Category Archives: Sustainability

Was my granny a thief ?

Growing up on a family farm I remember all sorts of seeds being dried (mainly) by my grandmother. There were beans in all shapes and sizes, flower seed as well as pumpkin seeds. It was part of our winter-jobs as kids to help with the cleaning sorting and packaging of these seed before they were stored in a dark and dry spot for the next spring.

Probae esti in segetem sunt deteriorem datae fruges, tamen ipsae suaptae enitent – A good seed, planted even in poor soil, will bear rich fruit by its own nature. (Accius)

Of course some plants do not grow from seed. They are propagated by cuttings being taken from one plant and either “rooting” them in water / soil or by grafting onto another plant-stock (most fruit trees and grape vines would be grafted), but there are obviously other ways as well.

Back in my grannies days most growers did not patent their plants. I am certainly not a lawyer, but from my knowledge the patent laws protecting the “development” of a plant were starting to be written in the 1950’s. Granny and her co-conspirators were busy with their illicit trades back in those days (as were their parents and so on before). Which from most peoples understanding of fairness and common sense would have to constitute some form of ‘prior art’.

The other issue is that, plants being plants, they tend to “propagate” even without your help, and you never know when those runners, bulbs or cuttings might escape the confines of where they have been put. They also have a tendency to be spread by mischievous animals or attach themselves to machinery. Now, without genetic analysis (normally not available to the backyard gardener), it may be impossible to tell if one particular plant is the same as another plant.

What is concerning is that the ‘average person on the street’ really does not feel threatened by our patent system and the patents on life. But there are some encouraging signs. The recent rejection of EU Legislation pushed by Agro-Industry lobbyists was in large parts due to a groundswell of concerned citizens contacting their Members of Parliament (EU). Unfortunately that is not the end of the fight. The EU Commission which is notorious for being circled by an army of lobbyists like vultures has refused to drop this issue.

Reducing this argument of patents on seed (and life) to my granny is an obvious simplification. It might help visualising for many how far removed the average person has become to the food they eat and the issue surrounding this. But when you start looking further into the world and into today’s times, you can see that this has a very real and immediate effect on traditional farmers in what is unfortunately referred to as ‘third world’ countries. Their seeds (and for that matter farming methods) which have taken hundreds of years of localised refinement are being made ‘illegal’. And if not made illegal, they are being denounced as ‘inefficient’ compared to industrial style seeds and methods (which will be the subject of other entries on this blog I am sure).

Time to wake up ! Start saving some seeds and you might save a lot more than you think.


No Patents On Seeds:
Seed Freedom:
Seed Sovereignity:
Monsanto Justifications:

Integrating plant biology and environmental engineering

“When it comes to agriculture in NH, we are like an underdeveloped country.” So says Dorn Cox who is currently making a concerted effort to push farming squarely into the 21st century by building what he refers to as a “biological system” for his farm; it is a most singular system and very much a family enterprise.
By successfully integrating the disciplines of plant biology and environmental engineering, Dorn is constructing a near complete carbon cycle making the farm largely self sufficient, reducing production costs, and limiting off farm purchases.
Dorn Cox is a two-time NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant awardee. He has completed his 2006 grant for Farm-based Biofuel: Production, Storage, Co-generation and Education. He is a 2007 New Hampshire Young Farmer Achievement Award recipient.

Dorn Cox – Tuckaway Farms – Lee, New Hampshire

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

A Living Web Films Production.

Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms

Worth the listen – a NPR Radio program on ‘development-supported agriculture’, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.

“Golf courses cost millions to build and maintain, and we’re kind of overbuilt on golf courses already,” he says. “If you put in a farm where we can grow things and make money from the farm, it becomes an even better deal.”

Listen here: Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms : The Salt : NPR.

Underground greenhouse

Whilst this particular example by the Benson Institute is situated in a Northern Hemisphere cold climate region, the same principle should apply in Australian conditions. Obviously the aim would be to provide relief from the heat rather than cold by tapping into the thermal mass of soil.

In it’s simplest form it is a rectangular hole in the ground 1.5 – 2 meters deep and covered by plastic or ideally plexi-glass greenhouse sheeting. A rammed earth wall (or dry-stone if you want to get fancy) at the back of the construction and a lower wall at the front provide the angle for the clear. The roof seals the underground greenhouse providing an insulating airspace and allowing the sun to warm the space providing a stable environment for plant growth.

Here is a follow-up video from the original author showing a subsequent year


Benson Institute Manuals:
Pure Energy Services:

After The Fish Are Gone

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The video above shows the horrenous statistic that 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been depleted to their limits or totally exploited.

Boskoi – mobile food foraging

I just came across an excellent free, opensource mobile app that helps you explore and map the edible landscape wherever you are. It is based on the Ushahidi Framework and named after Boskoi the greek word for grazer or browser the app lays out a map of local fruits and herbs and allows users to edit and add their own finds.

The app is made by the foragers at Urban Edibles in Amsterdam and comes with quite a few foraging guidelines.


boskoi barcode