Mud, mud, mud of spring thaws greeted the third annual PFI
Women's Winter Gathering at the Christian Conference Center
near Newton on February 28 - March 1, 1998. But as we
communed, winter returned with soft snow lazily covering the
land and temperatures cold enough to harden the muddy ruts.
It was the perfect setting for brisk walks to the mess hall
and a cozy circle of sharing - complete with an evening in
our "jammies," illumined by beeswax candles, popcorn, and
hot spiced cider.
Concern for the small number present - nine - was quickly
converted into a free-flowing agenda of telling our stories.
For ten hours we talked - right through supper, way past
bedtime. What engaged us so? Life histories or segments
thereof. Cleaning out hoophouses and marketing poultry.
Hip aches caused by wading through mud. Leasing dairy cows,
calving, and surviving in the dairy business. Off-farm
jobs. Our children. The most wonderful husbands in the
world. Agriculture in Japan and Israel. Teaching in
Malaysia. Popular education in Tennessee and in
Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia. Farm women's social clubs,
times past and present. Problems of family partnerships.
Cooperative marketing of meat. Growing and marketing
organic produce. Living by design rather than default.
Exciting courses and professors at ISU.
By 12:30 a.m., bed beckoned more strongly than our formal
agenda item of sharing favorite books.
Sunday breakfast brought discussion of why our number was
small, the needs of PFI women, and how those needs can best
be met. What are the self-perceptions and priorities of PFI
women? Where are our primary communities? Is there a need
to gather as PFI women? Should we have more accessible
regional gatherings? What should our setting and agenda be?
Is staying overnight a problem for many? Answers to these
questions will be sought throughout the coming year.
Karen Mason, curator of the Iowa Women's Archives in Iowa
City, joined us for the morning with the announcement that a
position to collect farm women's papers (individuals and
organizations) has just been funded by Farm Bureau. This
position will support the focus on women in agriculture
suggested by co-founder Mary Louise Smith before her death
in 1997. Materials sought include correspondence, diaries,
speeches, scrapbooks, oral history interviews, photographs,
publications, reports, film, audio and video tape, and
organizational minutes. The collection is open to the
general public, and PFI members are welcome to both use and
contribute to it.
Karen read from several items already in the Archives: one
of Miriam Baker Nye's "From the Kitchen Window" columns
(Sioux City Journal, 1951-1981) about mud; the diary of
Maria Margaretha Kromminga (1874-1937), a single parent who
farmed near Monticello; and the diary of Clara Steen Skott
(1888-1994), a home economics teacher and writer who lived
in China and Wisconsin as well as Iowa.
Our "sending out" ceremony was lunch, photos, and farewell
There are two ways you can follow up on the Gathering. If
you have input or suggestions regarding PFI women's needs
and future gatherings, contact Donna Bauer, 1667 Hwy. 71,
Audubon, IA 50025 (712-563-4084). If you would like to
contribute to the Iowa Women's Archives, or if you are
interested in the newly funded archival position, contact
Karen Mason, Curator, Iowa Women's Archives, 100 Main
Library, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242
(319-335-5068; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; fax:
11^ WINTER WORKSHOP REPORTS
If you weren't at the Adventureland Inn in Altoona last
January 10, you missed some great workshops, wonderful
Iowa-grown foods, and an inspiring keynote talk by Neil
Hamilton. (By the way, mark your calendar now for January
8-9, 1999, at the Ames Gateway Holiday Inn.) Below are
reports from some of the winter workshops, captured by staff
and ever-reliable PFI members.
Acute and Chronic Health Effects of Pesticides
Dr. Charles Lynch
Moderator and recorder: Rick Exner
Charles Lynch is part of a large agricultural health study
that will examine the relationships between health and a
variety of kinds of environmental exposure. These
environmental factors include pesticides, fuels and oils,
organic solvents, animal viruses, engine exhausts, welding
fumes, paints, and grain dusts.
The best way to understand the human health effects of these
everyday farm irritants is to follow a very large number of
people for long enough that patterns emerge. This study
will track about 90,000 adults living on farms in Iowa and
North Carolina. Families have been recruited for the study
through the pesticide certification programs in those two
Lynch said he goes on the assumption that, at least for
individual environmental factors, risk = toxicity x
exposure. Exposure can be long-term and low-level, one-time
and high-level, or combinations in between. A major factor
is the length of time after an accident before the
individual can wash up and change clothes. Commercial
pesticide applicators tend to be better equipped with
protective gear than private applicators, but they are
somewhat less timely in cleaning up, said Lynch.
It will probably be a decade before any clear associations
can be reported. The investigators will be tracking the
study sample population for rates of cancer, reproductive
effects, immunologic effects, neurotoxicity, and
developmental effects. Iowa farmers are in general more
healthy than their urban counterparts, but some health
problems - including some types of cancer - are represented
in the farm population at higher than average rates.
Previous studies have drawn associations between different
types of cancer and specific classes of pesticides. The
Iowans and North Carolinians participating in the present
study will help to provide a much clearer picture of these
and other rural health factors.
The HM Workbook: A Sunlight-Harvesting Manual for Developing
a Holistic Management Business Plan
Tom Frantzen, David Schafer
Moderator: Don Davidson, recorder: Sharon Davidson
David Schafer began by showing his three-part goal: quality
of life; forms of production within the ecosystem; and a
landscape that will support forms of production. A slide
showing the solar chain illustrated the cycle.
Tom Frantzen presented his view that values should be part
of the decision-making process. This approach requires that
everyone is involved in the decisions made. Values need to
be incorporated in actions. Tom then related how his own
family benefits from having a mission statement and goals.
Positive behaviors should be rewarded. Business plans
propel you into the next year. Actively seek out places
where there are conflicts. You cannot improve your life
without seeking out your values.
Don Davidson asked the speakers about why people have
trouble getting started with holistic management after going
through training. Tom and David both felt that their lives
are better because of the HM decision-making process.
Obstacles are admitting that there are things wrong that
would be better done another way. David at first thought
the process was too complicated. It can be done to
Proactive Approaches to Changes in the Swine Industry
John McNutt, Steve Weis, Dennis Abbas
Moderator: Colin Wilson, recorder: Gayle Olson
John McNutt, Iowa City -
Farms on family farm near Iowa City with three employees.
Three conventional hog buildings were built in the 1970s,
and he also has hoops. He got together with neighbors
trying to figure out proactive approaches.
4 double-L buildings; fill every other week. Six hoophouses
with 240 head each. They also have converted conventional
buildings. Basically, they have three systems on one site.
A goal: capture 95% of the advantage of the industrial
system, but on a smaller scale.
They use an old schoolbus for transporting pigs, which gives
In hoophouses they use four-hole Richy waterers, and they
bring in extra pigs from the double-L buildings when the
pigs are about 6-weeks old/11 pounds. They use modern
genetics in the hoophouses, which are divided down the
middle with extra-high walls so they can do split-sex
feeding. They have 11-12 square feet per pig and would give
slightly more if they had it to do over.
Hoophouses are easier to manage in the cold than in hot
weather, so their houses have a ridge vent that costs about
$100. The only problem with the design is when they have
big pigs and the building is closed tight. They discarded
the roll-up door for Cover-all's new door. The hoophouse
hogs are not so clean but healthy. They did have some
problem with ammonia odor, which was probably due to
insufficient bedding. They clean out the hoophouses with a
Bobcat, since the tractor is too large. Cornstalks handle
better than grass hay bedding. Bean straw works OK too.
Getting a good underlying base seems important. Dry manure
from the hoops can be piled outside for later hauling when
it is convenient, unlike liquid manure.
In the hoops they get 1.7-1.9 lb/day gains. Hoop feed
efficiency is in the area of 2.9-3.1 lbs feed/lb gain.
