Record Cold Temps in US

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/02/21/eastern-u-s-record-breaking-cold-and-snow-as-seen-from-space/

NASA's Terra satellite captured this picture of snow across the eastern United States on Feb. 19 at 16:20 UTC (11:20 a.m. EST). Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team - Click to enlarge

This increasing trend even during the peak high of the current sunspot cycle, presages ever-colder temperatures in the next few years to come similar to conditions in previous ‘mini-ice ages’ which occurred during the Maunder and Daulton minimums. For the bakery, this will no doubt mean increasing difficulty with spelt harvests given they are planted in the late fall and have to survive the winter. Moreover, I am beginning to suspect that this may be partly why spelt fell out of favour a couple of centuries ago, although have read nothing directly to indicate this.

This is also why the gaff-rigged yawl I purchased last year has such unbelievably rotten superstructure. They had frequent arctic blasts bringing the temperature down to -20C which hadn’t happened in decades. The boat was unprepared for such treatment. Damp which had accumulated in weak spots due to admittedly poor construction as the builder ran out of sufficient funds at the end of the project, were submitted to frequent freeze-thaw cycles as the temperature oscillated rapidly between -10-20C and +10C. By the time  got down there in June, after it had warmed thoroughly in the humid, swampy atmosphere of the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake, many who passed by to say hello as I was trying to effect repairs, including many with decades of experience with boats, expressed disbelief that the boat was only two years old and insisted that I had been ‘had’. However it was simply that the boat was not winterized at all given that usually it is not necessary down there.

This year is even worse. Global warming may or not be a significant trend that has been exacerbated by man-made inputs, but those inputs are minor league compared with longer-range climactic cycles such as the one we are entering. In Cape Breton, luckily, we are buffered somewhat by the Gulf stream which passes from South to East not far from our shores. But many others further inland and on the North East Coast of the US are going to be in for brutal winters the next 10-20 years.

A good time to invest in Florida or Mexico real estate?

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Eco-Villages

Global EcoVillage Network

Baltic EcoVillage Network

EcoVillageRoad.eu – an EU-govt-aided initiative

Some manuals written by the Baltic EcoVillagers about their experiences, methods (energy conservation/technology, farming, construction etc.)

About the project

Project “Ecovillages for sustainable rural development”

Idea
Nowadays people start thinking about changing their living habits towards being more socially, economically and ecologically responsible. One of the possible ways to do this is proposed by Ecovillage movement. Ecovillage principles aim to combine social–cultural environment with a low–impact way of living. Choosing to live in the ecovillage is choosing an alternative way to the individualistic, materialistic and consumer-oriented lifestyle.

Aim
Project aims at fostering ecovillages development as more sustainable way of living in rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region

Duration and budget
Project is implemented from 2010 to 2013. It is working under “Baltic Sea Region programme 2007-2013” and has total budget of 1.333.426 EUR, funded by European Union as well as contributed by project partners.

Main outputs
• 3 manuals based on case studies, covering guidelines for:
– Eco-settling practices;
– Environmentally – friendly technologies;
– Community living and social development in ecovillages.
• An ecovillage socio-economic sustainability assessment on-line tool;
• Recommendations for decision makers concerning ecovillages proper development;
• Ecovillage road for the Baltic Sea Region including ecovillages which are ready to introduce tourists into ecovillage life as well as pursue internship programs.

Partnership
5 partners from different Baltic Sea Region countries are implementing the project. Project also has 10 associated partners.

Lead partner
Lithuanian Institute of Agrarian Economics, www.laei.lt

Project partners
MTT Agrifood Research Finland, www.mtt.fi
Latvian State Institute of Agrarian Economics, www.lvaei.lv
The West Pomeranian Business School, www.zpsb.szczecin.pl
Suderbyn cooperative society, www.suderbyn.se

Associated project partners
ZEGG , www.zegg.de
GEN Europe, www.gen-europe.org
GEN Finland, www.rihmasto.fi/skey
Centre for Independent Social Research, www.cisr.u
St.Petersburg Forest Technical Academy, www.ftacademy.ru
Permaculture in Sweden, www.permaculture.se
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, www.slu.se
Ekoboforeningen Njord, www.ekobogotland.se
Ecohome, www.ecohome-ngo.by
Council of the Baltic Sea States, CBSS Baltic 21 Unit, www.cbss.lt

Ash Comments:  I am currently mulling over ideas around the notion of what I am now calling ‘Village Farms.’ There are single-family farms, small scale farms, agribusiness farms. This idea is simple: a working farm or farms around which are developed a residential population, varied in age and livelihood, which both enjoys living in a rural, farm atmosphere and also supports the farm operation by purchasing its produce, helping at harvest times, and some of them have independent secondary production operations (like cheese-making, bakery etc.), whilst many do not do farm-related work at all, rather are doctors, lawyers, consultants, drive to work at nearby town or whatever. There could also be financial anchors such as a retirement home which has both residents on fixed income and also hires staff from the village and elsewhere.

