When it comes to raising farm animals, Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop have been swimming against the tide for years. The husband-and-wife team ran a pasture-based pork and chicken operation called TC Ranch on 20 rented acres in California for six years. Now, they’re raising animals and farming crops on five acres in the Columbia River Gorge, an hour and a half east of Portland, Oregon. They’ve seen the challenges of raising animals responsibly first hand, and they’ve also travelled the country interviewing small producers for Thistlethwaite’s first book, Farms with a Future. Read more
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It’s high summer and we’re lucky to be reaping the bounty of the hard work that farmers did earlier this year. Having worked on several farms across the U.S., I know that this is serious crunch time. Farmers are not only harvesting the fruits of their labors, but they’re also planting fall crops.
A group gathers around an outdoor table set with kale salad, speckled bayo beans and rice, and pesto vinaigrette. It’s lunchtime on day four of the first-ever quarter of the Grange Farm School, a new working farm in rural Mendocino County, California, where up to 10 students from around the world live, work, and study on-site for three months at a time. Students engage in 25 hours of “experiential learning” per week, which includes classroom lessons, field trips, building projects, livestock management, and row-crop farming. Accredited through nearby Mendocino College, students pay $3,000 for tuition, room, and board, and receive a certificate as well as four college credits after successful completion of one three-month quarter. Read more
On a sunny winter day, the Ancona ducks at Boondockers Farm in Oregon wandered around their pasture and frolicked in several blue plastic kiddie pools, under the watchful eye of two Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs. The 500 or so ducks spend day and night outside, protected from predators by the dogs, not walls. Cows, turkeys, and Delaware chickens wander in pastures and barns. Vegetables destined for the farmers’ market grow in a nearby garden plot. Read more
This is the third in a series of four excerpts from The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming. Read more about the book and the author here, then check out the first and second posts.
When I visited North Carolina, I heard a lot about Tahz Walker and Cristina Rivera-Chapman of Tierra Negra Farms, who are well known among young food-movement activists and urban gardeners in New York City. So as I pull up the long driveway to the land they are renting outside of Durham, I am excited to finally meet them. Read more
According to Jean-Martin Fortier, it isn’t a farmer’s job to feed the world. And he finds it absurd that many U.S.-based food and agriculture companies tell farmers they should do so. “Feeding the world? People in Africa don’t need the U.S. to feed them.” What we need, the Canadian farmer argues, is small farms feeding their communities, and that task is difficult enough. Read more
“It [was] a total girl-power year around here,” says Janet Whalen Zeller, co-founder and co-director of Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, which oversees two farms totaling 56 acres. In fact, during the past few years the majority of apprenticeship applicants at the farm have been women.
At New Orleans’ Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC), vegetables grow in an intricate system of recirculating aquaculture systems and raised garden beds. Founded in 2009, the nonprofit organization trains urban farmers in both soil-based farming and fish farming—a combination that provides food for the local community.
Now, thanks to a federal grant, RFC has received $500,000 to create a more robust free training program for budding urban farmers, specifically targeting its outreach and support to new farmers in some of the most low-income and underserved communities in New Orleans: Central City, Algiers, New Orleans East, the Seventh Ward, and the Ninth Ward. Read more
In August, five young men showed up at Soul Fire Farm, a sustainable farm near Albany, New York, where I work as educator and food justice coordinator. It was the first day of a new restorative justice program, in partnership with the county’s Department of Law. The teens had been convicted of theft, and, as an alternative to incarceration, chose this opportunity to earn money to pay back their victims while gaining farm skills. They looked wary and unprepared, with gleaming sneakers and averted eyes. Read more
Kiera Butler’s fascination with 4-H began in 2011 after she attended a county fair for the first time. A senior editor at Mother Jones, Butler grew up in “unleafy” Sommerville, Massachusetts, where country living wasn’t an option. Flush in the middle of a love affair with CSA-boxes, urban chicken coops, and Michael Pollan-inspired farm-to-table food, Butler writes about her first trip to the Alameda County Fair: “You might be wondering why a grown woman was displaying toddler-like delight at the prospect of seeing barnyard animals. The truth is I was going through a livestock phase.” Read more