The Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (CSAS) in the Institute of
Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is an interdisciplinary center formed in 1991 for the
purpose of bringing together people and resources to promote an agriculture
that is efficient, competitive, profitable, environmentally and socially
sustainable for the indefinite future. The electronic version of this
bimonthly newsletter is sent to SANET and PENPages 10-14 days before those
on our mailing list receive their hard copy. The newsletters are also
available along with other sustainable ag information on our World Wide Web
page: http://ianrwww.unl.edu/ianr/csas =20
Note: The electronic version is not sent to individual e-mail addresses. To
be added to the "hard copy" newsletter mailing list beginning with the next
bimonthly issue (not sent to overseas addresses), or for questions or
comments, contact the newsletter editor, Pam Murray, Coordinator, Center for
Sustainable Agricultural Systems, PO Box 830949, University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, NE 68583-0949, 402-472-2056, fax -4104, e-mail:=
* * *
LINKING ECOLOGY AND AGRICULTURE TO INCREASE SUSTAINABILITY
CALIFORNIA SALAD AND AUSTRALIAN EMU IN NEBRASKA?
THE STATE OF RURAL AMERICA: WE CAN CHOOSE OUR FUTURE
SEEKING K-16 CURRICULUM VOLUNTEERS
IMPACT PROJECT DEADLINES
DID YOU KNOW...
* * *
LINKING ECOLOGY AND AGRICULTURE TO INCREASE SUSTAINABILITY
Natural ecosystems supply many valuable services and products to humans, for
example, clean air, clean water, and biodiversity as well as a place to grow
crops and livestock. As natural systems, they do not provide agricultural
commodities of the types and amounts needed by humans, so we have changed
many of them into agroecosystems to maximize production of food and fiber.=
What is it about an ecosystem that lets it function year after year using
only solar energy without degrading the resource base, while farms and
ranches require high fossil energy inputs and suffer from soil erosion and
water contamination? This question was explored at three workshops
co-sponsored by the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Training Program
(NCSATP). Linking People, Purpose, and Place: An Ecological Approach to
Agriculture was held in Wooster, Ohio; Manhattan, Kansas; and Morris,
Minnesota. The purpose was to demonstrate how an understanding of ecological
principles can help us design farms that provide commodities while retaining
some of the beneficial processes of natural systems. Because agroecosystems
include people, another goal was to explore characteristics of local
communities that increase sustainability.
The first step toward identifying useful ecological principles is to
describe the structure and function of pre-settlement ecosystems within a
particular region. Introductions at the workshops gave an overview of the
natural ecosystems in Ohio, Kansas, and Minnesota and of the agroecosystems
that have taken their place.=20
In Kansas, Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, an environmental historian, emphasized the
importance of human's part in nature by explaining the five roles the Konza
Prairie Research Natural Area (KPRNA) has played for Native Americans,
farmers, ranchers, scientists, and recreationists. KPRNA was established to
provide an outdoor laboratory for the study of ecological processes in a
tallgrass prairie. We saw firsthand the differences in vegetation caused by
cattle or bison grazing and fire sequences. The next day we compared the
native ecosystem with a cattle ranch agroecosystem. The Hubbard family runs
almost 2,000 head of steers and cow-calf pairs on 6,000 acres. As with
KPRNA, they also use rotational grazing and fire as management tools.
Agroecology was another central topic. Richard Harwood and Richard Olson
described how understanding the ecology of a place can lead to practices
that are more profitable, more energy and nutrient efficient, and less
environmentally disruptive. To effectively manage the biology of
agricultural systems, we must understand:
- the relationship among ecosystem structure and key processes, such as
nutrient cycling, water use, and soil biology;
- which processes can be directly managed and which cannot, such as carbon
turnover versus photosynthesis, and how managing the processes affects
- the importance of plant diversity and the amount and duration of plant
- the concepts of habitat, both within the landscape and in the soil.
