Archive for December, 2011

Top Ten Food and Farm Stories of 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

This year the food policy landscape shifted for better and for worse. Here are the top ten food and farm stories of 2011, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

1) The Secret Farm Bill–Dead!

Fortunately, the Congressional Super Committee failed in its effort to come up with a deficit-cutting plan, putting an end to a scheme that sought to use the process to enact a secret farm bill crafted behind closed doors. Leaked versions of the bill showed that industrial agriculture lobbyists and their allies in Congress were trying to protect the status quo once again to continue funneling billions of dollars to the same highly profitable mega farms that have fattened up on taxpayer-funded subsidies for decades. No surprise there, but there are plenty of lessons to keep in mind as the farm bill debate resumes in early 2012.

2) Goodbye to the Corn Ethanol Subsidy and Tariff

In a victory for environmentalists, taxpayer and anti-hunger groups, Congress will chop off two legs of the three-legged stool of wasteful ethanol supports. The tariff on foreign ethanol and the $6 billion Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit both expire on Dec. 31. Trying to put a brave face on the inevitable, corn ethanol lobbyists who were apoplectic about losing federal support just five months ago are now claiming they voluntarily gave it up. The main driver of highly polluting corn ethanol production, however, remains intact. That’s the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which unwisely mandates the use of billions of gallons of the stuff.

3) A Disturbing View of Industrial Agriculture

EWG’s aerial survey of Iowa cornfields captured our worst fears about agricultural pollution. Farms are losing their irreplaceable topsoil up to 12 times faster than the government estimates. And this severe erosion and runoff isn’t limited to Iowa. Agricultural chemicals are fouling Americans’ water from the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bayto Minnesota’s Lake Pepin.

4) Don’t Consumers Have the Right to Know What’s in their Food?

Corporate lobbyists pushing for genetically engineered products don’t want food labels, even though most consumers are begging for more information about what’s in their food. The Just Label It campaign was launched this year to give consumers a voice and urge the Food and Drug Administration to make GMO labeling mandatory. In contrast, the organic industry has no qualms about labeling its products.

5) The Produce Industry’s Highly Public Lobbying Campaign

Until this year, EWG had never before seen the produce industry take such a high-profile role in debates over pesticide policy and safety. Invariably, it was the pesticide industry’s trade association that took the lead. But when the U.S. Department of Agriculture unexpectedly delayed release of its annual analysis of pesticide residues, EWG discovered that conventional produce growers were putting intense pressure on the agency to downplay consumer concerns about pesticides and to discredit EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides on Produce. We called attention to it, and in the end, USDA released its testing results, fortunately, without any spin.

6) Members of Congress and Absentee Landlords Benefit from Farm Subsidies

With tight budgets and the federal deficit driving the 2012 farm bill debate, it makes as little sense to continue farm subsidy payments to absentee landlords living in Manhattan and Miami as it does to continue sending tax dollars to profitable agribusinesses.

Many of the lawmakers who will eventually vote on the next five years of federal farm subsidies are themselves collecting those checks – even ardent Tea Party types.

7) The Outsized Carbon Footprint of Beef

EWG research gave consumers their first comprehensive look at the impact that meat, eggs and other foods have on our health, the environment and climate. The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health, endorsed by Chef Mario Batali and food author Michael Pollan, found that lamb, beef, pork and cheese generate the most greenhouse gases, and that 20 percent of the total is the result of food waste. The analysis prompted more than 41,000 EWG supporters to take the pledge to eat less meat every week.

8) The Demise of the Direct Payment Farm Program

Thanks to the drive to slash the ballooning federal deficit, Congress is on the verge of eliminating direct payments to growers. The move would open the door to shaping a federal farm policy that levels the playing field for all farmers. But direct payments won’t go away quietly. Lobbyists are already lining up on Capitol Hill to pull off a bait-and-switch scheme that would ensure that agribusiness continues to get billions of federal subsidies in the form of revenue insurance instead. All eyes will be on commodity title reform in 2012.

9) Schools Can Still Count Pizza Sauce as a Vegetable. Wait, what?

