Welcome to 2015, the International Year of Soils! In order to celebrate what Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director General José Graziano da Silva calls our “silent allies in food production,” this year will be devoted to raising awareness, increasing global understanding, and giving a voice to our earth’s soils. A vital, multi-faceted component of the farming team, it is important to remember that soil is first and foremost a living organism. The FAO, along with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and more are committed to this campaign, citing that it will not only showcase the importance of soil, but will work to improve soil health and conservation. Want to join in on the soil celebration? Get your hands dirty with this 5 Steps To Boost Soil Health how-to!
The egg: the little breakfast staple that has graced our kitchen tables forever is making headlines this week as California’s Prop 2 takes effect. The law, passed in 2008, requires farmers in California (and farmers in other states who sell eggs to California) to provide enough cage space for chickens to move, spread their wings, and turn around.. It’s great news for chickens and animal rights advocates, but many large scale egg producers, and maybe even you avid egg consumers, won’t be so happy. CEO of Iowa’s Centrum Valley Farms Jim Dean explained, “You’re talking about millions upon millions of dollars. It’s not anything that’s cheap or that can be modified easily, not in the Midwest.” This financial setback for farms like Centrum Valley could cause disruption in the market for eggs, leaving the price nowhere to go but up. So if you’re planning on following a New Year’s resolution-egg-superfood diet, you may have to shell out (no pun intended) a little extra cash for your favorite protein this year.
In just five short months, voters in Benton County, Oregon, will have the opportunity to say no to GMOs. The anti-GMO measure, which would ban the planting of genetically modified organisms or patented seeds, has officially qualified for the county’s May ballot. With 2,685 signatures of valid supporters turned in by the Local Food System Ordinance last month, the initiative is in full swing. However, success at the polls may not guarantee the end of GMOs in Benton County. In the past, Benton County Legislature has passed a bill to prohibit local GMO bans like this one while they develop a statewide policy on the subject.
A study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America this week concludes that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations at the oil-and-gas wells in Ohio are the reason for the several earthquakes that have been jolting the area. As the practice of fracking becomes more and more common, the frequency and intensity of the fracking related quakes has risen with it. It appears that both the actual act of fracking and the consequences of injecting the related waste into the wells widens cracks in the faults, greatly increasing the chances of earthquakes. Ohio has since halted the development of new wells, but existing wells in the seismically active area remain in closely-monitored operation.
China’s young urbanites have responded to food safety scandals by joining the organic food craze. With a calm consumer inflation rate and growth in purchasing power among China’s middle class, consumers are focused and ready to learn the truth about where their food comes from. Beijing based farmer Zhu Xun, CEO of Noah Organic, is the answer to this group’s concerns, offering fertilizer- and pesticide-free produce that consumers can see, smell, touch, and hear when they visit his bustling farm. They are even willing to pay almost five times the standard supermarket price for his trustworthy, scandal-free produce. With 1,500 members and counting, Noah Organic will hopefully continue to increase their consumers as more and more of China’s population becomes aware of the upsides of going organic.
Expect some new material from the Farm Aid family! Board member Neil Young sat down with Rolling Stone Executive Editor Nathan Brackett at the International Consumer and Electronics show to discuss the release of his high-resolution Pono Music Player, the complete audiophile’s dream of a portable music player. With this product came a deep discussion of the power of high quality playback: “making music sound as good as it can, and making you feel as much as you can,” Young said. Young also announced plans for an LP with Lukas and Micah Nelson, long-time Farm Aid artists and sons of Farm Aid President and founder Willie Nelson.