Garden Farm Skills

Dry Farming: Potatoes, Apples, and Tomatoes…

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[Repost from 2012]

David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit

“In the beginning, I searched out people who were known dry-farmers,” says Little, who started in farming in 1995. “It seemed like no one had done it for 30 years or so, and then it wasn’t done much.”

Democracy needs gardeners! My liberating DIY revolution…


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From SALON

When my husband and I first moved to our house in downtown Raleigh, N.C., nine years ago, we were fascinated by the empty lot between our 1890s Victorian and the neighbor’s bungalow. “That’s where the victory garden used to be,” my neighbors said, pointing to a slightly shaded quarter of an acre. This garden existed, of course, before the Krispy Kreme was built and the drunks used to sip 40s and eat glazed doughnuts behind our fence.

I’d never thought about the patriotism of gardening, and I didn’t again until we moved to Vermont and inherited two enormous gardens and a small orchard. God, I thought.  Those look like a lot of work.

And they are.

But five years later I’m obsessed. I read seed catalogs cover-to-cover, the way I used to look at fashion magazines in college, my hungry gaze raking over the pages: Can this knowledge change my life?  When the catalogs show up in the mail stack at the end of January it feels like an omen, a promise that spring will indeed come, that months from now we will sit at the outdoor picnic table with dinner plucked from the backyard: panzanella with crisp cucumbers and sharp red onions, blueberry and arugula salads, sandwiches piled with flame-colored heirloom tomatoes and smoky roasted eggplant.

Agroforestry: The Art of Farming With Trees…


AgroforestryBeans grown under trees

From A GROWING CULTURE

Kenya is an agricultural country, endowed with an abundance of fertile soils. Farming serves as the most important economic activity for up to 80 per cent of its population. Out of this majority, a large number are small scale farmers, owning plots of less than five acres of land across the country.

Small scale farmers play a key economic role, not only in food production, but by contributing to self employment and boosting the local economies all over the country. As the UN Special Rapporteur on right to food affirms: “small scale farming is creating employment and contributing to rural development…it is better at preserving ecosystems because farmers combine various plants, trees and animals on the piece of land.”

Like any other pursuit, small scale farming is fraught with challenges that prevent farmers from reaching their full potential. Obstacles range from: [1] Depletion of soils resulting from constant overuse of the same “shamba”- a Swahili word for land.  [2] Lack of information on sustainable farming approaches [3] pest and disease management and to [4] drought, extreme precipitation and cold weathers.

Despite all these setbacks, efforts to end hunger and keep the land productive, however small, are now geared toward low-cost, sustainable approaches to farming.

Planting Potatoes…



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…and buy your organic seed potatoes from the family farmer fighting Monsanto…


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Gene Logsdon: Small Farms Create More Jobs


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

All the talk about creating jobs strikes me as another example of how so many of us sneakily drink one way and piously vote another. Oh how we voice our concern, how much we pretend to support more jobs but we go right on conducting real business on the basis of replacing human workers with machines whenever possible. All the ways being proposed to increase jobs right now are the same old methods that do not face the real cause of the dilemma. The awful truth is that we have created an economy that can’t afford people to do the work and so every year there are fewer meaningful jobs and more pretend jobs. Pretend jobs require pretend money. We are capitalizing costs on money interest not on human interest.

No where is this truer than in farming. We boast about how many people one farmer feeds—155 is the latest number I think— as if that kind of efficiency is a sign of progress. I don’t hear a single business person or government official pointing out that if the whole economy of the common good is considered, one farmer feeding 155 people is not a sign of true profitability but of gross and unsustainable inefficiency. So gross in fact that while the 155 are getting fed, others are going hungry.

It is fairly easy, I think, to demonstrate the inefficiency of one person feeding a hundred and fifty five especially when some of the hundred and fifty five are having a hard time earning enough to buy their food.

Why I Farm — A City Version


From BARBARA AYERS
The Contrary Farmer

I hope everyone won’t mind if I contribute my story. I have often wanted to comment on this wonderful, thought provoking site, but felt too shy because I don’t have a farm. My husband works in the entertainment business, hence we live in Pasadena, part of the giant suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, California. I didn’t grow up on a farm either — suburbs, again, outside of Washington, DC. But my maternal grandparents were farmers who emigrated from Romania to Western Canada. I believe the urge to farm must be passed down in one’s genetic code.

I’d always made flower gardens, and I’m a good cook. Somewhere back during the culinary revolution, I came upon a cookbook by Alice Waters, who can’t help but be inspiring. So I planted a pot of basil and parsley on my apartment balcony. Alice was right — picking that super fresh basil whenever I needed it, instead of spending two dollars for it, half wilted from the grocery store, was absolutely life changing. I spent the next fifteen years growing fruits and vegetables wherever they could be squeezed in, and dreaming of life in a more rural setting. Then, one happy day, my young children were accepted by a school that had, among other attractive features, a small organic farm. I spent the summer driving stealthily past the school’s farm property, stalking it, wondering if there would be any space for me to sponsor a project or two. It turned out to be a dusty acre of weeds with a pretty, tiny pond

How To Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds



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The Dirty Life


From THE ETHICUREAN

[Our own local CSA farms are now taking memberships for the season: Paula and Adam of Mendocino Organics, the Decater family of Live Power Community Farm, and Tom Palley of Covelo Organic… and the new season starts tomorrow 5/6/11 for our local Farmers Markets.  -DS]

The first time I heard of Essex Farm, I was working a kitchen/garden internship at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont. The school sent me to the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 2009 conference, where I carefully chose workshops I thought would help me plan and plant a garden that would serve the school’s kitchen. It was my first farm-y job, and it didn’t fit the usual master/apprentice approach: I had people I could ask questions, but there was no master — just me. I was in a little over my head, and I was nervous. But that didn’t stop me from taking a detour from what I thought was practical to a workshop that thoroughly intrigued me even though the people running it sounded insane.

The workshop was titled “Everything But Sushi” with a subtitle something like

Gene Logsdon: Archeology Not Agriculture Teaches Good Farming


From GENE LOGSDON
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

I’m thinking lately that a farmer can learn more about sustainable farming from history rather than from current science. Agriculture has been taking giant leaps “forward” and archeology giant leaps “backward,” both with intriguing and absorbing results. Both work under a handicap. Archeology studies a silent past and has to worry that it’s getting the story right. Agriculture assumes a future that may not turn out to be true either. The two sciences have markedly different philosophies. Agriculture is interested in making farming a money-profitable business. Archeology is interested in finding out why profitable farming invariably leads to wrecked civilizations.

Archeologists are discovering new information all the time, especially in Central America and in North Africa because in both cases the past is not so silent after all. Written records and datable non-written records are coming to light especially for the Mayan empire on this continent and the Carthaginian Empire and its aftermath in North Africa. For example, researchers are reporting new evidence indicating that the Mayan Empire was maybe a thousand years older than it had been thought to be. The Yucatan Peninsula supported a population of millions more people than historians previously had concluded. Supporting those millions was an extremely advanced maize or corn agriculture, the profit-farming of that time. But whenever the Mayans figured out yet more clever ways to increase corn yields, the population increased and that required yet more yield increases. One example: the people literally built upland fields for corn by carrying rich mud up from swamp land that they could not otherwise drain. Sadly, the Mayans used the wealth from their profit-farming