Creating a Cottage Garden

By Rosalind Creasy (1985)
Edible Landscaping

The early Puritans left their mark on us in a number of ways, some of which make life a series of joyless tasks. Sometimes I think their devotees must write garden books. The tone of many of the how-to books reeks of rules, admonitions, and dicta. How about a garden that is programmed to give you joy, to take care of you? The cottage garden is an outright celebration of what a garden can do for every part of you: colors to see, textures to touch, fragrances to smell, bird calls to hear, and myriad tastes for the palate. And, of course, we can’t forget the most important part, your soul. You will experience the renewal of life, that primordial urge to believe in the future. You will put your fingers on the emerging carrot seedlings, anticipate the taste of the first tomato, and feel delight when the hummingbird visits the sage and the monarch butterfly sips from the dew collected by the nasturtium leaf.

I am suggesting that you plant a rather hedonistic variation of the traditional mixed border. Put it where you usually see a conventional shrub or flower border—along a fence line for instance, or along a walk or driveway, next to the patio, or along shallow hillsides. Fill it with joy, with colors, tastes, fragrances and even tactile pleasures—a swath of flowers and foliage.

The mixed border, sometimes called the perennial border since it usually includes a large number of perennially blooming plants, has been in fashion since the late nineteenth century. It has its roots in the English cottage garden, and, at its best, the border is a subtle work of form, texture, and color—all used to together to delight the soul. Properly planned, the border changes with the seasons.

Traditionally the staples in the mixed border were non-edible flowers, mostly perennials, with a sprinkling of annuals for quick color. Popular perennial flower choices for this type of ornamental border were iris, peony, phlox, dalia, dais, chrysanthemum, poppy, and the like. A new variation in today’s perennial border is the addition of beautiful edibles such as ruby chard and flowering kale; plus a number of savory and attractive herbs such as variegated sage and dill; edible flowers such as nasturtium and carnation for your salads and desserts; and, to add still another dimension, fragrance, choose sweet-smelling lavender and stock. For many more choices, see the lists of flowers and beautiful edibles below.

Keep reading Creating a Cottage Garden at Organic To Be

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 2/21/09

From Scott Cratty

2/19/09 Ukiah, California
Friends of the Market,

Greetings.  Looks like another rainy Saturday … remember, when it is a bit chilly and damp for us, it is perfect for our vegetables.  Just think of the farmers’ market on a rainy Saturday morning as a more realistic version of what they try to simulate in grocery produce cases when the misting nozzles come on and the fake rain/thunder sounds.

Our local farmers need support rain or shine.  Please note that Ford Ranch Natural Beef  will be absent for two weeks, and back in March.  Fish may be low as well due to the rough seas … then again, last week was one of the few times we did not sell out of at least a few of the available varieties before the market closed. Because farming and fishing are not entirely predictable, neither is the market. Consider it part of the fun to come see what is there. Perhaps before too many months pass we may have a local shopping resource on-line that allows us to post what is available at the market in near real time so that you can check before heading out … but there is much work to do before that will be a reality. Let me know if you have time/resources to contribute.

Speaking of the connection between food and weather, tomorrow morning at 9 am on the KZYX&Z radio program Wildoak Living, “Chef Laura Stec and climate researcher Eugene Cordero will explore the connection between what we eat and our climate.  They encourage us to rediscover our relationship to the land, to the people who provide our food and to the art of cooking.”  I am not familiar with these speakers but the topic sounds as if it might be of interest to farmers’ market enthusiasts.

At the market this Saturday make sure your pause to enjoy Jerry Krantman’s eclectic acoustic music. Those of you who cannot get enough of local food issues may want to consider attending the March 1-3, 22nd Annual California Small Farm Conference. It is the state’s premier gathering of small farmers and those who support them. The three day educational conference includes on-farm tours, focused workshops, general educational sessions and opportunities for peer networking.  See California Small Farm Conference for specifics.  I will not be attending so would appreciate getting a report from anyone who does.

See you at the market.

Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

“Grazing” The Trees On Your Garden Farm

By Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

To reach its full potential, a garden farm should embrace four areas: garden, pasture, tree grove, and the watery domain of pool, pond or creek. Only then will the full compliment of the food chain and the full orchestration of natural beauty be achieved. Of the four parts, the tree grove usually receives the least attention from garden farmers, which is why I have been writing about it so much, plus the fact that in winter that’s where most of the action is. We graze our pastures and gardens in summer; we should be “grazing” our woodlots in winter. And of you don’t have one, start one. Your children will honor you in the latter days. Any timber that needs to be cut and moved out of the woods should be completed now, before mud time. The maple syrup season has begun now. And as the days get above freezing and no ice lingers in the bark to dull chain saw blades, it is now comfortable to cut firewood, fence posts and furniture wood.

Two weeks ago in this space, I mentioned an unusual way to graze trees, using juniper berries to flavor a meat sauce. We finally got around to making that sauce, using a recipe from Bon Appetit in the October, 2008 issue, and substituting juniper berries from our red cedar trees (Junipera virginiana) for the larger and more succulent berries of other juniper trees that the recipe called for. We had to improvise other ways too— we did not have fresh rosemary, so used dried. But we did have fresh thyme from the garden, surprisingly green where the February snow had just melted away. The meat sauce was recommended for venison, but we put it on barbecued steaks. Since our juniper berries from red cedar were smaller than other junipers, I handpicked sixteen of the plumpest ones I could find to substitute for the eight the recipe called for. The sauce turned out to have a subtle, piquant taste different from anything I had experienced before. The flavor of the red wine dominated the more delicate juniper berry flavor a little too much, I thought, but the combination was very tasty. I’m fairly sure that the juniper berry flavor would have been more pronounced if we could have used the bigger berries of other junipers.

Keep Reading→

Mendocino Cooking from the Farmers’ Market

From Pinky Kushner

Last week was no exception to the rule that great treats can be gotten at the Ukiah Saturday Market.

Here’s what I was just delighted to find: Small, plump white turnips, complete with their little green tops freshly pulled from the ground by our friends the Ortiz family. Now some of you might say, “What? Turnips? Give me a break.” Let me tell you about turnips. These little treats are not the big muddy balls that you may have seen in an old Dutch painting, although even the big ones can be very special. Here in California, baby turnips ‘turn up’ as a spring specialty at high-end restaurants like Chez Panisse. Grab them now while they are young and being thinned from the field to make room for the later, larger summer crop.

