Archive for September, 2010


Planet Green reviews Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It’s an undeniable fact: the way we’re currently dealing with our waste (both human and animal) is not sustainable in the long term. Consider the following:

  • Each of the U.S.’s estimated 100 million cattle produce an average of 27 pounds of manure per day = 2.7 billion pounds of manure PER DAY = over 985 billion pounds of manure per year.
  • Each pig produces an average of 8 pounds of manure per day. With an estimated 70 million pigs, American farmers deal with over half a billion pounds of pig manure per year.
  • The nation’s 68 million pet dogs and 73 million pet cats produce an average of 100 pounds and 50 pounds of waste per animal, per year, respectively.
  • Americans flush away an average of 60 billion gallons of toilet waste per year.
  • That’s a whole lot of waste, and it’s not even counting waste from other animals such as goats, sheep, horses, or chickens. The way we are handling it: overwhelming our sewage systems, sequestering animal wastes in “manure lagoons,” and throwing cat and dog waste in the garbage — none of it is sustainable. The odor and methane from improperly handled livestock waste is harmful to those who have to live nearby, and to the environment as a whole. Our landfills are full of plastic bags of dog and cat waste, producing yet more methane. And all of that flushing takes an obvious toll on our fresh water ecosystems as well.

    There has to be a better way. Farmer, author, and manure advocate Gene Logsdon wants us to recognize that we need to change the way we deal with waste. His book, Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Save Mankind (Chelsea Green, 2010) is nothing more, and nothing less, than a crash course in all things manure. And I’m surprised (and pleased) to tell you that it is fascinating. Maybe not something you want to read at the breakfast table, but definitely an interesting read. Any eco-minded person who produces waste (that would pretty much cover the audience here at Planet Green, right?) would do well to read this book.

    Logsdon suggests that it’s time to do away with the chemical fertilizer industry, which is, (as we’ve seen over and over and over again) doing more harm than good, and start using all of our waste (yes, all of it — livestock, pet, and human manure) to enrich our soil instead. If we put all of that waste to use, we’d effectively kill two birds with one stone: rid the country’s farmland of synthetic chemical crap and put the waste that is currently harming our environment to good use. This means no more manure lagoons to stink up rural areas, no more endless bags of cat poo being trucked to the landfill. Gardeners and farmers alike would compost their manures to enrich the soil they grow on. He calls for the end of factory farming, because in all ways (including waste management), these operations are not sustainable.

    Logsdon does it all in this book: he instructs us in how, exactly, manures should be handled for proper composting, tells us how that composted manure can be best used, and (perhaps most importantly) opens up an important discussion about our aversion to something as natural as waste. If we confront this aversion, really start to talk about it, and think — non-emotionally — about how we can handle all of the manure we produce, then and only then can we start to change how we deal with it.

    This was a great read — entertaining and informative, and full of actionable advice that any gardener or small farmer can put in place right now.

    Read the original review on Planet Green.

    Gene Logsdon is the author of, most recently, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind.

    Excerpt: The Bread Builders

    Thursday, September 30th, 2010

    The following is excerpted from the introduction to The Bread Builders, by Alan Scott and Daniel Wing.

    Looking for Real Bread, Finding Masonry Ovens

    I have baked bread for thirty years. Not professionally, but regularly: I made a lot of bread in all those years. Most of the bread I baked was not as good as the best bread I have ever eaten, though. It was better than any bread I could buy, but only because few bakeries in this country were making bread that was better, none of them were nearby, and bread is perishable.

    Don’t get me wrong: I had fun baking, and everyone liked my bread. But when my bread was only okay I could still see and taste in my mind the bread I wanted to bake—a hearth loaf with an open crumb and a resilient crust, full of flavor. Bread that would stay fresh for days without added sugar, milk, or fat. For years I just couldn’t seem to make bread like that. Now I do, almost every time I bake. My success surprises me a little, even though I know it is my own bread coming out of my own oven, and of course I know exactly what I did to make it. Each time I open the oven door and I see and smell the loaves, my heart jumps and swells a little.

    Learning to bake that way didn’t come without a lot of flailing around, because I was walking in the dark at first. The steps I eventually took to learn to make the kind of bread I like are ones that you can take more easily with the help of this book. Although a first-time baker will get plenty from this book, he or she may not realize the value of the information I have collected. People who have baked before—but never really understood what they were doing—are going to get the most out of it. That is especially true for people who want to make wonderful rustic loaves, and haven’t been able to.

