Blog | August 21, 2014

Amanda’s Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaThis September, Willie Nelson and Neil Young will share a stage not only at the Farm Aid concert in Raleigh, but also in Nebraska. The two have planned an appearance on Art Tanderup’s family farm at the “Harvest the Hope” concert – an event that will benefit opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, which requires the approval of President Obama to construct, would carry Canadian oil through Nebraska to the U.S. Gulf Coast, posing a threat to water and soil in the area. During the September 27 event, Willie and Neil hope to tell the rich histories of the farmers, ranchers and Native Americans who actively oppose the pipeline through music.

An increasing number of people in Arkansas agree that picking produce off a grocery shelf just doesn’t compare to picking it from the farm. A new study found that agritourism is growing in the state, benefitting both consumers and producers. While pumpkin patches and vineyards have long been popular tour destinations, the local food movement has recently encouraged people to reconnect with the roots of their food. This has led to an increase from 268 farm tours in 2007 to 389 farm tours in 2012, according to the Agriculture Census. To bolster this growing trend, the Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has provided funding to start a mobile app that allows consumers to search for local farms and food in their area.

While many think of drones as enemy spy machines, farmers may soon call them friends. Drone demonstrations at farms in South Dakota have caught the attention of farmers who could use a second set of eyes. The drones could detect areas of ailing crops and use infrared cameras to locate livestock by flying over farmland. Relatively inexpensive and operational via smartphones, drones could be accessible to the average farmer. The main barrier: breaking through concerns about the invasive capabilities of drones and privacy concerns. Drone manufacturers encourage farmers to give the drones a try and insist that they can act simply as another tool on the farm, not a secret spy agent. As of right now, there’s no need to worry about a robot replacing your local farmer – drones only have the capacity to survey the land and cannot give it the nurturing care it needs.

Two weeks into Russia’s ban on Western agriculture imports, the consequences of Putin’s sanctions are already starting to hit home. Experts estimate that Russia will spend $10 billion in farm subsidies in coming years but could still struggle to combat a food shortage. Long, devastating winters make growing enough produce to support the nation’s demand nearly impossible. Many believe five years could pass before any significant progress, leaving Russia’s 145 million people without a secure food supply.

It’s hard for many of us to imagine what it’s like to have 20 hours of sunlight, let alone a cabbage weighing in at 138 pounds. If both of those prospects interest you, then it might be time for you to pick up and move to Alaska: the land of the midnight sun and some freakishly overgrown vegetables. Here, extra sunlight puts produce into photosynthesis overdrive, resulting in sweeter fruits and veggies that often set Guinness World Records. At the Alaska State Fair – running from today through September 1 – farmers will show off their prized produce in a variety of categories.

Despite support from all of the governors along the line of the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline, plans to build have been put on hold. The 180 miles of pipe slated to carry natural gas from New York to New England has faced crippling opposition along the way. Citizens in Massachusetts rallied and protested against it, including Senator Elizabeth Warren who wrote and published an editorial opposing the pipeline and property owners who feared the effects of gas leaks refused to allow Kinder Morgan to survey their land. For now, vocal citizens have halted the progress, but Kinder Morgan claims it’s not ready to put pipeline plans in the past.

Colorado will be the next state to put a GMO labeling bill on the ballot. The placement of the measure on the ballot could bring a huge wave of corporate spending, as was seen last fall in Washington state last year.

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