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Archive | November, 2018

Tractor Time Episode 23: The 2018 Eco-Ag Preview Special

Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time podcast brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. We are happy to be bringing you another episode, our 11th this year and 23rd overall, and I think we’re going to get in at least one more before the end of the year, so stay tuned.

It’s about that time. Starting Dec. 4, Acres U.S.A. is hitting the road — or getting on a plane, actually — and heading to Louisville, Kentucky, for our 43rd annual Eco-Ag Conference & Trade show. In the office, we’re at that hybrid stage of nervousness, confidence, anxiety and adrenaline, and our days are filled with all the little odd jobs – cutting badges, ordering bags, shipping off our bookstore – and we know a lot of our listeners who will be attending are doing the same. Getting ready for the week away.

Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show logoSo we thought it’d be appropriate to preview a few of our upcoming speakers on the show today, and include some of our sponsors. We don’t do a lot of advertising or sponsored stuff on this. Plus, these aren’t your normal sponsorship messages. These are folks just like you – passionate about eco-agriculture and making a difference. And paying the bills, of course. Continue Reading →

Successful Crowdfunding for Agricultural Pursuits

With bank loans hard to come by, many farmers are looking for alterna­tives, and one of the new models is online crowdfunding, a form of Inter­net-based donations, loans and invest­ments. Many of the online platforms, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, attract large numbers of entrepreneurs looking for funding.

Barnraiser founder Eileen Gordon with Rob Keller of the Napa Bee Company.

According to Eileen Gordon, founder of Barnraiser, hers is the only crowdfunding platform devoted spe­cifically to funding the sustainable food movement “one farm or healthy food business at a time.”

Speaking at a recent EcoFarm con­ference, Gordon told attendees, “We’re trying to connect with the 40 or more million Americans who care about sustainability, health and wellness, yet they don’t often know how to affect change. There are still many parts of the country where consumers don’t have the opportunity to vote with their forks at the grocery stores by choosing sustainable foods.”

Gordon asserts that crowdfunding is rapidly changing the way we drive innovation, personal aspirations, new products and social change.

“No group is more deserving than those on the front lines of the food movement, leading us toward health and sustainability,” she said. “Barn­raiser is a place to meet and back the thousands of food and farming innovators and put better food on our collective table. When one farmer gets a new barn, the whole community gets better food.”

Gordon is also co-owner with her husband, Michael Chiarello, of Chiarello Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. About 12 years ago, she and Chiarello acquired a 100-year-old vine­yard in the Napa Valley and converted the land into a sustainable farm. It was an old historic farm that had been planted before prohibition and hadn’t been farmed in over a decade.

“In the process of taking this old farm and rejuvenating the land and converting it to sustainable farming, we met some fantastic people in the realms of organic and biodynamic farming. As we saw our property come back to life as a healthy ecosystem started to thrive, this was incredibly exciting to us.” Continue Reading →

Meet The Sioux Chef: Revitalizing Native Foodways

From the plains of the Midwest, a new and surprising trend in the world of healthy local food is gaining ground thanks to Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux and founder of The Sioux Chef, a nonprofit organization aiming to revive the traditional Native American diet through hands-on education and the use of indigenous ingredients.

Worlds of Flavors at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone.

I first heard Sherman speak at the Missouri Organic Association conference where he was keynoting at the event’s locally produced organic dinner. He took the stage and held 600 people rapt with attention as he spoke with passion and wisdom about Native American history and their foodways and the need to rediscover the indigenous foods that nourished native peoples around the world for hundreds of thousands of years.

A Different Path

Sherman grew up on and around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This vast, almost wild stretch of American High Plains is located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota. The reservation is flanked to the north by the stark beauty of the Badlands and to the northwest by the ponderosa-topped Paha Sapa (Black Hills).

As a child, Sherman ate what everyone around him ate — a standard fare prepared with government commodity rations handed out monthly to those living on the reservation as part of a food allotment program going back to the mid-1800s. Sherman points out that while the variety of foods in the commodity allotments are a little better today than they were when he was growing up, they never contain fresh fruits, vegetables or meats and were never meant to be a “nutritional program,” but rather an emergency ration. Continue Reading →

Farming the Fruits of the Spirit

My mother’s father grew up in a farming family. Not one that farmed for much money, but one that raised hogs and grew gardens on rented land. After my grandfather was grown, his parents bought a 100-acre farm and built their house with their hands. Just before I was born, my great-grandfather was crushed by his tractor on a steep hillside.

A person carries a lantern through a wheat field at sunsetYears later my great-grandmother sold the farm to divide the inheritance money between her two children. I don’t think my granddad ever fully recovered from losing his dream of farming that land. A decade ago he and my grandmother bought thirty mostly wooded acres, where he grew a large garden in the late evenings after work and on the weekends. This spring, after years of dreams and long commutes, my grandparents finally moved out to their farm.

My grandfather doesn’t speak much, instead humming and rubbing his hands together, but when asked why he plants a garden every year despite limited time and old age, he replied, “I try to stop, but every spring the soil sings to me.” Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 22: On Assignment, the Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belize

Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh

This episode is a bit unique from the others, which are usually done in the comfort of my office back in Greeley, Colorado. For most recordings, it’s me, a microphone, an interview guest and my dog snoring in the corner. If you need the full picture, I even prop a sign up in my windowed door that says, “On Air.” But that’s really just for me – it makes me feel official.

But so does this scene where I am today. Today, we are broadcasting from Belize, specifically, Belmopan, Belize, at the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Conference. We first met one of the organizers, Beth Roberson, a Belizean farmer, in Columbus, Ohio, last year during our annual conference. Beth left inspired to start her own educational conference down here, picked our brains a bit, and recruited some of our speakers and former Tractor Time guests like regenerative poultry specialist Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin and Regeneration International’s André Leu, among others.

Continue Reading →

Tropical Agriculture Conference Topics Range from Greenhouse Management to Soil Humus, on Day 2

BELMOPAN, Belize — Perhaps it was better when the power went out. The lack of microphones forced Ronnie Cummins with Regeneration International to start Wednesday’s Tropical Agricultural Conference shouting over the passing trucks.

The extra volume didn’t hurt the critical nature of his message.

Crowd at the Tropical Agriculture Conference

Crowds listen to speakers rotating between five stages, talking about regenerative agriculture.

“Thank you for what you do every day, and I’m going to thank you in advance for what you’re going to do in advance every day,” Cummins said. “The next 10 years, what you do, what I do, what we all do around the world, we either move in a regenerative direction, or it’s going to get very, very difficult for our children.”

Continue Reading →