U K E D I T I O N · I S SU E 15 USA - CANADA
ISSUE 13 · 2016
Issue 13 FREE COPY
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Aphids, Weevils, Leafhoppers, Leaf miners, Broad & Russet Mites, Powdery Mildew, Thrips, Two Spotted Spider Mite, White Flies, Nematodes, Alternaria solani (Early blight), Botrytis (Gray mold), Fusarium, Pythium, Verticillum dahlia (Wilt), Rhizoctonia solani (Root infections), & more.
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IN THIS ISSU E OF GA R D EN CU LTU RE : 9 Foreword 10 Eatcommunity.com 11 Feature Products 18 Organic vs. Synthetic - Can a Plant Tell? 25 Eggshell Planters 27 Shorties 28 How Nature Works 34 Why Grow Hemp 36 What About the Water? 40 Feeding Cities With Urban Roof Gardens 50 5 Cool Finds - Alternatives 54 Unplug
59 Green Manure 60 GYO: Ginger or Turmeric 64 Bayersanto 69 Whoâ€™s Growing What Where 72 Light Matters - Part V 80 Community Supported Agriculture 84 The Smart Garden 88 Guano 101 90 Do Plants Poo? 92 Its All About the Microbes 98 Canadian Hemp Farmer 105 What Grinds My Gears
The NUTRI+ PURE line offers a wide range of organic solutions NUTRI+ PURE GOLD - fulvic acid concentrated solution 29% Enables a better nutrient transfer and absorption through the stomata, and makes available multiple trace elements. Improve sugar production and get healthy efficient plants. NUTRI+ PURE BLACK - humic acids concentrated solution 20% Helps vitalize root environment, increases bioavailability, and improves soil texture and water retention. Pure Black reduces leaching, and prevents salt buildup. NUTRI+ PURE OCEAN FISH - concentrated hydrolyzed fish fertilizer 100% soluble fish Contains naturally chelated micronutrients, has a high level of proteins and oils, and is almost odorless. Enriches the soil structure and improves soil bioactivity. NUTRI+ PURE OCEAN SEAWEEDS - concentrated seaweeds fertilizer 6% seaweed extract Naturally contains chelated micronutrients, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, and growth hormones. Improves soil bioactivity and water retention. Encourages rapid root development, making the plant stronger and resilient. Inputs approved in Canada for organic agriculture, as well as being compatible for use with all mineral or organic fertilizers. For more information, visit their sites CANADA : WWW.BIOFLORAL.COM USA : WWW.BIOFLORALUSA.COM
Before science began to mess around in agriculture, the word “organic” held no real meaning. Everything was organic. Slowly over a century food has become mass-produced, processed, and commercialized. And the effects of these changes are being felt in a multitude of ways. Today, for a product to be labeled organic, it requires more effort and cost. And passion. The savviest of organic gardeners will all tell you the secret to success is in the soil. Feed it and the life that you create will help feed the plant. Organic growers around the world are sharing know-how and expertise to leave healthy, living soil to our children’s children. Soil regeneration, for generations to come! In the OrGanics Edition, we are taking a small glimpse into the many strategies you can use for sustainable gardening. And bring to you some inspiring projects, from rooftop gardens to community supported agriculture. In How Does Nature Work, Evan will inspire you to dig deeper and challenges you to have a better understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the plant and the soil. Stephen brings up interesting points in the article Organics vs. Synthetics. Kyle shares some advice in The Smart Garden learned the hard way? Though recent events may have put the impending Bayer-Monsanto merger out of the media spotlight, Andrew discusses the consequences in Bayersanto. Living in a cold climate gets you thinking about the overall benefits of buying organic if it means a majority of your food is shipped over long distances. As many of you know, my grow room is an important part of the equation. As is our food subscription that allows us to supplement our production from local, organic producers, all year round. Once the last butternut has been harvested outside, the indoor garden kicks in. The plants in my indoor garden benefit from the best nutrition and natural pest control. The fertilizers are usually certified organic but sometimes, are not. Everything else is. What I’m avoiding are things like pesticides, fungicides, irradiation, and GMO’s. And, the overuse of fertilizers. So, which is best? The organic food I buy or the non-organic food I grow in my basement? Honestly, I think my indoor stuff tastes the best. I also believe that they are both more nutritious than any mass produced “fresh” vegetable from the supermarket. Of course, our tomatoes grown outdoors during the summer do win, hands down. It’s about striking a balance that works. “Information is like compost; it does no good unless you spread it around.” - Eliot Coleman. Eric
The Institute of Ecolonomics (IOE) is a non-profit entity on a mission to demonstrate that creating a symbiotic relationship between a strong economy and a healthy ecology is the only formula for a sustainable future.
By providing business development services to entrepreneurs with ideas, technologies, and inventions that when implemented will make the planet better while generating profit, IOE is staying true to its core idea.
What is Ecolonomics, Anyway? Ecolonomics is a relatively new term coined by the late Emmyaward winning actor Dennis Weaver. It is a philosophy that goes beyond the “laws” of supply and demand, and looks at the ecological impact of the activities involved. “We work with ecopreneurs that are striving to make the planet better. We’ve spent billions of dollars and thousands of years messin’ the planet up, now we need to show people how to make it better and make a little money too.” - Dennis Weaver Ecolonomics is the 90’s precursor to the term sustainable development - maintaining natural resources at present levels or better, in ways that benefit us economically. IOE’s newest educational program is a great example: Ecolonomic Action Team or EAT. Likeminded entrepreneurs come together to share their knowledge and experiences. It is essentially a platform similar to Lynda. com or Udemy.com - IOE partners show, teach, mentor, and network with all those wishing to make a living while making the planet a better place. To sample this learning tool, you can join the EAT Free Project, their free membership site for the Ecolonomic Action Team.
It gives you access to a webinar model that brings revolutionary information to your computer screen from people such as Mark Shepard of Restoration Agriculture and Dr. Wayne Dorband on Alpaca’s and Aquaponics, with more presenters and content being added weekly. Bookmark the Live Webinars Section, and visit regularly to see what teaching and coaching you can view during the coming days and weeks. If you are more serious about putting ecolonomics into action, you can become an EAT Elite team member, giving you access to more opportunities for learning. Evan Folds, President of Progressive Farms, and regular contributor to Garden Culture, is excited to be providing weekly content to the project on his Progressive Farming & BioEnergetic Agriculture program every Wednesday at 6pm EST. Examples of topics he is covering include base saturation soil testing, compost tea, plant physiology, biodynamic methods, and much more. The talks are available for a week after the presentation for those not able to make the LIVE event. Experience is priceless, but knowledge is power. Now you can learn and receive cutting edge content on Progressive Regenerative Agriculture in the comfort of your own home! Visit www.microbemakers.com/learn-more/eat-project.html to sign up directly to Evan’s Webinar. To find out more about Ecolonomics, visit www.ecolonomics.org.
Alg•A•Mic™ is a revitalizing product, made from a high grade, natural seaweed concentrate extracted through cold pressing, rather than chemical solvents. Although it is not a fertilizer, it contains a high level of natural nutrition that caters to the whole spectrum of a plant’s needs, resulting in exuberant green foliage. Alg•A•Mic™ comes to the rescue if plants have suffered from overfeeding, deficiencies, diseases, or fluctuations in temperature. Stress-free, happy plants generally produce larger fruits! Visit: Biobizz.com
Monitor and run your grow room from anywhere in the world! The Hyperion Data Transfer Module is a giant leap forward in keeping you informed and connected to your grow space. Using Sunlight Supply’s proprietary SunWave™ Technology, this product allows you to receive all the readings from your Hyperion® controller on your smartphone. The module gives growers the ability to remotely adjust grow room settings, and receive alerts in the event of an extreme situation: high/low temp, high/low humidity, power interruption, etc. No matter where you are, pairing the Hyperion Data Transfer Module with the Hyperion Controller allows you to control your lights, room temperature, CO2, and humidity from your phone! Download the free app. Sync up to a Wi-Fi signal. And you’re connected to your grow room anywhere you get a signal. MSRP - $249.95. For details, visit: www.TitanControls.net.
s micronized plant food Not all natural and organic nutrients are slow-release! Sensational Solution and applied as a foliar spray. products can be watered in, used as a top dress, added to compost teas, plant foods that are readily The careful selection of micronized ingredients result in concentrated available to plants and full of microbial life. All-natural and organic, Sensational Solutions blends are good for your plants, good for your soil, good for your budget, and good for the Earth. For more details, visit: www.sensational-solutions.com.
NUTRI+ PURE GOLD - fulvic acid concentrated solution 29% Enables a better nutrient transfer and absorption through the stomata, and makes available multiple trace elements. Improve sugar production and get healthy efficient plants. NUTRI+ PURE BLACK - humic acids concentrated solution 20% Helps vitalize root environment, increases bioavailability, and improves soil texture and water retention. Pure Black reduces leaching, and prevents salt buildup. NUTRI+ PURE OCEAN FISH - concentrated hydrolyzed fish fertilizer 100% soluble fish Contains naturally chelated micronutrients, has a high level of proteins and oils, and is almost odorless. Enriches the soil structure and improves soil bioactivity. NUTRI+ PURE OCEAN SEAWEEDS - concentrated seaweeds fertilizer 6% seaweed extract Naturally contains chelated micronutrients, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, and growth hormones. Improves soil bioactivity and water retention. Encourages rapid root development, making the plant stronger and resilient. Inputs approved in Canada for organic agriculture, as well as being compatible for use with all mineral or organic fertilizers. For more information, visit their sites CANADA : WWW.BIOFLORAL.COM USA : WWW.BIOFLORALUSA.COM
Gentle nutrition with powerful TruBiotic® MycoApply® certified soil microbes to enhance the development of an emerging seedling. Root Zone Starter Fertilizer is ideal for direct seeding, transplants, and bedding plant applications. Root Zone Organic Starter Fertilizer is an OMRI/CDFA certified dry fertilizer that contains the highest quality OIM ingredients, including fish bone meal, kelp flour, and Humic Acids, which increase nutrient bioavailability - improving seed germination rates. You can purchase Dr. Earth’s people and pet safe® Root Zone Organic Starter Fertilizer at your favorite local garden stores and nurseries
s are constantly Utilizing in-house research and manufacturing facilities, Aptus Plant Tech product d fertilizer salt-base al at the forefront of available organo-mineral agriscience. Unlike tradition recreate the natural products, Aptus Plant Tech utilizes potent, concentrated natural inputs to conditions of healthy, organic ecosystems inside each bottle. your plants, look If you’re ready to bring high yields, fantastic quality, and exceptional vigor to olland.com. us up at: www.aptus-usa.com. For international inquiries visit: www.aptus-h
Have a 5 gallon bucket and want to start brewing living, organic compost tea for your lawn, farm, or hydroponic garden? Progressive Farms makes it simple with Compost Tea BYOB -Bring Your Own Bucket. Their proven compost tea recipe contains maximum elemental and microbial diversity, and should be used in all gardening applications including soil, composting, hydroponics, worm farms, aquaponics, you name it. Compost Tea BYOB comes with complete instructions, air pump, tubing, air stone, and 25 gallons of the famous compost tea recipe. When you need more ingredients, simply order more Compost Tea in a Box, available in 25, 50, 100, 200, and 400 gallon bundles. Visit www.MicrobeMakers.com for more information or to become a Dealer.
Dedicated to pure organics, Dragonfly’s products do not contain synthetic or animal products. Lush Roots 840, their flagship product, is a powerful herbal EndoMycorrhizae powder which enhances root growth and plant yields. Alfalfa, Nettle, and Kelp are included to feed roots and living soil. It also contains various strains of Bacillus and Glomus Bacteria to inoculate your growing medium. Visit them on Instagram: @dragonflyEarthMedicine
Biocanna is Canna’s organic line of products. Biocanna fertilizers are 100% organic , and especially developed for cultivation in soil. Products grown with Biocanna fertilizers can be called organic , provided they are grown organically, and in accordance with the international guidelines. right Biocanna fertilizers are not only OMRI certified, but also have the exact a preparation method, thus preventing an overdose of nutrients. Biocann residual nutrients are vegetable-based, and do not contain any animal is product . The main advantage of this is that the product’s composition much better tuned to the plant’s needs.
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Vermicrop Organics is proud to introduce PK Boost Super Flower Fertilizer to our product line! A complete organic fertilizer for the heavy fruit, flower, and vegetable varieties in your garden. This mixture of seabird guano, fish bone meal, kelp meal, and potassium sulfate is unequaled in its purity and consistency. Phosphorus and potassium are very important, and quickly depleted in the intense flowering cycles of prize winning plants. Vermicrop Organics PK Boost will help heavy fruiting plants achieve their potential and beyond.
Analysis: 1-13-6 Total Nitrogen (N) 1% 0.01% Ammoniacal Nitrogen 0.05% Nitrate Nitrogen 0.05% Other Water Soluble Nitrogen 0.89% Water Insoluble Nitrogen Available Phosphate (P2O5) 13% Soluble Potash (K2O) 6% Calcium (Ca) 8%
“I can no longer, so to speak, hold my chemical water and must tell you that I can make urea without needing a kidney, whether of man or dog; the ammonium salt of cyanic acid is urea.” -- Wöhler (1800-1882) Growing organically is undoubtedly beneficial for the environment - A holistic methodology focusing on soil regeneration, conservation, and the health of those that interact with the garden. No synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, or GMO’s...
