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Seeds of Change

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Touch the Soil News #760 (feature photo – Downtown New York – Alex Proimos CC SA 2.0) The history of New York City is the epitome of paving and urbanizing farmland. Since its founding in 1624, New York City and its surrounding metro areas have grown. Today, New York City proper has a population of 8.5 million people. The larger New York City metropolitan area has 23.7 million people. Originally, New York was the lands of the Algonquain Indians, which sold the island of Manhattan in 1626 to Peter Minuit. Minuit was charged with building of the New Netherland for the Dutch. A few days ago, New York councilman -…

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A Long Shot At Rethinking America

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Touch the Soil News #662 The State of Illinois is considering legislation that would formalize urban food and farming throughout the whole state. Illinois State Representative Sonya Harper (Democrat) is proposing urban agriculture zones. Illinois is the sixth most populous state with a population of almost 13 million. Sonya Harper has lived in a food desert most of her life. What this legislation aims to achieve is to break up food deserts and put vacant lots to use by establishing urban agriculture zones that would incentivize the sale of locally grown foods. An agriculture zone would be made up of organizations or individuals who grow produce or other agricultural products…

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Food Calamity Takes Over a Nation

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Touch the Soil News #534 Critics around the world are blaming the hunger crisis in Venezuela on its socialist government and how Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is ruling the nation through presidential decrees. While politics certainly play a role in a nation’s level of prosperity, let’s not kid ourselves – it’s all about the money. A few years ago, Venezuela – as one of the world’s leading oil producers and exporters – was in the money. Oil income was used to subsidize the nation’s poor. Today, one in three Venezuelans lives in poverty – unable to find work to finance the basics. The unprecedented collapse in oil prices simply dried up the…

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What is the Message – From Far Away Bulawayo?

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Touch the Soil News #512 Where is Bulawayo? It’s a city of 1.2 million people in Zimbabwe in the deep south of Africa. Bulawayo was historically known as the industrial center of Zimbabwe. However, severe economic contraction has left the industrial sectors of the city vacant and deteriorating. And it’s not that what was produced in Bulawayo is not needed – textiles, engineering, metals, blankets and shoes. Through a combination of financial maneuverings and unhealthy competition – whole cities (even nations) can be left behind. The popular phrase “no person left behind” explains frustrations by Americans about the economic landscape (or lack thereof) leaving people behind. Tthe larger world is…

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Another Global City Looks to Act On Food Security

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Touch the Soil News #483 Victoria, British Columbia, Canada is one of those international tourist destinations. Located on beautiful Vancouver Island, the city has great ferry traffic from mainland Canada and the United States. These large “ferry” ships bring thousands of visitors to the natural wonders of the Northwest Pacific coast and the internationally acclaimed Buchart Gardens. The City of Victoria is looking to pass sweeping city codes to enable local food production and commerce. In addition to the standard vegetables that most market gardeners raise, the new codes would allow raw, unprocessed food such as fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs and honey to be grown and sold within the city.…

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Fort Worth, Texas – Attempting a New Milestone in Urban Agriculture

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Touch the Soil News #427 Normally, when it comes to food and agriculture we get directives from places like the USDA or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). But as we have been covering in our news pieces, the frequency of food and agriculture innovations are just as likely to come from city municipalities. Recently, the city of Fort Worth, Texas (a metropolis of 850,000) put out an interesting 14-page document concerning urban agriculture amendments to the city’s zoning ordinance. Worthy of note is a vision statement by the city at the introduction to the proposed ordinance: The City of Fort Worth wants residents to live longer and healthier lives.…

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Taking City-Grown Food More Seriously

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Touch the Soil News #323 Urban food – to include growing your own – is becoming a rising star not only due to practical needs, but in the political realms as well. Recalling our news piece #255 – 117 mayors of the world’s largest cities spanning all continents (and representing 400 million people) inked a deal last year to work together on urban hunger. The cities will work together on many areas including urban farming and raising your own food. While there are many problems with chemical farming, it is also about economics – or more simply affordability. The call to urban farming and raising your own food is growing…

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A City’s Approach to Food is Dynamite on Industrial Food

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Touch the Soil News #319 The action is taking place in Victoria, British Columbia – a picturesque city of some 85,000 people on the Puget Sound on Vancouver Island. As the provincial capital of British Columbia, Victoria is part of a much larger urban metropolis of 350,000. Mainstream agriculture in Canada has the full blessings of the national government when it comes to using pesticides, GMOs that require the use of pesticides and all other chemicals deemed safe for human consumption. Recently, the Times Colonist – a newspaper in Victoria – reported on news that the City Council wants to help promote urban farming and food close to home. The…

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Is America on the Cusp of a Game-Changing Movement?

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Touch the Soil News #305 Located in Southeastern Iowa is Johnson County – home to some 132,000 people. Recently the Johnson County Extension service created a new position – a first in Iowa (maybe in the nation). The position is for a Local Food and Planning Specialist for Johnson County. The position is designed to bolster the local foods supply chain around the Iowa City area – the county seat of Johnson County. Unlike the USDA which is focused primarily on industrial agriculture and exports, Johnson County wants to develop and expand the production and consumption of food in the Iowa City area. The County just hired Shanti Sellz, an…

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Does Organizing Around Dollars (or Pesos) Slow Down Food Production & Eating?

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Touch the Soil News #299 Recently, the Voice of America put out a story on Cuba – 11 million people who in large part are strapped for cash. As the Cuban government tries to alleviate hunger – the shortage of “cash” problem stands in the way. A larger urban farm outside of Havana – the Rotondo de Cojima farm – grows several thousand pounds a month of carrots, lettuce and root vegetables. The farm employs 10 people who earn the equivalent of $25 per month. Cuba has lots of people able to work and an abundance of rich farmland. But the Pesos are not there to connect them – sound…

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