Posts Tagged ‘organic’

The People’s Bailout *

The People’s Bailout *



Posted 29 September 2011, by Angelbabe43, Angelbabe43’s Blog,




THEN- Enter this address into the space provided: 146 2 AVE NY,NY 10003.

NEXT- Click on Village Farm Grocery. Choose the items you would like to send, and add to cart.

Enter your payment information.

NEXT- enter the following into the DELIVERY section:



NY, NY 10006









This gives a general idea of where they are from above.

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Maine Gardener: Ferry Beach students elevate garden to a sustainable ecosystem


Maine Gardener: Ferry Beach students elevate garden to a sustainable ecosystem


Posted 25 September 2011, by Tom Atwell, Maine Sunday Telegram (MaineToday Media Inc.),



The Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco has given a new name to its organic garden.

“We are calling it a ‘sustainable food ecosystem,’ ” said John Ibsen, coordinator of the school’s Food for Thought program. “This garden is our feeble attempt to replicate a natural ecosystem.”

Ibsen showed a bit of a twinkle when he mentioned the new name, but it fits with the school’s goals.

“Our focus is on the science of ecology,” said executive director Drew Dumsch, “and the practice of sustainability. It is sustainability applied to ecology.”

Founded in 1999, Ferry Beach Ecology School hosts students from other schools for as little as an afternoon or as long as a week, taking advantage of the seven natural ecosystems within walking distance of the school and teaching about nature and ecology. It’s located at a Unitarian summer camp that was established in 1901, and uses the buildings when the camp isn’t. So far, 80,000 students have taken part in the program.

The garden is located on a challenging site that was built on beach sand on secondary dunes and buffeted by ocean winds. But the students and staff have slowed the winds by creating woven fences from trees cut down for projects elsewhere on the property.

The soil is improved by a no-till method of lasagna gardening, where layers of organic matter and newspapers are put down and allowed to decompose to create a rich topsoil.

“We teach that it takes 5,000 years in nature to create an inch of topsoil, but we can make it a lot faster,” Dumsch said.

Ibsen stresses putting plants close together, having mulch and compost on the soil and gardening vertically, to make the most of a garden that is about the size of a small house lot.

“Bare soil is like an open wound, letting out soil moisture and soil fertility,” Ibsen said.

He combines the permaculture and American Indian practice of the three sisters with a crop rotation in several plots in the garden. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans. The corn provides structure for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the other two plants, and the squash shades the soil to keep weeds to a minimum.

The planting pattern is more like a forest, Ibsen said, where there is a mixture of plants rather than the distinct rows of a traditional vegetable garden.

After the squash is harvested in October, Ibsen has the students plant garlic, which is supposed to cleanse the soil. This year, he planted some summer squash around the garlic a few weeks before the garlic harvest to make more use of the soil.

Next year, that plot will be planted with peas, rye and vetch, all of which improve the soil.

In another area, Ibsen uses more combination planting with an apple tree as a centerpiece. Rhubarb will improve the soil. Fennel is believed to repel a lot of apple-tree pests. And bee balm will attract a lot of pollinators.

Ibsen was especially proud of a tomato cage that was about 7 feet tall and 6 feet long, made entirely from items taken from a Dumpster at a school construction project.

The wood for the frame came from discarded pallets. The tomatoes climb metal reinforcing grids that usually go into a concrete floor.

All of this is put together in a package that will please older elementary and middle-school students. There are wanted posters for some of the bad bugs, such as Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms.

The little red garden shed has snacks from the garden as well as tools. The woven fences are both whimsical and practical. The mammoth sunflowers are about 8 feet tall with foot-wide seed heads.

Although the garden provides only a small percentage of the food served at the school, the dining hall is used as a teaching tool.

“With the kind of teaching we do here, we didn’t want the cafeteria food to be from Sysco,” Dumsch said.

It costs the school about an extra $30,000 a year to get organic and local food, he said, but donations help pay for it.

One of the major fundraisers for the school will be Eco Appetito, to be held from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 2 at Cinque Terre, 36 Wharf St. in Portland.

Chef Lee Skawinski and his staff will be preparing locally sourced food, wine and beer. There also will be live entertainment, door prizes and a silent auction. Tickets are $40.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:


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Fibershed Project – artist urges local clothing

Fibershed Project – artist urges local clothing


Posted 10 September 2011, by Esha Chhabra (Special to The Chronicle), SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle),


Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle Rebecca Burgess picking Coreopsis tinctoria to use for her dye in Lagunitas. The artist started a project of using only garments made within 150 miles.

When textile artist Rebecca Burgess embarked on a challenge to wear only clothes that were 100 percent locally sourced for one year, she found herself dressing in one outfit for three weeks.

Her Fibershed Project, as it was named, began gaining momentum in spring 2010 with the support of a grassroots fundraising campaign that drummed up $10,000. Pieces began trickling in that summer, allowing Burgess to officially start the nonprofit effort last September. By then, more than three dozen farmers and designers had agreed to design pieces for her yearlong wardrobe of bioregional clothing.

Burgess was determined to pay farmers, mills, pattern-makers and others fairly for providing garments made, start-to-finish, within 150 miles of her home in Marin County. The goal: to illustrate that regional, organic clothing is still possible in today’s globalized climate.

“For three months, I would tell designers, ‘Please give me sleeves. I wish I had sleeves,’ because it was beginning to get cold,” Burgess said with a laugh, as she tended to indigo plants on her small farm in Lagunitas recently. “There was a time when I just had one outfit, and at that point, I had to ask myself, ‘Is this going to work?’ ”

It did.

Burgess began with a team of about 40 people, including farmers, designers, seamstresses and volunteers. By the end of the year, she had three times as many folks working with her.

Now they’re building an online Fibershed Marketplace – set to go live this month – where shoppers will be able to purchase fibers, cotton and dyes from within that 150-mile radius.

Researched dyes

Prior to Fibershed, Burgess spent more than two years researching bioregional dyes throughout the country. Her work appeared in an internationally circulated book, “Print and Production Finishes for Sustainable Design,” and most recently in her own book, “Harvesting Color.” She also works with Santa Rosa’s Post Carbon Institute, developing curriculum. She has coupled her artistry with an environmental philosophy that calls for not only a resurgence of local craftsmanship but also a reduction of the carbon footprint in the textile industry.

In her blog, Burgess often marks the carbon footprint for the pieces produced for her. For instance, a pair of organic cotton fleece pants, sourced by a local cotton farm and crafted by Thara Srinivasan, a UC Berkeley scientist with an interest in sewing, has a carbon footprint of approximately 5 miles of driving.

