Unconventional Farming at Rising Sun Farm
By Roger Browne
Rising Sun Farm is nestled in the rolling hills of western Wisconsin just east of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The beautiful landscape and quiet charm lends itself wonderfully to naked farming. We greet visitors, arriving on foot from the parking area, by a sign that both welcomes and notes that our workers may be nude.
Our goal at Rising Sun Farm to enjoy living healthfully while providing the most nutritious and flavorful food we know how to grow for ourselves and our customers. We embrace most of the usual components of a healthy lifestyle, but some controversial ones as well. Our research and experiences since our beginning in the mid 70’s have taught us much. The following is a look at farm life at Rising Sun, along with some lessons learned.
We have about one acre in intensive vegetable and strawberry production, plus 2600 square feet of greenhouse space, 50-250 chickens and turkeys, and a 300-tap maple syrup operation. Farming more with bodies than gas-guzzling machines, our physical exercise is designed-in.
Picking cucumbers, pushing the wheel hoe, or performing any of a variety of farm work provides stretching, aerobics, and other benefits. Tasks vary throughout the day and season and repetitiveness is minimal. Weather permitting, almost all work can be done clothes-free, significantly adding enjoyment.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Conventional agriculture can produce a crop with little more than lots of water and nitrogen fertilizer. This food may fill your belly but it will be lacking in nutrition. Ample doses of poison must be applied, because crops grown this way have minimal resistance to insect pests and disease. Rising Sun, on the other hand, follows organic principals, and then goes beyond.
We test the soil regularly for more than 20 mineral nutrients, and apply organic-approved amendments, when necessary, to achieve balance. We manage air, water, and soil to create a friendly environment for beneficial organisms living there. It is the action of these critters on soil minerals and organic matter that makes nutrients available to the plants, and eventually to us. Insect and disease resistance are largely provided by the plants themselves. The nutritious produce is the center of our diet.
The Value of Animals
We pasture our poultry in the fallow (uncropped) areas of the crop rotation which varies year to year and season to season. The poultry provides synergism within the growth, death, and decay cycle; mixing soil and plant residue by their “scratching”, eating insects and weed seeds, and depositing their contribution to fertility.
Farm animals raised on well-mineralized soil concentrate minerals and other nutrients in their meat, milk and eggs, creating truly nutritious, or what we refer to as “nutrient dense”, food.
Many of the farm interns came here as vegetarians. However, after helping to raise animals more in a way nature intended, our workers experienced first hand the valuable role these animals play in sustainable farming and human nutrition. In the words of farm intern Melissa, as spoken to Nicholas Wootton at our 2007 Nude Gardening Seminar in association with TNS: “I was a vegetarian for 10 years because I was nervous about where my meat was coming from. Now, being here, it’s really great to be a part of the animals’ every day life: feeding them, caring for them, talking to them, and going through the butchering process. By eating the food — whether plant or animal — the value you place, and the respect that you place in that plant or animal really comes through in the nutrition and how you feel afterward”.
The noon meal anchors the community at Rising Sun Farm. It’s a time to be together and revitalize with some of the really good food we grow. Cooking is shared and rotated and everyone has a chance to make their specialties. Whatever produce is in season is always featured.
After work we like to relax with some locally-made ale and we may go skinny dipping in the nearby Rush River. The cowboy hot tub, which consists of a livestock watering tank heated by a propane torch, is also an option. The weekly summer volleyball games, while not clothing optional, attract many of the locals.
Natural Farming Done Naturally
There are seasonal rhythms in farm life: making syrup in March, working in the greenhouses
in April, and tending the fields during the long hot summer. Finally, we “pull the
plug” on the greenhouses around Thanksgiving and have a couple of months for rest,
reflection, and planning before the cycle starts again with the first seeding in
February. There are also daily rhythms involving chicken chores, morning watering,
harvesting during the cool of the day, cultivating in the heat of the day, and transplanting
at the end of the day. “Disrobics” may occur any time of the day. Without clothes
we can usually work comfortably in even the hottest weather. Practical advantages
include absence of binding, sweat-soaked clothes, less laundry, and a lower risk
of heat exhaustion. Even when hot, humid weather hits it can be quite joyful working
nude when it would be miserable working clothed.
Naturism: Naked in Nature
Farming as naturists provides us the good fortune of what American poet and essayist
Wendell Berry calls “right livelihood”. I earn a modest income — the interns gain
knowledge as well as a small wage — our cadre of volunteers works gleefully for
veggies (and beer!) — and they thank me profusely for the opportunity! Working as
naturists with the soil, plants, and each other enables us to experience our connection
to the earth and our interconnectedness with all life. Naked in nature, we transcend
from observer to participant. We enjoy the magical moments and savor the happy images.
Paul and Dennis are volunteers at Rising Sun Farm. Paul says "It feels wholesome
and healthy to work nude in the warm Spring or Summer days, bare feet in the gardens.
I'm looking forward to the first cultivating and planting we’ll be doing." Sometimes
Paul feels he's resolving old conflicts and negatives within himself, by working
without clothes at the farm. "I had negative feelings about my body when younger,
but working naked with other men and women, being in harmony with the earth, is
just a relief and a joy. I get to resolve some of these old things, make them into
positives about myself." Dennis says “I first experienced gardening without clothing
with the same feeling as skinny dipping, it was so natural and obvious. I go barefooted
as often as I can in Minnesota, so I know that feeling of spiritual grounding with
the earth. Doing farming chores when naked expands that feeling to my whole body.
I feel the energy of the sun, wind, and the earth itself. There is a oneness of
purpose with my fellow workers to cooperate with mother nature to raise this wonderful
food.” It is important to see that a carrot grown with lots of water for bulk, chemical
fertilizer for fast growth, and drenched in poison, is not the same as a carrot
grown in living soil managed to enhance life-force. A tomato grown to fill bushels
fast and with little regard for the health, comfort, and safety of the farm worker
is not the same as a tomato grown with the care and attention that values the vitality
of both farm worker and tomato. An egg produced in a cage, by a hen living in continuous
artificial light and force-fed hormones and antibiotics, is not the same as an egg
produced by a hen living outside on the ground in the fresh air and sunshine, living
a life that expresses its “chickeness”. The flavor won’t be as good. And the life
energy won’t be as strong.
A carrot is not a carrot,
a tomato is not a tomato,
and an egg is not an egg!
Know your farmer!
Locate “unconventional” farmers at farmers’ markets:
www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets and select ‘Find a farmers market in your state’.
Another option is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you pay at the beginning of the season and receive a box of produce each week.
Find at www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa and select csa.shtml.
See also ‘Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign’ at www.foodroutes.org
Sunshine-Healthful Friend or Naturist Hazard
One of the first questions we hear about our work style is “Aren’t you worried about skin cancer?” Many dermatologists say no amount of sun exposure is safe. However, skin cancer rates are rising even as Americans are spending less time in the sun and using more sun screen.
There is evidence that ultraviolet light may cause the non-lethal, non-melanoma types of skin cancer (over 90% of skin cancers), with most of the damage done by prolonged exposure resulting in sunburn, especially during youth. The deadly melanomas, on the other hand, are most likely caused by lack of sunlight as evidenced by the fact that they usually occur “where the sun don’t shine" (1). Researchers, reporting in the Feb. 2007 issue of “Journal of the National Cancer Institute”, concluded that increased sun exposure actually increases the survival rate from melanoma.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Research indicates that vitamin D plays a significant role in preventing cancer and other diseases while providing many of the building blocks for good health (2). Vitamin D is the number one vitamin deficiency in the country and our need for the vitamin is greater than previously thought. Sunshine is our best source for this vitamin.
Our bodies make vitamin D when UVB-rays in sunlight strike pre-cholesterol molecules in the skin. Half an hour of fully naked exposure at noon near the summer solstice will net several thousand international units (IUs), but partial cover, or exposure further from midday, reduces production (3). Also, in northern latitudes we experience “vitamin D winter” for 4 months or more when the sun angle is too low for any vitamin D production. The “Atlas of Cancer Mortality in the U.S. 1950-1994” reveals that you are more likely to die of most types of cancer if you live in northern latitudes. We supplement our diet with cod liver oil in the winter, an excellent source of vitamins D and A which virtually eliminates any chance of vitamin D toxicity (4).
Toss Your Sunscreen
Conventional wisdom is throwing the dice in its efforts to stem the rising tide of non-infectious diseases: cancer, obesity, heart disease, and dementia to name a few. The anti-fat, anti-cholesterol, anti-sunshine message is being carried in an increasingly leaky boat, and credentialed people are beginning to jump ship. Consider the words of Natasha Campbell McBride MD, in her book Put Your Heart in Your Mouth! What Really is Heart Disease and What We Can Do to Prevent it: “Skin cancer, blamed on sunshine, is not caused by the sun. It is caused by trans fats from vegetable oils and margarine and other toxins in the skin. In addition, some of the sunscreen that people use contain chemicals that have been proven to cause skin cancer.” Unfortunately, Campbell McBride does not cite her research, but I’ve already begun the experiment on myself.
We evolved in a tropical savannah climate, naked, under the sun, initially eating fruit. Tanning is our ancestors’, and still our best remaining adaptation to the sun. Expose yourself gradually to avoid sunburn. If you use sunscreen, apply it only after you’ve had some exposure, so that you experience some tanning and vitamin D production. Sunscreen with SPF 8 reduces UVB penetration by 98%, essentially stopping vitamin D production (5). For the consideration of others use scent-free sunscreen.
Raw, virgin coconut oil is the preferred after-sun treatment at the farm. It will stay a little greasy but that’s not a problem if you’re planning on staying naked. Coconut oil makes an excellent naturist thermometer; it will be solid below 76 degrees F and liquid above, a good average temperature for being naked comfortably.
In the diet, coconut oil or butter from grass-fed cows are also the best alternatives to the trans fats that cause skin cancer and other problems.
(1) Douglass, William Campbell MD “Sunlight and Melanoma”. Wise Traditions. Weston A Price Foundation 2006 Fall 9(7) :35
(2) Master John, Chris. “From Seafood to Sunshine” Wise Traditions. Weston A Price Foundation 2006 fall 9(7) :14
(3) 1bid pg 17
(4) 1bid pg 26
(5) Enig, Marry; Fallon, Sally. Weston A Price Foundation Eat Fat, Lose Fat. 2005
Rising Sun Farm’s Tips for Living Healthfully
• Get moderate exercise
• Eat plenty of well-grown fruits and vegetables
• Eat animal products from pastured animals only
• Share food and community
• Participate with nature
• Be positive; think happy thoughts
• Expose yourself, especially to the sun
• Avoid sunburn and sunscreen
• Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, more in winter
• Know your farmer