“The large cohort of youth entering Africa’s labour force is the best educated one the continent has seen, and Africa is witnessing its best growth performance in decades”

Unemployment is considered a ‘luxury’ in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, in the absence of formal wage jobs, the youth of SSA are exploiting their talents in innovative ways in the informal sector: in agriculture and household enterprises. How should economic policy in Africa shift to reflect youth employment in the informal sector?

Image credit: pull cart kid child by Foundry. Public domain via Pixabay.

It’s a tiny cucumber that looks like a watermelon.

And it’s featured in a new story by my friend Eliza Barclay (with photos by Skunk Bear producer Ryan Kellman) about the most pampered vegetables in America. 

Get this: there is a specialty farm in Ohio that the nation’s top chefs can call up and say, “I need a pea-sized eggplant!” Full story here.

Welcome to the postnormal: Genetically modified limes

Left, a lime with genes from red grapes. Center, a lime with genes from the blood orange. Right, a control.

Researchers at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center have modified the genetic code of limes, making the fruit more resilient and healthier including a new paintwork.

[via popular science] [read more] [Photo Courtesy of Manjul Dutt/UF/IFAS]

Aquaponics: Fish Farming & Water Gardening. 💧🌱💧🐟💧

Hydroculture (water gardening) may date back to as early as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the ancient Aztec chinampas, and the ancient Chinese floating gardens. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponic agriculture (growing plants in water without soil). Plants naturally filter water for the fish, and fish waste provides organic food for growing plants. Some popular fish choices are trout, catfish, bluegill, and tilapia. Plant choices are nearly limitless, except for plants that require an acidic environment. A backyard greenhouse is ideal for sunlight and natural climate control. Aquaponic gardening uses 90% less water than traditional soil gardening, because the water is re-circulated. Aquaponic gardening yields two foods for one input (fish feed). Plants also grow 2 to 3 times faster in aquaponic systems. Start-up costs are completely worth it once balance is established to gain the renewable rewards and self-reliance. What are your thoughts? Would you try aquaponic gardening?



#Survival #Homesteading #SHTF #Gardening #WaterGardening #Aquaponics #Aquaculture #Hydroculture #Agriculture #Horticulture #Botany #Hydroponics #Farming #Fish #Fishing #FishFarm #Sustainable

I found this on Facebook! A wonderfully worded response to a STUPID video!

