Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climate Change and Agriculture

A few weeks back, Katie and I had the opportunity to attend the Northeast Biochar Symposium in Amherst. The day yielded tremendous hope for the future of agriculture and its potential role in addressing climate change through carbon sequestration.

Tonight, at 5PM at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, David Orr will be presenting at SEEAL's annual meeting. In anticipation of that event I've put together a list of resources for folks looking into the impact of climate change on agriculture and agriculture's role in future solutions. Check out the November 2009 - Brix Bounty - Climate Change and Agriculture Resource Sheet.

There are so many profound ways that climate change will impact global agriculture, but I thought I would hilight one that has been on my mind lately, thanks to Lester Brown's Plan B 4.o. As glaciers in the high himalayas continue to retreat this will have a big effect on agriculture production in Asia. Many of the rivers in India and China that are used for irrigation of farmland are fed by snowmelt from these glaciers, as the flows associated with this snowmelt become less reliable we may find agricultural lands unable to rely on irrigation waters, thus lowering potential yields. Without shouting fire too loudly, I would direct folks to consider the writing on the Market Skeptics blog - as they address some of the potential impacts of global food shortages...

We can play a role in mitigating climate change, by moving toward increasing our local sources of food. Join us for a free Roots Down - New Bedford: Wintertime Garden Planning Workshop Series held in January/February 2010. Dates and Times to be announced in mid-December.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Know Your Vegetables - Biochar on Monday Nov. 16th at Brix Bounty Farm

It's been awhile...Join us for another installment of Know Your Vegetables on Monday November 16th, 6:30 PM at Brix Bounty Farm.

Katie and I are heading out to Amherst tomorrow for the Northeast Biochar Symposium 2009; should be a terrific day hearing from the leaders in the field from the Northeast and beyond. On Monday night we'll host a low-key Know Your Vegetables session focusing on Biochar production/use in small scale agriculture. Biochar - the potential for carbon sequestration, increasing nutrient holding capacity, and creating more biologically active soils are tremendous. We'll discuss these potentials and hopefully shed a bit more light on the subject. For a basic introduction I would refer you to a Brix Bounty Blog post from August 2008.

Biochar has received a bit more attention this year, as many have been drawn to its potential role in future carbon sequestration. I don't think we'll be able to solve the debate about the role of large scale biochar production and application, but perhaps we can delve into its potential for small-scale production and use. There are a couple of individuals on the Cape at New England Biochar; who we will invite to a workshop in the area come springtime. Monday's conversation will focus on the basics, biochar resources, and more. We are in the process of looking into a small scale retort to process our own biochar on the Southcoast, if this interests you please be in touch.

Also a reminder, our winter study starts the following Monday with Small is Beautiful; there is still space to register (which is free) so let me know if you would like to join the group.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Connecting Gardens with Education - Resources for Educators

The school garden movement is alive and well on the Southcoast, with a number of projects thriving...

Since early October, we have been working with Watson Elementary School in Fall River to continue to development of their Watson School Garden. The Garden was started this past Spring thanks in part to funding from the Children in Balance Program in Fall River and through the vision of community members, teachers, and the school's principal Nancy Martin-Bernier.

This fall we, alongside 4th grade teacher Jasmine Olean and community members, have been working with 3 different groups of students (K-5) in an afterschool program titled, Worms, Worms, Worms. Over the past few weeks we have been busy filling 3 new beds that will provide a total of 600 sq. feet of garden beds for next seasons garden. Once we are finished filling the beds, we'll be busy seeding garlic before winter sets in, and then move our efforts into stewarding and studying the new worm composting bins set up in the classroom.

The Watson school garden is just one of many school gardens thriving in our area; the Friends Academy just down the road from the farm has been enjoying a wildly successful growing season and Hayden-McFadden Elementary school in New Bedford is focusing on re-energizing their garden beds that have been active for years.

We have a partial list of community and education gardens on the Southcoast from this past Summer. Please check out our list of Resources for Garden Based Education for great websites and book recommendations. SEEAL (Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance) is another great organization working on sustainability and education in the area.

Nothing compares to sharing the flavors and tastes of fresh grown produce with our youth, who knew turnips could taste so good?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brix Bounty Farm hosts a series of Winter Studies 2009/2010

Beginning Monday November 23rd... with E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful

Mondays at 7 PM (with an option to join us at 6PM for a simple Soup, Salad, and Bread Potluck Supper)

" And what is my case? Simply that our most important task is to get off our present collision course. And who is there to tackle such a task? I think every one of us, whether old or young, powerful or powerless, rich or poor, influential or uninfluential. To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now."
-E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

I started rereading this book a few weeks back when the rains came and slowed down our Thursday markets in New Bedford. With the continued uncertainty about the future of our economy I thought it might be nice to reflect back on a rather seminal work that has provided insight and inspiration to many folk. The book must have been mentioned on at least 3 different occasions during this past weekend's Bioneers by the Bay and it made me think - perhaps we have time to get into delve into some thought regarding economics here in the late fall, many of you are likely aware its something that I spend a fair bit of time contemplating... We were originally planning to wait to begin our study groups until January, but instead will start on Monday Nov 23rd. with Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

The second selection, which will start in mid-January will take us to a more traditional selection focusing on sustainable agriculture - as we'll read Francis Chaboussou's Healthy Crops: A New Agricultural Revolution. Originally published in the mid-80's in France this book focuses on Chaboussou's research into his theory of trophobiosis: which "...is a commonsense and essentially simple biochemical argument: that most pest and disease organisms depend for their growth on free amino acids and reducing sugars in solution in the plant's cell sap." Given the severe impact late blight had on our tomato crop in the northeast I reckoned it would be worthwhile to spend a bit of time considering plant health and disease resistance in greater detail this winter.

If you are interested in joining us for one or both of the study groups, please let me know and I'll add your name to the list. Schumacher's book is widely available new and used through local booksellers. Chabbousou's book is available through Acres USA or Lancaster Ag if your local book seller has trouble tracking it down. If the cost of either book is a barrier please know that scholarships are available.

Winter Study 2009/2010 Mondays at 7 PM (with an option to join us at 6PM for a simple Soup, Salad, and Bread Potluck Supper)

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered - Monday November 23rd through approx. January 4th/11th

Healthy Crops: A New Agricultural Revolution - Jan 25th through approx. Feb 22nd/March 1st

We'll plan on gathering for 6 evenings for each book, leaving a little room in the schedule for any weather related cancellations.

To register for the either Winter Study (registration is free) please contact Derek Christianson at 508-992-1868 or via email.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Roots Down New Bedford - 4PM Tuesday Nov. 3rd

Join us for the last installment of Roots Down - New Bedford for the 2009 season. We'll meet at 4PM at the Lawler Library, 745 Rockdale Ave in New Bedford.

The topic for this month's discussion will be: Wintertime Tasks for a Terrific 2010 Vegetable Garden: Mulching, Reviewing the Season, and an Organic Garden Reading List. We'll use our final session of the season to discuss common winter chores - from mulching the garden, tool care, and composting to the ever important review of the growing season. There will be plenty of time for general questions and discussions on a wide array of topics including your favorite vegetable gardening books, magazines, and seed catalogs. Feel free to bring along pictures of the garden and or your favorite book or catalog to share with the group.