SolarCulture (a PineGate Renewables project), is an initiative developed to enhance environmental stewardship, promote sustainable agriculture, and collaborate with the community to support research with a goal of encouraging smarter solar through science. They have just recently opened a solar apiary in Jackson County, Oregon. The project is two pronged, it aims to tackle both our fossil fuel dependance as well as our rapidly declining numbers of bees.
After examining the site’s seed mix, vegetation management plan, and early growth of native flowers and grasses, John Jacob of Old Sol Apiaries determined the site would offer safe refuge for his 48 hives of honey bees.
“In 2016/17, Oregon beekeepers reported losing nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies statewide,” said Jacob. “The pollinator-friendly solar sites Pine Gate Renewables is developing can play an important role in helping address the population crisis among our managed and native pollinators.”
Data from the UK shows that pollinator-friendly solar arrays result in increased abundance of bees and other insects, which can provide important pollination and pest management services to crops. “Examining the Potential for Agricultural Benefits from Pollinator Habitat at Solar Facilities in the United States,” a recent peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science & Technology, identified more than 16,000 acres of pollinator dependent crops in proximity of 204 megawatts of solar arrays throughout Oregon.
Praised by several of the nation’s most prominent entomologists, including MacArthur “Genius” award recipient Dr. Marla Spivak and Presidential Medal of Science recipient Dr. May Berenbaum, pollinator-friendly solar arrays are different than traditional arrays. Pollinator friendly solar sites use low-growing meadows of native flowers and grasses to enrich top soils, capture storm water, and benefit pollinators. All SolarCulture sites meet the specific criteria established by entomologists to qualify as pollinator-friendly.
Russ Finch is the ultimate grandaddy of Farm Hack . He designed a greenhouse in his backyard that is heated using geothermal energy. Despite the fact that winter temperatures in Nebraska can drop to -20°F, the retired mailman grows oranges, lemons, grapes, pomegranates and more without paying for heat. The setup he uses draws on the earth’s stable temperature which is around 52 degrees in Nebraska to grow exotic fruit in the snow.
Finch first discovered the joys of geothermal heating while building his first house with his wife in 1979. Years later they decided to add a huge greenhouse in the backyard. The greenhouse is designed so that all components work together – the the foundation is 4ft deep and the roof is angled to catch the southern sun. The only energy input in the greenhouse is the fan used to pump the naturally warmed air around evenly.
Finch reckons that anybody can build a geothermal market producing greenhouse for about $25,000. Once the system is set up, it starts to pay for itself immediately due to the huge decrease in energy inputs. He sells a “Citrus in the Snow” report detailing his work with his “geo-air” greenhouses.
Check out this awesome article written by very good friend of the Greenhorns, Jean Willoughby for Yes! Magazine. Jean writes about the recent changes within the farming movement. Her article focuses on the increase in the number of voluntary transfers of land and resources to people of color as a means of reparations for past injustices.
“Last month, Dallas Robinson received an email from someone she didn’t know, asking if she would be open to receiving a large sum of money—with no strings attached. For once, it wasn’t spam. She hit reply.
Robinson is a beginning farmer with experience in organic agriculture, and has had plans to establish the Harriet Tubman Freedom Farm on 10 acres of family land near her home in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Located in an area where the poverty rate hovers at nearly 20 percent, according to census data, and where both food insecurity and obesity rates are even higher, the farm will focus on serving the needs of the surrounding community by producing vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms.
The gift from the stranger arrived thanks to a new online map, the Black-Indigenous Farmers Reparations Map, a project to promote “people-to-people” reparations.”
The email that Robinson received was from Douglass DeCandia (regular contributor to the Greenhorns New Farmers Almanac!) who had heard Robinson speak at the young farmers conference this year which featured the controversial speech from keynote Mark Bittman. Bittman’s response to those speaking truth to power at the conference was a stark awakening for many and has encouraged many of those who hold power to question how they are holding themselves accountable.
In the southwest German city of Freiburg, there is a successful co-op of some 260 people who are participating in successful organic vegetable gardening and sharing the costs and risks. Whatever the harvest, good or poor, it’s distributed to all members. Cucumbers are allowed to be bent, carrots entwined, the occasional lettuce smaller than average. Seasonal, totally organic growing, 100% original seed, local food production, solidarity economics, collective property and education are some of the many hallmarks of the work that they are doing. (more…)
ReGroup.Farm is the tale and reality of a group of Boomers, Gen X-er’s and Millennials found themselves on a farm in the Midwest. They recognized that something very interesting was happening in society at large, that in spite of all the division and decay of rural towns, that these phenomena can be reversed. In fact this process has already begun via the “food movement”.
There is a recognition that people come together over food. Whether it’s family, friends or community, food tends to bring us together for a pretty good time. Exploring this movement, asking questions and improving the food system is the core of ReGroup.Farm.
Click HERE to read more about ReGroup Farm and their mission for the future!
Drumduan school, in the Scottish highlands, offers it’s students a unique and emancipatory education experience free of any form from exams or standardised testing. It’s educational focus is on participatory and practical education. Academic study is enhanced and balanced with movement, music and artistic work, with crafts, foraging and outdoor activities. Students learn through experience, they learn their science by building a Canadian canoe, or making a knife, or caramelising onions. What’s more, the teenagers who attend the school are happy and inspired and have the opportunity to discover who they are and what they want to achieve from life. Aspects that are all too frequently missing from the tradition educational experience. (more…)
Growing Magazine recently published a good examination of community finance, community resilience and community agriculture – the CSA model. They profile 3 different farms: Brookford Farm in NH, Norwich Meadows Farm NY, and Prairierth Farm IL, all of whom are practicing a modified, diversified form of CSA and are thriving! (more…)
The Common Friarsare men and women, married and single, lay and ordained, of an emerging monastic order in the Episcopal Church, seeking to understand and live out what it means to be a Christian disciple today. They do this by placing the utmost importance on being connected to the land, to each other, and to those on the margins of society. Their land that they steward and are connected to is the Good Earth Farmlocated in Athens. Ohio. They live and work together here and and contribute their individual talents and gifts to one another and to the broader community. Their actions are guided by the “Rule of Life” which is defined by poverty, joy and hospitality, prayer, work, the eucharist and meals and you can visit them in Ohio if you’re in the area!
The NY Times published an interesting article recently about Kimbal Musk’s (brother of Elon) foray into farming.
Mr. Musk is promoting a philosophy he calls “real food,” which nourishes the body, the farmer and the planet. It doesn’t sound much different than what writers like Michael Pollan and everyone who has ever helped start a farmers’ market or community garden have preached for years.
Musk having spent years working in the tech industry has set his sights on ‘innovating’ the food world motivated by his passion for healthy food and what he sees as the ceremony of food. He has effectively dedicated himself to changing the way Americans eat. He is keen to promote soilless farming a controversial, disruptive opinion within the organic farming world.
For all his business and tech acumen, Mr. Musk can sometimes seem tone-deaf. At a conference on food waste in New York last month, he declared from the stage that “food is one of the final frontiers that technology hasn’t tackled yet. If we do it well, it will mean good food for all.”
When the comment was posted on Twitter, Lawrence McLachlan, a farmer in Ontario, Canada, shot back: “You might want to visit a Farm Progress show. Or even a farm. I think you might have missed 70 years of Ag history. It’s Hi-Tech stuff bud.”
Forest fires have become an increasingly significant issue in the last decade and it seems as though nowhere is safe from the death and destruction that they bring. Few places have to contend with fires on a large a scale as Portugal. The fires this year killed 64 people and destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of forest and farmland.
In addition to climate change, one of the major issues in Portugal is urbanisation. In recent decades populations who once inhabited the land have been moving to urban areas in search of work, abandoning their land. This has lead to a lack of maintenance and an abundance of undergrowth which is in turn more vulnerable to these all consuming fires.
“This was an area where families had their small properties and they lived off the land. That ended in the 1970s, they left, and the owners of the land now live in the cities…The landscape we now have is the result of abandonment.”
– Antonio Louro, deputy mayor of Macao
Forest fires in Portugal account for a disproportionate amount of the total number in Europe. Despite accounting for less than 3% of the EU population, this year Portugal had to contend with 40% of the forest fires. Louro, the architect of land reforms in the area has proposed a novel solution to the problems in the region – namely ‘village companies’ that practice shared land management of abandoned land. This would see the reintroduction of native crops such as citrus trees and olives and the profits generated would be shared among the community.
It is so wonderful and inspiring to see innovative solutions take hold and gain traction in the face of environmental and social catastrophes. To read the full article, click HERE.