Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Farmers' Markets Run By Profiteers

Please allow me to vent.  We participated in three farmers markets last year and in one we dealt with a market owner that was a complete moron, oh wait that was just a thought.   

We had a market owner last year that just didn't get it.  They demanded cash from vendors, refused to give receipts for IRS purposes and arbitrarily changed rules in the middle of the market season to suit their own agenda and cash flow needs.  They even got a grant from the County to promote this market but that wasn't enough.

Okay, so I'm Polly-Anna but when you try to grow vegetables and fruits for a living to have to deal with someone like this just takes the wind out of your sails.   At first we thought they were new and this was the first year having a market.  They do have a good location and we have been waiting for a market to open in this area.

When we called they said farmers are free.  Great we thought.  Then August rolled around and they came up to us demanding ten dollars cash.  I said they told us farmers were free.  The answer was "no, that was just for July".  When my wife talked to them on the phone it was "farmers are free", not farmers are free for July.  They saw how good things were going and wanted to get in on the action.

Ten dollars wasn't a big deal as much as the demand for cash and the refusal to give receipts.  Add to that the B.S. excuses they gave us for not giving receipts or being unable to take checks.  I swear if my wife wasn't there I probably would have created a scene that wouldn't have been pleasant for anyone.

Besides, I'm always amazed at how my wife, who is a demure, diminutive woman but can slice a person to pieces and make it look clean.  When it comes to dealing with the kind of miscreant that we did she is a shark.  I won't go into details but I had to chuckle at the verbal and no-verbal ques coming from them.  The owner was stepping back away from her and basically blabbing any answer that came to mind.  She was just asking legitimate questions, questions that would have taken me a week to get to.  But she's small and looks like she'd be push over which is a mistake if you try and the owner did try.  It usually takes the person by surprise when my wife goes on the offensive and the next thing they know flop sweat is foarming on their brow and they are wondering how to get away.  I almost felt sorry for them, okay I didn't, I really enjoyed watching them earn the ten dollars.

This year is the winner.  We've been going to farmers markets for over seven seasons.  Never have we had so much trouble combined like we've had in this market.  It’s gotten so bad that a group of us have setup another market down the road just to avoid this market.  The kicker to all of it this year was they wanted to charge a large application fee.  Then it was by invitation only and rent was raised a 100 percent.

Okay, so I am Polly-Anna.  We're in it for the health not the wealth.   So the peasants rose up against the wealthy land owner and we started our own market.  All the money collected, for rent, goes into a central account to be used for advertising and other expenses in the market.  The market is producers only market and people that are using sustainable practises.

The market opened this past weekend and although it was the first day of a new market there seems to be promise.  There was a lot of buzz; the opening was covered in the local paper and signs were posted in the community.  Besides selling local foods, flowers, baked goods and hand made crafts, we will have a pet adoption agency and be donating leftovers to area food pantries.  It’s a group of vendors that are stewards of the land and somewhat community activists.  Farmer’s and artisans’ setting up a market for the community with the community involved.  This feels good, it just feels right.

Buy Local- From a farmer you know and trust.  Their effort is well worth yours.


GMO Must Go

Why did the goverment of Mexico outlaw ALL GM (genetically modified) foods, especially corn?  Then only to discover that strains of GMO corn have made their way into the corn fields of Mexican farmers.  They Mexican government had the foresight to see that what represents their national pride, their heritage should not be tinkered with.  The Mexican government simply wanted to keep what is there mainstay as pure as possible.  Corn is their way of life always has been.  Maize was discovered in Mexico from the teosinte genus.  Go to www.hulu.com and search for the "Future of Food", it is a documentary that discusses corn and its origin.  You will also find that GMO is not as safe as the IFC pretends.

This documentary on how genetic engineering was accomplished, how seeds are patented and then used as a big stick to force farmers into the herbicide ready club was the fore bearer of Food Inc.,  We are at a cross roads in our concepts of food, where you see grass root efforts like the slow food, buy local food, and support local farms movements spawn because of this.  We have groups like Ark of Taste which is a movement to bring back heritage breeds from pigs, cows and chickens to tomatoes and everything else that has been genetically modified to fit the needs of the profit motive not that of the taste of the consumer. 

GMO is part of the larger picture of food safety.  From my stand point trace amounts of nasty chemicals on the food, or pathogens that cause recall after recall year after year is a real concern.  Why? because consumers are losing their lives.  What got us growing organic food over twenty years ago was that we were eating more vegetables to get healthy but I kept hearing about trace amounts of chemicals being on what I was ingesting.  Not only that but vegetables were being imported from country's that used herbicides and insecticides that were ban in the U.S.

So, if I was ingesting trace amounts then why isn't that a problem?  According to scientific findings the trace amount of chemicals on the fruit or vegetable isn't concenrated enough to cause harm.  Okay, didn't science tell us that thalimide was safe, PCB's, DIOXIN, Agent Orange, Declomicin or (fill in the blank). 

I know there are people that spend their life's pursuit in the sciences and I have the greatest admiration for them.  To often the means of a few outweigh the detriment of the masses (think my old friend Atrazine).  Our history is littered with examples, current and past.

