Farm Photos

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why You should Eat Organic Twinkies

The other day there was a Facebook post floating around, it had three skeletons in coffins and each skeleton was reflecting upon his life with a funny/ironic sentiment. One of them was “I’m glad I ate Organic!”

Is eating organic simply a healthy choice? No. Is it about just keeping yourself thinner or prettier or healthier? Not by a long shot. That is one way of looking at why a person would choose to eat organic, however the other reasons are often more important…particularly now at this time of climate crisis. Organic agriculture is not just a trend, it’s not just a fad, it’s not a health kick, it is and will be the only future of food that we have; and the fact that it’s healthier and tastes better is just a bonus.
Every person should know that 40%, yes 40%, of global carbon emissions come from industrial agriculture (see Vandana Shiva, Soil not Oil). This is a gigantic contributor to global warming. Not only does industrial agriculture contribute heavily to carbon emission, but it actually produces less in calories than organic agriculture. For all the industrial Ag. Companies talk about efficiency, growing many acres of one crop is not only destructive and extremely risky, but you’re only producing one nutrient deficient product. This type of highly mechanized agriculture is entirely dependent upon fossil fuel; from the tilling of the soil, addition of fertilizer, to the planting of seed, to the harvest, to processing and distribution every step along the way requires heavy inputs of oil. Without oil, this type of agriculture would be impossible to maintain, so it’s a highly dependent system.  - Democracy Now with Vandana Shiva

“In the world's temperate climates human agriculture has supplanted 70 percent of grasslands, 50 percent of savannas and 45 percent of temperate forests. Farming is also the leading cause of deforestation in the tropics and one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributor to the ongoing maul of species known as the "sixth extinction," and a perennial source of nonrenewable groundwater mining and water pollution.”

“On the other hand, an organic farmer "needs to create a fertile soil that provides sufficient nutrients at the right time when the crops need them. The same is true for pest management." But the end result is a healthier soil, which may prove vital in efforts to make it more resilient in the face of climate change as well as conserve it. Organic soils, for example, retain water better than those farms that employ conventional methods. "You use a lot more water [in irrigation] because the soil doesn't have the capacity to retain the water you use,"” – Scientific American; will organic food fail to feed the world.
Industrial agriculture displaces real farmers. As corporate driven agriculture seeks out new fertile land to grow more monocrops on, it takes it from localized, small farmers who would put that land to better use. These companies go into developing nations, where a localized food system is critical to survival, and buy up all the fertile land and water for production. They claim that by doing this they provide jobs and ‘education’ for the local communities but what they’ve really done is undermined a local food system that has worked for thousands of years. They monocrop, which means less diversity of food is produced and the people of that region start to suffer from nutrient deficiencies. And, they push out the last of the real farmers by undercutting their prices at local markets. This alone is a reason to choose organic, as industrial agriculture cannot work in an organic model so when you choose to buy an organic product…you are choosing to let these farmers continue to produce a variety of healthy foods for their own people. You are alleviating world hunger.
Unprocessed, local agriculture produces more food. “If you are eating lettuce in NYC grown in California, it has taken 56 calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver you 1 calorie of food” – Michael Pollan, Organic Lunch or Toxin Brunch.  Eating organic says “I will not participate in this ridiculous destructive system.” According to John Reganold of Washington State University where one of the largest organic vs. conventional experiments was recently undertaken and continues "Our findings have global implications and advance what we know about the sustainability benefits of organic farming systems," and  "We also show you can have high quality, healthy produce without resorting to an arsenal of pesticides."

Biointensive mini-farming techniques make it possible to grow food using 99 percent less energy in all forms – human and mechanical, 66 percent to 88 percent less water, and 50 percent to 100 percent less fertilizer, compared to commercial agriculture. They also produce two to six times more food and build the soil.” – The Context Institute.

So, being healthier or living longer is only a small reason why you should choose to eat organic. Really, you could eat organic twinkies; although they are highly processed…so talk to your local baker. Choosing to buy and eat organic not only stands up to corporate bullies, but it takes action against climate change, against world hunger, it supports local business, and local beauty of landscape, and it makes a strong statement that you want to contribute to the solutions.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What is Roundup? MIT Scientist Stephanie Seneff Distills the Truth

What is Roundup?

No matter how many 'no spray zone' signs you post around your house, you cannot be free of this chemical. it literally permeates every part of our lives and is found in most human bodies on the planet today. Roundup is a commercial name for a chemical titled 'glyphosate' which was patented in 1970 by a scientist, John E. Franz, working for the Monsanto corporation. Today, this broad spectrum herbicide may be responsible for the most widespread devastation of general health that we've seen on the planet ever. Whether we're talking about the health of people, the health of animals, health of family farms, insect health, soil health, plant health ect. Roundup has been Monsanto's star product since the early 70's and they've pushed it hard, succeeding in basically adapting our entire international agricultural system to revolve around it. Like all biotech products, it was introduced to farmers and gardeners as a game changer. No hassle weed control, just spray it and watch the magic happen.

