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Archive | Eco-Farming

Shiitake Mushrooms as Specialty Crop

The flavorful shiitake mushroom is native to Asia where it has been harvested wild from forestlands for centuries.

Commercial production was introduced in the 1930s first by inoculating select logs, and later by growing mushrooms on sterilized sawdust, which sped up production. As its taste and nutritional value become more and more known and desired in North America, shiitake mushrooms present another possible niche farm crop to consider.

Shiitake can be sold in a variety of ways, including as fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms, pre-inoculated shiitake logs or sawdust blocks for backyard or tabletop shiitake mushroom growers and of course as value-added culinary products that contain the mushrooms. Even the resulting “mushroom compost” can be a valuable product. For actual spawn production, a sterile or at least very clean laboratory-type environment is preferable.

But the purchase of spawn is relatively inexpensive. Also, in some states, a certified kitchen is required to produce and sell value-added food products such as mushroom soup, but the production needs of the other shiitake products can usually be set up on a typical working farm.

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Barn Owls for Pest Control

Using barn owls for natural rodent control is gaining traction among farmers and those in other agricultural sectors. This has come about from increasingly critical environmental issues regarding chemical use in the field for rodent population control. To reduce poisons and other invasive methods of pest management, one of the most beneficial owls on the planet is being called upon as an expert rodent assailant.

Barn owls are noted for being fond of nesting but the lack of nest sites, including the loss of tree habitats, has become a major reason for the decline and non-productivity of this owl species.

When hole-nesters cannot find suitable places to breed, the population decreases notably.

Farmers have been putting barn owls on patrol for prey, including moles and gophers, as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) alternative.

Barn owls exhibit some of the best hearing among birds of prey. They have a white heart-shaped, monkey-faced appearance, and are distinguished by whitish or pale cinnamon underparts and rust-colored upper plumage. Velvety feathers allow them to approach their prey silently in darkness.

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Ketogenic Diet: Fighting Back Against Cancer

Nasha Winters is a naturopath based in Colorado and the co-author of a lucid, persuasive book called The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. She is an articulate, energetic and unstoppable advocate of the ketogenic diet as a therapy for cancer and a host of other maladies. Ketosis — not to be confused with ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition — is a metabolic state in which some of the body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood, in contrast to a state of glycolysis in which blood glucose provides most of the energy. Ketosis is a nutritional process characterized by serum concentrations of ketone bodies over a certain level, with low and stable levels of insulin and blood glucose. Longer-term ketosis occurs when people stick to a food regimen that is extremely low in carbohydrates and can be medically induced to treat a patient for diabetes or epilepsy. Along with a growing cohort of medical practitioners and ordinary citizens, Winters believes it holds the key to reversing some of the scourges that threaten to bankrupt our health care system. Herself a cancer survivor, Winters approaches her work with the fervor of one who knows it in her bones. She graciously made time for a long chat in between seeing patients, lecturing and writing.

Interviewed by Chris Walters

Understanding Cancer from a Metabolic Level

Photo courtesy of Kyla Jenkinson, PhotoDivine

ACRES U.S.A. What do you think is the biggest barrier to our understanding of cancer? For many years we’ve been hearing that millions of dollars are being spent and many millions more are needed for research. There are occasional stories of research breakthroughs and less frequent stories of significant new therapies. Yet cancer marches on. It is a subject of fear and incomprehension for most people.

NASHA WINTERS. Yes, exactly. I don’t know if I have the answer, but I have my thoughts and a quarter-century of personal experience with thousands of patients and hundreds of colleagues. First of all, when you hear the big C, when you hear “cancer,” it conjures up terror. It conjures up fear, and it conjures up a certain value and belief system. In the United States the only people who are allowed to say they treat cancer are oncologists and dental surgeons. Even your family practitioners are not allowed to treat cancer. It’s a turf war, if you will. If somebody’s diagnosed with cancer, they have to be referred to an oncologist. Well, that’s great. Oncologists know a lot about the actual cancer cell, the cancer cell cycle and the tumor itself, but frankly, they do not have any training in the terrain, in the medium in which that cell or tumor grows. That’s where we have the biggest disconnect and biggest loss in the past 70 years of cancer treatment, certainly since Nixon declared War on Cancer in the early ’70s. We have not made any headway. Just to back up and give a few statistics, one in two men and one in 2.4 women in the United States are expected to have cancer in their lifetime. When you have cancer in places like the United States, you also have a 70 percent chance of having a recurrence. Not only do you get to deal with it once — you have a high likelihood of dealing with it again. We’ve seen a 300 percent increase in brand-new secondary cancers in patients who’ve already been treated for cancer. Months to years later, they have brand-new cancers that are not related to the original diagnoses, and we find those are secondary to the treatments they received the first go around. Continue Reading →

