Archive for the 'farmers' Category

When you think about recycling, what do you see — plastic containers piling up in the garage maybe? The overflowing bin of clinking wine bottles you’re more than a little embarrassed by on pickup day? Do you just see waste? Out of mind once it’s out of sight.

Or … do you see a farm?

Today, we’re talking with Gerry Gillespie. When he thinks about recycling, he sees healthy soil and nutritious food. He sees communities coming together to claim the rightful value of what most of us think of as trash.

In his native Australia, Gillespie saw two big problems he wanted to fix: farmland that had been degraded by years of chemical agriculture and overstuffed landfills that were belching methane into the atmosphere.

The answer to both problems would be to harness a largely untapped resource hiding in plain sight — the massive amounts of organic matter being discarded every day. We’re talking about yard waste, cardboard and newspaper. We’re talking about kitchen scraps — the potato peels, the coffee grounds, the eggshells. What if we could capture these nutrient-rich resources and funnel them into regenerative farming systems?

An internationally recognized recycling expert, Gerry Gillespie wants to challenge our preconceptions about waste. And he’s been doing this kind of work for decades. He’s a pioneer in the Zero Waste movement and the mastermind behind the City to Soil project, which connects household organic matter with farmers. He is the author of a new book from Acres U.S.A. called The Waste Between Our Ears: The Missing Ingredient to Disrupt Climate Change is in the Trash. He’s traveled all over the world to spread the word, but he calls New South Wales home.

 

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On this episode, we’re talking with Darby Simpson. If Tractor Time is only but a part of your farming podcast diet, you may already know who he is. He does the Grassfed Life podcast with Diego Footer. He’s also a contributor to Acres U.S.A. magazine. And what I really value about his perspective is its practicality. Through his podcasts and online courses, it’s clear he wants to help equip farmers with the tools to run successful farms — not just act out a romantic, Instagram version of farm life. He truly puts the economical in eco-agriculture. But he’s a conscientious farmer too, running a pasture-based, non-GMO livestock operation in Indiana, located between Indianapolis and Bloomington. In this interview, we talk about everything from farm diversification to the future of farmers’ market to the impact of COVID-19. Darby’s answers are thoughtful, insightful and, hopefully, prophetic.

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Recently, an Acres U.S.A. reader gave us a piece of sheet music he found while cleaning out his barn. The song’s called “The Farmer Feeds Us All.” It’s an old standard that has been performed in some form or fashion by everyone from Fiddlin’ John Carson to Pete Seeger to Ry Cooder. You should go listen to it. I’ll link to the Fiddlin’ John Carson version in the show notes. 

I’ve been thinking about this song as the coronavirus pandemic lays low entire sectors of the U.S. and world economy, spreads sickness to the rich and poor alike, and gathers a dark cloud of fear and uncertainty over our future.

And yet, as national emergencies often are — at least for a time — the pandemic has been clarifying, forcing us to think about what truly matters most. Now, if you watch the evening news, you might assume that’s toilet paper. But for many, this time has been about reconnecting with loved ones. It’s been about reconnecting with the things that nourish us — things like faith, family and food.

 Along with “social distancing,” “essential services” has been one of the new phrases to enter our lexicon over the last few months. In addition to health care providers and grocery store workers, we are reminded during this time that farmers, too, are essential to our survival.

We here at Acres U.S.A. have always marveled at the determination and the creativity small farmers show us in their tireless efforts to bring us nutritious food. In preparing for our May issue, which we put together this month, we reached out to many of these men and women to see how they were weathering the storm. What we heard was inspiring. Farmers aren’t panicking. They’re just getting to work.

Marty Travis runs Spence Farm in Illinois along with his wife Kris and son Will. He’s also an Acres U.S.A. author. His book, My Farmer, My Customer can be found at the acresusa.com bookstore. Marty leads a co-op of farmers that serves some of the top restaurants in the Chicago area (watch the documentary Sustainable for more on that). Many of those restaurants went into hibernation during the outbreak, but they didn’t forget about Marty’s group. The chefs put out the word that there was plenty of fresh food for sale. The demand from families was so high that the co-op saw a big spike in its usual revenue. And even though he had barely slept a wink when we talked to him this month, Marty was still finding time to offer farmers words of encouragement. I was really inspired by what he had to say and I hope you are too.