What to do with these little ones? First wash them thoroughly—plunge them into a large bowl of cold water (which you recycle in the yard onto a thirsty plant, right?) and agitate for a few minutes. Then, drain and from the bulb, cut off the skinny little root and all but an inch of the greens.

Steam the turnips in a vegetable basket. After 3 minutes add the greens that have been chopped into 1-inch pieces. After 3-5 more minutes, pull the steaming basket out and pour the water from pot, reserving for later use. Dump the cooked turnips and greens back into the pot with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of the reserved liquid. Heat over low flame a few more minutes and serve. The cooking time is a total of 8 to 10 minutes.

Freshly steamed baby turnips go with almost anything, from rice to pasta pomodoro to grilled chicken or fish. The reserved liquid can be added to water for rice or almost anything else that might use a stock. The joy of turnips is their mild sweet/bitter taste and their reputation as excellent nutrition. They are thought to have originated as cultivated food about 2000 BC in northern Europe and spread south and east over the next 3500 years. The Romans prized them highly. I will share my favorite recipe for the big guys in the summer.

Master Garden Innovator Alan Chadwick

From Dave Smith

In 1967, a massive buildup of troops in Vietnam occurred, along with the hippie Summer of Love in San Francisco. The culture was in chaos, at war in Vietnam and at war with itself. Big agriculture was destroying family farms and growing bigger, ever bigger.

During that year, Alan Chadwick, an artist, violinist, Shakespearean actor, and master gardener, was hired to create a Student Garden Project on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Working only with hand tools and organic amendments, Chadwick and his student assistants transformed a steep, chaparral-covered hillside into a prolific garden, bursting with flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees.

The informal apprenticeships that students served with Chadwick would eventually lead to the development of the current Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, where over a thousand apprentices have been formally trained in what he called “the method.”

Keep reading Master Garden Innovator Alan Chadwick

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 2/14/09

From Scott Cratty
Mendocino County

Friends of the Ukiah Farmers’ Market,

Greetings. This week the market falls on Valentines Day. For those who may have missed our advertisement in the Ukiah Daily Journal’s Valentines Day special sections, the basic text was: Selecting fine, fresh food and cooking it together is romantic. Start your perfect Valentines day by planning a meal together at the farmers’ market

It’s true. Why not try it on Saturday. In additional to our usual array of fine local crafts vendors Lee Sabin will be bringing her abalone jewelry from the coast for anyone in need of a last minute gift. Perhaps some of Joanne Horn’s Afterglow Natural body care products would also be appreciated by your special someone.

While the rain is much need, it also makes for choppy seas. That means that the fresh fish from Fort Bragg that we have relied on all season will probably be in short supply or missing this week.

In case you didn’t notice, Mendocino Organics was actually selling some of their great produce at the market last Saturday. If they are selling again, they will be in the Southeast corner of the market. We also had a record three vendors with local eggs – Johns Family Farm, Lovers Lane Farm and Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese. Once you have tried a fresh local egg it is hard to go back.

John Johns wanted me to give everyone a heads-up that it is nearly time to get your gopher purge in the ground. He will have plants for $5.00 and seeds for $3.00 per 20 count pouch. In John’s own words: “The time is almost here to have the plants in the ground to freak out those nasty rodents when they show up…”

Look for the return of Josh Madsen playing for us at the market this Saturday.

On to the propaganda. In case you thought it was just me prattling on about the benefits of a local food system, check out the video at Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Thanks to Terry Nieves for forwarding the link.

An Ecologically Sane Farm

From Gene Logsdon (1989)
Garden Farm Skills

The chief “product” of his business is mammoth jacks, but they are not the only animals he raises and sells. As we walk over the 180 acres, my astonishment grows. I have been on thousands of farms from the East Coast to the West, and never before have I seen such a variety or number of animals grazing per acre: not only the eighty head of mammoth jack stock, but about a dozen draft horses, a couple of lighter harness horses, a few dairy cows and calves, a bunch of fattening steers, a flock of sheep, a barnlot full of hogs, a barnyard full of turkeys, peacocks, ducks, geese, guineas, dogs, cats, and a genetic explosion of all kinds of chickens. Every niche of the farmstead is filled with animal life, and in reaction to anything unusual, a chorus of squawks, gobbles, quacks, whinnies, bellows, bleatings, and barking erupts, all drowned out by a crescendo of ludicrous-sounding hee-haws from the jacks and jennets. Jack Siemon’s farm is a celebration of the earth’s vital forces.

Siemon got interested in mammoth jacks seriously right after World War II in which he served. His wife owned a farm in Arkansas, and for a few years he tried to do the impossible: raise cotton in Arkansas and corn in Ohio at the same time. “I learned real fast that in weeding cotton, a good man and a mule could do a better and much more efficient job than a tractor weeder. But there were no good mules around. The army had bought most of them at the beginning of the war, and with the rapid adoption of tractors and trucks, mules just disappeared. So I started raising mammoth jacks to get some good mules back in circulation.”

Keep reading An Ecologically Sane Farm at

Also see Small Farms Surge as Demand for Local Food Changes Agriculture Industry


Catastrophic Fall In 2009 Global Food Production

Grow yourself some organic potatoes this spring

Historical dry farming revived in Marin

Our toxic, malnourishing food supply (Updated)

From Dave Smith

Toxic food? Toxic lipstick? Toxic assets? Ponzi schemes? Comes from the same mindless mind-set: suck out the  life at each step along the supply chain, but keep claiming value, not poison, is being added. Last trusting person at the  end of the chain? Oops, sorry about that! Ah, well… I got mine.

We are blessed in our town to have a thriving, locally-owned, democratically-controlled, organic- and local-farm-oriented, 100% organic produce, cooperative food store, Ukiah Natural Foods… along with farmers’ markets and organic, biodynamic, CSA farms (listed in Localizing Links below). If you are local, and not a member of our co-op, you should be—for many reasons. A main reason is shown in the graphic above from an old post by Dave Pollard, Eat Shit and Die, which expands on the topic with details… if you can stomach it.