Ok, here we go… I said I would post a response to this video, once I gathered my thoughts. It took me a little longer than I wanted it to, but I finally have a few minutes to myself, so here I go…
Before I start, I just want to day that I am not an expert, or professional, etc. I am someone that works in the dairy industry, loves animals, and has some dairy education and experience from a few different places.
I usually don’t speak up when it comes to things like this, but enough is enough. I just can’t let this one go.
Everything that I am about to type, is based on my own personal experiences - whether on a farm or in the classroom.
I am going to respond in order of things mentioned in the video, so it will be easier to follow along - for those that want to.
Warning: this is going to be long.
1) Yes, dairy farmers use artificial insemination. It is nearly painless to the animal, and gets rid of the dangers (to animal AND human) of having a bull around.
2) We do not do it “over and over”, if she is referring to the A.I. process. Straws of semen cost money. We want them to conceive on the first try. If she’s referring to getting them pregnant “over and over”, well most farms have a minimum of a 60 day “voluntary waiting period”, which is the length of time given to a cow, after she gives birth, until the time she is inseminated. A cow’s gestation period is 9 months.
Some heifers are 12 months old when they are bred - some aren’t. Generally, it doesn’t go by age, but rather, by body size. Each heifer is different. It is a judgement call for someone with experience.
If a heifer gets too big (old) and fat (which she will) it becomes less likely that she will “settle” (get pregnant), and if she does, she is likely to experience difficulties while calving. A fat dairy cow or heifer is NOT a good thing)
3) I love how she says that farmers “jack off a bunch of bulls”… Sheesh! Grow up, will ya?
High quality (tested) bulls are kept at very nice facilities (usually owned by companies that sell semen).
Sometimes, the bulls are taught to mount dummy (fake) animals (a large, padded structure) while a person holds a container to collect the semen, that is designed to feel like a cow’s vagina.
Yes, sometimes an electroejaculator probe is used instead. It isn’t at bad as it sounds. And no, it isn’t “basically a big cow dildo” - what is with this girl?!
It is inserted into the bill’s rectum and it gives off a series of small electrical pulses (not shocks) which stimulates the bull to ejaculate.
These bulls are worth a lot of money, and are treated very well. They’re fed a high quality diet - designed by nutritionists - and are kept in clean, well-ventilated facilities.
They literally eat, drink, poop, sleep, play and “donate” semen… Rough life, huh???
4)The industry does NOT call it a “rape rack”… If we do, it is to mock idiots, like the woman in the video. The animal is restrained in a headlock or a chute, to ensure the safety of the animal and the person doing the insemination.
By the way, the picture shown in the video, when she says “rape rack” is actually a “rotary parlor” - where cows get milked while slowly going around, like they’re on a carousel. Breeding does not take place there. Again, she is an idiot.
The “long tube” is actually called an Artificial Insemination gun. It is basically a long, skinny syringe. The semen straw is loaded in the end of it, then guided through the cervix and into the uterine body and/or uterine horns, where the semen is deposited.
5) Yes, while doing A.I., a person must insert their arm into the rectum. This is NOT to “loosen the area” (or whatever ridiculous thing she said)… It is simply to guide the tip of the A.I. gun in the right direction to pass through the cervix. There are many folds inside of a cow’s vaginal tract, and a series of cartilaginous rings in their cervix. It takes a lot of practice feeling around, and knowledge of the anatomy of a bovine reproductive tract to be successful at A.I. breeding.
6) “Got Beastiality?” … Really?! C'mon. Cows and heifers need to get pregnant in order to lactate and be valuable assets to the business. Doing A.I. is just another job on the farm. It is not “Beastiality”. Ugh.
7) Yes, calves are taken away shortly after birth. Usually, after the mother licks it off, because it stimulates the calf and dries it off. That is, IF the mother is willing. Some cows want absolutely nothing to do with the calf. Some cows do get upset when you take the calf away, but they are completely over it within minutes. In fact, some cows show more frustration over taking a calf away that didn’t even belong to them! It’s new, it smells funny, it moves and makes noise, and cows are naturally curious. I do want to point out, though, that I am ONLY talking about dairy cows - not beef. Beef cows have STRONG maternal instincts because they’ve been bred that way. Mothering abilities/maternal instincts are not focused on in the dairy industry, becuase it is simply not needed.
Calves are taken away for a number of reasons. Overall, it just isn’t practical to keep all of the calves with the cows. Unless they are outside, in a large area, the calves will get stepped on/laid on and killed by the cows… It is easier to care for/monitor calves, and treat sick calves, if they are seperated. That way, we know exactly how much milk (colostrum) each calf gets, and we are able to make sure it is high quality colostrum, because each cow’s first milk (“colostrum”) is tested.
Calves are born with no immune system, and they need a certain amount of high quality colostrum to receive an ideal amount of immunoglobulins through passive immunity (passed on to the calf, by its mother, through her colostrum, and absorbed in the calf’s gut) within a short period of time.