But Burgess believes the project has the capacity to have a broader impact than just being environmentally savvy: It can help revive local economies.

Her neighborhood of West Marin, for example, has a 13 percent unemployment rate. By bringing production back to the community, the local economy is likely to benefit, she said.

For instance, she recently hired an out-of-work neighbor to help tend her small indigo farm, which she started a year ago to produce organic natural dyes for her clothing. Demand for the indigo dye has increased in the past year, and if this trend continues, she will need more hands to help.

Then there’s Sally Fox, who resides on an organic cotton farm in Guinda (Yolo County).

“If she hires just even a few more people to help on the mill, say four or five,” Burgess said, that’s a significant boost. “Those are rural jobs. But even in urban areas, the designers have been so inspired by the materials that we’re seeing little small businesses starting, specializing in this.”

Yolo connection

Fox, who has been growing organic, naturally colored cotton for more than 25 years, accepted Burgess’ request to contribute to the Fibershed project a year ago and is now working with her to develop a line of denims. Fox, though, embodies what has happened to American textiles as a result of foreign imports and cheap labor.

“My dream is to have a mill on the farm. But right now most of the mills left in the country are research mills because of their size. They’re not production mills. But maybe one day,” Fox said.

Burgess’ denim project, an effort to create everyday wearable jeans from Fox’s organic cotton, is under development and will help determine whether there is enough interest in bioregional clothing.

There is already significant commercial interest in the Fibershed project, but Burgess is focusing on smaller quantities of high-quality artisan products from local designers.

Sustainability is key

After all, sustainability and community are at the center of the Fibershed model: adjusting profit margins to account for the artisan work of the farm and the designer, eliminating waste and excess transportation costs, reconnecting farmers with local designers and experimenting with natural fabrics to avoid polluting waters with chemical dyes.

“This is what we talk about when we say community-building. It’s more than just a few local meals together. It’s about shifting the whole material culture. There’s a sweet intimacy between me and my community,” Burgess said. “They’re responsible for my well-being and I’m responsible for theirs.”

Read more about Fibershed at

E-mail the writer at

(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for another photograph associated with this article. As well, the website Rethink Social has re-posted this article with another, different, photograph from The Fibershed Project.)


The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities


The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities


Posted 14 September 2011, by Frances Moore Lappé, The Nation,



Editor’s Note: Frances Moore Lappé’s essay below kicks off our forum on the food movement. Raj Patel, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan have contributed replies.

For years I’ve been asked, “Since you wrote Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, have things gotten better or worse?” Hoping I don’t sound glib, my response is always the same: “Both.”

As food growers, sellers and eaters, we’re moving in two directions at once.

The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. And for even more people, sustenance has become a health hazard—with the US diet implicated in four out of our top ten deadly diseases. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices. Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years.

That’s one current. It’s antidemocratic and deadly.

There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.

Some Americans see the food movement as “nice” but peripheral—a middle-class preoccupation with farmers’ markets, community gardens and healthy school lunches. But no, I’ll argue here. It is at heart revolutionary, with some of the world’s poorest people in the lead, from Florida farmworkers to Indian villagers. It has the potential to transform not just the way we eat but the way we understand our world, including ourselves. And that vast power is just beginning to erupt.

The Work

In a farmworker camp in Ohio, a young mother sat on her bed. She was dying of cancer, but with no bitterness she asked me a simple question: “We provide people food—why don’t they respect our work?” That was 1984. She had no protection from pesticides, or even the right to safe drinking water in the field.

Twenty-five years later, in Immokalee, Florida, I walked through a grungy, sweltering 300-foot trailer, home to eight tomato pickers, but what struck me most was a sense of possibility in the workers themselves.

They are among the 4,000 mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, formed in 1993—more than two decades after Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers’ victorious five-year grape strike and national boycott. In the 1990s, CIW’s struggle over five years, including a 230-mile walk and hunger strike, achieved the first industrywide pay increase in twenty years. Still, it only brought real wages back to pre-1980 levels. So in 2001, CIW launched its Campaign for Fair Food. Dogged organizing forced four huge fast-food companies—McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and Subway—to agree to pay a penny more per pound and adhere to a code of conduct protecting workers. Four large food-service providers, including Sodexo, were also brought on board. Beginning this fall, CIW will start implementing these changes at 90 percent of Florida tomato farms—improving the lives of 30,000 tomato pickers. Now the campaign is focused on supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s, Stop & Shop and Giant.

The Land

In Brazil, almost 400,000 farmworker families have not only found their voices but gained access to land, joining the roughly half-billion small farms worldwide that produce 70 percent of the world’s food.

Elsewhere, calls for more equitable access to land in recent decades have generally gone nowhere—despite evidence that smallholders are typically more productive and better resource guardians than big operators.

So what happened in Brazil?

With the end of dictatorship in 1984 came the birth of arguably the largest social movement in the hemisphere: the Landless Workers Movement, known by its Portuguese acronym MST. Less than 4 percent of Brazil’s landowners control about half the land, often gained illegally. MST’s goal is land reform, and in 1988 Brazil’s new Constitution gave the movement legal grounding: Article 5 states that “property shall fulfill its social function,” and Article 184 affirms the government’s power to “expropriate…for purposes of agrarian reform, rural property” that fails to meet this requirement. Well-organized occupations of unused land, under the cover of night, had been MST’s early tactic; after 1988 the same approach helped compel the government to uphold the Constitution.

Because of the courage of these landless workers, a million people are building new lives on roughly 35 million acres, creating several thousand farming communities with schools serving 150,000 kids, along with hundreds of cooperative and other enterprises.

Nevertheless, MST co-founder João Pedro Stédile said early this year that the global financial crisis has led “international capitalists” to try to “protect their funds” by investing in Brazilian “land and energy projects”—driving renewed land concentration.

And in the United States? The largest 9 percent of farms produce more than 60 percent of output. But small farmers still control more than half our farmland, and the growing market for healthy fresh food has helped smallholders grow: their numbers went up by 18,467 between 2002 and 2007. To support them, last winter the Community Food Security Coalition held community “listening sessions,” attended by 700 people, to sharpen citizen goals for the 2012 farm bill.

The Seed

Just as dramatic is the struggle for the seed. More than 1,000 independent seed companies were swallowed up by multinationals in the past four decades, so today just three—Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta—control about half the proprietary seed market worldwide.

Fueling the consolidation were three Supreme Court rulings since 1980—including one in 2002, with an opinion written by former Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas—making it possible to patent life forms, including seeds. And in 1992 the Food and Drug Administration released its policy on genetically modified organisms, claiming that “the agency is not aware of any information showing that [GMO] foods…differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”

The government’s green light fueled the rapid spread of GMOs and monopolies—so now most US corn and soybeans are GMO, with genes patented largely by one company: Monsanto. The FDA position helped make GMOs’ spread so invisible that most Americans still don’t believe they’ve ever eaten them—even though the grocery industry says they could be in 75 percent of processed food.

Even fewer Americans are aware that in 1999 attorney Steven Druker reported that in 40,000 pages of FDA files secured via a lawsuit, he found “memorandum after memorandum contain[ing] warnings about the unique hazards of genetically engineered food,” including the possibility that they could contain “unexpected toxins, carcinogens or allergens.”

Yet at the same time, public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. In more than two dozen countries and in the European Union they’ve helped pass mandatory GMO labeling. Even China requires it.

In Europe, the anti-GMO tipping point came in 1999. Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, expects that the same shift will happen here, as more Americans than ever actively oppose GMOs. This year the “non-GMO” label is the third-fastest-growing new health claim on food packaging. Smith is also encouraged that milk products produced with the genetically modified drug rBGH “have been kicked out of Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Yoplait, Dannon, and most American dairies.”

Around the world, millions are saying no to seed patenting as well. In homes and village seed banks, small farmers and gardeners are saving, sharing and protecting tens of thousands of seed varieties.

In the United States, the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, estimates that since 1975 members have shared roughly a million samples of rare garden seeds.

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh—known as the pesticide capital of the world—a women-led village movement, the Deccan Development Society, puts seed-saving at the heart of its work. After the crushing failure of GMO cotton and ill health linked to pesticides, the movement has helped 125 villages convert to more nutritious, traditional crop mixes, feeding 50,000 people.

On a larger scale, Vandana Shiva’s organization, Navdanya, has helped to free 500,000 farmers from chemical dependency and to save indigenous seeds—the group’s learning and research center protects 3,000 varieties of rice, plus other crops.

In all these ways and more, the global food movement challenges a failing frame: one that defines successful agriculture and the solution to hunger as better technologies increasing yields of specific crops. This is typically called “industrial agriculture,” but a better description might be “productivist,” because it fixates on production, or “reductivist,” because it narrows our focus to a single element.

Its near obsession with the yield of a monoculture is anti-ecological. It not only pollutes, diminishes and disrupts nature; it misses ecology’s first lesson: relationships. Productivism isolates agriculture from its relational context—from its culture.

In 2008 a singular report helped crack the productivist frame. This report, “The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (known simply as IAASTD), explained that solutions to poverty, hunger and the climate crisis require agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping to balance the carbon cycle. Painstakingly developed over four years by 400 experts, the report has gained the support of more than fifty-nine governments, and even productivist strongholds like the World Bank.

IAASTD furthers an emerging understanding that agriculture can serve life only if it is regarded as a culture of healthy relationships, both in the field—among soil organisms, insects, animals, plants, water, sun—and in the human communities it supports: a vision lived by many indigenous people and captured in 1981 by Wendell Berry in The Gift of Good Land and twenty years later by Jules Pretty in Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature.

Across cultures, the global food movement is furthering agri-culture by uniting diverse actors and fostering democratic relationships. A leader is La Via Campesina, founded in 1993 when small farmers and rural laborers gathered from four continents in Belgium. Its goal is “food sovereignty”—a term carefully chosen to situate “those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations,” says the declaration closing the group’s 2007 global gathering in Nyeleni, Mali. La Via Campesina connects 150 local and national organizations, and 200 million small farmers, in seventy countries. In 2009 it was included among civil society players on the UN Committee on Food Security.

And in the urban North, how is the food movement enhancing agri-culture?

For sure, more and more Americans are getting their hands in the dirt—motivated increasingly by a desire to cut “food miles” and greenhouse gases. Roughly a third of American households (41 million) garden, up 14 percent in 2009 alone. As neighbors join neighbors, community gardens are blooming. From only a handful in 1970, there are 18,000 community gardens today. In Britain community gardens are in such demand—with 100,000 Brits on waiting lists for a plot—that the mayor of London promised 2,012 new ones by 2012.

And in 2009 the Slow Food movement, with 100,000 members in 153 countries, created 300 “eat-ins”—shared meals in public space—to launch its US “Time for Lunch” campaign, with a goal of delicious healthy school meals for the 31 million kids eating them every day.

An Economics of Agri-Culture

Agri-culture’s unity of healthy farming ecology and social ecology transforms the market itself: from the anonymous, amoral selling and buying within a market structured to concentrate power to a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

In 1965 British Oxfam created the first fair-trade organization, called Helping-by-Selling, in response to calls from poor countries for “trade, not aid.” Today more than 800 products are fair-trade certified, directly benefiting 6 million people. Last year the US fair-trade market passed $1.5 billion.

The Real Food Challenge, launched by young people in 2007, is working to jump-start a US swing to “real food”—defined as that respecting “human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.” Student teams are mobilizing to persuade campus decision-makers to commit themselves to making a minimum of
20 percent of their college or university food “real” by 2020. With more than 350 schools already on board, the Challenge founders have set an ambitious goal: to shift $1 billion to real food purchases in ten years.

Farmers’ markets, the direct exchange between farmer and eater, are also creating a fairer agri-culture. So rare before the mid-’90s that the USDA didn’t even bother to track them, more than 7,000 farmers’ markets dot the country in 2011, a more than fourfold increase in seventeen years.

Other democratic economic models are also gaining ground:

In 1985 an irrepressible Massachusetts farmer named Robyn Van En helped create the first US Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which eaters are no longer just purchasers but partners, helping to shoulder the farmer’s risk by prepaying for a share of the harvest before the planting season. On weekends, “my” CSA—Waltham Fields, near Boston—is alive as families pick and chat, and kids learn how to spot the yummiest strawberries. Now there are 2,500 CSAs across the country, while more than 12,500 farms informally use this prepay, partnership approach.

The cooperative model is spreading too, replacing one dollar, one vote—the corporate form—with one person, one vote. In the 1970s, US food cooperatives took off. Today there are 160 nationwide, and co-op veteran Annie Hoy in Ashland, Oregon, sees a new upsurge. Thirty-nine have just opened, or are “on their way right now,” she told me.

Funky storefronts of the 1970s, famous for limp organic carrots, have morphed into mouthwatering community hubs. Beginning as a food-buying club of fifteen families in 1953, Seattle’s PCC Natural Markets has nine stores and almost 46,000 members, making it the largest US food cooperative. Its sales more than doubled in a decade.

