Aug 9, 2013

We're Not Kid-ding: Goats Graze Historic Capitol Hill

Published on Aug 9, 2013

Washington is known for its donkeys and elephants, but with Congress on recess, a new herd has taken over the Hill. Goats have been hired as a clean-up crew at the historic but overgrown Congressional Cemetery, feasting on an all-you-can-eat buffet of poison ivy and kudzu. Kwame Holman reports.
We're Not Kid-ding: Goats Graze Historic Capitol Hill - YouTube

Aug 8, 2013

Goats Eat Weeds Ecological Restoration Weed Control Green Alternative

10 Reasons to Manage Weeds with Goats

Do you have unwanted weeds? Are you unable or unwilling to apply herbicides or pesticides to manage them?
Goats can be utilized as an effective bio-control agent to reduce weed populations to economically acceptable levels
Eliminate the use of harmful herbicides and pesticides
Goats eat poisonous plants like Hemlock, Poison Oak, Pampas Grass, blackberry bushes, blooming Yellow Star Thistle, and Mustard species
Renting goats are an eco-friendly fuel reduction benefit
Goats help prevent forest fires—or at best slow a fire down—by eating the dry stuff before the fire season strikes
Goats browse year-round and are an important part of grazing land management
Goats are browsers, whose diet consists of about 70 percent non-grassy species, so they do not to compete with cattle for grass
Goat grazing tends to make good cattle pastures and cattle grazing tends to make good goat pastures
Goats eat 25 percent of their body weight each day
Goat hooves till and aerate the soil and trample in their own fertilizer

Lani Malmberg, owner of Ewe4ic Geological Servcices, uses goats in a controlled grazing environment to gradually and naturally remove weeds and return your land to a healthy, natural ecosystem.

Malmberg wanders the meadows, hillsides and waterways of the West, hooked staff in hand, pitting 1,500 cashmere goats against pockets of unwanted weeds that infest the landscape.

2013 Forum: Organic Land Management and Cutting Edge Alternatives (Panel and Workshop) - YouTube

Published on May 22, 2013

This workshop teaches participants about the opportunities and challenges of organic land management. This session was part of "Sustainable Families, Farms, and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices," Beyond Pesticides 31st National Pesticide Forum, April 5-6, 2013, Albuquerque, NM.

--Lani Malmberg, Beyond Pesticides board member; owner, Ewe4ic Ecological Services, Cheyenne, WY

--Matthew Chew, assistant research professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

--Ann Adams, director of community services, Holistic Management International, Albuquerque, NM

--John McMullin, owner, Embudo Organic Turkey Farm, Embudo, NM

--Joran Viers, moderator, county program director, Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service Office, New Mexico State University, Albuquerque, NM

Goat Management!   Great   Monte

2013 Forum: Organic Land Mangement and Cutting Edge Alternatives (Panel and Workshop)

Aug 7, 2013

Michael Pollan: A plant's-eye view

What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant's-eye view.

Michael Pollan: A plant's-eye view - YouTube

The Vegetarian Myth

What we eat is destroying both our bodies and the planet, according to author Lierre Keith, a recovering twenty-year vegan. While she passionately opposes factory farming of animals, she maintains that humans require nutrient-dense animal foods for good health. A grain-based diet is the basis for degenerative diseases we take for granted (diabetes, cancer, heart disease) - diseases of civilization. Annual grain production is destroying topsoil and creating deserts on a planetary scale. Lierre urges the restoration of perennial polycultures for long term sustainability.

Audio and transcript of this show at

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The Vegetarian Myth - YouTube

Low Carb Paleo with Mark Sisson - YouTube

Here's a man who wants to improve the health and lives of 10 MILLION people! And he might just succeed.

Mark Sisson runs the wildly popular fitness blog Mark's Daily Apple, and is the author of a number of books including the bestseller The Primal Blueprint. He's also one of the leaders behind the growing Paleo movement.

Despite running a small fitness / health empire Mark Sisson also finds the time to stay in a shape that would be the envy of just about anybody half his age. And he seems to enjoy every minute. How is it possible? In this interview he shares his secrets.

