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

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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

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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

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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

“Crazy plant ladies” are my favorite people!

By Stephanie Rose – Garden Therapy Blog

Crazy plant ladies are my favorite people. They (we) are so passionate about nature and that enthusiasm is contagious. Today I want to take a minute to acknowledge some of the amazing historical ‘crazy plant ladies’ whose love of botanicals influenced the way we view plants and the study of plants today. The women in this list are not well known (or at least not well known for their work with plants) but have made important contributions to the field of botanical sciences and changed the way we think about nature.

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This is not to say that these brilliant women struggled with mental health or were labelled insane in their time! In case you didn’t get the memo, Crazy Plant Lady is a badge now worn with pride by the many women who confess that they have an enthusiastic love for plants and nature. Yep, you can get a T-shirt or a mug that Continue reading “Crazy plant ladies” are my favorite people!

Sustainable Food and Farming Jobs

annaliseIf you listen to the news these days, everyone is talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.   And indeed opportunities in some fields are up!  Still…. for graduating seniors from colleges and universities, the stress of finding work remains high – particularly given the cost of their education.

Students are (appropriately) asking if the value of a college education is worth the cost.

I’m one of the academic advisers for students in our Sustainable Food and Farming program in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and I often get asked – so will I be able to get a job when I  Continue reading Sustainable Food and Farming Jobs

BUYING LOCAL IS AN INVESTMENT IN A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL!

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez was tying grape vines at a farm in Central California, when the temperature soared well above 95 degrees. Only a few days in the country, this undocumented field worker, who didn’t have easy access to water, shade or the work breaks required by law, passed out from the heat and died two days later.Maria-Isabel

Maria was 17 years old. The Center for Disease Control reports that heat-related deaths of farm workers are on the rise in the U.S.  This deadly trend is unfortunately one of the costs of cheap food.   When you buy cheap food at the big box stores, you also invest in this deadly system of industrialized food.

Compare this experience with that of working at a local farm like Simple Gifts in North Amherst, MA.  Here the farm workers work hard but are treated fairly.  As apprentices who live on the site, they are gaining a Continue reading BUYING LOCAL IS AN INVESTMENT IN A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL!

Examining the True Cost of Food

By Claire Morenon – Daily Hampshire Gazette; May 28, 2018 (Original Post – shared with permission of the author)

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Produce at the Tuesday Farmers Market in Northampton. COURTESY CISA

How much should food cost? The answer may seem simple: less! But if we pay less for food than it costs to grow, who bears that difference?

Americans spend less on food as a percentage of income than anyone else in the world, and that percentage has fallen during the past six decades. In 1960, Americans spent 17.5 percent of their disposable income on food, and by 2014 that percentage had fallen to 9.7 Continue reading Examining the True Cost of Food

A GROWING NUMBER OF YOUNG AMERICANS ARE LEAVING DESK JOBS TO FARM

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Liz Whitehurst dabbled in several careers before she ended up here, crating fistfuls of fresh-cut arugula in the early-November chill.

The hours were better at her nonprofit jobs. So were the benefits. But two years ago, the 32-year-old Whitehurst – who graduated from a liberal arts college and grew up in the Chicago suburbs – abandoned Washington, D.C., for this three-acre farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

FARMERSShe joined a growing movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers who are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.

For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture.

This new generation can’t hope to replace the numbers that farming is losing to age. But Continue reading A GROWING NUMBER OF YOUNG AMERICANS ARE LEAVING DESK JOBS TO FARM