By Karen K. Acevedo
Spring is in full swing now and my attention has turned to all things outside—the garden, the lawn, the weeding and unfortunately, the continual chore of removing invasive honeysuckle, bit by bit.
In early March, we had a certified arborist, Dave Leonard, out to our farm to identify our trees and any problems they might be experiencing. He meticulously demonstrated the proper way to prune trees, to eradicate invasives and to preserve valuable trees by “favoring” them over less desirable trees. He pruned out the fire blight from our old, neglected apple tree; removed a forked trunk from an elm; cleaned up all the silver maples; discovered a young sugar maple I didn’t even know we had; and took down a dead ash or two. He instructed us on using amber shellac to preserve a tree that had been struck by lightning and how to spray our aforementioned apple tree for apple scab.
I learned a lot about tree care that day and I can say without hesitation that it was a wise investment, particularly since Dave preferred to educate us on long-term care rather than simply completing the work. You know the saying by Lao Tzu ... “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Well, Dave taught us to fish!
Speaking of learning, I especially enjoyed putting together the article “Tobacco Culture” on page 40 of this issue. As a transplant to Kentucky, I have always been intrigued by the big, airy tobacco barns, the fields of growing burley and the history surrounding this crop.
There is something about growing tobacco that is very nostalgic—almost romantic—but for me this feeling ends shortly after it goes to market, as it doesn’t translate to cigarettes! Perhaps it’s the fact that tobacco was America’s first cash crop—first grown and traded by Native Americans—that feeds my hunger for history. Put politics and health hazards aside (which are well documented elsewhere) to learn about this piece of American history, the mores of a bygone era and how the changing times have forever affected our nation’s tobacco farmers.
Something that worked well for tobacco farmers during the early 20th century was organizing co-ops. This concept is still very effective today for small farmers who join forces to establish a more significant market presence than they could ever do on their own. Read “Starting a Co-op” on page 48 to learn how.
Forming a co-op with like-minded crop and livestock producers can help ensure buyers, such as restaurants and specialty stores, a steady volume of product; a co-op can also help develop brand recognition and build loyalty from buyers at farmers’ markets.
By forming a co-op, you’ll lose a little of your independent judgment when it comes to marketing and such, but what you’ll gain could potentially surpass the importance of autonomy. And who wouldn’t want to free up more time for growing, rather than marketing?