Dead Bees, 4th of July & Sacred Tobacco

July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014 - When I read the news this morning of how Home Depot and other major retailers are selling home gardeners plants which are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, now known to be a principal factor in the collapse of bee populations, it sent me into a disquieted reverie.

tobAs I’ve previously written about at length, the neonicotinoid poisons causing the collapse of bee colonies are a synthetic form of the sacred native plant tobacco.

For millennia here on Turtle Island (North America) tobacco has been known and respected as the chief, or most powerful, of what are spoken of as the four sacred herbs, which also include sage, cedar and sweetgrass.

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and other framers of the Declaration of Independence – which we celebrate on the 4th of July – smoked sacred tobacco when they met and consulted with representatives the oldest living participatory democracies in the world, the Haudenausenee, or Iroquois Six Nation and the Lenape. Used in a proper manner, native tobacco has potential for great good.

Out of those meetings, sanctified with tobacco, native traditions of democracy became a key influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is a much-overlooked part of America’s history as detailed in Gregory Schaff’s book Wampum Belts and Peace Trees.

Later when the founders finally did constitute the US of A they made a grave omission by leaving out a core element of Native democracy: the role of women. Thus American democracy was not whole. Women had no voice in US government until the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920.

Likewise, when chemical corporations took up the tobacco plant as a model they overlooked the whole, sacred dimension of the plant and created a limited, synthetic version. They exaggerated the yang element of tobacco to produce nicotine analogs bearing names such as clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, and thiamethoxam.

Rather than using sacred tobacco in a respectful manner to promote life, the chemical corporations  manufactured life-annihilating poisons – the neonicotinoids – which are now killing off our bees and other pollinators. Tobacco has been perverted, chemically synthesized to an extreme yang (masculine) state, and has thereby become a major factor in collapsing the balance of nature – essential to our survival.

Gardeners who buy plants may become unwitting accomplices in this destruction of life. According to the Friends of the Earth, until further notice gardeners should assume the plants they buy from most garden centers contain neonicotinoid pesticides. We need to ask questions and continue to advocate for revolutionary change — a natural, healthy balance in our gardens and farm fields.

Otherwise, as the New York Times has editorialized, “nothing less than the world’s ability to produce food is at risk from these chemicals.”


The Call of the Land now on all Apple devices

June 7, 2014

No matter what kind of digital device you have, you can now access and read in all digital formats the 2nd edition of The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century.

The book has long been available in print and in a range of ebook formats through Amazon.com and other major retailers.

ibookNow The Call of the Land is also available in the whole range of digital devices from Apple: iPads, iPhones, and Mac computers.

Impending matters of finance, transport, oil supply, climate stability, water availability, and diet, necessitate—right now—a clear, visionary look at our relationship with our land and an immediate wholehearted response. The Call of the Land addresses these critical issues head on, and offers a broad range of creative, positive responses.

Worldwide, agricultural and financial systems are mutating at breakneck speed. More change is coming. That is certain in response to fundamental shifts in the global economy and environment. These changes impact not just food cost, but also food quality and food availability. This book has proven iteslf to be an valuable resource for those seeking wise pathways to respond.

Many of my other books are also now available from the iTunes and iBook online stores. To check out the possibilities, just follow this link.

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Historic Pivot Point for Food Democracy

April 24, 2014
Dr. Vandana Shiva. Photo by Dominik Hundhammer, from Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Vandana Shiva. Photo by Dominik Hundhammer, Wikimedia Commons.

“Something is happening at this point in history,” Katherine Kelly said as she brought to conclusion an April 17 lecture by international farm activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. “We are at a point in time where we can make an important change. Dr. Shiva is helping to lead the way. The rest is up to us.”

Kelly, the Executive Director of Cultivate Kansas City, articulated an overarching context for Shiva’s acute critique of the food system as well as her inspirational entreaties.

The context of Shiva’s presentation was further framed by three signal events. National Geographic had just published a cover story focused on the increasingly pertinent “New Food Revolution.” Meanwhile, more significantly, US merchandizing behemoth Walmart announced a program to create an industrialized organic food production system that they intend to use to “drive down the price of organic food.” The same week merchandizing rival Target Corp. also announced it was increasing its offerings of “natural, organic and sustainable” food.

Love Window CROPPED and STRAIGHTENEDIn counterpoint to these industrial-scale, profit-focused initiatives, when Dr. Shiva took the stage at Unity Temple in Kansas City, she swept her arm back, gesturing to a stained-glass window with a star burst and the word love spelled out. “That’s it,” she said. “Love. Love is the altar. It’s all about love, about bestowing attention, fostering, cherishing, honoring, tending, guarding, and loving the Earth which provides our food. The only way we can cultivate that essential ingredient of love is with community and diversity.”

The 61-year-old physicist, ecologist and author from Delhi, India then served up a penetrating deconstruction of the mechanistic mindset and the industrial food system it has spawned. This is the same mindset Walmart and Target now intend to apply to organic food.

“For a short time,” Shiva said, “the mechanistic mind has projected onto the world the false idea that food production is and must be of necessity an industrial activity. That’s a world view that is in profound error.”

“When food becomes a commodity it loses its quality, its taste, and its capacity to provide true nutrition,” she said. Industrial agriculture turns the earth into units of production, farmers into high-tech sharecroppers, and is the single biggest contributor to our declining environment. She said industrial agriculture distorts the proper relationship between humans and the natural world.

* * * * * * * *

A physicist by training, Dr. Shiva became an activist for small-scale, decentralized sustainable agriculture in 1987. That’s when she acquired insight into the motivation behind industrial farming and genetic engineering. She attended a conference on biotechnology and heard representatives of chemical corporations say that they must do genetic engineering on crops because it is a way to start claiming ownership over life.

“If we can claim ownership,” the corporate representatives reasoned according to Shiva, “then we can then collect rent or royalties on the seeds’ capacity to reproduce themselves.”

Shiva argued that it is absurd that corporations are allowed to codify life as a patentable and profitable form. “GMO,” she said, “has come to mean ‘God Move Over.’ It violates the rights of the Earth, the rights of the farmers, and the rights of the people who need to eat food to live. The patenting of life violates every principle of law and ethics and morality.”

278187This kind of one-dimensional, profit-based thinking is the core of what Shiva wrote about in her seminal 1993 book, Monocultures of the Mind. Coming at the subject from her mastery of particle physics and her understanding of the fundamental inseparability of all facets of life, she concluded that “issues about environment, economics and politics are inter-related through the way humans interact with their surroundings and with each other.”

Shiva argues in her book and in her lectures that a mechanical monocultural mindset has led to vicious circle of injurious impacts in the realms of farms, food and the environment.

“A monoculture of the mind in the economic system is what has led to corporate globalization,” she said in her Kansas City talk. “A monoculture of the mind makes it appear as if the only market that there is, is the globalized market controlled by the global giants, whereas the real market, and the real economy, are the economies of nature. That is where local food movements and systems are becoming the solution to the multiple crises created by the monoculture monopoly system.”

Our mainstream food system is designed by corporate entities having a responsibility to shareholders, investors, and private owners, she said. The bottom line is the almighty dollar. But in maximizing certain kinds of production, we are systematically ‘weeding out’ other kinds of life.

Through the monoculture of the mind we have been establishing what Shiva termed an “Empire of Man” over the earth and lesser creatures (which for people immersed in the monoculture of the mind also includes women and indigenous peoples). It constitutes an attempt at a mechanistic takeover of the universe.

“Diversity has everything to do with food,” Shiva said. “In fact, any system that is not a diversified agriculture system is something else. It’s an industrial system that is producing non-food, food that is unworthy of being eaten and that is creating huge problems in health. Real food provides the diversity of nutrients that our body needs – the trace elements, the micronutrients…Diversity creates decentralization, and decentralization creates democracy.”

Having greater diversity of seeds and of local, smaller-scale farms and food processing operations creates a wealth of options, Shiva said. “We need to intensify diversity and biology, and we can do that only through love.”

Diversity loves diversity, because it is freedom. This, she has said, is a political act, a kind of revolution. To further that revolution, and to save seeds in her home nation of India, Shiva founded Navdanya, a nonprofit organization named for the nine crops that provide food security in India.

* * * * * * * *

With Dr. Shiva’s analysis in mind, one cannot help but question the impact and outcome of Walmart’s and Target’s announced intentions to aggressively exploit what Wall Street financial analysts have branded as “the hot organic market.”

Doubtless some good will arise from increasing the number of farms using chemical-free growing practices, and the wider availability of food with decreased chemical contaminants. But the entry of such large-scale corporate players into a traditionally modest-scale and decentralized endeavor is a game changer. It’s also representative of the industrial mindset that Vandana Shiva – and advocates of food democracy – regard as profoundly troubling.

The burgeoning interest of people in clean, local food, and the accelerated entry of Walmart and Target into the realm of organic food and sustainable agriculture, establishes a critical pivot point for the food democracy movement.

As farmer John Peterson of Angelic Organics recently explained to me, farmers get beat in to the ground when they work for prices set by wholesalers, and must struggle to make their mortgage, equipment and labor payments and all the rest.

When retailers and wholesalers are in command – as they are in industrial-scale operations – efficiency and profitability become the dominant values. Farmers are contracted under these values and thereby relegated to the role of corporate vassals, laboring in servitude to fulfill the terms of contract on quantity, quality, timing, and pricing – all factors that have little to do with nature or with the rising spirit of the food democracy movement.

“You cannot have the stewards of the land struggling under that much pressure,” farmer Peterson told me. “A farm is not just an economic unit to produce food. It’s also a living social, environmental and educational organism. It cannot be thought of as just a unit of economic production. That just commodifies the farms and farmers, as food is commodified also.”

Cultivate KC Director Katherine Kelly and Dr. Shiva.

Cultivate KC Director Katherine Kelly and Dr. Shiva.

This is one of the key points Vandana Shiva strove to get across in her Kansas City visit. We have arrived at a pivot point for the food democracy movement. We need a fundamental transformation in the way we regard and relate to farms and food. An industrial-scale monoculture of the mind, and a monoculture of putative organic farms and food, are unlikely to fulfill this ideal. Instead they present a complex range of potentially corrupting possibilities.

“We need to cultivate freedom, to cultivate hope, to cultivate diversity,” Shiva told the Kansas City audience. “We need to build the direct relationship between those who grow the food and those who eat it. Care for people has to be the guiding force for how we produce, process, and distribute our food.”

“We need to shift the paradigm of economics to measure the well being of people,” she said, “not the profits of the oligarchs.”

Shiva spoke about the drastic climate changes underway, and also the corporate hegemony at work around the world. “Our responses must be quick, but not desperate, and also simple,” she said. “Simplicity is the highest order – the simplicity of good food, safe food, and food produced and consumed in love. This can only come out of community. Cultivate compassion, love and food democracy. Food democracy is about action, changing the way we eat every time we take a bite. It’s about people learning, engaging and acting in our food systems.”

“Every movement for human freedom throughout history has needed people to lead, people who stand for love and for higher law. That’s the challenge we face now,” Shiva said. “That is what we need.”

The Kansas City audience of about 1,200 people gave Dr. Shiva a standing ovation.

The Kansas City audience of about 1,200 people gave Dr. Shiva a standing ovation.


Force Feeding: The Ultimate Power Diet

April 4, 2014

Nutrition as it is today does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this.” – Rudolf Steiner

123120_103319_wave_LAlthough of immense interest to millions of people – inspired in part by the continent-wide community food movement  –  the vitamins, minerals, calories, protein and carbohydrates of our sustenance are but material factors. Libraries of books have been dedicated to these material aspects. Mostly overlooked are the forces at work upon the land, the plants, and the animals that yield the food upon which we feed. Yet these forces – the energetic spiritual aspect of our victuals – are key elements of a true power diet.

