Friday, May 29, 2009

The Goodyear blimp and our barn...


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The hard work of putting up a fence...


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better photo of potatoes


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Are those weeds?

No really! Those are not weeds... Weeds tend not to grow in rows. This is our potato patch.

There is so much farm work to do this weekend... It should be a good weekend for it...

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rain came!

The rain gauge showed one and a quarter inches after yesterdays rain! Happy dance!

I heard Cleveland had gone 9 days without rain... But they had rain that totally missed us. We were already watering on Mothers day, so it had been a couple days then. Now I am not saying no sprinkles, although I don't remember any, but rather rain that registered in the rain gauge. That is over 3 week, which is ahuge time to go dry in May! Hopefully it is not a sign of a dry summer, as we are still struggling to work out our irrigation system...

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009


Ducks hanging out by the chickens this morning...

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I thought our frost last week would be our last. Yesterday, as we were planting hundreds of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbages into the field a guy came over and said "What about the frost warning?"

Honestly, I had not relized there was one, but everything we were planting is frost tolerant, as are all the rows of crops which have sent there first tenative leaves up over the past week, beets, turnips, and the like.

Now we need rain, that seems so strange to say in May when we are usally hoping for enough of a dry spell to plant! Right now the forecast is for rain, maybe , in a week! So while our necessary project this week is finishing the fence for the new feild in time for a Meemorial weekend planting spree, we will need to also spend time watering as our irrigation is not yet installed...

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Anouther photo from bee install day. My sister took a video so I will try to get that uploaded to you tube and you can see all the excitement.

In the mean time today is a busy day, first to the fence supply place in PA about 130 miles away to pick up an order of "extra" pieces. (Who knew extra fence pieces were so expensive $700+!)

When we get home we have some plants to put in and more seeds in the ground.

Next weekend is the "Memorial Day Marathon" and tons of plants to get in, so the goal becomes to finish the fence by next Friday!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Again with the Milk...

Good easy access to healthy milk... Milk, as American as Apple Pie! We buy Organic and think we are doing the right thing for our families and for the animals.

Is all organic the same? Is big organic the same as your sustainable family farm? The national organic standards were supposed to level the playing field set rules everyone has to meet. Everyone, that is, except those with the size to lobby for changes or exceptions to those rules...


Contact: Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042

Organic Dairy Farmers Fight for Justice—and Their LivelihoodsGiant Factory Farms Exploiting Federal Regulatory Loopholes

CINCINNATI, OHIO: Organic farmers from around the country, and cooperatives and advocacy groups that represent them, converged on southern Ohio over the past two weeks to plead with federal regulators to close loopholes being exploited by a handful of giant factory farms. They argued that these mega-dairies were creating turmoil in the marketing of organic milk and forcing some family farmers out of business.

The multiweek USDA administrative law hearing, populated by many more lawyers than farmers, representing the interests of powerful dairy marketers on both sides of the argument, is taking testimony in order to decide the future of the "producer-handler exemption."

When the nation's farm regulators, over 70 years ago, devised a system to fairly share the extra profits from bottled fluid milk, which is more profitable than cheese and other dairy manufacturing, they allowed for an opt-out for farmers who produced their own milk and bottled it on the farm. These direct-marketers were generally small family-owned operations delivering milk to their local communities.

Flash forward to this century, and a number of giant producer-handlers, alleged to be "gaming the system," are milking thousands of cows on industrial-scale dairies—certainly a far cry from the system that was established to benefit family farmers selling to local markets

The concerns of the organic community’s approximate 1800 family farmers have focused on Aurora Dairy Corporation, a $100 million vertically integrated producer that operates five dairies in Texas and Colorado, milking between 10,000 and 20,000 cows.

"Corporations such as Aurora Organic Dairy, which are currently claiming the exemption for producer-handlers, have caused catastrophic marketplace disruption in the organic dairy industry, in part as a result of this outdated regulation," said Mark A. Kastel, senior Farm Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. The exemption saves Aurora millions of dollars that would otherwise be equitably shared with dairy farmers around the country.

Cornucopia and others in the organic industry have claimed that Aurora, which is the country's leading manufacturer of private-label organic milk, supplying such giant retailers as Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Safeway, have used the exemption to undercut legitimate industry participants putting many farms at risk.

Lawyers for Aurora and other dairy interests spent over an hour arguing with the administrative law judge in the hearing in an attempt to exclude Cornucopia's testimony. They especially objected to Kastel bringing up the fact that Aurora is widely viewed as a "bad actor" in the organic industry and thus their credibility in this matter should be questioned.

The USDA, pursuant to a formal legal complaint filed against Aurora, found that the giant dairy concern had violated 14 tenets of the organic regulations including illegally operating a feedlot, rather than grazing their cattle as required, and bringing in conventional cattle that did not qualify to produce organic milk. After recommendations by USDA staff to decertify the enterprise, Bush administration officials let the corporation off, requiring only some changes to their operations and a one-year probation. Aurora is now the subject of 19 class-action, consumer fraud lawsuits being adjudicated in federal district court in St. Louis (the USDA found that Aurora had marketed milk labeled as organic but did not qualify for the designation).

Rick Segalla, a certified organic dairy farmer milking 115 cows in Canann, Connecticut, and representing the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, testified in support of a production cap of 450,000 lbs of milk per month to qualify as a producer-handler. "This honors the original intent and purpose of the exemption, makes allowance for existing small businesses, who have made capital investments, and takes into account the size of organic dairy herds in the twenty-first century," Segalla said. He also testified at the hearing on behalf of the Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers.

Another farmer who made a trip to Cincinnati was Kathie Arnold, of Truxton, New York. Along with her husband and brother-in-law she described their investments to convert their 30-year-old business, managing 250 head of cattle, to organic production.

"One of the basic principles of the Federal Milk Marketing Order system is to provide equity between producers. That principle is being compromised with the current producer handler exemption … when some of today’s producer handlers are milking many thousands of cows. The economic advantage they have by not paying pooling costs creates an inequitable playing fields."

Unlike small, local or regional producer-handlers, Aurora ships milk from a single processing plant, in central Colorado, nationwide. It is accused of undercutting prices for family farmers in every federal marketing order in the country."They ship their milk from their one plant to Portland, Oregon, Portland, Wisconsin, and Portland, Maine—all regions of the country where family farmers milk cows locally, established a relationship with organic consumers, and have been building the business that Aurora is now exploiting," Kastel testified.Organic dairy producer Tony Schilter traveled all the way from Washington state to testify and answer questions during cross examination from the lawyers present. Speaking extemporaneously, Mr. Schilter justified closing the loophole currently being exploited by the giant dairies, by illustrating how two geographic regions in the country had already limited the size of producer-handlers operating and that it was time for this to happen on a national basis.

"The exploitation of dairy farmers around the country, by large corporations taking advantage of loopholes in the current regulations, needs to end," explained Cornucopia's Kastel. "Just like tax shelters where American corporations have moved headquarters or subsidiaries to Bermuda, or played games like transferring the ownership of their intellectual property to dummy corporations, we need our regulators to recognize when our laws need to change to protect the American public."

State officials in Wisconsin, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire also testified at the hearing in support of entrepreneurial dairy farmers who continue to legitimately utilize the producer-handler exemption, but the states joined organic producers in asking for the scale of these exempt direct marketers to be limited.

The hearing continues and is expected to stretch over a total of two to three weeks. Stakeholders will next file briefs, and USDA milk marketing administrators will then make a recommendation on potential reforms to the Secretary of Agriculture for implementation.

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit farm policy research group, is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of profit.

J. Huston, MA, CEC, CDM, CFPPFarm to Table and Food Services ConsultantFood Justice & Equity415.235.9312Oakland, CA

Bees going in...

I hate that my allergic self has to stay in the car when the bees go in! I used to love doing the bees so much, now the risk is just to high... So I sit in the car... Five hives this year...

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Tonight we attended an event at the Fairlawn Mustard Seed. Euntrepenurs for Sustainability (E4S) had a local food in greater Akron event. Good turnout and some good connections...

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The fencing project has begun! We have about 2 weeks to fence our new fields before our memorial day weekend planting spree! We plan on all the posts being set by early next week and then we have a few days to string the wires. The fence will be an 11 wire anti deer fence, and that is a lot of wire! We bought wire last year - when steel was at a high! Now a 4000 foot roll is $35 less, and we bought 8! But who knew , we figured everything would go up!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Bees and more...

The new bees came in and we hived them Sunday. We would like 2 more boxes as our winter loss was high this year, but there is a bee shortage and we may not be able to get them... We have lots of native pollenators (bumble bees, mason bees, other good bugs) one of the benifits of living in a park!

Of course, when the bee were going in I sat in the car and snapped photos. My aunt was visiting for the weekend from Conneticut so we suited her up and she "helped" set them up. I think she had a good time doing something new.

This weekend was busy with my mom's memorial service so we did not get a ton done, but as of this morning and with the help of a "work share" member and couple of her amazing children, the last of the onions (10,000 +) are planted. Today hubby also got the field mowed which is a big project. Tomorrow he will start fencing the new field so we can plant the rest of our seedlings.

Busy days on the farm!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our ladies are hanging out, enjoyng the nice weather. I wish I had some way to harness their distructive tendencies. They will strip the new patch of grass in a couple days...

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Farming by tractor light...

This Sunday was very productive on the farm. In the end we planted 500 feet of red onions (from starts everything else is from seeds ) and 200 feet of spinach, 300 feet of radishes, 300 feet of bunching onions, 100 feet of swiss chard, 500 feet of beets, 500 feet of carrots, and more! We have hundreds of lettuce, broccili, cauliflower hardening off to be transplanted later this week...

I doubt yesterday will be the last day this week that we are finishing by tractor light. Welcome to the world of farming, there is a reason tractors have headlamps!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

And we had planned...

Today's non-planned farming activities have included welding the deck on the lawn mower and going out to buy a new PTO shaft after the old one broke. That entailed cutting the old one off , running to TSC for a replacement, and then cutting the new one to length before the tractor could be used again... There is a lot to be said for TOOLS on a farm! And tools most people don't think about, like chop saws.

In the mean time we got 1200 onions planted, the lawn mowed (a two+ hour task - our lawn is big!), and the balance of the onions (3000+) sorted.

Now hubby will retill and hill and we will try to get seeds in before dark and tomorrows forecast rain...

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Onions, Onions, Onions.

So far we have (of our onions) 2 cases of in the ground. And poor farmer hubby has done all 4,000ish of them himself. I have been working and went to a farm class this weekend. So it has been all him.

It is strange, because he is now on the farm full time. I almost said he "Quit his job" but that implies that he is sitting on the couch and playing the computer, but in the past month he has been a busy boy as he has transitioned to "Full time farmer."

In the same month I have been little help, which makes me a bit sad. But we still need my "real job" income (and 100% of it) to make this work. As the farm pays for itself and finances its own growth my salary pays for all the little things like bills, rent, food, and life. But still it seems like I am missing something on the farm.

Hopefully by early summer I won't feel that way as much.

This weekend the class I took was on farm recordkeeping (among other stuff.) It left me realizing how much better our records need to be. Before my focus was on what the IRS needed, but I need so much more. How many hours did we spend doing X this year. We decided to grow Tinga-Ma-Veggies for market, how much did we make on those, what is the cost to produce 1 Tinga-Ma-Veg, what is the overhead, DON"T FORGET YOUR LABOR... It made me feel that I need to spend more hours in this chair, in front of my computer.

Well, the season never feels real until first market and first CSA pickup anyway. The latter is 6 weeks away and the former we have not set our first week yet. But things are growing and we are getting excited... So much to do, so excuse me, I have 3 cases of onions to help with...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wind Power...

I am on my way to a farm class in PA and saw this monster... Huge!

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