For McNutt, hoophouses are part of a system that allows
all-in/all-out and split-sex feeding for a 300-sow-sized
operation. Cost is $75-$80 per pig rather than the more
Steve Weis, Osage -
Farms near Osage with his dad and two brothers.
In 1988 they built stall gestation buildings with crates at
a cost of $200 per head. More recently a holistic
management course opened his eyes. With low hog prices he
began to look for simple, low-tech, versatile, flexible,
low-investment, low-risk options - all the opposite of they
way they had been going. They didn't want to commit to
buildings that would determine the type of farming their
kids would do. They put up three 30x72' hoophouses at a
cost of $65 per head for their 200-sow herd.
Weis likes how hoophouses allow them to use on-farm
resources like family labor, bedding, and construction
skills. He wrote a SARE producer grant that allowed him to
compare the hoophouses and their conventional system. In
1997, average daily gain in hoops was 1.67 lbs/day, compared
to 1.76 in conventional finishing. Feed efficiency was 3.45
lbs feed/lb gain in hoops compared to 3.25. Death loss and
cost of production were very similar in the two systems.
Bedding is key - you need an adequate supply and it must be
cheap. Consider how you will handle the bedding. Their
weak spot is that the back (north) curtain acts like a huge
sail. They are concerned about longevity of the plasticized
fabric. On the other hand, he really likes the versatility
of the structure, which could be used for machinery,
They still have lots to learn about the hoop buildings.
Producers considering getting into hoops need to be
proactive, open-minded, positive-minded, and to think about
what's best for their operation.
Dennis Abbas, Hampton -
Dennis, who farms near Hampton, just put up his two
hoophouses last fall. Having gotten out of confinement
finishing some time ago, they now pasture-farrow 80 sows
twice a year on the 320-acre farm. They hope to begin hoop
farrowing in March. In the hoop buildings they use a corn
cob base over straw. The Abbas farm is certified organic on
40 acres, and Dennis has market some pigs to the West Coast
through PFI member Paul Willis.
Responses to questions: Worker health - Dennis got out of
confinement due to health problems. So far, they have not
recurred in the hoophouses.
Nitrogen leakage - McNutt's manure piles are surrounded by
grass strips, but it's possible there would be nitrogen
leached from the pile into the soil. So far research hasn't
shown significant nutrient loss.
Profitable Cow-Calf Management
Dave Petty, Greg Koether, Alice Dobbs
Moderator and Recorder: Dave Lubben
Dave Petty, Union -
Dave Petty grazes corn stalks extensively in the winter, and
this helps keep production costs low. He monitors feed
costs to maintain production while grazing corn stalks. He
has not had to feed hay for the last 14 years. Each cow
requires 8-10 acres of cornstalks for winter grazing, at an
average cost of $3 per acre. Petty plans to sell cull cows
the week of June 20th, since that is the average date of
Alice Dobbs, Trenton, MO -
Alice, who has taken a Holistic Management course from Stan
Parsons, cited the "solar chain," in which the producer
collects solar energy in forage and markets it through
grazing stock. The more diverse the mix of forage species,
the more stable will be production, she said. She and her
husband David Schafer attempt to match the livestock to the
environment, match the breeding cycle to the forage
production cycle, and stockpile grass in the fall for winter
grazing. Rotating the livestock through different paddocks
helps keep fly populations from building up, she commented.
Greg Koether, Giard, IA -
Greg Koether commented that it is important to know where
you are in the cattle price/numbers cycle. Try to work with
nature and keep an eye on the condition scores of your cows.
Koether calves in late May and June and weans in the fall.
He overwinters the herd on stockpiled grass, and he grazes
the year-old calves on spring grass to optimize compensatory
gain. These yearlings are sold in August. Greg recommends
producers read two books by the South African Jan C. Bonsma
(available through the ISU Library), Livestock Production:
Man Must Measure and Wortham Lectures in Animal Science.
Women, Food, and Agriculture
Denise O'Brien and Danielle Wirth
Moderator: Donna Bauer, recorder, Sara Andreasen
Denise and Danielle represented a group that found its start
at the PFI Women's Gathering of 1997. They have met four
times since then. It is the loose-knit beginnings of a
group interested in women, food, and agriculture. They
recently received a grant to help them get started.
