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Market Organizing Tools Online
The Mountain Tailgate Market Association, a group of farmer- and vendor-only markets in western North Carolina, promotes local markets, fresh food, and artisan crafts of the area's farmers, artists, bakers, food processors, and other vendors. The group has posted its bylaws, rules and regulations at www.asapconnections.org/special/mtma/MTMA.htm in order to share its collaborative tools and promote fresh food and farmer connections. Source: ATTRA Weekly Harvest Newsletter, Oct. 27, 2004; http://attra.ncat.org/newsletter/archives.html
'Building Better Rural Places' Available Online
Building Better Rural Places, an extensive directory of federal programs for sustainable agriculture, forestry, conservation and community development, was compiled in 2004 by USDA agencies and The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. See attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/betterrural.html.
Source: ATTRA Weekly Harvest Newsletter, Dec. 22, 2004;
The Organic Farming Compliance Handbook offers materials for use by agricultural professionals interested in what methods, materials and practices are compatible and consistent with organic standards. The materials were assembled from the most current national, regional and local sources. For more information, see http://sarep.ucdavis.edu/organic/complianceguide/.
by Wanda B. Ferguson
Subtitled "Practical Gardening Advice for Maineís Zone 3B and 4A," this book is just what the plant doctor ordered for our stateís cooler-climate gardeners. In 82 pages, Ferguson covers weather, soil, landscaping and windbreaks, flower and vegetable gardening, raised beds, deck and patio gardens, compost, garden boxes, and tips for "The Other Maine" and adds, "The rest youíll learn by doing."
Thatís how she gained gardening skills on Grasshopper Hill in Rangeley--skills sheís shared with readers of the Rangeley Highlander since 1975. Gardening was essential knowledge, as Ferguson was determined to stay home with the five children that she and her husband had, growing their food and sewing their clothes to help make ends meet.
This book is thoroughly enjoyable and helpful. Those who have lost plants labeled as "hardy" (even in zone 4) will appreciate Fergusonsí discussion of the vagaries of the term and of her own successes and failures. Her lists of plants for foundations, windbreaks, specimens; of plants deer dislike; etc., is the type of specific, valuable advice given throughout the book. The same is true of her advice to those who arenít physically able to maintain a garden: "plant the nearly maintenance-free wild lupine, clusters of fern, aconite (Monkshood), early tall phlox, and tiger lilies around the edges of your property, allowing them to naturalize where your lawn meets the woods." Spring bulbs, she adds, can be tucked into this planting.
Organic gardeners will want to skip the bookís advice to use chemically-treated seed to overcome damping-off in cool soils; the Captan-containing treatment described as a "mild organic fungicide" is a synthetic chemical that is not approved for organic production. On the other hand, Fergusonís observation that when wild cherry trees are in full bloom, the soil has warmed enough to sow cool-weather crops is a great idea to try in your own garden.
I especially liked Fergusonís clear and concise description of her method for producing strawberries, including a unique way to propagate plants for a new bed. Iíll be re-reading this section during the growing season--as well as the method for sowing pea seeds so that this cool-season crop produces as long as possible.
Mainers will appreciate Fergusonís method of storing carrots: She layers them in lightly moistened sand in a leaky laundry tub and shovels snow on top of the sand occasionally to add moisture.
Ferguson dedicated this book to her daughter Leslie, "who thinks I can accomplish anything she sets her mind to." Thanks, Leslie!
--Jean English. © 2005. For information about reproducing this article, please contact the author.
Micro Eco-Farming: Prospering from Backyard to Small-Acreage in Partnership with the Earth
by Barbara Berst Adams
This small book is a pep talk for would-be "micro eco-farmers"--those who earn much of their living on a fraction of an acre to five acres. It covers crops, animals, farming methods and marketing; organic spa products, front-yard cut flower stands, urban greenhouses, Shetland sheep...and more. Beginners to the world of sustainable, small-scale agriculture will get brief introductions to dozens of enterprises and a good list of resources for pursuing interests. Experienced growers wonít find much detail to expand their operations, although occasional tips do crop up.
One grower, for instance, recognized the publicity potential when baskets full of beautiful produce had to be delivered through the front door of a restaurant one time; restaurant patrons were treated to the site of gorgeous abundance, and the grower got recognition. Another tip suggests that a "Gourmet Salad for Two" can be a profitable gift basket. Yet another: If you canít afford a state-certified kitchen, say to turn excess crops into profitable salsas, consider starting a community kitchen with a group of small-scale farmers. The high cost of college is a common topic these days. Hereís a different take: Adams mentions Aaron Brachfield "who farms as a full-time job from his apartment as well as on two rented lots from local homeowners. He is also a student at Colorado State University. He donates 10 percent of his income to students of all ages to help them benefit their community..." I would like to have read a whole chapter instead of a paragraph about Brachfield.
