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Damage from Hurricane Maria. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica

Puerto Rico's Revival Depends on Empowering Small-Scale Farmers

Reporting by Saulo Araujo

Houses without roofs and trees without leaves is all the eyes could see in the week following the devastation that Hurricane Maria wrought. The Category 5 storm with 150+ miles per hour winds was the strongest to hit the island in over a century, leaving the entire population without water and power. Weeks later 3 million people are still without electricity.

Up in the mountains, small-scale farmers lost their crops, and their ability to feed their families was abruptly leveled. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica (Boricuá) a grassroots organization of more than 100 families made up of small-scale farmers, farmworkers and organizers across Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques & Culebra, continues working to communicate with their members in rural areas and to assess the damages. Boricua has made great progress in the last three decades to organize and support farmers, facilitate farmer-to-farmer trainings, and build solidarity nationally and globally. They are helping to fuel agroecology on the island, bringing locally grown, nutritious food to their communities and to market.

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Smallholder agriculture in southern Ethiopia. Smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Leah Samberg

How Climate Change and Wars Are Increasing World Hunger

By Leah Samberg

Around the globe, about 815 million people—11 percent of the world's population—went hungry in 2016, according to the latest data from the United Nations. This was the first increase in more than 15 years.

Between 1990 and 2015, due largely to a set of sweeping initiatives by the global community, the proportion of undernourished people in the world was cut in half. In 2015, UN member countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which doubled down on this success by setting out to end hunger entirely by 2030. But a recent UN report shows that, after years of decline, hunger is on the rise again.

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Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

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Edible Schoolyard

Organic Food and Farm-to-Table Pioneer Alice Waters Is Creating a Revolution in School Lunches

By Don Hazen

When I spoke with Alice Waters, we didn't focus on her famed restaurant, Chez Panisse, or her profound impact on the way we eat today, starting with the concept of farm to table. Rather, we talked about her passionate, decades-long campaign to provide organic school lunches to kids across the country.

Waters has long advocated that growing, preparing and eating food should be considered a centerpiece of the school curriculum, and she is making progress; thousands of schools across America and around the world have adopted some aspect of her Edible Schools Program.

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Regeneration International

How to Start a Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Your Community

By Regeneration International

The most important, although as of yet little known, new paradigm shift and set of practices in the world today is regenerative agriculture, or rather regenerative food, farming and land use. Regeneration practices, scaled up globally on billions of acres of farmland, pasture, and forest, have the potential to not only mitigate, but actually reverse global warming and, at the same time, provide solutions to other burning issues such as poverty, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation, and global conflict.

The world-changing promise of regeneration lies in the fact that a large scale increase in plant photosynthesis (i.e. drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen, but transferring a major proportion of carbon into the plant roots and soil) made possible by fundamental changes in farming, grazing and land use practices, (along with the transition to 100 percent renewable energy) across billions of acres, can drawdown enough excess CO2 from the atmosphere into our living soils, plants, and forests to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate.

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Crew members Eva Jones and Chris Farley, residents of Mingo County, work the soil. It is compacted, composed of blasted rock, and lacks organic matter. Paul Corbit Brown / YES! Magazine

Turning Appalachia’s Mountaintop Coal Mines Into Farms

By Catherine V. Moore

On a surface-mine-turned-farm in Mingo County, West Virginia, former coal miner Wilburn Jude plunks down three objects on the bed of his work truck: a piece of coal, a sponge and a peach. He's been tasked with bringing in items that represent his life's past, present and future. "This is my heritage right here," he said, picking up the coal. Since the time of his Irish immigrant great-grandfathers, all the males in his family have been miners.

"Right now I'm a sponge," he said, pointing to the next object, "learning up here on this job, in school, everywhere, and doing the best I can to change everything around me."

Then he holds up the peach. "And then my future. I'm going to be a piece of fruit. I'm going to be able to put out good things to help other people."

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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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Total Health Costs of Industrial Food Systems Are 'Staggering'

A new report by international experts draws significant linkages between industrial food and farming practices and many of the "severest health conditions afflicting populations around the world," from respiratory diseases to a range of cancers and systematic livelihood stresses.

The report was released on Oct. 9 and is titled, Unravelling the Food-Health Nexus: Addressing Practices, Political Economy, and Power Relations to Build Healthier Food Systems. It was produced by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and commissioned by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

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Food

Food and Water Security and the Climate Crisis: What You Need to Know

Chances are you've heard the line that the climate crisis affects all of us, wherever we live and whether we know it or not. But how? Especially if you haven't been personally touched by a climate-related hurricane or drought or other weather event?

You don't have to look far for an answer. In fact, most of us just need to look at what's on our plates.

Why? If we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rates, food may become harder and harder to grow in many places, and what does grow could be less and less nutritious. Fresh drinking water could become more and more scarce as polluted floodwater runoff contaminates rivers, lakes and reservoirs—or drought and warming combine to simply dry it all up.

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