Posts filed under ‘Global Issues’

Woofing: A Way to Travel and Farm

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© Slide show by Margarida Correia.

This is the last in a series of posts on my 10-day experience as a volunteer farmer in northern Portugal.

Relax, don’t worry, Filipe Antunes, co-owner of Cimo de Vila Farm, tried to assure me.  My job would be easy.

I wasn’t at all convinced.  The job at hand scared me to death.  I — with my mighty 105-pound, five-foot-one frame —was to block the farm’s long-horned, 1,000-pound cows from going the wrong way.  If they suddenly decided to go down the forbidden dirt road where I was standing, I was to do two things:  flail my arms and yell at the mischievous cows.

Fortunately, the cows seemed to know the routine.  They gathered at the corner of the pasture where they had munched all day on crunchy greens.  One by one — Bonita, Rosa, Mila, Tangerina, Princesa (all 15 had names) — exited through the wide gate and proceeded to a verdant new mountainside.  They bobbed their heads and acknowledged me as they walked by.  The menacing-looking creatures, I began to realize, were docile and chivalrous, just like Shrek. (more…)


July 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

Peanut Planting in the Bronx

Drew Gardens in the Bronx

©Photo by Margarida Correia (caption at bottom of post)

A clutch of enthusiastic gardeners — trowels and soil scrapers in hand — readied for the special planting that was about to take place at Drew Gardens in the West Farms neighborhood of the Bronx.  One by one, they squatted by the side of a just-tilled garden bed and began to tuck peanuts into the ground.

Angel Valeri Nogue beamed.  The peanuts, she blurted with pride, were “brought here to New York” from her grandmother’s plantation in West Cameroon.

“I used to stay on my grandmother’s plantation in the springtime for six months to help,” said Nogue, a refugee with the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit organization that helps resettle refugees, asylees and victims of human trafficking.

Nogue’s face brightened as she recalled childhood memories of her grandmother’s plantation, a refuge from the stresses of city life in Cameroon.  Now Drew Gardens is her refuge. (more…)

July 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

A Calf Among the Cows: Profile of Organic Farm in Portugal

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© Slide show by Margarida Correia.

This is one in a series of posts on my 10-day experience as a volunteer farmer in northern Portugal.

Rosa had finished drinking from the giant tub when Mila and Tangerina approached to get their fill of water.  They should have known better.  Rosa swung her big horns to chase the younger cows away. 

“She’s asserting her status in the hierarchy of the cows,” said Filipe Antunes, co-owner of Cimo de Vila, a 30-acre organic farm in northern Portugal. Rosa, a nine-year-old cow, was one of the oldest and biggest in the herd of 15.

Queuing up for water were the herd’s lowest-ranking members:  tan-colored calves with small developing horns.  They would be last on the water line.

As I watched, I couldn’t help drawing an analogy between the cows and Portugal’s agriculture system. I compared Rosa, Mila and Tangerina to the big food growers — mostly outside Portugal — supplying the country’s hypermarkets and supermarket chains.  These super-sized food producers and distributors are making it hard for agriculture’s calves — small organic farms like Cimo de Vila — to compete. 

But the calves shouldn’t despair.  They can’t be bossed around forever.  (more…)

June 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

Portugal Update: Rhythm of Farm Felt Miles Away

Cow in northern Portugal

© Photo by Margarida Correia. See caption at bottom of post.

This is one in a series of posts on my visit to Portugal and 10-day volunteer work experience at Cimo de Vila, a 30-acre organic farm in northern Portugal. (more…)

June 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

Portugal Farming Update

Flower of pomegranate tree in northern Portugal (photo by Margarida Correia)

Grapes in northern Portugal (photo by Margarida Correia)

This is the first in a series of posts on my visit to Portugal.  Life on the two-acre patch of land in northern Portugal where my parents have their home breaks torrent of awful farming news around the world. (more…)

June 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

From City Dweller to WWOOFER

Cows of Northern Portugal

Long-horned cows in a meadow near Cimo de Vila (Top of the Town) Farm in Northern Portugal.

For the past three years, I’ve watched from the sidelines as New York City’s community gardens and urban farms took off.  I’ve listened to city gardeners and tagged along vicariously as countless 20- and 30-something-year-olds with dreams of building a better agriculture system became farm apprentices or opened small farms.

Were these new agrarians nuts?  A bit naïve? 

If anything, they were passionate. One young woman described wanting to throw herself over the “bleeding body” of modern farming —a system she lamented erodes the soil and wrecks the earth.

Now I too am ready to learn first-hand what it’s like to farm sustainably.  I’ve signed up for a 10-day working assignment on an organic farm in Northern Portugal through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a network of organizations that links volunteers with organic farmers.  I think of the organization as the Peace Corps of sustainable agriculture.  Volunteers — referred to as “wwoofers” (pronounced woofers) — help farmers with everyday farming chores in exchange for room and board.  The goal is to build a global community of organic farming devotees. (more…)

May 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm 1 comment

Where Food Really Comes From

Herb Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

©Photo by Margarida Correia. See caption at bottom of article.

Where does your food come from?  For a really good answer, get yourself to the Brooklyn Botanic’s Herb Garden.

The new garden traces the origin of many of the world’s food crops.

The potatoes we pick up at the supermarket or the farmers market?  They began their journey a much longer time ago than we ever would have imagined, in places we never would have guessed.  The humble tuber started in — no, not Europe — but in South America 10,000 years ago in Peru.

What about tomatoes?  If you guessed Italy, you’re wrong.  They also originated in South America.

Hot peppers? No, not Thailand.  They’re South American too.   (more…)

April 29, 2011 at 1:44 am Leave a comment

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