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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.

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Daniela Ibarra-Howell on Bringing Eco-Farmers Together

Savory Institute Co-Founder, CEO Daniela Ibarra-Howell Shares Insights into How the Organization is Bringing Like-Minded Farmers and Ranchers Together

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

It is not often that someone who is not a billionaire decides to take decisive steps toward solving a global problem. It is even less common for anyone, even and perhaps especially billionaires, to have ideas about how to do it that not only work but point the way for others of like mind. Daniela Ibarra-Howell is one of these rare people. She is a co-founder and the current CEO of the Savory Institute, the nonprofit wing of the Savory operation based in Boulder, Colorado, (her husband, Jim, heads the for-profit wing). Beginning in 2009 and now boasting over 8 million hectares (19,768,430 acres) under holistic management in every continent except Antarctica, the Savory Institute is becoming a force to be reckoned with. As scientific evidence accumulates, adding to an enormous fund of narrative accounts, holistic management’s value becomes ever more undeniable.

As Ibarra-Howell recounts here, she declined to follow the well-worn paths offered to her as a girl in Argentina. She wanted to make a difference. Between meeting Allan Savory in 1994 and the beginning of the Institute, she and her husband devoted a number of years to consulting and running a notably successful ranch near Boulder. Ibarra-Howell will be keynoting at the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in December. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Eco-Farm, An Acres U.S.A. Primer by Charles Walters

 

Eco-Farm, by Charles Walters. #122. Softcover. $30.00 (Regularly priced)

Editor’s Note: This is a combination of two smaller excerpts from Acres U.S.A. original book, Eco-Farm,  An Acres USA Primer, written by Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters. Copyright 1979, 2009. #122. Softcover. 462 pages. $30.00 regularly priced.

 

By Charles Walters

All of the confusion [in labeling fertilizer] is further complicated by the nature of the weighted N-P-K formula system. A bag might say 0-0-60. Does this mean that in a 100-pound bag there are 60 pounds of K, the rest being inert filler? Not exactly.

The fact is that farmers get a lot of things they may not even want when they buy 0-0-60,18-46-0,17-17-17, or whatever.

As an example, take ammonium nitrate—or 33.5-0-0. Here’s how they compute the formula. Ammonium nitrate of course is NH4NO3. Each of the elements in this affair has a Mendeleyeff atomic weight. N has an atomic weight of 14. O has an atomic weight of 16. There are two Ns in the formula, or 2N. There are four Hs, or 4H. There are three 0s, or 3O.

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Order vs. Wildness: The Land Management Question

A member of the Virginia Monarch Butterfly Society called me: “Do you know where we can plant a pallet of milkweed seed?”

I didn’t even know Virginia had such an organization. Beyond that, I wondered where in the world they procured a pallet of milkweed seed. As I talked with the lady on the phone, I suppressed my laughter realizing that a couple of hours before I had had a totally frustrating in-the-field meeting with the landlords of one of the farms we rented.

By Joel Salatin

The landlords were more than a little dismayed at the weeds we had created with our mob grazing management. In September, right when the monarch butterfly larvae needed them, those weeds included a healthy contingent of seed-pod-bursting milkweeds. The monarchs were euphoric. The landlords weren’t. This 90-acre pasture farm had been continuously grazed for years before we rented it.

Joel Salatin will deliver the keynote address at Acres U.S.A.’s Eco-Ag Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, this year. Learn more here!

The sparse grass never exceeded a couple of inches in height; clover was virtually nonexistent; thistles dominated the plant profile.

In three years, by using mob grazing and aggressive hand tools we vanquished the thistles, but a plethora of edible and often delectable weeds (like milkweed) thrived.

Indeed, that afternoon at our pasture-based summit, Daniel (my son) and I exulted in the biomass volume we had stimulated. Fall panicum, milkweed, redtop, clover and some goldenrod offered color and variety to the orchard grass and dominant fescue sward. The landlords, however, did not share our euphoria. As we stood in armpit-high biomass, arguably more than had been on the farm for decades, all the landlords could utter was a contemptible and emphatic: “Look at all these weeds.” I was incredulous. Outdoor and wildlife lovers, the landlords could not make the connection between this diversified, voluminous biomass and the overall health of their pasture farm. We could scarcely walk through the biomass jungle, replete with spiders, field mice and a host of creepy-crawly insects.

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Farming Success: Salatin’s Top 10 Markers

Farming success can be measured in myriad ways, but sustainable farmer Joel Salatin shares 10 keys that can help farmers stay on the right track.

Joel Salatin - 10 keys to farming success

Joel Salatin shares knowledge with seminar attendees at Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia in July.

The market is here. The knowledge, thanks to decades of Acres U.S.A. articles, is here — all we’re doing these days is tweaking and refining. The basics are all in. The people are here. Young farmers, small farmers, localized farms — it’s a veritable tsunami. The infrastructure is here — portable electric fencing, water systems, foliars, composting, tall tunnels and greenhouses.

With all our technology, tools, and knowledge, why aren’t ecological farmers more wildly successful? More to the point, what are the markers for success, the salient commonalities among the practitioners who enjoy great production, great profits and great pleasure?

If we can tease out these elements, perhaps more of us can enjoy the fruits of righteous farming. What follows are 10 elements, in no particular order, that I think identify farms that successfully transition into and thrive in the integrity food system.

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Organic Farming: What You’ve Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

Organic farming isn’t a new idea, but the term does tend to get overused and misused, leading to a lot of confusion about what, exactly, organic and eco-agriculture farming really is.

A flock of chickens roam freely in a lush green paddock near Clarkefield in Victoria, Australia.

Over a hundred years ago, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes contrasted man’s failure to control human diseases with poisons with his success in maintaining the health of plant life “by learning the proper foods and conditions of plants, and supplying them.”

At that time the foods of man were grown without serious problems of disease of insect infestation. But conditions have changed. The philosophy of smoking out disease as we would smoke out vermin, which Dr. Holmes so derided when applied to human health, has been extended to the whole art of growing foods plants. The modern gardener and farmer devote and enormous expenditure to various techniques, which poison both soil and plants. Farming is a constant struggle to maintain or increase yields on a year-to-year basis with the application of powerful artificial stimulants to the soil and the application of strong poisons for the destruction of plant-eating insects. Little or no thought is given to the effects of such farming methods on a long-range basis, and no effort is made to provide foods that contain an adequate supply of all chemicals and chemical compounds needed for health. The motive is one of immediate yields, and hence immediate profits, without so much as a glance into the nutritional qualities of food plants or the need for developing an effective and safe method of agriculture on a permanent basis.

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