Issue 6: Mental Health

Overview

At some point, I felt it was important to touch on the touchy subject of mental health. The Farm Ecologist means more to me than helping folks understand better food choices and gut health, how to distinguish free-range from cage-free and organic from regenerative. It also means speaking to the underbelly of farming, the difficulties of managing, tending, healing and making a living off of land, and the internal conflicts that can both make farming difficult and make a farming lifestyle both healing and appealing in the first place. I started putting this together before George Floyd’s death and the (rightful, justified, long-due) eruption of protests and Black Lives Matter, anti-racist actions and resources, not just in the US but around the world. I have to admit I waffled for about a week — do I ditch everything I’d started on (I mean, save it for a later date) and focus entirely on race issues and the systemic injustices and setbacks that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) and LGBTQ folks face in farming and the food system? 
In lieu of devoting just one issue to providing those resources, though, I decided to focus an area of the website to sharing those resources. That page can be found here, and it will be updated and added to continuously as I learn, read, and understand more. As a White individual, this is the least that I can do and I continue to look for ways to be more engaged, active and practical in eliminating racial injustice, starting with my own actions, beliefs and perspectives. I am not berating or denigrating myself, nor looking for applause. Being raised in an inherently racist system means that I, too, am raised with, express and behave in ways that are inherently racially biased. Assuming and openly acknowledging that I, too, engage in racist behaviours as a result has been more helpful to me in unpacking and understanding racism than trying to defend myself as a non-racist White person. 

Books

I looked at my library and had to make some tough choices (focus, focus!) that spanned epigenetics, carbon farming, microbiota, Chinese medicine and mythology. I ended up with just two because I wanted to draw so many quotes from them.

From Nourishment, Fred Provenza (2019):

Nourishment was one of the first books in a long time that I bought and immediately read cover-to-cover. I’ve been following Dr. Provenza’s work in livestock nutrition and foraging for several years, as he integrates animal behaviour and ecology into the topic in ways that I feel are necessary to adequately understanding how animals in natural environments get what they need (and how we can translate that into better farm systems). His book takes that learning and puts it into a human context, asking if we, too, can use our innate physiological wisdom — based on our senses, genetics, and learning from others around us — to obtain a healthy diet, going far beyond resorting to “expert” advice and trying to stay on top of the latest nutritional research. 

If you’re thinking of picking up a copy for yourself, the only real downside to the book is that at times it reads a bit like a set of lecture or research notes turned into paragraph form; and the later chapters, expanding into the spiritual aspects of our relationships with food and the natural world, may be a little too meta for some. But I do think that this book is well worth a read for anyone wanting to better understand how we choose what we eat, why we eat what we do and how our bodies direct us to (or avert us from) various foods at different times. 

The most important subject discussed in my opinion is how an individual’s beliefs and traditions from throughout their life can affect their beliefs in natural resource management. . . . To get a person to question those things they have taken for granted all their life is an amazing thing.”

p. 314, quoting Utah State U student Christy Mack in his Managing Dynamic Ecological Systems class

“Transformation is an essential part of our experience of Earth, and the people we like the least are the ones who can help us to grow the most, spiritually. I’ve often wondered how many of the people we ‘despise’ come into our lives to teach us to love.— p. 315, in speaking to the role that a multi-year depressive episode played in transforming his life’s perspective, research and teaching methodology.

Provenza talks about how he came to study and then incorporate teachings from the primal religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism) and their relationships, then delve deeper into physics and connections between mystical traditions and this apparently hard-nosed branch of science. He continues later,

“[I] came to view the subject matter [of university courses] as a vehicle to relate the details of the material to life in the broadest sense – from personal relationships to the dynamism and uncertainty, wonders and mysteries of our moment on Earth. Teaching for me became both affective (in the spirit of love) and reflective (intellectual)” (p. 312). 

This very much reflects both the dissonance that I felt while studying ecology and its foundational subjects (biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics) in the university system, and the connections that I made to mythologies and ancient traditions outside of my studies. This dissonance has been a significant contributor to my own struggles to integrate different aspects of my life between academia, e.g. theoretical research, and physical practice, e.g. farming, leading at times to depression and anxiety, at others to great inspiration, with the gap between the two being its own source of malcontent. This is one issue I hope to continue to address over time, exploring the interconnected roles of our food systems, agricultural and related practices, and physical skills in mediating both physical and mental health and wellness.  

A final insight from Fred, in response to a later diagnose of colon cancer (which he, fortunately, survived). I feel this is reflected in both the stress and despair and the great hope of the pandemic and quarantine:

“As the reality of cancer sank into my being, I felt a sense of relief. I’d have to stop working nonstop; no way could I keep going at this pace without a change of perspective and behavior. It was an amazing time – so many different feelings, but no dread at all, just excitement and a sense that this was omething that needed to happen to me. The experience was surreal. The proximity of death magnified and intensified the experience of life. In retrospect, cancer changed how I experienced life and prepared me for the upcoming decade of my life.” (p 316)

From My Name is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, (1994) by Chellis Glendinning:

This was one of my favourite books from my late adolescence, gifted to me by a dear friend, organic gardener, homesteader and former Mennonite, Arlene Macdonald of Dunster, BC. This book had a profound impact on me as a young person in my view of the world and of the nature of trauma recovery and personal healing in relationship to the nature world and native cultures. In many ways I suspect my own experience may have been similar to others’ experience with the writings of Joseph Campbell (who I was introduced to much later in life). 

“In nature-based cultures, nearly everyone is an expert, or at least competent, in nearly every activity the people engage in. By contrast, few of us are competent, much less expert, at more than a few minor activities that contribute to the functioning of our society.” — p. 38

She quotes Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal, on the dogged persistence of Western linear thinking: “It is imperative that people understand the separate reality of Native peoples and the rest of society.” The thesis of her book, then, is centered on this separation between nature-based cultures in one category of human experience, and all others, from early agriculture to modern technology, in another. Speaking to the prevalence and pathology of codependence theory in psychology, Glendinning offers insights from the perspective of nature-based cultures:

“The emphasis in codependence therapy is rightly place don today’s epidemic of confusion concerning intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, but the problem is treated by encouraging the development of boundaries that encase the individual and thus defend him from connectedness. Rather than projecting hard demarcations and enclosures onto the natural world, nature-based people define social space by centers that they move through, depart from, revolve around, and return to – sacred sites, water holes, pathways, mountains, caves, gathering places. The nature-based psyche is likewise organized around a sense of centeredness, with the quality and size of each person’s field of existence expanding , intensifying, waning, retracting and overlapping according to situation and need. . . . From this perspective, relating to others presents an entirely different prospect. The task is not defined by boundary, knowing ‘where I end and the other begins.’ It is defined by center, knowing where I begin. The essential ingredient is not a fence or a wall; it is a constellation of energy emanating from one’s being, infusing one’s consciousness, ever changing and fluid.”— p. 28

“… [W]e each have the power to heal our personal wounds, to band together with our neighbors to protest a specific technological or political encroachment, to attempt to build a human-scale community. What we are powerless over is the dysfunctional process that is so tightly clamped over our every personal and political choice.”— p. 129

“In the nature-based world, the Earth is the source of all sustenance, the beginning and end of all life, the whole of which we are a part. The experience of living in a world dreamt by a sleeping lizard offers an undying sense of ease and connectedness. In such a world there is no need for soul-wrenching or existential torment, no urge to construct random meaning to the midst of a ‘senseless’ universe, no isolation or lack of place.” — p. 141

As I continued to glean pieces of wisdom from this wonderful book — mostly, thumbing through and finding highlights I’d made over 20 years ago that still resonate today, perhaps now more than ever — I find reflected in her writing so much of what the permaculture, agroecological, and regenerative movements are seeking to build: transformation of a profoundly unjust, technologically addicted society and global machine into a biologically centered one that replenishes rather than feeds upon itself.

Another book that travels alongside Glendinning’s book is Jerry Mander’s In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations (1991). What I find most remarkable about both these books is that I read them over 20 years ago and both are as relevant today as they were then. 

In The Public Space

Low-cost, online counselling is available through BetterHelp.com. I have used their services in the past and while it didn’t take the place of a trained, in-person counsellor or therapist, it was very helpful in bridging the gap when I was waiting several weeks for a scheduled appointment. After filling out a profile, you are assigned a therapist, but can change therapists at any time if you feel the person you ‘get’ isn’t the right fit. 

I have enrolled in several clinical-level mini courses online through the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).  For relatively low cost (usually $100-200) they provide extensive, lifetime-access courses in video, audio, and written (transcript) format, with concise videos that make learning the material accessible in short bursts. While geared towards clinical practice, i.e. those working as therapists or coaches with clients, I have found the material to be very useful just for personal use. They also provide course credits for professional development if you are practicing in this field. Hint: if you’re not in a great rush, or just want to check out a course without dropping a lot of cash, sign up to their email updates — they regularly offer courses at 50% off ($97) for a short period of time before increasing the price to $197.

From the Scientific Literature Database

Note that I haven’t yet discovered the easy way to maintain the links to the original journal, so links still route to a lame page that says this citation was created in Google Docs using Zotero.

In part to solve this problem, I’m building my own database of regenerative agriculture literature to house papers from regen ag, agroecology, permaculture, diversified farming, and related fields. See www.regenagscience.org for the latest updates to that project.

I discovered a field called neuroecology while I was thinking about how to think about the intersection of neuroscience and our relationships with and in nature, whether constructed ecological spaces, e.g. farms, or more conventionally “pristine” ones, e.g. “wilderness”. I sort of mean deep ecology or ecopsychology, but am more interested in the neurobiological than the psychological aspects; and also, studies in non-human species. Neuroecology, defined as “the study of adaptation variation of cognition and the brain,” doesn’t capture it either, but it’s a start. (For longer and more nuanced definitions, see here (David Sherry’s abstract on ResearchGate) and here, a popular article on ScienceDaily). And it did lead me to some interesting papers, so I thought I’d share two of them here:

Riffell, J. A. (2011). The Neuroecology of a Pollinator’s Buffet: Olfactory Preferences and Learning in Insect Pollinators. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 51(5), 781–793. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icr094

Sherry, D. F. (2006). Neuroecology. Annual Review of Psychology, 57(1), 167–197. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070324

A lot of the papers in my database are related to gut microbiota and health, particularly mental health:

Bourassa, M. W., Alim, I., Bultman, S. J., & Ratan, R. R. (2016). Butyrate, neuroepigenetics and the gut microbiome: Can a high fiber diet improve brain health? Neuroscience Letters, 625, 56–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2016.02.009

Bowe, W. P., & Logan, A. C. (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis—Back to the future? Gut Pathogens, 3(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-4749-3-1

Bruce-Keller, A. J., Salbaum, J. M., & Berthoud, H.-R. (2018). Harnessing Gut Microbes for Mental Health: Getting From Here to There. Biological Psychiatry, 83(3), 214–223. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.08.014

Galland, L. (2014). The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. Journal of Medicinal Food, 17(12), 1261–1272. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2014.7000

Jašarević, E., Morrison, K. E., & Bale, T. L. (2016). Sex differences in the gut microbiome–brain axis across the lifespan. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1688), 20150122. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0122

Rao, S. S. C., Rehman, A., Yu, S., & Andino, N. M. de. (2018). Brain fogginess, gas and bloating: A link between SIBO, probiotics and metabolic acidosis. Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, 9(6), 162. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41424-018-0030-7

Ridaura, V., & Belkaid, Y. (2015). Gut Microbiota: The Link to Your Second Brain. Cell, 161(2), 193–194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2015.03.033

Sandhu, K. V., Sherwin, E., Schellekens, H., Stanton, C., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2017). Feeding the microbiota-gut-brain axis: Diet, microbiome, and neuropsychiatry. Translational Research, 179, 223–244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2016.10.002

Sherwin, E., Bordenstein, S. R., Quinn, J. L., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2019). Microbiota and the social brain. Science, 366(6465). https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar2016

Sudo, N. (2016). The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and Gut Microbiota. In The Gut-Brain Axis (pp. 293–304). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-802304-4.00013-X

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that makes up cellular membranes and supports nerve transmission of messages. Essential for brain development in utero and early childhood, it has also been linked to improved cardiovascular health and vision, and reduced inflammatory response. 

