Compost provides many benefits as a soil amendment and source of organic matter, improving soil biological, chemical, and physical characteristics:
Increases microbial activity
Enhances plant disease suppression
Increases soil fertility
Increases cation exchange capacity
Improves soil structure in clayey soils
Improves water retention in sandy soils
Reduces bio-availability of heavy metals
Overview of the Composting Process
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Gourmet mushrooms are a high value crop which can be a great addition to a diversified farming operation, especially if they are lucky enough to be situated on land with a decent parcel of hardwood forest (for log production), or willing to invest in the equipment necessary for more intensive cultivation.
Wild harvesting mushrooms can also be a lot of fun, and fairly lucrative, if you know where to go and when, and can find a buyer. Many gourmet restaurants are thrilled to get wild-harvested mushrooms, so it’s worth trying to make these connections. I have done this with both morel’s and hen of the woods (see pictures below). But make sure you know what you’re doing if you’re going to hunt (for more information see below).
1) Fungi Perfecti is, in my opinion, the gold standard for mushroom products, publications, high quality spawn, and seminars. Paul Stamets is a true pioneer in the field, and continues to produce first rate research on bioremediation, eco-mycology, and theoretical interpretations of fungal behavior. His now classic books, The Mushroom Cultivator, and Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushroomsare unparalleled texts for learning to produce multiple species of mushrooms in a variety of growing systems, at almost any scale. If you buy only two books on mushroom production, it should be these. Also check out Paul Stamets YouTube Channel.
4) The Mushroom Council offers excellent research and production information for mushroom growers. Their website is full of resources for mushroom growers including retail info.; industry statistics; news items, and much more.
7) A Reference for Mushroom Growers from Penn State University is a site that provides current information about the diseases and pests that plague the mushroom growing industry. Information on new trends and developments in the industry is also included. More commercial than small-scale in its emphasis.
MycoWeb:http://www.mykoweb.com/ Lots of great scientific information, pictures, recipes, articles, links, and much more and much more…
Tom Volk’s Fungi Page:http://www.tomvolkfungi.net/ This page is a comprehensive and information packed source for all things related to fungi. Fantastic information, pictures, links, articles, and more…
The U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will hold a series of joint public workshops to explore competition issues affecting the agricultural sector in the 21st century and the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in that industry. The first workshop will be held in early 2010.
This page provides information on:
Overview of the Workshops
Issues for Consideration
Dates, Locations, and Topics
Federal Register Notices
Overview of the Workshops
These are the first joint Department of Justice/USDA workshops ever to be held to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The goals of the workshops are to promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with respect to the appropriate legal and economic analyses of these issues as well as to listen to and learn from parties with real-world experience in the agricultural sector.
The workshops will address the dynamics of competition in agriculture markets, including buyer power (monopsony) and vertical integration. They will examine legal doctrines and jurisprudence, as well as current economic learning, and will provide an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, consumer groups, processors, agribusiness, and other interested parties to provide examples of potentially anticompetitive conduct and to discuss any concerns about the application of the antitrust laws to the agricultural sectors. The workshops will be transcribed and placed on the public record along with submissions and written comments received.
Issues for Consideration
Topics that will be covered during the workshops include the following:
Application of antitrust laws to monopsony and vertical integration in the agricultural sector, including the scope, functionality, and limits of current or potential rules
Impact of agriculture concentration on food costs
The effect of agricultural regulatory statutes or other applicable laws and programs on competition
Issues relating to patents and intellectual property affecting agricultural marketing or production
Market practices such as:
Packer ownership of livestock before slaughter
Increasing retailer concentration
Dates, Locations, and Topics
March 12, 2010 - Ankeny, Iowa
Issues of Concern to Farmers
Introduction to the workshops series with a focus on the issues facing crop farmers. Discussion topics may include seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power.
Register for the Iowa Workshop
Agenda for the Iowa Workshop
Directions and Map
May 21, 2010 - Normal, Alabama
Discussion topics may include production contracts in the poultry industry, concentration and buyer power.
June 7, 2010 - Madison, Wisconsin
Discussion topics may include concentration, marketplace transparency and vertical integration in the dairy industry.
August 26, 2010 - Fort Collins, Colorado
This workshop will focus on beef, hog and other animal sectors. Topics may include enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and concentration.
December 8, 2010 - Washington, D.C.
This workshop will look at the discrepancies between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers. As a concluding event, discussions from previous workshops will be incorporated into the analysis of agriculture markets nationally. farmaid.org
Here's a Haitian model of the "Lucia" stove that turns biomass into biochar, and cooks dinner, too.
