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Sustainable Farming

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Four dirty secrets hiding in your tuna can

Cross-posted from Sustainable Sushi. Seafood isn't only sold in the seafood section. Americans buy a tremendous amount of our seafood from the shelves of our local grocer rather than from the freezers, including one particular item that we put in everything from sandwiches to casseroles to salads: tuna fish. For decades, tuna was the most widely consumed seafood product in the United States. Although it has recently lost pole position to farmed shrimp, it is still massively popular, and even though it's in a can, it is still fish, and thus merits scrutiny in terms of sustainable practices -- or, …

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Grass is good: Natural meats benefit the economy and family farms

Photo: Charles LavoieThanks to the success of Super Size Me and Food, Inc., public awareness of the environmental and health impacts of the U.S. industrial meat system is growing steadily. Adding to the growing chorus calling for change is American Meat, a new documentary that director Graham Meriwether says is "dedicated to the American farmer." Meriwether's film follows Joel Salatin, a pasture-based farmer featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and looks at the lives of dozens of other farmers across the country producing both industrially and sustainably raised meat. Meriwether's film aims to spark conversation about our food system, …

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Organic chicken farms have fewer drug-resistant bacteria

When poultry farms switch from conventional to organic farming practices, they almost immediately start seeing way fewer drug-resistant bacteria. A new study looked at two types of enterococcus, a bacterium commonly found in poultry excrement that can also lead to drug-resistant infections in humans. All the farms tested positive for Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium, which the researchers expected. But on farms that had switched to organic practices, 10 percent of E. faecalis was resistant to multiple antibiotics, versus 42 percent of the bacteria from conventional farms. And on conventional farms, a stomach-troubling 84 percent of E. faecium was multi-drug-resistant, …

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Floating hydroponic farm makes food with zero waste

Here's an urban farm we'll still be able to use when rising sea levels flood all our cities! Science Barge is a floating organic farm set aboard a barge in the Hudson river. The Science Barge crops are grown hydroponically, delivering nutrients through irrigation water -- so there's no soil, which means no waste runoff. Even the water is collected from rain barrels or from the river itself, and it can be used over and over again, so the water usage is sharply lower than on a conventional farm. Suppose you don't have a boat? Well, the recirculating hydroponic system …

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Jail time for gardening: Now officially a trend

Hey, remember the woman threatened with 93 days in jail for growing a garden in her front yard? She could have a cellmate! Dirk Becker of Lantzville, British Columbia turned his scraped-dry gravel pit of a property into a thriving organic farm, so of course he's facing six months of jail time. Why? Well, the thing is, this farm was full of DIRT. You can't have dirt in a yard! It's unsanitary.  The Beckers were cited under Lantzville's "unsightly premises" bylaw, for having piles of dirt and manure on the property. As the Beckers wryly point out, the letter came …

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Why this drought will be way, way worse than the last one

A New York Times article about the current drought in the South compares it to a record-setting dry spell 60 years ago: Climatologists say the great drought of 2011 is starting to look a lot like the one that hit the nation in the early to mid-1950s. That, too, dried a broad part of the southern tier of states into leather and remains a record breaker. But this time, things are different in the drought belt. With states and towns short on cash and unemployment still high, the stress on the land and the people who rely on it for …

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How rainforests can produce biofuel sustainably

Production of biofuel from palm oil has been an unmitigated disaster for the rainforest, leading to clear-cutting throughout Indonesia and propelling that country to the top ranks of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters. That's why it's so strange that biologist Willie Smits, last seen cooking up a plan to save orangutans, thinks that biofuels could actually save the rainforest. Smits’ plan is simple: instead of oil palms, locals will plant the Arenga sugar palm, which can only grow in a mixed, intact rainforest. He’s calculated that Arenga palms planted in otherwise undisturbed rainforest can produce 7.7 tons of ethanol …

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A fight over the future of farming: U.N. ag group vs. Big Ag

Small-ag mindset vs. Big Ag muscle."The present paradigm of intensive crop production cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium," says a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In other words: Big Ag, step aside. It's not as if the world is being fed particularly well at the moment -- and prospects are dimming for chemical agriculture in a resource-restricted, warming world. The FAO has been very active in attempts to make world agriculture more sustainable. It published an influential 2006 report on animal agriculture's environmental and climate impact, and it was behind the 2008 …

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Amazing urban farm school for teen moms will be shut down

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy Hey, do you like education? Do you like keeping teen moms from dropping out of school? Do you like teaching kids about sustainable food and farming? Well, screw you, says the Michigan state government. Catherine Ferguson Academy, the amazing but embattled Detroit public high school that let pregnant teens and young mothers work on an urban farm while continuing their education, has lost its battle to stay open.  Michigan has a new law empowering the state's emergency financial manager to close whatever schools he likes, without votes or …

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What a hoe! — and other secrets of an orderly garden

Lookin' sharp!Can you keep a secret? I think I'm in love. The object of my affection is about 5'4", slender, and she's the sharpest tool in the shed. Did I mention she's a redhead? I've taken her out twice now, and we danced around the garden like we were made for each other. I'm talking, of course, about my new stirrup hoe. Equally enamoring is our new low tunnel -- a temporary structure made of curved metal and special fabric that lets light and water in. My partner, Brian, keeps exclaiming, "How did we ever grow anything without a low …