Tag Archives: agriculture

Ultimate Test of Sustainability?

Will Your Operation Succeed to the Next Generation?

It’s been said that a farm or ranch is not truly sustainable unless it employs at least two generations. I believe it’s imperative that as producers we recognize that even if we become both ecologically and economically sustainable, but fail to pass our mission and work on to the next generation then we’ve failed the ultimate test of sustainability.

According to the most recent census of agriculture: from 2007 to 2012 there was a decline of over 95,000 farms in America. A quick look at the current trends tell us that most of today’s family farms and ranches will not succeed to the next generation.

I believe there is hope for a bright future.

This hope is not based on wishful thinking but rather a ground swelling of innovative farmers that are indeed beating the odds and are building thriving operations. A few names you may recognize are operations like Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Virginia, Gabe & Paul Brown of Nourished By Nature in North Dakota, as well as Will Harris’s White Oak Pastures in Southern Georgia. These are just a few of the many operations that are shining a bright beacon of hope to the greater agricultural community.

If you visit any of these operations there is a very obvious, but all too often overlooked, common thread of success. Each of these operations spring forth with a multigenerational team of people that bring intellectual diversity to each acre of their land.

Most of us in agriculture are at a road block because we’re too narrowly focused on a production mindset and we’ve lost sight of people and relationships. We must make the critical distinction that people create profits – profits don’t create people.

Those of us pursuing regenerative agriculture understand the value that biological diversity brings to our land, but we often forget about the value that human creativity and diverse intellectual capital can bring to our land.

At Seven Sons Farms we’ve stacked multiple enterprises on only 550 acres. By creating synergistic relations between our land, livestock and people, we are able to employee over 10 full time people as well as several part-time positions. We refer to our team as our intellectual human polyculture:

Human Pollyculture

Any successful leader knows that their organization’s most valuable asset is having the right people in the right place.

Zig Ziglar offered this belief: “You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build your business.”

If the above statement is true then it begs the question – how is agriculture as a whole doing at building people? The graph below shows a plummeting decline in the number of human minds in agriculture.

The erosion of human capital:

1482013689_5855bbf99fc0d.jpg

SOURCES: Agriculture in the Classroom, 2014; BLS, 2014; NASS, 2014a,b; U.S. Census Bureau, 2014a,b; USDA, 2012

Over the course of time we have eroded much of our land’s precious resources in the form of minerals and soil organic matter. But no greater erosion has taken place than the depletion of human minds from each acre of our land. In the early 1970s we reached a critical point – for the first time in the history of American agriculture the number of human minds per acre involved in agriculture fell to a negative ratio.

Interestingly, it was around this same time period that the farmer’s share of the food dollar began to plummet as well.

The erosion of the food dollar:

There are many factors at play but it only stands to reason that if we want to capture a wider diversity of the food dollar, it requires wider diversity of intellectual talents. This is exactly why at Seven Sons Farms we have sought to foster synergistic relationships with people that enable us to capture a greater diversity of the food dollar.

To sum up the past half century of agriculture, one could say that in pursuit of production, we’ve attempted to trade people for profit. In the end we’ve yielded neither profit nor people.

At Seven Sons we believe that the people connected to the land represent the most valuable asset a farm could ever possess. To illustrate this point, imagine for just a moment if you were to remove Joel Salatin, Gabe Brown, or Will Harris from their respective farms. These farms would look nothing like what they do today without the creativity and vision that each of these leaders bring to the land that they are called to steward. The same holds true for your farm as well. The beliefs you operate from, the vision you put forth and the people you inspire to join you – these are the game changers that will empower your operation to beat the odds and succeed to the next generation.

There are unprecedented opportunities ahead of us…

I believe we have unprecedented opportunities ahead of us when you consider many of the recent breakthroughs in regenerative agriculture as well as the rapid shifts we’re seeing in our food culture.

So if you’re looking to exchange new ideas and be challenged to think outside old paradigms then I encourage you to join myself and hundreds of likeminded people at this year’s Grassfed Exchange in Albany New York.

The very mission of the Grassfed Exchange is to catalyze the exchange of practical knowledge, ideas, and strategies that you can take home and begin applying on your operation. Bring a family member, friend or budding young agripreneur who is looking for their way forward in agriculture.

What The Grassfed Exchange Is About:
Click here to register for the 2017 Grassfed Exchange

Reprinted from Grassfed Exchange

David Rankin, Farmer, 1906

In a recent farm magazine, a young farmer was recognised in an article as one of  America’s (United States)  best.  Lo, and behold, he is from Tarkio, Missouri and the article made mention of David Rankin, Missouri Corn King, who died in 1910, but had amassed 30,000 acres, 12,000 head of cattle, and 25,000 hogs. It was reported that he raised a million bushels of corn in a single season, much of it from a 6,000 acre field.

David Rankin, Farmer: Modern Agricultural Methods Contrasted With Primitive Agricultural Methods By The Life History Of A Plain Farmer (1909)

So, i did a quick search online about Farmer Rankin and to my delight, discovered he wrote a small book about his life and how he managed his assets to obtain such wealth.  ALthough the writing is not fancy and sometimes seems disjointed, his simple outline is a great insight into basic business management.  Some of his early income would have been taxed at a 3%-5% rate, but that income tax was rescinded in 1872.  Full on income tax didn’t come about until 1913.

But the crux of his idea, is to invest in time saving modern implements and buy land.  For a time, he was paying 17%-18% interest on money he borrowed to buy land.  Granted, he had some good hits that were just plain lucky, but not always.

You can read his short book here for free online or it can be ordered for a modest amount on Amazon.

Effects of E+ Fescue

Symptoms of ergovaline poisoning in livestock are:

  1.  decreased milk production (as much as 45% reduction!)
  2. poor body condition
  3. general poor health
  4. decreased weight gain (stocker gains can be halved!)
  5. delayed hair coat shedding
  6. low conception rate
  7. low birth weight
  8. circulatory problems (ie: ear tips freezing, sloughing off of tail switch, even so far as to slough off hooves)
  9. lameness
  10. loss of appetite
  11. abortions
  12. poor circulation also leads to inability to dissipate body heat (especially troublesome in the heat and humidity of summer) (this is the main problem which leads to the above symptoms)

The cause is that the fungus is a vaso constricting substance called ergovaline.  A good explanation comes from Endophyte Service Laboratory, College of Agriculture Sciences
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331 USA.

The toxin ergovaline is a vaso-constrictor, it constricts the blood vessels and reduces blood circulation to the outer parts of the animal’s body. Animals that have consumed a toxic dose of ergovaline will have difficulty regulating body temperature. The constriction of blood flow also can cause “fescue foot”. Fescue foot is characterized by gangrene or tissue death in the legs, ears and tails.

Recent research done by Matt Booher, Crop and Soil Agent at Virginia Coopoerative Extension and John Benner indicates that despite our best efforts, endophyte infected fescue at all stages of growth causes some level of poisoning to livestock.

Seems mind boggling that we farmers and ranchers continue to allow this non-native plant to be grazed by our stock, doesn’t it!?  Tannachton Farm is on a mission to remove it.  It will be a fight since the grass is allelopathic and persistent!

 

Cheers!

tauna

FSA Microloans

This might be a good place to look if you need to borrow funds for a small farming or marketing operation startup.

Contact your local FSA (Farm Service Agency) office if interested in a USDA microloan that can help new farmers own land. http://www.fsa.usda.gov/…/farm-loan-progra…/microloans/index

Program Description:

The focus of Microloans is on the financing needs of small, beginning farmer, niche and non-traditional farm operations, such as truck farms, farms participating in direct marketing and sales such as farmers’ markets, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), restaurants and grocery stores, or those using hydroponic, aquaponic, organic and vertical growing methods. 

Cheers!

tauna

 

 

A CSA App

A new tool is available for market gardeners who operate CSAs!

Open Source Software for CSAs Funded by Western SARE
Press Release

Jacksonville, OR, March 15, 2016 – The Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative CSA in Southern Oregon has recently unveiled innovative, open source software developed through funds acquired from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) to assist CSA farmers in connecting with their
members. At a time when farmers work hard to keep up with some of the latest trends in the local food movement nationally, CSA coordinator Maud Powell sought to provide a high-tech, user friendly tool to support CSA members interested in having their member information right at their fingertips. “CSAs continue to be a great marketing channel for farmers, but in order to attract customers, they need to be adaptive to cultural trends,” says Maud.

The first of its kind, the CSA App was developed by Josh Shupak with assistance from Lars Faye of Chee Studio and Becky Brown of iWrite. Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative CSA members participated in surveys and focus groups to determine the features and functionality that would be used in the App. The CSA App supports CSA members with easy access to product information, recipes, cooking and storage tips and nutritional information for the produce found in their weekly CSA shares.

