Organic Gardening
Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Start a Free Community Produce-Sharing Group

Community Seed Swap Event 

Every month, we meet at a local venue in the small town of Nanango in Queensland, Australia, to share produce and household goods with the community. My friend suggested the concept three years ago, and I thought it was a fantastic idea. At first, there were only 10 people and now there are often over 60 people gathered every month.

People bring excess produce from their gardens, as well as plants, seedlings, cuttings and seeds. They also bring useful household items like newspapers, books, jars and containers. They don’t just share goods, they also share a laugh and smile (one person even shared their musical talents one month). Our aim was to create community as well as share our excess produce and it has been a huge success! Let me tell you how it works for us and encourage you to start a share in your own community.

Fresh Garden Produce On Table

The name is important. We nearly called it a “produce swap”, but it was clear from the start that we wanted people to share their excess, rather than feeling like they needed a fair swap for what they brought along. Making it a share simplifies the transactions. It’s more about giving than taking, which makes everyone feel good.

Be clear about the rules. Our rules are very clear and announced at the start of every share: Bring what you don’t need, take what you want, and make sure everyone around you gets to take something, too. At the end, please take home anything that you brought with you that hasn’t been taken yet.

Research what you are allowed to share. There are food-safety rules that restrict us from sharing eggs and meat (however, eggs for hatching are fine). And our local council regulates sharing of preserves and baked goods. We ask that people don’t share these items unless they have the necessary licenses, to protect the reputation of the share.

Sharing isn’t for everyone. When I explain the concept of sharing, some people get it right away and some people don’t feel comfortable without a direct swap or barter system. The first type of people will enjoy the share, the second type will not. I just accept that not everyone is going to enjoy the idea of sharing, but the right people will come and be happy to join in.

It will take time to build numbers. It took about a year for us to establish the group. My friend and I promised that we would come every month for a year, even if it was just us sharing what we had. Some months there wasn’t much to share, except for a chat and cup of tea, but we kept coming. Eventually people found out about the share and the numbers grew so that we now always have a decent number of people come along and plenty to share. It seems like there is always someone growing something in excess!

Make the share self-sufficient. We didn’t want to create another obligation. Everyone is busy and most have gardens and animals to look after. Sometimes you just can’t make it to the share, but the share needs to be able to run without myself or my friend there every month. We are lucky to have a small shed at the venue where we can keep a few things, and they also let us use some tables. It is very quick to set up when we get there and pack up again after about an hour. We start each share at 9:30am sharp, with a quick speech to thank everyone for coming and remind everyone of the rules. Now that we have a large group of regulars, the share can run with the collective effort of the community, and I hope that means it will be self-sustaining.

It is always exciting to see an idea transform into reality. Seeing people happily sharing their excess produce and building community has been worth the small effort to start the group. I encourage you to think about whether a share like this could work in your community. You will have to be patient while the group grows, but eventually you could build a strong community around the concept of sharing.

Gardening Equipment On Table

Photos by Liz Beavis

Liz Beavis is a small-scale cattle farmer and soap-making beekeeper in rural Queensland, Australia. On her Eight Acres Farm, she sells beef-tallow soaps, honey and beeswak, and is the author of Our Experience with House Cows, A Beginners Guide to Backyard Chickens and Chicken Tractors, Make Your Own Natural Soap, and the Solar Bore Pump Handbook. Connect with Liz on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Managing the 5 Elements on the Farm

pillars 

While a lot can be said for well researched books, fine-tuned ideologies, and gurus, some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about growing food and raising livestock have come from mistakes, observation, and my continually developing relationship to living systems.  With so many authors, activists, and agriculturalists touting their own (sometimes dogmatic) approach to growing food as the solution to all crises in our changing climate, I can’t help but think, “Yes, more of all of it, please.”   

Whether you’re raising livestock on grassland ecosystems, growing crops utilizing no-till principles, streamlining organic production for economic viability, or planting out elaborate orchards with dynamic biological relationships, it’s all necessary, needed, and your own particular spin on things is the absolute epitome of co-creation with the Universe. 

As a woman in agriculture, I’ve been forced to confront endless suspicions that my own choices on a particular landscape are wrong or misguided.  In this new age of internet trolling, I’ve been encouraged time and time again to seek out the prominent theories of men, usually white (always?), dead and alive, holding all of the answers to the absolute correct methods for deriving nourishment from land.  I have swallowed all of my gut reactions about the stymying of diverse voices in this realm and done my best to let my work speak for itself. 

