Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Soil Not Oil: Part II

Lisa Bunin, PhD, of the Center for Food Safety explains, “When you eat organic, 
you can feel confident that you are contributing to a better world by supporting farmers 
and farming practices that steward the fertile land upon which a secure food future depends.” 
The organic policy director explains that the impact of choosing to purchase and eat organic foods
 not only benefits our bodies, but also nourishes soil, conserves water, restores ecologic diversity, 
and protects the health of farm workers and communities. 
As such, Lisa supports the take-home message of 
Maria Rodale’s book Organic Manifesto: 
“If you do just one thing—make one conscious choice—
that can change the world, go organic.”
from The Cultivator, September 15, 2015

NonGMO Top Hat corn pollinated by Anasazi corn.
Pimento peppers from MuRefuge seeds.
Not only stunning, but tasty too,  Anasazi corn.
Relish made with Pimento peppers and Anasazi corn
When one grows the food one eats, one does not need to question what is in the food. Food
grown at MuRefuge is grown in soil that has been regenerating for some 20+ years now. The vegetable beds get compost from our compost bins on a regular basis as well as comfrey tea made right here at MuRefuge. 

When one eats out or buys one's food, what is in the food is often unclear and the source of the food often a mystery. We are so fortunate here in Sonoma County to have not one but two places to eat out where the source of the food is clearly identified. Peter Lowell's in Sebastopol has been open since October, 2007 serving organic food which is sourced from local farms. I simply love their Italian like pizza cooked in their brick oven. The second restaurant has been more recently opened a few years ago and is located in Forestville, a short jaunt North on Highway 116 from MuRefuge. The Backyard is unique in that it sources its food from farms West of Highway 101, totally in The West County (of Northern California's Sonoma County). For brunch they offer duck eggs as an alternative to chicken eggs which my body is unhappy to have ingested. My latest anti-agribusiness stance: we not be consuming feedlot meat nor sludge fed vegetables. 

Shopping for food at the Sebastopol Farmers Market is a delightfully social event for me. Talking to the farmers about their practices is always fun and enlightening. The two vendors I buy most regularly from are Singing Frogs Farm and The Patch that is owned and farmed by a knowledgeable Mexican man. Not only are the vegetables grown at these farms more tasty, the qi is obvious. What vegetables I choose to buy to augment the abundance from right here at MuRefuge is informed by moderation and seasonality. I do not buy kale every week and with good reason if you check out the information now available about kale and her relatives.

From my point of view, Americans have become passive about food, accepting the new and latest fade and/or "the spin" put on what is good for us. Often what passes as food is not real food but rather processed beyond recognition. During a visit to an organic vegetable garden the children were asked to name a vegetable they liked and one child answered, "spaghetti." "Yikes!" I thought when I heard this.

So I was ever so delighted while attending the Soil Not Oil conference in Richmond, to hear from so many of the young adults sharing their "work" to bring attention not only  to
regeneration of the soil but also to the nutrient deficient food produced from our depleted soil (not to mention the lack of life giving qi).  Others shared their concern for the masses consuming processed food created by the megacorporations that support agribusiness in their toxic approach to soil depletion and offered examples of solutions practiced by this energetic, focused 20's and 30's generation. These young people are acting to reverse the time bomb (climate change) created by their forefathers. 

One of the Plenary II speakers was a young woman from Mexico, Adelita San Vicente Tello,  who is protecting Mexican corn against GMO manipulation. She shared that corn is an "invention of ours and corn invented us" since corn has been grown in her native country for over 8000 years. Using Dr. Vandana Shiva's mentorship, in 2009, she organized legal action to halt corporate ownership of corn and asked for respect of our right to what is ours. Of course, the big corporations pushed to stop the legal action. Mexico's opposition to GMO corn is the biggest effort of any country worldwide.

Claire Hope Cummings, an environmental/native land rights lawyer and journalist, encouraged everyone in the audience to consider "an inconvenient truth versus a reassuring lie." She talked of industrial agriculture creating both human and natural catastrophe in the not so distant future. Industrialized agriculture is dehumanizing, while the land is more productive when people "farm" as "family". She shared her view that storytelling that nurtures both humans and the land has great power to shift one away from the "reassuring lies" of industrial agriculture. Her most poignant example was the story of Skywoman appearing in Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass. Regenerative agriculture brings forth a commitment to nature as well as laughter she stressed. Also, she reassured the audience that "science" is on our side. Check out IAASTD for more on this. 

