Thursday, January 29, 2015

Joel Salatin shows us a new fashioned food system that helps and heals

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.  We've got snow happening outside.  I don't think we're in for a lot, but it'll clean things up nicely.

As I was trying to find my desk the other day (under all the paper!) I was rewarded with the Dec./January issue of Mother Earth News, which has a particularly good article by one of its regular contributors, Joel Salatin.  Salatin describes himself as a "renegade" farmer.  Salatin, whose Polyface farm is in the Shendoah Valley in Virginia, is "renegade" in the best possible way: someone who rejects conventional ways of doing things.

His article, A 'New-Fashioned' Food System That Helps and Heals, points out that we need to rethink a lot of ideas about farming.  For him "old"-fashioned farming is monoculture, GMO, petroleum input agriculture.  The most up to date farmers are finding ways to use efficient, simple, and energy-saving technologies - many of them right up to the minute as far as the techie crowd goes - to farm well, produce safe healthy food, and give back land that is better than they found it.

He assures us - and particularly any young person thinking of getting into farming - that farming is not going "back" to the land.  It is going forward to regenerate land.

He tells us that the language used to get out the message of good farming "has to be big enough, innovative enough, sacred enough to capture the hearts of all types of people".

I reall like his combination of practicality and spirit.

He tells us we have to "upgrade the language of stewardship". 

We can get out the message that farming and food are integrated; not segregated in their own aspects or from neighbourhoods and society.

We can emphasize that farming and food production are not systems that conquer; they can be thoughtful and practical actions that "caress" the land, that work with and learn from natural processes.  And overall, they are healing and not harming.

Salatin's full article is worth reading. His own words are more inspiring than my summary!  The link to his MEN article is below.  And his website is sure worth a look too, and has audio and video interviews and segments.  His moveable poultry pens are fascinating to me!  And he's written several books, some of which might be in your library.

I hope you are delighted by something you find in his work.

Very best regards!

Why's Woman

Author and "renegade farmer" Joel Salatin calls for food producers to tell a better story of a "new-fashioned" food system that rejects the industrial agriculture paradigm while embracing technology.
By Joel Salatin, Mother Earth News, December 2014/January 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Water in the City ... how'd that get me thinking about Dad?

Hello everyone,

I hope this post finds you well.  I 'specially hope you haven't had a bout of the flu that's been going 'round this post-Christmas and January 2015.  I had several miserable days of it, followed by three weeks of something akin to sleeping sickness!  Been years since something knocked me out the way this has.

But, I'm pretty well over it and trying to reconcile the fact that I can only do so much.  This evening I was online reading, and ...

I'm 59.  When I was a kid, National Geographic Magazine only came by subscription.  I didn't realize way back then how lucky I was that my England-born, school-leaving-at-grade-six father subscribed.  I don't know what experiences led him to be interested in the whole world, the world that came into our home through National Geographic.  Perhaps it was his 14 years in the British Army, 1937-1951, serving in Egypt, Malta, and Palestine.

Dad was born February 7, 1912; died June 1, 1992.  In Stratford, Ontario, where he emigrated to in 1951, he became a house painter and paper hanger, and worked at that until he retired.  I've got a feeling I underestimated him, probably a lot.

Today I was browsing the City Farmer website as I do most days, and ran across a National Geographic article Securing Water for Urban Farms (  The article outlines some ways in which cities can capture and use water for use in urban farms.  The article also points out that water issues are everywhere we look. 

And we need to look around us more.

Last year I happened to have a chat with one of the senior London, Ont. city staff - found out that we don't have such a thing as a reservoir to hold captured rainwater.  I was sort of surprised by that because I've been at Planning and Environment meetings where the topic was problems caused by stormwater run-off mixing with the sewer system, and overwhelming the water treatment system.  That means that too much rainwater goes down the drain (so to speak). 

The staff person did say that he figured there'd be a need for rainwater capture in future as energy/economy changes.  He's no slouch when it comes to big picture stuff.

When I look across the road from my place during a rainstorm all I see is cubic meters of rainwater running down paved road and asphalt parking areas, rushing into the sewers, not having any way to get onto land and benefit growing plants ... not having a way to become a part of the "ecosystem services" a city needs to keep its natural areas growing.  And not just its natural areas down by the river, but water to keep the lawns and gardens of homeowners flourishing.  All the water gets taken away before it gets to urban lawns; properties and roadways and sidewalks are sloped to take the water away.

How often have you seen a "berm" cleverly holding in a parking lot so it doesn't escape ... and the berm is sloped so that any rainwater immediately runs off onto the sidewalk and thus onto the road and down the sewer?  So there's no chance for the rainwater to linger and soak into the carefully arranged "planting" of four spirea and a pampas grass (even with the artificially straight ditch enclosing them).  Even the drive in/out of the parking lot circles the garden with a curb, so any rain going onto the parking lot rushes down the in/out road and away.  Not a chance for those four spirea and pampas grass.

My "one thing" done today may be to have read the article on water and to think about how important it is.

What's your experience? 

Best regards,

Why's Woman