Home » Posts tagged 'food production'

Tag Archives: food production

Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Are Small-Scale Farms the Key to Feeding the World?

Are Small-Scale Farms the Key to Feeding the World?

In the United States, agricultural production has been shifting to larger farms for many years. The demand for cheaper food and lower production costs has turned fertile fields and small operations into industrial plots and factory farms.

Today, these large-scale operations account for most of U.S. food production. However, due to high soil erosion rates and a loss of biodiversity, industrialised farming doesn’t offer a long-term solution to the world’s food crisis. If anything, it reduces food security and dooms future generations to barren, un-farmable land.

It seems the U.S. has much to learn from countries like China and Africa, where small-scale farmers produce a vast majority of food. Here, family-run operations and rural farms thrive, and sustainable solutions are readily adopted, many of which would greatly benefit the Americas.

Organic Food

The most obvious alternative to industrial farming is organic farming. Organic farms tend to take up less land and produce almost the same amount of food as conventional small-scale farms. Certified organic cropland has increased nearly every year since 2002, and organic sales in every food category have also multiplied in recent years. In 2016, fruits, vegetables and milk accounted for 55% of total growth, despite many of them costing two to three times more than conventional products.

As more small-scale organic farms appear, the price of their livestock and agricultural products will likely decrease. Meanwhile, consumers will continue to become more aware of how their food choices impact the environment. When considering the negative impacts of industrial farming, they’ll come to discover that organic agriculture is cheaper for society and healthier for the planet. Their support will likely hasten the widespread adoption of this more sustainable farming method.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


What my Linux adventure is teaching me about our possible future

What my Linux adventure is teaching me about our possible future

I am a Linux ambassador of sorts. I’ve been using the Linux computer operating system since 2013. I can still remember the light feeling I had the day I broke free of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

No more constant worries about viruses hijacking or corrupting my computer. No more outlays to pay for each upgrade. No more worries that the next upgrade will be really lousy and buggy and remain so for months or even years. And, above all, no more freezes in the middle of my work and work lost as a result.

Now eight years into my Linux adventure I am wildly satisfied with that choice. That remains the case even though my most recent upgrade did not go as planned and got stretched out over several days. But this latest upgrade has made me think hard about why I stick with Linux and what the Linux way of doing things can tell us about a possible, better future.

I think some of the principles and structures I’m seeing are found in practically every pursuit, agriculture, education, the arts, politics, and commerce. If you are growing some of your own food, you are practicing these principles and creating similar structures. If you are teaching outside existing educational systems, you are likely doing the same. If you are writing, painting, singing, dancing or somehow expressing yourself artistically, you are probably already moving toward the world that the Linux community is pioneering in its own corner. If you created a business not only to have a livelihood, but because you want to change the world, you are almost certainly on the same path.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

COVID-19 and bad weather have hammered Okanagan orchardists. But low prices are the biggest threat to their survival. First of two.

Between COVID-19, labour shortages and bad weather, Sukhdeep Brar has had a rough year growing apples. But as giant grocery chains drive wholesale prices down to pennies a pound, he says the struggle to keep apple production in B.C. started long before this COVID-19 pandemic.


We still need alternatives to supermarkets – perhaps now more than ever

If you were a child in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you will remember that food shopping meant traipsing round several specialist shops whilst your mother chatted to the knowledgeable shop staff about what was available that week. But even by then, this way of buying food was already in decline. In March 1948, the London Co-operative Society had opened Britain’s first fully self-service store in Manor Park, East London. And this changed everything.

The massive expansion and dominance of supermarkets has had profound impacts on most aspects of our lives, sometimes positively, but certainly not always. By 2019, the traditional independent retailers made up just 5% of the entire food sector.

2019 share of UK food market:

The rise of the supermarkets had a devastating impact on the local independent specialist food shops.

Butchers – in 1960, there were some 43,000 butcher’s shops in the UK; by 2019, it was nearer 6,000.

Fishmongers – in the late 1940s, there were around 8,000 fishmongers, and today there are about 950.

Greengrocers – from 43,000 in 1950, by 2018 there were 2,500.

