Sunday, December 11, 2005

Simultaneous production of xylitol and ethanol from cellulosic biomass

Process for the simultaneous production of xylitol and ethanol - Patent 6846657:
"It has now been found that xylitol and ethanol can be produced simultaneously by using the process of the invention wherein xylose is converted to xylitol, while the majority of the other hexoses present in the raw material are converted to ethanol. Thus the raw material is effectively utilized and two commercially very important products are obtained in a pure form and with a high yield. The process is simple and effective.

The process of the invention is characterized in that the hydrolyzed starting material is fermented with a yeast strain, the ethanol produced is recovered, a chromatographic separation is carried out on the remaining xylitol solution, and pure xylitol is crystallized. Xylose-containing substances are used as starting materials, which in accordance with the invention are fermented with a yeast strain that is capable of converting xylose to xylitol and most hexoses to ethanol. By fermentation, a xylitol-rich solution is obtained wherefrom xylitol is recovered in a simple way. Laborious and complex separation steps (such as the conventional ion exchange, demineralization, precipitations etc.) are not needed, but generally the xylitol can be purified in a single step chromatographically, whereafter it is crystallized to obtain pure xylitol. Ethanol is easy to remove from the fermentation solution for instance by evaporation. Thus the need for separating xylitol from the hexitols and other sugars produced in the hydrolysis and reduction steps is avoided. The hydrolysis performed in accordance with the invention also provides a solution to the problem of using pulp discarded as waste mass, in other processes, and thus in the process of the invention substantially the entire starting material is utilized. "

Energy Use and Sustainable Farming

Sustainable Table: The Issues: Fossil Fuel and Energy Use:
"Fortunately, a number of agricultural techniques can be used to decrease our dependence upon fossil fuel. One effective method is to reduce or eliminate tillage (plowing the soil); a Canadian study determined that implementation of a modified no-till system reduced the use of diesel fuel from 7.9 gallons to 1.1 gallons per hectare.12 Another study indicated that total CO 2 emissions generated by a no-till system were 92% lower than emissions from conventional tillage.13 Fossil fuel consumption could also be decreased by reducing fertilizer use, by using manure more efficiently, and by practicing certain types of crop rotation (for example, including legumes in crop rotation).14
Although these techniques are usually difficult to implement on huge mono-crop industrial farms, many sustainable farms already practice these energy-saving production methods. In fact, small-scale, less mechanized, more biodiverse organic farming operations have been shown to use 60% less fossil fuel per unit of food than conventional industrial farms.15"

$10.00 per acre fuel savings with no-till farming

Practices To Reduce High Tractor Fuel Costs:
9/13/2005 -- AgBIO, SOuth Dakota State University
"SDSU Extension Farm Machinery Specialist Dick Nicolai said one practice that minimizes fuel consumption is the no-till method that requires fewer passes over the land to till and plant crops.
'No-till farming has been used by some South Dakota farmers over the years but the current rising trend in fuel prices has encouraged more producers to look into these practices. Fuel savings vary for different producers who use the no-till method. Fuel savings of around $10/acre can be expected when compared to traditional farming practices,' Nicolai said."

Coping With High Diesel Prices

Coping With High Diesel Prices:
University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service
"For crops that require tillage, hitch two or more implements together to reduce the number of tillage passes required. For example, instead of disking once and then harrowing twice, hitching the harrow to the disc to perform the first harrow operation will eliminate one pass through the field and save an estimated $5.28 per acre for a 100-Hp tractor and 10-foot harrow.
Change from conventional tillage to no-till. Fuel cost for corn planted following plowing, discing, and cultivating is estimated at $14.17/acre. While fuel cost for no-till corn is estimated at only $9.14."

No-till, less fuel use | The Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier Online!:
by Matthew Wilde -- 11/20/2005
"According to the Conservation Technology Information Center at Purdue University in Indiana, no-till farming saves 3.5 gallons of diesel an acre. On a 500-acre farm, paying current diesel prices, that is a savings of $3,920.
The center also claims fewer trips will save a farmers $5 per acre on machinery wear and maintenance costs. That's another $2,500 in savings for 500 acres."

