Posts Tagged ‘husbandry’

Ancient America: Tiwanaku


Ancient America: Tiwanaku


Posted 28 August 2011, by Ojibwa for Native American Netroots, Daily Kos,

While the Inka are the best-known pre-Columbian civilization in South America, there were other earlier and longer-lasting highly developed civilizations. Tiwanaku (also spelled Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is generally recognized by archaeologists as an important precursor of the Inka Empire. Tiwanaku, located on the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, was a major city-state that controlled parts of the Andean highlands for about five centuries.

Tiwanaku is at an elevation of 3,850 meters (2.4 miles) which makes it one of the highest imperial cities in the world.

About 1500 BCE, Tiwanaku was a small, agricultural village. By about 300 BCE, the village appears to have grown into a religious site which attracted pilgrims from the surrounding area. The religious or cosmological power of Tiwanaku seems to have provided the basis for its later development into a powerful city-state.


While Tiwanaku is located in an area which has abundant wild resources—fish, birds, wild plants—its rise to power, like that of other city-states, was based on agriculture. The Titicaca Basin has predictable and abundant rainfall. The people of Tiwanaku developed an agricultural system which utilized this rainfall. The people of the Titicaca Basin developed a farming technique which used a flooded-raised field type of agriculture.

The agricultural fields were created by cutting deep canals in the soils next to the lake. Then soils were thrown up to form long, low mounds which improved the drainage of the fields. The canals supply moisture for growing crops, and in addition they also absorb heat from solar radiation during the day. Nights in the Titicaca Basin can be bitterly cold, often producing frost. At night, the heat that had been absorbed in the shallow canals is emitted which provides thermal insulation for the crops.

The canals also had another use: they were used to farm edible fish. Then the resulting canal sludge was dredged up and used for fertilizer.

The fields were used for growing potatoes and quinoa.

This type of agriculture, known as suka kollus, is very labor intensive, but it produces good yields. Traditional agricultural methods in this region can produce 2.4 metric tons of potatoes per hectare, and modern agriculture—which uses artificial fertilizers and pesticides—produces about 14.5 metric tons. On the other hand, the ancient suka kollus agriculture can produce 21 tons per hectare.

Social Stratification:

The productive agricultural system of Tiwanaku contributed to and supported population growth. The population consequently became more complex, with specialized jobs for each member of the society. At the top of the social hierarchy were the elite who lived separated from the commoners by walls which were surrounded by a moat. Some archaeologists have suggested that the moat created the image of a sacred island on which the elite lived. Commoners may have been allowed to enter the elite complex only for ceremonial purposes.

The Empire:

About 300 CE, Tiwanaku was making the transition from a regionally dominant culture force, to an actual empire. It expanded its culture, its way of life, and its religion into other areas of modern-day Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.

Like empires throughout the world, Tiwanku grew through a combination of political, economic, religious, and military power. It used politics to negotiate trade agreements which made other cultures dependent upon them. It reinforced this dependence through religion, as Tiwanaku was always seen as a religious center. Some of the religious statues from these other cultures were taken back to Tiwanaku where they were placed in a subordinate position to the gods of Tiwanaku. In this way, they displayed their religious superiority over these cultures.

The primary Tiwanaku diety, which is shown on reliefs and in statues, is represented as a male figure with a rayed headdress and two staves. This figure seems to have been derived from the Staff God of the earlier Chavin culture.

Control over the empire often involved colonization and migration. Small groups of colonists from Tiwanaku would settle in key resource areas and thus provide Tiwanaku with access to these resources. In addition, people from the outlying areas were resettled closer to the city. The result was a series of multiethnic communities.

Violence may have reinforced the religious and cultural superiority of Tiwanaku. The archaeological evidence suggests that on top of a building known as the Akipana people were disemboweled and torn apart shortly after death. The disarticulated remains appear to have been laid out for all to see. Some archaeologists have suggested that this was a ritual offering to the gods. The person who was sacrificed was not native to the Titicaca Basin.

The hallucinogenic snuff complex also served to help integrate the empire. This complex involved the use of hallucinogenics in religious ceremonies and manifest themselves in the archaeological record in the form of snuff trays, bone tube inhalers, and decorated mortars and pestles which were used for processing the snuff.


A stone snuff tray is shown at right:

By about 600 CE, Tiwanaku could be considered an urban center. At this time, the city covered about 6.5 square kilometers and had a population estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 inhabitants. The three primary valleys dominated by Tiwanaku had an estimated population of 285,000 to 1,482,000.


