Farming

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Heritage Hogs

Raising heritage hogs is EASY!  They are a bit harder to find (though getting easier all the time), but well worth the effort in ease of raising and quality of meat.  At a Homestead Hog Harvest class you’ll get to walk the fields, see the sows and piglets and how we farrow outside, see the forages and pasturing options, and experience how pigs fit into a whole farm system.   The class focusses on butchering and processing a Mangalitsa hog, but along the way you get to experience the whole farm and the farm family.  Reserve your spot today! Contact us for details.

Mark talks in this video about the forages we plant for the pigs:

Hog Harvest

Fall brings harvest time, and it is time to harvest your larger pasture raised animals!  It’s hog harvest time!  You can butcher and process your pig at home, and we can show you how.  This hands-on agri-class gives you an opportunity to learn how to “seam butcher” your pig, a technique that requires very basic equipment and a good table.  You’ll also get to make sausage, homemade ham and bacon, and learn about special charcuterie products you can make at home.  Coppa and proscuitto are within your reach!

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Participants scraping the hair off a hog.

Participants scraping the hair off a hog.

Contact us today to reserve your spot in this three day class that starts Friday, November 11 and finishes Sunday November 13.  For more information, click HERE.

Success! A well cut loin and belly from a Mangalitsa pig.

Success! A well cut loin and belly from a Mangalitsa pig.

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Classes

Where to start

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So, you have a few acres. You want to raise something animal like to feed your young family.  Where do you start, you may be asking?

The egg gatherers

The egg gatherers

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Chickens.  Chickens are the gateway animal to all sorts of good eating, good stories, and interesting childhood experiences.  Jim (7) and Frank(4) take care of the egg laying hens.  These hens will stay around for 2-3 years and require food, water, and shelter but aren’t high maintenance.  All our children have started with the hens.  A bonus for the boys is that they find all the odd eggs first.  The double yolkers are theirs!  The egg the hen forgot to put a shell on (it happens).  Theirs!  Jim has even learned how to fry eggs so when he gets hungry, or just excited about a find, he can take care of business.

Our "mother hen."

Our “mother hen.”

Rachel is our “mother hen” in the brooder.  She takes care of all the incoming birds for the first month of their lives.  Primarily she cares for the broiler, or meat, chicks, but later in the summer we add in turkeys and the replacement layers.  Feeding and watering chicks is a job young kids can do with a bit of supervision.  The perk of raising the meat chickens is that they are only around for 7-9 weeks.  They lack the personality of the laying hens but are in and out fairly quickly.  You can bring them to us to butcher, or do it yourself.  Part of the Pastured Poultry class coming up in May is how to process your birds yourself.  Anyone can do it!

Pastured Poultry classes give you all you need to embark on chicken raising, from cute chick to in the freezer.  Classes run May 21-22, June 25-26, and July 23 (processing only).  Contact us via e-mail or phone if you are interested in attending!

In Maine

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This winter and spring we have worked to support farming operations in Maine, to include a Homestead Hog Harvest processing class this coming fall.  Here is a great article from the Bangor Daily News featuring one of the farmers we are working with:

(link follows below picture)

Rare wooly pig goes from near-extinction to a Maine farm near you

Four-year-old Frank Baker looks on as his father Mark Baker slices a piece of prosciutto for him while making a delivery stop at Ireland Hill Farm in Swanville. The Baker family raises mangalitsa pigs, that are prized for the quality of their meat at Bakers Green Acres farm in Marion, Michigan. Mark said he prepared the prosciutto in a traditional way.

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2016/04/23/homestead/rare-wooly-pig-goes-from-near-extinction-to-a-maine-farm-near-you/?ref=HomesteadBox

 

 

 

Pig Season

The Hog Harvest classes are coming up!  Here’s a cool video a friend of ours did about our pigs:

 

You CAN do it!

