The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles

why rural farming matters to the city

posted November 21, 2017

I-Stand-with-Women-Farmers
 credit: Artist Diane Brawarsky and A Growing Culture. 

The following article was submitted to the Greenhorns by Freya Yost. Freya is Director of Operations at Cloudburst Foundation, an Italian-based non-profit working closely with the Commonwealth to address climate change and meet the UN SDGs. Her background is in information science, specializing in areas of government information and policy, open source technologies, and digital rights tensions. After receiving an M.S. in Information Science from Pratt Institute, she started facilitating knowledge exchange between indigenous farmers in East Africa as Vice President of the organization A Growing Culture. 

She is a contributing writer at Global Voices, and has published with outlets including the Association for Progressive Communications, Peer-to-Peer Foundation, Truth-Out, and Shareable. She has articles in several peer-review journals including the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Journal and Indigenous Knowledge: Other Ways of Knowing.


 

Cities currently hold more than half of the world’s population, and that number is increasing with rural to urban migrations. Decline of subsistence agriculture, a changing climate, and lack of opportunity are some of the main reasons for migration—all consequences relating to industrial agriculture, the predominant agricultural model in the world.

We know how devastating the industrial model of agriculture is to the planet (draining natural resources and contributing of greenhouse gas emissions) and to rural farming communities (destroying livelihoods and dominating markets with cash crops to be sent away to other countries) but we haven’t heard enough about how “big ag” erodes the resilience of cities. Rural areas are still the main producers of food and smallholder farmers account for 94% of the farms worldwide: there is more space to grow, raise livestock, process food, ecosystem diversity, and richer soils. In fact, the wellbeing of rural farming communities has incredible influence on the food security of urban populations—making the rural-urban relationship inextricably linked. If we allow industrial agriculture to continue to devastate rural farming communities it will only perpetuate hunger in cities. Rooftop gardens and urban agriculture are helping some inner-city communities get access to fresh food, but they are not feeding the world and certainly not the 8 million residents of New York City. When we evaluate alternative models to sustain growing cities we must support the potentially symbiotic relationship between urban and rural. This means that rural issues are urban issues, and vice versa.

Family farmers already produce enough food to feed 10 billion people yet over 1.2 million New York City residents are food insecure and hunger is a grave, global reality. In this context our fixation with increasing crop yields seems rudimentary. The true challenge lies in improving access to food, social and economic disparity, excessive waste, and a centralized food-production system that prioritizes profit above the health and wellbeing of people. As an industrialised, wealthy and leading food producing nation, the US continues to have both hunger and health problems in all 50 states. In New York City alone, the income gap between rich and poor is the greatest in the country. New York City’s food insecurity rate is 11% higher than the national rate. These facts alone tell us how central inequality is to the food system and how, despite growing city populations, we need to continue to invest in rural, peri-urban environments around cities that can ultimately feed urban communities. Well functioning peri-urban areas act as a buffer that benefit both rural and urban areas, disrupting concentrated centers of inequality, and providing opportunities for communities.

There are some powerful examples of cities that prioritized rural-urban food dynamics and established greatly-improved food security. Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state and Brazil’s sixth largest city, implemented a comprehensive set of programs aimed at providing access to food and support to small-scale family farming in surrounding rural areas. The Bolsa Família, a Brazilian national initiative based on the same objectives, reduced the number of food insecure people from 50 to 30 million. These initiatives adopted a policy based on the inalienable right of all citizens to sufficient, good quality food, not unsimilar to the values proposed by the food sovereignty movement.

Food sovereignty, that declares the rights of all people to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food and to control the mechanisms that govern the food system, is a movement pioneered by peasant groups like La Via Campesina—and its relevance is as urban as it is rural. It grew in part out of a fundamental flaw with the food-security approach; that is, that food security falls short of addressing the complexities of the entire system and all the socio-economic and cultural dimensions of the current food-production model. Food sovereignty is far reaching: from the family farmer to the World Bank, the inequalities of power that accompany gender, race, and social class, and violence against women.

The values of food sovereignty have a lot to teach us. The movement moves beyond the overly emphasized “yield problem” to an array of deep-rooted, systemic issues—importantly inequality—that play an integral part of the food system. As we work to improve urban food systems we need to include rural, family farmers in the discussions and strategies. This is how we replace an unjust food system with a democratic one.

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best milking practices online course

posted November 20, 2017

Penn State Extension are running a best milking practice course for professionals in the dairy industry who want to learn about problems on dairy farms that result from mastitis. “Best Milking Practices” is a self-paced course primarily designed for dairy producers, employees and managers that teaches concepts to help them measure and reduce levels of mastitis, and it offers practical solutions to help apply that knowledge to milking practices.

Mastitis is a common and expensive problem on dairy farms. It is, on average, costlier than veterinary care, food, housing or equipment maintenance. To maximize a dairy’s profitability, it’s important for producers to learn as much about mastitis as possible to reduce or eliminate the spread of it on their farm. The course includes eight sections: Mastitis Basics, Cleanliness, Handling Cows, Pre-milking Prep, Milking and Post-milking, Managing Infection, CMT and On-farm Culturing, and Standard Operating Procedures.