One of the important features in holding the wide-spread empire together was the control of the llama herds. These herds were essential for carrying goods between the urban center of the empire and its periphery. Large caravans of llamas travelled the Tiwanaku road system. The animals may have also served as a symbol of the social and economic distance between the commoners and the elites.

The most important luxury trade item was textiles. Throughout the empire, the people wore characteristic Tiwanku textiles which helped unify the empire, at least during ceremonies. The large herds of alpaca provided the weavers at Tiwanaku with an important raw material. The alpaca and the llama herds were one of the major sources of wealth in the empire.


Between 600 and 700 CE, as Tiwanaku grew as a city, there was a significant increase in monumental architecture. The urban center contains a ceremonial core with several huge temples, a pyramid, and a number of palace structures decorated with cut stone lintels. The palace structures are also decorated with large statues which have been carved in a distinctive style.

Tiwanaku monumental architecture is characterized by its use of large stones. Tiwanaku stone architecture used rectangular blocks which were laid out in regular courses. One of the characteristic features is the use of elaborate drainage systems. Drainage systems are sometimes made of red limestone conduits which are held together by bronze architectural cramps.

In some cases I-shaped architectural cramps were made by cold hammering. In other cases, the cramps were created by pouring molten metal into I-shaped sockets which had been carved into the stone.

Some of the stone blocks were decorated with carved images and designs. There are also carved doorways and large stone monoliths.

The feature known as the Gateway to the Sun is shown above.

The stone blocks used at Tiwanaku were quarried some distance from the site. The red sandstone used at the site came from a quarry about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away. The largest of these stones weighs 131 metric tons and transporting them without wheeled vehicles or draft animals was a challenge.

The elaborate carvings and monoliths at Tiwanaku were created from green andesite stone that originated on the Copacabana peninsula, located across the lake from the city. The large andesite stones, some of which weighed over 40 tons, were probably transported across Lake Titicaca by means of reed boats. This is a distance of about 90 kilometers (55 miles). They were then dragged another 10 kilometers to the city itself.



Among the buildings which have been excavated by archaeologists and which are visible to modern visitors are the stepped platforms known as the Akapana, Akapana East, and Pumapunku; the enclosures known as the Kalasasaya and Putuni; and the Semi-Subterranean Temple.

The Akapana is a cross-shaped pyramid which stands nearly 17 meters in height. At its center there appears to have been a sunken court (this has been almost entirely destroyed by looters). There is a staircase with sculptures on the western side. The entire structure is an artificial earthen mound that was faced with a combination of large and small stone blocks. The dirt for the structure appears to have come from the moat which surrounds the site.

The feature designated as Akapana East marks the boundary for the ceremonial center and urban area. It was made from a floor of sand and clay that supported a group of buildings.

The platform mound designated as the Pumapunku was built on an east-west axis like the Akapana. It is a rectangular, terraced earthen mound which was faced with megalithic blocks. While it is only five meters tall, it measures 167 meters by 117 meters. One of the prominent features of the Pumapunka is a stone terrace which was paved with large stone blocks. One of these blocks is estimated to weigh 131 metric tons.

The Kalasasaya is a large courtyard which is outlined by a high gateway. It is located to the north of the Akapana. Near this courtyard is the Semi-Subterrean Temple—a square, sunken courtyard that was constructed on a north-south axis rather than an east-west axis. The walls are covered with tenon heads of many different styles.



About 950 CE, there was a climatic change: the amount of precipitation in the Titicaca Basin dropped significantly. As the rain decreased, the political and religious power of Tiwanaku and its elites also declined. As food became more scarce, the power of the elite waned. Fifty years later Tiwanaku was abandoned.

The city of Tiwanaku and its empire left no written history. What we know about Tiwanaku comes from later historical accounts and from archaeology.


(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more content associated with this article.)

HEMET: Museum exploring past, present, future of agriculture

HEMET: Museum exploring past, present, future of agriculture

Posted 27 August 2011, by Diane A. Rhodes, The Press-Enterprise (Enterprise Media),

The Western Science Center in Hemet will salute agriculture at its annual Science Under the Stars fundraiser Sept. 10. The night will offer a sneak preview of the museum’s newest exhibit: “Agriculture: Past, Present, and Future.”

