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We enjoyed reading about organic farmers Mike Reid and Tibby Plasse of Paradise Springs Farm in Idaho’s Teton Valley and you will too.
This featured family farm is doing a good job at stewarding the land. But the fact remains, the growing corporate takeover of organic places them – and virtually EVERY organic family farmer – at serious risk. Large and politically powerful corporate operations put pressure on USDA to bend the rules causing USDA to ignore fundamental organic REQUIREMENTS, some as very, very basic as ACCESS TO PASTURE.
Please help family farmers stand up to the corporate takeover of organic. Thanks! Jim & Megan…/708ce5bc-ed76-11e6-9662-6e…

“Paradise Springs was just named one of the ten best organic dairies in the country. The farm, which is also one of only three Biodynamic certified dairies in the country, is tucked into the foothills of the Big Holes. Chickens sprint through the yard and the pastures are verdant with clover, oats, alfalfa, and ryegrass. The herd of 19 heifers likes to congregate in aspen groves on the outskirts of the fields…

“One stipulation of an organic certification is that the herd gets at least 120 days of pasture annually, but many large-scale organic dairies cut corners on all regulations and stuff their cows with grain before sending them out to graze…

“The herd is composed of brown Swiss cows instead of the standard Holsteins. These ladies with their longer legs are happy hiking to higher elevations to graze. Unlike most dairies, the calves at Paradise Springs spend time with their mothers and aren’t weaned prematurely. It lowers milk yields but keeps everyone happier and healthier, said Plasse…

“Paradise Springs Farm just got a ‘five cow rating’ from industry watchdog the Cornucopia Institute. The scorecard includes criteria such as ownership structure, health and longevity of cows, transparency, and pasture time. Paradise Springs got top marks in every category, and was one of only ten farms across the country to receive a perfect score.

‘This is the gold medal,’ said Reid. ‘It’s not them saying you produce the most milk or make the most money. It’s about your organic integrity.'”

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Due to overuse, weeds on 60 million acres of American farmland have developed resistance to Monsanto’s flagship deadly herbicide “Roundup.”
In a desperate attempt to protect their GMO monopoly, Monsanto has quickly – way way too quickly – tried to shift to hapless pinch-hitter “Dicamba” herbicide. Unfortunately, Dicamba is fatally flawed with a tremendous tendency to drift off-target, trespass onto neighboring land and damage the non-target crops of innocent adjacent farmers.
In a here-we-go-again situation, Monsanto has yet once more served up another heaping helping of disaster to American agriculture. Jim

“Farmers are locked in an arms race between ever-stronger weeds and ever-stronger weed killers.

“The dicamba system, approved for use for the first time this spring, was supposed to break the cycle and guarantee weed control in soybeans and cotton. The herbicide – used in combination with a genetically modified dicamba-resistant soybean – promises better control of unwanted plants such as pigweed, which has become resistant to common weed killers.

“The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is that dicamba has drifted from the fields where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of unprotected soybeans and other crops in what some are calling a man-made disaster. Critics contend that the herbicide was approved by federal officials without enough data, particularly on the critical question of whether it could drift off target…

“The backlash against dicamba has spurred lawsuits, state and federal investigations, and one argument that ended in a farmer’s shooting death and related murder charges.

“‘This should be a wake-up call,’ said David Mortensen, a weed scientist at Pennsylvania State University…

“‘We’re on a road to nowhere,’ said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘The next story is resistance to a third chemical, and then a fourth chemical – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see where that will end.

“‘The real issue here is that people are using ever-more complicated combinations of poisons on crops, with ever-more complex consequences.'”

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So, is our civilization in decline?
Using themes fleshed out in John Greer’s 2008 release, “The Long Decline,” the Weekly Sift uses the impact of punishing hurricanes as the lens to address this question of ‘where are we?’
In civilizations on the rise, dominant positive energy (‘Construction’) outweighs the negative (‘Destruction’).
A study of civilizations in decline identifies similar telltale shortcomings – including the steady inability to keep up with infrastructure demands.
History teaches us to expect the decline to not be precipitous (“the Long Descent”). As well, the human drive to make things better for our children and grandchildren is a powerful countering and mitigating force in and of itself. Jim

“…TLD is both depressing and reassuring: depressing because Greer thinks our civilization is already on the way down, and reassuring because he believes that a civilization-wide decline takes a very long time to play out. (The peak of the Roman Empire was in the 2nd century, but the last Caesar didn’t fall until the Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453. As Adam Smith is supposed to have remarked in 1778, when told that Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga marked the ruin of England: ‘There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.’) So Greer doesn’t predict a Mad Max future for our children, just an era of greater difficulty and more constraint, followed by an era of even more difficulty and constraint for their children.

“Oversimplifying greatly, Greer sees civilization as a constant struggle between Construction and Destruction. Construction is happening all the time and is fairly gradual, while Destruction tends to concentrate in big disasters. In an ascending civilization, Construction is the long-term winner; every big disaster is just an excuse to rebuild bigger and better, as London (1666) and Chicago (1871) did after their Great Fires.