We have also banned GMO plants from our county, and certify or own organic farmers locally under the Mendocino Renegade label thanks to the Mendocino Organic Network.

One of our local organic farmers, Charles Martin, when asked why organic foods are pricey says simply: pay for healthy food or pay your Doctor… your choice.
See also Staying Organic During Tough Times at→

and Co-operatives: The Feeling is Mutual

and The Greenhorn Guide for Beginning Farmers

and Newly Discovered Toxic Chemical Is Common In Cosmetics

A distinguished panel tells a packed room of environmental journalists that the way we grow our food matters to a heating planet…

Go to Agriculture and climate change at

Ukiah’s Saturday Farmers’ Market 2/7/09

From Scott Cratty

Friends of the Market,

Greetings.  Isn’t winter supposed to be the time of year when things are relatively slow? Not this year.  So, I’ll keep this brief.

The drawing for our 2nd Winter raffle basket will be held at about noon this Saturday.  We have not done such a great job selling tickets this time … so the odds of winning are even better.  For a $5 ticket the winner will get a great deal with lots of local hand-crafted items plus some goodies from our local farms like some olive oil, beef, cheese, honey and more.  So far your raffle funds have purchases a small propane heater (that we use on the bitterest of Saturday mornings and one tank refill).  Who know what wonderful things we can do with some more funds …

You are the first to know … by a sizable majority the winter market vendors voted to accept the invitation for the winter market to join the county farmers’ market association.  So, come next November, the Ukiah winter market will be part of that venerable 30 year old institution.  To make things a bit more uniform year round we will probably shorten the winter hours so that we still start at 9:30 but end at noon, the same ending time as the regular season.

If you are quick enough that Saturday you may become one of the first people at the Ukiah market to try the eggs from Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese.

Hope to see you at the farmers’ market on Saturday.

[Appropriate info for our current water shortage. -DS]

Organic Farming Critical To Deal With Less Water

Published: April 9, 2000

The Rodale Institute’s 330-acre research farm here got something it prefers to a bumper crop when a record drought struck eastern Pennsylvania last year.

Rodale plants crops with the goal of harvesting evidence that organic farming should be the wave of the future in agriculture. After the drought last summer, Rodale’s parched organic plots yielded 24 to 30 bushels of soybeans an acre, well below the 40-bushel average of previous years for the research site, but Rodale could not have been happier. That was because yields on comparison plots just next to them that had been doused year after year with synthetic fertilizers and conventional farm chemicals had plummeted to 16 bushels.

”These are very significant findings for farmers around the world,” exulted Jeff Moyer, Rodale’s farm manager. ”Our trials show that improving the quality of the soil through organic processes can mean the difference between a harvest or hardship in times of drought.”

The results last year also reinforced long-term comparisons, begun by Rodale in 1981, that document how organic farming can be more profitable for small farmers — even if yields are not always as high and, by some calculations, even without the premium prices that organic crops generally receive.

A chicken coop for a small flock

From Gene Logsdon (1985)
Garden Farm Skills

A backyard henhouse for only a dozen or so chickens year-round should be commodious, a minimum of around 5 square feet of floor space per hen, which is much more than a commercial poultryman can afford. My henhouse design, based on what I’ve learned so far by building three coops of my own, differs from the standard designs in a few other ways, which you might find interesting to think about when building your own.

1. Predator Proofing. I would have preferred that my latest chicken coop be built on a concrete footing to make it more or less predator-proof. But pole construction was cheaper and easier. The bottom wall boards are of treated wood for rot resistance, and the wall is sunk into the ground 6 to 12 inches. Cats will not dig that far under to get in, and cats have always been my most troublesome predator—not my own, though, which I train not to bother chickens, but feral cats. I keep the dog tied next to the coop for further insurance.

2. The Size. I knew that for part of the year I would house approximately forty-five to fifty chickens, although there would be less than twenty year-round. Every year we buy six Rhode Island Red chicks and about thirty White Rock broiler chicks, the latter for meat, the former to add to the laying flock. The broilers are butchered when about ten weeks old, and later on I’ll butcher some old hens as they quit laying, so that the flock dwindles to around fifteen through winter. We buy chicks in June so have no need for brooder facilities. (The first few nights I might use a heat bulb on the chicks.) Anyhow, by my own idea of space requirement, a 10 by 20-foot building is more than ample. And it is tall enough so I can walk inside without hitting my head, as I did in the old coop.

Keep reading A chicken coop for a small flock at

The Pond at the Center of the Universe

By Gene Logsdon (1991)

The man standing stone-post-still on the shoreline of The Pond was watching a muskrat swimming on the water surface, its wake forming a V-shaped ripple of scarlet fading to indigo against the sunset. Without turning his head, which might scare the muskrat into diving underwater and scooting for its den, the man also watched, out of the corner of his eye, a great blue heron drifting down out of the sky toward him.

He was used to seeing the heron on its nightly trip up the creek valley, headed back to the rookery where most of Wyandot County’s herons, silent and solitary by day, gathered to roost. But this time, the huge slate-gray bird, its wingspan over five feet, was doing something wary great blue herons do not normally do. It continued to drift down in the twilight, made a pass over the pond, and then turned straight at him as if to land on one of the posts that held the homemade pier he was standing on. Forgetting the muskrat, but still not moving a muscle, the man watched aghast as the great bird hovered above him, like an avenging angel, and perched right on top of his head.

Not many people would have the steely nerves to suffer, without moving, a great blue heron’s talons gripping his head, but this man, my brothter-in-law, is not known in these parts for reacting to anything in an ordinary manner. He had already realized that no one was going to believe him unless he caught the bird. He started inching his right hand up the side of his body. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Gotcha! With one swift grab, he snatched the heron’s legs in his hand like a chicken thief removing a hen from the roost and bore his prize homeward so that all the neighborhood might see and believe. His family gathered round, ignorant of the danger involved. None of them knew that great blue herons can skewer an unsuspecting human’s eyeball right out of its socket with one lightning stab of its beak. This time, fortunately, its captor wore glasses and when the heron jabbed at him, it only knocked the glasses from his head. When another onlooker reached for the glasses, the heron speared him in the hand, having endured, it seemed, enough human attention for one day. A quick decision was reached. In the case of herons, better two in the bush than one in the hand. The bird haughtily stalked away, looking like the dignified old lady who hoped no one was watching when the wind momentarily blew her dress over her head. Then it regally pumped its wings up and down, slowly lifted itself into the air and flew away.

