Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank provides these suggestions for improving our lives and our food systems:

As we enter 2014, there are still nearly one billion people suffering from hunger. Simultaneously, 65 percent of the world's population live in countries where obesity kills more people than those who are underweight. But these are problems that we can solve and there's a lot to be done in the new year!

2014 was declared the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Food Tank is honored and excited to be collaborating with FAO around highlighting how farmers are more than just food producers--they're teachers, innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental stewards, and change-makers!

And negotiations are continuing around the new Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. It's our hope that the new goals will help not only reduce hunger and poverty, but find ways to improve nutrient density and improve farmers' livelihoods.

In addition, the issue of food loss and food waste is gaining ground thanks to the U.N.'s Zero Hunger Challenge, which calls for zero food waste, as well as the good work of many organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Feeding the 5000, the U.N. Environment Programme, and WastedFood.com who are showing eaters, businesses, and policy-makers solutions for ending waste in the food system.

And youth are taking the lead in pushing for a more sustainable food system. Young people like Edward Mukiibi, who is helping Slow Food International's 1,000 Garden in Africa's program gain momentum. In addition, the Young Professionals for Agriculture Research and Development (YPARD) is helping connect agronomists, farmers, researchers, and activists around the world. Food Tank will also be announcing some exciting work around mobilizing youth in 2014!

Through concrete action, hope and success in the food system is possible.

As Nelson Mandela said, “sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.”

Together we can be that generation and find solutions to nourish both people and the planet!

Here are 14 food resolutions for 2014:

1. Meet Your Local Farmer
Know your farmer, know your food (KYF2) aims to strengthen local and regional food systems. Meeting your local farmer puts a face to where your food comes from and creates a connection between farmers and consumers.

2. Eat Seasonal Produce
By purchasing local foods that are in season, you can help reduce the environmental impact of shipping food. And your money goes straight to the farmer, supporting the local economy.

3. End Food Waste
More than 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted each year. Tips to reduce waste include planning meals ahead, buying ‘ugly’’ fruits and vegetables, being more creative with recipes, requesting smaller portions, composting, and donating excess food.

4. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Many diseases are preventable, including obesity, yet 1.5 billion people in the world are obese or overweight. Promote a culture of prevention by engaging in physical activity and following guidelines for a healthy diet. Gaps in food governance must also be addressed to encourage healthy lifestyles, including junk food marketing to children.

5. Commit to Resilience in Agriculture
large portion of food production is used for animal feed and biofuels--at least one-third of global food production is used to feed livestock. And land grabs are resulting in food insecurity, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, and water loss. Strengthening farmers' unions and cooperatives can help farmers be more resilient to food prices shocks, climate change, conflict, and other problems.

6. Eat (and Cook) Indigenous Crops
Mungbean, cow pea, spider plant...these indigenous crops might sound unfamiliar, but they are grown by small-holder farmers in countries all over the world. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 75 percent of the Earth’s genetic resources are now extinct, and another third of plant biodiversity is predicted to disappear by the year 2050. We need to promote diversity in our fields and in our diets!

7. Buy (or Grow) Organic
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that at least one pesticide is in 67 percent of produce samples in the U.S. Studies suggest that pesticides can interfere with brain development in children and can harm wildlife, including bees. Growing and eating organic and environmentally sustainable produce we can help protect our bodies and natural resources.

8. Go Meatless Once a Week
To produce 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of beef can require 6,810 liters (1,799 gallons) of water and 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of pork can require 2,180 liters (576 gallons) of water. Beef, pork, and other meats have large water footprints and are resource intensive. Consider reducing your "hoofprint" by decreasing the amount and types of meat you consume.

9. Cook
In Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked,” he learns how the four elements-fire, water, air, and earth-transform parts of nature into delicious meals. And he finds that the art of cooking connects both nature and culture. Eaters can take back control of the food system by cooking more and, in the process, strengthen relationships and eat more nutritious--and delicious--foods.

10. Host a Dinner Party
It’s doesn’t have to be fancy, just bring people together! Talk about food, enjoy a meal, and encourage discussion around creating a better food system. Traveling in 2014 and craving a homemade meal? For another option try Meal Sharing and eat with people from around the world.

11. Consider the ‘True Cost’ Of Your Food
Based on the price alone, inexpensive junk food often wins over local or organic foods. But, the price tag doesn’t tell the whole story. True cost accounting allows farmers, eaters, businesses, and policy makers to understand the cost of all of the "ingredients" that go into making fast food--including antibiotics, artificial fertilizers, transportation, and a whole range of other factors that don't show up in the price tag of the food we eat.