And, as the national economy grew, so the average proportion of household income we spent on food dwindled from 33% in 1957 to 16% in 2019, although this masks significantly higher proportions for low income families.

Food as a Social Event

Past generations had a far better understanding of how their food was produced than we do and eating together was a major social event to be savoured. Being the first industrialised country, in the UK we have had more time to lose the folk memory of rural life and producing food, and with it the social aspect of eating together as families…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Shame of Global Hunger

The Shame of Global Hunger

We live in a world of plenty, resource rich, financially wealthy, but despite this abundance an estimated 700 million people go hungry every day. Millions more are food insecure, meaning they may have food today, but have no idea if they will have any tomorrow or next week. Additional millions can only afford nutritionally barren, poor quality food laced with salt and sugar, increasing the risk of illness and obesity.

According to a detailed report published by the Global Hunger Index (GHI) in September 2020 if rich countries doubled “their aid commitments” to $330 billion, and supported poor countries to improve “agricultural R&D, technology, innovation, education, social protection and trade facilitation,” the world could be free of hunger by 2030. In fact with effective food distribution under the stewardship of the UN World Food Programme hunger could be eradicated long before then; there is an abundance of produce and foodstuff in the world.

Hunger and malnutrition statistics are disturbing and shameful; the GHI lists 11 countries with ‘alarming levels of hunger’, eight of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa; two are war zones: Yemen and Syria. A further 31 nations (26 are in Africa) are listed as having ‘serious levels of hunger’. Since 2015, after years of decline, the number of undernourished people has been increasing yearly: from 2018 to 2019 it grew by 10 million, and Covid has intensified this trend. Hunger is a violent act, a shameful scar on our collective consciousness that now affects 9% of the world population – 60% of whom are women and children. The World Health Organization (WHO) state that around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to under-nutrition.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Saving Farmland, Supporting Young Farmers

Zero Input Agriculture

Zero Input Agriculture

On Tuesday afternoon, 24th November, Evita and I ventured to meet Shane at his 40 acres near Pomona. I first heard Shane on an Abundant Edge podcast in July 2020. It was his first podcast and it was incredible to hear him talk about growing food without using inputs such as irrigation, fertiliser, and imported nutrients. It’s the first podcast I have heard in the permaculture space where this approach has been seriously taken and where results are very encouraging. I messaged Shane after checking out his blog enquiring about getting some of his seeds to try. While we are in a cool temperate climate about 400km away and he is the subtropics I was keen to try seeds from plants grown without irrigation as water is often our limiting factor. Shane was very responsive to my message and we communicated many times about seed saving, plant breeding, and goats. He did send me some seeds and cuttings and I promised to return the exchange by gathering and sending our local bunya nuts in February to contribute diversity to his breeding program. So, it was somewhat serendipitous that we were able to have a holiday nearby and visit in person.

A smiley Shane greeted us and we enthusiastically went for a walk within minutes. Shane’s philosophy of zero input is immediately evident as there are weeds everywhere. “The weeds are repairing the paddocks from decades of cattle overgrazing and cutting them or removing them
around trees will make little real difference in their long life.” “It’s just not worth the time and effort. If the weeds do outcompete the tree for light, water, nutrients, then so be it, we want strong trees.” So Shane has various widely spaced rows of trees that are densely planted with as many genetics of each type as possible…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Extreme flooding from slow hurricanes a danger to farms

Extreme flooding from slow hurricanes a danger to farms

Preface. Yet another danger from climate change for agriculture will be slow hurricanes and cyclones dumping a foot or more of rain over a few days such as the recent hurricanes Harvey (2017), Florence (2018), and Dorian (2019).

Journal reference: Zhang G, et al. 2020. Tropical cyclone motion in a changing climate. Science Advances.


Le Page M. 2020. Slower-moving hurricanes will cause more devastation as world warms. NewScientist.

Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in 2017, killing 68 people and costing $125 billion in damages. One reason it was so destructive is that it moved unusually slowly and remained over the same area for days – and as the world warms, there are going to be a lot more slow-moving tropical cyclones like Harvey, according to high-resolution climate models.

