Organic Broadcaster | Spring 2024 | Volume 32, Issue 2

Page 30

Recognizing The gReaT Lakes inTeRTRibaL Food coaLiTion

lAmbinG seAson with PRAiRie folk fARm And mAPle hill fARm

AdvocAcy in Action: Reflections on nsAc lobby dAy

two imPoRtAnt lessons foR GRowinG tomAtoes in GReenhouses

sPRinG 2024
2 32

Who We aRe

Marbleseed, formerly known as MOSES, is a nonprofit committed to supporting the Midwest’s organic and sustainable farmers through farmer-led events and educational resources that help your farm grow.

oRganic bRoadcasTeR conTRibUToRs

Are you passionate about organic and regenerative farming? Want to write for the Organic Broadcaster? Send your pitch to jo.facklam@marbleseed.org. Please include an intro about yourself and a few paragraphs about the article you’d like to write.

Marbleseed was founded by a small group of farmers who gathered in the dead of winter to share knowledge, connect over production methods and build community together. In 1992, they published the first edition of the Organic Broadcaster—a publication for organic farmers, by organic farmers A donation to Marbleseed helps us continue to foster farmer-to-farmer learning, through resources and publications like the Organic Broadcaster.

By donating to Marbleseed, you become an essential part of our mission to foster the growth of this remarkable community and directly support resources like this magazine! Together, we can sow the seeds of a more sustainable and resilient future for farmers in the Midwest.

Donate online at marbleseed.org/donate or by mail to PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767.

in this issue Letter from the Executive Director 3 Recognizing The Great Lakes Intertribal Food Coalition 4 Building Bridges with Organic Farming: La Crosse Distilling Co. at Marbleseed 6 Reflecting on the Marbleseed Conference as a Staff Member and First Time Attendee 8 Turning transition anxieties into solutionsTurning Transition Anxieties into Solutions 10 Advocacy in Action: Reflections on NSAC Lobby Day 12 Two Important Lessons for Growing Tomatoes in Greenhouses 14 Find a Crop Insurance Agent Who Sells Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Near You 21 Lambing Season with Prairie Folk Farm and Maple Hill Farm 25 Book Review: Barons: Money, Power, and the Corruption of America’s Food Industry. 30 Unconferencing at the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference 36 Classifieds 46
Editor: Jo Facklam Graphic Designer: Jake Luck Advertising Coordinator: Jo Facklam & Sophia Cleveland Digital Content Producer: Jo Facklam The Organic Broadcaster is a quarterly magazine published by Marbleseed. Opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher. Inclusion of an advertisement does not imply endorsement of a product. Content may be reprinted with permission. Display Advertising: advertising@marbleseed.org Classified Advertising: classifieds@marbleseed.org Subscription: Manage your subscription by emailing info@marbleseed.org coVeR PhoTo cRediT: Hilgendorf Farms Welcome, MN

From The execuTive DirecTor

Someone recently said that organic farmers are the true climate heroes. When we gathered in LaCrosse for our 35th Anniversary of the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference the weather seemed to shine upon us. This after the conference in 2023 was kicked off in the midst of a terrible ice storm. Farmers have always talked weather. In all of the things we cannot control in our farming operations, they all lead us back to “too much rain, not enough rain, too much rain at the wrong time, extreme heat, extreme cold, early blossoms, winds that knock those blossoms loose. Almanacs, wives tales, the cycles of the moon, we do what we can to feel like we have some control.

So much of what we do in organic systems is prevention. We build healthy soils to feed plants, graze our animals, enabling them space, forage variety, and fresh air to prevent disease. We recognize that our farms are ecosystems that foster mutual benefits for the planet, animals and people. We save seeds and breed livestock that thrive in the unique environments that are our farms. We work toward being truly regenerative, nurturing fertility that comes from leaning into co-dependence.

Our conference in 2024 celebrated this mindset and the practices that go with it. Over our three days of gathering, we covered all of these topics and more through formal content workshops, as well as farmerled conversations and sharing at the Farmer Summit, the lunch time round table discussions, and the final convergence. The Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference has truly embraced the ecosystem approach, with opportunities for farmers to connect on topics relevant to all farms. And we know we need each other, to learn from and find common ground and concerns.

Watch our e-news and the Ag Solidarity Network for opportunities to provide your feedback on conference content and structure. We want to hear from you where you feel we add the most value to the farmer education ecosystem.

Another thing I am looking forward to this spring is Wisconsin hosting the National Organic Standards Board meeting in Milwaukee at the end of April. It is a great opportunity to witness and take part in the community feedback to the NOSB and the National

Organic Program. Organic embraces continuous improvement and integrity. This is the process that allows us to weigh in on both!

We had sessions on the upcoming (hopefully) Farm Bill at the conference and the hopes we have for codifying some of the amazing investments we have seen in organic and local food systems these past couple of years. I hope that as you read this issue, we are close to getting this accomplished.

As we now have the conference in the rearview mirror and are reflecting on all that we learned in 2024, we turn our attention to spring, a new season and the next opportunities to gather on farms and events that will unfold with the coming of summer. Being out in fields and seeing these whole-system approaches to farms first-hand is always rewarding. I am always amazed by what I learn, and how often it is not what I thought I would.

Our own Climate Smart partnership with OFARM, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and Tennessee State University will soon start enrolling organic field crop farmers and get out to farms to take soil samples. We hope to demonstrate that organic is climate smart! Reach out or come to a field day if you are interested in learning more.

Like so many of the hot topics at this year’s conference that impact us all, concern about the warming planet and climate change, demonstrated by tornadoes in winter, have become our shared reality. We know that organic farming IS the way forward toward a healthier food and farming system. At the conference we sowed the seeds of learning together as we head into spring. I hope you enjoy reading about some of these in this issue and continue to engage in learning and contributing to our shared wisdom through the Ag Solidarity Network or attending a field day.

To the renewal of spring,

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Letter from the Executive Director

Recognizing

The Great Lakes Intertribal Food Coalition (GLIFC) received the 2024 Marbleseed Changemaker of the Year award for strengthening the intertribal food system by supplying Tribal Elder Food Boxes to all 11 federally recognized Tribes in Wisconsin. The 35th Annual Marbleseed Conference in LaCrosse, Wisconsin recognized these efforts. Gary Besaw, Director of the Menominee Tribe’s Department of Agriculture

and Food Systems accepted the award on behalf of GLIFC and remarked “Re-establishing intertribal commerce allows Tribes to support each other in regional and localized food systems that provide Native communities assurance that foods are medicine when grown in ways that protect our lands”. Gary also says, “The Great Lakes Intertribal Food Coalition is one of the steps necessary for Indigenous agriculturalists to come

together not only find a ready market for their sustainably-grown and harvested foods, it also is intended to feed healthy foods to tribal populations that truly need this quality food. It is also part of our response to combating climate change and preparing our communities for food chain disruptions”.

The Tribal Elder Food Box Program began in 2021, delivering a total of 10,800 boxes to three Tribal communities; Oneida Nation,

Organic Broadcaster | 4
Photo Credit: Justine Bursoni
The gReaT Lakes inTeRTRibaL Food coaLiTion

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin. There are two goals for the program; 1) Provide nutritious and culturally relevant foods to Tribal Elders, and 2) Support Indigenous, local, and small-scale farmers and food producers. In 2021, the program purchased food from seven Indigenous food producers and were able to purchase wild rice, beef, bison, lettuce, fish, and apples. In 2023 the program purchased food from 23 Indigenous food producers, as well as 32 non-indigenous food producers. Products have also been expanded to include Tuscarora White Corn mush flour, maple syrup and sugar, teas blends, elk, venison, and more vegetables.

As the program grew, the network of tribes, agencies, and food banks also grew. The result has become the basis for a larger and more robust Indigenous food network supported by many partner agencies. This network became the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Coalition (GLIFC) in 2023. GLIFC is a young organization but has accomplished many things in a short amount of time. GLIFC has been awarded several grants from state, federal, and private agencies. What has been unique in their efforts, is a coordinated strategy new to the tribal food sovereignty world on a regional scale. Many Tribes in the Great Lakes region have food sovereignty programs that include local community gardens, food processing classes, harvesting events, and much more. GLIFC member tribes are working together to strategize what Great Lakes Tribes can achieve at a regional level. GLIFC tribes discuss what funding, equipment, and infrastructure tribal communities need and how they can be shared between tribes. Capacity like warehousing, cold storage, refrigerated trucks, acres in production, and food processing capabilities are of primary focus. One outcome GLIFC is reaching toward is an Indigenous Agriculture Cooperative that would buy product wholesale from small-scale producers throughout the region.

Another goal of GLIFC’s is to support Indigenous food producers in ways that many state or federal grants do not. GLIFC has funding that Indigenous producers can apply for that will help with purchasing things like seed, fertilizer, processing machines, labelers, wash and pack systems, chicken tractors, etc.

Another goal of GLIFC is to provide culturally relevant foods that are sometimes hard to access. One example is wild rice. Hand harvesting Wild Rice, toasting it over a fire, separating the rice from the chaff, and winnowing the rice is extremely labor intensive. Many Tribal Elders do not have access to hand harvested Wild Rice. Another example is the

Tuscarora White Corn mush flour. Equally as labor intensive, the corn is planted, tended, and then harvested by hand. Next, the corn is shelled, toasted, and then ground. The mush flour can be cooked as a breakfast cereal, similar to oatmeal. This is another product that is hard to come by. The Tribal Elder Food Box Program provides these foods to Elders who perhaps haven’t had them for many years, or have never had their ancestral foods. When people have access to their traditional foodways, that can lead to culture and language learning, healthier lifestyles, and a return to a sustainable food system that’s healthier for the planet. While it does all those amazing things, it also supports Indigenous and/or local food producers!

As already noted, it takes a number of agencies and organizations to make the TEFBP work. The program would not be possible without it’s dedicated partners including; Bad River Band of Lake Superior, HoChunk Nation, Forest County Potawatomi Indian Community, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior, Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior, Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, StockbridgeMunsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Saint Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, Sokaogon Chippewa (Mole Lake), Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, Feeding America National Organization, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and HealthTide. GLIFC also thanks all the hardworking and passionate food producers in the region. The work you do is making a difference and it is important. There are many more that have helped GLIFC on this journey and there will be many more to come. GLIFC is grateful for all the amazing, talented, and dedicated people who travel this journey with us.

Jen Falck (Oneida Nation) works for the Menominee Tribe’s Department of Agriculture & Food Systems as a program coordinator. Her current projects include the Wisconsin Tribal Elder Food Box Program, developing a Menominee Food Code, and helping to rebuild Menominee foodways. Jen and her husband manage Kahulahele Farmstead, an 8 acre farmstead which focuses on food sovereignty, restorative agriculture, conscious animal husbandry, building community, and resilience through bartering.

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bUiLding bRidges WiTh oRganic FaRming

La CrosseDistilling Co. at Marbleseed

Our recent participation in the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference was a powerful reminder of the importance of building bridges between businesses and local organic farmers. At La Crosse Distilling Co., we take pride in crafting exceptional spirits and cuisine while remaining true to our core values. One of those core values is a deep commitment to sustainability, which we believe goes hand-in-hand with creating high-quality products using organic sourcing. The Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference resonated deeply with our mission. We believe in supporting local, organic agriculture and minimizing our environmental footprint. Connecting with fellow businesses and farmers at the conference allowed us to share our story, learn from others who share our vision – and enjoy tastings of our spirits.

From Seed to Spirit: Building a Sustainable Future with Organic Partnerships

From our inception, our devotion to environmental protection has been the driver behind many of, if not all of our core business decisions. This passion has taken life in many forms our Driftless Pure promise ultimately shapes the partnerships we have forged, the grains we procure, and the products we produce. The market for organic distilled spirits is small, but growing. As we forge forward with our mission to produce environmentally conscious distilled spirits, we are grateful to have a consumer facing platform to advance the conversation around organic farming forward.

PaRTneRshiPs ThRoUgh shaRed Passion and ReciPRociTy

We met Patrick McHugh and his family in 2017. Immediately we felt connected through our shared

passion for the ethical treatment of land and the importance of co-evolving as a people in harmony with the natural environment. Patrick quickly became an invaluable resource for us as we collaborated with him to select the specific heirloom corn varietals he would grow for our Buck Dancer Straight Bourbon Whiskey. With his extensive farming background, he was able help us select heirloom corn that had commercial availability and could be grown locally given our climate and growth period. We must have experimented with at least 50 corn varietals before selecting the heirloom red corn we currently use in our mash bill. Having a shared ethos allowed us to innovate together building synergies within our operations that are mutually beneficial to our businesses.

Patrick McHugh and his family operate a thriving farm, using organic no-till methods to cultivate openpollinated, heirloom grains that we use specifically for our production. These heritage grains not only lend a distinctive character and flavor profiles that define our spirits. Our partnership extends far beyond simply sourcing the organic grains and has become a mutually beneficial collaboration between our operations. In a true closed-loop system, we return the spent grains (stillage) from our distillation process to McHugh Farms, where Patrick converts the stillage into organic fertilizer and livestock feed. The fertilizer is used to nourishing the soil for our grains. This exemplifies the kind of full-circle collaboration Marbleseed promotes – one that benefits both businesses, the environment, and the future of sustainable agriculture.

cReaTing a PLaTFoRm FoR oRganic FaRm ThRoUgh oUR bRand sToRy

All good brands have a story. We choose this path for the good story, although we do have to recognize that our products have become a platform for creating conversations about environmental sustainability, organic farming, and pollinator protection. We cannot talk about our products without talking about our farmers, without sharing our passion for process to which we grow our grains. But is it more than just talk, when people taste our spirits they themselves get to experience the value of ethically grown grains through wonderfully distinct flavor profiles found in our spirits.

bUiLding a sUsTainabLe FUTURe TogeTheR

Our commitment to organic practices and partnerships like those with Marbleseed and local farms are testaments to the power of shared vision. By showcasing the benefits of organic ingredients, local partnerships, and a sustainable approach, we can inspire a shift. This shift prioritizes sustainability, ethical sourcing, and the creation of high-quality products that respect both the land and the consumer. We encourage other businesses to follow suit. Partner with organic farms in your area, explore the benefits of local sourcing, and embrace sustainable practices.

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aboUT La cRosse disTiLLing comPany

La Crosse Distilling Co. is a craft distillery producing certified organic spirits. Our entire operation is centered around environmentally sustainable practices. Our facility is geothermal powered. We partner with local family farmers to source the organic grains and raw ingredients. We repurpose our spent grains into feed for livestock –and offer opportunities to repurpose spent barrels by partnering with local and regional breweries.

Our production facility in La Crosse is also home to our restaurant, micro-brewery and event space. Our farmto-table menu features scratch-made delights including options for those with dietary restriction and preferences. La Crosse Brewing Co. offers a revolving menu of sustainably produced house-beers. La Crosse Distilling Co. is a desirable destination for events of all sizes and types.

Lexi Dehmer is a graduating senior at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, on track to receive her bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She works with a regional economic development organization and La Crosse Distilling co. She enjoys traveling and finding new running trails on the weekends.

7 | Marbleseed.org
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ReFLecTing on The maRbLeseed conFeRence as a sTaFF membeR and FiRsT Time aTTendee

When I mentioned that this would be my first time as a staff member assisting with the Marbleseed conference everyone was so excited, albeit nervous, for me. When I added to this by saying I had never personally attended the Marbleseed Conference, even in my five years of being an honorary Wisconsinite who is working in agriculture, that excitement grew tenfold. People would beam to me that Marbleseed is an incredibly special conference; that the learning, socializing, and pure enrichment of the conference space is like nothing I would have experienced prior.

I was looking forward to seeing what makes the Marblseed Organic Farming Conference so special and

why it sparked fond memories for so many organic farmers, educators, advocates, and others. Before the conference even started, it was easy for me to see why this is a widely known and appreciated conference, the care that goes into the planning is meticulous and thoughtful. The time and consideration that goes into planning is worth it once the happy and excited crowds of people descended upon the La Crosse. I loved watching reunions occur between attendees; laughs and hugs filled the entry hall as farmer friends had moments to catch up, compare notes, and attend sessions together.

As a new staff member, I found that the most valuable part of the conference was finally being able to meet

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Photo Credit: Justine Bursoni

in-person with so many friendly colleagues that I often see only in the virtual world. As much as I love working in sweatpants with a purring cat at my side, there is no doubt that the time we spend in-person is valuable and appreciated. Gathering makes a difference, not only in getting tangible work done but also in fostering relationships and moving innovative ideas forward. I noticed that everyone comes to Marbleseed with a level of excitement and vigor that cannot be recreated in home offices or alone in the field. I found that the conference works to leverage community in a physical space that is overflowing with change makers and lifelong learners, with the result being an overflowing passion for organic agriculture and the acknowledgement of the exciting journey ahead.

I am especially grateful to have had the time to meet with the partner organizations who are assisting with the execution of our Climate Smart Commodities grant. This grant is focused on incorporating and expanding climate smart techniques into organic grain production. The team is so excited, and moderately anxious, to get this grant up and running so that it can create real impact for organic grain producers. The meeting we had at the Marbleseed conference as a team was important to establish goals and realign the project vision as well as get to know one another, which builds the trust necessary to deliver on a grant of this size and impact.

