"Worms are the unsung heroes of our food chain. Their burrows allow oxygen and water to penetrate the soil, they add fertility and prevent flooding."
- Farming Today, BBC Radio
MOF&G Cover Spring 2010


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 2010Reviews   
 Reviews and Resources – Spring 2010 Minimize

   New England Vegetable Management Guide
   Lifting the Yoke, by Ron Krupp
   A Spring without Bees, by Michael Schacker
   Pastures of Plenty, by John E. Carroll
Web Sites
   G.O.T. Farms?
   Maine Food Trader
   Cornell University Berry Program


Copies of the 2010-2011 New England Vegetable Management Guide are available for $20 plus $5.50 postage. To order, send a check payable to UMCE to Highmoor Farm, P.O. Box 179, Monmouth, ME 04259.

Lifting the Yoke: Local Solutions to America’s Farm and Food Crisis

By Ron Krupp
Self-published through Whetstone Books, 2009; order from
www.liftingtheyoke.com or 802-658-9974
320 pages, paperback; $25

Ron Krupp’s Lifting the Yoke: Local Solutions to America’s Farm and Food Crisis is both a well-researched primer on the problems inherent to America’s food system and a well-rounded discussion on real life solutions.

Krupp examines the globalization of food and farming, distilling an overwhelming history of agribusiness into those facts and details necessary to form a basic understanding of the topic. He then catalogs how changes in our food system have erupted into an epidemic of food-related health issues – surveying topics such as hunger, food insecurity, malnutrition and obesity.

Krupp’s style and the layout of the book make for an easy read – no small feat, concerning the breadth of subjects covered, and impressive for a self-edited book. Bullet points and lots of candid black and white photographs lend a feel of part PowerPoint presentation, part newspaper. And it works; if you’ve had enough of the farm bill, you can instead peruse the “short history of how agriculture lost its soul” with the help of section headings.

However, Lifting the Yoke is best enjoyed whole. In following Krupp through the corporate takeover of our food system (including the ever-growing industry of organics) and how these changes have affected the health and well-being of the general population, the reader develops a sense of urgency and personal responsibility that is necessary to fully appreciate the community-based counteractions exemplified in the third and final section of the book.

The real gem of Lifting the Yoke: Local Solutions to America’s Farm and Food Crisis is its presentation of regional solutions to the industrial food system. Krupp draws upon the state of Vermont, his home for the past 39 years, to offer vibrant and viable examples of an alternative to the “Corporate Agricultural Industrial Machine.”

From artisan bakeries and micro-breweries sourcing locally grown grains, to restaurants and natural food co-ops featuring Vermont grown goods, to farmers marketing directly through community supported agriculture farms, farm stands and farmers’ markets, Krupp showcases the many sustainable models thriving in Vermont. The proof is in the pages – rural vitality can be preserved, and real food grown on real farms is the answer. Krupp concludes with a call for action: “We make choices every time we sit down to a meal. It’s kitchen table democracy in action.”

– Holli Cederholm, Unity, Maine


A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply

by Michael Schacker
Lyons Press, 2008
292 pages, hardcover; $24.95

Without bees to pollinate food crops, we are in trouble, and the ongoing decimation of bees by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is, according to Michael Schacker, a crisis that we must confront and resolve without delay. He does not share the opinion of EPA and USDA officials and academic researchers that the definitive cause of CCD remains unproven. Pointing to actions taken in France, where neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned and where bees have since rebounded, Schacker calls on U.S. regulators to follow suit.

Nor does Dave Hackenberg, a commercial beekeeper who trucks thousands of hives from state to state pollinating crops, believe that CCD causation is still an unsolved mystery. Schacker tells us that after Hackenberg lost two-thirds of his bees in a single season in areas where growers had used neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid and clothianidin – and having seen bees come back after neonicotinoid applications ceased – Hackenberg now refuses to pollinate agricultural crops treated with these chemicals.

This explains in part why CCD has not been reported in Maine. Hackenberg's largest customer, the Wyman blueberry company, has taken the threat of CCD seriously and agreed not to use neonicotinoids. They are being applied to other Maine crops, however, and as grub control on lawns, so bee colonies here are still at risk. Honey bees are threatened also by heavy applications of organophosphate pesticides that have a similar mode of action, targeting insects' nervous system – products such as coumaphos to kill varroa mites. Although Schacker rules out miticides as a primary cause of CCD, he does concede that coumaphos and fluvalinate (a pyrethroid insecticide) – both of which have been found in the wax of old honeycombs – "could be synergizing with other toxins in the bees' environment and making CCD worse."

Another contributor to the problem, not unexpectedly, is influence exerted by business interests on academia and policymakers. In particular, Bayer Crop Science, which created imidacloprid in 1985, has close ties to Penn State, awarding millions in scholarships and research grants. As a result of this corporate largesse, Schacker says, "universities gladly offer to teach how to use new toxins safely." And, by means of emergency exemptions requested through state pesticide oversight authorities, "EPA and the chemical industry have routinely bypassed safety tests for the environment and human health."

As part of Schacker's plan to stop the deployment of imidacloprid and other neurotoxins, he maintains www.PlanBeeCentral.com to mobilize organic farmers, beekeepers and environmental activists in a campaign to turn things around. Among the first priorities is challenging neonicotinoid authorizations that have been given by EPA, allowing dangerous neurotoxins such as imidacloprid onto the market without adequate testing. Going forward, granting emergency exemptions must end. This should mean suspending neonicotinoid use on lawns and golf courses as well as agricultural land.

The ultimate objective of Plan Bee is converting conventional farming and gardening to organic.

– Jody Spear


Pastures of Plenty; The Future of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Conservation in New England

by John E. Carroll; illustrations and book design by Karen Busch Holman
N.H. Agriculture Experiment Station Publication #2340, (c) 2008
144 pages, paperback; $15 plus $5 shipping from Dr. John Carroll, Dept. of Natural Resources, UNH, Durham, NH 03824; make checks payable to University of New Hampshire

John Carroll’s lively, optimistic, wide ranging and comprehensive look at the future of agriculture in northern New England makes a convincing case that this region can produce much more of the food that is consumed here.

This attractive publication, clearly a labor of love, draws inspiration from a host of alternative food, agriculture and conservation writers and visionaries, perhaps most of all from Aldo Leopold, whose understanding of the importance of land and exposition of a “land ethic” helped launch the conservation and environmental movements.

The central focus of Pastures of Plenty is on the potential for a revival of grazing (especially rotational intensive grazing) as the cornerstone of a new, sustainable agriculture for our region, but Carroll also makes his case by presenting the ideas and actions of alternative food and agriculture advocates and reinterpreting them in the context of present day northern New England.

Carroll includes the ideas of Joel Salatin, Fred Kirschenmann, Masanobo Fukuoka, Andre Voisin, Sir Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, Borealis Bread’s Jim Amaral, New Hampshire’s Trauger Groh (a founder of community supported agriculture), Vermont’s Bill Murphy (“It’s a lot better to just let the livestock go to the feed and spread their manure themselves”) and other luminaries whose thoughts support Carroll’s thesis that northern New England is ideally situated, ripe and ready for a new agriculture that is diverse, ethical, environmentally sound, local, mainly organic and marketed directly to people who increasingly care about how their food affects their bodies and their communities.

Pastures of Plenty includes historical background and chapters on grazing and grasses, soils, the key role of dairying and breeds of cattle and other animals suited to our area, direct marketing and “relationship agriculture,” and the potential role of land grant universities in reviving family farming here.

The book presents important new information about our region’s soils, including detailed maps showing soils with high potential for grassland agriculture – nearly a quarter of New Hampshire, roughly half of Maine and Massachusetts, and 90 percent of Vermont.

Carroll mentions a “prescient” 1979 New Hampshire study of food security, “Who Will Feed New Hampshire’s Residents Five, Ten, Fifteen Years From Now?” that gathered dust on university shelves for nearly 30 years because of “cheap food, fueled by cheap energy (and) full supermarket shelves at the lowest food prices in the world.”

Carroll may have included almost too many streams of evidence to support his enthusiastic vision. Some editorial tweaking and an index of his sources might have helped.

One might ask whether his focus on grazing and dairying may be challenged by dietary trends toward eating less meat and dairy; and, if people are drawn to more holistic, ethical and sustainable farming, how will they get access to the land they’ll need?

We may need more answers before the prediction from urban planning critic James Howard Kunstler at the close of Pastures of Plenty can come to full fruition. “Agriculture,” Kunstler tells us, “is going to come back to the center of American life in a way that we couldn’t imagine.” Still, Pastures of Plenty gives readers many reasons for imagining this positive future.

– Larry Lack


Web Sites

G.O.T. Farms?
Greenhouse of Telstar (GOT) Farms is an exciting program of the Telstar Middle School in Bethel, Maine. Watch the video at

The New England Environmental Finance Center at the Muskie School, with EPA support, created the Maine Food Trader, www.mefoodtrader.org. Local producers can post produce, meats, seafood, honey, jams, etc., and buyers can find out where to purchase or post a wanted notice for items. Click on “Create Account” to begin posting. Address questions to Professor Sam Merrill, smerrill@usm.maine.edu; 207-228-8596.

The Cornell University Berry Program archived webinars for berry farmers are available at www.fruit.cornell.edu/Berries/webcastarchive.htm.



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