Tag Archives: farms

Friday Linkage 9/6/2019

If you have a Sharpie and you are the President of the United States then anything is possible:


It is an old trope to ask someone what the right wing would have said or done in the wake of President Obama doing the same thing, but can you imagine the cerebral hemorrhage that Sean Hannity would have had in this case?

We live in strange times.

On to the links…

15 Things a President can Actually do to Tackle the Climate Crisis—It’s not like number fifteen on this list is ever going to happen.

Cedar Rapids Electric Bill Could be Slashed in Half from New LED Lighting in Downtown—It’s a small change, but why hasn’t every city in America switched to LED streetlights?

Trump Rolls Back Regulations on Energy-Saving Lightbulbs—Does Donald Trump just sit in his private residence during “executive time” and mumble things like, “LEDs…bad…horrible…old, hot lights…good.”  In a little more than one year and four months someone with half a brain can take the executive pen and reassert some sanity.

Economics of Electric Vehicles Mean Oil’s Days As A Transport Fuel Are Numbered—Anyone who drives an electric vehicle will agree with this hypothesis.  In my case, I spend approximately 2 cents per mile to drive my Nissan Leaf versus approximately 15 cents per mile to drive my Ford F150.  Even if I doubled the mileage of my truck it could not compete.

China’s Very Ambitious Transportation Revolution—China was supposed to be the “swing” consumer for fossil fuels as developed Western economies transitioned to cleaner energy.  Looks like China is going to try and just bypass the whole dependency on fossil fuels stage of economic development.

While ‘Zombie’ Mines Idle, Cleanup and Workers Suffer in Limbo—Coal companies do not care about workers or the communities that they leave behind when they close up shop.  Coal executives fly away on private jets after paying themselves while leaving workers high and dry.

The Feds Tried to Make an Example of a small Washington Coal Mine. It Didn’t Work.—Twenty years later and the job is still not done.  Maybe it would be best if we just left the coal in the ground and found another way to make electricity.

Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change—If Ireland can plant 440 million trees in a little more than twenty years what could the United States achieve?  Okay, probably nothing in the short term with Republicans and Donald Trump hanging around.

The Disturbing Hypothesis for the Sudden Uptick in Chronic Kidney Disease—Climate change will come for our chocolate and coffee.  Climate change is also coming for our kidneys.

Holy Cross Energy Eyes Complete Decarbonization after Striking New Wind Energy Deal—Big utilities, small utilities, rural electric cooperatives…the list goes on and on but the trend is the same.  The tools to free our electricity production from the tyranny of fossil fuels are available and cost competitive.

The Best Place for Harvesting Solar Energy Is Not Where I Expected It to Be—I remember reading about a French pilot project that combined solar canopies over high value crops like grapes.  That project showed the viability of the idea.

One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown—I see this all the time in my neighborhood where people put all kinds of random crap in the curbside recycling bins.  Styrofoam packaging?  Yep.  Resin chairs?  Yep.  Christmas light strings?  Yep.

Banning Mini Shampoos from Hotels Won’t Really Reduce Plastic or Save the Environment—We are just nibbling around the edges of our problems with promises like these.

Tyson Foods Invests in Plant-Based Shrimp Company—I do not know if plant based shrimp is any good, but I know that plant based foods are a real trend when the people at Tyson Foods are putting their money behind the trend.

Friday Linkage 3/24/2017

I find it interesting or, rather, frightening that poll after poll indicates a super majority—as in greater than 60%–of Americans believe climate change is real and driven by human activities.  However, we manage to have an elected government at state and federal levels that fails to do anything other than obfuscate the issue with right wing rhetoric and outright lies.

Now, I understand that this is a dynamic driven by gerrymandering which has led to elected officials that care only for satisfying the core interests of a very skewed base.  It just seems like there should be enough reasonable people to sway the pendulum toward reasonable action.  Granted, we also saw this same electorate put Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office.

On to the links…

A Trump Budget Would Hurt Americans’ Access To Our Public Lands—Trump and his cronies, Russian or otherwise, like access to land as long as no one who is not a member of the club can access the land.  In practice this means that the rich get access and the rest get screwed.  It’s the oligarchs’ way.

The Crazy Theory About Smog That’s Gaining Ground in the White House—When you spend all your time denying science I guess it was going to come to a point when you started to deny common sense as well.  We are so doomed.

CO2 Emissions Flat For Third Straight Year, Still Decoupled From Economic Growth—When economists say economic growth is decouple from emissions growth they are really trying to say that the relationship is less positively correlated.  It used to be something that marched in lockstep, but as the world has cleaned up power generation the relationship has frayed.  This trend destroys the argument that a transition to clean energy will destroy economic growth.

UK Carbon Emissions Fell 6% in 2016 after Record Drop in Coal Use—It may be very difficult over the next few years to achieve broad based success on environmental initiatives, but retiring coal plants can be something that could be achieved given all the impediments faced by coal.  Just retiring these dirty power plants and replacing them with natural gas is a short term win.

Coal in ‘Freefall’ as New Power Plants Dive by Two-Thirds—The export dream of American coal is dying because no one is going to want the coal.

Google’s Project Sunroof Claims 80% Of US Roofs Analyzed Are Suitable For Solar Panels—Let’s get cracking on installing solar panels.  A world where hundreds of thousands of people are employed installing solar panels on 80% of our nation’s roofs is a vision that I think most Americans can get behind.

NASA Finds Biofuels Make Air Travel 70 Percent Greener—I believe that we should try and electrify surface transportation as soon as possible reserving biofuels for applications where energy dense liquid fuels are essential like aviation.

Japanese Company Develops a Solar Cell with Record-Breaking 26%+ Efficiency—This is boring but important.  Advances in solar cell technology are leading us to a point where we are bumping up against the theoretical limit of efficiency.

Huge Plastic Waste Footprint Revealed—We use and throw away too much god damned plastic.  Simple.  Use less of the stuff.

Chesapeake Bay’s Booming Oyster Industry Is Alarmed By Trump’s EPA Budget Cuts—Oysters and the attendant reefs are a big part of the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay.  After decades of work these systems are being put back into balance and there are now jobs associated with working the bay.  Too bad Scott Pruitt will lead the charge to destroy the progress.

Small-Scale Farming Could Restore America’s Rural Towns—Small scale agriculture is almost by definition labor intensive, so a return to a patchwork of smaller, diversified farms would lead to a growth in demand for people to work the land.  Why would giant corporations be against that?  Oh wait…

Churchyards are Our Forgotten Nature Reserves—Small, forgotten plots of land are a surprising source of biodiversity.

The Potential Impact of Local Food

Yesterday I wrote about the pending opening of the NewBo City Market and it got me thinking about the potential impact of local food.

“Shop local” is a mantra for a lot of people and it is a great way to help ensure that we have vibrant communities of businesses tied to the local economy.  Otherwise, everything will just be abandoned on the drive to WalMart.  Joy.

However, the next step is to not just “shop local” but to actually “buy locally made products.”  Why does this matter?  Even if you purchase goods from a local merchant, it is likely that those goods came from somewhere else not necessarily tied to your local economy.  In economic terms this is called leakage, as in your dollars are leaking from the local economy.  Granted, dollars are probably leaking from a lot of other local economies into your own but there are no guarantees.

Farmers markets and public markets, like the NewBo City Market, represent an opportunity to bypass to possibility of leakage because you are buying goods directly from local producers.  This puts the dollars in the hands of local producers without the loss of what a “middleman” would charge for distribution, etc.  But, really, how much of an impact can spending locally produce?

In Linn County there are ~214K people living in ~85K households with a median household income of ~$54K.  If each household could direct $10 of their food spend to local food merchants it would equal more than $44 MILLION dollars injected into the local economy.  At the median household income that level of spending could directly support over 818 households or just under 1% of the county’s households.

The local multiplier effect compounds the impact of this spending even more.  Depending upon the study a local merchant usually returns $52-58 to the local economy while the larger national merchants usually return $17-33.  At the low end, you are getting a three times return on the money in the local economy if it is spent with local merchants.  So, as the dollars you spent stay in the local economy the impact can be multiplied if those dollars continue to be spent with other local merchants.  Check out this study from the Idie Impact Study Series for a tidy summation of the impacts of local purchasing.

I don’t want to sound like some clown on late night television telling you to feed the children for the price of a cup of coffee, but $10 a week does not sound like too much to have such a great impact.  Plus, you can avoid shopping at WalMart where your soul is likely to get stolen or, at the very least, crushed by the depression that oozes from the bare concrete floor.

NewBo City Market and Local Food

On October 27th the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa will open to the public.  I have watched the construction of the market with a lot of anticipation because I think it represents a golden opportunity to develop local food options.

Public markets have a long history in much of Europe—spend a morning wandering the Boqueria in Barcelona and you will understand the appeal—but the history in the United States is somewhat more checkered.  Our food culture is centered around the grocery store for better and for worse.  However, the growth of interest in food has pushed public markets to the forefront as a venue for local merchants and producers to have an outlet for sale to the general public without the overhead of a single owner occupied storefront.

Local food’s primary challenge is access to customers.  Large grocery store chains have standardized supply chains that require large volumes of products on very consistent schedules.  A local producer cannot meet the volume requirements or, depending upon the climate, the consistency requirements.  One solution is to form a co-op that aggregates producers’ products.  Five Acre Farm in New York is doing just that with a whole host of farm fresh goods.

The other solution is to have stalls and storefronts that can sell direct to the consumer.  In the summer, in Iowa at any rate, the solution is the farmers market.  Any day of the week in my part of this great state I can go to a farmers market and have access to the most delectable of seasonal delights.  After Labor Day, however, the choices of markets begin to dwindle.  This is not a major concern for the purveyors of fruits and vegetables, but what about the suppliers of products like meat or baked goods that do not have the seasonal constraints?

This is where the NewBo City Market will come in.  Local vendors—including florists, meat sellers, bakers, wine merchants, etc.—will have permanent stalls inside the renovated warehouse, which is quite a stunning transformation to witness if you take the time to look at the pictures on the Facebook page.  There will also be temporary stalls in the warmer months for markets and events.  It is going to be great.

Unfortunately, I am going to miss the opening of the NewBo City Market because I will be out of town on travel.  Walt Disney World calls…

What gets me the most excited is a chance to buy pork from Rustik Rooster Farms. Carl Blake at Rustik Rooster is breeding a new pig based on the prized Swabian Hall. A cross between a wild boar from an island off the coast of Georgia and the Chinese Meishan these pigs look nothing like the ones you think roam Old Macdonald’s farm.  Dare I say that they are cute?

Sure, it looks like someone grafted the face of a shar pei onto a black pig, but I digress.  Apparently the quality of the meat is second to none—even beating out the foodie favorite Mangalista breed in a competition in San Francsico.  The Des Moines Register did a nice write up of what is going on down at the farm.

Big Boy Meats will be one of the vendors in the market and they will be carrying pork from Rustik Rooster.  Check out their Facebook page for some photos of a visit to the Rustik Rooster farm.