Mushrooms: A Climate-Resilient Crop!

Climate change poses significant threats to farming in the Southwest. Changes in climate such as scarcity of water, longer periods of drought, and warmer temperatures leave farmers wondering how they will adapt to the changing conditions. Mushrooms are a climate-resilient crop as they have low ecological footprints and don’t require much time, space, or resources to grow. They are nutritious in the kitchen and have numerous beneficial uses. Mushroom farming in New Mexico is emerging, and these farmers play an important role in leading methods of sustainable farming. 

The first time I read about the sustainability of mushrooms, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about their low-carbon footprint. Firstly, they have an amazing capacity to decompose and recycle organic material. Any waste in the agricultural sector can be turned into compost for growing mushrooms, making them one of the lowest-carbon footprint farms. According to one article, “In the United States on average, 35% of home waste and 60% of business waste is suitable for use as a mushroom growing substrate.” This includes any organic material lying around our spaces such as toilet paper, newspaper, egg cartons, magazines, coffee grounds, tea bags, and even cotton clothing!

Mushrooms can grow on any organic material, including old jeans!
Credit: Mother Earth News

Secondly, mushrooms use little water compared to other crops. For instance, one pound of fresh produce may take up to 50 gallons of water to grow, whereas one pound of “button” mushrooms takes two gallons of water to grow. Mushroom farmers have become incredibly efficient with their use of water, which is why mushrooms are one of the most drought-friendly crops.  

Thirdly, mushrooms are one of the crops with the lowest energy consumption. Growing one pound of button mushrooms takes 1.0-kilowatt-hour (Kwh) of electricity. This is equivalent to running your coffeemaker for one hour each day. On the same note, producing that one pound of mushrooms generates 0.7 pounds of CO2 equivalent. Compare that number to the 20 pounds of CO2 that it takes to produce one gallon of fuel. Mushrooms have extremely low energy consumption and carbon emissions compared to most other things.

Lastly, mushrooms can be grown year-round and don’t require much land to grow. On average, one square foot of space in a mushroom bed can produce 6.55 pounds of mushrooms. That is equivalent to 4.5 red bricks on a patio. That is an incredibly small amount of space to grow so many mushrooms! Even more impressively, one acre of land can grow one million pounds of mushrooms. In 2017-2018, mushroom growers sold 917 million pounds of Agaricus mushrooms- which is equivalent to 4,700 football stadiums. 917 million pounds of mushrooms is enough to circle the circumference of the planet mushroom cap to mushroom cap 19 times! 

Mushroom farming is an accessible form of farming- anyone can grow mushrooms from their home! For beginners, mushroom growing kits are recommended. A few local growers including Matt’s Mushroom Farm and NM Fungi sell growing kits. NM Fungi also offers a Medicinal Mushroom Grow Course. Nutritionally, they are low in calories in fat and provide a modest amount of fiber and nutrients. Interestingly, they contain non-nutritive plant substances in which cell and animal studies have shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects.

Some of our local mushroom growers include Matt’s Mushroom FarmNM Fungi, and Full Circle MushroomsSouthwest Mushrooms among more! Estevan Hernandez, owner of NM Fungi explains how mushrooms play a role in sustainability and climate change: 

NM Fungi: The Man Behind the Mushrooms

“As a meat alternative, Mushrooms offer significantly reduced net water usage. Combining this with the fact that most Gourmet Mushroom Farms (such as ours) are extremely energy efficient and maintain a low carbon footprint, we believe that our industry is actively reducing the production of greenhouse gases. What’s more, we expect to witness and participate in nationwide Mycoremediation projects with goals including: converting plastics into bioavailable nutrients with plastic-consuming fungi, improving yields of organic crop production by introducing mycelium into farm soils, and even replacing petroleum products in a variety of applications with organic mycelial materials.”

NM Fungi

Mushrooms are a fascinating species and provide innovative solutions to challenges we face in climate change. They have low carbon footprints, can be home-grown, have health benefits, are used in sustainability-oriented projects such as mycoremediation, and are being studied as bio-material to replace hazardous waste. As climate change increasingly affects farming practices in the Southwest, mushroom farming is one of the most viable and sustainable forms of farming!

-Posted by Isa

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A Slice of Eden – Backyard Agroforestry

The aim of this article will be to exemplify a few different takes on the residential agroforestry system that could be applied well to a house’s ¼ acre landscape area. A backyard food forest (or front yard for that matter) would be able to meet both the local food producing needs of a household while also providing a nice landscaping alternative. Residential food forests provide the capacity for many more people to get involved in growing their own food and learning about the intricate systems that we as humans can cultivate to work in symmetry with nature.

