Can Organic Feed the World?

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Originally posted on

Our growing population needs farming methods that conserve and regenerate resources while generating healthy food—not methods that use more chemicals, polluting the environment in order to grow more corn to feed more feedlot animals.

Organic can compete with conventional yields and outperform conventional in adverse weather. Small farmers using organic methods have huge potential to expand global food production. And only organic methods actively regenerate resources and protect the environment from pollution and toxic waste. For a healthy future, we can’t afford anything less.

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Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and House Wrens--Oh My!

McKinney Middle School 7th graders and community volunteers check for activity at Agraria’s bluebird boxes.

McKinney Middle School 7th graders and community volunteers check for activity at Agraria’s bluebird boxes.

We are honored and delighted to be a new site for Operation Bluebird this year. This outdoor education program fosters greater understanding of native cavity nesters with local school districts and community partners. Co-founders Bethany Gray and Kate Anderson launched the program three years ago as a partnership between Tecumseh Land Trust (TLT), Yellow Springs Schools, and Xarifa Farm. Since farmland makes a terrific bluebird habitat, and since we frequently partner with TLT, Agraria is a perfect site for the expansion of Operation Bluebird. During the six visits by McKinney Middle School 7th graders, the students have observed two active eastern bluebird nests; this week brought the first hatchlings to Agraria! And that's not all--Agraria Sustainable Land Manager and Naturalist Gabby Amrhein reported that "as of right now we not only have 2 bluebird nests, we also have several other species nesting this year, and we observed 39 species of birds during monitoring; as of today Agraria is a stopover point and/or home to more than 100 bird species!"

Dramatic rainfall changes for key crops expected even with reduced greenhouse gas emissions

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Written by CIAT Comunicaciones

Originally posted on

By 2040, rainfall on wheat, soybean, rice and maize will have changed, even if Paris Agreement emissions targets are met. Projections show parts of Europe, Africa, the Americas and Australia will be drier, while the tropics and north will be wetter.

Even if humans radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term, important crop-growing regions of the world can expect changes to rainfall patterns by 2040. In fact, some regions are already experiencing new climatic regimes compared with just a generation ago. The study, published March 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, warns that up to 14 percent of land dedicated to wheat, maize, rice and soybean will be drier, while up to 31 percent will be wetter.

The study uses four emissions scenarios from low to high to predict time of emergence (TOE) of permanent precipitation changes, meaning the year by which precipitation changes remain permanently outside their historical variation in a specific location. The research shows that quick action on emissions – in line with 2015’s Paris Agreement – would push TOE projections deeper into the future or reduce the size of affected areas.

Drier regions include Southwestern Australia, Southern Africa, southwestern South America, and the Mediterranean, according to the study. Wheat cropland in Central Mexico is also headed for a drier future. Wetter areas include Canada, Russia, India and the Eastern United States.

The four crops in the study represent about 40 percent of global caloric intake and the authors say that, regardless of how much mitigation is achieved, all regions – both wetter and drier – need to invest in adaptation, and do so urgently in areas expected to see major changes in the next couple of decades. However, in the scenarios with low greenhouse gas emissions, most regions have two-three decades more to adapt than under high-emission scenarios.

Low-emission scenarios, the authors stressed, likely imply less need for potentially costly adaptation to new rainfall regimes.

Read more here..

Monsanto: Roundup Substantial Factor in Man's Cancer, Jury Finds in Key Verdict


Written by Sam Levin

Originally posted on

A federal jury in San Francisco found Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a substantial factor in causing the cancer of a California man, in a landmark verdict that could affect hundreds of other cases.

Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa was the first person to challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial and alleged that his exposure to Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that affects the immune system.

In the next phase of the case, the jury will weigh liability and damages, and Hardeman’s lawyers will present arguments about Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research.

During the trial, the 70-year-old Santa Rosa man testified that he had sprayed the herbicide for nearly three decades and at one time got it on his skin before he was diagnosed with cancer. He used the chemical to control weeds and poison oak on his properties, starting in 1986.

A review of John Todd, 2019, HEALING EARTH: An ecologist’s journey of innovation and environmental stewardship

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Written by Tom Goreau

Originally posted on

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Ecosystem restoration pioneer John Todd begins his new book with “I am writing this book based on the belief that humanity will soon become involved in a deep and abiding worldwide partnership with nature. Millions of us will commit ourselves to reversing the long legacy of environmental degradation that threatens to destabilize the climate as well as the great ecologies that sustain life on Earth. We must develop a vast stewardship initiative, which will become the great work of our time. Fortunately, there are as many ways to serve the Earth as there are people willing to engage in this vast restoration project. It includes nothing less than stabilizing the planet’s climate as well as saving ourselves.”

