Dig Deeper


Livestock Intern needed at Rodale Institute

In recent years, the Rodale Institute has added a variety of livestock to the farm in order to diversify the use of land and increase the biology of the soil and compost. We are currently focused on dairy cows, organic swine and poultry, but also house a team of oxen, a small herd of goats, two sheep and two donkeys. We have begun research on our poultry as well as our swine, and hope to continue with the help of an enthusiastic intern. This unpaid internship will have a flexible schedule and will be required to work up to 40 hours per week. Some days will exceed 8 hours. The Institute will accept an intern on a semester basis.

This internship is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about organic animal agriculture and organic veterinary care. The knowledge and experience obtained during the internship will allow for the individual to feel comfortable during future college courses and a career in animal husbandry.

Housing is available for the unpaid intern. Intern should be available from 6 months to a year.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

• Assist in the day to day care of the animals, while learning and gaining experience about organic animal production, health, research, and management.
• Assist with daily animal chores including, but not limited to, feeding, watering, rotating pastures, collecting eggs, and socializing with the animals.
• Be able to recognize any problems that may occur in the health and wellbeing of the livestock.
• Assist in solving any issues related to the livestock.

QUALIFICATIONS:
• Caring and compassionate with animals.
• Experience in the handling and care of animals.
• Capable of strenuous physical activities on the farm.
• Willingness to work in all weather elements.
• Be comfortable working individually or as a team.
• Ability to communicate with other staff members and the public, including neighboring farmers.
• Interest in research that has the potential to improve organic pork and poultry production.

EDUCATION:
• Must have a high school diploma.

TRAVEL
Minimal travel

OTHER RODALE INSTITUTE EXPECTATIONS:

To be trustful and respectful to all staff and visitors.

If interested please submit resume and/or application to elaine.macbeth@rodaleinstitute.org

Farm Photo Friday: August 22, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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Your 2 Cents Grant Recipient: Steve of Peacefully Organic Produce

Peacefully Organic Produce is proud to be the first ever Veteran-led community supported agriculture (CSA) and farm in the Madison area. They aim to provide a peaceful place for Veterans to return home, learn about organic agriculture, and build a stronger community around their food supply.

Tell me a little bit about Peacefully Organic Produce.

Well, this is my first year in ownership of a farm business. I don’t own the land, but I lease 16 acres outside Madison. Last year, I was managing the farm on this property, but this year, with my partner Steph, we reestablished it as Peacefully Organic. We actually just had our first two deliveries last week and the week before for our CSA members! We are the state’s first veteran-led farm, and the majority of the workers here are veterans, including myself.  We are trying to establish a vocational rehab program, both for veterans who were farmers before serving and those who want to get into farming for the first time. Some of our veterans participate in compensated work therapy, because they are experiencing disabilities that prevent them from normal employment. They come out a few days a week just to work a little bit and get paid a little bit, but they’re not expected to go out and start their own business because of their disabilities. We also try to identify veterans who want to get into farming for the first time. Maybe they’re a bit disenfranchised and are looking to get to a place where they can be around other veterans and not have to explain everything they’re feeling, or maybe they are just looking for somewhere they fit in and feel comfortable. When I returned from the military, I didn’t really have a place to go. Over 70 percent of veterans from Wisconsin are from rural communities, so the farm is a good fit for them.

Did you come from a farming family or did you get into later in life?

I came from a farming family. I was raised on a dairy farm with Holsteins, and my partner, Todd, also comes from a farming background.

Tell me more about your path from knowing you wanted to farm to actually owning your own farm.

So, I got out of the service at the end of 2008 and transitioned right into college. In May 2013, I got my civil-structural engineering degree from University of Wisconsin Platteville, but I realized pretty quickly that living in a cubicle as a engineer for the rest of my life just wasn’t a good fit. I started looking around, and that’s when I met Stephanie. We were both already CSA members and decided that we wanted to pursue our own CSA farm. We started by searching for jobs on farms, but I got lucky and was offered a management position that ended up morphing very quickly into ownership.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced starting your own farm? And how did you overcome them?

