Hummus

Hummus

Yield: 1 quart

3 ½ cups chick-pea sprouts (or peanut sprouts)

1 cup water from steaming

Juice from 2 lemons

1 cup tahini

1 cup dried parsley (optional)

1 tablespoon curry powder

½ cup radish sprouts

Place the chick-pea or peanut sprouts in a steamer for 15 minutes. Then, transfer the chickpea sprouts and the water from the steamer to a blender, along with 6-10 tbsps of lemon juice. Stir in 1 cup of tahini. Add parsley and stir again to thicken sauce, if you wish. Add 1 tbsp of curry powder and ½ cup of radish sprouts and enjoy.

Clover Cover Salad Dressing

Clover Cover Salad Dressing

Yield: 1 quart

1 quart clover sprouts, tightly packed

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup water

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

½ cup tahini

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground (or anise)

1 tablespoon kelp

Place the clover sprouts, lemon juice, and water in a blender. Blend, add the celery stalks, tahini, fennel seeds, and kelp, and blend a second time.

Sustainability / Sustainable Farming: What it is and Why it Matters

Sustainability / Sustainable Farming: What it is and Why it Matters

Sustainable Agriculture

As our world continues to develop and industrialize, there have been more and more demands for sustainability and environmental justice. One area in particular need of sustainable action is the farming industry, but what exactly is sustainable agriculture? Although there are a myriad of definitions, agriculture can be considered sustainable if it contains three key components: it is environmentally safe, economically viable, and socially just.

Over time, industrial agriculture, a more mechanized form of farming, has grown exponentially in the United States. Although industrial agriculture can produce high quantities of products at low costs, it does so at the expense of the environment. Soil degradation and pollution are two of the many harmful consequences produced by industrial agriculture. Contrarily, sustainable agriculture promotes agricultural reforms that come with little or no cost to the environment.

Tractor driving across a field

Sustainable farmers, and farmers in general, are an integral and important part of society today simply because without farms we would not have food. Sustainable agriculture is thus necessary in the world today if we want to feed our growing population and be able to do so for years to come. Healthy, nutritious food is a necessity, and such food can be produced without threatening the natural environment.

Traditional agricultural practices are often harmful to the environment because they result in disastrous consequences such as nutrient deficiencies in the soil, which prevents future farming, and the loss of important wildlife as forests are converted into expansive and inefficient farming grounds. Much of modern farming, especially in countries like the US, is more focused on making money and increasing profits than producing healthy food for people to consume. Sustainable farmers work to fight these issues by implementing agricultural practices that grow produce without threatening the safety or health of the environment, plants, animals, or people. 

Some of the main challenges in promoting sustainability are convincing farmers to switch from traditional agricultural methods to sustainable practices, overcoming communication barriers, and adequately instructing people on how to properly maintain sustainable systems. Many farmers have been accustomed to farming a certain way for a long time, so it is difficult, as a result, to convince such farmers to change their way of doing things. Because of this understandable resistance to change, it is incredibly important for sustainable farmers to be able to communicate the benefits and advantages of sustainable agriculture and thus be informed enough about sustainable farming to do so.

In order to communicate knowledge effectively, people must be able to communicate effectively. Certain sustainable practices are straightforward, such as water conservation and composting, while others may be more difficult to explain, specifically those that require more technology such as solar panels or wind turbines. Farmers who want to spread the use of sustainable practices must fully understand the practices so that other farmers will adequately comprehend them.

Sustainable farming is additionally beneficial because it yields raw, healthy crops without the use of dangerous pesticides or inorganic fertilizers. Industrial farming commonly employs pesticides as a means of producing pest-free crops. However, the use of pesticides has historically shown harmful effects on human health. It is estimated that pesticides cause 10,000 deaths and two million poisonings every year according to the United Nations. Some pesticides can also cause various cancers and produce long term effects such as increased risk for cancer and various complications to major body systems.

The processing of foods by industrial farms also poses detrimental health effects such as pollution, decreased antibiotic effectiveness, presence of mutated pathogens arising from food, and new allergens that may be harmful to the immune system. Hydroponics, Aquaponics, and Bioponics, contrarily, avoid all of these issues as they do not require the use of pesticides or fertilizers and do not involve the processing of food.

In fact, the use of such pesticides can threaten the stability of some systems as they may include chemicals that are toxic to the fish within the system. Consequently, these systems function more effectively without the use of pesticides that could potentially harm the organisms within the system. Fertilizers are considered nonessential to Aquaponics, Bioponics, and Hydroponics because all of the nutrients needed by the plants for growth are sufficiently provided in the water due to cycling and the added nutrient solutions. Food processing is also absent from these systems as they generally produce only organic fruits and vegetables that do not require such processing. Hence, they successfully avoid the major negative hazards produced by industrial farming because these systems can produce crops without the use of dangerous chemical fertilizers or pesticides. 

The techniques involved in typical sustainable farming pose little to no environmental dangers and can offer a variety of benefits to the environment. Typical industrial farming contributes largely to the world’s pollution, thus also affecting climate change, and the degradation and depletion of soil and its naturally occurring nutrients. Because of this, methods of sustainable agriculture are becoming necessary as advantageous means of providing crops. For example, Aquaponics, Bioponics, and Hydroponics do not contribute to soil degradation or nutrient depletion in any way. All of the water in the systems is cycled through the system, and water changes are limited when needed. Consequently, stable systems do not require excessive amounts of water input and do not release harmful water into the environment. 

The products of Hydroponics, Bioponics, and Aquaponics can be produced without considerable inputs from the external environment. This is a benefit to the environment in comparison to other forms of farming that are highly resource-intensive and produce large quantities of pollution. These systems can additionally be utilized on both large and small scale farming, ranging from large greenhouses to even smaller systems you can use in your own home! Sustainable farming is, therefore, an applicable alternative to industrial farming that functions without consuming and destroying the world’s resources.

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Agricultural Education

Agricultural Education

In our ever-industrializing world, consumers are moving further and further away from their source of food. To many people, this increasing distance is relatively unimportant as long as the source of food remains consistent. To most Americans, however, this apparent food source is primarily grocery stores and supermarkets that offer everything pre-packaged and processed, both easily located and obtained. Although people know that the food products found in the supermarket are grown on farms, their only contact with said farms is in the grocery stores where the consumer’s primary focus is typically on price and availability.

Distancing themselves from actual farms and farmers, however, poses a number of dangerous consequences for both the farmers who supply the food and the consumers themselves. Bridging the gap between our food sources and consumers is thus a necessity in our current world, and this is only going to be possible through the continued improvement of agricultural education. Agricultural education benefits consumers, farmers, and the environment as it increases both knowledge and awareness of current agricultural problems, practices, and potential advantages. 

Onions growing in the soil

By improving agricultural education, more consumers will be able to identify and purchase food that is not only healthy and nutritious but also grown with environmental considerations in mind. Most consumers today pay less attention to the labels and ingredients and more to the price. This is an understandable consideration, but it fails to take into account the environmental and social price that cannot be seen with the mere purchase of a cheaper product in the supermarket.

Although some companies can provide food products at a lower cost, they do so at the expense of the environment and, in some cases, the health of their farmworkers. Larger corporations often utilize heavy amounts of pesticides and fertilizers which can have detrimental health effects on both the consumer and the worker administering the chemicals. Overuse of these pesticides and fertilizers can also negatively impact the natural environment by increasing soil degradation and leading to a rise in more resistant pest species and disease strains. If consumers are educated on these practices and the companies who utilize them, they can make smarter choices in regards to their food purchases, benefitting both their own health as well as the environment. Conscientious consumers also benefit farmers who do choose to grow their products sustainably or organically.

Large irrigation system watering a field

Agricultural education enables farmers to better their farms through the implementation of more sustainable practices and economically viable alternatives to conventional agriculture. As our world develops, technology develops along with it. Most American farmers, however, have fallen behind in keeping up with the spread and application of these technological and mechanical advancements. Agricultural education resolves this issue by making the knowledge and resources necessary to improve modern agriculture accessible to more farmers, thus allowing for the increased use of innovations in agriculture like newly-developed sustainable practices.

Farmers can implement these methods to promote a variety of sustainable issues such as soil health, water conservation, pesticide and herbicide use, and pollution. These practices can in turn increase productivity without threatening food quality or having a negative environmental impact, thereby helping farmers remain economically stable while promoting safe food production.

