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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ISCOWP (International Society For Cow Protection) Update Nov 2011

 Click here for the latest from our friends at the International Society For Cow Protection (ISCOWP)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Bhakti Way Of Investing In The Ecology of The Heart

From Radhanath Swami at the Huffington Post

A crippled economy and a polluted environment plague our social body. Both largely stem from the same core disease -- pollution of hearts. Blinded by distractions one can forget how to invest in what awards a meaningful, fulfilling life.

Parallel to our vast strides in technology, there is a dangerous rise in unemployment, foreclosures and degrading education. Millions of people are stricken with hopelessness and strife. Sadly, in the name of progress we have polluted the air, water, soil and the food we eat. What can we do? The following is a story about an encounter I had with someone who cared.

It was winter in New Delhi when the days are mild and the nights are biting cold. New Delhi's wide roads are lined with massive government buildings, the older ones built by the British perhaps a century back with stone pillars, ornate statues and vast lawns. Others built after independence in 1947 are adorned with Indian style arches and domes. I rode toward the airport. Monkeys appeared everywhere, scampering along the boundary walls.

At the crossroads on the way to the airport we passed circular islands of grass and trees surrounding memorials for the country's freedom fighters. The streets were congested with cars, trucks and motorcycle rickshaws spewing out trails of exhaust fumes. Overhead a murky cloud of smog hung in the sky and reduced the sun to a gray lifeless ball. The fumes were thick, the smells toxic, and they sat on our tongues like sour lozenges. On the roadside an elderly man squatted cross-legged with back erect performing pranayama, a yogic breathing exercise. He vigorously inhaled and exhaled. I wondered if it did him more harm than good.

We crossed a bridge over the Yamuna River. I looked down and remembered 30 years before, when I had first come to India, that under the same bridge the Yamuna flowed in her full glory. Now, she looked plundered and crippled. What was once a pristine river had now become a thick blackish liquid, foaming bubbles, and a current so lame she barely flowed.

When I reached the airport and was waiting at the gate for my flight, a lady informed me that sitting close by was the Union Minister for Environment and Forests. She wanted to talk to me. I obliged.

The minister stood up and greeted me, "Namaste Swamiji." After a pleasant exchange she suddenly challenged me with a passion.

"What are you spiritual leaders doing about the ecology?" She was very serious.

"Every second the air is being saturated with cancerous smog," she said. "Tons of raw sewage and toxic waste are dumped hourly into rivers where millions of people bathe and drink. The earth is being stripped of its forest and has become a dumping ground for deadly waste. The world is on the brink of ecological disaster while all of you spiritualists are praying, meditating or chanting. What is all your devotion doing to save the ecology?"

Her concern was real and impassioned. It was exciting to see that depth of concern from a powerful leader over an issue that affects us all.

"Yes, the environment is everyone's responsibility," I responded, "and I sincerely admire your tireless commitment. The spiritual leaders I know believe that along with passing laws and doing the cleaning work we need to address the root cause of the problem. If a person is covered with boils, the symptoms must be treated, but unless the cause of the problem is addressed, the boils will recur. In the case of boils, the cause may be a disease in the blood. The root of cause of pollution in the world is pollution in the heart.

"Toxic greed has contaminated the minds of human society. The environment is simply an external manifestation of the ecology of the mind. Greed is an obsession, an addiction. It can never be quenched. The more it gets, the more it needs. Greed hardens the heart and fools us into rationalizing cruelty and justifying crime. Greed induces envy, divides families, provokes wars and blinds us to our real self-interest. Greed for money, power, fame, sex -- the world is ravaged by greed. It is practically an exercise in futility to attempt to clean the environment when politicians are corrupted by bribes, industrialists pollute rivers to maximize profits and scientists put aside their ethics for funding.

"The Bhagavad Gita states that greed is a symptom of avidya or ignorance that covers the natural virtues of the true self within us. I'm sure you would agree with me that most people are not bad spirited, but due to a lack of awareness they may be destroying the environment, not understanding that what may seem convenient, like dumping industrial waste into a river, is actually killing fish, animals and people. So along with the pollution of our rivers, we must give attention to the pollution in our hearts. If you successfully clean the air, the sky, every river and every ocean, it is for certain that people will pollute them again unless they reform the ecology of their hearts.

"Spiritual life is the science of cleansing the heart and tasting the joy of living in harmony with God, each other and nature. It begins with cultivating good character, the willingness to make personal sacrifices for a higher cause, to make the right choices even in the face of temptation and fear, and put concern for the well being of others as a priority.

"How to do that? All of these virtues can spring from Bhakti or spiritual love. The Bible teaches that 'the first and great commandment is to love God with all one's heart, mind and soul.' And the natural result of that is, 'to love your neighbor as yourself.' Nature is also our neighbor, she is alive with rights like everyone else, but too many people don't see nature that way. The Vedic scriptures tell that the most simple and powerful method of cleansing the ecology of the heart and awakening this dormant love within us is to chant God's names. In my tradition we chant the names of Krishna."

"God has empowered all of us in different ways and if we agree on what the real problem is, then we can all contribute our part of the solution. The well being of Mother Earth is everyone's problem. It is crucial for leaders in all fields to serve cooperatively."

At that point the minister was called to board her flight. She thought for a moment, then stood up and smiled saying, "Yes Swamiji, What you say is true. We all need to work together."

She was right to take me to task. Religious and spiritual leaders should be held accountable for environmental activism, not only because they have access to large communities and can influence votes but because service is integral to religious and spiritual life. Reducing carbon emissions is important, but it is shortsighted if not coupled with reducing the toxic emissions from our heart; and that is something spiritual leaders are supposed to teach and something all thinking people, regardless of their beliefs, should practice.

We should honor Mother Earth with gratitude; otherwise our spirituality may become hypocritical.

The earth nourishes us with every necessity for a prosperous life. When, on a massive worldwide scale we plunder her oil, destroy her forests, pollute her resources, torture and kill her animals, soak her with the blood of her children, exploit one another and trample her with immorality, there will naturally be devastating consequences.

