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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Everyone should have a piece of land to care for.

news bits and squirming crumbles

from Lynn Miller and Paul Hunter

6-24

The news trickles down to us in a predictably confusing warp and weave: the latest incarnation of a federal farm bill has been “hot-potatoed” into something the US senate passed. Now the Congress is asked to get it through its mill before mid September – this on the heals of a House leadership which says, openly, that it wants to see how it fits in the shifting winds of this political season. On the surface, people we normally side with say this bill is a good thing. Deeper down, we have enough experience with this process to know it is nigh on impossible even for the experts to assess how such complicated legislative stuff can ever be fully understood until its seen in messy action.

Meanwhile the consequences of inaction are millions of starving children worldwide and lost opportunities to get good, prepared and willing people back on productive small farms. It is hard not to be ashamed of what humanity has made of political expediency. This “stuff” , the very workings of government, doesn’t work.

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big, so also are our governments and our committee-molested collective assumptions.  Get small real soon. LRM

 

6-20-12

PLANET EARTH does not belong to corporate interests, nor to governments, nor to the fashionable collective conscience of the moment. She belongs to herself, with a delicate but critical nod to biological life – all of it! Humans have taken for themselves a temporary leasehold on the planet. Somehow that was allowed over these last 100 years to slough off to the corporate boardrooms. This is not a good thing.

To earn the right to continue living on this planet, we need to find simple, direct solutions to human interaction with all other forms of biological life. We need to find ways that our time on this planet is beneficial for all. Wresting control of the land, air and sea from corporate interests is vitally important. It can start by accepting as axiomatic that every one should have a piece of land to care for. And by ‘every one’ we are speaking of individual human beings. LRM

 “There is so much war in the world, evil has so many faces, the plough has so little honor, the laborers are taken, the fields untended and the curving sickle is beaten into the sword that yields not.” – Vergil, the Georgics

Another bedrock proposition is that farmland is open, vulnerable, so needs protection against human marauders and predators. Farming on a sustainable, caring scale presupposes a society that does not let bandits and paramilitary groups roam at large, taking what they please. And farming needs protection from upwind and upstream influences that pollute soil and water. PH

 

6-18-2012

Nature’s balance shuffles in predation and disaster to hold the mix. Since the inception of the industrial age, man falsely believed he had no predator to fear save other men but such has not been the case. Man created artificial lives we know as corporations and computers and both have been eating away at the hearts and souls of people for a very long while. Corporations have all but dissolved human culpability. Within the next few decades we will no longer be at immediate fault. And computers have eaten away the range and elasticity of the human mind. Soon “thought” will be a curiosity of the past. Humans are devolving into a vegetable form. The question of the age? Can we put those two, computers and corporations, back in the can?

The planet is trying not to die. It is struggling against the destructive and denuding human foot print. There are horrible paradoxes  in all of this. There are also magical and healing paradoxes plain to see.

Wresting the control of the land, sea and air from industry and placing it all in the “care” of individuals to steward this environment with a goal of increasing fertility, biological diversity, and healthfulness – this is what can and will save the earth. Sweet paradox: taking a step backwards towards the empowerment of the individual WILL result in the only sure step forward to save human life on earth. LRM

 

6-15-2012

Some would argue that the U.S. is slipping into a third world status, forfeiting its position as world leader. We might reasonably ask “world leader” in what regard? When it comes to questions of world hunger, environmental degradation, and appropriate farming the U.S.A. has been woefully behind the curve for decades.

What the world needs NOW, today, are millions of new small farmers enjoying independence of operation and having the opportunity to employ the full range of intriguing, exciting, vital and fertile new approaches to intensive agricultural pursuit. YES, you can farm. YES, you should farm. YES, we need you farming TODAY! LRM

A Matter of a Raincoat 

The difference between farmers and other people is not just a matter of a raincoat. It’s not just how they watch the weather reports and seasonal changes with care. Farmers have to act on the conditions they see, and live with the consequences of their actions. You could say they don’t have to if they have crop insurance, which the large-scale operators do, courtesy of the federal government, but in the long run there is no crop insurance. The big picture is made up of accumulated good guesses and bad guesses. Like the hot dog vendor outside the ballpark, who has to know how many hot dogs to have on hand, and how many to cook in time to make any difference when the rush comes, before and after the game. That’s how you make a living. Inside the ball park with a captive audience forced to wait in line to buy a dog at inflated prices, or curb their hunger, with the game blaring all around, it’s a different story, with less risk and more profit to be shared more ways with a large and assertive management. One thing about scale: it makes you either an insider or an outsider, and defines how you get to play the game. – PH

6-14-2012

By most informed estimates there are in excess of one billion disenfranchised people on this planet who would jump at the chance to join the ranks of small farmers. As for the natural resources required? Industrial agriculture and suburban development are “wasting” millions of acres of the most productive farmlands. While The U.S. government (to name but one failed example) is paying out billions of dollars to agribusiness to NOT grow certain commodities, this ostensibly to protect prices. Meanwhile children starve and capable grownups are at a loss for what to do without work and purpose. Shame on us. Time to right the ship. LRM

 

“Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm—which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of American farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems.” — Wendell Berry

