You want fresh produce in New York? No problem: Residents and activists are converting vacant lots and rooftops into growing spaces at a record pace. While those kinds of spaces aren’t likely to run out anytime soon, Cooper Union architecture student Karim Ahmed is tinkering with the technology necessary to take advantage of yet another: the city’s waterways. His project would grow food hydroponically on “floating gardens,” the first of which he’s anchored in Long Island City’s Anable Basin.
Missing anything this summer? How about rain? At this point, I’ve given up on some of the plants in my yard — no amount of watering will make up for the lack of rainwater. Of course, I’m just one guy with a small yard. Across the river in southern Illinois, farmers are facing historic crop losses. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Agriculture had predicted a bumper crop of corn this year: 166 bushels per acre. But with more than half the country now facing drought conditions, the USDA has not only revised those numbers downward but also made its largest disaster declaration ever: 1,000 counties spread over 26 states are eligible for low-interest loans and reduced penalties for grazing on federal land (see the image below). Livestock farmers may well need the latter: Most feed corn to their cattle and other animals, and prices are sure to shoot upward.
As someone who lives in an urban setting (and, yeah, I know, my NYC friends are snickering at that), I’m as guilty as anyone of sneering at the suburbs. I always associate the term with cookie-cutter subdivisions in driving distance (but probably not walking distance) of big box stores and chain restaurants. In many cases, that’s fair, but, as The Wall Street Journal noted last week, developers around the US have started to experiment with something different – and potentially more sustainable – in suburban design: the agricultural community.
I eat an apple every single day. I order them from Fresh Direct, and unless I click the ‘organic’ option I get four Granny Smith apples delivered right to my door “fresh” from Chile. Like most people, I rationalize this somehow. “My farmers market is only once a week,” I reassure myself, “and I need apples more than just once and besides, they don’t even have the tart and crisp Granny Smiths that I need and love.” As environmentally aware and responsible as I like to think I am, it didn’t even cross my mind that if a farmer in New York isn’t growing Granny Smith apples, maybe I just don’t get to eat them.
Matthew Moore work was featured at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival… but not on a traditional movie screen. Rather, Moore’s “seed to market” videos of specific types of produce were shown at the Park City Fresh Market grocery store… directly above the bins of that produce. As with so much other recent food activism, the idea was to connect people with their food… and the journey it takes from farm to table.
An electric unicycle, iPad recycling, and creating your own bike lane on the go… this week’s green tech finds.
- California farmers leading the way on renewables: According to the USDA’s new On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey, “California farms and ranches now make up more than 20 percent of all operations in the nation with solar, wind and methane digester use.” (via Calfinder’s Residential Solar blog)
- Harvesting energy from slow tides: That’s the concept behind Minesto UK’s Deep Green technology, a “kite-like device [which] is tethered to the seabed and is steered by a rudder, which allows it to adjust the speed at which water enters the turbine.” The UK’s Carbon Fund has awarded Minesto £350,000 to test the device.
A young couple decides that the urban corporate rat race is no longer their scene, and chooses to buy a piece of land in the country to start their own organic farm.
Heard this story before? Probably… with the young couple in question coming from LA, Chicago, or New York. Turns out this lifestyle choice is no longer uniquely American, though: Chongming Island, China is turning into a destination for disaffected Chinese yuppies looking to get back to the land.
This past weekend, Farm Aid celebrated its 25th anniversary with its annual concert… this time in Milwaukee. The brainchild of Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and John Mellencamp, Farm Aid’s mission has always focused on the plight of the family farmer in the United States; in recent years, the organization has also added a healthy dose of sustainability to its message. Some might be tempted to accuse the organization of jumping on the green bandwagon, but Farm Aid recognizes that family farmers are well-positioned to meet the growing demand for safer, healthier, and more environmentally benign agricultural products.
You likely haven’t seen much news about the impact the economic decline has had on family owned and operated dairies, but Farm Aid notes that the recession has hit these small businesses particularly hard: the prices of milk paid by processors has dropped 50% since July, 2008. Add this to decades of decline in the small farm and ranch, and you’ve got a recipe for bankruptcy… or creativity.
You may be old enough to remember when pizza day was kind of a big deal in the school cafeteria. Now, it seems to be the norm. While kids definitely need more active time outside, many worry that school lunches may be the main culprit in the current childhood obesity epidemic.
Got plans for Earth Day? No doubt there’s a celebration or two nearby… if you’re not sure about what’s going on your area, check out the Earth Day Network’s events search. You’ll likely find events featuring educational demonstrations, product and service displays, or even activism opportunities.
But what about a chance to get your hands dirty… you know, with earth.
Industrial hemp may be one of the most versatile and environmentally benign crops out there, but because of its relationship to marijuana, the cultivation of this crop has been banned in the United States since the late thirties. Last week, a group of farmers, along with David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, staged a protest in front of the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington, DC, and were promptly arrested for planting hemp seeds on the agency’s front lawn.
Killer spices: Rosemary, Mint, and Thyme
If you like to cook, or just enjoy a good meal, than you’re probably a fan of spices such as rosemary, thyme, clove, and mint. Turns out these seasonings can be deadly… to bugs. A group of Canadian scientists are researching the insecticidal value of these spices, and that could be good news for farmers looking to meet growing demand for organic fruits and vegetables.