Evaluating soil quality was a popular activity at the workshops. Using a
mini version of the USDA-ARS soil test kit, participants measured
infiltration rates, soil nitrate-nitrogen, organic matter, and depth to
compact soil strata. In Minnesota, they sampled soils in CRP plots and
tilled plots of corn or soybeans. Many embraced the hands-on approach as a
way to quickly learn how cultivation practices affect soil structure.
Indoor sessions, with topics on weed management and ecological principles of
grazing, complemented the extensive farm visits. Farmers and ranchers
described how they matched their production systems with weather patterns,
soil, vegetation, and markets. For example, the Hartzler family owns and
operates five dairy farms that produce milk for the family-owned processing
plant and retail store. Joe and Jean Hartzler farm 125 acres with intensive
grazing on 35 acres. Their new retail dairy was the first one built in Ohio
in 30 years. After the field tour, we visited the processing plant where
milk is pasteurized, but not homogenized, and bottled in glass containers.
Participants sampled 18 of the 30 available flavors of ice cream!
One of the guiding principles of NCSATP is that training must be inclusive,
both in terms of trainers and learners. This year our audience background
expanded to include instructors from private colleges, college students, a
scientist with a large argochemical company, and representatives from the
National Agroforestry Center.
According to the evaluations, participants indicated they would use
ecological principles in helping clients design farming systems and consider
the social implications. One Extension educator wrote, "I always felt a
connection to natural resources, but my path seemed to put me in ag and
crops. Now, I see that it is feasible to combine them without losing respect
and profitability. It will be a goal to try and bring this information to my
Submitted by Heidi Carter, Richard Olson, Charles Francis
CALIFORNIA SALAD AND AUSTRALIAN EMU IN NEBRASKA?
What do multi-variety green salad mix and emu steaks have in common? This
unique association was the focus of a recent field day on "Growing and
Marketing Specialty Crops" that brought over 50 people to view some of
Nebraska's more unique commercial enterprises. Although unlikely to replace
thousands of acres of corn and soybeans, these alternative enterprises do
represent a creative approach to nurturing and meeting new markets. As
people travel and read, they become aware of new foods and diversified
adventures in living -- this is an opportunity for agriculture! We had a
chance to see these enterprises on an August 9 tour.
Kevin and Charuth Loth moved to Lincoln three years ago after an extended
experience in diversified California agriculture. One of the unique products
they found popular there was a green salad mix, one that included a wide
range of leafy vegetables tossed together with what most of us recognize as
traditional leaf lettuce. As this product began to arrive in Nebraska,
packaged in plastic and at least one week old when it reached the consumer,
the Loths decided there was a market for fresh salad mix from a local
source. "This has been our signature product," Kevin said at the recent
field day. He added, "The price may seem high, and some weeks the available
components make the mix a little spicy, but you can add this to another
source of lettuce or eat it straight for a special culinary experience." In
their well-planned and carefully kept four acres, an irrigation system and
planned rotation is slowly taking shape. "It's really a lot of work, with
long days and too many things to do on some days. But seeing everyone here
today, hearing their compliments, makes it seem more worthwhile," added
Charuth. They also grow cucurbits, flowers, and heritage vegetables for
farmers' markets in Lincoln and Omaha as well as for area restaurants.
A more exotic enterprise and hobby is one enjoyed by Phil and Janiece Goin
of Hickman: Australian emus. Well adapted to both summer and winter extremes
in weather, these foreign birds seem adjusted as they pace and run around
several pens and field shelters on the Goin farm. Ready for slaughter after
one year, and for breeding after four years, these exotic critters provide
meat, oil, skins, eggshells, breeding stock, and continuous entertainment
for the Goins and their frequent visitors. You need to try emu steaks,
summer sausage, or "dogs" to appreciate the unique flavor of the meat. One
special product is the oil, about 5 liters from a mature adult, that brings
$200-300/gallon on today's market and is used for a wide range of medicinal
remedies. Any problems with diseases or predators? "The veterinarian told
us they were perfectly healthy here, and I'd like to see a coyote get into
the pen. I think they would defend themselves very well, based on the kicks
they give me once in awhile," Phil said. The Goins currently have over 100
emus, and sell meat, oil, and eggshells at the farmers' market.
Should you raise salad greens or emus? Probably not. But should you consider
creative alternatives to current commodity crops? These Nebraskans are
showing us how innovative ideas and thoughtful promotion can broaden our
agricultural product base and do well in an increasingly sophisticated
marketplace. The key is to find a unique niche, to provide a consistent and
quality product, and to enjoy working with the public. These adventuresome
people are showing that it can be done.
The tour was co-sponsored by the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society,
Lincoln Farmers Market, Lancaster County Cooperative Extension, and CSAS.
Submitted by Charles Francis and Larry=
THE STATE OF RURAL AMERICA: WE CAN CHOOSE OUR FUTURE
Chuck Hassebrook, Center for Rural Affairs*
The family farm and rural decline that we see around us are not inevitable.
They are the result of decisions made by people, that can be reversed by
people =97 with the right combination of community initiative, passion,
citizen involvement, and perseverance.
We are facing formidable challenges in realizing the long-held values of
rural America =97 the belief that community matters; that hard work deserves=
fair reward; that wealth and power should be widely distributed; that
ownership and control should belong to those who work the land and operate
businesses; and that we are all responsible to our neighbors and future
generations to be careful stewards of the environment.
We're told by experts that family farms can't compete and rural communities
can't survive. They say we can't have economic opportunity without
sacrificing environmental quality and accepting growing inequality and
concentration of wealth and power. In essence, they say we have no choice
about our future. That is simply not true. It will only become true if we
resign ourselves to it!
Unquestionably, we are in the midst of great economic concentration that is
exacting a toll. But it need not be permanent. We can reverse the family
farm decline and economic concentration, but we must see our work not as
saving family farms and rural communities as we have known them, but as
rebuilding them for the future.
We must start now to shape the next wave of change in rural America, and
usher in a new generation of family farms and small businesses to ensure
that one generation into the future, people will be asking not whether
family farms can survive, but whether the plodding corporate Goliaths can
compete with lean, well managed, socially responsible small enterprise. We
can build on the strengths of entrepreneurship, citizenship, and civic
commitment. Key strategies include:
- Foster small scale entrepreneurship, on and off the farm, with capital,
education, and community support. Over half the nation's net new jobs come
from small enterprises with five or fewer employees. We must nurture their
establishment by providing capital, business training, and education.
- Alter the direction of change in agriculture technology through new
research initiatives. Too much agricultural research has focused on finding
ways for farmers to spend more money to produce on a large scale. If there
is to be a future for family farms, we must instead develop systems that
enable farmers to use more of their management and skills to reduce the need
for capital expenditures and to produce products of higher value. Only then
will farmers receive a larger share of the consumer dollar for what they do
to produce food. USDA, the land grant colleges, and other public
institutions control almost half of all agriculture research. We must hold
them accountable to serve the public good and partner with family farmers
and rural communities in research and education.
- Establish new markets that reward stewardship and support family farms.
Commodity markets are biased against family size farms, but family farmers
who practice sustainable agriculture have some potential offsetting
advantages. Over half of American consumers are willing to pay some premium
for food produced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. We
must build new marketing institutions that reward environmental stewardship
and support family-size farms.
-Reform public policy to support small enterprise and reward stewardship.
Much in public policy is biased toward bigness. We need to reverse that bias
at the state and federal level, in both farm and rural development policy.
Conservation provisions of the 1996 farm bill demonstrate that committed
citizens with an idealistic vision can change public policy to support
environmental stewardship. We must reform policy to support opportunity,
fairness, and small enterprise.
The question we face today is whether we will pass to future generations an
economic system that provides ordinary people that same opportunity to own
and control the land and businesses they work, improve their lives, build
communities, and define their own destinies. Or will we pass to the next
generation a system more akin to the feudel system our ancestors left
behind, wherein a few own and control everything and all others work for
them? There is not much question that most rural people would choose the
former. Our challenge is to come together to exercise that choice.
*Source: Article in Center for Rural Affairs Newsletter, Sept. 1997,
containing remarks by Chuck Hassebrook at the CRA annual meeting in Augut.
Condensed by Charles=
SEEKING K-16 CURRICULUM VOLUNTEERS
The Center for Rural Affairs is developing a National Sustainable
Agriculture Curriculum Guide for grades K-16, and is seeking volunteers from
across the country to serve on the task force of teachers helping to develop
the guide and/or provide materials. Contact Martin Kleinschmit,=
IMPACT PROJECT DEADLINES
The Nebraska Ag IMPACT Project is accepting applications for new groups and
projects for 1998. Technical and financial assistance are available to
groups of farmers, ranchers, or community members with projects that address
farm productivity and profitability, resource conservation, environmental
and health protection, and support of rural communities. Application
deadlines are November 7, 1997 and February 27, 1998. Contact IMPACT offices
at Hartington (402-254-2289) or Sidney (308-254-3918) for application
materials or information.
Steel in the Field: A Farmer's Guide to Weed Control Tools. $18. New book
describes in detail 37 tools and 17 accessories, and includes supplier
contacts, tool price ranges, resource lists, clear illustrations and farmer
narratives about integrating the tools into sustainable cropping systems.
Addresses the four main concerns that farmers have about mechanical weed
control: cost, effectiveness, dependability and soil impact. Book project
was funded by the Sustainable Agriculture Network. Sustainable Agriculture
Publications, Hills Building, U. of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405-0082,
Source Book of Sustainable Agriculture. $12 (call 802-656-0471 or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org for bulk discounts). Lists 559 resource materials
covering the vast breadth of agriculture, from how to market sustainably
grown vegetables to locating the latest sustainable research findings on the
World Wide Web. Covers print, electronic and video resources and contact
information to order them. Sustainable Agriculture Publications (see above).
Part-time Farming, Small Farms, and Small-scale Farming in the United
States; Direct Marketing and Related Topics; and Compost: Application and
Use. Publications in the Quick Bibliography Series. USDA, National
Agricultural Library, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center,
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351, 301-504-6559, email@example.com,
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program 1997 Project
Highlights. Free. Report describes SARE-funded projects that show
management-intensive grazing is more profitable for producers and better for
the environment. Several SARE grants are funding research in shifting from
confinement-based livestock systems to raising cows, sheep and hogs on
pastures. Also highlighted in the report are articles on Community Supported
Agriculture, the benefits of pasturing hogs, and several other research and
on-farms projects. Valerie Berton, SARE Communications Specialist, 0322
Symons Hall, U. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, 301-405-5270,
Free-Range Poultry Production, Processing and Marketing. $39.50 + $4.50 s&h.
Guidebook describes innovative way to raise pountry on range and market meat
and eggs. Method differs from model used by Salatin in that chickens are not
confined in pens, but range about 100 feet from their portable houses.
Developed by producer with six years of free-range poultry experience, with
the help of a SARE grant. Back Forty Books, 26328 Locust Grove Rd, Creola,
Biodiversity and Human Health, 1997. $29.95 + shipping. Presents compilation
of papers which analyze human health consequences of biodiversity loss from
variety of perspectives, including agroecology, public health, biology,
epidemiology, demography and pharmacology. Explores causes of biodiversity
loss, effects of its loss on agroecosystems, and significance of
biodiversity-derived medicines and biodiversity-dependent health systems.
Discusses threats from pesticides and role of agricultural diversity in
sustainable agriculture. Island Press, 24850 East Lane, PO Box 7, Covelo, CA
95428, 707-983- 6432, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Agroforestry Center has several informational/educational
materials, including newsletters, technical note series, brochures,
booklets, and videos. Most are free or available for loan. You can request
an order form listing what is available from: Clover Shelton, NAC/USDA
Forest Service/NRCS, East Campus - UNL, Lincoln, NE 68583-0822,
402-437-5712. The NAC also has a new Web page: http://www.unl.edu/nac.
