All the evidence shows we cannot improve on nature’s model. So how do we put into action ecological principles of soil care that are based on non-disturbance? This chapter, excerpted from my book The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm, describes some of the techniques we employ to enhance the natural phenomena that protect and regenerate the soil.
I own and operate Bluma Flower Farm, currently located on a rooftop in downtown Berkeley, California. Going into this year my plan was to try to replicate what I did the year before, one of Bluma’s best years yet. This would have been the first year I didn’t make any big changes. But then the pandemic hit and, of course, like many other businesses, I had to pivot and find ways to survive.
Last month I wrote about wet-seed processing. That’s more of a summer activity as you have to deal with the ripe fruits in a timely way. Dry seeds develop in pods, husks or ears, and dry on the plant rather than inside a fruit. While you obviously want to get seeds into the hands of growers before they need to plant, and into seed catalogs before they get printed, often there is no urgency to extract the dry-seeded crops from their pods. You can wait for a slower time, or use seed cleaning as a rainy-day job.
This month’s submission is from Dogpatch Urban Gardens in Iowa and it’s a simple one – a grabber being used to reach Tomahooks obviating the need for a ladder. It’s quite possible that many of you have already thought of this, but I had never seen this before. I love the idea and I don’t even use hooks…but I might after seeing this.
Our mid-month email newsletter links to an archived article on Korean Natural Farming and a chance to win one of two copies of a new book about KNF and more! Also, an opportunity to share what you've learned about operating in the COVID era with other growers. Read the newsletter here.
Predictably, since a new word is easy to co-opt, “regenerative” has quickly become the darling of the large industrial agriculture companies who are now able to mouth ecological platitudes, formerly associated with organic farming principles, but without any intention of following them. We are seeing well-honed, corporate co-opting skills used very effectively by professionals.
The suspicious old organic hippie in me finds the new “re-generative” movement to be a devious attempt to displace organic in the public mind with a more manipulatable word, easily controlled and redefined by the agricultural industry. I can understand many of the large mid-western long-time chemical farmers not liking the word “organic” and thus a new word being useful to communicate with them. All well and good. Use the word “regenerative” to lure them in to being better farmers.
Our mid-July email newsletter has a link for five lucky people to win two months of FarmersWeb Unlimited. There are also links to two archived articles- one about tips to keep lettuce growing (not bolting!) through the heat of the summer, and another article with things flower growers can do now to finish the season strong. Read the newsletter here.
Newsletter contains a link to win a $399 wifi enabled CoolBot Pro, and links to three archived articles: how to turn a trailer into a mobile cooler with a CoolBot, how growers harvest garlic, and a garlic harvest checklist. Good luck!
In the June/July magazine, our cover story talked about how REKO rings are a new way to sell to your local community through a closed Facebook group.You can read that article here.
Though at the time of writing I could only find three REKO rings operating in North America, I knew there must be more. So at the end of the article we appealed for anyone doing a REKO in North America to get in touch with us, and I’m so glad Heather Anderson at Green Wagon Farm did.
Heather and I talked on the phone about how they do their REKOs a little bit differently from the original model. The primary difference is that with most REKOs, farmers are advertising their wares by posting an offer of produce or flowers to the closed Facebook page for their ring, and customers order by commenting on the post. In Green Wagon Farm’s REKO Markets, producers link directly back to their website for online payment, so customers order and prepay through each producer’s website, instead of ordering through Facebook. Here is our interview.
In the scramble for local producers to put their wares and transactions online, REKO rings allow growers to advertise and sell digitally, and drop off presold goods at a predetermined time and place. Never heard of a REKO ring? Neither had I until Rebekka Bond contacted me from Norway back in December.
She told me the model was catching on in Scandinavia, and it might be something the rest of our readers would be interested in too. And though they started before COVID, REKO rings may be a good way for local growers to move sales online and deliver goods with a minimum of congregating. But first, what the heck is a REKO ring?
There are a lot of things we can’t grow in our climate and soil here in zone 4a in Starbuck, Minnesota. But I’m especially envious of some of the woody perennials I see other farmers growing – even at farms just a few hours south of us. As a result, I’m always looking for new woodies to try that are hardy here.
We’ve been growing ninebark, thornless raspberry, and smoke bush for years, and they’re staples for us. But there are many other shrubs that could work well as cuts. I’m going to cover a few that are new to us in this article.
The impacts of climate chaos on Astarte Farm have forced us to look for solutions that provide increased long-term resilience in our soil systems, and biochar has shown good promise in moving us toward that goal. Biochar is a paradoxical substance. It is both an ancient agricultural practice developed thousands of years ago in the Amazonian Basin, and at the same time a relatively new approach to enhancing and stabilizing soil fertility.
While it is inert on its own, it becomes a haven for a complex of microbiology. It is not a fertilizer, but freely absorbs and releases plant nutrients as needed. While is has a dry, almost crystalline appearance when freshly made, it readily absorbs water and releases it when needed. It is important to start with a high-quality biochar, but to be truly effective it is equally important how you use it, and how you prepare it in advance for use.
In the April 2020 issue of Growing For Market, I focused on the selection side of tomato breeding. In this follow-up article, I will discuss how to make crosses and manage breeding projects.
The nuts and bolts of crossing tomatoes
Crossing two different tomato varieties can be done by physically moving pollen from the flower of one variety to the flower of another. This is accomplished in a series of steps. First, one variety is chosen to be the mother and another the father. I like to use smaller-fruited varieties as mothers. This seems counterintuitive, but from experience I have found that large beefsteaks produce fewer seeds per fruit and take longer to ripen.
Settle in, the changes aren't just for the short term
As human beings and as local food advocates, this is our time to step up as leaders and serve our communities. Every period of adversity in history gives us stories of people who saw urgent needs and rose up to meet them. The local, sustainable food movement has been building resilient systems for generations. Now is our time to shine!
Being a leader requires the ability to respond quickly. You have to survey the facts, take in the big picture, identify the critical needs that you have the power to meet, and create the solutions. As quickly as possible.
Local food has got this! We have an incredible opportunity to meet a felt, daily need of every person on this planet. We grow sustenance. We sustain human life. Adversity is the time for us to collectively reveal the strength of the local, small, place-based economies we have been working our whole lives to build.
Here is a breakdown of how we as farmers and producers can adapt and shine: