Farm News

Posted 3/10/2010 8:56pm by Trent Thompson.
Greetings All:

Well, spring is getting closer! The robins and the majestic sandhill cranes are back, the trees are beginning to bud out, and the grass is starting to peek through the melting snow. This time of year is so invigorating for me, as the warmer air and longer days mean I have more time to get things accomplished around the farm.

Over the past month, a new washing station was built in the red outbuilding to improve washing efficiency. New shelves were also put in the red outbuilding so CSA boxes can be prepared easier, quicker, and with less confusion. The new high tunnel is still sitting in boxes in the barn where it will remain for about the next three weeks until the ground thaws. The goal is to erect the structure by April 15 in time for planting the early tomato crop and basil.

Several crops have already been seeded and are growing in the starter greenhouse. These include the early tomatoes (photo below, sorry I can't e-mail the smell to you!), leeks, green and bulb onions, celery, celeriac, kale, collards, kohlrabi, basil, and eucalyptus.

Ivan Lake is scheduled to come and till the first week of April as long as the soil is dry enough. The first plants will be planted shortly thereafter as long as the weather cooperates. Oh, how exciting!

CSA membership for 2010 is near full. The farm can squeeze a couple more people in, but that is it. If you or anyone you know is interested, please contact the farm soon so we can mail you the membership forms. CSA details can be found here. Membership reciepts, confirmation of pick-up points, and hopefully the spring newsletter will begin being sent out to members by the third week of April.

Area food news and events:

*Maple Syrup Weekends at Circle Pines in Delton. From CPC: Join us for a weekend of sugaring! Bring the whole family and experience the art of making maple syrup. Help us identify and tap trees, as well as collect and boil sap. Evening events include live jazz music, storytelling and folk dancing. Stay the night. And, don't miss the pancake breakfast Sunday morning! March 12-14 and March 19-21. To register, call 269-623-5555 or e-mail info@circlepinescenter.net

*Classes on raising backyard chickens (March 27) and permaculture (April 18) will be held at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings. Also, an introduction to gardening class will be put on by MSU Extension on April 15 from 6:30-8:30 PM at the Kendall Center (50 W. Jackson Street in BC). RSVP by April 12 by calling 269-781-0784.

* Sprout Urban Farms in Battle Creek continues to organize this year's community gardens around Battle Creek. If you'd like to get involved or find a garden near you, see Sprout's Facebook page or contact Jeremy Andrews at sproutbc@gmail.com

* People's Food Co-Op in Kalamazoo is expanding!

*Rustica continues to thrive in Downtown Kalamazoo! I met with chef Adam Watts a few weeks back to go over the harvest schedule and the restaurant's menu for the 2010 season. We hope you can enjoy some of the farm's produce on their plates this year. It will be awfully tasty.

Ok, that is all for now. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have about the farm!

Best wishes, Trent

Here's a nice shot of those early tomatoes from earlier today:
Early Tomatoes, 3/10/10












Posted 2/25/2010 7:23am by Trent Thompson.

David La Spina for The New York Times

The Crop Mob gathers mulch and finishes the greenhouse — just two of the day’s tasks at Okfuskee Farm in Silk Hope, N.C. 

By CHRISTINE MUHLKE

Published: February 24, 2010

“Who brought their own wheelbarrow?” Rob Jones asked the group of 20-somethings gathered on a muddy North Carolina farm on a chilly January Sunday. Hands shot up and wheelbarrows were pulled from pickups sportingLed Zeppelin and biodiesel bumper stickers, then parked next to a mountain of soil. “We need to get that dirt into those beds over there in the greenhouse,” he said, nodding toward a plastic-roofed structure a few hundred feet away. “The rest of you can come with me to move trees and clear brush to make room for more pasture. Watch out for poison ivy.”

Bobby Tucker, the 28-year-old co-owner of Okfuskee Farm in rural Silk Hope, looked eagerly at the 50-plus volunteers bundled in all manner of flannel and hand-knits. In five hours, these pop-up farmers would do more on his fledgling farm than he and his three interns could accomplish in months. “It’s immeasurable,” he said of the gift of same-day infrastructure.

It’s the beauty of being Crop Mobbed. Continued here.

Posted 2/21/2010 11:15pm by Trent Thompson.

Growing locally: Demand for natural foods spurs expansion of Kalamazoo food co-op

By Kathy Jessup | Kalamazoo Gazette

February 21, 2010, 11:59AM

Co-op shopper


KALAMAZOO — Nearly 40 years ago, it was an informal, do-it-yourself system.
A handful of friends looking for more natural foods would leave change in a cup and scoop whole grains and flour from containers stored in local basements and living rooms.