We made a video of how we process chickens today, just for fun.  July 25th is the date you can come and learn how to do this at home.  It really isn’t hard!  Raising chickens is an easy place to start in raising your own meats–and you CAN do it all yourself.  Check it out:

Minerals

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“Let food be your medicine”

Our 16 year old just discovered a fascinating truth: what you eat affects your body. Yep. Achy joints? Fuzzy head? Difficulty getting up in the morning? Lots of acne? The underlying cause and fix are often in your food and how your body interacts with it. Our chiropractor recommends eating up to 300 different foods daily to get the minerals and vitamins and other nutrients you need to maximally function. You can come a lot closer if you figure in all the spices and ingredients in things; however, the 20 ingredients in Fruit Loops don’t go far because they are “nutrient fluffy.” The goal is to eat “nutrient dense” foods, meaning that the carrots and lettuce and chicken on our dinner plates are as full of the tasty building blocks of life as we can get them.

How does one get nutrient dense food? One needs nutrient dense soil. This happens when you build your soil with complex fertilizers like compost and organic matter. However, there are things to know about assessing and targeting your soil’s needs. In this video, Dan Kitteredge will talk about why nutrient density is important and the first step in building your soil.

By the way, it’s February now and he recommends testing in the fall. Not to worry. That’s an optimal time, but there’s no time like the present (well, maybe the present in a couple of months) to start. Do your soil test when you can. Dan will look at sample tests in the workshop coming up and teach you how to look at your test and feed your specific soil. Sign up today: Bionutrient Food Association workshop & registration!

Introductions

Here’s an introduction to Dan Kitteredge and some of the work he’s doing on his own farm (yes, he actually farms):

Check out the course in February on the Calendar page.

High Bionutrient Crop Production

“How can I become a farmer?” someone recently asked us.  Well, if you have dirt and can put a lettuce or tomato or carrot seed in it, you can become a farmer.  It’s that easy.

However, growing food is also a science and art that can be learned and honed.  That’s what this course is about: learning the science and art of growing food that truly nourishes body, soul, and soil.  Here’s what the Bionutrient Food Association says about the course:

BFA 101414 Two Page Flyer 1 of 2

 

BFA 101414 Two Page Flyer 2 of 2

 

They do have scholarships, so don’t let the money deter you.  We have hostel type housing on-site, so don’t let that  deter you.  This is a great course for beginners and seasoned growers alike as Dan Kitteredge is a wealth of information and a down to earth communicator.  If you can’t attend our class, look for one near you.  It’s an opportunity that’s not to be missed!

A new year

December 31.  Today’s job is to work on the calendar for this coming year’s Anyone Can Farm classes.  It’ll be a work in progress, but we’re excited about some changes and looking forward to hosting a course in February.

The biggest change this year will be a shift to more one and two day classes.  Look for a chicken butchering day class.  Look for a day to learn how to make bacon and ham.  Look for a cheese day.  Suggest a topic and we’ll see what we can do!

Here are a few scenes from this past year:

Father and son tag teaming a Mangalitsa hog carcass in the Hog Harvest class.

Father and son tag teaming a Mangalitsa hog carcass in the Hog Harvest class.

Success!

Success!

Sam shows a student the intricacies of processing a chicken.

Sam shows a student the intricacies of processing a chicken.

 

Sheriff Richard Mack talking about why the Constitution matters to your Right to Farm.

Sheriff Richard Mack talking about why the Constitution matters to your Right to Farm.

 

 

All about dirt

Little Artshram and Baker’s Green Acres/Anyone Can Farm will host a free introductory lecture and potluck on Sunday, December 7th, from 5:30-8:30 pm with Dan Kitteridge of the Bio-nutrient Food Association. We are pleased to bring this free lecture about bionutrient food production, with an opportunity to consider and prepare for a two-day training course later in February.

The introductory lecture and potluck will take place at the Anyone Can Farm bunkhouse in Marion, Michigan and will allow those gathered to meet Dan Kitteridge, the founder of the Bionutrient Food Association, to ask questions, and gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of growing more nutrient rich foods and the ways in which we can return to growing nutrient dense food in our gardens and farms. Please RSVP the FREE Introductory lecture and potluck by contacting us.

