A Japanese farm introduced a new crop this winter: an organic banana with a peel that’s thin enough to eat. In a nod to this appealing outer covering, Setsuzo Tanaka, the banana’s inventor, has named his creation the Mongee (“mon-gay”) banana — which means “incredible banana” in Japanese.
“Setsuzo’s original purpose was to make a delicious banana with no pesticides,” Tetsuya Tanaka, a spokesperson for D&T Farms, the company behind the banana, writes in an email. Setsuzo Tanaka spent four decades tinkering with tropical fruit before the Mongee was born.
Allie Hill got really serious about eating local food about eight years ago. She was cooking for three young children. “I was able to go to the farmers’ market and find my produce — fruits and veggies,” she says. “I was able to find meat, and even some dairy.”
She simply couldn’t find local version of other foods, though. These are foods that fill her pantry, like marinara sauce, apple sauce and everything else that comes to us preserved in sealed jars and cans.
The technology of canning, which brings those foods to us, was invented 200 years ago, and it was life-changing. With heat to kill disease-causing bacteria and a vacuum-sealed lid to prevent contamination, you could keep food edible for years.
These days, cans are everywhere, but the act of canning has vanished inside the walls of huge factories. People don’t do it as much at home anymore, and Allie Hill couldn’t find many local farmers doing it in central Virginia.
Then she discovered Prince Edward County’s public cannery, a place where anybody can walk in with bags of produce from their garden and walk out with preserved food.
Arkansas is on the verge of banning the use, during the growing season, of a Monsanto weedkiller that has been blamed for damaging millions of acres of crops in neighboring farms this year.
The weedkiller is called dicamba. It can be sprayed on soybeans and cotton that have been genetically modified to tolerate it. But not all farmers plant those new seeds. And across the Midwest, farmers that don’t use the herbicide are blaming their dicamba-spraying neighbors for widespread damage to their crops — and increasingly, to wild vegetation.
The issue has driven a wedge through farming communities in the Midwest, straining friendships and turning neighbors into adversaries.
Monsanto turned to dicamba because many weeds have evolved resistance to the company’s earlier weed-killing weapon of choice, glyphosate, also known as Roundup. Increasingly, Roundup no longer gets rid of farmers’ most troublesome weeds.
Dicamba is an old herbicide, but it’s now being used much more widely, in combination with a new generation of genetically modified, dicamba-tolerant crops. It’s also being widely used, for the first time, in the heat of summer, which makes the herbicide more prone to “volatilizing” — turning into a vapor and drifting in unpredictable directions
David Wildy, a prominent Arkansas farmer, in a field of soybeans that were damaged by dicamba. He says that “farmers need this technology. But right is right and wrong is wrong. And when you let a technology, a pesticide or whatever, get on your neighbor, it’s not right. We can’t do that.” Dan Charles/NPR
The push for renewable energy in the U.S. often focuses on well-established sources of electricity: solar, wind and hydropower. Off the coast of California, a team of researchers is working on what they hope will become an energy source of the future — macroalgae, otherwise known as kelp.
The Pacific Coast is known for its vast kelp forests. It’s one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, and farming it requires no fertilizer, fresh water, pesticides, or arable land. “It can grow 2 to 3 feet per day,” says Diane Kim, one of the scientists running the kelp research project at the University of Southern California.
Kelp is transformed into biofuel by a process called thermochemical liquefaction. The kelp is dried out, and the salt is washed away. Then it’s turned into bio-oil through a high-temperature, high-pressure conversion process.
Some small companies are growing kelp as a substitute for kale in the U.S., but that’s exactly the problem – very, very few are doing it. Thus, the infrastructure and investment isn’t in place to make other products from kelp, like biofuel.
I am part of an emerging Indigenous-led ecovillage on our ancestral
homelands in Alabama. We are receiving a $2,000,000 loan to “purchase”
our reclaimed land, and so far, we have received commitment of $950,000
in grants toward repayment of the loan. We are trying to secure the
remaining $1,000,000 to repay the loan in full and live free of debt.
The ecovillage is centered on Mvskoke language and culture preservation,
and will include: agroecological farms, aquaponics, women’s medicinal
practices, constructions of green homes, and much more. This will be a
Mvskoke living culture and working village.