how does change happen on the land?

posted November 23, 2017

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The Edmund Hillary Fellowship just published this great article about Severine! 

There is a question we need to ask when talking about food production. The question is, “Who is telling what story, and on whose behalf?” Is it a story that goes with dinner? Or does it perhaps focus on the “We feed the world” narrative so dominant in the agricultural and general press these days? That story goes something like this: We (Read: developed world) need to grow food as quickly, cheaply, and efficiently as possible in order to be able to feed a growing (Read under-developed world) population that is growing at a rate of change faster than we can keep up with. Crops are necessarily bred for maximum size, yield, speed to harvest, and disease-resistance, while taste, diversity and nutritional value considered somewhat irrelevant. We are told this is the only way to keep up with our growing population.

If we are to believe the predominant narrative, there is no other way to feed a rapidly growing global population.

Simultaneously, there is a crisis looming across much of the developed world. Bluntly put, farmers are becoming a dying breed. The older generation is retiring, while their children and grandchildren now have alternative options available to them — they’re moving to the cities, they’re chasing a multitude of new career opportunities, they are no longer opting for a hard day’s labour in the dirt. They’re not taking on the family farm, the way that generations before have done since the dawn of the agricultural age.

I wrote about the future of farming a couple of years ago, and New Zealand’s golden opportunity to leverage our natural advantages to become a premium producer of sustainably-produced agricultural products, that regenerate the land. Now, we can look to the far northeast at a number of growing movements that can offer a potential pathway for New Zealand’s agricultural transformation. Across the Pacific, there is a seed of hoping springing forth. There are radical new green shoots breaking through the endless monocultures that sprawl across the midwestern United States. There is a new movement of young farmers, who recognise that short term thinking and the ecological damage inherent in the industrial food system, is leading us rapidly towards the edge of the proverbial cliff.

At the coal face of this movement is Severine von Tscharner Fleming, based in Champlain Valley, New York.

In the past few years, members of Edmund Hillary Fellowship team have been connecting with communities who are leading global work around building a robust, sustainable and healthy food system. In conversation with diverse groups from Bioneers to the Near Future Summit and EAT Forum, people everywhere have told us “You’ve got to connect with Severine”. It seems that within both new and ancient holistic farming circles, all roads lead to Severine.

Speaking in the video below at New Frontiers festival in New Zealand earlier this year, Severine describes farming in America today as both a privilege and a service. She has co-founded, led and been involved in a number of different initiatives to bring young people back to the land, and stands as a dedicated voice for regenerative agriculture and land reform. And there is a growing chorus of voices behind her, walking the talk and providing the collective roadmap to feed the planet in a healthy, sustainable way.

Her talk at New Frontiers was entitled “The Project is Land Repair”. This title alone provides an insight into how a generation of young farmers are thinking about what they do. Natural ecosystems are very good at repairing themselves. Plants and trees provide organic matter to the soil below, which composts alongside waste matter from passing animals and birds. This provides the land with the right nutrients that it needs to thrive. The protective canopy of plants drip feeds water to the land, while providing a root system that keeps the soil in place, and shade that keeps moisture in and provides a home for countless helpful bugs and microorganisms. Dozens of other symbiotic exchanges occur to keep the ecosystem in balance.

Monoculture farming strips all of this away. We have placed value on only some parts of the ecological system, devaluing others, removing some crucial parts altogether, and resulting in degraded land. Decades of abuse at the hands of the “produce-as-much-as-you-can-at-all-costs-with-as-little-land-as-possible” mentality, has left millions of acres of agricultural land in dire need of repair.

The young farmers at the spearhead of this land repair movement have a name — the Greenhorns — and they are bringing the “human” back into farming. Greenhorns is a grassroots organisation founded by Severine, with the mission to recruit, promote and support the rising generation of new farmers in America. Or as Severine put it, “it’s about the recruitment of bodies back onto the land.” An identity as well as an organisation, the people who call themselves Greenhorns are those that are embracing farming as a calling and a way of life.