Congress, at the behest of Big Food, blocked proposed rules that would have overhauled the national school lunch program and made it more nutritious. As the New York Times pointed out, the move means that schools can continue to serve high sodium and starchy foods and declare French fries and pizza sauce as vegetable servings. Lawmakers, once again, completely ignored the obesity crisis that afflicts so many kids. This needs to change, and so do Big Food’s marketing tactics to children.

10) Number of Food Stamp Beneficiaries Reaches Record High

In August, the number of Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, hit a record high, with 45.8 million receiving benefits that month. With the steady high unemployment rate and a weak economy, adequate funding for federal nutrition programs couldn’t be more critical as Congress works on reauthorizing the next farm bill.

Originally published by EWG.

Sara Sciammacco is the Press Secretary for the Environmental Working Group. She worked as a broadcast journalist for eight years. Most recently, she was a political reporter for Capitol News Connection covering the U.S. Congress for public radio stations. Her reporting focused on agricultural policy, health care, education, energy, and the environment. Her coverage of the 2008 farm bill highlighted the inequities in the federal farm subsidy programs. Earlier in her career, Sciammacco was a television reporter at New England Cable News in Boston, Massachusetts. She also held reporting positions in Rhode Island and South Dakota. Sciammacco is a former National Press Foundation Paul Miller fellow. She holds a bachelors degree in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Many of our authors are engaged in the politics of food. From Jeffrey Smith’s exposes of the dangers of GMOs, to David Gumpert’s activism in support of consumers’ rights to choose the foods they want, especially raw milk, we’re constantly cheering for this particularly sumptuous sort of sustainability!

Joan Gussow on The Big ‘O’

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

The Real Story of `O’ — When we said organic, we meant local, healthful, and just. By Joan Dye Gussow, reposted from Organic Gardening.

There was a time when suggesting that the term organic meant more than carbon-containing was to risk labeling yourself a food faddist. There was a time when newspaper gardening columns patronizingly informed new gardeners that compost was nice for texture but otherwise useless and that manure was a much less efficient source of nutrients than a bag of 5-10-5. From the beginning, Organic Gardening reassured us that those folks were wrong.

Sixty years have changed everything. Now organic is a glamour word. Now the outputs of organic production can be found in supermarkets around the world. Now there are national guidelines for what it means to be organic with every i dotted and t crossed, so industrial-scale farms can follow the letter of the law and be certified.

So have we won? Not really. The “O” word is now academically respectable, but state and federal funding for organic research remains minimal. More alarmingly, given the entry into the industry of some of the largest multinational food companies, organics seems to be becoming what some of us hoped it would be an alternative to—another industrial food system that ships raw materials from wherever on the planet they can be most cheaply grown to factories producing everything from “organic” TV dinners to “organic” soft drinks.

This isn’t what we meant. When we said organic, we meant local. We meant healthful. We meant being true to the ecologies of our regions. We meant mutually respectful growers and eaters. We meant social justice and community. Some insist that the modern world has no place for such niceties. Small-scale organic operations, they declare, will inevitably lose out to what has been called the organic-industrial complex. Its output will be delivered to high-volume superstores, where locally grown carrots will be undersold by mass-produced “organic” carrots.

Some of us don’t agree that the future of organics lies in economies of scale or long-distance transport of food. We believe it lies in local markets that help sustain vibrant local economies. “Oh, sure,” sneer the critics, “but local organic can’t feed the world.”

Industrial agriculture is not now feeding the world, of course, and shows no promise of doing so. Instead, this high-input model keeps plunging into destitution the very farmers whose production might really help end hunger. Local organic agriculture, moreover, doesn’t have to feed the world; it needs only to offer local communities techniques for feeding themselves, an offer it has widely delivered on from Mexico to Kenya. It has delivered, most notably, in Cuba, 90 miles off our southern coast, where small-scale local organic agriculture is feeding a nation.

Cut off from the inputs for “modern” agriculture by the 1989 disintegration of the Soviet Union, Cuba went organic of necessity. Now private and community urban gardens supply more than half of Cuba’s vegetables. Could a similar revolution come to pass here, in a nation that “has everything”? Why not? By demonstrating the power of organic methods in our own backyards, by supporting local farmers, and by working steadily to shorten our food chains, we veterans of Organic Gardening’s earlier battles can help save the kind of organic we always meant to have.

Educator Joan Dye Gussow, is the author of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader (Chelsea Green, 2001), and Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables.

This article was originally published in Organic Gardening, Sep/Oct 2002, Vol. 49 Issue 5, p39

How Our Community Re-Financed Our Grocery Co-op: A Slow Money Success Story

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

We love to share Slow Money success stories like this one from North Carolina. If you’ve got one to share from your community, let us know! Just fill out our web form here.

This article was reposted from Sustainable Grub, written by Dee Reid.

It all started when Chatham Marketplace had a financial obligation looming. The Pittsboro-based co-op grocery was facing a $300k balloon payment on its start-up loan.  The note would come due in about a year. The bank might be willing to re-finance, but there was no guarantee about that, or whether the Marketplace would get the same terms.

Then Carol Hewitt recalled a great idea that came up a few months earlier when she was first co-founding Slow Money NC, the Pittsboro-based initiative that facilitates peer-to-peer community-based loans. Chatham Marketplace Finance Committee member Paul Finkel had suggested re-financing the co-op’s loan through individual lenders in the community.

Slow Money wasn’t ready to take on something that big last spring, Carol said.  But by fall, Slow Money had already facilitated more than a dozen micro-loans to farmers and food entrepreneurs. Maybe they could tackle the Chatham Marketplace loan after all.

Carol and Slow Money co-founder Lyle Estill began crunching the numbers. They would need to find 16 individuals willing to loan $25k each at a 4.5% interest rate. Each lender would receive equal monthly payments over an eight-year period, and the loan would then be retired.
Slow Money NC would help them aggregate their funds into one pool that could be managed centrally. That’s when Bringing It Home Chatham LLC was formed.

It didn’t take all that long to line up 16 lenders, Carol said. The folks who had helped start the Marketplace– Tami Schwerin, Melissa Frye and Katherine Conroy– met and suggested names. It was a community effort and one-by-one people agreed to participate. The loan was attractive to them for several reasons:  They believed in putting their money to work in the community. Many of them had already made micro-loans through Slow Money NC and they felt confident their funds would be repaid.

They knew the risks associated with supporting a small local business, Carol said, but they would rather see their money working on Main Street than riding the recession roller coaster on Wall Street. And, they would be getting a better return on the Marketplace loan than they would from a savings account or CD.

The loan was also a very good deal for Chatham Marketplace. It locked in a much lower interest rate, reducing the grocery’s monthly payment by 1/3. That means a savings of about $2500 a month – no small change for any food enterprise in these times.
“Now Chatham Marketplace is locally financed by people in the community who care deeply about its success,” Carol said. “That means we will do whatever we can to help the Marketplace succeed.”
“Bringing It Home Chatham is one of the first projects of its kind in the US,” Carol added. “It’s just the beginning of finding new and better ways to keep local food growing here in Chatham County and beyond.”

If this story inspires you, check out our book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, and stay tuned for our forthcoming book, Local Dollars, Local Sense.

Greg Marley: Mushrooms for the Holidays

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

This is the latest post from Greg Marley’s blog. He is the author of 2010′s Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, which won the prestigious Jane Grigson award from the IACP that year.

Ein Männlein steht in Walde
Ganz still und stumm
Er hat von lauter Purpur
Ein Mäntelein um.
Sag’ ver mag das Männlein sein
Das da steht auf einem Bein?

Little man stands in the forest
very still and mute.
He has around him
a little coat of red.
Say, who may the little man be,
that stands there on one leg?