    To do that, you must first learn to ferment your dough naturally (using what most Americans call a sourdough starter) and you have to understand fermentation well enough so you control it, not the other way around. That is how you make a full-flavored loaf that honors the remarkable grain it’s made from, that delights the eye, and holds whatever degree of sourness you seek—a little or a lot. In this book you will learn how and why rye flour, or whole wheat flour, or machine kneading, or a hot day, or many other factors will change the dough you make and the bread you bake. Controlling natural fermentation is the first big step on the path to creating great bread.

    The second big step is to bake your bread in hot masonry. The reasons for this will become clear as you read the book, but take it as a given for now. “Hot masonry” means you can bake many loaves at a time in a masonry oven or you can bake one loaf at a time in a ceramic cloche in a conventional oven. (Bread from a cloche is not actually the same as bread from a masonry oven, but is so close that you almost need the two loaves in front of you to tell the difference.) Only by baking in masonry can the home or small commercial baker get a loaf that looks, chews, and tastes right. That is true even if the dough is perfectly made before it is baked.

    If the secrets of good bread baking are so simple (fermentation, hearth baking), why do so many people have trouble making good bread? There are four reasons for our failures: The first is that most of us have tried to learn the process from books, and there haven’t been books in English that adequately explained fermentation or discussed masonry ovens. The second reason is simple confusion—the best described sourdough baking technique in this country (using a sour starter to react with baking soda to raise flapjacks and quick breads) is not similar to the process for making good “European” naturally leavened bread. Americans tend to maintain sourdough starters in a way that does not produce consistent results when baking bread, but would be fine for pancakes. The third reason is that for more than seventy-five years bakers have been taught to equate successful baking with fast baking—witness the profusion of instant yeast brands—while the opposite is true. The impetus for speeding up the process of making bread was first reflected in advertising that yeast companies directed to commercial bakeries (the familiar “time equals money” equation). Faster baking was then presented as a lifestyle improvement to home bakers who did not realize what speeding up baking would do to their bread. Although the amount of time spent mixing, kneading, slashing, and baking is only marginally longer for good bread than poor bread, the number of hours over which the steps occur is much longer for good bread, regardless of whether the dough is raised with small doses of commercial yeast or from a natural leaven. The fourth reason? The ovens—most people are trying to bake hearth breads in kitchen ovens.

    You can gauge the extent of the confusion about natural fermentation by reading the questions posted to Internet Usenet newsgroups such as rec.food.sourdough and rec.food.baking. Many of the people who post questions to these groups are experienced (often professional) bakers who encounter difficulty changing from speed-baking with store-bought yeast to baking with a natural leaven. These otherwise able people don’t understand the principles of natural fermentation because those principles have not been laid out—the lessons of research in cereal chemistry, dough microbiology, and so forth have not been explored to any extent in popular books on baking, while specialized seminars and videos about sourdough are expensive, costing hundreds of dollars. Baking books give elaborate and intimidating descriptions of how to start and maintain a leaven when it would be more enlightening to describe in detail what is happening in the sourdough process and to consider the properties of sourdough ingredients—water, flour, salt, wild yeast, and bacteria. Methods and rules are not as useful as understanding. A baker who understands the process is liberated—free to create new recipes and to manipulate the determinants of bread quality in pursuit of his or her perfect loaf. This book is short on recipes (on purpose, as there are many excellent sources of recipes) but long on the background information you need to make the kind of bread you want, either by adapting an existing recipe you like, or making up a new one.

    “Fermentation.” “Cereal chemistry.” “Nutrition.” All of this sounds intimidating to the non-scientist. To be truthful, it is even intimidating to a scientist—but you don’t need to be a scientist to understand it. You just have to want to learn. Since I knew little of the “science” of fermentation or cereal grains when I set out, the information I found was new to me, and I hope that it seems fresh as I relay it to you. Although most of it has been published somewhere, no source I could find includes it all, or digests it for consumption by the committed layperson. I hope that the “bread” half of this book will teach you the characteristics of sourdough hearth bread and the factors (that you can control) that determine those characteristics.

    The other half of this book is about building and using masonry ovens. Simple retained-heat ovens (in which a fire is built in the same chamber where the bread will be baked after the fire is removed) are what I actually started out to write about. Masonry ovens have great historical appeal because they are the way bread was baked for millenia, but they are being built now out of more than a purely historical interest. They are built for the unique way they bake: masonry ovens “shock” dough with a massive transfer of heat when the bread is first put in, and they preserve the dough’s moisture when the crust is first forming and the loaf is expanding.

    I had never seen a masonry oven until 1992 or 1993, but that first experience (an oven inauguration at the house of Heather and Randy Leavitt in East Barnard, Vermont) produced such wonderful bread from the same natural leavened dough I had been making for years that my course was set. I visited Alan Scott—America’s preeminent masonry oven builder, renowned sourdough baker, and my partner in this book—for advice and went home to build my oven. Over the next year Alan and I decided that since he cannot spend half a day with every baker in the country (and I have blocks of time in which I am not practicing medicine), I should help Alan produce a book devoted to the history and principles of masonry ovens, and to oven planning, oven building, and oven management. Because there is little useful literature on most of these topics, the “oven” sections in this book are based on basic principles and direct experience—Alan’s, mine, and that of many bakers I visited while writing this book.

    I want to state again that much of what I learned and discuss here about ovens I learned from Alan or from sources (manuscripts, publications, articles, and introductions) that he provided. The plans in this book are Alan’s plans, the photographs are of Alan’s ovens or of ovens built to his plans (except where noted), and the research on managing a wood-burning oven was done with equipment that he provided. In addition to his technical and organizational involvement in this book, he has been its major spiritual influence. Although I am not totally without spirit, mine is the kind that gets one kept after school. Alan, on the other hand, is a deep thinker, and he thinks about things from first principles. Alan follows a spiritual teacher, he practices meditation every day, and he has made a life that is congruent with his spiritual knowledge.

    That spiritual life is part of what he contributes to this book, and is one thing that makes it more than a “how-to” manual. Alan became on oven builder in the early 1980s when he did the forge work for the iron fittings for the first oven built for Laurel Robertson and her community. As a participant in their pursuit of good bread (which resulted in the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book) he went on to become an oven builder, a baker, and a teacher in his own right—a man people travel hundreds of miles to meet and bake with, as I did. Alan and I both believe that baking in a masonry oven makes the best possible bread, though, as you can see from the Preface, we came to this book by different paths and the bread we make is different.

    I began this book to help Alan get the word out about masonry ovens, and neither of us thought we would be doing original research on the thermal characteristics of ovens, or that the book would have more than a little in it about bread and baking—there are already so many books on the shelves about bread and baking. But the more I read, the more I learned, the deeper I dug into scientific journals and correspondence with other bakers, the more I realized that much of what one reads in popular baking books is misleading, especially about natural fermentation. As I added more and more to the “baking” side, the book became balanced, almost unintentionally: it now contains a lot about baking and a lot about ovens. It is vastly more researched and detailed than we anticipated, and will answer questions that occur to even very experienced bakers.

    To introduce you to these subjects I will first describe the differences between good bread and insipid bread and delineate the factors responsible for those differences. As I make this exploration I will define terms and topics. Then I will tell you exactly what I do when I make dough and then bake it, and what Alan Scott does and talks about when he makes dough and bakes it. After that I will present chapters that progress through the book from grain to finished bread, using a fairly linear approach. Each chapter is followed by one or more “visits” that profile people and companies dedicated to hearth baking: restaurants, consultants, suppliers, bakers. I hope that the good versus insipid bread review and the breadmaking section will give you enough perspective to carry you through any potentially dry spots, and that the visits will give you some perspective about how natural fermentation of dough and brick oven baking work in the world of the professional artisan baker.

    Check out The Bread Builders today, and start baking!

    HARVEST BOOK SALE – Save 25% On Selected Food & Gardening Titles

    Thursday, September 30th, 2010

    PRESERVE THE HARVEST – WE HAVE THE BOOKS TO TEACH YOU HOW!

    It’s unmistakably harvest time! Farmer’s markets, CSA’s, backyard gardens, and farms are bursting with produce. It’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labors and preserve this delicious bounty to nourish us over the winter months to come. We’ve got a wonderful crop of books to help you preserve the harvest and enjoy the abundance of the season.

    Save 25% when you purchase any of the titles below:

    The Resilient Gardener
    By Carol Deppe

    Scientist/gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields — resilience science, climatology, climate change, ecology, anthropology, paleontology, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, health, and medicine. In the last half of The Resilient Gardener, Deppe extends and illustrates these principles with detailed information about growing and using five key crops: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs.

    Fermentation Workshop with Sandor Ellix Katz DVD
    With Sandor Ellix Katz

    Thousands of readers consider Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation to be their guidepost for exploring and making fermented foods. Now, in this new DVD, Katz offers fermentation beginners and enthusiasts a chance to “sit in” on one of his popular workshops and learn through hands-on demonstration and instruction, accompanied by an interview on the benefits of fermentation, and social implications as it relates to food security.Buy the book and DVD set!

    Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman DVD

    With Eliot Coleman

    Experience a workshop with bestselling author and expert in season extension, based on a filmed daylong workshop and extensive interview. Complete with a slide show, images from Coleman’s own farm over the years, his travels to Europe, and detailed plans for his model of season extension, this film is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit down with a master.Buy the DVD and book set!

    Preserving Food Without Freezing Or Canning
    By the Farmers & Gardeners of Terre Vivante

    Typical books about preserving garden produce nearly always assume that modern kitchen gardeners will boil or freeze their vegetables and fruits. Yet here is a book that goes back to the future-celebrating traditional but little-known French techniques for storing and preserving edibles in ways that maximize flavor and nutrition.

    How To Store Your Garden Produce
    By Piers Warren

    The modern guide to storing and preserving your garden produce, enabling you to eat home-grown goodness all year round. The easy-to-use reference section provides applicable storage and preservation techniques for the majority of plant produce grown commonly in home gardens.

    Growing Roots
    By Katherine Leiner

    Growing Roots is about a new revolution in food that involves young people who are living sustainable lives that revolve around healthy, natural food. The book introduces us to farmers and beekeepers, fishermen and chefs, food activists and cheesemongers, and many, many more. We meet these fascinating young people from all across the nation through first-person profiles, along with brilliant photographs and delicious, simple recipes.

    Libation, A Bitter Alchemy
    By Deirdre Heekin

    In Libation, a Bitter Alchemy, a series of linked personal essays, Deirdre Heekin explores the curious development of her nose and palate, her intuitive education and relationship with wine and spirits, and her arduous attempts to make liqueurs and wine from the fruits of her own land in northern New England. Musing on spirits from Campari to alkermes, Heekin’s writing is as intoxicating, rich, and carefully crafted as the wines, liquors, and locales she loves.

    In Late Winter We Ate Pears
    By Deirdre Heekin

    More than a cookbook, In Late Winter We Ate Pears is a love affair with a culture and a way of life. In vignettes taken from their year in Italy, husband and wife Caleb Barber and Deirdre Heekin offer glimpses of a young, vibrant country. Recipes such as red snapper with fennel sauce, fresh figs with balsamic vinegar and mint, and frangipane and plum tart capture the essence of Italy. Following the tradition of Italian cuisine, the 80 recipes are laid out according to season, to suggest taking advantage of your freshest local ingredients.

    Jamie Court: Time For Obama To Get Tough On Insurers With Rate Freeze Via Executive Order

    Thursday, September 30th, 2010

    Obama’s mad about insurers blaming his health care plan for big rate hikes, but he doesn’t have to take it any more. He can and should issue and executive order to stop the rate hikes immediately.

    A Blue Cross policyholder emailed me last night about her recent 20 percent rate hike, and now being pushed into a policy that costs that much more and comes with a $7500 deductible. Her insurer’s response: blame the president and his “10,000 page legislation.”

    That’s electioneering in my book. The President needs to fire back, and protect customers, as well as the integrity of his patient protection act. This is the type of out of the box thinking that Americans expect from their President, and he has yet to deliver.

    Consumer Watchdog today wrote the President asking that he freeze health insurance premiums to protect consumers from unjustified and unreasonable increases until new rules under the health reform law requiring public justification of unreasonable premium hikes take effect later this year.

    The Supreme Court has held that a President may issue an Executive Order where the President has been expressly or implicitly authorized to act by the Constitution or Congress. Under the federal health reform law, Congress expressly provided that, beginning with the 2010 plan year, health insurance companies cannot raise insurance premiums until insurers “submit to the Secretary and the relevant State a justification for an unreasonable premium increase prior to the implementation of the increase.”

