orchard management

Helen Atthowe shares her secrets for long term ecological farming success

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A lot of my work these days revolves around communicating with farmers around Europe who are at various stages of a transition towards regenerative management. For many different reasons farmers are looking for solutions outside of the conventional industry of chemical and technological manipulations and are rediscovering the potential of partnering with natural cycles and processes. Though there are a handful of examples of growers who’ve been pioneering these practices around the continent, the vast majority are fairly early in their journeys. It’s still rare to find an experienced commercial grower who has found success through organic, no-till, low input systems. 

Luckily there are a few who have shown that this is possible and are sharing their knowledge and experience and I’m thrilled to feature one of them in this session.
Helen Atthowe has worked for 35 years to connect farming, food systems, land stewardship, and conservation. She currently farms and does soil- and natural enemies’ habitat- building research on her new 5-acre farm in Western Montana. Helen has an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University and even studied with renowned Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka. She has worked in education and research at Rutgers, the University of Arkansas, and Oregon State University and was a Horticulture Extension Agent in Montana for 17 years. Helen was a board member for the Organic Farming Research Foundation 2000-2005 and advisor for Wild Farm Alliance in 2018 & 2019. 

She first owned and operated a 30 acre certified organic vegetable/fruit farm in Montana and later co-owned with her late husband a 26 acre certified organic orchard in California. Together they then moved to a 211 acre organic farm in Eastern Oregon doing mainly orchard and vegetable production. The two of them also created educational videos on their YouTube channel called Agrarian Dreams, and did video presentations about their ecological farming methods.

She is the author of “The Ecological Farm: A Minimalist No-Till, No-Spray, Selective-Weeding, Grow-Your-Own-Fertilizer System for Organic Agriculture”. And that is exactly what we’ll be focusing on in our interview today.
As a reflection of many of the discussions happening within the Climate Farmer’s community at the moment, Helen and I really dug into the unique goals she and her husband had during their farming careers and how they gauged their success. We talk about the way they measured progress on their journey towards a healthy yet low input system for both their orchard and vegetable crops as well the routines and practices that brought them the best results.
Much more than just the knowledge and practices of her farming experience, Helen brings a remarkable mindset of constant learning and experimentation to this conversation that is now informing her new 5 acre project in Montana.
We also cover the most important learnings that she has gained through her career and how it informs the establishment of all her new research.

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