Additionally, as the Northwest coordinator for Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) I was delighted and impressed by the In Her Boots session. I usually don’t have a smile on my face when having to carry cumbersome chairs, but I did so gladly knowing that the WiWiC room was packed! There were so many women farmers, landowners, and conservationist who introduced themselves and discussed how they are making a positive impact on their land and community. We were able to celebrate each other’s conservation achievements, as well as understand the stressors that come with being a landowner. The space was full of energy, excitement, and cute boots!

Admittedly, I did not make it to many full sessions to further knowledge on emerging technologies or organic practice tips and tricks but I made the most of the informal sessions and conversations that occurred because of shared interests or goals. Thank you to everyone who I connected with; I was reminded that I am not only a Marbleseed staff member but also someone who farms and loves talking shop. And an even bigger thank you to those who showed me pictures of their cows or the obscure vegetables that were also their phone background.

Although some moments felt exhausting, the conference flew by and the exhaustion I felt was simply because I was not drinking enough chocolate milk. I left La Crosse feeling more connected to my coworkers and the organic community that I hope to impact through the Marbleseed Conference and grant funded programming. In conclusion, I will quote a team member

who said: “When I first met you online, I thought, geez, she needs to get out more!” I am glad that I could prove to some people that my online presence is far different than my in-person vibe, however, I exhausted my social battery for the remainder of 2024, but look forward to seeing everyone next year!

Mercedes Talvitie is the Climate and Conservation Program Manager for Marbleseed. She works on the Climate Smart Commodities grant and is the NW regional coordinator for WiWiC. If you are interested in either of these programs, please contact her at mercedes.talvitie@ marbleseed.org or 715-309-5918 x707

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TURning TRansiTion anxieTies inTo soLUTions

Farm transitions bring up a lot of emotions. The person entering farming might be filled with excitement for the future, mixed with dread that they won’t land the right opportunity. The person exiting the business might feel satisfaction and relief alongside a heavy dose of anxiety that their purpose is about to be lost.

Most people react to the negative emotions by suppressing them. “If I could just forget about these anxieties, things would be easier,” we think. There’s a potentially more helpful path forward. Our fears and concerns have something to teach us. When we listen to what our emotions are telling us, we can learn important things.

Naturally, our anxieties point us to the importance of a good plan. Creating a plan can dispel anxiety by giving us a measure of control. Yet, our anxieties can do even more. They can point us to the appropriate legal tools to move forward. It’s true! Although an attorney is a necessary part of many farm transitions, farmers are perfectly suited to articulating their goals and identifying the prospective legal tools to achieve them.

Let’s explore three examples of how transition anxieties can point us to an appropriate legal tool that addresses the concern. Farmer April is worried that her successor farmer won’t have enough insight into April’s business strategy to carry the operation forward. Farmer May is concerned about long-term care, and she doesn’t want to have to sell her farm’s assets to the highest bidder to pay for it.

Farmer June, by contrast, is mostly worried that the future farmer won’t preserve the conservation practices she worked hard to implement.

Starting with Farmer June; perhaps she plans to pass on the farmland to a nephew she loves and trusts. But let’s say June also worries that the nephew might be tempted to plow up out her restored 40-acre prairie if the operation hits a rough patch. If June sells the land to her nephew outright or if she leaves it to him in her will, this risk is real. When the nephew becomes the owner of the farm property, he takes with it all the rights and responsibilities of ownership…— including the right to plow as he wishes.

June’s worries about conservation might be prompting her to consider a trust. The fundamental legal function of a trust is to split the power of decision-making away from the ability to benefit from an asset. Usually, if you own something, you can make whatever decision you want as to how you will benefit from the asset. But when an asset is placed in a trust, that changes. Now, the decisionmaking responsibility falls to the trustee. But, the trustee generally cannot manage the trust for their own benefit! Instead, the trustee is obligated to manage the asset in a way that benefits someone else: the beneficiary.

How might that work for June? For example, June could create a trust to hold her farmland. The nephew could be the beneficiary. The trust could be required to rent the land to the nephew at a discounted market rate, for example, so long as he farms. But, the trust could also require that the tenant follow certain conservation practices. The trustee would be in charge of making sure the rules are followed. (Of course, June has other options including a conservation easement or subdividing and gifting the prairie portion of the land to a conservancy.) Trusts also don’t last forever, but this solution could work for June’s goals.

When many people think of trusts they think of avoiding probate. (Probate is a court-managed process

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Photo Credit: Plymouth Orchard, Plymouth, MI

to ensure assets are transferred fairly to survivors). Often trusts do achieve that goal often, but it isn’t their fundamental characteristic. When assets are put into a trust, they are no longer the property of the individual. They are the property of the trust. The trust does not die like an individual does- and so the property within it doesn’t go through probate. The fundamental characteristic remains—the ownership of the asset is separated from the ability to benefit from the asset.

Let’s turn to Farmer May. If she doesn’t have insurance or other non-farm assets to pay for long-term care, she may need Medicare to cover it. Folks qualify for Medicare in part based on the value of the assets they own. If May owns farm assets, she is expected to use her resources to pay for her long-term care needs just like non-farmers are also expected to do. But, recall an essential legal characteristic of a trust? It’s to separate ownership of the asset from the ability to benefit from it. Farmer May might consider putting her farm assets into a trust. Then, not owning them any more herself, she may qualify for Medicare. Now, May will need to see an attorney to do this right- the trust must be irrevocable and she must do this at least 5 years before she needs to rely on the Medicare coverage! At this point, it’s enough to recognize that May’s fears are pointing her to a trust as a possible solution.

What about Farmer April? She’s worried about ensuring her business successor has the decision-making chops to handle a dynamic business. A trust and a will don’t seem to offer her much- she isn’t aren’t trying to extend maximum control to or to limit the control of the successor. Instead, we might look at the farm’s bylaws, partnership agreement, or operating agreement. These governance documents outline how an enterprise makes important decisions. April could use her governance document to strategically transfer decision-making authority to her successor while she is still a part of the business. That way, she can monitor his success and provide valuable guidance within an organized, legally enforceable framework.

Naturally, a legal tool can never tell us what we should do. Legal tools offer up what we can do; the choice of what we should do is ours. Farmers April, May and June have powerful decisions ahead of them. Considering their legal options is just one part of how they make that decision. Farmers looking for more guidance on legal tools for business succession should check out Farm Commons’ newly released guide: Wills, Trusts, and Business Structures for Farm Succession. It has worksheets and detailed information help farmers get a lead on the right options for their situation through self-reflection.

Rachel Armstrong is the Executive Director of Farm Commons. She founded and directs Farm Commons, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering agricultural communities to resolve their legal vulnerabilities within an ecosystem of support. ©

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adVocacy in acTion: ReFLecTions on nsac Lobby day

In February, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) hosted their annual Lobby Day in DC. The policy team from the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) attended. This article is written by OFRF’s Policy & Communications Intern, Annika LaFave, sharing highlights from the meeting-filled lobby day and key takeaways for putting advocacy into action.

Earlier this month, I had the exciting opportunity to participate in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Lobby Day. As the Policy and Communications intern for the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and a recent newcomer to national agriculture advocacy, I have gained a deeper understanding of the Farm Bill and Appropriations processes and still have more to learn.

Our lobby day goals were to discuss the significance of the organic industry and how legislation like the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research Act (SOAR Act), Organic Research and Science Investment Act (OSRI Act), Continuous Improvement & Accountability in Organic Standards (CIAO), and Opportunities in Organic Act can address common challenges organic producers face. As anticipated, the lobby day underscored the vital role advocates play in conveying farmers’ needs to lawmakers.

Appreciating the intricacies of sustainable agriculture and the barriers farmers face requires a personal connection or lived experience. I was reassured to learn that many congressional agriculture committee staffers seem to “get it” and even have ties to farming in their backgrounds. It is reassuring to know that even with the appearance of continued inaction, there are internal agriculture champions working to help bridge the gap where lawmakers lack such a connection. One thing that stood out to me was the level of transparency staffers had when

speaking about the status of the upcoming (delayed) Farm Bill and Appropriations negotiations.

UniFying naTURe oF agRicULTURe and Food

In a tumultuous global landscape grappling with climate change, social inequities, and political unrest, we all share a collective need for safe and reliable healthy food access. In this lies a belief widely held by many farmers and consumers regardless of party affiliation: a resilient food system is one that values conservation, ecologically-sound practices, human and animal welfare, and equitable access to basic needs. In most of our eight meetings with congressional staffers from both political parties, there was consensus that the needs of our vulnerable farms and food systems must be addressed. For me, these earnest interactions confirmed that sustainable agriculture, encompassing organic and regenerative practices, seems to have recognition as a nonpartisan bright spot in a difficult Congress.