There are two main spheres of influence in agriculture: 1)
growers - community-supported, industrial, small, family,
etc.; 2) consumers (eaters) - the "whatevers" ("whatever is
cheapest"), those who buy on environmental, organic, humane
or other considerations, etc. The natural environment
encompasses both these spheres and is not separate from
them. The mission statement of the women, food, and
agriculture network links and amplifies women's voices on
issues of food systems, sustainable communities, and
Workshop participants shared several comments regarding
their own experiences in academic agriculture, as beginning
farmers, and as women who work off the farm to help support
the farm and family. These comments reflected issues of
isolation and lack of recognition. Isolation from being
part of the farm and isolation from other women in
agriculture. Women farmers are often not counted in their
communities, not counted in tax situations, and not
recognized in other respects as well.
Direct Marketing Your Farm-Raised Meats
David Schafer and Alice Dobbs (Trenton, MO)
Moderator: Barney Bahrenfuse, recorder: David Zahrt
David and Alice have farmed 300 acres in Missouri, using
rotational grazing principles to raise sheep, chickens,
swine, and beef cattle. They are now moving to a much
smaller farm (65 acres) where they will concentrate on
direct marketing. They quoted Joel Salatin as saying that
the greatest opportunities in agriculture are where the
corporate model has departed furthest from nature. Schafer
and Dobbs believe producers can increase their share of the
consumer food dollar both by reducing production costs and
by marketing directly to the consumer.
They now grass-finish their beef. Since grass-fed beef is
low in fat, it cooks faster. They also age their beef
about three weeks, but lamb needs no aging. It is important
to be able to see what a cut of meat looks like. They now
shrink-wrap the cuts in clear plastic. Their prime market
is customers with multiple chemical sensitivities. They are
now also marketing to a CSA (community-supported
agriculture) group, which buys in bulk. Alice and David
recommend direct-market producers get listed in the
publication Country Journal in order to increase their
visibility. Paid advertizing has been a waste of money.
However, they are still getting calls two years after
issuing a press release about the farm.
13^ FORESTS, FISHING, FARMING & FOLKLORE YOUTH & FAMILY CAMP
June 24-26, 1998
Come explore the connections between people and the
ecosystems they live in...
This year's camp features an experienced staff of
naturalists who have worked in sustainable agriculture,
history, environmental education, forestry, fishing, and
natural resources projects in Iowa, California, Alaska,
Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and
Malaysia. The staff look forward to sharing stories, food,
crafts, and life skills from forest, farming, & fishing
communities where they have lived and learned.
WHO? Youth and Families from: Practical Farmers of Iowa,
Field to Family Project, Magic Beanstalk CSA, friends and
Children 8 years and under must be accompanied by a parent.
Teen counselors 14 years and up attend free and receive a
$20 stipend. Counselors will come the morning of June 24 for
an orientation workshop.
WHEN? 1 pm Wed., June 24 to 7 pm Friday, June 25, 1997 (camp
will end with a potluck picnic)
WHERE? The Iowa 4-H Education and Natural Resources Center
near Madrid, Iowa
WHAT? A chance for youth and families to explore ways of
life from farm, forest and fishing communities all over the
Solar House & Farm Field Trip to Onion Creek Farm
Ecology studies of ponds, creeks, prairies, woodlands, and
Fishing, Canoeing, Swimming
Rapelling, Archery, Astronomy
Campfires, Music, Storytelling
COST? $50 per participant
DONATIONS NEEDED: The true cost of the camp is higher than
the fee. We encourage donations to support campers - if you
can help this way, please send a check made out to PFI to
the address below.
By June 1 send registration form and check made out to PFI
to: Field to Family, 917 Burnett #3, Ames, IA 50010. FOR
MORE INFORMATION CALL (515) 232-7162.
