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Articles by Ariane Lotti

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In “Dispatches From the Fields,” Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America’s agro-industrial landscape.

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A field of dried soybeans ready to be combined.

Although “that time of year” in corn and soybean country is a few weeks late, it has finally arrived. Whether starting up their new $300,000 capital investment for the first time or pulling out their trusted and infinitely tinkered-with machine, farmers are taking to the fields in one of industrial agriculture’s greatest creations: the combine.

Last week I got to go along for the ride as Jerry, a conventional corn and soybean farmer in North Central Iowa, harvested soybeans in his John Deere contraption.

By today’s standards, Jerry plays in the minor leagues. His combine, which he bought used in the mid-’90s, is a 1982 model. It has the capacity to hold about 225 bushels of grain and can, on a good day, combine 50 acres of corn. A top-of-the-line John Deere combine these days costs upwards of $300,000... Read more

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  • Small-scale slaughterhouses are vital to the health of local food economies

    In “Dispatches From the Fields,” Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America’s agro-industrial landscape. —– A trailer load of chickens. Photos: Ariane Lotti In the cold and dark that is 5:30 a.m. in […]

  • min

    Ironically, a lost battle against a hog factory planted the seeds for a sustainable farm

    In "Dispatches From the Fields," Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America's agro-industrial landscape.

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    One Step at a Time Gardens is a model of agricultural sustainability. Over 50 varieties of vegetables grow in rotation on six acres of fine Iowa topsoil that receive no synthetic chemicals. Compost, cover crops, and chicken manure feed the soil. Pests and weeds are kept at bay through the use of physical barriers, biological products, and cultivation. The crew is made up of members from the community and a couple of non-local folks, such as myself. The farm provides produce to supply a local food system.

    CAFO
    More the merrier? A typical confinement holds 2,500 hogs.

    Yet when the wind blows from the northwest over One Step at a Time Gardens just east of the town of Kanawha, Iowa, visions of agricultural sustainability quickly fade as the sweet stench of pig manure from the local Confined Animal Feeding Operation or hog confinement, as they say around here, envelops the farm. The Kanawha CAFO consists of five buildings that can each house up to 2,500 hogs. Behind the buildings lies the lagoon, the source of the stench, where all of the manure and waste (dead hogs) are dumped.

    Factory hog farming now dominates certain counties in Iowa, the nation's number-one hog-producing state. But it wasn't always so. The practice didn't really take off until the mid-1990s, when state law governing CAFOs changed. The Kanawha CAFO played a significant role in that change -- and Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf, who now run One Step at a Time Gardens but then worked as a county naturalist and a metallurgical engineer, respectively, battled the Kanawha CAFO from the start. The fight against the CAFO is what inspired them to start their farm in the first place.