Op-Ed: Urban Ecology and Rural Resources

Research and planning for sustainable cities cannot work without rural development, says Edwin Castellanos, in Urban Sustainability Should Look Outside the Cities. He says:

Now more than ever is the right time to bridge the rural-urban divide. Cities are closing in on rural areas, with distances shrinking both physically through better road networks and also virtually through a better network of mobile phones and Internet connections. Yet to many urban dwellers, including national decision makers, their rural surroundings seem like a distant world — one that is often forgotten.

And in her book, Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, Carolyn Steel discusses the gargantuan effort needed to feed cities across the world on a daily basis. It is an effort that has a massive and vastly under-appreciated social and physical impact on both human populations and the planet.

Cities would never have arisen without their rural counterparts to supply the resources. The contemporary model of urban ecology does not weigh inputs and outputs correctly and pretends that it is possible to grow food in closed industrial systems without connections to the broader, natural living-landscape. Read on.


T-40: Forty Years of Tilth

In November 1974, more than 800 people met in Ellensburg at the Northwest Conference on Alternative Agriculture to discuss food, agriculture, and the environment. Inspired by a speech given by Wendell Berry at the “Agriculture for a Small Planet” symposium at Expo 74 in Spokane, the audience at this “new type of agriculture symposium” fostered a number of organizations, one of which we now know as Tilth Producers of Washington.

This year, from November 7-9, over 700 attendees celebrated Re-Imagine Agriculture, the 40th anniversary of that first meeting, with highlights that included inspiring keynote speeches by Raj Patel and Mary Berry, Wendell Berry’s daughter. At the conference now referred to as T-40, a few attendees of the first conference – older, wiser, and grayer – mingled with younger farmers (some not yet born when Berry spoke in 1974) to share ideas, advice, and plans for the future.

Read the whole story here.


Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?

Crown S Ranch Broad-Breasted Bronze Turkey

Crown S Ranch Broad-Breasted Bronze Turkey

Just the words “Thanksgiving dinner” can strike fear into the hearts of the “kitchen challenged.” After all, there are romantic images of beautiful crispy brown turkeys, delicate pastry, and robust gravies and sauces plastered across the walls in nearly every supermarket, spread throughout those “women’s magazines” (thanks to Oprah and Martha), and flashing on TV.

You, yes, you, the one with the apron, you have choices. You can go all Martha Stewart on us and do it from scratch, you can supplement with a few prepared items from your favorite market, or you can let someone like the in-house chef at Seattle’s Whole Foods Market – Interbay, do it for you.

Get menu ideas, recipes, and more here: Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?


Ebola Challenges the Success Achieved in Liberia’s Rice Sector

Rice harvest

Rice harvest

As Ebola slowly spread through Lofa County, rice farmers were still taking stock of the 2013 harvest, bagged and stored in cities like Voinjama, Kolahun and Foya. Then, in May 2014, something historic happened. Fabrar Liberia bought 3,260 bags (163 metric tons) of rice – worth $63,500 USD – from 550 farmers in Lofa County, making the largest procurement of rice by a local processor in the history of the country.

With the ongoing crisis, this new and improved rice value chain is already bracing itself for a downturn in production. Most farmers planted their lowland rice by July and August, some are now wondering if they will have the manpower to harvest in the coming months. If there is less manpower and a fragmented market, some farmers could revert to subsistence farming, concerned primarily with getting their families past Ebola. Read the whole story here.

Nico Parkinson, our global food correspondent, writes about agriculture-focused projects in Africa,
primarily Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Somalia, and Liberia.

From Sex Worker to Farmer

Kombolcha_1594When 29-year-old China Dessale approached the Wain Hotel where she used to work as a commercial sex worker, carrying a basket teeming with cabbage, carrots, lettuce and eggs, the hotel owner couldn’t believe his eyes. He remembered China when she was 15 years old. Read more in From Sex Worker to Farmer

A Mother’s Dream

As part of a program focusing on the health of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, Genet was trained in growing vegetables, post-production and marketing. Today she dreams of creating a cooperative with her Group Garden and diversifying the agriculture portfolio by adding animals and a possible dairy farm. Read: A Mother’s Dream

Student Farmers in Liberia

There was a time before Liberia’s civil wars when agriculture was an integral part of the education system. Ten years after the end of the wars, the majority of Liberians live in poverty, depend on agriculture as a livelihoods, and grow their own food for survival. That’s changing. Read more: Student Farmers in Liberia Get Back to the Soil and Into the Classroom

For a list of all of Nico’s articles, click here.


Protecting Wild Salmon Is the Right Thing To Do

Our real life-blood here in the Northwest is not reflected in the 50-plus-story glass and steel monoliths we build as an edifice to airplanes, computer software, and agricultural exports (grain, alfalfa, etc.), they are comparatively short lived: less than 100 years old and not likely to last another 100. It’s the wild salmon and the intrinsic and indigenous human culture that goes back at least 10,000 years that hold us together in a web of life so intricate and adaptable it withstood the Ice Age.

Fishing Vessel Loki, Seattle WA (left), Fishing Vessel Constance, Sitka AK

Wild salmon are without question the heart and soul of our region. But newcomers aren’t told that, and most of the rest of the US population can’t relate or doesn’t even care, having fallen into a fish food culture that values greasy breading and spicy sauce over the fish inside as a culinary fix. Ironically, to keep our wild salmon alive in the natural fishery and to sustain ourselves, we’ve got to eat them. Unfortunately, we don’t! Eat them, that is.

Read more in Protecting Wild Salmon Is the Right Thing To Do.