Steph Larsen

Steph Larsen lives in Lyons, Nebraska, where she and her partner are "part-time farmers," growing food for themselves and their community. Steph holds a master's degree in geography from her home state of Wisconsin and serves on the board of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Storming in

The time it always rained

For farmers, water is both boon and bane. Here in Nebraska, we've already gotten more rain than we usually get for the entire year, and more is on the way.

Hub grub

Online food co-ops like Nebraska's create innovative virtual farmers markets

Right now, I'm facing a problem shared by scores of farmers. I have four lambs that have been raised entirely on grass, and I know there are customers eager to buy them. I just don't know who they are. Luckily, the Nebraska Food Co-op is here to help play matchmaker.

Yootzful glow

Whistle while you work

  How does my garden grow? Quite well, but with lots of weeds to pull!(Steph Larsen) Living in a place where I can grow things makes me want to burst out in song. And I’m not alone — there’s a long and storied tradition in many cultures of making music while we work. Long before I wanted to grow things, I played music. By the time I was six, my mother traded my piano banging for actual piano lessons, and for the next 13 years playing music and singing was a central focus of my life. My head is so …

Getting Lodi'd

It’s raining apples

These apples might look green, but they’re perfectly ripe — and begging to be picked.(Steph Larsen photos) I have my work cut out for me.When nature calls on the farm, we listen. Meaning, when a fruit with a short shelf life becomes suddenly ripe, there’s no choice but to drop everything else. Did you know there are 7,500 cultivated varieties of apple? Tart or sweet, red, green, and yellow. Some are good for pies, others for sauce, still others store well right through the winter and give you a crisp mouthful in the middle of January. I usually think of …

The borer, the borer

Battling the bugs — and the temptation to use chemical WMDs

Going off to war against the weed-lurking worms. (Steph Larsen) I’m at war with the common stalk borer. As much as I believe in sustainability and chemical-free agriculture in theory, I’ve never been more tempted to use insecticides as I am right now. For years, the signature for my email has been a quote from the agtivist-scientist Vandana Shiva, “Sustainability begins with peace with the Earth.” Contrary to current U.S. foreign policy, one cannot be forever at war. Balance is the basis of sustainability in the environment, and anyone who says differently is selling something.  I believe this fully, and …

Sound Garden

Mapping the farm with my ears

(Steph Larsen photos)Ever since taking a cartography class in graduate school, I’ve had a penchant for maps. Full of information, they elegantly highlight places and ideas that we may have missed otherwise. As a visual person, I can appreciate the splashes of color and clean designs. But not all maps are visual. We can create sound maps by closing our eyes, listening to the sounds we hear, and mapping them in relation to ourselves. Doing so can be another way to experience our environment and draw out sounds we may not have noticed. The sounds I hear in the country …

Put-up job

Getting into a jam in Nebraska

(Steph Larsen photos) “You live in the middle of nowhere!” This was the exclamation, repeated at regular intervals, we heard when an old high-school friend of mine came to visit. For folks from the city — even Nebraskans — visiting our house can feel like entering another world. There’s no traffic to speak of, and you can see the stars at night. You need directions from a local because Google Maps or GPS become unreliable and there aren’t always street signs … or paved roads, for that matter. After my friend and I caught up a bit, the conversation shifted …

biting the hand-out that feeds you

Should I have accepted a government farm hand-out?

These granaries once stored this farm’s corn. No more. (Steph Larsen)Experience is the best teacher, but there’s been a big gap in my experience I couldn’t fill. I’ve worked in food and agriculture policy for a good number of years now, yet I had never once tried to apply for any of the programs for which I advocate. Until now. I stopped by the Farm Service Agency office (also known as the FSA) to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), but I didn’t leave with anything I anticipated. EQIP is a Department of Agriculture program that helps pay …

Woolly bullied

Being prepared — to grow your own meat

(Steph Larsen photos)Everyone knows the Boy Scouts’ motto: Be Prepared. While my immediate inclination is to ask “For what?”, it’s as good a command as any to live by.  One at which I failed miserably last week. I came home from work and went out to the sheep paddocks to make sure they looked healthy and had enough water and grass. When I got there, I was confronted by a complete surprise: a tiny newborn lamb, unsteady and bleating. We bought our sheep from a gentleman whose sheep had accidentally been bred too early, so they came to us as …

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