A slow-moving tropical cyclone dumps far more rain in one place than a fast-moving storm of a similar size and strength. The winds can also do more damage, because they batter structures for longer.

Harvey, for instance, dumped more than a metre of rain in parts of the Houston area. “Imagine that much water falling in one spot,” says Gan Zhang at Princeton University. “It is too much for the infrastructure to handle.”

Other recent storms, including Hurricane Florence in 2018 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 have also been slow-moving, leading to suggestions that climate change is increasing the odds of slow-moving storms.

Now Zhang and his colleagues have run about 100 high-resolution simulations of how tropical cyclones behave in three types of conditions: those between 1950 and 2000, those similar to the present and also various future scenarios.

They saw a marked slowdown as the world warms, due to a poleward shift of the mid-latitude westerly winds. It is these prevailing winds that push cyclones along and determine how fast they travel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bill Vitek: In Pursuit of Better Agriculture (and a Better Society)

Bill Vitek: In Pursuit of Better Agriculture (and a Better Society)

“The way we farm and the way we think are connected—that’s our premise.”

n December 16th, Olivia Malloy was joined by Bill Vitek for a conversation about his work with perennial agriculture. Among his many other roles, Mr. Vitek, a philosopher, educator, and scholar, is the editor of New Perennials Publishing. New Perennials Publishing recently released The Perennial Turn: Contemporary Essays from the Field, a collection of works that emphasizes the importance of perennial agriculture in a larger societal context. Mr. Vitek shares both the finer details of the industry and the broader implications of our collective disconnect from how farming is practiced.

Let’s start with some context. Can you briefly explain the idea of perennials and the current state of the agriculture industry? 

Sure, let’s do a little background. Ten or 12 thousand years ago—so, we have to go way back—humans around the globe, for reasons we don’t really understand, started to experiment with growing their own food rather than hunting and gathering. They didn’t know it, but the plants they selected were annual plants. The ones that emerged generations later are the ones we still primarily consume today: wheat, corn, and rice. Those annual plants require a certain kind of human activity—clearing land every year, keeping weeds out because these plants have to come up from seeds, So, annual plants have fed us for ten or 12 thousand years. They’ve also required an enormous amount of human labor and, now, fossil energy. They actually encourage weed growth, so there is a lot of energy put into weeding. They’ve done a lot of damage to the climate and have been a major contributor to species extinction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Running Out Of Soybeans?

Several factors are conspiring to weaken the reliability of our food production systems, warns Christian Westbrook, publisher of the website IceAgeFarmer.com

We’re seeing a shortening of the growing season for important crops due to weather trends and changes in the solar cycle.

Our food production system, which is highly dependent on chemical inputs and fossil fuels, is becoming increasingly brittle.

And we have more vulnerability due to the global nature of modern food supply chains. Crop shortages/failures in one part of the world impact all markets now.

For example, soybean supply is tightening as bad weather in South America and increased buying by China are hitting at a time when global stocks are already low.

As the world population grows, climate instability continues, and more countries are able to economically compete for resources, experts foresee future demand that may prove overwhelming vs supply:

What if several of the world’s biggest food crops failed at the same time?

In the past several decades, many of the world’s major breadbaskets have experienced shocks – events that caused large, rapid drops in food production. For example, regional droughts and heat waves in the Ukraine and Russia in 2007 and then again in 2009 damaged wheat crops and caused global wheat prices to spike by substantial amounts in both years. In 2012 heat and drought in the United States slashed national corn, soybean and other crop yields by up to 27 percent. And yields of important food crops are low and stagnating in many countries due to factors including plant diseases, poor soil quality, poor management practices and damage from air pollution.

At the same time, many experts assert that world food production may have to double by 2050 to feed a growing population and satisfy rising demand for meat, poultry and dairy products in developing countries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why the Climate Change Committee have got it wrong on land, food and farming

Last week I spent what I must admit to have been two rather depressing sessions participating in a zoom conference convened by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) in order to share their vision and strategy for reaching net zero emissions by 2050, with a particular focus on the role of land use and agriculture.

