The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

January 15, 2018 by  
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Tucked inside the lush boreal forest in Canada’s Northwest Territories, you’ll find something unexpected. There, cheek to jowl with the ever-encroaching trees sits a thriving farm with snuffling pigs, lush fruit trees, and acres of vegetables, all in an environment that is anything but hospitable to agriculture . But creating a flourishing, regenerative landscape perfect for establishing local food security is exactly what the Northern Farm Training Institute is all about. Their goal is to help people form their own holistic growing environments to support healthy, food-secure communities – even if they happen to be located above the 60th parallel.   The Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) was founded in 2013 as a way to train people in isolated communities how to grow their own food and to restore northern environment-based food systems. Since then, the farm has taught 147 people from over 30 communities – half of those from First Nations/Metis/Inuvialuit communities – to create their own farms. NFTI grew as Jackie Milke, a local Hay River Metis woman, recognized the need to alleviate food insecurity in local communities. She quickly realized that there was a large demand for this type of learning, and the 260-acre farm has since hosted 30 intensive workshops in what they call a “living classroom.” The farm consists of outdoor gardens, a hoop greenhouse, and a geodesic dome greenhouse. On the farm live herds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens, with an animal barn, industrial kitchen and farm store. There are also 10 small yurts that act as student housing, and one large yurt for classroom learning. All of this is surrounded by the nearby Hay River, fields, forests and ponds. Related: Utopian off-grid Regen Village produces all of its own food and energy Farming in the NFTI focuses on regenerative, holistically-grown food that improves the health of the land and wildlife. The farm is completely organic and uses tactics like minimal tillage, and supporting biodiversity and soil health to help maintain a healthy environment. The farm grows a variety of berries, cherries, herbs, greens, carrots, beets, beans, potatoes, radishes and cruciferous vegetables. To further support a healthy community, NFTI uses produce that is being thrown out by local grocery stores to feed their pigs. In the fall, they teach wool washing, felting and dying. Pigs are used to help clear land for farming, and sheep help weed and fertilize pasture areas. They also work with animals that are more comfortable in colder climates, like Iceland Sheep and yaks , rather than the Rambouillet sheep and Angus cattle so familiar in the US. During the winter, with just six daylight hours, aurora borealis overhead and a sunset at 3:45 pm, the Northern Farm Training Institute doesn’t sit back and take January off. They grow seedlings inside their greenhouses, using snow to water the plants. The sunlight bouncing off the snow outside creates an ideal lighting effect for the growing plants. And the farm collects and uses discarded shredded paper from local communities to keep the animals warm. They also teach cheesemaking classes and food storage classes. The farm’s goal can be summed up as this: “Together we can transform Canada’s north. Regenerative agriculture provides the key to our food security, economic growth, and environmental restoration.” If you’d like to check the farm out, you can stop on by, either as a visitor, student or volunteer. Head to their webpage for more information. + Northern Farm Training Institute images via NFTI

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The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

Massive underwater volcanic eruption spewed rock raft visible from space

January 15, 2018 by  
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Passengers on a plane flight in 2012 saw something strange from the air: a raft of floating rock called pumice that grew to be roughly the size of Philadelphia, over 150 square miles, in the southwest Pacific Ocean . The raft hinted at an unusually large underwater volcanic eruption . In 2015, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Tasmania led an investigation to collect materials and map the volcano – and they found some surprises. Over 70 percent of volcanic activity on our planet happens on the seafloor, but scientists don’t always get a close-up view of events typically hidden by seawater. In 2012, the Havre volcano, northeast of New Zealand, erupted – and this time researchers got a chance to study the aftermath in what the WHOI described as “the first up-close investigation of the largest underwater volcanic eruption of the past century.” The eruption was so massive it generated a raft of pumice that could be glimpsed from space. Related: Underwater Volcanic Eruption Creates a New Island in the Pacific Ocean WHOI scientist Adam Soule said in the institution’s statement, “Heading to the site, we were fully prepared to investigate a typical deep-sea explosive eruption. When we looked at the detailed maps from the AUV [autonomous underwater vehicle], we saw all these bumps on the seafloor and I thought the vehicle’s sonar was acting up. It turned out that each bump was a giant block of pumice, some of them the size of a van. I had never seen anything like it on the seafloor.” Lava came from 14 volcanic vent sites 3,000 to 4,000 feet below the surface in the eruption. Scientists had thought the explosion would generate mostly pumice, but also found ash, lava domes, and seafloor lava flows, per WHOI. Soule said, “Ultimately we believe that none of the magma was erupted in the ways we assume an explosive eruption occurs on land.” According to WHOI’s video, such research could help us better understand the planet’s evolution . The journal Scientific Advances published the research last week. 20 scientists at institutions in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Japan collaborated on the work. Via the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Images via Rebecca Carey, University of Tasmania, Adam Soule, WHOI, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ; Multidisciplinary Instrumentation in Support of Oceanography (MISO) Facility, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ; and the Sentry Group, WHOI

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Massive underwater volcanic eruption spewed rock raft visible from space

50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

February 23, 2017 by  
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Nearly 10 years ago, a group of scientists got together to build the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle , to prepare for a world threatened by climate change , wars, and natural disasters. According to The Crop Trust , an organization that supports the storage facility, the vault holds the world’s largest and most diverse seed collection – and just received a major investment of 50,000 new seeds . The Svalbard Global Seed Vault works to ensure food security and biodiversity for the future, and it appears many countries value that mission. The Crop Trust reported around 50,000 samples from seed collections in the United States, United Kingdom, Benin, Belarus, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Bosnia and Herzegovina recently arrived at the seed vault, which lies between Norway and the North Pole. Related: Syria withdraws seeds from Doomsday Vault as bombs disrupt crop research The Crop Trust executive director Marie Haga said at the vault, “Today’s seed deposit at Svalbard supported by The Crop Trust shows that despite political and economic differences in other arenas, collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong.” The seed vault helps countries today too – in 2015 a research center in Syria had to withdraw some seeds they’d stored as war plagued Aleppo, but they were recently able to return some of the seeds to the vault along with the rest of the recent deposit. The seed vault could store as many as 4.5 million seed varieties; until the recent deposit, there were over 880,000 samples stored, and the total has now reached 930,821 seed samples, including potato, wheat, sorghum, rice, lentil, barley, and chickpea seeds. The vault’s extreme location helps protect the seeds; permafrost and thick rock keep the samples frozen. The Crop Trust describes the facility as the ultimate insurance policy, saying it “will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final backup.” Via The Crop Trust ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Global Crop Diversity Trust on Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

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50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

COP22 kicks off in Morocco with controversial presence of fossil fuel industry representatives

November 7, 2016 by  
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Days after the historic Paris climate deal went into effect, world leaders have again convened to discuss tactics for fighting climate change , this time in Marrakech, Morocco. The COP22 climate talks will offer an opportunity for government leaders from nations around the globe to cooperate in devising goals to reduce the effects of climate change. As Morocco takes advantage of the summit’s timing to launch new nationwide food security programs, controversy ensues following the inclusion of coal and oil interests in the international discussions. Morocco—which relies heavily on local agriculture—has been uniquely impacted by climate change, experiencing highs and lows in the same year as a result of shifting weather patterns. While this year’s regular El Niño season drenched croplands, producing above-average yields, it was followed by an intense dry period during which there was no rain for more than two months. The uncertainty of agricultural yields prompted Moroccan leadership to develop programs to address food security issues, and the nation is launching its Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) initiative, timed with the kickoff of the COP22 conference. Related: UN warns of 3C global temperature increase without swift and aggressive global leadership Morocco’s AAA plan involves improving soil management, as well as water and irrigation management, combined with better weather forecasting and insurance for drought-impacted farmers. Each of these efforts is designed to help support continued agriculture while maximizing its output with efficient methods that can, hopefully, endure some of the unstable weather conditions the nation will see in years to come. Taking swift action to address food security seems like a bold and positive move, but it’s not quite so simple. In addition to world leaders, Morocco’s climate summit also involves representatives of corporate interests —namely coal and oil giants like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Peabody, BP, Shell and RioTinto. Critics claim their presence equates to a conflict of interest, while others interpret their involvement as a brave step forward in attempting to partner with fossil fuel industries for cooperative change. It remains to be seen what influence these companies will have on delegates working to construct international climate change plans, as they will have “observer status” to nearly every official conversation as part of the global summit. Via The Guardian Images via Richard Allaway/Flickr and Pixabay

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COP22 kicks off in Morocco with controversial presence of fossil fuel industry representatives

This element, essential to all life, is rapidly disappearing from the planet

February 15, 2016 by  
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Of the many things threatening the world’s food supply, the element with the ability to wreak the most havoc hasn’t made many headlines. Researchers are now warning that waning phosphorous levels could devastate food production around the globe. A nonrenewable resource with no synthetic substitute, phosphorous is an essential nutrient and it’s disappearing faster than anyone realized. Read the rest of This element, essential to all life, is rapidly disappearing from the planet

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Chicago’s FarmedHere plans to expand vertical indoor farming to 20 new locations across the country

December 31, 2015 by  
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Serious indoor agriculture used to be reserved for people who were into black lights and excessive incense burning, but the times are definitely changing. Now, a number of savvy business folk are investing in vertical indoor farming as a means of serious food production. One such startup, FarmedHere , hopes to lead the charge to turn us all into farmers. We’ve written about the company’s efforts in the past, but the new CEO Matt Matros has plans for the future that could bring vertical indoor farming to every corner of the country. Read the rest of Chicago’s FarmedHere plans to expand vertical indoor farming to 20 new locations across the country

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“Resurrection plants” could offer hope as climate change decimates crops

December 10, 2015 by  
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As the climate begins to change, transforming formerly fertile agricultural regions into dusty, arid fields, scientists are determined to adapt. Jill Farrant, a professor of molecular and cell biology in Cape Town, South Africa, believes the key to breeding more drought-tolerant crops lies in a unique group of flora called “ resurrection plants, ” which can go dormant for years, only to return when conditions are more favorable. Read the rest of “Resurrection plants” could offer hope as climate change decimates crops

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Fish farm the size of Central Park planned for waters off San Diego Coast

September 21, 2015 by  
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A fish farm with a footprint about the size of Central Park could be coming to Pacific waters just off the coast from San Diego. A project put forward by a partnership between Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and a private investment firm, the 1.3-square-mile Rose Canyon Fisheries aquaculture facility is planned for a location about four miles offshore from San Diego and projected to produce about 11 million pounds of yellowtail and sea bass per year. According to NPR , the proponents say the farm will help fix a “seafood imbalance,” while a local environmental group has some serious concerns about the project. Read the rest of Fish farm the size of Central Park planned for waters off San Diego Coast

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Bohemian island hotel with fresh natural furnishings offers simple leisure in Mykonos

September 21, 2015 by  
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New invisibility cloak improves on previous designs with sneaky microscopic film

September 21, 2015 by  
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Researchers at the Berkeley Lab just developed what could be the most effective invisibility cloak we’ve seen outside of a sci-fi movie. The ultra-thin cloak is made of near-microscopic brick-shaped gold antennas , and it resolves some of the shortcomings of previous technologies. Because of its ingenious design, the cloak works nearly as well as a perfectly flat mirror, reflecting light in such a way that makes it seem like the cloak and the object it’s hiding are not there at all. The researchers say that even the edges of the object are invisible with the new device. Read the rest of New invisibility cloak improves on previous designs with sneaky microscopic film

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