Depending on which figures you choose to use, unemployment in America is approaching 20%, a figure that is quite remarkable. Fully 1/5 of the people in America who could be working are not currently working. I think urban farming could be this generation’s way to handle unemployment, sort of like a 2011 version of the CCC.
When you are willing to trade your labor for less space and less machinery you can create an amazing income from a small land base. SPIN farming is a method developed by a farming couple in Canada when they realized that they could make more money by growing intensively on less land if they grew the right crops at the right times.
They have a farm income calculator on their site that suggests that a farmer with 1/2 an acre can generate $24,000 in gross sales on the low end up to $72,000 on the high end. I think this is doable as well, but it does require a bit more marketing and growing of high value crops. We use a CSA model for our urban farm and I don’t think that will get us to those dollar figures because a CSA model is similar to a bulk food model vs. a model where you would grow exclusively high value crops like exotic green, radishes or beets for restaurants.
The NY Times has an article up on their site recently discussing how a small town in Vermont is using local foods to save the local economy of their small town.
“Across the country a lot of people are doing it individually but it’s rare when you see the kind of collective they are pursuing,” said Mr. Fried, whose firm considers social and environmental issues when investing. “The bottom line is they are providing jobs and making it possible for others to have their own business.”
This is interesing to me because they are essentially building the entire local food infrastructure. They are moving past the idea of just supplying beef or vegetables to consumers at the farmer’s market. They are actually moving into producing local food products. They are preparing the town for the future where food will need to be more local. And even better, they are recirculating those food dollars in their town to be reused over and over.
Check out the article and let me know what you think.
I think that Joel Satalin can add another chapter to his book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal after reading this story. I mean, really, a child’s veggie stand shut down for lack of permits? What’s next, no lemonade stands or car wash fundraisers?
ABC News via ABA Journal:
Call it a rite of passage: children by the roadside peddling their homemade goodies to adults who are more than eager to drop a few cents into a makeshift cashbox.
But Katie and Sabrina Lewis’ veggie stand, in the town of Clayton, Calif., where they sold homegrown watermelons for $1, has been shuttered by town officials who told the girls’ parents that their daughters’ venture violated local zoning ordinances.
“I think that they’re wrong,” dad Mike Lewis said of the town officials. “Kids should be able to be kids.”
The kind gentleman promoting King Corn (now out on DVD and iTunes) gave Groovy Green a complementary download of the movie via iTunes to review. I hadn’t seen the movie yet so it was a good opportunity to view the film and to try out watching a video via downloading.
First of all, downloading the film was fast and easy. I had iTunes downloading in the background while I caught up on my RSS feed, and was surprised by the speed in which the nearly 1 GB file was transferred. (For tech savvy readers: I have a high-speed cable connection, and run OS X 10.4.11 on a MacBook 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 GB RAM). iTunes provides a quick and easy way to watch a movie. I think that this would be especially worth it on a long flight or trip. However I think that that is about the only way that it beats owning the actual DVD. There is no (legitimate) way to burn a iTunes download to a DVD to watch on your TV. Bummer. The $14.99 iTunes price did beat out the lowest DVD price that I could find at $17.99. One last benefit of downloading rather than purchasing the DVD is that is a much “greener” option. No energy or materials used to produce the media, nor fuel or effort to ship it. I imagine the trend will continue until DVD’s are things of the past.
Enough about iTunes movies, what did I think about the flick? I liked it. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, here’s the summary:
Probably the coolest story in the “local food” movement that I’ve heard yet. A bakery in Massachusetts has started to distribute wheat berries (seeds) to customers to plant 100 sq. ft. plots of wheat in their yards. They plan a hand-scythed harvest in the summer. I think that this is a great idea, and it will be interesting to see how productive the 10 x 10 plots of “front yard” wheat are.
There is an NPR podcast here. And this local news story from The Recorder gives more detail:
Jonathan Stevens and Cheryl Maffei of Hungry Ghost Bakery became interested in what some are calling their ‘little red hen’ idea of giving people wheat seeds to grow locally after a New Mexico baker at a conference eight or nine years ago introduced them to bread made from locally grown grain.
Instead of baking with organic flour grown in North Dakota that gets trucked to North Carolina for milling, Stevens said, it makes much more sense to look at growing wheat and other grains nearby and milling it locally — especially since Massachusetts is believed to have been the site of North America’s first oat harvest — on the Elizabeth Islands — in 1602.
A few friends of mine from the fledgling Sustainability NPO we recently founded, Sustain Jefferson, spent a few incredible hours touring Growing Power this past Monday. Growing Power is a non-profit Urban Agriculture and Education facility in Milwaukee, WI that claims to grow enough food for 2000 people on 2 acres. With a claim like that I was drawn like a moth to flame. Their website offered some clues to their system-vermiculture, aquaculture, and several greenhouses. The actual tour filled in many of the details and inspired me in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was originally introduced to Permaculture and Bill Mollison several years ago.
What excited me most about Permaculture was the sheer common sense of it all. Taking wastes and turning them into resources is not something we typically think of today. Just as Forests have no waste products, Permaculture strives to promote such perfect systems in human endeavors whether it be designing a garden or linking businesses together via Natural Capitalism. Using the waste of built systems to add energy to another allows you to drastically reduce your time and energy taking care of problems and reap the benefits of one integrated system working in concert is something that continues to fascinate me Aquaponics, especially in the uber simple system that Will Allen of Growing Power sets up, fits the bill perfectly.
It was mainly Peak Oil that drove me out into my garden with a new mission; no longer just to grow a few tomatoes for fun each summer, but in an effort to grow the majority of the food my family eats. I set out a goal of producing more calories than I consume on my own property and within 5 years. I called my project ‘Growing My Own’. But there were others factors tugging at me, entreating me to take personal responsibility for the needs of my diet.
And I can see now that there are lots of other people becoming interested in local food and they’re doing so for a variety of reasons. Some of them want to avoid the potential health threats increasingly associated with industrial agriculture. You can get your daily update of just what food has been recently recalled as a health hazard by visiting this handy website the U.S. FDA recall website. The fact that such a site exists is a telltale sign of our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with what we eat. To be sure there have always been local incidents of accidental food poisonings and the like, but now that our system of growing and distributing food is so centralized, the risk of mass contamination from food borne illness is much higher. My favorite example is the recent Castleberry’s Chili recall in which cans were literally bursting with botulism. In the face of all the human health problems swirling around the anonymous origins of industrial food, many people are now opting to get their food from known local sources.
Do you think the chemical that has been killing animals all over the country hasn’t made it into the human food stream as claimed by the government and food corporations? Do you want to bet on that?
Salvaged pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical was sent to hog farms in as many as six states, federal health officials said Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if any hogs that ate the tainted feed then entered the food supply for humans.
Hogs at a farm in California ate the contaminated products, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Officials were trying to determine whether hogs in New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Ohio also may have eaten the tainted food, the FSIS said. Hogs at some of the farms — it wasn’t immediately clear which — have been quarantined. link
I am obsessed with food. Of all of things that we can purchase, food is the one thing that nourishes us. Yes, items can nourish our soul, but food is what nourishes our bodies – – it provides us with energy so that we can live. I think this is why so many of my posts are about food. We cannot go without.
60 years ago we were at war. We were fighting an enemy at faraway lands. Our government encouraged us to plant gardens at home. People came together to fight this enemy by planting gardens in their backyards. These gardens could help us fight the enemy from home and gave our citizens a sense of national purpose. Magazines told people how to plant and tend to a garden. Co-ops were developed. This community effort brought together families and neighbors to provide their own food so that more was available for the war effort.
Today we are again at war. This enemy does not have a face. It is not an enemy that we can see. However, this enemy can threaten the nature of our lives and planet. This enemy is global warming. Let’s fight is by planting a garden. A victory garden over global warming.