HARVESTING, USING WILD GRAPES â€¢ PROVEN POULTRY HACKS December 2017
REAL-WORLD LE SUSTAINAB IC N A & ORG FARMING
The Voice of Eco-Agriculture
December 2017 A
B Acres U.S.A.
December 2017 • Issue #558
14 Work Smarter, Not Harder
Ben Hartman has embraced efficiency as a central key to farming success by putting “lean” principles into action. BY SHAWNDRA MILLER
22 Where are the Minerals? Instead of spending time and money chasing magic biologicals, foliars or plant protection, first focus on feeding your crop a balance of minerals to prevent problems from arising. BY GARY F. ZIMMER
28 Understanding Carbon Dynamics in the Soil
As you manage soil N, P and K for maximum crop production, consider ways to manage C too. The long-term benefits will be well worth the investment.
Our goal is an agriculture that will have a major role in reversing climate change while regenerating our soils, environment, health and communities while promoting democracy and making a considerable contribution to the well-being of our planet.
80 Interview: André Leu EXPANDING ORGANIC AGRICULTURE Farmer, author and international organic authority André Leu discusses the expanding scope of global regenerative agriculture and its existing challenges.
46 Inviting In the Wild 72 Tap into NRCS Farmers and wild nature are vulnerable, and like any good partnership, they can be truly sustainable when each partner receives support from the other. BY BARBARA BERST ADAMS
54 A Crop Steeped in Tradition
Maryland farmer Heinz Thomet is committed to growing nourishing food in harmony with nature.
Journey to South America and get an insider’s view into the people growing, processing and distributing yerba mate.
BY LEIGH GLENN
BY KLAS LUNDSTROM
38 Preserving Our Pollinators
Natural beekeeping advocate Dr. Leo Sharashkin shares insights into how farmers can support pollinator populations. BY JILL HENDERSON
By using detailed measurements and specifically formulated procedures for controlling nutrient excesses and deficiencies in soils, it is possible to define, measure and manage soil fertility to grow high-quality crops.
Looking to add infrastructure to your farm or ranch? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service can lend a helping hand.
62 Golden Rules
Helmut Schimmel shares five rules on conventional composting and discusses how those rules apply to vermicomposting. BY HELMUT SCHIMMEL
44 Define, Measure
BY CHRIS PERSAUD
BY CAITLIN YOUNGQUIST, PH.D.
32 Building a Symphony
66 Ranching for Better Soil Health
Ranchers reap rewards when they make soil health a focus of their land and animal management strategy. BY SARAH PETERS
BY NEAL KINSEY
December 2017 1
View from the Country Current rural headlines seem to collide with widely varying news that all stems from the same source. The rural drug problem, a shortage of doctors in the countryside, diminishing school districts...these do not hail from legislative action or inaction, but from wheels set in motion for agriculture decades ago. The loss of wealth in the countryside due to shortfalls paid into the raw material economy is staggering. And all of the Wall Street games in the world can't falsify a healthy, balanced economy and the widespread wealth it distributes. Economists equate the financial profit from reselling a made-in-China cellphone with the production of bushels of wheat. In terms of the economic engine the original injection of wealth the sun provides, there is no comparison. Add to this social upheaval and change, accelerated by extreme technological change, and there are conditions of change simply too overwhelming for the human species to fully internalize. The resulting social unrest, wealth disparities and political divide in this country are the result. High hopes for right-siding international trade for agriculture were behind some of the rural support for the current administration. But so far changes in regulation — particularly in the realm of environmental safeguards — have benefitted global corporations. Former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo is ascending the heights in Washington. He was the ball carrier for the farm chemical industry's long-desired bill hiding GMO contents from consumers. With corporate shills in high places, is a trade policy that would benefit family farmers but harm globalists really possible? Meanwhile, a fight is underway regarding whether hydroponic production can be certified as organic. Vermont organic farmer David Miskell succinctly said: “Growing soilless plants with force-fed organic nutrients is a step backward. Perhaps it is a technological innovation, but not an organic innovation. Call it what you want, but it is not organic.” The danger is unlimited factory-farmed produce will enter the United States labeled organic. Readers wanting to learn more of this perhapsfatal blow to family farm-scale certified organic production should visit keepthesoilinorganic.org. The real disconnect between the fight to keep organic farming “organic” dates back to its inception. Organic farming is a production system; consumers seeking organic food are generally seeking a chemical-free SEE PAGE 107 2 Acres U.S.A.
Volume 47, No. 12 • Established 1971 “To be economical, agriculture must be ecological.” Founded by Charles Walters, 1926-2009 GENERAL MANAGER CONSULTING EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR ART DIRECTOR ADVERTISING MANAGER GM EVENTS & MEDIA OFFICE MANAGER SPECIAL PROJECT MANAGER CONTRIBUTING EDITOR CONTRIBUTING EDITOR CUSTOMER SERVICE SHIPPING
RYAN SLABAUGH FRED C. WALTERS TARA MAXWELL SARA HEIDEMAN DESIREA T. LARSON SARAH DAY LEVESQUE CHAD KUSKIE MARY BATTJES CHRIS WALTERS MISTY CONTRERAS JENNIFER WASHBURN MICHAEL ULM
Acres U.S.A. (ISSN 1076-4968) is published monthly by Acres U.S.A., P.O. Box 1690, Greeley, Colorado 806321690 (mail); 501 8th Ave., Greeley, Colorado 80631 (freight); phone 800-355-5313. Periodicals Postage Paid at Greeley, Colorado and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send change of address notices to Acres U.S.A., Attn: Circulation Department, P.O. Box 1690, Greeley, CO 80632-1690. © Copyright 2017, Acres U.S.A. Acres U.S.A. is a registered trademark of Fence Post Co. Reproduction of material in this issue in any form without permission of the publisher is prohibited. No permission required for photocopies made for personal use. Requests for permission to reprint must be in writing to Acres U.S.A., P.O. Box 1690, Greeley, Colorado 80632-1690; email email@example.com. Acres U.S.A. advertisements are accepted on the premise that denial of the right to sell is also the denial of the right to buy. We do not imply that any product or service is of merit under all circumstances and we have no way to evaluate products. Users must make their own judgments and fit eco-products to their own systems of management. Subscription rates for one year/12 issues: U.S. $29, Canada $49, international $60; U.S. funds only, drawn on a U.S. bank. Single copies $6 each (includes shipping & handling). Subscribers: Send change of address promptly, provide old as well as new address, and if possible include label from a recent issue (or code numbers from label); P.O. Box 1690, Greeley, CO 80632-1690; email info@ acresusa.com.
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VIEW FROM THE COUNTRY
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Monthly musings from Acres U.S.A.â€™s editor.
Readers share their thoughts on past articles and words of encouragement.
Regeneration Revolution Ronnie Cummins connects the dots between factory farms, Roundup, GMOs and fake so-called natural foods.
SCIENCE ON YOUR SIDE
News in brief from around the world on developments in ecofarming technology, organic food and farming, human health and vital environmental issues.
Acres U.S.A. highlights research on our radar and what it means for you.
THE HARVEST TABLE
Food Foray: Harvesting, Using Wild Grapes
From avoiding crafty look-alikes to proper cleaning and preserving, Jill Henderson will help you perfect your wild grape kitchen game.
Manage for Success, Longevity
Farmer David Hambleton has mastered not only the science and art of growing healthy organic produce, but also the business of managing people.
REVIEWS & RECOMMENDATIONS
MEET AN ECO-FARMER
STOCK & FLOCK
Poultry Hacks for the No-Fuss Flock Kelly Klober gives time-tested tips for keeping your poultry in tip-top shape.
From in-depth book reviews to innovative websites and beyond.
We let you know when and where exciting eco-farming events are happening.
Get to know fellow innovative farmers putting ecologically correct production principles to work, resulting in profitable, sustainable operations.
December 2017 3
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR CLOUD SEEDING In the March 2017 issue, the brief, “Cloud Seeding Experiment,” told about cloud seeding in the Payette River Basin of southwestern Idaho. The experiment used silver iodide from Jan. 7-March 17. This was done to increase the precipitation — snow pack. Silver iodide pollutes the environment and should not be used. The cloud seeding was an absolute disaster. It did increase the snow. There was 3-4 feet deep of wet snow that collapsed potato and onion storage facilities in and around Weiser, Idaho. The roof of their only grocery store collapsed. It caused millions of dollars of damage. Then it rained — approximately 2 inches or more on top of the snow. This created a huge flood, maybe the worst flood recorded there. It washed away fields, flooded homes and killed livestock. It caused billions more in damage. My brother lost most of his chickens, one field is washed to rock, his winter wheat had ice blocks as big as cars and trees and debris all over it so it could not be harvested. The water was under his house, disabling his furnace. Three more inches and it would have come into his house, which is 80 years old and has never flooded. He worked two days in 2-3 feet of ice water, moving machinery, trucks and what he could. He became sick from the exposure. It is time the National Science Foundation stop equating themselves with God. I hope they never try this again and pay these people. Some things lost can never be replaced nor the pain and suffering be relieved. I live 100 miles away from the treated area, and we usually have a lot of sunshine in the winter. We rarely saw the sun, and it snowed or rained 4-5 days per week. This was the worst winter as long as I can remember. My carrots even rotted in the ground, even though they were adequately covered with straw. We are tired of being guinea pigs for the National Science Foundation’s sick experiments.
REAL HEALTH I was shocked by your gentle review of the documentary What the Health in the July issue. I was on the verge of turning it off within the first 30 minutes. The makers of the film make absolutely no distinction between battery cage eggs from the supermarket and non-GMO pastured eggs, or 100 percent grass-fed/finished beef and feed lot beef, or pastured chicken, or raw milk from cows that are 100 percent grass-fed, the list goes on. Any educated person knows there is a world of difference between commodity foods and small-scale local artisanal foods. The film makes a blanket statement that eggs, meat and dairy cause cancer. This is just ignorant. Everyone in America would have had cancer 100 years ago if this were true. The entire aim of this film is to convince you to start eating vegan. They only interview doctors that agree with the agenda. A vegan diet may work for some people, though I have serious doubts, but for others a vegan diet will result in serious health problems down the road. The negligence of the doctors pushing this agenda is abhorrent. When you go from eating a horrible diet of highly processed foods to just plants, yes, you will see a great boost in your health. That’s because you stopped eating crap; it doesn’t mean you’re eating a complete diet. This film takes the work of Weston A. Price, and a host of other research, and throws it in the trash. Cheese gives you cancer? What about the isolated group Price studied in Switzerland? They ate mostly cheese, bread and butter and had excellent health. The film does do a great job of exposing the amoral conduct and greed of the disease complex. They go way too far in pushing the vegan agenda however. Vegan is just not based in reality. There is no fertility without death and there is no animal husbandry without animal products. Balance folks.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
4 Acres U.S.A.
I was surprised and shocked by Chris Walters’ review of What the Health. Michael Pollan’s phrase “Eat food, mostly plants,” has been quoted ad nauseam in the mainstream media, with little examination as to its true wisdom. And I have never regarded Acres U.S.A. as mainstream. Instead, it has for many years, especially during the tenure of Charles Walters, provided us with wisdom not found in the mainstream, to the great benefit of us all. It is not the eating of meat that has destroyed our collective health in this country. It is the huge, wholesale shift away from traditional whole foods, produced from small organic farms and properly prepared at home, to the horrors of industrial chemical farming, confinement animal practices and processed, lifeless “food” consumed as fast food or heated and served at home. I don’t think anyone would argue that eating healthy, organically grown vegetables is a good idea. But to eliminate pasture-raised, grass-fed meats from the diet is detrimental to most people’s heath. We have heard about that in the pages of Acres U.S.A., from interviews with Sally Fallon Morrell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and Natasha CampbellMcBride, originator of the GAPS diet, among others. Carefully raised beef, lamb, pork, chicken, poultry, along with wild caught fish and game provide the extremely important fat-soluble vitamins A,D, and K2, which can only be found in adequate amounts in animal fats. Liver provides the highest food source of vitamin B12. Bone broths have become very popular because they help to restore damaged gut flora and protect our bones. Many charts are available that demonstrate that most fat- and water-soluble vitamins are found in higher proportions in meats as opposed to vegetables and fruits. My own health took a huge turn for the better when I moved from eating a “semi-vegetarian” diet to eating a diet replete with delicious and nutritious
meats (with the fat included), full-fat raw dairy products, eggs, wild-caught fish and yes, some vegetables, most from small, local farms who struggle to survive. Why undermine those farmers’ incredibly important work in the service of a fad? (Veganism is a fad, in my opinion). My husband and I have been subscribing to Acres U.S.A. since the early 1990s, and it has been one of our most highly respected sources of information about farming and gardening and many other things. Joyce Campbell
Ithaca, New York
Acres U.S.A. and Chris Walters respond: I should have placed more emphasis on the agitprop aspects of What The Health. Selective evidence and a narrow range of interviewees are usually a good sign that the arguments on display in any movie or book ought to be taken with plenty of salt. My review took a gentle, bemused tone because I don’t view vegans as a threat to regenerative agriculture. A market analysis would probably show that they are good customers of CSAs, farmers’ markets and the better food stores. Even here in Austin, Texas — a hotbed of interest in clean food and culinary adventure — a roster of hardcore vegan eateries shows few enduring restaurants and plenty of food trailers. We published an in-depth critique of What the Health by journalist and filmmaker Maryam Henein in our November issue (the full version of her piece can be found at ecofarmingdaily.com/what-the-health-response).
SUBMIT A LETTER Acres U.S.A. welcomes letters from our readers. Please email editor@ acresusa.com or mail to P.O. Box 1690, Greeley, CO 80632. Please include your full name, hometown and state.
Regeneration Revolution by RONNIE CUMMINS Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee. After years of single-issue campaigning against America’s degenerate food and farming system, with real but limited success, it’s time for a change of strategy and tactics. By connecting the dots between a range of heretofore separate issues and campaigns, by focusing on some of the major weaknesses or vulnerabilities of the system, we can speed up our transition to an organic and regenerative food and farming system before our health, environmental and climate crises turn into full-blown catastrophe. After decades of trying to reform public policy on food and farming, including an intense four-year battle to force mandatory labeling of GMOs (rudely terminated in 2016 when Congress and the Obama administration rammed through the outrageous DARK Act), food activists and conscious consumers find ourselves wondering “what’s the use of lobbying the government?” Do we really think the Trump administration, the Republican Congress and farm state and Establishment Democrats care about the toxicity, exploitation and environmental destruction of our food system? The culinary directive from Congress and the White House this summer went something like this: Don’t worry. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods, cheap junk foods and factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry. Don’t worry about Monsanto’s Roundup or Dow’s neonic resi-
dues in your food and water. Don’t worry about the dubious fare at your local supermarkets, including thousands of products fraudulently labeled or advertised as “natural.” Don’t worry about cancer, diabetes, heart attacks or supersizing yourself and your kids with chemical and GMO-tainted food, we’re told. Don’t worry about contaminated food pouring in from China and Brazil. Don’t worry about mutant genes, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormone disruptors, BPA and other carcinogens and hormone disruptors. And don’t worry about global warming, or the precarious state of bees, birds and the environment. Put your trust in America’s industrial food system and factory farms and Monsanto’s minions — indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and the mass media. If we’re ever going to have a food and farming system that’s healthy for us and the planet, one of the things we’ll have to do is “throw the bums out” and elect a brand-new government, from Main Street to Washington, D.C. But in the meantime, since our revolution is going to take a while, a growing number of food activists, including myself, believe it’s time to step up the attack on Monsanto, pesticides, factory farms, fake “natural” products, organic fraud and the entire degenerative food and farming system. Over the past several decades, public education, protests and boycotts against GMOs, pesticides, factory farms and junk food have begun to transform U.S. consumer consciousness, driving a combined annual $55 billion organic and grass-fed market that now comprises more than 5 percent of all SEE PAGE 106
December 2017 5
ECO-UPDATE Atrazine Affects Amphibians A study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry found that Blanchard’s cricket frogs are highly sensitive to atrazine. When exposed, there were up to 55 percent fewer males than females compared with the control group, indicating that atrazine can affect the sex ratio. Controversy has long surrounded atrazine and the effects its application has on amphibians in the wild, particularly given that amphibians are facing rapid, global population declines. Atrazine is the second most commonly used herbicide in the United States, and evidence suggests that when amphibians are exposed to it gonadal
development may be altered, males may develop testicular ova, or they may reverse sexes completely. It has also been traced to disrupting sex ratio, which is a critical parameter that impacts both ecological and evolutionary trajectories of populations. Blanchard’s cricket frogs were selected for this study because their habitat overlaps the Corn Belt of the Midwest, where atrazine use is intense.
Plant Survival Mechanism Some plants behave like the mythical monster Hydra: Cut off their heads and they grow back, bigger and better than before. A new study finds that these “overcompensators,”
Allan Nation Education Scholarship Fund As a memorial to Allan Nation, The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine has established a scholarship fund (with much appreciated help from Jim and Dawn Gerrish) to help young people attend The Stockman Grass Farmer Schools. Allan was always encouraging young people to join the ranks of producers in the local, natural food movement that he so loved and supported. Since Allan loved good writing, scholarships will be awarded based on an essay explaining how attending one of The Stockman Grass Farmer Schools will help you move toward your goals. Visit stockmangrassfarmer. com for a list of the schools. The scholarship is limited to applicants under the age of 40. Present ownership of a farm or ranch is not required. Essays should address: Where are you today, and where do you want to be five years from now? How will attending this particular SGF School help you move in that direction? Why do you believe grass farming is important to the environment and well-being of the consumer or, in what ways, does this practice of natural, sustainable farming serve the greater good? Essays should be no more than 500 words. Preferred method of submission is Word format, emailed to email@example.com. Hard copy printed submissions may be mailed to The Stockman Grass Farmer, P.O. Box 2300, Ridgeland, MS 39158. No handwritten submissions please. Provide all contact information including a phone number. Each scholarship will pay a portion of a school’s tuition. The winners will be responsible for the school balance, travel, lodging and some meals. The essays will be evaluated by a panel of SGF judges. SGF has partnered with the Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation to receive donations for scholarships (tax deductible). Donation checks made out to Ross Lynn Foundation for Allan Nation Fund should be mailed to Ross Lynn Foundation, P.O. Box 905, Ruston, LA 71273 or go to rosslynnfoundation.org to donate online. Ross (a family friend of the SGF partners) raised produce on his family farm in North Louisiana and was a proponent of sustainable, natural agricultural practices. Questions: contact SGF, 800-748-9808, or visit stockmangrassfarmer.com.
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as they are called, also augment their defensive chemistry — think plant venom — when they are clipped. Clipping removes the primary stem and simulates what browsing mammals do when they eat plants in the wild. The study, reported in the journal Ecology, is the first to find this link and to trace it to three interconnected molecular pathways.
Piglet See, Piglet Do A new study conducted by cognitive researchers from the Messerli Research Institute of Vetmeduni Vienna has now shown that pigs, contrary to previous findings, do in fact possess highly developed learning abilities through observation. The researchers proved that free-ranging piglets of the New Zealand breed Kune Kune attentively observed and replicated tasks demonstrated by their mother or an aunt. The researchers believe that the talent for social learning among Kune Kune pigs is related to the way these pigs are kept. “The pigs live in natural family groups under free-ranging conditions. This appears to trigger an existing aptitude for social intelligence among these animals. It would be worthwhile to consider the positive effects of learning from older animals in commercial pig farming, for example when making improvements to the housing conditions.”
Appletree Borer Deterrent Winter cover crops, specifically a ryegrass/crimson clover mix, appear to protect susceptible deciduous trees from the flatheaded appletree borer, while also effectively managing weeds, according to results of a Tennessee State University study. The results could be useful for orchards, nurseries, urban landscapes and agroforestry producers in managing the significant economic pest. In a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant, researcher Karla Addesso and her colleagues found that the winter cover crops camouflage the tree trunks from the pest, making it less likely to lay eggs. Larvae can
girdle the trunks as they begin tunneling into the trees. The project looked at red maple trees, but Addesso said that the practice is useful for any tree susceptible to the pest.
Non-Toxic Mosquito Control Natural essential oils extracted from the peel of a citrus fruit could be an effective new eco-friendly alternative in mosquitoes control programs, reports a new study published in October in Natural Product Research. The essential oils were extracted in large amounts from the peel of a fruit similar to an orange, which is available throughout many countries in the world. With such ease of access and productions of the oils, it could potentially be used in areas that have little or no access to an alternative. It was found that the essential oils were highly effective in mosquitocidal activity on the larvae, leading researchers to conclude it could be used as an eco-friendly alternative in mosquitoes control programs.
Goats on Weed Patrol For the second year, the Washoe Tribe brought 450 head of goats to its tribal land to manage weeds on its rangeland at the Stewart Ranch. The program, led by the Washoe Tribal Environmental Protection Department, is being conducted with the Washington, D.C.-based organization Beyond Pesticides and Goat Green
LLC., a goat grazing company based in Wyoming. The program is being launched as a pilot, an alternative to using herbicides for managing invasive weeds, including perennial pepperweed, hoary cress, Canada thistle, Russian knapweed and others. Goat grazing has been demonstrated to be an effective tool because the herd eats unwanted vegetation then cycles nutrients back into the soil, thus fertilizing. Goats get a drink and deliver water to dry sites one pint at a time, thus irrigating, and with 1,800 hooves are aerating, mulching and tilling soils.
Good Growing Neighbors Apple growers want to get the most out of their high-value cultivars, and a Purdue University study shows they might want to focus on the types of apples they plant near those cash crops. Since apple trees cannot selfpollinate, the pollen from other apple varieties is necessary for fruit to grow. Orchard owners often plant crab apple trees amongst high-value apples such as Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji. Crab apples produce a lot of flowers and thus a lot of pollen for bees to spread around to the other trees. “If you are growing some Honeycrisp, you want to plant something next to your Honeycrisp that bees will pick up and spread to your Honeycrisp and make good apples,” said Peter
Honeybees on a freshly built comb during the harvest season. SIMON ROWELL PHOTOGRAPHY
Two papers published in Irrigation and Drainage may help improve estimates of water requirements for crops, which will save water and minimize losses. The results of one study on an experimental farm near Bologna, Italy, indicated that crop irrigation water requirements based on evapotranspiration obtained from modern technologies (scintillometer and eddy covariance) could save at least 50 percent of irrigation water. Also there would be no need to use what is called the crop coefficient Kc, which for many irrigation practitioners is difficult to obtain. The other publication showed that a new technology called the Cosmic-ray Soil Moisture Observation System can be used to determine when and how much water to apply in irrigation.
Union for human consumption. The situation is more bleak for pollinators, however. Widespread application of neonicotinoids has been identified as a key factor responsible for the global decline in pollinators, particularly bees. Edward A.D. Mitchell et al. sought to explore the extent of exposure by testing 198 honey samples for five commonly used neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Samples were taken across all continents (except Antarctica), as well as numerous isolated islands. Overall, 75 percent of all honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid; of these contaminated samples, 30 percent contained a single neonicotinoid, 45 percent contained two or more and 10 percent contained four or five. Concentrations were highest in European, North American and Asian samples. The research was published in Science.
Pesticides Found in Honey A global sampling of honey finds 75 percent to be contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides. The concentrations detected are below the amount authorized by the European December 2017 7
ECO-UPDATE Hirst, a Purdue professor of horticulture and landscape architecture. “Growers will alternate plantings of different cultivars every few rows to promote cross-pollination, and they’ll sometimes put a crab apple tree in the middle of a row as well.”
Olive Mill Wastewater Producing olive oil creates a vast stream of wastewater that can foul
waterways, reduce soil fertility and trigger extensive damage to nearby ecosystems. In a study in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, scientists report on the development of a process that could transform this pollutant into biofuel, bio-fertilizer and safe water for use in agricultural irrigation. In Mediterranean countries, where 97 percent of the world’s olive oil is produced, olive mills generate almost 8 billion gallons of wastewater an-
Rollback on GIPSA Rules The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a rollback of two rules of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue also decided not to move forward with an interim final rule of the Farmer Fair Practices, and decided USDA will take no further action on a proposed regulation of the Farmer Fair Practices Rule. Together, these rules would have helped balance the relationships between producers and meatpacking companies in highly concentrated livestock and poultry industries. “Farmers and ranchers have waited years for USDA to institute basic fairness protections in the contract poultry and livestock industry,” said Center for Rural Affairs policy associate Anna Johnson. “Today’s announcement is a disappointment to America’s family farmers and ranchers who deserve a level playing field.” The proposed rule was published in 2010 following USDA listening sessions with poultry and livestock producers across the country. Last October, USDA submitted the Farmer Fair Practices Rules for White House approval and opened up a comment period for the interim final rule and two proposed rules. The comment period was extended in February, with a close date of March 24. Then, USDA opened up the comments again on April 12 for another 60 days, delaying the rules even further. “Many rural communities struggle from lack of economic opportunity, and contract poultry and livestock production is an important source of jobs and income for many rural people,” said Johnson. “These hardworking farmers and ranchers who contract with meatpacking companies when raising poultry and livestock deserve the important and common sense provision that this rule provides.” The interim and proposed rules include: • Allowing producers to protect their rights without having to prove that a processor’s actions hurt the entire livestock industry. • Providing protections for producers, should processors limit producers’ legal rights in livestock or poultry contracts, or require unreasonable capital investment in their operations. • Requiring poultry processors to use greater fairness and transparency when purchasing birds from several producers. “These rules should have been an easy decision for the Trump administration. Trump campaigned on promises to help downtrodden small business people across America, and these rules do precisely that,” Johnson said. “Farmers, ranchers and consumers would have benefited from the competitive, transparent markets these rules would help protect. We urge USDA and Secretary Perdue to reconsider.”
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nually. Disposing of it has become problematic. The researchers embedded OMW into cypress sawdust — another common Mediterranean waste product. Then they rapidly dried this mixture and collected the evaporated water, which they say could be safely used to irrigate crops. Next, they subjected the OMW-sawdust mixture to pyrolysis. Researchers collected and condensed the gas into bio-oil, which could eventually be used as a heat source for OMW-sawdust drying and the pyrolysis process. Finally, they collected the charcoal pellets, which were loaded with potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients extracted from the breakdown of OMW-sawdust mixture during pyrolysis. Used as biofertilizers, the researchers found that these pellets significantly improved plant growth, including larger leaves, compared to vegetation grown without them.
Measuring Microbial Diversity in Farmers The first study showing that the community of bacteria found on bodies of healthy dairy farmers is more diverse than non-farmers has been published by Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in the journal PLoS ONE. This microbial diversity is believed to protect farmers against allergic and autoimmune diseases. The nasal microbiota of dairy farmers had 2.15 fold more organisms when compared to nasal sample of non-farmers. Similarly, the oral samples from the dairy farmers group harbored 1.5 fold more organisms, said lead author Sanjay Shukla, Ph.D. Additionally, the farmer group had lower relative abundance amounts of Staphylococcus spp., some of which are known opportunistic pathogens. The study was conducted in central Wisconsin. Samples were collected from the noses and mouths of 21 dairy farmers and 18 non-farmers working officebased jobs.
GE Food Labeling A congressionally mandated study belatedly released by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) questions the feasibility of electronic disclosures as a means of providing consumers with information on genetically engineered (GE) food ingredients, but leaves the door open for USDA to continue with the system, based on improving technology. The study confirms concerns held by many that “electronic and digital disclosures” (QR codes) will pose technological challenges for consumers, limiting access to food information. The study was required by the 2016 Federal Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Act (the “GE Labeling Act”) to help inform the establishment of federal standards for labeling by July 2018. The labeling law allows USDA to consider several options: on-package text, a GE
symbol on packages, or “electronic or digital disclosures,” which would require shoppers to use a smart phone to scan packages to access a website or call a 1-800 number for every single product to find out if it was produced with genetic engineering.
In the News Full Disclosure California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that requires manufacturers of a wide array of cleaning products to disclose ingredients. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 — Senate Bill 258, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens — requires the ingredients in cleaning products to be listed on both product labels and online.
Iowa Ag-Gag Law A coalition of public interest groups and journalists led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety and Public Justice, filed a lawsuit in Iowa challenging the constitutionality of the state’s Ag-Gag law. The law criminalizes undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Federal courts have already struck down Ag-Gag laws in Idaho and Utah as unconstitutional. Fresh Meat Imports As reported by Food & Water Watch, in an audit released October 13, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General once again found that the
INDUSTRIAL AG WATCH: CRIMES AGAINST NATURE
Glyphosate Designation Debate As reported by Beyond Pesticides, in a letter to the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, scientists called for the retraction of a 2016 paper that refuted glyphosate’s cancer risks after it was learned that the paper was secretly edited and funded by Monsanto, manufacturer of glyphosate. The paper in question, “An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate,” is a review of the 2015 decision by an expert Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to designate glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). However, a new report this summer discovered conflicts of interest not revealed at publication. Contrary to the journal’s conflict-of-interest disclosure statement, Monsanto directly paid at least two of the scientists who authored the paper, and a Monsanto employee substantially edited and reviewed the article prior to publication, in clear contradiction to the disclosure statement.
Rural Water Contamination Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group. The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Drinking water supplies
for more than 200 million Americans in 49 states have some level of nitrate contamination, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas. Nitrate can be fatal to babies who ingest too much of it, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limit for it in drinking water was set 25 years ago to protect infants from so-called blue baby syndrome. But the new report, “Trouble in Farm Country,” details the previously undocumented adult cancer risk posed by drinking water polluted with nitrate at only half the EPA’s legal limit.
Mega-Merger Prep In light of the planned acquisition of Monsanto, Bayer has signed an agreement to sell selected Crop Science businesses to BASF for EUR 5.9 billion. The assets to be sold generated net sales of approximately EUR 1.3 billion in 2016. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals as well as the successful closing of Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto. The assets to be sold include Bayer’s global glufosinate-ammonium business and the related LibertyLink technology for herbicide tolerance, essentially all of the company’s field crop seeds businesses, as well as respective research and development capabilities. The seeds businesses being divested include the global cotton seed business (excluding India and South Africa), the North American and European canola seed businesses and the soybean seed business.
December 2017 9
ECO-UPDATE Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) inadequate oversight of imported meat and poultry is putting U.S. consumers at risk. FSIS is supposed to determine whether countries that export meat, poultry, egg products or catfish have a regulatory system that can meet the standards required in the United States. However, the OIG audit reveals that FSIS is not doing enough oversight of the process used to determine which countries have “equivalent” food safety systems.
Organics in the News OFA Leadership Organic Farmers Association, a national membership organization for certified organic farmers, sponsored by Rodale Institute, has announced a new Policy Director and elected the first Policy Committee. This new leadership will facilitate Organic Farmers Association’s policy platform created by certified organic farmer members. Mark Rokala will serve as Policy Di-
10 Acres U.S.A.
rector and lead policy work, under the direction of the newly elected policy committee and coordinating closely with the Organic Farmers Association Director Kate Mendenhall and Steering Committee Chair Jim Riddle. Ohio Organics A government survey of U.S. organic farms shows that Ohio ranks 7th in the nation in its number of organic farms. Ohio is seeing double digit growth in the number of organic farms, organic land in production and organic sales, illustrating the role of organic production in economic development. The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service’s “2016 Certified Organic Survey,” showed Ohio’s organic sales increased by more than 30 percent since 2015 and the number of certified organic farms in Ohio is up by 24 percent. Since 2015, Ohio moved up from 8th to 7th in the nation in the number of organic farms.
Organic Dairy Kerfuffle According to The Cornucopia Institute, it received a determination letter from the USDA dismissing its most recent formal legal complaint against Aurora Dairy’s High Meadows facility in Colorado. Aurora is the nation’s largest certified organic milk producer. Utilizing a series of corporate-owned dairies, milking thousands of cows each in Texas and Colorado, Aurora produces privatelabel milk for Walmart, Target, Costco and a myriad of major grocery chains and distributors. When Cornucopia filed a series of complaints against nearly a dozen “organic” CAFOs in late 2015 (also covered in an exclusive story in The Washington Post) based on aerial photography and state regulatory documents, the NOP dismissed the allegations, stating the photographs revealed just “a moment in time.”