It started with a film project of the same name in 2011, after Severine spent three years travelling across America interviewing young farmers. Originally a platform to broadcast the voices and visions of young farmers, it has now grown to a thriving nationwide community that produces literary journals, almanacs, a popular blog, a weekly radio show, a short film series, and a national OPEN GIS farmer database, while also hosting a variety of social and political events. On a broad level, the work of the Greenhorns is to provide the cultural infrastructure required to inspire an agrarian revolution.

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severine in ireland

posted March 1, 2017

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For our friends in Ireland (or those that plan to be there this spring) Greenhorns founder and executive director Severine von Tscharner Fleming will be presenting at Litfest : the Food and Drink Literacy Festival, in Ballymaloe. Ballymaloe, it’s a pleasure just to say the name of the place, so we can only imagine how magical it is in real life.

Severine will be talking about the farmer’s life along with Alice Holden at this years Festival in May, which will bring together authors, chefs, foragers, farmers, educators, gardeners, and bloggers to share ideas on food.

You can find out more Litefest HERE.

 


evolution of organic premiers at ecofarm conference, jan. 27

posted January 24, 2017

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Still from the film feature Severine and Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs farm, who are leaders in no-till farming and recently the key-note speakers at the NOFA MA Winter Conference.

This year at the EcoFarm Conference in Pacific Grove California, participants will get a chance to see a sneak preview of the documentary The Origins of Organic!

Evolution of Organic, according to its filmmakers, “brings us the story of organic agriculture, told by those who built the movement. A motley crew of back-to-the-landers, spiritual seekers and farmers’ sons and daughters rejected chemical industrial farming and set out to explore organic alternatives. It’s a heartfelt journey of change – from a small band of rebels to a cultural transformation in the way we grow and eat food. By now organic has gone mainstream – split into an industry oriented toward bringing organic to all people, and a movement that has realized a vision of sustainable agriculture. As interviewee Kelly Mulville says, “Creating health in the soil creates health in the ecosystem creates health in the atmosphere – and it all cycles around.””

All that, and Severine makes a cameo!

This year’s EcoFarm Conference, which also features incredible speakers, farmer mixers, and even dancing, takes place January 25-28 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds. Online registration is now closed but onsite walk-in registration begins Wed, Jan 25 – Sat, Jan 28 starting at 7am.


gh founder severine live on the radio this week

posted November 12, 2016

 

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Two ways to listen to Severine speak on the Agrarian Trust and the ongoing symposium in Northern New Mexico in New Mexico. First, listen here to hear her on Santa Fe Public Radio’s The Garden Show. Second, Severine is live today on Family Farm Radio! Get your listen on!


what does severine use to get stuff done?

posted May 18, 2016

Severine von Tscharner Fleming

Severine von Tscharner Fleming

Organiser, cultural worker (Greenhorns, Agrarian Trust, Farm Hack)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Severine, an organizer and cultural worker in the young farmers movement. I run Greenhorns in the Champlain Valley of New York, I’m founder of Agrarian Trust, and co-founder and board secretary of Farm Hack. I’m also involved with quite a few other projects including mixing up wild-crafted seaweeds, fruits, and flower petals into herbal teas for a little farm business on the side.

You may have noticed the phenomena of the new agrarian movement — out on the weekends selling our food at farmers’ markets. Local agriculture is a compelling, diverse and healthy alternative to corporate mega-culture farming. My colleagues-in-arms have put their lives into direct action by founding thousands of new, small and medium-sized family-based businesses across the country. My main work is to initiate and coordinate creative networks that support my community’s needs. That means connecting people, helping with access and mobility to overcome inevitable obstacles, and transmitting farmers voices and viewpoints out into media-space.

This work crosses many sectors, formats and institutional forms. It includes web-based communities that create and share open-source tools, as in Farm Hack. It includes direct contact with archives, public and private libraries, older people, oral and folk narratives, junk shops and radical micro-histories like Grange Future. It involves small teams of humans making grass-roots media (radio, video, anthologies/publications) like the New Farmers Almanac, and Greenhorns Guide to Cooperative Farming. It includes social media, Instagram and making our own cooperative film festival for outreach on college campuses. It includes sailboats and cargo-value-chain logistics. It includes engaging programmers and researchers to do mapping, working with lawyers to craft new legal forms of commons-based governance. It is wide ranging and more expansive than I ever expected, and it takes me out on the rural roads, almost constantly tracking down the future budding up from the agrarian underground.

