Organic Gardening

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1/15/2015

January is the time that gardeners need to be thinking about seeds. To help them out, seed catalogs have been arriving in their mailboxes. Before you can think about new seeds, you need to take stock in what you have left from previous years. When making your list of what you have, note the year they were saved or offered for sale and by whom. Also, list how much you have. Sometimes I count the seeds, sometimes I put the weight, and sometimes I just note “lots” or “enough”. If you have more seeds than you plan to use, or things that you know you won’t be planting, set them aside to share with others.

Get together with friends and share seeds or find a formal seed swap. In Canada and the UK there are events called Seedy Saturday or Seedy Sunday that are celebrations of seeds and gardening. Seeds are sold and traded and the public has an opportunity to learn more from the scheduled speakers. These events are also opportunities for very small seed companies to sell their seeds or for individuals to share seeds. We have some seed swaps here in the U.S. In fact, the last Saturday of January is designated as National Seed Swap Day. The seed swap table in the photo is at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference in 2014. That conference is on January 30-31 in 2015, conveniently in time to celebrate National Seed Swap Day. You can learn more about these seedy days at Homeplace Earth.

The nice thing about getting together with others is that you hear the stories. If you are acquiring seeds from someone who grew them themselves, they will be more than happy to tell you why they chose that variety, what the weather conditions were when they grew, and how and when they were saved. I believe that the positive energy from interactions like that when obtaining your seeds adds positive energy to the seeds. Also, if you acquire seeds from someone who grew them with love and care, they already have positive energy from the start — good vibes.

Although they could be anytime, seed swaps are often scheduled in the winter, such as now, when gardeners are planning their gardens and ordering seeds. Seed libraries, however, are open all year and serve as year round seed swaps. If you would like to be involved in some of these seed sharing opportunities, find out where they are and take time to participate. At first you might be the recipient of seeds, but soon you will be saving your own and will have some to share. If you have wanted to give back to your community in some way, and there is no seed swap or seed library in your area, you could start one. My upcoming book, Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People, will provide ideas to help you get started and keep your program going. Join with others to save seeds and make a difference.

Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she's up to at Homeplace Earth.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/15/2015

Consider the flavorful and nutritious winter squash, a winter staple. It is important to know which types are the best keepers when choosing which varieties to grow. Butternuts are generally considered to have the best "shelf life" and I have successfully stored my favorites, the Seminole squash or pumpkin, for up to a full year, cooking up the last few to make room for the incoming harvest.

Ideally you want to leave your squash on the vine until they are fully mature, developing hard skins. When you press your thumbnail against the skin, it should not leave an impression or dent. However I have experienced success picking squash that were still slightly green on the eve of a frost and had them finish ripening in storage.

When harvesting your squash or pumpkins, leave 1 to 3 inches of stem. The stem will want snap away from the fruit, so always cut, don’t pull, the squash from the vines. Remember to never use the stem as a “handle” for carrying the fruits from the field. Although the squash "belly button" may dry and harden, it can also stay moist, oozing juices that can attract bacteria leading to rot. It is quite likely that you will end up with some fruits that have lost their stem, so plan to consume these first.

As you bring in your harvest, separate your Grade B, the ones without stem and any that have cuts or nicks in the skin, from those that qualify as Grade A. Any little scratch or cut provides an entrance for bacteria and rot. Always wash away the dirt, grime and mildew, before storing, and many "experts" suggest you wash your pumpkins and squash in a very mild chlorine bleach solution consisting of 2 TBS of bleach to one gallon of water.

It is also suggested that you cure the squash for ten days by placing them in a confined space at temperatures of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent humidity. This helps harden the skin and concentrate the sugars, adding to the sweetness. Be careful not to over do it, which can make your squash dry and stringy, even bitter. I find I achieve the same results once the squash have been stored for a month or two.

Squash should be stored one layer deep and should not touch each other to insure good ventilation. Do not store on a cement floor unless you place a layer of cardboard down first. The ideal storage temperature is 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and it is best to keep the storage temperature even. Fluctuating temperatures will again encourage rot.

Visually inspect your squash every week, ideally turning the fruits occasionally to expose new areas to air. By examining your stored squash regularly, you can spot any rot as soon as it develops and before it engulfs the entire fruit. All is not lost.