Furthermore, as the debate rages whether Paleo is low carb or not, Mark Sisson stays calm and sticks to what works.

Mark Sisson's blog:

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Low Carb Paleo with Mark Sisson - YouTube

Aug 5, 2013

Farm fertilizer runoff wreaking havoc | TheGazette

Nitrogen pulse’ impacting Mississippi River, worsening Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone

The world’s strongest man opening and dumping bag after bag of nitrogen fertilizer into the Mississippi River could not begin to keep up with the stream of nitrogen flowing this spring from the Iowa River into the main conduit to the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.

A near-record pulse of nitrogen, driven by last year’s drought and this spring’s record rainfall, has been leaving Iowa farm fields, bound for ecological and economic damage in the gulf and along the way, according to researchers studying the phenomenon in the watershed of the Cedar and Iowa rivers.

A real-time nitrate gauge near Wapello, 20 miles above the Iowa’s confluence with the Mississippi, was recording 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of nitrate per second during the first week of June, said Amy Burgin of the University of Nebraska School of Natural Resources, one of several scientists studying the nitrate pulse.

It is a prime example of innocents downstream paying for actions upstream in the same watershed, said Burgin, the lead researcher on the project, which also involves scientists from Coe College and the University of Iowa.

Nitrogen pulse

After the 2012 drought, in which crops fell far short of using all the applied nitrogen, Burgin, an Iowa native and Coe College graduate, and Terry Loecke, her husband and research colleague, suspected that Corn Belt rivers would transport a major nitrogen pulse this year. In October, they applied for a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to document and study the pulse, and they received their approval within six days.

“We knew that (the excess nitrogen) had to come out, and we wanted to find out how climate and precipitation would affect the timing and magnitude of the pulse,” said Loecke, a University of Nebraska biogeochemist and Manchester native.

“Once it started raining, it came out all of a sudden,” said Burgin, who grew up in the south-central Iowa town of Lacona.

“We would have had high nitrate levels this year, even if farmers had not applied nitrogen for this year’s crop,” said project collaborator Marty St. Clair, a Coe College chemistry professor who has been monitoring water quality in Lime Creek, a Cedar River tributary, for the past 12 years.

Scientists on Monday completed their annual measurement of the gulf dead zone, which encompassed 5,800 square miles — about twice the size of last year’s dead zone but well short of the 8,561 square miles predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Much of the 2013 nutrient load is still en route to the Gulf, said Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi.

Pollution dangers

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution primarily from agricultural sources throughout the basin stimulates the growth of algae, which deprives gulf waters of oxygen as it decomposes on the bottom.

Fish and other mobile aquatic life can move, but organisms rooted to the bottom “don’t have a prayer,” said Paul Montagna, a scientist at the Harte Research Institute.

“Shrimp and crabs are somewhat mobile and try to escape but often can’t,” Montagna said.

McKinney, who has been diving in Gulf waters since the 1980s, said it is pathetic to see aquatic animals climb whatever structure is available, seeking more oxygen-rich water farther from the bottom, before they finally suffocate.

Montagna said the shallow northern gulf waters are an important commercial fishery, whose greatest dead zone economic losses are associated with shrimp.

“The boats working near the dead zone harvest less shrimp and have to go farther afield,” he said.

Some boats sit idle each year because they can’t afford additional fuel costs or don’t want to infringe upon other boats’ home waters, McKinney said.

Gulf residents “are not resentful of Midwest farmers, but they understand the hypoxia issue and want to see it resolved,” he said.

Mississippi threat

Though less dramatic than manure and chemical spills, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution also degrades waters throughout the Mississippi River Basin and its tributaries, threatening wildlife and recreation as well as the safety of drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires nitrate in drinking water be kept at less than 10 milligrams per liter to avoid potential human health problems, especially for infants and pregnant mothers.

A large study of children in Iowa and Texas, published in late June, found that babies whose mothers consume nitrates in drinking water have a higher risk of spina bifida, cleft palate and other birth defects.

May nitrate readings reached record levels in the Raccoon River (24 milligrams per liter) and the Des Moines River (18 milligrams per liter), both water sources for the Des Moines water plant, which has spent more than half a million dollars this year to operate its treatment facility.