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just a quick reminder that work songs are awesome!

posted November 20, 2017

We found this worksong among a wonderful collection of other songs on worksongs.org, which is run by Maine farmer-musician Bennett Konesni. It’s kind of a digital soundbook and Bennett has created a collection of songs used to aid labor and has included lyrics on many of the songs. His long term goal is to have recordings, lyrics, history, usage tips and comments on each song. He created the site to address three needs:

First, the need to share songs that people can use in their fields, markets, kitchens and at the table. Second, and more generally, my wish to understand and enliven the culture of food. Third, and in a universal sense, my desire to explore ways to make all work more fun.

It’s a really cool project and he and his trained harbor seal Andre accept donations if you would like to support him.

Click HERE to check out the full site.



new research identifies cold weather strategies to avoid respiratory illness in calves

posted November 17, 2017

 

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credit: creativecommons.org

As winter approaches, research funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has identified cold weather strategies for attention by regional dairy calf managers.

“Winter weather poses a natural challenge to raising young animals. Respiratory illness in calves can negatively impact weight gain, age at their first calving, first lactation milk production, farm revenue and costs,” says project leader Kimberley Morrill, Ph.D., a regional Cornell Cooperative Extension dairy specialist, Canton, NY.
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young farmers on church land

posted November 17, 2017

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credit: Emily Michot at the Miami Herald (emichot@miamiherald.com)

You have have read about our upcoming Faith Lands conference in our newsletter during the week. The purpose of the gathering is to connect landowning faith groups with landless young farmers. We want to help create a network that will help nativiate some of the complex issues that can arise in these situations. We are not the first to have this thought however, and we are delighted to see that there are already relationships blossoming between these two diverse groups. Once such example can be seen in the collaboration between Moses Kashem and the St. Simon’s Episcopal church as reported by the Miami Herald this week.

St. Simon’s Episcopal church was going broke. It’s a tiny squat building on 4 acres of land in south Miami-Dade County, with a tiny congregation. That’s when a new member of the congregation, Moses Kashem, came up with an idea. A young farmer, he asked the church elders to give him half an acre to farm specifically for local restaurants and chefs, and he already has signed up several chefs to purchase his produce.

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interactive geoengineering map

posted November 16, 2017

 

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credit: ETC Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation

ETC Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation have produced an interactive map of geoengineering projects around the world in an attempt to shed light on the worldwide state of geoengineering. The map is the first of it’s kind that is publically available that  shows the scope of research and experimentation.

This latest addition to the project builds on an earlier map of Earth Systems Experimentation that was published in 2012. The original map documented almost 300 projects and experiments related to geoengineering. Five years later, more than 800 projects have be identified. These include projects in Carbon Capture, Solar Radiation Management, Weather Modification among others. This is not a complete record of weather and climate control projects, so expect it to grow as the ETC group continue researching and as new experiments are launched.

Click HERE to explore the map and HERE to read more about geoengineering.



opening at earthworks urban farm

posted November 15, 2017

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EarthWorks Urban Farm are looking for a Community Outreach Specialist who will be responsible for supporting the work of the CSK EarthWorks Urban Farm team by interacting with and supporting the local community by informing those in the community of EarthWorks services, scheduling volunteer opportunities, and providing valuable information regarding initiatives within EW and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

Essential Duties and Tasks Include:

  • Demonstrate, exemplify and support the Capuchin Charism and Provincial Mission, Vision and Values throughout all professional responsibilities and activities.
  • Manage the Earthworks office and indoor workspace, creating a welcoming environment.
  • Schedules volunteer groups in collaboration with CSK Volunteer Coordinator Team
  • Send out email updates.
  • Update social media resources.
  • Create occasional promotional documents.
  • Answer EarthWorks email, phone, and snail mail, providing answers or directing messages to who is best suited to answer.
  • Provide Tours of EarthWorks.
  • Coordinate tabling events.
  • Coordinate speaking engagements and deliver public speaking engagements.
  • Assist in greenhouse and fields.
  • Assist with market days Comply with Province and ministry policies, procedures, guidelines and standards

The desired education and experience level for this position are: A High School Diploma, strong customer service and communication skills, strong attention to detail. Experience in administration, volunteer coordination and public speaking are strongly preferred. Valid drivers license required. Chauffeur’s license preferred.

Please send letter of interest and resume to: employment@thecapuchins.org and make sure to include EarthWorks Community Outreach Specialist in the subject line.

Alternatively you can send the same documents to:

Attention: Human Resources EarthWorks Community Outreach Specialist,
The Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order
1820 Mt. Elliott Street
Detroit, MI 48207

If you would like more information about the great work that EarthWorks does, click HERE


chasing coral – run to see this!

posted November 15, 2017

A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling adventure to document the disappearance of the world’s coral reefs, this documentary is the result of 3 years work and hundreds of hours of underwater footage. Corals are a fundamental part of the planetary and oceanic ecosystem (supporting 25% of marine life) as well as being exceptionally beautiful. A temperature increase of just 2 degrees Celsius may not seem like a lot in the air, but for marine life this is like living with a constant fever. The damage done to the corals in the oceans due to climate change is scary, profoundly moving and motivating. Coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented rate, but it’s not too late to save them. Do do so however we need to act right now  to lower our ocean’s temperature by reducing carbon emissions in the air and working towards clean energy solutions. This is something that each and every one of us has a responsibility to undertake in any way that we can. (more…)