Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Halibut Is...

...that millions of kilograms of halibut are being caught by the big boats while they're trying to catch other species. A problem called “bycatch”.
Pacific halibut from Cook's Inlet, Alaska.
Photo by Jlikes2Fish via Wikipedia

The problem on the west coast of North America is primarily in Alaska, where the rules state that all fish, bycatch or not, must be identified, measured, and sexed by below-deck observers. The process can take up to two hours, and even though part of that time is spent in fish tanks with some water, when they are finally returned to the ocean, most halibut don't make it alive.
Other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, allow the fish to be sorted on deck, making for a quicker return of bycatch into the water. A practice that significantly lowers the mortality rate.
The head of Seattle's Groundfish Forum, Chris Woodley (representing five companies operating 14 factory fishing vessels in Alaskan waters), has said that trawlers have cut down bycatch, making flatfish only about 0.5 percent of current catch levels of flatfish.
This brings up the question “If 0.5 percent of the flatfish caught in the Bering Sea is millions of kilos, then how much is being caught overall?” It's no wonder that modern fisheries are unsustainable and our oceans are collapsing into nothing but jellyfish, krill, and plastics. Halibut, for example, can grow larger than 2.4 metres (~7 feet long) and weigh over 225 kilos (about 500 pounds). But they cannot grow that big overnight. Fish of that size are survivors, maximum breeders, and targeted by us. Fish that big don't get taken by canoes, dories, or small boats, leaving them plenty of opportunity to re-stock any volumes humans take. But the advent of trawlers and big factory ships meant that these big fish became prime targets.
Overfishing of all species has lead to a quota system, where boats are only allowed a set amount of a specific fish over a limited time. But by allowing the factory ships and their massive nets into productive waters has meant that while the ships might be limited in their catch size of a target fish, bycatch numbers have stayed very high. And this is a worldwide problem.
Current quota-based jurisdictions on the West Coast, other than Alaska, have also instituted a bycatch quota, meaning that vessels must stop fishing when they hit their bycatch limit. I won't say that this is best practice, but it is better than the unlimited bycatch allowed in Alaska.

This piece references Keven Drews' Canadian Press article printed in the Times-Colonist of 20 January, 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Professor Elliot, Horsemeat, and the High Cost of Cheap

"Paardenrookvlees" by Takeaway - Own work.
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Well, after many delays, concerns, and political panic attacks, the Elliot report (pdf), (precisely, the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks) has finally been released in the UK. Professor Elliot, a food safety academic from Queen's University in Belfast, chaired the committee, and the final report bears his name. Like the IPCC climate report, the final version has been subject to intense political negotiation by the affected parties before the report's release, which makes, like the IPCC report, the observations and recommendations pretty amazing. Professor Elliot, in the opening paragraphs of the report says:
I published my interim report in December 2013 which set out what should be done to address weaknesses in the system.Stakeholders welcomed the interim report and the opportunity to provide further feedback before I published this final report.I have since completed a further round of meetings and evidence gathering. Stakeholders felt that the final report should provide additional background about the recommendations and their implementation. Feedback has further shaped my recommendations and this, my final report, sets out the issues and the best way to tackle them in more detail.
 Had Professor Elliot been able to be a bit more frank, the passage might read "My preliminary report freaked out the government and food industry so much that they threatened me, my crew, and my university until I was forced to use much less dangerous political language--particularly that I should make it clear that it wasn't business' fault." You know, just like the IPCC.
The most media-friendly takeaway from the report seems to be that organized crime has a pretty big share of the UK food supply, and that it doesn't play by the rules. Which, to be fair, is pretty interesting. But the report also makes the point that the only way organized crime got a foothold in the food system is through 1) the complexity of the food supply chain, and 2) the concentration on price as the only significant driver on the food supply.
The report points out the difficulty of knowing how bad food fraud and food crime are in the UK:
[M]ore information about the extent of food crime was sought. The review contacted food businesses through trade associations and also territorial police forces. [...] Whilst it may appear from this feedback that food crime is not widespread in the UK, it is more likely that this confirms that evidence of food crime is not currently sought at the required level or with the necessary expertise. [....]
A total of 18 police forces responded to the request for information, 12 of which recorded no such cases [of food crime]. Several police forces highlighted a problem with extracting data on cases involving food crime as there is not currently a Home Office Crime Code for food contamination meaning it is not possible to search crime recording systems for food fraud. Food fraud may be costing UK food businesses a substantial amount of money and risks causing significant reputational damage. Importantly, some of the examples uncovered pose food safety risks. However, due to factors such as a lack of intelligence-based detection, the scale of the problem remains unknown. [sections 1.16 and 1.17]
 Nobody wants to know how extensive food fraud/food crime is in the UK. Food inspections agencies have seen their budgets cut (as had the CFIA in Canada) to the point where they are really just barely functioning fronts that perform minimal actual work. Food inspections have been off-loaded onto the companies producing the food, which have incentives for not finding any problems with the products flowing through the factory. The idea that the food industry needs impartial non-corporate oversight seems to have fallen out of favour with everyone except the public.
But the report also points out that:
Consumers have been accustomed to variety and access at low cost, and at marginal profit to suppliers. These factors have increased opportunities for food crime. [section 1.9]
 How do corporations maximize profit when they have trained consumers to concentrate on price over everything else? This is the Walmart principle of putting pressure on suppliers to lower costs to, quite frankly, levels that are impossible for manufacturers to survive on. They, in turn put pressure on their suppliers and workers to lower costs, or offshore to lower cost regimes. This system is detailed at length Ellen Ruppel Shell's book  Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

In terms of the food system, this manifests in adulteration of ingredients

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Things We Miss

Like the amazing amount of labour that goes into producing and distributing food so that we might eat.

I am so tired of royal purple heads of lettuce, tie-dye heirloom tomatoes, luscious ears of corn and speckled kabocha squash. Fan-like collard greens plague me and I do not want to discuss melon season. Every week during CSA season I haul 4,000 pounds of produce with my bare arms, and I’m seriously over it.

This is what life is like for a fruit and vegetable delivery girl in New York City.
I’m a small but very legitimate part of the invisible logistical web of our food system. I work for Katchkie Farm, an organic farm in the Hudson Valley with over 600 workplace Community Supported Agriculture members. These aren’t your average workplace CSA members, either. I deliver produce to the folks who more or less run the world at companies including WNYC, employees from the New York City government, NBC (I deliver to 30 Rock!), and a sprinkling of gigantic companies at the Empire State Building. In this way, I guess I play a small part in running the world, too.
Do check out the rest of the article, and the site as well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Guest-Post Relationship

I doubt that anyone will get the reference to Laurie Anderson in the title, but I couldn't resist.
Back on December 20th, Valerie Leithoff wrote an op-ed piece in the Victoria Times-Colonist titled No Need to Fear Genetically Modified Crops. As usual, it puts forward the argument that GM crops are safe (the same conclusion reached by Nathanael Johnson at, and takes up the company line that only GM crops will save us in the uncertain future.
Local author and former organic farmer Paula Johanson  begs to differ in her response. She's also let me post that response here.

Paula Johanson
By permission of the author

In response to Valerie Leithoff’s commentary (“No need to fear genetically modified crops,” Dec. 20), it is more correct to say Canada is going to need thorough testing of genetically modified organisms in the future.
The typical public response to GMOs can only be characterized as “generally strong, negative, passionate and extreme” when people become aware of unlabelled, incompletely tested GMOs in the food industry.
Leithoff is accurate when she admits people “distrust or fear the unnatural essence of GMOs, and transferring genes from unrelated species is comprehended as a Frankenstein-type experiment” and “when people don’t understand things, there is a natural tendency to fear them.” It is not things I don’t understand that cause me to distrust GMOs: it is things I do understand that cause me to call for more thorough testing and for labels on any resulting food products.
I write on science and health for educational publishers. For 15 years as a market gardener, I sold produce at farmers’ markets. As well, for eight years, I wrote columns for a newspaper in a farming community. I have studied considerably to find out what the scientific community is actually saying about GMOs. There is no need to fear genetically modified crops simply because they exist, but there are plenty of reasons for distrusting the motivations of chemical engineering companies that produce GMOs and market products such as terminator seeds.
It’s not only GMOs that need to be more thoroughly tested, but the results of how GMO crops are grown in field conditions. Leithoff states: “Farmers growing GMO crops that contain biological insecticide have greatly reduced their use of highly poisonous chemical insecticides, cutting their costs and harmful effects.”
Rather than using fewer chemicals because of growing GMO crops containing biological insecticide, factory farms commonly grow GMO crops such as Monsanto’s own Roundup Ready canola that survive being sprayed with glyphosate (sold by Monsanto as Roundup) not only after planting, but close to harvest. The result is the presence in the food-processing industry of wheat, canola and corn that contain residues of pesticides. New studies are being done to measure the effects of pesticide residues in GMOs on animal and human health.
New and long-term studies are needed, because the papers Leithoff mentions as showing no evidence of dangers were for short-term testing in which laboratory animals were fed GMOs for 12 to 20 weeks. Some of these tests have been discredited after independent analysis. New studies are being done in which animals fed GMOs with pesticide residues show sharply increasing health effects after six months to a year.
Leithoff mentions the future of climate change, saying “the use of GMOs will allow us to adapt to the sudden, unpredictable changes [in climates], since new varieties can be created quicky.” She states: “Conventional crop breeding can take up to 15 years to establish a new crop variation, but with genetic engineering we can establish a new GMO variation in less than six months.”
Though our farmers will need to adapt to the reality of climate change, Leithoff is in error: New GMO varieties cannot be produced and come to market in six months or less. Wilhelm Peekhaus, in his book Resistance is Fertile: Canadian Struggles on the BioCommons, says:
“While traditionally bred varieties typically come in under US$1 million, Monsanto has stated that a genetically engineered variety requires at least 10 years to develop at a cost of between $100 million and $150 million.
“By comparison, conventional breeders, assuming they had access to sufficient research and development funds, could introduce between 100 and 150 new varieties in less time.
“Despite claims advanced by the biotechnology industry, intrinsic yield increases, as well as disease resistance, grain size, maturation period, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses, are attributable largely to the robustness of the traditionally bred germ plasm rather than to the one or more genetically engineered traits inserted into the seed.”
Many B.C. scientists are speaking about GMOs. Marine biologist Alexandra Morton has written about GMO salmon. Herb Barbolet works in food security and sustainable community development at Simon Fraser University. The University of British Columbia’s faculty of land and food systems conducts careful studies on some GMOs.
While it is refreshing to read an opinion from a local undergraduate student of geography, it would be better to read an informed opinion from a working scientist in an appropriate discipline.
Paula Johanson of Saanich is a University of Victoria graduate student, and the author of several books on food and sustainability.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Will the Soil Save Us?

The model projected changes (above) in
global soil carbon as a result of root-soil interactions,
with blue indicating a greater loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere.
Courtesy: Benjamin Sulman, Princeton Environmental Institute

Conventional projections of global carbon dioxide emissions suggest that enhanced plant growth may help to sequester more soil organic carbon (SOC)--particularly in our soils. Under this scenario, Canada comes out a winner in Global Climate Change (GCC), with the prairie provinces expected to grow a wider range of crops with a lengthened growing season.
But, as with every aspect of GCC, this may not be the case. The paper Microbe-driven turnover offsets mineral-mediated storage of soil carbon under elevated CO2 in Nature Climate Change suggests that this is only partly true. Morgan Kelly's piece for Reporting Climate Science says:
Researchers based at Princeton University report...that the carbon in soil — which contains twice the amount of carbon in all plants and Earth’s atmosphere combined — could become increasingly volatile as people add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, largely because of increased plant growth. The researchers developed the first computer model to show at a global scale the complex interaction between carbon, plants and soil, which includes numerous bacteria, fungi, minerals and carbon compounds that respond in complex ways to temperature, moisture and the carbon that plants contribute to soil.
The study in NCC suggests that SOC sequestration increases under rising atmospheric carbon--but only in stabilization of ‘new’ carbon in protected SOC pools which may equal or exceed microbial priming of ‘old’ SOC in ecosystems with readily decomposable litter and high clay content (emphasis mine). However, carbon losses induced through accelerated decomposition dominate the net SOC response in ecosystems with more resistant litters and lower clay content.
So, little from column A, little from column B. An undisturbed deciduous  forest with readily composting leaves and grasses might sequester more SOC than, say, a coniferous forest. And there's no guarantee that farmland will sequester more SOC.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Simple Bowl of Soup

One thing that the Al Jazeera news network gets right is their coverage of essential issues. CBC, here in Canada, used to do a lot of this, but under the current federal government, has been forced to cut back. Thankfully, there are still a few journalists trying to get a bigger story, and set it in context.
A 101 East investigation traces the food footprint of a bowl of wonton soup. Along the way, they expose the toxic stew this soup has become. A very nasty business.
But this isn't about "Oh, look how bad it is in China." China is emblematic of the problems we face when the footprint of what we eat isn't transparent, isn't regulated and monitored, and isn't confined to one country.

Video sourced from Al Jazeera

Monday, November 3, 2014

A History of Fraud

Over at Modern Farmer, they are reporting on a story from Britain about food fraud. In this case it's that
76 samples of “goat cheese” from eight locations all around the UK were tested, and nine were found to have significant amounts of sheep milk in them. Three of those were more than 80% sheep milk, and three others were more than 50% sheep milk.
After the horse-meat scandal,  you would think that food fraud would be reduced. Apparently that's not the case.
This is not a new problem, nor is it restricted to the UK or even Europe. Modern Farmer also hosts an excellent long-form essay on the history of food fraud by Shoshanna Walter. Also included is this lovely list of food scandals. So go read the articles.
  • 1 Swill Milk 
     According to an 1860 New York Times story, the date that “swill milk,” milk polluted by cows fed with distillery runoff, got introduced to the New York population was unknown. But the effect was terrible. Babies fed the milk made by malnourished cows often died, and the backlash prompted landmark food safety hearings.
  • 2 Leaded Wine  As Bee Wilson chronicles in her book, Swindled, wine is a term that contains multitudes: it can be infused with fruit or honey or lead. And until the 1800s, although the evils of ingesting lead were known, there was no real effort to stop pouring it into our wine glasses.

  • 3 The Seal of Bread 
    These days, one doesn’t hear much about poisonous bread, but securing standard ingredients and measurements for bread was a top priority in the Middle Ages, according to Bee Wilson. Bakers were held accountable by actually making a seal on their loaves, an early form of fraud detection, to prevent someone dumping coarse wheat into supposed refined products. The great Bread Scandal of 1757 involved alum being added and bread fraud persisted, by the the 19th century, people regularly stuffed birch bark and twigs into loaves.
  • 4 Not-So-Green-Tea 
    In an 1851 issue of British medical journal The Lancet, a shocking report was issued about a common beverage: green tea. In what became a scandal, it was found that green tea contained colorings and adulterants that included gunpowder. This scandal had been around for a while, as a counterfeit tea ring was prosecuted in 1818 for selling fake fancy varietals. With help from scientists, new methods were developed for testing the contents of tea.
  • 5 The Great Lozenge Scandal 
    The straw that broke the food regulatory back of Britain, according to Bee Wilson, was the Bradford sweets scandal of 1858. The candies were normally made with sugar and gum and some kind of cheap filler — usually plaster but, in this case, the candyman used arsenic. Over 200 people were poisoned — and 20 people died. In 1868, the government passed regulation to keep poisons like arsenic in the hands of chemists.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The End of Inequality
    Here in North America, we have a problem: although the majority of us will pay lip service to the concept of inequality, we live in a culture that is based on and celebrates inequality. And the biggest problem we face, global warming, really doesn't respect power, wealth, or privilege.
    The Americas were founded in genocide, built on slavery, and flowered by exporting the same form of colonialist activity around the world. Now, in late stage capitalism, the public good is trashed for corporate profit, financial speculation ensures hundreds of millions are left in near starvation, and corporate power has usurped the functioning of government of every stripe. The horror of it all is that we see this as normal, and not only haven't we strung up the offending parties, but instead, we do our best to emulate them. And, as Thomas Piketty has explicated in Capital, we have returned to an age when wealth is reserved for inheritors, not creators.
    While what is now called the developed world has seen massive benefits from the Age of Carbon, all the undeveloped world has seen is warfare, exploitation, and destruction. Now, our addiction to hydrocarbons has reached the point where we are willing to destroy what groundwater we have left in order to pursue the last scraps of “wealth” left under our feet. Or, specifically here in Canada, we allow the First Nations people to die from poverty, to slowly die from myriad cancers, and to face starvation in order that a very few can become obscenely rich, and a few thousand more can become wealthy by world average standards. Meanwhile, our “democratic” governments must pay fealty to the exploiter class while our public infrastructure is destroyed by rising temperatures while impoverished local governments are left to struggle with the aftermath.
    This all serves to maintain the illusion that the world around us in “normal.”  Yet while we carefully kept the benefits to ourselves, we have dumped the costs on the environment (those un-payed-for externalities that business cannot survive without), and we've carefully lied to the bill collector so that those in the undeveloped world are pursued for the outstanding debt while we seemingly get off Scot-free. Island nations around the world are drowning in slow motion, drought and desertification spread across the equatorial and sub-equatorial world, and yet we allow foreign firms and governments to purchase unimaginably large swaths of the undeveloped world to produce food for export back to the developed world. We acquired the debt, but leave others to pay for it.
    Ultimately, of course, the Great Mother doesn't give a rat's ass about our petty games. We don't figure this all out, she'll shake us off like so many dead skin cells, and give the planet back to the trees. We need to adopt the first tenet of the Hippocratic Oath (first, do no harm) as our guiding principle, or we can plan on seeing our children, our parents, ourselves, die slowly and horribly, crying out to an uncaring universe for succour. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Living on an Acre

