Investing in precious metals 101

When the harvest fails

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  • Mon, Jun 27, 2016 - 02:02pm

    #11

    Waterdog14

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    Learning to farm and thinking of Venezuela

I've had highly productive backyard gardens every where I've lived, for 25 years.  But "farming" or "market gardening" on a larger scale is a whole new experience.  Rob is correct – there is much to be learned. 

For example:  My summer squash froze on June  about 14th and 15th (darn, average last frost is June 9th, and what about climate change!  Guess I'd better leave the row covers and walls-o-water on longer next year.)  Ants, how can ants kill an entire broccoli plant?  Is this baking soda really  working on the ants, and what do other organic farmers do?  Aerated compost tea, do I have time to build a brewer when I'm too busy planting, weeding, watering…  But ACT is the microbial elixir for plants, can I afford not to build the brewer now?  Hey, the neighbor flood irrigated and now my currents are in standing water.  Will they survive?  Oh, now the water table is dropping, they look pretty healthy.  Here come the deer…

Farming is fun and a lot of hard work.  I constantly use my science and engineering background, but in a more wholistic way than ever before.  Our goal is to feed a lot of people AND to encourage others to have a "kitchen garden" at the very least.  Grow your lettuce, chard, and kale.  Come to us at the Farmers Market for fresh produce that requires more growing space, care, or expertise.  But everyone should try, fail, practice, and keep on growing.

People in Venezuela are currently facing food shortages.  The government is encouraging everyone to grow food.  But it can take an entire season to grow certain crops, and several years to learn to grow food successfully.  I think of Venezuela sometimes when I'm out on our little farm.  I think of my community, and our own vulnerabilities.  And I've told everyone who will listen that our farm is about more than healthy, local, organic food.  It's about post-peak oil and developing food security.   

Our farm is not profitable yet.  In Year 2, we are still planting perennial fruits and building our infrastructure.  And acquiring knowledge.  It is possible that the farm will never repay our financial investment, but if (when?) our money system breaks down, the farm will feed us.  May we never have to experience what Venezuela is going through…  

  • Tue, Jun 28, 2016 - 07:18am

    #12

    Bytesmiths

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    Markets differ!

Our local market has a "grow it, bake it, or make it" policy that requires all things sold be 51% grown locally (or in the case of crafts, made locally), with certain exclusions (such as sugar, cocoa, etc. that are not able to be produced here).

But even then, there is a huge problem. Our market is in an "L" shape around a local park. It is administered by the local Parks and Recreation Commission (PaRC), who enforces the rules. It is bounded by a small strip mall, whose business owners also "own" the parking spaces directly in front of their stores, which they rent out to anyone who will pay, regardless of what they sell!

There is no signage or other differentiation between the PaRC vendors and the "rental" vendors, So, across the aisle from someone who is required to "grow it, bake it, or make it" might be someone selling silver from India or even produce from California.

The locals know the difference, but to the tourists, it's just one big market, and they either think WE don't grow the food we sell, or worse, think those in the "rental" aisle actually grow what they import — which they often sell for less than the locally-produced stuff.

This has been going on for years, with many complaints and battles, but little hope of resolution. Sigh.

  • Tue, Jun 28, 2016 - 01:10pm

    #13

    robshepler

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    Food games

An interesting article, just a computer simulation…..

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/fema-contractor-predicts-social-unrest-caused-by-395-food-price-spikes?utm_source=mbtwitter

 

  • Tue, Jun 28, 2016 - 01:56pm

    #14
    Peak Prosperity Admin

    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Food Security

The Big Picture issue here is Food Security.  When the majority of food consumed anywhere within this country comes either from just one location (California) or from Central/South America, then you have a vulnerability (and I'm not even addressing the long-term drought being experienced in California).  When the average distance that food is shipped from the farm to your grocery store is 1,600 miles, then you have a vulnerability.  When much of that food production is dependent upon petroleum for the production of fertilizers and pesticides, then you have a vulnerability.  Interrupt the flow of petroleum for the distribution or production of food, and then you have a BIG problem.

The best way to develop food security is to reduce dependence upon locally imported food sources and imported supplements.  That dependence can easily be reduced by supporting the development of local organic farms, and by encouraging individual families to augment their nutrition through home and community gardens.

Local organic farms that minimize the use of mechanized labor will never be able to financially compete against the large industrial farms, and so the only viable solution is to subsidize local farms through supportive regulations and government incentives.

Although I am not a proponent of a federal or state government interfering in the marketplace, subsidizing local farms does come under its primary jurisdiction of protecting its citizens.  Because it seems to be human nature to consistently choose the easiest option, people will continue to buy their food from the cheapest source – even though it may perpetuate their own vulnerability.  Governments are the only legal entities that are able to extract revenue from its people to perform needed services and responsibilities.  Since the vulnerability of our food system is an issue of national security, then the people's taxes should also be used to support local farms.

For the cost of just one F-22 fighter aircraft (estimated by Wikipedia at $339 million each), think how many local farms across America could be created and supported.  How about a couple dozen M2 Bradley fighting vehicles (at an average cost of $3.2 million)?  I come from a military family and very much appreciate the importance of a strong military for national defense, but it seems our leaders have focused on the traditional need for expensive weapons system to support the military, and have left the people exposed to a simple, inexpensive vulnerability through the interruption of our food system.

If you awoke tomorrow morning to the news that terrorists have blown up a major feeder pipeline in Saudi Arabia or that the Strait of Hormuz had been blocked, what do you think would happen to the world supply of available oil? And then what would be the consequential effect on the production and distribution of our food system?

Certain crops (such as corn) are already subsidized by the government.  What is the harm in subsidizing local market farms?  More important, what would be the benefit?  Let's get this needed conversation started before it's too late.  Your comments and input would be appreciated.

  • Tue, Jun 28, 2016 - 09:05pm

    #15

    Bytesmiths

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    “Sovereignty,” not “Security”

I think "food security" is over-rated. It generally mean government-provided access to food.

I prefer the term "food sovereignty," which means "control over the food supply."

They sound similar, but are often at odds. With food security, the government can decide which food you receive. Indeed, they can cite "food security concerns" as justification for not allowing you to produce certain foods! I'm thinking "raw milk," bad, while you can buy raw oysters from the back of a pickup truck. And now they want to keep all animals out of crop fields, in the name of "food security!"

Contrast this with food sovereignty. If you have that, you have the right to produce your own food, of your own choosing.

I don't want a subsidy. I just want them to keep out of the way while we feed ourselves and our neighbours.

  • Wed, Jun 29, 2016 - 01:53pm

    #16

    robshepler

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    Food safety modernization act

FSMA is on it's way!

There are more regulations coming at us that will increase the cost of what we do!

I also have a beef with local meat. I raise some lowline angus cattle. If I want to sell a small amount of beef to a local customer I must use a federally inspected meat cutting facility, there are none located in my state!

I can sell a live steer to a couple of people who can have the meat processed locally but not everyone in our community can lay out that much cash at one time. It is a type of economic discrimination if you look at it that way.

This is cattle country and 99% of it gets shipped out of state to the concentrated feeding operations to eat government subsidized corn. Into the industrial food system they go! Our community then makes a two hour round trip to the nearest grocery to buy it back. That healthy grass fed beef that we sold, now is full of omega 6 fats from the GMO corn that they have been fed.

The example above shows how entwined we are in regulations and food miles. Common sense says eat what you produce, but the law makes it very difficult to do so.

I have had issues with our local state health inspector, she was overstepping  and not allowing local restaurants to buy from local growers. Regulators will regulate, and she took herself so seriously as to not allow pot luck dinners at the local church. She compromised by having everyone sign release forms. Just flat silly.

Rather than subsidize small growers, perhaps we can quit subsidizing the big ones. Ethanol has been a big looser from the start.

This is a BIG issue with lots of powerful companies involved that employ lots of lobbyists. If we are going to get to any meaningful amount of local food we need to make some noise and remove some roadblocks.

BBrady, so well put. Let's keep the discussion going! 

 

  • Wed, Jun 29, 2016 - 02:28pm

    #17

    Waterdog14

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    Food Sovereignty vs. Food Security

[quote=Bytesmiths]

I think "food security" is over-rated. It generally mean government-provided access to food.

I prefer the term "food sovereignty," which means "control over the food supply."

[/quote]

Hmmm, in my community, the term food security doesn't necessarily mean government involvement.  Many individuals and nonprofit groups are working on food security, including churches, food pantries, a local non-profit community gardening group, and backyard gardeners.  "Food security" is generally (but not entirely) directed toward helping low income families get food and learn to feed themselves.

Not having considered the phrase "food sovereignty" before, I had to look it up:

[quote]

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems

[/quote]

True!  That's a large part of the "food security" concept.  But food security has a more acute or urgent component.  Food security allows us to eat if the Kroger (or Safeway or WinnDixie) trucks stop running.  At that point, it may not matter if the food we are eating is culturally appropriate.  Starving people will eat bugs, grass, weeds, pets…  In an ideal world, we would work toward food sovereignty to develop skills and infrastructure for a resilient (and secure) local food supply.  But food sovereignty seems more idealistic, whereas food security seems more desperate and urgent.   Thoughts, anyone???

  • Sat, Jul 09, 2016 - 10:17pm

    #18

    Grover

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    Grass Fed Beef

Rob,

I have a friend who raises grass fed beef on the side. I have purchased half a beef from her on 2 occasions. She uses a local butcher with a mobile "kill" truck for the processing. The beef is more expensive than feedlot beef, but worth it in my book – all grass fed, no corn fattening. Now, corn fattened beef tastes sickeningly sweet to me.

I asked her how she does her marketing. She has a computerized list of customers and advertises on craigslist (for free.) She projects a few months in advance how much beef she'll have available for slaughter and then sends out a mass e-mail (with everyone in the "blind copy" box so other e-mail addresses won't show up to the receiver.) The butcher will work with the customers to produce custom cutting/packaging down to 1/8 of a carcass. The butcher charges slightly more for his efforts on smaller quantities. It is first come, first served with a 10% nonrefundable deposit required. She and the butcher get completely paid before any meat goes home with the buyer. She keeps a waiting list for those who are willing to take meat that someone forfeits – at a 10% discount (the nonrefundable deposit from someone else.)

It still can be a large outlay for someone on the financial margin, but it works well for people who have a small freezer and enough financial acumen to take advantage of it. I don't have a clue what regulatory hurdles she or the butcher have to cross.

She isn't getting rich off this, but she likes seeing a few cows in the pastures who keep it trimmed. She has mostly loyal repeat customers who often refer others to her.

Grover

  • Sun, Jul 10, 2016 - 10:33am

    #19

    Jbarney

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    When The Harvest Fails, Disruptions Natural and Real

I'm just ingesting my first cup of coffee, so if this sounds early morningish, I apologize. Its 6:13 AM.

The reality is this should be one of the most important questions any home owner or renter asks themselves, but sadly it remains untouched by a lot of people.  I am going to touch on a couple of different aspects of this.  One of the things that opened my eyes to needing to start to grow my own food, and a lot of it, was watching the Crash Course.  Peak Oil was (and remains) a concept that more than anything else could impact how we all survive.  If the cost of shipping bananas or oranges is just too much, then we won't be getting them up here in Vermont for a while.  When we moved from Burlington, we specifically started to look for properties that had some land.  Literally I started to think of my retirement as what I could do as far as the land goes and what I could do with it.

Gardening the way I wanted to, using virtually no fossil fuels, and growing foods that will last longer than one harvest became a major focus of my green education/learning curve.  I should point out that while in college I can remember visiting a living history exhibit and found the gardens that were mentioned fascinating.   I can remember monopolizing the tour guide's time, asking questions about the HUGE garden that was on display, being worked by the people at the exhibit.  They were using 18th century tools and trying to produce enough food for a family of 5 for a year.  I can't remember the exact proportions, but all I remember was that the garden was enormous, and they also had built a very big cold cellar.

For me, the issues with gardening and prepping are complex enough, I have made major forward thinking decisions that have caused me a lot more work, but I know in my heart they are the future, and people may not be able to make 21st century type choices like this for much longer anyway.  I HAND tilled the entire garden, going after weeds with my fingers, being on my hands and knees, in the morning before school and on weekends.  On one level I kept asking myself what the hell I was doing, on another level it just felt right.  This April and May, there were some mornings when I was out in the garden at 5:15ish, and I was up early enough, pulling soil….the bats had not gone in yet.

But I did it.  However, I have also learned that it is very hard to get a garden going, successfully, without some use of fossil fuels.  For example, we have groundhogs, rabbits,  and deer in the area.  I did put up a little fence of chicken wire and plastic mesh, but this is an example where the use of fossil fuels was necessary.  I want to do things in a green and down to earth way, but I am not stupid.  I guess getting a dog and keeping him outside near the garden would be a good 18th century way of keeping pests away from the valuable harvest?

Sorry this is so long, but I am finding that if you use space correctly, you can grow a hell of a lot more than you think.  I am growing squash across my lawn (won't have to mow as much!) and I am growing a ton of beans….both pole and bush.  I have found that if stored correctly, some squash/pumpkins will keep well….deep into the winter months….last year we had some that were fine into March/early April.  In a true problem situation, squash might be boring, but I'd eat it every meal to stay alive, feed the family.   Same thing with the dry beans…..my garden is not as big as I would like it, but I planted a lot beans….they should store well.

Okay, time for my second cup of coffee…..thanks for the topic and responses.

 

Jason

  • Sun, Jul 10, 2016 - 05:35pm

    #20

    Bytesmiths

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    Good work, Jason! Jbarney

Good work, Jason!

[quote=Jbarney]if you use space correctly, you can grow a hell of a lot more than you think.[/quote]

Where are you getting your inputs? Squash and pumpkins are notoriously heavy feeders!

This is often the Achilles Heel of high-output gardening: high-inputs.

We used about eight cubic metres (yards) of our own goat manure for our small commercial greenhouse  operation (with some small field crops), which required about six acres for pasture and hay. The hay was harvested with a diesel tractor, unfortunately.

Getting fossil-sunlight-free inputs is going to be tough. Purchased organic inputs (bone meal, blood meal, greensand) require global transportation systems and industrial meat or fish production. Own-source inputs require extensive cover-cropping and/or hay making, both of which are possible without diesel tractors, but which are extremely labour-consuming in such a case.

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