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EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

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Northern California Fires Ravage Grape and Cannabis Crops

By Dan Nosowitz

Authorities have reported at least 23 people have died as a result of the fires, and dry conditions and powerful winds indicate that they're far from quenched.

This part of California, starting about an hour drive north of San Francisco, is one of the country's most important agricultural zones. Napa and Sonoma are home to thousands of grape growers and hundreds of wineries worth tens of billions of dollars per year, and there's also a thriving dairy industry (cows, goats and sheep), as well as some vegetable growers. Sonoma County alone has nearly 75,000 head of cattle. Further up the coast into the slightly cooler and more forested Mendocino County, there are thousands of cannabis farms.

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Bees rely on flowers for food. Jim, the Photographer/Flickr

Longer Flowering Seasons: Bad for Bees?

By Dan Nosowitz

Scientists from North Carolina State University stumbled into a weird paradox while analyzing certain high-altitude bees in the Rocky Mountains.

The team studied three species of bees in the subalpine regions of the Mountain West along with 43 years of local flower bloom data in order to understand how climate change might affect the pollinators.

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The USDA Is Being Sued for Delaying New Organic Standards

By Dan Nosowitz

When you think of "free-range" chicken, what exactly comes to mind? That question, amazingly enough, is now central to a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government.

This debate centers around the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule. It is essentially an updated and more precise list of rules about how exactly meat, poultry and eggs will be produced if they are to score the coveted "organic" label—and the price increase that comes along with it. But the rule has been delayed and questioned so often in the eight months since it was officially introduced that the Organic Trade Association has resorted to the nuclear option: sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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These milk pods are made of sugar and could someday replace traditional creamer cups. Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg

Dissolvable Milk and Sugar Pods Could Replace Single-Serve Containers

By Dan Nosowitz

Sixty-eight percent of coffee drinkers in the U.S. use some kind of addition, either a creamer or a sweetener, or both. And if that addition is coming in the form of a single-serve plastic container, it's likely ending up in a landfill.

These pods—you've seen them at hotels, airplanes, restaurants, conventions—are convenient in that they are often shelf-stable, and can be used in small doses. This is not inherently bad; the idea of using a tiny container of creamer so as to avoid opening and possibly eventually throwing out a quart of milk is sound.

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Astounding: 35,000 Bees Found in a Brooklyn Bedroom Ceiling

By Dan Nosowitz

A beekeeper in Brooklyn, New York made an astounding discovery last week: A report of some bees in a bedroom was just the tip of a 35,000-bee iceberg.

After seeing a few bees in her bedroom, East Flatbush resident Cherisse Mulzac called in a local bee expert, Mickey Hegedus (also known as "Mickey the Beekeeper"), a man known for his chemical-free, cruelty-free extraction of bees. But even Hegedus wasn't prepared for what he found above the bedroom ceiling.

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Daniel Vincek / Fotolia

5 Links Between the Food on Your Plate and Climate Change

By Brian Barth

"Certified organic" does not necessarily equate to "climate friendly." While there is some evidence that organic techniques produce as much as 40 percent fewer GHGs on average than conventional productions systems, other studies have found more or less a wash between the two. While scientists continue to debate the matter, it's important to realize that the organic standards were never intended to minimize GHGs—they're focused almost exclusively on eliminating synthetic chemicals from the food supply.

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Should Hydroponic Farming Be Eligible for Organic Certification?

By Dan Nosowitz

Last month, the National Organic Standards Board met in Denver, Colorado, to discuss what might be the most hotly-debated subject in all of eco-agriculture: What, exactly, does "organic" mean?

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Bluebird Hill Farm

This 13-Acre Organic Farm Can Be Yours for Just 200 Words

By Dan Nosowitz

It is, we assume, the dream of many readers (and writers and artists and gardeners and ... well ... just about everyone who's reading this site probably) to someday own a little organic farm of their own. But the costs of acquiring one—and the difficulties of certification—can all make that dream seem impossible.

Norma Burns, an architect-turned-farmer, has owned and operated Bluebird Hill Farm in North Carolina for nearly 18 years. After all that time, she's decided she's ready to pass it on to someone new—but her selection process isn't limited to, say, kids or employees. She's holding an essay contest to determine who'll be Bluebird Hill's next owner.

Bluebird Hill Farm is located about three hours east of Asheville. It is a USDA-certified 13-acre organic farm on which she grows lavender, specialty vegetables, herbs and native plants and the pictures make it look absolutely gorgeous: rolling hills, fields of lavender, picturesque barns. Our State has some more information on Burns and her farm, if you're interested.

Bluebird Hill Farm viewed from the pond.Bluebird Hill Farm

The contest is simple or as simple as giving away a farm valued at $450,000 can be: a 200-word essay laying out why you and your partner want to own the farm. Yep, partner: "Experience has shown that Bluebird Hill Farm can't be operated successfully by a single individual," she writes. Aspirants must commit to keeping the farm organic, at least one of the partners must be between the ages of 25 and 50 ("to ensure that the winning couple has the life experience and physical stamina that active farming requires"), will pay the closing taxes and fees and must chip in a $300 entry fee.

That's about it, really. Oh, and the application is extremely clear that anyone entering the contest should not, under any circumstances, attempt to contact Burns via any method besides Facebook. ("Entrants who attempt to contact Bluebird Hill Farm directly will be DISQUALIFIED and your entry fee will NOT BE REFUNDED," she writes. Caps lock is hers.)

The deadline to enter is June 1, so you can while away the winter hours hammering out your 200-word essay. Make sure each one of those words is perfect. Your future might depend on it.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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