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Farm improvements

(article, Culinate staff)

In general, the American public-school lunch is pretty awful. But as the Mother Nature Network recently pointed out in a cross-posting, there are a few flickers of hope in the form of successful farm-to-school programs. The website applauded 10 programs around the country, ranging from the Boston public-school district to the Ecotrust program in Portland, Oregon. (Most of the programs, alas, are based on the East Coast or the upper Midwest.)

In other farm-related boosterism, the winter issue of OnEarth magazine profiles enterprising small-scale urban farmers in African slums. The farmers are trying to make the best of changing climate conditions by leaving drought-stricken areas and heading to town:

bq. The United Nations Development Program recently reported that an astonishing 800 million people worldwide are now engaged in urban agriculture, producing from 15 percent to 20 percent of the world’s food. (Many of those people are in Asia, which has a long tradition of urban farming.) Under power lines, alongside highways, down the banks of rivers — wherever there’s unclaimed dirt to be found — landless city dwellers are grabbing shovels and digging in. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, participation in urban farming has increased from 20 percent of the population two decades ago to nearly 70 percent today. By the year 2020, some 40 million Africans will be depending exclusively on food grown in cities.
The online version of the feature includes an audio slideshow and a Q&A about American urban-farming efforts.

And Barry Estabrook, on the Atlantic, recently published a succinct wrap-up documenting how organic farming really can feed the planet, despite what agribusiness experts might claim.

bq. What is notably lacking in the "conventional" versus organic debate are studies backing up the claim that organic can't feed the world's growing population. In an exhaustive review using Google and several academic search engines of all the scientific literature published between 1999 and 2007 addressing the question of whether or not organic agriculture could feed the world, the British Soil Association, which supports and certifies organic farms, found that there had been 98 papers published in the previous eight years addressing the question of whether organic could feed the world. Every one of the papers showed that organic farming had that potential. Not one argued otherwise.