12. Democratize Innovation
Around the world, farmers, scientists, researchers, women, youth, NGOs, and others are currently creating innovative, on-the-ground solutions to various, interconnected global agriculture problems. Their work has the great potential to be significantly scaled up, broadened, and deepened—and we need to create an opportunity for these projects to get the attention, resources, research, and the investment they need.

13. Support Family Farmers
The U.N. FAO has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming, honoring the more than 400 million family farms in both industrialized and developing countries, defined as farms who rely primarily on family members for labour and management. Family farmers are key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets, while also protecting natural resources.

14. Share Knowledge Across Generations
Older people have challenges--and opportunities--in accessing healthy foods. They're sharing their knowledge with younger generations by teaching them about gardening and farming, food culture, and traditional cuisines. It’s also important to make sure that older people are getting the nutrition they need to stay active and healthy for as long as possible.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Rapanui Fowl in Europe

Aviculture Europe has published our article on Rapanui Fowl, with additional photos.  
Kermit's Saudaluer rooster

Kermit's Raraku hen

Michelle Tullis's Kiri Kiri rooster

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Development Supported Agriculture

This story from Harvest Public Media is the best idea of 2013! I like that they are remodeling the chicken coop and it will be a functional part of the  community. Of course, they plan on having chickens!

For decades, housing developments in the suburbs have come complete with golf courses, tennis courts, strip malls and swimming pools. But make way for the new subdivision amenity: the specialty farm.

A new model for suburban development is springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement. Farms, complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees, are serving as a way to entice potential buyers to settle in a new subdivision.

It’s called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture – a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In the planning process of a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production – a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park – that  is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.

“These projects are becoming more and more mainstream,” said Ed McMahon, a fellow with the Urban Land Institute, who estimates more than 200 developments with an agricultural twist already exist nationwide.

“Golf courses cost millions to build and maintain, and we’re kind of overbuilt on golf courses already,” McMahon said. “If you put in a farm where we can grow things and make money from the farm, it becomes an even better deal. We’re producing a small profit, that is then driving sales, and then tying into the local food movement. A lot of things are converging here.”

As the local food movement has taken hold across the country with a growth in farmers markets and a surge in organic food sales, suburban developers have taken notice. Now they’re leveraging the movement’s in vogue status to build neighborhoods around farms and, ultimately, to sell homes.
In Fort Collins, Colo., developers are currently constructing one of the country’s newest development-supported farms. At first blush, the Bucking Horse development looks like your average halfway-constructed subdivision. But look a bit closer and you’ll see a rustic red farm house and a big white barn enclosed by the plastic orange construction fencing.

“When we show it, people are either like, ‘You guys are crazy, I don’t see the vision here at all,’ or they come and they’re like, ‘This is going to be amazing,’” said Kristin Kirkpatrick, who works for Bellisimo, Inc., the developer that purchased this 240-acre plot of land in 2010 to turn it into a neighborhood totally devoted to local food.

Kirkpatrick is in charge of leasing at the Jessup Farm Artisan Village, the commercial space at Bucking Horse. Work is underway to rehab the historic barn, farm house, loafing shed, saddle shop and chicken coop. Plans for the Village include a farm-to-fork restaurant, wine maker, coffee roaster and yoga studio.

When finished, Bucking Horse will support more than 1,000 households. Some families have already moved in. More townhouses and single family homes are currently under construction and condos are planned.

Agriculture and food production are the big draws to Bucking Horse, Kirkpatrick said. The development has set aside land and is working on hiring its very own farmer.

In its plans, the neighborhood will support a 3.6 acre CSA farm, a plaza designed for a farmers market, an educational center where homeowners can take canning classes. A subsidy from the homeowners’ association will likely support a small livestock operation with goats and chickens. The plan is infused with the quaint, pastoral, even romantic, view of farming.

“Our public restrooms are in an old chicken coop, so it’ll be half public restroom and half chicken coop,”  Kirkpatrick said. “We’re really trying to connect people to where their food comes from at every level.”

As suburban sprawl has taken over across the country, farmland has been transformed into neighborhoods. In many cities, restrictive zoning pushed goats, chickens and tractors out of those new residential areas. Now though, that process is being reversed in some areas. With growing interest in farming as a community activity, municipalities are being forced to change their codes to bring those things back in.

While the plans for Bucking Horse were being proposed, the development company realized some amenities bumped up against city zoning rules that ran contrary to the concept of urban agriculture.
“We used to have residential separated from agriculture and now we’re seeing those uses combined,” said Lindsay Ex, environmental planner with the city of Fort Collins. Bucking Horse was being finalized at the same time city staff began to revisit some of the biggest obstacles to growing vegetables on a larger scale or raising livestock within city limits, Ex said.

“Traditionally, people have seen land development as lots and roadways,” Ex said. “But recently, with Bucking Horse being a great example, we’ve seen people start to incorporate more gardens and more food production into their developments.”

The combination of suburban development and specialty farms could bring in big money for developers. Subdivisions that include small-scale farms have sprung up in Illinois, Georgia, and Vermont.

The potential for a piece of that new development has also given rise to new businesses. In traditional developments, the developer or homeowners’ association hires someone to run the golf course. Now, they’re hiring someone to run the community farm.

Quint Redmond runs a company called Agriburbia, which both consults on new developments and operates farms within existing neighborhoods and school districts. This idea of farm-as-amenity is a great deal for your average small-time farmer, Redmond said.

“The best possible thing for a farmer is to have the infrastructure ready,” he said. “That is where most farming goes upside down or goes broke.”

In development-supported agriculture projects, it ends up being the developer or homeowners association that puts in irrigation lines and makes big farm purchases, not the farmer. Not to mention the vegetable fields are completely surrounded by homes filled with people already interested in local food. More so than your average CSA, the market is primed and ready for a farmer to sell.

“What happens is, the farmer may farm [the land], everybody gets to see it as they’re moving into the subdivision over time, and then there’s a real market for that farmer,” Redmond said.
The marketing of these new neighborhoods appears to be working, at least at Bucking Horse in Fort Collins.

Bucking Horse’s developer says new single-family lots were snatched up within days of going on the market. Values of existing homes have jumped 25 percent since the agricultural amenities started construction. And they’re selling the new lots at 20 to 25 percent above nearby neighborhoods.

“Once we saw this and the plans they had for it, we were really sold on the lifestyle, I would say,” said Lindley Greene, who moved to Bucking Horse in March with her husband and two young sons. The agricultural amenities weren’t the sole reason for the move, but certainly sweetened the deal, Greene said.

Once the neighborhood farm is up and running, Greene said, she’ll be volunteering to get her hands dirty.

“We love the idea of it,” Greene said. “To have it right here and may be able to work at it, and not have it in our backyard, but still in our backyard, is awesome.”

And if enough of these developments take off, expect suburban soccer mom to become synonymous with backyard farmers.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chanteclers and Albertans

In an interesting turn of poultry history, two breeds developed separately for similar purposes were deemed so much alike that the American Poultry Association combined them into two color varieties of one breed. Here's the story:
Gina Bisco's Chantecler hens enjoy the snow in New York State.
The original Chanteclers developed by Br. Wilfrid were white. Dr. J.E. Wilkinson of Edmonton, Alberta developed his own partridge breed, which he called Albertans. He preferred the partridge color, for its camouflage on pasture, attractive appearance for exhibition and desirability when dressed out for the table. His inspiration came after viewing the damaged combs and wattles on birds at the 1914 Edmonton Poultry Show. He was determined to create a breed that wouldn’t be subject to freezing. “He figured if he could replace just ten percent of the less hardy breeds that had large single combs and wattles, it would represent a big value to the industry,” writes Greg Oakes of Oakesmuir Farm in Guelph, Ontario. Oakes has raised Chanteclers for 29 years, is a past chair for Rare Breeds Canada and is a director of Chantecler Fanciers International.

Mike Gilbert's bantam Partridge Cockerel took Best of Class at the 2013 National Meet
In 1919, Dr. Wilkinson began crossing Partridge Cochins, for their size and plumage, with Partridge Wyandottes, for egg laying and color. He bred their offspring to Dark Cornish, for size, constitution and table desirability. Rosecomb Brown Leghorns were later included. Reports in 1919 state that Orloffs, a popular breed at the time among Canadian farmers, were used. When Wilkerson applied for recognition in 1935, however, he cited the other breeds but omitted Orloffs.  

By 1921 he had birds he was ready to show. Albertans were shown across Canada, in the U.S. and in London, winning awards and praise. Chanteclers were shown in their own class. Albertans were shown in the Any Other Variety class as a distinct breed. However, when the American Poultry Association met in 1935 to consider accepting Albertans into the Standard, they recognized them as a partridge variety of Chanteclers rather than a separate breed. In an article Dr. Wilkinson wrote for the October 1935 issue of Canada Poultryman, “Canada’s Latest Addition to The Standard of Perfection,” he said he wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble to develop the breed if he had known what the APA would do.

“Wilkinson was not pleased with the APA,” said Oakes. “That was the end of the Albertan name.”

Jim Fegan's hen shows her attractive colors.
Wilkinson continued to show his birds, as Partridge Chanteclers. In 1983, a Canadian group formed to promote Albertans and persuade the APA to change Partridge Chanteclers’ name back to Albertans. It didn’t succeed.

Partridge was only one of the colors that resulted from Wilkinson’s efforts to create the Albertan. Crossing with other breeds soon created black, white, red, buff and Columbian color varieties. Buff was the second most popular color. Buff Albertans were first exhibited at Ottawa’s World Poultry Congress in 1927. William Clutterbuck of Hamilton, Ontario pursued a different route to a buff Canadian breed, crossing white Chanteclers with his Buff Plymouth Rocks. He promoted the result as Canadian Creams, a triple-purpose breed laying brown eggs, fast growing and maturing, starting to lay at 5 ½ months, and with the popular golden show color.

“He advertised them as a combination that is hard to beat for laying, weighing and paying,” said Oakes. “The advertisement implied that breeders could earn some gold with them”

In the U.S., Walter Franklin is credited with developing a large fowl Buff variety of Chantecler in the early 1980s from crosses of modern strains of Buff Cornish, Buff Wyandottes and Buff Plymouth Rocks. However, there are also reports of Buff Albertans being bred in Canada and brought to the U.S. as Buff Chanteclers. The buff variety is not yet recognized by the APA.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Iowa Blues

Thanks to Curt Burroughs for his work on Iowa Blues and this blog post:

Iowa Blues combine the hardy characteristics of their state with unusual plumage colors. Although much historical documentation has been lost, they have survived as a breed and their cause is now being championed by a breed club. Although the breed was never recognized by the American Poultry Association, contemporary breeders are determined to change that and bring two varieties into the Standard.

John Logston of Decorah, Iowa, developed Iowa Blues as his own breed of chicken in the 1920s. An ambitious livestock breeder, he also developed the White Collie and raised the largest herd of Dexter cattle in the country. Local oral histories credit a Black Minorca hen, for larger eggs, and a Rhode Island Red hen, chosen because the breed is the leader among its type, with mating with a pheasant to create the breed. Another tale attributed to Dolly, John Logston’s wife, says the original Iowa Blues were chicks that one of her White Rock hens led out from under the shed where she’d hatched them. These pheasant-colored chicks joined the myth of being sired by a pheasant.

The result was a farm breed that flourished in extremes of temperature and humidity, able to defend itself and forage for food, reproduced well naturally, laid plenty of eggs and was big enough to make a good table bird. They were popular from the 1920s through the 1950s, when they lost ground to the industrial farms that began to dominate poultry production.
Photo by Kari McKay-Widdel
That unlikely start produced chicks that are active and intrepid, ‘popping’ to evade handling within hours of hatching. They crouch and hop, straight up or sideways, to avoid being caught. At a few weeks of age, they lose the ‘popping’ to crouching and active fleeing, much like the pheasant chicks to which they are, if not genetically, related in appearance.

Iowa Blues are active foragers who will fend for themselves, given adequate pasture. They are defiant survivors, innately aware of their surroundings, especially aerially, and willing to fight off predators. They have confidence that they can handle any threat that comes their way. Owners often observe Iowa Blue roosters engaged in battle with a hawk or chasing a raccoon off the property. They stand out in the open when other chickens flee for cover and proudly strut as if to dare the predator to take them on, even engage the threat with fierce combat. They also eliminate pests such as mice, rats and snakes. They wound them by jabbing them with their beaks, then grasp it and shake it vigorously.

Hens retain a strong broody instinct, and sister hens may follow the leader in taking to the broody nest together. Although this reduces egg production, current breeders are divided among those who are breeding to increase egg production and those who wish to retain broodiness.
Photos by Curt Burroughs
Iowa Blues are not recognized by the American Poultry Association, but dedicated breeders could change that. The Silver Penciled variety could be proposed under the current APA standard description, with its less defined markings, which give it a bluish rather than greenish sheen, noted as a variation. Birchen Iowa Blues have more white than the APA standard description, so some accommodation in that description would be appropriate.

Glenn Drowns of Sandhill Preservation Center in Calamus, Iowa, has a documented Silver Penciled flock from which he sells stock. Based on Silver Penciled Rock birds he bred to Campine-Fayoumi crosses, then bred back to a Black Leghorn, Ideal Hatchery in Texas developed a birchen variety. Ideal began selling these birds as Iowa Blues in the 1990s. That crossing also introduced red and gold markings, marring the preferred silver coloring.

Chick down color varies depending on the color variety. On the Silver Penciled chicks, a soft chocolate brown down color combined with light mottling on the face, is the most common. The down has a very unique look to it, almost like a silvery under color to the chocolate down, and gives the chick a very dimensional appearance. On the Birchen colored chicks, one will find a mostly black chick with various amounts of white on the belly, chin, and sometimes the face.

The Iowa Blue Chicken Club was founded in 2012 to resolve these questions and pursue APA recognition. The Silver Penciled variety is the group’s first priority, to be followed by the Birchen variety after breed recognition. Their Standard Committee has developed a breed description, including size: Rooster – 7lbs; Cockerel – 6lbs; Hen – 6lbs; Pullet – 5lbs. Iowa Blue type is unique. When viewed from the side, the overall body shape should be rectangular, similar to the Rhode Island Red. A full and deep breast is ideal and the breed is set well on the legs. The back should be wide and level. The head is upright and the tail is set at a jaunty 80 degrees. An Iowa Blue tail is quite distinct, putting a “stamp” on all crossbred offspring. Tail set is neither overly full nor elegantly flowing.

The Silver Penciled birds are subject to laryngotracheitis, possibly due to inbreeding. Immunization is effective and recommended for all flocks, until this weakness can be overcome with selective breeding. Breeders hope all flocks will be naturally immune in the future.

With the rise in popularity of homesteading families, and individuals interested in local homegrown foods, the time is ripe for the Iowa Blue to propel itself into the future. What are needed, are dedicated breeders, willing to put forth the necessary labor of producing outstanding examples of the breed and one day producing the desired effects needed to place the Iowa Blue into the Standard of Perfection.
Photo by Kari McKay Widdel
Anyone interested in becoming involved with the rescue, breeding, and promotion of the Iowa Blue, should contact the Iowa Blue Chicken Club, http://www.iowabluechickenclub.com/, for more details and to connect to breeders in their location.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dorking Cockerel

A new booklet on Dorkings comes to us from the Dorking Museum in Dorking, Surrey: The Dorking Cockerel. It's written by David Burton, who recently joined the museum's staff. He found an old booklet and decided to update it.

Mine arrived promptly and it's delightful. He includes interesting tidbits of Dorking history, such as the fact that Edward Lear included references to "milk-white hens of Dorking" in his nonsense song, The Courtship of Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo in 1877.

Lots of great illustrations, including a page of various emblems and badges which feature the Dorking. All poultry fanciers, especially those who hold the Dorking in a special place, will want a copy.

David writes of his experience:

Even though we kept chickens when we first moved to the area many years ago, it was only quite recently that I became aware of the international renown of the local breed, the Dorking.
 Helping out with a few things in preparation for the Museum’s re-opening in autumn, I (got) volunteered to give a bit of a face-lift to a leaflet on The Dorking Cock.  The original, a 4-pager produced in 1985 by the Local History Group, was now looking rather dated.  I spent some time in the Museum’s archive, followed up Mary Day’s research and the references from the 1985 leaflet, then got phoning and Googling – and got hooked!  

What resulted is now a 20-page booklet, with much new material and extensive illustrations, updating the story of the Dorking Cock – not just the breed but its place in the history of the town.  It starts with the origins of ‘the five-claw’d-un’, dating back to Roman times and the 1st century writings of Columella.  Its reputation for quality grew across the centuries.  By the 17th century, Dorking was “the greatest Market for Poultry in England” and Dorkings had travelled with the early settlers to America.

Victorian times saw a passion for poultry breeding, with Dorkings held in high regard – a winner at the first Zoological Society poultry show in London in 1845.  Queen Victoria particularly favoured the Dorking, and the breed featured prominently in famous prints by Harrison Weir and J. W. Ludlow – as well as in one of Edward Lear’s nonsense songs.  Much in demand in the US too, it finally took the assistance of a Dorking clergyman to secure a shipment in 1847.

Now, sadly, the breed is ‘at risk’, but survives thanks to the efforts of preservationists and a few enthusiastic breeders – there are breeders’ clubs around the world.  But the Dorking Cock has become a symbol for everything Dorking, from a piquant sauce advertised in 1855 to the controversial – and award-winning – 10-foot high Dorking Cock standing on Deepdene roundabout, and the Cockerel Press, publishers of this booklet.   

The booklet contains much of interest about the Dorking breed and the town, as well as a little of the trivia picked up along the way – the Dorkings offered to the Obamas for the White House Lawn and the horror caused by the theft of a cutting of the acclaimed Dorking Cock geranium at the 1971 Chelsea Flower Show.  

The Dorking Cockerel is available, price £2.50, from Dorking Museum & Heritage Centre, 62 West Street, Dorking RH4 1BS (telephone 01306 876591 or e-mail admin@dorking museum.org.uk) and through the Dorking Museum Facebook page and Amazon.