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Tractor Time Episode 14: Neal Kinsey on Hands On Agronomy

GREELEY, Colorado (May 21, 2018) — It’s that sound again – tractors, the voice of Charles Walters, and that happy little strum. It all means we are launching into a second season of the Tractor Time Podcast by Acres U.S.A., the podcast for farmers who care about the Earth. My name is Ryan Slabaugh, and I’m lucky enough to be your host for a second season.

Neal Kinsey

Neal Kinsey

We have a lot in store this year. We are going to talk about a lot of eco-farming tactics and methods. We’re going to go back in time and listen to age-old talks that still apply today. We’re going to talk about with surveyers about the loss of farmland, and what you and I can do about it. Our goal this year is to also make sure we are talking with young farmers, to better understand how they see themselves fitting into the future of agriculture. Anyway, we’re so excited, we hope you are too.

Today’s episode, like our very first episode, starts with the voice of Charles Walters. Charles started Acres U.S.A. in 1971 as a vehicle to report on the challenges facing small farms, and to help give farmers a resource for good, healthy, ecological growing in the face of large-scale toxic takeovers of our methods.

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Taking on Food Justice with Soul Fire Farm’s Leah Penniman

Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm

Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm

As a creative educator, regenerative farmer, writer and activist, Leah Penniman is an exceptional leader for food justice. She is best known for her work at Soul Fire Farm, which she and husband Jonah Vitale-Wolff started as an organic family farm committed to “the dismantling of oppressive structures that misguide our food system.”

Soul Fire Farm is entering its ninth year of growing healthy food for the couple’s former urban neighbors in Albany and Troy, New York. Since coming to the land over a decade ago, they have transformed a patch of marginal mountain ground into rich topsoil, faithfully provisioned a sliding-scale CSA whose members often lack access to fresh produce and created a vibrant, welcoming community of learning and admirable influence.

Nurtured by her childhood connection with the natural world, Penniman got hooked on agriculture as a teenager at a summer job with the Boston-based Food Project and has never looked back. Before graduating from college, she worked at the Farm School, co-managed Many Hands Organic Farm and co-founded the YouthGROW urban farming program. Until this year, she has been a full-time environmental science and biology teacher for which she received a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching.

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How to Reduce Transplant Shock on Your Farm

Transplanting vegetable to the field

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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Joel Salatin: Communicating Ecological Eating

This article first appeared in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Six Key Messages for Consumer Outreach


by Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin believes ecological farmers must constantly teach consumers ecological eating.As farmers, we enjoy conversations about soil, water, animal husbandry, horticulture and every other kind of production nuance. That’s as it should be. But all of this production is meaningless without someone to use it.

Obviously the industrial food system has a lot of users. Whether those users are lazy, ignorant, evil or just plain unconscious is anybody’s guess. But if we’re ever going to get ecological farming more widely practiced, we obviously need more ecological eaters.

How do we move ecological farming forward fastest? Is it by converting farmers, or converting people who buy our stuff? Certainly both need attention, but I’ll submit that we don’t put enough responsibility on customers. While we farmers shoulder the brunt of accusations regarding depleted soils, tasteless food, animal abuse and pathogen-laden fare, by and large consumers escape with excuses. Continue Reading →

Meet an Eco-Farmer: Restoration Farm

Restoration Farm Eco-FarmersWhy did you begin farming?

We teach a class called “The Dream Giver,” and while meeting with a couple who had a dream of establishing an organic farm, we caught the dream. Our dream was different in that we wanted to grow crops that no other farms in the area were growing. Our choice was heirloom tomatoes, herbs and vegetables.

Have you always been an ecofarmer, or did you make a change?

Yes. We have chosen to grow our products completely chemical-free, and that includes any organic chemicals that we could use.

What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?

We are in our 60s so the biggest hurdle is maintaining the energy to do chemical-free farming. The first big hurdle was not listening to the people who said we couldn’t do this at our age, or because we had never farmed before.

What do you enjoy most about farming?

We enjoy taking land that was in need of being restored and working to make it productive. We enjoy watching what we have sown break through that restored soil and become a healthy plant that is good for people to eat. It is really satisfying to have customers tell us how great our microgreens, vegetables and tomatoes taste.

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Meet an Eco-Farmer: Lupine Knoll Farm

Lupine Knoll Farm

Jonathan Spero, Lupine Knoll Farm

Why did you begin farming?

I like working in the dirt. I like being outside physically working, and I like the quiet of the field. I began plant breeding because it is a way a person working in the dirt can make a lasting difference and contribute to the quality and diversity of the food supply for many people.

Have you always been an ecofarmer, or did you make a change?

I have always used organic practices.

What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?

Finding land to farm. It took until I was almost 50 years old.

What do you enjoy most about farming?

I like physical work outdoors. I like mud between my toes. I like producing high-quality food and new seed that will produce more high-quality food, and that open source will mean others can reproduce that food and those seeds into the future. Looking to create new open-pollinated varieties of sweet corn, I planted a 100-foot row of each of 14 sugary enhanced f1 hybrids and picked a favorite. Eight generations later, Top Hat, one of my first releases, was selected out of Tuxedo, one of those 14. Tuxana (white corn) Festivity (multi-color corn) and Ana Lee (yellow corn) all come from a cross between Tuxedo and an Anasazi landrace corn. Continue Reading →