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Hello [name]. Hardship, eloquence and joy. All of you who haven’t yet sampled our new farmer journals are in for a treat. These powerful accounts of life in a new farm venture document the inner lives and outer labors of those crazy, passionate, beautiful folks who’ve taken the plunge. For older and more experienced farmers, their journal entries are reminders of the vertigo and magic of just starting up. For new and dreaming farmers, they’re both cautionary tales and profound inspiration. Here’s just a sample of what you’ll find in Kristen Kimball’s first journal entry from the farm she and her husband work in upstate New York: “What did I learn that first season? That insomnia is not among the farmer’s afflictions .... That some farm days end in high-fives and others in tears.” (For links to these journals, see below.)

I’d like to thank New Farm editors Dan Sullivan and Amanda Kimble-Evans for all the hard work that went into selecting and preparing these entries. And I’d like to thank the 62 readers who offered to chronicle life on their new farms, and bare their errors and their souls. Sorry we couldn’t include you all. However … starting in March we’ll be creating a forum for all those interested in talking together about life, problems and solutions on their new farms—including all of you would-be journalists. Here’s another idea we haven’t tried, but have the software for: a New Farm blog (web log). Any interest out there in such a blog, either as a reader or a blogger? If so, send me an email: info@newfarm.org.

Sorrow in Santiago Atitlan. Santiago Atitlan is a Mayan city in Guatemala, perched on the edge of a deep lake that fills a giant, steep-sided caldera. It is surrounded by still-active volcanoes, and it’s steep streets wind chaotically up the mountainside. I was there with my son last summer while on an archeology dig 40 miles away, over the volcanoes as the crow flies. So, when I opened and read Don Lotter’s collective interview with old women in the city I was both stunned and deeply moved: stunned that I knew so little about the hard lives of the people I encountered, and moved by his uncompromising portraits of women who have lost so much over the past 50 years—husbands, children, farms—and yet have accepted the losses with such extraordinary fortitude. Don’s photos capture every hard year of life these women survived, and his interviews capture what civil war and rich gringos have done to their lives and to their ability to produce food for themselves and their families. Check it out now.

Humbled and happy. You know, sometimes all of us here at New Farm are amazed by the stories we get to share with you. Sitting at home this past weekend, reading over the stories you’ll soon be enjoying, was one of those moments for me. I couldn’t believe it as I was touched, inspired or awed by one story after another: Jim and Carol Thorpe’s late life dive into ranching in New Mexico, to which they’ve brought discipline, determination, ethics, ecology, and a passion to learn. Moie Crawford, who’s been selling at farmers’ markets in Washington, DC for over 30 years and makes a passionate case for serving city markets—a case that’s not primarily economic, but rather communal and personal. Dan Specht, whose 500-acre farm in Northeast Iowa is a creative mix of older sustainable practices, grass-based livestock production, open-pollinated corn research and innovative marketing arrangements. Enjoy them all, and much, much more in this issue. (See below for more details.)

A note about Senegal. For those of you who don’t know, The Rodale Institute, which publishes New Farm, has been working as a nonprofit in Senegal for over 20 years, researching sustainable production methods (for a region with an eight-month dry season) and communicating them to farmers through direct outreach. We’re currently in the midst of reevaluating our work in Senegal, and so a group of us spent 10 days in early February meeting with government officials, non-governmental organizations, farmers’ groups and funding agencies, mostly in the capital, Dakar, to try and get a handle on what our mission there SHOULD be. We’ll be spending another 10 days later this year, meeting with more farmers’ groups, food entrepreneurs, NGOs and researchers, but we’ve already gotten the picture, and it’s remarkably like the view you get when talking to farmers in this country: It’s the markets, stupid!

That’s right. In an impoverished country, where one third of the population now lives on less than one percent of the land, and where water is a real problem, the thing people want to talk about and get energized by is the issue of market access—local, regional, international. They’re tired of studies, and techniques, and teaching that doesn’t lead to markets, and who can blame them. So we’re trying to put together a plan for work that does just that—especially access to organic markets in Europe and the U.S. If you have any insights about any business or person in the U.S. who might be interested in helping us develop markets here in the U.S. for unique, organic Senegalese products, let me know. We’ll keep you informed about our progress there.

P.S. In case you didn’t notice, journalists have a problem. They’re addicted to alliteration (notice the small headlines above). They’re also addicted to really bad puns—but those have been outlawed in this shop. Thank God for small favors, and live with the alliteration.

Enjoy!
Chris Hill, Executive Editor

 

New farmer insights: learning that animals aren't at all like furry people.
For more, see at left and below.

50 years of sorrow and loss
Don Lotter speaks with the women of Guatemala's most Mayan city, Santiago Atitlan, about the brutal impact of civil war on farming and family life.
See at left for more.

Herding hogs in Iowa
"Pigs do really well on grass," says Dan Specht. And for a little treat, they like his open-pollinated corn varieties too.
See below for more.

     

Fresh today from The New Farm®
     
RESEARCH UPDATE
A wealth of ways to manage pests without pesticides

Entomologists report on new research into trap crops, refugia and other biocontrol methods
  Research update
   

New Farm Journals
Every month 6 new farmers share their tribulations, triumphs, and moments of quiet joy and desperation. This week:

Essex Farm, Essex NY
Green acres
Writer Kristen Kimball met her future husband over a row of broccoli while trying to research a story, and now she's becoming a farmer--learning first hand the meaning of fatigue, and small failures ... and utter happiness. (She never finished that story she was writing.)

Your Farm, Hilmar CA
Flying the coop
A deep desire to continue farming family-owned land led Mele Anderson back to her father's organic almond farm, but old parent/child patterns made her realize you really can't go back home again. Then land owned by a cousin came up for sale, and here she is, raising mixed veggies on a few acres with her boyfriend, building tilth in the sandy soil, and in the future.

Easy Growin' Farm, Buena Vista CO
Getting started

After five years of wwoofing, reading, interning and dreaming, Joshua Flowers is in the saddle, growing vegetables and raising goats and chickens at 8,000 feet. He's getting a crash course in farming lesson number one: Sometimes the best-laid plans need to be adjusted to fit reality.

 

Kristen Kimball

Joshua Flowers

Mele Anderson

   

THE NEW RANCH:
Rethinking range management in the arid West

The education of a new rancher
A financial windfall allowed Jim and Carol Thorpe to do something crazy--buy a ranch in eastern New Mexico. They're determined to make it economically and ecologically sustainable, and they're doing a pretty good job of it by embracing the best of 'old' and 'new' ranch management thinking, from applied ecology to Internet livestock auctions. It also helps to have a philosophical outlook and boundless curiosity.

The "Getting Started" Toolkit
Tools and resources for new and old ranchers

 

The New Ranch

The Toolkit

   
A rich mix of the new ... and old
In scenic northeast Iowa, organic farmer Dan Specht combines conservation, grass-based livestock production and open-pollinated corn breeding. It's a unique--yet in many ways traditional--farming strategy that honors the diversity of this region's natural and agricultural heritage.
  Dan Specht
   

Citrus down by the bayou
On the very northern edge of this country's citrus growing zone, organic citrus farmers Lester and Linda L'Hoste have suffered killing frosts and fruit-killing bugs. Down in Louisiana, organic is a lonely and challenging proposition, but they're up for it.

At right: Bite-sized kumquats, which may be enjoyed skin and all, are by far the smallest fruit L'Hoste Citrus has to offer.

 

Louisiana citrus

   
PASA 2005 Workshop: Moie Crawford
City markets, a farmer's best friend
Moie Crawford (and her husband Jim) have been direct marketing in Washington, DC since the early '70s. In this article, adapted from her workshop on city marketing at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference (held earlier this month), Moie makes an impassioned case for the rewards of marketing in the city--most of which are NOT financial. (Though there IS that, too.)
  City markets
   

NEWS FROM MARIQUITA: A CSA Journal

Spring flowers bring me down ...
Andy's got the early season nerves. What if his overwintered carrots bolt before his CSA season starts in late March? Most of his neighbors start later, but he thinks it's worth the risk ... and the nerves.

At right: The dreaded carrot flower.

 

CSA Journal

   
Got milk cows? Get worms, make compost and sustain your dairy farm
By adding value to the non-dairy output of their dairy herd, Orner Farms has created a revenue stream independent of fluctuating milk prices. Composting led to vermicompost, which led to compost tea production, which led to expanding potential markets.
 

Vermicompost


Logo © Orner Farms

   

SPECIALTY CUT FLOWER CORNER:
For the beginning grower

Questions, more questions...
Melanie answers readers' questions: About that greenhouse--a reader in Nova Scotia asks detailed questions about anchoring, heating, watering and more. Lots of readers have questions about the growing and selling of Lisianthus. And a reader in Michigan asks about the secrets of pinching for better production.

  Cut flowers
   
The Inspector’s Notebook #11
Taking the fear out of farm maps

With the early bird deadline (it’s March 1!) rapidly approaching, it's time to finish up this year’s Organic Farm Plan--and that means completing those dreaded field maps.
  Inspector's Notebook
   

INTERN JOURNAL
Insights and experiences from organic farms

ENTRY 14
Post-harvest trauma
Whether dealing with dried-out lettuce or slaughtered chickens, our intern journalists discover many lessons in that critical step between growing the produce (or raising the bird) and delivering it to the dinner plate.

At right: Our latest intern journalist Laura Rickard tells a really funny story about the sex life of chickens, and how middle school students react.

 

Intern Journal

   

CLASSIFIED INFORMATION:

Wanted: Farm pet sitter, flail mower, used apple crates, two-row precision planter
For sale: Farmland, mixer, Nigerian dwarf goats, tiller
Opportunities: Livestock manager, Organic CSA farm intern, assistant farm manager, director/sustainable gardener
Events: Risk management conference, Tilling the Soil of Opportunity training

AND THOSE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW ON THE NEW FARM CLASSIFIEDS!

  Classifieds
   

NEWS ANALYSIS

Monsanto buys Seminis
Following a purchase worth a cool billion, the biggest player in biotech is now the largest seed company in the world.

Background
The shift from public to private seed systems:
A brief history of the development of the seed industry in the United States

 

Monsanto buys Seminis

A brief history of seed

   

READER MAIL

Dear New Farm: I've got a few questions about your Organic Price Index ...
Dear New Farm: This will be my second year raising vegetable transplants. What should I use for fertilizer?

READER COMMENTARY:

Dear New Farm: Thanks for your rare and truthful story about Israeli farmers.
Dear New Farm: Here's another voice in favor of farrowing crates for decreasing piglet mortality rates.

   
   

Bookstore Updates and Reviews

Been to our bookstore lately?

Check out featured titles on sugaring (of the maple tree/syrup variety), citrus, identifying native rangeland plants, practical poetry--and, in honor of the turning year and the depth and strength of the agri-environmental movement, Silent Spring. Plus, new book reviews:

  • Tempting fate: In The Fate of Family Farming, Ronald Jager assesses the future of an American tradition
  • The poetics of conflict: In Where Land and Water Meet, Nancy Langston studies ranching and wildlife management in Oregon

Have a book recommendation for us? Let us know by emailing senior writer Laura Sayre at laura.sayre@rodaleinst.org.

  Bookstore
   
ALSO LOOK FOR ...
Check The New Farm home page for the latest news. Enjoy.
   
 
   
   
     
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