Cut away the bad area and prepare it for dinner or the cooked squash can then be frozen for later consumption. I like to pressure cook the squash for approximately 5 minutes, then puree in a blender, skins and all until velvety smooth, the first step for producing pies or one of my favorite recipes, coconut ginger squash soup. Check out the step by step instructions for this delicious soup on my post for MOTHER's Real Food blog.

Douglas Stevenson is a long term member of The Farm Community, one of the largest and oldest ecovillages in the world. He is the author of The Farm Then and Now, a Model for Sustainable Living sold in MOTHER's Notable New Books. He is also the host of GreenLife Retreats, including The Farm Experience Weekend and workshops on organic gardening, sustainability, and living the green life!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/13/2015

The Seed Industry’s Annual Cycle

Like the crops you grow at home, most commercially available seeds are planted in the spring, grow during the summer, and are harvested and cleaned in the fall. After cleaning and processing, the seeds are tested for germination and purity to insure they meet certain quality standards. At this point they enter the distribution network, being sold to the seed companies whose names you know so well – the companies from which you buy your seeds.

This schedule is not hard and fast, and there can be delays in the processing and cleaning that lapse into the new year which delay the entry of particular seed varieties into the marketplace. Almost everyone who has ordered seeds in the winter has encountered back-ordered items at one time or another. This isn’t because your seed purveyor is careless or negligent. It usually means that the company that produces those seeds – where they originate - simply hasn’t released them yet. Be patient when this occurs. By and large everyone in the seed business is hard working and sincere but inevitably there can be delays and lapses in production.

The Federal Seed Law

The other critical factor that affects the quality of the seeds you buy is the Federal Seed Law. This law regulates commerce in the sale of seeds, and is of particular importance because it requires that vegetable seeds meet certain germination standards. A key provision of these germination standards is the requirement that seeds must be tested every 15 months to insure that the seeds continue to meet minimum germination requirements. If they do not, they cannot legally be sold.

Here is a summary of the minimum germination requirements for our most common vegetable varieties:

• Artichoke: 60
• Asparagus: 70
• Asparagus bean: 75
• Bean, garden:70
• Bean, lima: 70
• Bean, runner: 75
• Beet: 65
• Broadbean: 75
• Broccoli: 75
• Brussels sprouts: 70
• Burdock, great: 60
• Cabbage:75
• Cardoon: 60
• Carrot: 55
• Cauliflower: 75
• Celeriac: 55
• Celery: 55
• Chard, Swiss: 65
• Chicory: 65
• Chinese cabbage: 75
• Chives: 50
• Citron: 65
• Collards: 80
• Corn, sweet: 75
• Corn salad: 70
• Cowpea: 75
• Cress, garden: 75
• Cress, upland: 60
• Cress, water: 40
• Cucumber: 80
• Dandelion:60
• Dill: 60
• Eggplant: 60
• Endive: 70
• Kale: 75
• Kale, Chinese: 75
• Kale, Siberian: 75
• Kohlrabi: 75
• Leek: 60
•Lettuce: 80
• Melon: 75
• Mustard, India: 75
• Mustard, spinach: 75
• Okra: 50
• Onion: 70
• Onion, Welsh: 70
• Pak-choi: 75
• Parsley: 60
• Parsnip: 60
• Pea: 80
• Pepper: 55
• Pumpkin: 75
• Radish: 75
• Rhubarb: 60
• Rutabaga: 75
• Sage: 60
• Salsify: 75
• Savory, summer: 55
• Sorrel: 65
• Soybean: 75
• Spinach: 60
• Spinach, New Zealand: 40
• Squash: 75
• Tomato: 75
• Tomato, husk: 50
• Turnip: 80
• Watermelon: 70

Note that these are minimum requirements and in many instances seed companies send you seeds that exceed these standards. Also, many companies test their seeds more frequently than every 15 months to insure that they are still going to germinate reliably.

Read the Label

Seed companies with a strong pro-consumer orientation provide customers with information that allows them to know that the seeds they buy meet these standards. These companies disclose all you need to know on the label of each seed envelope. The label formats vary but may contain any or all of the following information.

Here’s an image of a sample envelope. Let’s take a look at it line by line.