 

Ethics of Farming

The psychology of raising a monocrop seems to be that with only one thing to look at, the farmer becomes a specialist, and presumably with fewer different things to watch will get more efficient, will become more like an executive as he tweaks the inputs of GMO seed, herbicides and pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and sophisticated irrigation, and the fuel and maintenance for massive planting and harvest equipment. Yet what happens to such an agribusinessman is often stultifying and frustrating in the extreme. Again the “efficiencies” are invoked, and again the farmer is led to work in a narrowly accepted way, largely to optimize a monocrop for which he receives an artificially low price at season’s end. We refer to this as the “commodification” of crops, the removal from thinking of corn or soybeans as foods to be eaten, where these crops become part of an industrial process that can as easily create fast foods or fuels or lampshades or seatcovers out of what is essentially treated as an anonymous raw material produced for the absolute least cost to the industries that depend on it. In this scenario the farmer has no standing except as he negotiates the tight squeeze between “inputs” and “outcomes”—between what it costs him in seed, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, fuel and equipment, and his yield per acre.

What is left out of the equation is what we might call the aesthetics and ethics of farming. How to do it sustainably and well, without passing on the costs of fertilizer runoff or soil degradation to the surrounding watershed community that we loosely refer to as the environment and to future generations, of not just our species but of all living species. It is the nature of economics as practiced by American business to try to externalize as many costs as possible, to dump undesirable byproducts and waste onto the commons, into the waters and lands downstream and downwind, where the tab will be picked up by the public. Yet increasingly there is no “away” to throw undesirable leftovers. These byproducts need to be accepted and paid for as part of the cost of doing business. PH

 

6-13-2012

Yes it is confusing…

People on every side of the food equation, good people, all disagreeing about what is happening, what needs protecting, what needs to cease, what needs to be done. And most all of those folks base their beliefs on some sort of ground zero premise or axiom, something they see as indisputable, a starting point that they believe we must all agree on. Such as; small farms CAN feed the world –  or  – small farms CANNOT feed the world. I say we need to go back further, back to something no feeling caring human being can dispute. I say we go to a true ground zero premise. Here’s my vote; I say we can and must agree on this…

No More Starving Children!

Now, let’s take that premise and work up from there. Today, Industrial agriculture is NOT feeding all the children of the world. Small independent farms spred across the entire populated blanket of the planet can and will feed all of those children, and they’ll do it while restoring the environment and rebuilding biological diversity. But we’ll have to find ways to help. Here’s another premise as goal…

No One Should Be Without a Piece of Land to Care For.

Now our job is to find the ways to make those two points stick and all else will follow suit. LRM

The Essence of Sustainability

What do quinoa, hazelnuts, amaranth, asparagus, artichokes and apples have in common? They’re all perennials-which means you don’t have to plant them each year, you don’t have to disturb the soil so much, or risk losing nutrients. Such crops need vigilance and care of a different kind, since they’re stuck in place season after season. There are plant biologists who have long been working on perennial varieties of wheat, rice, rye and other staple crops, (ask Wes Jackson!) not to beat industrial agriculture’s astonishing yields, which are pumped up by synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, but to strike a lasting balance with the soil’s fertility. The essence of sustainability. If you don’t grow any perennials, it may be time to try some, to round out your knowledge of different plant strategies for dealing with pests and seasonal variables. Your toolkit will include pruning and mulching and planting certain varieties near each other, to keep the pollinators coming around. PH

What Small Means

Small farming means small fields and more variety, means more edges and more ‘tooth’ for other lives, means more sharing or competition, depending on how you choose to look at it. Means an enforced modesty of expectations and outcomes. Means paradoxically a lower cost of living for everyone in the neighborhood, spread more widely around. PH

“We have assumed that there is no obligation to an inanimate thing, as we consider the earth to be: but man should respect the conditions in which he is placed; the earth yields the living creature; man is a living creature; science constantly narrows the gulf between the animate and the inanimate, between the organized and the unorganized; evolution derives the creatures from the earth; the creation is one creation. I must accept all or reject all.” – Liberty Hyde Bailey (circa 1913)

 

6-12-2012

We got the word just a few days ago that the World Bank and aspects of the United Nations agriculture projects are embracing the notion that the ONLY way to feed the world in the immediate and distant future is with a global network of healthy small independent farms. ‘Bout time. Next thing they need to realize is that the way forward requires we unearth that mountain of accumulated agrarian wisdom and knowledge which governments and industry have worked so hard to burn and bury. We need to unearth it, dust it off, round those corners that need rounding and allow farmers to get their hands on it. People are going to need to know how their particular soil and weather will work with the chosen crops and livestock. And they need that information RIGHT NOW. That’s our job here, with Small Farmer’s Journal. LRM

“Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped past him.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

 

Home Grown

We cover three or four miles a day in the neighborhood.  I call it walking the dog, but we walk each other, take turns as we dawdle, mope and gawk.  For weeks I’ve been watching some raised beds go in on a planter strip alongside a church.  They’re on a side street and I don’t know what denomination it is, what the sign says out front, who attends there, what their socio-economic status might be.  I don’t know because I never looked.  The one thing I know is that whoever put in these raised beds did it right, and that this vegetable growing enterprise, these walled patches of dirt, speak well of them.  Like that bumper sticker of the Mormons back in the late 60s, that asked “Have you hugged your kid today?”

These boxes of dirt are not overcrowded, yet there is diversity.  Four kinds of tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, two different kinds of cabbages, a row of beets and a couple of artichokes.  There is no lettuce, no greens, so the gardener will probably not be tending and picking every day.  And one other clue: the beds are heavily mulched with old grass clippings, to hold and save water around the plants.

Studying how it’s coming together, I never catch anyone working there, and don’t know who to thank, but feel the urge to thank someone anyhow.  Maybe it’s the custodian, maybe the minister, maybe the Sunday School teacher and her class, maybe it’s a project of the board of governors for this parish, or some parish volunteers.  Whoever is responsible, they didn’t bother to put up a sign or take credit.  Yet the people coming to church or just passing by all know that local food is important to one neighbor here, and has found a home. PH

Hi Lynn and SFJ crew,

We had a great time at the auction 2012.

I am sending these photos to put in a plug for Marvin Brisk in Halfway Or.

He built the cultimulcher that you see here.  The implement is especially good at tilling up a very nice seed bed, fallowing for weed control, and breaking up clods.  The undercut front roller set up allows you to turn on a dime, which is great for working in hoop houses.  We pull it with two to three horses depending on the conditions.  If you are farming, you have to have one!

Walt Bernard, Dorena Or

 

 

 

 

 

 

TICK REMOVAL: especially good for places where it’s hard to get tweezers—between toes, in the middle of your hair or the middle of your back.  Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball.  Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball, and swab it for 15-20 seconds.  The tick will come away on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it off.  Just be sure you’re not allergic to the kind of liquid soap you’re using. PH

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.

Cayuse Vineyards

Small Farm, USA: Cayuse Vineyards

by:
from issue:

How did the grape find itself here on the outskirts of Milton? If you ask one man, Christophe Baron, the answer is simple. “It’s the cobblestone. (The ground) reminds me of home”. For Christophe, home refers to France and the stone littered earth from which many famous French wines grow. Hailing from a family of vigneron champenois, Mr. Baron came upon this corner of the state by chance, saw its signature geology, and decided to establish his domaine right here in northeast Oregon.

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

by:
from issue:

Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

by:
from issue:

After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic.

The First Year

The First Year

by:
from issue:

Prior to last year, I had felt I knew the nuances of the land quite well and fancied myself as knowledgeable about the course of the natural world. Outdoors was where I felt the most comfortable. The fresh air and endless views of fields, hills and valleys renewed my spirit and refreshed my mind. I didn’t think there was much that could fluster me when it came to the land. Until I became an organic farmer.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants’ Farm

by:
from issue:

The Brabants’ Farm is a multi purpose farming operation whose main goal is to promote “horsefarming.” Our philosophy is to support the transformation of regional conventional agriculture and forestry into a sustainable, socially responsible, and less petroleum dependent based agriculture, by utilizing animal drawn technology (“horsefarming”), and by meeting key challenges in 21st century small scale agriculture and forestry in Colombia and throughout South America.

The Farmer and the Horse

The Farmer & The Horse

In New Jersey — land of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and the Turnpike — farmland is more expensive than anywhere else. It’s not an easy place to try to start a career as a farmer. But for a new generation of farmers inspired by sustainability, everything seems possible. Even a farm powered by draft horses.

A Year of Contract Grazing

A Year of Contract Grazing

by:
from issue:

Contract grazing involves the use of livestock to control specific undesirable plants, primarily for ecological restoration and wildfire prevention purposes. The landowners we worked for saw grazing as an ecologically friendly alternative to mowing, mechanical brush removal, and herbicide application.

LittleField Notes Seed Irony

LittleField Notes: Seed Irony

by:
from issue:

They say to preserve them properly, seeds should be kept in a cool, dark place in a sealed, dry container. Yet the circumstances under which seeds in a natural environment store themselves (so to speak) seem so far from ideal, that it’s a wonder plants manage to reproduce at all. But any gardener knows that plants not only manage to reproduce, they excel at it. Who hasn’t thrown a giant squash into the compost heap in the fall only to see some mystery squash growing there the next summer?

Cultivating Questions Going Single

Cultivating Questions: Going Single

Going single did not occur to us until we began receiving questions from prospective teamsters who felt it would be more manageable and economical to get started with a single horse than a team. After 29 years of market gardening with two or more horses, our impetus to try out one-horse farming was not a question of management or economy, but due to the radically diverging horse temperaments on our farm.

The Woodfired Bottom-heated Greenhouse Bench

Cultivating Questions: The Woodfired Bottom-heated Greenhouse Bench

It took several incarnations to come up with a satisfactory design for the bottom heated greenhouse bench. In the final version we used two 55 gallon drums welded end-to-end for the firebox and a salvaged piece of 12” stainless steel chimney for the horizontal flue. We learned the hard way that a large firebox and flue are necessary to dissipate the intense heat into the surrounding air chamber and to minimize heat stress on these components.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT