Saturday, March 28, 2009

New field...

A sure sign of spring- newly plowed ground.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Canceled class

I am sorry to anyone who has signed up for our "Starting Your Own Seeds" Classes on March 29 we are canceling the class due to a family emergency. We will probably also cancel the April 5th class depending on what the next few days bring.

I hope to offer the class on April 11th , which seems late for starting seeds but is really not. Tomatoes which should not go in the garden until late May should be started about 6 weeks before, which would be April 13! That is actually the week that we are scheduled to start them for our farm...

I will be sending individual emails out to people who already signed up tomorrow (I hope) as soon as I can get back to my home computer for a few hours where all my emails are. I will offer the option of taking the April 12th class or a refund.

I am sorry, if you signed up. The circumstances could not be helped.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coming out...

Hello everyone, I am CSA-Farmer Girl and I drink raw milk.

I fact I LOVE raw milk. The difference is like that between grocery store eggs and farm fresh ones, or between a mid December red pseudo-tomato and one you just plucked from your garden.

In my state it is illegal for my farmer to sell me a product he can give his children or sell to a big co-op for them to pasteurize. So we bought the cow! Well, legally we bought a part of his herd which he milks for us and lots of other families who pick it up at other herdshare owner's homes.

We are jumping through legal hoops in order to have the right to purchase a product. Well, you may say, raw milk is DANGEROUS! You are putting your life in jeopardy! Lets assume you are right, is that not a risk I have a right to take? What business is it of anyone's if I get sick? If you want to make me aware of the danger then require me to sign a disclaimer.

People do things everyday that are dangerous. They jump out of airplanes, climb mountains, get in their cars, and eat medium rare hamburgers. Will we make all of these illegal as well?

The requirement of HR875 for a "food safety plan" compiling with new regulations for the new food safety regulations is so open ended it scares me. But I can see regulations requiring full blown processing and packing facilities within a few years. After all we have to be kept safe.

But the fact is that I wash my veggies (when they get washed at all) one at a time using the same water I, and everyone else in my city, drinks. They are then delivered, sold, or picked up within a day. But will regulations force us, eventually, reorganize from a "CSA" to a "farm share," and will that even be legal?

Who knows because the rules are not written. I know that laws do not write regulations, but they can limit them, if they choose.

So many people think this does not effect them, and it may not, or it may not for years, but ask yourself should we give the government control over the small farmer, the historical backbone this country? Thomas Jefferson is be rolling over in his grave...

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it's liberty and interests by the most lasting bands." (TJ to John Jay, B.8.426)

Lets not take the independence of our small farmers away to protect ourselves from hazards caused by industrialized agriculture. Lets not give the government the right to regulate "growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packing, temperature controls, animal encroachments, and water," or in otherwords the right to reglate ever single bite we put in our mouths.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday gardening tip! - pH!

Welcome to the inaugural Monday Gardening Tip Post!

With so many people looking to their own gardens for food, I figured now was a great time to start to give people some pointers on their garden.

Most gardeners know that their plants need lots of nitrogen, and many also recognize the importance phosphorous and potassium. Those are the 3 major nutrients identified on a fertilizer bag's number 5-5-5 or 5% of each of the three major nutrients. However, there are dozens of smaller nutrients that your plants need and the ability of the plant to process any of them is determined by the pH of your soil. Most vegetables preform best at a pH somewhere between 5.5 and 7. Many people give 6 as an ideal soil pH for plants. In a home garden it is often better to aim for the middle rather then fuss with the pH of individual small areas but here is a list of preferred pH ranges. A simple and inexpensive home pH test will give you accurate results.

Before you spend a ton of money on fertilizers take a look at your pH. The chart to the right shows how much soil pH affects nutrient uptake.

Also if you are looking at putting in berry bushes, look at the pH requirements of their soil and amend it to change BEFORE you plant. Your plants will thank you for years.

Whether your soil pH is to high or to low your local garden center can give you recommendations on making it just right.

Your plants will thank you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

HR 875... What it says and what it doesn't

I would think that with all of my posts the past week I would have lost readers, amazingly people seem to want to read these posts.

I have had a lot of comments (an emails) from people about HR 875 so I wanted to clarify my points in a short post.

What does HR 875 NOT do...
  • No where in the bill can I find anything about implementation of NAIS (National Animal Identification) system.
  • Nowhere in the bill can I find anything that criminalizes backyard garden.
  • It does not out law organics
  • It does not mandate annual inspections of farms
What HR 875 DOES do...
  • Establishes a new "FSA" - Food Safety Administration on par with the FDA.
  • Defines farms as "Food Production Facility"
  • Gives this new agency the right to create new regulations on processing, growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations of food
  • Requires them to set minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packing, temperature controls, animal encroachments, and water
  • Require labeling of all food to allow traceability back to the farm
  • Requires reporting from farms to the governments
What does HR 875 NOT do...
  • Specially define farm as a... well a farm! Which is why some are speculating that home gardens may be included. I find this pretty unlikely.
  • Exempt small farms from any requirements. No where have I found any language that would set up a tiered regulation system where small farms would have a different set of regulations then large companies. That is a problem!
  • Exempt home produced items from any requirements. They would be defined as "Category 4 Food Establishment." No where have I found any language that would set up a tiered regulation system for home produced items. In Ohio we have a pretty farmer friendly set of laws on home produced items. The law requires random at least quarterly inspections of Category 4 food establishments.
  • Define what the regulations will be. This is the crux of the problem. We are setting up an framework that will allow new regulations to be set within an administration which will be on the level of the FDA. What will the regulations be today, and what will they be in 10 years? Will I be required to put a UPC type sticker on every item I grow, to comply with the tractability requirement? It is perhaps the most reasonable solution. UPCs cost about $60 a piece to set up. Then you need the stickers and all that. We are growing 100 varieties this year. That would be $6000 in coding fees. That is to comply with only one line of a 40 page piece of legislation. If I was a 400 acre farm growing 10 items my fee would be only $600. See the problem?
Do I believe that we need an upgrade to our food safety program.? Yeah. Big corporations do bad things in the name of profits. But small farms and small food producers are not the problem, yet under this law we will take a disproportionate brunt of the solution.

What do I suggest:
  • Specially exempt farmers markets
  • Exempt farms with less then $1,000,000 in annual sales
  • Exempt Food establishments with less then $1,000,000 in annual sales
  • Specifically define farms so home gardens are not included
  • Establish a system of public comment on the regulation

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Notice the black ground... on swamp road... Why do we import foor from other contries when we have this miles away... They are growing sod on it...

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Friday, March 13, 2009

FSA Not new...

I have been reading a lot about HR 875 and it really does scare me. As I saw posted on the Seed Saver's Exchange message board, opposing the bill is like whispering into a hurricane.

But the idea is not new. I found this USA today article written during the e. coli spinach outbreak of 2006. The interesting thing is that at the time the FDA said "the system is working." Now a new food borne illness out break brings new calls as people fear peanut butter, that most American of all foods!

The problem is that small farms are NOT the problem. You do not hear of food illnesses linked to small farms, but it is small farms who would be most impacted. Large companies and agribusiness can meet new requirements as only a small annoyance. But for US, for small farms, the burden is perhaps un-surmountable.

In order for our voices to be heard we need to stand in the hurricane, and shout. It seems impossible that by summer farmers markets and CSAs could be quasi legal, but unless we stop this bill NOW that may be the case.

Let your friends know about this, and when they tell you that a bill like this is impossible, not in this country, make sure they understand that unless we stand up it IS POSSIBLE and it will happen. Look for an example at the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act, written to limit lead in children's toys by testing requirements which basically made homemade toys illegal, overnight.

Some say we have less then two weeks to fight this...

Outlaw farmers...

When the government outlaws gardens only oulaws will have gardens.

We have been saying for a couple years that ONE DAY what we do, grow naturally produced heirloom produce on a small scale may be illegal. People laughed, rolled their eyes, or regarded us with skeptisim. I am really worried that we are moving more rapidly in that direction than I had felt possible.

Another blogger posted about HR 875:
The safest food you can eat in America is raised by small conscientious farmers. Farmers that care for their animals, the food they grow, the jams they process, the bread they bake. Why??? Because they eat the products too. The USDA for years has encouraged farmers' markets. Food gurus like Micheal Pollan, Alice Waters, Eliot Coleman have prodded Americans to eat local fresh foods.

Now..........Ms Rosa Delauro has introduced this legislation that will take farming to a whole new level. Well -- maybe not a hole new level.......... just the level that Monsanto, ADM, and Cargill wanted ..... no organic, no small farms.

Others will tell you that there is no reason we cannot farm, if we have the required "safety" plan and appropriate equipment. I would assume at a minimum that would consist of a building with NSF surfaces ($100,000+), wash lines ($10,000+), packing lines ($5,000+), and coolers ($5,000+). If these numbers seem high, I would argue they are pretty low in my experience at my day job in commercial architecture. they go the route of FDA butchering facilities add $20,000 to pave the drive way (gravel is no good) and $6,000 for an extra bathroom.

And that is before we pay a consultant $100 an hour to write our required "safety" plan and help us comply with a new maze of regulation... That is before one of us spends most of our time compiling the required paperwork, reports, and plans.

Do you think anyone would be willing to pay $5,000 a season for their CSA share? Anyone?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

HR 875- Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

If you thought my post yesterday was long, boring, and over the top you may want to stop reading now. Fair Warning!

HR 875- Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

I received an email from MetroFarm this week that said:

House Bill 875, which is sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), seeks to reduce or eliminate the danger of distance by establishing a new federal Food Safety Administration (FSA) that would superintend and regulate all food production facilities, from the smallest farms to the biggest processors. In other words, HB 875 would give the federal government dictatorial authority over the entire food chain of the USA.HB 875 and its Food Safety Administration (FSA)
• Binds all State and County Departments of Agriculture to federal authority
• Criminalizes alternative farming methods, such as “organic.”
Superintends everyone who grows food, whether they sell it or not.
• Superintends the production of meat of any kind.
• Allows the FSA, or its agents, physical access to all farms.
• Allows the FSA, or its agents, to copy all farm documents.
• Forces farmers who sell direct to consumers to make their customer lists available to FSA, or its agents.
• Grants FSA, or its agents, authority to punish rule-breakers with fines of up to $1 million per day.
• Allows FSA to hire industry leaders to decide how program would be administered.

I have been reading a lot of people talking about this Bill and one of the comments I have heard is that lots of weird and extreme bills float around congress that does not mean they will pass. That is true, once people KNOW they are there and what they say and make a fuss to their congress people they are unlikely to pass. Unnoticed and unheeded, however, they can slip through and we end up with bills like Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 which have "unintended" consequences which might not be so unintended after all.

So I actually read HB 875 it says the following in it's 30 pages.

"Sec2.a.2 - Congress finds that lapses in the protection of the food supply... are damaging to consumers and the food industry, and place a burden on interstate commerce and international trade. " I really did not know my little CSA was that powerful!

"Sec2.a.4 - Congress finds that lapses in the protection of the food supply... the safety and security of the food supply require a systemwidde approach to preventing food born illness... and intensive, effective and efficient management of the Nation's food safety program. "Basically what the Bill aims to do (at least my understanding I am an farmer not a lawyer) is to create a new Agency "the Food Safety Amininistration" and give it control of regulating and policing our nations food supply.

The purpose of the act being, among others, to "regulate food safety and labeling to strengthen the protection of public health."

My reading of the bill seems to lead me to believe that it will make the "Home Produced" items allowed under Ohio law illegal. So say goodbye to breads, cookies, jams, jellies, and honey at your farmers market. In fact, you may have to say goodbye to the farmer's market itself. But I really want to focus this post on its impact on FARMS growing veggies so I will do that.

It seems to me that our farm will be regulated under the bill (sec 3.14) as a Food Production Facility "any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal feeding operation." In case you missed that let me restate. FARMS AND ORCHARDS are regulated the same as CAFOs! Nice.

Sec 206.a.1 gives the "Administrator" of the new FSA the right to visit and inspect food production facilities, set "good practice" standards, require records of food safety reports, conduct monitoring of plants, and collect information relevant to public health. Some say this would include a list of our customers and members.

They have the right to create regulations that (206.c.1) "consider all relevant hazards,including those occurring naturally." Read that as NO compost. And include regulations on (206.c.3) "growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packing, temperature controls, animal encroachments, and water." Of course what these regulations will be are not yet developed. but you can put money on it that our procedure of pulling them out of the ground, washing the most dirty ones with a garden hose, and sorting them on a picnic table will not meet the requirements which will be designed for a full blown sorting house. Joe Salatin has written a lot about how similar regulations have effected small scale livestock producers. Will we, for instance, be required to have a bathroom in the "sorting house" and a separate one for the FSA inspector.

Failure to abide by any of the regulations could result in a fine of up to $1,000,000! (405.a.1.A) for each "act" that is not in compliance...

It is hard to say how this bill if passed would effect us. But many are suggesting that it would put most of the countries small farms out of business. I dare say it would.

There are three other bills also in congress right now... H.R. 814, S.R. 425 and H.B. 759 all of which will impact our food choices. I hope to discuss each of them in turn in the coming days...

(Sorry, I guess my farm blog is turning a bit political...)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guns or Chickens?

  • "It is difficult to imagine any acceptable basis for the (USDA) to subject the owner of a chicken to more intrusive surveillance than the owner of a gun." -Mary Zanoni , Farm for Life

NAIS is on its way. Really is it the business of the national government to track how many chickens, goats, or pigs I keep. Do they need to know their birthdays and where they live (their PIN or Premises ID Number.) Is it really my responsibility to notify them (upon penalty of a large fine) if I give one chicken to a neighbor, I must tag it with a RFID chip and register the transfer with the government, the neighbor must register her own PIN and report her chicken activities to the government.

If an animal goes missing (ie, a hawk carries off a poor chicken or one escapes) you would be legally responsible for reporting it within 24 hours. Could the government tell me how I am supposed to get my 30 ladies to stand still for a daily headcount? Perhaps that is one of the reasons for RFID chips, that and GPS tracking...

OK people! I am not crazy. I do not think that the government is going to use global positioning satellites to track the movements of my chickens! But who knows what this technology and system could be used for in the future? There is much discussion that household pets are next.

The National Animal Identification System is coming down the pipe faster then anyone thought. I suppose a good time to push unpopular programs through is when people are "picking their battles" with larger issues... Slated for a hearing today in front of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry.

Learn more here...

I am amazed that sometimes if I get into a deep discussion on local food with people and start to talk about my fears for the future of small farms in America the response is almost always "The government would never do that!" The problem is they are... When they cams for the raw milk we did nothing, when they came for the unpasteurized cider we did nothing, when they came for the farm processed beef we did nothing, what will yo do when they come for your tomato?

If you think this is bad wait until I tell you about HR 875 - The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. Sounds nice and fuzzy huh? Safe & Modern? If half of what I am reading about this is true... I just printed out the 90 page bill, I will ATTEMPT to read it and post about that Monsanto driven monster tomorrow...

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Farmer john song

We found this video on You Tube the other night, and it is so funny and so true. It is amazing how many people who have never farmed even a quarter acre are willing to tell us all about how we can be more natural...

Farmer John is the founder of Angelic Organics...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Done with our first class!

A new day has sprung at Basket of Life Farm. Our class series has started and we did our first class today. I think it went pretty well, I ran over but I think people got good information and can walk away more confident in their own gardens!

I might set up a BYOC (Bring your own chair) Fundamentals of Gardening 45 minute class this spring for people who don't want to spend 3 hours and $25... Just give enough information to feel confident with starting a small garden... Maybe for $10 to cover handouts and coffee...

The Cylde's Garden Planner was a hit... That thing is amazing! All your garden questions in one slide rule.

Resolution Garden...

Getting ready for our first gardening class! I am so excited and nervous... i hope it goes well!

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring fling,,,

How do you know it is spring on the farm? You spend a TON of money!

Seeds, irrigation, starting supplies, growing supplies, other stuff. Now is the time to buy EVERYTHING from tomato stakes (at $1 a piece they add up fast) to seed potatoes (400 pounds on their way.) Thankfully we have our CSA members whose commitment to our farm means that we can have this annual spring spending spree with cash and not on credit...

Still it gives me pause, especially as we plan to grow more so all our expenses go up. Last year we only needed 100 new tomato stakes, this year we are using all of those and adding 200-300 more! Then the bees! Three new hives (bees, boxes, and frames) and we may still need to replace a couple of our old hives... $70 for 3 pounds of bees Plus all the "stuff" you need...

We are getting a couple new pieces of equipment to. And those add up fast. At least a tractor is not on the list this year! Maybe another hoophouse though for late summer...

So much!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Main seed order came!

It is really amazing how small a box seven hundred dollars of seeds will fit into!

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Can big farms stay sustainable?

Will Niman Ranch ever be the same? This article suggests maybe not...

Issues from financial ones, to use of anti-microbials to journey to slaughter times are leading the ranch's founder to step away from supporting his former ranch. And if he does, should we?

Sunday, March 1, 2009


We have updated our class list! Please let us know if you are interested in our spring series... All classes are one day, a couple are offered twice.)

2009 Spring Series
  • Resolution - Garden (March 5th & March 22nd)
  • Starting Your Own Seeds (March 29th & April 5th)
  • Backyard Organic Pest Control (May17th)
  • Backyard Organic Fertilizers (May 5th)