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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 →

Protecting Local Pesticide Ordinances

As reported by Beyond Pesticides, last year, pesticide manufacturers tried to undo local pesticide ordinances in a large state-by-state lobbying effort. That failed. Now they are trying to get Congress to undo these local rules in one fell swoop through an amendment in the Farm Bill.

You have the chance to tell those in Washington, D.C., that parents and city leaders, not pesticide corporations, have the right to protect our children and pets from exposure to hazardous pesticides in the parks and school grounds where they play.

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, has lobbied hard to kill community pesticide bans, as have other chemical companies, including Dow and CropLife America. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 19: Judith McGeary, Founder of Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance

 

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time podcast brought to you by Acres USA. I am your host, Ryan Slabaugh, and we are excited to bring you another episode – this one will be about advocacy, and how to get involved to make real change happen.

Judith McGeary

Judith McGeary, founder of Farm & Ranching Freedom Alliance

Our guest today embodies that sentiment, Judith McGeary. Those who attend our conference every year should know her name, as she is a frequent speaker. But why we ask her to speak is most important – that she is the founder and leader of the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, and represents about 1,000 ranchers and farmers in Texas who help advocate for government to better represent all of its constituents, not just the huge corporate farming interests. She’s also a rancher herself at the McGeary Family Farm a couple hours outside of Austin, Texas.

How she found her way into this role is something we’ll discuss during the podcast, and her story is inspiring. It involves a career change, and some life-changing moments with farmers and politicians.

Not only does Judith lead FARFA, but she serves as the executive director of the Council for Healthy Food Systems and on the board of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. And this year, she’s leading the Raise Your Voice Tour to learn more about what type of advocacy farmers and ranchers need the most. We’ll get into that, and more, in this 40-minute talk.

You can learn more about FARFA at farmandranchfreedom.org, and their October conference.

You can learn more about the Acres USA conference, where FARFA will be presenting, at www.acresusa.com.

The Faux Faith of Modern Science

Think very carefully the next time your physician suggests new prescription drugs or offers you a bit of medical advice.

“Science is part and parcel humility. Scientists do not seek to impose their needs and wants on Nature, but instead humbly interrogate Nature and take seriously what they find. We are aware that revered scientists have been wrong. We understand human imperfection. We insist on independent and — to the extent possible — quantitative verification of proposed tenets of belief.” — Carl Sagan, from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

Sagan would agree that modern science has taken a terrible turn. Corporate influence, conflicts of interest, ego and greed have corrupted the science of science if you will. The results are bad scientific practices, a dearth of independent research, misinformation and studies designed to produce favorable results — and not for the health of the individual.

Big Pharma is arguably more concerned with competition than consumer protection. Continue Reading →

Raw Milk for Real Health, Wealth

Soil Scientist, Author Joseph Heckman Examines the State of Raw Milk Dairying & Challenges to Consumer Choice

Joseph Heckman, Ph.D. is a tireless advocate for common sense and good science regarding producing, selling and drinking fresh, unprocessed milk. A professor of soil science at Rutgers University, he teaches courses in soil fertility and organic crop production. He conducts research and extension programs on optimizing nutrition and soil quality in support of plant, animal and human health. He has served as chair of several professional organizations including the Council on History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Soil Science, the Committee on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, and the Organic Management Systems Community of the American Society of Agronomy. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Farm to Consumer Foundation. Dr. Heckman was the lead author of the Soil Fertility in Organic Farming chapter for the agronomy society’s book, Ecology of Organic Farming Systems. Most recently he co-authored Fresh Milk Production, The Cow Edition and Fresh Milk Production, The Goat Edition. Heckman’s determined insistence on sanity, science and sense has done a great deal to lift the reputation of raw milk in this country.

Interviewed by Chris Walters

Fresh Perspective

ACRES U.S.A. Dr. Heckman, how did you find your way to the subject of fresh, unprocessed milk and all the science, politics and controversy around it? Did you arrive at this debate via research, personal background, or lucky happenstance? Continue Reading →

GE Food Labeling

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking public comments on the proposed rule to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard mandated by Congress in 2016 — a  standard for GE food labeling.

The goal of the standard is to provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) and to avoid a patchwork system of state or private labels that could be confusing for consumers.

According to The Center for Food Safety (CFS), public comments will be particularly important because the proposal presents a range of alternatives for public comments and makes few decisions, leaving considerable unknowns about its outcome.

For example, instead of requiring clear, on-package labeling in the form of text or a symbol, USDA proposes to allow manufacturers to instead choose to use QR codes, which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned and are intended to substitute for clear, on-package labeling.

Real-time access to the information behind a QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies often lacking in rural areas. As a result, this labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology.

Continue Reading →