While our bodies produce it in small quantities, dietary sources are also required to obtain DHA in sufficient quantities. Best sources include cold-water fish, grass-fed meat, dairy, and pasture-raised eggs. It is also available in supplements, e.g. fish oil.

Bradbury, J. (2011). Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): An Ancient Nutrient for the Modern Human Brain. Nutrients, 3(5), 529–554. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu3050529

I remember a comic once while completing my Masters that showed the various trajectories of folks in academia, starting from undergraduate through to tenure-track faculty. A major track for “off-loading” from graduate studies was into organic farming! Sadly, this epidemic of poor mental health is visible not just in graduate studies but throughout our educational system. 

Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. B., Weiss, L. T., & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36(3), 282–284. https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.4089

However, it’s not just in academia, and escaping to organic farming doesn’t solve the problem:

Hagen, B. N. M., Albright, A., Sargeant, J., Winder, C. B., Harper, S. L., O’Sullivan, T. L., & Jones-Bitton, A. (2019). Research trends in farmers’ mental health: A scoping review of mental health outcomes and interventions among farming populations worldwide. PLoS ONE, 14(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0225661

Some papers on clinical interventions and brain health or amelioration of depressive symptoms:

Lewis, J. E., Tiozzo, E., Melillo, A. B., Leonard, S., Chen, L., Mendez, A., Woolger, J. M., & Konefal, J. (2013). The effect of methylated vitamin B complex on depressive and anxiety symptoms and quality of life in adults with depression. ISRN Psychiatry, 2013, 621453. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/621453

Piscopo, D. M., Weible, A. P., Rothbart, M. K., Posner, M. I., & Niell, C. M. (2018). Changes in white matter in mice resulting from low-frequency brain stimulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(27), E6339–E6346. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1802160115

 

Podcasts

Books

Closing Remarks

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Issue 5: Trees

 

Quotes

“If you look at roadside embankments, you might be able to see how trees connect with each other through their root systems. … Once connected, they have no choice but to exchange nutrients. They create what looks like a social network. … The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. … But together, many trees create an ecosystem … and in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.” 

— Peter Wohlleben (2015), The Hidden Life of Trees; excerpt from article on Downington, PA food forest (see link In The Public Space)

“The need to graze near most trees and shrubs also plays in the layout considerations hugely. If I could redo [Whole Systems Research Farm], I would vastly simplify the planting patterns and try wherever possible to lay out everything on contour in hedges. Even larger trees like apples and mulberries could work well in a hedge, I think. . . . In permaculture we seek the complex route – yet the most complex systems become almost unmanageable. On some fronts, and theoretically, unmanageability might be the desired state: the archetypal food forest, maintaining itself — all we need to do once it’s established is walk through and forage. I fell in love with this idea, and it got me into permaculture . . . But the fact is, I have yet to see a system even remotely close to this idea on a larger scale than the small backyard of maybe a quarter acre. … I happen to live on ten acres and need to figure out how to manage those ten acres with a high degree of restoration, productivity and resiliency.”

“Time and time again I’ve seen far more food per area come out of a well-managed thousand-square-foot garden than a poorly run fifty-thousand-square-foot [roughly 1 acre] farm.”

“A nut tree is simply more effective and efficient at converting sunlight and precipitation into value, over the long term, than any other technology humans have yet designed.” 

— Ben Falk, The Resilient Farm and Homestead

“Multi-strata agroforests are forest-like systems that feature multiple layers of trees, often with the incorporation of herbaceous perennials, annual crops and livestock. . . . The tropical homegarden, an ancient multistrata agroforest system, dates back more than 13,000 years in Southeast Asia. . . At present such systems are rare in temperate climates. Given the very high carbon and other benefits, development of such systems should be a priority.”

— p. 100, Eric Toensmeier, The Carbon Farming Solution

Terms

Agroforestry practices that intentionally retain or plant trees on land used for crop production or grazing (Wiersum 1981, Nair 1983 in Gliessman Agroecology text)

Agrosilviculture trees combined with crops, e.g. alley cropping

Silvopasture trees combined with animal production, e.g. grazing ruminants, pastured poultry or pigs. May involve animals grazing beneath tree crops or plantation forestry trees; in existing woodlands and savannahs; or allowing spontaneous regrowth of woody plants (Toensmeier, p. 92, The Carbon Farming Solution). In fodder tree silvopasture the trees produce animal feed directly, e.g. nuts, fruits, acorns, woody pods, or leaves. The high tannin content from leguminous trees and shrubs reduces methane production from ruminant digestion [ref 22, p. 92, Toensmeier]. Two of the most common examples are Portuguese Spanish montado or dehesa systems, in which pigs, sheep and cattle graze under high-yielding acorn oaks (Quercus ilex) interplanted with cork oaks (Q. suber) and other crop trees.

Agrosilvopastoral a complex mixture of trees, animals and crops

Eric Toensmeier’s overview of tree-based systems in The Carbon Farming Solution include:

    • Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration developed by Tony Rinaudo in Africa; consists of permitting stumps and roots in farm fields to grow rather than continually suppressing them through tillage
    • Contour Hedgerows and Terrace Edges using woody shrubs and perennials on contour to build and maintain terraces on sloped land, with annual crops grown on terraces
    • Living Fences and Hedgerows replacing post-and-wire or other types of manufactured fencing with live trees and shrubs to act as fences; requires dense plantings, often coppicing or hedgelaying skills (interweaving growing branches), and often utilizes species with heavy thorns or dense, stiff vegetation
    • Successional (annuals and short-lived perennials cultivated under new tree plantings) and Irregular Intercropping (trees scattered throughout cropland)
    • Swidden landscapes managed as a mosaic of successional stages, beginning with cleared forest
    • Fodder Tree Silvopasture, including Insect Fodder Systems
    • Intensive Silvopasture extremely dense plantings of fodder trees, e.g. in Australia, Leucaena is commonly planted at 8-10k per hectare, that are then grazed to the ground by livestock and allowed to resprout through managed grazing rotations
    • Fodder Banks and Pollarded (or Coppiced) Species livestock are confined, and fodder is harvested and brought to them; widely practiced on smallholder farms where grazing management is impractical
    • Outdoor Barns and Living Corrals livestock enclosures made of living woody plants; living barns are “essentially windbreaks with small patches of forest to provide shelter” [ref 113]; green corrals are hedgerows or living fences of livestock-proof woody plants that are spiny, poisonous, dense and/or unpalatable
    • Perennial Feed and Fodder for Storage hay from well-managed hay fields, tree hays (dried and stored tree foliage), perennial staple crops, e.g. leguminous pods; fermented silages from perennial fodders.

Design Essentials

I use the Regrarians platform and the 10-layer Scale of Permanence when conducting a site assessment. For the Forestry design layer, we gather information on both existing and planned resources, including:

      • Forest Types, e.g. existing native forest or historic forest patterns
      • Integration Potential, i.e. capacity for native forest to be integrated into production systems (or vice versa)
      • Orchards & Tree Crops, e.g. fruits, nuts, forage, fuel, fungi
      • Production Forestry, e.g. timber primarily
      • Shelterbelts and Windbreaks (note both potential and existing)
      • Wildlife (species, prevalence, patterns of movement and biology)
      • Livestock (species, requirements, contributions, integration potentials)
      • Problem Species/Issues, e.g. invasives, old plantations or same-aged monoculture stands, diseases

Scientific Literature

(Use for citation only, and pulling the DOI: the links, since they were created in Google Docs, are all broken. I’ll be working on fixing this for this and past issues!). 

Albrecht, A., & Kandji, S. T. (2003). Carbon sequestration in tropical agroforestry systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 99(1–3), 15–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-8809(03)00138-5

Calfapietra, C., Gielen, B., Karnosky, D., Ceulemans, R., & Scarascia Mugnozza, G. (2010). Response and potential of agroforestry crops under global change. Environmental Pollution, 158(4), 1095–1104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2009.09.008

Elevitch, C. R., Mazaroli, D. N., & Ragone, D. (2018). Agroforestry Standards for Regenerative Agriculture. Sustainability, 10(9), 3337. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093337

Jose, S., & Dollinger, J. (2019). Silvopasture: A sustainable livestock production system. Agroforestry Systems, 93(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-019-00366-8

LaMontagne, J. M., Pearse, I. S., Greene, D. F., & Koenig, W. D. (2020). Mast seeding patterns are asynchronous at a continental scale. Nature Plants, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-0647-x

Maezumi, S. Y., Alves, D., Robinson, M., Souza, J. G. de, Levis, C., Barnett, R. L., Oliveira, E. A. de, Urrego, D., Schaan, D., & Iriarte, J. (2018). The legacy of 4,500 years of polyculture agroforestry in the eastern Amazon. Nature Plants, 4(8), 540–547. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-018-0205-y

Singh, A. K., Kumar, P., Singh, R., & Rathore, N. (n.d.). DYNAMICS OF TREE-CROP INTERFACE IN RELATION TO THEIR INFLUENCE ON MICROCLIMATIC CHANGES—A REVIEW. 6.

Soto-Pinto, L., Anzueto, M., Mendoza, J., Ferrer, G. J., & de Jong, B. (2010). Carbon sequestration through agroforestry in indigenous communities of Chiapas, Mexico. Agroforestry Systems, 78(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-009-9247-5

Sow, A., Seye, D., Faye, E., Benoit, L., Galan, M., Haran, J., & Brévault, T. (2020). Birds and bats contribute to natural regulation of the millet head miner in tree-crop agroforestry systems. Crop Protection, 132, 105127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2020.105127

Teague, W. R., Apfelbaum, S., Lal, R., Kreuter, U. P., Rowntree, J., Davies, C. A., Conser, R., Rasmussen, M., Hatfield, J., Wang, T., Wang, F., & Byck, P. (2016). The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 71(2), 156–164. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.71.2.156

Toensmeier, E. (2017). Perennial Staple Crops and Agroforestry for Climate Change Mitigation. In F. Montagnini (Ed.), Integrating Landscapes: Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation and Food Sovereignty (pp. 439–451). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69371-2_18

In The Public Space

      • Eliza Greenman’s new venture HogTree, developing temperate climate, 7-month agroforestry production for the purposes of raising livestock entirely on fruit and nuts. See also her personal site and writings at www.elizapples.com.
      • North America’s oldest food forest, Shelterwood Food Forest, is in Philadelphia, PA, and is a founding site for J. Russell Smith’s work in nut-bearing trees (see Books, below). 
      • The Overstory. To quote their introduction: “[A] free email agroforestry journal for practitioners, extension agents, researchers, professionals, students, and enthusiasts. One edition is sent each month focusing on a concept related to designing, developing, and learning more about trees and agroforestry systems. Focuses on trees and their roles in agriculture, natural ecosystems, human culture and economy.” 
      • Mark Shepard’s New Forest Farm, 106 broadacre perennial agriculture savannah, is an inspiring visual example of a polyculture homestead that produces at farm scale for some things through a long-running organic co-op. See this article in Permaculture Apprentice and his book Restoration Agriculture.
        • Note: If your interested is piqued by his new book, Water for Any Farm, or more generally in learning keyline design in application to agroforestry and broadacre design in general, I recommend looking instead to Water for Every Farm (the original text) by Ken Yeoman or better yet — investing in Darren Doherty’s comprehensive field guide to land design, The Regrarians Handbook (see Chapters 2, Geography, and 3, Water, especially. Darren has worked extensively with the Yeomans family to fully understand and accurately apply keyline design principles and practicalities on literally thousands of landscapes. There is plenty of discussion on Shepard’s modifications of keyline design, and so while I think his systems are interesting and potentially yield much information from his experience, I look to and recommend the Regrarians platform and Yeomans for design education. 
      • Ben Falk’s Vermont homestead and design company, Whole Systems Research Farm and his book The Resilient Farm and Homestead are excellent resources for learning. I have heard mixed reviews of his PDC.
      • Badgersett Research Farm  in Minnesota conducts leading-edge research on the development of woody agriculture based on a variety of nut crops and grazing of coppiced tree plantings
      • The Permaculture Research Institute has a number of good articles on tree crops, starting with this general overview and related topics including propagation, particular species of special interest (e.g. moringa), and more.

