John Kempf

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since Aug 15, 2020
Farmer, author, podcast host, student, teacher, beekeeper. Regenerative agriculture on scale.
Snow belt, Ohio
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Recent posts by John Kempf

Mike Haasl wrote:Awesome system John!  When you slashed the tomatoes, was the goal to just break the skin in one spot or to cut them deeply or in half?

The intent was to slice them in half, to allow the juice to flow out more quickly.
1 month ago
My brother and I used to process and can 200 qt of tomato juice, pizza sauce, etc per day, using a 35-gallon cast-iron kettle, a 45-gallon cast-iron kettle, and a victoria strainer.

Our process got refined each year as we focused on becoming more efficient with less energy input.

I don't have the available bandwidth to write a detailed post, so will keep it in bullet point format. Here is our process.

1. All tomatoes washed in advance and still whole in clean containers.
2. Start wood fire underneath both kettles.
3. Add tomatoes to each kettle, toss each tomato in the air above the kettle and slash with a sharp butcher knife.
4. Stir tomatoes the first 5-10 minutes until enough liquid accumulates at the bottom that they don't burn to the kettle.
5. As the tomatoes liquify, use a large ladle or small bowl to skim the water off the top. The water will rise to the top, and the whole tomatoes with the pulp remain beneath the surface. using this method, you can remove 10-12 gallons of water from 35 gals of tomatoes.
6. Keep adding tomatoes, and removing water until the kettle is filled with paste. Should take 15-30 minutes.
7. The kettle should be at a rolling boil at this point.
8. Add onions, garlic, hot peppers, spices, everything else desired to the kettle.
9. Boil until all tomatoes and other ingredients are soft. 30 minutes - 45 minutes
10. Cooldown the fire to very low
11. Ladle all the tomatoes and liquid out of the kettle into stockpots, and begin running them through the victoria strainer. They go through quickly because everything is soft at this point.
12. The kettle will still be hot when all the liquid tomatoes are taken out. Immediately add 5 gallons of water and rinse clean.
13. Partially fill kettle with water.
14. Build fire back up and bring water to boil
15. Pack all the juice/paste/puree in jars, (while still hot) add back into kettle of water.
16. Boil until cold packed.

We could do one batch in each kettle in the morning and afternoon, spending about 8 hours total, and ending the day with 200 qts of canned tomatoes and a deep sense of satisfaction.

1 month ago

s. lowe wrote:I like to think of plant "weeds" as visual communication from the field. They are a way that my soil can call out to me to tell me something about its history, its present state, its needs/wants etc...

I struggle with insect pests and respecting them but as I've gotten more into breeding and seed saving I find they are wonderful tools for culling.

Maybe "signal plants" to replace weeds and "signal bugs" to replace pests. Just the shift from seeing them as enemies  or invaders to seeing them as allies offering up a message is a profound shift

Ah, I like it! We think of different plants as 'indicator species', when in fact insects, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, mites, and scale are all indicator species.
2 months ago

Hans Quistorff wrote:
Space and nutrient competitors and predatory competitive controls.  Nutrient accumulators and recyclers.

I don't perceive them as competitors though. Plants collaborate much more than they compete. And are insects really predators when they can't use healthy plants as a food source? We are the enablers or disablers of their predations, in any case.
2 months ago
The presence of aphids in your crop is evidence the crop does not have enough of the four elements I mentioned, and also evidence that not enough of those elements are being supplied by the SeaCrop. I would suggest using magnesium sulfate and individual molybdenum and boron to supply the crops needs.
2 months ago
I shared some thoughts on how to manage aphids with nutrition management here:
2 months ago

This is a great thread, and I wanted to share some thoughts an experiences we have learned about using nutrition to treat and prevent aphids showing up on crops, I shared some thoughts on this thread:
2 months ago
I really would like to develop a new lexicon, we need different words rather than "weeds", "pests" and "pathogens". These words lock us into an incorrect perspective on functional ecosystems.

The german word for weeds is Heilkraüter, 'healing herbs', we need something with this definition for the english language.

Maybe insects become 'landscape healers'? What ideas do you have?
2 months ago
The realization that insects and diseases can be managed with ecosystem and nutrition management means we need to think differently about "pests".

What defines a pest?

What is a pest?

When a wolf succeeds in catching a rabbit for dinner, which of them is a pest?

Is a wolf a pest while it catches rabbits and deer? When it catches a  lamb?

Is a rabbit a pest while it eats clover, or only when it eats the greens in the garden?

Is a ladybeetle a pest while it consumes aphids in the fields, or only when they swarm houses in the fall?

Is the definition of a ‘pest’ completely human-centric? It seems we call these living beings pests only when they bother us, but not when they bother other organisms we are not personally invested in.

We have deeply interdependent relationships with bacteria, fungi, viruses, nematodes, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds of every kind. Almost all of these organisms are quite benign in healthy ecosystems. When the ecosystem is degraded, they proliferate, and begin feeding on the animals or plants we have a vested interest in. Then we proceed to label them as a pest or a pathogen.

But if it is us that has mismanaged the ecosystem, are we the pathogen?

The environment/ecosystem determines the presence and proliferation of all these living beings.

If we are to be stewards of these ecosystems, we must acknowledge that it is our management of the environment that determines whether these organisms express themselves as a benign participant or as a pest.

If we want to accept responsibility and make a difference, it does not seem useful to label living beings as pests.

Labeling is a subtle subconscious shifting of responsibility. “I am not responsible for these pests! They invaded! From out there. They are out of control. The weather was awful, the season was wet/dry/hot/cold.”

Neither the wolf nor the rabbit is a pest. They are symbionts in the environment and are dependent on the greater ecosystems they are a part of to sustain themselves.

Neither spider mites nor fusarium is a pest or a pathogen. Nor are any other insects, nematodes, bacteria or fungi. They are simply present in the environment we have created for them. If they proliferate to the point of causing crop loss, it is because we have managed the ecosystem to create an optimal environment for them.

If we desire them to not be present to the point of causing economic damage, we only need to manage the ecosystem differently.
2 months ago