Posts Tagged ‘farming’

The Time to End Farm Subsidies is Now

I try to avoid discussing and mixing politics with my posts but frankly it’s impossible when government is so heavily involved in agriculture. The very existence of government subsidies (read tax payer $) is what keeps destructive, corporate agriculture alive and thriving. I see it all the time, other small farmers and consumers calling for equal or greater subsidies to small farmers. The thought seems to be that it’s only fair that if the government is going to help the big guys, the little guys should get “help” too. It doesn’t make the farmers more prosperous, it brings in corporate interests who, like hyenas following the scent of blood from a dying animal, see an opportunity to line their pockets and grow their portfolios. This is how we got the Archer Daniel-Midland, Cargill, Tyson, Smithfields and others.

There are several government programs (tax $) that give small, beginning, and minority farmers money to “help” them get started or to implement practices that are conservation minded. Now when we first got started, I did look into some of these government grants and programs. What I found was just more ridiculous bureaucratic foolishness that wastes money, time and resources. For example, I had a well on the property we were leasing. I wanted to explore the possibility of using that well for irrigation and for watering livestock. Our government would not allow for that, they required that  we drill a new well. Not only did they require a new well be drilled, but that we install a pump that is twice as big as we needed!

I don’t advocate for applying for such programs simply because of how infuriatingly wasteful and inefficient I found them to be, but I came to the conclusion that they are unethical. Several years ago, I met a family who farms as their sole source of income after losing their construction business.  They shared with me that they refused to seek any government funds because it was not right for them to take money that had been taken from fellow tax payers for the sake of helping their farm pay for fencing, seeds, equipment and such. I couldn’t agree with them more. If I want to be a farmer, let it be by my own merit, not by looking for a hand out.

 

But back to the whole ending subsidy idea. There are many who will say that I’m an uneducated idiot for suggesting such a thing and that doing so would force farmers out of business and that the corporations would just get stronger.  Well, they’re wrong and I can prove it. Back in the 1980’s, New Zealand was in a financial crisis. Government spending was 44% of the GDP and the national debt was 65% of the GDP. A newly elected government recognized that some drastic had to be done and one of those drastic measures was to eliminate agricultural subsidies immediately. They didn’t slowly phase them out or put them on some 10 year reduction plan. Overnight the money stopped, cold turkey.

New Zealand’s economy is even more dependent on agriculture than the United States and many predicted a disaster. Well a disaster never happened. The corporations didn’t take over, corporations love welfare and since the government wasn’t handing out any more, small family farms stepped up and the corporate conglomerates lost power. Read the following excerpts with links to articles.

“The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand gave birth to a vibrant, diversified, and growing rural economy, and it debunked the myth that farming cannot prosper without subsidies. Thus rather than passing another big government farm bill that taxpayers can’t afford, the U.S. Congress should step back and explore the proven alternative of free market farming.”

<a href=”https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1680259″>https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1680259</a>

Today, New Zealand’s farmers are some of the world’s most productive and innovative.

Removing government assistance completely, New Zealand officials say, freed farmers to produce what people really want, and to do so in an efficient way that could turn a profit.

Since the reforms, New Zealand farmers have cut costs, diversified their land use, and developed new products, Clark says.

Additionally, productivity in agriculture has grown faster than the New Zealand economy as a whole.

http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/22/what-happened-when-new-zealand-got-rid-of-government-subsidies-for-farmers/

By 1984, New Zealand sheep farming was receiving about 44 percent of its income from government subsidies. Its major product was lamb, and lamb in the international marketplace was selling for about $12.50 (with the government providing another $12.50)per carcass. Well, we did away with all sheep farming subsidies within one year. And of course the sheep farmers were unhappy. But once they accepted the fact that the subsidies weren’t coming back, they put together a team of people charged with figuring out how they could get $30 per lamb carcass. The team reported back that this would be difficult, but not impossible. It required producing an entirely different product, processing it in a different way and selling it in different markets. And within two years, by 1989, they had succeeded in converting their $12.50 product into something worth $30. By 1991, it was worth $42; by 1994 it was worth $74; and by 1999 it was worth $115. In other words, the New Zealand sheep industry went out into the marketplace and found people who would pay higher prices for its product. You can now go into the best restaurants in the U.S. and buy New Zealand lamb, and you’ll be paying somewhere between $35 and $60 per pound.

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Rolling-Back-the-Government-Lessons-from-New-Zealand-April-2004.pdf

If you ask me, this is what the American Farmer needs.

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COLE CROPS AND COLE SLAW

Ever wonder where the term “Cole Slaw” comes from? Turns out it is made from one of the “Cole” crops which are plants from the mustard family. Those include: mustard, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collards, kale, turnips, cauliflower and watercress.
These are all cool season crops that can be planted in fall and harvested in early spring or planted in early spring and harvested in early summer. Some are more sensitive to heat or cold than others. Lets take a look at each.

Read the rest here

Heather’s Story – Cow’s Don’t Care if You Cry

 

I don’t know that I’ve read a more poignant and heart wrenching story than Heather’s. Her’s is a perfect example of how farm life carries on regardless of tragedy and I can attest that cows really don’t care if you cry.

Get some tissues handy before you click this link.

Heather’s Story – Cow’s Don’t Care if You Cry.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Do these words sound familiar? I sure hope so. It seems that every time I wake up, there is a new attack on our inalienable rights Mr. Jefferson put to paper in a document we call the Declaration of Independence. These attacks are coming on all fronts with restrictions and prohibitions to acquire the food of choice from a farm, proposed legislation to regulate homemade soap, and today an attack on one’s way of life and right to raise one’s family as you see fit (i.e. homeschooling and homesteading). These attacks originate on the federal level with outrageous regulations that do little to nothing other than drive out small farms, the state level with Gestapo style force, and the local municipalities that deny a person the right to grow their own food on their own property. When will the people wake up? Why do we accept this tyranny with little more than a shrug?

The story that has me stirred up right now is the one of the Naugler family. Joe and Nicole have a small homestead in Breckinridge County Kentucky where they raise their own food and homeschool their ten children. There has not been any record of this event (yet) in the media. I only learned of it on Facebook this afternoon. Someone has set up a Go Fund Me page and already in just one day, $12,000+ has been donated. Apparently, what occurred only a day or two ago, someone reported some perceived crime to the County Sheriff. Two deputies came onto the family’s property without a warrant, took custody of their two oldest sons and later took the rest of the children. The following is an excerpt from their Go Fund Me campaign.

Naugler_family

“On May 6th, 2015, Breckinridge Co. Sheriff’s officers came to their home, acting on an anonymous tip, and entered their property and home without a warrant and without probable cause. Nicole was at home with the two oldest children, while Joe was away with the others. When the officers left the home, they attempted to block the access road to the family property. Nicole and the two boys got in their car to leave the family property. The got only a short way down the road before the officers pulled Nicole over.

During this stop, sheriffs deputies took their two oldest boys from Nicole’s custody, providing her no justification or documentation to support their action. Nicole was able to contact Joe briefly by telephone, but only for a short period of time, because she needed to use her phone to record the events.

Joe was able to arrange transportation to meet his wife where the stop had taken place. At that point, Nicole had been taken into custody for disorderly conduct (for not passively allowing the Sheriff to take her boys) and resisting arrest. Joe attempted to get out of the car to speak with the officers and his wife, and to recover the vehicle Nicole had been driving. The Sheriff, with his hand on his sidearm, ordered Joe back into the car. Joe complied with that request. The sheriff informed Joe that he had every intention of making this as difficult as possible for them and that their car would be impounded, despite the fact that Joe was there on ­site to recover it.”

If you can make a donation, please do. If not, please lift this family up in prayer so as to give them the strength to endure this situation as well as the guidance and wisdom of people who are in authority. Finally to all. Be vigilant. Be active. Be aware.

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What it takes…

So what does it take to grow the best food possible? What goes into raising a chicken from a day old chick on organic feed on pasture until it is large enough 9 – 10 weeks later to be converted into food?

Well here’s a run down in a very condensed nutshell. First we map out the schedule for the entire year to pick the weekends that we will process the birds. We borrow some of the equipment from another farm so we plan around their schedule. I work every third day at the fire department and so we plan around that schedule. Next we have to take into consideration any holidays such as Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. which might render farm members unable to pick up their birds. This generally leaves us just a couple of weekends a month to choose from for processing our birds. Also in all this planning, we have to consider the time frame in which we are going to grow out each flock of birds and ensure that we allow for enough time between flocks. Oh, and each batch of chicks must be ordered 4-6 weeks in advance. Then we have to decide just how many chicks to order. We don’t want to order so many that we have a load of birds that don’t sell but, we don’t want to order too few that we don’t have enough to sell when a new member joins.

Next we have to put together our feed order. In order to make organic feed as affordable as possible, we order it by the ton. One ton of chick-starter feed and grower feed costs between $1300 – $1400 which is a substantial investment before we put the first chick in the brooder.

Then we get the call from the post office that our chicks have arrived. Yes, that’s right, the chicks are sent via United States Postal Service. But they don’t deliver them to us, we have to finish up whatever project we’re in the middle of and get to the post office and pick them up.