Continue reading The Pond at the Center of the Universe at

Biodynamics – The Original and Future Organic

From Dave Smith

We are blessed with numerous, pioneering biodynamic vineyards and farms here in Mendocino County. Action: Convert conventional farms to organics, and organic farms to Biodynamic. Here is a brief introduction:

BIODYNAMICS is the original foundation of publicly recognized organic agriculture. It is often called “organic plus” as this method is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also is minimally dependant on imported inputs and includes proactive holistic farming techniques such as herbal soil preparations, rigorous composting systems, and alignment with a planetary calendar. Avoidance of pest species is based on biological vigor and its intrinsic biological and genetic diversity.

Biodynamic agriculture was conceived in the 20th century by the philosopher Rudolf Steiner (photo). It is a naturally organic, holistic practice that seeks to maximise farm output while ensuring it is also self-sustainable. Special attention is given to balancing the farm with soil, plant, animal and cosmic processes in order to ensure continued harmony. The word “Biodynamics” combines the biology of agriculture with the dynamic aspects of ecological systems. Biodynamic agricultural principles emphasize living soil, the farm as a wholistic organism and acknowledges both the visible and invisible forces that create a healthy ecosystem.

The goal of a Biodynamic farm is to be able to support just the right balance of people, plants and animals, so that no outside inputs such as soil amendments or feed for the animals is needed. This is done by carefully timing planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting to coincide with the lunar and celestial phases which will most enhance the farm output. Specially made compost consisting of time-tested doses of plants, minerals and animal manure is applied throughout the seasons to enhance plant vitality and soil fertility.

Biodynamics uses a systematic ecological approach in which the farm is seen as a unique and self-sustaining entity. Any problems that arise are addressed within the confines of the farm itself. This means that fertilizers and pest management substances must be created on the farm.

Biodynamics is the oldest certified ecological farming system and has been an assurance of quality since it’s birth in 1928. When asked why the world was in so much turmoil and why people didn’t seem able to make moral and productive decisions necessary for positive change, Rudolf Steiner responded that our food lacked the etheric life forces to support our will. Steiner believed that the quality of food needed to improve for people to have enough will to be capable of making choices that would lead to a harmonious relationship with nature.

“Naturally grown wines… tell us what is real… These winemakers are basically saying they are prepared to be vulnerable to the rhythms of the earth… Can you taste the Biodynamics? Of course not. But, you can taste courage… you can taste tenderness in the winemaking itself… This is what is real… Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we need that absolutely.” ~~ Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator

More on Biodynamics based on “An Introduction To Biodynamic Agriculture”, originally published in Stella Natura calendar 1995.

What is Biodynamic agriculture? In seeking an answer let us pose the further question: Can the Earth heal itself, or has the waning of the Earths vitality gone too far for this? No matter where our land is located, if we are observant we will see sure signs of illness in trees, in our cultivated plants, in the water, even in the weather. Organic agriculture rightly wants to halt the devastation caused by humans; however, organic agriculture has no cure for the ailing Earth. From this the following question arises: What was the original source of vitality, and is it available now?

Biodynamics is a science of life-forces, a recognition of the basic principles at work in nature, and an approach to agriculture which takes these principles into account to bring about balance and healing. In a very real way, then, Biodynamics is an ongoing path of knowledge rather than an assemblage of methods and techniques.

Biodynamics is part of the work of Rudolf Steiner, known as Anthroposophy – a new approach to science which integrates precise observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the spirit. It offers an account of the spiritual history of the Earth as a living being, and describes the evolution of the constitution of humanity and the kingdoms of nature. Some of the basic principles of Biodynamics are:

Broaden Our Perspective
Just as we need to look at the magnetic field of the whole earth to comprehend the compass, to understand plant life we must expand our view to include all that affects plant growth. No narrow microscopic view will suffice. Plants are utterly open to and formed by influences from the depths of the earth to the heights of the heavens. Therefore our considerations in agriculture must range more broadly than is generally assumed to be relevant.

Reading the Book of Nature
Everything in nature reveals something of its essential character in its form and gesture. Careful observations of nature – in shade and full sun, in wet and dry areas, on different soils, will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements. So eventually one learns to read the language of nature. And then one can be creative, bringing new emphasis and balance through specific actions. Practitioners and experimenters over the last seventy years have added tremendously to the body of knowledge known as Biodynamics.

Cosmic Rhythms
The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops we are raising.

Plant Life Is Intimately Bound Up with the Life of the Soil
Biodynamics recognizes that soil itself can be alive, and this vitality supports and affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore, one of Biodynamics fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our soil through composting.

A New View of Nutrition
We gain our physical strength from the process of breaking down the food we eat. The more vital our food, the more it stimulates our own activity. Thus, Biodynamic farmers and gardeners aim for quality, and not only quantity. Chemical agriculture has developed short-cuts to quantity by adding soluble minerals to the soil. The plants take these up via water, thus by-passing their natural ability to seek from the soil what is needed for health, vitality and growth. The result is a deadened soil and artificially stimulated growth. Biodynamics grows food with a strong connection to a healthy, living soil.

Medicine for the Earth: Biodynamic Preparations
Rudolf Steiner pointed out that a new science of cosmic influences would have to replace old, instinctive wisdom and superstition. Out of his own insight, he introduced what are known as biodynamic preparations. Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles. These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles. When the process is complete, the resulting preparations are medicines for the Earth which draw new life forces from the cosmos. Two of the preparations are used directly in the field, one on the earth before planting, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. Effects of the preparations have been verified scientifically.