Environmental Health Threats to Children, 1996. Free. U.S. EPA report=
threats to children's health from environmental toxins, including
pesticides, lead and drinking water contaminants. Describes EPA's agenda for
protecting children and recommends actions, including areas of research,
national policy and education. National Center for Environmental
Publications and Information, PO Box 42419, Cincinnati, OH 45242,
800-490-9198, or 513-489-8190.
Making World Agriculture More Sustainable. $30 + s&h. Edited by J. Patrick
Madden and Scott G. Chaplowe. World Sustainable Agriculture Association
embarked upon a project to highlight notable organizations promoting
sustainable agriculture throughout the world. The 650-page book contains
more than 60 organization profiles, ranging from international NGOs to
grassroots organizations, and describes their efforts to make agriculture
more sustainable. Concludes with a directory of 141 organizations whose work
supports the cause of sustainable agriculture, a Glossary of key terms, and
a detailed Subject Index.WSAA Publications, 8554 Melrose Avenue, West
Hollywood, CA 90069, 310-657-7202, email: WSAA@compuserve.com.
What's In A Name: Eco-Labeling In The Global Food System. Paper presented by
Elizabeth Barham, Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, at the
Joint Meetings of Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the
Association for the Study of Food and Society, June 1997. Examines the
emerging clashes between corporations and eco-labeling proponents as
reflective of a larger struggle to moderate the effects of global market
liberalization on consumers, producers and environment. Copies available
free via e-mail by contacting email@example.com. Hard copies available for
$7.50 each by writing Elizabeth Barham, 133 Warren Hall, Cornell University,
Ithaca, NY 14853.
Midwest Biological Control News. $12/yr hard copy, free online. Monthly
newsletter dedicated to providing information on the use of beneficial
organisms for controlling insect and mite pests of the farm, garden, and
home. Articles of valid biological control information are welcome, but
final selection and editing are the responsibility of the editorial staff.
Web page has many links to other biological control sites. Dept. of
Entomology, U. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, 608-262-9914 or 262-9959,
IPMnet NEWS is a free electronic Integrated Pest Management information
source focused on economic, environmentally-attuned approaches to managing
weeds, plant diseases, insects, nematodes, and vertebrate pests. Now in its
fourth year, this service is designed to provide balanced, worldwide
"news-you-can-use" to those concerned with IPM development, research,
implementation, adoption, policy, and impact. It is sponsored by the
not-for-profit Consortium for International Crop Protection comprised of 10
U.S. land grant universities, the University of Puerto Rico, and the USDA.
The monthly newsletter can be subscribed to for automatic e-mailing, or you
can access it and other information at the Web page:
Nebraska Vine Lines. Free. Edited by Paul Read, professor of horticulture at
UNL. Contains news of people and developments in the grape/wine industry in
Nebraska. Plans are to publish monthly. Dept. of Horticulture, U. of
Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0724, 402-472-2854.
Emerging Markets for Family Farms: Opportunities to Prosper Through Social
and Environmental Responsibility. $7. Report describes strategies for
farmers to market high-value products. Center for Rural Affairs, PO Box 406,
Walthill, NE 68067-0406, 402-846-5428.
Tough to Swallow: How Pesticide Companies Profit by Poisoning America's Tap
Water. $20. Presents findings of study on herbicides in tap water in
midwestern states. Environmental Working Group, 1718 Connecticut Ave., NW,
Suite 600, Washington, DC 20009, 202-667-6982, firstname.lastname@example.org,=
Watershed Currents. Free via e-mail. Contains news, events and resources
about watershed organizing. Send e-mail to email@example.com. Leave
subject blank. In body of message type subscribe water-net. Send questions
Small Farm Digest. Free. Merger of former Small Scale Agriculture Today and
Small and Part Time Farms. Quarterly newsletter for small farm managers with
updates on farm related trends and developments, reviews of recent
publications, and announcements of upcoming events. (If you were on the
mailing list for the Small Scale Agriculture Today or Small and Part Time
Farms, you will automatically get a copy of this.) Small Farm Digest,
USDA-CSREES, Stop 2220, Washington, DC 20250, firstname.lastname@example.org.
