Saturday, August 31, 2013

Detroiit--The New Wild West for Farming

Go West Young Man!

According to Bloomberg News (, Detroit's "new urban frontier" is a lot like the Wild West.  Grow enough to support your family, make do with what you have, and rely on your neighbors for help.
Urban farmer Greg Willerer says, "For all intents and purposes, there is no government here."  If something were to happen, we have to handle that ourselves."  He is, of course, referring to the total breakdown in city services as a result of Detroit's financial situation impelling the city in July to file for bankruptcy protection. 


Detroit's Urban Farming Needs and Prospects 

Detroit, spread over 130 square miles (360 square kilometers) has some 150,000 vacant and abandoned parcels, an amount roughly the size of Manhattan!  A study shows that converting some of this land to farming--with enough consumer demand and development of a food-processing industry--could generate 4,700 jobs and $20 million in business taxes.
The Detroit Future City vision calls for transforming vacant land in part to urban farms and, according to the Bloomberg News report, "to create village-like neighborhoods clustered within a half-mile of schools."  In this vision, farms would become part of the 29 percent of the city allocated to landscape by 2050.  This past March, the city changed its zoning to enable farming.

Farming Challenges in Detroit

Detroit's farmers can sell to local restaurants, at farmers markets within the city, and via community-supported agricultural projects (CSAs) that link growers directly with consumers.  Greg Willerer says, he can make $20,000 to $30,000 a year per acre.
Nevertheless, Detroit, like other metropolitan areas in the north of the U.S., has a shorter growing season.  Moreover, although money may be saved transporting produce to very, local markets, if greenhouses are used, the farmer faces higher energy costs.

What I Still Want to Know

Although the Bloomberg News report paints a fairly, hopeful picture for urban farming in Detroit, I still want to hear:
  • What about organic cultivation?  Is anyone encouraging this?  Willerer is concerned about lead-poisoned soil.  What about soil renewal?  How is this being fostered?
  • Who legally can get access to a vacant and abandoned parcel?  What if someone from another part of the country, someone with scant funds--too little to acquire land in normal farming country--wants to move to Detroit and farm, how possible is this?  Is the city searching for non-Detroit farmers?
  • The city desperately needs tax revenue.  If you or I purchase tax liens on abandoned property and the missing owners fail to pay their back taxes, could we thus easily and with minimum outlay become owners of land that could be farmed?


Farming and the Future of Detroit


Huge Potential


Many Questions!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Apostle for Organic Juice

Max Goldberg, "Please, only pressed organic juice!"

Max Goldberg is a hero among organic juice aficionados.  His website offers a directory where anyone, especially travelers, can find pressed organic juices--fruit juices and also green juice.

Why Only Pressed Juices--And What Are They?

Goldberg distinguishes between juices prepared with a centrifugal juicer (a juicer with a blade that spins around) and juice made with a hydraulic press (likely to be a commercial piece of equipment, such as a Norwalk, named after its inventor, Norman Walker).
Personally, I'm satisfied with using my blender (with its centrifugal blades) to juice.  I make green, sweet smoothies for breakfast with a banana, organic apple juice that I've purchased, and lots of leafy greens.  For lunch, using my blender, I make a spicy, green soup with green onions, garlic, a zucchini, green pepper, added spices, and loads of leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula, and sometimes dandelion).
Pressed juices are superior, according to Goldberg, because the press gets more nutrients from the fruit or greens and the juice oxidizes more slowly, retaining the value of its minerals, vitamins, and enzymes longer (up to 72 hours). 
When I juice, I make enough for two to three helpings.  Whenever I have them in the next day or so, I suppose I'm taking the chance that the juice has lost some of its nutritive value.  The taste, nevertheless, remains, as it did the first day when I made the juice!

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Directory

The strengths of the Directory are that wherever you may be (chiefly in the U.S.), you can instantly locate retail outlets that sell pressed organic juice.  And via the Directory, you can arrange for overnight shipments.
The weaknesses of the Directory are the overall weaknesses of our organic food world and its extremely limited supply of foods that are truly organic.   In other words, very few locations are blessed with sufficient sources.

Geographic Scope of the Directory

The Directory covers all 50 states of the U.S., plus specifically these cities:
  • New York City
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Washington, D.C.
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Miami  
  • Boston
Internationally, the Directory includes only Australia, Canada, England, France, Ireland, and Lebanon.


Bravo Max Goldberg!


We need more of you!


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Organic Farming Gains in Unsuspected Quarters

Advocates in Kashmir and Ohio

We don't ordinarily look to Kashmir for advances in organic agriculture.  Nevertheless, on August 26, 2013, the Government of India began a 5-day training program in organic farming leading to Certification & Internal Control System Management. 
The program in Srinagar was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, in collaboration with the Joint Directorate of Agriculture (ext) Kashmir  at Lalmandi Srinigar.

