Equal Exchange Launches New Climate Justice Initiative

This post comes from Equal Exchange’s website.

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As Vandana Shiva explains in her new book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, the solution to climate change lies not only in our ability to exercise our collective will to immediately reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that we emit INTO the air, but in our willingness to support, and thereby benefit from, the regenerative capacity of small-scale, organic agriculture to actually pull existing CO2 out of the air – back into the soil.

Equal Exchange now joins an emerging movement of farmers, scientists, researchers, and activists who advocate this new perspective to combat climate change.

To this end, we have joined the growing global Divest-Invest movement of universities, religious organizations, foundations, businesses, NGOs and individuals taking the Divest-Invest pledge to reduce their financial ties to the top 200 fossil fuel companies within the next five years and instead invest their money in climate solutions like the solidarity economy, where our money meets our values.  It is imperative that we demonstrate our numbers before the COP21 UN Climate Talks happening in Paris this December.

Secondly, we are committed to raising $100,000 in the next 12 months to support climate change solutions that also build resilience, on the ground at our partner cooperatives. Small farmers are already working to reverse the impacts of climate change, despite suffering most from the damage that has already incurred.

We in the North owe it to them, to ourselves, and to the planet to stand up and take action!

Please join us to create a more just and sustainable food system, economic model, and planet.

Why?
Global warming, while a threat to all mankind, is already undermining the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable populations in the Global South. Our farmer partners are feeling the impact of erratic weather patterns, record-breaking temperatures, and new challenges to agriculture caused by changes in the climate.

  • At CECOVASA, in Peru, and the Chajul Co-operative in Guatemala, coffee farmers have seen catastrophic losses- up to 75% on some farms – due to “La Roya” (coffee rust); a fungus previously unknown in the highland coffee regions, which has recently migrated to higher elevations due to warmer temperatures and high humidity.
  • At APRAINORES cashew co-operative in El Salvador, 3 days of relentless hurricane-like winds caused farmers to lose 70% of their harvest; subsequent unusually high tides destroyed 100 acres of cashew trees on the Island of Montecristo; the resulting salinity of the soil makes future replanting impossible.
  • At the Potong Tea Garden, a worker-owned, collectively managed tea garden in Darjeeling, extremely low rainfall during the last monsoon season crippled soil rehabilitation and planting projects, and led to losses of nearly five tons on first and second-flush tea.

We, in the developed countries of the North, are among the greatest culprits responsible for climate change. Our societies contribute the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions, enjoy the benefits of mass consumption and the behemoth fossil fuel industries that drive CO2 emissions from factories, cars, and industrial agriculture. The disparity between those who most benefit from the industries deepening the climate emergency and those who most suffer from the impacts of climate change, and ultimately pay the highest costs, is one of the greatest social injustices on the planet today.

On the bright side, there is increasing evidence that real solutions exist that can not only mitigate climate change by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing (sequestering) it in the soil, but simultaneously help vulnerable farming communities adapt to a changing climate and strengthen their resilience. The solutions lie in the basics of photosynthesis (a product of which is returning CO2 to the soil, when it isn’t accompanied by petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticides), and in organic agriculture and traditional methods of land management. The very act of growing food organically can reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, build healthier soil, and provide sustainable livelihoods for millions.

Small-scale farmers, our partners among them, are already implementing these techniques and proving their viability; but they fight an uphill battle, for their own survival and for the world’s. We in the North must now step up and find ways to take meaningful action.

The first step in creating lasting solutions to climate change is to stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere; that responsibility lies squarely on northern consumers who account for the vast majority of global emissions. That means ending our reliance on fossil fuels, non-renewable energy, and industrial agriculture.

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Divest-Invest Individual is counting pledges from people across the globe, building commitments along the road to Paris and inviting you to take action today.  Join Divest-Invest and help Equal Exchange participate in a powerful and determined global grassroots movement demanding an end to the fossil fuel companies’ hold over our economy, our politicians, and our planet. Rather than sign a petition to ask someone else to do something, this pledge invites you to recognize your own personal power to fuel change. Together, thousands of our personal pledges inform and influence the broader power holders, structures, and systems.

The second step is to support the farmers on the frontlines of climate change. They need our support, to develop new strategies to cope with changing weather and climate patterns, to explore and invest in soil rehabilitation strategies that reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, and to strengthen their own resilience and livelihoods. At the same time, they need us to take a stand against non-renewable energy, and those who profit from it.

Please help us to reverse climate change, support small farmers, and build an alternative, solidarity economy by taking action today!

