by Diana Duff
If you are thinking you can’t grow food in your garden, think again. Many Kona residents don’t plant edible gardens believing they haven’t got good soil. Yes, we are soil-challenged here, but help is just a few months of easy recycling away.
We all have rocky soil. At lower elevations, soils are not only rocky but can also be dry and alkaline. At upper elevations, rocky soil is often wet, sometimes boggy, and acidic. No can grow? Wrong. If you think “no can,” try again. Since we are all on the sustainable path, composting presents a solution to two issues we face: recycling waste and building soil.
You can get started toward your gardening goal by getting some beds defined and laying in a passive compost pile that will give you a good soil base, alive with microorganisms. Use those pesky rocks to create borders for your beds, and then start piling garden waste into them. Cut material into small pieces for fast breakdown. For a base of decomposed waste in several months, mix dried leaves, leafy prunings, grass clippings, weeds (without seeds), broken up twigs and branches less than 1/2 inch diameter. If you live in a dry area, dampen the pile and cover it with a tarp or black plastic to maintain a dampness level comparable to a wrung out sponge. In wet areas, covering can help keep the pile from getting waterlogged, which can lead to smelly anaerobic decay. In any case, a balanced mix of organic inputs including green matter for nitrogen, brown (dry) matter for carbon, air and moisture speeds the process. After sitting for several months, you’ll have a base of decomposed organic matter. Mix in some of your rocky soil to improve aeration and you are ready to plant. Continue reading
By William Wan Washington Post Foreign Service
IN CHONGMING ISLAND, CHINA The small-scale farmer is a dying breed in China, made up mostly of the elderly left behind in the mass exodus of migrant workers to much higher-paying jobs in industrial cities.
But on an island called Chongming, a two-hour drive east of Shanghai, a group of young urban professionals has begun to buck the trend. They are giving up high-paying salaries in the city and applying their business and Internet savvy to once-abandoned properties. They are trying to teach customers concepts such as eating local and sustainability. And they are spearheading a fledgling movement that has long existed in the Western world but is only beginning to emerge in modern China: green living.
“What we are trying to create is like a dream for us,” said Chen Shuaijun, a young banker who, with his wife, has rented eight acres on Chongming.
“But it is simply bizarre to everyone else,” he added, with a sigh. Continue reading
The state’s only organic-certifying body, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA), will suspend its program this month, forcing organic farmers in Hawaii to look to the mainland for certification.
Rising costs and a limited client pool prompted the Hilo-based group to end certification, which it began in 1993. HOFA certifies a bounty of products – from coffee to herbs to beer.
“Part of the reason HOFA is not surviving is that we didn’t charge enough,” said Sarah Townsend, HOFA’s certification coordinator. “We’re not big enough to sustain ourselves.”
Some organic farmers on Molokai worry certification from the mainland will come at a higher cost.
“It’s hard enough trying to make a living farming and now we have to go to the mainland?” said Rick Tamanaha of Kaleikoa Farms, an organic papaya farm in Ho`olehua.
Tamanaha’s farm was certified organic by HOFA in October 2007, and he has renewed his certification through the organization every year since. The organic label, he said, allows his farm to compete with non-organic farms that sell at lower costs. Continue reading
By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer
Pierre Omidyar, who invested in Maui Land & Pineapple Co. stock when the company was being pushed in a greener direction, is now supporting a for-profit/charitable combination that is taking over ML&P’s Kapalua Farms, one of the largest organic farms in the state.
Since ML&P also closed its Maui Pineapple Co. subsidiary, then leased much of its land and equipment to the upstart Haliimaile Pineapple Co. this month, the handover takes ML&P completely out of agriculture.
On Friday, Ulupono Sustainable Agriculture Development LLC, a subsidiary of the Ulupono Initiative, announced it would be assuming operations of Kapalua Farms, which not only supplies vegetables and eggs to ML&P’s Kapalua Resort but also conducts research into new methods of producing food on Maui. Ulupono Initiative is a Hawaii-focused social investment organization founded in June with backing from Omidyar and his wife, Pam. He was a founder of eBay, and they now live in Hawaii.
Warren Haruki, chairman and interim chief executive officer of ML&P, said, "We are pleased to partner with Ulupono Sustainable Agriculture Development as they assume operations of Kapalua Farms. Our desire was to find an operational partner that would be able to continue organic farming operations and to maintain Kapalua Farms as a community resource, employer and provider."