Anyone in the southwest Riverside County region who has been associated with agriculture is being invited to submit short stories and photos to the museum. The exhibit celebrates all types of farming and ranching and the sciences involved. The themes will focus on climate, water, soil, plants and animals as well as the technology of agriculture from early times to more modern methods and techniques.

“People have been into agriculture for thousands of years in this area,” said Howard Rosenthal, a past president and current member of the Western Science Center’s board of directors. “Our No. 1 supporter is Soboba (Band of Luiseño Indians), and they are the descendants of the ancient people that lived in this area. We have received more than half a million dollars from them.”

Diane A. Rhodes / Freelance Photographer Kyle Washburn, left, a fourth-generation grower for Washburn Ranch in Valle Vista, and Ken Kelley, whose family has operated a local ranch since 1929, explain the function of a machine that allows farmers to use plastic mulch to conserve water and naturally control weed growth.

The San Jacinto Valley has long been known as a fertile region that attracted farmers and growers to the area before the turn of the century. Prior to that, indigenous people also enjoyed the climate and the ability to live off the land.

Farmers and growers are always trying to find ways to improve efficiency while reducing production costs.

Kyle Washburn is a fourth-generation grower for Washburn Ranch in Valle Vista. During the week, he helps maintain the family’s nearly 200 acres of citrus groves for Sunkist. About a year ago, he started experimenting with vegetables and fruits on 6 acres along east Highway 74 and opened the Washburn Ranch Fruit Stand offering fresh local produce from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.

One of the most successful innovations he has incorporated for his row crops is plastic mulch.

“It keeps the weeds down and has a drip tape underneath it that keeps watering to a minimum but delivers it right to the roots of the plants,” said Washburn, 28. “In early spring when the temperatures are still cool, it heats the soil so roots grow faster and get a head start.”

Tending trees that are more than 60 years old is helped along by a canal that runs from Lake Hemet to Angler’s Lake near Little Lake. It provides water for more than a dozen farmers in the Valle Vista area near Hemet. A reservoir and filtration system helps Washburn deliver micro-irrigation to each tree.

Wind machines every 10 acres lower the inversion layer and protect crops from frost during cold snaps. Washburn said they are working on modernizing smudge pots with a clean-burning natural gas flame to keep the ranch’s 1,500 avocado trees at maximum production.

“We spray the leaves with a mixture of liquid calcium and water — it’s like an SPF15 sunblock for them and it’s organic,” Washburn said.

Ken Kelley’s family has operated a local ranch since 1929 and will be supplying a lot of produce for the upcoming Western Center fundraiser. The farm sells its crops to many upscale restaurants including Café Aroma in Idyllwild and Johannes in Palm Springs. The family also sells items at the weekly Hemet Farmers Market under the label of Bautista Creek Local Produce.

“The Citrus Research Board is coming up with lots of new tools and methods for pest detection,” said Kelley, 52. He said advances in science will help keep entire groves from being obliterated by intrusive insects.

The Western Science Center is at 2345 Searl Parkway in Hemet. The “Science of Agriculture” fundraiser Sept. 10 begins at 5 p.m. and ends with an opportunity to explore the night sky through high-tech telescopes with the help of astronomy professionals starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person.

For information about the exhibit project or reservations for the fundraiser, call 951-791-0033 or visit

Permaculture ends meat-vegan debate, promotes anarchy


Permaculture ends meat-vegan debate, promotes anarchy


Posted 07 August 2011, by Rady Ananda, The People’s Voice,



Review of Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlee (2010, 322 pp.); and

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale Integrative Farming and Gardening by Sepp Holzer (English version 2011, 232 pp.)

Notice: PBS is rebroadcasting Food, Inc. on Tuesday, August 9 and is kicking off its new Food site. Check local listings here.

While the Bush reign may be described as a war on privacy, Obama’s is clearly a war on food freedom.* As his Monsanto administration arrests organic farmers and distributors, seizing and destroying healthy foods privately contracted and sustainably grown, this tyranny is not unique to the United States. All over the world, organic, sustainable farmers are under attack by large agribiz actors who, through government and trade agreements, are regulating them out of business and destroying the environment in the process.

Two farmers arguing against ecocidal hyper-regulation and “conventional” and “orthodox organic” farming are Simon Fairlee of England and Sepp Holzer of Austria. Both have written seminal books that should grace the bookshelves of everyone who gardens, farms or cares about the impact of agriculture on the biosphere.

