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Hello. First things first ...

Help Us Save The OPX!

Two weeks ago our funding for the Organic Price Index was cut off, and we don't know if or when it will be reinstated.

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 22,000 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 get the USDA to provide 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 at risk, all of the tools and services of New Farm are threatened.

We 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. Thanks.


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:

  • The 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 different crops.

    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.

    The 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 heart desires.

  • Tool 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.
  • Field 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

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

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, click 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 organic?
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 below.

A good idea reproduces
and multiplies

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.

Flower power
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, click here for more info.


Fresh today from The New Farm®
TALKING SHOP: Marketing your Livestock Products

More than one way to skin a cat
Chef Harv is a boisterous, passionate champion of finding innovative ways to link farmers with more lucrative markets. He and other experts on value-spent a day at a NOFA-Vermont workshop outlining diverse marketing strategies for small-scale livestock producers.

  Chef Harv
One Farm to Another
Mirror, mirror on the wall, what'll
be the best variety ... come fall?

When it comes to choosing crop varieties, Rodale Institute farm manager Jeff Moyer says you can rely on the advice of others—or you can see for yourself by conducting your own on-farm variety trials.
  Variety trials
The "three legged stool" school of farming

Andy sells his produce through a CSA, a restaurant delivery route and a farmers' market stall. These three legs of his marketing effort support each other--and him--in unexpected, synergistic ways, and keep him sitting pretty. At right: Although accustomed to rainbow chard, Andy's CSA customers rushed to buy this Italian variety when they found out it was specially requested by a well-known restaurant.


CSA Journal

Way beyond organic 
California maverick Jim Cochran became the first strawberry farmer, and the first organic farmer, to sign a contract with United Farm Workers. And his management innovations haven't stopped there.

Equipment and tool basics for beginning farmers

Welcome to a new series on essential tools and equipment for the beginning farmer--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 tractor, hand-tool basics, how to get the best buys at auctions, making repairs around the farm, and much more.

Your first tractor, Part I
It should be everything you need it to be -- and then some.

  First tractor
Flower power pushes Texas
Hill Country farm to new heights

Frank and Pamela Arnosky started with $1,000, twelve acres in the middle of nowhere, a tent to live in and a passion for flowers. Now they're grossing $500,000 a year.
Vine and fig tree:
Restoring agriculture in the Holy Land

Rebels in a communal society

With government ownership of land at 95 percent, most everything in Israel is done communally, especially farming. There is the agricultural sector (with many different farms) and a living sector (with many different homes), but for those who have a need to create a small family farm, self-sufficient and private; squatting has become a common option.



Organic University: Greenhouses for
year-round food and farming

Part 3: Environmental management
Our first installment covered site selection and soil preparation. The second covered construction. Now that your greenhouse is up and running, we’ll learn how to manage the darn thing.


New 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 for participating.

New Farmer Journals

Fresh Harvest Farm, Mokena IL
A process of inquiry
This new farmer finds that every new lesson leads to a dozen more questions.
Loon Organics, Eagan MN
Good neighbors
A new farmer takes the plunge under the watchful eyes of good friends and seasoned mentors.
Sol-e-Terre Farm, Suffield CT
Spring has sprung
With the farmers under the weather and the cows under the fence, the busy season offers up its challenges.
Stoney Lonesome Farm, Gainesville VA
The 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.


Ag Policy Perspectives
Insights from Daryll E. Ray, Director of the University of Tennessee's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center

Rising prices paint crude picture
for oil-dependant farmers

Costs may rise across the board for farmers--not just for the crops they sell, but for their farm chemicals, seed, fertilizer and replacement parts.

Ag futures await oil outcome
Will rising fuel prices drive a new revolution in American agriculture?


Rising prices

Ag futures

Welcome to The New Farm Classifieds!

Wanted: Horse farm job; bigger farm in Connecticut; solitude, peace and quiet (in exchange for farm or garden work).
For sale: Classic tractor, naturally raised cows, homesites on organic farm, New Zealand white rabbits.
Opportunities: Organic transition specialist, dairy apprentice, Iowa Organic farm and equipment for lease.







Dr. Paul's Research Perspectives

Carbon is the key
Research in the Amazon region suggests that ancient farmers dramatically improved poor soils through the addition of charcoal-based carbon


Been to our bookstore lately?

Check out featured titles on old tractors, no-till farming, ecological aquaculture, the lives of Mexican farmworkers and food security in the 21st century. Don't miss a special offer on three classic Rodale titles--Save Three Lives, An Agricultural Testament, and Farmers of Forty Centuries. Plus, new book reviews:

Have a book recommendation for us? Let us know by emailing senior writer Laura Sayre at

Check The New Farm home page for the latest news. Enjoy.
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