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The Agroinnovations Podcast »
60 minutes | Feb 9, 2015
Episode #167: The US Endowment for Forestry and Communities
Frank welcomes guest Carlton Owen of the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities. With 30% of the United States in forest, and many of those forests suffering from decades of fire suppression, insect attacks, and drought, the need has never been greater for the creation of markets for small diameter wood products. Carlton explains the efforts of the US Endowment to help develop these markets, with a particular focus on wood biomass energy. He explains the reason why the market seems dominated largely by government projects, and breaks down the nature of the economic "valley of death" the industry currently finds itself in. He concludes with a call for a new method for collaboration to prevent the loss of large extensions of land and wood resources to catastrophic wildfire. The US Endowment for Forestry and Communities
40 minutes | Feb 2, 2015
Episode #166: Crop Insurance for Sustainable Agriculture
In this second part of an interview with James Robinson of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, Frank and James discuss the importance of crop insurance to the farmer, both as a risk management tool and as a mechanism for gaining greater access to credit. James then explains how changes to the 2014 Farm Bill provide for innovative insurance products that have the potential to improve the attractiveness of crop insurance for the sustainable, diversified producer. The products, moreover, provide incentives for further crop diversification, and may pave the way to incentivize other sustainable production techniques like cover crops, no-till, and green manures. Please take the time to educate yourself about this most critical topic. Crop Insurance Deadlines Quickly Approaching: January 14th and February 22nd (via RAFI Blog)
31 minutes | Jan 26, 2015
Episode #165: Tobacco Transitions
Frank is joined by James Robinson of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) to discuss the ongoing transition from tobacco to diversified agriculture as price supports through acreage quotas have slowly been phased out in the Southeastern United States. Also discussed is RAFI's efforts to assist farmers on the brink of bankruptcy. Visit RAFI's website at www.rafiusa.org.
50 minutes | Jan 19, 2015
Episode #164: Food Hubs
Frank welcomes writer and photojournalist Erik Hoffner to talk about his writings and observations of the local food movement. Erik shares the exciting development of food hubs as they spring up across the country, and describes the opportunities of scale and collaboration these interesting innovations are providing for local food entrepreneurs. Also discussed are energy cooperatives, Fair Trade, and the prospects for sustainable agriculture to replace the industrial model. Erik sent along a bunch of articles and links, including a free trial offer for Orion Magazine. See links below: Erik's Website: www.erikhoffner.com Visit Orion's Website for a Free Trial of the Magazine Renewable Energy Coop mentioned in the podcast: http://cooppower.coop/ Article on David Brandt, Cover Crops Specialist Rowan Jacobson on Food Hubs Article: The New Farmers
33 minutes | Jan 14, 2015
Episode #163: Food Tank
Frank welcomes two guests who share some of the highlights of the upcoming Food Tank event. First up is Danielle Nierenberg, director of Food Tank and organizer of the Food Tank conference. Danielle explains the mission and history of Food Tank, and shares the format of the conference and some of the speakers and topics people can expect. The Food Tank event is sold out, but there will be a live stream available from foodtank.com. Next up is food journalist and photographer Erik Hoffner who shares his perspective on the upcoming Food Tank conference. Frank concludes with some previews of upcoming podcast themes, and also shares his plans to travel to Bolivia in the coming weeks. Useful Links: Food Tank (foodtank.com) Food Tank Summit Program and Live Stream Erik Hoffner's website (erikhoffner.com)
40 minutes | Jan 5, 2015
Episode #162: Agduino 2015
Frank summarizes many of the interesting ongoing projects in the arduino for agriculture space, and expands the horizons of the topic to include other hardware/software suites with the potential to improve our ability to monitor the natural world. These include Google's modular smartphone Project Ara, Apitronics, Ninja Blocks, ManyLabs, and SODAQ. Also included is a breakdown of Public Lab projects Infragram, Spectral Workbench, and Mapknitter.
55 minutes | Dec 22, 2014
Episode #161: The Wood Biomass Industry
Update: Guess Marcus had already sent me the iPad app referenced in the interview but I didn't realize it! See useful links below. And actually the application has a web-interface that you could use on any device. Please report back if you do start using this. Frank is joined by forester Marcus Kaufmann from the Oregon Department of Forestry. Marcus breaks-down the current state of forest ecology in the Western United States, including the interruption of natural fire cycles by human suppression efforts, the role of climate change and drought in fire intensity, and the growing pressure insects are placing on our forests as the climate warms. He discusses the social complexities of catastrophic wildfire, touching on the problem of wildland-urban interface and the institutional inertia of organizations like the Forest Service that are largely designed to fight large wildlfires. Then Marcus tells us of ongoing efforts to create a market for small diameter wood products as an energy source, from small co-generation projects to large industrial projects like liquid fuels. Useful links: The Community Biomass Handbook Wood Energy Financial App (web-based)
43 minutes | Dec 15, 2014
Episode #160: The Failure of Permaculture Redux
Frank once again dives into the morass of Agroinnovations Episode #145 addressing a listener's comment through a series of clips from recent podcast episodes featuring Simon Huntley, Narendra Varma, David Holmgren, Darren Doherty, and Tom Giessel. Frank reiterates his argument that permaculture isn't failing as an agroecological design science, nor are permaculturalists failures. As my guests explain, permaculture's shortcomings have much more to do with our cultural worldview and our socioeconomic circumstances. They also offer numerous examples and case studies that point us in the direction of a new, cooperative model where common land use rights are interwoven into the social and ecological landscape, and different people with different skill sets can collaborate and innovate together on a shared landscape.
30 minutes | Dec 8, 2014
Episode #159: Gotham Unbound
Frank concludes his interview with Dr. Ted Steinberg, ecological historian and author of the book Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. In this second part of a two-part conversation, Dr. Steinberg explains the origins of the book title, and challenges the notion that New York City can grow without limits in an age of rising sea levels. Climate models predict an 11 to 24 inch rise in sea levels in the coming decades, which spells big trouble for the Big Apple as flooding and other natural catastrophes become a certainty in one of the most built environments on the planet. He breaks down the different plans that have been put forth for mitigating these problems, most of which are costly and unrealistic, while monyed interests continue to push for an ever-expanding growth horizon for New York City.
33 minutes | Dec 2, 2014
Episode #158: The Ecological History of Greater New York
Frank welcomes Dr. Ted Steinberg, author of the book Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. Dr. Steinberg begins by explaining the origins of the book, and then describes the ecological condition of New York City before European colonization. He explains the biological diversity once found in this rich estuary, and breaks down the reason why this particular location became such a magnet for human commerce and engineering. The historical process of industrial development led to the division of underwater parcels and subsequently massive increases to the size of the island of Manhattan. Also, the growth of New York City was made possible via massive infrastructure projects in transportation and other infrastructure, most notably infrastructure to move water vast distances to feed the insatiable appetite of an ever-growing population. Finally, Dr. Steinberg discusses the good and bad of New York's open space, concluding with a brief discussion of species extinctions caused by water pollution.
49 minutes | Nov 24, 2014
Episode #157: Trends in Community Supported Agriculture
Frank is joined by Simon Huntley of smallfarmcentral.com. Simon shares his motivations for creating a CSA member management software platform, and the features of that platform. He then discusses the newly emerging business model of venture capital funded local food delivery services like Farmigo and Good Eggs, and offers some analysis as to what these businesses mean for CSA farmers. Simon also discusses his recent Trends in CSA Farming report that shows rapid growth for CSA's while mean gross incomes are extremely low. The interview concludes with some suggestions as to how CSA's can be more competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Episode #6: The Birth of CSA, Elizabeth Keen, and Indian Line Farm Member Assembler
37 minutes | Nov 17, 2014
Episode #156: The Future of Food and Farming
In Part II of this two-part series, Frank Aragona concludes his interview with Tom Giessel, who is the honorary historian of the National Farmer's Union. Tom begins with a brief foray into the history and status of farmer cooperatives, and argues that small operations unifying under a cooperative structure is the future of food and agriculture. He also advises listeners to beware of threats to uniform cooperative law, and the further danger of wholesale privatization of cooperative assets. The discussion concludes with a look at the role of commodity groups in the political landscape, and the dwindling role of cooperative extension in the face of persistent budget cuts.
35 minutes | Nov 11, 2014
Episode #155: History of the Farmer’s Union
Tom Giessel, honorary historian of the National Farmer's Union, joins host Frank Aragona for a discussion of the history of the Farmer's Union. Tom begins with the origins of the Union in the early 20th century amongst cotton farmer's in Texas. He explains the importance of community organizing and collaboration in an age where farmers had to help one another to survive and prosper. Tom then describes the impact the technological revolution of the 20th century had on the Farmer's Union, and also shares the the ideas of visionary leaders throughout the Union's history. Also discussed is the role of Farmer's Union in the conservation crisis of the 1930's. Part I of II.
59 minutes | Nov 3, 2014
Episode #154: Our Table Cooperative
Frank interviews Narendra Varma, founder of Our Table Cooperative located in Oregon. Narendra explains the genesis of the cooperative, and the cultural norms that prevent more cooperative development in the United States. He also describes a food system that is structurally broken, and the challenges individuals and groups face when confronting structural injustice. Narendra outlines the unique elements of Our Table as both a consumer and a producer cooperative, and offers insights into how we can make these organizations successful. Our Table Cooperative
43 minutes | Oct 27, 2014
Episode #153: Appropriate Technology at Home and Abroad
Frank welcomes appropriate technology enthusiast and humanitarian Robert Fairchild, also known as Solar Bob. Bob shares his decades-long journey in the realm of appropriate technology, including the genesis of the movement during the oil crunch of the 1970's and the now growing interest in all things AT in the Age of Internet. Bob addresses the role appropriate technology can play for the suburbanite in contemporary America who is looking for an alternative lifestyle. He also asserts that appropriate technology has been open source since the beginning, and shares some views from his experiences in Haiti and central Asia.
57 minutes | Oct 20, 2014
Episode #152: Neofeudal Permaculture
Frank welcomes back regrarian and permaculture designer Darren Doherty. Darren shares his experiences from his current Regrarians world tour, and then describes the precarious economic situation of the commodity farmer and the often degraded state of the world's agricultural landscapes. The conversation then launches into the complexities of the current land tenure system as Darren explains the neofeudal character of agricultural economies. The interview concludes with some observations about the need to develop a capable labor force to meet the market demand for sustainably produced food. Useful links below: Heenan Doherty Everett Rogers (via Wikipedia) Earl Butz (via Wikipedia) Fordhall Farm The Farmer, The Plough, and the Devil
51 minutes | Oct 6, 2014
Episode #151: Pathways to Intentional Communities
Frank concludes his interview with permaculture co-originator David Holmgren. David begins by sharing some strategies people can employ to develop permaculture in their own lives without having to purchase land or go deeply into debt. He then discusses his realization in the very early days of permaculture that freehold land tenure would not be an effective way to implement broad-acre permacultural polycultures. He suggests some why this fact has been so often overlooked, and offers some strategies for the development of intentional communities. David also shares his ideas on the prospects for seasteading and the possibilities for permaculture in the suburbs. Useful links below: Holmgren Design Joe Rogan Experience Podcast with Joe Quirk of the Seasteading Institute
57 minutes | Sep 29, 2014
Episode #150: Crash on Demand
Frank welcomes permaculture co-originator David Holmgren for a wide ranging discussion on his writings and ideas, including Future Scenarios, Oil vs. Money, and Crash on Demand. In light of the failure of social and political activism to address climate change, David argues that radical reductions in consumption by the middle classes of the industrial countries could in fact crash the global financial system resulting in large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He asks us to consider that major changes to our lifestyles and working arrangements may be the only thing capable of shifting the momentum of climate change.
28 minutes | Sep 23, 2014
Episode #149: Worker-Owned Permaculture
Frank concludes his interview with Luis Sierra of the California Center for Cooperative Development. Luis begins by explaining the difference between a worker cooperative and a service cooperative, and then provides some historical examples of agricultural worker cooperatives in the 60's and 70's. He then explains why the worker cooperative model has been so sparsely adopted in the agricultural sector, and offers some insights on how to grow the worker cooperative model in agriculture. Frank then concludes by sharing his own thoughts, suggesting that social organization and enterprise management are the holy grail of scalable permaculture. Cooperation Works: The Cooperative Development Network The California Center for Cooperative Development
32 minutes | Sep 15, 2014
Episode #148: Market Cooperatives
Frank welcomes Luis Sierra of the California Center for Cooperative Development. Luis introduces the concept of a cooperative, and the rationale for their creation. He also delves into existing cooperative models and their history in the state of California. He then describes some of the pitfalls a cooperative can face in its creation and operation. Part I of II. The California Center for Cooperative Development
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