2014 Farm Bill is within sight

Capitol HillI am pleased to report we are one step closer to having a Farm Bill after years of Congressional delay. Earlier this week, the Farm Bill Conference Committee released the Agricultural Act of 2014 Conference Report, which included compromise language all conferees could agree upon.  Monday, the members sent this  compromise Farm Bill to the House and Senate for final passage.  The House passed the farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, with a vote of 251 to 166 early Wednesday morning! The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week. If the Senate passes it the President has indicated he will sign it. This bill recognizes the growing importance of the organic sector to U.S. agriculture and authorizes monies and mandates policy changes that will allow the sector to continue to thrive and grow. Continue reading

Letter from a concerned apple grower

I have penned two blogs alerting you on the impending comment period for the GMO Arctic® apple poised for deregulation by APHIS. The first one “Let’s give Eve a better apple?” described the technology and risks associated with this new type of genetic modification. The second blog, “Arctic apple vortex set to descend upon the US!”, described how the comment period had been extended and urged all interested parties to comment. This Friday is the deadline to make public comments. I thought it timely and prudent to share a letter I received from one of the larger organic grower shippers of apples in the Pacific Northwest. His concern speaks volumes and should be heeded as a warning if this apple is approved. Thanks to Ralph Broetje, owner and operator of Broetje Orchards for allowing me to post this letter:   Continue reading

Let’s take the battle out of the field

Pesticide SprayAfter World War II chemical companies didn’t know where their next market was going to come from. Once that war ended, they decided to turn the very chemicals developed for war time towards a peaceful application called agriculture. The very compounds used to fight wars and kill flora and fauna would now be applied to kill the insects and plants (and people) of our planet. This would disrupt the ecological balance forever.  Continue reading

Tell Congress to bring the ship home and avoid any more quagmires

Capitol HillFor over one year I have been writing about the possibility of a Farm Bill actually passing through both sides of the isle in Congress. The last time a Farm Bill was delivered was in 2008. This Farm Bill was extended due to political shenanigans and party posturing. The language in the 2008 version is outdated and many organic programs have no mandatory funding. Initiatives such as organic data collection and certification cost share have been completely left adrift. Finally there may be a gust of wind to bring the Farm Bill home.   Continue reading

Why Volunteer? Why go to Nepal?

Nepal ChildrenThe first time I set foot in a developing country I realized how fortunate I truly am. I had worked so many years towards sustainability in business and agriculture and here were people just struggling to meet their basic needs. Volunteering by teaching the ways of sustainable and organic agriculture is my way of helping others along the path to self-reliance and environmental security. My friend John Fagan Skyped me the other day from Nepal to tell me about such a project he is involved in which accomplishes both of these goals.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, 54% of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, which is the UN definition of poverty. It’s so poor the men go out of the country (usually to the Middle-East) for work. This leaves a community of women who must care for children, produce food and earn some form of income for living expenses. The traditional way for these women to earn money is to cut down the forests and sell the firewood. John sent me pictures of what this non-sustainable forest management looks like.

Nepal Unsustainable forest management

You can see in the pictures the women carrying firewood out of the forests face no easy task.

Nepal women carrying wood

Nepal is home to more than 1700 known native wild medicinal herbs. To keep up with the skyrocketing international demand, the herbs are being wild harvested to extinction.The answer to this unsustainable way of living is a project called “Healing Herbs Nepal”. This non-profit project aims to create better livelihoods for rural Nepali’s and to protect the medicinal herb and woodland biodiversity of Nepal. Organizers train farmers to produce medicinal herbs with “silva-culture”, which means production in the forest.  This type of production preserves the native trees and foliage, allowing the medicinal herbs to be grown in their natural environment. Ten or fifteen cuttings are taken from an indigenous medicinal herb plant and planted near by the original, allowing more herbs to be harvested without depleting the plants in the forest. With this innovation, rural Nepalis have a new livelihood and a strong motivation to protect their forests rather than cut them down.Nepal Medicinal herb

The impact of this project is huge. It should provide compensation great enough to motivate the men to stay home with the family instead of migrating to Dubai to perform menial labor. It should also give mothers leading their households a much better income to feed their children with and meet their family’s overall needs. They will no longer need to sell firewood for $1.50 per day when they get much more for producing and harvesting medicinal herbs from a sustainable and healthy forest. There will be no more soil erosion and the forests will remain intact to allow for the habitats of the native elephants and rhinoceros.  Everyone wins! Nepal Sustainable forests

The project is still getting off the ground and needs financial support in this infancy period. Here are pictures of the Board of the Community Forest for the village of Rajahar in the Chitwan area of Nepal. Ten years ago the local forest was on the verge of being destroyed by local people harvesting firewood. Today it is beautiful and highly diverse.

The project intends to begin planting this spring and needs to raise funds for the first year (total budget $60,000). They are raising funds primarily through a crowd funding campaign. You can learn more about the project and help monetarily at INDIEGOGO HEALING HERBS PROJECT.  Everyone who donates can receive a gift such as tea made with herbs from the project. For donations over $2500, there is a 7-day, 6-night Eco tour available in which you can visit the Healing Herbs Nepal Project, and enjoy the diversity of other exotic and beautiful Nepali experiences. All donations are tax deductible and sponsored by Earth Open Source.

After the second year, the project will not only be self-sufficient; it will also generate enough resources to double the amount of farmers impacted in every three year period.  This model can potentially help 15,000 people in just 12 years. The Healing Herbs Nepal Project can be replicated in other places that wish to protect their forests and citizens. Already Mexico and Brazil are looking at adopting it. Pass the word along on this sustainable volunteer project. The crowd funding ends February 6, 2014, so every day matters. Now tell me about your volunteer project and how we can help.