Kernza bread is both delicious and thought-provoking, which is probably why it was on the menu at the Land Stewardship Project‘s annual Family Farm Breakfast. Kernza bread and all the rest of the “best breakfast in town” grown by LSP farmer members fed right into issues of science and farming and democracy and local control.
I’ll start with Kernza: a perennial wheat grass under development at The Land Institute, which calls it a “tasty work in progress.” Developing a new perennial grain is part of The Land Institute’s vision for a sustainable food and agriculture future. The University of Minnesota is also working on the grain, and the Birchwood Café in Minneapolis is one of a few test kitchens across the country to include Kernza on its menu. The Birchwood explains:
“Kernza is a perennial and grows year after year without replanting. As a perennial crop, Kernza plants establish extensive root systems that can tap into the soil’s water supply much deeper than annual plants—helping farmers conserve water during the growing season. Kernza’s deep roots can also help control soil erosion and reduce water runoff. And unlike annuals, which deplete soil’s organic matter and require greater inputs like pesticides and fertilizer, Kernza grows in greater harmony with its surrounding ecosystem, coexisting well with native plant species.”
The Land Stewardship Project is committed to that harmony within ecosystems, working to connect land to people, farmers to legislators, and urban to rural communities. LSP’s vision of stewardship connects the health of the land with the health of those who farm it and their communities. Sustainability includes economic well-being for farmers and rural communities, and democratic participation, too.
This year, democracy is under attack in the Minnesota legislature through efforts to take away local control. One set of bills aims at Minneapolis and St. Paul, and would take away the power of cities to require earned sick time or to set a higher minimum wage.
Another set of bills aims at rural Minnesota, taking away the right of townships and cities to make interim ordinances:
“House File 330 and Senate File 201 as introduced weaken the interim ordinance powers of townships and cities. Interim ordinances allow cities and townships to quickly put a temporary moratorium on major development. This emergency power is essential when a community is caught off-guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful proposals, especially those from outside corporate interests. The interim ordinance freezes the status quo and gives the community time to review or create the appropriate zoning ordinances.”
A third set of bills – Senate File 1016 and House File 1456 – would double the size a factory farm can be before triggering environmental review. Hog farmer Paul Sobocinski explains:
“Currently factory farms over 1,000 animal units must undergo environmental review. This bill would double that to 2,000. Feedlots over 1,000 animal units are very large farms of over 3,333 hogs, 714 dairy cows, and 1,000 steer and are the largest 7% of feedlots in Minnesota. This current threshold of 1,000 animal units is so large that only 9 factory farms were required to do an environmental review in 2016. The overwhelming majority of family livestock operations in Minnesota are well below this threshold. Environmental review is important because it gives neighbors a chance to understand what is being proposed and the chance to review and weigh in on the proposal. Without environmental review the first neighbors might learn about a project is when they see the bulldozers arrive and construction begin on a multi-million-gallon hog manure lagoon.”
Food for thought. Time for action.
What you can do:
- Call your own representatives and tell them why you oppose a bills.
- Call or write Republicans in the legislature and (politely) tell them why you oppose a bills.
- Call or write Governor Mark Dayton, and tell him that if a specific bill is passed by the legislature, you want him to veto it.
- Find your representatives here.