News posts from jmccharen's Archive


A Permaculture Love Story — Paradise Lot featured in the New York Times

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

New York Times garden columnist Anne Raver recently visited Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates’s Paradise Lot in Holyoke, Massachussetts.

Enchanted by the garden full of delicious perennials, and the charming love story that brought two plant geeks the “Eves” they dreamed of, she penned this piece.

Not only does Raver celebrate Eric’s new memoir, Paradise Lot, which tells the whole story of turning a barren Massachusetts backyard into a veritable Garden of Eden, she also highlights the practical beauty of permaculture — a holistic, beyond-organic, systems-thinking approach to gardening that Chelsea Green has been promoting for decades.

Eric Toensmeier has been a proponent of the low-work, high-yield system as well, writing Perennial Vegetables, co-authoring the two-volume Edible Forest Gardens, and starring in the new DVD Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier.

Read Anne Raver’s entire article on Paradise Lot here, and spread the word!

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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HOLYOKE, Mass. — It was the build-it-and-they-will-come principle that inspired two self-described plant geeks to buy a soulless duplex on a barren lot in this industrial city 10 years ago and turn it into their own version of the Garden of Eden. Their Eves, they figured, would show up sooner or later.

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City, by Eric Toensmeier, with contributions from Jonathan Bates, tells the story of how it happened. Published by Chelsea Green this month, it’s just in time for armchair gardening — and Valentine’s Day.

It’s a love story intertwined with the tale of how a small, barren backyard shaded by Norway maples, with an asphalt driveway in front, became a place that could sustain about 160 kinds of edible plants, including pawpaws, persimmons, Asian pears, gooseberries, strawberries, blueberries and rarities like goumi (tiny berries with a sour cherry zing).

Dwarf kiwi vines now climb up mimosa trees, with a lush carpet of shade-loving crops like currants, jostaberries (a cross between black currants and gooseberries), edible hostas, Solomon’s seal and May apples.

Ramps, that wild leek so coveted by foodies that it’s being stripped from eastern forests, thrive beneath the pawpaw trees, and so does giant fuki (Petasites japonicus Giganteus), with its four-foot-wide leaves. And fuki is not just a beautiful leaf that lends a tropical look to the landscape; like rhubarb’s, its stalks are edible.

“You can already see the flower buds, here and here,” Mr. Toensmeier, 41, told me one freezing day about two weeks ago.

He fingered the little bumps emerging from the frozen-looking ground, picturing a spring still invisible to the eye.

“It’s our first flower as soon as the snow is gone in March,” he said. “We eat the leaf stalk” — boiled and peeled, he explains in the book, then marinated in raspberry vinegar, shredded ginger and tamari — “it’s like weird-flavored celery.”

At the moment, however, this paradise is an icy landscape of bare trees, stumps and limp leaves, with sprigs of water celery peeking out of the frozen pool. In the summer, water lotus blooms here, but after last week’s storm, it’s under two feet of snow.

Marikler Giron Toensmeier reached down to pick a bit of water celery emerging from the frozen pond. It was about the size of a snowflake, but it was green and tasted like celery. “And look, praying mantises,” she said, touching one of the wrinkled egg cases stuck here and there among the dried grasses and twigs of the sleeping garden.

Ms. Toensmeier, 38, a native of Guatemala, is one of the Eves.

Keep reading…

The Magic of Seed-Saving

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

“Seed is the vital link to our agricultural past,” writes John Navazio, author of our latest book, The Organic Seed Grower. Seeds are at the heart of local food and agriculture, and there is burgeoning interest in how to grow your own seeds.

Navazio’s foundational book will help skilled gardeners, who are already saving their own seed, grow seed commercially. And for diversified vegetable farmers who are growing a seed crop for sale for the first time, Navazio offers many of the tricks of the trade used by professional seed growers.

If you’re interested in growing your own vegetables better suited to your taste and hardiness zone, Carol Deppe’s book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is a perfect place to start for any gardener or small farmer.

For first-time seed savers, Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed is a perfect starting guide. If the magic of saving rare seeds catches your fancy, Janisse Ray’s latest work of literary nonfiction, The Seed Underground, offers inspiring stories of eccentric and impassioned seed-savers across the country. As Ray puts it, seeds are “the most hopeful thing in the world,” and “there’s no despair in a seed.

