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Saturday, March 29, 2008


Broccoli seedlings that are now out in a cold frame getting ready for transplanting in the next week out in the market garden.

One of our light stands with kale, lettuce and a few flats of empty soil blocks on the bottom shelf. This light stand is a homemade job. Eugene took 2x4's laying around the farm and built this in a couple of hours. the lights are shop lights/fluorescent bulbs hung from light weight dog chains. You can see on the bottom shelf that one side of the lights are higher than the other side.

The other light stand that had broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions, and a few other things. Most everything that was on this stand when the picture was taken is now out in cold frames hardening off. This light stand is a commercial unit we picked up at an auction about 10 years ago. We paid $50 IIRC and it lists new for around $1200. We have had to replace all bulbs many times (annually is optimal and we replace bulbs about every other season). We have had to replace the ballasts 2 or 3 times for each shelf. To increase use we have hung additional light fixtures from the bottom of the unit as well as from the ceiling.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Stuff White People Like

Today I found out that I am a white person according to the blog Stuff White People Like. It turns out my love of local food/farmers markets, distrust of corporations, having Gay friends, t-shirts and several other criteria make me a White Person, who knew?

Any hoo this is a very funny blog and well worth checking out.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Typical Day

Today Eugene spent the morning getting half frozen beds hoed and prepped for planting seeds like spinach. The soil is very wet from all the rain/snow we have had over the winter so getting the early beds prepped has been a bit of a challenge. But we have found if you work the soil while it is partially frozen you do not destroy the tilth and the worked soil can dry out a lot more quickly than leaving it alone.

While he was doing that, I yanked 36 leeks out of the ground for an order for Miami University. Miami (of which I am an alum) which has started buying local food in the past 6 months or so. We sold them food last fall for a special dinner for the president of the University but did not go through the official channels to do this sale. It was just Frank Page, the Marcum Center Chef and an old friend who came out to the farm to buy Cornish hens and some other items. this time the order was from Paula Greene, the Associate Director of Dinning Services at Miami. So this meant paper work had to be filled out and filed and official looking invoices printed out (which I did not know until this morning my iMac has some great templates for invoices that add up your total and everything-sweet!). Around 2pm a van arrived from MU and the order of leeks, potatoes, rutabagas, garlic and parsnips was picked up. This was a timely order for us as the taters and rutabagas would not have made it to the next farmers market in 4 weeks and even though the parsnips would have been alright it is nice to have sold them out for the year. I would have liked it if Miami had needed 100 garlic bulbs instead of just 12 as they are getting into pretty bad shape as they are wont to do in the spring time.

After Miami went away I checked the seedlings saw the basil had to be put into bigger soil blocks so I made a batch of soil mix and made a tray of blocks and got the basil into them. now the basil can grow big and pretty and in 3 weeks will be ready to go out into a hoop house.

Between the Miami order going out and the end of prepping beds Eugene had started tearing the water pump off the van. He had gone back and forth for about a week as to whether or not he should do the work or take the van into a mechanic and let them do the job. He even made an appointment at Fudge's, the garage closest to us (about 3/4 of a mile south of us). Than on Saturday he decided to go and buy a water pump and put it on himself, canceled the appointment with Fudge's and is doing the work himself. So since noon he has been hard at work trying to get enough of the van apart to get at the old water pump and get it off and replace it with the new water pump. For a while I was "helping" him. Helping seemed to be standing in front of the van keeping the fan from moving too much while he took off bolts so something would come loose (the fan? I don't know nor really care-fixing cars is not my bag, baby). Oh, and listening to him bitch and moan about the whole affair while I kept quiet. I realize from living with him for the past 15 years or so that it is best to let him rant and not make what I think are great suggestions like take the van to the mechanic and let them deal with it. Eugene will get the job done and will feel good about it in the end and we will have the van back on the road. If we do not get the van running again than we are SOL as it is the only running vehicle we own.

But I have great faith in Eugene's mechanical ability. He understands how they work and knows how to use tools, read the Chilton's manual and he is a careful worker. The one thing I do not have great faith in is his getting this job done before the sun goes down. This should not be a huge problem as we don't have anything pressing to do tomorrow other than moving a couple of hoop houses so the cukes, zukes, tomatoes and basil have a place to be planted in April.

So that is our day, pretty typical

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Selling of Organic

Newsletter 38

Organic farms have historically been small, family-run mixed farms
producing for local markets, but this story is starting to change as
conventional agribusiness and the supermarkets move in. Organic
shops, too, are expanding, or being bought up, and increasingly
resembling their non-organic counterparts.