Mobile ‘biochar’ machine to work the fields
An ancient technique to fertilize soil by creating charcoal from plant waste is being revived to tackle some of today’s environmental problems.
The latest company to pursue manmade charcoal, called biochar, is Biochar Systems, which has developed a biochar-making machine that can be pulled by a pickup truck. Two customers–a North Carolina farm and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management–will be begin testing the units this fall.
The unit, called the Biochar 1000, is designed to convert woody biomass, such as agricultural or forestry waste, into biochar, a black, porous, and fine-grained charcoal that can be used as a fertilizer. It uses pyrolysis–slowly burning biomass in a low-oxygen chamber–to treat 1,000 pounds of biomass per hour, yielding 250 pounds of biochar.
There still isn’t a well established market for selling biochar, but there’s growing interest among researchers in the process as a way to cut greenhouse gas concentrations. The United Nations has proposed classifying biochar as a carbon credit for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
The HowToGoOrganic.com , a web site
for farmers and processors seeking to transition to organic agriculture. The
web site is designed as a clearinghouse of North American resources for
farmers and businesses interested in becoming organic or in creating new
In North America, consumer demand for organic
products exceeds the rate of organic production. The new web site will help
encourage further domestic production by assembling in a single online
resource the full range of available information for farmers and producers
transitioning to organic.
“Last year, OTA’s Board President and I decided to respond to our members’
messages that they needed, and could sell, much more domestically grown
organic product. And thus was born the idea to create this clearinghouse of
resources on conversion to organic,” said Caren Wilcox, OTA’s Executive
Director. Transitioning land to organic certification usually takes three
years, and there is much research that each farmer has to undertake.
The site features two “Pathways for Organic,” one for farmers and one for
processors, as well as a regional directory for the United States, and a
searchable North American organic directory. The “Pathways” provide basic
information on the process of going organic with links to key resources
throughout North America. This unique resource is primarily designed for
conventional farmers and processors who want to get started or are
navigating the transition to organic production, but also provides valuable
information for established organic farmers, producers, and processors.
The web site’s regional directories showcase transition resources unique to
specific regions and states. Resource listings in the North American
directory can be searched by topic and subtopic, by type of resource, or by
state. The site also features profiles of farmers and businesses that have
successfully become certified organic or that are working through the
The URL for the web site is
Banner and box advertising are available for businesses wishing to
promote their products through this unique resource. For information on
advertising terms and rates, contact Beth Fraser at
OTA (413-774-7511, Ext. 27; firstname.lastname@example.org).
To create the new web site, OTA contracted with Chris Hill Media (principals
Chris Hill and Glenn Hughes), known in agricultural circles for its work on
the NewFarm.org and the Organic Seed Alliance web pages.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the business association representing
the organic agriculture industry in North America. Its nearly 1,600 members
include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations,
distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA
encourages global sustainability through promoting and protecting the growth
of diverse organic trade.
Headquarters: P.O. Box 547, Greenfield, MA 01302 USA (413) 774-7511 * fax:
(413)-774-6432 * www.ota.com
Canadian Office: 323 Chapel Street, Ottawa, On K1N 7Z2 * (613) 787-2003
Washington, DC Office: * (202) 338-2900
Local food ‘greener than organic’
Organic apples, BBC
Food should come from within your area, the report says
Local food is usually more “green” than organic food, according to a report published in the journal Food Policy.
The authors say organic farming is also valuable, but people can help the environment even more by buying food from within a 20km (12-mile) radius.
The team calculated a shopping basket’s hidden costs, which mount up as produce is transported over big distances. The study found “road miles” account for proportionately more environmental damage than “air miles”.
Therefore, the researchers’ message to consumers is this: it is not good enough to buy food from within the UK – it is better if it comes from within your area, too.
A big city like London could be provided with a lot more seasonal vegetables from local farms
Co-author Professor Tim Lang
However, they admit that consumers are prevented from “doing the right thing” because of inadequate labelling.
“The most political act we do on a daily basis is to eat, as our actions affect farms, landscapes and food businesses,” said co-author Professor Jules Pretty, from the University of Essex, UK.
“Food miles are more significant than we previously thought, and much now needs to be done to encourage local production and consumption of food.” Continue reading