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 seed we need: there’s not enough

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Outside right now, in central Massachusetts, it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s a thin crust of fresh snow on the ground, and the trees are brown and bare. But in the flood of seed catalogues that have been flowing into the farmhouse mailbox over the past few months, it’s summer. Peas are fat in the pod, the lettuce is in full flush, and eggplants hang heavy, shiny, and purple. All the grass is green. There are flowers everywhere.

It’s into this imagination land of color and warmth that we’ve been burrowing throughout the coldest season as we attempt to tease out a concrete organic crop plan from this fantasy of perfect bounty. But as with any fantasy, there are limitations to this one’s ability to deliver on it’s promise: our land is not perfect land, our soils are not perfect soils, we are not perfect growers, and the weather, inevitably, will not behave perfectly for our purposes.

Even more than the obvious disparities, however, these catalogues are limited in that they bely the true nature of their industry. Abundance, diversity, and choice: this is what we hope to achieve in the crop plan for this farm’s organic vegetable CSA, and that is what the seed catalogues are selling us. But the reality of the seed industry is not that. The reality of the seed industry is this:

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Consolidation is the name of the game when it comes to seed, and nothing suppresses abundant diversity and choice like the concentration of research funding and intellectual property rights into the hands of just a few. Despite the existence of a select number of seed companies that cater to the needs of small-scale, diversified, and/or organic farmers, and despite the considerable (and still growing) market for organic seed, the actual supply of attainable organic genetics is quite small. And without sufficient organic seed, the hardiness of organic agriculture starts to look—well, considerably less hardy.

According to the Organic Seed Alliance’s 2016 report, most organic farmers still rely on conventional seed because they can’t find organic versions of the varieties they need […] The result for farmers is not simply compromised principles and reliance on regulatory exemptions, but a reservoir of organic germplasm whose quality, in addition to scale, is inadequate to their needs.

The reasoning here is partly ideological, partly regulatory, and partly (the biggest part) due to the nature of seed, explains Tyson Neukirch, former head grower at the Farm School. Growing with organic seed means supporting the growth of the organic seed industry—an act of solidarity as well as self-interest. Increased demand ought to lead to increased supply of organic seed, and increased supply enables organic farmers to better comply with organic certifiers who are becoming more stringent with their requirement that organic-certified farmers use organic seed unless, as the USDA National Organic Program puts it, “an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.”

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farmshare austin currently accepting applications for spring 2016 program

Farmshare Austin, is a nonprofit dedicated to providing communities with healthy food by teaching the next generation of organic farmers.

“Using a blend of hands-on in-field training and formal classroom education, students will gain practical knowledge and experience in organic and sustainable growing methods, as well as learning the business and financial planning skills necessary to establish a successful market farm. Students will live and work on a seven acre organic farm in an intensive four and a half month immersion learning experience. Students will receive extensive in-field training in organic vegetable production with mentorship from experienced staff, and will work cooperatively to accomplish daily tasks for a 60 member CSA. Students will be exposed to all aspects of a working farm and will develop in-depth skills through this seasonal program. Daily activities may include bed preparation, planting, weeding, irrigation, harvest, and packing.

Students will also receive 200 hours of formal educational time. Students will participate in bi-weekly classes, along with farm walks, discussions, workshops, and monthly local area farm tours with opportunities to work with and learn from agricultural professionals and expert farmers. Students will benefit from individual attention, small class size, and evaluations for educational and training goals.

We are seeking vibrant, enthusiastic candidates who are committed to participating in an intensive twenty week training program in organic vegetable production.  Applicants should have a passion for sustainable agriculture and be prepared to submerse themselves in an inclusive learning community. We strive to select individuals who can contribute a diverse set of skills and knowledge, and are ultimately looking to create a healthy, happy, and active learning community.”

For more information click HERE!


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enroll in farm school for august 2015!

Innovative New Farm School Prepares Students to Feed People and our Planet

A new farm school grows up in Sebastopol, CA, preparing a new generation of farmers to grow food in the face of changing climate, mounting challenges for family farmers, and a growing public desire for more sustainable ways to feed our world.


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farm school scholarships!

Our friends at The Farm School’s Learn to Farm program – which is now in its 13th year and licensed as a private occupational school – continue to make a great case for tuition-based farmer training, providing extraordinary breath and depth in all aspects of the field and turning out graduates who go on to farm successfully.  And now is the time to check out the year-long program and apply, as they have just announced new scholarships that will ensure all can attend, regardless of means: www.farmschool.org

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download the press release HERE


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organic farm school

another interesting opportunity in Washington State.

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Interested in becoming an Organic Farmer? Join our Organic Farm School program!

Located in Washington State, the Organic Farm School (OFS) trains aspiring farmers to run successful, ecological and community-focused farms and uses its eight-acre organic farm as a real-world example and outdoor classroom. During the full-time, 7.5-month residential program, students spend one third of their time attending weekly classes and field trainings, studying a university-developed farming and marketing curriculum, going on bi-weekly field trips and engaging in independent research projects, including the writing of a personal farm business plan. Students spend the balance of their time co-managing the OFS farm which focuses on market-scale production of organic vegetables, seed crops and cover crops with berries, poultry, goats and bees incorporated as well. Through this balance of academic and experiential studies, students learn and experience all aspects of starting and running a small scale organic farm, from goal setting and business planning to planting, harvesting, and marketing. With this skill and knowledge base, graduates are able to minimize their risk and maximize their success as they enter the growing field of sustainable agricultural producers!

For more information, please visit our website at http://greenbankfarm.biz/farm-school/. Or contact:

Sebastian Aguilar, Training Director
Greenbank Farm Ag Training Center
765 Wonn Rd, A-201, Greenbank, WA, 98253
360-222-3171
www.greenbankfarm.com