Archive for the ‘Adis English posts’ Category

North Korea drive-by-shootings

Dezember 1, 2012

DSC03356When I was in North Korea a month ago, it was not so easy to make pictures at all times. The national members of the delegations I used to travel around with were rather reluctant, when I asked them to stop for a cow grazing, an ox pulling or a tractor standing around. Thats why I did a lot of drive-by shooting with my cam, with some effects on the quality of the pics, but they still give an impression. 
Let’s start with a paddy rice field in the area of Kubin Ri, a village where Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation (SDC) is entertaining projects, some 80 kilometers northeast of Pyongyang. 
Nordkorea 003Rice is the fuel of North Korean food system. It is strictly cultivated and traded under state control, while there’s a little more liberty for other agricultural products, that are allowed to be sold on farmers markets, taking place usually and at least every 1st, 11th and 21th of the months in a lot of places countrywide. The rice is planted, harvested, bound to sheaves and threshed in practically 100 percent manual work. Transport to the farm is sometimes provided for by the typical seventies Chollima-tractor, a domestic 28 horsepower engine, 2 wheel drive only, but never minding the low quality diesel prevalent in the country.
Street-sceneMost of the transport though, is done with oxen, be it on the countryside…
Oxen seen from the train…or be it in bigger places, like this one that I passed on the train-ride from Pyongyang to Beijing. In the capital though, there is hardly any oxen-pulled-mobility…
The car advertisement…but a growing number of cars, and quite unusual and much discussed among expats and North Koreans alike: an advertisement for the domestic brand.
Kimchi at the doorA very typical sight in all the places I was, even the less rural ones: Chinese cabbage everywhere. In those early november days, the country was brownish dry, except for the widespread green patches in coop-farms and private kitchen gardens. The cabbage togheter with the white raddish are the basics for the treasured national speciality Kimchi, that is fermented and conserved in large clay vases, that the North Koreans keep dug in their garden or on their balconys. Kimchi is the only source of vegs and vitamins during winter time for a big part of the population. That’s why it’s so crucial to plant any tiny or bigger spot available.
Road side shopBesides the above mentioned farmer markets, quite a lot of North Koreans now sell some of their privately produced or traded-in products (often with barter) in the quite widely spread road-side make-shift-shops. You find them on the countryside as well as in downtown Pyongyang, where one night I saw women selling all kind of homemade stuff, eg. tofu or Kimchi, and fruit at night, crouching on the sidewalks with their pocketlamps lighting up the scene. On the Tongil-Market in Pyongyang and at all the other selling points, it was exclusively women selling.
Grain seen from the train
On my way back to Beijing, there was a lot of unloading going on along the tracks. 1000s of bags, containing grains, probably rice and corn were piled up at the train stations. I don’t have it confirmed, but I guess, this is the stately Public Distribution Systems stocks for the winter built up in each place and covered with rice-straw-mats in the end. Obviously there is a big lack of storing capacity in North Korea. One of the factors contributing to the big after-harvest losses. Other problems of the food and agricultural sector, just to name a few: Lack of mechanization, fuel, seeds, fertilizer (N is sometimes available, but there’s a big lack of P and K -> sour soils) and management capacities in the coop-farms, that are the backbone of the agricultural system.
Train scene

ChinAg daily(2): Streetmarkets, night & day

November 7, 2012

Beijing has about 23 million inhabitants, those people have to eat everyday, and man, they like to eat. Wherever a round of chinese gather, it wont take long till they unpack a dozen of dishes in plastic jars, everybody taking from each plate picking with the sticks, that they manage artistically. Theres a wide variety of opportunities to cover your needs in food, one of them is the market(s, see last post) or the growing number of supermarkets of all kinds. Streetmarkets of the mobile kind are very common, too. The colleagues I met in Beijing told me, that they are acting in semi-legality. Sometimes you have to pack very quickly and disappear, sometimes you can solve the problem with a thicker or thinner bundle of Yuans… Above and below are few examples of these mobile salespoints. Nighttime doesnt stop the trading by the way, China is nowadays one of the most capitalistic, if not the most capitalistic country in the world. Business runs around the clock, often it’s survival of the fittest, which means for example for farmers, that if you want to make a good buck, you have to take the long journey to town to go get the best price from the urban population.
Clementines sold by a farmers couple. She is selling in the back while he is eating and collecting the money in the frontseat.
Mobile sweet potato frying and selling device.
Glazed chestnuts for tourists at Summerpalace.
Cucumbers sold peeled to eat like an ice cream, a refreshing and healthy snack, rare combination.