Micro Eco-Farming is a good book as far as it goes; I just wanted more.
--Jean English. © 2005. For information about reproducing this article, please contact the author.
Poverty, Disease, Environmental Decline are True "Axis of Evil"
State of the World 2005 sells for $18.95 plus shipping and handling through www.worldwatch.org/pubs/sow/2005/; email@example.com; 1-888-544-2303; Worldwatch Institute, 1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
The global war on terror is diverting the world's attention from the central causes of instability, reports the Worldwatch Institute in its annual State of the World 2005. Acts of terror and the dangerous reactions they provoke are symptomatic of underlying sources of global insecurity, including the perilous interplay among poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation and rising competition over oil and other resources.
Compounded by the spread of deadly armaments, these "problems without passports" create conditions in which political instability, warfare and extremism thrive. They could lead the world into a dangerous downward spiral in which the basic fabric of nations is called into question, political fault lines deepen and radicalization grows. Tackling these challenges demands preventive programs rather than military might, the report concludes.
In the State of the World 2005 foreword, former Soviet Union President and Green Cross International chairman Mikhail Gorbachev calls for a "Global Glasnost--openness, transparency, and public dialogue..." and "a policy of 'preventive engagement'...to meet the challenges of poverty, disease, environmental degradation, and conflict in a sustainable and nonviolent way."
Among destabilizing pressures examined, State of the World 2005 highlights the following as particularly critical:
Oil: Heavy dependence on oil fuels geopolitical rivalries, civil wars and human rights violations. The economic security of supplier and buyer nations is compromised by severe swings in price and supply, and oil's role in undermining climatic stability poses grave threats to human safety.
Water: Water agreements have made cooperation rather than conflict the norm among neighboring states. But within countries, water shortages are fueling violent conflict. Worldwide, 434 million people face water scarcity. Insufficient access to water compels farmers to abandon their fields and fuels conflicts.
Food: Worldwide, nearly two billion people suffer from hunger and chronic nutrient deficiencies. Food security is often undermined by factors such as water availability, land distribution, poverty and environmental degradation. Major food security threats on the horizon include climate change, loss of biodiversity, increased foodborne illnesses and food bioterror.
Infectious disease: Several known diseases have reemerged or spread and many new ones have been identified over the last three decades. HIV/AIDS is a major killer, and some 34 to 46 million people are infected with the virus. The economically least-developed countries are most affected by the pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is devastating education, weakening militaries and undermining political stability.
Youth unemployment: More than 100 developing countries have a "youth bulge"-- people aged 15 to 29 account for more than 40 percent of all adults. Economic opportunities are particularly scarce in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where 21 to 26% of young people are unemployed. Worldwide, the more than 200 million young people are jobless or do not earn enough to support a family. This can be a destabilizing force if discontent pushes them into crime or into joining insurgencies or extremist groups.
To confront these challenges to global security, State of the World 2005 recommends strengthening civilian institutions and systems that are best equipped to address them. Strategic investments in sustainable energy, public health, protection of ecological systems, education, jobs and poverty alleviation will assist in this transition.
"The current fixation on fighting terrorism has overshadowed the graver threats that now loom over us," said State of the World 2005 Project Directors Michael Renner and Hilary French. "A more sustainable and equitable world is a more secure world. Rather than continuing to build military muscle, governments need to redouble their efforts to safeguard human and environmental security, enhance disarmament and post-conflict reconstruction, and redesign the United Nations for the security challenges of today and tomorrow."
Permaculture Gardening--One Way to Get Over "It"
Video from Bullfrog Films, 800-543-3764; or from www.centrepark.com for $24.95 & $6 shipping and handling
On the day after election day 2004, needing to feed something positive into my mind, I watched a video called Global Gardener--Permaculture with Bill Mollison. The video was made in 1991 but holds a message that is still (and forever) appropriate: Realizing that the protests of the Ď60s were not enough to change the world, Mollison began designing "permaculture" gardens for human settlements. "Everything people need is right outside the door," says Mollison; "sun, soil, plants... You have a lot of fruit, you have a lot of friends."
The United States could use more fruit and friends right now.
