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Transitioning to Organic: Strategies for Success

The year two spring rye crop — note how few weeds are present. This rye grew well during the spring and early summer, and was ready for harvest in mid-July. Below shows the rye straw after the grain was combined. Yields were about 35 bushels/acre of rye seed the first year and 4 bales of straw/acre. This year, the yield was 52 bushels/acre of rye seed and 8 bales of straw/acre.

With conventional prices for corn, beans, wheat and dairy really low right now and both prices and demand for organic products high, a lot of growers are thinking about transitioning to organic.

For most growers, one of the biggest deterrents to going organic is the 36-month-long process of transition, during which time you can use only organic-approved inputs and practices, but the crops, milk or other farm goods produced can’t be sold as “organic” and receive the price premium.

In my opinion, chasing profits is not the right reason to go organic, and there is more to it than not adding prohibited inputs and getting paid more for your crops. Being a successful organic farmer requires a different mind-set, and the best time to figure out your approach to organic farming and set yourself up for success is during the transition period.

Before Transitioning to Organic 

If you’re considering transitioning to organic, the first thing you should do is sit down and think about why and then think about how. If your answer to why is that you are doing it for the money, maybe it’s not for you. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles Wilber

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, How to Grow World Record Tomatoes, written by veteran gardener and grower Charles Wilber. Copyright 1999. #6341. Softcover. 132 pages. $14.95 regularly priced.

By Charles Wilber

In the United States more gardeners grow tomatoes than any other vegetable. Some say nine­ty-five percent of our gardeners grow tomatoes. Most anywhere you find food, tomatoes will be found in some form.

How to Grow World Record Tomatoes, by Charles H. Wilber

Tomatoes will grow in many types of soil, but they prefer well-drained loams (a crumbly mix of sand, silt, and clay). They are easy to grow in a flower pot in the window or as a tree-like plant twenty-eight-feet or more tall in a garden.

Growing tomatoes can be done in the yard or most any place with plenty of sunshine. Be aware that tomatoes are easily killed by frost and early plants should be covered for protection.

Tomatoes are quite hardy and can be planted in leftover spaces like corners, fencerows, low-growing flower beds, early spring flower beds, on trellises beside buildings, or planted in the center of a bale of rotted hay or straw.

The two types of tomato classifications for many gardeners are the determinate and indeter­minate groups. Determinate are the lower growers. They have less production since the stem ends at the flower cluster. Seldom does this group require pruning or major caging. Indeterminate vines do not end at the flower cluster but keep on growing. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 13: 2017 Conference Highlights — Dr. Vandana Shiva, André Leu and Ronnie Cummings

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time, the podcast from Acres U.S.A. This was recorded on Dec. 21, 2017, from our offices in Greeley, Colorado. We’re coming off a high from our 42nd annual Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Columbus, Ohio, and wanted to use this podcast to help us celebrate the highlights.

From left to right, Fred Walters, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Ronnie Cummings and André Leu, on Dec. 8, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.

There were many. They included the 1,100 people who attended from 15 different countries, who gathered to hear diverse and interesting viewpoints on ecology and agriculture. Not only did we learn about the finer points of soil nutrition, micronutrients, microbiology, micro fungi, but we also learned about the larger picture, and how ecologically based agricultural practices can benefit all of our global systems, from climate change to world peace.

Continue Reading →

Keep the Soil in Organic Movement

On Sunday, October 8, farmers and pioneers of the organic movement will assemble for a Rally to Keep the Soil in Organic, in Burlington, Vermont.  Join a tractor cavalcade at noon, led by the Brazilian drumming ensemble “Sambatucada” and a parade of farmers and organic eaters to the Intervale Center at 180 Intervale Rd. (parking at Gardeners Supply), followed by short speeches from leaders in the organic movement, including Senator Bernie Sanders (tentative), Eliot Coleman, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Maddie Monty, Christa Alexander, and Pete Johnson. More than 50 regional farms are expected to attend.

Women lead the parade toward the 2016 Rally in the Valley in East Thetford, Vermont.

There are 16 rallies scheduled so far to publicly oppose the weakening of USDA Organic labeling standards and to demand that the National Organic Program preserve soil as the foundation of all organic farming. Rallies are being organized in England, Canada, Costa Rica and across the United States from California to Maine.

A large rally will take place in Hanover, NH on October 15 at 2 p.m.  The final rally will take place at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting on October 31 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Keep the Soil in Organic: Farmers Weigh In

Pioneer Eliot Coleman has written, “The importance of fertile soil as the cornerstone of organic farming is under threat. The USDA is allowing soil-less hydroponic vegetables to be sold as certified organic without saying a word about it. Just when today’s agronomists and nutritionists are finally becoming aware of the crucial influence of soil quality on food quality, the USDA is trying to unilaterally dismiss that connection by removing soil fertility from the National Organic Program definition of organic. The encouragement of “pseudo-organic” hydroponics is just the latest in a long line of USDA attempts to subvert the non-chemical promise that organic farming has always represented. Without soil, there is no organic farming. The USDA is defrauding customers who expect certified organic crops to be grown on optimally fertile soil as they always have been.

Continue Reading →

Root System Architecture & Nitrogen Management

Researchers questioned whether current improved rice varieties are suitable for organic agriculture. Through an experiment focused on nitrogen use efficiency (organic and inorganic sources) and root system architecture, they concluded that varieties bred for high-nitrogen inputs may not be suitable for organic agriculture — reinforcing the need for varieties to be bred specifically for organic agricultural systems. Here the researchers present their work:

The production and extensive application of N fertilizer to crops worldwide has contributed to major environmental problems due to soil leaching and greenhouse gas emissions that play a large role in ozone depletion. Sustainable agriculture aims to conserve natural resources with the mitigation of climate change, and there is increasing interest to move toward organic agriculture. An important issue regarding the acceptance of organic agriculture is the question of productivity. In addition to readily available ammonium and nitrate ions, the soil of organic agriculture can contain a wide range of organic nitrogen compounds such as peptides, proteins, free amino acids, amino sugars and nitrogen heterocyclic compounds. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Podcast Episode 8: André Leu, Author of The Myth of Safe Pesticides

In the Acres USA world, André Leu is becoming much more than a household name.

Andre Leu

Leu, who has written for our magazine for years, published The Myth of Safe Pesticides in 2014. He has spoken on the dangers of pesticides for years and several times at our Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference and Trade Show, and will join us again this year. He’s currently the president of IFOAM – Organics International, and has more than 40 yeas of international experience in all areas of organic agriculture. He has been one of those human advocates, one of those forces of nature, that are pushing the agriculture movement into healthier directions.

We spoke with Andre Leu on Thursday, July 20, from his office in Queensland, Australia.

Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh.

Find all of the Acres U.S.A. Tractor Time Podcasts here.

If you’d like to hear more from André Leu, you can order and download more of his speeches and presentations from Acres U.S.A., or watch a series of free videos below.