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Forest-to-Table: A Permaculture Experiment Thrives

A bounty, straight from the forest.

A forest-to-table bounty.

Forest-to-table products are growing in popularity, not only for consumers, but for farmers as well.

A little more than 15 miles from the nation’s capital, a 10-acre experi­ment is under way. There, with wheat as a benchmark, landscape designer and permaculture practitioner Lin­coln Smith is aiming to show that forest-based agriculture can produce a quantity of food-per-acre comparable to major crops.

The five-year-old experiment, how­ever loosely defined, is beginning to bear fruit in the form of food as well as people learning about permaculture. Last year was the first for a commu­nity supported agriculture program as well as a forest-to-table supper in September prepared by Chef Michael Costa from D.C.’s Zaytinya, a Medi­terranean restaurant. More than 1,000 people have been exposed to forest gardening through classes and tours at Forested.

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Healthy Pollination: Horizontal Hives Support Natural Beekeeping

A bee pollinates a flower.

A bee pollinates a flower.

Healthy pollination is the goal almost every beekeeper starts with, but it is often easier said than done.

If you have ever dreamed of keep­ing bees but found the process com­plicated, expensive, or the potential for losing your investment to disease and pests all too real, then you have never met Dr. Leo Sharashkin. He is a prominent wild bee enthusiast, edu­cator and apiarist who practices an ancient method of catching and keep­ing wild bees in specially designed horizontal hives.

If you have had the good fortune to meet Sharashkin or to hear him speak to a room full of enthusiastic beekeep­ers or the crowd that inevitably gath­ers around his Horizontal Hive booth at growers’ conferences across the country, you already know that his knowledge of bees is boundless and the methods he uses to keep them, truly inspiring. Whether you are a budding beekeeper or an experienced apiarist, you can keep happy and productive bees with less work and money than you ever imagined pos­sible and do so in a sustainable way.

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Farm Jobs: Tips for Building a Team on a Small, Sustainable Diversified Farm

A worker helps transplant seedlings to the field.

Farm jobs are available in almost every zip code in the country, but finding the right employee and work team can take a little creativity and effort. In fact, regenerative farming does not leave out the people-factor when it comes to sustainability, and many challenges and questions can arise. How are fair working wages and pleasant working conditions balanced with keeping produce prices low enough for the farm’s customers? How does one weigh the desire for the farmer to remain self-sustaining and independent against offering employment for local citizens? And, where does one farm’s hired help stand within the larger picture of sustainable agriculture?

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Biodynamic Farming: Why It Works and How to Get Started

Biodynamic farming can produce better, more fruitful harvests, a fact writer and grape farmer Patricia Damery documents for us with her story below:

Jesse stirring the biodynamic preparation barrel compost.

Jesse stirs the biodynamic preparation barrel compost.

My husband and I operate a Demeter-certified Biodynamic organic ranch in the Napa Valley, farming not only chardonnay grapes, but also aromatics and persimmons.

We started using biodynamic practices in 1999 after a near failure of a grape crop. At the time, we had a vineyard at an elevation of 1,600 feet in the Mayacamas range on the western edge of the Napa Valley. It was late September and the vines were closing down, the leaves turning golden as the days grew shorter and cooler. There seemed to be no way that these vines could help the grapes reach the sugar levels needed to make good wine. When our winemaker informed us that he would not be purchasing the grapes because he didn’t believe they could ripen, we panicked. This was a financial loss that we could not afford.

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Tractor Time Podcast Episode 2: Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin

Regi-Grey-MSP-Portrait-2016-1On this week’s Tractor Time podcast, we interviewed author and regenerative agriculture guru Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin. His story is not only inspirational, but transcends genres.

His book, “In the Shadow of Green Man,” documents this. It speaks to growing up in poverty, through civil war, learning from his father, moving to Minnesota, graduating from school and leading an organization focused on regenerative models of agriculture.

“Knowledge without wisdom is a more dangerous weapon than the most dangerous weapons we use in wars,” Haslett-Marroquin said in the podcast. “Why? They are the silent killers.”

You can learn more about his work by ordering his book, or by visiting www.mainstreetproject.org. A video is below that also documents their work.

Tractor Time is a weekly podcast from Acres U.S.A., the voice of Eco-Agriculture. Listen to Episode 1, featuring Abbey Smith with The Savory Institute and an archival talk from Charles Walters, here.

How to Reduce Transplant Shock on Your Farm

Monday-Motivation-Photo_4-24-2017

Avoiding transplant shock: An open show transplanter in use as the crew sets out cabbage in the field.

Avoiding transplant shock when transplanting starters from the greenhouse to the field is a key sustainable farming method.

The time of year has once again arrived when we will be taking plants out of the greenhouse and transplanting them into the field. This can be one of the most stressful experiences plants undergo as they are taken from the warm and sheltered environment of the greenhouse and placed into a field where they are at the mercy of the elements. Plants will almost always incur some amount of damage to their roots as well as their leaves during this process. All of these various stresses are grouped under the general name of “transplant shock.” If plants undergo too much transplant shock, it can leave them open to disease, pest pressure, and lower yield potential. But what can we do to help our plants through this period of increased stress?

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