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EVENT | Vegan Raw Food Preparation | Auroville | India | 1st February 2020

Krishna McKenzie

This workshop is an exploration of the values of local food which is at the very heart of permaculture. Local foods are easy to grow thus are found in abundance. They use less water, have high nutritional & medicinal values, are non-exclusive and have no ecological cost. All in all, exploring & eating local foods is the most simple and direct action we can have to undermine the vast exploitation and pollution caused by industrialised agriculture.

Contents of the Workshop:

Exploring man’s relationship with Mother Nature and where his food comes from.
A tour of the farm, exploring various practices in context with a specific focus on understanding the values of local foods, their medicinal & nutritional values etc.
Harvest upto 25-30 different local foods; leaves, roots, flowers, fruits, wild vines etc.
At the kitchen, we display the produce and prepare it into a delicious salad, a tribal booster juice and a green chutney which is served with our localicious lunch.
To close the workshop, we read a chapter from Masanobu Fukuoka’s book The One-Straw Revolution, to demonstrate that this is no idle philosophy but something lived every day at Solitude Farm.

Workshop Facilitator: Krishna Mckenzie, born in England has lived the last 26 years in the International township of Auroville, Tamilnadu, South India. He started and runs Solitude Farm & Organic farm cafe and is widely recognised for his work in permaculture, natural farming, local food and ‘Nutritional Cultural Identity’.Krishna Mc

EVENT | Grow Your Own Microgreens | New Delhi | India | 19th January 2020

Grow Your Own Microgreens

Microgreens are nutrient-packed, flavor-rich mini versions of commonly eaten greens and vegetables like spinach, alfa alfa, mustard, radish and broccoli. They add color, taste and freshness to salads, soups and sandwiches or you can whizz them into your smoothies. Best of all, they require minimal space, sunshine, time, and what’s more, you’ll have your first harvest in just 5-10 days. Book a spot now & learn how to grow Microgreens at home!

Pre-Registration: 1,700 INR
Walk in session: 2000 INR
Upto 13% group discount (min. 4 participants) applicable with pre-registration

Indian Schools Asked to Set up School Nutrition Gardens

Smt Sulochana Singhania School Thane (Mumbai) - organic farming

All schools in India have been asked to set up “school nutrition gardens” by the central government. The gardens will have to be managed by the students, with the help of staff and teachers.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), which governs the education sector, issued guidelines for developing and maintaining kitchen gardens in schools in both urban and rural areas. The Government’s aim is to improve nutrition in schools, and also to connect children with the sources of food in an era of rapid urbanization and mounting environmental issues.

However, some schools have already embarked upon this journey well before the official guidelines came into place.  One such is the Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane (Mumbai, India).

Students have been introduced to not just growing food within the school themselves, but grow it organically, without synthetic chemical inputs.  The aim of the project has been to grow chemical-free, nutrient-rich vegetables and to provide an opportunity to learn by doing. The project is to teach the students how organic farming discourages environmental exposure to pesticides and chemicals, helps to build healthy soil, fight the effects of global warming and encourages biodiversity.

Smt Sulochana Singhania School Thane - organic farming

The students have sowed a wide variety of vegetables including cucumbers, chillies, lady’s fingers (okra), tomatoes, brinjals, spinach, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, and capsicum, to name a few. The students have also planted paddy, to get hands-on experience of rice farming.

(Photos courtesy Smt Sulochana Singhania School, Thane, Mumbai. Check out more pictures on the school’s Facebook album.)

Malaysia: Deputy Agriculture Minister on Urban Farms


Malaysian deputy agriculture minister Sim Tze Tzin has taken up urban farming in his constituency of Bayan Baru.

The small garden outside the double-storey unit that serves as Sim’s service centre now boasts eggplants, cucumbers and other herbs.

Sim said the country is facing a fundamental problem of food prices being driven up by insufficient supply. Most of the 8 million hectares allocated for agriculture in the country are being used up by commodities such as palm oil and rubber. The deputy minister believes that Malaysians need to change their way of thinking, with so much emphasis already being placed on commodities.

Sim stressed that the land given out in the 1970s for the production of commodities as a poverty eradication measure was the right move, as prices were high.

We have to slowly convert some land for agro-food like the existing Felda schemes, it is time now to diversify to include growing food, like padi, vegetables and fruits,” he added.

Source: Deputy agriculture minister gets hands dirty with urban farming

These Indian farmers are taking a firmer hold on their future with organic farming


Women farmers in the Balaghat region of Madhya Pradesh state in India are moving actively to organic farming with indigenous seeds, so as to earn better and to produce healthier crops. They are actively supported by civic society organisation Pradan as well as farmer groups and government officials.


Ikea Is Working On Urban Farming Products


Ikea wants to sell you more than furniture – it wants to sell sustainable living, and that includes what you need to grow your own food.

Ikea is reported to be developing a new line of products with British industrial designer Tom Dixon, to be formally announced in May 2019 and released in stores in 2021.

The retailer has already introduced a hydroponic system to grow lettuce on your kitchen countertop, and the company’s innovation lab, Space10, experimented with a flatpack urban farm to fit in your backyard.

The collaboration with Tom Dixon would possibly to make it easier to grow plants in small spaces in city homes and to maximize the amount of food production in the smallest possible space.

With this, Ikea is jumping on to the trend of products focused on people farming in an urban environment.

Source: Ikea and Tom Dixon plan to launch urban farming products

Strawberries grown in Dubai


The UAE’s harsh climate is not conducive to farming let alone the cultivation of a fruit like strawberry. But all that is going to change now. By year-end, Dubai residents will be able to enjoy strawberries grown right here in the city.

French start-up Agricool, which is behind the ambitious initiative, said their hydroponic farming method, has already started to bear fruit in Dubai.The first batch of 4,500 strawberries, grown inside a recycled shipping container called ‘cooltainer’ at Sustainable City, was distributed to residents recently.

Georges Beaudoin, head of international operations at Agricool, said he is happy with the outcome. “We planted strawberry saplings in early July and harvested them in September.

“The strawberry plants are planted vertically and watered by a drip system with LED lights mimicking sunshine…the best thing is the strawberries are free from pesticides.”

Beaudoin, who runs successful cooltainer farms in Paris, said he hopes to produce seven tonnes of strawberries annually. “That’s about 530,000 strawberries,” he added.

Beaudoin said they came up with the cooltainer concept to maximise efficiency and overcome urban space constraints.

“The strawberry plants are planted vertically and watered by a drip system, with LED lights mimicking sunshine.

“The red light is for photosynthesis, which helps in the growth of the plant. The purple light helps in flowering while the white one softens exposure to ensure the fruit does not over ripen,” said Beaudoin.

“The best thing about these strawberries is that they are fresh and free from pesticides,” he added.

Source: Coming to a store near you: Strawberries grown in Dubai

Old coal mines could be turned into farms


Abandoned coal mines across the UK could be brought back to life as huge underground farms, according to academics.

Mine shafts and tunnels are seen asthe perfect environmentfor growing food such as vegetables and herbs. Advocates say subterranean farms could yield up to ten times as much as farms above ground.

President of the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technology, Prof Saffa Riffat, believes the scheme would be a cost-effective way of meeting the growing need for food. We have a major issue with food production and supply with the world’s population expected to reach nine billion by 2050,” said Prof. Riffat, of University of Nottingham.

The idea has already gained support from mine owners, including the Land Trust and Coal Authority, while the Chinese government has also expressed an interest. There are an estimated 150,000 abandoned shafts and 25,000km-sq of disused mines and tunnels in the UK.I’m very excited about the enormous potential. Rather than import so much food by air, rail and sea, we could grow a lot of it here and in huge quantities,” said Prof Riffat.

We need to do this for our future. We have a growing demand for food, especially in the cities, but less space to grow it. Tunnels and shafts would need less energy with heating, so are very attractive for food production. They’re almost perfect,” said Prof Riffat.

One 7m-sq shaft can produce 80 tonnes of food per year, according to Prof Riffat, approximately eight to 10 times the amount of food grown on the same area of land above ground.

