Urban Farming News

Does Monsanto Help Farmers?

Posted in climate stabilization, distribution, farm labor, food security, fossil fuels, global hunger, Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 22, 2010

So, with all of this buzz going on around Monsanto this week, I decided to look a bit deeper into this big, bad company.

What is the cost of a GMO?

A farmer’s livelihood? The inability to stop cross  pollination? Increased food production on less land? Eradicating Hunger?

This is a topic that hits close to home for me.  Raised in rural Wisconsin, My family represents a strong hold of small family farmers. I will admit, I was shocked to learn that our family uses GMO’s such as “Round Up Ready”  soy beans (if you’re wondering,  Court Rules For Monsanto, Anti Trust Case Remains reported by NPR) However if you look at the facts, Monsanto does defend small farms around the world.

Farm Facts According to Monsanto

* Today’s farmer feeds an average of 155 people, compared to only 26 people in 1960

* Farmers are a direct lifeline to more than 24 million jobs in the U.S.

* To keep up with population growth more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years as the past 10,000 years combined.

* Go to Monsanto to read more!

Conservation & Security

Clearly we need to keep our farms producing at largest capacity  with high quality.  Many families depend on their crops and need income security. Conservation of natural resources is also a serious concern for farmers. Check out this nifty video, Conserve More featuring Dr. Klaus Ammann

In summery, the video highlights how Monsanto’s engineered seeds reduce the need to till the land, thus reducing fuel cost for equipment. In addition, water is conserved as a natural erosion barrier is maintained. Basically, GMO crops = decreased tractor use + erosion control.  This equation seems a bit too simple…

Eradicating Hunger

The highlight of Monsanto’s lovely website was the bit that stated “True or False: The world grows enough food to feed its population. Generally true, although to eradicate hunger, people in the developing world need to be able to access food either by growing it or through purchase, which means it needs to be affordable”

The “developing world” is a loose term. The United States is still developing, if you want my humble opinion. I hope I can one day tell stories of people being hungry, with out jobs and homes (wait a second…didn’t I hear those as a kid?)

What will it take to really end hunger?   Let’s make like a farmer, roll up our sleeves, work our butts off and find out!

An Education in Native California Species

Posted in climate stabilization, community development, Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 20, 2010

When I was asked to become the San Francisco coordinator, I was thrilled. The Bay area provides a multitude of community challenges, diverse micro-climates, well developed native permaculture and a plethora of educational experiences.

I have been gardening my entire life. I grew up in southern Wisconsin and started to work with Urban Farming in L.A…needless to say, these climates are quite different then Northern California. Fortunately, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is right at my back door and a fantastic place to learn, grow and get dirty!

Last week was my first round of volunteer work in the Native Plant Garden. I had a grand time weeding and removing grass from a sunny hill. Recently a tree was removed and this bed is becoming a native restoration area. Terry, the manager of the Native Garden was eager to share his wealth of knowledge.

Here are some fun facts:

Rhamnaceae : A California Native, Blue Flowers are characteristic, there are tons of varieties and common names. This one is “Ray Hartman”

Asteraceae: A San Francisco area native : it was thought that all of the Bary area wild plants were gone. However a couple months ago during a highway construction project a large specimen was discovered. Several cuttings have taken root at the botanical gardens and plans to move the wild plant are in the works. Cool!

Red Admiral Butterfly: ok, this is not a plant – it’s not even a Cali native.  However, this species can not survive cold weather to much of North America must be recolonized each spring. The web like cocoon is visible only to the observant eye. Terry pointed this nifty insect out to me – good thing too…few weeds escape my wrath!

I’ll keep you all updated as I learn more about native plants, restoration and preservation.

Freezing in Florida : Juice For Thought

Posted in climate stabilization, food security, hunger, local food by Urban Farming News on January 12, 2010

Record low temperatures have swept across Florida freezing orange, tomato, corn, ornamental plants & fish farms. Chilling news as I sipped my coffee while listening to NPR’s Morning Edition today. This is an especially bad time for growers who are typically two weeks into their winter harvest. Fish farms are suffering as many species; including catfish begin to die at temperatures of 60 degrees and below. Don’t forget the large plant nurseries that grow palm trees and ornamental plants.

This is a hard hit for Florida’s agricultural industry. Rumors of an official disaster declaration are circulating. Orange juice prices have also been in dramatic flux this week. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, orange juice prices dropped to $1.3185 a pound on Monday. Experts say that the full extent of the frost damage cannot be confirmed for several days or weeks. <<insert snarky farmer comment here>>  Tragically, many young trees will not survive this dramatic frost. Orange juice prices will rally and recover, however these growers will still feel the lasting effects.

In the coming weeks, we may feel the impact of this frost across the nation. In the coming days, the weather experts are predicting more climate upheaval across the nation. Torrential rainstorms are predicted for California, hitting many areas that suffered wild fires hard. No need to comment on the dramatic damages that could ensue.

The big questions: Is climate change to blame? Can we expect odd weather patterns like this to up heave our agricultural practices in the future? What can we do to sustain our crops and stabilize our climate?

What do you think?

A side note: Most of our juice supply comes from Florida; while California’s orange crops typically go for fresh fruit resources.

Car Dependency Decreasing

Posted in climate stabilization, fossil fuels by Urban Farming News on January 8, 2010

Apparently American’s are relying less on cars, finally. My curiosity was peaked when I bumped into Steven T. Jone’s article “Has car ownership peaked? Let’s hope so” in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. As a commuter cyclist, user of public transit and recreational walker. I try to limit my driving to 1-2 trips per week. Don’t scoff; I’ve pulled this off in Los Angeles, Madison and San Francisco Nonetheless, I am curious about this trend.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, in the past year we scrapped 14 million cars. American’s only purchased 10 million. Math check; that equals 4 million less cars on the road. Great. If the trend continues, we will be down another few million in a couple years.

What’s the cause of this? The usual symptoms of course; market saturation, economic uncertainty, climate change concerns, fuel insecurity, people sick of sitting traffic, hipsters taking over the world with single speeds…

Above all, this is a really interesting trend. Many cities are upping restrictions on car use by increasing parking fees and extending meter hours.  The day I discovered $3.00 per hour parking was a rude awakening indeed. As a relatively “young” person I will be the first to admit that my pocket book is thin. Cars are expensive. Families are sharing cars, fewer teens are getting their driver’s licenses and cities are pushing for public transportation.

If you’ve taken a bus lately, you know how badly we need to improve public transit. Perhaps you’ve battled commuter traffic on the Bay Bridge. I was even appalled at the cross-town traffic in my lovely hometown of Madison! Ranting and raving doesn’t help much, however we’ve got to be aware of the trends. The stats are mere facts; please draw your own conclusions.