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production

Retail Price: $49.95
Discount Price: $32.47

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Written by well-known plant breeder and organic seed expert John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower includes detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables and provides users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

WATCH John explain why organic seed is important

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Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

Retail Price: $24.95 
Discount Price: $16.22

Seed to Seed describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables, and is widely acknowledged as the best guide available for home gardeners to learn effective ways to produce and store seeds on a small scale.

Reader Review: “I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’ve been hunting for a reference guide that tells me exactly how to save each type of vegetable seed, and this book is it…This book should be on every sustainable homesteader’s reference shelf.”

Browse the Table of Contents…

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The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food

Retail Price: $17.95 
Discount Price: $11.67

We are losing our seeds. Of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94 percent have been lost — forever.

In The Seed Underground Janisse Ray brings us the inspiring stories of ordinary gardeners whose aim is to save time-honored, open-pollinated varieties like Old Time Tennessee muskmelon and Long County Longhorn okra—varieties that will be lost if people don’t grow, save, and swap the seeds.

READ: Excerpt from The Seed Underground – How to Save Tomato Seeds

 

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Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving

Retail Price: $29.95
Discount Price: $19.47

All gardeners and farmers should be plant breeders, says author Carol Deppe. Developing new vegetable varieties doesn’t require a specialized education, a lot of land, or even a lot of time. It can be done on any scale. It’s enjoyable. It’s deeply rewarding. You can get useful new varieties much faster than you might suppose. And you can eat your mistakes.

Authoritative and easy-to-understand, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is the only guide to plant breeding and seed saving for the serious home gardener and the small-scale farmer or commercial grower.

“This is the best book to help adventuresome gardeners become plant breeders and seed savers. But it does more. It explains in clear, readable terms what’s going on with the genetic modifications of our food system and why backyard plant breeders are a crucial link to a healthy future for our food system.”—Will Raap, President, Gardener’s Supply Company

Browse the Table of Contents…

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Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver

Retail Price: $25.00
Discount Price: $16.25

Daughter of Iowa farmers, Missouri homesteader, and mother of five, Diane Ott Whealy never anticipated that one day she would become a leader in a grass-roots movement to preserve our agricultural biodiversity. The love for the land and the respect for heirloom seeds that Diane shared with her husband, Kent Whealy, led to their starting Seed Savers Exchange in 1975.

Ott Whealy’s heartwarming story captures what is best in the American spirit: the ability to dream and, through hard work and perseverance, inspire others to contribute their efforts to a cause. Thus was created one of the nation’s most admired nonprofits in the field of genetic preservation. 

Read a review of the book from Civil Eats

 

More Seed Titles On Sale

New Arrival: Save 25% on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural towns to the most urban of cities streets, people are growing, fermenting, enjoying, and celebrating food produced close to home. “Local food” is a thriving movement and also a fad, an evocative trend that captures people’s imaginations — sometimes even moreso than it translates into actual regional food production. When even Frito-Lay can claim that its mass-produced potato chips are “local” because, lo and behold, the majority of them are grown in Hastings, Florida…then it’s time to take the conversation to the next level.

Rebuilding the Foodshed, a new book by Green Mountain College professor and farmer Philip Ackerman-Leist, refocuses the locavore lens on rebuilding robust regional food systems. Only by taking a systems-thinking approach can we successfully replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands both affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead as we face a shifting, unpredictable climate and uncertain fossil fuel supplies.

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed the book. “For a somewhat wonkish book about food policy, Rebuilding the Foodshed is unusually humorous and open-minded. Vermont farmer and professor Ackerman-Leist ruminates his way through the conundrums and possibilities of local food, demonstrating how words and their definitions can shed light on and transform our understanding of the rapidly evolving, often confusing, emotion-fraught questions of what people eat, where the food comes from, who has access to what, and how the answers to these questions affect the lives of eaters and growers. With insight, he demonstrates how communities can bridge and transcend the “false divides” he pinpoints in the local-food conversation: urban/rural, small-scale/large-scale, local/international, and all/nothing.

Rebuilding the Foodshed is the third installment in the Community Resilience Guides series. Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Post Carbon Institute to publish this series to detail some of the most inspiring and replicable efforts currently being taken to restore local supplies of capital, food, and power. We’ve made them available as a discounted set here.

Learn more about the series at Resilience.org.

Renowned chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison contributed the Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed, which you can take a look at below.

Enjoy! 

Deborah Madison’s Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed by

Agriculture Week Sale

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Since the start of the “Green Revolution,” agriculture has become more and more industrialized, the scale has gone from backyard plots behind every house to fields of commodity corn and soy so vast they stretch to every horizon.