….Traditional German Riddle

Holiday Mushroom Foraging?  Here in the Northeast, we generally do not associate the holiday season as a time for foraging wild mushrooms,

 but even in Maine, the end of November is still a time for collecting the last few of the season’s wild mushrooms, especially over recent, mild years.  Further south, and below the Mason-Dixon line, the season is still in full swing in regions where most mushrooms hold off fruiting until the Dog Days of summer are just a memory. The cool wet weather of late fall makes for the perfect mushroom conditions in the Southeast as long as the rainfall holds.  In New England I call the late fall mushrooms “season extenders”  and they give me another reason to get out into the forest in the short days after the leaves have fallen and before snow blankets the ground.  One of the few silver linings in the consequences attributed to global warming is the extended mild autumn weather in the north country. This year, though we have already had 2 significant snow storms over much of Maine, the periods between storms have been mild and many areas have not yet experienced the depth of cold that stops all mushrooms from fruiting.  Over the past week,I have collected and dined upon fresh Blewits (Lepista nuda), and abundant Oyster mushrooms.  But by the time Christmas comes to the coast of Maine, we are resigned to settle in with our preserved bounty and warm memories of the season past. Thankfully I am well-provisioned with frozen and dried mushrooms to last until the first mushrooms of 2012 make their appearance.

The Classic red Fly Agaric of Western US and Europe

Amanita muscaria, The Fly Agaric: The Mushroom of Christmas and the New Year

Beyond the opportunity for use of wild mushrooms in your holiday meals, there is another mushroom that graces our Christmas season, though it is not growing fresh.   In many European cultures it is intertwined with Christmas and the New Year as a symbol of blessing at the turning of the year.  The Fly Agaric,  Amanita muscaria is the mushroom of the Yuletide season With its cherry red cap and artful arrangement of white scales, it is likely the most illustrated mushroom in the world.  You undoubtedly grew up seeing it as illustrations of fairy tales, children’s stories and anywhere else a distinctive archetypal mushroom image was desired.  In the traditional cultures of Central and Eastern Europe, the Fly Agaric has long been a symbol of good luck and there continues a tradition of giving them to friends and family around the turn of the year.  The German names for the mushroom are Gluckspilz (luck mushroom) or Fliegenpilz (fly mushroom).  It is called the Fly mushroom from its historic use for attracting and killing household flies.  Break one up into a shallow dish of milk and see for yourself.

In Germany, Austria and other countries, Christmas decorations over the past century often feature the bright red mushrooms as an element of advent arrangements, garnish on a festive platter or even in the motif of the pottery glaze.  European Christmas tree ornaments today show the bright red mushrooms alone, or as part of the overall tableau.   The common Fly Agaric found growing with trees in the Northeast differs from those found in Europe or Western North America.  As seen at the top of this post, our Amanita muscaria have a yellow-orange cap rather than bright red.

Typical German Gluckspilz tree ornaments

In the early 1900s, America and much of Europe went through what many have described as a postcard craze.  Brightly colored postcards were sent and received as greeting cards and to mark many seasonal events including Christmas and the New Year.  Across Central and Eastern Europe and to a smaller extent, in the US, the postcards exchanged at Christmas and around the New Year sometimes resembled a good fortune charm-bracelet of playful images of gnomes & fairies, four leaf clovers, chimney sweeps, Leprechauns, horseshoes, pigs and quaint renditions of bright red mushrooms covered in white spots, the Fly Agaric.   I have included a few of these postcards below to give the flavor of the time.  Many are touchingly cute, a reflection of a period of time when life was more nostalgic, or… sweet. They might also lead the unenlightened to believe that the Fly Mushroom fruits in the snow.

Examples of a Danish Christmas and American New Year Postcards with Fly Agaric as a good luck symbol

French New Year’s Card from turn of the century

Turn of the century American postcard from the New York Public Library archives

A Danish New Year’s postcard showing gnomes, 4-leaf clover, horseshoe and Amanita

One is led to consider why this one mushroom has come to be a symbol of good fortune and intertwined with the spirit of Christmas.  There are plenty of equally beautiful mushrooms, many great edibles and equally common and colorful.  Many Americans of Polish, Russian or other Slavic descent make a traditional Christmas soup of dried Honey mushrooms, or popinskis (or podpinki, pidpenky or opienka…), as they are known.  Yet the bright red and white Fly mushroom has been more deeply linked with the Yule celebration than any other.  Is there a connection with the idea that Santa Claus wears red and white?  Santa wanders across the planet in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer; where did the idea for reindeer flying come from?  Are they physically flying or are they high as kites?