Producer co-ops have also made huge gains. In 1988 a handful of worried farmers, watching profits flow to middlemen, not to them, launched the Organic Valley Family of Farms. Today Organic Valley’s more than 1,600 farmer owners span thirty-two states, generating sales of more than $500 million in 2008.

The Rules

The global food system reflects societies’ rules—often uncodified—that determine who eats and how our earth fares. In the United States, rules increasingly reflect our nation’s slide into “privately held government.” But in rule-setting, too, energy is hardly unidirectional.

In 1999, on the streets of Seattle, 65,000 environmentalists, labor and other activists made history, blunting the antidemocratic agenda of the World Trade Organization. In 2008 more citizens than ever engaged in shaping the farm bill, resulting in rules encouraging organic production. The movement has also established 100 “food policy councils”—new local-to-state, multi-stakeholder coordinating bodies. And this year, eighty-three plaintiffs joined the Public Patent Foundation in suing Monsanto, challenging its GMO seeds’ “usefulness” (required for patenting) as well as the company’s right to patent seeds to begin with.

Even small changes in the rules can create huge possibilities. Consider, for example, the ripples from a 2009 Brazilian law requiring at least 30 percent of school meals to consist of food from local family farms.

Rules governing rights are the human community’s foundational guarantees to one another—and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave access to food that status. Since then, nearly two dozen nations have planted the right to food in their constitutions. If you wonder whether it matters, note that when Brazil undertook a multifaceted “zero hunger” campaign, framing food as a right, the country slashed its infant death rate by about a third in seven years.

Food Power: Only Connect

This rising global food movement taps universal human sensibilities—expressed in Hindu farmers in India saving seeds, Muslim farmers in Niger turning back the desert and Christian farmers in the United States practicing biblically inspired Creation Care. In these movements lies the revolutionary power of the food movement: its capacity to upend a life-destroying belief system that has brought us power-concentrating corporatism.

Corporatism, after all, depends on our belief in the fairy tale that market “magic” (Ronald Reagan’s unforgettable term) works on its own without us.

Food can break that spell. For the food movement’s power is that it can shift our sense of self: from passive, disconnected consumers in a magical market to active, richly connected co-producers in societies we are creating—as share owners in a CSA farm or purchasers of fair-trade products or actors in public life shaping the next farm bill.

The food movement’s power is connection itself. Corporatism distances us from one another, from the earth—and even from our own bodies, tricking them to crave that which destroys them—while the food movement celebrates our reconnection. Years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, CSA farmer Barb Perkins told me about her most rewarding moments: “Like in town yesterday,” she said, “I saw this little kid, wide-eyed, grab his mom’s arm and point at me. ‘Mommy,’ he said. ‘Look. There’s our farmer!’”

At its best, this movement encourages us to “think like an ecosystem,” enabling us to see a place for ourselves connected to all others, for in ecological systems “there are no parts, only participants,” German physicist Hans Peter Duerr reminds us. With an “eco-mind” we can see through the productivist fixation that inexorably concentrates power, generating scarcity for some, no matter how much we produce. We’re freed from the premise of lack and the fear it feeds. Aligning food and farming with nature’s genius, we realize there’s more than enough for all.

As the food movement stirs, as well as meets, deep human needs for connection, power and fairness, let’s shed any notion that it’s simply “nice” and seize its true potential to break the spell of our disempowerment.

Nation Contributors Reply:
Raj Patel, “Why Hunger Is Still With Us
Vandana Shiva, “Resisting the Corporate Theft of Seeds
Eric Schlosser, “It’s Not Just About Food
Michael Pollan, “How Change Is Going to Come in the Food System


About the Author

Frances Moore Lappé
Frances Moore Lappé just released EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want (Nation Books)…

Also by The Author

The article offers a discussion about world hunger and wealth distribution. It is argued that calls for the end of hunger fail to challenge the systems that prevent solutions. Hunger has grown 43 percent in five years in the United States. More hungry people live in India than in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Hunger is caused by an economic system that is driven by the rule: highest return to existing wealth. Because of this system, economic inequality is worsening in most of the world.

Focuses on the status of ownership of Industry in Sweden as of February 1983. Name of the trade union which is lobbying for the passage of the ownership of industry in the hands of the workers; Type of proposal given by the workers’ organization, Social Democratic Party to industrialists in exchange of the ownership of Swedish industry; Way in which the workers would get controlling interests in Sweden’s major companies.


Gardening and Farming Tools for Women


Gardening and Farming Tools for Women


Posted 16 September 2011 by EcoExpert, EcoFriendly Expert Blog,


Tools for Women?


Now, I must be honest.  When I read about a company that sells gardening tools for women, I thought it was simply a marketing ploy.  Perhaps they sell pink spades, I thought, disparagingly.

I was wrong.

Their premise is simple – women’s bodies are different to men’s, so garden and farm tools for women should be different.  The two women who started Green Heron Tools have a background in health, and a few years ago they went into market gardening to help family.  They battled with some of the tools and equipment.

Stock photo: Credit: Corbis / Microsoft

For example, men have more upper-body strength than women.  So when men use a shovel, they rely on upper-body strength to thrust it into the ground.  Women however will rely more on their legs to use the shovel, because that’s where more strength is.

(The founders of this company are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that women are less able than men, just different).

Another example is equipment which uses a pull cord to start an engine – the pull cord is typically too long for an average-sized woman’s arms.  I can remember pushing the lawn mower away from me as I tried to start it, so I was interested to read that this is a common problem for women.  Plus there’s the upper-body strength thing.  And most machines are designed for right-handers and I’m a leftie.  So a lawn mower ergonomically designed for women would have either a shorter cord or an electric switch.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not for a moment suggesting that every suburban home now needs two lawn mowers!

The reason this is pertinent is because of the rapid rise in women-operated farms.  According to the US Census of Agriculture, between 2002 and 2007 the number of women-operated farms grew by 29%, while the number of farms overall increased by less than 4%.

As a general rule in the US, women-run farms tend to be smaller, more diversified, organic and sell directly to customers, for example via farmers’ markets.

In developing countries, rural women produce half of the world’s food! (UN Food and Agriculture Organization).

With so many women working in agriculture it seems silly that all tools continue to be made for men.   And yet, the founders say that the only place they’ve found some effort being made, is in India.

Many people assume that of course women can use the same tools as men, women just aren’t as good at using them.  But tools need to fit correctly.  In fact, while researching this problem, the founders said they came across countless women who got frustrated because they weren’t strong enough, but in fact it’s not their strength but the ergonomics that are the problem.

However, it’s not just for women that tools can be made more friendly.  As men age, their level of testosterone drops, and so their upper-body strength diminishes.  As both men and women age, they become more susceptible to injury, so ergonomic tools become more important.

