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Maryland Dairy Farmers Scoop Up A Sweet New Source Of Income : NPR

Maryland Dairy Farmers Scoop Up A Sweet New Source Of Income : NPR | Organic Farming |
Some Maryland dairies have banded together to boost business by attracting customers with ice cream. The Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail is the first farm-based ice cream trail in the country, and some customers are coming weekly to stock up.




Some enterprising dairy farmers in rural Maryland have found a new source of income — opening ice cream shops on their farms. This summer, seven of them have come together to form Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail, the nation's first farm-based ice cream trail. And the results so far seem pretty sweet.

On a hot Sunday afternoon in July, the lure of ice cream at Rocky Point Creamery in Frederick County, Md., is hard to resist. Morris Gladhill drives about 14 miles to the creamery once a week. Today he has come prepared with a small cooler. "Well, I needed to be able to take some home!" he says.

Pam Joseph from Lucketts, Va., is also a regular. She holds a soft-serve chocolate and vanilla twist. "I think this is some of the best ice cream I've ever had," she says, "and what I found out from talking with the folks here is that it's milk made from their dairy that they use to make the ice cream."

The folks here are Chuck Fry, his wife, Paula, and two of their adult children. The Rocky Point Farm has been in their family since 1883. "We milk 200 cows, farm 1,500 acres. We're kind of busy," Chuck Fry says.

The Frys have gotten a lot busier since they opened the ice cream shop this past spring. In June, they joined Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail, a program launched by the Maryland Department of Agriculture this summer to promote the state's dairies.

"It's been outstanding," Paula Fry says. She manages the Rocky Point Creamery. "People are coming in with their little pamphlets and getting their stamps and are really excited to visit these different farms." The pamphlets are bright yellow passports that customers can get stamped at each stop on the ice cream trail. They can enter completed passports in a drawing to win a $50 gift certificate for ice cream.

Ebony Bailey/NPRRocky Point Creamery cows say hello.

Chuck Fry says the creamery is satisfying an old-fashioned craving. "Craziest thing I ever heard tell of, driving an hour to get an ice cream cone," Fry says, "but we do real banana splits with real bananas, and that doesn't exist too much anymore."

Neither do local dairy farms. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, in the past two decades, the number of Maryland dairy farms has dropped from more than 1,400 to fewer than 500. Chuck Fry says that he and other dairy farmers face several challenges, including price fluctuation.

It's also tough for Maryland farmers to expand their dairies owing to urban sprawl. According to Buddy Hance, secretary of MDA, making and selling ice cream to the public is one way dairy farmers can add value to their product. "This is just an opportunity for our dairy industry to continue to survive," he says.

Chuck Fry says the Rocky Point Creamery will be critical to keeping his dairy going. Profits from the shop have already helped to pay some of the dairy operation's bills, and business at the shop has picked up since the ice cream trail started. When it opened, the Rocky Point Creamery sold 3,500 scoops per month. Now, it's selling that much every week.

Chuck Fry says he may even keep the business open in the winter, when ice cream shops like his typically close for the season.

Maryland's Best Ice Cream Trail is the only farm-based ice cream trail in the country so far, but if you're in the mood for mixing your ice cream with a road trip, you can check out Sundae Drives in Eastern Connecticut or the New Hampshire Dairy Trail.


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Reviving the soil

Reviving the soil | Organic Farming |
“It is a crime that is staring us in the face.” Anusha Rizvi, director of the film Peepli Live.Rizvi said these words at the launch of the Greenpeace report, Of Soils, Subsidies and Survival, in Delhi on February 3, 2011, elaborating on how a...mammoth subsidy of Rs 50,000 crore in the name of the Indian farmers goes to the chemical fertilizer industry every year.

She was elaborating on the irony mentioned in the Greenpeace report that, on one end, the Indian government worries about the degradation of soil and on the other, continues to promote chemical fertilizers. The continuous and extensive use of chemical fertilizers since the Green Revolution has destroyed life in the soil and the complete neglect of ecological fertilization has led to depletion of organic matter in the soil which is vital for maintaining the health of the soil. Her point was that the government’s spending on chemical fertilizers is degrading the country’s soil even though it could be diverted into friendlier agricultural practices which would replenish the soil and improve yields.

“The soil is in very poor health but we have not yet reached the stage where we have lost it completely. Farmers can reclaim their soil by shifting away from chemical fertilizers to ecological fertilization, which will not only fix the problems in their soil but also provide sustained production." Gopikrishna SR, Greenpeace Campaigner.

Gopikrishna says that despite the degradation of the soil by chemical fertilisers, farmers can restore the fertility of their soil by improving their methods of farming. He advocates the use of farmyard manure, green leaf manure, crop rotation with leguminous plants and the use of traditional liquid manures such as Panchagavya, Jeevamrutha and Beejamrutha Amritpaani.

“Biological approaches such as crop residues and biomass; integrating annual crops, perennial trees, animals, strategic production of plant biomass and local botanicals for crop protection have the potential to meet crop nutrients and crop-protection needs in place of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and need to be explored widely.” Dr OP Rupela, international scientist and co-author of the report.

Dr Rupela says that if farmers take up the ecological fertilization way of farming, life in rural India will be transformed. He says that this method of farming will also create livelihood opportunities and increase employment potential in rural areas.

The report, Of Soils, Subsidies and Survival, does not merely point out to the mess in the soil but, importantly, shows the way out of the mess. The strength of the study likes in that it yokes together the traditional knowledge that farmers hold and scientific studies conducted over the decades.

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Low-cost solar PV pumping set demonstrated in Kalyan Bigha by Greenpeace

Low-cost solar PV pumping set demonstrated in Kalyan Bigha by Greenpeace | Organic Farming |

Low-cost solar PV pumping set demonstrated in Kalyan Bigha by      Greenpeace


Feature story - April 16, 2012

Asserting the fact that small-scale, decentralized renewable energy systems holds the key to development for rural India, Greenpeace today, demonstrated and installed a solar power pumping system at Kalyan Bigha (native village of Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Nitish Kumar)in Bihar. It was one of those rare moments which gave insight into how renewable energy is empowering people across the country, especially rural areas. People can get reliable energy that does not put additional pressure on our environment.

In a state where 81% of the population is dependent on agriculture contributing to 42% of the state domestic product, it is important that the government takes such initiatives which will improve the productivity without compromising on environment as well as reducing reliance on expensive and polluting diesel. New technologies should be encouraged to make the state self-sustaining with regards to water and electricity. With no operational costs, the Solar PV Pump Set provides an alternative to irrigation pump sets which run on grid electricity and diesel and has huge operational potential in Bihar.


The low cost PV pumping system offers a huge potential to increase the agricultural productivity and will reduce the dependency on erratic electricity supply and poor irrigation system. The Solar PV pumping system is light weight and can be manually installed in any open well or bore well. It delivers 1500-2000 liters of water per hour for 6-8 hours on a sunny day. For better water management and maximum output, it is recommended that drip irrigation method should be used. The model fits well with Bihar State Micro-Irrigation Project (BSMIP) objective to encourage drip and sprinkler irrigation systems.

It is quite apparent that a strong political will and an enabling framework with focus on low cost solar pump set are required for Bihar's inclusive growth. In the recently announced Agriculture Roadmap to ensure a truly pioneering "Rainbow Revolution" would remain unfulfilled without the focus on proper irrigation system. The state must work towards ensuring secure irrigation system to put Bihar on world map as a champion of Rainbow Revolution and that can be achieved only through renewable energy.

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Every Eggcellent bit of advice | Incredible Edible Todmorden | Tool-kit

Every Eggcellent bit of advice | Incredible Edible Todmorden | Tool-kit | Organic Farming |
Aims to increase the amount of local food grown and eaten in the town. Local businesses, schools, farmers and the whole community are all involved.


Every Eggcellent bit of advice

Selling surplus eggs: advice | Keeping incredible hens: advice | Egg-speak: some terms explained | The stamps on eggs | Useful national contacts | Map of local producers | List of local producers with surplus eggs (click a link to access)

Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy but IET cannot accept liability for errors or omissions

This page provides advice and resources if you want to get involved in our Every Egg Matters campaign. Click here for more details of that.

Selling your surplus eggs: some advice

Selling your surplus eggs will not make you rich but will help towards the cost of keeping your hens. If you have less than 50 hens and are selling surplus eggs direct to the public from your own premises then you come under the rules of the Farm Gate Sale of Eggs. This allows unmarked and ungraded eggs to be sold from small flocks because the name and address of the producer is available at the point of sale and so allows traceability of the eggs.

For Farm Gate Sale, eggs must be:

Clean – The eggs should be clean but unwashed. Washing can force bacteria through the shell into the egg. Eggs are usually soiled by the chickens’ dirty feet. Put grit/gravel at the entrance to the house and this will remove dirt and droppings from the feet before they get to the nesting box.

Undamaged – The eggs should not be damaged or cracked. A cracked egg can allow bacteria to contaminate the egg

Ungraded – Your eggs must remain ungraded. This means that a box of eggs will contain different sized eggs.

Fresh – You will need a system to date order your eggs so they are used in succession. The law says that eggs are edible up to four weeks from the date of laying so the “Best Before Date” is given as four weeks from the date of laying. If a Sell by Date is given it will be 3 weeks from laying to allow the customer to keep the eggs in the ‘fridge for a week before eating. Because you will be selling very fresh eggs, probably only a few days old, you can display a sign saying “Best Before Three Weeks from Date of Purchase” and that will keep you legal.

Infertile – don’t allow your laying hens to run with the cockerel.

Be careful about what you claim
Avoid using descriptive terms like ‘organic’ or ‘free range’. These are legal terms and you may need to prove your status legally. If someone asks, offer to show them your hens. They will see that your hens are well cared for have enough space to range and you will have a customer for life.