The connection between reindeer and the Fly Agaric has been reported in numerous sources.  Apparently reindeer love mushrooms and feed on many species whenever they can.  In the far north country where they are raised as food and used as beasts of burden, reindeer actively seek wild mushrooms as preferred bite-sized snacks during the short arctic season when mushrooms abound.  They are drawn to Amanita muscaria perhaps more than other mushrooms.  Reindeer herders have even been known to use a bag of Fly Agarics to lure stray reindeer back to the herd.  Reindeer not only seek out the mushrooms to eat, but also seek out the urine of other reindeer or the urine of humans who relieve themselves following consumption of the Fly Agaric.

In summer Reindeer seek out mushrooms as food

Amanita muscaria and a few related species of mushrooms contain Ibotenic Acid and Muscimol, toxic and psychoactive compounds that have made this mushroom famous. The active chemical from the mushroom is excreted in urine, and it appears that the reindeer are attracted to it.  Numerous accounts have described assertive tactics of the herd leaders seeking Amanita muscaria tainted urine. Under the influence of the Fly Mushroom, the normally docile reindeer become quite frisky and difficult to manage.   Stories abound of their leaping and cavorting across the tundra under the influence of the mushrooms.  Flying?  So the leap (metaphorically) from reindeer flying due to mushroom intoxication, and flying reindeer harnessed to Santa’s sleigh may not be too unrealistic.

Reindeer High on the Fly Mushroom

Our modern version of Santa is an amalgam of Northern European forest-dwelling pagan traditions of the Green Man coupled with early Christian beliefs and stories, and all leavened with way too much twentieth century commercial branding.   Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas or Kris Kringle is seen as a kindly man who bestows gifts onto well-behaved children.   Santa’s current suit of red and white became the widely accepted norm only a century ago and was given a boost after a 1930’s advertising campaign by Coca Cola.  The campaign featured a jolly bewhiskered Santa in bright red vestments sucking down a bottle of Coke.

Santa as seen in a coke ad from 1930

Older depictions of the generous man present him garbed in forest greens and browns and even in the garb of a bishop.   Now he is as bright as a newly emerging Fly Agaric cap. The red Amanita image has long been a symbol of good luck in the season of the longest night; a bright red light shining bright in the winter darkness, somewhat like the glowing nose on Rudolph…

The excitatory effect that the Fly Mushroom has on Reindeer is similar to the effect that it has on humans.  The mushrooms have a history of ritual use as a vision-inducing substance by shamans  and other healers across much of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Some healing shaman continue to  use the mushrooms to guide their work in parts of Siberia.   Early reports of its use ritually and as a celebratory inebriant came out of Siberia and Russia almost 3 centuries ago. Some of those reports hit the European newspapers about the same time that Lewis Carroll was writing “Alice in Wonderland” and perhaps he wove the concept into his famous tale.

This comic of “Santa in Wonderland” by George Kerr from the 1940s mixes metaphors nicely

A person under the influence of the Fly Mushroom can become agitated and out of control, but often falls into a deep sleep and has profound dreams or visions.  Before the Russians introduced vodka to the region, this was the most common form of inebriant used in Siberia.  So, perhaps our modern image of the Saint Nick is a blend of tradition and mythology.  Is it any surprise that Santa wears a red suit, is a jolly fellow and flies through the air on a sleigh drawn by reindeer?  We even have one reindeer with a bright red nose!

For more information on Amanita muscaria and its connection to Christmas, religion and history, get a copy of my book, Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, and read the chapter on this fascinating mushroom.

Merry Christmas to all and to all…, happy mushrooming,


Nuclear-Related Deaths in U.S. Increased after Fukushima

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

In an article published by the Sacramento Bee, a study by the International Journal of Health Services has revealed a shocking increase in the number of nuclear-related deaths in the United States as a result of the explosion at Fukushima earlier this year.

An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services.   This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima.Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.  The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one.

Read the entire article here:

The effects of nuclear waste are widespread and difficult, if not impossible, to contain and predict. When radioactive material is released into the atmosphere and water, it can travel literally worldwide. This latest study is just more evidence in support of limiting and eventually eliminating nuclear power as part of our global energy portfolio.

Can we actually get there? Well, yes.