Explaining the Concept of a Food Forest

A food forest is essentially a long-term garden, with its backbone being perennials and trees; that utilizes natural processes and plant relations to increase yield and reduce pests. There are a variety of examples of successful implementation of this gardening concept all across the world, but a couple of good near examples include the market scale garden run by the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, which has a tour showing all of their many varieties and systems. The Institute is nestled deep within the Rocky Mountains of Colorado between Grand Junction and Denver. They offer tours and even have their own book at their website. Another example comes from Brad Lancaster and his neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona. Lancaster’s system has a greater emphasis on local and traditional food producing plants and water management integration. His Desert Harvesters network a has a variety of resources for desert gardening and he also has his own books on the subject.

What will work best in Albuquerque?

One of the greatest questions that any Burqueno should think about before implementing a garden should be about whether to xeriscape or make a water-using, food producing garden. Xeriscape is using local or minimal watering plants as landscaping. While a food producing garden will use more water than xeriscape it could still use less than a grass lawn, depending on what you’re growing. The question essentially boils down to whether or not you think it is worth the water usage to grow food or have a minimal effort, good for the environment, xeriscape. It really is a personal choice and preference.

The Raincatcher’s house in Santa Fe

For the sake of this article, let’s assume you’ve chosen a food producing garden. There is a good local example of a New Mexican food forest in Santa Fe. The Raincatcher’s house is a good example of what can be done locally while also looking nice within a residence. The home is utilized as an example for the local landscaping that can make a food forest on your own property. One of many things to do if you’re looking to make your own food forest by yourself is the types of crops you can grow. Here is a list of 50 food crops that grow in New Mexico. The Albuquerque area is a 7a and 7b on the USDA growing scale for plant resiliency.


For ease of implementation, it can make sense in certain instances to split aspects of your system between your front yard and your backyard. This is primarily because certain neighbors (we all have at least one) may complain about a less than Suburban front lawn, but people generally care considerably less about what you do with your backyard. To get around this and get the most out of this work around the front yard can be made into a pollinator garden to create a good and beneficial habitat for the pollinators that we want to help plant production. I like to call this the Semi-ornamentation part of a food forest as you will be creating a food forest for your pollinators; while maintaining a beautiful front yard that should keep those peskier neighbors away and bring the fun ones closer! A good resource for how to develop a pollinator habitat comes from the ABQ Backyard Refuge program run by the Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge.

ABQ Backyard Refuge certified habitat sign

If you have more amenable neighbors than you can make your front yard like your backyard. The primary focuses of a food forest should be on mutually beneficial producers. A wonderful example of this is the Three Sisters system that has been utilized by Native Americans for thousands of years. The Three Sisters are composed of corn, beans, and squash. Each plant finds and utilizes their strengths combined with the others to become one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to production in your garden. It is also a good idea to look into close knit systems like the Soil-to-Ceiling method/Self-Fertilizing Garden(SFG). The Veganic Agricultural network has a bounty of information on crops and layout plans to make things simple in a Self-Fertilizing Garden.

-Posted by Colin

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The Future of Agriculture: Hydroponics & Aquaponics in New Mexico 

If I told you that 70% of our freshwater usage – as a globe – goes towards agriculture, would you believe me? In New Mexico alone, 76% of water is used for irrigated agriculture while livestock accounts for 1.05% of total water withdrawals. Obviously, the number of resources that go into traditional agriculture is taxing to our environment. Current research shows that by 2050, we need to increase food production by about 70% to meet the needs of a global population of 9.8 billion people. To meet these growing demands, we must find sustainable alternatives to implement into our current agricultural practices to ensure that we are able to grow all year round and use our water resources efficiently. Both hydroponics and aquaponics offer a viable solution to the many challenges of our current agricultural system that can be implemented across New Mexico.

Global water scarcity.
Image credit: Indy100

If you aren’t familiar, hydroponics is a method of growing plants without the use of soil. This growing method enhances plant yields, uses 80% less water, uses fewer pesticides, and grows at a faster rate than traditional agriculture. Hydroponics has become a popular growing method because this system takes the desired amount of food directly to the root. Whether you are growing on a personal or commercial scale, there are many benefits to this growing method that will allow us to keep up with the increasing demand for food in the future without sacrificing a large amount of water. 

Silver Leaf Farms in Corrales, New Mexico is a great example of a hydroponic system. Brothers Aaron and Elan work together to run a sustainable farm operation that produces quality crops that have a low carbon footprint. In a 10,000 square foot greenhouse, they grow tomatoes, lettuce, kale, basil, and cucumbers hydroponically in coconut husks. At this farm, it is vitally important to control temperatures so they can utilize the sun but avoid extreme heat. Although a huge challenge is finding the most efficient system for producing quality products, they use only one gallon of water to grow a single head of lettuce whereas it traditionally takes 60-80 gallons in a field!

