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Hello [name]. 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 chores. "

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 farm.

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 year. For 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 the Weed 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 can help.

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 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

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, at

Chris Hill, Executive Editor


Cultivating community
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.

Getting "pasture"-ized
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 in England.
See below for more.


Fresh today from The New Farm®
CASE STUDY: Transitioning to organic
Reviving an ancient sheep breed generates high-value markets for ranchers, shepherds and weavers in an isolated region of northern New Mexico

Linking old traditions with contemporary enterprise, the Tierra Wools cooperative has found new markets for the rare Navajo-Churro, a 400-year old sheep breed that was nearly lost for good. In this first of a two-part series, we focus on the organic operation of Antonio and Molly Manzanares, who make 90 percent of their income from selling organic lamb—especially the increasingly popular, richly-flavored Churro. The other 10 percent comes from sales of organic wool to the Tierra Wool cooperative. (More on that in part two.)

Churro sheep

From organic row crops to perennial pastured beef in southwestern Minnesota
Audrey Arner and Richard Handeen of Moonstone Farm are securing a future for their farm by “perennializing” the landscape. Why? Because it fits their stewardship goals. Perennial pasture reduces their dependence on outside inputs and reduces the farm's environmental impact on the surrounding land and streams. It allows them to market a valued product. And it gives them more time for family and friends. Talk about sustainable.
  Pastured beef in MN

Questioning King Corn, Part 2:
Supersize me organically?

New York Times Magazine writer Michael Pollan tells how overproduction of commodity crops—especially corn—has led to overconsumption and obesity, and he challenges the wisdom of “organic high-fructose corn syrup” and the machinations that would create such products.

Do you know who invented the concept of “supersize me”? He has a name and a history. Did you know that our current overproduction was a direct result of a policy change in 1973? Are you interested in a compelling case that details the high cost of cheap food? You’ll find it all in this second installment of Michael Pollan’s inspiring address, delivered earlier this year at the 25th Anniversary Eco-Farm Conference in California.


King Corn, Part 2

A rallying cry for farm groups around the country:
You DO make a difference. March on.

Earlier this summer, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, farmer, writer and activist George Devault spoke of the power farm groups like PFI, PASA, MOSES, MOFGA and others have to make the U.S. a safer and better place for farmers in the middle—not just through education and support, but through political action.
At right: On the edge of a flax field during PFI's 20th anniversary celebration and farm tour.

PFI rallying cry


Sustainable in Senegal
From dunghills to compost pits and back again
–only better

How Senegalese farmers learned, practiced then radically adapted composting to fit their land, culture and settings.

In the third installment in his series on farming in Senegal, Peace Corp volunteer and sustainable ag grad student Nathan McClintock tells the story of how valuable practices like composting—proven to increase yields and soil fertility—will never be adopted if they don’t evolve to fit the needs and limitations of the people who must use them.


Composting in Senegal


WWOOFing and beyond
From one-week volunteer farm stays to three-year diploma courses, the world of international organic ag training opportunities is growing fast. And for those who get the in-depth, practical training that now exists, organic farm manager positions are increasingly available.


The Inspector’s Notebook #15
Stay away from CCA
For fence posts, trellises, or any other application coming in contact with soil or livestock, says Jim Riddle, stick with naturally rot-resistant woods like cedar, hedge or black locust. Avoid “pressure treated lumber” with CCA (chromated copper arsenate).

  Inspector's Notebook

Developing a Pricing Plan, Part 3:
Recording and tracking your costs

Taking full advantage of your existing records to help you determine product costs

  Pricing, Part 3


Dear New Farm: How do I get USDA certification for my organic Japanese sake?
Dear New Farm: I have a dream of becoming an organic farmer; can you connect me up with those who’ve made the leap?
Dear New Farm: I need help with my harlequin bugs.


Weeds for beginners: A new farmer finds the Martens expert advice invaluable.


Dear Jeff: Is organic no-till a viable possibility in the near future for conventional row crops?



Wanted: organic powdered milk; pelletized compost; JD 1050 tractor engine; organic cotton growers to grow organic pima in 2006; plans for building a large-scale garlic peeler; lots of E.F. worms for a vermiculture project; small-grain drill in central Georgia; bulk bins and feed grinder/mixer.

For Sale: pick your own organic apples in eastern PA; forty-acre farm with renovated farmhouse in northeastern Iowa; organic alfalfa hay; alpacas; Case 730 tractor with loader; Cormo sheep starter flock; organic lean Dexter beef; 1989 Massey Ferguson 1030 compact tractor; 35-acre dairy farm in Vermont; 2200 laying hen cages; 75-acre certified organic farm an hour north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Opportunities: Volunteers for environmental preservation and economic development work in Ghana; farmer to take over 1-acre CSA farm in Massachusetts; job opening at Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network for a Sustainable Farming Campaigner; part-time farmhand in upstate New York; qualified vineyard manager for organic vineyard and orchard in Michigan; intern for small farm in a high residential growth area, PA; organic vegetable grower for well-established farm near State College, PA.



ACTION ALERT: Release the captive supplies; support the Packer Ban

Help family farmers fight agribusiness exploitation
Add your voice to the more than 200 organizations decrying unfair competition and increasing consolidation in the livestock markets. It’s a simple process. Use our templates to ask your senators and representative to:

  1. Support the Packer Ban prohibiting ownership of cattle and hogs by packers.
  2. Support the Captive Supply Reform Act requiring packers and producers to bid against each other in open, public markets—no more secret deals.

Click here now to take action.



Johanns announces key component of animal I.D. system Sept. 1
Brazil's rise as farming giant has a price tag August 31: 170,000-acre farms and an agriculture trade surplus of $24.4 billion have made several Brazilian farmers among the most powerful in the world, while the other 4.3 million cling to what’s left.
National Organic Program holds off on pasture decision Aug. 26: Organic dairy farmers hoping to get a decision on the pasture recommendation were disappointed to hear the NOP was not ready to rule one way or another.
USDA reverses withdrawal of organic certification for cosmetics August 26: Certified “organic” or “made with organic” personal care products and other non-food products may continue using the organic seal, the USDA said in a memo to organic certifiers.
Switchgrass could be the Midwest's next big energy source August 26: What if a crop existed that could maintain the benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program, while at the same time allowing landowners to profit from previously idle land? Iowa conservationist John Sellers Jr. thinks one does.


Horticulture meetings feature record number
of organic presentations

Researchers share findings on production issues, post-harvest management strategies and consumer preferences, addressing everything from organic bananas to organic walnuts, from bell pepper production in Kentucky to high-tunnel tomato production in Pennsylvania.

  Research update
Ag Policy Perspectives:
Pursuing a new vision for agricultural policy
Policy analyst Daryll Ray introduces his 4-step plan for remedying the commodity programs. It all starts, he says, with understanding and paying attention to the realities of the marketplace.
  Ag Policy Perspectives

Bookstore Update
Been to our bookstore lately? Check out featured titles on food writing, breaking the pesticide habit, the sustainable ag movement in the American Midwest, shepherding, and the global face of sustainable farming. Plus new reviews:

REVIEW: EcoVillage at Ithaca
Better living through community
From Liz Walker, an inside history of a pioneering project in upstate New York. MORE >

REVIEW: Making a Difference College
& Graduate Guide

Sustainable you
Miriam Weinstein's college and grad school guide with a difference. MORE >

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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