Names and Ages of Campers
Names of Parents
Address and Phone
Check if interested in helping:
as a teen Counselor_____
as a parent helper_____
If willing to share an activity or project, list materials
Suggestions and Special
16^ PFI PROFILE:
TOM AND IRENE FRANTZEN
Northeast Iowa (New Hampton)
Jenny Kendall, Earlham
* Integrating agroforestry into an already diversified farm
* Grazing beef cows with sows
* Practicing holistic management since 1992
Anyone who has been reading the PFI newsletter over the
years knows that Tom Frantzen is outspoken, willing to try
new things, and ready to share his family's farming
experiences. If you read his popular columns, "Footprints
of a Grass Farmer," in chronological order, you realize you
are reading the evolution of the Frantzen farm, an evolution
that places today's Frantzen family operation in
A Simple Vision
Tom began farming in 1974. Today, the Frantzen farm is
managed and worked by the entire Frantzen family including
Irene, and children Jess, Jolene, and James. The Frantzens
use Holistic Management for their farming management model.
Their approach to farm management might best be
characterized by three words; planning, acting, and
Their long term vision for the farm is stated simply: "We
want to have a good quality of life supported by our
Likewise, Tom's definition of sustainable agriculture is
also stated simply. Says Tom, "I view sustainable
agriculture as a journey towards food and fiber production
that will last."
Planning has always been integral to determining the
Frantzen family farm goals. They have a long-term vision,
create 5-year plans, and also do a yearly plan. Their
planning book is appropriately named the Sunlight Harvesting
The entire family takes part in planning, which is typically
done from late November to early January. Each year, they
write down what is important and create a family quality of
life statement. They list means of production that will
help them to meet their goals and values and then describe
the landscape that will sustain those means of production.
Once the yearly plan is complete, it's time to act. One
trick that Tom uses to help him keep up with planning and
evaluating during the busy seasons is to keep his notebook
close by his chair. That way, he can make notes while the
information is fresh and he has up-to-date information. The
Frantzens use this continually-gathered information in
annual and long-term planning.
Evaluating, like planning, never stops. They have tried a
variety of tillage practices, including moldboard plowing,
chisel plowing, no-till, and ridge-till methods. They don't
use no-till and also don't plant small grains after corn due
to poor experiences with these methods. They do use crop
rotation, their current plan incorporating a
Specific Frantzen farm goals fall into three categories -
quality of life, forms of production, and landscape.
Quality of life goals include family involvement, financial
stability, a pleasant life-style, and quality time. Tom and
Irene like to make sure there is plenty of time for the
Frantzen children to participate in school activities,
especially sports. And Tom and Irene make it a point to
attend the sporting events.
Says Irene, "Our quality of life goals also include having
less stress and better personal relationships." One year,
the family made a train trip vacation as a goal. Having
that goal, and knowing the trip was coming up helped them to
work through a difficult weather year.
Forms of production goals include: realizing a profit from
livestock and determining the appropriate mix of annual and
perennial crops, woody crops, and wildlife. The Frantzens
currently raise a combination of cattle, hogs, soybeans,
oats, forages, and alternative crops on their 335 acres.
They pasture their sows and on occasion graze cows and sows
Trees play an important part for the farm. They use
multi-purpose shelterbelt trees in their pasture-farrowing
system and are working to establish hazelnuts to add to this
already diversified enterprise.
For their landscape, they strive for an attractive
farmstead, effective water and mineral cycles, capturing the
sun's energy effectively, plant succession, covered soil, no
erosion, and diverse crops. To further these goals, they
have put in a pond and planted wildlife and shelterbelt
areas. In fact, their landscape description occupies an
entire chapter in the Sunlight Harvesting Manual and is used
as their ideal futuristic vision of their farm.
The Role of On-Farm Research
The Frantzens do on-farm research to gain information on
helping them to move their farm in a sustainable direction.
Each trial is chosen for a specific reason. So, the
Frantzen's have conducted research to examine profitability,
to see how to reduce pesticide use, and to examine rotations
that will work best for their farm.
Their latest on-farm research is work conducted in
conjunction with Laura Jackson (University of Northern Iowa)
with a SARE grant to investigate non-chemical means of
Impact of Sustainable Farming Practices
The Frantzens have enjoyed improved profitability and have
improved the look of the farm. Along the way, these
practices have helped them to develop their ecological
conscience, evolving an appreciation for the land they
steward in a way that involves the entire family.
Says Tom, "We believe that it takes cooperative efforts to
improve quality of life."
Tom has been involved with PFI since 1985. He served as
district director, and was president of PFI for 1991 and
1992. Says Tom about PFI, "The single most important
benefit from doing on-farm research with PFI has been access
to new ideas."
Tom has also been active in the Shared Visions program. He
represented PFI to the Kellogg Integrated Farming Systems
Initiative from 1993 to 1996 and says, "It was among the
best experiences I have ever had."
The Frantzens are strong advocates of sustainable
agriculture who put their beliefs into practice and share
what they learn along the way. They are pleased to be part
of Practical Farmers of Iowa, as ... "PFI is a dynamic
organization always looking to address the concerns of
people in rural areas."
19^ FLAMING FOR IN-ROW WEED CONTROL IN SWEET CORN
A number of producers are using or considering propane flame
cultivation as an alternative to mechanical or chemical weed
control in corn. The Cooperative Extension newsletter
Pacific Northwest Sustainable Agriculture recently reported
results of research on flame weeding of sweetcorn. The work
was carried out from 1994-1996 by R. Ed Peachey and R.D.
William, of the Horticulture Department, Oregon State
University, Corvallis, OR. The corn was grown in 36-inch
rows, and weeds in half the plots were controlled by hand
and herbicide for comparison. Flaming was limited to a
12-inch band over the row to minimize cost, with cultivation
in the row middles.
The researchers concluded that flaming weeds at the stage
appropriate for weed control coincided with a period of
sensitivity for the corn, which was about six inches tall at
this time. The alternative strategy was to flame later,
when corn was more resistant to flaming, and/or earlier,
when corn plants could still regenerate from their
below-ground growing points (Table A). Alternatively,
cultivation and hilling the row could be used to keep weeds
down until corn was large enough to withstand flaming,
according to the authors.
Early flaming was more effective that later flaming in
eliminating a variety of weeds (Table B), and later flaming
generally required propane rates so high that corn was
damaged (Table A). Most effective of all for weed control
was a combination of two or three flame treatments.
Corn yields, of course, reflect both the effects of weeds on
the crop and any negative effects of flaming itself.
Profitability takes into account the additional factors of
material costs, machinery, labor, and crop price. Table C
compares input, weed, and yield factors for several
treatments. Results on any individual farm would differ
somewhat, but the same considerations would likely play a
part in decisions about the use of flame cultivation.
20^ THE VALUE OF BIODIVERSITY
Paul Mugge, Sutherland
Despite our scientific prowess, we have today identified
only 1.4 million of the estimated 10 to 80 million species
with which we share our world. Although much of this
diversity lives in the tropics, our ignorance is everywhere
apparent. Even a handful of the soil beneath our feet
contains many unknown species. But this most non-renewable
of our natural resources is dying at a rate of about 100
species per day. Deforestation annually claims 42 million
acres of wet and dry tropics and may concurrently claim
one-forth of all tropical plant species over the next 30
years (Worldwatch, 1992). One of every eight plants
indigenous to the U.S. is in danger of extinction.
But extinction is the eventual fate of all species. Indeed,
95% of the species that once existed, no longer exist.
Norman Levine (Levine, 1989) wrote that "Extinction is
inevitable and is needed for progress. New species
continually arise, and they are better adapted to their
environment than those that have died out." This biological
progress is necessary and good as the environment changes
and life changes to maintain the close match, he suggests.