“But during the descent, Destruction has the upper hand: A certain amount of rebuilding happens after each disaster, and sometimes it even briefly looks like things have turned up again, but you never quite get back to the previous peak before the next disaster sends you reeling. A constant shortfall of constructive energy means that maintenance is always getting deferred, which invites the next disaster sooner than it would otherwise show up…

“Rising civilizations respond to challenges with visionary bursts of construction. At the height of the British Empire, for example, London responded to a series of cholera epidemics and the Great Stink of 1858 by building a citywide sewer system that is still in use today.

“But declining civilizations are always a step behind. They congratulate themselves for how well their plans would deal with yesterday’s problems, while ignoring the predictable challenges they soon will have to face.”

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The new field study – soon to be released in the scientific journal ‘Advances in Agronomy’ – pulled together over a thousand soil samples from across America and looked at the effectiveness of organic soils to sequester carbon in the soil where it belongs and out of the air where is magnifies climate change. Jim

“A new groundbreaking study proves soils on organic farms store away appreciably larger amounts of carbons – and for longer periods — than typical agricultural soils. The important study, directed by Northeastern University in collaboration with The Organic Center, provides a new significant proof point that organic agricultural practices build healthy soils and can be part of the solution in the fight on global warming…

“Agriculture is one of the main causes of the depletion of carbon in the soil and the increased presence of carbon in our atmosphere, as evidenced by a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences that estimated agriculture’s role in global soil carbon loss. Organic farming can play a key role in restoring soil carbon and in reducing the causes of climate change, and this study proves that.

“…Altogether, the study measured 659 organic soil samples from 39 states and 728 conventional soil samples from all 48 contiguous states. It found that ALL components of humic substances were higher in organic than in conventional soils…

“The research found that, on average, soils from organic farms had:

13 percent higher soil organic matter
150 percent more fulvic acid
44 percent more humic acid
26 percent greater potential for long-term carbon storage”

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Yesterday on the way to our daughter’s first college soccer game (Yes, local Univ of Maine – Presque Isle won beating visitor Univ of Maine – Machias, 2-0) we passed a farm truck on the side of the highway manned by a young man going-through-the-motions of trying to direct-market vegetables grown by his farmer-employer.
Our ten years’ experience selling at local Farmers Markets during the 1980s allowed us to take one quick glance which then instantly explained to us the reason for his absence of customers.
Sitting there literally on-top-of-the-display, swinging legs covering and kicking the farm’s vinyl banner, head lowered and consciousness hypnotically entranced with his “smart” phone, the vibe given off was anything but one of really wanting to engage with paying customers.
That young man would have benefited from reading this good, clear and surprisingly zeroed-in article which offers 25 Tips for successful selling at a Farmers Market. Jim & Megan

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Holy Smokes! It’s hard to imagine heads won’t be rolling soon – and it will be with good reason
Equifax, one of the country’s three largest consumer credit reporting firms, has been in the recent news for getting hacked and fumbling the confidential financial info of a whooping 142 MILLION AMERICANS.
However, the extent of this scandal – rating a “10” on a scale of 1-10 – and the non-stop greed profiteering of the disaster is absolutely breathtaking.
But you will miss the details of what went dismally wrong, and how it will affect you, unless you catch this hard hitting interview with Missouri economics professor and white collar criminologist Dr. William Black. Jim

“The experts in cybersecurity say on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the worst, that this is a 10, and it’s almost comically bad. It’s another demonstration of our family rule that it’s impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody, and that’s certainly what the executives of Equifax have demonstrated in this scandal…

“First, this is the third major breach in about two years, so they had plenty of warning that their security, cybersecurity, was incompetent, and they obviously didn’t fix it. Second, they now say that the breach began in May and that they didn’t detect it ’til July, while they were, as you said, stealing at least 142 million people’s worth of data, probably multiple times. Along the way, by the way, they said proudly, ‘Ah, but there was no breach of our core system.’ Before you ever get to the core, 142 million customers are thrown under the bus. God only knows what the core is. Presumably their own personal data is what they consider the core.

“Once they did discover, finally, the breach, the very first thing that happened, you mentioned part of it, which is three senior executives sold roughly $2 million-ish in shares, including the chief financial officer, who they’re now claiming wasn’t told of the breach. Now, this would be the number-two person, typically, or number-three person in the entire corporation. If they didn’t tell the senior ranks about the breach, when they discovered one of the largest and most destructive breaches in history, you know, well, you can choose to believe that. No one else does.

“On top of that, there was also an immediate … in the same time period that these senior executives were selling their stock, there was a massive increase in sales of stock options compared to the normal for Equifax, and that almost certainly was again because people had been tipped about what had happened in the breach…

“Right, and again this is the point, is all of these things have massive effects on the entire population, or virtually the entire population, but they’re secret, right? There is no real regulation of these matters. There’s nothing that really forces these companies to be honest with us about the scope of the breach and the risk that they have now inflicted upon us. That is outrageous, but it is again not just the norm. It’s becoming virtually the only situation that exists…

“… you read a publication like ‘Wired’ about this, and it gives you the steps it suggests to take. Maybe 2 percent of the population would do that. We can’t fix this if we put the onus on 142 million Americans to become computer-literate and credit-literate and such. It will never work, so don’t let’s be pushed towards, “Well, you know, you should have taken care of it because, hey, I took care of it, and so screw the other 140 million people that were left unprotected.”