SMALLFARM-MG listserve. Identifies small farm contacts, farmers, and others
in the public and private sectors who are interested in strengthening the
capacity of small- and mid-size farmers to improve their income levels
through a systems approach to addressing the needs of the small farm
community. To subscribe, send msg to: email@example.com. Leave subject
blank. In body type: subscribe smallfarm-mg.
Conference Proceedings: Agricultural Production and Nutrition. $18 prepaid.
Collection of 21 papers from international conference held in Boston in
March 1997, edited by William Lockeretz. Explores all facets of how
nutritional value of food is affected by the way it was produced. Covers
biological and chemical aspects of nutrition and food quality, as well as
consumers' perceptions, marketing channels, and economic considerations.
Several papers discuss implications for national and international food and
nutrition strategies. Agriculture & Nutrition Conference, School of
Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155,
1997 National Organic Directory. $44.95 + $6 s&h. Annually updated "yellow
pages" of the organic industry. Includes 1,000+ listings of farmers,
wholesalers, farm suppliers, support businesses, certification groups and
resource groups. Organic commodities bought and sold are extensively
indexed, and explanations of state and federal organic laws are provided.
Community Alliance with Family Farmers, PO Box 363, Davis, CA 95617,
1-800-852-3832, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.caff.org.
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas program (ATTRA) invites you
to join in celebrating its 10th Anniversary by visiting its new Web site at
Labels: Linking Consumers and Producers. Free. Monthly electronic newsletter
from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Provides news,
events and resources related to the labeling of products for environmental,
social and regional sustainability. To subscribe, send e-mail to:
email@example.com. Leave subject blank. In body type: subscribe
label-news. For help contact Kathryn Clements, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also
available, along with IATP news bulletins, at=
DID YOU KNOW...
- The New York Times bought a share of Threshold Farm Community Supported
Agriculture and writes periodically about the CSA project.
- The July 21, 1997 edition of the Los Angeles Times carried an article
about sustainable agriculture entering the mainstream, stating that the
movement now includes approximately 5% of U.S. farmers who use sustainable
- In June 1997, Swissair announced that it was introducing organically grown
products in all classes on flights departing from Switzerland. By the year
2000, Swissair's goal is to ensure that 90% of the products used to prepare
meals are organically grown.
- Presenting congratulations on the 25th anniversary of the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movemements (IFOAM), director of
Greenpeace International Dr. Thilo Bode called organic farming one of the
world's most sophisticated and serious visions of sustainability.
Contact CSAS office for more information.
Nov. 2-6 =97 3rd North American Workshop of Farming Systems Research &
Extension Association - Food & Natural Resource Systems: Integrating
Diversity, Inquiry, & Action, Mt. Hood, OR
Nov. 7 =97 5th Annual Small Farm Trade Show & Conference, Columbia, MO
Dec. 1-4 =97 3rd IFOAM-Asia Scientific Conference - Food Security in Harmony
with Nature, Bangalore, India=20
Jan. 9-10 =97 Great Plains Vegetable Conference, St. Joseph, MO
Jan. 22-25 =97 Southern SAWG Annual Conference & Trade Show, Memphis, TN
Jan. 30 =97 17th Annual Organic Conference and Eco-Products Trade Show,
Ontario, Canada http://www.gks.com/OrgConf/
Feb. 10-12 =97 Managing Manure in Harmony with the Environment and the
Society," Ames, IA
Feb. 26-28 =97 No. American Farmers' Direct Marketing Assoc. Conference,
Victoria, BC http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/agric/nafdmc/dfmchome.htm
Mar. 5-6 =97 National SARE Conference - Building on a Decade of Sustainable
Agriculture Research & Education: Sharing Experiences to Improve Our
Agriculture, Austin, TX http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/san/
Mar. 29-Apr. 1 =97 1998 North American Conference on Pesticide Spray Drift
Management, Portland, ME =
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