Why Organic?

Why you ask?  For the sake of the 22 officers participating in the program, the Director of Agriculture Kashmir explained that excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has polluted the environment and that soil health has deteriorated:
In view of the threats imposed by synthetic chemicals, the Government of India has launched an organic farming program. . .  This 5-day training program will be of significant importance .
A Joint Director Agriculture Extension added, that organic farming has a number of benefits for the farmers including sustainability of agriculture, reduction in the input cost, and is eco-friendly.  He encouraged officers to popularize and implement organic farming among the farming community.

Meanwhile Back in Ohio

An investor back in Ohio begins to push the idea that investors can make money investing in organic enterprises.  Philippe van den Bossche, an impact entrepreneur and investor, Chairman and Owner of Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), in Middlefield, Ohio, in a statement released August 27, 2013, says:
As the popularity of organic farming increases, awareness of the benefits of organic diets has become more prevalent.  This has encouraged many investors to take interest.  With the right financial backing, the organic farming sector will continue on its current rise.



Positive Signs of Change Around the World


We can Only Hope for More!

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Micro Greens

Chefs Created the Demand

Micro greens are baby greens, miniature vegetable plants that can be harvested when they reach 1 to 1-1/2 inches, complete with stem and leaves.  Sometimes they even have mini flowers.

Chefs Love Them!

David Sasuga, who runs Fresh Origins farm in San Marcos, California, the largest mini greens producer in the U.S., got into the business 18 years ago.
A chef from L'Auberge, an upscale restaurant in Del Mar, on San Diego's County Coast, stopped by the Sasuga nursery to pick up tomato plants.  While there, he happened to notice baby basil and exclaimed:
"We would love to use that in our restaurant!"


Chefs Across the Country

Word spread from the chef in Del Mar to chefs in San Diego, Los Angeles, and on and on, until today Fresh Origins ships across the country.  Plants harvested in the morning can decorate a plate in Boston the next day.
High-end restaurants delight their patrons with delicate, colorful, and tasty micro celery, cilantro, cucumber, mustard Dijon, tangerine lace, wasabi, and other miniature greens never before used in such creative ways to entice diners and tickle palates.

A Dramatic Addition for Restaurants

Sasuga describes the impact micro greens have on top restaurants:
Chefs, especially the high-end, white-table-cloth chefs, are constantly looking for something unique and interesting, and this was perfect for them.  They're flavorful and they look amazing.

How Restaurants Use Micro Greens

Chefs often top off a dish with the greens, adding color, texture, and flavor to cocktails, appetizers, soups, seafood, meat, and desserts.
Sasuga's daughter, Kelly, who helps market, sums up the "dramatic" impact, saying:
You eat with your eyes first!

What About Organic?


The feature article in the Food Section of the daily U-T San Diego (August 14, 2013) by Doug Williams, describing how Fresh Origins catapulted micro greens to prominence says nary a word as to whether the greens raised in the company's huge hothouses on its 24-acre property are cultivated organically.
Nevertheless, I feel that any movement fostering the eating of greens these days when obesity plagues enormous segments of our population, children as well as adults, contributes to our societal health!


Let us then all eat greens!


I say,


More Greens!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Vanishing Bees

Many Culprits

In the last analysis, modern civilization--or in other words, human consciousness from which it springs--causes the dire plight of bees.
And because one-third of our food supply requires bee pollination, you and I and our fellowmen are setting the stage for our mass starvation--and many other sufferings not directly related to bees but which, nevertheless, stem from causes similar to those plaguing bees.

New Discoveries  

Widespread pesticide contamination
  • When bees collect pollen almost exclusively from weeds and wild flowers, the pollen can be contaminated with pesticides even though the weeds and wildflowers were not directly sprayed.  Poisons travel!

  • No matter what type of fungicides or pesticides are used, or applied to seeds prior to planting, pollen contaminated by them reduces bees' ability to resist infections from parasites implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Dramatic Consequence of Honeybee Degradation--The U.S. Almond Crop!

In 2013, many of the 6,000 owners of almond orchards in California could not find enough bees--to import, at any price--to pollinate their almond trees.  Because almonds are California's top agricultural crop and 80% of the world's almonds come from California, the world is beginning to take notice.

Major Culprits


Here are some major culprits responsible for the demise of honeybees worldwide.    To be sure, there are others:
  • Pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides kill insects by attacking their nervous systems, but they get into pollen and nectar and may damage beneficial insects such as bees.
  • Monoculture agriculture leads to malnutrition.  Hives placed near fields where only a single crop is raised deprive bees of the wide variety of nectar they thrive on.
  • Electromagnetic fields (EMFs).  Radiation generated, for example, by cell phones near hives disorients bees, preventing them from returning to their hives.
  • Natural foraging areas destroyed.  When grasslands are massively converted to cropland (corn and soy in the U.S. Midwest), natural foraging areas disappear.
  • Genetically modifies (GM) crops.  Studies show that bees feeding on nectar affected by GM crops produce young ones mirroring genetic traits in the GM crop.


