Sunday, April 16, 2017


Every year the farm demonstrates Easter. This year we had the first of the spring crop of calves born on Friday and Saturday before Easter Sunday. Perfect looking little black calves, two heifers and a bull, they carry with them much of the hope to adapt our cow herd increasingly to the grass as we go into the future. Their sire was a three quarters lowline Angus bull while their mothers are black Angus/Hereford crossbreds. They will be smaller than their mothers at maturity and larger than their sire. The whole scene symbolizes hope, which we do have in spite of these dark times. And we wish it for you as well. Jim

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins report in Alternet that the Organic Consumers Association, along with IFOAM Organics International and others, supports the French effort to meet the carbon reduction goals set at the Climate conference just held in Paris. France “has launched the 4/1000 Initiative which, distilled to simplest terms, says this: If, on a global scale, we increase the soil carbon content of the soil by .04 percent each year for the next 25 years, we can draw down a critical mass of excess carbon from the atmosphere and begin to reverse global warming. How do we achieve those numbers? All we have to do is help just 10 percent of the world’s farmers and ranchers adopt regenerative organic agriculture, holistic grazing and land management practices — and by help, we mean direct a portion of the billions of dollars earmarked for climate solution projects to farmers who regenerate the world’s soils. Using the French government’s modest estimates, we can transfer, via enhanced plant photosynthesis, 150 billion tons of this carbon back into the soil in the next 25 years. Scientists estimate the world’s soils have lost 50-70% of their carbon stocks and fertility.” The USA, of course, wants nothing to do with any of this. This is not the typical slant on news relating to climate change. Much more usual is geoengineering cheerleading. Naomi Klein, also in Alternet, says: “. . .an American entrepreneur named Russ George dumped 120 tons of iron dust off the hull of a rented fishing boat; the plan was to create an algae bloom that would sequester carbon and thereby combat climate change. Mr. George is one of a growing number of would-be geoengineers who advocate high-risk, large-scale technical interventions that would fundamentally change the oceans and skies in order to reduce the effects of global warming. In addition to Mr. George’s scheme to fertilize the ocean with iron, other geoengineering strategies under consideration include pumping sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere to imitate the cooling effects of a major volcanic eruption and “brightening” clouds so they reflect more of the sun’s rays back to space.” “The risks are huge. Ocean fertilization could trigger dead zones and toxic tides. And multiple simulations have predicted that mimicking the effects of a volcano would interfere with monsoons in Asia and Africa, potentially threatening water and food security for billions of people.” “Bill Gates has funneled millions of dollars into geoengineering research. And he has invested in a company, Intellectual Ventures, that is developing at least two geoengineering tools: the “StratoShield,” a 19-mile-long hose suspended by helium balloons that would spew sun-blocking sulfur dioxide particles into the sky and a tool that can supposedly blunt the force of hurricanes.” Some of this stuff would make Jules Verne blush. And when contrasted with the reasoned approach of the Organic Consumers Association, it reveals a real disconnect between those who believe in technology and those who believe in people. Why would not anyone choose to have a little faith in people rather than take the huge chances that go with bringing large technological solutions to bear on a huge problem, resulting in possibly disastrous consequences for all of us? Matt Tabbai points to the problem. Mr. Tabbai, writing in Rollingstone says that the time to turn off Donald Trump was forty years ago, when we started to compress all reality into soundbites on television news. We have several generations of Americans now that cannot think about anything deeply, that really do believe all issues are encompassed in a few words, that solutions are easy and generally violent, and that television shows reality. And this has everything to do with how the elites get away so easily with convincing us that every problem is to be solved by certified smart guys in labs, while we commoners fritter away our time on football and shopping. Yes, our institutions have failed us. Our news media castrates our minds. Education teaches myth rather than history, computer rather than science, techno talk and video making rather than English. It is a wonder any of us can think clearly! Neither party represents anything but money in our “representative democracy”. Take the Democrats for instance: Suppose that when Justice Lewis Powell wrote the note to the financial and political elites in the early seventies about taking the country back from the middle and working classes and establishing the elites once again firmly in the saddle, the Democratic party had reacted by saying that it would continue to be the party of the working class(all races) rather than embarking on its half century march into the pockets of Wall Street. Hard to imagine! But in that circumstance, would there even be a Donald Trump today? Not just as a political candidate, now, but also as a carnival barker, and purveyor of televised “rich without working” fantasies? How much audience would he have in a nation of people that felt heard in their government, that felt vitally involved in the progress of their society and valued in their neighborhoods? Does not a degenerate politician need a degenerate populace to hear his degenerate palaver? Alan Savory, the thinker responsible for the principles of Holistic Management says that “the magnitude of world desertification. . .one of the factors responsible for climate change, has already grown beyond the power of any human organization to handle. So great is the challenge now. . .that only ordinary people can do it-you and I-teachers, farmers, foresters, range managers, mothers and fathers. . .” This is a legitimate hope. And this we try to practice-haltingly and imperfectly-on our farm. It is what we can try to do.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Our organic and farmer conferences continue to amaze. There are a good supply of us greybeards on hand of course, but each year there are more and more young people, many couples, little kids running everywhere and babies being carried. It gives us hope for the future but we must hear their most common comment-"We can't get access to land"-and see to it that changes. We must not waste this generation of bright young people! Jim

Monday, February 27, 2017


We spent Thursday through Friday at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Conference. Seeing long time friends is always wonderful. It is a fact that we who do things a little differently in agriculture are so scattered and sparse that it takes a regional conference like this to relax and feel among friends. And the large numbers of young people with their children and babies is heartening. The mood among us older ones at least was pensive. Many face retirement without really knowing how best to proceed. All too many have no one to help into the business following us. And current political events point to a real wrong turn taken by our politicos, and perhaps all of us, beginning decades ago. How did it get so terribly wrong? We have work to do, no matter our age. The first question is about order and priorities. What needs to come first? It is my hope that as we work to pull us and our country back from rage, hatred and fear and to heal those corrosive attitudes we can also see some of what needs to be restored in order for us all to live a satisfactory and conserving life here on earth, and to take on that work. We have reached a critical point in our country and the world. Let none of us shirk the task.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


One thing that upsets the feeding plan to outwinter-feed on pasture-the cattle is a thaw. We have had several this odd winter already and the cattle generate an amazing amount of mud. They punch holes in the sod, destroying the pastures, and fouling the feed. It is becoming apparent that we must always have a plan B. Now typically we feed the cow herd on the cropping acres. We couldn't this year because of the wet late summer and fall. This meant we weren't able to get all our cornstalk bales-bedding-hauled in. Cattle out there would wreck the bales, so we gave it up and kept them on the pastures. Now they need to come off, to the lots I suppose, much as I hate it. The Sustainable Farming Association has made available several videos of Alberta, Canada farmers winter feeding their cattle and I am fascinated by the idea of placing the bales in October and then bale grazing by means of an advancing hot wire for the winter. But this winter shows me that at least part of that layout must be on the cropping acres for use during the warm times. The mess can be more easily corrected if you are just planting corn anyhow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

soil health

The fourth annual soil health conference sponsored by the Sustainable Farming Association runs this week in Fergus Falls. I can't go and am really missing it. We have had someone, generally me, there each year as this is critical stuff. Attention to soil health, to the multitude of microscopic critters and plants that should be in the soil, is key to so much. Those critters grow plants which cover the soil and provide food for animals and us. Soil critters stabilize the soil, keeping it from washing and blowing away. And they sequester carbon, something all of us need to understand as we try to stabilize our climate that we have been burning so much carbon into. Sequestering happens as organic matter in the soil is built, and building that requires living roots in the soil at all times of year. It requires regular cover crops featuring a variety of species and it is likely to mean more farming with perennial plants instead of annual. These things would be revolutionary in agriculture and the pity is that so few know about them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

winter work

This year we needed to keep the cattle on the permanent pastures rather than sending them back to the cropping acres for winter feeding.  So there they are, munching on hay while being "watched" by our newly installed array of solar panels.  Meanwhile winter was kicking up with snow and wind last week while we needed to wean the pigs, move their mothers back to the gestation area and install the next group of pregnant animals in the farrowing pens.  "The difficult we do right away, the impossible takes a little longer!"  But as always, we are grateful to have important work to do.