PRioRiTizing FaRmeR-dRiVen ReseaRch ThRoUgh LegisLaTion

A recurring topic of conversation in our meetings was how organic agriculture research overlaps with the needs of nonorganic producers. If we relate food systems policy initiatives to formative research principles and humancentered design, it’s clear that research objectives and dissemination methods should explicitly fit the needs and capacity of the “end user”. While trending techresearch exploring artificial intelligence and precision agriculture has the potential to transform our foodscape, it is essential that we recognize the immediate limitations of small and mid-sized producers’ ability to access such technologies. I appreciate the University of South Dakota’s researchers’ policy advice to approach agriculture research

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Photo Credit: Valley Organic Farm, Spring Valley, MN

with a social justice framework, ensuring that we do not leave behind the farming communities most in need. Amid the complex challenges we face in today’s food system, we must prioritize farmer-centered approaches to address wicked problems.

The research sector represents an ever-important industry whose work directly impacts the economic and working lives of farmers and rural communities. It is essential that investments in agriculture research reflect both the economic and production needs of the farmers it aims to support. One particularly salient issue is the dwindling number of new small and midsize farmers— how can advocates and researchers best meet the needs of smallholder and beginning farmers, and ensure that they have a viable path forward?

81% of BIPOC farmers and 63% of beginning farmers surveyed in OFRF’s 2022 National Organic Research Agenda specified that “managing production costs’’ is a significant production challenge. Among non-production challenges, “accessing labor” and “finding and developing markets for organic products’’ were among the top concerns for all surveyed farming demographics. A study from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) on the Profit Potential of Certified Organic Field Crop Production and University of Vermont’s study on labor management decisions for small and mid-sized farms are just two examples of how federally-funded research can address these key challenges.

cLosing ThoUghTs

Advocating for farmers requires more than rhetoric; it requires tangible action and systemic change. Following the lobby day meetings, I feel inspired to dig deeper into USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) local food systems and organic production data as a means of informing my own advocacy work. You can get involved too, simply by calling your Representative and Senators to ask their offices to check in on the status of Organic Research in the upcoming Farm Bill and Appropriations negotiations. You can find their contact info here! Small actions by many people are what make this work possible. And if you’re interested in getting more involved, reach out to Gordon at gordon@ofrf.org!

Annika La Fave (she/her/hers) joins the OFRF team as the Fall 2023 policy & communications intern. Annika is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, focusing on public health communications & food systems policy.

Annika began farming in 2010 while completing her B.A. in Education at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She has since had a varied career in sustainable agriculture raising livestock, vegetables, and cut-flowers, teaching organic farming and small business management at Clackamas Community College, founding her own small vegetable farm business promoting food equity in partnership with Oregon Health & Science University, and, most recently, managing Baltimore County’s Agricultural Center.

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TWo imPoRTanT Lessons FoR

gRoWing TomaToes in gReenhoUses

In the north, growing tomatoes can be challenging. As someone who has farmed in Vermont for the last 43 years, I turned to greenhouses. When I began, I was virtually alone in the Northeast. Now there are MANY of us growing in some kind of season extension, from floating row covers to the simplest unheated plastic tunnels to the fanciest glass

greenhouses. Here is my journey and a bit of what I have learned.

I began growing tomatoes in the crudest of greenhouses. It was 1984, and there were only two other tomato greenhouses in New England at the time. I was guided by a booklet I had borrowed from Eliot Coleman entitled “Organic Food Production Under Glass” written by an English grower named

Doug Blair. It described his journey across Europe investigating what other organic growers were doing in greenhouse production.

These were my first lessons in greenhouse production. I was in my fourth year as a vegetable grower. I finally owned some land so I could build a crude greenhouse. Following Doug’s instructions, I made my first compost pile. It was a little late, so I

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Photo Credit: Dave Chapman Whitefly strategy in a greenhouse

made it inside my first greenhouse, hoping to provide the fertility for the coming tomato crop.

The greenhouse, the compost, and the tomato crop were all a disaster. The greenhouse swayed mightily in the wind, and it was too low to properly trellis the tomatoes. The compost pile was too carbonaceous and unfinished. When I tilled it into the ground, the following tomato crop was so nitrogen-deprived that it

I can’t sum all that up in 2000 words. It is my intention to release a virtual Tomato Masterclass this November to share what I have learned.

But for this article, let me list two big lessons.

The Fi R s T b ig Lesson: m ake a P L an

Photo Credit: Seven Songs Organic Farm, Kenyon, MN
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Photo Credit: Uproot Farm

ended up with a 20-page document on what to do to prevent whitefly. This became the beginning of a large document that covered spider mites, aphids, irrigation, climate, compost, seeding, and on and on.

I will give a summary of the whitefly strategy here.

The Whi T e FLy sTR aT egy

We do our best to start our season with the greenhouse clean of whitefly. We aren’t doing a chemical knockdown, which is typical in most chemical hydro greenhouses. That means that we need to have a break between crops, and we need to have the greenhouse clear of ALL green plants in that period. No weeds allowed. If we add a little heat, that period can be as short as a week. Adding heat activates the whiteflies, making them active and hungry. They can’t live long without a plant to suck on. If it is very cold, they go into a kind of quiescence where they can last a long time in a state of suspended animation. I have seen a house with frozen ground erupt in whiteflies as soon as it got heated up.

We hang yellow sticky cards in the empty greenhouse and record the new whiteflies trapped on the cards every day, using a black marker to note the whiteflies we have counted. We record these numbers on a spreadsheet.

The whitefly numbers should plummet every day when there is nothing for the adults to feed on. When we are down to zero, we are ready to plant. You can plant into a house with very low numbers. Then you will have some whitefly building a population from the beginning. You can manage that. They might not show up for a long time.

If you are growing a living mulch or a greens crop right up to the day of planting the tomatoes, then this technique of a biological gap won’t work, and you will have to rely on other control techniques, used more aggressively from Day One.

When the young plants are put into the ground, you should continue with weekly recording on the yellow cards. This will happen for the rest of the season. We might have 6 or 8 yellow cards in a 3000 sq ft greenhouse.

They should be hanging near the head of the plant, but not above it. Rather 8 inches below the top of the plant. This is the region of the plant where the whitefly are most active. They like to suck the sap from the most succulent young leaves. That is where they lay their eggs. That is where you want the cards to be monitoring the population. Record the whiteflies on the cards once a week, always on the same day.

You are going to compare the counts from week to week. We record each card on a spreadsheet, and

summarize the total whitefly captured as well as the highest number on a single card, and the total number of cards with at least one whitefly. We are especially interested in the highest count.

If we see a card with over 10 whiteflies for the week, that sets off an alarm bell for us. That is not necessarily a problem, but it is a signal to pay closer attention. All biocontrol is based on creating balance when the problem is SMALL. It is almost hopeless when the pest population is too great. So this requires a great deal of attention to things that don’t seem to be a problem.

Release cards with encarsia formosa every week. Encarsia is a parasitic wasp that lays her eggs in the scales (larval stage) of whitefly. We release encarsia every week, even if we record no whitefly on the yellow cards. We release encarsia as a prophylactic at 2 encarsia per sq meter of greenhouse. As we see an increase of whitefly on the recording cards, we increase the release rate of the persimilis.

It is important to allow the leaves to remain on the plant long enough for the encarsia to mature and hatch-out. It takes a week or two longer for encarsia to hatch out from the parasitized scale than for a whitefly to hatch out from an non parasitized scale. This is important. It means that deleafing too aggressively will destroy your biocontrol. The whiteflies will successfully hatch off the remaining bottom leaves but the encarsia won’t. So deleafing too aggressively will greatly favor the whitefly population over the encarsia population.

Hang long strips of yellow tape vertically around the same height down the middle of the bed between the two rows of plants. We aren’t using this yellow tape to monitor, but rather to control. It works like flypaper. We use 6” to 10” tape. It can be very effective but it MUST be hung at the right height. Keep the top of the yellow tape (running vertically from one end of the greenhouse to the other) about 8” below the top of the plants. This will never be perfect as the tops of the plants keep going up and down as you lower the plants every week.

If you are using some form of sulfur to combat powdery mildew, it will negatively impact your beneficials. It won’t wipe them out, but it will seriously set them back. Sulfur doesn’t seem to affect whiteflies at all. So if you are feeling whitefly pressure and you are vaporizing, dusting, or spraying sulfur, you will need to cut back or discontinue it. Consider using Bacillus Subtilis for the mildew.

This is as much room as we have here for whiteflies, but it illustrates how we set up the strategy document. We try to look at the likely problems, figure out how to prevent them, and create a plan for “Oh Dear” situations where our basic plan didn’t work.

Some of you might wonder what a whitefly is because you have never seen one in your greenhouse. For

17 | Marbleseed.org Two Important Lessons for Growing Tomatoes in Greenhouses

others, you have nightmares of what happened that year when the whitefly population exploded. Know that the longer your crop is in the ground, the greater your chances of having an insect problem. And also the greater your chances of making a living. But also know that these problems can be dealt with proactively with a good plan.