Auto steer technology cuts wastes, saves time, fuel

Farm & Ranch Guide: Production News:
by Donna Farris -- 11/23/2005
"John Deere's GreenStar AutoTrac hands-free steering system is an option on new tractors, sprayers and combines, while the AutoTrac Universal Steering Kit is designed to set older tractors up with automatic guidance.

?It can be added to almost anything anymore,? Hellie said.

The average farmer steering on his own overlaps 10 percent in field pass-throughs, Hellie said. That overlap can be reduced to little or nothing with automatic steering.

?He's saving fuel, time, hours on the tractor, wear and tear on equipment and chemicals,? Hellie said. ?For the larger farmer, it will pay for itself in three or four years.?"

Organic farmers enjoy higher crop values, lower input costs

Farm & Ranch Guide: Regional News:
by Donna Farris -- 12/8/2005
"As the farmer of 240 acres, economics also led Steven Halter of Lamberton, Minn., to switch to organic farming in 1998.
'I always say that if I hadn't gone to organic when I did, I probably would have quit,' he said.
In a time when it seems farms must be large to be viable, 'it didn't seem to work out for me to be conventional,' he said.
He's found there are other benefits as well.
'It's better for the soil, better for ourselves and I enjoy it more,' he said."

New Strip Tillage Technique Saves Money on Tractor Fuel | News | Farmers dig deep to save money on fuel:
"The machine cuts a foot-deep groove into the soil where sugar beets will be planted next spring.
This method requires only two trips across the field, instead of the six or seven required by conventional farming techniques. This can save a typical farmer thousands of dollars in fuel costs.
'It's about doubled in the last year or so. It should be a tremendous savings in fuel,' Longmont Conservation District's Bill Haselbush says.
The main reason the Soil Conservation Service is promoting the idea, however, is to reduce soil erosion. Instead of turning the soil over with a plow and discing it until it's practically powder, this method leaves stubble in the field and that should help hold the soil in place."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ethanol one bright spot in country's energy plight Story: Farm Bureau president: Ethanol one bright spot in country's energy plight:
by Scott Moyers -- 11/17/2005
"Finding ways to replenish the country's dwindling energy supply is perhaps the most pressing concern in agriculture today, according to Missouri Farm Bureau president Charles Kruse.
'We've backed ourselves into a corner,' Kruse said Thursday, speaking to students at Southeast Missouri State University. 'And it's not just a problem in the agricultural community. It's the whole country.'"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Natural Gas Prices Take Toll on U.S. Agriculture

Stock Market News and Investment Information |
by Lisa Haarlander, Reuters -- 10/18/05
"Elevators use large amounts of natural gas in the fall to dry freshly harvested grain so it can be stored. Charging high fees for drying could cause farmers to take their crops to another elevator -- and deprive the elevator of revenue from storing and reselling the grain.
Spot prices for natural gas have more than doubled in the last year, rising to $11.92 per million British thermal units from $5.85 in the Chicago market. Natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were nearly double year-ago levels at $13.33."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Manure Converted to a Variety of Products

Manure Converted to a Variety of Products:, -- July 18, 2005
"If you thought cow patties were just something to avoid stepping in, consider this: In the future they could help make plastics, antifreeze, cosmetics, and even deodorants."

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Peak Oil and Permaculture: David Holmgren on Energy Descent | Peak Oil and Permaculture: David Holmgren on Energy Descent | Energy and Peak Oil News:
by Adam Fenderson -- June 2004
Holmgren: One of the biggest limiting resources in agricultural productivity is phosphorous. It's critical to plant nutrition and animal health, and it's in limited supply. All ecosystems work to maximize to hold phosphorous and recycle it. It's one of the non-renewable mineral resources that humans have dug out of the earth at a few key places around the world in the last hundred years with the aid of fossil fuels and have spread over large areas of agricultural land. Interestingly enough, it's one of the few elements that doesn't get leeched away readily. It's been estimated that in some parts of Australia's farmland that's been intensively farmed for potatoes in a cool climate, that there's enough phosphorous tied up in the soil, locked up, for a hundred years of farming�if you could actually make it available.

Now making it available requires the work of a healthy eco-system. Because nature is used to actually breaking apart this locked up phosphorous in the form of aluminium and iron phosphate. So permaculture systems--especially tree systems, as well as forms of organic agriculture that husband the soil micro-organisms can mine back out some of that resource. That's one of the positive stories agriculture hasn't just left a legacy of toxicity and degradation, it's left a legacy of unused abundance. It's been technically difficult to get at, so it's not just like people have pointlessly thrown away fertilizers: it requires more sophisticated soil ecosystems.

Vegetable Farming with Less Energy | Maverick methods work just fine for both produce and the planet | Energy and Peak Oil News:
by Mia Stainsby -- Aug 24, 2005
"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.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Manure Converted to a Variety of Products

Manure Converted to a Variety of Products: -- July 18, 2001
If you thought cow patties were just something to avoid stepping in, consider this: In the future they could help make plastics, antifreeze, cosmetics, and even deodorants.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Costs Push Oklahoma Farmers Away From Corn

KOTV - The News on 6 - Costs Push Oklahoma Farmers Away From Corn:
AP -- Aug 9, 2005
GUYMON, Okla. (AP) _ Many corn farmers in Oklahoma's Panhandle say the high cost of natural gas is causing them to shy away from growing corn.

They say the high natural gas prices make watering the crop too costly. Texas County farmers use the fuel to power engines that tap the Ogallala Aquifer, which is used to water crops.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Can This Fruit Be Saved?

This fascinating article tells the story of the bannana and how researchers are racing to develop new varieties before disease wipes out cultivated production.
Can This Fruit Be Saved? - Popular Science:
By Dan Koeppel | August 2005
The banana as we know it is on a crash course toward extinction. For scientists, the battle to resuscitate the world's favorite fruit has begun -- a race against time that just may be too late to win.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Economists Study Implications Of High Diesel Prices on Farming

Economists Study Implications Of High Diesel Prices on Farming 5/23/05:
Kansas State University -- May 23, 2005
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Historically high diesel prices have producers thinking no-till farming looks better every day, but two Kansas State University agricultural economists studied the diesel price outlook and possible long-term impact on machinery and whole-farm costs.
Based on data supplied by Kansas Farm Management Association members, those members can expect their total fuel costs, excluding irrigation, in 2005 to increase by more than $3,000 compared to what they paid in 2004, said K-State Research and Extension farm management specialist Kevin Dhuyvetter.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Essential Steps to a Sustainable Agriculture

This article includes eight solid principles farmers can use to increase long term productivity. They are the guiding principles of the Kerr Center in Oklahoma.
Kerr Center: Essential Steps to a Sustainable Agriculture:
What is a sustainable agriculture? And once you know what it is, how do you practice it?
These are the questions my staff and I first addressed in the mid-80s. There are dozens of definitions of a sustainable agriculture. But I'll go with a simple one: A sustainable agriculture is a system of agriculture that will last. It is an agriculture that maintains its productivity over the long run...

Reducing Fossil Fuel use through Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture practices can help make agriculture a major net contributor to the energy equation. This article gives some sensible steps toward this goal.
The Health of Our Air: Toward sustainable agriculture in Canada | Reducing fossil fuel use:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada -- Aug 27, 2003
Farms rely on energy from fossil fuels to power machinery, heat buildings, dry harvested crops, and transport goods. Energy is also used to supply materials employed on the farm, such as fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, and buildings. Most of these emissions are not attributed to agriculture in the national inventory of greenhouse gases. Even so, using less fuel on farms would reduce Canada's total CO2 emissions.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Herbicide Resistant Pigweed Found in Georgia

NCGA - News of the Day:
August, 2005
...Dr. Stanley Culpepper of the University of Georgia, who is investigating the pigweed case with Monsanto, collected seed from a field in 2004 and tested the seed in three greenhouse studies this spring. The results revealed poor performance of Roundup herbicide applied at normal label rates. Monsanto and Culpepper are now conducting heritability studies to confirm resistance...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Students flock to campus organic farms - Students flock to campus organic farms: -- July 22, 2005
Corvallis, OR -- ...In the last decade or so, student-run farms have cropped up across the country, at almost 60 schools in 27 states. Foodies call it the latest sign of the seasonal, regional food movement's influence, even on a collegiate landscape that's virtually paved with Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts and leftover pizza...

