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Slow Money: Shared Risk Investment

Slow Money Founder, Author Woody Tasch Discusses Community-Based Economics, Soil as Foundation for Societal Health

Almost a decade ago a book was published that seemed perfectly attuned to its time, as an economic crisis created by Wall Street’s excesses churned the emotions of the entire nation. It was called Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered. The title was obviously inspired by the Slow Food movement begun in Italy by Carlo Petrini, who wrote the foreword. The book’s author, Woody Tasch, turned out to have an extensive background in the more idealistic byways of finance capital. He pioneered mission-related investing as a foundation chair in the ’90s and went on to chair a nonprofit network of angel investors who put hundreds of millions into early-stage sustainability-oriented businesses. He was also the founding chairman of another socially responsible project, the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance. Clearly no newcomer to the world of money, Tasch knew well all of its hazards and pathologies, the capital flows racing around the world at the speed of light that can upend a nation’s economy almost overnight, the charitable organizations that devote much of their budgets to swanky New York offices and so on. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 18: Charles Walters, Then, Today and Tomorrow (from 2006)

Welcome to another episode of Tractor Time, brought to you by Acres USA, the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host, Ryan Slabaugh, the GM and publisher of Acres U.S.A.

Charles Walters

Charles Walters. His talk in this podcast was recorded in 2006 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last week, I took a trip. I spent about 36 hours in the car driving from Colorado to Illinois, down to Columbia, Missouri, back to Illinois, and back home to Colorado. For a few days while I was in Missouri, I spent time at a sacred ground to us. At the University of Missouri, hidden among the tall brick buildings, is an open space called “Sanborn Field,” run by a guy named Tim Reinbott. You probably recognize the name if you’ve ever been to our conference.

There, Tim has built and preserved what a professor named William Albrecht built there a century ago. Prof. Albrecht started test plots in hopes of showing what happens when you grow corn, continuously without fertilizer or manure, and what that does to the soil. I’ll save you the suspense. It looks terrible. The stalks, miniature compared to the other, more well-fed test plots, were brown and only about two feet tall. (Here’s a link to a research site where you can find a lot of Albrecht’s published papers.)

Here’s Tim talking about that field.

The video was captured in July 2018 near these fields that Charles Walters met William Albrecht for the first time. Charles, while trying to piece together the information that would build the foundation for Acres U.S.A.’s belief in ecology-based agriculture, found scientists he kept interviewing telling him about Albrecht. Charles being Charles, he did his research and found out Prof. Albrecht was just down the road a couple hours. He called the university, and they told him not to bother. But, again, Charles being Charles, he got in the car anyway and drove to meet the scientist. When he knocked on the door, a voice boomed out, “Don’t knock when you enter and leave the same way.” Charles walked in – and I learned all this from his son, Fred – and when Charles walked in, without even an introduction, said, “You must be from Western Kansas. You have good teeth.”

Albrecht had pioneered research to connect local food to local health. It’s science that more should understand today. He pulled dental records from the military and matched those with the amount of calcium found in the soil and they matched. It’s an incredible study, still available for free on the University of Missouri’s academic research site.

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Pigs on Pasture: Water & Shelter

Appropriate shelter and access to clean water are critical aspects of survival for humans and animals alike. Shelter is where an animal feels the absence of stress. Every animal needs a certain level of safety and security to go about the business of living: freedom from stress allows them to comfortably eat, drink, procreate, sleep, as well as raise the next generation in safety.

We humans have become experts at creating extensively complex and secure shelters for ourselves that cater to our every physical whim. In confinement-type farming situations a similar mentality prevails; the designers of these systems try to minimize the physical stresses in order to maximize growth with minimal space.

Factory farming has been very successful at creating animal warehouses that meet the minimum needs of the animal without addressing the other aspects of holistic animal health. Like employees in a corporate system, animals have become cogs in a well-oiled machine that pumps out meat by the ton. As referenced in the animated short film The Meatrix, it is time to take the red pill and understand that this paradigm is not the future of farming. Continue Reading →

Treasure Trove of Fertility: Composting Mussels

For about the last two years, I have been experimenting with composting mussels. Head to southern West Virginia and you’ll meet farmers who are learning to amend the brown, yellowish sandy soil deep within the Appalachian Plateau. The Berks-Pineville and Gilpin-Lily soil created by weathered shale, siltstone and sandstone can be unpredictable. Though it appears to be well drained in some areas and easily cultivated in others, the black gold they need to amend their crops is all but gone.

The author has experimented with a compost mix of zebra and quagga mussels.

Here in the southern coalfields that surround Mullens, Itmann and Pineville, mountaintop soil and dirt can be tightly packed and tough to work.

Compost can take a long time to break down, especially when there are long stretches of dry hot weather.

I knew little about the soil in Mullens when I first started experimenting with my zebra mussel shell compost mix. I first made a visit there last summer and stumbled upon a row of gardens at the Mullens Opportunity Center while I was in town for a meeting.

There, I met the executive director of the Rural Appalachian Improvement League and a farm-to-school AmeriCorps worker who was caring for their summer crops and high-tunnel complex. I asked if I could return to Mullens with just the right remedy for their soil. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Farming in the Presence of Nature

By Athena Tainio

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Farming in the Presence of Nature by Athena Tainio. Copyright 2017, softcover, 116 pages. Regular price: $18.00. SALE PRICE: $12.60.

Enter Human

Farming in the Presence of Nature by Athena Tainio

The dark side of the story begins with the human race. Think of sequestered carbon as Gaia’s savings account, which she deposits and draws from as needed to keep her systems properly function­ing. Man has depleted Gaia’s savings by extracting and burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, which has released CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere faster than Gaia can reab­sorb them. The destruction of forests and wild grasslands (both large carbon sinks) to make way for roads, cities, suburbs, and agri­cultural land to support expanding human populations also releases sequestered carbon into the atmosphere and has greatly reduced Gaia’s carbon sequestration abilities.

At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the Scripps Institu­tion of Oceanography and NOAA Earth System Research Labo­ratory began tracking atmospheric CO2 in 1958, when the average CO2 level was approximately 310 parts per million (ppm). In less time than the average human lifespan, the atmospheric CO2 levels have climbed to over 400 ppm (Tans and Keeling).

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The Faux Faith of Modern Science

Think very carefully the next time your physician suggests new prescription drugs or offers you a bit of medical advice.

“Science is part and parcel humility. Scientists do not seek to impose their needs and wants on Nature, but instead humbly interrogate Nature and take seriously what they find. We are aware that revered scientists have been wrong. We understand human imperfection. We insist on independent and — to the extent possible — quantitative verification of proposed tenets of belief.” — Carl Sagan, from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

Sagan would agree that modern science has taken a terrible turn. Corporate influence, conflicts of interest, ego and greed have corrupted the science of science if you will. The results are bad scientific practices, a dearth of independent research, misinformation and studies designed to produce favorable results — and not for the health of the individual.

Big Pharma is arguably more concerned with competition than consumer protection. Continue Reading →