That alternative to grocery stores has ridden a consumer wave for organic, locally grown, preservative-free foods to become the People’s Food Co-op, with annual sales of nearly $1million.

The customer-owned Co-op on Kalamazoo’s South Burdick Street has outgrown its 784-square-foot grocery and announced plans to build a new facility at 507 Harrison St., in the River’s Edge mixed-use development. Construction of the 6,000-square-foot facility, a $1.7-million project, rests on the Co-op’s ability to raise more than $450,000 in loans and equity from its owner-members and an agreement with the city that includes brownfield reclamation benefits.

Dilley -- Food Co-op
Chris Dilley, general manager of The Peoples' Food Co-op of Kalamazoo, pauses near the front of the store on Burdick Street.


Members already have pledged nearly $180,000, said Co-op general manager Chris Dilley. Once patronized by food purists willing to travel to get farm-fresh goods, Dilley said the Co-op has seen an increasing number of customers willing to pay more to buy organically grown produce, eggs and meats from chemical-free animals and fresh produce from farms within 100 miles.

The partnerships have paid off for area farmers such as a Vicksburg greenhouse that developed a market for its winter raspberries. Co-op shareholders are seeing 10- to 12-percent annual returns in dividends and food discounts on their capital investments in the grocery.  

“We’re a grocery store, but what makes us different is the ownership and how we capitalize,” Dilley said.  “The owner is not an individual or a family, but now 760 individuals and families in the community who channel their vision of what they want to see offered.”

To become a part owner, an individual pays a $250, one-time fee that can be made through monthly or annual payments.  That qualifies the person for store discounts and a share of annual profits.
Dilley said the Co-op’s membership spiked by 50 percent in 2009 from 2008, which he attributed to better customer service and staff stressing the value of its products.  Consumers also are increasingly factoring “health and environmental concerns” into their food choices, he said.

“We offer an option that gets back to those values again,” Dilley said. “We’ve done the homework and made the choices, and customers say quality and nutritional value are worth paying for.”

Continue reading here.

Posted 2/14/2010 8:39pm by Trent Thompson.

Urban farms ready to sprout in B.C. area

Lack of fresh, cheap foods spurs new push

Elizabeth Willis • The Enquirer • February 14, 2010

An urban farming initiative is taking root in the Battle Creek area.

Across the nation, consumers have been increasingly concerned about the lack of fresh and affordable foods grown locally.

In Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor, Denver, Seattle and elsewhere, volunteers have learned to cultivate nutritious foods from vacant urban land. They have found the fruits of the labor are more than just tomatoes and peas.

Community gardens can help reduce crime and blight. The food produced can be donated to hungry families or sold to benefit the neighborhood. Urban farms have the potential to stimulate positive change by bringing neighbors together, said Jeremy Andrews, a community outreach associate with the Battle Creek Community Foundation.

For these reasons, some Battle Creek area residents interested in gardening have formed a networking group, Sprout Urban Farms, to support the volunteer creation and maintenence of community gardens locally.

The seed of an idea could sprout this spring with the coordinated cultivation of several new and revived urban farms in Battle Creek. Andrews is working behind the scenes to connect people interested in leading the effort.

"There are a lot of people in the city who care about healthy food," he said. "There are backyard gardeners who want to garden for others."

Already, Sprout Urban Farms has more than 250 members on its Facebook fan page.

At an informational meeting Jan. 27, about 80 people attended and voted on areas where they'd like to see the new group focus.

Most people wanted to help develop a plot garden close to their homes or have a place where they could donate extra produce grown at home.

"They were saying, 'I don't want to have to compost good food,'' Andrews said.

The group is exploring ways to distribute produce in an efficient way, possibly through the Food Bank of South Central Michigan and its network of food pantries. Contined here.

Posted 2/9/2010 4:46pm by Trent Thompson.
Greetings All:

It's hard to believe on this snowy February day that the farm will be starting seeds in less than one week! We'll get going quite a bit earlier on tomatoes this year with the
new high tunnel (35' X 96' greenhouse) being built on the farm's East field. The new high tunnel will allow the farm to have a nice crop of tomatoes by mid-late June, a good 5-6 weeks earlier than field-grown tomatoes. So, tomato seeds will be started first, along with the leeks and onions. 

Over the past month, I've mostly been working on planning and ordering supplies and seeds to make sure the season runs as smoothly as possible. The seeding and planting schedules have been created for the entire year and a field map has been drawn so we follow proper crop rotation practices (which help reduce pest and disease problems in organic systems). 

