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Archive | Eco-Philosophy

Community Seed Network

For farmers and gardeners who practice the time-honored tradition of preserving seed and trading with neighbors and friends, the swapping circle just got a whole lot bigger.

Logo for Community Seed NetworkA collaboration between the Seed Savers Exchange and USC Canada has launched an online resource for seed savers of all experience levels known as the Community Seed Network (CSN). The website (communityseednetwork.org) is designed to serve both as a database with tools for seed savers, community organizers and seed librarians as well as a platform for users across the continent to connect and swap seeds.

In recent decades, community-organized seed preservation has resurfaced as an alternative to purchasing packaged seeds every year from major seed companies. Organizations like the Seed Savers Exchange and USC Canada have long supported grassroots efforts to take back seed sovereignty, but the internet affords a unique opportunity to vastly multiply access to vital skills for seed preservation and to develop community infrastructure. Continue Reading →

Planting By the Moon

The practice of growing food and raising livestock is a calling that urges us to become stronger and hardier. The variables present in natural systems can be overwhelming, and it is only those who are willing to face hard truths and adapt that can truly turn it into a lifestyle.

The top of a scarlet turnip in the ground

Scarlet turnips seeded on a root day develop robust roots instead of leaves, flowers or seeds.

From the outside, the natural world looks extremely chaotic and unpredictable, and to a certain degree, it is. Even the best laid plans can be nullified by unseasonable weather, accidents, disease and a deluge of other unforeseen obstacles and losses. It takes a willful person to persist through these challenges and adapt in ways that lead to success.

The overall effect of this persistence pays off in countless rewards of spiritual and physical importance. To tune oneself to the natural rhythms of this planet with dedication and discipline is to gain insight into how this seeming chaos provides for order and how ambient rhythms guide all life through a cyclical journey here on Earth.

Observation

One of the most important tools a grower can use to become more successful is observation. We must learn about the ecology of the land, in the soil, on and in the plants, in the water and in the air, all while also being able to take these individual pieces and fit them into a broad awareness of the greater natural system as a whole. Continue Reading →

Clay Bottom Farm Turns Lean Principles into Profit

It’s a frigid March day in northern Indiana, but inside Clay Bottom Farm’s hoop house, Ben Hartman is planting onion sets. The work is done quickly with a Japanese paper pot transplanter — a wheeled cart with a slanted chute.

Ben Hartman waters plants in his hoop house with his young son.

Ben Hartman and his son Arlo work in the hoop house at Clay Bottom Farm.

A tray holds a honeycombed square of paper pots that unspool as a linked chain of seedlings slides down the red chute as Hartman wheels it down the bed.

“Origami designers developed this tool,” he explains, as each paper pot slips into the soft furrow at evenly spaced intervals, to be tucked in by the transplanter’s slanted rear wheels.

At the end of the row Hartman tears the damp paper linking the pots and turns the implement for another pass. The first seedling in a row gets planted by hand, but the rest are hands-off. “You’re supposed to use a used chopstick,” he says, staking the first paper pot with tongs to keep the line in place, “but we didn’t have any on hand.” Continue Reading →

Seedsman on a Mission

In 1979, a 25-year-old college freshman from Idaho stood over a bare garden plot in the backyard of his newly purchased home in Missoula, Montana, and asked himself, “Now where am I going to get seeds that will grow here?”

Bill McDorman smiles as he stands in his corn patch

Bill McDorman, shown in his corn patch in September 2018, has pursued a lifelong career of nurturing regionally adapted seed varieties and encouraging the people who save them.

Answering this question would lead author, speaker and educator Bill McDorman on a lifelong career of nurturing regionally adapted seed varieties and encouraging the people who save them. His quest to re-normalize seed saving motivated him to co-found the Down Home Project, Garden City Seeds, Seeds Trust, High Altitude Gardens, the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens, Seed School and the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA), as well as to serve as the executive director of Native Seeds/SEARCH and to author the book Basic Seed Saving.

Known by many in the seed saving community as a mentor, McDorman has personally trained over 1,000 seed savers through his Seed School (created by McDorman and his wife/RMSA Deputy Director and cofounder Belle Starr), including 13 students who went on to start bioregional seed companies.

McDorman is a refreshing advocate for the benefits of seed saving — not because growing seed was easy throughout his life in the Rocky Mountain West, but precisely because it was hard. The difficult climate and soil conditions led McDorman toward an ethos of seed saving that goes beyond the basic idea of finding and using open-pollinated seed varieties. He goes a step further to illuminate the values of local, regionally adapted seeds that will perform better in their unique bioregion. Continue Reading →

5 Strategies for a Successful Tool Lending Library

A growing number of communities operate their own tool lending library to allow residents to borrow tools free of charge because building a fence requires a lot of tools, and purchasing a brand-new post-hole digger, post pounder, measuring wheel, plumb bob and drill can be cost-prohibitive, and even renting can get expensive.

Safety Harbor Public Library's tool lending section

In Safety Harbor, Florida, the Safety Harbor Public Library added tools and equipment to its library collection in 2016.

Tool libraries operate on the same principles as public libraries: Borrowers check out tools, complete their tasks and return tools for the next borrower. The organizations might operate as stand-alone nonprofits or as part of traditional libraries; some charge annual membership fees while others lend tools with refundable deposits and proof of identification. All tool lending libraries are focused on increasing access to a wide range of tools.

“There is a movement toward simplicity, toward not wanting or needing to own everything,” said Gene Homicki, co-founder of the West Seattle Tool Library and CEO of the equipment-sharing platform MyTurn. “People want access to tools but don’t want to buy tools or maintain or store them.”

In 2013, there were an estimated 50 tool lending libraries; the number has jumped to 170 independent tool libraries and an additional 200 public libraries that allow users to check out tools, according to Homicki. As more communities consider establishing tool libraries, these five tips can help ensure the operations are successful. Continue Reading →

The Future of Food: A Nation of Tenant Farmers?

America’s farmland is up for grabs. With two-thirds of the nation’s farmers retiring in the next 20 years, 400 million acres will change hands. Who will control what happens to that land?

tractor in a fieldLand is in huge demand. Highly sought-after by developers, pension funds and rich refugees from Silicon Valley seeking country estates, yet another buyer has arrived on the scene: the investor.

According to the Wall Street Journal, institutional investment into U.S. farmland topped $2 billion from 2013 to 2015. These investments are being purchased through brokers called REITs — Real Estate Investment Trusts — touted as a stable long-term investment in a shaky market full of flimsy financial instruments. In the long run, land is bound to go up because it is limited, and food consumption worldwide is going up. Plus, it speaks to a long-held cherished belief that property is the safest place to put your money. Continue Reading →