Dr. Tso-Cheng Chang: The Amazing Tale of a Farmer, From Farm to Table
~by Wenlu Zhang
Dr. Tso-Cheng Chang
Tso-Cheng Chang is a small-scale farmer in Amherst, Massachusetts. His popular restaurant, Amherst Chinese Food, attracts people from all over the Pioneer Valley to its fresh, organic, delicious Chinese food. Dr. Chang is a strong believer in soil remineralization; he has been using rock dust on his organic farm since 1995 in his determined quest to eliminate the need for pesticides and to grow nutrient-dense food. At this point, his soil has become so rich that he has not felt the need to add rock dust in the last five years.
Born in a small town in Shandong Province, China, in the late 1920s, Dr. Chang traveled to Taiwan and earned an undergraduate degree in agronomy from Taiwan University in 1953. After working at Dow Chemical for several years, he realized that the dangers of herbicides needed to be confronted and counteracted. Dr. Chang resigned and came to the United States to continue his academic pursuits. He earned an M.S. in Crop Science from Michigan State University in 1966 and a Doctorate in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1973.
Remineralization In Rural Brazil: Securing Healthy Food and Income For Quilombo Communities
~Text and photography by Dasha Gaian
A research project in Bahia proves remineralization to be an effective adjunct strategy for remote impoverished communities to produce higher yields of quality crops while able to remain independent from chemical fertilizers and government subsidies.
Suzi Huff Theodoro with Quilombo kids
Jean Pierre (on the right) with one of the community leaders
As Kleysson is passing the occasional bit of traffic, mostly large transport trucks and the odd old Volkswagen “beetles” or horse drawn wagons, Suzi is sharing more about the area we are heading to, its people and her project.
Rock Dust and Pest ControlAmong organic methods of pest control, rock dust is one of the safest for people, soil, and plants.
Modern science is only beginning to understand the benefits of nature’s original soil amendment: rock dust. This inexpensive, abundant, locally available material could prove instrumental in rebuilding the world’s soils. The broad-spectrum minerals in rock dust provide major, minor, and trace nutrients that support vigorous plants above the soil and extensive biological life within the soil. Well-nourished microorganisms are the vital link between organic matter and high-quality humus, and humus is the very foundation of soil fertility. A humus-rich, remineralized soil is truly fertile; such a soil makes healthy plants, which make healthy food, which makes healthy people.
There is growing respect for rock dust as a soil amendment, but there is comparatively minor recognition of rock’s dust potential for pest control. According to Joanna Campe, executive director of Remineralize the Earth, “In the short-term, very fine dust sprayed directly on plants and trees has been shown to deter insect infestations very effectively, and in the long-term, remineralized plants will not be plagued by insects as they become healthier and more insect resistant.
Rock dust has attracted agricultural attention in recent years because of repeated experiments that demonstrate its efficacy. In Scotland, local quarry dust revitalized the initially lifeless soil of the SEER Centre, leading to sustained bumper crops of giant, nutrient-dense vegetables. In Costa Rica, Jatropha trees showed increased yield and vigor after applications of volcanic rock dust from a nearby quarry. In the United States, land amended with glacial moraine gravel dust produced over twice as much corn as chemically fertilized land. In this case, the improvement in quality surpassed the increase in quantity—compared to a conventionally grown counterpart, this corn was significantly higher in protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.
Chemical fertilizers are an abysmal substitute for broad-spectrum mineral nutrition. High-quality rock dust provides the nutrients that plants need in a balanced, natural form. In The New Organic Grower, market gardener Eliot Coleman explains that finely ground rock powders approximate “the composition of highly fertile, unweathered ‘young’ soils… [that] provide large amounts of essential plant nutrients.”[i] Instead of bombarding the plants and the soil with concentrated, soluble chemicals, rock dust works in concert with the soil’s biological processes to release long-lasting balanced nutrition.
The Coordinator for RTE in Mexico, Jorge Villaseñor Garibi Researches and Promotes the Use of Rock Dust throughout Mexico
~By Pedro A. Ruiz Castro
“The biggest challenge in teaching about the use of rock dust is breaking the paradigm of a sixty year-long tradition of using chemical fertilizers,” said Jorge Villaseñor Garibi in a recent interview for Remineralize the Earth (RTE) that explored his experiences with training Mexican farmers in the use of rock dust.
Jorge is a partner of Agro Insumos Nova Terra SA, a company dedicated to the production and commercialization of rock dust and other organic fertilizers in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The material used by Nova Terra comes from a 400-hectare mine of sedimentary rocks that are rich in fossilized diatomaceouss, a type of unicellular algae with a cell wall made of hydrated silicon dioxide. Unlike igneous hard silica rock, the silica present in this mine is already hydrated, which makes it readily absorbed by plants without first being processed by microorganisms. The calcium contained in the fossils and in other minerals present in the mine further enrich this diatomaceous rock dust. Speaking about his experiences remineralizing depleted soils with this product, Jorge said,“The beneficial results on plants in terms of growth and health are visible within a few days.”
Delving Into Nutrient Density
- By: Kelsey Blackwell
- Photo credit: Jennifer Wilt
In the middle of the fertile Willamette Valley in western Oregon, farmer Bob Wilt walks the rows of his 75-acre organic blueberry farm critically plucking ripe fruit for analysis. What he’s looking for is not sweetness or pest resistance (though these factors are certainly involved), but the fruit’s nutrient density. Thus far, his berries measure up. “I usually pick a few of our competitors’ blueberries, too, and send everything to a lab in Washington for tests,” he says. “Our berries usually exceed theirs by having significantly more vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, zinc and magnesium. Not only are ours healthier, but more nutrients means a sweeter, longer-lasting berry.”
Wilt is part of a slowly emerging group of growers taking organic and biodynamic farming standards a step further. The value of nutrient-dense crops, they say, is in the pudding, or pie filling as it may. Farmers boast of higher yields, less disease, more pest resistance and longer shelf life. On the retail end, nutrient-dense crops produce better-tasting fruits and veggies that store owners say can increase traffic and encourage return customers. “People may not know the term nutrient dense, but they do recognize good produce,” says Ron Leppert, who buys Wilt’s blueberries for Sundance Natural Foods in Eugene, Ore. “They’re more colorful and they do taste better. A lot of produce departments don’t make money, but ours does—even with all the farmers’ markets that have been popping up lately.”
Dan Kittredge, a grower in North Brookfield, Mass., leads a campaign that among other things aims to ensure nutrient-dense crops are available across the country. His first hurdle? Explaining exactly what nutrient dense means to farmers, consumers and retailers.
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