There’s a one word term for Healing Earth: Geotherapy, regenerating the planet’s natural life support systems, like a doctor prescribes a cure to restore a sick patient to health based on a sound assessment and diagnosis. In his Foreword to the 2015 book Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase (T. J. Goreau, R. Larson & J. Campe. Eds.) John Todd pointed out “Our future as a civilization may depend on returning to our roots and the mineral as well as the organic materials that sustain them……. Perhaps we could use carbon a universal currency. People around the world could be paid to capture and sequester carbon, particularly in soils……Carbon sequestration is a global public good”.

Tragically, our political and economic institutions have been incapable of rewarding people for doing the right thing for everyone’s benefit! As Todd’s important new book makes clear, with examples of whole ecosystem regeneration using rock powders and biochar to nurture much more productive and diverse ecosystems in very different settings, the methods exist to do the right thing and regenerate the planet. There are many more such methods that have been developed for every habitat. Sadly, they are not being used on the scale needed only because of the ignorance, or lack of will, of those in charge.

Read more here…

Modern Farmers Go From Rockers To Roots

Violet Alexander sells pumpkins she raised on her family's farm. Her parents, Ryan and Melissa, are part of a new generation of young farmers in Ohio.    COURTESY OF RYAN AND MELISSA ALEXANDER

Violet Alexander sells pumpkins she raised on her family's farm. Her parents, Ryan and Melissa, are part of a new generation of young farmers in Ohio.


Originally posted on

Written by Renee Wilde

Melissa and Ryan meet through their shared love of music and traded in the rock and roll lifestyle for farm life. Now they’re raising two young daughters, along with a variety of organic crops and animals.

The change from traditional to organic farming was an idea that Ryan and his father had both shared.

"I never wanted to come back here and spray. That was the part I hated the most," says Ryan. "Anybody that’s a young farmer starting now, and even people who majored in agriculture at a university, their first job anywhere is going to be probably at a co-op mixing chemicals, or out spraying them. I don’t think that they realize the danger they're putting themselves in, as well as everybody else who's exposed to it. And that’s scary, and I think it’s going to be interesting how health plays out, not only in the food system, but in the people who are growing the food."

The farm is now a totally organic operation. Oats is one of their big crops, along with hay, sunflowers, and harvesting grass seed to resell.

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A Blueprint for Cooling Earth

Originally posted on

Written by Brad Wieners

When he was 22 and away at college, Charles Massy got a fateful shock: His father had suffered a severe heart attack, and while it wasn’t immediately fatal, it was clear his dad could no longer run the family farm back home in the Monaro region of New South Wales, Australia. Within days, Massy had shelved his studies and found himself standing in a paddock amid 25 dead merino sheep.

Massy grew up on the farm but hadn’t taken much interest in how to manage it, and now he was scrambling. He figured out that an intestinal worm had killed the sheep, but only after helping to spread it on the property. This was the mid-1970s, during the pre-internet, Olivia Newton-John era, so he hit the library for whatever scientific literature he could find. He read his dad’s books. He consulted the few Department of Agriculture agents who’d give him the time. Embracing the conventional best practices of the time, he soon ran the farm into the ground. When a multi-year drought hit, he nearly lost it altogether. There must be a better way, he thought.

There was—is—and Massy has devoted the years since to becoming a leading practitioner, scholar and writer on a collection of ecological grazing and farming practices that are today commonly grouped under the umbrella of “regenerative organic agriculture”. Massy’s own progress required plenty of trial-and-error and enduring some withering skepticism, but he restored his family’s land so that it was more resilient to fluctuations in climate, and supported robust, more profitable merino sheep (for wool) and beef cattle. It continues to.

Recently, Massy, now in his late 60s, paid a visit to our Ventura headquarters to speak about his book Call of the Reed Warbler. For Massy, the trip felt a bit like a pilgrimage. He’d been an early customer of Yvon Chouinard’s climbing equipment in the 1970s; over dinner, Massy realized he’d missed Yvon and Rick Ridgeway by a single season when he arrived on Amne Machinback in 1981. For Patagonia, Massy’s visit was an opportunity to hear from an expert on what we’ve identified as one of the most promising ways to save our home planet. “Regen ag” represents a model for not only doing less harm but also doing more good—call it a blueprint for cooling the earth.