So what do tools for women have to do with being eco-friendly?  In addition to the ‘do no harm’ ethos, I’m personally very much in favour of the sustainable food movement.  Many women are involved in organic agriculture, and it makes sense for manufacturers to offer tools which will help not hinder them.

I think Green Heron Tools have a unique concept and I hope they do well!


Green Heron Tools are based in New Tripoli, PA and they sell online.



Sowing the future: Women reconnect with natural farming


Sowing the future: Women reconnect with natural farming

Kristen Bowlin is one of a growing number of women who have returned to the farm to sow a future in sustainable agriculture. She and partner Kyle LaFerriere cultivate 80 acres on the Totten Family Farm in Long Valley. Top left: Bowlin feeds Ozzy, one of two draft horses that work the farm. Top center: Bowlin operates a walk-behind horse drawn cultivator. Top right: One taste of a field-fresh tomato was all it took for Bowlin to fall in love with the fruit. Bowlin today grows hundreds of variety of heirloom vegetables. / PHOTOS BY JUSTINA WONG/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


Posted 14 September 2011, by Lorraine Ash, The Daily Record (Gannett),



Atop Schooley’s Mountain, a straw-hatted Kristen Bowlin stepped into the vegetable fields on Totten Family Farm and set down two six-foot tomato cages.

In an adjacent field, two draft horses, Ozzy and Crystal, swished their tails and grazed. The summer sun blazed.

“The tomatoes smell great today!” Bowlin said. The 30-year-old farmer enjoys working the 80 acres she cultivates with her partner, Kyle Laferriere. But for her — and a rapidly growing number of women farmers — the certified naturally grown farm is both passion and business.

“We were at the local hardware store this morning buying mesh reinforcement wire to make our own cages,” she said. “A tomato cage is expensive, $6. Doesn’t sound like much, but if I buy 1,500 of them…”

She eyes rows of tomato plants, figuring it’ll take her and Laferriere three days to mulch and cage them. The two grabbed bales of rye straw mulch and got to it.

“Do you have a knife on you?” she asked. He handed her one. She cut open a bale and, on hands and knees, spread it among the tomato plants.

“The mulch will smother out any weeds,” she explained, wiping her face and leaving a soil streak across one cheek. “It’ll also retain moisture in the soil, and encourage microorganisms to travel up through the soil, eat some of the mulch and break it down. That improves soil structure.”

Bowlin is fussy about tomatoes. Growing up in Missouri, she despised them. But she fell in love with them during the first harvest she ever worked as an intern at Wildwood Farm in Saxapahaw, North Carolina.

“Farmer Kevin Meehan and I were harvesting the Cherokee purples,” she said. “They are beautiful, very large, deep red tomatoes. He sliced one for me. I tasted it. It was warm from the field. It was delicious. Maybe that experience gave me just a tiny bit more appreciation for the tomato over some of the other vegetables.”

Not that she doesn’t love the hundreds of other heirloom vegetables — and heritage breed animals — she and Laferriere grow and raise. Bowlin revels in the genetic diversity, healthfulness and beauty of what she grows.

Bowlin feeds Ozzy, one of two draft horses that work the farm. / Staff Photo

In that way, she typifies the growing ranks of women who run farms and do everything from the manual labor to the marketing.

From 2002 to 2007, the number of women who run farms in the United States rose by 29 percent to 306,000, according to The Census of Agriculture, taken every five years. In the 20 years from 1987 to 2007, the number of American women principal farm operators, as they’re called, rose 133 percent.

While some women embrace industrial farming, most who enter the agricultural life are the primary drivers behind the local and healthy food movements, according to Leigh Adcock, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, an advocacy group.

“We women buy foods for our families. From that we discover that we want to grown our own,” Adcock said. “So we start out as gardeners. We end up really liking what we’re doing. We grow more. We go to farmers markets. We start selling to CSA customers, and then we quit our day job and do it full time on small-scale, diversified farms.”

For Bowlin, the path was similar. As a student at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, she was disturbed that the materials she used to make art were not environmentally friendly.

“I wanted to get into more natural arts,” she said.

So a search began, leading her into the world of sustainability and farming and to Central Carolina Community College, where she earned an associate degree in sustainable agriculture. It was there she met Laferriere, of Mendham. They moved to Wolcott, Vermont, a mecca of sustainable agriculture, a place where natural growers and women farmers abound.

“Lots of friendly competition going on up there,” Bowlin said, “but here natural farming is extremely lacking.”

Additionally, demand is high, she said, and New Jerseyans are willing to pay the price a natural farmer needs to get for organic produce. Last year the couple moved to Long Valley to farm.

The rise of women farmers in the Garden State is as robust as it is nationally. From 1987 to 2007, New Jersey saw a 135 percent increase in women farmers, while Morris County saw a 73 percent increase.

The state’s compactness makes it attractive to farmers, according to Robin Brumfield, a farm economist with the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. This year for the first time, she brought Annie’s Project to New Jersey; the federally sponsored education program for women farmers is now offered in 22 states. The six-session seminar was offered in Hackettstown and Cape May this past winter, and will be offered in expanded form in Somerset County this fall.

“Every county in New Jersey is considered a metropolitan area,” Brumfield said. “That’s a competitive advantage. Farmers are located next to their consumers so the thing to do is direct market and it just seems women are good at that.”

People who operate small New Jersey farms, she said, don’t have the expense of hauling their foods too far.

For Bowlin and Laferriere, who have formed a partnership with the landowners of the Totten Family Farm, the trip from Long Valley to the Mendham Farmers Market is 15 miles. Like many of the women farmers Brumfield has met, Bowlin works hard at marketing. Her duties as vendor coordinator for the new Mendham market included research, creating vendor applications, writing market bylaws and creating publicity fliers.

Additionally, the two farmers make CSA deliveries to South Orange, Montclair, Morristown and Short Hills and, when there are live-in interns, open the stand at the farm’s Naughright Road address.

Bowlin operates the walk-behind horse drawn cultivator pulled by Crystal. / Staff Photo

It’s a mistake to think women began producing fresh, natural foods and selling them locally only in recent decades.

In a paper entitled “The Contemporary American Farm Woman: 1860 to Present,” Stephanie Fisher, a NYU Gallatin School graduate, writes women were involved with growing foods naturally until the post-World War II era of large-scale animal feeding operations and factory farming.

Fisher, who plans to open a farm, said she will raise chickens in deference to the women farmers who came before her.

