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  • Gloria C. Baikauskas
    I thought this might be of interest. Gloria, Texas Vancouver Sun, Page C05, 24-Aug-2005 Maverick methods work just fine for both produce and the planet By Mia
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 24, 2005
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      I thought this might be of interest.

      Gloria, Texas

      Vancouver Sun, Page C05, 24-Aug-2005
      Maverick methods work just fine for both produce and the planet
      By Mia Stainsby

      Say it can't be done and he'll do it. So, when maverick farmer
      Michael Ableman ran a farm in California, he grew tomatoes without a
      drop of irrigation.

      On Saltspring Island, where he now operates an organic farm and bed
      and breakfast, dry farming tomatoes is a cinch, he says. "It's easy
      here. The soil acts like a sponge. If you want to grow good tomatoes,
      don't water them," he says. "It not only conserves water, it
      concentrates the flavour.

      "I can show you 12,000 tomato plants in the field that haven't had a
      drop of water. I start with tall lanky plants, plant them really deep
      and time the cultivation so the plant has the ability to seek out
      subsoil moisture. Tomatoes are actually very thrifty and when you
      grow tomatoes or beans without water, you're conserving an incredibly
      valuable resource."

      Agriculture, he says, uses 80 per cent of the world's freshwater
      resources with only 20 per cent of it reaching the plants and animals
      because of inefficient transport and application systems. "Precise
      planting depths, timely cultivation, ancient dry-farming techniques,
      increased crop variety, drip tapes and hoses are ways of using water
      much more efficiently."

      The same goes for energy, he says. "If you look at the relation
      between food and oil, one of the greatest services is to begin to
      show that food can be produced without intensive input of energy. My
      goal is to be 80 per cent fossil oil-free in the next couple of
      years," he declares. He has solar systems set up to power his farm.

      When Ableman drops into a local Japanese restaurant, it's not for
      sushi. He's there to pick up their spent frying oil, which he filters
      and uses to power his farm tractor. "We can reconfigure diesel
      tractors to operate on biodiesel or spent fry oil," he says. "One of
      the most significant issues for the future of agriculture is that
      we're on the cusp of seeing the engine for the old way of life --
      oil -- disappearing, and we're in trouble. But we haven't even begun
      to tap alternatives."

      Ableman ignores the so-called zones for planting. He grows
      Mediterranean figs, as well as 12 varieties of French melons which is
      a feat on the West Coast. He increases heat value by planting the fig
      trees on raised mounds, allowing more heat to reach the roots.

      "If you mulch, it's key to know when to use and when to remove
      mulches," says Ableman, who is experimenting with growing citrus
      fruits.

      Technical fixes, like remay, a diaphanous row covering, allows plants
      to grow in otherwise inhospitable conditions. "It sits atop crops and
      is so light, it lifts as the plant grows and traps heat. I know
      farmers in far worse climates than in Canada who are doing ingenious
      things using very little energy with cold frames and layers of row
      cover, growing an incredible range of vegetables through the fall and
      winter.

      "There are lots of models proving that we can create diverse,
      flavourful, delicious foods in any number of different climates. The
      possibilities are endless with vision and creativity. We don't
      necessarily have to reach a crisis before adopting these ideas," he
      says.

      "Cuba did reach a crisis almost overnight when access to Soviet
      supplies of fertilizers and pesticides disappeared. They were forced
      to starve or find another way. They've created a most amazing
      national system of growing foods in a more sustainable way than could
      be imagined, more sophisticated than anywhere in the world. It wasn't
      out of philosophy. They did it to survive.

      "I'm here to say farmers can do extremely well in many different
      climate zones, making an incredibly good living."

      THE TALE OF TWO STRAWBERRIES:

      When customers ask why his strawberries cost more than imports from
      California, Michael Ableman refers to the tale of two strawberries.

      "In the case of the imported strawberries, which might be 50 cents to
      a dollar less per basket, the process begins with sterilizing the
      soil with methyl bromide which is a significant contributor to ozone
      depletion. They fumigate under plastic and you'll see white sheets
      covering the ground as far as you can see. It kills everything,
      including weed seeds and makes the soil a lifeless medium, there just
      to hold up the plant. More plastic is laid on the ground to keep the
      food off the ground and the plants are fed chemical fertilizers like
      patients on intravenous drip. Strawberry farmers have the choice of
      up to 65 different pesticides and will use some of them during
      cultivation.

      "It's no longer radical thinking -- credible studies show
      correlations between industrial agriculture and cancer clusters,"
      Ableman says. "So I say, it's true, the industrially grown
      strawberries are cheaper but the truth is, someone is paying for it
      many times over."

      Source: Mia Stainsby
    • Beatrice Gilboa
      ... Thanks Gloria that s also encouraging us to read it Beatrice Udim, Israel ... From: Gloria C. Baikauskas To:
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 25, 2005
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        > I thought this might be of interest.

        Thanks Gloria that's also encouraging us to read it

        Beatrice
        Udim, Israel

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Gloria C. Baikauskas" <gcb49@...>
        To: <Fukuoka_Farming@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 4:14 AM
        Subject: [fukuoka_farming] Fwd: you say tomato....
      • Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry
        ... I can witness the growing of tomatoes without water . in our aera the soil and air is very dry for only one month before there is enough moisture left from
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 3, 2005
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          >
          > Say it can't be done and he'll do it. So, when maverick farmer
          > Michael Ableman ran a farm in California, he grew tomatoes without a
          > drop of irrigation.
          >
          > On Saltspring Island, where he now operates an organic farm and bed
          > and breakfast, dry farming tomatoes is a cinch, he says. "It's easy
          > here. The soil acts like a sponge. If you want to grow good tomatoes,
          > don't water them," he says. "It not only conserves water, it
          > concentrates the flavour.

          I can witness the growing of tomatoes without water . in our aera the soil
          and air is very dry for only one month before there is enough moisture left
          from the winter rains in the soil and mid august there is enough dew that
          fall at night that many winter plants are starting to grow . he is living
          also on a valley while i am on a ridge with very little water in summer time
          . when i was living in a valley , i did grew tomatoes and many other things
          without any watering at all , despite i had access to gravity fed water from
          a stream as much as i wanted . our strawberries were sold at the same market
          for 3 dollars instead of 5 for Michael . He is coming from california ( like
          70 percent of a new owners on saltspring )with a very different mentalitee .
          contrary to what the article suggest farming is not his main income ( bed
          and breakfast, writer , speaker ...) he just bought on top of his 8 acres
          farm a farm of over 100 acres for 1millions ., 300 000 CDN$ and he is
          reselling double price his small farm than he paid for, 4 years ago. so i
          know for sure than even when selling strawberries at 5 dollars the pint that
          doen'st makes enough money to buy this kind of farm .
          It is very disapointing for me that not only this specific land he bought
          was wanted to create the ecovillage we want to grow here but also was home
          of Dan jason of saltspring seeds (a very dedicated grower and seed savers of
          heritage seeds) before michael ask him to leave ( while together they could
          have done a terrific job at creating the seedsanctuary that don jason want
          saltspring to become .
          moral of the story don't take journalistic stories as very meaningfull piece
          of litterature .Basically they are advertising of personalities and
          organisitions .
          also sustainability is such in fashion nowadays that even not so dedicated
          peoples can be sold in the media as such .By the way comparing organic
          strawberries at 5 dollars with chemically grown ones is not too fair
          .organic strawberries from here or california are still way cheaper than his

          i personally don't know any climate worse than in canada possibly antartica
          , MIchael forgot that saltspring is not all of canada , also we are zoned
          here in the nothern range of mediteranean climate , figs growing have been
          here for very long .
          .
          I like michael as a person but don't share his politic. tho i like his figs
          at one dollar a piece ( imagine beatrice the fortune you are not making in
          israel ) and it is true , growing on a mound could have been the reason why
          he had them 3 weeks before ours ( could be the variety also )we enjoy our
          unirragated figs also ( his are irrigated ). by the way a deer completelly
          devastated the newlly fig trees i planted this summer. this is the draw
          back of living in the wild and practicing natural farming .so now i need
          companion plants for figs that repell deers also
          jean-claude
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