Apprenticeships and woofing at Salt Creek Farm are available to anyone who has a serious desire to learn about organic farming. Normally, we take on two full-time and several part time apprentices (woofers) during our 9 month season (possibly year round.) Apprentices need not have previously worked on a farm. A position here would be ideally suited for someone who might want to start their own community gardening project or CSA. Success here is largely dependent upon a reverence for food, hard work, a good sense of humor, and the ability to work well with others. Small micro farms trying to raise high quality food crops year after year face many challenges. Success is largely a function of maintaining fertility, plentiful water for irrigation, crop rotation, and pest control.
Apprentices can expect to see a range of ecological farming techniques implemented depending upon the crop(s) grown. Most of the crops are organically grown in small bio-intensive beds utilizing minimal tillage, interplantings, biological pest control, crop rotation and covercropping. Hand use and tools.are commonplace. Tractor drawn three point implements, belly mounted tools and hand tillers are also useful in bed preparation, tilling and cultivation. We grow over 50 different kinds of vegetables herbs and flowers. As a member of the Seed Savers Exchange I have an intense interest in growing and saving rare and endangered garden varieties.
The farm is a full time endeavor requiring vigilance. Ideal apprentices/woofers are phsically fit, like being outside all day, can work in the heat and rain, don't mind sweating and enjoy dirt under their fingers! Some of our most successful apprentices were fire fighters, runners, trail crew members, bikers and construction workers and surfers :) Our schedule needs to be flexible because it is entirely dependent upon current weather conditions. Timing is critical in farming. So, when it is cloudy, we transplant. When the sun shines, we cultivate. As the season winds down, ample time off will be provided in the fall to explore Olympic National Park and Salt Creek County Park.
A 20 foot yurt (pictured above) located on the farm is available to use for lounging, cooking, and showering. The yurt is equipped with a phone, shower, gas range, sink, electric hot water heater, utensils, pots and pans, and electrified lights. No smoking is allowed in the yurt. An Airstream Land Yacht is also available on site for housing. Pets are discouraged. Basic staples,. eg., rice, beans, flour, peanut butter milk, quinoa, butter, and all garden produce is provided for the duration. We are located less than 1/2 mile from bus service to Port Angeles and two miles from the Olympic Discovery Trail. Be sure to read this PDF article by John Hendrickson called Creating a livelihood on a fresh market vegetable farm.
If you would like to pursue an apprentice position or woof part time with us please call or e-mail us. If you prefer to write, our address is:
The late Stan Rowe, a Canadian ecologist whose writings are reminiscent of Aldo Leopold, has poignantly described what is missing in our current agricultural ethic and prescribes an alternative.
The missing concept is the ecological one of landscapes-as-ecosystems, literally “home systems,” within which organisms, including people, exist. We have been taught that we are separate living things, surrounded by other living things, but not so. The realities of the world are ecological systems of which organisms are components and without which no creatures of any kind could ever exist.
The missing attitude is sympathy with and care for the land and water ecosystems that support life. It will come when we make the concept of a planetary home part of our daily thought, part of our hearts and imaginations…
Some may dismiss such an ethical proposal as unrealistic and hopelessly naive in a world of economic domination and winner-take-all capitalism. And perhaps it is. But it also is unrealistic and hopelessly naive to assume that we can continue to ruin our ecological and social communities and expect to survive much longer as a species.
This career choice can be a tough sell to parents who might have envisioned a more lucrative calling for their kids, he says. "I speak on campuses all the time and (see) the passion among college students for agriculture — and I'm talking about Ivy League schools, I'm talking about Brown and Yale," he says. "It must be scaring the hell out of their parents."
editorial by Lynn Miller
Spun Honey & Colony Collapse
Where have all the bees gone? Many who care deeply are searching. Clues are floating to the surface. I see parallels with the human condition of late. Not to suggest that we live in colonies which are collapsing, but rather that if we did live in colonies or clusters or like-minded swarms we would be better insulated against what seems to be heading our way. We actually live today in a morass of commerce-defined mud which denies us our ability to produce “honey.” We have little or no savings or food put by or fuel stockpiled or seed saved. Many of us live without a support group of family and neighbors ready and anxious to help each other out in times of need. We live day-to-day trusting that what we need will be available and affordable when we need it. We don’t produce the sweet stuff of sustenance. We have no “honey” to spin. The means to change this are at hand today. In a very short time we can return to our rightful colonies, clusters or swarms. And we don’t have to go backwards to do it.
The new, The healthy, and The hopeful; These things are on my mind. The new? With this issue of the Journal we are joined by hundreds of high school students accessing this magazine for the first time at high school libraries which have been gifted subscriptions by you, the readers of SFJ. We all invited them to join us for this quarterly potluck discussion of self-sufficiency and true farming because it is high time we took aggressive action to add to our ranks for the future. And because we trust those bright young minds will be captivated by what they find here. It is my personal philosophy that we should speak as we always have, never toning or moderating the message just because we may have new young readers. Keep the carousel spinning at the same gainful pace. Those young people may be our golden rings to reach for, but I prefer to think they will be attracted to the shapes, colors, possibilities, and landscapes viewed as we spin by, busy in our dedicated usefulness. Rather they should choose to jump aboard and join us.
The healthy? High fuel prices and erratic global market pressures are rapidly reacquainting folks to the beauty, strength and security which may come of local self-reliance. Nearby farmers and artisans are increasingly valued as the cost of shipping goods from around the planet becomes more and more prohibitive. Chairmakers, shoemakers, market gardeners, cheesemakers, dressmakers, woodcutters, blacksmiths, wooliers, candlemakers, et al., supplying inside of 30, 50 and 100 mile circles of community, this is a working definition of healthy.
The hopeful? Within this time we see the challenging economic, political and energy climate actually rewarding new, creative, independent, small organic farmers in highly lucrative and sustainable ways. Not only are they increasingly valued as members of local society, as mentioned above, they are also poised to be extremely well-paid for their work. Add to this that there has never been a better time, in all of recorded history, to be a well-informed and well-equipped horsefarmer. Whole lot of new, healthy and hopeful.
At this year’s auction and swap we were joined by a group of twenty-seven college students, all enrolled in the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture program at Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington. David P. Muehleisen, Ph.D and Melissa Barker ramrodded the group as they lent hands to the volunteer effort. Busy though I was I couldn’t help but notice a growing glow from the group as the days progressed. Afterwards we received a thank you card which spoke volumes (see image). This class is a perfect example of the swarms I elude to, a swarm preparing itself to split, head off, and form new clusters or colonies. New, healthy and hopeful.
Those of us with tenure on a piece of land, with tools to farm that land, and with the knowledge to farm are amongst the most fortunate alive on the planet today. Yes, these are difficult times. With every passing day the food supply is thrust deeper into uncertainty what with wars, famine, pestilence, weather changes, corn ethanol, fuel prices, banking insolvency and government meddling to name but a few concerns. The agribusiness community, as orchestrated by multinational corporations and the USDA, continues to mess up farming in ways which can only be described as stupidity and shortsightedness feeding greed. The result? Big farming is collapsing in on itself. So the truly independent small farmer, with increasing success supplying his or her own needs while selling direct to local markets, is in the cat bird seat.
Rather than to technological or biological innovation or industrialization or commercialization, the future of agriculture belongs to mastery of the craft. The notion that more food and fiber and better food and fiber will only be produced by those who are fully invested in the natural processes of farming is the big new idea for the future of mankind. Add to this that these self same directions always return tenfold a better environment and stronger more diversified communities. It is virtually impossible to realize mastery of the craft of farming from the position of large-scale industrialized agriculture. Appropriate human scale is of paramount importance, scale and independence. The truly independent small farmer is the new farmer.
These are uncertain times. Think about those very words for a minute. Aren’t all times uncertain? When has there ever been a time which wasn’t? Yes, desperation, destruction and death have become the mainstay of mass entertainment served through irstwhile news outlets. That might be part of the reason it feels so much worse now. Yes, there is great growing disparity between the rich and the poor. And today there are people with less money than a year ago. Also, today there are people with more money than a year ago. Today we have quiet spots around the globe and other regions torn by war and strife. World governments are being bought and sold every day. The more things change the more they stay the same. Nothing new? In almost every aspect, times are as terribly and comically uncertain as they have always been. Every aspect but three.
Our new problems:
1. The climate is changing and we don’t know what that means.
2. Oil is over and very few people seem to get that.
3. The world’s food supply is hanging by a thread over a precipice.
We don’t mean to scare people. We, in fact, are hopeful. These are uncertain times but much of what would worry us is completely out of our control.1 The things which are within our control, however, are rich with opportunity. We have been saying it now for some time but it bears frequent repetition, there has never been a better time to be a farmer. The loss of affordable oil and the commensurate effect that will have on natural gas and electricity can spell doom or hope. I prefer to see hope. Now, people will be forced to look into alternatives and think of all things as local. That spells a growing customer base for products, services and innovation. People will need their food to come from local sources, they will need their clothing and fuel to come from near, crafts and the arts in general will help to denote region and lend important identity rather than be lost to the vulgar brokers of the momentarily chic.
Once again the world is about to become very large. I mean by this that China, once thought to be a day’s plane trip away, will soon rightfully feel like it is ages away. Our cavalier attitude with regards to global access is being tested more and more each day. And that will be good. We are already experiencing the beginnings of exciting local renewal. Whether it be in remote parts of rural America or far flung corners of the globe. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the era of cheap global air travel is near an end. The catastrophic growth in the cost of freight will force us to produce basic goods locally, especially food. We will not be able to afford cars, steel, off-season grapes or computers from thousands of miles away. And we will find ourselves asking basic questions at that point. Such as what do we really need? Do we really need new Asian, Italian or German cars? Do we really need off-season Chilean grapes? Do we need Chinese computers? I say no to all three. Do we need to produce more of our own steel and our own food? Absolutely and the sooner the better. As for opportunity; those of us producing product and services for animal power know astounding growth in interest and sales. (As dramatic as this growth has been, it is only the beginning. We have barely lifted off the launch pad.) Think about the phenomenal opportunity available to that first company to produce a stripped down, cheap basic electric automobile (no frills - no gps, no onboard computers, no stereo, no video, no electric windows) along the lines of the infamous Deux Cheveux (Two Horse) of France.
Not long ago social pundits tauted the end of the age of industrialization and the beginning of the age of information. They explained that we didn’t need to worry that other countries would be growing our food, making our cars, answering our phones for us, because we would be clicking along happily with high paying jobs serving the information sector. What a colossal sham that is! Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have all just about succeeded in designing systems that will require far less people than initially thought. There just ain’t the jobs out there in the so-called “information” sector. By the way “information age” is a euphemism for, or another way of saying, ‘dude my computer is smarter than your lame-butt computer.’ What we have here is electronic regurgitative crap to the nth degree. We have software technicians working on adding aspect to remote control devices so that when you open your garage door from your computer-laced Porsche your cat box will be cleaned and a soft scent of lavendar sprayed at your entrance portico. While across the planet children are dying of hunger at the rate of one per four seconds. Forgetting the grotesque inequities and the complicity with crimes against humanity, what thankless self-absorbed monster would want to live such a disconnected existence as that Porsche driver? I know he would be useless weeding in my garden, and ultimately of questional microbial value as compost material. “Information Age?” Fantasy Island poison, that’s what we have inherited from the Clinton/Bush consortium in consort with Chinese and Russian organized-crime racing headlong into those other two euphemisms “Global (read gobble) Free Trade” and “One World Order.” Nasty, nasty stuff and every bit of it chock full of opportunities for we small farmers. Recently my friend, the poet Paul Hunter, introduced me to this quote from Robert Blythe “The world will soon be breaking up into small colonies of the saved.” from Blythe’s 60’s volume “The Light Around The Body.” It was the Vietnam War era and he was speaking of and to people clustering together in their shared beliefs. Apologizing to Blythe, Hunter and poetry in general, I want to take that quotation and shake and shape it slightly to fit where I think we may be heading today, “Time for the world to break up into small self-sufficient colonies of the new, the healthful and the hopeful.” I recently heard a midwestern commodity farmer speak of the phenomenal potential this year’s crop had to either make him rich or destroy him. Growing corn, soybeans, canola and wheat, he needed 25,000 gallons of fuel for the year’s tractor work. He had contracted for $3.79 a gallon. And he spoke of his chemical fertilizer bill going from $400 ton to $1100 ton. “If the crop does well and the prices hold up, we’ll make a lot of money. If anything goes wrong, we’ll be destroyed.” Tremendous pressure with lateral lightning bolts mixed in. If he does well, he will be able to pay down the farm mortgage some, replace the pickup truck, and payoff his enormous production credit loan. His corn was all being sold for ethanol even though he felt this was wrong and worried about the world food supply. And the pressure to do well was causing him to reverse certain soil conservation practises he believed in. Measure that story against the organic horsefarmer who, on his 160 acres, maintains his crop rotations, plants his own seed, does all of his field work with his six home-raised Belgian horses, and measures his purchased inputs in the hundreds of dollars rather than the tens of thousands. This man knows, with current commodity prices and whatever weather mother nature throws at him, that he will be able to paint the barn and house this year and help his son get a start with a farm of his own. A true applied definition of prosperity. And as a bonus he can honor his concern that food would always come before fuel.
Our new problems:
1. The climate is changing and we don’t know what that means.
2. Oil is over and very few people seem to get that.
3. The world’s food supply is hanging by a thread over a precipice.
With climate change comes a whole new set of challenges to farming. From region to region we see unpredictable new patterns of cold, wet, hot, dry, and turbulent. For us in Central Oregon we have experienced nearly constant winds with a very late winter encroaching on spring. Good farmers will have to pay better and more constant attention to these changes to try to at least mitigate some of the more catastrophic effects of the weather changes. Having all your eggs in one basket with say one big field of corn or wheat greatly increases your chances of devastation from the weather. This is the time to diversify crops and spread the risk. This is the time to build into the planning second and third options for the crop. For example, if weather does not permit making hay, haylage or pasturing may be the answer. Identify crops which, in the event of damage, might be fed back through resident livestock. Weather uncertainty is a perfect excuse for reducing your expectations. Those farmers who absolutely MUST get a bumper crop at top price in order to survive are asking for trouble. Nothing is to be gained by putting your head in a hole and insisting that the climate issue doesn’t exist. Everything is to be gained by being attentive and creative.
Oil is over. What we mean by this is that those days of cheap oil of ready and steady supply are over. If you must continue farming with a diesel tractor you will need, for your survival, to pay much closer attention to each and every trip across the field. It is a perfect time to pay attention to the laws of diminishing return. Calculations need to be made to determine whether or not your farm is too big and too specialized. Your gross income means nothing if your net income is miniscule. Sophisticated implements and tack are now readily available for the intelligent and resourceful farmer who might be personally suited to farm with horses or mules. Without a doubt, 2008 is the very best year for you to make the investment and travel to Mt Hope Ohio for the fourth of July Horse Progress Days and see for yourself. If seeing is believing, this premiere animal power demonstration fair will change your farming life. You owe it to your future to at least check it out. Imagine farming 80 to 160 acres (or more) and having the opportunity to keep most all of what you make! Imagine having little or NO fuel bill for the farm! Imagine your soils tilth and fertility improving with each passing year. Imagine your children reconnecting with the farm!
The food supply is in jeopardy. Today the food supply is critically tied to a vast infrastructure of shipping, processing and distribution. Interrupt that chain and the supply is jeopardized. Even school children know that the chain is being interrupted by fuel shortages. Our government and agribusiness have made the unethical choice to put fuel before food. More and more people worldwide aren’t getting their food.
As farmers we know what it takes to produce a calorie. We may know quite a bit less about how those calories morph and move through the system. It is my belief that we as farmers need to withdraw, where possible, from the industrial distribution complex and make efforts to simplify how our produce can get to people. I realize that is a tall order and one which will smack to some of revolution but the name of the game is getting food where it is needed and making a living doing it. May I suggest that the current system may not work, not now, and even less in the future?