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Tractor Time is brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. On this episode, we welcome Mimi Casteel, a wine maker in Oregon's Eola-Amity Hills. At Hope Well Vineyard, Casteel is blazing her own trail and fast becoming one of the leading voices in the regenerative agriculture movement. Mimi talks eloquently and brilliantly — not just about wine, but agriculture and land use in general. As you’ll hear, her beyond-organic farm is singular within the American wine world. It’s not your typical vineyard, with its neat and tidy rows, it’s a dynamic ecosystem that incorporates livestock, welcomes in wild animals, eschews industrial inputs and produces prized pinot noirs. And for this work, Mimi was recently named the Wine Person of the Year by Imbibe Magazine.

She grew up on her parent’s vineyard, and winemaking is truly in her blood, but so are wild landscapes, the ones she drew nourishment and meaning from when she was a botanist for the Forest Service. She left that job in 2005 to work at her family’s vineyard and eventually started her own on an old Christmas Tree farm. Although it might be a surprising coming from a former Forest Service employee, she believes that the world won’t be saved by wilderness areas, but by completely re-envisioning how we grow our food.

 

 

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Dr. Zach Bush is a triple-board certified physician, with a focus on internal medicine, endocrinology, and hospice and palliative care. He currently runs a clinic in rural Virginia that focuses on plant-based nutrition and holistic health. He’s an entrepreneur with a mind-boggling array of projects to his resume. So why is he on a podcast devoted to sustainable and organic agriculture? It’s quite a story, as you’ll hear. At his clinic a few years ago, Dr. Bush began noticing that nutrition-based medicine just wasn’t working as he had expected. Some of his patients were just getting sicker. That led him on a journey deep into a dysfunctional and toxic agricultural system that through the heavy use of chemicals like glyphosate is robbing crops of nutritional value, accelerating the decline of human health, destroying the environment and paving the way for mass extinction. Yeah, it gets pretty bleak — there’s talk of disease, cataclysm and collapse — but stick with it — because Dr. Bush is at heart a radical optimist. He believes that regenerative agriculture can save the world by creating healthy soils that will sequester carbon, reverse climate change, produce highly nutritious food and create healthy humans. To further that mission, Dr. Bush has started Farmers Footprint, a nonprofit that aims to transition 5 million acres to regenerative practices by 2025. According to Dr. Bush, all successful revolutions start with farmers.

 

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If you’ve seen the documentary “Sustainable,” you know that Spence Farm is a special place. It’s owned and operated by Marty Travis, along with his wife, Kris and son, Will. Their farm supplies organic vegetables and heritage meats to some of the top kitchens in the City of Chicago — Fronterra Grill, Girl and the Goat and The Publican, to name a few. But that might undersell what Marty and his family have built. The way that they’ve developed relationships, not just with chefs, but also with a network of small farmers, is nothing shorting of astounding. To our mind, Spence Farm is a vision for the future of food. Marty has a new book out titled, “My Farmer, My Customer: Building Business & Community Through Farming Healthy Food” (Acres U.S.A., 2019). It's currently available for pre-order at the AcresUSA.com bookstore. Marty is also a featured speaker at the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota in December.

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Hosted by Ben Trollinger / Editor, Acres U.S.A.

Hello and welcome to Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host, Ben Trollinger, and as always, I want to say thank you to our sponsors, BCS America.

You’re probably heard of kamut (kah-moot), also known as khorasan wheat, also known as King Tut’s Wheat. It’s drought resistant and highly nutritious. It’s in organic breakfast cereals. It’s in pasta. People with gluten sensitivity can eat it. Artisan bakers drool over it.

It’s one of organic farming’s biggest success stories. It’s a story that’s rooted deep in history and it that might just show us the way forward.

I’m joined by Bob Quinn and Liz Carlisle, co-authors of Grain by Grain: A Quest to Revive Ancient Wheat, Rural Jobs, and Healthy Food.

The book details Quinn’s journey over the last several decades to turn his dryland farm in Big Sandy, Montana into a powerhouse of organic and regenerative agriculture. Through his multi-million dollar heirloom grain company, Kamut International, Quinn has managed to create a durable network of around 200 organic farmers.

Quinn was also instrumental in shaping the country’s first organic food standards back in the late 1990s. Before that, in the 1980s, he helped establish standards for his home state. 

Liz Carlisle is a lecturer in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. Her first book, Lentil Underground, prominently features Bob Quinn’s work and also won the Montana Book Award and the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. She’s a forager of regenerative agriculture wisdom — and also a recovering country and western singer.

1 hour, 4 minutes

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Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh & Ben Trollinger / Sponsored by BCS America

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host, Ryan Slabaugh, and as always, I want to say thank you to our sponsors, BCS America. Today’s theme is all about happy pigs, and profitable pig operations, and an interesting breed called Guinea Hogs. 

First, I’ve got someone to introduce to everyone this episode. It will be the new host of Tractor Time, which I’m proud to say is Ben Trollinger, the new editor at Acres USA. I’m not going too far, but will stay involved helping Ben produce and grow the podcast, while I get to go focus on getting a few new exciting projects up and running.

Ben will join before he interviews Cathy Payne, our guest on this episode. Cathy is the author of Saving the Guinea Hogs, a new book that is on sale in the Acres U.S.A. bookstore.

First, I recently took a trip to Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, and got a chance to tour their hog operation. To make sure this episode is all pig-themed, I thought I’d share some audio I got from touring their operation. 

Thanks again to our listeners and our sponsor, BCS America. You can find this podcast at ecofarmingdaily.com, acresusa.com, or anywhere podcasts can be played. Thanks, and have a great week. 

If you want, shoot a note to Ben at btrollinger@acresusa.com. He’d love to hear from you.

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Good day and welcome to Tractor Time, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host Ryan Slabaugh, and I’m happy to bring you the 26th episode of our podcast. Thanks again to Albert Lea seeds for making this episode possible.

A few announcements — Minnesota is the theme of today’s show. Acres USA will be in Minnesota in December for our annual conference, and one of the reasons — other than the great December weather there — is the amount of trailblazing agriculture that is going on in that region. You can learn more about our event at www.acresusa.com — tickets will go on sale later this spring. But before that, we’ll get into some of that agriculture, and talk to some of the country’s original grassfed beef farmers. 

Today, we’re going to have two cattlemen on the show to discuss their operations and some current topics, a few of which are creating quite a debate: Matt Maier, with Thousand Hills Cattle in Minnesota, and Will Winter, a teacher of holistic animal medicine and founder of the American Holistic Livestock Association. I met Will at our annual conference a couple years ago, and recognized his trademark cowboy hat and beard. He’s written for our magazine and spoken to our audiences before, and we’re excited to have him on the show today.

I met Matt’s team at our conference last year and learned that they had pursued Savory Institute Hub certification, and are — and have been —leading the way with regenerative agriculture. Their cattle were grazing 365 days a year in Minnesota, which is not an easy thing to accomplish, and takes a disciplined system. Will and Matt worked together in Minnesota at Thousand Hills.

During our talk, they walked me through the Polar Vortex experience, where temperatures reached -30 on their farm, and their reactions to the Green New Deal, as well as sharing some ideas and inspiration for new cattle farmers. 

Here’s a video that shows off the environment at Thousand Hills:

https://youtu.be/5ZezvrKOxS4

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Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh

This episode is a bit unique from the others, which are usually done in the comforts of my office back in Greeley, Colorado. For most recordings, it’s me, a microphone, an interview guest and my dog snoring in the corner. If you need the full picture, I even prop a sign up in my windowed door that says, “On Air.” But that’s really just for me – it makes me feel official.

But so does this scene where I am today. Today, we are broadcasting from Belize, specifically, Belmopan, Belize, at the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Festival. We first met one of the organizers, Beth Roberson, a Belizian farmer, in Columbus, Ohio, last year during our annual conference. Beth left inspired to start her own educational conference down here, picked our brains a bit, and recruited some of our speakers and former Tractor Time guests like regenerative poultry specialist Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin and Regeneration International’s André Leu, among others.

Let me set the stage a bit. Belize is a small country of about 350,000 people, just south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. It’s known for having the second largest reef in the world off its coast, and for being an English colony until the early 1980s. The country, very proud of its freedom, is still finding its feet. The Guatemalan president threatens them with invasion, and England still has a small standing army there as a reminder to their neighbors.

Belmopan is a small town of a few thousand, and wears a few scars. The main roads are paved, but most are not, but a fountain roundabout greets visitors on the Western Highway. A bar-restaurant called “Cheers” greets guests as they arrive into town before a roundabout — I met the owner, and she told me she also runs a “small” farm behind it that includes horses, sheep, cattle, goats and chickens, and yes, she composts from the restaurant. On the other side of the highway, the entrance to a national park. Inside the town, a large agriculture grounds with stages, test gardens and plenty of native trees. This is where the festival was held this week.

The event started with the national anthem, sung by an 8-year-old local schoolgirl. It’s clear from the anthem what the country does not want — tyrants and colonizers. And it’s clear that they want to be a free country, although they are still grappling with which economy will drive its future. The tourism economy, which favors hotels and airports and large ports, or a more local economy, where manufacturing, agriculture and other jobs will fill the gap.

Agriculture, though, will have some part. It has to. Or at least, it’d be silly not to. Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, jackfruits, etc. From any city, it doesn’t take long to be in the country, where anyone would be taken in by the variety of flora, fauna and wildlife, which range from toucans to jaguars to crocodiles. Our first hour in the country, as we pulled into our hotel, the sounds of howler monkeys greeted us. (You’ll have to listen to the podcast for the full effect.)

The next day, the conference began. We heard a resounding call to action from Ronnie Cummins, on the board with Regeneration International, which was followed by two days of educational speeches on five different stages, ranging from permaculture to seed saving to agritourism. All were rooted in how Belize can transform its agriculture into one of the world’s best. And no matter what, you have to give something to a country that starts its weekends on Thursday nights.

Here’s what clips you can find on the podcast. Also, you’ll hear some thumping in the background, and truck noise. I apologize for that recording issue – (I wasn’t counting on so much foot stomping on stage when I set up the microphone, nor could I do much about the nearby highway traffic.)

Ronnie Cummins, Board Member of Regeneration International

Here’s that talk from Ronnie that opened up the conference. It’s about 16 minutes, and full of fire and fury. 

Taylor Walker, Biodiverse Systems Designer

Next, a highlight I recorded from Taylor Walker. A jack-of-all trades who designs gardens and permaculture environments, including Naples Botanical Gardens, Inland ecology Research Group, Sanibel Sea School and others. In Belize, he is managing Tropical Agro-Forestry farms.

I’ll play a few minutes of his talk, as he walks about 50-60 people in his class through specific plants that grow well in Belize, like bread fruit. 

Christopher Nesbitt, Regenerative Agriculturist

Christopher Nesbitt, a regenerative agriculturist, has spent 30 years restoring a piece of damaged land in the Maya foothills. His land is now filled with more than 500 species of plants, all of which are harvestable. His talk was about his work. Here’s just a piece about that biodiversity. 

Santiago Juan, Agritourism in Belize

Santiago Juan, born and raised in Cayo District Belize, owns and operates a resort farm in the country. He spoke about agritourism, and how Belize can use its organic lands, pristine wilderness, and local food production to create a unique, authentic experience. One side note: his talk was not without some controversy, as some Belizian farmers weren’t too sure they wanted hoards of camera-toting Westerners posing with their pigs. But alas, the discussion assuaged some fears, and again showed what is to be gained, or lost, in such a wonderful country, one that is still building itself into an autonomous, self-sustained citizen of the world. (And sorry for the popping on this audio. It was lunch time, and the nearby passing trucks’s jake brakes kept blowing out the microphone.)

That’s it — and a few rambles from me. Thanks for reading and listening.

Find the Tractor Time podcast in the iTunes store, or at www.acresusa.com, or at ecofarmingdaily.com. It’s a bunch of other places too. Thanks for helping grow our food   – have a great week.

 

 

 

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