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Archive for January, 2012

Since I am currently unemployed I was taking the bus to one of the Workforce centers to do my duty and look for a job in order to collect unemployement. As I saw the houses pass by the window of the bus, seeing the various stages of develepment – decades old to newer build multi-function structures with shops below and apartments above, reminded me of the following.

Where I live in Wheat Ridge, Colorado we were once part of the bread basket, along with Broomfield, Littleton and surounding area, for Denver residents and even exported the excess. Most of the food produced were grains: wheat, corn, oats, rye, and barley. Sugar beets were also grown for the sugar industry. Wheat Ridge once had a good sized tree orchard, mostly apple, but there were also pear, peach, and plum trees. Some of these old trees can still be found in some yards.

Wheat Ridge also had a huge flower industry at one time, namely carnation, that exported them to many of the flower stores around the country. Wheat Ridge was so proud of this that it even named the fall festival, the Carnation Festival, after the industry. The greenhouses no longer exist today.

Ranching was a big industry that did more to hurt the land and make it less productive than all the grains and orchards combined. The cattle ate what little grass there was and left nothing but useless shrubs and a soil that became useless, depleted over the years.

All the towns have taken up the call for development and covered over all the grain fields with streets, concrete, pavement, houses and businesses or industries. None of these original farms remain today. In Wheat Ridge the orchards were cut down, stumps removed to the point where all you see is apartment buildings, houses and streets. They’re all gone. Wheat Ridge also had a huge network of irrigation ditches fed by ponds that held the spring runoff. These too are being erased.

Progress seems to mean, tear it down, dig it up, poison the land and put something on the land, a house or building of some sort and cover it with asphalt or concrete. Progress and developement have meant a lot of money for some, and the loss of their land to others who were told they could no longer grow the food that provided them their livelyhood for many generations.

The land here has never had the best soil, but with amendments like poop and old plants the land would yield a whole bastket full of food. Afterall, the sugar industry existed from late 1890 into the early 1930s when World War II damaged the industry and the Dust Bowl helped bring an end to the industry altogether as special interests wanted to concentrate the industry into a smaller area. The sugar industry around Denver at its height went all the way form Greely along the old Valley Highway (I-25), into Loveland and southward along the railroad tracks. Sugar beets were brought into Denver where they were processed and the sugar transported by train around the coutnry.

Time and again, progress saw fit to let food producing areas to go under in order to allow the land to be snatched up for very little money to see houses  or other buildings placed on it or it was turned into an industrial area so cities could make more money from the taxes they charged.

Over the years I’ve seen policies change from farm friendly, or supportive of family owned small food production, to encourage developers to come in, change policies that ended food production, build something on that very same land because it yielded a higher income. Food was no longer a priority, instead money was.

As I rode through these areas on the bus seeing one of the old irrigation ponds and ditches I couldn’t help but think, the local government has been working so very hard to erase it’s farming past for the past 40 years and it will be soon, when it will have no choice, as the price of oil climbs ever higher, to reverse its decisions and put back these ponds and ditches and again allow food production and every yard.

Progress has truned so many urban areas into food deserts. The future will be about those who know how to grow food on as little land as possible for maximum yield.

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This is a continuation on poverty.

In my last post I stated that to help do away with poverty we need to have access to land, water and seed we can save from one year to the next, because once food is taken care of then we can begin to move forward. As long as our bellies are not full, we are not happy people. [ I am talking about people world-wide in this case and yes there are people in the U.S. too who go hungry. This is not just a ‘third-world’ problem. It effects all of us, we are all touched by poverty and hence the use of  ‘we’ above. ]

In the U.S. there’s this ignorant push to include more protein from meat (land and sea), dairy, and egg as a way to help feed people when not eating this way actually provides more nutrients, is healthier, greatly reduces dis-ease, and is able to feed more people for much less money. I’m talking about vegetables! Soup kitchens could feed three times as many people on a mainly Vegetarian meal than a meat based one, and cost less.

Growing vegetables is more productive per acre, uses over all less water, depletes the soil less and if grown organically can help rebuild soil, have more nutrients than meat-dairy-egg diet and will keep you healthier throughout your life.

Vegetables are more productive:  growing a wide variety of vegetables will yield around 17 – 20 tons per hectare (1 hectare = about 2.5 acres), while meat yields less than 1/2 ton per hectare and takes longer to mature.

Vegetables provide protein (yes they do), macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, minerals, vitamins and phyto-nutrients. Meat-dairy-eggs provide mainly protein and few other nutrients.  I’m not sure how many may have heard or read this story:  Stacy Irvine, 17, collapses from eating nothing but chicken McNuggest her whole life. This is not an isolated incidence, they all just don’t make the news or the cause of illness is given another label all together.

After vegetables we have fruits which provide mainly vitamins, most importantly the water soluble ones, like Vitamin C. Legumes and pulses are the next choice with some grains able to bring in a little more density to a diet. But these again take up much more land, resources and provide much less, about one ton per hectare, than vegetables.

Next, vegetables can be better for the environment. Since you can get so much more per hectare of land much less land  is needed to feed yourself, and everyone else. If the vegetables are grown completely organically then you are returning nutrients to the land, the soil, dirt, in which they are grown is not depleted. The land will remain productive forever. Modern farming practices do little to return nutrients to the soil and only add more chemicals which destroys all the various life forms, and communities that keep the soil healthy and productive. These include: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, flies, beetles, worms and more. They all work together to create healthy soil out of anything that has died.

Meat, Dairy and egg production could be done organically which would not deplete the soil but that is not the case currently in the U.S. for the most part (there are few exceptions). If these three were produced in a traditionally, healthy, organic way there would be much less of it for sale and the price would reflect their true cost. In India people use milk quite a lot in their various meals because the cow is allowed to roam freely, not killed or eaten, and given that which people can not eat and are milked daily to add protein to their mainly vegetarian diet.

I’m not saying everyone needs to be a Vegetarian, or Vegan, but if the western world – U.S. and Europe, were to cut their meat (land and sea), dairy, and egg consumption by half it would allow hundreds of millions more people to eat affordably, more nutritiously. To feed everyone in the world the western world would have to consume slightly less than a quarter of what they currently do. This still wouldn’t require everyone being a Vegetarian / Vegan.  It would also greatly reduce the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and not kil half of consumers of meat-dairy-egg diet or western diet.

Research has shown time and again, a mostly vegetarian diet is better for the body, better for the environment and better for all life. It takes less land, smaller “footprint”, to grow vegetables and in a world that is running out of fossil fuels, out of water, usable land that has not been turned to desert or degraded, and doesn’t demand  heavy inputs, we need to change our ways.

To help remove poverty, wherever it is, not only is land, water, seed needed, but education as to what is easiest and best to grow – vegetables! We could eliminate poverty, it’s just too profitable not to. Let’s change that and eliminate needless suffering.

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Aren’t we suppose to be the richest country in the world? And, yet we have millions of people living in poverty or are homeless. Why is that? (We currently have about 42,881,000 living in poverty in the U.S. (based on U.S. Census data).)

Before the whole collapse that happened 2007/2008 there was discussion among businesses, economists and the financial community whether or not moving the unemployment up to 10% would be a good thing. The outcome of that we are seeing today. Also, anyone believing the unemployment data, well I have some really prime land on Mars for sale, and you can start terraforming. Just because someone isn’t collecting an unemployment check doesn’t mean their employed. The data is faulty!

Bush Jr. while in office pushed some 1 to 1.5 million new people into poverty every year. By the time he left office there were some 13 million people who had joined the ranks of the poor.

Let’s not forget that Peak Oil (which occurred world-wide in 2008) looms over our heads and experts around the globe agree, we are in deep doodoo with this one and the U.S. is not preparing like Europe is. We can expect to see the rise of oil prices, and goods made or heavily influenced by oil, that includes food, to go up until no one can afford things anymore, except of course the wealthy. We only have about 15 to 20 years to go before most of us join the ranks of the poor or homeless because of Peak Oil.

So, back to my original question at the beginning. We have poor not because of some out of our hands event but by people who control money in some way or another. We can all argue about whether it’s the bankers, speculators, quants (quantitative analysts), day traders trying to make a fast buck, investors or investment banks, the fed, and so on. The thing you have to remember, it doesn’t matter who is at fault, but what are you going to do about it.

My solution is simple: put permaculture to work. My Greenhouse Project is just such an idea. Another is to create food forests, at first on a commercial basis, but once it is established the fence could be left open or taken down altogether to allow people free access to whatever is there (after they’ve been educated because is would be stupid to trample a helpful herb just to get at an apple).

Food, can be grown in parks, open lots, along highways or wild areas, in medians, wherever possible would do so much to help reduce the need of the poor and the homeless. Heck, plant some trees right in front of your house with a sign, “Please Help Yourself.” Be a ‘Johnny or Janis Appleseed’ in your area, but plant more than just apples, whatever grows in your climate, area. Tend the trees lovingly until they are fully mature and can continue on their own. Harvest some of the seeds and grow some more.

Look into planting a tree with a plaque in a park giving thanks to mom, dad, auntie, uncle, grams or just make up a name. The idea is that parks, and other public areas will allow it with a permit the planting of a commemorative tree and then the city tends the tree and won’t cut it down unless it dies.

It has been said, and I truly believe this, that if the poor, or homeless, were allowed to grow their own food then there would no longer be any poverty. All one needs is access to some land, water and seed that can be harvested from year to year and replanted. Once the poor have this then they can move out of poverty.

Until next time, be good to one another and plant something.

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The Greenhouse Project (in the Denver, CO metro area) is my idea before it comes to fruition. I initially got the idea when I saw energy prices go sky high and food prices went up too. It was becoming hard to afford healthy food. Then I came across Growing Power in  Milwaukee, WI which is able to produce an enormous amount of food in not much space. The light bulb went on for me.   The idea is that it will be a solar greenhouse run cooperatively growing organic food commercially. You see an employee run business does much better overall and so that is why I chose this model.

All greenhouses are technically solar, but a solar greenhouse is specifically designed to use as little, if any, fossil fuels to keep warm in winter or cool in the summer. Beyond using the sun the greenhouse can get its warmth from livestock (rabbits or chicken), have hydroponics and aquaponics which act as a heat sink, produce methane, heat from composting, and a biomass masonry fireplace. All together, and some innovative measures, will keep the greenhouse warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Besides growing food the greenhouse could also support other cottage industries, like processing raw fiber into thread or yarn, make cloths, blankets, and other products. One product would be producing paper from non-wood sources. The project could also sell eggs, honey, and bees wax along with fruits, vegetables, and fish.

Once the first greenhouse is build and operational, and the bugs have been worked out to where everything is running fairly smoothly it will be time to start building more. The idea I have is to put them where people are so they don’t have to go far for healthy organic food and sell it at an affordable price as possible without going bankrupt. Yes, some of the food can also be given away to soup kitchen, homeless shelters, food distribution center and so forth – but that will take time and effort to get to that point where we can produce more than enough.

I started a Facebook page some time ago – go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/287111137982805/

Grow something to eat.
Richard Boettner

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