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Hello. 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 on auto-pilot.

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

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 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

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 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 icecream?
For more, 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 to success.
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 Oaxaca.
See below for more.


Fresh today from The New Farm®

Intervale, Burlington, VT

Making farms the engine of economic
growth ... and community connection

On the shores of Lake Champlain, the Intervale Foundation has established one of the nation's most successful farm incubator programs, giving would-be farmers access to land, equipment and training--and the city's residents access to great food and creative recycling programs.

Profiles of 3 Intervale Farms

All for one: Diggers' Mirth Collective
A group of friends shares in the labor and rewards of farming

Thinking small
After two seasons at the Intervale, Spencer and Mara Welton of Half Pint Farm are showing how much can be done in a little space.

Farmer Smith goes to Burlington
Intervale Farm Program veteran and state reprepresentative Dave Zuckerman finds politics and farming make an interesting mix.

Intervale Composting

One person's trash is another person's treasure
Intervale Compost Products keeps organic materials out of county landfills while generating a revenue stream for the nonprofit Intervale Foundation.


Farmer Smith goes to Burlington

Thinking small

All for one: Diggers' Mirth Collective

One person's trash is another person's treasure


Letter from NY:
Confessions of a "foodie"
In this world of economic disparity and cultural conveniences, malnutrition takes many forms, says Mary-Howell Martens--including the childhood obesity we see here in the U.S.


Letter from NY


Re-evaluation time again ...

As the year draws to a close, Jeff is making lists again, and checking them twice, but it's got nothing to do with naughty or nice.


Jeff Moyer


TALKING SHOP: 4th Annual Iowa Organic Conference
The new face of family farming

Rediscovering old crops, rethinking livestock management practices and re-imagining the food supply chain in the Midwest


Iowa conference


Pan-American Adventure
On the path to bird-friendly coffee

Forest-grown coffee in Mexico and other parts of Latin America can be a lifesaver for migratory birds … and for coffee lovers there’s always the potential for growing that “Cabernet” of coffees you dream about. Don Lotter visits with farmers and certifiers in Oaxaca, Mexico to discuss the issues and opportunities.

  Bird-friendly coffee


Addicted to learning the hard way
Like most organic farmers, Andy Griffin is a pugnacious experimenter. He has taken radicchio to “radiculoso” extremes you wouldn’t believe—and he won’t give up on blanched celery either.

  CSA Journal

Rethinking range management in the arid West

Hope on the range
Eighteen years ago, Oregon rancher Connie Hatfield drove to the city and asked a health club owner what he thought about red meat. His answer helped shape Oregon Country Beef, now one of the most successful rancher-managed, certified natural beef labels in the country.


The New Ranch


The Inspector’s Notebook #7
Wash & Glow: The inspector's guide to
post-harvest handling

Showcasing quality and guarding against contamination rank among the top priorities at this stage of certification.

At right: Barrel washer washes up to 1000 pounds of carrots per hour.


Inspector's Notebook


Classified information

WANTED: Grain drill; not too expensive, but in good working order. Grazing herd for start-up dairy; colored cows or cross-breds. Rent-to-own farm in East Central Pa. or South Central New York.

FOR SALE: Laying ducks--16 very hardy female Khaki Campbells for sale--great layers. 1967 Ford 4000 Tractor; 5,300 hours, new starter, paint, muffler 3-point hitch and more. Hobby farm--60 acres in central Wisconsin, 7-year-old home, open-sided feedlot shed, two ponds, fenced pasture, 13 acres wooded, 47 acres pasture ...





Insights and experiences from organic farms

California dreamin'
With one intern journalist on a spiritual sabbatical in the Andes, one finished for the season, and another too busy to write (they grow up so fast), our intern from the equator holds down the fort from her new vantage point on the Left Coast.

  Intern Journal

Dr. Paul's Research Perspectives
From fat to fit

Research on the benefits of conjugated linoleic acid is stacking up

Iowa farmers think triticale could be a viable alternative to oats


Research Perspectives

Triticale research



Commentary: Horse cents ... Couple capitalizes on a niche market, provides a valuable service to man and beast alike, and finances a potentially expensive hobby.

Commentary: Don't forget. Traditional plant breeders are allies of organics.

Commentary: Jumping on the farmers' market bandwagon--Initially reluctant to go through all the trouble, one reader discovers that the payoffs of joining this vibrant community are far more valuable than the increased profits the twice weekly trips to town bring.


Dear Jeff: Are slug and root insect damage a problem in organic no-till, and can you give me some advice on my approach to strip-tilling corn up here in Ontario?


Bookstore Updates and Reviews

Check out the New Farm teams' holiday book recommendations: on beekeeping, the new agrarianism, farmers and global hunger, the agricultural history of New England, the fiction of Wendell Berry, and kid cult classics. Plus, new book reviews:

  • The echoing green: The latest from Gene Logsdon advocates grass-based farming on every scale
  • The natural cow: At last, from Hue Karreman, a comprehensive veterinary resource for organic dairy farmers
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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