Read more here…

The Plant Health Pyramid

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Originally posted on

Written by John Kempf

Optimal Nutrition Enables Advanced Function in Plants

As soils and crops transition with regenerative farming practices, they pass through stages of increasingly better health. The progression to better health restores the natural and biological abilities of the plant and soil system. During this process, plants will demonstrate increasing immunity to soil and airborne pathogens, better resistance to insects, improved production of lipids leading to stronger cell membranes for tastier fruit with better shelf life, and more. 

Levels one and two of plant health are purely a function of nutritional integrity and are usually not  difficult to achieve with most crops and most soils, especially when we have the opportunity to use foliar applications of plant nutritional supplements. On most crops, we usually expect to reach level one and level two in the first 3-4 months.

Levels 3 and 4 are not as straightforward to accomplish as the first two levels. In order to get to level 3, it is imperative that we have a healthy, vigorous soil digestive system capable of providing a majority of the plant’s nutritional requirements. Without this microbial digestive process in place, the plants will never have the surplus energy required to achieve high levels of lipid production and energy storage.

In the first two levels of the Plant Health Pyramid™, changes are taking place in the plant chemistry. The third and fourth stages involve changes in biology and are only achieved through regenerative agriculture. 

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What the New Green Deal Means for the Food on Your Plate


originally posted on


Today, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) released their much-anticipated Green New Deal with the goal of creating millions of jobs by expanding renewable energy and de-carbonizing the economy over the next 10 years.

It’s a sweeping attempt to reorient energy production and shift public resources in an urgent bid to make the U.S. carbon-neutral by 2030. And it comes at a crucial moment, as dire scientific evidence shows the world needs to act fast over the next 12 years to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Food and agriculture, which is responsible for 9 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, is included in several aspects of the 14-page House Resolution released by Ocasio-Cortez today. Primarily, the resolution notes the importance of “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector” through  supporting family farming; “investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health”; and “building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

The need for a food-system overhaul also gets a shout-out in the closing line of the resolution, which notes that the projects required by a Green New Deal will include “providing all people of the United States with … access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”

Agriculture’s presence in the Green New Deal is the result of a palpable urgency that has emerged in food and farming movements to make sure that the effort not only reduces industrial agriculture’s massive carbon emissions, but also transforms a host of environmental problems and inequities embedded in how America’s food is produced.

“The Green New Deal sets a bold vision for dealing with the climate change crisis, which will soon escalate into a full-blown disaster if we don’t make the kinds of changes outlined in this plan. There are many good ideas in this resolution, but this is just the first step in the process,” Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) said in a statement to Civil Eats. “There is a lot of work to be done in the days ahead to iron out the details, like opportunities to work with farmers to trap more carbon in the soil. But I’m confident that we can pass something in the House and send it to the Senate, because the American people have demanded action.”

Sustainable agriculture advocates have been urging the food movement to “get behind the Green New Deal” and support major reforms of America’s food and farming system. Over 100 scientists, researchers, and other food systems experts have also signed onto a letter to that effect penned by the Agroecology Research-Action Collective. The future they envision puts U.S. agriculture at the center of the action on climate.

“We need stop the industrial overproduction of food—the root cause of agricultural pollution, food waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” argues Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First. One step in this direction would be supply management and guaranteed minimum prices for farmers, Holt-Giménez says—what’s known in the farming world as “parity” pricing. He says this type of minimum wage for farmers could stabilize many struggling small growers while discouraging the culture of “get big or get out.” “This way, we eliminate food waste and resource waste at the point of production, capture carbon, and ensure decent livelihoods for farmers and farm workers,” he adds.


Why Include Food?

Many advocates argue that America’s food system is ripe for a comprehensive overhaul toward sustainability and equity. Today’s meat and dairy operations emit millions of tons of climate-altering methane and nitrous oxide gases, while vast corn and soy farms rely on fossil fuel-based pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to grow livestock feed and auto fuel. This system is propped up by more than $13 billion a year in subsidies and crop insurance, while small farmers receive minimal support and no guarantee of a fair price in an increasingly concentrated, anti-competitive market; more than 12,000 farmers go out of business each year. Large-scale farms receive ample backing, while public monies for organic, regenerative, and small-scale diversified farming are minimal. This food chain depends on low-wage, often undocumented workers.

“There is a renewed energy to think big, and we need to apply this thinking to reforming our food system.” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Civil Eats by email. A Green New Deal, he added, “could implement some incredibly common-sense provisions to reduce the climate impacts of farming, like improving and doubling the funding for existing conservation programs.”

The resolution introduced on February 7th certainly describes a revolution in how the economy operates, and whom it benefits. But in order for that vision to become reality, the legislation that follows will need to be equally ambitious, if it’s to begin turning the ship around on our nation’s approach agriculture.