“Both rivers were above the EPA limit for about 90 consecutive days,” said Water Works General Manager William Stowe, who said the plant’s denitrification apparatus, the nation’s largest, costs about $7,000 per day to operate.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Iowa and 11 other states in the Mississippi River basin to reduce their contributions of nitrogen and phosphorous to the gulf dead zone.

Reduction plan

After extensive research by state agencies and Iowa State University, Iowa responded last year with a science-based but strictly voluntary plan to assess the nutrient load in Iowa waterways and reduce it by 45 percent, with most of the burden falling upon agriculture.

Environmental groups contend the Nutrient Reduction Strategy provides little incentive for farmers to limit fertilizer applications or to take land out of production to create wetlands, buffer strips and other conservation practices that can keep nutrients out of waterways.

“We have repeatedly called on state leaders to set clear, measurable goals for reducing Iowa’s contribution to the dead zone,” said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council.

The Iowa plan, he said, “does not currently explain how this will take place, when it will take place, and when many stakeholders — those who drink from Iowa’s waters or fish or canoe — will know that progress is being made.”

Stowe described the plan as “completely unrealistic” and “a non-starter for us.”

Progress toward the plan’s goals will not be made in flood years following droughts, sai another study collaborator, University of Iowa geologist Adam Ward.

“For me, the big conclusion (of the Iowa-Cedar nitrate study) is how weather interacts with human management decisions. When you plan for normal weather and get the worst, you get negative results with social consequences,” he said.

The nitrate load, calculated by multiplying the concentration by the volume, has reached the second highest level on record for the combined Cedar and Iowa rivers, second only to the persistently rainy summer of 1993, according to Burgin.

Nitrate levels

Most of the nitrogen leaves farm fields dissolved in water flowing through tile drainage systems, Loecke said.

“We’ve recorded it coming out of tile lines at 40 milligrams per liter this year,” he said.

Ward said he has recorded nitrate readings above 30 milligrams per liter at his three test sites on Clear Creek, which empties into the Iowa River at Coralville.

The Cedar River reached one of its highest recorded nitrate levels, 18.5 milligrams per liter, upstream from Cedar Rapids, but the city’s drinking water, which is drawn from a series of wells, has consistently tested well below the EPA limit.

Cedar Rapids Water Department spokeswoman Megan Murphy said this year’s annual spring rise in nitrogen levels came earlier and went higher than usual.

The city draws water from more than 45 wells that are fed by Cedar River water that is first filtered naturally through the river bank, where microbes break down nitrogen.

“The bugs were not fully active in early spring, when nitrate levels started climbing,” she said.

To compensate, the city increased its well monitoring and mixed water from wells with lower nitrate levels — a routine that diverted staff but did not add to overall operating expenses, she said.

Treatment changes

If high nitrate levels become the norm, Cedar Rapids may have to adjust its treatment procedures, Murphy said.

Burgin said the peak nitrogen flow at the Wapello gauge, 25 kilograms (55 pounds) per second, lasted about three days in early June. A smaller peak, about 44 pounds per second, occurred in mid-May, she said.

“For about the past 100 days, we’ve had a consistent (baseline) load of 8 to 10 kilograms of nitrogen per second at that same site,” she said.

This year’s nitrogen load at that site is about double what it is in a normal year and 10 times greater than it was in last year’s drought, Burgin said.

“In comparison to the longer-term record, we have not yet quite reached the total (nitrogen) load of 1993, but as of July, we were closing in on that record,” she said.

Burgin said this year’s nitrogen load almost equals the record, even though there is much less water in Iowa streams and rivers than in 1993.

- See more at:

Farm fertilizer runoff wreaking havoc | TheGazette

Aug 4, 2013

Market to Market (August 2, 2013) - YouTube

Published on Aug 2, 2013

Closely watched economic reports move the markets from Wall Street to LaSalle Street. Tainted lettuce sickens hundreds of consumers, but authorities aren't disclosing its producer. In yet another year dominated by unusual weather, hay producers struggle to produce a crop. Market analysis with Jamey Kohake.
Market to Market (August 2, 2013) - YouTube

Fertilizer, fishing and Farmer Specht | Twin Cities Daily Planet

By Brian DeVore, Loon Commons
July 19, 2013

Dan Specht, who was taken from us all too soon last week by a haying accident, was the embodiment of the stewardship farmer. His kind, curious nature—housed in a powerfully-built, bear-like body—was complemented nicely by a passion for the land. And he represented what may be our best bet for balancing food production with a healthy ecosystem: the ability to connect the dots near and far. His use of innovative production systems on the northeast Iowa hills overlooking the Mississippi River should be a model for countless farmers who want to leave the landscape better than they found it.

It is a particularly bitter irony that we lost Dan at a time when nitrogen fertilizer pollution in the Corn Belt seems to be worse than ever. Last month’s report from the Minnesota Pollution ControlAgency showing widespread, increasing nitrogen runoff from crop fields was a rude reminder that mono-cropping imposes huge costs on our society. And reports out of Iowa indicate that one of those costs—an increased burden on public drinking water facilities—is becoming too big to ignore. Predictions are that the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” will be the largest it ever has beenby the end of the summer.

Dan Specht was one of the first farmers I ever met who understood perfectly well why so much nitrogen was escaping Midwestern farm fields—our corn, bean, feedlot machine is inherently leaky and inefficient. He also understood what we needed to do to deal with a problem that’s threatening water quality both here and hundreds of miles downstream. Part of that interest in the role nitrogen plays in our agro-environment came from the fact that he farmed near Big Spring, a hole in the ground from which massive amounts of groundwater erupt daily. The Big Spring “watershed” has been home to one of the country’s longest-running nitrogen runoff demonstration projects.

Virtually from the first time I met Dan at a 1994 grazing field day, he began talking to me about the importance of “closing the nutrient cycle.” In other words, developing farming systems that would integrate crops and livestock in such a way that something like manure would be a ignition switch for a self-perpetuating biological cycle, rather than a waste product that needs to be disposed of.

Many other farmers are aware of this, but Dan had that rare ability to explain things in a way that made sense to a journalist who had barely passed chemistry and soil science in college. His razor-sharp insights were not evident at first, given Dan’s naturally shy nature, but once he got going it became clear this guy was an incredible source of practical information on what was going on above and below the ground.

And as anyone who ever attended one of Dan’s field days knows, he was also very willing to showus what was going on. In 1999 I called Dan and said I wanted to interview him about nitrogen runoff in the Upper Midwest and the impact it was having on the Gulf of Mexico. He was the perfect candidate to anchor the story: he not only was farming in a way that promised to solve such a pollution problem, but had visited the Gulf to see the impacts of all that runoff firsthand.

He was hesitant to be interviewed at first, but finally agreed that a little public embarrassment was a small price to pay if it resulted in publicizing a critical problem (and some possible solutions). But Dan had one caveat: the interview had to be done while we were fishing on his beloved Mississippi River near McGregor, Iowa. That deal-sealer revealed one more reason he cared so deeply about this issue: he loved the Mississippi and didn’t want to do anything that would harm it downstream, as well as in his own backyard. It’s one thing to say you love a River—it’s quite another to show you love it.

I agreed, and what resulted was one of the most edifying conversations I’ve ever had on everything from nutrient cycling and basic crop chemistry to farm policy and the best way to limit out on walleye.

I used the basis of that conversation to write about nitrogen pollution for the Land Stewardship Letter in 1999 as well as the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer in 2001, and later for the 2002 book, The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems with Ecosystems.

Dan’s death is a setback in the struggle to control nitrogen pollution. But judging by the reaction—some of it incredibly heartfelt and almost poetic—from people he touched over the years, his passion to “close that nutrient cycle” lives on. Through his work with the Land Stewardship Project, Practical Farmers of Iowa and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, he had an outsized influence on a movement while operating from what some would call a remote corner of the universe. This almost guarantees more Dan Spechts are out there, combining their passion for farming and the land in a positive way.

