YES FARMERS ARE SERIOUSLY CHALLENGED BY THE CURRENT CRISIS. 'The Republic's' California correspondent Miranda Green was interviewed yesterday on 'The Rising' and her report is grim. Add unprecedented market upheaval to the typical vagaries routinely faced by farmers – weather, labor and farmgate prices – and you have tough times ahead. The interview comes after the posting of Ms. Green's recent article, "Don't Worry About Supermarket Shelves. Worry About Farmers" (https://newrepublic.com/…/supermarket-shelves-farmers-coron…). Caleb, Megan & Jim
"The ongoing coronavirus epidemic has shifted American markets, changed typical spending patterns, and closed international borders. While industry experts promise it has not led to a food shortage in the United States—despite the empty supermarket shelves—it is adding a lot of uncertainty to the food and farming industries and could tee up a long-term crisis down the line.
“'Clearly, not knowing is hard to take: not knowing whether or not you’re going to have a market for a crop and not knowing the extent of this virus and the resulting economic impact across the board,' said Thomspon, who is head of the Michigan Farmers Union. 'They say the stock market doesn’t like uncertainty. Farmers don’t like it, either.'"
STUDY FINDS HUGE POTENTIAL FOR URBAN GARDENS TO FEED CITY DWELLERS. Researchers at the UK's University of Suffolk's 'Institute for Sustainable Food' studied their hometown and identified substantial untapped resources within city limits capable of producing sizable volumes of fruits and vegetables for local consumption. The Study extrapolates there are similar food-producing urban garden capacities in most cities. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"…They mapped the “green infrastructure” — parks, gardens, roadside verges, and woodland areas — and “grey infrastructure” such as buildings across the city of Sheffield using high-spatial-resolution datasets from Ordnance Survey and Google Earth. That allowed them to determine that, if gardens covered just 10 percent of the city’s green spaces, those gardens could provide 15 percent of the local population with their “five a day,” the recommended five daily portions of fruits and vegetables…
"Urban allotments — parcels of land specifically rented out for horticultural production — comprise about 1.3% of Sheffield’s green infrastructure, while domestic gardens currently occupy another 38%. Those areas have the immediate potential to start growing food, if they aren’t already. The researchers write in the study that they identified an additional 1,192 hectares, or about 11% of the city’s green infrastructure, that is 'potentially suitable for allotment-style growing,' as well as an additional 404 hectares, or 4% of green space, that could be used 'for community garden-style growing.'
"Altogether, the researchers calculated that there are about 98 square meters per Sheffield resident that could be opened up to soil-based horticulture: 71 square meters in domestic gardens and allotments and 27 square meters in other green infrastructure. If all of this green space was used to grow food, it could supply approximately 709,000 people — or 122% of the population of Sheffield — with their 'five a day.'"
Researchers with the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield in the UK used their hometown as a case study to examine the potential for expanding food production in cities.The researchers mapped the “green infrastructure” — parks, gardens, roadside verges, and woodland ar…
WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM: SHIPPING CERTIFIED SEED POTATOES ON ANOTHER SNOWY WINTERY DAY. Northern Maine received another 4" of snow on Monday. Snow events are common and it's a rare year that we don't get snow during the first half of April. By the first of May we lose our snow and – thanks to our well-drained soils – are often on the ground and farming ten days after that. Here, Caleb Gerritsen walks back into our Clark forklift to load a fifty-carton pallet of organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes (www.woodprairie.organic) onto a waiting truck. We grow and direct-ship organic Seed Potatoes from our isolated Maine farm, ten months a year from Sept until the 4th of July, in amounts ranging from 1 pound to 10,000 pounds, to market farmers and home gardeners in all 50 States. Caleb, Megan & Jim
MOVE OVER $30,000-VENTILATORS: MIT ALREADY HAS OPEN-SOURCE-PLANS FOR UNITS COSTING UNDER $500 IN PARTS. Proving education and universities are good societal investments, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is dusting off and updating their ten-year-old OPEN-SOURCE plans for ingenious LOW-COST ventilators which cost a tiny fraction of what the big boys will be charging hard-pressed hospitals and taxpayers. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"One of the most pressing shortages facing hospitals during the Covid-19 emergency is a lack of ventilators. These machines can keep patients breathing when they no longer can on their own, and they can cost around $30,000 each. Now, a rapidly assembled volunteer team of engineers, physicians, computer scientists, and others, centered at MIT, is working to implement a safe, inexpensive alternative for emergency use, which could be built quickly around the world."
