Organic Food

Spilling the Beans: New Book Blows the Lid off Montana’s Organic “Lentil Underground”

By Katherine Seligman

Here in Northern California, the heart of the organic food movement, lentils are often taken for granted—a lowly shelf staple lacking the cult status of coffee, wine or artisan chocolate.

But there is much to learn from these humble legumes, insists Liz Carlisle, a former country music singer and Harvard grad who is now a doctoral student in geography at UC Berkeley. For the past few years, she has immersed herself in lentil agriculture, ecology and economics. And along the way, she has become something of a lentil evangelist.

author Liz Carlisle

Author Liz Carlisle

The book tells the story of a small farmer on a 280-acre patch of land in the Great Plains, who dared to take a stand against agribusiness by planting what others considered weeds. David Oien led a small underground network of farmers in his conservative Montana county that investigated the wonders of lentils, demonstrating to skeptics that they enrich the soil, creating their own fertilizer, and thrive with little moisture. Years of work resulted in Timeless Natural Food, now a million dollar enterprise that sells lentils and heritage grains not only locally, but also to foodies on both coasts.

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A message of hope

Last year, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) officially declared that 2015 would be celebrated as the International Year of the Soil, citing the threat to one of the key ingredients to the planet’s food and farming systems posed by “expanding cities, deforestation, unsustainable land use, pollution, overgrazing and climate change.”

Though many recognise the FAO declaration as a largely symbolic gesture, many advocates of organic food and sustainable agricultural are planning to seize the designation as a way to push forth their message that the health of the planet’s soil should not be relegated as a metaphorical issue, but rather one that should be at the very heart of serious conversations and policy changes humanity must begin in order to transform its economic systems, its democracies, the way it generates power, and the way it feeds itself.

Summarizing the issues at stake and the fight ahead, one of the world’s most prominent advocates for democracy and organic agriculture, Dr Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist and founder of the seed-saving organization Navdanya, has posted an impassioned New Year’s message to those battling on behalf of food sovereignty, economic egalitarianism, agroecology, climate action, and social justice.

In the video posted to the website of Seed Freedom, Shiva applauded all those who have stood up for the rights of people and Mother Earth against the greed and disregard perpetrated by corporate power and the neoliberal economic model which is ravaging economies, human rights, and the planet’s ability to sustain life.

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Organic 101: Organic Seeds Are Fundamental Right from the Start

Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.

Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.

This is the twenty-second installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The fall harvest is in, and organic farmers are already looking forward to planting their spring seedlings.  Organic farmers rely on organic seeds to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. These seeds are essential to the integrity of the supply chain for quality organic food, feed and other products.  All organic producers must use organic seeds, annual seedlings and planting stock unless organic varieties are not commercially available.

To meet the increased demand for organic seeds,…

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Mind your food: Do you know where your dinner comes from?

Food justice activist Mwanajuma Extavour speaks with Fatimah Jackson-Best about why it’s important to know the source of your food.

(Image: Photl)
(Image: Photl)

“To know your food is to know yourself. After the Almighty, what is more important to life than food?” Mwanajuma Extavour expresses these sentiments to me as we sit down to…

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Kvale leads successful harvest at U of M Morris

Submitted by Jenna Ray

University of Minnesota Morris editor/writer

University of Minnesota, Morris students gathered more than 654 pounds of produce from the campus vegetable garden this harvest season at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center. Led by Garden to Dining Services liaison Peter Kvale of Duluth, the harvest represents another success in Morris’ effort to increase….

Farm fresh from home

A catalogues of vegetables

Garlic is Chandran Chaliyakath’s big test this year. Their wiry, green stems grow out of a couple of plastic cans on his terrace. Last year, he harvested onions. “I got about 20 kgs,” says Chandran who makes metal grills and shutters for a living and grows vegetables for passion. In the past eight years, ever since Chandran moved into his new house in Cheruvannur built on 10 cents of land, his family began to grow vegetables. From…

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It’s not easy being green in world’s most polluted city

NEW DELHI, India — Away from jarring city traffic and dusty New Delhi streets, the Upadhyes’ rooftop garden is a lush, green haven of vegetables and herbs, even after the summer rains have drawn to a close.

The couple, both…

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