"We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity
belonging to us. When we see land as a community to
which we belong, we may begin to use it with love 
and respect."
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

Anna Lappe, mother of a three year old and coauthor of report Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communication are Shaping the Story of Food, succinctly shared how the megacorporations are using the growing social media networks with such themes as "trust us, we're the experts," "toxic sludge is good for you" and creating frontline presence with such organizations as US Farmers Ranchers Alliance, Alliance to Feed the Future, Protect the Harvest and Global Harvest Initiative. I would encourage any of you who frequently "google" to get information on the web to check out the entire report on Food MythBusters before accepting the information from whatever wbsite comes up first in your search.

And everyone sharing my table for Plenary III knew Vani Hari, aka Food Babe. Her story of moving from ill health to recovering her vibrancy struck a cord with me. This first generation Indian whose parents moved from India to this country so her father could continue his college studies ate from infancy processed American food as her father mandated. Reaching young adulthood in a very debilitated and robot like state, she set out to discover what exactly was in the food that everyday Americans ate. For example she discovered that the US Kraft's mac 'n cheese had toxic additives, but not so with that product sold and eaten in Britain. Through initiatives started on her blog she has successfully altered what big companies put in their food or what kind of food they buy. Did you hear that McDonald's, who uses one-third of all eggs produced in this country, is going with cage free eggs and Chipotle is going with organic meat? If we the people step out of our trance and speak up, we can make a difference. 

MuRefuge's pantry filled with the abundance from her three quarters of an acre.

As each of us consider "an inconvinient truth versus a reassuring lie" and commit to the regeneration of soil and health giving, nutrient dense food, may each of us 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015: Year of Soil, Part I

Round Up sprayed on "weeds"
by one of our neighbors early this past Spring.
For the first time in modern history, an entire year has been dedicated to soil. 2015 is
none too soon in my view. When I see the desecration from Round Up and feel the
loss of life of the soil and all its inhabitants, my whole BEing is filled with grief.

The 68th United Nations General Assembly has declared 2015 the 
International Year of the Soils. And not a minute too soon,
 if you put any stock in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 warning:
 “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

For decades, we’ve been poisoning our soils with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
 We’ve been overgrazing and overfarming our soil to the point that 
what were once prairies and grasslands teeming with life, 
are now lifeless dust fields.

     from Organic Bytes weekly e-newsletter

In the week past I attended one day of a two day conference in Richmond, California: Soil Not Oil (the title originated from Dr. Vandana Shiva's book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Change). Those of you living in the Bay Area are well aware that Chevron has a huge refinery that periodically spews toxins into the air threatening the health and well being of Richmond's inhabitants. So, in my humble opinion, it was no accident that Richmond was chosen for this awesomely stellar conference and its mayor gave the welcoming address.

Before my life changing illness, conferences, lectures and such were common places for me to accumulate information. Once the rooting process at MuRefuge began my attention shifted to listening to the ancient knowing of the land and its inhabitants. This conference spoke to me and I am ever grateful to have listened. The basic message of the day was that global capitalism, practicing extraction from our planet to pour dollars into investors pockets and patriarchal dominance, is no longer viable. Regeneration* was the "word of the day" so to speak. 

     *"Regenerate: to give fresh life or vigor to; to reorganize; to recreate the

      the moral nature; to cause to be born again" New Webster's Dictionary, 1997

The myths that capitalism wants us to believe are now repeatedly refuted with hard science and logical approach: the land tilled (raped) by agribusiness grows little food to feed the world. This land is used to raised crops for biofuel or to feed animals, mostly cattle, in feed lots. Growing nontoxic healthy food is a solution to climate change. Not tilling the soil 
and not using manufactured fertilizers nor soil amendments, not using herbicides nor pesticides (oh my gosh how those practices would undermine agribusiness capitalism!) is the foundation for regeneration of the soil. Research has repeatedly been done to demonstrate that tilling the soil is detrimental to its maintaining its vibrant, dynamic population of worms, insects and microscopic organisms that not only absorb carbon but feeds the plants living in undisturbed soil as well. Growing food on the present amount of land presently farmed world wide is enough to feed not only the present population but the one predicted for the future IF regenerative practices replace the capitalist ones so widely now used.