We support the Five Freedoms (Farm animal welfare council)
1.FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST –by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour;
2.FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT –by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;
3.FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY OR DISEASE- by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;
4.FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOUR – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animals’ own kind
5.FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS – by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

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Keeping incredible hens: some advice

Hatching a plan

Hens are lovely animals that will give you a lot of pleasure as well as eggs. However, they must be well looked after and they need a small amount of attention twice a day. In the morning they need to be let out, fed, watered and the droppings removed. In the evening they must be locked in the house to protect from predators. The house and run need regular cleaning and you will need hen sitters for when you go away.

You will also need to consider if your deeds place restrictions on keeping animals and how your neighbours may react.

The hen house needs to be water tight, vermin proof and easy to clean. An average bird will need about one square foot, so a small 4 foot by 3 foot house would hold a maximum of 12 hens. Larger breeds will need more space.

Hens must be cleaned out daily and the droppings are great for the compost heap as they activate decomposition. Fresh droppings are too strong to be put straight onto plants.

The Run
4 birds need about 20 square feet or roughly 2 square metres. If allowed in the garden they will eat garden pests but also uproot plants.

Hens need layer pellets/ mash and fresh water each day. A hen can drink a pint of water a day. A small amount of (non-meat/fish) leftovers such as rice or bread in the afternoons will be enjoyed but too much low protein food can reduce egg production. They naturally eat insects and sometimes slugs. Providing oyster shell will help the hens produce sound egg shells.

Number of eggs
This can range from 250 to 300 eggs per bird per year. The variation depends on the breed, the health and the age of the bird. A hen doesn’t need a cockerel to lay eggs. Hens can go broody and stop laying and they don’t lay as frequently in the winter. It’s important to collect eggs at least once a day.

Where can I get chickens from?
You can buy chickens from breeders at various ages from day old chicks to point of lay (16-20 weeks) make sure you buy vaccinated birds. You can also get ex-battery hens from welfare charity organizations; see contact list below.

Dogs and Cats
Pet cats are no problem but feral cats may hunt hens. Most pet dogs will learn to leave them alone when they know the hens are part of the family.

Foxes and other predators
Foxes are very common and can strike during the day. Mink and the neighbour’s dog may also attack so it is best to put the hens into the run if you are leaving them for even the shortest time. Men’s urine, spread around the perimeter of their area can be very effective in keeping foxes at bay.
Rats It is very important to deter rats by keeping poultry food in metal containers with well fitting lids. Avoid leaving food around the run and put the feeders away at night somewhere rats can’t penetrate. The house should be made rat proof and always be alert for evidence of a rat problem.

Wild Birds
Hens can get infections from wild birds particularly the uncommon but very serious bird flu. If you can, feed and water your hens under cover and don’t attract wild birds by leaving food around.






Egg-speak: some terms explainedFARM FRESH EGGS – this is an empty description which tells you nothing. The poultry could have been farmed in a number of different ways including in battery cages.

CAGED – If the eggs are from caged birds then it has to state that on the box along with ‘Farm Fresh’.

BARN EGGS means that the poultry are farmed in sheds. They have to allow one per square metre for up to 9 birds and the birds have perches and other home comforts. Some BARN EGGS are approved by Freedom Food.

FREE-RANGE the poultry are allowed outside during daylight hours with a up to 2,500 birds per hectare. The poultry run must provide vegetation for the birds and not be a mud bath.

FREEDOM FOOD is the RSPCA’s animal welfare standard and only barn or free-range eggs qualify for this label.

ORGANIC’ eggs production has to conform to EU regulations which bans the use of artificial pesticides, growth promoters, commercial fertilisers, fungicides and herbicides. The poultry are always free-range.

LION MARK on the shell of eggs means that they have come from flocks vaccinated against salmonella there is complete traceability from egg to flock and the egg is marked with a ‘Best Before’ date. The production standards of these eggs is always higher than that required by UK or EU regulations.


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Why you should invest in agriculture

Why you should invest in agriculture | Organic Farming |



With 9 million people to feed by 2050 demand for food is rapidly rising and agricultural land is a commodity that is very limited.

Wayne Jones, Division Head of Agri-food Trade & Markets at OECD, tells us the reasons to invest in farmland at today’s Agricultural Investment Summit in London.

“People will always eat, it’s first thing people spend their money on,” Mr Jones said.

It is going to cost $80 billion a year to develop the infrastructure required to feed the world, this money will come from the private sector not the public sector, Wayne Jones said.

Increasing demand

An increase in agricultural demand will result from the 680 million more people on the planet in just the next 10 years, this is a large increase in the number of mouths to feed.

However, increase in demand is much higher than increasing populations because of high per capita incomes. Growing incomes are resulting in changing diets with people demanding more meat in their diets.

Another reason to invest, sooner rather than later, is the growing popularity of biofuel production, which is set to double. Aquaculture has also been growing faster than any other sector, growing by 33% over 10 years.

Market Outlook

In recession, food consumption tends not to dip in and out and it can withstand a number of economic downturns. We are entering a supply responsive stage of the cycle in agriculture, which will result in the planting of more crops.

There are strong return potentials in investing in farmland. “There is a much higher real price plateau for the next 10 years, this is pretty encouraging for investors,” Wayne Jones said.

A growth in exports is also encouraging, with Latin America dominating export growth at 34% and Asia and the Pacific following with 25%.

It is a good idea to buy land and then hold on to it, Detlef Schoen advised, Managing Partner of Farm Investments at Aquila Capital Green Assets GmbH.

“Agricultural investment is still done in a very opportunistic basis.

“Farming is more dangerous than private equity, it’s all about picking the right location and the right manager.”

“The bottom line is there is still a lot of risk out there and this is why investors should use risk management companies,” Wayne Jones concluded.

For more information visit

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7 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body | Rodale News

7 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body | Rodale News | Organic Farming |
Agrochemicals, lawn treatments, and bug sprays could be causing your chronic disease, science suggests.




Pesticides are designed to kill, although the mode of action they use to put the stranglehold on pests varies. Whether it's nerve gas–like neurological disruption, the unbalancing of key hormones, or the stunting of a plant's ability to absorb life-sustaining trace minerals from the soil, none of the chemical interventions seems all that appetizing, especially considering that chemical residues routinely wind up on and even inside of the food we eat everyday. Pesticides are also blamed for diminishing mineral levels in foods.

Agrochemical supporters tend to fall back on a "the dose makes the poison" theory, meaning tiny exposures aren't really that harmful. Increasingly, though, independent scientists are debunking that belief, even proving that incredibly tiny doses could set a person up for health problems that might not crop up until decades down the line. Luckily, eating organic, less processed foods can cut back on your pesticide exposure.

Here are 7 health problems associated with pesticide-based agrochemicals.

Scientists have been noticing a link between pesticides and diabetes for years. The latest evidence comes out of the Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting, where Robert Sargis, MD, PhD, released the results of a study that suggest tolyfluanid, a fungicide used on farm crops, creates insulin resistance in fat cells. A 2011 study published in Diabetes Care found that overweight people with higher levels of organochlorine pesticides in their bodies also faced a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prevent it: To save money on organic fare raised without pesticides, cook with organic dried beans. In the home, avoid using chemical air fresheners and artificially scented products—these things are also blamed for inducing type 2 diabetes.

Read more: 11 Surprising Diabetes Triggers

More than 260 studies link pesticides to various cancers, including lymphoma, leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, and brain, breast, prostate, bone, bladder, thyroid, colon, liver, and lung cancers, among others.

Prevent it: The President's Cancer Panel suggests eating organic and avoiding plastic to lower your risk of environmentally triggered cancers.

Autism & Other Developmental Diseases
How do you get autism? The world's leading autism researchers believe the condition develops from a mix of genes and the pollutants encountered in the mother's womb and early in life. Many insecticides effectively kill bugs by throwing off normal neurological functioning. That same thing appears to be happening in some children. A 2010 Harvard study found that children with organophosphate pesticide breakdown materials in their urine were far more likely to live with ADHD than kids without the trace pesticide residues.

Prevent it: Switching to an organic diet rapidly eliminates pesticide residues in the body.

Some agrochemical pesticides act as hormone disruptors, meaning they act like a fake version of a naturally occurring hormone in your body, they block important hormone communication pathways in the body, or they interfere with your body's ability to regulate the healthy release of hormones. More than 50 pesticides are classified as hormone disruptors, and some of them promote metabolic syndrome and obesity as they accumulate in your cells, according to 2012 study appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Parkinson's Disease
More than 60 studies show a connection between pesticides and the neurological disease Parkinson's, a condition characterized by uncontrolled trembling. The association is strongest for weed- and bug-killing chemical exposures over a long period of time, meaning it's important to keep these toxic compounds out of your household routine.

Prevent it: Don't turn to chemical interventions to kill bugs in your home or garden. Instead, use natural pest control measures.

Pesticides spell trouble in the baby-making department, thanks to their bad habit of not staying put. For instance, atrazine, a common chemical weed killer used heavily in the Midwest, on Southern sugar cane farms, and on golf courses, has been detected in tap water. Doctors and scientists point to published evidence tying atrazine to increased miscarriage and infertility rates. Other pesticides cause a plunge in male testosterone levels. A 2006 study found chlorpyrifos, a chemical used in nonorganic apple and sweet pepper farming, and carbaryl, a go-to pesticide in strawberry fields and peach orchards, caused abnormally low testosterone levels.

Prevent it: Avoid the worst summer fruit, the kinds most likely to be laced with toxic pesticides. Instead, choose organic grapes, strawberries, and imported plums.

Birth Defects
Babies conceived during the spring and summer months—a time of year when pesticide use is in full swing—face the highest risk of birth defects. During these months, higher pesticide levels turn up in surface waters, increasing a mother's risk of exposure. Spina bifida, cleft lip, clubfoot, and Down syndrome rates are higher when moms become pregnant during high season for pesticides.

Prevent it: To protect yourself, use a water filter that is certified by NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute Standard 53 for VOC (volatile organic compound) reduction. This will significantly reduce levels of atrazine and other pesticides in your tap water.


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A successful model in organic farming

A successful model in organic farming | Organic Farming |
Anyone who saw the latest episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ would have got a glimpse of the magnitude of problems created by chemical pesticides to human health and...




