Michigan Loses ‘Right To Farm’ This Week: A Farewell To Backyard Chickens and Beekeepers

Michigan backyard chicken farmers lost their Right To Farm protection under the new GAAMP changes.

Michigan residents lost their “right to farm” this week thanks to a new ruling by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development. Gail Philburn of the Michigan Sierra Club told Michigan Live, the new changes “effectively remove Right to Farm Act protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers raising small numbers of animals.” Backyard and urban farming were previously protected by Michigan’s Right to Farm Act. The Commission ruled that the Right to Farm Act protections no longer apply to many homeowners who keep small numbers of livestock.

Kim White, who raises chickens and rabbits, said, “They don’t want us little guys feeding ourselves. They want us to go all to the big farms. They want to do away with small farms and I believe that is what’s motivating it.” The ruling will allow local governments to arbitrarily ban goats, chickens and beehives on any property where there are 13 homes within one eighth mile or a residence within 250 feet of the property, according to Michigan Public Radio. The Right to Farm Act was created in 1981 to protect farmers from the complaints of people from the city who moved to the country and then attempted to make it more urban with anti-farming ordinances. The new changes affect residents of rural Michigan too. It is not simply an urban or suburban concern.

Shady Grove Farm in Gwinn, Michigan is the six and a half acre home to 150 egg-laying hens that provide eggs to a local co-op and a local restaurant. The small Michigan farm also homes sheep for wool and a few turkeys and meat chickens to provide fresh healthy, local poultry. “We produce food with integrity,” Randy Buchler told The Blaze about Shady Grove Farm. “Everything we do here is 100 percent natural — we like to say it’s beyond organic. We take a lot of pride and care in what we’re doing here.” Shady Grove Farm was doing its part to bring healthy, local, organic food to the tables of Gwinn residents, and it mirrors the attitudes of hundreds of other small farming operations in Michigan and thousands of others popping up around the nation. The ruling comes within days of a report by The World Health Organization that stated the world is currently in grave danger of entering a post-antibiotic era. The WHO’s director-general Dr. Margaret Chan argued that the antibiotic use in our industrialized food supply is the worst offender adding to the global crisis. “The Michigan Agriculture Commission passed up an opportunity to support one of the hottest trends in food in Michigan – public demand for access to more local, healthy, sustainable food,” Gail Philbin told MLive.

Meanwhile, neighboring Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 179 a few weeks before which freed up poultry and egg sales from local and state regulation. Yesterday, the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced massive funding to support research about small and medium-sized family farms, such as small farms ability to build-up local and regional economic systems. “There’s a lot of unnecessary legal action being taken against small farms who are doing good things in their communities,” said Randy Buchler, who is also on the board of directors for the Michigan Small Farm Council. The Michigan Small Farm Council actively fought to support Michigan farming freedom, but ultimately the Commission voted to approve the new restrictions.

“Farm Bureau has become another special interest beholden to big business and out of touch with small farmers, and constitutional and property rights of the little guy,” Pine Hallow Farms wrote to the Michigan Small Farm Council. The Michigan Farm Bureau endorsed the new regulatory changes. Matthew Kapp, government relations specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau, told MLive that the members weighed in and felt that people raising livestock need to conform to local zoning ordinances. The Farm Bureau did not feel Michigan’s Right To Farm Act was meant to protect the smaller farms, and ultimately the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development agreed.

[Photo courtesy of City Chickens Gone Country]

Via http://www.inquisitr.com/1235774/michigan-loses-right-to-farm-this-week-a-farewell-to-backyard-chickens-and-beekeepers/

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Mapping World Stressed Countries

WRI’s Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored water risks like these in 100 river basins, ranked by area and population, and 181 nations—the first such country-level water assessment of its kind. 37 countries face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress (see list at bottom). This means that more than 80 percent of the water available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually—leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.

ImageSee more at:  http://www.wri.org/blog/world%E2%80%99s-37-most-water-stressed-countries?utm_campaign=socialmedia&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=wri-page

Sustainable Food Systems, with a focus on Agricultural Planning in the MRC of Haut-Richelieu, Quebec

Les syst_ذmes alimentaires durables- Ch_رrine Akkari (PDF)

Food for Thought: Improving Crop Yields

corn university photoThere’s long been a debate over the impact of genetic modification on crop yields. While agricultural biotechnology’s proponents argue that genetically modified crops demonstrate higher yields, its critics contend that organic production and conventional crop breeding result in higher yields than genetic modification. The problem is that both sides are able to marshal data in support of their position by cutting the data in particular ways. Under ideal growing conditions or when pest infestation levels are high, genetically modified crops often demonstrate higher yields. But under less-than-ideal growing conditions or when pest infestation levels are lower, conventional (non-GM) varieties perform better. When measured in terms of monoculture yield (output per acre of a single crop variety), GM varieties tend to have higher productivity. When measured in other ways (total caloric output per acre, cost per calorie, etc.), conventional varieties tend to have higher productivity. It often comes down to how you define and measure productivity.