    Here’s the reasoning behind the executive order: HHS is working to finalize regulations by the end of 2010 defining an “unreasonable premium increase.” It’s not yet possible for regulators to determine which premium increases require a justification from insurers. So an Executive Order freezing premium increases until insurers have justified increases deemed unreasonable is necessary to implement the express requirements of the federal law.

    There is precedent for the success of such a freeze. In California, Proposition 103 enacted the nation’s strongest prior approval system for property and casualty rate regulation in 1988. California’s insurance commissioner ordered a freeze on all rates until implementing regulations were enacted, and insurers complied. Despite claims that the freeze and new regulation would drive insurers out of the state, or out of business, the state’s auto insurance market is the 4th most competitive in the nation and stayed profitable, while auto insurance premiums rose at the slowest rate in the nation, according to a 2008 analysis by the Consumer Federation of America.

    An Executive Order establishing the premium freeze could be written to end when those regulations become effective, thus allowing premium increases to go into effect only after unreasonable increases are justified by insurers as intended by Congress.

    Will Obama get tough on insurers? He has the power, now he just needs the presidential will.

    This article appeared originally on The Huffington Post.

    Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell, available now.

    Now Available: The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer

    Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

    Joel Salatin is a rock star in the farming world.

    If you haven’t read about his family’s Polyface Farm in Michael Pollan’s New York Times bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, seen Joel featured in the hit documentary films, Food, Inc., and Fresh, or heard one of his entertaining public talks, here’s your latest chance to be awed: Joel’s seventh book, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being A Lunatic Farmer, is now available!

    Foodies and environmentally minded folks often struggle to understand and articulate the fundamental differences between the farming and food systems they endorse and those promoted by Monsanto and friends. With visceral stories and humor from Salatin’s half-century as a “lunatic” farmer, Salatin contrasts the differences on many levels: practical, spiritual, social, economic, ecological, political, and nutritional.

    In today’s conventional food-production paradigm, any farm that is open-sourced, compost-fertilized, pasture-based, portably-infrastructured, solar-driven, multi-speciated, heavily peopled, and soil-building must be operated by a lunatic. Modern, normal, reasonable farmers erect “No Trespassing” signs, deplete soil, worship annuals, apply petroleum-based chemicals, produce only one commodity, erect Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, and discourage young people from farming.

    Anyone looking for ammunition to defend a more localized, solar-driven, diversified food system will find an entire arsenal in these pages. With wit and humor honed during countless hours working on the farm he loves, and then interacting with conventional naysayers, Salatin brings the land to life, farming to sacredness, and food to ministry.

    Divided into four main sections, the first deals with principles to nurture the earth, an idea mainstream farming has never really endorsed. The second section describes food and fiber production, including the notion that most farmers don’t care about nutrient density or taste because all they want is shipability and volume. The third section, titled “Respect for Life,” presents an apologetic for food sacredness and farming as a healing ministry. Only lunatics would want less machinery and pathogenicity. Oh, the ecstasy of not using drugs or paying bankers. How sad. The final section deals with promoting community, including the notion that more farmers would be a good thing.

    Joel Salatin is the author of, most recently, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being A Lunatic Farmer, available now.

    Woody Tasch: Recognizing the Value of Small Ideas

    Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

    In our search for answers to the great questions of our day, we would be well served to listen less to economists and more to philosophers, poets, ecologists, entrepreneurs, and farmers.

    To see what might lie beyond the Era of Economics, we must look above the top line and below the bottom line. I mean this almost literally. Above the top line is the region of the “meta,” what E. F. Schumacher called meta-economics. Below the bottom line is the territory of the “sub,” as in subterranean, not in the sense of journeying to the center of the earth or anything that science fictional, but something equally fantastic and preposterously too non-commodifiably invisible to the modern and postmodern mind: the rich, symbiotically phenomenal, mysteriously fertile life of the soil.

    “A very good idea” would be a civilization that did not strip its topsoil, turn it into cheap food and highly processed food products of questionable nutritional value, and put its faith in markets at the expense of places.

    Civilization is a big idea. So is the idea that as soil goes, so goes civilization. So is the idea that as money goes, so goes the soil.

    We don’t need any more big ideas. We need small ideas. Beautiful ideas. Beautiful because they lead to a large number of beautiful, small actions, the kind alluded to by Wendell Berry: “Soil is not usually lost in slabs or heaps of magnificent tonnage. It is lost a little at a time over millions of acres by careless acts of millions of people. It cannot be solved by heroic feats of gigantic technology, but only by millions of small acts and restraints.” …

    We have slipped during the past half century, as if pulled by the gravitational or centripetal forces of population growth, technological innovation, consumerism, and markets, into a food system that treats the soil as if it were nothing more than a medium for holding plant roots so that they can be force-fed a chemical diet.

