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The Apple Grower
Get a Grip on Farm Finances
Brief Reviews
  Guideline for Dairy Manure Management from Barn to Storage
  Guideline for Milking Center Wastewater
  Herbaceous Perennials Production
  Building Soils for Better Crops
  Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd Edition
Video: It’s Gotten Rotten

The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist
Michael Phillips
Chelsea Green Publishing, 1998.
242 pp. softcover, $35.00

Growing apples organically is said to be impossible. A person can raise a few organic vegetables with repeated good results, year after year, but with apples, you’re looking at failure nine years out of ten. So the myth gets perpetuated. Apples are the last frontier, the last huge hurdle in the organic movement. A few hard working individuals with an added attention to nature’s ways are opening up the new territory.

Michael Phillips’ The Apple Grower combines the exploration, the journey, and the discoveries of his own organic orcharding on Lost Nation Orchard and Cider Mill (with business partner David Craxton) with the half-forgotten wisdom of a century ago, the experience and discoveries of fellow orchardists, and the latest scientific knowledge about soils and pests. He is orcharding organically. The Apple Grower gives the ingredients for success and teaches that the recipe changes from day to day, sometimes hour to hour. Phillips shares what is known and what is not known about all aspects of organic fruit production. Though some sections wax romantic, there are no rose colored glasses here, just a lot of heart and soul. Successful organic orcharding demands intimate involvement with the trees and the soil from which they grow. That deep love is present on every page.

Chapters include Outlook for Organic Apple Growing, The Orchard Site and Its Climate, Enriching of the Fruit Lands, The Trees and the Planting, Care of the Orchard, Apple Pests and Diseases, Spray Options, Reaping the Harvest, Marketing, and the Last Organic Frontier, plus a wealth of appendices. I am particularly excited about the coverage of biodiversity, biodynamics, microorganisms, and trace minerals. The pest, disease and spraying information bridges the gap between IPM and organics.

Well illustrated with clear photographs, old etchings, and line drawings (the grafting illustrations are the clearest I have seen), The Apple Grower is a complete success. It is the book we’ve been waiting for. Tuck it under your belt, grab your apple picking bucket and use your pole fruit picker to help you leap over this last organic hurdle.

– Roberta Bailey


Get a Grip on Farm Finances

If farm finances mystify you, Caserio Farm: A New Beginning is the book to read. A unique blend of textbook, case study and novel, this book by Daria Makota is financial management education artfully aimed at farmers in today’s economy.

Based on real life experience, Caserio Farm: A New Beginning follows a brother and sister through a stormy first year after they purchase the already heavily financed family farm from their parents. An early shock comes when a loan for current year production is turned down due to their heavy debt load.

Take a seat at the kitchen table as Makota’s farming duo examines each argument for and against change, wrestles with daily problems and looks ahead at coming seasons while pressures mount in their struggle to turn around an unprofitable operation.

Makota delivers a rare and human look at each decision’s effect on the farm’s financial health and breaks new ground with actual financial records that show the impact of each transaction. The entire financial cycle is here in a painless, easy to follow format that makes Caserio Farm: A New Beginning a moving picture of a struggling farm in words, actions, dollars and sense.

Find out how to set up a farm accounting system. Learn to read, interpret and analyze year end financial statements. Discover what financiers and accountants want from farmers. Get the most from financial advisors. This timely book is packed with useful tips.

Canadian born author Daria Makota knows her subject well. A Certified General Accountant with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Makota teaches financial management to farmers and runs a consulting business that takes her problem solving skills world wide.

She is also a contributing editor on financial management issues for Grainews, Power Farming, and Country Guide – agricultural publications with nationwide circulation in Canada.

Makota’s book uses financial data from specialized farm business accounting software called AgChek 5.0, produced by the U.S. firm, Red Wing Business Systems, Inc.

Published in 1996, the list price is $34.95 CDN or $27.95 U.S. (shipping and taxes extra).

For more information, please contact Robyn Ritson by phone or fax, at 001-204-754-3314, or email cara@cancom.net, or write to Business Bytes, Box 55, Grand Marais, Manitoba, Canada R0E 0T0.


