Category Archives: natural

Lot’s of organic inputs for farmers

The chemical-free-ness of organic is kind of a misnomer. There are actually lots of products (inputs) available for organic farmers to buy and apply. This press release just landed in my inbox from OMRI. That’s the Organic Materials Review Institute. They’re the folks who analyze farming products to determine if they deserve the “organic” seal of approval. The press release trumpets the glad news that now there are over 2000 products organic farmers can buy. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I’m glad the market is still so good that new players are getting in. On the other hand it seems ironic to me that a more “nature” way to farm now has over 2000 additives to choose from. The best thing I can say is know your farmer and know how (s)he farms. Read the whole press release…

The OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) Products List reached a milestone on October 7, 2010, for the first time exceeding 2000 listed products. OMRI, a global leader in materials review, performs comprehensive verification and listing of materials suitable for use in organic production.

“The OMRI Products List has grown steadily over the last 13 years, and we thank OMRI’s clients and supporters for working to ensure solid and consistent standards within the organic industry, and for helping us reach this milestone,” said Peggy Miars, OMRI Executive Director. “We at OMRI are proud to support the organic label through our history of solid integrity and reliable reviews.”

While OMRI staff may have paused to celebrate the landmark occasion, the organization is processing applications more quickly than ever. A new streamlined review process has completely eliminated the initial wait time for new applications while retaining the same rigorous standards that have made OMRI a cornerstone of the organic industry. “Now is a great time to submit an application, since we have made great strides in customer service,” added Miars. OMRI welcomed Miars in September, when she began her tenure as OMRI’s new Executive Director/CEO.


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Birds and coffee in beautiful brazil

Here’s the latest video from Fazenda Ambiental Forteleza, the most wonderful organic coffee farm in all of Brazil!

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The ui sustainable student farm

students farming and smiling

This has been up and running a couple seasons now, the UI Sustainability Student Farm.

It’s student-run and located on University ground close to campus.

It’s not certified organic, but it is pesticide-free.

They sell to Dining Services and at a farm stand on the Quad once a week.

Students can volunteer labor and take home fresh veggies.

It’s about 3 acres, and also has three high tunnels.

Check out the website for more info…

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Filed under ag education, local food, natural, small farms

The midsummer veterinary conference for sustainable ag

I’m helping plan this conference. It is happening August 12-13 here in Champaign-Urbana. More details here. Look it over and pass it on to others, especially the Call for Abstracts.

I’m in charge of planning the tours. We visited all the farmers who’ve agreed to host our tours. All sustainable/organic livestock farms within a couple of hours of Champaign.

The common theme we heard from each of them…”Our vet really doesn’t come around too often. Just don’t seem to need him/her that much.” Not a big surprise. When you take animals out of confinement, they are “magically” more healthy. Go figure.

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Another farm adventure in Brazil

Atlantic Rainforest (Brazil)

If you’ve look around this blog at all you will notice a substantial number of entries on my experiences taking students to Brazil. Now I’ve found another interesting farm in Brazil that hosts guests. Check out the Eco-Farm. Looks fantastic, with many of the same options as FAF. From the pictures is looks like much more Atlantic Rain Forest to explore and the lodging appears to be a little more rustic than FAF. Still, I’d try it. Read Ze’s story here, his dream to farm and journey to financial sustainability.


Filed under agriculture, natural, small farms

Farming “extensively”: sustainable aquaculture

fish food

My friend Bruno sent me a link to this awesome video. It’s a great presentation by Chef Dan Barber about a very special fish farm in Southern Spain. The farm is called Veta La Palma, and from the Collaborative Journeys website we learn…

Veta la Palama is a fish farm in southern Spain, located in an island in an estuary 16 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean.  Tides sweep in estuary water, which a pumping station distributes throughout the farm’s 45 ponds. Because it comes directly from the ocean, that water teems with microalgae and tiny translucent shrimp, which provide natural food for the fish that Veta la Palma raises.

Veta la Palma produces 1,200 tonnes of sea bass, bream, red mullet and shrimp each year.  The land also acts as the largest private bird sanctuary in Europe; including flamingos that travel in the morning to feast on shrimp at the farm, and return the same day, to their brooding ground 150 miles away!   20% of fish and fish eggs are lost to birds each year, and this is good, says the farm’s biologist Miguel Medialdea. “We farm extensively, not intensively.  This is an ecological network.  The flamingos eat the shrimp.  The shrimp eat the phytoplankton.  So the pinker the (flamingo) belly, the better the system.”

Veta la Palma provides an alternative to the more common agribusiness model; i.e., high on capital, chemistry, machines, and questionable-tasting food!

I like how, Miguel Medialdea, describes their approach — they farm “extensively” not intensively. I like that word, “extensively.”  When I heard that word I saw open arms, room enough for everyone, farming the way God himself might farm. Life and living instead death and dying. Veta La Palma looks like an amazing example of sustainability.

Click HERE to access and view the video (~20 mins).

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Loving the country life…at 90!

Grace's journey started here

At 90, Grace Margaret Larson tends her small farm near Kewanee, IL, and her website —

After WWII, Grace and her husband moved to the farm from the big city to fulfill their dream of raising kids and vegetables and animals in the country.

After 58 years, and with the help of a 75 year old friend, she is still at it. Now her story is there for anyone to read and enjoy. She blogs a little (Country Life Blog, click on What’s New) and the recipes look good.

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Filed under food, local food, natural, organic, small farms