The top line gives you the common name of the seed variety, in this case, Oxheart Tomato.

The second line gives you the botanical name of the vegetable variety by genus and species. This is useful information especially when a vegetable variety is subdivided into different species, such as kale or winter squash. Sometimes it is useful to know the species name for horticultural reasons.

The third line gives you the lot number. If you have a problem with your seeds, this lot number will help the seed company track the seeds back to their point of origin, the company that grew the seeds. If there are germination issues, the lot number will help you find out if other consumers of this lot have had problems with their seeds. It also helps the producing company identify problem lots.

The fourth line gives you the date of the last germination test so you can know how recently they were tested and how they performed. Do not be alarmed if the germination test is from the year prior to your receipt of the seeds. For example, if you order seeds in January 2015 and they were germ tested in 2014, this is perfectly reasonable. Remember what I said at the beginning of this blog: seeds are harvested and tested the Fall before they go into commercial circulation. Do be concerned if the germination test cited is dated 12 months or older. These seeds probably need to be retested.

The fifth and final line tells you how many seeds should be found inside the packet. Sometimes this is based on seed count. Sometimes it is based on weight. Seed count is becoming an increasingly popular way for seed companies to measure their seeds because it gives the consumer a clear understanding of how many potential plants are in a packet. In contrast, not that many people know how many seeds are in a gram of lettuce, or an ounce of corn. Note: a good seed catalog will tell you how many seeds are in a basic unit of weight for each type of seed.

Some seed companies simply stamp their seeds “Sold for 2015”. While this gives you an assurance that they were packed for the given season, it lacks the clarity of knowing when they received their last germination test and leaves you in limbo if you have leftover seeds that you may wish to save and use in 2016.

Organic Certification

In general, seed companies that sell certified organic seeds are required by law to post notice of that fact on the final line at the back of the seed envelope. This information may also appear elsewhere on the packet, but you should always find it on the bottom on the reverse side.

Testing Seeds from the Previous Season

Next time we’ll take a look at how to easily and inexpensively test seeds from the previous season. See you then!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/12/2015

Wild Watercress

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention did a recent study on nutrient density of 47 vegetables and fruits to determine which ones were the top sources of 17 vitamins and minerals. Below is a table of the ranking.

It was not possible to include phytochemical data in the scores so total health benefits are not inclusive in the ranking scores. It is well known that different colors of vegetables contain different phytonutrients so a variety of colors is important in the diet.

Leafy greens were in the top half with other veggies in the next grouping. For the fruits that qualified as a “powerhouse” source of nutrition, they were in general at the bottom of the ranking.

Like Mom said, “Eat your vegetables.”

Here is the table of the ranking:

Items and Nutrient Density Score

• Watercress: 100.00
• Chinese cabbage: 91.99
• Chard: 89.27
• Beet green:87.08
• Spinach:86.43
• Chicory: 73.36
• Leaf lettuce: 70.73
• Parsley: 65.59
• Romaine lettuce: 63.48
• Collard green: 62.49
• Turnip green: 62.12
• Mustard green: 61.39
• Endive: 60.44
• Chive: 54.80
• Kale: 49.07
• Dandelion green: 46.34
• Red pepper: 41.26
• Arugula: 37.65
• Broccoli: 34.89
• Pumpkin: 33.82
• Brussels sprout: 32.23
• Scallion: 27.35
• Kohlrabi: 25.92
• Cauliflower: 25.13
• Cabbage: 24.51
• Carrot: 22.60
• Tomato: 20.37
• Lemon: 18.72
• Iceberg lettuce: 18.28
• Strawberry: 17.59
• Radish: 16.91
• Winter squash: 13.89
• Orange: 12.91
• Lime: 12.23
• Grapefruit(red/pink): 11.64
• Rutabaga: 11.58
• Turnip: 11.43
• Blackberry: 11.39
• Leek: 10.69
• Sweet potato: 10.51
• Grapefruit (white): 10.47

The full report  can be found on the Center for Disease Control website.

As you are planning your garden for next year, add some of the top powerhouses!

For more tips on organic and small space gardening, see Melodie's blog, Victory Garden on the Golf Course.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/9/2015

This is an excellent time of the year to start organizing and cleaning up area that you might not do any other time of the year. As long as the temperature is not freezing and no snow on the ground, there are many gardening tasks that you can accomplish to alleviate the spring rush.

