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The area that will become the Hantz Woodlands. Photo by Joseph Murphy/Bassett & Bassett.

The area that will become the Hantz Woodlands. Photo by Joseph Murphy/Bassett & Bassett.

In the past few years, more cities have been creating community vegetable garden plots and even urban “food forests” of fruit and nut trees. Now an entrepreneur in crumbling Detroit is applying that idea on a large scale. While it’s not without controversy, a 140-acre forest/tree farm is a lot better than 140 acres of abandoned properties. http://m.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/10/140-acre-forest-about-materialize-middle-detroit/7371/

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A lot of consumers think they are doing a good thing by buying cage-free eggs. And they are. Supporting growers who provide more humane conditions for their chickens is a positive thing. But if you conjure up a vision of chickens pecking in a pasture when you reach for that carton of cage-free eggs, think again. Cage-free does not mean chickens roam freely, or even that they have access to the outdoors.
This article about the largest egg producer in Oregon expanding cage-free to 8 percent of its total production offers a good examination of the issue. Check out the photos of a cage-free henhouse teeming with some 40,000 chickens.

Mr. Moon and his chickens on his farm.

Mr. Moon and his chickens on his farm. Photo courtesy of Thomas Osborne.

Safeway is taking a step in the right direction with its certification requirements for humanely produced eggs (see this Seattle Times article). But we’ll continue to buy our eggs from John Moon, an eightysomething farmer in Terrebonne, OR who produces free-range eggs, honey and vegetables on his farm near us.

Today we visited the Benziger winery in Glen Ellen, CA. We only had time to visit one Sonoma-area winery and chose Benziger because of their sustainable/organic methods. We’ve toured a lot of wineries in Napa and were familiar with crushing, the role of oak barrels, caves for cellars and all that.
What is interesting about Benziger is their biodynamic approach. Biodynamic horticulture seems to be essentially the same as permaculture.

Sheep contribute to the biodynamics at Benziger Winery.

Sheep contribute to the biodynamics at Benziger Winery. Photo by benziger.com.

At Benziger they areĀ  cultivating grapes of several varietals, but they also have 60 head of sheep that they turn out in the vineyards at certain times of year. Sheep mow down weeds and their hooves cultivate between the rows as tilling would do. In addition to sheep, they also raise cattle. They use manure and compost to enrich the soil. One tip new to me: They grow, harvest and dry yarrow, which they say helps jump-start decomposition when added to the compost pile. I have lots of yarrow on our property, so I’m going to try this in my three compost piles.
They capture and recycle water and have reduced water consumption from 24 gallons per barrel of wine (conventional methods, which they started with) to five (current sustainable, biodynamic methods).
There are gardens within the vineyards devoted to attracting beneficial insects. Groves of olive trees as well.

Vineyard at Benziger Winery

The beautiful vineyards at Benziger Winery. Photo: benziger.com.

I have yet to see an ugly winery, but this one is quite beautiful in a simple, unpretentious kind of way.

Disturbing news today that genetically modified alfalfa has been approved. If you are a horse owner (like me) then of course you care if you feed alfalfa. But if you’re an urban dweller, you should care because of biotech contamination. What’s that? It is what happens in farm fields every day. Fields of crops attract pollinators and birds, who range widely, spreading seeds from one place to another, just as the wind does. Therefore, if a field of organic corn, for example, is near a field of genetically modified corn, wind, pollinators and birds can contaminate the organic field with seeds of modified corn. And what if that modified alfalfa might be growing near a wheat field that’s a source for flour you use in cooking? Read more about it.

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