Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Right To Choose Healthy Food In the US

These are sad and difficult times for small-scale farmers and local food in the US. - Senate bill S 510 was passed last week, with support from agricultural giants, making it illegal to save seeds, give produce to neighbors or sell at farmer's markets without meeting stringent criteria. Now another bill S3767 will expand FDA regulations on all persons who manufacture, process, pack, distribute, receive, hold or import food to the US. This bill puts new enforcement provisions into FDA law, offenders could be fined or imprisoned for up to 10 years. It gives FDA expansive rule-making capability over the way food is produced and creates compliance burdens for small farmers; it will govern how farmers can grow and harvest their crops and make safety controls for all farms and facilities that process foods. 

What can we do? We can Vote Track S 510 to see who voted where and send them a letter accordingly.
Vote track S3767 and make sure that your representatives are voting for small-scale local food. We can contact our representatives and contact our senators. We can read the Agriculture Society and take part in Action Alerts. Finally we can get inspired to take action by watching the Farmageddon trailer on the Richmond Food Collective Blog.  

Monday, 29 November 2010

Radical Raw Milk

Back in Germany now in the darkest shortest days of the year. I am trying not to get too distracted from writing my thesis. - In between bouts of writing I find myself in the kitchen and in the pantry looking at ways to make more fermentation and preservation experiments. Food has certainly become the center of my daily life.

I just read this article about raw milk politics in the US. The author, Ryan Parker, is an old House of Representatives guy. Now he has a 'beyond organic'  small family farm in Newport, Maine.

The article Milking the Corporate Cow can be read in the Bangor Daily News.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Outward Bound - Off to See the Tiaga and Tundra

I will not be blogging for a while now as I am off to do ethnobotanical research in the Taiga and Tundra subarctic regions of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland on my way back to Maine.

Meanwhile here is a quote from Walt Whitman

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Generous Man by Tor Nørretranders

While I was in the Klimaforum in Copenhagen this winter I heard the Danish Mathematician Tor Nørretranders give a speech about sociology and evolution.

I have just finished reading his new book 'The Generous Man' wherein he debunks the popularly accepted idea of a selfish homo economicus. He draws upon the sciences to introduce the idea that instead we are homo reciprocans and are naturally inclined to cooperate. I am inspired to go on reading about links between sociology, biology and philosophy.

My follow up books are 'The Nature Of Design' by David Orr and Environmental Sociology by Scottish Sociologist Phillip W. Sutton.

Read more about Tor Nørretranders on Edge

Beyond Edge:Tor Nørretranders' Blog

Monday, 21 June 2010

BP and Haliburton Chose Profit Over People and Nature

I am feeling a bit angry and radical this morning.

Reading the latest from the BBC 'BP was told of oil safety fault 'weeks before blast' I have been saddened but not at all shocked to find that profit was valued over people and nature in the lead up to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Haliburton and BP have worked together to make a load of money and get out of there quick with the already impoverished and disaster ridden people, flora and fauna of the Gulf of Mexico left to pay the real costs.

Oil as a mechanism for human suffering and ecological collapse is not new. The people of many nations such as Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Afghanistan have been paying with their lives and natural resources for generations to feed the hungry industrialized nations oil needs. Poor communities around the world have been paying the price for industrialization and the wealth of the 'developed' nations. With the 1989 Exxon spill and this BP spill some of the high costs of industrialization are being felt at home.

Here is a poem for the lost communities of sea life that have suffered, perished and will continue to do so in the Gulf of Mexico and the oceans of the world as long as we allow companies like BP and Haliburton to choose profit over people and nature.

The World Below the Brine by Walt Whitman

The world below the brine, Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick tangle, openings, and pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold, the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes, and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard, and the sting-ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths, breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Agroforestry Projects in Temperate Regions

I have discovered the Association for Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA) this morning and am excited to see something going on in this field. There seems to be a dearth of information and knowledge about the links between forestry and agriculture. This is especially unfortunate as according to the FAO at least 90% of all deforestation is for agricultural expansion. Both small holders and large scale industrial agricultural producers are cutting and burning down the forests to grow more food and fuel.

I am particularly interested in the situation in the global north, and intend to spend the summer exploring relationships between people and nature, both forests and shrub/tundra lands of the Arctic. I am finding that even less information and dialogue is going on concerning this area of research and I am very excited to start digging into it.

I have also found that the Indigeneous People's Issues and Resources website has some good information and discussions about the deforestation and farming issues from the people's perspective.

With this link I was able to get a .pdf version of the Canadian Boreal Inititive, Boreal Songbird Initiative and David Suzuki Foundation publication Conservation Value of the North American Boreal Forest from an Ethnobotanical Perspective.

Gary Snyder's poem came to mind while writing this post:

Smokey the Bear Sutra
Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago,
the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite
Void gave a Discourse to all the assembled elements
and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings,
the flying beings, and the sitting beings -- even grasses,
to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a
seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning
Enlightenment on the planet Earth.

"In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon
The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature."

"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that future American Era I shall enter a new form; to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger: and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it."

And he showed himself in his true form of
  • A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.
  • Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;
  • His left paw in the Mudra of Comradely Display -- indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;
  • Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;
  • Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the West, symbolic of the forces that guard the Wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the True Path of man on earth: all true paths lead through mountains --
  • With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;
  • Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;
  • Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs; smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;
  • Indicating the Task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes; master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.
Wrathful but Calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him,
Thus his great Mantra:
Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana
Sphataya hum traka ham nam
And he will protect those who love woods and rivers,
Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick
people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:
And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.
  • Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.
  • Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.
  • Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.
  • Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.
  • Will always have ripe blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.

    thus have we heard.

    (may be reproduced free forever)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Wild Collection in Organic Agiculture

I am getting more and more inspired to look into the potentials and pitfalls in organic certified wild collection. Most of us are not aware that wild collection comprises such a large portion of the area of organic agriculture around the world. According to the latest statistics from IFOAM and FiBL wild collection and beekeeping makes up 31 of the 35 million hectares under organic certification. Most of this land is in developing countries.

I am now watching a presentation called 'The Sustainable Management of Biodiversity' from the IMO  FairWild and GTZ about wild collection in the Southern Caucasus and in central Asia. Large percentages of the wild collected products of Uzbekistan are being exported and these groups are working to help preserve biodiversity in these areas with the new FairWild standard. This is a global phenomenon and needs to be looked at seriously. If the 'Tragedy of the Commons' can be avoided the potential for wild collection to contribute to the local diet and the possibility for income generation through organic certification of sustainable harvests is very hopeful.

Check out Wild Collection International

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Ethnobotany in Greenland and Iceland

I am planning a trip across the North Atlantic this summer to do an ethnobotanical survey of small scale permaculture and organic farms who are preserving and utilizing native biodiversity in small island communities.

I have been in touch with a number of people around the area who continue to tell me that traveling by boat cannot be done in that area. They also say that there are no farms or forests.

Well, I see this as a research and investigative challenge.

by Shel Silverstein

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me --
Anything can happen, child
ANYTHING can be.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What Are People For?

For the last few weeks I have been reading and re-reading a 2000 collection of essays by Wendell Berry titled: What are People For?;  I read it to visitors who come for the coffee and wild food; I read it between classes and chapters of Fukuoka and Rushdie; I cannot stop reading.

Wendell Berry is an extremely well spoken and pissed off farmer living in rural Kentucky and writing about the state of things from the small scale farmer's perspective.  In this book he addresses everything from the industrialization of sex to the agricultural policies in the US which have driven migration of rural people to urban areas. He shows a number of fantastic examples of what a good life looks like and he questions some of our deep seated assumptions about life in the 21st century.

Reading this work I find myself drawn to the fields and the woods. I spend more time planting and harvesting than I do reading or preparing for classes.

Several of Wendell Berry's essays are available to read online from North Glen. The good people at Powell's Books In Portland Oregon have written a synopsis of the work and have copies available.The reviews are a fun read here too. Interscience has posted a brief response to the title essay What Are People For?Brtom has some links and an interesting response to Wendell Berry's controversial article 'Why I am not going to by a Computer'. Berry's follow up to this essay is Sales Resistance.

Shirley Nicklin's award winning photo Maturity and a poem by Wendell Berry.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Eating Wild

The spring has sprung and here in Witzenhausen we are all filling our refrigerators and cupboards with wild foods. With field guides and bags in hand we head off into the woods daily and collect things to eat. The abundance of edible wild things is overwhelming here, including fresh birch leaves, spruce, girsch, nettles, wild garlic among other things. Soon the fiddle-heads will spring up  and the fresh buds, flowers and early berries will be here. 

There are more resources online today for help with this each time I look. It is great to see the work that is going on now with The Forager's Press LLC.  Roy Reehil and the people there are making a huge amount of information available for everyday people interested in eating wild things.

Check out the 'Wild Food Field Guide'

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Permaculture on the Fringe; Lewes Road Community Garden

I was in England a few weeks back and met some of the squatter community in Brighton who have occupied an old small gas station lot and called it the Lewes Road Community Garden. They are putting together a nice little permaculture garden there with raised beds full of trees, vegetables and flowers. This space grows a little food but serves the double role of community space in an otherwise busy area of Brighton with nothing but shopping centers and busy streets. - The squatters, with leftist zines and heads full of ideas and a copy of the adverse possession law called squatters rights, are stationed in the space where the attendants must must have once looked over the books and collected the money.

It occurred to me while having tea up in the station attendants space that these permaculture squatters are the wild yeasts of our civilization. They are called 'Crusties' in England and are generally frowned upon but they are the radical roots of our civilization. They help to maintain the most crucial aspects of our humanity and should be honored for the work that they do. They are revolutionaries, willing to suffer tremendously (sleep without heat through the winter and make small battles with the police) to preserve small patches of wildness and community like this garden at an abandoned gas station.