Leafy green vegetables growing in the soil

While improved agricultural education has a number of benefits for consumers and farmers, one of the best ways to bring people closer to their food source is by growing their own food. Another key benefit of agricultural education is that it can enable people to grow their own food in their homes or yards. By growing their own food, more people will see firsthand the benefits of fresh produce and growing something by their own effort.

They will additionally understand the difficulties and hardships that can arise when growing food that most people are unaware of unless they have worked directly on a farm themselves. Better understanding the difficulties of growing food can also lead to greater respect and appreciation for farmers which will in turn lead to even more conscientious consumers when it comes to their next grocery store purchase. 

Sprouts growing indoors

Agricultural education is a necessity in our world today, especially when considering our rapidly growing population and dwindling natural resources and land space. Thus, it is incredibly important that we continue to raise awareness of agricultural issues in the world today and take advantage of opportunities to learn more and continue educating ourselves. The closer we are to our food source, the better prepared we can be to make smart choices and protect our farmers and the environment.

Therapeutic Effects/Benefits of Growing in your Home

Therapeutic Effects/Benefits of Growing in your Home

Having indoor plants and home gardens has often been regarded as hobbies solely for those with a so-called “green thumb”. This unfortunate assumption, however, suggests that gardening and growing plants are reserved for a select few in possession of the “magic touch” that enables them to grow and care for plants successfully. In reality, this mindsight is not only untrue but it also holds the potential to inhibit people from enjoying the many benefits of growing plants indoors! Having and caring for plants both indoors and outdoors can significantly improve various aspects of our lives and homes.

One of the primary benefits of plants is that they take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen which is safe for us to breathe! The process of photosynthesis involves taking in carbon dioxide and water in order to produce oxygen as well as sugars which the plant uses as food. Although the ability to photosynthesize is a key element of plants, some plants can additionally contribute to cleaner air by taking up other chemical compounds that may have adverse effects on human health. An experiment performed by NASA found that spider plants are especially effective at removing formaldehyde from the air, removing 95% of the toxic compound over only 24 hours in a sealed chamber (National Wildlife Federation). Spider plants are just one example of the purifying power which many plants hold! Results from NASA also indicated that having more houseplants in the home can significantly reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the home which decreases the risk of negative health effects from such VOCs (NASA). Indoor plants can thus benefit human health by providing a clean source of oxygen while also removing harmful substances from the air.

In addition to cleaning and purifying the air, houseplants can also have therapeutic benefits as they can reduce stress levels and contribute to general well-being. A study from 2015 demonstrated that working actively with indoor plants can reduce both physiological and psychological stress as compared to working solely on a computer (Journal of Physiological Anthropology). The results of this study revealed that interacting with plants reduces stress by “suppressing sympathetic activity, which often increases when a subject is exposed to a stressor” whereas working with the computer increased sympathetic nervous activity (Journal of Physiological Anthropology). Although this study focused on active interaction with plants, passive interactions are still beneficial, as well. Seeing greenery and being around nature has been shown to benefit mental health and well-being as they reduce “cognitive fatigue and stress” and promote feelings of relaxation and peace (NBC News). Horticultural therapy is also a popular method targeted at improved mental health and well-being that relies on a combination of green spaces and indoor and outdoor gardening (BJPsych International). 

Indoor plants not only contribute to cleaner air and reduced stress, but they have also been shown to increase focus and productivity! One study focused on the effect of plants on elementary school children found that seeing live plants reduced the children’s number of theta waves, brain activity which corresponds to a lack of concentration (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health). The results of the study thus demonstrated that the visual stimuli of the plants improved the children’s concentration in addition to improving general mood and reported level of comfort. A similar study conducted with adults found that people working in an environment with plants, as compared to working in a space with magazines or no plants, also demonstrated both increased productivity and reported a better mood (National Library of Medicine). For both children and adults alike, working and living in a space with indoor plants has clear benefits on both mood and general productivity.

Seeing and caring for indoor plants has many advantages both physically and emotionally. Plants naturally clean the air, thus creating a livable environment with improved air quality and decreased risk of negative health effects caused by atmospheric substances and toxins. Plants additionally have shown to have a positive impact on mood, mental state, and productivity, thereby minimizing stress and establishing an environment that is both comfortable and visually stimulating. The overall benefits of plants are well worth the care they require, and some plants provide these benefits with nearly no human input necessary at all! No matter how much plant knowledge or experience you may have, everyone can benefit from having and maintaining plants in their home, green thumb or no.