The Farm as the Basic Unit of Agriculture
In his Agriculture course, Rudolf Steiner posed the ideal of the self-contained farm – that there should be just the right number of animals to provide manure for fertility, and these animals should, in turn, be fed from the farm. We can seek the essential gesture of such a farm also under other circumstances. It has to do with the preservation and recycling of the life-forces with which we are working. Vegetable waste, manure, leaves, food scraps, all contain precious vitality which can be held and put to use for building up the soil if they are handled wisely. Thus, composting is a key activity in Biodynamic work. The farm is also a teacher, and provides the educational opportunity to imitate nature’s wise self-sufficiency within a limited area. Some have also successfully created farms through the association of several parcels of non-contiguous land.

Economics Based on Knowledge of the Job
Steiner emphasized the absurdity of agricultural economics determined by people who have never actually raised crops or managed a farm. A new approach to this situation has been developed which brings about the association of producers and consumers for their mutual benefit. The Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) movement was born in the Biodynamic movement and is spreading rapidly. Gardens or farms gather around them a circle of supporters who agree in advance to meet the financial needs of the enterprise and its workers, and these supporters each receive a share of the produce as the season progresses. Thus consumers become connected with the real needs of the Earth, the farm and the Community; they rejoice in rich harvests, and remain faithful under adverse circumstances.

Visiting Stephen and Gloria Decater, Live Power Community Farm, Covelo, Northern California

From Dave Smith (2005)

[I’m a member of a Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) farm. In the spring, members invest our fair share of money in the farm, and then, in return, we receive our fair share of the weekly harvest throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This is an interview I did with the farmers, Gloria and Stephen Decater, for my book, To Be Of Use. My photos are included. ~DS]

The Decater family runs a CSA (community-supported agriculture) diversified and partially solar-powered farm that every week supplies its 180 member families in Mendocino County and the Bay Area with fresh, high-quality biodynamic/organic food. They plow and till the land with their four draft horses. Besides growing almost fifty varieties of vegetables, they raise sheep, cows, chickens, and pigs.

We sit on old wooden chairs in the flower garden as the afternoon sun passes its zenith and heads toward the Pacific, miles west of us. Gloria has been flitting around the farm on a bike with a class of third graders from Marin County. Camped out for a four days of hard labor, they are absorbed in various projects organized by several farm apprentices and parents. Stephen has been out around the barn and pastures, working with apprentices who are planting and harvesting greens. Gloria has on old Levi’s and sandals with heavy wool socks; Stephen is in a worn green plaid flannel shirt, heavily soiled Levi’s, and deeply scuffed work boots. Despite their long hours and heavy schedules, they’re relaxed. They begin by describing the beauty and love they found in a garden.…

Stephen: I met Alan Chadwick in 1967 at his garden project at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a young, idealistic person I saw Alan as an older person doing something that was totally positive for the world … and this was during the Vietnam War with all kinds of awful things happening around us. The adage of beating your swords into plowshares felt real when I was putting my energy in that direction, growing food and flowers. Working in the garden opened this whole world of beauty and culture: the history of different flowers, where they had come from, how they needed to be taken care of, this whole world of activity, with the human being in nature, working in a supportive way. That took my heart and interest and eventually became what I spent all my time doing.

The garden was so vitally alive, and we were immersed in that life. When you are with the flowers for a couple of hours morning after morning, they have a kind of soul expression of the Earth, an expression of love. In Alan’s creation of a garden for people to come into and be immersed in, he was actually trying to create a healing. Those were “back-to-the-land” times, when people were wanting to reconnect with nature. Alan was doing that in a very conscious and cultured way. It wasn’t ”go back to nature by going wild” but rather, go to nature by recognizing the life there and working with the cultural skills that have been humankind’s heredity for centuries. For me it was the raw life-force connection, but at the same time, it was the cultural and artistic beauty a human being could create in the world as opposed to the ways humans destroy life.

So I’ve been trying to create the garden in my own life ever since then, and create it as a garden that is open to people so they have contact with nature, see it, feel it. You can talk about experiencing nature forever, but when someone comes in and their nose is immersed in a living flower, it suddenly hits them with the true expression of life. You are meeting other “beings,” not just human beings. It’s like when you are in relationship with someone and feel the love and caring that comes from them … that is something that is real and has an impact on your spirit and heart. In the garden you experience nature as being alive.

I followed Alan here to the Covelo Garden Project, where Gloria and I met, and we eventually began running our own farm. Everything in nature serves something else: the earth serves the plants, the fruit of the plants serves the animals, the manure from the animals serves the earth. [A screeching “cockadoodle” rings out from the barn area.] We can learn those relationships by becoming part of them. It was critical back in Santa Cruz. … I was bringing my friends into the garden there, and it continues to be critical in this urban-separated world to experience the bounty of food as a Gift.

When we talk with the kids who visit us, we ask them, “Where did this farm come from? Where did the animals come from? Did we make any of those things?” These things come from the wild world, nature, creation, to begin with, but when we bring them into the farm, we begin to culture them. You don’t have a farm without a human being. Without the human being, Mother Nature is taking care of the culture. So on the farm, we are being cocreative with nature, and we experience that relationship. Even though most people are not living on farms today, we are still eating food from farms that are occupying land somewhere. The problem is that now it’s an anonymous relationship. But in order to have real appreciation for the gifts of nature, our relationships with those gifts need to be more conscious. People eating food need to recognize that their partners are the Earth and the people growing the food — not some factory somewhere.

Gloria: Our school classes, which include parents, are here from the Bay Area for four days, and they only fully “arrive” on the farm about the second morning. They may not be able to verbalize their experience necessarily, but at some point in time, for some people immediately and for others after they leave, even ten or fifteen years later, they look back and say “that was the first time I really experienced life, living, the gift of life” — and they’re grateful for it. I’ve heard that from so many. That’s why we continue to share this farm. If I couldn’t feel that, and if there wasn’t that appreciation, I couldn’t do it. But I see the impact. [We can hear one of the Decater sons, Nicholas, pounding nails nearby as he finishes his current tool shop building project.] I’ve heard from quite a few college kids in their twenties who came here in third grade; they say it was the most intense experience in their school education, and they remember everything. When they come as kids, they can be, and succeed, and thrive on the farm in a way they can’t in school — and it can change their relationship with their classmates and teachers. The work they do here is not something made up for them. It’s real, valuable work that helps the farm go forward. It has an impact. They can feel it. They develop a sense of worth that they didn’t have before. And parents, realizing that their spoiled children are very capable of doing things if they’ll just let them, say: “Oh, they can be responsible! Oh, we’ve spoiled them rotten. We’d better change that. The way we’re raising them isn’t right.”