Brief Reviews

Guideline for Dairy Manure Management from Barn to Storage is a 36-page guide to planning the development or improvement of a manure handling system, getting technical information and assistance, meeting regulations; manure characteristics and production; alternatives for manure management; options for transferring manure from barn to storage; and manure storage types and management. It is available for $7 plus shipping and handling ($3.50 for a single copy) from the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, 152 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca NY 14853-5701; 607-255- 7654; fax 607-254-8770; email nraes@cornell.edu. Ask for publication NRAES-108.

Guideline for Milking Center Wastewater can help producers and their advisers plan and assess wastewater reduction and treatment systems. The 34-page publication, NRAES- 115, is available for $7 plus $3.50 shipping and handling from the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, 152 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca NY 14853-5701; 607-255- 7654; fax 607-254-8770; email nraes@cornell.edu.

Herbaceous Perennials Production: A Guide from Propagation to Marketing, by Dr. Leonard Perry of the Univ. of Vermont Cooperative Extension System, discusses the basics, such as taxonomy and nomenclature, plant hardiness, the physical needs of crops, and types of irrigation systems, as well as cutting-edge, research-based information about propagation and production. The focus is on production of field-grown or greenhouse grown container perennials, but the greenhouse plug and bedding plant methods of production are covered as well. A chapter about forcing out-of-season bloom includes up-to-date information about this topic as well as specific requirements for over 120 perennials. Practical discussions about starting a business, marketing and customer service, setting prices and designing a production facility are included as well. The 220-page book includes a 51-page appendix that details propagation methods and requirements for hundreds of species, as well as information on pests and diseases. The book, NRAES-93, is available for $27 plus $5 shipping and handling from the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, 152 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca NY 14853-5701; 607-255-7654; fax 607-254-8770; email nraes@cornell.edu.

Building Soils for Better Crops, by Univ. of Vermont Soil Science Professor Fred Magdoff, was written for farmers, gardeners, extension specialists and others who are interested in integrated approaches to enhancing soil quality. “The book’s underlying theme is that managing soils and crops from the point of view of maintaining and increasing organic matter content is the foundation for sustainable agriculture,” Magdoff says. “We’re not only interested in the total amount of organic matter, but also in the various types of organic materials in the soil, including the diversity of soil organisms which provide many essential processes, such as releasing nutrients and improving soil tilth as well as helping keep potentially harmful bacteria, nematodes and other pests in check,” he says. The book was published in 1993 by the Univ. of Nebraska Press but has since gone out of print. Magdoff hopes to have a second edition available within a year. In the meantime, the Northeast Region SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Program recently produced a limited number of bound, quality photocopies of the book. One to four copies cost $10 each, including shipping and handling; five to 24 copies cost $9 each; and 25 or more cost $8 each. To order, send a check or purchase order, made out to Northeast SARE Publications, to John Nelson, Northeast SARE, Hills Bldg., Univ. of Vt., Burlington VT 05405. For more information, contact Nelson at 802- 656-0484 or at jonelson@zoo.uvm.edu.

Second Edition of Managing Cover Crops Profitably Now Available

To help farmers boost their bottom line while enhancing the environment, a new book from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) greatly expands field-ready information on cover crop species and practices proven to build soil and provide a host of agronomic benefits. The 212-page Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd Edition features information gleaned from the latest cover crop field trials, lab tests and on-farm experiences from every region of the United States. It includes management details, such as seeding rates and best killing methods, as well as broader considerations of how to design rotations to maximize benefits.

Comprehensive chapters on the 18 most promising cover crop species, fact-filled charts and lists of seed suppliers, expert contacts and other relevant publications make the fully indexed guide invaluable for both newcomers and cover crop veterans.

Range maps for the 18 cover crops help farmers pick those that are best suited for their region. They then can turn to chapters on each species that detail the unique role each cover crop can play. Each chapter provides specific management information about soil preferences, seeding rates, field operations, managing and planting into residue, and cover crop mixtures with other species.

The book also features four comprehensive charts that make it easy to compare cover crop species. This section provides recommendations for the best cover crops in 14 bioregions and details 55 factors for each cover crop, describing its benefits, roles, traits and management.