SCIENCE ON YOUR SIDE
Malting Barley Varieties When it comes to libations, more and more Pennsylvanians are raising their glasses in favor of craft beer. In fact, according to the Brewers Association, a national not-for-profit trade organization, there are 136 craft breweries in Pennsylvania that produce more than 4 million barrels of beer annually. The economic impact of the industry is estimated at $4.48 billion, the second largest in the country. The industry’s popularity has caught the attention of researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, including Greg Roth, who is spearheading research in malting barley — a key ingredient in craft beer production — with a goal of helping Pennsylvania farmers benefit. “In the last 15 years, there has been a tremendous increase in the craft beer industry,” said Roth, professor of agronomy and associate head of the Department of Plant Science. “With this rapid growth has come an increased demand for locally sourced, high-quality and high-yielding malting barley, and we want to be a leader in helping our farmers meet the demand.” That aspiration grew into a multifaceted examination of malting barley varieties that began in 2014 at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Centre County and at Penn State’s Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Lancaster County. Malting barley varieties are available in either two- or six-row head types — based on the arrangements of the kernels. Two-row head types are preferred by most craft brewers, Roth noted. The crop is classified further as either spring or winter, depending on planting season. Most malting barley is grown in the western United States, Canada and Europe, as many of those climates provide drier growing seasons. But that doesn’t mean Pennsylvania can’t play a role in the industry. With a multitude of winter and spring malting barley varieties available, the first undertaking was to iden-
BBoootthh 12019 ##1
tify which ones would grow well in Pennsylvania and meet grain-quality and yield specifications of the industry. Roth began collaborations with researchers at malting-barley breeding programs at North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota, who, in turn, provided seeds from 20 to 30 different varieties from the Midwest and Europe. Over several planting seasons, Roth and Collins analyzed crop growth, soil conditions, insect damage and yield. They especially focused on disease control, as that is a major challenge associated with growing malting barley. “Unfortunately, our state’s climate is very favorable to the development of fungal diseases, which is a problem for quality and yield in most crops,” said Collins. “One fungal disease, fusarium head blight, also called head scab, can result in the production of a toxin, called ‘vomitoxin.’ In order to prevent this vomitoxin from entering our food supply, we must prevent the disease. So barley disease management is a critical part of growing a crop suitable for malting in our area.” To the researchers’ surprise, most European varieties outperformed those from the United States, demonstrating good disease resistance, high yields and good quality. Some of the western lines couldn’t withstand the high amount of rain in the region — the moisture caused seeds to germinate in the field, and once that happens, the crop is deemed unacceptable, Roth noted.
See the Results In the end, the researchers identified five varieties as standouts. They created a factsheet with comprehensive study information — including varieties, seeding, crop rotations, weed and insect control and disease management — which can be viewed by visiting Penn State Extension’s website: extension. psu.edu/plants/crops/grains/small/ production/malting-barley.
• Made in the USA.
December 2017 11
12 Acres U.S.A.
December 2017 13
Ben Hartman and his son Arlo work in the hoop house transplanting month-old onion plants.
Clay Bottom Farm Turns Lean Principles into Profit by SHAWNDRA MILLER It’s a frigid March day in northern Indiana, but inside Clay Bottom Farm’s hoop house, Ben Hartman is planting onion sets. The work is done quickly with a Japanese paper pot transplanter — a wheeled cart with a slanted chute. A tray holds a honeycombed square of paper pots that unspool as a linked chain of seedlings slides down the red chute as Hartman wheels it down the bed. “Origami designers developed this tool,” he explains, as each paper pot slips into the soft furrow at evenly spaced intervals, to be tucked in by the transplanter’s slanted rear wheels. At the end of the row Hartman tears the damp paper linking the pots and turns the implement for another pass. The first seedling in a row gets planted by hand, but the rest are hands-off. “You’re supposed to use a used chopstick,” he says, staking the first paper pot with tongs to keep the line in place, “but we didn’t have any on hand.” Hartman straightens up and grasps the handlebars, steadily drawing the tool down the length of the hoop house as his young son Arlo accompanies him. “The name of this tool — its literal translation is ‘your little pulling buddy,’” he says. In addition to alliums, it allows easy transplanting of several crops that are traditionally seeded, like beets, turnips, radishes, baby lettuce and spinach. 14 Acres U.S.A.
“Previously we’d have to put each one in by hand. This takes literally a fraction of the effort. It tills them in too.” Another advantage is beating out weeds with wellestablished seedlings. Labor-saving tools like these are just one aspect of the efficiency that Goshen, Indiana, farmers Ben Hartman and Rachel Hershberger find essential in managing their farm. As a “lean” operation, Clay Bottom Farm thrives from the couple’s commitment to several key principles, as Hartman details in his book, The Lean Farm. With two greenhouses and two hoop houses covering a total of a quarter-acre of land — along with an additional quarter-acre of beds in the open — Hartman and Hershberger get high productivity out of a fraction of their 5 acres of clay soil. They grow 30 produce varieties, focusing on their customers’ preferences. The minimum-till farm’s only source of fertility is compost made on-site. “The soil is very loose, very high fertility. You can plant about anything.” Clay Bottom Farm is one of a handful of year-round farm operations in the region, which is Zone 5b. Since there’s little competition in winter for local produce, the markets are eager. Half of the farm’s produce goes to direct-customer sales, either through a CSA that runs April through October, or year-round at the Goshen Farmers’ Market. The other half goes to wholesale markets like
PHOTOS BY SHAWNDRA MILLER
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Natural Growing Through Biology Natural Growing
biologicals, inc. ™
Natural Growing Caution: • Keep out of reach of children and pets. • Do not swallow.
non-living soil bacteria, yeast, and
NutraNeed is designed for compatibility. Consult a sales fungi cultures use on soils and canopied representative for more 73% Distilled water crops such as turf. It may be information. applied to the soil by aerial spraying, ground sprayer, shanked in with fertilizer
Contains live soil microbes: • Store below 120° F. • Keep out of direct sunlight. • Color and density may vary.
BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™
Net: _______ fl. oz. ______
Treats ________ acre(s)
Net: Exp. Date: ________
Pepzyme M is designed for use on soils and canopied crops such as turf. It may be applied to the soil by aerial spraying, ground sprayer, shanked in with fertilizer liquids, through seed drill starter-fertilizer application, through sprinkler systems or by furrow or flood irrigation. Pepzyme M can be applied with most liquid fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. Always test first for compatibility. Consult a sales representative for more information.
Apply Pepzyme Clear at the rate of 12.5 ounces per acre or 1 gallon per 10 acres. Dilute with sufficient water to get uniform coverage of the soil. Apply just before, during, or immediately after planting for maximum benefits. Apply on crop residues after harvest to promote decomposition and soil improvement.
Greenhouse and nursery shanked in with fertilizer use: liquids, through seed drill Mix 1 part Pepzyme Clear starter-fertilizer in 4000 parts water and application, through apply at a rate of 60ml sprinkler systems or by per plant in beds or pots furrow or flood irrigation. as a soil drench. Pepzyme Clear can be applied with most liquid Pepzyme Clear is fertilizer, herbicides and designed for use on soils pesticides. Always test first and canopied crops such for compatibility. Consult as turf. It may be applied a sales representative for to the soil by aerial more information. spraying, ground sprayer,
Caution: • Keep out of reach of children Manufactured & Guaranteed by and pets. Tainio Biologicals, Inc. • Do not swallow. PO Box 19185, Spokane, WA 99219 tel. 509.747.5471 • firstname.lastname@example.org www.tainio.com
Compatibilities: DO NOT USE with time-release fertilizers.
10% Concentrated liquid extract of non-living soil bacteria, yeast & fungi cultures 90% Distilled Water
Greenhouse and nursery use: Mix 1 part Pepzyme M in 4000 parts water and apply at a rate of 60ml per plant in beds or pots as a soil drench.
CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS
Apply Pepzyme M at the rate of 12.5 ounces per acre or 1 gallon per 10 acres. Dilute with sufficient water to get uniform coverage of the soil. Apply just before, during, or immediately after planting for maximum benefits. Apply on crop residues after harvest to promote decomposition and soil improvement.
Manufactured & Guaranteed by Tainio Biologicals, Inc. PO Box 19185, Spokane, WA 99219 tel. 509.747.5471 • email@example.com www.tainio.com
Treats ______ acre(s) Exp. Date _______ BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™ GUARANTEED ANALYSIS
Biological Foliar Nutrient 5-15-10 BFMS® Biological Farm Management Systems™ GUARANTEED ANALYSIS
Biological Foliar Nutrient 0-0-15
Soluble Potash............................................................................................15% Derived from: Kelp meal ALSO CONTAINS NON-PLANTFOOD INGREDIENTS
Live beneficial soil microbes of the following types and minimum colony forming units (CFUs) ALSO CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS gram: types Live beneficial soil microbes of theper following Arthobacter globiformis 1X105; Azospirillum brasilense1X106, A. lipoferum 1X105; Azotobacter and minimum colony forming units (CFUs) per gram: chroococcum 1X105, A. paspali 1X104, A. vinelandii 1X105; Bacillus amyloliquefaciens 1X106, Arthobacter globiformis 1X104; Azospirillum ; Azotobacter brasilense1X105, A. lipoferum 1X104B. atrophaeus 1X105, B. licheniformis 1X105, B. megaterium 1X105, B. pumilus 1X104, B. subtilis 3 5 vinelandii , A. chroococcum 1X104, A. paspali 1X10 , B. thuringiensis 1X105; Brevibacillus brevis 1X106; Lysinibacillus sphaericus 1X106; 1X10 5 , B. 1X104; Bacillus amyloliquefaciens 1X10 Micrococcus luteus 1X105; Pseudomonas fluorescens 1X105, P. putida 1X106; atrophaeus 1X104, B. licheniformis 1X104, B. Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X104; Rhodospirillum rubrum 1X104; Streptomyces griseus megaterium 1X104, B. pumilus 1X103, B. subtilis 1X104 1X104, B. thuringiensis 1X104; Brevibacillus brevis 1X105; Micrococcus luteus 1X104; Pseudomonas fluorescens 1X104, P. putida 1X105; a minimum of 75 grams With agitation or recirculation: Can be tank-mixed with most Rhodospirillum Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X103;Apply per acre (can use up Mix soluble powder in spray fertilizers and pesticides (consult 3 1X10oz) rubrum 1X103; Streptomyces griseus (2.66 to 150 grams per acre). tank. your dealer). Apply in 10 to 20 Measuring scoop included for gallons of water per acre of gram (PPG): Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X103; Rhodospirillum your convenience; 3 scoops = Without agitation or foliage, depending on crop 1 Brevibacillus brevis 1X106; Micrococcus luteus 1X105; Pseudomonas fluorescens , G. mosseae Glomus intraradices 1x101, G. etunicatum 1x101, G. aggregatum 1x10 3 Apply a minimum of 75 grams With agitation or recirculation: Can be tank-mixed with most 5 6 4 1X10 rubrum 1X103; Streptomyces griseus approx. 75g (Scoop not recirculation: Pre-mix before type and foliage density, 1 , P. putida 1X10 ; Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X10 ; Rhodospirillum 1X10 Although the microbes 1x10 in our formulas (2.66 oz) per acre (can use up to Mix soluble powder in spray fertilizers and pesticides (consult included in 2 acre size). adding to spray tank. covering foliage with fine mist. are quite hardy and robust, certain rubrum 1X104; Streptomyces griseus 1X104 99.99% Inert microbial carrier/support ingredients 150 grams with per acre). your dealer). Apply in 10 to 20 chemicals can cause high mortality Apply a minimum of 75 grams With agitation or recirculation: Can be tank-mixed most Measuring tank. 99.99% Inert carrier/microbial support ingredients rates, therefore, for maximum benefit, scoop included for your gallons of water per acre of the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at: http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm Information regarding (2.66 oz) per acre (can use up to Mix soluble powder in spray fertilizers and pesticides (consult it is important to clean your spray Slurry Planter Box convenience; scoops = Without agitation or foliage, depending on crop 150 (5.29 oz) grams per acre). tank. your dealer). Apply in 103to 20 equipment before use, do not mix the Contains live soil microbes: Manufactured & Guaranteed by Can be applied at a rate of 80 grams MycoGenesis Seed Treatment can be 75gacre (Scoop recirculation: Pre-mix before type andCaution: foliage density, beneficial microbe packages with gallons ofapprox. water per of not Row crops Root dip Potted plants Measuring scoop included for • Keep out of reach of children • Store below 120° F. Tainio Biologicals, Inc. (2.8 oz) per 100 pounds of seed. applied dry at a rate of 160 grams chemicals, and recognize that included inon 2 acre adding to spray tank. covering foliage with fine mist. convenience; 3 scoops = Without agitation or foliage, depending crop size.) Apply in seed row at a rate of 1 For trees or plants, mix 1 pound Mix 1 gram intoyour potting soil mix and pets. • Keep out of direct sunlight. PO Box 19185 re-inoculation is often necessary after form, the material Mixed in liquid (5.6 oz) per 100 pounds of seed in grams/16 drill pound (454 oz) per (454 grams) of BioGenesis I NP in of each houseapprox. plant. Soil • Do not swallow. • Color and density may vary. Spokane, WA 99219 75gmix (Scoop not recirculation: Pre-mix before type andInformation foliage density, many chemical sprays. regarding the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at: http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm should be used within 4 hours of box. tel. 509.747.5471 • firstname.lastname@example.org acre. May be applied to the soil 20 gallons of water. Dip roots should be moderately includeddry. in 2Each acre size.) adding to spray tank. covering foliage with fine mist.
grams/16 oz) of RhizoGenesis™ with up to 20 gallons of water, as needed
Caution: • Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Lot: ______ Exp. Date: ______ • Do not swallow.
Net: _____ grams (_____ oz)
Contains live soil microbes: • Store below 120° F. • Keep out of direct sunlight. • Color and density may vary.
Treats _______ acre(s)
mixing. When product has dried on the seed, seed can be stored as
Manufactured & Guaranteed normal by with very little microbe Tainio Biologicals, Inc. deterioration. PO Box 19185, Spokane, WA 99219 tel. 509.747.5471 • email@example.com Contains live soil microbes: www.tainio.com Caution: • Keep out of reach of children and • Store below 120° F. pets. • Keep out of direct sunlight. not swallow. • Color and density may vary. Exp.• Do Date _________
Net weight: ____ grams (____ oz)
Treats: ____ acre(s)
by aerial spraying, ground into solution and plant. For best sprayer, shanked in with fertilizer results add 12.5 oz. of Pepzyme liquids, by furrow or ﬂood M for every one (1) pound of
Date: ____ •Exp. Keep out of reach of children and • Store below 120° F. pets. • Keep out of direct sunlight. • Do not swallow. • Color and density may vary.
Net: ____ grams (____ oz)
Support Tainio Biologicals, Inc. soil inoculants, foliar nutrient packages, compost digesters, and more combine our microbial blends with vital support ingredients designed to keep your crop at its peak all season long.
Caution: 1 gram treats soil in one 6 inch • Keep out of reach of children pot. Use approximately 10 the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at: http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm Information regarding and pets. grams of BioGenesis I NP per Contains live soil microbes: Manufactured & Guaranteed by • Do not swallow.
irrigation, hand lines or center BioGenesis I NP to solution and cubic yard ofCaution: soil mix. • The application of fertilizing pivot, sprinkler systems, or soak overnight. materials containing molybdenum sprinkler or drip irrigation. (Mo) may result in forage crops Manufactured & Guaranteed by containing levels of molybdenum Tainio Biologicals, Inc. (Mo), which are toxic to ruminant PO Box 19185, Spokane, WA 99219 regarding the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at: animals. tel. 509.747.5471 • Information firstname.lastname@example.org • Keep out of reach of children and www.tainio.com http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm pets. • Guaranteed Do not swallow. Caution: Contains live soil microbes: Manufactured & by
Treats ____ acre(s)
Tainio Biologicals, Inc. PO Box 19185, Spokane, WA 99219 Net:• email@example.com ____ grams tel. 509.747.5471 www.tainio.com
For Best Results: Add 12.5 oz. of a Pepzyme™ product for every 1 pound (454 grams/16 oz) of RhizoGenesis™ applied.
and plant. For optimum results, let ™, it is important that the Mycorrhizae roots soak Manufactured & plant Guaranteed by in solution overnight contact the root or are in the root zone of the plant. If material is going Tainio Biologicals,before Inc. planting. Any remaining solutionWA may be used as a side dress to be surface sprayed, BioGenesis I™ PO Box 19185, Spokane, 99219 planting or poured directly onto is the best option. tel. 509.747.5471 •after firstname.lastname@example.org www.tainio.com the soil.
Treats: ______ acre(s)
Contains live soil microbes: • Store below 120° F • Keep out of direct sunlight. • Color and density may vary.
Net weight: ______ grams (______ oz)
Protect microbes from U.V. damage by incorporating immediately, or applying with BFMS® NutraNeed or other humic acid product. For bare root trees, seedling flats, To Avoid Plugging: Premix in water before adding to spray tank. transplants, etc. Mix 1 pound (454
BioGenesis I™ Non-Polymer
Information regarding the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at: or plants to to treat 300-600 trees, http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm cover one acre. Dip roots into solution For maximum benefit of RhizoGenesis Caution: • Keep out of reach of children and pets. • Do not swallow.
BFMS® Biological Farm Management Systems™
Micro 5000 Organic™
BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™
MycoGenesis™ Seed Treatment Biological Seed Inoculant
Compatibilities: DO NOT USE with time-release fertilizers.
1X10 , B. soil microbes of the following types and minimum colony forming units chroococcum 1X10 , A. paspali 1X10 , A. vinelandii 1X10 ; Bacillus amyloliquefaciens Live beneficial Total Nitrogen (N)..........................5% 5 B. subtilisper 1X10 , B. atrophaeus 1X105, B. licheniformis 1X105, B. megaterium 1X105, B. pumilus 1X104,(CFUs) gram: 3.5% Ammoniacal Nitrogen Biological Foliar Nutrient 4-8-20 CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™ fluorescensglobiformis 1X105; Azospirillum brasilense1X106, A. lipoferum 1X105; thuringiensis 1X105; Brevibacillus brevis 1X106; Micrococcus luteus 1X105; Pseudomonas Arthobacter Nitrate Nitrogen ALSO CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD0.45% INGREDIENTS beneficial soil microbes of the following types and minimum colony forming units GUARANTEED ANALYSIS 1X104; 1X105, P. putida 1X106; Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X104; Rhodospirillum rubrum Azotobacter ; Bacillus chroococcum 1X105, A. paspali 1X104, A. vinelandii 1X105Live 0.61% Urea Nitrogen following types Streptomyces griseus 1X104 per gram: Total Nitrogen (N)............................4% Live beneficial soil microbes of the 0.44% megaterium amyloliquefaciens 1X106, B. atrophaeus 1X105, B. licheniformis 1X105, B.(CFUs) Water Soluble and minimum colony forming units (CFUs)Other per gram: 5 6 5 Biological Soil Inoculant 0.26% Ammoniacal Nitrogen brevis 1X106; globiformis 1X10 ; Azospirillum brasilense1X10 , A. lipoferum 1X10 ; 1X105, B. pumilus 1X104, B. subtilis 1X105, B. thuringiensis 1X105; BrevibacillusArthobacter Nitrogen Arthobacter globiformis 1X104; Azospirillum 3.39% Nitrate Nitrogen Azotobacter chroococcum 1X105, A. paspali 1X104, A. vinelandii 1X105; Bacillus Lysinibacillus sphaericus 1X106; Micrococcus luteus 1X105; Pseudomonas fluorescens Available Phosphate (P2O5) ......15% 4 ; Azotobacter brasilense1X105, A. lipoferum 1X10 0.35% OtherWater Soluble Nitrogen CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS rubrum 1X104; 1X105, P. putida 1X106; Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X104; Rhodospirillumamyloliquefaciens (K2O)...................10% 1X106, B. atrophaeus 1X105, B. licheniformis 1X105, B. megaterium 1X103, A.Potash vinelandii chroococcum 1X104, A. paspali Soluble Available Phosphate (P2O5)...........8% Live beneficial colony forming Streptomyces griseus 1X104 from kelp meal, urea, brevis soil microbes of the following types and minimum Soluble 1X105, B. pumilus 1X104, B. subtilis 1X105, B. thuringiensis 1X105; Brevibacillus A soil inoculum product for establishing populations of beneficial soil microbes. 1X105, B. 1X104; Bacillus amyloliquefaciensDerived Potash (K2O).....................20% Live beneficial Mycorrhizal fungi of the following types and minimum Propogules gram: 6 (CFUs) per6;gram: potassium ; Micrococcus luteus 1X105; Pseudomonas fluorescens 1X105,units P. putida 1X10 1X10per Molybdenum (Mo) ................. 0.001% 1X104, B. nitrate, monopotassium atrophaeus 1X104, B. licheniformis 5 Glomus intraradices 1x101, G. etunicatum 1x101, G. aggregatum 1x101, G. mosseae phosphate, Apply at a rate of 50 grams (1.76 oz) per acre. Spectrum is designed for subsurface application; 1X10 Arthobacter globiformis 1X105; Azospirillum brasilense1X106, A. lipoferum 3 Derived from kelp; meal, potassium Rhodopseudomonas palustris 1X104; Rhodospirillum rubrum 1X104; Streptomyces , B. subtilisammonium megaterium 1X104, B. pumilus 1X10 1 1x10 however, it may be sprayed on ground surface if soil incorporation is done immediately. May be phosphate. nitrate, phosphate, 1X105monopotassium ; Bacillus Azotobacter chroococcum 1X105, A. paspali 1X104, A. vinelandii brevis 1X104, B. thuringiensis 1X104; Brevibacillus griseus 1X104 applied to the soil by aerial spraying, ground sprayer, shanked in with fertilizer liquids, by furrow 89.99% Inertor microbial carrier/support ingredients 6 5 5 5 4 ammonium phosphate, potassium amyloliquefaciens 1X10 , B. atrophaeus 1X10 , B. licheniformis 1X10 , B. 1X10 ; Micrococcus luteus 1X10 ; Pseudomonas Live beneficial Mycorrhizal fungi of the following types and minimum Propagules per flood irrigation, hand lines or center pivot sprinkler systems, or sprinkler or drip irrigation. 10% Cornstarch polymer sulfate, sodium molybdate 5 fluorescens 1X104, P. putida 1X105; 1X10 ; megaterium 1X105, B. pumilus 1X104, B. subtilis 1X105, B. thuringiensis
99.99% Inert carrier ingredients
Soil microbes • Promote healthy root growth • Increase mineral availability • Break down organic debris • Break down toxins • Improve soil tilth
Manufactured & Guaranteed by Information regarding the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at: http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm Tainio Biologicals, Inc. Caution: PO Box 19185 Caution: Compatibilities: Manufactured & Guaranteed by• Keep out of reach of children Spokane, WA 99219 • Keep out of reach of children DO NOT USE with time-release Tainio Biologicals, Inc. and pets. tel. 509.747.5471 and pets. fertilizers. PO Box 19185, Spokane, WA 99219 • Do not swallow. email@example.com • Do not swallow. tel. 509.747.5471 • firstname.lastname@example.org wwww.tainio.com www.tainio.com
______ fl. oz. Treats: ______ acre(s) BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™
CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS Live beneficial soil microbes of the following types and minimum numbers of colony Biological Root Inoculant forming units (CFUs) per gram: Arthobacter globiformis 1X105; Azospirillum brasilense1X106, A. lipoferum 1X105; CONTAINS Azotobacter NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS
ALSO CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD Greenhouse and nursery use: INGREDIENTS: Mix 1 part Pepzyme G in 4000 parts water and 10% Concentrated liquid extract of apply at a rate of 2 fl. oz. per plant in beds or non-living soil bacteria, yeast, and fungi pots as a soil drench. cultures 81% Distilled water Pepzyme G is designed for use on soils and canopied crops such as turf. It may be applied to the soil by aerial spraying, ground sprayer, shanked in with fertilizer liquids, through seed drill starter-fertilizer application, through sprinkler systems or by furrow or flood irrigation. Pepzyme G can be applied with most liquid fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. Always test first for compatibility. Consult a sales representative for more information.
Biological Soil Inoculant
GUARANTEE Apply Pepzyme G at the rate of 12.5 ounces Total Nitrogen (N)...............................................1% per acre or 1 gallon per 10 acres. Dilute with 0.12% Ammoniacal nitrogen sufficient water to get uniform coverage of the 0.78% Nitrate nitrogen soil. Available Phosphate (P2O5)............................2% Apply just before, during, or immediately after Soluble Potash (K O).........................................6% 2 planting for maximum benefits. Apply on crop Derived from: ammonium phosphate, residues after harvest to promote potassium nitrate, potassium phosphate. decomposition and soil improvement.
0.26% Urea nitrogen Available Phosphate (P2O5).................13%
Greenhouse and Nursery liquids, through seed drill Soluble Potash (K2O)...............................2% Use: starter-fertilizer application, Derived from: Urea, ammonium Mix 1 part NutraNeed in 4000 through sprinkler systems or phosphate, potassium nitrate, parts water and apply at a by furrow or flood irrigation.potassium phosphate. rate of 60ml per plant in NutraNeed can be applied ALSO CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD greenhouse beds or pots as with most liquid fertilizer, INGREDIENTS: a soil drench. herbicides and pesticides. 10% Concentrated liquid extract of Always test first for
Apply NutraNeed at the rate of 12.5 ounces per acre or 1 gallon per 10 acres. Dilute with sufficient water to get uniform coverage of the soil. Apply just before, during, or immediately after planting for maximum benefits. Apply on crop residues after harvest, prior to tillage, to promote decomposition and soil improvement.
CONTAINS NON-PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS GUARANTEE 1% Humic Acid 10% Concentrated liquid extract of non-living soil bacteria, yeast & fungi culturesTotal Nitrogen (N)....................................2% 1.56% Ammoniacal nitrogen 89% Distilled Water 0.18% Nitrate nitrogen
BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™
BFMS® Biological Farm Management System™
BFMS Biological Farm Management System
BFMS Biological Farm Management System™
• Store below 120° F. • Keep out of direct sunlight. • Color and density may vary.
Tainio Biologicals, Inc. PO Box 19185 Spokane, WA 99219 tel. 509.747.5471 email@example.com wwww.tainio.com
Contains live soil microbes: • Store below 120° F. • Keep out of direct sunlight. • Color and density may vary.
Net weight: ____ grams (____ oz.)
Treats: ____ acre(s)
Manufactured & Guaranteed by Tainio Biologicals, Inc. PO Box 19185 Net weight: ____ Spokane, WA 99219 tel. 509.747.5471 firstname.lastname@example.org wwww.tainio.com
Treats ____ acre(s)
grams (____ oz)
Treats: ____ acre(s)
Lot: ____ Exp. Date: ____
Exp. Date ____
Exp. Date : ____
Exp. Date ____
Diversity Tainio Biologicals, Inc. products contain a diverse blend of over 30 species beneficial bacteria and fungi, cultured in our own labs, chosen for their critical roles in soil and plant health.
restaurants and Maple City Market, Goshen’s food cooperative. Maple City Market produce manager Annie Mininger says the farm’s salad offerings “fly off the shelf.” She said Clay Bottom Farm is one of her top suppliers because of availability and quality. “Ben and Rachel always have really high-quality product. They started growing salad greens in the greenhouse so they could provide us with salad in winter, while our other provider doesn’t supply that. Salad mix and spinach, it’s always in the top 10 of any produce section, so it’s a big deal to have access to it over the winter months.” The farm also grows several varieties of Asian greens due to their hardiness. At this week’s market, the farm stand offers kale florets, mizuna florets, bok choy, spinach and salad mix. The greenhouses give the couple a jump on summer produce as well: tomatoes they started in January are ready to plant under cover in early March, filling a bed where carrots
were just harvested. Indeterminate varieties will be spaced every 9 inches and trellised on diagonal strings to allow them to grow 20-30 feet upward. A natural gas heater will maintain the temperature at 55-60 degrees, insulated by air blown between two layers of plastic sheeting. Roll-up curtains and mechanized in-wall vents will keep the greenhouse from overheating as the weather warms.
‘YOU SHOULD FARM’ The couple has been farming since just after their graduation from Goshen College, starting with four years
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16 Acres U.S.A.
Ben Hartman uses a Japanese paper pot transplanter in a hoop house at Clay Bottom Farm with Arlo.
at a successful Michigan microgreens farm that sold to high-end restaurants in Chicago. After that, they started an urban farm where they lived in Goshen at the time. Hershberger spent childhood summers helping tend a large garden as well as canning the harvest. Hartman,
who grew up on a 500-acre corn and soybean farm, says farming is in the couple’s genes. Even so, he didn’t consider farming until well into the acquisition of his double degrees in English and philosophy. “I thought I was on an academic track,” he recalls. However, when he told a professor he was interested in farming — and that he felt a little guilty for not wanting to continue on to graduate school — she advised him well. “She said, ‘You should farm. There are enough people out there in academia and not enough people growing food.’” After three growing seasons in town — where the farm got its name from the clay bottom tennis court that they tilled in to plant vegetables — the couple hankered for more space. They rented plots at various locations around town, but they wanted contiguous land. After a year of looking, an Amish-Mennonite dairy farm came up for auction. The former pastureland and repurposed milking parlor have housed Clay Bottom Farm for a decade. The farm moved from transitional organic to certified organic over the course of three years. The couple knew they wanted to reevaluate their choice after 10 years to see how the farm was working. They recently decided to make a shift as a result of that assessment. “The farm is great,” said Hartman. “The change is that we have two kids now.” With a 1- and 2-year-old, they want to be closer to schools and family. Clay Bottom Farm is on the move again: “We just closed on 7 acres inside the city limits two days ago,” he says. “So we’re transitioning back to being an urban farm.” While being close to family and schools was their primary motivation, the move also offers a chance to stretch themselves anew. Hartman is looking forward to applying lean principles in building a farm from the ground up. Rather than adapting buildings already in existence for new purposes, as they did when turning a milking parlor into a processing center, they can design for optimum flow and productivity.
Improved Palatability & Digestibility Automatic roller mills crack the grain lightly, just enough to break the seed coat without reducing the grain to flour. Nutrients can then be assimilated for consistently higher rates of gain/production. Without cracking, much of the grain will pass through the animal whole.
Electric Roller Mills
PTO Trailer Roller Mills
Hoop houses and greenhouses allow Clay Bottom Farm to grow year-round.
Given the progress their farm has made since they adopted “lean,” it’s likely that the new setup will continue to streamline their work and make the farm even more profitable. Their exploration into what they shorthand as lean began six years ago when a CSA member, owner of an aluminum trailer company in nearby Nappanee, Indiana, offered to coach them in the principles of lean manufacturing. “At the time we were making it, but we were working pretty hard,” said Hartman.
Seedlings ready for transplanting. 18 Acres U.S.A.
ELIMINATING WASTE What they learned from lean manufacturing principles — which were employed in Japan’s Toyota plants — revolutionized the way they farm. “Essentially our business model is to notice waste and get rid of it so that everything we’re doing is delivering value.” He calls lean a coin with two sides. On one side is value — and a commitment to precisely identifying what that means for the customer. On the other side is waste, all 10 types of it (see box on page 19).
When it comes to value, three questions ascertain customers’ desires: What do they want? When do they want it? And how much? “The more precisely you can answer those questions and deliver on those, the longer you’ll be in business, the more profitable you’ll be and the easier it will be to retain customers.” Hartman shares a story from Toyota. Charged with redesigning the Sienna minivan for the American market, a Toyota engineer spent many months observing how Americans use the Sienna. His findings led to specific recommendations for improvement, including greater numbers of cup holders, a roomier interior for hauling and tighter turning axis. Similarly, Hartman actively seeks detailed information on what his customers want. Each winter he meets with the chefs who purchase produce from Clay Bottom Farm to find out what’s new on the menu and how to better meet their needs. He surveys CSA members each year to determine likes, dislikes and ways to improve convenience of pickup. With the installation of refrigeration units at drop locations, members benefit from extended pickup hours, for example. This investigation continues when interns work the farmers’ market booth; part of their job is to report on customer response. The result? Hartman and Hershberger know precisely where the demand for specific varieties lies. For instance, they know
that market customers prize orange tomatoes, while restauranteurs want big red slicers. Which brings the other side of the lean coin into view: the systematic elimination of waste. Precisely identifying value helps cut down on overproduction, which is one of the most prevalent types of waste on a farm. But waste also takes many other forms, such as motion and transportation inefficiency, overprocessing and “any good idea that goes unspoken,” says Hartman. Rooting out all manifestations of waste is an ongoing project at Clay Bottom Farm, where the watchword is continuous improvement. “Every year, we want to understand more about value and get rid of more waste. So there’s never a plateau. Lean is an ongoing system, not something you apply in one season.” Decluttering the farm is a continual process. Hartman and Hershberger had bought countless tools and had a barn full of implements they didn’t necessarily need. Letting go of the excess increased their efficiency. Now they take time twice a year to evaluate the property and assess every item. Hartman encourages all farmers to do this, asking themselves of each tool: “‘How did you add value for me last year? How were you useful?’ If you struggle with the answer, get rid
of it.” There will be cost savings from knowing where everything is.
