Sustainable Farming

Mark Zuckerberg kills his meat with his bare hands

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Mark Zuckerberg is gunning to be the new Ted Nugent. The Facebook founder/Übernerd/kabillionaire is now only eating meat he slaughters himself. At least, that’s what he claims his status update reading “I just killed a pig and a goat” means, and issues or no, he doesn't really seem like the kind of guy who just goes around brutalizing livestock. Zuckerberg has given himself a “personal challenge” this year to eat no meat he didn’t kill. Last year’s personal challenge was to learn Chinese, and the previous year’s was to wear a …

Two percent of U.S. energy goes to wasted food

The U.S. wastes a stunning amount of food — 40 percent of what we produce, according to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland. That’s way above the already-staggering global average of one third. That means that 40 percent of the energy, water, and fuel we put into farming goes straight into the trash. All in all, Bloom says, “2 percent of all U.S. energy goes to food we’re throwing away.” And this waste is built into the system. Farmers are forced to toss crops that aren’t up to aesthetic standards, and often have to plow under whole fields if the …

How the Feds saved enough water for a whole city with just a little bit of cash

The Department of the Interior's WaterSMART program will save enough water for a smallish city — 400,000 people — yet it cost only $24 million. As Tina Casey reports at CleanTechnica, the program works by going for the low-hanging fruit: 54 separate programs that address everything from farm irrigation to water distribution infrastructure. At $60 per person, the programs are way cheaper than finding an equivalent amount of water by pretty much any other means except dowsing — especially in the arid Southwest where there isn't any more water to be had. One of the grants simply helps defray the …

Organic Food

Want a better organic garden? Call out the soil-critter army

The helpful Jerusalem cricket.Photo: Franco FoliniCross-posted from Cool Green Science. There are 1 billion bacteria in a single gram of soil. (Give or take a few million.) But how can you get that army — and its insect friends, like the two-inch Jerusalem cricket pictured to the right — to help you grow bigger veggies and prettier flowers? There’s nobody better to ask than Nature Conservancy soil ecologist Sophie Parker, who recently turned Grist on to the fascinating (and sometimes scary) world of soil organisms. I asked Sophie to give us some tips to make our gardens grow even better …

Sustainable Farming

Splendor in the grass at an Iowa activist’s dairy farm [VIDEO]

Last year, we created 52 episodes about sustainable and adventurous food in Minnesota. For the final episode of this past season, we announced our plans to take this web series on the road. And with this episode (No. 53!) we start a whole new round of weekly videos about real food across America. Traveling with my camerawoman (and girlfriend) Mirra Fine for the next six months, we will be meeting farmers, fisherman, hunters, and foragers — telling their stories, creating recipes with their ingredients, and showing our own road trip adventures. This first episode follows our departure from Minneapolis, travels across Iowa, …

Industrial Agriculture

Big Ag doesn’t want you to care about pesticides

Power to the people pesticide industry!The produce lobby is livid that consumers might be concerned about pesticides. They are taking their fury out on the USDA for its annual report on pesticide use (via The Washington Post): In a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, 18 produce trade associations complained that the data have “been subject to misinterpretation by activists, which publicize their distorted findings through national media outlets in a way that is misleading for consumers and can be highly detrimental to the growers of these commodities.” This report happens also to be the basis for the Environmental …


How does my garden grow? With the aid of a pretty good digital planner

Steph Larsen’s digital farm plan takes shape in the material world.Photo: Steph LarsenWhat’s black and white and dirty all over? My garden plan! Last year’s was, anyway. Most farmers I know will say that keeping good records and plans is fundamental to farming success. By no means am I what you might call a natural planner — I lean towards the “organized chaos” style of living. But when it comes to growing things, I’m convinced that adding a healthy dose of order to the garden chaos is a necessity. There are just too many variables to consider otherwise. Garden plans …

Sustainable Farming

Factory farms the only way to ‘feed the world’? Not so, argues Science paper

To “feed the world” by 2050, we’ll need a massive, global ramp-up of industrial-scale, corporate-led agriculture. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. Even progressive journalists trumpet the idea (see here, here, and here, plus my ripostes here and here). The public-radio show Marketplace reported it as fact last week, earning a knuckle rap from Tom Laskway. At least one major strain of President Obama’s (rather inconsistent) agricultural policy is predicated on it. And surely most agricultural scientists and development specialists toe that line … right? Well, not really. Back in 2009, Seed Magazine organized a forum predicated on the idea …

Sustainable Farming

Bounty hunting: an inside look at a successful farmers market operation [VIDEO]

Last spring, I had the pleasure of following the farm-to-market process with one of the “successful” upstart organic farms in Minnesota. Laura and Adam from Loon Organics let me film and work through their Friday-Saturday operation. I had been idealizing the idea of starting a farm: seeing the beautiful produce stacked up at the market made me want to take out a loan, buy 50 acres, and start my own little operation. But after a day with the folks at Loon Organics, the frantic reality of running a diversified farm comes into focus:

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