 

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Support small-scale organic farmers and regenerative agriculture by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Small Farmer Resiliency Fund. To donate, click here. You will be redirected to the secure donation page of the website of Hesperian Health Guides (a fiscal sponsor of Equal Exchange’s Climate Justice Initiative.) Please choose the amount of your donation, and then choose the Climate Justice Initiative (Equal Exchange) in the ‘Project Designation’ list.

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Producer Profile: Apple Seeds Teaching Farm

This post by Julie from the A La Carte Department at Ozark Natural Foods.

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When I started working at ONF nearly three years ago, there was a giant empty field next to the co-op. I remember thinking that it was odd that a huge lot was sitting empty in the middle of town. Then I learned that it was to become a teaching farm operated by Apple Seeds, a non-profit organization focused on the Farm to School movement. Here local school children can learn about gardening, cooking, and the healthy benefits of eating fresh vegetables. Having resided in Berkeley, CA, where Alice Waters began the first teaching garden in the United States, I was already familiar with the benefits of this educational format, not just for the children but for the community as a whole. I was thrilled that the concept was catching on right here in Northwest Arkansas.

With the support and hard work of local businesses, community members, school partners, and of course kids, they transformed that empty field into a thriving teaching farm. Now it is home to more than 5,000 square feet of gardens, an outdoor classroom, and a team that provides garden-based programs to students. Their farm programs, including Farm Lab and Farm to Table, are hands-on, fun, academically rich, and inspire young students to make healthy food choices.

Since 2014, they have grown more than 3,000 pounds of produce. The veggies have found their way to local school garden markets and their burgeoning Farm to School program, as well as their annual fundraisers and to Ozark Natural Foods, a long-standing partner and neighbor. Some of the produce that ONF sells from Apple Seeds are tomatoes, bok choy, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, and eggplant. Apple Seeds is passionate about their mission of inspiring healthy living through garden-based education. By building Apple Seeds Teaching Farm in the center of town, they can better serve the needs of our growing community.

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Now, when I take my breaks at work, I go outside and see teachers and children roaming the gardens, leading and learning. I can actually hear the excitement in their young voices as they volunteer for a task. I see the staff tending to the rows of plants, pulling weeds, and covering them when the weather turns. I’ve watched the garden beds transform from rows of soil into tall sunflowers, lush tomato plants, and other delightful veggies. I’m so grateful for this beautiful view, but even more so that Apple Seeds is providing the next generation with the knowledge and skills to grow and be healthy.

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Producer Profile: Fazenda Boa Terra

This blog post by Bjorn Bergman originally appeared on Viroqua Food Co-op’s website.

This month we are highlighting a relatively new producer to Viroqua Food Co-op. Fazenda Boa Terra is a certified organic producefarm located just outside Spring Green, WI owned and operated by Lidia Dungue and John Middleton.

Lidia grew up in Santa Barbara, Brazil. She received a degree in agronomics from UNESP Ilha Solteria and worked for fertilizer companies after college. After being less than inspired by this work, she decided to travel to the United States to get some practical experience working on farms. A full year apprenticeship on an organic vegetable farm was a huge turning point in her life. After getting a degree that was in line with and supported conventional agriculture, her eyes were opened to the fact that organic farming truly does work. Following this experience, she had the dream of owning and running her own organic farm.

John Middleton grew up in the hills and forests of upstate New York dairy country. From his earliest years he was surrounded by chickens, dairy goats, pigs, fruit trees, a large garden, and plenty of forests, all of which gave him a deep appreciation and love of the natural world. Another part of his youth was spent playing farmer with his grandfather, learning handy and mechanical work.

After high school, he attended Rochester Institute of Technology and got a degree in Environmental Science hoping to pursue a career in conservation biology research. By the end of college, he had a deep understanding of the link between nature, environment, society and agriculture. This led him to an interest in being a farmer.

John and Lidia met in 2007 while working on organic farms in upstate New York. Since meeting they have been inseparable. They both realized their collective dreams of farming in 2010, when they started a farm business together. After four years of farming collectively, they were approached by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Taliesin Preservation, Inc. and Otter Creek Organic Farm to lead a joint venture to start an organic vegetable farm at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green. In 2014, the couple started their farming venture and they are currently focusing on establishing the infrastructure, building community ties and developing their markets.

In the future, Fazenda Boa Terra hopes to create a model organic farm at Taliesin where beginning and advanced farmers alike, along with consumers, can learn about efficient farming systems, equipment and investment strategies that are highly productive and profitable on an organic farm. They hope to do this through the development of a rigorous residential apprentice program, on-farm workshops and agro-tourism, while maintaining environmental stewardship, long term sustainability, their passion for nature, and most importantly, their love of healthy soil.

