A new book; Drought in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions: A Multidisciplinary and Cross-Country Perspective (Springer, 2013) addresses the environmental, social, political, and economic impacts of drought from a variety of perspectives.
Kurt Schwabe, an Environmental Economics and Policy professor at the University of California Riverside and director of the Water Science and Policy Center in California edited the book. Seedstock had a chance to talk with Schwabe about the new book, as well as how drought impacts sustainable agriculture.
Todd Jones, who offers his opinion on the importance of record keeping on the farm, is the founding farmer and CEO of Every Last Morsel, a company that empowers entrepreneurs and innovators in local food.
Let’s talk about record keeping. That’s right, record keeping. It’s an aspect of farming that’s rarely ever talked about. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It usually ends up on the backburner of any farmer’s to-do list, and it’s understandable why.
Farming is hard work. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish what needs to get done, and if you don’t put all your effort into growing food then you won’t have much of anything to record anyway. The problem is, when farmers don’t keep a record of their products they lose a valuable opportunity to learn. And because farming has such long business cycles, growers need to use every tool they have to streamline operations so their bottom line can flourish from year to year.
“Farming requires you to work and think in long time lines. You start looking at farm management as a generational timeline. So if it would take me 20 to 30 years to really understand all the wisdom that my father had and then also to realize that in order for our daughter to understand the dynamics and really learn the lay of the land will take her 20 years to 30 years.” –David Mas Masumoto Masumoto Family Farm
As more and more folks turn to small farms as a lifestyle choice they often don’t think about the bigger picture. It’s a wonderful notion to help preserve America’s farmland now, but what about the future? Who will take over the farm when you pass away or retire? Farm succession planning is a really important part of modern farming and something every grower needs to think about and deal with no matter their acreage or what crops they grow. America’s farms must become multi-generational to survive. Are you prepared?
Nothing is impossible – so says a rock climber with his head pitched back staring up an ugly face of granite, a kayaker caught in a squall, a skier pointing tips down a sheet of black ice – or a man who has done all of this and then taken up farming Down East where topsoil is barely deeper than the pine pollen on windowsills in May. After chasing adventure in the guise of a Spanish literature scholar with a taste for Chilean deep powder, cliffs and white water, Eliot Coleman got himself some acreage.
Of course a lot happened in between, but the story of Four Season Farm and how it came to be began with Coleman turning his quest for adventure away from situational adrenaline surges to another sort of challenge: to extract sugar carrots from a fir wood rooted on ledge.
It was late 1960’s when Coleman came back down to earth. A decade earlier the back-to-the-land how-to book, ‘Living the Good Life’, by Helen and Scott Nearing had emerged and became something of a bible among the younger set.
The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farmer of the Year award has been a long time in the making for Johnson Farms of Madison, South Dakota. Charlie Johnson and his brother Allan, along with their cousin Aaron and a handful of farm laborers, manage 2,800 acres of South Dakota farmland growing the ingredients for organic animal feed. On his way to pick up the award, Charlie Johnson shared a few insights into organic farming from the ‘long haul’ perspective.
It was Charlie and Allan’s father who started the farm in Madison. “My dad was a different kind of character,” explains Johnson. “He was kinda half hippie half profit.” Bernard Johnson had toyed around with the idea of chemical free farming for decades. He converted to a 100 percent organic production in 1976, years before the organic movement really began the paradigm shift from fringe obscurity to national awareness.
When Khrysti Smyth first started keeping chickens in her urban yard in Somerville Massachusetts, it was not only for the fresh eggs, but to reconnect with nature.
How does a Los Angeles-based techie completely disconnected from food and agriculture end up a passionate sustainable farmer? It’s really quite simple. The techie-turned-farmer in question, one Nathan Winters, strikes out on a 4300-mile bike ride across America’s rural landscapes to find inspiration. He works on a number of farms along the way and ends up with a passion for organic “bootstrap” agriculture that leads him to start Relly Bub Farm in southern Vermont.
I recently spoke with Winters to learn more about his embrace of agriculture, how his cross country trip shaped his philosophy on farming, his words of wisdom for new farmers, the challenges he faces and more.
For many sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs the point at which their ideas become ‘real’ is the one at which they must confront the decision as to whether to patent their technology or process. This decision point frequently comes even before pilot projects are established or target customers identified. Unless you’re fortunate enough to work at a university or research facility that is willing to cover the cost of patenting, it will typically involve spending anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 in legal fees in addition to using team time, at a stage where time and funds are scarce; so the decision is rarely taken lightly.