December 16, 2015

Good reading: Farmers of Forty Centuries; Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan; FH King 1911 and the The Culture of Vegetables and Flowers. Sutton, 1913. The Small Farmers's Journal often lists booksellers of Farm Literature and has reprinted some treasures within its own pages. I'll post a list of some great old farming books on the sidebar soon. In the meanwhile, and its not as satisfying as having those beautiful old pages sliding through your fingers, here are a couple of sites online that have great digitalized collections: "The Core Historical Literature of Agriculture (CHLA) is a core electronic collection of agricultural texts published between the early nineteenth century and the middle to late twentieth century. Full-text materials cover agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal science, crops and their protection, food science,forestry, human nutrition, rural sociology, and soil science". Free digitalized library on line with a collection of books on holistic agriculture, health and self-sufficient homestead living. An excellent online collection of classic small farm books

December 14, 2015

I was searching google images to find the type of steam tractor that one might find in 1901 for a familial research project and I came across this : from the Saskchewan Archives. Regina Indian Industrial School, J.A. Sinclair photo, 1904

November 5, 2013

James Barber's soft neck garlic

I have planted my garlic in the new beds on our new farm on the island where I grew up. I have recently returned here after 20 years of farming elsewhere. The garlic is the first cash crop I have put in to this soil and it is a blessed auspicious beginning. I looked hard for a source of interesting soft neck garlic because I intend to braid and weave them into edible wreaths for value added sales. I stumbled upon the most precious of strains and now have a rainbow of potential sprouting in composted beds that I visit and contemplate daily. The garlic came from a friend of a friend and has a history. James Barber, was a chef and a celebrity and a lovely man supportive of small farmers in B.C. and fresh local food. He was a pioneer of the local food movement. I used to chat with him on the ferry coming over from the gulf island morning milk run and we would talk about food and farming as the ferry wove its way through the foggy channels.He was also a regular customer at the markets. What I didn't know then was that he had a green thumb himself and bought a little farm in Cowichan when he left the gulf islands. He traveled, and collected garlic, in Sicily, and France, and he loved colour and sought flavour. It is this garlic that I have planted in my garden; saved since his death in 2007 by his son and now secure in my collection. I am going to call it Jbets (James Barber's European Travels Softneck). Thanks James!

GMO.... God Move Over

September 11, 2013

Putting the Cartel Before the Horse The ETC Group

August 16, 2012

John Holloway: 'In the Anti-Worlds of Daily Struggles the World Beyond Capitalism Is to be Found'
Published on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 by The Guardian

Marxist sociologist John Holloway argues that a world after capitalism is already being imagined in struggles around the world. In the first of a six-part series, which will see an author's words accompanied by animation by students at Central Saint Martins college, Carolina Aguirre, Lucas Gloppe and Magnus Lenneskog interpret Holloway's words.

June 2, 2012

edible landscape

I am plowing soil and putting seeds in the ground in a zone 7.5 having leased out my zone 4.5 homestead to capable young farmers. Everything is different here: the soil is black and deep by knee high with a gorgeous underlay of volcanic silts sand and clay. I have equipment to work every aspect of the farm and a charge card to buy more. There are no marketing hats to wear, whatever I cut to basket is out the door and on the plate without one littlest saleswomanship effort. The plates look exceptionally appealing. I have a patron. It is his farm. I am paid very well. It is a little piece of heaven and so sweet to design an edible landscape in a zone where fig and bay and persimmon are possible.

January 31, 2012

Farmer's Challenge Monsanto

A U.S. District Court hearing in downtown New York today could determine the eventual fate of several organic farmers from across the country, including some in upstate New York.

The hearing centered on a "pre-emptive" suit led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGTA), against agricultural giant Monsanto. In it, OSGTA says it brought "this action to protect [farmers] from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic seed." Monsanto filed to dismiss the case, and today lawyers for both sides made their arguments in front of U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald.

Read more in today's Village Voice

And at OSGATA Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association

And Occupy Big Food

January 15, 2012

India to charge Monsanto for biopiracy

An Indian government agency has agreed to sue the developers of genetically modified (GM) eggplant for violating India's Biological Diversity Act of 2002. India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is alleging that the developers of India's first GM food crop—Jalna-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) partnered with St. Louis–based seed giant Monsanto and several local universities—used local varieties to develop the transgenic crop, but failed to gain the appropriate licenses for field trials. At the same time, activists in Europe are claiming that patents on conventionally bred plants, including a melon found in India, filed by biotech companies violate farmers' rights to use naturally occurring breeds. Both these pending legal cases could set important precedents for biopiracy in India and Europe.

read more at Nature Biotechnology

Video from France24 on the Biopiracy suit

December 15, 2011

The People indict Agrochemical corporations

Tribunal verdict vs. 6 agrochemical TNCs hailed, urgent action on recommendations urged

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International hailed the verdict of the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) against the world's six largest agrochemical companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF after a historic four-day session that culminated in Bangalore, India yesterday.

Victims and survivors of the pesticide industry from all over the world, represented by PAN International, testified before a distinguished international jury to indict the "Big 6" for human rights violations. Based on evidence presented before it, the Tribunal found the Defendant agrochemical TNCs "responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children's rights." see the verdict

Read the whole Press release

What is the Permanent People's Tribunal?

