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
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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
Some people go to Daytona Beach in the spring, and others take a deep look at the food on their plates.
This year, 20 members of this second, much more self-selecting, group came together for five days in New York City for the third annual Eco Practicum produced in partnership with Our Name Is Farm, a training aimed at building “effective advocacy for a better food system.” Read more
Most Americans have never heard of permaculture. And although the approach is gaining traction among U.S. urbanites (full disclosure: I teach urban permaculture), ideas differ about exactly what it is. An environmental philosophy? An approach to ecological design? A particular set of farming practices?
Some new and beginning farmers are also becoming interested, as evidenced by a recent discussion on the role of permaculture in agriculture at a gathering organized by the California-based Farmer’s Guild—a network for “the new generation of sustainable agriculture.” Read more
Pointing to a growing consensus in the scientific community about pesticides’ impacts on honey bees and other pollinators, beekeepers in the state have worked with environmental groups to effect local policy. Last week, the Maryland state legislature passed the Pollinator Protection Act, which would ban consumers from buying pesticides that contain “neonics” beginning in 2018. Read more
Go to your average grocery store, and the color palette can be very bland, the result of the strict cosmetic standards that these stores are up against. Go to a farmers’ market however, and the many shapes, sizes, and varieties of produce not only make for a more interesting shopping experience, but also a chance to reduce food waste while celebrating the uniqueness of different foods.
On her Instagram account, Lucia Litman captures a little bit of that extensive natural color palette in her #pantoneposts series. She finds inspiration from the market, both for what she eats and for what she creates, by pairing the colors of nature with swatches from color authority Pantone. Read more