It’s the dog days of summer, and many people are lucky to be on vacation. But for farmers, this is the busiest time of the year, when the fruit of their labors are nearing perfection, and the hours of caring and tending to their crops must be realized. I spent a recent weekend picking peaches with many others at Masumoto Family Farm near Fresno, California, as part of their adopt-a-tree program, an innovative approach to ensuring they have a market for their fragile fruit. It’s just one of the many ways the Masumotos use their land to connect with the public about the realities of farming, and it’s also an important part of their economic survival. Read more
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So begins the film Unbroken Ground, a 25-minute production by pro surfer and filmmaker Chris Malloy, featuring four food operations pursuing regenerative food production. The person on camera, speaking passionately about the need to change the food system, is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the sustainable outdoor-clothing company Patagonia.
But what is the leader of an apparel company doing introducing a film about food? Read more
As indoor urban farms continue to show up in more and more neighborhoods around the country, an important question has come to the fore: Can food that’s not grown in soil be certified organic? In other words, can produce that spends its entire life indoors, floating in water, or growing in synthetic material carry the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic label? Read more
By now you’ve likely heard the bad news about honey bees. Populations have declined precipitously in the U.S. over the past few years, due to a combination of factors including pests, pathogens, and pesticide use—so much so that beekeepers in some states have formed lobbyist groups to help draw attention to the problem. The shrinking number of honey bees is a problem, because pollinators are essential for agriculture, and honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion of U.S. crops each year. Read more
It is nearly impossible to calculate the real costs and benefits—including the externalized or invisible costs—of any human activity: growing soybeans, making car tires, cooking dinner for your family. When growing soy, for example, it’s easy enough to calculate the total price paid for inputs like fertilizer or pesticides and the price received for the finished crop. But accounting for the total costs and benefits—things like environmental damage from fertilizer runoff, or the social benefits of putting land to productive use—isn’t something we tend to do as a culture. Read more
Many of us buy and consume organic food every day, but few of us know its history. While the demand for organic products is exploding (up 11 percent between 2014 to 2015), less than one percent of U.S. farm acreage is classified organic, and there’s still not enough organic seed to go around. A look back at how it all started might provide some insight for the future—and inspire young farmers, too. Read more
When Kip Bichsel of Love Farm Organics in Forest Grove, Oregon started growing organic vegetables over a decade ago, there was almost no organic seed in the market. Availability has improved every year, but he estimates that even today, 40 percent of the seed the farm buys is not organic. And, for some crops—notably broccoli and cabbage—“it has been really hard to find available organic seed bio-adapted to our specific land needs,” he says.
A new report out today from the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) underscores Bichsel’s experience. It found that the supply of organic seed isn’t keeping pace with the rising demand for organic products, which grew 11 percent between 2014 and 2015, and last year saw sales totaling $43 billion. Read more
Until recently, Vermont dairy farmer Jack Lazor has been an enthusiastic grain famer. The owner of Butterworks Farm, Lazor spent years growing grains—for animals and people—and then wrote a conversational and encyclopedic guide on grain growing in the Northeast The Organic Grain Grower. In person and on the page, the affable man offers advice on tools and practices for grain growing, harvest, and storage. Read more
A campaign aiming to prevent further consolidation of the seed industry has a new spokesperson. Meet Mr. Seed, a foul-mouthed organic cartoon character that decries the agrochemical industry’s control of seed.
In the space of 4 minutes and 22 seconds, Mr. Seed’s bleep-filled tirade mocks the chemical dependency—and virility—of modern seed, touts the vigor of organic seeds’ tougher roots, and delights in field-based breeding tips he reads aloud from the “Kama Seedra.” Read more