Monthly Archives: March 2011

News flash! Organic farmers take on Monsanto

This gets filed under the Way to Go! banner.

Sixty organic seed dealers and farmers have banded together to file suit against global seed giant Monsanto, a world leader in producing genetically engineered (“transgenic”) seeds. The farmers are taking pre-emptive action to protect themselves from the litigious company's propensity for suing farmers whom it claims illegally grow crops from “its” seeds.

The problem is that farmers sometimes find themselves growing such crops unknowingly, or at least unintentionally. This can happen if seeds or pollen blow from a field that does use a Monsanto crop onto neighboring fields that don't, or if seeds fall from trucks as they're being shipped, or as happened in at least one case, if farmers trade seeds—an old tradition—but one of them gives away seed collected from a crop grown from Monsanto transgenic seeds. The unfortunate recipient in that case, Edward Zilinski of Micado, Saskatchewan, was informed that he owed Monsanto $28,000.

In other words, it doesn't matter how you come by the stuff: if you didn't buy it, you have no right to it, at least according to Monsanto.

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Large-scale Bokashi??!?

Food bank
Bokashi bins outside Great Falls food bank. Photo by Mary Jane Arendes.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'd never heard of largescale Bokashi composting until Sunday afternoon at the Best of Bioneers festival here in Bozeman.

Several years back, Michael Dalton and Mary Jane Ahrendes hadn't heard of it either, but that didn't stop them. Inspired by another Bioneers conference several years ago, they founded an organization, Gardens from Garbage, and started setting up composting systems around their city of Great Falls. Bokashi composting systems.

Bokashi is an anaerobic (oxygen-free) composting method (as to opposed to the back-yard aerobic heap methods most of us are familiar with) which uses special microbes to essentially pickle waste into compost. Most often used for household garbage, the method requires nothing more than an airtight container and some starter microbes, usually in the form of treated wheat bran, which gets sprinkled over each layer of garbage until the vessel is full.

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Bozeman welcomes Rick Bass and the Bioneers

 I went to Bozeman's Best of Bioneers festival yesterday, and my head is reeling. It's amazing to spend an afternoon with such extraordinary thinkers, speakers, and activists, people who get stuff done in the realms of environmentalism and global awareness.

Bioneers has to be one of the most active and hopeful environmental groups out there. They bring together creative and active people who are working to save the environment and the people who live in it. You can follow some of their work through their fine weekly radio broadcast.

This event started with a bang, courtesy of Montana's one and only taiko group, which made me think of the traditional Japanese drumming groups we saw when we were in Japan. It also brought to mind Sendai, where we lived, decimated three weeks ago by earthquake and tsunami and now threatened by nuclear contamination. It was an oblique but fitting reminder, on this day dedicated to the environment, of how vulnerable the environment is, and we with it.

The afternoon included videocasts of speeches by Michael Pollan, author and food activist; Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe activist and politician; Jessica Rimington youthful founder of One World Youth Project; and John Francis, founder of Planetwalk, and author of Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking; 17 Years of Silence.

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Back in the saddle again—

  —and determined to stay here this time.

I want to thank everyone who responded to my post about my dad's death; I appreciate hearing from each of you.

My prolonged absence from the blog this time (sigh) has been due in part to my having come down a week ago with a wicked cold, the sort that makes you sleep eighteen hours a day and wish you could sleep twenty-four. But there's another, more cheerful reason: I've started another blog, which has been taking most of my writing time:

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