Stephanie Ogburn

Stephanie Ogburn is an editor at the High Country News currently lives in Paonia, Colorado.

Factory Farms

Why should EPA regulators investigate factory farm pollution when they can go get a beer instead?

The EPA doesn't know where most factory farms are, nor what they're polluting -- and yet it just reversed a rule that would have helped clean water regulators find out.

Farm Bill

Farming with a smaller footprint: Why it matters

Conservation is an important part of federal farm funding — the laws that shape what, where, and how we grow our food. And yet, if the negotiations around the 2012 Farm Bill go as predicted, funding for conservation is in grave danger. Why does conservation on farms matter? Well, for starters, most large-scale agriculture is a disruptive endeavor. It requires farmers to plow under native flora and replace it with giant monocultures of annual crops, and then coddle those crops by irrigating them and applying fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides — all ecologically damaging technologies. There are ways to farm better, …


Ranchers struggle against giant meatpackers and economic troubles

All cattle, no hats.Photo: Rob CrowA sea of cream-colored cowboy hats, the kind ranchers wear on their days off, fills a sterile conference room at the Fort Collins Marriott. Banners from groups like the Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund and the Western Organization of Resource Councils add bright slashes of color, and warn that JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, now controls 24 percent of all cattle produced in the United States. It’s August 2010, the night before a national workshop on competition in the livestock industry, and well over 500 ranchers, feedlot owners, and their allies are packed into this room …

Injust deserts

Would a Walmart solve West Oakland's and Nashville's food problems?

Getting fresh, healthy food into low-income urban areas known as "food deserts" isn't as simple as it appears. For example, should food-justice advocates be celebrating when Walmart is the one bringing an oasis of fresh groceries to these deserts?

Greening the 'Hood

Can Oakland plant a policy revolution to match its grassroots efforts?

Unlike in Seattle or San Francisco, urban ag projects in Oakland have flourished through benign neglect.

a shit ton of fertilizer

To reduce nitrogen pollution, we need new farm policies

California dairy farmer Joey Rocha. Photo: Stephanie OgburnTurlock, Calif. — Joey Rocha tends 2,800 cows at his Central Valley dairy. That may sound like a large herd, but in California, Rocha is a mid-sized dairy producer. Taken together, California’s dairy cows produce more than 100,000 tons of manure every day. Rocha and his fellow dairy farmers put all those cow pies to good use — as fertilizer for the fields that grow the corn that feeds their herds. It’s a perfect closed-loop system, except for one big problem: nitrogen. Manure is nitrogen rich, which makes it a great fertilizer. But …

Fertile ground

The dark side of nitrogen

Few people spare a thought for nitrogen.  But with every bite we take — of an apple, a chicken leg, a leaf of spinach — we are consuming nitrogen. Plants, including food crops, can’t thrive without a ready supply of available nitrogen in the soil. The amount of food a farmer could grow was once limited by his or her ability to supplement soil nitrogen, either by planting cover crops, applying manure, or moving on to a new, more fertile field. Then, about 100 years ago, a technical innovation enabled us to produce a cheap synthetic form of nitrogen, and …

The Contrarian's Dilemma

James McWilliams’ over-hyped and undercooked anti-locavore polemic

Cows on pasture: potential solution, or menace to society? What is just food? One might answer: food produced without causing undue ecological damage, food grown under production systems that allow workers and farmers to earn livable wages, food that’s healthy, accessible, and affordable to everyone who eats. To James E. McWilliams, author of the new book Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, just food is certainly much more than food produced and purchased locally, and his book wags a contrarian finger at the “locavores” who believe purchasing food grown close to home …

Strengthening the Movement by Shrinking It

An interview with the innovators behind

We’ve all heard that eating locally is one way to reduce your environmental impact. But what about donating locally? In the urban wilds of New York City, a new non-profit is betting that locally based, small-scale giving can have a big eco-impact. Ioby, whose name stands for “in our back yards,” connects people working on neighborhood-level projects with community members who can physically and financially support them. At, launched this month by co-founders Erin Barnes, Cassie Flynn, and Brandon Whitney, individuals or groups post project descriptions and budgets, and interested donors contribute to the project of their choice. Here’s …

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