Outside of food and farming, much of what the CCC are proposing seems eminently reasonable. It’s the kind of thing one would imagine – a massive and rapid move towards renewable energy generation, moving away from internal combustion engines, improving building insulation to reduce energy loss, reduction in car travel and slowing of demand for flights. But when it comes to land use, farming and food, in my opinion they’ve got it completely wrong.

A rather crude summary of what they’re envisaging includes the following – a very significant increase in agricultural biofuel production; 10% of the farmed area planted with trees; an increase in afforestation rates to at least 30,000 hectares per year across the U.K. by 2025 and an average of 40,000 hectares per year in the 2030s, plus a “land sparing” agenda including dramatic increase in yields from arable crops, a significant reduction in livestock including ruminants, and no presumption of any increase in soil carbon.

To add insult to injury, on the diet side, they propose a significant switch towards plant-based diets without making any differentiation between livestock which are part of the problem (intensive chickens, pig and dairy units) and those which are absolutely a necessary part of the solution (grass fed and mainly grass-fed beef, lamb and dairy cows).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

INFO SHEET: Start a community garden Plan of Management template

INFO SHEET: Start a community garden Plan of Management template

COMMUNITY GARDEN AUSTRALIA has been working with local government and new community garden groups to formulate community garden management plans.

What follows is a set of common topics that community gardeners have found useful in devising a management plan. This is followed by link to examples of community garden management plans.

The plans are proactive and need not be complicated. Their advantage lies in setting up decision making, conflict resolution, communication and planning processes before garden development starts. Time spend in developing management plans is seldom wasted.

Devising a management plan should be the second activity undertaken by a new community garden groups, following the formation of the core group and before applying for access to land (which includes submission of the management plan and draft design). Once access is given and legal details are finalised, then you can start the design and construction of the community garden.

Formation of core group > development of management plan > gain access to land (submit management plan and draft design with application ) approval and legal details detailed design process > construction > ongoing maintenance and management.

Community garden infrastructure planning
Participatory processes, like this garden planning session, are necessary for the smooth fnctioning of community gardens.

The process of developing your community garden management plan:

  • ensures that your group discusses topics that have arisen repeatedly in the starting and operation of community gardens and has processes to deal with them
  • demonstrates to local government or other landholder that your group has the organisational capacity and persistence to manage an area of land.

Examples of plans of management…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Food for Thought’: Reflections on an organic life

Phil Haughton is old friend of mine, best known as the founder of three Bristol food shops flying under the banner of The Better Food Company. I wanted to say a few words about his book, Food for Thoughtwhich ‘celebrat[es] the joy of eating well and living better’.

I much admire the man and all his achievements, particularly in Bristol, where he virtually pioneered the concept of a wholly organic food shop, but also because I knew that amongst his formative influences was a period when he lived in a commune in southwest Scotland.

The Haughton family are something of a Bristol dynasty and it has been my very good fortune to make the better acquaintance of two or three of them, notably Barny, MBE (services to Bristol) who established the Square Food Foundation and before that ran several amazing restaurants. I also know his sister Liz and his brother Luke, who made a beautiful kitchen for the Sustainable Food Trust’s base in Totterdown, which is still giving good service some 28 years later!

‘Food for Thought’ is a delightful combination of short essays and interviews, which include stories about his past and thoughts about many of the key food and farming challenges of our time, illuminated with evocative pictures and recipes. It is an easy read, and one which doesn’t disappoint, resuscitating memories, which I share with Phil, of living in communes in the early 1970s.

His version, Lothlorien, was a smallholding in Dumfries and Galloway. The descriptions of the times shared together during a few golden years, which he admits were punctuated with the stresses and strains which inevitably accompanied communal living, are absolutely enchanting, particularly the pictures! There is something about pictures of those back to the land experiments in the 1970s which convey an atmosphere which, for anyone who shared those experiences would testify was truly life enhancing!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Meatpacking Plants Idled, Workers Sent Home As Pandemic Rages In North America 

Meatpacking Plants Idled, Workers Sent Home As Pandemic Rages In North America 

In the last five days, the US reported over one million new COVID-19 cases with total virus-related deaths swelling over 311k. The resurgence of coronavirus cases is now affecting meatpacking plants.