While hydroponics is a more efficient growing method than traditional agriculture, we are seeing New Mexicans embrace a different style of growing as well. One example is the students at Santa Fe Community College who are using aquaponics to grow their food. Aquaponics is the combination of traditional fish farming and hydroponics in which the goal is to grow plants and fish at the same time. The main advantage of this method is that it allows the nutrients produced by fish waste to be used by the plants, which in turn help filter the water making it suitable for fish. In comparison to hydroponics, this requires less water quality monitoring and is less prone to disease.  

Infographic: Bēhance

Another great example is Desert Verde Farm located in Santa Fe which is New Mexico’s only indoor aquaponic farm that produces leafy greens, fruiting plants, and microgreens for the local community. When discussing the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics with owner Andrew Neighbour, he emphasized how hydroponics has some shortcomings. One is that with a hydroponic system, it is necessary to add chemical nutrients, and thus plants grown in this way are not certifiably “organic”. The main difference being that aquaponics is a closed-loop system where fish are fed a high protein diet. When they produce soluble waste, it breaks down into fertilizer for plants and in return, the plants clean these compounds from the water, and the cycle continues. From city permitting, to financing, and finding a trained workforce, Desert Verde Farm is facing a few challenges getting started but is nevertheless succeeding in creating a system that is suitable for the future of New Mexico agriculture.

Still, because growing food in a desert can be difficult due to extreme temperatures, low natural precipitation, and limited arable soil, hydroponics and aquaponics offer a viable solution to growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs regardless of climate, soil availability, or space. While there is adequate sunlight and heat that would be beneficial to the growth of plants, in a desert environment, there is always the risk of significant problems in adapting hydroponic and aquaponic systems to harsher climates.  Despite the challenges, farming with hydroponics and aquaponics offers a unique solution to our current agricultural system that will allow us to stabilize our food system for the future. Farming with hydroponics and especially aquaponics would be useful in New Mexico as it would preserve our precious water resources and allow room for different infrastructure developments.

-Posted by Feleecia

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Vegan Chicken that Tastes Better than Real Chicken

Vegan Chicken Review
I tried four different brands of vegan “chicken” and am going to share my findings of each brand’s taste, cost and any sustainability efforts done by the companies. This is for anyone who is a vegan, always on the go or if you’re wanting to transition into/try out vegan food!

Why does it matter?

Here are a few analogies to showcase just how much a non meat diet can impact the environment in a positive way: “It takes approximately 1,847 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef” and “518 gallons for one pound of chicken”, and by going meatless just one day per week, you would decrease your meat consumption by nearly 15 percent. “If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the equivalent of taking over 5 million cars off our roads annually.

Gardien : Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

Taste 8/10

These tenders were crispy with breading on the outside and had a nice “chicken texture” on the inside. The flavor was grainy due to the seven grain breading and they were nice stand alone but could benefit from some sort of dip as they were a little dry.

Cost $00.61 an ounce at $5.49 for 9 ounces, most expensive.


According to the Gardien website, “if you eat one less burger per week, it is like taking your car off the road for 320 miles.” They promote “meatless Mondays” as a way to help the environment and your health from things such as heart disease and cancer. They even suggest you get your protein from things other than their products like tofu or beans. Gardien is owned and produced by Conagra brands which also owns and produces Slim Jim and Duke’s Smoked Meats, which gives the impression that the brand is not concerned about reducing meat consumption but more so making money.

Alpha : Sizzlin’ Spicy Chik’n Nuggets

Taste 6.5/10

These nuggets were not crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside. The taste was good, I opted for the spicy version so it was full of flavor, but I’m a big texture person so the mushiness kind of ruined it for me.

Cost $00.48 an ounce at $4.86 for 10 ounces


Alpha Foods states that eating less meat leads to happy animals, planet and humans. “Eating plant-based food reduces harmful emissions and land destruction”. From my research they are a stand-alone brand and believe in cutting down meat consumption when you can and not putting a label on your diet.

Impossible : Chicken Nuggets

Taste 10/10

These nuggets were crispy on the outside and had a pull apart “chicken” texture on the inside. They were great alone and wouldn’t need anything added, they tasted a lot like chicken and smelled like it too which was surprising. Overall, they reminded me of Dino Nuggets and were the most realistic to chicken with the best taste.

Cost $00.48 at $6.48 for 13.5 ounces


“Welcome to the future of sustainable food” says impossible foods, they state that the most effective way to reduce your environmental footprint is by cutting meat, fish, and dairy out of your diet. Their website offers a variety of information on topics like climate change, environmental footprint and impact reports documenting their progress towards a more sustainable food system.

Morning Star : Veggie Buffalo Wings

Taste 7/10

These wings were crispy on the outside but mushy on the inside. The taste was slightly artificial but it had a good flavor that was its own thing, I wouldn’t compare it to a chicken flavor exactly.

