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Posts Tagged ‘farming’

The Learning Farm Fundraiser in Brooklyn

by Rich Awn

Tomorrow night at 7:30pm (Thursday, October 28th, 2009) at Habana Outpost, Brooklyn’s “eco eatery,” a benefit for an amazing and vital learning center in Indonesia called The Learning Farm, will be held involving awesome food, awesome speakers, awesome music, and me, your awesome host!

Here’s what Boston-based NGO and founding organization World Eduation has to say about The Learning Farm’s purpose:

In Indonesia, poor, vulnerable youth have been deeply affected by the country’s economic crises and lack both education and economic opportunities. Many feel hopeless at a time when they should be optimistic about the future. Lacking education, skills, or support, they are at risk of being trapped in a cycle of poverty and never realizing their full potential.

rockinThe Learning Farm seeks to address the lack of skills, opportunities and hope amongst vulnerable Indonesian youth by providing entrepreneurial and life skills training in the context of an operational organic farm. Located in Puncak, West Java, the Learning Farm provides Indonesian youth with the tools and skills needed to live healthy and productive lives and become change agents within their own communities.

The Learning Farm is a community where vulnerable youth can find opportunity and support; an educational center where these youth can obtain practical skills and knowledge; a productive organic farm as the primary educational medium; a social enterprise where youth apply their new skills to benefit themselves and support the sustainability of the Learning Farm; and a networking center where experience and lessons learnt are shared with other organizations working with vulnerable youth as well as with the community at large.

The farm serves as both an educational center and an organic farm, where students take responsibility for tasks related to running the farm and participate in structured learning activities that utilize a “learning by doing” approach. The farm’s curriculum includes basic literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills, organic farming, enterprise development, health, life skills, computers, and English. Using environmentally-sound growing methods, the youth work in teams to produce organic vegetables for their own consumption and also for sale. Most importantly, the farm has become a community where young people feel welcome, work directly with supportive adults, and have a chance to focus their energy and intelligence on building meaningful skills and relationships that will help them over the course of their lives.

Speakers include:

Please RSVP to [email protected]

If you cannot make the fundraiser but would like to contribute, please email [email protected] for a PayPal donation page.

Habana Outpost is located at 757 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11217.  Take the G to Fulton St. or the C to Lafayette Ave.

See you there!!!

Headline photo by Gill & Andy of Bogor Blog.  Midroll photo by David Hagerman of Eating Asia.

The Learning Farm

by The Green A-Team

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Seed money: Investing in sustainable agriculture

by The Green A-Team

Sustainable agriculture investing gets serious with Wall Street money movers.

The business of feeding the world’s populations has fast become less about the quality of the produce shipped halfway around the world to your salad bowl and all about the quantity and speed at which the agricultural industry can deliver higher yields through soil damaging pest control and genetic mutations through biotechnology.

A new investment firm seeks to pair sustainable solutions with the resources necessary to fix our broken agricultural system.

Janine Yorio, Founder of NewSeed Advisors.

A lot of what we call sustainable also becomes economically necessary in the face of rising oil prices.  So the day that we wake up and gas is at $5 again is that day that farmers and people [who] are actually involved in food production need to find alternatives to the petrochemicals that they use every single day to produce food.

According to Janine, the interest and the resources of the new wave of sustainable investors are big enough to counteract the old standards of short-term gains and turn-and-burn investing.

For more on NewSeed’s upcoming event and the full interview with Janine Yorio, click here.

Photo by rich_awn.

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Grazin’ Angus: You are what your beef eats

by The Green A-Team

Why should the beef you eat be grass-fed?

As omnivores, we’re left to fend for ourselves at the local grocery with little knowledge on how cheaply processed foods are assembled or how they’re responsible for the health and even greater economic problems we endure.

In the meat section, you’ve likely been exposed to beef marked as “grass-fed” but you may not know the reasons why we should buy it or how it’s better for us.

Cattle farmer Dan Gibson of Grazin’ Angus Acres:

When you finish just with grass and not those three months on grain laced with antibiotics and hormones, you get a 10-fold increase in beta-carotene, you get a 60% plus increase in omega 3, you get the same benefit of eating wild salmon as you do, not farm raised salmon, but wild salmon.

No antibiotics, no hormones, and no grain.  Seems like no brainer!

For our more on sustainable agriculture check out the following links and click here for our full interview with Dan Gibson.

