I seem to have accumulated some interesting links relating to agriculture, food systems, and general relationship to the land, and I haven't done a link roundup in ages... so today I'll be sharing with you:
- Landrace gardening
- A bank that supports local agriculture
- A blog about apples, agroforestry, pigs, and other topics
- The benefits of urine as fertilizer
- A caution on pawpaws
Raising My Own Varieties of Landrace Seed. Joseph Lofthouse is known for pioneering and popularizing landrace gardening, a philosophy of plant breeding that takes inspiration from preindustrial agriculture, dropping the focus on consistency that seed companies necessarily strive for in favor of resilience and meeting local constraints. It's informed by modern genetics, but easier and more relaxing than modern plant breeding methods, and produces mixes and grexes that have greater tolerance for disease and climate disruption than highly-selected varieties.
I'm a latecomer to landrace gardening; my father started a seed company and so I always thought in terms of variety purity and consistency, preventing accidental crosses by maintaining proper isolation distances, "rogueing out" the plants that deviated from a certain description or mental image, and maintaining careful records of what was grown when and where. So this approach kind of blew my mind, but it absolutely makes sense, and it's how I want to approach things going forward.
(To be clear: Maintaining variety purity is still really important in many cases, and it's important that seed banks continue to do the hard work of preserving distinct varieties with their unique adaptations and characteristics! Landrace gardening is not a replacement, but a complementary approach; the approaches support and inform each other.)
Walden Mutual Bank is a mutual savings bank (still in development) that will make loans to food and agriculture operations in the northeastern United States. They had their start in Walden Local Meats, a local meat share with a focus on healthy and ethical sources; likewise, the bank will largely have a focus on making loans that help food-related businesses become more sustainable. I'm excited about this because it feels a lot less sketchy than having my bank invest my money in god-knows-what stocks while they hold it. If my money is going to be out there doing stuff, I want it to be doing something good and useful.
Elizapples is a blog written by Eliza Greenman, a farmer developing a diversified and integrated agroforestry operation with pigs and fruit and nut trees. Extremely cool ideas, lots of talk of endangered varieties, pruning, orchards, closed-loop systems, permaculture. I'll share a few posts in particular that I liked:
- Heart Rot: The bridge between ecology and horticulture
- The Launch of HogTree -- covers her many-layered business plan
- HogTree: Update, Thoughts, Lessons -- includes an interesting Emergency Rain Paddock idea
- watercore: a natural additive for hard cider in the south -- reinterpreting an apple flaw as a benefit
Rich Earth Institute in Vermont has been doing research, outreach, and advocacy on the use of (human) urine as fertilizer. It looks very promising! Urine apparently carries away more than half of the NPK we consume, and is far easier and safer to collect, transport, and apply than manure. They're setting up a network of "peecyclers" who will collect urine, which is then distributed to local farms.
Annonacin and Squamocin Contents of Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) and Marolo (Annona crassiflora) Fruits and Atemoya (A. squamosa × A. cherimola) Seeds. Pawpaws are a tasty (though not particularly popular) North American fruit. But it turns out that along with other members of the Annonaceae, they contain considerable quantities of acetogenins, and there is concern that these compounds can cause a Parkinson's-like syndrome if consumed in excess. Pawpaws turn out to have acetogenin levels several orders of magnitude higher than other Annonaceae, and levels vary by an order of magnitude between samples, even in the same cultivar (but more so between cultivars). I don't think this means anyone should stop eating them, but until there's more information it's probably best to just have at most a few a year.