A new Communiversity Class at UMKC starts in September!
#8101 A – Transition Kansas City
Transition combines permaculture plus an awareness that climate change and higher oil prices will force adjustments in the lifestyles of many. We will focus our discussions around the work that Rob Hopkins started along with others at the Schumacher College at Totnes, England. Come join us in learning about re-skilling to prepare for a leaner future!
For a copy of the Transition handbook, go online at
** .PDF free of charge **
CONVENERS: Mike Hoey & Dave Lawrence
Web site: http://www.TransitionKC.org/
CLASS FEE: $16
Sec. A: 5 sessions; Meets every other Tuesday, beginning
September 22; 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM; Central Library, Rm. 312,
14 W 10th St (corner of Baltimore and 10th), KCMO;
Building Sustainable Communities for the 30th Century
– The Story of Ogawa, Japan’s “Organic Town”
JFS Newsletter No.85 (September 2009)
“Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan” (No. 26)
Copyright Japan for Sustainability
Ogawa is a town in Saitama Prefecture, about an hour by train from Tokyo, which is rich in natural beauty and surrounded by mountains, with some 35,000 residents calling it home. With its historic streets and the surrounding environment of “satoyama” woodlands (areas of rich biodiversity near human settlements in the countryside), the town is often called “Little Kyoto in Musashi” (Musashi is an old name for Saitama, and was part of what is now Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture). It has long thrived on traditional industries, including a 1,300-year history of hand-made Japanese paper, Ogawa silk, joinery made of wood using local forest resources, and sake (Japanese rice wine) brewing using its quality mountain water.
Yoshinori Kaneko is a farmer who has been organic farming in Ogawa for the past 38 years. In the 1970s, around the time Kaneko started farming, the book “Limits to Growth,” commissioned by the Club of Rome, was published. It caused a sensation all around the world due to its conclusion that if the world population and economy continued to grow at the same pace, and the environment was further destroyed, that humanity would face the dire consequences of overstepping the natural limits to growth. In addition, while the world saw economic turmoil resulting from oil shocks at that time, Japanese people were experiencing pollution-caused diseases such as the itai-itai (pain-pain) malady and Minamata disease. In addition, the Acreage Reduction Program was started around that time to regulate rice production.
Against this backdrop, Kaneko thought that a lifestyle of rich self-sufficiency would be the key to farming in a manner that would produce safe, tasty, and nutritious food. “Fossil fuels and mineral resources that the current ‘industrial society’ depends on will become depleted in the future,” he thought, “and we will need to shift to a permanent ‘agro-based society.’”
Aiming to Create an “Organic Cycle”
“To produce safe and tasty food, it is important to practice farming without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, using the organic cycles of nature.” At Kaneko’s farm, he employs complex agricultural techniques while raising livestock such as cows, chickens, and rice-ducks, while growing a variety of seasonable crops at the same time. So there is a cycle: the people eat food they grow on their own farm; food waste, crop residue, and weeds are fed to animals; livestock manure and fallen leaves from the nearby forests are composted, and then spread on fields and rice paddies as nutrients.
Fallen leaves being composted : Copyright Japan for Sustainability
In addition to this circular style of organic farming, he also makes efforts to become more self-sufficient in terms of energy, with the aim of being completely self-sufficient. He has incorporated natural energy systems, including solar power and biogas, as well as uses straight vegetable oil (SVO) fuel made from waste cooking oil to power a tractor and a passenger car.
Kaneko has also endeavored to promote and spread the practice of organic farming, too. For the last 25 years, to train successors, he has received more than 100 trainees, who are now active not only in Japan but all over the world. He also founded the Ogawa’s organic farming producers’ group in 1994, mainly with the trainees who started as independent farmers in Ogawa after the training. Currently, some 30 organic farms have joined so far and are working together on various activities, including a cooperative shipping program.
Tamie Iwasaki, a member of the organic farming producers’ group said, “Organic farming has been getting more and more attention against the backdrop of the era of food security and safety and the environment in recent years. The agricultural approach is, however, very risky and labor-intensive for producers, and consumer awareness is still low. We would like to continue seeking out opportunities for technical improvement and information exchange, expand distribution routes, and deepen understanding among consumers. We aim to live a lifestyle that does not impose a burden on the natural environment, in which human beings coexist and practice agriculture that respects people and provides rich self-sufficiency.”
The efforts of the Ogawa organic farming producers’ group has expanded further because of the collaboration between the local government and citizens. Various people, including young people who want to learn how to farm organically, began to come to Ogawa. From the political side, Kaneko, who was selected as a council member of Ogawa in 1999, uses organic farming to boost community development based on self-sufficiency of food, energy, and recycling materials.
Another Aspect of Material and Energy Circulation — Locally Supported Organic Farming
Ogawa’s sake product
Copyright Japan for Sustainability
Organic farming depends heavily on natural conditions such as weather. Therefore, production volumes are often unpredictable, and the size and shape of the produce grown varies. To support organic farming and promote revitalizing the town at the same time, local businesses began to cooperate. In 1988, starting with Ogawa’s Natural Sake product, made from organic rice and marketed through a partnership with a local sake brewer, the group began to develop other products made from locally grown organic produce, including soy sauce, dried noodles, and tofu. Some local companies started supporting organic agriculture in Ogawa by purchasing the produce. For example, one company committed to buying all available organic soybeans, and another started a company-wide initiative to buy organic rice.
A few farmers started switching to organic farming practices, and the number has continued to increase, because they discovered some new markets for their organic agricultural products, witnessed actual cases of pesticide-free production nearby, and realized the difference in the quality of the products compared to conventionally grown ones. One farmer said, “I am over 70, and finally I’ve discovered how much fun farming is.” It shows a positive feedback loop in which the town is revitalized and reorganized around organic farming.
Community Building for the 30th Century
The Ogawa Natural Energy Study Association formed to start up a pilot biogas plant in 1992. Currently, a non-profit organization, the Ogawa Foodo Application Center (Foodo, for short), which took over the project, is currently working with the local government and citizens on a project to recycle food waste. The food waste collected by the local government is converted into liquid fertilizer and methane gas at a nearby food waste recycling plant. The producers buy and use the liquefied manure. Through this project, 87 tons of food waste was recycled from 2001 to 2007.
Copyright Japan for Sustainability
Yuko Takahashi, from the non-profit group Seikatsu Kobo “Tsubasa-Yu”, which participated in planning the food-waste recycling project, said, “I’d like to establish a self-sustaining community in Ogawa, created by the citizens, with the aim being self-sufficient in energy and food without being affected by outside influences.”
Half of the funds needed to establish Ogawa’s recycling plant came from local citizens. They are investing their own money in the project, and they share its outcome — both profits and losses. “This is a new type of ‘citizen-led public works.’ In this scheme,” Takahashi said, “urban residents who don’t have a means of production can cooperate with farmers to create a more sustainable society.”
The citizens also hold various activities to revitalize their local community. For example, they plan and hold site visits to Frostpia Farm, where visitors can see organic farming and resource recycling in practice, they sponsor cooking classes using locally grown organic produce, promote “candle night” events, and provide “catering” classes on the environment to elementary schools. They also have initiatives to promote the use of locally produced food and energy to local businesses, such as their project to develop the production of tofu made from locally grown soybeans.
Ogawa’s Star Festival
Copyright Japan for Sustainability
Another of their efforts is promoting Ogawa’s traditional “Star Festival,” which includes use of traditional, handmade Japanese “washi” paper that originated 1,300 years ago (and is said will last up to one thousand years). “Local people tend to take the local natural environment and traditional industries for granted, but these are very attractive to people outside,” Takahashi said. “We are engaged in various activities to properly use, and not waste, our local ‘treasures.’” With the hope that the world in the 30th century will be a sustainable one, especially on the occasion of the Star Festival, the citizens of Ogawa are working together towards creating a self-sustaining community.
From Ogawa to the World
Such efforts are not limited to just Ogawa, where the organic agricultural farms support the local community and the community supports the farms. Similar efforts can be seen in the United States, in Laurence and Kansas City, in the state of Kansas. At the very heart of industrial-scale farming operations in the U.S., organic farmers and local communities are vigorously supporting each other to boost local development.
From May to June 2009, during an exchange program titled “Global Partnership for Local Organic Food,” organized by non-profit organizations, IFOAM Japan and the Kansas Rural Center, visiting organic food producers and specialists stayed in Ogawa for six days, and visited local organic farms and interacted with the organic farmers. In June, ten people visited Kansas, including some organic farmers from Ogawa. In the exchange program, organic farmers and specialists from both sides of the planet shared information, discussed problems they had, and learned more about the similarities and differences between them. Communication is still underway on the program’s website. The program proved to be a valuable experience for both groups, and after returning home, discussions still continue between them on some of the things they learned from each other, such as the benefits of a joint shipment program and how to expand their market share.
http://www.gplof.org/ (English, Japanese)
In Japan, the Organic Agriculture Promotion Law was enacted in December 2006. Ogawa was selected as a model town of organic agriculture for five years, starting in 2008. The town, the local agricultural cooperative, producers, and citizens formed a council to promote organic agriculture, with the organic producers’ group playing a central role. The council has been working to promote organic farming, such as holding seminars for would-be organic farmers.
Also, in order to take further advantage of the international exchange program, some new projects are being discussed, such as an exchange program for young producers. As a result of these citizen-led initiatives, Ogawa is on the way towards being a sustainable society in the 30th century. The people involved in local development initiatives that center on organic agriculture are looking forward to spreading to the world this sustainable agricultural model into the next century.
Copyright Japan for Sustainability
Written by Chizuko Sato
From Circle of Food:
Never before in the history of eating has there been so much emphasis placed on eating healthy foods and eating organic. Yet, with an obesity epidemic that starts in grade school, and continues on until death to do us part, the the US – the richest nation in the world is also the most overweight.
Check out this gnocchi recipe at vegalicious.org!
The good news? Some cities are doing their part to encourage a healthy lifestyle and food. We introduce you to 20 cities that Cooking Light say encourage healthy foods and lifestyles.
What’s our take on healthy food choices? First of all, we don’t believe for a minute that thin equates to health. Moderate and slightly overweight people can still eat healthy and be healthy. Secondly, we’re not going to lecture on losing weight as we three sassy women have our weight hiccups too. And we enjoy our certified angus beef and carbohydrate foods as well as the next guy.
You want to diet, we give you many choices. You crave carbs (we do too) so we offer a menu of complex carbohydrates that controls hunger instead of magnifying it. Ever hear of the zone diet? Let’s start embracing those vegetables and fruits, nature’s way of feeding us the vitamins and minerals that we need. An apple a day will most likely keep the doctor at bay along with a banana and half a grapefruit.
It had to happen. While poorer, less industrialized countries have been using organic growing methods for years – the United States has made progress (sic) through chemicals and cancer-causing pesticides. As the tide turns to eating more healthy and bringing more awareness to the air we breathe and the water we drink, eating organically and making organic food choices is naturally a step in the right direction – along with a fair wage for farmers, sustainable living, and saving the earth for our children and our children’s children.
Eating vegetarian and/or vegan may be a lifestyle choice based on personal philosophy or health. The most frequently asked question from us carnivores to vegetarians and vegans is what do you do for protein? Let’s explore the benefits and challenges of a vegetarian and/or vegan diet.
Are there any nutritionists, holistic and mainstream, or devoted vegetarians and vegans who would like to be a guest blogger and show us the way? If so – contact us!
Dancing with herbs for healthy eating
Herbs have long been used for medicinal uses, but only in the past century have we used herbs to enhance the flavor of our food and suggest their rewards as part of healthy eating. Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, (famous Simon and Garfunkel lyrics come to mind); tumeric, curry, and cumin makes us yearn for savory Indian food; the simplicity of fresh basil sprinkled over a ripe slice of tomato and mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive perks our appetite; a few springs of bruised mint in a pitcher of lemonade enlivens every day citrus. And then there’s the king of herbs extraterrestrial garlic it even has its own food festival. Throughout Circle of Food you’ll find tasty commentary on the joy of using herbs.
Eating healthy has never been easier and more satisfying!
As the Economy Struggles, Urban Gardens Grow
By reclaiming vacant lots, providing cheap produce, and giving community members a sense or purpose, city gardens reap a bounty of benefits.
Jul 27, 2009
A little garden between the skyscrapers and busy streets of a metropolis is no longer a luxury only for those with deep pockets and great patios. Urban farms and gardens are being planted in major cities throughout the U.S. thanks, in part, to an increasing need to lower the cost of locally grown, organic food. While it’s impossible to gauge just how many urban farms and gardens there are across the country (they range from personal plots to full-scale farms with viable acreage), many are found in urban epicenters, often in low-income neighborhoods lacking grocery stores and farmers markets. They’re wedged between government housing, abandoned buildings, halted construction projects and streets known more for their crime problems than their heirloom tomatoes. And as the economy fails to thrive, advocates say the benefits of these gardens are even more pronounced.
“The recession has increased interest in home food gardening,” says Colin McCrate of the Seattle Urban Farm Co. “Although the failing economy gives yet another reason to start growing vegetables, I think that most people are growing their own food because they believe this is a tangible way to reduce their impact on the environment and improve the quality of their diets.”
Proponents say there are several reasons why urban agriculture makes sense in 2009. “Before the recession, there was an interest in greening and thinking about food systems,” says Patrick Crouch of Detroit-based Earthworks Urban Farm. But he believes a perfect storm of economics, ecological awareness, and basic supply-and-demand could push urban agriculture forward in cities. “A huge number of vacant lots is usually seen as a detriment to a community,” he says. But by turning these spaces into farms and gardens, they present long-term greening and financial opportunities for residents that lack basic health and nutritional care, not to mention radically decreased economic opportunities during the recession.
Today’s urban agricultural movement began visibly in the U.S. with victory gardens during the world wars and experienced a renaissance after the nation’s last economic crisis in the 1970s. With more Americans becoming conscious of “green” issues, recent economic challenges have once again introduced it as an alternative for people impacted by financial shortfalls across the country.
At Philadelphia’s Greensgrow, a hydroponic farm situated on a lot once belonging to an abandoned galvanized steel plant, visitors are greeted by beds of organic soil blooming with vegetables that are sold for nominal fees to neighbors, nonprofits, and nearby restaurants. Similarly, at Seattle’s P-Patch network of community gardens, 7 to 10 tons of produce is harvested each year for local food banks, and more than 23 acres of land serves up affordable food to low-income and immigrant populations.
And at Backdoor Harvest, an urban agricultural organization in St. Louis, novice and longtime tillers are busy planting “recession gardens,” private plots that supply individuals and families with well-rounded ingredients for meals that save substantially on grocery bills. Founder Marsha Giambalvo helps members design their own sustainable gardens depending on the sorts of meals they plan to prepare using fruits, vegetables and even herbs. Backdoor Harvest also sells fresh, organic crops to local farmer’s markets and eateries at lower cost than most supermarkets. She’s encouraging neighbors to adopt and prune trees that may already grow wild in neighborhoods, and to plant trees for harvesting apples, oranges, lemons, and other fruits.
In Detroit, a hot bed for reforestation initiatives thanks to The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit dedicated to streetscaping, Earthworks Urban Farm provides low-cost produce at volunteer-run markets. Bordering an old railroad track in a residential neighborhood, the farm also supplies food to its parent organization, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which has witnessed a boom among families who can no longer afford to provide meals for their children.
These farms also fill the void of community improvement projects as funding is slashed by local governments. Added Value, a nonprofit in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, N.Y., has spent the past decade revitalizing local parks and transforming vacant land into green space. An army of volunteers now harvests food on its 2.75 acres, once the site of a dilapidated playground. Funds for many of the projects come from the farms themselves. As community members buy and sell produce, money is filtered back into that same community.
“Urban farms carry the message of food self-sufficiency and healthy living,” says Katherine Kelly, executive director of the K.C. Center for Urban Agriculture in Kansas City, Kans. “What the recession has done is remind us how costly food can be.”
Not all gardens grow out of formally structured organizations. Three years ago, Bruce Dweller and several neighbors turned a tar beach in Chicago’s Wicker Park into a lush garden that he blogs about on Greenroofgrowers.blogspot.com. This wave of “guerrilla gardening,” or taking over space for greening’s sake, is becoming another way city folks are rescuing unused, and often unattractive space (legally and otherwise) to grow food and flora. As the recession slows construction and leaves vacant lots empty where perhaps a condo would have stood before the real-estate slump, this radical form of gardening stakes its claim anywhere a plant or tree can take root.
Gardening may be a subtle form of control as people face dwindling 401(k)s and shaky employment prospects. “These are often symbolic actions,” says Erik Knutzen, co-author of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process, 2008). “It leads to a sense of empowerment,” he says. Finding new ways of sustaining basic needs (in this case, food security) and creating social opportunities (growing, buying and selling produce with neighbors) inspire people to take charge of their communities.
“There’s nothing like picking a tomato and bringing it to the table,” says Knutzen, who attributes urban agriculture to saving money and inspiring better health and community habits overall. “And this leads to other improvements,” he says, “like caring more about our neighborhoods and bringing about more positive change right where we live.”