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Archive | Eco-Farming

Interview: Fungi Guru Tradd Cotter Talks Mycoremediation, Mushroom Farming and Developing Research

Wild World of Mycology

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

image001 (21)The field of mycology represents a  critical next frontier in biology. Relative to the plant and animal kingdoms, mushrooms have been largely neglected by science and yet they hold enormous promise for healing people and the planet, if you believe Tradd Cotter and others in his tribe. Fungi offer tremendously important applications in many realms of material life, from agriculture to medicine, from environmental cleanup to manufacturing and waste management.
Cotter calls it mycotopia.

In the new generation of passionate mycologists, Cotter stands out as a brilliant leader and restless innovator. He is a keen observer of and experimenter with all things mycological, an inveterate inventor who combines intuition and careful study with a wildly creative streak and is a much-in-demand lecturer who entertains and motivates while he educates. His first book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation has garnered outstanding reviews.

Cotter is a microbiologist, professional mycologist and organic gardener who has been tissue culturing, collecting native fungi in the Southeast and cultivating fungi both commercially and experimentally for more than 22 years. In 1996 he founded Mushroom Mountain, which he owns and operates with his wife, Olga. The company, his platform for exploring applications for mushrooms in various industries, currently maintains more than 200 species of fungi for food production, mycoremediation of environmental pollutants and natural alternatives to chemical pesticides. He’s particularly fond of coming up with low-tech and no-tech cultivation strategies so that anyone can grow mushrooms on just about anything, anywhere in the world. Mushroom Mountain is expanding to 42,000 square feet of laboratory and research space near Greenville, South Carolina, to accommodate commercial production, as well as mycoremediation projects. Tradd, Olga and their daughter, Heidi, live in Liberty, South Carolina, in the northwestern part of the state.

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Interview: Author, Advocate Courtney White Unites Groups at Odds through Regenerative Agriculture

Courtney-WhiteFinding Common Ground

“Courtney, the Berlin Wall fell down up here.” These were the words of a Forest Service District Ranger back in 1998. He was talking about the wall between ranchers and environmentalists in the region, and people passing out the hammers and helping with the teardown were, and still are, called the Quivira Coalition. Courtney White, the subject of this month’s interview, co-founded Quivira in 1997 because he was dismayed and disheartened by the nasty, unceasing legal and ideological dogfighting over the disposition of Western lands. He thought it might be a good idea, for example, if environmentalists heard from scientists about the importance of fire to restoring grass. Or if ranchers and farmers heard from a peer about the advantages of moving livestock around, and heard it while conservationists and environmentalists were in the room. As the ranger indicated, the simple idea of bringing people together to relax the grip around each other’s throats and learn a few things, turned out to be terrifically well-timed and apt. After 17 years as director of Quivira, White decided to concentrate full-time on writing books, of which the eminently useful Two Percent Solutions for the Planet is only the latest example. Reached at home in Santa Fe, he graciously agreed to reflect on the past two decades of building coalitions and opening eyes.

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7 Stockmanship Lessons for Success

Pigs raised outdoors.by Kelly Klober

I was raised in a house full of books and given a pretty broad view of my world from the seat of an old Studebaker pickup, atop many a sale barn gate, and perched on straw bales at livestock shows and breeder auctions. Dad began and ended each day with the stock, and I believe he could eventually spot one just when it was starting to get sick.

That highlights lesson one of my continuing life course of study in stockmanship. It is, simply, go out and go out often to look at, listen to and really study the animals in your charge.

1. OBSERVATION

Thirty minutes just before full light and just before sunset are optimal times to walk among the creatures in your care. During those times they are generally more closely grouped, are settling in or rising up from a night of rest and are more easily approached for closer examination. These are also times when livestock are more vulnerable to predation. Continue Reading →

Book review: Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate

by Laura Lengnick, book review by Chris Walters

resilient-agricultureThis is not a book composed of brisk summaries and sweeping statements. Laura Lengnick gets into the weeds without delay, devoting the first 100-odd pages to laying out the particulars of sensitivity and adaptability that affect farms buffeted by rapid changes in weather patterns. Given the size and complexity of the phenomena under discussion — as well as masses of fresh data being collected all the time — it’s something like a thumbnail sketch. But it’s an impressively detailed, lucid and well-organized introduction to a topic that could easily fill several volumes.

Lengnick asks the crucial question in the final paragraph of her book’s first third: “What are the barriers and opportunities to the development of a sustainable U.S. agriculture robust to the increasing pace and intensity of climate change?” The rest of the book is devoted to the answer as delivered by 25 sustainable producers from all over the land. Every region is represented, and readers are likely to encounter people they’ve already met either at conferences or in these pages. All of them sound like people you’d like to meet, and taken as a whole, the range of their responses to the bedevilments of the past few years are dazzling. Continue Reading →

Book Review: Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World

miraculous-abundanceby Perrine & Charles Hervé-Gruyer, book review by Chris Walters

Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful attempt to cut off Germany with an airborne invasion of the Netherlands in late September of 1944, might have shortened World War II by six months. The market garden operation currently underway in the tiny French village of Le Bec-Hellouin, by contrast, is rated as brilliant by outside observers, stunning even those who were optimistic in the first place. If adapted to local conditions and replicated on a massive scale in various parts of the world, it could do much to shorten the terminal crisis of humanity by several decades or more. Charles Hervé-Gruyer, co-founder of the tiny farm with his wife Perrine, can prove it — he has the numbers. Microfarming the way this family does it in a remote corner of Normandy cuts undesirable inputs and raises desirable output significantly. This book tells how they created La Ferme du Bec Hellouin over the past decade. Continue Reading →

Building Soil Health with Volcanic Basalt

by Rich Affeldt

volcanic-basaltOrganic and sustainable farmers have long relied on rock dust as an all-natural way to improve roots systems, increase yields and promote general plant health in a wide variety of crops and conditions. Yet, it has taken the rapid depletion of our global soils to bring rock dust to the attention of modern agricultural science. The good news is that there is undeniable evidence that rock minerals can help restore soil health, minimize crop deficiencies and boost resistance to pests and disease.

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