Word of the day: Permaculture

Do you know where your breakfast comes from? (Brooklyn Farmer)

Anna Lappe, Author and Food Activist

The Anti-Commodity Dairy Farmer, Dr. Samuel Simon

Photo by jon-e.

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Dan Gibson, Owner/Farmer of Grazin’ Angus Acres

by Rich Awn

We’re joined now by former Mahnattan hotel executive turned cattle farmer and sustainable agriculture proponent, Dan Gibson.  He owns and operates Grazin’ Angus Acres in Columbia County, New York and made the decision to revamp his operation in 2003 to become a source of good health and positive change in people’s lives.

Q: Can you relate the story of what caused you to change your business model into something that serves the local community as much good as it does beef?

A: My wife and I became very concerned about what was happening in industrial agriculture and the food system in general and I guess the real positive epiphany came about when we read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and saw some of the things he was writing for, the New York Times, and so on.  We farm a lot about what you read about Polyface farming and that is about as sustainable as we think we can get.

Q: Polyface is exactly what?  Can you explain that a little bit?

A: Oh sure.  Polyface farming was highlighted in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and it’s a farm that uses chickens to fertilize and clean up after the cattle, spread the cattle manure looking for flies, keeps the flies down, has egg mobiles that follow behind the cattle.  I mean it’s just a beautifully sustainable system.

Q: So you’re actually using the natural action of birds to distribute seeds and so on.  I’ve heard this called permaculture too.  Is this another word that’s normally used to describe this kind of agriculture or is that kind of antiquated at this point?

A: Well, it’s a new word to me, I haven’t heard that one.  You know, it’s fun to watch because when a cow drops a patty, the grass will grow real fast around the outside of it but of course the cow won’t eat that grass because it has poo in it, right?  So the chickens come along, we bring them in three days thereafter, the cattle have been moved off that portion of the paddock or pasture, and the chickens will scratch through that manure pile and get after the fly larvae just after they’re about to emerge.  So you have less flies in my cattle’s eyes, less flies on the farm, great source of protein for the chickens, they’re spreading that manure for us so I don’t have to start the tractor to do it, and as a byproduct, the chickens leave behind the best organic material, the best organic fertilizer known to man, they’re own manure.  And as another byproduct, they give us the best high-omega, high-beta-kerotyne eggs possible.  They’re eating all those larvae, all the grubs they can find, the insects, and of course, all the great grass that the cattle miss.

Q: Do you get to sell the chickens as well?  Is that another way you can supplement your income?

A: Yeah, we sell their eggs but we also do sell meat birds. We move meat birds across the pastures as well behind the cattle to help fertilize our fields as well.  We’re not using any man-made fertilizer or pesticides or herbicides, the chickens are doing the job for us.

Q: What’s the state of the beef industry in light of this economic downturn?  How are farmers coping?

A: Well, we are a grass-fed and grass-finished meaning the only thing our cattle have ever had other than the grass they’re walking around on here on the farm to eat, was mama’s milk and since then it’s always been the grass that’s underfoot as it was meant to be with nature.  The folks who have made the decision to support local farmers and grass-fed and grass-finished beef for the health benefits, I mean, you get as much omega-3’s as you do wild salmon, the folks who have made that decision are taking it right through.  I mean, they’re our customers for life, they’re not going to change due to the economic downturn.  It used to be that people spent 35% of their disposable income on good food in America.  Today it’s 9% and we take cheap food as a God-given right in the country but as it turns out, there’s a huge health and economic cost and environmental cost in cheap food and the folks who are our regular customers recognize that and they’re willing to open their wallets to make sure that we’re supported

Q: Run through a couple of the sustainable systems or components of your farm that set your operation apart from the big beef mega-feed lots out there?

A: Well we talked a bit about how the chickens follow behind the cattle so we’re not using any man-made fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides… pardon my dog barking in the background here… but we also are doing what we can to reduce the carbon footprint.  I don’t ship our products at all.

Q: Okay.  The cows walk themselves to the table.

A: Exactly.  It’s all about local for us.  In my view, local trumps organic and I take organic when I can get it locally.  But local is the deal for us to reduce that carbon foot print.  I have a son who’s in Iraq right now and so is another lad from the farm and anything we can do to reduce our dependency on foreign oil is what we’re gonna do.  We have a wind turbine on the farm here, producing some of the electrical needs.  We use windmills around the ponds to hyper-oxygenate that water and clean that up and make sure it remains a great source for our cattle and for the trout downstream.  We’re doing everything we can to the extent that sometimes it doesn’t pencil.  For example, the wind turbine isn’t penciling right now but hopefully it will soon.

Q: Why should people switch to only grass-fed beef?  Can you elucidate that a little bit?

A: Oh absolutely.  One of the things that people recognize is that there are significant health detriments to grain-finished beef.  When you finish just with grass, and not those three months on grain laced with antibiotics and hormones on their way to slaughter, you get a 10-fold increase in beta-keryotene, you get a 60% plus increase in omega-3, you get an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio that’s back in sync as opposed to way out of sync.  You get the same benefit, as I’d mentioned earlier, of eating wild salmon as you do, I mean not farm-raised salmon but wild salmon.  You get a three-fold increase in vitamin E, you get a 2-3 fold increase in conjugated linolaic acid.  But all those things have shown to increase or enhance human health and because of that you see a decrease of depression or Alzheimer’s, even cancer, diabetes, heart disease obviously.  It’s the corn-fed stuff that’s gotten that omega-3 to omega-6 ratio out of whack and lead to this huge incidence of heart disease here in this country.

Q: It’s a scourge.  Is there anything special about the actual grass being fed to the animals?

A: That’s a great question.  Sadly, we’ve seen some grass farmers say, “Hey, you know what, over here I have a front lawn and over here I have a cow so, bang, I’m a grass farmer.” You know, we just don’t think that’s good enough over here at Grazin’ Angus Acres and it’s an important foundation of who we are.  We have the best genetics, I mean, the genetics on this farm are 100% black angus.  Now, why is that important?  It’s important because black angus actually marble better than other breeds and that’s important not only from a taste perspective because you’ve got some fat in the meat but it’s also important from a health perspective because the sun’s energy that’s captured by our grasses is captured by our rumenance is largely in the fat, not the meat.  So this the good fat, this is the right fat for us to eat as humans, it’s the fat we were meant to eat.  Then the second part is the grass itself.  It can’t be just the front lawn.  We use a very special mixture, of course not a GMO mixture, but a real clean mixture of three high-sugar, high-carbohydrate rye grasses, one orchard grass, and two legumes, both clovers that actually fix nitrogen out of the air of course and bring it into the root system to feed that high-sugar, high-carbohydrate grass.  So why is that important?  Well, it’s important because the amount of protein that cattle take up at one time needs to be evacuated via the microbes in the rumen which have to be energized and they’re energized by feeding them sugar and carbohydrates which these grasses have in abundance.  So we can finish cattle even in the winter here at Grazin’ and not just in the summer by using these special grasses.

Q: Is it difficult to emerge as an environmentally conscious brand given people’s opinion on the slaughtering of animals for food?  Do you receive any backlash from environmentalists or animal rights activists for positing your farm as you do?

A: You know, we do, from time to time, get heckled.  I mean, I’m at Union Square at the Greenmarket and every once in a while someone will come by and heckle me just because it’s meat.  But you know when I have time to talk to these folks they understand that the reason that they left meat is the reason that I went into meat.  And we have numerous notes and emails from people, you know, “Thank you so much… love the ex-vegetarian handling.” People recognize that it took thousands of years for our bodies to get to where they got to and they were meant to eat meat and that’s the truth of it.  And we were meant to be omnivores and denying that, people have that right, but that doesn’t mean that the human body was set up for that.  And so when they come back to meat, they feel better, they recognize that with humane treatment of the animals… You know, one of the other factors that in the way that we farm is that we don’t do veal.  No calves die on this farm.  Calves stay with their mamas through weaning then they live rich lives on this farm.  The cows have five or six young before they’re processed.  The steers live until they’re about three; the typical feed lot steer is 12-15 months.  And that’s part of why our meat is more expensive, we have to winter them two or three years but it’s worth it.  It’s worth it for everybody concerned, it’s better for the environment, for us as farmers, for the cattle, and of course for the ultimate consumer.

Q: Aside from the Green Market in Union Square, where can we go to sample some of your grass-fed goodies?

A: We’re in a number of greenmarket locations.  We’re at the Museum of Natural History up on the Upper West Side, we are at Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, I mentioned Union Square.  We’re also at a number of retail outlets including Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany, the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store here in Ghent, at the Berry Farm here in Ghent.  Of course, at the farm here in Ghent.  People are always welcome here.  I love when we have visitors because when they see how we farm, they’re our customers for life.

Photo by Steven Cairns for the New York Times.

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