Investigate the inspiring possibilities over at Rocky Mountain Institute’s Reinventing Fire page, and check out the book in our bookstore.

The Enemy Speaks – Labeling of Biotech Foods is Unnecessary and Unconstitutional

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

One of our affiliates, and a great partner in the fight for sustainable food, is the Organic Consumer’s Association.

Last week they shared this article, originally from Forbes, on why labeling genetically modified and other biotech foods is a bad idea.

If you’re a regular visitor here, we’re sure you’ll disagree as vehemently as we do on this important issue. But it’s always good to know what the enemy is up to, how they frame their arguments, and how their worldview differs from your own.

In that spirit, enjoy debating and rebutting this inflammatory screed by Mr. Miller, our new favorite shill for Monsanto, et. al!

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

There are good reasons that such “tinkering at the DNA level” need not be revealed on labels.  Federal regulation requires that food labels be truthful and not misleading and prohibits label statements that could be misunderstood, even if they are strictly accurate.  For example, although a “cholesterol-free” label on a certain variety or batch of fresh spinach would be accurate, it transgresses the FDA’s rules because it could be interpreted as implying that spinach usually contains cholesterol, which it does not.

Following long-standing precedents in food regulation, the FDA requires labeling only to indicate that a new food raises questions of safety, nutrition or proper usage.  But instead of educating or serving a legitimate consumers’ “need to know” certain information, mandatory labels on gene-spliced food would imply a warning.

The FDA’s approach to labeling has been upheld both directly and indirectly by various federal court decisions that have consistently struck down mandatory labeling not supported by data.  In the early 1990s, a group of Wisconsin consumers sued the FDA, arguing that the agency’s decision not to require the labeling of dairy products from cows treated with a gene-spliced protein called bovine somatotropin, or bST, allowed those products to be labeled in a false and misleading manner.  (In other words, the plaintiffs wanted the same sort of mandatory labeling advocated by Maisto.)  However, because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate any material difference between milk from treated and untreated cows the federal court agreed with the FDA, finding that “it would be misbranding to label the product as different, even if consumers misperceived the product as different.”

>>> Read the Full Article

If you’re more interested in learning about what we here at Chelsea Green think about the issue, peruse our selection of books by Jeffrey Smith, including Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. You might also enjoy the documentary, The World According to Monsanto. And if you’re keen on getting into the green counter revolution yourself, check out our perennial best seller, Seed to Seed:Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners!

…Pun intended.

Mat Stein on The Survival Podcast

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Author Matthew Stein was recently interviewed on The Survival Podcast.

His most recent book is When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival. This book has received excellent advance praise from experts on survival and disaster preparedness. Stein is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he majored in Mechanical Engineering.

As the owner of Stein Design & Construction, he has built hurricane resistant, energy efficient and environmentally friendly homes.  The mechanical engineering side of his firm specializes in product design and development. Among other things, Mat has designed consumer water filtration devices, solar PV roofing panels, medical bacterial filters, emergency chemical drench systems, computer disk drives, and portable fiberglass buildings.

Listen to the podcast and learn about…

  • Over looked items for the 72 hour kit
  • The role of colloidal silver in SHTF health care
  • What Matthew sees as the 6 events converging on collapse
    • Peak Oil
    • Climate Change
    • Oceanic Collapse
    • Deforestation
    • Food Shortages
    • Population Growth
  • The harsh reality of a potential 400 Chernobyls
  • The danger of EMP or Solar Flares to the grid
  • The basic things you need to do right now to be better prepared

Check out Matthew’s other popular title, When Technology Fails, and you’ll be ready for anything!

Photo: Dan Saelinger

Eliot Coleman’s Fertile Dozen: Recommended Reading for Organic Growers

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Reposted from Milkwood Permaculture.

This list of books by organic market garden expert Eliot Coleman was given to us by the Allsun Farm crew. Apparently these are the 12 books that most influenced Eliot during his transition from school teacher to organic market gardener extraordinaire. They’re pretty radical! Eliot writes:

“In order to understand the present and prepare for the future, it helps to understand the past. So when I was asked what books would be best to help someone understand what a biologically based agriculture is all about, I put together this collection, which I nicknamed “The Fertile Dozen”.

It’s a fascinating collection of early texts by pioneers of regenerative agriculture and smaller-scale food growing. If you’ve read any of Eliot Coleman’s books then you know how highly he values good research when designing food-growing systems, and this list is a treasure trove of knowledge.

This document came to us with the following foreword by Eliot Coleman:

These books provide background on the ideas of organic pioneers – what influenced their thinking about agriculture as a natural process, and what taught them to relate agriculture to nutrition and human well-being.

These books are listed in the order in which they might be best read.  Someone wanting a short course might choose just those marked with an asterisk (*). If you read just one, read Wickenden.”

Make Friends With Your Land -  (*) by Leonard Wickenden (1948). When Leonard Wickenden retired from his career as a chemist he became enthusiastically involved with organic gardening. He investigates organic practices from a scientific perspective and comes out 100% in their favour. This is an amazingly perceptive and well-researched organic farming book to have been written as long ago as 1948. It is delightful reading in the bargain.

Soil and Sense -  (*) by Michael Graham (1941). A small early volume which relates the history of the close relationship between grasses, pastures, livestock and soil fertility.

The Stuff Man’s Made Of – (*) by Jorian Jenks (1959). The origin, the philosophy and the scientific evidence behind organic gardening make for interesting reading. Jenks was the editor of the Journal of the Soil Association in England for many years and has an encyclopaedic grasp of the subject.

Farmers of Forty Centuries – (*) by F.H King (1911). One of the all time classics, this book tells the story of King’s journey through China, Korea and Japan. He details the age-old use of organic matter to maintain fertlity of the soils. Profusely illustrated with photos. A fascinating read.

The Soil and Health – by Sir Albert Howard (1947). This volume followed Howard’s seminal work, An Agricultural Testament. It is easier reading. He contends that the problems of agriculture need to be solved with biology rather than chemistry.

Agriculture: A New Approach – (*) by P.H. Hainsworth (1954). When I was first getting started as an organic vegetable grower, i considered this the most competent and practical of all the books I read. Hainsworth was a successful market gardener and he knew his stuff.

Plowman’s Folly – by Edward H. Faulkner (1945).  This small volume, condemning the moldboard plow caught the general public’s attention in the late 40′s and 50′s in the same way ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson did in the 60′s and sold millions of copies.

The Farming Ladder – by George Henderson (1944). Henderson is one of the most competent farmers to have ever written a book and he writes in an informal story telling style. He covers everything from how to start, how to focus on quality work and quality products, and, most importantly, how to make a living doing it.

Compost – by Alwin Siefert (1962). An outstanding book on the hows and whys of producing and using first-class compost.

Nutrition and the Soil – (*)  by Dr Lionel Picton (1949). This is one of the first works on the subject of soil quality and human nutrition. Originally published in England as “Thoughts on Feeding”.

The Soil and the Microbe – by Selan Waksman and Robert Starkey. A scientific book about what makes soil work. Micro-organisms are the key to soil fertility and Waksman was the early defender and pioneer.

A Mirror of England – by H.J. Massingham (1988). Edited by Edward Abelson. John Massingham (1888-1952) was a vigorous champion of rural living, small farming and quality workmanship. I have over 20 of his books and every one is a gem. This anthology is a broad scale introduction to his thinking and his delightful writing style.

Interestingly, some of these books are also mentioned by Joel Salatin as influences on his Polyface Farms development.

Keep in mind when reading these that most of these texts were written before or in the depths of the green revolution, when farmers were told that chemical fertilizers would save the world and that soil could bear maximum tillage forever. These are radical books.

Books we also recommend to new growers or wanna-be growers include Eliot Coleman’s titles, which are all highly readable and really inspiring:

The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tool and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener

Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Garden All Year Long

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses

And we would add his recent DVD, which contains a filmed workshop and interviews. Just as good as travelling to Maine for one of his popular workshops, but a fraction of the price and you can rewind it! You can’t rewind Eliot in person.

Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman

Also available as a discounted set along with The Winter Harvest Handbook.