The UN’s global food bureaucracy, Codex Alimentarius, has a horde of committees, commissions, and task forces to evaluate and to proclaim stipulations upon everything from agrochemicals and GMOs to spices, microbes and meat. But Codex – heavily biased toward industrial agriculture – has nothing whatsoever to reckon with the light forces (biophotons) embodied in and conveyed by food. Apparently, forces are considered too esoteric a factor, and possess no directly exploitable connection to profit.

Farmer_John_CookbookThis abstruse reality came into focus for me again this week as I paged through Farmer John’s Cookbook: the Real Dirt on Vegetables (2006). It’s a marvelously motley buffet of insights, essays, observations, illuminations and recipes from the famed Angelic Organics CSA in north central Illinois. Farmer John’s book does not confine itself to food in isolation, but also – of necessity – explores farms as living organisms, the foundation upon which civilization rests. It also embraces the reality of the forces at work on farms, and in the food that comes from farms.

Author John Peterson, accorded agrarian celebrity in the film The Real Dirt on Farmer John, takes farms and food to a rarefied level of discussion. He transcends materialist, reductionist attitudes towards food, approaches that often lead to fetishistic obsession on physical properties such as vitamins, minerals and calories. Peterson offers instead a banquet for the soul of people who recognize that the way we produce our food, fiber and ethanol fuel is perhaps the greatest destructive force extant upon our wobbly planet, and paradoxically also the most effective pathway to heal the damage.

“As a natural extension of our use of Biodynamic farming practices,” Peterson writes, “we have come to see our vegetables and herbs not only as ingredients to be washed and chopped and tossed into stir-fries but also as plants with life forces that can enhance health on many levels.”

“Food is more,” Farmer John posits. “Food is a potential carrier for the forces that build up our thinking feeling, and willing…Food imbued with these forces can contribute immensely to the task of bringing healthy social impulses to humanity.

HumanFieldFarmer John’s Cookbook endorses no particular food regimen or discipline: neither omnivore, vegan, low-cal, low-fat, Mediterranean, Paleo, Flexitarian, nor any of the other myriad of dietary permutations and possibilities. Rather, it presents information and encourages readers – growers, cooks and consumers – to make their own informed decisions out of their own intelligence and free will. In that sense, the cookbook represents what one of the book’s essayists, Dr. Thomas Cowan, identifies as a “middle way.”

A lifelong farmer, Peterson understands that the farm is not just a local production unit for food, not just an economic engine, and that there is soul-deadening danger in regarding them in that mechanical, materialistic fashion.

Farms are, rather, organisms at the very center of earthly existence for every human being. Farms stand between heaven and earth, distinct, particular force-mediating organisms with biological and spiritual qualities that – for better or worse – impact the essential quality our existence and transfer to us forces of varying quantities and qualities when we consume the food they yield. This Mystery is one of the unacknowledged benefits of authentic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which has the potential to bring human beings into direct conscious support with the farm organisms which make life in the modern world possible.

Plant and animal life is intimately bound up with the life of the soil. The more light force a food is able to access and store, the greater the vitality, clarity and will force it conveys to the consumer. Farmer John’s Cookbook conveys a feast of understandings about this spiritual energetic dimension, and also a wealth of practical and delectable recipes that can help bring the understandings (and the forces) together on the end of a fork – a genuine power diet.

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The Future of CSA Farms: Podcast Conversation

March 4, 2014

pcastCommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an agrarian movement that arose in America starting in the 1980s. In an era of general farm consolidation and industrialization CSA has continued to develop. By now there are many thousands of farms and many hundreds of thousands of households networked directly with local farms.

The initial vision of CSA arose in the context of wide recognition of the necessity for renewal of agriculture through its healthy linkage with the human community that depends on farming for survival. The vision united farmers and consumers in an agrarian relationship for the health of people and planet, and explicitly recognized the necessary stewardship of soil, plants, and animals: the essential capital of human cultures. CSA emerged as a web of relationships.