Following the introductory lecture in December, the 2-day workshop is scheduled for Feb. 21st and 22nd, also being held at Baker’s Green Acres.

In the February workshop, you will learn how to detect and understand the unique advantages and limitations of your soil and your crops, as well as the interactions between your plants, soil, and air. You will learn how to grow better food, and help heal the environment and nourish humanity. And the best part? Bionutrient rich food just tastes better!  This evening introduction will prepare you for the class later this winter.

As Penny’s O’k CSA Cooperative garden-farm sites were “put to bed”, we also took time to take a soil sample from each in order to fully participate in the upcoming Bio-Nutrient Food Association’s crop production workshop, which will take place after this lecture as an intensive 2-day workshop Feb. 21st and 22nd, and will focus on principals of biological farming, identifying deficiencies, vital health in the field and care-taking crops thru the season. Registrants will be expected to procure their own soil tests as desired, and instruction for interpreting those will be covered during the workshop. You can follow this link about soil testing at the Bionutrient website.

Please bring a dish to share, and plan on a fun, informative evening with friends and neighbors who care about growing good food and eating good food!

For directions to the December potluck/lecture and February workshops contact us:
231-825-0293
AnyoneCanFarm.com

To REGISTER for the 2-day workshop, Feb. 21-22:

Sign-up online here: www.bionutrient.org/workshops

For additional information:

231-922-2014
penny@littleartshram.org

LittleArtshram.org

Hog Harvest 2014

A fine Mangalitsa ready for processing.Everyone jumping in to scrape the hog clean.“A good time was had by all” as the old newspaper saying goes.  Here are a few photos of the weekend:

Right: A Mangalitsa ready for processing.

Left: Everyone gets dirty!  Scraping and cleaning the pig is a team effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_9656 IMG_9660 Cutting the cooled carcasses into primal pieces, or useable cuts.

Cutting the chilled carcasses into primal parts, or useable pieces.

Success!

Success!

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IMG_9730IMG_9797Cutting meat is as much art as skill.  This young man from Tennessee not only learned how to cut and process a pig, he shared his musical talents with us at night.

Part of the fun of any Anyone Can Farm class is the sharing of our collective skills and interests.  The WhistlePig Whisky distillery in Vermont sent a couple of their folks to visit us.  Besides some great maple syrup (what else, from Vermont?), we learned some about fine whisky.

 

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The beauty of lard: leaf lard chipped and ready to render.

The beauty of lard: leaf lard chipped and ready to render.

Besides turning pigs into pork, ie: delicious bacon, creamy lard, and superb proscuitto, we ate a lot of flavorful pork.  The attendees were introduced to the pig, nose to tail and most all parts in between.  We enjoyed stimulating conversations and fun music.  Everyone left with heads full of information and possibilities.  “And a good time was had by all.”

 

Feeding pigs

The part of overgrown squirrel was played by Mark and family last night.  Acorns are great feed for pigs and traditionally are a finishing feed.  Mark explains how and why we use acorns:

You can come experience the acorn pigs, maybe even feed some, at the Homestead Hog Harvest class coming up soon.  Sign up today to be sure you get a spot!

Teasers

Here’s a teaser for the Hog Harvest class coming up.  At the class, though, you get to “do the thing.”

Remember, Anyone Can Farm.

Homestead Hog Harvest

 

Coming soon!  You can sign up on our calendar page, or e-mail bakersgreenacres@yahoo.com.

Hog Harvest

It’s cooling off and that means hog killin’ on the farm.  Traditionally, chickens were a summer meat and the hogs and cows were butchered when the nights got cold enough to cool the meat and kill the flies.  At the same time, the pastures the cows and pigs were on were depleted and their bodies had naturally stored up fat for the winter, so the time was right.  If you’re into self-sufficiency, the next step after raising the animal is knowing how to put it in the freezer or meat locker.  Homestead Hog Harvest will do exactly that.  You get the benefit of the whole farm experience while you learn, hands-on, how the take a hog from the pen or pasture to the smoker and freezer.  We’ll feed you a great deal of pork and teach you how to cook the whole pig, from snout to tail including the organs.  You can stay with us free of charge in the bunkhouse, where there is heat and a hot shower available.  Check it out on the Calendar page, and see how previous classes fared: Hog Harvest 1, Anyone Can Farm facebook page.

