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Archive | Eco-Living & Health

Magnesium, the Unheralded Star

Although nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and even calcium are often discussed, magnesium is mostly unheralded and misunderstood. In this article I will examine the nature of magnesium deficiency and show how ignoring soil magnesium can lead to dire consequences in human, plant and animal health.

Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, magnesium is often overlooked in conventional fertility.

Like the other aforementioned macrominerals, magnesium is essential for plant and animal health and productivity. In man, beasts and plants it is found in substantial amounts and can wreak havoc when it is deficient.

Our health is rooted in our soils both as vegetables we consume and as animal products, which are nourished from the soil. Since the vast majority of what we eat comes from the soil, our health partly depends on earthworm activity, but the overuse of modern chemical fertilizers and pesticides has left many soils deficient in earthworms. This in turn impoverishes the soil.

As soils lose their vibrant microbial activity they become depleted in critical nutrients even as fertilizers are applied in larger amounts. Synthetic fertilizers are not a solution and often aggravate soil issues they supposedly cure. Remedying this downward spiral is more critical than ever because a growing population needs not only more food but better food quality for present and future generations to thrive. Continue Reading →

Discover the Possibilities of Pokeweed

For those who like to eat on the wild side, one should become well acquainted with a plethora of wild greens such as black mustard, dock, chickweed, henbit, lambs quarters and pokeweed. The latter, better known simply as poke, is a favorite spring green here in the Ozarks.

Wash and sort poke leaves before cooking.

The fresh, young leaves are gathered in spring soon after they emerge and are gently simmered in two changes of water until tender. The finished product resembles cooked spinach, but the texture is incomparably creamy and the flavor is richly reminiscent of asparagus. This quaint country dish was once known as poke salat, which is slang. It is so good that, at our house, this leafy perennial ranks right up there with other high-caliber spring edibles.

Know Your Poke

Pokeweed belongs to the Phytolaccaceae family, which contains 16 genera and hundreds of species. Some of these species have colorful and descriptive names such as Inkberry, Redweed and Red Ink Plant, to name a few. Continue Reading →

Navigating the Dairy Crisis: Hope in Organic Dairy

At a time of profound hardship in the dairy industry, the few farmers optimistic enough to start new cow dairies are going the route of organic dairy. The name of Clover Bliss Farm refers to the contentment its abundant pastures bring to its bovine residents. It also sums up the aspirations that dairy farmers Chris and Samantha Kemnah have for the 190-acre spread and the old tie-stall barn in South Argyle, New York, that they took over from a long-retired farm couple.

Chris and Samantha Kemnah at Clover Bliss Farm, their 190-acre spread in South Argyle, New York. Photos by Joan K. Lentini, JKLentini Photography

From the time they started about two years ago, the Kemnahs have been supplying organic “grass only” milk to Maple Hill Creamery. Maple Hill, which now collects organic milk from 150 farms across upstate New York, pledges to its customers that the cows producing its milk consume only pasture, hay and other forages, rather than corn, soy and other common dairy feeds.

Two years ago, organic production still stood out clearly as a bright spot that might offer long-term economic stability for dairy farmers. In contrast, the price of milk paid to conventional dairy operations had already fallen into what would become a protracted slump, setting off yet another period of economic distress that has reached a crisis point.

Farmers, advocates and policy wonks disagree on how, and even whether, to address the challenges facing the dairy industry. But there’s no dispute about the overriding dynamics behind the sector’s crisis. Milk production continues to increase, yet Americans’ consumption has been falling. Industrial-scale dairy farms, with greater labor efficiency and capitalization, have been the engine driving the increased production, and they’ve been adding cows and land as smaller family farmers give up and leave the industry.

Lately, some of the same economic forces that have plagued conventional dairy farms are showing up in the organic market as well — putting pressure on farmers like the Kemnahs. Continue Reading →

Eco-Ag 2018: Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience 

Louisville Kentucky skyline

Louisville, Kentucky skyline at dusk.

The 2018 Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show is just over a month away. The Acres U.S.A. team is excited to meet everybody, and to connect our audience with expert speakers and hundreds of eco-farming peers. There’s a lot to do and see, not only at the conference, but in the great town of Louisville, Kentucky, as well! Head over to our website to read our Eco-Ag Conference guide, to help you get the most out of your trip.

Louisville, Kentucky
Eco-Ag U.: Tuesday, Dec. 4 to Wednesday, Dec. 5
Main Conference: Wednesday, Dec. 5 to Friday, Dec. 7

Learn more here!

Superior Farm Staff Leadership

Effective farm staff management can make all the difference. A long-time organic farmworker named Jessica told me, “When you are the boss there is not much incentive to change.” I’d like to prove that there is great incentive to improve management. Poor management hurts everyone — it makes farms less productive, and it can make employees miserable. It’s also very difficult to address the problem.

Workers don’t have any power in the relationship. They fear bringing up conflict for fear of losing a good recommendation in the future or the chance for a promotion. There is typically no structure in place for employees to contribute ideas about how they are being managed.

Drawn from interviews with organic farmworkers from around the country and my own experiences on multiple farms, here are some thoughts about managing farmworkers from their perspective (some names in this article have been changed).

Empowerment

A lot of the workers I talked to expressed great appreciation for the ways that farmers empowered them in their jobs. The best bosses assume their workers are capable of learning and performing tasks, even contributing new insight into the direction of the farm. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: The Miracle of Milk

By Bernarr Macfadden

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an Acres U.S.A. title, The Miracle of Milk, by Bernarr Macfadden. Copyright 2011, softcover, 118 pages. Normal price: $12.95.

The Miracle of Milk by Barnarr Macfadden

The Miracle of Milk by Barnarr Macfadden

One of the most outstanding effects of the full milk diet is the marvelous effect the ingestion of this large amount of fluid has upon the circulation. This is most important, from the standpoint of normal functioning. For many people suffering from chronic diseases are troubled with defective circulation of the blood. Their blood pressure is 30 or 40 degrees below or above what it should be. This condition may manifest itself by cold feet, cold hands, constant chilliness, susceptibility to colds, and numerous other symptoms.

These are the cases that respond very rapidly to the effects of the full milk diet. This is due to the improved circulation and to the increased amount of life-giving fluid in the veins and capillaries. Often within a few hours after commencing the diet their pulse rate will be increased when very low. Inside of 48 hours the heartbeat has frequently gained four or five beats to the minute. The pulse will be full and vigorous and the blood will flow to every cell and tissue in the body with increased force.

The dry, scaly character of the skin will disappear and instead there will be a healthy moistness and glow in its surfaces. The colorless, leathery skin covered with pimples and eruptions becomes rosy and clear, and free from unsightly blemishes.

Continue Reading →