The s econd b ig Lesson: e xecUT e T he P L an

We must have good execution of our good plan. This is the Checklist Manifesto part. We often encounter serious problems with our tomato production because we had a great plan but we didn’t follow it. This is really hard. The original Checklist Manifesto came out of the airline industry to prevent crashes.

Sometimes, we make mistakes. A checklist can help us avoid most of them.

A key part of having a successful crop that provides great food and a good living is discipline; the discipline to force ourselves to follow our excellent plan that we spent all that time creating.

The Tomato Masterclass will go into many more details about creating a plan, implementing a plan, biocontrol for the pests, soil fertility, and most importantly,

creating an optimal climate for whatever style of greenhouse you are growing in.

The gift of a greenhouse is that we can influence (but not control) climate. The plants themselves will be the biggest drivers of the climate. They are alive. They breathe, they transpire, they take up water, they exude photosynthates, they have root pressure (this can be good or bad), they can be overwhelmed by too high a rate of evapotranspiration, or by too low a rate. These are the skills of greenhouse growing.

The Tomato Masterclass is a production of the Real Organic Project and Long Wind Farm. It will meet daily for 5 months. There will be one live session a week for question and answer. The rest will be filmed in our greenhouses. The curriculum is designed to teach someone growing in a small greenhouse how to maximize their production and their profits. We will look at a range of technologies, from an unheated hoop house to a computer controlled, pad and fan ventilated hoop house with pipe rail heating. I hope that you will join us.

Dave Chapman has grown organic tomatoes professionally for over 43 years. He blends his work at Long Wind Farm with his efforts to reignite the organic movement as co-director of the Real Organic Project.

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FARMERS.
Two Important Lessons for Growing Tomatoes in Greenhouses
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Organic Broadcaster | 20
Photo Credit: Hilgendorf Farms - Whole Grain Milling Co., Welcome, MN

Find a cRoP insURance agenT Who seLLs

WhoLe-FaRm ReVenUe PRoTecTion neaR yoU

Republished with permission from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) published a directory of crop insurance agents that specialize in selling Whole-Farm Revenue Protection. This resource - which the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has advocated for – will be an important tool to help farmers locate crop insurance agents who have experience selling WholeFarm Revenue Protection and Micro Farm insurance in their state.

backgRoUnd

The Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program is a novel crop insurance product that offers farmers nationwide the option to insure against revenue loss for their entire operation, including crop, livestock, and nursery production, under a single policy. It is the first insurance policy intended to cover smaller, diversified operations, and even includes a premium discount for crop diversification in recognition of its inherent riskreduction impact. The Micro Farm option within WFRP offers a streamlined insurance product to producers with an average revenue of up to $350,000.

Farmers interested in enrolling in WFRP or Micro Farm often report challenges to finding an insurance agent with sufficient knowledge or desire to sell insurance to smallerscale and diversified operations. Tailoring a WFRP policy to farms that grow a diversity of specialty or organic crops is a more time- and labor-intensive endeavor, and one that agents are not always trained to do.

Despite this common obstacle, a niche market of crop insurance agents has taken root that specializes in selling the product to small, specialty crop, and diverse farmers. RMA’s new directory directing farmers to these agents fulfills an NSAC recommendation to enhance the delivery of the product.

diRecToRy oF agenTs seLLing WFRP

1,135 agents are included on the inaugural list of crop insurance agents that specialize in selling Whole-Farm Revenue Protection. The list of agents from RMA will continue to be updated periodically through April 15, 2024. To be included in the list, crop insurance agents self-identified themselves as willing WFRP and Micro Farm agents. Prior experience selling a WFRP policy was not a prerequisite to inclusion on the list. These agents are licensed to sell in all 50 states, with at least two in every state, and a numerical breakdown by state is below.

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Photo Credit: Brix Orchard, Mount Horeb, WI

State....................................................................Number

of Agents

Alabama............................................................................................23

Alaska...................................................................................................3

Arizona..............................................................................................28

Arkansas............................................................................................17

California..........................................................................................72

Colorado............................................................................................27

Connecticut.........................................................................................7

Delaware............................................................................................11

Florida...............................................................................................38

Georgia..............................................................................................25

Hawaii..................................................................................................9

Idaho..................................................................................................47

Illinois ...............................................................................................30

Indiana..............................................................................................26

Iowa.....................................................................................................31

Kansas...............................................................................................38

Kentucky............................................................................................14

Louisiana...........................................................................................17

Maine....................................................................................................4

Maryland...........................................................................................14

Massachusetts..................................................................................3

Michigan............................................................................................22

Minnesota.........................................................................................28

Mississippi.........................................................................................24

Missouri..............................................................................................25

Montana............................................................................................25

Nebraska...........................................................................................27

Nevada..............................................................................................20

New Hampshire................................................................................2

New Jersey...........................................................................................8

New Mexico.....................................................................................20

New York............................................................................................14

North Carolina................................................................................26

North Dakota..................................................................................38

Ohio....................................................................................................20

Oklahoma........................................................................................29

Oregon...............................................................................................49

Pennsylvania....................................................................................15

Rhode Island......................................................................................3

South Carolina................................................................................17

South Dakota.................................................................................30

Tennessee..........................................................................................23

Texas...................................................................................................45

Utah.....................................................................................................18

Vermont...............................................................................................2

Virginia...............................................................................................22

Washington......................................................................................53

West Virginia......................................................................................5

Wisconsin..........................................................................................22

Wyoming............................................................................................19

imPRoVing WFRP in The FaRm biLL

The most recent, comprehensive analysis of the performance of WFRP can be found in NSAC’s new report, Unsustainable: State of the Farm Safety Net. NSAC has listened to farmers in the fields since the implementation of WFRP and advocated to strengthen the accessibility and performance of the program. This includes ongoing dialogue with USDA to continually improve the product. A new directory of agents selling WFRP is just one of the positive steps RMA has taken in recent years to expand access to the product, and the next farm bill presents another crucial opportunity to introduce reforms needed to overcome persistent barriers.

The Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Program Improvement Act (S.2598) was introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in July 2023 to streamline access to WFRP and strengthen the product for enrolled farmers. The bill currently has nine co-sponsors, most serving on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry: Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), John Fetterman (D-PA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was an original champion who pushed to include the development of WFRP in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The WFRP imPRoVemenT acT WoULd sPeciFicaLLy:

• Authorize the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to carry out research and development to increase crop insurance participation by farmers marketing to local and regional markets.

• Clarify that producers are permitted to enroll in a WFRP plan in addition to other insurance plans.

• Authorize the FCIC to consider expanding the diversification premium discount to farmers that utilize a resource-conserving crop rotation.

• Direct the FCIC to implement several targeted modifications to WFRP design and delivery to improve effectiveness for specialty crops and diversified farms.

• Reduce paperwork burdens by clarifying that Schedule F tax forms are sufficient to establish historic revenue and that agents only may request additional paperwork if tax records are incomplete.

• Prohibit the adjustment of price and production expectations at the time of submission of a loss claim.

• Apply the streamlined application process introduced in the Micro Farm pilot to producers with at least $1 million in gross revenue, to include all small and mid-sized farms as defined by USDA.

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Photo Credit; Peasley Farm, Black River Falls, WI

• Raise the annual 35% limit to historic gross revenue expansion to the lower of 100% or $500,000, to allow beginning and scaling farmers to be insured at a level that keeps pace with rapid operational growth.

• Expand the diversification premium discount to apply to producers with at least 10 commodities, encouraging more diverse farmers to enroll in the program.

• Moderate the impact of disaster years by including Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program payouts as historic gross revenue or by establishing a floor to how much historic gross revenue may fall annually.

• Compensate crop insurance agents appropriately for Whole-Farm Revenue Protection sales in a manner determined by the Secretary, overcoming a key barrier for agents who are reluctant or refuse to sell WFRP policies.

NSAC and our members remain committed to advancing provisions in the next farm bill that will expand access to the farm safety net for producers growing fruits and vegetables to feed their communities.

Organic Broadcaster | 24
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What initially attracted you to this profession? Why lamb?

Prairie Folk Farm There was something that felt intriguing about the pastoralism and folklore surrounding sheep. The ancient craft of shepherding seemed romantic to pursue and it seemed to pair well with being a carpenter. Practical reasons included the ability to rapidly

develop a flock with a small initial investment (twins, triplets!) and the low-cost of sheep infrastructure/handling systems compared to beef cattle. Lastly, the economics penciled out as the best fit for our limited acreage.

Maple Hill Farm We felt it was an ideal animal to raise on a small amount of acreage. Our eldest son

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s eason W i T h P R ai R ie Fo L k Fa R m and m a PL e h i LL Fa R m
Lambing
Lambing Season with Prairie Folk Farm and Maple Hill Farm Photo Credit: Maple Hill Farm
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What initially attracted you to this profession? Why lamb?

Prairie Folk Farm There was something that felt intriguing about the pastoralism and folklore surrounding sheep. The ancient craft of shepherding seemed romantic to pursue and it seemed to pair well with being a carpenter. Practical reasons included the ability to rapidly develop a flock with a small initial investment (twins, triplets!) and the low-cost of sheep infrastructure/handling systems compared to beef cattle. Lastly, the economics penciled out as the best fit for our limited acreage.

Maple Hill Farm We felt it was an ideal animal to raise on a small amount of acreage. Our eldest son was interested in showing lambs at the county fair so he initially got us interested in raising sheep. What breed(s) of sheep do you raise, and why did you choose them?

Prairie Folk Farm We manage a crossbred flock. The ewe flock has strong maternal traits (prolific, strong milk supply, excellent mothering instincts) and wool quality. Market lambs are produced by crossing to a breed that excels in growth rates and carcass quality. Thoughtful crossbreeding schemes allow one to take advantage of heterosis and acquire desirable traits from multiple breeds, which produces hardy and productive lambs.

Maple Hill Farm East Friesian/Lacaune - it is a dairy breed and wanted to milk sheep. We had researched goats without an available fluid milk route in Northern Wisconsin which in turn led us to dairy sheep. University of WI-Spooner Dairy Research Farm was an hour away so we had an excellent resource close to us.

How do you approach lambing season? When do you lamb and why, what are some lessons learned through the years?

Prairie Folk Farm Preparing for lambing season begins about 5 weeks before lambs are expected, when we put the ewes on an increased plane of nutrition as their metabolic needs climb. The ewes are shorn, the barn is cleaned out, lambing jugs are setup, and supplies are inventoried. We lamb early April through mid-May. The last of the lambs should be born right when the grass is ready to graze. This puts lactating ewes on inexpensive and high-quality feed right as their nutritional needs peak. This lambing window also allows us to have lambs at market weight by the end of the grazing season. We are beginning shepherds, but we have

quickly learned not to be too quick with intervening during labor - ewes are usually just fine lambing on their own.

Maple Hill Farm We are a sheep dairy making our living off of fluid milk similar to cow ss. Creameries start picking up milk in February so that dictates when we lamb. Dairy sheep have a lactation of 180-220 days so they milk February through September naturally. In Northern WI, it is normally very cold during these months but the air is dry so as long as lambs are kept warm with deep bedding, we have very little pneumonia issues.

What measures do you take to maintain the health and well-being of your lambs? How do you prevent and manage common health issues?

Prairie Folk Farm Keeping lambs healthy begins with making sure nutrition is dialed in for pregnant ewes during late gestation. Ensuring the ewe flock has adequate energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio during this critical time produces vigorous lambs and prevents ewe health issues. Keeping lambing facilities clean and dry is important, too.

Maple Hill Farm First part of health of lamb is through receiving colostrum from mom so we ensure that they get the best start by staying with mom for 24 - 48 hours. This year we have moved into a 30-day weaning process from mom. We are hoping they grow healthier and stronger through this new endeavor. We do not use any vaccination regimen or wormers. We prevent an overload of worms through rotational grazing. When we feel an ewe has worms, we use garlic juice which has worked well for us.

How do you approach pasture management and rotational grazing? How does this contribute to the health of your flock?

Prairie Folk Farm Parasites are our biggest health consideration, so our grazing strategy has been to maintain long pasture rotations and leave plenty of residual forage. Parasite populations reside closer to the ground, so grazing high helps avoid ingesting excess larvae. We also run a lower stocking rate on the 70 acres we graze, which creates opportunities to stockpile forage and graze late into December.

Maple Hill Farm For our milk ewes, we use an intensive rotational grazing practice meaning ewes get fresh grass every night. Yes, I said at night. We have learned that with the dew on the grass at night, we don’t need to provide additional water. Also, we have found they graze more

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efficiently in the cooler temp at night. We have also learned that grazing any animal on pasture means you are growing grass just as much as growing your animals.

How do you market your lamb?

Prairie Folk Farm This year we will market about 60 percent of our lamb through the WI Local Food Purchase Assistance Program. We are very excited and proud to take part in this awesome effort. The rest are direct marketed to families around eastern and southern Wisconsin.

Maple Hill Farm We sell most of our lamb through our onsite farm store. We want everyone to see firsthand how we raise our animals and the way to do that is to step outside the store and see. We also sell at a couple local farmers markets in the area. Facebook/Instagram and word of mouth is also a free source of advertisement.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face producing lamb, and how have you overcome them?

Prairie Folk Farm Synthesizing the massive amount of available information on sheep production has been challenging. It is often unclear which management route is the best fit for our context. Having a solid mentor has helped overcome this challenge and has been one of the

most important keys to our success. I can lean on our mentor in times of uncertainty and also bounce ideas off them. Having a mentor has allowed me to quickly create a solid knowledge base, a wide social network, and has provided a proven production model.

Maple Hill Farm Veterinarian care for small ruminants is hard to find in our area. We have to do our own research and utilize a veterinarian care book from Germany to assist us. Pipestone Veterinarian clinic in Iowa has been a good resource as well.

Austin Pethan and his family operate Prairie Folk Farm, near Chilton, WI, where they produce lamb and fiber via management-intensive grazing. Austin also shears sheep and runs a grazing planning and design service, GrazeRight Solutions LLC, which helps beginning and veteran farmers design and implement managed grazing systems.

Maple Hill Farm is focused on providing quality product from animals that have lived a quality life. We believe that every person should know where their food comes from - see how it is raised, learn why it is raised that way, meet the people who raise your food, and understand the value of small family farms.

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Photo Credit: Crack ‘O Dawn Farm LLC, Ashland, OR

DEFINED BY

At Compeer Financial, we’re defined by you — your hopes for the future as well as your needs today. As a member-owned cooperative, our clients help shape the direction we go and how we serve them. And as organic farming continues to evolve, so will we, together. So whether you need an experienced lender or a trusted advisor you can count on, we’re ready.

DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS WITH US: COMPEER.COM/EMERGINGMARKETS

Paul Dietmann, Sr. Lending Specialist (608) 963-7763 | Paul.Dietmann@compeer.com

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Sai Thao, Sr. Lending Specialist (612) 597-4086 | Sai.Thao@compeer.com

Ag Loans & Leases | Ag Business Services | Appraisals Crop Insurance | Beginning Farmer Program | And More

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Compeer Financial can provide assistance with financing and operations based on historical data and industry expertise. Compeer Financial does not provide legal advice or certified financial planning. Compeer Financial, ACA is an Equal Credit Opportunity Lender and Equal Opportunity Provider and Employer. © 2024 All rights reserved.

book Review

Barons: money, Power, anD The corruPTion oF america’s FooD inDusTry

When it was published this month, I was excited to read Austin Frerick’s Barons: Money Power, and the Corruption of America’s Food Industry. Last year, Austin Frerick shared some of the story around JBS, the “Slaughter Barons” in his keynote talk at the 2023 Marbleseed Conference. The issues of consolidation in our food system deeply impacts farmers and eaters alike. And given that 10% of the American workforce is working in

our food system speaks to an even larger economic impact.

The book’s forward is written by Eric Schlosser, famously of Fast Food Nation, who firmly places the context of this book within historic views on consolidation and illustrates ways it has been addressed successfully in the past. He quotes Adam Smith from

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Photo Credit: Justine Bursoni

1776 saying, “any new laws or government regulations proposed by merchants and manufacturers should be regarded with suspicion—never adopted without careful scrutiny.”

From there, Frerick lays out the stories of seven sectors and their merchants and manufacturers who have had undue influence over our agricultural and food system through predatory purchasing of competitors and poor treatment of farmers and workers. He covers hogs, grain, coffee, dairy, berries, and then slaughter and grocery stores.

Many of the issues we care deeply about in organic have us fighting what often feels like the inevitable in the way the system has been shaped by these practices. Although not a book specific to organic, in laying out the rise of confinement operations in hogs and dairy, we see the way the system is rigged against small to medium sized farms that put animals on grass. Frerick lays out the undue influence these barons have on USDA policies and programs through political contributions which then lead to prestigious appointments to advisory committees at the state and national level. Beyond the manipulation of policies that should protect markets and rural communities, Frerick also lays out the damage of these animal confinement operations on soil, air and water. In his chapter on the hog barons Jeff and Deb Hansen in Iowa he says, “Pigs in Iowa now outnumber human residents by a ration of more than seven to one, and they produce a volume of manure equivalent to the waste of eightyfour million people.” And this with no required sewage system. These barons, the Hansens and the McCloskey’s (Indiana dairy “farmers” of Fairlife) have all the trappings and privileges of the very wealthy (tax shelters, high net worth, private jets, etc.) and live nowhere near their operations and the impact they have on the local communities or environment. Yet they somehow weave the narrative of being ‘farmers’ holding out hope that other farmers can achieve the same, further ensuring they can continue to operate in a policy environment that does not hold them accountable.

In the chapter on “Slaughter Barons” focused on JBS, which Frerick highlighted at the conference last year, we see international intrigue, but he also outlines what this means for farmer choice. We have come to a place where “four beef-slaughtering firms, including JBS, own 85 percent of the industry.” For many ranchers that means that JBS and the prices they offer for finished cattle is the only choice they have.

Beyond this direct farmer impact, in this chapter Frerick also highlights the trend of these large corporations maintaining the brands that they purchase, making it almost impossible for consumers to realize that they do not have a choice either. In markets spanning beef, pork and chicken, JBS lists 43 meat brands that they sell in the United States, from high end brands to those considered more affordable. Many of these brands market themselves with pictures of “idyllic family farms” with names that evoke the same. The impact has been the loss of 80 percent of our dairies and 90 percent of hog farms that were mostly small, independent family operations.

Frerrick also ties these barons and U.S. agricultural policies to other issues like anti-immigration and how this rhetoric pushes us further towards non-domestic agricultural products. As I was reading this book and writing this review, we were days away from the implementation of the new rule on strengthening organic enforcement intended to confirm ‘certified organic’ products coming into the U.S. in the face of climbing consumer demands. This is definitely an issue for organic farmers, particularly grain farmers who are facing lower prices as they are out-competed by fraudulent imports.

Although the vehicle of stories about each of these barons in turn is an interesting read, what I found most valuable was the final chapter where Frerick lays out a way forward. He indicates that at some level, we have been here before. And in that history, we found a way to create policies and laws that would correct and police market consolidation. Over the years, these have been dismantled or made toothless. Frerick describes efforts beyond the federal government. He also addresses the fact that our agricultural system and administrations in both parties throughout past and recent history have supported racism, genocide, and the huge imbalance of power in our food and farming systems.

This book is also timely because it comes out amidst attempts to place exemptions on the policies that are in place to address concentration in our food system. In this moment there are also opportunities to support programs in the Farm Bill that make investments in local and regional value chains to help farmers access new markets, bypassing a highly consolidated marketplace. We need to get engaged, and the almost 60 pages of citations and references for the facts outlined in Barons, will help us make the point, in whatever sector we are most passionate about.

As the book concludes, Frerick sums up what we are all fighting for, “My vision for the American food system is simple. It’s one in which any American can sit down in a locally owned restaurant or go to a neighborhood grocery store and buy affordable, local food that was grown, picked, processed, transported, cooked, and served by folks earning a fair wage.”

31 | Marbleseed.org
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ASN provides a free, virtual space where folks from across the food system can cross pollinate ideas, ask questions, and build power. The platform connects a diverse network of farmers, farmworkers, homesteaders, and food system professionals who are collectively growing the organic movement. Check it out at agsolidaritynetwork.com

Organic Broadcaster | 32
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Grain Millers is a privately held, family-owned company. We depend on direct farmer relationships and offer farm gate pricing and contracted grower production. We also offer a Sustainable Grower Program – our Crop Science Team is here to help you with any agronomy questions you may have so you can get the best return on your production.

When you sell to Grain Millers, your grain is going directly into some of the most technologically advanced mills in the world!

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• Vermicomposting systems

• Compost extractors

• Soil biology verification

• Bio-safe transfer pumps

• Mixing systems

35 | Marbleseed.org
Continuous Flow Bio-Extractor VermiFlow Continuous Flow Through vermicomposting system 423 436 0502 • www.hiwasseeproducts.com • info@hiwasseeproducts.com Amending soil microbiology improves nutrient uptake, water retention, pest and disease resistance, and crop health. h-Pack Mobile Microscopy Kit

UnconFeRencing aT The maRbLeseed oRganic FaRming conFeRence

This year at the Organic Farming Conference, we drew upon the success of 2023’s Farm Viability Convergence to offer expanded “unconferencing” options each day of the conference. After Thursday’s half-day Organic Universities, there were five concurrent Farmer Summits in North Hall: Livestock hosted by Ryan Sullivan; Wellness hosted by Laura Gosewisch; Farm Hacks hosted by Nicki Morgan and Ben Hartman; Growing Organic hosted by Sara Mooney; and Climate and Conservation hosted by Rue Genger and Meg Baker. Each of the Farmer Summits followed a similar format to the 2023 Farm Viability Convergence, with participants pitching their ideas for 45-minute discussion topics related to each theme. Each summit then had participants post these topics on the wall in a grid, which created a schedule in real time. Most of the rooms hosted four different topics in each session or ‘round’. By the time of the first break, after the first session, the topics from all of the summits had been posted in the sun-filled lobby, creating a “master schedule” of close to 60 discussions. Seeing

the topics across all of the themes allowed participants to move freely between each of the Summits. One of the more experienced organic farmers that had started in the “Growing Organic” Summit saw a topic in the “Climate and Conservation” Summit that he was excited to attend. Although I was busy with room set up, taking photos, and signaling the end of each session, I noted that North Hall was buzzing with energy in the moments that I had to catch my breath.

The conversations continued Friday with the Farmer Café over an extended lunch period. A series of tables were set up at the back of the cafeteria. These were covered with flipchart paper with a handful of tables dedicated to topics from the previous day, and several blank labels available for people to start a new conversation altogether. Participants recorded their conversations through notation and illustration on the flipchart paper. Although a few announcements were made and signage was posted, it was difficult to draw diners toward the back of the room to engage in these discussions. Despite the thinner crowd, there were still lively discussions and great notes taken that reflect the thoughts around various issues within our agricultural

Organic Broadcaster | 36
Photo Credit: Justine Bursoni
37 | Marbleseed.org
Participants of the Farmer Summits Photo Credit: Justine Bursoni

communities. This was also an opportunity for farmers to convene meetings and find others that shared their identities or production practices. We wanted to intentionally create space for conversations and connections that was unstructured.

Finally on Saturday was the Convergence. While last year’s Farm Viability Convergence was facilitated using the Open Space Technology method, this year’s utilized the World Café method over a shorter period of time. The Convergence was attended by forty people. The group began by reflecting on various aspects of this year’s Organic Farming Conference: Organic Universities, Farmer Summits, their conversations in the Exhibit Hall and hallways, our keynote speakers, workshops they attended, music and social events, and the Farmer Café. They were then asked a series of questions to prompt further discussion and encouraged to utilize flipchart paper to again take notes and make

illustrations that would document their experiences, changing up who was at the table for each question, with some staying to bring people new to the table up to speed on what was discussed in the previous grouping. Participants were first asked to describe what they attended, then about how it felt to be in community with other farmers, and then about what new learnings or ways of thinking came to them at the conference. Finally, we debriefed as a group with one final question, asking participants what they were taking back to their communities, families, farms, or organizations.

We will soon begin transcription of the notes from each of these events to be compiled into a Book of Proceedings, illustrated with photographs from the event and the drawings that participants provided. We hope to have it available this Summer. The Book of Proceedings from the 2023 Farm Viability Convergence

Organic Broadcaster | 38
Unconferencing at the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference
Photo Credit: Justine Bursoni

will be available soon on the Ag Solidarity Network. This social networking platform, devoid of stalking ads and siloed groups, enables users to see conversations and topics across the platform. If you haven’t joined already, we encourage you to sign up and continue these connections that this year’s conference schedule enabled.

We also want to thank the farmers and colleagues who stepped into facilitator roles during the Summit. Several of them also attended the “Teach for Transformation” training that was offered in January to prepare them for the task. This project, which includes both these

foundationally Open Space, Popular Education based methods via training and implementation was made possible through Professional Development grant “Educational Methods for Farmer Self-Organizing” subaward H009987603.

If you know of folks that would like to experience the training that prepared our facilitators, reach out to Lori. Stern@marblseed.org

Justine Bursoni is Marbleseed’s Farmer Education Manager and Alex “Bagwajinini” Kmett is Marbleseed’s Farmer Education Specialist.communities.

39 | Marbleseed.org

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Tomato and Radish Seedlings - Pat2h Horticultural Research Center

Identical potting mixes with identical fertilizer rates: Suståne 8-4-4 produced healthier, fasterestablished transplants than other organics. Slow-release nitrogen plus the nutrients and beneficial microbiology provides healthier starts for nearly all crops in all types of growing media.

[This trial used standard 95:5 Coir-Perlite potting media. Mix rate: 0.6 lb. N per cubic yard Suståne 8-4-4 = 7.5 lb. Suståne per cubic yard.]

Know the difference.

Organic Broadcaster | 40
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Scarlet Globe Radish: 28 days after seeding (DAS). Same nitrogen rate applied. Celebrity Tomato: 28 days after seeding (DAS). Same nitrogen rate applied.

BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY, JOIN THE AG SOLIDARITY NETWORK

Connect with and learn from a diverse network of farmers, farmer-workers, homesteaders, and food system professionals. Join groups that match with your expertise & interests. Post and search for job opportunities, events, and classifieds.

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600+ non-GMO, openpollinated, and heirloom seeds available at SeedSavers.org.

Organic Broadcaster | 42 Benefits COMPOST PLUS Granular Amendment Provides a concentrated dose of plant-available nutrients 3 3 Improves yields for heavy feeding varieties 3 3 Concentrated formula makes application quick and easy 3 3 Adds organic matter, bacterial colonies, and mycorrhizal spores 3 Remineralizes field soils and builds soil health over time 3 Slow release formula won’t burn roots or be lost through leaching 3 Invest in your soil health with every application! FEED THE SOIL with Compost Plus Use Compost Plus as a transplant booster, to top- or side-dress field and greenhouse crops, or as supplemental fertility in containers. Scan for more details! Interested in mechanical weed control? Treffler helps you beat the weeds * Proven effective weed control in: vegetables, herbs, flowers, nurseries or field crops as early as 2-leaf corn. * Adjustable tension range from 0-13lbs. * Our tines follow the contour of your field, ridge, hill or raised bed with the same even downward pressure. Treffler-Man@Machine Promoter Peter Featherstone +1 (262) 325-3205 cornerstonefarmsllc@gmail.com Treffler, for all farmers great and small See our website for all upcoming events www.organicmachinery.net ® Sweet Red Eggplant The Collection FROM 0442A - Eggplant, ‘Sweet Red’ (Solanum aethiopicum) This Ethiopian eggplant variety produces small, round, flavorful fruit that taste moderately sweet. Highly branched, vertically growing plants bear fruit in clusters of up to six. Fruits can be eaten both raw and cooked but are best enjoyed while still mostly green before ripening to an orangish red. Seed Savers Exchange obtained this variety Small but mighty From the Collection Seed stewarded by SSE to be grown by you. eedS Savers Exchange 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101 Certified Organic by the IA Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship 20 NEW VARIETIES FOR 2024 INCLUDING: Pretty in pink Luminosa ZinniaFLOWER eedS Savers Exchange 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101 Fortna White Pumpkin Squash The Collection FROM 0445A Squash, ‘Fortna White Pumpkin’ (Cucurbita argyrosperma) Pear-shaped squash have pale-orange flesh with a mild, slightly sweet flavor ideal for making pumpkin pies and other sweet and savory dishes. This productive variety has variably sized necks and cream-colored skin with lightgreen stripes; pumpkins weigh from five to eight pounds at maturity. Seed Savers Exchange received this variety from the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum. It was grown with care for nearly 50 years by the late Wayne Fortna of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who ensured there would always be a white pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. 90-100 days. Perfect for pies Direct Seed 1" Deep Seeds to Hill 6-8 Seeds Thin To 3-4 Plants Light Full Sun Learn To Grow It Instructions- Sow seeds outdoors in 12 diameter hills after danger of frost has passed. Hills should be spaced 6 apart in all directions. seedsavers.org Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization. Your purchase ensures that heirloom seeds will be around for generations to come. Always Open-Pollinated and Non-GMO From the Collection eedS Savers Exchange 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101 Certified Organic by the IA Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

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Organic Broadcaster | 44

FREE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND POLLINATOR HABITATS

FOR TRANSITIONING REGENERATIVE & ORGANIC FARMERS

WHY MAKE THE TRANSITION?

1

2

3

ECONOMICS: Sales of organic products have grown steadily over the past decade.

PRACTICALITY: Organic production is based on the natural cycling of nutrients and can lower your cost of production and increase your profit.

LAND VALUE: Getting farmland to be certified organic gives farmers a valuable asset for future generations.

ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?

You are eligible for these free services if...

• You are interested in transitioning to organic or regenerative organic production

• You are interested in establishing pollinator habitats on your farm

• You currently grow fruit, vegetables, almonds, oats and/or wheat

• Your farm is in the following US States: CA, OR, WA, MT, WY, ND, SD, MN or the following Provinces in Canada: Southern Saskatchewan, Manitoba

Are you interested in regenerative organic agriculture but unsure how to handle weeds, fertility, and pests?

Are you looking for an experienced mentor to help make the transition?

Are you an organic farmer interested in planting pollinator habitats?

General Mills has a commitment to advancing regenerative organic agriculture, and is providing FREE technical services from Rodale Institute’s Organic Consultancy and Xerces Society’s pollinator and biodiversity specialists.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

Get one-on-one mentorship and personalized coaching from the trained agronomists of Rodale Institute’s Organic Consultancy. Consultants will help with:

• Organic systems plans

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• Reducing tillage

ON-FARM BIODIVERSITY

• Certification assistance

• and more!

On-farm biodiversity is key to long term success in regenerative and organic farming. Get customized planning and on-site support from Xerces Society on how to successfully enhance pollinator populations, beneficial insects and soil life through the planting of multi-functional habitats such as cover crops, hedgerows, insectary strips and more. All seeds, plants and planting materials are FREE.

45 | Marbleseed.org
The only data collected will be on farm practices adopted and soil health test results. This data will be shared externally (including with General Mills) without farmer identification. No economic or financial data will be collected.
SIGN UP TODAY AT RODALEINSTITUTE.ORG/GENERAL-MILLS

seeking: beginning FaRmeR

We are seeking a beginning farmer to partner with to start a agricultural business on our 8-acres, housing and startup finances included. 754-302-6101 or fogletb2@gmail.com

seeking: FaLL seasonaL heLP madison

Keene Garlic in Madison, WI is looking for seasonal staff from Late August to Mid-Late October to fill fall garlic orders in our warehouse to customers nationwide. cindy@keeneorganics.com

eQUiPmenT FoR saLe

2022 Tilmor Power OX 240 Side weight kits, Finger Weed Kit , Tine weeder Section, Pathway Cultivator Package, 4 Tender plant shoes and flat shanks. 10 hrs use. $3600, Monee, IL, 708 638 2047

FaRm FoR saLe oR Lease

40 Organic Certified acres in Leelanau County Michigan. 17 tillable acres, 22 timber acres, 1 farmstead acre. 5-bedroom house, garage. 1926 era peg and beam barn, farmhouse. Much useful equipment.

coRn, hay, combine FoR saLe

OCIA certified organic yellow corn. Will have this season’s organic alfalfa/grass hay available. 1969 JD 55 Combine with 2-row cornhead. Always inside. 641-751-8382

sPRayeR FoR saLe

1000 gallon tank FAST field sprayer with 60’ hydraulic fold boom, a rinse tank, tank agitator, and foam markers. Uses an orbit motor with hydraulics from the tractor. $8000. Call 605-695-4725. Morgan, MN

seeking: FaLL seasonaL heLP madison

Keene Garlic in Madison, WI is looking for seasonal staff from Late August to Mid-Late October to fill fall garlic orders in our warehouse to customers nationwide. cindy@keeneorganics.com

FoR saLe: 21 FT combcUT

A weed cutter for organic grain and grassland production. Also can be used for conventional crops. 612-290-8436

aLFaLFa & aLFaLFa/gRass baLes FoR saLe

Alfalfa and alfalfa/grass 3x3x8 square bales. Certified organic. Good quality. Tested. Shipping available by semi loads throughout country. Located in Linton ND. Dave Silbernagel 208-867-9939.

FoR saLe: RoLLeR/cRimPeR

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FoR saLe: oRganic sheLLed coRn & RoasTed soybeans

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Gallons: 5, 15, 55, or 265

Dry super sacks: 2400 lbs. Or 50% semi-soluable (Magna Plus)

OMRI certi ed

Other dry water-soluable: 7-6-4 or 16-0-0

C OWSMO COMPOS T

Organic Broadcaster | 46 Classifieds
Frommelt Ag
IA | 563-920-3674
Greeley,

SUPPORT THE SUCESS OF ORGANIC AND REGENERATIVE FARMERS!

Marbleseed creates and provides access to free and low-cost farmer-led resources, farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities, and community-building events that support the success of regenerative and organic farmers. As the organic farming and food landscape continues to evolve and grow, we remain committed to the roots of this movement: care for the planet, nourishment for communities, and support for regenerative and organic farmers who are working in relationship with the ecosystems that sustain us. Donate at: Marbleseed.org/donate

cLassiFied ad PLacemenT

Reach 15,000+ organic-minded readers! Includes a free listing in the Online Organic Classifieds at marbleseed.org

Submit ads online or write out your ad and send it in with this mail-in form and payment to: Marbleseed, PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767

Ads must be submitted by the 25th of the month prior to Organic Broadcaster publication date. Name:

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