Category Archives: Grow

Tribes Create Their Own Food Laws to Stop USDA From Killing Native Food Economies

From blue corn to bison, narrow federal food-safety codes impact tribal food systems. But advocates are writing their own food laws to preserve Native food sovereignty.

SALT RIVER PIMA-MARICOPA INDIAN COMMUNITY, Ariz. – Jacob Butler eyed a lemon tree—its bright yellow fruit nestled among thick green leaves and set against the blue Arizona sky—then checked on the tiny pomegranates and grapes in the garden as a black-striped lizard darted into the shade of a mesquite tree. In the distance, downtown Phoenix glittered under the rising sun.

”Our garden is a platform to perpetuate our culture.“

“We try to grow what’s been here for hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” says Butler, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community garden coordinator, as he surveyed the land and the plants growing on it. “For the past 13 years we’ve been doing this, so it’s in the minds of the people now.”

Traditionally, Pima and Maricopa tribal members grew lima beans, squash, corn, and other vegetables; used mesquite trees for food, medicine, and other practical purposes; and relied on wild game for food. Today, about 12,000 acres of their reservation are used for industrial farming—cotton, alfalfa, potatoes, and other commercial crops—but, in the garden where Butler works, agriculture isn’t a financial boon: It’s a way to strengthen and cultivate culture.

“What are the stories that go along with this tree? What’s the story we tell that says when squash came to the people or corn came to the people? What are the songs that go with those things?” says Butler. “That’s what we incorporate here: Our garden is a platform to perpetuate our culture.”

According to Butler, tribal members once cultivated myriad varieties of beans, squash, and melons. Now, many of those crops have become extinct and their stories lost, and losing other heirloom foods would have irreversible effects on cultural practices.

Indigenous communities have been sustained by thousands of years of food knowledge. But recent federal food safety rules could cripple those traditional systems and prevent the growth of agricultural economies in Indian Country, according to advocates and attorneys. Of the 567 tribal nations in the United States, only a handful have adopted laws that address food production and processing. Without functioning laws around food, tribes engaged in anything from farming to food handling and animal health are ceding power to state and federal authorities.

To protect tribal food systems, those advocates and attorneys are taking the law into their own hands, literally, by writing comprehensive food codes that can be adopted by tribes and used to effectively circumvent federal food safety codes. Because tribes retain sovereignty—complicated and sometimes limited though it may be—they can assert an equal right with the federal government to establish regulations for food handling.

Recent federal food safety rules could cripple those traditional systems.

“Tribal sovereignty is food sovereignty, and how do you assert food sovereignty?” says A-dae Romero-Briones, a consultant with the First Nations Development Institute, an economic development organization. “You do that through a tribal code.”

Food codes and laws are basic legislation governing agriculture and food processing. Food codes are good things: They are designed to protect consumers from products that could make them sick or even kill them, as with a national salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter in 2008, and, more recently, E. Coli outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants in 11 states.

Since 2011, food laws have become tougher, thanks to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the first major rewrite of U.S. food-safety laws in more than 50 years. Under FSMA, producers must take into account everything from the packaging and refrigeration of products to how crops are grown, all in the name of safety. These safety controls raise interesting questions in Indian Country.

Traditionally Pima and Maricopa tribal members grew lima beans squash corn and other vegetables. Today about 12000 acres of their reservation are used for industrial farming. YES! photo by Tristan Ahtone.

In many Native communities, for example, access to certified kitchens and state-of-the-art facilities is slim to nonexistent. That means producers often must rely on traditional knowledge to make foods that are safe for consumption. One example, says Romero-Briones, is blue corn products.

“That’s an industry that has existed for generations,” she says. “But if you want to produce it or process it in traditional fashions, you’re probably not going to be able to do that because you’re going to have to do it in a certified kitchen.”

Under FSMA, tribal food economies face two options: Assimilate by complying with federal law or keep tribal food products confined to the reservation.

“It’s one thing to say that we have to develop food and process food in certain ways, but it’s another thing to recognize that tribes have their own versions of food safety,” says Romero-Briones. “Tribes have been developing food economies for thousands of years.”

Another example of how traditional foods are impacted is buffalo slaughter. Dozens of tribes from the Dakotas to Oklahoma are engaged in buffalo management and harvesting. But those hoping to get buffalo products into markets outside of tribal communities often face big hurdles.

