Category Archives: gardening

Cuban Special Period Part 1 of 4

The Cuban Special Period in Peacetime began in 1991 and lasted approximately ten years.  The special period consisted of a wartime economy-style austerity program during peacetime.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  This period consisted of dramatic changes in the food production of Cuba.  The dissolution of the former USSR coupled with the continued economic blockade of Cuba by the United States forced dramatic changes in the conventional farming techniques common to industrialized nations.  These changes forced Cuba to radically change food production techniques due to the drastic reduction of imports. These import reductions included: 53% in oil, 50% in wheat and other grains, <50% in other foodstuff, resulting in an overall 70% decrease in fertilizer, pesticide availability as well as a 50% decrease in fuel.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  Large-scale state farms were prohibitive in this environment.  This dramatic decrease in imports coupled with energy intensive agricultural practices led to a 30% reduction in caloric and protein intake compared to the 1980’s.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  Rolling blackouts were routine as well.  (Morgan, 2007)  Cubans were more prepared than one would expect.  Cubans are fortunate in that while the Cuban nation has only 2% of Central America’s population they have 11% of the scientist.  The Cuban scientists were in the process of looking at alternative agricultural practices prior to the special period.  (Morgan, 2007)  

The little known Cuban special period is an important, albeit forced, experiment in transition.  Cuba is the only nation to have successfully navigated the waters of peak oil.  Peak oil, in brief, is the idea that as developing nations harness the benefits of cheap oil, the supply will begin to be unable to maintain previous outputs.  Peak oil places the world in a position of oil scarcity.  The forced transformation of Cuba’s food system and the subsequent acceptance of agroecology may be viewed as proof that the green revolution of the 1960’s, while important, is not the capstone of agriculture.  In fact, Cuba has witnessed gains in organic production over and beyond what the green revolution witnessed.  Agroecological principles also combat the problems of the “Green Revolution” agricultural model.  These problems include risks to the environment, human health, environment, and decreased security for the poorest farmers.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)  The combination of farmers who held onto past knowledge and scientists researching sustainable technologies along with an aggressive educational program of nearly the entire nation have dramatically changed the agricultural environment of Cuba.  

Some of the agroecological principles are:  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)

-Optimization of local resources and promotion of within-farm synergisms through plant

-animal combinations

-Reliance on the ecological services of biodiversity in order to minimize the use of external inputs, whether organic or conventional

– Matching of cropping systems with existing soil and climatic potentials

-Conservation and use of crop and non-crop biodiversity within and around farms to  maximize utilization of biological and genetic resources

– Reliance on the knowledge and wisdom of locals and farmers as a key input

– Promotion of participatory methods in research and in the extension and implementation process

Furthermore, the principles of this transition may be beneficial to the majority of individuals.  Beyond wellness for the individual and the earth, agroecological principles “run counter to the vicious globalization promoted by neo-liberalism, and are more in favor of a socially just and solidarious, more human globalization, without dependency on transnational corporations and in favor of self-sufficiency.  Agroecology does not harm the environment, reduces the role of middlemen and intermediaries, develops the consciousness of farmers, and applies knowledge rather than crude technological recipes.  It is an ally of nature and considers the farmer as a cultural and not just production unit” according to Fernando Funes.  (Funes, Garcia, Bourque, Perez, & Rosset, 2002)


Funes, F., Garcia, L., Bourque, M., Perez, N., & Rosset, P. (2002). Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba. Havana, Cuba: Food First Books.

Morgan, F. (Director). (2007). The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil [Motion Picture].

Murray N.D., M., Pizzorno N.D., J., & Pizzorno M.A., L.M.T., L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books.

Nestle, M. (2006). What to Eat. New York: North Point Press.

Torres, R. M., Nelson, V., Momsen, J. H., & Niemeier, D. A. (2010). Experiment or Transition? Revisiting Food Distribution in Cuban Agromercados from the “Special Period”. Journal of Latin American Geography , 67-87.

The Agricultural Myth That Is Killing All Of Us

Today we (those in America and the industrialized nations) live in a world that believes that the modern industrialized agricultural system is capable of feeding the world.   As far as I can see this assumption has not been challenged.  Many believe that the amount of food currently produced is capable of feeding the world in terms of calories.  The reason that there are starving and undernourished individuals in this world is simply because of distribution problems.  Distribution problems certainly exist because of the greed of “wealthy” nations or the political atmosphere or technological ability of the nation that is receiving the help.  The myth that I wish to discuss today goes beyond this notion.

The thinkers in this arena prefer to end their critical thinking processes at this point.  The belief that there is enough food produced and the only problem with feeding the world is distribution and the over consumption of the industrialized nations. This is a very tidy belief that refuses the basic question.  Is feeding the world sustainable?  Attempting to feed the world while failing is a moral victory for the self without a question as to the consequences of their behavior.  It is superficial.

Based upon sustainability we must also ask “Should we feed the world?” I would argue that you are simply unable to sustainably feed the world.  In order to feed the world’s population sustainably you must be able to do that over an extended period, for all time by definition.  The world is already running out of arable farmland and the ranges are nearing capacity.  Meat eaters are increasing in number as underdeveloped nations are developing.  The simple fact in all of this is this.  Once you feed a starving population, that population’s ability to reproduce increases, thus leading to population growth.  When we feed the population the population increases, which then requires a greater supply of food in an ever-increasing cycle that leads to the total destruction of all resources.  The destruction of our resources, all in an attempt to feel better about ourselves by feeding individuals on the other side of the world through cereal grains and cheap calories.

Beyond the fact that you are unable to feed the world through caloric intake alone, we are currently unable to provide healthy food to all individuals.  Therefore, the goal should be that of providing healthy, high quality food to as many individuals as possible.  Health foods and foods that delay senescence are significantly different.

I am aware that it sounds extremely harsh but starvation is the greatest limiting factor on population that the Earth has been capable of producing.  It is what keeps us in balance.  The second greatest limiting factor seems to be undernourishment.  Through undernourishment, this nation has seen an increase in infertility leading to a complete lack of menstrual processes in young individuals.  The rate of undernourishment has increased dramatically as witnessed by the increase in obesity.  Obesity caused by undernourishment seems contraindicated but it is not.  The increase of chronic disease due to undernourishment and cheap calorie diets, which is a direct result of our attempt to produce lots of food as cheaply as possible has been a major source of pain for many individuals in the developed world.  Premature death due to chronic disease and cancer has wrecked havoc on this nation.  The rates of chronic disease affecting younger populations continue to increase dramatically as suggested by Pottenger’s Cats.  Therefore, the side effect of cheap calories and the attempt to feed the world has actually increased pain and suffering dramatically throughout the world.

The establishment tells us that genetics cause disease.  However, our environment’s (food, pollution, chemicals, poisons) influence on genetics causes disease.  The toxins that are affecting us are a result of our political and industrialized habits.  The last 100 years have changed our environment dramatically and we are currently paying the price for it.  You do not have to be sick.

Sustainability and feeding the world are two opposite goals that are incapable of coexisting.  Our compassion has allowed ourselves to become misguided into believing that we are capable of more than we are.  Simply put, we should use only truly sustainable practices fed by the energy of the sun.  There are a great number of technologies that are beyond my understanding.  I do not know the limits of the suns energy for the production and feeding of individuals as well as maintaining our current lifestyle.

An honest look into sustainable technologies is necessary.  This would require government and industry to decrease the monopoly on energy.  It would also require conventional energy producers to allow alternative energies to surface.  There is significant evidence that conventional energy producers purchase alternative energy ideas and then bury them.   The use of unsustainable practices should end in order to decrease the amount of pain and suffering in this world.  Pain and suffering will continue unless something changes.  Better now, with an honest effort of transition towards sustainability instead of down the line with a catastrophic end to our current model and massive losses due to lack of distribution.  Individuals and small communities must once again take charge of the collection of food for themselves.

Grow a garden, be healthy (in ten steps), and be free.  Here is a three part series discussing health and wellness.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  Here is a brochure.

Update:  I wrote this before I knew about Malthus.  Who essentially said that we were going to run out of food because populations grow exponentially and food grows mathematically.  Turns out that food grew at a very fast rate since he died which allowed populations to continue to grow.  Also there has been a demographic transition which experts believe will leave the world at a population of 9.5 billion by 2050.  With that being said I still believe that the food that is being produced is not actual food, albeit food like substances that are harmful to our bodies and environment.

Secondary Research Guide for Health and Wellness

This is a list of the resources that I tend to use when doing my research.  I thought that it might be useful for all of you in your studies.  It’s probably best to just click and get the 1 page .pdf version linked below.  Otherwise enjoy scrolling through the blog.  Happy researching.

Secondary Research Guide for Health and Wellness.pdf


Consult Reference Librarian

Reference Books

– Dictionaries

Blacks Agricultural Dictionary

Food and Fitness: a Dictionary of Diet and Exercise 

Nutrition and Well-Being A to Z

Green Health: An A-to-Z Guide

Taylor’s Dictionary for Gardeners

– Encyclopedias

Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine

Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

Sports, Exercise, and Fitness

Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine

Encyclopedia of Organic, Sustainable, and Local Food


Indices and Abstracts




Agricultural Index




Consumer Health Complete

Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition


Global Plants


Natural and Alternative Treatments

Natural Standard




– Scholarly

American Journal of Preventative Medicine

Explore – The journal of Science and Healing

Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal

International Journal of Naturopathic Medicine

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Journal of Applied Horticulture

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Journal of Sustainable Agriculture

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture

Naturopathy Digest

Natural Medicine Journal

Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice

Strength and Conditioning Journal

– Practitioner

Muscle and Performance

Natural Practitioner

Organic Gardening



Government Documents

Center for Disease Control

Department of Agriculture

Department of Health and Human Services

Food and Drug Administration

National Agricultural Library

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

National Institutes of Health

Texas Department of Agriculture

United States Department of Agriculture




Professional Organizations

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

National Association of Sports and Physical Education

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association


Key Words


Holistic Nutrition

Natural/Organic Food 

Naturopathic Medicine

Physical Fitness

Strength and Conditioning

Weight TrainingWellness


Style Sheet

American Medical Association

Council of Science Editors


These testicles recently belonged to some young calves.  Those calves, as you can tell, recently had a bad day. Part of my animal science class was the sterilization of our young boys at the ranch.  Pretty interesting process.  I was surprised as to how calm the calves were during the process.  While the calves displayed some signs of irritation, after the procedure, they walked away without a hitch in their getup and are completely healed in a week and a half to two.  Not to shabby.  

Why do we do it?  Well, the reason is because Americans love their meat tender, juicy, and flavorful.  The sterilization of young male calves increases the above qualities.  Like it or not, it shows that the consumer has the power in the agricultural world.  Inform yourself and vote with your dollars.  The industry will sell what the consumer wants. 



The Dangers of Conventional Seeds

This is the seed that I was recently given by a friend to plant.  This is the seed that was suggested to him to plant in central Texas.  Glad I saw this warning.  Isn’t modern agriculture fantastic.  I’ll definitely be sticking with organic and heirloom seeds.  I suggest you do as well.  Nothing like a warning label on a seed package.

If you reap what you sow, why would we sow these seeds?

IMG 6547

Highlighted warning states:

DANGER:  Treated with Apron XL, Dividend Extreme, Polymer, Cruiser 5FS, Vitavax 34, Thiram 42-S, and Captan 4F at mtgs’ rec. rate.  DO NOT USE SEED FOR FOOD, FEED OR OIL.

Sounds tempting doesn’t it.

Lets briefly break each of these items down.

Apron XL

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that can be found here, the following are concerns with this product.

– Harmful is swallowed or inhaled.  May be harmful in contact with skin. Causes eye and skin irritation.

Dividend Extreme

MSDS concerns:

– Harmful if inhaled. Causes mild eye irritation.


MSDS sheet:

– Not hazardous according to Directive 67/548EEC

Cruiser 5FS

MSDS sheet:

– Presents a low hazard during normal handling.

Vitavax 34

MSDS sheet:

– Harmful by inhalation.

Thiram 42-S

MSDS sheet:

– Immediate effects –

Causes eye irritation. Do not get in eyes .Causes skin irritation. Prolonged or frequently repeated skin contact may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Harmful if absorbed through skin. Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing. Use of alcoholic beverages may enhance toxic effects. Harmful if swallowed. Do not take internally.May cause irritation of the mucous membranes. May cause respiratory tract irritation. Avoid breathing spray mist.

Chronic or Delayed Long-term effects –

This product or its components may have target organ effects. This product or its components may have long term (chronic) health effects. 

Captan 4F

MSDS sheet:

Causes irritation of skin, diarrhea, and difficulty in breathing. Avoid ingestion.

The best part of all of this is the statement: DO NOT USE SEED FOR FOOD, FEED AND OIL.

Nothing like a seed that you can’t use for food and feed.  Much less for oil.



1 French food: nourishment, sustenance, nutriment, fare; bread, daily bread; cooking, cuisine; foodstuffs, edibles, provender, refreshments, meals, provisions, rations; solids; informal eats, eatables, nosh, grub, chow, nom noms; formal comestibles; literary viands; dated victuals; archaic commons, meat, aliment.

2 food for the cattle: fodder, feed, provender, forage.



1 I’ve got three kids to feed: give food to, provide (food) for, cater for, cook for.

2 the baby will feed according to her needs: nurse, breastfeed, suckle; bottle-feed.

3 too many cows feeding in a small area: graze, browse, crop, pasture; eat, consume food, chow down.

4 the birds feed on a varied diet: live on/off, exist on, subsist on, eat, consume.

5 this series of victories fed his growing sense of invincibility: strengthen, fortify, support, bolster, reinforce, boost, fuel, encourage.

6 he regularly fed information to the police: supply, provide, give, deliver, furnish, issue, pass on.


Feed for goats and sheep: fodder, food, forage, pasturage, herbage, provender; formal comestibles.



1 make sure the car has enough oil | we heat our house with oil: lubricant, lubrication, grease; crude, crude oil, fuel oil, petroleum; informal black gold; humorous Texas tea.

2 brown the beef in hot oil: cooking oil, vegetable oil; corn oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil.

3 add some oil to the bath water: bath oil, essential oil, baby oil, scented oil, suntan oil.


I’ll oil that gate for you: lubricate, grease, smear/cover/rub with oil; informal lube.


Food, feed and oil as defined by the stock dictionary on my Macbook.

Genetically Modified Organisms: An Agricultural Students Perspective (part 2 of 4)

The use of genetically modified crops has increased dramatically since the adoption of the genetically modified seed.  The reasons for this seem clear to Pamela Ronald.  In a paper titled “The Truth about GMO’s” Ronald states, “Yet one need only observe the overwhelming farmer adoption of GE crops in the United States and elsewhere to conclude that the GE crop varieties on the market are useful to farmers.  It is unlikely that experienced and skilled farmers would buy GE seeds if their farm operations did not benefit economically.”  (refer to image 1)  Three major genetically modified crops in the United States are soybeans, cotton and corn.  Specifically they are herbicide tolerant (Ht) Soybeans, (Ht) Cotton, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cotton, Bt Corn and Ht Corn. (Rezbova, 2012)  From a large farm perspective, the benefits of GMO crops, appears to be clear. (Ronald, 2013) 

Agriculturalists have made it their goal to feed the world.  Transgenic GMO’s are in demand because the world is unable to increase the amount of acreage under cultivation.  Environmental concerns, energy concerns, and population growth are the cause of this.  Due to this goal, humans must increase the yield of crops in order to meet the nutritional demands of the species worldwide.  Genetically modified crops supply feed for animals (typically in feed yards) as well as fiber and alternative fuels. (Rezbova, 2012)  Additionally, nearly every processed food in the United States contains transgenic GMO’s.

Misconceptions among non-agriculturalists concerning arable land and pastureland lead to differences of opinion on the ability to increase crop yields.  Some individuals believe that agriculturalists should decrease animal production in favor of fruit and vegetable crop production.  Fruits and vegetables are only capable of growing in certain environments.  Pastureland will not support typical fruit and vegetable crop production.  The grasses of pastureland are inedible to humans.  Therefore, agriculturalists produce livestock on pasture.  Agriculturalists use the pastureland to start livestock and then agriculturalists typically finish the livestock in feed yards.  This allows the agriculturalist to convert the inedible pasture crops into high quality meat and milk for human consumption.  Changing cropping systems would endanger the soil.  In addition, maintaining the pasture decreases erosion that would exist in the event of a change in cropping practices. (Technolgy)  The remnants of the food produced for human consumption are recycled as a part of the feed for the livestock.  The deployment of transgenic GMO’s as food, fiber, and fuel have increased with little mainstream scientific dispute to individual health or damage to the environment. (Technolgy)

The intention of Bt enhanced crops that produce their own pesticide is to allow the farmer to decrease pesticide use.  The farmer must however plant a second field as a “refuge strategy” in order to decrease the incidence of insect resistance to the crop. (Ronald, 2013)  Traditional research shows the use of Ht crops allows the farmer to treat for weeds with greater success and less harm to the farmer’s crop.  Both of these are great benefits in terms of time-spent.  The saved time allows the farmer to focus on other aspects of the business.  This allows the farmer to increase the yield and decrease the cost of the product.

However, controversy about transgenic GMO’s is abundant in spite of mainstream successes.  There are strong reservations about the ethics of patenting seed, developing terminator technology, and the interrelationship of governmental agencies and agricultural companies.  In addition, some believe the safety of transgenic GMO’s is unproven.  Fears persist that transgenic GMO’s are the cause of harm to unwitting consumers.  It is difficult to determine the presence of transgenic GMO’s in the food supply because there is no legal requirement to label them in the United States.

End of 2 of 4: References posted at end of 1 of 4

UPDATE: Since the writing of this paper I have discovered that Pamela Ronald (cited in the above paper) retracted two of her pro-GMO studies that have been cited by more than 120 other paper.  The article where I discovered this is here.  


Genetically Modified Organisms: An Agricultural Students Perspective (part 1 of 4)

The use of genetically engineered crops, often called transgenic genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), in the United States has been prevalent since the introduction of the FlavrSavr transgenic tomato in 1994. (A Brief History of Genetic Modification, unknown)  Since the introduction of this crop, there has been widespread disagreement about the efficacy and ethics of using genetically engineered foods in agricultural cropping systems.  The producers of these crops hold them in high regard.  Many environmentalists and health advocates fear these crops as potentially dangerous to the human body as well as the environment. 

The history of genetically modified crops is as long as the history of agricultural systems.  Cultivating crops has always been a sort of genetic engineering.  The process of taking two crops to produce an improved seed from those crops is a form of genetic engineering.  Organic seed saving alters the species.  The organic seed in use today is significantly different from those of prior generations.  Seed saving has allowed the farmer to develop crops with higher yields and greater resistance to climate, disease, and insects.  Seed saving allows the farmer, without the use of genetic engineering, the ability to select the genetically superior seeds through the natural reproductive cycle of crops.  The current technology of transgenic crops is one of artificially taking DNA from one species and adding it to the DNA of another species.  

The current definition of a transgenic genetically modified crop is a crop that has had the genetic material (DNA) artificially modified through genetic engineering.  This process introduces a trait into a species through genetic manipulation.  The scientist selects for, and then changes, the function and growing ability of the crop.  Genetically engineering crops allows the scientist to produce a crop that is resistant to certain environmental factors such as climate, pests, and/or herbicides.  By genetically modifying a crops DNA the seed developer is able to express a trait of his/her choosing.  The seed developer’s process is swifter than otherwise possible.  The intent of the crop developer is to produce a higher yield, allowing the farmer to increase crop density with less pesticide use. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations describes the process of genetically engineering a crop as follows.

1. Identification of the gene interest;

2. Isolation of the gene of interest;

3. Amplifying the gene to produce many copies;

4. Associating the gene with an appropriate promoter and poly A sequence and insertion into plasmids;

5. Multiplying the plasmid in bacteria and recovering the cloned construct for injection;

6. Transference of the construct into the recipient tissue, usually fertilized eggs;

7. Integration of gene into recipient genome;

8. Expression of gene in recipient genome; and

9. Inheritance of gene through further generations. (Beardmore, 2003)

The first transgenic genetically modified crops occurred in 1983.  China was the first nation to sell genetically engineered tobacco and tomatoes.  1988 saw the development of the first genetically engineered plant for pharmaceutical use.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the insertion of Bovine Somatotropin (bST) into cows in the year 1993.  The insertion of bST increased the milk production in cows.  In 1993, scientists used in vitro fertilization successfully for the first time in plants.  1994 began the widespread use of genetically engineered crops in the United States with the above-mentioned FlavrSavr. (A Brief History of Genetic Modification, unknown)

The environmental protection agency (EPA) approved the sale of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) potato making it the first crop that produced pesticides on its own.  Soon thereafter, Roundup ready soybeans were produced which gave the soybeans resistance to the glyphosate herbicide.  Agricultural companies then introduced terminator technology in 1998.  2002 saw the introduction of a patent law allowing seed companies to patent their seeds in order to protect “intellectual property.” (A Brief History of Genetic Modification, unknown)

The above innovations produced seeds with specific traits.  The introduction of Bt corn gave the GMO corn resistance to insects.  Roundup ready soybeans allowed the liberal use of glyphosate herbicide without the failure of the soybean crop.  Terminator technology created a crop that did not produce a viable seed for seed saving or replanting.

End of 1 of 4: References for all 4 parts posted below:

UPDATE: Since the writing of this paper I have discovered that Pamela Ronald (cited in the above paper) retracted two of her pro-GMO studies that have been cited by more than 120 other paper.  The article where I discovered this is here.  


A Brief History of Genetic Modification. (unknown, unknown unknown). Retrieved February27, 201427, 2014, from

Gillam, C. (2014, February 24). Reuters. Retrieved February 27, 2014, 

Hansen, M. (2013, Dec 6th). GMO Study Retracted Cencorship of Caution? (S. Curwood,Interviewer)

John A Beardmore, J. S. (2003). Genetically Modified Organisms and Aquaculture. Rome,Italy.

Rezbova, H. S. (2012, June). The Role of Trangenic Crops. 4(2). Czech Republic.

Robert J Kremer, L. F. (2012, May 16). Soil Quality Improvement Under an EcologicallyBased Farming System in Northwest Missouri. Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Ronald, P. (2013, Oct). The Truth About GMO’s. 38 . Boston Review.Technolgy, C. f. (n.d.). Animal Feed Vs Human Food. 

10 Reasons to Avoid GMO. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2014, from Institute for Responsible Technology:

Times, L. A. (2013, November 30). Controversial GMO Study is Retracted. The WashingtonPost .