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"One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I would never see it again?""
- Rachel Carson
MOF&G Cover Winter 2005-2006
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 Reviews & Resources – Winter 2005-2006 Minimize


Arborsculpture – Solutions for a Small Planet
The Future of Food
I Grew Up On A Farm
2005 Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management
Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management
Organic Agricultural Products: Trade and Marketing
Agricultural Stewards Share Secrets of Success
Free Video on Poultry Diseases
Web Resources


Arborsculpture – Solutions for a Small Planet

Self-published by Richard Reames
$20 plus $2 shipping from Arborsmith Studios, 1607 Cave Camp Rd., Williams, OR 97544; www.arborsmith.com; Richard@arborsmith.com.

Reading Arborsculpture – Solutions for a Small Planet made my day, and maybe my year or years. In his self-published book, Richard Reames introduces the concept and practice of growing trees into shapes such as chairs, benches, tables, houses, cathedrals, peace signs and more. I’m inspired to grow a tree house!

The book begins with basic information and anecdotes about trees and people who have championed them. I was amazed to read about a ginkgo tree that survived the bombing of Hiroshima. A temple rebuilt on the site harbors and protects this tree, where people pray for peace near a sign reading, “No more Hiroshimas.” Reames says that four atomic-bombed ginkgo trees are alive today.

Another chapter describes methods of tree pruning, such as coppicing (cutting trees to the ground, then letting sprouts arise from the base), pollarding (cutting trees at some height to create an annual supply of sticks), and pleaching (weaving branches together in a two-dimensional shape). New to me were the “dancing trees” in German villages. “A remembrance of pagan times, the branches of the tree were shaped to provide a platform where the dancing could take place,” Reames writes.

Reames probes the lives of people who pioneered arborsculpture (Reames himself coined the term); many, not surprisingly, had strongly spiritual feelings toward trees. Perhaps this motivated them to try to live more intimately with woody species, shaping trees to their lives, and shaping their lives to their trees.

Jacob Lorber, for instance, wrote extensively in the 19th century about religion, physics … and trees planted in circles. I could almost detect the aroma while reading his words about a circle of myrtle, laurel and balsam palm trees whose cavities were filled with lavender and scented moss; and whose branches supported a roof of golden straw.

Axel Erlandson (1884-1964) established a “Tree Circus” in California, featuring 55 shaped and grafted trees. I was amused by Reames’ account of Erlandson’s sketch of a “poplar window” that he wanted to grow. On the sketch, Erlandson wrote: “I believe I can get a tree to grow like this illustration.” His wife wrote: “I do not believe that Axel can get a tree to grow like this illustration.” You know how it is with a spouse’s challenge: Erlandson did grow the tree. Interestingly, when children asked how he created his tree sculptures, Erlandson responded, “Oh, I talk to them.” Of course. The sycamores must have listened closely, because they’ve been his longest-lasting and most evenly-growing creations.

Likewise, in the early 20th century, Arthur Weichula published books in Germany about the possibilities for growing houses from trees. A few of his drawings are reproduced in Reames’ book, and they’re delightful.

What about the time it would take to grow a house? Reames quotes one enthusiast: “… if you would have started ten years ago with the work, then today the house could stand there already finished.” Better get planting!

Another practitioner, David Nash of Wales, planted 22 ash trees there in a circle in 1977 as an “act of faith … during the time of the Cold War and global political, economic, and ecological threats to the planet.” Better get planting!

I love Reames’ recounting of Nirandr Boonnetr’s chair made from a living guava tree, which feeds Boonnetr and the insects, butterflies and birds; provides a cool place to sit and listen to the birds in its canopy; has leaves that produce a mouthwash and cure for diarrhea – and that capture CO2, control moisture in the air and give off oxygen.

Then there’s Laird Funk who grew a boat; Peter Cook, who grows whimsical tree men; the Iranian-Iraqi Madan people, who grow tree huts; and Reames himself, who creates living furniture, gazebos, classrooms, tool handles (stick a handle-less tool into a sapling and wait) and more, for himself and for clients around his Williams, Oregon, home. He also grew a peace sign in a cherry tree and has a standing offer to transplant it, free of cost, onto the grounds of the White House or the Pentagon, but those folks must be too busy in the land of the Madans to pay attention; they’ve yet to accept the offer.

I highly recommend this book for your own enjoyment and as a gift. (Reames’ Web site is full of arborsculpture photos and info, too.) Buy it for the gardeners on your holiday list, and they’ll be revved up to grow an ash chair, where, Reames says, “you can really sit on your ash!”

– Jean English

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Rob Fish and Deborah Koons Garcia
Rob Fish of GE Free Maine and Deborah Koons Garcia showed The Future of Food to an appreciative audience at the Bayview Cinema in Camden last summer. English photo.

The Future of Food
by Deborah Koons Garcia
DVD or VHS
Lily Films, 2004
For prices and order information, see www.thefutureoffood.com.

Deborah Koons Garcia has a keen mind for scientific inquiry. As a teen, she won the high school science fair in Cincinnati after treating plant tissues to double their chromosome number. Also an award-winning filmmaker, Koons Garcia studied the medium at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, then at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. The Future of Food shows her deep understanding of the biology of genetic manipulation and of the politics behind the unsavory takeover of our food system. The 80-minute film is professionally and beautifully crafted.

The Future of Food begins with a brief history of agriculture, from the thousands of varieties of each crop that were developed over thousands of years, to the “Green Revolution” after WW II that used war technology to develop chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and used the industrial mindset to “simplify” agriculture so that we now have far fewer crop varieties and more susceptibility to pests. The film notes that 97% of the vegetable varieties grown at the beginning of the 20th century are now extinct.

Next comes the “Gene Revolution” that has contaminated some of those remaining varieties – notoriously corn, canola, cotton and soy – with genes from viruses, bacteria and other unrelated organisms. As the film notes, food has now been industrialized at the cellular level.

Part of this industrialization includes patenting seeds and other life forms (including a gene that causes breast cancer). For 200 years, the U.S. patent office and the U.S. government did not allow life to be patented. The film traces the reversal of that philosophy and shows how companies are rapidly patenting crop varieties – even varieties the companies have not changed. This issue of patenting life was never voted on by the people or by Congress, notes the film – yet Monsanto is now estimated to own 11,000 patents.

Koons Garcia traces the story of Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, who became a victim of this patenting after Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) canola invaded his farmland. (See the Dec. 2004-Feb. 2005 issue of The MOF&G.) Monsanto sued Percy and his wife for patent infringement. The case went to the Canadian Supreme Court, which ruled that patent infringement had occurred according to Canadian Parliamentary law – i.e., that Monsanto’s patented product had grown on Schmeiser’s land. The court said that no matter how the crop invades a field – even if a bird drops the seed – present law considers that patent infringement. However, the court did not require that the Schmeisers’ pay Monsanto “one red cent,” as Percy says, adding that the patenting law needs to be revised – especially since most of western Canada’s canola probably is contaminated with Monsanto’s GE canola.

Koons Garcia’s filming of the Schmeisers’ farm is gorgeous, and her interview with a Louise, Percy’s wife, is moving. Viewers wonder how a corporation could wield such power over the people who nourish us. Says Louise, “… here Monsanto comes along when we worked for all these years; they just want to take it away just like that from us. I could never do that – to go into their office and take anything.” She questions the motivation of a huge multinational picking on small farmers. “Is it greed, or do they just want to control all the seeds?”

Mercenaries for Monsanto claim that the Schmeisers’ fields were 98% contaminated with Monsanto’s unnatural crop. That is the figure from Monsanto’s own testing. Independent, university testing put the figure much lower, and the engineered plants were not located in any reasonable planting pattern.

Another farmer, Rodney Nelson of North Dakota, reveals how Monsanto intimidated his family – after which his father had a heart attack – as it has intimidated other farm families. He was stunned in July 2000 to receive a letter from Monsanto lawyers accusing his family of patent infringement. The film says Monsanto has sent an estimated 9000 such letters to farmers. “Every accused grower in the U.S. I talked to had nearly identical stories,” says Nelson. “They [Monsanto] come and test your crop. The farmers have nothing to hide. Well, they’ll find that we didn’t plant the crop. They’ll come back more than a year later, when the farmer can’t take crop samples [to] disprove them.” Most farmers pay to avoid lawsuits, and part of the settlement prevents them from discussing the settlement. No one’s ever said that genetic engineering is democratic …

In addition to violating farmers’ rights, GE crops violate nature’s rules. Koons Garcia points out that medical biotechnology’s lifesaving products are made under controlled conditions in secure labs. Biotech plants, however (even experimental ones containing pharmaceuticals, spermicides, industrial chemicals and pig vaccines), grow in the open and can spread their genes throughout the crops of the world.

Koons Garcia does a tremendous job of showing how genes from viruses, bacteria and other organisms are inserted into cells of the foods we’ll eat, and of covering potential implications of eating that genetic material that has never before been part of our diet. Unfortunately, since the food biotech industry has influenced legislators not to allow labeling of GE foods and not to require safety testing on them, tracing harmful reactions back to those foods is impossible. One wonders what the industry fears.

An interview with Dr. Arpad Pusztai after the main film gives some indication. Once a biotech enthusiast, Pusztai found that GE potatoes not only killed the aphid pests that they were designed to kill, but also the ladybugs that ate the aphids; and the potatoes harmed the digestive systems of rats. The highly-credentialed Pusztai was fired from the research institute where he worked. The institute was heavily funded by the biotech industry.

Likewise, the GE FlavrSavr tomato (now off the market because consumers didn’t like the taste) caused lesions in rats’ stomachs. Yum.

Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at the University of California Berkeley, says in the film that inserted genes “interact in ways that are totally unpredictable. This is probably the largest biological experiment humanity has ever entered into.”

The Future of Food covers all the problems of GE foods, from U.S. farmers’ loss of the $300 million-per-year corn export market to Europe, to the immoral lie that GE will feed the starving people of the world, to corporations’ attempts to patent life all over the world.

The Future of Food ends with the good stuff: scenes of farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture farms selling local, organic foods. I left the movie with renewed commitment to eat organic, preferably local, foods, which are labeled and can be traced back to their origin.

— Jean English

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I Grew Up On A Farm
by Alan K. Lewis
Illustrated by Bob Fletcher
2005; Moo Press, PO Box 54, Warwick NY 10990; 845-987-7750; www.MooPress.com; 32-page hardback; $19.95

This gentle, humorous, beautifully crafted book is perfect for parents to read to young children and for early readers to enjoy themselves. The text describes the everyday life of Alan Lewis as he grew up on his parents’ New York farm. With 28 vintage, black and white photos and 12 full-color pastel pictures, the illustrations are unique as they incorporate and expand on the photos.

The cover illustration, for example, shows the day Lewis’ father “popped a wheelie” after a tire caught in a hole. The tractor in the photo has been colored red, and illustrator Fletcher has put that photo in the middle of his illustration, then drawn in Alan Lewis and his brother as boys, standing alongside their father and staring at the tractor, with its front wheels in the air. The illustration shows pasture, barn, forest and a distant mountain – a beautiful scene framing the photo. The memory is humorous in retrospect, because, as Lewis relates, “Luckily, no one was hurt.”

Other pages of the book describe, in words and photos/illustrations, such childhood events as having a pet squirrel sit atop Lewis’ head; collecting eggs in wire baskets; fishing in the farm’s stream; horseback riding through a colorful fall; sledding, skating, and other winter activities.

Now an assistant principal at an elementary school near his home, Lewis still gardens and fishes. His book conveys perfectly the lasting love for the land that he learned as a child.

— Jean English

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2005 Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management
$11.50 & $5 shipping for first copy from www.cce.cornell.edu/store; resctr@cornell.edu; 607-255-2080; or check or money order payable to Cornell University at Resource Ctr., PO Box 3884, Ithaca NY 14852-3884.


Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management
I was part of the team that put together this new book that discusses the latest information on organic pest and disease management of vegetable crops. It is divided into two main sections, one covering the pests of crop families and the cultural practices and recommended materials to manage them; and the other detailing the materials themselves. The material section includes summaries of efficacy studies. See a detailed description of this book at www.nysaes.cornell.edu/pp/resourceguide/index.php. You can get the book directly from the printing office at Cornell, or from MOFGA. Either stop at the MOFGA office and pick one up for $5, or send a check for $9, and we will mail you a copy.