To order Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd Edition, send $19 to Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Bldg., Univ. of Vt., Burlington VT 05405-0082; Tel. 802- 656-0471; or visit the SAN/SARE website at www.sare.org. Bulk discounts are available for 10 or more copies.

Source: Source: ATTRAnews, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 1998; Quarterly Newsletter of Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville AR 72702.


It’s Gotten Rotten
20-minute video for grades 7-12
With Teacher’s Guide
Produced by Photosynthesis Produc­tions and Cornell Waste Management Institute, Cornell University
Directed by David Gluck, 1996
Bullfrog Films, Inc., Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; Tel. 610-779-8226; Fax 610-370-1978; Email: bullfrog@igc.org; Web: www.bullfrog films.com
$195 VHS purchase; $40 rental

Buy or rent this video to show to your class or garden club. The $195 price tag may sound high for a 20-minute production, but the cohesive organization of this video, the superb close-up cinematography of primary, secondary and tertiary decomposers, and the excitement of the high school kids who are shown working with compost make it worth at least that.

The video begins with a forest scene showing decomposers recycling energy and nutrients. “In nature, very little goes to waste,” says the narrator – then the camera dramatically shifts to a scene of a front-end loader piling up mounds of plastic bags full of trash. “People, on the other hand, make tons of garbage,” the narrator says. The point of the video is to show how everyone can contribute to reducing these tons of garbage by composting – and can create a place of beauty using compost.

Every step of the compost process is shown, beginning with collecting food scraps in the kitchen; manure and bedding from police stables; and vegetable waste from a restaurant. Several types of bins are shown in which the waste is mixed and composted. The importance of the right blend of carbonaceous and nitrogenous material is mentioned, as is the need for good air circulation. Perforated PVC pipes are shown being inserted into a bin in a greenhouse.

The part of the video that kids will probably connect with best shows a high school biology class setting up its own compost experiments in both buckets and “bioreactors” –  2-liter soda bottles with screens near their bases for drainage; a screen over the top to allow gases to escape and to prevent flies from entering; a thermometer extending into the compost; and a foam wrapping to help insulate the compost and keep it “working.” Students are shown removing compost at various states of decomposition to study its appearance and the flora and fauna that are decomposing it. They study it with the naked eye, with low-powered microscopes, and finally with high-powered scopes using a few drops taken from a slurry made from water and compost.

The views of the decomposers, as seen by the students, are fascinating, ranging from such “happy critters,” according to the likable biology teacher, as mites, millipedes, maggots, centipedes (including a fascinating shot of a centipede cleaning its antennae), a pseudoscorpion seeking prey using its sense of smell and vibrations of the prey (pseudoscorpions, explains the video, can’t see or hear), a rove beetle, worms plowing through the compost, a land snail gliding along a slime trail, with eyes on the ends of its tentacles, springtails, and sowbugs—”descendants of some of the earliest land dwelling animals on earth.” Students will particularly enjoy watching one boy imitate how one decomposer uses its mouthparts. Composite shots of these decomposers, still wriggling and writhing and devouring, are cleverly put together in one shot to depict the food web in a very effective way.

Students graph the compost temperature, both by hand on graph paper, and on computer. One graph is plotted by computer to look for a relationship between compost temperature and outdoor temperature.

Other scenes show high school students making compost from urban waste in New York at a greenhouse on a once-vacant lot, then using the finished compost in a seed starting mix. They grow “a new generation of plants. The cycle repeats…[and] helps turn a vacant lot into a garden paradise.”

A 16-page Teacher’s Guide accompanies the video and describes how composting can be “a topic for scientific inquiry by high school students.” The Guide, written by Nancy M. Trautmann and Marianne E. Krasny or Cornell University, is small but densely packed with information. It describes classroom activities relating to composting and techniques for school composting (actually for composting in schools, although some students may prefer the term “school composting”), including the two-can bioreactor and the soda bottle bioreactor. It concludes with illustrations and discussions of invertebrates commonly found in compost, and a glossary.

I highly recommend this video for science classes. Although suggested for grades 7 through 12, I think that a good teacher could use it in lower grades as well.

– Jean English



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