Erik Hoffner

Erik Hoffner works for Orion magazine and is also a freelance photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter: @erikhoffner.

Ah, the sweet smell of composting putrescents

Black (fly) magic

Adult black soldier fly.blacksoldierflyblog.comBlack soldier fly larvae are all the rage in composting, and the star performer in a new kind of “ultimate vermicomposting” system. These critters will devour anything biological that you can throw at them, including items that normally cannot be composted and instead end up in the trash, so called ‘putrescent’ wastes like meat scraps and dairy. And what you wind up with is big fat delicious grubs, perfect food for chickens or fish in a charming and tasty backyard closed loop system. And on a larger scale, their culture could help towns and cities deal with …

Octopus(sy) Galore

James Bond calls for more marine protected areas

There was unfortunate news from PEER recently that the Obamans/NOAA Chief Jane Lubchenco have no plans to consider new marine protected areas. She cited lack of funds as the reason. Hum. In an era where oceans are under so much pressure, we need to prioritize efforts proven to bring life back to the seas, like MPAs. They work. As Jennifer Jacquet points out at the Guilty Planet blog: Research by Callum Roberts et al. (2001) published in Science found: a network of five small reserves in St. Lucia increased adjacent catches of artisanal fishers by between 46 and 90%, depending …

Bioreactor reaction

Gulf dead zone fix falls flat

It’s good to see a big Midwest “land grant” agricultural program that’s concerned about the Gulf Dead Zone, and upper Midwest farms’ large contribution to it. But this release about a study underway at Iowa State University aiming to reduce nitrogen entering the Mississippi River from farm fields falls flat when you realize it’s just a technical fix for the status quo of over-fertilized conventional commodity crops. Half of the nitrogen that makes it to the Gulf is from commercial fertilizer, and 15 percent is from livestock manure. The rest comes from wastewater treatment plants, industry, and rainfall, according to …

Urban Ag Revolution

Will Allen talks about growing the ‘Good Food’ movement

This weekend I caught up with Will Allen who was keynoting the always excellent Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Annual Conference in Amherst, MA. He’s founder and CEO of Growing Power, the country’s premier grassroots urban gardening program, and also a MacArthur Genius Award Winner and former pro-basketball player. Growing Power demonstrates growing methods through on-site workshops and hands-on demonstrations, and has farms in Milwaukee and Merton, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois, where they grow vegetables, fish, bees, livestock, worms, and more. They have also established satellite training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi. Erik Hoffner: What’s the youth component’s …

Prison Farms and the Future

Canada set to close important asset: its prison farms

In February 2009, Canada’s Public Safety Minister and the country’s Correctional Service announced a planned closure of all six of the prison farms owned by the people of Canada and operated by CORCAN – the branch of the Correctional Service that operates the farm rehabilitation programs which also provide employment training to inmates. The excellent syndicated Canadian radio show Deconstructing Dinner, which covers the local food movement, detailed all of this in its July 2nd show, and it’s a fascinating listen. The proposed closure is a move that’s spawned a national grassroots movement to block the action, Save Our Farms. …

Earth and Sky and Shell Oil

A clear voice for science?

I really like Earth and Sky’s podcast, just not the part about it being a mouthpiece for Shell Oil lately. Sad but true. I’ve been listening to it for half a year on my device, and it seems like nearly once a week, this daily 2 minute podcast, which claims to be heard 100 million times each week, interviews a Shell scientist about how global warming is real and action must be taken. Earth/Sky never in my experience interviews scientists from any other oil company, and never discloses that Shell is paying them, unless you go to their site, where …

Canvass(ing) their Ass(es) off

Making change, one door at a time

It’s officially summer, and one thing that brings, besides Kennedy yacht races on Nantucket Sound, is an army of thousands of kids with clipboards, out canvassing neighborhoods, street corners, and subway stops for green: green causes and the green of cash. This tried and tested organizing tactic is a mainstay of many groups from Sierra Club to the PIRGs (college-based public interest research groups), and is one of the biggest, most regular shows of force that the green movement has outside of climate rallies and mountaintop removal protests. It’s proven to build member rolls and donor bases, yet has many …

burn, baby...burn?

Big biomass, bigger opposition

Electric cars powered by the burning of biomass would “average 81% more transportation kilometers and 108% more emissions offsets per unit area cropland than cellulosic ethanol” according to a recent study, and climate science guru James Hansen has declared implementation of biomass crucial to combating climate change, but those endorsements won’t make a bit of difference if few bio-electricity plants are built due to pollution and sustainability concerns. At least that’s the state of play here in Massachusetts, where 5 biomass plants are proposed and face big hurdles. Two are further along than the rest: Russell Biomass proposes a 50 …

Go deep, organic!

Coleman’s elegant year-round vegetable production blueprint

The June National Geographic features a story The End of Plenty which starts off saying that even though humans produced a record amount of grain last year, we still had to dip into stockpiles from past years to feed ourselves. Sobering stuff. But then for solutions it goes deep on the same tired green revolution song and dance, and notes GMOs and the Malawi Miracle (hybrid seeds and a bag of fertilizer for every farmer) as points of hope. But at least it notes all the ways Borlaug’s theory has failed and gives time later in the piece to Vandana …