And there are plenty of benefits, such as: 1. The reduction of soil compaction and surface crusting. When this occurs, the air exchange between the air and the soil is dramatically reduced. Roots need oxygen, the soil microbiota needs oxygen, and without it, there will be limited growth of crops. Furthermore, compaction leads to surface runoff and poor infiltration of water to the lower soil horizons. Growing organically will encourage aeration, and infiltration creating a healthy soil full of life. 2. Increases the water-holding capacity, allowing sufficient nutrient transport to the roots. 3. Reduces soil erosion. Soil erosion means the land becomes sandy, salinated, and ultimately, unfarmable. 4. Cation exchange capacity (CEC) increases, boosting the fertility of the soil. Also helps buffer against rapid changes in pH. 5. Growing organically actually feeds the organisms that live in the soil which then form a symbiotic relationship with the plants, increasing nutrient uptake.
However, there are a couple of disadvantages, as with any particular method of growing: 1. If the soil has too much organic matter (in excess of 5%), it becomes increasingly complex to manage due to the lower temperatures and high moisture content, usually requiring special tilling procedures and extra work. Seeding the ground has to be left until later in the season (soil too cold), and growth can also be slower. 2. The source of the organic nutrients is very important. Elements can be added that accumulate over time, and this could adversely affect the nutritional status of the soil, and that of the crops being grown. A good example is chicken manure - High in potassium, over time it can alter the cation ratio of the soil, potentially leading to a magnesium or calcium deficiency.
A lot of terms can be used to describe the differences between organic and synthetic nutrients, hereâ€™s what they mean: Organic: Material(s) that contain carbon (C) along with hydrogen and oxygen. â€˜Organicâ€™ is usually derived from plants or animals, such as plant byproducts, animal waste, or natural sources (peat, bark, etc.) Mineral: A mineral usually refers to substances, or an ingredient in a fertiliser that is sourced from a naturally occurring substance, such as potassium chloride (KCl), which is often used instead of an inorganic form. Inorganic: A fertiliser that does not contain carbon, and is not derived from living matter.
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Organic vs. Synthetic What is the difference between organic and inorganic fertiliser? Organic fertilisers will contain carbon, and are from living sources, while inorganic fertilisers do not contain carbon. Carbon being the backbone of life, we can see that organic fertilisers must be derived from natural sources, such as plant and animal waste products.
Plants uptake inorganic ions dissolved in water, nothing more, and nothing less. The real differences come from the cultivator’s gardening or hydroponic practices, and nutrient management. Not to mention the many plant processes that we do not yet fully understand, namely the role of microorganisms in nutrient uptake.
However, things can get a little complicated. For example, Urea contains Carbon CO(NH2)2 , but is produced synthetically from inorganic materials. Technically, urea is classed as organic, but the synthetically produced urea would not be allowed in an organic fertiliser, whereas urea in organic fertiliser has to be sourced from a living organism.
When you apply organic fertiliser to soil, it has to be broken down by microorganisms before it can be available to the plant. One of the processes that we do understand is the digestion of organic compounds into their ionic forms. Microorganisms release enzymes that oxidise the organic compounds into organic matter, and then further mineralisation for plant uptake. This oxidation reaction releases energy and carbon, which they need to survive.
The best definition to date (and it’s still not perfect), is that organic compounds contain carbon-hydrogen bonds, but inorganic compounds do not… Which leaves us with CO2 being inorganic.
So, is it the organically derived nutrients that can make organic produce taste better, or is it the billions of microorganisms and their ability to work synergistically with a plant, which improves taste and nutrition?
From the Plant’s Perspective It is widely known that a plant cannot distinguish between an organically derived ion and a synthetically derived ion. To further confuse the issue, here is a molecule of organic urea and a molecule of synthetic urea, can you tell the difference?
Taste...and Nutrition “It tastes better and it’s more nutritious too” is the favorite go to argument for choosing organic produce versus conventional. However, there has yet to be any published evidence to validate this hypothesis - On countless blind taste trials, it has not been proven true. Surprisingly, they are equal in nutritional density, except for a few studies that show higher vitamin C levels in leafy green salads. In addition, scientific taste tests have shown that when half of the food is labelled organic and the other half regular, the organic products consistently get higher ratings for taste, nutritional content, and a willingness to pay more...for an identical product! We are highly influenced by the organic label.
One of the biggest differences between organic and synthetic fertiliser, and one that has a direct effect on taste, is the rate of absorption. Artificial fertilisers are absorbed very quickly compared to organic fertiliser, and can be easily over-applied, resulting in a ‘nutrient burn’ (necrosis of leaf tips), often leaving a chemical, metallic taste in the harvested produce. At this moment in time, no scientist in the world can differentiate between the organically produced ion and the synthetic ion. If plants could talk, would they be able to tell you the difference between a mineral based ion and an organically derived ion? The issues surrounding modern day agriculture are numerous, and often the choice between organic and conventional is a political one - it’s not just about taste. The far reaching benefits of regenerative soil practices, decreased usage of fertilisers and pesticides, conservation of heirloom varieties for our children, and land stewardship are just some of the reasons for choosing organic. And when you grow your own, there is no doubt it tastes better! There are always two sides to every coin, and I like to look deeper into all issues before taking a strong stance for, or against. Hopefully this article has stimulated some thoughts on the organic versus synthetic debate, and entices you to research further on the subject. Thank you for reading. 3
BIO Stephen is the manager for the UK hydroponic shops, NPK Technology. Hydroponics and Science are Stephen’s obsessions, along with mountaineering and reading. Stephen studied a BSc in Outdoor Education, then went on to study his Masters in Public Health Nutrition, which he finished in 2014. This year he embarks on his next level of study, doing a PhD on the effects of cannabinoids in humans. His passion project is the hydroponics podcast he co-hosts, NPK Live.
It’s 100% organic, inexpensive, simple, and fun to make these planters.They are the perfect introduction for getting kids into gardening, be it indoors or outdoors. Any seed will sprout in a small environment. You can grow your own herbs, flowers, or fruit bearing plants even if you are living in an urban environment, where outside green space is at a premium. Eggshells are a versatile natural tool in the garden. They are full of calcium which adds nutrients to the soil. Crushed eggshells also have the added benefit of acting as a deterrent to keep snails and slugs from devouring your young green plants. So, why not capitalize on the eggshell’s capabilities, and take advantage of it’s naturally protective and supporting shape in order to make small planters for seeds?
The possibilities are endless, so get your kids started by following a few simple instructions:
Now you are ready to pop the egg box planter on a windowsill with a good amount of light, and wait. Depending on what you are growing, you should see the shoots within the first week.
• • •
Buy some eggs, and make yourself some breakfast… scrambled, poached, or fried... your choice! It’s important to remember when cracking your eggs to only take the top third off. Once empty, wash out really well. It you are concerned about salmonella, place the eggshells in constantly boiling water, for about 15 minutes. Cut the lid off the egg carton. Once cool, take the eggshells out, and leave to dry. For drainage, it’s best to poke a small hole in the bottom of each egg. The best way to do this is to put the eggshells back into the egg carton, and use a ballpoint pen to push a small hole into the base of the egg. Place some natural cotton wool into the bottom of each one. I get mine from the cotton plant in my garden, so it’s 100% organic, but it can be bought from most haberdasheries. The seeds can then either be sprinkled on top of the cotton ball, or the cotton can be pulled open a bit for deeper sowing.
The next step is to water. You need clean water at a cool temperature. I use collected rainwater, but tap water works just fine too. Water each egg until all of the cotton is saturated. Don’t worry about over-watering, as the hole in the bottom of the egg will drain off any excess. The cotton must be kept wet, so make sure you and your little one check it every day.
When the plants are ready, they can be cut down to eat - or repotted into a larger pot. If you do re-pot, there is no need to pull the plant out of the eggshell, or even the box. Just break the section holding each eggshell planter away from the rest, and replant the whole thing. The cardboard and eggshell are biodegradable, and will break down as the plants grow.
There are lots of great things that you can grow in these egg planters. Here are some of the easiest: • Cress • Basil • Red Basil • Chives • Sage • Lemon Balm • Mint • Oregano
An advantage to growing this way is that the eggshell, which is around the base of the stem, will protect the plant from slugs… A great organic bonus!! 3
You’ll definitely want to plant some purple in the garden. Whether you’re growing for personal consumption or the market, this is the new year’s hottest food hue. It’s not so much for the color, as it is the fact that purple fruits, vegetables, and grains are often especially rich in antioxidants and nutrient density. Seed and plants to shop for: purple corn (think cereal and chips), elderberries, purple asparagus, black rice, beets, purple cauliflower, açai, and purple sweet potatoes. Don’t bypass white cauliflower, because it’s predicted to bump kale on menus. And then there are the edible posies. Sure, they make a lovely garnish, but now floral flavors are big. Foods and drinks will feature flower power as natural flavor infusions. Sources: • www.bit.ly/WFtrend-2017 • www.bit.ly/love-beets • www.bit.ly/cauli-2017 • www.bit.ly/floral-flavors
After living with a Philippine island tribe and watching what they went through to keep their homes supplied with kerosene for light at night, Aisa Mijeno wanted to change their world. It’s not just one island, there are 7,000 of them in the Philippines, all isolated from modern civilization and its conveniences. And globally, 1.5 billion people still live without electricity today. Aisa decided that there must be a low cost way to generate sustainable energy that is readily available anywhere. Every home in the Philippines has salt and water, so she set out to create a chemical reaction between the two. It was said to be impossible, but after years of lab experimenting, she found the solution. SALt was born, Sustainable Alternative Light technology. Her invention generates enough energy to power an LED lamp for 8 hours, and charge a cell phone. The multiple awardwinning technology is scalable, capable of generating energy in amounts that can power an entire island.
Though approached by global companies to mass manufacture the lamps, Aisa has decided that the jobs this creates will remain in the Philippines. The startup will grow over time. Production is underway, and orders can be placed, but SALt will fill Philippine orders ahead of international requests. More info: www.salt.ph/ and www.fb.com/salt.ph Source: www.bit.ly/salt-energy
We have strayed so far from this critical truth, and it is literally and figuratively crippling us in so many ways. There is no sector of society that makes the point more abundantly clear than in agriculture.
Cast doubts aside and have an experience
Humanity is defined by agriculture. It was not until huntergatherers envisioned and put into action the concept of domestication and planting food crops that we put down roots, and began the experiment in consciousness, and the process of specialization and industrialization that has come to define the modern world. Our intelligence and industry have generated great wealth, but at the same time have taken us further away from Nature than we have ever been. In the modern world, one must have an intention to spend any sort of considerable time in Nature, and know her intimately. In my evaluation, the most important challenge we face in modern times is to consciously re-integrate humanity back into resonance with the natural rhythms that produced us. This work begins within, and in the development of our perspective. And from perspective comes action. The very act of agriculture is the manipulation of the natural environment. Do we consider the soil as a checking account we are free to spend, or a savings account for the future? Do we simply grow plants, or do we focus on growing the soil? These are seminal questions. No doubt, our future success as a species will be defined by the scope and depth of our perspective towards agriculture and natural living systems.
For over 10,000 years, humanity was in synergy with Nature, by default. And in only a short 100 years the Industrial Age and blind consciousness have achieved a seeming dominance over the Earth. Technology and machines are increasingly doing our jobs, pharmaceuticals and supplements are considered adequate replacements to nutrition, and our food is no longer our medicine. We have lost the fundamental precept of supporting Nature, so that she can support us. We have become disconnected. If it is not in the soil, it is not in the plant. If it is not in the plant - it is not in the people. Combine this mantra with the reality that the majority of our food is processed, and travels over 1,500 miles to our plates, and we have gotten to the root of almost every degenerative issue facing society today. The way back is simple. First, we must develop our personal agriculture. Everyone should eat at least one local meatfree meal weekly. As Wendell Berry told us, “Eating is an agricultural act.” And I don’t intend to make a moral statement on meat-eating, but there is no doubt that curbing the intensity of our meat-based diet would have real benefits for the Earth. Second, everyone should grow at least one functional plant. I’m not talking about a houseplant, but something you eat, or use in some way. Whether it is a pepper plant to garnish your salad, or growing your favorite medicinal herb, everyone needs a direct growing experience. This simple pleasure has proven to change and enhance many lives.
In fact, we should start a movement that says all schools must require students to raise a plant that they eat on their own as part of the curriculum. You heard it here first, call it “Personal Agriculture 101.” When we have children who don’t know ketchup and French fries come from tomatoes and potatoes - there is a lot of work to do.
The compost pile is the gut of the landscape
Finally, and maybe most importantly, we must broaden our reverence and perspective towards Nature herself. I work as a consultant offering Fertility Management Services in all sectors of agriculture from acreage farmers to landscaping companies, and it is alarming how many professionals are completely unaware of the damage they are doing to things they are actually trying to help. In my experience working with growers, the most important service that I provide is offering a deeper perspective towards the forces of life, and how living systems actually work. This could be as simple as acknowledging the benefits of using compost tea in a hydroponic system, or it could be something more profound, such as actually coming to terms with the idea that there is more to life than the sum of our parts. There is a book called Secrets of the Soil: New Solutions for Restoring Our Planet that brought all of this to clarity for me almost fifteen years ago. It proposes that we must go beyond the material, and even “organic,” to methods of agriculture that incorporate spiritual science, and are truly regenerative. Through pondering, experimenting, and experiencing this approach to agriculture, I developed a consulting platform
called BioEnergetic Agriculture, or the recognition that life lives on physical, mineral, biological, and energetic levels. Here’s how it works.
The physicality of the soil is obvious. Think soil structure, soil horizons, and plants themselves. There are things you can do to encourage good soil structure, but the plant growth and physical structure of soil will normally move in the right direction given proper mineral, biological, and energetic methods and consideration. The mineral capacity of soil deals with fertilization and base saturation balance. In agriculture, and even in the garden at home, too much focus is put on NPK without consideration for trace elements, and mineral balance and diversity. Always make sure to use elementally balanced and diverse materials like rock dusts, kelp, or sea minerals in the garden. These materials also make great tools for helping soil microbes make enzymes and other biocatalysts. And when using singular elemental products like Epsom salts (MgS), lime (Ca), superphosphates (P), etc. - make sure to do soil testing to determine if they are actually needed. The health of the soil is much more than the pH number. Check into the work of Dr. William Albrecht. The biological component of BioEnergetic Agriculture is the soil food web that supports plant growth. The importance of diverse soil microbes cannot be overstated. Just consider the significance of plankton in the ocean. While microbes can appear complicated, they self-organize, and don’t really need our help other than to apply them consistently to our gardens, and stay out of the way!
They are also much simpler than we have made them out to be. Just like eating gut microbes found in yogurt or probiotics after you get sick and take antibiotics, humus and compost tea inoculate your garden with beneficial soil microbes. The compost pile is the gut of the landscape.
The importance of diverse soil microbes cannot be overstated
And finally, there is the energetic capacity of life, or life force as I like to call it. In fact, life can be deduced down to electrical impulses in the brain. Simply acknowledging this fact provides an opportunity for experience, and a template to work with life force proactively that was not there previously. Many call the idea of life force New Age or woo-woo, but it is actually not a controversial idea to suggest that there is more to life than what is physically here. This is the general belief of most people, we just struggle to come to agreement with what that means. The notion of working with life force on the farm was championed by the “biodynamic methods” introduced by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in his Agriculture Course lectures from 1924. Steiner’s position was that the more comfortable we become with not knowing, the more we know. Far out, right? Steiner developed specific methods and deliberate processes to concentrate the subtle energies of specific
plants and organic materials, so they could be leveraged to regenerate the life force of farms. If you are not familiar with biodynamics and Steiner’s work, open your mind and do a Google search. You’re welcome.
But biodynamics is not a complete farming system. Neither is conventional or organic farming for that matter. They all neglect to combine the principles of soil physicality, mineral balance, microbial diversity, and life force. Think of it this way, conventional farming is plowing and fertilizing. Organic brings in the biological, but biodynamics is the only method that addresses subtle energies, and unfortunately, it does so without addressing soil testing, cover crops, compost tea, etc. The concept of life force can be put into action in many different ways, such as using potentized field sprays, planting by the celestial cycles, activating water with implosion, frequency farming with field broadcasters, and more. Cast doubts aside and have an experience. As I have described it before, conventional farming is drowning, organic farming is treading water, but BioEnergetic Agriculture is swimming where you want to go. I challenge you to look into some of the people mentioned in this article, and spend some time with them. And if you don’t mind, let me know what you learn. Helps me remember. So that’s how Nature works. Now go plant a garden. 3
FOOD The world is overpopulated, continuing to grow towards carrying capacity, and food production is essential to sustain this. Diverting agricultural land away from food production will have disastrous effects. Agricultural land is limited, irrigating the desert, and cutting down more forests is not the answer. So, what do we do? As a multipurpose crop, cannabis can be part of the solution. Hemp seeds are an excellent food, actually considered a “superfood” - it contains all 18 essential amino acids and healthy short-chain fatty acids. There are now varieties that have been bred to taste good. In 2016, we grew primarily the X59 Hempnut variety from TerraMax seeds, which has an almost hazelnut flavor. I eat it right out the back of the combine. The seed can be hulled to remove the outer seed shell, and/or pressed into an amazing oil as well. If you haven’t tried hulled hemp seed, or cooked with golden hemp oil, it is worth the effort. It is very healthy, containing beneficial omegas, and tastes great. The cost is still an issue, though I expect with supply and demand economics, hemp seed products would be comparable to other cereals in the coming years.
From a farmer’s perspective, hemp is an interesting crop. Hemp seed prices range from about $0.70/lb to $1.75/lb, depending on variety and quality. At Coulee Cannabis, we received almost $1/lb for seed this year, producing about 1,800 lbs per acre on irrigated land. Dryland is typically less than 1,000 lbs per acre, yet represents more than twice the profit of canola. Although the market may dictate a decrease in the price of hemp seed over time, it is expected that these prices will be sustained for the next few years.
FIBER, TEXTILES, CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS Hempcrete, panel board, insulation, paper, clothes, even plastics… All can be made from cannabis biomass. Innovations are being made in these areas all the time. In the coming years, we will see vehicles made almost entirely from polymers containing hemp. The push for eco-friendly, sustainable, and renewable building materials will be significant in the coming decades. Cannabis will help meet these demands.
MEDICINE The cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis have medicinal properties. While there is still some debate as to the validity of the claims made by cannabis users, many have witnessed seizures stop, and cancers disappear. These molecules have been some of the most studied molecules over the past decade. They are isolated, chemically re-created, mimicked, and sold by pharmaceutical companies as medicineâ€Ś so, they are medicine. If farmers can extract this medicine, or even sell the biomass to a company that could efficiently do so, it would not only
provide a new revenue stream to them, but also significantly decrease the cost of producing this medicine. These savings would inevitably be translated to the customer, making the medicine more affordable and available. Raw/fresh cannabis is also highly undervalued, as both a medicine and nutrient substitute. Juicing fertilized cannabis (ie. with seeds in it) provides all the benefits of a shot of wheatgrass, as well as amino acids, fatty acids, and cannabinoid acids.
Cannabis can be used to make fuel. The oil from the seed can be used for biodiesel. Repurposing the unusable or excess bi-products of the seed, as well as the waste following product use, such as reclaimed cooking oil, might be viable options. Being extremely high in cellulose, the biomass can also be digested for ethanol production. There is still significant biomass left over after medicine extraction that can still be used for ethanol production. The ethanol can be then used in the extraction process for medicine, or used for other purposes, such as a gasoline additive. 3
Growing organic is a complex process with traceable, verifiable inputs. Such as fertilizers and pesticides, to ensure the consumer gets what they pay for. There are multiple local and international organizations to certify the produce to be organic. But what about the water used for irrigation? The truth is, water quality varies wildly with little to no oversight to ensure a contaminant-free input. Some growers are lucky enough to enjoy a clean and reliable source that’s always readily available. Unfortunately, that’s increasingly not the case in many areas.
Hormones, pharmaceuticals, and all kinds of toxic materials are making their way into the water supply. In drought-stricken areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, “toilet to tap” reclamation procedures are now in place, essentially straining solids, dosing with chlorine, then pushing the water back into the public drinking supply. Sound gross? Well, the situation with water in America is rapidly changing. If you wouldn’t drink the tap water at your house or cultivation facility, why would you give that same water to your plants? One of the worst mistakes an organic grower can make is to invest money into a garden, but gloss over their water supply quality, perhaps the most important resource to having a genuinely healthy end-product. Even if you believe your geographic area has “good” water, not investigating the quality and serving your plants less than optimal water might not only compromise the end-product, but also choke its potential, undermining an otherwise perfectly engineered operation. The TDS (total dissolved solids) in any type of untreated water varies for several reasons, and the relatively small investment into a water filtration system is a big step towards a consistent, reliable, and truly organic ecosystem. Many cultivators use purified water to completely control the content of their nutrient formulas for each crop, variety, or strain grown, making sure they properly and
consistently dial in the amounts of each mineral vital to healthy plant growth. Getting a water test to determine source water quality helps cultivators to decide whether using a water treatment system would benefit their garden. Municipalities provide free water reports, though water quality fluctuates greatly throughout an area, over the seasons, and can even vary from site to site. Water test kits for other sources, such as well or spring are readily available. Organic cultivators using microorganisms, such as beneficial bacteria, fungi, and nematodes, mycorrhizae, and trichoderma, must have chlorine and chloramine-free water for those helpful microbes to survive and flourish. All municipal water contains chlorine and/or chloramines as they are both powerful biocides, meaning they are designed to kill all living organisms. Letting city water sit out and bubble overnight may get rid of chlorine, but it’s not effective to remove chloramines, or other contaminants. Water from well or spring sources is often high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and iron. Giving water with too high levels of these minerals to heavy-feeding plants will contribute to nutrient lockout and lead to deficiencies. The following table shows the most common contaminants in water, their sources, and what harmful effects they can have on plants. As one can see, many dissolved minerals in untreated source water have the potential to damage crops.
Using reverse osmosis to filter source water is the single most efficient, economical, and reliable way to ensure the removal of 98%+ of all contaminants mentioned above. As reverse osmosis technology continues to advance, as well as new regulations come online, several simplified water filtration solutions for commercial and hobby growers are now available. These include efficient preplumbed, plug-and-play systems customized to treat any water source. These systems ensure consistency and reliability of water input, and are critical to the professional grower.
Already have access to excellent source water? Consider yourself lucky. People in many locations have increasingly complex, and sometimes dangerous, water contamination issues to deal with as seen in Flint, Michigan and Corpus Christi, Texas in the USA, or the recent problems in Yorkshire and Manchester in the UK. Remember, if itâ€™s not healthy for humans, itâ€™s probably not healthy for plants - You (and your plants) are what you eat and drink! 3
The United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture recently reported that 800 million humans are growing fruit and vegetables, or raising livestock in urban areas, producing 15 to 20% of the world’s food. Beyond the need to feed the planet’s constantly swelling urban population, the popularity of growing food plants in the heart of our cities points to urban dwellers’ profound need to reconnect with nature and know where our food comes from. Seeing their residents’ mounting enthusiasm for cultivating edible plants, elected officials in many North American and European municipalities decided to encourage the trend. The cities of Freiburg, Germany and Paris, France have recently developed a range of programs aimed at promoting urban agriculture, while various US cities, including Chicago and New York, now permit urban bee and hen keeping. In Canada, Montreal municipal authorities are working hard in co-operation with numerous community organizations to foster an interest in growing edible plants. With slightly more than 135 hectares of urban vegetable gardens, Montreal has become a North American leader in urban agriculture.
Fruit and vegetables are grown farther and farther from urban centres, and shipping them is a major source of pollution. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the food on a typical American plate has to travel an average of 2,400 kilometres (1,490 miles) to get there. By encouraging local and organic production, urban agriculture can help meet the enormous dietary and environmental challenges facing us – at least in part.
Vegetables in the sky Given that more than 80% of North Americans and 75% of Europeans are urban dwellers, vacant lots are increasingly rare, and it’s hard to find open space in cities.
People interested in urban agriculture need to be very creative, and often find that the only spots available to them are on rooftops! Brooklyn Grange Farm, in New York, must be one of the most famous urban rooftop agriculture projects in the United States. The roofs of two buildings in Brooklyn and Queens, with a total area of over one hectare, are home to one of the world’s largest urban farms – growing close to 25,000 kilos (55,115 lbs) of vegetables every year! Gotham Greens, another urban agriculture company, recently built close to 16,000 m2 (172,222 ft2) of rooftop greenhouses on four buildings in Chicago and New York. All kinds of citizen and community projects to create roof vegetable gardens have cropped up across the United States in recent years. There is Cloud 9, a non-profit organization created by Rania Campbell-Bussiere devoted to teaching people about urban agriculture and building rooftop farms in Philadelphia. There is a huge urban agriculture movement in Chicago, too, especially high above the ground. The city has close to 400 green roofs, many of them used for growing produce. Windy City Harvest is an urban agriculture training program run by the Chicago Botanic Garden. Students in the program hone their skills by cultivating fruit and vegetables in various locations, including a nearly 2,000 m2 (21,528 ft2) rooftop garden atop McCormick Place, North America’s largest convention centre. One of Montreal’s first urban rooftop vegetable gardens appeared in 2011 atop the Palais des congrès convention
centre, in the heart of downtown. Developed by a group of professors from the urban agriculture research, innovation, and promotion laboratory (AU/LAB) at the Université du Québec à Montréal, it is actually an urban farm designed to test various rooftop urban agriculture technologies and techniques. With 5,700 m2 (61,355 ft2) devoted to cultivating vegetables in containers over the past five years, they have just added a huge 6,000 m2 (64,583 ft2) vertical garden for growing herbs, leafy greens, and strawberries on geotextile fabric. Les Urbainculteurs is another pioneering rooftop urban agriculture company in Montreal and Quebec City. For close to a decade, founders Marie Eisenmann and Francis Denault, and their team have been creating dozens of rooftop urban gardens, including those atop the Lauberivière homeless shelter in Quebec City, and the Cuisine collective community kitchen building in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. Finally, Lufa Farms is another Montreal example of rooftop urban agriculture, but it grows produce in greenhouses installed on building roofs, heating them with heat recovered from the buildings. Meanwhile, in Paris, the current municipal administration has set a target of creating urban food gardens on some 30 hectares of roofs by 2020. The City of Light has seen a number of showpiece urban agriculture projects in recent years, including Paris sous les fraises, installed atop the Galeries Lafayette by Yohan Hubert.
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Containers Rather than covering an entire roof with soil, it is much simpler, and far less expensive to grow vegetables in containers. Fabric pots yield excellent results. They reduce the load on the roof structure, and avoid the need for costly reinforcements. It is still best, however, to have an engineer certify the maximum weight in containers and soil that the roof can hold where you plan to create a garden. The planters should not to be in direct contact with the roof’s waterproofing membrane, to avoid damaging or, worse still, puncturing it. Ideally, containers should be placed on saucers, rubber tiles (like the ones used to cover steps and balconies in winter), or even recycled wooden pallets. Don’t forget that you’ll need ready access to the roof where you’re growing edible plants to make it easy to maintain them. It’s also important to use large containers. And to choose light, rich, moisture, and nutrient retaining potting soil. A blend containing equal parts of compost, sphagnum moss, and perlite, like Pro-Mix organic vegetable and herb mix, usually yields excellent results. For a good crop of more demanding plants like eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes, don’t forget to add a few handfuls (about 100 ml per plant) of a slow-release, granular, natural fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen and potassium at planting time.
ground, it’s important to put your plants in a sheltered spot, or to use a trellis or other plants to form a windbreak.