”Tribes have been developing food economies for thousands of years.“

Buffalo, for example, is considered an exotic animal under federal guidelines, says Dan Cornelius, with the Intertribal Agriculture Council. And that has repercussions when it comes to what the federal government will support.

“For domestic animals, USDA will pay for the cost of that inspector. For exotics, they don’t,” Cornelius says.

Inspections can run as high as $70 an animal, and all buffalo products must be processed in an FDA-approved facility. By implementing food codes, tribes could find alternative ways to getting buffalo meat inspected and processed. Cornelius says building an infrastructure that lowers costs would allow buffalo meat to get to market faster.

“Ultimately, is it a safe process? If it is, then how can you develop a tribally specific provision that still is ensuring a safe and healthy food but is addressing that barrier where there is a conflict?” he says.

So how do 567 different tribes with 567 different traditions, needs, and goals go about writing food codes specific to their cultural heritages? They call a lawyer. Specifically, Janie Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, a legal think tank at the University of Arkansas.

Read The Full Article at YesMagazine

Medicinal Mushroom Benefits: Mycelium vs Fruiting Body

Mushrooms vs Mycelium

To Benefit from a Medicinal Mushroom, You Need to Know What You’re Getting

Not all fungi products are equal. You should know what you’re getting when you purchase supplements to reap medicinal mushroom benefits. And with so many products on the market making claims about ingredients and efficacy, it can be challenging to understand what really offers the most benefit to your health.

Read on to learn the myths and facts about medicinal mushroom supplements to get the most functional health support from fungi.

Mushroom Parts & Marketing Hype

The way many supplement brands market and sell their fungi products is cause for concern. If consumers don’t know what to look for when buying a medicinal mushroom supplement, they may easily be misled by the packaging, naming, and labeling of the vast products available.

It can be difficult to distinguish a real mushroom extract made of the mushroom (fruiting body) from one made of the mushroom’s “root” structure, mycelium. Reading a supplement’s packaging and nutritional labels won’t necessarily tell you the whole story either.

Mushroom product labeling requirements from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tell manufacturers to clearly distinguish whether the product contains actual mushroom (the fruiting body) or just the mycelium in any food or supplement product. But not everyone follows these rules and this is low on the FDA’s enforcement priorities.

In 2017, The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) released labelling guidance for Fungi Dietary Ingredients. This is not enforceable but gives recommendations on how Fungal based products should be accurately labelled to clearly inform the consumer on what is in the product.

Too often, brands disguise the true nature of their products and misdirect consumers who want to buy effective medicinal mushroom products. Here we will separate the myths from the facts about mushroom terminology, their active compounds, and the marketing hype, to give you the information you need to buy a supplement with the most medicinal mushroom benefits.

To reap these benefits, you need a supplement with high concentrations of the parts of the fungi that offer the most therapeutic compounds. This article gives you the knowledge you need to make informed purchasing decisions, so you can truly experience the adaptive health benefits of medicinal mushroom supplementation.

Mushroom vs. Mycelium

The Difference between Fungal Parts

A mushroom is the “fruiting body” of a fungal organism called a basidiomycete (except in the case of the cordyceps mushroom — they are an organism called an ascomycete). Basidiomycetes have three distinct parts that develop throughout its lifecycle: spore, mycelium, and mushroom.

The spores are in the surrounding air all around us, and under favorable conditions, these will germinate and begin to grow branching filaments called hyphae. As the hyphae continue to grow, they will fuse together to form mycelium.

Mycelium is an underground network that expands and feeds off of organic plant matter. This phase of the basidiomycetes’ life cycle is the vegetative stage. During this time, the mycelium produces enzymes that break down the plant material in its growth radius and recycles it into beneficial compounds that return to the soil.

In nature, this typically means that mycelium will form large networks of fungal matter by breaking down wood, logs, leaves, and other plant matter. The plant matter on which fungi feed is commonly referred to as the substrate. The mycelium becomes entwined in whatever substrate it’s in, making an inseparable mass of substrate and mycelium.

If environmental conditions are right, the mycelium will produce a mushroom, a.k.a. the fruiting body. The mushroom is actually the reproductive structure of this organism. When fully mature, it produces spores that, when distributed across plant matter, will allow for the creation of new mycelial networks, and ultimately the spread of the fungus.

Mycelial networks can live for hundreds, if not thousands of years and spread across vast distances. In fact, the largest organism on earth is a mycelial mat of a honey mushroom in eastern Oregon that is 890 hectares in size and over 2,000 years old!

It is important to reiterate that just as a mushroom is not mycelium, mycelium is also not a mushroom. These terms are not synonymous and should be accurately differentiated.

Mushroom lifecycle

Identifying Fillers in Your Supplement

Read the ingredients on the mushroom or mycelium supplement package to see which part of these fungi the producer used. Based on the labelling, many times it is unclear. The product could be any combination of mycelium, mushroom, sclerotium, spore, and substrate matter, dried, ground into a powder and then potentially extracted.

Using all the parts of the fungi might seem like an effective way to reap the most benefits. However, there are parts of the basidiomycete, like the mushroom (fruiting body), that contain more active beneficial compounds than others. The mycelium, on the other hand, when grown on a solid substrate will also contains compounds of whatever substrate material it has been grown on.

The majority of commercial mycelium producers grow it on grains like rice, oats, or sorghum. Therefore, all that grain becomes inseparable from the mycelium and remains in the final product, leading to high amounts of starch.

When myceliated grain forms the bulk of a supplement, the grain acts as a filler and “dilutes” the product because it doesn’t contain any active compounds. Myceliated grain dramatically reduces how much beneficial compounds are in each serving of your supplement.

Read the full article at RealMushrooms

Growing Mushrooms Oyster | Lionsmane

Oyster mushrooms are one of the easiest varieties of mushrooms to grow, they’re delicious to eat & really healthy for you too.

The problem is finding a reliable step by step guide to show you how…

…so we created one for you!

That way you can avoid all the mistakes and hassles of beginning oyster mushroom cultivation and get to the good stuff; harvesting & eating your own fresh Oyster mushrooms grown at home.

 You can also download this article as a free ebook

Why Grow Oyster Mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms are plentiful in the wild, growing on dead standing trees or fallen logs and were first cultivated by the Germans in World War 2.

In more recent years commercial production has skyrocketed.

F​REE Step by Step Growing Guide​ ​

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  • AND get your FREE eBook: How To Grow Oyster Mushrooms

Total commercial oyster mushroom cultivation worldwide increased over 18-fold between 1965 – 1997 (from 350,000 metric tons in 1965 to 6,160,800 metric tons in 1997; source).

So why the huge jump in popularity?

The answer: fast production methods + an increased interest in the health and culinary benefits of Oyster mushrooms.

A crop of winter oyster mushrooms at GroCycle Mushroom Farm

A crop of winter oyster mushrooms ready for harvest at GroCycle Mushroom Farm

Quick & Easy To Grow…

Do you want to learn how to grow mushrooms?

If so, I’d recommend starting with Oyster mushrooms as they are possibly the easiest variety of mushroom to grow.

They are super quick, relatively resistant to competitor organisms and they can grow on a wide range of substrate materials.

We’ll cover how to grow Oyster mushrooms & what equipment you’ll need below, but the basic process is quite simple and can be broken up into 3 main phases:

1) Inoculation:

Oyster mushroom spawn is mixed with the substrate material (often straw or sawdust, but a range of other materials can also be used; see below).

This growing medium is then usually placed into bags with small holes or air filters in them for air exchange.

2) Incubation

The bags are then placed in a warm (20-24C/68F-75F) dark room to incubate and begin the first phase of growth.

Only 10-14 days are needed for the spawn to grow a full web of root-like threads of mycelium and colonise the growing substrate.

Oyster mushroom mycelium colonising straw & coffee ground substrate

3) Fruiting

Once the growing medium is fully colonised by the spawn, it is time for the mushrooms to start fruiting.

The bags are exposed to autumn-like conditions with fresh oxygen, high humidity, low level light & often cooler temperatures.

This signals to the mycelium that it’s time to start producing mushrooms and small pins begin to emerge.

Oyster mushroom pins begin to emerge from holes in the bag….

Fed by water and nutrients from the mycelium, these tiny pins then rapidly grow and develop into full size mushrooms in just 5-7 days.

Oysters mushrooms, ready to harvest just 7 days after starting to grow out of the bag

A crop of mushrooms can be harvested three times before the mycelium becomes exhausted, with a new crop of mushrooms manifesting every 7-14 days during this time.

In other words, it takes about just 5-8 weeks to grow 3 crops of Oyster mushrooms…and all this can be done with minimal equipment or expertise.

That’s why they’re so popular commercially and also for people first venturing into growing mushrooms at home too.

To see this process in action, check out this short video tour of our low tech mushroom farm:

Health Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms

The ease of growing Oyster Mushrooms isn’t the only perk. Here are just some of the medicinal and nutritional benefits of Oyster mushrooms well:

  • Boosts immune system

  • Improves strength and regulation

  • Antimicrobial (Helps fight off E. coli, Staph, Candida overgrown, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus infection)

  • Anticancer (polysaccharide in Oyster mushrooms is anti-tumor in animal studies and in-vitro)

  • Antiviral (protects against direct and indirect viral activity)

  • Protein rich

  • Cholesterol Free

  • Contains high levels of Vitamins D, D3, D5 and A

If you’re really interested in the health benefits of mushrooms, check out our guide to medicinal mushrooms for more info.

Florida Farmers are Selling Directly to People

Farms that normally serve restaurants, amusement parks and cruise lines are transforming into community supported agriculture

Last month, Florida farmers let countless tons of produce rot in their fields after the restaurants, theme parks and cruise lines they normally serve this time of year were suddenly closed due to nationwide quarantines.

This month, they are changing their business model, selling directly to the consumers who are doing a whole lot more home-cooking these days.

Changing course was a bit like turning the Titanic around, but now Florida farmers are getting help from the state department of agriculture, which has created a website to connect them to local buyers.

Floridians can search the website for farms and co-ops near them and a list of what each farm offers.

While some farms grow primarily mono-crops – such as tomatoes for ketchup – some are bio-diverse, organic farms with a wide variety of specialty produce that used to be sold in high-end local restaurants, including:

Caimito, citrus, mamey sapote, papaya, sapodilla, jackfruit, chard, collards. kale, escarole, greens, beets, cabbage, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, green peppers, peppers, okra, tomatoes, scallions, turmeric, yellow squash, zucchini, oyster mushrooms.

Some farms are even offering milkshakes, poultry, seafood and shell fish.

Dandelions 101

 Dandelions – not an annoying weed, but a medicinal plant in your garden

Use Banana Stems for Organic Farming: Innovations in Agriculture

Organic farming is gaining ground every day. People have come up with an innovative idea in rural agriculture development that can help for attaining both the objectives of organic food as well as provide irrigation for farmers: Using banana tree trunks for the purpose of growing veggies even when the dry season is on. In fact, banana stems have been known for a long period of time, even to farmers for having a good water retention capacity. No wonder, a few farmers have gone ahead to use the banana stems for planting short root crops inside the stems.

Banana Tree Trunks known for Water Retention: Innovations in Organic Farming

This is achieved through digging small holes in the banana stem with the help of a sharp object like a knife. Add a little soil and feel free to plant as required. These primarily allow plant growth even when dry periods are on without the use of proper irrigation facilities. Such kind of planting is also known for helping in minimizing space as well as resources. This is also affordable because banana stems are easily available to farmers and they can be excellent devices for organic farming, particularly when there is scarcity of space. Learn the tricks of Organic Farming for better crops yields as well as safe agricultural products.

Due to the water retention capacity, there is one more way in which they can be used beneficially: banana stems after they are rotten can be used as fertilizers and manures. Such an innovation also works while they are being used even in plantation crops. It is, however, important to chop these into small pieces before they are used as a fertilizer. This helps to ensure that they do not become a hiding place for insects. The wonderful concept can go a long way in ensuring rural independence and can cut away at farmers’ over reliance on monsoons for water.

Source – Greenubuntu

Sustainable Linen Movement: Revitalizing Flax & Hemp

Moving Flax & Hemp Back on the Market

 The importance of knowing where your food comes from is a concept not unfamiliar to many Willamette Valley residents. But how many can say they know where their clothing is grown?

Shannon Welsh measures flax in bloom at a farm near Sublimity in 2017.

“The slow food movement has had a lot of attention on it, but not fiber,” says Shannon Welsh, founder at Pacific Northwest Fibershed and co-founder at Fiberevolution. “I think a lot of it is because fiber is more complex. The textile system itself is more complex than the food system… There’s a lot more steps into getting fiber from a field through to a product than with food.”

Welsh’s work holds fast to a vision of clothing both produced and grown in the Willamette Valley, a sort of antithesis to fast fashion, and a complementary node to the model of slow food.

While she recognizes that synthetics “have a place” and “will always be here,” Welsh and many others feel the textile pendulum has held too long in the synthetic direction, and that there needs to be a movement away from the environmentally impactful chemical processes that create and breakdown these materials, to the natural processes that can create high quality goods without so much degradation.

With this in mind, the organization Fibershed got its start in Northern California in 2010, when founder Rebecca Burgess sought to create a whole wardrobe for herself with textiles grown and produced within a 150-mile radius of her home. To do so required an holistic approach, which Welsh has transferred to the Pacific Northwest affiliate of the group, as well as in her work with Fiberevolution. “I’ve met with fiber producers on the agricultural side, I’ve met with agronomists at universities, historical societies, brands—all across the board,” she says.

In this journey, Welsh has learned much about the historic prevalence of fiber crop growing and garment making in the Willamette Valley, the industries’ demise, and ways in which they can be brought back into the fold of Oregon agriculture and industry to increase the availability of local, sustainable textiles that contribute to rural and urban communities and to the economy.

Benefits of Growing Textile Crops

In 2017, community members got the opportunity to help harvest flax by hand at a farm near Corvallis.

Due to their compatibility with the Willamette Valley’s climate, two crops are at the heart of the slow fiber movement in this region: flax and hemp. Both plants include different varieties which favor either oil or fiber production. While varieties grown for oil are shorter and produce more seeds, fiber varieties—called bast fibers—focus their energy on growing tall rather than on seed production.

The height of bast fiber crops allows for weeds to easily be outcompeted, and little to no need for the pesticides used in conventional agriculture. Other benefits of growing bast fibers is that the whole plant is removed from the ground when harvested, leaving a clean slate for other crops to be rotated in, breaking plant disease cycles that may otherwise persist without rotation, and enriching the soil.

“All fiber crops, when they are grown in a rotational system, capture carbon and store it in the soil over time,” Welsh points out.

Better yet, flax does not require irrigation in our climate. If well managed, fiber crops pose the ability to decrease environmental impact and contribute to carbon storage—the latter being especially important in these days of climate change due to anthropogenic releases of greenhouse gases.

However, Welsh recognizes that in the current hemp mayhem since the plant has been moved off the controlled substances list federally, more monoculturing than crop rotating has been seen, of which she is not supportive. In this scenario, “you aren’t really maximizing the potential of your cropping system and over time it does affect the quality of the fiber if you’re growing them in the same place over and over with nothing else,” she warns.

From World-Renowned to Hanging on a Thread
While hemp has received much media attention since it’s federal de-listing, both it and flax have a long history here and globally, often forgotten.

Payton Haynes stylishly pulls flax by hand while wearing linen at a farm near Corvallis in 2018.

Flax, which is used to create linen fabrics, is one of the oldest known plants specifically cultivated for use as a textile. Dating technology has been used to show that as early as 3000 BCE, linen was used to wrap mummies in Egyptian tombs. Hemp cultivation has also been dated to 2800 BCE in Central Asia.

Several species of flax are native to Oregon, as first recorded by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in their 1805 expedition, as they observed Native Americans from the Wasco, Klickitat, Warm Springs, Cayuse, and Umatilla tribes fishing and making baskets on the Columbia River using flax twine.

As pioneers began settling in the region, it did not take long for Oregon flax and it’s resulting linen to become well-known for its high quality across the country, and the world: in 1876, linen from the Albany-based fiber flax plant Pioneer Oil Works won a prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, and in 1893, Oregon flax gained even broader attention after winning a prize at the Chicago World’s Fair.

Meanwhile, in the world of hemp, Oregon State College, the predecessor to today’s Oregon State University, hosted a national hemp research center from the 1880’s to the 1930’s. The Valley lost production of this fiber crop relatively quickly, when, in 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which effectively began the era of hemp prohibition in the U.S., even though hemp is a different species than that used to grow the recreational drug.

While hemp was removed from production in the Willamette Valley, flax hit its peak during the second world war effort, with 18,000 acres of it being grown and processed at 14 facilities in the Willamette Valley. But this too was fairly short-lived, says Welsh.

“After World War II, throughout the whole globe, textiles really started to take a hit, especially natural textiles with natural fibers, because synthetics came into play, and the war effort that was behind a lot of production wasn’t there anymore. There was a real bottoming out, especially here in the Willamette Valley. Since then, we’ve had zero textile production really, especially with linen. We’ve had a little bit with wool, but that’s been really hanging on a thread,” she laughs.

By the 1950’s, flax was no longer grown on a commercial scale, with the special machines used to harvest it going to scrap metal or lying rusted in fields. By the 1960’s, all the bast fiber processing plants in Oregon were closed down, the last of which was located in Canby and was thought to be the most modern of its kind when first established.

Similar trends were seen in other regions of the world, such as Ireland, even though they too were well known for their high quality products. However, not all places abandoned the two crops. Today, Welsh says about 80% of world linen is currently produced in Europe along the Normandy coastline in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, as well as in Asia in the countries of China, Russia, and Serbia. These same regions also continued growing and processing hemp.

“Hemp hasn’t been illegal anywhere else,” Welsh says, recounting times she’s worked with partners in these countries who are confused why Americans are so excited about hemp, not knowing of the laws enacted that governed its demise, and now potential rebirth, here.

Breaking the Loop
Today, the market and legal forces that pushed flax and hemp out of production in the Willamette Valley have created a positive feedback loop that is proving challenging to unwind in order to revitalize the crops and textile manufacturing locally.

After the crops were no longer grown, the specialty machines used to process them became non-existent, and for farmers who would like to grow the crops for their fiber today, there is not enough infrastructure in place to do so at a commercial scale. Welsh explains that although “we’ve been getting flax growing again, there’s no harvesting equipment in North America,” and further, “we don’t have anywhere to produce it for textiles in North America at this time. Those are some huge hurdles.”

Both Fibershed and Fiberevolution have the goal of getting bast fiber equipment to the continent from European partners, and to restore the once-operating processing facilities in Oregon. Promising for both flax and hemp fiber crops is that their similarities in growth patterns allow for similar handling. “Our vision is that you could build a production facility that can handle both crops,” Welsh says. “When those things take off, there will be job opportunities, there will be grant opportunities—we’ll be able to pull a lot of the community in more.”

Political factors involved in hemp add another set of hurdles to the process. Welsh and her organizations recently attended the National Industrial Hemp Council Business Summit. The simple version of the take-away is that “it’s a disaster right now,” she says.

More than 1,500 farmers have registered with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to grow hemp on 50,000 acres this year, nearly triple the amount seen last year. However, due to the infrastructure limitations for bast fibers, and perhaps the attraction of a new industry, the only hemp varieties being grown are oil varieties, used to derive CBD.

Read the full article at CorvallisAdvocate

What Is A Kokedama

The art of Kokedama literally translates from “koke” meaning moss and “dama” meaning ball. This moss ball has experienced a resurgence as a modern art form useful for uniquely presented plants and flowers. Instructions and classes on the how-to for this skill abound on the Internet and plant forums. A Japanese moss ball makes a personalized gift or simply an interesting accent for a favorite plant specimen. You can practice the art of Kokedama yourself with just a few items and minimal skill.

What is a Kokedama? It is a form of Japanese garden art that is centuries old and tied into the practice of bonsai. It is an accent to that mode of plant display where a moss ball is the focal and supporting point for a sculpted tree or plant. The moss ball is fixed to a platform or suspended from string with the plant growing out from the sphere. Kokedama is the practice of taking the root ball of a plant and suspending it in a mud ball, which is then coated with soft green moss. It is a living planter as well as a distinctive display piece. They may be fixed to a piece of driftwood or bark, suspended from a string or nestled in a clear, attractive container. Hanging many of these as a Kokedama moss garden is called a string garden. Materials for Making Kokedama Moss Balls


The traditional art form relied upon a carefully composed soil with a heavy clay base that would adhere to itself. This soil is called akadama and also contains peat moss as a moisture retainer. You can purchase bonsai soil or make your own mixture of clay and 15 percent peat moss as a base for the Japanese moss ball. Once you have your soil mixture, you will also need: Scissors String Water A spray bottle Gloves A bucket Newspaper or a tarp (to protect your work surface) Select your plant using a guideline of ease of care, light situation, and ability to tolerate sodden soil. Many tropical jungle plants are suitable for the project, as well as ferns, lucky bamboo or even ivy. Avoid any succulents and cacti, as the soil ball will remain too moist for these types of plants. Advertisement For the moss, you can use dry floral moss that you soak or harvest some from your surroundings.

If you don’t want to mess with the clay ball, you can also create a Kokedama moss garden with a floral foam ball as the base. Creating Your Japanese Moss Ball Don your gloves, line your work space and get started. Moisten the moss if it’s the dried variety by soaking in a bucket of water for an hour. Squeeze it out and lay aside until the last step. Add water gradually to your akadama mixture until the medium can be gathered into a ball. Press it firmly all around to adhere the soil mixture. Remove your selected plant from its container, dust off the soil and gently break apart the root ball. Make a hole in the clay ball big enough to push in the roots of the plant. Spray the soil with water to keep it moist and workable during this process. Push the clay around the roots and compact it around the base of the stem. Press the moss around the form until all the surfaces are covered. Use twine or string to wrap the moss onto the ball with at least two passes around the surface. Cut away the excess string and fix the ball to a piece of wood, hang in an appropriately lighted area or place in a container.

Read more at Gardening Know How: What Is A Kokedama: Tips On Making Kokedama Moss Balls

This Incredible Skyscraper Is Also a Farm That Can Feed a Village

 Pawel Lipinski/Mateusz Frankowski

A skyscraper may not seem like the answer to an entire continent’s agricultural challenges, but the best inventions aren’t always what they seem.

In Africa, where 70% of the population lives in rural areas and mostly practices subsistence farming, scraping by on barely $2 USD/day, the scientific advancements of the “green revolution” could introduce modern farming techniques that help them grow more food and help end extreme poverty. And that’s where the skyscraper comes in.

The brainchild of Polish architects Pawel Lipiński and Mateusz Frankowski, the Mashambas Skyscraper is a new concept for a skyscraper designed to “bring [the] green revolution to the poorest people,” a reference to the scientific advancements like high-yield seeds that doubled the world’s grain production between 1960 and 2000.

The revolution never arrived in Africa’s farm fields on its own — deterred by factors including the continent’s challenging climate, its postcolonial civil conflicts, and its lagging infrastructural capacity and lack of access to international markets.

Take Action: Children Are Starving And They Need Your Help

But now, the Mashambas Skyscraper, winner of the  eVolo skyscraper competition, could change that. It is designed to serve as a farm, education center, and community center all in one. Its ultimate aim is to train subsistence farmers in modern farming techniques so they will be able to improve their harvest and pull themselves out of poverty.

skyscraper-sub-saharan-africa.jpgImage: Pawel Lipinski/Mateusz Frankowski

It beat out more than 400 other designs, including a high-rise built into a mountain in Yosemite, a skyscraper that serves as a vending machine for homes, and an Antarctic skyscraper that turns CO2 into oxygen to reverse climate change.

One of the most unique features of the Mashambas Skyscraper is that it’s movable. It can be built in one place, stay there for a matter of months or years (or, as the designers write, until the community becomes self-sufficient), and then be rebuilt in a new location. After the structure is moved, a base layer remains, which can serve as a marketplace for villagers.

At the top of the structure are layered fields, which can provide enough food to feed a whole village. These sit above an education center, which provides training to local farmers on best agricultural practices. There is a drone docking center in the middle, which can deliver agricultural products to remote locations. And finally, on the ground floor, there is a kindergarten, doctor’s office, and information center.

“Giving training, fertilizer, and seeds to the small farmers can give them an opportunity to produce as much produce per acre as huge modern farms,” the architects wrote.

Read More: Can Sustainable Farming Stop a Civil War? For Didier, a Refugee, It’s a Start

Between 1996 and 2012, rural poverty in Africa decreased by 23%, but right now in several countries food systems are failing. Four countries are currently facing a massive famine that threatens the lives of 20 million people.

Innovations like the Mashambas Skyscraper, as well as the proliferation of apps that can serve farmers in rural Sub-Saharan Africa have the potential to promote long-term sustainable farming and improve crop yields, despite the logistical challenges of farming on the African continent. But for those currently suffering from drought immediate action needs to be taken.

You can take action and call on world leaders to provide food aid to those suffering from drought in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Source – Global Citizen