Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Easy Way to Make Veganic Fertilizer

If you are looking for an easy and simple way to make veganic fertilizer, I found this tip on Farm Sanctuary’s web site:

Here are some tips to get you started on your veganic gardening adventure by making your own liquid feed:

  • Find a watertight container with a spigot on the bottom.
  • Fill this container with non-sprayed weeds and other leafy plant matter, then add water until the container is full.
  • Let it sit for a couple of weeks and presto! You now have a very rich fertilizer that you can pour on your happy vegetables.
  • In fact, it is so rich that you will want to dilute it; three parts plain water for one part “weed tea.”

Warning: Most people find that liquid feed has an unpleasant odor, so use caution when preparing or using it indoors.

Truck Farm

If you haven’t heard already, the two co-creators of the film King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, created a veggie and herb garden in the bed of an old Dodge Ram pickup truck. This on-the-go garden is serving as a small CSA for twelve local city dwellers, which I think is kind of cool. The very least I can do is give the project points for creativity (even if the truck may not be a fuel efficient vehicle). If these guys can grow their own veggies in the back of a pickup, imagine what kind of veganic garden you can grow? Check out the slideshow at that illustrates the point that a little creativity can go a long way.

Cheney and Ellis filmed the following three videos documenting their garden truck project. Interestingly, they hooked up a solar-powered video camera to the inside of the truck and used time-elapse filming to capture the growth of the vegetables and herbs they planted (as shown in the teaser). Note the Fresh Direct truck ironically passing by at around 4:44 in Episode 2. I learned from another article that the woman they visit toward the end of Episode 2 is Marion Nestle.

Truck Farm Teaser:

Truck Farm - Episode 1:

Truck Farm - Episode 2:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Study on GM Crops Points to Failures

Friends of Earth International released a report this month on GM crops called “Who Benefits from GM Crops.” GM Crops are purported to mitigate climate change and to be a solution to feeding the world’s hungry. However, the studies show that, among other things, GM crops are:
  • Responsible for huge increases in the use of pesticides in the US and South America
  • Contributing to widespread deforestation in South America
  • Causing massive climate emissions
  • Poisoning communities and contaminating the environment (through pesticides)
  • Not increasing yields
  • Hindering the development of real solutions by starving [farmers] of funding and restricting farmers’ access to seeds and knowledge

Friends of the Earth’s press release states that "The reality is that GM farming is not a success story. Small farmers across the world are already using planet-friendly methods to feed themselves and cool the planet. These methods must be supported rather than environmentally and socially destructive GM farming."

I have not read the report yet (it is 44 pages long), but if and when I do, I will give an update.

I have kept up a little bit on the issue of food insecurity in India, one of the countries in which the corporatocracy is attempting to push their GM corporate-controlled seeds. India has recently rejected a GM eggplant created and introduced by the Indian company Mayco in partnership with Monsanto, who is licensing the genetic strain. The broad public resistance against the GM eggplant indicates that the people of India are clearly not interested in corrupt outside forces imposing their dubious “solutions” on them. The eggplant would have been their first genetically modified vegetable crop, and India is concerned that the plant has not been tested to the extent that it should be. They are also wary of the very real possibility of genetic contamination of the existing types of eggplant already grown in India (of which there are 2,000 or more). With the rising temperatures in India due to climate change and the skyrocketing population growth, crop failures have become a dire problem. Farmers in India have been tragically committing suicide in record numbers in the past ten years, and 70% of those farmers grew the GM cotton that has been touted by industry as evidence that GM crops are the solution to India’s problem.

Some visionaries, such as Devinder Sharma, believe that the real solution is combination of “scientific proven technologies, indigenous knowledge, and traditional wisdom.” To prove his point, Sharma speaks of the success of Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA), an initiative to cultivate sustainable crops that began six years ago in small village in India and that has since expanded to 2 million acres in 21 districts. He claims that “more than 318,000 farmers in 21 out of the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh have discarded the intensive chemical farming systems, and shifted to a more sustainable, economically viable and ecologically friendly agriculture.” The results? It “brought in a complete shift from conventional agriculture and offered secure and stable livelihoods. The crop yields have remained the same, the pest attack has drastically reduced, and the soil is returning back to its natural fertility levels. As soil fertility improves over the years, crop yields have started going up still further. More importantly, farmer's expenditure on health problems emanating from pesticides application has also gone down by 40 per cent on an average. There is more money now in the hands of the farmers. The cost of cultivation per acre has also come down by 33 per cent. Take the case of cotton, a CMSA farmer saves more than Rs 12,500 per hectare in a year on account of no application of pesticides alone. With his crop productivity remaining stable, cotton farmers have got a new lease of life. The environment too has become healthier and safe.” Want more good news? “No farmer has committed suicide in the areas where non-pesticides management system of farming is being followed.”