LESS WORK, MORE RESULTS Contrary to what some assume, the system results in less work, not more — for example, tools are stored near their point of use. “One of the myths about lean is that it’s just designed to make you work harder and faster to produce more,” said Hartman. In actuality, the goal is the exact opposite: making the work easier to do. He gives the example of overburden, a form of waste that they address every winter. By asking, “Where were we overburdened the most?” and then choosing a project or two to make changes, they can cut their workload each year. One winter they automated the greenhouse so they could leave the property and not worry about plants overheating. Now they can go camping on the coast of Michigan, leaving the farm in their interns’ hands. Another year they remodeled greenhouse entryways with 8-square-foot openings to allow the skid loader easier entrance. They also enlisted the help of an Amish machine shop in designing a carrot-digging implement using the tip of a skid loader bucket. “We put the tip on posts so the skid loader bucket digs underground 10 inches,
Going Lean: 10 Types of Waste Overproduction: Is all product being sold? Waiting: Are workers able to work without unneeded interruption? Are products stored longer than they need to be? Transportation: How efficient are delivery routes and vehicle use? Overprocessing: Are you doing more for customers than they want to pay for, such as bagging produce that could be sold unpackaged or creating expensive websites? Inventory: Are more supplies and finished goods kept on hand than absolutely necessary? Motion: How many times are items handled, and how efficient is the farm layout? Defect: How much unsellable or discounted/poor quality food results from farm practices? Overburden: Are workers or equipment overstretched? Uneven work: Is the work standardized and predictable to the extent possible? Unused talent: Are good ideas going unspoken?
December 2017 19
About half of the farm’s produce is sold through direct-to-customer sales through a CSA that runs April through October and year-round at the Goshen Farmers’ Market. VIKING SEED IS NOW FOCUSED EXCLUSIVELY ON
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20 Acres U.S.A.
just under our carrots. We had been prying each carrot up by hand one by one with forks.” Hartman calls these upgrades “muri projects,” using the Japanese word for overburden. For the past six years they’ve worked steadily to reduce “muri.” He says this is key to making their chosen vocation sustainable in the long haul. “The thing about small-scale growing is people time out early,” he says. “It’s a physically rigorous profession. If you’re not conscious of the burden on your body, you won’t be in the profession for long. So our goal is to make our work easier.” Similarly, rooting out the type of waste called “defect” adds to their bottom line. Farms often lose money due to defective products. The investigation begins with the question: “When does produce become defective?” Hartman has considered this question from the point a seed is received in the mail to the point at which a carrot or bag of spinach lands in a customer’s hand. He found that much of the loss came about in the first weeks after the seed arrived. “That’s when we were losing crops. Every seed should turn into food.” To that end, he built two steam-generated germination chambers. One is a converted freezer and another an old bakery cart. Both have a pan of water with an electric hot water heater element. With thermocouples and probes, temperatures can be set to the various crops’ exact needs. “We get close to 100 percent germination in here,” he says, opening the door to show the shelves above the water
pan. “So this took care of the week 1 defect.” During weeks two through four, plants continued to be vulnerable, so he set up a greenhouse within the greenhouse with extra heat and protection for heat-loving crops like peppers, tomatoes and figs. This helped mitigate crop loss at this stage.
COLLABORATION FOR SUCCESS But Hartman doesn’t claim origination of all the improvements on the farm. One of the principles of lean is to enlist every mind involved in production, so that ideas come from the people closest to the potential waste. “One of things we do with interns as soon as they come is show them that list of 10 types of waste.” Helpers know that if they see waste in any form, Hartman and Hershberger expect to be the first to know. “Some of the best ideas come from our interns,” he says. He points to two hosing tables suspended by chains from the overhang outside the processing room. The tables used to rest on legs. Charged with hosing and squeegeeing the cement floor under these tables, a worker suggested eliminating the legs and hanging the tables to make cleaning under them easier. Another suggestion involved packing CSA boxes. Every week interns would reach into a bulk tote of carrots, for example, to lift the vegetables into a member’s box in front of the tote. That resulted in fatigue and motion waste — until workers recommended lowering the front part of the table. Now, the CSA boxes sit lower than the bulk totes, making it easier to transfer the produce. While these small changes save only minutes a week, such measures have an impact over time, says Hartman. He doesn’t discount the human factor involved here, either. “When workers see us implement their ideas it encourages them to come up with more.” Like the Toyota manufacturers who hire people not to build cars but to think, Hartman says he doesn’t want workers to just put their heads down and toil, but to bring their minds to the farm as well. It’s a rewarding opportunity for nearby Goshen College students who
commit to an internship. And the rid of more than half our tools, and we smooth workflows and efficient pracwork half the hours that we used to. tices add up, though as intern Zach Every year that we’ve contracted our Waltz says, it’s still “dirty, messy, business we made more profit. That’s sweaty work. But I’m learning somewhat’s surprising. The mind-set I grew thing new every day,” he said. up with is that you have to grow H a r t m a n through constant stokes learning expansion.” NEED MORE not just among Spreading the INFORMATION? interns but also lean message has For more information about Clay at farm conferbecome a mission Bottom Farm, visit claybottomences, where he for Hartman, who farm.com. To order Ben Hartman’s speaks about lean was named one of The Lean Farm Guide to Growing farming. He’s apGrist magazine’s Vegetables: More In-Depth Lean peared at confer50 “fixers” — inTechniques for Efficient Organic ences in Wisconnovators addressProduction, visit acresusa.com or call 800-355-5313. sin, Pennsylvania, ing humanity’s Indiana, Oregon, biggest challenges North Carolina — for his work and elsewhere, and he has been interhelping small farmers stay competiviewed by European and Canadian tive. His second book, The Lean Farm media outlets. Guide to Growing Vegetables, is now The interest is unsurprising, since available. the farm grows more profitable each “It’s time for the industry to mayear. ture. Those who want to stay in it for “Lean is all about strategic contracthe long haul can’t rely on continuous tion. As you eliminate waste, you get expansion anymore. It’s time to focus smaller. We started on 3 acres, and our efforts on delivering value for now we farm on less than 1. We got long-term success.”
December 2017 21
PHOTOS COURTESY OF GARY ZIMMER
Where are the Minerals?
a balance of minerals and prevent the problems in the first place. So what is your limiting factor or constraint that interferes with plant production and plant health? You need to understand that your farming practices have a lot of influence on plant health, and plants that are healthy protect themselves — just as you have an immune system that functions well if you are healthy. Reduce stress; eat a balanced diet with a balance of nutrients; eat a variety of foods that are clean without foreign compounds to fight and a good biological balance. If you get all that right do you need to take supplements? It’s not farming the same way it was in grandpa’s day because there was a lot he didn’t know. He didn’t understand nutrients, soil health or soil fertility, and didn’t have the tools we have. He was stuck with a “plow.” If I asked you to do everything you could to get your soils healthy and mineralized, what would you do?
A fall mixed cover the author grew after rye was harvested. He used the cover crop to capture nutrients in a biological form and to cycle nutrients to get more minerals into the following cash crop.
Achieving Healthy Soil, High-Quality, Top Yields by GARY F. ZIMMER It’s a new century, and there is more knowledge about farming and the role of minerals, and there are more farmers paying attention to it. When it comes to farming, we know what the “base” is: putting all the pieces together including minerals, biology and soil structure — and using crop fertilizers that provide above and 22 Acres U.S.A.
beyond what the soil can dish out in terms of nutrients and biology. Even though there’s a lot of discussion about soil health, no-till and soil structure in farming right now, not enough attention is paid to minerals. It seems like so much of agriculture is spending its time and money chasing magic biologicals, foliars or plant protection and not focusing on doing everything you can to feed your crop
We know there are over 20 minerals needed to grow plants. We know there is a certain level of minerals needed in the soil (a sufficiency level), and that there is a balance or a ratio between them. We also know soil with “perfect” soil testing results does not always grow perfect crops. Soil testing is not looking for perfection in numbers, it is a tool to identify limiting factors: nutrients that are deficient or in excess. It hopefully doesn’t matter which soil testing lab you use; they all use extraction methods that give clues as to mineral levels and what type of soil it is based on CEC, pH and organic matter. It’s simple to add the nutrients that are short and not to add more of what you already have enough of. Trust the lab, and then in three to five years, after you have made the necessary corrections, retest with the same lab, pulling your soil samples the same way and at the same time of year. Monitor your plan. The next question is what type of material to use for correction and how much to use? I always like to start balancing soils by correcting calcium and phosphorus. When correcting your
soil for calcium and phosphorus, start by finding the right source and right amounts to fit your soils. The amount depends on your budget and the crops to be grown. Livestock manures and natural mined materials like rock phosphate, lime, gypsum and K-mag are some of my top choices. If the pH is low, lime it. Choose the correct type of lime, either high calcium or dolomite, depending on your soils, and don’t overdo it. I never like to go over 2 tons per acre of lime at a time. If the pH is fine and calcium is low and magnesium high, use gypsum. Calcium works best when boron is added with it. The other minerals like potassium sulfur and traces can be added with your crop fertilizer rather than in a soil corrective, but can’t be ignored.
CROP FERTILIZERS While fixing the soils you also need to get a good crop in order to pay the bills. You use crop fertilizers to feed this year’s crop. Crop fertilizer is a balance of nutrients chosen to fit your situation. I don’t want to make this complex — if you want pick the right crop fertilizer yourself, I suggest you read the latest edition of my book The Biological Farmer, Second Edition. There are a lot of examples and guidelines in the book on how to choose fertilizers for different crops and soil types. Crop fertilizers can be dry or liquid. My first choice is dry as you can get more nutrients for your money. You can also easily add carbon, make homogenized balanced blends and control your pH. I like my fertilizers to be low in pH because around each pellet in the soil the zone remains acid, keeping nutrient availability longer. I also don’t want all my nutrients to be soluble when added; I prefer some for now and some in a time-released form. For organic farmers, I like to use biology to grow nitrogen and release nutrients already in the soil, and on top of that add natural mined sources that also contain other minerals like sulfur, silica and many rare needed micro trace elements like selenium.
For trace element fertilizers I use sulfate trace minerals mixed with humates that are a low pH natural mined mineral. For an organic farmer, trace elements are restricted so you need to have a test to prove you need them. But why would anyone buy them if they don’t need them? Test both your soils and crops to see if you have enough minerals and if they’re getting into the plants. I like adding carbon sources to fertilizers, like mixing minerals with humates or putting the minerals in compost, or adding molasses to liquids. It is not only food for the soil biology but also buffers the minerals and gives them something to hold on to so they don’t tie up or leach. For the organic major elements, mixing compost with humates, KMag, potassium sulfate, rock phosphate and gypsum works well. For organic farmers nitrogen needs to be grown or supplemented with manures. For the biological farmers we have been building our base fertilizer from nutrients collected from dairy manure out of anaerobic digesters. This manure matrix has lots of biological bodies and properties along with many humic substances. To make blends that fit the farms we can mix in MAP for phosphorus, ammonium sulfate, K-Mag, potassium sulfate and traces
— all added to the matrix to give us our carbon base. Our calcium crop fertilizer includes adding humates, sulfur and hydrated lime. The calcium sources should be spread on the land separately from the granulated dry fertilizers due to volume needed and price. Liquid crop fertilizers can be used and work best as in-row or foliar on high testing, highly mineralized soils. I like higher quality nutrients in the liquids and mix them with carbon sources like molasses or humates. If I have given you enough information, you will know why you’re applying certain minerals and will have confidence you’ll figure out how.
SUPPORTING SOIL BIOLOGY After you’ve worked out what minerals you need for both your soil corrective and your crop fertilizer, the next step is to address soil biology and soil health. I think it’s logical — create an ideal home and feed the biology a variety of foods. Plants determine the soil life, so the more plant variety you have, the more diversity in soil life, and the more success you’ll have growing healthy crops. Digestibility of those crops feeding different types of soil biology is also a big part of it. Mature, rank, “brown” plants are hard to eat and slow to digest. They may build
The cereal rye crop the author grew during transition to organic production on the farm.
December 2017 23
The soils on a farm the author has been managing for 10 years using lots of biology through crop rotations and mixed cover crops, and feeding the soil a balance of nutrients including calcium, sulfur and trace minerals. The soil has excellent structure, improved organic matter since the author took over managing it, and you can see the aggregation and earthworm channels — all signs of a healthy, biologically active soil.
organic matter in soils, but do not provide enough soluble nutrients for the crop to grow. Young, succulent, highly digestible plants feed more bacteria in the soil, which eat the easy stuff and provide not only a lot of nitrogen but also other nutrients that feed your crop. So choose the plants you want to feed your soil life and the maturity of those plants to achieve the results you’re after. Soil life wants its food on top and to be left alone. But if the food just lays on top of the soil, how does the biology eat it? It’s like putting the livestock feed on the other side of the fence! I believe shallow incorporation of plants makes the most sense. Soil life needs air to survive — the fence post rots off near the surface. To support healthy soil life we need to feed them a diversity of plants, apply manure, compost and undigested plant material (like your cover crop) and make sure they have air and water with no crust on the soil. The soil life also needs a balance of minerals. Take every opportunity to have growing plants on the soil. Living roots keep 24 Acres U.S.A.
feeding the soil biology, even in winter. You need healthy soil life in order to maximize the cycling and plant uptake of the minerals you applied, and good soil structure is necessary to protect your soil life. With a lot of residues mixed in near the surface you protect the soil, avoid crusting and allow rain to soak in. Because you can’t let the soils be waterlogged if at all possible, I run deep rippers through my fields when compaction starts to be an issue so the water has an easy path to soak in. The only time I would do aggressive tilling like plowing or chiseling is if I’m making a major correction of nutrients or applying a lot of manure. It’s middle zone where there are many roots and earthworm channels. That “middle zone” (from about 3 inches to 8 inches down in the soil) is what I want to leave alone to protect the breathing tubes for soil life and channels for new roots to follow. Get your biology and your soil structure right in order to get your minerals cycling. Lay out a plan, observe and measure. Get help from
a consultant if needed. Remember, it’s easier to choose your soil testing lab than it is to choose your consultant. That can be a difficult process. You have to get smart enough to ask the right questions. You have to find someone who really understands your farm and your goals. It has to be logical. When it comes to fixing your farm, the first area of compaction you may need to address is between your ears. Keep an open mind. Look at the big picture. Once the base is laid down then it can be easy to judge if additives are a benefit. Evaluate those additives on the base that was there when they were tested. If my soils are really working, I don’t seem to get results from all the biologicals, foliars and extras. It’s much easier and more fun and profitable when the system is working right.
IN THE FIELD The map and soil test presented in this article are from a farm I bought three years ago. It had been rented for over 20 years, growing mostly conventional corn in the last decade or so. I farm organically, and it takes 36 months from the last prohibited substance before an organic crop can be sold for newly transitioned land. Normally I would use those two growing seasons to “fix” the soil by adding compost, manures, minerals, growing cover crops, ripping to reduce compaction, shallow incorporating cover crops and residues and building organic matter and soil health. After those two growing seasons, you would not be able to recognize the soils I started out with. On this particular farm, the soils are really out of balance with extremely low calcium and pH levels. Because of this and my desire to test new things, I am building the soil more slowly. I grew two years’ of cereal rye and harvested the seed since I can use it as cover crop seed for the rest of my farm. I did some mineralization with soil correctives, deep ripped the fields, and have made some progress now after two growing seasons but this farm still has a long way to go. If I would have soil tested
it before I bought it, I would have had second thoughts. The farm has about 45 tillable acres, and I am setting it up for row crops, vegetables and some livestock. My goal is to have the farm productive and profitable so a family can make a living on it. If you look at the farm map on page 26, you’ll see that fields 1, 6 and 8 are level enough, and it’s possible to irrigate those fields and grow vegetables. If you take a closer look at the soil report on page 27, the first question you need to answer is: What type of soils are these? Based on the CEC of 8 to 16 they are sandy to silt loams, and the organic matter is mainly in the 2% range. Most fields have a low pH. With a pH this low, some of the mineral levels shown on the soil report are falsely high. Once the pH comes down, those reported mineral levels will come down as well. High iron can be a problem, but this will change as I remineralize these soils. Note Field 6. It has a pH of 4.7 with a 16 CEC and 4.4% organic matter.
It looks to me like a perfect place to grow blueberries, as these need high iron and manganese, which show up at this low pH. Lime is needed across the farm, but also phosphorus. I like to start correcting with calcium and phosphorus, and these soils need some of both. While the soils are still acid before I lime it, it’s a perfect opportunity to apply rock phosphate, which is calcium phosphate. I decided to put on 1,000 pounds per acre rock phosphate — there’s
no magic in that number, but logistically it made sense because I have 45 acres, and one truckload holds 25 tons which works out to just about 1,000 pounds per acre. I also put on compost at 2 to 4 tons per acre and poultry manure at 2 tons per acre each year for the two years I’ve been farming it so far. The poultry manure is from laying hens and is a good source of phosphorus and calcium. I also deep ripped the soil last year because it was hard and tight. I grew cereal rye both years, as I needed cover crop
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seed and straw. Last summer after the rye harvest I put on 2,000 pounds per acre of high calcium lime and planted a cover crop blend that included oats, radish, alfalfa, clovers and a forage grass mix. Some of that blend will be used as hay this year as I start my crop rotations and some will be shallow incorporated this spring to plant organic corn. The soil is a long way from being fixed, but it’s on the right path. I will continue to apply a manure/ compost mix each year and a crop fer-
26 Acres U.S.A.
tilizer containing rock phosphate, HumaCal, K-Mag, potassium sulfate and a homogenized trace mineral blend. This will go on at 400-500 pounds per acre. This is a lot of fertilizer and costly, but I have lots of fixing to do. As you can see from the soil test, it needs lime, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and traces. When I plant row crops, I have liquid in the planter and will apply 5 gallons per acre of a fish fertilizer
along with 5 gallons of a molasses crop fertilizer blend. Everyone asks, “What does your fertilizer cost”? On this farm I will have a large investment in the soils, but over time it would cost me a lot more if I didn’t fix it. Once it’s fixed, I will still use a crop fertilizer but at much lower levels, depending on crops grown and the minerals those crops are removing.I will always plant cover crops and apply manure and/or compost, and I will also practice till-
age with a purpose so I can maintain and continually improve soil health. My investment in my soils will pay off before long in fewer problems, higher yields and higher profits. In two or three more years I will retest the soils to check progress. This will give the soil correctives time to impact mineral balance and then I can fine-tune the fertilizer applications from field to field. For now, all of the fields need help. My rotation will be hay on the steeper fields, with corn in rotation on the leveler ones, and a corn/beans/
small grains and cover crops rotation on the rest of the fields, eventually adding in vegetables once the soils are in better shape. Fixing soils and growing good crops is not that difficult. Fix the base of minerals, biology and soil structure; give it time to adjust to the changes you’ve made; test the soils again in five years to see how you’re doing and adjust your fertilizer program to match the soils and crops. It’s a method that really works, and I expect to grow high-yielding, healthy crops on this farm.
Gary Zimmer is founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Midwestern BioAg. Zimmer is an internationally known author, speaker and consultant. He owns Otter Creek Organic Farm, a family-operated, award-winning farm near Lone Rock, Wisconsin, and has been on the board of Taliesin Preservation Inc. since 2011. Zimmer is the author of three books, The Biological Farmer, Second Edition, The Biological Farmer and Advancing Biological Farming (available from Acres U.S.A.), and numerous articles on soils and livestock nutrition. Zimmer and his daughter, Leilani Zimmer Durand, will be speaking at the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference and Trade Show in Columbus, Ohio, in December. For more information, visit acresusa. com/events or call 800-355-5313.
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Understanding Carbon Dynamics PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. CAITLIN YOUNGQUIST
These two soils came from neighboring fields separated only by a fence. This Wyoming ranch recently converted half of the irrigated hay ground into pastures and implemented a rotational grazing system. The soil on the right is from the field that remained in hay production. The soil on the left is from the field that was converted to well managed pasture. Note the change in color (soil carbon) and rooting depth after only one year.
by CAITLIN YOUNGQUIST, PH.D. Carbon is an often overlooked, but very important component of the soil. We know how to manage nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for maximum production, and that micronutrients play a critical role in crop yield and disease resistance. Deficiencies can usually be corrected relatively quickly through the addition of soil or foliar fertilizer applications. While soil nutrient status can change quickly, changes in soil carbon status are generally much slower and effects are less obvious in the short term. Soil is a living system and has both inherent and dynamic properties — land managers work within the constraints of the inherent properties to change the dynamic properties. Changes in type and amount of soil carbon is one of our biggest opportunities for soil improvement. Soil health can be defined as the capacity of a soil to function in the areas of biological productivity (i.e. plant growth and decomposition), environmental quality (i.e. water filtration and erosion resistance) and plant and animal health. It is also one of the best indicators of long-term sustainability in land management. The primary unifying factor in all of these areas is soil carbon, the major component of soil organic matter. It is what gives healthy soil its dark brown color and rich, earthy smell. Soil organic matter encompasses all organic components of the soil system. This includes living and dead plant and animal tissue, as well as excretions and soil microbes. Soil organic matter is typically a small percentage of the soil but has a very important role to play in soil health, disease 28 Acres U.S.A.
suppression, drought resistance, water quality and quantity and long-term agricultural viability. The terms soil organic matter and soil carbon are often used interchangeably, and while one is a component of the other, they are not the same thing. Carbon is the primary component of SOM, accounting for approximately half of the molecular weight. Nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and other plant nutrients make up the rest. While plants do not take up any significant amount of carbon from the soil (instead they get it from the air), organic matter is the food and energy source for soil bacteria, fungi, worms and the rest of the soil food web. When it comes to managing for soil health, it is actually the organic soil carbon that is of interest. Soil organic carbon was once a part of a living organism and will be again someday. In contrast, soil inorganic carbon includes things like charcoal and calcium carbonate (lime) and does not provide the same benefits to soil health. Soil microorganisms (nematodes, bacteria, fungi, etc.) rely on organic matter as a food and energy source. These microbes break down complex carbon-based molecules in crop residues and manure like cellulose, lignin, fat and protein into smaller components. As a result, nutrients are made available to plants, and carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct. The bacteria responsible for the most rapid organic matter decomposition are aerobic (require oxygen). Tillage introduces oxygen into the soil, stimulating microbial activity. This burst of microbial activity leads to increased rates of organic matter metabolism in the soil and subsequent loss of soil carbon as carbon dioxide. This is why tillage is a primary factor in loss of soil carbon and declining soil health. Plants cannot use the nitrogen or many of the other nutrients in organic matter until the microbes break it down. The process of releasing nitrogen from organic matter is “mineralization.” Bacteria in the soil are also responsible for the conversion of ammonia to nitrate, the preferred form of nitrogen by most plants. Both processes require oxygen and warm temperatures. This is why plant-available nitrogen may be limited in saturated or cold soils.
ACTIVE, SLOW & PASSIVE POOLS Looking a little closer at carbon in the soil, there are several different pools that serve different purposes. The active pool (also called labile carbon) is composed primarily of living organisms, crop residues and manures. It turns over in seasons to years as soil microbes break it down and convert it into more stable forms. This pool plays an important role in structural stability (resisting erosion) and as a food source for soil microbes. Because it is made up of primarily “fresh” materials, nutrient release from this pool is relatively rapid. Levels of active soil carbon change relatively quickly with tillage practices and cropping systems. The passive pool of soil carbon turns over in hundreds to thousands of years. It is very stable and physically protected from the activity of soil microbes because it is bound up in organic-clay complexes. This pool of organic carbon is the major contributor to cation exchange capacity (the
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ability of the soil to hold nutrients), and water-holding capacity. It is very slow to change and primarily lost through wind and water erosion of topsoil. Humus is part of this pool, which has been shown to promote root development and plant growth. The slow pool of soil carbon is an intermediate pool that turns over in decades. This pool also provides food for soil microbes and is especially valuable for its slow release of nitrogen and micronutrients. It provides some benefits of both the active and passive pools as well. Changes in tillage and cropping systems will also impact this pool but effects may take longer to manifest than in the rapid pool. Think of the active active, slow and passive pools of soil carbon as a checking account, savings account and retirement plan. You can add to these “accounts” with cover crops, manure and compost, and by including soil-building crops in your rotation. You can minimize losses by reducing tillage, leaving crop residues in the field and protecting the soil from erosion. So, what does this mean for land managers and stewards? There are many soil functions that are directly or indirectly affected by soil carbon. • Soil microbial activity — plant nutrient availability, degradation of pollutants and disease suppression. • Soil structure — water infiltration, rooting depth, resistance to erosion and compaction, and oxygen availability for roots and microbes. • Water-holding capacity — drought resistance and water storage. • Crop quality and yield — disease resistance, seed germination, root development, and plant growth. Changes in soil carbon can be measured in the lab or in the field. The simplest method requires only a shovel while more advanced methods involve laboratory analysis. By digging a small hole and taking note of the color, smell and structure of the soil you can tell a lot about soil carbon status. A soil with more carbon will be darker in color, have a stronger earthy smell (humus) and better tilth. You may also notice more earthworms and deeper roots. Compare soil from a cultivated field to soil from a pasture, fencerow, or garden. Observing changes in these three basic characteristics (color, smell and structure) over time can tell you a lot about the effects of your current management on soil health and carbon status. Laboratory soil tests will typically include soil organic matter (as a percent of soil by weight) along with N, P, K and micronutrients. Watching how this number changes over time can be very informative, especially if you are making any changes to cropping or tillage systems. There are also several lab and field tests available for soil microbial biomass and activity. As they say, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” As you manage soil N, P and K for maximum crop production, consider ways to manage C too. The long-term benefits will be well worth the investment. Caitlin Youngquist is a University of Wyoming Extension Educator in northwest Wyoming. While she tries to answer any question that comes through the door, her area of expertise is soil management and composting. You can find some of her other articles in her blog: drcaitlin.us, or email her at email@example.com.
30 Acres U.S.A.
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PHOTO BY LEIGH GLENN
Prior to planting grains, beans, rice or cover crops, Next Step Produce’s compost is added at 10 to 12 tons per acre.
by LEIGH GLENN Southern Maryland farmer and Switzerland native Heinz Thomet (pronounced “tommit”) recognized his own sense of disconnection when he was in his late teens. He was serving in the Swiss Armed Forces and reading American naturalist Henry Thoreau. He began to wonder what he was doing with his life. Thomet grew up on a dairy farm outside Bern and appreciates that family history — experiencing the travails of caring for cows, but also living
Building a Symphony from Diversity
in a place where visitors had to pass the garden to reach the house and where the garden served as a sort of “business card” rather than a sign of poverty and relegated to somewhere far away from the home as in much of the United States, he says. That early sense of disconnection coupled with his background in farming prompted Thomet to travel and work on farms in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including in New Zealand and Germany as well as a kibbutz in Israel. Eventually, he ended up at Genesis Farm in Blairstown,
New Jersey, helping create the community supported garden there. He was there for eight years and also worked on a large-scale vegetable farm in Pennsylvania. He also worked at Potomac Vegetable Farm in Virginia and then decided to rent the Maryland farm. He established a credit history, then purchased it in 2000. That farm, near the Potomac River and a bridge that leads to Virginia’s Northern Neck, encompasses 84 acres, including 10 to 15 acres of wetlands and marshes. Thomet was soon joined by Gabrielle Lajoie, who grew up in Quebec, Canada, and was working at nearby Accokeek Foundation. Today, Heinz, Gabrielle and daughters Mikayla, Raphaelle and Hazel, often along with a farmhand or two, grow about 30 acres of vegetables, annual and perennial fruits, various varieties of wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, sorghum, dry beans and dryland rice. The previous farmers eschewed fossil fuel-based inputs as does Thomet, and he sees his work as creating a “symphony” among all living things on the farm, from the soil to the marshes to his daughters. That symphony starts in the soil, and the family supports it with cover cropping, crop rotation and composting.
GUIDING MISSION “Committed to Growing Nourishing Food in Harmony with Nature” is the mission of the farm, says Thomet. 32 Acres U.S.A.
Showing a visitor around, he quips that he could have named it Poison Ivy Farm or Holly Grove Farm, because there is a lot of both on the land. But he chose Next Step Produce because buying the farm was not only his personal “next step” — to be selfemployed — but also the “next step” in the larger picture of bringing diversity back to a land long subjected to poor cultivation practices and monocropping. On a cool, rainy spring day poppy and bachelor’s button flowers appeared to glow red, indigo, white and pink against the green of the grains, many of which were forming seed heads. Thomet includes the flowers among the grains when seeding for pollinators and for their beauty. This year marks a big transition for the Thomets. They had taken part in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle market for 16 years, but left after last season for multiple reasons he says, including not having enough help — always the farm’s biggest challenge — changing demographics, a market management identity crisis and declining overall sales. “For a long time, Washington was sort of a city that wanted to be local,” said Thomet. “The farmers’ markets grew, but in the short memory span of people, too many did not recognize that shopping locally is part of a
global solution, not just a fashionable thing.” Community connection is extremely important to Thomet. In the transition to wholesale, he has kept many of the friends he made at the market and continues to sell the family’s products that way — to restaurants in Baltimore, D.C., and Virginia Beach as well as directly to eaters. “It helps having been in business a long time. They find me more than I find them.” All around Next Step is evidence of connections forged and markets for unusual products, such as the bitter lemons and European elderberries purchased by people who use them to make vinegars. The Thomets also grow jujubes but don’t have a market for those yet, though a visitor suggested contacting Chinese herbalists who use the fruit to tonify stomach and spleen qi. Underlying all the other reasons for leaving the Dupont Circle market is a deep desire to make the farm and their lives sustainable. “In many ways, we are at maximum capacity,” Thomet says. “For us, it’s more finding the balance of what we can do and not burn out and also how do we create that sustainable, harmonious system? What is a longterm sustainable crop variety? For a good grain rotation, for example, we
Barley growing at Next Step Produce in Newburg, Maryland.
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Call 1-800-355-5313 or visit www.acresusa.com to order. December 2017 33
Rice starts at Next Step Produce. The Thomets grow three main rice varieties on their farm: Koshihikari, Hmong Sticky and Improved Bluebonnet.
have wheat, barley, oats and rye, but the market emphasis is too much on wheat and not on the other three crops. Ideally, we’d find more markets for barley and rye.” Despite potential regional demand for distillation grain, Thomet has chosen not to go that route.
CONSTANT REINVENTION At heart, Thomet likes to experiment. For example, he grew ginger successfully and brought that to the farmers’ market. “With everything in farming, you have a few good years, then they copy you and you have to move on,” he says. “It’s a constant reinventing.”
Beyond the need for reinvention, decisions on what to grow often come down to one question: Do we eat it ourselves? That led to Thomet’s trying dryland rice. Because Thomet did not grow up with the “box” of ideas that are culturally acceptable in the United States — including the one that dictates corn and cantaloupes are the main commercially viable crops in southern Maryland — he views crops and potential markets differently. “I didn’t know better that you can’t do it,” Thomet says, of growing rice. “When you look at it logically, Hokkaido is as far north as Quebec, so they can grow rice as far north as Quebec. I’m as far south as Morocco, as Turkey. The huge struggle is to find suitable varieties.” Thomet got the rice idea from a horticulture magazine 20 years ago when he read a story about a fellow from Jamaica who tested paddy rice in Albany, New York, only to find that ducks would eat it. So the man tried dryland, and the ducks left it alone. Having grown grains successfully, Thomet was tempted to think of rice in the same manner. “But you need to treat it like a vegetable. It needs to be pampered.” That means starting it in the greenhouse and keeping it clear of weeds, then transplanting it and continuing to weed it. (Direct sowing does not work because rice and weedy grasses are so similar looking.) The rice needs about an inch of water per week, otherwise it becomes stressed. But contrary to the idea that rice must be grown in paddies, it fares well with its roots in an aerobic environment. Paddies did not make sense to Thomet, given the shape of his land. “It would need massive terracing,” he says — and has a general lack of access to water. With increasingly extreme weather, there’s no telling what any season will bring. “In a dry year, we probably can’t do more than a couple of acres.” Currently, the Thomets grow three main rice varieties: Koshihikari, Hmong Sticky and Improved Bluebonnet. Thomet, who does not have a favorite rice, says Koshihikari has the most flavor. Many customers swear by Hmong Sticky, but there are others who won’t touch it. “Diversity of people is an asset,” he says.
SOIL HEALTH Historically, Maryland’s cash crop was tobacco, and Thomet found out he would need to do a lot of work to regenerate and maintain the soil whose organic matter has continued to hover around 1.5 percent, despite the Thomets’ efforts. Plus the sandy soil does not retain a lot of organic matter. Thomet says the land east of the Mississippi was already prone to erosion long before humans arrived. But tobacco’s May-October culture left soils bare from October to April — in a land that naturally reverts to green any chance it gets — so the erosion worsened, with much of the land’s productivity ending up in nearby waterways. The Thomets work to rebuild the soil with compost, cover crops and crop rotation and aims for a 50-50 split between crops that nourish people and crops that nourish the soil.