I’ve decided that I like to think of myself less as an expert, practitioner, or guide and more as a poet.  It is safer this way on these internet streets and helps keep me out of trouble. I’m just a human, out here interacting with the land, literally learning something new everyday.  My success doesn’t come from a set of rules that I’ve come to follow, but more from a dedication to adaptation, to intimacy with my natural spaces, and from a deep curiosity and reverence that tunes me to the flow of my landscape.  It doesn’t always rhyme, but sometimes, lordy, does it sing. 

For someone who is just beginning their journey getting to know the land they intend to grow with, I suggest taking some time for the wide lens approach.  Many books will delve deeply into the specific details that brought success to the author and this is very important inspiration. It can give you added tools for achieving your own goals with the land and may even become something you riff on and make better within your own operation.  What a book can’t give you is a sense of place. Getting to know the ecological resonance of your own little piece of heaven is a challenging journey you must face on your own.   

What works seamlessly on one operation, housed within one ecotype, may not fit so perfectly within the mineral, biological, and meteorological setting you’re working with.  The good news is, through observation and obsessive tweaking, you can use the inspiration you get from other growers as a jump off point for how you may adapt your own operation to synchronize with what’s already happening on your land.  Below I’d like to take us all the way out--out of the fields and into the biggest picture possible--and talk about the 5 Elements. These forces are not only present in the big picture, they are working tirelessly in every single nook and cranny of your farm or garden and their formative dynamics, when balanced, can bring long term productivity and fertility to the landscape. 

I know that the elements bring many different ideas into your mind depending on your own experiences.  Some of y’all are thinking of Ayurveda or Chinese Medicine, while others still are getting stoked on some Avatar the Last Airbender.  While all of these versions of the elements are slightly different, the concept is the same. There are archetypal rhythms and signatures that facilitate the dynamic interplay of life on Earth and they each contribute something important to our living world.  Below I will call them forward and give a brief overview of how you might begin to observe them within your own operation in hopes of inspiring the development of systems that harmonize with their more predictable rhythms. 

Water

eft

Water is life and you’d better not forget it.  Farming now in Vermont, it is easier than ever to take this most rare and precious living mineral for granted.  I need only remember the hot drought conditions that brought incredible vulnerability to my gardens in south and central Georgia or take a peak at any news outlet for the current state of California for a harsh reminder of how essential this life force truly is.  Like all of the elements, when it is harmonized within the system it can bring longevity, even during times of stress. When it is imbalanced, it can flood, erode, and devastate. When working with this element you have to let your thoughts flow.   

If you are working in an area where there isn’t enough of it, you have to observe where it comes from and when (seasonal rains, transpiration, morning dew, etc.)  You have to set up ways of catching it, slowing it down, and increasing the amount of surface area it touches before it descends into the water table. As water disappears from a sun caked landscape it can reduce the plant’s access to nutrients which can lead to poor harvests and unhealthy livestock.  Increasing organic matter in beds helps build a biological sponge that can retain water, even as it becomes less available from lack of rain.   

When you are working in an area where it is abundant, you have to think about how it moves.  How does it flow through the property? What does it pick up and deposit? Where does it want to go and how can you get it there with the least disturbance to your own goals on the land as possible?  Too much water in a growing space can lead to overly lush conditions; the cells of plants and animals can become engorged, making them more susceptible to fungus and disease. Over watering a garden can weaken plants in a similar way and contribute to shallow root growth, limiting the plant’s essential relationships to organisms mining for the micronutrients the plants seek from the subsoil. 

In both areas of lack and excess it is important to think about what goes into the water.  Water being involved in the chemical life processes, is prone to picking up soluble materials and carrying them downstream.  What potential soluble materials are entering or leaving your system through the water? What remedial landscape features (wetlands, riparian buffers, native plantings,) can you add to your property to reduce these pollutants?  Seeing healthy frogs in standing water and macroinvertebrates in streams and rivers are a good sign that your operation is contributing to water wellness as opposed to reducing it.

Air

flower

The importance of managing the air element on the property is most obvious in situations where strong winds knock over livestock shelters, lodge corn or cover crops, and playfully destroy high tunnels and greenhouses.  Air flow is increasingly becoming more severe during storms and setting up appropriate buffers around cultivated fields, greenhouses, and in and around livestock pasture can prevent serious damage to costly infrastructure and eliminate constant stress in valuable stock.  Trees, with their leaves, needles and branches, have the power to take strong winds and break them into eddies that are much less destructive. 

Maybe somewhat less obvious is when air becomes stagnant in a place and contributes to acidification.  We can see this more easily in situations involving water, where the lack of air contributes to the anaerobic breakdown of materials and attracts acid loving flora and fauna, but this lack of air is equally powerful in changing the nature of soil.  In soils where airflow has been stamped out through compaction, the acidification of the landscape becomes evident in the types of plants and mosses that grow and the lack of wellness achieved by our crops. Keeping soil biology stimulated through the introduction of rock powders, kelp, and other minerals and limiting tilling regimes can encourage soil organisms to build back into the soil the precious airways that keep the soil breathing and healthy. 

Stagnant air can also be a problem in the garden when it comes to densely planted crops in situations of high humidity.  If certain tender plants, like tomatoes, are grown without proper airflow in hot and steamy conditions, they can become more susceptible to disease.  Similarly, air pollution can reduce the vitality of your farm system by clogging up stomata and pores and the incorporation of woody and herbaceous perennials can help mitigate some of the negative effects. 

Being the carrier of light and the gaseous forms of all elements, air and openness are essential in allowing plants and animals to derive proper nourishment from the life giving rays of the sun and the nutritious, roaming nutrients of the atmosphere.

Fire 

apples

While warmth and light are partners in creation, it is important to note that light often travels to while warmth radiates from.  Fire is an essential element in the establishment of biological communities both in the way that warmth is a life giving phenomenon and equally in the fiery processes of reproduction.  We see fire most obviously in its most basic form as the burning of carbonaceous materials. Burning, in this way, is a very cleansing activity and has been used in forest management schemes all over the world throughout the ages.  Fire, like all of the 5 elements, is incredibly dangerous when it is imbalanced and can instantly cleanse the life force right out of large patches of ecological communities. Fire can also be used to refine materials, such as the carbon structures of plant materials in biochar, to produce a differently charged, porous material with the power of slowly releasing nutrients and stabilizing heavy metals in soils.

When it comes to managing the fire element on a property, this can be as simple as managing a proper woodlot for producing the literal fire that will warm the homestead or cook the meals, to the more complex management of the energies that lead to seed formation and fruit.  Thinking of fire as warmth, we draw special attention to the early blooms of fruiting perennials during the threats of late spring frosts and the incredible friction that occurs when a baby sheep gets pushed from the womb. 

The fire element is an important aspect of the kinetic energy of the landscape, or the farm’s ability to support organisms capable of high levels of activity through movement.  When the fire element on a farm is in good balance, animals of all kinds are able to derive sustenance from the land and impart their significant gifts. One of the essential gifts that comes from managing a landscape where diverse, mobile organisms interact is the proper balancing of predator and prey ratios.  Similarly, a farm that can support the health and well being of large ruminants such as cows is typically operating from a deep and nourishing ecological wellness derived from all of the elements in flux. 

Earth

kale Yes

When it comes to farming, the earth element may be easiest to identify.  The carbon realms of formative structure that we interact with on a daily basis are literally grounded in soil, which we often call earth.  Earth as an element is definitely a serious governing force for the mysterious communities of the soil, but the earth element is present in everything from worms to the birds that eat them.  When we are managing our farm for earthen energies, we are looking closely at the ways in which our farm is built. 

The bones and stems, the way the timber grows and grows; all of the materials that are finely crafted from the elusive and ambient energies that make their way into our landscapes are sorted by this dynamic energy.  Taking the soft whispers of the cosmos and weaving them into material form is a specialty of the earth element and its powerful relationship to the other elements. 

When imbalanced, this element can find our fields desertifying and lifeless, unable to muster up the strength to lift any organisms from the soil into the atmosphere.  Where the earthen energies are too great, the garden will produce leaf after leaf of beautiful, lush growth without fruit set or seed. This over abundance of form and structure must be balanced with fire and the other elements for the land to move from simple productivity to long term regeneration and fertility. 