Multinational food corporations have developed organic versions of
their best selling brands, some have been pushed into it by WalMart;
which has put pressure on the big food corporations to produce
organic versions of their big brands. The big food companies with
organic ranges include: Heinz, General Mills, Kellogg's, Groupe
Danone, Nestle, Unilever Bestfoods, RHM, Mars/Masterfoods, Kraft,
Premier Foods, Northern Foods and Pepsi-Co. You can now get all your
favourite processed foods in organic versions: ketchup, baked beans,
rice crispies, creamed rice,custard, ready meals and, for a brief
while, an organic version of Pot Noodle (though that's now been
discontinued) What started out as a method of producing healthy and
nutritious food is now turning out highly-industrialised multi-
ingredient (but organic) products.

The large food manufacturers are careful not to make their non-
organic foods look unhealthy. Organic foods are instead being 'niche'
marketed along with vitamin-enriched products and functional foods,
in the eyes of General Mills [a US food corporation], 'organic is
not a revolution so much as a market niche'.

In the late 1980s organic salad mix (a mix of baby lettuce and other
salad leaves) was a niche product served in upmarket restaurants in
San Francisco and produced by small local farmers like the Goodmans
at Earthbound Farms. The Goodmans hit on the idea of bagging the
salad mix in resealable bags, this innovation allowed them to sell
their salad to supermarkets throughout the US. They bought more
land, as well as produce, from other smaller producers. Demand for salad
mix grew, prices rose and that drew in new converts to organic
farming, prices then fell squeezing the smaller growers out. New
post- harvest washing and sorting processes were also developed which
required capital, again squeezing out the smaller growers. But
Earthbound Farms formed a partnership with Tanimura and Antle (the
biggest conventional lettuce grower in the US) and continued to grow.

But as one critic says, 'Earthbound's compost is trucked in, the
farms are models of West Coast monoculture, laser-levelled fields
facilitate awesomely efficient mechanical harvesting and the whole
supply chain from California to Manhattan is only 4% less gluttonous
a consumer of fossil fuel than that of a conventionally grown head
of iceberg'. Earthbound Farms is now the largest organic vegetable
producer in the US, controlling 26 thousand acres of organic land
and producing and distributing 22 million servings of organic salad
across the US each week. Some of this Californian salad even reaches
the UK, when UK organic salad is in short supply.

The dairy set up by Rachel Rowland's grandmother was the first
certified organic dairy farm in the UK, and has always promoted
itself as a family firm based in rural Wales. To maintain this image
there is no mention on product labels or on Rachel's website that
the company is now owned by Dean Foods, the largest dairy corporation in
the US. Dean Foods operates more than 120 processing plants and
employs 28,000 people. Dean Foods' main shareholders include some of
the biggest corporations in the world: Microsoft, General Electric,
Philip Morris, Citigroup, Pfizer, Exxon/Mobil, Coca Cola, WalMart
and PepsiCo. Dean is busy increasing its share of the organic dairy
market with their brand - Horizon, dubbed the 'Microsoft of organic
milk', already controlling over 55% of the US retail organic milk
market. To increase this further, it has teamed up with WalMart to
sell Horizon products in large volumes at low prices, pushing
smaller cooperative and family-owned organic dairies out of business.

Rachel's says it is passionate about natural and nutritious food.
Dean Foods has repeatedly been criticised for using genetically
engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which increases milk
production, but also causes mastitis in cows. Though it has recently
converted to rBGH-free production on some of its farms. Horizon's
organic milk is ultra-pasteurised, a high-heat treatment that kills
the enzymes and many vitamins, reducing the milk's nutritional
value, but allows the company to deliver its milk all over the US.

Rachel's may assure consumers that all its milk is from UK farms,
certified by the Soil Association, but the same high standards do
not apply to Dean's organic brands in the US, which in a recent survey
were found to be 'ethically challenged' and scored zero points.
Horizon still buys half of its milk from small family organic dairy
farms, but the rest comes from huge factory farms. US organic
standards, created under pressure from US big agribusiness, are
'scale neutral' - there is nothing in the standards that prevents
the operation of organic dairies with thousands of cows in confined
feedlots. While animals must have 'access to pasture', how much is
not spelled out. Dean Foods of course has no commitment to organic foods per se, only
to the profits that adding a portfolio of successful organic
companies to its business can bring. Rachel's grandmother is lucky
that so far the more stringent UK organic standards are still
protecting her ideals.