SATURDAY PACKING CREW AT WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM IN NORTHERN MAINE. With a sunny-day-above-freezing outside and the maple sap running, here inside our packing shed and working overtime in order to keep up with surging orders for organic seed (www.woodprairie.organic), are eight Gerritsens working together as a team. From left to right: Caleb, Amy, Sarah, Peter and Lizzi. Megan and Lex were out-of-sight working in the adjoining office preparing shipping labels and packaging organic vegetable seed. Jim was downcellar in the underground Potato House (storage) grading organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes for the crew to pack. Today is another day of filling orders with a rotated crew so everyone gets one day a week off. Caleb, Megan & Jim
REPORT FROM THE FIELD: HOW ARE MAINE AG OPERATIONS FAIRING IN THE CRISIS? It's amazing just how quickly – since the weekend of March 14 – America's world has shifted. Maine's largest daily the 'Bangor Daily News' reports. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"Christa Bahner noticed that orders for items such as fresh spinach, carrots, salad mix and bread began taking off on the weekend of March 14, and only stopped when the farm cut off early orders. When the farmers were able to catch their breath, they realized gross sales for the week were more than double their Thanksgiving sales week — and a more than tenfold increase from their typical March business.
"But in a world reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, the unexpected is quickly becoming the norm. Along with farms such as the Bahner Farm, local businesses Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow and Fedco Seeds in Clinton have been overwhelmed by sudden demand. Customers around Maine and the nation — stuck inside and uncertain of the future — have turned some attention toward seed catalogs."
HOW IS THE SEED INDUSTRY GRAPPLING WITH CHALLENGES FROM COVID 19? Here are two new European 'SeedWorld' reports, this one from Holland and another from Sweden (https://seedworld.com/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-eu-see…/). The world has evolved a complicated, layered distribution system for getting seed from production fields into the hands of farmers and gardeners who plant that seed to grow their crops. Yes, the seed system has many warts – including excessive corporate concentration and the calculated nefarious scheme for seed control known as patented GE seed – but this distribution is primal to how our food is grown. Caleb, Megan & Jim
"The sector in The Netherlands is very diverse. The ornamentals sector is hard hit. The famous flower auction is currently destroying some 80% of its produce because it is not sold and retail chains like supermarkets and garden centres all over Europe cancel contracts for bedding plants…
"Challenges in vegetable and field crop seeds relate more to transport and workers. Road transport faces challenges at borders and is related to shortages of drivers and provisions for such drivers when highway restaurants are closed. Hundreds of trucks are on the road until mid-April for seed potato alone; similarly, young vegetable plants are on their way to customers all over Europe…
"…Whether COVID-19 will result in a shakeout of less resilient growers, thus affecting our customer base, remains to be seen. Similarly, how much seed will remain in the production countries due to transport problems, cannot be predicted."
Editor’s Note: The following is an article from our sister publication, European Seed. Interview with Niels Louwaars, Managing Director at the Dutch Seed Association Plantum NL, date 24 March 2020 European Seed (ES): Niels, how are you and your team doing under COVID-19? Niels Louwaars (NL): We h…
"THE FIRST YEAR IS THE HARDEST." A modern-day nationwide grassroots "Victory Garden" effort is underway aiming to encourage Americans – and coordinate needed resources like seed, soil and know-how – to plant individual gardens THIS YEAR in order to increase resiliency and security at the family level. This brand new group is called "Cooperative Gardens." We are involved and hundred of volunteer leaders like ourselves are quickly building out an infrastructure to help everyone grow successful food gardens. A new website will soon be up and you can COUNT ON US to share all the particulars as they happen. This new 'NY Times' article provides interesting background including quotes from our friend, organic seed farmer Nate Steinman of NJ who came up with this wonderful idea. Stay tuned! Caleb, Megan & Jim