Conversations with Chelsea Green Authors

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

A new feature over at The Atlantic’s website is a fascinating set of brief interviews with interesting people called “9 1/2 Questions“, and it’s no surprise to us that some of our authors have been chosen already.

From working quietly to improve the soil and teach others how, to rethinking economics in the hopes of achieving greater justice, to imagining and working toward an entirely new society, we have the great honor to publish and support creative activists involved in all kinds of progressive projects.

Nick Jackson recently spoke to Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement and author of The Transition Companion; and Simran Sethi, environmental journalist and coauthor of Ethical Markets.

Here’s an excerpt from Rob’s interview:

What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the sustainability world?

Resilience. This refers to the ability of an individual, a community, or a whole nation to withstand shock from the outside. The former manager of Crystal Palace Football Club, Iain Dowie, once referred to it as “bouncebackability.” Sustainability tends to assume that we can aim for — and attain — a way of doing things that the planet can support, and that can continue indefinitely. As the world’s economic situation worsens, and the whole concept of economic growth appears increasingly untenable, and our nearing the peak in world oil production begins to impact our economies, it is clear that, in the pursuit of just-in-time business models, we have created an economy which has little resilience. Resilience is a word which, when we started using it in relation to Transition five years ago, no-one was really using. Now it is everywhere. It adds a new dimension to sustainability, arguing that we need to also be preparing for shocks, but that if we can get that right, making our communities more resilient could be the thing that leads to their economic revival.

And here’s some of what Simran has to say:

Who are three people or organizations that you would put in a Hall of Fame for your field?

Water rights activist and author Maude Barlow exemplifies everything I want to be. She has been warning the world about water challenges for decades but does so in a way that is impassioned and compassionate. I interviewed her for an investors’ conference and was incredibly inspired by the way she held her ground about water privatization concerns and informed the audience without alienating them.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is another person who speaks truth to power. This is particularly refreshing to see in politics, a field rife with people more committed to re-election than serving the electorate. He is working tirelessly to face climate challenges and make Vermont a leader in renewable energy.

The United States’ Department of Defense is an incredible example of what I call “secondary sustainability.” DOD is the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S., and ranks as one of the top 50 greenhouse gas emitters in the world. The military has taken active steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions and scale-up renewable energy as a means of reducing dependence on hostile nations and increasing military effectiveness capability — a bipartisan model of sustainability in which resource conservation and emissions reductions are positive byproducts, not the end goal.

Join Joel Salatin, Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier and More for a Carbon Farming Course

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Carbon Farming puts carbon where it belongs – in the soil.

Carbon Farming combines cutting-edge agricultural practices with the tools of ecological design to build healthy soil and profitable farms. The Carbon Farming Course is hosted by the beautiful ThreeFold Educational Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY, home of the Pfeiffer Center for Biodynamic Agriculture. Evening lectures will be held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY.

Top farmers and researchers from around the world are gathering at this unique event to train land-owners, farmers, policy-makers, investors, and  in the best practices of carbon farming. Each Workshop in the 2012 Carbon Farming Course focuses on an essential component of profitable regenerative agriculture:

  • Holistic Management: Decision-making for profit and purpose.
  • Keyline Farming: Water planning and rapid soil development.
  • Perennial Agriculture: Mimic ecosystems for resilience and risk-management.
  • Tree Crops & Agroforestry: Perennial systems to multiply your yields.
  • Living Soils: Activate soil biology for fertility and input-reduction.
  • Local Food Systems: The Polyface Farm strategy for economic abundance.

Presenters will include Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, Dave Jacke of Dynamics Ecological Design, Eric Toensmeier of Perennial Solutions, and more.
Carbon Farming Workshops in Regenerative Agriculture
January 17th – February 5th, 2012

Pfeiffer Center,
260 Hungry Hollow Road
Chestnut Ridge, New York 10977

Sponsored by The Northeast Organic Farming Associations of NY and NJ (NOFA-NY, NOFA-NJ), The New England Farmers Union, Terra Genesis International, Food Forest Farm, A Growing Culture, and Gaia University International.$1795 all workshops, $495 individual workshops, $110 individual workshops
Register today at
For more information [email protected]

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