Cost $00.39 an ounce at $4.18 for 10.5 ounces, least expensive.


MorningStar Farms are dedicated to more vegan possibilities, a better world and a greener world. They don’t provide any information on their website concerning statistics or numbers related to their foods in terms of conserving water/carbon and land. They claim to have no “all-or-nothing activism”, and don’t seem to be concerned about any activism within the plant based community at all. They are owned by Kelloggs which owns many non plant-based brands such as Cheez Its.

Final Thoughts

Eating vegan/cutting out meat from your diet can be as easy or complicated as you make it. There are accessible ways to dive into good tasting vegan food available right at your local grocery store. The website Living my Vegan Life is a great resource that lists all of the vegan frozen food brands sold in grocery stores, where to buy them, what they sell and a quick summary of the brand itself.

-Posted by Sela

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So You Want to Compost, But You Don’t Have a Yard?

By now you probably have heard about composting as it has picked up momentum in the sphere of sustainability. But when most of us think of composting we likely have a monolithic image in our minds – a big heap of brown dirt in the corner of a yard or field, sprinkled occasionally with fresh household waste, probably a bit smelly and best given some room to breathe. While there are many misconceptions to this (there are several alternative methods that are smaller-scale and more aesthetically pleasing and low-impact, and properly mixed and aerated it doesn’t actually smell much), it’s a harsh reality that personal compost systems are often inaccessible. More and more, dorm and apartment dwellers may have become aware of the social and environmental benefits of composting, but may struggle to find a way to participate.

Why should I be composting?

            A fair question, particularly if you don’t have a garden or access to land. Food waste is the third largest contributor to methane gas emissions in the U.S., contributing significantly to the greenhouse effect. This material can compromise the integrity of landfills when simply thrown in the trash, creating unwanted smells and fire hazards – plus the nutrients never return to the soil, instead indefinitely sealed up as if in a plastic bag. Proper disposal of organic materials through composting can significantly reduce these hazards and produce high-quality, low-impact, nutrient-rich and biota-dense fertilizer. According to the Bernalillo County Extension Master Composters, composting sequesters carbon into the soil in a healthy way instead of into the atmosphere, where it can contribute to climate change.

I don’t have a use for the compost, but I’d like to send it somewhere!

            Albuquerque hosts a couple of for-profit composting services. Little Green Bucket provides a container (varying sizes and plans available to suit your needs) for a monthly subscription which they pick up from your home much like your regular trash service, or you can drop off waste at their facility for an adjusted fee. This waste goes to Soilutions, a local facility which partners with several businesses to reduce food waste and divert organic materials from landfills. They sell the finished compost product commercially.

For no fee, Rio Grande Community Farm also has a drop-off program with two locations, and the result is used for local farms and gardens. Also, if you’re feeling up to it, try taking to Facebook or other social networks – you could find a group for homesteaders or backyard gardeners who might gladly accept the contribution (bonus, you could make a friend in the community!).

A volunteer admires the community garden plot at Rio Grande Community Farm. Photo: Albuquerque Journal

What if I do want to use the compost?

            If your dwelling complex has a free chunk of outdoor space, consider reaching out to your neighbors and landlord about initiating a community garden. With proper approval and a small investment of time and resources, you can create a community space that nurtures neighborhood relationships and grows healthy, local food right where you live. NMSU has an in-depth guide to establishing an official community garden, but don’t be intimidated, it can be less formal than this.

            Alternatively, reach out to friends who have property – you could launch a mutual endeavor that provides a small batch of compost for a windowsill garden, or maybe you know a farmer or gardener who would be interested in a mutually beneficial arrangement (kitchen scraps also make good chicken feed, and there could be eggs in it for you!).

If you’d rather find a way to keep the compost in your unit, consider smaller, more contained compost methods. Vermicomposting utilizes worms to quickly break down materials and can be done in a small, tiered structure or plastic storage container with a (vented) lid, and there are countertop devices on the market that may incinerate or chemically expedite decomposition. Systems like the bokashi bucket rely on microbial additives which expedite decomposition, producing fermented compost and “compost tea”. A balcony might be a nice spot for a modest tumble composter, which you can buy or make yourself.

A DIY version of a compost tumbler
Photo: Instructables

I’m ready to give it a try!

Now that you’ve learned a bit about the benefits of composting and the power you hold to make a difference in the environment and community, learn more about composting methods, resources, and NM climate-specific considerations at the Albuquerque Library. NMSU also offers a detailed overview of the process. For more tips on composting from a unit-style home, see this blog entry from Going Zero Waste. Lastly, for a list of what materials you can and can’t compost and troubleshooting if any issues arise, check out this handy guide from Recycle New Mexico.

Best of luck on your home composting journey!

