Letters to Young Farmers

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST

The reference of the title isn’t lost on us, for the “everyday act of creation”, of coaxing bounty from the soil, is a form of poetry. We applaud both the advisors and the ears on which the advice falls.

Letters to a Young Farmer is full of good counsel for the next generation from the likes of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and the noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

Dear young farmer,

Let me speak to you as a familiar, because of all the years I’ve cherished members of your tribe. Of course, I also know you’re only yourself, just as I remember the uniqueness of every intern, WWOOFer, and summer weed-puller who has spent a season or two on our family’s farm. Some preferred to work without shoes. Some were captivated by the science of soils, botany, and pest management. Some listened to their iPods, or meditated, or even sang as they hoed and weeded, while others found no music among the bean bee­tles. A few confessed to finding this work too hard, but many have gone on to manage other farms or buy places of their own. In these exceptional souls I invest my hopes….

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Democratizing Coffee Consumption

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Tony Konecny, the head of coffee operations at Locol, outside the branch in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

We have no reason to debate the logic of a more reasonably priced cup of quality coffee:

Has Coffee Gotten Too Fancy?

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LOS ANGELES — The $1 cup of coffee is divisive, as drinks go.

For some, it’s a staple of the American morning: a comforting routine, a good deal. Anything that costs more than $1 is needlessly expensive, a waste of money — the coffee from a deli, diner or doughnut cart is all you need to start the day. For others, the $1 cup is suspiciously cheap. Maybe it tastes bad, or its production does harm to the land and is unfair to laborers. If you have to pay more, then that is probably a reflection of a drink’s true cost. Continue reading

Family, Editorializing, Persistence

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A front page screen shot of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, which has won a Pulitzer Prize. Photograph: Storm Lake Times

There seems to be a tradition in the field of journalism in the USA whereby one publication celebrates another’s victory in the Pulitzer awards race. Thanks to the Guardian for its shout out, from across the water, to this little publication. As a member of a small organization with multiple family members working together; an organization that editorializes about food as much as anything else; an enterprise that persists against the odds; I particularly like the David & Goliath ring of this:

Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

Art Cullen owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times with his brother John. His wife and son also work at the paper Continue reading

Model Mad, Podcast

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We, among millions of others, had to have a listen. It would be useless to comment on it, but we pass it along to the few people who have not yet heard about it. The only comment here, besides the advisory that it was produced for a mature audience, might be the conclusion that in the model mad series we have been running, this one takes the cake. Maybe with this one we need to close out that series. Until we see something better, that’s it.

Gaps, Meaning & More

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Kyle DeNuccio, right, on Lake Batur in Bali, a gap year stop. CreditKyle DeNuccio

I am currently interviewing candidates to join us for summer internships, and possible university gap year projects at Chan Chich Lodge. Most importantly the projects will focus on various food-related initiatives, some longstanding goals and others more in the spirit of random variation. We have had plenty of awesome interns, as well as wondrous wanderers and sometimes sabbaticalists join us here and there for more than two decades, and we feel qualified to claim that this fellow (who reminds me a bit of this fellow) speaks truth:

Independence Days: My Perfect Imperfect Gap Year

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Midway through a lackluster freshman year at the University of San Diego, I called my parents and told them I planned to leave school after the spring semester. Continue reading

Model Mad, Mayor

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Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, said she was “convinced that together, cities, businesses and citizens will save the planet. Their alliance is critical.” Credit Scout Tufankjian/C40

We started this model mad series of links to share stories of people, and of public institutions, and of private enterprises among others finding creative outlets for expressing resistance to powerful interests determined to undermine environmental responsibility. This governor was a favorite among our readers, so we expect this mayor will join the upper ranks of appreciation:

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, is also chairwoman of C40, a network of the world’s biggest cities committed to addressing climate change. As mayor, despite strong opposition, she has closed parts of the city — including along the bank of the Seine River — to traffic. Recently, I asked Ms. Hidalgo about her interest in environmental issues and why women are important to the solutions. Continue reading

Why We Use eBird, A How-To Primer Explaining Our Motivations

Chan-Chich-Lodge-logoThis article published by Audubon (click their banner below to go there) continues to provide fresh illumination on the basics of eBird; also on why we have made eBird central to our birding activities for guests in recent years, and why Chan Chich Lodge is collaborating with the Lab of Ornithology this Global Big Day event .

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Since its launch in 2002, eBird has revolutionized the way birders worldwide report and share their observations. A joint project by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, eBird is a free online program that allows birders to track their sightings, while other birders watch and search in real-time. Articles have been written about eBird with mind-bending titles like, “eBird Changed My Life” and “The Agony and Ecstasy of Surrendering to eBird.” In a front-page science headline in 2013, The New York Times called it “Crowdsourcing, for the Birds,” and concluded that eBird is “a revelation for scientists” and gives birders “a new sense of purpose.” Continue reading

Scott Chaskey, Inspiration

Chaskey.jpgI had not heard of him before, but as we move the Chan Chich Lodge farm to table program forward it is instructive to listen to him speak about his journey:

Farmer, poet, and pioneer of the community farming movement, Scott Chaskey is the kind of progressive thinker that doesn’t come around often. Weaving together his passion for farming and prose, the 66-year-old has penned multiple books on the community farming movement, creating a road-map for Americans who want to live off the land as a community. He talks to Here’s the Thing host Alec Baldwin about deciding to “eat consciously,” watching his love for the earth go global, and the food his kids hid from him when they were little.

This also has me looking at his books: Continue reading

The Future Of News

2503_cover_beigeThe purpose of this, where I am typing this just now, is to share information. Sometimes that information comes in the form of a personal story, which is highly subjective but informative about the challenges, the innovations, and accomplishments related to conservation and the wellbeing of communities around the world. We depend on the New York Times for this kind of information every day, and more days than not we link out to stories they publish related to the environment, community, or other topics of interest on this platform; so this story matters to us:

ARTHUR GREGG SULZBERGER doesn’t remember the first time he visited the family business. He was young, he says, no older than 6, when he shuffled through the brass-plated revolving doors of the old concrete hulk on 43rd Street and boarded the elevator up to his father’s and grandfather’s offices. He often visited for a few minutes before taking a trip to the newsroom on the third floor, all typewriters and moldering stacks of paper, and then he’d sometimes go down to the subbasement to take in the oily scents and clanking sounds of the printing press. Continue reading

Librarian’s Librarian

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The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, believes in citizens’ right to access information. “It should feel very special because it is very special,” she said, of the Library. “But it should be very familiar.” ILLUSTRATION BY BEN KIRCHNER; PHOTOGRAPH BY LEXEY SWALL / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX

It has been too long since our last shout out, among dozens starting in 2011, to libraries and librarians, so we are thankful for this opportunity with a brief excerpt from the middle of this post on the New Yorker website:

THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS AND THE GREATNESS OF HUMILITY

The values of Dr. Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first person of color in the position, can be seen in every aspect of the institution she runs.

…Mention her name to a New York Public Library staffer, and there’s a frisson of excitement; at her raucous and bustling sendoff in Baltimore, a high-school librarian, quoted in the Washington Post, called her a “rock star.”…

Coastal Preparations

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and specifically Lisa Feldcamp, for this note and video on adaptive coastal folks:

“It hurt my heart to see how [the beach] had been deteriorated,” says Norris Henry of St. Andrew’s Development Organization. “I know in the past there was a nice beachfront, where you can play cricket, you can play football, you can run. But it’s so sad to see it is no longer there.” Continue reading

Made In India, Another Success Story

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A wheel of hard, aged cheese. Aarthi Gunnupuri

Since our setting up shop in India in 2010 we have seen many improvements all around us, all much more important than cheese. But, finally, even the cheese is making life here better. Thanks as always to the folks at the salt, from National Public Radio (USA):

These Monks Have A Calling: Making Fresh Italian Cheese — In India

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In a monastery tucked away in a quiet back lane of Bangalore, India, Benedictine monks of the Vallombrosian Order are using their European connections to meet rising demand for fresh, Italian-style cheese in this South Asian country. Continue reading

Mad, Yes

0115-bks-ivorytower-blog427-v3As we approach our 8,000th post on this platform we realize that for the nearly six years we have been posting there was plenty of hopeful, helpful news related to community, collaboration and conservation–the themes we committed ourselves to at  the outset.

Times seem different now, to state the obvious. And yes we are “mad” about what is happening around us. Madly determined. It will take discipline to remain focused and find the news that fits our purpose here. But we intend to.

The point has not been to ignore the bad news, of which there has been plenty in recent years, but to share a few notices each day that highlight better news. Or possible solutions. The spirit of our intent, which has been to support “the fight” as needed but remain civil to the end, is captured well in this book review:

How to Be Civil in an Uncivil World

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Catch Da Lion

Our contributors have posted frequently about the implications of lionfish as invasive species on this site, but we’re always happy to support new programs and initiatives, especially in Belize.

This one is particularly fun and informative, explaining exactly how to manage the spines, how to catch them, how to eat them and how to wear them!

Multiple programs are popping up to help reduce the impact of this invasive species…

Get involved!

  1. Ask your local dive shop, tour operator or tour guide about going out to catch lionfish! Many businesses around Belize offer guests the chance to go out and remove lionfish from our beautiful reefs!
  2. Find that friend who has a boat and head out to the reef to go catch lionfish yourself! See the FAQ below for more information on the tools you will need!
  3. Organize or participate in a Lionfish tournament! Lionfish tournaments have been organized in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Dangriga and Placencia. Anybody can form a team and enter to catch the most, biggest & smallest lionfish for prizes and good fun!Interested in organizing one, contact us here for support regarding best practices, tournament rules and the materials you will need to get started!
  4. OR, join one of Blue Ventures’ Lionfish expeditions, to get involved in research & culling efforts in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve!
  5. OR join ReefCI’s lionfish programme

Now you try!

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We Will Be For It

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We have not seen one yet, apart from Uber and Lyft (which we have been grateful for as users already), but when we do see any pure form(s) of this mythical app our support will be early and often:

Carpooling apps could slash congestion, fuel use, and emissions

Cabo Pulmo & Octavio Aburto’s Masterful Storytelling

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The more we look around, the more we find that Mr. Aburto is telling the Cabo Pulmo story as well as anyone:

The People (Past and Present)

What make Cabo Pulmo a success story is its people: when faced with the dilemma to either continue fishing or to turn towards conservative goals, the community decided they needed to change. Continue reading

Keeping A Family Business Busy, Moving Into The Future While Preserving The Past

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Camillo Sirianni, a third-generation family business that began as a mechanized carpentry company in 1909, has overcome the isolation of its hometown to become a leading manufacturer of school furniture. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

The EU, like all governance systems and especially relatively young ones, had its shortcomings; but it also had plenty of visionary good that we continue to admire:

Internet Throws Lifeline to Family Businesses in Small Town in Italy’s South

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SOVERIA MANNELLI, Italy — Mario Caligiuri can still recall the night that may be credited with changing the fortunes of Soveria Mannelli.

It was New Year’s Eve at the turn of the millennium, and as mayor he dashed off an email to the authorities in Rome seeking an audience to explain his initiative to connect his struggling mountaintop town of about 3,000 inhabitants to the internet. Continue reading

App For Food Waste Reduction

‘A love for food and a distaste for waste’: Iseult Ward (left) and Aoibheann O’Brien in the FoodCloud warehouse in Dublin. Photograph: Mark Nixon for the Observer

‘A love for food and a distaste for waste’: Iseult Ward (left) and Aoibheann O’Brien in the FoodCloud warehouse in Dublin.
Photograph: Mark Nixon for the Observer

Thanks to the Guardian for their coverage of stories about reducing food waste:

FoodCloud: new app proves a nourishing idea for wasted food

The distribution of surplus food in Ireland is being transformed by FoodCloud. Killian Fox meets the duo behind the venture

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Within one community, there can be a business that’s throwing away perfectly good food and just around the corner there’s a charity that’s struggling to feed people in need,” says Iseult Ward of FoodCloud, a remarkable social enterprise which she co-founded with Aoibheann O’Brien in 2012. “We wanted to connect the two.” Continue reading

Surfing, Farming, Learning

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We have on occasion linked to video shorts offered over at the Atlantic website; this one is worth the seven minutes:

When Pro Surfers Learn to Farm

Video by The Perennial Plate

What happens when a group of professional surfers get tired of the global surfing circuit?

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This charming short documentary tells the story of how three friends abandoned their sports careers for the whimsical calling of growing organic vegetables on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Continue reading