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Sustainable Agriculture Outlook Rooted With Millennials

Author: Claire Mesesan | Published: December 2016 

Few issues capture the complex space millennials occupy better than food and farming. At a time when commodity agriculture is pervasive – regenerative, organic agriculture is experiencing a renaissance spurred on by millennials. Much has been written about millennials, a generation that occupies a peculiar place in history: the systems previous generations created and grew up with are faltering. Climate change is a reality we must address. No matter what else is said about millennials – a generation this author belongs to – one truth is that we face deep existential turmoil. In spite of current and future turbulence, millennials remain optimistic in believing that people have the power to effect change. This is abundantly clear in organic agriculture.

Organic agriculture was just agriculture in the pre-World War II period, signified by a lack of chemicals – industrialized agriculture became the way of the future in the post-war period. Our experiments in industrial agriculture led to increased corporate control of the food industry, a decline in the number of farms and farmers, and much less diversity in agriculture. By contrast, organic agriculture operates on a smaller scale, relies on crop diversity and soil management practices for pest control, therefore prioritizing environmental health.

The move to regenerative organic agriculture is a conscious choice that views growing food as values-based work. It is no surprise that organic agriculture speaks to millennials who see climate change as a reality, exacerbated by industrial agriculture that causes environmental degradation through soil erosion, water contamination and aquifer depletion. It is up to millennials to respond to the existential threat of climate change. Here is a look at how millennials are responding through food.

Millennials are leading the change toward a more organic agricultural system, with over 50 percent actively incorporating organic foods in their diet. More broadly, millennials identify sustainability as a priority in what they purchase; in fact, millennials are the most willing of any generation to spend more on items and causes that align with their values. Millennials are using their purchasing power to buy from companies they perceive as environmentally friendly, or committed to social values, or on organic products. Essentially, personal values are increasingly reflected in spending patterns. In 2014, millennials represented 36 percent of the workforce; it will be 46 percent by 2020. The millennial influence on food is evident in the increase in organic, specialty products and local, farm-to-table restaurants. With such interest in more healthy agriculture from millennials, it follows that this generation is turning to sustainable, organic, regenerative farming as a career path.

According to the USDA, the average age of a farmer is 57; additionally, estimates suggest that a quarter of American farmers will retire by 2030. There is great need for young farmers. It is encouraging that young farmers are responding, motivated by environmental awareness, interest in local and specialty foods, and market opportunities. However, young farmers face barriers to entering organic farming. In a survey of more than 1,300 farmers, the National Young Farmers Coalition identified lack of capital and land access as the top two challenges for young farmers entering the field. Iroquois Valley Farms has uniquely positioned itself as an investment vehicle to support organic farmers, especially young farmers to access land and capital, which will enable the next generation to grow food sustainably.

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Defining Organic; All About Animal Welfare, Regenerative Agriculture, and Rural Economics; Guest Heretic Will Harris of White Oak Pastures

Author: Adrienne Hew

When Will Harris’s dad started using ammonium nitrate fertilizer on his farm in 1946, he had no idea he was destroying the microscopic flora and fauna on the land that are necessary for maintaining healthy top soil. So after 50 years, he moved to a farming system that is not only organic, but regenerates the soil by emulating nature’s own processes while concentrating on animal welfare and restoring rural economics.

Harris’s White Oak Pastures farm pasture raises and hand butchers 5 red meat animal species and 5 poultry species. Using techniques learned from the Savory Network, Harris uses these animals to restore balance to the soil. As a result, his farm is able to withstand drought and heavy rains equally well with no loss in crop production.

In today’s episode of the Nutrition Heretic Podcast, we learn about the inaccuracies of labels such as organic and grass-fed as well as how Harris’s smart farming methods are helping to restore his 150 year old family farm into a thriving farm for the future.

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Harvesting Liberty: Short film explores reintroduction of industrial hemp to US

Author: Katie Pohlman

Industrial hemp farming could play a big role in providing economic stability in impoverished areas, creating jobs and businesses for veterans, and growing a sustainable and regenerative agriculture movement. Too bad it’s still illegal.

A collaboration between responsible apparel company Patagonia, a veteran-to-farmer training organization Growing Warriors, and Fibershed, a regenerative local textile organization, is shining a light on the potential emergence of industrial hemp farming in the US.

Although hemp has gotten a bad rap over the years because of the misunderstanding (or the outright misinformation) that hemp and marijuana are the same thing, the simple fact is that industrial hemp can provide food, animal feed, fiber, and fuel, all without any psychoactive components, and can be grown with in a much more sustainable manner than many other fiber and food crops.

A short film, funded by Patagonia, takes a look at the efforts of veteran Michael Lewis, who is the founder of the nonprofit Growing Warriors Project, to reintroduce industrial hemp farming in Kentucky (and potentially the entire nation). Like many parts of rural America, Appalachia is home to a variety of extractive industries, which remove resources (and profits) from areas with little regard for the local residents or the environment, and the reintroduction of hemp farming could help to turn things around in these areas.

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Fixing Food: Fresh Solutions from Five U.S. Cities (2016)

The nation’s cities are at the frontlines of a food system that sickens and impoverishes millions of Americans every year. Local communities where people live, shop, work, and receive healthcare bear the brunt of this system’s unhealthy, unjust outcomes, which disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income Americans.

In response, many local governments and community leaders are launching innovative efforts to make healthy food more available and affordable. Fixing Food presents case studies of programs from five U.S. cities that are helping residents grow and sell healthy food, training the next generation of farmers, and bringing healthy food to places where people gather.

The case studies

We reviewed hundreds of initiatives taking place in hundreds of U.S. cities, ultimately choosing five local efforts that show how healthy food access problems can be addressed at multiple points in the food system—by facilitating local production, creating new distribution channels, or making it easier for consumers to overcome time and transportation hurdles.

The five cities chosen—Oakland, Memphis, Louisville, Baltimore, and Minneapolis—all have populations between 400,000 and 700,000, and in all of them, the percentage of residents living below the federal poverty line is higher than the national average.

We hope these case studies may provide models that other local communities can learn from and adapt to their own unique challenges and needs. But they also demonstrate the need for comprehensive national food policy reform.

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Main Street Project

Our food and agriculture system is not working. Consumers experience declining nutritional quality and increasing health risks; agricultural workers endure long hours and low wages; rural communities are declining economically; and the environment suffers from soil depletion, chemical inputs and toxic waste.

The current structure of ownership and control of our food and agriculture system concentrates power in the hands of a select few, regards consumers merely as a source of revenue, and treats the environment as nothing more than the source of the products that capture that revenue. And we all pay the price.

We can do better. And at Main Street Project, we are. Main Street Project is developing a regenerative agriculture system that can equip farmers to solve our nation’s food crisis and has the power to change how food is produced around the world.

Learn More About Main Street Project

How Regenerative Agriculture Can Go Large-Scale, with the Help of Chickens

Poultry is a staple of most peoples’ diet. It’s one of the least expensive meats around, and a good source of high quality animal protein (provided it’s non-CAFO and raised on pasture with a natural diet).

But while most are aware of the importance chicken plays in the diet, few are likely to be familiar with the ways poultry production can be optimized.

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an innovator in the field of regenerative agriculture, has developed an ingenious system that has the potential to transform the way food is grown.

You might be familiar with Joel Salatin and the way he raises pastured chickens. I visited him on his Polyface Farm in Virginia, but Reginaldo has massively improved the method of raising chickens naturally, without the use of any cages.

Reginaldo was born in poverty in Guatemala, just before the beginning of the 36-year long civil war that finally ended in 1996, and overcame tremendous struggles to obtain the finest agriculture education in Guatemala — at the Central National School of Agriculture—where conventional agriculture is the primary focus.