Posted by Charley

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The Cost of Drought: Why Some Farmers Won’t be Planting This Season

Farmers in central New Mexico have long relied on the nourishing waters of the Rio Grande to sustain their crops through the sweltering summer growing season. Water from the Rio Grande is delivered to farmers through a complex network of acequias and ditches, some of which were created centuries ago by the state’s Indigenous and Spanish inhabitants. In the Middle Rio Grande, these irrigation systems are now managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD). Farmers must have a water right to connect to MRGCD systems, though the amount of water that they receive from the MRGCD is dependent on water availability in the Rio Grande. Water allocations are tricky – the MRGCD must attempt to meet farmer’s needs while simultaneously supporting river ecosystems and complying with interstate compacts.

Current boundaries and boundary divisions for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Citation

New Mexico is in the midst of what experts are calling “the driest 22-yr period since at least 800 AD”. This megadrought is almost certainly linked to climate change and has significantly reduced the average amount of snowpack feeding the Rio Grande and other western rivers.The MRGCD forecasts that the 2022 irrigation season will be severely limited by low water availability and is “warning all irrigators to expect significant changes to irrigation delivery.”

To limit the economic impact of reduced water provision and promote conservation, the MRGCD is encouraging irrigators to enroll in its newly expanded Emergency Fallowing Program. Fallowing a field means that it is not planted or irrigated, so the water that would have been used to grow crops is left in the river. If approved for this program, irrigators will receive $425 from the MRGCD for every acre of land that they fallow. The 2022 acreage cap for this program is 14,000 acres, which will cost the MRGCD approximately 6 million dollars. The majority of the money to fund this program was appropriated to the MRGCD during the 2022 state legislative session. Irrigators enrolled in the Emergency Fallowing Program are not at risk of losing their water right for non-use, as may otherwise be the case if they do not irrigate their land.

Expected snowpack for the 2022 irrigation season. The black line represents current snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Basin. Citation
A partially fallowed field in Nebraska. Image source

Fallowing programs have successfully reduced overall water consumption in water-stressed irrigation districts around the west. One of the most successful programs implemented to date was implemented in California’s Imperial Valley, which has partnered with municipal providers in Los Angeles to compensate farmers up to $175 per acre-foot of water saved. The Imperial Valley Fallowing Program is generally considered successful because its competitive pricing made fallowing an attractive option and because strict rules ensured that fallowed land was rotated to prevent soil degradation.

Average consumptive use in the Middle Rio Grande is approximately 3-acre feet per acre over a growing season, so Middle Rio Grande irrigators would make around $525 per acre if paid at Imperial Valley rates. While the price paid to Middle Rio Grande farmers is lower than the price paid to  Imperial Valley farmers, the MRGCD fallowing program may still be an attractive economic option because the crops grown in the Middle Rio Grande generally bring in less money than the high dollar crops grown in the Imperial Valley. Alfalfa is the most commonly grown crop in New Mexico and most alfalfa grown supplies the state’s beef industry. The New Mexico State Agricultural Extension Office estimates that an acre of alfalfa grown in New Mexico sold for $273 to $396 in 2019. This is a substantially lower amount than the same land would bring in if fallowed and is an especially attractive option because farmers do not have to invest time and resources into growing or harvesting the crop.

Despite the water savings associated with fallowing, it is typically not seen as a long-term solution for significant water shortages. Soil that is not productive for multiple seasons will typically result in low soil moisture and soil nutrient depletions. This will make it more difficult to grow productive crops in the future and may require planting cover crops to restore soil health. To prevent abuse of fallowing incentives and soil degradation, previous MRGCD fallowing programs have prevented irrigators from fallowing a tract of land multiple years in a row, though the 2022 program has waived this stipulation because of the projected severity of this year’s water shortage.

Assuming the MRGCD successfully enrolls all 14,000 acres of approved land in the Emergency Fallowing Program and that crops in the MRGCD consume 3 acre-feet of water per acre, total water use in the MRGCD will be reduced by approximately 42,000 acre-feet. While these savings are not nearly enough to cover the state’s outstanding 125,000 acre-foot debt to Texas under the Rio Grande compact, they will almost certainly support farmers with an alternative source of income, help the state meet its long-term contract obligations, and support the ecosystems that surround the Rio Grande. In the words of Casey Ish, the MRGCD’s conservation program coordinator, “Programs such as the Emergency Fallowing and Environmental Water Leasing Program (EF-EWLP) provide the District with a ‘lever’ that can be raised and lowered to adjust our demand on the river. When the District can meet these different demands (ecosystem, irrigation, and compact requirements), I believe you have a sustainable system.”

