Category Archives: farming


BY JAMES REBANKS AUGUST 5, 2021 in TIME. Rebanks runs a family-owned farm in the Lake District in northern England.

Belted Galloways, a native breed of cattle, on James Rebanks’ farm in the U.K.

For much of my early life America meant progress, the bright shining farming future.

I was a kid on an old-fashioned farm in the North of England, and we were way off the pace of change. We had tractors and small machinery, of course, but horse tack still hung from the beams in the barn, gathering dust, and all of my grandfather’s stories were about working horses. Ours was a mixed farm of different animals and crops, the kind of farm that existed everywhere until a few decades ago. It was all crooked little fields, no two looking the same, and every kind of farm animal and crop that would grow on it, all swirling round in a dance of rotation that only my grandfather seemed to understand.

My uncle and auntie farmed dairy cows a few miles away from us on better ground, and they were way more modern and way bigger than we were. A big, by the standards of then, specialised British dairy farm. They would take holidays to America and Canada and come back raving about the size, speed and power of the tractors and the amazing productivity of the dairy cows. They were some of the early importers of North American Holstein genetics—that revolutionised British dairy farming and doubled yields since the 1990s. They also brought back baseball caps and Hersey bars. It all seemed very cool.


Sustainable Farming – take what you need and leave the rest

NOTE: Sustainable agriculture requires good growing practices but it also may necessitate a community of support. While you may not want to adopt all of the Amish practices (“take what you need and leave the rest”), which practices described here do you think contribute to the sustainability of this farming community?

BROWNINGTON, Vt. — On a darkening December day several years ago, the temperature dropping to 10 degrees, a van with out-of-state tags pulled off I-91 and up beside the Sunoco station near this rural town. The passengers were 10 men carrying the whiff of barns and cattle. Most had bushy, untrimmed beards. All dressed plainly, as their faith demands — coarsely woven dark suits and broad-brimmed straw hats.

These soft-spoken men hailed from Pennsylvania and Ohio. The driver was a hireling, not one of them, in keeping with their refusal to operate motor vehicles.

Continue reading Sustainable Farming – take what you need and leave the rest

Eliot Coleman’s definition of organic


colemanThe popular press defines organic farming by the toxic chemicals it rejects.

A more accurate portrayal defines organic by the biological systems it embraces.

  1. Real organic farming is based on the creation and maintenance of a biologically active fertile soil.
  2. Organic farming succeeds because of the benefits derived from that fertile soil.

Successful production of pest-free plants and animals with active immune systems is a direct outcome of farming a biologically active fertile soil that has been shown to induce pest and disease resistance in the crops. Pesticides are rejected because they are not needed where # 1 is done correctly.

  1. Extensive modern scientific research into the marvelously complex soil micro-biome is revealing the vital ecological processes that support organic agriculture. This research underscores the intuitive brilliance of the founding organic farmers.
  2. As a bonus, truly fertile soil produces food of the highest nutritional quality. This was the foremost initial aim of the soil care techniques that became organic farming.
  3. Soil fertility does not require inputs from off the farm. It can be endlessly self-renewed with farm-derived compost, crop rotations, green manures, cover crops, grazing livestock, and other time-honored soil-care practices that nurture the boundless energy and logic of the earth. Real organic farming focusses on redesigning agricultural production methods rather than merely substituting organic inputs for chemical inputs.
  4. Deep rooting grass and legume pastures in the rotation help to maintain fertility and make available the almost inexhaustible mineral supply from the lower levels of the soil. Grazing livestock benefit the soil; pasture raising benefits the livestock.
  5. Most significant of all, since the biological systems of the real organic farm are powered by ecologically sound management – rather than by purchased inputs – this food production system is accessible at no cost by farmers everywhere and can thus feed the planet with exceptional food in perpetuity. That clear path to a bounteous well-fed future for mankind will remain neglected if we allow any misunderstandings about – and subversions of – the foundational concepts of real organic farming to go unchallenged. CAFOs for livestock and hydroponic fruit and vegetable production are NOT organic.

Do you agree?

If you want to explore this topic in more depth and learn some practical skills along the way, check out our fall online class,

STOCKSCH 320 – Organic Vegetable Production Online

All of our online classes cost $482/credit…. for more information, click on the class link above.

