Let's experiment. Andy Griffin
of Mariquita CSA in California is a pugnacious and irrepressible
experimenter. He’s determined to figure out a way to grow
a better blanched celery, or a crazier range of uses for radicchio.
He writes about those efforts in
his current column.
But so is Rock Geluck of Ridgetown, Ontario, who wrote to farm
manager Jeff Moyer asking for feedback on his innovative strip tillage
strategies for corn. Click
here to read his question, and Jeff's response.
Jeff himself is a big-time experimenter, keeping things interesting
here for all of us with his bold ideas for no-till organic, or a
better compost turner.
And the city of Burlington, Vermont is engaged in one big, ambitious
long-term experiment to recreate the way farmers and municipalities
work with and support each other. Check out our five Burlington
stories on the New Farm homepage
and see below for more.
In fact, experimentation is at the heart of organic and sustainable
farming. If you scanned through our last two years of articles,
you’d see it popping up in endlessly varied ways in every
farm profile we’ve ever published. And what is experimentation?
It’s creativity, pure and simple. It’s the hunger to
figure out a solution, the determination to do something better.
It’s the challenge and the joy of farming. Take the experimentation
out of farming and replace it with a recipe and what have you got?
Absolutely nothing. The fun is gone. The passion is gone. You’re
The New Farm staff has been thinking a lot about experimentation
recently. We went up to the SARE conference in Burlington, VT in
October and saw dozens farmers talking about their on-farm research.
We’ve started contacting all the farmers around the country
who are eager to cooperate with us on testing out our no-till roller
system. And we’ve been trying to figure out how to do a better
job covering the research and experimentation that’s going
on around the country, on farms and in university research plots.
We’ve decided that we’ll capture some of the creative
experimentation that is going on next year by profiling some of
the best on-farm research being funding by SARE, The Organic Farming
Research Foundation, Practical Farmers of Iowa and others. If you
know of some creative on-farm experimentation that’s taking
place in your region, please let us know. Email me at email@example.com.
We’re also interested in doing a better job of reporting
on the latest university research into organic production. With
that in mind, we’d like to invite a few good graduate students
working in organic agriculture to consider writing about current
organic farming research for us. Submissions would be 350 to 600
words long, and would summarize a scientific paper published in
a peer-reviewed journal--or unpublished research results from university
sustainable ag programs. The articles would emphasize practical
results for organic farmers. Modest compensation is available.
If you can write and are interested, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tells us who you are, where you're based and what you’re studying.
Also send us a few citations or abstracts of research you’d
like to cover. (You’ll need to have access to the full paper
in order to write the summary.) Also write Laura if you know someone
you think would be a good candidate. Ag profs or extension folks,
we’re talking about you!
He was Berry good: The
New Farm staff went to see Wendell Berry in November. He read from
his latest novel, Hannah Coulter, the most recent in the
Port William series, for you Berry fans out there. The portions
of the novel he read for us were a moving but no-nonsense reflection
on marriage, family and farming from the perspective of Hannah Coulter,
now in her 80s. It had the wisdom and insight of another of Berry’s
novels of reflection, Memory of Old Jack, but written by
a man now approaching 80 himself. No one writes with more tenderness
and insight about the pain and mystery and joy of marriage than
Wendell Berry. That alone is reason enough to purchase the book.
It’s certainly on MY wish list.
Speaking of wish lists,
the New Farm staff has listed
books for this update that they’d like to give or receive
this holiday season, and we welcome your own thoughts on books worth
looking at. Let me know at email@example.com.
Official launch of FarmSelect™
coming soon: In the last email, I told you about
FarmSelect™, our economic modeling tool, and gave
you a chance to preview it. Thanks to all of those who gave us feedback.
We’ll be launching it officially on December 23, but still
welcome additional comments and thoughts in advance of that date.
Visit the tool at http://www.farmselect.org
and email me with any comments. No password needed.
So, what is FarmSelect, again? 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.
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
How far can you go with radicchio?
How about caramelized radicchio
see top left.
City of hope: Burlington,
Vermont's Intervale project involves 12 farms (including one run
by a state legislator), a methane digester, a municipal waste composting
operation, lots of innovation, and lots of good will.
See below for more.
Hope on the range: In
18 years, the Hatfield family ranch in Oregon has gone from despair
See below for more
Test our tool: FarmSelect™
is a farm modeling tool we'll be launching officially on December
23. Check out this sneak preview and let us know what you think.
See at left for more.
Where's the coffee farm? You're
looking at it, my friend. Bird-friendly coffee rustica in western
See below for more.