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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Help The DOJ Investigate Monsanto

Take back control of your food!

There are two million farmers and 300 million eaters in the United States. Standing between them are a handful of corporations who control how food gets from one side to the other.

Let's change the equation.

For the first time ever, the Department of Justice is on a fact-finding mission looking at how big businesses, including Monsanto, control food and farming -- and they want to hear from YOU. They are specifically seeking comments and stories about how corporate control of the food system affects average citizens. If you're concerned that just a few big businesses have so much power over where your food comes from and how it's produced, tell the government! Your comments will help to inform a series of hearings on the issue next year.

Click here to take action Now!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

USDA's High Tunnel Study

Wow the USDA is giving us small diverse farmers a piece of the pie. I think Boulder Belt will have to look into this.

If you watch the video, those tunnels in the White House garden are NOT High Tunnels. Those are low tunnels made from row cover on small hoops. The USDA does not seem to know what a high tunnel is which is a bit worrisome but if they wanna give money to us farmers who have beem doing season extension on a small scale for well over a decade, than cool.



3-Year Project To Verify Effectiveness Of High Tunnels In Natural Resource Conservation

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2009 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced a new pilot project under the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels - also known as hoop houses - to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Merrigan and other Obama administration officials highlighted opportunities available for producers in a video posted on USDA's YouTube channel at, which shows high tunnels recently installed in the White House garden.

"There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops - a win for producers and consumers," said Merrigan. "This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line."

The 3-year, 38-state study will verify if high tunnels are effective in reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, extending the growing season, increasing yields, and providing other benefits to growers.

Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move. High tunnels are used year-round in parts of the country, providing steady incomes to farmers - a significant advantage to owners of small farms, limited-resource farmers and organic producers.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial assistance for the project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the Agricultural Management Assistance program. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per farm. High tunnels in the study can cover as much as 5 percent of 1 acre. Participating states and territories are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Pacific Islands, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

To sign up or learn more about EQIP assistance for high tunnel projects, contact a local NRCS office.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

202 720-4623

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wintry High Wind

Yesterday winter came storming in. The day started off with thunderstorms-thunder, lightning, heavy rain and heavy winds. By dawn the rain and thunder had moved eastward. The winds picked up so that by 9 am they were howling and we were getting gusts over 50mph with sustained winds around 30mph.

it was farm share day as well but since we were aware that the weather would be less than ideal for harvesting I got in what I needed the day before in cold but much calmer conditions. Eugene, on the other hand decided to get in kale, cabbage, red turnips and broccoli before the big freeze occurred.

Personally I avoid harvesting in high winds as the winds can do a lot of damage to harvested crops, especially to leafy greens if they are not well covered. I use towels to cover the harvest and they are not always easy to secure to the picking crates and will blow off (I have yet to have one blow away). But sometimes you cannot avoid unpleasant situations and this was one that was unavoidable.

So the morning was spent harvesting things that did not have enough protection to get through a 17F degree early morning. By around noon more and more time was being spent trying to keep the plastic on the hoop houses tight. Eugene was also spending way too much time trying to keep the row covers on beds-this will not work unless one takes about every row cover rock we have and puts them all on the 15 or so beds we have covered. Even than a lot of the covers will come open in high winds or rip themselves to shreds. In the past I would simply go and open all the covers and secure them to the ground so they cannot harm the plants they are protecting by being blown around in the wind.

This time I did not do that because Eugene thought it was a bad idea. And he was correct on that. if the covers were removed yesterday right after a rain even they would have ended up folded and frozen to themselves and the ground and would have been useless to use until the outside temp went above 32F. So now we hope that the covers did not blow off the beds and stick to the ground (but it looks like we will be well above freezing in a couple of days so we can use them again very soon)

After lunch (temp around 34F) I got to work putting together the shares for the Winter FSI and Eugene went out to harvest turnips. I could hear the hoop houses snapping and growling in the wind but up until 2:30 they all seemed to be staying together. I went back in the house around 2:30 and thought I had nothing much to do with the rest of the day. I reveled in that delusion up until 3:30 when Eugene came in and said he had to warm up for a while and than go back out and take in the rutabagas.

I looked at him and said "rutabagas? You mean the rutabagas in the hoop house?" he replied" yes the rutabagas in the hoop house". Than I said "I take it the hoop house is no longer covered with plastic" and he replied"pretty much".

And with all that I found a hat and gloves and put on a work coat and we went and pulled and topped rutabagas. it was interesting working in an area that was quite warm under an hour before we got there. The soils were still warmish when we started but but by the time we finished they were freezing up. As were the greens on the rutabagas, they looked so sad. The same could be said for the broccoli in the bed next to the rutabagas that had been coddled and protected up until yesterday afternoon. Fortunately we were pretty much done with the broccoli so its' demise is not a big loss.

And with the plastic off it will make it a lot easier to clean out the beds with dead green beans, dead broccoli and a scant few rutabaga runts. Than we can fill the beds with the lettuce seedlings we have ready to be planted somewhere. I don't know if that is what will actually happen but right now it sounds like a pretty good idea.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Small Farms vs Industrial Farms

For years I have read the argument that Industrial farms are the most efficient way to produce food. That compared to, say 75 years ago a farm could produce food for 5 people, today's farms produce food to feed 125 per farm. That does sound good but I have noticed that this number may not be as good as it sounds

The farms of yesterday were diversified, smaller and I believe fed far more than 5 people as these farms did support the families living on them. And these families averaged around 8 people, not 5. So right there I wonder where these number are coming from? Are they just arbitrary pulled from someone's butt? (you would be surprised how often that happens-the 3 year transition period before a farm is certified organic is one such arbitrary number and really means nothing as it really takes 7 to 15 years to get soils in organic shape, especially if they were subject to conventional/chemical farm management) or did someone do some real research and find that the farms on pre WWII really did feed only 5 people?

I am pretty convinced that these numbers have been hatched by proponents of the Green Revolution and are based on nothing of substance. I say this because I have been running these numbers in my head and what I come up with is that small diversified farms feed more people per acre than the big "efficient" Industrial farms.

For example, lets say a pre WWII farm (that feeds only 5 people) is 100 acres (which is pretty much the average size of farms at this time). Now the modern mono-cropped farm of 4000 acres (pretty much the average size of a modern farm or the combination of all rented and owned land that a Midwestern farmer will work) feeds 125 people. pretty good right? A lot more people than that paltry 5 of the old fashioned diversified farm.

Ah but lets look at how many people per acre these farms are feeding. if we extrapolate the numbers we see that perhaps the industrial mono-cropped does not produce as much per acre as a small diversified farm. For if a 100 acre farm can produce enough food to feed 5 people 40 of those farms would produce enough to feed 200. I believe 200 is greater than 125 and thus we see that smaller diversified farms can indeed outproduce the big industrial mono-cropped farms

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Food Inc

This is a must see film for anyone who eats food in the United States (which is everyone). I have not been able to get to any public screenings of this film but a few days ago i was perusing the Millions Against Monsanto Facebook page and found a link that took me to a site that allows you to watch a fairly low quality copy of the movie for free.

So I took 94 minutes out of my life to watch the movie and I was rather shocked by it. And this surprised me as I have been well aware of what is happening to our food system for the past 15 to 20 years which has lead me to eat a basically local diet of food produced by people I know personally. I figured I would not learn much from this film. I was wrong, I learned several new things about our food system and they were not good things to learn.

And if I got new things from this movie that means that 99% of the people out there will have a truly eye opening experience

Link to movie here "enjoy"

The Day After Thanksgiving

We had a lot of people come to the farm for Thanksgiving. My Cousin Jack Showed up with his niece (and my 2nd cousin probably once removed), her baby and her SO, Jeremy on Wednesday from the greater Detroit metroplex. On Thursday My Brother, Scott arrived (from the exact same place as Jack) and soon after my Niece Carrie and her SO, Ivan and her BFF Katrina showed up from Bloomington, IN. Than my Brother in law Dave arrived with the cranberry sauce and later Doreen and her SO, Thad, showed up with yams and Mac and Cheese. Hours later our friend Wyatt showed up with bread that no one wanted because we were all too stuffed on turkey, taters, mac and cheese, salad and wine. Wyatt left us several loaves and they were quite tasty.

These pictures are of the morning after thanksgiving after everyone but my brother had left. We took a walk around the farm and had a small bon fire in order to burn the last of the blighted tomato plants and a bunch of sisal bailing twine used to support the blighted maters.

Eugene and Scott looking at the pond

Nate running towards me

Still looking at the pond


Golden Rod on the 40' pitch

Frosty Kale. Scott thought this would be a great shot. I think the idea was better than the shot

After Scott left for Detroit we went to Trenton to pick up 6 gallons of raw milk at Double J farm and I took this shot of the dairy cows through the barn. Notice the pasture is very green for the end of November and that has translated into a lot of yellow cream on the milk, something I have never seen in the many years I have used raw milk. Usually this time of year the cream is thin and white, barely any different from the milk. But because November has been warm and sunny the pasture has continued to grow

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Fall Carrot Crop

The past two days have been all about carrots. Monday we spent the day digging 4 beds of carrots, removing the tops, getting off the excess mud and putting them into crates. The weather was cool and cloudy with occasional sunny breaks which were very nice as the sun warmed us up. Otherwise we were cold.

Tuesday afternoon was spent washing the carrots. It was a lot warmer Tuesday than it was Monday and sunny to boot. So the job was not too bad, though getting soaked from the waist down in 50F weather is not exactly my idea of fun. But it was certainly more fun than doing this job in 45F or colder weather.

The mud did not want to come off the roots but with enough water pressure any thing is possible and I ended up with 7 full crates of field washed carrots. Field wash means 99% of the dirt is off of them but they are not 100% clean.

We have a primitive wash station. It consists of a hose and a metal stand to put a crate on. Oh, and I use empty dirty crates to put crates full of dirty carrots on so they are not directly on the ground (keeps things sanitary and also keeps slugs from crawling into the crates and eating holes in the carrots). What I do is first spray down the crates full of dirty carrots to get the dirt on them wet. This is a kin to soaking them. Than I grab a full crate of wet, dirty roots and dump about 1/6th of the contents (maybe 10 pounds) into the cleaning crate (which is any empty crate that is on the metal stand) and spray the carrots off, making sue to roll them around so all surfaces are washed. Than I dump them into a clean crate for storage. Repeat that about 40 times and you have 7 crates of clean carrots ready to be bagged up for sale.

It's a good thing we dug the carrots when we did. They were all harvested because we were under the impression that it was going to get really cold and start snowing. At least that was the forecast 5 days out for this week. As it has turned out it will rain today and it will dip below freezing at night from here on out but it looks like we will not get 12"+ of snow nor will the soils freeze up any time soon (like in the next 10 days). But despite the lack of winter we are finding a lot more damage on the carrots vs the last time we harvested them, about 10 days ago. Up until this final carrot harvest I would say the damaged carrots made up less than 1% (and some weeks there was zero damage). But this batch had around 5% damage, mainly from slugs, though a few carrot tops were chewed off by mice or bunnies. 5% is not bad at all for damage. The summer carrots had around 50% damage from mice and voles and carrot maggots. The summer carrots also were not nearly as big and beautiful nor did they have the wonderful sweet flavor of these fall beauties.

But as I was saying, it is good we got these carrots out when we did because I believe we would have seen a lot more damage from the slugs and mice had we left them in another 5 to 7 days. It was obvious to us that the critters are getting hungry and would have started dining on the carrots in earnest very soon. But now the carrots are safely put away out of the reach of the vermin and ready to be sold to SW Ohio and EC Indiana Locavores and distributed to our farm share members