Published Jun 6 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jun 6 2009

Food & agriculture - June 6

by Staff

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Chicken a la Carte
Ferdinand Dimadura, Culture Unplugged
Synopsis: This film is about the hunger and poverty brought about by Globalization. There are 10,000 people dying everyday due to hunger and malnutrition. This short film shows a forgotten portion of the society. The people who live on the refuse of men to survive. What is inspiring is the hope and spirituality that never left this people.
In February 2006, at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival, filmmakers were invited to join a short film competition on the theme FOOD, TASTE and HUNGER.

3,600 filmmakers from around the world joined the competition. But only 32 films were chosen to be screened at the Berlinale Talent Campus. This film topped the Competition by being adjudged the Most Popular Short Film.

... This is a true story.
EB contributor Norman Church writes:
Sometimes in our abstract discussions we forget why we are trying to keep the human experiment from going down the drain. It is because in the back of our minds we know, what we see in this six minute movie, will grow 50-fold during the lives of our children.

Like an eager vine, urban garden sharing spreads its roots
(text, video, photos)
Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
Alice Lasher's yard in North Portland bursts with promise for the palate. In a patch next to the porch, burly rhubarb splays over delicate leaves of ruby red lettuce. Tomato plants crawl up an arched metal trellis, and strawberry plants sprout out of crooks in a rock wall.

Everywhere you look -- leeks standing tall here, broccoli leaves swaying there and sage and thyme covering patches just about everywhere -- frames a picture of culinary satisfaction. But Lasher's vegetable garden doesn't stop there. It extends to a thicket in her neighbor's parking strip across the street and includes another spread in the neighbor's backyard.

Lasher and her neighbor, Sue Decker, have embarked on a newfound experiment in garden-sharing, a trend that appears to be spreading roots across the metro area as apartment dwellers and landowners, strangers and neighbors unite to grow their food at a time when seed sales are up and the economy down.

Here's how it works: Everyone contributes what they can, whether it's land or labor, money or skill, and everyone shares in the bounty.

"It's great," said Decker, a 62-year-old nurse. "I don't have the time or energy to do it all myself. So, now I get help, and I really enjoy the company."

Lasher, a 40-year-old fire prevention officer for the Sandy Fire District, planted seeds for the venture last year while giving a class to her neighbors on emergency preparedness.

A believer in "food, not lawns," she quickly gobbled up all of her own gardening space with vegetable plants. So, Decker, who lives on a double lot, offered up her parking strips and backyard for a summer full of produce.
(4 June 2009)
EB contributor Randy White ( ) writes:
The trend is clear not only for increases in gardening, but also shared labor and resources. Unfortunately, banks are not yet accepting peas and carrots as mortgage payments.

Australian scientist fights establishment over biological farming
(video, transcript)
Australian Story, ABC Television
Back to Earth
Dr Maarten Stapper is a man with some fascinating ideas on how to manage our land better.

He is unconventional, stubborn and difficult. Not even a near fatal car accident could slow him down in his mission to feed the world using less chemicals.

As an advocate for biological farming, Dr Stapper has paid a high price for promoting a greener, cleaner way to grow food. Originally a CSIRO scientist, he left when it became clear his views on biological farming were incompatible with his employer.

Today, he travels the country to educate farmers on how to use less chemicals in their soil and on their crops.

MARGARET FULTON, PRESENTER: Hello I’m Margaret Fulton. Food has been my life, and I like to see true food on our tables, that is food grown and produced without chemicals. So I’m delighted to introduce tonight’s program about a scientist who wants to cut down the use of chemicals on our farms, and use biological methods instead.

MARIEKE RODENSTEIN, DAUGHTER: My father was actually driving back from a field trip.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: And I looked at the clock and it was four o’clock, and I just thought, oh well, I just relax and go home and then I drove to Canberra, and there was a truck going slow, and I was backing up behind that.

MARIEKE RODENSTEIN, DAUGHTER: He was overtaking a truck on an overtaking lane, but the lane ran out, I guess you could say, and another car on the other side, they had a head on collision, quite high speeds and it was a very violent crash.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: Yes I nearly died. After the accident I was re-evaluating my person, I was trying to find myself again, because my whole life was shattered, so I had to restructure my life to find my future, my destiny from the future.

MARIEKE RODENSTEIN, DAUGHTER: I do clearly remember though that there was this little I guess fire inside of him, this determination, you know, that he was given a second chance at life and he really needed to do something with that second chance.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: I didn’t know then what to do, just to start again with my research and my drive in life was food production for the world.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: Well the idea here is to replace our chemical addiction to solve problems on our farms. If we don’t go this path, then we can’t feed nine billion people on this planet, more soil will blow away, wash away and we lose life on our planet.

... DR MAARTEN STAPPER: So instead of chemicals we use the soil organisms, the microbes to feed the plant and to protect the plant and those microbes make minerals from the soil available to the plant and they feed the plant. It’s a wonderful system of nature where everything is balanced.

ADRIAN LAWRIE, FARMER AND SUPPLIER: I run my own biological farm and business and I started organising for Maarten to speak to groups of farmers. He was literally like a beacon in the sky, in a grey sky of where do we go next to get some solid information about biological farming.

PETER COOK, FARMER: We noticed that there was an advert in the paper, that this guy Dr Maarten Stapper was going to be speaking on biological farming, the problems that were in the soil, in the plants, in the livestock, so my son and I went along. And when we got out of it, my son looked at me and I looked at him and we said, well this is exactly what is happening on our farm, he’s answered all our questions. Well about four years ago, we were amazed at how downhill everything was going, and our production was dropping, livestock were not looking like they should and our chemical bills were just huge. After I listened to Dr Maarten Stapper that day, I felt good. There was a way to overcome all the harm that had been done, and I was excited about getting away from chemicals and starting to look at nature, starting to look at the soil.

ADRIAN LAWRIE, FARMER AND SUPPLIER: Maarten’s method is about helping us farmers build the carbon levels in our soil, it is very similar to what the home gardener is doing in the city, in that in small areas we can easily go and put on some compost. Well that’s probably equivalent to 200 tonnes a hectare in farm language, so a farmer can’t do it. But Maarten is bringing in to Australian agriculture the technology of microbes, humic acids and minerals to grow stronger, healthier plants.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: Well the microbes are the same species of microbes that are already indigenous in our systems, we just brew them up again to introduce them to the paddocks, to the soils, so they can start colonising and reinvigorating the soil with new life, because the chemicals have killed that life in the soil.

... DR MAARTEN STAPPER: As I came to the realisation of the power of biological farming as a sustainable farming system that led in May 2006 with the annual review, for my boss to tell me that I was not allowed to talk in public about biological farming as a CSIRO scientist.

ADRIAN LAWRIE, FARMER AND SUPPLIER: I was generally surprised that he continued to speak out in the manner that he did because I knew that it had to come at a pretty high inward personal cost, because you can’t serve two masters, and he had to be caught up inside, and I believe he was, but he didn’t show it.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: My last activity in CSIRO was to try to get funding for testing to compare the best practice, biological farming with the best of conventional farming, that project proposal was rejected, I didn’t get funding.

DR JOANNE DALY, HEAD CSIRO AGRIBUSINESS: Certainly when Maarten was showing quite a strong interest in biological farming, his division of plant industry did engage with Maarten at length, and asked him to provide data and asked him to provide peer reviewed material, that’s the basis on which we make scientific decisions and Maarten was unable to do that.

DR TONY FISCHER, CROP SCIENTIST: I had a chance to listen to what Maarten thought about soil biology when I went to a seminar he gave about a decade ago, and I wasn’t convinced because there wasn’t very much evidence presented, or very little evidence presented at that seminar. And so that did impact on his reputation as a scientist, it is a nice idea that you can add things to the soil and build up the organic matter and reduce the need for fertilisers and reduce the weeds, it is what I would call fringe scientific literature, they make all those claims but there isn’t any evidence in the published literature to support it.

MARIEKE RODENSTEIN, DAUGHTER: Yeah there was very much a collision course, he was really on a collision course with CSIRO, with all of his colleagues there, because they just didn’t share his vision.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: Well in the end I got the ultimatum that if I don’t change now, I would be made redundant, surplus to requirements, but I kept persisting, because I’m a bloody Dutchman, and that led to the final exit procedure.

... MARIEKE RODENSTEIN, DAUGHTER: Seeing the change in my dad it’s been amazing, he’s so much happier, he really is becoming a bit more of his old self now.

DR MAARTEN STAPPER: I feel a new man, so finally after like 15 years in the wilderness it feels great to hear from them that I changed their lives, that’s absolutely astounding, to see that happening. I am dedicating the next 10 years of my life to keep teaching and talking about these issues to stimulate people, also in the cities. In 2000 we had a ripple, biological farming was a ripple, that ripple is now a wave, and that wave will be a flood, and that flood is coming.

Maarten Stapper now supports himself by giving talks to farmers and rural groups.
(1 June 2009)
Quite a story. -BA