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 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.
Freeganism, the philosophy of non-participation in the capitalist economy through minimization of what one buys, has been getting heaps of press lately, with outlets as high-rolling as the New York Times and the Washington Post running pieces on the subject. But while much recent media coverage focuses on what it’s like to live as a freegan, I’m interested in the forces that freegans are reacting to, and the realities that allow them to sustain their lifestyles. In this four part series, I’ll be examining these questions by looking at food waste, disposable culture, modern work, and the state of community in America.
One night in late November, in the courtyard of a community center in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a bread mountain was constructed. It measured about four feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, the product of a few nights of dumpster diving throughout New York City. Hundreds of rolls, pumpernickel loaves and baguettes lay stacked in various states of edibility, but like so much wasted food in New York City, they would never make it to the people that needed them most.
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.
Really? Here is a picture of a few things I picked up yesterday. 6 butternut squash. 1 hubbard squash and 15 pounds of sweet potatoes. Set me back $29.
The ad flyer for my local grocery store lists butternut squash at $.49 per pound. I have 27 pounds in my pictures. That works out to $13.23 for the squash. (No comparison for hubbard’s so I included it with the butternut squashes)
In the same ad sweet potatoes are listed at $.69 per pound for a total of $10.35.
Total cost at the store is $23.58. Total cost from the farmer is $29. The difference is that in my case the farmer got the entire $29 instead of a wholesale percentage of the cost.
From the same farmer I also have on order 75 lbs of potatoes. They’ll cost me about $30. That works out to $.40 a pound compared to a sale price in the ad flyer of $.26.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll gladly pay that slight premium for fresh local foods that support farmer’s more. The squashes I purchased had just been picked yesterday morning. Now that’s fresh!
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.