agriculture

Mike Midlo / Kristyathens.com

"Vote with your dollars" is a common phrase, meaning support businesses you agree with by buying their products (and vote against other companies by NOT buying theirs).  

How well does that work in food products?  That is a question Kristy Athens considers in her work, which includes an Oregon Conversation Project event called "Good Food, Bad Food: Agriculture, Ethics and Personal Choice."  

thor/wikimedia

Blueberries taste good, especially between layers of sweet, flaky pastry. 

Pardon the pie reverie; now down to the science. 

Karen Avinelis is a blueberry grower, and has learned a few things about coaxing the fruit to deliver taste and nutrition. 

USDA/Public Domain

It's not quite like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, but we do create life from death. 

In our compost piles, that is.  Truly, we can enrich our gardens and yards through the decay of once-living matter. 

Rodney Bloom from the OSU Extension Service offers a program called "Decay for the Masses," with a session coming up Sunday in Eugene. 

Wikimedia

The herbicide glyphosate is better known by its commercial name, Roundup. 

By any name, it has many critics, including the organization Moms Across America

MAA recently tested ten California wines for evidence of glyphosate, and found it in all ten--even in a wine from an organic vineyard.   The wines came from Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties.

Wikimedia

Industries and economic trends come and go, but everybody's got to eat.  So agriculture is always a major industry in a rural area like ours. 

And that industry is different from what it was just a generation ago.  Where the Rogue Valley was once the center of the pear industry, many orchards have been converted to vineyards, now producing grapes for wine. 

A number of projects track the region's agricultural heritage, including Oregon's Century Farm program and the Wine of Southern Oregon collection at Southern Oregon University's Library. 

William Morrow Books

The recent announcement from Sea World that it will phase out the "performances" of orcas before crowds represents another step in a series. 

Industry is responding to pressure to manage animals more humanely, even if they will end up killed and eaten at the end. 

Call it The Humane Economy, that's what Wayne Pacelle calls the trend, and his book.  The name should ring a bell; Pacelle is the President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. 

Amy Quinton/Capital Public Radio

If you don't own cattle or at least never graze cattle on public lands, many of the issues raised during the Malheur Refuge Occupation can seem rather obscure. 

The basic facts: federal lands are open to cattle grazing, and ranchers get pretty decent prices for their use of the land. 

Beyond that, it can get into the weeds--literally--with terms like AUMs, Animal Unit Months. 

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporters Jes Burns and Tony Schick put in many hours untangling the weeds, as it were. 

lentilunderground.com

We even sing songs about American agriculture: "where the corn is as high as an elephant's eye..."  But the romanticism about small family farms is countered by the general bigness of today's agriculture. 

Plenty of people out there buck the trends, including the people who decided years ago to start growing lentils in Montana.  Yes, lentils: high in protein, low in farm maintenance, and with a number of advantages to both producer and consumer. 

Liz Carlisle tells the story of these farmers in her book Lentil Underground

ForeEdge Books

Dirt: it's beneath us.  Physically, yes, but it is also celebrated by more people than you might think. 

Stop to consider how much we depend on the dirt beneath us, for places to grow food, for building materials, and a host of other uses. 

The celebration continues in the hands of 36 writers in the anthology Dirt: A Love Story

The writers range from artists to scientists. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

The Rogue Valley boasts a thriving community of small family farms, many of them organic. But most of the food grown here is shipped out of the area.  If you want to buy this bounty locally, farmers markets and food co-ops have pretty much been your only option.

Now, farmers are getting together to put Rogue Valley grown produce where most people buy their food: the local supermarket. 

Jessica Placzek/KQED

It used to be that farms were cleared to make way for housing developments. Now, developments are making room for farms.

Agricultural neighborhoods — or agrihoods — are neighborhoods with urban farms. They are being sown across California, and buyers are eating them up.

Twodot Books

The cow is pregnant, and attempting to give birth. 

But there are complications, and the rancher pulls out tools, including chains, a hammer, and a chisel. 

Gail Jenner saw it in her own barn, and tells the story in one of the essays in the book she edited, Ankle High and Knee Deep: Women Reflect on Western Rural Life.

kcmckell/Live Aloha

Hypothetical: if we all have the same opportunity for success in society, but some of us live in environmentally degraded areas, are we all receiving justice?  Under the concept of environmental justice, the answer is no. 

It's not a new concept; the Oregon Legislature created an Environmental Justice Task Force nearly a decade ago. 

The task force meets in Medford this week (September 25th) with the heading "Fairness For the Land and the Worker." 

The Northwest Forest Worker Center and the farmworker group PCUN are among the sponsors.

  The recent news that the Earth's population could hit 11 billion by the end of the century should give anyone pause.

Maybe we are capable of feeding all those mouths with current agricultural technology, but what if large chunks of farmland are rendered unusable by climate change? These are the questions Joel K. Bourne, Jr. considers in his book "The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World.

Wikimedia

It's not just a way of farming, it's a way of life: permaculture. 

Narrowly defined, it's about agriculture that can be sustained indefinitely, because it is agriculture that acknowledges the needs and rhythms of the ecosystem being farmed. 

And it's not just for the country.  The Northwest Permaculture Convergence is an annual gathering of permaculture devotees, to be held in a suburban setting for the first time this year, in Eugene. 

Wikimedia

The end of container service at the Port of Portland may sound at first like a story affecting just the Portland area. 

But the port says ships carried containers going to and from 31 of Oregon's 36 counties, affecting exports and imports across the state. 

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition, the State of Oregon and other entities are hosting workshops across the state, to help importers and exporters find solutions that do not involve shipping out of Portland. 

New Society Publishers

Who grows your food?  The question has been asked a lot in recent years, with a renewed emphasis on small farms, organic farming, and eating food from local sources. 

The players are frequently white.  Natasha Bowens knew the story was more complicated and diverse... her own family tree contains both farm slaves and farm owners. 

So she set out on a multimedia project to portray farmers of color, and that led up to a new book The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming. 

Wikimedia

We get the image of the American farmer locked in our heads, and it's usually a guy in overalls.

But the truth is a bit more diverse.

And the Southern Oregon Historical Society explores that truth in its current display, "Women of the Land: Southern Oregon Women in Agriculture."

Wikimedia

Raw milk is either sought-after or reviled; there appears to be little middle ground. 

But the landscape is changing just a bit... Oregon authorities just loosened regulations on the advertising of raw milk. 

The topic is one well-known to David Gumpert, who writes of food and small business. 

Basic Books

Do you stop to think about the importance of seeds in your life? 

Your morning cup of coffee starts with them, and much of what you eat, wear, and use comes from seeds. 

Conservation biologist Thor Hanson wants us to think about seeds and what they give us. 

And he gives us plenty to work with in his book The Triumph of Seeds.

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