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Archive | Eco-Living & Health

Superior Farm Staff Leadership

Effective farm staff management can make all the difference. A long-time organic farmworker named Jessica told me, “When you are the boss there is not much incentive to change.” I’d like to prove that there is great incentive to improve management. Poor management hurts everyone — it makes farms less productive, and it can make employees miserable. It’s also very difficult to address the problem.

Workers don’t have any power in the relationship. They fear bringing up conflict for fear of losing a good recommendation in the future or the chance for a promotion. There is typically no structure in place for employees to contribute ideas about how they are being managed.

Drawn from interviews with organic farmworkers from around the country and my own experiences on multiple farms, here are some thoughts about managing farmworkers from their perspective (some names in this article have been changed).

Empowerment

A lot of the workers I talked to expressed great appreciation for the ways that farmers empowered them in their jobs. The best bosses assume their workers are capable of learning and performing tasks, even contributing new insight into the direction of the farm. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: The Miracle of Milk

By Bernarr Macfadden

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an Acres U.S.A. title, The Miracle of Milk, by Bernarr Macfadden. Copyright 2011, softcover, 118 pages. Normal price: $12.95.

The Miracle of Milk by Barnarr Macfadden

The Miracle of Milk by Barnarr Macfadden

One of the most outstanding effects of the full milk diet is the marvelous effect the ingestion of this large amount of fluid has upon the circulation. This is most important, from the standpoint of normal functioning. For many people suffering from chronic diseases are troubled with defective circulation of the blood. Their blood pressure is 30 or 40 degrees below or above what it should be. This condition may manifest itself by cold feet, cold hands, constant chilliness, susceptibility to colds, and numerous other symptoms.

These are the cases that respond very rapidly to the effects of the full milk diet. This is due to the improved circulation and to the increased amount of life-giving fluid in the veins and capillaries. Often within a few hours after commencing the diet their pulse rate will be increased when very low. Inside of 48 hours the heartbeat has frequently gained four or five beats to the minute. The pulse will be full and vigorous and the blood will flow to every cell and tissue in the body with increased force.

The dry, scaly character of the skin will disappear and instead there will be a healthy moistness and glow in its surfaces. The colorless, leathery skin covered with pimples and eruptions becomes rosy and clear, and free from unsightly blemishes.

Continue Reading →

Protecting Local Pesticide Ordinances

As reported by Beyond Pesticides, last year, pesticide manufacturers tried to undo local pesticide ordinances in a large state-by-state lobbying effort. That failed. Now they are trying to get Congress to undo these local rules in one fell swoop through an amendment in the Farm Bill.

You have the chance to tell those in Washington, D.C., that parents and city leaders, not pesticide corporations, have the right to protect our children and pets from exposure to hazardous pesticides in the parks and school grounds where they play.

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, has lobbied hard to kill community pesticide bans, as have other chemical companies, including Dow and CropLife America. Continue Reading →

From Grass to Glass: Organic Dairy Farming

Maybe it’s a chance remark heard from a fellow farmer or an epiphany that comes while attending a farming conference. It lands on fertile ground and a way of looking at things, a way of being in the world, shifts. For Evan Showalter a book his father picked up — Gary Zimmer’s The Biological Farmer — launched him down the path he’s on, which includes providing milk for Organic Valley’s Grassmilk brand.

Evan Showalter produces Grassmilk for Organic Valley on his Virginia farm. Photo by Russell French for Organic Valley.

He came to the book in 2007. At the time, Showalter, of Port Republic, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, had returned from working in construction and landscaping to the dairy farm where he grew up. There, he had managed a renting farmer’s conventional dairy herd of 80 to 100 cows. As he and his father considered the prospects for dairy, Showalter decided not to buy that herd and to focus instead on produce and corn for silage and grain; he also continued haymaking. He took over renting from his father in spring 2008.

Showalter, who had planted genetically modified crops and sprayed glyphosate because that was what he knew, was interested in biological farming, so Zimmer’s book came to him at the right time. When he returned to the farm he began to phase out synthetics and by 2009 began to apply for certification for some areas of the farm.

Between 2009 and 2011, Showalter began routinely testing soils and working with consultants. He saw a rapid shift in soil balance as he sold crops and had no animals on the farm to cycle nutrients. Continue Reading →

Appreciating Wild Mushrooms

Hunting and eating edible wild mushrooms is an extremely popular culture in some countries, but most people in the United States associate them with stomach issues, trips to the hospital and even death. Clearly, there is a need for education on the subject, and with that education, a new world of potential food delicacies will be opened. Example after example in life tells us that knowledge is power, and certainly, knowledge of edible wild mushrooms is no exception.

A beautiful reishi mushroom — notice the swirls on the cap, an identifying feature.

If your foraging experience of mushrooms consists of trespassing across grain-fed cow pastures on moonlight nights, then might I suggest looking for the edible ones in broad daylight; it’s much safer. And speaking of the hallucinogenic Psilocybins; one of the deadliest mushrooms in North America called the Deadly Galerina (Galerina spp.) resembles them, and there have been numerous unsuspecting partakers of that forbidden mushroom who accidentaly ate the deadly mushroom instead.

Spore prints are one of numerous ways to investigate the identity of a mushroom, and you can’t identify the color if you can’t see it. You simply place a fresh mature mushroom cap, gills down, on a piece of paper for a day or two allowing it to release its spores. Continue Reading →

America’s Native Bamboo

Mention the word “bamboo” and visions of China, panda bears and exotic jungles readily come to mind for most of us living in the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, the majority of the 1,450 species of true bamboo found throughout the world originate in Southern and Southeastern Asian countries, with a few scattered species found in Africa and the beech forests of Chile in South America.

River or giant cane is the largest and most noticeable of the three native types of bamboo.

Some bamboo species grow more densely than any forest you can imagine and produce giant canes as big around as a small tree, while others are as diminutive as a clump of native big bluestem prairie grass to which all bamboo is related. In fact, bamboo belongs to the true grass family Poaceae which contains some 10,000 recognized species and represents the fifth-largest plant family on Earth.

The United States is home to three very distinct native species of bamboo, which are collectively known as cane.

Native Bamboo: Cane History & Ecology

When the first Europeans set out to explore the New World they encountered massive canebrakes so dense they were nearly impenetrable. These natural obstacles were so massive that explorers had to navigate around them, sometimes for miles. While cane was present in much of the southern and southeastern half of the United States, the largest canebrakes in North America were found along the edges and floodplains of major rivers such as the Mississippi and its tributaries. Continue Reading →