The Six Classic Books on Organic Growing

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It’s Sunday night and I’m on my laptop to begin this passionate subject – Organics!

My mind was whizzing with random topics and bits of information to write on this column. I realized then that the best way to start is with history. The past can reveal so many hidden secrets that the world is now re-discovering.

It is only a matter of a hundred years that such change has occurred — and thankfully grandmothers still exist to tell us to treat a cold with honey and basil!

For every problem we recognize with our current living system that is incompatible with nature, we need to look into old knowledge banks.

Our ancestors, wore clothes, cooked food, had shelter and traveled extensively, sans technology. We struggle to do the same in this generation of automatic, disposable culture without harming the environment.

Organic farming is rooted in ancient knowledge passed down through generations.
–David Suzuki

Hence I’m going to suggest some reading material to begin with. The books are by pioneers who were disturbed by the technological high and finally found their ways to a better and greener living.

Though the books are based on Agriculture, we need to understand where our food comes from and make right choices. Personally, reading them has taught me to respect the existence of matter, living and non-living in this chain called LIFE.

The One-Straw Revolution – Masanobu Fukoka
A Japanese Agricultural Scientist was in dilemma with his spiritual principles and the science he was practicing. He left his job and went back to his father’s farm and practiced Agriculture. The author takes you through a journey of revelation. He went on to become the Father of Natural Farming and Do-Nothing Farming. This book is a must for all those who wish to understand the difference of Organic and Conventional Agriculture.

Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
By the conventional practices and hazardous pesticides like DDT, we destroy several eco-systems that thrive and survive in farms. This natural historian writes on how pesticides have affected birds and the environment. She chose to call her book so, as the birds of the Spring season, were no longer heard chirping.

Ancient Roots, New Shoots : Endogenous Development in Practice – Bertus Haverkort, Katrien van ‘t Hooft & Wim Hiemstra (eds)
The Present global problems of poverty, ecological destruction and loss of cultural diversity call for innovative solutions. This book presents a number of field experiences of endogenous development, or development from within, in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. With a good balance of theory and practice, this book can be immensely useful to development practitioners, researchers and policy makers, especially in the fields of rural development, agriculture, natural resource management and health

An Agricultural Testament – Sir Albert Howard
The author worked in India when the country was still under the British Empire. He came to spread the use of chemical fertilizers but after 25 years, left with the understanding of nature. By working with poor farmers he understood a great deal of traditional farming practices in relation to the soil fertility that a healthy eco-system survives on.

Agriculture: An Introductory Reader – Rudolf Steiner
Steiner is the father of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture that revolves around the science of the cosmos that play a major role in the time crops are planted. This natural science is related to Vrikshayurveda (Sanskrit term to mean the Plant Life Science or the Science of Plant Life) – (Vriksha = tree + Ayur- Veda = science of life). In the Organic Revolution, Bio Dynamic Agriculture is gaining more ground and is the present trend.

Look to the Land – Lord Northbourne
Northbourne coined the word “Organic Farming”. Chapter 3 contains the differences between Organic Farming and Chemical farming. He teaches that the farm is an organism, a living entity that has a balanced organic life. The eco-system is interdependent and every creature has a role to play in this balance. He was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s work on Agriculture. To Northbourne Organic Agriculture determines the quality of food we eat, “Food of better quality is food which has vitality, individuality, freshness; food which is grown right, not only food that looks right; food which is effective as a vehicle of life and is not either mere stimulant or mere filling”

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So Eating Local Food is Worse Than Flying Grapes in From Chile?

There’s an opinion piece in the NY Times today that argues against local food production being the most environmentally friendly way to get food to your table.

As regular readers know, this is a subject that’s dear to us here at 21st Century Citizen. We believe that supporting local agriculture has many benefits — including promoting biodiversity, giving people more of a stake in their personal food supply chain, promoting local economic growth, and getting better tasting food.

But certainly, reducing the distance your food travels should have an impact on the amount of energy required to produce, package and get it to your table? Shouldn’t it?

Well, today’s NY Times presents an argument for the opposite. Here’s a snippet:

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.

The article is worth reading completely, so I recommend you do so.

But in the end, it seems to say that localfood in and of itself is not a cure-all. It’s simply one part of what needs to be a coordinated approach to create a sustainable food supply that will support us as we move forward into the 21st Century.

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Farming Organic Produce Underground in Tokyo

Tree hugger brings us news on new twist on local food, an underground farm in Tokyo. It’s main purpose is to provide training for Japanese students interested in learning about farming.

It reminds me of the Winter I grew organic tomatoes in my basement under lights. I calculated that it cost me $25 a month for electricity, lights, soil, etc — but I had fresh, organic tomatoes all Winter.

For more info, see also this article: Tokyo: Underground High Tech Urban Organic Farming. There are a lots of pictures and it will give you a good idea of what it’s all about.