– Eric Sideman, MOFGA Technical Services


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Organic Agricultural Products: Trade and Marketing
By Mary V. Gold, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center.
This is a CD with resources, links to marketing information, recent studies on market shifts and consumer preferences; laws and regulations pertaining to organic sales; and more. Free from afsic@nal.usda.gov or 301-504-6559.


Agricultural Stewards Share Secrets of Success
A Kansas beef producer who formed a cooperative with area farmers sells meat for up to $100 more per head than conventional market prices. A Delaware dairyman opened an on-site creamery and had to build two parking lots to accommodate new customers. A Virginia farmer switched from tobacco to organic vegetables and now sells tomatoes and garlic for $16 to $18 a pound, some processed into salsa sold at University of Tennessee football games. These and 57 more examples comprise The New American Farmer, 2nd edition, by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). With photos of each producer and contact information, the 200-page book provides farmers and ranchers with a host of valuable ideas.

Preview or order the publication online ($16.95 + $5.95 s/h) at www.sare.org/publications/naf.htm, or call SAN (301) 374-9696 or send check or money order to Sustainable Agriculture Publications, PO Box 753, Waldorf, MD 20604-0753. Please provide the title requested, your name, shipping address and telephone number. Add $2 s/h for each additional book. Discounts are available for orders of 10 or more titles.


Free Video on Poultry Diseases
The USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a free, 15-minute video to help small-flock poultry owners and bird fanciers prevent exotic Newcastle disease (END) and avian influenza. The video is part of USDA’s “Biosecurity for the Birds” campaign, which was created after an outbreak of END in California and other Western states in 2002 and 2003. It was designed to inform noncommercial poultry owners and bird fanciers about the signs of serious poultry diseases; prompt them to report sick birds; and provide them with information on keeping their birds safe and healthy.

The video also is available in DVD format. Information at: www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity/

Source: Agriculture Today, April 17, 2005; Maine Dept. of Agriculture; www.maine.gov/agriculture/newsletter/.

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WEB RESOURCES

Vegetable MD Online
Cornell University has posted fact sheets, photos, news articles and more about diseases of major vegetable crops at http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/. The site also lists disease-resistant varieties. Some of the information is available in Spanish.

Organic Ag Info Online
OrganicAgInfo.org is a free database of research reports, farmer-to-farmer information, outreach publications and more. It can be searched by key words, region, crop or livestock type. Growers can even upload information that they think would be useful after creating a user name and password. The information is reviewed before being posted. OrganicAgInfo.org is hosted by North Carolina State University and was funded by a grant to the Scientific Congress on Organic Agricultural Research and the Organic Agriculture Consortium from the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems through the USDA.

Directory for Organic Cotton and Organic Cotton Products

At organiccottondirectory.net/. One-quarter of all insecticides and one-tenth of all pesticides are applied to conventionally grown cotton. This directory promotes sustainable alternatives and links the worldwide cotton chain, from growers to gins, mills, manufacturers and retailers. First compiled by the Pesticide Action Network North America and now expanded and maintained by PAN Germany, the directory provides information on organic certification, cotton production and retail outlets in a wide range of countries. Contact Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk e.V. (PAN Germany), Nernstweg 32, D - 22765 Hamburg, (49 40) 399 19 10-0, fax (49 40) 390 75 20; info@pan-germany.org; www.pan-germany.org/.


Web Site Helps Grow Farm Businesses
The National Farmers Union has launched E-cooperatives.com, which allows consumers to locate and purchase products from family-farm producers, their cooperatives and other rural businesses. The site maintains a growing, searchable database listing farmer controlled businesses categorized by general products, location, growing practices, specialty products and niche items. Individuals and co-ops can have their farm or business included in the database by completing an online form describing their farm or businesses. Basic charter listings are free. For more information, see http://www.e-cooperatives.com/. Source: ATTRA News, April 6, 2005

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