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Tagged with agriculture

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Agricultural training ground The Farm School is bucolic, educational, and stupid expensive

The Farm School sounds a little bit like paradise [PDF]:

Everyone takes a turn preparing meals, baking bread and cleaning house. All will repair fences, shovel snow and restock feed bins. All will rotate cows, sheep and goats among pastures, assess the health of these animal-teachers, and milk Suzie, the dairy doyenne of the program.

There aren't many students. Just a few years back, there were only four. This year there are 15. Over one year, from October to September, on 183 acres in Athol, Mass., they will learn to grow organic vegetables, tend livestock, and manage forests. They will feed the 175 members of the farm's CSA and help run a meat CSA, as well. They'll actually learn about the business of farming, too, as Pacific Standard reports:

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This truck travels the country collecting stories about seeds

Seeds are natural beginnings for stories: From a small start, they grow into a larger world and eventually end. They're also good subjects of stories: Where did they come from? Who loved them enough to keep them around? How'd they reach the person who planted them in the ground? What happened when they went viral on the internet? (Wait, does that not happen to most seeds?)

The Seed Broadcast Station, a converted bread truck manned by the Fodder Project Collaborative Research Farm, is traveling the country, gathering those stories:

Come and share your personal seed stories. We would like to interview you and hear more about your seed saving, gardening, and farming passions, the local food you cherish, and information about your local seed library. Also, stop by, copy, and add to the Broadcast bulletin board - a cork board wall presenting seed saving and organizing how to’s. You can also help create a mural on the Broadcasting Station with collaged images of the seeds you love.

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Monsanto WISHES it could make corn this cool

"Glass Gem" corn looks almost CGI, but it actually comes out of the ground that way. It's the product of a small farm and a retro, handcrafted approach to agriculture -- "genetic modification" from back when genetic modification meant painstaking generations of selective breeding.

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Tapped out: Water in California’s farm country is dangerously polluted

Photo by Anders Andermark.

There is ample evidence that nitrates from synthetic fertilizer pollute the water in California’s farm communities. (We’ve reported on the impact this pollution has on the state’s rural communities here, here, and here). But a new report released by the University of California-Davis proves the problem is much worse than anyone may have suspected.

The report's scientists measured the nitrate pollution in the water in two parts of California’s Central Valley (the Tulare Lake Basin, which includes Fresno and Bakersfield, and the Salinas Valley). Not surprisingly, it's an area that’s home to four of the nation’s five biggest farming counties. UC Davis is under contract with the California State Water Resources Control Board to conduct an independent investigation and report on the findings and potential solutions.

The water table in the area is so polluted with nitrates that Thomas Harter, the report’s lead scientist, doesn’t think cleaning it up (or "remediation," as they say in scientific circles) would be practical.

“Its never been done and it’s hugely costly,” says Harter. “Remediation in the traditional sense has been done at sites that are the size of a football field, and we spend large amounts of money to do that,” he says. Even hypothetically, he adds, bringing the levels of nitrate down to acceptable levels for human consumption “would cost tens of billions of dollars and would take us a long time.”

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Photo project takes commuters to a California they’ve forgotten

Photo by Lisa Hamilton. Click to see the Real Rural site.

You know that feeling you get when the door to someone else’s world opens just long enough that you forget you’re in your own? That slight expansion we experience when we hear someone’s true story is what motivated documentary photographer and writer Lisa Hamilton’s latest project, Real Rural (and all of her other work too, from what I can tell).

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Critical List: State Department working to reduce emissions; transportation bill vote delayed

The State Department is going to announce this morning a program to reduce shorter-lived greenhouse gases, like methane.

The House won't vote on Republicans' transportation bill of horrors quite yet.

Worldwide, 92 percent of freshwater water goes to agriculture.

Mining in Mongolia -- good for China, maybe not the best idea for the desert environment or the people who live there, who are mostly herders.

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No, that’s not snow: Pesticides coat California’s Central Valley

Photo by Verena Radulovic.

“See that, see that?! ... Oooh, something is going on. They are spraying tonight.” A large cylindrical truck whooshed past us.

I am driving along a state road with Becky, a local activist, who is narrating from behind the wheel. “I once stuck around to see them spray and I had to turn the car around and get out of there, the smell was so overpowering.”

We pull over and I hop out to get a close-up look at the orange groves. I am in California’s Central Valley, America’s fruit basket, where agriculture is king.

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Monsanto’s new seeds could be a tech dead end

planting cornThis is how corn is planted on industrial-sized farms. (Photo by Minnemom.)

When I wrote recently about the next generation of genetically engineered seeds, I was in truth referring to the next next generation. The fact is that the next actual generation of seeds is already out of the lab and poised for approval by the USDA.

And I’m not talking about Monsanto’s recently approved “drought-tolerant” seeds, which the USDA itself has observed are no more drought-tolerant than existing conventional hybrids.

No, the “exciting” new seeds are simply resistant to more than one kind of pesticide. Rather than resisting Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup alone, they will now also be resistant to Dow AgroScience’s pesticide 2,4-D .

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Why does agriculture keep getting a climate pass?

Last year's flooding on the Mississippi River has been linked to climate change. (Photo by the USDA.)

While the topic of climate change in this country often feels like the truth that dare not speak its name, there is no escaping what Grist's own David Roberts refers to as its "brutal logic." The planet will warm no matter how international climate negotiations -- the latest round having just occurred in Durban, South Africa -- play out.

It's because of that inevitable warming that Britain's chief scientist, John Beddington, along with an international group of scientists, have taken to the pages of Science magazine this month to ask climate negotiators to stop ignoring agriculture.

Agriculture has been hovering just on the margins of climate change policy. Of course, that's no coincidence. Precise measurement of the climate impact of many industrial farming practices remains difficult and controversial, and the U.S. in particular has resisted any attempts to formalize the agricultural sector's obligation to climate mitigation.

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Critical List: Cruise ship could leak oil; Chevron rig catches fire

That capsized cruise ship in Italy could leak thousands of tons of fuel into a national maritime park.

A four-lane bicycle superhighway could go up between the Swedish cities of Malmo and Lund.

Rusty on your climate science? This open University of Chicago course covers climate research without getting too technical.

Commercial agricultural projects in East Africa are forcing Ethiopians from their homes, according to Human Rights Watch.