Saturday, July 30, 2011

Turfgrass Education Initiative to Help Rural Communities

photo credit: Wildlifecontrol via Flickr

GUELPH Ontario July 29, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

Safe school grounds and high-quality municipal sports fields maintained without the use of traditional pesticides are the focus of a new University of Guelph-based initiative.

The Turfgrass Outreach Project (TOP) offers support to rural groundkeepers across southern Ontario, providing workshops, training programs and an online knowledge centre.

The project is being run by scientists and educators from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute and is supported by the Knowledge Translation and Transfer program, a new initiative under the University's partnership agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). It sets aside funds for projects that improve the impact of research projects by transforming research knowledge into use for different research audiences across the agriculture, food and rural sectors.

Without cosmetic pesticides - which have not been permitted for use since 2009 - rural groundskeepers have had to make major changes to manage school and municipal sports fields. But so far, public outreach has focused on the impacts on residential lawns and urban sports fields. This is an outstanding need that this project is looking to address, said Eric Lyons, a professor of plant agriculture and TOP project manager.

“Urban areas have often had municipal restrictions in place for a while, but in many cases, rural communities have had to adapt very quickly to managing turf without cosmetic pesticides,” Lyons said. “The education and outreach to deal with that just isn’t in place in rural communities like it has been in urban centres.”

In response, TOP is pulling expertise from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, U of G’s Ontario Agricultural College and School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, and OMAFRA to create accessible educational opportunities for rural groundskeepers. It’s also partnered with the Sports Turf Association.

“We welcome the chance to learn more about the specific challenges faced by rural schools and municipalities,” said Nicole Markwick, TOP’s project co-ordinator. “For example, the safety of sports fields is important because they are used year-round for various sports and events that impact rural communities economically, socially and environmentally.”

TOP also aims to foster stronger networks for continuing education on sustainable resource management for rural turfgrass managers. It has also partnered with community organizations.

More information about the Turfgrass Outreach Project is available online.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dr. Oetker Announces Plans for New Production Facility in London, Ontario

Expansion to provide opportunities for Ontario farmers and hundreds of jobs for local families

LONDON, Ontario, July 26, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - At an event held this morning, Dr. Oetker Canada, the maker of many beloved frozen pizza brands, dessert brands and dry baking mixes for both retail and food service, announced that it will build a new frozen pizza production facility in London, Ontario. The plant, which will act as a production hub for the company's North American pizza operations, will come along with over 125 jobs in London and bring some expected 300 additional jobs to the area. It is supported through Ontario's Rural Economic Development Program.

"Over the past few months, we've worked closely with officials from the Province of Ontario, the City of London and the London Economic Development Corporation," said Dr. Martin Reintjes, Executive Vice President at Dr. Oetker GmbH, the German headquarter. "I am delighted to be able to participate in today's announcement and to thank them all for the financial support provided to Dr. Oetker Canada for this project. As a fourth generation family owned and run business we understand the importance of community and we are thrilled to become a part of this thriving community here in London."

The company's famous "Trattoria" was onsite during the announcement treating guests to the company's pizza as they heard remarks from Dr. Martin Reintjes, as well as London-area MPPs Khalil Ramal, Hon. Chris Bentley and Hon. Deb Matthews and London Mayor Joe Fontana. This new facility will help Dr. Oetker produce about 50 million frozen pizzas per year for the Canadian and U.S markets and source over 24 million pounds of high-quality ingredients from Ontario farmers and food processors.

"The McGuinty government is proud to be a part of Dr. Oetker Canada's expansion, bringing a world class company to Southwestern Ontario, that will use fresh ingredients sourced from Ontario farmers and food processors," said Carol Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "Our government will continue to invest in projects like these, which will strengthen our agri-food industry, create jobs for our families and grow our economy."

Dr. Oetker Canada has been in operation since 1960 and ranks as one of the top five subsidiaries for the organization which operates in over than 35 countries, and has production facilities in 15. The Canadian unit has 120 employees today, produces over 300 products, and has doubled in size over the last five years due to new product development and a culture that thrives on innovation, quality products and fresh thinking. Most recently Dr. Oetker has seen success with its frozen pizza line, in fact nearly one in three frozen pizzas sold in Canada are Dr. Oetker pizzas. The company also operates a manufacturing and R&D facility located in Mississauga, Ontario. The Dr. Oetker pizza plant is slated to take up operations in late 2013.

"This plant will house production of our frozen pizza lines including Ristorante, a thin-crust gourmet pizza, Casa di Mama, our Italian homemade style pizza and our newest product Panebello, a bakery crust pizza," says Reintjes. "No matter what your pizza style is, this plant will offer great products for every pizza lover in Canada.

About Dr. Oetker Canada

Since 1960, Dr. Oetker Canada Ltd. has provided innovative quality food products to Canadian consumers. Recognized as one of the fastest growing food manufacturing companies in Canada, Dr. Oetker produces and distributes a variety of desserts and dry baking mixes (Shirriff, Added Touch and Dr. Oetker branded) and frozen pizzas (Ristorante, Casa di Mama and Panebello). The Canadian company is a subsidiary of the family-run Oetker Group which is currently led by Mr. Richard Oetker, great-grandson of the original founder. Established in 1891 with the launch of Germany's first baking powder, today Dr. Oetker carries out a legacy rooted in the belief that "quality is the best recipe" and a commitment to building a sustainable presence in the communities in which it does business. In 2009, sales were $2.5 billion.

Friday, July 22, 2011

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Corporate
Document Repository

Founded in 1945, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works on four main areas that inform their mission: access to information, sharing policy expertise, meeting space for nations, and bringing knowledge to the field. Although they work in both developed and developing countries, as well as rural and urban areas, the FAO has concentrated their
efforts on rural areas, as that is where the majority of poor and hungry people reside.

Visitors interested in the current state of such topics as "Food and Agriculture", "Food Insecurity in the World", and "World Fisheries and Aquaculture" should click on the link entitled "The State of..." on the far right hand side of the homepage. There, visitors can download the publication on the subject, as well as see a table of contents and a basic overview of the contents of the publication.

Back on the homepage, visitors can check out new document releases, including a teaching toolkit on "Setting Up and Running a School Garden", which aims to promote lifelong healthy eating habits.

Visitors can download the toolkit as a PDF. [KMG]

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2011.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

U of G Receives Provincial Funding to Study Puzzling Farm Disease

GUELPH, Ontario July 15, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

University of Guelph researchers have received support from the provincial government to explore Q fever, a mysterious disease that can affect farm animals and the people who care for them.

New funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will allow professors Paula Menzies and Andria Jones of the Department of Population Medicine to extend their research on Q fever. The disease is caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii and can infect any species, including mammals, birds and insects.

The researchers have been studying the infection in sheep and goats for the past year. They’ll use this latest $45,000 grant to test blood and survey farmers about human risk factors for contracting and spreading Q fever, such as overall health, lifestyle and time spent on a farm.

The government investment was announced today at U of G by Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph-Wellington, on behalf of Deb Mathews, minister of health and long-term care.

“The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recognizes that some animal diseases can cross over into the human population,” Sandals said. “This funding supports research into the risk factors for farm workers who are in contact with sheep and goats infected with Q fever.”

Kevin Hall, U of G’s vice-president (research), said: “This project illustrates the benefits of research at the intersection of human and animal health. It’s a perfect fit with our unique ‘one-health initiative,’ which considers holistically animal, human and environmental health. We’re grateful to the ministry for recognizing the importance of understanding more about this disease in order to protect animals and people.”

Menzies and Jones are working on the project with population medicine professor Scott McEwen, Jocelyn Jansen of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and master’s student Shannon Meadows.

“It’s our job as veterinarians not only to ensure optimal health of animals but also to provide guidance on how to protect caregivers against zoonotic diseases,” Menzies said.

“This will allow us to investigate beyond the effects of the infection on sheep and goats and examine how Q fever is impacting the health and well-being of farm families.”

Jones added:
“This is the first time our research has directly involved human disease, and we’re very excited about it. Once we have an understanding of how much risk is associated with Q fever as well as the factors that put us at risk, we’ll be able to take a proactive stance to keep our province healthy.”

Q fever occurs most often in sheep, goats and cats, usually causing abortions and stillbirths. Farm workers usually contract the disease when caring for birthing animals. The bacteria may also occur in dust and raw milk.

The disease often goes undiagnosed in humans, with symptoms including fever, headaches and pneumonia. Most infected people have only mild symptoms, but some may need hospital care.

Previously, the researchers randomly selected about 150 small ruminant farms throughout southern Ontario and are testing more than 4,000 animals. About half have been tested so far.

“Much more work needs to be done before proper conclusions can be drawn, but we believe that this research will give an excellent grounding in understanding the risks in order to make sound recommendations on the control of Q fever,” said Jones.

The research has also been funded by OMAFRA, the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency, the Animal Health Laboratory and Public Health Ontario.

First International Summit of Cooperatives to be held in Canada in 2012

Drawing cooperative leaders from around the world

QUEBEC CITY, July 15, 2011 /Canada NewsWire Telbec/ - Decision-makers and influential figures from the international cooperative and mutualist community will gather in Quebec City, Canada, from October 8 to 11, 2012 for the 2012 International Summit of Cooperatives. This event will mark the International Year of Cooperatives declared by the United Nations (UN).

The Summit will be a milestone event for current and future leaders committed to consolidating the influence of the cooperative and mutualist movement on the socio-economic and political stage.

Desjardins Group, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the sixth largest in the world, will co-host the Summit with two other major cooperative players: the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), which represents and serves cooperatives worldwide, and Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia, Canada, which is renowned for its post-graduate cooperative management program. The three Summit co-hosts have also made it their mission to promote the cooperative and mutualist business model worldwide.

Participants from around the world will be discussing:

...The role of cooperatives and mutuals in the global economy
...The performance of the cooperative and mutualist business model
...The evolution of the business model
...The global socio-political influence of cooperative and mutuals

Some 125 keynote speakers from different areas of expertise will be participating in this event.

The results of international groundbreaking studies will be revealed for the first time at the Summit. These multi-sector studies cover:

...Major global trends and the issues and challenges they represent for cooperatives and mutuals
...Development strategies for the cooperative and mutualist model
...Evolution of cooperative and mutualist management practices
...Productivity, financing and capitalization of cooperatives and mutuals
...Global socio-economic impact of cooperatives and mutuals
...International survey of member and consumer expectations of cooperatives and mutuals

Round tables and plenary meetings will promote dialogue and enable participants to take part in discussions. The program also includes workshops that will address specific issues by activity sector: agriculture, retail, insurance, finance, industrial, health, to name a few.

To find out more about this international event, visit

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dairy Farmers of Canada Annual Meeting Draws to Close, New President Elected

WINNIPEG, July 13, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new President was elected by dairy farmer delegates from across the country this afternoon. Wally Smith owns MariaHolme Farms in Chemainus BC, where he milks 75 cows and grows his own forage and corn.

"I'm very proud to represent dairy farmers in Canada," said the new President. "I want to recognize the work of Jacques Laforge over the years. I look forward to work with all of you and ensure a vibrant industry today and for our children."

Earlier today, dairy farmers and industry stakeholders heard testimonials from keynote speaker and agricultural leader Jack Wilkinson, who challenged farmers to produce food sustainably. There were also two panels; the first discussing agricultural policy that encourages farmers to be more sustainable and the second one included one dairy farmer and two dairy processors talking about what sustainable development means to them and their business, and how they leverage their sustainable practices with consumers. You can find the biographies and presentations of these speakers on DFC's website. These testimonials speak, not only to respect of the environment, but also to the resourcefulness and innovation in the dairy industry!

DFC also took the opportunity to announce the creation of an environment stewardship award to recognize dairy farmers who go beyond common industry practices. Starting in 2012, this DFC award will recognize the achievements of dairy farmers implementing environmentally sustainable practices, which positively contribute to climate change issues and/or manage natural resources efficiently.

Nominations for the Board were received and the Executive members will be named by the Board later today. The closing banquet tonight will also recognize the contributions of Jacques Laforge, outgoing President to DFC over 25 years on the Board, including the last seven years as President. Jacques is retiring from DFC. The banquet will also honour Richard Doyle, Executive Director, who has been with DFC for 35 years. He is staying on to serve DFC.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Caledon Farmers' Market Offers Something for Everyone!

from the Hills of Headwaters Newsletter

The Caledon Farmers’ Market is now open for its 3rd consecutive season. It features a broad selection of vendors who sell an impressive range of high-quality locally-produced products, including:

baked goods
fruits and berries
organic greens and vegetables
maple syrup
honey and honey-based products
shortbread cookies
flowers and plants
fresh and cured meats
chocolate and fudge
perogies and cabbage rolls
artwork, jewellery, crafts and other great products

The Market is open every Thursday ~ rain or shine ~ between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. until October 6, 2011.