And humans, predominantly responsible for the environmental
changes, are better off. As the prairie was cultivated in
corn and wheat, the prairie chicken could no longer find
enough food and nesting sites. Prairie chickens no longer
grace the prairie, but we have fed the world with corn and
wheat, and how many lives would be enriched if prairie
chickens returned? According to Levine, extinction exists
and it is neither possible nor desirable to stop it. So
what are we worried about? Sleep well. All is right with
But all is not right. The background extinction rate
(before modern times) was about one species per year. We
are now losing one every 15 minutes. The present depletion
will affect virtually all major categories of species.
Eventually it will affect the one at the top, since Homo
sapiens, like every other species, is intimately dependent
on others for its well-being. Time after time, creatures
thought useless or even harmful are found to play crucial
roles in natural systems.
Fundamentally, biodiversity exists on at least three levels:
(1) diversity of entire ecosystems, (2) diversity of species
within an ecosystem, and (3) genetic diversity within a
species. In a future article I will address genetic
Ecosystems are more than the sum of their parts. They are
more than collections of species or genes; they are
functioning, synergistic wholes, processes as well as parts,
and many are in decline worldwide. Tall-grass prairies of
the U.S., the cedar groves of Lebanon, temperate old-growth
hardwood forests, and temperate rain forests are all but
lost forever. Many of the most species-rich ecosystems in
the world are in trouble. Coral reefs are dying due to
sedimentation from coastal agriculture and deforestation,
and from the "bleaching" due to rising water temperatures.
Wetlands and estuaries are shrinking or sick and provide
neither the productive habitat nor the environmental
protection that they once did. In 1870, there were enough
oysters in Chesapeake Bay to filter the entire volume of
water every three days. It now takes a year to filter the
same amount of muddied and oxygen depleted water. Deserts
are expanding as tropical forests have been harvested for
fuel or lumber or bulldozed for farmland. In the far north,
alpine ecosystems are shrinking as a result of the warming
climate and the relentless northward march of boreal
Although incredibly adaptive and resilient, ecosystems
throughout the world are being taxed to the point of being
overwhelmed by the extent and the rate of human disturbance.
Of the three levels of biodiversity, loss of species is
perhaps the most visible. Everyone has heard of snail
darters and spotted owls. Everyone is not aware, however,
of the essential functions performed by creatures diverse
and unknown. The services provided by nature often become
apparent only when they are lost. Scientists have found,
for example, a worldwide decline of amphibians, even in
apparently pristine nature preserves. An adult frog can eat
its weight in insects every day. Crashing frog populations
in India have been linked to pest damage to crops and higher
rates of malaria (Wake, 1990).
One-half of the prescriptions filled worldwide originated
with a wild plant or animal, and less than one percent of
these life forms have been evaluated for medicinal
properties. We might recall that a humble fungus gave us
penicillin and that taxol, derived from the rare Pacific
yew, is providing new hope to cancer victims (Calypso Log,
1994). An endangered evening primrose can offer hope for
coronary heart disease, eczema, multiple sclerosis,
schizophrenia, and even hangovers (Myers, 1989).
"The unsustainability of modern agriculture is in part a
measure of its inability to diversify. Both genetic and
ecological uniformity demand costly and often futile
reliance on chemicals..." (Worldwatch, 1992). The single
most effective means of conserving biodiversity is
conservation of habitat, which in terms of traditional crop
varieties, means saving the world's small farms. On
average, one Amazon tribe has disappeared each year since
1900, and with them have disappeared their traditional crops
and the knowledge to use them. The loss of cultural
diversity is one of the greatest threats to biological
diversity (Schultes, l991). The world's local indigenous
people, mostly in the third world, provide an immeasurable
service to humanity. But because the modern industrial
world does not reward them for that service, they are being
tempted to abandon their traditional agriculture and embrace
the global economy.
Beyond the value to humans measured in dollars and cents,
there is intrinsic value in each of God's creatures. They
were created in all their diverse splendor, each to fulfill
a function as part of an indescribably complex whole. We
humans, for all our arrogance, will never understand all of
the intricate relationships among various pieces of the
puzzle. In the words of Aldo Leopold, "If the biota, in the
course of aeons, have made something we like but don't
understand, who but a fool would discard seemingly useless
parts. To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution
of intelligent tinkering".