34 Acres U.S.A.
Thomet uses the Luebke system of composting, based on the Luebkes’ exposure to Ehrenfried Pfeiffer’s methods, he says, and passed along to Edwin Blosser at Midwest Bio-Systems. Compost Thomet took a course with Siegfried Luebke years ago. Luebke’s approach emphasizes maintaining aerobic conditions throughout the composting process. Thomet uses an old turner for the windrows and includes leaves from a nearby landfill along with hay, clay and local rock dusts. Prior to planting grains, beans, rice or cover crops, the compost is added at 10 to 12 tons per acre, depending on the needs of the crop to be planted. Because of Next Step’s location within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Thomet makes low-nitrogen compost so that he can apply more organic matter without violating Bay runoff safeguards. Those safeguards, however, don’t distinguish between the nitrogen in compost versus urea or ammonia. The previous farmer brought in chicken litter from the Eastern Shore and phosphorus levels continue to be high, Thomet says. The litter, especially when wet, would likely be putrefying and would need large amounts of easily broken down carbon to balance the nitrogen. So, even though compost could be made from it, it’s a matter of assessing resources, including labor. Plus, Thomet is not interested in using resources from far away.
Next Step sells bitter lemon to local food artisans.
“We are striving for that self-contained farm. Stuff from outside should be medicine, not mainstay. If it stinks up front, it probably stinks. But all of it has to do with resource assessments. It’s just not a resource here.” Cover crops Cover crops at Next Step run the gamut from Austrian peas and camelina to sunn hemp and sunflowers. Thomet expects
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A field, ready for planting, at Next Step Produce.
to mix in camelina more with grains in the future. He also loves crimson clover, which fits well with other crops. Thomet also uses turnips and has found that they’re early bloomers, which is good for pollinators, a good cleanser and also help to make sulfur more available. Vetch, which was planted by the previous farmer, presents a bit of dissonance in the symphony. It gets a jump on winter wheat, which seems to promote its growth and makes it hard to harvest the wheat. He says he may have to shift to a spring wheat until he can outpace the vetch’s growth. The upside is that bumblebees love the vetch. The Thomets don’t have a set rotation plan; it depends on what’s going
36 Acres U.S.A.
on, which fields need to be cleared when and the weather. Sometimes Thomet is disappointed by soil test results, but he says everything is relative. If your strawberries initially Brix at 6 degrees and you work to move them to 11 to 12, others may be amazed. But if you know the potential is 18 and you’re topping out at 12, you’ll be disappointed. Despite any misgivings about soil quality, pests that might ordinarily cause issues don’t last long. For example, the first year brown marmorated stink bugs appeared in Maryland, they formed a solid covering on the stems of the Thomets’ squash plants. Now the Thomets see them mostly in the fall and winter.
Two years ago, says Thomet, a neighbor who grows daikons turned them over, and they were infested with the stink bugs, but the Thomets have not see them on the various mustard-family plants they grow at Next Step. Earlier this year, the Thomets attended a conference on the emerging African sugarcane aphid, which is increasingly causing problems for sorghum farmers. (A restaurateur in Virginia buys Next Step’s sorghum.) He has not seen the aphid at the farm, though the state extension has reported its local emergence. By the afternoon, the talks shifted to pesticides. Thomet shakes his head, noting the John Wayne approach to agriculture: shoot first; ask questions later. “If you have a crop where an aphid comes in and runs it over, is that crop really that weak?” he says. “Is there a nutrient deficiency going on? What’s going on? Before we grab for anything, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What’s happening? Where is the stress? Were we in there when the ground was too wet?’” Thomet says often there are aphids in the farm’s pepper transplants. They’re around for a couple of weeks, they interrupt the growth, but then they’re gone.
PROFITABILITY As with many things, Thomet takes a macro view of money and a frugal stance on debt. He likes to ask, “What world do you want tomorrow, and what do you have to do today? Every time you spend money, you work for that tomorrow. Whatever you take off the shelf” — whether you shop at WalMart or your local farmers’ market — “is going to be put back the same way.” It annoys Thomet that people complain about food prices in the United States when, since the 1960s, they have fallen as a proportion of the average household income — around 10 percent, though higher for lowerincome households. Although the family misses the Dupont Circle market, the decision to leave was grounded in financial analysis. “If you’re at a farmers’ market
and make $500 in a four-hour period, it’s just not worth it,” said Thomet. “There seem to be a lot of those farmers’ markets around.” Thomet says it’s the same dynamic he heard about a couple decades ago in California, when a farmer he knew could go to one market and make $2,000 in a week. The success of that market spawned others so the farmer ended up going to five — but was still making $2,000 for five times the effort, plus needed a bigger refrigerator, more time idling while at the markets and more miles on the vehicle and money spent on fuel. “We had huge growth, 50 percent growth for a number of years,” said Thomet. That led to the push to open more markets. “But it did not increase the number of people who shopped there; it diluted them.” Although Thomet believes the less government, the better, support for local food is one area where he would like to see governments get involved to facilitate use of what local farmers grow at local institutions, based on whatever percentage of public funding they receive. Whether it’s a hospital, a university or a prison, if 25 percent of the budget is local, then that money should be spent locally, including on food. What about the notion that farmers may not get as much through wholesaling? “Because we are downsizing, we have less. We had a full-time man last year, and he got a lot done. With fewer people working, less will be produced. That will mean a reduction in income. Below the line, what will be left I don’t think it will change that much. It’s hard to say. So far, sales have been good. Grain sales have been good. Vegetable-wise there’s not much waste so far.” He says, in some ways, wholesaling is easier from a growing standpoint. A restaurant requests they grow something and they do. The vinegar makers will take whatever bitter lemon and elderflower there is. “We’re going more that direction. ‘You want escarole from us, let us know.’” The Thomets’ farm is paid for, thanks to their frugality and wise management. One of Thomet’s guiding principles has been to be sound
enough not to need any operational loans. He did get one, in the form of a credit card, in the second year and only for a couple of months, so he could pay the balance in full. He calculated the amounts he would spend in interest over different time periods — 15 years, 10 years, five years, three. He did not want to spend more than Barley, growing with poppies and batchseven years on interest, so he always elor’s button (cornflower). put down extra, and he did the same with equipment. Where he could get answer will determine how we relate a no-interest loan for a set number of to people.” years versus spending cash outright, The diversity of Next Step — a he did. polyphony — could proIn his work as a vide income for three farmer, Thomet has NEED MORE families, Thomet says, read some of Wendell INFORMATION? though the greater the Berry’s works, including For more information on diversity, the steeper What Are People For?, a Next Step Produce, visit the curve in learning question he is fond of nextstepproduce.com or how to manage. But asking. call 301-259-2096. diversity is its own re“Wendell Berry is ward — the opposite of one person to seek for monotony, whether that monotony is answers. At the end of the day, we flipping burgers or milking cows. have to find our own answer, and that
Tips for Success from Heinz and Gabrielle Thomet Always be on the lookout for unique crops, especially if you sell at market. When everyone else is flush with yellow squash, what will you have that’s different? Be willing to experiment. Whether it’s jujube fruit, quinces or dryland rice, ask what you and your family eats or would like to try — and try growing it. In this way you find what works well with your land, what doesn’t and which niches you might fill — both ecological and economic. Know that knowledge changes with time. Listen to farm educators and then do your own research — whether it’s the layout for planting hardy kiwis or using a keyline plow to address compaction. Every farm is different, and there may not be a directly applicable, one-to-one solution for a question or issue you have. Realize that sustainability also includes human health, including your own and the health of your family and employees, and factor this aspect into a yearly, not weekly, cycle to attain balance. And if you are aiming for vertical integration — such as growing grains, cleaning and processing them and selling them yourself — recognize that there is a lot more work involved than if you are relying on others to handle the nongrowing aspects. Determine how you can best support nearby farmers. This can mean anything from sharing equipment to buying products from them that you don’t raise or grow yourself — depending on whatever unique circumstances are present. The point is to “be the change we wish to see in the world,” says Gabrielle. If farmers are encouraging their customers to make decisions that support the local economy by spending money locally then that can also extend to farmers themselves.
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PHOTO BY DR. LEO SHARASHKIN
Preserving Our Pollinators Bees foraging on a wide diversity of local plants stay healthier and produce honey with a rich, complex flavor.
by JILL HENDERSON A couple of years ago a friend called to ask me about a bizarre incident at his rural homestead involving thousands of dead bees. It was mid-summer, and he had hauled a big chest freezer out of an outbuilding before washing and rinsing the inside with biodegradable dish soap. He rinsed and drained the unit and left the lid open overnight so the inside would dry completely. When he checked the freezer the next day, he found a ghastly scene. In the bottom of the freezer was an inchthick layer of dead honeybees. Knowing that my friend didn’t keep bees or use herbicides or pesticides on his property, I asked if he’d left a pool of water in the bottom of the freezer that the bees could have been attracted to on that hot, dry summer afternoon. He assured me that he hadn’t. We talked about it for some time trying to figure out what happened. What would cause an entire swarm of honeybees to converge in the bottom of a 38 Acres U.S.A.
clean and empty freezer and die all at the same time? It was a strange event that rattled both of us and my gut feeling was that these honeybees were the victims of colony collapse disorder (CCD). This strange and poorly understood phenomenon involves entire colonies of worker bees that suddenly abscond their hive, leaving their queen, all of the young bees and brood and an abundant food supply and simply flying away en masse never to return. For years, the number of hives lost to CCD grew at an alarming pace with some experts pointing the finger at multiple stress points and hive weaknesses including varroa mites and the gut parasite, nosema. Other suspects include environmental factors, pesticides and the lack of quality forage for the bees. Currently, the overall incidents of CCD are on a downward trend, but it still occurs with unsettling frequency. The truly disturbing thing about CCD is that no one really knows the cause or where the bees go or what happens to them
after they’ve gone. I have a strong feeling that at least one hive’s worth of CCD bees wound up dead in the bottom of an empty chest freezer. This story is just one of many related to the untimely and maybe not-so-mysterious deaths of honeybees across the globe. Yet, honeybees are just the canary in the coal mine warning us of impending disaster. All pollinating insects are currently under threat from loss of habitat, agricultural monocultures and the gluttonous use of deadly chemical pesticides and herbicides. It should go without saying that any substance that kills insects — synthetic or natural — may also harm or even kill honeybees, as well as native bees and a host of other beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantises. The fundamental problem with our current mode of agriculture is that most of the synthetic chemicals used as insecticides and herbicides have long residual periods or are mixed with equally toxic agents that do. Due to their systemic nature and extreme-
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December 2017 39
PHOTO BY LEO SHARASHKIN
Colorful hives help bees recognize their home, limiting the spread of disease between colonies.
ly long-lived toxicity, neonicotinoids are among the most dangerous pesticides on the market today. In a recent report from the Center for Food Safety, beekeepers, conservationists and wildlife advocates filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for systematically violating the Endangered Species Act. The
40 Acres U.S.A.
court ruled that “EPA had unlawfully issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for a wide variety of agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses.” Persistent chemicals like neonicotinoids accumulate not only in the soil and on produce, but also in the honey, bee bread, royal jelly and even the wax of bees foraging in the vicinity. This fact has been corroborated by a Cornell University study in which beebread was tested for pesticides. Of the 120 study hives placed near 30 apple orchards that were not being sprayed at the time of the study, 17 percent had acutely high levels of pesticide exposure, while 73 percent were found to have chronic exposure. In essence, these persistent pesticide residues are slowly, but surely, poisoning bees and very possibly, the humans who consume their byproducts as well. The general public’s attention to the decline of honeybees can be partly attributed to the fancy of children and home gardeners, but their intrinsic value to the world’s agricultural and economic systems cannot be overstated. Three-quarters of the world’s flowering plant species and approximately 35 percent of the world’s food crops cannot achieve pollination without the work of animal pollinators. It is worth pointing out that honeybees are but one species among many thousands (if not tens of thousands) of pollinating insects such as moths, butterflies, wasps and native bees. Other insects and animals that we don’t usually think of as pollinators such as beetles, flies, ants, bats, squirrels, hummingbirds, small lizards and the like, can also move pollen accidentally when hunting for insects or searching for nectar. Of course, humans are not only active, but accidental pollinators, as well. You probably already know this, but honeybees aren’t native to North America. They were brought here by the first colonists in the early 1600s to help pollinate the food crops brought to the New World from Europe. Before that, native pollinators were more than enough to keep the evolutionary train rolling and the native populations fed. As our society grew, we added many non-native crops to the landscape and wiped out millions of acres of natural landscape that supported a huge array of pollinators and other life forms. Today, the general consensus among scholars seems to indicate that mankind would very likely survive without honeybees pollinating our crops, but that the contemporary food supply would be severely interrupted, if not stunted. In other words, humans would probably survive such a calamity, but in what numbers and with what quality of life is unknown. The bottom line is that without honeybees, agriculture as we know it will not survive. If we lose the honeybee and a large percentage of our native pollinators also become extinct —many already have — humans could be doomed as a species. It is always better to act now to avert potential disaster later than to wait to recognize one that is already upon us. This is particularly important for living systems that are already weakened or compromised because these failing systems are wickedly catastrophic. We have already
PHOTOS BY JILL HENDERSON
experienced colony collapse disorder in honeybees and the word “collapse” is exactly what we should be worried about when it comes to the environment. The cascading effects of climate change, rise in sea level, erosion, desertification, monocropping and the increasingly toxic loads of chemicals and heavy metals suspended in our water, air and soil all point toward some form of ecological collapse. With that in mind, there are many things we can do right now to support all of our pollinator species, our environment and a clean, ecological method of agriculture that benefits all living systems on Earth. According to multiple sources, quality habitat is the number-one concern for the health and well-being of pollinators. In a recent article for Acres U.S.A., I talked to Dr. Leo Sharashkin, a prominent and well-spoken advocate for natural beekeeping and keeping wild honeybees. Toward the end of our interview, I asked what he thought about the scale of modern monocropping and the fate of pollinators in that system. “When talking about monoculture farming, it really depends on the scale,” said Sharashkin. “If you have a monoculture crop that’s surrounded by wilderness or areas of natural vegetation or if your crop is an organic monoculture, the bees have other sources of nourishment nearby that they can use to complement their plentiful source of nectar coming from the monoculture planting. If we’re talking about the huge swaths of monoculture where there is just one crop and nothing else, then natural beekeeping is just not possible in this highly unnatural environment.” Sharashkin says this has to do with two factors. “The first is the continuity of nectar flow. In nature, something is in bloom from early spring until late in the fall, so bees have a very long period of time when there is food available in the environment and they are adapted to it. In a monoculture planting, you have a blooming period of two or three weeks when there is a reasonably large amount of nectar. But then, there is nothing else at all for the rest
Butterflies on native coreopsis.
Support pollinators by allowing parts of your landscape to return to the wild.
of the season or for the rest of the year, which means that most beekeepers that put their bees on monoculture crops have to move their bees around. This brings all kinds of stress on the bee colony and much more work for the beekeeper.” Sharashkin strongly recommends planting diverse species of cover crops in fields and orchards. If possible, farmers should take part in a CRP or other program that supports the planting of wildflowers and natives and learn more about creating native buffer zones between crops and fields. Although he recommends them, Sharashkin has seen what happens when the program ends and farmers go back to cultivating the buffer zones, which took several years to become established. “If you were to plant wildflowers on your land using some of the government programs available today, and then added honeybees onto the acreage to create a crop of honey for you, it would become a much more sustainable effort. Then, you are not dependent on government support because you could support yourself just from the honey crop from the bees. I’ve seen examples in Russia where they can recoup and recover their cost of pollination flower planting by a factor of 10 times when they integrate bees into the system. That means that for every dollar that they spend sowing wildflowers, they end up harvesting $10 worth of honey in
return. Anyone that really wants to help honeybees and other pollinators on any scale should set aside a few acres or more to create permanent bee-friendly buffer zones.” Sharashkin says marginal lands can be a boon to protecting pollinators and the producers’ bottom line. “In the agricultural areas, I see a lot of promise in the fact that if you have marginal lands that you can put into pollinator habitat, you can actually produce more in terms of economic value than degrading the land even further by using any other kind of intensive agriculture on it, even animal grazing. I think for those who need to make a living from the land and who live in agricultural areas, there is an important message that they can practice conservation and create their livelihood from the land all at the same time. And bees may be the missing link that can help us turn agriculturally unproductive areas into very productive areas while promoting conservation at the same time. In fact, most of my honey comes from the neighbor’s abandoned old fields that are now overgrown with sumac, which produces a rare and flavorful honey. So, the same is true almost anywhere you have marginal lands. They can all become productive pollinator habitat. Otherwise, there is nothing you can do for the big monocrop operations other than take the decline of honeybees as a signal that there is something seriously wrong about this way of farming. Sharashkin says honeybees are also sending us a clear signal that our industrial food system needs an overhaul. “If we see honeybees — which are a very resilient and strong collective December 2017 41
have become cleaner than agricultural areas in terms of pesticide contamination, and bees are not being poisoned as much in the cities as they are in the countryside.” Sharashkin strongly advocates for letting lawns revert to a more natural state that includes a wide array of flowering “weeds” and wildflowers, which provide a lot of nectar plants in a very small space. “If more people were doing that collectively, it would already offer so much more habitat and food for the honeybees than agricultural landscapes could offer,” he said. He also recommends mowing your lawn less and protecting large trees in yards, parks and byways where wild bees can set up hives in hollow trees and snags. People should also try to protect hives found in yard trees or even in the walls of homes and buildings as long as they don’t pose an immediate threat. If they do, the first thing you should do is contact a local beekeeper in your area. Health food stores are great places to inquire about small, independent apiarists. Most beekeepers will not only come and remove the bees for free, but they will often do what they can
Beetles are examples of accidental pollinators.
organism — declining and collapsing then it is a signal to all of us to reconsider farming practices and to see how completely unsustainable they have become. When we go to smaller-scale farming and organic market growers, there is much more possibility to integrate natural beekeeping approaches on the condition that there are buffers of natural vegetation surrounding the actual crop field or orchard where bees can obtain additional forage for the rest of the season when the principal crops stop blooming.” Sharashkin has some good advice for city dwellers, too. “One great thing you can do for local bees is not only planting a wide variety of nectar flowers, but conserving the honeybees themselves. There is a better honeybee population inside the city than in agricultural areas because there are less pesticides present in the environment. Yes, some people spray dandelions in the lawn with herbicides and things like that, but, for the most part, urban areas 42 Acres U.S.A.
Native wildflowers are perfect for pollinators.
to save as many bees as possible before moving them into working hives. And, if you’re lucky, you might get a little honey out of the deal, too. Better yet, says Sharashkin, “Just leave the bees alone. It will probably be the greatest contribution you can make to preserving that local strain of bee and not eliminating them as many people would.” When trying to determine which types of pollinator plants are best to propagate or encourage, remember that not all pollinators are honeybees or even native bees, and that each beneficial species has its own preference for nectar sources. For example, bumblebees love the flowers of cucurbits and will sometimes chew their way into an unopened flower. Wasps particularly like flowers with very tiny flowers born in clusters, which are common on mint family plants. Sharashkin points out that oftentimes the best thing to do is let nature take its course. “The easiest way to enhance pollinator habitat for honeybees and native bees is to stop destroying what we already have.”
Dr. Leo Sharashkin explains natural beekeeping methods at his annual workshop. RESOURCES
To find out more about native bees and pollinators in your area, visit the Pollinator Partnership website to find pollinators specific to your ecoregion. Enter your zip code into the search box of their Ecoregional Planting Guide (pollinator.org/guides#all) to get a free, downloadable PDF booklet that covers everything you need to know about supporting pollinators in your area. Check out the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation website (xerces.org) where you will find a whole host of interesting and useful information on pollinators and the plants they rely on for food. To learn more about Dr. Leo Sharashkin’s method of natural beekeeping, visit horizontalhive.com.
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Define, Measure & Manage
Setting the Table to Optimize Fertilizers, Soil Amendments by NEAL KINSEY By using detailed measurements and specifically formulated procedures for controlling nutrient excesses and deficiencies in soils, it is possible to define, measure and manage soil fertility to help grow crops of the highest quality. Whether trees, vines or cane crops, when it comes down to fertility, there are three very specific considerations that woody plants need to perform at their very best. The same is true for vegetables, grasses, legumes and small grain crops. Those needs are adequate water infiltration, proper environment for soil life and the correct amount of nutrients to supply that life and the crop via plant root uptake. It is a big mistake to consider that just adding enough fertilizer to grow the crop is what determines soil fertility. There is far more to it than that, and if not correctly understood this can be very costly to those trying to survive and profit from such land. On the other hand, once these principles are understood and put into practice, it is like finding the road map to building up land for achieving its top performance. Top fertility begins with soils that “drink in the water” — not those that are so hard that water is unable to penetrate and runs off as a source of erosion instead. Even on “flat”
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fields, whichever way the water moves, soil nutrients move with it. This is because soil colloids, the tiniest and yet most fertile clay particles, and the soil humus are so small that they will be picked up and eroded away first. Is there anything growers can do about poor soils? Are you just stuck with that soil if a general fertility program will not suffice to solve the problem? Though much of agriculture seems to imply that this is the only real choice (because the farmer or grower is told it is too expensive to correct the soil) that does not have to be the case. Adding carbonaceous materials, growing cover crops, using composts and manures and other conservation methods can help, but if any of these are considered as the initial key to lasting success, that is like the old saying about “getting the cart before the horse.” The place to start is to consider and deal with the “science” of the soil as quickly as possible. That means providing exactly the right environment for the soil organisms, from microbes to earthworms, and all the other organisms that work to feed the plant. Soil scientists say this soil life is equivalent to the weight of an average sized cow in the soil under each acre of ground. This life in the soil eats first and the plants we are growing then get to choose from what is left. In other words, the plants eat at the second table. When there is not a sufficient amount to supply the needs of both the soil and the plant, it is the plant that suffers. A good example is how soil organisms confiscate nitrogen needed to break down crop residues. They get first choice and if there is too little there, the plant will suffer a nitrogen deficiency. Still, when soil organisms are placed into a hostile environment, they have trouble thriving and possibly even surviving. This is where the science of the soil again takes precedence. It now has to do with the proper amount of air and water the soil contains, as compared to the content of minerals and organic matter. This relates to the physical structure of the soil — or soil physics. The soil needs plenty of room for supplying the needs of the living organisms that must survive there, including plant roots. That room or space must provide the needed air and water as well as sufficient soil and plant nutrient sources. To provide the most beneficial environment for the life of the soil requires 25 percent as air space, 25 percent for water, 45 percent for soil nutrients and 5 percent for organic matter. But there is another aspect of soil science that has to be considered in order to provide this ideal physical structure. It has to do with the chemistry of the soil. The lack of proper emphasis on this aspect of soil science is why most of agriculture does not accomplish building the proper environment for soil life, including the plant roots that should be correctly feeding our crops.
The makeup of soil fertility should be based on the chemistry of the soil because only with the correct soil chemistry can the optimum physical structure (which determines the environment for life in the soil) be achieved. Without a proper relationship between the soil minerals, which determines how they will react with one another, the physical structure will be lacking in a soil. There will not be the proper amount of air and water in relation to the mineral and organic matter content. Hence, the “house” or proper living conditions for all of the soil organisms will be lacking. That soil is not the “living soil” it needs to be. Now whatever we try to grow there suffers as a result. This is the real life-giving aspect of soil fertility. Once the science is right, then you can consider and stress the differences that fertilizers and soil amendments can provide to keep the life in the soil functioning as it should, including the nuances of fertility needs for wine grapes or table grapes, versus raspberries or blackberries, versus almonds or walnuts, or whatever else is to be produced there. Until this point is reached, the basics of topsoil performance to grow whatever crop you have in mind are still limiting. The sooner these can be corrected, the sooner each soil will be able to achieve its absolute top potential in terms of both yield and quality. Even though many other soil-building programs can help make improvements, the greatest limitations to top performance of all productive land is the lack of the right chemistry, which determines the right physical structure, which will then provide the ideal environment for the life in the soil and consequently what the producer wants to grow. Utilizing a detailed soil analysis, combined with available GPS technology, now makes it possible to accurately determine exact requirements for each specific nutrient as required for significant variations in the soils of every vineyard, orchard or field. This technology is used to accurately measure, map for sampling and correctly fertilize for specific soil differences.
By understanding the subtleties of each different soil and the consequences that nutrient deficiencies or excesses will cause for walnuts, wine grapes, vegetables or any other crop to be grown on that land, potential problems can be identified and prioritized and appropriate solutions proposed. On-site consultations should also be considered from time to time as they can prove useful to help ensure that growers are correctly using the best proven methods to achieve and maintain established needs.
Neal Kinsey has worked as a soil fertility specialist in his home state of Missouri since 1973, with clients in all 50 states and at least 70 other countries. He also conducts training courses for interested farmers and growers each year as well as on-farm consultations. For more information, visit kinseyag.com.
Neal Kinsey will be speaking at the 2017 Acres U.S.A. Conference & Trade Show. He will also be leading a 2018 Wine Grape Soil Seminar in Napa, California, February 12-14, with an optional vineyard tour on February 15. For more information on both events, visit acresusa.com/events or call 800-355-5313 for assistance.
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Why should I incorporate AgriEnergy’s fertility products in 2018? AgriEnergy’s fertility products have been proven to improve soil health numerous times. Improved soil health can lead to darker soils, improved tilth, an active rhizosphere, and can help protect your crops from extreme weather patterns. Visit us in booth 320 at the ACRES U.S.A. Conference for more benefits! Eric Johnston, Sales Agronomist email@example.com | 815.872.1190
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December 2017 45
PHOTO COURTESY OF WILD FARM ALLIANCE
Hedgerows can provide a multitude of benefits including pollinator, beneficial insect and wildlife habitat, dust and wind protection and increased diversity.
Inviting In the Wild Alliance Supports Relationship Between Farmer, Ecosystem & Community by BARBARA BERST ADAMS Each time we plant borders for beneficial insects or erect homes for raptors as rodent control, we’re offering something to wild nature in exchange for it being our ally as we nurture domesticated crops. Sometimes, as with Nettles Farm on Lummi Island in Washington State, nature’s bounty makes its way into the farm’s offerings. Nettles Farm is surrounded by the sea and natural woodlands. Wild rose petals, wild plums and even edible seaweeds find their way into the foods of the chefs they supply at the famous Willows Inn. Meanwhile, more and more information is surfacing on the huge potential agriculture has toward climate and natural resource restoration. But both farmers and wild nature are vulnerable, and like any good partnership, the union can truly sustain itself when each partner receives ongoing sym46 Acres U.S.A.
biotic support from the other. This article focuses on how eco-farmers are affected by growing desires and expectations to support ecosystems while earning a living at the same time, along with how I’ve seen an organization called Wild Farm Alliance assist them. Even if it initially appears a future farm and wild nature partnership would be symbiotic eventually, the transition time to reach that state needs to be financially and labor-wise feasible. Farms can’t support nature if they go out of business in their attempts to do so and sell out to development or corporate agriculture. And because consumer demand fuels the farm with its financial support and policy voting, consumer understanding of the process farms must go through to reach and maintain higher states of sustainable regeneration is also intrinsic to the partnership. Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) seems aware of “the good partnership.” It
works on many fronts toward a mutually beneficial relationship between organic farmers and wild nature, including assisting farmers with practical on-farm methods and improving the USDA organic certification process to make sure it includes naturesupportive conservation practices. With a main office in Watsonville, California, and a remote office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, WFA was founded in 2000. Wild nature is the great demonstrator of the value of diversity, and the organization promotes the many benefits of biodiversity on farmlands. Its board members and panel of advisors also reflect diversity in that they work and reside in many locations across the country and include current working farmers and ranchers, researchers, educators and even the well-known restaurant owner, Alice Waters, who works with a network of sustainable farmers to support regenerative agriculture. WFA reports that 37 percent of the Earth’s land is dedicated to agriculture, making farmland a top priority for Earth regeneration and wildlife conservation. While they assist farmers, they also connect with them for the purpose of learning from them. And that’s valuable to farmers, because we have to be careful that non-farming certifiers and agricultural advisors do not become too distant from farming itself. Often farmers are the ones on the forefront of continual discovery and innovation by being constantly engaged in their operations.
DIZZYING BUZZWORDS Buzzwords and recognizable ecolabels can help generate the consumer support needed for ecological farming to thrive, but they need understandable definitions and acceptance. Within eco-farming’s arena, the correct terminology gets debated and re-arranged. We watched the word “natural” fall by the wayside long ago until a new certifying group arose to try to give it a positive meaning again. And now even the term “sustainable” is losing its shine with some. WFA gives sustainable a definition and believes the term sustainable agriculture means “biological conserva-
PHOTO COURTESY OF WILD FARM ALLIANCE
tion, as well as, the interconnection between nature, the community, and the farm.” WFA also offers, among other publications, “Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide” which can be downloaded for free from their website. This guide helps describe the biodiversity conservation expectations already in existence within the USDA Organic label. Not all eco-farmers want or need USDA certification and there are other options that serve different purposes. Old labels can become watered down or lose meaning as we expand our understanding of carbon farming, GMOs, beyond humane animal treatment and the impact of lost pollinators and deteriorating water supply. But in some cases, already established labels may need to be clarified or updated instead of dismissed for new names that sound better, at least at first. Groups like WFA and others can help with widespread understanding and agreement on terminology — helping descriptive terms find balance between remaining dynamic as humans grow in knowledge, yet grounded in farmer and consumer acceptance and recognition. Perhaps then the sideshow of continually replacing old terms with new ones can slow down to a workable speed, and consumers can steady themselves from the dizziness of terminology chaos, overlap and conflict. New labels or new names and updates for old labels can work, as long as too many choices too quickly don’t backfire. Updates would mean communicating those changes to all whom they affect, even non-farmers. Non-farming consumers have their own occupations with jargon and labels and insider buzzwords to deal with. We need to meet consumers at least half way when helping them understand the depths of our own terms and labels to avoid becoming “eco-farm snobs” who take the true meaning of labels for granted while it serves to confuse or make consumers feel belittled for not knowing what we know from being on the forefront. WFA offers resources for this and helps educate consumers.
Wintergreen Farm’s rotationally grazed cows are fenced out of the riparian area that was augmented with edible and native plants.
PRACTICAL FARMING METHODS Some of the on-the-ground methods WFA researches, educates and assists in include farm hedgerows, riparian restoration, watershed conservation and the infusion of native flora and fauna into the farmscape, among others. With hedgerows, as just one example, WFA points out that when these native plantings outline agriculture fields creating habitat for native pollinators and pest predatory insects, it can ease the financial burden of purchasing pesticides. Multiple studies show the yields of many crops rise often substantially when the density and diversity of appropriate pollinators are present, further adding to farm income and helping keep the
farm solvent. For wildlife, hedgerows can also create corridors that attach farmlands together and help wildlife safely move across landscapes. Hidden Springs Ranch of California, owned by winemakers Steve and Pamela Storrs, was assisted by WFA, along with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and the Wildlife Conservation Board. They tend a vineyard with about 40 percent of their 58 acres remaining natural and are involved in projects to further enhance natural habitat including wildlife paths, native grasses and wildflowers as filter strips for water quality, providing for beneficial insects and restoring the property’s oak woodlands that surround the vineyard.
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WFA also assisted Hain Ranch Organics, a 31-acre organic walnut and poultry operation in California, in a three-year riparian restoration project. Riparian buffers can be highly effective in preventing river floods and act as natural water filtration systems and wildlife habitat. The ranch’s project mutually protected wild nature as well as the farm’s business, because previously, 4 acres of walnut trees had been lost to river floodplain. Native trees and shrubs planted to attract pollinators, parasitic wasps and other insects are also beneficial to the walnut orchard. The farm and wildlife were suffering from drought. When drip irrigation was installed, thirsty rabbits chewed holes in the drip tape trying to get water, so stakes were used to raise the drip lines 3 feet above ground, and pans placed on the ground beneath some of the emitters to supplement water for wildlife.
