Re-evaluation time

As the year draws to a close, Jeff's making lists again.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

How to contact Jeff

Jeff's email:

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530


Decemer 9, 2004: Well here we are, and another year has just flown by. I know last year when I wrote my December column I wrote about making lists. I mentioned lists of repairs, lists of things to improve on your farm operation and yes, even that Christmas list. In that regard this year is no different from last year. I'm still making those lists. But this year my list is a little different. The whole Institute is in the process of forming a new strategic plan and the farm is no different. So my list today has to do with lists of resources and a list of items in need of change.

In many ways the Institute's farm is no different than your farm or your neighbor's. We grow crops, market and sell what we grow, and try to show a profit. But in many ways we couldn't be more different. We have scientifically and statistically relevant research plots, we host tours for guests from every corner of the world, and we work with other departments within the Institute and other outside organizations to move organic ideals forward with the goal of nothing less than changing the food system. And, maybe like you, we have a mission and a vision of how we want the world to look. So, from time to time we need to step back, take a look at where we are and decide whether or not we're making the type of progress we'd like. We also need to make an honest evaluation of how we are putting our resources to work to realize our vision.

You need to perform the same activities on your own farm. I know it's tough work. Often tougher than farm work itself. I know because I'm doing it right now! The corn is in the bin, the soybeans are too. The apple crop is sold. The pumpkins left over from Halloween have been made into pumpkin butter and it is "RE-EVALUATION TIME." That's where the list comes in. First I'm making a list of all the resources I have to work with. That includes the land, the staff, the equipment and even the support of wonderful people like you, the readers of New Farm. My second list contains all the goals and objectives I have for the farm. And my final list contains actual projects that will be put into action starting in the New Year. While my list may differ drastically from yours, the concepts are the same: What you're going to do with the resources you have at your disposal to realize the vision you have for your farm, your life, and your family.

Our vision of the world is one where individuals have a voice in their food system. One where farmers have an actual relationship with the people who eat their food. And one where family farms can successfully compete in the market place. In order for that to happen, thousands and thousands of us need to work hand in hand. We helping you and you helping us.

Our farm needs to be an inspiration to farmers and non-farmers alike. My list needs to contain activities that not only produce food and conduct scientific research but also reach out to consumers to move them in a direction that advances our mission. Now the question I've been asking myself is how the farm, with all its resources, can best be put to work to accomplish this. Well, I know I need to make some changes. There are activities I've been pursuing that have probably missed the mark. Of course the natural tendency is to ignore them and keep on doing the same thing I've been doing. It is easier. But I can't afford that luxury. Similarly you too need to evaluate your own activities and not just repeat them next year because “that’s what we've always done."

Next year, if you visit the farm you will see some physical changes in how those resources are being applied. Some of the activities on the 2004 list just won't make it to the 2005 list. And there will be improvements in how we use the farm to inspire you and those who eat the food you produce to change our food system. Change can be tough, but positive changes can generate excitement for what we do.

Its 5:30 in the evening, it's already dark outside and I need to get back to my list writing. It probably won't be till this time next year—when I again re-evaluate my efforts—that I'll know if my new list did what I wanted it to do. I know we'll still be growing crops, conducting exciting research, and visiting with all of you through The New Farm. The big question is, will the way we do it inspire you and your neighbors to have a positive impact on our food system and will it inspire consumers to use their voice in the market place to support your efforts? I hope so.

Any thoughts you have that will help me shape my list will be greatly appreciated.

Now for that Christmas list. Let me see....More tools for the shop, a new flail mower and oh yea, a new tractor would be nice. Have a joyous holiday season and I'll talk to you in January.

From one farm to another,