We should honor our mother and respect all of her children as our brothers and sisters. Otherwise, we may force her to react. Humanity has reached a critical crossroads. We have made monumental progress in technology, medicine, science, academics and globalization but if we do not use them with compassion what will be our fate? The dire need is at hand to take responsibility as caretakers of the helpless and live as dedicated instruments of God's love.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Dark Side of the Green City

THE struggle to slow global warming will be won or lost in cities, which emit 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. So “greening” the city is all the rage now. But if policy makers end up focusing only on those who can afford the low-carbon technologies associated with the new environmental conscientiousness, the movement for sustainability may end up exacerbating climate change rather than ameliorating it.

While cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are lauded for sustainability, the challenges faced by Phoenix, a poster child of Sunbelt sprawl, are more typical and more revealing. In 2009, Mayor Phil Gordon announced plans to make Phoenix the “greenest city” in the United States. Eyebrows were raised, and rightly so. According to the state’s leading climatologist, central Arizona is in the “bull’s eye” of climate change, warming up and drying out faster than any other region in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southwest has been on a drought watch 12 years and counting, despite outsized runoff last winter to the upper Colorado River, a major water supply for the subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun.

Across that valley lies 1,000 square miles of low-density tract housing, where few signs of greening are evident. That’s no surprise, given the economic free fall of a region that had been wholly dependent on the homebuilding industry. Property values in parts of metro Phoenix have dropped by 80 percent, and some neighborhoods are close to being declared “beyond recovery.”

In the Arizona Legislature, talk of global warming is verboten and Republican lawmakers can be heard arguing for the positive qualities of greenhouse gases. Most politicians are still praying for another housing boom on the urban fringe; they have no Plan B, least of all a low-carbon one. Mr. Gordon, a Democrat who took office in 2004, has risen to the challenge. But the vast inequalities of the metro area could blunt the impact of his sustainability plans.

Those looking for ecotopia can find pockets of it in the prosperous upland enclaves of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and North Phoenix. Hybrid vehicles, LEED-certified custom homes with solar roofs and xeriscaped yards, which do not require irrigation, are popular here, and voter support for the preservation of open space runs high. By contrast, South Phoenix is home to 40 percent of the city’s hazardous industrial emissions and America’s dirtiest ZIP code, while the inner-ring Phoenix suburbs, as a legacy of cold-war era industries, suffer from some of the worst groundwater contamination in the nation.

Whereas uptown populations are increasingly sequestered in green showpiece zones, residents in low-lying areas who cannot afford the low-carbon lifestyle are struggling to breathe fresh air or are even trapped in cancer clusters. You can find this pattern in many American cities. The problem is that the carbon savings to be gotten out of this upscale demographic — which represents one in five American adults and is known as Lohas, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability” — can’t outweigh the commercial neglect of the other 80 percent. If we are to moderate climate change, the green wave has to lift all vessels.

Solar chargers and energy-efficient appliances are fine, but unless technological fixes take into account the needs of low-income residents, they will end up as lifestyle add-ons for the affluent. Phoenix’s fledgling light-rail system should be expanded to serve more diverse neighborhoods, and green jobs should be created in the central city, not the sprawling suburbs. Arizona has some of the best solar exposure in the world, but it allows monopolistic utilities to impose a regressive surcharge on all customers to subsidize roof-panel installation by the well-heeled ones. Instead of green modifications to master-planned communities at the urban fringe, there should be concerted “infill” investment in central city areas now dotted with vacant lots.

In a desert metropolis, the choice between hoarding and sharing has consequences for all residents. Their predecessors — the Hohokam people, irrigation farmers who subsisted for over a thousand years around a vast canal network in the Phoenix Basin — faced a similar test, and ultimately failed. The remnants of Hohokam canals and pit houses are a potent reminder of ecological collapse; no other American city sits atop such an eloquent allegory.

Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Safe Water and a Toilet -- Is That Too Much to Ask... for 2.5 Billion People?

From Matt Damon and Gary White at the Huffington Post

By the time you finish reading this paragraph, one more child will have died from something that's been preventable for over a century. Nearly 40 percent of the world's population is still unable to secure a safe glass of water or access a basic toilet. While we continue to rally around the goal of ensuring safe water and sanitation for all, the real question we are left asking ourselves: how do we truly confront this in a way that results in realizing our vision within our lifetime?

Even today, as solutions are known and available, lack of access to safe water and sanitation continues to claim more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
This painful reality has driven philanthropic efforts to help stop the suffering. There are conferences, master plans, frameworks, legislation, new institutions, and even more resolved resolutions. Money is raised, wells are dug, ribbons are cut. But even after decades of charity, subsidies, multilateral aid, and investments on the part of governments and outside non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the system remains inefficient and largely misses the goal of providing relief for those at the base of the economic pyramid (BOP) in their daily need to secure water. The intentions are good, but the relief is not trickling down.

On average, those living in slums pay 7-15 times more per liter of water than owners of nearby five-star hotels. This is because subsidies are largely delivered through unrealistically low water tariffs -- if you are too poor to afford a water connection, you can't capture the subsidy. Similarly, if you are a poor day laborer in Port-au-Prince and you want a drink of safe water to quench your thirst, you will pay 250 times more than the cost of New York City tap water. Those who lack cash pay with their time -- hours each day spent scavenging for water from public taps that frequently run dry, rivers, or even drainage ditches. There are nearly a billion people in this trap of water insecurity and about 2.5 billion lack a sanitary toilet.

Instead of viewing this as an ocean of people with their hands out waiting for charity-driven solutions, what if we see many of them, or even most of them, as potential customers. In the past decade we have seen a paradigm shift in how we understand the BOP -- a shift that holds much promise for tackling the water and sanitation crisis. Microfinance has been a catalyst in this, democratizing access to capital. has tapped into the power of microfinance to demonstrate that its principles can spill over into meeting the water and sanitation needs of the poor.

Through WaterCredit, we have explored the application of microfinance to water and sanitation needs. With the support of the Pepsico Foundation, we have reached more than 250,000 people with loans that allow them to pay connection fees for house taps and to construct toilets. This was done at an average philanthropic cost of $24/person, which, in turn, leveraged more than three times that amount in the form of commercial capital to complete the finance package for each household. We are now taking this to scale with an $8 million grant from the Pepsico Foundation announced last Thursday and a $3.8 million grant from the MasterCard Foundation. We project that this philanthropic capital will leverage an additional $36 million in commercial capital, reaching about one million people. In the case of India, we will drive the philanthropic cost per person served down even further, to $10 by the end of the grant.

