Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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It feels like popcorn exploding

Growing really is a rollercoaster ride, except prolonged, the thrills are unexpected and exhilarating, but the twists and turns visible and unavoidable.  The end of the ride might be in years instead of minutes or seconds but there is an end.  By the end of the seventies, farm foreclosures were commonplace.  I saw a PBS documentary about the desolation of a generational family farm.  The patriarch, whose family owned the farm for a century, was turning the operation over to his son.  At the same time however, the son was realizing how these huge mono-farms subsidized by the federal government, because of the size of the factory farm acreage, had surpassed his ability to get what was needed to stay afloat.  His wife worked at an office job to bring home income.  Off farm income if that rings a bell.

Corporate farms are what is ruining the ecology and making consumers sick.  Story after story of fruit, vegetable and animal product recalls are as commonplace today as never before in the history of food.  Okay, early homosapien might have had more recalls but the record keeping back then is sketchy.  Corporations are the future of the United States and the one percent of the population that holds the greatest amount of wealth is associated with those corporations.  Who do you think owns Monsanto, Haliburton, Wal-Mart, IBM, Cargill, ADM the list goes and goes.  But, the constant is the one percent, sure you and I might have stock in a company, therefore we are owners but not like the large stockholders, the board of directors, the CEO’s and VP’s and all the other titles that generate seven and eight figure incomes, we are not included in that one percent.

I was giving a tour this past weekend during which, I talk about how the cost of ecological sustainability is in our prices and that the prices you pay for food from the industrial food complex (IFC) does not.  You do however subsidize the IFC because ultimately the taxpayer picks up the tab for policing and cleaning up the ecological ills caused by the IFC.  We had ambled over to the layers and I pointed to Amazing and told the crowd of her story, how she survived a bear attack to live out in the woods for three weeks before Coadee found her. 

Whenever we go over to where the layer pen is, most of them come running.  Rhode Island Reds are a very curious group.  When Amazing got near I reached over the fence and she hunkered down for me to pick her up, I then went on to explain to the group how to tell the color of egg by the chickens ear.  I put Amazing back in the pen and continued to talk about soil resting and rejuvenation when out of no where Amazing jumps up and flies onto my shoulder.  She steadied herself and perched on my shoulder.  “Well we do call her Amazing,” I told the group.  Thinking back, I was not even startled, on my periphery I could see she was getting ready to jump, when she did and landed on my shoulder I stretched my arm out so she would get a better purchase and I continued to talk.  Everyone’s eyes were popping at the sight, of what this chicken just did. 

When it was time to move away I leaned over the fence, dipped my shoulder down and she flew off into the pen.  I had never experienced anything like that.  One of our staff saw what had happened and mentioned it at quitting time.  To me it was a sign that points to the benefits of our work and unknown simple pleasures.  The look on people’s faces when that happened was electrifying.  It was crazy, unpredictable and simply amazing from everyone’s perspective.  The first question was “How did you train her to do that?” well I wish I could say I did, but this is the first time this happened.  That made it significantly special for the group because it was not staged as originally thought.  Talk of humane farming and proper treatment of animals creates an environment where something this odd has the potential to happen.  It also enabled me to talk about the difference between humane farms and those of CAFO’s.

That night I was telling the story to my wife, she was skeptical at first then realized I was not joking.  She asked what I did.  how did it feel?  Moreover, did it scare me?  “I stood there and helped her get a purchase,” I said, I saw that she was getting ready to jump I just thought it was going to be out of the pen.  It was one of those ah ha moments, when you seem connected to nature more than you really are but still connected.  It was a good feeling and affirmation that humane farming does make a difference.  It was as bizarre as unexpected, yet thrilling all in one.  When she landed on my shoulder and settled in, my first thought was “do not look at her, she will peck your eye out,” and was followed by oh I hope she does not relieve herself on my back.  None of which happened, "So how did it feel?" my wife asked again.  The only thought I had was its like popcorn exploding inside me.

Buy Local and help save nick's organic farm.  Go to  http://www.savenicksorganicfarm.org/ to help.   

 
 

Blue Ribbons

The Great Frederick County Fair is winding down today.  I am proud to say that our strawberries and concord grapes were not only delicious but when made into jam they garnered the coveted prize of blue ribbon.

That is correct my wife won blue ribbons for her strawberry, Concord grape and blackberry jams.  I could not be prouder or in awe as much as I am.

It is little things, like blue ribbons, that give us the motivation and determination to be successful.  My wife is a formidable opponent when she sets her mind to something.  Sometimes I really hate that about her (especially when I do not get my way) but most times, it is her words that help even out the failures and pitfalls that I write about here.

So here is to you, I could not be prouder or buoyed more by your success and determination.  These are but some of a million reasons that I can point to, as to, why I love her.  Blue Ribbons it does not get any better then that. 