Remember, calves are the future of every dairy farm. We want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, high-producing cows. Why would we harm them in any way?
8) The way the calves are being handled in this video is NOT acceptable, and is not a fair representation of the dairy industry. Like anything else, there are always “bad guys”. Unfortunately, the bad ones are the ones that get the most publicity. Over time, the public starts to perceive the awful things they’ve seen as “normal”. It is not.
9) Ok, now we’re at the part where the cow is mooing. The woman in the video says she is searching for her baby. I suppose it is a possibility - However, I’d be willing to bet all of the money I have, on the fact that this cow is simply mooing. Cows do this. It is the noise they make. If you are 10 minutes late feeding them, and they hear a tractor start up, you’ll hear an entire cow choir start doing this.
If a cow is in heat (estrus), she will do this until she annoys the heck out of you.
If another cow is moved to a different pen, she will do this. If you move a cow’s friend (yes, they have friends) to another pen, they will both do this. There are MANY reasons for a cow to “moo”.
From my experience, the sound that a cow makes when she doesn’t want you to take her calf, is a completely different sound… Lower tone, more of a humming/grunting noise.
Again, totally different situation with beef cattle.
10) “If it’s a male, its throat is slit and sold for veal”. Wrong! Yes, some bull calves are raised and then sold for veal. If so, they are raised at veal raising facilities. The way they are raised is not the responsibility of the dairy farm. They way they are killed is not the responsibility of the person(s) raising the calves.
Many veal calves are killed humanely.
Many calves aren’t raised for veal, but instead, are sold at sale barns and end up at feedlots - where they are fed until they are fully grown, then slaughtered for beef.
11) Yes, dairy cattle only produce milk after calving. Yes, a good dairy cow will give birth to many calves in her lifetime. It is what they’ve been bred to do.
However, each cow is given a break, called a “dry period”. Approximately 2 months before she is due to have her calf, a cow is no long milked. She will be given a special diet that is adjusted by dairy nutritionists, to give the cow and unborn calf all of the nutrition they need to be healthy, without the cow getting too fat. She is no longer using energy to produce milk, so she can gain weight very quickly. “Dry cows” are often let outside to graze, and spend all day being lazy.
12) This woman claims that keeping a dairy cow lactating causes mastitis (inflammation/infection of the udder)… It does not “cause” mastitis. Infection from bacteria, viruses, injuries, etc. cause mastitis. However, usually only lactating cows (or cows that have lactated) get it, so…
I guess it’s kind of like saying you got into a car wreck becuase you were in a vehicle. Well, that may be true - you can’t be in a car wreck if you never get into one - but that also doesn’t mean that you WILL get into a wreck if you get into a vehicle, or that the act of BEING in a vehicle is the reason you got into a wreck.
13) “Sometimes filtered”… NO. It is a requirement to filter the milk at the farm. It is filtered before it even reaches the bulk tank. Did you know that farms that sell milk have to be inspected?
The quick picture that is shown of a disgusting filter is another unfair representation. “Somatic cells” are cells that the body (of every living animal) sheds - more so, when there is an infection present. All milk has somatic cells. It is natural. If cows didn’t have somatic cells, they’d have no way to fight off infection. Elevated levels of somatic cells usually indicate an infection, such as mastitis. It is not the same thing as pus in a pimple. She is simply trying to gross people out. If a cow has a high somatic cell count, or visable evidence of infection, or if she is treated with antibiotics to help get rid of an infection, her milk is not put into the bulk tank. It is either dumped or fed to calves. There are penalties for each bulk tank that has a somatic cell count over a certain amount, and premiums for each tank that is below a certain amount. Many people (including myself) drink raw (unpasteurized, unhomoginized) milk, straight from the bulk tank.
Do you think we would choose to drink pus??!
14)“Downer cows” - cows can go down for MANY reasons… Sickness, injury, slipping and falling, knocked down by another cow, etc. AGAIN, the video clips shown are not a fair representation of what goes on at most dairy farms.
The clip showing the cow’s back end being lifted by a skidsteer - Yes, sometimes we have to do that. A down cow is a dead cow. She needs to get to her feet. Sometimes, the only way to get her there is by using “hip lifts” - a tool that is tightened around the animal’s hip bones, so she can be lifted to her feet.
The clip does not show proper usage - she should be gently lifted until she can get her legs squarely underneath her body - NOT hung in the air.
All of the other hidden video clips that are shown just before and after that one are disgusting and shameful. Shame on those people for treating animals that way.
Whew… Ok, rant over. It felt good to get that out. If you made it this far, reading my rant, thank you.
Remember - things are not always as they seem, certain things are done for a reason, and if you want to know more, ask a farmer!
A good farmer will be happy to explain things to you, and show you around. Good farmers are proud of what they do.
A bad farmer will make excuses, because they have something to hide.


Microsoft’s “Ingredient Revolution” is Feeding its Employees Using High-Tech Vertical Farming 

Interviewees: Mark Freeman - Director of Microsoft Global Dining Services, Jessica Schilke - Microsoft’s Urban Farming Director

Interviewers: Andrew Blume, Henry Gordon-Smith

The idea for this interview arose when Agritecture.com contributors came across several articles on Microsoft’s involvement in urban agriculture (the articles are linked at the bottom of this post). We were so compelled by the story that we reached out to Microsoft to learn more.

Andrew: Microsoft is a very large organization; tell us about your roles there.

Mark: You’re exactly right, Microsoft is a big company with a lot of things going on in all facets of what we do.  I’m responsible for the dining program for Microsoft on a global scale, so my job is feeding all the employees of Microsoft.

Jessica: I am the urban farming director, so I oversee all of the hydroponics and microgreens programs here at the Microsoft Redmond Campus. My team takes care of all of our greens from seed to harvest. I also lead some classes here on the campus and work to introduce people to food related issues.

Henry: Welcome Mark and Jessica, we’re extremely excited about your work. How did your program evolve?

Mark: There’s an initiative at Microsoft called the Ingredient Revolution.  The Ingredient Revolution is about where the food comes from, what’s in it, and how it’s grown. We at the food service started to step into The Ingredient Revolution by forging partnerships with local farmers, like our program called The Misfit Produce Rescue. The Misfit Produce Rescue uses the 40% of their crops that get discarded because they don’t look good. Our food service chops the “ugly” food up and put it in soups or stir fries – this allows the food to become a useful product. As these programs developed, we wanted to continue to learn more about growing food.

Once we opened that door, we quickly realized we didn’t have a clue because we are “food guys.” We cook burgers and make sushi, so growing food isn’t in our bailiwick. But we started to think - this may take off - so we brought on Jessica.

Keep reading

The inaugural edition of Good Sense Farm’s “Ask a Farmer” column begins with a familiar question and ends with a twist. First the question, sent by someone who found out about us on the internets :

Good morning,

I…am on the quest to find black owned business to support for my life needs and wants. I have been very successful as now I have several DMV black farmers to support; however, I am having a hard time finding animal farmers for chicken/eggs, pork, etc. Can you direct me to local farmers or a black owned butcher shop that sources from Black Owned farms?

Thank you for any guidance you can provide. I look forward to supporting you and the rest of the agricultural farmers in the area.  


I read this question through once and thought to myself, “how do I break it to them?” Here’s my first answer, unedited, untouched by the gift of hindsight. 

Hey J,

Thanks for your inquiry. This is a great question. 

While I truly wish it was a matter of just pointing you in the direction of a directory or list of black farmers to meet your needs, unfortunately it’s not that easy anywhere in the country. Access to the type of land that it takes to run an animal operation is a major obstacle on the farming front and urban development which supports small businesses like that black butcher that we both so earnestly want, just aren’t there and require real work to bring those resources back to our community. DC, like the rest of the country, has a really rich history of innovative black food producers but also a really deep legacy of structural inequity and intentional discrimination that make maintaining a business very difficult for black farmers and food producers. 

As a result, producers are largely small and unconnected to larger markets. When they do reach larger markets you can’t distinguish their products from white producers. There has only recently been a resurgence in interest in the distinction in a way that might make it profitable for the producer. That’s why I am so happy that you asked this question! It’s proof that people want to know their black farmer a little better and are perhaps willing to invest directly in the growth of black farms to turn the current trends around.

Though I’m not sure how you came upon my information, I hope that in your search you heard about our work building a network of supportive infrastructure for farmers of color and connecting them to markets. Good Sense Farm cofounded Community Farming Alliance for DMV farmers of color in 2013 which is steadily building a network of farmers of color and resources to help them thrive.

Currently, we run a Community Supported Agriculture Program which offers, veggies, mushrooms, honey, medicinal herbs and, yes, eggs to our members.
We are always looking for more farmers to add to the network, particularly those with products that we know our customers want. We are also actively trying to mentor young farmers of color to get into the business and provide them with the resources to be successful. My hope is that folks like you will consider joining us and will spread the word that supporting cooperatives like ours is the best way to support the return of black artisinal producers outside of pushing for radical structural changes toward justice and equity in the food system. 

I hope this information is helpful to you in your search and that, perhaps, we will meet soon. Your enthusiasm and earnest investment in our growth as food producers is appreciated and needed. 


Zachari J. Curtis

I hit send, and didn’t think much more of it. J responded unsurprised. We shared hopes for a someday fix. We made pledges to meet real soon and that was that, or so I thought. 

Nothing in my response was untrue but something kept bothering me about it. No, it wasn’t the self-promotional tone, though, you know. 

