Here’s some leads to some summer reading on gardening and farming. First, my blog post on the Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog. It’s my third post in a series about intercropping (planting a second crop around or beside a first, to take over after the first crop finishes. In this case, I’m writing about undersowing cover crops in vegetable crops. We like to undersow our fall broccoli and cabbage about 4 weeks after transplanting, with a mix of crimson clover, medium red clover and Ladino white clover. First we remove the rowcover or ProtekNet we have been using to keep the bugs off the crops, then cultivate with our BCS tiller or our Valley Oak wheelhoe. And hand hoes in the row. Then we broadcast the clover and hope for rain. (Huh! We’ve had plenty so far this summer!). If no rain, we use overhead sprinklers every other night for a week.
The MEN blogpost includes other examples, advantages, challenges and so on.
I just received the July/August edition of the Organic Broadcaster. Good thoughtful articles on keeping organic livestock healthy; why organic certification doesn’t have the same attractiveness it once had and what can be done to re-energize enthusiasm for the guarantees that certified organic brings; inspiring stories of mentors who are contenders for the MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year award; advice about getting crop hail insurance; dealing with pesticide drift, using mob grazing of cattle; strengthening the bonds between women farmers by holding potlucks; a review of Jean-Martin Fortier’s The Market Gardener; news about an open-source network of seed growers, plant breeders and researchers; an article about how climate change is impacting agriculture and lots of news snippets about resources, opportunities, reports, and tools for organic farmers; classified ads (bargains!),and an events calendar. This paper is free, in either the electronic or the paper format. It’s based in the Mid-west, with information relevant to us all.
I recently heard from the Piedmont Environmental Council about a publication containing eight stories of beginning farmers and landowners working together to craft affordable leases that enable committed new farmers to establish themselves in farming, and landowners to put land they are not using into good hands. You can read the stories online or Download the PDF.
Finding a Place to Grow: How the Next Generation is Gaining Access to Farmland.
The biggest hurdle for beginning farmers is usually finding land they can afford. This publication encourages us to think more broadly about what might be possible. The eight stories include
- land slated for housing development that became instead an incubator farm for half a dozen small farming enterprises (Each tenant negotiates his or her own rent with the landowner, maybe starting out with a reduced rate and building up to what is affordable and realistic as the business grows);
- another new farm is building up their herd by leasing cattle to make full use of the acreage, until they can afford to own their own big herd;
- others leased form like-minded farmers who needed to take a break from the intensity of full-time farming;
- others farm on a public nature preserve owned by a non-profit (as part of the deal, the farmers serve as caretakers for the property, keeping the paths cleared for visitors);
- another started by using family land that had not been actively farmed, then added leases on neighbors’ lands to expand the farm;
- Waterpenny Farm has been the model and the training ground for many new farmers (they started their lease by paying the landowner in sweat equity, restoring a house);
- another leaser points out the advantages of having like-minded people around, and a landowner who wants them to succeed;
- and finally there’s the story of Willowsford, a planned neighborhood including a working farm to grow food for the development’s residents and others.
So, if you or your friends are hoping to start in farming but can’t afford to buy land, here are ways to farm without ownership – although still with commitment, hard work, variable weather and all the ups and downs of dealing with real live plants or animals.