Studies out of Purdue University from Professor Don Huber have linked glyphosate to the immobilization of essential nutrients in soil, and consequently a higher rate of disease and fungi infested crops. Well, as an amateur aspiring soil scientista, I thought 'immobilization of nutrients'...of course because it's killing the beneficial fungi and bacteria which mobilize those nutrients. It sterilizes the soil and leaves you with dirt. Ironically, what would farmers do upon realizing that their crops aren't taking up nutrients? They buy fertilizer...from Monsanto. What to do about the attacking fungi? fungicide...also from Monsanto. Everything about this chain reaction ends and begins with Monsanto...and that, my friends, is just good business.

Monsanto's new Genetic Engineering campaign also revolves around their bread and butter product. The first, most marketed, and most used genetically engineered seed is Monsanto's Roundup-Ready seed. These seeds, whether they be canola, corn, wheat, soy or another staple crop, are designed so they will not die upon contact with glyphosate. Instead of being selective and only spraying the edges of the fields, farmers can now spray to their hearts content and these Roundup Ready crops will just soak it in.

From Monsanto's website: "In addition to glyphosate, the formulations typically include water and a surfectant system. The surfectant system enables the products to adhere to surface of the leaves so the active ingredient can penetrate. When the product is applied to green leaves or stems, the active ingredient moves throughout the plant so the entire plant dies." While in this context they are taking pride in their effective delivery system, they are also admitting that Roundup is designed to penetrate deeply into plants. So, most genetically engineered crops are saturated to the core with glyphosate.

There are so many people trying to stay fit and healthy; they count calories and track active miles, they choose fresh meals over processed foods, they juice and take supplements, they demonize fats and sugars and point accusing fingers at foods containing these things as if eating them could shorten their lives. But where is acknowledgement of risk factors associated with repeated exposure to glyphosate? I guarantee that this chemical has taken more lives than butter and sugar, and the interview associated with this post explains why.

The video is a conversation which took place between Dr. Joseph Mercola, a nation-wide renouned osteopathic physician, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientists at MIT. Seneff takes us on a step-by-step analysis of just how glyphosate interacts with certain essential amino acids in our bodies and then draws clear connections between the deficiencies of these substances and the rise of certain types of illness in society including diabetes, autism, depression, auto-immune disorders, Parkinsons, and cancer. The diseases just mentioned are among today's leading killers, the rise of which happen to coincide with the widespread acceptance of industrial agriculture and glyphosate.

How long before more physicians, scientists, professors, and researchers begin to speak out about the realities of our current agricultural system and it's affects on our health? How long before mothers, students, colleagues, and professionals start drawing parallels between the illnesses they've endured, their children and families have endured, and their exposure to agricultural chemicals? One thing I'm pretty positive about, chronic illness isn't a thing. It's a phrase that we've invented for what is really the repeated abuse of our bodies through constant environmental exposure to toxins, our ingestion of inorganic substances, and our lifestyles which leave little room for physical activity or holistic treatment. Still, 75% of our health care budget goes to treating these illnesses. Treating them, not eliminated the cause of them which would effectively cure the dis-ease.

Dr. Mercola and Dr. Seneff:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Soulstice Gardens Poorganics

I’ve been on many sides of the food argument, from apathetic to radical and beyond. I'll admit it, the following words have come out of my mouth: “I don’t care about organic, I’ll eat Western Family all day long!” 

Given, that was a long time ago. When I said that, I was coming from a perspective where it seemed like only fancy people bought organic stuff. I couldn’t afford it, and I’d eaten the so-called “regular” food my whole life already. Why spend more on it? I didn’t know why some people made it a big deal.

Over time I learned more about the dangers of eating pesticide and herbicide residues and the ecological consequences of continuing to farm this way, and I came into a new perspective. First of all, it wasn’t just all about me. It actually made me feel selfish not to buy organic food when I could, because who was I to deny the Earth respect? I am not the type to care more about myself than the Earth, I hug trees and s***t. I don't want animals or people suffering and I don't want to turn a blind eye to it all. This was one choice I had control over, I should make the right one.

These farms are scenes from nightmares, and the folks in charge of them are cashing in on the glory of being the ‘good old American farmer’. But, they do an injustice to the homesteaders and turn of the century farmers who grew this country. The consequences of industrial agriculture have caused thousands of direct deaths, it is the world’s top industry for slave trade and labor…yes, today. The number of slaves currently stuck in the agricultural system is higher than the number of slaves on the planet at the start of the civil war. This business is the business of slavery and exploitation, it represents the worst of human character. Here we are, able to change things in a first world country, and I’ve got the nerve to say something like “I’ll eat western family all day long?” That makes me want to vomit now.