The farm is fortunate to have an intern, Clay Smith, for this spring from St. Phillip high school. He is interested in sustainable agriculture and ran a small CSA last year. It made complete sense for the farm to partner with him to help further his education and prepare him for a career in agriculture. We intend to keep him employed over the summer as well. Thanks to CSA Member, Nancy Lassen, for helping arrange this partnership.

The farm is also now on Facebook! The page is very much in its infancy. Under the "Discussions" menu, I have created four topics that I hope are helpful for people, including help for gardening, vegetable ID'ing (for CSA members), finding someone to share a CSA box with, and a recipe swap. I was rather reluctant to create this page since I think most of us would be better off not spending too much time on Facebook, but I also realized that it could be used as a powerful, interactive tool to connect more people to the farm and with each other in our community. 

A quick message to CSA members: the farm's pre-season mailing is almost done. Some letters are still being sent out this week, so don't worry if you haven't received one yet.

New for this year: A flower share will be available for approximately 8 weeks of bouquets of flowers from the farm. The bouquets will include a wide assortment of flowers: sunflowers, zinnia, black-eyed susan, amaranth, celosia, gomphrena, cinnamon basil, eucalyptus, and grasses. 

One dozen eggs will be available every other week from Two Thumbs Ranch in Bellevue for pick-up at the farm only with your CSA box. 

For additional CSA details, please visit the farm's
2010 CSA page. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

On a side note, as Washington continues to squabble over health care, it is interesting how little discussion time has actually been given to food policy and how it has made eating unhealthy processed food economically rational to the consumer. If you would like a deeper understanding of how food policy and clever marketing have made the country less healthy, I would encourage watching
Michael Pollan on Democracy Now!

As always, I am grateful that so many of you are finding local, healthier sources of real food! I'm very much looking forward to getting my hands in the soil and growing your food this season!

Best, Trent Thompson

A beautiful shot of the barn (Thanks to Joe Barr) from Barn Bash '09...




 











 
Posted 2/2/2010 9:09pm by Trent Thompson.

From WebMD...

Choose Food Over Food-Like Substances, Food Writer Michael Pollan Tells CDC

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 23, 2009 -- We Americans suffer a national eating disorder: our unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.

That's the diagnosis delivered by food author Michael Pollan in a lecture given last week to an overflow crowd of CDC scientists.

As part of an effort to bring new ideas to the national debate on food issues, the CDC invited Pollan -- a harsh critic of U.S. food policies -- to address CDC researchers and to meet with leaders of the federal agency.

"The French paradox is that they have better heart health than we do despite being a cheese-eating, wine-swilling, fois-gras-gobbling people," Pollan said. "The American paradox is we are a people who worry unreasonably about dietary health yet have the worst diet in the world."

In various parts of the world, Pollan noted, necessity has forced human beings to adapt to all kinds of diets.

"The Masai subsist on cattle blood and meat and milk and little else. Native Americans subsist on beans and maize. And the Inuit in Greenland subsist on whale blubber and a little bit of lichen," he said. "The irony is, the one diet we have invented for ourselves -- the Western diet -- is the one that makes us sick."

Snowballing rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the U.S. can be traced to our unhealthy diet. So how do we change?

7 Words & 7 Rules for Eating

Pollan says everything he's learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Probably the first two words are most important. "Eat food" means to eat real food -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat -- and to avoid what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances."

Here's how:

  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4.  Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car. (CONT. here)

Farm Comments: While I would love to see a national health care plan adopted to prompt more pro-active, cost-saving solutions to our health care crisis, it's important to realize that our health care crisis is largely a result of our food/agriculture crisis. By subsidizing Big Ag and a handful of crops like corn and soybeans, we have cheapened the ingredients of the processed food industry and meat producers (most livestock now eat corn, not grass). This has consequently made it cheaper to buy a Pepsi than a pear, thus creating an incentive to make poor food choices. This has led to a society where obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are becoming commonplace (very expensive to treat!). A health care plan that would actually save the country money, improve health care drastically over the long-term, and could be implemented almost immediately would be to reduce or eliminate the crop subsidy payments. 

Posted 1/31/2010 8:24pm by Trent Thompson.

 

I never thought I'd see this day. My luddite tendencies and concern for our society's addictive internet habits have prevented me from doing this until now. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that Facebook could be used as a valuable tool to connect people to the farm and to each other in the community. I hope you may find it useful. Currently, I have created four discussion topics, including Recipe Swap, CSA Box Sharing, Vegetable ID'ing, and Gardening Q's. If you have any other ideas for how Facebook could be useful, please share them with the farm. Here's the link.