In the hopes of introducing a few more people to Dan’s way of thinking, here’s an excerpt of his story from The Farm as Natural Habitat:

Many pasture wetlands or well-managed streams can add up to one big ecological boon downstream. No one knows that better than Dan Specht. On a late summer evening, Specht wrapped up hog and cattle chores, hopped in his pickup truck and descended to the Mississippi River, just a few minutes’ drive away. He had fishing gear in the back, northeast Iowa soil under his fingernails, and nutrient runoff on his mind. That’s not unusual. It’s difficult for this farmer to separate his various passions—even if they seem to conflict. People concerned about the future of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico would say that farmers like Specht are a direct threat to that industry (both commercial and recreational). Nutrient runoff from Midwestern farms is creating a biological “dead zone” in the Gulf.

Unlike many farmers, Specht, who’s been farming near the Iowa community of McGregor for almost three decades, is willing to shoulder some of the blame for gasping fish in the Gulf. He believes the key is for farmers like him to keep the amount of water and contaminants that leave their fields to a minimum. That’s a challenge on the more than 700 acres of steep land that produces crops and livestock for Specht. In these parts, squirrel hunters joke about hiking to the top of backbone-like ridges and pointing their .22-caliber rifles down at the trees, rather than up, and that’s not much of an exaggeration.

Specht produces beef on his steepest ground using management intensive rotational grazing. This means he doesn’t have to raise corn and soybeans on his most erosive acres.

On the rest of the land he farms, Specht uses a sophisticated mix of rotations and cover crops. One method the farmer uses is to plant rye in the fall after harvest. By the time the snow melts the following spring, he has a lush, green ground cover that suppresses weeds.

The result of all this effort? A soil surface protected by green vegetation throughout much of the growing season rather than just a few months in the summer. These plants soak up nitrogen as they grow and create a soil structure that stymies runoff.

Such a system can be labor intensive, but it hasn’t hurt Specht’s production. He recently won a local yield contest with a stand of organic soybeans.

Livestock plays a major role in managing nutrients on Specht’s farm. It’s difficult to justify the production of small grains like oats and forages like alfalfa, let alone pasture grasses, if there are not hogs or cattle to add value to these crops.

“The system of agriculture where you’ve got these livestock operations eating the crops they grow on the farm is way more efficient at recycling those nutrients, especially if you can use forages and small grains as part of your rotation,” says Specht, who has done on-farm grazing and cover crop research with Iowa State University and Practical Farmers of Iowa. “You’re going to be keeping your nutrients where they belong.”

The farmer’s latest project is a low-cost “hoop house” for raising hogs. This allows him to use bedding from corn stalks and straw from small grains to capture nutrients in the form of manure.

“I’m always working on my nutrient cycle.”

Why this desire to zealously control nutrient movement? Part of Specht’s concern about what sneaks off his fields is based on the fact that area well water is heavily contaminated with nitrogen, posing a public health threat, particularly to babies. Much of the blame for that contamination can be placed on a Swiss cheese-like limestone geological system called “karst,” which underlies northeast Iowa’s topsoil. It allows water, and anything that’s along for the ride, to easily flow through. That’s been shown clearly in Specht’s neighborhood by the Big Spring Demonstration Project, one of the nation’s longest-running and most detailed studies of the relationships between agriculture and water quality.

The research project, which is coordinated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, has found that nitrogen and other agricultural contaminants move quickly through karst geological features into the groundwater. A key component of the research project is the encouragement of farming practices that rely less on heavy tillage and intense chemical applications.

Specht has also had the opportunity to get a big-picture, downstream view of the problem. In the late 1990s, he visited the Gulf and met with commercial fishermen and women whose livelihoods are threatened by excess nutrients from Midwest fields destroying fish habitat.

“It’s really fragile. It’s vast, but it’s fragile,” he says of the area where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf.

After making the drive from his farm to the river bottom, Specht pulled into a boat landing below McGregor and met up with frequent fishing partner and fellow farmer Jeff Klinge. While Klinge guided a small aluminum boat out through the backwaters, the two farmers pointed out the natural beauty of the area and talked passionately about fishing.

