The New American Farmer

Driven by economics, concerns about the environment or a yearning for a more satisfying lifestyle, the farmers and ranchers profiled in this collection have embraced new approaches to agriculture. Their stories vary but they share many goals - these new American farmers strive to renew profits, enhance environmental stewardship and improve life for their families and communities. The profilees in The New American Farmer, 2nd edition hail from small vegetable farms and ranches and grain farms...

Acres of almonds

65 acres of walnuts grown organically Lavender and other herbs Problem Addressed Troublesome, undernourished soils. The owners of this nut orchard, interested in creating a more environmentally sound enterprise, enrolled a 28-acre block of the farm's almond trees in a pilot project run by a California nonprofit organization to develop more sustainable orchard systems. Initial soil tests showed their soil was badly depleted of nutrients, so they immediately began applying compost over the whole...

Alex and Betsy Hitt Peregrine Farm

Intensive vegetable production on about five acres of 26-acre farm 1 4-acre highbush blueberries Sales to local farmers market, some restaurants and stores Problem Addressed Maximizing resources. When Alex and Betsy Hitt purchased a small farm near Chapel Hill, N.C., they wanted to develop a small farm that relied on the two of them, primarily, for labor in a balanced system that both earned a profit and benefited the environment. Our original goals, Alex says, were to make a living on this...

Allen Matthews and Family Scenery Hill Pennsylvania

Peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, gourds and other specialty crops on 158 acres Direct sales to Pittsburgh grocery stores and restaurants Problem Addressed Severe erosion. With a farm located in the hills of western Pennsylvania, Allen Matthews did not like the prospect of farming by a recipe dictated by regulations made far away. His USDA-approved soil conservation plan called for a seven-year rotation vegetables followed by two years of corn, a small grain and three years of hay. With...

Alvin and Shirley Harris Harris Farms

Organic vegetables, melons and field peas on 18 acres On-farm produce stand Problems Addressed Aversion to agri-chemicals. When Alvin and Shirley Harris decided to quit using petroleum-based chemicals on their small family farm 21 years ago, information on alternative methods was hard to find. Alvin slowly worked out a system for building soil health with rotations, composting, cover crops and green manures. After seeing the rewards of better soil fertility and healthy crops, Alvin knew he had...

Beato Calvo Rota Island Northern Mariana Islands

Coffee, bananas, cassava (tapioca), hot peppers, mango and other fruit and vegetables on 7 acres farmed Agri-tourism, including a zoo featuring local species, and farm zoo tours Problems Addressed Weather disasters. On Rota, as on other islands of the South Pacific, tropical typhoons can take a devastating toll on agriculture. In 2002, three typhoons ripped across Rota, the southernmost island of the Marianas chain. Typhoon Chataan damaged Calvo's new coffee trees planted early in the year....

Bill Slagle Walnut Meadows Enterprises Bruceton Mills West Virginia

300 acres in hardwoods for timber, on-site sawmill, dry kiln and cabinet shop 10 acres of ginseng 30 acres infields awaiting reseeding in timber Problem Addressed Diversifying a forestry system. With 300 acres in valuable hardwoods, Bill Slagle has both an asset and a liability. Growing a permanent crop like trees, while environmentally sustainable, can pose a challenge for farmers in need of steady income. Most of Slagle's Walnut Meadows farm sits in the extreme northeast corner of West...

Bob and Leda Muth Muth Farm

11 acres in mixed vegetables and cut flowers, partly for community-supported agriculture enterprise Three-quarters of an acre in strawberries sold from a roadside stand 40 acres of hay Problem Addressed Poor soils. Bob Muth farms 80 acres in southern New Jersey on a gravelly sandy loam with a relatively high percentage of clay. It tends to crust and compact if farmed intensively. Muth grew up on the farm his father raised crops part time while holding a factory job but left New Jersey after...

Bob Quinn Quinn Farm and Ranch

Organically grown wheat, including khorasan, durum, hard red winter and soft white, and buckwheat on 4,000 acres Barley, flax, lentils, alfalfa (for hay and green manure) and peas (for green manure) Processing and direct-marketing of organic grain Problem Addressed Low commodity prices. When Bob Quinn took over the fourth-generation, 2,400-acre family farm near Big Sandy, Mont., in 1978, it was a conventional grain and cattle operation. Unstable commodity prices meant he would have to look for...