The mobile friendly tool was created using a web based platform and is easily customizable by anyone comfortable using a computer and navigating the internet. “The whole idea is to keep it simple for the farmer and easy to use for the membership,” says Powell. “I wanted to help make CSAs more relevant and accessible for younger generations, and the most obvious way to do that is through the use of technology.” Farmers can utilize the templates in the web platform to create their very own personalized App that can include product information, recipes, cooking videos, farmer bios and any specific instructions about how and where to pick up weekly CSA box deliveries. Creative users may even find additional ways to provide valuable information to their members using mobile technology.

Access to the customizable web platform is provided free of charge, although a valid credit card is required to secure information in the account set up phase. All existing content is open source and available for use, although customization may be necessary to reflect the specifics of a particular CSA farm. The Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative CSA App can be viewed here: https://mobile-csa.herokuapp.com/.

For instructions on how to get started or for more information visit:
http://www.siskiyoucoop.com/csa/app/.

Becky Brown
Freelance Commercial Writer
541-890-1936

What is CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)?

Beeswax & Homemade Soap

Once a year I make soap.  It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients, but it does take a lot of work, to make several years’ worth of homemade healthy, clean soap that doesn’t dry out your skin like commercial body soaps can.  Many of the ingredients I have to order (i order mine from Essential Depot), but our home raised grassfinished beef tallow and my neighbour’s beeswax are key ingredients as well.

We don’t manage bees on our farms, but our neighbour does and he shares beeswax with me.  Lots of ways to farm. Thanks to our neighbour, Kevin, for caring for bees and their hives and producing great honey. He stopped by last week and gave me some wax.

Agricultural production opportunities abound, but none that i’ve found come without dedication, hard work, and passion. It’s unlikely you’ll become financially wealthy either, but there is more to life than that.

Cheers!

tauna

Green Hills Farm Project

Founded and organised by David Schafer and Dennis McDonald way back in 1988 and bolstered by a generous grant from the Kellogg’s Foundation, Green Hills Farm Project emerged as a grassroots driven and attended by farmers, ranchers, and anyone interested in sustainable agriculture each month.  Farmers volunteer to host a farm walk at their place for nearly each month of the year and these dates are posted now on a facebook page by the same name.  We share our stories, improvements, failures, successes, and plans for the future with attendees who then volunteer experiences and ideas amongst themselves and the host.  This is an amazing group of forward-thinking producers trying to help each other be financially as well as environmentally sustainable.

With dues still at only $20 per individual or family, this is the best investment going.  Green Hills Farm Project members also put together an annual winter seminar with nationally known popular speakers making presentations in our little town of Linneus, Missouri with attendance fees varying from $20-$40!  This is for speakers who typically command upwards of $500 per person!

Farm walks have traditionally been scheduled for the evenings of the third Thursdays of each month, but have increasingly been held on moveable Saturdays at noon, include a potluck meal with meat or main dish, service, and drinks provided by the host family.  The actual walk itself typically lasts 1-2 hours followed by a very short meeting.  Green Hills Farm Project encourages families, even the youngest children to attend since one of the goals is to promote and assist future farmers.

Since 1862, the number of producers in the United States dropped from 97% of the population to today’s less than 2%!  Due in part to increased mechanisation (thank goodness!), but also that farming is hard work, long hours, low pay, and low return on investment.  Little wonder young people continue to leave the home place in droves!  The USDA agriculture census indicates that a 30 year trend of less young people entering farming as the average age of a farmer continues to rise.  Additionally, not quite half of the 2.1 million American farmers site farming as their main source of income!

With less than 1% of the population engaged in full-time farming, is the United States setting itself up for a food security meltdown?  How much do we want to depend on others to provide our food?  Time will tell as most Americans continue to buy the cheapest food possible, regardless of the cost to their own health, the health of their communities, and environments, or the welfare of the country at large.

If you’d like to join and/or participate in Green Hills Farm Project farm walks, contact me or for up-to-date information, ‘like’ Green Hills Farm Project facebook page.  Next farm walk is Saturday, November 29th (2014) at Greg and Jan Judy’s Green Pastures Farm.  Meet at 11:30am with tour starting at 1pm.  Bring a potluck dish to share.