Natural Farming Workshop Trailer

Aaron Englander worked at the George Jones Farm in Oberlin, a community-supported, educational farm. Aaron began as an intern and then served as head grower for three years at the Jones Farm. During this time, he developed a variety of ecological farming techniques that restored the productivity of the soil on the farm that supplied local food to Oberlin College and markets in Oberlin and Cleveland. Aaron provides a basic overview of natural farming and soil building techniques that he will be teaching in an upcoming workshop at the Jones Farm in Oberlin on April 9-10. These techiques were developed by Korean natural famring master Cho Han Kyu and are practiced throughout the world to make degraded urban and rural land highly productive for ecological agricutlure. Click here to sign up for the workshop.

Natural Farming- Cultivating Indigenous Micro-organisms

Aaron Englander, former farmer at the George Jones Farm in Oberlin, talks about the cultivation of indigenous micro-organisms in the soil, which are key to creating a more sustainable and healthy agricutlural system. Aaron breaks down the basic process of cultivating micro-organisms using simple materials available on your own property or community. He describes the four-step process for cultivating micro-organisms developed by Korean Natural Farm Master Cho Han Kyu. Aaron will be teaching these techniques at an upcoming workshop in Oberlin on April 9-10.

Cultivating Healthy Soil Ecosystems

Aaron Englander, former farmer at the George Jones Farm in Oberlin, provides an overview of the natural farming philosophy and the cultivation of indigenous micro-organism communities to foster healthy soil. Aaron talks about how to view the soil itself as an ecosystem and not a neutral substrate for injecting chemical fertilizers and inputs. Aaron addresses some of the limitations of industrial agricutlure techniques which by-pass and disrupt natural micro-organism communities that are key to sustaining healthy soils and resilient agricultural systems. A natural farming system, by working with the diversity, resilience, and productivity of natural systems,  can create much higher yield with fewer inputs, and less labor and expenses over time.

Overview of Natural Farming

Aaron Englander provides an overview of natural farming philosophy and techniques. Based on the the work of Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and author of the One Straw Revolution, the natural farming approach focuses on cultivating indigenous microorganism communities to foster healthy soil. It also involves more awareness for utilizing the resources in your own land or community to foster a more productive farming system. After working at the George Jones Farm in Oberlin, first as a student intern and then as a full-time farmer, Aaron talks about his experiences apprenticing on a farm in Hawaii. There, he learned the techniques of Korean Natural Farmer Cho Han Kyu, originator of a process for cultivating indigenous micro-organism communities in the soil to restore degraded agricutlural land. These techniques helped to restore an abandoned sugar cane farm in Hawaii that was degraded by years of industrial, high-input farming.

Introduction to ACENet in Athens, Ohio

The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) is one of the nation's pioneers in network-based local food systems development. ACENet began their work in the 1980's,  long before the terms network weaving or social networks were even known. ACENet has specialized in cultiaving networks of farmers, small entrepreneurs, and businesses engaged in growing the local food economy in Appalachia. One of the poorest rural regions in the nation, ACENet has created economic models that provide new opportunities for low and moderate-income food entrepreneurs, creating pathways for long-term economic sustainability. This contrasts with a lot of the extractive industries that have come and gone in Appalachia, leaving landscapes and local economies struggling. Leslie talks about some of the history of ACENet and the unique culture and topography that have supported one of the most diverse agricutlural sectors in Ohio.

Affinity Groups: Economic Development
Local Food Infrastructure- Flash Freezing

Leslie Schaller, co-founder and Director of Programming for the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) in Athens, Ohio talks about the role of flash freezing technology in bolstering local food economies. She talks about their flash freezing facility, part of a multi-use kitchen incubator facility in Athens, and how it is used by farmers and entrepreneurs to preserve fresh product. Flash freezing helps to retain more nutrients and flavor and is less intensive than bottling or canning. The facility is also utilized by Casa Nueva, a worker-owned restaurant, to process and preserve foods that provide the base for both canned products or for use in prepared meals at the restaurant.

Bon Appetit Flash Freezing Initiative

This video features some of the enterprising work of Bon Appetit Management Company to invest in building up the infrastrcuture in Northeast Ohio for local food processing. Through a partnership with the Center for Innovative Food Technologies (CIFT) in Toledo, Bon Appetit piloted a flash freezing initiative in 2010. Flash freezing is a processing technology that enables fresh local food to be frozen and available for distribution during the off-season. This type of system is critical to bolstering the local food economy of Northeast Ohio and expanding the availability of locally grown food throughout the year. Bon Appetit goes beyond local food procurement and actually looks at how they can increase their purchases by catalyzing infrastructure for processing, storage, and distribution. The flash frozen food is distributed to their dining accounts at Oberlin College, Case Western Reserve University, and Otterbein College.

Ohio University Invests in Local Food Processing Infrastructure

Leslie Schaller with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) catches up Matt Rapposelli, a local food entrepreneur turned food service director at Ohio University. Matt talks about the valuable networks he formed as a small business and how that carried over into his efforts to expand Ohio University's already highly successful local food initiatives. He brings an entrepreneurial approach to food service management, overseeing the expansion of the university's facilities to more effectively process and store locally grown foods while employing a number of students and local residents. Ohio University provides a good example of going beyond local food purchasing and actually investing in the productive infrastructure necessary to provide local food year round in a cold-climate region.

ACENet and Value-Chain Organizing

Leslie Schaller with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) gives a quick overview of organizing local food systems through value-chain development. She talks about how ACENet collaborates with other organizations in southeastern Ohio to provide support for entrepreneurs linked to all nodes along the value chain: marketing, production, processing, distribution, aggregation, and policy. She discusses the importance of facilitating communication linkages between entrepreneurs from different sectors to foster greater collaboration and stronger local economic networks. The network approach means that no one entrepreneur works alone. It also means that individuals can be productive participants in a local food system, regardless of the scale at which they work. For example, some community gardeners gain important growing skills that lead to market farming opportunities down the road.

Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative

Short video capturing some of the innovative activities of the Appalachian Staple Foods Project, an effort to work with local farmers to process and produce staple crops, including flours and dried beans. This film shows one approach for working with networks of local farmers to capture more added value for local crops and job creation opportunities. The video also captures the importance of resilience within our local food systems. A major part of this is re-building the infrastructure for smaller-scale, localized milling and grain and bean production. Filmed at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet) in Athens, Ohio. This project was recently identified by Utne Reader as one of the visionary project of 2010. For more information, see: