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    White House Organic Farm Project Hopes to Change Political Landscaping

    P1010958_2 Here's a story to keep you smiling as we all await the results of today's historic election. On Monday, September 15, Patagonia Ventura employees were greeted by a very unique school bus in the parking lot. Daniel Bowman Simon and Casey Gustowarow, the two-man team known as the White House Organic Farm Project, or WHO Farm, had just rolled into town to share their unique vision: getting the next President to plant an organic garden on the grounds of the White House. Inspired by Chez Panisse chef and slow food activist, Alice Waters, they've been driving across the country drumming up support for the project through an online petition they set up at thewhofarm.org.

    [The bus was purchased from Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame who modified it to depict upside-down budget priorities. Daniel and Casey keep an organic garden on the roof and call the inside home. Photo: Free]

    Make the jump for a tour of the WHO Farm bus.

    Continue reading "White House Organic Farm Project Hopes to Change Political Landscaping" »

    Action Alert: Genetically Modified Animals Step Closer to Your Dinner Plate

    Salmon Patagonia has long taken an interest in the genetic integrity of our food supply. A 2002 essay by company founder/owner, Yvon Chouinard focuses on the question asked by many of our customers: What Does a Clothing Company Know About Genetic Engineering?

    Six years have passed, and genetically-modified foods are, if anything, a bit closer to our dinner tables. Fresh off the newswire is this story about the use of genetically modified animals as a food source. The story comes from the National Public Radio news briefs for Sept. 18th.

    FDA To Consider Allowing Sale Of GM Farm Animals

    The Food and Drug Administration took a step Thursday toward considering proposals to sell genetically modified animals as food.

    The agency issued a proposed legal framework for resolving questions about the environmental risks and the safety of using genetically altered animals as food. The move could lead to faster growing fish, cattle that can resist mad cow disease, or perhaps heart-healthier eggs laid by a new breed of chicken.

    The FDA has said it considers DNA inserted into an animal during genetic engineering to be a drug, so first the agency will ask if it is safe for the animal. If it is deemed safe, the FDA will then look at animals intended for human consumption and see if they meet current food safety standards.

    Continue reading "Action Alert: Genetically Modified Animals Step Closer to Your Dinner Plate" »

    Solar Cooking

    Xtracycle_2The following post comes from author and urban homesteader, Erik Knutzen. I recently had the pleasure of working with Erik on a talk he gave at Patagonia Ventura about urban farming, vegetables, chickens, hooch, bicycles and cultural alchemy.

    I'm a big fan of backpacking sufferfests, which often involve a long drive followed by hiking thousand of feet up and over challenging, rocky terrain. The sense of accomplishment and breathtaking scenery is always worth the effort, but something is also to be said for an alternate camping scenario we’ve taken to recently, involving loading up our cargo bike (the amazing Xtracycle) and biking to our destination, all the while carrying almost as much as we would car camping. After rolling into our campground, we’ll spend the weekend kicking back at the campsite, taking it easy and pretty much not going anywhere or doing anything. With the carrying capacity of the cargo bike, we can get fancy with the food and libations, allowing us to skip the usual dehydrated camping chow.

    These sittin’ around type of trips, or even a lazy Sunday afternoon at home, are the perfect occasion to deploy a solar cooker. Best of all you can build a solar cooker yourself for pennies out of cardboard and aluminum foil. For some foods, such as rice, it’s actually easier to cook with a solar cooker than it is on a stovetop. Put some rice in a pot, place the pot in the solar panel cooker, stick it out in the sun and two hours later you have lunch.

    Continue reading "Solar Cooking" »

    Why Can't It Just Be 'Milk'?

    Cowface Wholesome. It's one of the first words that comes to mind when someone says "milk." What about milk isn't wholesome? It is a basic product of mammalian life that--when delivered from mother to offspring--is unassailably pure. It is so fundamental and unadulterated that its nature and constitution are seldom questioned. Which is why it caught me completely off-guard when a Swiss friend asked me "What is 'organic' milk? Milk is milk. Why do you have all this 'organic milk' in the United States?"

    Jura_village The question came as we stood, literally, at the foot of Switzerland's Jura, a velvety green sweep of mountains in the border region shared by France, Switzerland, and Germany. The Swiss Jura is home to many of the country's most picturesque pastoral villages, and where much of the milk comes from for the legendary Swiss cheeses and chocolates.

    We had just finished a meandering bike tour of the area's vast array of mountain trails, which wind seamlessly from forest to pasture to village. I had commented on the unbelievably short distance between pasture and product in these villages; from where we stood--on the edge of a pasture and, oddly enough, the town square--we could see each element of the town's dairy foodchain. In the most dramatic example, a scant 50 feet lay between the town's cheese shop and the cows whose milk made that cheese.

    And that's when the question came.

    "Why do you need to call this organic?" my friend asked, as he kicked at the lush green veld. It was one of those 'ah ha!' moments for me, and I saw with new clarity something I had always overlooked back at home.

    [Top: image used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License, Photo: Andrew Duffell. Bottom: Swiss village, localcrew collection]

    Continue reading "Why Can't It Just Be 'Milk'?" »

    Action Alert - Help Shape the Farm Bill

    Voteforklg2 Farming is an issue of great concern for us. We staked our business on switching to organic cotton in 1996 and we ran a series of environmental essays on the dangers and uncertainties of genetic engineering in 2001-2002. Unfortunately, GE crops are still being grown and organic farming remains a quaint alternative. Fortunately, there are folks like Dan Imhoff of Watershed Media who are working hard to keep America's farming practices in the spotlight. 

    Dan has graciously compiled this important action alert concerning the Farm Bill that's currently being considered in Congress. Please read on and take action before September 30, 2007.

    Every five years, Congress passes a massive spending program called the Farm Bill. 2007 is one of those years -- with a September 30 deadline for either a new bill or a temporary extension. The tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and supports apportioned by the Farm Bill have a tremendous influence on the foods we eat, where they are grown, how much they cost, and the state of conservation in farm country. For decades, food and farm policy has been dominated by representatives from commodity producing states with the blessing of representatives nobly fighting to preserve food stamp and nutrition assistance.

    Continue reading "Action Alert - Help Shape the Farm Bill " »

    Precarious Predicament for Pollinators?

    by Lynn Hill

    Bee_6 I've been reading and hearing a lot of talk recently about the ominous phenomenon of bees dying all over the world. Most of what I've read on the subject points to pesticides as a possible reason why the bees are dying. Apparently, many farmers are spraying pesticides on their crops at the wrong times, despite the fact that spraying at these critical times can have a profoundly negative effect on the bee population and consequently, the production yield of various fruits and vegetables. Obviously our society's current over-use of pesticides reflects a short-sided viewpoint on the natural life cycle since bees and other pollinating animals are responsible for 80% of the world's crop production.

    Pollinators, mostly insects, are indispensable partners for an estimated one-out-of-every-three mouthfuls of all the food, spices, or condiments we consume. This is an estimated twenty-billion dollar industry in the U.S. and pollinators are threatened by a variety of factors besides pesticide misuse. The loss of their natural habitat in dead trees or fence posts on ever-decreasing farmlands across the country has also contributed to the decline of bee populations.

    [Photo: Márcia Grilo]

    Continue reading "Precarious Predicament for Pollinators?" »

    Invasive Species: Reflections On How We Can’t Stop What We Started

    This post comes from Patagoniac Kristin Jaeger, a PhD graduate student at Colorado State University who's studying fluvial geomorphology. Kristin originally submitted this as an environmental essay for our catalog, but since it didn't fit our current theme of Oceans as Wilderness we're gladly presenting it here. If you have a story about invasive species please share it with us in the comments section.

    Reflections on how we can’t stop what we started; the impacts of invasive exotic plants on the American Southwest

    It’s not quite 7 a.m. and the mournful notes of a wooden flute descend from the canyon rim. I am sitting on the side of the dry streambed waiting for Dan to radio that his setup is ready and we can start surveying the stream transect. We only have a few hours before this particular study site turns into what I call the Sahara; our productivity plummets as the temperature rises and the summer sun turns everything blinding white. It’s July and I am in Canyon de Chelly National Monument located on the Navajo Reservation in the northeast corner of Arizona.

    In 1942, Ansel Adams took a photograph from the canyon rim of where I am now sitting, near White House Ruins. The picture shows an open sandy wash extending more than 100 meters wide, a few cottonwood trees and beautiful, vertical canyon walls. Since that time and up until two years ago, the open canyon bottom became a dense thicket of tamarisk and Russian olive, both exotic, highly invasive plants that have become widespread throughout Canyon de Chelly and the American Southwest.

    Nara_2 Nara_1

    [Photos: Ansel Adams 1942 (left); D. Cooper 2005 (right)]

    Continue reading "Invasive Species: Reflections On How We Can’t Stop What We Started" »

    Don't Forget About Genetic Engineering

    Ladybug Back in '01-'02, well before Oceans as Wilderness, our environmental focus was on genetic engineering. While there were some victories associated with that campaign, the issue has not gone away. The following action alert came from one of our environmental grantees in California. Hopefully, more states will follow suit.

    Support New Legislation Protecting Communities and Farmers from Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops

    Assemblymember Jared Huffman (6th AD) has introduced AB 541, The Food and Farm Protection Act. The bill would establish California’s only state laws related to genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture and protect California farmers, consumers, and the food supply. The Environmental Defense Center has endorsed AB 541, and the bill is quickly gaining support from other agricultural, environmental, health, faith and business organizations.

    Continue reading "Don't Forget About Genetic Engineering" »

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