Anyone who saw the latest episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ would have got a glimpse of the magnitude of problems created by chemical pesticides to human health and environment. While there are widely held views on the profitability of farming without chemical aides, a group of young technocrats from the city, who have relinquished their lucrative careers, have now embarked on a mission to find a good revenue model for organic farming. And given their success to date, it seems they are on the right track.

Inspiration for ‘Nalla Keerai’, an organic farming project now functioning in the outskirts of Chennai near Thirunindravur, started by a group of motivated youngsters came up when one of them, R Jagannatham, who was a business development manager at a private firm, got exposed to the plight of farmers in poverty during one of his travels.

A survey revealed that farmers spent most of their money on inputs, of which pesticides formed a huge chunk of expenditure. Therefore, Jagannathan wondered if cutting down on pesticides would help farmers earn higher profits. He shared his idea with three others - Gautam Balaji, a financial analyst, Thirumalai, an MBA graduate from IIT and S V Ramu, a software developer. They started an organic farm on 25 acres of land and decided not to use chemical pesticides there.

“However, we gave up on the 25 acre project, where the idea was to allocate one acre per family and grow different products, and decided to concentrate on growing greens on a six acre farm,” says Gautam. This time they planted different types of spinach on a leased land.

“We chose spinach because it has a short cultivation cycle and could help the farmer sustain in the initial stages when land is transformed from being nurtured with synthetic fertilisers to only organic manures,” says Jagannathan.

Jagannathan, who is now incharge of the farming activity, says two types of organic inputs are used as nutrients -Panchagavyam and Jeevamritham, both containing a blend of products obtained from cow.

While the yield was on the lower side initially, the group slowly managed to up the productivity and are now aiming at producing a spinach bunch in a square foot of soil, which is better than what most farmers using synthetic inputs achieve. The group had also ensured that the farmer tilling the land gets maximum profit out of the venture by developing a local-production-local-consumption model, where most of the produce is sold within a particular area to avoid middlemen.

“Currently, we are focusing on the Ambattur area where we now have almost 700 customers,” says Jagannathan.

Each bunch of over 20 varieties of spinach are being sold for a price of Rs 15. “If you visit the farm directly, we will give it to you for Rs 10,” says Gautam.

While they have begun to break-even with their investments, Jagannathan says the idea is to expand the project to a 300 acre area and employ at least 3000 farmers. “But the most important motive is to propagate this idea of organic farming with a sustainable revenue model for farmers,” says Gautam.

‘Nalla Keerai’ could be contacted at 9962611767. People can visit their farm located at Sadhana Kudil, Pakkam, Thirunindravur, Chennai – 602 024.

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Monsanto Receives ‘F’ on Sustainable Agriculture Test

Monsanto Receives ‘F’ on Sustainable Agriculture Test | Organic Farming |

Monsanto Receives ‘F’ on Sustainable Agriculture Test


Monsanto, the agricultural biotechnology corporation perhaps most known for its controversial genetically modified (GM) crops, has been given the failing grade of ‘F’ for sustainability by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The company advertises itself as dedicated to sustainable agriculture, but UCS believes it does not fulfill these promises. “In reality, the company is producing more engineered seeds and herbicide and improving its bottom line, but at the expense of conservation and long-term sustainability,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, one of UCS’ Food and Environment Program’s senior scientists.

Monsanto received a failing grade of ‘F’ from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) for sustainability. (Image credit: UCS)

UCS, a respected nonprofit science advocacy group, defines a sustainable production system as one that produces enough food, preserves the environment, and protects farmers’ bottom lines. Reportedly, Monsanto does not satisfy UCS’ criteria for these principles.

Monsanto believes its GM varieties are the key to eliminating world hunger, by altering crops in ways that increase yields. This includes plants, such as the Roundup Ready variety, that are resistant to extensive herbicide use. But according to UCS, there is little evidence that these genetically engineered crops do anything to increase yields, with some studies actually showing a decreased yield, or “yield drag.”

UCS claims there are eight specific ways Monsanto has failed to deliver on its sustainability claims and undermined efforts to promote sustainability:

1. Pesticide resistance: Monsanto’s use of GM crops has increased weed and insect resistance, contributing to stronger pests.

2. Increased herbicide use: By creating crops that are resistant to herbicides, Monsanto has indirectly allowed an increase in herbicide use, which has increased pollution and augmented the effects of climate change.

3. Gene contamination: Monsanto’s use of specialized genes has spread to supposedly non-GM foods, contaminating these crops, often unbeknownst to the farmers.

4. Reduced biodiversity: By emphasizing only a few commodity crops, Monsanto encourages monoculture, which, in turn, leads to biodiversity loss and more pesticide use.

5. Ignoring alternatives: Monsanto focuses solely on GM crops, often times ignoring cheaper, more effective, and more sustainable solutions.

6. Lobbying and advertising: Monsanto spends exorbitant amounts of money lobbying Congress to maintain the current food production system, which favors large agribusiness companies.

7 Suppressing research: Monsanto attempts to prevent independent research on its own products, keeping policymakers and the public from knowing the truth about its products.

8. Failure to adopt science-backed methods: By focusing solely on GM technology and ignoring solutions backed by science, Monsanto has failed to contribute to alleviating world hunger.

UCS’ sustainable agriculture grading is a reminder of the importance the practice holds for the future of farming. According to the UCS website, “There’s a better way to grow our food. Working with nature instead of against it, sustainable agriculture uses 21st-century techniques and technologies to implement time-tested ideas.”


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Innovation of the Week: Living Trees as Fence Posts

Innovation of the Week: Living Trees as Fence Posts | Organic Farming |

Drive around Costa Rica’s windy mountainous roads and you will see numerous trees, from those bearing colorful fruits to others sporting thick spines, planted about 1 to 3 meters apart. Connected by long lines of barbed wire, these rudimentary-looking arrangements, known as living fences, have both economic and environmental benefits over their dead wood counterparts.

Farmers across Central America plant living fences because these green barriers are a more economically feasible and readily accessible method for containing livestock and protecting crops. For one, the main materials of living fences are the branches of tree species that root from sticks and grow into larger trees. Shared among neighbors or sold at local markets, these sticks are much cheaper and more common than manufactured posts. Without the need for paint or preservatives, which can add toxins into the environment, maintenance costs also remain low. Additionally, animals graze on living fences, saving farmers costs in livestock feed.

By providing some shade and serving as windbreaks, living fences can significantly decrease the amount of energy farm animals need to regulate their body temperatures. As livestock allot this extra energy to growth and, in dairy cows, producing milk, farmers experience higher yields, whether in meat or milk, for planting living fences.

These tree posts also offer farmers the additional benefits of firewood, timber, fruits, tanning astringents, and dyes. In Costa Rica, the federal government even provides payment for ecosystem services (PES) to farmers with living fences. A study on a region where a 2002 to 2007 World Bank project funded and monitored the building of living fences throughout Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Colombia, reports that small landholding producers rank the conversion of conventional fences into their living alternatives as a high priority.

But living fences are not only beneficial to farmers. Because living fences stabilize soils through their roots system, they can decrease erosion and protect watersheds from excess particulate matter. The roots of living fences also “pump” nutrients, a term used to describe roots that take up mineral nutrients from deep in the ground. These nutrients are later incorporated in the topsoil.

Above ground, living fences increase biodiversity in an area by providing many animals with food and shelter. Pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and birds are frequent visitors of living fences and, when living fences exist between two forests, animals can use them as passageways to easily move from one area to the next.

As pastures are abandoned, living fences also assist in quicker forest recovery than conventional fences because, with their greater tree cover protection and possibility for a meal, they more readily host a variety of birds and other seed disperses.

By using living trees instead of their dead wood counterparts, farmers can also ease pressure off of the forests that supply manufactured posts. Whole trees do not need to be cut for living posts because they grow from the trimmed branches of rooted posts. Living fence posts are also less-frequently replaced than dead wood posts, because they are less susceptible to rot and decay. In addition to slowing down deforestation, living fences posts, like any other living trees, uptake and store carbon. These benefits together can help mitigate climate change by decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Offering farmers, wildlife, and plants numerous advantages, living fences are certainly a sustainable and beautiful alternative to conventional construction.


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Learning to be a Professional Gardener

Learning to be a Professional Gardener | Organic Farming |
Fascinating entries from contributing editors, interesting voices, and expert gardeners.



I am a Professional Gardener student at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Originally from West Caldwell, New Jersey, I have a degree in sociology from Penn State University. Before I came to Longwood, I worked as a seasonal gardener at Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, New Jersey, a former private estate surrounded by scenic protected woodlands in its final stages of its restoration and transformation into a public pleasure garden. My primary interests in horticulture are native plants, sustainable landscapes, and organic gardening.

The Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Training Program is a 2-year, tuition-free immersive program that offers horticulture education through traditional classroom-style learning and practical experience. Graduates of the program have ended up in various horticulture industries, from floriculture enterprises to nurseries to public garden management. There are two classes of about eight students each enrolled at all times. The class of 2012 is the “senior” class, while my class, the class of 2013, is the “junior” class.

The 2013 class of Professional Gardener students, or PGs, is made up of eight students of various ages, geographic locations, horticulture experience, and interests. For the next 2 years, we will be alternating through 3-month cycles of work rotations and classes. Work rotations are essentially month-long internships in different parts of the gardens; so far I have worked in indoor display (in the conservatory), production, and arboriculture. Classes are structured similarly to college semesters, where we learn everything from math and chemistry to landscape design and how to manage a greenhouse.

Housing is provided in the form of duplexes that date back to Pierre S. DuPont’s time, when he decided to keep his staff his close by. Living within the grounds of Longwood Gardens makes for an incredible learning environment. PG students, interns, international trainees, and some staff members live on Red Lion Row (or simply, The Row), which is a straight road with houses on one side and garden plots on the other, tucked away behind Longwood’s production greenhouses, the Forest Walk, and the Meadow.\


Each PG student is provided her or his own 16-by-50-foot garden space, divided into a 240-square-foot ornamental plot and a 560-square-foot vegetable plot. We have an ongoing garden practicum that provides a few guidelines for our ornamental plots but allows plenty of room for creativity and experimentation. The vegetable sides of our plots, however, are dedicated to what has been affectionately dubbed the “Veggie Venture.”