A bald eagle coasted overhead while a great blue heron stood on a point as still as a lawn ornament. Tent caterpillar webs drooped from trees along the water’s edge, just a few yards from where a Burlington Northern freight train rattled the Wisconsin side of the river. Massive barges plied their way up and down the main channel as the farmers began trolling for walleye. This area is vast and fragile as well.


MCGREGOR, Iowa — With the Mississippi River as an altar, friends and family said goodbye to McGregor farmer Dan Specht at a memorial service at Pike\'s Peak State Park July 20. He was killed in a farming accident July 8. Specht, who raised cattle on his organic, grass–based farm, was remembered for his kindness, his commitment to sustainable agriculture and the environment and his quest to find policy that would reward farmers whose practices protected the environment. One of the most poignant moments came when Kayla Koether, whose family has a grass–based cattle, lamb and goat farm at Giard, near Specht\'s farm, performed \"Dan\'s Song,\" which she composed after Specht\'s death.

Reid Hoffman - LinkedIn Founder Revealed - Member of the Paypal Mafia, He's an Entrepreneur & Venture Capitalist

Reid Hoffman Revealed Bloomberg Game Changers

LinkedIn Founder Revealed - Member of the Paypal Mafia, He's an Entrepreneur & Venture Capitalist - YouTube

Max Levchin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate - Charlie Rose Interview

Born in Kyiv, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) to a Jewish family he moved to the United States under political asylum,[3][4][5] and settled in Chicago in 1991.

He attended Mather High School and then earned his bachelor in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997 and co-founded two companies that made Internet-tools, NetMeridian Software and SponsorNet New Media.[5]

PayPal - In 1998, Levchin founded Fieldlink with John Bernard Powers (who left the company shortly thereafter) and Peter Thiel. After changing the company name to Confinity, they developed a popular payment product known as PayPal. After a merger with, the combined entity was renamed PayPal Inc.

PayPal Inc. went public in February 2002, and was subsequently acquired by eBay. Levchin worked there with Peter Thiel, Roelof Botha, and David Sacks. Levchin's 2.3% stake in PayPal was worth approximately $34 million at the time of the acquisition.[6] In 2002, he was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35, as well as Innovator of the Year.[7] He is primarily known for his contributions to PayPal's anti-fraud efforts[8] and is also the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of a CAPTCHA.
Max Levchin - Charlie Rose Interview

Loren Cordain On Why The Paleo Diet Makes So Much Sense

Dr. Loren Cordain talks about how the paleo diet makes so much sense. We talk about the ancestral diet and which foods are best for humans. Should we be vegetarian, should we eat raw meat or cooked meat? Should we be raw vegan? What diet is best for mankind?

▶ Loren Cordain On Why The Paleo Diet Makes So Much Sense - YouTube

As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth -

Andrea Bruce for The New York Times
Students feeding chickens before class at Rennock Lodge All-Age School in east Kingston, Jamaica.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The scent of coconut oil and fiery jerk spice blows through kitchens across this green island, but as the country’s food imports have become a billion-dollar threat to finances and health, Jamaica has taken on a bold new strategy: make farming patriotic and ubiquitous, behind homes, hospitals, schools, even prisons.

Across the Caribbean, food imports have become a budget-busting problem, prompting one of the world’s most fertile regions to reclaim its agricultural past. But instead of turning to big agribusinesses, officials are recruiting everyone they can to combat the cost of imports, which have roughly doubled in price over the past decade. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production is not a restaurant sales pitch; it is a government motto.

“We’re in a food crisis,” said Hilson Baptiste, the agriculture minister of Antigua and Barbuda. “Every country is concerned about it. How can we produce our own? How can we feed our own?”

In a region where farming is still often seen as a reminder of plantations and slavery, the challenge runs deep, yet at regional meetings for years, Caribbean officials have emphasized that “food security,” primarily availability and access, is a top priority. Many countries are now responding, branding foreign food like meats and high-calorie snacks a threat, and locally grown food responsible and smart.

Jamaica started earlier than most. A decade ago, the government unveiled a national food security campaign with the slogan “grow what we eat, eat what we grow.” Grocery stores now identify local produce with large stickers and prominent displays.