You also need to be sure to place your container-grown edible plants in full sun, since most require at least six hours of sun to grow and develop properly. Because it’s usually much hotter on roofs, tropical vegetable plants like eggplants and tomatoes tend to thrive and produce especially large crops. Considering that the wind can be very strong several metres above the
In temperate regions, May and June, once all risk of frost is past, are a great time to plant tropical vegetables like eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes in containers. However, some root and leafy green vegetables like beets, spinach, and radishes can be planted or sown from seed outdoors even earlier, in March or April in some areas.
W ha t is Salsi f y? Which edible plants are best? From fruit-bearing bushes to vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers, most edible plants – even root vegetables like carrots – can be grown in containers, on roofs! The best ones for this purpose are herbs and leafy vegetables like swiss chard, spinach, and kale. Dwarf beans and peas also produce abundant crops when cultivated in containers. Climbing varieties of beans and peas also do very well provided you give them some support. If you’d like to grow tomatoes in containers on your roof, look for a compact determinate variety that bears small fruit, like ‘Pepe’, ‘Tiny Tim’ or ‘Tumbler’, for instance. Larger varieties can also be successfully grown in containers. Lunchbox and Mini Bell series eggplants and peppers are other good options, yielding small fruit. You might be surprised to know that you can even grow potatoes in containers – just be sure that the pot is wide, and at least 45 cm deep. Obviously, longer-rooted vegetables like carrots and salsify require very deep containers. Some clever gardeners use plastic tubes over 60 cm long to grow long carrots! It’s simple to grow most herbs in a rooftop container. Chives, tarragon, lemon balm, mint, oregano, parsley, savory, and thyme are the least demanding. Basil requires more heat, and a bit more care. Cilantro really isn’t an ideal container plant. It goes to seed quickly if it gets too much sun, and the soil around its roots is allowed to dry out periodically. There are a few fruit-bearing bushes, including strawberries, haskaps, and raspberries that can produce heavy crops, and survive for several years in fabric containers, even if left on a roof over the winter. 3
Albert brings Garden Culture great ideas for gardening outside the “box.” Sometimes, he throws in a plant that needs to be googled. Reading up on it, I am quite excited to find some. This unique root looks like a parsnip and tastes like an...oyster? Tragopogon porrifolius is native to the Mediterranean, and still popular in the United States and Europe, though it can sometimes be hard to find. If you do, learn how to prepare it: bit.ly/2ke0c17.
Introducing the washing machine that works anywhere. The Drumi is a non-electric, no-gas-needed appliance. Take it camping, cut down on public laundry costs, or simply thumb your nose at the grid altogether by pedaling clothes clean. Yirego from Toronto won the James Dyson Award in 2015 for sustainable product design, and got 224% funding on the IndieGoGo campaign. Itâ€™s compact, and uses 80% less water than standard washing machines. Currently taking preorders for late 2017 delivery. More info: www.yirego.com.
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Nearly two decades ago, just after leaving college, I made the decision not to buy or own a television. “You’re moving to Slough, aren’t you? Have you got a TV?” It’s the late 90s—a time when everybody had a spare television—most likely as a direct result of being repeatedly encouraged to replace their perfectly functioning, yet bulky consciousness-homogenization devices with vastly overpriced, sexier-looking flat-screen alternatives. It had worked—and now everyone, it seemed, was trying to unload their old, legacy TV-blocks on to me. “You can just take it—I don’t want anything for it! You’d be doing me a favour.”
Looking back, I did the best thing and politely declined the offers. That said, the most generous thing I can say about Slough is that it’s a dead place. Perhaps a TV would’ve helped. If I were feeling less generous I might liken Slough to a diseased, weeping wart on southern England’s anus— or, better yet, I would give way to the 20th Century poet, John Betjeman who wrote poignantly of it in 1937: Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now, There isn’t grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death! Come, bombs and blow to smithereens Those air-conditioned, bright canteens, Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, Tinned minds, tinned breath. There are a further eight stanzas but I think you get the idea. Still, there was no alternative in my mind but to move out of home and accept a job offer there. My mother had just passed away and my father had wasted no time in replacing her with whisky and sex with an ex-female-bodybuilder. (The precise syntactic scope of that modifier remains pleasingly ambiguous to this day.) Suffice to say, there was no place for me in the “love nest” so Slough, at the time, actually seemed like a good plan. I had no idea how bleak the next six months were going to be. Despite its fabled reputation for distraction, I didn’t miss television. I had something far, far better—the Internet. Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school. The world wide web was just starting to bulge out of its briefs. (My 2.1 gigabyte hard drive was also bursting at the seams with “media”.) Meanwhile, newsgroups formed yet another universe within a universe. Alt.philosophy, Alt.consciousness, and Alt.atheism were virtual hangouts where I could systematically pick apart unsuspecting strangers’ attempts at philosophical arguments with all the grace, modesty, and generosity of a Nazi eugenicist without any fear of being repeatedly punched in the face. The world had never been connected like this and there was a buzz in the ether as we breathed it all in. The net in the nineties felt like we were on the precipice of a new dawn for humanity. Knowledge was no longer something locked away in university libraries—it was all within reach, just a few clicks away. Something was happening—not just online but
offline. I was thinking differently, more deeply, and asking more questions of the world and of myself than ever before. Looking back, I may have misattributed a fair portion of my natural brain development to the mere coincidence of spending a lot of time online—but the two seemed to be operating in tandem. Unexpectedly one night, all my “hard work” payed off—hour after hour with a keyboard and my own thoughts. My mind’s chatter—something I had become used to since childhood and had never really questioned before—suddenly became aware of itself in a new way—and this awareness, naturally and inexorably, could only lead to one place: silence. I should point out that this non-event took place well before Eckhart Tolle made it, and wearing beige sweaters, cool. There was an overriding sense of humility—like I was the last child to realize that the headmaster had walked into the classroom and stood at the front patiently waiting for me to be quiet. But there was only me—well, me, everything and nothing. Waves of what I now call “bliss” washed over me again and again. I spent four days barely sleeping, feeling as light as a feather, chirping like a newly born bird. After letting 2016 get me properly down in the dumps, today I feel intensely positive and deeply optimistic about humanity and the planet once again. I swear it isn’t just “hope” or forced, saccharine self-assurance in the face of adversity— it’s something deeper. Perhaps it’s just another coincidence, but a few weeks ago I stopped drinking alcohol every damn night, and purged all the news apps from my iPhone. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to advocate putting your cherished smartphone in the dumpster (sorry, recycle bin), or claiming that we all need to live our lives without technology in order to attain Nirvana. I love my smartphone—it’s just that certain apps were claiming far too much of my time and headspace, filling every would-be quiet moment with third-party noise. My wife would leave the room for a second and I’d check Facebook. For what? I don’t know. Now I’m learning again how to embrace something beautiful: silence. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I still have a Facebook account, but I deal with it through a wonderful intermediary, Hootsuite. I can’t recommend this enough—it’s like a solicitor for social media, holding the bullshit at bay, only without the nasty bills. Suddenly every day feels 26 hours long!
The news apps had to go because I was sick of reading “headlines” about tweets. Plus the sheer hubris of the term “fake news” started to irk my epistemological sensibilities so much that something had to be done. The solution was easy— switch off. Perhaps a little more controversially, I also took the step of unsubscribing from all those “We must stop this now!” petition emails that were plaguing my inbox daily about imminent environmental catastrophes. Am I shutting out reality? On the contrary, I‘m making space for it. I am awakening from the illusion of pretending that I really know anything about current and global affairs. I haven’t stopped caring—I’ve just taken back control of my mind. I used to wake up every day and religiously read the headlines of The Guardian or the BBC—or, if I was feeling like too much optimism was creeping in, a Chris Hedges’ opinion piece on TruthDig. Now I feel it’s far more productive to focus on that which is immediate and local. For me this starts with my family—first and foremost—and building up the soil in my garden with organic matter, propagating more seedlings than I need, giving them away to neighbors, and taking the lead in sharing my time, commodities, and energy without central banks or the tax man being involved. The feeling of liberation is palpable.
I’m learning again how to embrace something beautiful: silence
This new sense of seniority, I hope, is suffusing through us all. We must stop merely manifesting inferiority by ranting and railing against the so-called powers that be, and reclaim our own innate power. We are free, and that’s all that really matters—not because of some constitutional amendment or statute—but because we are living, conscious human beings. As such, if we are truly serious about revolutionizing the predominant culture on this planet then we have to start with ourselves and take ownership of this change. The battle is not about what you believe. Perhaps the aim of propaganda in these times is not so much about convincing you
of a particular version of events, but leaving you so confused that you give up on any hope or search for truth altogether? In that sorry, confused state, you can be convinced of the veracity of any voguish new term (“We are living in a post-truth era”) and even manipulated into acting against your own self-interest. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Get back to your gardens. Not because things are bad—but because things are good! Touch the soil. Listen to the birds chirping. Don’t let the hippies have all the fun. Last, but not least, if you haven’t done so already, kill your television, castrate your smartphone, and embrace the fruits of boredom. “If you awaken in this illusion and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death, or shall I say, death implies life, you can feel yourself not as a stranger in the world, not as something here on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.” — Alan Watts. 3
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Over recent years we have started to add green manures to our soil. French grower Mehdi Daho from our Giant Vegetable Community on Facebook suggested we ‘go green’. So, we have scattered green manure on our planting areas ever since. Green manure doesn’t sound very pleasant, but it does wonders for the health of the soil and subsequent plants. It is a crop that is grown mainly to benefit the soil, rather than for food or ornament. Green manures are fast-growing plants sown to cover bare soil. Their foliage smothers weeds, and their roots prevent soil erosion. When turned into the ground while still green, they return valuable nutrients to the soil, improving soil structure. The idea of growing a crop purely to benefit the soil and other plants is not a new idea. It has been around for centuries, but fell out of vogue after World War II with the advent man-made chemical products that could enhance plant growth, kill pests and diseases, and increase productivity. Fortunately, people are now more aware that there are better, more natural ways of ensuring soil productivity, and the subsequent crop’s health. It’s one of the best methods of building soil.
The Many Benefits of Green Manure Improving Soil Structure Green manures have deep penetrative roots that open up the soil as they grow. This is an advantage on heavy soils, because it allows drainage to occur more freely, and it adds organic matter to the soil. With lighter soils, green manures help the particles bind together better, increasing it’s ability to hold water, as well as enriching the soil with organic matter.
Weed Suppression Green manure crops grow quickly, covering bare soil like a living mulch that suppresses weeds and retains moisture. It is good practice to make sure the soil is weedfree first. That is why they are very important when areas are left fallow, especially in winter.
Adding Nutrients Our preferred green manure planting is a mix of Field Beans, Hairy Vetch, and Brown Mustard. These varieties bring minerals to the surface that would otherwise be unusable to plants. Leguminous green manures have root nodules that provide a home to nitrogen fixing rhizobia. When it is dug in, the fixed nitrogen becomes available for the following crop. Specific soil bacteria are required to be present, but they usually are in healthy soil. This offers a renewable source of nitrogen required by plants for healthy stem and leaf growth.
Soil Protection As a living mulch, green manures help to protect the soil from compaction due to heavy rainfall, prevents the leaching of nutrients, and helps hold the soil together. In the summer, it will protect the soil from the drying effects of the sun and wind.
Pest Control It provides habitat for frogs, beetles, and other natural predators that feed on crop pests, such as snails and slugs, etc. These beneficial creatures like the damp cover of green manures. 3
My love affair with turmeric actually started with ginger. I had recently acquired Autopots and was looking for something new to grow, and ginger is a staple in our home. My technique was basic - I simply shoved a piece of organic ginger an inch or so under the top of the media, a coco and expanded clay pellets mix by Gold Label. About a month later, little green shoots were emerging. Another four months passed, and I was harvesting three pounds of the most delicious and beautiful ginger I had ever seen or tasted. I was so impressed that I decided to share it on social media - definitely a popular post and many inquiries for a â€œhow toâ€? guide. Now, most indoor crops require a fair amount of attention - ginger, on the other hand, was relatively easy, needing only an Autopot and time. Of course, it is important to consider that although ginger can no longer be found in the wild, it did originate in the tropical rainforest in Southern Asia. Therefore, warm temperatures and high humidity are a vital part of the equation.
During the same time, it became common to hear the question, “Have you tried turmeric?” I hadn’t even considered it - I had never used it in my cooking, even though Garden Culture had already written about this wonderful root. So, I looked into it, and discovered that ginger and turmeric are from the same family, Zingiberaceae. This is how I got turned on to turmeric - I could grow it. I would figure out how to use it later! I set out to the health food store, received a few blank stares when I asked for turmeric - many herbs and spices sound similar in French and English. Not so in this case. It is CURCUMIN, also the name of the bioactive ingredient in this golden root. Now I know.
Planting Turmeric Just like the ginger, I placed the rhizome an inch below the earth, and forgot about it. Within a month, there
were green shoots. Four to five months later, the pot was buckling due to the root mass filling the space. I discovered neither plant needs to be directly under the light, but do very well off to the side. Unlike the ginger, which is a grass-like plant, turmeric has wide, palm-like leaves and takes up a bit more room in the garden. And, the total yield was three pounds. Three pounds of turmeric, and I don’t know what to do with it. I tried some in a stir-fry, only using a thumb-sized piece, but to be honest, I didn’t love the taste. I finally began to research the health benefits of fresh, or even dried turmeric, and I was blown away. The University of Maryland’s Medical Center provides a Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide which lists the conditions in which the use of turmeric has been proven beneficial.1n Asia, the use of turmeric as a medicine goes back thousands of years.