“Again, to do that, you’re going to have to actually have regulatory disclosure requirements. You’re going to have to have an office at the federal level that is in charge of investigating these kinds of breaches, like when a plane crashes. Find out what the hell happened, publish it, so that people know and draw generalities in terms of here are the kinds of exposures to look at. Even if you breach a company, they should never be able to come away with the crown jewels as they did at Equifax, much less the crown jewels on 142 million Americans.”

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Given its unavoidable significant FATAL-FLAW of drifting off-target, EPA SHOULD IMMEDIATELY BAN DICAMBA.
However, what EPA may do instead is severely limit its use. While not a perfect solution, this now anticipated EPA action is absolute acknowledgement that this loser alternative for glyphosate (Roundup)-addicted GE crops is its own untenable can-of-worms. Jim

“The U.S. environmental agency is considering banning sprayings of the agricultural herbicide dicamba after a set deadline next year, according to state officials advising the agency on its response to crop damage linked to the weed killer.

“Setting a cut-off date, possibly sometime in the first half of 2018, would aim to protect plants vulnerable to dicamba, after growers across the U.S. farm belt reported the chemical drifted from where it was sprayed this summer, damaging millions of acres of soybeans and other crops.

“A ban could hurt sales by Monsanto Co (MON.N) and DuPont which sell dicamba weed killers and soybean seeds with Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant Xtend trait. BASF (BASFn.DE) also sells a dicamba herbicide.”

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Yes, says this interesting video (5:33) produced by organic farmers in Argentina.
Bitcoin appeals to independent-minded organic farmers: decentralized, independent of multinational corporate control and freedom from high middleman fees are intriguing.
The video relates the genesis of this Bitcoin project when an entrepreneurial Argentine organic farmer hooked up with an idealistic young techie motivated to use his talents to help farmers and the organic community.
Family-scale organic farmers remain under threat like never before. With the march towards further corporate consolidation the status quo is increasingly untenable. Watch this video and gain a sense of some hopeful possibilities ahead. Jim

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Working hard we’ll bet, but not as hard as young Joe McConaughy. On Thursday, Joe completed his “ultra-marathon” and summited Maine’s Katahdin, setting a record in TRAVERSING THE ENTIRE Appalachian Trail – 2190 miles – in just 45 1/2 days. Yes, that’s an average of 48 miles a day.
We heard Joe’s breaking story on the local news late last week. Then last night, we heard levelheaded Joe’s interview on the CBC (, His drive and capabilities are phenomenal. And refreshingly, so is his humility, groundedness and absence of a big ego.
Last Thursday on Katahdin’s Baxter Peak (photo below) it was hailing, and the temperature was +38oF plus a 75 mph wind. Joe completed the last 111 miles in 37 non-stop non-sleep hours.
Two months ago we hiked up the same Abol Trail to Baxter Peak but in much, much more pleasant July conditions.
Here is ‘Boston Globe’ coverage of the driven – and humble – young man’s miraculous accomplishment, Don’t miss all the photos! Jim & Megan

“He finished with 37 straight hours of running and climbing, soaked by rain, whipped by wind and sleet, inside a cloud that lay upon the mountain.

“Former Boston College track and cross-country runner Joe McConaughy, known by the trail name Stringbean, clutched his girlfriend at the rugged summit and silently wept, his mind empty, at the end of what appears to be the fastest known traverse of the Appalachian Trail.

“Then he screamed into the fog, let out an extended ‘Ahhhhh,’ and summed up: ‘That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’

“Traveling with no outside help along the way, McConaughy completed the 2,190-mile trail from Springer Mountain, Ga., to the top of Maine’s highest peak in 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes. That’s an average of about 48 miles a day.”

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Our friend, the pioneering organic dairyman Albert Strauus of ‘Strauss Creamery’ in northern California is making a difference both in the organic community and across the country.
Albert proves the point that “big” does not have to always be “bad.”
Catch the details in the TV video interview. Jim

“Albert’s energy innovations are an example of his leadership and wisdom in turning farm waste cow manure into a major energy resource.

“A North Bay company famous for its dairy products is using its animal waste in a groundbreaking way to power an electric vehicle and its entire farm.

“In the cattle country surrounding Tomales Bay in West Marin County, Albert Straus is known as something of a trend setter.

“In 1994, his Straus Family Creamery became the first 100-percent organic creamery in the nation.

“‘now, in Marin and Sonoma counties, 85 percent of dairies are certified organic,’ explained Straus.

“Straus believes that change is saving the economic viability of farms in the area. But a recent technological development he’s behind shows that he is thinking even bigger.

“He wants to save the planet.”