Rather than being organised mainly around a philosophy or political cause (environmentalism, a particular religion etc.) this idea is very simple and secular: it is simply a population clustered around a working farm operation. In this way, it is hoped that more people can make a go of it in rural areas, which is not currently the case due to an almost complete abnegation of rural society by current governments throughout the developed world, who have basically ceded the most important policy decisions (how we live, our economic system etc.) to multinational corporations who in turn have foisted agribusiness on all of us using corporate ‘supermarket’ distribution points (aka ‘Big Box Store model’) which drive out local operations and turn small towns everywhere into dying wastelands which young people can’t wait to leave, meaning there is no generational continuity and therefore really only 3 classes: the chronically poor and usually unemployed; the employed but really just working to afford a basic lifestyle and with no generational continuityin terms of place or family fortune; the rich, many of whom also have no continuity, but some of whom – the super-rich – do. It’s not a very advanced system, unless if you count the raw numbers involved which indeed are greater than at any time in known history.

I am thinking of trying to mount a web-based drive to raise money to make in-depth studies of the bad effects of the Big Box model, but more importantly to analyse various hierarchical/organisational models for such a village, finding success and failure examples in places like the EcoVillage initiative highlighted above. Also maybe raise funds via IndieGogo or other methods to pay for studies from cyber-bases analysis services to project ideal population numbers in various climate zones (how many villagers per X-sized farm), also research the legal and funding issues, and also maybe come up with a plan to start 5 model Village Farms in Cape Breton, which plan including

a) how to fund them

b) how to organise them both in terms of project development and subsequent actual ongoing living management

c) how to actualize them

d) how to maintain ongoing interest and networks so that lessons are learned and more such Village Farms can be facilitated – if they prove worthy – in a wide range of terrain and jurisdictions throughout the world.

Ambitious? Yes, I guess. But really this is a one-step-first approach which mainly involves chewing over this idea and seeing if there is an affordable way to come up with a plan for how to go forward with 1-5 Village Farms on Cape Breton Island. That hardly qualifies as hugely ambitious.

A correlated idea is to launch a global ‘Think Tank for the 99%’, i.e. a cyber-funded Think Tank that tackles issues like this Village Farm example, both in terms of funding but also in terms of participation, in that they vote with their dollars as to what to study next. There could be many other topics (Common Law, organic farming methods in colder climates, various small business model templates to help people with start-ups, a research operation that takes peoples business ideas and spits out a comprehensive business plan for them (often the main stumbling block for startups) along with a funding initiative from within the 99% Think Tank community). Now this is ambitous and probably too hard to put into practice, but with all the automation possible nowadays, who knows. If I have time and ongoing interest, would like to look into this sort of thing further if for no other reason than the market numbers have been falling of late in Sydney (both during but also before the bad weather) and it is getting harder and harder to survive here in this situation with deteriorating economy and declining population. A recent Commission reported that this sort of thing is probably going to happen throughout Nova Scotia (not just the rural areas as has been the case for decades, and with urban Sydney the past 20 years), in which case things are going to get tough. And since the Commission did not look favourably on small business inititiatives (if I understood the 120 page report recommendations correctly), rather big business solutions (chiding us for not being Big Business friendly), and since big business has no real reason for being here really, I am not holding my breath that they will do anything substantive.

There is a chance they will allow the Ports Sydney PanamaxPlus container initiative to go forward, but with Chinese shipments down steeply this year, it could be one of those things that gets put on hold for 5-10 years – a very short time globally, but a long time for a local region in systemic crisis.

Meanwhile, although I have no doubt that it will never happen, also I have no doubt that if it did many of the world’s problems today would be solved by: simply banning agribusiness operations and making all farms authentically organic. This would bring rural to urban population ratios back into line (with more people living on or near farms than in cities), end chronic unemployment (and bad minimum wage for corporations employment) and generally promote a saner, healthier society and culture, which in turn would naturally revive a people and economy less beholden to corporate banking and other related cartels (energy, medicine, science, education etc.). It could work, although realistically speaking as we all know, it is highly unlikely.

Still, it says something about the current state of our societies in the developed and developing world that a high probability of success initiative seems so hopelessly out of the question. Indian farmers have been fighting back. And winning yield-per-acre prizes across the board using small-scale, non-agribusiness-input methods. Hopefully more people around the world, like the ecovillagers at top of this page, will make further progress.

 

Let us hope and pray they, and we, can do so.

 

 

After GMO: Synthetic Biology – a ‘new industrial revolution’ on the way

http://www.oldthinkernews.com/2014/03/new-form-of-gmo-sneaking-into-food-supply-this-year/

All DNA is made of the same four chemicals in no end of different combinations and series: Synthetic Biology 1Then you make synthetic, Man-Made DNA based on that coded design:

synthetic man-made DNAfrom the article:

“New Form of GMO Sneaking Into Food Supply This Year

Old-Thinker News | March 17, 2014

By Daniel Taylor

Within 50 years we could have more life forms invented in a lab than we have ever identified in nature.” – Fidelity Investments

This year [Evolva] will release a product that has been created by genetically modified yeast that converts sugars to vanillin. It will be the first major synthetic-biology food additive to hit supermarkets.” – Nature.com

A Switzerland based company called Evolva has developed a synthetic vanilla that is set to be released in 2014. The vanilla is created using a process of genetic engineering called synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology, according to a 2005 European Commission paper is “…the engineering of biology… the synthesis of complex, biologically based (or inspired) systems which display functions that do not exist in nature.” Unlike the older science of splicing genes from different species together, synthetic biology is seeking to create whole new organisms that do not exist on earth.

Evolva’s synthetic vanilla is created by inserting computer coded DNA into yeast. This new method of genetic engineering is called “natural” by Evolva.

Environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth have recognized the potential danger posed by synthetic biology. In its Synthetic Biology Vanillin fact sheet, FoE points out the distinct lack of oversight regarding the health impact of ingesting these engineered ingredients. The organization has launched a campaign called No Synbio Vanilla to tell ice cream makers Haagen Dazs, Dreyers, Baskin Robbins and others not to use synthetic biology vanilla.

Foods that have been genetically modified in the “traditional” method have been linked to sterility in hamsters. The dramatic rise in food allergies has also been speculated to be linked to GMO foods. What health impacts will emerge after eating foods with synthetic DNA that our environment and our bodies have never before encountered?

The Big Picture

Synthetic biology goes well beyond engineering our food. Geneticist Craig Venter is a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology. In 2010 the media hailed his team’s success in creating “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

Currently, companies cannot patent naturally occuring DNA. Synthetic biology will allow syn-bio companies a loophole through patent laws. “One could theoretically upload a DNA sequence onto a computer, “print out” an exact copy of that DNA sequence, and patent the synthetic DNA sequence as an invention,” Gene Watch reports.

Google founder Larry Page met with Craig Venter in California at the Edge billionaires meeting in 2010. Also present were representatives from the State department, Bill Gates, Anne Wojcicki, Bill Joy and dozens of other tech company CEO’s and scientists.

The Edge Billionaire meetings have discussed the future of genetic engineering, biocomputation and re-designing humanity in a transhumanist era. Physicist Freeman Dyson described the individuals leading this group as having god-like power to create entirely new species on earth in a “New Age of Wonder”. He describes them as:

“…a new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet.”

In the societal divide that will inevitably ensue over the development of these technologies, Fred Charles Ikle, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under President Reagan, sees a possibility of “Annihilation from Within.” “The prospect is that in the decades ahead, biotechnology – together with other sciences – may fundamentally change the human species and thus pose an elemental threat to democracy, the world order, and indeed to all civilizations,” writes Ikle.

The technological elite are engaged in a mission to attain full spectrum dominance over life and its complex processes, and in the process re-write the genetic code of the planet.”

From a conference in the video clip:

“We are here to announce the first synthetic cell.”

[Comments:]   If they could first fix the damage done to the soil, plant, insect, fungal and animal species wreaked by modern industry including the overly-simplistic and short-sighted agro-business (aka ‘maximise yield, deplete the nutrients, kill the soil’) model, then maybe they could approach technology like this rather than just ploughing ahead with the next damaging thing just because it is new, it is fancy and it can make a large corporation and their owners (the same cartels which own most of the world’s major businesses and governments) richer.

When is this all going to stop?

When enough of us choose to live differently. Easier said than done, but more of us need to try before it is too late. I hope young people growing up today wake up and have the courage to do something about all this because otherwise the world their children and grandchildren live in will be almost devoid of access to any true nature, and therefore true beauty, true sanity, true simplicity.

Private Life of Plants

tune into the plant kingdom by watching David Attenborough’s marvellous ‘Private Life of Plants.’ Lots of loverly time-lapse pictures of which below a still screenshot.

https://archive.org/details/ThePrivateLifeOfPlants_581

Flower1I am reading some of Michael Pollan’s book, including last week ‘Botany of Desire’ in which he tries to advocate a little on the world from the point of view of the plant kingdom. The article in the New Yorker Mag. which I linked a few weeks ago is better in that regard.

But these time-lapse photos are simply amazing. The Buddhist Dzogchen masters have it aright: space and consciousness/awareness/intelligence are inseparable (as confirmed by the Quantum Crowd decades ago), albeit different forms reflect that intelligence in different ways, and intelligence should not be confused with a self or ego. But that’s not the topic of this little post, nor of this little blog!

Enjoy the Plants!

Small Scale Organic Farming is best way to feed the world

Last year on this blog I put up a page with lots of information about bokashi, a natural method of fertilization which has been widely adopted in several Asian agricultural zones, and also mentioned the new RSI (?) methods of rice and grain growing that have been winning the yield-per-acre wars. The following article links to several studies endorsed by relatively mainstream sources indicating that contrary to all the propaganda which most people have swallowed, organic farming is simply more efficient, not only more sustainable (which in itself is a long-term requisite for any sort of authentic efficiency) but higher yielding. What has to go, though, is huge monoculture fields serviced by enormous single-crop-at-a-time harvesting and other machines, and a return to a more labour-intensive and locally diverse method of managing farms.

http://naturalsociety.com/new-un-report-small-scale-organic-way-feed-world/

organic green 263x164 New UN Report: Small Scale Organic is the Only Way to Feed the World

We are all aware at this point that we need to transform the way we think about farming. Our food system is broken, and the same paradigm that created its systemic problems will not fix them. According to a new publication from the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), small scale, organic farming can create strong local food systems – the only viable, sustainable way to feed the word.

Sixty experts from around the world weighed in on the problem in Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before it is Too Late, which includes a commentary from IATP. Within its pages were a detailed look at more sustainable agriculture, better research, re-allocation of land use, reform of global trade rules and climate change.

The report calls for ‘ecological intensification,’ or a shift from conventional mono-culture planting to independent, small-scale production and permaculture, which can create a mosaic of sustainable regenerative systems which can feed all of us.

In an article previously featured at Natural Society, Russians Prove Small Scale Organic CAN Feed the World, this suggestion by the UN has already been put into place. Small scale gardens and farms helped feed Russia even through a collapsing economy. Many of the key indicators in the report are the types of transformative action agriculture has already undergone in places like this small town in the UK, and despite government agencies forcing people to dig up their well-established organic gardens grown on their own properties.

The UNCTAD report the following as needs to transform our food supply:

  • Increase soil carbon content and better integration between crop and livestock production
  • Increase incorporation of agroforestry and wild vegetation
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions of livestock production
  • Reduce GHGs through sustainable peatland, forest, and grassland management
  • Optimize organic and inorganic fertilizer use, including through closed nutrient cycles in agriculture
  • Reduce waste throughout food chains
  • Change dietary patterns toward climate-friendly food consumption
  • Reform the international trade regime for food and agriculture

Notice that nowhere in the report does it suggest the reduction of herbicide and pesticides or GMO foods. Instead, while offering some sound advice, it also focuses on trade negotiations with the WTO and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While these agreements undermined locally-based food trade, and they should be reconsidered, it does not address the support of Big Ag instead of the local farmer – in the US and elsewhere.

Fortunately, the report does not support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is really just another way to monopolize the food supply like Monsanto’s attempt to monopolize seed.

Another report issued in 2007 by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) with a similar list of international experts came to similar conclusions. The report stated that ‘business as usual was not an option,’ and policy transformation must take place ‘before it is too late.’

Study: Roundup (glyphosate) may cause Gluten Intolerance

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/gluten-intolerance-from-roundup-herbicide-zw0z1402zkin.aspx

http://www.motherearthnews.com/~/media/Images/MEN/Editorial/Articles/Online%20Articles/2014/02-01/Is%20Roundup%20the%20Cause%20of%20Gluten%20Intolerance/Incidencethousands%20jpg.jpg

Increased use of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide (trade name Roundup) could be the cause of the epidemic of  “gluten intolerance”, according to a compelling new peer-reviewed report from two U.S. scientists. Farmers are now using glyphosate not only to control weeds but also to dry down wheat, rice, sugarcane and other crops just before harvest, resulting in higher residues in the foods we eat. The abstract from the paper “Glyphosate, Pathways to Modern Diseases II: Celiac Sprue and Gluten Intolerance” is below.  You can read the full report here and view graphs in the Slideshow connecting increased use of glyphosate with growing rates of celiac incidence, deaths from intestinal infections, acute kidney disease and deaths due to Parkinson’s.

