First things first ...
Save The OPX!
Two weeks ago our federal funding for the Organic Price Index was
cut off. It's in bureaucratic limbo, and we don't know if it will
So, for two weeks, we've been unable to gather organic prices from
sources it has taken us two years to cultivate. In May we were planning
to add another two urban markets for fruits and vegetables--and
an additional four markets for grain prices. All are on hold.
You may not use the OPX yourself, but 21,000 people
have visited it in the past 15 months, and a great deal actually
depends on it ... far beyond the comparisons of organic and conventional
prices we list each month.
- The OPX attracts conventional farmers to our site, where they
get a chance to read about the successes and opportunities of
organic production and marketing.
- The OPX price data is essential to our FarmSelect modeling tool,
which allows farms to compare the economics of organic and conventional
production. FarmSelect is being promoted by MOSES (the upper Midwest's
largest organic organization) and by Organic Valley co-op to farmers
interested in transitioning to organic so they can model for themselves
the economic potential of organic production.
- Farmers in Minnesota contacted us recently begging us to use
the OPX prices to badger the USDA into providing organic crop
insurance premiums that reflect the true value of the crop.
- Hundreds of farmers have written to thank us for providing a
little price transparency so they have at least some idea of what
their asking price should be.
- Organic grain brokers and organic dairy companies can't get
enough organic product. The OPX helps attract much-needed new
converts to organic production.
- The OPX is almost universally valued by organic leaders because
it lends bottom-line credibility and value to the movement.
In short, the OPX is one of those essential
services provided by NewFarm.Org. When it's under attack,
all of the tools and services of New Farm are threatened.
need your help now to save the OPX
and strengthen NewFarm.Org.
We need to raise $120,000 a year to gather prices,
manage the online service and promote the Index. Even a small donation
of $5 or $10 will have a huge impact. (Of course, more would be
welcomed, for those of you who can afford it.)
The more of you who donate, the more compelling
a case we can make to larger institutional donors that our readers
care about NewFarm.Org and the OPX. And we KNOW that you care. We
get 25 to 50 letters a day from folks thanking us for the web site;
5,000 of you a month visit the New Farm Classifieds section, alone.
So help us now, when we need it. Tell your friends to help us, too.
Three new features
this issue: While we've been concerned about the
OPX, it hasn't kept us from putting together a great new issue,
with several new features:
No-Till PLUS Page. As many of you know, the farmers
and researchers at The Rodale Institute have been scratching their
heads over how to do no-till organically for some time now. In
2002, farm manager Jeff Moyer teamed up with TRI neighbor John
Brubaker to build a front-mounted cover crop roller designed to
achieve 'mechanical kill' instead of 'chemical kill.' It worked
well enough that the NRCS gave us a Conservation Innovation Grant
to spread the word and test the tools in different regions, with
Now we've collected all our resources related
to organic no-till and put them in one location, The
No-Till + Page. You'll find several new articles
on the page, and we'll continue to update it with new information
about the grant, about cover crop, about the tools. Enjoy.
No-Till Plus Forum: We've also added a discussion
forum for all of you who have expressed an interest in our no-till
organic system. You'll have a chance to ask the researchers
and farmers involved in the project about cover crops, equipment
manufacture, planting and rolling techniques--anything your
Talk: We asked George Devault to help us put together
a collection of stories for beginning farmers on essential tools
and equipment--how to select them, use them and maintain them.
It starts this week with a story on what to look for in your first
tractor. Future stories will offer practical advice on operating
and maintaining your track, hand-tool basics, how to get the best
buys at auctions, making repairs around the farm, and much more.
Notes: A few weeks back, Richard Glenister, a small-scale
farmer in Upstate New York, sent me notes on his efforts to come
up with a better soil nitrogen test for organic farmers. We're
running his story this week (click on Field Notes, above)--and
it got us thinking: Why not invite readers to share the practical,
technical strategies and innovations for environmentally and economically
sustainable farming they've developed on their farms. If you'd
like to share your own experimentation or innovation--from a better
flame weeder to a complex variety trial--send your ideas to senior
writer Laura Sayre at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gumby's BACK! Gumby
and his good pal Pokey aren't riding off into the sunset. In fact,
they're riding back right into the thick of organic, and they want
to be aggressive spokescreatures for the value and importance of
organic. As National Organic Standards Board head Jim Riddle said
when he learned of Gumby's desire to stand up for organic, "He's
green, he's of the earth, he's made of clay." In fact, Gumby
was named for the gumbo clay of his home state, Michigan.
Gumby's owner has given us a chance to create a number of 30-second
organic spots featuring Gumby and Pokey. All we need now are some
good storylines. If you've got some good ideas for what Gumby could
say and do in 30 seconds to promote organic, send your ideas our
way. Be as creative and wacky as you want. If we like your idea,
we'll give you all the recognition you can stand. One last thought:
Consider coming up with ideas that focus one aspect of
organic--dairy or produce or grains, for example. We look forward
to your ideas and will share the best and the funniest with all
our readers. Send your ideas to me at email@example.com.
NEW, IMPROVED FARM LOCATOR:
We've been working hard this past month to develop a way for farmers
and food businesses to communicate important information to each
other about what they have (in the case of farmers) and what they
need (in the case of restaurants and other food businesses). And
now we have a solution: We've developed a form that allows farmers
to provide information on their capacity to serve commercial markets--volume,
delivery options, refrigeration, packaging and more. And we have
a form for restuarants and food businesses that allows them to tell
farmers what they need in the way of products, packaging, volume
and frequency. We'll launch this service in June, but we're gathering
entries now. So ...
- If you're a farmer who already has a listing on the Farm Locator,
we urge you to update
your listing with this information. It will only
take a few minutes.
- If you're a food business interested in locating local farmers
who can provide you with the products you need in the volume and
packaging you need, click
here to add your business listing.
- If you're a farmer who hasn't yet listing your farm on the Locator,
here to create a new listing.
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
Gumby's BACK to strengthen organic!
He's green, he's made of earth .... What better spokescreature for
See at left for more.
I'm stickin' to the Union ...
These berries, from Swanton Berry Farm in California, bear the UFW
label. For more on this innovative farm, see
A good idea reproduces
Our no-till roller/planter has been fruitful and is multiplying
as other rollers get built and plans go forward to test the system
around the country. And in this issue, we're introducing a No-Till
Plus Page and a no-till forum.
See at left for more.
Speaking of tools ...
We're launching a new series this week called Tool Talk--a
practical, information-dense collection of stories on tool basics
for beginning farmers.
See at left for more.
The Arnoskies of Texas started out with a thousand bucks, a tent
and some no-account land in the Hill Country west of Austin. Now
they're grossing half a million a year.
See below for more.
Sign up to be a Grassroots OPX reporter!
There are already 67 markets
that New Farm reader volunteers will be gathering prices and information
for starting in May. If you'd like to be a Grassroots OPX Reporter,
for more info.
Farmer Forum and Journals
Check out the New
Farmer Forums, where we’ve added a new room at
your request. Now you can visit online with our New Farmer journalists--the
ones whose stories you see each update. Come to the forums and ask
them questions or share similar challenges.
The forums are really hopping with activity. Over
the past few weeks, New York farmer Chris Grant has gotten some
encouraging feedback about his new website, Agritourism World, at
There are more great suggestions—and some trepidation—about
managing a CSA. Matt Cheselka’s “Cosmic Lettuce Journal”
has had nearly 600 visitors, though he hasn’t posted an entry
in awhile (hint, hint). And one farmer received expert advice on
pricing for the restaurant market.
Basically, what we have going is a vibrant community of farmers
sharing their day-to-day insights and asking and answering a lot
of great questions. And that is just what we had in mind. Thanks
New Farmer Journals
Fresh Harvest Farm, Mokena
process of inquiry
This new farmer finds that every new lesson leads to a dozen more
Loon Organics, Eagan MN
A new farmer takes the plunge under the watchful eyes of good friends
and seasoned mentors.
Sol-e-Terre Farm, Suffield CT
With the farmers under the weather and the cows under the fence,
the busy season offers up its challenges.
Stoney Lonesome Farm, Gainesville VA
slow growth of a new farmer
Before you get overwhelmed with how far behind you are this season,
this farmer advises, give yourself a bit of credit for just how
far you’ve come.