Small Grains Report

posted June 4, 2018

In February 2016, Greenhorns hosted a group of innovators in small-scale grains projects at Paicines Ranch, California for a first-of-its-kind convening.

We brought together these 40 farmers, millers, bakers and food activists for the purpose of discerning the trends and needs of the local grain movement. Our aim was to support relationship-building and networking amongst these pioneers. We also hoped to draw some conclusions about the next infrastructural developments and investments needed by this emerging regional grains economy.

The group represented a broad cross section of this burgeoning sector, all of whom participate in develop- ing the supply chain for a regional grain marketplace. Meanwhile, the majority of US produced, mainstream grains and beans are grown for anonymous commodity markets. Farms are often 2000 acres and larger because the crops are high-volume but low value that privilege vast acreages and expensive large scale machinery. These barriers are part of the reason staple crops are late to lo- cal markets. Another reason is that they require intermediate processing facilities such as mills and malt houses, which disappeared as farming and food handling consolidated during the early part of the 20th century.

History of grain production in the US

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, agricultural technology, from seeds to machinery, advanced and grain farming consolidated in grain belts around the country (like Idaho/ Washington, California, North Dakota, Kansas). By the 1950s and 1960s, the only milling happening at a local and small scale was for animal feed. Consolidation of grain processing has resulted in near monopoly control by Cargill etc.. who operate plants across the country. Everything from seed to market is preset for this dominant system.

Rebuilding regional, and regionally owned, grain production means creating new infrastructure, like community and on-farm mills, on-farm and regional storage and distribution channels, and developing seeds suited to locales, as well as local agricultural knowledge. Beyond these basics, professional bakers and brewers need training. These professionals are used to the uniformity of commodity products. They also need education on how to handle the variations that occur when growing and processing on a small scale. Simple logistics of getting regional staples to regional users are challenging, as storage and shipping facilities need reinvention, too. It takes quite a multi-dimensional team to steward these crops seed to loaf and ground to glass.

The people gathered at the ranch are at the forefront of a growing interest in traceable, sustainably produced staple crops. The report is a summary of the characteristics of these farm and food projects and the discussions that occurred at the meeting. It is a record of the challenges and opportunities that exist in the emerging regional grains market.

View the full report here: Greenhorns Small Grains Report


a mushroom with a story

posted April 7, 2017

book review by Samuel Oslund

Salvage capitalism, ecological assemblages, and precarity… These are a few concepts that Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing fleshes out in The Mushroom At the End of the World, a genre bending book that tracks the global economy by way of the Matsutake mushroom.

As a farmer, I have noticed that my own ways of thinking and seeing the world have shifted with each passing season. I have felt something akin to love for an animal that I knew would one day be dinner, have felt tremendous connection to invisible soil critters and life webs as I hoed through pea patches. Social scientists refer to this process as affect, the suggestion that other-than-human-beings (plants, animals, earth elements) can impact and shape our ways of being.  (more…)


insights from peaceful resistance

posted March 29, 2017

“…why the things are what they are, how the things would be if they were as they should be, and how a path can be made from the things as they are to the things as they should be.”

These are the words of Peter Maurin who, along with Dorothy Day, cofounded the Catholic Worker Movement. Now 85 years later, the movement that started with a small paper that called for non-violence, voluntary poverty, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken has 240 communities that remain committed to these principles.

Brian Terrel recently addressed the National Catholic Worker Farm Gathering, and recalling the revolutionary spirit of Peter Maurin he had this to say:

For many of us, too, solidarity work and travel to places exploited by economic and other kinds of colonialism brought us to see that Peter was right when he pointedly insisted that issues of war and peace always are, at the heart, issues of the land and its use. In New York City or Los Angeles as in Jerusalem or Mexico City or San Salvador, the peace and good order of society requires justice on the land. It strikes us, finally, that even the food that we serve on our soup lines that is donated or gleaned from dumpsters depends on slave labor and is grown in ways that cannot be sustained. When the peace for which we yearn and struggle finally comes and our global neighbors will no longer be forced by debt and oppression to clothe and feed us but will use their own labor, land and water to care for themselves, how then will we live?

The vision of the Catholic Worker Movement parallels much of the aspirations of today’s new agrarians, as we seek ways to work with the land, minimizing our reliance on asymmetric power dynamics of a global world.

You can see Brian Terrel’s full transcript here and find out more on the Catholic Worker Movement Here.


stay local but stay informed

posted March 22, 2017

Interested to know what’s going on in the global agrarian movement? We do our best to cover stories from across the globe, but… there’s a lot going on. One way we keep informed on all of the work of our fellow farmers is through La Via Campesina.

La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.

(more…)


new farmers almanac III release feb 14: preorder while supplies last!

posted February 6, 2017

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This Valentine’s Day, skip the imported roses,  bad movies, and the woeful commodification of romance: instead, pre-order the third edition of the New Farmers Almanac for your radically regenerative community-seeking friends, family, and self! The Almanac is set to release February 14, and trust us when we say that nothing else says love quite like 360 pages of original agrarian content in the search of a just alternative economy and lifestyle.

Volume III: The Commons features essays, cartoons, imagery and historical snippets and harnesses the wisdom of over 120 contributors from our community of new farmers and ranchers. This volume explores the theme of The Commons, drawing from folklore, mathematical projections, empirical, emotional, and geographical observations of theory and praxis.

This tidy volume holds a civil, lived testimony from people whose work, lifeworld, and behavior patterns beamingly subvert the normative values of the macro economy called America.


sharpen your pencils: essay contest for a dream farm

posted February 6, 2017

farmcontest

Did you have the experience of entering a coloring contest to win an over-sized Easter bunny, or perhaps a pie baking competition for gift basket filled with all manner of goodies? I clearly remember those moments from my childhood – moments that now seem quite unrealistic in terms of how things actually work in the world.

But wait!

Here’s the equivalent over-sized Easter bunny for the young agrarian: Award-winning architect-turned-farmer Norma Burns has decided to give her beautiful farm away in an essay contest.  Norma has been growing herbs, vegetables, and cut flowers on the certified organic, 13 acre farm for the last eighteen years. (more…)


evolution of organic premiers at ecofarm conference, jan. 27

posted January 24, 2017

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Still from the film feature Severine and Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs farm, who are leaders in no-till farming and recently the key-note speakers at the NOFA MA Winter Conference.

This year at the EcoFarm Conference in Pacific Grove California, participants will get a chance to see a sneak preview of the documentary The Origins of Organic!

Evolution of Organic, according to its filmmakers, “brings us the story of organic agriculture, told by those who built the movement. A motley crew of back-to-the-landers, spiritual seekers and farmers’ sons and daughters rejected chemical industrial farming and set out to explore organic alternatives. It’s a heartfelt journey of change – from a small band of rebels to a cultural transformation in the way we grow and eat food. By now organic has gone mainstream – split into an industry oriented toward bringing organic to all people, and a movement that has realized a vision of sustainable agriculture. As interviewee Kelly Mulville says, “Creating health in the soil creates health in the ecosystem creates health in the atmosphere – and it all cycles around.””

All that, and Severine makes a cameo!

This year’s EcoFarm Conference, which also features incredible speakers, farmer mixers, and even dancing, takes place January 25-28 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds. Online registration is now closed but onsite walk-in registration begins Wed, Jan 25 – Sat, Jan 28 starting at 7am.


resistance of the heart against business as usual

posted January 20, 2017

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Bread and Puppet Theatre, Vermont

by Samuel Oslund

Today might have us thinking a little obsessively about some big level tsoris.

But let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons why we choose to get into farming in the first place. Speaking personally, I decided to farm because I felt it was a very concrete way to have some sort of impact on the troubles I perceived in the world. Disillusioned with politics, education and these broad means of change I saw farming as personal direct action.

Through the repetitive act of farming I slowly stopped seeing it as a political statement, and with each year that past, each additional scar on my hand and wrinkle on my face, I began to see the world through the lens of agriculture. I began to see the connections it makes – how good stewardship of land can bring a community together, that it’s about a lot more than vegetables and cows and endless hours- because through this daily act we begin to see ourselves in relation to all of these things.  (more…)


blog and podcast focused on women in agriculture

posted January 18, 2017

the chicken caravan, Quebec, Canada
the chicken caravan, Quebec, Canada

Have you heard of the Female Farmer Project?

Well, now you have.

The project is a collaboration between writers, photographers, and farmers (of course!). FFP is working on highlighting women in agriculture and is setting about chronicling the rise in female farmers across the world. We feel it’s necessary to point out the obvious, which is that women have always been farming and have actually played a pretty central role in agriculture for, basically, ever.  But the historical narrative often focuses on men (we like you guys too).

From the Female Farmer Project blog:

“I spent the weekend visiting friends who live in rural Minnesota. Though they aren’t farming, they are surrounded by farms and live on a farmstead. I was reading to their 5 year old girl and 3 year old boy and a book mentioned “the farmer’s wife” but I instead just called her “the farmer” because, duh. And the little girl immediately piped up and said “I thought only boys were farmers”. So I told them that girls can be farmers too and lots of girls are farmers.”

Check the project out here.

and go listen to their fun podcast here.


organic grains and innovation on GH radio

posted January 16, 2017

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Listen to the podcast here!

Ben Dobson grew up in Hillsdale, New York, on a small organic farm and started his first agricultural business in 2001. After two years on his own, he joined forces with his father Ted Dobson and managed the fields at his salad and tomato farm in Sheffield, MA, from 2003 through 2006. Since then Ben has started, managed, and overseen the sale of two agricultural businesses: One of which, Atlantic Organics, founded in 2007, was the largest organic vegetable farm in the state of Maine. The other, a company called Locally Known LLC, founded in 2008, was a salad processing company that sold pre-packaged ready to eat salads to Whole Foods Market, Hannaford Bros. and Trader Joe’s supermarkets in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic regions.

In 2013, Ben joined Stone House Farm as the Organic Transition Manager, and in 2016 he became their Farm Manager. He planned and oversaw the implementation of an organic transition on the 2,200-acre Stone House Farm property, and developed a non-GMO feed and grain business to sell their grain. The farm is now expanding its grain operation to include organic grain from other farms in the region.

Ben also heads Hudson Carbon: a research project conducting long term research across several sites on Stone House Farm and two neighboring farms. Hudson Carbon monitors the economic impacts and ecological effects of organic farming systems regarding carbon sequestration. Collaborators in this project include the Rodale Institute, The Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and Scenic Hudson. This winter Hudson Carbon will be launching a website with sections dedicated to farmers, science, and the public.