GM’s Bust Turns Detroit Into Urban Prairie of Vacant-Lot Farms

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC are fighting for their lives. Large stretches of Detroit are already dead.

With enough abandoned lots to fill the city of San Francisco, Motown is 138 square miles divided between expanses of decay and emptiness and tracts of still-functioning communities and commercial areas. Close to six barren acres of an estimated 17,000 have already been turned into 500 “mini- farms,” demonstrating the lengths to which planners will go to make land productive.

A land bank the city created in July would coordinate the project if approved by Washington. These clearinghouses for vacant lots make it easier and cheaper for developers to invest in urban areas. Parcels in a similar program in Cleveland sold for as little as $1 as long as buyers agreed to maintain the property and pay taxes.

“We’re looking at pretty innovative ideas,” said George Jackson, Detroit Economic Growth’s chief executive.

One is urban farming. In many parts of Detroit, land that once held houses now grows cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and collard greens.

The city has more than 500 gardens and “we plan to triple that every year,” said Michael Travis, deputy director of Urban Farming, a Detroit-based nonprofit corporation that helps clear land and provides topsoil and fertilizer.

See complete article here.

Food Democracy Now

Take a moment and add your name to the list of endorsers (of the following letter) which includes: Michael Pollan, Judy Wicks, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Bill McKibben, Rosiland Creasy, John Jeavons, Frances Moore Lappe, Winona LaDuke, Cathrine Sneed, Ralph Paige and many other people of organic influence. Let's get a secretary of agriculture who understands ecological farming.


Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.
The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

1. Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
2. Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.
3. Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
5. Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
6. Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

Sign Now

Permaculture solves problems - got any problems?

These are some of the services offered by well-trained, skilled and practiced permaculture designers. The following example introduces a variety of projects / services offered by friend and fellow designer Larry Santoyo and the consortium of designers that work with him via Earth Flow Design Works.

The Home Ecosystem
New construction and renovation projects. Designs that integrate the function & beauty of interior environments with the function & beauty of the exterior environments. Consulting & Design includes green interiors, edible landscaping, natural cooling & heating, alternative energy, roofwater collection, greywater sytems and more...

[Most landscapes, buildings, and life circumstances are (often literally) dripping with possibilities and yields that most people completely overlook. You may be wealthier than you think....Talk to someone trained to notice these things....Even better, get yourself trained! K]

Green/Real Estate Development...
Our green building consulting services use unique and rigorous Permaculture Design Guidelines, along with the US Green Building Council's LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Ecological and economical investment opportunities in sustainable homesteads and acreage, green homes and commercial properties are available.

[Most homes can be enormously improved by reevaluation and redesign. A good Permaculture Design team could save you buckets of federal "reserve" notes. K]

Permaculture Design Certificate Courses
& Advanced Permaculture Design Training...

Our teaching team includes the most experienced Permaculture Instructors and recognized leaders in the World-Wide Sustainability Movement. Our Courses are conducted all over the world, in cooperation with citizen groups, government and non-government groups, universities and environmental organizations.

[More permaculture teachers these days are working with colleges and universities, municipalities and, in a few instances, national governments. After almost 30 years Permaculture is making a difference on a fairly large scale. Stay tuned.....K]

Land Search
Place to Practice & Practice to Place...

Consulting & Design services assist homeowners, ecoVillagers, land managers, farmers and ranchers with Sustainable Development Guidelines. Finding and developing the "best use" practices for any given site -and- for matching "ideally suited" properties with proposed practices, saves time, money and natural resources.

[Get yourself connected to land and earth, even if it's pots on a balcony or rooftop gardens. Remember, a concrete wall can be a huge trellis for grapes.....or kiwis........K]

Localize Enterprise!
Green Business Development...

Consulting and planning services assist developers and business owners to create facilities, practices and products that strive for excellence with a "Triple Bottom Line" approach: the Economic, Social and Ecological factors that enhance prosperity, empower local communities and re-generate natural resources.

[See APPLE (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy - Bloomington, IN) K]

Deep Green & Natural Building...
Ancient Methods for Modern Elegance. Mud and straw, sand and stone are the time-tested building traditions of people on nearly every continent. Updated techniques are examined and explored through hands-on workshops, and demonstrated through design and construction services.

[Many people don't know that they could build their own houses relatively cheaply from local materials. The Permaculture Design Course opens up many of these options. K]

Village Permaculture...
In association with The Permaculture Institute (USA) and Pattern Literacy, EarthFlow works together with Peace Corp Volunteers, NGO's, local farmers and government officials. The focus of Permaculture projects in Jamaica and in the Maya Mountains of Southern Belize is education, community development and sustainable agriculture.

[Often, when it comes to living sustainably, we can point to many cultures FAR MORE stable and adaptable than American culture. Maybe we should learn more about this before we wreck any more foreign lands and cultures with Our Empire. I think we should start seeing other people....K]

Back to the City Permaculture...
Los Angeles, California has become our training ground for implementing City Permaculture strategies. Making cities more sustainable is the best way to ensure the protection of all wilderness and conserve natural habitats world-wide. EarthFlow Design Works promotes urban and rural enterprise links to help create food & resource security.