Cherryridge Poultry, a struggling organic turkey farm in Norfolk,
was bought by Bernard Matthews, the UK's biggest turkey producer, in
December 2006. It is not alone: other conventional poultry companies
like Lloyd Maunder have also gone into organic. Undercover
investigations at Bernard Matthews' plants have shown crowded, dirty
conditions with severely injured, diseased and dead birds. During a
major bird flu outbreak in 2007 government investigators found
serious bio-security shortfalls, including holes in the turkey sheds
where birds, rats and mice could get in, leaking roofs, and
uncovered bins where seagulls were seen carrying off meat waste. Many
consumers will never know they are buying their organic turkey from Bernard
Matthews, however, as it will be sold behind a supermarket own label.

From one store in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market has grown
through a series of acquisitions and mergers to become the largest
natural food supermarket in the US, with 250 stores. Recently the
company won a legal battle with the US competition watchdog over its
planned merger with its biggest rival Wild Oats. The watchdog tried
to block the merger arguing that consumer choice in the natural and
organic sector would be undermined if the deal went through.

Whole Foods Market has also come to the UK, first buying up the
Fresh and Wild chain in 2004, and in 2007 opening the first Whole Foods
Market store in London's Kensington. Company blurb talks about
offering 'an engaging shopping experience', but many say it's too
glitzy, there's also not much organic produce in evidence and its
difficult to tell how local it is. Prices are also high; in the US
the company has earned the nickname 'Whole Paycheck'. With respect
to UK expansion, Whole Foods has implied that it may try to open as
many as 45 stores.

Despite its humble beginnings, Whole Foods Market has bought into
the capitalist agribusiness model and has played an important part in
the industrialisation of organic food production in the US. While US
Whole Foods Market stores may buy some fresh produce locally, many
of the largest organic farms (Earthbound Farms and Cal-Organic) supply
it and hence much produce is shipped to its stores from these big
producers in California. As Michael Pollan says, 'whilst growing the
rocket is organic, everything else is capitalist agribusiness as

John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market is an admirer of
WalMart and says 'What a great, great company! WalMart has single
handedly driven down retail prices across America.' He also approves
of WalMart's policy of 'crushing the parasitical unions'. Despite
being in Fortune's '100 Best Companies to Work For in America', Whole

Foods Market is as anti union as WalMart, and has been criticised
for firing two workers involved in unionising the Madison, Wisconsin
store. With respect to its suppliers, Whole Foods stores in the US
stock tomatoes from one of the most notorious Florida sweatshop
producers and has ignored an appeal from the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers to pay an extra penny a pound for these tomatoes.

Wholefood's expansion plans in the UK and its business practices
essentially mirror those in the conventional retail sector, so we
can expect more small organic suppliers and wholefood retailers and
distributors disappearing as big organic takes over.

See our forthcoming publication Eating up the Alternatives for more
information on corporations and organic food.

Friday, March 21, 2008

First Day of Spring

It was nice yesterday so I went to work. Planted about 100 lettuce seedlings in a hoop house. It was a hodgepodge of varieties-lollo rosa, cracoviensis, marvel of four seasons, Amish deer tongue, forellenschluss and Simpson green leaf. All heirlooms. They should be ready to harvest in 35 to 40 days. Just about right for the first regular season Farmers Market.

Planting lettuce in a hoop house on a sunny day is hot work. I was dripping sweat in minutes and realizing a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans was way too many clothes. But I did not want to get naked (Eugene was okay with the idea, though) so I sucked it up and dripped on the seedlings while I dug my hands in the warm damp earth planting cube of lettuce after cube of lettuce. once in the ground we gave each plant a hit of kelp/fish solution and put up #9 wire hoops and than a layer of row cover over top of them.

After that was done I went in for lunch and did some business with Miami University which is getting into supplying local foods to their numerous dining facilities. they have a local foods dinner coming up next week and needed root vegetables so we have sold them all our remaining taters, rutabagas, parsnips and about half of the leeks we still have in the ground and a dozen heads of garlic. After that we will pretty much be done with our winter vegetables. that is as it should be, it's spring after all.

The afternoon was spent cleaning and mulching the asparagus and Eugene pruning the two big and unkempt apple trees. I hate heights. No let me rephrase that, I am terrified of heights. So I don't do ladders or getting up on roofs or things of that nature if I can avoid it. That means if the tall trees are gonna get pruned Eugene has to do it. Fortunately he seems to enjoy climbing around in trees with saws and cutter. More power to him.