They chose the name Fazenda Boa Terra in honor of Lidia’s home country of Brazil. The English translation equates to “Good Earth Farm” which has a twofold meaning. It applies to their environmental consciousness with a deep desire to harmonize with nature in all of their farming operations. But the primary meaning of “Good Earth Farm” is all about soil. They know healthy soil produces plants healthy enough to naturally resist insect attacks, disease and foul weather. When investing in their soils; they invest in themselves, their customers and their community.

Fazenda Boa Terra sells its produce to a variety of retail outlets including VFC, to restaurants, and at the Spring Green and Hilldale (Madison) Farmers Markets on Saturdays. Next time you are at VFC, be sure to keep your eye out for certified organic produce from Fazenda Boa Terra in our produce section.

Learn more about Fazenda Boa Terra on their website  and their Facebook page.

“My Asian Pears Are Something Special and Here’s Why”

This post, by Guy King Ames, originally appeared on Ozark Natural Foods’ blog.

I’m Guy King Ames, owner of Ames Orchard & Nursery here in Northwest Arkansas. I’m also a horticulturist with ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (www.attra.ncat.org ), a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Fayetteville office. In the latter capacity, I write bulletins and give presentations on organic production of fruits for the whole country (go to the above-linked site to see these publications, webinars, etc.). The reason I mention this is that I have a pretty good handle on organic fruit production in the various parts of the United States.

If you’ve ever wondered why most of the organic apples and other tree fruits at ONF come from Washington, Oregon, and California, it’s really quite simple. The commercial fruit growers in those states, organic and otherwise, are growing fruit in what is essentially the irrigated desert. In that environment there are very few diseases, and if they are present, they occur with much less severity. Same for insect pests: fewer and less severe outbreaks. In such an environment, organic culture of fruit is relatively easy…relative to the eastern half of the U.S., where the higher humidity and rainfall fosters a plethora of diseases and pests.

Organic (or Certified Naturally Grown, as is my farm) fruit culture in the East is quite difficult. It’s even more difficult in the South where the higher heat favors fruit tree diseases like fire blight of pears and apples, black rot of grapes, summer rots of apples, brown rot of plums and peaches, and the list goes on. And there’s a similarly daunting list of insect pests.
So, you might think, why not just grow the tree fruits organically out in the West and truck them back East? Ah, go back and re-read your copy of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma (http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-omnivores-dilemma/)! The “food-miles” for such a system are insane and represent a huge cost to the environment, including a large contribution to global climate change. Moreover—and something I don’t remember Pollan spending much time on—the irrigation for the thousands upon thousands of acres of tree fruits in eastern Washington and elsewhere in the West comes from the many dams on the Snake, Columbia, and other important rivers. Important for whom? Salmon. It’s truly not a stretch to say that the ease of organic culture of tree fruits in the West comes at the cost of salmon habitat. It’s an ugly truth that most of us don’t want to face.

I’ve spent almost all of my adult life trying to grow fruit in an environmentally-sound way here in Northwest Arkansas. Nature has kicked my butt from Yellville to Fayetteville, but I’ve figured out a few things along the way. One of those is that I can grow certain pear varieties, including Asian pears, without any sprays whatsoever! I still suffer large losses to insects and diseases, but I can bring delicious Asian pears to Ozark Natural Foods with just a minimum of cosmetic imperfections—and I hope you’ll take those few dings and dimples as a sign that these are pesticide-free and yummy.

I really hope you will try some of these locally-grown pears. The small, yellow-gold ones are Shinkos (from Japan) and have a sprightly sweetness with a touch of citrus. The large, dark orange-bronze ones are Korean Giants and they are big sugar bombs! Both are crisp and refreshing. And they’re grown right here in your own neighborhood!

 

WiscoPop Expands Across the Upper Midwest

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Here in Minneapolis, shoppers at Seward Co-op have seen a new product on the shelves: WiscoPop! Soda. While it’s certainly enough to be excited about a new P6 soda made with natural ingredients, this one is especially exciting because WiscoPop’s bottling operation was made possible in part with help from a P6 Microloan from the Viroqua Food Co-op. WiscoPop raised $24,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign in order to move from only being offered on tap to being able to bottle their sodas. Commercial soda bottling plants require certain formulas, which don’t match the high standards WiscoPop had for their product. They set out to get equipment to do their own bottling, and successfully raised the money for the equipment. Where Viroqua Food Co-op came in was by providing a $1,500 microloan to WiscoPop to buy bottles, labels, caps, and boxes in bulk. This allowed them to substantially lower the per-item cost of those materials and start their bottling operation on a good foot. When this no-interest microloan was repaid, the money went back into a fund that the co-op granted out to another P6 producer this past January, Del Sol Chocolate. Thanks to Viroqua Food Co-op for supporting this great business and bringing sustainably-made soda to the Upper Midwest!