According to Bloomberg, Cargill Inc. was forced to idle one of its plants in Canada after an employee tested positive. JBS, the world’s top meat producer, told thousands of workers with high risk of exposure to stay home, while Sanderson Farms Inc. is experiencing high absenteeism at its plants.

Jon Nash, head of protein for Cargill in North America, told Bloomberg that the meatpacking industry’s supply chain meltdowns from earlier this year won’t be seen this time around. He said the industry is “better prepared to handle the challenges. We know what we are dealing with.”

“We know a lot more than we ever did and I think our food supply chain is resilient to the point we will be O.K,” Nash said.

Cargill temporarily shuttered operations at its beef processing plant in Ontario due to “an abundance of caution as our local workforce deals with the community-wide impacts of Covid-19.”

April Nelson, a spokeswoman for the company, said Cargill decided to shut down the plant because of community spreading in Guelph, a Southwestern Ontario city.

Since US cases, hospitalizations, and deaths began to accelerate in October, JBS made the call earlier this month to send 5k workers home.

Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, Inc., said workers are testing positive for the virus as cases soar in Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Louisiana.

“We’re still running and we’re still running at our capacity, but there have been more instances of absentees now than we had all summer or back in the spring,” Sanderson said at an earnings call Thursday. “It’s becoming more of a challenge for us right now than it has been since this pandemic started.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rekindling Family Farming at Owl Oak Acres

Rekindling Family Farming at Owl Oak Acres

Just before the sun sets, Evelyn (Evie) offers up the evening feed to all the animals on her family’s small ranch, Owl Oak Acres, in Red Bluff, California. She goes around from pen to pen, patiently throwing dinner over the fences to the eighteen ewes, the thirteen lambs, the two rams, the two goats, the twenty chickens, and the two horses. At twelve years old, she’s more than competent; in fact, it seems like second nature to her. But, for a young kid, it’s not always the most fun thing to do.

Her mother, Dawn Graham, explains this well. “When it’s dark, rainy and cold, and Evie has to put on her muck boots, overalls, and coat; when she has to go slop through the mud and deal with screaming animals and drive out to the barn to keep the feed dry… Yes, she gets very frustrated. But, there’s this understanding: ‘this is where my food and clothing come from. I’m the one doing this.’”

Dawn knows very well the rewards of this deep intimacy of relationship, as she was raised this way just a few miles down the road. “Growing up,” Dawn says, “we didn’t have a whole lot of money, but we ate what we raised.” This was, she states, a truer wealth. “We lived on a creek, so we had fresh blackberries. Mom would make soups, broths, sauces; she was always canning vegetables and spinning wool.”  Dawn’s mother, Jane, was the one who started it all. She got a few Corriedale sheep and never turned away from them. “We were too poor to have a TV growing up, so I would sit with her and scour a fleece with her. We’d flick it, card it, comb it. I remember collecting oak galls and dying the fleeces with them too.”

When it was time for Dawn to attend college, she left the farm and moved to upstate New York. There, she met her husband, John, and with him, a very different life’s journey began. They traveled all over the country together, living from suburb to suburb. They started a family — a son, Jarod, and daughter, Evie. Eventually, Dawn began dreaming of returning to the country. It wasn’t until five years ago that they auspiciously ended up finding a home within a few miles from where she grew up.

It was six weeks or so before Evie’s 8th birthday when Dawn and Evie went to look at a farmhouse on 40 acres in Tehama County that John had found on Zillow. Evie walked into the house, took one look, and immediately said, “yep, this is the one. I’m home!” And so it was. For the first year, Evie and Dawn hunkered down at the farmhouse while Jarod and John lived closer to the city, for John’s work. After that first year, they were all able to live together at the ranch. They started collecting a few sheep so that Evie could participate in the local 4H club. Their herd grew quickly, and currently, they manage eight Merino sheep for wool and twenty-five Dorper sheep for meat.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase