giy - grow it yourself

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5 ways to stretch your money further when buying organic

Submitted by sproutingforth on Fri, 2008-11-14 08:38

The down turn in the economy is making us all second-guess what we buy. In the US, a market research company revealed recently that organic food sales rose only 4 percent in the four week period ending October 4th, compared to 20 percent a year in recent years. What's keeping shoppers from purchasing organic food? Cost. No question.

Just why is organic food usually more expensive?

First, organic food is more expensive to produce. Without cheap fertilizers and pesticides, farmers have to do a lot more manual labour, and people are much more expensive than petrochemicals. Additionally, organic farming operations aren't big enough to achieve economies of scale.

Secondly, demand has outstripped supply -- there simply are not enough people growing and producing organic ingredients. And when demand is greater than supply, prices are higher.

But don’t give up on the health of your family. You do not need to give up on organic - just curtail your organic spending and focus on the area where you get the biggest return for your money...


seven deadly myths of industrial agriculture

Submitted by turbosprout on Mon, 2008-09-15 11:01


We regularly trawl second-hand bookshops for bargains and recently we picked up this gem of a book: Fatal Harvest - The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. It is quite a tome, but a very interesting and alarming read. I'm slowly making my way through it, dipping in to it now and then, but it will probably take a few months to complete. The book details the destruction of eco-systems and biodiversity by the global industrial farming complex and also presents a new vision for 21st century food systems. The contributing authors include a healthy dose of journalists, professors, legal experts, directors of NGO's and food activists, Vandana Shiva amongst them. Here are some pearls of wisdom from a section called Corporate Lies: Busting the Myths of Industrial Agriculture.

Myth One: Industrial Agriculture Will Feed the World
World hunger is not created by a lack of food but by poverty and landlessness, which deny people access to food. Industrial agriculture actually increases hunger by raising the cost of farming, by forcing tens of millions of farmers off the land, and by growing primarily high-profit export and luxury crops.


slow food seed exchange

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2008-08-01 11:32

pic: Kitchen Gardeners Internationalpic: Kitchen Gardeners InternationalIf you've tried to track down organic seed in this country you'll know that it's quite a challenge. Most organic home gardeners have to make do with conventional garden centre seed, some of which is treated with fungicide to extend the seed's viability. There are also more and more hybridised (F1) seed varieties available which means that when these plants reproduce the seed that is produced does not have the same traits as its parents. It is not true to type. So if you save the seed from your prize-winning pumpkin expecting to repeat the feat the following year, you may be in for a surprise and find frankenfruit instead!

Also some of the varieties available are simply those kinds that are farmed commercially, so they are bred for uniformity, appearance, longer storage life or to mature at the same time to facilitate harvesting at once, whilst a home grower prefers an extended cropping season and absolutely delicious bounty. Breeding commercial vegetables or crops to be exceptionally tasty seems less of a priority.

Fortunately organic seed is appearing locally on a small scale - take a look here - and we've just heard of an exciting project that will deliver more seed power to the people.

Slow Food Cape Town, a local convivium (chapter) of the international Slow Food movement, is about "promoting food which is good, clean and fair (i.e. culturally important and qualitatively delicious, produced sustainably and promotes social justice in agricultural communities)".

Kate Shrier, whilst in pursuit of a local asparagus farm for a Slow Food outing, contacted us and let us know about the project:

"Slow Food Cape Town is currently working on a new, very


4 top edible garden growers

Submitted by sproutingforth on Thu, 2008-07-17 10:06

With the price of food literally taking a hike (prices are on the up and food shortages are forecast) it makes both green and money sense to grow your own in your back garden – not only will your salad and vegetables be organic, but you can pick them moments before you eat them!

Suburban vegetable gardens are becoming immensely popular. It’s rewarding, healthy and you don’t need a large garden to grow your favourite fruit and vegetables; containers will do.

For many of us, however, this sounds like a great deal of effort, particularly if you’ve never grown anything before. But there are ways to have your own vegetable garden with minimum effort...


greening the city

Submitted by sproutingforth on Wed, 2008-04-30 11:29

Brigid Jackson’s organic garden in Claremont, Cape Town is a delight. Ariston lies in the middle of the city, in the heart of Claremont almost on Lansdowne Road. One of the main reasons for the existence of the garden, aside from the fact that this is Brigid’s passion, is to give the suburb a ‘green lung’; she’s paving the way for the future of food – growing your own in gardens in the city.

But Brigid’s garden isn’t just a labour of love – it’s taken her roughly 10 years of negotiation with the city council to get the land across from her house, which had been expropriated to widen Lansdowne Road – it is also a spiritual sanctuary. Brigid calls her garden and style of gardening “elemental gardening”, embodying both the powers of nature and the supernatural in everything she does. Her garden is a tribute to nurturing and feeding “mother earth”, part of her ethos, which embraces the need to increase plants and forests, rather than cutting them down.

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green your garden

Submitted by sproutingforth on Tue, 2008-04-22 10:57

There is one place in which you really can make a start at ‘going green’ - your garden. If you’re still staring at an immaculate lawn with border beds kept in-check with regular cocktails of pesticides, weed killers and chemical fertilisers, it’s time to start thinking ‘out of the box’! Your garden could both feed you and become a tribute to living in harmony with all that surrounds it.

Using the principles of permaculture
Many green gardeners are adopting the principles of permaculture in their approach to gardening.

As its underlying premise, permaculture believes in benefitting life in all of its forms. It is the art and science of designing human beings’ place in the environment (rather than the place of the environment in the lives of human beings). Permaculture design teaches you to understand and mirror the patterns found in healthy natural environments.


greening it up – fri 11 jan 2008

Submitted by sproutingforth on Fri, 2008-01-11 09:55

City farming the way of the future? The recent spike in food prices, linked closely to the price of oil, has placed ‘urban agriculture’ in a whole new dimension. And certainly in cities like Cape Town, growing your own vegetable garden is fast becoming standard issue for greenies and the first line of defence when faced with food shortages [who can design me a veggie garden]. But on a global level, environmentalists have warned about the fragility of our food systems for years. A recent article in the [economist] covers rapidly increasing food prices - during a year that actually yielded an abundance of food crops – citing the increased demand for meat and ethanol as the contributing factors. The [guardian] also wrote a piece about predicted riots and hunger due to the soaring price of food. But is it possible that we might soon be forced to feed ourselves entirely from city limits? [wildgreenyonder]

Switchgrass revives hopes for biofuels. Already receiving a lot of bad press for their contribution to the spike in food prices and for their lack of biodiversity, the future of biofuels apparently just got brighter - if this account is to be believed. Yields from farm-scale plantings of the switchgrass Panicum virgatum suggest that producing ethanol from the cellulose will be about twice as energy-efficient as previously estimated. [new scientist]

Britain starts new push for nuclear power. Britain has given the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations, setting no limits on nuclear expansion. The government’s thinking: building nuclear plants will help meet its climate change goals and avoid overdependence on imported energy and dwindling North Sea oil supplies. [IOL] We’ve written extensively about nuclear power [here] , [here] and [here]

Buying small & local vs. supporting green at large. Ever wondered why it makes sense to support local business that you know? What happens when big corporations buy up trusted companies, like L’Oreal’s buying the Body shop? Do they manage to maintain the operating philosophies and environmental credentials of the companies they swallow? [noimpactman]


strawberry fields forever

Submitted by turbosprout on Wed, 2007-12-12 11:36

Well they're not quite fields - yet. And although I don't have John Lennon's lyrical talent I am rather proud of the strawberry patch that is coming into its own in our garden.

Strawberries really should be savoured organically. Conventionally grown strawberries feature in the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list as they are amongst the fresh produce that contain the highest level of pesticides. Strawberries weigh in at number 4 amongst fruit, after peaches, apples and nectarines, as those containing the highest pesticide loads.

The EWG list was based on the results of almost 43,000 tests for pesticides collected by the US Dept of Agriculture and the FDA betw 2000 and 2005.

A strawberry pesticide study conducted in Germany between 2002 and 2005 tested 593 conventionally grown strawberry samples originating mainly from Germany, Spain, Italy and Morocco. The study found that pesticide residues were detected in 98% of the samples and 93% of samples contained multiple pesticide residues. The German Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) for various pesticides were exceeded by 9% of the samples and mepanipyrim (a fungicide) was the most frequently found violating compound.

Strawberries also contain many beneficial compounds and another study I found analysed the cancer fighting ability of conventional versus organic strawberries. No surprises which growing method won:


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