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Hello. Our Thanksgiving thanks to you: After all the blithe, vague talk in recent weeks about moral values--which has given me a mental rash I just can't seem to scratch--the stories in this issue of New Farm are a strong fresh breeze clearing out the moral puffery. These farm profiles (and almost every profile we've ever written, for that matter) demonstrate in so many different ways the hope, joy, faith, humility and other enduring values that motivate organic and sustainable farmers to keep their hands in the soil and their hearts in their communities. The farm families we meet and profile are creative, energetic, passionate and diverse.

All of us at New Farm and The Rodale Institute would like to give thanks now for the privilege of meeting and writing about these folks, whose stewardship of the land and vision for the future are a constant inspiration to us. Thank you.

A turkey day PS: Almost 1,000 readers came looking for turkey information on The New Farm web site in the past two weeks--and found our heritage turkey piece from last year. (We know this because we have software that can track the number of visits to a page, and show us the most visited pages in a given time period.) It kind of shocked us, and made us feel a bit remiss. So next year we pledge a NEW turkey production piece. We may even run it in mid-summer, when it could actually do you some good.

A special sneak preview for newsletter subscribers: Two weeks ago I announced that in early December we'd be launching the first version of our economic modeling tool, which we've named FarmSelect™. We've put the tool through its paces with a group of farmers, farm educators and farm economists, made improvements in it, and now it's ready for testing by a wider audience. As a special benefit to loyal New Farm readers, we're offering you an opportunity to check it out and give us feedback, if you're so inclined. Information on how to get to FarmSelect is listed below.

So, what is FarmSelect? It's an easy-to-use tool that lets you do side-by-side comparisons of the economics of organic versus conventional management on your farm. In this first version, FarmSelect allows you to compare conventional and organic management in one year for either 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. But best of all, we let you add your own yields and prices to get a better picture of the economics of your own farm.

By mid-January of 2005 you'll also be able to ...

  • ... experiment with key production costs, adding your own numbers for seed, fertilizer, hired labor and 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 two organic crops side by side, or two whole organic farms side by side.
  • ... compare the economics of organic versus conventional in very wet and very dry years.

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

HERE'S HOW TO TAKE A LOOK AT FarmSelect: All you have to do is click here. You'll be asked for a user name and password. Enter the following:

  • User name: preview
  • Password: news

If you have feedback to share with us--and I certainly hope you do--send it to my attention at

Chris Hill, Executive Editor


Flower machine: Can this woman really be responsible for 20,000 bunches of cut flowers a year?
See below for more.

Andy Griffin's word for the week: Don't take the fantasy out of farming ... but don't check reason at the door, either.
See below for more

High desert success. 3 acres of green gold in the Four Corners area.
See below for more.

Garden of Eden? Lush gardens and orchards arise from nothing in the desert of southern Israel.
See below for more.


Fresh today from The New Farm®



Researchers are responding to the discovery of soybean rust in the US
Conventional management strategies for the new disease introduction are being rapidly mobilized. Organic strategies should be close behind says Iowa's organic specialist, Dr. Kathleen Delate.


Soybean rust


Farming for health and well-being
A community of caring individuals in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts discovers that farmwork is therapy ... and healing is a two-way street.

At right: Steve, the garden manager at Gould Farm, who says "A lot of times you’re balancing what’s good for the people with what’s good for the garden. You try to match it, but if you can't, you always go with the people."


Farm therapy


For the beginning grower

Tools of the trade
Practical ideas for the holidays.

At right: A few of Mel's favorite things ... wire cultivator, needle-nose shears and scuffle/stirrup hoe.


Cut flowers


Planting soybeans into rye, round two
In northwestern Minnesota, Robin Brekken, Lee and Noreen Thomas and other organic farmers are working to perfect a system for no-till planting soybeans into a standing rye cover. Despite ongoing unpredictable weather, the strategy continues to show promise.

At right: Robin Brekken demonstrates how weed-free his crops were this year, despite poor weather.

Rye experimenter and ag innovator Noreen Thomas receives prestigious Minnesota ag award.


Rye cover crop


Flowers and fine olive oil in California’s Central Valley
Mike and Diane Madison sell 20,000 bunches of cut flowers a year through direct market and retail. They also grow clementines and high quality olives for oil. An innovative member arrangement—picking olives in exchange for oil—allows them to avoid the headaches and anxieties of being employers.

  California flowers

Learning to create abundance
in the rough shadow of the Rockies

Chuck Barry and Rosie Carter make a living on three acres in the high desert at Stone Free Farm, in the Four Corners country of Colorado.

  Stone Free Farm


The value (and the limits) of fantasy in any farming operation
For Andy Griffin, every season begins with a magic carpet ride through those glossy agricultural fantasies called seed catalogues. Then, the fantasy meets the customer.

  CSA Journal

Vine and fig tree: Restoring agriculture in the Holy Land

Rising from nothing, desert idealists now work
amid water, orchards, gardens and fish
At Kibbutz Neot Smader, amazing agricultural achievement is the byproduct of a community of transients dedicated to learning from the land and each other.

  Vine and fig tree
The Inspector’s Notebook #6
Get paid for getting certified

Cost-share programs offset certification expenses up to $500. But act quickly; deadlines are looming.
  Inspector's Notebook

Classified information

WANTED: Farm in Costa Rica, your old tractor to restore, chicks or pullets, land in Northeast Kingdom …
Solar-powered water pump, flock of laying ducks, dairy herd, plans for jab seeder…





Insights and experiences from organic farms

Good-bye. Hello.
One of our journaling interns lands in a new world of geometric sustainability (i.e., a greenhouse operation) while another says goodbye to Arkansas (and prepares for a new farming experience in California).

  Intern Journal

Dr. Paul's Research Perspectives

Maintaining the big "O"
Recent research demonstrates how organic farming systems build organic matter and soil fertility over the long haul.

  Research Perspectives


Dear New Farm: Got any advice for dealing with wiregrass, a big problem for growers in my area?

Dear New Farm: I'm a new farmer with lots of experience to share with other new farmers. Interested?

Dear New Farm: Thanks for the piece on antibiotics and farm animals. There is some good news, though ...

Dear New Farm: After severe exposure to chemicals, a reader finds peace in organic farming, and happiness at

Dear New Farm: A New Farm reader describes how he's living his dream by teaching locals on the tropical Indonesian island of Bali to farm sustainably.


Dear Jeff: Another farmer volunteers to be part of our no-till cover crop roller trials, prompting an update from Jeff on the selection process for particpation.


Bookstore Updates and Reviews

Check out featured books on ecologically-based weed management, high-value farming, IPM in the garden, everything about olives, and sustainability in the American food system. 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. Enjoy.
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