Hope we see you here!

Wooly pig news

The weather is changing and the trees are beginning to look like fall.  That makes us start to think about Hog Harvest.  Then this article from the UK came across the computer screen.  The Mangalitsa is a neat pig, as are so many heritage breeds.  We’re looking forward to some fresh wooly pig pork and to sharing the experience with you!

Why Mangalitza meat is the next pig thing

Mangalitsa belly, ready for curing into bacon.

Mangalitsa pigs turning forage into pork.

Mangalitsa pigs turning forage into pork.

Watering chickens

Mark talks about watering your chickens, whether on pasture or in the brooder, and other pastured poultry issues.

Long-term learning

If a weekend class doesn’t work for you, but you want to learn all you can, there is an opportunity for you to spend the summer at Baker’s Green Acres.  Mark explains:

 

For more information visit www.BakersGreenAcres.com or contact us!

A vision

Sam shows Matt the intricacies of processing a chicken.

Sam shows Matt the intricacies of processing a chicken.

Matt is a young man with a vision.  He sees himself revitalizing the dormant family farm using regenerative agriculture practices.  He wants to, ultimately, offer pork, beef, and chicken to local customers.  Where to start, he asked himself.  “Chickens,” was his decision.  So, he attended our recent Pastured Poultry class to get a jump on the learning curve.

Not only did he get an intensive weekend on everything chicken so that his first 150 broiler chicks would go well, he got to see how the whole farm works together and gathered ideas for his own farm of the future.  We walked the fields, watched the pigs tilling up the gardens,

A pig breaks up a clump of "quack grass" to get at the juicy roots.  They did a great job of rooting out this persistent weed!

A pig breaks up a clump of “quack grass” to get at the juicy roots. They did a great job of rooting out this persistent weed!

milked the cows, and talked politics while learning about chickens.  We also talked about marketing and the importance of sound (rather than haphazard) business practices.

Chickens are a great place to start in raising livestock.  You can have a few hens in your backyard, or let the kids have a small start-up business supplying eggs to friends, or raise broiler chickens to build a market base  and learn farming (like Matt is doing) before jumping in with both feet.

The next class is May 23-25.  We hope to see you there!

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For the birds

 

A chick stretching out.  This is sure sign the little one is getting bigger!

A chick stretching out. This is sure sign the little one is getting bigger!

This weekend we are looking forward stretching our wings again and welcoming our first class of the season.  Pastured Poultry is the topic this weekend.  We’ll be looking at how to start chicks and are getting our own chicks this week to have them ready.  We’ll build a chicken tractor and look at how you can get your chickens on the grass in your situation.  Lastly, we’ll process a few birds so you have the skills to be entirely self-sufficient in your own chicken operation.  Plus, you get to spend a weekend on the farm as our guests! We look forward to seeing you on the farm.

 

Building a chicken tractor in class.

Building a chicken tractor in class.

Remi, Jadwiga, and Rudina proudly display their hand-plucked chickens in last year's class.

Remi, Jadwiga, and Rudina proudly display their hand-plucked chickens in last year’s class.

On being a hen

Broiler chicks

Broiler chicksWe got our first batch of chicks last week.  The weather isn’t ideal, but there are ways to work around it.  We used to raise these birds through the winter.  We’ve worked toward being strictly seasonal for many reasons, so now we start them sometime in March and end sometime in October.  This year we’ve held off a bit, but now we’re rolling.