An excerpt from Bread and Puppet's Radical Cheese Manifesto

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Biofach 2010 'Organic and Fair'

Hello from the Biofach 2010 in Nuremberg Germany. Here inside things are much quieter than in 2009. There are some 200 less exhibitors and several hundred less visitors. Hall three is closed entirely this year and there are actually places to sit at the various cafes around the 'Fair and Bio' section of the fair. This is a win and a lose for everyone. Maybe huge business like Wal-Mart and McDonalds will leave organic alone if the market falls a little bit, on the other hand small organic producers and communities are looking at tougher markets and less income for their labor.

This years Biofach is about walking around eating and looking for people to learn from about the livlihoods of the farmers and high biodiversity production systems. There are a number of coffee, cacao, brazil nut and cashew farmers here from Latin America and Africa who are eager to discuss and have the hands that produced the food products we are discussing.

This years theme for Biofach is 'Organic and Fair' and has managed to draw a huge crowd of people who are eager to network and discuss the issues regarding the processing marketing and sales of these food products but a dirth of people who would like to discuss the actual production. I am headed to a discussion on wild collection this afternoon and then to a climate change discussion and hope to learn more there.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Humanure; The potential for composted sewage in Organic Agricultural systems

This morning I am pondering the potential use of human manure in organic cropping systems. The loss of all the basic essential soil elements and organic carbon could be significantly reduced through the application of composted human sewage. In most of the world the industrial waste water is now separated from the residential. Could this heavy metal and chemical-free composted sewage be used on organic fields?

In Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects the authors hint at the potential for the use of composted human wastes claiming the tremendous benefits to the soil. This topic is also hinted at in the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Growing Organic Web Pages. Reclaiming these lost of nutrients in the urban sewage treatment systems could easily be enough to renew the fertility of the world's agricultural soils.

Most people do not agree.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) strongly recommends that sewage sludge NOT be allowed in organic systems claiming the content of dangerous chemicals, detergents etc. In Eco Living Solutions the authors are strongly against the use of human wastes in agricultural systems claiming high chemical and heavy metal content. In many places around the world, including Nova Scotia, farmers, activists and political parties are fighting against the use of sewage sludge on farmland.

The primary problem with this discussion is that much of the data is from 1988 or older. Urban sewage treatment systems have changed significantly in much of the world since then. Opening up this debate could help re-design the way sewage is treated and recycled. The benefits to farm systems, food production and the poisoned and over-nutrified aquatic eco-systems could be significant.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Tropentag 2010

Another note about the Conference on Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural and Natural Resource Management (Tropentag). This year Tropentag is taking place in Zurich, Switzerland, 14 - 16 September 2010.

The Tropentag conference has just put out a call for papers. This years conference is titled: "World food system: A contribution from Europe" and will feature many young scientists from all over the world.

Tropentag is an annual conference for sustainable resource use and poverty alleviation. The style of the conference is interdisciplinary and involves people from a range of backgrounds addressing food security, sustainable land management among other things.

Tropentag has been called 'The most important International Conference on development-oriented research in the fields of Food Security, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development in central Europe' (CATST Hohnheim).

Tropentag will be a great opportunity for networking with professionals in sustainable forestry and agriculture, learning the 'state of the art' and meeting many of my professors and colleagues from Witzenhausen, Göttingen and Kassel.

This Blog is now listed on Best Green Blogs

Sunday, 17 January 2010


I came across'Joy' by Julie Cadwallader Staub this morning and had to share:

'Who could need more proof than honey—

How the bees with such skill and purpose
enter flower after flower
sing their way home
to create and cap the new honey
just to get through the flowerless winter.

And how the bear with intention and cunning
raids the hive
shovels pawful after pawful into his happy mouth
bats away indignant bees
stumbles off in a stupor of satiation and stickiness.

And how we humans can't resist its viscosity
its taste of clover and wind
its metaphorical power:
don't we yearn for a land of milk and honey?
don't we call our loved ones "honey?"

all because bees just do, over and over again, what they were made to do.

Oh, who could need more proof than honey
to know that our world
was meant to be


was meant to be

I also wanted to take the opportunity to talk again about the importance of beekeeping. I was blogging about Bees last year on Dr. Green's Perspectives website and wanted to press again the importance of bees in our lives for joy, for biodiversity and for the sustainability of ecological systems. The bees need our help.

The best way to help the bees is to start keeping your own. To start keeping your own bees pick up a book, or better yet, talk to your local beekeeper association or society; they are proud, happy and informative people. Responsenet is working on a set of pedagogical and direct action programs to support wild bees and to promote sustainable beekeeping practices. The International Bee Research Association has resources for professional and new beekeepers. And Apimondia the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations offers a network for information, and connections to local beekeepers.

View Cory Whitney's profile on LinkedIn

Saturday, 2 January 2010

List of 25 Blasphemous Quotes Published by Atheist Ireland

The scary news this morning is that the Irish government has decided to make it illegal to offend religious beliefs - Effective yesterday blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine.

It may not have a lot to do with 'Sustainable Practices' but it is nevertheless important; today I am writing to support free speech in Ireland by publishing some quotes that are considered blasphemy. 

Here are some of the quotes from Atheist Ireland

Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name - The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy - he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities - how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”

Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine - but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good - and cares about any of it - to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”