* The Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) is an international opinion tribunal founded in 1979, in Italy based on a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples".
* It looks into complaints of human rights abuses submitted by the communities facing the abuses.
* It uses the rigorous conventional court format.
* It issues indictment, names relevant laws and document findings.
* While its verdicts are not legally binding, these can set precedent for future legal actions against, in this case, agrochemical corporations.


December 14, 2011

fundamentally screwed

The conservative government who won the last election by a popular vote of 39% has this to say about the democratic process for Canada's wheat farmers.

"Let me be clear, we will never reconsider western wheat and barley farmers' fundamental rights to market their own wheat and barley," Federal Agriculture Minister Ritz said. CBC Winnipeg

Ritz's words (from an Ottawa area farm) followed A Federal Court judge's ruling last week that the Agriculture Minister "breached the Canadian Wheat Board Act by making changes without holding a plebiscite for producers".

Here are some voices of Canada's wheat farmers:

December 11, 2011

North Mountain woods

The mountain to the north of the farm has lost most of its autumn leaves. The orange clad hunters have abandoned the woods so it is safe to venture in. We go up looking for the fire and orbital agate veins that sudden chunks along leaf choked streams tease up. Or black crystal magnetite that sticks to a magnet and will get you lost as the compass needle swings a jig. The deer are still hiding out, but there are grouse and white rabbits and wild apples rotting in hidden vales. The walks and a few good books by the fire distract me from the work left undone, which can wait till spring; the fields are tucked in with a flush of fall rye, the garlic is rooted and the chickens are in the freezer. It has been my strategy since living in Nova Scotia to leave the farm to enjoy rest and perspective for the winter (while working in some remote camp). This year we will brave the Atlantic storms in this old house that my sweetheart has made into a warm and exciting home, Joy and gratitude spring up every day at the miracle of love in its beautifully unexpected permutations. I found an old lapidary unit, a gem maker of unknown vintage but solid character, and I am learning to cut the magical stones that cross my path, find pleasing patterns and grind out their potential. I have ground out a fingernail or two in the learning curve and have found a strategy for not getting soaked in an icy cold shop. The colours of the north mountain woods are in the stones whose patterns swirl and fuse some ancient stories that I am humbled by and hope to be present for with fingers intact. The stonework is a welcome transition from the laborious and often thankless work of market gardening to a creative process that while a new unexplored medium, feels like a comfortable old friend

December 9, 2011

Prayer for Snow

let our weary bodies rest
let it snow deep and long
have the north wind give her best
whirl and sweep an icy song
with us in warm and grateful lifts
reflect upon three fruitful seasons
with bluegrass lullabies in time to drifts
larders full and no laborious reasons
to rise or strain or bend or task
just dance that amber dormant glow
until the earth warms and lifts the wintry mask
oh please just please let it snow

April 13, 2011

very creepy milk

felt sculptor Stephanie Metz from the Over bred series

CBC and others reported last week on the Chinese success in engineering and cloning milk cows with human genes to express human milk proteins. Today the Chinese authorities have approved it for testing. Is this not the final straw? Oh its just China. Or is it?

Recent progress in recombinant DNA technology as well as in embryo manipulation and transfer has made the introduction of specific genes into the germline of animals relatively commonplace. With appropriate genetic constructs expression of the inserted genes in transgenic animals can be controlled in a tissue-specific and in a differentiation- specific manner; thus, it is now possible to consider alteration of the composition of milk produced by a lactating animal in any of a variety of ways. There is a growing list of foreign milk proteins that have been expressed, and one can envisage placing almost any protein gene of interest under the control of the cis-acting promoter and enhancer elements of a milk protein gene. Modification of milk composition can be extended not only to the proteins of commodity value but also, by manipulation of key metabolic enzymes, to fat, lactose, and other minerals in milk.
Here from American researchers.

The U.S. and Australia and interestingly, the Netherlands, have been researching transgenic livestock for over 20 years, including mammary gland secretions. But, as this story mentions, after all the hard work, public repudiation has prevented its fruition. That is a lot of research dollars (our money) and profits haven`t been taken. China is one of many places where that is going (to start) being done. The Netherlands food bio is actively involved in Sabre and is a key sponsor of innovative food tweaking and and wish we were all as malleable as our Chinese comrades. The scientist in charge of China's gmo bovines, Ning Li, is the Sabre coordinator for China. Expertise, decades of research and probably funding...who knows what other favours, are visible in those transgenes.

But we can't keep ordering double doubles and make milk mustaches ...can we? When is enough?
My suggestion for humanizing milk?

Lay off our cows; their genes belong first to cows or cow divas and second to farmer's and milk drinkers due to the century old traditions of breeding, nuturing and naming, continuously, said beast: it is common property. Common trust. Common interest.
Imbue milk with human kindness. That way. Not mother's milk coming out of industrial bioreactors. Not that definition of who we are. Mother's didn't give up the name of their milk...its called Mother's Milk and it belongs to women. (God would I love to be in a room with some old feminists farmers right now).

This will only happen (good milk) if there is a tradition and deep cultural acceptance of physical work and discipline to farm on human scales communities around small farms and homesteads cooperating, ecological and numerous.