Brian and Alice McGowan Blue Meadow Farm Montague Center Massachusetts

Retail nursery on three-acre farm 600 varieties of perennials (60,000 to 70,000 plants per year) 500 varieties of annuals and tender perennials (hundreds of thousands) each year Small number of trees and shrubs Problem Addressed Reducing pesticides. Brian and Alice McGowan decided early on that they wanted to use natural controls to combat diseases and insect pests in their Blue Meadow Farm nursery operation near Montague Center, Mass. They didn't want to expose themselves and their workers to...

Carmen Fernholz AFrame Farm

Diversified crops on 350 acres Barley, oats, wheat, flax, corn, soybeans and alfalfa grown organically Feeder-to-finish hog operation, 800 to 1,200 butchers sold annually Problems Addressed Low prices. Compared with mega-sized cash grain and hog farms in the Midwest, Carmen Fernholz is small potatoes. The small size of his swine operation makes it challenging to find economical processing options, given that many buying stations in his area have closed. Environmental impacts of agri-chemicals....

Charles Johnson familyMadison South Dakota

Oats, corn, soybeans, spring wheat, rye and alfalfa grown organically on 1,600 acres 150 head of beef Problem Addressed Raising commodity crops organically. It runs in the Johnson genes to be chemical-averse. Not only do they wish to avoid inputs because of the annual expense, but Charlie and Allan Johnson also follow their late father's wish to improve the soil rather than harm it with non-organic substances. My dad was always of the strong belief that if he couldn't put it on the tip of his...

Chichester New Hampshire

60 acres of pasture, 70 acres of hay and 25 acres of corn on 340 acres 65 Holstein cows averaging 23,000-25,000 pounds of milk, plus young stock Management-intensive grazing, total mixed ration (TMR), bagged haylage and corn silage Problems Addressed Excessive labor requirements. Gordon Jones had worked hard to improve forage quality for his dairy herd, but getting crop work done on schedule was a huge challenge because his labor-intensive operation kept him inside the barn doing chores until...

Chuck and Mary Smith

Alfalfa, tobacco, organic gardens, vineyard 50 beef cattle, 100 turkeys, 3,000 chickens raised using management-intensive grazing Farmers markets, direct-marketed organic beef Problems Addressed Declining public support for tobacco. Like many Kentucky farmers, the Smiths have struggled with their dependence on income from tobacco almost since they started farming. Political pressure and weakening federal interest in the national price support system have caused the market to constrict. At the...

Claud D Evans

150 to 250 Spanish goats for cashmere and meat 240 acres pasture for grazing and hay Angus cattle Problems Addressed Shear shock and overgrazing. Variably cold and dry conditions in central Oklahoma present significant challenges to goat farmers raising their animals on open pasture. By combing his goats for cashmere fiber, Claud Evans has reduced the risk of injuries typically caused by animals huddling together for warmth after shearing. Evans' pasture management provides balanced nutrition,...

Conowingo Maryland

Pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, ducks, beef cattle, goats and rabbits on 62 acres On-site poultry processing and farm store Problem Addressed Creating efficient, sustainable poultry production. Over several years, the Ways experimented with raising different combinations of animals, at one point ramping up rabbit production before deciding to focus mainly on poultry. Poultry proved to be the most profitable, hands-on enterprise, partly because the Ways, their older children and volunteers...

Cover crops

On-farm sales Problem Addressed Discontent with agri-chemicals. When Lynn Steward was in college, he shared a garden with his roommate. One day, he discovered him using chlordane the pesticide later banned because of its proven carcinogenic effect on humans to combat an infestation of ants. He was appalled. I didn't know a lot about gardening at the time, and surely not a lot about organics, he says, but even to me it seemed way over the top to be killing a few ants with chemicals like that...

Craig Cramer

For more information Bennett Farms 7-740 P-3, Rt. 5 Napoleon, OH 43545 benfarm1 excite.com Editor's note This profile, originally published in 2001, was updated in 2004. In addition to fertilizer and chemical savings, Bennett's tillage system cuts fuel costs by about 35 percent compared to conventional tillage. I use more fuel than strict no-till, but a lot less than full tillage, he says.

Dan and Jan Shepherd Shepherd Farms

1,000 acres in eastern gamagrass hay and pasture 400 acres in eastern gamagrass seed 500 acres of corn and soybeans 160 brood cows in a 400-head buffalo herd Problem Addressed No control over wholesale prices. To get a better return on their investment, Dan Shepherd and his father, Jerrell, changed the focus of their farm from commodity grains to pecans, buffalo and gamagrass seed. That way, they capture niche markets, particularly for grass seed. Shepherd Farms is in north central Missouri on...

Dan Hanson Lusk Wyoming

About 950 cow calf pairs and 250 replacements, mostly Hereford and Angus on 30,000 acres Problem Addressed Revitalizing profits. Ranching used to be so profitable for the Hanson family that their cattle enterprise supported multiple families. But by the 1980s, beef prices had dipped so low that Dan Hanson reached an economic turning point. While others hung up their saddles and cashed in their cattle, Hanson was determined to keep the third-generation family ranch viable. He had heard about...

David and Cynthia Major Major Farm

Seasonal, 200-head sheep dairy that helps support Vermont Shepherd specialty cheese Wool and lamb for ethnic markets, maple syrup Problem Addressed Low profits. Although the Majors always wanted to go into sheep farming, a poor economy and stiff market competition for wool and lamb in the 1980s, when they were just starting out, encouraged them to explore niche markets for sheep products. In 1988, they began milking sheep to make specialty cheeses. At that time, they were two of only a handful...

David Mudd

For more information Tom Zimmer and Susan Willsrud Calypso Farm and Ecology Center P.O. Box 106 Ester, Alaska 99725 (907) 451-0691 calypso mosquitonet.com www.calypsofarm.org soon be clear-cut, as it was at least twice in the past century. Trees grow very slowly around here, Zimmer notes, especially on the 10 acres we've got that tilt north. There's permafrost year-round up there, and the trees are only about 10 feet tall after the last cutting 35 or 40 years ago. Slow-growth patterns mean soil...

Diana and Gary Endicott Rainbow Farms

75 head in cow calf operation Tomatoes, grain and hay on 400-acre certified organic Rainbow Farms Coordinator of Good-Natured Family Farms, a group of natural meat and vegetable producers Problem Addressed Raising natural beef and getting a premium. After moving to Kansas to run their own ranch, Diana and Gary Endicott sought a way to produce beef in a way that would reflect their principles and provide them with a premium price. When the Endicotts decided to return to the rural beauty of...

Dick and Sharon Thompson family

Diversified grain rotation including corn, soybeans, oats and hay on 300 acres 75 hogs in a farrow-to-finish operation Problem Addressed Discontent with agri-chemicals. For much of his early farming career, Dick Thompson relied on synthetic pesticides and fertilizer to produce high yields. We were high-input farmers from 1958 through 1967 and purchased everything the salesman had to sell, Thompson recalls. Thompson was building his farm when the standards dictated that enough was never enough....

Don Anita Nelson Neldell Farm Thunder Valley Inn Wisconsin Dells Wisconsin

160-cow dairy farm on 1,350 acres (900 owned, 450 rented) Corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa Three organic vegetable gardens Bed-and-breakfast operation linked to the farm Problem Addressed Public education. A former schoolteacher, Anita Nelson realized that many children do not know where their food comes from. City kids used to go to the farm and make that connection, she says. But grandma and grandpa aren't on the farm anymore, and we are losing so many family farmers. Nelson's desire to...

Dorman and Fogler families Double D Farm

About 1,500 acres of cropland, managed together (Dorman owns 480 acres Fogler owns 600 acres plus 400 rented together) 400 acres potatoes, 450 acres barley chopped for silage, 560 acres silage corn, 40 acres winter rye for Nutrient management. Market forces have long driven specialization in agriculture, separating crop from livestock production and consolidating farms. As a result, nutrients tend to concentrate on livestock farms, while soils on crop farms become starved of manure's organic...

Douglas Georgia

Cotton, corn, peanuts, soybeans, winter wheat and rye on 400 acres Conservation tillage, cover crops, innovative rotations Problem Addressed Severe soil erosion. In the early 1970s, the soil on Max Carter's farm was on the move. It blew away on windy days and washed away during rainstorms. Like most farmers around him, Carter cultivated each of his double-cropped fields nearly year-round, turning over the soil and breaking up its structure to eliminate weeds and prepare seed beds. He burned...