Nature has provided so many secrets for us to unfold, and turmeric is one superfood that I plan on fully exploring. There are probably better ways to extract the benefits, but this is one way that my family and I enjoyed it.
• • •
½ pound ginger or turmeric root Water Silk screen or cheesecloth
1. Place the root in a pot, and cover with about 1 liter of water. 2. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Simmer for about an hour. 3. Monitor carefully. Add water if the roots become exposed. 4. Allow to cool a little. Now blend the hell out of it! 5. Pour the liquid through silk screen or cheesecloth. 6. Store in a well-sealed jar in the refrigerator. That’s it, now you have super-concentrated ginger or turmeric juice. Add ground pepper to the turmeric juice, as it will enhance absorption. Can be enjoyed as a quick “shot,” or mixed in a nice tall glass as follows: • • • • •
3-4 tbsp Ginger juice concentrate 3-4 tbsp Turmeric juice concentrate ½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice or other citrus 1 tbsp maple syrup or other sweetener Top up with bubbly water.
I also add kombucha, if it is on-hand. This is easily my favourite drink, there is no better way to start the day.
the largest-ever cash takeover of a U.S. company If you haven’t closely followed Bayer’s imminent $66 billion takeover of Monsanto, it might sound like a promising partnership. The merger would make them the world’s largest global pesticide and seed company.The mega companies claim that it will reduce costs for farmers and improve margins as industry prices drop. And while it would certainly be a coup for Monsanto’s largest shareholders, who are expected to earn nearly $8 billion, it sounds like a dangerous deal for consumers and farmers.
“The consolidation and driving out of smaller competitors, and controlling the marketplace and raising prices of seeds and pesticides for farmers worldwide is going to be a real shock to the food system,” Robert Lawrence, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor and the founding director of the Center for a Liveable Future, told MarketWatch. The agrochemical industry is already dominated by just a handful companies. This deal, which is the largest-ever cash takeover of a U.S. company, has to overcome antitrust hur-
dles. It could further limit farmer choice, and their ability to bargain. Increased seed prices would be passed along to consumers at grocery stores. But for any of this to happen, the deal first has to be consummated. And right now it’s anything but certain. Motley Fool, the financial news web site, reported on January 5, 2017 that Monsanto’s stock is 20% below the stated $128 per share cash buyout. That suggests uncertainty about the deal moving forward.
Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, on a January 5th conference call to discuss quarterly results, said the companies are pitching the merger to regulators in the United States and Europe as a way to unite Monsanto’s expertise in crop genetics with Bayer’s impressive pesticide portfolio. There will be limited overlap between the two businesses, Grant said. And if regulators disagree, Bayer has agreed to “a certain level” of divestitures. So, let’s just say regulators bless this monopoly - a merger that could eventually draw the ire of Donald Trump due to the potential job losses of St. Louis-based Monsanto employees as German-based Bayer takes over. What does the merger actually mean? The industry has already been consolidating in massive numbers. Dow and DuPont, along with China National Chemical Corp and Syngenta - both chemical companies - are also merging So are fertilizer companies, Agrium and Potash. Now you have Monsanto and Bayer merging into one massive company that would control a quarter of the world’s market for seeds and pesticides. Alicia Harvie, the advocacy and issues director of Farm Aid, told Modern Farmer that all of the consolidation is
concerning. According to Harvie, there’s been a 52% increase in corn seed costs from 2012 to 2015, and a 300% increase in soy and corn costs since 1995. That was the first year patented genetically modified cotton seeds were introduced to the market. “I think for the average farmer, they’re having trouble understanding how further concentration in a sector that’s already precipitously increased in concentration over the past two decades, how that’s going to benefit them,” she said. Tom Giessel, a Kansas farmer and honorary historian for the National Farmers Union, told Modern Farmer that all of the consolidation is “really, really devastating” for rural communities. He’s forced to buy Monsanto seeds, John Deere tractors, and Syngenta fertilizer. Fewer options means the companies can take advantage of farmers. Giessel is concerned about the Bayer-Monsanto merger. “It’ll have a large impact,” he said. “I have no choice when I purchase inputs, be it seeds, chemicals, whatever. There is no choice. They own me.”
He also said the consolidations have forced a one-size-fits-all approach for farmers. They buy Monsanto seeds and spray them with Monsanto pesticides, which has destroyed independent seed sellers. It is tougher for farmers to truly understand how to farm their specific land.
that would control a quarter of the world’s market for seeds and pesticides
Utah Senator Mike Lee, one of the nation’s top antitrust lawmakers, has been critical of the merger. “The transaction has the potential to result in a significant loss of competition, and reduced incentives and ability to innovate, thereby raising prices,” Lee, a Republican, said in September. In November, more than 1,200 Utahns signed a letter calling on Lee to urge the Justice Department to oppose the deal. Toni Preston, a campaigner for the international consumer watchdog organization SumOfUs, anchored the letter: “The merger between Bayer and Monsanto is a five-alarm threat to our food supply, and to farmers around the world. Now that Monsanto has accepted Bayer’s controversial bid, we need to step up global efforts to stop this illegal merger. This new mega corporation would be the world’s biggest seed maker and pesticide company, defying important antitrust protections, and giving it unacceptable control over critical aspects of our food supply - undermining consumer choice, and the freedom and stability of farmers worldwide.
“More than 500,000 people around the world have spoken out against this dangerous deal that has the potential to usher in a new era of sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides. We need our elected officials to work with us to ensure that regulators recognize the unique threats posed by a Bayer-Monsanto merger, and move swiftly to reject this proposal.” In December, Lee and Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar - the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights - asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division to give “careful consideration” to three recent proposed agribusiness mergers. That included Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-Dupont, and Syngenta-ChemChina. “While we take no position about the legality of any of the proposed transactions under the antitrust laws, we believe they raise important competition issues that the Department and Commission should carefully review,” Lee and Klobuchar wrote. Now regulators in both the United States and Europe will have to decide whether it’s in the best interest of the economy and the planet to create a company that will dominate the world’s market for seeds and pesticides. 3
When ventilation manufacturer Atmosphere outgrew their space in 2008, there was no doubt that the 55,000 ft2 building would be designed to tread lightly - gray water recycling, water saving devices, well insulated, and highly efficient HVAC systems. Not to mention, sowing wildflowers on their roof! The benefits are plenty, but most notably, the green roof adds important habitat space for pollinators in an industrial setting. Is the next step beekeeping?
1) Seattle, WA
Farming the Garage Dan Albert left his parent’s farm for a career in landscape architecture. But a 2008 project introduced him to indoor farming, and by 2011 he was testing out a 100 ft2 aeroponic farm. Two years later, his garage had a 600 ft2 modified vertical NFT system pumping out microgreens and herbs. Unlike many startup urban farmers, Albert grew his operation on a strictly cash basis. A slow beginning, but free of of debt and investor burdens. Today, Farmbox Greens supplies dozens of Seattle’s best restaurants and area food stores, and sells consumer-direct at four farmers markets. It’s small, but scalable, grows and sells locally, and it’s profitable. Learn more: www.farmboxgreens.com
2) Kotzebue, AK
Defying the Arctic Circle Thirty miles north of the Arctic Circle, summers are so cold that there are no forests. Outdoor gardens are totally impossible. Until June 2016, ‘fresh’ produce in this native village didn’t exist. But Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation bought a container farm. It arrived by plane, because there are no inbound roads. The first harvest made history in Kotzebue this summer. The local AC Store proudly offered the first ever locally grown lettuces just weeks after the container farm landed. The other 28 stores strewn around the district would love weekly deliveries too, but they’ll have to wait until the new Arctic Greens farm expands operations. Growing fresh food where none has grown before. More info: www.bit.ly/ arctic-greens. Featured on GC: www.bit.ly/inupiat-grows.
3) Toronto, Ontario
Farming a la Crate Deena DelZotto and Rachel Kimel make the most out of growing food in vacant space across the city. Their non-profit organization is on a mission to create urban agriculture opportunities on empty lots. They grow for local chefs and charities in milk crates for their mobility. Known as The Bowery Project, the duo can install an urban garden just as quickly as they can break one down, and transport the whole thing elsewhere. Over the past several years, their organic veg and herb installments have graced numerous Toronto properties. Recently they started a semi-permanent farm of 1500 crates in a developer collaboration.
Bowery, by the way, is Dutch for ‘farm’. Learn more: www.boweryproject.ca
4) Manhattan, NYC, NY
Niche in a Niche Hidden inside the Institute of Culinary Education is a specialty indoor farm. It began as a grow room to supply students with ingredients, but it evolved. Farm.One has both a school supply side and a commercial side, growing rare, newly discovered, and familiar flavors and garnishes. It’s the go-to source for every chef’s fancy in all seasons. The edibles choice ranges from Bachelor Button and Good King Henry to Black Cumin Flower, Anise Hyssop, and beyond. They offer 50 different options every week, have a weekly retail plan, and also grow custom crops. They’ve grown 150 crops in the past year. The goal? Building the widest selection of edible herbs and greens in the world. Learn more: www.farm.one 3
In the series “Light Matters,” Theo Tekstra discusses the different aspects to lighting, such as quantity, quality, efficacy, special applications, new developments, and the science behind it. In Part V, Theo compares artificial lighting to...the Sun. You are used to me writing rather technical articles about light.Will this one be any different? Yes and no.Yes, there will be some calculating involved. No, most of the theory is really quite logical and requires no technical background at all, just a bit of common sense. What Is The Best Light For Plants? The answer is much more obvious than you might think: It is the sun! Plants have evolved under sunlight for millions of years, and they have optimized themselves during that period to the spectrum of the sun. It’s called evolution. Get used to it. However, you can use different light spectrums to influence the shape or substance contents of a plant. For example, far red light makes the plant stretch, and UVB light, in an appropriate low amount, can influence color, flavonoid, and essential oil content. The sun however, is always our baseline.
Evidence… Many lighting manufacturers nowadays show scientific research, or interpretations of scientific research, to prove that their spectrum is the best for growing plants. To understand these research graphs, you should know that light colors are expressed in wavelengths. These are the corresponding colors:
One of the most quoted researches in plant light science history is the work of Keith McCree, who measured the relative photosynthesis (quantum yield) in plants under various colors of light. He came up with what is now known as “The McCree curve”. In laymen’s terms, it shows you the efficiency of specific colors of light for photosynthesis.
So What Is The Right Spectrum? So clearly, when you look at these graphs, plants are best off with red and blue light, and you should stay away from green light. LEDs with red and blue light should be the most efficient answer, right? Well, that is what many people think. Let’s look at the sun first.
Our Baseline: The Sun When discussing sunlight, I always ask what people think is the most abundant color in the sunlight spectrum. Mostly, the answer is yellow or red, but hardly ever do they know the right answer - It is green light! Now how is it possible that plants, according to studies, don’t make use of all that green light? You can actually see that plants don’t use green light, they are green, so they reflect green light, right? Wrong!
When you have followed the discussion about light quality in the professional horticultural world over the last five years, there was a lot of discussion about red, blue, and far red, initially due to the upcoming red/blue LED technology. Green was then added to the discussion, and more recently, there is a lot of discussion about UV and wide spectrum light. Research follows technology. We know a lot about the plant responses to light, but we do not know everything. There is still a lot to be learned. During a recent conference about light and spectrum, with many manufacturers in the audience, the moderator, a plant scientist, asked who could present a spectrum that would perform 10% better than any other, or guarantee 10% more yield. Not one arm was lifted. In 1994, Bruce Bugbee, professor at Utah State university, performed an experiment in which he lit plants with 6 different sources: Low Pressure Sodium (LPS), High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Incandescent (INC), Metal Halide (MH), Cool White Fluorescent (CWF), Red Light-Emitting Diode (LED), and Solar on a clear day.2 So very different spectrums of light, all administered at the same intensity to compare the efficiency of those spectrums. The conclusion was put in the following headline: “PLANT GROWTH IN SOME SPECIES IS SURPRISINGLY LITTLE AFFECTED BY LIGHT QUALITY.”
Fig 3 – spectral diagram of sunlight
This is not best practice, of course, for all types of plants, and will not create very healthy crops in most cases, but it does show that there is much confusion and misinformation.
I have written about this before - Green light may be even more efficient than red or blue light.1 It will not influence the photoperiodism mechanism in plants which makes them start to produce flowers in short days, but it does have a great effect on photosynthesis.
Was McCree wrong? No, he wasn’t. He was measuring photosynthesis on a leaf disk at very low intensities, and didn’t really look at a plant as a system. In high intensity white light, green light is very efficient.1 It travels through the plant, has a greater effect deeper in the leaf, and reaches the lower part of the plant more easily than red and blue light which is absorbed by the top canopy.
Researchers discovered that the shape of a plant is influenced by the color of light which can lead to a croppy plant, an open plant with a large node distance, a dense plant, a plant with more shoots or less shoots, bigger and smaller leaves etc. This is called morphogenesis, or the shape of the plant. An optimally positioned leaf intercepts light much better than a covered leaf. Therefore, having too many leaves can cost the plant a lot of energy, because plants that do not intercept light have to be maintained by the plant, costing the plant energy.. In recent years, growers are much more aware to use the shape of the plant as an indicator to steer the yield of a plant.
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In the tomato industry, for example, leaves are removed to get a better leaf area index (LAI), and cultivators growing large plants cut the bottom shoots. Basically, when a leaf does not receive light, it just drains the plant instead of contributing to it.
Lighting A Greenhouse We know the sun works. Obviously. To protect plants from weather, we erected greenhouses, creating optimal plant growth by creating optimal climate and light conditions. To be able to grow plants year round, and to grow cultivars that are not specifically available in low light regions, we introduced grow lights in those greenhouses. Still, the primary source of light is the sun in a greenhouse. Maybe up to 25% is supplemented light in high intensity cultivation methods. So the influence of the spectrum of the supplemented light is limited. The plants get a baseline of quality light, which is supplemented by the spectrum of the grow light. To be efficient, this needs to be in the PAR region, of course, but the influence on the development of the plant, other than added photosynthesis is limited. Not absent, but limited.
So, you can steer morphogenesis with light colors. Adding blue light usually makes a more compact plant for example. But what we have seen with simulated sunlight is that plants grow much faster than under other light sources! In 2010, Sander Hoogewooning published a paper 3 in which he compared cucumber cuttings under HPS, CFL, and artificial sunlight. The results, not only in shape, but also in biomass, were stunning, and could only be explained by different morphogenesis developments by the artificial full sunlight spectrum. Though the quality of light does not influence the photosynthesis of a plant much, it does have a great influence on the size, shape, and yield of a plant. Results from plants grown in a greenhouse versus those grown under pure wide spectrum plasma light also show incredible differences in favor of the artificial light, which can only be attributed to the quality of that light. And this brings us back to sunlight.
The most efficient LEDs are red and blue. So it is logical that in a greenhouse we use the most efficient LEDs as supplemental lighting, and that works well. Note that the spectrum of these LEDs is much narrower than a normal HPS lamp, which gives you a much wider spectrum of light. LEDs emit very little heat, which makes them extremely useful for crops that require high light levels but low temperature, such as lettuce, or to add supplemental light where HPS would just be too warm. Blue and red together look like purple. Hence the purple glow from a greenhouse that is lit by red and blue LEDs. Though blue and red LEDs are the most efficient way to produce light, it may be that new white LEDs, or a combination of different discrete LED colors, may result in much better crops. Still, the influence of supplemental light is limited as the sun is by far the primary light source.
natural growth promoting bacteria
Lighting A Climate Room Now in a climate room, things are a bit different. We don’t have the sun. And, I think I have already demonstrated that you don’t need full sunlight spectrum to grow a plant. But to grow a healthy plant, we can learn from greenhouses. In a greenhouse, the base quality light there is provided by sunlight. All colors of light are represented, and all colors have a function. How they work, and specifically how they work together, is still under much research. There is no such thing as a “golden bullet” spectrum. We know from experience that many growers get great results when using just HPS which is efficient and provides a decent plant spectrum with some added infrared, close to the same ratios as the sun. It’s by far not complete, and specifically some blue light is lacking, which also has an important function. You can add a bit of sun in your indoor room by adding a more blue light, such as metal halide, ceramic metal halide, or plasma light to your HPS lighting. Growers have been doing this successfully for years. As you may expect, I am all for a much more complete spectrum, including green light. Though great results
can be had under HPS, the new generation of growers will use a fuller spectrum indoor light to increase the quality of their plants. This comes at a cost, as “real” full spectrum lighting still is expensive, either in CMH (you need lots of small fixtures and expensive lamps) or LED. HPS will be a technology that is here to stay for many more years because of its price, efficiency, and results. We are moving towards a future in greenhouse lighting of hybrid systems - where you still have the advantage of the infrared radiation on the crop, and when it is warm, the cool light from the LED. The same will happen in indoor cultivation. Lighting choices will become more affordable in the coming years, but there remains disadvantages to each, whether it is low irradiant heat or the absence of UV. So don’t throw away your HPS yet. 3
Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a growing movement for locally grown, sustainably sourced produce. For perhaps the first time in almost a hundred years, there is strong desire to know not only where our food is grown, but more importantly - how.
The rise of organic agriculture, and the demand for foods grown without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics are direct manifestations of this movement. The momentum can be seen in the growing popularity of local farmers markets, the farm-to-table restaurant movement, and retail grocery stores geared towards organic and sustainably grown foods. Another method of locally-sourced food production that many people may not be as familiar with is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and it is becoming more popular with each passing year. The basic concept of a CSA is that the farmer offers up a designated amount of “shares” of the farm to the public. Each customer that purchases a share at the beginning of the year, often referred to as a subscription, will receive a weekly allotment of the harvest. The weekly offering typically consists of a box of vegetables, but other products from the farm may also be included. The weekly boxes are picked up at a designated location and, in some cases, even delivered to the shareholder’s home. The fresh, locally-grown produce the boxes contain will vary according to season and ready for harvest as the year progresses. Farmers that grow for CSAs also tend to practice organic farming techniques. The weekly boxes offered through CSAs typically have enough produce to sustain a family of four over a week’s’ time. Even though the money for the share is paid upfront before the season starts, the price is usually quite fair.
The CSA farming model is relatively new in the United States, with the first ones popping up in the state of Massachusetts in the mid-1980s. By the year 1990, the number rose to 60 farms across the country. In the early 2000s, the popularity of CSAs grew quite significantly. The government does not officially keep track of how many farms operate under the CSA structure, but both university and independent surveys estimate that the number is well over 4,000.
As the popularity of locally sourced, farm-to-table food production continues to spread, so will the number of farms operating under the CSA model. A major key to CSAs is the focus on being a true community-based system. It is through this emphasis on community that important connections are made. The consumer can build a relationship with the farmer,, that in turn, provides a deeper connection to the food they eat. On the other hand, the farmer is able to get to know the people that, quite literally, eat their food to survive. This type of connection can have a great impact on a farmer, and often results in them taking even more pride in their job. It is a weekly reminder that what they do is of immense importance to our world. The connection between farmer and consumer is not the only noteworthy benefit provided by the CSA model. On the farmers side, it provides much needed cash flow before the season even begins. By selling shares of the harvest before the season starts, the farmer is able to buy needed supplies without relying on sizable bank loans. Money for items such as seeds, farm equipment, and even the farmer’s salary can come directly from the sale of shares. There is also the benefit of knowing exactly where the harvest will go without having to find a private buyer, or relying on current market trends. Since most CSA farms provide organic produce, the farmer is also able to get a premium price for the goods, which helps make the farm more prosperous.
Shareholders not only get the benefit of knowing who is growing their food, but also where and how it is produced. Through a closer relationship with the farmer, they are able to learn which types of pest control measures or products are implemented, if any, and which types of fertilisers are used in the process. Many CSAs will even offer “farm days,” inviting the shareholders to visit the farm to build an even deeper connection with their food source. But perhaps the best benefit of belonging to a CSA farm is the variety of extremely fresh produce that has better flavor and nutrient content than what can be purchased at a grocery store. Another aspect that is inherent in the CSA model, and should be taken into consideration, is the idea of “shared risk.” This is important for any community-based system, and is what sets CSAs apart from other forms of local agriculture. The shared risk portion of the agreement creates a “we’re in this together” mentality between shareholders and the farmer. And believe me, there are plenty of risks to take into consideration. With each season there exists the possibility of a diminished harvest due to attacks by pests, disease, unfavorable weather such as hail, wind, and drought, or even just too much rain. Face it, there are a number of things that can go wrong and cause a bad year on the farm. A difficult farming year can lead to smaller harvests, and the possibility of shareholders not getting as much of a return on the initial investment. For the most part, there are no refunds in the CSA model. Most shareholders simply shake off the bad years, and remember that the next year might be the best year the farm has ever had. That is simply the risk that the shareholder takes when becoming part of a CSA agreement. The risk to the farmer can be even more substantial. If the farm has a disappointing year, and shareholders feel as though they’ve been ripped off, it can result in fewer subscribers the following year. If bad years persist it can even lead to the death of the farm’s CSA program.
Note from the Editor : Having been longtime subscribers to CSAs here in Canada, and reading the different incarnations of the model around the world, many farmers have greenhouses, polytunnels, and a plethora of methods to mitigate the risks. Not to mention an intimate knowledge of their land and the plants best suited for it. Most CSAs now have waiting lists, which speaks of their success. Ultimately, we all share in the risks - it is reflected in the price we pay at the cash register.
While the risks are very real for all parties involved, long-time members of a CSA program will most likely tell you that the good years far outweigh the bad. If the idea of shared risk, and the possibility of not getting your “money’s worth” makes you anxious, then the CSA model may not be for you. In this case, the local farmers market would be the better choice. At the end of the day, I feel that the true underlying importance of the CSA model can be seen by looking at it for what it represents as an overall idea. It all stems from the growing desire of everyday people to know how, and where, their food is grown. This same driving force is responsible for the rise in popularity in everything from farmers markets to retail stores specialising in natural and organically grown foods. These are all individual components of the same message. A portion of the public feels that it is our right to know what kind of chemicals and toxins are being used in the daily production of our food, and that the consumer should have healthier alternatives to choose from. This portion of society is growing larger by the day. The market for local, sustainably grown food has been, and still is, growing. 3
The first garden I ever grew was relatively small, but extremely overcrowded because my lack of experience didnâ€™t offer me the foresight of how large each plant could grow. That was just ten years ago, and over time, my garden has evolved in significant ways. In the early years, my fascination and curiosity in learning about and understanding how to grow as many different plants as possible took control over the execution.
It was an excellent way for me to learn how different plants grow, but it also resulted in more waste than I like to admit due to both quantity of plants, and the fact that there are certain vegetables I just don’t find appealing on a regular basis. I would simply eat what I desired, and then attempt to give away as much as I could. Which is not that easy of a task: especially when a lot of your friends already have gardens, and the others just aren’t worried about eating healthy, freshly grown produce.
food grown in your garden will not go to waste is by planting exactly what you enjoy eating.
The story of my garden would form an arc if outlined on paper. It began small and, although cluttered, was designed specifically for a limited crop offering. Over the years, it grew exponentially, and along with it, so did the variety of plants. These last few years have seen my garden become deliberately and strategically smaller while incorporating a wider variant of cultivation methods that better fit my needs: such as raised beds, and a small container garden.
Another important step in creating a more sufficient and productive garden is to plant along with the seasons, staggering your plantings to create what I like to call the “perpetual” harvest. In my earlier gardens, I would just plant everything at once and essentially have just one big harvest; A highly inefficient method that led to an overabundance of produce in a short period, often leading to excessive waste.
Looking back, though my garden was large and full, I was not putting the right kind of thought into it. I was simply growing as much as I could without paying mind to the harvest. This led to multiple plants ripening all at the same time without having a proper plan of what to do with the bounty. So, just give it away. Or at least try to. This was a nonsensical way of going about the entire thing. A garden, regardless of size, takes a lot of hard work and commitment, and I was putting in too much time without actually making it worth it. And then I finally began to realize what my problem was. I was going big with my garden, but I wasn’t being smart about timing, and making the harvest last. Now my method is more streamlined and has a real purpose. Now I have what I like to call the smart garden, and the following are some ways that helped me achieve it. The first and, perhaps, most important step I took was only to plant what I knew I would like to eat. The ultimate goal of any garden is the ability to supply one’s self with food, and to cut the grocery store out of the picture as much as possible. Food grown in a home garden is often more nutritious, fresher, and better tasting when compared to its grocery store counterpart. The best way to ensure that the
When introducing new plants that are unfamiliar to your palate, be sure to start with just a couple at first. If you end up enjoying their flavor, then plant more the following year. When your garden is full of plants that you know you like to eat, it will become a more joyful experience, and the occurrence of waste will be drastically reduced.
Planting along with the seasonal weather patterns will help to ensure a steady harvest of different plants throughout the season. For instance, when the ground can be worked in early spring, and the nighttime temps are staying above 50°F (10°C), start planting cold season crops, such as radishes and broccoli. If there are nights during this period where the temperature drops into the 40s, utilize row covers for protection. As the soil and air begin to warm over the following months, start planting warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers. The cold weather crops will be reaching their end just as the warm weather plants are starting to flower and fruit, and will continue to yield throughout the summer and fall. A few weeks before cooler fall temperatures are expected to arrive, plant more cold season crops to extend the garden’s productivity up to the point when winter is nearing arrival. By staggering the plantings by season, you can increase the garden’s overall productivity. It is imperative to have a strong understanding of each crop’s growth cycle from seed to harvest. Researching each type of plant, and carefully planning the season from beginning to end will make everything go much smoother. The final topic that I feel can absolutely benefit one’s gardening experience is the practice of preserving the harvest for use at a later date.
I grew up in a small farming community where everyone’s grandparents had a garden. Similarly, everyone’s grandparent’s basement was full of canned vegetables from the previous year’s garden. As the years went by, I noticed that this trend began to fade with our parent’s basements, and eventually our own. Now, I look back on the older generation and ponder what has changed.
Some of the garden’s harvest can even be frozen in a plastic freezer or food saver bags, both cooked and uncooked. This method works for a wide variety of vegetables, including green beans and sweet corn. Freezing is by far the easiest method of preservation, but it only works for a relatively short amount of time. Typically a year, as freezer burn can set in, and diminish the food’s quality.
The fact is that many of our grandparents grew up and came of age before and during World War II, at a time when grocery stores were in their infancy, and a freezer was not in every home. A garden was more or less essential to providing food for the table. Not just during the growing season, but all year round.
Onions can keep for nearly a year by utilizing a process of drying and curing to remove the majority of the moisture. Once cured, they should be stored in a cool/dry place until eaten.