Soil carbon restoration can be accomplished with methodical practices, and with many of us participating we can make a difference in climate change. Each one of us have the choice whether to support in our daily lives the present path to our extinction OR alter our beliefs, attitudes and habits and get on board with regeneration of the soil. 

The action steps printed below have been copied from the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter

How can you take action in your own life to restore carbon to the soil and help rebuild the marvelous system that nature has put in place to renew our atmosphere?
Below are just a few of meaningful action steps for farmers, gardeners and homeowners, landscape managers, consumers and businesses, activists and educators, and policy makers to take. We will be editing and building on this list regularly, so check back often.
  • Plant nitrogen fixing cover crops and living row paths.
  • Incorporate no-till or shallow till practices.
  • Recycle biomass with livestock (grazers, browsers, compost to poultry).
  • Replace pesticides and fungicides with diverse beneficial organisms.
  • Incorporate perennials or pasture cropping into your farm plan.
  • Plant your lawn with diverse species, including deep rooted grasses and nitrogen fixing species like clover.
White clover growing between all our gopher proof raised vegetable beds
and our Tootsie Rolls (the 2 youngest female
Indian Runners) who by the way are now
producing daily an egg each. 
  • Mow, cut back, and/or heavily mulch over weeds instead of pulling.
  • Incorporate multi-layer, perennial, diverse plantings into your yard.
  • Compost, rather than burn, your yard waste.
  • Plant nitrogen fixing cover crops and living row paths.
Landscape Manager
  • Emphasize perennials in plantings and fill in gaps with annuals.
Spring flower annual natives growing amicably with native
Nodding Needlegrass (Nassella cernua) beneath one of my favorite trees the
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) which fixes nitrogen and is a native to the
Eastern U.S. but has naturalized in California.

  • Incorporate nitrogen fixing trees and perennials into the landscape.
  • Minimize the use of pavement and unproductive mulch.
  • Maintain diverse forested buffers and perimeters (can be productive).
  • Mow, cut back, and/or heavily mulch over weeds instead of pulling.
Consumer, Investor, Funder or Business
  • Purchase food from farmers that use regenerative and organic practices.
  • Stop buying from/supporting large scale, conventionally grown soy, corn, canola and cotton products which use synthetic nitrogen and persistent herbicides, contributing to massive soil loss every year.
  • Compost your kitchen waste.
  • Consume only 100% grass-fed and pasture raised meats, looking for farmers and ranchers prioritizing soil building.
  • Invest your food dollars in local farmers building soil, invest your climate action donations and advocacy into reforestation and reversing desertification (rehydrating the land) locally and globally.
  • Advocate against factory animal operations and for properly managed grass and pasture based farming.
  • Support replanting your local environment, support diverse meadows and deep rooted grass landscapes
  • Get to know diverse plants and biodiverse ecosystems in your region.
  • Invest your climate action donations and advocacy into reforestation and reversing desertification (rehydrating the land) locally and globally.
  • Study soil microbe biodiversity and support composting everywhere.
Policy Maker
  • Rule out synthetic nitrogen fertilizers on athletic fields, institutional and public park lands.
  • Prioritize climate funding for carbon farmers and ecosystem restoration.
  • Align local building codes with biodiversity and habitat regeneration and protection.
  • Emphasize development projects that regenerate, preserve, and do not destroy soil ecosystems.
  • Prioritize green infrastructure for coastal and inland flood management.

Did any of you view 20/20 last week? David Muir was at the Vatican with the Pope who then communicated with people gathered in 3 U.S. cities (Los Angeles; McAllen, Texas; and Chicago). I was brought to tears as the Pope opened his heart to these people telling their stories. Pope Francis is an beatific  amazing BEing; an exemplar for each of us whether Catholic or not.
"Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, 
its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems 
which may be gravely upset by human intervention . . . .
It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection
of nature with financial gain, or the preservation
of the environment with progress.
Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster."
Pope Francis, Papal Encyclical "Laudato Si," June 18, 2015

As we each consider how we each may contribute to this exciting life giving process of restoration, may we