Can Older Women Prevent the Next Dust Bowl?

Here we have the fourth article in my series on alternative farming and food systems, which I’m working on as a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism. That’s right: fourth! Now I really can call this whole thing a “series.” So, first, I wrote about the challenges of urban farming for Earth Island Journal and then about efforts to encourage military veterans to become farmers for Newsweek. I also wrote about the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and its role in the food-versus-fuel debate for Earth Island Journal. Now I’ve written about women landowners and soil conservation for YES! Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Participants of WFAN's Women Caring for the Land program learn about soil conservation (Photo courtesy of WFAN).

Participants of the Women Caring for the Land program learn about soil conservation. The program is organized by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, based in Iowa (Photo courtesy of WFAN).

Women Over 65 Own Nearly a Third of Iowa’s Farmland: Can They Prevent the Next Dust Bowl

By Sena Christian

In her late 50s, Alice Ramsay returned to the Iowa farm where she’d grown up. She had graduated college in Missouri and spent most of her adulthood in Colorado employed as a teacher. But after her parents passed away, she bought up the inherited land from her brother and sister, and, in 2000, she moved back.

“I’d been gone for 30 years and I never had an idea I would come back to the farm—never ever,” Ramsay says. “But here I am. So I had to start at the ground level and go from there.”

Ramsay, now 72, first needed to get caught up on what was happening on the land she now owned, about 20 miles west of Des Moines. It was about 180 acres of hilly land that sloped down to the South Raccoon River. The rolling landscape made the land challenging to farm, and soil and water runoff from the higher ground constituted an ongoing issue. Oak savannas grew near the river, and grasslands surrounded a pond. A country road cut through the middle of the property.

A farmer had been renting the whole farm, where he grew corn and beans and raised cattle. Like her father, who bought the farm in 1943 and worked on it until his death, in 1992, Ramsay valued the conservation of this special place, a philosophy reinforced during her 10 years volunteering with a wildlife and education organization. “My purpose was to come back and do what’s right for the land,” she says.

… Read the rest of the article here …

Promotoras Provide Crucial Link For Latino Communities

I wrote an article for YES! magazine’s website on promotoras in Placer County, Calif. These women (and sometimes men) are trusted leaders who help form a new and crucial link between the Latino community and the broader society.

In the photo below, several women and one man attend a weekly meeting in the city of Roseville, led by Maria Cordova (far right), where they share stories and provide emotional support. Cordova is a promotora.

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Time For A Change

So far, this blog has chronicled my “Wailing Peacocks” project, which involved a Kickstarter campaign, traveling to Hawaii and writing about the revival of ancient Polynesian voyaging and its role in navigating climate change. Now, this blog will tell of my second Kickstarter venture, which involves a trip to Quito, Ecuador to write about an urban farming project. Click here to learn about “Quito Grown.” I hope you’ll follow along on my journey! But, first, here are some of my favorite photos from the Hawaii project.

Navigator Bruce Blankenfeld, left, and Kapu Na Keiki member Jason Patterson rebuild Hokule’a.

Kapu Na Keiki member Jason Patterson works on repairing the legendary canoe, Hokule’a.

Kapu Na Keiki members prepare for a short sail.

Kaina Holomalia reflects on the importance of voyaging in his life.

Article Published In Yes! Magazine

It’s official! Nearly a year after launching my Kickstarter campaign, my project is complete. My article “Rising Sea Levels: The View from a Canoe” appears in the spring 2012 issue of Yes! magazine, which hit newsstands in late February. This national publication aims “to support people’s active engagement in creating a more just, sustainable and compassionate society.” Well, that sounds good to me!

Navigator Bruce Blankenfeld, left, and Jason Patterson of Kapu Na Keiki work on refurbishing Hokule’a in August 2011.

I want to thank all of my Kickstarter contributors for making this article possible by funding my travel and lodging expenses for my trip to Honolulu, HI in August 2011 so I could conduct interviews, gather background information and snap photos (with the help of photographer Cole Allen) for the article. Mahalo!