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You Know Slow Food? Check Out Slow Fashion

Author:

In the 26 years since professional gourmet Carlo Petrini coined the term slow food and ten since food activist Jessica Prentice coined the term locavore, access to locally-sourced food has increased for many who previously may not have thought about their meal’s geographic origin.

So why not slow clothing? That’s what then-33-year-old weaving teacher Rebecca Burgess thought in 2011 when she challenged herself to wear garments sourced within 150 miles of her California home. It wasn’t as simple as only buying from local stores: She had to wear clothing with fibers, dyes, and labor exclusively from her region.

“What started as a personal project spiraled into a community of people who helped create this one-year wardrobe: artists, designers, ecologists from UC Berkley who were getting their PhDs in environmental science,” Burgess says. “They felt passionate about the reduction in the toxic load, and of the prospect of making clothes from organic natural fibers.”

The toxic load Burgess speaks of are chemicals and heavy metals generated from producing and dyeing textiles, according to the EPA. In addition, Burgess says the textile industry in California alone produces a tremendous amount of material waste. “After my one-year wardrobe challenge, [Fibershed] did an analysis and found over 3.1 million pounds of wool in the state,” she says. “Over a million pounds are thrown out every year.”

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Grupos Ambientales, de Justicia, Agricultura y Paz Someterán a Monsanto a Juicio en una Corte Internacional por Crímenes Contra la Salud Humana y el Medio Ambiente en Corte Internacional del Pueblo en La Haya

PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA

3 de diciembre de 2015

CONTACTO: Via Orgánica/Regeneration International: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@viaorganica.org, (55) 6257 7901

PARIS – Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), y Millions Against Monsanto, grupos pacifistas, de justicia ambiental y alimentación global, anunciaron que someterán a juicio a Monsanto MON (NYSE), una corporación trasnacional con sede central en Estados Unidos por “Crímenes contra la Humanidad y el Medio Ambiente”, en La Haya, Holanda, el año venidero, en el día mundial de la alimentación el 16 de octubre de 2016.

En conferencia de prensa, Ronnie Cummins, Director Internacional de OCA (EE.UU), afirmó: “Estamos en París este mes para abordar la mayor amenaza que los seres humanos han enfrentado en 100-200.000 años de evolución-calentamiento global y trastornos climáticos. ¿Por qué hay tanto dióxido de carbono, metano y óxido nitroso en la atmósfera y no hay suficiente materia orgánica y carbono en el suelo?.”

Según Vandana Shiva, fundadora de Navdanya (India): “Monsanto promueve un modelo agroindustrial que contribuye con al menos un tercio de las emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero antropogénicas y es responsable de la merma de los recursos del suelo y el agua, especies y la declinación de biodiversidad y el desplazamiento de millones de pequeños campesinos en todo el mundo.”

Andre Leu, presidente de IFOAM afirmó: “La historia de Monsanto puede ser leída como un manual de estilo sobre impunidad, beneficiando a las corporaciones trasnacionales y sus ejecutivos, cuyas actividades contribuyen a las crisis del clima y la biosfera y amenazan la seguridad del planeta.”

Marie-Monique Robin, directora de “El mundo según Monsanto,” declaró:

“Solamente a través de un resurgimiento colectivo de todas las fuerzas vivas podremos acabar con esta máquina de destrucción. Por ello hago un llamado a todos los ciudadanos del mundo a participar en este ejemplar tribunal.”

Desde comienzos del siglo veinte, Monsanto ha desarrollado un sinnúmero de productos altamente tóxicos que han dañado de manera permanente el ambiente y causado enfermedades y muertes de miles de personas.

Basándose en los “Principios rectores sobre las Empresas y los Derechos Humanos” adoptados por la ONU en 2011, una Corte Internacional de abogados y jueces evaluará la responsabilidad criminal potencial de Monsanto por los daños infringidos a la salud humana y el ambiente.