The main reason to take advantage of this time of the year is because you can see what you are doing. No pests, no leaves on the trees or undergrowth and no  snakes. Got a wasp or hornet's nest hanging around? You can get rid of it without the chance of getting stung. Remove the briars and other assorted vegetation that is creeping on to your yard.  Trim tree limbs while trees are dormant. If you are in an area that garden debris can be burned, take the clean ashes and place them on your compost pile and turn the mound.

Cleaning Up Around Yard 

Starting a new garden? Layout the outline of the bed. One of the new gardens that we are planning is a drought tolerant garden. We have been moving the rocks for the border. Any material used will settle until planting time.

Clean and organize your garden shed. Get rid of those mismatched gloves, broken garden stakes and old garden tools that are taking up space. What about the garden pots and trays that you have been planning on using for the last five years- are they still there? Separate the good pots from the bad and call your local greenhouse. Ask if they can use them. We have gladly accepted various pots that our customers don't want any more.Take the unusable containers to the recycling center. Brush out the cobwebs in storage areas and start the year out fresh.

Check your equipment and do basic maintenance. Sharpen blades, change the oil, clean mowers, rototillers and any other equipment. If you know there is a problem with any equipment take it to the repair person. There is a possibility that they will not be busy this time of the year and can repair your equipment quickly, so that it will be ready for use. Everyone is very busy in the Spring, and it is very disappointing when you go out to work in the garden and your equipment won't start.

A little bit of time and energy spent this Winter will definitely pay dividends in the Spring.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


1/8/2015

Cherry tomatoes from our farm -- ready for customer delivery

The Discriminating Preservationists: Seed Saver’s Exchange

If you are just beginning to explore the tomato world, an exceptional place to look for new tomato varieties is Seed Savers Exchange. This non-profit has an online catalog populated with a carefully selected group of top-performing tomatoes. By extension, it is also a great place to look when you want to order a few excellent varieties for any crop.

Seed Savers Exchange also has a Yearbook for members, and in this yearbook you will find thousands of varieties of seeds offered by a diversity of members throughout the country. You can find many varieties that are not available elsewhere, and you can also find seed for varieties that were grown in a location near yours.

The fact that there are so many varieties listed by members in the Yearbook makes it that much more amazing that the varieties listed at the online store are so streamlined, with such across-the-board excellence. I would guess this is due to the fact that Seed Savers Exchange trials many varieties at their site in Decorah, Iowa, and to the fact that the folks running Seed Savers Exchange know a whole lot about tomatoes!

The Eclectic Tomato Addicts: Tomatoville

Once you get hooked by the diverse types of heirloom and other “Open-Pollinated” varieties of tomatoes, like those found at Seed Savers Exchange, it is very easy to get sucked into the rabbit-hole that is Tomatoville.

Tomatoville is an online community where one can talk about tomatoes all day and all night, 365 days a year. Perhaps more importantly, it is a place where people share and trade seeds for thousands of well-known and obscure tomatoes from around the globe. It is also a place to find countless opinions about tomatoes and tomato growing. There are many threads that compare and contrast all types of tomatoes. I have developed many friendships at Tomatoville, and it is one of the very first places I visit online, after sitting down with my coffee in the morning.

Multitudes of seeds swaps occur at Tomatoville; and while some are organized, others occur spur-of-the-moment when a member posts about needing a variety they can’t find anywhere else, or a variety everyone is talking about.

Many owners of small “mom-and-pop” seed companies are also members at Tomatoville, and these small independent businesses offer treasure troves of tomato varieties, many of them relatively unknown. A good number of the owners of these small seed businesses are not in it primarily for financial gain, which is all the more reason to support them. Many years ago, my first big order of tomato seed was sent to one of these small enterprises. In fact, it was a little company that did not have a stellar record when it came to sending out seed in a timely manner, or sending out uniform seed. However, the imperfect seed order I got from them, many years ago, was full of a number of varietal gems I never would have discovered had I not wandered off the beaten path of professional catalogs to order from that unique, small business.