Here’s a layout of the underground farm:

And on the map above,

  • Room 1: Flower field. White LEDs are used. Plant cultivation by RGB LED. Metal halids spotlights are used.
  • Room 2: Herb field. Metal halids spotlights are used.
  • Room 3: Shelf rice field. Metal halids lamps and high-pressure sodium lamps are used. It explains that it is possible to do by three crops a year.
  • Room 4: Fruit/vegetable field. Cultivation of tomato by hydroponics. 3 wavelength, 5000 deg. K, High-frequency fluorescent lamp.
  • Room 5: Vegetable field. Metal halids spotlights are used.
  • Room 6: Seedling room. Lettuces are being grown with fluorescent lamps. 2xFour steps cultivation bed.

And check out these fresh, organic tomatoes:

Choices: Drive? or Bike?

This is the first post of an ongoing feature here at 21st Century Citizen. It’s called ‘Choices’ and it’s purpose is to present a simple, values-based choice and generate discussion.

It’s also intended to make you think a bit and examine the reasons why you make the choices you make. Here we go with our first installment.

[Note: I'm using pictures from flickr below -- clicking on them will take you to the image's page in Flickr.]

Choice: Drive? Or Bike?


Or Bike?

This question may not be as simple as it seems.For example, if you have a long commute from your home and need to drive, well — you could use a bike if you changed jobs and worked closer to home.

So, then what if you could find a job close enough to home? Then would you use a bike?

If it seems impossible to get a job close to home, then how about a job where you work from home?

If you got a job where you worked from home, then you wouldn’t need to drive to commute. Then would you switch to using a bike?

I know it’s impossible for a lot of people to work from home — if you’re a Fireman or a Nurse, fires and sick people don’t usually come to you, so it’s impractical. But for many jobs, it would be possible. In fact, if gas were $10 a gallon, it might turn into a necessity — many people just wouldn’t be able to afford to drive to work and back.

Now what about buying groceries? Would you be willing to ride the bike to get food? Why not?

Again, for some it’s impractical — but maybe not as impractical as you’d think. For example, many people in large cities — like New York City — don’t own cars. They shop a little bit at a time or take a cab. You could do that on a bike in many towns.

In some cases, the roads may not be safe for bikes — for example, here in New Hampshire there aren’t bike lanes everywhere.

Also, for many of us the large grocery stores we shop at are too far to ride a bike.

But what if bike lanes were required by law on all busy roads? Would that make a difference? If so — then shouldn’t we be asking our local governments to adopt rules that require bike lanes? We don’t do this now because we’re used to driving cars.

And if more people road bikes, I’ll bet that local people would open stores up to serve them. Local stores used to be everywhere, in fact, until the big chains put them out of business. If there were local shoppers for them, they’d open back up. Probably pretty quickly too.

So — what do you choose here? Don’t mke the choice you think is ‘appropriate’, tell the truth. And tell us what would have to change to make you use a bike — maybe if we talk about the reasons why we don’t use bikes, it will give us ideas as to what we need to change so more people do.

And if you use a bike now, then tell us how you do it and how practical it is. What problems do you run into? What works well?

Feel free to comment. And thanks for reading!

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Seacoast EatLocal Blog reviews video on food supply

Here’s a wonderful post from Seacoast Eat Local, wonderful, very-local blog located in the Seacoast area of Southern, NH.

They blogged today about a youtube video that very simply lays out the story of our food supply and some of the issues surrounding it. For example, did you know that the process of growing, processing and shipping food where it’s grown to your door consumes about 17% of the energy used in the United States?

This short video takes just a few minutes to watch – and it’s simple message will stick with you.

Another great part of their site is their wiki page. It’s a collection of local food information for their local area. It’s a great example of how local communities can gather and share knowledge about local food optoins in their area.

This video was published by ‘Video Nation’, the video arm of ‘The Nation’ magazine. For background on ‘The Nation’, see this article in Wikipedia which provides information on this publisher.

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Still Life With Produce

Still Life With Produce, originally uploaded by shawn schreiner.

More local food shots today. It’s almost August and we’re at just about the peak of gardening and local produce season. The tomatoes this time of year are about the best food on earth (if you ask me!).

This week, make an effort to buy some local food. Look for a sign at your local store, or find a farmer’s market nearby.

If you’re at the store, ask someone in the produce department if they have locally grown produce. They may have it, but not have it marked.

Let them know you’re interested in it and they’ll remember — and it may make it easier for local farmers the next time they try to sell their goods to that store.

If you don’t know where to buy locally grown food, try searching – they have databases of local growers and community supported agriculture (CSA) farms.

Eating local will taste better because the food is fresher. It will also make your soul feel better because of the good your doing for the planet and your community.

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