Biochar, the "co product" of burning wood or agricultural waste in a pyrolitic (oxygen free) environment, has garnered both praise and criticism for its possibilities as a CO2 sequestration tool. While pilot biochar sequestration and crop improvement projects abound, in Haiti a small number of activists including World Stoves CEO Nathaniel Mulcahy, got in gear post earthquake to help the country rebuild and grow and cook its own food, and at the same time, show off biochar's winning qualities.
"The first thing to know about biochar is that it is a way of permanently removing CO2 greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The carbon from biomass, when pyrolyzed, can remain in the soil for hundreds or thousands of years." - Victoria Kamsler, Chair, Biochar Offsets Group.
Larger adaptation of the "Lucia" stove will be given to hospitals and camps, probably (at first) burning pellets donated from the U.S. Photo via WorldStoves @ tweetphoto.
WorldStoves, a company that makes a number of pyrolitic stoves, has partnered with the NGO International Lifeline Fund and a private Haitian company to bring its "Lucia" stove designs to Haiti. In Haiti, the use of wood for charcoal for home cooking needs is widespread, which has led to a continuing cycle of deforestation and soil degredation. This problem isn't confined to areas affected by the quake, of course, but fuel needs have been exacerbated in the aftermath.
The partnership has set up a production center in Port-Au-Prince to make up to 2,000 of the stoves and distribute them.
The magic is in the efficiency
What makes the Lucia stove so magic is that a Haitian woman or man could cook for a five-person family using just about 300 grams of twigs, groundnut shells, rice husk or dung. On the ground in Haiti even such wastes as the rinds from the local chadeck (grapefruit-like) fruit have been used - three big rinds yielded 37 minutes of flame!
Goal #1 of the partnership is to distribute stoves to the hospitals, schools, orphanages and camps that have sprung up around Port-Au-Prince. Eventually, stoves will be distributed to individual families, and WorldStove hopes to establish a site that will commercially sell Lucia stoves at what they say is an affordable price to locals - stove and fuel prices are said to have skyrocketed since the quake, and over half a Haitian's daily salary can go to purchasing cooking fuel.
In addition, the hope is that eventually cutting down trees for charcoal will go down as the stoves can use so many other biomass forms for energy, while the biochar left in the stoves after cooking can be used as a soil conditioner. In addition, iif biochar is included in the UN's Certified Emission Reductions (CER) and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) schemes, creating it in cookstoves and sequestering it in soil could help Haiti economically as well.
I've been carrying around this crumpled old scrap from the Daily Telegraph for a several weeks now - it's an extract from former World Bank chief Joseph Stiglitz’s new book, Freefall.
Admittedly, carrying around cut-outs of fading, coffee-cup-stained articles that look interesting has become something of a messy habit of mine.
But with good reason, I might add: these tit-bits, I feel, are worthy of sharing – and debating - with you, our wonderfully opinionated readers.
You see with this one, the influential American economist Stigilitz doesn't get ‘sidetracked’ by debacles such as the banking meltdown, various government debt piles or house-price-crashes, as the British media sometimes does. Instead, he penetrates right to the crux of an idea that''s shown signs of sprout among even the most Westernised economic thinkers: our current capitalist system is in dire need of change.
In an apt sort of way, his argument sees our system akin to the crumpled Telegraph parchment that’s lined my pockets these past weeks. It's been stretched. Roughed-up. Exposed for weakness. Unable to go back to the highly efficient, pristine condition of yesteryear (or last week in the case of the scrumpled paper).
In short, we need to start afresh.
The analogy just about fits, doesn’t it? Yet, what had me ogling so fastidiously the page - and then stuffing my pocket with it for later perusal - was the way Stiglitz clothed this argument.
The following sentence almost leapt off my desk, screaming and shouting. He says: 'A crisis that began in America soon turned global, as tens of millions lost their jobs worldwide – 20m in China alone – and tens of millions fell into poverty.’
Yeah. That’s it. At least he’s being honest. Blast those pesky Americans for causing us so much misery...
But hang on a second, it’s too easy to blame worldwide collapse on a touch of sub-prime mortgage madness in Southern Texas, isn’t it?
Well, yes it is. The disturbing reality is that our whole system’s broke – and Stiglitz agrees. Flea-infested capitalism is responsible for the crisis, not ordinary homeowners tithed into bankruptcy. Sticks of financial dynamite – the real cause of our meltdown – had been smuggled underground in all modern capitalist nations, not just Obamaland. The gunpowder just needed a match.
From here on in, Stiglitz tells an intriguing tale. He says: ‘The current crisis has uncovered fundamental flaws in the capitalist system.’
‘It’s not just a matter of flawed individuals or specific mistakes, nor is it a matter of fixing a few minor problems or tweaking a few policies.’
‘It is said that a near-death experience forces one to re-evaluate priorities and values. The global economy has just had a near-death experience. The crisis exposed not only flaws in the prevailing economic model but also flaws in our society. Too many people had taken advantage of others.’
‘We have gone far down an alternative path – creating a society in which materialism dominates moral commitment, in which the rapid growth that we have achieved is not sustainable environmentally or socially, in which we do not act together as a community to address our common needs, partly because rugged individualism and market fundamentalism have eroded any sense of community and have led to rampant exploitation of unwary and unprotected individuals and to an increasing social divide.’
All this is summarised neatly when he says: ‘clearly, the pursuit of self-interest - greed – did not lead to societal well-being’.
Right. And don’t we all know it.
But what hope for the future? He continues: ‘There is no going back to the world before the crisis. But the questions are, how deep and fundamental will the changes be? Will they even be in the right direction?’
‘We now have the opportunity to create a new financial system … that will create meaningful jobs, decent work for all those who want it, one in which the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is narrowing, rather than widening; and most importantly of all, to create a new society in which each individual is able to fulfil his aspirations and live up to his potential, in which we have created citizens who live up to shared ideals and values, in which we have created a community that treats our planet with the respect that in the long run it will surely demand.’
I’ve already mentioned that I rescue these newspaper cuttings because they seem worthy of debate. And in my view, Stiglitz’s social critique absolutely demands it.
So what do you think? Is our current economic model to blame for our modern woes? And would radical change to it heal an increasingly broken, unequal society?
In the 1970s and 1980s, disposable products were a hot topic among those who were trying to green America. It seems to me that no one talks about disposability anymore.
And what is more, disposable products are invading the marketplace. Now I know the sharks that patrol my blogs, ready to jump on me for my alleged socialist leanings will smell blood in the water and no doubt remind me that all those disposable products make jobs, but hear me out first. There’s something bigger than creating jobs through waste. It’s called creating an environmentally and economically sustainable society. We can have jobs and the environment. It’s not a trade off ... but we have to create jobs that makes sense in the long term from all three perspectives: social, economic and environmental.
Okay, now for the topic of today’s blog.
In the 1970s, disposability was in an infant stage. Our options were few. We had disposable pens and disposable diapers ... and of course there were disposable batteries ... and maybe a few more items. Today, disposables are flooding the market — creating jobs, no doubt, but also foreclosing on our future, gobbling up energy and resources that are finite.
Disposable diapers are as popular today as ever, maybe more so. And I’m not just talking disposable diapers for infants and toddlers. Adult disposable now take up a sizeable amount of shelf space. Are there really that many incontinent men and women in America?
And, of course, disposable razor blades are still widely used. They’re elaborate plastic and metal devices with multiple blades that seem to give out before you can say “How much did they charge me for a pack of six blades?” But don’t forget disposable razors, too. It’s not enough to toss out a blade assembly, we now through out the handle, too, adding to the nation’s municipal waste pile and depleting the Earth unnecessarily of valuable energy and other resources.
But that’s not all. Go to a fast-food restaurant and your soft drink will very likely come in a disposable cup. Not a paper cup, but a nifty plastic cup. Most people use it once and toss it out. It’s perfectly recyclable paper that ends up in landfills.
And, of course, restaurants serve up mountains of disposable forks, knives and spoons, often nicely wrapped in plastic, too. And don’t forget the nice plastic plates your food often comes on, and the plastic plates microwave meals available in the frozen food section of your favorite grocery store.
Dental floss hasn’t escaped disposability. Sure, floss isn’t something you’d want to put in the dishwasher and use again. I know that. But let’s not forget about the little disposable devices that now hold the floss for many of us. These devices work great, but when you’ve used them once or twice, out they go, adding to the trash heaps growing outside our cities and towns.
Don’t forget printer cartridges and printers. For all intents and purposes, most printers these days are so cheaply made that they’re simply discarded every couple of years. Manufacturers sell them to us at bargain rates knowing they’ll score big on the countless expensive ink cartridges we need to feed these hungry beasts.
The last time I visited my local grocery store, I uncovered a long list of disposables, including disposable kitty litter trays, refills for Swiffer Sweepers, disposable tape dispensers you wear on your wrist when wrapping presents, and cough medicine in small plastic — you guessed it — disposable “spoon” dispensers. Although the grocery store didn’t sell them, we mustn’t forget disposal contact lenses. Use them once, then toss them and the packaging out.
While throughput — maximum production and consumption — is dramatically increased by simply making things we use disposable, this is no way to build a sustainable future. We aren’t so resource rich that we can afford to throw all this good material and energy away. We’re only foreclosing on our own future.
Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale—for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large. Free download page: http://www.withouthotair.com/download.html
For a couple of years, the Institute for Responsible Technology has predicted that the US would soon experience a tipping point of consumer rejection against genetically modified foods; a change we're all helping to bring about. Now a December article in Supermarket News supports both our prediction and the role the Institute is playing.
"The coming year promises to bring about a greater, more pervasive awarenes" of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply, wrote Group Editor Robert Vosburgh, in a trade publication that conventional food executives and retailers use as a primary source of news and trends in the industry. Vosburgh describes how previous food "culprits" like fat and carbs "can even define the decade in which they were topical," and suggests that GMOs may finally burst through into the public awareness and join their ranks.
Vosburgh credits two recent launches with "the potential to spark a new round of concern among shoppers who are today much more attuned to the ways their food is produced." One is our Institute's new non-GMO website, which, he says, "provides consumers with a directory of non-GMO brands . . . developed for the 53% of Americans who say they would avoid GMOs if labeled.'"
The other launch is the Non-GMO Project, offering "the country's first consensus-based guidelines, which include third-party certification and a uniform seal for approved products. . . . The organization also requires documented traceability and segregation to ensure the tested ingredients are what go into the final product."
He alerts supermarket executives that, "the growth of the organic (which bans GMO ingredients), local and green product categories reflects a generation of consumers who could be less tolerant of genetic modification."
Please allow me to sit back with an I-told-you-so grin of satisfaction. Two years ago, I wrote a newsletter article describing three components that would move the market on GMOs:
1. The Non-GMO Project's new "widely accepted definition for non-GMO" would spark a GMO cleanout, starting with the brands in the natural food industry.
Our Institute endorses the Non-GMO Project and encourages food companies to enroll their products with this excellent nonprofit organization. Their official seal was introduced in October 2009 and has quickly become the national standard for meaningful non-GMO claims.
2. "Providing clear Non-GMO product choices" with our Non-GMO Shopping Guide would make it easier for consumers to select "non-GMO products by brand and category."
The same Guide is available as a website, a spread in magazines, a pocket guide, a two-sided download, and coming soon, a mobile phone application.
3. "Educating Health-Conscious Shoppers" about the health effects of GMOs is the key means by which GMOs will become a marketing liability—the next culprit.
Past culprits drove the market because of consumer beliefs that were unhealthy. In the same way, evidence demonstrating the health dangers of GMOs is already igniting an anti-GMO fever. In 2009, for example, the prestigious American Academy of Environmental Medicine urged doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients, based on evidence that GMOs fed to lab animals triggered diseases and disorders.
The prognosis in Supermarket News overlooks critical differences between GMOs and the other culprits. Fats, carbs, salt, and sugar each offer unmistakable consumer appeal. As a result, food companies offer options with them, without them, and at low levels.
Genetically modified (GM) foods, however, don't offer a single consumer benefit. The five major GMOs—soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, and sugar beets—are gene-spliced to either tolerate poisonous herbicides, or produce poisonous insecticides. Consumers never clamor for them.
Also unlike the other culprits, companies can usually eliminate GMOs without even changing recipes. Purchasers can simply instruct suppliers to provide the non-GMO soy and corn derivatives, the non-GMO sugar, etc., as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have already done for their home brands.
Therefore, when major food companies notice even tiny losses in market share, their GMO cleanout will be widespread. Kraft Foods and others will recognize that the same consumer trend that forced them to remove all GM ingredients in Europe and Japan has reared its head in the States.
Consumer Opinion Already Poised Against Biotech
We're already seeing the momentum build against genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and most dairies have shunned the controversial drug that is now synonymous with "increased cancer risk" in the minds of many consumers. (The recent condemnation of the hormone by the American Public Health Association will help nail its coffin shut.)
In the case of GMOs, the proportion of US consumers needed to avoid brands that contain GM soy and corn, etc. is quite small--probably only 5%. That means that the purchasing power (and trend setting ability) of 15 million people or 5.6 million households can turn GMOs into a marketing liability. But when you look at the numbers, no matter how you slice it, they add up to a coming non-GMO tidal wave.
About 28 million health-conscious Americans regularly buy organic. About 87 million are strongly opposed to GM foods and believe they are unsafe. And 159 million say they would avoid GMOs if labeled. While most people do not conscientiously avoid brands with GM ingredients, its usually because they don't know how. That's where our Non-GMO Shopping Guide comes in—disseminated far and wide in 2010.
