We were lucky to have Cari Vander Yacht create these two fantastic watercolors for the Summer issue of Wilder Quarterly. They accompany two articles: the seasonal pest (the cute, but destructive, woodchuck) and the seasonal beneficial (the White Lined Sphinx Moth).
The woodchuck painting makes me laugh every time.
The National Young Farmers’ Coalition is an advocacy group for new American growers. Like many grassroots organizations, NYFC was conceived by three good friends around a table: Lindsey Lusher Shute, her husband Ben (Hearty Roots), and fellow-farmer Severine Fleming.
When these Hudson Valley cultivators realized how little their interests as young farmers were accounted for in the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, which is revisited by Congress every five years to amend or repeal previous agricultural acts, and put forth new policy, was preparing for a 50 percent cut to several development and grant programs for young or immigrant farmers. The group surveyed over 1,000 small growers nationwide and organized the results into policy recommendations to effect the bills principles. “Many young farmers can’t inherit the farm, so we need to make sure they can buy it or lease it for a lifetime,” said NYFC director Lindsey Lusher Shute. “The US needs to have a serious conversation about affordable farmland.”
Beyond the Farm Bill, the group has a triad of objectives — social, policy, practical use — Ms. Shute, and the advisory board of small farmers from across the country tackle the trials, obstacles, and dramas of independent American growers by creating programs like FarmHack where folks can come together and share tips, practices, and new technology. Lusher Shute took some time to discuss the hopes and visions of NYFC with Wilder Quarterly.
WQ: What is the coalition’s working definition of a “young farmer?”
LLS: ”NYFC’s focus is first career farmers, who are generally in their 20s and 30s, but the issues we work on are important to farmers and consumers of any age. A young farmer to me is someone who wants to devote her life to building and growing a farm business. Young farmers include 2nd generation farmers, farm workers and young people without experience who enjoy hard work and want to fix the food system by growing healthy food.”
WQ: Would you share one of most common and daunting obstacles of the trade, and how NYFC is choosing to approach it?
LLS: ”Transitioning farms to a new generation of independent farmers is no small task. Within farm transitions, farms can be destroyed by development, or taken off the market by speculators, big agribusiness or non-farmers. To keep independent farmers on the land, policy needs to incentivize farm transfers from one farmer to another…
The next issue that we want to delve into is land access. NYFC is committed to farmers owning their own land and we want to work with land trusts and policymakers on making land ownership a possibility for the next generation. Right now, land is priced many times beyond the reach of full-time farmers and this situation is getting in the way of young people starting and growing their businesses.
And, the best part, is that [since the 2011 survery] we’ve seen a lot of those ideas put in the Senate version of the Farm Bill that was passed a couple of weeks ago. This has been hugely exciting for us because we’ve taken immediate needs of farmers and taken them to Congress.”
WQ: How was the advisory committee determined, and how intentional was it to have a sampling of agricultural experts from a sampling of all/most US regions?
LLS: ”From the outset, we wanted to create an organization where farmers were at the helm. Three farmers founded NYFC, and our first step in creating a leadership team was to call farmers that we knew and respected for the success of their businesses and leadership within their communities. For instance, Sean Stanton runs North Wind Farm, Blue Hill dairy and serves on Great Barrington’s select board.
After bringing together a core of farmers, we then decided to invite service providers that were connected with our mission and doing something innovative in their field. For example, we recruited Michelle Hughes of the New Farmer Development Program in NYC. She helps farm workers, primarily from Central and South America, become farm owners. The [regional diversity] was intentional as well. We couldn’t call ourselves a national coalition without bringing in farmers and service providers from all regions. We are still working to bring on leaders from the South and California.”
WQ:Will you speak about the work being done in FarmHack, and the general concept?
LLS: Farm Hack was Ben’s idea, who is a farm ‘hacker’ himself and wanted a venue for farmers to share great on-farm inventions… And the concept was fleshed out and is still in development around a table — filled with farmers like Ben, programmers and engineers who want to help.
We want Farm Hack to help independent farmers become more sustainable, both in terms of land stewardship and profitability. We’ll provide open source tools for independent farmers that will make their farms more efficient and support farming practices that build soil and promote clean air, water and healthy people. We want Farm Hack to be a place for farmers to get inspired, learn to build new things on their farms and give back to their community with modifications of existing inventions or new ideas.
And the [work charrettes] are critical. Events are where a lot of great ideas take off! For instance, at Farm Hack New Hampshire this year, we formed a group to talk about remote monitoring devices — and as a result, we have a farmer and two programmers working on the FIDO greenhouse monitoring project. None of these folks knew each other before the event, nor had they thought of building that specific project. The meetings inspire a lot of creativity and build trust between individuals that enables them to work as a team on specific projects.
The set for Raf Simon’s premiere show for Dior’s F/W 2012 consisted of an almost living wall of one million flowers – peonies, daisies, roses, lavender, orchids, dahlias, delphiniums, solidago. See how they did it in the video above. The space was located at Avenue d’Iena and the various rooms were created by florist Eric Chauvin.
Wilder Contributor Will Clausen is a self proclaimed nordiphile. Beards, salmon, cold weather- he cultivated a love for these things living in Sweden, exploring his family’s scandinavian roots. Maybe that’s why he seems to have a knack for putting together a really beautiful green roof. The scandinavians are masters at these things after all.
Green roofs have come a long way since the timberless people of Iceland started piling slabs of sod on their stone and driftwood houses. Today green roofs are state of the art. The California Academy of Sciences, for example, boasts a 197,000 square foot green roof, subtended by biodegradable root mats. The plants form a sea of native vegetation creating urban habitat, capturing rain water and reducing the need for heating and cooling in the building.
Will’s green roof blankets the shed at Garden in the Woods, an all native botanic garden in Framingham, MA. Working in New England, Will faces the varagies of northeastern weather- sweltering hot summers, freezing cold winters, and unpredictable swaths of dry and wet. Making it a little easier on himself, and keeping with the garden’s theme, he’s going native. Planting the shed’s south side with long rooting, drought tolerant prairie grasses, and the north with colorful New England stalwarts like blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium) and lupine (Lupinus perennis) this little shed will be an oasis for some species not often seen in the area. Peak season will be in May when Will’s roof blooms sky blue.
It seems the most mind blowing inventions in the world of horticulture are also, no brainers. Take the raised bed, for example. Problems with drainage? Soil too cold for early planting? Slap on some 2×4 s and voila! Raised bed! Problem solved.
The oh-so elegant Versailles Planter is another kind of ‘well, duh’ invention, and I just love it. Packed with fastidiously trimmed topiaries, these hefty planters once lined the straight, airy pathways of the Palace of Versaille in 17th century France. Ingeniously designed with sliding or hinged sides, the planter opens up and allows for easy root trimming. Frequent pruning kept shrubs happy year after year in their palace home. Plenty of tasteful recreations are available nowadays or build your own with these handy instructions.
Pictured: Hydrangea (Hydrangea)
I’m a big fan of animals. If you ask me, everything in life is sweeter when a furred, feathered, whiskered companion is part of it. Last week in my vegetable garden I was lamenting my poor choice of hay for mulch because of its tendency to harbor wet and slimy voracious slugs. My young chard is lattice work. My squash leaves, like doileys. Answering my expletives without the merest hint of a smile on his face, my boyfriend said ‘why don’t you get a duck?’
And it turns out that’s a good question. Sluicing about with those shovel-shaped bills, ducks are death incarnate in a slug’s stalked eyes. More judicious weeders than chickens (which I have employed in the garden before) ducks tend to keep their eyes trained to the ground, sifting beneath mulch and rooting up seedling weeds. They also don’t worry the soil the way a chicken will, leaving roots intact and buried weed seeds where they belong. Plus they don’t do any cockadoodle-doing, and then there are those extra rich eggs!
But if you’re more into growing fruit, consider the prospect of an ovine pruner. In viticulture, small breed sheep like the Babydoll Southdown are used to keep grape vines neat and tidy, increasing fruit production. In apple orchards, both sheep and goats are used as a low impact method of mowing/weed control. How about that? You could throw away your weeding knife for good!
I’ve been in sunny Los Angeles for the last two days – a last minute trip. I’m always so thrilled by the lush selection of plants and fruits in Cali. The list of California native plants is long. I’d love to have some varieties in my own garden. Any ideas of natives that might do well in Brooklyn?
Otherwise, some favorites from the Sunshine state:
Indian Mallow: a soft fuzzy (yes, I mean fuzzy) desert plant with a bright yellow flower
Chinese Houses: Purple and white box shaped and beautiful annuals.
Cucamonga Manroot: Found in Santa Barbara down to Baja. Flowers are yellowish-green to white and the fruits come encased in a cucumber-shaped pod and studded with spikes.
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