CMSA is currently phasing out chemical fertilizers. I wonder what the results would be if they took it one step further and phased out animal products as well. I guess at this point, one can only dream…

Monday, February 22, 2010

An "Old" Post on Veganic Agriculture

Little over a year ago I posted the following long comment about veganic gardening/farming on the Vegan Freaks forum (I’m hoping it is acceptable to repost it here, since it is a document I first wrote and saved in a file on my laptop). I remember the comment received a few “thanks” by other members, which I appreciated, but no responses whatsoever (I haven’t been on Vegan Freaks in something like five months, but I seriously doubt it has received any new responses since I was last logged in). I was disappointed, only because I was hoping my post would kick start a discussion on veganic agriculture and at least get people talking about it. It is my experience that few vegans have heard of veganic gardening/farming, and those who have heard of it, simply are not that interested. I won’t speculate on why I think vegans are not interested, because that would require an analysis on the current state of the animal rights movement, and I promised myself I would not go there on this blog.

I admit that the post is not well written, and perhaps it is not as persuasive as I would like. It is also quite long. And maybe the “Happy Plants” theme is a little over the top, too. But I thought I would post it here on Veganic Way because it gives a brief introduction on veganic farming/gardening. If anything, for me, it’s a bit of my own personal history in that it marked my introduction to veganic agriculture and documents my first impressions. At the bottom, you will find some links that may be helpful to you.


Written circa Feb. 2009

Are organically grown fruits and vegetables the Happy Meat of the vegetable/fruit produce world?

Happy Plants?! Happy Veggies?!

A few weeks ago, I became interested in growing a small vegetable and herb garden this year in my backyard, so I began doing a little research into organic gardening with veganism in mind. What I discovered was "veganic" farming and gardening. For those who may not know (as I did not know until recently), "veganic" is shorthand for "vegan organic." I didn't even know veganic gardening/farming existed until about three weeks ago.

As some of you may also not know (as I didn't), that many of the fertilizers that organic farmers use are made of animal-derived products. Though there are others, the four most common ones are chicken manure, blood meal, bone meal, and fish meal/emulsion.

For example, the chicken manure that many organic farmers use is basically droppings that come directly from chickens enslaved on factory farms. From a vegan point of view, this is disturbing. But even from an organic (non-vegan) farmer's standpoint, I would think this practice would NOT be considered organic, since the standard principle for organic agriculture is to renounce factory-farmed animals/meat and substitute it with free-range animals and "happy meat."

Apparently, for organic farmers, it's not okay to raise animals in factory farms and eat the meat thereof, but it is perfectly acceptable to use the excreta (urine and feces) of the animals raised in the factory farms, as well as the flesh, bones, and blood of animals killed in slaughterhouses, to grow plants for consumption.

Ethics aside, to say these "organic" factory-farm-derived fertilizers are healthy would be dubious. The antibiotics, hormones, and other toxic chemicals that are fed to factory-farmed animals bioaccumulate (build up) in the bodies of the animals. The chemicals also end up in their waste. Subsequently, organic fertilizers that are made up of the factory-farmed animal parts and excrement retain these harmful chemicals.

Studies by the University of Minnesota have shown that these dangerous chemical toxins become present in plants that are grown with organic animal-derived fertilizers.* And it may stand to reason, that the chemicals will end up in our bodies when we eat our organically grown produce. How much of these chemicals that follow this path end up in our bodies? I'm not sure; I haven't seen the statistics. But honestly, I would prefer to prevent even a trace of these chemicals from entering my body, if I can. It's bad enough that my organic veggies are grown via animal crap, but they are also grown using factory-farmed animal parts and laced with harmful chemicals to boot.