    We have become dependent on technology and synthetic inputs, subsidized by what was, until very recently, cheap oil, which facilitated not only the production of nitrogen fertilizer, but also the management of large-scale, mechanized farms and the energy-intensive system of processing and long-range transportation necessary to bring agricultural products to distant markets. Agriculture accounts for more than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—all the more shocking when one realizes that recent science indicates that fertile soil is a potent carbon sink, holding the potential to play a significant role in remediating global warming. …

    No, no one ever sat down and designed such a system. Yet it is precisely such a technology-heavy, extractive, intermediation laden food system that we now need to remediate and reform.

    This is the system that has evolved in the wake of global capital markets and the investors who use them, much as industrial farmers use their land—as a medium into which to pour capital in order to harvest maximum yield.

    In August 2007, at the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Gala for the Rocky Mountain Institute, eminent panelists tried to answer questions posed by moderator Thomas Friedman: “If this is a win-win-win, if these new technologies and design solutions are so elegant and so profitable and so clean, what is holding them back? Where is the resistance to these innovations coming from?” Unexpectedly, since this was not a finance conference, the group discussion zeroed in on CEO compensation, short-term financial incentives, and the structure of capital markets.

    Inventor Dean Kamen opined from the dais: “Venture capitalists have great enthusiasm but short attention spans. We are stuck in a nineteenth-century way of thinking that leads to large-scale, centralized production and power generation. We don’t have the mind-set to really invest for the long-term in small-scale solutions that would improve life for billions of people.”

    Such questions and observations lead to the premise for a new kind of financial intermediation, going by the improbable name of “slow money.”

    That premise is this: The problems we face with respect to soil fertility, biodiversity, food quality, and local economies are not primarily problems of technology. They are problems of finance. In a financial system organized to optimize the efficient use of capital, we should not be surprised to end up with cheapened food, millions of acres of GMO corn, billions of food miles, dying Main Streets, kids who think food comes from supermarkets, and obesity epidemics side by side with persistent hunger.

    Speed is a big part of the problem. We are extracting generations worth of vitality from our land and our communities. We are acting as if the biological and the agrarian can be indefinitely subjugated to the technological and the industrial without significant consequence. We are, as the colloquial saying puts it, beginning to believe our own bullshit.

    Originally published in Sustainable Industries Magazine.

    Woody Tasch is the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.

    Financial Post reviews The Earth’s Best Story

    Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

    The Earth’s Best Story is a complicated tale of sweat, success, naivety, scheming and villainy, recounted by identical twin brothers who founded the first organic baby food company in the United States, only to have it scooped away from them.

    The book is fascinating reading: a movie-like entrepreneurial dream realized through stubborn determination and perseverance that ends with a nearly Shakespearean denouement.

    The brothers alternate the narrative, beginning with their shared idealism for making the world a better place by developing a nutritious, organic line of food that was safe and healthy for babies.

    They are candid about how they started out with next to no skills or connections to draw on to bring their dream to fruition and how they made a series of mistakes that would have derailed nearly anyone else.

    The book traces their awkward development into entrepreneurs, the struggle to develop a saleable product that met their ideals and the desperate, never-ending efforts to scrounge up financing. And, how, just when everything seemed poised to pay off for them, it fell apart.

    The Kosses’ description of the way some of their investors, and subsequently some of the executives, schemed to oust the brothers from control of the company they created, is gut-wrenching and it’s obvious the wounds are still raw, more than 20 years after the events.

    The Earth’s Best brand is now part of a stable of natural-foods controlled by The Hain Celestial Group and the brothers have moved on to other projects. Their memoir is both cautionary and inspirational.

    Read the original review, “A Cautionary Tale of Idealism vs. Business,” by Laura Ramsey, here.

    Ron and Arnie Koss are the authors of The Earth’s Best Story: A Bittersweet Tale of Twin Brothers Who Sparked an Organic Revolution.

    Two New DVDs for Gardeners and Food-Lovers

    Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

    Two of our most popular authors – Eliot Coleman and Sandor Ellix Katz – have filmed their workshops so that you can learn from their expertise and see them in action as well as reading their books. We’re delighted to announce the release of Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman and Fermentation Workshop with Sandor Katz, both available now!

    Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman:
    This filmed workshop on year-round vegetable production offers farmers and gardeners the rare chance to sit in with Eliot Coleman, one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement and author of The New Organic Grower, Four-Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook.

    During his careers as commercial market gardener, director of agricultural research projects, developer of tools for organic growers, and teacher and lecturer on organic gardening, Coleman has studied, practiced, and perfected his craft, and while you can bring Coleman’s books with you into your garden, there’s nothing like getting the advice straight from the man himself.

    Included in the DVDs:

    • The history of season-extension farming in Europe
    • Information on moveable greenhouses and using fabric covers
    • Growing tips in terms of nutrition and marketability
    • Rodent control
    • Curing and packing using sustainable materials
    • How to work with restaurants and chefs (and create a demand)
    • Information on tools, soil health, and vegetable varieties that survive well in the cold
    • Additional photos, diagrams, and climate maps

    And more…

    Experience a workshop with bestselling author and expert in season extension, based on a filmed daylong workshop and extensive interview. Complete with a slide show, images from Coleman’s own farm over the years, his travels to Europe, and detailed plans for his model of season extension, this film is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit down with a master.

    Watch a trailer for the DVD here!

    **********************************************************************************

    Fermentation Workshop with Sandor Ellix Katz:

    Thousands of readers consider Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation to be their guidepost for exploring and making fermented foods. Now, in this new DVD, Katz offers fermentation beginners and enthusiasts a chance to “sit in” on one of his popular workshops and learn through hands-on demonstration and instruction, accompanied by an interview on the benefits of fermentation, and social implications as it relates to food security.

    Contrary to popular belief, fermenting foods is a simple process. But it needs to be done correctly, and there’s no better person to inform us about managing microbial bacteria to produce highly nutritious food. In fact, with Sandor Ellix Katz as their guide, viewers will find fermentation is much more than just a way of preserving food: it’s a method of self-sufficiency, a crucial historical component to all agricultural movements, and utterly delicious.

    This intimate workshop and interview will prove invaluable both for total beginners and longtime fermentation lovers. The DVD includes:

    • The history of fermentation and culturing
    • Information about microorganisms and pre-digestion
    • Demonstrations on making kefir and sauerkraut
    • Tips on fermentation vessels and storage
    • The truth about food safety (botulism, surface mold, and other fears de-mystified)

    And more…

    Complete with cultural commentary, practical preparation guidance (including recipes), and a demonstration for just-right sauerkraut—and featuring an extended interview with Katz—this video is perfect for food-lovers of any kind.

    Watch the trailer of the DVD here!

    Bob Cavnar: BP’s Internal Report Doesn’t Hold Up Under Academy Scrutiny

    Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

    At the request of the Department of Interior, the National Academy of Engineering formed a special committee to study the causes of the blowout of BP’s Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well, dubbed Macondo.

    The investigation of the blowout started in June, but news was made yesterday as the committee publicly interviewed members of BP’s internal investigation team for the first time, as well as other parties. You’ll recall that BP’s report, described by drilling contractor Transocean as “self serving”, was issued earlier this month.

    You’ll also recall that of the eight failures identified by BP as the causes of the blowout, BP only took partial responsibility for two, completely ignoring key issues such as casing design and circulation prior to the cement job. BP’s team, led by Mark Bly, BP Group Head of Safety and Operations, placed primary blame for the disaster on Transocean, Halliburton, and Weatherford. Their conclusions, transferring blame to others rather than identifying the true causes, called the entire report into question.

    Yesterday, during the meeting, the Academy committee criticized the report pointing out that BP drew their conclusions without interviews of all involved or even inspecting the rig, which is still on the bottom, as well as the lack of available evidence. Najmedin Meshkati, a professor at the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California, wondered why BP didn’t investigate organizational issues and rig scheduling, which could have caused worker fatigue, contributing to the confusion prior to the well blowout. In criticizing the BP report, Meshkati said,

    “How could you call this great work accident investigation … and not addressing human performance issues and organizational issues and decision-making issues?”

    Under questioning, about BP ignoring the confusion and possible distraction of the crew with other activities, Bly said that,

    “It wasn’t intended to be anything that it isn’t. It was a good contribution and a good foundation for further work for BP itself and others.”