Access to capital -- philanthropic, social and commercial -- is certainly a choke point in achieving universal access to water and sanitation. But neck and neck is lack of accountability to those living in poverty on the part of their governments and water utilities. Unfortunately, about half of investments that do find their way to water and sanitation infrastructure misses the mark due to corruption, incompetence, inadequate maintenance, and subsidies captured by those who could pay for services.

The potential of microfinance to democratize access to capital is paralleled by the potential of technology and social media to democratize access to information. In the same way that social media and mobile devices allowed those driving the Arab Spring to find their voice in holding their leaders accountable for principles of democracy, we believe they can be used to allow the poor -- citizens in their own right -- to hold their leaders accountable for investments made into basic services such as water and sanitation. More people now have access to a cell phone than a toilet. What if a cell phone became a tool for the poor to better hold their elected officials accountable for fulfilling their mandate to provide sanitation?

Approaching this crisis in a way that truly yields lasting and scalable solutions requires that we tap into orthogonal forces -- trends that are swirling around us that, at first, seem unrelated to the business of addressing the water and sanitation needs of the poor. New tools have been placed in our toolbox -- often, when we in the water sector were looking the other way, drilling another well. Microfinance and social media are just two examples of these tools.

While the issues surrounding water poverty are complex, at a fundamental level they need to be addressed from the bottom up. Philanthropic capital should be used catalytically to jump-start markets for the hundreds of millions who can afford to meet their own needs if only given the right tools. It should be used to help drive transparency and accountability around public funds already targeting this crisis. It should seek to back those initiatives that can continue to democratize those forces and tools that we in the United States take for granted, whether poor or affluent, in leveling the playing field.

We call on ourselves and other NGOs, governments, utilities, philanthropists, and influencers to recommit to approaching this crisis from the perspective of the poor. This call includes directing more resources towards experimentation and discovery, and doing so in a way that taps into and channels the intrinsic power of the poor as customers and citizens. It also includes raising the stakes by putting the global water and sanitation crisis on the map in a way that it truly deserves. This is a challenge worthy of the next global movement, similar to what was needed to sound the alarm around the fight against HIV/AIDS.

This is that next movement and we are honored to have the opportunity to work with Arianna Huffington, who pledged herself and her team to give this movement an incredible kick-start with the launch of a new section of Huffington Post -- a section that will be dedicated to giving coverage to this cause, the doers, the solutions, and the discourse that is needed to change the world. 2011-11-01-GaryandMattTIME100bwsketch.jpgIn the end we know that we cannot fund-raise our way out of this crisis. Ultimately, it will be creativity, innovation, and collective action that will allow us to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, and do so in our lifetime.
Gary White and Matt Damon are the co-founders of

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Gold Rush of Subsidies In Clean Energy Research

Jim Wilson/The New York Times
The California Valley Solar Ranch under construction near Santa Margarita.

Click here for the full article from the New York Times

WASHINGTON — Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on a former cattle ranch and gypsum mine, NRG Energy is building an engineering marvel: a compound of nearly a million solar panels that will produce enough electricity to power about 100,000 homes.

The project is also a marvel in another, less obvious way: Taxpayers and ratepayers are providing subsidies worth almost as much as the entire $1.6 billion cost of the project. Similar subsidy packages have been given to 15 other solar- and wind-power electric plants since 2009.

The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google.

A great deal of attention has been focused on Solyndra, a start-up that received $528 million in federal loans to develop cutting-edge solar technology before it went bankrupt, but nearly 90 percent of the $16 billion in clean-energy loans guaranteed by the federal government since 2009 went to subsidize these lower-risk power plants, which in many cases were backed by big companies with vast resources.

When the Obama administration and Congress expanded the clean-energy incentives in 2009, a gold-rush mentality took over.

As NRG’s chief executive, David W. Crane, put it to Wall Street analysts early this year, the government’s largess was a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and “we intend to do as much of this business as we can get our hands on.” NRG, along with partners, ultimately secured $5.2 billion in federal loan guarantees plus hundreds of millions in other subsidies for four large solar projects.

“I have never seen anything that I have had to do in my 20 years in the power industry that involved less risk than these projects,” he said in a recent interview. “It is just filling the desert with panels.”

From 2007 to 2010, federal subsidies jumped to $14.7 billion from $5.1 billion, according to a recent study.

Most of the surge came from the economic stimulus bill, which was passed in 2009 and financed an Energy Department loan guarantee program and a separate Treasury Department grant program that were promoted as important in creating green jobs.

States like California sweetened the pot by offering their own tax breaks and by approving long-term power-purchase contracts that, while promoting clean energy, will also require ratepayers to pay billions of dollars more for electricity for as long as two decades. The federal loan guarantee program expired on Sept. 30. The Treasury grant program is scheduled to expire at the end of December, although the energy industry is lobbying Congress to extend it. But other subsidies will remain.

The windfall for the industry over the last three years raises questions of whether the Obama administration and state governments went too far in their support of solar and wind power projects, some of which would have been built anyway, according to the companies involved.

Obama administration officials argue that the incentives, which began on a large scale late in the Bush administration but were expanded by the stimulus legislation, make economic and environmental sense. Beyond the short-term increase in construction hiring, they say, the cleaner air and lower carbon emissions will benefit the country for decades.

“Subsidies and government support have been part of many key industries in U.S. history — railroads, oil, gas and coal, aviation,” said Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Voluntary Creative Simplicity

How we went from $42,000 to $6,500 and lived to tell about it!
By L. Kevin & Donna Philippe-Johnson

As a middle class American, it's been difficult for me to understand how we are
supposed to make a living when there are so many things working against us. How
can we go on day after day with the rising cost of food, fuel, utilities, car
insurance, taxes and health care, while dealing with the insecurity of

In the past, whenever I considered these things, I felt a hopeless
sense of impending doom in the pit of my stomach. There is so much talk about
how to solve these issues, but nothing ever seems to stop the downward spiral of
struggle and stress that millions of folks are experiencing.

Like many working people, my life went along fine during the 1980s. I had a good
paying job ($42,000 a year) and though I didn't enjoy the kind of work I was
doing as an industrial draftsman, receiving a steady paycheck every week kept me
going without much complaint.

But then came the Gulf War in the 1990s and after
that point I faced nine layoffs over the span of 10 years. By the time September
11 happened, I hadn't been able to maintain steady employment in the
petrochemical industry for over a decade. I would work about three or four
months, then back again to the unemployment line.

It was at this point that I realized that something was wrong. The life strategy
I had grown up to believe in was no longer working and there didn't seem to be
any answers. Obviously no one was going to get me out of this, so I decided I
needed to take matters into my own hands and figure out a way to redefine my
basic approach to living.

Lucky for me, I have an adventurous wife. She was on the same page with me and
was willing to make some drastic changes in our lifestyle. As a committed team,
we decided to figure out another way to survive despite these uncertain, hard
economic times. Since we didn't have a lot of money and because it was getting
harder to find steady employment, we decided to rethink our basic values in
order to create a life for ourselves where we could be independent and free of
needing a career or a full-time job.

And for us, that meant first and foremost, moving to the country. If we were
going to be poor, we thought, at least it would be better to be poor in the
country. That way we could grow our own food and reduce our expenses. Eventually
we discovered that there were others who felt the same way we did. Today there
is a small, but growing movement in this country towards a lifestyle we call
"Voluntary Creative Simplicity."

We decided to start over, to shake loose from all the things holding us down. We
got rid of all the stuff we didn't need and worked on paying off debt. Then
canceling our credit cards and using cash, we followed an efficient financial
plan that taught how to track every penny. By doing this we were able eventually
to save a little bit of money. (See the book entitled, Your Money or Your Life,
by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin.)

Also, we wanted to be strong and healthy to do the work required for this basic
lifestyle so we changed our eating habits. We broke away from the standard
American fast food, pre-packaged supermarket diet in favor of organically grown
whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables, fermented dairy, nuts, seeds and
sprouts and eliminated all junk foods and prescription drugs. We started
exercising regularly by walking, practicing yoga, and gardening.

Since we no longer wanted to pay health insurance premiums, we decided to start a special
savings account ($1,000) just for emergency first-aid treatment. And of course
we got rid of the cell phone, cable television and Internet bills and greatly
minimized our use of air conditioning. The beginning of the path to the simple
life was a process of elimination in every aspect of our lives.

Eventually we found 2-1/2 acres of land, 35 miles out of the city. Inspired by
our new vision, one summer we said goodbye to the city, permanently moved out to
our new place and set up a dome tent to live in. We happily lived in our tent
that summer while clearing the land and constructing a rustic 10' by 12' room
with a sleeping loft. We did this on a "pay-as-you-go" plan, hauling all the
materials in the back of our old pickup truck. Never having built anything
before, we worked hard and gained the skill of building our own shelter.

As the tiny outbuilding took shape, next came the installation of an underground
cistern for collecting rainwater, and finally, the construction of our
three-room (500 square foot) cabin. Since we had to borrow $9,000 to purchase
the property, I continued to take whatever jobs I could find (drafting, clerk
work, courier, dishwasher, bakery assistant, etc.) while Donna stayed busy
working on our organic garden, planting fruit trees and composting. She enjoys
learning about native plants and healing herbs that she can grow.

Over the next few years, while working toward our goals of self-reliance and
independence, we became stronger, healthier and more confident in our ability to
rely on our own skills. It was quite an empowering experience. We learned how to
build things, grow our own food, take responsibility for our own health, and
best of all, we learned how to laugh and have fun again.

The simple joys and true pleasures of fresh, home-grown food, watching everything grow and prosper
in harmony, working with our own hands and spending quality time together
replaced all of the costly false values that had occupied our time before.

Gradually we paid off the land, finished the cabin and succeeded in minimizing
our basic utility costs. We began to notice that our expenses were decreasing as
the quality of our life was increasing. As long as we stayed home and didn't
travel to a steady job we really didn't need very much money. The lifestyle of
voluntary creative simplicity was resulting in compounding efficiency and
improvement in every area of our lives. Soon, we saw the proof of the
inefficiency of working a full-time job.

After figuring in the work-related expenses of one job, I realized that my take home pay was only $3 an hour! Atthat point I was convinced that it was far more cost effective to stay home,
grow our own food, split our own firewood and bake our own bread than it was to
travel to a job day after day. Yet we still needed some form of income.

Though we had reduced the amount we needed to around $540 a month (way below the
poverty level in America), we still had to find a way to generate that income
without relying on full-time employment. Once we had succeeded in drastically
reducing the amount of money we needed, I knew it would be easy to earn this
income by working odd jobs such as building rustic furniture, playing guitar for
tips, simple carpentry, part-time drafting, office work, plumbing, etc. However,
there was one thing I really loved to do...bake handmade whole-grain sourdough
bread in an outdoor wood-fired clay oven! I had always shared my bread with
friends and family, but it never really occurred to me to do it as a way to earn
extra money.

We soon discovered that there was no authentic, handmade sourdough bread being
produced in our area, and little by little, people began asking if they could
trade or buy from us. Within a year we had enough bread customers to generate
the supplemental income needed to meet our modest expenses. And now there is
even more demand and a waiting list of neighbors and friends who want our bread

They know our bread is special because the organic wheat is freshly
hand milled, the loaves are lovingly made entirely by hand and baked in our
outdoor clay oven. (See our article, "A Homemade Clay Oven and Naturally
Fermented Sourdough Bread," in the July/August 2005 issue of COUNTRYSIDE.)

We want to let others know there is a wide open market for this kind of
specialty bread, even in very small towns like ours, because so many people, for
various reasons, are unable or unwilling to make it for themselves. In fact,
there is such a demand for this unique artisan bread that many people are
perfectly willing to pay us $4.50 a loaf! Anyone who wants to earn a little
extra cash, say $50-$100 a week or more, should consider learning this valuable
skill, then educating and sharing in their local community.

We continuously hand out educational material about the health benefits of sourdough bread, offer
informative presentations in our local community and give out free bread

Our system of distribution is arranged like a "bread co-op." There are regular
customers who buy a batch of six loaves at a time, which we deliver fresh to
them once a month. An added bonus of learning this skill is the inexpensive,
incredibly delicious, wholesome bread that we make for ourselves, which helps
reduce our food bill. This is just an example of how a valuable skill such as
this can be financially supportive when you are living and thinking small.