Bt: Toxic Soil & Nature’s Balance

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a GMO more commonly known as Bt toxin, is spliced into the seeds of crops as a biological pesticide. Our environment is now sustaining genetically modified organisms in the soil, affecting everything we grow. As the seed sprouts, the Bt comes alive and grows with the plant as well as in the surrounding soils. This is a biological, living GMO pesticide that remains in the soil long after the plant is harvested. It also remains in every cell of the plant — all the way from the field to the end product, be it food, clothing, paper or tobacco.

Aerial of intersecting roads in rural Indiana.

GMOs are interrupting genetic expression of any and all plants grown in soil that has nurtured compromised seeds. This includes organic farming products coming from any farm that has been transitioned from conventional farming. To-date, there are 33 common crops being grown and harvested on over 444 million acres of land worldwide.

Beyond the soil, the effects of Bt toxin are found in the genetic makeup of pollinators, as the toxin has been found in nectar and pollen of the plants. These are taken back to the hive where it accumulates and contaminates the hive, ultimately contributing to colony collapse disorder.

We find these toxins in animals and in people (it has been found in breast milk and body tissue). It is now being reproduced in the gut. Bts are airborne, traveling in pollen and dust, spreading worldwide. DNA transfers naturally through mechanisms that allow gene flow across species. In this way Bts in the soil as well as in the air serve to compromise all efforts to produce organic and non-GMO plants, challenging their genetic integrity above and below the soil. Continue Reading →

Keep the Soil in Organic Movement

On Sunday, October 8, farmers and pioneers of the organic movement will assemble for a Rally to Keep the Soil in Organic, in Burlington, Vermont.  Join a tractor cavalcade at noon, led by the Brazilian drumming ensemble “Sambatucada” and a parade of farmers and organic eaters to the Intervale Center at 180 Intervale Rd. (parking at Gardeners Supply), followed by short speeches from leaders in the organic movement, including Senator Bernie Sanders (tentative), Eliot Coleman, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Maddie Monty, Christa Alexander, and Pete Johnson. More than 50 regional farms are expected to attend.

Women lead the parade toward the 2016 Rally in the Valley in East Thetford, Vermont.

There are 16 rallies scheduled so far to publicly oppose the weakening of USDA Organic labeling standards and to demand that the National Organic Program preserve soil as the foundation of all organic farming. Rallies are being organized in England, Canada, Costa Rica and across the United States from California to Maine.

A large rally will take place in Hanover, NH on October 15 at 2 p.m.  The final rally will take place at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting on October 31 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Keep the Soil in Organic: Farmers Weigh In

Pioneer Eliot Coleman has written, “The importance of fertile soil as the cornerstone of organic farming is under threat. The USDA is allowing soil-less hydroponic vegetables to be sold as certified organic without saying a word about it. Just when today’s agronomists and nutritionists are finally becoming aware of the crucial influence of soil quality on food quality, the USDA is trying to unilaterally dismiss that connection by removing soil fertility from the National Organic Program definition of organic. The encouragement of “pseudo-organic” hydroponics is just the latest in a long line of USDA attempts to subvert the non-chemical promise that organic farming has always represented. Without soil, there is no organic farming. The USDA is defrauding customers who expect certified organic crops to be grown on optimally fertile soil as they always have been.

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Supplying Nitrogen: Tap into Nature

Human activity is affecting planet Earth to such an extent that natural scientists are naming this time the beginning of a new geological age/epoch called Anthropocene (the recent age of man) and ending what was the Holocene epoch (about 17,000 years ago to present).

We are no longer observers of nature, but significant influencers of what is happening to nature. The sheer weight of humans and their livestock is now bigger than the Earth’s wild animal population. Our activities are rapidly increasing the amount of CO2 in the air. That is an established fact, the effect of which is the only thing in dispute, i.e. will it get warmer or cooler and will we be wetter or dryer?

The temporary warmth is obvious in the Arctic. Although growers usually help to absorb CO2 by growing crops, their improper handling of crop residue or improper feeding of livestock can add the CO2 back into the air. However, farming’s bigger polluting effect concerns nitrogen.

Plants have always used N from the air by a variety of natural methods. Now the rate we are taking N out of the air is 50 percent higher than what nature has done for millions of years. Most of this industrially created N is now used for fertilizer. This industrial process was originally used to make munitions prior to World War I.

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