Here are a few brooding principles we use:

1) Heat.  Heat lamps work good–the standard shield and high amp variety.  You have to monitor these because they can create hot and cold areas in the brooder and can start fires (that’s really exciting!) with the bedding.  They are effective to do the job, though, for brooding small groups of chicks once or twice a year.  We use a gas brooder now.  They are bigger and more efficient for brooding large numbers of chicks.  They also help maintain a healthy moisture level and heat more evenly.  We have some DSCN3145friends who have an outdoor boiler for their house heat and have the same radiant heat for their brooder.  That works wonderfully on all counts (even heating, dry bedding, safety) but is a higher input if you don’t already have the set-up.  The bottom line, though, is simply heat.  The ideal temperature for the first week is 90 degrees, tapering off to “room” temperature by the end of week two in July, week three in March and April.

2) Container.  The first few days the chicks like to be in a small area–like all newborns who are used to the cramped space pre-birth.  Then broiler chicks grow at an almost exponential rate.  Layer breeds grow slower, but like more space under any circumstance.  Folks start chicks in all sorts of containers: Rubbermaid boxes, kiddie pools, cow hay bale feeders, plywood boxes, etc.

Brooder set-up from the outside.One of the considerations in your container is to round out any square corners.  Chicks like to pile on each other when stressed in any way (hot, cold, damp, thunderstorm, crowded, too much space, bad mood) and corners are their place of choice.  If there isn’t a corner they are less likely to pile and the collateral damage is less.  We’ve actually stopped piling simply by rounding the corners, which had the net effect of changing the stressor, which was too much space.

Brooder interior: note the round edges, red feeders and waterers.  The other consideration with your container is flexibility.  Because they like to be tight at first and need more space exponentially, you need to be able to expand the initial space.  Dividers that can be removed as they grow is an easy way to do that.  We have expandable brooders and have panels that allow the chicks to eventually come and go out of the heated area.  We place their food and water in the cooler area to encourage them to go in those areas.

3) Feeders and waterers.  Most chick feeders and waterers have small edges and are red.  You want to be sure the little ones can get their sustenance without having to climb into the container.  Pans of water are a bad idea as a wet chick (and they will get in it!) is a potentially dead chick.  We’ve learned the hard way that if they can climb into a feeder they may get stuck in it and that’s not a nice discovery at chore time.   The red color helps them figure the process out quicker.  Chickens peck at red anyway, so it’s a natural step to play the hen’s part and teach them to eat and drink with the coloration.  The chick feeders and waterers are a worthwhile investment.

That’s today’s wisdom.  We’re taking applications for the April Pastured Poultry class, where you can learn all about chickens from start to finish.

Chicken Tractors

helperPasture raised chickens are tasty, healthy, and easy to clean up after.  Layer chickens like to run around the yard and go home at night.  The broiler chickens prefer a little more structure.  A “chicken tractor” is the thing for them.  Essentially, it’s a mobile pen that you move every day.  That encourages them to seek out new grass and bugs every day while protecting them from predators.  We have an e-book that will give you the directions for the summer weight tractors we use.  Here is the link to purchase your copy: Chicken Tractor e-book.  Happy chicken raising!

Coming soon!

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The farm is in it’s restful winter mode, but we haven’t been.  We just realized that it’s the middle of February!  We are making the schedule for this coming year and are looking forward to seeing you.  The Pastured Poultry weekend classes, Hog Harvest classes, and Permaculture and Soils class are up on the course schedule.  We are still working on a couple of new classes and some one day classes.  Those should make an appearance very soon.

Last summer proved too busy with our legal wranglings to get the online videos done.  We hope that this summer won’t be so busy and we can complete one or two of those.

Check out the new class dates!  Check back for more information soon!

The Homestead Cow

Mark had the job of milking for a week while Sam was on a fishing trip.  He took the opportunity to make some videos while he was waiting on the cows.  Here are the links to the series:

Homestead Milk Cow: Introduction  

How to pick your cow

Equipment

The milking parlor

Calving and calf care

Understanding Herd Shares

 

(Untitled)

Mark tells you about the Hog Harvest classes coming up:

Piggie food

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Chopped apples, sour milk, and barley: Yummy in a pig's tummy!

Chopped apples, sour milk, and barley: Yummy in a pig’s tummy!