-Posted by Nic

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Impossibly Impossible Meat

We all have heard of the new alternative meat that is too good it has to be impossible. A meat alternative that tastes, smells, and even bleeds like real meat. The Impossible corporation is a meat alternative that claims to be a sustainable and healthy alternative to actual meat. As a vegetarian of almost eight years, I greatly appreciate the idea of eating meat again without the environmental impact, concerns about animal welfare, and health considerations. The major flaws of the meat industry are partaking in animal cruelty, producer of methane and other Greenhouse gases, land, and water overuse, and produced pollution and effluent waste. Being a vegetarian has major health benefits since it promotes eating a more plant-based diet and pushes me to be more creative with my cooking, as I cannot eat fast food. Still, the pros and cons to impossible meat will be discusses further in this blog.

Ingredient Sustainability and Heath Concerns

What makes the Impossible meat so impossible? According to the company’s website the meat alternative is derived completely from plants with proteins, flavors, fats, and binders. The impossible burger is manufactured from two methods of genetically engineering soy products. The first being Impossible meat, using GMO soybeans compared to organic soybeans that have higher levels of protein and lower levels of Omega 6 fatty acids. The company uses GMO soy protein concentrate and GMO soy protein isolate for the alternative meat to have high amounts of protein. The second being genetic engineering of soy produces “heme” which is what makes the meat bleed and taste meaty. This is done by taking DNA from the roots of soy plants where heme is created and inserting that into genetically engineered yeast that is then fermented to mass produce heme.

Are these ingredients better or worse to consume?

Impossible meat is “unapologetically processed” which seems like a given since it is the first meat alternative that is the most alike to real meat. Theses alternative meats are considered ultra-processed foods. Little is known about the long-term effect of consuming these ultra-processed foods. Despite impossible meat being in the category of ultra-processed foods the company has states that the updated recipe is, “tastier, juicier, and more nutritious”, with 40% less saturated fats than the old recipe and has as much protein as 80/20 ground beef from cows.

Impact on the environment

Since impossible meat is made entirely from plants, the environmental impact is less, compared to meat production. Meat production uses more land, water, and recourses than crop farming. According to the United Nations for climate change (UNFCC), “compared to beef, the Impossible Burger required 96% less land, 87% less fresh water, generated 89% less greenhouse gas emissions and resulted in 92% less pollution to freshwater ecosystems”. It was also stated that in 2018, Impossible Burger sales of beef spared the equivalent of 81,000 tones of greenhouse gas emissions, 3.4 billion liters of water and 100 square kilometers of land. From the impossible company they have conducted their own environmental impact report with Quantis. The UNFCC uses the information and stats from these reports since it is the only source of information provided for the impact of the Impossible Company.

Graph of environmental impact of Impossible meat compared to beef burger


The FDA is supposed to require testing of new food products so to not cause anyone an allergic reaction from the protein. Instead of having the company to file a new food additive petition the FDA allowed Impossible foods to use a weak regulatory process called, Generally Recognized as Safe or GRAS to allow the company to self-certify its product is safe for human consumption.


The idea of meatless meat is a great idea in theory, the impossible meat may be too good to be true. Though the alternative meat may be less harmful on the environment, the only evidence provided for that is from the company itself and private third parties. The alternative meat is ultra-processed and is not the healthiest option compared to sustaining from meat or just eating less meat. This is still a relatively new idea and needs much more work to become sustainable, but it does give hope to a society with less meat consumption. As a long time vegetarian, I am happy to see companies trying to make meat alternatives to improve environmental impacts and give people a more sustainable option to meat. I have tired impossible meat before and enjoy the taste and texture of the alternative meat. Since it is an ultra-processed food, I only eat it on occasion and when I can afford to buy it. Overall, I enjoy being able to eat meat that gives the same feeling as real meat but without the sever impacts of the actual meat industry.

Two friends enjoying an Impossible Burger cartoon

-Posted by Abbi

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High Desert Gardening


Why should you start your own garden? The importance of having yor own personal garden  is to have access to fruit and veggies to live a healthier lifestyle, this also lessens one’s dependence on grocery stores. You have the opportunity to control where your food comes from, how its taken care, and how it’s harvested – which call be very satisfying having peace of mind of knowing exactly what is going on with your fresh produce from start to finish. This will be a guide on how to start a raised bed gardening system within your backyard, with tips on how to maintenance it tailored to a  high altitude desert environment.

Pros Cons
SustainableWater use/ creating a watering schedule 
Fewer trips to grocery storeFinding the right seeds for the climate
Abundance in crops when choosing the right plantsStorage for harvested crops
Spend lots of time outsideInitial expense is high due to unavailability of soil
More sunny days = longer growing season  Dealing with pests  
Can almost plant year-round depending on what seeds you useInsufficient space in yard based on how much of a yield you may want
Pros & Cons of High Desert Gardening

Where to begin

Choosing the correct area and amount of space in your yard to dedicate to gardening is one of the most important steps to beginning your gardening adventure. You’ll want to choose a space  that is up against as sturdy wall, building or fence (to help with protection against wind), but also a place where each plant can receive direct sunlight. Avoid places where rainwater may collect into a puddle if growing veggies – veggies don’t enjoy soggy conditions. Besides these suggestions, a raised garden bed can be placed virtually anywhere, depending on the type of material your raised bed is made from.

Basic materials needed 

  • Buy or DIY a raised garden bed
  • Gloves
  • Hardware cloth to keep ground dwelling critters out of the garden bed
  • Landscaping fabric to keep out weeds
  • Weeding tools (in case weeds do grow)
  • Good quality soil. Soil calculator
  • Fertilizer to “feed” the soil Purpose of fertilizer 
  • Plant support: plant stakes, bamboo stakes
  • Tomato cages (not only used for tomatoes) keep heavy fruited plants from falling over or touching diseased soil and are especially helpful for windy areas
  • Garden ties or plant clips
  • Plant protection: heavy duty mesh netting, chicken wire, thin wooden boards (for hail)
  • Seeds, seedlings, or non-ripe veggies

These items can be found at local gardening stores within your city or state or large chain stores such as Lowes, Home Depot, or Walmart.

How to set up your garden

Best time to plant and what happens next

After plants begin to grow, lots of maintenance of the plants and the garden bed itself will be needed to have a happy healthy garden.


  • Schedule time to pull weeds (that could harm your plants) weekly or biweekly Edible & Non-Edible Weeds  
  • Set up a water schedule
  • Add layer of mulch: will reduce needing to water often and protects soil from sun
  • Don’t forget to “feed” your plants! It is recommended to add fertilizer a month after the initial planting
  • check for signs of disease and pests/ find a pest control that works best for you and your produce

Protection suggestions

Protecting your plants from animals, harsh sun and wind is the most vital thing that can be done to keep your plants happy, healthy, and thriving.



  • garden fleece or netting that is pegged into the ground
  • break shield with metal in a teepee form
  • having garden partly surrounded by sturdy structure such as a wall or fence


  • chicken wire
  • electronic/soundwave fencing

Other unique ways to protect your garden from frost, wind, heat and drought  

Planting suggestions

Planting in a high desert environment can prove to be quite difficult. When trying to find plants that can thrive in this climate it is best to look for these characteristics: fleshy leaves or stems that can retain water and plants that have thick waxy layer to reduce evaporation. Overall, choose plants that can withstand the high heat of midday and the low plummeting temperatures of the night.

  • Tomatoes
  • Variety of peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Variety of squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Succulents

Additional sources to help with your gardening adventure

Detailed tips on raised bed gardening  

Wind proofing your garden  

Heat tolerant cropsDifferent crops for different temperatures

-Posted by MacKenzie

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Composting: What’s the Point?

Few people have ever thought about the unfathomable amounts of time that it takes to make soil. Healthy soil takes so long to create that it may as well be measured in geological time scales.

Let me briefly explain how soil is made using a deciduous forest as an example. Deciduous trees drop their leaves every year to create mulch that ultimately breaks down into soil. The leaves fall on top of last year’s leaves and we begin the get a layering effect with newer leaves on top and older leaf material on the bottom. Micro-organisms, macro organisms, and the freeze thaw cycle all act together to break down the leaf material into an unrecognizable mass. This material is what we call humus and it is the basis for healthy soil. Animal waste, wind-blown particles, and fallen limbs of trees all combine to form soil over time.

Over the course of the growing season the plants accumulate minerals, vitamins, and carbon dioxide into their tissues and leaves. When these leaves fall in a natural setting all of that material stays in the local soil so that the plant can uptake the nutrients again in a form of recycling. Considering that the nutrients stay in one place, more or less, the only real inputs to the system are wind-blown particles and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon cannot be absorbed through roots and so it accumulates in the soil as humus giving it a light, airy, chunky texture. This also makes soil a fantastic medium for carbon sequestration.

If you can imagine, by analogy, that soil carbon is a sponge cake then the humus is shoe leather. As you can imagine, shoe leather is not very appetizing and so the micro-organisms and the macro organisms do not consume it because there are other forms of food near-by that are easier to chew and easier to digest. The “critters” in the soil eat decaying plant material (sponge cake) and take the carbon into their bodies and when they die or get eaten by a bigger critter the carbon is returned to the soil. This is not to say the “shoe leather” is inedible. When soils in agricultural fields are over fertilized the bacteria begin to consume anything and everything they can find and this leads to soil degradation through the loss of organic matter in the soil. This creates a hard clay-like material that is hydrophobic, meaning that water cannot easily penetrate the surface to the lower levels. This in turn causes surface runoff which in turn causes soil erosion.

