Orchards of Hope:
High School Students Plant Trees
on Food Day
Orchards of Hope brings fruit trees into public spaces, school grounds, county parks and wellness centers in Alleghany County, NC. This project enables residents of the community to pick and consume fresh fruit. In honor of National Food Day, the Appalachian Agriculture Coalition led high school students in planting fruit trees at the Moxley Road Community Garden site.
This year, nearly 8,000 farmers markets have connected farmers to consumers across the United States. That’s double the number from a decade ago, and it’s a number that depends on an increasing nationwide preference for fresh food. In fact, 68 per cent of Americans say they eat more fresh food than they did five years ago, according to a study from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For many, the source of much of that food—and perhaps the source of that shift in habits—is a local farmers market.
The Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Grayson LandCare: Discovery/Creation of Sustainable Ways of Life and Leadership for the Future
The question “what shall we do about it?”
is only asked by those who do not
If a problem can be solved at all,
to understand it and to know what to do about it
are the same thing.
I. The Challenge
In the face of unprecedented environmental, economic, and social changes, too frequently our understandings and responses fail to achieve desired and necessary results. A lack of clarity about how to keep up with the dynamic of the present, much less step confidently into the future, has left communities, commercial enterprises, states, and nations confused. Often they are badly divided as to the nature of the forces contributing to their distresses and about potential remedies that might offer relief.
Discovering what must be done in each locale to achieve sustainable, resilient landscapes, watersheds, communities, businesses, and governments is only half the challenge. Finding ways to implement necessary and beneficial change at sufficient scale and to sustain it through time is work that must engage all present and future generations. Virginia Tech has an important and exciting opportunity/responsibility for leadership in exploration of existing and emergent needs and the means to meet them.
For a major land grant university like Virginia Tech, the challenge is complicated. Institutions of higher learning have specific momentum as a result of having succeeded in devising improved understandings, technologies, and management systems with tight focus on a limited number of interests. Investment in research and development by discipline has been rewarded as a result of success in expanding our understandings of new worlds unanticipated and unimagined just a few short years ago. Genetic engineering, nanotechnology, information technology, sub-atomic physics, and marketing have increased human capacity to manipulate the physical world, living biomass, and behavior. Recognition and financial rewards have followed. More of the same is anticipated.
Yet out beyond these successes remains a larger world where other pressing problems are not being resolved or even addressed. Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. Soil losses in some places have dramatically reduced the potential for food, fiber, fuel, and forage production. Where people and opportunities don’t meet in the same time and place, standards of living have fallen or remained stagnant. Financial returns to agriculture and forestry minimally support a majority of those living on the land, if at all. The growth of human populations and the restless migrations away from scarcity mean that the global community is becoming “unsettled” on a scale unimaginable fifty years ago.
II. The Academic Community
In order to study a phenomenon, there must be some degree of control over the subject of inquiry or else cause and effect will not be understood and findings will be open to question. In the physical sciences, control within laboratories and in the world of sticks and stones is relatively easy to achieve. On the other hand, when the inquiry concerns complex and dynamic living systems responding to a wide range of stimuli, control is progressively difficult for practical and often ethical reasons. While the cell on a glass slide under the microscope can do little other than be observed, understanding the impact of climate change on different tropic levels in a temperate forest is quite a different matter. Do we investigate soil microorganisms exchanging minerals for sugars with trees, precipitation in relation to changes in temperatures, biodiversity in response to changes in vegetation cover, the management practices of landowners, changes in the availability of forest products, melting ice in the Arctic, or all of the above? Even if we study all of the above, how is the information to be packaged into some comprehensible whole?
In science, we often read that some finding is true, ceteris paribus, or said another way, all other things being equal or held constant. As complexity increases, as questions are asked about cause and effect beyond the laboratory, the physical world, and simple life forms, all other things are less likely to be equal or even to be known.
When there is less control, the ability to predict or anticipate consequence is reduced because there are unaccounted variables that influence outcomes. For the economist, these are the externalities that exist beyond the focus of classical theories and methods of inquiry. For the ecologist, such variables are beyond the systems of interest that have been carefully delineated. As consideration is further expanded to include the fields and forests, the streams and rivers, and the human beings that manage the land and influence what is grown, harvested, processed, and delivered, each discipline has a stake in any proposed action with only a partial view of the whole. The various disciplinary practitioners may speak different technical languages, and use different information collection techniques, and their focuses often don’t overlap or correlate even though they may investigate phenomena that are interrelated and mutually influential if not mutually dependent.
The British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1920) commented that nature is infinitely divisible, i.e., there are an infinite number of ways of seeing nature. Any “complete” description is beyond our capacities, as the ecologist Frank Egler noted: "Ecosystems not only are more complex than we think, but more complex than we can think" (Noss, O'Connell, and Murphy: 1997:76). As a consequence, while many discipline-oriented researchers are raising questions concerning the long-term viability of existing biodiversity, water quality, and supplies of food, fuel, fiber, and forage, too frequently their conclusions are difficult to apply to the findings produced by other disciplinarians or to new technologies and management techniques. If problems are identified and solutions offered separately -- one at a time -- to improve water quality, increase forage yields, improve timber management, increase income to landowners...
Inspired by and building upon Heifer International's 65 years of community development experience, the Seeds of Change Initiative is a campaign to grow jobs, improve health, and end American poverty through the extraordinary potential of locally grown food.
This is possible thanks to the potential of capable people who want to work--to start or rejuvenate small farms, create innovative food-based businesses, and connect to existing viable markets while also developing new ones.
Capitalizing on the current local food movement, Seeds of Change will help low-income Americans become fully engaged participants in the momentum of these increasingly popular initiatives -- both as qualified providers of high quality food and knowledgeable consumers of it.
At our January 2014 meeting, Katie Trozzo, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, gave a fascinating presentation on Non-Timber Forest Products.
Download the power point presentation (download here) that accompanied her lecture. If you are interested in finding out more about what she is doing or finding out if your property has the potential to grow or harvest non-timber forest products, please fill out and e-mail back her survey (download here).
Austrailian LandCare Coordinator
Visits Grayson County
On Saturday, December 7th, Geoff Rollinson came to Independence for the Winter Market and the Christmas Parade.
The Farmers Market Float in the Independence Christmas Parade
He later had dinner with the Grayson LandCare Board of Directors at the home of Scott & Loren Webster in Mouth of Wilson.
Geoff is the Coordinator for the Heytesbury District Landcare Network in Timboon, Victoria. He came to the US for a workshop at the Smithsonian Biodiversity Research Center and scheduled a visit to the first US LandCare organization, Grayson LandCare. We learned about the Australian model of Landcare, which is partially supported by the government and managed in a hierarchical structure, although the decisions about what will be done are made by landowners and, for the most part, carried out by landowners and volunteers. He was very complimentary of our efforts and enjoyed the warm welcome and hospitality he received here.
A Day at the Farm: Stories
On Saturday, October 19th, folks gathered at the Matthews Living Historic Farm Museum for its annual Apple Harvest Day. Though slightly on the chilly side, with a bit of sprinkles thrown in, we hosted a steady stream of people of all ages from infants to geezers coming and going throughout the day. Musicians positioned themselves on the porch of the log cabin, and played traditional mountain tunes while people visited and caught up on neighborly news and gossip.
Victorian Landcare and Catchment Management Magazine - Latest Issue #57
Planning revegetation projects:
Overthe past five years 400 members
and groups associated with EGLN have
planted 300,000 indigenous seedlings,
creating more than 330 hectares of
revegetation. It’s not hard to understand
why revegetation is such a focus for the
network – an estimated 70 per cent of
private land has been cleared of indigenous
vegetation within the region, with the red
gum plains particularly affected. (Read the entire issue...)
The USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program awards $26,488 to Grayson LandCare, Inc., Independence, VA, to professionalize
the Independence Farmers Market with a permanent market
manager and Board of Directors and to promote it as a viable,
self‐sustaining retail outlet for local growers and a venue for
consumers to buy
local fresh produce, meats, and eggs.
We were one of only five markets in Virginia to receive an award. Thank-you Grayson LandCare for all you did to make this possible!
Independence Farmers’ Market Manager
This is a must watch!
"Every time you sit down to a meal, you're voting on what kind of agriculture you want."
Watch this 5-minute film on Nebraska meat producers who put the needs of the soil and the animals first--and are finding that consumers respond, making their techniques MORE profitable while they feel good about what they are doing.
In Short Supply:
Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Healthy Food
To Your Plate
The American food system doesn't make it easy for small farmers to get their healthy food to your home, but meet two farmers in Scott County, VA who are trying: Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard. They're siblings who grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables in southwestern Virginia. Their livelihood is filled with uncertainties ranging from unpredictable weather to changing immigration laws. This is their story.
"With appreciation of our past and awareness of our present, we can create a safe, sane future."