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Hello. Survey on steroids: Several hundred of you responded to our reader survey. Did I say "respond"? Embraced, or procreated with, might be more accurate. We got 952 comments from you--36 single-spaced pages--on how and why you use the web site, what we could do to improve it, what you like most, what you like least, what you would change, and what would make you most likely to continue visiting the site. We’re still plowing through these valuable comments and observations, and trying to evaluate them. As soon as we've figured out their significance, we'll let you know.

Here are a few facts from the survey:

  • 54% of you are farmers, 22% want to start farming, and 20% either teach about farming or are involved in some ag-related profession.
  • 60% are men, and 40% are women
  • 76% are in the 30 to 60 age range. 13% are under 30.
  • 70% of you have been coming to the site for 6 months or more--and 46% for more than a year.
  • 43% of you visit the site weekly or daily, and almost 50% of you browse for more than 20 minutes each time you visit the site.
  • And 97% of you said you'd recommend the site to someone else.

The general picture? Most of you are very satisfied with the site, but figure we have lots of work to do in improving some features, adding new features and coverage, and expanding the geographic range of our coverage. Kind of like a good marriage, I figure. We're both committed to the relationship, we basically love each other, but there are a few things about us that could use some improvement--or just plain irritate you.

Blew my mind: Each month there are one or two articles we run that make me feel like I learned something entirely new, and deeply significant. Don Lotter's piece on two plant scientists in Mexico is one of those pieces. On one level, this is a great story about two intrepid scientists who, despite lack of funding and support, persevere in creating their own green revolution in Mexico. On another level, it's an outrageous indictment of a scientific, political and economic system that dismisses powerful evidence when it doesn't fit the prevailing paradigm. And on a third level, it's an amazingly clear explanation of a complex and sometimes counter-intiutive plant breeding program that has achieved astonishing success with almost no support. Read the article description below, and check it out. It's definitely a must-read:

Beyond GMO … the REAL answer
to healthy, disease resistant crops

Down in Mexico, two plant scientists, despite lack of funding and support, are staging a true green revolution. By using a strategy called horizontal resistance to breed bean plants with broad genetic resistance to diseases and pests, they are outperforming GMO and commercial crop varieties … without the need for pesticides! Be patient with the science and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Coming soon: In about a month we'll be launching the first version of our economic modeling tool, which we've named FarmSelect. FarmSelect is an easy-to-use tool that lets you do side-by-side comparisions of the economics of organic versus conventional management on your farm. In this first version, FarmSelect will allow you to compare the results from conventional and organic management in one year for eaither corn or soybeans. All you do is enter your zip code and field size. We use real-time cash prices, USDA county yield averages, and real yields for organic crops to give you a detailed report. By early 2005 you'll also be able to:

  • ... experiment with yields and key production costs, adding your own numbers for seed, fertilizer, hired labor and much, much more.
  • ... model multiple crops in multiple fields for a year, giving you a picture of the whole-farm economics of the two systems.
  • ... compare the economics of organic versus conventional in very wet and very dry years. One of the pleasant surprises of organic production: 24 years of research comparing organic and conventional production have shown that in a field with at least seven years of organic management, yields are significantly better in organic systems in both dry and wet years!

Finally, before the end of 2005, you’ll be able to test out a five year organic rotation to see how it performs over time economically, compared with the conventional approach. If you like the results, you’ll even be able to print out a financial plan you can take to your lender. Look for FarmSelect in early December.

May the resource still be with you: Thanks to all of you who have suggested organizations and web sites we should add to The New Farm Resource Directory. We've added all of your ideas, and will continue to add new entries each week. If you have another suggestion for a listing, please send it to Dan Sullivan, senior editor.

Chris Hill, Executive Editor


It's Karma, baby: Karma dahlias, that is. And it made a load of money for cut flower columnist Mel Devault.
See below for more.

Bean breeder extraordinaire: The man behind Mexico's REAL green revolution.
See at left for more.

Newly organic, an old New England dairy thrives on pasture.
See below for more.

We're not in Kansas anymore: In fact, it's deep in the heart of Chicago.
See below for more.

On the packing line at Harmony Valley CSA. Tips for renewing customers ... and keeping them happy.
See below for more.


Fresh today from The New Farm®

Newly organic, an old New England dairy thrives
Bucking convention and the conventional, one farming family in a remote corner of Massachusetts fine tunes its operation and sets its priorities to take tangible steps toward being fully self-sustaining.
  Organic dairy
Farmers' markets & beyond:
Expanding the market for local foods

Part 2 : A prescription for making these markets successful and competitive includes professional management. Creating an even broader customer base for local food requires pulling up additional reserves of savvy and imagination.
  Farmers' markets
Creating local food options in an urban setting
How one woman channeled her discovery about the perils of an industrial food system into creating local options for healthy, sustainably produced food in her own Chicago neighborhood.
  Urban farming

For the beginning grower

Good Karma--"Karma" dahlias, that is
The sponteneous purchase of Karma Dahlias turned out to be one of the best decisions of the season for Melanie and flower partner Linda.

  Cut flowers

Letter from Pheasant Hill Farm

Blueberry Blues
Part 2: After chuckling all the way to the bank through the summer, this farmer is now singing the blueberry blues. High-value can quickly turn into big-loss if you're not careful. Time to protect your assets!



When the "farm wife" is away ...
... things go to hell in a handbasket. Fortunately, Andy's wife Julia brought back valuable heirloom seeds and a pile of great contacts from her trip to the Slow Food conference in Italy. And she can always reschedule that parent/teacher conference Andy blew off.

  Farm wife blues

CSA NOTEBOOK: Harmony Valley Farm, Wisconsin

Serving CSA members better
As the CSA season draws to a close, the Harmony Valley team brainstorms about ways to boost member retention from year to year—and to encourage former CSA members to become faithful farmers' market customers.

  CSA tips
The Inspector’s Notebook #5
5 tips for complying with noncompliances
Take time now to understand and correct outstanding issues on your certification contract
  Inspector's Notebook

Classified information
Red corn seed, basket weeder, Minnesota dairy farm, Hinniker cut-away discs, Barred Rock chickens, organic grain ...

FOR SALE: Compost turner, 40 cows in Maine, biodegradable row cover, small scale meat processing plant, 154-acre certified organic farm in Illinois ....





Insights and experiences from organic farms

Fall colors
Public relations, mercury observations, and end-of-season ruminations keep our interns occupied.

  Intern Journal

Dr. Paul's Research Perspectives

Water, antibiotics and Animal Farm
A U.S. ban on sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in livestock production is long overdue, says Rodale Institute research director Paul Hepperly in his new column.

  Research perspectives


Dear New Farm: Do you have a formula for an organic herbicide that can be made at home or on the farm?

Dear New Farm: Do you know of a provider of turf grass seed suitable for use in organic orchard blocks? If so, could you provide a list of such providers?

Dear New Farm: Here's more research supporting the case against synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

Dear New Farm: Darts and Laurels for the New Farm team.


Dear Jeff: We are transitioning and have one holy mess of Canadian thistle on a wonderful clay base, so soil tilth/building is my first priority. Started with buckwheat, left it on too long, put in rye and we have had just way too much rain! Alas, welcome to farming! Look forward to what you have to offer.

Dear Jeff: I've never farmed but would like to begin planting on my 2-acre lot.


Bookstore Updates and Reviews

Check out featured books on sustainable forestry, the history of agribusiness in California, urban farming and food systems, soil health, and the politics of food safety. Plus, new book reviews:

And don't miss the e-book recommendations in Don Lotter's Pan-American Adventure story about breeding for horizontal resistance.

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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