Rural Madison

A 501(c)(3) non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to thoughtful planning and policies for sustainable growth, stewardship of our natural, cultural and historical resources and the protection of the rural character of our region.

Category: Soil (page 1 of 3)

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops

The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat.

But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Unbroken Ground: Revolutions Start From the Bottom

The film Unbroken Ground explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.

Enjoy this full length feature and join us in finding a solution to the environmental crisis through food!

The Land Institute is a non-profit research, education, and policy organization dedicated to sustainable agriculture based in Salina, Kansas, United States. Their goal is to develop an agricultural system based on perennial crops that “has the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops”

Agricultural pollution is the price we pay for cheaper food

Agricultural pollution is the price we pay for cheaper food


In certain situations, Virginia and Pennsylvania continue to allow the land application of organic waste to be nitrogen-based, guaranteeing a massive over-application of both nitrogen and phosphorus and proving that agricultural economic concerns continue to trump concerns about water quality.

Pollution is an externality and its real cost is never accounted for. In Virginia, dairy manure is applied assuming that 35 percent of the nitrogen is available to the next crop because it takes time for microbes to decompose the organic material in the waste and release the nutrients for plant uptake.

What happens to the other 65 percent of the nitrogen? Unless nitrogen fertilizers are considerably reduced for subsequent crops — which is not required and rarely done — much of the excess nitrogen is pollution. It is easy to understand why animal waste — poultry litter, sewage sludge and manure — accounts for half of all agricultural nutrient pollution, or a little more than a quarter of Bay nutrient pollution because less than half of the disposed nitrogen and phosphorus ends up in the crop.

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Rural Madison 2016 Pop-Up Film Fest

Please join Rural Madison for a pop-up film fest featuring stories about food, farming, and sustainability.



7:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Madison County Extension Office
2 South Main Street
War Memorial Building, 2nd Floor
Madison, VA 22727

This event is free and open to the public.
Donations to help us cover expenses greatly appreciated!

food, farming, and sustainability


SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Real Food Films Contest is pleased to announce the outstanding finalists in its third short films competition featuring stories about food, farming, and sustainability. From the depths of fishing in Thailand, to the true grit of Alabama, the changing climate of maple syrup and creative ways to quell hunger, the ten finalist films cover a broad range of topics in today’s growing good food movement. A panel of judges, including Padma Lakshmi, Raj Patel, Susan Ungaro, and chef Tom Colicchio, will select the Grand Prize winner, first runner up, and special awards. Online voting, starting today, will determine the “People’s Choice Award” at

The 2016 Finalists were selected from 160 submissions representing filmmakers from 20 countries in this year’s first ever call for entries outside of the U.S. and Canada. Diverse formats include documentary to advocacy to spoken word. Films are all four minutes or under and feature original voices and stunning cinematography that lean toward the get-your-hands-dirty stories at the heart of the food movement over the perfectly styled plates of restaurateurs. Top 10 short films eloquently capture action in the food system from down the block and around the globe.

This year’s finalists include:

Everybody Eats | Boone, North Carolina | USA
Mindful Vineyards | Napa Valley, California | USA
Farmed with Love | Outskirts of Shanghai, China
A Sustainable Catch | Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
McEwen & Sons True Grits | Wilsonville, Alabama | USA
Naturali Tea | Fujieda, Japan
Saving Sap | Loudon, New Hampshire | USA
The Kelly Street Garden | South Bronx, New York City | USA
Home Flavored | Oakland, California | USA
Beyond the Seal | El Oro Province, Ecuador

Prize winners will be announced on May 2, 2016 and include a $5,000 Grand Prize, a new $5,000 Lens on Hunger Award, as well as $5,000 more in awards for best student film, best cinematography, and more. All winning films have distribution opportunities with Contest media partners, including Devour! The Food Film Fest, Disposable Film Festival, SXSW Eco and Vimeo.

Viewers can join Real Food Media in celebrating the stories featured in these Top 10 films and vote for their People’s Choice favorite now through April 30 online.

The Wendell Berry Farming Program

Wendell Berry, the 81-year-old award-winning poet, fiction writer and essayist, has continued throughout his life to care for the Kentucky farm that generations of his family have tended. Seeking to pass on their farming legacy to a new generation, Berry and his family have formed an alliance with Saint Catharine College, a small Catholic liberal arts scohol run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Correspondent Judy Valente talks with Mary Berry, Wendell Berry’s daughter, and with nuns, students, and faculty members at the college about the lessons and values that spring from having a spiritual kinship with the land.

Related Reading

Too small to survive, not too big to fail

Quitting Season: Why Farmers Walk Away From Their Farms

“Our food system today allows terrible pollution of water and the degradation of soil, climate and endangered species. It subsidizes the large wealthy farmers the most and allows unhealthy food to be promoted and served to our kids and poorest families. It wastes nearly half the food produced. Until we become more strident and say “NO MORE,” our small farmers and ranchers — who love their work — will continue to fail in extreme numbers and our poorest families will continue to disproportionately die from diet related disease. Many farms are clearly too small to survive, not too big to fail. And that stark contradiction reveals an American misconception of what is important in the world.”

-Roots of Change


Read the rest


Soil Solutions to Climate Problems


Center for Food Safety

A powerful solution to the climate crisis can be found right beneath our feet—in the soil. By harnessing the immense power of photosynthesis, we can convert atmospheric carbon, a problem, into soil carbon, a solution. Emerging science proves that shifting to regenerative forms of agriculture such as agroecology, agroforestry, cover-cropping, holistic grazing and permaculture will allow us to store excess carbon safely in the ground.

Madison County farm the only beef producer in the state to be certified Animal Welfare Approved

NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

MADISON COUNTY, Va (WVIR) – A farm in Madison County is now the only beef producer in the state to be certified Animal Welfare Approved.

downloadThe independent label requires the strictest ethical and organic standards in the country. To achieve that label, the cows at Wolf Creek Farm are raised without hormones or antibiotics, eat only grass, and live their entire lives in a pasture.

The most common sound to break the silence day to day at Wolf Creek Farm comes from the hundreds of cattle feasting on the pastures cultivated by owner John Whiteside. He says his operation is the best way to use what nature has to offer.

“The best way we can harness the energy of the sun and improve the health of the planet, is through grazing animals on soil,” Whiteside said.

Farms like Wolf Creek are a rarity, making up less than 10 percent of the beef market.

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