Never having grown my own vegetables before, I’m pretty excited by the Veggie Venture. We grow and sell organic produce to 1906, Longwood’s fine dining cafeteria, which is open to guests of the gardens. One of the senior PGs is in charge of creating an accession sheet based on a list of vegetables, including specific cultivars, requested by the chefs of 1906. We grow what they ask for, they pay us for what we grow, and we put all of the money toward our trip to China in 2013. We each grow several different crops in our plots, oversee a certain category, and harvest when ready (for example: right now I’m growing lettuce, snap peas, Swiss chard, and peppers, but I am in charge of overseeing all pepper crops and their harvesting).

As a guest blogger, I will be writing about my experiences with organic gardening as a student at Longwood Gardens and as somebody who is completely new to gardening. More specifically, I will be writing about how my class is growing vegetables and cut flowers and pursuing other creative ways of raising funds for our trip to Shanghai, China, in 2013. I will also try to include “Top Three Things I Learned This Week” (about gardening, that is) and “My New Favorite Plant.”

The Top Three Things I Learned This Week:

1. Groundhogs will eat kohlrabi!

2. If you tell somebody at the supermarket that you are a gardener, he or she will assume that gardening is your hobby, not your profession or field of study.

3. Back up everything on your computer so that when your hard drive crashes you don’t have to write the same blog twice!



My neighbor grew some night-scented stock for our porch, and I couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor. Not only does this plant have little white and purple flowers that bloom at night, but they are more fragrant than I could reasonably expect for such small flowers. The flowers look wilted when I come back from class or work at the end of the day (as do I sometimes), but by the time I’ve eaten dinner, the flowers are wide awake and offering a pleasurable scent to anybody who happens by it.

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iPhone Sensors Test If Your Food Really Is Organic

iPhone Sensors Test If Your Food Really Is Organic | Organic Farming |

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Eat the fruits of your labour: start your own kitchen garden | Green Foundation


Kitchen gardens can give an immense sense of satisfaction to gardening enthusiasts. But you don't have to be an expert gardener to start a small one of your own. At GREEN, we believe that sustainability is as important in the urban context as it is in the rural one.

So we've compiled a few steps that you should keep in mind when starting a kitchen garden of your own. We hope that it gets you on your way to a little Garden of Eden in your own backyard! Let us know what you think!


Step 1: decide where to place your vegetable garden

Where you place your vegetables is essential to their growth, therefore, plan your garden well. You could design it to a convenient scale on paper, before deciding to prepare it on real ground. Take into mind the following considerations:

Sun: most vegetables require between 6 to 8 hrs of sunlight everyday, and this should be an important consideration in choosing the location of your garden.

Easy accessibility: this may seem quite obvious, but the garden should be in a place that has easy access to water. Vegetables must be watered regularly according to a schedule otherwise they tend to not grow properly.

Tools: basic tools you will need to begin include shovel, fork, trowel and tiller. Once the plants start to grow, you will also need a hoe, hose and nozzle. In Bangalore, you can buy these in Lalbagh.

No back yard? You can also grow vegetables in containers.

Container choices: window boxes are a good idea if you happen to have many windows. Terracotta pots allow plants to breathe easily, but they are difficult to move. Plastic containers, on the other hand, tend to make it difficult for plants to breathe, but they are an inexpensive alternative. You could use buckets or even polythene bags. N.B: the containers must have drainage holes for water to seep out. Containers cost anywhere between Rs. 300 to Rs. 70 or even lesser in case of plastic bags.

Step 2: Determine what to grow

A good way to start would be to make a list of all your favourite vegetables and then research on how best to grow each one. When researching, make sure to pay attention to the following features of each vegetable:

•When to plant and where to plant, for e.g. in shade or sunlight. Some vegetables should not be grown next to each other, so this should be kept in mind.

•Are seedlings or seeds better

•How to germinate the seeds and how to transplant them

•How much sunlight is needed

•When and how much to water them

•What type of soil is required

Once this is done, you can narrow your list down to what vegetables you wish to start with first. Remember to keep find out if the vegetable you have chosen will grow in the agroclimatic zone you live in. Bangalore has lovely weather, and therefore, you could grow vegetables nearly all year round.

Step 3: Prepare the soil

This is very important, particularly for vegetables, as they are annuals that flower constantly. Compost can be added to enrich the soil. Potting mixture or compost such as vermiculite, cocopeat or perlite is good for your vegetables if you are growing them in containers. You can buy these in Bangalore at Lalbagh.

A combination of loamy garden soil, sand and peat moss also makes a good growing mixture. An inch of sandy loam to two or three inches of compost is a good place to start. Before adding soil amendments, water dry soil and let it soak for a day or two.

Step 4: Seeds and seedlings

Depending on your preference, you could choose to plant either seeds or saplings.

Vegetables that are Usually Direct Seeded are: Beans, beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce, micro greens, muskmelons, okra, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, radishes, rutabaga, salsify, squash, turnips, watermelon.

Vegetables that Transplant Well: Basil, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, chives, collards, eggplant, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, okra, onions, parsley, peppers, tomatoes.

Seeds: When it comes to seeds, GREEN promotes the use of indigenous vegetable varieties in kitchen gardens. We also facilitate farmers to sell these seeds to supplement family income. Good quality indigenous seeds are better suited to the agroclimatic zones they are found in, and therefore produce good yields.

Seed starting, pre-germination: prepare a tray that is at least two inches deep with potting mixture (such as a mixture of perlite, coco peat and vermiculite) The tray should be filled until one inch from the top. Moisten the mixture such that it can be just squeezed into clumps in your hand.

Now its time to plant the seeds. Some seeds need to be covered and others sunlight in order to grow. You research on each vegetable should tell you which needs what. You could plant the seeds in furrows or embed them directly into the soil. Once the sowing is finished, the tray should be covered with a polythene bag and left to germinate.

Germination: the tray should be checked regularly for signs of germination. There is no need to water during this time. Upon germination, a small hook-like sprout will appear and once this happens, the plastic bag should be removed. It is very important at this stage to move the tray to a place where there is plenty of sunshine.

Post germination: the seedlings should be exposed to increasing amounts of sunlight day by day and the tray should be kept moist at all times. The tray itself should be placed in a clean dry place where there is no fungus present. Fungus can lead to damp-off and this should be avoided.

Transplanting: always transplant early morning or late evening and water the seedlings after transplantation. If you are using containers, make sure to use ones that have the right depth for each vegetable and do not keep them in direct sunlight immediately after transplanting. Some vegetables must be transplanted deeper into the soil than others. Research this information while transplanting.

Seedlings: seedlings could be bought directly from nurseries and then transplanted into your garden or containers. Research how to transplant each vegetable before doing so, as there may be certain requirements that must be met for each vegetable.

Step 5: Tending to your vegetable garden:

Watering: watering an inch or two once a week, every week is advisable. Watering should be regular and the best time to water is early morning, so that moisture on leaves can dry during the day. This also helps prevent diseases. It is best to give one deep watering once a week rather than shallow watering of greater frequency.

Weeding: you may have to do some hand weeding or hoeing, although if vegetables are grown in containers, this may be minimal. Mulching is a good option to prevent weeding. GREEN promotes mulching as this is also excellent for the soil.

Pest and disease control: the best disease control for your plants is to keep the leaves dry. Several organic pestticides can be used to prevent pest control.

Good references for your research include:

1.GREEN Publications: Sustainable Agricultural Practices






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Five Agricultural Innovations to Improve Biodiversity

Five Agricultural Innovations to Improve Biodiversity | Organic Farming |



According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a quarter of the world’s known plant species—some 60,000 to 100,000 species—are threatened with extinction. And even though plants may not receive as much attention as endangered animals, they are essential. Among their many attributes, plants are a vital source of food, they can help stabilize the climate, and they also provide shelter, medicines, and fuel.

Seeds of diversity; seed banks are one innovation that helps increase biodiversity. (Photo credit: GREEN Foundation)

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five agricultural innovations to improve biodiversity and protect these important providers.

1. Seed banks: Seed banks help preserve seed varieties, while protecting against famine and disease. Storing seed varieties in seed banks helps protect farmers from seed loss while reducing their overreliance on monoculture crops that makes agricultural economies vulnerable to price shocks.

Seed Banks in action: In Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault protects thousands of seeds that farmers in developing countries can rely on to help re-harvest crops that have been affected by disease, climate, or conflict. And in Karnataka, India, community seeds banks are open to any member of the community as long as they don’t use pesticides or chemical fertilizers when farming.

2. Permaculture: Designing a farm based on the principles of permaculture helps increase biodiversity. Permaculture refers to designing land to take advantage of natural ecological processes by integrating a variety of crops, animals, and pests into one farming system.

Permaculture in action: In Lilongwe , Malawi, Stacia and Kristof Nordin have developed a permaculture project that teaches farmers about methods to incorporate composting, water harvesting, and intercropping to help build organic matter in soils while conserving biodiversity. In Botswana , the Mokolodi Wildlife Reserve teaches students and the community about conserving and protecting wildlife in a way that is in harmony with an agricultural system that helps produce spinach, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, green peppers, garlic, basil, parsley, coriander, and other crops. Students come to learn how to grow nutritious food as well as how to protect their native wildlife.

3. Cultivating indigenous crops: As a result of the Green Revolution many countries started relying on growing western crops, such as maize, instead of local crops. To help increase biodiversity, farmers are going back to their roots and growing more indigenous vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Cultivate indigenous crops in action: In South Africa, Richard Haigh discovered that by cultivating more indigenous crops he was able to improve biodiversity on his farm. His 23 acre farm saw higher yields than ever before when he started integrating indigenous vegetables, fruits, and livestock into his production. And in Tanzania, farmers learned that growing native trees not only helped improve soil fertility but also helped to increase biodiversity. The tree planting project was part of a strategy implemented by CARE International’s Equitable Payment for Watershed Management that aimed at improving ecological farming methods in the region.