This isn’t sustainable, but it’s also not any fun. Farms that large are run like machines, not like gardens. The fun of it, just the sheer joy of playing in the dirt to a productive end, this is probably the biggest reason for the local-food and small farm revolution.

Climate change is eased by sustainable farming, as are pressures on water systems, and the dangers of genetically modified foods are avoided by growing small and growing organic. But nobody comes to a party to think about dreary things, they join because they expect they’ll have a great time. The small farm revolution is driven by the joy of special foods grown nearby, the flavor of fresh carrots and the excitement of getting dinner from a person instead of a package.

We’ve published guides for organic growers since 1984, and it’s exciting to see more and more people jumping on the bandwagon for higher quality food, grown nearby.

This week, we’re offering a selection of new and best-selling agriculture books, all on sale for 35% off.

Coming Soon: The New Horse-Powered Farm is the first book of its kind, offering wisdom and techniques for using horse power on the small farm or homestead, from longtime horse farmer Stephen Leslie. It sets the stage for incorporating draft power on the farm by presenting tips on getting started with horses, care of the work horse, different horse-training systems, and the merits of different draft breeds. The novice teamster is introduced to the basic tools of horse-drawn tillage and cultivation used for profitable horse-powered farming, with a spotlight on whole-farm management, as well as information on haying with horses, raising small grains, managing the woodlot, farm education, agritourism, and more. Ships February 22nd.

Organic Gardening, Second Edition Charles Dowding has been practicing no-dig organic growing for over thirty years. In this new, full-color edition of Organic Gardening he shares the wealth of his experience, explaining his approach to soil and plants and revealing the range of techniques that have enabled him to grow healthy and vibrant plants for decades.

R.J. Garner’s The Grafter’s Handbook is the classic reference book and revered encyclopedia (and the only one of its kind) on plant propagation by grafting, and has been favored by orchardists and gardeners since its first publication in 1947. Now revised and updated for a new generation by respected horticulturist Steve Bradley, the all-time classic is back and better than ever.

Paradise Lot: When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates moved into a duplex in a run-down part of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the tenth-of-an-acre lot was barren ground and bad soil, peppered with broken pieces of concrete, asphalt, and brick. The two friends got to work designing what would become not just another urban farm, but a “permaculture paradise.” In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process.

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

What is a farm with a future? What will make it sustainable and resilient? And what key qualities and skills does a farmer need in today’s climate to be successful? Rebecca Thistlethwaite addresses these and other crucial questions in this must-read book for anyone aspiring to get into small to mid-scale market farming, or who wants to make their existing farm more dynamic, profitable, and, above all, sustainable. Farms with a Future explores the passion, creativity, and entrepreneurship that’s needed to help family farms find their niche and remain sustainable and successful in an age of agribusiness and consolidation.

If you love the joys of eating home-garden vegetables but always thought those joys had to stop at the end of summer, this set of three books by master organic farmer Eliot Coleman is for you. Includes The New Organic Grower , Four-Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook.

For farm entrepreneurs, the opportunities for a farm family business have never been greater. The aging farm population is creating cavernous niches begging to be filled by creative visionaries who will go in dynamic new directions. You Can Farm targets the folks who actually entertain notions of living, loving and learning on a piece of land. Anyone willing to dance with such a dream should be able to assess its assets and liabilities; its fantasies and realities. “Is it really possible for me?” is the burning question this book addresses.

In The Seed Underground, Janisse Ray brings us the inspiring stories of ordinary gardeners whose aim is to save time-honored open-pollinated varieties like Old Time Tennessee muskmelon and Long County Longhorn okra—varieties that will be lost if people don’t grow, save, and swap the seeds. With a quiet urgency The Seed Underground reminds us that while our underlying health, food security, and sovereignty may be at stake as seeds disappear, so, too, are the stories, heritage, and history that passes between people as seeds are passed from hand to hand.

A leading light in the field of medicinal herb cultivation, The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm is the first cultivation guide of its kind, and presents invaluable information for growers interested in producing high-quality efficacious herbs in all climates of the US, with the historical connectedness of ancient practitioners.

The most comprehensive and definitive guide to date on raising all-natural poultry, for homesteaders or farmers seeking to close their loop, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock offers a practical and integrative model for working with chickens and other domestic fowl, based entirely on natural systems.