Some organic farmers attempt to use fertilizer that comes from their own land, by using the manure that naturally accumulates from their cattle (whom the farmer, more than likely, breeds). This is organic farming "at its best" (meaning, it seems to be considered the most sustainable system that organic farmers can adopt). These organic farmers try to achieve what is called a "closed-system" in which most of their resources (to the best of their ability) comes from their own holding. Their fertilizer/manure is not transported from elsewhere, therefore cutting down on the farm's carbon footprint. Still...this food is grown with animal excrement from farms that breed animals.

The (100% CSA) organic farm, from which I receive a box of veggies/fruits each week, "owns" a load of cattle on their land. These bovines reproduce regularly. The farm does not sell the cattle as meat for profit, but they do use them to provide manure for the crops. And they do eat the meat from the animals raised on their farm. They also are now practicing biodynamic agriculture, which I only started to read about this week - only to find out that biodynamic techniques are far from vegan. For example, biodynamic farmers will bury certain "compost preparations" in the soil of their crops to produce a more "healthy" yield; these "preparations" can include cattle horns filled with manure, chamomile placed in cattle intestines, yarrow blossoms stuffed inside a deer bladder, and oak bark placed inside the skull of an animal. These seemingly ritualistic practices are considered "organic."

Not all organic farmers practice these same methods, but some of you may be surprised by what methods your local organic farmer uses to grow their crops,regardless of whether you are buying organic produce from a farmer's market, co-op, or directly from an organic farm itself. Apart from veganic farms, you'll be hard-pressed to find an organic vegetable farm that refrains from using animals and animal-derived fertilizer(s) .

I'm not writing this to judge, insult, or criticize organic farmers...just as I no longer waste time judging those who "raise" or eat happy meat. It's a waste of my time. And many organic farmers are very good people doing what they think is best - they still provide vegetables and fruit that are free of pesticides and other harmful toxins, etc....

BUT, that does not mean that my perspective on organic farming hasn't changed - from a vegan viewpoint, it certainly has. When new facts are presented to me, it takes time to assess them. Figure out what they mean to me.

And I have come to the conclusion that organic farming, from a vegan perspective, is not a whole lot better than conventional agriculture. What Happy Meat is to factory farming, organic vegetable/fruit is to conventional farming (i.e., organic vegetables/fruit are the Happy Meat of the produce world: Happy Plants).

Perhaps it's true that we have bigger issues to contend with - like shutting down factory farming. But that does not mean that we should bury our heads in the sand and not demand that our vegetables and fruit are obtained and grown from healthy and ethical sources. To say that it is not important (or less important) is like saying that we should be content eating happy meat because factory-farmed meat is so much more harmful to animals, which we know to be a fallacy. And if our organic vegetables are grown from sources that support factory farming or our food is grown by those who use animals as means to their ends, then how is eating organic food in place of Monsanto-grown food any different than eating happy meat in place of factory-farmed meat? For an abolitionist in particular, the distinctions should be clear. If we are to be adamant that animal use should be abolished, then organic farming methods MUST GO, and veganic farming needs to take their place.

Some vegans may say that I am being nit picky. And that we have bigger battles to win than to attack organic practices. And anyway, do we really have a choice? We all have only two choices as a consumer - to buy/eat conventionally grown Monsanto-type produce or organic produce.

To that I the use of an animal more cruel by degree in one instance than in another? According to true animal rights principles it is not. Yet, every day, many of us vegans proudly support organic farms by buying their vegetables and fruit. Even though these farms breed animals, use practices and products that support factory farming, or use other morbid and cruel techniques that are otherwise normally repugnant to vegans.

So what do we do?

I have found that Europe (as with organic agriculture before it) has paved the way for veganic farming. Some farms there have been practicing veganic agriculture for a while - they basically seem to use many of the sustainable methods of organic farming, but they take it one step further - they refrain from using any animals or animal by-products. Most importantly they refrain from using animal products in their fertilizers (instead, plant-based fertilizers are employed, such as mulch, green manure, and plant-based compost).

There are some veganic farms here in the US, but they are very few and far between. I have not found one here in Washington State, which is unfortunate for me. Because I would feel so much better eating veganically grown food. A few years ago, a veganic farm existed on Vashon Island, Washington. This farm even provided an educational center for teaching veganic gardening practices! But they closed down...why? The reasons are not stated as far as I have found.

My ultimate point is that we should start thinking about how and where our vegetables are grown...not just from an organic standpoint...not just from a locavore standpoint...or a fair-trade standpoint...but from a vegan standpoint. Have we come all this way as vegans just to accept that our produce is either toxin-ridden/genetically modified (via conventional agriculture) or is grown with the use of animals and animal by-products (via "organic" farms)? We do have other choices...

Find out if there is a veganic farm near you and support them.** If one doesn't exist (yet!) in your locale (as in my case), visit the farm that grows your vegetables and fruit. Ask them about their practices. Let them know that you are a vegan. Open up a discussion about how they are using animals on their farm (if they seem open to it). Talking to them may not change their mind immediately, but you may plant a seed. In any case, visiting the farm will make you more aware of how the farm is run. I have found that the farmers enjoy talking about what they do and appreciate the interest.

At best...learn how to grow your own vegetables and fruit the veganic way. Let's start growing our own food. A book called Foods Not Lawns has an astounding eye-opening message about how lawns are so unbelievably unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly. The time and energy invested into a lawn can instead be invested into a vegetable garden that will allow you to make your own choices in the way your food is grown. Imagine if everyone on your block had a vegetable garden in place of a lawn - a lawn that sucks up natural resources, wastes copious amounts of water, and deprives the free-roaming animals of their habitat. Imagine the abundance of food that could be grown from these gardens - even enough to share with those in the community who are underprivileged. What if we each put a little bit of our time each day into growing some food the same way we put time into doing other activities that we deem routine, such as folding our clothes, washing the dishes, or preparing our meals? And anyone can grow a garden, even those without a backyard (using containers or raised beds).

I don't have a green thumb, so this new venture of growing vegetables will be full of trials and errors for me. But, like when I wanted to become vegan and knew little about eating a plant-based diet, I am willing to endure some failures if it means I succeed in the end. Because I'm starting out with a small garden to begin with, I will still have to supplement my diet from my local organic farm and the co-op. For me, growing my own food is not an all-or-nothing decision, but a gradual journey toward an even *more* animal-free diet. But the first step is educating myself a little bit about organic and veganic farming, I am now more aware.

If nothing else, let's start talking MORE about veganic gardening/farming. I rarely find any vegans even mentioning vegan organic farming, much less making the connection between organic produce and the animals used in the methods to grow it. Why?

Let's start supporting veganic farms more loudly...even if there is no veganic farm located near us...let's sing the praises of those that do exist and encourage more people to start veganic farms or switch to veganic practices. Veganic methods should not be difficult to apply, in fact, they simply hark back to the simple traditional methods of farming before the advent of conventional agriculture and giant corporations.

A vegan certification program (see link below) for US farms is being developed. This certification is modeled on the Stockfree-Organic Certification program that was developed in the UK. In 2008, Victoria Farm in Geneva, Florida was the first farm in the US to become certified veganic through the Stockfree-Organic Certification.

Hopefully, more farmers will take it upon themselves to switch to veganic techniques and seek out veganic certification.

I hope more veganic farms come into existence in the years to come. The more we make ourselves aware, the more we make this a bigger issue...the more veganic farms will hopefully start cropping up everywhere.

Eating a plant-based diet is one of the main components in the core of our philosophy as animal rightists. Therefore, veganically grown food should be a big part of our vegan advocacy/outreach/education. One of the best forms of animal-rights activism is to support veganic farms and/or to grow your own veganic food!

Here are some resources for veganic farming/gardening:

What is veganic farming:

** Is a veganic farm near you?

Veganic Agriculture Network (in US)

Vegan Organic Network (in UK)

Growing Green: A book on animal-free organic techniques:

Certified Veganic Program

Veganic Standards and Practices (Certified Veganic)

Veganic Organic Growing, The Basics (a guide on how to grow your own veganic garden!)

More information on how to grow a veganic garden (by the Veganic Agriculture Network)

What can you do to further the veganic movement?

Other websites/resources:

Satya article written by Kate and Ron Khosla of Huguenot Street Farm (a very progressive veganic farm in NY):



An Introduction…of Sorts

I think I’ve done a certifiable amount of procrastinating on this blog, so I think it’s high time I moved on to the next stage: writing SOMETHING (anything?).

In the past few months, whenever I thought of how to start this blog, a fog would develop in my little brain (something akin to a “pod person” being drained of her essence). There are a great many things to write about when it comes to veganic gardening, and I want to write all of it really really well. I want my blog entries to follow a logical order and be perfect and beautiful and enlightening and cause people to become wonderful amazing vegans.