Stephen: Out of that they can see that shoveling up that manure to make compost is something human beings have devoted their lives to for thousands of years. [As Stephen begins to ruminate, Gloria moves nearby for some spontaneous weeding.] I once had an experience where I was totally distraught, worrying about different things, and I couldn’t really work, and finally in frustration I went out and started shoveling manure. All of a sudden it was like hundreds of thousands of people from centuries back in time were standing right there beside me, and I was shoveling manure with them as they had been doing for thousands of years. And it was like, “Okay! I’m not alone. I can do this!” This is where life is at, doing these mundane tasks, but they’re not separated out of time — they’re continuous with the whole of human experience. Our modern world separates us from that connection and that relationship. And the beauty of farming is this universality of life and activity that is flowing through the whole world. When we become part of that we lose our alienation and our separation; we can come together and recognize our relationships.

Gloria [returning]: A farmer’s life is so rhythmical, and that is why farmers can continue to work on and on through the days and years. When you’re doing something in rhythm it’s so much less tiring. For example, scything grain is really a dance form, and when you get going it is so beautiful, so enjoyable. You think to yourself how farmers in the past would get together and scythe all day, and sing, and be joyful, and how they loved it. When you milk a cow, you’re milking two teats at once. If you milk only one teat, you are twice as tired than if you milk two teats at once in rhythm. There’s just no comparison. That rhythm is so joyful.

Stephen: Hard, physical work can be enjoyable and rewarding. The bad rap in agriculture has come because people worked so hard and still couldn’t make a living — they weren’t economically compensated for their work. Eliminating people from agriculture has disconnected us all from the soil and the land. A farmer has two tasks: growing food that is nourishing is one level, but on another level there is a spiritual nourishment that comes only from being in a farm and experiencing the work of a farm. We need farms that can create that opportunity. Even if we could produce all of our food with corporate industrial organic production, although it would be better for the environment than conventional farming with chemicals, it would still leave people largely out of agriculture — we would still not have a culturally or socially conscious agriculture. If it’s going through a regular market system, there is a disconnect with people using that food, knowing where it comes from, how it is grown, whether the farmer’s needs are being met, and if the growing methods are sustainable long-term. This is cultural nourishment and spiritual nourishment that people are missing out on. [An apprentice stops by to ask advice about the harness they will be putting on the draft horses for the afternoon plowing.]

We need a new kind of farm, one that is not only market-oriented, as simply a producing unit, but a farm that is also an oasis that people can come into and experience the culture of their agriculture. It is too fundamental a part of human life to be left out of one’s existence. Large machinery and monocropping blocks that potential. In a given area of land that one large farm occupies, many small farms can produce equally, if not more food per acre, with more energy efficiency. It’s been proven over and over. If we human beings are to reconnect with the Earth and the life of the Earth, and sustain and heal that life, it is going to mean we need to create smaller farms that the community can have relationships with.

We run what is known as a community-supported agriculture, or CSA, farm. Family members pay a monthly or annual fee and then divide up the weekly allotment that comes from the farm. I view the CSA concept as a completely different economic process than we are used to thinking of traditionally as “market agriculture.” Historically, in market agriculture, we can see that the “market” has not maintained its farmer population. If the market system worked for farmers, you would see more of them prospering. [Several jabbering kids hurry by, on the way to their next project. They pass two of their classmates, who are pushing wheelbarrows stacked high with freshly scythed hay.]

When someone goes to the supermarket to buy food, only ten cents or less goes to the farmer. The only way to survive on that is to grow ten times more product, which is not possible without large capital inputs. So farming has become a system run by banks and large industrial corporations, subsidized by our taxes, that keeps food artificially cheap, driving out the small farmer who is not subsidized and can’t compete with their prices.

There is no future for the family farm under that system. So we need an approach where the people eating the food work directly with the people growing the food. If we want to create a local agriculture that is not so totally dependent on banks for capital, fossil fuels for energy, toxic chemicals for pest problems, and chemical fertilizers, and not burdened by the environmental destruction that comes from all that, we need to bring it back to a food system that works locally. We will need local farmers who have economic support that can sustain them and respects the Earth. We worked in market agriculture for several years. … We had a small farmer’s market locally in Covelo and sold to natural food markets in the county. There were not enough stores for us to be sustainable. We were only able to squeak by on limited income because we were growing all of our own family’s meat, milk, and produce. But it was impossible to do any of the capital improvements — build fences, lay pipelines — that we needed to take it to an economically viable level…

Stephen: In 1988 we heard about the CSA approach. As soon as we heard that idea, we knew that this was the way it should be: having a relationship with the people eating our food rather than a market relationship where we come to market with our produce, get people excited enough to buy something, and have to move the prices around to compete with our neighbor or other growers. In the conventional market the most important thing is that the food is cheap. That’s the best deal. But if that means the Earth gets shafted producing it, and the farmer gets short-changed and disappears, have we really gained any advantage? Farmers become an expendable resource, unrecognized as critically valuable people in the community. When the community supports the farm and farmer directly, then instead of getting ten cents from a dollar spent on the food, the farmer is getting eighty or ninety cents that can really be utilized on the farm. And that makes all the difference in the world to create economic viability. Even going to the farmer’s market makes it difficult to survive because we have to load all the food, get it to the market, sit there and sell it, and if it isn’t sold, we have to take it back to the farm. So we’re really absorbing some of the middleman’s and retailer’s costs, which makes it difficult.

Gloria: When we grow for our community members, we aren’t looking out in the field of lettuce and thinking, “That’s a dollar a head; next week it may be fifty cents a head; what is somebody going to pay for it?” Instead, we are getting away from the idea of what the vegetable costs, and instead we’re thinking, “Terry Nieves is going to eat this, Marla Anderson is going to eat this.” Their money for that lettuce goes to support the farm, environmentally and socially, and to have a relationship with their food and the farm, to support a farm that invites school kids into the farm. Alan Chadwick used to call it “finding your affinity with nature and life.” Kids visiting a large corporate farm get to see a farmer drive off in a large tractor on a hundred-acre field — not much to interact with.