4. Protecting indigenous livestock breeds: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that around 1,710 breeds of livestock—21 percent—are at risk of extinction worldwide. Indigenous livestock are often better suited to local conditions and are better at resisting pests and disease than exotic breeds.

Protecting indigenous livestock in action: In Uganda, cattle herders have learned about the benefits of raising indigenous cattle and started introducing local breeds into national parks for grazing. This helps raise healthier animals while also increasing the health of local eco-systems through the use of the cattle’s manure.

5. Crop Breeding : Breeding crops that are resistant to pests and diseases and better adapted to drought or flooding can help make sure that many crops don’t disappear. In some parts of Africa, if a disease strikes wheat before breeders are able to make a strand that is disease resistant, for example, as much as 80 percent of the breed can be lost.

Crop breeding in action: The FAO’s Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building works to introduce biotechnologies to developing countries, train farmers in breeding practices, and develop national breeding strategies for target countries. The Global Crop Diversity Trust, whose executive director Cary Fowler is an adviser to Nourishing The Planet, focuses on increasing biodiversity through an endowment that funds projects aimed at crop diversity. The trust, working with the FAO, helps fund pre-breeding programs that help farmers identify which traits are useful to improving crop resistance to disease and pests.


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Here's Where Farms Are Sucking The Planet Dry : NPR

Here's Where Farms Are Sucking The Planet Dry : NPR | Organic Farming |

Farmers are emptying some of the world's most important aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, which means less water for everyone. This map from the journal Nature shows where irrigation is doing the most damage.


Click on this link for  amagnified image of the map




This map is disturbing, once you understand it. It's a new attempt to visualize an old problem — the shrinking of underground water reserves, in most cases because farmers are pumping out water to irrigate their crops.

The map itself isn't hard to grasp. The colored areas show the world's largest aquifers — areas which hold deposits of groundwater. The blue ones are doing fine; more rainfall is flowing into them than is being pumped out of them for homes or irrigating fields. As a result, these aquifers can continue to play a vital role in the environment. (Water in most aquifers doesn't just sit there. It flows slowly, underground, and ends up sustaining rivers and lakes and all the creatures who live there.)

The aquifers that are painted red, orange, or yellow, meanwhile, are being drained rapidly. How rapidly? That brings us to the complicated part of this graphic.

See those large grey shapes, below the map? Each one is a magnified reflection of an over-exploited aquifer. The amount of magnification represents the amount of water that people are currently pumping out of that aquifer, compared to the rate of natural replenishment. Tom Gleeson, at Montreal's McGill University, and Ludovicus P. H. van Beek, at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands, created this graphic for an article they published in this week's issue of the journal Nature


They call those magnified shapes the "groundwater footprint" of each aquifer's exploitation. The footprint of the Upper Ganges aquifer, for instance, is 54 times bigger than the aquifer itself. Think about that footprint this way: It's the size, on a map, of the area that would be required to catch enough rainfall to replenish that aquifer and make up for all the water currently being pumped out of it.Some of these aquifers are being exploited at a stunning rate, but what's truly alarming is how many people depend on that over-exploitation for their food. These aquifers include the Upper Ganges, covering densely populated areas of northern India and Pakistan, and the North China plain, which is the heart of corn-growing in that country. The aquifer of Western Mexico has become a large source of fruit and vegetable production for the U.S.

The High Plains aquifer in the United States, meanwhile, is having a particularly bad year. Farmers are pumping even more than usual, because of the drought afflicting this part of the country, and it is getting less replenishment from rainfall. So water levels in the aquifer are falling even faster, leaving less water for the region's rivers, birds, and fish.

This can't go on forever. Already, many farmers are being forced to dig deeper wells to get at that water. But bigger changes are on the way: New irrigation technologies that use water much efficiently; a shift to different crops that demand less water; and in some areas, they'll just have to stop using those underground stores of water altogether.

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Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture | Organic Farming |
Ecological farming is the answer to the problems being faced by agriculture in our country today. It will also keep agriculture sustainable.




Ensuring our food security

Since the dawn of civilizations agriculture is one sector that impacts and in turn is impacted the most by environment. Hence sustainability of the human race and this world depends a lot on the environmental friendliness of our agriculture.

India is facing a food crisis thanks to the systematic destruction of farmlands and food production systems over the last five decades through uncontrolled use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, mono-cropping and other intensive agricultural practices. Instead of looking at the real problem the government is favouring false solutions like genetically engineered (GE) food crops.

Ecological farming is the answer to the problems being faced by agriculture in our country today. It will also keep agriculture sustainable. This form of agriculture conserves our soil and water resources, protects our climate, enhances agro-diversity, ensures biodiversity, meets the demand for food and safeguards livelihoods. In short, it ensures that the environment thrives, the farm is productive, the farmer makes a net profit and society has enough nutritious food.

India has a long history of agriculture. Over centuries, farmers in this country devised practices to keep our farms sustainable. Practices like mixed cropping, crop rotation, using organic manure and pest management kept our agriculture sustainable. But things changed for the worse with the onslaught of a chemical intensive model of agriculture, imposed through the so called Green Revolution in 1965.

It was therefore not surprising when the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development [IAASTD], an initiative of the United Nations and World Bank, concluded that small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods are the way forward if the current food crisis is to be solved. This initiative involved a three year review of all the agricultural technologies in the past 50 years by around 400 scientists across the world.

The IAASTD said that to meet the needs of local communities, indigenous and local knowledge need to be declared as important as formal science. This is a significant departure from the destructive chemical-dependent, one-size-fits-all model of industrial agriculture. The report also acknowledges that genetically engineered crops are highly controversial and will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty.

Campaign story:

Greenpeace is not opposed to science nor is it opposed to finding more efficient farming methods. But we will not stand for the wilful destruction of the soil, water and biodiversity for the gains of corporates. Nor will we let human beings be treated as guinea pigs to test new crops. Keeping this in mind the sustainable agriculture campaign is currently focused on the following:

Fertiliser Campaign: Degraded soil with diminishing fertility, food full of toxins, huge carbon footprints and empty coffers. This is exactly what chemical fertilizers are doing in this country. It’s time to shift from these to ecological means of cultivation proved to be successful in several parts of the country.

GE Campaign: Touted as the perfect solution to the food crisis, GE crops will only worsen it. Among other things, they pose a threat to human health and compromise on food safety. GE crops should not be released into the open at any cost.

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12 Innovations to Combat Drought, Improve Food Security, and Stabilize Food Prices

12 Innovations to Combat Drought, Improve Food Security, and Stabilize Food Prices | Organic Farming |


Soaring temperatures and low precipitation could not occur at a worse time for many farmers in the United States. Intensifying drought conditions are affecting corn and soybean crops throughout the Midwest, raising grain prices as well as concerns about future food prices. Drought is plaguing the United States, driving up food prices.

Corn is currently selling at around $9 a bushel, a 50 percent increase from June, while soybeans are selling at a record high of $17 a bushel as a result of drought-related losses in crop yields. The increased prices may benefit farmers in the short run, but consumers will experience the aftermath of price increases in the form of more money spent on poultry, beef, pork, and dairy products.

Nearly half of all domestic corn production is used as livestock feed, a trend that is now encouraging larger livestock producers to import corn from Brazil while smaller farmers must reduce herd sizes by sending more animals to the market. Most immediately, poultry prices are expected to rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent due to the animals’ more rapid growth and therefore more sudden response to higher feed prices. The price of beef is projected to rise the highest—4 to 5 percent by November—but at a slower rate, reflecting the longer growth period and higher feed requirements of beef cattle.

Higher U.S. grain prices could have an even greater impact worldwide. The United States is the world’s largest corn producer as well as a major exporter of crop-derived agricultural products. Declining domestic production could translate into exacerbated food security problems abroad. Countries that import corn and soybean byproducts or animal feed, such as Japan and Mexico, will be affected the most.

Climate change is making it increasingly important to protect local agriculture in the United States and address the issues underlying its vulnerability to natural disasters, such as drought.


The Nourishing the Planet ( project highlights 12 agricultural innovations that can help make U.S. and global agriculture more drought resilient, as well as sustainable.


Agroforestry: Planting trees in and around farms reduces soil erosion by providing a natural barrier against strong winds and rainfall. Tree roots also stabilize and nourish soils. The 1990 Farm Bill established the USDA National Agroforestry Center with the expressed aim of encouraging farmers to grow trees as windbreaks or as part of combined forage and livestock production, among other uses.

2)Soil management: Alternating crop species allows soil periods of rest, restores nutrients, and also controls pests. Soil amendments, such as biochar, help soils retain moisture near the surface by providing a direct source of water and nutrients to plant roots, even in times of drought.

3)Increasing crop diversity: Mono-cropping often exposes crops to pests and diseases associated with overcrowding, and can increase market dependence on a few varieties: in the United States, almost 90 percent of historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished in favor of mono-cultured staples such as Pink Lady apples and Yukon Gold potatoes. Encouraging diversity through agricultural subsidies and informed consumption choices can help reverse this trend and the threat it poses to domestic food security.

4)Improving food production from existing livestock: Improved animal husbandry practices can increase milk and meat quantities without the need to increase herd sizes or associated environmental degradation. In India, farmers are improving the quality of their feed by using grass, sorghum, stover, and brans to produce more milk from fewer animals. This also reduces pressure on global corn supplies.

5)Diversifying livestock breeds: Most commercial farming operations rely on a narrow range of commercial breeds selected for their high productivity and low input needs. Selective breeding, however, has also made these breeds vulnerable to diseases and changing environments. Lesser-known livestock such as North American Bison are often hardier and produce richer milk.
6)“Meatless Mondays”: Choosing not to eat meat at least one day a week will reduce the environmental impacts associated with livestock as well as increase food availability in domestic and global markets. Current production methods require 7 kilograms of grain and 100,000 liters of water for every 1 kilogram of meat. Livestock production accounts for an estimated 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and roughly 23 percent of agricultural water use worldwide.

