The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture

July 30, 2020 by  
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The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture Jean Orlowski Thu, 07/30/2020 – 02:00 Nearly a decade ago, as we took in the lush plant life, clean air and warm sunshine surrounding us during a vacation in Hawaii, my wife, Danielle, and I knew a life shift was happening. A connection to the land — this island — was built on that trip, leading us to relocate permanently to Captain Cook, Hawaii. It was there that we came across a six-acre Kona coffee farm that had fallen into neglect. Nurturing this farm back to life strengthened our relationship with the island, taught us the true meaning of sustainability and allowed us to become advocates for organic farming beyond our own acreage. Today Hala Tree Coffee Farm consists of nearly 100 acres, and we’ve built a network of like-minded coffee farmers looking to become fully organic. While organic processes may not change the taste of the coffee beans (the environment here takes the credit for that), the organic processes show respect to the land that produces them. We’re firm believers that authentic Kona coffee is organic and that shifting toward regenerative agriculture is vital. Globally, but especially on an island, just being “organic” is no longer enough.  Moving from ‘minimizing impact’ to regenerating  Our motivation to make a career out of farming stemmed from a love of the land. We wanted to work with this island, not take from it, and leave it even better than we found it. Learning the intricacies of Kona coffee farming from the ground up highlighted the need for organic practices early on. While sustainability is important no matter where you live, living on an island increases the urgency. Our soil, our trees and our water eventually connect to the ocean that surrounds Hawaii. While we want to care for the island itself, the consequences of not using organic practices can reach to the mainland United States and beyond, carried by the currents. Even small island farms leave a lasting effect — both positive and negative — on the environment globally. And because Hawaii must import large amounts of produce (resulting in 600,000 pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere for each flight from San Francisco to Hawaii), regenerative agriculture is imperative for our state. One major way to do that is to shift the way farming is done, especially for key crops such as coffee. Until recently, Hawaii was the only U.S. state that grows coffee beans (California has just started), and Kona coffee is coveted around the world. The mix of rain, quality soil, sunshine and elevation on the island creates the perfect environment for farming coffee beans. The conditions truly can’t be reproduced elsewhere, and that’s why the Kona coffee farming community is passionate about the environment and our island. At Hala Tree, we focus on two key areas: our soil and our trees.  We focus on topsoil regeneration by using perennial peanuts as ground cover to nourish the soil and anchor it. Our farm, as with most coffee farms in Hawaii, covers sloped areas prone to runoffs. Ground cover is vital to stabilizing our soil; we focus on the regenerative piece by choosing materials that give back to the soil. During pruning and clipping seasons on the farm, everything cut from the trees is spread on top of the current soil throughout the farm. We also use natural fertilizer made from fish bones throughout the farm. Wildlife is also a consideration with ground cover; we must ensure that we are not restricting movement or harming native animals. These species are key to the land’s ability to regenerate, and we must work with them, not around or against.  New trees are continuously planted on the farm to boost carbon sequestration. We have about 100,000 trees under our management, each being carefully maintained with organic practices.  Part of our initiative to move toward regenerative agriculture is helping other local farmers obtain organic certification. This initial process can be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive for small farms; for example, the weed maintenance piece is a tall order in a wet, humid climate where plants grow at astounding speeds. By bringing more farms under our wing and helping them on the organic path, we aim to better equip the agriculture community to embrace regenerative farming.  What’s good for one is good for all  While smaller farms may have the most to gain from going organic, the upfront cost to earn that designation can be prohibitive. Materials, tools, processes and labor need to be accounted for, not to mention the cost of certification. Farms also must be fully organic for three years before a certification can be awarded, adding a time investment on top of cost. For a small farm with just a few acres, this may be impossible to achieve alone. In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands ) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support. In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support.   Our own expansion as a company is partially fueled by mentoring other farms. The territory here can be difficult to work with, given the grades of hills and the need for special equipment. We help smaller farms by sharing resources and, in some cases, we manage their acreage to support their journey toward organic certification. Our partners either pay a fee or share a part of their harvest with us in exchange, making organic farming attainable while ensuring that they still see profit. It’s a form of regenerative agriculture itself: We’re investing in the community that invested in us, keeping everything local. Other types of agriculture are starting to use this model, and more need to follow. The wine industry is similar to coffee in terms of cultivation, harvest and processing. Established vineyards with organic certification can lift up neighboring vineyards and share their resources. When more organic wine enters the market, consumers are more likely to try it, which benefits the newly established organic farms and boosts the industry as whole. While new technology can help this process, machines can’t fully replace people or mimic the value of a strong, supportive network. That’s why we all need to work together. We hope to see farms of all kinds on the mainland and beyond consider the model we’ve created in Hawaii. We need more minds behind innovation in this area to continue growing and making regenerative practices accessible. While living on an island initially may have raised our sense of urgency for going organic, it’s no less imperative for our farming community in other U.S. states and around the world to shift their practices. While sustainability discussions can feel overwhelming and difficult, we have an opportunity in the agriculture community to show fellowship, support and positivity — and perhaps improve products and profits along the way. Pull Quote In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Organics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hala Tree Coffee Farm owners Danielle and Jean Orlowski. Courtesy of Charla Photography Close Authorship

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The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture

Black farmers embrace and implement solutions for climate resiliency

January 8, 2020 by  
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“Our duty as earthkeepers is to call the exiled carbon back into the land and to bring the soil life home,” said Larisa Jacobson, co-director of Soul Fire Farm.

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Black farmers embrace and implement solutions for climate resiliency

Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

August 23, 2019 by  
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Plus, many of those food waste stats you’ve heard don’t include what’s discarded at the farm. Tune in to hear about both the problem, and potential solutions.

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Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

August 23, 2019 by  
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Plus, many of those food waste stats you’ve heard don’t include what’s discarded at the farm. Tune in to hear about both the problem, and potential solutions.

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Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

Toxic chemicals can enter food through packaging, so we made a list

August 23, 2019 by  
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Environmental NGO EDF has identified toxic chemicals of concern that must be addressed to ensure health and safety.

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Toxic chemicals can enter food through packaging, so we made a list

Bee hive vandalism in Iowa kills tens of thousands of honeybees

October 15, 2018 by  
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Bee vandals have struck again, this time at the Grateful Acres Farm northeast of Des Moines, Iowa. Last week, farmer Jake Knutson discovered that someone had trashed three of his strongest hives with cinder blocks, logs and bricks, causing him to lose tens of thousands of bees and 150 pounds of honey. The vandalism allowed bees from nearby farms to steal the honey from the exposed containers, and it also left Knutson’s insects to die in the rain. During the past year, hive vandalism has made news all over the world and killed hundreds of thousands of bees, including massacres in California , Ontario and Manchester, England, according to USA Today . Last winter, vandals also hit another Iowa farm, killing 500,000 honeybees. The insects do not fly in cold temperatures, and they died on the ground in the snow. Related: Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say In last year’s Iowa vandalism case that caused over $60,000 in damages, two boys — ages 12 and 13 — ended up with felony charges. Knutson believes that kids are to blame for the current damage on his farm. Even though he doesn’t want to see kids get into trouble, he did contact authorities, because the vandals showed up two different times, and he doesn’t believe they should get a pass. “That means whomever did this came back within the last day and a half with the intent to destroy them,” Knutson wrote on Facebook. “The first time I guessed it was curious kids, and I was just wanting to speak to their parents, but after the recent incident I filed a police report and will prosecute when they find them.” Knutson saved as many bees as he could, and he plans to rebuild the hives for next year. One of Knutson’s friends created a GoFundMe account to help the farm recoup its losses. Knutson says that they will be able to recover, but “it just sucks” that someone would destroy everything after the huge investment of time and labor into the hives. Knutson also wrote on social media that bee vandalism seems to be a growing trend among kids, and parents need to teach their children about the importance of bees and seek out a local beekeeper to support . According to estimates, 35 percent of all food production depends on bee pollination. Meanwhile, honeybees continue to die off at an alarming rate. Via USA Today and EcoWatch Photography by Marisa Lubeck via USGS

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Bee hive vandalism in Iowa kills tens of thousands of honeybees

How addressing energy used in food processing contributes to more sustainable agriculture

July 25, 2018 by  
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Greater energy efficiency beyond the farm gate and more sustainable processes inside the farm are the two sides of the same coin.

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How addressing energy used in food processing contributes to more sustainable agriculture

This tiny home lets visitors experience life as homesteaders

July 5, 2018 by  
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Homesteading is a full-time job, but for those who’d like to just try it briefly, you can rent out a beautiful 300-square-foot tiny home made from reclaimed materials located on a six-acre working farm. Available to rent on Airbnb , the Tiny House Farmstay on the  Chittle Homestead  is a small rental home just an hour outside of Seattle that lets guests experience the best of sustainable living. Guests looking for a simple homestead experience can head up to the historic fishing village of Gig Harbor to stay on the charming Chittle Homestead. On their land, Tessa and Tim Chittle built a tiny home out of locally-sourced building materials such as recycled denim insulation and reclaimed cedar wall siding. The house boasts non-toxic paints to create a healthy environment. Related: Cool homestead retreat with vintage trailer brings glamping to Mojave desert At just 300 square feet, the tiny home is designed to maximize space while putting the focus on spending time outdoors. The wood-clad interior houses a small living room and two private bedrooms — a sleeping loft with a queen-sized bed and a Murphy bed on the ground floor. The bathroom is small but functional with a tiny sink and shower, as well as an odorless composting toilet . Outside the tiny house, a long farm table welcomes visitors to enjoy a meal or socialize with one another. According to the owners, guests at the farm will wake up to the sounds of roosters crowing and views of sheep grazing in the expansive meadow that surrounds the home. The land is home to plenty of farm animals and gardens that produce fresh herbs and veggies. The homestead owners are more than happy to share their knowledge with visitors looking to test out the world of homesteading. Guests can assist with the daily chores of taking care of the farm animals, or they can choose to stroll down the beach, go on a kayak adventure or tour the local antique shops. Best of all, guests at the Chittle retreat will take comfort in knowing that the cost of their stay, which averages around $100 per night, goes toward improving the tiny home and its farm. According to the family, “All proceeds from your vacation booking goes to homestead projects that improve the sustainability of the homestead… improving soil, creating habitat for wildlife, increasing food self-sufficiency, and future dreams of solar panels, rainwater catchment and aquaponics.” + The Chittle Homestead Via Tiny House Talk Photography by Markie Jones Photography and Jenna Spesard

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This tiny home lets visitors experience life as homesteaders

Is the future of farming vertical?

April 6, 2018 by  
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Companies including AeroFarms aim to narrow the farm-to-table gap.

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Is the future of farming vertical?

4 reasons fewer employees are engaged in sustainability, and what to do about it

April 6, 2018 by  
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It’s a troubling trend, but reversing it should be fairly straightforward.

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4 reasons fewer employees are engaged in sustainability, and what to do about it

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