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Archive | Economics

Biointensive Growing for Smart-Scale Farming

Conventional thinking holds that vegetable farms must be fully mechanized and produce on a certain scale to provide a livelihood, except in extraordinary circumstances, but Les Jardins de la Grelinette (Broad Fork Gardens) in Quebec, busts this myth, using biointensive growing methods.

For more than a decade Jean-Martin Fortier and Maude-Helene Desroches have operated a phenomenally successful “biologically intensive” microfarm using biointensive growing methods.

By choice they use only hand tools and a small walk-behind tractor and employ only one or two workers. Yet with less than 2 acres under cultivation and one greenhouse and two hoop houses on their certified organic farm, this husband and wife team grosses around $150,000 a year.

Of that impressive sum, they’re able to count more than 40 percent as profit for family living. Jean-Martin and Maude-Helene are in their 30s and have two children.

At a half-day workshop I attended in the company of well over 100 farmers, Jean-Martin summed up some of their achievements. Continue Reading →

Book Excerpt: The Simple Has Been Made Complicated

The following is an excerpt is reprinted from SOIL: Notes Towards the Theory and Practice of Nurture Capital by Slow Money founder Woody Tasch.

We live in a world in which the complicated has been made simple and the simple has been made complicated.

Pushing the power button on your computer, simple. Having an authentic conversation with your neighbor, complicated. Buying a bag of potato chips, simple. Growing potatoes in your front yard, complicated. Owning a diversified portfolio of gold stocks, simple. Making a loan to a farmer down the road, complicated.

So, forget about matters of the Thoreauvian or fiduciary kind and think about the farmer down the road. And about Newman’s Own.

How beautifully simple. Giving away all the profits:

Our “100% of Profits to Charity” commitment is one of two founding values upon which Newman’s Own is built (the other being “Quality Will Always Trump the Bottom Line”). It’s a very important part of our story, it’s in our DNA, it’s why we exist, it motivates all of us, and it’s the true heart of Newman’s Own. We are proud of this commitment, and, especially in these times of so many promotional programs tying business sales to social purpose, want to be clear and unambiguous about what we mean when we say “100% of Profits to Charity.” It’s not something we just thought up to boost sales, it’s not a play on words, and one shouldn’t need an accounting degree to understand it. We have been doing it for close to 35 years, and as of May 2017, have donated over $490 million to thousands of deserving organizations around the world.1

Continue Reading →

Wool Artist Supports Fiber Farmers

Lani Estill at the Warner Mountain Weavers shop in Cedarville, California.

Lani Estill met me at her shop in downtown Cedarville, California, and showed me pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We sat in the store, surrounded by brilliantly colored yarn, soft and earthy colored scarves, hats and rugs, and Estill shuddered as we scrolled through picture after picture of the pile of plastic the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean.

“The sixth-graders wrote essays about it today,” said Estill. As is common in rural communities, she wears many hats. In addition to being a fiber artist and rancher, she is also a substitute teacher at Surprise Valley Joint Unified School District, where her son attends school.

“Some companies boast that they make products out of recycled plastic. But it is still plastic. It still goes into our rivers, oceans, land and our bodies,” she said. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 16: Douglass DeCandia, Farmer and Advocate Against Food Apartheid

Welcome to our 16th episode of Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the voice of eco-agriculture. My name is Ryan Slabaugh, and we are fired up to bring you another hour of conversation about ecology, agriculture, and this hour, we’re even talking about saving the world.

Doug DeCandia

We have two guests on our show today. One is Mary Battjes, and I have the pleasure of working every day with Mary. She’s our project manager, and recently wrapped up a survey of young farmers around the country and world. We spoke with a lot of them, and found their look at the world and their role in the world so inspiring. Speaking generally, they want the same things most of us want — safety, security, family and a healthy environment. Yet, they see the obstacles very clearly. Climate change. Technology disruption. And an economy that favors the big devouring the small.

Yet, there is hope. And it comes in the form of our second guest, Douglass DeCandia, a young farmer from New York. He grows food using natural methods, but he does so with an even greater purpose – to serve those who are forgotten by our food system, who are systematically discriminated against because of who they are, where they are from or where they live. His “farm,” and he uses quotation marks around that so I will ask him about that later, serves youth and adults who are incarcerated, students at a school for the deaf, and young adults who are part of a residential treatment program. He also supports a number of his area’s food growing products, and when we talked to him today, he was wandering around the gardens at the school for the deaf.

Find all of the Tractor Time podcasts here, or for free in the iTunes store.

Raw Milk for Real Health, Wealth

Soil Scientist, Author Joseph Heckman Examines the State of Raw Milk Dairying & Challenges to Consumer Choice

Joseph Heckman, Ph.D. is a tireless advocate for common sense and good science regarding producing, selling and drinking fresh, unprocessed milk. A professor of soil science at Rutgers University, he teaches courses in soil fertility and organic crop production. He conducts research and extension programs on optimizing nutrition and soil quality in support of plant, animal and human health. He has served as chair of several professional organizations including the Council on History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Soil Science, the Committee on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, and the Organic Management Systems Community of the American Society of Agronomy. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Farm to Consumer Foundation. Dr. Heckman was the lead author of the Soil Fertility in Organic Farming chapter for the agronomy society’s book, Ecology of Organic Farming Systems. Most recently he co-authored Fresh Milk Production, The Cow Edition and Fresh Milk Production, The Goat Edition. Heckman’s determined insistence on sanity, science and sense has done a great deal to lift the reputation of raw milk in this country.

Interviewed by Chris Walters

Fresh Perspective

ACRES U.S.A. Dr. Heckman, how did you find your way to the subject of fresh, unprocessed milk and all the science, politics and controversy around it? Did you arrive at this debate via research, personal background, or lucky happenstance? Continue Reading →

7 Keys to Dairying, Cheesemaking Success

No one becomes a dairy farmer or dives into cheesemaking because they are looking for a simple, easy life with a large pot of gold at the end the rainbow. But if a cheesy (I like to think of that as a complimentary word) life appeals to you, and you choose to turn it into a business, it must be one that is sustainable — worth continuing from the aspects of workload and income.

Being a successful farmstead cheesemaker is no longer just a matter of gathering together a beautiful herd of dairy sheep, cows, goats, or water buffalo and making great cheeses.

Not only are feed and infrastructure costs higher than ever, but the artisan cheesemaker faces stiff competition from imported cheeses and those that appear to be made domestically but are made in part using imported milk (in the case of some water buffalo mozzarella), imported frozen curd (for some fresh and ripened goat cheeses), or simply made overseas (utilizing milk from mega-dairies) to make a custom-label cheese. Continue Reading →