Cultivating crops AND community.
We’ve said it many times in many different ways, and Rodale
Institute farm manager Jeff Moyer says it again in this edition
of NewFarm.Org: Cultivating community is just as important as cultivating
crops. (We’re probably speaking to the choir, here, but it
never hurts to remind ourselves of fundamental truths.)
Click here to read Jeff's article.
Forget the “good fences make good neighbors” concept,
says Jeff. That was a bankrupt idea when the first curmudgeon said
it however many centuries (or millennia) ago. As Barbara Kingsolver
says in the title essay of her book, Small
Wonder, borders and boundaries take an extraordinary
amount of energy and effort to maintain. They’re not natural.
Robert Frost, she reminds us, says it well in his famous poem,
Mending Wall, when he question's his neighbor's passion
for boundary walls: “My apple trees will never get across
/ And eat the cones under his Pines, I tell him.” Maybe a
new approach is needed, says Kingsolver; maybe some problems aren’t
solved by division, but by connection.
Whether you’re a second-year farmer like Kristin Kimball,
who farms in upstate New York, or lifetime farmers like Mary-Howell
and Klaas Martens and Linda Halley--who have written about neighbors
and community for New Farm--good neighbors not only help you out
in a pinch. They deepen your understanding of both farming and life.
In one of her "new farmer" essays, Kristin wrote that
on a particularly tough day, "Our neighbor Steve, who has farmed
for nearly all his eighty years, pulled up in his truck as I was
indulging in a good weep. He looked at my streaky face, asked no
questions, passed a can of ice-cold beer out the truck window and
said, 'Well. That's farming.' Then he drove off, to his own evening
Interdependence and sharing, as Jeff points out, are particularly
important to organic farmers, who must be committed to a long view
of the soil and the place. Fertility is built up slowly, over decades,
through patient practice and careful observation. Knowledge and
experience passed on from neighbors can be more valuable than a
life-time supply of nitrogen fertilizer.
And of course, the most basic truth of all is—why the heck
are you doing it if it doesn’t give you a sense of connection
to people and a place? Organic farming in the deepest sense is about
an abiding love for your place, your neighbors, your community and
your environment. I recommend re-reading our
article on regenerative agriculture, which is linked
to at the bottom of every New Farm page. It talks about the widening
circles of influence that radiate out from an organically managed
Identifying weed-tolerant corn and
soybean varieties: For the past three seasons, researchers
here at The Rodale Institute have been testing different varieties
of “off-the-shelf” food-grade corn and soybeans that
are classified as high-yielding and suitable for large-scale production.
The idea? What if certain varieties are less affected by weeds?
What if you could determine a “weed threshold” below
which there isn’t much impact on yield? What if you could
reduce time-consuming weed management practices when weeds are below
that threshold? What if it saved you time AND money?
In this edition, researcher
Rita Seidel summarizes the results of our first two seasons,
explaining that some varieties are in fact far less sensitive to
weed pressure. Rita also provides an economic analysis that demonstrates
how much more you can net per acre with organic feed and food grade
corn and soybeans than with the same varieties grown and marketed
conventionally. We’ve been testing additional new varieties
this season, and we’ll let you know the results early next
Rita’s article, click here.
Welcome to the Weed Management Forum:
Ralph Waldo Emerson called a weed "a plant whose virtues have
not yet been discovered." True, many of these much-maligned
flora have benefits ranging from the epicurean to the medicinal—and
they certainly have their place in natural ecosystems—but
they also possess the ability to take over a cash crop practically
before a farmer’s eyes. That’s why we’ve put together
Management Forum, where you can share your trials,
tribulations and hopefully some successes in dealing with nature’s
little water-and-nutrient bandits. Join
the weed management forum now ...
And speaking of the New Farm Forums,
we were sitting around the office talking about all the wonderful
farmers we met at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
conference in New Orleans this past January, wondering how those
farmers in the path of Katrina were faring, and asking ourselves
what we might do to help. Then one of us discovered a thread, Katrina
relief, in our General Topics forum. If you are, or
if you know of, a farmer in need of assistance due to the devastating
effects of the hurricane, please post your details here. We'll monitor
the forum and do our best to match those in need with those who
On a different scale, here's another way to help someone: Jen finds
herself with 65 acres of conventionally farmed land, and needs help
brainstorming what to do with it on a limited budget. Click
here to respond to her.
Not so desperately seeking farm blogs
and newsletters: We’re looking for organic
and sustainable farmer/farming blogs in order to share a compendium
of them with all our readers. Don’t know what a blog is? Well,
here are a couple of our favorites, which served as the inspiration
for this undertaking:
We’re also looking for your farm/CSA newsletters for our
upcoming story about how these “prose about produce”
have evolved into a conduit to customers, crucial marketing tools,
and a whole new genre of literature. Send your blog links and email
newsletters to Daniel.Sullivan@Rodaleinst.org
or snail mail them to him at The Rodale Institute, 611 Siegfriedale
Road, Kutztown, PA 19530.
A few of your favorite things: With
all the new features and tools the New Farm staff has added to the
site over the last year or so, we like to keep track of what’s
working. Is there a section of the site you like best? Do you come
to the homepage each update looking for words of encouragement from
a certain columnist? Which of our tools do you have bookmarked?
Here’s your chance to let us know what we’re doing
right—and what you want to see more of. Send us your two cents
to New Farm assistant editor Amanda Kimble Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of favorite things ... Our
three-part pastured poultry series was at the top of the pecking
order for the last two months in terms of popularity (number of
readers). Caught us a little by surprise. SO, is there any other
topic out there burning for attention? Drop a note and let me know,
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
The Rodale Institute's Mennonite neighbor John Brubaker's importance
extends way beyond how he helps us fabricate tools or make hay.
For more, see at left.
Ancient sheep, new market
Remote New Mexico ranchers take advantage of a growing market for
organic Churro wool and meat.
See below for more.
Minnesota couple converts from organic row crops to a perrenial
pastured beef operation that suites their stewardship ideals.
See below for more.
Weed-tolerant soybeans and corn?
For three seasons now, researchers here at The Rodale Institute
have been looking at commercially available organic corn and soybean
varieties to determine which ones don't mind weeds so much.
See at left for more.
WWOOFing and beyond
Opportunities for international organic ag experiences ... including
picking beets as part of a three-year program in Biodynamic farming
See below for more.