Category Archives: philosophical

Announcing New Sower Website

“The Sower” ~ 1903 repro from art book ~ Bruck, Lienz

What’s the announcement?
I’m very pleased and excited to announce that a sister-site of Big Picture Agriculture has been launched!

Description of the new site.
The new site, titled Sowing Agricultural Seeds Daily, is a stand alone platform that will feature and promote quality articles about agriculture. It is a site of links categorized by general topics, including the latest important agricultural reports and studies. It will be a source of quality information put together all in one place.

The nature of the article links that I will include will be more about informational articles that have lasting value than about current news articles, and more about quality of articles, than quantity of articles. The categories will include the subjects that I cover here on this site named in the by-line above: economics. policy. energy. water. food security. science. sustainable practices. urban & lifestyle farming. It should appeal to producers of all kinds—and provide a bit of entertainment, too.

What is its purpose?
When I started this site a few short years ago, I did so because it seemed that there was a dearth of coverage about agriculture online, which amazed me because we all know that it’s the most important subject in the whole world. Since then, there has been an explosion in online coverage of the subject, both from main stream media, and from new writers and websites arriving to the scene. It seems that the subject of agriculture itself has gone from being unsexy to sexy, and everyone wants a piece of the action.

What is the reader to do?

There are so many agricultural headlines and so much overlap these days, that I’ve come to the conclusion that the best use of my time would be to promote the quality work of others through providing a trustworthy, concise, and user-friendly information source for those interested in reading the latest agricultural articles.

This fits with my philosophy and outlook, too.
It is my opinion that the subject of agriculture is complex and requires local solutions. While feeding people is most dependent upon first, natural resources, then, national policies and economics; as in other sustainability subjects of concern globally—hope for positive change is coming from the bottom-up—from the consumer and regional levels. Science is also advancing rapidly and I see some game changers on the horizon for “feeding the world.” Rather than trying to judge what is “right” and “wrong” we need to observe and follow those trends which make the most sense for individual regions. We are living in an unprecedented time period of mass communication ability. It is my hope that this new internet page will be a valuable tool to help aid the spread of useful information—specifically about agriculture.

How can readers help?
1. Please help me promote the new site anyway you can. Share it with your social media circles. Link it on your websites. Send it to anyone you think might be interested in the site.
2. Let me know if you have any technical problems with the site. It should be usable with all browsers and on all devices.
3. Readers are welcome to help with the site by suggesting articles by sending me links. Let’s make this a joint effort.
4. The left sidebar is still a work in progress. If I’ve omitted any academic reference sites, especially, please send me your link.
5. Any suggestions for improving the site are welcome. The new site does not allow comments, so please leave your suggestions about the new site under this post.

What about Big Picture Agriculture?
This site will continue, though posts here may be less frequent than in the past, and some refocusing efforts may evolve over time. I continue to be enthusiastic about writing, and want some time to pursue that ambition in alternative ways. For the near future, this new “Sower” site will be the primary focus of my online efforts.

A final note.
To help launch the new site, I’ll be leaving this post up for several weeks so that those who check in here less frequently are also sure to see it.

To view the new website, go here


[You will see that at the very top of the new website, there is a button which will return you back to Big Picture Agriculture.]

Celebrating Plants at the University of Colorado’s Greenhouses

“Every plant has a story.” —-Tom Lemieux

The University of Colorado operates a few greenhouses on a shoestring budget, categorizing them under the “shop” category, enough to earn them once a month cleanings, but even so, they contain an invaluable resource of genetic wisdom from the global plant world.

Run under the guidance of a man whose muse is plants, which is obvious from the first moment that you meet him, Tom Lemieux grew up in Maine and California, and studied horticulture at Berkely. Lemieux has traveled the world on plant expeditions and he believes in starting plants from seeds, which means that many of the exotic species in CU’s “Greenhouse Facilities and Collections” have been propogated by him and his staff from seeds. One plant they started from seed was a date palm, from a bag of dates purchased at Costco, for example.

Last month the greenhouses were open to a small number of community members for a tour and I jumped at the chance.

Lemieux began our introduction to plant appreciation by talking about “convergent evolution” in plants. He demonstrated the concept with a cart full of unique species from the plant world.
Convergent evolution is the term used to describe how very different plant species can evolve into very similar plants in an attempt to survive in similar conditions through adaptation. (See the photo at left to help understand the concept.) It is a fascinating subject that demonstrates to us the resilience of life itself.

In the study of plants we are able to see firsthand Nature’s wisdom, its creativity, its beauty, and even, its sense of humor. We marvel at Phi, the golden proportion found in the plant world. And, we realize that our very existence as homo sapiens requires plants to clothe us, to feed us, to medicate us (or alter our minds, if you will), to shade us, to shelter us, and to help us find solutions for engineering problems – through biomicry.

When Lemieux gives school children tours of the greenhouses, he challenges them to try to go two weeks without using plants, a challenge which makes them think about how much they rely upon the plant world for survival.

The photos below, which I took during the greenhouse tour, will show you some of the marvels that are housed in CU’s plant collections, and they are a sampling of the plants which have evolved and exist on our amazing blue marble.

Natural curls

Cactus with white fuzz and white flowers

Star shapes

An unusual plant with an unusual trunk

A ball shape

This is an example of an ant plant, which has large holes in its codex base.

This is a pair of Cuban Pako Palms, which are the same ages, and demonstrates how much better the plant thrives in the ground, versus a container.

A provocative smelling flower seeking to entice insects inside



A drama queen of color contrasts: green, pink, and purple!

Pieces of this plant, Lycopodium huperzin (from China), have been requested by a lab in another state for Alzheimer’s drug research, according to Lemieux.

Not only does this plant have fascinating spots and dots for adornment, it has red undersides to its leaves.

Interesting texture with bumps that look like reading braille – is this plant’s hallmark.

What kind of environment required this shape for survival? There are both leaf succulents, and stem succulents in the plant kingdom.

There were many plants with stickers in CU’s plant collection.

I took far more photos than this, and felt like a kid in a candy store while snapping one shot after another following the tour.

How noble is the plant kingdom!

A favorite Willa Cather quote of mine is, “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.” What an enviable philosophy of life a plant has compared to we humans who are never satisfied with anything at all, always chasing after that which we think would make us happier or more comfortable instead of just blooming in place. Indeed, every plant has its story, but you are going to have to study it to learn what its story is, and even then, you’ll never know all of its secrets.

Video Clip from the Movie Samsara

Samsara is a Tibetan word that means wheel of life, or passing through, a concept both intimate and vast, which defines the soul of everyone.

This short clip is from the 2011 documentary film “Samsara” and contains some video of factory food and livestock production under the topic of overconsumption.

Poignant. Suffering. Human and animal.

La surconsommation from Lasurconsommation on Vimeo.

h/t rjs