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Hello [name]. Sure it’s great to feel the sun on your skin again, but resist the temptation to flee the Deep Thoughts of Winter. As adrenaline pushes you from reflection to action, vow to keep the issues that matter most in mind, too.

Much is good, profitable and right about the organic farming sector in early 2007. Media attention in the past year to the growth of consumer demand for local products and organics in general continues to draw new producers into an expanding sector. While there’s concern that large dairies coming on line may oversupply the organic milk market and there’s a leveling of some organic grain prices, upward opportunity still seems to be the prevailing assessment.

This growth comes with the inherent volatility of a sector that is advancing unevenly in about any category you can name: geographical region, type of crop, support from land-grants or state departments of agriculture, livestock feed infrastructure, certified processing facilities and even popular understanding at any depth—of why organics really matters.

Two areas of turbulence—where sustainable progress isn’t as solid as it needs to be—are the need to build competence and confidence in the organic seed industry and, perhaps, the rate of attrition of beginning organic farmers.

Richard Glenister’s letter last month about organic seed unlocked the strongest response of anything we’ve published since NewFarm.org started in late 2002. Experienced, respected organic growers clearly want to press for increasing the use of organic seed by organic growers, but they also point out the need to deal with gaps in supply and quality that can have serious impacts on their seasons and on their trust.

Read these letters and reflect on your own experience. Let us know your ideas on the best ways that farmers, certifiers, regulators and hard-working seed people can cooperate to reward the investment and risk needed to keep increasing the percentage of certified-organic seed that produces successful crops on successful farms.

Collaboration is also the key to orienting new entrants into organic farming in a way that better matches their expectations with the reality they have to face. Yes, there’s a formal set of regulations and lots of forms. But the heart of organics is accepting a level of biological complexity and interaction that requires a learning community to navigate. Articulating these “big picture” guideposts at the threshold points to organic conversion may better equip those who choose to continue the journey.

Greg Bowman
Online Editor

     

Fresh today from The New Farm®
   
California farmers dropping organic certification cite crop management, yield and marketing challenges as reasons for opting out
Converting from conventional farming—and sticking with organics— means changing thinking, diversifying enterprises, linking with other farmers and finding many means of support.
 
   
What women (farmers) want
Pennsylvania's Women in Agriculture Day highlights the growing number of female farmers and how they're changing the face of the agricultural community.
   
   
A good life, if you can do it: selling direct to the wholesale market
A dozen Pennsylvania farmers grapple with the challenges of scale, labor and time management.
 
   
Agro-ecological and micro-enterprise training transforms lives of Mexican subsistence farmers and field laborers
A nonprofit founded by two Canadian women creates a thriving local food system that joins expatriate community and local producers.
 
   

book review
Fertile Ground
Reviving a much-cited, little-read sustainable-ag masterpiece by Sir Albert Howard.

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. Including, this month, our featured reader mail: Sourcing organic seed: The controversy.

   
   

News & Views
Send back the clones...New water filter purifies without chemicals...Factory farming hearing trials to travel the country...New site romances Iowa's place-based food...As new webzine boasts the new local in New England...Group threatens USDA suit over grazing regs.

Judge rules careful herdshare arrangements are a legal deal in Ohio
Ruling overturns state’s aggressive campaign against raw milk operators.

letter from ontario
How can farming be so challenging, yet so stimulating and fun?
Called to a role that always has more to discover, and to enjoy.

letter from saskatchewan
It’s official: ag income in most provinces will decrease in 2007, with Saskatchewan bucking the trend
Higher grain prices will buoy one province, but hurt returns on hog farms all the way to the Atlantic Coast.

   
   

at the rodale institute®
   
   
survey
What's your weed management strategy?
Tell us what you do, how you do it and where you need help.
   
   
one farm to another
Spring gleanings as winter melts into spring
Ruminations on the busy season, challenges in the organic sector and our cutting-edge research.
   
   
Researchers roll out the details of 2006 no-till organic corn numbers
In this above-average rainfall year, using a rolled-down cover crop worked better than tilling organic plots or non-organic comparison fields.
 
   
No Till + quick wrap
Where we’ve been and where we’re going.
   
   
     
 
   
   
     
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