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  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 2014Reviews – Spring 2014   
 Reviews & Resources – Spring 2014 Minimize


Books
The End of Fossil Energy
What You Should Know
The Dirty Life: a Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love
The Organic Grain Grower
Resources
Innovations in Local Food Enterprise
Carolina Farm Stewardship enterprise budgets
ATTRA’s “Farmer Knows Best” forum
An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production
University of Vermont Farmer Training Program
A Farmer’s Guide to Food Safety and Conservation
Agroforestry: USDA Reports to America
A Race Horse Herbal


The End of Fossil Energy (Fourth Edition): What Next? It’s Up To You
By John Howe
Self-published, 2013

Hard copy or complete PDF available (free for MOFGA members, or $15 donation if convenient) from howe@megalink.net
In our post-peak-oil era, the availability of non-conventional liquid fuels has increased, but their energy, economic and environmental costs are high. Meanwhile, world population continues to increase, and climate change is affecting food availability. Yet, says John Howe, most Americans continue a lifestyle that depends on continued growth, extensive travel and ubiquitous cheap energy.

In his self-published, spiral-bound manuscript – the culmination of the last 10 years as a retired engineer, author, speaker and solar-energy activist, and of being a life-long farmer – Howe, of Waterford, Maine, tells us that our 600,000 barrels per day of fracked oil is only 3 percent of total U.S. oil consumption. Ten kilocalories of fossil energy are used by the industrialized, long-distance agricultural system to supply 1 kilocalorie of food. “Our profligate, short-sighted lifestyle is leading to societal collapse as we rush to burn through our remaining oil endowment.”

Howe seeks to enlist activists willing to work to forestall our slide toward post-oil collapse. He details actions he sees as necessary to continue civilization, including reducing population by limiting births to one child per female, and reducing our energy use by at least 1.5 percent per year (through gasoline rationing, for example) so that our remaining fossil fuels can be used to transition to renewable resources and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Growers will be especially interested in the information Howe presents about how much land and how much human, draft, fossil or solar energy is required to grow enough food to feed our communities and the world.

The End of Fossil Energy is rich with data about how much fossil energy remains and how we can transition to a world without fossil fuels. Some information from this book is available at www.solarcarandtractor.com.

– Jean English

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What You Should Know: A Field Guide To Three Sisters Farm
By Russell Libby
Blackberry Books, 2013
$15 paperback and $25 hardcover from MOFGA (www.mofgastore.org/), FEDCO, Gulf of Maine Books, Apple Valley Books, Amazon (please try to buy local) and Blackberry Books (207-729-5083, chimfarm@gwi.net)

Blackberry Books has published What You Should Know: A Field Guide To Three Sisters Farm, a collection of poems by Russell Libby. Russell was a farmer, husband, father, native Mainer, Bowdoin graduate and executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Russell was also a poet, and these poems are a documentary work describing the soil, the air, the water, the trees, the gardens and the family life lived by Russell at his farm, Three Sisters Farm, in Mount Vernon, Maine. Russell died in 2012 but left these poems of love and life, for his family, his friends, his beloved land.

Here is the final poem in the book.

Things You Should Know

If I could,
I would walk with you
long enough that you, too,
might find your way about
without a map or guide,
but I am certain
it will take a while to share
what I have learned
these past three decades,
and the time to start is now.

Keep in mind,
I tend to wander,
so what is important to me
may only interest you a little.
We each have our own way of seeing.
You’ll understand mine
a little better
very soon.

Take a walk with Russell and keep him in your hearts.

– Gary Lawless

Robert Shetterly has published a review of Russell Libby’s What You Should Know on his blog (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/blog/33/a-review-of-russell-libbys-book-of-poems-what-you-should-know-a-field-guide-to-three-sisters). In 2012, Shetterly featured Libby in his portrait series Americans Who Tell the Truth.

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The Dirty Life: a Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love
By Kristin Kimball
Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y., 2010
308 pages, paperback, $16

My mother handed me a copy of this book, so I assumed the word “dirty” was not indicative of an X-rated tale. That indeed turned out to be the case. However, sex was definitely not omitted from this story of desire (author’s), propagation (crops), fecundity (cows) and appetite (for home-cooked, local, organic food). The flurry of anecdotes that billow from between the covers of this book chronicle the year in which Kristin Kimball fell in love, left her city job and helped revive a 500-acre farm in upstate New York. Key to the account are her humility and humor as she encounters humus in all its forms. In fact, the wild hay-wagon ride of Kimball’s narrative includes such engaging adventures that it’s easy to imagine how acts of daily cleanliness – scrubbing fingernails, doing laundry – might have fallen off the tailgate. By bedtime the exhausted couple barely managed to reach out and touch fingertips before falling asleep.

Kimball and her partner, Mark, were ambitious: They hoped to provide all the farm-raised food that an as-yet-unknown number of prepaying customers could want in one year. This included beef, pork, poultry, dairy, vegetables, grains and flours, fruit, herbs, honey and maple syrup. It would be their own version of community-supported agriculture (CSA), one they described as “year-round,” “full diet” and “free choice.” It would also be a re-creation of the diet that their farming predecessors had consumed 100 years before – minus the cans, boxes and plastic.

If this book were only about the tremendous work and amazing odds these farmers faced, it would make a sufficiently suspenseful story. If, instead, the author focused primarily on her personal transformation from a young, hip, city girl to a brave and competent farmer-partner, the story would still have its share of comic moments. The combination of these two themes makes the book rife with agricultural intrigue. Kimball grounds her story the same way she has learned to ground her life: with food that springs from the soil. The book ends with a short selection of seasonal recipes.

After reading this book I wondered if any of Maine’s numerous organic farms offer CSA shares similar to that of the Kimballs. Certainly I’d heard of (and enjoyed eating) CSA shares described as “summer,” “winter,” “meat” and “pantry.” So I was excited to learn that, as of 2013, Maine also has at least one farm offering a “full diet, year round” CSA option. Kasha Holmes of Misty Brook Farm in Albion (www.mistybrook.com) says the Kimballs “were inspiring to us.” She and her husband, Brendan, “liked the model.” With their first Maine sugaring season in 2014, they plan to follow sweetly in the Kimballs’ footsteps.

– Mariana S. Tupper

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The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer
By Jack Lazor
Chelsea Green, 2013
448 pages, hardcover, $45

For those new to growing organic grains, nothing is more helpful than befriending an experienced, neighborly farmer willing to share his or her knowledge and wisdom. Jack Lazor, co-owner of Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vermont, has been that grain mentor to many farmers in northern New England. With 35 years of grain growing experience, he is perhaps our region’s most veteran organic grain farmer. Now Jack shares his hard-earned wealth of experience with us all in his new book, The Organic Grain Grower.

Writing in an easy, conversational style, Lazor covers the fundamentals of growing grain in the Northeast, from selecting an appropriate site, grain type and variety; through all the steps in growing, cleaning, drying and storing the crop; to processing grain for human and livestock uses. For each operation he provides practical and detailed “how-to” information including extensive discussions of the types of equipment used for commercial and home-scale production and how to find that equipment. His section on grain cleaning is worth the read in and of itself. As well, the book includes detailed chapters for each specific type of grain, including corn, wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt, triticale, soybeans, dry beans and oilseeds.

Lazor also shares an historical perspective that he gained over the years from talking with the “old time” grain growers and reading farming publications from the early 20th century. In his first chapter, he provides a captivating account of the history of grain growing in the Northeast starting with the Native American cultivation of the “three sisters” (corn, beans and squash) and including a recent history of the efforts to rebuild a local grain system in the Northeast as part of the local food movement. As well, he sprinkles historical accounts and information throughout the text, and ends the book with his thoughts about the future of grains in our region. For those interested in local grains, Lazor’s book will be an inspiring read; for those venturing to grow grains, it will be a valued and well-worn textbook.

– Ellen Mallory

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Resources

“Innovations in Local Food Enterprise: Fresh Ideas for a Just and Profitable Food System” asks how consumer prices and producer costs can meet in ways that transition healthy, local food from a privilege to a right. The report offers innovative solutions to overcoming difficult food access and food equity issues with a focus on market-based consumer-driven solutions for low-income underserved communities. www.wallacecenter.org/resourcelibrary/hufedinnovationsreport

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association has developed 10 enterprise budgets for organic fruit and vegetable production specific to the Carolinas. www.carolinafarmstewards.org/enterprise-budgets/

ATTRA’s “Farmer Knows Best” forum enables farmers, researchers, educators and anyone else interested in sustainable agriculture to converse on more than a dozen topics, including beginning farming, water management, soils and compost, pest management, organic farming, marketing, business and risk, local food systems, livestock and pasture, horticultural and field crops, energy alternatives, sustainable agriculture and education.
 https://attra.ncat.org/farmerknowsbest/

An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production is a self-directed online course designed by the eOrganic Dairy Team for Extension educators and other agriculture service providers, and for farmers and students who want to better understand certified organic dairy farming. Each of the 10 modules combines readings, narrated lessons, optional homework exercises, resources and quizzes. The peer-reviewed course has been checked for compliance with National Organic Program regulations. The cost is $150, and 17 CCA CEUs are available for those who complete the course. www.extension.org/pages/69299

The University of Vermont Farmer Training Program is a 6-month intensive program (May 5 to October 31, 2014) for aspiring farmers and food systems advocates that provides a hands-on, skills-based education in sustainable agriculture. Participants in this full-time program can manage their own growing site, take classes from professors and expert farmers, and rotate as workers and learners on successful, diverse farms in the Burlington area. The program provides an intense, supportive experience where participants leave with a Certificate in Sustainable Farming, a deeper understanding of agricultural management and small-scale farming, and the entrepreneurial skills to start their own operation. http://learn.uvm.edu/sustainability/farmer-training/

A Farmer’s Guide to Food Safety and Conservation: Facts, Tips and Frequently Asked Questions, co-published in 2013 by Wild Farm Alliance and Community Alliance with Family Farmers, reviews basic factors that affect the survival and movement of foodborne pathogens on the farm, and how healthy, diverse ecosystems can help check pathogens. The FAQs address everything from wildlife and compost issues to CSA visitors on the farm. Another section gives tips for a successful food safety inspection. The resources link to web pages where your auditor can learn about co-management of food safety and conservation. www.wildfarmalliance.org/resources/FS_Facts_Tip_FAQ.htm

Agroforestry: USDA Reports to America details how agroforestry practices are helping farmers, ranchers and woodland owners enhance agricultural productivity, protect the environment and increase profits. www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/10/0202.xml

A Race Horse Herbal (www.racehorseherbal.com/index.html) is the online precursor to Doug Ahart’s coming text, A Racehorse Herbal. MOFGA member Jack Kertesz says our readers may be interested in the common medicinal plants and holistic techniques noted here.

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