Douglas North Dakota

Wheat, oats, oilseed crops, field peas, chickpeas, corn and alfalfa on 1,550 acres Durum wheat, barley and flax for seed 60 head of beef cattle in management-intensive grazing system Member of wheat and oilseed cooperatives Problems Addressed Soil erosion. Using a typical dryland rotation, the Finkens used to raise wheat and small grains on two-thirds of their acreage, idling the remainder in fallow until the next growing season. The bare fallow ground was susceptible to the harsh climatic...

Ed and Wynette Sills Pleasant Grove Farms

Rice, popcorn, wheat, dry beans, cover crop seed on 3,000 acres, grown organically or in transition 100 acres of almonds grown organically Problem Addressed Pest pressure and poor fertility. For 40 years, the Sills raised rice and a variety of other crops in California's Sutter County using conventional practices. As the years passed, Ed Sills began to notice that pest pressures were increasing while fertility seemed to be dropping. We were really not improving any of our land, Sills says. The...

Elizabeth Henderson Peacework Organic Farm

70 crops (vegetables, herbs, flowers, melons and small fruit) raised organically on 18 acres Community supported agriculture (CSA) farm with 280 member families. Problem Addressed Need for a new farm location. In 1998, nearly 20 years after leaving a university professorship to farm, Elizabeth Henderson had to begin anew. For years, Henderson had farmed as a partner at Rose Valley Farm, a diversified, organic operation. Then the personal and professional partnership under which Henderson had...

Estate Bordeaux St Thomas

Vegetables, tropical fruit and herbs on 2.5 acres Direct sales through farmers' cooperative Educational center for children Problems Addressed Maintaining the farming culture. Many forces combine to make produce farming on the tiny island of St. Thomas a challenge a protracted dry season, steep terrain and complicated leasing arrangements operated by the government, which owns most of the tillable land. The difficulties are causing young people to dismiss farming as an option, something Lucien...

Greg and Lei Gunthorp

Thousands of pastured chickens annually 25 acres of feed corn on a total of 130 acres Problem Addressed Keeping a small hog operation profitable. Greg Gunthorp has a degree in agriculture economics, but says he'd be broke and out of farming if he had listened to most of what he was taught. I would have borrowed money to put up buildings for raising hogs, and more for tractors and combines and storage silos and wagons for harvesting and keeping the corn to feed the hogs, he says. And I would...

Harrington Washington

Wheat, barley, sunflowers, safflower, buckwheat, mustard, canola, legumes and reclamation grasses on Flexible, no-till rotation of grain crops, cool- and warm-season grasses and broadleaf crops Problems Addressed Moisture management. Karl Kupers' farm falls within the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and, thus, receives just 12 inches of rain a year. In this dryland agricultural region, Washington farmers like Kupers strive all year long to both retain moisture and fight erosion twin goals...

Hockessin Delaware

30-cow dairy herd rotationally grazed on 22 acres 50 acres of hay, silage and pasture On-site creamery producing 25,000 gallons of ice cream annually Problem Addressed Farming amid dense development. It was years before Jim Mitchell ever went up in an airplane, but his first ride was revealing in more ways than one. When he was 39, a friend took him in a small plane over his Woodside Farm. The view shocked him. We know all of the houses are there, but until you look down on the rooftops and...

Horses

Agri-tourism featuring cattle- and horse-centered activities for ranch guests Problems Addressed Revitalizing profits. After generations in the ranching business, the Smiths began struggling financially with their cow calf operation in the 1980s. Market prices were unreliable, occasionally dismal. We were going broke in the cattle business, Agee Smith says. Agee and other family members retooled. They took classes in Holistic Management and shifted much of their emphasis toward agri-tourism...

Hustontown Pennsylvania

More than 40 varieties of organically grown vegetables on 25 acres Co-founders of a 20-member organic marketing cooperative Problems Addressed Environmental concerns. Former gardeners, Jim and Moie Crawford sought to grow vegetables both profitably and in an environmentally sensitive manner. We were both interested in gardening, says Jim Crawford. Near where he grew up, a farmer grew produce and sold it in the neighborhood, so I developed a desire to do this from my childhood. That memory...

Jackie Judice and family Northside Planting LLCFranklin Louisiana

Soybeans to diversify, add nitrogen Problem Addressed Low sugar prices. In 1993, sixth- and seventh-generation sugar cane farmers Jackie Judice and his sons, Clint and Chad, realized that if profits continued to fall they were within five years of losing the family farm. They started looking for new solutions to old problems real estate signs lining the highways as cane farmers sold out to urban sprawl and sugar yields not responding to increased inputs. By adopting a systems approach, the...