While the key to the lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, is "thinking small,"
many people still believe the opposite is true-"bigger is better." For example,
people often tell us we should invest in a commercial bakery and produce more
sourdough bread. But in order to expand and make a career out of baking and
selling bread, we would have to go into debt to purchase commercial mixers,
freezers and large ovens, work longer hours and face the mountain of
bureaucratic permits, codes, fees and restrictions. As a result, the simple,
authentic handmade artisan bread that our customers love would have to be
sacrificed in favor of expanding volume and making more money.

Everybody loses but the bankers and the bureaucrats. We would fall right back in the same old
trap, getting into debt and sacrificing our freedom and quality of life for a
job. This is an example of compounding inefficiency.

The downfall of many people who would like to break the bonds of stress and
financial enslavement to the system is their tendency to think too big. But we
must realize that this has been programmed into us by the industrial society and
loan institutions, all attempting to excite and feed our insatiable desires.

Friends, it takes a lot of mindful awareness to break free of all these traps.
It also requires an ability to improvise and adapt towards an alternative model.
The lifestyle of voluntary simplicity is one option and the resulting benefits
are transformational.

The point I'm making is this: many of us can no longer think in terms of having
a lifetime career anymore. For whatever reason, things are changing in this
country. Outsourcing and cheaper labor costs in other countries will continue to
eliminate jobs in the United States. And though the opportunity still exists to
work, we must understand that it may be only temporary. While continuing to work
at a job or career one should be wise and set up a plan to survive without
steady employment for certain periods of time if necessary.

This could mean storing some supplies, purchasing a piece of property where a
small shelter, tent or tipi can be erected if necessary, or getting out of the
city and into the country where one can provide food for themselves. My old
Grandpa used to say, "all the troubles in this country began when people stopped
growing their own food." And he was right. The younglings of this modern age
don't even know what real food is, much less how to grow or prepare it! This has
to change. (That's another reason we promote sourdough bread baking. It is time
to start a "slow-food" movement).

Thinking small is one of the most intelligent and powerful things one can do.
Consciously reducing one's life down to the simple basics is the secret to
happiness. And it is so easy. What is the solution? This is our advice,
especially to young people:

"Don't get in debt, don't think in terms of a career (work at a job for one
reason only, to get paid so you can buy a place to live and grow some food),
live in a small shelter, unload unnecessary stuff, reduce monthly expenses,
extract yourself from the enslavement of modern technological materialism, stay
healthy by exercising, eat a simple, wholesome diet, develop some practical
skills, practice your art or trade and serve your local community. Teach your
children to value true pleasures. Real wealth is perishable: food, health,
trees, flowers, herbs, healthy soil, clean water, fresh air, friends and art.
Learn to value and appreciate these above all else."

Of course we realize that everyone has to creatively work out their own unique
plan according to their particular circumstances, especially if there are
children to raise. (We have six grown children.) But with "small thinking," so
many opportunities open up and the more one can release, the more freedom there
is to experience with each passing year.

If someone would have suggested to us ten years ago that there was a way for the
two of us to live on much less, build our own little hut, buy our freedom, give
up steady employment, work fewer hours, become happy, healthy, debt free,
self-reliant, and live fearlessly without health insurance, I would have told
them they were crazy.

This has been an incredible, radical journey for us, but now we know from first hand experience that with vision, patience, self-discipline and courage, it is possible to create such a reality.

Creative voluntary simplicity expands faster than inflation. For those who can
do it, instead of thinking too big and chasing after more money to find
happiness and security, the answer can truly be summed up in the words of the
Greek philosopher, Diogenes: "True freedom is in the minimum of needs."
Kevin and Donna have an instructional video (VHS format only) on baking
naturally fermented sourdough bread for $30. This includes the video, a set of
written instructions, a packet of starter culture and shipping costs. Send check

or money order to L. Kevin Johnson, 4402 Gilead Rd., Clinton, LA 70722.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taming Unruly Wind Power


For decades, electric companies have swung into emergency mode when demand soars on blistering hot days, appealing to households to use less power. But with the rise of wind energy, utilities in the Pacific Northwest are sometimes dealing with the opposite: moments when there is too much electricity for the grid to soak up.

So in a novel pilot project, they have recruited consumers to draw in excess electricity when that happens, storing it in a basement water heater or a space heater outfitted by the utility. The effort is rooted in some brushes with danger.

In June 2010, for example, a violent storm in the Northwest caused a simultaneous surge in wind power and in traditional hydropower, creating an oversupply that threatened to overwhelm the grid and cause a blackout.

As a result, the Bonneville Power Administration, the wholesale supplier to a broad swath of the region, turned this year to a strategy common to regions with hot summers: adjusting volunteers’ home appliances by remote control to balance supply and demand.

When excess supply threatens Bonneville’s grid, an operator in a control room hundreds of miles away will now dial up a volunteer’s water heater, raising the thermostat by 60 more degrees. Ceramic bricks in a nearby electric space heater can be warmed to hundreds of degrees.The devices then function as thermal batteries, capable of giving back the energy when it is needed.

Microchips run both systems, ensuring that tap-water and room temperatures in the home hardly vary.
“It’s a little bit of that Big Brother control, almost,” said Theresa Rothweiler, a teacher’s aide in the Port Angeles, Wash., school system who nonetheless signed up for the program with her husband, Bruce, a teacher.

She said she had been intrigued by an ad that Bonneville placed in the local paper that asked consumers to help enable the grid to absorb more renewable energy, especially wind.

“We’re always looking at ways to save energy, or be more efficient or green, however you want to put it,” said Ms. Rothweiler, who worries about leaving the planet a livable place for her 21-year-old daughter, Gretchen. Bonneville paid for the special technology, which runs around $1,000 per home.

The initial goal of Bonneville’s pilot program is to gain experience in charging and “discharging” the water heaters and space heaters to see how much response operators can count on as the use of these thermal batteries expands.

Mark K. Lauby, director of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which enforces standards on the grid, said that such storage innovations would be “the holy grail” as the nation shifts to greater reliance on renewable energy.        

