Posted by & filed under Economics, General.

About a week ago, my son and I worked out in the garden, preparing for fall – pulling up old plants and spreading seeds for a cover crop to help enrich the soil with nitrogen before winter approaches. We also dug up our first ever potato crop which gave us about 3-4 ice cream pails full of potatoes (I probably should have left more of them in the ground to mature longer, but we got excited when we saw the creamy skins peeking out of the soil).

Later that day I went to the local grocery store and the first thing I see is a big display of potatoes: 99 cents on sale (regular price $3.99). Even at $3.99 the price is ridiculously low, but at 99 cents, nobody is even breaking even with their costs. The farmer/landowner, field workers, grocery store/distributor/transportation all need to be paid… from a dollar?

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Posted by & filed under Demonstration Sites, Peak Oil, Urban Projects.

KrisCan visits Eric Toensmeier in his Holyoke, Massachusetts home garden that was transformed from a bleakly barren backyard into a thriving oasis of year-round, productive perennial fruits and vegetables. Eric talks about how waste heat from factories and power plants can be utilized for greenhouse gardening; urban food security and self-reliance in the face of diminishing petroleum supplies; edible forest gardens and how they mimic the patterns and designs of ecosystems to create productive perennial polycultures.

Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

FoodWaterShelter (FWS) is very happy to offer you our first Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in 2015. We’d love to have you join us in Arusha Tanzania from January 25 thorough February 5, 2015 as we host our fifth PDC!

This is an incredible two week course that provides you with concepts and skills for improving self-reliance and sustainably. Our courses have been attended by over 100 students from all over the world; from East Africa to Europe, India to Chile, the USA to Australia. Whether you’re a gardener or small scale farmer, live in a city or in the country, support your family or a whole community, this course offers so much.

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Posted by & filed under Economics, General.

The Gates Foundation is spending half a billion dollars a year to ‘feed the world’, most of it aimed at Africa. But as GRAIN discovers, it is imposing a model of high-tech, high-input ‘green revolution’ farming, complete with GMOs, agro-chemicals and a pro-business neoliberal agenda, all in an alliance with corporate agriculture.

A business advisor for TechnoServe discusses farming techniques with a Ugandan
farmer. Technoserve is the NGO receiving the most funds from the Gates Foundation
— a US-based NGO that develops ‘business solutions to poverty’.

Listening to farmers and addressing their specific needs. We talk to farmers about the crops they want to grow and eat, as well as the unique challenges they face. We partner with organizations that understand and are equipped to address these challenges, and we invest in research to identify relevant and affordable solutions that farmers want and will use. — The first guiding principle of the Gates Foundation’s work on agriculture (1)

At some point in June this year, the total amount given as grants to food and agriculture projects by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surpassed the US$3 billion mark.

It marked quite a milestone. From nowhere on the agricultural scene less than a decade ago, the Gates Foundation has emerged as one of the world’s major donors to agricultural research and development.

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Posted by & filed under Health & Disease, Processing & Food Preservation.

Olives ripe on the tree. Photos: Aisha Abdelhamid

For those fortunate folks living in the northern hemisphere, now is the right time to find fresh organic olives at your local market. For an extra special treat that carries the sunshine of summer into the late days of winter, start your olive brining in the autumn. Doing it yourself is easy, and the advantages are many, not the least of which is the great, naturally tart and meaty flavor of the beloved olive.

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Posted by & filed under Biological Cleaning, Irrigation, Land, Soil Conservation, Storm Water, Swales, Water Conservation, Water Harvesting.

The jungle garden

I am not Bill Mollison or Geoff Lawton, they will both happily report; rather, I am but a humble novice when it comes to permaculture, experimenting my way through ideas, mimicking when I can, improvising when research falls short. And, it was somewhere in between mimicry and improvisation that I came up with what I’m calling overflowing circles and slow-flow swales.

I wanted to catch water, of course. That was the number one objective. In Panama, the rains seem to come in mad fits — bursts of hurricane-like downpours that would rip through the garden and food forest, streaming into the nearby lake and leaving nothing but debris behind. Panama is a country of two seasons, which are referred to as summer (dry, November through April) and winter (wet, May through October). Knowing summer would eventually come made watching all that winter water rush away even harder. What a waste!

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Posted by & filed under Compost, General, Urban Projects.

I am always observing and making decisions on the run, doing a sequence of brief tasks and changing mid stream from what I had previously planned. Multi-tasking is the norm in a self-reliant way of life, so different from the specialisation and repetitive focus that characterises work in the conventional economy. When performing a long sequence of small tasks in a diverse and integrated permaculture system, [one] needs many different tools. – David Holmgren, ‘Permaculture Pocket Knives’ article, April 2012

I have a confession to make. I’m not really very good at growing things. That’s a problem when you start delving into permaculture, which, after all, means ‘permanent agriculture’. And there are so many areas to consider: water and soil, space and seeds, companion and sequential planting, harvesting and storing… None of these are skills I grew up with. My family had a vegetable garden and they composted, but I never paid much attention. You cannot study one area without overlapping into another and while that is an interesting, interconnected process, it also means there is a lot to learn, particularly if you are trying to minimize inputs when growing food. I find that when you are enthusiastic and new at something, it can be irritating to others who have developed skills over many years and feel that you are stepping into their field of expertise. A fair point as permaculturalists seem to have something to say on virtually every topic, including those they may not actually know much about. But hopefully it’s better to be learning, asking for advice from others and making those connections rather than sitting on the sidelines feeling overwhelmed and end up doing nothing.

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Posted by & filed under Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure.

Fred Kirschenmann has been involved in sustainable agriculture and food issues for most of his life. He currently serves as both a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and as President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. He also still provides management oversight of his family’s 2,600 acre organic farm in south central North Dakota. He was recently named as one of the first ten James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards which recognizes visionaries in creating more healthful, more sustainable, and safer food systems. He is the author of a book of essays which track the development of his thought over the past 30 years; Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays by a Farmer Philosopher, published by the University of Kentucky Press.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, Society.

This bill of rights for corporations will blow up the sovereignty of parliaments.

On this day a year ago, I was in despair. A dark cloud was rising over the Atlantic, threatening to blot out some of the freedoms our ancestors lost their lives to secure. The ability of parliaments on both sides of the ocean to legislate on behalf of their people was at risk from an astonishing treaty, that would grant corporations special powers to sue governments. I could not see a way of stopping it.

Almost no one had heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, except those who were quietly negotiating it. And I suspected that almost no one ever would. Even the name seemed perfectly designed to repel public interest. I wrote about it (1) for one reason: to be able to tell my children that I had not done nothing.

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects, People Systems, Society, Village Development.

This film examines a cooperative of the Brazilian Landless Movement (MST) in the South of Brazil, which struggled for access to land and then transitioned to ecological agriculture, or agroecology. This MST cooperative is demonstrating the possibility of an alternative model of flourishing rural life, which provides thriving livelihoods for farmers, produces high quality and low cost food for the region, and rehabilitates the earth.

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