Jim Morgan and Teresa Maurer

120 Katahdin Hair sheep on 25 acres Buying and marketing lamb from a small producer pool Problem Addressed Establishing an ecologically and economically sound operation. Jim Morgan and Teresa Maurer developed their farm gradually, employing direct marketing, rotational grazing, grass finishing and improving animal quality through breeding to better negotiate shifts in marketing opportunities and the weather. Growing up on a Kansas wheat, sorghum and cattle farm, Jim Morgan would not have...

Jonathan Bishop and family Bishops Orchards

120 acres of apples, 30 acres of pears and peaches, 25-30 acres of berries, 10 acres of vegetables Problems addressed Diversifying marketing strategies. Both the global economy and apple overproduction have sent apple prices plunging. Bishop's Orchards fruit competes with an apple glut that provides inexpensive fruit year-round to supermarkets. Controlling apple maggots. Insect pests remain constant challenges for Eastern U.S. apple growers, who typically apply fungicides and pesticides to...

La Union New Mexico

400 acres of American Pima (extra-long staple) cotton Six varieties of chilies on 80 acres Alfalfa on 350 acres Problem Addressed Discontent with Agri-Chemicals. When Dosi Alvarez and his wife, Norma, were expecting their first child, it reinforced Alvarez' feeling that the agri-chemicals he used to produce Pima cotton were potentially harmful, especially to young children. It was time, he decided, to make a change. Moreover, low commodity prices for his conventional cotton resulted in little...

Larry Thompson and family Thompson Farms

32 fruit and vegetable crops on 100 acres Direct-marketing through farmstand, farmers markets, pick-your-own Problems Addressed Low profits. Raising berries using conventional methods and selling them to wholesalers brought low returns to the Thompson family. Moreover, they lacked any control over price-setting. Heavy pesticide use. In step with their neighbors, the Thompsons used to apply regular doses of soil fumigants and pesticides. They sprayed on frequent schedules recommended by the...

Lon Inaba and family Inaba Produce Farms

Fresh produce (vegetables, melons, and grapes) on 1,200 acres, 200 acres certified organic Grower, shipper, packer Problems Addressed Low produce prices. A variable marketplace, particularly for fresh produce, meant that the Inaba family needed to diversify both their crops and their production methods to maintain profits amid stiff com- Limited labor supply. The family needed to attract a stable, productive workforce to make their large-scale vegetable operation efficient. Diminishing water...

Luke Green and family Green Farm

Peanuts, pasture, hay and timber on 560 acres Organic roasted peanuts and peanut butter Problems Addressed Falling peanut prices. When it became clear to Clinton Green that a family could no longer make a living on a small peanut and cattle farm, his son, Luke, decided to try organic production. With Clinton's production expertise and Luke's willingness to jump into the natural foods market with both feet, they have found a way to revitalize their farm without increasing acreage. Adding value...

Martin Miles M M Farms

About 190 meat goats on 65 acres of pasture Certified organic vegetables on 5 1 2 acres 2 acres organic tobacco Problems addressed Finding profitable alternatives to tobacco. Tobacco remains the primary profit maker for most farmers growing on small acreages in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, even as price supports, production allotments, and U.S. market share for the crop have dwindled over the past two decades. Continually searching for ways to keep farming profitably, Martin Miles...

Mary Doerr Dancing Winds Farm

36-goat dairy herd rotationally grazed on eight acres Chevre, soft-ripened cheese, low-salt feta Pasture and mixed alfalfa hay on some 10 acres Bed & breakfast educational farm retreat Problem Addressed Inadequate labor. Mary Doerr's goat cheese found such a ready market in the food co-ops, restaurants and farmers markets of the Twin Cities area that the operation grew to a level she and the farm itself could no longer handle. She took a year off and returned to scale back the dairy,...

Mary Friesen

333 Kamut Lane, Big Sandy, MT 59520 (406) 378-3105 Editor's note In 2003, Bob Quinn rented his grain acreage to his partner so he could devote more time to marketing alternative grains. He accepted a full-time position with The Kamut Co. Previously, I was farming all summer and traveling all winter, but that marketing work was edging into the spring and fall, he said.

Michael and Marie Heath MM Heath Farms Buhl Idaho

Potatoes, specialty beans, tomatoes, lettuce, winter squash, alfalfa, dry beans, sweet corn & grain grown on 450 acres, 90 certified organic, sold wholesale and to direct markets 400 broilers and 30 layers Problems Addressed Over-use of chemicals. When he graduated from an agricultural college in the 1960s, Mike Heath began growing potatoes in Idaho much as he had been taught applying fungicides at regular intervals as the labels dictated. Those methods were not only expensive, but they...

Molly and Ted Bartlett Silver Creek Farm

Bartlett Eggs

15 to 20 acres of fresh market vegetables Transplants grown in greenhouse, including herbs and heirloom vegetables 100-member community supported agriculture (CSA) operation 1,000 chickens and 50-75 turkeys annually Problem Addressed Better connecting to consumers. Molly Bartlett sold her produce successfully to large wholesale markets and upscale Cleveland restaurants for years before she decided there had to be a better way. The back-breaking work seemed to bring few rewards of the sort she...

Montague Michigan

100-cow dairy free-stall operation, with an additional 100 heifers and dry cows Alfalfa, corn, oats and wheat on 725 of800 acres Dairy manure compost sold to area nurseries Problem Addressed Manure management. Bob Wackernagel confronted a manure storage problem at his 725-acre dairy farm near Montague, Mich. His property sits on a high water table, making it difficult to store manure in a traditional lagoon. Once he figured that out, he decided to scrap a lagoon manure storage system that had...

Morgan Utah

160 Hereford cow calf beef herd, grazed on 2,000 acres with management-intensive grazing Poor range management. From his high desert acres east of Salt Lake, Frank Bohman could see the end of western ranching. His pastures had been reduced to sagebrush, scrub oak and dust by generations of free-ranging cattle and sheep. Erosion was severe, many of the springs he recalled from his childhood had disappeared, and wildlife appeared to be in rapid decline. It broke my heart to see the land in such...

Napoleon Ohio

Corn, soybeans, wheat and cover crop seed on 600 acres Problems Addressed Variable and troublesome soils. While his land is relatively flat, Rich Bennett contends with a range of challenging soils. Yellow sands with less than 2 percent organic matter are vulnerable to wind erosion and dry out quickly during drought. At the other extreme, lakebed clays are slow to drain in spring, making timely planting difficult. Focus on production instead of profit. Bennett remembers the mindset with which...

North Central Region

Molly & Ted Bartlett, Hiram, Ohio Rich Bennett, Napoleon, Ohio Richard DeWilde & Linda Halley, Viroqua, Wisconsin 16 Mary Doerr, Kenyon, Minnesota Diana & Gary Endicott, Bronson, Kansas 22 Carmen Fernholz, Madison, Bob Finken, Douglas, North Greg & Lei Gunthorp, LaGrange, Charles Johnson, Madison, South Tom Larson, Saint Edward, Don & Anita Nelson, Wisconsin Dells, Dan & Jan Shepherd, Clifton Hill, Missouri 43 Dick & Sharon Thompson, Boone, Ralph Junior Upton, Springerton,...

Northeast Region

Jonathan Bishop, Guilford, Jim & Moie Crawford, Hustontown, Pennsylvania 59 Dorman & Fogler Families, Exeter, Maine 62 Steve & Cheri Groff, Holtwood, Jim & Adele Hayes, Warnerville, New York 68 Elizabeth Henderson, Newark, New Gordon & Marion Jones, Chichester, New Hampshire 74 David & Cynthia Major, Westminster West, Vermont 77 Allen Matthews, Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania 80 Alice & Brian McGowan, Montague Center, Massachusetts 83 Jim Mitchell, Hockessin, Bob & Leda Muth,...

Ralph Junior Upton

1,800 acres of no-till corn, beans and wheat Rye grass, cereal rye and hairy vetch cover crops Problems Addressed Difficult soil characteristics. Ralph Junior Upton farms poorly drained land characterized by an impenetrable layer, or plow pan, six to eight inches deep that crop roots typically can't grow through. Upton, whom everyone calls Junior, grew up on the land he now farms. His father was a teacher and only dabbled in farming, but Upton loved it, and still does. He began farming full...

Richard and Peggy Sechrist

50-head organic beef cattle herd and 300 organic pastured chickens per month Aversion to agri-chemicals. After setting a goal of having a chemical-free ranch, partly because family members had suffered chemical sensitivities, Richard and Peggy Sechrist developed organic enterprises and marketing channels that would financially reward their choice. Low prices. By selling their products as certified organic, adding value to their products and creating a regional marketing system that is...

Richard DeWilde and Linda Halley

About 90 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and root crops on 80 acres Direct marketing, community supported agriculture (CSA) operation Pasture, hay and compost on 220 acres Problem Addressed Running a successful organic farm. Richard DeWilde questioned whether to become a farmer at all, but once he decided that's what he wanted to do, he never really questioned how he'd go about it. For him, it was organic production or nothing. Once he made that decision, DeWilde determined to grow...

Richard Ha Mauna Kea Banana Farm Keaau Banana Plantation Hilo Hawaii

Pest management, smart use of water, low inputs Problem Addressed Banana diseases. A fungus devastated Hawaii's banana industry in mid-1950s, convincing nearly all growers to shift production to pineapples and sugar cane. For the next two decades, these tropical islands imported most of their bananas from South America and Australia, like the rest of America. For U.S. growers to raise healthy bananas, most rely on synthetic fungicides and nematicides. In the 1970s, pioneers like Richard Ha...

Skip and Liz Paul Wishing Stone Farm

Herbs, vegetables and fruit sold through a community-supported agriculture operation, farmers mar Eggs from range-fed chickens Value-added products Problem Addressed Switching to a farming career. Skip Paul considers himself a more adept marketer than farmer, but wasn't satisfied just hawking organic and other healthful foods. He wanted to get his hands in the dirt. He started small, and through experimentation, observation and critical input from his wife's tree-growing family, he has over...

Southern Region

Max Carter, Douglas, Georgia Claud Evans, Okemah, Luke Green, Banks, Alvin & Shirley Harris, Millington, Alex & Betsy Hitt, Graham, North Carolina 114 Jackie Judice, Franklin, Martin Miles, Stickleyville, Virginia Jim Morgan and Teresa Maurer, Fayetteville, Arkansas 123 Terry & LaRhea Pepper, ODonnell, Lucien Samuel & Benita Martin, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 129 Richard & Peggy Sechrist, Fredericksburg, Texas 132 Rosa Shareef, Sumrall, Mississippi Chuck & Mary Smith, New...

Springerton Illinois

He developed a cycle that works on his primary goal of improving the soil's water-holding capacity, but one that makes sense in his southern Illinois climate. Farmers seek to get as much growth as possible without compromising the following cash crop. If allowed to grow too much, cover crops suck up the water needed by the following cash crop. Moreover, if the cover accumulates too much above-ground growth, it can be difficult to kill and plant in during the spring, especially using...

St Edward Nebraska

90 to 100 stocker cattle and flocks of chickens Organic grains, popcorn, soybeans for tofu, barley for birdseed and forage turnips Problems Addressed Demanding labor requirements. Tom Larson's father, Glen, began raising corn and alfalfa as feed for beef cattle and hogs on the Nebraska farm after World War II. His farm, described by his son as very traditional, followed standard dictates a clean monoculture system. Glen Larson plowed, disked and harrowed to get straight crop rows with no...

Stickleyville Virginia

Now farming with his son and daughter-in-law, Miles hopes he can help preserve the farming heritage of the region and impart to his grandson the practical skills and love of farming that his parents instilled in him. Focal Point of Operation High-Quality Vegetable Production and Marketing With his business partner, John Mullins, Miles began his transition from cattle and tobacco production by planting four acres of vegetables in limestone-rich bottomland soils in 1994. They started out growing...

Sumrall Mississippi

Pastured poultry, goats and sheep on 10 acres Management-intensive grazing Member of an 84-acre religious community dedicated to agriculture and rural life Problem Addressed Desire for rural living. Rosa Shareef, her husband, Alvin, and their children are members of a religious community that established New Medinah so they could live and work in a rural place. From Chicago and other large cities, most members had little direct experience with agriculture but felt a strong desire to earn their...