Podcasts

      • The Agroforestry Podcast from The Center for Agroforestry at U Missouri. Note that U Missouri has an online graduate (MSc) program in agroforestry. 
      • Steve Gabriel on the Permaculture Podcast (episode 1322) and Urban Farm podcast (episode 370, 2018). Steve is an instructor at Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, co-owns Wellspring Forest Farm and School, and is an extension office aide at Cornell University where he conducts research with Dr. Ken Mudge. He is also an author and co-author; see links below. There are lots of good additional resources in the notes section for both of these episodes, too.

Books

Closing Remarks

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap.

If you’d like to support it further…

      • forward it to someone you think would like it, 
      • become a supporter through Patreon
      • or just shoot me an email and tell me what you liked, what you hated (it’s okay, I can take it! really) or what you’d like to see more of.

If you’re interested in how we can work together…

    • Regenerative farm and permaculture designers As a technical editor with both an academic background and training in planning and design, I focus on design collaborations, building client report templates, and editing reports to go from “good enough” to “highly professional”. My unsexy superpower is making PDFs look amazing and professional from pretty much any platform, including Google Docs, LaTeX, Scrivener, Open/Libre Office, MS Word and Nisus. 
    • Book me on your podcast. I am really keen right now to have in-depth conversations about movement, ecology, and landscapes; farming generally, and the frustrations and opportunities of suburban farming specifically, among a number of things that have changed my life. I’ll help promote your work, and I can guarantee we’ll have an interesting conversation to share with your audience.
    • Something else on your mind that you want to discuss? Send me email at connect@thefarmecologist.com.

If you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time, you can subscribe here. (Hint: nod to Austin Kleon of books like Steal Like An Artist for significant inspiration around how to juggle a newsletter, a toddler, and a lot of information).

Every week I send out a list of things I think are worth sharing around a central idea related to food, nature, and health. That’s podcasts, ideas, scientific articles and interesting links straight to your inbox. 

It’s free. No spam. Unsubscribe whenever you want. 

Patreon

Issue 4: Grains

 

“To go against the grain is the secret of bravery.” 

Dejan Stojanovic

This week was all about grains. Sort of. It was about a lot of things, actually. 

To be fair… it was like the last few weeks were all about grains, because I know I’m running late again. I actually started out thinking a lot more about trees, because it’s loquat season here; but I’d also written down “Grains” on my topic scheduler, and I’m practicing sticking to it. So here we are. 

And. We had a death in the family. Laine fasted for 21 days after expecting to be only 3 days. A week tops. 

We’re deep into exploring out relationship with grains right now as he’s long felt that they don’t work well with his system, and I’m happy to ditch the carb-load sluggishness they induce. [ETA: he just showed up at my desk with his Here, try this face and handed me the most delicious, chewy, crispy-soft tortilla I’ve ever tasted. And it’s grain-, dairy-, sugar- and nut-free. The secret ingredient? Opuntia cactus. The man is a wizard. More on that tortilla to come, but it does look like we’ll be having muscovy duck tacos this weekend for Mother’s Day brunch.]

Anyway, to get to a point, grains are staples around the world. They’re major storage crops and elemental to our food system and culture. They’ve become a major component of how we raise livestock (much to our, and their, detriment). So while there are a number of half-decent to maybe-even-good grain alternatives (cassava/tapioca, potato, taro, coconut, nut flours), there doesn’t seem to be an End of Grains in our future any time soon.

Let us commence.

Booky Stuff

Quotes

Pretty much all of Harold McGree’s On Food and Cooking’s commentary on grains is worth quoting. He does a very thorough breakdown of the history and rise of the American breakfast cereal. Suffice to say: stay away if you value your health. I just didn’t get to reading as much of it as I wanted to, so here’s yet another book to go back to and read in entirety in my spare time. Highly recommended, though. 

“. . . By this time, you can appreciate why I so enjoy the cereal aisle. I like reading the health claims on the processed cereals and wondering what marketers will dream up next. The packages are, in their weird way, fun to look at. They represent the best thinking of marketers about how to get you to eat processed cereals, to believe that they are good for you, and to insist that nothing else will do for breakfast.”

— Marion Nestle, p. 349, What to Eat

“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.

–Wendell Berry*

Note that this is gradually changing. If you want to learn more, check out this Understanding Ag webinar coming up on May 12th with nutritionist Sara Keough.

“Not long after roller mills became widespread in the 1880’s, alarming rates of nutritional deficiency and chronic disease began cropping up in populations that relied on the new white flour. Around the turn of the century, a group of French and British doctors and medical experts… many of them posted to Britain’s colonies in Asia and Africa, had observed that, soon after white flour and sugar arrived in places where previously what one of them (Robert McCarrison) called ‘the unsophisticated foods of nature’ had been the norm, the Western diseases would predictably appear.

Michael Pollan, Cooked (quoted here)

Fred Provenza’s Nourishment is a treasure trove of detailed research into the ability of animals, and ourselves, to discern the nutrition we need based on our ability to sense and process information from the food we eat. In particular, this means being able to physically interpret the array of phytochemicals that we ingest. One problem, however, is that the richness, diversity and quantity of these compounds, as well as the varieties and even species of foods we eat, has declined significantly over the last fifty years. Some key points he makes:

    • A major reason for declines in phytochemical richness has been breeders favouring quantity over quality, inadvertently selecting for fewer compounds, and lower nutritional value and flavour. While this seems it would be true only for plants, it applies to meats, dairy and eggs as well since the diversity and quality of plants ingested by an animal directly impact the quality and flavour of these products. 
    • Irrigating and fertilizing increase growth at expense of phytochemical richness. These are primary practices of industrial global agriculture (organic included). 
    • As atmospheric CO2 increases, nitrogen (protein) concentration declines, as has been shown for a wide range of plant species; lower levels of protein observed in leaves, stems, roots, tubers, seeds and grains and correlate worldwide with reduced human nutrition
    • Higher CO2 is also associated with decreased zinc and iron in grasses and legumes

“. . . [H]igh yields came at the expense of phytochemical richness, which has declined 5 to 40 percent in forty-three fruits, vegetables and grains in the past forty years.”

–p. 31, Fred Provenza, Nourishment

He also spends a great deal of ink and page space breaking down the pitfalls of grain-feeding ruminants in particular and livestock in general. Points highlighted from areas of the book that refer to grains (indicated in the index):

      • Grain feeding selects for gut bacteria that digest starch, while grass- and forage-feeding selects for bacteria that degrade cellulose; and diets rich in secondary compounds (e.g. from a variety of actively growing forages) select for microbes that can digest compounds in many potentially toxic plants, thereby allowing herbivores to safely digest them, e.g. halogeton [ More Than a Matter of Taste, Nourishment, 62]
      • Positive feedback loops mean that gut bacteria may ultimately drive food preferences based on what an individual consumes, through a mix of hormones, neurotransmitters and peptides.
      • Due to their high and rapidly fermentable carbohydrate content, grains lead to acidosis (low rumen pH) in ruminants – that is, nausea and food aversion. When they have no option, eating bentonite and sodium bicarbonate alleviate symptoms; but given alternatives, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle) consistently have been shown in studies to choose a diet with less grain. In fact, when given choices of multiple forages, even just additional hay and grain options, animals will consume less overall feed and convert that feed more efficiently to “more animal” than those on manufactured rations that are nutritionally balanced for the “average” animal. In some cases this resulted in a feed cost reduction of as much as 23%!

From the Scientific Literature Database

Perennial crops, practicalities and ecosystem benefits:

Basche, A. D., & Edelson, O. F. (2017). Improving water resilience with more perennially based agriculture. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 41(7), 799–824. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2017.1330795

Cox, T. S., Tassel, D. L. V., Cox, C. M., & DeHaan, L. R. (2010). Progress in breeding perennial grains. Crop and Pasture Science, 61(7), 513–521. https://doi.org/10.1071/CP09201

Glover, Jerry D., Culman, S. W., DuPont, S. T., Broussard, W., Young, L., Mangan, M. E., Mai, J. G., Crews, T. E., DeHaan, L. R., & Buckley, D. H. (2010). Harvested perennial grasslands provide ecological benchmarks for agricultural sustainability. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 137(1–2), 3–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2009.11.001

Picasso Risso, V. D. (2008). Diversity, productivity, and stability in perennial polycultures used for grain, forage, and biomass production (p. 7051166) [Doctor of Philosophy, Iowa State University, Digital Repository]. https://doi.org/10.31274/rtd-180813-7199

Pimentel, D., Cerasale, D., Stanley, R. C., Perlman, R., Newman, E. M., Brent, L. C., Mullan, A., & Chang, D. T.-I. (2012). Annual vs. Perennial grain production. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 161, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2012.05.025

Ryan, M. R., Crews, T. E., Culman, S. W., DeHaan, L. R., Hayes, R. C., Jungers, J. M., & Bakker, M. G. (2018). Managing for Multifunctionality in Perennial Grain Crops. BioScience, 68(4), 294–304. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy014

And highlighting the role of perennial grains in providing global food security:

Glover, J. D., Reganold, J. P., Bell, L. W., Borevitz, J., Brummer, E. C., Buckler, E. S., Cox, C. M., Cox, T. S., Crews, T. E., Culman, S. W., DeHaan, L. R., Eriksson, D., Gill, B. S., Holland, J., Hu, F., Hulke, B. S., Ibrahim, A. M. H., Jackson, W., Jones, S. S., … Xu, Y. (2010). Increased Food and Ecosystem Security via Perennial Grains. Science, 328(5986), 1638–1639. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1188761

Peter, B. G., Mungai, L. M., Messina, J. P., & Snapp, S. S. (2017). Nature-based agricultural solutions: Scaling perennial grains across Africa. Environmental Research, 159, 283–290. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.08.011

Cover crops (including, often primarily, annuals) and ecosystem benefits:

Blanco-Canqui, H., Shaver, T. M., Lindquist, J. L., Shapiro, C. A., Elmore, R. W., Francis, C. A., & Hergert, G. W. (2015). Cover Crops and Ecosystem Services: Insights from Studies in Temperate Soils. Agronomy Journal, 107(6), 2449. https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj15.0086

Cordeau, S., Guillemin, J.-P., Reibel, C., & Chauvel, B. (2015). Weed species differ in their ability to emerge in no-till systems that include cover crops. Annals of Applied Biology, 166(3), 444–455. https://doi.org/10.1111/aab.12195

Dorn, B., Jossi, W., & van der Heijden, M. G. A. (2015). Weed suppression by cover crops: Comparative on-farm experiments under integrated and organic conservation tillage. Weed Research, 55(6), 586–597. https://doi.org/10.1111/wre.12175

Kaye, J. P., & Quemada, M. (2017). Using cover crops to mitigate and adapt to climate change. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 37(1). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-016-0410-x

Ramírez-García, J., Carrillo, J. M., Ruiz, M., Alonso-Ayuso, M., & Quemada, M. (2015). Multicriteria decision analysis applied to cover crop species and cultivars selection. Field Crops Research, 175, 106–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2015.02.008

Rühlemann, L., & Schmidtke, K. (2015). Evaluation of monocropped and intercropped grain legumes for cover cropping in no-tillage and reduced tillage organic agriculture. European Journal of Agronomy, 65, 83–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eja.2015.01.006

 

Vukicevich, E., Lowery, T., Bowen, P., Úrbez-Torres, J. R., & Hart, M. (2016). Cover crops to increase soil microbial diversity and mitigate decline in perennial agriculture. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 36(3), 48. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-016-0385-7

In The Public Space

Heirloom Organics provides individual guides on growing amaranth, buckwheat, corn, flax, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, spelt, and wheat.