Ether

pillars

There are many definitions for the term ether and I’m not here to say that I am the guru knowing the right and proper meaning.  My understanding of ether may be slightly different from what you come up with from your own experiences and I think that’s an important part of our time on this planet: to see things through different eyes.  In my own experience, ether is the essence or signature of each of the elements. While ether can be defined and classified on its own, it is gives a voice to each of the elements and is the conductor of their great orchestration.  Ether, to me, is not so much the forces themselves, but the space in time or consciousness that brings their essence to life. 

These different signatures or archetypes of the elements are given life or activity through the consciousness of the present moment.  Just as our deeds start out as thoughts and dreams, the physical manifestation of life within our farms and gardens must coalesce from forces beyond the physical.  Our real power in working with ether is to observe and understand the elements in our operations and think behind them. What does the farm dream about in the winter before the first sprouts and tubers break free from the Earth?  How is our own consciousness tied to the land, stirring up what may manifest in our harvest totes and on our market tables?  

Our mindfulness in the garden can allow the different ethers of each element to bring balance into the greater picture.  The elements themselves, once identified, can be monitored through their relationships to measurable rhythms such as the seasons, the movements of the cosmic bodies, and the rhythmic dancing of water, stimulated by the orbiting moon.

Darby Weaver has spent the last decade growing Biodynamic produce in the Southeast and teaching holistic and ecological methods to learners of all ages and backgrounds through articles, agriculture intensives, workshops, and lectures.  She has recently moved to the Northeast with her husband to begin a new venture on 20 acres in Wolcott, Vermont. You can read all of Darby's Mother Earth News posts here.


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Pruning Grapes for Maximum Harvest

Gnarly grape vines needing to be pruned 

In the Southern Colorado River Plateau region of Arizona, fruit production is iffy at best. Peaches produce about once every ten years or so, and apples average every fourth year. One fruit that is dang-near 100% reliable in this area, though, is grapes. And one particularly amazing variety here is the Himrod grape. But even though grapes will produce nearly every year with very little variance, the key to good quantities of grapes each year often comes down to pruning.

While it is appropriate to prune your grapes, and any other fruiting bush, tree, or vine any time there is damage, the best time to heavily prune grapes in our area is very early spring, around the first part of March. 

In the fall, your grape vines will look a bit like this (above), provided they had good water and grew well. 

Overgrown fall vines needing pruning

If you have relatively mild winters, it doesn't hurt to do some rough pruning at this stage. However, the best time to prune here is spring time, after the winter has killed back a lot of the sprouts from last year, leaving you being very sure about what is alive and what is dead. When I say "rough pruning", I mean taking off large danging branches that grow out of the main stalk, like here: 

Short old branches where new shoots can arise

These need to come off, as grapes need good airflow and good light penetration to all the leaves. Branches like this, coming right out of the main stem can tangle, serve as home for critters, make your grape vines look raggedy, and aren't usually all that productive. I trim them very close to the main trunk. 

In the spring, your goal is to just have a short piece of last year's wood from each of the side-branches. Most vineyards and home gardeners want to use the "Double-Arm Kniffen" style of growing grapes. In this system, the grape vine is trimmed to one main stem the first year. If there are arms coming off the stem, they are all trimmed away except possible one-four branches, if they are in the right point to grow arms out to the side like this:

Because grapes grow from new shoots coming from old wood, these four branches are the really productive wood, but only if you trim all the stragglers and keep the main trunk trimmed to only these four side branches. 

Year-old sprout emerging from main stem

The picture below shows how short I cut the shoots from last year. Each one of those nodes has the potential to make a fruiting sprout, so I limit the nodes to 2-3. 

Double-arm Kniffin system

Double-arm Kniffin system 

After pruning all branches coming off the main trunk, and trimming down all the old wood on the four arms, all that's left is to cut off anything that's obviously dead from the cold. 

You can usually tell pretty easily which wood is dead and which wood is alive. Living wood will have a rich, brown color and dead wood will be brittle and gray. The wood that is completely gray will not grow new shoots and thus will not be productive ever again, so it should come off as close to the arm of the vine as you can get. Sometimes these side shoots have been productive for a couple years and you'll need large pruners or even a saw to cut them once they die completely.

After all this pruning, you'll have a grape vine that looks similar to this. All the side branches should be completely free of old leaf litter and long, dangly vines. 

Freshly pruned grape vines

Grapes pruned in this manner will be easier to take care of, harbor fewer pests, and be more productive for years to come. 

