the irresistible fleet of bicycles

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wonder: the major-minor super power

This recently made its way into the Greenhorns inbox, and boy! Doesn’t it just hit home for all of us? We love this! And we think that you’ll enjoy it too. The author, Jeffery Davis, is a consultant, speaker, and author of the poetry collection Coat Thief  (Saint Julian Press) and The Journey from the Center of the Page.  He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife and two girls. Find him online at

The Secret Super Power: Wonder 

You know that feeling? When everything you were building burns down? The planks of a reasonable life you’ve laid crumble underneath you, and you find yourself free-falling like Alice down a hole that feels bottomless.  You don’t know who you are.  You’re clueless about whom you might become.

For me, after a fire literally burned down my dream house one July, I peeled a paperback edition of William James’s essays on psychology from the charred wall of my study.  The book had been compressed into the wall from the pressure of the firefighters’ hose.  I ripped from my burnt walnut desk a copy of Buddhist psychologist Mark Epstein’s book Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart.

It hadn’t been an easy summer, even before the fire. Continue reading

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the future is a long time

unnamedThe future is a long time and the winners of the Voices of the Soil Contest, hosted by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Lexicon of Food understand the importance of our soil and our future.

The eight winners, ages 18-28, were chosen by a panel of soil experts including Joel Salatin, Dr. Elaine Ingham and Ian Davidson. 

The contest was created to increase understanding and awareness of the vital importance of soil health, and to celebrate the International Year of Soils. Many people understand the connection between soil and food, but fewer people realize soil also has an important role in sequestering carbon and alleviating some of the worst impacts of climate change, like drought and flood. Find the list of the winning submissions HERE.

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how i edited an agricultural paper (once)

How I Edited An Agricultural Paper (Once)

By: Mark Twain

Friday, Oct 18, 2015, Rural America

I did not take temporary editorship of an agricultural paper without misgivings. Neither would a landsman take command of a ship without misgivings. But I was in circumstances that made the salary an object. The regular editor of the paper was going off for a holiday, and I accepted the terms he offered, and took his place.

The sensation of being at work again was luxurious, and I wrought all the week with unflagging pleasure. We went to press, and I waited a day with some solicitude to see whether my effort was going to attract any notice. As I left the office, toward sundown, a group of men and boys at the foot of the stairs dispersed with one impulse, and gave me passage-way, and I heard one or two of them say: “That’s him!” I was naturally pleased by this incident…

Read on here!

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voices of the soil essay contest

2015 is the International Year of Soils, so in celebration of one of our most important natural resources, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Lexicon of Sustainability are hosting the “Voices of Soil” Essay and Video Contest for young farmers, agricultural students, or any young person who appreciates the value of healthy soil.


We are accepting ​​written essay and/or video submissions ​that answer one or more of the following questions:


Soil_Hands​Videos must be no longer than 5 minutes in length and you can copy/paste the complete URL of the video from the following platforms:,, (examples: or or

Written essays must be between 700 and 1000 words and uploaded files should be less than 64MB, .pdf, .doc, .docx formats only allowed. Alternatively you can copy/paste the complete Lexicon of Food post URL for the essay (example:

SUBMISSION DEADLINE​ ​is ​Midnight PDT on August 15, 2015.

The “Voices of Soil” contest is open to US residents (excluding Puerto Rico) ages 18 to 28, who love soil and are pursuing an education or career in agriculture, environmental science, or other related fields to enter. We especially encourage submissions from young farmers. Partner staff, relations of partner staff, and relations of the judging committee are not eligible to compete.​

For more information, visit the website!

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sidebar about sea urchins by janelle orsi, our lovely lawyer


A commons cannot survive within conventional structures, which are highly permeable and designed for ease of buying, selling, and profit-maximization […] How do we structure commons governance to prevent corruptions, to serve all stakeholders, and to function efficiently?

Read On lawyers and sea urchins, a sidebar for the latest edition of STIR magazine! You can pre-order the latest issue, Law and Social Change here.

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wired: hardware design should be free. here’s how to do it.

Hardware Design Should Be Free. Here’s How to Do It.

by Richard Stallman

in Wired

WE MUST DESIGN free hardware. But the question remains: how?

First, we must understand why we can’t make hardware free the same way we make software free. Hardware and software are fundamentally different. A program, even in compiled executable form, is a collection of data which can be interpreted as instruction for a computer. Like any other digital work, it can be copied and changed using a computer. A copy of a program has no inherent physical form or embodiment.

KEEP READING to find out more about free hardware design.

