A growing number of researchers and pastoralists around the globe have found remarkable, untapped opportunities in nature’s water cycle. It turns out that animals, plants, soil, and air have long collaborated to regulate our climate through water—until we disrupted their partnership. An environmental author sees a pathway to reconciliation.
You have probably never heard of the term “acequia,” but it describes one of oldest, most common sense systems of irrigation on the planet. The basic idea is to use, and share, a river’s natural patterns instead of the predominant American system—namely, trap it, pipe it, and race to be the first to use it. Our writer tours the globe to track down its history, and its leading practitioners.
The blind spots in the American West’s water systems are in full display in Ventura County, a coastal region of southern California that happens to hold the most lucrative farmland in the state. Equally abundant, and somewhat in progress, are opportunities for enlightenment. Which path will prevail?
Since the communist revolution of 1959, Cuba has been on an economic rollercoaster. The country has lurched from dependency to self-sufficiency, in a bubble of isolation where technological time stopped. Our correspondent visits the artists and self-taught engineers who have kept Cuba running throughout its bizarre ride.
There are many prized vintages from Valpolicella, a postcard-perfect town near Verona, Italy, known for its rich, slightly sweet wines. Over the years, however, as many of these wines have gotten only sweeter, one vineyard, Bertani, has remained true to the old traditions. The result: a complex, unusually balanced wine called Amarone. Our wine correspondent sets out in search of its secret.
By its very nature, mezcal—the precursor and parent to Mexico’s legendary tequila—is an endangered beverage. It must be made from wild agave, which is in increasingly short supply. But a determined mezcal scientist thinks he has an answer.
A young Oregonian believes he can create a uniquely American form of the Japanese bonsai tree. And he is literally betting the farm on the idea that if he builds it, they will come.
A molecular biologist is finding what could be dangerous levels of heavy metals in plants like kale, often called the “queen” of the vegetable kingdom. And they’ve shown up the most in organic varieties.
On a frigid, eight-acre farm just outside downtown Sebastopol, Paul Kaiser has devised a hyper-intensive form of organic agriculture that is grossing more than $100,000 an acre. And, he believes, saving the planet at the same time. Yet a number of farming experts see trouble on the horizon.
In an era of chronic drought, could desert crops become the new sustainable dinner?
No matter how organic your shopping is, when you sit down to a plate of leafy greens, chances are you are supporting farming methods that contribute to global warming. There are, however, other options.
As worsening droughts become the new norm, soil conservationists have begun to wonder whether we are on a path to repeat the horrors of the Dust Bowl years. The articles, books and websites highlighted here offer plenty of ideas about alternate paths.
Was Jared Diamond right to call agriculture the worst mistake of the human race? Industrial agriculture vastly expanded the world’s food supply, but it’s also based on a fossil fuel economy that is slowly running out of juice. Are the alternatives like this “permaculture” operation in Wisconsin ready for prime time? Photo courtesy of newforestfarm.net
For years, a handful of enterprising grain farmers in the Midwest have been making huge strides–ecologically as well as financially–by managing to farm without plows and other invasive “tilling” machinery. Their achievements point to the possibility of a very different balance in global commodity trading markets.
Mark Sturges doesn’t advertise and clients have to find him by word of mouth, but find him they do. He’s become a master of an agricultural art as old as agriculture itself: basic compost.