Other more general overview articles on growing grains at small (homestead) scales:

    • A detailed article on Mother Earth News
    • Another at Modern Farmer; less useful but step-by-step instructions for small-scale harvest and cleaning
    • Farm and Dairy How To Grow Grains In The Home Garden
    • Organic Consumers Home Grown Grains is a decent enough article but what I found really enjoyable was the excerpt from Gene Logsdon’s book Small Scale Grain Raising 
    • A rather wordy blog post on Permaculture News by Jonathan Engels on his foray in growing grains for his family, including reasons for putting it off and why he finally started

The Land Institute, founded by Wes Jackson, has become and now long been the leader in development of perennial grain crops, including kernza, a perennial wheat (and finally, commercially available). More recently (2018), a perennialised rice (developed through a wide hybrid cross between an annual, cultivated rice, Oryza sativa, and a perennial cousin of rice from Africa, Oryza longistaminata) was released to farmers in China. See more at Daniel Lukes’ series of articles on FoodResilience.uk

The folks that make up Understanding Ag put out a great e-newsletter and often host very knowledgeable speakers at low cost (usually $25) on their webinars. Next up, in fact, is eco-nutritionist Sara Keough MS, CNS, LDN and webinar titled Regenerating Human Health: Why Nutrient Density Matters. She’ll speak on the importance of nutrient density and the roles of health practitioners, consumers, and farmers in prioritizing food quality over quantity. Check out their webinar listings here.

Your Requests

No particular requests related to grains; although I would like to come back to this section to add pieces on water use and regeneratively-grown grain options. Kernza is now commercially available in limited quantities. With global wheat markets facing a looming crisis, it’s a good time to start considering “alternative” and heirloom grains including kamut, teff, spelt, triticale, and others. 

Podcasts

Books

Closing Remarks

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap.

If you’d like to support it (and me)…

    • forward it to someone you think would like it, 
    • become a supporter through Patreon
    • or just shoot me an email and tell me what you liked, what you hated (it’s okay, I can take it! really) or what you’d like to see more of.

If you’re interested in how we can work together…

  • Regenerative farm and permaculture designers As a technical editor with both an academic background and training in planning and design, I am an active contributor on design collaborations, building client report templates, and editing reports to go from “good enough” to “highly professional”. My unsexy superpower is making PDFs look amazing and professional from pretty much any platform, including Google Docs, LaTeX, Scrivener, Open/Libre Office, MS Word and Nisus. 
  • Do you have a podcast and are looking for guests? I am really keen right now to have in-depth conversations about movement, ecology, and landscapes; and specifically the role of agroecology and related disciplines (permaculture, regenerative agriculture, diversified farming, etc.) in mitigating global infectious disease risks. I’ll help promote your work, and I can guarantee we’ll have an interesting conversation to share with your audience.
  • Something else on your mind that you want to discuss? Send me email at connect@thefarmecologist.com.

If you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time, you can subscribe here. (Hint: nod to Austin Kleon of books like Steal Like An Artist for significant inspiration around how to juggle a newsletter, a toddler, and a lot of information).

Every week I send out a list of things I think are worth sharing around a central idea related to food, health and agroecology. That’s podcasts, ideas, scientific articles and interesting links straight to your inbox. 

It’s free. No spam. Unsubscribe whenever you want.

Issue 3: Water

 

What hydrates you?

What are you creating to capture and store the water of your life?” 

— Warren Brush, founder of Quail Springs Permaculture Farm

Welcome back, folks.

This was an interesting time to cover Water for a couple of reasons. First, when I chose the topic, I didn’t know that Laine would be embarking on a multi-week water fast, which made talking about food just seem sort of sacrilegious. And, I hadn’t checked the weather forecast — but we’ve had a wonderful spring flush of water from the sky over the last two weeks, coming in a few big bursts and then a protracted period of cool, drizzly days. These all helped make up for the very, very dry January and February we had. 

So it’s been good gardening times, albeit great weather for slugs; and a nice time to be talking and thinking about water.

From Marion Nestle’s What To Eat

I found WTE rather basic in the Water department — there’s just one chapter, and she largely focuses on the relationships between tap and bottled water; and on tap water safety, including coliforms, heavy metals, and pharmaceuticals. Our neighbour, who has a PhD in analytical chemistry and works for a very large biotech firm, confirms Nestle’s assertions with his statement that, “If you want me to find something in our tap water, you name it and I can find it.”

Antidepressants, heart medications, birth control, pesticides, cleaning and industrial solutions, metals… it’s all rather depressing. On the plus side, she busts the myths that 1) we need to drink a lot of water (e.g. 8 – 8 oz glasses per day), or constantly, to stay hydrated, and 2) that thirst is a poor indicator (or a belated one) at indicating hydration. In general, most people do need to consume about 2 quarts (32 ounces) or litres per day to replace fluids lost through sweating, breathing and urinating. But her advice is very straightforward: drink when you’re thirsty, and/or when your urine is dark yellow and strong-smelling; and feel free to get water from sources including tea, juice, and even coffee. The only time to really push yourself to drink is in the heat, during and/or after strenuous exercise, or at high altitudes; and for children and the elderly, who don’t regulate hydration well. 

Quotes from WTE

The idea that you need to drink bottled water rather than tap water comes more from smart marketing than from science or public health. And so does the idea that you need to drink water all day long.”

–p. 401

“Chlorine itself is benign but it reacts with other chemicals in water to form ‘disinfection by-products’ such as chlorinated trihalomethanes. … these are anything but benign. At high concentrations, they cause cancers of the bladder and other organs. They also interfere with reproduction, alter menstrual cycles, reduce the quality of sperm, and cause fetal losses. . . . Researchers who study the effects of disinfection by-products actively debate whether the low levels typically found in tap water cause harm and, if so, to what extent. . . . But there is no debate about whether tap water contains undesirable chemicals. It does. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey found antibiotics, hormones, plasticizers, insecticides, and fire retardants in 80 percent of the streams it tested, one-third of them containing ten or more of such chemicals. … The EPA has identified a thousand or so chemicals in tap water, and sets allowable limits for about eighty of the worst of them.

— p. 404

A book that I pulled off the shelf and found both exceptionally informative and rather depressing was Paul Roberts’ The End of Food (2008). A few key points from the protracted reading I did on issues related to water:

    • Regardless of how we try to farm, many signs indicate it is unlikely that we will have sufficient water supplies to provide for the projected (2050) population of 9 billion. Turning briefly to his Chapter 10 on smaller-scale, ‘polyculture’ and ‘diversified’ farming systems, he does seem to really have a thorough grasp (with some new-to-me examples) of the potential role of practices of agroecology, dry farming, and so on. The depth of his research (and extensive citations, from ~50-100 for each chapter, mostly from peer-reviewed sources) gives me good cause to trust his conclusions. His quote from the World Water Commission: “even assuming irrigated agriculture is made as efficient as possible, ‘humanity will still need at least 17 percent more fresh water to meet all of its food needs than is currently available'” (p. 231) is therefore more sombre given that he doesn’t seem to be coming from the standard, conventional and reductionist viewpoint and working from a conventional agriculture model. That said, a lot has changed since the book was written (2008) and I am curious to dig deeper into how his conclusions might have shifted or numbers and predictions changed in the last decade.
    • Similar to many that predict burgeoning political issues over water distribution, Roberts anticipates not so much an increase in big water exporters (US, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Australia) as a precipitous rise in water importers as a result of growing populations and falling water tables. A large factor in this is so-called virtual water, which is exported in crops, e.g. grains.
    • He notes that even with the most ideal meat production methods, we will still very likely need to reverse the trend towards increasing meat consumption around the world (p. 234). And to quote, “[U]nless we expect the developing world to bear the burden of this shift to a more sustainable food economy, it is consumers in the West, and especially North America and Europe, who will need to change their food practices – something that is hard to imagine occurring voluntarily.” (p. 234). And yet, today with the rapid rise in vegan and vegetarian diets, that seems to be precisely what is happening. 

Be aware that these are brief highlights taken out of the larger context of the book, and I’m looking forward to pulling more material from this book, while also giving it a full start-to-finish read. 


From the Scientific Literature Database

A recent Nature paper that is an important read for considering the omissions and oversights of previous climate and hydrological models:

Abbott, B. W., Bishop, K., Zarnetske, J. P., Minaudo, C., Chapin, F. S., Krause, S., Hannah, D. M., Conner, L., Ellison, D., Godsey, S. E., Plont, S., Marçais, J., Kolbe, T., Huebner, A., Frei, R. J., Hampton, T., Gu, S., Buhman, M., Sara Sayedi, S., … Pinay, G. (2019). Human domination of the global water cycle absent from depictions and perceptions. Nature Geoscience, 12(7), 533–540. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0374-y

Kohutiar, J., & Kravcik, M. (2010). Water for an integrative climate paradigm. International Journal of Water, 5(4), 298. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJW.2010.038725

 I have long sustained an interest in innovative wastewater treatment and a couple of years ago, joined a local representative of the Chilean firm Biofiltro for a field visit to a local project. They use industrial-scale vermicomposting to filter liquid sewage and food processing wastewater. In my former PhD lab, there was also a lot of work being done on humanure composting and biosolids applications. Here are a couple of wastewater treatment papers I’ve found interesting: 

Abou-Elela, S. I., El-Khateeb, M. A., Fawzy, M. E., & Abdel-Halim, W. (2013). Innovative sustainable anaerobic treatment for wastewater. Desalination and Water Treatment, 51(40–42), 7490–7498. https://doi.org/10.1080/19443994.2013.775669

Al-Jayyousi, O. R. (2003). Greywater reuse: Towards sustainable water management. Desalination, 156(1–3), 181–192. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0011-9164(03)00340-0

Bukhary, S., Batista, J., & Ahmad, S. (2020). An Analysis of Energy Consumption and the Use of Renewables for a Small Drinking Water Treatment Plant. Water, 12(1), 28. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010028

Eastman, B. R. (2003). Vermiculture’s Effectiveness as an Alternative to Standard USEPA Class A Stabilization Methodologies. Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation, 2003(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.2175/193864703784292476

Lam, K. L., Zlatanović, L., & van der Hoek, J. P. (2020). Life cycle assessment of nutrient recycling from wastewater: A critical review. Water Research, 173, 115519. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2020.115519

Ahhh, mycorrhizae: so important. An older paper but gives an important understanding of their role particularly in dry soils:

Allen, M. F. (2007). Mycorrhizal Fungi: Highways for Water and Nutrients in Arid Soils. Vadose Zone Journal, 6(2), 291–297. https://doi.org/10.2136/vzj2006.0068

The title says it all: the role of perennial agriculture in improving water resilience:

Basche, A. D., & Edelson, O. F. (2017). Improving water resilience with more perennially based agriculture. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 41(7), 799–824. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2017.1330795

An intriguing application and co-benefit of grazing management:

Clausen, K. K., Stjernholm, M., & Clausen, P. (2013). Grazing management can counteract the impacts of climate change-induced sea level rise on salt marsh-dependent waterbirds. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50(2), 528–537. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12043

 Several years ago I had a conversation with Calgary-based Verge Permaculture‘s Rob Avis about reaching out to the author of a book we were trying to source for Avis’ rainwater harvesting guide (which you can order through New Society Publishers here — I highly recommend it). The author, Peter Coombes (first author on the paper below) is now collaborating with Michelle Avis on an online course, currently closed for enrolment but worth bookmarking if you’re interested. This was one of the papers that started my investigation into Coombes’ work, and relevant to urban rainwater harvesting:

Coombes, P. J., Kuczera, G., & Kalma, J. D. (2003). Economic, water quantity and quality impacts from the use of a rainwater tank in the inner city. Australasian Journal of Water Resources, 7(2), 111–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/13241583.2003.11465234

More of a personal interest and for others in Mediterranean and related climates:

Deitch, M. J., Sapundjieff, M. J., & Feirer, S. T. (2017). Characterizing Precipitation Variability and Trends in the World’s Mediterranean-Climate Areas. Water, 9(4), 259. https://doi.org/10.3390/w9040259

Update on understanding where academics (focus on students, which was interesting) stand in their understanding of climate change terminology:

Escoz-Roldán, A., Gutiérrez-Pérez, J., & Meira-Cartea, P. Á. (2020). Water and Climate Change, Two Key Objectives in the Agenda 2030: Assessment of Climate Literacy Levels and Social Representations in Academics from Three Climate Contexts. Water, 12(1), 92. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010092

 A few older papers that specifically look at water- (and soil) impacts of different production systems and amendments:

Evanylo, G., Sherony, C., Spargo, J., Starner, D., Brosius, M., & Haering, K. (2008). Soil and water environmental effects of fertilizer-, manure-, and compost-based fertility practices in an organic vegetable cropping system. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 127(1), 50–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2008.02.014

Gerbens-Leenes, P. W., Mekonnen, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2013). The water footprint of poultry, pork and beef: A comparative study in different countries and production systems. Water Resources and Industry, 1–2, 25–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wri.2013.03.001

A few papers considering the role of forests in water cycles:

Jasechko, S., Sharp, Z. D., Gibson, J. J., Birks, S. J., Yi, Y., & Fawcett, P. J. (2013). Terrestrial water fluxes dominated by transpiration. Nature, 496(7445), 347–350. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11983

Sheil, D. (2014). How plants water our planet: Advances and imperatives. Trends in Plant Science, 19(4), 209–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2014.01.002

Sheil, D., & Murdiyarso, D. (2009). How Forests Attract Rain: An Examination of a New Hypothesis. BioScience, 59(4), 341–347. https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2009.59.4.12

 A few of these I’ve already included but climate- and water-related impacts of diet:

Kim, B. F., Santo, R. E., Scatterday, A. P., Fry, J. P., Synk, C. M., Cebron, S. R., Mekonnen, M. M., Hoekstra, A. Y., de Pee, S., Bloem, M. W., Neff, R. A., & Nachman, K. E. (2019). Country-specific dietary shifts to mitigate climate and water crises. Global Environmental Change, 101926. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.05.010

Lupo, C. D., Clay, D. E., Benning, J. L., & Stone, J. J. (2013). Life-cycle assessment of the beef cattle production system for the northern great plains, USA. Journal of Environmental Quality, 42(5), 1386–1394. https://doi.org/10.2134/jeq2013.03.0101

Stanley, P. L., Rowntree, J. E., Beede, D. K., DeLonge, M. S., & Hamm, M. W. (2018). Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems. Agricultural Systems, 162, 249–258. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2018.02.003

I haven’t even touched on microplastics in freshwater, but a recent study found even alpine waters contain suspended microscopic particles of plastic. 

Koelmans, A. A., Mohamed Nor, N. H., Hermsen, E., Kooi, M., Mintenig, S. M., & De France, J. (2019). Microplastics in freshwaters and drinking water: Critical review and assessment of data quality. Water Research, 155, 410–422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2019.02.054

And finally, the biotic pump papers:

Makarieva, A. M., & Gorshkov, V. G. (2006). Biotic pump of atmospheric moisture as driver of the hydrological cycle on land. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 3(4), 2621–2673.

Makarieva, Anastassia M., Gorshkov, V. G., & Li, B.-L. (2013). Revisiting forest impact on atmospheric water vapor transport and precipitation. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 111(1), 79–96. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-012-0643-9 

In The Public Space

So much to choose from, but here are a few tidbits.

Highly recommended water documentaries

I specifically chose those with a global rather than US-based perspectives, which omits quite a number, e.g. DamNation, Cadillac Desert, The Water Front. 

    1. Flow Official film website is defunct but viewable as an Amazon documentary
    2. Blue Gold: Water Wars
    3. Tapped
    4. Chasing Ice

There is lots of great stuff on erosion control and using soil and vegetation to filter pollutants and sediment from water, at all scales. Ecology Artisans (Encinitas, CA) has a very nice photo documentation essay of their use of straw mulch crescents (“fish scales”) to anchor and protect a hillside from erosion during our heavy, highly seasonal rain events. 

If you’re interested in larger scale work, Dr. Robin “Buz” Kloot, whose work I’ve come across in various regenerative agriculture circles, has an interesting website called Merit or Myth that has a couple of videos on soil infiltration with three different farming systems (chisel vs. moldboard plowing, and no-till). The results are striking, and the video is only 5 minutes long and nicely curated. 

Beavers are getting a lot of “buzz” (sorry, I couldn’t resist…) lately, too. This was a decent overview in a Nature blog post (“Why the Nature Conservancy is Restoring Streams By Acting Like A Beaver“)   from May 2016, and more recent articles on folks like rancher Jay Wilde in Idaho actively working to restore both beavers and their work through beaver dam analogues.  And if you’re interested in beavers, habitat restoration and the history of beavory habitation across the west, check out Ben Goldfarb’s book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Lives of Beavers, .and the audio interview with Ben on Montana Public Radio here.

Next, if you’ve ever wondered what the differences between terms like wilting point and water holding capacity and a lot of other technical soil-water terms, this article by a very conventional source does a great job of putting that information at your fingertips, in the context of managing irrigation. 

Rain for Climate is an organization founded on the scientific basis that vegetation is a major but overlooked driver of climatic cycles. While this is a controversial view, it is gaining widespread press through the efforts of regenerative agriculture advocates Drs. Christine Jones and Walter Jehne. Unfortunately, while a small handful of papers support the biotic pump theory, it is not well supported by research and disputed directly by other researchers who claim while the principle is both attractive and plausible, the mechanisms as proposed are not unsound. Walter Jehne’s lectures, based on his 30-year career with CSIRO in climate-related research, can be viewed on YouTube (but note that many are 2 hours long). 

Your Requests

You wanted to know mostly about the water-related impacts of your food choices. First, know that a water footprint comprises 3 parts:

      • green water  rain water; 

      • blue water surface and groundwater

      • grey water pollution of surface and groundwater

      • virtual water contained in foods and materials, e.g. grains, produce, meat, lumber

Helpful for more detailed information is FoodandWaterWatch.org. They have a large selection of free, downloadable PDF fact sheets on a variety of topics including nuclear energy, fracking, water issues, and meat. These cite a good mix of both current and reliable journalism, e.g. Washington Post, and scientific literature.

Tying in with last week, here are two really solid, nuanced articles on whether grass-fed beef is really better for the environment and the climate than grain-finished: one from NPR and the other, WaterCalculator.org. Spoiler alert: yes, if it’s actually raised locally rather than air-shipped from Australia; and if it’s actually finished on pasture, not in a feedlot as much grass-fed beef actually is (Gerbens-Leenes et al., 2013; Lupo et al., 2013; Stanley et al., 2018). No big surprises, but some of the nuances might surprise you — like “grass-fed” Australian beef can be relabeled as USDA if it’s been ground in the USA. And lest you thought Canada might be better, here’s a quote from the labeling section of the Government of Canada: “If this imported product is repackaged at retail, it is not required to indicate “Imported by” / “importé par” or “Imported for” / “importé pour” as part of the name and principal place of business declaration.”

There’s yet more labeling and importing information to wade through (you can start getting lost on the Government of Canada website here ) but suffice to say, once again… know who you’re buying from. That is 100% the only way to ensure, without hours or days of due diligence, that you know who you’re supporting, how those animals were raised, and to the greatest extent possible, what their environmental impacts were. 

Some of you were also interested to know more about rainwater harvesting on larger scales than the barrels provided by many municipalities. From personal experience, I’ll say that absolutely you should install the largest capacity you can afford and find space for, even if you have to shoehorn it into a property ordinance (like we did).

In 2015 we installed a 4100 gallon rainwater tank in our ¼ acre suburban yard, between the side of the house and the neighbour’s fence. At the time, people thought we were being ridiculously optimistic; for an area that averages around 12 inches of annual rainfall, and for the last decade has been in a perpetual state of drought ranging from standard-issue “very dry” to extreme drought, it seemed a little crazy to think that we could reliably capture and store enough to fill that tank.

Turns out, we underestimated our capacity and have each year wished we had space to add a second tank. Even with just 8” of rainfall, our 1000 sq ft of roof would net us close to 5,000 US gallons.

The math is simple: 

Imperial: Roof Area (ft2) X Precipitation Amount (in) X 0.623 = Gallons Collected

Metric: Roof Area (m2) X Precipitation Amount (mm) = Litres Collected

An easy way to remember: 1″ of rain on 1,000 sf roof will yield approximately 620 gallons or 2300 L. “Approximate” is owing to the fact that you will lose some based on your roof material, gutter efficiency or spillover, how much is diverted to a first-flush system, and other variables. 

It’s also very easy to find quick-and-dirty online rainwater harvesting calculators such as this one at Texas-based watercache.com and Brad Lancaster’s resources, including the appendix from his book go into much more detail, including calculating your needs based on gardens, trees, household use, and other metrics such as run-off co-efficients.

We spent all told less than $2500 USD to install a 4100 USG tank (so about $0.61/gallon). Many municipalities offer free or low-cost rain barrels periodically, but they’re typically in the 20-50 gallon range, so given their size and the amount of plastic used compared to water stored, seem hardly worth the cost of your time to put them in place. It’s worth sitting down to estimate how much water at least a raised bed and a few fruit trees would use in order to start thinking about capturing and storing water at scale.

Podcasts

Books

The End of Food. Paul Roberts (2008). On GoodReads

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Issue 2: Meat

 

Cooking is, among other things, a means of delaying the inevitable decay of plant and animal tissues.” 

— Harold McGee, The Curious Cook

This week I set out to celebrate animals and the various ways that we consume their flesh. I really wound up focusing on beef almost exclusively because there’s so much information out there, so we might think of this issue as “1A: Beef” with future versions to cover pork, chicken, game and other meats in more detail. 

Pork & Beans In the South of France

I started by opening Harold McGee’s The Curious Cook, which has a delightful exploration on the relationship between the size and thickness of a cut of meat and the temperature at which it should best be cooked, drawing in calculations from engineering, physics and his own cooking experimentation. 

Apparently the conversation started with a phone call from friend Edward Bear, who with his wife Kimberly publishes The Art of Eating, initially a black-and-white newsletter started in the late 80s, now an ad-free digital magazine. They describe AoE as a magazine that covers, “the best food and wine – what they are, how they are produced, where to find them . . . We focus on taste, especially the connection between the taste of food and wine and the place they come from, looking for the logic of geography, methods, and culture that give character and the finest flavor.” Incidentally when I went looking for it, the article de jour was Cassoulet: The Meats are Important, but Getting the Beans Right Really Matters by James MacGuire. 

Now really, who cares much for what amounts to a pot of pork and beans? Me, it turns out. 

During my Masters’ program, I spent a year studying evolutionary biology in the south of France, in Montpellier which is nestled along the southern coast just east of Carcassone and Toulouse, cities famous, as it turns out, for their cassoulet and their role in its history. (To be more accurate, one might better pluralize all those words – cassoulets, roles, histories – but I digress). So there was a definitive nostalgia with which I read MacGuire’s article, not only for the coolness of the coast feeling so similar to the cloudy coolness of southern California today, but for the flavours and remembrances it brought back of simple, local food that we sought out from hole-in-the-wall restaurants that our French friends could direct us to, or that we stumbled upon while avoiding the tourist throngs. 