A unique community supports our farm. We have the farmers, the farmers’ family, the apprentices, the member families from the Bay Area and Mendocino County, and the plants and animals. We have 180 member families. This is our sixteenth year. Maybe half have been with us the whole time. They have raised and educated their families around the farm, changed their diet, changed their budgets. There are things they don’t buy anymore, habits they don’t have anymore because they get their basket every week and learn to cook and eat according to what’s in season, and they have been thrilled with that — particularly in how that develops their relationship with their children. Many of the families’ children come to the farm, make compost, work on the farm, and develop a different relationship with food, and vegetables, and money. When they get their basket, many of the families lay it out on the table and think about what they’re going to eat for the next few days.

Some people can’t adapt to that of course. They’d rather go to the store or the farmer’s market and pick what they want, when they want it, and the quantity they want, and that’s perfectly fine. But we want people to be concerned about community and coming to the farm and seeing the farm and working with us and being concerned about the challenges and successes on the farm.

Stephen: We need that flexibility on the farm because we don’t know what nature is going to do each year. This year we planted fifteen hundred plants of broccoli and cabbage about three weeks ago, right before the late deluge of rain we had this year. In all the twenty-odd years we’ve been growing here, that has never happened. We got so much water in an already saturated ground that the rootlets just sat there smothered in water, unable to grow. They’re dead! We’ve never before lost a whole crop like that at one time. In a market format, the farmer is just out of luck at that point. If you are monocropping, with only one crop like corn, instead of a diversified farm of many crops, and you get a bad year where you lose a crop, and you’re on a weak economic footing, that can be the end. It can mean the foreclosure of your land. [A parent stops by to ask Gloria when they will need to have the evening meal prepared. Another parent is cutting flowers nearby for the table.]

Instead, CSAs humanize the economic process. Schumacher called it “economics as if people matter.” In the market, everybody is trying to find a new niche, a niche that works — which is great for a year or two until every other farmer finds the same niche, and then it’s off to finding another new niche to compete with. In this county, hops were the niche, then it was sheep, then pears for awhile, now it’s wine grapes. I don’t want to constantly fight that process; I simply want to grow good food. And I want to have lots of other farms around us growing good food, too. I don’t want to be in competition with them, finding niches or underpricing them. I just want to serve our community, meet their needs, and meet my family’s needs out of that relationship.

It takes only 180 households to support a small family farm. This is the opportunity for people today to make real change. Community farms can be initiated by a group of eaters finding a farmer to work with or by a farmer seeking out a group of eaters. We could be much less dependent on fossil fuels from the other side of the world by farming this way locally. By growing a lot of the food that is now coming from other parts of California and the world, we could have a healthy, diversified agriculture that feeds us. Being on the farm helps each of us understand the agricultural process, what our part in it is, and what is healthy for us all in the long run.

[There are those who denigrate the sixties and seventies as worthless excursions into mindless hedonism and excoriate the flower children and everything they stood for. The organic food movement and the small organic farms we are blessed with started with the flower children dropping out from what was… wanting to live healthier, more peaceful lives. They’re the ones who felt the problems, went back to the land, and relearned how to work with nature. And it will be their little islands of sanity and health, now matured into productive farms through hard work, that will be revealed to have been the better, more sustainable way after all: the “poor” inheriting the Earth. ~DS]

Live Power Community Farm Website

Did the Amish get it right after all?


By Gene Logsdon

There is an interesting development in mainstream U.S.A that just might have significant relevance for garden farming. Record numbers of people are acquiring pets. The dog and cat business is not at all depressed by the recession. (If you are wondering what all this has to do with the Amish, bear with me.) You see evidence of the trend everywhere, especially in advertisements where dogs are shown licking the cheeks of children— this in a society that has an almost manic dread of germs. Pets are the in-thing. Apparently our society is so enmeshed in its mechanical and electronic gadgetry that the human psyche is seeking solace in real life, as in the ancient loving connection that we have always enjoyed with animals.

The modern pet craze is not limited to cats and dogs but embraces many animals, especially horses. (Now you see how the Amish are going to get into this discussion.) Statistics say there are 6.9 million horses in the U.S. involved in various activities from racing, showing, pleasure riding, polo, police work, farming and ranching. The horse business or hobby adds about $112 billion to the GNP. Horses generate more money than the home furniture and fixtures business, and almost as much as the apparel and textile manufacturing industry. In other words, while we generally think of Old Dobbin as a step backward in time in agriculture, horses are very much a part of our modern economic and social lives today.

Continue reading Did the Amish get it right after all? at OrganicToBe

Friends of the Market

From Scott Cratty
Mendocino County

Greetings.  This message is a day early for two reasons — but don’t let that lull you into forgetting to come to the market Saturday. Mark your calendar now.  It should be another, almost freakishly, beautiful day at the Farmers’ Market this Saturday.  Plus Don Willis will be back to entertain us on the accordion.

The important reason for getting this message out early is to alert you to what promises to be a worthwhile radio listening opportunity — featuring one of our very own market vendors as the host — happening tonight.  Join Doug Mosel for an exploration of what can be done to encourage and support small farms and farmers.   Its tonight on the Agriculture and Ecology Hour, when host Doug Mosel brings you the story of the New England Small Farm Institute.  The Institute is dedicated to supporting sustainable small-scale agriculture and beginning farmers.  Listen in to learn what they are doing to grow new farmers in New England.  Tuesday at 7 p.m. on KZYX & Z radio (90.7, 91.5 or 88.1) or  online at

A less important reason is that Holly & I will be busy attending Professional Food Manager Certification Training tomorrow, but that is an entirely different adventure.

