Canada’s New Budget Support Climate Friendly Farming

fruit store

This week the Canadian government announced the new budget and in it are some climate-friendly moves. Farmers in Canada who practice sustainable farming practices are going to get a little more help and farmers who are using unsustainable practices will be encouraged to change what they do. Industrial farming is horrible for the environment, and arguably bad for people, so anything we can do to avoid it is helpful. The 20th century witnessed the overuse of fertilizers to make up for unsustainable industrial farming.

Reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer sits at the heart of those recommendations — as it does in the federal budget. When applied to fields in excess, nitrogen fertilizer is broken down by microbes into nitrous oxide, explained Sean Smukler, a professor of soil science at the University of British Columbia.

That greenhouse gas is roughly 300 times more potent than CO2 and accounts for roughly half of Canada’s agricultural emissions. But soil testing and agronomic support — both of which are also funded in the budget — can help farmers substantially reduce their fertilizer use.

Money will also be available to help farmers plant cover crops and use rotational grazing. Both practices promote soil health, carbon sequestration and better long-term productivity. In the short-term, however, implementing them can be too expensive for many farmers already stretched thin by high costs and low revenues.

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Happy International Year of Fruits and Vegetables

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is really all about having a healthy diet to stay healthy, and this is the year to increase your apple consumption. 2021 is International Year of Fruits and Vegetables as celebrated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Use this as inspiration to try some fruit and veggies which you’re curious about and find a new way to cook with them.

Maybe this is the year you plant your own “victory garden” and grow a small amount of produce on your own.

Previously we celebrated the best FAO year: pulses.

Objectives of the IYFV 2021

  1. Raising awareness of and directing policy attention to the nutrition and health benefits of fruits and vegetables consumption;
  2. Promoting diversified, balanced, and healthy diets and lifestyles through fruits and vegetables consumption;
  3. Reducing losses and waste in fruits and vegetables food systems;
  4. Sharing best practices on:
    1. Promotion of consumption and sustainable production of fruits and vegetables that contributes to sustainable food systems;
    2. Improved sustainability of storage, transport, trade, processing, transformation, retail, waste reduction and recycling, as well as interactions among these processes;
    3. Integration of smallholders including family farmers into local, regional, and global production, value/supply chains for sustainable production and consumption of fruits and vegetables, recognizing the contributions of fruits and vegetables, including farmers’ varieties/landraces, to their food security, nutrition, livelihoods and incomes;
    4. Strengthening the capacity of all countries, specially developing countries, to adopt innovative approaches and technology in combating loss and waste of fruits and vegetables.

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What you can do: eat more fruits and veggies! Maybe even start growing some in your garden

Yaupon, a North American Tea gets Revived

steaming mug

There’s nothing quite like a good cup of tea. Thanks to the efforts of tea fans in North America we all may soon have another tea option available to us. The only known native caffeine producing plant, yaupon, is a holly bush indigenous to the south east of the USA. Yaupon tea was lost to history due to colonization in North America, which has made a challenge to relearn how to harvest and use the plant. People who are reviving the use of yaupon are studying history to understand how best to prepare the plant. And yes, in North American tradition, it is already for sale.

As I began to learn more about yaupon, I was floored,” said White, “I just couldn’t believe that nobody knew about it.”

Though White quickly became fascinated with the holly’s history, he also realised that trying to brew an actual drink from it would be difficult, as there was no-one left to learn from. Guided by instructions he found in colonial diaries compiled in Dr Hudson’s volume about yaupon, White began picking the leaves and experimenting with roasting techniques. In a similar fashion, Falla tried roasting her first batch of yaupon in the family kitchen, discovering that she had a natural talent for creating a delicious nutty and buttery flavour.

Guided by a curiosity for botany and an interest in history, Falla and White unexpectedly found themselves on parallel journeys to revive the ancient beverage, with Falla starting Catspring Yaupon outside Austin, Texas, in 2013, and White founding Yaupon Brothers in Edgewater, Florida, in 2015. Today, yaupon continues to grow in popularity as additional startups have begun selling and promoting the historical beverage.

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Why Just Food Matters

coffee

Everyone needs to eat, yet even in our democracy there are people with low access to food and the food they can get is low quality. This shouldn’t be the case, so let’s do something about it! Colin Dring created the Just Food website to help educators explain and explore our food systems in Canada. The National Observor intervied Dring to find out why he created the site.

The Just Food website says the resource “brings diverse standpoints relevant to food discourses to the table.” Can you give me an example of one of those perspectives? 

Much of contemporary food system perspectives come from people in positions of privilege. Take, for example, a food bank. When we think of the food bank, we’re not necessarily thinking that people who use the food bank should have a say in the decisions or the kinds of services offered or the kinds of food provided. The dominant discourse is that people experiencing poverty should just be grateful and thankful. I think this reproduces a system that treats people like objects. So, when we talk about including diverse perspectives, we’re really talking about elevating and drawing attention to the impacts of privilege in maintaining the world as it is.

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This Robotic 2 Acre Vertical Farm Can Replace 720 Acre Normal Farm

A new company based in California is hoping to drastically reshape our food supply in the coming years. Plenty uses vertical farming to lower its land use per crop and robots to help grow and harvest the crops. The results so far have been impressive for the young company and they see a lot of growth on the horizon. One of the benefits of vertical farming is that food is grown closer to where it’s consumed so the carbon footprint of transporting it is basically null.

The company has signed a deal to supply 430 stores with fresh produce in the States while also getting hundreds of millions of investment from various sources. The future of this vertical farming company is one to watch!

Plenty’s climate-controlled indoor farm has rows of plants growing vertically, hung from the ceiling. There are sun-mimicking LED lights shining on them, robots that move them around, and artificial intelligence (AI) managing all the variables of water, temperature, and light, and continually learning and optimizing how to grow bigger, faster, better crops. These futuristic features ensure every plant grows perfectly year-round. The conditions are so good that the farm produces 400 times more food per acre than an outdoor flat farm.

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