out our "new farmers" forum. When we put
out a call for beginning farmers who would record their thoughts,
observations and insights for our New Farmer Journals project, the
response was overwhelming. As we sifted through nearly 70 requests
to participate, it became clear that we had to create a forum for
all of these worthy applicants—and for all of you—to
swap stories, advice and tales of adventure. And that’s just
what we’ve done.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve asked all the beginning
farmers who answered our call to visit our new forum section and
warm up the couches of our online livingroom. So far, we’ve
been graced with visits by farmers like Matt Cheselka from Arizona
with his “Cosmic Lettuce Journal” and Bea Kunz at Sage
Hill (mostly culinary herb) Farms in middle Tennessee. The forums
have also sparked discussions ranging from alternative methods of
CSA marketing to insights on how best to organize this forum. Linda
Halley, who runs a very successful CSA operation with her husband
Richard, in Wisconsin, responded to the marketing question--and
we'd welcome the insights of other experienced CSA farmers.
So kick off your shoes (or wipe your boots on the rug), come on
into one of the New
Farmer Journal forums, and sit a spell. We're all eager
to hear what you have to say.
Speaking of Linda Halley:
out Linda's piece on how shared work, mutual respect
and a good meal built bridges between organic transplants and two
old-time locals, Vern and Ole. I'm willing to bet most of you have
come to depend on the kindness and respect of neighbors like Vern
and Ole, whatever their orientation to organic--or where they fall
on the red state-blue state spectrum, for that matter.
Speaking of interdependence:
NewFarm.Org sponsored the farmer of the year award at the Upper
Midwest Organic Conference, held in late February in LaCrosse, WI.
Imagine our surprise when an old friend from the days when New Farm
was still a magazine emerged as the winner. Carmen Fernholz has
been a champion of sustainable and organic farming for two decades,
and was involved in the magazine's initiative to create a network
of innovative Midwestern farmers back in the '80s. The Farmers'
Own Network for Extension (FONE) engaged pioneering organic farmers
like Carmen and Dick Thompson to do on-farm research, host field
days--and generally serve as resources for other farmers.
In his acceptance speech at the award ceremony, Carmen insisted
that it was interdependence, not independence, that would assure
us security and quality of life--and that by honoring him the organic
community was really honoring its own commitment to a future of
interdependence, both social and economic. For the full text of
Carmen's speech, click
Battling the subsidy beast: Organic
and sustainable farmers from the Midwest invited senior writer Laura
Sayre to tag along as they traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate
farm policy reform. High on their agenda? To broaden the debate
over federal farm payments--especially subsidies. President Bush
has proposed lowering the cap for a single farm to $250,000 a year
from the current $360,000. But many farmers in the Midwest think
it should be much lower--$50,000, or less.
Of course, subsidies are not just a political issue. They are a
tragedy, and a travesty of justice, rewarding farmers for continuous
cropping that degrades the land, and penalizing farmers for good
stewardship. For more on Laura's trip, click
The organic no-till revolution continues:
In early March, in the midst of a blizzard, a group of farmers,
researchers and extension folk from around the country met here
at The Institute's farm to make plans for testing our organic no-till
roller/planter system in different climates with a wide variety
of crops and cover crops. It was a great start. There was lots of
energy and excitement about rolling up our sleeves and figuring
out how to make no-till work without herbicides. For more on the
For the 150 or so of you who wrote us earlier, hoping to be part
of this experiment--and for all the rest of you who've followed
our no-till roller work with interest--don't despair. In two weeks
we'll unveil a no-till page on the web site that will keep you abreast
of our activities and findings. It will also house all of the material
we collect, including design plans for the roller, experimental
results, profiles of participating farmers and researchers, and
Finally, the web page will host a no-till forum--an online space
were folks can ask and answer questions, or share thoughts, innovations
Wisdom of the elders: We've
learned about a new online tool that provides access to pre-1942
USDA research relevant to organic and sustainable farming--and we'll
be summarizing some of that amazingly relevant research in the months
to come. For more on this new resource, click
Calling all market reporters:
Farmers' markets across the country are just beginning to stir after
a long winter's nap. And that means it's time to get the Grassroots
OPX —a weekly update featuring prices for local, sustainably
raised, heirloom and organic products—back in shape. We're
looking for a few good volunteers to dust off their notebooks, visit
their local producer-only farmers' market once a week during the
market season and report back to us on what they see. We already
have reporters signed up for 41 markets, but we're looking for at
least 60 more. (We want information on at least two markets in every
state.) Interested? Click
here for more information on becoming a Grassroots
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
New farmer journalists
Patty and Jeanne talk about the tribulations of deciding to expand
their CSA operation in Illinois. AND NOW, you can join Patty, Jeanne
and the other new farmer journalists on our new farmer forums!
See at left and below
The space that Sven
and Ole wrought
Organic transplants and oldtime locals develop
mutual respect when they work together on a building project and
break bread together.
See at left for more.
Organics in Turkey
No, that's not organic turkeys.
Turns out there are 20,000 certified organic growers in the EU's
newest member state--and they're not finding it an easy transition.
See below for more.
Jeff Klinge's decision
He went organic to save his family farm in Iowa, but discovered
a whole host of other rewards he didn't anticipate.
See below for more.
The face that launched a thousand
Carmen Fernholz gets the Upper
Midwest organic farmer of the year award.
See at left for more.
Belt yourself in for a four-part
series on greenhouse siting, management and maintenance. Your guide:
John Biernbaum of Michigan State University.
See below for more.