But my most base of all arguments is taste, the simple fact of taste.  Remember taste, remember when tomatoes tasted like sweet, soft, watery spheres of nirvana.  It has been said the reason organic fruits and vegetables taste better is that they have to struggle to get nutrients out of the ground.  Unlike conventional veggies that have ready supplies sprayed on them.  I've learned that which does not kill you serves to make you stronger.  In an organic plant that is basically the same concept.  When a plant is attacked by a predator the plant releases its own sent that attracks bugs that are predators of the bug eating its leaves.  This is how the plant has evolved and survived.  Evolution is why heritage and heirloom species taste so much better.  We all have been told nothing good ever comes from something easy, so too with the plant world.  The plant grows stronger and has a better taste then the plant that was sprayed with synthetic fertilizers and insecticides. 

I trust my taste buds, I know what is on my plants, I know that the more we allow large corporations to genetically modify food the greater susceptibility we all face from unknown genetic mutation and greater risk of bacterial out breaks caused by an increase in antibiotic resistant pathogens. 

We are in control of our own destiny, that of the earth's scarce resources and our future generations.  If we all don't start talking more about the negative affects the IFC has on all of these then it is our own fault.

Buy Local - From a local farm; Their effort is well worth yours.


Herding Chickens

We've lost more chickens in these past two months then we have in any other contiguous 60 day period.  I guess we are lucky though, we almost got to three years before having to deal with our first large casualty loss. Fortunately, we know why, we know how and we are trying our best to reverse the course.

We've lost eight productive layers, two to a combination of age and sub-freezing temperatures (I know your asking, how they can be old and be productive egg layers? But, they were and that’s the cool thing about RIR.  They lay prolifically the first two years, as do most chickens, but then they start to decline as do most chickens, but not as fast.  So, instead of getting an egg a day, you get an egg every other day or every three days.  They just keep laying.)  

We were told that the kind of hawks we have need a nice glide path to get to their prey.  So with that in mind we try to place the pen with as many obstacles around the radius as possible. Within a week we lost six of the youngest because they got to be too free range.  We have landscaping such that we can provide between one-hundred and eighty and two-hundred and seventy degrees of tree cover for the hen houses and fencing. 

For three years that has worked.  This past winter though we got over six feet of snow, although it melted within three weeks the third flock got use to having no fence.  Now they just fly over the net and really roam free and it is a problem on two levels, safety and nutrient management.   Safety hit home Saturday morning.  We were heading out to plant and I saw a large clump of feathers.  By the time we got to the production garden we saw three more piles of feathers.  Before closing them up that night we took count and came up two short.   The next three days four more were picked off by a family of hawks.  They weren't getting the chickens in the pen, they were picking off hens that were roaming free.

We put up seven foot deer netting around the pen in an effort to keep them in.  We knew they could fly but clearing a seven foot fence, we thought was out of the question.  That worked for less than twenty-four hours.  Much to our amazement they flew up to the top of the netting balanced themselves, then flew away from the pen.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I just stood there slack jawed.  We were left with cutting their wings.  They are not debeaked and they looked like they enjoyed the little flights they took so the decision was not made lightly.  Then again when it comes to death the feathers can be sacrificed.  For the most part the hens tend to stick inside the pen.  There were at least nine so now we are down to three.  If we could keep the three in thew pen that would be great.

The other problem, but slight when compared, is keeping them concentrated in one area to maximize their soil nutrient potential.  We rely on them to provide the right amount of nutrients per square foot of space they occupy.  If they are roaming all over the place they are fertilizing all over the place.  When contained, they are on grass for a couple of days then moved to fresh grass.  Because the root system is not deep when the chickens get moved onto new grasses they eat the rye and hairy vetch and tear the ground apart scratching and digging.  We are left with fine loamy soil that is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potash.

There are those three that just refuse to stay and we’ve marked them as the “Three Stooges”.  Each time they get out we would clip there wings and put them back.  After about three days of this we decided on behavioral conditioning.  If they flew out they got put in the barn stall with food and water.  We kept them there for a couple days and then put them back with the flock.  Our hope was to get them to dislike the barn and want to stay outside.

First day back outside they lasted maybe an hour in the pen.  Even though we have a lot of RIR we’ve only clipped the wings of three birds, so they are kind of easy to tell apart from the others.  The first one came out, she got her wing clipped a little more and placed in the barn.  Then we found another out of the pen by the strawberries.  We did the same thing, clipped a little bit more of the feathers and placed her in the barn stall.  A bit later as I was working in the barn the third stooge showed up.  I kid you not; I heard the clucking, turned around to see the last one inside walking to the stall.  I opened the stall door and she just walked in and joined Mo and Larry.  So much for behavioral conditioning and trying to change them. 

So by losing eight birds our egg production has dropped an average of six eggs a day.  Every two days we lose a dozen eggs, which hurts.  However, to date it seems our effort in protecting the birds is paying off.  We have not lost any more hens but you never really know until you count them at night and close the door.  Of course we still have three that are potential hawk food but we are trying our darnedest to stop that from happening.

BUY LOCAL: from a local farm, their effort is well worth yours

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