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Book of the Week: Small Farms are Real Farms

By John Ikerd

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book Small Farms are Real Farms, by John Ikerd. Copyright 2008, softcover, 249 pages. Regular price: $20.00.

After decades of betrayal by the agricultural establishment, farmers are finally beginning to fight back. For decades, so-called producers’ associations have been promoting the industrialization of agriculture, which has contributed directly to the demise of the producers who have been paying for their programs.

Small Farms are Real Farms by John Ikerd

Over the past decade, for example, the Missouri Pork Producers Association has been promoting large-scale corporate hog operation through their support of industrial research and market development programs. During this same time, the number of hogs produced in Missouri has risen dramatically with the influx of large corporate operations, but the number of Missouri hog farmers has dropped to less than a third of previous levels. But, the nation’s hog farmers have voted to abolish the national pork check-off program, which supports the Missouri and National Pork Producers Councils. Farmers are finally beginning to fight back.

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Book of the Week: Farming in the Presence of Nature

By Athena Tainio

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Farming in the Presence of Nature by Athena Tainio. Copyright 2017, softcover, 116 pages. Regular price: $18.00. SALE PRICE: $12.60.

Enter Human

Farming in the Presence of Nature by Athena Tainio

The dark side of the story begins with the human race. Think of sequestered carbon as Gaia’s savings account, which she deposits and draws from as needed to keep her systems properly function­ing. Man has depleted Gaia’s savings by extracting and burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, which has released CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere faster than Gaia can reab­sorb them. The destruction of forests and wild grasslands (both large carbon sinks) to make way for roads, cities, suburbs, and agri­cultural land to support expanding human populations also releases sequestered carbon into the atmosphere and has greatly reduced Gaia’s carbon sequestration abilities.

At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the Scripps Institu­tion of Oceanography and NOAA Earth System Research Labo­ratory began tracking atmospheric CO2 in 1958, when the average CO2 level was approximately 310 parts per million (ppm). In less time than the average human lifespan, the atmospheric CO2 levels have climbed to over 400 ppm (Tans and Keeling).

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Book of the Week: Restoration Agriculture

By Mark Shepard

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard. Copyright 2013, softcover, 339 pages. Regular price: $30.00. SALE PRICE: $24.00.

Where is the progress in this? Is our progress as a society to be measured by how big our sport utility vehicles are? Or is our progress measured by the fact that we have a 72-inch widescreen plasma TV in the living room with 300 channels of programming? Is it progress to be able to buy a 40-ounce “Big Buddy” soft drink at every corner and have a Walmart store within 30 miles of every citizen?

Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard

Do we measure our progress by the number of extremely overweight Americans that there are in the country? The United States has one of the highest rates of heart disease (#13) and diabetes (#3) in the world according to the World Health Organization. Is progress measured by the fact that Americans are so unhealthy that the latest Army statistics show that 75 percent of military-age youth are ineligible to join the military because they are overweight, can’t pass entrance exams, have dropped out of high school, or had run-ins with the law? “We’ve never had this problem of young people being obese like we have today, “ said General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

There’s a crisis running through the heart of America and clinging to its coronary arteries. It ripples out in all directions into everything we do, everything we feel and everything we think. Some may say it’s a political crisis. Some blame the most recent batch of immigrants, others blame religion (or lack thereof). In each case, the proponents of one solution over another share some very basic common traits with their opponents. These commonalities are such deeply held core beliefs that they are nearly invisible to both sides. No matter who is to blame for our current health predicament and no matter who is morally or ethically “right” when it comes to finding solutions, we all share the same crisis. Our crisis has its roots in how we get our food.

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Book of the Week: Ask the Plant

By Charles Walters and Esper K. Chandler

Editor’s Note: This is a combination of two smaller excerpts from Acres U.S.A. original book, Ask the Plant, written by Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters and Esper K. Chandler. Copyright 2010, softcover, 286 pages. $30.00 regularly priced. SALE PRICE $20.00.

It takes a cloudless night an adequate distance from the city’s light pollution to really appreciate the beautiful planet on which we live. Telescopes can take us well beyond the Milky Way, yet the unaided eye can find some planets in our solar system, and a little book learning can supply the intelligence that we have been here some 14 billion years, more or less.

Ask the Plant, by Charles Walters & Esper K. Chandler

This organism called Earth is no more than a speck in our planetary system, one that is swung on a gravitational string in a 300-million-mile orbit around a nebular sun. It wobbles slightly on its axis so that each hemisphere can be blessed with summer, winter, spring and fall.

Geologists tell us that planet Earth has many more mineral compounds than our sister planets, all of them fashioned from those elements that are blocked with such orderly symmetry on the Mendeleev chart.

How can these minerals have evolved from the same elements that service other planets? This evolution of inert minerals is aided and abetted by the life forms called microorganisms. Our microbial workers did not raise mountains from the deep. A fiery heartbeat from the center of the earth did that, striking land masses with tsunamis, sending water up or into a frigid air envelope, igniting ocean warming and great ice ages.

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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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The Best Worm-Friendly Worm Bin for Composting

Worms harvested from a DIY worm bin

Continuous-flow worm bins makes harvesting easy on you and the worms.

Composting with worms produces a consistently superior product called vermicompost, which contains high counts of beneficial soil micro-organisms. Harvesting the finished vermicompost from most worm bins presents a problem, though: one either stops feeding a significant part of the bin to take it out of production, encouraging the worms to vacate the area to be harvested, or the worms have to be physically separated from the finished compost.

The Continuous-Flow Worm Bin

Continuous-flow worm bins are designed to provide a continuous output of finished vermicompost without disturbing the worms or taking any part of the bin out of production. This design makes it much easier to harvest the finished compost. Most continuous-flow designs have a winch-powered knife that cuts a slice of finished compost from the bottom of the bin about 2’ above the ground.