Maybe I should just focus on getting something written and be happy with that.

Firstly, let me say that I am no expert on gardening. I started a small veganic garden last year, and hope to grow a slightly larger one this year. Last year’s garden was not as grand as I would have liked it to be; I really wasn’t totally on top of it. There were veggies that I planted way too late in the season (I’m kind of the Pa Kettle of gardening). And then there were herbs that I planted next to their arch enemies (e.g., uh…don’t plant fennel next to coriander or dill – I planted all three together like a moron). I love being outdoors, but the truth is that I’d much rather be out on the mountain trails hiking or running – or even just sitting around staring at the trees, rivers, aminals. (Yes, I wrote “aminals,” which in my own fantasy lexicon is the definition for nonhuman animals. I get tired of writing “nonhuman animals” as if all other animals are defined by their relationship to humans. I could say “other animals,” but that just seems to confuse people who are unfamiliar with non-speciesist language. And since this is my own personal informal blog, I will be using the word “aminals.” Besides, it’s a cute word. Say it with me…”AMINALS!” Don’t want to? That’s okay. I don’t expect everyone to be as goofy as I am. Whatever the case, it will be fun to count how many readers tell me I’m spelling “animals” wrong. I can’t wait.)

Anyway, though you’ll find me running and hiking more than gardening, I still have a passion for veganic gardening/farming, and I look forward to being more diligent in working in the garden this year. As I document my journey, I’m rather hoping that my ridiculous blunders and mishaps will allow others to see that everyone makes mistakes. And my successes (there were quite a few last year) will hopefully prove that ANYONE can garden.

Secondly, I feel compelled to state that the point of this blog is not so much to impart my own meager store of knowledge, but rather to convey the knowledge that I gradually gather and learn from other sources on my journey to becoming a more experienced veganic gardener. I also hope to pass on any new information I encounter about veganics, including books, news, links to articles, events, lectures, etc.

I will eventually open up comments. Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about that, but I will succumb to the inevitable, because I want to hear people’s thoughts if they have any, especially on tips and ideas on veganic gardening/farming. However, I will say up front that I will shelter this blog from any controversy going on in the animal rights movement. Veganics should be the one topic where we can agree and come together to do and promote something positive. I’ll have no finger pointing nonsense here. You can go to my other blog on animal rights to do that (oops…I forgot, comments aren’t open there…oh well…tough luck). But seriously, if we vegans can’t agree that veganic gardening is a positive and great thing, then there’s really not much hope for us. And if veganic gardening is not your thing, please stick to what is your thing somewhere else. That is NOT to say that those who are new to veganic gardening/farming are not welcome here. Quite the contrary! My hope is to turn all kinds of people on to this awesome new (old!) way of growing our food. The more people (vegan or not) there are who support and promote veganics, the more our local farmers will be pressed (or inspired!) to switch their methods of agriculture to a sustainable and ethical veganic way. On this particular blog, I don’t care who you are or what your approach is: as long as you are interested in veganics, then you are welcome to respectfully discuss veganics here.

Here are some topics that I hope to cover:

  • An introduction to veganic gardening/farming
  • Veganic (animal-free) fertilizers
  • Problems with conventional fertilizers (and related studies)
  • Books on veganic gardening/farming
  • No-dig gardening
  • Ordering seeds/seed companies
  • Control of seeds by evil bastards (Monsanto)
  • Methods of composting
  • Green manure
  • Testing soil
  • Importance of soil
  • Storing seeds
  • Organizing a planting schedule
  • Gardening in the Pacific Northwest
  • Veganic farms
  • Creating a garden plan
  • Natural “pest” control/companion plants
  • A focus on vegetables/herbs to grow in the current month
  • Growing transplants
  • Rotating crops
  • Various ways to support/promote veganic agriculture

In addition to these topics, I suspect you’ll see an occasional blog entry about climate change issues, as well as the problem of food insecurity around the world. I have a feeling I may throw in some stories or information about wild life (free-living aminals), who often don’t receive as much attention as other aminals (“domestic,” “farm,” or factory-farmed) in the world of animal rights. Since I live in the foothills of the Washington State Cascade Mountains, at times there will be a focus on local issues in this region and the Pacific Northwest.

Well, that’s about it for my first blog entry. In conclusion, I will share with you a video of me walking around in my garden last year.