    That’s not exactly what he said about the internal report, though. They unequivocally determined that the cement in the annulus, the cement in the shoe track, and the float equipment all failed. They also concluded that the casing design and the fact they didn’t fully circulate the well played no role in the blowout. While saying that new data may affect their conclusions, it was interesting that the causes they point to remain in the well, never to be recovered.

    Thomas Roth, of Halliburton, also questioned BP’s conclusions that the cement failed and that the casing design didn’t was not a contributing factor, saying,

    “BP’s well design and operational decisions compromised well integrity,” said Roth. “BP proceeded with well operations without establishing well integrity. In the end, BP followed a decision tree that ignored multiple red flags.”

    When asked why Halliburton didn’t order a halt to the operations if BP’s actions were unsafe, Roth backpeddled, saying, “We didn’t see it to be an unsafe operation as it was being executed.”

    This panel, stocked with engineers and scientists, is much more likely to come up with meaningful conclusions about the causes of the BP well blowout, as opposed to the President’s commission, which is staffed with academians, environmentalists, and politicians. As I am watching this morning’s hearings of the President’s Commission in its third session, it is becoming even more clear as, so far, testimony focused on booming and skimming and flow rate, with little time spent by witness Doug Suttles on the subsea response or causes. As opposed to the National Academy Engineering panel, the President’s panel continues to focus on investigating what happened environmentally after the blowout as opposed to seeking out the actual causes of the blowout.

    The Academy panel is expected to issue a preliminary report about its findings on October 31, the day before the deepwater moratorium will be lifted. Clearly, this will not be soon enough to affect operating policy; hopefully, since this disaster occurred, operators who resume work will make fundamental changes to operating and safety practices to lower the risk of another blowout. My big concerns remain about fundamental design flaws in subsea BOPs and the level of training of rig personnel in kick recognition and early-sign well control. These must be addressed to help prevent release of oil into the environment and possible loss of life. Subsea containment procedures must also be developed in the event that well control is lost.

    We’re still a long way from being ready to safely operate in the deepwater, even though we will shortly resume operations. Until new procedures and equipment are ready, it is incumbent upon deepwater operators and their contractors to minimize risk through diligent operations and strict adherence to best practices.

    Bob’s new book, Disaster on the Horizon, will be released on October 22.

    This article appeared originally on The Huffington Post.

    edible ASPEN interviews Eliot Coleman

    Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

    edibleASPEN magazine, based in Colorado, interviewed Eliot Coleman (as well as our beloved Joel Salatin) in their Fall 2010 issue. Read Eliot’s interview below and click here to see the full piece online.

    edibleASPEN: What has been the biggest change in the way people perceive food in the last decade?

    Eliot Coleman: Back when we started, people would come to the farm stand because they remembered farm stands from when they were young. But now, local has become such a popular concept for food the biggest change is that the customers are driving to the farms instead of the other way around. People want local. In fact, the local movement has gone to a place in about five years that it took organic 40 years to do.

    EA: Why do you think that is?

    EC: I suspect lots of credit might go to Alice Waters or Michael Pollan. You can’t have books read by that many people without having some effect, and we have more and more competent young growers.

    EA: What is your impression of the organic farming movement in western Colorado? How does it compare to other parts of the country?

    EC: I’m pretty familiar with that part of Colorado. I spent summers running a kayak camp at CRMS—there’s actually a great farm there [at CRMS, it’s perfect. You guys [have] more winter sun, and it probably gets colder up in the mountains. But the biggest hangup is water. There’s no rain! That is what would have kept me from settling there.

    EA: What is it going to take to systematically change the way people eat in the United States?

    EC: I think that’s happening; it’s just a case of getting the information out there. There’s always going to be a certain percentage of people that don’t change. For example, you can’t have more or stronger information about the dangers of tobacco than we have, yet 25 percent of people still smoke cigarettes. You are going to have that same percentage that are always going to eat Twinkies, but in time, companies with large plants are going to start encouraging farmers to set up farm stands at closing time, where people can buy organic produce. That would be a very smart idea. These companies are all paying huge health insurance amounts and just getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables will improve health, lower company costs and make a farmer happy at the same time. Those sorts of changes can happen.

    Eliot Coleman is the author of, most recently, The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses


    Follow us
    Get every new post delivered to your inbox
    Join millions of other followers
    Powered By WPFruits.com