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posted : 2009.Jan.10 @ 7.34pm


// A Real Green Revolution:


How to Start Massive Local Food Movements



The following is a project that I am working on in conjunction with a growing movement in the Puget Sound region—I place this article on the pod collective because I am interested in peer review, development and collaborative research to further purify and crystallize the ideas.  My suspicion is that if we approach properly, these ideas/this project has the potential to form a movement that could be part of the equation to truly realizing the meme of the Green Revolution.



Many of us have heard described the impressive growth of urban agriculture in Havana, Cuba, after the country faced food shortages in the early 1990s due to the fall of the Soviet Union, a longtime trade partner.  This movement came out of both necessity and ingenuity, for Cuba had a both a unique blend of archaic and progressive social tendencies, and geographical and geopolitical complications that required unusual agricultural tactics.  In the graph below you can get a feel for how fast the project evolved.

Graph 1.  Organoponicos=urban gardens; heurtos intensivos=intensive orchards; patios y parcelas=patios and parcels (which they began measuring in 1998.See


In North America we are not facing immediate food shortages—rather we are cornering ourselves into a set of coalescing ecological predicaments that could very well cripple much of industrial agriculture in the not so distant future.  You see, unlike the financial crisis, there are forms of natural capital that we cannot materialize out of thin air—the chief among these, I will argue, is soil.  But the trouble with modern agriculture obviously goes much further than the depletion of the natural capital upon which it depends.  And those other problems cannot be so easily reduced to the use of pesticides and certain fertilizers.  The complex goal of seeking a more biomimetic, ecologically congruent agriculture will require changing the way we breed plants, how we prepare our fields, our composting practices—all features that systems design models like permaculture and natural systems agriculture seek to evolve.


To jump start our transition into a new agricultural paradigm, we first need to instigate a resurgence of interest in both the agricultural sciences and local/regionally based food distribution models.  Luckily there is also a good amount of evidence that demonstrates the economic viability and attractiveness of enriching local food economies.  This comes from multiplier models that show potential to recirculate and increase wealth in a local economy if much of that money is kept within the region.


Last year under the leadership of its president, Richard Conlin, the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31019, the Local Food Action Initiative.  Speculation over how to cater the bill toward making it a panacea for “society’s ills” was flowing through Seattle’s sustainability community.  The end result was of course a watered-down version of the many proposed ideas, but the bill did pass and it has opened the doorway for what could be, if properly utilized, a rapid restructuring of the way the Seattle region approaches food security and community development.


» Local Foods Action Initiative Proposal Overview [pdf]


Currently the initiative is doing several things: a) reinforcing and guiding the growth of local farmers markets, b) providing a composting process to prevent the throwing away of suitable food product at local food banks, c) strengthening the existing pea patch program in Seattle, d) addressing the issue of Seattle residents raising agricultural animals.


I attended a brunch put on by the Tilth Producers of Washington in October where Richard Conlin described his vision for the evolution of the project.  (Here is the cute little elfin flyer that I designed for the brunch.)  I was very impressed by Conlin's presentation: his knowledge of this issues and obvious heartfelt dedication to the mission of improving the health, ecology and beauty of our region was rejuvenating (he also rode his bike out to the meeting).  The purpose of his speaking to us that day was to get more people involved and to ask for an influx of visionary thinking.  As is the case with many local governments across the country right now, Seattle's budget is struggling.  Therefore, projects like the Local Foods Action Initiative can easily be deemed a gamble and be cut because they are ostensibly ancillary to the immediate restabilization of our local economy.  However, there is much evidence to the contrary.


Our economic and cultural picture of Seattle’s food economy was updated in recent years by the economist Dr. Viki Sonntag, a researcher from Sustainable Seattle.  At the present time Seattle residents dedicate only around 1-2% of their food dollars within the Puget Sound Region—already slightly more than most major metropolitan areas in the U.S.  However, if we were to raise this figure to something like 20%, Sonntag argues, we could increase our regional income by around half a billion dollars.  This figure is only a rough idea of the potential, for there are many factors that are both changing right now, both due to the underlying economic changes our society is experiencing and also inevitable fluctuations in local food prices if a larger local food economy were to explode.  Those factors aside, I believe there are many attractive features to this idea—I think that it can be developed into a meme and implemented in a place like Seattle, then spread to other cities across the world.  However, there are many obstacles.  These revolve around the education of the public and maintaining a delicate relationship between regional organizations and local government.


» Why Local Linkages Matter - Viki Sonntag [pdf]



Stated more clearly, here is the current plan being proposed (this is open to change):


By 2015 we aim to bring the Puget Sound region up to 25% dependence upon foods grown within its approximate boundaries.  This project can be a joint effort between local government (city, county and state) and regional organizations, such that the legal and organizational strategy can be carried out by local government, and implementation of the project can be the concern of regional organizations.  This tactic offers a pathway toward limiting the monetary investment made by local government, both as a means of avoiding establishing reliance upon government for support (which would obviously contradict the aim of sustainability) and also demonstrating how local food economies can blossom in metropolitan areas that are less affluent and face greater challenges than the Seattle area.




Here is a growing list of the organizations

that are currently participating:


Community Alliance for Global Justice


The Land Institute

Seattle Tilth

Sustainable Seattle

Sustainable Cascadia

Sno-Valley Tilth

Tilth Producers of Washington

Wilder Institute 



posted : 2009.Jan.13 @ 8.26pm

key work by a new world worker

comprehensive and dialogue oriented

a model to study in the development of this vital direction


the permie elves will be watching this thread with interest




posted : 2009.Jan.17 @ 8.46pm

I think this is a great start...especially like how you set a concrete objective for it also.

Keep me posted. 

posted : 2009.Jan.18 @ 3.03pm

Here are some things that you might find interesting that we used when we did the Puget Sound Locavore Project last spring.


A relocatization project in Willits, CA:


Post Carbon Institute's "Real New Deal" proposed to the Obama administration:




Culture Change:

posted : 2009.Feb.01 @ 2.15pm

» A 50-Year Farm Bill

Published: January 4, 2009

THE extraordinary rainstorms last June caused catastrophic soil erosion in the grain lands of Iowa, where there were gullies 200 feet wide. But even worse damage is done over the long term under normal rainfall — by the little rills and sheets of erosion on incompletely covered or denuded cropland, and by various degradations resulting from industrial procedures and technologies alien to both agriculture and nature.


Soil that is used and abused in this way is as nonrenewable as (and far more valuable than) oil. Unlike oil, it has no technological substitute — and no powerful friends in the halls of government.


Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.


To the problem of soil loss, the industrialization of agriculture has added pollution by toxic chemicals, now universally present in our farmlands and streams. Some of this toxicity is associated with the widely acclaimed method of minimum tillage. We should not poison our soils to save them.


Industrial agricultural has made our food supply entirely dependent on fossil fuels and, by substituting technological “solutions” for human work and care, has virtually destroyed the cultures of husbandry (imperfect as they may have been) once indigenous to family farms and farming neighborhoods.


Clearly, our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.


For 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. That is a mistake. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billons of dollars to the agribusiness corporations.


Any restorations will require, above all else, a substantial increase in the acreages of perennial plants. The most immediately practicable way of doing this is to go back to crop rotations that include hay, pasture and grazing animals.


But a more radical response is necessary if we are to keep eating and preserve our land at the same time. In fact, research in Canada, Australia, China and the United States over the last 30 years suggests that perennialization of the major grain crops like wheat, rice, sorghum and sunflowers can be developed in the foreseeable future. By increasing the use of mixtures of grain-bearing perennials, we can better protect the soil and substantially reduce greenhouse gases, fossil-fuel use and toxic pollution.


Carbon sequestration would increase, and the husbandry of water and soil nutrients would become much more efficient. And with an increase in the use of perennial plants and grazing animals would come more employment opportunities in agriculture — provided, of course, that farmers would be paid justly for their work and their goods.


Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles. We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities.


This is a political issue, certainly, but it far transcends the farm politics we are used to. It is an issue as close to every one of us as our own stomachs.


Wes Jackson is a plant geneticist and president of The Land Institute in Salina, Kan. Wendell Berry is a farmer and writer in Port Royal, Ky.


» Counterpunch Interview with Wes Jackson

posted : 2009.Feb.03 @ 2.10pm

Wes Jackson: The Land Institute


Wes Jackson Ph.D, is founder of the Land Institute, a research organization that has been breeding perennial grain varieties that can be planted into polyculture (many plants comingled, as compared to monoculture) for nearly 30 years now.  Their research has spilled out into some land-grant universities and the results are impressive.  The possibility of developing perennial grain varieties that can compete with today's high-yielding (but highly resource dependent) annual grain varieties is becoming more tangible, but it needs reinforcement from our various land-grant universities.  I first encountered Dr. Jackson's vision for agriculture in 2001 via his book "New Roots for Agriculture".  This book is short and, I believe, to this day the most realistic vision for changing industrial agriculture.  It is a testament to the notion of stewardship and it is SO related to the notion of deficit spending/capital/etc...


» The Land Institute

» Scientific American: Future Farming ~ A Return to Roots? [pdf]




posted : 2009.Feb.17 @ 3.25pm

Let me start by updating the statement for this project.

We seek to consolidate and refine Seattle's local food movement (SLFM), setting appropriate goals in the context of a growing national  campaign for restructuring industrial agriculture.  Our replacement model, Natural Systems Agriculture (NSA), as defined and explored by Dr. Wes Jackson and kin, will only progress politically with a major upsurge in public, academic and political support.  Currently Jackson is writing a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture in preparation for submitting the NSA 50-year plan (described above) to Congress.  

Rapid growth of local foods movements across the country will both set up the necessary conditions for changing industrial agriculture (i.e. bringing us to the economic tipping point where already struggling megafarms cannot survive without broadening federal subsidies) and they will provide a pathway to the alternative models (obviously this implies that our current industrial model is going to fail--for evidence of this, see the above videos and watch this space as I will continue to drop information on here).

I encourage you to research the surrounding concepts and start spreading the information related to this work or even information about alternative agriculture in general.  We are in the information spreading / networking phase of this project and you can help BIGTIME by posting videos and links arround the web.

Here is a list of things that we're working on / items that some of you may be able to help with.

1.  SLFM Seminar - I'm planning an all-day seminar to tackle this project.  Should occur in another month or so.  I could use help organizing this and gaiacraft should consider being present.

2.  Photography Project - I have been preparing for presentations and a future website by looking for sweet examples of houses / compounds that exemplify fabulous urban agriculture.  What I've been thinking is that we need to get a few photographers together in June or July and take photos of such examples around the Seattle area.  In preparation for this and to support the work that we do before the summer, some one could organize and filter photos off of the web (and from other sources).  My suspicion is that this could actually take some time to accomplish because one has to ask for permissions and such.  I've got two photographers who are interested so far, but they are both kinda busy right now.

3.  Website - We eventually need to build a website, but I think the project is not quite there yet.  If anyone wants to help with this process, it would be good to start thinking about what this site would look like / what it would offer.

4.   Networking - We're at the stage here where getting attention and making many webular connections is smart.  As I said, if you want to help with this project right now, research this stuff and spread links.  Post videos on social networking sites, tell your friends, etc, etc... The other networking item is that if you know people who have something to offer this project or are working on similar stuff in other regions, connect me to them and or bring them to the pod!

posted : 2009.Feb.20 @ 11.21pm

This is a great topic Agape.

It's my first time to this one.

I still have more to explore with the videos, but I have a solid idea of where you're heading with this, and it's reallin inspiring.


I am sitting right now at my friends house in Vancovuer, who started what she calls, "The 2 Block Diet".

It's an effort by her and some neighbours to create a local growing co-op in their 2 blocks to support the ideas you are talking about here.

They have just started to prepare the land for thier first season of planting, and already word is spreading to other areas of the city,

and appearing in articles in different publications, creating a wave of inspiration and imagination.

They have even involved a small church on their block to use their amazing property to support the produciton of produce, 

as they get the majority of good sunlight on the street.

Issues like raising chickens in yards, has also been discssed and is part of a main topic at City Hall right now.


Part of Julias inspiration to start the 2 block diet came from her meeting another young woman named Rin,

who created a permi-garden right in her front yard in the city, large enough to supply produce for her, her house-mates and

sell the rest to others wanting fresh local produce. Enough so that she didn't have to work a 'job' for a whole season to pay her rent.

( This was in a small front yard in the city, no fence )


These ideas are spreading in many different ways, and as our conciousness shifts it's also part of

the 'tipping point' for it to spread even more rapidly as people yearn for a more connected lifestyle,

that is more free from the slavery of working for the continuation of scarcity.

People see that simply taking responsiblity can have some amazingly healthy effects on all aspects of their life and peole around them. 


Right now, Drea and I have started seed saving, by making an order of seeds that we will only use some of to plant our crops,

and save extras of other things we can't plant due to our current living situation, but we know the seeds can last years. 

So it's really a great investment.


I'll stay linked to this thread for sure now, and as it evolves, some ideas form here can merge with what I have in mind for a

Gaian art show in Vancouver.

Of late I've really been thinking about getting 'local' ideas like this out to the public at events that can draw a variety of crowds,

to see what is happening right aroudn them.


Thanks for your major efforts on this very important and inspiring issue.


posted : 2009.Feb.26 @ 8.34am

Simon, thanks for the encouragement and interest.  This Two-Block Diet idea is good, and it sounds like this sort of community action is developing in many cities along the West Coast.  Some of the other ways that people have been starting urban agriculture projects are by forming gardening businesses or cooperatives and signing on a number of clients for the 2009 growing season.  Then during the main growing season they go around and plant and cultivate vegetables and fruits for people who either aren't using land that can be in production or don't have the time or physical wherewithall to bust out the green thumb.  I read a New York Times article some months ago that spoke of a growing number of businesses in San Francisco doing exactly this...  More on the models for developing urban agriculture to come.


Your Gaian Art Show idea should be fun, let me know if you need any help.  And I agree, it is important to continue getting the "local economy" message out there right now.

posted : 2009.Feb.26 @ 9.32am

hi Agape,



yes.. good stuff growing up now. 


I finally watched the video of Wes Jackson

the content is great,

but he is one of the wors speakers I've ever heard. sooo slooowww and monotone.

Delvin could talk this guy over 10 time and some.  ; )





posted : 2009.Feb.26 @ 10.02am

haha...  He's slower country folk-style, that's for sure.  I know what you mean about his delivery--I will look for a better video.  Also, there are other public figures who champion Natural Systems Agriculture, for instance Janine Benyus (she wrote Biomimicry) and Paul Hawken (he wrote Natural Capitalism).  I believe Janine Benyus discusses NSA in her TED talk.


Wes Jackson has teamed up with Wendell Berry, the well respected author / farmer, to help carry his message.. and I believe Michael Pollan (Botany of Desire & Omnivores Dilemma) will push these ideas too, but strategically he is starting with encouraging local food and educating the mainstream on why our current agricultural system is ecologically and economically unwise.


As I committed to at the beginning of this thread, I will be releasing podcasts.  They will probably be discussions with other people as I find that brings about the richest externalization of ideas.

posted : 2009.Feb.26 @ 11.01am
right on.. thanks for the additional info.  goood to know.

posted : 2009.Feb.26 @ 9.10pm
Documentary film about young farmers.  » Website 


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