Growing Number of Trees on Farmland


Source: Conservation Magazine

The number of tree coverage on farms is on the rise, and a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports has added this hidden cache of carbon storage to the global carbon count. Researchers found out that farms sequester four times as much carbon as current estimates indicate, using remote sensing and a land cover database.

Researchers found that 43 percent of farmland across the globe had at least ten percent tree cover in 2010. Including the carbon sequestering capacity of this tree cover increased storage capacity estimates for farmland from 11.1 gigatonnes of carbon to 45.3 GtC. At least 34 GtCs of this storage capacity is from trees. They also found that between 2000 and 2010, tree cover on farms increased by two percent. This resulted in a 2GtC, or 4.6 percent, increase in biomass carbon.

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India’s First Organic State


Tea plantations on the hillside. PHOTO: Reuters/ Rupak De Chowdhuri

The buzzword is organic. From grocery store shelves to textile designers to travel. At the center of this phenomenon is respect to the land, cognizance of the immense potential of living organisms, acknowledgement of a way of life that has restorative powers. Today, India hears that message loud and clear in the North-eastern hill state of Sikkim.

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Because Coffee is ‘Human’

For those who believe life begins after coffee, the story of its origin will definitely sound familiar. Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau, where legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans. It is said that Kaldi discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night. Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and slowly knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread.

Now photographer Sebastiao Salgado takes readers deep into that grind with his latest collection, The Scent of a Dream: Travels in the World of Coffee that looks at the landscapes and labors behind the $100-billion-a-year business in ten countries around the globe.

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When Gardens Go Vertical

A vacant lot In Jackson, Wyoming is all set to become a vertical farm. PHOTO: CoExist

A vacant lot In Jackson, Wyoming is all set to become a vertical farm. PHOTO: CoExist

Jackson, Wyoming, is an unlikely place for urban farming: At an altitude over a mile high, with snow that can last until May, the growing season is sometimes only a couple of months long. It’s also an expensive place to plant a garden, since an average vacant lot can cost well over $1 million. But the town is about to become home to a vertical farm. On a thin slice of vacant land next to a parking lot, a startup called Vertical Harvest recently broke ground on a new three-story stack of greenhouses that will be filled with crops like microgreens and tomatoes.

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Coffee in the Ground at Xandari

Coffee ready to be planted, next to its hole

On Monday, we began planting coffee and made great headway on getting the shrubs in the ground. Fortunately, José Luis, Xandari’s head gardener, and his team (or should we say “coffee crew” in this case?) had already done significant work in preparing the soil to receive the plants. Continue reading

WED 2013: Megawasted Opportunity?

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.

When I tell people that it’s possible to grow highly nutritional food on agricultural waste products with almost zero technology, I usually get a blank look. On a good day, someone will demand an explanation. Why would such a process, if existent, be so obscure if it could help solve malnutrition in underdeveloped communities? While I’m sure there is a logical explanation for this, it remains a mystery to me at present.

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WED 2013 : Learning To Finish That Meal…

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.

As a child, I was always told to finish eating my meals because there were starving children in poor and faraway lands that would gladly trade places with me.  I could not exactly picture what that meant, and the rebelious part of me always wanted to stick a postage stamp on my plate and send it to these children.  No one who grew up with such abundance, I think, could trade the fresh memory of a full meal for a clear picture of hunger.

Being from Texas (and proud of it, so don’t mess with that), with its long “bigger and better” history and wonderful mythology of abundance and its can-do certainty, I did not “get it”.  Now, the hazy memories of those dinners and parental wisdom are coming into perspective with my ability to follow and understand news from around the world.

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Another India : impressions of Tamil Nadu

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Thekkady sits right next to the frontier between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. But once you cross the Western Ghats it’s like setting foot in a whole other country. The alphabet is different, the language is not malayalam but tamil. And the temperature is much hotter than in the hill stations, thus flora and fauna are radically different too. I mean it’s quite a shock, I’ve never felt this otherness when crossing a border in Europe. Tamil Nadu counts 72 million souls and tamil has been used for 3800 years so naturally the country has a distinct identity. Continue reading

Plan B

My past posts reveal my desire to be directly involved with sustainable farming.  I plan and hope to achieve this, but as both the global population and the demand for land, space, and food rise, I recognize that being flexible with this dream may minimize any potential disappointment.  Comparatively, as much as I seem to “fly by the seat of my pants,” I like to plan.  I come close to peace when I at least have some general structure to my life.  So with this in mind, I began to brainstorm back-up plans to having my own farm.

In this search and planning excursion, I read an article and learned of vertical farming.  Dickson Despommier of Columbia University and his students researched this urban farming phenomenon and hypothesized that such projects could solve our global food insecurity problems.

I am unsure of its feasibility, but in my characteristic optimism, I believe it has potential.  Continue reading

More Wood

The finca connected to Morgan’s Rock, part of the Agroforestal forestry business whose owners also run MR and SM, is in the process of clearing the brush covering a large swath of land where new trees will be planted. The trees are going to be more separated than in the past so that more of them can grow to full potential faster. Some of the previous plantation plots have suffered from underdevelopment as a result of too much competition between cramped trees. As a result, these confined trees grow straight up and don’t mature in width as quickly, staying thin and branching upwards to reach the sun. One of the positive effects of this growth is that the branches are very straight instead of curvy, but there is less wood. Over the years the finca has planted over 1.5 million trees for harvesting, and 100,000 for reforestation.

When I arrived at the new plot of trees, Israel, supervisor of the workers clearing the land, showed me the distance difference between saplings, marked by long wooden stakes in the ground already cleared. There would be about a meter more between each tree and row. He pointed to the plantations on our right and started saying the names of different trees interspersed in the endless rows. “Caoba Africana, roble, cedro.” African Mahogany, oak, cedar. Other semiprecious-wood trees in the plantation are teak and pochote, which is covered in stubby spines from top to bottom. Every now and then I could see a tree with a yellow line painted on it, marking it for cutting in the coming months. Israel told me that at the moment they are culling about 20% of each tree plantation to promote the growth of healthy trees and cultivate wood for Simplemente Madera. This amounts to roughly 500 trees for each plot where healthier trees are busy growing to optimum maturity. A potential project would be following one of the trees marked for culling through the steps of cutting, processing, preparing, and buying; in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan followed a calf from youth through fattening, slaughtering, processing, and the final consumption.