Da yoots take over Maverick Farms

A new generation pilots the farm’s operations as it transitions to training others

Some Grist readers may have noticed that I’ve been writing on the blog nearly every day, while keeping up the Victual Reality column. How can I do all of that and farm, too? The truth is, I went full-time at Grist last November, when I took on the position of food editor. And to maintain my sanity, I’ve moved into a much less active role on Maverick Farms. We’re in the process of turning Maverick into a farm incubator — a program designed to train our area’s next generation of farmers and link them to land — while maintaining our …

Fertile for problems

South America’s industrial-ag powerhouse eyes rainforest potash deposits

I’ve been writing for a while about industrial agriculture’s fertilizer problem — about how mass-scale food (and biofuel) production relies on finite, geopolitically problematic, and environmentally destructive resources to maintain soil fertility. (See posts here, here, and here.) Well, that story is heating up down in Brazil, an increasingly important hub in the global industrial food system. Brazil ranks as the world’s second-largest soy producer (soon to overtake the U.S. for the top spot), third-largest corn producer, and leader in coffee, orange juice, and sugar. According to a must-read Reuters story, Brazil policymakers and farming magnates are getting nervous about …

No farmers? No food

Much depends on finding a new generation to put dinner on the table

Every time I come in from my farm fields and tune into the news these days, the headline is about food: food prices, food scares, food shortages, food riots. Food has America's attention these days, but folks are overlooking a critical piece of the brewing crisis: a national shortage of farmers. We farmers make up a mere 1.6 percent of the U.S. population right now. Picture an inverted pyramid balanced precariously on its nose: that's our national food supply, with about 3 million of us feeding three hundred million of you. In food terms, our nation resembles an elephant perched on a pair of stiletto heels.

Federal food-aid package promotes GMOs

A $770 million food-aid package proposed by the Bush administration may also aid U.S. agribiz, as the feds have slipped in language promoting the use of genetically modified crops in developing countries. Proponents of bioengineering say that GM crops are hardier in harsh climates and can produce higher yields; opponents say that just ain’t the case. The food-aid package must be approved by Congress, and even then it may face resistance: In 2002, African countries in the throes of extreme drought were highly wary of the U.S.’s offer of genetically modified sustenance, with some even turning it away.

Food sovereignty

An alternative to global industrial agriculture

At the conclusion to an article on the global food crisis, Walden Bello discusses an idea put forward by an international farmer's group, Via Campesina:

Nitrogen bomb

‘Science': nitrogen as important as carbon in climate change

Speaking of the troubles associated with industrial agriculture and its fertilizer regime, check this out: The public does not yet know much about nitrogen, but in many ways it is as big an issue as carbon, and due to the interactions of nitrogen and carbon, makes the challenge of providing food and energy to the world’s peoples without harming the global environment a tremendous challenge. The speaker is University of Virginia environmental sciences professor James Galloway (quoted in an AP piece), talking about his paper published (abstract here) in the latest Science. According to Galloway, "We are accumulating reactive nitrogen …

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