“Since homesteading chicken farming was the only thing women did for which they were paid actual wages, called ‘pin money,’” Fisher said. “Women lost control of chicken farming when industry caught on that chickens could be a profitable industry. That move took a lot of power away from women, who were previously selling eggs to their neighbors through rural social networks.”

For Bowlin, the chicken issue epitomizes why she devotes herself to retaining the genetic diversity of vegetables and animals instead of offering only a few hybrid genetic variations.

“The Cornish Cross chicken is the commercial breed of chicken you find in the grocery store,” she said. “It’s bred to have larger breasts because people like the breasts.”

But those chickens have a hard life, she explained. Their legs break when they try to walk under the weight of their unnaturally heavy breasts.

“They can’t reproduce a lot of times,” she said, “and they will have heart attacks. They can’t forage very well, either, so a farmer has to purchase more feed for them.”

Instead, she and Laferriere glory in raising rare-breed pastured animals — grass-fed Khatadin lamb, Large Black pigs and Belted Galloway cows — and rotating their pastures.

Similarly, Bowlin prefers hundreds of kinds of tomatoes to the thick-skinned hybrid supermarket tomato engineered to ship well and have a long shelf life.

Like many women farmers, she lives her goal every day when she produces healthy food for her family and the community. For the moment, she does not experience many of the factors that stress some women farmers, such as social isolation, lack of acknowledgment, farm loan discrimination or role overload.

“Thank goodness I don’t have a family of children now because I don’t know how I would manage that,” she said.

Eventually, Bowlin wants to offer workshops in the potato barn about natural arts and home arts — exactly what she sought when she left art school. Only after she attains stability and owns her own land will she have a child, she said.

In the meantime, she lives outside daily in a world of baby doll sheep and sungold tomatoes she plucks off the vine and pops into her mouth. A world of heirloom vegetables and flowers give her joy, including arugula; cantaloupe; yellow, purple, red, and orange carrots; cilantro; pumpkins; green, golden, and eight ball zucchini; Georgia collards, frisée, escarole, and much more.

Indulging Laferriere’s interest in medicinal and edible herbs, the couple also grows calendula, chamomile, comfrey, elecampane, wormword, sweet marjoram, and much more. They use the herbs to make tinctures and salves that they sell.

The bounty makes for long days filled with manual labor. A typical workday for Bowlin and Laferriere lasts 16 hours. Recently, she planted lettuce in a lightning storm, staying as close to the ground as she could.

“The lettuce needed to be planted,” she said. “Constantly, there’s something that needs to be done. If you miss one thing throughout your day, it’s going to be difficult to fit it in some other time because our days are always full.”

Sometimes even after the sun sets, Bowlin still hasn’t had enough of nature. She sinks into a hot bath in a $75 outdoor vintage clawfoot tub and, surrounded by pots of her own flowers, looks up at the stars.



Nepali Women Sow a Secure Future

Nepali Women Sow a Secure Future


Posted 07 September 2011, by Sudeshna Sarkar, Inter Press Service (IPS),



KATHMANDU, Sep 7, 2011 (IPS) – Learning a lesson from crop failures attributed to climate change, Nepal’s women farmers are discarding imported hybrid seeds and husbanding hardier local varieties in cooperative seed banks.

“I had a crop failure two years ago,” says Shobha Devkota, 32, from Jibjibe village in Rasuwa, a hilly district in central Nepal which is part of the Langtang National Park, a protected area encompassing two more districts, Nuwakot and Sindhupalchowk.

“The maize was attacked by pests, the paddy had no grain and the soil grew hard. I had a tough time trying to feed my three daughters and sending them to school.”

Since her marriage 17 years ago, Shobha had been sharing farming chores with her husband Ram Krishna. However, when he left for Dubai four years ago to work as a security guard, farming became her responsibility entirely.

Though she has never been to school and can only scrawl her name, Shobha and other women in the village who share similar backgrounds, are keenly aware of changing climate and its adverse impact on livelihoods.

“Daytime temperatures are rising, rainfall has become erratic and there are frequent landslides and hailstorms,” she says.

In 2007, when World Wildlife Fund-Nepal (WWF-Nepal) launched its Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone Support Project to conserve biodiversity and enhance livelihood opportunities by integrated management of land, forest and water resources, it commissioned a study on the impact of climate changes in Rasuwa.

The study by Resource Identification and Management Society-Nepal, after consultations with villagers and analysing data from 1978 to 2007, came up with alarming findings: There was an increase in seasonal, yearly and monthly temperatures in summer and monsoon while winter temperatures were decreasing.

Even more critically for agriculture, the average annual rainfall distribution showed a decreasing trend of nearly one mm per year.

The changes were believed to have led to frequent landslides, droughts, hailstones, and windstorms. In addition, there were frequent outbreaks of diseases like jaundice, typhoid and diarrhea.

Agriculture, the mainstay of the district, was hit by loss of arable land due to landslides, pests and crop diseases.

When WWF-Nepal started consultations with villagers on how to protect water resources and crops, the women pointed out that the indigenous seeds they had used in the past were better suited to the changing weather conditions.

“The local seeds we used could withstand both excessive rain and drought,” says Chandrakumari Paneru, a 27-year-old female farmer from Bhorle village and a university degree holder in a district where almost 60 percent of the population can only sign their names.

“But we had to use hybrid seeds imported from India as local stocks were decreasing. The hybrid seeds produced a good crop one year, but the next year they would prove sterile. It led to farmers using more chemical fertilisers and the soil turned hard while health hazards increased.”

Paneru is also a member of the Mahalaxmi Women’s Savings and Loan Cooperative. In a village that has no banks, it collects small sums of money from its 200-odd members to create a modest fund that can provide loans in times of need.

“As we were running our own cooperative, we felt we could do something more on our own,” says Paneru. “So we asked WWF-Nepal to help us set up a community seed bank.”

In 2010, Paneru and another member of the cooperative, Ambika Poudel, went to visit three community seed banks in the far western districts of Bardiya and Kailali to see how they worked.

Encouraged by the seed bank they saw at Masuria in Kailali district, also run by women, they established the Bhorle Community Seed Bank, the first of its kind in Rasuwa, with Nepali rupees 80,000 (about 1,084 dollars) provided by WWF-Nepal.

Operating from a room in a one-storey building, the seed bank today stocks 68 varieties of seeds, including grains like rice, maize and millets, and vegetables like tomato, green chilli, cauliflower and cabbage. The women’s cooperative runs from the adjacent room.

Members of the bank can take loans of one to two kg of seeds and have to repay twice the amount within six months.

This year, the seed bank put up a stall at an organic biodiversity fair to explain how local seeds meant better insurance against weather swings and how the bank operated.