The Holistic Orchard demystifies the basic skills everybody should know about the inner-workings of the orchard ecosystem, as well as orchard design, soil biology, and organic health management. Detailed insights on grafting, planting, pruning, and choosing the right varieties for your climate are also included, along with a step-by-step instructional calendar to guide growers through the entire orchard year. Includes extensive profiles of pome fruits, stone fruits, and berries.

The NOFA Guides are a series of 8 books originally published by the Northeast Organic Farming Association on organic principles and practices for both the beginner farmer as well as established farmers looking to convert to organic, or deepen their practices. Titles include:

Fight for Food Freedom

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

One sunny day in August 2001, armed federal agents stormed the farmstand at Rawesome Foods in Venice Beach, California. The proprieter of the shop, James Stewart, was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, and ended up spending four months in jail (you can follow the twists and turns of the bizarre and emotional story via David Gumpert’s blog, The Complete Patient). The raid of Rawesome Foods made headlines in Los Angeles, and was even spoofed by the Colbert Report.

It’s easy to imagine that this California farmer was doing something seriously illicit to draw the fire (almost literally) of the authorities the way he did. But Stewart was merely selling raw foods, particularly goat milk, yogurt, and kefir.

Stewart was not the first person in our “free” country to feel the wrath of the FDA for actively seeking the foods he wanted to eat — foods not typically available through the normal channels provided by our industrial food system. And agents marching in with guns at the ready aren’t the only forces keeping our food system from being free. In addition to bizarre government raids and oppressive laws that don’t make sense, we find massive corporations like Monsanto in control of seed supplies, and processors like Kraft and Cargill maneuvering politicians to do their will.

Government and large corporations work together to do what they think is a good thing: make lots of cheap food. And it’s hard to argue against the benefits of a full belly. Except that the fuller our bellies are with corn (especially high-fructose corn syrup) and soy (and meat that’s fed soy-based feed), the bigger those bellies are getting, and the less healthy our bodies are becoming. Obesity and diabetes are rampant public health problems in our country, and they can be directly tied to the style of agriculture we’ve created.

If we want to create a better outcome, for health, for our communities, and for the planet, we need to fight for a different system. If we do, we won’t be alone. As journalist David Gumpert outlines on his blog and in his forthcoming book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, the struggle to gain and keep access to foods like raw milk, yogurt, butter, kefir, fresh lacto-fermented vegetables, and others is drawing in stakeholders from all walks of life. Unlikely alliances are forming between Amish farmers trying to keep a traditional way of life afloat in a new century, and suburban soccer moms trying to feed their families healthfully.

At the forefront of this struggle is the Weston A. Price Foundation, with chapters in cities across the country. Weston Price advocates for a return to ways of eating that have historically made for healthy humans, and tend to avoid processed food, wheat, refined sugars, and soy. In an era obsessed with “nutrition” and terrified of saturated fats, it’s controversial to say that lard is a health food, and that you’d be better off eating a slab of rare steak than a hunk of wheat bread — but that’s exactly the kind of advice you’ll get from Weston A. Price champions like Sally Fallon Morrell.

Price was a dentist, and he studied diets from traditional societies around the world to find out which ones were the best for overall health. His research forms the basis of books like Nourishing Traditions, and makes for some delicious eating. But because of its promotion of raw foods — especially raw dairy — eaters who follow Price’s advice open themselves up to frightening persecution.

What do you think? Are food regulations too strict, or are they not strict enough? Certainly there’s ample evidence to support either opinion. For every raw-food buying club that gets raided there are hundreds of serious illnesses from contaminated industrial food.

Let us know what you think by visiting our Facebook page.

Cheese and Culture Now Available in Paperback

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

As Sandor Katz puts it, “Humans did not invent or create fermentation. It would be more accurate to state that fermentation created us.”

A perfect example of the truth of this simple notion can be found by looking at our ancient relationship to cheese.

Paul Kindstedt’s groundbreaking book, Cheese and Culture traces the nearly 9,000 year history of cheese in Western civilization, and shows how integral fermented milk products have been to the development of the world we know today. The ability to ferment, and therefore store, dairy products increased the nutrition of our diets, and cemented our relationship to sheep, goats, and cows.

Cheese and Culture is now available in paperback, and will be on sale for 35% off this week.

Kindstedt was featured on CBS news last month on National Cheese Lovers Day. Pop over to CBS’s website to watch the feature and learn about the latest archeological evidence of ancient cheesemaking (plus enjoy the adorable cartoon of Paul!).

(35% off, highlight reviews, blogs, news, events…)

Pre-Release Special: Save 25% on Paradise Lot

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Eric Toensmeier is well known in permaculture circles for his book Perennial Vegetables, and the encyclopedic, two-volume set Edible Forest Gardens he coauthored with Dave Jacke. Toensmeier’s new book, Paradise Lot, tells the story behind the tiny, barren lot that he and his friend Jonathan Bates transformed into a lush, perennial garden.

As Toensmeier wonders in the book’s introduction, the road ahead of the two young men seemed hopeful,

“Could we bring about an edible paradise on our blighted lot? Could we regenerate soil, bring back birds, and meet all of our goals on only a tenth of an acre without cramming everything in too tight? And might we ever meet women who could appreciate guys who spent more time on the Plants for a Future online database than singles websites? Time would tell.”

Publishers Weekly‘s recent review of Paradise Lot says, “In true permaculture fashion, the book follows not only the progression of the garden but also its influence on and relations with its creators’ lives—including a surprisingly Austen-like romantic element—their neighborhood, and the larger permaculture and forest gardening community…Fans of Toensmeier and Bates’s work will be thrilled to read the details of their experiments with polycultures, their problems with and solutions for pests and overly aggressive plants, and their idiosyncratic plant choices. Adventurous readers with conventional gardens and lawns may be inspired to venture into the more integrated, evolutionary approach that this book so vividly and appealingly portrays.”

Paradise Lot is on sale for 25% off this week.

For an even better glimpse of Eric Toensmeier’s perennial garden, check out our new DVD, Perennial Vegetable Gardening. Watch the trailer below:

The Future of Farming Has Four Legs

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Today, many farmers are finding magic in what was once considered a primitive technology — draft power — and helping fuel a rapid and passionate resurgence.

Once upon a time, coaxing food out of the earth required our whole bodies, working in tandem with the immense strength of horses and oxen, in teams powered by the strength of the relationship between us and our four-legged companions.

Horses (as well as mules and oxen) were once a farmer’s only method of traction power. If you needed to pull something heavy across any distance, you hitched up your team—to plow, till your fields, weed them, cut your hay, or take your produce to market. Combines the size of farmhouses being guided by GPS and not a farmer’s voice weren’t to be seen, as they often are in today’s American Midwest.

Today, advanced technologies — and the natural resources and petroleum products needed to fuel them — are omnipresent in agriculture, if not our daily lives. Most of spend our days staring at a glowing screen, pushing text around or copying numbers into spreadsheets — disconnected from that long ago, earthy past. But you’d be mistaken if you thought we could sever the ties completely. We remain dependent upon myriads of diverse beings, from bacteria to beasts, even as we wage wars against the former with soaps and sprays, and sequester the latter to feedlots and distant warehouses.

Thankfully, we are in the midst of a rapidly growing local food movement plowing ahead with all the passion of the back-to-the-land movement, plus all the pragmatism you’d expect from capitalism. The current resurgence of small-scale, holistic, sustainable agriculture has been inspired by many things: A growing awareness of our precarious environmental situation thanks to climate change, a deepening dissatisfaction with a life divorced from nature, and a deep desire to restore the interconnections that make us human.

That desire has led new farmers to try methods of working the earth that go beyond productivity in the narrow sense of how much profit can be gained from an acre of soil. Instead we see farmers using techniques gleaned from permaculture, from biodynamics, from all sorts of traditional skills that respect the ecological cycles of life, and incorporating animals into the farm-system at every step. Curious, passionate farmers today ask not only how many tomatoes they need to pay their mortgages. They ask how much happiness can be packed into a lifestyle? How much magic?

In this quest for reconnection, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, farmers are increasingly putting their tractors out to pasture.

In the introduction to his forthcoming book, The New Horse-Powered Farm, longtime horse farmer Stephen Leslie says, “this book is not about trying to go back to some idyllic past. It is designed to be a manual to help us move a few steps forward to a more sustainable future.”

The book will augment the efforts of organizations like the Draft Animal Power Network and publications like the Small Farmers Journal that have been instrumental in keeping the tradition of horse-powered farming alive. They bring teamsters with decades of experience together with new farmers just getting started with draft animals (and yes, they take plenty of beautiful photos of strong and intelligent animals at work)—from Donn Hewes’s towering mules (pictured above and to the right), to Jean Cross’s adorable miniature horses, and Stephen Leslie’s Fjords with their punk-rock manes (above left), and even the Green Mountain College oxen.

