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Tag Archives | organic farming

Seeds of Organic Farming: Plant Breeding & Preserving Diversity

Scientist, Organic Farmer & Seedsman Alan Kapuler Discusses Organic Farming’s Past, Present & Future and Plant Breeding

Alan Kapuler graduated from Yale University in 1962 when he was just 19. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Rockefeller University. He is a seed saver, plant breeder, painter, organic farmer and public domain plant breeder advocate who co-founded Seeds of Change. He lives in Corvalis, Oregon. Kapuler shares the history and the origins of the California organic farming movement and its parallels with the national organic farming movement, as well as his own personal story and evolution as an agriculturalist, geneticist, organic grower, seed saver, plant breeder and biologist.

Interviewed by David Kupfer

Connecting with Nature

ACRES U.S.A. What was your first exposure to agriculture?

ALAN KAPULER. When I was nine or ten, my parents got an old chicken barn in upstate New York they bought for a summer country house. It was a big, long, low-ceilinged chicken barn they wanted to turn into a house, a place to live during the summer, as we lived in Brooklyn. We would go up there every summer for years. We used to get fresh corn and strawberries from a man who lived down the road. He had a field of corn and a bunch of strawberries. I remember that was the liberating experience of my life. It was probably one of the most formative things that happened to me because it was the first time I would go out in the corn and nobody knew where I was. I remember being safe in the cornfield. Back in Brooklyn I was getting beat up for one reason or another. Continue Reading →

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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Tractor Time Podcast Episode 3: Charles Walters and ‘A Return to Intellectualism’

Charles Walters in his Acres U.S.A. office.

Charles Walters in his Acres U.S.A. office.

As Charles Walters, founder of Acres U.S.A., said in his talk that will follow, if he had asked his father in 1945: “Are you an organic farmer, he would have said “What’s that?” In less than a century, we’ve come far enough to forget how we have farmed for centuries. And how new the introduction of industrial pesticides and herbicides is for farming, and how little we truly know about the massive effect it’s had on our health, on our environment and on our food supply.

Anyway, in the talk that will follow, Charles Walters spoke to this point with the help of Lee Fryer, and a few farmers in the audience. He will tell you that even today, the effort to, as he put it, “to liberate the organic farmers,” goes on. With truth on our side. That the challenge now is to return the burden of proof to the conventional agriculture systems, to those who want to coat our foods with poison, to prove that it is as safe as organic farming, and not the other way around.

Introduction by Ryan Slabaugh.

Listen to and download the first three episodes here.

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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Book Review: Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World

miraculous-abundanceby Perrine & Charles Hervé-Gruyer, book review by Chris Walters

Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful attempt to cut off Germany with an airborne invasion of the Netherlands in late September of 1944, might have shortened World War II by six months. The market garden operation currently underway in the tiny French village of Le Bec-Hellouin, by contrast, is rated as brilliant by outside observers, stunning even those who were optimistic in the first place. If adapted to local conditions and replicated on a massive scale in various parts of the world, it could do much to shorten the terminal crisis of humanity by several decades or more. Charles Hervé-Gruyer, co-founder of the tiny farm with his wife Perrine, can prove it — he has the numbers. Microfarming the way this family does it in a remote corner of Normandy cuts undesirable inputs and raises desirable output significantly. This book tells how they created La Ferme du Bec Hellouin over the past decade. Continue Reading →

Powered by Microbials: Organic Farming, Japanese Style

Nancy Matsumoto
powered-by-microbialsUnder an azure-blue sky filled with cottony clouds, two women, Akiko Ishiguro and Michiyo Igarashi, work in a field harvesting fat, deep-orange carrots, large, cream-colored daikon and magenta-hued edible chrysanthemum blossoms. They’re members of Konohana Family, an intentional community and organic farm in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, where the values of a ’60s-era back-to-the-land commune, hard work and a deep respect for microbial activity and fermentation in all its forms combine to produce a vast array of top-quality produce and handmade products.

The vegetables the two women farmers are harvesting — among more than 260 different crops grown on the farm — have been treated with the farm’s own brand of organic fertilizer, the key ingredient of which is a fermented microbial brew they call Konohana-kin, or “Konohana bacterium.”

Continue Reading →