 

Posted 1/31/2010 8:26am by Trent Thompson.

Here's a quick video of Michael Pollan on Oprah discussing the impact of subsidies on our food system and getting back to the basics of eating real, healthy foods...

Posted 1/25/2010 8:29pm by Trent Thompson.

January 25, 2010, 4:14 pm

Seems like a good idea...From the NY Times...

<strong/>Children playing before lunch at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J. “Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” the school’s principal said.”/><span class=

Kirsten Luce for The New York Times SWITCHED Children playing before lunch at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J. “Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” the school’s principal said.

Can something as simple as the timing of recess make a difference in a child’s health and behavior?

Some experts think it can, and now some schools are rescheduling recess — sending students out to play before they sit down for lunch. The switch appears to have led to some surprising changes in both cafeteria and classroom.

Schools that have tried it report that when children play before lunch, there is less food waste and higher consumption of milk, fruit and vegetables. And some teachers say there are fewer behavior problems.

“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” said Janet Sinkewicz, principal of Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J., which made the change last fall. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

One recent weekday at Sharon, I watched as gaggles of second graders chased one another around the playground and climbed on monkey bars. When the whistle blew, the bustling playground emptied almost instantly, and the children lined up to drop off their coats and mittens and file quietly into the cafeteria for lunch.

“All the wiggles are out,” Ms. Sinkewicz said.

One of the earliest schools to adopt the idea was North Ranch Elementary in Scottsdale, Ariz. About nine years ago, the school nurse suggested the change, and the school conducted a pilot study, tracking food waste and visits to the nurse along with anecdotal reports on student behavior.

By the end of the year, nurse visits had dropped 40 percent, with fewer headaches and stomachaches. One child told school workers that he was happy he didn’t throw up anymore at recess.

Other children had been rushing through lunch to get to the playground sooner, leaving much uneaten. After the switch, food waste declined and children were less likely to become hungry or feel sick later in the day. And to the surprise of school officials, moving recess before lunch ended up adding about 15 minutes of classroom instruction.

In the Arizona heat, “kids needed a cool-down period before they could start academic work,” said the principal, Sarah Hartley.

“We saved 15 minutes every day,” Dr. Hartley continued, “because kids could play, then go into the cafeteria and eat and cool down, and come back to the classroom and start academic work immediately.”

Since that pilot program, 18 of the district’s 31 schools have adopted “recess before lunch.” Continue reading here.

Posted 1/20/2010 7:46pm by Trent Thompson.

by Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio

December 9, 2009
LISTEN

Madison, Minn. — America's vast stretches of farmland are a big resource in the fight against global warming because their soil traps carbon. But not all farmers believe changing their ways to help in that fight would be profitable.

The global warming bill the House passed last summer gives farmers incentives to manage their soil to trap carbon, one of the main factors in global warming.

"The less we can have a carbon footprint, I think the better we are."

Carmen Fernholz, an organic farmer in western Minnesota, does things a little differently from most other farmers. For instance, he plants radishes in the late summer after his main crop harvest, but the radishes will never be harvested for food. Instead, he leaves them in the ground all winter long.

"In the spring as the temperatures warm up, [the radishes] start decaying and disappearing," Fernholz said. "And in this decay process it's slowly releasing the nutrients that it scavenged the previous fall."

Those nutrients will help fertilize next year's crop. But the radishes also help fight global warming. Through photosynthesis, the radishes convert carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into organic plant matter.

When the radish dies and decomposes, the carbon in the plant also remains stored in the soil. Fernholz said the nutrient benefits are his main objective in planting the radishes, but he also likes knowing they help reduce greenhouse gases.

"The less we can have a carbon footprint, I think the better we are," said Fernholz. "So yes, there's no question that's where I'm looking at, in those directions."

If the U.S. House has its way, there could be a lot more farms like Fernholz's in the future. The House passed a bill last summer aimed at reducing global warming, and the Senate will take up the legislation soon.

The House bill would pay farmers to manage their land to store carbon -- the carbon is "sequestered," in agricultural parlance. Fernholz said the legislation signals a change in the world of farming.

"I think the fact that it did pass is definitely a positive," said Fernholz.

Some say legislation doesn't go far enough

Some farmers worry the bill will raise the cost of agriculture and possibly put them out of business. Others, like James Dontje, say the House bill doesn't go far enough. Continued here.