Abstract:
Celiac disease, and more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5 percent of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup, is the most important causal factor of this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances of gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine, and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids. Celiac disease patients have an increased risk to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to harvest. We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America. We conclude with a plea to governments to reconsider policies regarding the safety of glyphosate residues in foods. Click here to read the whole article:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/~/media/2C6428C5A5254BAFB484C6E43E4ADCF9.ashx

 

Seeds of Revolution

A collection of articles read in the past couple of days, sparked by a kind submission from ‘follower’ Suzanne of the link which has ‘whole wheat doesn’t suck’ in the text (!).

The artisan as scientist: baker Jonathan McDowell in the Bread Lab Photos: Tom Philpott

Seed/Grain Research series:

http://m.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/02/toms-kitchen-100-whole-wheat-bread-doesnt-suck-and-pretty-easy

Suzanne’s article about a laboratory in Washington State University researching wheat varieties that make good whole grain breads, which modern wheat varieties, mainly bred to make good white flours, do not.

http://magissues.farmprogress.com/WFS/WS09Sep13/wfs006.pdf

Related article in local publication

http://news.wsu.edu/2013/11/12/bread-lab-helps-artisan-bakers-analyze-perfect-recipes/#.UwSO9hCZd8J

Another related article showing how others are interested and involved, including King Arthur Flour’s Hemmelman, without question one of the most influential bakers in America.

General Comments: I find these articles encouraging in that they make me feel less alone. I run a small operation in Sydney, a town with few people interested in such matters and indeed, the majority of ‘health food types’ here are so into gluten-free approach even though, as these articles show, what I do might be regarded as being on the cutting edge of a recent movement in creating healthy, traditional breads using heritage grains which only a small minority of artisan bakeries offer in Europe and North America. Reading these articles gives me encouragement that perhaps such efforts are not in vain, despite the relative lack of response to date.

Personally, and even thougoh I don’t use them because they cost double my current Milanaise Red Fife white, my favorite flours are the Speerville ‘Whole Whites’ made from either Red Fife or Acadia wheats; these retain most of the germ but have sifted out most of the bran. Yet I suspect that different varieties in the experiments mentioned in these articles might well have less brittle bran structures and so might make better whole grain breads, obviating the need for ‘whitening’ them. The past century, we have been favouring very hard grains not only for white flour production, but also to function optimally in steel-rollers which do not – unlike stone mills – favour soft grains. Moreover the recent hybrids have been bred to grow in dead soils augmented by synthetic nitrogen fertilizers (and a few other) chemical inputs developed by the scientist who gave us mustard gas in WWI and Zyklon B in WW II (!), and therefore are not necessarily the best grains to use for organic farmers.

These articles give hope, because I agree with the premise in some of them that it is time for us to use not only heritage varieties versus post-war hybrids, but also develop new varieties bred to flourish in particular regions and in organically cultivated (aka ‘biotically alive’) soils, and bred to make good whole grain versus white, breads. The way in which local artisans, successful chefs and millers and farmers can come together on this – even if only via an occasional conference – is a new wave in wheat growing and bread baking development, and I hope it succeeds. At the very least, it’s a refreshing example of a time-honoured battle-cry:

IIEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM !!

(don’t let the bastards get you down!)

I wish more farmers here in Cape Breton could grow such stuff, but because of the dominance of agribusiness these days, not a single farmer on the island even grows conventional bread grains. I wish the regional Agricultural College and the Department of Agriculture were more involved in this sort of thing, but of course they mainly promote an agri-business approach to farming even if they might say, and sincerely believe, they don’t. What choice do they have? Rural communities and small farm holdings are a thing of the past; rural populations are dying out throughout the developed west with literally hundreds of villages in food-friendly France virtually empty (one occupant surrounded by thirty empty houses is quite common). Presumably, we are all supposed to move into the city and work at call centers shuffling data around. Heavy manufacturing and farm work is done by low-wage coolies in China and, no doubt in a few decades, Africa.

Anyway, these articles give me hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be a place for local and regional artisanal approaches to food and culture and more alternatives to Big Box culture in general.

Related Mother Jones articles series:

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/10/radical-chefs-launch-seed-revolution

Oct 4 2013: “I’m fairly confident when I say that last week at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture—a sprawling farm/restaurant nestled in a rural corner of Westchester County, New York, on land donated by the Rockefeller family—I witnessed the globe’s first-ever meeting between a roster of renowned chefs and a set of utterly obscure, highly accomplished plant breeders, mostly from US land grant universities.”

Top chefs from around the world meet to consider ways to work on developing more diverse, nutritious and flavourful locally grown plant varieties; new wheats developed to make pleasing whole grain loaves play big role in demonstration.

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/05/organic-vs-conventional-agriculture-nature

May 2 2012: “Like a good buffet, Nature‘s recent meta-analysis comparing the productivity of industrial and organic agriculture offered something for every taste.

