In February 2008, Zoë Bradbury left her job at Ecotrust, where she was a regular contributor to Edible Portland, to start farming on Oregon’s southern coast. Right after leaving, she wrote, “I pulled up to my new greenhouse on Floras Creek with a riot of saw-toothed artichoke divisions in the back of the truck, teased them apart into one-gallon transplant pots, and officially began my first season farming for myself, next door to my mom and sister.”

Over the next year, she kept a blog for Edible Portland called Diary of a Young Farmer. Her intention to share her experiences as she began farming has blossomed into a full-fledged collaborative book, which she co-edited, hitting stores this month: Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement.

I caught up with her to talk about the book, learn about her life at Valley Flora Farm in Langlois, and get a glimmer of what the New Farmers’ Movement is and where it’s headed. Read more

Two million young people—many of them from rural backgrounds—have served in the U.S. military since the attacks of 9/11. These veterans are facing extremely hard times, with very high rates of unemployment. Farming can be their ticket to a bright future and they could help solve our nation’s severe shortage of new farmers.

Join us in conversation with Michael O’Gorman, a pioneering organic farmer who leads the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. Read more

Manny Howard’s new book, My Empire of Dirt, is haunted by the living ghost of Wendell Berry.  First there’s the epigraph by Berry in which he instructs us on how to “use land well,” and it includes knowing and loving the land, and using the right tools. (To paraphrase a master, poorly.)

Then, early on in Howard’s recounting of a season spent trying to turn his south Brooklyn backyard into a homestead, the voice of Wendell Berry comes to him, offering further wisdom. Only problem is, Howard confesses in the epilogue that “On the Farm, Wendell Berry girded me.  Not that I had ever read a word he’d written until I was back at my desk, trying to make sense of the year.” Huh? Read more

Step out of the realm of thought, get on your hands and knees and start building. Set poetry in motion. You can start your first draft and I promise the poem will grow increasingly interesting.

My poem is about a tiny farm I’m starting for a couple of farm smitten NYC non-farmers who own a restaurant, cafe and grocery store in Brooklyn, and who want to grow some of their own produce. My goal is to set in motion year-round, efficient, ecologically sound and manageable growing systems to help them reach their goal of farm to table. Oh, and to keep the seedlings alive. Without the challenge of turning a profit this first year, and with support for low-budget experiments, I’ve landed in a great place to learn and grow alongside my adventurous employers. Read more

The tilling and planting work is done for now. The irrigation system, a vast network of drip lines and timers and snakes of multicolored hoses, is up and running. Trees are pruned, weeds are pulled, deer fencing is enforced, and the huge job of removing crowded tan oaks is done for the time being, unbelievably. We await the massive, juicy results that will soon burst from the vines, stalks, branches, and stems. We planted everything we could think of, and everything we had saved in our seed box, some in their third generation. Where dirt reigned on the ground there is now something edible growing; the places I always thought would just be overgrown tangles of poison oak and dry twigs have transformed into beds of tomatoes, radish, lettuce, tomatillo, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, squash, onion, and too many herbs to list. Ongoing maintenance of the orchard, planted by Margaret, the homesteading single woman who lived here before us, will hopefully keep presenting an abundance of figs, apples, plums, grapefruit, Meyer lemons, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and pears. The only thing to ponder now is why did we plant all of this, and who is all this food for? Read more

As has been reported here before, choosing to farm sustainably is not a call to forsake technology, lower your productivity, and mortify your flesh. Far from “returning to the 19th century” (the straw man that some critics love to first erect and then tear down), contemporary sustainable farming methods are rooted in a careful balancing of the old and the new. In other words, we will no more blindly accept tradition than we will heedlessly race after the newest fad, simply because a someone swears that the latest model will solve all your problems and wash the dishes too. Read more

We Americans can be notoriously self-centered when it comes to, well, everything. In the environmental and food-justice movements, voices from Europe or Africa struggle to be included in the American discussion. But as a young country, we would do well to learn from other countries who never stopped plowing, harvesting, and eating in a sustainable way.
Recently I joined 200 other young people to participate in a pilot agriculture-experience program in Japan. Read more

One of the complex questions I have been living is the question of education. This is a question that has grown within me from my own education in the public school system and now ripens as I have the stewardship of nurturing my own four daughters. For their sakes, I have waded through the war-zone of educational philosophies with the cross-fire so thick that I could not clearly see who was wrong or who was right. At last I came upon a place of peace, where Dewey, Montessori, Steiner, Mason, Rousseau and Froebel all seem to call a truce. I have found a place where public schoolers, home-schoolers, and private-schoolers can amicably co-exist. This higher-ground is in the garden. Read more

Last month I reconnected with my southern roots and traveled to my hometown, Atlanta, Georgia for a week’s immersion into the current developments around the local food movement and school garden education, particularly with my family’s organization, Seeds of Nutrition. My trip, however, was filled with much more than a visit to a few school gardens. I would soon be surprised by the South’s progress in the sustainable food movement. Read more