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Wool Artist Supports Fiber Farmers

Lani Estill at the Warner Mountain Weavers shop in Cedarville, California.

Lani Estill met me at her shop in downtown Cedarville, California, and showed me pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We sat in the store, surrounded by brilliantly colored yarn, soft and earthy colored scarves, hats and rugs, and Estill shuddered as we scrolled through picture after picture of the pile of plastic the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean.

“The sixth-graders wrote essays about it today,” said Estill. As is common in rural communities, she wears many hats. In addition to being a fiber artist and rancher, she is also a substitute teacher at Surprise Valley Joint Unified School District, where her son attends school.

“Some companies boast that they make products out of recycled plastic. But it is still plastic. It still goes into our rivers, oceans, land and our bodies,” she said. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 16: Douglass DeCandia, Farmer and Advocate Against Food Apartheid


Welcome to our 16th episode of Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the voice of eco-agriculture. My name is Ryan Slabaugh, and we are fired up to bring you another hour of conversation about ecology, agriculture, and this hour, we’re even talking about saving the world.

Doug DeCandia

We have two guests on our show today. One is Mary Battjes, and I have the pleasure of working every day with Mary. She’s our project manager, and recently wrapped up a survey of young farmers around the country and world. We spoke with a lot of them, and found their look at the world and their role in the world so inspiring. Speaking generally, they want the same things most of us want — safety, security, family and a healthy environment. Yet, they see the obstacles very clearly. Climate change. Technology disruption. And an economy that favors the big devouring the small.

Yet, there is hope. And it comes in the form of our second guest, Douglass DeCandia, a young farmer from New York. He grows food using natural methods, but he does so with an even greater purpose – to serve those who are forgotten by our food system, who are systematically discriminated against because of who they are, where they are from or where they live. His “farm,” and he uses quotation marks around that so I will ask him about that later, serves youth and adults who are incarcerated, students at a school for the deaf, and young adults who are part of a residential treatment program. He also supports a number of his area’s food growing products, and when we talked to him today, he was wandering around the gardens at the school for the deaf.

Find all of the Tractor Time podcasts here, or for free in the iTunes store.

Raw Milk for Real Health, Wealth

Soil Scientist, Author Joseph Heckman Examines the State of Raw Milk Dairying & Challenges to Consumer Choice

Joseph Heckman, Ph.D. is a tireless advocate for common sense and good science regarding producing, selling and drinking fresh, unprocessed milk. A professor of soil science at Rutgers University, he teaches courses in soil fertility and organic crop production. He conducts research and extension programs on optimizing nutrition and soil quality in support of plant, animal and human health. He has served as chair of several professional organizations including the Council on History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Soil Science, the Committee on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, and the Organic Management Systems Community of the American Society of Agronomy. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Farm to Consumer Foundation. Dr. Heckman was the lead author of the Soil Fertility in Organic Farming chapter for the agronomy society’s book, Ecology of Organic Farming Systems. Most recently he co-authored Fresh Milk Production, The Cow Edition and Fresh Milk Production, The Goat Edition. Heckman’s determined insistence on sanity, science and sense has done a great deal to lift the reputation of raw milk in this country.

Interviewed by Chris Walters

Fresh Perspective

ACRES U.S.A. Dr. Heckman, how did you find your way to the subject of fresh, unprocessed milk and all the science, politics and controversy around it? Did you arrive at this debate via research, personal background, or lucky happenstance? Continue Reading →

7 Keys to Dairying, Cheesemaking Success

No one becomes a dairy farmer or dives into cheesemaking because they are looking for a simple, easy life with a large pot of gold at the end the rainbow. But if a cheesy (I like to think of that as a complimentary word) life appeals to you, and you choose to turn it into a business, it must be one that is sustainable — worth continuing from the aspects of workload and income.

Being a successful farmstead cheesemaker is no longer just a matter of gathering together a beautiful herd of dairy sheep, cows, goats, or water buffalo and making great cheeses.

Not only are feed and infrastructure costs higher than ever, but the artisan cheesemaker faces stiff competition from imported cheeses and those that appear to be made domestically but are made in part using imported milk (in the case of some water buffalo mozzarella), imported frozen curd (for some fresh and ripened goat cheeses), or simply made overseas (utilizing milk from mega-dairies) to make a custom-label cheese. Continue Reading →

GE Food Labeling

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking public comments on the proposed rule to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard mandated by Congress in 2016 — a  standard for GE food labeling.

The goal of the standard is to provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) and to avoid a patchwork system of state or private labels that could be confusing for consumers.

According to The Center for Food Safety (CFS), public comments will be particularly important because the proposal presents a range of alternatives for public comments and makes few decisions, leaving considerable unknowns about its outcome.

For example, instead of requiring clear, on-package labeling in the form of text or a symbol, USDA proposes to allow manufacturers to instead choose to use QR codes, which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned and are intended to substitute for clear, on-package labeling.

Real-time access to the information behind a QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies often lacking in rural areas. As a result, this labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology.

Continue Reading →

Ag Economics, Politics: On a Long Quest for Parity

Family Farm Advocate George Naylor Discusses Past, Present & Future of Ag Economics, Politics 

Naylor is the great contrarian at the heart of the industrial farm system — that immense edifice of massive corn and soybean production, mega-farms of vast and increasing size, powerful corporate actors and federal money. As a leader of the National Family Farm Coalition, a board member of the Center for Food Safety, and a persuasive writer of essays and op-ed pieces, he reminds the elephant of mainstream agriculture that it’s heading for a cliff, his voice always articulate, his candor unsparing. Most Americans had never heard of him until he appeared as one of the great explainers in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the conventional farmer who outlined the self-destructive nature of Big Ag in a pivotal chapter. He played a key role in forcing Monsanto to abandon its plans for GMO wheat, and he is one of the few voices in the entire spectrum who insist that a guarantee of fair prices for all farmers offers the only hope for rural America. He’s one of the few critics in the land who seems to know that “parity” is still part of the English language. “Without Clarity On Parity, All You Get Is Charity,” he titled his chapter in a book called Food Movements Unite!, stating an important truth in doggerel worthy of Muhammad Ali. Naylor believes everybody should pay organic prices for their groceries and vary their diets accordingly. “Here in Iowa,” he wrote, “where the landscape is plastered with millions of acres of genetically modified corn and soybeans along with their poisonous herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers polluting our lakes and rivers, our institutions deny that Silent Spring has arrived, let alone that anything needs to change. In fact, politicians and educators of every stripe bow to the god of Norman Borlaug, mesmerized by the World Food Prize mantra that we must feed the world using whatever new technology the chemical giants offer to deal with new problems turning up every day.” Continue Reading →