When we recognize that Earth and all its creatures are an organism

--and we are part of it--

we can nurture the return of honey bees!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

"We have to stop treating soil like dirt!"

Soil is the Basis of Life

Thomas L. Friedman, in The New York Times, August 11, 2013, tells us how while filming an environmental documentary in Salinas, Kansas, he muses on the political consequences of climate and environmental stress in the Middle East.

Trying to Win Territory,

While Losing the Life of the Land

Arab environmentalists and Arab politicians view territory differently.  Environmentalists focus on health of the "commons"-- shared air, soil, forests, and water.
What good is political domination by any one group--Shite or Sunni, Christian or Muslim, secular or Islamist--if "they've 'won' a country with eroding soil, degrading forests, scarce water, shrinking jobs"--in other words a deteriorating commons?

Monoculture--Either Cultural or Agricultural is Bad!

Friedman, then segues to the work of Wes Jackson, MacArthur award winner, of Salina, and his environmental philosophy.  Jackson wants to see the monoculture of the prairie returned to its original diversity.  Jackson wants to rescue the single-species, annual monoculture farming, that exhausts the soil, the source of all prairie life.  He says, "We have to stop treating soil like dirt."
Annual monocultures are especially susceptible to disease.  They require more fossil fuel energy--plows, fertilizer, pesticides.  Instead, he advocates  growing a mixture of perennial grains that will naturally provide nutrients and pesticides.

The Folly of Muslim Nostalgia

Instead of fostering commons--even agriculturally--in the Middle East, Al Qaeda wants to restore the strength of Islam by ridding Arab lands of all foreign influences.  Yet, the Golden Age of the Arab/Muslim world was in the 8th and 13th centuries when it had  a vibrant polyculture, when it was a thriving intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine, and education.

Monocultures Don't Work!

Whether they exist culturally or in agriculture, monocultures drain life forces.  Sooner or later, we all pay the price, whether its a stagnant culture or industrial farming based on monoculture that debilitates rather than nourishes health.

Vive Diversity!



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Sunday, August 11, 2013

What do a Pakistani Restaurant and a Restaurant in Maine Have in Common?

They Are Both Trying to Serve Nothing But Organic Food!

Two restaurants worlds apart are attempting to accomplish what few restaurants anywhere seem capable of doing.  Why, because societies, in their countries, value organic foods so lightly that they are hard to come by!

A Pakistani Restaurant

In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a self-governing state under Pakistani control, in the Neelum Valley Imtiaz Awan is a man on a mission.  The Neelum Valley attracts tourists, not for its beauty alone but also for organic food.  Awan is the owner of the first restaurant ever to serve organic food.  He says:
The food we serve is from those farms where no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers of any kind are used.
Besides non-organic food, processed foods like chicken, mutton, bread and milk --foods now available everywhere in the country--are also hazardous.  Chemicals are mixed to enhance flavor of these products, which must be discouraged.
Awan believes that ailments increasing among the masses can be overcome by making "purer" food available.  For that reason, he is striving to revive the "dying culture" of organic eating across Azad Kashmir.  A senior teacher working in the Neelum Valley, Muhammad Saeed says;
The dilemma is how to get the basic necessities to far flung areas of  Azad Jammu and Kashmir. . . We have to promote organic foods and their cultivation to save human lives. 
Our forefathers had an average age of 100 years.  Today, we do not live more than 60 or 70.  This is because of non-organic sustenance.


In Portland, Maine, David Levi, has plans for Vinland, a 39-seat restaurant to open this fall in the city's Congress Square.  Levi says it will be the country's only restaurant to serve 100 percent locally sourced organic food. 
By "local" he means really local!  Levi will avoid staples such as olive oil, cane sugar, lemon, and pepper because they're not produced locally. Salt use will be sea salt, harvested along the Maine coast.   Instead of lemon, he'll use rhubarb or condensed yogurt whey, both of which give the acidic "zing" of lemon.  Rather than wheat flour, he'll substitute parsnip flour.
He says:
By being 100 percent local, we can honestly say that every dollar we spend on food is supporting our neighbors, whether they're small organic farmers, fishermen, or foragers.  This is what Vinland can do to help.
Nevertheless, his restaurant will serve coffee and tea, because they can't be produced locally.  Also, few wines are produced locally.  Facing reality, Levi confesses:
There's a line between the (locally produced) form we want and being in a straitjacket.  I don't want people to feel as if going to Vinland is like doing penance.

Restaurants Around the World


Take Note!

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Amending Soils in the Organic Dairy Pasture

My Heart's in Dairyland!

I grew up in Wisconsin's dairy country in the southern part of the state.  Our home was at the edge of the village (population 1,000).  Every other day, winter or summer, my job was to trudge up a hill to a farm bordering on the village and bring back from the farm's milk house a half-gallon of milk (not pasteurized, of course!).  Sometimes, with a friend, I climbed the stile that took us over the barbed wire fence and right into one of the pastures where we carefully avoided "cow piles" as we headed to a wooded play area.  To this day, I can smell the sweet pastureland, with its buttercups and violets, and not so sweet cow piles!

It All Starts With the Soil!

Despite claims that raising crops and animals organically costs so much and can't be profitable, scientific studies show quite the contrary.  A webinar recorded June 27, 2013, tells the story.
The old adage in organic dairy systems, "it all starts with the soil,"  means that for high forage intake and optimal milk production maintaining good soil fertility is a must.
Investing in a farm's soils can provide returns, "dividends," long after the deposit is made in the proverbial bank account.

Making the Initial Investment 

An account of such an initial investment and its payoff is described in the webinar showing the organic evolution of certified acreage at the University Farm of California State University, Chico.  Professor Cindy Daley of the University's College of Agriculture tells of a long-term soil remediation field trial to study effects of a basic soil amendment program on forage quality and yield and the economic return that would result from added milk production.   
If you savor scientific data to boost your rationale for investing in organic farming, savor here:

I prefer merely to savor organic dairy products


and recall the pasture land of my youth!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sustainable and Community Supported Fisheries

What's 'in the net"?  What's on the line"? 

What's "on your plate"?

I'm heartened to hear about the sustainable fishing industry and Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs)

What's a Sustainable Fishery?

A sustainable fishery regards long-term sustainability of the fish population and the entire ecosystem  the fish rely on.  Inevitably, it's based also on a thriving local fishing community that can make choices about how to harvest and  manage operations in an environmentally sound way--yet still prosper economically.
Moreover, sustainable fisheries offer consumers, both at home and in restaurants, fresher fish that can be traced back to communities, some of whose members caught the fish.

What's On Your Plate?

The person sitting down at the dinner table knows that the fish on his plate came from a population fished with the environment in mind and not from one threatening destruction of the fish habitat.

Community Supported Fisheries

A CSF or Community Supported Fishery is modeled after the increasingly popular community supported farming/agriculture programs (CSAs).  This alternative business model for selling fresh fish locally offers members weekly shares of fresh seafood for a pre-paid membership fee.
The first fishery program in the U.S. began in Port Clyde, Maine, in 2007.  Similar programs exist now across the United States and Europe.  CSF programs started to help marine ecosystems recover from overfishing while at the same time helping fishing communities thrive.
CSF programs help educate distributors and their customers--consumers and restaurants--to learn about new types of fish.  Knowing of the diversity of seafood available enables CSF members to avoid the monoculture trap so widely prevalent in the field of agriculture where continual cultivation of a single crop devastates the soil and surrounding environment

Fish--May you continue to live!


Men--May you continue to fish!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Half-Unconscious Longing for Organic Food

Growing Despair at the Plight of Our Earth

Everywhere I turn, I see growing concern about both the quality of our food and what we human beings are doing to our Earth!

The Mechanism <------->Organism Spectrum

Many of us--if not most of us--waver between seeing daily life and our universe as largely materialistic, rather preordained and immutable, in contrast to a view far more flexible, freedom-filled, optimistic and where spirit prevails.
Now, we tend toward one extreme of the spectrum, now, to the other.

Trends Many of Us Take Part In


Across society, folks with varying degrees of hope--or sometimes horror--react to
  • Water pollution
  • Cruelty to animals in food lots
  • The demise of honeybees (Colony Collapse Disorder)
  • Melting glaciers
  • GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food
  • Chemical fertilizers
  • Chemical pesticides
  • Food additives
  • Food transported from afar rather than grown locally
  • Government regulations favoring the profits of food and chemical giants over the health of citizens 

What Has Changed?

Before the advent of chemical fertilizers and the materialistic,  scientific world view that has permeated and transformed modern civilization, no one spoke of organic food  or organic anything!
No one needed to differentiate between organic and natural.  All could see that food was both "natural" and "organic."  There was nothing artificial about food.  All that mattered was what human beings did with their food, how they grew it, harvested it, stored it, and prepared to serve it.

Deep Down We All Want Nourishing Food!

No matter where we stand in relation to profits of the big chemical and food companies, no matter whether we believe in global warming, or care if food is largely grown locally--we, and all our fellow human beings, want nourishing food, what I and many call organic food.

We're on the Road Together


--Just in Different Places Along That Road!


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