I would have to say capitalizing the venture. I was starting a farm from scratch, more or less, so even with what Steph was willing to contribute, the business loan I received and grant funding, the money goes really quickly. Buying equipment and setting up infrastructure alone are very expensive. Then when you add seed and certification costs, fuel cost and labor, things get to be spread very thin. Because of that, finding the capital to get all of the things we needed just to get started was hard.

What has been the most rewarding part of purchasing your own farm?

Every Wednesday when we deliver shares of fresh, organic produce directly to families and know that they’re going to take it home to feed their families healthy food that doesn’t have pesticides and sprays and all of that other stuff. That feels great. Also, being able to go out in my fields, harvest produce and have it cooking on the grill ten minutes later is pretty nice.

Were you always an organic farm or did you transition from conventional to organic?

Growing up, my family ran a conventional dairy until I was 9 or 10. We then transitioned to organic, but shortly after that I had to move off of the farm due to family reasons. When I started Peacefully Organic, the land that we farmed on had been in transition for four years, and this year we took another nine and a half acres back from a conventional farm and are transitioning those to organic as well. The certification for those acres should actually be in the mail right now, as we speak!

Why organic?

We chose to grow organically because we believe it is much healthier for both our consumers and the environment. I standby and watch as the “conventional” farmer around us has to repeatedly spray his fields with round-up, chemical fertilizers, and insecticides. This type of farming leaves the farmer in the pocket of large GMO seed and chemical companies. I still don’t understand why there are so many regulations governing the production of Organic agriculture, yet the conventional farmer isn’t required to disclose the fact that they apply poison on food…but I digress.

What are the biggest issues facing farmers today?

In the past two years, my observation is that conventional farmers are feeling so much pressure from seed and chemical companies. They’re forcing them to use a certain kind of practice that is detrimental to the environment,the  topsoil and the food they produce. It’s not good. I can show you evidence from my own farm, just from two fields. One was used to harvest GMO corn for four years, and the other has been used for organic produce. One set of soil is crap, and the other set is fantastic. Seed and chemical companies place so much pressure on farmers to use the practices that destroy land.

What do you think is the most hopeful or exciting thing happening in the organic food and farming community right now?

For me, it’s how many people are reaching out to our farm to help. Veterans and non- veterans alike want to see us be successful. Besides that, most of the organic CSA farmers that I’m meeting these days are under 30, so the future of organic faming has a lot of potential. I really think that the mindset about our food is changing with our generation, and that’s exciting.

What made you apply for the Your 2 Cents grant and how do you see it helping your business?

Free money is never a bad thing! So it’s partly that, and partly that I like making new connections –  hopefully long term – that can be reciprocated in some way, whether directly to the Institute or through our practices and to our consumers. We used the funds we were given to purchase organic cover crop to transition our new fields to organic status, and also to purchase more seed fo the rest of the year. We really wanted to be able to do more with the acres that we have instead of having to wait a year or two to do those things, and having the funds for cover crops will certainly speed that up. We’re just very appreciative for what we’ve been able to do so far.

What is one tool you couldn’t live without?

The one tool I absolutely could NOT live without would be my potato hiller/buster. Last year, we had to dig up roughly a half acre of potatoes with forks and people-power….never again.

National Honeybee Day: August 16, 2014

In appreciation of their support, we invite Rodale Institute Business Members to share an article about their work on our website. These articles often include insightful information based on their experience and line of work.  It provides a unique perspective of organic agriculture that we enjoy sharing with our readers. In honor of National Honeybee Day on August 16th, we are happy to share this article from Wedderspoon Organic 

By Kelly Nelson, Publicity/ Media Manager, Wedderspoon Organic USA, LLC

manuka bee midsizeThirty-nine years ago, New Zealanders Bruce and wife Jenny, decided to learn the ancient art of beekeeping and produce a rare honey variety called manuka honey that only comes from manuka bushes along the pristine landscapes of New Zealand. Two thousand two hundred hives later, Bruce’s bees produce the Wedderspoon Organic brand of Non-GMO honeys, including the best-selling manuka honey in North America.