For enthusiasts of large-scale, chemical-intensive agriculture, there was this headline finding: Yields on organic farming—the amount of crop produced per acre—are on average 25 percent lower than those of industrial farming.”

The article then goes on to argue that it ain’t that simple – at all….

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/06/vilsack-usda-big-ag

June 15 2011: the distortions and lies Big-Ag tell themselves and moreover try to force onto the rest of the world.

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2007/07/organic-farming-can-feed-world

July 11 2007. The effectiveness of well-administered organic farming is old news: “Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land. A new study from the University of Michigan refutes the long-standing assumption that organic farming methods can’t produce enough food to feed the global population. The researchers found that yields in developed countries were almost equal between organic and conventional farms, while food production in developing countries could double or triple by going organic. The study also found that equal or greater yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, and without putting more farmland into production. Ivette Perfecto, of U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, said the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic is ridiculous. “Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food,” she said. JULIA WHITTY” {That’s the complete article, btw}

I will try to find links to the new RSI (?) methods in Asia which have been winning yield prizes in rice for several years now and are organic and use only self-made fertilizers, i.e. No need for corporation-supplied ‘inputs’ or subsidies or GM tyranny – the farmer can be master of his fate again.

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/green-revolution-cullather

Aug 5 2011: “In 1968, India’s farmers cranked out a record-setting wheat crop at a time when many observers feared the nation would plunge into famine. That triumphant harvest represented the culmination of decades of work by a group of foundation-funded US technocrats. Their effort, which became known as the “green revolution,” still casts an imposing shadow more than four decades later.

Its technological architect, the Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, was all but beatified upon his death in 2009. In its obituary, Reason Magazine proclaimed him “the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history,” while The New York Times wrote that he “did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself.”

Meanwhile, the powerhouse funding institution most associated with the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller Foundation, has joined forces with today’s richest funder, the Gates Foundation, to recreate Borlaug’s magic in Africa. Their “Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa” push got a de facto endorsement from President Obama when he tapped Gates’ chief ag-development man, Rajiv Shah, for a top research job at USDA. Today, Shah serves as director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Thus the “green revolution” idea still percolates in high-level development policy circles. But if our top foundations and development policymakers are pushing to recreate the green revolution for an entire continent, than it’s worth figuring out precisely what led up to that famous bumper crop nearly half a century ago—and what it means for the future. In his 2010 book The Hungry World, the University of Indiana historian Nick Cullather does just that.”

Sure enough, the real story is quite different. Again and again in so many fields (journalism, medicine, education, politics, food, you name it) there is a revealing pattern of greed and outright deception. It is time we collectively stop buying and eating the BS they keep shovelling down our throats and psyches.

A Tale of Two Breads – first draft of work in progress

This is the latest of a series of 1-2 pagers I am putting together as handouts at the Farmers’ Market booth. Previous offerings including a basic Ingredient list and something about commercial yeast vs. organic yeast have been a tad lackluster. This one shows some promise…

A Tale of Two Breads

 

Bread is a tricky subject these days. On the one hand increasing numbers of people have been experiencing not only celiac but also ‘gluten intolerance’, with books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain making persuasive cases that anything containing gluten is toxic. On the other hand, you have the seeming circumstantial evidence of people having consumed gluten-containing bread for about 5,000 years as a staple part of the diet. Whole books should be written about this, but here we shall look at two core aspects involving first: the quality and type of grains used for the flour, and second: the way these grains are fermented or otherwise processed, for I believe these two aspects go a long way towards explaining why something which used to be so good (‘real bread’) has become so very, very bad (modern imitation bread). I am not saying this is the whole story necessarily, but both are key characters in our ‘Tale of Two Breads’.

 

GRAINS:

 

  • Modern wheat hybrids have been bred to accommodate post-industrial production methods which began with mechanical harvesters in the mid 1800’s shortly followed by steel-rollers at large, industrial mills, followed by mechanical mixers in ever-larger commercial bakeries which all but eliminated small artisan bakeries and communal village bake-oven traditions. (One of the first commercial applications of Watt’s steam engine was for the Albion Mill in 1786.) Desired qualities in modern hybrids include:
    • Softer husks to facilitate mechanical threshing during mechanical harvestng
    • Harder grains (= more protein = more gluten) for the steel-rolling process
    • more elastic, resilient gluten to facilitate intense mechanical mixing
    • dwarf variety plants to prevent drooping of tall stalks from heavy nitrogen inputs needed to facilitate growth in soils deadened by chemical inputs
    • grains which can tolerate heavy pesticide use needed because sick plants raised on dead soils lack normal immune systems which repel pests.
  • Heritage Grains: Heritage grains come from seed stocks prior to post-industrial hybrids, so they: are not dwarf varieties, do not have unnaturally dense gluten, are grown in microbially vibrant organic soils and thus have healthy immune systems and so do not need chemical fertilizers to survive until harvest time.
  • French Road Bakery uses the following grain from certified organic farmers provided by both Speerville NB and Meunerie Milanaise QC (from whom I get steel-rolled Red Fife white flour).
    • Wheat: mid-1800’s Red Fife or 1930’s Acadian ( Maritime variety)
    • Rye – organic, believed not a modern hybrid since no need, grows everywhere
    • Spelt – ancient variety going back to Egyptian times
    • Barley, Buckwheat, Oats* – used in smaller quantities, not sure about varieties
    • Khorasan, a heritage grain from which comes durum used for pasta

