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Hello. From recent April-like weather here in the East to super-heavy snow in the High Plains to Ohio State getting drubbed in the Fiesta Bowl, not much is going normally as January opens. But that’s why they call it news.

When research corn fields with the least fuel and purchased fertility invested in them give you the best yields, that’s news and that was our experience at The Rodale Institute in 2006. Fewer tractor passes, better moisture retention, no chemicals for weeds or nitrogen—and the most corn per acre, according to our top scientist.

Unusual only because of the wonderful innovation in one case, we bring you the contrasting tales of two young farm couples two counties apart in northern Virginia. In the good news part, you’ll learn how trust, generosity, problem-solving and patience—and lots of creative lawyering with a supportive older landowner—allowed one couple to access farmland without a crushing mortgage. In the other, a farm that stubbornly survives in an area of rapid “development” now finds itself viewed as being available for sacrifice to make way for a new roadway and high-tension lines.

Both Virginia farms show the start-up power of drawing strength from close connections to customers in the neighborhood. You’ll also read in this update how these local food relationships are being re-woven in a variety of ways in Burlington, Vermont, by community groups, a cooperative businesses, area farmers and deeply committed “local only” eaters.

These new forces at work in the global food economy—the ones that can launch new farmers and, we hope, re-route powerlines and challenge industrial food’s marketplace dominance—get a rousing farmer-written exposition as well; his retort to a recent high-profile story that trivialized “new agriculture” movements with faint praise.

Readers comment this month from India on soil health, and from an experience in the South Pacific that begs the question of whether noni fruit puree can prevent Avian flu-like diseases in fowl in the U.S.

So here’s our first serving for 2007. May it strengthen, inform and motivate you in all the right ways. Write us so we can highlight what’s perking and working where you are with everyone else.

Greg Bowman
Online Editor


Fresh today from The New Farm®

Vermonters work in many ways to re-weave local food system
Farmers’ market, retail store, direct marketing, CSA, restaurants, schools and determined “locavores” raise the profile and potential for viable place-based agriculture.


Young farmer couple and established landowner explore innovative land access with trust, hard work and patience in Old Virginia
They wanted to farm. He wanted young farmers on his land. So they—and their lawyers—worked out an agreement tailored to their needs now and going forward.

Fighting for the future of our family farm
Young farming couple challenges standard-practice eminent-domain laws and asks for community support.

Poor Taste
Why The Economist's recent assault on "ethical food" missed the mark.


The right web-based mailing program frees farmers to farm, allows shareholders to pitch in with CSA communications
CSA coordinator explains how PHPlist has saved her farm enough to fund low-income shares and micro-loans for new greenhouses.

Reader Mail
You ask, we answer. Questions from all of you answered by all our expert contacts; from Jeff Moyer (our farm manager) to worm gurus, to other farmers.

News & Views
Scientists seek to disable aflatoxin genes...Report: keep biofuels sustainable...China halts corn for biofuel on food concern...Farmer floats web-support service for farmers...Brown: Grain-to-fuel hopes wildly misplaced... “Greener Eggs & Ham” report highights grass...Study: Small hog farms cut Salmonella risks... “Who Owns Organic” roadmap updated...Studies document factory farm downsides.

ag policy perspectives
Will alternate farm bill options retain agricultural safety net?
Replacing current subsidies with green payments and insurance programs may placate farmers and non-farmers alike, but it won't change the reason subsidies were created in the first place.


at the rodale institute®

one farm to another
First year on the NOSB: Hard work, tough issues, good energy
It’s a privilege—and a world of intense problem management—to be a farmer rep on this organic sector advisory board to the USDA organic program.


dr paul's research perspectives
Year 2006 is breakthrough for organic no-till corn yield; tops standard organic for first time at Rodale Institute
Roller system creates moisture-saving mulch from cover crop to suppress weeds and build soil as it slashes fuel and labor inputs.


intern journal
Let it snow (or freeze, at least)
Dormant seeding requires a little gambling with nature.


Farm Locator directory users believe online marketing future strong in reaching consumers
Participating farmers contacted in a review of The New Farm Locator say the upside potential for online marketing is a bright spot to connect with new customers—but it has to be low-cost, well-promoted and easy to use.

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