Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just so Freakin' Excited!

There are some exciting things in the works this weekend! One of them looks kind of like this:

And this is how we feel about it:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Farming?

Andrew recently wrote a post called Why Farming? that really explained his ideals and how they relate to our farming venture. I thought I would follow up with a bit about why I want to farm.


It’s important to me to take care of the earth. Good farming techniques can be used to heal the land and be an asset to the surrounding environment.  I am really concerned with the effects of industrial farming on the health of the land and of the people. I’m also really concerned about waste and landfills. I’m not going to wax long about evil corporations and their chemicals here since there is so much good info elsewhere. But the danger of dousing our land in toxins then eating the “food” that grows in it is sobering. And the packaging that so much of our food, even vegetal, come in and how much of it ends up in landfills is alarming to me. I want to be part of a solution. 


I hope our venture into farming encourages people. I hope someone comes across our blog and is heartened to see people trying and succeeding in small scale farming. I hope as we overcome barriers we give hope to others who share the vision. 


For a community to be sustainable, we need everyone’s gifts and contributions. Part of our role is growing, cooking, and sharing food. Another essential part of a sustainable community is a localized food system. We can’t grow hundreds of acres of vegetables, but we can grow enough to feed some of our neighbors and friends. And alongside enough other small scale farmers, we could support the needs of our immediate community. Part of the cost of the industrialized food system is that the vegetables you eat come from far, far away. The truck ride to where you are did not improve them, that’s for sure. And the environmental impact of trucking them across multiple states is well documented. We can make a meaningful contribution to our community by growing fresher, more nutritious, more flavorful food right by the people who will eat it. 


In nature, everything is interdependent. I’m fascinated with Joel Salatin’s method of rotating his animals through pasture for maximum pest depletion, soil fertility, and animal nutrition. He is all about making his farm imitate the patterns in nature. I want to be part of mutually beneficial processes in the garden and within my community.

Small Business

I love small business. I have about about 4 million low-capital, high-sweat equity business ideas a day. I have more ideas than I have time for. I like the opportunity for ingenuity. I love the way farming balances physical and mental rigor.

I like learning 

There is so much to learn about soil structure, erosion and natural pest control, composting, crop rotation, companion planting, business and marketing, local and state regs, animal husbandry, vermicomposting, economics, fertilizing, water conservation, building and fixing things, permaculture, how to work with people, contributing to a healthy bee population, soil preparation, proper harvesting and storing of vegetables... the list goes on and on.


Andrew and I like being together all the time. If there is a job we can do that allows us to work side by side, I’m in.

Long-term Planning

There are two sides to this one: my personal goals and the future of our communities. Farming relates to my long term goals. Some of you know I am training to become a doula. I hope our farming venture will become Andrew’s full-time job and my part-time job. If Andrew is employed in a home-based business that we can do together, it will also allow me to run out the door to serve a momma in labor- another way I can serve my community. Secondly, I really believe our communities need more farmers. The average age of farmers is now 55 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, via the EPA.  I have a vision to reduce our dependency on trucked-in supermarket goods and interdependency with other local producers. I don’t see trucking food all over the world to be sustainable, long-term, given the environmental impact. I don't see industrial farming to be sustainable, long-term, given the documented impact on human health.  I want to grow my own food and be part of a solution to provide wholesome food for others who contribute to the community in a different way. 

Family Friendliness

We have a vision for farming in which everyone in the family can contribute their gifts and talents, from the child following dad around the garden to the grandparent braiding garlic and distilling wisdom.  It also means that the way we farm is safe and attractive. There won’t be any chemicals or health hazards. On a family friendly farm, we hope our kids will grow up remembering good smells, an interesting and intellectually stimulating environment, and a lifestyle that is satisfying and meaningful. We hope as 20-something year olds, that we, alongside many other producers, can impact the next era of farmers to aspire to family friendliness.

A Satisfying Lifestyle

All of the above equals happiness to me. I enjoy doing these things. I love vegetables, hard work, doing things myself, working with my guy, and the satisfaction I get from working with my own hands. I grew up keeping a large garden, chopping wood, butchering chickens and deer, and generally working my tail off and I liked it. These activities speak to me. They give me a sense of pride and accomplishment and simultaneously give us food to eat and share. Not only do I enjoy this stuff, it also correlates with my deeply held beliefs that we can make a real and lasting impact and be an asset to our communities by nurturing our corner of the world and the people in it through farming.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why Farming?

Recently I have been asking myself a question over and over. I must answer this question wisely and of sound mind. I must be able to stand firm on my footing. I must not waver from my stance. If I’m not an expert I am a fraud! I play high school debate in my head all day long.

Why Farming?

I ask this question to myself when I sit at my desk every morning as I LITERALLY push paper around and every time I have to say yes to something my workload can’t handle. Oh, I have to print another 3000 letters in opposition to California Prop 37? I’m just sitting here. In those moments I holler in my head “If ONLY I was on the farm! If only I was weeding or moving the mobile chicken coop. Shoveling horse manure is more engaging than this!” And as I continue to defend myself to myself I find the reasons flooding in faster and stronger.

Why Farming?

I felt radicalized long before Food Inc. was released. I knew about the Food Industrial Complex. Big Ag, Big Oil, Big Everything. I had been a progressive grassroots/shop floor union organizer for Starbucks in the mid-aughties. This opened my eyes to how our world’s goods are controlled- how the corporation is surpassing the state in power. Scary stuff. Learning the who/what/when/where/why and how about the cups of coffee I was serving made me furious. I was also learning how to cook around the same time. I had known what “Organic” meant but after some other reading/learning on the subject I became furious all over again. I would often share these angers in late night tirades with my mother. This education would take years. I was busy being a working class hooligan, roadie, and amateur rockstar, ya know? My mother always knows how to nudge and guide without being overt. Later she would turn me on to Joel Salatin, Nourishing TraditionsMichael Pollan, Henry Brockman,  J. I. Rodale, and Carla Emery.

Why Farming?

In 2009 I had low laying, sub-sub conscious inklings that someday I might live in the woods and subsist on ice cold stream water and a foraged vegan diet. Then in 2010 I married the most beautiful woman. Stasha is beyond anything I could have imagined or dreamed. For the first year we were married we worked under the same roof. We would wake, sip coffee, eat breakfast, go to work, eat lunch together, work a little more, go home, eat supper, read, watch movies, play games, then fall asleep in each other’s arms. It was a most amazing honeymoon. We shared our little dreams, then slowly the big ones. You want to live in a tiny cabin? Only heated by wood we cut? Growing our food? Selling goods we make with our hands? Raise a family without the constraints of corporate 9-5 jobs? Compost? Vermiculture? ME TOO! I was introduced to Stasha’s friends working their farm. Goats and ramps! Composting toilets and heirloom tomatoes! Making pennies was always our modus operandi. We don’t have $50,000 for a down payment on acreage. How to do this? We wanted to farm so badly, but we just couldn’t see how. Slowly the dreams began to fade into the background. Living in the big city, taking a corporate job, and bills. 

Why Farming?

My folks live in Elk River, MN. They have 2.93 acres, part wooded and mostly open yard. Mid 2012 we were over for dinner. Mom and Dad had a few things to say. Tear up the yard, plant some vegetables, and sell em to friends. We were flabbergasted. Dad said the less yard he has to mow the better. We immediately began transporting truckloads of horse manure. We arranged disking the yard. We sowed winter rye and prayers. Weekends now became one long workout- what you have seen posted on the blog. We love it.

Why Farming?

Supermarkets are serving you meat that was abused, is full of antibiotics, contains fecal soup, and is very low in nutrition.

Unsustainable big agriculture is destroying the most geologically diverse nation in the world (America).

Monocrops are sucking every bit of nutrition out of our soil. When the nutrition is gone the soil is sprayed with synthetic chemicals that seep into our water supplies.

Cows are herbivores. Grain is not a part of their natural diet.

The majority of Americans eat out of a box and don’t know where carrots come from.

Factory farmed eggs are crap. Washed of their natural antibiotics. Just try to poach one.

There is slave labor in tomatoes fields.

We desire responsible and sacred stewardship of the Earth.

Because this is our dream, we will fulfill our destiny to be multigenerational, diverse, sustainable, organic farmers.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Feeling all Inspired up in Here

This weekend we watched the documentary Fresh, which features one of my all-time favorite guys, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, amongst other local food heroes.

The documentary is all about thinking about what we eat and where it comes from. It's very much a case for small-scale food systems. One thing from the documentary that really inspired me was a visit with a farmer named Will Allen

Will Allen

This man operates an incredible urban farming project called Growing Power on two acres inside the Milwaukee, WI city limits. Growing Power sustainably grows organic vegetables in greenhouses, uses aquaponics, raises bees, chickens, and other animals, trains young farmers, and composts an amazing amount of food waste. 

One of the aspects of Will Allen's project that most interests me is the composting program. At Growing Power, they use worms to help break down 180,000 pounds of food waste per week. The resulting worm castings fertilize the gardens and are also sold to the public. And all that food waste doesn't end up in a landfill. The EPA states on their website that 33 million tons of food waste went to landfills in 2010. At Growing Power, they collect waste from grocers, breweries, and coffee shops and turn it into life.

Will with a handful of busy worms

Vermiculture bins in one of the Growing Power greenhouses

Worm castings,  harvested and ready to be used

See those compost piles in the back? Growing Power turns waste into a perfect fertilizer for the farm.

I am so inspired by this! We plan to start using worms at home to compost our kitchen scraps more efficiently, but now I'm thinking about the future with Zane Street Farms. How many Twin Cities co-ops, farm-to-table restaurants, small grocers, breweries, coffee shops and households might be willing to work with local farmers to turn food refuse into life again? 

Have any of you tried composting with worms? Have any tips to share?

Photo credits:

Photo 1 - Darren Hauck for The New York Times article An Urban Farmer is Rewarded for His Dreams

Photo 2 - From Growing Power

Photo 3 - From Michael Bryson

Photo 4 - From Organic Nation 

Photo 5 - From The Compost Pile