in the cities using hydroponic techniques– this will not be the sum total of their food supply.

Recently I submitted an abstract for a conference, which took the position against urban-centric ways of structuring our society, arguing that “rural social networks need to be seen as inherently valuable to the resilience of the whole region.”

I think the hydroponics fits into the urban 24/7 mindset, which values cheap food and devalues rural social network,  thus exacerbating the situation of removing people further from the knowledge of healthy food and healthy environments.


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“hydroponics is not organic — it’s not even agriculture”

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Last week we asked the Greenhorns network what you think about the vertical farm. A perennially contentious idea, are hydroponics the way to the future or are they a hackneyed and ultimately artificial solution to the current crises of our food systems. The following submission on hydroponics comes from Matthew Hoffman, a Fulbright Scholar, Norwegian Centre for Rural Research, who argues vehemently that hydroponic farming be removed from organic certification.  Send us your opinions at greenhornsblog@gmail.com!

The farmers market in Jack London Square in Oakland, California was a bustling scene when I worked there in the late 1990s, and my customers liked to tell me how devoted they were to organic agriculture.

I remember one devotee in particular.  Her tote bag bulged with produce and her brow wrinkled beneath the brim of her floppy hat as she stopped one day to study the sign above my new display of organic flowers.  At length she turned to me and said, “How can flowers be organic?”

This was not the first time that I realized a devoted customer had no idea what organic meant.  So I explained to her about how organic farmers take care of the land, maintaining healthy soil and a healthy environment for plants to grow in without the use of synthetic chemicals—and how organic practices apply just the same to flowers and fields of grass as to lettuces and bell peppers.

She nodded thoughtfully and seemed to appreciate this explanation, but then she frowned again and asked, “What does it matter if you’re not eating them?” Continue reading


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monsanto shareholder meeting gets heated!

Article from the Wall Street Journal

Monsanto Co. has long been a lightning rod for debate, but at its annual shareholder meeting Friday, the biotech-seed company was tagged with blame or credit for an even larger number of issues than usual.

The sometimes emotional, nearly two-hour meeting sounded at times like a daytime talk show, minus thrown chairs and shouting. Critics charged Monsanto with responsibility for spikes in diabetes and autism, among other human and environmental problems. Springing to Monsanto’s defense were farmers, its own employees, and a nun who praised its efforts to reduce water use.

The meeting at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters tested CEO Hugh Grant’s stated determination to more directly engage critics of large-scale agriculture and genetically modified crops.

For some environmentalists and advocates of organic farming, Monsanto has become the poster child for a kind of industrialized farming reliant on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, including the company’s trademark Roundup.

Advocacy groups that had purchased Monsanto shares and submitted shareholder resolutions focused on corporate governance used some of their time at the microphone to lambast Monsanto over human health problems, particularly in children, which they attributed to widespread use of Roundup, a formulation of the chemical glyphosate.

“I’m imploring you to choose a new direction,” said Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, who spoke at length. “Stop poisoning our children.”

Monsanto’s Mr. Grant, who noted that he was the father of three children as well, responded that myriad studies had shown “no linkage” between Roundup and the maladies described by Ms. Honeycutt.

To read more about this meeting, click HERE.


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the land portal

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There is a wealth of information and data online about land governance. However, much of this content is fragmented and difficult to locate, and often it is not openly licensed to enable wide dissemination and reuse. Grassroots knowledge may be particularly hard to find, or may not be available online, and the data and information available is often not presented in ways that are accessible to grassroots communities, media and organizations. Bringing this information together in one place through the Land Portal, actively addressing gaps in the available information, and providing a range of ways for the information to be accessed and shared will increase the use and usefulness of the available information.

This will support more informed debates and policy making, and greater adoption and up scaling of best practices and promising innovations, leading to improve land governance practice. Through a focus on localization of content creation and use, the Land Portal will contribute to the cultivation of information and creation of interfaces and tools that help tip the balance of power towards the most marginalized and insecure, promoting greater social justice in land tenure practices.

The Portal allows for the collection, sourcing, and searching of otherwise fragmented and inaccessible data and information on land governance and land use from diverse sources, produced by governments, academia, international organizations, indigenous peoples and NGOs. Besides documenting land rights, the Portal also encourages social information exchange, debate and networking.