Unknown to the women of Rasuwa, the government of Nepal has been following their example. The department of agriculture has established community seed banks in three more districts: Sindhuli, Sindhupalchowk and Dadeldhura.

“In 2009-2010, there was a severe maize crop failure in two districts in southern Nepal, Bara and Parsa, that imported about 30 percent of their seeds from India,” says Dilaram Bhandari, chief of the seed quality control centre in the agriculture department.

“The seed banks were started to boost the replacement of quality local seeds as well as preserve biodiversity,” Bhandari explained.

While women comprise more than 50 percent of Nepal’s nearly 29 million population, in many districts their numbers are higher due to outmigration of men in search of jobs. That has led to nearly 40 percent of farming now being done by women, according to Bhandari.

In the seed banks and other cooperatives run by the government, the state policy is to ensure at least 33 percent participation by women.

“We chose Rasuwa because it is much more vulnerable to climate change, being both a mountain community and a poor district,” says Moon Shrestha, senior climate change adaptation officer at WWF- Nepal. “We had to also keep in mind the capacity of the community to adapt to the changes.

“Today, the Bhorle Community Seed Bank is not just a pilot project it is a demonstration site as well.”


Related IPS Articles

 Trekking Trails Lead Nepal Women to Empowerment
 BANGLADESH: Tribal Women Take on Forest Ranger Roles
 NEPAL: Adapting to Climate Change Can be Simple
 INDIA: ‘Seed-Mothers’ Confront Climate Insecurity
 Gender Indicators for Global Climate Funds Still an Afterthought

Related Topics

  World at Work
  Civil Society: the New Superpower
  Women in the News – The Gender Wire
  Earth Alert: Confronting Climate Change
  Nepal: Revolution to Reform
  Developing Countries Coping With Climate Change
  LDCs: Least Developed, Most to Gain


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

Nature Reserve In Jordan Is Growing Organic


Nature Reserve In Jordan Is Growing Organic

Jordan is championing water-efficiency and chemical-free farming at the stunning Mujib nature reserve

Posted 28 August 2011, by Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet,


Following Qatar’s plans to build 1,400 organic farms, comes the announcement that a Jordanian nature reserve will be growing organic crops and medicinal herbs. The farm at the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is spread over 10 dunums and is designed to demonstrate the advantages of growing food using less water and chemicals to the local farmers. Conservationists suggested the organic farm following a decline in the quality and quantity of water in the nature reserve, which is home to over 90 rare plant species and numerous migratory birds.

Project coordinator, Ehab Eid told the Jordan Times that the water resources in the reserve face numerous challenges such as the heavy use of chemical pesticides and water extraction by local farmers. A decline in water is problematic as it negatively impacts species and threatens the nature reserve’s biodiversity.

Eid explained that the organic farm will hopefully raise awareness amongst farmers of the possibility of growing food using environment-friendly methods which don’t risk contaminating the Mujib reserve’s water supplies or depleting it unnecessarily. Conservationists have warned that the diversion of rivers into dams is driving away birds and threatening the future survival of unique fish species in the Mujib.

The Mujib Reserve, which is named after the valley which runs through it, is home to high-altitude summits and waterfalls. It also hosts various seasonal and permanent rivers which enable it to support the diverse flora and fauna (and attract migratory birds) within the 220 square kilometre biosphere nature reserve.

UNESCO declared the Mujib Nature Reserve a biosphere reserve earlier this year in July in recognition of the reserve’s effort to integrate nature conservation and community development. The UN states that biosphere reserves are sites for experimenting with and learning about sustainable development.

The organic farm recently established is no doubt an example of such efforts to promote sustainability by taking the lead and showing that organic farming not only works but that it is also economically sound. The organic farm at Mujib was setup by the Integrated Management of Water Sources in Mujib Nature Reserve Project which is implemented by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

:: Jordan Times

: Image via Giam/Flickr.

For more on food sustainability in the Middle East see:

Qatar To Invest In 1,4000 New Local Farms

Organic Farming On The Rise in Emirates

Global Land Grabs And The Middle East

Egypt To Grab Sudanese Land To Meet Its Wheat Needs

Urban Biodynamics: A Key to Revitalizing Our Food, Land & Communities

Urban Biodynamics: A Key to Revitalizing Our Food, Land & Communities


Posted 24 August 2011, by Lindsey Mann (Sustenance Design, LLC and Sugar Creek Garden), Georgia Organics,


Urban farming is likely here to stay.  It makes sense for those of us living in cities, who want to live as connected to our food as possible, to grow where we live.  Plus, if land-vitalizing practices such as Biodynamic Agriculture are practiced in our cities, we are improving our quality of life by enlivening the soil and atmosphere of our homes and communities, literally raising the vibration of our surroundings.

Photo at right: Lindsey Mann uses a low-tech approach to spray horn manure (prep 500) for soil health.

A relevant question is how to make Biodynamics work in the city.  At its core, Biodynamics is a true-farm, rural practice.  For example, its overarching notion of a ‘whole farm organism’ where, ideally, no inputs are imported can be difficult if not impractical in a city.  It just makes sense to compost from the waste stream of neighboring residences or restaurants instead of relying solely on that which comes from an urban garden with limited space.

But if we can’t keep to a fundamental tenant of Biodynamics in the city does it render it ineffective for us?  I think to the contrary.  I think we need to actively pursue and develop a new science (or art) of practicing Biodynamics in an urban environment. It is a richly life-supporting practice which I actually believe to be the future of organics, and it is time to bring its treasure and wisdom to the city.   How, becomes the question.  This article explains how we are translating Biodynamics into our urban farm, Sugar Creek Garden, in Decatur.

It’s too much to approach an overview here except to say that Biodynamic Agriculture was brought to light by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s when asked by Austrian farmers for advice as they noticed soil degradation over time using modern growing methods.  If you are not familiar with Biodynamics, I encourage you to research it, though I will say it’s taken me 10 years to begin to understand it via conferences, books, and finally a study group lead by Atlanta local Jim Jensen to read the all-important Bd bible, Lectures on Agriculture.
Hard to grasp in theory perhaps, but the practice comes naturally.  I’d recommend anyone interested in Biodynamics to stir.  ‘Stirring’ in the Biodynamic sense is a particular way of vigorously mixing special compost preparations (preps) in water to enliven the water and then use it as a spray for the farm.

When stirring, we activate the solar and lunar forces (or heating and cooling forces) by stirring to the right and then to the left, repeatedly. The sprays build immunity in the garden, improve soil quality and much more.  There are preps used for sprays and preps used for building compost.
Photo at right: A volunteer vigorously stirs the Valerian preparation for biodynamic compost pile.