Lista completa de organizaciones fundadoras: http://regenerationinternational.org/monsanto-tribunal-supporting-organizations/

Lista completa de integrantes de la Fundación Tribunal contra Monsanto: http://regenerationinternational.org/members-of-the-organizing-committee/

Mayor información disponible en http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/, luego de las 2:30 p.m. hora de E.E.U.U el 3 de diciembre de 2015.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA, por sus siglas en inglés), https://www.organicconsumers.org/ es una Organización de interés público sin fines de lucro 501 (c)(3), que hace campañas en línea y de base, por la salud, la justicia y la sostenibilidad. El Fondo de Consumidores Orgánicos es una organización 501 (c)(4), organización aliada de la Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos, que se centra en el cabildeo de base y la acción legislativa.

Regeneración Internacional http://regenerationinternational.org/ es una organización sin fines de lucro 501 (c)(3) dedicada a la construcción de una red global de agricultores, científicos, negocios, activistas, educadores, periodistas, gobiernos y consumidores quienes promoverán y pondrán en práctica a la agricultura regenerativa y prácticas de uso de suelo que: dan alimentos abundantes y nutritivos; reviven a las economías locales; reconstruyen la fertilidad del suelo y biodiversidad; y restauran la estabilidad climática al regresar al carbono al suelo, a través del proceso natural de la fotosíntesis.

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Global Food, Farming and Environmental Justice Groups to Put Monsanto on Trial for Crimes Against Human Health and the Environment in the International People’s Court in The Hague

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 3, 2015 CONTACT: US: Organic Consumers Association/Regeneration International: Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org (US); Via Organica/Regeneration International: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@viaorganica.org; Stichting Monsanto Tribunal: Arnaud Apoteker, arnaudapoteker@yahoo.fr, +33 (0)6 07 57 31 60 (France) Global Food, Farming and Environmental Justice Groups to Put Monsanto on Trial for Crimes Against Human Health and the Environment in the International People’s Court in The Hague  Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM, Navdanya, Regeneration International and others form Monsanto Tribunal Foundation in advance of World Food Day 2016 PARIS – The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups announced today that they will put Monsanto MON (NYSE), a US-based transnational corporation, on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016. The announcement was made at a press conference held in conjunction with the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, November 30 – December 11, in Paris. Speaking at the press conference, Ronnie Cummins, international director of the OCA (US) and Via Organica (Mexico), and member of the RI Steering Committee, said: “The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment. We are in Paris this month to address the most serious threat that humans have ever faced in our 100-200,000 year evolution—global warming and climate disruption. Why is there so much carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and not enough carbon organic matter in the soil? Corporate agribusiness, industrial forestry, the garbage and sewage industry and agricultural biotechnology have literally killed the climate-stabilizing, carbon-sink capacity of the Earth’s living soil.” Vandana Shiva, physicist, author, activist and founder of Navdanya, and member of the RI Steering Committee said: “Monsanto has pushed GMOs in order to collect royalties from poor farmers, trapping them in unpayable debt, and pushing them to suicide. Monsanto promotes an agro-industrial model that contributes at least 50 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Monsanto is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide.” Andre Leu, president of IFOAM and a member of the RI Steering Committee, said: “Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products, and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media. Monsanto’s history reads like a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet.” Marie-Monique Robin, journalist and author of the best-selling documentary (and book by the same name), “The World According Monsanto,” said: “This International Citizens’ Tribunal is necessary because the defense of the safety of the planet and the conditions of life on Earth is everyone’s concern. Only through a collective resurgence of all living forces will we stop the engine of destruction. That’s why today I am calling on all citizens of the world to participate in this exemplary tribunal.” Also speaking at the conference were Valerie Cabanes, lawyer and spokesperson for End Ecocide on Earth; Hans Rudolf Herren, president and CEO of the Millennium Institute, president and founder of Biovision, and member of the RI Steering Committee; Arnaud Apoteker, creator of the anti-GMO campaign in France, which became one of the priority campaigns of Greenpeace France, and author of “Fish in Our Strawberries: Our Manipulated Food;” and Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPESFood) and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Monsanto has developed a steady stream of highly toxic products which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. These products include:

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the 12 Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility;
  • 2,4,5 T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer;
  • Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe;
  • and RoundUp, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history. This toxic herbicide, designated a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization, is used in combination with genetically modified (GM) RoundUp Ready seeds in large-scale monocultures, primarily to produce soybeans, maize and rapeseed for animal feed and biofuels.

Relying on the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” adopted by the UN in 2011, an international court of lawyers and judges will assess the potential criminal liability of Monsanto for damages inflicted on human health and the environment. The court will also rely on the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether to reform international criminal law to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense. The International Criminal Court, established in 2002 in The Hague, has determined that prosecuting ecocide as a criminal offense is the only way to guarantee the rights of humans to a healthy environment and the right of nature to be protected. Full list of founding organizations (so far) here. http://regenerationinternational.org/monsanto-tribunal-supporting-organizations/ Full list of Monsanto Tribunal Foundation organizing members here. http://regenerationinternational.org/members-of-the-organizing-committee/ More information will be available at http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/, after 2:30 p.m. EU time on December 3, 2015. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) https://www.organicconsumers.org/ is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)(3) public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. Regeneration International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.

Pension Funds: Key Players in the Global Farmland Grab

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Large scale agricultural land acquisitions are generating conflicts and controversies around the world. A growing body of reports show that these projects are bad for local communities and that they promote the wrong kind of agriculture for a world in the grips of serious food and environmental crises. 1 Yet funds continue to flow to overseas farmland like iron to a magnet. Why? Because of the financial returns. And some of the biggest players looking to profit from farmland are pension funds, with billions of dollars invested.

Pension funds currently juggle US$23 trillion in assets, of which some US$100 billion are believed to be invested in commodities. Of this money in commodities, some US$5–15 billion are reportedly going into farmland acquisitions. By 2015, these commodity and farmland investments are expected to double.

Pension funds are supposed to be working for workers, helping to keep their retirement savings safe until a later date. For this reason alone, there should be a level of public or other accountability involved when it comes to investment strategies and decisions. In other words, pension funds may be one of the few classes of land grabbers that people can pull the plug on, by sheer virtue of the fact that it is their money. This makes pension funds a particularly important target for action by social movements, labour groups and citizens’ organisations.

The size & weight of pensions

Today, people’s pensions are often managed by private companies on behalf of unions, governments, individuals or employers. These companies are responsible for safeguarding and “growing” people’s pension savings, so that these can be paid out to workers in monthly cheques after they retire. Anyone lucky enough both to have a job and to be able to squirrel away some income for retirement probably has a pension being administered by one firm or another. Globally, this is big money. Pension funds are currently juggling US$23 trillion in assets. 2 The biggest pension funds in the world are those held by governments, such as Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, Korea and the US (see Table 1).

Table 1: World’s top 20 pension funds (2010)

Rank

Fund

Country

Total assets (US$ millions)

1 Government Pension Investment Japan

1,315,071

2 Government Pension Fund–Global Norway

475,859

3 ABP Netherlands

299,873

4 National Pension Korea

234,946

5 Federal Retirement Thrift US

234,404

6 California Public Employees US

198,765

7 Local Government Officials Japan

164510

8 California State Teachers US

130,461

9 New York State Common US

125,692

10 PFZW (now PGGM) Netherlands

123,390

11 Central Provident Fund Singapore

122,497

12 Canada Pension Canada

122,067

13 Florida State Board US

114,663

14 National Social Security China

113,716

15 Pension Fund Association Japan

113,364

16 ATP Denmark

111,887

17 New York City Retirement US

111,669

18 GEPF South Africa

110,976

19 Employees Provident Fund Malaysia

109,002

20 General Motors US

99,200

Source: Pensions & Investments, 6 September 2010, P&I/Towers Watson World 300      

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