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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seed Buying

One of the big events in winter for us farmers is the seed order. Since we garden on acres this is a far larger undertaking than when we did home gardens. Ordering has happens much earlier for us growing commercially than for home gardeners. In fact we get our commercial catalogs about 3 weeks earlier than the home gardener catalogs (we know this because several of the companies we use have both). So in mid December we get our first catalogs-Johnny's and Fedco Followed by Seed Savers Exchange. A those are the 3 main companies we use for our seed supply.

There are a whole lot of companies we will not use due to the fact they source most of their seeds from companies owned by Monsanto (Peto and Semenis seeds). Jung's is one of them. Okay, another big reason we will never ever buy from Jung's Seeds ever again is they have sent us a lot of horrible plants and seeds. The rhubarb we got from there all died within 12 months, 95% died within 3 months. Than there were the trees they sent us last year that should have come in March or early April but cam in mid June and all but 1 were dead. We also do not like the policy of no refunds, store credit only. And they have bought up a lot of smaller companies (that people think are still independents) such as Totally Tomato
Vermont Bean Seed Co., Burpee, Cook's Garden, Earl May Seeds, Gardens Alive (not really a seed place they are more into fertilizers, pest control, etc.. and used to be a really good place to buy organic inputs), Lindenberg Seeds, Mountain Valley Seeds, Park Seeds, T&T Seeds, Tomato Grower's Supply, Willhite Seed Co., Nichol's, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, Stokes, R.H. Shumway, The Vermont Bean Seed Co., Seeds For The World, Seymour's Selected Seeds, HPS, Roots and Rhizomes, McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers, Spring Hill Nurseries, Breck's Bulbs,
Audubon Workshop, Flowers of the Month Club, Wayside Gardens, Park Bulb's and Park's Countryside Garde.

I also have quit buying seed from Baker Creek because they have send too many wrong or poorly bred seed. This is a shame because I really like Baker Creek. they are independently owned, they do not sell any GMO seed nor source with companies that do. All things that are important to me. but the seed quality for the most part sucks and in my market garden I have to have good to great seed quality and the seed should match up with what it says on the packet. I would say with Baker Creek, 3 out of 5 times there have been mistakes on their part.

Now savvier readers will note I order from Johnny's Selected Seeds and that Johnny's does indeed source some seeds from Semenis/Peto Seeds (though I hear rumors saying they have stopped or will stop buying from these corporations). The reason I make this exception for Johnny's is because I have been a happy customer for over 15 years, the seeds are top flight. There are very few mistakes made and when they happen they always make good, often within hours. they are an employee owned independent seed house with inhouse seed breeding program that is second to none. They are an official AAS trial site because of their location and great breeding program and they have one of the best seed catalogs in the world. And they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge (This link has a list of all the seed houses that have signed this pledge in 2009).

Around Christmas time we get the first catalogs (Johnny's first than Fedco a week later and finally SSE) and we start looking through them and also looking at the list of seed needs I complied last year as we used up the seeds (this is something that I had not done before 2009-or if I did I lost the list before seed ordering time. This saved a lot of time and made the order far more accurate than in the past). this year Eugene did the order and I was the one who got to put the orders on the order blanks, check to make sure we got everything (we never do and this year has been no exception. IIRC we still need a few tomato types) and than the order is calculated, checks are written and than everything is put into the correct envelopes, stamped and sent out.

This year Johnny's got $193, Fedco $207 and SSE $17.50. I know we still have to order strawberry plants which will be another $75 or so. And there will likely be other orders for seeds due to various reasons. And believe it or not this is a relatively small seed order for us. Many years we spend over $600 on seed alone (and several thousand on other inputs and equipment).

After the orders are dropped into the mail box at the Post Office we go home and sit around and await the incoming orders.

As per usual, Johnny's was the first to send us our order. About a 10 days ago the UPS guy delivered a box full of seeds and we were happy. We took the box inside and went through the seeds and found 3 kinds on back order. But within 3 days those seeds had also arrived at the post office. After the Johnny's order came the Seed Saver's order of heirloom tomatoes arrived. And yesterday we picked up the Fedco order at the post office. Or at least the majority, as many things are on back order and one thing was out of stock Even'star American Rapa which seems to be something for spring mixes so not a big deal that there is none. Besides I contacted Fedco and asked if they could send Hamburg Parsley instead of a refund and they said certainly (because they are flexible like that). one thing i am very happy about is the fact our onion seed arrived yesterday. You see CR Lawn, Fedco's founder always includes a newsletter with the order and he wrote that 6 varieties of onions have been on back order but during his writing 3 types arrived at their wearhouse and thus Fedco was able to fill some of their onion orders, including ours. This is important because onions (and leeks and shallots) really need to be started by Feb 1st for best results. It really sucks to see the term "Back Order" next to the seeds you need early as possible (and it is even worse when there is a note stating those seeds will not be available for 2 to 3 months and you already know there are none to be had anywhere because you already checked out 15 different companies for the variety-this happened to about 10 years ago mainly because we were not ordering our seed early enough, so we got smart and got into the habit of ordering early in the year).

Now that we have our seeds let the planting begin! And it will today with onions, leeks and shallots (and maybe kale and lettuces too).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The New Pup

Meet betty, a rescue dog we took in yesterday evening. She is a Newfoundland/chow cross. She's around 3 months old judging from the teeth and so far a sweet girl. Soon she will become one of the dogs that guard our crops from deer, bunnies, voles and anything else.

Investigating a shovel removing ice from the deck-Boy that was fun!

Here she is bothering Danny and showing the white of her eye

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Market Shelters


New market farmers facing an impending farmers market season will ask what is the best shelter to get. So today we will discuss what is best and what to avoid.

Many people will say get whatever is cheap. In my opinion it is best to stay away from the $100 and under shelters you can buy at any Wal-Mart, Big Lots and even grocery super centers like Kroger's . The photos below show such 2 cheap shelters. The support system for the red canopy is a bad design. It is weak and the supports have a nasty tendency to bend and break at their joints (any black piece you see in the picture below) when it is being raised or lowered. The mechanism that locks the legs is usually hard to use.

I have seen a lot of this kind of design fail at market due to heavy snow load, wind, and rough handling. I believe we own at least 5 broken frames (they make good scrap for projects and the canopies, even if ripped a bit make handy shade cloths) and one that is one piece but was frustrating for the owners to put up and down they one morning gave it to Eugene after, for the 4th time, he helped them put the thing up.


The photo below shows a cheap EZUP Knockoff (though it may be a cheap Express III or Encore II). The support system looks a lot like their "Truss System" but it is not built nearly as well. yes it does have cross pieces connecting the sides to the middle support but the material the use for the joints is weak. You can see that the frame is broken in this picture (that would be the black thing sticking out in the lower left)




What we use is an EZUP Express, which they no longer make. These days you would buy an Express II, which is pretty much the same, just more expensive. You will pay at least $200 for a decent shelter be it an EZUp or a Caravan. Sides will be extra, usually, and my experience, not needed all that often (unless you sell something like soap or something else that cannot get wet). Our EZUP is 9 years old this year and it is in great shape. We did have to replace the canopy 2 years ago but the frame is solid.



Just what makes these shelter so much better (and worth the extra money)? It is the truss design
As you can see in the picture above of my EZUP the support system is completely different from the red canopy above and somewhat different from the cheap white (possibly an EZUP Express II or Encore II) shelter . You can see there are supports going across the area of the shelter connecting all four sides to a central support. And that the truss is flat not at an angle as it is with the cheaper models. This makes the whole system a lot stronger. And it makes the things a lot easier to erect and tear down.

Now lets talk costs. I will assume if you are growing for market your are serious about making your farm into a business and that you will be paying taxes on this business. These shelters are a tax write off so why go cheap. The higher end shelters look much more professional than the cheap back yard shelters and you always want to project yourself and your farm as professionally as possible. A high end shelter does tell the public "Hey, I'm serious here and I plan to be around for years".

And how cheap are the $100 shelters if you have to replace them 3 or 4 times a year? Not only will you be spending as much for a series of cheap crap shelters as you would for a really high quality EZUP or Caravan but you also will be wasting time going back to the store to buy more and will have to deal with disposal of the broken units. Not to mention the shelter will almost always break as you are putting them up or half way through market. It almost never will break at home or when you are done for the day (Murphy's Law prevents this happening other than on very rare occasions). So it will cause a crisis at market and you will be without a shelter for the day.

In conclusion, I feel it is well worth the extra money to buy a good shelter from the get go, especially if you are doing more than 2 markets a week. In the long run these will save you money and time.

Shopping

yesterday because we really did not have much else to do we went to the big city (Dayton, OH) for a shopping trip. We started at Mendelson's one of our favorite places in the gem City. It's a big funky dirty store that sells a wide variety of items from frying pans to computer parts to scanning electron microscopes to jockey shorts to commercial refrigerators. they buy out businesses going under and resell the stuff in their huge building. Shopping there is hit and miss. I always look for plastic produce bags because if they have them they go for a fraction of what they cost "new" and the bags are new and unused. And I did find a roll that had about 75% of itself intact for $3.80. A new roll costs $25 and a case around $50 + shipping. So nice score. Also found cheap jockey shorts (3 for $1), a way cool multi-bladed pair of branch pruners (like a Swiss army knife or Leatherman but instead of a knife blade as the main blade there are pruners plus several other tools including a small knife and a weed popper). I also picked up cheap glue sticks.

The next stop was Belmont Party Supply for brewing items. We were surprised to see they had moved all the brewing supplies out of the beer/liquor store and into its own space next door. They now call themselves Brewtensils. But now they have a lot more room for beer and wine making paraphernalia and I see they are getting into cheese making too and have things like cheese presses for sale. I think I will have to invest a couple hundred dollars in cheese equipment and than start getting more raw milk (i.e. buy another share of the herd) and making cheese. Of course, since I cannot stomach raw milk (I am very, very intolerant to raw milk but can use cooked milk) I will have to pasteurize the milk before making cheese.

At any rate, Eugene bough brewing supplies-various yeasts and hops as well as a nice selection of powdered malts (he wanted liquid but they were out of the 5 gallon containers) plus some no rinse sterilizer for the bottles.

The last place on our itinerary was Harbor Freight the place of cheap crap made in China. I don't like Harbor Freight but they had solar panels on sale for under $150 this week and Eugene has long wanted to get some to start the process of getting us off the grid. So we bought our first solar array. I also saw that next door to Harbor Freight is a huge restaurant discount supply place. Unfortunately, they were locking up for the day when we arrived at the strip mall. So the best I could do was look in the front window and see hundreds of items I want to possess or at least look at and touch (for example, I will not be buying any of the $15K ranges but I will still look at them and ooh and ahh over them). There are few better store in my eyes than a restaurant supply store. The good news is we want to go back to harbor freight to buy a 12' x 10' lexan sheathed green house next week when they go on sale and we can take more than 20% off the normal price. And when we do we will get there long before 5pm so I can check this place out

We drove home while witnessing a spectacular sunset. I was a bit bummed that I did not have my camera with me to document the sunset and put the resulting photos in my Face Book Sunset album. But I was happy that we had such a successful shopping trip

Monday, January 11, 2010

Follow Up to helping the DOJ Investigate Monsanto

here is a follow up to the DOJ investigation of Monsanto. An excerpt of the several thousands of letters from people explaining just how Monsanto and the industrialization of our food system has negatively affected them. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/10/823719/-Millions-Against-Monsanto

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jeffery Smith Interviewed in Acres USA

I have a subscription to acres USA and in this month's issue is a chilling interview with Jeffery Smith, author of Seeds of Destruction. A book that takes on the lies of the biotech industry

Here I present to you in a format that allows you to read this interview in your web browser of this interview

After reading this I have decided I can no longer eat from the industrial food stream. I am lucky in that 85% to 90% of my diet is already local and organic (i.e. GMO free) so cutting out the monthly fast food trips won't be that hard to do (though eating at unenlightened friends' homes is another issue). Also I have long been a label reader and have been aware how pervasive GMO's are in the conventional industrial food stream.

But what can you do? Start by buying more of your food from local sources. Find a farmers market or if you want to do more, join a CSA. I happen to know of one near Eaton, OH that is taking members right now-Boulder Belt Farm Share Initiative-that serves members in Dayton, Oxford, Fairfield/West Chester/Northern Cincy.

Read labels and if it has corn, coy, cotton seed or canola assume it has GMO ingredients. And learn what words mean such things are in the food. For example, lecithin means there is soy, vitamin C means corn, etc., etc.. Oh and if there are partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup (and Soda pop has both) do not eat it-this is poison they are serving us

Finally, don't be the victim-take back the responsibility from the corporations over what you put in your body. For too long we have allowed them to call the shots and they have returned the favor by serving us poisons that make us sick (but hey, that means big bucks for the drug industry), obese (big bucks for the weight loss industry) and now we are seeing that GMO's may well cause our kids to be sterile. So now is the time to stand up and just say no to GMO's

Friday, January 08, 2010

Winter Garden Video

video

A short movie of the Market garden January 8th 2010 going from west to north to east. The first thing you see is the rhubarb patch than dormant raspberries. Next is the salad Hoop House than many beds covered in snow. Than brown asparagus fronds and behind that a hoop house that has leeks in it. More beds than the hoop house with spinach than more snow covered fallowed beds, the highway, the back of the store off in the distance and we are done

OEFFA Conference

Pre-Conference Event
Joel Salatin’s Ballet in the Pasture—Presented by Chipotle
Friday, February 12, 2010, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St., Granville OH

Polyface Farm's choreographed plant-animal symbiosis heals the landscape, the community, and the eater. Learn about Joel Salatin's grass-based multi-species livestock farm, where they raise beef, pork, poultry and rabbit products in a delicate balance that allows each species to perform some of the work of the farm through its own natural behaviors. Joel’s topics include species-appropriate portable shelters; species-appropriate control (different types of electric fences); landscape planning; forage growth principles, monitoring, and rationing; value adding; home processing; on-farm sawmill; predators; nutrient cycling: deep bedding and pigaerating, and pathogen cul-de-sacs and confusion.

OEFFA Conference
Saturday, February 13 - Sunday, February 14, 2010
Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St., Granville OH

Keynote Speakers
Joel Salatin – Presented by Chipotle
Speaker and author Joel Salatin is one of the best-known farmers of the sustainable food movement. Joel’s family farm in Swoope, VA serves more than 1,500 families, 10 retail outlets, and 30 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, eggs, pork, forage-based rabbits, and pastured turkey. Joel passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm. In his talk, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, Joel will get to the heart of the local food movement challenge: The demonizing and criminalizing of virtually all indigenous and heritage-based food practices. >From zoning to labor to food safety to insurance, local food systems daily face a phalanx of regulatory hurdles designed and implemented to police industrial food models but which prejudicially wipe out the antidote: Appropriate scaled local food systems. Joel will call for guerrilla marketing, food choice freedom legislation, and empirical pathogen thresholds as solutions to these bureaucratic hurdles.

Chef Ann Cooper
What’s wrong with our current food system and what is the effect on children? Chef Ann Cooper (a.k.a., “The Renegade Lunch Lady”) will tell you! Chef Ann’s mission is to transform the National School Lunch Program into one that places greater emphasis on the health of students than the financial health of a select few agribusiness corporations. Her lunch menus emphasize regional, organic, fresh foods, and nutritional education: Helping students build a connection between where their food comes from and personal health and wellness. In her talk, Chef Ann will detail the importance of changing the way our children eat and why parents, schools, farmers, food service providers, and government must work together. Chef Ann is the author of four books, including Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, and Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Food We Eat and What You Can Do About It. Chef Ann Cooper is a celebrated author, chef, educator, and enduring advocate for better food for all children.

Conference Information:
Granville, Ohio
The conference will be held in the charming town of Granville, Ohio, about 30 miles northeast of Columbus, at the Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St., Granville, OH 43023. The facility offers rooms for large group sessions, workshops, exhibitors, dining, kids’ activities, and entertainment—all under one roof. Visit www.oeffa.org for more detailed maps and directions.

Kids Welcome
We encourage participants to bring the family! The OEFFA Kids’ Conference offers a variety of exciting workshops for ages 6- 12. Younger children are invited to spend time in the Playroom, organized by Rebecah Freeling, founder and teach of Briar Rose Children’s Center, a Waldorf preschool in Columbus. (There is no charge for participation in these programs if a parent or sibling over the age of 12 volunteers four hours during the two days.)

Volunteers
In exchange for four hours of work, volunteers may pre-register for both days of the conference for only $50. For more information or to sign up, contact Renee at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. Pre-registration by Jan. 29 required. Limited opportunities.
Local and Organic Meals
We strive to provide quality meals made from fresh, organic, locally produced meats, dairy products, vegetables, and grains. A limited number of food tickets are available for sale at the conference, so if you plan to eat with us we recommend buying your meal tickets in advance.

Book Signing
Bring your Joel Salatin book and have him sign it on Saturday at the Exhibit Hall. He also will have his publications available for sale.

Exhibit Hall
The Exhibit Hall will offer an interesting array of information, products, services and resources that relate to sustainable agriculture. A 10’x10’ booth includes a covered table, two chairs, and can be equipped with electricity upon request. If you are interested in this opportunity, please visit www.oeffa.org or contact Mike at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 204 or mike@oeffa.org.

Sustainable Ag Film Screening!
Our Saturday evening entertainment takes a new twist with a visit from King Corn’s Curt Ellis, where he’ll serve as host of this film screening.

Non-Denominational Service
Join other conference attendees for spiritual nurturing and community. Retired UMC pastor Charlie Frye will lead a discussion of Scripture and its connection with sustainability.

OEFFA Conference Workshop Schedule
Saturday February 13, 2010
9:30-11:30 a.m.
Small Scale Intensive Farming Systems I (for Urban and Rural Production) (Andy Pressman & Lee Rinehart)
Fresh Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheese in Your Own Kitchen (Angel King)
Mob Grazing (Joel Salatin)

9:30-10:25 a.m.
How to Be a Successful Farmers’ Market Vendor (Christie Welch)
Preserving the Farm Through Estate and Business Planning (Robert Moore)
Can Small Farms Move Off The Energy Grid? (Maurus Brown)
Homestead Goat Husbandry for Beginners (Laura Ann Bergman)
Organic Certification for New & Old Producers & Processors (OEFFA Organic Certification Staff)
Ecological Design in the Garden (Elyse Perruchon & Annie Warmke)*
Mental Models: Making Weed Control Work for You (Doug Doohan)
Organic Corn Variety Performance (Peter Thomison)

10:35-11:30 a.m.
Managing Small Farmers’ Markets for Success (Christie Welch)
Top 10 Marketing Opportunities Using Social Networks (Rob Leeds & Dr. Julie Fox)
Building Green, Living Green (Jay & Annie Warmke)*
Cow Selection and Management for Organic and Sustainable Dairies (Paul Dutter)
SARE Resources Available for Farmers and Farm Organizations (Mike Hogan)
Urban Gardening: Why, What, How (Rachel Tayse)
Using Ecological Principles to Design Small Fruit Systems (Joseph Kovach)
OEFFA Grain Growers Chapter Meeting (Marty Warnecke)

1:45-3:45 p.m.
Basic Off-Grid Living (Christine Tailer)
High Quality Organic Small Grain Production (Deborah Stinner)
Small Scale Intensive Farming Systems II (for Urban and Rural Production) (Andy Pressman & Lee Rinehart)
Grassfed Dairy (Bill Hall, Stacy Dix & Warren Taylor)

1:45-2:40 p.m.
Raising Chickens in a Food Forest (Ed Chen)
Food with Integrity: Chipotle Cooking Demo (Chipotle staff)
Running and Winning Grassroots Food Campaigns (Sarah Alexander)
Food Safety Regulations (David G. Cox)
Soil Testing and Organic Farming: Things to Know About Your Soil (Alan Sundermeier)
Rain Water Harvesting (Chris Luers)*
Pruning and Training of Apple Trees (Dr. Gary Gao)

2:50-3:45 p.m.
Niche Pork Production, Processing and Marketing (J.B. King)
Eat Locally Grown Food All Year (Mary Lou Shaw)
Making Connections: Creating a Local Food Guide for Your Region (Deborah Jordan)
Farm to Table Restaurant Blue Print (Todd Hudson)
Management Approaches and Resources for Certified Organic Producers (Paul Dutter & Mike Anderson)
Looking Back in Time at Victory Gardening (Karen Feltham)
Weed Trees in Your Forest Garden: What To Do? (Janell Baran)

Sunday February 14, 2010
9:30-11:30 a.m.
Small Scale Backyard Chickens (Wayne Shingler)
Developing Community Kitchens (Leslie Schaller)
Recordkeeping Made Easy for Certified Organic Producers (David Benchoff & Paul Dutter)
Tree Grafting: Have Fun and Learn a Great Skill (Bill Johnson)
From A to Z: Setting Up a Healthy School Lunch Program (Chef Ann Cooper)

9:30-10:25 a.m.
Clean and Green (Trudy Stewart)
Solar and Wind as Cash Crops: Can Farmers Make Money from Renewable Energy? (Jay Warmke)*
Practicing Biodymanic Farming and Gardening (Charles Griffin)
Drip Irrigation Systems (Dan Kamburoff)
Understanding Soil Biology and Its Role in Organic Crop Farming Systems (Larry Phelan)

10:35-11:30 a.m.
Worm Composting 101 (Jeremy Gedert)*
Basic Farming with Horses (Alex C. Dragovich)
Foundations of Biodymanic Farming and Gardening (Charles Griffin)
Food Safety Is Everyone’s Business; However It Begins At Your Farm (Hal Kneen)
USDA NRCS Conservation Programs for Farmers (Bob Hendershot)

1:30-2:30 p.m.
Sustainable Beekeeping (Christine Tailer)
Living the Good Life: Autobiographical Literature of Self-sufficiency, Integrity and Social Responsibility (Rich Tomsu)
Transition Initiatives: Local Actions Meet Global Challenges (Mary Cunnyngham & Cindy Parker)*
Connecting the Community: From Field to Sales Floor (Joe Gallo)
Stepping Up to Renewable Energy (Russ Meeker)*
Farmland Tenure Options: Creative Ways to Hold Land in Ohio (Meredith Fox)
Forest Farming American Ginseng and Goldenseal (Tanner Filyaw)
Microbial Inoculants and Biochemical Fungicides for Plant Disease Control (Brian McSpadden Gardener)
Using Cover Crops to Improve Soil Productivity (Dr. Rafiq Islam)
Farm to School Program Opportunities in Ohio (Sara Tedeschi, Noreen Warnock & Amalie Lipstreu)

*Ohio Green Living: Green & Sustainable Practices workshop

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ewww

This is a porterhouse we had for Christmas Dinner. It was from a grass fed cow raised withing 50 miles of our farm and smothered in lots of our hard necked garlic. Now this is beef!


If you ever needed another reason to eat grass fed (and locally raised) beef and quit eating at fast food places and buying the factory farmed beef at the grocery here it is Yummy!-Ammonia-treated-pink-slime-now-in-most-U.S.-ground-beef

This is the dairy herd at Double J farm, near Middletown, OH where we buy our milk and quite a bit of our beef. this is how cattle should live. This was taken late November 2009

I have been buying grass fed beef for years and it is well worth the cost.