Posts By Kelly Hatton
The Greenhorns, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote, recruit and support a new generation of farmers, began in 2007, when founder and director Severine von Tscharner Fleming decided to make a film.
The idea sprouted while Fleming was helping organize a film festival at UC Berkley. The lineup of documentaries at the festival highlighted the gloomy realities of our time: a food system in crisis; a corrupt political system; a cycle of global poverty and exploitation. The threats of global warming, soil depletion, bioengineering pitted against biodiversity and poisoned waterways appeared insurmountable onscreen. Fleming wanted to produce a film that would inspire action rather than ennui.
Trailblazing Organic Farm in Maryland, One Straw Farm, Puts Soil and Overall Health of Farm Ahead of Organic CertificationJanuary 20, 2012 | Kelly Hatton
In 1985, the word “organic” had yet to penetrate consumer consciousness. Joan Norman of One Straw Farm remembers fighting misconceptions of the word’s meaning when using it to classify the produce she and her husband, Drew, were growing on their 82-acre farm in Maryland. “In the beginning, if we said ‘organic’ people thought we were growing marijuana, or they thought they had to be vegetarian to eat our produce,” she said.
That changed in 1989. After a report that Alar, a chemical commonly sprayed on apples and other fruit crops, could increase cancer risk, public outcry led schools to stop serving apple juice and stores to take apple products off the shelves. “Everyone was asking for organic apples. Of course we didn’t have any,” Joan said. But One Straw Farm did have an abundance of other chemical-free food, and a growing base of customers seeking organic produce.
The founders of the SPIN-Farming, short for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive farming, recognize that the face of agriculture is changing.
“For the first time in history the vast majority of tomorrow’s farmers will have to come from non-farming backgrounds,” said SPIN-Farming co-creator Roxanne Christensen. “City folks will have to be trained to become farm folks because there simply aren’t enough farm kids out there to meet the demand, which is growing exponentially and is concentrated in cities.”
Frog Hollow Farm Strives to Fulfill Promise of Brentwood, CA Terroir and Raise New Crop of Organic FarmersNovember 10, 2011 | Kelly Hatton
When Al Courchesne started farming on 13 acres in Brentwood, CA, he didn’t have a business plan; he had a shovel. So he dug holes and planted trees on the land he’d purchased with business partner Sarah Coddington.
“I was young and optimistic and strong,” said Courchesne. “I could work long hours. I was willing to do whatever I had to do to plant orchards.”
That was in 1976, and in the 35 years since, Frog Hollow Farm has grown from 13 acres to 133.
The farm produces enough fruit to feed both wholesale and retail markets in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has expanded its product line to include conserves and pastries.
If you looked into one of the rain barrels at Sunnyside Farm, you’d notice three goldfish swimming in the collected rainwater. The fish help prevent algae growth and control mosquito eggs in the stored water, which is captured from the hoop house roof and used to irrigate the farm’s acre of heirloom vegetables. The setup is just one small example of how husband and wife duo Homer Walden and Dru Peters are using creative innovations to farm sustainably on 13 acres in Dover, PA.
Walden and Peters are part of a wave of new farmers seeking viable models for sustainable food production in response to the high environmental and economic costs of conventional farming. The environmental costs of feedlot livestock operations and monoculture crops include emissions from livestock and farm machinery, soil erosion, and loss of overall soil fertility. Separating the cow from the grass necessitates costly inputs including feed, fertilizer and machinery that can leave farmers in a cycle of debt.