Archive for the 'agriculture' Category

When you think about recycling, what do you see — plastic containers piling up in the garage maybe? The overflowing bin of clinking wine bottles you’re more than a little embarrassed by on pickup day? Do you just see waste? Out of mind once it’s out of sight.

Or … do you see a farm?

Today, we’re talking with Gerry Gillespie. When he thinks about recycling, he sees healthy soil and nutritious food. He sees communities coming together to claim the rightful value of what most of us think of as trash.

In his native Australia, Gillespie saw two big problems he wanted to fix: farmland that had been degraded by years of chemical agriculture and overstuffed landfills that were belching methane into the atmosphere.

The answer to both problems would be to harness a largely untapped resource hiding in plain sight — the massive amounts of organic matter being discarded every day. We’re talking about yard waste, cardboard and newspaper. We’re talking about kitchen scraps — the potato peels, the coffee grounds, the eggshells. What if we could capture these nutrient-rich resources and funnel them into regenerative farming systems?

An internationally recognized recycling expert, Gerry Gillespie wants to challenge our preconceptions about waste. And he’s been doing this kind of work for decades. He’s a pioneer in the Zero Waste movement and the mastermind behind the City to Soil project, which connects household organic matter with farmers. He is the author of a new book from Acres U.S.A. called The Waste Between Our Ears: The Missing Ingredient to Disrupt Climate Change is in the Trash. He’s traveled all over the world to spread the word, but he calls New South Wales home.

 

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On this episode, we’re talking with Darby Simpson. If Tractor Time is only but a part of your farming podcast diet, you may already know who he is. He does the Grassfed Life podcast with Diego Footer. He’s also a contributor to Acres U.S.A. magazine. And what I really value about his perspective is its practicality. Through his podcasts and online courses, it’s clear he wants to help equip farmers with the tools to run successful farms — not just act out a romantic, Instagram version of farm life. He truly puts the economical in eco-agriculture. But he’s a conscientious farmer too, running a pasture-based, non-GMO livestock operation in Indiana, located between Indianapolis and Bloomington. In this interview, we talk about everything from farm diversification to the future of farmers’ market to the impact of COVID-19. Darby’s answers are thoughtful, insightful and, hopefully, prophetic.

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Recently, an Acres U.S.A. reader gave us a piece of sheet music he found while cleaning out his barn. The song’s called “The Farmer Feeds Us All.” It’s an old standard that has been performed in some form or fashion by everyone from Fiddlin’ John Carson to Pete Seeger to Ry Cooder. You should go listen to it. I’ll link to the Fiddlin’ John Carson version in the show notes. 

I’ve been thinking about this song as the coronavirus pandemic lays low entire sectors of the U.S. and world economy, spreads sickness to the rich and poor alike, and gathers a dark cloud of fear and uncertainty over our future.

And yet, as national emergencies often are — at least for a time — the pandemic has been clarifying, forcing us to think about what truly matters most. Now, if you watch the evening news, you might assume that’s toilet paper. But for many, this time has been about reconnecting with loved ones. It’s been about reconnecting with the things that nourish us — things like faith, family and food.

 Along with “social distancing,” “essential services” has been one of the new phrases to enter our lexicon over the last few months. In addition to health care providers and grocery store workers, we are reminded during this time that farmers, too, are essential to our survival.

We here at Acres U.S.A. have always marveled at the determination and the creativity small farmers show us in their tireless efforts to bring us nutritious food. In preparing for our May issue, which we put together this month, we reached out to many of these men and women to see how they were weathering the storm. What we heard was inspiring. Farmers aren’t panicking. They’re just getting to work.

Marty Travis runs Spence Farm in Illinois along with his wife Kris and son Will. He’s also an Acres U.S.A. author. His book, My Farmer, My Customer can be found at the acresusa.com bookstore. Marty leads a co-op of farmers that serves some of the top restaurants in the Chicago area (watch the documentary Sustainable for more on that). Many of those restaurants went into hibernation during the outbreak, but they didn’t forget about Marty’s group. The chefs put out the word that there was plenty of fresh food for sale. The demand from families was so high that the co-op saw a big spike in its usual revenue. And even though he had barely slept a wink when we talked to him this month, Marty was still finding time to offer farmers words of encouragement. I was really inspired by what he had to say and I hope you are too.

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Tractor Time is brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. On this episode, we welcome Mimi Casteel, a wine maker in Oregon's Eola-Amity Hills. At Hope Well Vineyard, Casteel is blazing her own trail and fast becoming one of the leading voices in the regenerative agriculture movement. Mimi talks eloquently and brilliantly — not just about wine, but agriculture and land use in general. As you’ll hear, her beyond-organic farm is singular within the American wine world. It’s not your typical vineyard, with its neat and tidy rows, it’s a dynamic ecosystem that incorporates livestock, welcomes in wild animals, eschews industrial inputs and produces prized pinot noirs. And for this work, Mimi was recently named the Wine Person of the Year by Imbibe Magazine.

She grew up on her parent’s vineyard, and winemaking is truly in her blood, but so are wild landscapes, the ones she drew nourishment and meaning from when she was a botanist for the Forest Service. She left that job in 2005 to work at her family’s vineyard and eventually started her own on an old Christmas Tree farm. Although it might be a surprising coming from a former Forest Service employee, she believes that the world won’t be saved by wilderness areas, but by completely re-envisioning how we grow our food.

 

 

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Dr. Zach Bush is a triple-board certified physician, with a focus on internal medicine, endocrinology, and hospice and palliative care. He currently runs a clinic in rural Virginia that focuses on plant-based nutrition and holistic health. He’s an entrepreneur with a mind-boggling array of projects to his resume. So why is he on a podcast devoted to sustainable and organic agriculture? It’s quite a story, as you’ll hear. At his clinic a few years ago, Dr. Bush began noticing that nutrition-based medicine just wasn’t working as he had expected. Some of his patients were just getting sicker. That led him on a journey deep into a dysfunctional and toxic agricultural system that through the heavy use of chemicals like glyphosate is robbing crops of nutritional value, accelerating the decline of human health, destroying the environment and paving the way for mass extinction. Yeah, it gets pretty bleak — there’s talk of disease, cataclysm and collapse — but stick with it — because Dr. Bush is at heart a radical optimist. He believes that regenerative agriculture can save the world by creating healthy soils that will sequester carbon, reverse climate change, produce highly nutritious food and create healthy humans. To further that mission, Dr. Bush has started Farmers Footprint, a nonprofit that aims to transition 5 million acres to regenerative practices by 2025. According to Dr. Bush, all successful revolutions start with farmers.

 

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If you’ve seen the documentary “Sustainable,” you know that Spence Farm is a special place. It’s owned and operated by Marty Travis, along with his wife, Kris and son, Will. Their farm supplies organic vegetables and heritage meats to some of the top kitchens in the City of Chicago — Fronterra Grill, Girl and the Goat and The Publican, to name a few. But that might undersell what Marty and his family have built. The way that they’ve developed relationships, not just with chefs, but also with a network of small farmers, is nothing shorting of astounding. To our mind, Spence Farm is a vision for the future of food. Marty has a new book out titled, “My Farmer, My Customer: Building Business & Community Through Farming Healthy Food” (Acres U.S.A., 2019). It's currently available for pre-order at the AcresUSA.com bookstore. Marty is also a featured speaker at the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota in December.

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Doug Fine, an investigative journalist by trade, has emerged as a leading voice in the effort to bring hemp back as a major American crop. 

His writing has appeared in places like Washington Post, Wired and Outside Magazine. He’s travelled all over the world, including to places like Burma, Rwanda, Laos, Guatemala and Tajikistan. He’s given TED Talks. He’s appeared on late-night talk shows. And he’s written several books, including Not Really An Alaskan Mountain Man, Farewell My Subaru, which is about his attempt to wean himself off fossil fuel, and Too High To Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution.

His latest book is Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution.

And for Fine, those frontlines are found at Funky Butte Ranch, his 40-acre spread in southern New Mexico where he and his family grow hemp, tend a garden and raise a herd of mischievous goats.

Although Fine sees himself as a journalist first, he doesn’t shy away from speaking up for what he believes in. And what he believes is this: Hemp represents not just the next big money-maker in agriculture. It isn’t just about cashing in on the CBD craze. Instead, he believes it’s an opportunity to change the whole game — and maybe fight off the effects of climate change in the process.  

Fine will also be a featured speaker at Acres U.S.A.’s December Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

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Hosted by Ben Trollinger / Editor, Acres U.S.A.

Hello and welcome to Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host, Ben Trollinger, and as always, I want to say thank you to our sponsors, BCS America.

You’re probably heard of kamut (kah-moot), also known as khorasan wheat, also known as King Tut’s Wheat. It’s drought resistant and highly nutritious. It’s in organic breakfast cereals. It’s in pasta. People with gluten sensitivity can eat it. Artisan bakers drool over it.

It’s one of organic farming’s biggest success stories. It’s a story that’s rooted deep in history and it that might just show us the way forward.

I’m joined by Bob Quinn and Liz Carlisle, co-authors of Grain by Grain: A Quest to Revive Ancient Wheat, Rural Jobs, and Healthy Food.

