Friday, August 28, 2009

Defining Sustainability

According to the official definition from RCW 15.92.010, in Washington State "‘Sustainable agriculture’ means a systems approach to farming, ranching, and natural resource production that builds on and supports the physical, biological, and ecological resource base upon which agriculture depends. The goals of sustainable agriculture are to provide human food and fiber needs in an economically viable manner for the agriculture industry and in a manner which protects the environment and contributes to the overall safety and quality of life.”
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report called ‘New Tools for Sustainable Farming’ the popularity of the term sustainable and cites a report from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen that endeavors to give the term a more definitive meaning. This group of scientists started out with an ambitious research question: How can the sustainability status of farms with available operating data be determined and systematically improved?
Years of painstaking research allowed them to develop indicators and models to evaluate and optimize the sustainability of agricultural practices. The German Agricultural Society, working in conjunction with the Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim to add the economic and social factors necessary to balance the assessment, now has a certification system that is being used by agriculture and the food industry as well. It is called “Sustainable Farming – Fit for the Future” and it meets European DIN standards as well.
Maybe now ‘sustainability’ will be easier to measure and prove instead of merely a fashionable label.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grants season - Grants for School and Youth Gardens

On their web page, The National Gardening Association explains that it "works with sponsoring companies and organizations to provide in-kind grants to projects that actively engage kids in the garden and improve the quality of life for their communities.
To be eligible for these awards your school or organization must plan to garden with at least 15 kids between the ages of 3 and 18."
On the right sidebar there is a list of the upcoming deadlines with links that will help you apply for any and all of these awards for your group. The first deadline is September 18th for the Hooked on Hydroponics award that helps teach children and teens how to grow plants hydroponically (without soil).
There are six other grants listed in order of their deadlines and you can apply for as many as you wish. Winning one does not disqualify your group winning another. In fact, multiple applications are encouraged.
Good luck!

Monday, August 17, 2009

United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency Report on Organic Food

Capitol Press published an article last week titled Study slams organics that seemed to purport that the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) had done a study that found that organic products were not nutritionally superior to conventionally produced food products.

Actually the FSA report is only a literature review that examines 162 articles that were published in peer-reviewed journals from Jan. 1, 1958 to Feb. 29, 2008. It is merely a review of the available and credible published data. It does not examine environmental impact or pesticide use. It does nothing more that compile the data that has been gathered to date. More than any kind of judgement of organic and non-organic growing, it is a review of only what has been studied about nutrition in this field to date.

Evidently, some have misconstrued this and interpreted the study as a condemnation of organic farming. The Capitol Press article interviews producers from Washington, Oregon and California who principally argue against reaching these other conclusions. The study never advocates one product over another and repeatedly states the limits of the study and why it was undertaken. It could be the springboard for more investigation because it evaluates and condenses the information that has been available in a more scattered fashion. One of the reasons it was undertaken was because of the rising global demand for organic food.