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sunday reading: foodland from tni

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Check out The New Inquiry Adam Rothstein’s 2012 interview with Nicola Twilley, who works for Columbia University’s Studio-X, is co-founder of the Foodprint Project, and runs the Edible Grography blog. They discuss food piracy, refrigeration geography, and strategic food reserves.

Adam Rothstein: How would you describe the Edible Geography blog project?

Nicola Twilley: I had too many diverse interests in food space, culture, naturally built and virtual landscapes, and environmental issues. Rather than having a website where I write about everything that I find interesting, I force myself to go through the lens of food.

I initially resisted launching a “food blog,” because of the image of a food blog being just “pictures of cupcakes” or “what I had for lunch,” or “ten exciting new ways to prepare quinoa.” But I think of it as a frame, frequently on an entirely different perspective to a story that I might otherwise miss. It relates to stories of domestication in agriculture, bioarchaeology, culture, technology, and almost anything else. There’s not a lot of stuff you can’t address through the lens of food, so although I call it a constraint, it hardly is at all.



what nobody told me about small farming

Jaclyn Moyer, a small farmer and writer in Northern California, has an article at Salon on not getting by as a small farmer. She describes a situation familiar to many of us, that “90 percent of farmers in this country rely on an outside job, or a spouse’s outside job, or some independent form of wealth, for their primary income.”

Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.

She writes:

“On the radio this morning I heard a story about the growing number of young people choosing to become farmers. The farmers in the story sounded a lot like me — in their late 20s to mid-30s, committed to organic practices, holding college degrees, and from middle-class non-farming backgrounds. Some raise animals or tend orchards. Others, like me, grow vegetables. The farmers’ days sounded long but fulfilling, drenched in sun and dirt. The story was uplifting, a nice antidote to the constant reports of industrial ag gone wrong, of pink slime and herbicide-resistant super-weeds.

What the reporter didn’t ask the young farmers was: Do you make a living? Can you afford rent, healthcare? Can you pay your labor a living wage? If the reporter had asked me these questions, I would have said no.”
Read the rest of Jaclyn’s essay at Salon >>

We’d love to hear your comments on Jaclyn’s piece and your stories. How do you make farming work for you? Do you see outside employment as a long-term necessity or as temporary, a transition point from our modern day urban professions back to farming? What would most help you, as a new, small or someday-maybe farmer?

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saturday reading: wiki of the day: paul schuster taylor

Today’s wiki of the day is about Paul Schuster Taylor, an early twentieth-century sociologist, agricultural economist, and author. He was the first white American to look seriously at the lives of Mexican migrant workers and Mexican Americans.

Paul Schuster Taylor (1895 in Sioux City, Iowa – 1984 in Berkeley) was a progressive agricultural economist. He was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin and earned his PhD at theUniversity of California, Berkeley where he then became professor of economics from 1922, until his retirement in 1962.


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health effects of industrial agriculture: glyphosate, monsanto, cancer, and birth defects

Argentina: The Country that Monsanto Poisoned?

Photo Essay

by Syddue

via Overgrow the System

BASAVILBASO, Argentina (AP) — Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop-dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison.

Now, at 47, he’s a living skeleton, so weak he can hardly swallow or go to the bathroom on his own.

Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta lives in Santa Fe Province, the heart of Argentina’s soy country, where agrochemical spraying is banned within 500 meters (550 yards) of populated areas. But soy is planted just 30 meters (33 yards) from her back door. Her boys were showered in chemicals recently while swimming in the backyard pool.

After Sofia Gatica lost her newborn to kidney failure, she filed a complaint that led to Argentina’s first criminal convictions for illegal spraying. But last year’s verdict came too late for many of her 5,300 neighbors in Ituzaingo Annex. A government study there found alarming levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80 percent of the children surveyed carried traces of pesticide in their blood.

American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world’s third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren’t confined to soy and cotton and corn fields.

The Associated Press documented dozens of cases around the country where poisons are applied in ways unanticipated by regulatory science or specifically banned by existing law. The spray drifts into schools and homes and settles over water sources; farmworkers mix poisons with no protective gear; villagers store water in pesticide containers that should have been destroyed.

Now doctors are warning that uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation’s vast farm belt.

In Santa Fe, cancer rates are two times to four times higher than the national average. In Chaco, birth defects quadrupled in the decade after biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina.

“The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases,” says Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician and neonatologist who co-founded Doctors of Fumigated Towns, part of a growing movement demanding enforcement of agricultural safety rules. “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses seldom seen before.”

A nation once known for its grass-fed beef has undergone a remarkable transformation since 1996, when the St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. promised that adopting its patented seeds and chemicals would increase crop yields and lower pesticide use. Today, Argentina’s entire soy crop and nearly all its corn and cotton are genetically modified, with soy cultivation alone tripling to 47 million acres (19 million hectares).

