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Biodiverse Kitchen, part 3: What is the Green Revolution and what were the consequences?eatcology

Biodiverse Kitchen, part 3: What is the Green Revolution and what were the consequences?eatcology | Organic Farming |


A wonderful article tracing the roots of Green Revolution and reasons for problems faced.

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Factfile: Farming delivering for the environment | NFU news - NFU Online

Factfile: Farming delivering for the environment | NFU news - NFU Online | Organic Farming |
NFU news gives the facts and figures on farming and the environment. Did you know that 70% of English farmland is under agri-environment schemes?




FactfileEngland has about 190,000km (118,000 miles) of public rights of way which criss-cross farmland - 78% of those trails are footpaths. There are more than 33,000km of rights of way in Wales.
 Greenhouse gas emissions from British farming have been cut by 20% since 1990.
 The overall bird population across England is relatively stable. Of the specialist farmland birds a number are showing population increases Goldfinch, Stock Dove and Whitethroat. The numbers of Woodpigeon and Jackdaw have more than doubled.
 Farmers have over 6,781 km of fenced watercourses (equivalent to five times the distance from Lands’ End to John O’Groats).
 England currently has 677,000 hectares of land voluntarily put aside for wildlife.
 There are over 478,000 ponds in Great Britain, with 70,600 created in the ten years up to 2007.
 Hedgerows have increased by 50,000km to 550,000kms in England since 1990.
 Over 100,000 farmers in England complete a Soil Protection Review. The review helps farmers consider soil-related problems such as soil structure and organic matter, erosion, compaction and damage to landscape features.
 There has been a long-term declining trend in fertiliser nutrient applications with nitrogen applications in England and Wales down by 30% and phosphate applications down by 57% between 1990 and 2012.
 Farmers plan their nutrients to match crop needs with 73% of agricultural land area covered by nutrient management plans.
 Farmers hold two-thirds of abstraction licences (13,000 out of a total 21,000 licences) but use only 0.6% of abstracted water. Irrigated fruit and vegetable production accounts for 4% of cropped land yet accounts for 20% of UK crop value.


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Spore | Organic Farming |

Meeting with an animal genetics specialist changed Pape Seck’s life. In 1997, he took up dairy breed selection in Senegal. Despite the difficulties he encountered, his small experimental farm is today home to a high-quality herd which continues to grow.

Pape Seck’s passion for dairy breeds came from his meeting with Professor Pape Alassane Diop, a specialist in animal genetics and a pioneer in artificial insemination (AI) in Senegal. The professor found his calling in Touba, Mbella, Mbellakadiao and Kaolack, in the heart of the groundnut basin where his first tests took place.

Seck mainly owes his becoming a farmer to his father, who was passionate about agriculture and animal farming. When he was very young, living in Sine-Saloum (in the groundnut basin) where his father managed a trading house, he was introduced to small-scale agriculture. Seck worked at an office that specialised in accounting, but never forget his desire to be a farmer. He retired to Bargny, 30 km south of Dakar, to land he had inherited from his parents. There, he began to raise sheep and then started to raise cattle. He began with Maure zebu. However, due to lack of experience and training, his first attempts were not successful. But Seck was not discouraged. Over the years, with plenty of advice from farming services and from Professor Diop, he learned and soon saw results.

Today Seck is in his element, proud of his herd comprising Holstein mixes, a beautiful Brown Swiss and her many offspring, as well as recently arrived Ndama bulls. “We have a mix of breeds as the government chooses the ones that seem the best adapted to the climate in Senegal,” he explains. AI products, imported by the government, have become more accessible since President Abdoulaye Wade launched the ‘Great Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance’ (GOANA - Grande offensive agricole pour la nourriture et l’abondance) in 2008. AI products are sold by the private sector for 50,000 CFA francs (€76) with a guarantee to repeat the insemination if it is unsuccessful.

Although he prefers the Holstein breed, Seck has a herd of around 40 heads of cattle of various breeds. Crossbreeding the local species, the Gobra zebu, with the Brown Swiss or Holstein works well. These mixed-breed cows produce, under optimal conditions, on average 12 litres of milk per day, whereas a local breed would produce a maximum of 5 litres, or more commonly only 1-3 litres.

In the herd, a brown calf with a small hump stands out. This one is the product of a Gujarat zebu. “I introduced this breed for the quality of its meat and its ability to grow faster than the others,” says Seck, who wants to diversify his income. Today, Holstein or Gujarat mixed-breed bulls or cows sell for over 800,000 CFA francs (€1,220) at the Dakar livestock market, while a local breed will barely manage 250,000 CFA francs (€382).

A half-breed Holstein © M A Konte

Ticks, dermatitis, fevers...

Success does not mean that Seck does not encounter any difficulties. One problem is the lower semen quality following the entry of new arrivals in the market, alongside the State, “When I started, the two Holstein-Gobra mixed-breed cows, obtained by crossbreeding, each produced over 14 litres of milk per day. Today, this ‘Holstein’, which is only a 25% mix, produces over 10 litres per day,” says Seck.

Another problem is vulnerability to diseases. “This morning, my main Brown Swiss bull is in a bad way, with the beginnings of foot-and-mouth disease. For the herd to produce more calves, other than via artificial insemination, it needs this sire,” says the concerned farmer. Moreover, his small, six-month-old calf has contracted lumpy-skin disease. It should recover if treated with antibiotics; however this is relatively expensive, estimated to cost around 19,000 CFA francs (€29) for treatment.

That said, along with the better known and better-equipped farms in the Niayes region of north-west Senegal, in the area around Wayembam and Niakoul Rab, Seck says he is happy to be one of those which can adapt. This new system of animal farming allows him, under optimal conditions, to produce over 40 litres of milk per day with only three or four lactating cows. This would be impossible with local breeds.

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Boeing helps Balinese farmers | The Jakarta Post

Boeing helps Balinese farmersby Bob Ferguson on 2014-03-01

New start: A farmer plants seeds in a rice paddy in Jatiluwih, a UNESCO heritage site in Tabanan. Fast-paced development is threatening the existence of Bali’s unique agriculture, a sector widely recognized as the very foundation of the island’s traditional culture. BD/Agung Parameswara

Boeing photographer Bob Ferguson recently accompanied Skip Boyce, president, Boeing Southeast Asia, on a trip to Indonesia for a firsthand look at one of the company’s many Global Corporate Citizenship programs. On the island of Bali, they visited with local farmers who are learning to become more self-sufficient and better at their trade — with Boeing’s help.

Of the some 17,000 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is perhaps the best-known, a tropical paradise that conjures up images of smoldering volcanoes, rice-terraced mountains, paddy fields and a vivid Balinese Hindu culture.

And, of course, there are those inviting, postcard-perfect Bali beaches where the tourists come to soak up the sun. But Ketut Suratna sees an entirely different side of Bali life. He’s a farmer, a resident of Bangli, one of Bali’s poorer districts tourists usually do not visit.

He became a farmer out of necessity — to feed his family and eke out a meager living.

“Many of the villagers here depend on farming for a living,” Suratna explained as he showed a small group of visitors the farm plot where he toils daily to produce crops such as eggplant and chili under hot and humid conditions.

“Farmers like me have been struggling in recent years because we cannot afford to buy seeds,” Suratna said. “The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is also costly and poses health risks to us.”

That’s where Boeing is helping through its Global Corporate Citizenship programs.

Since November 2012, Boeing has sponsored a project known as “Saving Indigenous Plants-Seed Saving Partnership with Bangli Farmers”.

The project is administered through the IDEP Selaras Alam Foundation. A local nongovernmental organization with the Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture, or IDEP, the foundation was established in 1999 to promote what it calls the “Cycle of Resilience”.

 Organic farming features prominently within this framework and the foundation works closely with local farmers to educate and train them on the use of renewable farming techniques to achieve long¬ term sustainability

Suratna and nine other farmers from the Bangli district are included.

Seed-saving is a traditional farming practice of organically growing and preserving indigenous plant seeds in their original form for use from year to year, as opposed to purchasing seeds each year from commercial seed suppliers that might be genetically modified. Apart from training the Bangli farmers on sustainable and organic seed production, the foundation assists them in the packaging, marketing and sale of these seeds across Bali.

The BangIi farmers have so far produced more than 15 plant seed types ranging from beans to cucumber, eggplant, lettuce and tomatoes, according to the foundation project coordinator, Nyoman Sudiana.

“It’s a simple but powerful concept,” Sudlana explained. “We produce local organic seeds, which are then sold and spread across the island of Bali. This generates income for the farmers and the markets that sell the seeds. Meanwhile
we’re promoting the goodness of growing and consuming organic food.” Skip Boyce, president, Boeing Southeast Asia, visited with the Bangli farmers last year to see their progress firsthand.

“When we sat down with them in the fields their faces expressed gratitude,” Boyce recalled. “It conveyed how the Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship program has helped empower the lives of these otherwise struggling farmers with the knowledge and tools they need to establish a steady source of income to improve their quality of life.”

For Suratna, with this empowerment comes a renewed sense of pride in being a Balinese farmer.

“Before, I worried each day if there was going to be enough food on the table for my family,” Suratna said. “Now, I hope we Bangli farmers have sowed the seed of inspiration in fellow farmers near and far so that they, too, will consider organic farming to help protect our environment and livelihood.”

Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on emailMore Sharing Servicesin briefUbud group helping Mt. Kelud victimsNusa Dua hotel promotes health and hygieneInternational arrivals up over 20 percentInter-Tabac Asia event officially banneddaily hot spotsRyoshi House of Jazz presents: Ryoshi Quintet Feb. 24 Starts 9:15 p.m.Gourmet Café All Day Dining All day breakfast, casual dining, make your own salad and sandwich, desserts, homemade ice cream, anBali Live Festival March 3 - 8 Java Jazz comes to Bali.Bridging Table Every Saturday Starts 6:45 p.m.W Presents Tomoki Tamura (Holic/Japan) Feb. 22sightseeing The hidden beauty of Geger Beach

Bali’s beauty has long been a valuable asset for its tourism.  Geger Beach certainly features some the island’s most stunning visual spectacles. The crystal clear water, the white sand and magnificent contour complete the splendor of this place.

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Big dams create big conflict

Big dams create big conflict | Organic Farming |
Hydropower development is creating various types of conflict in Northeast India. How can we contain the unrest due to this spate of dam construction?

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Gardener Jackie Dargaville launches The Vegie Box, a guide to growing organic vegetables

Gardener Jackie Dargaville launches The Vegie Box, a guide to growing organic vegetables | Organic Farming |

FOR Jackie Dargaville, grand vistas inspire grand visions.

It is while harvesting from her self-sufficient garden, on a rise overlooking Wilsons Promontory across to the surrounding valleys of South Gippsland, that she gets some of her best ideas.

MORE: The Vegie Box, $59.95

“The peace, the beauty, the birds, the fresh air,’’ Jackie says of the 20ha Fish Creek beef farm she shares with husband, Richard.

“Just to see the weather, the clouds. I’ll never tire of it.’’

The vista has inspired much of her farm work — the rare breed Blue Roan cattle she has reared, as well as her own rare breed Cream Legbar chooks she has “bred from scratch’’.

But most recently the farm has been the source of inspiration behind her latest project, The Vegie Box, a guide to growing organic vegetables, presented in a pine box with laminated growing cards, a handbook and gardener’s diary.

The 66-year-old certified biodynamic farmer says the idea for the book came when she and Richard farmed in Garfield, West Gippsland, 10 years ago.

“Whenever I wanted to plant something I’d have about four books out, researching, just to ensure I did it all correctly,” she says. “I’d take the books out to the garden and they’d be ruined, wet and muddy, and it occurred to me back then that I should distil the information into laminated cards, so gardeners could take them out and wipe them clean.’’

The idea bubbled away and it was only late last year that Jackie decided to think inside the box, self-publishing and investing her own money in the concept.

Jackie says if she breaks even she will be happy, adding that the main impetus behind The Vegie Box is to demonstrate how easy it is to garden without chemicals.

“People think you can’t garden or farm without chemicals but you can,’’ she says. “There are even weed killers that do the same job as Roundup but are made from pine oil.’’

Jackie grew up in Melbourne and started farming “skinny lambs” in 1982, with her former husband, in South Gippsland’s Tarwin Lower. “We weren’t highly successful,’’ the mother of three and grandmother of 11 says with a laugh.

But it was when she moved to Garfield with Richard that she became interested in chemical-free farming. She studied for a diploma of agriculture in farming from 2006.

“That diploma was life-changing. It galvanised everything for me.

“I saw the difference between organic and conventional farms. In organic farms plant roots are much longer, the soil is much darker, it glows, and the grass is a different colour.’’

Today, the Fish Creek property incorporates biodynamic principles.

“It’s immensely satisfying to have a meal entirely from your garden. It is achievable for anyone,’’ she says.




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Developing a taste for organic farms

Developing a taste for organic farms | Organic Farming |

Farming has long fought, and often failed, to attract young generations to its ranks. City jobs can earn more pay and don’t require getting up before dawn and hard physical labour. This has been true since the industrial revolution.

But farming in Nova Scotia is revitalizing, particularly in one sector: Many young people with no family history or knowledge of farming are starting small-scale organic operations. Sometimes it’s in their backyards, and sometimes they take a giant leap and buy their own farms.

David Hastings and his wife Kim Iwamoto had no aspirations of working the land. They were attending university in Massachusetts over a decade ago when they signed up for a Community Shared Agriculture program through Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Mass. They regularly received a box of in-season organic fruit and vegetables and it got them thinking about where their food came from. The couple volunteered at that same farm for two years, then signed up to work at a small farm in B.C. for another year after graduation.

“It just struck us as so much work and we thought we don’t want to do that and it didn’t immediately jump out as the kind of thing we wanted to do,” said Hastings, a former philosophy major.

“And then it grew on us and we wanted to work on a farm more for the experience of farming for ourselves. We were young, just out of university and we were looking for things to do that were interesting.”

A love affair with farming grew and wouldn’t let them go. They had to buy their own farm.

Farmland in B.C. was unaffordable, so the couple moved to Nova Scotia, Hasting’s native province. Though relatively cheaper than the West Coast, farmland in the Annapolis Valley isn’t easy to come by. Neighbouring farmers usually scoop up any land for sale before it gets to market, Hastings said. The couple waited and searched for 18 months.

Then, in the summer of 2008, a 28-hectare lot — a former apple orchard — was put on the market in Windermere, just south of Berwick, and deep in the Annapolis Valley. The owner spent a couple years converting a section of it into a vegetable garden, installing greenhouses and put up a yurt to live in before plans changed and he put it up for sale.

“We bought it from him and basically took over.” They named it Waxwing Farm.

They lived in the yurt, what Hastings calls “luxurious camping” for two years. Rather than buying a more expensive property with a house on it and taking other jobs to be able to afford the mortgage, Hastings and Iwamoto started out small and farmed while they built their house.

The yurt was nine metres in diameter, with roughly 700 square feet of living space. But they didn’t mind it as Hastings said they lived in smaller apartments.

“We didn’t have electricity but we had kerosene lamps, cold running water, and a wood stove that could get the yurt as warm as we wanted it so it was fine in the winter. But it would get blazing hot in the summer,” he said.

“It was an adventure to live in a yurt for a couple years.”

They had a generator to run the power tools to build the house and a battery pack to run their computer every now and then. But it wasn’t too far off homesteading. The kerosene lanterns only lit a small circle around it, and in winter when it got dark at 5 p.m., with nothing much to do, they’d fall asleep at 8 p.m. after a hard day’s work.

They moved into their house a week before their son, Leo, was born in the summer of 2010.

“I think it kind of spurred us on. It’s not finished, but enough so we could move in.”

But what he doesn’t miss about the yurt is the wind.

“Anytime the wind picks up, the yurt really sways and shifts in the wind. Windy nights were not the most fun. You didn’t get a lot of sleep worrying the yurt would blow away. It never did.”

They sold the yurt not long after they moved out of it.

In the first three years the couple got their organic certification and sold produce primarily to restaurants and grocery stores. In 2012, they started their own delivery box program and started selling at farmers markets. To spread out the work through the entire year, they decided to focus on growing in the summer and selling in the winter. They grow primarily storage crops like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and winter squash.

It costs $600 a year for the organic certification, which Hastings wanted to be able to sell wholesale. But at the farmers market, customers are less likely to distinguish between “local” and “organic,” he said. Many Valley farmers who sell organic produce don’t bother with the certification because it doesn’t impact their sales.

“To some degree organic and local have been mixed together so the focus has switched to buying local regardless of whether it’s organic or not. There’s been a slight shift in terms of consumer demand and there are lots of farms that are organic but not certified organic,” he said. “It seems like people are asking about local organic, but I’m not sure there’s too many people who distinguish between certified organic and non-certified organic.”

Josh Oulton, organic farmer and president of the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network, has met quite a few new organic farmers like Hastings and Iwamoto.

“The only new entrants these days seem to be young, organic farmers,” Oulton said.

There’s a profit to be made in organic farming since it’s held to a higher standard and farmers charge more for it. But the love of organic farming goes beyond that.

“For the young farmers, a lot of the organic standards are already their core values about not using chemicals, being nice to the land and having healthy soil. It goes hand-in-hand and that’s the path they choose,” he said. “It works well for them so they can follow what they feel is the best way to farm and also get a premium for their product because people realize the effort that is put into their food.”

But the certification process isn’t easy. A piece of land previously farmed using chemicals requires three years pesticide-free to be certified, but if a portion of the land was already certified organic and the farmer wants to expand, the new section could be certified right away.

There are three agencies in Nova Scotia who certify organic: Atlantic Certificated Organic, Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd. and Ecocert Canada. Inspectors complete on-the-farm audits, and the fees are based on the size of the property. The annual cost can be between $400 and $1,600.

“With organics, you just have to have everything written down,” Oulton said.

“If someone wants to come along and say prove to me that (that) carrot over there is organic, you have to come up with what you used for fertilization, when you applied it, where you bought the seed, so you need receipts for all these things, and when you planted it.”

For many small-scale farmers it’s too much work to be certified, but if they want to sell to the big chains, it’s crucial. Plus selling on that level comes with other headaches for small-scale farmers. The big supermarkets demand “organic” labelled packaging so the cashiers can differentiate between the more expensive organic produce from the cheaper products. If they don’t, the big chains lose money.

“That has been a real obstacle for big stores to carry organics. If they lose money, they`re not interested,” Oulton said. “We have a lot of organic leeks for example and the stores are interested and like the price, but (farmers) have to shrink wrap it and put a big sign on it. It’s a lot of work to get into that market.”

That’s why most small-scale organic farmers sell delivery boxes and sell at the farmers market, he added.

Oulton has 40 hectares of certified organic land, 40 more in transition and 40 hectares to go organic in the future on his TapRoot Farms in Port Williams. He said his biggest organic sellers are carrots, potatoes and green onions.

“And kale is unbelievable. People have gone kale crazy.”

Jennifer Taplin is a freelance writer in Halifax.

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Walking his Talk! - Evolve Back

Walking his Talk! - Evolve Back | Organic Farming |
‘Johnnie Walker’ is a true earth spirit. His heart is firmly rooted in the soil where he was born, surrounded by the abundance of nature. The land and the elements define Johnnie most fittingly. He belongs with them totally. In the time of cell phones and tablets, it is both refreshing and inspiring to see […]

  See this beautiful you tube video. It is  a part of  Organic India.

Hope all my friends love this.

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Team presents vegetable grafting findings in China - WSU News

Team presents vegetable grafting findings in China - WSU News | Organic Farming |

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – A team of Washington State University vegetable horticulture researchers travels to China next month to present their research findings as part of a global effort to increase environmentally friendly vegetable production through grafting.  Their efforts may stimulate a new market for vegetable production in Western Washington.

WSU Mount Vernon’s Vegetable Horticulture Program Leader Carol Miles and graduate student Jesse Wimer will give presentations in Wuhan, China, at the International Symposium on Vegetable Grafting, sponsored March 17-21 by the International Society for Horticultural Science.

WSU Mount Vernon vegetable horticulture scientist Carol Miles (left) and graduate student Jesse Wimer will share the results of their latest research at the International Symposium on Vegetable Grafting March 17-21 in Wuhan, China. (Photo by Kim Binczewski)

Miles and Wimer are among the 200 guests — including researchers, company managers, and growers — who were invited to this inaugural event being held at Huazhong Agricultural University to promote communication and cooperation among vegetable grafting professionals around the world.

“Attending this symposium gives us the opportunity to share our Washington results with the international vegetable grafting science community and to learn from scientists and professionals where vegetable grafting has been practiced for decades,” said Miles, who is a faculty member at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center and also serves as advisor to Wimer, an M.S. student in the vegetable horticulture program there.

The theme of this inaugural symposium is environmental friendly production of vegetables via grafting, and the five-day event includes such topics as grafted seedling production, rootstock breeding, grafting and stresses, rootstock soil interactions, and rootstock-mediated effects on yield and fruit quality.

Miles will present her paper on “Grafting eggplant and tomato for Verticillium wilt resistance.”  Wimer will present his poster, titled “Evaluation of watermelon rootstocks for resistance to Verticillium wild in northwestern Washington, U.S.”

Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that attacks a host of more than 200 species of vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, field crops and shade or forest trees. It infects the roots of a plant, reducing the quality and quantity of a crop by causing discoloration in tissues, stunting, and premature defoliation and death.  Once an infected plant has died, Verticillium wilt remains in the soil, gaining in strength to invade new plantings.

Research shows that field fumigation treatments can help control Verticillium wilt, but even with these chemical treatments crop losses can still be up to 50%.  Researchers like Miles and Wimer are looking for more ecologically viable alternatives to control this pervasive plant disease. Their research findings may help vegetable producers worldwide develop rootstocks for grafting vegetables that are resistant to this devastating disease.

“If vegetable grafting provides adequate control against soil-borne diseases in the United States as it has done elsewhere in the world (95% of Japan’s commercial watermelon production uses grafted plants), there is an opportunity to replace soil fumigation,” Miles said.  “This result would provide Washington growers with an environmentally sustainable vegetable production option, as well as open the door for a new industry – the production of grafted transplants.”

According to Miles, the Pacific Northwest may be the perfect starting point.  “Western Washington has a highly suitable climate for grafted transplant production,” she said, “and this has the potential to be a new emerging industry in our region.”

More information about the symposium is available at .


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Organic Farmer Sues GM Farming Neighbor

Organic Farmer Sues GM Farming Neighbor | Organic Farming |
Dispute over contamination of organic farm in Australia will set legal precedent
Giri Kumar's insight:

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—In a landmark case, an organic farmer in Western Australia state is suing his neighbor for allegedly contaminating his crop with a genetically modified organism (GMO), GM canola. This is the first claim anywhere in the world by a “non-GMO farmer against a GMO farmer,” says Joe Lederman of the specialist law firm FoodLegal in Melbourne.

Australia lifted a nationwide moratorium on GM crops in 2009. Only the state of South Australia prohibits planting of GM crops, a ban expected to hold until at least 2019. Because it is legal to sow GM crops in Western Australia, the case now being heard in the Western Australia Supreme Court in Perth turns on whether the GM farmer was negligent in the sense of not taking strict enough measures to contain GM material on his property, says University of Western Australia legal expert Michael Blakeney, an adviser to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

In court documents, Steve Marsh states that his organic farm, southeast of Perth, was contaminated in 2010 by GM canola, which he claims came from Michael Baxter’s farm. As a result, that year Marsh lost his National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) organic certification for approximately 70% of his property, on which he grows oats and rye and keeps sheep. Marsh is seeking damages of $85,000 for lost income and a permanent injunction preventing Baxter from planting GMOs within 1 kilometer of his farm.

Baxter’s lawyers contend that he maintained the required 500-meter buffer zone around his crop and say there was no justification for removing Marsh’s certification. They argue that Marsh should sue NASAA for imposing unrealistic standards. The association has zero tolerance for GM material of any sort. In contrast, the United States allows products with up to 5% GM material to be labeled “organic.” Even the European Union, where public perception of GM crops is generally negative, allows up to 0.9% GM material. “Zero tolerance is not realistic for crops growing in the vicinity of GM crops,” says plant scientist Graham King of Southern Cross University in Lismore.

The case does not question the science or safety of GM crops that have Australian regulatory approval. The outcome, however, might impact labeling and product information of both GM and non-GM foods, says bioethicist Rachel Ankeny with the University of Adelaide. She claims that such information is “currently inadequate in Australia.”

The case not only pits neighbor against neighbor; it’s also shaping up as what some see as a David versus Goliath battle. According to the Australian Associated Press, Marsh’s legal costs are being partly funded from a crowdsourced Internet appeal, while the biotechnology giant Monsanto is backing Baxter. The case is expected to run at least another week.

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Organic farming 'boosts biodiversity and bees'

Organic farming 'boosts biodiversity and bees' | Organic Farming |

Organic farms support 34% more plant, insect and animal species on average compared with conventional farms, according to Oxford academics.

Researchers from the University of Oxford reviewed farm data going back 30 years and they concluded that organic farms yielded greater biodiversity benefits than intensively-farmed land.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, also found that on average, non-organic farms have about 50% fewer species of pollinators, such as bees, than organic farms.

“Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck, study lead author, of Oxford University’s department of plant sciences. “Organic methods could undoubtedly play a major role in halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialised nations.”

The report, entitled Land-use intensity and the effects of organic farming on biodiversity, was completed using meta-analysis – a statistical technique that combines the results of different studies. It looked at data from 94 previous studies covering 184 farm sites dating back to 1989.

Louise Payton, policy officer at the Soil Association, said: “This is fantastic news for wildlife and confirms what we have been saying for years. We are suffering dramatic losses of wildlife all over the world so to know that organic farms have on average a third more species shows just how great a difference you can make by supporting organic agriculture and buying organic food. Our food systems are being threatened by the declines of bees and other pollinators - necessary for a third of the food that we eat.

Yet despite offering more benefits for the environment, UK organic farmers receive some of the lowest payments in farm subsidies across the whole of the EU, she added. “We are urging the government to redress this balance and ensure organic farmers in the UK are adequately supported in the new CAP.”


Publication date: 2/10/2014

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Shifting to organic breeding

Shifting to organic breeding | Organic Farming |

Instead of reducing the usage, molecular breeders are conveniently dovetailing pesticides tolerance into GM crop varieties.

It’s a strange paradox. While the demand for organic food is rising unequivocally in the rich and developed countries as well as in the major developing countries, the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture is also growing at a phenomenal pace.
The organic food industry in the US is relatively new. At a time when nearly 20,000 pesticides products are being sold in the market, the US organic industry is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14 per cent between 2014 and 2018. In India, beginning with a relatively low base, the organic food market is expected to grow at a compound rate of over 19 per cent between 2012 and 2016. According to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2013 the global sale of organic food and drinks grew by more than 25 per cent since 2008.

Over the years, as pesticides began to disturb insect and bird equilibrium, build resistance in insects and plants, poisoning the environment besides contaminating the food chain, agricultural scientists promised to phase out deadly chemicals with the advent of GM crops. But instead of reducing the usage, I find that molecular breeders are conveniently dovetailing pesticides and multiple genes of herbicides tolerance into the new GM crop varieties. This helps the GM companies to merrily expand the sales of their own brands of chemical herbicides and pesticides. No wonder, the top 3 GM Companies control 70 per cent of the seed market and also dominate the production and marketing of chemical pesticides.

Contrary to what is claimed, in just four countries, which among themselves occupy more than 95 per cent cultivable area under GM crops, I find the pesticides usage has multiplied over the years. Take the United States, the Mecca for GM technology.
Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook has shown that between 1996 and 2011, farmers in US are applying an additional 400 million pounds of pesticides. In 2012, on an average 20 per cent more pesticides were applied by GM farmers as compared to farmers not growing GM crops. And with US Department likely to approve commercialisation of the next range of GM crops, sales of a cocktail of herbicides including the deadly broad-spectrum chemicals are expected to go up by 25 per cent.


In a personal communication, Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union for Concerned Scientists says that his own estimates are that over 100 million acres in the US alone is infested with super weeds (weeds that are very difficult to control) and herbicides use in corn areas has multiplied after Bt corn was introduced. Moreover, over 90 per cent of corn and soybean crops is treated with neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides which are blamed for killing honey bees and other
beneficial insects.

Problems galore

Super weeds are also becoming a problem in most countries where GM crops are in vogue. In Canada, for instance, over a million acres is now infested with super weeds. In Latin America, Brazil and Argentina are two major cultivators of GM crops. In Argentina, the application of chemical pesticides has risen from 34 million litres in the mid-1990s when the GM soybean crops were first introduced to more than 317 million litres in 2012, roughly a ten times increase. On an average, Argentine farmers use twice the quantity of pesticides per acre than their American counterparts. In Brazil, which has recently taken over Argentina as far as the spread of GM crops is concerned, pesticides use has gone up by 190 per cent in the past decade.

In China, which has been promoted as a silver-bullet case, the bubble burst when a 2006 joint study conducted by Cornell University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed that  seven years after the introduction of Bt cotton, Chinese farmers were spraying 20 times more pesticides to control pests. Initially, as it happened everywhere else, pesticides consumption fell on cotton, but subsequently with the emergence of secondary major pests, the application of pesticides increased.
In India too, the story is same. The Director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), the institute that monitors cotton research, has said: “No significant yield advantage has been observed between 2004-2011 when area under Bt cotton increased from 5.4 to 96 per cent.”

Regardless of industry claims, the fact remains that the usage of pesticides too has gone up in India. In 2005, Rs 649-crore worth of chemical pesticides was used on cotton in India. In 2010, when roughly 92 per cent area under cotton shifted to Bt cotton varieties, the pesticides usage in terms of value increased to Rs 880.40 crore. Considering this, I would like to make two suggestions: First, plant breeders so far have been focusing on developing crop varieties responsive to fertilizer and pesticides use. They must now shift to organic breeding.

Secondly, there is a great potential to move to non-pesticides management like what Andhra Pradesh has demonstrated. More than 3.5 million acres are under cultivation sans chemical pesticides, a task performed by Society for Elimination of Poverty. This is now being expanded to Maharashtra and Bihar by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

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BusinessMirror - Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear

BusinessMirror - Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear | Organic Farming |

MEXICO CITY—The stunning and little-understood annual migration of millions of Monarch butterflies to spend the winter in Mexico is in danger of disappearing, experts said on Wednesday, after numbers dropped to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1993.

Their report blamed the displacement of the milkweed the species feeds on by genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in the United States, extreme weather trends and the dramatic reduction of the butterflies’ habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging of the trees they depend on for shelter.

After steep and steady declines in the previous three years, the black-and-orange butterflies now cover only 0.67 hectares in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City, compared to 1.19 hectares last year, said the report released by the World Wildlife Fund, Mexico’s Environment Department and the Natural Protected Areas Commission. They covered more than 18 hectares at their recorded peak in 1996.

Because the butterflies clump together by the thousands in trees, they are counted by the area they cover.

While the monarch is not in danger of extinction, the decline in their population now marks a statistical long-term trend and can no longer be seen as a combination of yearly or seasonal events, experts said.

The announcement followed on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which saw the United States, Mexico and Canada sign environmental accords to protect migratory species, such as the monarch. At the time, the butterfly was adopted as the symbol of trilateral cooperation.

“Twenty years after the signing of Nafta, the monarch migration, the symbol of the three countries’ cooperation, is at serious risk of disappearing,” said Omar Vidal, the World Wildlife Fund director in Mexico.

Lincoln Brower, a leading entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, wrote that “the migration is definitely proving to be an endangered biological phenomenon.”

“The main culprit,” he wrote in an e-mail, is now genetically modified “herbicide-resistant corn and soybean crops and herbicides in the USA,” which “leads to the wholesale killing of the monarch’s principal food plant, common milkweed.”

While Mexico has made headway in reducing logging in the officially protected winter reserve, that alone cannot save the migration, wrote Karen Oberhauser, a professor at the University of Minnesota. She noted that studies indicate that the US
Midwest is where most of the butterflies migrate from.

“A large part of their reproductive habitat in that region has been lost due to changes in agricultural practices, mainly the explosive growth in the use of herbicide-tolerant crops,” Oberhauser said.

Extreme weather—severe cold snaps, unusually heavy rains or droughts in all three countries—have also apparently played a role in the decline.

But the milkweed issue now places the spotlight firmly on the United States and President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to visit Mexico on February 19, with events scheduled for Toluca, a city a few dozen miles from the butterfly reserve.

“I think President Obama should take some step to support the survival of the Monarch butterflies,” said writer and environmentalist Homero Aridjis. “The governments of the United States and Canada have washed their hands of the problem, and left it all to Mexico.”

It’s unclear what would happen to the monarchs if they no longer made the annual trek to Mexico, the world’s biggest migration of monarch butterflies and the second-largest insect migration, after a species of dragonfly in Africa.

There are monarchs in many parts of the world, so they would not go extinct. The butterflies can apparently survive year-round in warmer climates, but populations in the northern United States and Canada would have to find some place to spend the bitter winters. There is also another smaller migration route that takes butterflies from the west to the coast of California, but that has registered even steeper declines.

Oberhauser noted that some monarchs now appear to be wintering along the US Gulf coast, and there has been a movement in the United States among gardeners and home owners to plant milkweed to replace some of the lost habitat.

But activists say large stands of milkweed are needed along the migratory route, comparable to what once grew there. They also want local authorities in the US and Canada to alter mowing schedules in parks and public spaces, to avoid cutting down milkweed during breeding seasons.

The migration is an inherited trait. No butterfly lives to make the full round-trip, and it is unclear how they remember the route back to the same patch of forest each year, a journey of thousands of miles to a forest reserve that covers 56,259 hectares in central Mexico.

Some scientists think the huge masses of migrating butterflies may release chemicals that mark the migratory path and that if their numbers fall low enough, not enough chemical traces would remain and the route-marking might no longer work.

The human inhabitants of the reserve had already noted a historic change, as early as the November 1 and 2 Day of the Dead holiday, when the butterflies usually arrive.

“They were part of the landscape of the Day of the Dead, when you could see them flitting around the graveyards,” said Gloria Tavera, the director of the reserve. “This year was the first time in memory that they weren’t there.”

Losing the butterflies would be a blow for people, such as Adolfo Rivera, a 55-year-old farmer from the town of Los Saucos who works as a guide for tourists in the Piedra Herrada wintering ground.

He said the butterflies had come later and in smaller numbers this year, a fact he attributed to a rainy winter.

“This is a source of pride for us, and income,” Rivera said.

Butterfly guide Emilio Velazquez Moreno, 39, and other farmers in the village of Macheros, located inside the reserve, have been planting small plots of milkweed in a bid to provide food for the monarchs if they decide to stay in Mexico year-round, which he said some do.

Sitting beside a mountainside patch of firs where the butterflies were clumping on the branches, Velazquez Moreno, a second-generation guide who has been visiting the butterflies since he was a boy, said “we have to protect this. This comes first, this is our heritage.”

In Photo: Monarch butterflies gather on a tree at the El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary near Angangueo, Mexico, as seen in this March 13, 2005 photo. The number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico has plunged to its lowest level since studies began in 1993. (AP)



PlasmaBorneElectric's comment, February 7, 2014 12:32 PM
I bought some Milkweed seeds to plant this year. The Monarch Butterfly needs two kinds of plants. One to lay their eggs on and one to eat once the eggs hatch. I bought seeds for both kind and plan to have a section of our homestead dedicated to Monarch Butterfly habitat.
Giri Kumar's comment, February 7, 2014 2:51 PM
Thank you for the feedback PlasmaBorneElectric & Wendy Forbes.
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Urban Agriculture: the Chinampas of Mexico | eatcology.comeatcology

Urban Agriculture: the Chinampas of Mexico | eatcology.comeatcology | Organic Farming |


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Spore | Organic Farming |

Increasing demand for honey by urban consumers provides livelihood opportunities for women and landless people, particularly as beekeeping complements other economic activities in rural and urban settings. Whilst traditional honey value chains are often fragmented, success in improved production and marketing for domestic and export markets is demonstrating how supply can better meet the demand.

As an alternative to poaching, timber-felling and charcoal burning by many of Kenya’s poorest rural communities, Honey Care Africa has sought to improve the productivity and viability of honey production for domestic markets. Established in 2000 by three Kenyan entrepreneurs, the social enterprise company creates partnerships between local communities, development agencies and the private sector. Farmers, including women and young people, are supported with micro-loans to purchase Langstroth beehives and are then given intensive training in apiculture. Collecting the honey on-site, Honey Care Africa buys it at an agreed price, and the honey is then processed, packaged, marketed and sold to urban consumers through supermarket chains and other outlets.

To date, over 15,000 Kenyans have benefited, of which almost half are women. Their involvement is particularly beneficial, as women do not generally take part in traditional beekeeping, with indigenous hives located high up in the trees. Honey Care Africa - Tanzania, launched in 2005, is now the largest single honey producer and exporter in the country, and Honey Care Africa is also involved in projects in Malawi and South Sudan. Founder and director, Farouk Jiwa says, “If you want something sustainable and viable, you need to bring different actors in the value chain together and facilitate, not become a player yourself. This is a big problem with development strategies today. With Honey Care Africa, building this platform and taking our model to scale was very exciting.”*

To improve productivity and quality in honey for domestic and export markets, Beza Mar Agro-Industry, an Ethiopian honey trader, has been working with local farmers since 2003. By 2008, the company was one of the first African companies to export honey to the European market; it is now developing mixed flavour and speciality products to provide greater income for farmers and traders involved in the honey value chain.

But farmers’ adoption of modern technologies and practices has been slower than expected, says director Hailegiorgis Demissie, and the ability of local producers to sustainably supply increased volumes of export quality honey requires substantial investment in improved production and postharvest practices. “In local markets, we know each other and can trust the product, and each other as buyers and sellers,” he says. “The international honey market is very competitive and the process is very different.” However, with increased exports from 30 t in 2009 to over 150 t of honey and 40 t of beeswax by 2012, the greater earnings have enabled beekeepers to buy more livestock and send their children to school.

To protect the rights of producers of a rare honey that is exported from the protected Kilum Ijim mountain forest in North West Cameroon, Oku Honey was one of three African products in 2013 to be awarded Protected Geographic Indications (PGI) by the African Intellectual Property Organization. While most African honey is dark red, Oku Honey is valued for its delicate creamy texture and white colour. PGI certification protects consumers (and producers) from imitation products and encourages biodiversity, with Oku production linked to conservation and sustainable community forest management.

Whilst certification, including organic and fair-trade, enables beekeeper associations and cooperatives in Africa and across other ACP regions to produce high value niche products for export, demand in domestic urban markets continues to grow. However, as successes have shown, there is an increasing need for better structured value chains across ACP regions, benefiting from high quality equipment, professional services, quality control, technology and more robust consumer markets.


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Want to build a toilet?

Want to build a toilet? | Organic Farming |
Learn about the importance of sanitation and follow the step-by-step instructions in this easy-to-use, hands-on manual issued by the Government of Jharkhand to help build toilets.


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Organic Farmer Faces Jail Time for Refusing to Spray Pesticide

Organic Farmer Faces Jail Time for Refusing to Spray Pesticide | Organic Farming |
The French agriculture ministry is prosecuting Emmanuel Giboulot, an organic winemaker, for failing to apply insecticide to his vines. The ministry wants insecticide to be sprayed to control the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus, believed to be responsible for the spread of the grapevine disease, but Mr. Giboulot believes the pesticide is ineffective and damaging to pollinating insects such as bees, and insists the disease can be fought via more natural means.

Emmanuel Giboulot appeared before a judge in the city of Dijon on Monday after defying an official order to treat his vineyard against an insect suspected of transmitting a devastating plant disease, and risks six months in jail for failing to take preventive measures against a bacterial vine disease. He was fined €1,000 for putting neighboring vineyards at risk. The court’s final verdict will be announced on April 7. Mr. Giboulot, an organic and biodynamic winemaker, was found to be in violation of a directive to use pesticides to fight Flavenscence dorée, an infectious disease spread by the leaf hopper, Scaphoideus titanus that threatens the Côte-d’Or region of Burgundy. An estimated 30 acres of vines were destroyed by the disease in 2012.

“Would we give chemotherapy to someone as a preventive measure against a potential future cancer?” Mr. Giboulot asked.

He argues that the pesticide is harmful to beneficial insects and animals, and may not even be effective at preventing the vine disease. “My father began converting to organic farming in the 1970′s, and we are now fully organic and biodynamic,” Mr. Giboulot is reported as saying. “I don’t want to undo decades of work applying a treatment where the effects on the health of the vines, and the public, are as yet unproved.” The wine maker cultivates about 25 acres of vines, to produce Côte de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Nuits wines.

The French agriculture ministry prosecuted Mr. Giboulot under article 251-20 of the rural code, for “failing to apply an insecticide treatment to his vineyard” in July last year. Vine growers in several regions, including Burgandy, are required by French law to use pesticides to control this disease. The disease, which first appeared in the 1950s, threatens more than half the Burgundy region’s vineyards and that preventative treatment by pesticide is necessary. After the discovery of the disease in Burgundy’s Beaune region, the local administration ordered all vineyard owners in the Côte d’Or area to treat their vineyards with pesticides. But Mr. Giboulet argues that even Pyrevert, a pyrethrin-based pesticide product that organic farmers could use against the pest without losing their certification, has undesirable side effects. “It kills not only the insect but also other fauna that are necessary for the natural balance in a vineyard,” he said. Pyrethrin, although made from chrysanthemum flower, is a neurotoxin that is also toxic to bees and aquatic organisms. Its synthetic cousins, pyrethroids, are more toxic and persistent.  Last June another organic winemaker was prosecuted and convicted for not treating his vines, but was spared a prison sentence or fine after finally agreeing to spray against the disease.

Denis Thiery, a vine specialist at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research, also agrees, “Even if Pyrevert is of natural origins, it is damaging for the environment. It is a neurotoxin that can affect not just insects, but birds, other animals, even the winemakers, depending on the doses used. In reality, the efficacy of these treatments against flavescence dorée, whether natural or conventional, is not great. Not all the insects are killed and the epidemic continues to spread quickly. But, like all epidemics, we don’t know if the situation would be worse without the treatment.”

Mr. Giboulot believes there are more natural means of preventing the vine disease. “I am not trying to be radical,” he said. “I want to show people that there are options, and that we need to think about our own health and that of our customers.”

Unfortunately, there is no sure way to control this vine disease, but many agree vigilance and monitoring adult populations is key to reducing pesticide applications. In fact, French environmentalists argue that instead of ordering the sweeping use of pesticides, local authorities should monitor the disease, uproot affected vines and limit the mandatory use of pesticides to the areas under threat. Hot water treatments have been known to kill the eggs of Scaphoideus titanus as well as other pathogens. Sulfur and paraffin oil applications after bud break have also been suggested to control the pest.

France is the third-highest user of pesticides in the world after the United States and Japan, and the highest user in Europe. The country has pledged to reduce its pesticide consumption by 50 percent by 2018. This pledge is momentous in light of a 2013 study that found pesticide residues in 90 percent of French wines tested, including residues found in some organic wines, which had the French public alarmed. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be hound here in French). However, there are no EU toxicity limits for bottled wine, only for wine grapes before fermentation. Other reports have also identified several pesticide residues in wine. The health impacts of pesticide exposure to vineyard farmworkers is also a concern. According to a PAN-Europe report, “Published scientific analysis suggests that those exposed to pesticides in grape production suffer a higher incidence of allergic rhinitis, respiratory problems, cancers, and chromosomal and nuclear abnormalities, as well as lower neurological capacities.”

While the organic wine market has grown -the share of organically produced French wines rose from 2.6 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent by the end of 2012, according to the New York Times, contamination of organic vineyards from neighboring areas continues to threaten the industry. In the U.S., only wine made with organic grapes and naturally occurring sulfites can be labeled organic.


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Oxford organic farm gets growing

Oxford organic farm gets growing | Organic Farming |


The seed of an idea for an organic farm at Oxford College is beginning to take root. This spring, Oxford welcomes its first organic farmer, who will help transform a grassy field on Emory Street into a thriving, colorful patchwork of crops and a living laboratory for students.

"For several years we had had a vision of developing an organic farm, but the enabling event was the gift of land," explains Dean Stephen Bowen. The 11-plus acres at 406 Emory St. was donated to the college in 2011 by Trulock Dickson ,‘72Ox-’74C. It’s the former home of Marshall and Fran Elizer, who joined Oxford in the 1940s.

The farm will be used "to model the use of sustainable farming techniques to support our local community and to provide education and training opportunities for our students on the issues of sustainability," Bowen explains.

"The final piece was to find the right person to lead the farm," says Bowen. "We wanted someone who was not only an accomplished organic farmer, but also an experienced farm educator."

A nationwide search turned up Daniel Parson, named to Mother Nature Network’s 40 Farmers Under 40 list and recognized with the Georgia Organics Land Steward of the Year Award. Parson’s 15 years of organic farming experience includes managing the Clemson University organic farm, Gaia Gardens in Decatur, Ga. and most recently his own venture, Parson Produce, near Clinton, S.C.

Since joining Oxford in early January, Parson has dug in. His initial focus will be to ready the land for farming: planting cover crops to enrich the soil; improving the drainage and installing irrigation; and building a barn to store tools and equipment.

The first crops ­— sweet potatoes, squash, and peppers — will be planted later this spring, to be grown over the summer and harvested in the fall. The farm will produce a diversity of vegetables, "choreographed by a rotation plan," Parson explains, as well as orchard fruit, cut flowers and shitake mushrooms grown on hardwood logs.

Longer-term plans call for the construction of hoop houses, which allow cold-hardy crops to grow all winter, to extend the growing season so it matches the flow of the school year.

"My focus right now is to get the farm up and running, to have something for the students to work with," Parson explains.

And students will be involved with the farm from the very beginning, he says.

"We want to involve students as much as possible so they can learn to grow their own food, connect with the source of their food. There’s going to be a lot of hands-on learning."

Lessons from the farm will be incorporated into the classroom curriculum. Faculty from across Oxford will be invited to use the farm as a resource in their teaching, Parson says.

"Farmers today have to be growers, mechanics, business people, salesmen and marketers," he says. "So almost any field of study could reflect on the farm."

A grand opening is slated for fall 2014. "Fall is one of the great seasons in the Southeast. And every year is going to be a big fall, because right when the students arrive on campus is a great time to be planting a big fall crop," he says.

The farm is expected to reap many benefits for Oxford.

The Oxford organic farm is expected to break even financially in its first few years. Parson envisions selling produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and at farmers markets.

But because "the organic farm movement is synonymous with the local farm movement," Parson says, "the first stop will be the Oxford community." Food grown on the farm will be served in the Oxford dining hall.

In addition to "having that good food on campus," Parson adds, farm work "is a great stress reliever for folks who might be overwhelmed with studies to come out and spend some good productive time, with a tangible result, on the farm."

Later this spring, Parson and his family will move into the former Elizer home. Parson’s wife, Molly McGehee ‘07Ph.D., is currently a professor at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. She will join Oxford’s Humanities Division in fall 2014.

Parson looks forward to educating and engaging with the community.

"I want students, faculty and staff to come out to the farm as much as they want. But they will learn very quickly that if they are out at the farm, they will be put to work," he adds with a laugh.



Patrick Sudlow's curator insight, February 23, 2014 8:41 AM

Organic farming is the only long term and sustainable method for providing food, which is also a low carbon method. 

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Live, let live

Live, let live | Organic Farming |
You cannot wish away urbanisation. But to counter it, Dr. Vishwanath, the father of organic terrace gardening in India says, grow your own food. In this year dedicated to Family Farming, he says that it is not enough to chant Gandhiji’s mantra

Let’s start with a story. “When we were children,” begins Dr. Vishwanath, recalling a memory that for a long time was embedded in the forgotten layers of his mind. His family came from a village called Mylasandra, then on the outskirts of Bangalore. “When we went there every week from our home in Chamarajpete, the lush green ragi fields looked so beautiful. My aunt used to serve the tender ragi spikelets with copra and sugar. It used to be so delicious.” In the stream that passed through his village, Vishwanath and his friends used to drop coins from tree tops. “We could see where they landed, and then we used to dive into the water and bring them back. Water was crystal clear and sweet,” he remembers, as he narrates this story. “Over the years, I have seen it degenerate with my own eyes… it is the sign of rampant urbanization,” he adds.

Dr. B.N. Vishwanath’s story itself — how an entomologist became the father of organic urban terrace gardening in India — is one of deep engagement and concern with the city and its community.

From then when nature’s goodness was a given, to now when one has to assiduously strive to procure it, Vishwanath’s journey has been interesting. To escape from his father who wanted him to become a medical doctor, Vishwanath reluctantly joined B.Sc agriculture. He pursued a master’s in Entomology and worked as Technical Assistant in the Department of Horticulture. “I later worked for the University of Agriculture for 16 years, did my doctorate and post-doctoral studies too. But all the time there was this feeling of being tied down to a system,” Vishwanath gave up his job and went to Hollywood to do a course in videography. “I wanted to make documentary films,” he says, and the first film he made on his return was on agriculture.

“During the making of this film, I suddenly remembered our days in Mysore. I would accompany my father to shop vegetables in Saraswatipuram. Small farmers grew vegetables on their land. They gave us a knife and told us to pluck whatever vegetables we needed. My father would chop fresh vegetables of the plant, and the farmer used to look into our bag and tell us how much we had to pay. As I thought of those days, the enormity of change and urbanization dawned upon me. The entomologist who advocated chemical fertilizers gradually began to fade,” he remembers. Reading Rachel Carson’s book, The Silent Spring, was the turning point. “I decided to practise organic farming, and there was no looking back,” says the man who ran a bio-fertilizer factory Kadur Agro till the late Eighties. The idea of terrace gardening struck Vishwanath in the following years; he started growing ladies finger, tomatoes and greens in pots, which surprisingly, didn’t seem difficult at all!

Shocking change

“What shocked me during these years was the changing climactic conditions of Bangalore. When we went to college, we wore socks and gloves. When I was teaching, I wore a full suit. But gradually, we had to shed the coat, socks and gloves, then the tie, and then our shoes, finally we settled for trousers, shirt and sandals!,” he explains. Vishwanath recognised that something had to be done to counter the loss of tree cover, and the poison in air and water. “I had my first terrace gardening workshop in 1995 in IIT, Queens Road, and more than 100 people came including the actor Bharathi Vishnuvardhan. Enthused by the response, till 2004, I conducted workshops in Mylasandra and to overwhelming response,” narrates Vishwanath. A great source of support and inspiration was fellow entomologist Dr. Veeresh, who was already part of the no-chemical movement. With him and others, Vishwanath set up the Association for Promotion of Organic Farming (APOF). They even organized the first International Congress and the first national conference on terrace farming in Bangalore, which later travelled to Bombay, Chennai and other cities. “Today, I am proud to say that Bangalore is foremost city in India as far as terrace gardening is concerned,” he adds.

Vishwanath believes that if we take good care of our plants, produce is assured. “You cannot complain about insects. They came 250 million years before man and they know how to survive. In fact, they are the owners. But the use of neem and good organic manure will keep them at bay. Live and let live,” he says, emphatically. “What is the use of all the money, and great infrastructure, if you are going to give your children bad health? WHO says life expectancy has gone up. But if you are ill by the age of 35 and live up to 80 because of medicines what is the use? Take it from me, fast food is killing the younger generation. The future generations will not even live as long as their parents did!” he warns.

People are now aware, they are interested in making this world a better place. A lot of youngsters are part of Vishwanath’s group as well. The proof is the enthusiastic response for the Garden City Farmers collective (GCF) that Vishwanath started in 2011. “Me, along with friends like Dr. Jayaram, and Dr. Rajendra Hegde met with other interested members in Lalbagh. This used to be our seed exchange meet too.” The group expanded in size and on their agenda is a regular fair Oota From Thota where they bring together people and organisations that grown vegetables and sell other kinds of organic produce. Initially, the core members funded this, but now the response is so huge that people have come forward to pitch in. “At the recent Oota from Thota we conducted free workshops for over 100 people and gave them garden kits as well.”

World over, agricultural lands are disappearing and farmers are migrating to urban centres unable to manage the labour problem. “It is not enough to chant Gandhi and say villages are the backbone of India. We have to empower the rural youth, give them good education and health care, and make sure villages are liveable.” In this year of Family Farming, and GCF wants to give every house in the slums a pot, with a vegetable plant. “We will also give them organic manure. They can grow their own vegetables, and whatever is extra they can share it with their neighbours. It is important to make sustainable communities,” he argues, “importing food is second slavery.”

Organic vegetables must be affordable for everyone. “I don’t know why they come at such a premium price. In fact, there is hardly any cost involved, and the produce is as good as it is in chemical farming. It is ironical,” he says, settling down to clear the weed around the cherry tomato plant.

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8 Eye-Opening Facts About Eating Organic Food

8 Eye-Opening Facts About Eating Organic Food | Organic Farming |

As organic foods make their way into more and more supermarkets around the country, the option to choose between organic and conventionally farmed products is increasingly at your fingertips. How do you make the decision? Get your facts straight before you fill your cart with misinformation.

MORE: The Science of a Sexy Face

Organic farming never uses pesticides: False
Many organic farmers do try to avoid using pesticides, and most organic foods have lower total pesticide residues, but the fact is, organic farmers use many methods of controlling pests, including pesticides. Part of what defines "organic" is not the absence of pesticides, but the particular pesticides used. Only certain compounds are approved for use as pesticides on organic farms. This includes ingredients derived from natural sources, or synthetic ones that adhere to a list of regulations not required for conventional agriculture-for example, potassium silicate sourced from naturally occurring sand, and copper sulfate, provided that copper accumulation in the soil is minimized. Here's the rub: Organic pesticides may be just as bad for you and for other animals as their synthetic counterparts (and in the case of copper sulfate, even worse). Therefore, it's important to wash your produce even if it's organically grown.

MORE: 5 Ways to Eat Organic on a Budget

Organic food spoils faster: True(ish)
Organic foods do not have preservatives added and they are not irradiated, two methods used to stop the mold, bacteria and yeast that break down food and cause it to spoil. Irradiation uses energy-much like a microwave-to kill microorganisms, including dangerous ones that cause food-borne illness. Preservatives are chemicals that extend shelf life. By opting out of both methods, organic foods have less defense against the critters that cause spoiling, but no study has been conducted to quantify just how much faster organic food spoils. Interestingly, organic milk often has a longer shelf life than regular milk, though that is not inherent to its organic-ness. Most organic milk undergoes ultrapasteurization, where the milk is heated to a higher temperature than the usual pasteurization process. Normal pasteurization kills potentially dangerous bacteria in milk; ultrapasteurization kills everything. Organic companies probably ultrapasteurize to compensate for the fact that their cows don't get antibiotics, but not all dairies do it.

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Organic foods have more salmonella and E. coli : False
So, if organic foods don't use irradiation to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, does that mean they're less safe? No, it doesn't. When scientists put organic and conventional foods under the microscope, they found no statistical difference between them when it came to E. coli. And thankfully, whether organic or not, our food is screened for pathogens by the USDA and the FDA. Yes, there's still risk, as recent recalls ofSalmonella-tainted chicken and Glass Onion Catering's E. coli-contaminated salad have shown, but you don't need to worry about organic foods any more than you do about conventional ones.

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Organic food tastes better: False
Though many people will tell you organic food tastes better, when organic and conventional foods go head-to-head in taste tests, we can't tell the difference. So why do so many people swear they can tell them apart? Sometimes, it could be a matter of timing. Organic foods that are sourced locally are likely to be fresher than conventionally grown varieties that have traveled farther. But perhaps our belief in the tastiness of non-conventional food is psychological: A December 2013 study gave volunteers two identical cups of coffee to try-one was presented as a plain ol' cuppa joe, and one was labeled "eco-friendly." The tasters claimed they preferred the taste of the "eco-friendly" one.

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Marsh questioned on day 3 of GM trial - Agriculture - Cropping - General News - North Queensland Register

Marsh questioned on day 3 of GM trial - Agriculture - Cropping - General News - North Queensland Register | Organic Farming |

LAWYERS representing Michael Baxter continued to question his neighbour Steve Marsh as to why it took him so long to sort out and collect the GM canola swaths which caused the alleged incursion on his organic farm on the third day of the landmark GM trial.

During her continued cross examination of Mr Marsh, Mr Baxter’s legal counsel, Patricia Cahill, Bradley Bayley Legal, asked why - after several on-farm inspections by National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) once he’d attempted clean-up - did he not chase up NASAA regarding the recertification of his farm’s organic status once he hadn’t heard back from the organisation within what he deemed to be a reasonable period of time.

Ms Cahill also pressed Mr Marsh why he decided to attempt to fence-off swaths and flowering canola plants in his paddocks prior to being collected as late as April 2011.

She asked whether the purpose was in fact because he thought it would assist in legal proceedings against Mr Baxter, to which Mr Marsh answered no.

Ms Cahill also asked the plaintiff if, with the benefit of hindsight, would he have appealed NASAA’s decision for decertification in 2010? Mr Marsh replied he would need to be in the position at the time to formulate an answer.

Mr Marsh was also asked whether he thought it to be reasonable that NASAA decertify up to 70 per cent of his organic farm when as little as three swaths of canola were found in certain corners of certain paddocks.

Ms Cahill asked whether Mr Marsh in fact thought de-certification would assist him in lobbying the Western Australian government to make the commercial production of GM canola illegal and assist him in making a legal case against the defendant, Mr Marsh again answered no.

Throughout the day Ms Cahill also addressed issues pertaining to several letters and press releases Mr Marsh had sent to fellow Kojonup farmers as well as local and State media organisations, the wording and contents of biosecurity signage erected on the boundary of his Eagle Rest farm, the contamination status of conventional canola as ruled by NASAA’s organic standards, a list of possible costs and damages he sought to claim from the defendant prior to the alleged contamination, as well as the professional screening and cleaning process of Mr Marsh’s harvested organic grain and whether or not it could ever guarantee organically-labelled grain products bound for human consumption were 100 per cent organic material.

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A Cat’s Cradle for Tomatoes: Organic Gardening

A Cat’s Cradle for Tomatoes: Organic Gardening | Organic Farming |
If you want a super-simple and highly-effective solution for supporting your tomato plant, forget the flimsy cages and try this technique used by professional tomato growers. Known as the Florida Weave or Cat's Cradle, this quick technique is the way to go.



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