But it also brought to mind much of what I’ve been doing the last few months as we try to make meat eating happen in our household in a cleaner, more planet-friendly way — using small cuts of meat interspersed in a larger dish, say in chilis, curries, and soups; or using ‘off cuts’, bones, and organ meats to flavour dishes and stocks that we then use to cook with, or drink straight up on, like this, a chilly day. We find increasingly that the idea of a “slab of meat” is decidedly off-putting and feels extravagant, unnecessary, and heavy, even as we enjoy on occasion the deliciousness of crisped pork fat or contrast between a perfectly grilled steak’s crispy exterior and it’s tender reddish interior. We also tend to successfully grow an awful lot of beans, mostly of the climbing varieties — lima beans wend their ways up the shower and make trellises of old, dead fruit tree skeletons; scarlet runners drape the terraces and climb the palms; and just last week we spent a few good hours’ of sunshine plugging in kidney, pinto, and local Lompoc pinquito beans into the ground in every space we could. Linden will no doubt uproot a lot of them; but the wealth of beans, and our sort of accidental dedication to eating different cuts of meat better raised, make plunging into a warm cassoulet, its history, and the ideas around eating meat as a delicacy rather than cheap staple especially timely.

All that said – nutritionally and experientially, I still enjoy eating meat and in all of the reading and learning I’ve done, I feel very confident in saying that it can be done and should be supported in a way that is ecologically, economically and socially regenerative. I am fully aware of the possibility that I may just be defending something I enjoy doing, so that I can keep on doing it; but will also say that as a family, we went vegan or vegetarian for awhile and while we’ve enjoyed the benefits of incorporating a lot more plant foods into our diet, we’re now re-introducing meats as they become available — either we grow them or buy them from friends that raise animals in ways we agree with, that restore soil health, build forage and ecological health, protect or foster wildlife (including predator) diversity, and are protective of water.

The following is a bit haphazard, but collects a good amount of the resources that I have or uncovered on the topic of eating meat.

The out-of-doors is our true ancestral estate. For a mere five thousand years we have grubbed in the soil and laid brick upon brick to build the cities; but for a million years before that we lived the leisurely, free and adventurous life of hunters and gatherers. How can we pluck that deep root of feeling from the racial consciousness? Impossible!

— Edward Abbey


On The Human Gut and Ancestry

I came across  this fascinating article by Rob Dunn in Scientific American (2012) on the gut microbiota, colon length, recent human evolution (e.g. in response to agriculture) and that of other primates, and an assessment of the [plausibility] and context of a “paleo diet”:

If you want my bet, the majority of the recent (last few million years) changes in our guts and digestion will prove to have had more to do with processing food and, later, agriculture rather than with meat-eating per se. As hominids and/or humans switched to eating more meat, their bodies might have evolved so to be able to better digest meat. I could be convinced. But, we know our human digestive systems DID evolve to deal with agriculture and the processing (fermenting and cooking) of food. With agriculture, some human populations evolved extra copies of amylase genes, arguably so as to better be able to deal with starchy foods. The case of agriculture is the most clear. With agriculture, several human populations independently evolved gene variants that coded for the persistence of lactase (which breaks down lactose) so as to be able to deal with milk, not just as babies but also as adults. Drinking milk of another species as an adult is weird, but some human populations have evolved the ability. . . . Interestingly, if our gut bacteria responded rapidly to shifts in diets toward more meat during the stone age, they might be expected to have shifted again when we began to farm, at least for those of us with ancestors who began to farm early. When our gut bacteria met up with our agricultural diets, beginning twelve thousand years ago or so, they would have begun to compete with new microbial species that kicked ass at living off wheat, barley, corn, rice or any of the other grasses that have come to dominate the world, sometimes at our expense. This may even mean that which diet is best for you depends not only on who your ancestors were, but also who the ancestors of your bacteria were. . . . With time, we will understand more about how [our evolutionary] histories influence how our bodies deal with the food we eat. But the bigger caveat is that what our histories and ancestral diets offer is not an answer as to what we should eat. It is, more simply, context. Our ancestors were not at one with nature. Nature tried to kill them and starve them out; they survived anyway, sometimes with more meat, sometimes with less, thanks in part to the ancient flexibility of our guts.

See also (Lambert, 1998).

From Mother Earth News, “Why I Eat Wild Meat, an article by naturalist and author David Peterson. I mostly just appreciated the take on the connection to our ancestral states, and captures why some of us choose to raise or hunt our own meat.

In the end, I eat wild meat because I believe it’s the healthy choice for a natural omnivore, spiritually as well as physically. And I am proud of procuring that wild meat myself, no middlemen needed or wanted, thank you — keeping alive ancient skills that were part of the evolution of our unique species through thousands of generations, relying on personal effort and knowledge (the good old-fashioned term here is “woodsmanship”) and our evolved predatory instincts rather than on the store-bought, space-age technology so popular with misguided hunters today.

Today, as it has been always, true hunting remains among the most physically and intellectually challenging, viscerally engaging adventures most of us will ever know. The clean, healthful flesh of wild, free-roaming animals is the product of a dietary diversity and physical regimen so exacting that not even the most conscientious organic farmers can approximate it for their animals. It contains no antibiotics, growth hormones or other poisons, and is among the most nutritionally perfect of all foods. Wild venison is lower in fat than the white meat of factory-raised turkey, much less beef and pork. Nobody has ever died of clogged arteries from eating too much venison, rabbit or walleye. There were no obese hunter-gatherers.

I also hunt because — whether it’s building my own cabin or raising a garden or determining a personal spirituality — I prefer doing for myself.

I eat wild meat because I find it philosophically, culinarily and morally agreeable.

And I eat wild meat because I want to assume personal responsibility for at least some of the lives that end to continue my own.”

The Guardian provides a 30,000-ft, UK-oriented Coles’ Notes guide to eating ethical meat, eggs and dairy in Life After Veganuary.


From Marion Nestle’s What To Eat

I found Nestle’s book this week was heavily focused on critiques of supermarket meat, which are largely going to be immaterial if you’re buying direct from a producer. However, the dietary points are worth noting in reference to protein needs — we can nutritionally certainly benefit from meat, but don’t need nearly as much as we might think. Protein needs are easily met: 55 grams (less than 2 oz) protein for a 120-lb person; 65 for 180 lb; 4 oz of any cooked meat or beans provides easily 20-30 grams of protein.

Other points:

    • Hormones are never used in poultry production, but are in beef; they are banned in the EU but supported for sheep & beef in the US. 
    • Fortunately “organic” supermarket meat options have substantially increased, although today the issues are ‘small farm labels’ that are housed under a much larger industrial company

New ideas (to me):

    • Meat industry “checkoff” programs incentivize generic marketing by the USDA for meat producers; fee paid per head or by weight, e.g. $1/head cattle, to “educate” nutritionists, lobbyists and politicians; refer also to MN’s Food Politics for more details.

Quotes from WTE

The meat industry would like you to believe that you are supposed to buy meat and put it at the center of the plate at every meal.

–p. 140

If the word ‘lean’ on hamburger is a signal that you better pay attention to the fat content, the word ‘natural’ on meat is a sure sign that you need to start asking questions.

–What To Eat, p. 16


From the Scientific Literature Database

I had really hoped to do much more in-depth work here. The nutritional literature is miles broad and deep, but there are patterns emerging that organic, grass-fed meat raised on healthy, biologically diverse soils is not only nutritionally superior but also climate- and ecologically friendly (wildlife, soils, native vegetation) and carbon-sequestering. Critical is getting out of dependency on feedlot, grain-fed systems particularly for ruminants.

Some nutritional points regarding grass-fed beef*… 

    • It contains more alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) than conventional feedlot (concentrate-fed) beef (McAfee et al., 2011)
      • alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) results in elongation of long-chain n-3 [omega-3] polyunsaturated fatty acids; the anti-thrombic, anti-inflammatory effects of 250 mg LC n-3 PUFAs per day are sufficient to to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
      • While oily fish is best source, only a small proportion of the world’s population consumes them and they are associated increasingly with overfishing and heavy metal toxicity
      • Red meat, especially grass-fed, is also a source of DPA present only in small quantities in fish; converts to both EPA and DHA in rats
      • Australian data shows that consumption of grass-fed beef and lamb contributes 28% of total LC n-3 PUFA compared to 48% from oily fish.
    • “consistently shows a [sic] higher concentrations of n-3 FAs as compared to grain-fed contemporaries, creating a more favorable n-6:n-3 ratio” (Daley et al., 2010), e.g. 1.77 vs. 8.99, although no significant difference in overall n-6 FAs relative to grain-fed beef
      • Studies suggesting that chronic diseases start to appear at 6-3 ratios over 4:1

* Note that “Grass-fed” referred to animals offered a grass-finishing diet, not confirmed raised on a fully pasture-based diet.

Other researchers that actively research and provide information on ethical and regenerative meat production:

While doing this, I also discovered a new journal, Meat and Muscle Biology. I’ll be checking into that and updating this post as I read more. 


More on Labels (notes only)

    • Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certification for animal welfare
    • Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) has been a hotly contested topic that is in the news again, but I didn’t do as deep a look on it as I should/could have. Suffice to say: if you want to know where your meat comes from and you’re buying at the supermarket, it’s a necessity.
    • Regarding organic and “natural” labels — many are actually owned by mega corporations (you might be surprised who’s on these lists from LabelTech and Groundswell).
    • The Cornucopia Institute is an organics-industry watchdog and worth taking a look through their scorecards, but bear in mind — your super-local producer is almost definitely not going to be on there; and in general these are all producers of boxed or packaged products. When I searched “meat” on their website (here are the results), they have a number of useful articles, many which link to outside sources and scientific articles.

Rodale Institute gives a breakdown of factory farming  and the global impacts of meat production, and why organic meat by virtue of their stated policies is always going to be a better choice. They also highlight an additional certification, Real Organic Project, that was new to me. 

While we’re talking labels, defining rotational versus holistic versus intensively managed grazing is useful in better understanding why some researchers conclude grazing is unilaterally destructive while others have determined the opposite. Allan Savory’s article What Does Properly Managed Livestock Mean gives a reasonable overview of the background behind some of the confusion; however, the article starts off quite general so if you’re interested in the nuances, I’d skip ahead by searching “Cause of public confusion about grazing management”.

In The Public Space

Inspiring examples, some I have personal experience with and others recommended within the Regrarians farm planning and regenerative agriculture group of which I’m a member:

    •  Niman Ranch, cited as best pastured pig operation over 100 sows in the USA within the Regrarians community
    • White Oak Pastures, Georgia: recently released carbon-friendly beef paper with Jason Rowntree
    • Pasturebird, largest pastured poultry operation in the US, by founders and owners of  Primal Pastures, Murrietta, California. Owner Paul Grieve and his family are “the real deal” and I’ve visited their PP farm in Murrietta, where they regularly hold farm tours and dinner events to ‘meet your meat’ and learn about their operations.
    • Birdwell & Clark Ranch, which manages holistically for both cattle grazing and wildlife, based on Savory’s holistic management program. 
    • Atkins Ranch, a New Zealand grass-fed lamb ranch that manages using the GAP certification noted above
    • JX Ranch, Tom and Mary Sidwell in Texas. Featured in Grass Soil Hope by Courtney White (see Books below). 
    •  GrassNomads LLC, an operation run by ranchers Ariel Greenwood and Sam Ryerson who move between ranches in Montana and New Mexico, using holistic management to plan and orchestrate their operations. Ariel is also an eloquent writer and thinker; you can read more of her work at  www.arielgreenwood.com.
    •  Fresh Valley Farms in Armstrong, BC offers pasture-raised pork, beef and chicken. Started in 2013, they have since grown to be a local leader in the industry as well as being politically active and long-time (multi-generational), highly involved members of the community. 

I was very sad to not be able to add the Okanagan’s Vale Farms to this list, as it turns out they shuttered their beef operation in January 2020 to focus on dairy production. Their farm was (and remains) an iconic example of regenerative agriculture in the region. Their closing letter, however, is worth a read in that it highlights the critical importance of buying from and supporting farmers in our local area.

Your Requests

In general this week I’m focused on the reality that to get meat-eating right… you need to know who you’re buying from. That means you need to at least be able to go and see their farm operation if you wanted to; a good producer will open their doors or at least provide farm tours so that the public can learn more about their operations. Few commercially available meats, e.g. supermarket sources, can or will do that. Many are “cottage labels” actually owned by bigger industrial producers. I’ve had numerous conversations with people involved in setting up community-supported or indigenous producers, only to see their labels get bought up and then folded into larger feedlot productions. That means that, for instance, calves or young hogs might spend the first few months of their lives on pasture… and then ultimately, be finished on a grain- and soy-based diet, in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). 

If you’re interested in a very nuanced and detailed discussion of some of the issues around agricultural intensification and regulation (specifically in an Australian context but with wider applicability to all farming operations, particularly for pigs and poultry) give farm planner Darren Doherty’s article Extensivising Intensive (2015) a read. In fact, many of his Off The Contour articles are worth a read for those farming, interested in learning more about the intricacies of farming, or generally wanting a critical, practical and informed breakdown of issues germane to regenerative agricultural operations.

Otherwise, I highlighted plenty of podcast episodes this week that touch on the climate and environmental impacts of eating meat, and why going vegan or vegetarian isn’t the right choice if you’re choosing your meat wisely. In particular, for health and climate-related reasons, I highly recommend dietician Diana Rogers’ articles in Sustainable Dish ; each podcast episode has a wealth of great information and scientific article links to explore.

Podcasts

Ariel Greenwood was interviewed on March 31st for  episode 133 of the Working Cows podcast with host Clay Conry. I really enjoyed listening to her take on gratitude and management in ranching, and learning more about her path into regenerative ranching from growing vegetables in North Carolina. The  Working Cows resources page is also well-developed for those looking for more ranch-related resources. 

 The Ruminant is a podcast from a farmer in Peachland BC, co-hosted by my friend Tristan Banwell of  Spray Creek Ranch in Lillooett, BC. Their  most recent episode with Sarah Flack covers rotational grazing tips from Sarah’s considerable experience using holistic management with a wide range of livestock species. Her website is here with a list of her books, scientific publications and consulting work. Other good “meat” episodes:

Nutritionist and dietician Diana Roger’s podcast Sustainable Dish has a plethora of episodes strongly in support of eating and producing meat. I first met Diana at a Slow Food Ventura County meal last year, and she’s the real deal: both a farmer and scientist, she’s an avid spokesperson for small-scale, regeneratively raised meat. Search results are here, and a couple of episodes I highlighted include:

Books

I ordered this week:

      1. a kind of weird book, Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat by Howard Lyman, author of the forward in The China Study. Curious to see what it has to say, but my suspicions are that it’s largely based on Lyman’s response to the big-farm cattle industry and beef lobbyists. 
      2. Stephen Le’s 100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why, used copy for about $6 USD, based on The Ruminant podcast episode of the same name. 

Otherwise, I’m recommending books on the Working Cows podcast resource page. Authors Greg Judy, Johann Zietzman, Jim Gerrish and Alan Nation are all well-known in the regenerative agriculture and ranching community. On my bookshelf but not on that list are also Courtney White’s Grass Soil Hope : A Journey Through Carbon Country (forward by Michael Pollan), which I’m hoping to read. Soon. Like, this year.

Bibliography

Daley, C. A., Abbott, A., Doyle, P. S., Nader, G. A., & Larson, S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9(1), 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-10

Lambert, J. E. (1998). Primate digestion: Interactions among anatomy, physiology, and feeding ecology. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 7(1), 8–20. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6505(1998)7:1<8::AID-EVAN3>3.0.CO;2-C

McAfee, A. J., McSorley, E. M., Cuskelly, G. J., Fearon, A. M., Moss, B. W., Beattie, J. A. M., Wallace, J. M. W., Bonham, M. P., & Strain, J. J. (2011). Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet n -3 PUFA in healthy consumers. British Journal of Nutrition, 105(1), 80–89. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114510003090

Rowntree, J. E., Ryals, R., DeLonge, M. S., Teague, W. R., Chiavegato, M. B., Byck, P., Wang, T., & Xu, S. (2016). Potential mitigation of midwest grass-finished beef production emissions with soil carbon sequestration in the United States of America. 8.

Teague, R., & Barnes, M. (2017). Grazing management that regenerates ecosystem function and grazingland livelihoods. African Journal of Range & Forage Science, 34(2), 77–86. https://doi.org/10.2989/10220119.2017.1334706

Teague, W. R., Apfelbaum, S., Lal, R., Kreuter, U. P., Rowntree, J., Davies, C. A., Conser, R., Rasmussen, M., Hatfield, J., Wang, T., Wang, F., & Byck, P. (2016). The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 71(2), 156–164. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.71.2.156

Willett, W., Rockström, J., Loken, B., Springmann, M., Lang, T., Vermeulen, S., Garnett, T., Tilman, D., DeClerck, F., Wood, A., Jonell, M., Clark, M., Gordon, L. J., Fanzo, J., Hawkes, C., Zurayk, R., Rivera, J. A., De Vries, W., Majele Sibanda, L., … Murray, C. J. L. (2019). Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet, 393(10170), 447–492. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4

Xu, S., Rowntree, J., Borrelli, P., Hodbod, J., & Raven, M. R. (2019). Ecological Health Index: A Short Term Monitoring Method for Land Managers to Assess Grazing Lands Ecological Health. Environments, 6(6), 67. https://doi.org/10.3390/environments6060067

Closing Remarks

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See you next week to talk about water  — because it’s raining in southern California, and it’s APRIL. 

Issue 1: COVID-19, Gardening, Urban Ag & Organics Labeling

Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets.” 

–Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

This week I wanted to talk vegetables and fresh produce, since that’s what disappeared first in our 2-week food supply. (Although I’ve still got several gallons of various kimchi and ferments waiting to be opened at the 3-week mark. See recipe here).


COVID-19/SARSCoV-2 Updates

In the US, food vendors, farmers’ markets, and plant nurseries are deemed essential services. To quote the CDFA, per Executive Order 7H, ‘essential business’, as it relates to food and agriculture, includes:

  • farms and farmer’s markets
  • food manufacturing, processing, storage, and distribution facilities 
  • nurseries, garden centers, and agriculture supply stores
  • restaurants/bars (provided compliance with all applicable executive orders is maintained)

More information is available here from the California Farmers’ Market, and a more broadly informative site related to farmers’ markets, food safety and COVID-19 can be found here at NC State University Extension, although much of it applies to food producers, general safety and handwashing.

I did find that COVID 19 Coronavirus Prevention: A Dozen Things to Know About Leafy Greens (California Leafy Greens Marketing Association) seemed useful.

But overall — since SARSCoV-2/COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness, and has little likelihood of survival on fresh produce, you’re better off heading to an open-air farmers’ market (if possible) or at least, filling up at local grocer’s produce section, than avoiding fresh produce altogether.

“The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime.

The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot.

The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.” 


From Marion Nestle’s What To Eat

This week I covered the following chapters:

  1. The Supermarket: Prime Real Estate
  2. Fruits and Vegetables: The Price of Fresh
  3. Organics: Hype or Hope
  4. Produce: Safe At Any Price

There is an additional chapter on GMOs with her Produce section (chapters 2-4) but I’m relegating that to later reading. 

First, not newsworthy but may bear reminding: the longer and further food travels, the greater the drops in nutrients, flavour and overall quality. In addition, foods from countries outside the EU, US and Canada may not (likely do not) follow food safety and in particular, organics protocols. And not all foods bear Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), which makes it difficult or impossible to support local or even regional producers. 

As for farmers’ markets, due diligence can be tough but check with your market organizer to find out what, if any, regulatory action they take or protocols in place to ensure that farmers are, in fact, selling what they produce, i.e. not buying wholesale from a distributor and reselling at market.

Quotes from WTE

In supermarket terms, ‘fresh’ refers to foods that spoil faster than others. It does not mean that foods were picked earlier that day, or even that week.” –p. 28

If organic foods are grown in better soils, you would expect them to be more nutritious, and you would be right. This is easy to determine for minerals…. But differences in the vitamin or phytonutrient content of a food plant are more likely to be due to its genetic strain or to how it is treated after harvest.” –p. 52

“[A]ll fruits and vegetables have something good about them, even though some have more of one good thing and others have more of another. That is why we nutritionists are always telling you to eat a variety of foods. It’s the mix that is most beneficial and most protective. . . . Surely the best reason to eat blueberries is that they are delicious in season.” — p. 54

If supermarket shopping: wash produce that sits under misters, as the misting heads are often not properly cleaned and may grow molds and algae.

In some detail, Nestle supports her argument that organics certification is by and large trustworthy, while adding the caveat that it does not necessarily mean more nutritious and as many of us know, by no means guarantees organics production is more beneficial or safer for soil, water or biodiversity (although see Evanylo et al., 2008). But aside from the obvious reduction in synthetic pesticide application, it has also opened markets to awareness of regenerative farming practices, which will continue to make produce grown with better and better methods available (MacKay et al., 2001; Reeve et al., 2016; Rhodes, 2012)

Summary

  • From a general food safety and specifically COVID-19 perspective, fresh, whole produce is safe when purchased from a local or regional supplier. If in doubt, wash thoroughly using guidelines below.
  • Farmers’ markets are deemed essential services, and should be the first stop for buying produce. If organics are prohibitively expensive or not available, buy conventional if that’s what’s available: fresh produce has relatively low transport costs from an emissions perspective (i.e. is rarely air-shipped) and supports local economies and producers.
  • Add variety for greater nutritional benefit rather than trying to stock up on a few key “superfoods”; supported also by literature on the nutritional value of weeds  (Stark et al., 2019).

Strategies To Calm The Nervous System

Reduce blood sugar spikes. Increase consumption of slow-to-digest whole grains (not whole grain products like breads and pastas, but whole grains such as kamut, spelt and quinoa). 

Reduce inflammation through exercise, meditation, rest and diet. Eating anti-inflammatory foods can be a natural remedy for anxiety because they are important for neurotransmitters synthesizing and balancing your mood and stress response. In addition, it’s also important to eat healthy fats, unrefined carbohydrates and protein. 

From a climate- and ecologically-friendly perspective, these include:

    • regeneratively pasture-raised meats and eggs from as local a source as available
    • nutritional yeast
    • yogurt or kefir from pastured dairy goats or cattle
    • leafy greens, e.g. spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, dandelion, chicory
    • fresh vegetables, e.g. celery, bok choy broccoli, beets, artichokes
    • fresh fruits, e.g. all berries, pineapple, banana, figs
    • sea vegetables, e.g. kelp, nori
    • unprocessed (lard) and minimally processed vegetable fats (avocado, oil)
    • beans, e.g. black, adzuki, chickpeas, fava; soak 24 hrs to sprout before cooking
    • legumes, e.g. lentils, peas
    • nuts, e.g. walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts
    • seeds, e.g. flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin, sesame)
    • unrefined non-wheat grains, e.g. kamut, farro, quinoa, barley

Support the brain and central nervous system.

Harvard Medical School advises eating foods rich in B vitamins to help ward off anxious feelings.

Overall, B vitamins have positively impact the nervous system, and deficiencies are linked to anxious disorders.

Studies supporting reduction of stress after high doses of B vitamins after 12 weeks (Stough et al., 2011); another in depressed adults given a vitamin B complex had reduced symptoms after 8 weeks (Lewis et al., 2013). Similar results from choline (found in eggs) in modulating behavioural plasticity (Chin et al., 2019).