A new study, titled “Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest”  and published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability is weighing in on the debate using an interesting methodology. The study seeks to evaluate the relative impact of genetic modification and selective crop breeding to evaluate the importance of each in improving crop yields. It does this by comparing maize, rapeseed, soybean, and canola output in Canada and the United States (which have embraced both genetic modification and selective breeding) and Western Europe (which has generally rejected genetic modification but has embraced selective breeding).

The four crops selected are the most widely cultivated GM crops in the world. The study’s authors note that while GM varieties of these crops are virtually absent in Europe, in Canada and the United States cultivation of GM varieties has reached near saturation levels, with an estimated 95% of rapespeed, 94% of soy and cotton, and 88% of maize, grown in the United States being a genetically modified variety.  Based on their comparison, the study’s authors conclude that,

These results suggest that yield benefits (or limitations) over time are due to breeding and not GM, as reported by others, because W. Europe has benefitted from the same, or marginally greater, yield increases without GM. Furthermore, the difference between the estimated yield potential and actual yield or ‘yield-gap’ appears to be uniformly smaller in W. Europe than in the US Midwest. Biotechnology choices in the form of breeding stock and/or management techniques used in Europe are as effective at maintaining yield as are germplasm/management combinations in the United States.

The study recommends several strategies for improving yields and reducing potential vulnerability to exogenous shocks resulting from weather, disease and pests. These recommendations generally center on expanding crop diversity which has sharply declined over the past forty years. The article is written in an accessible format even to the lay reader and is definitely worth a read.

Posted by http://globalfoodpolitics.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/improving-crop-yields/ on July 5, 2013

The McGill Food Systems Project

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You sit down to eat at a cafeteria on campus. Before the food even reaches your plate, it has a story. What if that story took place entirely on campus? The menu has been set by a group of Nutrition and Dietetics students, who rigorously researched a healthy, seasonal and delicious combination of foods for you to choose from. All of the fresh produce was grown at the Macdonald Campus Farm, or at an urban garden on the Downtown Campus – living examples of agricultural systems in harmony with their natural local surroundings which were studied by agricultural, environment and urban planning students alike. The stalks were used to provide energy to the greenhouse, and the preparation waste was composted on site for the next growing season. Every step of the process was intentional, efficient, and sustainable.

 Not only was the food grown and consumed at McGill, its cultivation contributed to the academic development of the students who helped produce it.

The McGill Food Systems Project is a collaborative initiative between Students, Professors, McGill Food and Dining Services, and the McGill Office of Sustainability.

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Using student research, community engagement, and stakeholder collaboration, we work to maximize the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the food systems of McGill’s downtown campus. The goal of the project is to get members of the campus, regional community, and food supply chain working together create a food system they can be proud to eat from.

For more: http://www.mcgill.ca/mfsp/

Wild Foods in the Urban Economy

Calgary groups raise awareness of urban wild foods

by Matt Hanson

Local projects are redefining the food-scape in Calgary. Photo credit: Matt Hanson
Local projects are redefining the food-scape in Calgary. Photo credit: Matt Hanson

CALGARY—The landscape of food cultivation in Canada is changing. Economists predict an increase in food prices next year across Canada as the United States economy continues to decline. Wild foods harvesting is one of the many ways by which people across the country are confronting the current economic downturn and reclaiming their health sovereignty.

Despite Calgary Parks and Pathways Bylaw 20M2003, which prohibits wild foods harvesting by virtue of prohibiting any act to intentionally “damage, dig, cut, disturb or destroy any park vegetation, whether alive or dead,” there is a growing interest in wild foods harvesting.

Calgary Food Bank runs a wild game outreach program for schools. Piitoayis (Eagle Lodge) Family School located in southeast Calgary uses the program to educate K-6 students about Aboriginal traditions of wild game. “Calgary Food Bank received a number of inquiries from Aboriginal people requesting wild game meat with respect to their cultural traditions,” Calgary Food Bank Communications Coordinator Kathryn Sim told The Dominion regarding the initial interest to support a wild meat program. “We seek to provide a diversity of foods.”

There are numerous other projects in Calgary redefining the food-scape. Leaf Ninjas, a successful Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) urban farming initiative; and The Light Cellar, a raw superfoods specialty store, are engaging more youth in permaculture and wild foods harvesting is having a greater role in fostering local economic sustainability.

Daniel Vitalis, a leading health and personal development strategist, explains how wild foods are not limited to solid foods, but also include fresh spring water, air and sunlight. “It’s easy to think of the food we eat as nutrition. It’s a little bit more of a stretch for people to realize the water they drink is nutrition…now I want you to understand that your air is part of your nutrition,” said Vitalis. “We also need light to regulate a whole lot of our systems.”

“The economic system will decline on itself, so it is first necessary to live independently,” said Vitalis during his recent series of speaking engagements in Calgary. “We can develop food sovereignty by connecting with our local foodshed—food producers. This is about learning how to take care of your physical body in a new way.”

Urban farmer, gardener and Leaf Ninjas founder Luke Kimmel leads the initiative into its second year. Also at work on urban permaculture projects such as building shelter belts, Leaf Ninjas is active year–round, networking through community engagement events on their website. “Every time we pay for something, we give it value,” Kimmel told The Dominion. “Bringing wild foods into the urban economy is a way to give economic value to wild foods.”

Bylaw 20M2003 is “mutually disregarded by both wild food harvesters and local politicians,” says Kimmel. Employing the right to harvest local wild foods in Canadian cities is not futile. “Basically, that bylaw can be ignored,” says Kimmel. “People need to have access to their local food.”

Kimmel also shared with The Dominion many permaculture-savvy ways to engender wild nutrition activism in the city. “By using the seeds from plants that grow in the city as weeds, such as orach, I gather the seeds and plant them in my plots. Another way is by guerrilla gardening, where you can plant seed anywhere in any green space on public property,” says Kimmel.

In Canadian cities, young farmers are as rare as wild foods harvesters. “There are individuals who currently practice wild foods harvesting as their main or complementary economic activity. In Alberta, the chaga mushroom, which grows particularly in the boreal forests, has seen an upsurge in harvesting and trade,” says Kimmel.

“The city or municipality should have no say in what individuals harvest and trade,” says Vitalis. “The rule of law is not just the laws written down by legislatures—it’s the idea of a contract that exists between individuals.”

“People are disconnected from their food source,” Calgary local foods enthusiast Rogelio Lozano told The Dominion. The most recent survey conducted by Leger Marketing indicates that over 90 per cent of the Canadian population wants mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) food.

Calgary Harvest donates one third of fruit harvested from fruit trees on homeowner property to Calgary Food Bank. It is also accepting wild game donations starting this year. “Calgary Food Bank plans to issue notices to all hunters renewing and receiving licenses about donating wild game beginning in January 2013,” says Sim.

Note on Soil and Climate Change

According to Jim Howell (2012 Quivira Conference speaker), one quarter to one half of the carbon that is currently being added to the atmosphere is due to industrial agriculture’s poor land use alone. Leaving land bare allows carbon from the soil to bond with oxygen in the air, creating carbon dioxide (CO2). This would not happen in nature, as there would always be plants covering the ground, protecting the soil carbon. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which actively traps heat from the sun on the planet. We need some CO2 in the atmosphere to keep our planet warmer than the vacuum of space, but humans have exponentially increased atmospheric CO2 by burning fossil fuels, which are made of ancient atmospheric carbon stored up under the ground for millions of years. By burning fossil fuels, we have released so much CO2 that it has fundamentally changed the composition of our atmosphere. Scientists say that if we reach 450 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 in our atmosphere we will start an irreversible chain reaction of global warming, and our environment cannot sustain long term CO2 levels above 350 ppm. There are currently 394 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere, which is the highest amount our planet has seen for at least 800,000 years, and possibly the highest earth has seen in the last 20 million years. At the moment, we are increasing atmospheric CO2 on an average of 2 ppm per year. At this rate, we will reach 450 ppm in 28 years. If we wish to continue living on planet Earth we must begin to not only reduce the CO2 we are releasing into the atmosphere, but we must reverse this process by sequestering atmospheric CO2. Building soil carbon actively sequesters carbon from the atmosphere by absorbing CO2 via plant photosynthesis. According to Fred Provenza, 2012 Quivira Conference Speaker, Every ton of humus (soil organic matter) created removes 3.76 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.