Terry and LaRhea Pepper

960 acres organic cotton, 480 acres conventional cotton Cover crops for green manure Marketing cooperative, value-added cotton products Problem Addressed Low cotton prices. When Terry and LaRhea Pepper of O'Donnell, Texas, realized their cotton prices were stuck in the past while their expenses were on fast forward, they solved the problem by adding value, direct marketing and going cooperative. We were selling cotton at the same price my grandfather sold it for in the 1930s when he could buy...

The Hayes Family Sap Bush Hollow Farm

Diversified, pasture-based livestock operation on 160 owned and 30 rented acres On-farm retail sales, farmers market Problem Addressed Focus on production instead of marketing. Jim and Adele Hayes have long known grass-based farming can be a practical, environmentally sound and profitable approach to raising animals. However, when Adele added her brand of creative direct marketing, their livestock operation truly took off. For most of the Hayes' 25 years at Sap Bush Hollow, Jim and Adele...

Tom Trantham Twelve Aprils Dairy Farm

75 dairy cows (Holsteins) on 95 acres on-site creamery and farm store Management-intensive grazing on 60 acres Seeded grass and legume pasture divided into 25 paddocks Problems Addressed Focus on production, not profit. High feed costs for total mixed ration and low milk prices squeezed Trantham to the point of bankruptcy, despite his impressive herd milking average. I was advised by financiers that there was no way I could make it, he recalls. They told me to file for bankruptcy. It got so...

Tom Zimmer and Susan Willsrud Calypso Farm Ecology Center Ester Alaska Summary of Operation

Community supported agriculture (CSA) on 2.5 terraced acres Nonprofit Center for Environmental and Ecological Learning Problems Addressed Challenging climate. Alaska itself is the problem for anyone hoping to establish a produce-oriented community-supported agriculture (CSA) project, as Zimmer and Willsrud set out to do. Winters are long, frigid and dark. Summers are short, subject to extreme temperature swings and long days of intense sunlight. Killing frosts can strike in each month of the...

Valerie Berton

Editor's note In 2002, Molly and Ted Bartlett took an earlier-than-expected leap toward retirement, ending much of their commercial farming operation. After decades of farming, they wanted to spend more time with their family and travel. To that end, they sold their flock of ewes and disbanded their CSA enterprise. They still grow chickens and vegetables for themselves and local market customers. The Bartletts are working to put a conservation easement on their farm to ensure its continued use...

Woodrow Colorado

3,400 head of beef cattle yearlings 400 head of fall-calving cows Management-intensive grazing on 29,000 acres of native range Problem Addressed Fragile rangeland. Mark Frasier's rangeland poses particular challenges because it receives little precipitation, and what does fall from the sky comes only sporadically. Frasier says his 29,000-acre cattle ranch near Woodrow, Colo., is part of a brittle environment. When ranchers turn cattle into a pasture for the whole season, the cows invariably...

Head of steers

Small bison herd Problem Addressed Severe erosion. Steve Groff confronted a rolling landscape subject to severe erosion when he began farming with his father, Elias, after graduating from high school. He and his father regularly used herbicides and insecticides, tilled annually or semi-annually and rarely used cover crops. Like other farmers in Lancaster County, they fretted about the effects of tillage on a hilly landscape that causes an average of 9 tons of soil per acre to wash away each...

Arnott and Kathleen Duncan Duncan Family Farms

Wholesale vegetable and fruit operation on 2,000 acres, about 400 of them certified organic Diverse agri-tourism educational and recreational opportunities Problems Addressed Spending time with family. Kathleen Duncan, who had worked outside the home, became unhappy with the time she spent away from her young sons. She and her husband, Arnott, wanted to combine their careers farming and education with raising their two sons in a family enterprise. Public education. We realized that we were...

Keith Richards

For more information Richard and Peggy Sechrist 25 Thunderbird Road Fredericksburg, TX 78624 (830) 990-2529 sechrist ktc.com www.homesteadhealthyfoods.com Editor's note This profile, originally published in 2001, was updated in 2004. Richard and Peggy Sechrist sell their organic beef and poultry under their own label, Homestead Healthy Foods, wholesale and retail over the Internet.

American Farmer

Profiles of Agricultural Innovation 2nd edition Published by the Sustainable Agriculture Network Beltsville, MD The concept for The New American Farmer came from John Ikerd, former agricultural economics professor at the University of Missouri. After decades of working with farmers and ranchers across the country, Ikerd wanted to convince others that thriving, family-run operations making a profit, working in harmony with the environment and helping improve their communities were no fluke. To...