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Hello. It wasn’t by design. Maybe it’s just in the air – or the dirt. People are starting to pay attention to the secret life of the soil, and so we have three pieces this week that approach that topic from different directions:

Laura Sayre launches our year-long series on research that’s taking place here at The Institute with a piece about David Douds’ research on mycorrhizae— beneficial fungi that thrive in organically managed soils, and can increase yields by up to 50 percent.
Go to David Douds

Our long-time columnist Mary-Howell Martens, a large scale organic grower from up-state New York, took a vacation to Cape Hatteras this August. But a farmer can never get entirely away from her soil. She looked at the seemingly sterile sands of the beach, thought about the invisible life that thrives even there, and then marveled at the infinitely more complex web of soil life that sustains organic crops.
Go to Letter from NY.

Meanwhile, Lisa Hamilton continues her series on Natural Agriculture in Japan: On an island in the Japanese inland sea, a spiritually oriented, non-scientific farmer draws the same conclusion as Mary-Howell Martens from his close observation of nature: Each step toward wildness in farming adds a new layer of complexity … and the complexity is what holds the soil together both literally and figuratively.
Go to Kishima Island.

The articles by Mary-Howell and Lisa are lyrical and inspiring. And I think you’ll be amazed by David Douds’ results, which you can easily duplicate on your own farm.

Spicing up the OPX: Over the last several months we’ve been developing price sources on the east and west coasts for organic and conventional herbs. Today we launch a new herb page that shows these price comparisons. It’s just one small step of many we’ll be taking in the next year to expand and improve the Organic Price Index™.
Go to the herb page now.

Teaching farms: Managing editor Greg Bowman and I were in Little Rock, Arkansas, last week meeting with folks at Heifer International to discuss collaborations both domestically and internationally. One of the things we talked about was helping farmers add value to their farms by turning them into classrooms for paying customers--teaching everything from soap making to cheese making. There are many farms around the country doing just that. But there’s another type of teaching farm: the farm that trains new farmers. We wrote not along ago above Skip Glover’s farm in Georgia that serves as an on-farm training center for all sorts of immigrant farmers. This week we feature two other farms were teaching and training are integral to the mission of the farm:

  • Roy Brubaker’s Village Acres farm in western PA, where six interns are an integral part of the farm operation.
  • D-Trois-Pierres CSA outside of Montreal, which offers four 8-month apprenticeships for young people in the region each year.

See below for more information on these stories.

Coming tomorrow, October 1: Packer Ban call to arms. Four companies control more than half of all U.S. hog slaughter and more than 80% of U.S. fed cattle slaughter. Such control of the market is made possible by captive supplies -- where livestock packers either own or control through contracts with farmers and ranchers. Fortunately, there is something you can do to stop the slide into a meat monopoly. Congress has introduced two new bills that will help put an end to captive supply. Go to the New Farm home page on October 1 and use our action alert to support this legislation.

--Chris Hill, Executive Editor

Don't forget to check out our latest Organic Price Index.


Introducing David Douds' magic fungus

Visit Mr. Murota on Kishima Island, at the mystical heart of Natural Agriculture



Fresh today from The New Farm®

Ups and downs of worm growing
keep Georgia farmer on his toes

It had all the makings of a B-grade horror movie. A bad storm hit South Georgia. Power was knocked out for hours. And somewhere in the dark moonless night a countless army of worms was making its escape … Worm farming can be lucrative, says Jack Brantley of Bear Creek Work Farm … but it’s like any other live-animal feeding operation. It takes experience, skill and patience. He recommends starting small.


Worm farming


TALKING SHOP: Gujarat, India
Gujarat hosts organic revival meeting for joyful and committed farmers

1,000 organic farmers and activists gathered earlier this year in the Indian state of Gujarat, near the Pakistani border, to discuss transitioning to organic, brainstorm new ways to market, and to reaffirm their commitment to organic … even when the markets are not there.



Not just a farm, but a creative community

Roy Brubaker, his family, and six interns collaborate, innovate and share labor, food and meaning at Village Acres, the Brubakers’ 30-acre organic produce farm and CSA in western Pennsylvania.
  Village Acres

When it comes to organized support for CSAs, Canadians have a thing or two to teach us, eh?

The D-Trois-Pierres CSA, outside of Montreal, Quebec, is part of a well-organized network of around 70 farms that are actively promoted and supported by Equiterre, a Quebec-based organization that champions sustainability and fair trade worldwide.


Montreal CSA


The first victim of ag subsidies is crop diversity …

… and the second victim is the soil. Klaas Martens reflects on all the consequences of a corn subsidy economy.


Klaas Martens





Two easy steps to register for an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) cost-share
Got a project on your farm that promotes agricultural production while improving environmental quality? Here’s how to apply for EQUIP money.

Get support for your value-added activities. And by the way, organic IS value added. Just apply.
Take advantage of the Value-Added Producer Grant Program NOW. VAPG is a competitive grants program administered by USDA's Rural Business Cooperative Service that makes funds available to help producers enter into value-added marketing and processing activities.





News & Research

Global warming may be net negative for US ag,
but carbon stewardship, wind power could help

Land-grant profs who met in Boston on September 29 say drought, flooding and pests will take greater tolls as weather extremes continue. Farm-based choices to adapt include biodiesel production and wind harvesting, with carbon-building cropping systems providing real and cost-effective benefits to society at large for the next 30 years.

In the dairy industry it pays to label Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found consumers were willing to pay up to $3 more for specially labeled milk products.

Study suggests in-season nitrogen monitoring can reduce overall fertilizer use Additional test could cut fertilizer apps by 25-75% an acre.

Organic foods may beat conventional in natural antioxidants tests Danish researchers have published a new study that suggests organic food contains higher levels of flavonoids than its conventional counterparts.

New EPA manure management regulations will make manure more available to crop farmers ... and may drive down the size of CAFO operations


Global Warming

High-value dairy

Nitrogen monitoring

Organic antioxidants

Manure management


THE FINAL WORD, by Alan Guebert
Cancun reactions continue to ricochet through global ag trade; scenes from this farm life; GM foods fail public polls again


The Final WORD

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