To that end, Rep. Blumenauer plans to reintroduce his Food and Farm Act, a sweeping alternative farm bill that proposes, among other things, to “help producers adapt to a changing and unpredictable climate and increase resiliency to climate change impacts, including rising temperatures and extreme weather events, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is also preparing Green New Deal legislation, according to spokesperson Martina McLennan. Merkley plans to fight for a measure that “provides incentives, technical assistance, and funding to support low-carbon farming, water and soil conservation, and sustainable agriculture.” Despite ample scientific literature showing that producing less meat and dairy is central to tackling carbon emissions, any congressional challenge to the meat and dairy industries—powerful groups with massive lobbying might—will undoubtedly see pushback. The EPA has been prevented from reporting livestock emissions since 2008.

“I want to talk about the impact that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have on the environment and what we can do to mitigate it,” said Blumenauer. “We shouldn’t be incentivizing them through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; we should be forcing them to pay for the damage they cause to the environment and public health.”

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Global Regeneration is Local

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by Community Solutions Executive Director Susan Jennings

originally published in The Yellow Springs News

This January saw wildfires in Cape Town and Tasmania and continued record highs, including in Australia, where temperatures are so elevated that heat-addled bats are falling from trees. In Ohio, we saw temperature swings of 65 degrees within one two-week period. January is named after Janus, the Greek god of beginnings and transitions. We are currently in a long-arc transition from the stable weather patterns that underlay the development of our current civilization and agricultural systems to wind, water, fire, and temperature anomalies becoming the global norm.  

 While climate consciousness is rising with sea levels, and manifesting in student protests and multi-billion dollar schemes to seed the ocean with iron filings, another kind of consciousness is also growing:  one that recognizes climate change as one of an intersecting series of calamities, including algal blooms, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss. All have their root in ecosystem degradation. The precipitous decline in insect, bird and mammal populations, for example, closely matches loss of habitat through forest clearing, hedgerow clearing, stream straightening, and an ever increasing use of pesticides by farmers and lawn-owners alike.

 This recognition comes with a multi-faceted silver lining: it suggests avenues of repair and regeneration that are available in multiple landscapes and at multiple levels. Regeneration is a term that’s becoming as broadly used as sustainability was a decade ago. In agricultural systems, regeneration refers to practices that build soil carbon and thus limit erosion and run-off and increase the ability of soil to hold moisture. Soil development also regenerates mychorrhizal networks and builds biodiversity above and below ground.

 The promise of regenerative practices led Community Solutions to buy Agraria and guides the work that we are doing here. Our core mission areas of education, research, conservation, and support of the regional food system have soil regeneration at their root. This winter we are laying the groundwork for a full season of conferences, native plantings, trainings, and field trips for neighboring schools. Our next educational event is the Growing Green Conference, hosted in partnership with Tecumseh Land Trust, from March 15-17. During this weekend gathering we will explore the intersection of local food systems, local economics and the transition to organic practices. See for details and to register.

 In his new book, Climate, a New Story, Charles Eisenstein provides an elegant rendering of a narrative that draws together disparate threads of economics, farming, and water and carbon cycles. His main thesis is that the current global focus on emissions reductions and carbon accounting as the singular response to climate change has not only been unsuccessful but also repeats the reductionist logic that’s led to ecosystem collapse and climate catastrophe. Using historical, scientific, mythic, and psychological data, he suggests instead that our view of the living planet as filled with fundamentally discrete and separable objects that are also separate from ourselves has led us to ignite species extinctions and ecosystem degradation. Intact ecosystems help regulate carbon and water cycles, while degraded ecosystems are unable to modulate or tolerate temperature and other extremes.

As in the regenerative conversations, the recognition of how we came to be at the precipice of ecological collapse suggests multiple pathways to healing. In Eisenstein’s view, many of these are related to the healing of loved ecosystems at the local level.

He writes:  Whether we are looking through the lens of carbon or water, from the living systems perspective we see that climate health depends on the health of local ecosystems everywhere. The health of local ecosystems  in turn depends on the health of the water cycle, and the health of the water cycle depends on the soil and the forests…The health of the global depends on the health of the local. The most important global policies would be those that create conditions where we can restore and protect millions of local ecosystems.

We in Yellow Springs are fortunate to live in a community that contains so much opportunity for appreciation and repair of the local landscape. From grade-schoolers counting trees and macroinvertebrates and eco-camps at the Glen, to biodiversity studies at Antioch, farmland preservation by the Tecumseh Land Trust, and the active local tree, environmental, and  food committees, there are many avenues for citizens to participate in learning, growing—and regenerating.  We hope to partner with you, in your neighborhood or ours, as we regenerate our home, and our ties to one another.