Each week features a different Market theme and activities available for kids and grown-ups to enjoy.

Visit for Market details, to subscribe to The Market Message e-newsletter, or to visit the Caledon Farmers’ Market Facebook Profile page.

British Columbia Man Faces Six Months in Jail for Growing Food

Image: Dirk Becker

by Jeff Nield, Vancouver, British Columbia

Last week Colleen brought us the story of a woman in Michigan who is facing jail time for planting a garden. Sadly, this type of heavy-handed by-the-letter enforcement of bylaws exists at the same time as people embrace urban agriculture as a viable source of high quality nutrition. A man in Lanztville, British Columbia is facing a similar battle with the local government after converting his 2.5 acre "residential" lot from a gravel pit into a thriving organic farm. His refusal to "cease all agricultural activity" could land him six months in jail.

Acting on a single complaint from a disgruntled neighbor the regional district sent a letter to Dirk Becker giving him 14 days to "remove the piles of soil and manure from the property." The quoted bylaw states that property owners will ensure their property doesn't become or remain "unsightly". Specifically this refers to "the accumulation of filth, discarded materials or rubbish, which includes unused or stripped automobiles, trucks, trailers, boats, vessels, machinery, mechanical or metal parts." Admittedly, it can be argued that, to some a manure pile could be considered "filth". But, considering how Becker regenerated his 2.5 acres (see photo above) this characterization is an insult.

Becker explains the character of his neighbourhood and the evolution of his piece of property in an article he wrote for Synergy Magazine.

We have 2.5 acres in total, as do several of our neighbours. Three doors down our road are both cows and horses. As you can see from our photographs, the area we live in can hardly be considered "urban". However, we are using the term to describe our situation as our property is zoned "residential" and we are doing small scale, organic growing of fruits and vegetables on one acre. Lantzville is a small community (population 3,500) just north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Even the name, Lantzville, evokes images of small town comraderie, walking down main street, basket in hand, to see the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. It's surprising that on such a quiet, rural, two-block long, dead-end road, with forest across the street and acreages on either side of us, that we would end up being ordered to stop such an essential activity as growing food for others because of a particular bylaw.

The previous owner used an excavator and dump truck to mine and scrape the land bare. He had a soil screener set up on the property, selling the soil, then sand, then gravel, which resulted in lowering the level of the property by about four feet. When Dirk assumed ownership, all that remained was gravel. There were no worms, no grasshoppers, no birds, no butterflies; essentially - no living creatures!

Since 1999, Dirk has made a tremendous effort to heal the land, beginning slowly - one wheelbarrow at a time. Nicole joined him at the end of 2006. It has been a gradual, organic process from planting a few fruit trees and having a small growing area, to expanding with more hand-made soil using wood chips from local tree companies and a small amount of horse manure from local, Lantzville stables. Now we have four kinds of bees, several types of dragonflies, numerous types of butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, hundreds of birds and much more! We have dedicated our time to supporting hundreds of community members who have sought guidance on how to become more sustainable in their own lives; from educating people on how to support sustainable local initiatives (including 4H and homeschoolers), to teaching families how to grow their own food.

The original letter asking Becker to stop agricultural activities arrived in September, 2010. Since then, there has been a huge public outcry in support of his activities, including a decent showing of 75 people at a support rally last night. Despite this, the municipality has recently hired a law firm to pursue the matter. Becker received a couriered letter in early June, once again asking him to stop growing food or they will proceed with legal action against him. What this could amount to, according to Becker, is a judge ruling that he is "in contempt" of the district bylaw and he could be sentenced to six months in jail.

To follow this story you can connect with Becker on Facebook where he posts regular updates.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Retired University of Guelph Professor Receives Inaugural Award for Animal Welfare

GUELPH, Ontario July 12, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

A University of Guelph emeritus professor is the first recipient of an international award recognizing leadership in animal welfare. Ian Duncan received the Medal for Outstanding Contributions from the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW).