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HELPING FARMERS FIND FINANCIAL RESOURCES Most farms are a segment of commerce and have to deal with fluctuating markets along with soil and crop care. They’re not steadily funded environmental charities with secure financial endowments or separate fundraising departments. Even when certifying programs or eco-farming organizations such as WFA don’t offer funds themselves during a farmer’s transition into more wild farming methods, they can help them find various sources of funding. WFA states that among its goals is promoting private and public conservation incentives that compensate farmers for their stewardship efforts. The Wildlife Conservation Board, for instance, helped fund the improvements on Hidden Springs Ranch, and students from an alternative high school helped with planting and mulching. With Hain Ranch Organics, the Wildlife Conservation Board supplied funding for their project. Further, volunteers from the Boy Scouts, Pinnacles National Park staff and an environmental educational group called Naturalists at Large offered labor assistance. Another farm the WFA has connected with and now showcases is Winter Green Farm in Oregon. The farmers allow a portion of their 170 acres to remain in native forest and riparian habitat. Along with many of their own wildlife enhancement practices, part of their wild farming efforts included eliminating invasive plants and widening the riparian corridor with both native and harvestable shrubs and trees. Their cattle, which are rotationally grazed, were excluded with fencing. There is now also a fish-friendly culvert that protects cutthroat habitat. Cost share funds for these projects were provided by The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program. RECRUITING THE NON-FARMING POPULATION During a recent Senate hearing, Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director and co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition, stated, “Farming is a career that’s easy to love, but to recruit the next generation of farmers, it must also provide a decent living.”
Navigate the Sea of Certifications From grassroots movements to government agencies, many eco-friendly farming certification options are available today. They include Bee Better Certified, Salmon-Safe, Animal Welfare Approved, Climate Beneficial, Certified Naturally Grown, USDA Organic, Certified Wildlife Habitat, Non-GMO Project Verified and many others including the proposal of a new regenerative agriculture label that highlights carbon farming. Farmers can learn from certifying agents, and certifications can attract customers and also help spread consumer awareness through seeing such labels on their products. Even so, a single farm could be overwhelmed (if not overrun) by allowing every conceivable type of certification that supports the welfare of the planet. Even if a farm’s compliance is already mostly in place for one or more certifications, fees and time spent on paperwork do add up. To help narrow it down, consider the following questions: Which ones mean the most to your customers? The growing number of certifications can backfire and confuse consumers as words such as natural, sustainable, organic, regenerative and so forth go up and down in popularity and seem to change definition every so often, with new buzzwords arriving faster and faster. Which certifications would your specific customers relate to? If you never see your end customers and sell wholesale to distributors who only deal with USDA Organic certified products, the USDA certification is the obvious choice. But if you have even a minimal online presence where end-customers might research your farm before purchasing your products in stores, perhaps there are other certifications that would appeal to them. If you know your products are distributed regionally, for example, perhaps customers would relate most to a regional certification near them like Certified Pollinator Habitat from Monarchs Across Georgia, or Salmon-Safe if you market to coastal communities. Or, would a certification for your specific crop be helpful? The SERF (Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farm) certification is for Christmas tree growers who protect biodiversity, waterways, fish and wildlife habitat and improve their soils. Also, it stands for providing a safe environment for workers and for the farmers involving themselves in the local community to support its economy, its environment protection and environment education. Conversely, if you sell mostly direct to your customers and they’re allowed to visit the farm, certain pollinator and salmon safe practices you already use can, if you choose, be shown directly to your customers through farm newsletters and farm visits without certification. Which ones mean the most to you? Making farms beyond humane for animals? Supporting wild pollinators? Carbon farming? Honeybee protection, for example, may especially be a passion for you, and certification connects you with others of like mind and contributes to the certification agency. Which ones are you already qualified for where you wouldn’t have to rearrange your operation to receive certification? Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery of California now uses the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label, which helps put their customers’ minds at ease regarding the issues of inhumane farm animal treatment. But before they had it and looked into its requirements, they realized they were already in compliance and had been for decades. Without adding more certifications, perhaps you can expand your customers’ understanding of the eco-benefits of whatever certification(s) you already have in place. If you use the National Organic Program label, for example, the Wild Farm Alliance works to make sure biodiversity conservation is part of this program. But not all customers are aware of that and might like to know you’re not simply avoiding chemicals on your farm by complying to this label, but are contributing to the regeneration of our natural resources in other ways. As mentioned in the main article, Wild Farm Alliance offers a free PDF entitled Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide which clarifies and offers practical information on the USDA’s National Organic Program’s guidelines on natural resources and biodiversity conservation. It might be perused to help your farm customers understand how valuable their USDA Organic farmer is to the ecosystem. The PDF can be found on the Wild Farm Alliance website.
Funding for one-time projects are helpful during transitions, and insurance, affordable land trusts, low-interest loans and various compensations can also be valuable. But as mentioned, farms are businesses, and it eventually comes down to producing food, fiber and fuel that consumers are willing to pay for in a manner that keeps farmers financially secure enough so that current experienced ones don’t sell out and future farmers are attracted. There is much involved in this, and one segment is maintaining the support
of non-farming citizens who buy products and influence policy votes. To maintain partnerships between non-farming citizens and farmers/wild nature, it can help to keep the idea of ideological extremes in mind. When it comes to purchases and policy-making, we can gain value from staying out of the polarizing game — the either-or categorizing when farmers are presented as potentially huge game changers in planet restoration. They can be presented as making December 2017 49
an impressive and even imperative impact, but still as being human with needs and vulnerabilities. Otherwise, we risk losing farmers to unrealistic demands by a population that doesn’t understand what they’re up against. One method to help ensure against that is consumers themselves witnessing how complex and experimental the transition from conventional to environmentally supportive farming is, the challenges the farmers must solve and the vast information they must hold and orchestrate. This can help protect farmers from unreasonable expectations and generate more authentic consumer respect and support for what the farmers can do. And this is yet another service WFA has assisted in. With Hain Ranch Organics, the first step of understanding the mutual benefits between farm and wild nature were achieved. Next, the funding and labor during the transition came in. But one more step took place which paved the way for non-farming consumers to walk in the shoes of a farm in alliance with wild nature. Once the plants were established on Hain Ranch Organics, WFA put on a day-long field tour to showcase the farm's biodiversity. “Farmers, students, conservationists and agricultural professionals who attended the field trip reported deepening their knowledge about specific plants that support pollinators and natural enemy insects, the challenges of irrigation systems and the benefits of incorporating nature on the farm,” said Jo Ann Baumgartner, executive director of WFA. At the gathering, the Xerces Society and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service also shared their knowledge. Hain Ranch Organics continues to find other ways to connect to non-farmers. For example, Danielle Tsi, the writer and photographer for “Beyond the Plate,” an award-winning blog that explores food and where it comes from, was allowed to visit the farm and share photos and a write up of the processes that go on there. Along with students, environmentalists and others who are already at least somewhat on board regarding restorative agriculture, even non50 Acres U.S.A.
involved citizens who like the idea of having to walk away. But along with spending an afternoon on a farm can that quick-thinking farmer and a popgreatly contribute to the supportive ular chef who believed in local food, social structure by learning and obthe non-farming community from the serving the complex benefits of incorlocals to the East Coast stepped up in porating nature’s systems. time. Nettles Farm was able to conOne of the properties assisted by tinue and eventually be passed on as WFA, Hidden the organic farm Springs Ranch, it started out as NEED MORE INFORMATION? plans to share from the original For more information about Wild their methods of older farmer to Farm Alliance, visit wildfarmalliance. increasing bioyounger ones. It org or call 831-761-8408. diversity while continues to supTell your farm story: Wild Farm Allimaintaining crop ply Willows Inn ance wants to know what you are productivity at and now also ofdoing on your farm to foster wild the same time fers wild foraging nature and diversity. with a winery workshops on the They would love to hear from you, and tasting room farm. even if it is just a quick note about open by appointWillows Inn a hedgerow, bluebird boxes or ment to the pubhas even been habitat restoration you have lic. featured in a accomplished on your farm. Send This will alNew York Times to firstname.lastname@example.org. low customers to article “10 Resdirectly witness taurants Worth a the work put into Plane Ride,” and their earth-restoring wines. the owners have had an abundance of While non-farmers may not have customers on their remote ferryboatthe need to memorize and retain the access island. details of the farm experience for A growing number of people, altheir own career or lifestyle goals, at though they don’t want to return the very least they come to realize in unconsciously to the wild, do want general how much they didn’t know, to return in another way. Possibly and that for reasons beyond their own somewhat like the way T.S. Eliot’s educational expertise, their support quote suggests, that “we will arrive becomes part of the solution, too, back where we started, but know it for rather than sitting back and expecting the first time.” By assisting in moving absurd demands to be fulfilled. away from factory, centralized, chemHopefully, enough of the nonically dependent and GMO farmfarming population is willing and able ing and moving toward symbiotic to support this path when enough of farming with nature that empowers them are given a chance to underthe nearby communities and farmers stand the far-reaching value of the doing the work, organizations such as farming methods they support. That Wild Farm Alliance can be a helping way, sustainable farmers themselves, hand toward that goal. both current and aspiring, don’t beBarbara Berst Adams (barbaraberstadams.com) come another endangered species. has authored several books including The New And non-farmers, too, aren’t endowed Agritourism: Hosting Community & Tourists on Your charities, even the ones who support Farm (newagritourism.com). An established magathe environment. zine feature writer for multiple publications since 1999, she also contributes to microecofarm So they, too, benefit by receiving ing.com. a supportive return right away in the form of delicious, unique farmed products that introduce them to what they’ve been missing from industrialized and centralized agriculture. It was many years ago when I visited Nettles Farm on Lummi Island in Washington State. At one point, it almost had a near defeat with the farmer
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Genetically Engineered Food — A SelfDefense Guide
POISONING OUR CHILDREN by ANDRÉ LEU In this tragic, but informative followup to André Leu’s groundbreaking book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, the author connects the dots between the widespread use of toxic farm applications and its affect on the health of our country’s children. It’s a must-read for all parents who are concerned with how their family’s food supply is grown.
RONNIE CUMMINS & BEN LILLISTON Contains extensive new research on food companies and provides practical guidelines for consumers who wish to avoid GE foods. #6461 • Softcover • 240 pages • $15.95
Place an order for $75 or more and we’ll ship it via Economy Mail free of charge (U.S. only).
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#7485 • Softcover • COMING SOON!
2017 Conference Speaker
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Compost Revolution HELMUT SCHIMMEL
What do you give the eco-farmer in your life?
Take part in the long-time agricultural practice that is surging into the mainstream. Learn composting tactics and overcome all the normal growing pains, from small fruit and vegetables to out-of-control weeds. Compost correctly and instantly watch the benefits to your crops.
Anything they want!
#7484 • Softcover • COMING SOON!
Give an Acres U.S.A. gift card this holiday season. Call to order or go online.
PRE-ORDER THIS NEW ACRES U.S.A. TITLE TODAY AT WWW.ACRESUSA.COM, OR BY CALLING 1-800-355-5313.
2 | AGRONOMY Science in Agriculture
Compost, Vermicompost & Compost Tea
ARDEN B. ANDERSEN, D.O., PH.D.
By ignoring the truth, ag-chemical enthusiasts are able to claim that pesticides and herbicides are necessary to feed the world. But science points out that low-to-mediocre crop production, weed, disease and insect pressures are all symptoms of nutritional imbalances and inadequacies in the soil. The progressive farmer who knows this and adds a measure of common sense will grow bountiful, disease- and pest-free commodities without the use of toxic chemicals. #4080 • Softcover • 376 pages • $30.00 Share & Save! 2-4 copies $22.50 ea.; 5-9 copies $20.00 ea.; 10+ copies $18.00 ea.
The Polyface Farm (DVD) JOEL SALATIN
A comprehensive look at one of the finest working examples of an environmentally friendly family farm. Both “how” and “why” unite in this information-rich video. #6499 • DVD format • 126 minutes • $60.00 $53.99
This book gives the basic principles and biology of organic composting, starting with the fundamentals. Practical pointers are given about how to determine quality, when the process is completed, and where, when and how much compost should be used. Includes recipes for compost tea and other brewed microbial cultures. #7097 • Softcover • 96 pages • $12.95 $10.99
You Can Farm JOEL SALATIN
Joel Salatin of wisely and honestly shares the qualities necessary to embark on a farming career with plenty of inspiration. For farm entrepreneurs, the opportunities for a farm family business have never been greater. You Can Farm is a practical roadmap to encourage and guide the farmer in each of us. #6336 • Softcover • 480 pages • $30.00 $26.99
The Organic Farming Manual
Ask the Plant
ANN LARKIN HANSEN
ITOR’S P ED
CHARLES WALTERS & ESPER K. CHANDLER
This detailed exposition of the agronomy of renowned consultant “K” Chandler offers farmers a better way to grow crops. By learning the unique language of plants and utilizing leaf and petiole testing, you can determine which fertilizers and soil-building ingredients are truly needed, when they are most needed. Instead of following the conventional model where plants are given copious amounts of soluble nitrogen fertilizers aimed to forcefeed the landscape green, it is time to “Ask the Plant” and find out what our crops and soils are really telling us. #6991 • Softcover • 286 pages • $30.00
The opportunities to produce for the organic food market are ever growing. This book spells out every National Organic Program requirement and offers valuable, helpful advice. #7006 • Softcover • 437 pages • $29.95 $26.50
Successful SmallScale Farming KARL SCHWENKE
Today the small-scale farmer is forced to be a master at reading the market. Learn how to do so with a relatively small amount of economic backing, all using organic methodology. #4018 • Softcover • 144 pages • $16.95 $15.25
Additional information on these books and more at www.acresusa.com
The Biological Farmer GARY F. ZIMMER & LEILANI ZIMMER-DURAND
Completely revised, rewritten and greatly updated - now over 500 pages! Biological farming was around long before researchers and entrepreneurs began their search for the best “biologicals.” The biological farming system developed decades ago by Gary Zimmer doesn’t manipulate soil life or sell it; it instead creates the conditions where soil life flourishes. His system feeds soil microbes, balances soil minerals, promotes tillage with a purpose, and relies on both cover crops and diverse rotations. #6438 • Softcover • 536 pages • $30.00
Advancing Biological Farming
GARY F. ZIMMER & LEILANI ZIMMER-DURAND
One of the leading authorities on biological farming, Zimmer is recognized for improving farming by restoring soils. Arguing that an optimally productive soil contains a balance of inorganic minerals, organic materials and living organisms, he relies less on modern improvements than on “the things we’ve learned by improving fertility in a natural, sustainable way over many years.” This book offers invaluable scientific support for committed organic farmers as well as conventional farmers who’d like to reduce chemical inputs. #7066 • Softcover • 244 pages • $25.00
Both Zimmer Books #S-6438 – $45.00
AGRONOMY | 3 Fletcher Sims’ Compost
The soil is more than just a substrate that anchors crops in place. An ecologically balanced soil system is essential for maintaining healthy crops. This is a comprehensive manual on effective soil fertility management providing many on-farm examples to illustrate the various principles and how to use them. The function of micronutrients, earthworms, soil drainage, tilth, soil structure, and organic matter is explained in thorough detail. Kinsey demonstrates that working with the soil produces healthier crops with a higher yield.
Fletcher Sims, the Dean of Composters, has elevated the “art” of good composting to a “science.” This book covers the optimal conditions for converting plant and animal wastes into compost and the complexities of commercial-scale compost production, including the benefits of using this gentle fertilizer. This appealing combination of biography and technical guide was written by the founder of Acres U.S.A.
#4120 • Softcover • 391 pages • $30.00
#4151 • Softcover • 247 pages • $20.00
NEAL KINSEY & CHARLES WALTERS
ITOR’S P I ED
Share & Save! 2-4 copies $22.50 ea.; 5-9 copies $19.50 ea.; 10+ copies $18.00 ea.
The Lean Farm BEN HARTMAN
Neal Kinsey teaches a sophisticated, easy-to-live-with system of fertility management that focuses on balance, not merely quantity of fertility elements. It works in a variety of soils and crops, both conventional and organic. In sharp contrast to the current methods only using N-P-K and pH and viewing soil only as a physical support media for plants, the basis of all his teachings are to feed the soil, and let the soil feed the plant.
By explaining the lean system for identifying and eliminating waste and introducing efficiency in every aspect of the farm operation, The Lean Farm makes the case that small-scale farming can be an attractive career option for young people who are interested in growing food for their community.
#6442DVD • DVD format • 80 minutes • $30.00
#7407 • Softcover • 256 pages • $29.95 $26.95
Hands-On Agronomy (DVD) NEAL KINSEY
Share & Save! 2-4 copies $22.50 ea.; 5-9 copies $19.50 ea.; 10+ copies $18.00 ea.
Crop Rotation on Organic Farms
Written by agriculture technology experts Neal Kinsey and Charles Walters, Hands-On Agronomy: Understanding Soil Fertility & Fertilizer Use is an information-packed guide for soil scientists and professional farmers alike. Now in a newly revised edition, Hands-On Agronomy covers how to balance soil nutrients for maximum yield, why simple N-P-K fertilization isn’t enough, how to properly use manures, compost, tillage, and micronutrients, and much more...Hands-On Agronomy is an absolute ‘must-read’ for any professional in the field. —Midwest Book Review
CHARLES MOHLER & SUE ELLEN JOHNSON, EDS.
An in-depth look at crop rotation, to assist growers through the maze of decisions in planning crop rotations, and show how to use crop rotation to build better soil, control pests, and develop profitable farms.
Both DVD & Book: #S-4120 – $45.00
Secrets to Great Soil ELIZABETH P. STELL
With more than 300 detailed illustrations and at-a-glance charts, Secrets to Great Soil solves your soil problems and gives techniques for yearround soil-building. #6345 • Softcover • 224 pages • $19.95 $17.95
#7137 • Softcover • 154 pages • $24.00
Crop Rotation & Cover Cropping
Organic SoilFertility & Weed Management
Concise, practical information for smallscale farmers and market gardeners about the importance of healthy soil and how to control weeds holistically.
The foundation of organic management is to create a healthy farm system that builds soil fertility and prevents the proliferation of pests, weeds and disease. Well-timed rotations between cash and cover crops can help you achieve this goal.
#7080 • Softcover • 127 pages • $12.95 $10.99
#7095 • Softcover • 96 pages • $12.95 $10.99
For personal service call 1-800-355-5313
4 | AGRONOMY Albrecht on Calcium Vol. V
WILLIAM A. ALBRECHT, PH.D.
Albrecht’s Enduring Vision Vol. IV
Readers will find an organized and convincing explanation of the relationship between calcium and soil fertility. It is not possible to discuss calcium, which Albrecht proclaims as the “King of Nutrients” without being led into the entire mosaic that Albrecht considers biologically correct farming.
WILLIAM A. ALBRECHT, PH.D.
#7068 • Softcover • 320 pages • $30.00
#4075 • Softcover • 325 pages • $30.00
This collection presents more of Professor Albrecht’s brilliant, classic essays providing essential insights into the health of our soil. Albrecht explains how the soilcrop system works, and provides his substantiated theory and observation that the lack of major elements and trace minerals is responsible for depleted crops, weeds and poor animal health.
Albrecht on Pastures Vol. VI
WILLIAM A. ALBRECHT, PH.D.
The Other Side of the Fence (DVD)
Read about Albrecht’s substantiated theory and observation that insufficient soil fertility is responsible for poor crops, weeds and thereby a poor diet for the cow in terms of her food choice and her output. An indispensable foundation for anyone interested in sustainable, ecologically responsible agriculture — more critical today than ever.
WILLIAM A. ALBRECHT, PH.D. In this 1950s-era film, Professor Albrecht’s enduring message is preserved and presented for future generations. With introductory and closing remarks by Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters, Albrecht explains the high cost of inadequate and imbalanced soil fertility and how that “dumb animal,” the cow, always knows which plant is the healthier. A period film, dated in style, but timeless in message. Historic video.
#7072 • Softcover • 247 pages • $25.00
#6289DVD • DVD format • 26 minutes • $20.00 #6289DVDPAL • DVD format • 26 minutes • $20.00
The Albrecht Papers (All 8 Volumes) & DVD
Soil Fertility & Human and Animal Health Vol. VIII
WILLIAM A. ALBRECHT, PH.D.
#S-160 – $190.00 #S-160PAL – $190.00 ($260 if purchased separately)
Albrecht on Soil Balancing Vol. VII
WILLIAM A. ALBRECHT, PH.D.
This new volume explains the logical connections among soil health, animal health and human health until it grows into a public demand for fundamental change that is as compelling as it is necessary. A commitment to restoring the natural fertility and productivity of the soil must arise as a means of restoring health to humanity.
A carefully organized and convincing explanation of the interconnection between soil, plants and animals — everything is related to everything else. Albrecht reveals the importance of the balance equation, that it isn’t enough to have nutrient to soil connections, it is the ratio of one element to another that counts.
#7168 • Softcover • 336 pages • $30.00
#7078 • Softcover • 227 pages • $25.00
Additional information on these books and more at www.acresusa.com
CROPS | 5
THE WORKS of Harold Willis, Ph.D.
The Organic Backyard Vineyard
How to Grow Great Alfalfa
HAROLD WILLIS, PH.D. Essential information for anyone whose operation depends on growing forage grasses. Learn how to establish a healthy stand. Is high potassium necessary for high quality? How can you measure forage quality? Put just one idea from this booklet to work and it will pay for itself a thousandfold.
Whether you have only a handful of vines or are planting an acre, author Tom Powers explains everything you need to know as he walks you through the entire organic grape-growing process month by month for all regions of North America. #7149 • Softcover • 176 pages • $19.95 $17.95
The Grape Grower
#113 • Softcover booklet • 44 pages • $12.00
R’S PIC K ITO
All Four Books #S-6854 – $46.00
How to Grow Super Soybeans
How to Grow Top Quality Corn
Foundations of Natural Farming
HAROLD WILLIS, PH.D.
HAROLD WILLIS, PH.D.
HAROLD WILLIS, PH.D.
Packed with knowledge that will help you grow superior examples of this profitable crop. Learn how bacteria helps your crop grow better; how to droughtproof your soil; whether herbicides and pesticides are really necessary and more. #3070 • Softcover booklet • 50 pages • $12.00
Learn which is better: hybrids or openpollinated corn. How important is humus to high quality crops? Which fertilizer materials are harmful and which are beneficial? Practical hands-on knowledge that is hard to come by. #114 • Softcover booklet • 71 pages • $12.00
Join ecological farming author/researcher Harold Willis as he explains the concepts of natural farming and issues the call for cleaner forms of food and fiber production. The author discusses how lessons from nature provide the roadmap to efficiency, effectiveness and profitability. #6854 • Softcover • 367 pages • $30.00
The Complete Book of Potatoes
HIELKE DE JONG, JOSEPH B. SIECZKA, & WALTER DE JONG
In this informative account of the best potatoes for North American gardens, three scholars share their expertise in growing potatoes. Writing for gardeners, farmers, and hobbyists, the authors provide practical as well as technical information about the potato plant, its origin, conventional and organic production techniques, pest management, and storage practices.
#7096 • Softcover • 95 pages • $12.95 $10.99
#6607 • Softcover • 304 pages • $35.00 $29.75
#7435 • Hardcover • 260 pages • $34.95
Growing Healthy Vegetable Crops An introduction to the basic concepts of working with nature to control diseases and pests of vegetable crops organically. Includes practical approaches to reducing disease, including strategies for site and soil preparation, irrigation, cover cropping, intercropping, and the use of mechanical barriers. How to design crop rotations to reduce pests and handle rescue treatments, including microbial and botanical applications are also covered.
This comprehensive book distills the broad knowledge and longtime personal experience of Lon Rombough, one of North America’s foremost authorities on viticulture. From finding and preparing the right site for a vineyard to training, trellising, and pruning vines to growing new grapes from seeds and cuttings, this book offers thorough and accessible information on all the basics.
Guide to Growing Vegetables
At Clay Bottom Farm, author Ben Hartman and staff practice kaizen, or continuous improvement, cutting out more waste — of time, labor, space, money, and more — every year and aligning their organic production more tightly with customer demand.
#7481 • Softcover • 272 pages • $29.95
For personal service call 1-800-355-5313
6 | CROPS
ORCHARD ADVICE from Michael Phillips E
The Holistic Orchard
TOR’S PIC DI
MICHAEL PHILLIPS A holistic grower knows that producing healthy fruit is not about manipulating nature, but about supporting a balanced orchard ecosystem. The Holistic Orchard provides all the basic information needed to create and maintain a living orchard with insights into design, choosing varieties, and a step-by-step instructional calendar for the entire orchard year. Phillips explores the connections between home orcharding and permaculture, the importance of native pollinators, using understory, shadetolerant berry bushes, and provides safe, homegrown solutions to pest and disease challenges for numerous pome fruits, stone fruits and berries. A book to inspire beginners as well as provide the deeper answers for those looking for field-tested organic approaches.
#7116 • Softcover • 432 pages • $39.95 $33.95
Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips (DVD) MICHAEL PHILLIPS
Michael Phillips is a pioneering author and orchardist whose books include The Holistic Orchard and The Apple Grower. In this video, he leads viewers through a year in his own orchard season by season, demonstrating basic horticultural skills like grafting and pruning, but also revealing groundbreaking and field-tested strategies for growing apples and other tree fruits not just organically, but holistically. #7196 • DVD format • 300 minutes • $49.95 $41.99
The Apple Grower MICHAEL PHILLIPS
COLOR PHOTOS THRO UGHOUT BOOK!
The author began his quest with an honest question: “How did our great-grandparents manage to grow good fruit, in the days when everyone was an organic grower, before we sprayed our trees with pesticides and fungicides?” Phillips combines the halfforgotten wisdom of a century ago with the latest scientific knowledge about pests that can plague apples and other fruit trees. Whether you are a commercial orchardist, organic farmer, backyard enthusiast or apple lover, you will enjoy this thorough guide to state-of-the-art organic orcharding. Clearly the best book now available on the topic.
#6338 • Softcover • 320 pages • $40.00 $33.99
Mycorrhizal Planet MICHAEL PHILLIPS Mycorrhizae are defined as fungi that grow in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic relationship. They manage the “underground economy,” making nutrients available to plant roots, facilitating communication NEW between plants, and even protecting plants against diseases and pest pressures. What’s more, they sequester carbon in the soil in much more meaningful ways than any “carbon offsets” humans could ever devise, which means focusing on the health and well-being of these microscopic soil fungi is a crucial climate change solution. In Mycorrhizal Planet, Phillips explores the complex science of the world beneath our feet in layman’s terms offering insight into how to make lants and their fungal partners prosper. Beyond growers, this book will resonate with anyone who is fascinated with the unseen workings of nature and concerned about maintaining and restoring the health of our soils, our climate, and the quality of like on Earth for generations to come
#7442 • Hardcover • 256 pages • $40.00 $32.00 Additional information on these books and more at www.acresusa.com
LIVESTOCK | 7
Attracting Native Pollinators THE XERCES SOCIETY
Attracting Native Pollinators offers a complete action plan for protecting nature’s hardest working and industrious creatures and includes identification of pollinators, how to build and manage healthy habitats, advice on building nests and offers plans for pollinator gardens, meadows and other landscapes.
Beyond the Chicken KELLY KLOBER The newfound interest in heritage breeds of chicken has created a unique opportunity for small farmers to reintroduce consumers to other types of poultry. From geese to quail to peahens to turkeys, Klober discusses the pros and cons of each and how to best fit an alternative poultry venture into your farming operation. Filled with humorous personal anecdotes and practical advice on feeding, housing, pricing and marketing, this book is a must-read for the small farmer interested in an alternative to the ever-present white egg-laying chicken or any lover of poultry.
#7309 • Softcover • 216 pages • $24.00
#7108 • Softcover • 384 pages • $29.95 $26.50
GEORGE DE LAYENS
We cannot improve NEW beekeeping by going farther and farther away from bees’ natural tendencies. Instead, pick the hive model that is best matched to your locale, populate it with local bees, and the results will speak for themselves. With this wisdom, Georges de Layens reinforces his position as Europe’s foremost beekeeping authority. Originally published in 1897, Keeping Bees in Horizontal Hives boasts over 100 years of successful use, with one million hives in use even today. Keeping bees can be easier than you even imagined!
The Energetic Goat CARRIE EASTMAN
The Energetic Goat provides step-by-step instruction on basic applied kinesiology techniques, including common variations, as well as guidance on how to adapt other techniques to suit your personal preferences. Newcomers to alternative veterinary medicine will find the many photographs, diagrams, and sample case histories particularly useful, while veteran practitioners will discover new tricks and techniques to add to their repertoire, from the never-before-in-print human reflex point chart (used for surrogate testing) to the cross-reference chart of common goat health problems and popular treatments. #7389 • Softcover • 136 pages • $24.00
#7443 • Softcover • 374 Pages • $39.95
Holistic Goat Care GIANACLIS CALDWELL
’S TOR PIC DI
Holistic Goat Care empowers goat owners to confidently diagnose and treat most common ailments and offers a depth of insight and approaches to treatment not found in any other book. Caldwell, places special emphasis throughout on holistic, natural, and alternative approaches to caring for goats.
ITOR’S PI ED
Keeping Bees in Horizontal Hives
A resurgence of interest in heritage poultry breeds has invigorated poultry raising on family farms and backyards across the country. These are the birds that can and should be producing for today’s marketplace — for consumers that have come to value locally bred and grown, historically significant agricultural food. This book offers valuable insight into rare, heritage and heirloom breed selection, chick raising, breeding and marketing so you can start your own fully sustainable heritage chicken flock and raise eggs or meat for your family or small farm business.
#7067 • Softcover • 396 pages • $28.00
#7468 • Hardcover • 357 pages • $39.95
For personal service call 1-800-355-5313
8 | HUMAN HEALTH NEW
The Metabolic Approach to Cancer
The Myths of Safe Pesticides
DR. NASHA WINTERS AND JESS HIGGINS KELLEY
The Metabolic Approach to Cancer is the first book to offer a comprehensive, nutrition-focused protocol to managing cancer. Naturopathic, integrative oncologist and cancer survivor Dr. Nasha Winters and nutrition therapist Jess Higgins Kelley identify the ten key elements of a person’s terrain--including the microbiome, the immune system, and blood sugar balance--as they relate to the cancer process, and they prescribe a heavily researched, tested, and nontoxic metabolic therapeutic approach that encompasses the ketogenic diet, fasting, specific phytonutrients, herbal treatments, and more. The Optimal Terrain Ten Protocol is a clear plan that will empower both patients and physicians to slow cancer’s endemic spread and live optimized lives.
#7444 • Hardcover • 408 pages • $29.95 $23.96
André Leu challenges conventional farming methods by refuting the myths that surround the use and understanding of pesticides. He exposes the dangers of these chemicals and advocates organic practices as the most viable for farming in the 21st Century. The pesticide industry argues that human agriculture, and thereby the global population itself, cannot survive without using pesticides and herbicides, but Leu warns that human health is at great risk unless we break free of their toxic hold and turn to more natural methods of pest and weed regulation.
In this fascinating book, the connection is made between the physical, chemical and biological aspects of minerals and subatomic particles in the life process. This knowledge suggests an end to the tyranny of pharmaceuticals. Each of the 64 sequences (or “codons”) in the Standard Genetic Chart is discussed with an overlay of the mineral involved — its absence leading to degenerative disease; its presence ensuring that health is maintained. #6808 • Softcover • 303 pages • $25.00
#7335 • Softcover • 168 pages • $16.95
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A Crop Steeped in Tradition Yerba Mate: The Green Gold from Red Soil by KLAS LUNDSTROM In northeastern Argentina yerba mate is regarded as “the green gold.” The cultivation of the tree, whose leaves are the main ingredient to a globally expanding product, is the backbone of the region’s economy. Producers and farmers, though, fear an ever-more unpredictable future in the wake of climate change. Will the industry find its savior in Uruguay, the world’s largest mate consumer per capita? In the early 20th century, a group of German immigrants began to cultivate mate on cleared farmland in Argentina’s northeastern province, Corrientes. They named the cooperative after the settlement: Colonia Liebig. Experience farming in Germany and southern Russia helped them get started; but the seed — Ilex Paraguariensis, the Latin name for the mate 54 Acres U.S.A.
tree — was new to them, as was the rich red soil. A century later, the Colonia Liebig collective is one of Argentina’s biggest mate players. “Yes, it’s going very well,” said Lorena Elizabeth Selb, who works in Colonia Liebig’s marketing department and is herself a daughter of German immigrants. Inside their air-conditioned reception you find the information desk and two waiting chairs next to a display cabinet with items from Colonia Liebig’s 100-year-long history: a mate gourd in silver, a peaky shining bombilla (the straw used to sip mate), old pieces of farming machinery, books and photos. On the wall, the long line of framed photographs of mate patrons underlines the cooperative’s German roots.