Small Farms Build Local Economy

JAFSCD Weekly Heads-up


Local food advocates promote direct-to-consumer food sales, arguing that these sales yield a variety of positive effects, including that smaller, direct-to-consumer producers have a greater economic impact compared to larger producers selling via wholesale channels.

NOTE: if you want to get started in farming on a small to mid-size scale, here is an online class offered by the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture.  STOCKSCH 266 – Farm Management Planning and Marketing ONLINE starts on January 22, 2019. 

In a new JAFSCD article, Ryan Pesch and Brigid Tuck examine this claim by exploring the relative economic contribution of small-scale, direct-to-consumer vegetable operations versus larger-scale, direct-to-wholesale vegetable operations in Central Minnesota. They detail the methods used to define the project, gather primary data, and construct the two production functions following the methods developed for the Economics of Local Foods Systems Toolkit.

This paper was published in the special issue of JAFSCD, Economics of Local Food Systems: Utilization of USDA AMS Toolkit Principles, co-sponsored by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and Colorado State University Local and Regional Food Systems.


  • The study participants grossed an average of US$9,335 per acre in vegetable sales and retained an average of US$4,192 after deducting annual cash expenses.
  • The authors’ economic impact model estimates that US$1 million in sales by sample farmers would generate US$1.6 million in the regional economy. In comparison, the default model from IMPLAN would generate US$1.4 million.
  • Sample farm operations spent more per dollar of input with other farm operators than the default economic impact model.
  • Researchers collaborating with community partners is paramount for successful implementation of methods outlined in the Economics of Local Foods Systems Toolkit (


  • As a study implementing best practices from the Economics of Local Foods Systems Toolkit, this article provides an example of how researchers, farm organizations, and businesses collaborated to collect primary data and model an economic contribution study.
  • The authors emphasize the importance of quality farm financial data, which the research team collected via in-person interviews. The primary challenge for collecting sensitive farm finance data is recruitment, and any research team should have a solid plan to increase participation.
  • Those involved with business and economic development should not overlook the collective impacts of small, local food farms that primarily market direct-to-consumer. Economic development officials often focus on firms that have the greatest footprint in terms of jobs or tax base. This research shows that small farms source a greater portion of their inputs locally than indicated by national benchmarks and may be deserving of greater development resources.


The findings are based on the farm financial records and spending patterns of 11 commercial vegetable growers in a 13-county study area that is primarily rural (only six of 13 counties contain a municipality of more than 5,000 people). Because of their distance from the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area (where half the state’s population lives), all growers in this study serve local, rural markets, primarily through direct marketing channels.


Full article: “Developing a Production Function for Small-Scale Farm Operations in Central Minnesota” in JAFSCD volume 8, supplement 3, pp. 1–10.

Date published: January 11, 2019

Authors and affiliations: Ryan Pesch and Brigid Tuck (both with University of Minnesota Extension)

Author contact: Ryan Pesch,

Permanent link to abstract and PDF:

Publisher: Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems in Ithaca, New York

Original Post


STOCKSCH 266 is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree.  Online classes cost $482/credit.

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.

US farmers are increasingly terrified by climate change

Research forecasts Iowa corn yields could drop in half within the next half-century thanks to extreme weather – yet it’s not part of the political conversation

A US and Iowa state flags are seen next to a corn field in Grand Mound, Iowa, United States,
 US and Iowa state flags are seen next to a corn field in Grand Mound, Iowa. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

Farmers around here are itching to go after that amber wave of soya beans, but there was that 5in rain a couple of weeks ago and then a 7in rain, and it drives even the retired guys batty.

Those beans aren’t worth much at the elevator thanks to a Trump trade war with China, but they’re worth even less getting wet feet in a pond that was a field which the glacier made a prairie bog some 14,000 years ago – until we came along and drained it.

This year, crops in north-west Iowa are looking spotty. Up into Minnesota they were battered by spring storms and late planting, and then inundated again in late summer. Where they aren’t washed out, they’re weedy or punky. If you go south in Buena Vista county, where I live in Storm Lake, the corn stands tall and firm.

Welcome to climate change, Iowa-style.

Continue reading US farmers are increasingly terrified by climate change

Wendell Berry’s Right Kind of Farming

Wendell Berry                       Credit Steve Hebert for The New York Times

Agricultural choices must be made by these inescapable standards: the ecological health of the farm and the economic health of the farmer.

By Gracy Olmstead

How we farm matters. For the past two centuries, America’s farms have expanded and homogenized, and farming equipment and chemicals have replaced personnel. Farmers have grown older and more isolated and are retiring without successors.

Our embrace of industrialization and “factory farming” has not resulted in greater economic security for most American farmers. The nation has suffered a historic slump in prices for corn, soybeans, milk, wheat and other commodities. It has lost half its dairy farmers in the past 18 years. And The Wall Street Journal warned in early 2017 that “the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s.”

The farmer, essayist and poet Wendell Berry has long argued that today’s agricultural practices are detrimental to ecology, community and the local economies that farms once served. A native Kentuckian, Mr. Berry has written over 40 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and has received a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Humanities Medal and the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.

Mr. Berry argues that healthy forms of agriculture require intentional cultivation on the part of both consumers and farmers. Americans presume there will always be enough — money, clean soil, healthy water — to fulfill our desires. But our ravenous economic disposition goes against the very nature of our world and its finite resources. Advocates for sustainable agriculture argue that we ought to recognize the limits of our world and, as Mr. Berry writes, “live in it on its terms, not ours.”

Continue reading Wendell Berry’s Right Kind of Farming

Hemp is the crop to watch in New England!

Ben Rooney, co-owner of Wild Folk Farm, and Janel Bodley plant hemp clones on Thursday. The farm is growing about 300 organic hemp plants this year. And they aren't the only ones. The organic crop, which will be largely used for medicinal edibles that come without the high of marijuana, was a micro crop last year, with only about a quarter of an acre in production in the whole state. This season, that number is up to almost 900 acres.
Ben Rooney, co-owner of Wild Folk Farm, and Janel Bodley plant hemp clones on Thursday. The farm is growing about 300 organic hemp plants this year. And they aren’t the only ones. The organic crop, which will be largely used for medicinal edibles that come without the high of marijuana, was a micro crop last year, with only about a quarter of an acre in production in the whole state. This season, that number is up to almost 900 acres. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Farmer Ben Rooney spent several days last week rushing around Wild Folk Farm in Benton planting 300 seedlings of Maine’s trendiest new crop, industrial hemp. “We’re kind of in the heat of it now,” he said.

It’s an apt expression; hemp is Maine’s hot new crop after nearly a century of falling by the wayside. The kind of cannabis sativa that doesn’t get you high was once a commonplace crop in New England and throughout America, used to make everything from clothing to rope. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both grew it. Until 1933, Continue reading Hemp is the crop to watch in New England!

Farm Aid still at work advocating for farm families

Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual festival to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. Above: Farm Aid board artists Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young. (Photo © Marc Hauser)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Against the backdrop of a 53 percent plunge in net farm income over the past five years, Farm Aid 2018 emphasized the determination of farmers and ranchers in Connecticut and across the nation to survive mounting challenges that include sinking commodity prices and rising production expenses and interest rates, in addition to uncertainty around the Farm Bill and U.S. trade and immigration policies.

At the sold-out event that took place at XFINITY Theatre, Farm Aid president and founder Willie Nelson said family farmers are becoming endangered. They haven’t faced such grave economic circumstances since Farm Aid started, with thousands fewer working Continue reading Farm Aid still at work advocating for farm families

U.S.D.A. supports new farmers

Baylee believes in marketing her crops locally through farmers markets and her CSA. (Photo Credit: Upper Pond Farm)

TOLLAND, Conn. — USDA celebrated National Farmers Market Week with farmers, like Baylee Drown, who supply fresh fruits and vegetables to their communities. Farmers markets give consumers access to locally-grown and farm-fresh products, while giving farmers the platform to grow and connect with their customer base.

Farm Kid to Farmer

Baylee grew up on a conventional dairy farm in Michigan. Like many farm kids, she participated in 4-H and FFA. In college, she followed her passion for agriculture by pursuing an animal science degree. A college class changed her perspective on agriculture and piqued her interest in growing vegetables.

Her first job out of college was working on a diversified organic farm in Vermont. The operation produced livestock and vegetables. This is where Baylee was exposed to small-scale organic and sustainable practices and fell in love with direct marketing and growing vegetables.

College changed Baylee’s perspective on agriculture and piqued her interest in growing vegetables. (Photo Credit: Upper Pond Farm)

Fresh from the Market

Baylee has been in business on her own for five years in southeast Connecticut. She started her own agriculture operation, Upper Pond Farm, growing a variety of vegetables Continue reading U.S.D.A. supports new farmers