The Orchard: A Memoir
Greenhorns – 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement
Storey Publishing, 2012
256 pages, $14.95
Greenhorns captures the voices of the next generation of American farmers, whose first-hand accounts chronicle the trials and tribulations and the joys and rewards of becoming a farmer. The most evocative part of this book is its diversity of voices. Some of the writing is polished and professional, and it is no surprise to find that these contributors are professional writers. Other contributors capture so completely the emotional power of farming; the expletives that pepper their descriptions evoke passion and make them incredibly readable, hilarious and moving. Tying together each section of the book are essays by editors Zoë Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming and Paula Manalo. These superbly crafted essays contextualize the new farmer movement while organizing the chapters of the book – chapters with names such as “Ninja Tactics,” “Nuts & Bolts” and “Beasts.” This companion to the 2010 documentary The Greenhorns is a must-have for anyone who works with beginning farmers or has inadvertently raised one. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scratch your head; and in the end your heart will burst with pride.
– Abby Sadauckas, educational programs coordinator, MOFGA
The Orchard: A Memoir
Hachette Book Group; 2011
227 pages; $15
When Theresa Weir married an apple farmer 25 years ago, she had a gut feeling that his family’s use of pesticides on its large orchard might not be the safest practice. A young woman then, she knew nothing of organic farming practices or the potentially devastating effects of such bugs as the codling moth, against which pesticides protected apple trees. So she kept her discomfort to herself, hoping her gut feeling was wrong.
Her husband had just buried his grandfather, a second generation apple farmer who had died from cancer. Over the following 15 years, Theresa witnessed the long, excruciating death of her father-in-law, also riddled with cancer. Folks in town speculated that the Curtis farm was cursed, but Weir suspected pesticides had more to do with the problem.
“There was a national crime going on in the heartland, and nobody cared,” she writes, of the farming practices she witnessed – particularly the rampant use of pesticides. “The chemicals were all around us. In the clothes and sheets and towels I removed from the line. In the air we breathed and the water we drank.”
On a family picnic at a pond on the farm, the toxic truth about the pesticides was grotesquely revealed when Adrian pulled a fish from the water to find it covered with oozing tumors.
“In that instant we both felt the future pressing down on us,” she recalls. The couple decided to look for new ground right away, a place where the land was less contaminated and where an organic movement was taking hold.
The Orchard is a magnificent memoir of Weir’s life on the farm in both its bleakest hours and its most beautiful. Her insights are sharp and poignant, written in a voice that feels authentic.
Ultimately, Weir extracts her two children from the farm and moves far away with them, defying the family’s demand that they become the next generation of apple farmers.
“The farm would always be ours,” she reflects, “even if we were no longer there. We would claim it in writing, in music.”
– Lauren Karmer
Breeding Organic Vegetables: A step-by-step guide for growers, by Rowen White and Bryan Connolly of NOFA-NY, available free at www.nofany.org/sites/default/files/BreedingOrganicVegetables-2011.pdf, explains basic plant breeding theory and methods, and how to define a breeding goal, find suitable germplasm, and perform and evaluate selections.
Organic Crop Breeding, edited by Dr. Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren and Dr. James Myers, is the first textbook on breeding for organic agriculture. It reviews the latest efforts by breeders to develop improved crop varieties for organic production systems. Organic Seed Alliance staff members contributed to the book. The book covers breeding efforts focused on valuable traits, such as quality and pest resistance, and assesses the impacts of improved breeding on organic production. It also provides case studies on various crops. $149.95 from www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470958588.html.
The Organic Seed Alliance has released a Participatory Plant Breeding Toolkit at www.seedalliance.org/Publications/ to support participatory plant breeding (PPB) projects that aim to increase the availability and quality of organic seed. PPB is on-farm breeding with farmers and researchers collaborating closely, enabling farmers to adapt crop varieties to their regions and organic practices. The toolkit includes background on the theory and practice of PPB, case studies of successful projects, and worksheets to facilitate project planning and execution.
The 2012 Production Guide for Storage of Organic Fruits and Vegetables, free at www.nysipm.cornell.edu/organic_guide/default.asp, was written by Christopher Watkins and Jacqueline Nock of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. The manual tells, for example, that some fruits or vegetables change sugars into starches as they age. Others do the reverse. Some emit ethylene, a natural gas essential for ripening. Others don't. Among those that don't, some might start decaying, yellowing or sprouting with a whiff of ethylene from a nearby display, while others don’t.
Mabel’s Book 2012 – Good Food Close to the Source lists farms and local food markets in Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis and Somerset counties. Download this attractive publication (with beautiful photos and provocative sayings about food and farms) at http://westernmountainsalliance.org/ or call 207-778-3885 for a hard copy.
The newsletter of the Ecological Landscaping Association, at www.ecolandscaping.org/news-2/, has articles about edible landscaping, invasive species, native plants, soil biology and more.
New England Farmland Finder, at http://newenglandfarmlandfinder.org/, helps New England’s farm seekers and farm property holders find each other.
|Radish shoulders. Photo from Radishes – A New Cover Crop for Organic Farming Systems.
“Radishes – A New Cover Crop for Organic Farming Systems,” at www.extension.org/pages/64400/radishes-a-new-cover-crop-for-organic-farming-systems?utm_source=publicnewsletter&utm_medium=june2012&utm_campaign=eorganic, tells about radish varieties sold for cover cropping, including Tillage Radish™, GroundHog radish™, Nitro, Sodbuster and Bio-till. They provide soil cover, scavenge nutrients, suppress weeds and alleviate soil compaction while creating few residue management challenges.
The Website www.extension.org/omega-3 covers the latest research and information about omega-3 fatty acids.
“GMO Contamination Prevention – What Does it Take?” at http://swroc.cfans.umn.edu/prod/groups/cfans/@pub/@cfans/@swroc/documents/article/cfans_article_390283.pdf, written by Jim Riddle of the University of Minnesota, describes measures during planting, cultivation, harvest, transport, storage and processing that help prevent accidental mixing of GE and non-GE materials.
Portable Poly Pipe High Tunnel Hoop House Construction Plans, by Steve Upson of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, shows how to construct a 14- by 36-foot poly pipe hoophouse with two removable end walls plus door panels and four-year film for $1,233.68 (2011 costs). Plans are free at www.noble.org/global/ag/horticulture/poly-pipe-hh-plans/nf-ho-12-01.pdf.
Organic Production Handbook, compiled by Karen McSwain of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc., covers organic practices, NOP regulations, EQIP conservation practices that support organic operations, organic nutrient management, ecological weed management, and key resources. Free at www.carolinafarmstewards.org/organic-production-handbook/.
The Organic Sprout, a publication of MOFGA Certification Services LLC, has news about organic certification and is available at http://mofgacertification.org/.
Critiques of top bar beehives in our climate are published in “Newbees, Bee-Ware,” by Anne Frey, The Bee Line, vol. 29, www.barnstablebeekeepers.org/news/anne_r3.pdf; and “Kenya Top-Bar Hives,” by Matt Scott, Jan. 31, 2012; Maine State Beekeepers Assoc.; http://mainebeekeepers.org/the-bee-line/the-backyard-beekeeper/kenya-top-bar-hives/
Resources for agroforestry at www.unl.edu/nac/ include a free publication, Profitable Farms and Woodlands, written for underserved and limited resource farmers and woodland owners in the Southeast. It includes five main agroforestry practices: alley cropping, forest farming, riparian buffer strips, silvopasture and windbreaks. The publication tells how to grow goldenseal, shiitake and other forest crops.
The USDA’s Regional Food Hub Resource Guide at www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/04/0127.xml
offers information and resources to develop or participate in a regional food hub.
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) webinar "Farm Finances: Organizing and Understanding Your Numbers" is posted at https://attra.ncat.org/webinars/.