In a Pickle: Former policeman embraces the art of fermentation

story by Dana HenryTom forrest, owner of Wills Valley & Forrest Acre Farm in Lancaster, maintains that sauerkraut, done right, doesn’t need refrigeration or a warehouse. “There’s not a whole lot of equipment that we use,” he explains of Wills Valley, his minimalist organic vegetable fermentation production. “We’re taking [the product] right out of the crock, putting it in a jar and putting a lid on it.” 

Raw food fermentation, the art of processing using microorganisms, preserves fresh vegetables, dairy, and dried meats by enabling healthful bacterial strands and yeasts to break down food in the absence of oxygen. This process alters flavor and texture while increasing the available nutrient content. The aging process can take weeks – in some cases months – giving craft foods like cheeses, beer and chocolate distinct and subtle flavors.

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Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World

Wine to Water A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World by Doc Hendley (Avery, 288 pp., $26, January 2012)In 2004, Doc Hendley was a bartender and a bit of a partier in Raleigh, N.C. But an encounter with a family friend whose husband worked for an international aid organization set his life on a different course. Using his experience in the bartending industry, Hendley launched a series of wine tasting events to fund clean water projects. However, instead of donating the funds, Hendley traveled to Africa and witnessed the water crisis firsthand.
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Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves From the Automobile

Straphanger Saving Our Cities and Ourselves From the Automobile by Taras Grescoe (Times, 336 pp., $25, April 2012)Across the globe, car-centric urban planning has wreaked havoc on many a city. In Straphanger, Taras Grescoe explores this problem by traveling on public transportation in cities like Tokyo, Copenhagen, Los Angeles and even Philadelphia. He interviews people involved in the movement to create affordable, sustainable urban transportation. Part urban history and part travel narrative, Grescoe shows how transit defines cities—from the endless highways of Phoenix, the city with no downtown, to the rapid transit of Bogota, Columbia, which has expressway lanes and large, clean bus stops.
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Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America

Fool Me Twice Fighting the Assault on Science in America by Shawn Lawrence Otto (Rodale, 380 pp., $24.99, October 2011)In Fool Me Twice, Shawn Lawrence Otto narrates the evolution of science in America. His story begins with the beliefs of the founding Puritans and leads all the way to the climate-change and evolution deniers who influence policy today. Otto explains how the government, our politics and the media have prevented the public from understanding the science critical to solving our greatest challenges. The book is both heart-wrenching and empowering because the nation’s future depends on science—its observation, facts, innovation and creativity—and not the rhetoric with which it’s now so closely associated.
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Garden Chic: Rain barrels that capture water—and the imagination

story by Shaun Brady | photos by Sam OberterMario Gentile describes his basic philosophy as a question: “How can the everyday homeowner buy local and afford something that looks really well-designed made out of relatively expensive materials?” His answer: Shift_Design.

Gentile started Shift_Design in 2010, after being laid off from his architecture job. With support from a Temple University business plan competition and GoodCompany Ventures, a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs launch businesses, Gentile put his idea into action.

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Moving Mountains: Activists take aim at PNC Bank

Mountaintop removal isn’t happening in Philadelphia, but the controversial mining practice is a major local issue. Philadelphia’s Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) has launched a campaign against PNC Bank for their financing of companies that use mountaintop removal mining practices. This February, EQAT introduced a “Green Your Money” initiative to encourage Philadelphians to pull their accounts from PNC. During the 90-day-or-so campaign, eight EQAT members will also be making a 16-day, 300-mile walk from Philadelphia to PNC’s national headquarters in Pittsburgh. They hope the walk will build statewide commitment for “Green Your Money” and put pressure on PNC to change their practices. To join the walk (which starts April 30) or to learn more about EQAT’s work, visit

-story by Liz Pacheco

Water Whirled: Local teens ride stationary bike to power irrigation

story by Missy Steinberg

At the Teens 4 Good farm on Eighth and Poplar Streets, growing produce relies on a surprising technology: a stationary bike. The bike-powered watering system is a recent addition to the urban youth farm, which previously used a nearby fire hydrant for irrigation.

The new watering system uses a 500-gallon tank that collects runoff from the farm’s high tunnel and distributes it through two valves: one for drip irrigation and another for a hose. The hose is powered by a stationary bike that must be pedaled at a minimum of five miles per hour.

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A Frog in Your Ears: Big sounds from small frogs fill the spring air

story by Bernard Brown | photo by Nick KiriazisOne early sign that spring has arrived is the sound of Spring Peepers. To call these frogs “peepers” is a bit of an understatement. They have loud, projecting calls. When you finally track down one of the little guys (easiest with a friend to triangulate on the sound), it’s a surprise to find a frog no bigger than your thumbnail, beige with a darker X on its back. Get a hundred together and you can’t hear anything else.
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Learning by bumbling with bees

story by Tanya Veitch | illustration by Stephen HaighFirst, a confession: I am a full-on honey bee nerd. I love my bees and am totally addicted to beekeeping. I’ve been “keeping” bees since July 2010. In that time I’ve lost sleep, been stung (my fault), felt terrified and overwhelmed, and of course, made what feels like a million rookie mistakes. Still, I kept returning to the hive, and eventually I started to get the knack for this crazy hobby.
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In the Underground: Root vegetables, the perfect crop for kids

sotry by Char Vandermeer When I was a little squirt, my folks always made sure I had a patch of garden all to myself. My specialties were radishes and carrots, but I also have happy memories harvesting potatoes with my dad. What fun it was rooting underneath those big, leafy green plants, looking for hidden treasure—tiny red-skinned new potatoes. Like an Easter egg hunt, but dirtier and less chocolaty. And so much more rewarding than weeding the monster garden my folks planted.
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Tunnel Vision: A network of farmers is using a new tool to extend the growing season

story by Liz Pacheco | photos by Emily WrenEntering the high tunnel at Mort Brooks Memorial Farm in Mount Airy is a little like stepping into a time machine. In early March, there are dense rows of rainbow chard and arugula, and a few beds have green stems poking through the soil. Farm manager Rick Rigutto reaches down and pulls out some chard, munching on a pink-hued stalk as he walks through the tunnel. While it’s been unseasonably warm, these greens shouldn’t be ready for eating for weeks. Most farms shut down by December, but Mort Brooks keeps on growing – and not in greenhouses. Instead they use sturdy, metal pipe frames covered in plastic sheeting known as high tunnels.
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