Recently I had an opportunity to engage in conversation about the movement and its future with two renowned CSA farmers: Jean Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm in New York, and Allan Balliett of Fresh and Local CSA in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

My thanks to Allan for creating and hosting BDnow Podcast 017 – The Future of CSA, and to Jean Paul for sharing his experience and insight.

As it happens, I must demur on the matter of “foremost…philosopher,” which is a descriptor applied to me in the podcast. CSA farms arose as a community supported concept. “The idea of CSA was in the air in the late 1980s.” Many different people were contributing to the thoughts and practices, including Jan Vander Tuin, John Root, Jr., Andrew Lorand, Robyn Van En, Elizabeth Henderson, Anthony Graham, Lincoln Geiger, and Alice Groh. Trauger Groh – my coauthor on Farms of Tomorrow and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited – had a profound and eloquent grasp of farming and of the budding CSA vision.  My role with CSA in those days, and ongoingly, has been not to philosophize, but rather to listen closely and then to write about what I learn.

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#csa #organicfarmers #organic #agrarian


CSA Farm Book Goes Global

February 3, 2014

Höfe der ZukunftA pioneering book that helped spark the CSA farm movement in the United States has now been published in a German-language edition.

Farms of Tomorrow, the first book on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), authored by Trauger Groh and Steven McFadden back in 1989-90 when they were neighbors in New Hampshire, has just been published in a German translation, Hofe der Zukunft.

Journalist McFadden, a resident of Lincoln, Nebraska for the last several years, is the author of 12 other nonfiction titles including Profiles in Wisdom, and The Call of the Land. The various editions of the farm book he co-authored with farmer and philosopher Trauger Groh have helped to catalyze the development of CSA in America.

CSAs are farms and food distribution systems that directly unite farmers and consumers in an agrarian relationship for the health of people and planet. Consumer households invest in shares of a farm’s harvest in advance, and the farm reciprocates with weekly supplies of fresh, clean locally grown food.

By now there are well over 8,500 CSAs in the USA, and many thousands more in other nations, including Canada, France, Australia, Israel, and China. The steady growth and development of these new farms in the USA has come through an era beginning in the 1980s when traditional family farms have continued to decline for a host of reasons, and to be swallowed by increasingly larger operations.

farmscover.thumbFarms of Tomorrow was published by the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association in English since 1990; the 2nd edition of the book, Farms of Tomorrow Revisited was published in 1998, with many new chapters including one by Marcie Ostrom on CSA coalitions. The book has also been published in Japanese, and Russian translations. Now, nearly a quarter century after the CSA farm book first came out, it’s available in a handsome new German translation, Hofe der Zukunft.

German farmer and scholar Wolfgang Stranz worked for over a year to translate Farms of Tomorrow, and to write a special new chapter for readers in Germany and Austria.

As Resurgence Magazine noted in a review, “it is rare to come across any practical farming guide that sets out, from its inception, a set of principles that embrace social, spiritual, and economic concerns on completely equal terms. The wisdom and clarity of philosophy are striking throughout.”  CSA is a dynamic movement at the heart of agricultural renewal.

The German-language edition of the book, Hofe der Zukunft, is available here.

The English-language edition of Farms of Tomorrow Revisited, published by the Biodynamic Association, is available on Amazon.com and through Steiner Books.

 


To My Old Brown Earth

January 31, 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger  (1919-2014). These are the lyrics to a song Pete wrote in 1958 for a friend’s funeral, courtesy of his musical compatriot Paul Winter.

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Pete Seeger (1919-2014). Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

To My Old Brown Earth

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules
of “I”

And you who sing
And you who stand nearby
I do charge you not to cry

Guard well our human chain
Watch well you keep it strong
As long as sun will shine

And this our home
Keep pure and sweet and green
For now I’m yours
And you are also
Mine

— Words and music by Pete Seeger, 1958

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4YwKPOgz5o


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