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Hello. Farming and only farming? The debate rages--well, simmers--on the pages of New Farm: Should we stick to only those issues that are directly related to farming and marketing, or should we also address the larger questions of social justice, the impact of global markets on local systems, and the lack of federal support for organic and sustainable farming? Ohio chef Parker Bosley started it with his reader commentary posted last issue, objecting to our politicization of farming and food systems.

Two readers responded, thanking Mr. Bosley for his perspective. But I'm in the other camp. Mr. Bosley is under the impression that free enterprise actually exists, and will solve all problems for farmers. I happen to believe that free enterprise must be rescued from the grossest sort of corporate cronyism before small scale farmers will be free to compete in a fair marketplace. And that will require political and social action, and systemic changes. I want to understand and act on the issues that influence or interfere with the kind of farming and rural life I'd like to see in this country, even as I toil to make my own enterprise thrive.

It's an uphill battle, that's for sure. A lot stands between us and fair prices, local markets, vibrant small towns, a farmer's market in every neighborhood, and 100,000 organic farmers in the U.S. And I agree with Mr. Bosley that most of the hard work must take place one farm and one community at a time. But we must simultaneously push for the rules and regulations that will support the kind of farming we believe in. Without zoning, as you know, the "free" market will put a factory farm in your back yard.

So, I welcome it when a guy like Paul Hawken comes along to give us a boost of encouragement, to assure us that not only can things change, but that they ARE changing, and that our efforts as individuals and groups are part of a global movement that shares essentially the same vision we do--a world of healthy local markets, local culture and refreshing diversity. (Hawken gave the keynote address at the PASA conference this year, and a transcription of his address appears in this issue of New Farm.)

I don't know about you, but I think we need those booster shots of understanding and inspiration to remind us of our broader hopes even as we sweat to improve our crop rotation on our own small parcel of land, or make improvements in our farmstand presentation. Why did we chose this way of life, anyway? It sure ain't just the money. (The farm manager for the Del Cabo co-op in southern Baja addresses that issue--why we do this crazy stuff--in Don Lotter's new Pan-American Adventure installment. Check it out.)

Why don't YOU weigh in on the issue: Should we mix issues and politics with practical farming advice? Or should we leave it to someone else? Send me your thoughts at

Getting your goat ... and eating it too. One of my favorite episodes in Barbara Kingsolver's novel, Prodigal Summer, involves a widowed farmer's wife who's actually a city girl. She's determined to make the farm survive after the accidental death of her husband. Someone mentions the holiday goat market in New York City. The Southern farmers around her scratch their heads and snicker at her insanity ... until they discover that she's netting a lot more than they ever made on their own farms. Sounds like that story is being played out over and over again all over the country. Meat goats are a big business, now, catering to a number of ethnic markets. In her piece this issue, Darcy Maulsby describes a meat goat operation in Iowa that's growing each year and adding lots of income on top of the farm's more traditional corn and hog enterprises. Enjoy.

Chris Hill, Executive Editor

Don't forget to check out our latest Organic Price Index. Coming tomorrow, July 21: All new prices for the Grassroots OPX.


Parsnipity: While others eat basil and tomatoes, Andy plans parsnips. See CSA Journal below.

Pan-American Adventure: Don Lotter continues his Latin journey with a story on a 300-farmer organic coop at the tip of Baja. See below for more.


Fresh today from The New Farm®

Niche opportunity gets Iowa farmer’s goat
– in a good way

Compared to conventional hogs, meat goats bring a relatively quick return with high consumer demand, yet have low overhead costs and management needs. Even the skeptics are starting to ask questions.

Meat Goat Marketplace
A listing of the best resources for raising and marketing meat goats ... regional, national and international.


Meat goats

Goat resources


A series on sustainable ranching in Wyoming

In search of the real tough cowboy
Part 3 of 3: To survive in the 21st century, ranchers need to be skilled natural resource managers—and good communicators.





Keep Rollin'
While the rest of the world savors basil and tomatoes, Andy gets pumped up to plant parsnips. It's all part of the cycle.

  CSA Journal

Letter from NY:

"Farms R Us?"
Part 1: Fearless farmers bring a friend’s franchise farm fantasy to fruition. The Martens try to imagine just what it is they'd franchise about their farm, assuming it was even remotely possible or desirable.

  Letter from NY

A different kind of community-supported farm
Forty-five minutes north of Chicago, the people of Prairie Crossing are redefining the suburban housing development to include ecological restoration, green building technologies, and small-scale organic farming.

At right: Peg Sheaffer, who, along with her husband Matt, is running an organic farming and marketing operation as an integral part of the Prairie Crossing mix


Prairie Crossing


The Public’s Right to Grow
Cornell’s Public Seed Initiative seeks to ensure development of regional varieties well-suited to organic conditions

  Public Seed Initiative

Insights and experiences from organic farms

Lessons in the field
Our intern journalists each learns in his or her own way that it’s not what you know, but what you don’t know, that makes organic farming so interesting.

At right: Claire McDonald, sending in her thoughts from Guatemala.


Intern Journal

An eye in the sky
Images produced by satellites and airplanes can detect problems with crop health and pests not visible from the ground--and it's all available to the ordinary farmer.
  Satellite assistance


Great weather. Good yields?
We’ve got our fingers crossed.

Jeff gives an update on equipment purchases, crop progress, farm building maintenance, new approaches to no-till … and the fire of 2004.


One Farm to Another



On the trail of sustainable farming in Latin America

The Del Cabo Cooperative of Southern Baja
keeps 300 farm families busy growing organic
crops for export

There are surely easier ways to make a living, says manager John Graham, but he likes supporting rural communities, and keeping small farms viable.

  Del Cabo Coop
AND . . .





I am a small organic cheese maker, and I would like to know more about homeopathic remedies for small ruminants. Do you know a place to visit? To take classes?
Can you recommend a technique and ingredients for stopping the overgrowth of grassy and broadleaf weeds taking over our strawberry plants (which are planted in plastic mulch)?

KUDOS for “low-pol” organics: Two New Farm Readers tell Parker Bosley he's not alone. And, they have a message for sustainable ag supporters: change the world through example not through political pandering.

Can you advise me about baling wheat just as it is about to head out?
How can I prevent squirrels and birds from eating my cherries?

Research Updates: U.C. Davis

Mini melons
U.C. Davis researchers rate the quality of entrants in a new class ... the personal watermelon
  Personal best melons

Bookstore Updates and Reviews

Check out featured books on the corporate food system, soil fundamentals, historic livestock breeds, green business and land reform in Mexico. Plus, new book reviews:

  • Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle (Counterpoint Press, 2001)
  • Fred Magdoff, John Bellamy Foster and Frederick Buttel, eds., Hungry for Profit (Monthly Review Press, 2000)
Check The New Farm home page for the latest news, a new Dr. Don research update and a new Final Word from ag curmudgeon Alan Guebert. Enjoy.
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