Notes from the Glebe

Notes from a Western Farm

Jan 27, 11:11 PM

by Dan Hadley
Dan Hadley is a 2009 graduate of Augustana College

I’m anxious, ready for spring even though winter isn’t even halfway over, anxious to stretch my legs and enjoy that sweet sunshine and the sight of birds returning from their much warmer hideaways, and anxious to get my hand dirty again, to feel tired after a long day of work. For those of you stuck indoors fighting the cold, eyes and hands glued to the screens and keyboards typing away at those papers (they never end do they…), wondering what’s next after the four year party ends, here might be some food for thought.

No doubt many of you have figured out by now that we need to start rethinking the way we grow and eat food; that is to say, we need to start thinking and acting locally, growing food that is based on ecological limits and a local economy, and producing food that actually tastes good! If you have the desire to eat healthy food and want to participate in that wonderful act of growing something delicious out of that mysterious soil we all so depend on, then here are some things to check out.

This past summer I worked on a small 20 acre organic farm in the Williams Valley in southwest Oregon. Consisting of the hills and valleys of the Siskiyou and Klamath Mountains, this region is known for one of the highest diversity of plants in the U.S., its extremely complex geology, and its numerous microclimates. It’s this diversity of rock, weather, and plants that has made this region home to so many
unique small-scale farms, with each adapting to their own local conditions, producing things of real, healthy value. The farm I worked on is one of several farms involved in a program called the Rogue Farm Corps, which is a program that places interns on farms for a season and gives them the opportunity to learn many different aspects of organic growing. By offering classes and tours at other farms throughout the region every few weeks, students get a chance to meet other interns and to learn about the farms they are working on and the people crazy enough to run them, and to learn other aspects of food production and sustainable living. So while I learned about vegetable production and raising chickens on the farm I worked on, I also toured a bison ranch, learned about ecological straw bale building techniques, crop and livestock rotation, and how to brew beer. The farms are also part of a network called the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative, which contributes to numerous CSAs, restaurants, and farmers markets in the region. More information about the program can be found at http://www.roguefarmcorps.org/.

You can also check out internships and apprentice programs on sustainable farms and ranches throughout the U.S. at the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) website (http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/). This is probably the most comprehensive list of internships and work opportunities on small scale sustainable farms within the U.S. out there, along with publications and information on sustainable agriculture. For those of you with a more adventurous spirit there are also farming opportunities throughout the world found at the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms website (http://www.wwoof.org/).

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