It takes more than a vision, a business plan and a persistent
urge to make significant changes in agriculture. It takes
confidence – enough confidence to overcome inertia,
doubt, fear and social pressure. It takes the ability to believe
in an ending you can live with.
Stories give us tools for our imagination.
Real accounts put stories into shoe leather, and enable us
to think more concretely about how things might work for us
if we tried out an improvement or adaptation on our own farm.
Bob Rodale traveled the world to meet farmers and scientists
who were using their innovation skills to improve their communities
and their countries. He went and really listened, then shared
the energy and good ideas of inspiring people with his readers.
Together, they created a new stream of thinking about agriculture,
giving and borrowing from other streams that were also seeking
positive new ways to farm. He founded the Rodale Institute’s
experimental farm to apply science to his vision, choosing
to confront skeptics of regenerative thinking with the people
and the data.
NewFarm.org will continue to keep alive Bob’s agricultural
curiosity and his tireless collection of new true tales of
community, farm and biological regeneration. We also pay tribute
John Ikerd -- one of today’s leading advocates for sustainable
family-scale farming – by committing to post 1,000 stories
(or more!) that illustrate holistic, values-based ways to
Ikerd is professor emeritus of agricultural economics at
the University of Missouri. Since retiring from his campus
role several years ago, he’s been criss-crossing North
America to evangelize for the rights and hopes of honest family
farmers. He’s also been challenging forward-thinking
agricultural communicators to publicize “1,000 ways
to sustainably farm.”
Making a downpayment on his call in 2001 was the Sustainable
Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program of the USDA.
This pro-farmer group published 50 stories of U.S. farmers
and ranchers. They worked from a carefully drafted series
of questions that Ikerd worked on with Craig Cramer, former
New Farm® magazine executive editor. Each story follows
the same content sequence to help readers analyze each operation.
With SARE’s permission, NewFarm.org kicks off our “1,000
stories” with their 50 accounts, plus the stories we’ve
run so far. We’ll also gather in stories printed elsewhere
that readers find helpful, and assign great writers to pile
on example after example over the months and years. In our
gathering and assigning, we want to target a wide variety
of routes to walking the sustainable path.
What kind of diversity? Geographical variation from dryland
to muck, urban farms to endless prairies. People variation
from 10-generation land-holders to brand new farmers, large
families to single operators. Scale and method variation from
1,300-acre certified organic spreads to vegetable-flower-herb
fractional-acre farms. Enterprise variation from corn, beans,
clover and hogs to mushrooms and raspberries. For starters.
We’ll add published stories written by others that
we feel have lots to offer. We’ll ask writers to gather
a full set of information for our new interviews, then tell
them to fit in all the facts that help tell the story the
best. In the end, we want our readers to come away with something
to hang their hats and their hearts on. Something that satisfies
You can use these stories to befuddle the nay-sayers if you
want. Anyone who thinks that high-capital, mega-tech, corporate-backed,
export-dependent, agriculture is the only way to go will find
the 1,000 stories series a brisk – but not a rude –
The folks we’ll feature are focused on the future,
looking for cooperators and always developing options. They
will be committed to stewardship, community, economic viability
and an improved quality of life, in all ways, for all concerned.
If you’ve read a story like this, let us know. If we
have the particulars, we’ll try to get permission to
add it to the list. If you’ve got a story that will
help others, or know of a farm or ranch that NewFarm.org readers
need to know about, let us know that, too.
Thanks Bob, and John, for setting your sights high.
We’ve got some work to do, and no one’s going
to be looking back.
on to the stories . . .