Instead of noxious diesel exhaust, draft animals plowing fields emit nitrogenous fertilizer to feed the soil. Instead of rumbling engine noise, they just snort, whinny, or moo now and then. And instead of depreciating in value over time like your John Deere, animals trained to harness only become more valuable the longer you work with them. Can you imagine a tractor being glad to see you in the morning? Or giving birth to baby tractors?

You can’t bond with a machine. And on every level, from the probiotics in your diet, to the resilience of your community, relationships are the locus of real magic.

Photo Credits, from top to bottom: William Stack, Jennifer McCharen, Draft Animal Power Network

Eat. Meat. Repeat. It’s National Meat Week!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

An oft-repeated koan of the conscious or ethical foodie movement and the environmental movement is that adopting a vegan diet will do more to heal the ills of the planet than buying a brand new Prius.

Here at Chelsea Green, we believe that it’s unreasonable to expect the entire meat-loving world to give up their steaks and drumsticks, their shortribs and salame, their sashimi and their kibbe. Instead of a radical approach, influenced as much by ideology as it is by positive intention, we would like to suggest a corollary to the meatless mission: eat less meat, grassfed only, local if possible.

Since this is National Meat Week, a relatively new holiday created by Erni Walker and Chris Cantey, it’s a perfect time to try some new recipes specifically designed for sustainably-raised meats. If you haven’t already, you should also browse your local farmers’ offerings at Local Harvest or FarmPlate to find a source of good meat near you.

Eating the entire animal is a good way to maximize the pleasure and nutrition one can get from carnivory. Grassfed beef farmer Shannon Hayes’s new book, Long Way on a Little is designed to help meat-lovers do this. Check out her four “offal” recipes, recently shared by Mother Earth News.

Hayes’s other books also encourage conscious eaters to enjoy meat responsibly. The Farmer and the Grill, and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook are both excellent additions to any planet-loving omnivore’s kitchen bookshelf.

If you already have a stockpile of excellent recipes, but want to learn more about why and how meat can be part of a healthy planet, you might want to check out Simon Fairlie’s info-packed book Meat: A Benign Extravagance.

Fairlie makes the case for pastured livestock as part of a soil-healing, integrated permaculture system. His arguments are strong enough that they even made George Monbiot change his mind about the benefits of a vegetarian diet! Even if you’re already convinced, Meat will give context and depth to your understanding of just why meat doesn’t have to be taboo—and some great talking points when you’re debating your vegan or vegetarian kin.

For people in climates with cold winters, meat has traditionally been a reliable source of nutrition through the dark half of the year. Of course, with well-insulated homes, heaters of all shapes and sorts, refrigerators to keep food fresh INSIDE our toasty warm houses, and a globalized food system that provides even Vermonters with fresh tomatoes in February you can understand why we’ve lost touch with some of our traditional foodways.

Full Moon Feast, by Jessica Prentice seeks to re-educate us about these traditions, and how they intertwine with the changing seasons. With a chapter for each month, or moon, this cookbook is full of interesting lore and delicious recipes. Try this one for Meat Week: Swedish Meatballs.

Another way to look at the meat issue is by paying careful attention to the health of livestock animals. Cattle, pigs, and poultry raised in commercial-scale facilities and fed corn and soy rations laced with antibiotics are definitely worth avoiding for many reasons. But chickens raised with care in your backyard or on a farmer’s pasture are a completely different story.

Harvey Ussery cares for his flock with a holistic attitude influenced by his studies in Zen Buddhism. His book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, outlines Ussery’s methods for raising healthy and happy birds, including how to pasture them, and how to raise a completely local food source for them by harvesting grubs. He even includes a few recipes, like this one for making a simple, versatile, and healthy broth.

A Short History of Agricultural Seed

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Seeds are the foundation of agriculture.

As John Navazio describes in this excerpt from his new book, The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production, America was once home to hundreds of small-scale seed producers, each of which developed seeds adapted to grow best in the surrounding region.

Today, following the trend of most business, just a few large companies provide seed for farmers everywhere. With the advent and rapid spread of transgenic seeds, and companies like Monsanto actually owning patents to the organisms they sell, we’ve come a long way since the first human saved the first spelt seed back in the Fertile Crescent!

What have we lost in the move to corporate seed production? Navazio explains in this excerpt, and points the way to a better system.

A Short History of Agricultural Seed: An Excerpt from The Organic Seed Grower by


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