Vitamin B1 (thiamin) Deficiency: pins-and-needles sensation in the toes or burning feet, especially at night. Food sources: beef liver, seafood, brewer’s yeast, beans, eggs, sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency: nerve cell communication suffers; neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin depend on B6 for production. Food sources: Bananas, potatoes, chickpeas.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: tingling and numbness in hands and feet. Food sources: clams, fish, eggs, meat, dairy.

Magnesium Required for many functions including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and producing bones, DNA and protein. Food sources: best sources (1 serving provides >15% of RDI) are dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Other sources include avocados and bananas.

Copper Essential for the production of neurotransmitters, but deficiency unlikely. Food sources: liver, oysters best; prunes, dark, leafy green vegetables, and nuts.

Zinc Food sources: oysters, cashews, liver, beef, poultry, eggs

Healthy foods for good nervous system function include the following:

Whole leafy greens Contain abundant nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to boost overall health and slow aging of brain and nervous system.

Whole grains Brown rice in particular contains high levels of vitamin B6, which helps to protect against mental deterioration caused by high levels of harmful homocysteines. Whole grains also include magnesium, which is important for the health of your nervous system. Stabilized rice bran contains one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all known foods.

Cocoa Antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress that can lead to Alzheimer’s and similar neurological ailments. High in magnesium.

Whey Naturally calming. Rich in amino acid L-tryptophan, which the body cannot produce and is vital in the production of serotonin.

Garlic Antioxidants, and can help prevent aging of the brain and prevent infections.

Sardines, salmon, albacore tuna Plenty of omega-3s to ease depression and anxiety and also help reduce inflammation.

Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi) High in multiple B-vitamins, vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin K.


From the Scientific Literature Database

Amundsen, R. N. (2013). Urban farming: Victory gardens for sustainable communities. 2013 Energy and Sustainability Conference, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1109/IESC.2013.6777068

Anderson, C. R., Pimbert, M. P., Chappell, M. J., Brem-Wilson, J., Claeys, P., Kiss, C., Maughan, C., Milgroom, J., McAllister, G., Moeller, N., & Singh, J. (2020). Agroecology now—Connecting the dots to enable agroecology transformations. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 44(5), 561–565. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2019.1709320

Chin, E. W. M., Lim, W. M., Ma, D., Rosales, F. J., & Goh, E. L. K. (2019). Choline Rescues Behavioural Deficits in a Mouse Model of Rett Syndrome by Modulating Neuronal Plasticity. Molecular Neurobiology, 56(6), 3882–3896. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-018-1345-9

Evanylo, G., Sherony, C., Spargo, J., Starner, D., Brosius, M., & Haering, K. (2008). Soil and water environmental effects of fertilizer-, manure-, and compost-based fertility practices in an organic vegetable cropping system. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 127(1), 50–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2008.02.014

Lewis, J. E., Tiozzo, E., Melillo, A. B., Leonard, S., Chen, L., Mendez, A., Woolger, J. M., & Konefal, J. (2013). The effect of methylated vitamin B complex on depressive and anxiety symptoms and quality of life in adults with depression. ISRN Psychiatry, 2013, 621453. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/621453

MacKay, A. D., Harrison, T., Moss, R. A., Fraser, T. J., Rhodes, A. P., Cadwallader, D., Fisher, M. W., & Webby, R. (2001). Moving towards low-chemical and caring farming systems. 4.

Nogeire-McRae, T., Ryan, E. P., Jablonski, B. B. R., Carolan, M., Arathi, H. S., Brown, C. S., Saki, H. H., McKeen, S., Lapansky, E., & Schipanski, M. E. (2018). The Role of Urban Agriculture in a Secure, Healthy, and Sustainable Food System. BioScience, 68(10), 748–759. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy071

Reeve, J. R., Hoagland, L. A., Villalba, J. J., Carr, P. M., Atucha, A., Cambardella, C., Davis, D. R., & Delate, K. (2016). Chapter Six – Organic Farming, Soil Health, and Food Quality: Considering Possible Links. In D. L. Sparks (Ed.), Advances in Agronomy (Vol. 137, pp. 319–367). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.agron.2015.12.003

Rhodes, C. J. (2012). Feeding and healing the world: Through regenerative agriculture and permaculture. Science Progress (1933- ), 95(4), 345–446. JSTOR. https://doi.org/10.3184/003685012X13504990668392

Siegner, A. B., Acey, C., & Sowerwine, J. (2020). Producing urban agroecology in the East Bay: From soil health to community empowerment. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 44(5), 566–593. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2019.1690615

Stark, P. B., Miller, D., Carlson, T. J., & Vasquez, K. R. de. (2019). Open-source food: Nutrition, toxicology, and availability of wild edible greens in the East Bay. PLOS ONE, 14(1), e0202450. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202450

Stough, C., Scholey, A., Lloyd, J., Spong, J., Myers, S., & Downey, L. A. (2011). The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Human Psychopharmacology, 26(7), 470–476. https://doi.org/10.1002/hup.1229


In The Public Space

Part scrapbook of images, part diary of encounters with preposterous plants, this blog adds rich chapters to our awareness of the vegetable world. Scroll through to find vintage seed packet artwork or a review of artichoke tea.

  • Role of urban and small space gardening for food security is a hot topic. In the literature, analyses have shown in the past that while globally urban agriculture may produce 15-20% of food, in developed countries it is largely disincentivized by economics and convenience (Siegner et al., 2020) and does not contribute significantly. It will be interesting to see how this changes with COVID-19 and the sudden and rapid increase in interest in all things related to gardening, farming and resilient lifestyles. Growing reference to WWI and WWII Victory gardens(Amundsen, 2013; Nogeire-McRae et al., 2018)  and examples such as Cuba’s responses to food crises suggest the dependence of developed nations on industrialized models may be changing as more and more people look to decrease their reliance on centralized food systems (Anderson et al., 2020)
  • Resilience.org has a Gardening for resilience series (2010), and straightforward general info that is useful if you’re just starting out 
  • Kiss The Ground has a list ofpopular free resources and a  regenerative gardening course starting in April

Inspiring Examples

  • The Urban Homestead (Pasadena CA) produces 6,000 POUNDS of fruit and vegetables on 1/10th of an acre
  • Natalie Topa’s apartment in Nairobi, 5th Floor Farm, as filmed by Morag Gamble (September 2019, 40 min video)

Your Requests

“I’m interested in learning about different metrics to consider (e.g. carbon footprint, water demand, distance transported), inputs like water, fertilizers and pesticides or herbicides, honey bee usage. And specifics like what is my best milk-like substance option. What labelling means and which ones are worth using as basis for decisions.”

Since labelling is a big topic and touches on nearly every aspect of our food systems, I decided to start by tackling it first with an overview of the most common labelling options that causes people concern: organics. Other future topics will cover labeling in terms of grass-fed, free-range, pasture-raised, and related terms. For now — bear in mind that generic terms including “100% natural” and “farm-raised” have no certification or regulation behind them (and are thus essentially meaningless). But y’all knew that already, I’m sure… 

TL;DR: internationally, “organic” is reliable in terms of ensuring much lower levels of pesticides in and on foods, but very unlikely to be zero. Issues include spray drift from nearby properties (although testing of organics by individual farms has helped to reduce this); and products with a lot of ingredients. Statistically, organics operations can show improved soil and water health, but individually, organic farms at scale may (or may not) perform better than conventional production operations, and organics labelling does not explicitly measure for improvement in these aspects (see “Alternatives” below). Additionally, lower transport distance and fresher/closer to harvest are more strongly associated with higher nutrient value than organic status.  

  • A comparison of Canada Organics vs. USDA Organics, from the Organics Council (August 2019)
    • Since 2009, the United States-Canada Organic Equivalence Arrangement (USCOEA) recognizes our national organic systems as equivalent, with exceptions:
      • Any Canadian product derived from an animal treated with antibiotics cannot be labeled or sold as organic in the US, even if it is considered organic in Canada. 
      • Any US products produced by hydroponic or aeroponic methods; from aquaculture; with the use of sodium nitrate; or derived from non-ruminant animals (e.g. poultry, pigs) not in accordance with livestock stocking rates set out in Canada’s Organic Standards, cannot be sold or labeled as organic in Canada. 
  • Regional overviews of organics labelling
    • USDA overview and Organics 101
    • Canadian Guide to Organics (2018) PDF version 
      • FAQ on the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) website
      • Functionally equivalent to USDA organic
      • does not allow radiation with the exception of microwave and UV; 
      • animal welfare standards prohibit certain practices, e.g. use of battery cages (laying hens), but animal welfare standards are more thoroughly covered by other certifications that I’ll get into with meat, eggs and dairy.
    • European organics equivalency with USDA Organics labelling
      • equivalency similar to that with Canada
      • more detail from the Organic Trade Association in this overview
  • A comprehensive infographic on organics in the food industry, from MPH Online
  •  A critical look at organics labelling and how technology and tracking data could help consumers make more informed choices, from Quartz (article by Jon Eldon, 2014)
    • Two companies offering food tracking technology:
      • HarvestMark provide tech-based solutions, e.g. scannable barcodes on consumer packaged fresh produce, to allow consumers to trace their food back to the producer. 
      • Supplyshift for businesses to track their supply chains and measure global impact so that they can share this information with consumers.
  • A more recent (2018) article from NYC Food Policy that more thoroughly critiques organics labelling, and addresses misperceptions and issues (search “misperception” and “issues” to go straight to those sections in this long article). 

Labelling alternatives to watch for…

  • Savory Institute’s LAND TO MARKET™ Program and press release video
    • The program has three areas of emphasis:
      • recognizing farmers and ranchers for their positive ecological outcomes;
      • providing sourcing solutions for conscientious brands and retailers; and
      • empowering consumers to “vote” for a regenerative future through their purchase power. 
    • “. . . a grassroots program that allows every participant in the agricultural sourcing network to regenerate the land on which we all depend. This program brings together leading ecologists and soil scientists, farmers and ranchers who produce food and fiber, brands and retailers who source livestock-derived supply, and consumers who buy food and fiber products at retail. . . .”
    • LTM is a dedicated regenerative ag label that depends not on what doesn’t go in but rather, verified ecological outcomes, e.g. water and soil quality, which are monitored by trained professionals. 
    • Scroll to the bottom https://savory.global/era-of-regenerative-agriculture/ for a list of further resources including videos, articles and books.
  • Regenerative Organic Certified, also released in March 2020 after ExpoWest in Anaheim, California, from Rodale Institute

Podcasts

From John Kempf’s Regenerative Agriculture podcast:

Why Regenerative Agriculture?

Measuring Nutrient Density with Dan Kittredge

Providing Affordable Food As Medicine

Living Home Grown with Theresa Loe, “Live farm fresh without the farm”, Episode 4: Growing Food In Small Spaces (37 min)

Seattle Urban Farm Co., Episode 101: Container Gardening with Sara Glasberra (41 min) 

For a lot of podcast episodes to choose from, go to Urban Farm U’s episode library here with over 500 titles in alphabetical order. 


Books

Sarah J. Morath (2016), From Farm to Fork: Perspectives on Growing Sustainable Food Systems in the Twenty-First Century, available on Amazon and reviewed in Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, formerly known as the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. Note: the review is behind a paywall but can be accessed using the DOI in Sci-Hub (as of 30th March 2020, found at www.sci-hub.tw). 

Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower, 3rd Ed. is out and available at Chelsea Green here. Additionally, Chelsea Green’s Lessons in Resilience Collection  is up and they are giving a 35% discount off all gardening books. Unfortunately I have not had great luck or reports on CG shipping to or within Canada; if you need help getting a copy let me know. 


Closing Remarks

Next week, I’ll be covering land-based meats, including labeling, welfare, ranches and operations to watch and be inspired by, and fun stuff. Thanks, and have a great week!

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