[Cities have abundant resources when they are not squandered and degraded...principal among them is people. Empowered people can revision, redesign, and revitalize their cities making them cheaper to run and maintain and more fun to live in. You can learn these things.....uh, better hurry. K]

Restorative and Regenerative Agriculture...
Sustainable and organic agriculture efforts are dramatically enhanced by Permaculture & Keyline Design Guidelines. Management and land use practices conserve water and build soil. Helping growers transition from a chemical-based monoculture production to integrated polycultural systems is key in recreating global health and moderating climate change.

[Cuba, for example, HAD to adapt to peak oil by learning to farm organically when the Soviet Union collapsed and the US embargo persisted. Now Havana grows more than half of its food within the city limits and the country is largely food self-sufficient. K]

Swan Song for the Lawn...
Edible and Incredible Environments. Workshops assist Homeowners and train School Teachers how to convert resource-consuming lawns into ever-evolving food and resource systems. Culinary and nutritional information is also provided.

[The nation needs about 10,000,000 new farmers in the next decade to supply the shortfall when food becomes too expensive to ship all over the world. Many millions of people will lose their jobs in the next few years. We NEED to turn at least some of them into managers of small-scale highly intensive diversified urban and suburban polycultures. Are you up for it? TAKE A PERMACULTURE DESIGN COURSE for starters. Rise up against the forces of Lawn Order...K]

Peak-Oil/Energy Descent...
Working for a Fear Free Future!

Networking seminars offer practical information and strategies for organizing and empowering local community groups to help transition from a consumer lifestyle to a more localized and sustainable conserver lifestyle.

[Get a out a 'conservatism' your kids might admire...Remember the FIRST permaculture principle.....,"Get help!" K]

The MicroVillage Network...
Connecting People to People and People to Place. A Product, Service and Skills Bank for local community groups to find green businesses, create local currency networks and provide links to contacts and information for Land Access and Land Partnerships.

[I think we're grown up enough to tell the truth about money....WE'RE the currency. We need a few systems to manage the enormous variety of exchanges possible between people. We actually need far fewer federal "reserve" notes than we think! (IF we think.) K]

EcoVillage & Community Design...
Green and natural building techniques for EcoVillage infrastructure layout, design and construction, as well as strategies for community economic security. EarthFlow also conducts workshops for effectively dealing with human dynamics, and the all-important "social architecture", to help ensure community responsibility, security and longevity.

[Hint...Many of the ecovillages of tomorrow are already built...they're called neighborhoods. What's missing is a bit of organizing, cooperating, planting and sharing...oh, and take down some of the fences...and collect water....and...and...and... K]

Food Forestry: a BioDiversity Imperative...
School Yards, Backyards, City Streets, Farms and Orchards can all become "Forests of Food." Integrated multi-level production, even on the smallest scale, can provide food, fuel and fiber, create wildlife habitat -and help cool the Earth.

[Think about it...schools, churches, corporate "parks", land everywhere becoming fruitful to provide for those that use the facilities...Duhhhh!....What's stopping us? K]

Biodiversity Nursery
Specializing in Rare and Exotic Fruits and cool summer climate edibles and herbs from the highland Cloud Forests and beyond. Yacon, Achira, Pepinos, Celeriac, spineless fruiting Opuntia and more...

[translate / transpose for your particular region / climate zone. K]

International Year of the Potato

Potato varieties

Although the potato cultivated worldwide belongs to just one botanical species, Solanum tuberosum, the tubers come in thousands of varieties with great differences in size, shape, colour, texture, cooking characteristics and taste. Here's a small sample of potato diversity.

1. Atahualpa
Bred in Peru, a high yielding variety good for both baking and frying
2. Nicola
Widely grown Dutch variety, one of the best for boiling, also good in salads
3. Russet Burbank
The classic American potato, excellent for baking and french fries
4. Lapin puikula
Grown in Finland for centuries, in fields bathed in the light of the midnight sun
5. Yukon Gold
A Canadian potato with buttery yellow flesh suitable for frying, boiling, mashing
6. Tubira
CIP-bred variety grown in West Africa. White flesh, pink skin, and good yielding
7. Vitelotte
A gourmet French variety prized for its deep blue skin and violet flesh
8. Royal Jersey
From the Isle of Jersey: the only UK vegetable with an EU designation-of-origin
9. Kipfler
Hails from Germany. Elongated with cream flesh, popular in salads
10. Papa colorada
Brought to the Canary Islands by passing Spanish ships in 1567
11. Maris Bard
Bred in the UK, a white variety with a soft waxy texture good for boiling
12. Désirée
Red-skinned, with yellow flesh and a distinctive flavour.
13. Spunta
Another popular commercial tuber, good for boiling and roasting
14. Mondial
A Dutch potato with smooth good looks. Boils and mashes well
15. Unknown
From Chile, one of more than 5 000 native varieties still grown in the Andes

Garden Helpers: Will Work for Food

Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
Nature is filled with "good bugs", crawling and flying creatures whose diet consists mainly of the pests that ravage garden plants. Here is a list of those good bugs and the plants that they like to visit for food and shelter. Intersperse these plants among the "problem pest areas" in your yard. Remember, though: Many chemical sprays work on both bad and good bugs. To keep the good bugs in your yard, eliminate insecticide use in the areas where they live and work.

Check out the lists here.