Agriculture

You may think that the great historic debate between communism and private property is over.

Well, it's not. Not at your local community garden.

Take, for example, the experience of Campos Community Garden in Manhattan's East Village.

Eight years ago, the garden was decrepit and abandoned. Beverly McClain walked by it all the time, on the way to her daughter's school. And one day, she and a motley group of fellow gardeners decided to revive it.

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EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: American farmers are an aging population. Is anyone doing anything to make sure younger people are taking up this profession in large enough numbers to keep at least some of our food production domestic?-- Beverly Smith, Milwaukee, WI

Part of a series

Thanks to high commodity prices and surging productivity, U.S. farmers earned a net income of nearly $98 billion last year — a record, according to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

Here's the secret of the modern dairy farm: The essential high-tech advances aren't in machinery. They're inside the cow.

Take a cow like Claudia. She lives at Fulper Farms, a dairy farm in upstate New Jersey. Claudia is to a cow from the 1930s as a modern Ferrari is to a Model T.

In the 1930s, dairy farmers could get 30 pounds of milk per day from a cow. Claudia produces 75 pounds a day.

To appreciate a cow like Claudia, you have to know where to look.

OK, so this story is about weeds and weedkillers, neither of which is ever the hero of a story, but stay with me for a second: It's also about plants with superpowers.

Unless you grow cotton, corn or soybeans for a living, it's hard to appreciate just how amazing and wonderful it seemed, 15 years ago, when Roundup-tolerant crops hit the market. I've seen crusty farmers turn giddy just talking about it.

Researchers have nailed down something scientists, government officials and agribusiness proponents have argued about for years: whether antibiotics in livestock feed give rise to antibiotic-resistant germs that can threaten humans.

This is one of those stories that reminds us that everything really is connected to everything else.

Here's the web of connections: a threat to California's booming almond business; hard times for honeybees in North Dakota; and high corn prices.

Confused?

OK, let's start with the almonds. They come from an old-world tree that migrated to California and prospered in the hands of farmers like James McFarlane, who lives right outside the city of Clovis.

USDA

The USDA recently released a new growing zone map for the entire country. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the guide gardeners use to determine what plants and flowers will most likely thrive in their location. This is the first significant update in more than 20 years. The new online interactive map takes advantage of much more detailed data analysis, and it’s making news because it shows that warmer winters are sustaining plants that previously would have died off in colder climates.

The Tale of Two Farms

Dec 14, 2011
Photo by Lisbokt, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We’ve heard the stories of farm family underdogs pitched against profit-hungry developers or deep- pocketed corporations. This story of a land dispute in Canterbury New Hampshire defies the good guy versus bad guy model. The players in this conflict are two well-liked farm families. One has been farming in town for hundreds of years, and currently runs a dairy farm. The other family is not native, farms organically, and has corporate backing.

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