Poland on the Agroblog-Map

September 3, 2012

Finally, Poland has made it onto my blog. And this is purely thanks to my pal at work, Alois. Thanks, man. His wife Alicija is polish and they spent their sumerholidays in her homeland. „Here you are with some pics“, writes Alois, „I’ve taken them along the mainroad between Berlin and Danzig, about 250 kilometers northeast of the border crossing at Stettin. As you can see, the mushroom-collector and beekeeper acts global and promotes his products in the language of the rich neighbour in the west.“ Thats right. On the plaque we read chanterelle, blueberries, boletus and honey in german. On the pic below, you see the whole offer as presented by our polish trader. There is some other interesting details on the pic. The street is in great shape, and they were obviously able to build it without destroying the old alley of trees, unlike in other places I have travelled to in Eastern Europe, eg Romania. And a last detail, the harvesting rural machinery is seemingly on a level comparable to the one in western Europe. Check out the combine on the upper picture. (Pics Alois Feusi)
PS. Almost forgot: Poland was the only country in the Communist Commonwealth that never collectivized its agriculture. When we went to Poland in 1988 as young students, we were surprised to meet eg. a quite wealthy pig-farmer who was able to buy and sell on a private basis. With this starting position, the polish farmers has much better preconditions to enter the post-communist brave new world. 

Return of the old school butcher

Juli 17, 2012


Spent the weekend in London for a birthday party. Stoke Newington in northeastern Hackney Borough is a small town in the big city. Home to many immigrants and recently getting more and more trendy. That’s why its interesting to see, what’s going on at the foodshop front. Apparently one of the new trends is the return of the small scale businesses. „Meat N16“ (Stokes Zip-Code) is an excellent example. This tiny butchery is a major (window-)shopping experience, provided you like meat. Beautiful pieces, nicely arranged in vitrines and cooling cupboards, chopped and cut under the hungry eyes of the customers on woodblocks. N16 offers besides that sausage production trainings for beginners and I was so lucky to get some of the results as part of the birthday buffet. Fingerlickin‘ good in the true sense.
The new trend is also taken up by some immigrants. While most of the pakistani led groceries are unpretentious and neonlit mini-supermarkets, some of them present their produce in a new, but in fact old school manner. A good example for this is Stoke Newington Green, a grocery that spreads the feel of a mid-last century shop with its wooden trays and careful presentation of their fruits and vegetables.
The only thing I havent seen in Stoke is a classic dairy-/cheesemonger. Maybe a job for a postmidlifecrisis agronomist? We’ll see, the top quality english cheeses would be there.
I hope the return of the old school grocers is a longterm development. The consumers behaviour will decide; when they shop there, at least partially, the shops can survive.


Irish farms with cows & against crows

Mai 25, 2012

It’s good to have a pal like Christian Mühlhausen, owner of Landpixel, a german agency for ag-pictures, who has specialised on travelling everywhere I have never been to. After Iceland, a few weeks ago, he has now visited Ireland. A very interesting country, ag-wise. Recently the first sector has contributed largely to improve the economic situation after the big crash following the explosion of the a few years ago. The success of the farmsector is based on an successful dairy- and meat-export-economy. That paid back for the farmers as you can see in last years income-statistics. Still, it seems unclear, whether the development will remain positive, because of the price-decrease for a number of agricultural commodities. Let’s hope, it’s not gonna be a milk-bubble…
But now back to Christians pics from his recent trip to the green island. He writes me, that Ireland has surprised him with beautiful landscapes, pretty cows and not so pretty farms. He concludes that the optical styling of the buildings and their surroundings is not one of the primary concerns of the irish farmers, while the landscapes are very well looked after (including the hedges) and the cows. The ones he saw were all in topconditions with corresponding average milkperformances of over 9000 kilos a year. He’s also praising the quality of the beef, that he has tasted a few times, mentioning at the same time, that the prices (farmgate price 4 Euros/kg young bull; shop price 13 to 22 Euros/kg) are relatively high, compared to the ones in his home country Germany.
Finally he sends me a few pics of a farm with a seemingly wide spread problem: crows or rooks, I’m not sure about the right name, that live on the farmfodder, shit everywhere and bring in diseases. The farmer is trying to keep the intruders away with a loudspeaker system that spreads the fright noises of all the important bird races (saved on a chip) in regular intervals around the clock. Other countries, other customs… Thanks for the pics and the interesting Eireinsights, travelling man! (All pictures Christian Mühlhausen/Landpixel)

The lawn has to go for our little yardfarm

April 14, 2012

This would probably be a major sacrilege, if we were living in England: Last tuesday, a tiny bulldozer entered our building-coops yard and started removing the lawn, well, just some of it. And for a good purpose. Some young families on the hood have initiated a cityfarming project, and the administration liked it. In an untipically fast decision process – for swiss habits – the whole thing was started. After the lawn had been carried out on a lorry, the workers brought in some humus. Meanwhile compost containers were built up and after the earthmoving process had been finished, the young urban gardeners started making patches and filled the pathes with wood chips. I was following the whole process from my kitchen window and thinking, wow, what a great idea and was not really sure whether I should ask if they need a hand from a seasoned agronomist and allotment gardener (a failed one, though), but didn’t dare to. Well, at that moment, one of the crew came up to my window, knocked on it and asked if I wanted to take part and work one of the patches. Hey sure, I said, make my week. And here I am with a ca 7 square meter vegetable garden. Now there remains some work to be done. Will keep you posted on the progress…