Agrochemical use did decline at first, then it bounced back, increasing ninefold from 9 million gallons (34 million liters) in 1990 to more than 84 million gallons (317 million liters) today as farmers squeezed in more harvests and pests became resistant to the poisons. Overall, Argentine farmers apply an estimated 4.3 pounds of agrochemical concentrate per acre, more than twice what U.S. farmers use, according to an AP analysis of government and pesticide industry data.


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farm subsidies disproportionately support the wealthy

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‘The Bachelor,’ Billionaires, and the Problem of Farm Subsidies for the Rich

Danielle Paquette

from The Washington Post

Farm subsidies have for decades disproportionately benefited richer Americans.

Even if they live in posh Manhattan penthouses. Even if they’re, say, on hit television shows. Chris Soules, this season’s star of “The Bachelor,” for example, has raked in more than $370,000 in farm subsidies since he turned 19 in 2001.

Call it agricultural inequality. The country’s top recipients swept 77 percent of subsidies from 1995 to 2012, said Craig Cox, senior vice president of agriculture policy at the Environmental Working Group.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon propose a rule that could drive that percentage down, Politico reports, starting with tightening the definition of an “actively engaged” farmer. The eligibility for agricultural subsidies remains broad: Anyone who invests time, money or guidance in a farm can qualify for a fat government handout.

“It’s a loophole some folks not ‘actively engaged’ in farming are using to collect farm benefits,” USDA spokesman Cullen Schwarz said, “and we’re trying to close that to the extent that we can.”

The USDA proposal is parked in the Office of Management and Budget, Schwarz said. Change could take months. Farm subsidies, meanwhile, continue to cushion the privileged.

Continue reading HERE.

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the united states needs a food policy!

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Mark Bittman of the New York Times, Michael Pollan of the University of California, Berkeley, Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Olivier De Schutter of the Catholic University of Louvain have collaborated on a new article in the Washington Post that puts forward a plan for a national food policy. For the authors, “The food system and the diet it’s created have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people and our land, water and air” and that this damage continues because “we have no food policy — no plan or agreed-upon principles — for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole.”

They put forward a set of basic tenets that could inform a national food policy adequate to our age. The priorities of this policy include healthy food for all, reducing the carbon footprint of the food industry, investing in food that is free of dangerous chemicals, and treating animals with compassion and attention to their well-being. Continue reading

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from the archives: “they teach people ignorance”


Todays post is the text of an opinion piece written by William C Gehrke and published in The Kansas Union Farmer on April 16, 1936! Gehrke does an incredible job of articulating the benefits of organizing farmers, the challenges posed by hegemonic education, and the insufficiency of “rugged individualism and the gold standard.” His remarks are stunningly insightful and relevant to our situation today.

Union Farmer Editors: The following article by Mr. Gehrke contains so much that is good that we feel it is worthy of a front page position.

“They Teach People Ignorance”

William C. Gehrke

I am taking up the suggestion of A.W. Ricker of Minnesota by giving my personal reflections in the following comments.

Having lived on the farm for 27 years, only absent long enough to take my four years of college work, I still feel my interests are just as strongly with you. However, any views I hold I do so in the interests and welfare of all concerned, rather than just our particular class. I feel highly honored to be a member of the Farmers Union because of the principles for which they stand and the democratic procedure that governs the organization. In the Unions [sic] workings and philosophy, I can see the more abundant life so many desire yet I can see many of the shortcomings that prevent this attainment. I sometimes marvel at the faith, patience, and endurance of the leaders and its members knowing what the odds are against them. In spite of these known odds they struggle on slowly gaining those things necessary for the abundant life. I wish we had a better way to get more people including the farmers to see all our problems from a social viewpoint. By that I mean that every action of ours should be tested in the light as to how it will affect our fellowmen rather than the selfish motive that prompts each individual to get the better things at the expense of someone else.

There is a rather hopeless situation before the mass of people to which you and I belong. Remember there are just two classes of people—there are the ruling class and the ruled class. When we go to the records of ancient civilizations we find the grim face that most of our civilizations were built with a certain group bearing the brunt, generally known as slaves. It is common knowledge that in the United States we hear more about economic freedom, personal freedom, and freedom of the press than in most other countries, yet little realize the numerous obstacles that prevent us from really exercising these. Physical slavery, where the master drives with a long whip, is of course a scene that would be hard to find. But there are so many ways of accomplishing the same purpose; such as monetary control, real wages and monetary wages, false advertising, biased court decisions, false newspaper propaganda, and many others. Continue reading