Tag: Sustainable agriculture

Food, glorious food!


This Post includes the details of a live broadcast of an important event Feeding the World While the Earth Cooks from Washington D.C. If you would like to watch that broadcast then it starts at:

6am US Mountain Time Zone

9am US Eastern Daylight Time

13:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT/UTC)

2pm British Summer Time

Full details below.

H’mm, maybe the days of Oliver are well and truly numbered!

A quick ‘search’ found the lyrics of the famous song from the musical Oliver.  Here’s a part of the chorus:

Food, glorious food!
Don’t care what it looks like —
Don’t care what the cook’s like.
Just thinking of growing fat —
Our senses go reeling
One moment of knowing that
Full-up feeling!

Not to be taken for granted.

However, a recent announcement from Arizona State University quite rightly points out the challenges that lay ahead in terms of feeding the world’s population.  Here are the details of that ASU announcement.

The future of food: feeding the world while the Earth cooks

Editor’s Note: This event is presented by Future Tense, a partnership between Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and Slate, that examines emerging technologies, public policy and society.

Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and Slate present Feeding the World While the Earth Cooks live from Washington, D.C., on April 12.

The program will air in it’s entirety on ASUtv.

The event considers the agricultural crisis that may ensue when today’s toddlers are parents themselves – a time when the world population will reach 9 billion. “A growing global middle class will demand more food. And climate change will leave farmers holding seeds that won’t sprout. By 2050, will our global appetite outgrow our agricultural capacity?”

Tune in to find out how everyone – growers, technologists, governments, business leaders, and carbon-conscious consumers – will be part of the solution.

Speakers include Nina Fedoroff, special advisor on science and technology to the Secretary of State; Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and President of Stone Barnes Center; Debra Eschmeyer, founder and program director of FoodCorps; and Bill Hohenstein, director of the USDA Global Change Program Office.

Let me highlight that the event is being carried live and is available to view.

The link you need to that ASUtv programme is here.  From where you will see that:

Arizona State University, the New America Foundation , and Slate present “Feeding the World While the Earth Cooks” live from Washington, D.C., this April 12 from 6:00 am to 12:15 pm. The program will air in it’s entirety onASUtv.

(From the New America Foundation): When today’s toddlers are parents themselves, they will face an agricultural crisis. The world population will reach 9 billion. A growing global middle class will demand more food. And climate change will leave farmers holding seeds that won’t sprout. By 2050, will our global appetite outgrow our agricultural capacity?

Join us to find out how everyone—growers, technologists, governments, business leaders, and carbon-conscious consumers—will be part of the solution.

The day’s speakers include Dr. Nina Fedoroff, Special Advisor on Science and Technology to the Secretary of State; Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and President of Stone Barnes Center; Debra Eschmeyer, Founder and Program Director of FoodCorps; Bill Hohenstein, Director of the USDA Global Change Program Office; and many more.

So if you want to watch that event then here are the UTC times.

April 12 from 6:00 am to 12:15 pm US Mountain Time equates to 13:00 – 19:15 UTC (2 pm to 8:15 pm British Summer Time)

Food, growing your own!

The powerful story about how food could change

Yesterday, I referred to a piece on the Chris Martenson blog about Joel Salatin, proprietor of Polyface Farms.  I want to stay with the theme of food, and the growing thereof, as this is yet another critically important aspect of how we all have to change our attitudes and behaviours in the face of a growing ecological disaster.

I’m using a recent item presented by Rob Hopkins of Transition UK fame.  The link to the full piece is here but I am presenting some extracts and further links in this article.

A while ago I was sent a book called ‘SPIN farming basics: how to grow commercially on under an acre’ by Wally Satzewich and Roxanne Christensen.  The book describes itself as a “step-by-step learning guide to the sub-acre production system that makes it possible to gross $50,000+ from a half-acre”.  SPIN, which stands for ‘SmallPlot Intensive’ (their website is here), has the feel of an important, big, and timely idea, and it is one that fits into Transition beautifully.  So what is it?

At the moment, when contemplating urban food production, the models that are used tend to be allotments, community gardens, planting productive trees or forest gardens, private gardens or even, perhaps, rooftop gardens.  Commercial urban market gardens tend to be thought of as needing to be on a larger scale and requiring significant infrastructure.  SPIN is based on the idea of ‘patchwork farming’, of seeing unused areas of urban land as having the potential to be worked commercially, viewed through the eyes of a commercial grower rather than someone growing for a hobby.  This is a profound shift of emphasis and one that I find very exciting.  Here is a short talk by SPIN farmer Paula Sobie of City Harvest which gives her take on what SPIN farming is:

Let me quote how that article from Rob concludes,

‘SPIN farming basics’ is just one of the books that SPIN produce.  It isn’t a step-by-step growing guide, rather it is an overview book on how to run such an operation.  I have no way of gauging whether their figures are accurate and how they might translate into the UK context.  I’m also not sure what they do about slugs.   There is also, I guess, a distant danger that should this really take off it might edge out more egalitarian forms of urban land use, such as allotments and community gardens.  But even if they are only half right  about their potential yields, it is still an impressive approach, and it calls for a powerful shift in focus for urban growers.  In the wake of the recent riots in a number of English cities, I am struck by the potential of this approach to shift thinking about how to create viable social enterprises and a sense of purpose for young people.  It has certainly got my brain ticking over pretty rapidly.

As the authors put it, “once you put on SPIN glasses, you start seeing dollar signs all over vacant and underutilised patches of land”.  As economic contraction worsens, and peak oil starts to bite, this form of land use will become the norm, as it has done every time in history that societies have faced similar sets of circumstances.  The obstacle to getting started has always been how to make this stuff viable.  That obstacle, thanks to the work of the SPIN folks, would appear to no longer exist, or at least to be greatly diminished.   If you don’t do it someone else will, and they likely won’t do it in a way rooted in social justice, community benefit, food security and Transition.  This is an important window in time to get moving on this.

This is a revolutionary text, an incendiary call to rethink urban land use in a way that ticks everyone’s boxes.  I can’t recommend it too highly.

It is rather hard to tell from the SPIN website which of the books they offer is this one… so for the last time ever, here is a link to the book on Amazon…. it is quite pricey, but one to get and share with as many people as you can…

The SPIN Farming website is chock full of fantastic ideas, advice and guidance.  Website is here. From which you will understand,


There’s a new way to farm. It’s called SPIN, and it is causing people to re-think not only how to farm, but what it means to be a farmer today.

  • Some practice SPIN in their backyards in the city. Others do it on front lawns in the suburbs.
  • Some do it part-time, others full-time.
  • Some are young and just starting out, while others are older and on their third or fourth careers.
  • Some have more money than they know what to do with, and others have less than they need.
  • Some are convinced the world is doomed, while others are trying to save it.

What unites them all is a calling to farm.

If you want to follow your calling, follow the system that shows you how to make money farming.

It’s one of the many beams from that wonderful rainbow just over the horizon!



We are what we eat!

There are a few sayings that I would have loved to have authored!  ‘We are what we eat‘, is one of them.  ‘The world reflects back what we think about most‘, is another.

But anyway, this article is not about sayings, it’s about food.  And to get straight to the point, I’m going to republish something that recently appeared on the Chris Martenson blog.

Joel Salatin, proprietor of Polyface Farms and highly-visible champion of sustainable farming, thinks modern humans have become so far removed from a natural connection to the food they eat that we no longer have a true understanding of what “normal” food is.

The rise of Big Ag and factory farming over the past century has conditioned us to treat food mechanically (as something to be recoded and retooled) vs. biologically. And we don’t realize that for all our industrialization and optimization, we’re actually getting less yield and less nutrition than natural-based processes can offer.

Whether we like it or not, the arrival of Peak Oil is going to force us to realize that our heavily-energy intensive practices can’t continue at their current scale. And with world population still increasing exponentially, we’ll need to find other, more sustainable ways of growing our food.

“What we view today as “normal,” I argue, is simply not normal. Just think about if you wanted to go to town 120 years ago. If you wanted to go to town, you actually had to go out and hook up a horse. That horse had to eat something, which means you had to have a patch of grass somewhere to feed that horse, which meant you had to take care of some perennial in order to feed that horse in order to go to town. And so throughout history, you had these kinds of what I call ‘inherent boundaries,’ or brakes, on how much a single human could abuse the ecology.

And today, during this period of cheap energy, we’ve been able to extricate ourselves from that entire umbilical, if you will, and just run willy-nilly as if there is no constraint or restraint. And now we are starting to see some of the outcome of that boundless, untied progression. And so the chances are, the way to bet, is that in the future we are going to see more food localization, we are going to see more energy localization, we are going to see more personal responsibility in ecological lifestyle decisions, because it’s going to be forced on us to survive economically. We are going to have to start taking some accounting of these ecological principles.”

Joel, his family, and the team at Polyface Farms dedicate themselves to developing environmentally, emotionally, and economically-enhanced food prototypes and advocate for duplicating their production around the world.

In this interview, Chris and Joel explore what constitutes truly sustainable agriculture and the reasons why our current system has departed so far from it, as well as practical steps individuals can take to increase their own personal resiliency around the food they eat (in short: “find your kitchen,” source your food locally, and grow some yourself).

There’s a recording of the interview and a transcript, both of them from here.  Want to know more about Joel Salatin? Keep reading!

Joel Salatin, Polyface Farms

Joel Salatin is one of the most visible and influential leaders in the organic food and sustainable farming movement. His family owns and managesPolyface Farms, which has been featured prominently in such modern food movement works as The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and the film documentary Food, Inc. Joel’s unconventional but highly innovative farming practices are inspiring millions to increase their nutritional and community resiliency by seeking out local sources of chemical-free food raised using natural process-based farming practices. These practices have been documented in the many books he has authored, including You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise (1998), The Sheer Ecstacy of Being a Lunatic Farmer (2010), and the upcoming Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (available for pre-order).

And if you think this is exciting and a powerful reminder of the speed at which the ‘New World’ is coming to us, then stop by tomorrow and read a recent article from Rob Hopkins from Transition Culture – will blow your mind away!