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February 2007: Agricultural Notes

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• The following was taken from a review by Jim Dyer and Heather Andrachuk in the Spring 2006 Seeds of Diversity, the magazine of Seeds of Diversity, Canada:

The Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) Coordinating Office of Environment Canada “has published the Pollinator Awareness and Reference Paper … which is available online at” The Paper is intended to convey “with a Canadian perspective … the story of insect pollination to people who have an interest rather than formal training in biological conservation issues … The Paper emphasizes that pollination is an ecological function and can be viewed as an ecosystem, rather than as a collection of insects. The essence of pollinator ecology is the partnership and co-dependence between plants and insects … After laying out the background material, the Paper introduces a proposed pollinator monitoring program that will be supported by EMAN.”

• This information comes from “Alternative to terraced hillsides is going with the flow” by Deborah K. Rich in the May 13 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle:

When Australian conservationists went to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea in the 1950s they found “that the farmers oriented their sweet potato beds down-slope.” This was on slopes from 15 to 25 degrees and even up to 45 degrees. “The Australians quickly set out to persuade the Highlanders to farm across the hillsides to reduce soil erosion.” Some farmers took their advice, which worked until the rainy season came. “Without the down-slope furrows to drain the water out of the beds and safely off the hill, the water saturated the topsoil and began to pool on top of the layer of clay that lies beneath. The water then ran downhill, carrying off entire beds with it.” The author points out that downhill furrows are also being used on a 20-percent slope in UC Santa Cruz’s Chadwick Garden. She also emphasizes that this gardening method is site-specific. She suggests considering: first, do “you really want to open the slope for cultivation.” There is no guarantee soil loss can be kept to a tolerable level on a 15-percent or greater slope. “Find out what kind of soil you have. Some soils are much more erosive than others. Clay soils can handle an up-and-down-the-slope furrow arrangement better than sandy, light soils … Observe how water enters the bed or field … See where water will go as it reaches the end of the furrows.” Use cover crops to keep the soil covered “when the beds are not in production … The steeper the slope, the faster the water will sluice down … Consider shortening the rows by breaking up the field with grassy medians and planted access roads.”

• The Project Manager of The Greening of Detroit, who met John Jeavons at the American Community Gardening Association Conference, sent us information about the projects sponsored by her organization in collaboration with the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Detroit Agricultural Network, and Michigan State University:

The Detroit Garden Resource Program “supports community, school and family gardeners by providing access to high-quality garden resources … including seeds, Detroit grown vegetable, perennial fruit, compost and more.”

The Urban Garden Education Series “supports educational opportunities for gardeners young and old [and] is designed to share new ideas as well as practical skills and techniques with gardeners through a series of interesting and interactive workshops.”

Urban Roots Leader Training Program is “a 9-week community gardener training program, designed to train community leaders in horticulture as well as community organizing skills. The hands-on courses teach students the skills they need to create and maintain vibrant and sustainable community and school gardens.”

“In 2005 alone, the collaborative supported 80 community gardens and 81 family gardens, serving over 849 adults and 1,979 children … [and] produced more than 60 tons of fresh, nutritious food for predominantly low-income families.”

She adds: “We’ve been teaching Biointensive Agriculture methods to our urban gardeners for two years now and have seen tremendous improvements in garden yield and soil quality. We think your experience is particularly valuable and relevant to urban food growers because we typically have to do more with less space and often begin with less-than-perfect site characteristics.”

• The state of Washington recently approved an organic farming degree program for Washington State University. This is the first organic degree program in the U.S., although Michigan State University and Colorado State are close to being able to offer the degrees.



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