The Archiver: Tatiana’s Tomato Base

One beloved Tomatoville resident of particular note is Tatiana Kouchnareva, who is the founder and owner of Tatiana’s TOMATObase.  Her TOMATObase is a fascinating online encyclopedia of tomato varieties, and Tatiana is very resourceful and thorough in her efforts to track down and catalog information about tomatoes. For example, if you go to her page for the Iraqi variety Al-Kuffa, you can find out basic information about this uncommon variety, as well as information about where to find seeds, photos of the variety and also the history of the variety in North America. Seed for many of the varieties described in Tatiana’s TOMATObase are available at the site, and purchases directly support her excellent work.

The small farmer’s seed company: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

While hobbyists and gardeners may have the luxury of choosing tomato varieties based on flavor, looks, or even history -- farmers need to also concern themselves with traits like production and disease resistance. As a small farmer, the seed company I have learned to trust for their farmer-friendly selections is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. To me, they have always seemed to be nimble enough to find and offer excellent new varieties, while not losing sight of the need to stick to varieties that will perform well. The last thing a small farm needs is a fabulous tasting tomato that produces only a small number of tomatoes, or only produces for a very short time late in the season. My experience has been that Johnny’s Selected Seeds varieties perform well under specific conditions. For example, they have an excellent lineup of greenhouse tomatoes with resistance to the diseases common to the greenhouse.

Disclaimer: I am a tomato breeder, and I have a long-term contract to cooperatively breed new tomato varieties with Johnny’s Selected Seeds. This relationship certainly makes me biased when recommending seed companies. However, it is worth pointing out that I am working with Johnny’s Selected Seeds, in no small part, because I was a very happy customer who originally approached them, with requests that they trial varieties that I had bred (the Artisan Cherry Tomatoes).

Our Tomatoes: Artisan Seeds

I breed tomatoes on our small farm in Sunol, California. Some of the tomatoes I have bred are shown in the photo above. Although most of the varieties we have released are sold by well established seed companies, like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, we do sell some of our unique varieties directly, particularly when they are not sold elsewhere. One current example is the tomato Spike. We released this tomato locally, primarily via plant sales, a number of years ago. It is a tomato that is not particularly well-suited to farming, since the fruits ripen (and soften) so quickly that it can be hard to harvest, transport and sell fruits without losing a lot to bruising. However, Spike has fantastic flavor, and it’s modest plant size, and good productivity, make it a great home-garden variety.

We currently also have a very exciting program where we release our new varieties to collaborating members 1 year in advance of general release. This program is of particular interest to true tomato addicts, and to small farmers that use unique produce to attract, and excite, customers. We view this program as a type of win-win barnraiser program for both us, and our collaborators.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/8/2015

My new book, Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement, spotlights 18 Oregon farms and farm supporters who are committed to a return to ecologically sound agricultural practices. This group reflects the diversity of people, both young and old, who are reshaping our state’s food system and reclaiming our right to eat well. In their stories you will hear how they came to be where they are, learn something about the challenges they face, and share their happiness at the successes they’ve enjoyed thus far. The following profile, which has been excerpted from Planting A Future, features one of Oregon’s oldest and most successful biodynamic farms. Read Getting to Know the Farmers at Winter Green Farm, Part 1.

Cattle relaxing at Winter Green Farm

“We were really naive about how to make it all work,” said Jack Gray. “We were pretty grounded in the environmental movement and we had a lot of things in our head. But within a couple of years we got rid of the draft horses. When we looked at the prospect of becoming a viable farm and actually making some money, we realized we had to do something different. As we looked around, we noticed that a new environmentally friendly, alternative form of agriculture was just starting to bud a little bit, so we tried to get involved with that.”

So they began attending the early organizing meetings of Willamette Valley Tilth (which would evolve to become Oregon Tilth). They also participated with another local effort called the Organically Grown Co-op (now Organically Grown Company) which was in the process of kicking off. As they ventured out, what they discovered was that many things involved with food and agriculture were starting to change. Diverse activity everywhere. So many possibilities.

Which brings us back to that meeting with Wali and Jabrila Via. Two couples, both convinced they could accomplish more by working together with someone else than they could do alone. There was no intention to do a deal when they all sat down. They were just two families getting together to share ideas and maybe ask for a little advice.

