Explore the Future of Rural Business

We’re excited here at Rural System about all the new possibilities for the future of rural business! The modern farmer is breaking the mold with higher education and new technology- not to mention our farmer 10.0 could be a lady.

farmer 1.0 vs 10.0

Here’s what you need to know about the future of rural business in 2014: [Read more…]

New Horsepower in the Rural System

What works like a mule but doesn’t have legs? The new Rural System tool aptly named the mechanical mule.

The invention of the tractor revolutionized farming. Horses and mules are costly, need rest, and are affected by temperature or pests. Early tractors plowed an acre in the third of the time it would take five horses to do the same work.  Today’s powerful tractors accelerate the process even further. However, the cost of tractors can easily reach over $100,000. Arguably, the use of tractors is cost-effective because of the benefits of efficiency and scale even on small farms. A great assessment of farm machinery costs can be found here.  Despite the eventual cost-savings, the upfront costs, even just a few thousand dollars, are prohibitive for some farmers.  Subsistence farmers in developing regions and farmers in impoverished areas throughout the United States struggle to afford even the most inexpensive tractor. This is a great story about how a single tractor can change a community. How can we recreate this benefit on a larger scale? A less expensive, but equally efficient, tool for plowing fields could make a big difference.

Mechanical mule - side view

The mechanical mule prototype. This model is outfitted with a low axle but can easily be scaled up to larger wheels to overcome uneven terrain.

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Increased Crop System Diversity: an Alternative to Prolific Pesticide Use

While doing the research for the GMO series I stumbled across a fascinating, long-term study closer to the scale of Rural System. The authors hypothesized that diverse, 3 and 4-year crop rotation systems would provide ecosystem services, “that would supplement, and eventually displace, synthetic external inputs used to maintain crop productivity.” Upon examining their results, I would say that not only does this seem to be the case, but such systems would likely create jobs as well. Diverse crop rotations, if effective at suppressing weed populations, would be an attractive alternative to GM crops designed to withstand intensive herbicide application. The results of this study would also be particularly interesting to organic farmers, who are already limited in their selection of pest control methods.

crop rotation diversity

Aerial view of Marsden Farm study, Boone IA. Crop abbreviations: m = maize, sb = soybean, g = small grain, a = alfalfa.
Provided thanks to a Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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The 3F’s of Manure Management

Chicken cartoonFor many centuries, animals and crops were produced and consumed within the same farm unit. Livestock manure, used as fertilizer and fuel, contributed to the self-sufficiency of most farms. However, in the 20th century, many farms began focusing on either livestock or crops as opposed to both. Also during this time, advances in manure-handling, treatment and disposal techniques were developed with the intention of storing and diluting the highly-concentrated nutrients before releasing it into the environment. Many current manure management techniques such as lagoon storage are only temporary relief for a long range problem. Livestock manure remains a major cause of water pollution and the difficulties of animal manure management represent significant challenges to farmers, planners, scientists and regulatory agencies of the 21st century. However, animal manure has high energy yield and profit potential if used as fertilizer, fuel, and feed. A combination of two or more of these topics may economize farm management and contribute to environmental quality. These topics are: [Read more…]

A Shining Example of the New Enterprise Environment

Joe's tree farm 2On Monday afternoon I went out to Joe’s Trees to cut down this year’s real Christmas tree. It was a rather quiet afternoon so I had a long enjoyable talk with the owner, Sue Bostic. In a previous post I mentioned that I’ve been coming to Joe’s Trees for over a decade. Sue still remembers the year that I was traveling to my childhood home for the holidays and hauled an 11 foot tree for 5 hours on the roof of my 1990 Toyota Camry! We talked about my recent article “Should You Buy a Real or Fake Christmas Tree” and how much she appreciated us sharing valuable, accurate information with the public about trees. “So many of our visitors come from cities and have no idea about the growth of a tree or the environmental value of tree farms. We hope to change that.” said Sue. She forwarded the article to Jeff Miller, Secretary of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association and the National Christmas Tree Association who also enjoyed the post. It’s extra special to know that our posts are valuable to those could benefit from Rural System concepts and that we’re getting meaningful traffic on our blog. [Read more…]