In Meat: A Benign Extravagance, Simon Fairlee successfully proves that animal husbandry must be part of any sustainable farm, but used under a permaculture system (that which mimics nature) – beyond organic.  “Permaculture” is short for “permanent agriculture” – agricultural ecosystems that are designed to be self-sustaining. It practices natural anarchy.

Ohio farmer Gene Logsdon, who authored Holy Shit and The Contrary Farmer, wrote the forward to Benign Extravagance.  In it, he agrees that food security “is being undermined by well-intentioned people of all persuasions who are demanding rules and regulations in food matters without enough knowledge.”

The use of animals for sustainable farming has long been supported in the alternative ag field. What’s new is Fairlee’s stunning conclusion that animals protect against greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), turning expert conclusions on their head.

He doesn’t reach this conclusion easily, and he agrees that fewer food animals are needed, but his research exposes the gross exaggerations made by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), oft-repeated in the vegan world. Instead, he finds that animals are being scapegoated by fossil-fuel users. To reduce GHGs, he charges logically, reduce fossil fuel use.

Though it focuses on the environmental ethics of raising animals, Benign Extravagance also chronicles the historical move away from a pastoral society to urbanized stockyards and monocultured farms that spread for miles. Today’s industrialized ag system has separated animals from vegetables, with a result of too much animal waste concentrated in one place, and not enough fertilizer in the other. This bifurcation creates toxic ponds at one end and the need for oil-based synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, as well as fossil-fuel using machinery, at the other.

An interesting tidbit reveals that Wall Street got its name because, at the time, imported pigs roamed free on Manhattan island, requiring a stockade to keep them off the farms. If only it were just as easy to keep the piggish banksters out of food speculation. Other tidbits include how the tsetse fly and the Bubonic Plague guided which animals and crops were raised where.

Fairlee postulates that the interests of agribiz and vegans will converge over lab-cultured meat and spends a little time bewailing transhumanism – a genetically and technically altered human.

Much of the vegan debate for no animals centers on the inefficiency of land use in growing food to feed the stock animals. The oft-quoted and, he shows, erroneous figure is 10:1 – the amount of nutrients in animal meat compared to vegetables.

But when adding in food miles, the need for synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and fossil-fuel machinery on farms that don’t use animals, and when subtracting the opportunity cost for secondary use of cattle in the trade of hides, value-added dairy products, plus the hard-to-calculate value of warmth and companionship provided by farm animals, the real efficiency figure is 1.2:1, he calculates.

“Food miles may not be over-extravagant in their energy use [accounting for about 10-15% of GHGs], but they are thickly implicated in a centralized distribution system.” It is in a decentralized system that food security is increased and GHGs are reduced.

His calculations and arguments span several chapters. Two refute the absurd and deceptive FAO claim that cow farts account for 18% of GHGs. Fairlee holds his own on this argument, but probably would have appreciated having Olivier De Schutter’s report, Agroecology and the Right to Food, which was published later.  De Schutter is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food who rejects industrialized farming, instead showing how small, mixed farms provide more food and improve the land.

Among numerous sources, Fairlee also availed himself of information at, a site for “rational grazers,” as well as Joel Salatin’s theories and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Part of his equation acknowledges that the world’s subsistence farmers – who are primarily women – all use animals to boost farm productivity (via manure), as draft animals instead of tractors, and to enhance their family’s food security by providing secondary products like eggs and milk, along with other value-added products. And, he points out, herding also saves the world’s landless nomads from starvation.

“While meat is a luxury of the rich, it is a necessity of the poor,” he writes. “Sixty percent of all rural households in poor countries keep livestock.”

Those who want to skip the statistical arguments and exposure of deceptions used to promote industrial farming should not miss Chapter 15: The Great Divide. It is here that an overview of the meat vs. vegan debate is laid out and cemented in common sense. Whether they are aware of it or not, vegans promote factory farms by opposing livestock.

Another paradigm shift he urges involves the concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons” that he refutes with the “Tragedy of Technology,” which is solely to blame for depleted ocean stocks. One fascinating chart reproduced in the book was originally prepared by David Thompson of the FAO, who exposed the gross inefficiency of industrial fishing compared to small fisheries. Below is a slightly updated version:

His final chapter details his vision of a permaculture economy where he sees more trees, fewer animals and a re-ruralized society. While much of his book is written with humor, and readers shouldn’t miss his continual references to GOOFs – global opponents of organic farming – it is this last chapter that reveals Fairlee’s genius.

He convincingly argues that famine is not caused by “inefficient animal husbandry displacing efficient” farms. “The conflict” he says, “arises when symbiotic land use is usurped for monoculture designed for export.”

Sepp Holzer couldn’t agree more. He has been described as the “European counterpart” to Australia’s Bill Mollison and Japan’s Masanobu Fukuoka – “as all three independently discovered ways of working with nature that save money and labour and that don’t degrade the environment, but actually improve it.”

In Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale Integrative Farming and Gardening, he provides practical hands-on instruction with a caveat:  Each permaculture system is unique. The gardener or farmer must understand all the factors that go into completing a self-sustaining ecosystem, including water, wind, sun, soil, wildlife and terrain, as well as climate and nearby pollution sources that impact all of this.

His 110-acre alpine farm in Austria sits between 3,300 and 4,900 feet in altitude (1,000-1,500 meters).  It supports 10,000 fruit and nut trees, 30 different types of potatoes, a variety of grains, mushrooms, vegetables, herbs and wildflowers, as well as domestic and wild cattle, pigs, chickens, introduced snakes and even alpine crocodiles at one time.

“Once planted, I do absolutely nothing,” Holzer told Reuters. “It really is just nature working for itself – no weeding, no pruning, no watering, no fertiliser, no pesticides.”

Having practiced his own brand of permaculture for 50 years, he knows of what he speaks.

Instead, he modified the landscape with terraces, giant stone slabs, and over 70 ponds to direct wind, water, solar energy, and the terrain to permanently support the system.

Not one square meter of Holzer’s ground hosts only one type of plant. Starting from the age of five, he learned that as plant variety increases, parasites are reduced and the ecosystem becomes stable.

As an adult, he realized that most of what he learned in agriculture college and books was destroying the farm he inherited from his parents. He rebelled.

His autobiography, The Rebel Farmer, chronicles his battles against ignorant regulators whose rules were destroying his farm. He has fought regulatory agencies for decades, being mired in litigation and fined several times, and threatened with imprisonment. One example that cost him in fines involved his refusal to prune his trees as regulated.

He noticed that the only apricot tree faring well during the winter, where temperatures can drop to -29 °F (-34 °C), was the one he had not pruned. The length of the uncut branches allowed them to droop enough to touch the ground, providing support while the snow slid off.  The branches of the pruned trees broke under the weight of the snow, killing the trees.

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture is filled with photos, diagrams and detailed instructions on every aspect of his mixed-farm system that increased his wealth and the quality of his land. It exemplifies “beyond organic” by mimicking nature in every aspect from natural roads and buildings to natural pesticides (like his homemade bone salve used to protect his trees) to companion plants to vermiculture, and much more.

Instructions aren’t limited to large farms, either. He describes and diagrams balcony gardens and small town gardens that can feed families or whole neighborhoods. And, of course, his theories apply to both farms and gardens.

Nearly everything he does is different from what most of us learn – even how to plant trees. Most of us buy a small tree with a root ball covered in burlap, but his are square with companion plants at the base of the tree. Among several free videos of or about Holzer’s techniques, this one is probably best.

One thing is clear from his book; Holzer would never farm without animals, as they are a part of the play of nature.

“Livestock play a large role in a permaculture system; they do not just provide high-quality produce, they are also industrious and pleasant workers…. The animals actually work for me by loosening the soil and tilling my terraces.” And, they bring the added fertilizer in the form of manure.

Like Joel Salatin on his Polyface Farm, Holzer rationally grazes his animals on various paddocks to ensure no one spot is over- or under-grazed.  He also grows poisonous plants because he’s observed that animals suffering from diarrhea will deliberately eat them. He no longer has to worm his animals.

“The fact that it is actually necessary to become a ‘rebel’ to run a farm in harmony with nature is very sad!”

Many would agree. The joy comes in practicing a holistic approach when growing your own food, he says, giving you independence and healthy foods from an environment that is enriched rather than depleted. It is this very anarchy that will save the environment and feed the world.

Rady Ananda specializes in Natural Resources and administers the sites Food Freedom and COTO Report.

* Here’s a small sampling of articles revealing hyper-regulation:

Georgia cops bust 10-year-old’s lemonade stand
Michigan woman fined for growing veggies on her front lawn
Georgia farmer fined $5K for growing too many veggies
Kentucky Food Club defies illegal Cease and Desist Order from Health Dept
Elderly Man Evicted from His Indiana Land for Living off the Grid
UK family living off the grid evicted from their own land
Australia proposes ban on 1000s of plants including national flower
Urban garden that grosses $2,500 must buy permit for ‘several thousand dollars’



(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more content associated with this article)


Mother Earth News Fair draws eco-experts to Seven Springs

Mother Earth News Fair draws eco-experts to Seven Springs

Nationally and regionally known keynote speakers bring unique perspectives to 2nd annual sustainability event

Posted 03 August 2011, by Staff, PRWeb (Vocus Inc.),

Tokeka, Kan. (PRWEB) August 03, 2011:  After welcoming a capacity crowd of 10,000 to the first Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania last year and thousands more at the Fair in Washington this spring, the magazine will look to do the same Sept. 24-25 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, Pa.

Dozens of hands-on workshops will cover organic gardening, real food, renewable energy, small-scale livestock, green building and remodeling, DIY projects, natural health, green transportation, and related topics. Mother Earth News staff will lead the sessions, along with green lifestyle and rural living experts.

Nationally known keynote speakers will offer attendees a broader perspective on today’s environmental issues.

Organic farmer Joel Salatin will offer plain-spoken rebuttals to industrial agriculture’s claims. Salatin runs Polyface Farm, which was featured in the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary Food, Inc., and he has written several books.

Joan Dye Gussow will share how a flood-induced crisis and a crop of sweet potatoes taught her a new set of lessons about her soil. Often called the matriarch of the local food movement, Gussow is an author and the Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita of Nutrition and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François will show attendees how to bake delicious homemade bread using recipes from their best-selling book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Actor, activist and author Ed Begley Jr. will describe how he has “greened” his life and show how others can do the same. This keynote is presented by Envirolet.

Frances Moore Lappé will challenge attendees to let go of paralyzing thought traps that blind the human race to environmental solutions. Lappé is the author of Diet for a Small Planet and 17 other books.

Dan Chiras, Ph.D., will discuss how reactions to global climate change and energy shortages will determine our success as a species. Chiras is a visiting professor of environmental science at Colorado College, author of 30 books and director of The Evergreen Institute.

Bryan Welch will draw on themes from his book Beautiful and Abundant, which focuses on how to create a collective, positive vision for a sustainable future. Welch is a farmer, author and the publisher of Ogden Publications, the largest media company serving the sustainability community.

Jerry DeWitt will show how a new culture of sustainability is reshaping urban and rural landscapes. DeWitt served as director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and is a National Center for Appropriate Technology board member.

Veteran homesteader Philip Ackerman-Leist will share practical skills with a lighthearted spin for beginning homesteaders.

Jenna Woginrich, an author, farmer and blogger, will show attendees that even people with 9-to-5 jobs can live more self-sufficient lives.

In addition to workshops, the Fair will host a seed swap, children’s activities, a green shopping pavilion, vendor and livestock demonstrations, musical acts, and local and organic food options. The Fair is sponsored by Ball Jar, Bon Ami, Central Boiler, Envirolet, Organic Valley and Seventh Generation.

For information about event sponsorships, contact Allison Stapleton at astapleton(at)ogdenpubs(dot)com. For exhibit space, contact Mellissa Crouch at mcrouch(at)ogdenpubs(dot)com.

About Mother Earth News
Mother Earth News ( is the Original Guide to Living Wisely. Topics include organic gardening, do-it-yourself projects, cutting energy costs, using renewable energy, green home building and rural living.

About Ogden Publications Inc.
Ogden Publications Inc. ( is the leading information resource serving the sustainable living, rural lifestyle, farm memorabilia and classic motorcycle communities. Key brands include Mother Earth News, Natural Home & Garden, Utne Reader, Capper’s and Grit. Ogden Publications also produces environmentally friendly housewares through Natural Home Products LLC, and provides insurance and financial services through its Capper’s Insurance Service division.

Envirolet is sponsoring Ed Begley Jr.’s keynote address, Live Simply So Others Can Simply Live.

Banning agricultural antibiotic use is a false solution

Banning agricultural antibiotic use is a false solution

Posted 25 July 2011, by Nevil C. Speer, PhD, MBA Western Kentucky University, Dairy Herd Network,

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about food and food production.  Usually we can look the other way, simply shaking it off as a matter of personal preference or fashionable trend that will eventually wane with time.  But there’s one issue where that approach is unacceptable:  the use of antibiotics in livestock.  After all, antibiotic resistance is a matter of public health and thus touches us all.   And the issue has been front-and-center in recent months.

The first round came through a public interest group coalition filing suit against the FDA.   The coaltion asserts FDA has violated federal law by failing to actively withdraw approval of non-therapeutic penicillin and tetracycline usage in animal feed.   Moreover, that failure has occurred despite claims FDA previously concluded such usage facilitates development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.  The suit predicated on the claim of, “…growing evidence that the spread of bacteria immune to antibiotics has clear links to the overuse of antibiotics in the food industry.”   Dovetailing that effort came via proposed legislation (Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment) in both the House and Senate.  The legislation is aimed at reducing antibiotic use in animal agriculture and predicated on a similar foundation to the lawsuit mentioned above.  Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), upon PAMTA’s reintroduction, explains the legislation is necessary to tackle, “The rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that creates drug-resistant bacteria, an increasing threat to human beings….The effectiveness of antibiotics for humans is jeopardized when they are used to fatten healthy pigs or speed the growth of chickens.”

So the logic goes like this:  antibiotics fed to livestock at sub-therapeutic levels facilitate establishment of resistant strains of bacteria and absolute containment at the local farm environment proves elusive.    That scenario inevitably put citizens at risk because such strains prove unresponsive to treatment if they are able to cause illness.   Therefore, the argument is that such use must be curtailed and future approval of new antibiotics in livestock should be preempted.  And without any further knowledge, that all makes sense.  Something should be done – the rhetoric supports litigation and legislation.

However, this is no drive-by issue.   It possesses serious public health implications and demands science-based analysis.  To that point, quantified research assessment of potential farm-to-patient resistance transfer represents a “very low risk of human treatment failure” (Hurd et al., Journal of Food Protection, 2004).  Simply put, there is no scientifically documented link establishing antibiotic use in livestock and increased resistance in humans.

The counter argument to that fact often revolves the Denmark experience where non-therapeutic antibiotic use has been banned in animal agriculture; ensuing total antibiotic use declined in the livestock sector.   But Denmark proponents overlook several important facts.  First, therapeutic use actually increased following the ban.  Second, there’s been no documentation that antibiotic resistance in the human population has declined since the ban.

The real issue here is public health.  The solution is only as good as the weakest link.  Resistant bacteria don’t care about ideology or politics.    Singling out animal agriculture is a false solution and leaves the risk equation wide open.  It doesn’t really address the broader issue of resistance.  That demands a comprehensive approach and mandates the medical community being an active part of the solution.

Antibiotic prescription practices must be addressed.   Frivolous treatment has become increasingly widespread.  Numerous studies reveal patients expect antibiotics regardless of appropriateness of such a prescription.   Doctors, often time-crunched and motivated to maintain their respective patient base, often acquiesce to patient pressure.   Public health concerns about potential resistance go unaddressed amidst the individual doctor-patient relationship.

Moreover, none of this addresses misuse of antibiotics once the prescription is in hand. Per that note, lest we forget, resistance is not a new phenomenon – Maryn McKenna (Superbug, c. 2010) illustrates:

Penicillin [released to the public in 1944] was a wonder drug, the first glimpse of the antibiotic miracle that would quell the ancient scourge of infectious disease, and its inventors were heroes.  A portrait of [Sir Alexander] Fleming appeared on the cover of Time in May 1944 over the caption:  “His penicillin will save more lives than war can spend.”…Fleming himself predicted what would happen next.  In his speech accepting the Nobel Prize in December 1945, he said:

“There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under-dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant.  Here is a hypothetical illustration.  Mr. X has a sore throat.  He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin.  He then injects his wife.  Mrs. X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin.  As the streptococci are no resistant to penicillin the treatment fails.  Mrs. X dies.”

Fleming was sadly right, though amidst the joy over penicillin’s impact, the research that would prove his prediction received little publicity.  In December, 1940, before the drug had ever been tested in a human, [biochemist Ernst] Chain and his Oxford University colleague Edward Abraham said in a letter to the journal Nature that the common gut bacteria E. coli seemed to be evolving a defense against the new drug and was producing an enzyme that kept penicillin from working.    Two years later, Charles Rammelkamp and Thelma Maxon of Boston University demonstrated experimentally that staph bacteria could also develop protection against the effects of penicillin.

