Agriculture News: 5/12/22

Agriculture News: 5/12/22

black farmers land loss

Photo: Reuters


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Atlanta pop-up restaurant Heritage owes its success to chef’s roots - AJC


Great write up about up-and-coming Chef Darius Brown who hosts a Supper Club known as Heritage, inspired by great-grandmother Elizabeth Castle. This is scratch cooking at its truest definition – one of his menus took two months to write! 


U.S. Black farmers lost $326 bln worth of land in 20th century - study - Reuters 


If that number sounds like a lot, consider this: it’s actually a conservative estimate, because they can’t account for how farmers might have leveraged their land for other investments or lines of business. Here’s the key information from the study:


In 1910, Black farmers owned more than 16 million acres of land, according to experts. In 2017, when the most recent agricultural census was done, that figure was just 4.7 million acres, about 0.5% of all farmland.


The land loss was due to discriminatory USDA lending policies and forced sales of co-owned land called heirs' property, among other factors, the study said.


Growing a New Future for Farming: By restoring soil health, Donald Wyse hopes to transform farms, to the benefit of farmers and their customers. - NYTimes 

Rising fertilizer prices highlight science of healthy soil - Axios 


HELLO! It is really bizarre how little the soil is actually discussed in talking about agriculture. It’s, yanno, the most important thing? Evidently Donald Wyse has a solid PR team because he’s profiled in the NYTimes and featured in this primer by Axios. The point in both articles are the same, that healthy soil is critical to the future of agriculture. 


In the last 50 or so years, soil science focused primarily on chemical inputs. In large part, this is because it was deemed easier to be precise about what was in the soil. Spray X fertilizer and you’ll have Y nutrients in the soil. Sounds simple enough. 


Of course, it ignores the fact that soil is a living ecosystem. And that’s now what’s coming back in vogue.


If you’re looking for a catch, here’s the closest thing: it takes a long time to build healthy soil. Of course, this is the fault of creating unhealthy soil for decades, but the point remains that it can’t be achieved overnight. Still, it’s well worth doing.


Here’s the gist: 


"...these systems take a long time to implement. Once you do, they are resilient to shocks," Jason Kaye, a professor of soil biogeochemistry at Penn State University, says. "But they aren’t going to help us next year. It takes a decade to build soil organic matter like that."


This plant-based company wants to help dairy farmers pivot from cows to crops - Fast Company 


Dairy farmers are struggling, and many farmers blame companies like Miyoko’s Creamery who make plant-based butter and cheese. So when you look at Miyoko’s website, you might be surprised to see photos of the founder hugging cows! That’s because Miyoko’s Creamery works with dairy farmers through their Dairy Farm Transition Program, which subsidizes their transition to non dairy operations and offers contracts to buy the plants they’ll grow down the line. 


Here’s what founder Miyoko Schinner has to say: 


“We don’t want to be the company that comes in, makes new products, and leaves the rest of the people in the agricultural system where they start losing sales and thinking, ‘My industry is dying because of the plant-based foods that are coming up.’ We want to be the company that says, ‘You know what, we’re going to create a new economy, and within that economy there’s room for everybody.'”

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