All are made to different specifications using various herbs, such as dandelion, yarrow or nettle, which have different energetic actions with practical results.  The oak bark prep, for example, helps prevent plant disease, among other things.  But the focus is on the forces, not the materials.  They are made during specific seasons and moon influences, using various animal parts like a skull or manure.

Animals are important to traditional biodynamic farming because they contain astral forces which can be related to the way organic farming understands nitrogen.  Our ethical treatment of animals, and all of nature, is of high import and greatly affects forces and results. Practicing Biodynamics could begin with following moon planting phases (made easier by a Bd calendar, like Stella Natura), and a lot of stirring.  I find stirring one of the most therapeutic practices of gardening, which I imagine is not an uncommon experience. Try it if you have not!

Working with energy as opposed to form is, put very simply, more efficient.  I begin to wonder why schlepping heavy, smelly bags of composted, organic chicken fertilizer makes any sense at all when I can hold in one palm enough prep 500 (horn manure) to affect 3 acres; it is homeopathic.

No, the horn manure prep is not a precise trade for chicken fertilizer- at all, but when one uses all of the Biodynamic preparations, including the sprays and especially making compost with preps 502-507, it is a complete practice in itself.  Like organic agriculture, making compost is fundamental, which can negate the need for additional ‘fertilizer’ inputs. In truth, the practices of organic and Biodynamic growing are fundamentally different.

While organics is founded in physical reality as evidenced by reductionist science, biodynamics is considered a ‘spiritual science’ and is based primarily by observations of the non-physical realms. It manifests, though, in the superior nutritional quality of the food grown, the humus content of the soil and the soil’s continual renewal. The biodynamic compost heap is made in a particular manner, creating an “etheric body of forces that interweave, support and enhance the material realm” (adapted from Nancy Kay Anderson, Midnight Sun Designs, New Jersey).

One can have a greater impact in the physical when working with subtle realms, which also speaks to efficiency.  The preps are relatively inexpensive and can be made instead of purchased.  It might be advantageous for neighboring urban gardens to come together to share the work of making the preparations and the finished product. At Sugar Creek Garden, we currently use preparations made by Bio-Ag Resources from Foxhollow Farm in Kentucky.

The garden is just over a year old.  With a plethora of volunteer hours, we use the double-dig method to prepare the soil with shovels.  We mix granite sand and imported compost of varying grades into the existing clay-silt mix.  After initial digging, we use the Pfieffer field and garden spray to encourage humus formation.  It is not a ‘traditional’ prep but I feel it has been very effective for us in keeping the amount of weed regrowth/sprouting to a minimum.

We stir and spray 500 and Barrel Compost a few times in the spring and fall during soil preparation, 501 (horn silica) a few times in the summer for optimal ripening, and this spring/summer we have been working with a fermented tea of equisetum arvense (horsetail) and stinging nettle.  This tea is applied in dilution as a spray (per Maria Thun’s advice in Gardening the Biodynamic Way) and I have noticed plants respond well to it.  As with all the preps, it tangibly improves the quality and stability of energy in the garden and seems to have kept potential pest problems, such as squash bugs and aphids that arrived in an unusually arid June, at bay.

Our volunteers who trade for produce live nearby the garden and as Sugar Creek is still under an acre we have leftover spray after we stir some of the preps that we can bring home and ‘bless’ our own lots with the vital substance.  I feel this extends the reach and positive impact of the garden.
At Sugar Creek Garden, we keep bees in a Biodynamic top bar hive created by Jim Jensen.  He believes it to be a more colony-friendly method than the common Langstroth hive.  His aim is supporting long-term health of the bees.  We will wait until their second year to harvest honey; we do ‘manage’ them intermittently with hive inspections. We are also beginning to make our own compost on a scale that can eliminate the need to import any compost (or fertilizer!) to the garden- a critical step for us.

A trial compost heap is really kickin’ in the summer heat in a mostly shaded spot.  It was created with the biodynamic compost preps, locally-sourced goat manure, kitchen veggie scraps, fall leaves, granite sand and more. See This Link for a detailed description of the biodynamic compost making.

Bringing Biodyamics to the urban environment is being attempted in different regions of the country. In the most recent publication of Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s quarterly journal, young farmers in Tuscon describe their efforts.  They have the fortune of sourcing manure from nearby cows that are fed organically and are hoping to eventually have their own cows to create a closed-loop compost system.

Their location on Waldorf school grounds will support the loop, allowing them to feed students and capture food waste from the cafeteria.  Their decisions to divert from traditional biodynamics are based mainly on climate, such as choosing to use municipal reclaimed water for irrigation.  They feel this to be the most sustainable choice in an arid climate.

Perhaps the bridge is to see the ‘whole farm organism’ as our city or neighborhood.  We recycle waste in the garden that, via the biodynamic process, becomes enlivened, sensitive or even ‘intelligent’ as Steiner says, to inform the soil which grows our vitally-rich food.

We provide this food to residents of our city and a high-vibrancy place to work and visit.  Residents return their compostable scraps to the garden, and the cycle continues.  Though I admit it’s a stretch to see Atlanta as a biodynamic farm (!) it might help us to be more careful with our precious environment.  Perhaps a more refined version would be a neighborhood ‘village’ organism.  If my village of Oakhurst is the organism and the cycle is even more local, well, there develops (we hope) more of an awareness to be responsible for the care of our land among neighbors.

Biodynamics might be part of the solution towards revitalizing our urban land.  In my work as an edible landscaper I see one common theme in a cross-section of the hundreds of urban residences I have visited over the years: life force in our environment is depleted and retracted as a rule.

Jim Jensen says this eloquently.  Something to the effect of, “We don’t respect the spiritual life around us nor recognize our environment to be spiritual; we just see the physical. And the spiritual quality of our environment reflects this negation of life.”  YES!  Somewhere in our collective memory we can intuit this.  If we tap the well of our ancestral memory, are we not flooded with knowing that there is another, more respectful, deeply life and earth-connected way to live?

Other Resources

What is Biodynamics?” By the Organic Consumers Association

The Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association

Lindsey Mann has been studying earth’s living ecology as applied to food growing systems for over 10 years.  In 2006, she founded Sustenance Design, LLC, the first edible landscaping business in the Atlanta area, dedicated to creating beautiful, sustainable landscapes and empowering people to grow their own food.  Partnering with the Oakhurst Community Garden Project in Decatur, she began Sugar Creek Garden which, with the help of a team of incredible volunteers, pilots urban Biodynamics in the city and grows food for a local market.  Visit her on the web at