Permaculture is a phrase that Mollison coined for permanent agriculture, a system that is configured like a forest but is rich in "functional plants" and yield and is designed to serve the needs of human households and communities. In one small garden, for instance, he tallied 412 plants that provide food, fuel, fiber and mulch.
Plants that grow together and benefit one another are called a "guild" in permaculture. For example, you might grow a legume, a plant that uses the nitrogen from the legume, a plant that the legume uses for support, and a plant that repels pests--all in one guild.
Mollison says that the problem with the world is the expansion of cities without the expansion of resources needed by those cities. A great variety of traditional crops once fed everybody in India, he explains. When the country took up the Green Revolution (growing high yield monocrops for export, using synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides), Indiansí food supply was gone. Mollison visited a permaculture garden in India that did the opposite: It transformed hard, barren ground into an Eden of bananas, pomegranates, mangos, coconuts, sweet potatoes and broad leafed plants that are used for mulch. Such gardens feed people, even during droughts that destroy monocrops. They also feed the peopleís spirit.
"Food has become a commodity," says Mollison. "To feed people, we must take food out of the commodity market." He cites the example of a 10-year-old child who was traded, out of economic necessity, as bonded labor to a landlord. When the community started a permaculture garden, residents were able to buy the boy back. Mollison suggests that communities that seem stuck in systems of export monocrops start changing by planting 10% of their land in permaculture gardens, adding to the percentage each year. "In five to ten years you will have moved from an unsustainable to a sustainable system."
The video has some specific recommendations for gardeners. For instance:
Since rocks and rocky land accumulate heat, you might plant heat loving species close to outcroppings in places where the summers are cool.
Graft scions of desirable apple species onto native apple trees.
Use ducks to fertilize and weed your garden and provide eggs. "Theyíre nicer animals than chickens to be around; they have nicer personalities. If they escape, theyíre not as voracious in the garden. They donít scratch up mulch like chickens do."
If not ducks, how about geese? One farmer in the video used White Chinese geese to weed an acre and a half of potatoes. These geese have also been used in plots of nursery stock and in strawberries.
Are nettles on your list of enemies? You might change your point of view. Native Americans used these plants to make a fine, silky cloth, and ate them as a green vegetable as well.
Mollison visited a permaculture forest garden in England that consisted of seven layers: high trees (pears) that require light; a lower tree layer (dwarf apples), shrubs (red currants), an herbaceous layer (apple mint), a ground cover, a root layer (plants grown for their roots), and vertical climbers.
My favorite part of the video was Mollisonís visit to Davis, California, where an ecological community called Village Homes was designed with houses about 20 feet apart east to west. Water from the roofs, roads and paths runs into swales between rows of houses, and trees (primarily fruit- and nut-bearing trees) are watered by this runoff. "At Village Homes, food is just a hand reach away," says Mollison, showing kids bicycling along paths, stopping to pick fruit, then continuing on. All this--in a place that gets only 18 inches of rain a year. Houses in a nearby neighborhood, with swimming pools, dogs and lawns instead of permaculture designs, were worth 30% less than those in Village Homes.
--Jean English. Copyright 2005. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author.
Shetland Breeds: Ancient, Endangered and Adaptable
Nancy Kohlberg and Philip Kopper, editors.
Chevy Chase, Maryland: Posterity Press, 2003 Hardcover, 180 pages, black and white photographs. Bibliography. ISBN 1-889274-10-0, $24
The key to the importance of this attractive little book is a quote on the back of the dust jacket: "Where besides Shetland do so many indigenous and endangered farm animals thrive?" Where, indeed?
Just about everyone has heard of Shetland ponies, and Shetland sheep are fairly well know as well. But there are also Shetland cattle, and even Shetland geese, hens and ducks. And the original Shetland collie is a far cry from today's "Shelties." At one time even Shetland pigs rooted around, but all that remains is an image of a hairy little porker in a Victorian painting.
So the northernmost of Great Britain's island groups has farm animals in their name. What makes them important? The third element of the book title makes them more than storybook subjects and children's pets: Theyíre adaptable.
The Shetland Islands, which begin at 60 degrees north, sit between the North Sea and the Atlantic, due west of Norway. To say the habitat is harsh is probably an understatement. "Extreme" describes much of the 60-mile-long island chain: extremely beautiful but also extremely dramatic and rocky. Extremely windy and cold in the winter. Extremely short days in winter, and extremely little sun. An extremely short growing season (but extremely long days in summer). Not surprisingly, man is said to have always had only a "tenuous hold on life in Shetland."
Also not surprisingly, the crofters (a croft is a small farm) who have chosen to stay in the islands tend to be extremely hardy and tough themselves. For hundreds of years, they farmed with animals that matched their own hardiness.