What hardware do you use?

I’m sorry to admit it, but I’m on my 9th Apple. It seems like I’ve stared at a computer pretty much every day since 6th grade – my brother says I’m addicted to it. I like the Brother printers and the Canon cameras. When I’m at home I use an old-fashioned roller-dial phone for my radio show, which gives the best sound quality, but often I’m on the road and my listeners cringe at the bovine background chatter from the busted up old iPhone. I like the old iPhone software, not the new stuff. Kids these days!

I’m a luddite who needs wifi. It’s a challenge working in rural and remote areas, hobo-ing and making films, while trying to manage workflows in 3 timezones on snatches of Internet. It does get done, but my calves are bloody from raging around in a techno-bramble patch for so many years and I’m not good at it. Suggestions are deeply welcome. It’s only sheer persistence and the massive social architecture, a baroque brocade of co-operators and allies that keep the machines running, and servers clear of space-trash. What I really want is to live in a world with less computers, and a more appropriate level of complexity. I’d like to live in a place where setting up a meeting happens in a common kitchen, informally at mealtimes, and is synched not by algorithms, but according to our daily routine of sunrise, tea-drinking, goat-milking, and a leisurely rye toast with butter. I’d like a recycled, refurbished, off-grid solar server (that is locally owned) run by a friend of mine who barters for goat milk, kombu + rosehip jam.

And what software?

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matador network article featuring severine vt fleming!

posted February 20, 2016

14 women who work every day to improve your food

3. Severine Von Tscharner Fleming

Based in Chaplain Valley, NY, Fleming is an activist, farmer, founder and director of The Greenhorns, a grassroots cultural organization that advocates for a growing movement of young farmers and ranchers in America. Fleming founded the Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology (SAFE), which advocates for sustainable farming practices, then she went on to create Agrarian Trust, which builds a national network to support new farmers, as well as Farm Hack, an open-source platform for farmers to receive affordable farm tools and technologies.

To read more, click HERE



san juan islands agricultural summit

posted January 20, 2016

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The San Juan Islands Agricultural Summit is back in 2016!  This year it will take place in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island on Friday and Saturday, February 12-13th.  Join fellow farmers, regional experts, local food and farm advocates for three days of education, inspiration, and camaraderie.  

Registration is now open! Sign up before February 1st for Early Bird Pricing: Early bird rate for the Saturday Summit is $50 pp, or $55 pp including a ticket to Friday night’s Plenary Talk by Dr. Courtney White.

Click here to Register.

Keynote speakers for 2016 will include

  • Courtney White, author of Soil, Grass, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country, and Two Percent Solutions for the Planet.  White offers positive solutions for farmers to “regenerate the planet now, rather than in some distant future.”
  • Severine von Tscharner-Fleming will also join the Summit as a keynote speaker.  Severine is a visionary, farmer, activist, and organizer based in the Champlain Valley of New York.  She is founder and director of The Greenhorns, a grassroots cultural organization with the mission to promote, recruit and support a growing movement of young farmers and ranchers in America. She also co-founded the National Young Farmers Coalition, the Agrarian Trust, and Maine Sail Freight. She is a director of the Schumacher Center for New Economics.

posted January 10, 2016

What is it about the ruthless sea? An acculturation in agricultural landscapes, full of flower buds, dewdrops, fresh hay, kittens and baby lambs cannot prepare you for the hard, chilling mechanics of a mechanized fish harvest. To my tender agrarian eyes, the fishing business is brutal. We may call them “stewards of the ocean” but lets face it—they are killing fish.

-Severine on the Alaskan fishing commons in “A Farm Organizer Visits Fish Country: Part II,” for In These Times. Read the rest of the article here!