Wali recalls, “We just came over to talk to them and after awhile they asked if we would consider working here, and we thought that sounded like a good opportunity so we said okay. Then we worked here and we did a contract with them that first year for vegetable starts. That’s my recollection of it, and that was 1985.”

It wasn’t all roses though. After their years farming in the Deadwood community, and another five years working to build a life on their own farm, Jabrila didn’t want to leave it all behind. Turns out there was a silver lining waiting to be discovered.

“I believe the thing that really changed us over to doing something different was that Wali never got to see his kids,” says Jabrila. “I didn’t want to come here at first, although I’m very happy here and it’s my life, but I didn’t want to leave our farm in Deadwood. I loved our life there. But when the girls woke up that first morning here and they asked ‘where’s Dad?’ I said ‘look out the window.’ And he was out there harvesting cauliflower and they were like, ‘is this where he works?’ and they ran out and saw him, and I was like, okay, okay, I’m over myself.”

Thus began a partnership that would yield one of the best loved organic farms in Oregon, as well as one of the few biodynamic farms of any size. That’s not surprising when considering the spiritual and idealistic roots these four farmers share. For those who aren’t familiar with biodynamic practices, it kind of takes an organic commitment and kicks it up a few notches.

A biodynamic farm is viewed as one holistic organism. To the extent possible, no external inputs are brought in. Instead, all inputs such as fertilizer and compost are generated on the farm, which means that both plants and animals are raised in harmony, and all of the farm’s processes are intricately connected. A healthy piece of earth is home to a diversity of plants, both those we call crops and those we call weeds. Both insect pests and insect beneficials have their role to play. The soil needs to eat and drink and breathe to become supple and strong.

There’s a complex science behind biodynamic agriculture that was founded by a man named Rudolf Steiner. But if you just sit back and think about it, a biodynamic farm is pretty darn close to the classic, old-time family farm with cows and pigs and chickens and goats and grains and vegetables and fruit and pastures and all the rest of it. Throughout history those farms managed to produce food as self-contained operations that were handed down through the generations. They didn’t depend on chemicals, poisons, or even organic imports being brought onto the farm the way modern industrial agriculture does. They depended on healthy soil and diverse natural ecosystems. And anytime those principles were cast aside, the land perished and became barren.

That’s one of the truly beautiful things about Winter Green Farm. It has taken an idealized notion and, through science, management, marketing and dedication, has translated that notion into a commercially viable agricultural reality.

Basil to supply Winter Green Farm's pesto business

Another important part of the Winter Green Farm story is that it has served as a training ground for hundreds of future farmers and contributors to the organic agriculture industry. Some for just a season or two, but others stay for many years. Two of those long-time employees recently became the third couple to join the farm’s ownership group. After fifteen years of commitment to Winter Green Farm, Chris and Shannon Overbaugh became co-owners in 2009.

Chris and Shannon exemplify the approach that Jack believes works best for people who want to become farmers.  “You really have to work for other farmers first,” he explains. “Learn and see what it takes, and then build a plan from that. A lot of people are homesteading these days, and homesteading is great, but that’s not really the best way to break in to farming anymore. Also, I think there’s a lot of potential for cooperative farms, but the main thing is that there’s just a lot more to learn about organics now than there used to be. Less margin for error. More professionalism is required. It’s one thing to grow it, but it’s another one to produce a product that you’re able to consistently sell.

“And I suppose that it’s important to keep an open mind. In the long run I think agriculture will just keep evolving. Commercial agriculture has definitely moved in the direction of organic. And unfortunately, organic has moved a bit in the commercial direction. To a certain degree, it may need to. But the question of scale is a central issue. Can you really scale up organic and have it work in the same way… the holistic way it should work. Large farms do have some incredible advantages economically, but in terms of where things should be going… I’m a firm believer in local, and that’s not going to change.”

Order your copy of Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement.

(Top) Photo by Lisa D. Holmes. Cattle provide vital nutrients for Winter Green Farm's sophisticated biodynamic compost operations.

(Bottom) Photo by Lisa D. Holmes. In addition to providing a wide range of organic vegetables for CSAs, farmers markets, and wholesalers, Winter Green Farm grows basil (shown here) for its pesto operation.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 








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