7)Smarter irrigation systems: The Ogallala High Plains Aquifer, which supplies essential groundwater to many Midwestern states, is experiencing record rates of depletion due to extraction for irrigation purposes. Almost 50 percent of commercial and residential irrigation water, however, is wasted due to evaporation, wind, improper design, and overwatering. Installing water sensors or micro-irrigation technology and planning water-efficient gardens or farms using specific crops and locations can significantly reduce water scarcity problems.

8)Integrated farming systems: Farming systems, such as permaculture, improve soil fertility and agricultural productivity by using natural resources as sustainably and efficiently as possible. Research and implementation of permaculture techniques, such as recycling wastewater or planting groups of plants that utilize the same resources in related ways, are expanding rapidly across the United States.

9) Agroecological and organic farming: Organic and agroecological farming methods are designed to build soil quality and promote plant and animal health in harmony with local ecosystems. Research shows that they can increase sustainable yield goals by 50 percent or more with relatively few external inputs. In contrast, genetic engineering occasionally increases output by 10 percent, often with unanticipated impacts on crop physiology and resistance. 10) Supporting small-scale farmers: Existing agricultural subsidies in the United States cater disproportionately to large-scale agribusinesses, 80 percent of which produce corn for animal feed and ethanol. This means that small-scale producers are affected more acutely by natural disasters and fluctuating commodity prices, even though they are more likely to be involved in food production. Government extension and support services should be adjusted to alleviate this deficit.

11) Re-evaluating ethanol subsidies: Although ethanol’s share of U.S. gasoline is still relatively small (projected at 15–17 percent by 2030), in 2009 the Congressional Budget Office reported that increased demand for corn ethanol has, at times, contributed to 10–15 percent of the rise in food prices. Encouraging clean energy alternatives to crop-based biofuels will increase the amount of food available for consumption, both at home and abroad.

12) Agricultural Research and Development (R&D): The share of agricultural R&D undertaken by the U.S. public sector fell from 54 percent in 1986 to 28 percent in 2009, and private research has filled the gap. Private companies, however, are often legally bound to maximize economic returns for investors, raising concerns over scientific independence and integrity. Increased government funding and support for agricultural research, development, and training programs can help address issues such as hunger, malnutrition, and poverty without being compromised by corporate objectives.



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Every Eggcellent bit of advice | Incredible Edible Todmorden | Tool-kit

Every Eggcellent bit of advice | Incredible Edible Todmorden | Tool-kit | Organic Farming |


There are people who think innovatively. this a novel one where everybody gets benefitted and that too in a healthy way. for more info:




Aims to increase the amount of local food grown and eaten in the town. Local businesses, schools, farmers and the whole community are all involved.


Every Eggcellent bit of advice

Selling surplus eggs: advice | Keeping incredible hens: advice | Egg-speak: some terms explained | The stamps on eggs | Useful national contacts | Map of local producers | List of local producers with surplus eggs (click a link to access)

Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy but IET cannot accept liability for errors or omissions

This page provides advice and resources if you want to get involved in our Every Egg Matters campaign. Click here for more details of that.

Selling your surplus eggs: some advice

Selling your surplus eggs will not make you rich but will help towards the cost of keeping your hens. If you have less than 50 hens and are selling surplus eggs direct to the public from your own premises then you come under the rules of the Farm Gate Sale of Eggs. This allows unmarked and ungraded eggs to be sold from small flocks because the name and address of the producer is available at the point of sale and so allows traceability of the eggs.

For Farm Gate Sale, eggs must be:

Clean – The eggs should be clean but unwashed. Washing can force bacteria through the shell into the egg. Eggs are usually soiled by the chickens’ dirty feet. Put grit/gravel at the entrance to the house and this will remove dirt and droppings from the feet before they get to the nesting box.

Undamaged – The eggs should not be damaged or cracked. A cracked egg can allow bacteria to contaminate the egg

Ungraded – Your eggs must remain ungraded. This means that a box of eggs will contain different sized eggs.

Fresh – You will need a system to date order your eggs so they are used in succession. The law says that eggs are edible up to four weeks from the date of laying so the “Best Before Date” is given as four weeks from the date of laying. If a Sell by Date is given it will be 3 weeks from laying to allow the customer to keep the eggs in the ‘fridge for a week before eating. Because you will be selling very fresh eggs, probably only a few days old, you can display a sign saying “Best Before Three Weeks from Date of Purchase” and that will keep you legal.

Infertile – don’t allow your laying hens to run with the cockerel.

Be careful about what you claim
Avoid using descriptive terms like ‘organic’ or ‘free range’. These are legal terms and you may need to prove your status legally. If someone asks, offer to show them your hens. They will see that your hens are well cared for have enough space to range and you will have a customer for life.

We support the Five Freedoms (Farm animal welfare council)
1.FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST –by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour;
2.FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT –by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;
3.FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY OR DISEASE- by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;
4.FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOUR – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animals’ own kind
5.FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS – by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.


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Innovation of the Week: Zero Tillage

Innovation of the Week: Zero Tillage | Organic Farming |

In agriculture, sometimes less is more, especially when it comes to soil quality. Monoculture crops—such as corn and soybeans—rely heavily on tractors for tilling the soil. And while these practices have raised yields over the last sixty years, they’ve also done a lot of damage to soils. Over turning dirt can lead to dryness and erosion, expediting the loss of nutrients in the soil that crops need to thrive.

Zero tillage, on the other hand, helps retain moisture, prevent erosion, and conserve nutrients. The soil is covered with plant remains from the previous season’s crops or any additional organic matter such as animal dung. And seeds are planted in untilled soil in drilled holes or narrow ditches.

In Argentina, according to IFPRI’s Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development, it is estimated that the use of zero tillage in soybean cultivation has lead to a total gain of $4.7 billion dollars since 1991. In addition, in the years between 1993 and 1999, zero tillage farming led to the creation of 200,000 farming and extension related jobs.

In the Indo-Gangetic plains in Northeastern India, rice-wheat cultivation increased as a result of technological development of zero tillage drills. In the 1990s, a drill for creating holes in untilled soil was developed, and distributed at a low cost. The affordability and accessibility of the technology led to the widespread use of the technique in the area. Today zero or reduced tilling makes up one fifth to one fourth of wheat production there. According to Millions Fed, studies show that farmers could increase incomes by $97 per hectare of land because of improved production and a cut in the cost and time that goes into soil preparation.

According to a 2004 study from FAO and IFAD farmers in Tanzania, using tools made specifically for zero tillage agriculture saved 75 percent of the time usually spent on clearing land and preparing the fields. And elsewhere in Eastern Africa, the FAO partnering with the African Conservation Tillage Network, is helping implement a three-year conservation agriculture project, reaching 4,000 farmers in Kenya and Tanzania. Through the project, farmers in Africa will be connected to farmers in Brazil to gain education and extension directly from those who have already benefited from this “less is more” method of planting.


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the Saha Astitva Foundation

It’s heartening to see people getting onto our site and making enquiries regarding organic gardening. One of our regulars has asked for some details on organic pesticides, as her tomato and chilly plants are under attack from aphids and other small pests!

Organic pesticides not only work well for any type of pests, but are also environment friendly and even cheaper than the regular pesticides. Here are some organic pesticides that will help you beat the bugs in your garden:

1. Neem Oil
This is used to kill pests (which eat the leaves), or to repel others with its strong smell. It can be used against whitefly, aphids, Japanese beetles, moth larvae, scale and spider mites. Neem oil specifically targets pests, and will not affect insects that don’t eat the foliage – like bees or lady birds. It’s also useful as a fungicide against rust, black spot, mildew, leaf spot, scab, anthracnose, blight and botrytis.
Use 70% Neem Oil (Mix 1 tablespoon of this in 2 litres of water) by spraying it over all plant surfaces including the undersides of the leaves.
If you can't source the oil, but have access to the real thing, then use about a kilogramme of leaves (with thin stalks is fine), and crush them in large container. Add about 3-4 litres of water and leave overnight. The water will be a dirty green, strain it and spray on the plants.

2. Soap Spray
This is probably the simplest way to stop bugs in their tracks! Use 3 tablespoons of liquid detergent into a 4 litres of water. Use organic soap if available☺, spray weekly!

3. Salt Spray
This is a good solution for cabbageworms and spider mites. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt in 2 litres of water and spray the plants – as usual, do spray the undersides.

4. Citrus Spray
Peal the rind of a large orange or lemon, and pour a litre of boiling water over it. Leave this overnight. Strain this, add a drop of dish washing soap and spray your plants. This is especially good to keep aphids and other pests at bay.

5. Garlic Spray
Bugs and slugs, all hate the garlic-ky smell. Blend cloves from a complete bulb of garlic, a medium sized onion, a tablespoon of cayenne pepper and about 200 ml water (in total, you need a litre of water for this spray). Strain it, and add the balance 800 ml water and a tablespoon of dish washing liquid. Spray this every few days till you can see no pests, and then after about a week to get rid of the larvae or eggs that may be around. You will need to re-spray in case it rains.

Since this spray has oil from the garlic, and dishwashing liquid, it sticks to plants as well as suffocates pests. It will also make the leaves unpalatable to the bugs. It will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs, whiteflies, cutworms, slugs, wireworms and many more.

Just some caveats,
- Never use spray on plants during hot sunny weather as it may cause the leaves to burn.
- Take care of the useful animals such as bees, earthworms.
- Even with natural ingredients, it’s best to keep the sprays away from children. Label them and keep them in a cool storage area.
- Wash your hands after using the sprays, and definitely avoid contact with eyes!



repost from - a great organic resource site...


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Innovation of the Week: Aqua Shops

Innovation of the Week: Aqua Shops | Organic Farming |

In Western Kenya, where nearly 60 percent of households depend on fish as a source of income, dwindling fish supplies are hurting the economy and those who rely on fish as a source of food. Lake Victoria currently provides over 90 percent of Kenya’s fish supply, but a combination of overfishing and pollution have led to a decline in fish stocks, causing prices to rise because supply is not keeping up with demand.

As a solution, Kenya’s government is supporting the development of aquaculture in an effort to promote economic growth and stimulate food production. In addition to providing basic infrastructure and supporting research and development, the government is also providing funding for the construction of 46,000 fish ponds in 160 of the country’s 210 constituencies and has given farmers catfish and tilapia fingerlings, or very young fish, and fish feed to help get them started. Despite these governmental efforts, however, many farmers still lack access to the support and inputs required for long-term success.

In an effort to supplement and further the Kenyan government’s initiatives, FARM-Africa, in partnership with Natural Resources International, the University of Stirling, Imani Development, the U.K. Department for International Development Research Into Use Programme, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, has established a series of six Aqua Shops in western Kenya. These shops provide farmers with technical advice about aquaculture practices and give them the materials, including fish feed and manure (for fertilization), needed to set up and maintain healthy fish ponds and lakes.

The Aqua Shops run under a franchise system through which one franchisor establishes a network of shops and then recruits franchisees to manage individual locations. To run a shop, each person chosen must demonstrate that he or she has had relevant practical experience and has enough capital to invest in the shops. The owners must also participate in an intensive two week training course on agribusiness and aquaculture run by FARM-Africa. Once the businesses are up and running, FARM-Africa helps link them to important input suppliers, giving them the information they need to help farmers generate more income and get the most out of their businesses.

So far, the program has prepared over 600 farmers to run fish farming businesses. As Susan Otieno, the Aqua Shop project coordinator, explains, “initial training for farmer groups was provided by FARM-Africa in order to stimulate demand for Aqua Shop services,” as many farmers lacked technical knowledge and did not understand how Aqua Shops could help meet their needs. Now, however, she says that many Aqua Shops are “offering their own training for a fee” and notes that “the plan is that all training services will be handled by Aqua Shops in the future.”

FARM-Africa hopes to expand the project nationally and, ultimately, throughout the region in East Africa. This expansion, however, is currently limited due to a lack of funding and resource availability. One promising way to increase availability of resources, Otieno suggests, is to encourage private sector investment in these initiatives. She says that “interventions that are business-oriented and involve the private sector have the possibility to be self-sustaining in a shorter period of time. Private sector investment also drives competition and efficiency, which is essential if the sector is to survive.”

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Five Ways to Get Rid of Pests Without Using Chemicals

Five Ways to Get Rid of Pests Without Using Chemicals | Organic Farming |

Five Ways to Get Rid of Pests Without Using Chemica




Pests can be, well, a pest. They infest crops and reduce yields, reducing overall agricultural production and food security. To deal with pests, such as mealybugs or spider mites, most farmers use chemical pesticides which can impact health, pollute water supplies through runoff, and, if pesticides are misused or overused, can actually kill plants. Finding new methods to get rid of pests without requiring chemical inputs has increasingly become a priority for many farmers.

Implementing these methods can save crops from destructive pests without the need for harmful pesticides. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five crop management methods that control pests without using chemical pesticides.

1. Crop rotation: Crop rotation involves alternating the species of crop that a farmer grows on his or her land each year. Rotating crops helps prevent pests from getting used to the type of plant that is being cultivated. Planting different species of crops each growing season also promotes soil fertility. Planting legumes, a plant that helps fertilize crops through nitrogen fixing bacteria that it has on its roots, and then planting crops that require high levels of nitrogen helps make sure that soil is healthy each growing season. And healthy soil helps protect against pests because an imbalance in plant nutrition increases a harvest’s vulnerability to pests, according to Mans Lanting of ETC Foundation, a non- profit that focuses on linking agricultural sustainability to social development.

Crop rotation in action: Navdanya, a non-profit that promotes organic farming in northern India, is teaching farmers to use crop rotation methods instead of chemical pesticides. Navdanya has trained over 500,000 farmers in sustainable agriculture. In the city of Dehradun, a rice farmer named Thakur Das has been trained by Navdanya to grow rice, wheat, and corn using crop rotation methods. Das hasn’t used chemical pesticides since joining Navdanya nine years ago and he claims that the switch from chemical pesticides has led to better soil health. “Most farmers use chemicals,” but their “soil is totally dead,” he notes.

2. Intercropping: Intercropping is the simultaneous cultivation of two or more crops on the same field. Intercropping works by attracting pests away from their host plant. Planting a variety of plant species on a field increases the distance between plants of the same species, making it harder for pests to target their main crop.

Intercropping in action: Farmers in Kenya have developed a “push-pull” intercropping method that cultivates plants that repel pests (pushing them away from the harvest) and ones that attract pests (pulling them away from the harvest).The farmers in Kenya grow maize with two types of cereals, one that helps push pests away from the maize, and another that pulls pest away from the maize. This method has helped to reduce the impact of the devastating maize stem borer and increase crop yield.

3. Crop diversity: In order to protect crops from pests, increasing the types of vegetables, plants, and fruits that are grown, makes each crop less susceptible to pests. “Pests and diseases thrive in monocultures because there is an abundance of food and few or no natural enemies to check their growth,” explains sustainable agriculture expert Jules Pretty in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. To deal with this, farmers often rely on chemical pesticides, but Pretty points out that farm biodiversity is a more sustainable method of dealing with pests. “In the end, pesticide resistance inevitably develops within populations and spreads rapidly unless farmers are able to use new products right away,” he notes.

Crop diversity in action: By focusing on crop diversity, farmers in Zimbabwe have created harvests that are more resilient to pests. Farmers have increased crop diversity by focusing on growing a broad range of indigenous crops such as mubovora (pumpkin) and ipwa (sweet reed).

4. Using pests to fight pests: Integrating predatory insects into a farm, such as ladybugs or predatory mites, can help kill off pests. Jules Pretty found that farms that provide habitats for pest predators have averaged a 79 percent increase in crop yields over previous agricultural systems that did not use pests to fight pests.

Fighting pests with pests in action: In the Nakhon Ratchasima province of Thailand, farmers use tiny wasps to help kill mealybugs that were destroying Thailand’s multibillion dollar cassava industry. And in Florida, farmers are growing plants that attract wasps that lay their eggs in the larvae of harmful pests, which prevents those pests from reproducing.

5. Organic pesticides: Organic pesticides are not only healthier for people and the environment but they allow farmers and producers to make the most out of their resources by turning agricultural outputs into natural pesticides.

Organic pesticides in action: Home gardeners in Nepal apply zhol mol, an organic liquid pesticide made of neem leaves, timur, garlic, livestock urine, and water, to their vegetables and fruits. Similarly, farmers in India use neem trees as a natural pesticide. Neem trees, which can also be found in the Sahara Desert and Florida, can repel pests such as spider mites and cutworms.

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Millions Made Insecure by Land Grabbing » Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity

Millions Made Insecure by Land Grabbing » Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity | Organic Farming |


In 2007, a combination of rising energy costs, population growth, and the increasing use of crops for biofuel production triggered a sharp spike in food prices around the world. In developing countries, the cost of importing food rose by 25 percent, resulting in riots, export bans, and black markets as the average family was forced to spend between 50 and 75 percent of its household income on food expenses. But the implications for some communities were even broader.

As food prices soared and countries felt increasing pressure, compelling governments to buy or lease large swaths of land for agricultural purposes, a practice known as “land grabbing.” The term land grabbing is problematic due to vast differences in land sales and leases, land grabbing has come to encompass the increasingly prevalent, and often criticized, act of large-scale national or transnational land exchanges

Land grabbing occurs primarily in developing countries from South America, to Indonesia, to Africa. The Malian government, for example, has “signed over 470,000 hectares to foreign companies, from Libya, China, the UK, Saudi Arabia and other countries in recent years, virtually all of it in the Niger Basin.” Though the government has signed over 470,000 hectares, experts estimate that Mali only has the water resources to irrigate 250,000 hectares.

One of the main controversies about land grabbing is whether it ultimately helps to improve global food security and energy production, or whether it simply reflects economic greed and results in displacement and job loss in local populations.

In the context of energy production, the drive for biofuels has caused large firms to buy up land from poor villagers in Africa, often with devastating consequences. More than 30 biofuel projects have been initiated and subsequently abandoned across the continent, leaving the villagers, who were promised jobs and village improvements, unemployed and landless. There are reports of incomplete and missing land payments, dangerous working environments, and a general lack of transparency.

On a broad scale, land grabbing can be seen as a shift in security: countries that are food or energy insecure are able to buy or lease large swaths of productive land in order to grow and harvest land at a cheaper cost. Meanwhile, the local populations that sell or rent the land often lose their livelihoods and security. Additionally, many land grabs are not sales but rather leases that will eventually expire, leaving local populations with degraded soils, exploited aquifers, and diminished income.


Certainly, food-insecure nations will need find novel ways to provide enough food for their populations; however, small-scale rural farmers must be protected from powerful buyers, such as governments, and be given more power in the negotiation process to mitigate the negative consequences of land grabs.

Although reliable information on land grabs is scarce, estimates suggest that in the past several years, more than 80 million hectares have been sold or leased in large-scale deals. To protect vulnerable local populations, a stable regulatory framework needs to be implemented and land deals should be done with greater transparency.

Although regulation is lacking at the global level, the challenges associated with land grabs are gaining visibility. The United Nations recently adopted international guidelines with the goal of “improving secure access to land, fisheries and forests and protecting the rights of millions of often very poor people.” The guidelines call for transparency, consultations with local populations, protection of indigenous land rights, and fair and prompt compensation.

The adoption of these voluntary guidelines is an important first step. To effectively protect local populations, implementation and accountability must quickly follow.


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The Guest Blog: Gardening Blog: Gardening Tips: Organic Gardening

The Guest Blog: Gardening Blog: Gardening Tips: Organic Gardening | Organic Farming |
Fascinating entries from contributing editors, interesting voices, and expert gardeners.