I stayed on the ground and spent the afternoon yanking dead asparagus canes out of the ground and putting them into a pile. I really should have worn gloves as the things will give your hands a lot of tiny cuts. I knew that going into the job and yet I went with naked hands and now regret that decision. Cleaned up 6 50' beds than went in to wash the cuts on my hands and rub them with shea butter. My hands were really sore, not so much from the cuts (though those did and do hurt) but muscle soreness. I had to do some serious yanking on some canes and my hands were not used to that kind of abuse (but they will get used to it soon enough). The shea butter helped my hands a bit and I went back to the garden to finish the job by digging up some of the perennial weeds which was not all that much fun with sore hands and heavy waterlogged soil. But I got many weeds extracted and than started cutting open bales of organic straw and spreading it on the 6 beds occasionally picking out thistle down and entire flower heads. This is a hazard with using certified organic straw-there tends to be a bit of thistle seed in it but with my sharp eyes I can usually get 95% of it out. I really do not want to get a thistle problem in the asparagus beds if I can help it so it pays to be alert when using the Filbrun's straw.

Got done with the mulching around dusk and picked some tiny heads of lettuce that overwintered under a row cover and were basically forgotten and assumed dead. They were not dead and quite delicious. And it looks like they will grow into nice sized heads of marvel of four seasons and buttercrunch. I also found a patch of cilantro that made it through winter and should get nice in the next 2 or 3 weeks. went back to the house and star fed the dogs than made dinner of brats from the Filbruns hogs and the lettuce and some scallions we over wintered. A locally grown meal except the buns and condiments.

Took a long hot shower and rubbed my now very sore and swollen hands with arnica, watched Lost and went to bed. Over night the arnica did wonders to my hands and today they are hardly sore at all. It's amazing stuff.

It was a good way to usher in the vernal equinox

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Winter Market

Eugene selling produce to happy shoppers

We did a farmers market last Saturday, March 15, the Ides of March. Fortunately no ancient Roman rulers were dispatched at the market.

It was the quietest of the winter markets despite the weather being almost decent. It was a bit below freezing with a thick fog but compared to the heavy snows and very cold, windy weather the other winter markets have had, this was almost nice. But despite the nearly decent weather there was still the fact that Miami University had just started Spring Break and that tends to drain a large percentage of the population of Oxford.

Pia Terranova Selling her incredible artisan breads to hoards of eager customers

That said, we were able to sell a lot of food and made nearly as much as the February market even though we had fewer items to sell. Unlike the last market, we had almost no greens for this market because the voles helped themselves to the spinach under row cover and most of the other greens we have been picking over winter have decided it is spring in the hoop houses and have gone to seed. The winter spring mix was at it's end. We did get several pounds of it for market but that was the last cutting of that bed. Pity, as that also means we go without salad for a bit. We harvested twice as many leeks as the Feb market and sold all but 5 and we had scallions which we did not have at any of the other winter markets.

Seth Filbrun selling organic and pastured meat to a steady line of people

I have been impressed with all the vendors this market brings out in the winter. There are 4 of us growing and selling produce, 2 bread makers, 1 meat seller, 2 soap makers, a potter, a cheese maker and a couple of folks selling a hodgepodge of stuff from eggs to cat toys. There was even a goat in attendance (a kid really). I believe there were ten stalls at this last market. We have a group that is getting good at having things to sell all winter long. This is especially tricky for us produce growers with out using heated greenhouses, which is very expensive. But we have 2 farms, us and Locust Run/Harv Roehling that are very good at season extension and winter growing.

The next, and last, winter market should have more people and a lot more greens as we have been planting a lot of head lettuce (something like 8 different heirlooms), arugula, spinach and spring mix along with radishes and scallions for April. We may also have asparagus and chives, ready to go by than. After that market we start our regular season two weeks later on May 3rd.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Skunk 1, Dog 0

This morning Nate went out and got hit by a skunk. So we know spring is almost here.

Eugene was pruning the old apple tree by the pond and heard a splash in the water and saw Nate swimming in almost freezing water. Nate go out and Eugene came down off of the ladder and discovered Nate had been perfumed by a skunk and was trying to swim the odor away. That was not working for him so Eugene poured some hydrogen peroxide into a bucket of water (a cup of peroxide to a gallon of water) and hit all the stinky areas with the solution. Peroxide neutralizes skunk odor on contact so dogs getting into it with a skunk is not a reason to panic here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weak Coffee this Morning

It's early in the morning and I am sitting here drinking some really weak organic coffee because yesterday we forgot to go into Kroger's and buy more and I had to make 6 cups o' java with enough coffee beans for 4 to 5 cups. Normally I like to make 8 to 10 cups in the morning of fairly strong (but considered weak by my siblings and late father) coffee

At least it is some caffeine and hot if not decent tasting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Seedling Madness

Yesterday was spent dealing with seedlings, lots and lots of seedlings.

The first round of lettuces went out to a hoop house where they will be transplanted in the next couple of days. The first round of onions and leeks went into a cold frame because they grow better in such conditions than under lights in a too warm and humid for them grow room.

I was good to see all those flats and pots of seedlings going outside because the second round of lettuces germinated and had to be put into 4 flats of 2" soil blocks (49 per flat). This round of lettuce includes two of my favorites-lollo rosa and cracoviensis, both heirlooms. Also did with 3 flats of kale-winterbor, Holona (aka Dinosaur kale) and Russian white. the winterbor we have been growing for years and the other two are new to us.

I still have to do up another 3 or flats of large soil blocks for the celery and celeriac that is just beginning to germinate. Hopefully, I will get to that today after harvesting the leeks for the farmers market this Saturday in Oxford. otherwise they will wait until Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

I also did another round of onions yesterday as the Stella Natura indicated it was a good day to plant root seeds. We thought we had enough planted with the first go round but two pots of red onion seed failed to germinate (well one had a whopping 2% germination rate, the other zero) leaving us with 6 pots of onions. So I prepared 6 additional pots and planted more Ailsa Craig, Boulder belt Sweets and some older Copra seed which had fairly poor germination but needed to be used up or thrown out so I sowed them very heavily in hopes of getting 2 full pots of seedlings. I also did a pot of some red onion seed Eugene saved last year that has been doing well for us.

While I was doing that Eugene made soil mix, trimmed the blackberry canes, carried lettuces up to the hoop house, tried to dog proof the fence only to find while he was fixing one part, Nate was wiggling out of a new hole he had created further down the fence line so he could run across 127 to see the dogs on the other side of the road. Damn Dogs.

And it is still early in the season. I have not gotten into the thousands of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, etc., seedlings that will be started in the next couple of weeks. Or all the seedlings that need transplanting or all the perennials that need mulching or the fruit trees that need pruning. We have a lot on our plates but it will all get done as it does every year.

Friday, March 07, 2008

This is not a Sex Farm

It's snowing and there is not a lot to do so I am looking at the keywords people use to find this blog.

because I am bored I am going to jump up the traffic to this site by observing sex farm and sex belt are two of the key words used to find this site. Several years ago I wrote something that contained the word sex and withing hours I was getting hundreds of hits using the keyword Sex or sex farm or sex belt or sex...

So I entitled this post Sex Farm even though with all the neutered animals here there ain't much sex going on here other than the human kind. That was not the case when we had laying hens a several roosters around. Than there was sex or attempts at it pretty much during daylight hours.

Than there is the sex we humans engage in with the flowers around here fertilizing the pistils with pollen from the stamens. Eugene uses a tiny brush and I just use the male flower parts.

But these day not so much. No hens and roosters, no flowers to pollinate. I guess you really would not call us a sex farm after all.

Soil Block Redux

It's seed starting time so I though I would post a link to a nice soil block post I did earlier in this blog's life
Soil Blocks

Tuesday's Ice Storm

Last Tuesday we had an ice storm. It seems that every Tuesday this year we have had some sort of dramatic weather-tornadoes, hail, snow, floods, and this week, ice.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wake Up America

This is written by a cyber friend and fellow farmer Alan Bishop who has a diversified farm in Southern Indiana. You can respond directly to him (and visit one of the better farm/garden forums on the world wide web at Home Grown Goodness
Wake up America!
Your local farmer, produce suppliers, and mom and pop stores need you more than ever, and chances are your going to need them!

A call to end “Big Box” mentality in America!
Written by: Alan Reed Bishop of Bishop's Homegrown and Hip-Gnosis seed development.
February 28, 2008

Hey America, it’s time to wake up! Your dollar value is dropping, your waists are expanding and you’re a generally unhappy bunch of folks from what I have seen. And that my friend is from the mouth of an American himself. Alan Reed Bishop.

I’m not here to berate anyone, surely what I’m about to say even applies to myself and I’ve got a lot to learn so that I too don’t sound like a hypocrite. What I’m here to say is something that probably won’t set so well with many blue collard American folks, but it is the truth. A hard truth that if not faced will bare the consequences of an even more uncertain future.

What I’m here to ask, is just exactly how long will it take the fact that we are destroying our own culture, food supply, and future by shopping at the corporate owned big box stores, to set in? You may not realize it, but every time you drive to your local Wal-Mart, Meijers, K-mart, Home Depot or whatever and drop one of those dirty dollars on the counter, you are further eroding the very culture and substance of the American way of life. How many news reports about poisonous toys and unsafe food do you have to hear before you get it? It seems so obvious. Many of you may think that loosing the mom and pop owned five and dimes is of little consequence to your bread and butter, but look what happened to their bread and butter when you took your dollar elsewhere, and guess what, other consumers suffer due to your bad decisions as well, being forced to pay higher prices for lower quality products and food. A damn shame if I do say so myself.

