Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Growing Green Awards & New Sustainable Food Blogs

NRDC’s 2010 Growing Green Awards winners Russ Lester of Dixon Ridge Farms and Karl Kupers of Shepherd’s Grain have new blogs highlighting how sustainable food production is not only healthier for our bodies and the environment, but it’s also good business.

Lester was awarded $10,000 for his leading energy efficiency techniques—converting waste walnut shells into energy—and organic walnut growing methods. Kupers won for his inventive pricing model that rewards sustainable wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest.

Last week NRDC announced the winners of the 2010 Growing Green Awards, which honor innovative farmers and food producers who are saving energy, curbing pollution, reducing water and chemical inputs and building stronger markets for sustainable food. See the stories and videos of all the winners here. Read the press release.

Read the complete blogs:

Russ Lester

Karl Kupers

From Conventional Walnut Farming to Growing (and Processing) Green
By Russ Lester

I was born and raised in the Valley of the Hearts Delight, or as most people now refer to it: the Silicon Valley. My dad, grandfather and many before them were all farmers, and I grew up working in their prune orchards. The prunes were conventionally grown, so that meant applying fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. It wasn't until my chemistry and botany classes in college, though, that I started realizing the potential effects of all these chemicals…It was a tragic wake-up call that helped me decide to take the leap and transition our farm to organic.

In the late 80s, doctors discovered that my dad had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Around the same time, we learned of a study linking this type of lymphoma to herbicides used in farming. Although research couldn't directly link my dad's cancer to the chemicals used in his prune orchards, watching his disease progress made me reconsider even the few pesticides that we still used.

My wife and I decided, for our young family's health, to take the next step. My father's death in 1989 marked the end of our use of conventional chemicals.

Shepherd’s Grain: Reconnecting Producers and Consumers through a New Food System
By Karl Kupers

Shepherd's Grain started with two traditional Pacific Northwest wheat growers. We raised commodity wheat and sold it by the bushel to the commodity market, where it was mixed with anonymous wheat from all over the U.S. and exported to countries along the Asian rim.

Back then, the market didn't reward growers for quality or good stewardship. We grew wheat at the lowest cost possible. We handed it over to the market, and couldn't track how the wheat was processed or where it ended up.

Gradually, research showed that diversified production and no-tillage growing were better for the health of the land. Bold farmers in the Pacific Northwest started taking up environmentally sound practices. These farmers were making a commitment of heart and mind, facing the economic risks that came with switching to no-till, direct seed production. They had to "burn the plow" and there was no going back.

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