Perennial grains could be a key weapon against climate change. But not quite yet.


By Tamar Haspel

As climate change climbs the chart of existential threats, soil is getting a lot of attention. Back when it supported forest or grassland, before we cleared it to grow crops, it stored an awful lot of carbon.

By farming the land, we released the carbon. Now, there’s a major push to figure out how to put at least some of it back. The Land Institute, in Salina, Kan., is on it, and I visited them last fall. “We lost about half the carbon in the first few decades after putting crops on prairie,” said Land Institute President Fred Iutzi, who was showing me around. “In some places it leveled off at about half of what was there pre-settlement, on some places it went down to about a third.”

Carbon loss dates back to the first time a farmer ever turned over virgin soil, but it’s only in the past couple of decades that momentum has built among farmers and researchers trying to reverse things. There’s a major obstacle, though: 400 million (ish) acres of annuals, crops that have to be planted anew every year. While annuals are very good at growing seeds (usually the plant part we eat), they’re not so good at locking carbon in the soil. In fact, they’re pretty bad at it.

The Land Institute is trying to solve that problem by developing perennial grains: crops that come up, year after year, of their own accord. A commercial variety is years — and possibly decades — away, but consider that it took us about 80 years to get from corn that yielded 25 bushels an acre to corn that yields 170 bushels an acre. It’s not unreasonable to take a couple decades to catch up.

Read more here….

Morgan on Zuckerberg

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Originally published in The Yellow Springs News

By former Community Solutions Outreach Director Megan Bachman

I came to Yellow Springs to study community. Seriously. It was in the job description of my first employment out of college, at Community Service, Inc. (now Community Solutions), the organization founded by Arthur Morgan that envisioned “a world of small, local communities.”

After the interview, I got a pile of Morgan’s books as part of my orientation. What struck me most were Morgan’s passages about Yellow Springs — my new home. When Morgan talked of his village, his writing came to life. Oft-discussed concepts, like conviviality, mutual aid and neighborliness, became animated as he talked about the collective commitment of villagers to their chosen place.

Nearly 15 years later, I am still an avid student of community, with most of my learning coming through practice. There is probably someone at the Emporium right now who could, by sharing their life story, give me a thesis on the topic. I still feel like I’m in orientation, while I have learned a few things, like the principle of showing up, the art of reaching out and the terribly vulnerable act of asking for help.

Philosophically, I am a Morganian. So I bristled when I read a series of questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted in a recent post on the social network looking at the year ahead. “In a world where many physical communities are disintegrating,” he asked, “what role can the internet play in strengthening our social fabric?” It seems if it were up to tech companies, we might give up entirely on such “physical communities” and seek all of our connection, joy, delight and fulfillment through our digital doubles.

In 2019, reading a newspaper is a radical act. So is birdwatching, listening to vinyl records, visiting with a friend or cooking a meal. Such actions may not be the “wave of the future,” their reality neither augmented nor virtual. But they form the basis of a more tangible social fabric in a physical community full of beings and things — stuff like people, trees, birds, books, furniture and artwork. What kind of “fabric” is it if you can’t touch it, smell it, hug it?

Writer Neil Postman says that media, at its essence, is about having a conversation with ourselves about ourselves. Media, social or otherwise, reflect a version of reality back to us. It tells us a story about who we are, what we care about and what we aspire to. These collective narratives inform our personal narratives, and vice versa. As much as the human journey is about self-discovery, our media play an essential role.

But all media are not created equal. As Marshall McLuhan points out, a medium’s form shapes its content. What kind of political discourse, for instance, can be had via tweet? Context is lost in much of the media ecosystem these days. No wonder many feel adrift, untethered, and unmoored, being primed by our media to ever seek novelty but increasingly only finding triviality. However, the Yellow Springs News — a conversation with the community about the community — moves at the speed of the week, that is to say, slowly, deliberately and thoughtfully.

In a comment on Zuckerberg’s post, someone purportedly living a few doors down from him asked him to sit down and have the same conversation with those living in his neighborhood, even as he reaches out to talk about it with “the world.” It seems Zuckerberg is indifferent to his own physical community while creating a poor substitute.

Physical communities may be disintegrating, as Zuckerberg notes. But I differ on the path forward. Why not save what is left of such places, reweaving the frayed threads of a tenuous social fabric rather than discarding the project altogether? In Yellow Springs, we struggle like many places, but here, where local arts thrive, local food flows, and local news circulates, I would argue we are somewhat more resilient, more integral.