Over the years of the twentieth century in particular, the distinctly Shetland breeds tended to disappear. The hardy little ponies, still popular world-wide for teaching children to ride (and to deal with stubbornness), were used in the islands primarily to haul peat, burned extensively for cooking and for heat. Peat is still cut, mechanically now, and is hauled by truck. Ponies were also bred and sold to England, to be used as pit ponies in coal mines: another extinct job.
"Agricultural improvement" in the late nineteenth century dictated that the smaller Shetland cow should be replaced by bigger varieties from the western Highlands of Scotland. Little regard was taken of the fact that although Shetland cows were small partly because of a lean diet, the Shetland cow thrived in the harsh landscape because it was small, providing vital milk to the family, as well as leather, horn and meat. Oxen were highly prized for draft as well.
The 12 essays in this book cover these historical and contemporary topics in detail. Several were written by active crofters who live in Shetland and tell their own stories of searching for and saving native Shetland animals as well as crops (black potatoes and a rare barley, among others.) Although published in the United States, the book is written primarily by farmers, writers and historians from Great Britain. Itís a good read and a good reminder of the importance of diversity and adaptation.
--Deborah Pulliam. Copyright 2005. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author.
Bringing the Food Economy Home: Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness
by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Todd Merrifield and Steven Gorelick
Zed Books, 2002; 140 pages
"But Still Try Ė For Who Knows What Is Possible" --- Michael Faraday
Bringing the Food Economy Home chronicles the rise of global agribusiness, its stunning economic success, its hidden failures in ecological, food safety and rural life issues and the current rise of an "agriculture of place" or "civic agriculture" to remedy those failures. It explains how the Industrial Revolution accelerated a trend to transform agriculture from a locally-sufficient economy based on home-produced goods and services traded with neighbors to a few cash-based commodity corporations dependent on maximum profits for stockholders. It also explains the farmersí markets, community support agriculture (CSA), "buy local" campaigns, community gardens, food co-ops and other local structures that have arisen to counter concerns many have with the current corporate global food system.
Written by International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) staffers based in the United Kingdom, the book concentrates on the global implications of a corporate food system and provides examples from both First and Third World countries. While several U.S. essays are included, many of the photos, charts and accompanying stories explaining familiar concepts are from sources that will be new to most U.S. readers. The book includes extensive endnotes, a decent index, a chart of U.S. and U.K. measurements and a resource guide of organizations to consult or join.
--Dorene Pasekoff, Phoenixville, Pennyslvania. Copyright 2005. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author.
Civic Agriculture, Reconnecting Farm, Food, and Community
by Thomas A. Lyson
University Press of New England, Lebanon, N.H., $50.00 cloth, $16.95 paper; 160 pages.
"Civic Agriculture" is the phrase coined by Thomas A. Lyson, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Cornell Universityís Department of Development Sociology. He uses it as the title of a book about agriculture Ė past, present and future Ė in which he explores the community aspect of farming.
The appealing cover, with a person shouldering a flat of plants, should draw a curious reader. But itís evocative only; the reality is much more. Within the book, instead of illustrations, find a bakerís dozen of tables to illuminate the text.
Lyson outlines American agricultureís 19th-century history "from subsistence to production," showing how farming was knit into community life, including families, schools, churches and rural institutions. People helped each other. Each farmer was a man of all trades and skills, to provide for his family and for local markets.
Then came mass production, which changed the focus from local craftsmanship and agriculture to a commercial emphasis. The trend toward standardization was encouraged by the our Land Grant universities. Also encouraged were applied scientific principles of farming. Scientists developed synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Growing more on less land resulted in fewer farms and changing communities.
The business of food production grew, so that now fewer companies ("agribusinesses") control more agricultural enterprises. Farmers arenít the decision-makers here Ė a small number of powerful people have been making the business decisions.
The runaway science used post-World War II has been curbed in some ways (as in the use of DDT) but branched out in others, such as the biochemistry that has resulted in genetic engineering. Now, however, Lyson sees the tide slowly turning. Farmersí markets, roadside stands, Community Supported Agriculture and the whole organic movement are drawing people back to re-form their local communities.
The book stands on its own but is part of a Tufts University Press seven-volume series: "Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives." Civic Agriculture, Reconnecting Farm, Food and Community shows just how this can be done despite the pull of commercial mass food production. Thomas Lyson shows us that there is hope for the future of civic agriculture.
--Carol Howe, Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Copyright 2005. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author.
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