Regina Hitchock is a high school biology teacher in St. Johns, Arizona, where she co-founded the Gardeners with Altitude organic garden club and brings gardening, aquaponics, aeroponics, hydroponics, and seed starting into her classrooms. She serves as Secretary for White Mountain Community Cooperative to promote food- and economically secure self-sufficiency in Arizona. Connect with Regina on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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A Tale of Two Farms

 

Hannah at Shalom Farms greeting briefing volunteers.

I love visiting small farms! In the course of my travel and food writing life, I cross paths with small farms often. I might get leads at a restaurant where they list the farmers that contribute to the menu items, a farmer’s market, or even some grocery stores highlighting a farmer whose goods are on the shelves. Through the course of 4-5 farm visits each year I’ve learned much from the farmers I visit, sometimes much more than farming techniques and trends.

Starting up a small farm can be done for a variety of reasons. I’m constantly impressed with how one can create their own farm to reflect values and desires. By touring farms, I can learn about farming practices as well as finding a purpose in life. Two farms I’ve visited so far this year have helped me understand the many ways farming can add value to life experiences.

Shalom Farms (Midlothian, Va.)

Although Shalom Farms was started by the United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond, they no longer have a religious element. Their current mission statement is “To work with communities to ensure access to healthy food and the support to live healthy lives.” A diverse group of board members steers the farm in the direction of bringing healthy produce to under-served community members who need it the most.

With a 12 acres farmland-much of it protected by an electric fence to keep out the deer, high tunnels, and a greenhouse, Shalom can crank out a significant amount of gorgeous produce. In 2018, volunteers gave 16,482 hours and produced 400,000 servings of produce. Steve Miles (the director of farm operations), and his crew collectively have over 40 years of farming experience to guide Shalom Farms. Eschewing chemicals, the farm uses practices similar to organic farming and manages to grow a variety of crops. On a hot September day, I volunteered with my group of travel writers and saw gorgeous red bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cukes, and potatoes destined for lucky households. Even with the unseasonably dry weather, Shalom Farms was growing healthy crops that made me envious. When the soil is happy, the crops are happy proving to me that chemical-free farming works.

Not satisfied to provide just good food for hungry bellies, Shalom has an ambitious education program and hosted 1,185 visits in 2018. School kids, community members, and other interested individuals and groups came to see Shalom Farms in action. The school kids get to see how food is grown and distributed, community members learn how to make nutritious meals, and backyard veggie growers like myself, learn better sustainable growing practices through volunteering. I call that a win-win.

Third Way Farm (Havre de Grace, Md.)

I frequent my local farmer’s markets and sometimes get to know the farmers. Tommy Shireman is the inspirational owner/farmer who seems to be able to have his hands in all aspects of the farm’s business. I had talked with Tommy at the Havre de Grace, Maryland farmer’s market on numerous occasions and we set up a farm visit.

On my first visit to the farm, Tommy unintentionally showed me how disruptive pigs can be when they escape. Our interview and tour were cut short as he had to become a herder of wayward pigs. I had no idea pigs could be so hard to herd back into their pens. I asked Tommy why he bothered to raise pigs and he told me, “Pigs may be challenging at times but serves a purpose that provides a more fulfilling and healthy life for the pigs, allowing them to play a role in the ecosystem of the farm, and in turn produce a more nutrient-dense pork product for us in the end.” Even though my first visit was a short introduction to Third Way Farm, I got a good taste of what Tommy has going on. Third Way Farm also raises lamb and cage-free chickens for eggs.

The origin of the farm’s name is impressive for those of us that aren’t familiar. By permission of the farm I include it here:

The name “Third Way Farm” (TWF) is inspired by Jesus’ teachings on nonviolent resistance to oppressive and unjust systems. Famously, Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek” when someone strikes us, but unlike the commonly accepted interpretation of this teaching which calls for a passive, “peaceful” response to violence, it is actually a creative alternative. The “Third Way” entails a nonviolent, yet active and creative resistance to systems of oppression and violence, whereas the "first way" of response would be violence, and the "second way" passive acceptance.

With a statement like that, you might think they only want to work with Christians, but they welcome all faiths or those with no faith to intern with them.

Third Way Farm has an intern program that attracts would-be farmers of the future. The farm pays the interns a generous $850 per month and offers all the veggies they can eat. Internships can be as short as 2-3 months for the summer, 5-6 months, or the preferred term of 9-12 months. Interns can stay the farm's sod-roof home during their internship, keeping them close to the job.