The brave new world of 2019 holds its share of challenges for all us, including those of us at the Yellow Springs News. So far we have survived through both media consolidation and digital transformation, remaining independent, locally owned and committed to the weekly ritual of creating a physical artifact to aid in the process of knowing ourselves.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing our vision for the News, and asking for yours. In February we will launch a survey of the community to hear more about what you want your community paper to be. The future is uncertain. What is clear to me is that the more the community participates in these pages, the more viable the News will be, and the stronger the social fabric of our very physical community. —Megan Bachman

Kaweah Oaks Workshop: Questions to Think About


Why do things work the way they do? What are the natural driving forces, or the enabling conditions? What is earth doing to itself? What does nature do about soil degradation? Why isn't all soil healthy? How can we improve soils? If there's a way to transform soil, how is it possible, how long would it take, what's the time frame? What are the harshest conditions that crops could be grown in? Why can a few simple things have such a big effect?

How can we make soil like this everywhere, so water would go into it, and to prevent fires? What are some different things we could do to make better quality soil? How can we create porous soil? How can we implement this? How do I make this happen at home, on public lands, on the ag land, in my yard? What can I do at home to help my community, on my 1.5 acres, in my own yard? How can I be a small part of the movement to think differently in Tulare County? How can I be a part of this movement in an everyday way? What can I do to help convince friends?

How can we bring up soil health? How can we make Tulare County soil better aggregated? How can we get the world to be as healthy as it can be? How effective would it be if it was efficient through the whole world--air quality, water quality, economy? How can we, as individuals, work toward healthier soil throughout California? What more could we do here? What would we do if we all knew what we're learning here?

I'm interested in learning more about grasses. Would it be beneficial to move to perennials in California? Why was the hole we dug amongst the perennial grasses cooler? What are the equivalent principles for ocean management?

How can we all benefit? How can we get more people involved in what we're doing? How to get the younger generation more interested in the Central Valley? How can we spread the word? How can we stay out of the way? How do we get people to care? What can I personally do to begin this movement?

Saturday, January 19 at a public event at Sequoia Riverlands Trust's Kaweah Oaks Preserve (about 6 miles east of Visalia, California), students led the hands-on demos for over 40 people, and summarized their policy discussions of how growing the soil sponge could help address drought, fire, falling water tables, heat waves, air and water quality, despair, economic scarcity, and malnutrition. At the closing we asked the question:

How might you enable the soil sponge, what can you commit to doing, to work together with these students, to rehydrate California?

Read more…

Japan Prize goes to Ohio State soil scientist Rattan Lal


Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at The Ohio State University, has been awarded the 2019 Japan Prize, considered one of the most prestigious honors in science and technology.

Lal is the first Ohio State scientist and the first soil scientist to ever receive the prize. He is Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The Japan Prize recognizes scientists and engineers from around the world for original and outstanding achievements that “not only contribute to the advancement of science and technology, but also promote peace and prosperity for all mankind,” the Japan Prize Foundation said today in announcing the award.

Lal, whose career in science spans five decades and five continents, was honored for his research on sustainable soil management and its role in improving global food security and mitigating climate change.

Global food security is a growing issue because Earth’s population is expected to increase to near 10 billion people by 2050.

Climate change is a concern because of its harmful effects, which include warming temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and weather extremes, experts say.


The selection process for the Japan Prize is highly competitive, with about 15,000 nominees vying for two awards every year, the foundation said. Polymer scientist Yoshio Okamoto of Japan’s Nagoya University also received the award this year.

Lal was informed of the honor by a call from the Japanese consulate, he said.

“My first thought was ‘Wow!’ ” Lal said. “I wanted to be sure that I was awake and it was not a prank call.”

Lal is a faculty member in CFAES’ School of Environment and Natural Resources, where he conducts research on topics such as soil processes, soil degradation, and sustainable management of soil and water. He works both in Ohio and internationally. Soil degradation, a worldwide problem, includes a wide range of issues such as wind and water erosion, declines in soil fertility, organic matter loss, and contamination by chemicals.

Lal also is the founder and director of SENR’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center and is the past president of the 60,000-member International Union of Soil Sciences. He was born in Punjab, India (now part of Pakistan), and first came to Ohio State in 1968 to work on his PhD in soils.

Read more…

Agraria: Looking Back, Looking Forward


2018 was a year of trailblazing at Agraria! We piloted educational programs, began early research, planted cover crops, and continued to hone our long-term vision for conservation, research, and food system support.