Then people started getting sick as we all grew older. Gall bladders, eye problems, allergies, cancer, and diabetes…it started becoming ever clearer that no one should be denied healthy food = medicine = health. It is a basic human right like clean water, shelter from the weather, and freedom. In a couple of years of study, I flipped my role in this producer/ consumer game.  I became the crazy hippie chick who thinks everyone is going to die unless they switch to 100% organic!
But, on that other extreme end I wasn’t getting a good response from people. I was overly passionate, came off a little crazy, and tended to scare more people than sway them. As I preached organic, I was also a poor student who already spent ½ her (very small) income and $200 worth of food stamps monthly on food…If I wanted to commit to eating all organic it meant eating nothing but rice, beans, and pickled cabbage. Not that it wasn’t healthy, but it certainly wasn’t the rainbow, flavorful, Instagram-worthy, eclectic diet that I dreamed about…and it wasn’t going to convince anyone else to eat this way.

So, how could I tell people to go organic, achieve the flavorful diet I wanted, and also sympathize with being unable to afford it? The answer was to grow it myself. I am committed to having the best of the best food at the price of my own sweat, blood, and tears and no one else’s. And, I decided that since it was going to take a lot of my time to do this, I should probably make it a job and grow enough to share with those around me. So, Soulstice Gardens is just this, a homestead style farm where I am trying to get the most flavorful and nutrient-packed diet I can from the land herein. That which we cannot produce we purchase or trade for after all, ‘self-sufficiency’ is a misleading phrase that dooms many to drudgery and self-imposed poverty. Through growing organic produce which I can sell, I will be able to purchase the additional organic products we would otherwise be unable to afford…all the while keeping on that organic train.

Looking at this from the side of producer, it’s a funny situation. Farmers, gardeners, and people who are familiar with the food system want to know exactly how all of their food is grown. Now I have conversations about whether residue from conventional produce will survive decomposition and show up in your finished compost, a much better topic than whether or not RoundUp is safe.  They want to know if we are certified, what our chickens eat, where our water comes from, what our soil tests look like, what temperature the compost heats to, how we control pests and disease, etcetera. It started to become overwhelming in the other direction; too much concern over possible contamination from “the big bad industrial world.” A better place to be than among the shelves of grocery store poison, but how to become an organic producer without having to wade through endless concerns of ‘questionable practices’, ‘knowledge battles over who knows more sustainable techniques or certifications’? I feel that I have a genuine commitment to treating the Earth, and my animals ethically. No chemical spray or fertilizer ever touches my plants or soil. Now, that being said, I feel absolutely no need to seek out inspection or certification, especially from the very institutions who have failed to protect our food system already. This is when we came up with “Poorganics” as a term for what we might describe as: organic, for the real person. I know that it's been out in the ether and there have been others' who use it with similar meaning, this is what it means to me.

Poorganics applies to both the consumer and the producer, and all types of enthusiasts of organic living. It is a philosophy that represents a dedication to knowledge, integrity, and information, while also recognizing that we live in a world where contaminates are everywhere. The best we can all do is minimize our exposure and work toward a life that is healthier. Poorganics obviously speaks to the fact that most of us don’t earn an income worthy of supporting an all organic lifestyle, but we can learn to buy organic when we can. We can learn about which products contain the highest amounts of residues and choose organic options for those things while saving money by purchasing other items conventionally. In produce, the 12 vegetables and fruits that test the highest for pesticide residue after harvest are called the ‘dirty dozen’, and it’s becoming popular now for restaurants to shop organically for the dirty dozen yet conventionally for others, such as the ‘clean fifteen’. 

As consumers, we can research the issues that affect us most: animal treatment, soil degradation, corporate greenwashing, or whatever you care about. We can choose to avoid products that directly support these practices. One of the first real commitments I made was to go organic for my dairy and eggs because I was concerned about the treatment of animals and the bioaccumulation of toxins within them. Through raising a few chickens, I am able to save money on eggs and purchase organic dairy products.

From the perspective of the producer, Poorganic is how we like to describe our produce to buyers. Certification is something for large farms, farms whose practices are industrial enough to be of concern. We grow food like the pioneers grew it because we like to eat good, fresh, unsprayed, nutritionally dense flora. Like real American farmers, we protect the land we grow it on, because it must serve us for generations to come. Poorganics, from any perspective, is about getting real. I grow tired of hearing people snuff their noses, or laugh, at the word ‘organic’ because it has become too commercialized and too stigmatized. It’s not about who has the best brand at the dinner party, it’s about realizing how industrial farming treats the ecology of our planet. It's about going inside yourself and deciding where you stand on this issue and what you want to eatNo one has to ask the waiter whether the parsley in the chutney on their fancy, wild caught salmon is organic. Or, be the guy to request the name, hometown, and date of birth of his roasted chicken. However, we should be subtly aware of what is really on our plate, what it went through to get there, and what it’s going to do upon entering our bodies.

 I don’t waste my time counting calories, and I’m not bitter enough to refuse to eat the grilled American cheese sandwich at the neighborhood picnic. I am idealistic enough to take action in my own life, to grow fresh vegetables and share them, and to offer to cook for the next picnic.