Our next stop took us to Portland, Oregon, home of food trucks, kombucha on tap, vegan minimalls, pedal-powered coffee roasters, and speakeasy style pickles. Put a bird on it—we were in love.

We trekked down to City Farm, a new urban nursery in the St. John’s part of town. Owner Nikki Hahn opened City Farm last February and is already off to an amazing start—this little shop is packed with everything urban homesteaders need to get their garden on, including a full line of canning supplies, organic mulches, soils and amendments, composters, bins of cover crops available by the pound, ducks, chicks, coops, bees, beneficial bugs, and a beautiful selection of books to get you started on basically any food/farm project you can think of. Oh, and the seeds!

As a self-described “plant nerd,” Hahn has a fantastic variety of rare medicinal seeds, annuals and perennials, eclectic heirlooms, fruit trees, flowering plants, and more—all with a focus on hyperlocal, sustainable, and organic growing. City Farm even has a whole wall dedicated just to local seeds, featuring seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery and Wild Garden Seeds, two Oregon-based companies.

When Hahn bought the house right next to City Farm last April, the first thing she did was rip up every last bit of lawn and start growing food.

“It was all sod as far as the eye could see,” says Hahn.

Well, not anymore. In its place, she planted a massive front-yard garden featuring potatoes, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, kale, herbs, edible flowers, and raspberry bushes. Melons now grow in the big, cooked-down pile of sod, and tomatoes climb bamboo trellises along the sidewalk out front.

It’s this vision that Nikki used to helped transform this little industrial corner of Portland into a thriving urban nursery store. Today in true Portland style, the store even has its own food truck parked out front—The Garden Well—which serves up local brew from St. John’s Coffee Roaster and Free Salad Fridays, featuring greens and edible flowers grown in the City Farm garden.

“The building itself used to be a muffler shop, and before that it was a Harley shop, so it’s been a lot of fun to take a space that was so machine-based and so mechanical and turn it into something green and repurpose it,” says Hahn.

This is definitely a running theme in the city, and it’s so refreshing to see people turning vacant spaces into something beautiful (and tasty). As we walked around Portland, I was amazed at all of the ways Portlanders were fitting in food—nasturtiums along the side of storefronts, trellised cucumbers along the front sidewalk, and raised beds built up around curbs.

Thanks to a new program we saw in Portland called Farm My Yard, there will be even more gardens popping up in Portland (and hopefully across the country). This genius program pairs urban farmers with vacant lawns and unused spaces throughout the city. It’s pretty simple, actually: If you have a patch of lawn that you’d like to offer up, you just put a Farm My Yard sign out, and an interested gardener can claim your space. Both parties sign an agreement, and the homeowner gets a share of all food grown—it’s a total win-win. Spread the word, and you can help bring a little bit of Portland’s front-yard garden charm to your neck of the woods.


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Lakshmamma | Green Foundation







On a warm, sunny day in the small village of Kulumedoddi, 62-year-old Lakshmamma is waiting outside her home to finish a deal with Janadhanya, the farmer’s society initiated by GREEN which helps provide market linkage for organic produce. Lakshmamma has 50 kg of indigenous variety millet (called colloquially as kempu ragi) which will fetch her a good price and she is happy to sell it.

The enterprising grandmother is living proof that age holds no barriers. Within a period of 4 years, Lakshmamma has managed to cut the costs of her agricultural inputs down by 50% as well as greatly increase her family income. A pioneer in her own right, she was one of the first members in her community to take up organic farming practices and, while many in her village were sceptical of the benefits of her decision, continued to pursue the path towards sustainability and prove the sceptics wrong.

One of the first steps she took was to adopt the cultivation of indigenous seed varieties. “People used to grow these nati (indigenous) varieties some 20 or 30 years back. They used to use organic manure too. But then the Government introduced hybrid varieties that gave high yields with chemical fertilizers, so everyone started cultivating those.”

Her husband of 50 years, Narasimaiah, explains how this simple decision to switch back to indigenous varieties helped them cut down costs and thereby strengthen their economic security. Hybrid varieties required expensive inputs in order to produce high yields. For example, a 50 kg bag of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), used as fertilizer for crops, costs approximately Rs. 1000. According to Narasimhaiah, at least 20 to 25 kg are needed during the sowing season for just 1 acre of land. All the inputs included, the family used to spend approximately Rs. 3000 for cultivation of just 1 acre of hybrid variety millet alone. They could ill afford such high costs. “We have to have at least Rs. 7000 or Rs. 8000 in hand for cultivation,” says Lakshmamma.

Despite investing in high cost inputs to increase the yields of these hybrid varieties, the family’s 4-acre landholding would produce just enough for personal consumption. Only excess produce was sold on the market, and that too on rare occasions. This meant that while the family invested money to cultivate crops, the financial returns were poor. “We had to borrow money for something or other,” adds the mother of six. Raising a large family through such economic insecurity was no easy task.

Indigenous seed varieties however, thrive well on low-cost organic inputs. Through GREEN’s intervention, Lakshmamma was persuaded to take up the cultivation of these indigenous varieties. “I started trying these [sustainable] practices when people from GREEN told me it would be good for me. GREEN also taught us to make things like jeevamrutha, poocharimandu, ganjala. That’s what I use in my farm now,” she says.

Another step Lakshmamma took was to become a member of the community seed bank (CSB) initiated by GREEN. The meetings at Devaralamma Community Seed Bank provided her with a platform to exchange information and discuss her concerns. Lakshmamma applied the knowledge she gained there in improving the management of her farm. “I would come home and discuss suggestions given in the meetings with my husband,” she says. Before she joined the seed bank, adds Lakshmamma, she had not been in the habit of saving seeds; nor had she been involved in seed production. Today however, she earns an extra income through her seed production activities and saves seeds for the following year. She has also taken up agroforestry and soil and water conservation practices after being associated with GREEN.

The Foundation provided credit and savings management training to strengthen the Self Help Group (SHG) to which Lakshmamma belongs. Through the SHG she can now avail loans if she is in need of money.

The CSB and SHGs, helped mobilize other programs in the village. Handicraft making initiated by GREEN has proved particularly helpful in the village, as it has provided many families with an alternate source of income. Lakshmamma is able to make upwards of Rs. 2000 a month through the handicraft program. Income from sericulture further strengthens her economic security. If crops fail or yields are poor, these alternate income generation schemes are often the only source of livelihood for farming families like Lakshmamma’s.

Having come this far on the road to sustainability and autonomy, Lakshmamma wishes to go further still. She signed up for certification in organic farming through the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) close to 3 years ago and is set to be organically certified within the coming year. Providing her with support and guidance through this process is Janadhanya, a farmer’s society initiated by GREEN. Once certified, Janadhanya will also provide the market linkage necessary for her farm produce to fetch a good price in the market and further improve her financial standing.

She is in a position today, says Lakshmamma, to contribute to the family’s financial needs. “If the men need money for something in the house, I tell them not to worry; I can get the money,” says Lakshmamma.


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Innovation of the Week: Community Seed Banks to Empower Women and Protect Biodiversity

Innovation of the Week: Community Seed Banks to Empower Women and Protect Biodiversity | Organic Farming |
Highlighting innovation, innovation and, innovators, development sustainable, sustainability, sustainable, sustainable growth, social sustainability, GMOs, & biodiversity...



IFor fifteen years, Muniyamma, a farmer in Karnataka, India, practiced agriculture with the help of agro-chemicals, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but in recent years she noticed a drastic decrease in yield.





After attending a village meeting conducted by the GREEN Foundation about organic farming, she decided to try their environmentally friendly techniques to grow bananas. When it was harvest time, Muniyamma’s plot was healthy and green, while her neighbor’s banana plot, which still relied on agro-chemicals, showed stunted growth, pale leaves, and thinner stems. That was enough to convince Muniyamma of the benefits of organic farming.

The GREEN Foundation works to preserve natural ecosystems and sustain rural livelihoods by teaching farmers the importance of agricultural biodiversity. Through village meetings, the foundation informs farmers about organic practices, such as creating fertilizer from organic waste, that are better for the environment and result in higher yields, at a lower cost, for farmers.

To protect the local biodiversity and preserve traditional seeds, the GREEN Foundation, in partnership with other NGOs, including the Seed Saver’s Network and The Development Fund, has created community seeds banks throughout the state of Karnataka, India. All villagers can become a member of a community seed bank by paying an annual nominal fee. Members, who receive seeds free of cost, sow the seeds, harvest the crop and return double the amount of seeds to the bank. To maintain purity of the seeds, farmers must follow rules – such as no chemical fertilizers and pesticides – when growing their crops.

Because these seed banks are managed by self-help groups (SHG) made up of women, they also act as a means of empowering women farmers through leadership roles. It is their responsibility to ensure that the seeds are stored properly, the records are maintained, and quality seeds are selected from those returned.

To maintain the diversity of the seeds stored in the community banks, the GREEN Foundation assists in the creation of community gardens. While all members of the community seed bank are responsible for maintaining the community garden, landless women farmers are especially encouraged to produce indigenous vegetable seeds, helping them earn additional income. The foundation provides farmers with technical guidance for inputs, including creating fertilizer from unwanted materials like dried leaves, mud and cow dung through the process of vermicomposting. This method, that uses worms to make the compost, ensures high quality by storing the unwanted waste materials in cement tanks for 45 to 60 days.

In addition to popular varieties of crops, individuals are also encouraged to grow rare crops, such as red beans and chilies, to add to the diversity of the seed bank. Farmers use a small plot of their land to grow these traditional, but unfortunately disappearing varieties of vegetables, and can either sell their harvest to other farmers for additional income as well as contribute to the seed bank.

Through organic practices and the preservation of local crops, the GREEN Foundation is helping communities in rural India improve their livelihoods and help protect the environment.

Can you think of other innovations that are helping empower women, while preserving biodiversity? Let us know in the comments section!

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