  • Over 300 people participated in workshops on fermentation, permaculture, seed saving, wildcrafting, herbalism, soil health, land evaluation, regenerative agriculture, and carbon sequestration, as well as in visioning sessions.

  • More than 120 pre-K-12 students took part in experiential learning on Agraria’s land and in our barn and a further 50 students benefited from our support of a farm to school grant in Springfield.

  • Community Solutions’ grant writing efforts raised $109,500 towards Agraria’s educational initiatives.

  • We forged and strengthened academic, research, and outreach partnerships with 16 institutions and NGOs.

  • We kept members and friends informed with 40 emails and 209 social media posts.   

  • Our partner farmers began their work to regenerate Agraria’s soil and transition it to organic land.

  • Volunteers donated over 1000 hours of time clearing honeysuckle, assisting at events, photographing land transition, creating logos, and fundraising for Agraria.

  • Visitors to Springfield and Yellow Springs Farmer’s Markets were able to spend their SNAP benefits on local produce, thanks to our EBT machine program.

It was also a year of internal transformation, as staff and community members deepened their understanding of the importance of soil health to rebuilding ecosystems, repairing water and climate cycles, and building human health.

We look forward with excitement to 2019 and to the work we have planned, including:

  • Building our educational endeavors through a teacher training with regional educators and educating at least 600 regional students on the importance of soil health.

  • Working with The Nature Conservancy on the first steps of the restoration of Jacoby Creek and 50 acres of wetlands and riparian corridor.

We hope that you can help us celebrate these developments by joining us in 2019 for one of our workshops and events—check our calendar for details.

Thank you for your support in 2018! If you have not yet made your annual gift, please consider donating today. We are deeply grateful to all those who have helped to bring Agraria to life!

Best wishes for the New Year from all of us at Community Solutions.

Forty Acres of Farm Land in America is Lost to Development Every Hour

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Originally posted on

Written by Brian Barth

There’s a movement afoot to convert conservation land trusts into new farmer incubators.

Picture bulldozers plowing up pastures and cornfields to put in subdivisions and strip malls. Add to this picture the fact that the average age of the American farmer is nearly 60 — it’s often retiring farmers that sell to real estate developers. They can afford to pay much more for property than aspiring young farmers.

Alarmed by this trend, environmentalists back in the 1970s developed the idea to pay retiring farmers to preserve their land in a natural state rather than sell out to real estate developers.

Read more…

Agraria at the Eco-Ag Conference

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Last week, Matthew Lawson, Amy Harper, David Diamond and Glenn Gall attended the Eco-Ag Conference in Louisville, KY. The conference is organized by Acres U.S.A., a publisher and event organizer focused on regenerative agriculture. Our team was inspired by the presentations we saw and the wonderful peers we met.  Some highlights included a panel on soil health and human nutrition with Gabe Brown, Charles Massy and Fred Provenza—now we know why that incredible-tasting food fresh from the farm is so much better for you than what you get in most grocery stores! We learned about the purpose of weeds from Vail Dixon, and how farmers can use them to build soil. Joel Salatin’s keynote convincingly demonstrated that regenerative agriculture can feed the world far more efficiently and healthily than the current industrial system. Eliot Coleman inspired us by telling the amazing story of how his family carved a beautiful organic farm out of rocky land on the Maine coastline.

Dr. Nasha Winters helped us see the importance of circadian rhythms to our health, and Dan Kittredge illuminated the fundamentals of a farm’s biological system. Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin shared his vision and early steps towards building a national regenerative agriculture industry. All the presenters were very kind and generous with their time when we introduced ourselves. Along the way, we greatly enjoyed visiting with our friends at OEFFA and meeting new friends like the composters at Rust Belt Riders in Cleveland and the school garden builders at Big Green. After three incredibly full and uplifting days, we returned to Yellow Springs and resumed our work at Agraria. We have since met with our renting farmers and laid the groundwork for an amazing year of growth and education. In every area, the Acres Eco-Ag conference boosted our efforts to explore and demonstrate the benefits of regenerative practice.   

Charles Eisenstein book promotion - Agraria Annual Fund

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Dear Friends—
What do obesity, algal blooms, extreme weather, wildfires, and species extinctions have in common? Soil degradation, and more broadly, the degradation of natural areas locally and across the planet.   Human health crises, suffocating lakes and streams, the precipitous drop in insect and mammal life since 1970 recently reported by the World Wildlife Fund, and wildly fluctuating weather patterns have all been linked to soil depletion—and the resulting disruption of carbon and water cycles. These cycles are integral to promoting and maintaining planetary homeostasis.
These systemic linkages also provide a cause for hope in the face of our converging crises. Healthy soils teem with microbial life and host mycorrhizal networks that help to sequester carbon and retain water. New understandings about how we can partner with nature to repair soils are sparking regenerative projects and research across the planet. It is our passion for soil regeneration that led us to buy Agraria in 2017, and it continues to provide impetus for the spate of new programs you’ll read about below.
Soil is a lever for change that it is available at all scales, from households to farms to communities—a true community solution!
We found a confirmation of—and an eloquent plea for—an ecosystems focus in Charles Eisenstein’s Climate:  A New Story, published a few months ago. Many of you heard Charles at our 2017 Economics of Happiness Conference.  His new book’s main focus is to reorient the climate conversation from global warming to weather anomalies, and to reorient our understanding of the cause of weather anomalies from fossil fuel emissions to our degradation of planetary ecosystems. He argues that this degradation contributes at least half of current and historic greenhouse gas emissions, and that repair of soil and ecosystems is the most vital work that we can be doing to restore biodiversity and repair water and carbon cycles. 

A sample quote: Whether we are looking through the lens of carbon or water, from the living systems perspective we see that climate health depends on the health of local ecosystems everywhere.  The health of local ecosystems, in turn, depends on the health of the water cycle, and the health of the water cycle depends on the soil and the forests.

Thanks so much to everyone who donated on Giving Tuesday! If you missed out, we will be happy to ship you a copy of Charles’ Climate, a NewStory, for your $100+ contribution to our annual fund.

The Flood Washes over us

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Written by Jody Tishmack

Originally posted on

A year ago I wrote an article discussing Hurricane Harvey.  Here we are again watching another 1 in a 1,000 year hurricane disaster unfold.  I won’t try to summarize all the other weather disasters that have been unfolding around the world this year.  This year is going to be the fourth warmest year on record behind 2016, 2015, and 2017 respectively.  Our global climate is obviously in chaos and weather disasters becoming more frequent and severe.

In the days leading up to Hurricane Florence’s landfall meteorologists struggled to find words to describe this storm’s unbelievable potential for destruction.  The storm was “biblical”, “unprecedented”, “historical”, “a monster”…yet none of the words really conveyed the reality of risk that few have yet faced.   Governors of both Carolinas took the warnings seriously and called for evacuation.  Many heeded their warnings but the fact that some people chose to stay and ride out the storm showed a dangerous lack of understanding for the danger they faced.  The media’s obsession for making storm disasters into morbid entertainment was in full form when one reporter struggled to stand against wind that seemingly had little affect on nearby pedestrians strolling by.  Like passing a highway accident we can’t seem to turn our eyes away.

The fact that Florence didn’t inflict greater wind damage when it made landfall was a fortunate break that had to do with the storm weakening after its final eyewall replacement cycle.  By Thursday evening September 13th hurricane reconnaissance indicated that a new eyewall was not likely to be completed; the eastern section of the wall not likely to reform.  This prevented Florence from rebuilding the strength of its winds and the storm continued to weaken as it lumbered towards landfall.  Instead of a Category 4 hurricane, Florence came ashore a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 90 mph versus 140 or higher.

Can you imagine the damage if this storm had been similar to last year’s Maria,  a Category 4 hurricane that dropped to Category 3 as it traveled 100 miles diagonally across Puerto Rico in 8 hours.  What if Florence had completed its eyewall and turned back into a Category 4 hurricane creeping slowly along the Carolina shoreline?  Hurricane Florence crawled across 200 miles in 72 hours dumping “unprecedented” amounts of rain on top of ground saturated from a long,  “record breaking” amount of precipitation this spring and summer.  The wind damage of a stronger storm would have been an order of magnitude greater, totally flattening buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation as it moved slowly inland.  Can you imagine the devastation in addition to the catastrophic flooding that is currently unfolding?  We are still days and weeks away from knowing the full extent of flood damage.

It seems we are constantly witnessing “unprecedented” violent storms, “historic” record-breaking summer heat waves,  “ferocious” winter snowstorms,  “never-before-seen” wildfires,  and “torrential” rainfall that results in a “deluge” of flooding.  We use adjectives that try to impart our sense that storms are bigger, stronger, or greater, yet after too frequent use they seem to lose their value.  We don’t seem to realize the magnitude of what is happening or the danger.  Does a “never-seen-before ” event that happens every few years really mean something to us?  Does a “1 in a 1,000 year” event that happens twice in two years become a warning of something different happening?  Perhaps we are becoming numb to the reality of our climate changing.

Read more…