“It shows us that the mate industry has been, and still is, a male-dominated one. But in our case, it also shows that there’s always been the interest to keep the production rooted up here in Colonia Liebig,” said Selb. “The Green Gold,” which was what entrepreneurs and brave settlers in the 18th and 19th century called the bitter beverage when the industry became globally renowned and prosperous, has become a multibillion-dollar industry, despite setbacks mostly connected to global economic depressions. The reason for the beverage’s pole position as No.1 drink to millions of South Americans is the quality product crafted by skilled farmers and producers. Few industries are more faithful to their roots and origins as mate; it is still — nearly 200 years after the first organized plantations popped
PHOTOS BY KLAS LUNDSTROM
Raúl Nin, a mate farmer and agronomist, tends his lush garden in Paloma, Uruguay.
up in Misiones — true to its ways of cultivation. Pickers (or “tareferos,” as they are called) harvest the leaves by hand, and a nine-month-long roasting, toasting and storing process takes place before the mate can leave for the store shelves. Colonia Liebig’s road to success and providing 250 people with jobs has been long, and far from straight. In the early stages, mate farmers who set out to introduce the plant to plantation cultivation, instead of sending out expeditions on hazardous quests for wild-growing mate leaves, experienced the same problem: the seeds just wouldn’t grow. Farmers had the seeds, the climate and the tools to make it happen. It wasn’t until the mate farmers had the seeds passing through the digestive system of birds that they finally started to sprout and farmers could harvest the leaves. “Another blow for us and other mate producers was the economic crisis during the 1990s,” said Selb.
Argentina’s economic turmoil was the final nail in the coffin for many actors on the country’s mate scene. It was then that Colonia Liebig took control over the whole production chain and started to sell its products in its own newly opened supermarket — along with other items, as the crisis emptied a lot of Argentina’s market shelves of everything from meat and staple products to mate.
“I think you find a lot of our success in decisions that were made during that time,” she says. “We underlined and maintained our cooperative form and local presence to secure control over the production chain, only working with local farmers who deliver their harvest to our own mill, here in Colonia Liebig.” Selb offers a tour through the mill. Workers pile 1-kilo packages of the cooperative’s classic mate into a wait-
December 2017 55
Ana María Núñez at her family’s mate plantation in Argentina’s northeastern province Misiones.
ing truck, overlook the cooperative’s new modern factory line, or sweep the floor of green mate dust. The future looks bright for the Colonia Liebig cooperative, but as with so many other things, the mate industry depends on exterior factors. “We produce around 2 tons of mate per month, and our growth is basically the result of spreading the word about our products mouth to
Lisa Van Houten
mouth,” she said. “There are interesting things happening on the mate front now; many people come here to learn more about us and the process. Busy days await mate farmers everywhere.”
MATE IN URUGUAY In neighboring Uruguay, the busy days are yet to arrive. Mate trees grew wild and free before loggers came and
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cleared Uruguay’s native flora and fauna during the colonial centuries. And although Uruguay is the world’s biggest consumer of mate per capita, its ex-president, José “Pepe” Mujica, officially said it was impossible to make way for domestic production. “We neither have the conditions nor the climate for it,” he said. Raúl Nin, a mate farmer and agronomist, disagrees, as he tends his lush garden in Paloma, along the Atlantic coast. “We’re close to the sea, but as you can see mate trees thrive well here in my little garden.” New scientific findings also show that mate are native to at least five of Uruguay’s 18 departments. “But few are aware of that, unfortunately,” says Raúl Nin, who dedicates a lot of time to his “crazy quest” to awaken a national interest in Uruguay to plant and produce its own mate. It is a quest on many fronts; he tends his mate plantations in the Treinta y Tres Department in eastern Uruguay, leads his own weekly radio program about gardening and farm-
ing, and he hands out seeds to people interested in trying their luck as mate farmers. “The interest in mate and whether Uruguay can have its own sustainable production is clearly increasing,” he says. “The mate is a large part of our cultural heritage and everyday life; a kind of unifying identity.” Uruguay’s dependence on Brazil for import of mate is holding back domestic farmers who wish to get a real foot into the market, according to Nin. “I have planted mate for many years now, and it’s going really well. It’s about letting nature do its thing, and we have the technology for an industry that provides nine out of 10 Uruguayans with manual, newly produced and organic mate. But there’s just no political interest for that — yet.” Nin pours hot water from his thermos into his gourd and sips the mate. He can’t remember his first ever sip. Rain starts to pour. The wind from the sea jumps from tree to tree in the agronomist’s garden. “Mate grew wild and free before human beings came along,” he says. “And will probably outlive us in the end, too.”
FAMILY TIES Dusk falls over Santa Inés — a century-old “mate estancia” — with the smell of burning wood somewhere out of sight. A lonesome ant carries the remains of a leaf along a nameless gravel road in Argentina’s northeastern province Misiones. The road cuts like a scar through the Núñez family’s outstretched mate plantation. From time to time, the
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7. Larger, improved root structures One customer is now growing five pound rutabagas. Look for larger root mass, which increases nutrient uptake. You may also notice better rhizomes, bigger laterals and superior nodulation. 8. More earthworms & dung beetles As soil health improves, earthworms and dung beetles are able to thrive. 9. Less insect pressure Many GPB customers have reported fewer insect problems. Better plant health can result in less insect pressure. 10. pH moving toward neutral By balancing soil nutrients, within months of applying GroPal Balance a soil test can show a significant improvement in soil pH, which can result in a huge savings on lime applications. These are 10 signs that soil transformation has begun! Just imagine what such wonderful soil can do for you! Call 678-378-2911 today and request a free information packet!
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ant halts, before amending the burden and then continues its walk to the other side of the road. “Jungle was all you found here until the first decades of the 20th century,” said Ana María Núñez, the current farmer and protector of the family land. She has wandered here, in Misiones’s mineral rich red soil, her whole life. And she never gets tired of the land, the interplay between nature and its inhabitants, or the plantation islands surrounded by untouched jungle pockets. The latter has played — and continues to play — a significant role in cultivating mate. “I’m glad that neither my grandfather, who bought the land to start cultivating mate, nor my parents logged the forest. It would have affected the soil and the living conditions, and made it harder to cultivate and harvest the mate in a sustainable way.” She overlooks the oldest plantation section on the family land; mate trees stand between 40 and 60 inches above the ground. She puts her hand on one of the green mate leaves that dance in the late afternoon wind. This is what it’s all about in this lush corner of the world: not only economically, but also culturally, as a symbol of identity. Here, in northeastern Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay are closer at hand than the capital, Buenos Aires. Mate opened the outside world’s interest to the region, and people came here in search of mate trees and a better life. “There’s no shortcut between the plantation and the product bought by consumers,” said Núñez. “You must cooperate with the soil and the conditions given to you. If
not, the quality is put at risk, and if you rush the cultivating process you exhaust the soil.” Of course, Núñez speaks only for herself and her family company’s way of doing things. But sustainability runs like a red thread through conversations with farmers and producers in Argentina’s leading mate-producing provinces: Corrientes and Misiones. The memory of heavy use of chemicals and pesticides to win the war against insects and pests, especially in the 1980s and ’90s, decreased Argentinian confidence in the mate industry’s claims of being true to its organic roots. The industry then went back to those roots at a time when organic farming and climate changes became hot topics.
“We are aware of what’s at stake here,” says Ricardo Núñez, the family company’s accountant. The siblings, Ana María and Ricardo, are having dinner in Santa Inés’s timeless saloon. A single lamp dangles from the tall ceiling and spreads light over the century-old mansion’s dark brown walls. The night is quiet — only the sound of barking dogs breaks the silence — and they talk about work, and the future. Somehow, the impression of being stuck in the past, in another century, illustrates the reality behind Ricardo’s assessment. “We have bound our existence around the mate, and now that existence could face a harsh and upsetting tomorrow,” he said.
The family land may expand over many acres and provide important jobs to people whose whole families have been dependent on mate production for generations, but their destiny is no longer in their own hands. “Well, it depends on how you approach things,” said Ricardo. “We prefer to look at it as if we borrow some land and resources from nature itself. If we take as good care of it as we possibly can, and teach coming generations the importance of sustainable attitude toward the mate plant and the production, then I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be alright.” Along with the rest of South America, Northeastern Argentina faces many social and environmental chalDecember 2017 59
lenges. Rainy seasons have become drier, and dry seasons have become even drier, making it difficult for farmers within various fields to operate and harvest. The Núñez family see themselves as a “medium-big producer” in the mate hierarchy. The mill lies a few miles up the road, and they consume their own harvest, but as new people around the world discover mate, growing global demand could lure the industry into over-producing and exhaust the soil. “The mate industry stands at a crossroad,” said Ricardo. “We have to choose between a shortcut to wealth through
an impaired ecology, or a sustainable tomorrow where we on the other hand enjoy less revenue. Let’s hope that most mate producers will choose the latter.” “What else could we do?” asks Ana María. “Mate is all we know, and all we want to dedicate our life to.” Outside, the jungle has fallen silent under a starlit sky. Ana María is wrapping up another day. Tomorrow the harvest work at the plantation will start early, at dawn. She points to a red star, perhaps Mars; it shines red, like Misiones’s red soil. “To me, as a farmer, mate is a way of life.”
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Golden Rules of Composting Guidelines for Vermicomposting Vs. Conventional Composting
by HELMUT SCHIMMEL In a traditional compost pile, there are clear rules on, for example, how the different types of organic waste should be layered relative to each another: one layer of plant waste, one layer of lime, one layer of earth and one layer of manure. With the proper
mixture of materials, you can also go without any animal excrement. Compost literally means, “composed” or “put together.” This is also the source of the expression “it’s all in the mixture,” in the sense that waste of various different types and origins (moist nitrogen-rich waste and dry carbohydrate-rich waste) is mixed together. The Golden Rules of Composting I want to present the differences and similarities between conventional composting and vermicomposting based on excerpts from “Ten Rules for Good Compost” by Högl GmbH: Rule 1: Never place compost material in a pit, as doing so does not allow air to reach the material. Compost without oxygen equals putrefaction and stench (methane fermentation).
Moisture levels should be somewhat higher in vermicomposting, so you can make an exception here and place the compost surface slightly lower. The increased contact with the earth helps to balance the temperature and protect against cold. To ensure sufficient aeration, be sure to incorporate additional coarse, air-permeable material (wood chips, chopped straw), especially in the lowest layer. Rule 2: Don’t use a compost container that is closed on all sides. This will lead to a lack of air. Using a store-bought compost container is no guarantee that the composting process will proceed properly. The container’s dimensions set certain limits on the worms, however, they are able to overcome as “night crawlers.” For a medium-sized garden, the
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compost containers available for sale are too small, too expensive and not optimal for vermicomposting. My personal opinion is that compost containers, with their nice and clean appearance, are really mostly just something to look at. Also, I recommend a connection to the ground (no solid base of stone or concrete) and to only use very thin layers of fresh grass clippings. That goes for both methods. Rule 3: Consider lightly scattering normal garden soil, compost soil, or rock dust as additives over the individual layers to accelerate the decomposition process. This also goes for vermicomposting. I go even further and scatter small amounts of fine sand over the decomposition material. Very fine grains of sand are absorbed by the earthworms and improve their gastrointestinal functions by serving as grindstones. Sand also helps in loosening the very moist end product, which tends to smear at first. The foundations for the formation of the desired clay-humus complexes are laid in the worms’ intestines. A gardener who is working with clay and loam-poor soil should make a point of adding clay to the compost material (e.g. bentonite). Standard compost accelerators are undesirable in vermicomposting. They work against efforts to have the breakdown process run primarily through the worms. The worm food should not be broken down too far before it’s eaten by the earthworms. Rule 4: Always thoroughly cover waste that attracts animals with earth. Many authors categorically object to adding meat and animal remains because of their smell and their tendency to attract rodents and other animals. Since conditions are different in every garden, the danger posed to using this kind of waste also varies. Rule 5: Avoid complete dryness: microbes need moisture. This point also comes down to location. Full sunlight should be avoided and partial shade preferred. A location under a tree, protected from wind, is always good. Under warm and dry weather conditions, I regularly water the pile. The worm food should be moist, but not wet. The chances of the worms leaving the pile are greatest when it’s rainy. For this reason, I protect my setups against prolonged rain with an air-permeable tarp. This is very important, not only for the worms but also for the countless microorganisms, so it’s a good idea even with conventional composting. But almost nobody does it! Most humus worms stay in the approximately 8- to 12-inch (20 to 30 cm) thick upper layer that is generally loose, moist, oxygen-rich and constantly replenished with new organic matter. One important aspect of composting is left out of the Golden Rules, namely that you should properly combine nitrogen-rich and nitrogen-poor materials. This article was excerpted from Compost Revolution by Helmut Schimmel, published by Acres U.S.A. For more information or to pre-order this title, visit acresusa.com or call 800-355-5313 for assistance.
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Kelsey Ridennoure using a range hoop to clip grass to determine production per acre.
by SARAH PETERS I started graduate school not really knowing what I wanted to do, but when I took a plant and soils class I found the answer — as it turns out it’s what I grew up around — ranching. However, I didn’t want to ranch the conventional way. It seems daunting to switch to something new, but I want to give the land the opportunity to be at its best health. I believe if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. Livestock ranching depends on plants; plants and soil depend on each other. Do ranchers need to monitor soil health or just conduct good grazing practices? Do most ranchers consider soil health in their management practice without really knowing it? Should ranchers focus more on soil health to create better plants for livestock to graze? I sought out a couple of sources in southern Colorado, specifically Huer66 Acres U.S.A.
fano County, to find the answers; two people at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and a local rancher. I also conducted a lot of research. The textbook definition of soil health refers to the capacity to sustain plants and animals as well as humans. Soil Science Simplified by Helmut Kohnke and D.P. Franzmeier gives a great overview of the topic.
SOIL COMPONENTS Soils are comprised of weathered rock and minerals, organic matter, organisms, water and air. All of these components are essential for healthy plant growth. Weathered rock and minerals: soil is composed of sand, silt and clay which is what gives soil its structure and texture and is the medium which all other materials move through. Organisms: the dwellers in the soil, microbes (bacteria and fungi) facilitate getting the minerals in the soil to the plants via the root system. Also, the
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NRCS
Ranching for Better Soil Health
macroorganisms, such as worms, insects and nematodes add nutrients to soil and create air pockets. Organic matter: decomposed organic material such as leaves, dead grass and roots and other vegetative material such as the manure from grazing animals and the dead bodies of insects and worms. Organic matter is food for microbes and all forms of soil life. Water and air: the ductwork and plumbing that keeps everything flowing — a healthy soil is 25 percent water and 25 percent air, which is essential for organisms to survive. In a well-maintained grazing system the key is to keep the livestock moving through the landscape. When we have healthy soil then we have healthy plants, which provide optimal nutrient value for grazing animals. People talk about building better soil, but what does this mean? I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Christine Jones, a soil biologist, speak at the 2015 Quivira Coalition Conference. She said that to build better soil, you have to feed the microbes. The way to feed the microbes is through the addition of organic matter. When managed properly, a grazing animal can contribute to soil health in several ways. Each time an animal eats a plant, a small part of the root dies, adding organic matter to the soil and stimulating new growth of the plant. Then, the grazing animal disturbs the soil just enough to better absorb air and water as well as provide fertilizer and organic matter in the form of manure. The NRCS gives four key factors for soil management: disturb soil less, have a diversity of plants, keep living plants in the soil as often as possible and keep the soil covered as much as possible.
NRCS HELP I spoke with Tony Arnhold, district conservationist in Walsenburg, Colorado, to gain more insight on his view of soil health and what NRCS can do for ranchers. Arnhold believes that if someone is managing for rangeland, proper grazing is the main tool for improving soil health.
Arnhold said that deep in the soil is where a lot of activity happens between microbes and plants, but when this fails, soil health does not function properly. He also stressed that anyone managing for improved soil health should be patient, especially in a semi-arid climate. He said it could take 6-8 years in southeast Colorado to see a change, whereas in eastern Kansas it might only take 2-3 years. “To be properly grazing you always want to leave some standing grass and forbs and some litter behind to help protect the soil surface and help conserve water (i.e. reduce evaporation) in the soil for the future,” said Arnhold. “This becomes very important in southeast Colorado as we are in a semi-arid climate along with a short grass prairie.” Kelsey Ridennoure, a Soil Conservationist at the Walsenburg, Colorado, field office, said managing what’s above soil is the first step to healthier soil. Dr. Jones said 85-90 percent of plant nutrient acquisition is microbial mediated, and most soil microbes are plant-dependent. Ridennoure helps ranchers start a grazing management plan by discussing the three fundamentals that drive proper grazing management — duration, frequency and intensity. She speaks with ranchers about their current grazing technique with each of these fundamentals and then they decide what changes to make “to better manage their grass which in turn keeps a live and healthy root in the ground which is one of the things needed for good soil health on rangeland.” Ridennoure collects range clippings from their ranch to determine the carrying capacity. From there, she and the rancher can develop a grazing management plan. She also said that she thought many ranchers do consider soil health when they execute their management techniques without really knowing it, even before they seek help from the NRCS. Sometimes changing grazing techniques requires infrastructure improvement or other needs, which NRCS can also provide. They offer
technical assistance as well as financial assistance. Timing of grazing is also important to soil health. In Range Management: Principles and Practices by Jerry Holechek, Rex Pieper and Carlton Herbel the authors say that plants can tolerate grazing pressure better during certain times of year. Most plants can endure more grazing pressure during the dormant season than during active growth. However, the early plant growth is less critical than the latter half of the growth cycle because they are completing reproduction and storing carbohydrates to prepare for the dormant season. I wanted to get a local rancher’s perspective. Grady Grissom has been ranching near Walsenburg, Colorado, since 1996. He took a class at the local extension office from a person who now works for the NRCS. Grissom had an EQIP contract to build a fence with the NRCS and eventually used their help for a grazing plan. Grissom said he used rotational grazing for several years with no positive effects, but when he established an ecological goal and used deferred rotation to move toward his goal, he saw positive results. His primary goal was focused on plant species diversity. “With extended deferral periods of a growing season or longer and 2-3 week graze periods, I have improved plant diversity,” he said. “I have recruited cool and warm sea-
son mid-grasses (Western wheatgrass, green needle grass, sideoats grama, New Mexico feathergrass, silver bluestem and vine mesquite). These taller grasses (I started with predominantly blue grama) leave higher residuals that I think improve water cycle and mineral cycle and in turn soil health.” Grissom said, “soil health is the unexplored frontier of range sciences and agriculture in general. As I understand it, we know more than half the biomass in a grassland ecosystem is composed of subsurface microorganisms, but we have only identified and named 5 percent of those, and we only know the life cycle and function of a small fraction of that 5 percent. For example, we have identified a few mycorrhizal fungi and we know they are symbiotic with plants. But, we don’t know if specific fungi pair with specific plants, or how soil types affect
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Adequate recovery is critical in high-use areas around water. Without adequate recovery, the areas become expanding locations of degradation. This photo on the left was taken in March 2007 after a dormant graze period in February 2007. The photo at right illustrates full recovery in July 2007, with thriving Western wheat.
fungi, or predator-prey relationships for fungi, or how to seed fungi into barren areas, etc. In the last 20 years Dr. Fred Provenza, a wildlife biologist and range scientist, exploded our knowledge of plant animal interactions. We need a similar explosion in soils research.” Grissom said he needed good monitoring metrics for soil health so
he could count and identify microorganisms in the soil as well as have systematic data on soil organic matter, fungi, bacteria and invertebrates. He was able to see a dramatic soil change to an area near a water tank (see photos). He said that cattle like to hang around water sources, bringing in manure from other areas of the pasture. However, this can cause bare
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soil with tramping down the grasses, lack of cattle movement and eating most of the grasses. His grazing plan is deferred rotation, which leaves these areas without grazing for a certain time period. When there is sufficient recovery the area can produce more mid-grasses. Grissom’s daughter assessed soil organic matter 100 feet from tanks versus half a mile from the tanks and found an increase in organic matter closer to the tanks; average of 2.35 percent vs. average of 1.85 percent. Grissom said that he believes ranchers would benefit from including soil health in their management plan but they need access to basic tools and scientific knowledge. Perhaps networking and easily accessible information is the first key to improve soil health. He said if he had not taken a class and made a connection with a person from the extension office, he would still be doing the same rotational grazing practice. “The quality of the NRCS person is the key,” he said. “I think most ranchers look at NRCS as a source of money. They will go to NRCS whenever the financial incentive is there. This bothers me. At present NRCS tends to pay for methods — fencing, water tanks, etc. Even the CSP program just pays landowners to implement a practice. The trouble is many ranchers just go through the motions and get the money and never develop ecological understanding or focus. In
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complex systems, just applying a method doesn’t give consistent results. The manager needs to monitor and adapt to get positive results. Allan Savory says ecological health is the path to economic health. If the NRCS would pay for ecological results (not methods) the ranchers would develop an ecological focus. For instance pay ranchers for diverse suites of plants, prairie chickens, grouse etc. Let them find and fund ways to get the results. Many times changing to a new management technique tends to be trial and error, but with the NRCS there to assist both with education and financial help it might seem easier to give it a try.
Kohnke, H. and Franzmeier, D.P., 1995. Soil Science Simplified. Daryaganj, New Delhi: Rajan Jain for MedTec, an imprint of Scientific International Pvt. Ltd. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): nrcs.usda.gov NRCS Soil Surveys: nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/soilsurvey/soils/survey/state National Young Farmers Coalition: youngfarmers.org.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CIDER FARM
Organic apples growing at The Cider Farm in Wisconsin.
Tap into NRCS Programs by CHRIS PERSAUD Raising crops and animals without chemical intervention can be a daunting task, especially for new farmers worried about the cost of raising organic crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers a helping hand. NRCS programs can help pay for equipment and plants that extend the growing season, conserve water, protect soil from erosion, and more. Thanks to these programs, small farm owners have been able to construct high tunnels, drip irrigation systems and invest in cover crops and other items and systems to help succeed in sustainable farming.
NRCS typically takes applications spring through fall, then dispenses money to approved applicants the following spring for various programs. To apply, a farmer or rancher can visit their local NRCS office, which they can find in the Local Services Center Directory section of the USDA’s website. An NRCS agent helps fill out the application. Alternately, an aspiring applicant can schedule an NRCS field agent to visit their farm. Farmers and ranchers must make less than $900,000 a year in gross income to qualify for NRCS programs, as dictated by the 2014 Farm Bill. Sometimes a farmer cannot afford to buy a piece of equipment such as a $10,000-plus high tunnel — before getting NRCS reimbursement. When this happens, the NRCS can provide
ORGANIC TARGET PRICES The Organic Farmers of Michigan L.L.C. came together in January to review prices for the 2016 growing season. After reviewing sales information, we find the following price ranges were actually received at market. Prices for Certified Organic commodities cleaned or bin run weight, and FOB farm or cleaning facility. Navy Beans $.90 - $.95 per lb. Low Protein Soybeans $27 - $30.00 per bu. Black Turtle Beans $.90 - $.95 per lb. Feed Soybeans $24 - $26.00 per bu. Pinto Beans $.92 - $.97 per lb. SRWW & SWWW $13 - $15.00 per bu. Dark Red Kidney Beans $1.25 - $1.35 per lb. Corn $12 - $14.00 per bu. High Protein Soybeans $29 - $31.00 per bu. We periodically publish prices received by growers for most commodities so that growers everywhere know what is being paid for them. We do this to help prevent low price areas that can bring everyone’s prices down.
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72 Acres U.S.A.
a cash advance. After the advance is granted, a field agent checks to make sure a farmer has spent the money as required by the contract.
FRONT FIELD FARM Jacqui Coburn, who helps run Front Field Farm in Winterville, Georgia, speaks highly of her dealings with NRCS. “My experience was awesome,” she said, remembering how easy it was going through the process when she first applied for financial help 10 years ago. “They will run through every possible option that might apply to your situation. They walk you through everything. Basically they do all the paperwork and bring it to you. They go over everything with you and you sign it. We've had a number of contracts with them.” Front Field’s first contract came through the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). It was for a 40-gallon-per-minute drip irrigation system, with a header pipe, buried PVC pipes and a 200-foot deep well, said Coburn. Before that, she and other farmhands had to duct tape a 300-foot fire hose to garden hoses, then run it from their house well through the woods, and finally to their fields. “When you’re pumping water from your house well, which is not designed to do that, we just couldn’t get our water to the crops,” she said. Thankfully for Coburn’s crew, since their farm was new, NRCS categorized them as beginning farmers. If a farmer has worked their land for 10 years or less, they are a beginning farmer, according to NRCS. Being designated a beginning farmer, veteran, or racial/ethnic minority gives an applicant a better shot at landing a contract. As a bonus, those applicants get bigger payments. “They were very thorough in explaining what the contract meant and what I would need to do to institute the contract and how much they would pay back,” said Coburn. In this case, NRCS reimbursed 90 percent of the $28,000 it cost to build Front Field’s irrigation system. “The change in the crops from one year to the next was just unbelievable because they were finally getting
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“I have been growing Yellow Finnish Potatoes for over thirty years. After several years of disappointing production I noticed my plants were dying prematurely around the first part of August every year resulting in low tonnage and small potatoes. I decided to use Sea-Crop® along with my normal fertilizer program. I sprayed Sea-Crop® in the furrow at 1/2 gallon per acre when planting and then sprayed a foliar feed when plants were around a foot tall. I then irrigated a third application at bloom. What was most obvious was how lush and vigorous the plants maintained throughout the growing season. Upon harvesting, the overall size and uniformity of the potatoes was exceptional. I also saw an increase in tonnage of 25%. I’m a firm believer that this product improved my potato crop and it will be a regular part of my farming practices.” Every naturally occurring element on planet Earth is found in seawater. The 90 elemental minerals and the compound minerals contained in Sea-Crop® are in ionic form, ready for immediate use by plants and soil microflora. Sea-Crop® is a unique product made by a proprietary process that removes 95% of the sodium chloride and concentrates the trace and ultra-trace minerals plus the active marine microbes and organic compounds.
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enough water. It saved us an incredible amount of time. We didn’t have to move the hose from field to field. It happens automatically. It has been a lifesaver.” After that, Front Field won contracts for NRCS to reimburse most of
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CIDER FARM
Jacqui Coburn (left), of Front Field Farm, talks with James Tillman of the local Natural Resource Conservation Service office. The NRCS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps farmers and ranchers involved in sustainable agriculture.
the costs of moisture sensors, cover crops and three high tunnels. The moisture sensors are used on blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes, Coburn said. Each sensor takes readings from the deepest part of the root and the shallowest, which lets Front Field’s growers know which crops need watering. Front Field also gets reimbursed for summer cover crop seeds it buys to keep soil healthy and suppress weeds in the off season. “NRCS field agents come out and measure our farm,” said Coburn. “I’ll tell them we’re planting five fields of summer crops. They’ll know how many acres that comes out to. I’ll show them the receipt.” The high tunnels, known also as hoop houses, are each 96 feet long by 30 feet wide. They house tomatoes, peppers and flowers — like cosmos, snapdragons, sunflowers and celosias, Coburn said. High tunnels can effectively extend the growing season. They keep rain off crops, trap the sun’s heat and help protect against pests.
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CREATING A BETTER FUTURE
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THE CIDER FARM Deirdre Birmingham and her husband, John Biondi, started organically growing cider apples in 2003 on part of the 166 acres they owned in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. With help from the NRCS, their business, The Cider Farm, now has 10 acres of apple trees, a high tunnel protecting seedlings and plants that protect vital trees from wind and invasive species. “They make the application very simple, which is nice,” said Birmingham. “They tell you what you need to complete. They go through all the different questions with you. They explain any questions you may have on the application.” Birmingham takes part in NRCS’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and EQIP. CSP pays The Cider Farm for chipping apple orchard prunings (rather than burning them) and spreading them as mulch. Birmingham uses NRCS to help pay to organically protect their apple trees. “We worked with NRCS to put windbreaks on the farm to reduce wind damage to the trees. Wind damage can lead to fatal disease for the trees.” The Cider Farm uses bushes like ninebark to shield their apple trees from harmful gusts. Like Front Field, Birmingham and her husband have taken advantage of EQIP to buy a 25-by-10-foot hoop house, which extends the growing season for apple seedlings. The couple also converted around 30 acres of rented cropland to prairie, where they took advantage of EQIP’s pollinator program. They grow pollinator-friendly plants like ninebark and white spruce and they reap the benefits of the bees and other insects pollinating their orchards. According to NEED MORE NRCS, during INFORMATION? one visit to The For more inforCider Farm, remation about searchers from Front Field Farm, the University visit frontfieldof Wisconsinfarm.com. For more information Madison found about The Cider Farm, visit theciderfarm.com.
14 types of bumblebees, flies and wasps at work. NRCS has a variety of programs meant to help farmers conserve land, soil nutrients and natural resources. Some initiatives are aimed at helping farms save energy. Some NRCS offices have region-specific goals, like preventing salts from entering the Colorado River Basin. Farmers and ranchers can contact their local NRCS office to learn more about what the agency’s goals are for their region and how the agency can help them.
NRCS: nrcs.usda.gov Find your local NRCS office and obtain the phone number: offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/ app?agency=nrcs
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Preparing Soil Fertility for New Plantings of Deep Rooted Crops Such as Grapes and Trees
reparing new soil for planting deep rooted vines and trees can make significant differences in plant growth – some good and some bad - depending on several important, but too often overlooked, considerations. One serious mistake that many make is trying to formulate one fertilizer mix that will work for the entire planting, even when there are very obvious differences. Even on “flat ground” in areas where there is enough rain for water movement in one specific direction there is generally a sufficient enough nutrient difference to sample the lower portion (where water runs to) and the higher portion (where water runs from) and treat them according to their different needs. (Our guidelines on how to properly take a soil test is available from our web site or sent free upon request.)
Still today too many have the idea that this is the only way to survive in agriculture. And that statement is 100% correct. But it is the wrong approach. The goal for all types of growers should not be how to survive in agriculture. The goal for growers needs to be how to thrive, not how to survive. Feed the soil the nutrients it needs to thrive and the plants will thrive as well, and so will those who practice such principles correctly. As growers of all types of crops and plants learn what it takes to successfully apply such principles, then it becomes clear that taking care of the soil is the real key to the greatest successes in agriculture.
Another problem that became evident when working with those growing trees and vines was that many were probing far too deeply when taking their soil samples. Most were taking samples twelve inches deep. When asked why, the answer was generally because the roots went down deep into the soil. The question to Especially as new plants are being established, the consider under such circumstances is even if nutrients emphasis should be on what the soil specifically needs are lacking, how do you apply them correctly and get to support new growth. And where maximized quality or them down to that level? high production is the goal, this becomes even far more When considering how to build soil fertility, the most important. The problem is, most who advise on fertility important zone to consider is the aerobic zone - the have not studied how to correct the soil itself to supply top 6 to 7 inches (as deep as a fence post rots). This the nutrients. Instead a “feed the plant” approach is is the part of the soil that contains microorganisms that used, because that is generally all that has been taught can only operate properly when adequate oxygen is present. (More about this next time.) in terms of fertilization over the past few decades. Even in the 1950’s and 60’s students in soil science were being taught that the soil was just there to hold up the plants. Once during a seventh grade agriculture class in the 1950’s it was stressed how farmers were being told it was a waste of time to clean out the barns and spread manure anymore because what it cost to remove and spread it in comparison to buying fertilizer was far too expensive. The solution was then provided as applying enough lime and commercial fertilizer to grow the plants based on the appropriate proven yield average for the area. It may be dressed up in one way or another, but taken as a whole, those who want to sell you fertilizer generally use some type of feed the plant program. Too many who offer advice about what fertilizers to use have never been taught to learn or understand any other way!
The only exception to sampling the aerobic zone roughly considered as 6 ¾ inches deep because an acre of soil down to that depth will generally weigh about 2 million pounds - is when all materials must be placed on top of the soil and will not be worked into the top 2 inches or more. In such circumstances take the topsoil sample from only the first 4 inches of soil in order to avoid possibly overstating one or more of the nutrients required to properly supply the soil in question. This is true for every grape vineyard, every orchard, every pasture, golf course, lawn and even landscape plantings. Why is this? The next two columns will explain this, plus how it is possible to follow these rules correctly and still influence soils for new plantings at greater depths, along with what nutrients to consider when - and why.
Expanding Organic Agriculture Farmer, Author & International Organic Authority André Leu Discusses Expanding Scope of Regenerative Agriculture and its Existing Challenges
Interviewed by Chris Walters
As two-term president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (better known as IFOAM — Organics International), André Leu has logged hundreds of thousands of air and land miles on behalf of sustainable farming. From 2012 until the fall of 2017, his portfolio took him to dozens of countries where he met farmers, government officials, NGO activists, scientists and diplomats. He is a familiar face at various United Nations agencies as well. Somehow he also found time to write an essential book for Acres U.S.A. Press called The Myths of Safe Pesticides and its newest companion, Poisoning Our Children: The Parent’s Guide to the Myths of Safe Pesticides. It is safe to say that precious few people share the depth and breadth of Leu’s knowledge about sustainable agriculture around the globe. Along with devoting more time to his 150-acre fruit farm in tropical Queensland, Australia, Leu will bring his expertise to the presidency of Regeneration International, the education and advocacy organization of which he is a founding member. Thus, the talk below functions as both an exit and an entry interview. ACRES U.S.A. When governments come to IFOAM for guidance, how does that relationship work? ANDRÉ LEU. Whenever we come into these situations, we also work with our local people on the ground and bring them into the process. This is very important. This is where a lot of governments make mistakes — they try to copy the United States’ or Europe’s regulations, but if you try that it’s not going to work so well in Zambia or Peru. It’s really important that countries have regulations that work for the way agriculture works in their countries because what we really want to do is to make it easier for people to become organic rather than the opposite. This is very important to us, and it is one of the reasons that governments come to us. Governments can see how they can make mistakes, and make it very difficult for the aver-
80 Acres U.S.A.
age farmer to access organic markets because the requirements are so stringent or inappropriate to the way they produce. We have this expertise, and particularly our members have this strong local knowledge. We can work together, and being regular and consistent benefits the producers in the country, the exporters and the processors in their own domestic market. It can also get them into high-value export markets as well. ACRES U.S.A. How many countries have the strong local expertise you can tap to help their farmers convert and get into those markets? LEU. At the moment it is 127 countries. We have 950 member organizations in 127 countries. ACRES U.S.A. Does this pose a great organizational challenge?
LEU. Of course it does! We’re trying to run an international organization with a budget of about $4 million (U.S. dollars). We’re very lucky that we have the best expertise, employing some of the best people in the world for this. We have an office that is run very well, and we are always working on how to meet these challenges with the least amount of organizational time and cost. ACRES U.S.A. Over your two terms as president of IFOAM, how has the ground shifted concerning the definitions of the various approaches to sustainable food production — agroecological, organic, regenerative and so on? LEU. Wearing my Regeneration International hat for a moment, the reason we chose “regenerative” is that we wanted to bring all the like-minded forms of agriculture together. Agroecology, holistic grazing, permaculture, organic — there are so many of them. It was important to have a neutral term as an umbrella. Now — once again wearing my IFOAM hat — what we’ve done with IFOAM is, yes we have standards, and standards are important, especially when people want to put products into markets. However, we have four principles of organic agriculture, and principles go above standards. One is the principle of health, two is the principle of ecology, three is the principle of fairness, and finally there is the principle of care. What we say is that any farming systems that work within those four principles are organic. We could say, for instance, that any agroecology system that is not using GMOs or toxic pesticides is organic whether it’s certified or not — the same goes for permaculture or holistic grazing. But if they start using things that we specifically prohibit like the two I mentioned, then they can’t say they are organic. ACRES U.S.A. Were these principles crafted to make sure the perfect doesn’t become the enemy of the good? LEU. Exactly. That’s a nice way of putting it. The reason why I say IFOAM is an umbrella organization is that we want to bring people in, not exclude people. We call ourselves a change agent because what we’d like people to do is continuously improve, bring in better systems. ACRES U.S.A. Does IFOAM take a position on the Savory Institute and its work in holistic planned management in many countries? LEU. IFOAM itself doesn’t take a position, but from my perspective I have a lot of regard for holistic planned grazing because I’ve seen it on every arable continent. I’ve seen it in the United States, I’ve seen it Latin America, I’ve seen it in Africa and in Asia. I know that when you look at the good practitioners it makes an incredible difference. What’s really good now is a guy named Richard Teague at Texas A&M University who is doing great research, and getting it published in peer-reviewed publications, showing the multiple advantages of holistic grazing. As more of this gets published, the critics will just disappear because there is now hard science showing the many benefits in terms
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INTERVIEW of improving soil quality, improving productivity and also turning cattle, a major source of greenhouse gases, from a major problem into a major solution. These systems essentially sequester or mitigate more greenhouse gases than they emit. If we could move all the world’s grazing systems into properly managed holistic grazing, we could make a significant difference to climate change.
ACRES U.S.A. Has the carbon capturing potential of regenerative agriculture made an impression on the governments of any authoritarian countries such as China, where a decision by leadership can ripple downward quickly? LEU. In terms of governments being influenced by the potential of organic agriculture to make an impact on climate change, the answer is yes. It is
just starting to happen now. IFOAM has been very active in this since before the Copenhagen meeting on climate change in 2009. We formed a round table there on organic and climate change with help from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization and FiBL, the organic agriculture research group funded by the Swiss government. With their help, we started getting good peer-reviewed evidence published to underpin what we say when we go to governments. That is really important. When you go to governments you can’t just say ‘we want the whole world to go organic because it’s a great thing’ and all that. You should come to them with good science that has been published and checked by other people — peer reviewed — to make sure it’s accurate. Then you’ve got evidence-based science, and governments become interested. With that science we’ve been very active in getting information out to governments around the world. One of the outcomes of this was at the Paris climate change meeting where the French agriculture minister announced the 4 Pour 1000 initiative. He made the point that if we could increase the amount of carbon contained in soils by 0.04 percent, we could halt the increase in carbon and bring it back to carbon neutral levels like we had before the Industrial Revolution. We could begin to reverse the effects of climate change. Not to discount promoting renewables and all the other important things we need to do. ACRES U.S.A. Since you began traveling the world and meeting farmers, have you seen a nation or a region where sustainable farming has penetrated the heart of agriculture rather than boring in from the edges of the commodity food production system?
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LEU. The main place where I’ve been actively involved is in Bhutan in the Himalayas. It’s a country where instead of gross national product they measure gross national happiness. People may find that ridiculous, but when you look at the criteria and what
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organic, and that number is increasing. Denmark is doing exactly the same now. Denmark already has the highest amount of shelf space for organic products in the world, 30 percent or more. The government is facilitating the change strongly in Denmark. Everywhere I go now governments are looking at significant goals. My contacts in Japan say they want to have 20 percent of the farms go organic — it’s probably around 5 percent now.
they are trying to do, you see they say it’s not about how much money you make, it’s about how well you feel about your community. It’s about everybody having this feeling of wellbeing. It’s not about a few individuals who come in and get rich; it’s about the greater common good. For them, organic agriculture fits firmly within that. They want an agriculture that is healthy, that brings good returns to farmers, that provides healthful, high-quality food to consumers and that looks after the environment. That is why they decided they want to be 100 percent organic, and now they are close to it. The last survey they did showed there is really only about 2 percent of agriculture that uses chemicals in Bhutan. We’re working with them now on their organic regulations. They will become a 100 percent organic country. Their neighbor Nepal has also started down that pathway. For instance, nearly all the coffee grown in Nepal is organic now. Other countries are leaning significantly toward it, such as Austria. In Austria, 25 percent of the farms are
ACRES U.S.A. Do you know of any countries facing environmental crises where people near the top of the government have made the connection between bad farming techniques and the crises? LEU. What is interesting is that the governments that are most interested are generally the provincial or state or local governments rather than the federal government. The bigger the government, the further away, and concern drops away. In India the provincial heads of government can
now see the damage done by the Green Revolution. For example, in Punjab they have the Cancer Train, because so many people have cancer. It’s an epidemic. They fill this train up to take them to hospital and back. Thousands of people, about 60-75 a day or more, plus family members, go on this train. The soils are destroyed. The rivers are wrecked; they are poisonous. The air is poisonous, and enough is enough. I’ve heard that governor, at an all-India organic conference held in Punjab, say they now have a plan to change 20 percent of the agriculture to organic. Organic is the best known. It’s the one with a proven track record; it’s the one with the proven markets. The Green Revolution has been an absolute disaster there. It left a legacy of children born with birth defects, and even all around the world we are seeing a rise in non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity. None of these are contagious. We now have the scientific proof showing the link to environmental toxins such as pesticides,
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INTERVIEW chemical fertilizers and other additives put in our food, our soap and the combination of fat, salt and sugar that in some ways is as addictive as heroin. ACRES U.S.A. Do you see Big Food, the industrial food colossus, emerging in the minds of ordinary people — not just activists and scientists — in various countries as a major culprit behind these maladies that afflict them? LEU. Exactly and strongly. The reason we are the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the world is because of the amount of consumer concern over food. ACRES U.S.A. Do we need to improve international watchdog mechanisms because of fraud and corner-cutting internationally? LEU. We have some very good consumer-conscious organizations. The Organic Consumers Association is one of the best for that, and the Center for Food Safety. You have organizations in the United States that work on behalf of consumer consciousness for Americans but are actually followed all around the world. The Organic Consumers Association is highly regarded internationally, and other countries have formed their own versions of it. Cornucopia Institute as well does an excellent job. It’s online, and people can see things from drones flying overhead, dairies or whatever, where it’s the middle of the day and there is not one animal outside grazing. It’s important to have organizations like Cornucopia and the Center for Food Safety that investigate and let the world know. They are our conscience, and they need to be supported. ACRES U.S.A. Do you ever encounter the Gates Foundation, and can you speak about the influence of billionaire philanthropists who roam the world pushing agendas that may not turn out especially beneficial to farmers? LEU. Gates is a good example of that. Everybody thinks it’s this wonderful, 86 Acres U.S.A.
benevolent organization that’s saving the world. They are very active in Africa, and they are very good at getting governments on their side for their African Green Revolution, as they call it. There they are trying to get farmers who are largely what we call organic by default — not organic by management — into buying fertilizers, pesticides and GMO seeds. It’s the same market economy that has destroyed farmers around the world as they went into debt to buy these products. They push microfinance as this wonderful tool to help farmers buy things. The reality of microfinance is that now these farmers who were too small to go into debt to the finance industry are now captured and go into debt. Then what happens is the crops fail, they can’t pay back their debt, and they lose their land. I’ve seen this in many cases. On the other hand, there is no evidence showing that these communities are better off. A good example of this is Malawi. Malawi was the poster child of this new green revolution. First they got an increase in yield and they thought, how wonderful, this is the way to go. After the government gives out free fertilizer and free pesticides, at some point the farmers have to start paying for it. Then they go into debt because they can’t afford it. Then the yields plummet because they can’t get access to these chemicals. ACRES U.S.A. We’re talking about people who may not even have telephones or bank accounts, and now they are in debt? LEU. That’s right. Microfinance is not always this wonderful thing it is made out to be, more often than not it puts people into debt. When you are now working to pay your debt, you are a slave to debt. Whether we like it or not, this is the model for most farmers in the world, both in my country and the United States. They are always running a certain amount of debt. When the bank has to take the farm and the value of the land becomes less than the debt, they become tenant farmers on their own land. Back in Africa, you see them in
the shantytowns on the edges of the cities scavenging for goods in rubbish heaps or working in factories to make ends meet. The model needs to be changed so that farmers can stay on their farms. ACRES U.S.A. What finally happened in Malawi? LEU. At the moment Malawi, East Africa, southern Africa and parts of West Africa are in the middle of the worst drought in recorded history. Malawi has gone from the poster child the chemical companies bring out to speak at all these UN events to the basket case. The World Food Program has to go in now and bring in food aid, but they’re not getting enough. They are experiencing what is called “donor burnout.” Since there are all these major issues going on right now, people just can’t donate to all of them. The issue in Malawi is people starving to death. You remember the Live Aid concerts in the ’80s to relieve the Ethiopian famine? It was a drought and people were starving. That was a drought where thousands of people died, and it was nothing as severe as the one at the moment. After the Live Aid effort helped them through and the good seasons returned, one of our member organizations, the Institute for Sustainable Development, started working in northern Ethiopia at a place called Tigray. It borders Djibouti where the Red Sea starts, that area. That’s a pretty dry area where they regularly had droughts during which thousands of people died. One of the reasons they had severe droughts or crop failures was degradation of the land through overgrazing — eroded, topsoil washed away. They worked with the local community to restore the whole environment, not just the farms but also the whole environment. ACRES U.S.A. What steps did they take? LEU. The first was managed grazing. They didn’t stop grazing because people needed it for milk and such. All the hillsides began to regenerate.
They were able to have more animals than in the past. At the same time, they worked with the local farms to fix up erosion gullies and in many cases turn them into ponds for fishing. They encouraged them to build up the organic matter in their soils by planting edible legumes such as fava beans. They then had those as a very good protein source in their diet. The planted alternate rows of the fields with legume trees to work as windbreaks, and they planted insectary plants that bring in the beneficial insects and birds to eat up the pests. They mixed crop waste and manure in biodigesters to make biogas. As a result, they had clean cooking so they no longer had to chop down trees for firewood. They used it for light at night so they could read to their children. They could also use it for running small electrical generators and small machinery. So they got all the benefit for the biogas, and that slurry they once used to compost got put out in the fields. The net result after several years of doing this was that the yields more than doubled. ACRES U.S.A. How are they doing now? LEU. I recently got in touch with the ISD folks and asked them how Tigray was holding up under the drought. They said, “Look, they’re fine. They’re doing okay.” What was really interesting came two months later when she sent me a preliminary report about a research program they’re doing. It’s called push-pull. It’s a way of integrating a cover crop with your cash crop at the same time. You use it for pest control, increasing water retention, nitrogen and a lot of other benefits. You can get dramatic increases in yield by bringing this into different farming systems. I get the report and I look at the first page. It says the yield increases weren’t as big as we hoped because of the drought, and they were disappointed. I looked at the figures and thought it was absolutely incredible! Here is a drought where millions of people had their crops fail and now need food aid, and Tigray got a yield increase! That should be in headlines. The other December 2017 87
INTERVIEW thing I want to say is that because organic farmers don’t go into debt to buy chemicals, the farmers in Tigray have a surplus of money at the end of the year. They can save and buy things. They’re building nice houses, their children are in school, and they can afford medical costs whereas before they had no money and people died. One story I heard was that the women started to buy new clothing. I thought, okay, what is so great about that? It was explained to me that because they were so poor, women had holes in their clothes and they felt indecent. They couldn’t go out in public. Once they could buy nice clothing, they could go out and socialize. And that brings us back to the point of community. Once they had been so poor to the point where people died of hunger or the children would leave for the city as soon as they got old enough. Now, because they regenerated the forest, they have another activity — making honey. The young people are coming back now to run beehives and work on the farm because they have a future in their community. They can earn more money than they can in the city. That is the model that we need to scale up globally. ACRES U.S.A. It is wonderful, hopeful and exemplary. Unfortunately it seems like a chunk of Africa the size of Benelux has been bought up by land investors for massively scaled agriculture, mirroring the consolidation of farmland here in the United States.
LEU. It’s disastrous. First of all, it’s not their land to buy up, since native peoples have traditionally owned it for thousands of years. The term we have for what’s happening in Africa is “land grabbing.” You have governments that are corrupt, and they just go ahead and sell that land to big investors, and then people are kicked off the land without any compensation. The justification is, “Oh, they’ll get good jobs on the farm.” And they’ve lost everything. Those that do get jobs have to work under pretty poor conditions, and they are spraying all those toxic chemicals without any training, without any protective clothing. A whole host of diseases appear along with birth defects the children have to start off life with. It really is a poor model. They’re not even growing food; they’re growing commodities, things like palm oil used to make soap and biodeisel. The only time palm oil is put in food, it’s in the types of industrialized food we call obesogenic. ACRES U.S.A. Here in the United States, in Iowa, there is something called a sustainable land trust. They buy a piece of land and lease it to a farmer under something called an organic easement, meaning it can never be farmed industrially. The terms of the lease are generous to encourage young farmers. Do you see anything like that going on overseas?
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LEU. The best one I know is called Common Land, and in various countries they have worked with farmers on about 4 million acres. They want to restore ecosystems on parts of this land and at the same time they operate organic/regenerative farms on the rest of it. That’s the biggest one. There are smaller, more local initiatives. Most of these initiatives have to fight for funding. It’s very hard to get enough money to buy land to do this with. The other important initiative to stop land grabbing is a United Nations organization called the Committee for Food Security. IFOAM, along with a lot of other non-governmental organizations, worked with that agency to put into place a series of voluntary guidelines about land tenure. It outlines what should be done and how governments ought to act. Of course no government would accept it if it was made compulsory. Many countries watered down these guidelines from what we originally wanted. The document is not as strong as we wished, but it’s a start. You can take it to governments and say, “You signed this, but you are not doing it.” Essentially it’s the governments that take this land from their own people and give it to these foreign companies. ACRES U.S.A. It’s not hard to imagine that some of these deals will rear up and bite back, since the industrial techniques will wreck the topsoil, then a drought will hit, you’ll have pests and desertification, and then they’ll want to get rid of the land. LEU. This is already happening. They don’t care. The people who grab this land are not there because they want to look after the land and it’s precious to them. They want to make money off of it. If it’s not productive they’ll grab some other land and work that until it’s destroyed. The only driver for them is a return to shareholders.
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ACRES U.S.A. After years of traveling the world for IFOAM, what are you hoping to do for Regeneration International? LEU. My hopes and goals for Regeneration International are for it to become the global change agent that facilitates a fundamental shift from one type of agriculture to another. We need to move from agriculture that presently constitutes a significant cause of climate change and environmental destruction while fueling the epidemic of non-contagious chronic diseases. It also destroys farming communities globally. Our goal is an agriculture that will have a major role in reversing climate change while regenerating our soils, environment, health and communities while promoting democracy and making a considerable contribution to the well-being of our planet. Poisoning Our Children: The Parent’s Guide to the Myths of Safe Pesticides by André Leu, is available from Acres U.S.A. For more information, visit acresusa. com or call 800-355-5313.
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December 2017 89
THE HARVEST TABLE: WHERE FOOD & FARMING MEET
Fruitful Food Foray Harvesting, Using Wild Grapes by JILL HENDERSON Fall is a great time to get out and explore the natural world and gather the abundance of food that nature provides. If you live on a farm or homestead you probably have at least a few places you can search for wild edibles, while those living in the city might need to take a short drive to a nearby park, forest or conservation area. Here in the Ozarks, we are blessed with a plethora of wild fall edibles including black walnuts, shagbark hickories, coral mushrooms and sticky-sweet American persimmons, just to name a few. All of these native foods are not only common, but sought out by wild food enthusiasts everywhere. And while these and many other native plants are popular, there is one delectable fall edible that is often overlooked â€” the wild grape.
KISSING COUSINS Every grapevine in the world belongs to the genus Vitis. Whether it produces table grapes, wine grapes, or something a lot less palatable, all grapevines are kissing cousins. In the earliest days of colonization, over 200 species of wild grapes grew in the wilds of North America. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those species are now extinct. Today, the number of wild grape species and subspecies present in America is believed to be fewer than 60, with many of those being rare or endemic. The USDA NRCS PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov) reports 21 distinct species of wild grape in the United States, not including natural hybrids or subspecies. Although nearly every state has at least one wild grape species, the majority of wild grapes are found in the southern, central and eastern states. 90 Acres U.S.A.
Young muscandine grapevine crawling over weedy growth along a fenceline.
In my home state of Missouri, there are seven common native species including, Summer (V. aestivalis), Sand/ River (V. rupestris), Winter/Possum (V. cinerea), Fox (V. labrusca), Riverbank (V. riparia), Muscadine (V. rotundifolia) and Frost (V. vulpine) grapes. Like their cultivated counterparts, native grapes are woody vines that use long curling tendrils to cling to and climb trees and other vegetation in their search for the higher heights they prefer. Although wild grape vines can grow to be exceptionally large, scaling the tallest of trees and producing thick, woody trunks the size of baseball bat handles, many stay relatively low to the ground as they clamber over fences, small trees and other vegetation. Young plants and those that have been cut back send out multitudes of runners that search the perimeter for a sturdy support on which to climb. Once one is found, many of the side
shoots will die back in order to support the one that has located a sturdy host. The ultimate quest for all wild grapes is sunlight, and in forested areas grapes must climb into the upper canopy to find it in abundance. For wild grapes growing in open or brushy areas, overtaking all other leafy competition is the primary goal. This habit of overrunning any obstacle in its way is what often gets wild grapes in trouble with landowners, who see them as tangly and hard to control. On one hand, these accusations are true; wild grapevines are notorious for tripping people and livestock in wooded areas and overrunning field fencerows. If you cut a mature grapevine from a tree or other support the leftover stump, no matter how low you cut it, will eventually regenerate with many new runners. If you really want it gone, the best bet is to dig out the root with a mattock.
However, for established grapevines that aren’t causing damage to orchards, fences or buildings, the easiest thing to do is simply leave them alone and let them climb. The myth that grapevines kill fullgrown trees is actually a half-truth. Grapevines can bend small trees over and deform them, and if the vines and trees are covered in ice or heavy snow they could pull them all the way to the ground. But in general, grapevines don’t suffocate, strangle, smother or pull mature trees down all by themselves. That being said, a fully mature grapevine spread across the canopy can slow the growth of host trees by blocking some of the sunlight they would receive if the grapevine weren’t there. But the majority of the time,
“Grape leaves can also be eaten in a multitude of ways. The very young leaves of most species can be added to green vegetable salads, adding a crisp, almost citrus flavor, and the larger leaves are excellent for stuffing with savory meats, vegetables, rice, cheese and a wide array of spices.” native trees and grapevines happily co-exist in the wild just as nature intended.
A WILD VARIETY Finding wild grapes is often just a matter of taking a walk. Depending on where you live and the predominant varieties growing in your area, grape-
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Mangoes May Reduce Inflammation Research continually unveils new insights about mangoes and their role in the diet for health. According to a comprehensive review of the available scientific literature published in Food & Function, mangoes and their individual components have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, which may help to reduce risk for chronic disease. In addition to being associated with better nutrient intake and diet quality, research suggests eating mangoes may be important for glycemic control, the microbiome, as well as vascular, brain, skin and intestinal health. Mangoes contribute a number of valuable nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber for only 100 calories per one cup serving. Mangoes are also a source of phytochemicals — including phenolic acids, mangiferin, carotenoids and gallotannins — which are associated with a number of health promoting activities including anti-inflammation, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity and anti-cancer.
Olive Compounds Exhibit Anti-Diabetic Properties The health benefits of olives — and associated natural products such as olive oil — have long been recognized and touted by proponents of the Mediterranean diet. However, little was previously known about what specific compounds and biochemical interactions in the fruit contribute to its medical and nutritional benefits such as weight loss and prevention of type 2 diabetes. A Virginia Tech research team discovered that the olivederived compound oleuropein helps the body secrete more insulin, a central signaling molecule in the body that controls metabolism. The same compound also detoxifies another signaling molecule called amylin that over-produces and forms harmful aggregates in type 2 diabetes. In these two distinct ways, oleuropein helps prevent the onset of disease. The findings were published in the journal Biochemistry. “Our work provides new mechanistic insights into the long-standing question of why olive products can be anti-diabetic,” said Bin Xu, lead author.
Zinc Supplements Could Halt Esophageal Cancer Zinc supplements can significantly inhibit the proliferation of esophageal cancer cells, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Texas at Arlington researcher. Previous studies had shown that zinc is essential for maintaining human health and protects the esophagus from cancer. However, it has never been fully understood why zinc has the ability to prevent cancer in the esophagus. In this study, a team led by Zui Pan, an associate professor of nursing at UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation and a noted esophageal cancer researcher, discovered that zinc selectively halts the growth of cancer cells but not normal esophageal epithelial cells. The finding was published in The FASEB Journal. Esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of human cancer deaths around the world, according to the National Cancer Institute. Pan said this study could provide a pathway for better esophageal cancer prevention and treatment. “Zinc deficiency has been found in many cancer patients,” said Pan, whose study was funded in part by a research grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Cancer Insitute. “Both clinical data and animal studies have shown that this mineral is very important for overall body health and for cancer prevention.” Zinc is an important element in many proteins and many enzymes and the absence of zinc makes it impossible for cells to function, she added.
December 2017 91
THE HARVEST TABLE PHOTOS BY JILL HENDERSON
Clusters of wild grapes ready for processing.
vines are found along sandy or gravely river banks, at the edge of or in the openings of wooded areas and at the edges of ponds, fields and meadows. Most grape species don’t like their feet in waterlogged soils, so start your search on high ground first. Once you spot a vine, you can rest assured there are many others nearby creeping along the ground, crawling over brush, or winding up trees.
I like to start my search for wild grapes in late spring or early summer when most varieties are in bloom. Grapevines have several methods of sexual reproduction and by closely observing the flowers I can tell which vines will produce fruit. To ensure maximum fruit production, most cultivated grapes have been bred and selected so that each individual plant bears perfect self-pollinating
flowers. As you may recall from your high school botany class, perfect flowers contain both male and female sexual reproductive organs, which allow every flower on every vine to produce fruit. Some wild species bear perfect flowers, but most will likely have either all-male or all-female flowers. Vines that bear male flowers are needed to pollinate those with female flowers but do not produce fruit themselves. If you have many mature wild vines that don’t produce fruit, it’s probably because they are male. Once you learn to recognize the three types of flowers found on wild grapes, you won’t have to rely on searching for plants with ripe fruit later in the season, which is the way most foragers find them. If you are blessed with a plethora of wild grapevines but don’t want to trudge all over the place looking for the few that bear fruit, you can encourage the female population by reducing the number of male vines. It is important not to thin the male population too much, or your female vines will not get pollinated. If you have vines that produce fruit that you really like, you can encourage production through pruning. Just like cultivated grapes, pruning stimulates the production of fruit-bearing spurs and can help keep wild fruit within arm’s reach. If you find a vine that produces particularly nice fruits, you can take and root greenwood cuttings and grow them as you would any cultivated grape. The rootstocks of wild grapevines have been used for thousands of years in the development of domestic grape varieties because of their hardiness and natural resistance to pests and diseases.
BEWARE OF LOOK-ALIKES Before you set off on your first wild grape foray, understand that most wild grapevines do not bear the same big fleshy fruits used to make wine or the juicy table grapes you find in the grocery store. Depending on the species, wild grapes can be smaller than a sweet pea 92 Acres U.S.A.
or larger than a blueberry. The largest fruits produced by a wild grape species are from the muscadines or scuppernongs (V. rotundifolia), a very sweet grape that is sometimes cultivated for wine production. I have read more than my fair share of articles that proclaim a wild species to have “inedible” fruits, but rest assured that there are no poisonous wild grapes. There are definitely species whose fruits are sweeter or fleshier than others, and there are species with fruits so acidic and sour that you can’t hold them in your mouth for more than a moment before spitting them out. But with some basic processing and the addition of your favorite sweetener, the flavor of most wild grapes can be wonderfully rich and complex. Wild foragers should always take pains to properly identify any wild plant that they plan on ingesting, and wild grapes are no exception. Because the leaves and fruit of certain native grape species, particularly those of Fox grapes (V. labrusca), look somewhat similar to those of the poisonous fruits of Moonseed vine (Menispermum canadense), it’s important to know the difference between the two. Wild grapes have fruits that contain several small oval seeds, while Moonseed has fruits with a single crescentshaped seed. Grapevines have mature bark that shreds and long twining tendrils, while Moonseed has neither. The fruits of wild grapes have a pleasant smell (and often, taste), while those of Moonseed are described as “rank.” The leaves of wild grape have toothed leaf margins, while Moonseed leaves have smooth leaf margins that tend to droop downwards as if wilting. The other possible look-alike in my area is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), which is a member of the grape family. In the wild this tree-climbing (and sometimes groundsprawling) vine is generally quite diminutive in size, but as it ages and climbs it can grow quite large. And while some people might mistake this plant for wild grapevine, its leaves are distinctly different — having five pointy leaflets per leaf that more resemble poison ivy than any wild grape I have ever seen. Additionally, the fruit clusters of Virginia creeper are a bright
dusty blue and are born on noticeably red stems, which is an easy identification tool for this plant. Once you know what wild grapes look like, the only real challenge is finding fruits that you can reach without the aid of a ladder and removing the firmly attached fruiting clusters from the vine. I advise you to do some early scouting and locate reachable fruiting vines before the fruits begin to ripen. I look for vines in understory trees like dogwoods and wild black cherries because I can reach those fairly easily without a ladder. You could also bring along a telescoping pole with a small hook attached to ease vines or small supporting branches down to you for harvesting. Otherwise, you’ll need to devise some way of climbing up to them. Once you are within reach, harvesting the fruit is often as simple as pulling the cluster stem in the opposite direction of growth. This usually works, but you might want to have a pocketknife or small pair of snips handy in case the stem gives you any trouble.
HARVEST & PRESERVE THE BOUNTY Once you get your grapes home, you should clean them and cull any fruits that are shriveled, spoiled or spent. The fruits may also carry tiny
Cleaning and sorting wild grapes.
Wild grapes, cleaned and ready for juicing.
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THE HARVEST TABLE beetles or other insects that have been feeding on the fruits, but rinsing in water easily removes them. After multiple attempts, I found that stripping the fruits from the stem into a sink full of water was the easiest and most efficient way to clean and sort a large batch of wild grapes. This way, bugs, duds and debris float to the top, while ripe and solid grapes sink to the bottom. All you have to do is skim off and discard the floaters and chaff before scooping up the sinkers, placing them in a colander and giving them a final rinse with clean water. Drain the grapes well and either juice them right away using your preferred method or freeze them whole and process them later. Of course, you can also dry wild grapes, but most people find the raisins too small and seedy to enjoy. As for my family, we simply can’t resist the delectable flavor Wild grape juice is delicious and nutritious.
94 Acres U.S.A.
of ultra-fresh, lightly sweetened grape juice. By the time we’ve had our fill of it, there usually isn’t any left for making jelly or anything else. However, if I were to ever have an over abundance of wild grape juice, I would: a) be in heaven; and b) make a batch of wild grape wine or liqueur. I can also imagine how heavenly wild grape vinegar would be to have in the kitchen, especially during salad season. And if we had little ones running around, I would engage them in making healthy homemade popsicles and fruit leathers. You may think this is the end of the wild grape story, but it’s just the beginning. Wild grapes don’t just offer the savvy forager wonderful fruit and juice, but edible, delicious and versatile leaves as well. I always use fresh wild grape leaves to make my homemade refrigerator
pickles. The leaves contain tannins that keep my pickles and other ferments crisp and my brine nice and clear and add a subtle tangy flavor that is hard to describe, but obvious to the palate. For this purpose, I simply pick fresh leaves that aren’t too bug-chewed (which is all about appearance and not usefulness), rinse them in clean water and poke them into my packed jars. I never heat or can my pickles, but I don’t think the crisping action of grape leaves is affected much by the short application of heat used in canning. Grape leaves can also be eaten in a multitude of ways. The very young leaves of most species can be added to green vegetable salads, adding a crisp, almost citrus flavor, and the larger leaves are excellent for stuffing with savory meats, vegetables, rice, cheese and a wide array of spices. It is best to gather grape leaves in the spring before they get too thick and fuzzy. Shoot for young, round, smooth leaves the size of your palm with few or no holes in them. Avoid leaves that are very large, deeply lobed, or seriously fuzzy. A rule of thumb when picking grape leaves is to count down two to three leaves from the tip of the vine and pick the next two to three leaves for eating. Continue picking from multiple stems until you have what you need (this is where those low, rambling grapevines really come in handy). Gently wash the leaves in cold tap water and cut off any protruding leaf stems. Whether you will be using them right away or freezing for later use, grape leaves should be blanched or brined to soften them and stop the enzymatic action that slowly kills their bright color and flavor. To blanch, place the leaves in a baking pan and cover them with just-boiled water and allow them to stand for 3-5 minutes. You could also just add your leaves to a pot of boiling water for the same amount of time. Remove the leaves and immediately plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking process. To brine leaves using heat, simply bring 4 cups of water and 1 cup of salt to a boil in a large pot. Without removing from the heat, add a dozen or so
leaves to the pot and let the water return to a boil. Immediately remove the leaves, chill in ice water until cool and pat dry with a paper towel. To freeze, stack leaves with a piece of paper toweling in between each leaf and seal in an airtight freezer bag. Frozen grape leaves can be kept in the freezer for up to six months. To use the frozen leaves, have all your stuffing ingredients ready to go before removing the leaves from the freezer, as they will thaw very quickly and you’ll want to stuff and roll them as soon as they are flexible enough to allow it. The second brining method is very similar to making refrigerator pickles. Simply pack as many raw leaves as you like into one or more canning or pickle jars and cover them with any standard pickle brine minus the spices. The jars can then be stored in the refrigerator for six months or more. It will take a month or so before your leaves are fully brined. Once softened, grape leaves can be stuffed and then baked, steamed, or even grilled. To get an idea of just some of the dishes you can make with grape leaves, I suggest reading Food and Wine’s article, “How to Cook with Grape Leaves,” (foodandwine.com/blogs/how-cook-grapeleaves). Aside from all of the free eats and nourishing goodness found in nature, we have plenty of reason to maintain a healthy diversity of plants growing in our woods, along our streams and at the edges of our fields and meadows. By improving plant diversity, we also improve wildlife diversity, which in turn creates a healthier, more beautiful place in which to live and forage for a plethora of wild edibles.
Immature grapes can be seen on this low-growing female fox grape (V. labrusca) crawling through wild black cherry trees.
“Every grapevine in the world belongs to the genus Vitis. Whether it produces table grapes, wine grapes, or something a lot less palatable, all grapevines are kissing cousins.”
Jill Henderson is an artist, author and organic gardener. She is editor of Show Me Oz (showmeoz. wordpress.com), a weekly blog featuring articles on gardening, seed saving, nature ecology, wild edible and medicinal plants and culinary herbs. She has written three books: The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country and The Garden Seed Saving Guide. Acres U.S.A. will be presenting a new eco-farming event this February: 2018 Wine Grape Soil Seminar lead by Neal Kinsey, in Napa, California. For more information, see page 76, visit acresusa. com/events/2018wine-grape-seminar or call 800355-5313 for assistance.
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STOCK & FLOCK Grain to a chicken is like ice cream to an old farmer and they will fill up on it if it is freely offered. The result is that they will not eat enough of the complete laying ration to assure good egg production and body condition. Most layer rations are offered as complete feeds needing little or nothing in the way of supplementation. A light feeding of grain in cold months will give the birds a bit of added energy, may be strewn across the floor litter to encourage the birds to scratch and turn the litter material and, in small amounts, may be used to draw the birds back into housing at the end of the day.
Poultry Hacks for the No-Fuss Flock by KELLY KLOBER Lately, I have been seeing a lot of articles and even entire books written about what are called “hacks,” bits of wisdom and common sense that tend to accumulate around one subject or another. In other times it might have been called lore, the experience and the essential skills and knowledge that have grown out of a particular calling or pursuit. Yes, even concerning chickens, there are practical hacks — hacks and what old-timers might call tricks of the trade. One that comes to mind is the practice of wing clipping to prevent fully feathered birds from flying up and over enclosures.
WING CLIPPING Most know to clip just one wing to make the bird unbalanced and unable to get aloft, but which is the best wing to clip? Can it possibly matter? Clip the bird’s left wing. The internal organs on the left side of a chicken’s body are generally more developed, making that side of the body a bit heavier. By clipping that wing the rea96 Acres U.S.A.
soning is that the bird is made more imbalanced for flight.
HEIRLOOM & HERITAGE BREEDS A lot is now being made of a bird being in an heirloom variety or a heritage breed, but, what exactly, do these terms mean? Perhaps the best definition for them was established by the Livestock Breeds Conservancy when they defined such birds as being of pure breeding and of one of the pure breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association by no later than the year 1950. A heritage broiler must be taken a step or two further and not harvested from a range situation until they are 16 weeks old. The added time on range affects muscle development and gives the resulting broiler meat the color and flavor more traditionally associated with chicken. LIMIT SCRATCH GRAIN Scratch grain, rather than being fed with a heavy hand to pare down mash consumption and feed costs should be used as not much more than a treat fed for a very short time each day.
Chickens are the creatures that defined the term “pecking order” and the task of introducing new birds into an existing flock can be a rather challenging one. Roosters will quickly challenge each other, and serious injuries caused by fighting can result. More likely though, a bird will succumb to the heat stress or other stress factors stemming from the fight. Even females will scuffle, and newcomers can be pecked and held back from feed and water. Some will position newcomers in a fairly open coop set in the housing for a few days. It should offer them protection from pecking but still allows the birds to see and somewhat interact with each other. After a time, the new birds should be placed on the roost with the established group after dark. The old joke is that the intellectual properties of the chicken are such that it wakes up in a whole new world every day, but new introductions must be monitored carefully. Ahead of adding birds, some will try to break up the pecking order by removing the two most dominant hens to be reintroduced later. There should be sufficient space for chased birds to have a place to escape to, and some birds may never make a successful transition.
DRINKING WATER The most important of all feedstuffs is the drinking water. In very hot weather it may be necessary to
change or freshen the water pans up to three times a day to encourage consumption and the needed hydration for birds in production. A vitamin/ electrolyte product is an inexpensive addition to the drinking water during times of stress on the birds when they will drink but won’t eat. Egg-Eating Sooner or later a problem with egg-eating by the birds on hand will emerge. I once wrote an entire article on just this subject, and there have been some rather elaborate nest designs and practices employed to stop it. Most important is to bring the problem in check as soon as possible after it is first detected. It is a practice that can be learned by other birds in the flock if exposed to broken eggs in the nests or on the house floor. It is a bad practice that may begin with just a single bird. The producer should always be on the watch for birds showing signs of egg-eating activity. Look for birds with egg-related staining around the beak and head and down the feathers of the breast. There are many ideas on
how to break them of this behavior, but the best recourse would be to turn them into chicken salad for a Saturday night supper. The chicken salad solution actually has a great many applications.
EASIER MONITORING With any number of chickens on range, even day ranging, there is always the questions of, are they all there, and is all in good order with them? The addition of a few birds of a distinctly different color can make a rapid head count of at least those birds possible. If you can only count four of the eight white ones it is a safe bet that even more of the red ones are missing.
THINK AT THE CHICKEN LEVEL When human beings enter a farm building most of their senses are focused at head and shoulder level. Chickens, on the other hand, live their lives at floor and roost level. A popped knothole the size of a nickel can allow a chilling draft to blow across the birds at roost on a winter night. And minor changes in a floor’s
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STOCK & FLOCK surface in a far corner may be the first indication of problems with predators.
PULLET DEVELOPMENT In growing out a set of as-hatched chicks remove the first few males that reveal themselves in their development. They should be the first considered for retention as breeding males due to that rapid development, but their presence will discourage secondary sex character from developing in other males in the group. On more than one occasion, and especially with very large-breed birds, I have had the pullet count change once I began removing the early developing males from the group. There is growing evidence that young pullets and cockerels should be separated and grown out in different groups. They will certainly grow at different rates and may respond differently to feeding practices. The presence of young males as pullets approach point-of-lay may become a source of stress on the females.
BUYING CHICKS Before going all in on baby chicks from a single source it might be best to buy small lots from multiple sources to do oneâ€™s own on-farm genetic trials. Closer to home is always the best place to buy as those chicks should be from flocks acclimated to the region.
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That is not always possible if something very rare is being sought or new blood for a complete outcross is needed. It is the task of the good producer to find and match the needed genetics to his or her farm environment and farming practices as closely as possible.
TRANSPORTING BIRDS Though not always possible, it is always best to move chickens after dark. I once received a set of Wyandotte hens that were moved across three states in the course of a single night. They were transported in boxes that were painted black and topped with a fine black wire mesh. One egg arrived that morning, and the hens continued to lay well after their arrival. Transporting can push a bird into molt, and a change in water source and feed can dramatically affect bird performance. Any changes in rations are best done gradually over a period of seven to 10 days. Some will buy a portion of the ration birds are currently being fed to assist them in adjusting to a new farm environment.
BETTER BREEDING When taking up birds to breed from, I prefer buying adult birds over chicks. On a per-bird basis the costs are substantially higher, but there is a finished product to view before any money changes hands. It also cuts down the time to get into production by as much as a full year.
Further, a trio or even a pair of well-bred birds can produce substantial numbers of chicks in fairly short order. They are chicks from birds that are better known and understood by the producer.
STARTED PULLETS A growing number of people wanting a few layers for a small flock or family needs are opting again for what were termed started pullets. They are doing it for many of the same reasons that I gave for buying older birds for breeding. You see what you’re buying. Many don’t want the bother or aren’t equipped to grow out baby chicks; they want birds in such small numbers or want the eggs to begin arriving right away. And there is no doubt about their gender. A started pullet in the 12- to 20-week range is no small investment, but convenience has always had a price. The started pullet business has legs, many commercial hatcheries are already offering them despite high shipping costs, and it may be one more way for the more experienced poultry producer to be paid for what he or she knows and puts into the birds developed for sale to others. It is the little things that are learned in the course of the farming life that often prove to be of the greatest value. Kelly Klober specializes in raising livestock using natural methods. He lives in Silex, Missouri. He is the author of Beyond the Chicken, Talking Chicken, and Dirt Hog, available from Acres U.S.A.
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Manage for Success, Longevity Creating Work-Life Balance, Training Beginner Farmers PHOTOS BY DAVID HAMBLETON
David Hambleton (left) and volunteer Peter Christman weeding at Sisters Hill Farm in Stanfordville, New York.
by RICHARD J. SKELLY Farm owners and managers know how difficult the business of molding engaged, self-motivated employees can be. For Hudson River region farm manager David Hambleton, happy farmworkers equals a happy, thriving CSA program. Hambleton, who was invited to speak at the NOFA-New Jersey annual winter conference in New Brunswick in late January 2017, has mastered not only the science and art of growing healthy organic produce, but also the business of managing people. Not surprisingly, Hambleton wore several occupational hats before finally settling into farm manager at Sisters Hill Farm in Stanfordville, New York — a town in Dutchess County near the Hudson River.
100 Acres U.S.A.
Hambleton was born in Kansas City and his family moved to Orange County, New York, when he was five, to a rural area called Thompson Ridge near Middletown. He grew up next to a dairy farm and spent his childhood playing in the woods and in the fields where the cows grazed. Hambleton has two sisters, one older and one younger, and after his parents separated, the Hambleton household took in foster children. He went to college at Binghamton University, now known as SUNY-Binghamton, and originally applied with the idea of becoming an engineer. “My interest was environmental studies,” he said. “Very quickly I specialized in ecosystems and the study of how all life is inter-related. … While doing that I visited a CSA farm
and was very impressed by it; it was very inspiring to me.” Hambleton admired “how the CSA farmer was living his life the way he wanted to live it, growing food for the community, doing positive things for the environment and positive things for himself, growing healthy food for all these people.” After graduating from college he worked as a park ranger with the New York State Parks system and then went to Mohunk Mountain Preserve as an environmental educator. Hambleton later took jobs in construction and finally at a cabinetmaking shop. “I volunteered on a CSA while living in New Paltz, New York,” he said, while working with a friend in construction. I worked on a farm for one year, really applied myself and read everything I could, and then I took over management of certain aspects of the farm. The next year I took over management of the Sisters Hill Farm Farm for the sisters.” Sisters Hill Farm is on land longowned by the [Catholic] Sisters of Charity, who are connected with the St. Vincent DePaul Catholic charity organization in New York City. It’s part of their mission statement to protect the Earth. “One of the sisters had been inspired by a farm in New Jersey, Sister Garisto, by Genesis Farm in New Jersey, so when I got there in 1999, there were a couple of barns and open fields. They had fenced in a little area and they did a pilot farm the year before to see if they could grow stuff.” The open land at Sisters Hill Farm was used in the early 1900s as a retreat for Catholic nuns from New York City. “In the early 1900s a lot of sisters lived together there, but by the time I came around the sisters used it as a
retreat house.” Hambleton had been working on a diversified farm in the Syracuse area. “It didn’t appeal to me; the grower was always on the phone selling, he wasn’t out in the field growing and I wanted to be out in the field growing. So I had a vision where I wanted to create a tighter, more economical and efficient plan and make more efficient use of my time and energy. I was really excited to start small and grow it from there at Sisters Hill Farm. I was happy to set up the whole operation with the sisters.” He admits the first few years required an incredible amount of work. He said beginning farmers have to be mentally, spiritually and physically prepared for an unbalanced life in the beginning while they get the land into fertile, manageable shape. “You need to develop all your systems, your own ways of doing things, and your business plan,” he stressed, noting he worked hard to sign up 40 CSA customers the first year and then doubled that number by the second year. “We crept up to 200 CSA customers in the ensuing years, and now it’s at a very nice size for a family farm. We treat it like a family farm; it’s not my farm, but we treat it like that.” Ten acres are maintained, he said, but the fields amount to 4.8 acres. Hambleton and his apprentices and seasonal workers grow between 90,000 and 100,000 pounds of produce April through November. “Three years into it I got good feedback; the sisters appreciated what I was doing, and at the time I was looking for a plan of my own. My original vision was to own my own farm like everybody wants to, but I kind of realized I had created such a sense of community there, I found it hard to think seriously about leaving.” Since it was also his vision to eventually build his own home for himself his wife and children, he asked the sisters to sell him some land, which they gladly did, and he built his own home right across the road from the farm. Hambleton has three full-time seasonal apprentices and a number of volunteers who love to help out on the farm in exchange for produce shares. “This one guy, Peter Christman, saw me out there when I first moved onto the farm, moving rocks and he really felt this calling to help out,” said Hambleton. “He’s 85 years old now, but he would come in at 6 in the morning and start up the tractor and fill the loader with rocks. He still helps out with weeding every year. He’s in great shape and he’s strong, too.” In addition to Christman, Hambleton said he has several volunteers that are a big part of the program. Hambleton’s wife is a social studies teacher at nearby Arlington High School. He has two sons, 10 and 13 years old, and while they’re not all that interested in helping out on the farm at this point, they are involved in egg sales. “One of the things I really focus on as a parent is that they make physical activity part of their everyday lives.” Pressed about successes and failures and things he’s learned along the way, Hambleton was refreshingly candid, which is a big reason why he’s such a popular speaker at organic farming conferences.
Picking flowers at Sisters Hill Farm.
He said the Sisters Hill newsletter is a critical part of running his successful CSA program. “I feel like the newsletter is a really important part of having a CSA. I think part of the reason a lot of CSAs are struggling is because they don’t value the communication enough; you have to tell your story and what you’re all about.”
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He includes articles about how to keep vegetables fresh in the fridge longer, shares simple recipes and instructions on how best to prepare various vegetables, â€œand thatâ€™s a really important part of sharing what the farm is all about.â€?
SHARED VALUES Hambleton said mentoring and developing young farmers-to-be is a big part of his mission at Sisters Hill. â€œThe first year I was working almost completely by myself at 24 and 25 years old. I went out and hired a high school girl and sheâ€™d come to volunteer 10 hours a week, but it helped me out a lot with my sanity. The second year I hired this married couple, and they seemed like brilliant people and they were brilliant; but they were also having a lot of trouble with their new marriage.â€? He had to let them go. â€œI try to be a very effective leader but would never yell at someone, and I believe in giving people options,â€? he said. As a result he spends a lot of time making sure apprentices understand what the farm is all about, â€œso we again can come together around shared values.â€? Another thing he learned from the second season, he said, was to put a great amount of time and care into finding great people each year. â€œThat has really affected the profitability of the farm as a whole,â€? said Hambleton. â€œI make sure I include my apprentices in my planning every day so they become invested in what weâ€™re doing that day and they realize how much we have to accomplish. It also gives them insight into how Iâ€™m
making my decisions so Iâ€™m not just presenting the plan, Iâ€™m presenting the rationale behind the plan.â€? Hambleton said the Sisters Hill Farm CSA newsletter is one or two pages (black and white, photocopied). It comes out once a week and is not emailed. â€œItâ€™s brief, and they pick it up with their produce and read it right away, sometimes before they go out there to pick flowers or vegetables.â€? Hambleton said his apprentices are after job satisfaction just like everyone else. â€œWhat people are really after in their careers â€” some people think itâ€™s all about money â€” what itâ€™s about is purpose; working toward something more important or a higher value than you and also, autonomy, being able to direct your own actions to a certain extent. And finally, itâ€™s about mastery, being able to get better and better at what youâ€™re doing.â€? Hambleton said he used his background in carpentry and design to create better working conditions for everyone on the farm. â€œI love to be innovative and design and create things. There are three ways to figure something out: you can look on the Internet; you can ask other people, or you can find it within yourself, to look inside yourself and figure it out for yourself. I love that design and build process. Iâ€™ve developed a number of systems around the farm that fit for our size and scale.â€? One innovation he created: produce display cases that are easier to load and reload. Heâ€™ll start drafting things
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Given that he’s been doing this on pieces of paper and then convert for almost 18 years now, Hambleton them, using his carpentry skills, into was hard-pressed to come up with tools or produce display racks, ergofrustrating aspects of his job. One of nomic tricks and equipment designs his main objectives is to ensure the apthat make everyone’s jobs easier. prentices gain the skills and When he came on board confidence to be able to as manager at Sisters Hill, NEED MORE run their own farm within Hambleton says, “We just INFORMATION? a year, he said. As a result, really focused on having For more inforhe does almost everything effective planning based on mation about with them, to show them what our goals were. So if Sisters Hill Farm, how and why and give we decided we’re going to visit sisterfeedback when necessary. have 150 CSA members shillfarm.org or “I do most of the seedthis year we’re doing evcall 845-868ing but let them try it once erything in our power to 7048. or twice, and a certain make sure we sell all those amount of the accounting shares before we start our processes, too. I enjoy every aspect of season, so there’s no question: this is my job.” our income, and this is what we need He freely shares the organic farmto plant and this is what we need to ing knowledge he has learned through spend on seeds. So we don’t overpro18 years of hard work at Sisters Hill duce.” This resulted in cost savings Farm. He’s even posted a number of across the board, he pointed out. instructional videos on YouTube. Aside from the weekly newsletFor all farmers, he argued, “Time is ter he and his associates try to put finite and our most valuable commodas much as they possibly can on the ity. That’s how I’ve designed this farm farm’s website, including how-to and from the beginning.” other instructional videos.
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REVIEWS & RECOMMENDATIONS
Organic Beginnings & A Unique Bond REVIEW
The Organic Movement in Michigan Edited by Maynard Kaufman and Julia Christianson Someday a history of the pivotal years that made organic or sustainable farming a force in American life will have to be written. When it is, books like this one will serve as crucial source material. Politicians, diplomats and others of elevated status are usually shadowed by secretaries or reporters, and their paper trail ends up in the hands of archivists. When history is created on the ground by ordinary people, scattered recollections amplify the difficulty of telling their story. Thus we are fortunate that Michigan’s organic pioneers, who were some of the nation’s first to join in a formal grouping, have left a record in good hands, and even more fortunate that some people who are invested in its history have assembled this book. As principal editor Maynard Kaufman writes, “The organic movement as a social movement is too important to be hidden away in some archive.” Veterans of other states’ organic movements will doubtless find many points of recognition here. Beginning with the Organic Growers of Michigan in 1974 — the roster
104 Acres U.S.A.
numbered 55 growers — it is a familiar story of idealism, practical goals, triumphs and pratfalls running headlong into official apathy, internal disagreements, logistical challenges and finally growing pains as the demand for clean food takes off and begins to soar. The movement bifurcated in 1992 with the founding of the Michigan Organic Farm & Food Alliance (the publisher of this book). The Organic Growers of Michigan did not survive its collision with federal requirements after the organic certification standards kicked in during the early 2000s. Although slender, this book contains the work of 16 writers and opens many doors into its subject. Among the topics addressed are CSA development, marketing plans, soil testing, weed control, funding for outreach and education, internet strategies, and of course how various people handled those inevitable interactions with the agricultural establishment. It would be great to see similar books from 30 or 40 other states. — Chris Walters The Organic Movement in Michigan edited by Maynard Kaufman and Julia Christianson, 2017, MOFFA; ISBN: 978-1542504881.
Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein A friend gives you a lift, loans you her notes, shares his jacket with you, and you can’t appreciate it enough. Or maybe you’re the lifesaver — the one who’s always lending a hand or doing the right thing. Just remember, though, as in the new book Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, the life you save may save yours. Ever since her mother died and her father took to drinking his special cider at night, 11-year-old Yonder hadn’t said one word. Why bother? Nobody listened anyway. It was not okay when bullies like Heywood Prune tormented her, though, which was often. Teachers at Robert Frost Middle School were never around when that happened, except when Yonder tried to defend herself. That was what got her expelled the afternoon she met Dirt. She’d been sent home from school that day and was sitting on the crooked steps of the shack she called home when the filthy, one-eyed pony walked up to her. He smelled bad, and he was fat. Yonder knew exactly who he belonged to: old Miss Enid, who treated him badly, which was probably why the pony hung around Yonder’s house. It took two days for Yonder to befriend him and to name him for the very thing he seemed to love. Oh, but Dirt loved Yonder, too. More than her father, more than her teachers, more than the social workers who
came around when she didn’t go to school. He seemed to understand what she was thinking. He was her only friend, so when she found out that Enid was trying to sell Dirt for horsemeat, Yonder knew she had to act fast. She hid him in the only place she knew he’d be safe: her house. You can’t hide a 300-pound pony in a house forever, especially when the school is looking for you, and when Social Services wants to talk to your dad. Let’s start here: your horse-crazy 8-to-14-year-old wants this book. She might not know it now, but she does. And Dirt will gallop right into her heart. Truly, the only thing to say about a pony that chooses his girl is that it’s every horse-wanting child’s dream. Dirt does that, and though he’s the comic relief in this book, he’s not a caricature; Orenstein makes him authentic. Despite a lack of voice and a bit of naïveté, Yonder is a wonderful coming-of-age heroine. Nothing escapes her; she’s sharp-minded about the grown-ups around her, teachers she has and friends she doesn’t. And on that note, this book about friendship, responsibility, devotion and love is thrilling, gut-wrenching (but not too much) and perfect for horsey girls. But don’t let that stop you. Yes, you can enjoy this book, too — in fact, read it, laugh and cry, then share Dirt with your horse lover. It’s a book you’ll both savor. — Terri Schlichenmeyer Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, 2017. Scholastic Press; ISBN: 9780545925853.
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OPINION FROM PAGE 5
grocery store sales (and 15 percent of all produce sales). This is a good start. But our challenge over the next four years, while we can expect Congress to do little or nothing, is to double the size of the organic and grass-fed market, moving from a niche position to the tipping point. Surveys indicate that Americans are increasingly alarmed about deteriorating public health and the pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs lurking in conventional food brands, restaurant fare and school cafeterias. We obviously can’t count on a corrupt Congress or a Trump/Pence administration to protect our food and our environment. So it’s time to step up our marketplace pressure with boycotts, lawsuits, brand de-legitimization and direct action. Our job is to escalate our food fights into what can only be described as a food revolution. Our health, environment and climate stability require that we turn away from our degenerate food, farming and land use system to one that is regenerative. How do we do this? Here are six steps we as individuals, and we as a food movement need to take: • Boycott GMO foods. Practically speaking, every grocery and restaurant food product or menu item that contains soy, corn, canola, vegetable oil or sweeteners, unless labeled “organic,” is GMO-derived. The same is true for every meat, dairy or egg product that is not labeled or
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advertised as organic, transition to organic, grass-fed, or genuinely free range. Our answer to the anti-consumer DARK Act SmartCodes (which substitute bar codes and company websites for clear on-package GMO labeling) must be to boycott every one of the thousands of supermarket food products that display a QR SmartCode, the veritable “Mark of Monsanto.” • Boycott factory-farm meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100 percent grass-fed or pastured. We need to stop the overconsumption of CAFO meat and animal products in general. Americans consume on the average 10 ounces a day of meat, whereas natural health experts recommend three, none of which should come from factory farms. Factory farming, a trillion-dollar industry, is the lynchpin of the GMO industry and the primary driver of deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, water pollution and global warming. • Drive Monsanto’s Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) off the market. Roundup is the DDT of our times, and it is polluting the entire country and the world. We need to force farmers and food brands to stop using Roundup, but we also need to convince homeowners and landscape managers to stop buying it. Up to 90 percent of all GMO crops are sprayed with Roundup, as are a growing number of other foods, even if they are not yet genetically engineered, including (nonorganic) wheat, oats and beans. Roundup is used as a desiccant on many of these crops, to dry them out before harvest. But we also need to keep in mind that 30 percent of all Roundup herbicides (representing 50 percent of Monsanto’s Roundup profits) are sold to consumers (for lawn and garden spraying) and local governments (for spraying in parks, schoolyards and along roads and transmission lines). We need to pressure major retail and online vendors of Roundup (Amazon, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Costco) to stop selling this poison, as well as other toxic pesticides, such as bee-killing neonic pesticides and Agent Orange 2-4 D. • Increase independent lab testing of brand-name foods, especially those pretending to be “natural” or “all natural,” for pesticides like Roundup, so we can reveal the pesticides, poisons and toxins lurking in non-organic foods. Once we expose the pesticides and toxins laced into these foods we can sue the fake natural, greenwashing companies for false advertising while launching grassroots campaigns to boycott them. • Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025. We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do. In order to do this, we will need
to eliminate the multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem “cheap,” compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate. • Move beyond single-issue thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and silos and begin to “connect the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, climate, environment, peace and democracy. We need to work together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a political revolution. It’s time to take back control of our food system, our health, our government and regulatory agencies. If the government won’t allow proper labeling and safety testing of foods, then we, the global grassroots, need to investigate, expose and boycott toxic products and chemicals.
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ECO-MEETINGS CALIFORNIA December 13-14. Organic Grower Summit. Hyatt Regency Monterey, Monterey, CA. ccof. org/press/organic-grower-summitcoming-monterey January 24-27, 2018. 38th Annual EcoFarm Conference. Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA. eco-farm.org/ conference or 831-763-2111
CONNECTICUT December 11. NOFA’s Annual Gathering of Organic Land Care Professionals. Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, CT. ctnofa.org
GEORGIA January 11-14, 2018. Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference. Savannah, GA. seregionalconference.com
ILLINOIS December 8-10. New Farmer U. Streator Baptist Camp, Streator, IL. newfarmeru.org January 10-12. Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference. Crowne Plaza, Springfield, IL. specialtygrowers. org or 309-557-2107
INDIANA December 7-8. National Conference on Cover Crop and Soil Health: “Harvesting the Potential.” Indianapolis, IN. swcs.org
IOWA January 19-20, 2018. 2018 Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference. Scheman Building, Ames, IA. practicalfarmers.org or 515-232-5661
KENTUCKY January 9-12, 2018. 26th Annual National No-Tillage Conference: Building Profitable No-Till Systems. Louisville, KY. no-tillfarmer.com/nntc
MARYLAND January 11-13, 2018. Future Harvest CASA’s Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed 19th Annual Conference. College Park Marriott, Hyattsville, MD. futureharvestcasa.org/conference/2018conference or 410-549-7878
MASSACHUSETTS December 5-7. Community Food Systems Conference. Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, MA. nesfp.org/community-foodsystems-conference-2017
MICHIGAN December 5-7. Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo. Grand Rapids, MI. glexpo.com
MINNESOTA December 1-2. Feast! Local Foods Marketplace. Mayo Civic Center, Rochester, MN. localfeast.org February 10, 2018. Sustainable Farming Association Annual Conference. College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN. sfamn.org/conference
MISSISSIPPI November 29-December 1. Grazier’s Marketing School with Joel Salatin and Sheri Salatin. Jackson, MS. stockmangrassfarm er.com or 800-748-9808 January 29-31, 2018. Grassroots of Grazing School with Jim Gerrish. Jackson, MS. stockmangrass farmer.com or 800-748-9808
NEVADA January 9-13, 2018. 2018 American Beekeeping Federation Conference & Tradeshow. Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, NV. abfconference.com
NEW JERSEY January 27-28, 2018. 2018 NOFA-NJ Winter Conference. Rutgers Douglass Student Center, New Brunswick, NJ. nofanj.org or 908-371-1111
NEW YORK January 19-21, 2018. NOFANY 2018 Winter Conference: Health People, Healthy Planet. Saratoga Hilton & City Center, Saratoga Springs, NY. nofany.org
OHIO December 5-6. Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag University. Hyatt Regency Columbus, Columbus, OH. acresusa.com/events or 800355-5313 December 5-8. Acres U.S.A. 2017 Eco-Ag Conference and Trade Show. Hyatt Regency Columbus, Columbus, OH. acres usa.com/events or 800-355-5313 February 15-17, 2018. OEFFA’s 39th Annual Conference: A Taste for Change. Dayton Convention Center, Dayton, OH. oeffa.org
OREGON February 14-17, 2018. Organic Seed Growers Conference. Corvallis, OR. seedalliance.org/ conference
PENNSYLVANIA December 13. PASA Education Event-High Tunnel Production Intensive. Mercer County Extension Office, Mercer, PA. pasafarming.org/events December 14. PASA Education Event-Tomato Production Intensive. Mercer County Extension Office, Mercer, PA. pasafarming. org/events January 9, 2018. PASA Education Event-QuickBooks Training for Diversified Vegetable Farms. Chatham University Eden Hall Campus, Gibsonia, PA. pasafa rming.org/events
RHODE ISLAND December 3. NOFA-RI Advanced Growers Seminar. Hope & Main Building, Warren, RI. nofari.org
SOUTH DAKOTA January 25-27, 2018. 2018 Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS) Winter Conference. Best Western Ramkota, Aberdeen, SD. npsas. org or 701-883-4304
TENNESSEE December 1-3. Tennessee Local Food Summit. Hosted by Barefoot Farmer, Red Boiling Springs, TN. tnlocalfood.com January 17-20, 2018. Southern SAWG Conference 2018. Chattanooga Convention Center, Chattanooga, TN. ssawg.org
UTAH January 12-13, 2018. Utah Farm Conference. South West Applied Technology, South Cedar City, UT. utahfarmconference.org
WASHINGTON January 19-20. 6th Annual Cascadia Grains Conference. Olympia, WA. cascadiagrains.com
WISCONSIN December 7-8. 2017 Midwest CSA Conference. Chula Vista Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI. midwestcsa.com
CANADA December 5-7. 2017 Western Canada Conference on Soil Health & Grazing. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. absoilgrazing. com
INTERNATIONAL December 4-5. Annual Congress on Soil Sciences: Awareness on Innovation s in Soil Science and Soil Management Challenges. Madrid, Spain. soilscience.confer enceseries.com
List your eco-ag meetings and seminars here. Submit specifics at least 2-3 months in advance to email@example.com or call 800-355-5313.
December 2017 111
MEET AN ECO-FARMER
Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change? David figured out in his early 20s that sustainable agriculture/organic farming felt like the most meaningful and satisfying way he could devote his talent and time. I (Katie) was always open to the idea of farming, as the daughter of a conventional citrus farmer. We met at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where David had traveled to study Agroecology in their Environmental Studies program. As a native Californian with many generations of citrus, cattle and walnut farming behind me, I was open to farming, but not open to leaving my home state and family. It took some finagling to get me out of state, but the years have proven that David’s home state of Texas, and the capitol area of Austin especially, was a perfect place to start an organic farm and help bring sustainably grown food up a notch. The early ’90s were a great time to start this venture where we did. While the Austin food scene wasn’t ready for us to sell locally grown produce to restaurant chefs yet, like we had hoped it would be after our experiences selling in the San Francisco Bay area, that time would eventually come. In 1994 we had to change our plan and instead started our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) service, now the longest-running CSA in Texas, and possibly all the South. What do you enjoy most about farming? For David, this would be the work itself of growing food: the seeding, 112 Acres U.S.A.
Farmers: David & Katie Kraemer Pitre Farm size: 85 acres Year established: 1993 Number of years farming: 25 for ourselves, and another 5 before that Years reading Acres U.S.A.: 25-plus Products: Vegetables, berries, melons, pastured pork from time to time Certifications: Certified Organic by Nature’s International Certification Services Contact: tecolotefarm.net; 512-276-7008
transplanting, planting, cultivating, weeding, hoeing, harvesting. For me, it’s the community aspect and the happiness and nourishment it brings our CSA customers, farmers’ market customers and restaurant partners. We had a tornado hit the farm and do a lot of damage to uninsured outbuildings in February 2017. The outpouring of love and assistance from our farmer friends, CSA members, restaurant partners and market network created the deepest feeling of community strength that we’d ever experienced. What is your biggest current challenge? W e have always struggled with labor because our season has a short break in the winter when we don’t tend to have enough work to keep a full crew here year-round.Training new people each year is challenging and makes it difficult to reduce our own inputs. As we age, and our business grows, it would be handy to have a manager who could take on some of the responsibility of running the farm.
Tecolote Farm Manor, Texas
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming? From a fellow farmer: “Success in farming is a moving target.” Don’t get stale. Our own advice, on which we’ve based our practices, and to which we’ll give those interested in learning, is this: Always feel good about what you’re selling. If you have good post-harvest handling practices and only sell what’s fresh and in good shape, you’ll always know that you’re doing the right thing. What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming? Youth are excited about farming and are showing innovative approaches in urban farming, cooperative efforts and a can-do, creative approach. The Earth needs you! Submit your farm story. If published, receive a $50 gift card: acresusa.com/meet-an-eco-farmer or call 1-800-355-5313.
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