Members of rival political parties have also been mostly unified in support of expanding agriculture by experimental means; Jamaica is now one of several countries that have given out thousands of seed kits to encourage backyard farming.

Schools are heavily involved in the effort: 400 in Jamaica now feature gardens maintained by students and teachers. In Antigua and Barbuda, students are now sent out regularly on planting missions, adding thousands of avocado, orange, breadfruit and mango trees to the islands, but in Jamaica, gardening and cooking are often part of every school day.

Teachers like Jacqueline Lewis, the acting director of a small school in east Kingston with a thriving farm, are on the front lines of what is considered a battle. That is how Ms. Lewis, 53, treats food and farming, as issues of national and local security.

A grinning disciplinarian who is quick to pull a lollipop from a second grader’s mouth, or to shout “Why ya late?” to dawdling students, she studied food and agriculture after growing up poor and walking barefoot with a grumbling belly as a child to the school where she now teaches. In 1998, she planted her first garden on a craggy strip of dirt in front of the school.

It stayed small, mostly peppers and cabbage, until a few years ago when a European development agency helped pay for a chicken coop and an expansion. Now her garden includes a second, larger plot. The government has yet to give her a cent (the agriculture minister said rural schools were the first priority), but officials have often praised her work, and so have her students.

On one recent morning, a dozen boys wandered toward her an hour before classes. Following quick directions, one group gave water to the chickens. Another, alongside Ms. Lewis, gingerly stepped into the garden to water Scotch bonnet peppers, and check if the callaloo — spinach, kind of, but earthier — was ready to harvest.

When Ms. Lewis grabbed a machete to show one shy 14-year-old how to loosen a carrot stalk, all the boys watched. When he pulled out a thick bunch, with stalks as bright as a sugary orange soda, they all cheered. “You will not go to town and find carrots like this,” Ms. Lewis said.

She later noted that many of the children came from troubled backgrounds and struggled in class. Farming, she said, gave them a reason to come: attendance and achievement have soared since the school, Rennock Lodge All-Age School, started offering free breakfast for students, usually stews made with ingredients they grew themselves.

“You can’t think when you’re hungry,” Ms. Lewis said.

Jamaica has always farmed — sugar and bananas, mostly — and imports have been part of the mix since at least the colonial era because grains are hard to grow in the region. But the balance tipped more significantly toward foreign food in the 1990s. From 1991 to 2001, Jamaica’s total food and beverage imports increased by two-and-a-half times, to $503 million before doubling after that.

Much of the initial growth coincided with agriculture surpluses around the world and changing tastes, as more Jamaicans favored meat and processed food. Many of the country’s 200,000 farmers cut production in the ’90s and early 2000s because they found it hard to compete.

Then came the food shortages of 2008. Storms in the Caribbean and drought elsewhere drove food prices to new heights. Jamaica found that exporting countries were holding on to food for their own populations.

With concerns that climate change will make future bad years even worse, an intensified regional focus on “food security” followed. Results have varied.

Mr. Baptiste said that Antigua and Barbuda was on track to produce half its food this year, up from only 20 percent in 2009, but most of the Caribbean has seen less astounding improvement. Jamaica’s progress, even after so many years, is subtle. Its food import bill has held steady around a billion dollars a year and though some production has grown — 79 percent of the country’s potato consumption now comes from Jamaican sources — there are still challenges of taste. “We import a lot of French fries,” said the country’s agriculture minister, Roger Clarke.

The transformation that Caribbean officials seek faces other obstacles as well. Mr. Clarke said many Jamaicans who received free seeds gave up on farming once they saw an increase in their water bills, or when thieves plundered their fields or stole their chickens.

Still, officials across the region say more young people are getting involved, partly because food prices have soared, but also because governments have promised that agriculture means steady work, and not just in the fields.

The Bahamas is building a gleaming food science university to emphasize agricultural best practices.

Haiti, which experienced food riots in 2008, recently broke ground on a series of silos for a “strategic food reserve,” while Jamaica is considering investments in juicing and food preservation start-ups.

“We have idle hands and arable land,” Mr. Clarke said. “We are trying to see how we can bring those two together.”

As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth -