the irresistible fleet of bicycles


Leave a comment

“ditching NAFTA” may hurt american farmers, but which ones?

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/515380213/515638250

NPR’s The Salt spoke to American farmers growing products (strawberries) in and outsourcing their products (milk, powdered) to Mexico. And no doubt, these industrial farmers will either pay more to import and export their crops and could lose potential markets. Given, however, that NAFTA’s effect on small and medium farms in this country– which we rarely mentioned in the discussion– has been largely detrimental, and NAFTA’s effect on small farmers in Mexico has been unequivocally disastrous, we wonder how this conversation could be extended to address small-scale sustainable agriculture.  Greenhorns, policy buffs, what do you think? Surely, it is not always true that what is bad for industrialized ag is good for sustainable ag, but….

What do you think, Greenhorns, specifically our economics buffs out there, what will it mean for young agrarians and small farms if the US “ditches NAFTA?”


Leave a comment

know your abattoir: there’s a shortage of local slaughterhouses, and it’s kind of a big problem

764px-willem_bastiaan_tholen_-the_slaughterhouse_sun

The following cross-post comes from Field Notes from Maggie’s Farm, the blog from the Learn to Farm Program at the Farm School, and serves as an announcement of an exciting ongoing future partnership between this program and the Greenhorns Blog. Today, Farm School student Sophie Mendelson gives us a compelling run-down of the current quiet bottleneck crisis in sustainable meat– and what to do about it. 

Now in its 28th year, the Farm School in Athol, MA provides comprehensive educational programming in agriculture for youth, visiting schools, and adults. (Read more on their programming here!) Watch for more original posts on this blog from Sophie Mendelson, a student in their Learn to Farm Program, talented writer, and past and future farmer.

Know Your Abattoir: How to Keep Sustainable Meat Sustainable
by Sophie Mendelson

If consumers want local meat, they need to go to bat for local slaughterhouses.

At Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, MA, they play classical music on the kill floor. Cattle carcasses—seemingly as big as dinosaurs—hang by the hock from metal hooks fitted to a track in the ceiling that winds around the perimeter of the cathedral-like room. As the carcasses move along the track, they are divested of their blood, their skins, their internal organs, their heads, their hooves, and ultimately their integrity as a saw divides the animals neatly down their line of symmetry. This is how a “side” of beef is made.

The door to the holding pen opens and there is a great rattling as a cow enters the first segment of the indoor chute. A worker steps forward to urge the animal into the final compartment of the stunning pen, but this is a smaller cow, and instead of proceeding smoothly through the Temple Grandin-designed system, it begins to turn in the chute—an option not available to a larger animal. The worker attempts to redirect by prodding the cow from behind; metal clangs as the animal presses against the bars in resistance. The worker prods again, with little luck.

Noticing the commotion, another worker makes his way over to the chute. Instead of pushing from the rear, this man approaches the cow’s head. He reaches through the bars and strokes the cow’s chin. The animal stills. The man leans forward and appears to whisper something to the cow. Then, gently, he takes the cow by the ear and guides it into the stunning pen.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

DARK Act Comeback

hqdefault

This just in from the Organic Consumers Association newsletter:

DARK Act Comeback?

Everybody loves a Comeback Kid—unless that “kid” is the DARK Act.

In March, the Senate voted down the DARK Act, the bill that would Deny Americans our Right to Know about GMOs.

Since then, Monsanto and its front groups, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) have been using their power, influence and, most of all, money to ram some version of the DARK Act through Congress before Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law takes effect on July 1.

Reliable sources say that the DARK Act will soon be up for another vote.

Last time, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) didn’t have the votes to pass his bill to take away states’ rights to label GMOs. Many of those who voted against the bill were pro-GMO Senators who take campaign contributions (and their talking points) from companies like Monsanto. But realizing they would take a lot of heat from their constituents, they voted no in the hope that a more palatable “compromise” bill might come along.

The Senators who voted against the DARK Act last time could easily flip their votes to support a “compromise” (capitulation) to block Vermont’s law and replace it with a weak federal standard, because of—what else?—pressure from the big corporations who profit from toxic pesticides and GMO foods.

TAKE ACTION: Stop the DARK Act Comeback! Tell your Senators: Protect Vermont’s GMO labeling law. 

Dial 888-897-0174 to tell your Senators to vote against any compromise that would block or delay Vermont’s bill from taking effect.

Help us protect Vermont’s GMO labeling law


Leave a comment

do you know where the presidential candidates stand on agriculture?

trump_tweet

This week, for In These TimesJohn Collins researches what the current presidential candidates have to say about agriculture— and what he discovers might surprise you. For instance, Hilary Clinton has the most detailed proposition for supporting small farms, including mention of student debt reform. She even proposes doubling funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. But, then again, she has received significant campaign funding from GMO industries. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has a sort of nebulous proposition that ignores the details and gets to the heart of the matter, notably including: reversing NAFTA and a fun little historical rid-bit about how Abraham Lincoln called the USDA the “People’s Department.”


Leave a comment

this is food saftey

CSAvsPAPER_488_320John Collins

Food, safety, modernization—all good words. But the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) President Obama signed into law in 2011—giving the Food and Drug Administration new authority to regulate how food is grown, harvested and processed (i.e. produced)—places costly burdens on the small farmers who can least afford them.

What is the FSMA?

Prior to the law, the FDA’s approach to food contamination was reactionary. When instances of foodborne illnesses were reported, they responded, often with voluntary recalls. The new regulations, finalized last year and currently being implemented in phases, mark a distinct shift in an agency strategy that seeks to prevent contaminants from entering the food supply in the first place.

Food poisoning is a problem nationally. According to the CDC, of the 48 million Americans who get sick from eating tainted food every year, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Furthermore, massive recalls and settling the inevitable legal fallout costs the food industry billions. In addition to authorizing the FDA to issue mandatory recalls, the FSMA has incrementally unveiled 1,286 pages of new safety regulations.

While the food industry’s largest producers can afford to accommodate the various certifications, infrastructure changes and inspections that the law now mandates, small farmers already struggling to compete in their local markets risk getting priced—and regulated—out of business. Counter-intuitively, this is happening as consumer interest in food that hasn’t been doused in pesticides, wrapped in plastic and shipped halfway around the world should be offering regional farmers expanding economic opportunity in the form of community supported agriculture (CSAs) and weekend markets. To read more, click HERE.


Leave a comment

just food? conference, march 25-26, cambridge

Palouse_hills_-_9591

JUST FOOD?
FORUM ON LAND USE, RIGHTS AND ECOLOGY

A CONFERENCE EXPLORING LAND AND THE FOOD SYSTEM: HOW LAND AFFECTS WHAT WE EAT, WHO WE ARE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN

March 25–26, 2016

Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

This year’s Just Food? conference will examine the relationship between people and land, primarily through agriculture and food. Conference events will explore the legal, moral, policy, health, historic and environmental aspects of our modern domestic and international food system, with a focus on the intersection of land and justice. The conference will bring together scholars, farmers, activists, practitioners, and other authorities to discuss the growing concerns about who has access to land, how agriculture changes land, and who is marginalized or dispossessed by our current system. Our goal is to educate attendees, empower them to make changes, and engage them in a larger dialogue about food.

A full conference schedulewhen it becomes available, will be posted. But please feel free to register here now!


Leave a comment

is farming an act of public service? time to prove it.

National Young Farms Coalition survey graphic

National Young Farms Coalition survey graphic

Enter the Young Farmer Success Act, which would extend the student loan debt forgiveness granted to persons in public service by the Higher Education Act of 1965 to full time farmer and farm workers. It’s in the senate now!  What you think? Is farming an act of national service? Then join up with the folks over at FarmingIsPublicService.org.

As Eric Hansen, policy advocate for the NYFC says, “It’s incredibly valuable to invite your member of Congress out to the farm. Show them what you’re doing, what contributions you’re making to your community. You’re providing jobs, you’re producing food, and you’re helping to secure the rural economy. Show them the service you’re providing and explain your own struggle with student loan debt.”