The award recognizes exceptional achievements and contributions to the advancement of animal welfare. It’s open to any scientist whose research, teaching, service or advocacy has significantly benefited animals.

Duncan received the honour at the federation’s recent international symposium in the United Kingdom. More than 200 delegates from 24 countries attended.

“Ian Duncan is one of the pioneers of the new direction in animal welfare science that began around 40 years ago with investigation of the animal’s own perspective of its world,” said James Kirkwood, UFAW’s chief executive and scientific director.

“He has had a highly productive career and his work has been very influential. He is well known for promoting the idea that welfare is about animals’ feelings, which has come to be widely accepted. Work by Ian revolutionized the study of poultry behaviour, inspiring scientists and others around the world, and ultimately helped lead to the European Union ban on battery cages.”

Duncan, who was an U of G animal and poultry science professor for 21 years, was one of the first people to bring a scientific approach to solving animal welfare problems.

After studying agriculture at the University of Edinburgh, he pursued PhD research on how laying hens respond to their environment. Hens typically live four or five birds to a cage, with cages stacked three or four tiers high.

“Sometimes scientists work away in a particular area for many years without anyone appearing to pay any attention to what they are saying,” Duncan said. “Such was the case with my suggestion that animal welfare is all to do with what the animal feels. It is therefore hugely rewarding to see this idea now being generally accepted by the scientific community and being acknowledged by this award, for which I am truly grateful.”

Duncan worked for the Poultry Research Centre in Edinburgh, which is part of the institute that cloned the sheep Dolly. He studied poultry behaviour and welfare for 20 years before immigrating to Canada in 1989 and joining the faculty of U of G. He’s published more than 150 scientific papers on animal welfare.

Duncan holds the Emeritus Chair of Animal Welfare at Guelph and is the former director of U of G’s Colonel K.L. Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare. It was the first Canadian centre dedicated to studying how to improve quality of life for animals.

He received the inaugural Animals and Society Course Award in 2000 from the Humane Society of the United States, North America's largest animal protection organization.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Small-Scale Sustainable Farming Key To Global Food Security, Poverty Reduction: UN

by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY

A United Nations report has once again stressed that the key to increasing food production so that the world's coming nine billion people can be fed without increasing climate change and further reducing biodiversity, is small-scale sustainable agriculture. Doing so will also increase global food security, essential to poverty reduction.

The report, from economists at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, says:

Evidence has shown that for most crops the optimal farm is small in scale and that it is at this level that the most gain in terms of both sustainable productivity increases and rural poverty reduction can be achieved.

... read more story at

Begging Bear to Return in Fall

GUELPH, Ontario July 7, 2011 - University of Guelph Press Release - Those of you who have been missing the Begging Bear sculpture normally standing outside the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (MSAC) at the University of Guelph will be happy to learn the campus celebrity will soon return.

The bronze sculpture, which was knocked over in March and had to be removed for repairs, will be officially welcomed back to its rightful spot in a reinstallation ceremony October 1, 2011. The ceremony will be the highlight of events celebrating Culture Day at the MSAC.

“The unveiling will be impressive,” said Judith Nasby, MSAC director and curator. “The sculpture suffered deep scratches and bruising of the bronze, but it will emerge looking refreshed.”

Created by Carl Skelton and installed in 1999, the Canadiana/Begging Bear, posed with one inviting arm outstretched, is an artistic metaphor for our native animals’ need for protection and our encroachment on the environment, said Nasby.

The 7 ½-foot-tall sculpture has also become a beloved icon to Guelph residents. The bear can often be found decorated or dressed up, making it a must-see for passers-by on Gordon Street.
The bear was missed as soon as it was removed for repairs, said Aidan Ware, MSAC co-ordinator of education and development.

“It’s a testament to his value in the community,” said Ware. “People cared enough to write to local papers and email us asking after the bear. A suggestion was made that the bear be moved to a less accessible position, but it’s wonderful to keep him where he was, where he can continue to engage with the public.”

Artcast Inc. in Georgetown, Ontario, is using steel pins to stabilize the bear, which weighs some 350 pounds. Rather than appearing to stand on tiptoe in the grass, the bear will stand on a two-inch-high bronze platform atop a four-foot-deep concrete base buried in the ground.

Besides the unveiling, Culture Day will include the creation and photographing of Guelph’s first “human quilt,” and a late-night lantern tour of the MSAC sculpture park and grounds.

MSAC has launched a special fundraising effort, "Share Your Care For Our Bear," to help pay for the repairs. For more information or to make a donation, email

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Take Action: Ontario's Proposed Mega-Quarry Could Contaminate Drinking Water for A Million People

Image: Proposed mega-quarry deeper than Niagara Falls

by Kimberley Mok, Montreal, Canada

As Lloyd detailed in an earlier post on the enormous ecological footprint of concrete, a US-owned hedge fund is proposing a mega-quarry in Melancthon, about an hour and a half away from Toronto. It's an area best known for its excellent agricultural land and favourable micro-climate, but if the project goes ahead, thousands of acres will be dug up for limestone aggregate, creating Canada's largest open-pit mine, and second largest in North America. To give you a better frame of reference, the quarry would be greater in height than Niagara Falls.

The Highland Companies also plans to pump 600 millions of litres of water used in the quarry floors back into recharge wells, raising concerns that this could contaminate drinking water supplies of over a million Ontarians further south with blasting residue and diesel fuels. More information in this video:

Apparently, in the last several years Highlands has allegedly engaged in duplicitous maneuvers to obtain the lands for the quarry. According to the Toronto Star and the Council of Canadians website:

The Highlands company started buying farmland in Melancthon several years ago saying they wanted to become the province's largest potato growing operation -- which made sense to local farmers as the area is well known for its particularly high quality soil and micro-climate. After many local farmers had sold their farms -- some of which had been in the family for generations -- the real motives of the company became apparent. Under that rich and rare soil is a fortune in high quality limestone worth upwards of eight billion dollars.

However, it's clear that the environmental impact of the proposed quarry is mind-boggling. Not only would it destroy agricultural land, increase heavy traffic on country roads, it would also affect the Nottawasaga, Credit, Grand River, Pine, Humber, Noisy, Boyne, Mad and Saugeen Rivers, which all have their source in this watershed area north of Toronto.

Highland is currently in the process of applying for a permit from the Ontario government, but locals and many other concerned citizens are organizing to stop the quarry. There's an online petition, plus the deadline to register opposition ( online here) with the Ontario Environmental Registry is July 11, 2011. There is also a rally planned for July 21, 2011 at noon at the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (77 Wellesley Street West, Toronto).

For more background details, you can read more in the Toronto Star, water activist Maude Barlow's - letter to Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources, and on how to reduce our need for aggregate.

... read more story at

Uninhabited Island Bought on Craigslist to Become a Haven for Artists (Video)

Photo via Andrew Ranville

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

One of the greatest places to be inspired for art is smack in the middle of nature, with no other evidence of human habitation. Rob Gorski found a listing for the 91-acre island on Craigslist last year and bought the untamed island (not something you get to do every day!). He and artist Andrew Ranville want to keep the island in its natural state, but still allow for artists to spend time on the island getting inspired and working on projects. So, they've launched a very unusual project.

The island is Rabbit Island, and sits 3 miles off the beach of Lake Superior. It has remained untouched, except for a fishing family that lived there in the late 1800s. But, it will be home to artists hoping to soak in the unscarred beauty of the forested shores.

The team states,

"Ecological concerns are a growing influence within the consciousness of society and the creative practices of many people. Visual artists, writers, designers, architects, farmers and creative researches of all types are doing some amazing things and we want develop an amazing space for those practices to flourish and be challenged. This artist residency presents some really unique constraints: It is off-the-grid, it is nature in its purist form, it's an experiment, a laboratory. It is isolated from all centralized forms of transportation, energy production, food industry, and, the world of art. Rabbit Island represents a chance to creatively explore ideas related to the absence of civilization in a well-preserved microcosm. This is why we want to establish an artist residency on Rabbit Island."

It sounds like heaven on Earth.

The duo needs your help, however. They need $12,500 in funds to get everything ready, and have just 9 days to raise just about $6,500. When you donate, you can receive as a thank you anything from a cotton tote bag to a trip to the island. You can check out their Kickstarter campaign to learn more.

