Jack is the man you want to know if you are a beginning farmer. Or even if you’ve been farming for years. He knows more about farming than most anyone else will forget, and he keeps on learning more. He studies agricultural methods from years gone by, and new ideas that he hears about or dreams up. And he is passionate about sharing ideas, helping others start farming, or farm better. He gives out his phone number like candy, and answers every call with a warm hello.
Jack and his wife, Anne, came to farming as adventurers and pioneers, starting Butterworks Farm with nothing but antique equipment and dreams. They started working with simple, old methods to retain fertility. They used antique equipment since it was easiest to use and it was what they could afford when they first began farming. Now they are leaders in innovations, combining careful soil fertility management with modern technology to capture wind energy for electricity and biomass to produce steam heat in their yogurt business.
Jack and Anne have set themselves apart by developing a farm that is largely self-sufficient, growing enough organic grain, forage, and hay for their herd of Jersey cows. Their hard work and dedication to soil fertility has transformed 150 acres of Vermont upland mountain soils into incredibly productive forage and hay land. They grow oats, wheat, barley, corn and beans, and Anne nurtures their closed herd of Jersey cows. Thanks to their efforts, the living mineralized soil produces superior forages and feed, which in turn yields scrumptious milk and Butterworks Farm yogurt sold in Vermont and down the eastern seaboard.
The ultimate guide to growing organic grains on a small and ecological scale, The Organic Grain Grower is invaluable for both home-scale and commercial producers interested in expanding their resiliency and crop diversity through growing their own grains
I believe I can safely say, without losing any money, that if you know of one fact truly necessary to growing grains organically in the United States that is not in this book, I’ll pay you five bucks out of my own pocket. Plus there’s a whole bunch of stuff about how to process and use grains in the barn or on the table that I have not found all in one place before. Gene Logsdon, author of Small-Scale Grain
Jack writes from the top of a mountain—the mountain of his life. His long years of experience are longer than his very beard, and the wisdom and distillation of his farming life are written here with clarity and graceful articulation. As he says in the book, ‘people are hungry for meaning as well as food.’ In this classic book, Jack provides not only the meaning, but also the methods required to succeed as a small-scale grower of organic grains. Jeffrey Hamelman, director, King Arthur Flour BakeryGrowing
Jack sees the farm as a living entity, a “farm organism.” He says:
A mixed farming operation that includes livestock, hay, and grain is probably the best choice for success. This spreads out risk and allows us to dodge the vagaries of the weather. Hay crops can be “seeded down” underneath cereal seedings. The straw stubble left after cereal harvest will catch snow the first winter and protect a tender new hay seeding. Straw from cereal crops can be kept on the farm and used to bed cattle and then in turn to make compost which will nourish the land for future hay and grain crops. Everything fits together in one holistic system. Diversity is our best friend.
Soil is the foundation of our world, as Jack sees it. He has continuously experimented with different organic practices to increase nutrient availability and ecological health in the soils they manage. Compost is at the heart of the “farm organism”, even from the early days when Jack carefully placed each wheelbarrow load in the compost pile to maximize decomposition. Years later, Butterworks Farm installed one of the first solar barns in Vermont, building a bedded pack consisting of straw harvested on the farm. The compost from the bedded pack is then applied to 125 acres of fields each year to recycle nutrients.
Jack has never stopped growing. His good friend and neighbor, Lyle “Spud” Edwards, explains that Jack lives life more fully than anyone he has ever met, but he’s so modest about it. Spud found out that Jack had been Eagle Scout, a major undertaking. In all their years of daily phone chats and visits, Jack had never mentioned it. When Spud asked, Jack kicked his feet, and looked at the ground saying, “I guess I’ve always been a bit of an overachiever.”
Jack has been involved in so many research projects on the farm, partnering with the University of Vermont, the University of Washington and Cornell University. One of Jack’s many thrills has been to develop varieties of wheat and corn specific to the northeast and to determine production practices that enhance both the soil and the farm’s profitability. Jack is one of the founding members of an energetic new group, the Northern Grain Growers Association. He both leads, and is a force behind, a movement that is truly changing the face of agriculture in the northeast. And now we can say he’s written the book on it. He authored “The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer“, available August 13, 2013.
We celebrate Jack Lazor at the publishing of his book, and we reach out to appreciate him for all he has done. He has given so much to all who have met him. Thank you, Jack, for full-fat maple yogurt, for grilled cheese sandwiches, and for sharing a love of soil science, growing things, and learning. Thank you, Jack, for being a bright light.
Rachel Schattman contributed to the development of this piece.