Farming in the 21st Century

Over the last 150 years farming has changed from an animal-powered (and human-powered) occupation to a high-tech, high-energy business. And as fewer and fewer men – and occasionally women – choose to take it up, the age of today’s farmer has slowly inched up until it has approached “retirement” age.

There are, however, young people coming to farming with unique training and education. Jennifer Agraves and Louis Sukovaty were just such young people when they tabled their engineering careers in their mid-thirties to take over Louis’ family farm, Crown S Ranch. Today, they combine traditional low-tech methods of animal husbandry with high-tech, solar-powered solutions.

This newly released e-book covers:

  • A New Generation of Farmers
  • Engineering an Organic Farm: “It isn’t easy!”
  • Organic Farming: Better For the Environment
  • Meet Your Meat
  • Small Farmers Need Small Slaughterhouses
  • Delivery Dilemmas
  • Selling From a Small Scale Integrated Livestock Farm

Get your FREE copy here.


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.

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