... read more story at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Can Agroforestry and Perennial Farming Solve Drought?

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

From greening the deserts of Jordan to planting nut trees for community food security, permaculturists put a lot of faith in perennial agriculture and agroforestry as a means to alleviate drought and maintain food production in a changing climate. Rob Hopkins of Transition Culture has a great interview with agroforestry and forest gardening pioneer Martin Crawford on why a move away from annual cereal crops could be crucial in our near future:

In terms of looking at the future - if we're going to grow more of our own food as a country and as a region, this is going to have a significant impact. And on a larger, world-wide scale, it's actually quite bizarre in some ways. If you look at it in an ecological way, it's quite bizarre we've based almost our whole agriculture on annual plants because if you look in nature, annual plants are rare. You only get them if there's been a soil disturbance, and then for a short time because they've been taken over by perennials. So in a sense our whole agriculture is quite unnatural, based on annual plants, and very prone to any kind of climate extremes - whether it's drought or water-logging from extreme events or whatever.

Check out these posts on perennial fodder crops and permaculture design tips for perennial polycultures for more on this fascinating subject... read more story at

Eggzy Builds Online Roost For Backyard Chickens

Image: Sharleen Smith via Eggzy Flickr pool

by Jeff Nield, Vancouver, British Columbia

It's been six short years since backyard chickens have gone from weird eco-habit to a bastion of local food self-reliance. Chickens are companionable, relatively easy to care for, and keeping them in your back yard ensures that your morning omelette isn't sourced from inhumanely confined hens.

And now, thanks to the brains at Eggzy there is a slick online tool to manage your flock and rustle up customers through your virtual egg stand.

Eggzy co-founder Mark D. Thompson started his flock in 2008. He explains the beginnings of the site:

To a man with a hammer, everything's a nail and so, being a web developer by trade, I built a small web app to keep track of our flock's egg production. That early version was also plugged into Twitter; since our hens produce more eggs than we can convert to frittatas every week, we share the extras with friends. Unfortunately, having the digital persona of one of our roosters crow tweet every time a hen laid an egg didn't have the desired effect. There had to be a better way, and thus Eggzy was born.

At its core Eggzy connects consumers to local backyard and small scale egg producers that have a surplus of eggs to share or sell, where legal. Still in beta, Eggzy has 400 active users. Just over 60% of those user have flocks, of which 65 have public egg stands.

Thompson explains how the site works in an interview with Food+Tech:

Essentially, Eggzy's a marketplace where backyard chicken keepers can keep track of their flock and egg production, and people who are looking for local eggs can find them. Flock owners enter their chickens and expenses into the system, and then, each time they collect eggs, enter those into the system as well. Eggzy automatically calculates production rates and breakeven, simplifying pricing decisions. Flock owners can also create their own online Egg Stand, where they can tell their story in words, stats and pictures, and let friends and family know when and how many eggs they have available. Consumers can go to the Egg Stand listings and sort by zip code to find Egg Stands near them. They can also subscribe to their favorite Egg Stands to be notified whenever extra eggs are available. more story at

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Canada Seeks to Breed Stronger Honeybees

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

From tough love beekeeping to reviving the native black honeybee, there are many folks who believe that the answer to saving the bees lies in either breeding for better genetics and/or encouraging nature and evolution to do the same. One program in Canada is setting out to actively breed better, more resilient bees—and it is enlisting the help of its local beekeepers to do so. reports that researchers from the University of Manitoba and the University of Guelph are seeking to breed better bees, with the hope of building up resistance to disease and mites. The program is also looking at ways to better manage bee colonies, and to screen new products for disease and mite control.

With Global losses of bee colonies ranging from 10 to 30 percent in Europe, 30 percent in the United States, and up to 85 percent in Middle East, there is good reason for researchers to be pushing hard for a breakthrough. While no magic bullet has yet been found, Rob Currie, entomology professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, revealed that they had cut losses of bees that were deliberately exposed to diseases in tests from 75 percent to about 40 percent.

But this is far from purely an academic lab exercise—Ottawa has agreed to provide $244,000 to the Ontario Beekeepers' Association to experiment with different methods of caring for bees, including varying the kinds and amounts of food bees are given, as well as looking at how bees are transported for more story at