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Restaurants In Trouble

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Touch the Soil News #632 (Feature photo – Ruby Tuesday – CC SA 3.0) According to RESTAURANT DATA.COM the number of new restaurant openings in the U.S. in 2016 was a whopping 33,903. However, this number has been on a steady decline since 2012 when 39,707 new restaurants were opened – that’s a decline of new openings of about 15 percent. However, the real question is how many restaurants are closing each year. According to the NPD Group, the total number of restaurants in the U.S. declined by 2 percent over the past year – that is a net loss of 12,670 restaurants. So, here is the real kicker. A…

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Recognition of a New Economic Paradigm

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Touch the Soil News #611 (Feature photo – children of Western Cape are at the heart of the local resolve to end hunger) Western Cape, a Province of South Africa is trying to rethink food and access to food. Officials of the Province are collaborating to bring life to a new food system called Nourish to Flourish. Western Cape has thousands of children that are food insecure whose needs are not totally met by school feeding programs. Details of the plan stem from a resolve that no person or family should ever go hungry. Odd that America, the world’s richest nation, is struggling with the same problem – a 50-million…

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Vegetable Oils Perspective – A Gorilla in the China Closet

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Touch the Soil News #555 For most of us, when it comes to access to food and the products we need, our focus is on getting dollars first. In our battle to translate labor into dollars, we often cannot imagine that something is more important than our finances – or corporate structures designed solely to maximize finances. The unfolding story of saving the rainforests – which are ecologically important to planetary health – always ends up in the same debate. Farmland lost to urbanization is made up by slashing and burning rainforests or encroaching on other environmentally and biologically sensitive regions. How could such a small thing like vegetable oils…

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Striving for Power Via Farm Chemicals, GMOs and Seed Patents (part 1 of 2)

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Touch the Soil News #379 Historically we have followed the Monsanto company whose operations have ignited domestic and global protest. Operating at a lower public profile are two other companies (Syngenta and ChemChina) whose business lines are similar to Monsanto’s – genetic modification of plants, agrochemicals and patenting seeds for private corporate ownership. In an unsuccessful attempt last year (2015), Monsanto tried to acquire Syngenta – to create the world’s largest biotech and agrochemical company. Syngenta management spurred the deal, essentially saying Monsanto was not a suitable partner. Earlier this year, ChemChina (China National Chemical Corporation) – a state-owned enterprise by the Chinese government – made a bid to acquire…

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Urban Agriculture – A Study

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Touch the Soil News #377 Hot off the press from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, authors Raychel Santo, Anne Palmer and Brent Kim have reviewed over 160 different studies on urban farming. Called Vacant Lots to Vibrant Plots, the study reviews all aspects of urban farming. Following are their key findings:   1) Urban agriculture’s most significant benefits center around its ability to increase social capital, community well-being, and civic engagement with the food system. 2) The most successful urban agriculture efforts require sensitivity to the historical and current racial, socioeconomic, geographical, and cultural dynamics in highly diverse urban areas. 3) Urban agriculture offers a number of ecosystem…

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Interesting Food Activity – Over in India

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Touch the Soil News #339 Trying to solve many issues with one program is an idea that more and more organizations are trying to strive for. In India, there is extreme poverty, negative side-effects from chemical food farming and the problem of food and other organic waste. The Yasoram Charitable Trust – a non-profit with a vision to assist the poor in India is financing an urban food project that goes something like this: Workers on the Yasoram payroll dig ditches to plant bananas and yams alternately with ginger, tomatoes, green chilies, spinach and okra. All of this is taking place in the Indian state of Kerala – home to…

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Urban Chickens – Gains are Modest, But Steady

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Touch the Soil News #328 The Vancouver, Canada metropolitan area is home to 2.5 million people. The various cities that make up the metropolitan area have been steadily busy with approving creating guidelines for urban chickens. At present, Vancouver proper allows a maximum of four (4) hens (no roosters) that are at least four months old. The eggs, meat and manure from these chickens cannot be used for commercial purposes. The city requires folks to register with the city before hosting backyard chickens. In 2010, when the city first passed the ordinance to allow chickens in the city, 13 people stepped forward to register hens. Today, around 220 people have…

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Global Super Farm Boggles the Imagination

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Touch the Soil News #108 – Includes 1 video The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has the fastest growing population in the world. The increase in people is driven primarily from immigration. It is no secret the UAE is food insecure and is looking to shore up its food security. The UAE is farmland and water challenged – totally incapable of growing its own food within its national borders. As we reported in an earlier news piece, food imports into the UAE totaled $100 billion in 2014. The UAE government estimates that imports will rise to $400 billion in 10 years. National Emblem of the U.A.E. National Emblem of the Republic…

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“Irrigation Subsidence” – Is This the Makings of a Hollywood Thriller?

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Touch the Soil News #106  –  includes 1 info graphic and 2 videos With California providing over 50 percent of the nation’s primary fruit and vegetables, water will be directed towards fruit and veggie production at the expense of other crops. Some of the crops getting the ax include alfalfa (hay), rice, cotton, wheat and barley. American consumers will see short-term benefits from this water allocation in that increases in the price of our fresh fruits and vegetables is forecast to be modest this year. However, in California proper, there will be around 560,000 acres fallowed (not farmed) and a loss of around 19,000 jobs. See (info graphic #1) below…

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Modern Day Victory – Stephen Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine

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Touch the Soil News #105 – Includes 2 videos. A few years back, I was privileged to attend an advanced two-day seminar on how to teach. I was unprepared for what the facilitator had to say. In short, the “academic” approach to learning reaches only about 20 percent of students – the other 80 percent learn best by seeing, doing, experiencing and on the job. In one fell swoop, Ritz abolishes the concept the growing food is only for farmers. Being faced with high drop-out rates and his limitations in reaching students, Ritz decided to change the rules. In his own words, Ritz explains his approach: “I’m not willing to…

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