Dependence on the convenience of the grocery store model ultimately led to a decline in home gardening. However, with younger generations, there seems to be a real urge to know and understand how our food is produced. As the allure of processed food becomes less appealing, and the threat pesticides and herbicides applied to our crops may pose becomes more evident, there is a movement to go back to ways of the past: Growing our own, and preserving the harvest. There are several ways to preserve your garden’s bounty for the year to come. Most vegetables can be canned and pickled. Home canning (which is actually done in jars) is the most effective way to store vegetables free from microbial decay for 1-5 years, depending on the crop, while maintaining maximum freshness. There are several different canning or pickling techniques, and many recipes to choose from. So, search the internet, or ask someone with experience to find the one that works best for you.
A portion of the harvest can also be transformed into delicious items like salsas, sauces, and soups. Keep them in the proper recommended storage conditions, and enjoy them throughout the winter. Once I embraced these techniques, I was able to use my garden space more productively, and my hard work and time were better focused. Creating a smarter garden does take a fair amount of research and planning to be executed properly, though. I suggest a garden planning journal to roughly map out the entire season. This is where the importance of learning about the seed germination and growing periods of each plant in the garden comes into play. Knowing the approximate length or life cycle of a crop will help you better plan the season. Growing your own food is hard work, and it will take dedication. But for me, changing my approach made a world of difference. It also changed my plot from being just a garden to being a highly productive, food bearing machine. 3
Guano, though most often associated with bats, is the nutrient-rich manure of bats, seabirds, and even seals. It is a popular fertilizer, because of its high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous. It can often have usable levels of trace and micro-nutrients, due to the wide variety of diets by the birds and animals that contribute to guano formation.
“Guano” or “Wanu” in the original Quechua language of the Andean peoples translates to mean “the droppings of seabirds.” Historically, it was a strategic commodity for the people of Peru and Chile, not only for its agricultural benefits, but also its use in warfare as an ingredient in the manufacture of gunpowder.
Guano also has natural pest-control properties
Guano is most often formed in caves on the windward side of bodies of water. Caves provide the perfect arid environment for the excrement of bats and seabirds to become guano, as there is little to no precipitation in them to cause nutrient leaching. It can also be harvested from coastal areas that do not receive much rainfall.
Nutrient Analysis Guanos are usually divided between high nitrogen (N) and high phosphorous (P) types. The most commonly available forms of high N guano are 10-3-1, while the most commonly available forms of high P guano are 3-10-1. Seabird guano has the highest nutrient analysis of them all with a typical fertilizer analysis of 10-16% nitrogen, 8-12%
phosphorous, and 2-3% potassium. Guano from bats and seals is slightly lower in its nutrient levels, but still one of the most nutrient-dense natural fertilizers available. High nitrogen seabird guano usually has an N-P-K analysis of about 12-18-1, and high phosphorous seabird guano usually has an N-P-K analysis of about 1-10-1. They both tie up the majority of their nutrients as slow-release fertilizers, needing four months or more to release their full nutrient package. All the while, the guano is aiding in the decomposition process by stimulating the soil’s microbial activity.
How It’s Used Pelletized guano is easily spread, while the powdered form mixes readily with water for spray or hydroponic applications. Both pelleted and liquid forms can be used at different times in the growing season, or for different types of crops. Plants in their vegetative stages benefit from the higher nitrogen guano. Plants that are setting their fruit or seeds benefit with higher phosphorous guano.
If using as a soil amendment, powdered or pelletized guano should be incorporated at a rate of about 2.26kg (5lbs) per 9.29m2 (100 ft 2). If using it as a tea, mix 15ml (3 tsp) of the powder per each gallon of water. Guano makes a great amendment to compost piles, due to its natural microbial activity. Apply it as a simple dusting.
Pros Guano can be used in the production of field-grown and indoor-grown crops as a soil builder, or in hydroponic applications when diluted Seabird guano in water. It can also be used for lawn treatments, and as fertilizer for landscape has the highest plantings. Unlike other natural and synthetic nutrient sources of nutrients, it does not usually analysis have levels of salts that could potentially burn plants if over-applied. It also has natural pest-control properties. It can be used as a fungicide, when fed to plants through a foliar application, and as a nematicide as its decomposing microbes help control nematodes. That same microbial activity is what makes guano an excellent composting activator.
Cons The main drawback with using guano is its cost. It can be 10 or more times higher in price per pound than other organic sources of both N and P. This is mostly due to its limited availability and high demand. Guano is not a rapidly renewable resource, taking tens to thousands of years for the â€œraw materialâ€? to develop into a usable form. There are ecological costs to pay with the harvesting of guano. Specialized ecosystems survive in and around the caves where guano is formed that are disturbed during harvesting. Guano deposits support a great variety of cave-adapted invertebrate species that rely on bat feces as their sole nutrient.
However, the greatest damage of guano mining operations to habitat is to the bat colonies that live there. Bats are highly sensitive to regular disturbances of their roosting areas. Some bat species will starve to death, because the disruption in their homes puts them in a panic state, and their low fat reserves are unable to sustain them. Other bat species may abandon their young in a panicked state, resulting in the mortality of their young. Guano can be sustainably harvested in ways that doesnâ€™t cause damage to the bats, or destroy valuable climate data. By mining or harvesting guano only from caves or habitats of migrating bats, the stress or panic induced to the bats by the harvesting operation can be avoided. Prior to the harvest, core samples can be collected from the site to ensure that there is a profile on record of the stratigraphy at each site. 3
First, let’s define “poop” as the waste product from a living organism. Plants don’t have a digestive tract in the traditional sense, but they do generate waste products. The term “waste product” is in itself a bit of a misnomer, since it is only a waste product from the perspective of the organism in question. From the perspective of whatever processes it next, it is a resource. Yeast, for example, excretes carbon dioxide and alcohol, so it could be said that they “poop” these as waste products. To a nearby plant however, the carbon dioxide is a needed resource, and to a brewer the alcohol is a resource for intoxication. In nature, there is very little that is produced by one creature that isn’t used in some way by something else. Humans being the exception, as they can artificially create waste too toxic to be used by anything discovered so far. One function of pooping is to rid the body of a substance it doesn’t want. Plants use their leaves as one strategy to rid themselves of toxins. First by moving the toxin to the leaf surface in an attempt to release it into the air through diffusion and, if that fails, by sacrificing leaf material by concentrating the contaminants in them. An example of this can be seen by overfeeding, where signs often first appear at the edges of the leaves, then advancing into the leaf leaving behind dry papery dead plant material as the plant attempts to cleanse the toxin from itself. Plant roots are hidden from view, and are often overlooked, but roots not only take up water and nutrients, they also disperse plant excretions. Plant roots give off a variety of substances, some to evacuate them from the plant, some to control the surrounding soil microbiology, and even some to combat aluminum toxicity. Carbohydrates are exchanged with mycorrhiza for nutrients. Amino acids, organic acids,
enzymes, and other chemicals are used by the plant not only to “mark territory,” but to change it to better suit itself. Sticking with the metaphor and theme, but arguably more farty than poopy, are the gases plants give off.
Plant roots give off a variety of substances
Plant respiration takes place in each plant cell as carbohydrates (sugar) and oxygen are converted into carbon dioxide, water, and energy to power ATP molecules - which are used to power the plant. This oxidation reaction happens constantly while the cell is alive, so a small amount of carbon dioxide is produced by plant cells all the time. During dark periods this carbon dioxide will silently leak from the plant. The amount of carbon dioxide a plant gives off during these nocturnal emissions, however, is less than the amount of oxygen a plant gives off when exposed to light. During photosynthesis, plants use light energy to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates (sugars), and oxygen. Some of these carbohydrates are used to produce cellulose which is used in plant’s structure. The cellulose sequesters carbon into the structure of the plant, which is why plants, especially high carbon woody plants, are considered to be “carbon sinks.” The oxygen is released as a byproduct. Plants toot much more oxygen than they do carbon dioxide that for practical purposes they are considered to be an oxygen source. But what plants pass the most of, is more than a wee bit of water vapor. Humans can’t see humidity. Dry air looks exactly the same as wet air to us. It isn’t until water droplets form into a mist, fog, or rainbow that there is a visual indication of there being a lot of water in the air. This becomes a benefit when looking for things near dense vegetation, as what plants exude more than anything else, is moisture.
Transpiration is the process where water from the roots is drawn up through the plant, and leave through the stomata (small pores in the undersides of leaves). The water turns to a vapor as it disperses into the air. Over 97% of the water taken up by the plant will wind up leaving as this vapor. To look at it another way, crop plants require from 200 to 1,000 times their harvest-weight in water to reach maturity, with almost all of it leaving the plant as transpired vapor. Depending on growing conditions, a single stalk of corn can draw up and emit a 2 liter bottle of water per day. A medium sized tree may go through a bathtub a day, and a large oak tree may well use a couple hundred gallons of water a day. Compare that to the pint or so held by the human bladder, even when emptied a few times over the course of a day, and you may learn some respect for the moisture-spraying prowess of plants. If we could see what they were up to, we’d see the way they shower on each other, and upon unwitting passers by. The gases and water vapor are released from the plant though specialized openings on the undersides of leaves known as stomata. These opening are surrounded by guard cells which function similar to a sphincter in that they can open and close depending on circumstance and need. The guard cells swell to form a gap similar to pursed lips, and deflate to close. How much and what plants “poop” - and excrete they do is often overlooked, because we aren’t well suited to look at much of it. Oxygen, carbon dioxide, and humidity are all invisible to us, and what takes place underground is hidden from us. That doesn’t mean they aren’t all taking place, and they aren’t all important. In this case, education can be more helpful than direct observation. 3
Microbes are so small that we take them for granted, but they are of vital importance. There are actually more microbes in and on a human body than there are human cells. In fact, it is estimated that up to 500,000 bacteria can fit in the dot of the exclamation point at the end of this sentence! Microbes are abundant beyond our wildest dreams. A mere teaspoon of native grassland soil contains 600800 million bacteria comprising ~10,000 species, plus approximately 5,000 species of fungi, the mycelia of which could be stretched out for several miles. In the same teaspoon, there may be 10,000 individual protozoa of over 1,000 species, plus 20-30 different nematodes from as many as 100 different species. All in one teaspoon of soil.
Microbes are extraordinarily prolific. According to the book Secrets of the Soil, a single microbe reaching maturity and dividing within less than half an hour, can, in the course of a single day, grow into 300 million more, and in another day to more than the number of human beings than have ever lived. In four days of unlimited growth, bacteria can outnumber all of the protons and even the quarks estimated by physicists to exist within the entire universe. Consider the idea of adding yeast to make bread, very little is needed to produce a dynamic result. The microbes actually define the process and result as they consume sugar and excrete carbon dioxide and alcohol. In other words, the bread is not bread without microbes.
The same is true in soil, but with different microbes. It is interesting to note that bread is capable of sustaining life on its own almost indefinitely. However, the ingredients of bread - water, flour, and salt – are not. Microbes literally transform inert substance into life force. Microbes are magicians in the soil, the original alchemists, they execute services and maneuvers no human could even imagine, let alone perform. Imagine trying to drink a beer without yeast!? The symbiosis entered into between plants and microbes in the rhizosphere cannot be overstated. Not only do microbes manufacture perfect plant food, but they help plants eat it. An estimated fifty percent of the plant energy generated through photosynthesis is offered to
the soil as a meal to attract beneficial microbe teammates in the form of what is called an “exudate.” Just think of all the energy your plants are wasting when microbes are not present? To put it another way, it is not possible to fertilize your soil into health, in Nature this work is done by microbes. Fertilizer is required in soil that is not biologically mature; this is a crutch, a compensation for the soil’s inability to sustain plant growth. In this context, discernment towards the form and balance of the fertilizer used becomes critical to get the most out of a garden. Combining the right (and even the wrong) fertilizer with microbes produces fabulous results. This is seen when using a good inoculant or compost tea containing diverse
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microbes in a salt-based hydroponic application. Rather than make the system dirty as many growers believe, it cleans the system leaving no need to flush or use clearing solutions; all while decreasing pests and disease, increasing yields, and producing higher quality and more nutrient dense crops. Using compost tea in hydro is a simple marriage of the yield benefits of hydro, and the qualitative benefits of organic. Do it. Microbes make perfect plant food, in the soil it is called “humus.” The soil microbes that turn falling leaves into plant food are performing what we call “composting.” Compost is simply the word we use to designate consciously turning a natural process into a human benefit, but the process of turning organic matter into humus is accomplished by soil microbes alone. In other words, organic matter does not just melt. Absence of soil microbes is the source of the large majority of composting and gardening issues. The yeast isn’t there to make the bread… or beer, so to speak. If you boil it down to its essence, organic gardening is about feeding microbes, but the microbes have to be there in proper population and diversity to be fed. And, unfortunately, microbes don’t parachute in or jump over the fence. So, how does one develop a proper diversity of soil microbes in the garden? The most efficient way is through compost tea. The process of brewing compost tea takes the concept of composting one concerted
step further by actually growing the microbes themselves. This is done by putting high quality humus in a compost tea brewer or bucket that contains water aerated by a pump and good microbe foods like fish, molasses, kelp, etc. In the presence of food and air the soil microbes grow to extraordinary concentrations, beyond what Mother Nature could do on her own. In short, compost tea concentrates Nature. Compost tea is also easy to apply over large areas and cost-effective, because the soil construction workers and fertilizer factories you are growing in your brew when put to work in the field or garden provide residual benefits over time. The more often you bring the workers and the more you bring at one time, the faster they build the neighborhood. There is also another universe in our belly. When you dine, you are never alone. Trillions of microbial guests, resident in your gut, eat with you, helping you to digest your food and convert it into energy and fat. Just like the inputs we use in the garden or compost tea brewer, the way we eat can dramatically affect our gut flora. For instance, switching to a diet packed with meat and cheese and very few carbohydrates alters the trillions of microbes living in the gut, based on a report in the journal Nature. The change happens quickly. Within two days, the 95
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types of microbes living in the gut shuffle around, and there are signs that some of these shifts might not be so good for us.
became less anxious, more expressive. And it worked the other way around, too — bold mice became timid when they got the microbes of anxious ones.
One type of bacterium identified that thrives under the meat-rich diet has been linked to inflammation and intestinal diseases in mice. Studies have also shown that microbes from lean people helped prevent mice from becoming obese—but only if the animals ate a healthy diet.
In other research, transferring the gut microbes from a mouse with colon tumors to germ-free mice makes those mice prone to getting tumors. There is even a connection between onset of rheumatoid arthritis with the prevalence of a certain microbe—Prevotella copri; and evidence that probiotics can play a role in curbing autistic behavior.
Dr. Jeffrey Gordon at the Washington University School of Medicine showed that obese and lean human twins have clear differences in their gut microbial communities. Most notably, the communities from obese twins have less diverse bacterial species. Microbes even help explain the concept of “gut feeling”. There’s growing evidence that bacteria in our digestive systems help mold brain structure as we’re growing up, and possibly influence our moods, behavior and feelings when we’re adults. Studies show that connections between brain regions differed depending on which species of bacteria dominated a person’s gut. The hypothesis being that the specific mix of microbes in our guts might help determine how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired. Researchers have been trying to figure out a possible connection by looking at gut microbes in mice. There they’ve found changes in both brain chemistry and behavior. One experiment involved replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice. The mice
It appears that microbes even help explain the purpose of the appendix. Long a mystery of function in the human body, the appendix can be removed without obvious liability, but it is now proposed to be a backup mechanism for gut microbes. When the biome is disturbed through diet or antibiotics, the appendix sends in the reinforcements. In a literal sense, the appendix is the compost tea brewer of the human body. The parallels are life. The debate over whether microbes are correlation or causation is a good one, but logic tells us it is a bit of both in balance, with one not thriving without the other. Living systems are never isolated, they exist in a dynamic and symbiotic state, as an integrated system in perpetual motion and resonant coordination. There are HUGE implications herein. May we challenge ourselves to generate more experience with microbes in our gardens and guts. Let us develop personal agriculture and a broader perspective towards the power and point of life force and living systems. We must trust our gut now more than ever. And drink beer and eat kimchi. So the Earth may be healed. 3
BY DARRYL HUDSON, PHD
N A I D A CAN R E M R FA Darryl Hudson, PhD, is a hemp farmer in Alberta, Canada. In this article, he questions the Canadian Governmentâ€™s present approach for medicinal marijuana, the highly publicized plan for the legalization of recreational cannabis, and where hemp fits into this whole equation. Arenâ€™t we speaking about the same plant?
Raised in rural southern Alberta, I was exposed to industrial agriculture at a young age. As a bored teenager, I was also exposed to cannabis. The laws of our time continue to dictate major distinctions between cannabis (marijuana), hemp, and other crops in the field; I do not. Hemp is cannabis… which is a crop, that like other crops, should be farmed.
Hem p i s ca n n a b i s … w hi c h i s a c r o p , that l i k e o t he r c r op s , s ho u l d b e f a r m ed
I view the prohibition of cannabis, furthermore the regulation of what a person can grow on their own land and put in their body, as an infringement of a person’s freedom. Though laws regarding cannabis and other drug containing plants have begun to change internationally, the war is not over. Not the war on drugs per se, rather the war on personal freedom, which includes the ability to self-medicate with natural substances. I fear this war is just beginning.
There is a need to regulate dangerous substances and chemical extracts with overdose or addiction potential. However, humans do this, not the plants. Not Nature. Many deadly poisonous plants and fungi are not illegal, yet the drugcontaining ones are strictly regulated. In their natural state, most of these organisms (eg. Cannabis, Coca, Opium poppy, Psilocybin mushrooms, etc.) show very little potential for addiction, or even overdose. There is a plethora of information available regarding the rationales for establishing prohibition, and the lies used to extend fear-based policy on a global scale, so I won’t cover that here. Yet, the fact remains, cannabis was a useful crop and peaceful medicine prior to prohibition. It will be after as well. Without even considering medical efficacy, all scientific evidence supports one conclusion regarding cannabis as a “drug”; it is one of the SAFEST on the planet. Cannabis has very few negative side effects, and an impossibility of overdose death. It simply can’t kill you. That can’t be said about the pills in your cabinet… or even table salt (<200g= toxicity). Treating this plant as a dangerous substance is purely political, not scientific. More children die from cough and cold medications every year than cannabis will ever harm. Not to mention accidental exposure to painkillers, even the low dose ones, such as acetaminophen. The consistently perpetuated ideology of “protect the children” from cannabis holds no merit
while there are much more dangerous substances in the pantries and medicine cabinets of all North Americans.
The marvels of modern medicine cannot be discounted. Yet, the propensity of pharmaceutical companies to isolate, patent, and mimic nature in the name of profits is evident. In some cases, isolation of a single molecule from a biological organism creates a better medicine (eg. Penicillin). However, this should not exclude citizens from using the natural substance from which the molecule was originally derived. What a dark time in human history where governments outlaw nature and corporations force inferior, but patentable chemicals on the population instead. Dark indeed. Yet, I look to the future, and the future is bright…. and green. Fields of cannabis as far as the eye can see, grown outdoors in the sunshine the way nature intended. I’ve dreamt of this for over 20 years, and undertook ~10 years of post-secondary education to prepare for the opportunity. In 2016, it became a reality. I returned to Alberta in 2015, creating two companies. Coulee Cannabis obtained an industrial hemp cultivation license, planting hundreds of acres in Southern Alberta. The primary focus is on seed production, but we also experiment with the fiber, creating Hempcrete blends and insulation. InPlanta Biotechnology is a medicinal plant research and breeding company created in collaboration with Dr. Igor Kovalchuk. We utilize genome sequencing and bioinformatic approaches to expedite the research and breeding processes. In 2016, we developed projects with a number of licensed cannabis producers, and participated in some outdoor research trials with Dr. Jan Slaski. We expect to publish some of these results in the coming year.
THE FUTURE OF ORGANIC
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Though industrial hemp has been legal since 1997 in Canada, the strict regulations surrounding its cultivation, and lack of appropriate investment into both processing and marketing have hindered significant expansion of the sector.
Wha t a d a r k tim e i n hu m a n hi st o r y w her e g o v er n m en t s ou t l a w n a t u r e
Recently, the major focus of both big business and the media has been the production of indoor medical and soon recreational cannabis in a strictly regulated market. While some praise this new system, it is just another form of control over the plant. So, one must ask… who stands to benefit from this new system of control? Growing plants in hyper-secure prison-style facilities under artificial lights is neither economical, nor environmentally sustainable. We used to only put people in jail for growing cannabis. The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) and, now the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), regulators in Canada essentially decided to put the plant in jail too. Forcing cannabis to be grown in prison-style facilities by people in white biohazard suits, who are often tested for the very plant they work with, is quite frankly, messed up. Seriously - I don’t buy meat from a vegan, so why would I buy cannabis from someone who doesn’t use it, or even appreciate it? I doubt brewmasters abstain from alcohol, and if so, I wouldn’t want to drink their beer either. I’d say the same for an apple, carrot or potato farmer too.
This system simply can’t persist. It makes little sense to continue to base policy regarding the growing of a plant around fear and public protection. The system is really designed for the protection of corporate profits. Currently, regulators require cannabis production to support high prices, typically $815 per gram, which helps facilitate inflated valuations of publicly traded companies. In my opinion, this is short-lived. Supply and demand will eventually win out over hyper-regulation and selective licensing. The future of cannabis production lies in large outdoor agriculture, and talented craft producers. There will always be a market for high-end indoor grown flowers meant to be smoked or vaporized. This requires controlled environments to achieve, and is harder to perfect than most people think, especially in one’s home.
As a farmer, why grow cannabis (hemp) in the first place? The focus has been largely on medicine. However, the real benefits of cannabis involve strategies that can utilize all aspects of the crop. Farming cannabis is not much more difficult than canola or wheat when done on the industrial scale. Once farmers are permitted to fully take advantage of the entire plant, the cost of an extraction medicine will be a fraction of what it is now. The processing and technology required to effectively utilize all parts of the plant will take significant investment, which
is happening more and more in Canada. The expansion of companies such as Manitoba Harvest and Hemp Co. demonstrate this. Still, farmers are shackled by regulations that limit the varieties allowed to be grown, and prevent the use of biomass for even low THC hemp. The Liberal government is taking steps to rapidly create a recreational cannabis program, while doing very little to allow existing hemp farmers to capitalize on either the medicinal or recreational market. You’ll be buying weed in stores next year, but I won’t be able to legally juice my own hemp crop, or even feed the leaves to my cattle??? Never mind extracting the exact same medicine that current MMPR or ACMPR producers are putting in bottles and selling through the mail. The hypocrisy of this system is astounding. How can it prevail? I am no lawyer, but I am pretty sure when the Canadian Charter refers to “equal benefits under the law,” it means there must be provisions put in place to allow the SAME activity from the SAME plant species - for ALL Canadians. If you want affordable medicine, write your MP, ask for Hemp deregulation and outdoor cannabis cultivation. It will take a new Bill, or another court challenge for things to change.
A Place For Both Industrial and Craft Cultivation Canada does have an opportunity in the world of cannabis cultivation. However, if the only model we present to the world is one of hyper-regulated indoor cultivation, or even costly light deprivation greenhouses, this opportunity will not last for long. Instead, allowing cultivation of all varieties on large outdoor organic fields equipped with irrigation would show the world how the plant is meant to be grown. When this happens, everyone will be able to access and afford cannabis as a food and medicine plant. There will be options for people on how to consume it - raw juiced, cooked, smoked, or put in suppositories.
We can commoditize this plant like any other, so farmers can expect what to get for seed, fiber, biomass, or medicine. The recreational market for cannabis will be only a small fraction of the total cannabis industry. Like most products, we can expect this medicine will be produced cheaply by countries that can cut costs on labor or infrastructure. The UN Drug Policy released in 2016 recommends that all member states should decriminalize and regulate all drugs. There will be international trade of cannabis, and other formerly prohibited crops in the coming decades. Canada has the opportunity to capitalize on export markets, provided there is a cost comparable supply, which cannot be achieved indoors. Even though I predict the majority of cannabis will be grown on large industrial farms, there will also be a place for small boutique growers who have perfected their craft through years of trial and error. In the end, I surmise that most cannabis smokers will acquire their product from the ‘craft’ market, meaning smaller-scale local producers who take the time and effort to grow amazing cannabis. After all, during decades of underground breeding, cannabis pioneers have developed thousands of unique varieties with different medicinal benefits and taste profiles. They are now slowly emerging from the shadows and showing off their skills at cannabis cups, in several areas of the world. The real dangers of cannabis… the guns and the violence… all came after prohibition. When we allow both craft producers and industrial farmers to grow it without restriction, the dangers will disappear. Strict regulation, limited licensing, and looming patent wars could limit the availability of medications, and potentially destroy this gene pool. Only when the plant is truly free will we be free to explore its potential, and reap the benefits it sows. 3
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How many times have you heard someone say: “Wow, that is really expensive!” It is interesting to take a closer look at “expensive.” Is a Porsche expensive? Is lettuce expensive? Is meat expensive? Is a fixture expensive? What makes something “expensive”? If you ever had sales training, you know how to overcome a price objection, usually expressed by the customer as “expensive.” It comes included with… It is made of the best materials… It will last forever. But really, that is not the issue at hand. People always look at price from a certain perspective. Usually, they either look at what they can spend, or they compare it to something completely different.
What makes some thing “expensive” ?
If you have 10 dollars to spend, buying a piece of meat that costs twice as much may be too much money for your budget, but it doesn’t mean that piece of Kobe beef is actually expensive. It’s just out of your budget. Comparing a horticultural light fixture with a cheap Chinese ballast is comparing apples and eggs. The question you should ask the customer is: “What do you compare it with?” First of all, in sales you always should know the customer’s budget. Just ask him. Offer, if possible, something that is within his budget. If you think he is better off with a something that will cost him more, but will earn that money back very easily, you can offer that as an option. Always explain what this investment will bring to him in the short and long term. He might be able to stretch the budget a bit. Specifically if you buy commercial growing equipment, it comes down to buying production assets. They may
not come cheap, but if they offer a higher yield, they will give you a much better return on investment.
I had a customer once who said: “Your fixture is expensive. I can buy a Chinese 1000W ballast, a good single ended lamp, and remote reflectors for 200$ less than your fixture. I tested it, and I got 2 lbs per fixture the first run. As I want to buy 400 fixtures, 200$ more is a lot of money.” I made him a very simple calculation on the back of a coaster - Given the same electricity use for the same amount of fixtures, I can give you 20-30% more light. At 4 harvests a year, how much more yield would you have over that period, and what value would that represent? Worst case: 400 (lamps) x 2 lbs (per lamp) x only 15% (more yield) x wholesale price is way over a million dollars per year. And I’m not even talking about installation, maintenance costs and repairs, replacements, and just the lowest wholesale price. It’s the difference between going to the beach on holiday, or taking your whole team to Hawaii, twice a year. You might be able to buy that Porsche after all. What is greatly amplified in large commercial installations, is also true for smaller operations. Respect a customer’s budget, but give him options by explaining the benefits. Bottom line - Great gear comes at a price. 3
WE CHOOSE NATURE
Canadian Hemp Farmer, Urban Rood Farmers, Eggshell Planters, Do Plants Poo, Bayersanto, What is Nature?