 

PROCESS

 

Recently, cutting edge (albeit far too rare) research in Italy and also from the American Gut Project (both on my blog) is indicating that most gluten and related problems are most likely due to modern agricultural and processing methods which increase profits by lowering costs by saving time, extending shelf life and underpricing locals. Machines save time during tilling, planting, watering and growing, weeding, protecting, harvesting, threshing, washing, drying, grinding, mixing, leavening, baking, packaging and shipping – not to mention questionable chemical and other additives used to prolong flour storage and finished bread ‘products’. All of the above have degraded the nutritive content and digestibility of this time-honoured staple. In the 1800’s the average person in England ate a pound a day of slow-leavened bread, a working man often more like 2.5 pounds, with similar amounts in France, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe including Russia. And this had been the case for centuries. Indeed, the way in which bread has gone from being a healthy staple to a possible killer is testament to the failure of modern, ‘scientific’ methods as practiced by mainly commerical, profit-driven corporations.

 

Along with fresh-grinding whole grains for the dark flour content (which avoids the vitamin degradation which takes place within a few days of grinding) French Road Bakery only uses fresh starter cultures grown from the grains themselves, not the factory-produced freeze-dried single-strain commercial product used by most commercial, home and even ‘artisan’ bakers today.

 

Traditionally, there are two main types of bread: those using specialised beer yeast remainders from nearby breweries (favoured by the English), and those using ‘sourdough’ leavens which are complex starter cultures grown from the flours in the breads. With either method the dough and/or starter cultures are soaked and/or fermented overnight at room temperature or for several days in cooler cellar temperatures, during which time a multitude of marvellous enzymatic, yeasty and bacterial ‘fermentation’ phases unfold, producing layers of esters, acids, vitamins and proteins, some being released from the previously dormant, chemically bound seeds, others from the microbes themselves, the end result being that when baked – the final transformational process which gelatinizes the starch rendering it soft and digestible – the breads rise and aerate into a well-woven textural and aromatically delightful tartan, with crunchy, rich-tasting, anti-bacterial crusts without, and soft, redolent organoleptically delicious crumb within, creating what we, in typical linguistic shorthand call simply: ‘bread’.

 

 

Back to our Story

 

Well, the thing is: such traditional slow-fermented bread really isn’t the same thing as modern bread, both that which is supplied from high-volume machine-led processes in commercial ‘production facilities’, and also that produced by home bakers using commercial single-strain yeast. The same word ‘bread’ is describing two very different things. Significantly, every single anti-bread book or article I have read thus far fails to make any substantive distinction between what can be called ‘real bread’ and modern ‘imitation bread.’

 

How many times do people walk past my booth refusing a sample, telling me they don’t buy ‘bread’ any more, and how many times do I think to myself ‘good for you, that is a wise choice, but I can’t help but wonder: do you know the difference between traditiona Real Bread like mine, and the modern imitation?’ Of course, most of them are not even aware there is such a difference, especially since you can use the same word, ‘bread’ to describe two very different things. (Same goes for properly processed/fermented, vs. improperly/too rapidly processed ‘gluten’.)

 

In sum: instead of ‘bread’ as most people think and speak of it today, French Road Bakery offers traditional ‘Real Bread’, a bedrock staple of a healthy diet in the West for millenia, versus the modern imitation which has been adulterated by mechanical shortcuts and is proving increasingly unhealthy, along with so many other poorly farmed and processed foods distributed via high volume supermarket systems which have undermined locally grown and prepared fresh foods, and in so doing have fostered no end of auto-immune and other systemic health problems along with almost wiping out vibrant rural and small town community culture by eliminating so many sources of local employment. This is a problem endemic throughout the developed world these days, but maybe in Cape Breton, with our deep roots in local community culture, we can show the rest of the world a way forward. Yes:

 

You CAN fight ‘the system’!

Buy a loaf of ‘Real Bread’!

Buy local produce at your Farmers’ Market!

 

Wheat of the Future Based in the Past

http://www.organicagcentre.ca/Docs/HeritageWheats_JenniferScott.pdf

This link kindly provided by Mark of http://www.barnyardorganics.ca the farmers providing me with the new (or should I say old) Acadia wheat I tried out for the first time last week.

THis is six pages long, here is the first page:

Wheat of the Future Based in the Past
By Jennifer Scott (902)-757-1640, email:
jen@ns.sympatico.ca
In the past few years, winds of change are blowing through wheat fields. Wheat – a fundamental ingredient in bread and many other foods – contains more nutrients per
weight than meat, milk, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. It is a part of our national
identity. Canada is well known throughout the world for its bread wheat.
The change is not based on transgenic crops, scientists in white lab coats, boardroom
decisions, stock market hype, or millions of dollars in public relations efforts. The new
wheat is emerging from the fields of caring and conscientious farmers, locally-owned
flour mills, artisan bakeries, and the organic farming movement. Consumers seeking healthy food help to fan the flames – particularly those consumers who are having
difficulty tolerating conventional modern wheat. It is a grass-roots, community based
movement – building literally from the ground up.
First, organic farmers began to ask for bread wheat varieties that were more suitable for
organic farms where herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers are replaced with
healthy soil and careful management. They also needed choices of varieties that were
suitable according to the region and soil type. Stricter organic rules demanded that all
organic seed be from organic sources. Conventional wheat from conventional seed
sources was just not cutting the mustard. Clusters of organic farmers in Europe, the US
, and Canada organized field trials to asses wheat varieties – both modern and heritage
– that would be appropriate. In the Maritimes, the Maritime Certified Organic Growers (MCOG) in co-operation with Speerville Mill and the New Brunswick government began such efforts in 1998 with the help of the Heritage Seed Program and like-minded growers and millers in the US and Canada. Organic farmers in the region were recruited to grow
wheat. The price of organic wheat started to rise, making it more worthwhile to grow bread wheat – considered one of the more challenging organic crops to grow because of the quality requirements (minimum 13.5% protein, no fusarium, adequate dryness, and harvested at the correct time to prevent sprouting).
Meanwhile the demand for locally-grown organic stone-ground flour was outstripping
supply. The beauty of stone-ground whole wheat flour is its sweet and nutty flavour, and
superior nutritional value compared to steel-roller-milled flour. It contains the grain components in their original proportions and includes the germ. (Stone grinding distributes the germ oil evenly without exposing it to the excess heat that can cause flour to become rancid and much of the vitamin content to be destroyed.) But stone-ground whole wheat flour needs to be fresh. It shouldn’t be stored for months and months, or transported thousands of kilometers in a hot truck. This is also part of its beauty. It should be processed locally and used fresh. It is the domain of small community-based
business, not large multinationals.”
There is more about farmers in PEI and elsewhere growing Acadia and Selkirk, which are Maritime favorites of yore, and also mention made of how those with gluten issues who prefer spelt also do fine with Acadia (same is said of Red Fife).
In any case, I look forward to working further with Acadia in the coming months – whilst still only using Red Fife for white flour since that is what is provided by Milanaise – and will continue to use only such heritage varieties.

Acadia Wheat

This week I used a new strain of wheat, Acadia wheat, which was developed specifically for the Maritime climate in the 1930’s. I am still trying to learn more about it but initial impressions are that it has a lighter, warmer profile than Red Fife, which is darker and more robust. Also it seems to have a more springy, albeit less chewy, gluten structure which promotes a lighter rise. I was surprised by this combination, namely that not only does the dough feel more springy and resilient, but also softer and lighter. I am hopeful this is going to be a keeper. There are scattered reports on the internet that this is better for those with gluten issues, but of course such things are

a) highly subjective and

b) rarely if ever researched thoroughly over time with large numbers of people and

c) very hard to tell in any case unless you happen to get very strong reactions to other wheats (in which case you probably will never bother to try this one!).

For example in the blog entry linked below, they say: “Acadia has proven to be agreeable with some gluten intolerances, which we all know is a growing concern for many.” (I wish such statements about being ‘proven’ were better verified …)

That said, it’s a bit hard to tell (about the Acadia) since last week I (finally!) put together a proofing chamber which maintains a much higher level of humidity than before which, especially with sourdough, promotes a more vigorous rise.

In any case, soon I’ll do a comparison bake with fresh-ground Red Fife versus Acadia loaves in otherwise identical conditions.

Meanwhile, this blog entry from a Maritime farmer who, working with Speerville, is growing this fine variety of wheat.

http://barnyardorganics.blogspot.ca/2013/10/inspectors-acadia-babies-oh-my.html

Their blog is delightfully called “For the Love of the Soil”. If gas weren’t so expensive these days, I would love to go down and visit…

Fresh-ground Acadia wheat flour, rising…..