GM crops created superweed, say scientists

This news is very serious for two reasons. First, scientists promoting genetically modified crops were sure it couldn't happen. "Jurassic Park" had it right -- "life will find a way." What else might happen despite assurances? Secondly, these superweeds will cause tremendous damage if they multiply -- for conventional and organic growers. This story details instances in Canada and elswhere where superweeds are a real problem. In some of these instances, it's not even genetic modification causing the problem -- it's just the selection pressure from repeatedly using powerful chemical pesticides.
Guardian Unlimited | GM crops created superweed, say scientists:
Paul Brown, environment correspondent -- The Guardian -- July 25, 2005
Modified rape crosses with wild plant to create tough pesticide-resistant strain
Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant 'superweed', the Guardian can reveal.
The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago.
The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

EM bokashi composting

Bokashi is a mixture of effective microorganisms in a substrate of bran. This article describes how to make it and layer it with household garbage to quickly make a superb compost.
EM bokashi composting:
by Brian Smallshaw -- -- Feb 25, 2004
I'll give you a brief overview of how we use EM bokashi in composting, together with a few photos.
We have been using bokashi to treat our kitchen compost for about six or seven years, beginning soon after we cleared a spot for our garden here on Saltspring after moving from Tokyo. I won't go into the details of preparing bokashi, except to say that we mix up 100lb batches every summer, or every other summer, and store the dried mixture in a couple of large plastic barrels. We then keep a smaller bucket of bokashi in the kitchen handy for daily use.

Effective Microorganisms for Organic Farming, Gardening

Soil high in organic matter will naturally have a better level of beneficial microorganisms, but this article tells of a method to introduce an ideal population of photosynthetic, nitrogen fixing, and other microorganisms that maximize crop yields by maximizing the ability of crops to use available nutrients.
Dr. Teruo Higa and Dr. James F. Parr -- 1994
EM is not a substitute for other management practices. It is, however, an added dimension for optimizing our best soil and crop management practices such as crop rotations, use of organic amendments, conservation tillage, crop residue recycling, and biocontrol of pests. If used properly, EM can significantly
enhance the beneficial effects of these practices (Higa and Wididana, 1991b). Throughout the discussion which follows, we will use the term 'beneficial microorganisms' In a general way to designate a large group of often unknown or ill-defined microorganisms that interact favorably in soils and with plants to render beneficial effects which are sometimes difficult to predict. We use the term 'effective microorganisms' or EM to denote specific mixed cultures of known, beneficial microorganisms that are being used effectively as microbial

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Effective Microorganisms for Composting

Microbes touted for composting:
by TIM HIGGINS of the Tribune's staff -- Aug 12, 2000
Japanese professor sees boon for environment.
It might look like nothing but a pail of garbage.
Leigh Lockhart is co-owner of The Main Squeeze, the only restaurant in Columbia to recycle food waste with a new process that uses microbes.The restaurant's refuse is trucked to MU's South Farm, where the treatment helps the waste decay faster and without odor...

The creator of the process, Japanese professor Teruo Higa, is in Columbia speaking at MU this weekend. Higa kicked off the series of seminars, sponsored by Sustainable Community Development, yesterday morning by talking to a group of roughly 25 scientists, farmers and environmentalists from around the state and country about his process of composting and neutralizing food waste, trash and feces...

Higa touts the treatment, which he calls EM - Effective Microbial - as a cure-all for environments damaged by pollutants. He said the treatment can be used in lakes, rivers and fields. 'It begins to clean up the sludge and other pollutants,' he said through an interpreter...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eating a Truly Local Diet for a Year

Living on the Hundred-Mile Diet:
by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon -- -- June 28, 2005
In a jam? Eating a truly local diet for a year poses some tricky questions. First in a series.
It's strawberry season. James and I are at the Ellis Farms u-pick on Delta's Westham Island, crouching between long rows of the bunchy green plants, plucking the big berries and dropping them gently into small buckets. We imagine their future with cream and in pies. I lick the sweet red juice from my fingers. 'If I make jam we can have strawberries all year,' I say. James asks with what, exactly, I plan to make the jam? Sugar? One of the planet's most exploitative products, shipped in from thousands of kilometres away?
'But what,' I reply, 'will we eat all winter?'
This may seem like a peculiar question in an age when it's normal to have Caribbean mangoes in winter and Australian pears in spring. However, on March 21, the first day of spring, we took a vow to live with the rhythms of the land as our ancestors did. For one year we would only buy food and drink for home consumption that was produced within 100 miles of our home, a circle that takes in all the fertile Fraser Valley, the southern Gulf Islands and some of Vancouver Island, and the ocean between these zones. This terrain well served the European settlers of a hundred years ago, and the First Nations population for thousands of years before...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Anti-Ethanol Study Roasted

Colorado experts doubt authors' methods :
By Gargi Chakrabarty -- Rocky Mountain News -- July 19, 2005
Colorado experts on Monday debunked a new study that says alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel burn more energy than they produce.
The study, by researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley, said 29 percent more fossil energy, such as oil or natural gas, is required to turn corn into ethanol than the amount of energy the process produces.

The study also said it takes 27 percent more energy to turn soybeans into biodiesel fuel and more than double the energy produced is needed to do the same with sunflower plants.
'Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, the economy or the environment,' said the study by Cornell's David Pimentel and Berkeley's Tad Patzek. They conclude the country would be better off investing in solar, wind and hydrogen energy.
Those results raise important issues for Colorado, where investors are pumping millions of dollars into two new ethanol plants in Weld County and a new biodiesel refinery in Monte Vista...

Pimentel and Patzek included in the study such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, costs that were not used in other studies that supported ethanol production.
The study also omitted $3 billion in state and federal government subsidies that go toward ethanol production in the United States each year, payments that mask the true costs,"

Organic Crops Produce Same Yield with Less Inputs says Cornell Study

Organic farming success:
by Susan S. Lang -- Cornell Press Release -- July 13, 2005
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes. David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, concludes, 'Organic farming offers real advantages for such crops as corn and soybeans.' Pimentel is the lead author of a study that is published in the July issue of Bioscience (Vol. 55:7) analyzing the environmental, energy and economic costs and benefits of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. The study is a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, the longest running comparison of organic vs. conventional farming in the United States.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Training programs booming for organic professionals in India

Organic farming's latest buzz for GenX:
by PRABHA JAGANNATHAN -- The Economic Times -- July 12, 2005

NEW DELHI: The genNext Indian farmer is busy reinventing the Jai Kisan tag. And the makeover is focusing on organic farming and farm produce, which spin money as well as environmental feel-good in developed countries. New professional courses in organic farming are drawing agri-professionals by droves who, in turn, are being snapped up by national and international agencies.

Cashing in on the new trend and its hunger for trained professionals, specialised study courses have begun grabbing eyeballs in the sector compared to conventional courses available in agricultural universities. Mainstream farm colleges have, in fact, now begun structuring new courses so that India can carve out a presence in world trade.

Globally, trendy sectors like organic farming now face a major constraint of trained professionals. But introduction of agriculture education here coincided with the development of chemicals. Therefore a de-learning process is required before the induction of agricultural professionals in a market crying out to be tapped, a farm specialist points out.

Stricter Standards Could Slow Growth of Organic Farming

Bismarck Tribune Online - Bismarck, ND:
by Frederic Frommer, Associated Press writer -- June 27, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Some farmers are worried that a federal court ruling requiring the Agriculture Department to come up with stricter standards for organic food will slow the fast-growing industry.

But consumers advocates are cheering the decision, saying it will ensure people get higher-quality food when they purchase products with the organic label.

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court in Maine finalized a court ruling that bans dozens of synthetic ingredients that the USDA had allowed in products labeled organic. Of particular interest in the upper Midwest, the court also ruled that dairy farmers must give their herds 100 percent organic feed for a full year before being certified organic. They had been able to get by with 80 percent organic feed.

The ruling came after a Maine organic blueberry farmer, Arthur
Harvey, sued the USDA, arguing the current regulations violate the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

Town dedicates 1,000 acres for organic farming

Town dedicates 1,000 acres for organic farming:
Associated Press -- 2005

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. -- The town of Rockingham and the Bellows Falls Power Company are dedicating one-thousand acres of land to organic farming.

The land is along the Connecticut River, north of the Bellows Falls hydro dam. Eight hundred acres are across the river in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Another parcel of land is in the Upper Meadows, near one of the first settlements in Rockingham.

University Research Center Would Apply High Tech to Organic Farming - Va. Tech may host organic farming center:
by Andrew Kantor -- The Roanoke Times -- June 30, 2005

Almost $1 million in federal dollars are slated to come to a Virginia Tech organic-farming program, through the efforts of some local organizations.

The money, if approved by Congress, will fund a Biodesign and Processing Research Center that will research organic solutions to things like fertilizers and pesticides, as well as act as an extension to help farmers take advantage of the new technologies...

'What we started to see was a growing demand in
the organic food market,' Melnick said. 'You've got a marketplace that is moving away from a cottage industry. The demand has taken off. ... You walk into Kroger these days ... and they've got a big section devoted to organic produce.'

The problem for farmers is keeping up with demand. Low supply has meant higher prices. Jerry Cain, owner of the Rabbit Patch Cafe in downtown Roanoke, said he has pretty much stopped buying organic food for his restaurant.

'Overall,' he said, 'it was just too expensive.'
Increasing organic production means turning, counterintuitively, to technology. Organic doesn't mean low tech, Zeigler said. 'The development of bio-based fertilizers, bioremediation of poultry waste - now you're talking technology. Now you're talking chemistry, life sciences.'

Monday, June 27, 2005

Plant Derived Plastics Becoming Competitive with Oil

LA Times reports on surge in plant based plastic production. As processing becomes more efficient, products such as take-out boxes are now cheaper than regular plastic, as petroleum prices continue to soar.

To Replace Oil, U.S. Experts See Amber Waves of Plastic - Yahoo! News.
by Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer -- June 26, 2005:

"With oil prices near $60 a barrel, goods made from grain also compare favorably on price. So chemists and engineers are racing to figure out how to substitute Iowa's bounty for Iraq's. The goal: to use crops, weeds and even animal waste in place of the petroleum that fuels much of American manufacturing. The Energy Department is so enthusiastic that it is aiming to convert 25% of chemical manufacturing to an agricultural base by 2030....

When Cargill launched its factory in 2002, its pellets were far more expensive than equivalent material made from oil. Wild Oats Markets, an early customer, paid 50% more for takeout containers made from the bio-plastic. But over the last two years, the Cargill plant has gotten more efficient — and oil prices have soared. The result: The "corn-tainers" in the deli now cost Wild Oats 5% less than traditional plastic, Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Local Harvest -- Best Organic Food Directory

Local Harvest is the best web site I've found for locating nearby farmer's markets, organic restaurants and stores, and especially farmers ready to sell all kinds of organic or naturally grown produce, meats and other goodies. The interface starts with a map of the US where one can click on an area and continue to zoom in or out. Different kinds of outlets are indicated by color coded dots. This site has far more farmers listed than any other site I've seen. Buying local is an awesome way to eat well and save the fuel required for transportation from afar. As oil prices remain high, this should make local produce more desirable. I encourage all organic farmers to get a free listing on the site. Here's the opening from the site:

The freshest, healthiest, most flavorful organic food is what's grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. Just click on the map below to zoom in, or use our search form for quick results. If you are a farmer, market manager, or run a business related to locally-grown food, you can add your listing to our directory - free.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Stevia, The Amazing Sweet Leaf

Trying to cut down on sugar and calories? Trying to avoid aspartame and other chemical sweeteners? Stevia may be the answer. Stevia rebaudiana is an inconspicuous perennial plant native to subtropical regions of South America. An extract of the sweet component called glycosides is over 200 times sweeter than sugar, but it's OK for diabetics and hypoglycemics as it does not cause swings in blood sugar. It's also virtually calorie free. The intensity of sweetness means you use very little and recipes need to be altered because it doesn't provide the bulk that sugar does. That's why I wrote Stevia Sweet Recipes. Check out some free recipes from the book. You can try your own recipe modifications as well.

If you're a gardener try growing stevia. You can make your own green stevia powder from dried leaves. It's around 10-15 times sweet than sugar, but does have a different taste that takes some getting used to. We like it just fine in many recipes. It's especially good in tea or other drinks. I'm trying stevia plants from several companies this year. I just planted them out two days ago and I am looking forward to finding out which ones taste best and grow best. I'll keep you informed. I'm also continuing research on stevia seed production that I started in college at Northwest Missouri State University with a research project.