Throughout the world, manuka honey is valued due to the fact that it is full of potent antioxidants, enzymes and natural properties that keep it fresh naturally without any preservatives or refrigeration.

In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, researchers concluded that manuka honey is useful for treating minor wounds and burns.

Contrary to popular belief, there are currently no official standards regarding the labeling of manuka honey. However, the New Zealand Government is in the process of working on labeling guidelines. Unfortunately, as the popularity of manuka honey has increased so have issues surrounding purity of the product. Often, manuka honey is being sold with less than a 50% pollen count and blended with other less expensive honey.

It has been discovered that it is possible to artificially increase one component in the honey called methylglyoxal (MG), by feeding the chemical DHA to the bees or adding it to the honey – a very deceptive and unethical practice. Research [http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/55/5/1289.abstract] shows that high levels of this chemical may also be toxic to living cells and detrimental to diabetics.

What sets Wedderspoon apart is that we consistently strive to keep all of the natural benefits of the honey from being compromised. The numbers you see on our manuka honey jars are potency indicators of a total average of the multiple measurable components including pollen count, PH level consistency, hydrogen peroxide, antioxidant levels, live enzymes, naturally occurring methylglyoxal, and phenolic compounds. We also test for over 250 chemical residues.

“Research shows that there’s more than one important factor in measuring true manuka,” explained Bruce, “For Wedderspoon manuka, we make sure to confirm there is a manuka pollen count of at least 60-70%, the color is not too dark or too light, it has to taste like manuka and not be too bitter, a low HMF, meaning it has not been heated, because heating destroys the healthy, beneficial enzymes, and lastly, antioxidant levels.”

At Wedderspoon, we look for raw, unpasteurized, natural, authentic manuka honey. Currently, Wedderspoon sells organic manuka, beechwood, thyme, rata, and dandelion honeys, which all contain valuable antioxidants.

We are proud that our manuka honey contains no GMO residue and continue to strive to promote healthy beekeeping practices and organic farming – ensuring that organic honey remains a resource we can all enjoy.

Farm Photo Friday: August 15, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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Bloom Alert: August 13, 2014

white dahlia chicken200Don’t want the summer to end?

Visit the Rodale Institute this Friday and Saturday for our Preserving in Style Organic Plant Sale. We will have cut flowers and loads of gorgeous ornamentals and edibles for sale.  This week, the dahlias are starting to bloom and we have a range of colors and varieties available, but they are being attacked by a common garden pest – the Japanese Beetle. Other pests that attack these bodacious blooms are slugs, aphids, deer and powdery mildew.

Also, the organic ELDERBERRIES are ripe and ready to pick at $5 per pound!! Elderberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and they can lower cholesterol, improve vision and heart health, and boost the immune system. They have been used as a holistic remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.

elderberry bunch200Not only will you be able to preserve the style of summer, but the flavor, too!

Register for our Preserve the Harvest workshop this Saturday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. to find out everything you need to know about preserving the summer’s bounty. Participants will receive a 10% discount at the Preserving in Style Organic Plant Sale.

Rodale Institute is THE place for pick-your-own ORGANIC flowers! Our Bloom Alerts will keep in the loop so you know when to come out to the farm for fresh organic flowers. Check back to see what is bursting forth each week.

For more information on the who, what, when, and where of pick-your-own flowers at the farm, contact our Garden Store.

Regulating Pest Controls

KM 093_200By Kelsey McKee, OMRI Review Program and Quality Director

Clearly, a commitment to organic practices means that growers will generally use pest control products as a last resort, but organic farmers are permitted to use some potent materials in order to address severe pest issues. Although most pest control products allowed for organic production are naturally derived, these materials can be quite toxic – especially when used in excess. There are written requirements that are part of the organic standards, and these constraints are not always obvious to organic consumers, or to gardeners who do not work with a certifier. The organic standards include an important clause that limits the circumstances under which pest control products may be used.

Under section 205.206(e) of the USDA organic standards, farmers are required to use preventative, mechanical, physical, and other pest, weed and disease management practices before applying any pest control products. Organic certifiers are responsible for verifying that this section 205.206(e) is followed.

OMRI plays a central role in this process, representing a better choice for organic growers and home gardeners, while also listing products that are not intended for use on a daily basis. Communicating this complexity is a daily challenge. Organic farmers and gardeners are looking for a simple yes/no, you can or cannot use this product, clearly stated on the label. But the answer is more complex. The fact that a product is OMRI Listed® does not mean that farmers are using it all the time. It means that it can be used as part of an organically managed system that also incorporates preventative and cultural pest management practices.

PeggyNew_400

Adding to the complexity, the organic standards for materials are specific to certain uses, meaning that a material may be allowed for some uses but not for others. OMRI policies require one compliant use on the product label, but other uses may also be included. Unfortunately, this can lead to confusion as it is sometimes difficult to discern which uses are allowed on organic farms. That’s why OMRI includes important additional information about OMRI Listed products on its website and through the OMRI Products List©. Website visitors at OMRI.org can search or download the OMRI Products List© for free, and each entry includes a full description of when and how the product is allowed under the organic standards, including section 205.206(e). For products that are not OMRI Listed®, the “Materials” search provides the same information for generic ingredients. Other organizations that list inputs also have clarifying information available through their websites.

It would certainly be easier if organic growers could simply use OMRI Listed products when they have a problem, but all certified operators know that they must check with their certifier first. This practice protects organic consumers and farm ecosystems from inadvertent use of potent materials, ensuring that organic products live up to their name. OMRI listing is intended to make it easier for organic producers to make decisions about materials, but the seal on the package does not always tell the whole story. More information is available for those who care to look!

Your 2 Cents Grant Recipient: Nicole Spinelli

red rangers200Nicole is a beginning farmer who recently purchased a small organic farm in rural Wisconsin.  After working for ten years in the conservation field helping farmers, she is now looking forward to beginning farming on her own.  Your 2 Cents helped her established a pastured poultry operation by providing funding for her to invest in the necessary supplies to start her operation.

Tell me a little bit about your farm.

It’s an eleven-acre organic farm in Wisconsin, in the southwest corner of the state. I haven’t pursued becoming certified organic as of yet, because my gross income isn’t high enough yet. There’s some exception when you make under $5,000, you can still use word “organic” without getting certified. I’m following all of the organic rules, but haven’t gone through that expense. My main crops are pastured chickens and seed garlic, and I’m starting to establish raspberries and blueberries.

The breed of bird we’re raising is really neat – Red Ranger broilers. Traditionally, most people that raise meat birds raise white Cornish crosses, which are not the best on pastures because they’re not good grazers. They like to sit in front of a feed trough and eat, because that’s what they’re bred for – to grow fast. I was interested in a growing heritage breed that strives in a pasture. It’s fun to see how well they’re doing and see them foraging and eating clover and grass. They’re active and they like to move around and that’s been fun to see because it’s something different from what a lot of people are doing. We’re now getting ready for our second batch of birds, a dark Cornish breed from England that also does really well on pasture and was one of the original breeds that the Cornish cross was bred from. They’re another slower growing breed.

Did you come from a farming family or did you get into later in life?

I did not. I grew up on Long Island, New York in the suburbs, but my job out of college was working with farmers. I’ve always been interested in the environment and over the course of my career, I wanted to know where my food was coming from and developed interest in farming myself. On Long Island I couldn’t really have my own farm so I found an apprenticeship on an organic vegetable farm. I started searching for places with affordable farmland, and that brought me to Wisconsin. There’s a pretty strong local food movement here, so it’s been a good fit. I rented for a while, then found this land last September with my fiancé, Roy. The land was certifiable organic when we brought it so there were no prohibited substances sprayed on it, which was super exciting.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced starting your own farm? And how did you overcome them?

Access to farmland. Finding farmland that’s affordable, good quality, and has good neighbors is hard. Being organic, the crops that are grown on neighboring farms are a concern to me because I might possibly have to form a buffer between myself and those farms. It was also tough to find the right size. There were larger tracts for sale that obviously cost more money and give more room to expand, but since we wanted to keep our startup cost low, it was hard to find the perfect small tract of land that had good soil and was certifiable as organic.

What has been the most rewarding part of purchasing your own farm?

The daily satisfaction of seeing progress happen and projects get accomplished. If you compare it to renting land, you’re making all these improvements but you don’t own land. You’re benefitting someone else’s land and soil in the long term and adding micronutrients through compost, but it’s even more been rewarding knowing that I’m improving my own land for the long term. I plan on being here for a while, so I’ll get to see the results of investments I make in the soil and the land.

Why did you choose to make your farm organic?

It’s just something I strongly believe in and has been a part of my lifestyle for the last ten years. I’m not interested in spraying chemicals that no one really knows effects of and I think being organic is just healthier all around for myself, my family, my community and environment.

What are the biggest issues facing farmers today?

The weather and climate change. It’s hard to plan daily activities when you don’t know what your environment is going to bring. So figuring out the timing of planting and cultivation and seeding is challenging, and so is dealing with the crop loss that is sometimes a result of it.

An issue with raising birds on pasture is insects. We get really bad gnats during a certain time of year in Wisconsin, and they’re these little things that buzz around your head and like to bite you. People around here have a big problem, because they can actually end up killing your flock by suffocating them. They swarm around and get in their nostrils and I was worried because they’ve been especially bad this year. I didn’t know how it would affect the birds, but since Red Rangers are a breed that’s especially active, they’ve been able to shake them off and keep them at bay, whereas other people this year have actually lost some of their birds.

What do you think is the most hopeful or exciting thing happening in the organic food and farming community right now?

The interest from consumers is really exciting. The demand for organic and local foods is growing and I’m seeing an increase in local community famers’ markets. People are interested in where their food comes from. They want to meet their farmer and know who they are. Things like that are what changes the food system.

What made you apply for the Your 2 Cents grant and how do you see it helping your business?

I’m still in my startup period, so I thought maybe I could apply and it would help me make it through while I’m getting started. It was a total shot in the dark and I was super excited to get approved. It really helped me to put the right infrastructure in place for the chickens. We live in a pretty rural area with lots of open space and lots of wildlife, which means a lot of predators. Everything loves to eat our chickens, but the grant allowed us to put up proper fencing and establish a robust chicken protection system. We can keep our birds safe and happy and allow them access to pasture every day. Having that little bit of extra money let us experiment with designs for the mobile chicken coop or chicken tractor and see what worked best.

What is one tool you couldn’t live without?

I would have to say my wheel hoe or hand hoe. I use the hand hoe all the time for weeding since I can use it to weed almost anything, so it’s pretty handy. We even used it to plant potatoes!

 

Your 2 Cents Grant Recipients: Alejandro & Jesse of Adelante Mujeres

200Adelante Mujeres is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that creates educational, social and  economic opportunity for the low-income Latino population of Washington County, Oregon. Since 2005, their agriculture program, Adelante Agricultura, has trained aspiring Latino farmers in small-scale organic farming practices. Adelante Agricultura aims to expand the capacity and success rate of Latino farmers and prove that organic farming can be a viable and rewarding career.

Tell me a little bit the Sustainable Agriculture Program.

The sustainable Agriculture Program of Adelante Mujeres provides aspiring Latino immigrant farmers with the training and skills necessary to grow vegetables so that they can eat healthy and to successfully market their products. It started 10 years ago and since then we are providing trainings to Spanish speaking people about how to grow vegetables using sustainable techniques.

We have an annual 12-week farming course, in which we cover several themes like: soil building, cover crops, pest, weed and disease management, water conservation, compost, etc. participants who attend 80% of the course become members and are invited to several workshops and other events related to agriculture. This year, we were lucky to get a grant from Rodale to start our internship project (CAMPO) which allows one of the program’s participants to get hands-on experience in a local farm.

Jesse: CAMPO, is a project that’s kind of an extension of our farming training program. We’ve offered the classes for ten years now, but now we’re offering the opportunity for a hardworking and interested student to get experience on a farm. Our intern, Álvaro, works on the farm now as an intern and is learning practical skills now that he’s completed the farming class. He’s been coming out and learning all of the skills that are concordant with what we’re undertaking out there based on the needs for seasons. He started in the greenhouse with transplant planting, direct seeding, maintenance work and weeding, and now he’s using agricultural fabric to cover crops and lying plastic on the ground for warmth – all techniques he hadn’t used in the past. This is the first year that we’re offering the internship, so Álvaro is our first student, but we hope to expand it in the future. For this year, he’s the pilot.

Álvaro is also farming on his own simultaneously, so as soon as he learns something, he goes home and applies it to his own farm. He can decide which knowledge to use and add in different ideas of his own. It’s a constant discussion and it’s valuable for him to be able to compare different ways of doing things. Through our agriculture program, we operate a distributor who buys from Latino farmers who are members of the program and sells to restaurants in the area. That makes it even more rewarding, I think, for our intern to be able to learn farming skills and sell produce at the same time. That way he’s not just getting the skills to grow things, but to sell them to people who are really excited to eat them.

Why did you choose to offer a farming program?

3_300Alejandro: At the end of 2004, one of the members of the former steering committee of the Forest Grove Farmers’ Market came to us and offered us the opportunity to restart the Market. Because most of the Adelante Mujeres participants’ husbands have agricultural background, we saw on this a really good opportunity to involve them in the community doing something they enjoy. When we communicate this idea to them they expressed their desire to participate but they needed training about how to grow vegetables here in Oregon and also how to grow them without chemicals. That is how we started the Agriculture program to teach farming techniques to grow food for selling at the market. Also, nutrition is one of Adelante Mujeres’ priorities so teaching people how to grow their own food is a way to improve their health. Since 2005 we started teaching classes about how to grow vegetables using sustainable techniques, and now we have a whole program that: provides technical assistance to Latinos who own small farming businesses, buys part of their products through Adelante Mujeres Distributor, and gives access to land through community gardens.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced starting the program? And how did you overcome them?

Alejandro: at the beginning, the hardest part was finding a place for the participants of the class to practice what they were learning. We’re in a city, so it was a little difficult to find a space suitable for farming. Since the participants were eager to start using the farming techniques, we started looking for a space to farm. It was through a partnership with other organizations that we found the right place. We started with less than half of an acre, but it was enough; in it, our first participants stared practicing the organic techniques that we were teaching them.

What has been the most rewarding part of starting the program?

Alejandro: There are many! One of the most rewarding parts is when I go to the participants farms or to the community gardens and see people there growing vegetables, especially the beginners who have never planted anything but now are doing really well and feel proud of doing it. On the business side, seeing them selling quality food at Farmers’ markets, restaurants or to our distributor is really satisfying. We can see the difference we have made in the lives of people. For example, there are two farmers who started with us in 2005 and are now independent. They don’t have other jobs because they live out of their farm business now. That’s really rewarding to see.

Why organic?

Alejandro: I am from Guatemala and worked on a farm, but it was a conventional one. In 1999, I took a class about ecology and I learned about the damage we were doing to ourselves and the environment. After that, I stopped farming until I moved to the US. Here I started a garden at my house. Then I started working at Adelante Mujeres. One of the core values of this organization is to love and respect the earth, so the Sustainable Agriculture Program was one way of living this value because by growing food without chemicals we don’t harming it.

2_300Also, we need to eat healthy. As you know, there are many studies that show us the damage that chemicals are doing to our bodies so we don’t want to keep doing that. Adelante Mujeres is focused on well-being so we are teaching our participants that what we eat is really important to keep us healthy, and one way of having access to healthy food is growing it ourselves and knowing the right way to grow it is key. We know the damage that chemicals are doing to the environment, too. We know that waters are contaminated and the air is polluted because of conventional agriculture, and we don’t want to keep doing that. Also, more and more people are aware of their eating habits and want to eat healthy. This is an opportunity for our famers to reach that market with organic produce. I think a lot of people are buying from our farmers because they know they are using organic methods. I have taught a class in the adult education program here at Adelante Mujeres and I’ve seen the change in the women. Some of them had never eaten vegetables, but they’ve changed their diets. I take them to the garden and I start eating vegetables there and they say “Do you eat that!?” after a while, they’re eating those same things. It seems really small change, but in the long term, it makes a difference because they’re changing the habits of their whole families.

In the internship program, part of what we do on the farm with Álvaro is cook lunch every day with only things from the farm. Because of that, he’s become really interested in cooking. He has mentioned several times that his family hadn’t eaten many vegetables in the past, but he’s getting better at convincing them to eat vegetables with him now that he knows how to prepare them and cook them for everyone. So it’s not just the farming experience, it’s those other positive personal effects as well. – Jesse.

Alejandro: This is really surprising to me because one of the questions we asked in the interview for this position was: do you cook? Álvaro clearly sad he didn’t cook and that he didn’t like to cook either. So this is proof that having a participant in the farm is a life changing experience.

What are the biggest issues facing farmers today?

Alejandro: Locally, access to land. After our participants graduate from the agricultural class, they are faced with the difficulty of finding a place to farm. There are several farm owners who want to lease or share their land with them, but in organic farming, that doesn’t make sense. You have to build the soil and that can take years. In one year, you can’t really do anything valuable, so people get discouraged. Also, the advancement of GMOs is threatening small organic farmers. I’ve heard famers talk about that and it’s scary.

Jesse: One of the major challenges in the past was that it takes a whole lot of hands-on experience to learn how to be a successful organic farmer. People who want to get into it can get a decent amount, but to be able to have a whole season to practice helps persuade someone to not only farm or garden as a hobby, but to consider taking it as part-time income or a career. It takes a lot of hands-on experience to make someone want to go ahead and make it a full-time career.

What do you think is the most hopeful or exciting thing happening in the organic food and farming community right now?

1_300Jesse: It’s exciting to see more and more people show up to take the class. This year, it was hard to choose just one intern. During the application and interview process, we interviewed four people and after meeting them, we knew they all could’ve been great choices. There’s so much momentum moving in this direction and people are taking interest in our program and wanting to continue. They really want to take organic farming and do something serious and professional with it.

Alejandro: We are in a time when people are realizing that organic is the only real option if you want to have healthy food and to improve your well-being. At the beginning, the agricultural classes were taken most of all for people with limited education or no education, but now we have participants who have college degrees. Participants have expressed so much interest now because they know how much damage is being done by conventional farming. When I do farm visits, I can see the changes people have experienced. Our intern is always telling us how much he is learning and how he is really convinced that what he is doing is the right thing to do.

What made you apply for the Your 2 Cents grant and how do you see it helping your business?

Alejandro: After the classes, people gain a lot of knowledge, but they need hands-on experience and practice. In 2008, we knew we wanted to do something like this. The idea was to give the participants of our program the opportunity to learn and put into practice what they learned on a real farm. We have a community garden, but I think that’s different from being an employee on a farm. Now, our intern is getting some money for his work and that’s a really necessary thing. They need money to survive and also they are enthusiastic of learning valuable farming skills so, the opportunity to get some money while improving their skills is just the best thing.

What is one tool you couldn’t live without?

Alejandro: Money – money to have the possibility of expanding and giving participants the opportunity to get hands-on experience and maybe even find a space of our own where they can do that.

Jesse: The participants themselves. The most important thing is having momentum in the right direction and if we continue that momentum and offer this project to more people and have them participate on farms and as interns, we could continue to grow the program with the demand. We could even specify it based on the interests of farmers and farms.

 

Farm Photo Friday: August 8, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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