Pinky Kushner has been busy of late sitting for her daughter, who is in turn touring the country to support her — fantastic and successful book, Telex From Cuba.  Head to your local bookstore today to get a copy.  But, she made it to the market last Saturday and wanted to share a discovery with all of you:

I just wanted to tell you about an absolutely scrumptious find at the Market last weekend—Romaine lettuce from the Ortiz Brothers. Now, I know Romaine is considered fairly common these days, what with red oak leaf lettuce and fancy bibs available, but, seriously, the head I found last Saturday of this tried and true classic had the most fantastic taste and after-taste of any Romaine I have ever eaten. Even the core, which usually is bitter, was spectacular—after I tasted it, I cubed it and threw it into the salad.  I don’t know if it is the time of year, the lack of rain or the magic wrought by the Ortiz Brothers.  And culinary note: be sure to taste it before slathering it with a heavy dressing.   The taste is so amazing that it really doesn’t need anything other than a good olive oil (local please) and a dash of Meyer lemon or mild vinegar.   Please alert others to this find.

Thanks for the tip.

Get home on Saturday and make something wonderful with your market goodies? Why not share it with your neighbors.  Drop me a line with a description and the recipe.  I will start featuring recipe tips from recent markets on this list and in my Friday UDJ column.

See you at the market.

The Greenhorn’s Guide for Beginning Farmers

via Energy Bulletin

This is a guidebook for beginning farmers. It is written to help you plan your professional trajectory into the field of sustainable agriculture. In this 30-page guide, we cover some of the major areas of institutional support for young farmers, some likely venues of learning and useful references. You should come away with a sense of how to approach the many hurdles with style, persistance, and improvisational zip.

Greenhorn’s Guidebook for Beginning Farmers

Mendocino Organics CSA Blog

Draft Proposal for a Mendocino Community Based Farming Network (Live Power Community Farm)

A Fifty-Year Farm Bill by Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry, NYT

Fifty Million Farmers, Richard Heinberg at Energy Bulletin

Knowing One’s Place

By Gene Logsdon (1991)

Dave Haferd sees his farm with eyes that are 200 years old. He knows every foot of its 180 acres, on top and underneath. Walking across his land, he discourses endlessly and joyfully upon almost any rock, post, tree, clod, weed, or building that his eye falls upon. The gully that cuts deeply into the hill going down to the creek is where the road used to go years and years past, he says. The boulder in the fence corner required two days of hard work to move out of the field, he says, which reminds him that over in another field—he waves his arm in a southerly direction—there is a stone so huge embedded in the soil that he has never been able to move it. He worries, now that he is thinking of retiring, that the next farmer will break his plow on it.

Continue reading Knowing One’s Place at

Farmers Market News


From Scott Cratty

Greetings  –

Happy New Year!

This Saturday Ukiah’s 1st farmers’ market of 2009 will almost surely be bigger than the close of 2008 (which was cold, spare and poorly attended … the smallest on record by a wide margin).  Thanks to you hardy few who attended.  My apology to the couple of you who arrived close to 1 p.m. and found us packing up … it was just too cold for a few of the vendors after the propane tank for the heater ran dry.

Lots of good signs for the start of 2009.  Pedro Ortiz should be back from vacation. Mendocino Organics will be back as will most of our other regular vendors (don’t forget to keep up with Paula’s great blog.)  With a bit of luck somewhat calmer waters should also increase the range of fish.

We will have Jerry Krantmanback with his eclectic acoustic music … he might even let you sing along with a tune or two.  Plus, it should be a bit warmer.  Heck, it might even crack 50.  I will be refilling the propane tank just in case.

Don’t forget to get your ticket for our new raffle.  Loads of fine stuff.

As always, the market is in Alex Thomas Plaza on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Check Friday’s UDJ for part two of my New Year’s food rant.

Community Announcement:

Learn how to create your own Victory Garden.  A free class for beginners presented by Mendocino County’s Master Gardeners that will cover how to choose a garden location, play the layout, prepare the soil, plant, irrigate and maintain a garden.  Bring a picture or map of your yard and a jar with tight fitting lid half full of dirt from the location you wish to plant. January 17, 8:30-noon, 2240 Old River Rd.   To register contact JT via email at jtwilli@ucdavisedu or call 463-4495.

See you at the market.

Ohio Amish Farmers Food Co-op Raided – KZYX Tuesday Ecology Hour 7-8pm


From Steve Scalmanini

via Doug Mosel

Various news reports:

Ohio authorities stormed a farm house in LaGange Monday, December 1, to execute a search warrant, holding the Jacqueline and John Stowers and their son and young grandchildren at gunpoint for nine hours. During the raid the Ohio Department of Agriculture and police confiscated over ten thousand dollars worth of food, computers and cell phones. The Stowers’ crime? They run a private, members-only food co-op.

While state authorities were looking for evidence of illegal activities,
the family was not informed what crime they were suspected of, they were not read their rights or allowed to make a phone call. The children, some as young as toddlers, were traumatized by armed officers interrogating the adults with guns drawn.

The Morning Journal, a newspaper serving northern Ohio, reported that the Stowers were believed to be operating without a license. However, the Stowers claim that the food co-op they run does not engage in any activities that would require state licensing.

Friends of the Stowers openly question why such aggressive tactics were necessary to investigate a licensing complaint.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has apparently been chastised by the courts in previous cases for over-reach, including entrapment of an Amish man to sell raw milk, which backfired, when it became known that the man gave milk instead of selling it to a state undercover agent, refusing to take money for what he believed to be a charitable act. The Amish literally interpret the Gospel of Matthew (5:42) to “give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

The matter has been forwarded to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lorain County General Health District according to Lorain County court records.

Self-Reliance vs. Self-Sufficiency

From So Shall We Reap, Colin Tudge
via The Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins

A system of farming that was truly designed to feed people and to go on doing so for the indefinite future, would be founded primarily on mixed farms and local production. In general, each country (or otherwise convenient political or geographical unit) would contrive to be self-reliant in food. Self-reliant does not mean self-sufficient. A self-sufficient country would produce absolutely everything that it needed, and would not trade with outsiders and this, for most countries, would be a non-sense…

Self-reliance does mean, however, that each country [or county or region – Ed.] would produce its own basic foods, and be able to get by in a crisis. Strategically, this can be highly desirable. Britain found this in both world wars, when the entire country was under siege. Today, surely, most poor countries would benefit from basic self-reliance, and might well make this their prime goal, even if they also attempt to compete in world markets with rivals that have various kinds of head start.

See also Disaster Farming


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