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  • Episode 159 – Helen Atthowe, Author, “The Ecological Farm”
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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 159 - Helen Atthowe, Author, "The Ecological Farm"

“Pay more attention and do less work.” This is the wisdom coming to us from Helen Atthowe, author of The Ecological Farm: A Minimalist No-Till, No-Spray, Selective-Weeding, Grow-Your-Own-Fertilizer System for Organic Agriculture (a Chelsea Green publication). In the book, Helen shares her key “Principles for Managing Ecological Relationships” which allows the gardener and farmer to achieve the fundamental goal of “dynamic equilibrium” in the ecosystem:

  1. Create above- and belowground diversity
  2. Minimize soil disturbances
  3. Maintain growing roots year-round
  4. Grow your own carbon
  5. Add organic residues all season
  6. Focus on carbon fertilizers
  7. Recycle rather than import nutrients
  8. Fertilize selectively
  9. Weed selectively
  10. Create habitat in the field

Her book is chock full of beautiful pictures and has a plenitude of easy-to-understand charts, graphs, and data – all with ample and very specific strategies and techniques for raising a variety of healthy foods. With special attention paid to the magical “rhizosphere” – that important zone in the soil where plant roots interact with the soil ecology, essentially the “Grand Central Station” of terrestrial biology, Helen shares a wealth of knowledge and insight about how we can become more effective stewards of agricultural, permacultural, and even back-yard garden ecosystems. She advises us to focus on carbon-based ecological systems instead of the conventional nitrogen-based approach that has given rise to so many health, wellness, and ecological maladies over nearly a century of chemical-intensive and mechanically-disruptive “agribusiness” approaches.

Helen writes in the book: “When you are feeling troubled, fearful, or uncertain, there is a certainty in tending plants and growing your own food. Nurturing the healthy goodness in a field of multicolored kale and lettuces or coaxing so much sweetness from a special peach tree: It all makes me feel I belong, safely, wherever I am.”

About Simple Gardening Wisdom Video Course

Helen Atthowe is one of the featured VIP speakers in the Y on Earth Community’s new “Simple Gardening Wisdom Video Course” (SGWVC) which is currently being offered at a special “Launch Package” discount rate – sign up today to secure your specially discounted spot in the course, and enjoy a full module with Helen Atthowe along with several other special experts and Chelsea Green Publishing authors.

About Chelsea Green Publishing

Founded in 1984, Chelsea Green Publishing is recognized as a leading publisher of books on the politics and practice of sustainable living, publishing authors who bring in-depth, practical knowledge to life, and give readers hands-on information related to organic farming and gardening, permaculture, ecology, the environment, simple living, food, sustainable business and economics, green building, and more. Visit Chelsea Green’s special Y on Earth Community Podcast page to see other episodes with CGP authors. (And, get a 35% discount on all Chelsea Green books and audiobooks using the code: YOE35)

About Helen Atthowe

Helen Atthowe has worked for 35 years to connect farming, food systems, land stewardship, and conservation. She bought a new farm in Montana in 2023, but still consults for and monitors on-going research at Woodleaf Farm in eastern Oregon. She serves as a consultant with farmers across the United States and internationally. Helen and her late husband, Carl Rosato, co-owned and operated a certified organic orchard in California where they pioneered methods for raising apples, peaches, and other tree fruits without the use of any type of pesticides. Her on-farm research includes ecological weed and insect management, organic minimal soil disturbance systems for vegetable and orchard crops, and managing living mulches for soil and habitat building. She is a contributing write to The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control and other books. She has served as a board member for the Organic Farming Research Foundation and adviser for the Wild Farm Alliance. Helen has a master’s degree in horticulture from Rutgers University and has worked in education and research at the University of Arkansas, Rutgers University, and Oregon State University, and served as a horticulture extension agent in Montana, where she annually taught an organic Master Gardener Course.

Resources & Related Episodes

Chelsea Green Publishing (CGP)

Simple Gardening Wisdom Video Course (SGWVC)

Ep 153 – Joy & Eric McEwen, Authors, Raising Resilient Bees (CGP and SGWVC instructors)

Ep 151 – Nicolette Hahn Niman, Author, “Defending Beef” – Regenerative Grazing (CGP)

Ep 146 – Matthew Derr, Executive Director, Chelsea Green Foundation  

Ep 142 – Maria Rodale, Author, Love, Nature, Magic (CGP)

Ep 136 – Ben Raskin, Author, The Woodchip Handbook (CGP)

Ep 124 – Nick DiDomenico, Co-Founder, Drylands Agroecology Research (featured SGWVC instructor)

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