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Hello. Compost turner extraordinaire. We always love to report on the creative work being done here on the research farm. Our organic no-till roller, for example, is a great innovation that has created quite a stir. At least two other farms are now constructing and testing their own versions of the tool.

There’s another amazing homegrown tool here on the farm we’ve been wanting to write about for some time now—our farm-scale compost turner. And now, in August, when we’ve been spreading compost on our recently-harvested oat ground, seems like a good time to tell the story.

Several years back farm, manager Jeff Moyer and neighbor John Brubaker snagged a junker dump truck from a local salvage yard, and through the magic of world-class welding, hydraulics and imagination they converted it into a compost turner that can handle windrows 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall. In her story this issue, staff writer Laura Sayre tells about its construction, and also about the role compost plays in our farm operation. The story is chock full of details about how we make our compost, when we apply it, and how often and how much we apply. An added bonus: Laura uncovered old slides illustrating the construction of the turner. We’ve taken these images and new photos of the turner in operation and made them into a slideshow. We hope it will give those of you out there with the skill and the will enough information to build your own. If you have any questions about its construction, please contact Jeff directly at

Organic mega dairies … There’s been a lot of buzz on ag list serves and elsewhere recently about Aurora Dairy Group’s certification of its 4,000-cow dairy operation in Platteville, Colorado. Laura Sayre provides a careful summary of the event ... and the issues. We've also reprinted a piece from The Stockman Grass Farmer that takes the view that Aurora's move is a direct result of the USDA's decision not to enforce the "access to pasture" rules of the National Organic Program.

What do you think? Does the certification of Aurora Organic's dairy and bottling facilities represent a bright new dawn for the U.S. organic dairy sector, bringing organic milk to millions of regular American consumers nationwide and prompting the conversion of thousands of acres of farmland to organic production? Or does it herald a tough new era for small, family-owned organic dairies, in which the premium for organic milk will erode and the difference between organic and conventional foods will become less meaningful? Send us your thoughts by emailing me at

On a different scale altogether … Dairyman David Iles runs a 190-cow pasture-based dairy herd in North Carolina. During the 1980s and early '90s, Iles ran a much larger conventional operation and generated lots of dollars—but he was always in debt. So he transitioned to pasture, cut his production and started to see consistent profits. Writer Chris Bickers describes Iles’ operation in detail. He also describes a dairy pasture research program at North Carolina State University that has been working for 6 years to develop a new system that will allow dairies in the Southeast to compete effectively with larger confinement systems in other parts of the country. Bickers describes the pasture-based system they’ve developed—and its benefits.

Other highlights for me this issue:

Chris Hill, Executive Editor

Don't forget to check out our latest Organic Price Index. Coming tomorrow, August 18: All new prices for the Grassroots OPX. Nineteen markets in 15 states.


Let us now give thanks to the glorious blueberry.
George Devault discusses the care and feeding of his most dependable cash crop. See hymn to blueberry production, below left.

The Compost Magician: Take a closer look at our homegrown farm-scale compost turner. See at left for more details.

Pasture-based dairy: A North Carolina experienced the two Ps--pasture, then profit. See at left for more.

The state of corn in Mexico: What's been the impact of NAFTA and U.S. corn dumping? Don Lotter takes an up close and personal look. See at left for more.


Fresh today from The New Farm®

CSA NOTEBOOK: Harmony Valley Farm, Wisconsin

Finding the support in Community
Supported Agriculture

After 30 years of full-time farming, Richard DeWilde experienced a farmer's worst nightmare--he was laid up with severe back pain and unable to work. How the heck would the farm survive? At right : Jose Rodriguez mastered cultivating the mesclun mix because Richard's disability forced him to look for someone who could handle this critical task with great skill.


CSA Notebook


Protecting the integrity of
organic grains during harvest

Develop strict cleaning protocol for harvesting and handling equipment to keep grain clean, pure and uncontaminated, says Jim Riddle, organic inspector and longterm member of the National Organic Standards Board.

Inspector's Notebook



You can keep your lemonade ...
Life gave me elderberries, not lemons, and that’s just fine with me, says Andy Griffin.

CSA Journal


gm vs. organic, international

The First World Conference on
Organic Seed, Rome, Italy

Can organic and GM coexist?
Operating on the assumption that they’ll pretty much have to coexist, organizers of the Rome conference made a first, imperfect effort to open the dialogue between these colliding worlds. The first of three reports by Matt Dillon, Executive Director of the Organic Seed Alliance.

  Rome seed conference

gm vs. organic, domestic

Conversations with folks in the
first US county to ban GM crops

Dissecting how Mendocino County, CA, beat the biotech industry's deep pockets

Mendocino County

A beginner's guide to farming
Greenhouse 101, Summer

Letting go: No "forcing" summer lettuce this year
Circumstances beyond our control have forced us to go a little easier on ourselves, for a change. Thank heavens.


Greenhouse 101


Turning crops into ethanol fuel:
On the road to energy independence

Though ethanol production has become a boondoggle at the national level, the technology offers both operating-cost savings and a potential revenue stream for local farmers and communities. A how-to primer on getting started.

  Homegrown ethanol

Insights and experiences from organic farms

ENTRY 4: Mysteries solved, sort of
Our interns learn that building steps in Belize takes less paperwork but more legwork; that one hot, humid Saturday is not the same as the next; and that there is most definitely a difference between research and production potatoes, even if they look (and smell) identical.


Intern Journal



Worm-bin construction made easy
Rodale Institute intern Kelly Grube offers a do-it-yourself guide to building a home-scale vermicompost system.


Worm bin


Keeping blight at bay
Despite a really wet year, our wheat has resisted fusarium head blight. Don’t ask about our apples, though. Ask about our straw, instead, begs Institute farm manager Jeff Moyer.


Jeff Moyer


Support Fair Contracts for Growers Act

Stop forced arbitration in agriculture! Ask your Senator to support the Fair Contracts for Growers Act. While the contest between small contract farmers and corporations may never be a completely fair one, S91 at least guarantees a neutral field on which to do battle--reducing the financial burden for farmers who seek redress.
  Action Alert!
AND . . .




DEAR NEW FARM: What are the rules regarding homemade items like salsa at farmer’s markets? When I was with the J-town, Kentucky farmers market, I thought homemade items were not legal to sell. I thought you were required to have your kitchen state certified or something. I would like to make salsa for next year’s market. I love your site!

DEAR NEW FARM: We’re considering growing organic wheat and need certification, production and marketing information. We’d really like to link with someone who is doing this in either eastern Colorado or western Kansas, that is, someone with similar weather conditions.

Ranching series gets raves from HM fans
Teachers, authors of Holistic Management – and fans of Tony Malmberg – really liked our HM ranching series.

Dear Jeff: We would like to include grass clippings from a local landscaping firm in our composting operation. Should we be worried about herbicides?

Dear Jeff: I want to start feeding my rabbits hay. Do you think it's a good idea to grow a small plot and let them pasture?


Bookstore Updates and Reviews

Check out featured books on vermicomposting, the history of corn, the life of the modern shepherd, grassfed livestock, and a fictional account of a struggling artisanal cheesemaker in Virginia. 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, a new Dr. Don research update and a new Final Word from ag curmudgeon Alan Guebert. Enjoy.
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