Loss of biodiversity is not something that can someday be
remedied once we discover the error of our ways. Mistakes
we make today because of ignorance, or selfishness, or
indifference may be forever. Extinction goes beyond even
life and death. As has been stated, "death is one thing, an
end to birth is something else" (Soule, 1980).
Calypso Log. 1994. The Cousteau Society, Feb. 1994.
Levine, Norman. 1989. Evolution and Extinction. Bioscience,
Vol. 39. Jan. 1989.
Myers, Norman. 1989. Extinction Rates Past and Present.
Bioscience, Vol. 39. Jan. 1989.
Schultes, Richard E. Ethnobotanical Conservation and Plant
Diversity in the Northwest Amazon. Diversity, Vol. 7(1-2).
Soule. 1989. Extinction Rates Past and Present. Bioscience,
Vol. 39. Jan. 1989.
Wake. 1990. Declining Amphibian Populations. Science, March
Worldwatch Inst. 1992. Life Support: Conserving Biological
Diversity. Worldwatch Paper 108. Apr. 1992.
22^ FIELD TO FAMILY PROJECT REPORT
The Field to Family project received a boost last year when
PFI received a $135,600 USDA Community Food Projects grant.
The project involves various groups and organizations
interested in developing a more equitable and sustainable
food system in the central Iowa area.
Field to Family represents a continuation of the work PFI
began with Shared Visions. Field to Family also helps
fulfill elements of PFI s strategic plan that deal with
developing community food systems and marketing initiatives
for value-added income.
And it adds a new emphasis - making fresh, locally-grown
food more readily available to low income families along
with nutrition education, community building experiences,
leadership opportunities, and hands-on farm and garden
There are three staff people working on Field to Family.
Two of us are currently half-time employees of PFI - myself
and Robert Karp. The other is Shelly Gradwell, who is a
quarter-time employee. All three of us are involved in
developing new markets for locally-grown foods. I am
primarily responsible for the producer supports needed to
meet these new markets, and Robert works mainly on
supporting the involvement of low income families in
the project. Shelly s role is focused on educational
The project is important because we believe one of the keys
to ending the cycle of poverty is good nutrition based on
fresh, whole foods shared in a community-building context.
We also believe healthy communities must support, and be
supported by, healthy, local farms.
The Field to Family project involves a wide variety of
activities. For example:
* We are working with the Magic Beanstalk CSA to expand to
150 members this year. We also helped expand the number of
farmers involved; there will be three farms involved in the
vegetable production and twelve other farm families who will
market a wide variety of products to CSA members.
* We are working with the Ames Mainstreet District to
develop a new farmers market in downtown Ames. The market
is an attempt to expand the range of options available to
local producers who want to sell to directly to community
* We are beginning to work with the Scheman Continuing
Education Center at ISU, which wants to start buying local
and Iowa grown and raised foods for meals at events at their
facility. This presents a significant opportunity for
* This year we will expand this number of low-income
families involved in Magic Beanstalk CSA to 25. Last year
there were 17.
* Last year we delivered over 3,500 pounds of locally-grown
produce to local food pantries, which was the amount of
produce left over at the end of the CSA distributions. This
year we will likely increase this amount as Magic Beanstalk
grows in size. As well, we are working at having these food
pantries purchase additional locally-grown vegetables.
* We are beginning an effort to facilitate the emergence of
small business ventures that employ low-income families and
that are based on local food production or food processing.
These individual efforts and others in the planning stage
all involve building extensive partnerships with local
farmers, CSAs, social service agencies, churches,
businesses, schools, city and county government, and
agricultural and environmental organizations. As PFI works
with these groups and individuals over the next several
years on this project, we will keep members informed of
progress through periodic updates in this newsletter. If
you would like to learn more, please call the Field to
Family office at 515-232-7162.
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command