Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Urban Farming”

A Family Fun Garden – Roger Ingalls

If you’re contemplating a garden and want the entire family involved, consider building an aquaponic garden.

aquaponics-picture-2

Aquaponics is a constructed ecosystem based on fish, plants and beneficial bacteria that harnesses nature’s propensity to create balanced growth while conserving resources (water, nutrients and energy). Essentially, one life form benefits the next in a re-circulating system. Beneficial bacteria create a probiotic environment where fish waste (poop and ammonia) is converted into nitrite and then nitrate which is a usable form of natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, the plants remove the nitrate from the water to fuel their growth leaving clean water for the fish. Other than a little water, the only input is food for the fish. Since fish are cold-blooded, they waste no energy regulating their body temperature making them efficient consumers of food. On average, two pounds of food adds one pound of weight to a fish compared to 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce one pound of beef. Another benefit of using fish waste for fertilizer is there’s no risk of E coli poisoning commonly attributed to waste from warm-blooded livestock.

Aquaponic Benefits:

1)      Up to 10 times more vegetables per given space relative to standard soil gardening.

2)      The plants grow twice as fast because nutrient packed water is supplied straight to the root.

3)      Since there is no soil, there’s no soil borne pests, no weeds so no pesticides or herbicides are needed.

4)      Aquaponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming or gardening.

5)       No daily watering is required since plants grow in a re-circulating water system.

6)      Both plants and fish are grown creating two sources of food (meat protein and vegetables).

7)      Overall, aquaponics uses 70% less energy than conventional farming.

8)       It’s all organic, no fossil fuel based fertilizers or pesticide.

9)      It can be replicated anywhere on Earth.

The most productive farm in the USA is in the middle of Milwaukee WI. This three acre urban farm, Growing Power, produces one million pounds of food per year.

Go to youtube.com, type in aquaponics and you’ll be hooked. There will be videos and plans to build a system perfect for any household. It can be as simple as a small goldfish bowl, one goldfish, a $5 air pump, plastic tubing and a basil starter from the local hardware store. The little fish will poop which fertilizes the basil plant and the plant will clean the water to keep the fish healthy. All you have to do is feed the goldfish and added a little water now and then. The whole family will enjoy the experience and the organic basil.

Seriously, go to youtube and check it out. You will be amazed by the rapid growth of this new farming method.

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It’s OK to be Food Secure – Roger Ingalls

Have you seen or read the weather reports coming from America’s heart land? Heat and lack of rain are playing havoc with the crops. The prices for corn, soybean and wheat have jumped over the past two days (5.5%, 3.6% and 3.1% respectively). This may seem like a small increase but when you consider that 70% of everything we consume uses these three commodities in some way, it is a significant jump. Hot, dry weather is expected to stay with the nation’s breadbasket for awhile which may further impact crop yields and prices.

Picture from Standeyo.com

To those who understand our so-called modern food system, it’s obvious that we, the consuming public, have lost control of the basic necessities we need to sustain ourselves. The enticement of farm subsidies has created a corporate rush to drive out traditional local farmers. We now have consolidated and centralized mega-farms all practicing similar techniques. This lack of diversity exacerbates weather related events leaving the public at risk (food shortages and high prices). In addition, food prices are no longer solely established by supply and demand. Since deregulation under the Bush administration #2, it is now legal to speculate on food commodities in ways similar to stocks, hedge funds and oil which further drives the price of food. Yes, Wall Street is now gambling on our food. Lastly, corporatized or industrial farming is fossil fuel intensive so food prices are tied to oil and natural gas.

So how do we take back control of our food? This is really an economic and marketing question. We need to develop a substitute food system with value that will motivate consumers to switch.

It just so happens that an alternate food system does exist and has been successfully implemented in an American country very close to our border. Cuba had a farming system similar to the US, Europe and other industrialized nations but they relied on imports from the Soviet Union for oil-based pesticides, natural gas based fertilizers and diesel for transportation of goods from farm to city. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba’s supply of fuel and fossil-derived chemicals dwindled to near extinction. Fortunately for the Cuban people, their government saw what was coming and developed a smart strategy to replace industrialized chemical farming. They rolled out a farming system based on biological fertilizers, biological/cultural pest control and implemented it right in the cities. Essentially, they created organic urban farming out of necessity. Here are a few amazing statistics and other information:

1)       With a workforce of approximately 4.8 million, they’ve created 350,000 new jobs.
2)       Local production of fresh vegetables increased a thousand fold, yields per square meter increased from 1.5 kilograms to 25.8 kilograms.
3)       Food production is local so transportation is eliminated, food is fresh and harvested when ripe and not chemically gassed to ripen as with industrialized farming.
4)       Diets and health of the Cuban population improved, food is nutrient rich and free from toxic petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers.
5)       Urban farmers earn more than government workers and are as respected as doctors.

By duplicating something similar to the Cuban urban farming method we can take local ownership of our food, create jobs and enjoy healthier, tastier food. Just as important, we reduce the risk of shortages and high prices by decoupling food from the oil industry and speculative gambling by financial institutions. Urban agriculture is formed on multiple locations and managed by many small companies or sole proprietors. This creates additional diversity in produce and farming methods, thereby further improving food security.

Take a few minutes and really think about this organic local food system. It’s not a backward approach; it’s scientifically progressive with a thorough understanding of biology and how a living ecosystem really works. Imagine the positive benefits this would bring to your community: healthy food growing in every available space, people working and food secure, produce businesses or co-ops within walking distance for most everyone, a thriving self-made community.

It’s OK to say no to 1940s industrialized chemical farming practices, it’s OK to say no to market manipulation by financial institutions and IT’S OK TO BE EMPOWERED!

Aquaponics: Farming the Good Way

Last week I blogged about the new Occupy Gardens movement and it seemed to strike a positive nerve with many people. I believe food production is the most important issue facing the human race so I’ll stay with this theme for another week and probably many more.

Our current industrial farming methods are atrocious; they’re wasteful and extremely destructive. I’ll explain more about the perils of our fossil fuel based agricultural system is future posts but today I want to draw attention to a new way to grow food called aquaponics.

What is aquaponics? It is a constructed ecosystem based on fish, plants and beneficial bacteria that harnesses nature’s propensity to balance growth (survival) with low consumption of resources (water, nutrients or energy…). Essentially, one life form benefits the next in a re-circulating system. Beneficial bacteria create a probiotic environment where fish waste (poop and ammonia) is converted into nitrite and then nitrate which is a usable form of natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, the plants remove the nitrate from the water to fuel their growth leaving clean water for the fish. Other than a little water, the only input is food for the fish. Since fish are cold-blooded, they waste no energy regulating their body temperature making them efficient consumers of food. On average, two pounds of food adds one pound of weight to a fish compared to 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce one pound of beef.

Aquaponic Benefits:

1)      Up to 10 times more vegetables per given space. Plants are grown in a soil-less media and nutrient packed water is directly supplied to the roots. Plants can be densely grown because there’s no competition for food.

2)      Since nutrient packed water is supplied to the root system, the plants use their energy growing vegetation not spreading roots. The plants grow twice as fast.

3)      There are no weeds since wanted plants are densely grown and there’s no soil to harbor unwanted weed seeds.

4)      Since there is no soil, there’s no soil borne pests. No pests no pesticides.

5)      Aquaponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming or gardening.

6)      No daily watering is required since plants grow in a re-circulating water system.

7)      Both plants and fish are grown creating two sources of food (meat protein and vegetables).

8)      Overall, aquaponics uses 70% less energy than conventional farming.

9)      It’s all organic, no fossil fuel based fertilizers or pesticides.

10)  It can be replicated anywhere on Earth.

Is aquaponics really a viable form of farming? Will Allen’s three acre Growing Power farm located in the city of Milwaukee WI, produces one million pounds of food per year. Aquaponics is central to his urban operation and has been described as the most productive farm in the country.

Aquaponics, check it out. Demand it. Your grandkids will thank you.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Occupy Gardens – Roger Ingalls

There’s a new movement in town and it’s a good one. Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Gardens is plotting to hit the ground planting this Spring. The goal is to create urban gardens and feed the hungry.
 
 
This is the perfect protest. It slaps Wall Street, banks, big business and their political cronies right in the face. An alternative means for people to provide for themselves or others is not what these debt creation Czars want.

Deregulation in the early 2000s now allows investors to treat food staples like crude oil and corporate stocks. Wall Street is getting their grubby little fingers around the world’s food supply and playing the speculator game by betting on the price of hunger. We’ve all felt the rise in food prices and it’s not all tied to bad weather. The wings of Wall Street greed are spreading.

Growing food in cities and suburbs will bypass the industrial food system financed by money Czars and will have a positive impact in the community. Here are a few examples:

1)      The organic garden foods will by healthier and tastier.

2)      Growing your own food creates a sense of well-being and empowerment.

3)      Home and urban gardens have a net-positive environmental impact, whereas, industrial farming is disastrous to air, water and soil.

4)      Decentralized food systems (localized) eliminate food deserts and improves security.

5)      The benefits from urban farming are numerous.

Planting season starts in a few months so prepare for a new movement. Occupy Gardens is in the planning stages but appears to be well organized; it should have good traction and big teeth.

As you start Spring cleaning this year, set aside those old gardening tools, seeds and buckets and donate them to the movement when it hits your town. Grab a few bags of new seed and spend a few hours planting with the Occupy Gardeners. You’ll feel good.

Peas be with you.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Ketchup Turkey and More – Roger Ingalls

I’m a guest blogger on Left Coast Voices and Thursdays are my day to post. Thanksgiving falls on Thursday and I feel like it is necessary to write something that honors this day. But I have nothing. I have no profound or original thoughts.

The only thing that comes to mind is the usual “I’m thankful for this, that and whatever”. So, here we go…I’ll try to make it interesting.

I’m thankful for:

1)      Ketchup because no matter how you cook turkey, it just doesn’t have flavor worth the multiple hours of effort it takes to prepare it.

2)      The Super Bowl Champ Green Bay Packers because it makes me smile, from head to toe, knowing a small town professional sports franchise owned by the community can beat the snot out of teams owned by Big Business fat cats.

3)      Knowing some Americans are finally recognizing the middleclass genocide brought on by the financial copulation between Wall Street and politicians.

4)      The smart and articulate people that are successfully bringing attention to the evils of the Citizen’s United decision made by the Supreme Court. Corporations are not real people and should not have the same rights as real people.

5)      Americans becoming more politically aware and that some are motivated enough to protest. Say what you will about the #Occupy Movement but at least they understand something isn’t right and they are doing something about it.

6)      Thomas Jefferson because without him we would not have a Bill of Rights. I’m also thankful that many of the nation’s grade school students will not receive textbooks written by conservatives trying to write Jefferson out of our history because he didn’t have orthodox Christian views. Without Jefferson, the conservative Christians would not have the right to write these books they’re trying to change history with – how ironic.

7)      Will Allen for turning inner-city food deserts into thriving urban farms that feed thousands of people. Urban farming is the next big employment opportunity.

8)      Occasionally getting ill overseas and experiencing, first-hand, the marvels of universal healthcare. It opened my eyes to the extensive lies told by our politicians just to protect the interests of big business.

9)      Being a senior corporate officer in a publicly trading company. The experience of stock offerings and investor relations exposed me to the unethical behavior of Investment Banks and their supporting partners.

10)  Alon Shalev giving me the opportunity to post on his blog. It has allowed me to vent frustration and hopefully entertain and educate a few people along the way.

I know it sounds like a cliché but most of all, I am thankful for my wonderful, caring and gorgeous wife.

Puts some ketchup on your turkey and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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