 

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In the blink of an eye

I stare at a white empty background and I think what pearl of wisdom can I impart to help those that are beginning the journey, in which, we have vested seven years of our life?  We are ending our seventh season and it does not look good from a financial standpoint.  We might break even this year, we did not purchase any high dollar items but we did incur startup costs for the broilers.

The broilers are another issue that will be dealt with, and my suspicion is that we are not going to be raising organic broilers next year.  We are looking into contracting out our grow services because we can sell live chickens.  We just cannot sell chickens processed by a USDA inspected exempt facility.  For some odd reason we need to be part of the slaughter or it does not count.  I know each step of the way I have fought the raising and processing of animals, so this might be one of those signs.  Like when you smell propane gas when you should not be smelling propane. 

Before we purchased the flame weeder, as with most things, I did my homework to find out the positive and negatives associated with the decision.  Later on, I was at a graduation party and happened to be talking to an occupational safety researcher.  She is a MD, doing research for the University of Maryland Medical School. 

Knowing my background she asked what kind of mosquitoes lived in Maryland, "I do not know, but I can find out and get back to you," I replied.  Then I asked her why, "I want to buy lore and trap because they are so bad at my house".  I had already purchased my own mosquito catcher and it used a propane tank with lore.  Her reply was a wake up call.  "There is no way I am getting anything using propane.  It is just too dangerous and I'm not taking the risk".

Mind you, I had already bought the flame weeder and backpack in which to carry the tank, "Backpack," being the proximity of the propane tank to my body.  We went on to talk about other things and I told her I would find out about the mosquito and send her an email.  Her words bothered me given her occupation and extensive knowledge of work place injuries.  Once again, one of those signs that makes you pay attention and rethink your original opinion and facts.

I renewed my research of propane but focused mainly on explosions and deaths.  I know it sounds morbid but "fore warned, is fore armed,” if we had not tamed fire where would we be today?  I found websites (.edu, .org, .net and .com) that actually tracks instances of propane deaths caused by explosions.  What I found was that you need three things for an explosion to occur.  One is a leak from the propane apparatus, two is confined or un-ventilated space and three is a spark or flame.  When those things occur simultaneously, you get an explosion.  Okay, I felt a little less anxious because I knew the formula. 

Before each use of the flame weeder, I smell the connections to make sure there is no leak.  There is a regulator between the tank and the flame wand, if a leak would occur it would be around there or in the hose itself.  The tank is always in the on position, I know I should turn it off, in between uses, but I do not.  I am lazy, I use to turn it off each time when put away, and then by the time I lifted the fifty-pound pack onto my back to use it I would find out I had not turned it on.  After a couple of times doing this instead of making sure to turn it on before I lifted it, I just left it on.  Strike one for safely staying alive.

The tank is stored in the dairy barn so a leak would dissipate into the upper floors and the rest of the barn area.  If there were a leak, as soon as you opened a door, you would smell the propane.  Because of the cavernous area of barn space, the propane would not be so concentrated that a spark could set a leak off.  Saturday, I went into the barn to get the weeder, smelled it, put it on and started to weed around the gardens.  Every so often I would get a whiff of propane, I thought maybe what I was smelling was excess gas that did not ignite as it came out of the flame end.  Strike two for safely staying alive.

Only by the grace of God, am I here to write this brief tome.  I had the volume of gas output high because I was killing substantial weed stands.  As I was weeding, I noticed a chicken had gotten out of its pen; I turned the weeder flame off, and walked to the garage to get Coadee.  As I took the backpack off I got the nasty smell of propane, I did not need to get close to the regulator, it was hissing and the smell was overwhelming.  The first thing I did was to turn the tank off by the valve.  Second, I gently picked everything up so that I would not hit metal to metal or create any kind of spark or static charge.  I took the tank out and away from the house, placed on the ground and went to get Coadee to corral the arrant chicken. 

As we were going to get the chicken I started to feel nauseated, my knees were knocking, my muscles felt like rubber and I just became exhausted.  I realized how I had just cheated death and my mind was reeling.  Coadee got the chicken and I put her back in the pen.  Regulators go bad for lots of reasons and I do not know why this one did.  I had to replace the regulator before because I dropped it and it broke.  When I replaced the first regulator, I purchased three regulators.  My train of thought is if it broke once, chances are it is going to break again.  Therefore, I was able to replace the regulator and fix the leak.  I did not use it again that day but I will be used again.

So today’s pearl is peril, attention to detail, stick with what you have learned and do not rationalize for the sake of laziness or time.  There are only so many times you can get away with stupid mistakes before you pay the ultimate price in the blink of an eye.

The Cause continues, if you have not already; please go to http://www.savenicksorganicfarm.org/  to help save Nick's organic farm.  You do not have to give money if you can't, but just spend a little time to make your voice heard.  You don't have to live in Maryland to be concerned about losing another farm, let alone a thirty year old plot of organic land.  No Farms, No Food.   

 

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