• Organic How to Save Your Life and the Earth by Making the Right Choices

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    Here are some of the techniques on how to plant crops without risking your health.

    Will Allen, owner of Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont, has spent the last 14 years pioneering a process where a relatively small farming community feeds thousands of locals, and teaches them about organic urban agriculture. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in the organic agriculture movement.

    I visited Will's farm in Vermont last year just prior to attending the BioChar conference. We did the interview at his farm. Their community-supported agriculture (CSA) program has 200 households in it during the summer, and another 100 households join their fall program.

    “When we first started out, we decided that it's going to be an educational farm because most of the farmers right now are not producing young farmers,” he says. “We're trying to train the next generation of farmers and trying to change farming by training that generation to be organic and community-focused…

    We have several young people and middle-aged people who got trained here and who are now running their own farms. We put them through a program where they have to be here two or three years. But they get paid a regular salary; it's not like an apprentice program,” he says.

    His farm sells produce within a 50-mile radius, and his customers include local restaurants, co-ops, and farmer's markets. Well over 1,000 children visit the farm each year, and the farm even runs a farm-to-school program with the local grammar school and high school. There's also a backyard garden program, where budding gardeners can learn the tricks of the trade.

    How Avoiding Factory Farmed Foods Helps the Environment

    About 80 percent of genetically engineered plants grown in the US end up as animal feed, and approximately 40 percent of all corn grown is used for ethanol. Clearly, this is not wise stewardship of our resources. But how can we change this trend? Allen is currently writing a book on climate chaos and agriculture, and according to his research, 92.5 percent of our acreage is devoted to animals or food for animals. Only 7.5 percent of our acreage is devoted to food that goes directly to feeding humans.

    “We're completely out of kilter with the environment in terms of what we're producing and what we're eating,” he says. “We're eating all the wrong things. That isn't to say that some of those things couldn't be right if we're eating them in moderation. It's not like you got to give up meat; it's just like, ‘Wait a minute, can your body take this? Can the planet take this?'”

    Ronnie Cummins, founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), believes a major part of the answer is to stop eating factory-farmed meat and animal products.

    “People ask me, ‘What should I do about the climate, I feel helpless. I can't as an individual stop the coal industry from operating. I can't stop that XL pipeline by myself' and so on. The number one thing people should do is boycott all factory-farmed meat and animal products; boycott all genetically-engineered processed foods, and eat organic every chance you get,” Cummins says.

    “[O]nce animals can get back on the land and graze, it's going to cause a change in the grasses, the environment, the root structure, the sequestration of carbon, and we can hopefully bring back the climate back into balance.”

    He cites a number of other reasons for avoiding factory farmed animal products as well, including:

    From a nutrient quality point of view, factory farmed foods are inferior. They're also responsible for the vast majority of food-borne illnesses The animals are treated inhumanely The farm workers or feedlot workers are generally exploited It produces large amounts of methane
    The animals are being fed an entirely unnatural diet (Cows for example, do not naturally eat grains. They eat grass) The animals' feed is genetically engineered Factory farming is chemical-intensive Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) promote antibiotic-resistant disease (80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US are used in large-scale livestock production)

    Why Organic Food Really Is the Least Expensive Food on Earth

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    As illustrated in a graphic created by Washington State University, Americans spend less than seven percent of their income on food—mere peanuts compared to the vast majority of other nations. On average, Americans spend $151 per week on food. Even high income earners still only average $180 per week. But cheap food is not quality food. And the fact that food can be had for cheap also does NOT mean that it's actually the most cost-efficient choice. As Allen explains:

    “[O]rganic food is the cheapest food in the U.S., because you only pay for it once. You pay for chemical- and genetically modified food at least five times:

    (1) The first payment you make for is at the supermarket; I call that the down payment.

    (2) The second payment is at tax time, and it costs the same as the first one. Eighty percent of our food is processed food. Processed food is corn, cotton, soy, canola, rice, wheat, and sugar. They eat up 98 percent of all the subsidies. Those subsidies are paid for on tax day.

    (3) The third time you pay for it is when you go to the doctor. In the last 20 years, an average of 60 million people have gotten food-borne illness in this country. About 200,000 over that 20-year period have gone to the hospital. As soon as you go to the hospital, prices soar.

    (4) The fourth payment is the illnesses that you get from it. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, obesity – all of those are food-borne illnesses. It's what you eat that is making you sick.

    (5) The fifth thing is: who's going to clean up that farmland when the [factory] farmer leaves? Those guys are going to go bankrupt as soon as you tell them to clean it up… so we're to have to pay for it.”

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