Vosburgh says that in the food industry, culprits "can even define the decade in which they were topical. In the '80s, it was fat; in the '90s, it was carbs." We won't need a full decade to send GMOs packing. Although I can't forecast the exact timing, I'll wager one prediction. By this time next year, Monsanto—the largest GMO producer—is not going to be happy.
International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. His first book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating, is the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on GMOs. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, documents 65 health risks of the GM foods Americans eat everyday. Both are distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing. To help you choose healthier, non-GMO brands, use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
This interview took place this summer prior to Judge White’s September ruling in favor of Frank Morton, and the other plaintiffs.
In an ongoing David versus Goliath legal battle, Frank Morton, an organic seed breeder in Philomath, Oregon, along with the plaintiffs listed in this lawsuit, have successfully sued the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service(APHIS), for failure to require an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to deregulation ofMonsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet plant. In the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled on September 21, 2009 in favor of the plaintiffs— Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds— requiring that APHIS prepare an environmental impact statement.
This ruling marks a resounding renunciation of the USDA/APHIS 2005 decision to deregulate and thus allow the unrestricted commercial development of “Event H7-1”, a Glyphosate tolerant sugar beet engineered by Monsanto and the German company KWS. Deregulation opened the door for transgenic sugar beet production in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. The judge ordered that an environmental impact statement be conducted because USDA/APHIS failed to adequately consider the impact on the environment from stated cross contamination concerns, and the socio-economic impacts on consumers (eaters), farmers, and other market participants over the question of the continued availability of non-transgenic sugar beet crops.
In 2006, most of the sugar beet production was from conventional seeds but the Roundup Ready transgenic variety increased sharply in 2008 to about 60% of production, and rose again this year to estimates as high as 95% of the total U.S. market. The United States is among the largest producers of sugar, more than half comes from the production of sugar beets. Most of the U.S. sugar beet seed is produced in the Willamette Valley, where between 3000-5000 acres of sugar beet seeds are grown each year. The sugar beet plants grown from these seeds occupy areas of the western and mid-west regions of the country; the largest concentrations of (harvested) acres are in North Dakota, Minnesota, andMichigan.
From Frank Morton’s perspective, his livelihood depends upon the ability to produce organic seeds that are not contaminated with transgenic genes spread from neighboring GMO related species of plants. In the Willamette Valley, an elaborate, but voluntary system exists to coordinate the growing of a diversity of crops to prevent the accidental cross-pollination and contamination that can occur naturally between related species. In the case of sugar beets, Morton’s Swiss Chard organic seed is commercially threatened by neighboring GMO sugar beet plants; the tiniest of contamination if it were to occur, would prevent him from selling his Swiss Chard organic seeds to his customers here and abroad. In addition, the introduction of any GMO crops into the ecologically unique Willamette Valley without a thorough environmental impact study sets a dangerous new precedent for more unregulated transgenic crops to follow.
Monsanto has recently decided to appeal to the U.S. Supreme court an earlier decision that forced the company to remove its GMO Alfalfa from the market (except under very limited conditions), pending the completion of an environmental impact statement. The alfalfa decision, in part, helped establish the precedent for the judge’s ruling in this Roundup Ready sugar beet case.
“Seed breeding is basically taking the process of evolution and turning it into a more controlled process” —Frank Morton
As the Seeds of Life series continues, embattled farmer, Frank Morton, a Willamette Valley organic seed breeder shares his expert knowledge of how plant breeding techniques have evolved, and the importance of the selection process in producing organic seeds that carry the desired mix of plant traits.
I was raised on a small farm in Illinois. My wife, Eileen and I and family have worked together hand and hand on this farm (and adjoining land we bought) since 1966. I attended and graduated University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL. I received a Bachelor of Science Degree (Cum Laude)in Agricultural Engineering in 1970.
I worked as a registered Professional Engineer for the Rock Island District, US Army Corps of Engineers for 33 years, before retiring. I held several supervisory positions while at Corps: Chief, Regulatory Branch, Assistant Chief of Operations Division, Chief of the Lock and Dam Branch, and Mississippi River Project Manager. One highlight of my career was developing NIC (Google "NIC - Navigation Information Connection") during the early 90's, in a joint effort, with the District's Information Management personnel and Navigation Industry Representatives.
My wife and I have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren. We have businesses associated with farming, "live edge" furniture making, vegetable produce, and graphics. We enjoy pursuing our hobby interests.