One sick chicken

With a few exceptions, the animals on my farm are not pets. My sheep and chickens have jobs to do -- eating grass and bugs, making eggs and meat and babies. If they don't do their job, they don't stay on my farm. That isn't to say that I don't treat them well or care what happens to them. In stark contrast...

Getting Lodi’d: It’s raining apples!

When nature calls on the farm, we listen. Meaning, when a fruit with a short shelf life becomes suddenly ripe, there's no choice but to drop everything else. Did you know there are 7,500 cultivated varieties of apple? Tart or sweet, red, green and yellow. Some are good for pies, others for sauce, still...

Battling the bugs—and the temptation to use chemical WMDs

I'm at war with the common stalk borer. As much as I believe in sustainability and chemical-free agriculture in theory, I've never been more tempted to use insecticides as I am right now. For years, the signature for my email has been a quote from the agtivist-scientist Vandana Shiva, "Sustainability begins...

Mapping the farm with my ears

Ever since taking a cartography class in graduate school, I've had a penchant for maps. Full of information, they elegantly highlight places and ideas that we may have missed otherwise. As a visual person, I can appreciate the splashes of color and clean designs. But not all maps are visual. We can create...

The first rule of farming: Be prepared

(Steph Larsen photos)Everyone knows the Boy Scouts" motto: Be Prepared. While my immediate inclination is to ask "For what?", it"s as good a command as any to live by. One at which I failed miserably last week. I came home from work and went out to the sheep paddocks to make sure they looked healthy and had...

Green acreage: A farm by any other name

Editor's note: In a new series called Green Acreage, Steph Larsen chronicles the sprouting of a small but sustainable Nebraska property. --------------------------------- Last December, I bought the farm. Clearly I mean this in the literal, not euphemistic, sense. (Although I've spent some time pondering...

Small-town grocery stores feed a need bigger than stomachs

In the small Nebraska town I now call home, a small grocery store anchors one end of Main Street. Once a farm-implement dealership, it has nine aisles, a dairy cooler, and a fresh meat counter. It employs nine full-time workers plus various high school students, and its limited hours frequently cause this...

Rooted in discomfort: Dispatch from the MOSES organic farming conference

Lately I’ve realized that in the midst of distracting sights and sounds, I forget to notice the smells around me. So last weekend at the Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I made an effort to pay attention. Surrounded by friends new and old, I smelled hay, dirt, manure, beer, sweat and...

This is what democracy looks like

Today is a big day for all of us who believe not only in sustainable food and agriculture systems, but also in the democratic process. The months since the election brought an outpouring of engagement from citizens urging the Obama Administration to appoint change-makers to lead our country. And it paid...