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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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Return to Civilization

Evaggelos Vallianatos

I grew up in the 1940s in a village in Greece. My father owned a few strips of land that, together, equaled no more than 4 acres. Most of this land had olive trees. The rest was for grapevines and the growing of wheat, barley and lentils. In addition, my father had small flocks of sheep and goats, and we had chickens, a donkey, a mule and ancient tools for cultivating the land.

My family was self-reliant in food. We had everything: wheat and barley bread, olive oil, wine and cheese and meat once a week. Even during the years Greece was occupied by Italians and Germans, 1941-1944, we had enough food. Those were years of famine and hunger for most Greeks, especially those living in cities. I remember that my father hid our olive oil in a large stone container buried in the ground.

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Interview: Researcher, Author Eric Toensmeier Explores Practical, Effective Carbon Farming Strategies

Real-World Solutions

While this Eric Toensmeier_rgb (2)interview was being prepared a story surfaced on public radio about a couple of enterprising Americans who are taking advantage of changing policy to open a factory in Cuba. Their product? Tractors! The whole idea, the story helpfully explained, was to introduce “21st century farming” to the beleaguered island. By making it easier to tear up the soil. Clearly there is some distance to go before an accurate idea of 21st century farming penetrates the mainstream. It will take people like Eric Toensmeier. His new book, The Carbon Farming Solution, carries enough heft, range and detail to clear away forests of confusion. If the notion of leaving carbon in the soil is going to take its place next to that of leaving oil in the ground, this one-volume encyclopedia on the subject is exactly the kind of deeply informed work that’s required. Reached at his home in western Massachusetts, Toensmeier was exhilarated over finishing a project years in the making, and more than happy to talk about it.

This interview appears in the May 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

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Interview: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride Discusses the Science behind GAPS, Modern Nutrition Woes

Healing the Body and Mind Through the Gut

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBrideAcres U.S.A. is North America’s monthly magazine of ecological agriculture. Each month we conduct an in-depth interview with a thought leader. The following interview appeared in our April 2016 issue and was too important not to share widely.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is a warm, gracious woman with a revolutionary mission — helping people to heal their minds and bodies and avoid a wide array of disorders and illnesses by focusing on supporting gut health. The experience of having a child with autism propelled her to look beyond the confines of conventional medicine and to become a medical pioneer. She is best known for the GAPS Nutritional Protocol. GAPS is the acronym for both Gut and Psychology Syndrome and Gut and Physiology Syndrome. Campbell-McBride graduated with Honors as a medical doctor in Russia in 1984 and later received a graduate degree in Neurology. After working as a neurologist and a neurosurgeon for a total of eight years, she started a family and moved to England. During that time she developed her theories on the relationship between neurological disorders and nutrition, and completed a second graduate degree in Human Nutrition at Sheffield University, UK. In 2000 she started the Cambridge Nutrition Clinic, where she specializes in nutritional approaches to treat learning disabilities and other psychological disorders, as well as digestive and immune disorders, in both children and adults.

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Interview: Scientist, Author Jonathan Lundgren Discusses Ground-Breaking Research into Insects and Species Diversity

Acres U.S.A. is North America’s monthly magazine of ecological agriculture. Each month we conduct an in-depth interview with a thought leader. The following interview appeared in our Febjonathan-lundgrenruary 2016 issue and was too important not to share widely.

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren is an agroecologist, director of the Ecdysis Foundation and CEO of Blue Dasher Farm in Brookings, South Dakota. He received his Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Illinois in 2004 and was a top scientist with USDA-ARS for 11 years. Lundgren received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering awarded by the White House and has served as an advisor for national grant panels and regulatory agencies on pesticide and GM crop risk assessments. Lundgren has written 107 peer-reviewed journal articles, authored the book Relationships of Natural Enemies and Non-prey Foods and has received more than $3.4 million in grants. Dr. Lundgren has trained five post-docs and 12 graduate students from around the world. One of his priorities is to make science applicable to end-users, and he regularly interacts with the public and farmers regarding pest and farm management and insect biology. Lundgren’s research program focuses on assessing the ecological risk of pest management strategies and developing long-term solutions for sustainable food systems. His ecological research focuses heavily on conserving healthy biological communities within agroecosystems by reducing disturbance and increasing biodiversity within cropland.

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

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This is Not Food Labeling

QR codeMinorities, poor, elderly will be least likely to learn of hidden GMO ingredients.

The proposal to hide the labeling of GMO ingredients behind a scannable QR code ─ as proposed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and filed in a rush as a Senate bill by its mouthpiece Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) ─ is at its heart disingenuous, elitist, and discriminates against the poor and elderly.

These groups are immensely less likely to own expensive smartphones and pay for costly internet data plans. Just 27% of Americans 65 and older own a smartphone, and only half of people earning $30,000 or less own one. In lower-income groups owning these devices a one-fourth drop or lose their data plan due to cost. (Pew Research).

Even the top-selling smartphone, the iPhone, cannot read this code without an additional software download. An internet data plan is required. The time and trouble to scan each and every grocery item while shopping would be much greater than a glance at a label as is now done with other ingredients consumers take issue with such as salt, carbs, MSG, various artificial ingredients, etc.

One has to wonder if the 79-year-old Roberts, long an advocate of most anything Big Ag and Big Food proposes, has ever tried to scan a QR code himself.

Senator Roberts’ bill is disingenuous, elitist, and discriminates against the poor and elderly.

And the very logic used by the food industry to oppose GMO labeling ─ that changing of packaging will drive up food prices ─ is an even bigger issue when instead of adding a few small words an entire graphic element must be printed.

The real story is that this action is not only designed to kill the labeling of GMOs, but will provide the food industry with a convenient place to bury any future unsavory ingredients as well. For good. And that’s why the big-money backers of GMOs and junk food are doubling down on pushing this bad bill through the Senate.

Read this excellent summary about the Denial of the Right to Know act (DARK),  from Civil Eats: http://civileats.com/2015/07/20/5-things-to-know-about-the-dark-act/

To learn about the industry-sponsored study claiming food costs will rise with labeling (even though that is what the same groups now propose), read this article from Organic Consumers: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/cost-labeling-genetically-engineered-food-will-be-minimal