Episode #145: The Failure of Permaculture

Update: My response to some of the criticism of this episode is posted here.

Frank Aragona shares several articles that depict small-scale sustainable agriculture as a financial struggle, even for those with abundant capital and land resources.  With story after story of small-scale sustainable producers struggling to make ends meet, he characterizes the permaculture movement as a failure on socio-economic grounds.  Some suggestions for moving forward are offered.  The episode concludes with a brief clip from an interview with Dr. Joe Kovach on the use of bees as microdelivery mechanisms for a biological fungal control agent.  Thanks again to @ajtarnas for the Kovach clip.

Should You Quit Your Job and Become a Farmer? (via Marketwatch)

Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers (via NY Times)

How To Help Small Farmers: A Farmer’s Words


Episode #144: $90,000 an Acre

This episodes features a listener submitted interview with Dr. Joe Kovach of Ohio State University.  Dr. Kovach describes a small-scale mixed fruit-vegetable polyculture designed to produce steady, high-yields with a good economic return on investment.  Labor inputs, pest pressures, weed control, crop selection, retail sales, and marketing are all discussed in some detail.  Thanks to podcast listener AJ Tarnas for conducting this interview.  Follow AJ on Twitter at @ajtarnas.


Episode #143: The Crisis of Sustainable Agriculture

Frank welcomes Chris Stelzer of the Agricultural Insights Podcast.  Chris outlines the purpose of and previous guests on his podcast.  The conversation then launches into a discussion of the business management crisis in sustainable agriculture.  With so little of our food coming from sustainable agricultural practices, what are the critical factors that are preventing the next leap forward?  And while the sustainable agriculture movement focuses on soil biology and other production techniques, the business and economics aspects are left by the wayside.

Useful Links:

The Elders of Organic Farming (via NY Times)

The Agricultural Insights Podcast


Episode #142: The Black Soldier Fly Concluded

Frank concludes his interview with Jerry of blacksoldierflyblog.com.  Topics of discussion include commercial applications for BSF, the global coverage of BSF, the potential for BSF to serve as a source of protein for humans, and how people living in places besides North America can acquire the black soldier fly larvae.  The episode concludes with a discussion and response to a recent article on cnbc.com.

Frankenstates: Winning the Agriculture Tech War (The title here is curious.  Why is it a war?)

Trends in Ag: Consolidated Capital vs. Open Source Innovations (via Agroinnovations)

OSH Group #44: Open Source Hardware in Resource Management and Agriculture


Episode #140: Farm Hack

Frank interviews New Hampshire farmer and Farm Hack cofounder Dorn Cox. Topics of discussion include the importance of the open source ethos, the use of CNC machines to reduce the marginal cost of open source farm implements, the Farm Hack website platform, and the relationship between open source farm tools and good soil carbon management. Part 2 of 2.

Visit farmhack.net
Join the conversation on twitter at #farmhack
Also see the New Young Farmer’s Coalition


Episode #139: On-Farm Biodiesel

Frank interviews New Hampshire farmer Dorn Cox about his efforts to promote open source agricultural technology. Topics of discussion include his efforts to improve soil health, the open source Rodale crimper-roller, Dorn’s on-farm biodiesel processor, open source as a sociocultural shift for rural America, and how the market-demand for local food is driving change in our agricultural systems.

Visit the Farm Hack website to learn more about Dorn’s work.


Episode #138: How Not to Go Broke Ranching

In this episode Frank welcomes back Walt Davis to continue the discussion of his book How Not to Go Broke Ranching. Topics of discussion include the need to understand range ecology to achieve cost-savings, the importance of animal husbandry, how to plan for mixed-species grazing of cattle, sheep, and goats, our over-reliance on technology, and how to substitute management for inputs. This interview is full of great quotes and insights, like “Life’s too short to calve in January in a barn.” Enjoy.

Useful Links below:

Walt Davis: How Not to Go Broke Ranching
Farm Hack: Fixed-Wing Drones for Farm Monitoring


Episode #137: Not Pollyanna

This interview is with Holistic Management practitioner and Oklahoma farmer and rancher Walt Davis. Walt joins Frank to discuss his book “How Not to Go Broke Ranching”. Walt starts with a brief history of ranching in the United States, moving on to how agriculture functions in today’s industrial economy, and then outlines why an industrial view of ranching is both damaging to the environment and not-profitable for the rancher. Recorded in 2011, part one of two.

Useful links below:

Walt Davis: How Not to Go Broke Ranching
C-Realm Podcast #406: Suspect Models and the Photosynthetic Ceiling

And I asked myself, who was Pollyanna? Actually, quite an inspiring story, and seems like she was a grizzled cowboy herself after it was all said and done.


Episode #136: Robot Gardener

Recorded from the floor of the 2014 South by Southwest conference, Frank welcomes three innovators in the arduino for agriculture space: Will Bratton, Luke Iseman, and Sam Bagot to discuss the nature and challenges of the Internet of Things as it applies to agriculture. Topics of discussion include what is arduino, why and how it is useful for sustainable agriculture, the failures of the open source community, competition from megacorporations like Verizon, fragmentation in the agduino space, and how to jump start a movement towards a standard, open platform for managing agricultural microcontrollers.

Relevant links:

Robot Gardener
Horto Domi on Kickstarter