Industrial agriculture


This recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence that people have been doing selective breeding of plants–using evolutionary concepts of selection–as early as 10,000 years ago. This work continues today.

However, I post this research here with a warning. (more…)

aprium harvestI’m struggling with language here, so any advice is appreciated. An aprium is a new fruit variety, created by Zaiger Genetics. It’s 3/4 apricot and 1/4 plum, just the reverse of a pluot, also developed by Zaiger Genetics. (Before rambling on about my garden, I should mention that the SF Chronicle had a nice article on the Zaiger family a few days ago. I visited their farm a few years ago while on a tasting tour and met them. They’re good people, and (more…)

Nicholas Kristof has a nice summary of one of the major problems we face as a culture, antibiotic resistance of dangerous bacteria, due to massive overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. Read his NY Times column on the topic. If you don’t know about this problem, or, even if you do, this is a must-read article. Our Federal government (we won’t get into state government problems here) no longer watches out for public health, but focuses instead on the health of large corporations. This is the tragedy of modern American politics and governance. His article describes just one instance of this in agriculture, which is just one industry where this is true.

Several years ago, after a year of tasting a wide variety of dark chocolates, I settled on Lindt’s 70% dark chocolate bar as my everyday bar of choice. While not the best of all the bars I tasted, it provided a good balance of taste and reasonable pricing. In short, an ideal everyday bar for the chocolate addict in me.

Unfortunately, Lindt couldn’t leave well enough alone. (more…)

A friend of mine had trouble guessing what kind of livestock I was thinking of adding, even with lots of hints.¬† When she finally got to bees, she claimed they weren’t livestock. I’ll defer to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service on this. They consider bees as other livestock, so I’ll go along with that.

I’ve had an interest in bees for several years, (more…)

What would urban agriculture look like if it were industrialized? Everything on this site approaches urban agriculture from an ecological perspective. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, we find entrepreneurs looking at opportunities in the field. Some of those entrepreneurs will follow the current trends towards local, sustainable agriculture. But, others will see the opportunities and approach urban agriculture from the industrial approach. What will their agriculture look like?

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Last year I tried making sauerkraut a couple of times. Both times were less than stellar efforts. My first batch (plain sauerkraut) was not particularly flavorful and had a soft texture. My second batch (cabbage, carrots, turnips and brussel sprouts) was simply too overwhelming with flavors. The turnips and brussel sprouts are both strong-flavored vegetables and didn’t go well together. I’ve been wanting to try to make it again and a Russian friend, who learned to make sauerkraut from her mother, offered to share her ‘kraut wisdom with me. So, yesterday, we started a couple of batches–a plain cabbage batch for me and a cabbage and carrot batch for her. Now, I now have a crock of sauerkraut gurgling away in my kitchen. (more…)

In yesterday’s mail I received a flier with an attention getting headline, “Don’t let Sacramento Politicians Remove Products From Your Grocery Bag”. Inside, another headline read “Banning Materials That Keep Our Food Fresh And Safe Is A Terrible Idea”, followed by “Soon, many common everyday products could disappear from grocery store shelves all across California.” The back page had a final fear-mongering headline “Your Favorite Products May Soon Disappear”. The flier had no indication on it of who it was from, except a small box that said “Paid for by BPAfacts.org”. It urged me to call a local California State Assembly member to urge him to vote no on a specific legislative bill. The text inside had no substantive information about what was at stake, other than that a substance, BPA, has been used as a coating to line canned food and beverages, “…a material that’s been safely used for 50 years in food packaging and a wide variety of plastic products like reusable water and baby bottles.”

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Because industrial agriculture is in trouble, creative approaches are needed to respond to threats to food security that we face. While industrial agriculture gets some of its efficiency from a centralized production model that provides economies of scale, centralized systems are notably poor at adapting to change. To adapt to change, decentralized and small systems are much better, because many small and different approaches provide more chances to find better approaches to new conditions. When something isn’t working, they also respond much more quickly; it’s much easier to turn around my small kayak than it is a big oil tanker. This ability to adapt is why much more innovation in technology takes place in small firms than large firms. (more…)

Given that logic wasn’t working, thank gawd politics did. Today the State of California and the Federal government announced that aerial spraying of urban areas to “eradicate” the light brown apple moth (LBAM) would not be conducted as planned. This is a victory for those activists who let their elected representatives know that they didn’t want to be sprayed with untested chemicals for a questionable purpose with failure the likely result. I thank all those who took a more active role than I did. Given my concerns with asthma and the fact that the sprayed particles were small enough to be breathed into¬†lungs, it’s no wonder there were earlier reports of problems from people with asthma. I was not looking forward to having to deal with the spraying.

In addition, as an ecological urban gardener, I had a “down to earth” concern. (more…)

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