Living On An Acre 2nd edition: A Practical Guide to the Self-Reliant Life
U.S. Department of Agriculture Fully edited and updated by Christine Woodside
Lyons Press, © 2010
Guilford, Connecticut
ISBN: 978-1-59921-885-4

Originally published as Living on a Few Acres, and published in 1978, the original of this book was published to provide practical information and assistance to the back-to-the-land movement. This new edition is intended for the same audience although it focuses on smaller acreage. Living on an Acre walks a fine line between being encouraging and cautionary. It opens with a chapter titled “Pluses and Minuses” and the sub-section “Face the Realities” opens with a checklist:

  • Do you want to be a part-time farmer on a few acres and keep a full-time job in town?
  • Can you find a farm that suits your needs in a place where you are willing to live? 
  • How much will it cost? If more than your savings, can you obtain financing? 
  • Do you have the knowledge and skills needed to operate a small farm? 
  • What about financing the production process?
  • How and where will you sell your produce?
All are fair questions when contemplating moving out of the city. Particularly the “do you want to be a part-time farmer on a few acres and keep a full-time job in town?” question. With (in the US) 90 percent of farm income coming from off-farm sources, buying a farm (as opposed to a house in the country) is buying a second job that pays poorly if at all. Which is why we're seeing renewed interest in urban agriculture, as detailed in Farm and the City.
When I worked off-farm, back in the day, I frequently found myself driving 5000 kilometres (3100 miles)/month—which drove me crazy. But the income paid for school supplies, utilities, and (of course) the ever increasing price of gasoline and car repairs. The insanity of working to afford the transportation costs of working is what lead us to the joyous moment of getting rid of our car and joining the Victoria Car Share Co-op.
I've considered the question of low farm incomes and have long wondered why farms don't take more of the process into their own hands. Selling, as we did, our production directly to the public through farmer's markets and the connections we made there, allowed us to receive a far more reasonable return. There were problems; getting up at 5:00 am to drive an hour and a half to Vegreville to have our chickens and turkeys processed (it has to be done at a licensed and inspected facility in order to be able to sell to the public rather than home use). The butcher we liked being forced out of small animal butchering by the lack of return, meaning we had to haul lambs to a abattoir we didn't really like in order to keep selling them. But, we could set a fair price for free-range animals and keep more of the money in our hands. And we ate like kings. But the loss of small, local slaughter operations isn't mentioned in Living on an Acre.
One of the great things about this book is the practical information it contains. How much land is needed for pasturing a horse? What are the housing requirements for goats? Should you build your own house? These are questions addressed here by the various writers. The must-read chapter is Growing and Raising: How to do it. The topics covered are great—from growing fruit trees, to nursery operations, to raising small and large stock, and even vacation farms. Traditional and non-traditional ways to provide yourself with an income get a good overview/introduction. The only lack is in marketing instructions. The sections on raising rabbits and chickens would be good reading for anyone contemplating raising these animals in the city.
Overall, this is a book that provides an introduction to many of the problems and concerns with moving to a rural life. The chapter The big picture offers short (often too short) essays from people who have made the transition. But Living on an Acre does offer the information you need in order to answer the questions the book ask. At the end of it, you'll have a better idea whether rural life is for you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jennifer and the City

Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution
Jennifer Cockrall-King
Amherst, New York
ISBN: 978-1-61614-458-6
available as an e-book

I have to say that Canadians have produced a lot of really great books on food and food systems in the last decade or so. And Jennifer Cockrall-King has taken her place in the ranks of Canadian food writers.
The book opens with a (mercifully) brief overview of the modern food system that focuses on the varied challenges the industrial food system faces; from climate change to peak oil and peak water. JCK then gets into the meat of the book, a tour of urban agriculture in France, the UK, the US, Canada, and ending up with two tours of Cuba. Each section (broken down by city) opens with some history of the city, farm, or person being visited. From the perpetuation of urban agriculture through the history of Paris, to a brief and inspiring bio of Will Allen, JCK offers us something special about her visit.
In Paris, for example, she opens with an anecdote about seeing a police station, “an excellent example of 1970s Brutalist architecture, designed to intimidate and terrorize,” where someone had planted grapevines in the street-level window wells. She “burst out laughing at the juxtaposition of these vines struggling to soften the intentional harshness of this impersonal, aggression-inspired building. Neither the vines' efforts nor the efforts of the gardener who planted them were in vain. The vines were winning.”
Because the book is meant to be inspiring rather than depressing, these are the stories she tells; stories where “the vines [are] winning.” And it's nice, as a Canadian, to read of cities here as well. So many books concentrate on what's happening in the US—understandable, as the potential market there is ten times larger than here in Canada. But Canada is at the forefront of thinking about food and feeding people. From Graham Riches work on the birth of food banks and his prescience on how they would become part of the fabric of feeding people as the social safety net here is slowly hacked apart, to Fraser and Rimas' Empires of Food showing how agricultural production forms the basis of civilization and empire (and the inevitable collapse of both), to Lorraine Johnson's City Farmer: Adventures in Food Growing which offers up the polite Canadian way of urban agriculture (as opposed to Novella Carpenter's more guerilla approach in Oakland). So JCK's overview of the urban ag movement in Vancouver and Toronto is welcome.
Of course, she does refer to Vancouver as being on Canada's “Left Coast,” a stereotype we could probably do without. She does live in my old home town (Edmonton, Alberta), in a province where politics have been silenced by big oil money, and the only movement is on the right to make the province even more of an American colony. To anyone coming from a petro-state, British Columbia's politics would look crazy. But all it means is that politics still matters out here, people still care.
And they care about food. Vancouver's large Asian and Indian communities have invigorated both the flavour palette and the urban agriculture movement. The same has happened in Toronto, which is fitting as the cities are both the largest in Canada, and the most unaffordable. So there is more pressure to think about, and get involved in, urban agriculture.
After her developed-world tour, Jennifer Cockrall-King ends up in Cuba, the epicentre of post-peak thinking and a world leader in agro-ecological research. JCK's visits to Cuba supports much of what I said in an earlier post (Cuba, Si!). Cuba is not perfect, but they are the essential test-bed for a post-consumerist, post-oil world. In Cuba, rationing mixed with local free-market farmer's markets provide a limited but universally accessible food system.Interestingly, a system that worked well in the UK during and after the Second World War. Cuba also upends our traditional thinking about social status and pay; top-level farmers earn considerably more than “white collar” professionals. Here in Canada, of course, the easiest way for a farmer to become a millionaire is to start farming with two million dollars. You'll have a million soon enough.
Jennifer Cockrall-King's book is an excellent overview of the variety of approaches to urban agriculture in the developed world. From the unbroken (though badly damaged) historic production systems of Paris, to the allotment garden and the memory of the Victory Gardens of the Second World War in the UK, and the North American experiments, we see everything from guerilla gardeners to the entrepreneurs and SPIN (Small Plot Intensive) urban farming movement. Most are farming for love, more than expected farm for money, and all of them bring an element of hope to the people around them. And, slowly, all are helping restore the agricultural knowledge-base we're going to need in the not-so-distant future.