Chop together in a bucket: rotten apples, sour milk, a couple of chicken carcasses, cracked barley, assorted vegetables.

Allow to sit for one to eight hours to allow the ingredients to soak and blend. 

Dump over fence into feeder.

 

This is the recipe for our baby pig starter feed.  Which only goes to show pigs will eat anything.  Plus, a heritage breed pig can even grow on it.  One of the reasons pigs have been historically popular on farms is that they can eat the refuse that other animals can’t or won’t eat and can convert it into food.  Pigs are omnivores, so they can eat vegetable, dairy, meat, and grain food stuffs.  They are not particular, either, about the condition of the food.

DSCN1438Our pigs get a large variety in their diet.  Mark plants fields with an assortment of crops, including field peas, turnips, rye, mangals (fodder beets), corn, radishes, and the occasional sunflower. Radishes, buckwheat, field peas are spring food as they don’t mind cool soil and are ready quickly.  Turnips and fodder beets are good crops to plant mid summer for fall food as the turnips need to freeze a bit before the sugar sets and the pigs like them.  Mark plants turnip and rye to serve as early winter food.   Rye is a very cold tolerant grass and the pigs will dig turnips out of frozen ground.

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Field peas, tunips, sunflowers make a tasty menu for a pig.

As omnivores, pigs need protein.  Most grain rations use soy to meet this need. We use the refuse from our chicken processing (heads, feet, hearts, livers, gizzards) to supplement their feed.  We haven’t found that this makes them more prone to hunting their own meat as the chickens sometimes help them clean up their grain.  We don’t separate the meat and other scraps (including coffee grounds and egg shells) from the kitchen as the pigs enjoy and convert it all.  When we had a couple of beef processed we asked for all the scraps and discard stuff.  The oxidized cover fat and large joint bones were great feed supplements!

We have used scraps from the prep table at a restaurant and high quality sourdough bread as feed sources.  Bruised apples, unsaleable or uneatable produce, seconds potatoes, etc.  are all good sources for pig feed.  Creativity can find lots of pig feed.  Be sure that what you find is of good quality to begin with.  Free Wonderbread is still Wonderbread and the result will be Wonderbread pork.

What you can feed pigs is only limited by your imagination!

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Fencing

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This week we moved the smaller feeders out into a fresh pasture.  That brought to mind an important topic for anyone considering adding livestock to their repertoire.  One of the most crucial factors to the success of raising animals of any sort is having the appropriate fencing.  We say this from hard experience.  In the range of difficulty, goats are by far the most difficult to fence, with cows and horses being about the easiest.

Because we use our pastures for multiple species, we’ve invested in a woven wire perimeter fence and then use electric to protect the fence and subdivide the fields as needed.  Electricity is the essential ingredient for all fencing.  You can fence just with electric, but we’ve found that the combination is a good guarantee of positive neighborly relationships.  Here is how the pig fence is set up:

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The standoff electric fence is about 6-8 inches off the ground–right about where the pig’s nose snuffles along.  We make a point of “electric fence training” them before they go out into a bigger field.  You can subdivide a field using the wire at about 6-8 inches and another at about 14-18 inches.  We’ve used various types of posts and insulators over the years.  We came into some fiberglass pipe recently and it works really nicely for electric wire.  Pigs have a great respect for electric fence, but are contiually checking it and will sometimes figure out that they can run through it.  That’s why we use a woven wire fence to back up the electric.  Note the yellow insulator up high.  When we have cows in this pasture we can run a wire at the top to keep them from leaning over the fence.

The key to a good system is a good fencer.  Plug in fencers are great.  They are powerful and reliable.  We use several of them near the barn.  Solar fencers give you the flexibility of containing and moving your animals anywhere you need them.  You don’t have to buy the most expensive fencer, but don’t buy the cheapest either.  A good quality fencer that is more than adequate for the space you’re electrifying is a worthwhile investment.  This fencer has an insulated “hot” wire running to the electric fence and is grounded on the woven wire fence.  Be sure that your fence is grounded well.  We’ve chased animals back in (especially goats) more than once only to discover the sand around the grounding rod was bone dry and not working as advertised.