So why do we compost? Compost is essentially a human created practice that creates humus in a few months to as little as a few weeks, depending on the method, compared to the natural process which takes several years. The act of piling up organic matter, decomposing it, and redistributing the material does not happen in nature and this makes composting a unique human habit.

Soil micro-organisms in healthy soil consume large quantities of organic matter every year, and if this organic matter is not replenished then the soil will become deficient and the micro-organisms will begin to die. Think of composting as feeding, literally “feeding”, these organisms which in turn provide the plant roots with soluble nutrients in the form of their metabolic waste.

Organic matter must be added to an actively growing field every season in order to sustain the micro-organisms. Imagine one-wheel barrow full of compost thrown onto a field in spring, by the time summer comes to an end only 1-3% of the material in the wheel barrow is left in the soil, the rest has been consumed by the critters and the plant roots. However, that 1-3% is the humus, the indigestible material that the micro-organisms do not want to eat, yet. This is why we must add organic matter every year and as often as possible. In doing so we can replenish soil to keep it healthy, sequester atmospheric carbon, replenish deficient soil, and prevent organic matter from going to a landfill where it will rot and turn to toxic methane gas.

-Posted by Payton

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Small farms vs. big farms : Which is better for the environment

Just like many other human activities, raising cattle for human consumption can be very bad for our planet. Cattle are a part of a group called ruminants. Ruminants produce large amounts of methane as part of their digestion cycle. Methane is a very strong greenhouse gas meaning even small amounts of it can be very detrimental to the current climate. Greenhouse gasses act to warm our atmosphere as they can trap and reradiate sun rays in our atmosphere. There are a few ways we can act to reduce the amount of methane being produced by cattle. By far the most obvious method is to reduce the amount of red meat we eat each year. Another way people have claimed to reduce emissions from cattle is to create smaller, more local farms for cattle instead of large industrial farms with thousands of head of cattle. In this article we will dive into this claim and see whether or not this is a good way to cut down emissions, or is large scale farming the least harmful for our planet and climate change.

We can start off by providing a bit more detail on the link between cows and methane. Ruminant livestock have a special digestive system that enables them to consume unusable plant materials as a food source. As a byproduct of this attribute, methane is produced during the digestive process and emitted into the atmosphere. Methane is a very strong greenhouse gas. In fact, methane is twenty five times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere compared to carbon Dioxide. This results in an increase in global climate change trending towards hotter temperatures. It is a big deal when even a small amount of methane gets into the atmosphere. In one year, a cow can produce about 220 pounds of methane.

Let’s get into some factors that can possibly mitigate or offset the fact that all cows produce methane both on smaller grass fed farms and large commercial farms. Smaller and more diversified farms are much less efficient. This leads to an increase in price which we will discuss later. But efficiency is also a key attribute to saving our environment. Larger scale farms can more easily invest in expensive labor saving machinery and technology which can cut the amount of waste being created. This is a point for large farms. Smaller farms bring more benefits to their local communities.

Local farming can create a sense of community and help maintain the fact that food, especially animal products, don’t just appear. Although this isn’t an environmentally based factor, it still contains merit as its social value can outweigh its climactic value. Another point often made in favor of smaller farms is the fact that big farms create big waste, and little farms create little waste. Without a doubt farming cattle will cause pollutants, but having many, smaller farms can allow pollutants to more easily diffuse into the soil and atmosphere when compared to large farms emitting thousands of tons of pollutants in a small area. Another large factor is the amount of farmland we need to grow feed for cattle. This is land that can be converted back to natural grassland and allow more cattle to roam freely as well as native wild animals to reclaim their land.

This leads us to conclude that more locally based farms can actually be better for our planet. This is great, local farms can really help to build community. But what does this mean for the price of meat? It’s no secret that local farms charge a lot more for products when compared to the big commercial companies. As Americans, many if not all of our decisions are financially driven to save us the most money. Will we spend more money to save our planet? Well that is the tough decision we are going to need to make. Grass fed beef can run the consumer as much as 4 dollars a pound! This is because it takes longer for grass fed beef to reach processing weight though this is more sustainable, it’s much more expensive. The average American eats about 55 pounds of red meat every year.

Overall smaller scale farms with cattle eating their natural intended diets can be beneficial to our planet. Though it’s going to cost us upfront at the grocery stores, it may be worth it in the grand scheme, paying more for our food may not be our biggest worry. Cutting down on the amount of red meat we eat is a great way to lower methane emissions from cattle. Looking at alternative diets such as kelp and seaweed integrated diets is another great idea starting to make headlines. Small farms are inefficient but are more likely to grow healthy foods and while large farms can sometimes be environmentally unfriendly, they raise large amounts of food at a very affordable price.

-Posted by Issac

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