Any schemes involving former coal mines would inevitably throw up many technical, legal and financial challenges that would need to be overcome.”

Source: Old coal mines can be ‘perfect’ underground food farms – BBC News

Backyard Beekeeping Takes Off, But Attracts Criticism Too


Flow Hive is an alternative to the traditional beehive, one that promises to let people harvest honey with “minimal disturbance” to the bees.

The old-school method of honey harvesting typically involves a traditional Langstroth hive, named after its inventor, Lorenzo Langstroth, a Philadelphia clergyman who designed it in the mid-1800s. Inside, movable boxes are stacked vertically, each with eight to 10 frames on which honeybees can build their combs.

To extract honey from a Langstroth hive, you start by removing the frames one by one, brushing the bees loose (inevitably squashing some of them) and using a serrated knife to scrape the wax covering the cells, all while working hard not to stir up a cloud of angry defenders. Then you use a device, either hand-cranked or powered by a motor, to spin the frames using centrifugal force until the honey runs out of the cells and is drained into buckets. It’s a process that can take hours or even days.

Though you may still crush a wayward bee or two, the Flow Hive dramatically changes the harvesting process. It looks similar to the Langstroth on the outside, and in fact, it borrows a lot of features from it, but the Flow Hive’s frames have preformed partial honeycomb cells made of plastic.

When the beekeeper inserts a tool and turns it (sort of like a beer tap), the cells in the comb form channels that let the honey flow down and out of the hive. For the beekeeper, the benefit is that you can harvest the honey without opening up the hive and disturbing the bees.

But the hive has stirred up controversy among traditional beekeepers, starting with its steep cost. The original Flow Hive starts at $699, and the latest iteration of the hive, the Flow Hive 2, is a staggering $749. That compares with around $200 for a standard Langstroth kit.

But the most contentious debate concerning the Flow Hive has to do with the hands-off mentality surrounding it.

While an unattended garden is a problem only for its owner, a lack of effort with beekeeping can be downright catastrophic. While colony collapse isn’t completely understood, beekeeping practices play a huge part in it. Keepers who don’t regularly check on the health of their bees can easily allow the spread of pathogens to other nearby healthy hives. Novices who aren’t aware of the challenges, or who aren’t willing to put in the effort, risk destroying their own hives — and other hives miles away from them.

Source: A swarm to backyard beekeeping

The Refugee Gardens of Clarkston, Georgia, USA


The city of Clarkston, Georgia, located in a pocket of the Atlanta metropolis characterized by strip malls, auto-body shops and cheap low-rise apartments, has been called the most diverse square mile in America. Designated as a refugee resettlement area in the eighties, Clarkston accepts about 1,500 refugees annually, earning it the moniker “Ellis Island South.” Today, a third of town’s 13,000 residents were born in another country, representing 40 nationalities and 60 languages.

It’s also become known for its vegetables: at least a dozen farms and gardens in and around Clarkston provide space for newcomer families to work the soil.

“Many of these folks grew food back home as a way of life, if not as their primary source of income,” says Yarrow Koning, the community development program coordinator at Global Growers, which stewards 22 acres at eight sites in Clarkston and surrounding neighborhoods where newcomers are provided land access and tools.

Global Growers provides training — their growers, while horticultural experts need help adapting their skills to Atlanta’s climate. But most importantly, the organization provides market access, selling the produce through a farm share program, at local farmer’s markets and to chefs. The growers keep 75 percent of proceeds, which has allowed some to make “urban farmer” their full-time occupation.

Not all Global Growers’ gardeners are looking to make a living. For many, says Koning, working the land is simply a way to bond with other newcomer families and maintain a connection with their cultural roots, all while cutting down on their grocery bills. “We work with people who didn’t necessarily grow food in their country of origin, but they’ve become interested in it here because it’s so difficult to access the foods they are used to eating, especially at a cost affordable to someone who has just arrived as a refugee.”

Source: Putting Down Roots – The Refugee Gardens of Clarkston, Georgia (USA)