What I love about Third Way Farm is their commitment to no-spray farming and integrating biodynamic principles when practical. At the Havre de Grace Farmer’s Market I often see Tommy selling veggies others don’t have like purple wax beans, broccolini, and micro-greens.

On my first visit to Third Way Farms, I got a look at a moveable hi-tunnel in action. I’d seen moveable chicken coops but never a full-sized hi-tunnel that could be moved utilize the soil more effectively. Tommy and his crew are interested in cutting-edge, eco-friendly farming. By using his high-tunnel, Tommy can bring fresh produce to the market year-round and provides customers with highly desirable micro-greens, salad greens, and herbs even in winter.

I managed to get out and visit a second time in September when the pigs were not a distraction. The interns were busy tending to rows of kale, broccoli, eggplant and prepping rows for fall planting. Tommy showed me how they are using a no-till method of farming in hopes of creating healthier soil. Third Way Farm may be turning out eco-friendly future farmers, but I’m happy knowing they come to one of my favorite local farmer’s markets with no-spray veggies.

These two farms have shown me there can be much more to farming than just growing good food for consumers. Take a trip to a local farm near you and see what you can learn. Why not feed your mind and soul from the lessons of your local farmer as well as your body?

Kurt Jacobson writes about travel, food, wine, organic gardening, and most anything else from his varied professional life. His articles appear in Alaska Magazine, Fish Alaska Magazine, Metropolis Japan Magazine, Edible Delmarva Magazine, North West Travel and Life Magazine, and Mother Earth News. Kurt lives in the Baltimore, MD area with his wife, dog and cats. Kurt’s articles also appear on several websites, including GoNomad.comTrip101.comMotherEarthNews.comAdventuresstraveler.comand several others. Kurt is a regular contributor to GoNomad.com writing about Alaska, Colorado, New Zealand, Japan, and the Mid-Atlantic areas. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Harvesting the Rain in a Children's Garden

 Residential Rainwater Collection

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Rain Brothers LLC installs rainwater harvesting systems for residential and commercial properties as well as providing for DIYers ready to take on small residential projects themselves. Founded 11 years ago with the goal of providing sustainable access and use of water throughout the state of Ohio, Rain Brothers offers systems to help businesses and homeowners become more sustainable and conserve water resources. Between the two owners, Johnathan Meier and Gordy Smith, they have over twenty years of combined experience in rainwater harvesting.

 Silo Rainwater Storage

Their installations range from single residential rain barrels to cisterns that can hold tens of thousands of gallons of water. Most projects consist of irrigating with the rainwater, since rainwater has several advantages over city water. Rain Brothers also install systems where the rainwater is filtered to potable-quality for use in private water systems, specifically in rural areas where public water is not available. They’ve installed systems where rainwater is used to supply toilets and laundry. Their projects include above ground rain storage at Franklin Park Conservatory, a cistern system for the Ohio Governor’s Mansion, restoring a hand pump and historical well and installations at The Ohio State University.

 Raised Bed Gardens

Johnathan Meier, one of the ‘brothers’ and appropriately from a family of well drillers, installed a system for AHA! Children’s Museum in Lancaster, Ohio, to irrigate a raised bed garden as part of the Raymond B. Martens Nature Playscape. With funding provided by the City of Lancaster Stormwater Manager as a public education project in the use of stormwater, the system included a ‘silo’ that reflected the area’s agriculture heritage and holds 1480 gallons of harvested rainwater from the roof of the 8000 sq. ft. museum.

 AHA! Children's Museum Vegetable Garden

Working with a playscape and vegetable garden design by Amy Dutt of Urban Wild LTD, Johnathan incorporated the silo into the landscape. An automatic timer assured that the raised beds were watered throughout the growing season with the captured rainwater, supplemented by city water during dry times. Used as an educational setting for school tours and families, visitors learned about vegetable growing, storm-water harvesting, tasting new vegetables and even taking home crops raised by the Fairfield County Master Gardeners who also led the garden maintenance and programming.

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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

[Video] Farming For Life, Part 4: Passing Your Farm to the Next Generation

As large numbers of America’s farmers near retirement, the need for new young farmers to take their place grows more urgent. But replacing retiring farm owners involves more than just finding a young person with the right skill set. It also takes money — a lot of it. So how do young farmers without much capital acquire property or take over farms?