Resistance is an unfortunate, and inevitable, drawback of use.   But it was a concern at the outset – long before antibiotic use was ever implemented in livestock production.

Does any of this imply animal agriculture is off the hook or should have free license to operate?  Absolutely not – that’s neither socially-responsible nor founded on scientific principles.   Judicious use of antibiotics is imperative!  Moreover, there is a real need to bolster enforcement of already-existing laws – most notably, prosecution of repeat violators.

But at the end of the day, sole focus on sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in livestock doesn’t really address resistance.  It simply makes food production an expedient scapegoat while creating a false sense of security.   That’s the most dangerous proposition of all.–126108728.html?ref=728

Will Sheep Dogs Return for Post-Peak Oil Farming?

Will Sheep Dogs Return for Post-Peak Oil Farming?

Image credit: Permaculture Magazine

Posted 18 July 2011, by Sami Grover, TreeHugger (Discovery Communications, LLC)

As a kid growing up in England, I occasionally used to catch a glimpse of a show called “One Man and His Dog” on TV. It was, essentially, competition sheep herding. At the time it seemed like a rather quaint, even absurd, throw back to a bygone era. Now I am not so sure. At least one farmer is staking her hopes on a return of the sheep dog as oil gets more expensive and those quad bikes become less economical. And she makes the case for livestock farming in the process too.

Rebecca Hosking and Tim Green, whose preparations for post-peak oil farming and experiments with DIY composting toilets I’ve covered before, are in the process of relearning the skills of previous generations.

Much like the young farmers rediscovering farming with horses, part of Hosking and Green’s journey has seen them building closer working relationships with the animals on their farm. In a fascinating essay for Permaculture Magazine on her experiences of working with sheep dogs, Hoskings explains that the benefits are actually much greater than just fuel savings:

Being around working dogs, you really appreciate their abilities over any machine. A dog can smell out a sheep hidden in undergrowth, they can work across wet rough ground, they never compact soil, never get bogged down or leave tire tracks.

And while she acknowledges the simple efficiency logic of advocating for a plant based diet and eschewing animals all together, Hoskings notes that their farm is not particularly suited to vegetable growing, and that sheep have an almost “magical ability to harvest low-grade biomass and turn it into wool, milk, horn, hide, tallow, lanoline and mutton.”

Head on over to Permaculture Magazine for the full joys of this latest installment in Hoskings’ and Green’s journey to post-peak oil farming.

More on Peak Oil and Agriculture
Peak OIl and Agriculture: A Farm for the Future?
How to Build a DIY Composting Toilet
How Will We Eat When Peak Oil Hits? Tofu, Tree Farming and Electric Tractors

‘Vulture population declining alarmingly in South India’

Posted 17 July 2011, by Staff (Press Trust of India), Hindustan Times (HT Media Limited),

Vulture population in Neelgiri Biosphere Reserve and adjoining wildlife sanctuaries in South India have fallen sharply mainly on account of continued availability of certain variety of banned veterinary painkiller given to domesticated cattle. Feeding on the carcasses of cattle to whom the drug was administered was found to be fatal to the survival of these bird species, a survey has revealed.The field survey, conducted by a five-member team from Bombay Natural History Society recently in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and adjacent areas, found that vulture population had been declining at a dangerous pace.

The survey covered Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, Muthumalai Tiger Reserve and Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu and Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Rajeev Gandhi National Park, Nagarholai, in Karnataka.

C Sasikumar, ornithologist and chief investigator of the survey, said that the total population of Oriental White-backed Vultures (Gyps bengalensis) in the region could be 100-150.

A 1992 survey had sighted up to 300 birds of the species in Muthumalai sanctuary alone.

The region was considered a good habitat of the white-backed vultures, red-headed vultures and Indian long-billed vultures (Gyps indicus).

As many as 22 red-headed vultures and one long-billed vulture had been recorded during survey in Muthumalai then while the recent survey revealed that population of these species had fallen further.

The number of red-headed vultures could be around 20 and Indian long-billed vulture was extremely rare in the entire region now, Sasikumar said.

The red-headed and white-backed vultures were so common in Kerala during 1930s, CK Vishnudas, member of the team said.

“We could not see a single bird of the species in most parts of the state, except in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, during a bird survey organised by Kerala Forest and Wildlife department a few months back,” he said.