Posts by:

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

An Allotment Garden Oasis in Holland

This post is the eighth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

What would you do with a thousand square foot garden?

It’s a sunny day in the early fall when Lennart and Iris show me their allotment in the volkstuinencomplex, translated as “people’s garden complex.” We walk through a low fence Read More >

The Nieuwe Ronde: Where your corner grocery is a field

This post is the seventh in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

When I first met Pieter Lammerts he told me something I have never heard a farmer say: he had a lot of free time. Most vegetable farmers I know who farm on a similar scale work long hours in the fields Read More >

How Goats Saved the Family Farm

Goats feed at the trough during milking

This post is the sixth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

On a blistering afternoon in June, I set up my tent in a sloping pasture and looked out across the hills—golden brown fields of grains, and wildflowers lining the dusty road. In defiance of my hay fever, I would be spending the next 10 days camping on a 57-acre pasture-based goat dairy in Belgium, as part of a course on organic agriculture. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of farmers. There’s a common refrain in the agricultural history of the last 50 years: go big or get out. As farms become increasingly large and specialized, small-scale farmers struggle to compete. But the farmers at Chévrerie de la Croix de la Grise, nestled in the rolling hills of the Wallonia region, refused to follow the conventional wisdom. Read More >

The Doctor Prescribes Farm Work

This post is the fifth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

My first summer working on a farm 10 years ago was hard: long days of physically demanding work under the sun. But there were moments that season—mulching peppers as the sun set, weeding carrots in an early fall breeze, or admiring the remarkable shapes and colors of a couple dozen tomato varieties—that were sometimes meditative and sometimes exhilarating. But they were always grounding and satisfying. Read More >

Charming Earthworms for Science

This post is the fourth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

Almost everyone agrees that earthworms are good for soil in built environments, and for more than a century, we’ve been researching their role in forming soil. In fact, fascination with earthworms can be traced back to Charles Darwin, who first documented their soil forming behaviors. My own interest in worms and soil brought me to a quirky competition held by Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Read More >

Cityplot: Growing Garden Education in Amsterdam

This post is the third in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

The Netherlands is a country with a heavily industrialized food system. Yet in between the bricks and canals of Amsterdam, nearly 200 registered urban gardens grow. On the first sunny Saturday of spring, I took a train to the western edge of the city to see one of these urban farms in action. I walked under an overpass and past a ramshackle squatter community to arrive at an orchard of tidy rows of fruit trees awakening for the season. I grabbed a pair of work gloves Read More >

Mealworms and Sweeteners: Notes from an Organic Trade Fair

This post is the second in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

What does it mean to be organic, and what role does organic agriculture play in a sustainable food system? These are the questions in my mind as I travel out of the Netherlands and into the rolling hills surrounding Nuremburg, Germany, for the 2017 Biofach Organic Food Trade Fair, an international exposition and conference featuring organic businesses and producers from all corners of the globe. Upon arrival, it’s hard to believe that the organic industry comprises only 2 percent Read More >

The School Garden at Pantarijn: A Study in Collaboration

This post is the first in a series – Letters from the Low Country – that Laura Genello will be writing about inspiring projects in food and agriculture in the Netherlands, where she is studying organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

When I arrived in the Netherlands in August, I was immediately struck by the gardens: from community gardens wild with climbing beans and sunflowers to home gardens with tidy rows of miniature shrubs. Six months later I set out to learn about a type of garden that is less visible to the tourist—the school garden. Read More >

From Soil to Water and the Future of Sustainable Food

baby cucumbersOne of my first experiences on a farm opened my eyes to the fascinating interconnectedness of an agricultural system. For this reason, I find it truly rewarding to share in people’s excitement when they visit the aquaponics project. It was on that first farm visit that I realized agriculture meant more than growing a head of lettuce in a faraway field; it meant growing and nurturing a community of organisms, from the chickens that fertilize the soil to the microbes that break down their waste and the people that consume the food. Aquaponics takes these relationships out from hiding. Read More >

Why Tilapia? Species Selection at the Aquaponics Project

IMG_0853Tilapia is one of the most commonly raised fish species in aquaponics systems, but it is not universally desirable among consumers. Why is it that tilapia is such a common choice, and why are we raising them at the CLF Aquaponics Project?

  1. Tilapia are hardy. Really hardy. In the aquaculture industry they have a reputation for being very difficult to kill, especially compared to more finicky species such as trout. They can survive wider ranges in pH, temperature, and ammonia than many other fish species, and they quickly adapt to varying conditions. Read More >