Throwback (into wintertime) at Trapper Creek

März 20, 2012

One of my favourite blogs is the Matron of hunsbandry’s „Throwback at Trapper Creek“. I’ve been following these anonymous farmers on the Pacific Northwest of the US for quite a while. I like their earthy approach to animal husbandry, gardening and farming, not talking of their excellent photography and sense of humour. These days, my unknown friends from Trapper Creek suffered an unexpected throwback into wintertime. Instead of spring weather and further blossoming in the garden area, they got snow again, and not just a little bit, there were some „relentless snow storms“, as they write on the blog.
Unsurprisingly the Matron of husbandry from Trapper Creek garnishes the snow-posts with some great pictures. Besides the pictures the blog offers some very useful advice. E.g. in the „How-to“-section where you get detailed user manuals for a big variety of agricultural working techniques and processing from making butter to seed saving. Plus a selection of interesting titles from the ag-library and a treasure-like blogroll where you find plenty of new-wave-farms that try to cater the growing number of food- and environment-concious Americans. A must read and watch. (All pics by


Envy: Food and farming starring on BBC4

Februar 25, 2012


While specialised agricultural shows have long gone from Swiss TV- and Radio-Programmes, the broadcasting sky is much brighter for the british farm- and food-sector. At least on the radiowaves. As my british better half is very fond of BBC Radio 4, I myself have become a fan of it, mainly of the agricultural side, although I have to admit, that being a regular live listener of the BBC-„Farming-today“-show is hard work, because its broadcasted at 5.45 am GMT… Anyway, modern times make it easier to follow the interesting programme on a regular basis, as you can listen the conserve online, or download the podcast. Aditionally, there’s a round up with the weekly highlights presented on saturday. I’ve just consumed yesterdays quarter of an hour, and it was an interesting mix: Among other things a controversy between a professor and a soil-protection activist on the usefulness of organic agriculture and the perspective of a sheep farmer on the newcomer at the disease front called Schmallenberg-virus. The other big star on the BBC-countrylife-horizon is the renowned Food programme, broadcasted on sundays at consumerfriendly 12.32 GMT. Last sunday presenter Sheila Dillon came up with a bunch of informations about Food-coops and similar activities all over England. One of the main storys was dealing with the Reading-based True Food coop. Their interesting concept: The coop buys „a complete range of general groceries, including organic wholefoods, local fresh fruit and vegetables and environmentally friendly household products“. And sells them not only in the central shop but also in three neighbourhood community centres throughout Reading, where the „True-Food“-people turns up once a week on a late afternoon with their product range. By the way „True Food“ was one of the winners of the yearly „Food&Farming Awards“ of the BBC. The coop was awarded as „Retail-initiative-of-the-year“. Congratulations to True Food! And to BBC4 for all the effort they put into agricultural coverage and supporting the actors!

British Cheese: A secret yet to dis(wiss)cover

Februar 4, 2012

With this blogpost I’m fulfilling one of my newsyear-resolutions. My pal Richard from Newcastle has asked me many times to start blogging in his idiom. As there have been more requests of the kind over the years, I’ve decided to try and write a little bit something in English, once in a while. The start is pretty obvious, I want to praise British cheese. Although we Swiss think that cheese shouldn’t be produced anywhere else in the world, some countries, many in fact, have decided to make their own cheeses. One of the least expected would be England for many Swiss, because the clichée that the English can’t cook not talking of making cheese is still widely spread in the country. A big mistake. I think we are quite lucky to have our English-cheese-dealer of choice, who offers a truly amazing selection, just around the corner. As I have an english girlfriend and tend to spend my holidays there much more often than, say in France, I’ve had my share of lovely Cheddars, Stiltons and Wensleydales. Still, there’s a lot that remains to be discovered at Michael Fontanas „British Cheese Centre“ stand in the nearby Viadukt Market in Zurich. Last saturday I bought some Appleby’s Red Cheshire and some Shropshire Blue. Both cheeses were a real treat and satisfied some taste buds, that have never been touched by any Swiss cheese, I have to admit. Michael was called „Ambassador of British Cheese“ in an article that appeared in one of the big Swiss sunday papers recently. No doubt about it: He’s opened a new salon in my cheese-house and deserves the title given him by the paper. In the article, we learned some interesting facts, eg. that there’s no less than 1500 cheese varieties in England. And that there’s an english businessman who buys at Michaels everytime he’s in Switzerland, because he can’t find a comparable choice and quality back home. If you live in England and have the same problem, you can buy Michaels cheese online… (Bild Stefan Jermann/NZZ am Sonntag) 
PS. What I forgot to write: Not online the quality is top of the pops, but also the prices. Most of Michaels cheese costs over 40 pounds a kilogram, which is about double what you pay for the average Swiss cheese. Just hope, that the farmers get a proper price for their milk, will ask Michael next time, when I’m there.