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This is one example of an easy way to pasture birds.  Turkeys, hens, ducks, geese don’t like the confinement of a “chicken tractor.”  They need to roam, but can do a lot of damage to gardens and flowerbeds if they can wander anywhere they like.  The feathernet fencing keeps the birds in and predators out.  It can be electrified, which is a very satisfying way to convince racoons to leave your hens alone.  You just need two fences: one in use, the other set up around the next section of grass so that you just shoo the birds into the next net, close it up, and leapfrog the first net to the next section of grass.

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Then, there are always the ones that won’t cooperate and find the alfalfa is higher on the other side of the fence.  However, our sheep doesn’t stray far from her herd mates, the dairy cows, who are on the right side of the fence.  Plus, since we have the whole pasture woven wire fenced, she won’t be eating the neighbor’s daffodils.  This fence does work really well on the cows and horse.  A single strand of electric fence on a step post contains the animals and is easy to move using the same leapfrog method as with the feathernet.  With the dairy cows, someone goes out to move the fence and open up new pasture while the cows are up at the barn to get milked.

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Being able to put your animals on grass is the key to utilizing your resources to the maximum.  Weeds become feed, which in turn yields to you the most nutritious food possible, whether it’s eggs or steak.

Part of the Solution

We spent an interesting weekend in Staunton, Virignia this weekend.  We were at a Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund fundraiser at Salatins’ Polyface Farm.  It drew folks from the Weston A. Price Foundation community and the Paleo (“diet”) community.  It was great to see two groups with a similar, non-conventional approach to food and farming come together to support an organization that works legally and legislatively to keep food choice legal.  Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has supported many career and hobby farmers in their quest to grow and provide wholesome food.  It’s a great organization to belong to whether you buy your food from a farmer’s market or buyer’s club, have a small garden in your front yard, or are a full fledged food producer.  They defend your right to obtain the foods of your choice, to exercise your Constitutional rights in this area whether you are a farmer or consumer.

Saturday evening we went to a showing of a screening of Kristin Canty’s (Farmageddon)  new film series “Rockin’ Farmers” featuring Daniel Salatin, and a viewing of American Meat. “Rockin’ Farmers” was a great short about an up and coming farmer, and his unique niche in the family farm: rabbits.   We’d add American Meat to our recommended viewing list.  It was great to hear the maker of that movie, Graham Meriwether,  who spent a great deal of time with the conventional farmers he featured, comment on why he felt those farmers had signed their Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods contracts.  He pointed out after the movie that the industrial farmers were often times caught in the system.  Even though they all recognized that large chicken and hog barns aren’t the best way to do it, they felt it was the only way to make a living (admittedly “of sorts”) at farming.  He differentiated between the individual men he filmed and the larger system they were part of.  The film presents a compassionate and balanced perspective on the tensions between industrial and non-industrial agriculture. It was telling that one hog barn farmer maintained that his conventional barn paid out best, but he ate pigs out of the “compassionate” barn where he feeds organic feed and the pigs have significant outdoor access because the pigs taste better.  One of the things brought out in the panel discussion of the movie was the great need for more small, regional, non-industrial farmers. Most people felt there is demand. There are challenges to overcome, but America has the land mass to feed itself and export some food without round-up ready corn and concentrated animal feeding operations.  What we really lack is people with the know-how to do it.

turnipsThere are solutions to that problem.  Internships and apprenticeships are one solution.  There are some colleges with programs and courses on sustainable farming.  Anyone Can Farm is another solution.  A weekend training program can give you the tools to get started growing food for yourself and your family and neighbors.  The best thing is what we recommended to one couple we talked to: just do it!   Do something, whether it’s replacing one flower bed with nasturtuims and sweet peas or tomatoes, or getting 5 layer hens.  Don’t wait till you have a 10 year plan and have researched everything and all possibilities.  It’s great to be a part of the solution!