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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable agriculture’

Listen to this Green Air Minute:

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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Listen to this Green Air Minute:

Dairy downer: Milk floods cause farmers to drown

by The Green A-Team

Got milk?  U.S. dairy farmers are saying they’ve got too much!

Milk prices are down more than 50 percent from last summer after hitting all-time highs in 2007 and notching the second highest prices on record in 2008.

Like so many commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, milk prices have plummeted because there’s just too much of it and not enough demand. People are frugal in their restaurant spending or expensive cheese consumption these days which accounts for the greatest value percentage, where home consumption is expected to rise, the effects are believed to be minimal.

Dr. Samuel Simon, dairy farmer and founder of Hudson Valley Fresh.

Milk is a global entity because it can be dried into a powder.  It costs $20.50 to make 100 lbs of milk.  If you’re getting $11 for it, there’s only so long you can survive without going bankrupt.

While sustainable production methods require slightly higher costs, the quality far outweighs it’s alternatives.

For more on the state of the dairy industry and our full interview with Dr. Simon, click here.

Photo by rich_awn.

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The Anti-Commodity Dairy Farmer: Dr. Samuel Simon

by The Green A-Team

Thanks to our pals at Lion’s Tooth Media, the following interview with Dr. Samuel Simon, retired orthopedic surgeon gone dairy farmer, was made possible.  With great bravado and business savvy, Dr. Simon sees the economic mood swings of late affecting milk prices on a global scale pitting small, cooperative farms against mega feed lots for the same share which, if things keep up, will continue to diminish.

Q: What brought on this life change?  You were stable and I would imagine very comfortable as an orthopedic surgeon.  Now you’re knee deep in manure.  What gives?

A: I’m still stable and I’m not knee deep in manure because the farm is a very quality operation but I realized what the farmers were struggling with was the unpredictability of the dairy price.  I have a dairy farm, I milk cows, I milked cows before I was an orthopedic surgeon, I returned to my roots, but somebody had to advocate for the dairy farmer who was just losing their shirt on the commodity price of milk which is determined by the Chicago Exchange.  And I said, we need to segregate quality milk, which is objectively measured by bacteria and white count, and bottle it under the label, Hudson Valley Fresh, distinguish ourselves by quality and the public will buy into quality and local.  We’re seven farms within a 20 mile radius of each other, small carbon footprint, we produce a quality product without the use of any rBST and we process dairy in Kingston, New York, non commingled, totally segregated and delivered from within 36 hours from leaving the cow to our customers.

Q: You’d mentioned the plummeting milk prices.  What are some factors that have contributed to what I’ve read as a 50% decrease in milk prices?
A: There are several factors: One, milk is a global entity because it can be dried into a powder.  A couple years ago Australia and New Zealand went through a drought and there was a decrease in the supply of milk and dry powder worldwide.  This opened markets for the United States, China, and Europe and with this happening, large farms milking 10, 20, 30, 50 thousand cows increased their production to answer the demand.  With the supply/demand equation, the price of milk went up and as they increased their supply and the demand then decreased because of the economy, the global economy, as well as the drought disappearing in New Zealand and Australia, all of a sudden there’s a flood of milk but no market for it.  And China decreased their demand for milk after their melamine scare they decided we don’t need dairy as much as we thought we did and all of a sudden there’s a flood of milk.  Now the price went from $20/hundred weight, which is $.20 cents a pound four months ago, next month it’ll be $11.90.  It costs $20.50 to make a hundred pounds of milk, produced in the Northeast.  If you’re getting $11 for it, there’s only so long you can survive without going bankrupt and the larger the farm, the bigger the cash flow issue and that’s what’s happening right now.

Q: This is a global problem.

A: This is a global problem but obviously we’re aware of what’s happening in the United States because we’re a big dairy producer and it’s gonna have a national effect on all the farms whether small or large because you cannot survive with $12 or $13 milk.

Q: Getting even more local at one time there were 275 dairies in Dutchess County.  What’s been the decline of dairies mainly in New York?

A: The main cost has been the poor price of milk and the unsustainable price.  Let me give you an example, in ‘83 the farmer was receiving $13 for 100 lbs of milk, in 2005 he was receiving $13 for 100 lbs of milk.

Q: You’re talking about government subsidies or the actual sale?

A: No, no this is the actual price. I mean, there’s a federal order that creates a floor but that’s what the coops are paying and that’s what they were receiving in their check in the mailbox was $13 for 100 lbs of milk when it cost $17 to produce it.  So these farmers decided we’re gonna use up our equity in loans so then there’s no more left and then there was a housing boom and land that was good for farming became residential areas and once houses are built, they never return to farming but they gave up the property because they couldn’t afford the inequities of cost of revenue over expense and the price of milk then went up.  They had two spurts of increase in price that was in, I believe, ‘95 there was one and then there was again in 2006 and 2007 but in the phase between the price was never equal to what it cost to produce it.  But this one year of good pricing in 2006-2007, a lot of the huge farms said we can get some return on our capital so let’s raise our production levels and sure enough they flooded the market and bingo the price is just plummeting right off the cliff.  And you know, if you have an industry and you have 48 employees and your income decreases, you can cut a few employees and bring your expenses down.  When you have 5,000 cows, you can’t just tell ‘em, go out to pasture, I’m not gonna take your milk for a while… can’t do that!  Either they’re milkers or hot dogs.  Ya know?  Take your choice.

Q: Well you’re living, you’re surviving, I mean your farm seems to be doing well.

A: Because I was blessed with a good career.  I love dairy farming, I retired, I’m able to subsidize my farm.  The Hudson Valley Fresh Program is a program that gives the farmer $20/hundred weight for all the milk sold so this is a project to maintain a sustainability of dairy.  We’re not gonna get rich but at least we can sustain ourselves with $20/hundred weight and the more milk we sell, the more the farmers get back.  We have a lot of potential for growth, we’re really only selling at about 15% of retail of what we produce, the remainder goes into the coop, into the federal order and for that we receive whatever the federal order price is.  This month is $14, the next month will be $12.

Q: Getting even more specific about what you do, what kind of methods or practices make your farm different, would you say, from the commodity dairies on the whole?

A: Our cows are in barns, we give a lot of TLC, the beddings are cleaned, the environment is clean, the individuals handling the cows are very particular, these are not mass feed lots.  These are individual stalled cows with a great deal of bedding and a lot of TLC and they give quality milk.  For example, we have a criteria for our milk: 1.) Raw count of bacteria.  Acceptable limits is 50,000 bacteria per CC.  Our limits are 5,000.  White count, which is reflected in the milk as well just like in humans, it reflects the health of the animal.  The acceptable upper limit is 750,000, generic milk, organic averages around 425-450,000 in white count.  Our milk, nobody is above 200,000 and my farm in particular is one of the examples as it runs between 50,000 and 100,000.  So there’s a big difference between that quality and what’s acceptable in the average milk on the market today.  Again, it has to do with the TLC, but it’s costly to give that kind of care.  The diet, there’s a lot of hay in their diet which is a normal diet for cows, the cows in the summer go out in pasture, so they have an environment that there were born and by nature, are used to but it’s costly to do it that way and not as labor efficient.  You have huge mega farms which are very labor efficient where one man can milk 200 cows, where as my farm, one man milks 50 cows.  You have efficiency of scale, but the environment is different, the longevity of a cow on my farm averages 8 years.  The longevity of a cow in this country is 3 and 1/2, okay, and that’s because of the environment they’re in.

Q: Can you tell me what happens to the cow once it’s past it’s milk producing prime?

A: It usually becomes hot dogs and hamburgers, Grade A, B.

Q: So typically the dairy cow will be used for beef.

A: Hot dogs, hamburgers.

Q: Dr. Simon, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.  Our guest has been Dr. Samuel Simon founder of Hudson Valley Fresh.  Dr. Simon, can you tell where we can find out a little bit more about Hudson Valley Fresh?

A: Sure!  We have our website which is called and we have a pretty detailed website which will give you the history as well as you can see the farmers that are participating.  And you can find our products at Whole Foods in New York, Jack’s Coffee, Eli’s in Manhattan, Union Market in Brooklyn and I’m gradually expanding into the New York City area.  We’re in the Stop and Shop, in Hannaford’s, Adam’s up in the Dutchess County/Columbia County, IGA’s in Redhook and Millbrook.  It’s a slow, gradual progression but we’re growing every year.  The more the public becomes aware of the quality of the product and that’s it’s mission is sustainable agriculture opens space and people understand that it’s worth $.50-.60 cents more per half gallon because the mission is pure and the quality is there.

Photo by Jim McKnight.

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Anna Lappe, Author and Food Activist

by Rich Awn

Discussed: Disconnect/Phobia of Nature, Community Supported Agriculture, Federal Trade Commission, Industry Supported Lies, Center for Global Food Issues, Chemical Farming, Monsanto, Against the Grain, Permaculture and Ancient Agriculture

There are a few voices that speak with resonant clarity through the noise of the “too much information generation.”  They are the conscientious mavericks whose passion and diligence in finding the truth of things have elevated them beyond mere mortal thoughtless drones but as hyper-human change makers, or as we like to call them, superheroes.

One such individual is Anna Lappe, co-autohor of Grub and Hope’s Edge, founding principal for the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund.  Her literary work brandishes a samurai blade in the face of the chemically tainted, spurious battle against the evils of the commercial agriculture and biotech industries.  Her ambitious work with the Small Planet Institute prods and ignites the basic human tendency toward social mimicry by generating a broad spectrum of “entry points” through media to understand, accept, and impart democratic social change.

See below for more photos from the MINI Space Rooftop: Sustainability Roundtable Discussion:

Q: First I wanna talk about living in an urban environment and how there’s a disconnect with nature and even a phobia, in some cases, with school children.  How do you think that we should be dealing with that?

A: That’s a very good question and one I’ve thought a lot about as a New Yorker for the past 10 years, one of the things that I always remind myself is that eating food, which we have to do on a daily basis, is our most direct connection to nature and someone who lives in a city, as you said, it’s not so often that we necessarily get our feet on dirt that we are consuming nature through the food that we eat.  Of course, many times for many of us, the food that we eat is many steps removed from nature but the closer we can get to connecting to food that is in it’s most whole, natural form is one of the best ways I think to connect to the environment and to do that through whole foods and through seasonal foods is a really powerful way to do that.

Q: You think Community Supported Agriculture programs are also a good way?

A: Absolutely.  So here in New York City, Community Supported Agriculture farms are completely taking off.  The concept behind a CSA farm, as they’re called, is this really beautiful idea that those of us who aren’t farmers but who are eaters and want to support farms can actually become a shareholder in a farm and give that farmer the money that they need up front to farm the way we want them to farm without chemicals and creating real food for us and then throughout the harvest season, get food from that farm, and there are now dozens of CSA farm communities here in New York City.  A really fabulous organization called Just Food is spearheading it here, but there are actually now more than 1000 CSA farms across the country and it is a really powerful way to connect to great food and to support farmers.

Q: What’s up with Greenwashing in food advertising?  Does America have a food culture, number one, and how can we break from our omniverous habits?

A: Well, Greenwashing I think is becoming more and more prominent across all industries including food as companies realize that more of us care, that we’re freaking out about climate change, that we’re worried about the environment and so it’s really important in that context that we become really savvy consumers of media messages about Greenwashing and to really be able to tell the real deal from just the Green hype and there are all kinds of ways we can do that.  We can also do things like speak up to the Federal Trade Commission that’s determining what they call “The Green Guides” in other words, the “rules” that they set about what a company can say and can’t say and ask them to set really strict standards so that we are protected from Greenwashing as consumers.

Q: Can we call them or email them?  How do we get in touch with the FTC?

A: The FTC, part of government that you might not think too much about, but the Federal Trade Commission is what protects us consumers from fraud of all kinds and they also set their Green Guides as their policies for what companies can say about their environmental friendliness and increasingly there are lots of companies that are making environmental claims whether their carbon neutral or carbon negative even, I’ve seen, or whether they are eco friendly or all natural.  These are vague claims that have very little meaning so the FTC is trying to determine how do we actually be more specific about that.  Increasingly, the food industry, as they come under fire for being such an important contributor to climate crisis, I see the food industry increasingly coming out with Green messages about their products.

Q: Are the FTC regulations different from USDA?

A: Yes, totally separate.  In the FTC’s Green Guides regulations I should specify, they’re actually not laws in the same way that the USDA Organic Standard is a certifiable standard that you have to follow strict rules around and you can get sued if you go outside of those certification standards where as the Green Guides are just guidelines.  I think the other great thing that we can look for when it comes to food that’s good for the environment is to look for the USDA organic certification; that’s a verifiable claim, there are standards behind it and it’s something we can trust.

Q: You brought up the IPCC and “scientific” organizations funded by commercial agriculture.  Who can we trust?

A: I, as someone who is constantly on the search for the truth, and I think that the number one thing that I do whenever I read any claim or even read people quoted in the newspapers is go behind the name of the organization to really look at who’s funding that organization and so, there are a lot of groups, really front groups, that are funded by the chemical industry for instance but have very neutral sounding names that to you and I might not raise an eyebrow.  So for instance, the Center for Global Food Issues, have you ever heard of it?

Q: No.

A: What is the Center for Global Food issues?

Q: Probably some amazing altruistic .org that I should be contributing to.

A: So have you ever heard of DOW, Dupont, Sargento, Monsanto…?

Q: Those are the top five worst polluters in the world, yes.

A: So the Center for Global Food Issues, is a project of the Hudson Institute and the Hudson Institute is funded in part by some of those companies that I just mentioned.  We can go to sources, I love resources like, is a great website.  You can actually go to that website and put the name in of one of these organizations that you read about and find out, is it a altruistic organization that’s created to get to the truth behind big issues or might there be another alternative agenda.

Q: How evil is Monsanto?

A: Hmm… well, let’s see.  Seeing as Monsanto has a habit of suing people who speak negatively about them, I don’t know if I want to answer that question on record.  In fact, Monsanto affected me very directly, affected my family very directly, my father before he passed away had written for his last book had written a book called Against the Grain that was a scientific evaluation of the claims by Monsanto about whether or not their crops actually yeilded more food, you know that’s one of the claims we hear from the biotech industry, and his book raised some serious questions about the Monsanto promise and their technology.  It was actually at his publisher ready to go to print when his publisher received a 7 page letter from Monsanto lawyers saying, we just wanna let you know, if you publish this book, we might come after you and at the time his publisher did not have an insurance policy his publisher got very worried about having to battle with such a large company like Monsanto who has been successful in suing many farmers and journalists and they pulled the book.  Ultimately my father was able to find a Maine-based publisher called Common Courage Press. I’ve always thought his book had a very different feel to it when it was published by this more left-leaning press than it would’ve been had it had been published by a New York City mainstream textbook publishing house, and that was just my own family’s experience of what this company is doing in terms of stifiling real debate and the fact that they have been so aggressive in going after scientists and journalists who truly just want to engage the public in debate to me, is some of the most profound evidence that this company is not interested in really letting the truth out not interested in really having the public know all the facts and make a decision based on facts.

Q: A topic that I’m super interested in is sustainable agriculture, namely Permaculture, and I wanted to get your thoughts on Permaculture and the return to ancient agricultural practices and do you see this as a trend?  Can we expect to see more of this in the US and worldwide?

A: There’s been this very strategic and very smart way in which those companies that have been promoting chemical agriculture have painted anything other than technology defined as using chemicals, technology defined as using genetically engineered crops that have been created in a laboratory, that anything other than that is backward that if we want to support anything other than that, that we’re Luddites or that we don’t care about progress.  It’s been a real battle that many people have been fighting now for decades to actually reframe the story and to show people that tapping into natural cycles of fertility and natural cycles of abundance and tapping into much of that ancient wisdom about how we fed our selves for centuries and centuries before all these chemicals came around that by tapping into that wisdom is not going backward it’s actually taking us into the future. I just heard Michael Pollen the journalist say that it’s “post Industrial farming,” and as I like to say it’s really about tapping into the best of ancient wisdom with the best of what we know about science and what we’re discovering is that we can actually take this form of farming even farther than we ever knew was possible in the sense that we’re seeing higher yields than we ever thought was possible through getting off of the chemical treadmill there’s been all kinds of new studies coming out that show that organic farming is a really powerful way to sequester carbon in the soil so this false tradeoff between forests and farms is one that we can shatter that idea by showing that farms can be this important way for us to sequester carbon.  There are all kinds of ways in which these traditional methods actually have a place in our modern world even more so than any of us could ever believe.

Photo by rich_awn.

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