Saturday, April 26, 2014

Brooding baby chicks

We've got week-old Freedom Rangers out on pasture, foraging in the grass and soaking up sunshine. These future broilers are already showing happy signs of life, fighting over food, playing and sometimes ruffling their feathers at one another. Jason has built a proper home for them where we can control the temperature with heat lamps, secure them from predators, and be sure they have enough space to grow. Seneca is enjoying bossing them all around, although she'll be surprised in just a few weeks when this flock of 30 becomes adult-sized.

Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 April Work-ation

Thanks to all who came out for our 2014 April Work-ation!

The power of many hands helped us prepare 33 beds for planting, dig a new bed for asparagus, haul 13 loads of horse manure, innoculate 40 logs with mushroom spores, build 2 raised flower beds, sink 3 berry fence posts and begin the daunting task of cleaning up our new West field. And thanks, too, to all who helped in the kitchen, with washing up, with picking up rocks and building compost piles.

Please send along photos you wouldn't mind having me post on our site.

Here's to a successful season...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Is Food too Cheap?

It’s not easy getting behind the idea of purposefully making food more expensive.  Industrialized food production, global transportation networks, and the concentration of food distribution into mammoth corporations have made food cheaper than ever in developed countries. 

This can only be a good thing, right?  Particularly for poor people, who have to make every dollar stretch as far as possible.  But with endless articles about the new American farmer movement and the need to build a “sustainable food system”, we have to wonder if food is too cheap to make being a small-scale organic farmer financially sustainable.

China and the Coming Urban Waste Crisis

China is currently undertaking an unprecedented effort to repopulate 250 million people from rural to urban areas, with the goal of creating a “more sustainable” economy driven by urban consumerism rather than large-scale state investments.  Beyond the scale and state-orchestrated nature of this urbanization program, the plan is not particularly surprising: the world’s wealthiest countries are all primarily urban with economies that are driven by domestic consumption.

For the first time in human history, the majority of us live in cities.  One hundred years ago, 2 out of 10 people lived in cities, as of 2010 just over 5 of 10 people live in cities, and it is projected that 7 out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050.  One could say both positive and negative things about this development, but regardless of what you think of urban life, it is undoubtedly here to stay for the near future.

The process of urbanization has largely been caused by the transition from agriculture-based economies to modern economies based on manufacturing, technology, and services.  As farms have become largely mechanized and consolidated into large-scale operations, farmers without work have moved to cities to find new jobs.  This process has repeated itself in developed countries throughout the world.

From an ecological point of view, the urbanization of society presents a real dilemma. Humans need a fair amount of basic resources to survive: adequate food, fresh water, and homes with basic heating and sanitation.  At a Western standard of living, these needs greatly multiply.  Urban areas consist of great concentrations of people living in small geographic spaces.  These concentrations of people cannot produce the resources they need to live from within the area where they live, so they must be brought in from outside of the city. All of these needs must be met with resources and once used all of these resources produce waste.

Why Buying American Could Help Solve Our "E Problems"

What started first -- our addiction to cheap goods or the exodus of American manufacturing jobs overseas?  It’s hard to say, as each feeds the other: the more cheap goods we buy, the poorer we become and the more demand we create for cheap goods.  If left unchanged, this dynamic must inevitably trap a growing number of Americans in a low-wage economy and accelerate our environmental problems (the “E” problems). 

Most of us don’t think about the story behind each thing we buy. This is not surprising, as the story is both complex and it’s often not in the best interest of the producer to tell it to us.  A recent National Public Radio initiative, “The Planet Money T-shirt Project”, attempts to unpack one of these stories by following an order of 25,000 t-shirts from cotton farm to manufacturing to final delivery.  The project goes a long way towards explaining how our current consumer culture supports an unsustainable global economy.  

In a forthright interview, the CEO of Crystal, the Columbian company that makes the women’s Planet Money t-shirts, sums up the operating principles of modern production concisely: 

The garment worker commute in Bangladesh.