In my profession I’ve seen it time and again. The local produce business can be quite fickle at times, particularly when it comes to un-informed customers. Now, don’t get me wrong, people will have to eat regardless, and I will be able to stay in this business on that fact alone, however the hurt is really being put on the local farmers and co-ops by the Wal-Marts and Jay-C-Food stores of the world and their supposedly “organic” produce, and perhaps more importantly, you the consumer are feeling the burn as well. Prices on organic food keep on sky-rocketing while quality keeps sinking. Perhaps you believe that the much coveted “organic” label actually means something to the big companies who use different names to market “organic“ versions of their products? If so, you‘d be dead wrong. You see, the USDA and the Corporations of the world don‘t care about what the word “organic“ means as long as it equals money in the pocket. That‘s why there are 35 non-organic substances allowed in the production of USDA “Certified Organic“ food production. Thirty five substances which may or may not be any better for you than conventional products. Thirty Five substances which may or may not have been outlawed in other countries around the world due to their links with rates of cancer and environmental damage. Thirty five substances that mono-culture farms half the world away and in your own backyards would rather you never know about.

I’m not here to bash “Organic farming” at all, as a matter of fact I consider myself to be an Organic farmer in the truest sense of the word. In that my produce and products are produced and protected using only the most natural of methods and minus gas to local venues and diesel for my tractor, my carbon foot print on this farm is pretty small. The USDA, big box stores, and corporate agriculture however don’t see “Organic” in this way, as a matter of fact their measure of the word “Organic” would be much easier summed up in monetarily inspired numbers. As anybody knows, self sustainable, nutritious, and organic food is right up my alley and I try my hardest everyday of my life to further improve my systems of delivery, production, and self sustainability in an attempt to treat the earth and it’s inhabitants with the utmost respect and dignity while also providing a premium product LOCALLY, and therein lies the problem.

You see, when you walk into Wal-Mart and see those big blue organic labels, your looking at a lie. Your looking at a money grubbing scheme to both take your money for a sub-par product, run local farmers out of business, and further erode the meaning of the “organic” label, while at the same time making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside because you just bought something “organic”. So, what’s the problem with that organic food? Well there are a lot of problems with it. Much of that “organic” food comes from other counties around the world, particularly third world countries where “organic” standards are much less observed and regulated. Another problem is that there are several organically approved, yet none the less dangerous chemicals that are allowed to pass as suitable for “organic” production systems and in the preparation and processing of those foods, mostly because the USDA Organic law is catered to large mono-culture farms. And last but not least, most of the “organic” food that your buying on those nasty, dollar inflated Wall-Mart shelves that is actually grown in the USA is grown by large corporate farms, owned by multi-million dollar companies that you already know well by their more common brand names, in systems that would make a septic sludge pond look organic, by folks who have little to no respect for local farmers and business and the local economy,environmental concerns and health of the consumer, and to boot the food is then shipped hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away to those big ugly boxes, effectively leaving a carbon foot print so large it should immediately affect the value of that food as “organic” to any clearly thinking human being. And yet many people continue to shop in these huge emporiums of low-grad crap.

Do you know how many times that market farmers hear the phrase, “well, I’ll go to town and buy that at Wal-Mart cheaper.” ? Does that even make sense to anyone? You’d rather eat poisonous food from 1,000 miles away than to pay an extra $0.25 for quality, local products that you know support the local economy and that you can trust? Not to mention the fact that you are only lowering the value of the dollar and putting wealth and power in the hands of countries which are not exactly on friendly terms with us? I mean to me it doesn't make any sense, you would rather buy food from someone you don't know from a thousand miles away than to actually talk to and see the face of the very person who grew the food? This country is a long strange trip indeed!

