Fields of Dreams: It’s tempting to believe in the dangerous illusion of biomass energy

You may have read articles—perhaps even in Grid—touting biofuels as a viable source to meet our energy needs. However, the science of biofuels points to one conclusion: They just don’t work.

The key concept is energy return on investment. Agrifuels—fuels derived from monocrops like corn or sugar—barely produce more energy than it takes to develop them. It takes at least three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a gallon of corn ethanol, reports the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute in their Energy Bulletin. This margin of energy is far too small to enable us to substitute agrifuels for nonrenewable fossil fuels. Without Congressional subsidies, largely going to corporate giants such as ADM and ConAgra to support their profits by boosting the price of corn, ethanol as fuel falls on its face. The petroleum needed to produce ethanol precludes independence from imported oil.

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Seize the Carp: Local aquatic ecosystems threatened by wall-to-wall carp eating

story by Bernard BrownOne nice thing about snorkeling in Philadelphia rivers is that you generally don’t have to think about sharks (the occasional, adventurous bull shark notwithstanding). But carp scare me, or at least startle me. More than once I have been nearly shocked out of my flippers by carp (which average the size of my leg) emerging from deep murky holes and lumbering past in the water. From land, I have studied the surface of more than one fetid Philadelphia pond for evidence of turtles and found my eyes drawn to something huge, rooting around in the shallows. Not a turtle…what the hell? A carp? 
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Sweet Dreams: A quest to conquer the best in local gelato

story by Jennifer Rezelli | contributions and edits by Summer RezeliThe inspiration for the great gelato caper naturally began during a trip to Italy with my twin brother, sister-in-law and niece. Among the highlights of our trip was a particularly rugged hike, during which my niece, who was nine years old at the time, discovered the restorative powers of a good gelato. Since then, I’ve always made an effort to visit one of Philadelphia’s fine gelaterias whenever my niece visits from her home in North Carolina. Each time, she samples one or two flavors before deciding. Wistfully, she then says, “One day I’m going to ask to sample every flavor. Can you imagine?”
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Cheese of the Month: Maysiola

story by Tenaya Darlington, madamefromageblog.comThis spring, Pete Demchur of Shellbark Hollow Farm debuted a new cheese he calls Maysiola—a moon pie of pasteurized goat’s milk named after Masie, one of his favorite Nubian goats, and with nods to robiola, an Italian cheese. Maysiola has a grassy scent and custardy innards, and if you’re a Brie head, you’ll enjoy this bloomy-rinded character. It’s more robust than a Brie, but not as tangy as a typical robiola.
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On Tap: Nocturnum

story by Lucas HardisonThe night brings respite from the assaults of the day, and we celebrate with glass tulips of cloudy dark amber ale brewed on the banks of the Schuylkill in nearby Manayunk. Nocturnum boasts a malty, fruity flavor of plum/fig/blackberry with a spicy Belgian bite. While there’s only the slightest alcohol warmth in the tasting, it does tip the scales at a robust 9.8% ABV. Available only on draft, this brew is best enjoyed in the comfort of a dimly lit café, while the happy hour crowd drifts away. 

More at manayunkbrewery.com

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Compost center opens in University City

Organic waste in University City can now stay local thanks to the opening of The Dirt Factory, a neighborhood composting center. With help from a local property owner and the University of Pennsylvania’s donation of two Earth Tub composting systems, residents will have a place to bring their organic waste and, in a short period of time, access to a supply of finished compost. The center will also operate as the drop-off site for the Pedal Co-op’s composting service.

The Dirt Factory, 4308 Market St., Grand Opening: June 20, 4 to 6 p.m., For more information, visit universitycity.org.

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Head in the krauts: Food activist promotes fermentation, new book

story by Dana HenryAlmost 10 years ago, Sandor Katz, the self-proclaimed fermentation fetishist, wrote and published the ‘zine-turned-book, Wild Fermentation, a DIY bible for making food with healthful bacteria. After a second book and years of touring, educating and meddling with microbes, Katz is back with his third and most comprehensive text on fermentation.
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Mobile Plan: With help from Greensgrow, a fresh market hits the road

 story by Liz Pacheco | photo by Neal SantosTo increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Philadelphia neighborhoods, a farmers market is often the ideal solution. But for parts of West Philadelphia, the model proved inefficient.

“[It] didn’t really work for us,” says Ryan Kuck, a former farmer at Greensgrow Farms and project manager for the West Philly Fresh Food Hub. “[We had] to spend a lot of our energy, a lot of promotion, for a small amount of sales, and we could only carry a small amount of products.”

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Down in the Basement: A drug bust leads to an ag boom

You’ve heard of rooftop agriculture, but what about basement farming? The Partnership CDC, a 17-year-old community development organization, is raising peppers, collard greens, tomatoes and tilapia, all in the basement and first floor of their building on 60th Street. By using an aquaponics system, where fish are raised and produce grown in a symbiotic system, the Partnership is expecting to harvest about 7,500 pounds of vegetables and a ton of fish, annually.
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Green Way: Ambitious, mixed-use houising project breaks ground near Temple

Steps away from the Temple University Train Station is another example of how green building can be affordable. Paseo Verde, or “green way,” is a new, sustainable mixed-use rental housing development spearheaded by the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) and Jonathan Rose Companies. APM has already built eco-friendly, single-family homes in the neighborhood—their 13 Sheriden Street Houses are slated for LEED Gold certification.
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Recycling Challenge: Sneakers

story by Samantha WittchenFACT: It takes approximately 5,000 pairs of sneakers to create an elementary school playground surface.

PROBLEM: The average lifespan for sneakers is 500 miles. For most people, that means replacing their sneakers every six months to a year, which results in somewhere between 300 and 600 million pairs of sneakers destined for the landfill annually.

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Dye, Dye, My Darling: Safe, natural dyes grown in West Philadelphia garden

story by Missy SteinbergWhen Kelli Caldwell heard members of local design and dye house BlueRedYellow speak last summer about the dangers of synthetic dyes, she decided to take action. “It’s all about being aware that your clothing can be just as toxic as the air you breathe,” says Caldwell, a project manager for the National Association of Sustainable Fashion Designers (SFD).
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Mood Indigo: Growing blueberries is easy as pie

story by Char VandermeerI once took great pleasure in planning my flowering container garden. My imagination brimmed with bright annuals as I sketched plans and gathered supplies. I spent countless hours paging through seed catalogs, agonizing over varieties and colors, flowering times, watering requirements, height, greenery, grasses, vines and heaven knows what else. Although I’m still a sucker for a clump of bright cosmos, these days I’m all about eating what I grow. And if I only have to plant it once, even better.
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Open Shop: Co-working "gyms" provide tools and space for beginners and experts alike

story by Liz Pacheco | photo byChristopher LeamanTo describe the warehouse for the future Philadelphia Sculpture Gym as rough would be an understatement. As of March, the 7,500-square-foot, brick-walled space was dark and dingy. There was a long, beat-up wooden table left from the previous owners, and piles of cleared wood and metal were gathered on the concrete floor.

But Darla Jackson and Justin Grant, founders of the Sculpture Gym, weren’t discouraged by the space; they were inspired. They gleefully give a tour of the warehouse, pointing out the areas designated for woodworking, metalworking, moldmaking and casting, as well as the future locations for the gallery space and members lounge.

“Some of the spaces we looked at, oh my god, needed everything,” says Jackson. “And this space, it needs a lot, but…” she trails off, “…well this has a roof already,” finishes Grant. The married couple signed a lease for the warehouse in October and scheduled their first event, a Charter Member Exhibition Opening, for May 19. In the meantime, they’re hard at work, transforming the space into a haven for sculpture professionals, amateurs and everyone in between.

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On the Shoulders of Giants: Four people who kick-started the Philadelphia food movement

April 1, 2012, 10:45 a.m. The line outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center was growing. Parents with strollers, young professionals, older couples, eco-conscious hippies and families in Phillies shirts were all patiently waiting for 11 a.m. Apparently the 1,100 pre-sold tickets were no fluke. The Philly Farm & Food Fest was attracting a crowd.
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