The chicks are then placed in the brooder where they will live for the next 3 weeks until they are big enough to live on pasture. Every day they are fed and watered at least 2x’s. We also must monitor their temperature to ensure they are warm enough. Once we move them to pasture in the chicken tractors, we no longer just feed and water them twice a day but we are also moving them to a new patch of pasture twice a day. For 6-7 weeks we maintain this routine along with all the other farm chores and family commitments. All of this then cumulates on that fateful day when these birds are converted from living animal to food to nourish bodies. On that day, we rise an extra hour early to complete the other farm chores and choke down a quick breakfast. We set up the processing area, giving all the tables and containers a final scrub down. We make sure the scalder is heating so that we have hot water for loosening the feathers. When the ice is delivered, we hand unload 1500+ lbs of ice for the warm up to all the activity the day has in store. We then take to the pasture to catch the birds and place them in crates or cages for hauling them up to the processing area. Then the real work begins.

In order to make a chicken edible, it must be killed, plucked and eviscerated. Performing this task on 100 – 150 birds takes around 6 hours if we don’t take a lunch and we have 4 or more volunteers who come to donate their time and labor. After the last bird goes on ice, cleanup begins. All equipment that was used; tables, buckets, knives, killing cones, scalder, & plucker must be cleaned of blood, feathers and other parts. Because I am the slaughter-man, I am covered in blood and other excretions and I make for the shower before any members show. Now we are waiting on folks to come during the two hour window we set for them to come get their birds. After the designated time is up, we now have all the same chores that we did once already this morning. After all that we remember we have kids to feed.

And so ends one phase, but there’s another flock of birds on the pasture and in a few short weeks we will convert them into food.

Emotional Roller coaster, High’s and Lows of Farming

Being a skip generation farmer, I find the roller coaster of emotion that comes with it to be exhilarating, exhausting and frustrating. I guess for those who grow up on a farm, there is an ingrained ability to take it in stride without stumbling too much.

It never fails that if something catastrophic happens, I am away at the fire station and Katie is the one who must deal with the situation. I get to come home and try to make sense of what transpired while I was gone. Being gone for 24 hours sometimes puts me 2 or 3 days behind.

To keep from loosing all hope and giving up when we lose a cow, a dog runs away, there’s too much rain, there’s drought, the garden fails, rabbits die, and hawks attack; we have to look for the small miracles that our society has lost sight of. We get to experience the mystery of witnessing  grass and hay convert into milk, seeing new kits in a nesting box, watching a calf come into the world, digging a potato from the earth, gathering eggs, plucking black berries from the brambles, and watching our children grow in an environment that allows them to grow in and explore the fullness of creation. To revel in wonder at what so many are oblivious to and take for granted. Most of all, we have come to understand true thankfulness and gratitude to our Maker for how we are blessed.

Freedom Lovers Needed!

If sustainable, family based farming is going to survive, more people need to make it their chosen vocation. Right now in our county, there are only two other operating farms that I know of. That is simply not enough. Agriculture has been pushed out so that people never see where food comes from and they see little to no value in having family farms as a part of their community. What is really needed is for farming to become more visible so that a farm like ours is not just seen as a novelty, but rather is recognized as a necessity. As it stands right now, the zoning laws here have been developed under the guise of protecting quality of life and property value that they deprive us of the very unalienable rights the founders of our country gambled their lives and fortunes to preserve; Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

Not only have the citizenry accepted these laws as necessary, but they have been made unwitting accomplices in enforcing them and infringing on their neighbors’ freedoms. “Violations” are usually only cited if there is a complaint filed. So someone could be minding his or her own business, using their property as they see fit or right, doing no harm to anyone, but then a passerby sees something that looks out of place and possibly detrimental to the community, a vegetable garden, a compost bin, a woodchip pile, a green house.  A while back I wrote a blog post titled This Land is Your Land, or is it? regarding my own experience with zoning. After this experience, I found that we are treading a fine line and we are always dangerously close to being zoned out of existence. 

So unless more people choose to use their property for growing food rather than letting it sit fallow, our society will only continue to devalue and dismiss the idea that a patch of land one can call his or her own, and use it to sustain their Life, express their Liberty, and Pursue Happiness, is something blood was shed to preserve. So even if you don’t own more than 1/2 acre, dare to plant blue berries instead of shrubs, figs instead of crape myrtles, and potatoes rather than petunias. Should you be one who possesses a tract of land, challenge the ideals of your local government and populate it with cows, chickens, goats, and/or pigs. Call up a guy with a tractor and till in a bit for a market garden. If you find yourself dreaming of feeding yourself and others but you’re short on land, look up the owner of that overgrown pasture you pass on your way to farmer’s market and he just might let you use it. Dare to get dirty, it was a popular notion once.

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