The book details Quinn’s journey over the last several decades to turn his dryland farm in Big Sandy, Montana into a powerhouse of organic and regenerative agriculture. Through his multi-million dollar heirloom grain company, Kamut International, Quinn has managed to create a durable network of around 200 organic farmers.

Quinn was also instrumental in shaping the country’s first organic food standards back in the late 1990s. Before that, in the 1980s, he helped establish standards for his home state. 

Liz Carlisle is a lecturer in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. Her first book, Lentil Underground, prominently features Bob Quinn’s work and also won the Montana Book Award and the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. She’s a forager of regenerative agriculture wisdom — and also a recovering country and western singer.

1 hour, 4 minutes

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Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh & Ben Trollinger / Sponsored by BCS America

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host, Ryan Slabaugh, and as always, I want to say thank you to our sponsors, BCS America. Today’s theme is all about happy pigs, and profitable pig operations, and an interesting breed called Guinea Hogs. 

First, I’ve got someone to introduce to everyone this episode. It will be the new host of Tractor Time, which I’m proud to say is Ben Trollinger, the new editor at Acres USA. I’m not going too far, but will stay involved helping Ben produce and grow the podcast, while I get to go focus on getting a few new exciting projects up and running.

Ben will join before he interviews Cathy Payne, our guest on this episode. Cathy is the author of Saving the Guinea Hogs, a new book that is on sale in the Acres U.S.A. bookstore.

First, I recently took a trip to Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, and got a chance to tour their hog operation. To make sure this episode is all pig-themed, I thought I’d share some audio I got from touring their operation. 

Thanks again to our listeners and our sponsor, BCS America. You can find this podcast at ecofarmingdaily.com, acresusa.com, or anywhere podcasts can be played. Thanks, and have a great week. 

If you want, shoot a note to Ben at btrollinger@acresusa.com. He’d love to hear from you.

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Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh

Sponsored by BCS America

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time podcast brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I am your host, Ryan Slabaugh, and we are humbled to bring you the 30th episode. Today’s topic is one we have to talk about, but it’s not a whole lot of fun – Monsanto.

Our guest today, Carey Gillam, is a veteran reporter who has been covering corporate America for 25 years, including Monsanto and most recently, Bayer. This year, she’s been busy covering the Monsanto trials, suing agencies under the Freedom of Information Act, and discovering an amazing array of corruption that is fueling the more than 11,000 lawsuits against the company.

Mainly, she’s uncovered the fact that Monsanto has lied to and tricked farmers, land managers, growers, ranchers and city managers for 50 years about RoundUp. That as they tell their employees to behave differently around the product than they do consumers. And that they paid for fake science, paid off reporters, and got especially cozy with politicians around the world. France’s Parliament is exploring charges that they kept a list of politicians they liked and disliked. That’s nothing new to us here in the U.S., but that level of targeted lobbying does not go over so well elsewhere in the world. But the bottom line is, it’s toxic to human and animal health, and juries around the world that have heard their defenses do not see any redemption in them – in fact, it is quite the opposite. The lying has only added to their penalties, and their liabilities now range in the trillions, and Bayer’s stock price is 40% declined from where it was at the time they purchased Monsanto.’

Here’s a clip from the Canadian Public Broadcasting Channel’s recent coverage, which summarized the issue:

To be clear, we are talking about the specific formulation Monsanto uses in its RoundUp product that includes glyphosate – that’s an important distinction. Monsanto’s spokespersons deny all this and say there is no proof their product is unhealthy or shouldn’t be used. You can still find it everywhere, and even though towns and ciiteis are starting to make it illegal to use, it’s use is still prolific.

And who is fueling this worldwide coverage? Our guest today, Carey Gillam. She wrote a book called Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer & the Corruption of Science, published by Island Press, in 2017. The way she threads her reporting in with current events paints a damning picture of Roundup, even garnering praise from Erin Brockovich.

And our guest today makes the strong point that banning RoundUp or glyphosate, or suing for billions, does not solve the real problem we are facing: an agriculture and food supply dependent on the lies that Monsanto has been giving farmers, and the safety nets are a bit too far down to feel comfortable leaping.

It’s our listeners who will really be solving this problem, but taking the information Carey gives us today to educate us on the forces at work in the herbicide world, and how we can make informed, healthy choices. You can make a difference by how you grow food, the food you buy at the store, and by the manner in which we defend eco-agriculture.

So, let’s get into the interview with our guest today: As a former senior correspondent for Reuters' international news service, and current research director for consumer group U.S. Right to Know, Carey Gillam's areas of expertise include biotech crop technology, agrichemicals and pesticide product development, and the environmental impacts of American food production. Gillam has been recognized as one of the top journalists in the country covering these issues.

A special thanks to our episode sponsor, BCS America.

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