I can understand now why so many little mom and pop stores have shut down. People stop supporting them and drive to town, paying more for gas, inflating the economy of the rich corporate stockholders and countries with horrible track records like China, while depleting our own country of natural resources, a healthy lifestyle, community, and yes even culture. For as much as a mom and pop store, a farmers market, or a local feed mill is a source for material goods it is also a source of knowledge and local and regionalized culture. Not only that, but I get a distinct impression that the materialism of this country drives one even more so to go out and buy the latest fashions and gas guzzling vehicles, so one can be trendy and “fit in” while at the same time pretending to “know“ and “care“ about global warming, politics, and the economy. Well America you go ahead and keep drowning our economy, keep pumping yourself full of dangerous chemicals, keep saying that the big box stores are good for us, keep thinking that you need all that crap that you waste your money on, keep playing into the game, keep destroying your history and culture, just keep right on conforming. Soon we can just go ahead and close down all the mom and pop stores, replace everything with “organic” McDonald’s and Taco Bells, put a big Wal-Mart on every street corner and change the name of the United States of America to The Amalgamated states of Conformity. Me, well, I’m going to do the best I can to inform myself and those around me to make the right decisions while meanwhile continuing the god given work that I am doing and not pretending to be anything I am not. I’ll be your valuable market farmer, the source for your healthy food and lifestyle, your alternative to “New America”, I’ll just keep right on being the plant breeding, worm ranching, truly organic, seed saving, hill-Billy, ridge running farmer that I have been, and when the shit hits the fan, I’ll be sure to plant a little more for the extra needy and pray that those of you that have caused this can take the crash course in survivalism to protect yourselves and your families from the terrorism that you have inflicted on your own country.

So, here is my question, who are you going to turn to when things take the deep downturn we are headed towards? Is it going to be the mom and pop stores you put out of business? The farmer that couldn’t afford the tools he needed to get the job done?

Really, we have no one to blame for our health, our economy, our loss of morals and our horrible leaders other than ourselves. We have lost sight of what made this country great. Local culture and ideas. Self sustainable family owned business that care as much about the community as they do the money that they make. Independent people with independent ideas who stand up for what they believe in! When the last family farm falls, will you be there to say, this is our fault?

P.S. If you don’t believe that this country is in a sad state then take the time to rationalize that instead of working on national issues, congress is currently more interested in holding hearings regarding steroids in sports. You tell me, where are the priorities?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pruning Raspberries

March 1st was the first day of meteorological spring and spring does seem to be here. Today it got up into the mid 60's and I saw my first black vultures-3 of them wheeling around the sky. Yesterday it was in the 50's and sunny and I saw a small flock of male red winged blackbirds. Both good harbingers of spring.

Warm weather also means it's time to get one's hands dirty so this afternoon we got into pruning the raspberries. Eugene did the Heritage which are an everbearing. He hacked half the patch to the ground and the other half he pruned away the old canes. We have been told that cutting the heritage berries to the ground in the spring will mean huge harvests in the fall instead of a piddly harvest spring and fall. Worth a shot.

I did the summer bearing and got 1/4 of them done before it started raining. I was cutting out dead canes and any canes that looked diseased or were crossing other canes. Doing raspberries with no gloves is pretty damned painful, I gotta tell you. I had to stop frequently to pull as many thorns out of my hands as I could and go on. When I quit I had a lot of tiny thorns poking my hands and a lot of abrasions and cuts on my forearms (it was warm so I pushed up my sleeves, not the smartest move) and a big pile of canes on the wheel barrow. I pushed the wheelbarrow over to the apple trees where I told to dump the canes. I made it with 100' and big gust of wind from the south pushed half the pile on the ground. Raspberry canes are not fun to have to pick up and put back in the wheel barrow. But that is what I had to do so I could go the last 100 feet and dump them.

Now a cold front is coming and it is raining. Tomorrow winter will be back enforce. But the birds tell me that, soon enough, warm weather will be back and spring is indeed on its' way. I'm thinking that the groundhog just might be correct this year.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

More Seed Orders

A post I made a couple of days ago about inertia and being done with seed orders was all lies.

It turns out we were not done with our seed orders because we were bored and there were two catalogs we like, Baker Creek Seeds and Gourmet Seeds International, sitting there tempting us with their purty pictures and tantalizing descriptions. So Eugene ordered some winter melons, Piel de sapo (aka toad skin) and Verde da Inverno and a yellow, Italian, heirloom pepper called Melrose from Gourmet Seeds. Eugene has wanted to grow winter melons for several years and now he will have the seeds to do so.

I ordered a blue poppy and two heirloom tomatoes-Paul Robeson, a very hard to find heirloom I have been wanting to try for about 10 years as I love about everything about Paul Robeson-great actor/singer as well as humanitarian. I also ordered Tomesol, a white beefsteak tomato that is said to have the best taste of any tomato. We grew a white mater last year but I was not impressed. It was not really white, the taste was okay but not the greatest and the fruits tended to split. I probably would have been more impressed with it had I started the seeds and dealt with it the way we deal with our plants. But this white came from our friend Wyatt (he gave us something like 8 heirloom varieties last year) and the plants were too big to put with the other tomatoes on landscape fabric. So they went into their own area, unmulched, no irrigation and quite stressed from travel and living on the porch of the store for 2 weeks. So I am thinking these white tomatoes did not give us their all. This is why I am trying out another white tomato. The other thing we ordered from baker Creek intrigues me. The Cassabanana (aka melocoton) which looks like a large bright red cucumber. the flesh is bright orange and sweet. the vines can get to 50' long and it takes these things a long time to grow (It doesn't say how long but I am thinking 120 days). This will have to be started in April so it can be put into the garden in early May (with at least a row cover over top to keep thing warm if May is at all chilly) and than I am sure a hoop house will be erected over top come October. I know we have the technology and know how to get these puppies to ripen. If we can do cukes and zukes in November we out to be able to get these to ripen.

Along with the 2 seed orders was a big order to Nolt's produce supply for irrigation equipment (a new filter, some more drip tape and a reducer) as well as a couple of cases of pulp pint and 1/2 pint tills, 5# of rubber bands and a couple of rolls of 3' wide landscape fabric. We used to use Monte Packaging for our marketing supplies but found that Nolt's is about 33% cheaper across the board. So Nolt's gets our money.

I am hoping this is it on the seed ordering this year. I am pretty sure it won't be the end of seed orders. We will run short of something or realize we forgot to order something important or will find a back order is not an out of stock item. But I believe that we are done for the most part, except ordering chickens to be raised on pasture for meat (and maybe layers if we can get a coop built this spring summer)

Things Are Picking Up

Things are beginning to pick up here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm. We have several crops started under lights in the germination chamber (which is a room in the barn that has heat so we put all the seed starting equipment in there). We have broccoli, leeks, onions and lettuces growing at the moment.

The onions are germinating very slowly which has me a bit worried but I think the problem is the growing medium has not been getting enough moisture and has been allowed to dry out on top (these seeds are in rather deep pots so I am pretty sure there is water in the soiless mix just not where the seeds are). I noticed yesterday evening that the Copra onions are germinating fairly well as are both kinds of leeks but the rest of the onions are pretty hit and miss. But all the alliums seemed to respond to getting the soiless medium they are in very wet. I have not checked on them yet today (it is not even dawn yet). I am curious to see if they are growing better with more moisture. Or if I over did it and have started a mold problem.

The broccoli was started 4 days ago and within 48 hours had germinated. I am hoping that using the Stella Natura and planting the broccoli on a flower day will mean big heads this spring. last year we had a huge failure with the broccoli and in reading the How to use section in the Stella Natura I think I found out why. We planted the broccoli on a leaf day which means few broccoli heads and a lot of leaves, which is what we got. I did check to see when we planted the broccoli last year and sure enough it was on a leaf day. We also planted cauliflower on the same day and got spectacular (for us) cauliflower. It was the first time cauliflower actually worked for us and made beautiful heads and everything. It was a horrible seller (because the heads were not nearly as big as the chemically induced heads one sees at the grocery) so it will not be grown by us this year.

The Lettuce was started 10 days ago and is about 15 days away from being big enough to be transplanted into a hoop house. The plan was to do 200 heads of 6 kinds of lettuce, Simpson, (green leaf) Amish Deer Tongue (heirloom, green), red sails (red leaf), Marvel of Four Seasons (red bibb, heirloom), Lollo Rosa (red and green frilly lollo type, heirloom) and Cracoviensis (green and purple asparagus lettuce, ancient heirloom and one of the best tasting lettuces we have ever grown).

When we start most seeds we use tiny soil blocks. A seed or two is placed onto each mini block. When the seed germinates it is moved to a 2" soil block that has a square hole that is the same size as the mini block. Basically, I take the mini block and drop it into the hole in the larger block and I am done. Repeat the action several hundred more times. The large block is big enough to hold the seedling for 4 to 8 weeks which is about all the time that is needed before it is transplanted.

Squash is an exception, with squash we have no more than 3 weeks to get them transplanted. They grow big quickly. So starting early zucchinis can be tricky if the weather does not cooperate. This happened last year. We got squash started in March so it could go into a hoop house in early April and we got the Easter Freeze which made it way too cold for the zukes to go into a hoop house so we ended up tossing the plants into the compost, having no early zukes for the first time in about 5 years and starting over. hopefully we will be able to do early zucchini this year, that the weather Gods and Goddesses will smile upon us and allow a fabulous crop of specialty zucchini to come early to Boulder Belt and the Oxford Farmers Market and the SW Ohio Locavores.

Now that we have some crops started the next step is preparing a couple of hoop houses to receive the crops and than hardening off the seedlings and transplanting. Lettuce will be the first to go, than broccoli and than all the onions and leeks (which history tells us will take the two of us several weeks of transplanting to get everything in, unless we get some help). And of course, in that time we will be starting more seedlings in the germination chamber. Soon things will get a bit complicated, though nothing out of the ordinary.