I have in the past been accused of spouting the rhetoric of farm anarchy. My accusers point to my insisting on, for thirty two years, speaking of the paramount values of ‘independence’ and ‘scale’. Thinkers on the right and left of farm issues believe that farmers need to see themselves as pieces of the larger puzzle and be willing to subjugate their dreams and needs while complying to the defacto market or social rule of agribusiness in general. They say my cry for independence is a revoluntionary cry for lawlessness, for a disrespect of the marketplace, for an attack on the contradictory hierarchies of free trade. The argument is that we need the whole food system in all its complexities and any threat to that system is a threat to the cost and availability of food. I disagree and know that my small thoughts are no real threat to the status quo. But at the risk of mixing up the argument I will add that today I see the need for “independent” small farmers to stay that way while “belonging” to chosen communities, or colonies, or clusters. Not so much because of that old adage of strength in numbers (as in we against them), but because of the sufficiency factor (as in I need your eggs you need my blacksmithing skills she needs these fence posts and he needs that lamb - all of it local). The small farmer doesn’t need the global marketplace. The small farmer needs a small community of his or her own.
Some statisticians claim there are 525 million farms on the planet and that 425 million of those are small farms averaging 2 acres per family. Of course those numbers are up for grabs especially in this country where USDA census conclusions regularly discount or exclude the small farmers. But it is interesting to think about those numbers matched against the world’s population of six and half billion. And to factor in that we are told there are less then two million farmers in the U.S.A. Conjecture has it that those 100 million industrial scale farms worldwide feed the affluent 15% of the world’s population while the remaining 85% of the world is fed by small farmers. Lots of various inequities in that, but most important is that 15% of the world is fat while a child dies every four seconds of hunger.
But it’s all shifting and the inequities are increasingly subject to mother nature and economic forces. Small farmers, in their insular strength, will continue to prosper and their ranks will grow. IF they join forces in satellite clusters of the “saved” and encourage growth within their own ranks the world will enjoy the new, the healthy, and the hopeful in ever growing measure.
"There is vast and growing resistance to the dislocation and devastation caused by the agro-industrial food system," points out Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group. "In the global struggle for Food Sovereignty, the playing field isn't level, but the scope of resistance is massive - peasant farmers, fisher people, pastoralists and allied civil society and social movements are fighting for locally controlled and socially just food and health systems."
Severine von Tscharner Fleming is the director of Greenhorns, a nonprofit which promotes agricultural reform. She has also directed a documentary film about young American farmers called "The Greenhorns."
Siri Erickson–Brown is a Seattle native and Garfield High School graduate. She started Local Roots Farm in the Snoqualmie Valley four years ago with her husband Jason Salvo. Local Roots grows six acres of vegetables which it sells at three Seattle farmers markets through a community–supported agriculture subscription program. They also sell to local restaurants.
Chandler Briggs is a farmer at Island Meadow Farm on Vashon Island. He took over the farm two seasons ago, and rents the land from the owners. He sells his vegetables at a farm stand and to local restaurants.
Field Notes illustrates different kinds of experiential learning that take us places off campus. This issue presents excerpts from the Augie Choice reflection essay written by Thomas Christian ’12. A history major with minors in English and environmental studies, Thomas spent the summer as a volunteer farm apprentice for Doug Hendrickson at Salt Creek Farm outside Port Angeles, Washington. Co-captain of the cross country team here at Augustana, Thomas started most days with a 10-mile run before his farm work.
My experience at Salt Creek Farm can be broken down into two parts. The first part is the science of agriculture…. Then there is the bigger picture about our relationship with land and each other. This part I am still wrestling with.
The science I find fascinating. It begins with biology as plants use nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun. Then there is the necessary understanding of crop rotation, fertilizers, tools, irrigation and farm management. When one puts all these components together, it becomes clear that small-scale organic growing is a real art. In fact, it takes a huge amount of faith. The farmer prepares the land, lays the seed, and adds fertilizer and water… but the real work is left up to the crops.
It doesn’t take long to realize that the farmer is only sort of in control. Doug has 20-plus years of experience on that eight-acre section of land. With that, he controls what he can and lets the earth do the rest.
I am particularly interested in crop rotation and seed saving. Yearly crop rotation is a way of preventing pests and encouraging healthy growth without the use of pesticides or petrol-based fertilizers. Some varieties of crops drain the soil of nutrients quicker than others while some are more resistant to certain pests. For example, one never plants Brassicas (broccoli, kale, mustards, etc.) on the same plot year after year. Of course this requires a wealth of knowledge about crops as well as meticulous records of planting seasons.
Seed saving is a dying art, but it has been an important agricultural practice for thousands of years. Farmers select what crops work best in certain areas and save the strongest seed for the next planting. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were thousands of varieties of apples and tomatoes across America, each one selected for specific reasons, whether it be its sweet flavor, resistance to pests or love of sandy soil. This speed version of natural selection is an example of the complex relationship between the farmer and the world around him.
Today, science has allowed us to go inside crops and alter genes to make super crops.… with the introduction of these Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), the great biodiversity on farms has disappeared. Americans are now almost fully reliant on nine varieties of crops, leaving our food supply in serious jeopardy. Despite the efforts of seed engineers, the GMO monocrops are not perfect. As we know from the flu virus, vaccines are always one step behind. The earth’s natural biodiversity is the only proven defense against pests and pathogens.
As I move forward, I feel I have found a possible vocation. This fall I will look at graduate school programs in the environmental field. One possibility is Yale University’s dual degree program between the Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Science. I know I will continue to be thankful for the time I spent at Salt Creek Farm with Doug, Lee, John and Laura. It is truly amazing how much I learned in such a short period of time.
What should young people do with their lives today?
Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is
to create stable communities in which the terrible
disease of loneliness can be cured.
The following except is from Steve Solomons's Soil and Health Library..
Karl Marx wisely defined real wealth as 'owning and or controlling the means of production.' He was thinking of industrial assets. But a small farm or ranch, some garden land and a woodlot are also means of production. Self-sufficient homesteaders are fundamentally trying to achieve much the same thing that many entrepreneurs are after. Homesteaders are creating independent poverty instead of trying to be independently wealthy. To round out this library I am looking for excellent back-to-the-land books and works encouraging voluntary simplicity and self-sufficiency.
Much social criticism is little but the expression of reactive self-justification. A few individuals, however, seem to transcend their own limitations. Here you will find works by the brilliant thinkers Ralph Borsodi and Ferdinand Lundberg.
What This Collection Is All About
Life on Earth could be easy and far more pleasant if only people were entirely rational about pursuing their interests and passions. But we aren't. Scott and Helen Nearing spent decades on their self-sufficient homestead demonstrating that achieving our daily survival needs could be accomplished in only a few hours of work a day--if we did not have taxes to pay and produced most of our necessities ourselves. But as things are currently organized on Earth, most people in industrial countries are obliged to expend most of their energy most of their lives, working for what they have been programmed to consider as "necessities." Sometimes I think we have created our planet this way because we would be bored if things were too easy. Sometimes I think we have wars and conflict for this same basic reason.
And sometimes I think the real reason in a nutshell is: instead of cooperation and a gentle allowing of others, Homo sapiens tend to focus on one of two destructive games: dominating and enslaving others, or making others be "good"--as one person conceives of "good" for the other guy.
Whatever the real underlying reasons, most people flail around ineffectively within the current scene, never escaping. But some few do escape the trap--at least to an extent--by focusing on achieving spiritual freedom, personal liberty, independence and self-sufficiency. These fortunates travel several seemingly opposing roads:
•We can make a surplus of money, and save and invest and accumulate our own small piece of the big action--a share of what my old buddy Karl Marx would have called the "means of production." This path is especially fraught with perils. At one time this library had a few books on these subjects, but they have been withdrawn (as of 27 June 2000) because I am currently confused about the ethics connected with having unearned income.
•We can learn to live with ever-greater voluntary simplicity, thus lowering our needs for physical goods, and thus attain greater liberty, a feeling of security, and more free time. This path is fraught with perils, but may have the least number of perils. The worst peril is probably boredom occasioned by success.
•We can homestead, go back to the land, and learn to grow our own food, gather our own heating fuel, build our own houses. This last solution is much like the first, in that we achieve ownership and control of the means of production, but do this production with our own efforts rather than deriving some benefit from the efforts of others. And it is much like the second, in that homesteaders have to accept a simpler lifestyle.This path is also fraught with perils.
These "roads" are actually parallel and interactive. They are not opposites. The Personal Freedom Library exists to encourage others to travel these perilous roads.
"The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information."- Ed Abbey