 In a recent email, my comrade in farming Gail Taylor, cofounder with me of Community Farming Alliance, lifted up an experience that made me reflect again on my response and the side of the story that doesn’t get told. Gail’s reflection on meeting Jahi Ellis, at a meeting of SAAFON: the Southeastern African American Farmer’s Organic Network.: 

Like many of you, I had read the article about Ellis in [Civil Eats] that talks about how he’s in survival mode and struggling to make ends meet. What I think the article missed, which was clear when I met him last week, is how inspiring, capable, and determined Ellis is.

And there it is folks. Before you call it over for black farmers, we must all consider a few things. We have survived and come to thrive under tremendous pressures. We honor those who have not survived by keeping their names and their lessons in our minds and mouths. Our networks of resilience are not readily searchable and were not meant to be. We, like other folks, have resisted surveillance and traceability to create safe havens for our art, industry and livelihoods. 

Keep reading

David Suzuki: After Paris, why are we still talking pipelines?
Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 percent of known fossil-fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil-fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.

In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over Kinder Morgan, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 percent of known fossil-fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors, and representatives from nonprofit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 degrees C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than preindustrial levels, a half-degree more leaves no room for business as usual.

The former government’s drive to make Canada a petro superpower distorted the Canadian economy into greater fossil-fuel dependence, with catastrophic consequences when the price of oil collapsed. The lesson should have been learned long ago: Heavy dependence on a single revenue stream like fish, trees, wheat, minerals, or even one factory or industry is hazardous if that source suffers a reversal in fortune like resource depletion, unanticipated cost fluctuations, or stiff competition.

Coal stocks have already sunk to the floor, so why is there talk of building or expanding coal terminals? Low oil prices have pushed oilsands bitumen toward unprofitability, so why the discussion of expanding this carbon-intensive industry? Fracking is unbelievably unsustainable because of the immense amounts of water used in the process, seismic destabilization, and escape of hyperwarming methane from wells. Exploration for new oil deposits—especially in hazardous areas like the deep ocean, the Arctic, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other critical wildlife habitat—should stop immediately.

Pipeline arguments are especially discouraging, with people claiming Quebec is working against the interests of Alberta and Canada because the leadership of the Montreal Metropolitan Community—representing 82 municipalities and nearly half the province’s population—voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposed Energy East pipeline project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels of oilsands bitumen and other oil products from Alberta to refineries and ports in the east. Some have thrown out the antidemocratic and, frankly, anti-Canadian notion that because Quebec has received equalization payments it should shut up about pipeline projects.

National unity is about steering Canada onto a sustainable track and looking out for the interests of all Canadians. Continuing to build fossil-fuel infrastructure and locking ourselves into a future of increasing global warming isn’t the way to go about it. Shifting to a 21st-century clean-energy economy would create more jobs, unity, and prosperity—across Canada and not just in one region—than continuing to rely on a polluting, climate-altering sunset industry. Leaders in Quebec should be commended for taking a strong stand for the environment and climate—and for all of Canada.

The Paris target means we have to rethink everything. Energy is at the heart of modern society, but we have to get off fossil fuels. Should we expand airports when aircraft are the most energy-intensive ways to travel? Why build massive bridges and tunnels when we must transport goods and people differently? The global system in which food travels thousands of kilometres from where it’s grown to where it’s consumed makes no sense in a carbon-constrained world. Agriculture must become more local, so the Peace Valley must serve as the breadbasket of the North rather than a flooded area behind a dam.

The urgency of the need for change demands that we rethink our entire energy potential and the way we live. It makes no sense to continue acting as if we’ve got all the time in the world to get off the path that created the crisis in the first place. That’s the challenge, and for our politicians, it’s a huge task as well as a great opportunity.


The Farm to Ballet Project is celebrating local sustainable agriculture while introducing new audiences to the beauty of classical ballet. Director Chatch Pregger’s choreography reinterprets classical ballet to tell the story of a Vermont farm during the harvest, beginning with the geese returning in spring as a farmer plans out the crops, and ending with a celebratory farm-share before the geese return south for the winter.

The performances are held against the backdrop of Vermont farms and the surrounding landscape, and many of the performances double as fundraisers to support the work of local farmers and the sustainable food movement. During its inaugural season in 2015, the project’s eighteen volunteer dancers performed for more than 1,800 enthusiastic audience members and helped raise $12,000 to support local nonprofits. Help bring the 2016 season to life here.