In this video, working farmers and farm supporters discuss a variety of ways ownership transactions are taking place.

How Do Farm Buyers and Sellers Find Each Other?

It’s when the challenges we face are greatest that innovative thinking becomes most important. And that type of thinking is helping farm ownership transfers take place. One of the first challenges sellers and buyers face is finding each other. To facilitate that, a number of “land-link” websites serve as a resource to connect people. But sometimes the best strategy is to simply put buyers and sellers in the same room and let them get to know each other.

Organizations across the country are now working to do that. But making connections is just the beginning. Next comes a bigger challenge: making things work financially.

What Financial Strategies are Being Used?

Agricultural easements are growing in importance because they provide a financial benefit for a retiring farmer and help make farm acquisition more affordable for young farmers. Land trusts are another important component of the movement to keep farms in operation. As are investors who hold the mortgage on a property until a new farmer can afford to acquire it. And joint ventures that help groom young farmers to take over are becoming more common.

For more information on advancing your farming career, contact these organizations:

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project - Tufts University
nesfp@tufts.edu
978-654-6745

National Young Farmers Coalition
info@youngfarmers.org
518-643-3564

Rogue Farm Corps
info@roguefarmcorps.org
541-951-5105

Production Credits And Thanks

A special thank you goes out to farmers Jack Gray and Chris Overbaugh (Winter Green Farm), Emily Cooper (Full Cellar Farm), Lili Tova (Flying Coyote Farm), Jonny Steiger (By George Farm), and Katie Coppoletta and Tayne Reeve (Fiddlehead Farm); to farm employees and trainees Mary Koppes, Daphne Gill, Stephen Lewis, and Piper Krabbenhoft; to EMSWCD Land Legacy Director Matt Shipkey; and to the staff members of Rogue Farm Corps for their support and participation. Selected video and photo files were provided by Rogue Farm Corps 

The four-part Farming For Life series was produced by Farming Is Life Media Services (FILMS), with writing and directing by John Vincent, and videography and editing by Paul Manda.


John Clark Vincent is a writer and author who lives in Portland, Ore. His most recent book, Planting a Future, presents a view of what’s happening within Oregon’s rapidly growing movement toward sustainable farming practices. In an effort to provide a glimpse into the many different aspects of such a surging movement, he uses profiles of 18 different farmers and farm supporters to represent the different elements of Oregon’s farm community. Find John online on his website, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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.

Building a Pallet-able Compost Bin

 compost-bin
Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

Composting in the office often seems like a far-off dream, but here at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS headquarters, we’ve found an office-friendly solution: a repurposed trash can for the collection bin and a compost bin built from pallets. (Find the tutorial to build the bin here.) Now, we’re adding a second chamber to the compost bin, since we’ve been so successful with our composting endeavors.

office-compost-bin
Our compost collection bin doesn’t take up much space in the breakroom. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

As you might suspect, adding on a second chamber is merely a matter of attaching three pallets to the original compost bin.

 compost-bin-sides
Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

The pallets are attached to the preexisting structure and screwed into place. That’s it!

 compost-bin-back
Jay and Tyler install the back of the new chamber. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

attaching-boards
 Photo by Staff

 A board across the two chambers helps to reinforce the integrity of the structure.

 strengthening-compost-bin
The rest of the structure is further strengthened by screws. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

Next, the overflowing compost has to be moved to the newly built chamber. The bin is opened from the side, and the compost is transferred.

opened-compost-bin
emptying-compost-bin
Photos by Amanda Kim Stairrett

Our bins also attracted a visitor — this friendly cricket who was undeterred by the construction.

 compost-bin-cricket
Photo by Ingrid Butler

We hope our cricket visitor enjoys its new, spacious home, and we look forward to the time when our compost is ready to be integrated into the soil.

More on composting:

More on building with pallets:

More on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Community Garden:


Want to grow a garden as lush as ours? Find our go-to products for garden maintenance, harvesting, and more at in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Garden Shed.

If you’d like to be a MOTHER EARTH NEWS Community Garden sponsor, contact Brenda Escalante.

Thank you to our sponsorsGarden In MinutesNeptune’s HarvestCoast of MaineSouthern Exposure Seed ExchangeMeadow CreatureLehman’sMOTHER EARTH NEWS StoreHappy Leaf LEDBerry Hill Irrigation.







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