the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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the shortage of livestock veterinarians is reaching “crisis levels”

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Even after the lamb comes, the ewe continues to strain. Sticky with afterbirth, the ram lamb calls to his mother in quavering tenor, but though she lifts her head in his direction and lets out a low moan of response, her heaving sides won’t let her rise and go to him.

In the compounded darkness of the manger—it’s well after sunset—it’s hard to see what’s happening. The ewe stretches a hind leg in effort, and then again, and again, pushing. She stops her rhythmic movement, breath ragged. Someone shines a light: there is something there, behind her hind legs, on the straw. A second lamb? The thing is dark, darker than the first lamb. A black lamb? But no, it glistens too strangely in the odd glare/shadow contrast of the flashlight.

“I—I think that’s part of her body.” What? “I think those are her organs.” 

The stillness breaks. The livestock manager is called. “Prolapse,” “iodine,” “warm water,” “towels.” There is a flurry of activity in service to these words. The rumble of a truck announces the arrival of Josh, the livestock manager, from down the road. He clicks his headlamp on to peer at the lumpen tangle between the prostrate ewe’s legs. “That’s her uterus,” he says, and walks away to call the vet.

He returns shaking his head. The vet can’t come for two hours—there’s another emergency, over the border in Vermont. “I guess I’ll try to put it back, but I’ve never had much luck.”

Josh instructs someone to fetch sugar, someone to fetch a better light, someone to prepare a bottle of colostrum for the new lamb (“He’s huge, look how huge he is! That must be what did it”). He sloshes iodine up to his elbows while two people hold the ewe still. Gingerly, he lifts the uterus from ground, pulling off bits of straw and hay. He pours sugar over it. “The vet says this will make it shrink, so that it will fit,” he tells us. Then in a low mutter, to himself, “This was my favorite sheep.”

After a few moments, he begins trying to push the uterus back into the ewe. But even gritty with sugar, reverse-osmosis starting to drain the fluid, it’s slippery and swollen, bulging any place where Josh’s hands can’t stretch, the task like trying to fit a water ballon into the tap from which it was filled. “She’s pushing against me,” he says. “Her body thinks she’s having a lamb.”

He keeps trying: adding more sugar, repositioning, applying prolonged pressure, but it won’t go. Josh sits back on his heels. There’s nothing to do but wait for the vet.
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the incredible american-made, open source, radically accessible, and utterly adaptable tractor

One thing that is clear when you look at Oggún’s website, watch its videos, and study its tractor, is that this a no-frills organization. No frills: just results. And that is precisely why we love them and it so much.

In his ever-relevant essay “In Distrust of Movements,” Wendell Berry writes that the local food and land movement must “content itself to be poor,” because, “We need to find cheap solutions, solutions within the reach of everybody, and the availability of a lot of money prevents the discovery of cheap solutions. The solutions of modern medicine and modern agriculture are all staggeringly expensive, and this is caused in part, and maybe altogether, because of the availability of huge sums of money for medical and agricultural research.”

What we see here, in the Oggún tractor, is exactly what kind of practical, pragmatic results come from a thrifty approach. Accessing Cuba’s local food shortage, Cuban-born  Horace Clemmons and his business partner Saul Berenthal quickly realized that Cuban farmers needed technology that was simple, rugged, and easy-to-repair. And then they asked, why don’t tractors like this already exist, tractors like the original Allis Chalmers G that farmers in the US used in the 1950s? They suspected that stock-based shareholder business models might be to blame: too much money and the input of too many people with money who just do not understand the problems of small farmers.

So, in the grand spirit of Farm Hack, they used open-source technology to build a tractor with all off-the-shelf parts. Thus, repairs can be done in the field and in small local machine shops. Oggún adapted its business model to keep over-head costs low, partner closely with other local businesses, and never develop products that are planned for obsolescence. The tractors is made in Alabama, but it’s available to and possibly revolutionary for small family farmers all around the world.

Tune into Greenhorns Radio today at 4:00 PM to hear Locky Carton, Oggún partner and graduate of the University of Iowa’s agricultural business program, speak more about this exciting project. If you can’t tune in today, don’t forget that a podcast version of our show is always available at the Heritage Radio Network!


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sandra simone, rural farmer, jazz singer

Sandra Simone of Talladega County, Ala., is an award-winning organic farmer who used to be a jazz singer in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It took many years for my husband’s words — ‘We need to own our ancestors’ land’ — to click,” Simone said. “All I wanted was to get out of rural Alabama as a teenager. I never thought I’d return, let alone own land and farm it, organically and sustainably.” Read more here


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write your way to a goat dairy

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Ever wished and wished and wished beyond all reasonable hope that you could buy an organic farm with good will, passion, and desire? Well, now maybe you can! The owners of Humble Heart Farms, a 20 acre goat dairy in Northern Alabama, want to give their farm (along with its 55 milking goats, 3-bedroom ranch house, $20,000 for start-up costs, and all the secrets of their trade) to the writer of the best 200-word essay.

And, no, this isn’t a dream.

The entry fee is $150 and the contest ends October 1, 2015, at 11:59:59PM Central Time.

Read the official entry rules and view pictures of the farm on the contest website.


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teaching farm fellow

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Timeline
Start Date: March 11, 2013      OR            Start Date: May 27, 2013
End Date: March 10, 2014                        End Date: May 23, 2014

Organizational Description
In 2007, the founders of Jones Valley Teaching Farm transformed three and a half acres of vacant downtown Birmingham property into an urban farm, driven by the singular vision of making our community a healthier place.

In late 2011, Jones Valley Teaching Farm reexamined our opportunities in order to identify ways to increase our long-term impact on young students. Through this process, we decided to both renew and re-define our focus on K-8 education, especially in Birmingham City Schools–an urban public school system.  Jones Valley is now intensely focused on empowering future generations with an education to eat smarter, think healthier—and live better as we develop and deliver innovative and relevant educational programs and services to school communities. As we launch this renewed educational focus, we begin with a measurable goal: to educate 10,000 students annually through our food, science and nutrition education curriculum and programs.   Continue reading


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eating alabama

Eating Alabama is a film about why food matters. What happens when a couple swears off processed, packaged, and prepared foods and instead finds everything they eat from local sources? It’s a story about community, history, sustainability, and relationships. Local eating isn’t just about the food – it’s also about the place.

for more information visit the film blog or Moon Winx Films