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Vrindaban Organic Gardening Inspires Local Sustainability

 By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 5 Nov 2011
Tapahpunja Dasa teaches students at the Small Farm Training Center garden in New Vrindaban
A New Vrindaban devotee’s efforts at organic gardening have inspired the general public, educational institutions, and leaders in the local town of Wheeling, West Virginia to support sustainability, eat local produce and consider spiritual motives for it.
Raised on a farm in Northern Michigan, Tapahpunja Dasa was attracted to ISKCON’s “simple-living, high-thinking” message and joined in 1974 in New Vrindaban, where he began growing organic produce. After some side projects over the years, such as missionary work overseas and starting North America’s first Food For Life program in 1982, he restarted his organic growing in 1996, and has been “focused on creating a connection between spirituality and sustainability” for the past thirteen years.
“I believe that if we want the rural, Krishna conscious lifestyle that Srila Prabhupada desired for New Vrindaban—not just generic cow protection or hobby gardening—it must be a centrally located, highly visible part of our outreach,” he says. “When I presented these thoughts to the New Vrindaban management, they kindly granted me a piece of property right in the center of the community, directly across from the temple, to turn my ambition into reality.”
To make the project more accessible to the general public and to secular organizations, Tapahpunja created his own 501 C3 charity organization called The
Small Farm Training Center, which names New Vrindaban as its “host community.”
Tourists visit New Vrindaban's garden's regularly
Over the past six years, he has developed a vibrant apprentice farming program, which draws between eight and fourteen college students every season (from March till November), enthusiastic about getting their hands dirty and learning sustainability. They go through three levels of training: backyard gardening, market gardening—learning how to trade, barter and sell one’s produce at a farmer’s market—and mini-farming, which is performed on a six-and-a-half acre site called The Garden of Seven Gates.
“Rather than just grunt work, I want to give them a rich, well-rounded experience,” Tapahpunja says. “I’d like them to leave with a very solid foundation of why we should be sustainable, so that they can be articulate spokespersons on the issue.”
In return for their work, the students receive room and board, staying at the project’s Small Farm Guesthouse and eating prasadam. Many comment that they feel comfortable and cared for.
There is no pressure to go any further than learning the ABCs of organic gardening, but Tapahpunja does explain to the students that his Training Center’s host is a spiritual community with a beautiful temple, delicious vegetarian meals, philosophical classes, and the renowned tourist attraction Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, which they are welcome to check out.
Harvesting Potatoes
Those who are more spiritually-inclined do, and, like Tapahpunja in the 1970s, they are astounded at the rich culture and philosophy integrated with the natural lifestyle.
“We have a lot to offer to the worldwide dialogue on sustainability,” Tapahpunja says. “At the heart of it all is the fact that there is really no such thing as sustainability in this world—everything is subject to devastating time. The only true sustainability is our relationship with God. And it’s important to understand that as we attempt to live a simple lifestyle.”
Tapahpunja shows himself to be aligned with this understanding by growing a garden that is specific to the needs of New Vrindaban’s presiding Deities Sri-Sri Radha-Vrindabanchandra, and to the needs of Their devotees.
Providing for the community is a challenge, however. “Right now only about ten per cent of the produce used by the temple is grown in our own garden,” he says. “It’s difficult because New Vrindaban is a major pilgrimage destination, with 600 to 800 people visiting on festival weekends, making it hard to match field production with consumption patterns. On top of that, most of the devotees here are from urban backgrounds, and they want seasonal vegetables all year around, which is impossible. So a big part of my job is convincing the temple management that to support a farm culture we have to get used to eating seasonally.”
Teaching schoolchildren about gardening
Still, Tapahpunja tries to grow a wide variety of vegetables. He’s helped by grant money from West Virginia State University, which is offered in return for data on his yield.
There’s even surplus, which he began delivering to Wheeling soup kitchens as a charitable donation five years ago. Today, he has developed a good relationship with cooks, administration and clientele, and delivers to six different kitchens over thirty times a year—unheard of by any other farmer or agrarian-based community.
“They don’t have a lot of funding, and most of the food they serve people are corporate donations of sugary foods and heavy starches—cheap calories that are going bad in large scale grocery stores and get donated for a tax write-off by large corporations,” Tapahpunja says. “So they are very grateful for our freshly-grown donations. They especially love Swiss Chard, a kind of large beet green, which I grow a quarter acre of each year, and lettuce, which I’ve developed a technique for growing even in the hot weather.”
The soup kitchens, as well as the city of Wheeling, are very appreciative because they can see that this effort is not a cynical photo-op, but a genuine concern for the quality of peoples’ diets.
A group of Hare Krishna youth help out in the gardens
This charitable work and networking is not only excellent public relations for ISKCON New Vrindaban, but it has yielded yet another exciting project.
“It got me in touch with some local Wheeling gardeners, and about a year ago we decided to team up and share resources, creating the ‘Green Wheeling Initiative,’” Tapahpunja says. “Our byline is ‘A Green Bridge Over Troubled Waters,’ and we regularly meet at the local community college to discuss how to increase our charitable distribution of produce, as well as new gardening initiatives.”
The most exciting of these is an urban renewal project in which members of the GWI install gardens in vacant lots and former industrial deadzones throughout the city. They have installed seven so far, including one on the front lawn of the West Virginia Northern Community College, the biggest community college in the State.
“Working with their culinary arts department, we made a nice garden for them with lots of vegatables and culinary herbs, so that the students could get acquainted with growing their own produce, and realize how much better it makes food taste,” says Tapahpunja.
A class at the Small Farm Training Center
In return, the Community College arranged for Tapahpunja to meet with representatives of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Hess Family Foundation, who were impressed with the GWI’s vision to turn Wheeling’s vacant lots into economic and health opportunities for its people.
“They also liked our mood of collaboration and inclusiveness, and our goal of empowering people to become food independent and build community at the same time,” Tapahpunja says. “As a result, they suggested that I write two grants, which I did. They then funded both of them—the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation gave $55,000, while the Hess Family Foundation gave $15,000.”
Tapahpunja says that the GWI’s work is making the citizens of Wheeling more aware of both the health and sociological reasons for becoming food independent. This naturally ties in with cow protection, since cow dung is essential to fertile soil for growing food; and with spiritual communities, where people support each other in a lifestyle closer to the land and the one who sustains us all: God.
One of seven gardens Tapahpunja and the Green Wheeling Initiative have built in vacant urban lots in the city
In the future, Tapahpunja hopes to continue networking and reaching out to organizations such as PETA and Farm Sanctuary, and people such as young Indian couples, who, despite working in the technological field, are often not far removed from their village roots. He also hopes to launch a new initiative, VARA, which means “best” in Sanskrit and is an acronym for Vedic Academy for Rural Arts. Its mission will be to train brahminically-inclined devotees who can articulate a message of sustainability based on the Krishna conscious perspective.
“Once, while walking with his disciples on the outskirts of Atlanta, Srila Prabhupada took his cane and traced the outline of all the downtown skyscrapers,” Tapahpunja says. “Then he said, ‘Do you see this city? This city and all like it will be finished very soon. Do you know why?’ The devotees were at a loss, groping for all kinds of metaphysical answers. Finally Tamal Krishna Maharaja said, ‘Because they can’t grow their own food?’ ‘Yes,’ Srila Prabhupada replied. ‘Because they can’t grow their own food.’”
“Therefore,” Tapahpunja concludes, “I see food independence as one of our ISKCON movement’s most important missions,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Food and Farm Bill: Why New York City Cares

For organizations, clergy, and chefs: please consider signing on to the NYC Food and Farm Bill Principles and Why We Care document! Go to

We will have a sign-on opportunity for individuals shortly.

Text versions of the two above PDFs are below, followed by a black and white version of the PDFs:

Why New York City Cares

The Food and Farm Bill is the single greatest influence on what we eat. It determines how billions are spent shaping our food system, from producer to consumer. We, in New York City (NYC), have an enormous stake in the Food and Farm Bill. Eight million of us spend $30 billion annually on food.[i]
Yet, hunger persists in NYC. An all-time high of 1.84 million NYC residents rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps, and 1.4 million of us rely on emergency food.[ii] One in six of us, including more than 400,000 of our children live in households facing food insecurity.[iii]Many of us find unhealthy food far more accessible than healthy food. The nutrition safety net does not meet the needs of our hungry neighbors.
Past Food and Farm Bills inadequately promote healthy food choices, like fruits and vegetables. America needs 13 million more acres in fruit and vegetable production for each of us to meet USDA healthful dietary guidelines.[iv] Yet, the Food and Farm Bill provides incentives for the production of processed foods that are high in added sugars (from federally subsidized corn) and added fats (from federally subsidized soy). The least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest, in part, because of federal financing.
Past bills perpetuate the paradox of chronic hunger and widespread overweight and obesity. Overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for adult diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Nearly 25 percent of our children and 67 percent of our adults are overweight or obese.[v] In New York State, $6.1 billion is spent annually fighting diet-related diseases.[vi]
Food is also connected to the health of our environment and our economy. Our current food system is unsustainable. It accounts for about 20 percent of our national energy consumption and relies heavily on inputs including chemicals, fossil fuels, and a staggering amount of water.[vii]Unchecked, such practices can degrade our natural resources, eroding our soil and polluting our air and water.
While we are dependent on national and international food production, the relationship between NYC and our regional food shed, particularly in New York State, is significant. New York State is home to more than 36,000 farms - most of which are small, family farms ranging from one to 99-acres - that generate $5 billion in annual revenue.[viii] However, this valuable resource is threatened as we lose farmland to development, especially near cities, and it is difficult to find new farmers to replace retiring farmers.
A relatively small number of corporations increasingly control food production, availability, and cost. Unsound public policies have resulted in corporate consolidation of the food chain, making it increasingly difficult for small and mid-sized farms to continue operation.
Our federal policies put national food sovereignty at risk: we are losing farmland and our farmers are fewer and older; our system of production and distribution is unsustainable; our fruits and vegetables are grown on land in danger of development; and we import almost as many agricultural products as we export, all this while our population is growing. Not only is our own food sovereignty at risk, our policies risk the food sovereignty of other nations. Around the world, particularly in the global south, family farmers and local food self-sufficiency are disappearing, in part, because of their inability to compete with our subsidized commodity crops.
With the 2012 Food and Farm Bill, there is an opportunity to re-evaluate our farm and food policies, maintaining the most beneficial and, when it makes good sense, changing others. As a matter of social justice and our core values, a decided majority of Americans believe that we must provide an equitable food safety net.[ix] Despite this, our food safety net is unraveling. While we consider the role of our federal government, including its relationship to our farms and our food, we must determine what in the Food and Farm Bill can best serve the common good.
To these ends, the New York City Food and Farm Bill Working Group has developed five Principles that we hold must be embodied in our nation’s next Food and Farm Bill: A Health-Focused Food System; An End to Hunger and Access to Healthy Food; A Level “Plowing” Field; Good Environmental Stewardship; and Vibrant Regional Farm and Food Economies.

[i] Chittenden, Jessica. “ Survey Says Wholesale Market Good for Farmers, Consumers.” Department of Agriculture& Markets News. Feb. 9. 2005. <>
[ii] New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. “Temporary and Disability Assistance Statistic. Table 16. July 2011. <>
[iii] New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “NYC Hunger Catastrophe Avoided (For Now).” November 2009. <>
[iv] American Farmland Trust. “American Farmland Trust Says—The United States Needs 13 Million More Acres of Fruits and Vegetables to Meet the RDA”. 2010. <>
[v] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight and Obesity/New York. <>
[vi] New York State Department of Health. “Prevention of Childhood Overweight and Obesity - Activ8Kids!”. Request for Applications Number 0601261256:4. 2006. <>
[vii] Center for Sustainable Systems: University of Michigan. “Life Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the U.S. Food System”. Report No. CSS00-04. December 2006 <>
[viii] United States Department of Agriculture. Agriculture in the Classroom, “A Look at New York Agriculture”. July 2010 <>
[ix] Food Research and Action Center. "FRAC Releases New Polling Data Showing Overwhelming Support for Federal Efforts to End Hunger." Press Release. December 2010. <>

New York CityFOOD and FARM BILL Principles

1 A Health-Focused Food System

Obesity and diet-related diseases have reached epidemic proportions. A food system that focuses on increasing the production and distribution of healthy foods - including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - for consumption in our communities, homes, schools, and institutions will support the health and well being of us all.

2 An End to Hunger and Access to Healthy Food

While hunger is a large and growing problem in our communities, our food system also contributes to a national obesity epidemic. In accord with our core American values and our principles of social justice, we must provide food security for all, including our most vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the young, and the aged. Ending food insecurity and hunger by protecting our nation’s nutrition programs and ensuring equitable access to healthful, sustainably produced food is of paramount importance. Also of great importance are consumers’ abilities to make informed, healthy food choices and to access healthy food.

3 A Level “Plowing” Field

The face of farming in our nation is changing. Small- and mid-scale family farms are increasingly struggling against anti-competitive practices, industry consolidation, and subsidies that tilt the playing field. Meanwhile, extensive outbreaks of food-borne illnesses are becoming increasingly common. While the productive capacity of large-scale agriculture is considerable, so is its capacity to negatively impact our health, our environment, and the diversity and competitiveness of agricultural enterprise. Conservation, risk management, access to credit, and food safety programs often are calibrated to the scales of “production” agriculture. Restoring competition, promoting fairness, encouraging decentralization, and developing scale-appropriate programs will contribute to the future vitality of small- and mid–scale regional, rural, and urban farm and food enterprises.

4 GoodEnvironmental Stewardship

Our present agricultural system, which relies heavily on chemicals, fossil fuels, and a staggering amount of water, is damaging our environment and our ability to feed ourselves in the future. Conservation priorities must align with our best interests. To ensure a secure food system today and well into the future, we must preserve our vital agricultural soil and water resources, reduce farm and other food-system energy consumption, and practice sustainable agricultural production methods that minimize air and water pollution.

5 Vibrant Regional Farm and Food Economies

High unemployment and a sluggish economy compound challenges facing those who labor in the food system, including small- and mid-scale farmers. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key to a strong economy. We must look to innovative methods to strengthen our regional food systems as a means to regain economic vitality. We must provide entrepreneurial opportunities and foster business growth and job creation in rural and urban production, processing, and distribution. Farm and food strategies must support beginning and disadvantaged urban and rural farmers, as well as established farmers facing the challenges of feeding America. By doing so, we will increase the amount of regionally produced, healthy food that is available in our communities while we strengthen our economy.

 Food and Farm Bill - Why NYC Cares & NYC Principles_B&W.pdf

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Farmers Find Their Footing

North Haven, Me.

When Brenna Chase was farming in Connecticut a few years back, new farmers weren’t always welcome by oldsters. The pie, she says, just wasn’t big enough. “But now,” she said to me here, where she now farms, “the feeling is that the pie is getting bigger and that the more people that get into this the better it will be for everyone.”

By “this,” she means sustainable farming (here I use the term interchangeably with “organic” because many ethical farmers can’t afford organic certification), and the poised 33-year-old, who began farming in high school, is representative of young people I’ve met all over the country. 

These are people whose concern for the environment led to a desire to grow — and eat — better food. And although chefs still get more attention, the new farmers deserve recognition for their bold and often creative directions.

Rural Maine, it would seem to almost all of us from “away” as they say down east, is as unlikely a place to find new farmers as exists in the lower 48: it boasts harsh, dark winters; a short, cool growing season; acidic soil; and a transportation “system” that makes shipping both in and out of state a challenge. (Even people have trouble getting out, as I discovered Monday. And Tuesday.)

There’s only a quarter as much land in farming in Maine as there was 100 years ago, but that’s changing. There are more farms today (up around 50 percent since 1992), more acres in farms and more money generated by farming than there were 20 years ago. This is, at least in part, thanks to people like Ms. Chase, who follow in the footsteps (foodsteps?) of one of the granddaddies of can-do, intensive organic farming, Eliot Coleman.

Mr. Coleman runs Four Season Farm in Harborside with his wife, the gardening writer Barbara Damrosch, and has squarely faced nearly every challenge a new farmer can since he started in 1968. Now, the 1.5 acres he cultivates, mostly in vegetables, are not only almost unimaginably lush (Ms. Damrosch’s gorgeous flowers don’t hurt), but they’re so productive that, in his cheerful, wise way, Mr. Coleman almost gloats: “You couldn’t be in a less likely spot than here to do what we’re doing,” he says, “and yet we’ve transformed a poor, wooded area into a place where there’s nothing we can’t grow.” I marvel at his artichokes; he responds: “I grow them just to make the Californians nervous.”

Now 71, Mr. Coleman maintains his long-range view. (He delights in telling the story about unloading a truckload of free clamshells when a county agent came by. “The agent,” says Mr. Coleman, “was incredulous: ‘Those aren’t going to break down for 100 years!’ But I was thinking, ‘I have 100 years of free fertilizer here!’ ”) And he clearly loves the work. (“If work is what you do when you’re not doing what you want,” he quips, “I haven’t worked a day in my life.”)

He sells his output locally for about $125,000 a year; most of that pays for labor. If he scaled up, he reckons, the net income would be greater. This, of course, is the concern of many new farmers: How do you afford to buy land, hire labor and still make a living?
For Mr. Coleman, this isn’t so much of an issue. In some circles he’s a hero for his innovative approaches to fertilizing, greenhouses, tool-making, teaching and more. He’s probably inspired as many farmers as anyone in the Northeast, and his books, especially “The Winter Harvest Handbook,” have taught the art of season-extension to thousands of gardeners, including me. (His place isn’t called Four Season Farm for nothing, and, remember, this isn’t San Diego.) So book sales, speaking engagements and other money-generators for both him and Ms. Damrosch help out with the income. (This isn’t unusual. Most conventional farmers, even those of commodity crops, do nonfarm work to help pay the bills. That’s the current state of farming in America.)

For newcomers, though, this is precisely the issue because, as Ms. Chase says, “If you could make a good living farming, people would go into it and stay in it.”

The simple answer, of course, is to charge more for food. But can an increasing number of sustainable farms find markets for higher-quality, higher-priced produce?

Here, the answers become complicated: “If the cost of food reflected the cost of production,” says Ms. Chase, “that would change everything.” And this is undoubtedly true. But though sustainably produced food is too expensive for some, conventional food doesn’t reflect either the subsidies required to grow it or the huge environmental or health care costs it incurs. Once it does, sustainable food would appear far more competitive.
Then we’d see more farmers growing it, not only in Maine but everywhere else. Which would, indeed, be better for everyone.