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Archive | October, 2018

Eco-Ag 2018: Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience 

Louisville Kentucky skyline

Louisville, Kentucky skyline at dusk.

The 2018 Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show is just over a month away. The Acres U.S.A. team is excited to meet everybody, and to connect our audience with expert speakers and hundreds of eco-farming peers. There’s a lot to do and see, not only at the conference, but in the great town of Louisville, Kentucky, as well! Head over to our website to read our Eco-Ag Conference guide, to help you get the most out of your trip.

Louisville, Kentucky
Eco-Ag U.: Tuesday, Dec. 4 to Wednesday, Dec. 5
Main Conference: Wednesday, Dec. 5 to Friday, Dec. 7

Learn more here!

Monsanto’s Scarlet Letter

By Mike Snow

Mike Snow has worked as a journalist in Asia, Africa, South America and Washington, D.C., reporting about international and domestic politics, health, travel and agriculture.

Since its founding in 1965, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has doggedly hunted for the causes of one of humanity’s most pernicious and persistent diseases. After IARC’s independent researchers concluded in 2015 that glyphosate, the premier ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant Roundup is “probably carcinogenic,” the hunter became the hunted.

Glyphosate, which has become integral to genetically engineered, industrialized agriculture, is found in products produced by 100 companies in more than 130 countries. Since its 1974 rollout, sales have skyrocketed from 3,200 to 825,000 tons per year, contributing mightily to the to the agro-chem giant’s roughly $16 billion annual revenue stream.

Neither glyphosate nor Monsanto (now Bayer) have been without controversy. The chemical is just the latest in a long line of products that have kept the 117-year-old-company lurching from one crisis to another, deflecting discomforting inquiries to marketers and lobbyists and, when real muscle was required, attorneys and politicians. But because of its star status in Monsanto’s product hierarchy, IARC’s designation of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” hit a raw nerve, triggering a cry for all hands on deck. Within hours of its announcement, the agency’s independent scientists found themselves caught in the crosshairs of a sustained, choreographed campaign aimed not only at discrediting them, but at taking them down. Continue Reading →

Keys to Composting for Increased Soil Health, Vitality

For many years we have been composting various agricultural and forest materials at Tobacco Road Farm to provide for the soil fertility in order to raise vegetable crops without the use of pesticides. This practice has been highly successful though it has required more refinement as the environment continues to deteriorate and the soil’s need for rebalancing becomes increasingly important.

Compost with temperature gauge carbon materials

Compost with undigested carbon materials still present has now cooled to about 80°F and is ready for application.

The composting system is the mouth and stomach of the farm system and prepares the nutritive materials for absorption into the soil. How we choose the appropriate materials to feed into this system, along with an examination of mixing, piling and application of this material, is the focus of this article.

Let us set the stage of how and why this compost is utilized on our farm. At Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut, we focus on intensive vegetable production with 3 acres in crops. The vegetable fields produce tremendous volumes of crops year-round. The soils are typical of the Northeast with a sandy acidic nature. The impact of pollution and climate manipulations on our soils is tremendous. The forest surrounding the farm is in a rapid state of decline. There are die-offs of trees and vastly reduced numbers of insects, bats, frogs, snakes and birds.

The variety of pest insects and diseases of vegetable crops moving into the region continues to increase and is a reflection of the environmental conditions. It has been very useful to re-examine compost and its utilization through a holistic eye that can see these changes and adjust the compost system accordingly. This is similar to the way humans have had to adjust their diets in this modern age of illness. Continue Reading →

Soil Balancing: Worth Another Look — The Ohio State University Soil Balancing Team

Farmers make multiple management decisions daily — decisions driven by questions and input. Helpful input can come from many sources, guiding what to choose or avoid. Most university-led research has placed soil balancing on the “avoid” list. Still, it’s practiced by many farmers who report improved soil tilth, better crop yields and quality, and greater ease in managing weeds as the ‘balance’ of their soils improves.

At least one team of university researchers remains curious, wanting another look at soil balancing. Their work is beginning to reveal that farmers and researchers think, talk about, experiment with, and understand soil balancing differently. If those differences could be bridged, what new questions and helpful input might researchers and farmers find by working together?

The Science Behind Soil Balancing: Basic Cation Saturation Ratio

Soils vary in their nutrient content, but also in their ability to hold nutrients. A soil’s ability to hold nutrients is measured by its cation exchange capacity (or CEC). Generally, a soil high in clay content will have a higher CEC, but organic matter also increases CEC. Soils with a high CEC hold more nutrients and thus, can release more than soils low in CEC. Continue Reading →

Marketing & Selling Pastured Pork

Raising pigs on pasture is wonderfully rewarding work, but it will not lead to a viable farm enterprise unless we take the time to develop our marketing program for effectively selling pastured pork. In this article I share some key points and tips I have gleaned in five years of pork production.

Before you start marketing your pork to potential customers, it may be worth your time to go through the logistic hurdles that ensure that your pork can be USDA approved: the time, energy and money you invest in this can give you access to the entire U.S. market. This was the first hurdle that I tackled this spring in order to open up my market to every direct consumer interested in buying my pork.

To be honest, I would rather be harvesting my pigs on my farm, as I believe that on-farm slaughter leads to a more humane and peaceful ending for my pigs. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t allow you to legally sell cuts of meat to off-farm customers, such as restaurants, grocery stores or families wanting certain cuts of pork. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Organic No-Till Farming

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an Acres U.S.A. book, Organic No-Till Farming, written by Jeff Moyer. Copyright 2011, softcover, 204 pages. Normal Price: $28.00.

From Chapter 1: No-Till Basics

Organic No-Till Farming book

Organic No-Till Farming by Jeff Moyer

It is the hope and dream of many organic farmers to limit tillage, increase soil organic matter, save money, and improve soil structure on their farms. Organic no-till can fulfill all these goals.

Many organic farmers are accused of overtilling the soil. Tillage is used for pre-plant soil preparation, as a means of managing weeds, and as a method of incorporating fertilizers, crop residue, and soil amendments. Now, armed with new technologies and tools based on sound biological principles, organic producers can begin to reduce or even eliminate tillage from their system.

Organic no-till is both a technique and a tool to achieve farmer’s objectives of reducing tillage and improving soil organic matter. It is also a whole farm system. While there are many ways the system can be implemented, in its simplest form organic no-till includes the following elements:

  • annual or winter annual cover crops that are planted in the fall,
  • overwintered until mature in the spring, and then
  • killed with a special tool called a roller/crimper.

After the death of the cover crop, cash crops can be planted into the residue with a no-till planter, drill or transplanter. Whether you grow agronomic or horticultural crops, this system can work on your farm, and we’ll show you how to get started with this exciting new technology. Continue Reading →