Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
That is the taste of summer.
Yet, sweet corn production has long eluded us. To the point we have not tried to grow it for our CSA. You may rightfully ask, "Why?" As you drive down rural roads or into our valley you see lots of sweet corn, so how hard can it be?
If you are going to use conventional practices it is not that hard. Just fertilize it, douse the area with herbicides, and apply lots of pesticides and you are done. But for an organic producer or for someone like us, not organic but strictly sustainable, it is not so easy.
To start with corn is a heavy feeder. It LOVES its nitrogen. This coming year that should not be that big an issue, but in the future the recommended rotation for sweet corn is to precede it with 2 years of clover or legume cover crops. Then it needs lots of phosphorous which is an issue. Fertilization can be sustainably achieved with foliage feeding (spraying the leaves) to reduce the cost of fertilizers, but they are still pretty expensive.
Then come the weeds. You can plant corn under plastic mulch, but that makes planting harder. You can also use straw mulch, but that is pretty labor intensive (without a spreader which we do not have.) The options are to hand weed (hoe) or flame baby weeds. Both are options but time is always a huge issue for us (remember we work full time jobs in addition to the farm.)
And once you get past all that you are faced with the biggest issue of them all. BUGS! Corn worms are a huge problem. There are some varieties of sweet corn which are more resistant to Corn Earworms, but not being open pollinated we would prefer to avoid them. So what is a grower to do? To not do something is to loose 80%-95% of your crop, obviously not acceptable.
So you take vegetable oil and mix it with Bt (well-known microbial pesticide commonly used to control lepidopterous pests). But aerial application of it does little good. So instead... "direct application of Bt mixed with vegetable oil to individual corn ears, applied two to three days after silks have extended to their maximum length (full brush.)"
Time it wrong and you are done. And ideally you will repeat the treatment 2 or 3 times. So you have to individually treat the silks of each ear of corn multiple times, and then you should loose only about 20% of your ears... Other pests love sweet corn to, but theBt takes care of some of them and other methods like strong rotation or foliar spraying of Bt can control those pretty well.
In 2008 we plan on doing a small trail of sweet corn. It will be expensive, and I'm not sure most will realize the difficulty in us growing what others seem to so easily, but we want to try. I would be surprised if members got much more then a dozen ears during the season, but it will be a start.
Just remember next summer, when you buy your sweet corn, to ask that grower the same questions you would other farmers. Sustainable sweet corn is possible, but difficult.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
One of our readers directed us to this article. It is very interesting.
The basic idea is that including a small amount of meat or dairy may be the most efficient use of land, because fruit and vegetable production need high quality land, while animal production uses less prime farmland.
Yet the upshot is that even in an ideal world New York state could only supply 32% of its population agriculturally. That leaves over 12 million New Yorkers eating non-local food.
Realistically, there are many things we (as a society) will probably not give up. Bananas, coffee, sugar cane sugar, ect. But I have to think that we eat more then 32% of our food seasonally and locally. So there is a disconnect.
I would think Ohio might be able to do better then the 32% number, with more farmland and fewer mountains then New York, but still, a truly local food economy?
We had 20 full memberships this year (including both full and half shares). We were about half couples and about half small families, so figure 3 people on average. That is 60 people. Add in us for 62. Even at only .6 acres per person that is 37.2 acres to fully supply their needs eating a local diet. We only have 30! Now obviously, that is not realistic, because we only supply a part of our members diets, but still... How many acres would it take to supply your family, your community?
There is defiantly room for growth of the local food movement.
Monday, November 26, 2007
We cooked a series of meals this weekend. Wednesday pasta and sausage for 4 adults and 2 kids. Thanksgiving morning, biscuits and gravy with sausage links and eggs for 6 adults and 2 kids. Thanksgiving dinner for 7 adults and 2 kids. A light supper for 4 and 2. Friday brunch, ham, eggs, and hash browns for 4 and 2. Then our traditional day after Thanksgiving waffles and gravy for 10 and 2.
WOW, did we go through a ton of food. 15 pounds of potatoes, 1-1/2 gallons of milk, more stuffing then I thought we would possibly use (2 loaves of stuffing bread and 2 bags of stuffing mix), two 12 pound turkeys, more butter then is polite to speak of, 4 quart boxes of chicken stock, 2 gallons of homemade turkey stock, a bag of carrots, two bunches of celery, a loaf of peasant bread, 1-1/2 jars of tomato sauce, 3 batches of biscuits, and on and on....
I guess the reason I am posting this is because it really made us think about what would be necessary to feed our region locally. This is no small task. My little holiday get togethers used HUGE amounts of food, and while everyone does eat more on holidays it is still staggering the scale you are talking about.
How much food would it take to actually feed a family of four for a year? How much land would you need to do that on? How much more if they are not vegetarians? I need to do a little research....
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I am thankful for a wonderful husband who loves me very much and is an anchor in my life in turbulent times.
I am thankful for my family who will be gathering for a meal together on Thanksgiving day this year, (sadly without my father who passed away in April.) My brother in law will with us , he seems to always be deployed on holidays so it will be nice to have him share the day with us. I am thankful for my mother's continued fair health as she fights a horrible disease.
I am thankful for the bounty of our land, the fertility of our soil, and the support of our friends, members, and the community.
I am thankful for so much, and amazed that it is so easy to forget the blessings we have been given.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Yesterday we had a group of young ladies to our office from the Our Lady of Elms middle and high schools. We are doing a new gymnasium addition for them, and were having them to our office to talk about green design. With young ladies from 11-18, I was worried that my normal talk on green design would bore them to pieces, but not only did they stay interested, they asked insightful questions that show that THEY get it. We went through a series of problems and talked about solutions to them. The questions also showed critical thinking skills, one girl asking if we really were saving resources by rehabbing existing auditorium seating instead of new. Which, I thought, showed that she was thinking about what we were talking about. Another girl asked if the wheat straw board we used for wall partition surfaces in our offices was really a good thing, because we were using food sources for building material.
I choose to believe that the "normal" kids are like the exceptional young people I have talked about above. If that is the case, I think we will leave the world in very good hands.
Monday, November 19, 2007
1 peice = .75
1 bag of 12 peices = 8.00
1 box of 20 = 13.00
1 box of 40 = 24.00
Each peice is somewhere around 1/2 an ounce and is a couple good bites. So at a 20 peice box it is around $24 a pound.
We are doing 2 days of on farm pickups in the afternoons on Dec 2 and 16. Or we can ship Priority mail for just the cost of a flat rate box. If you order by mail we can ONLY ship to Ohio and full payment (we take paypal or checks) is due before they are shipped. If you pickup 50% is due at the time of order and the balance at pickup...
Please email email@example.com if you would like to order some.
Initially I was going to do this 100% independent of our farm. But my husband thought that it was such a great communication tool for members, friends, and others interested in our farm that I should open it up. So why I try not to say our farm's name to often at all, I did send a link to it to our mailing list and are giving it out to people often. Which seems to be working because we are getting over 20 unique page views a day now, up from 7 only a few weeks ago!
But what does everyone want to hear about? Is me going with my sister to get her kitten from the shelter interesting to people? And are my ramblings on the similarities of animals in a shelter to our luck in where we were born and social justice relevant? Does anyone want to hear about my visits to my mom's oncologists?
Or what about last night episode of Family Guy? Do I even want to admit that when I was waiting to see Micheal Symon's first battle in Iron Chef America (Great Win!!) I watched Family Guy? (Hank Hill, Texas "normal guy" in a red neck city.) Hank Hill, joins a food co-op in an effort to get good tasting steaks, which he can no longer get at the Meg-Lo-Mart. He brings home a bag of not only steak but produce including heirloom tomatoes. There is an funny exchange where his niece says "These are tomatoes, I thought they were heaven balls?" Then Hank responds with something like "Don't be silly, tomatoes don't have any taste!" Then he eats them and is blown away. Elsewhere in the episode her says "I usually reserve that compliment for my wife, but this food is downright handsome."
In the end Meg-Lo-Mart buys out the food co-op and Hank steals a couple cows and some chickens. And by the end he is back to eating tasteless food, and hating it. But that a show like this did such a great piece on good food even including a line (after Meg-Lo-Mart) buys the store "Well, it is still organic - technically." It shows that local food is becoming more and more main stream.
Heck, the word "Localvore" was listed as the word of the year! In any case, this is the type of posting that I'm not sure is really of any interest to anyone at all!
We sold out of turnips in about 20 minutes, and about an hour before market closed a guy came and asked if he could buy the rest of our baby pac choi. I looked down at what was left on the table and said "Well, you can certainly have these, but we have another half bushel in the truck, would you like those to?" He would!
Now that is a lot of baby pac choi, and if you would like you can enjoy it at Great Lakes Brewing Company this evening (Monday the 19th.) So we ended up selling out of that as well. And the honey caramels went pretty fast! So it was a good day...
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Have you ever heard of Ray Anderson? If you get a chance you should hear him speak, he is an amazing speaker! You may ask yourself “Why would I want to hear a CEO of a carpet company (Interface) speak?” Why? Because he has been the driving force behind transforming the US carpet industry from a poor environmental performer to one of the leaders in industrial environmental performance.
I was amazed at GreenBuild, so many carpet companies each with a HUGE beautiful booth highlighting their environmental programs. One of the smallest carpet booths was Interface, which was funny because they have perhaps the most massive environmental program, which among other initiatives includes Mission Zero: leaving zero environmental footprint, by the year 2020. No landfill waste (even from the removal of their old products,) no carbon emissions from manufacture/ transportation/ installation of their product, 100% renewable energy (including landfill methane), no toxic substances in their products, and use 100% recovered/recycled or natural materials.
WOW! Is all I can say! So this winter we are working on our own farm’s environmental mission, goals, and how we hope to get there. How, for instance, do we deal with offsetting or reducing the carbon emissions for people who drive to the farm weekly? Or plastic mulches, which reduce our irrigation requirements, reduces weeding, but are made from petro-chemicals and are a disposal issue? We can use bio-diesel or even vegetable oil to power our tractor, but what about our smaller (chainsaw, walk behind tiller…) gasoline powered equipment?
And even if we can figure all of that out we still will NOT be doing what Einstein asks. But step by step we will get closer and we hope you will join us for the journey. When we launch our new website in the next couple months or so we will include a couple pages to track environmental goals.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
November 17th 10am-2pm
at Heritage Farms in Peninsula
6050 Riverview Road
330.657.2538 for details
If you have any other questions or to get put on their mailing list for the most up to date information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Basic information is also avilable at www.cvcountryside.org
If you read my blog let me know when you visit us.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The picture is of me at market back in 2003! This weekend we will be at the Peninsula Market and hopefully we will sell some stuff! Honey, candy, squash, kale, and turnips for sure. There are other items in the garden, which will hopefully still be OK by then. LOTS of radishes, some Pac Choi which is still small as is the lettuce. Hopefully big enough to be considered "baby!"
We'll see but even if we do not sell one thing we will have fun!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Well some of it can be bottled and sold that way, but there is only so much honey people want at one time. So what to with the rest?
Why make caramels of course! It took a while to get the recipe right, but I think we have it! Basic pure ingredients, 75% honey only 25% sugar, and most importantly no corn syrup. Corn syrup (of which most contains at least some HFCS) is used in LOTS of candy recipes as it acts to help candies behave when being cooked. When not using it you need to add in lots of care and extra time. A batch of my honey caramel cooks for over two hours slowly rising in temperature, to creamy perfection!
Today and yesterday were the start of honey caramel production, it is a leap of faith for we have no idea how much we may sell at the one market left for us this year. ((Shameless plug, alert!!!)) We will defiantly be selling these at the Peninsula Holiday Market, where you can meet on November 17th! Hope to see you there!
OH! And Congratulations Micheal Symon! You make Cleveland proud!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
"Loving food is the most personal and least abstract way of being an environmentalist." - Alice Waters
Let us know if you want to see more Terra Madre photos we have a TON!
Greenbuild was amazing. Over three days I heard people like Bill Clinton, Paul Hawken, the mayors of Chicago, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, and Austin, leaders in industries from fuel cells (United Technology) to cleaning product (Seventh Generation) and practitioners of green design from around the world speak to both the wider philosophical issues and the practical how to do it issues! 22,000+ people were there and everything was standing room only!
I learned so much that it will take me a while to process it all. I will have to go through all my notes, and honestly, this is a blog about farming so I'm not sure if you are really interested in this at all! But let me talk briefly about one principle - the Precautionary Principle. Which asks us to reframe decisions from "Is it safe?" to "Is it necessary?"
This gives us a tool to defend decisions to people who claim that science has yet to prove that something is harmful. Remember, this many years after Newton and Darwin both gravity and evolution are still theories (not to mention Climate Change). PROVING something in science is (and should be) very difficult.
To bring it back to food, look at High Fructose Corn Syrup. We made the decision a couple years ago to cut it out of our diet. And in that time I have had a number of discussions with people about it NOT being bad for me. And it is hard to prove something like that. So using the Precautionary Principle, I can reframe the discussion to "Yes, but is it necessary?" And the answer to that is no. Anything from ketchup to candy, from soda to bread can be and is made without it.
On farms the same discussion can be made respect with pesticides and other chemical applications. With the knowledge that sometimes the answer is "Yes, something is necessary or else all of those will die." When that is the answer we look for the safest option that will solve the problem, maybe a baking soda spray, or hot pepper oil in dish soap, or maybe a certified organic pesticide.
I'll post more later, my head is overflowing with ideas! I'll try not to bore you all to much!
Monday, November 5, 2007
Expect details of the trip when I get back, I hope to find A LOT of cross over.
And next year we will be starting a farm wide (household wide) carbon offset so we will add this trip's 402 pounds to that. We are still trying to figure which is the best way for offseting our carbon, we have pretty much decided trees are not the way we want to go, maybe compact flourecet light bulbs or wind power? I heard one person suggest what good is it to offset an emission you released over 2 hours over 60 years (trees to offset a flight) because the carbon will not be offset until after it has done a ton of damage. That is a great point, and we are thinking of ways for a more immediate payback, not hour for hour like this guy was suggesting but maybe within one to five years? So if we go through the effort of offseting it actually means something and is not just lip service.
In any case, I doubt I will be posting again until Saturday. See you all then!
My husband’s family are dairy farmers in Pennsylvania. When we first started farming his uncle asked us why would we farm? “I get paid $2.00 an acre NOT to grow green peppers!” Well, at the time, we had a total of 5 acres, so a big $10 a year was not going to do it. But, if I could sell a real person a pepper and get the full market value of $2 or 3 a pound, it does not take many plants to exceed those subsidies.
The same uncle once told us that if was paid $1.00 a gallon for milk he would work one more year and then retire! While regulation, location, and vision prevents our uncle from seeing those level of returns, we are able to do much better doing the type of farming we want to. Not that we'll make enough to retire soon, but we really feel it can support our family.
But our type of farming is not even on the radar screen of legislators writing documents like the farm bill. Yet the type of farming we are doing: providing products directly to customers instead of providing commodities to multi-nationals is the ONLY way (I think) for small farms to succeed.
Thankfully, there are consumers (like you) who are willing to go a little out of their way to support farms like ours and who understand that what we do is not the same as factory farming, and that sometimes crops fail, or yields are small but are willing to take a little risk to enjoy the bounty of fresh local food, grown by people you know and trust, using methods you understand, and creating healthy foods. Healthy for the consumer, the watershed, the farmer, the soil, the environment, and the local economy.
Little steps, every year, and maybe in the next couple decades we will see legislation which is more rounded and not controlled by the interests of one group, but by the needs and priorities of the nation.
(Sorry for a long boring post with no pictures!)