Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce

  (Hinckley, Illinois)
Locally Grown - Quality Farm Produce at Affordable Prices
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Honored to be God's Steward

Jeff has been asked to be a guest on KFUO radio station this coming Monday, February 24th at 11:00am. He will be joined by Pastor Jeff Hemmer and radio host Andrew B Bates on Faith n Family discussing care for creation as part of KFUO's First Article theme for the week. If you are interested in hearing the program, you can live stream at http://www.kfuoam.org/

"To God be the glory! What an honor; I am humbled!!" - Jeff

So in preparation for the radio program, I thought I would blog a bit about how we take care of God's Creation at Bountiful Blessings Farm.

One of the most important things we try to do at the farm is take care of the soil. My grandpa worked very diligently to make sure the soil was healthy, Today, we strive very hard to maintain the soil and contribute to it's health. Adding organic content, keeping the soil fertilized, watching the pH levels and soil tillage are some of our top priorities. These measures help to insure proper stewardship of God's real estate.

Another area of concern is chemical use. At Bountiful Blessings farm we admit we are not organic. However, we do not use harsh chemicals that might endanger wildlife, bees or benificial life. We also take care in putting the well-being of ourselves and customers first by using methods that are safe and effective. We do not spray on a regimen and we incorporate sustainable practices and integrated pest management.  When we spray, we start with organic compounds. We don’t use anything stronger than a one-day post harvest interval. We strive to be good stewards of the many gifts and blessings God bestows upon us which include our education and knowledge of good agricultural practices.

We work very hard to insure the safest practices are implemented in our production of delicious, locally grown vegetables.

 
 

Update - - Tomatoes Coming Soon!!

 

 

 Tomatoes in the high tunnel...

 Tomatoes in the field....

 

 

 Another view of the field...

 
 

More Reasons to buy Local Food

More Reasons to Buy Local Food

 

Local food supports local farm families. With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. The farmer gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

Local food builds community. When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

Local food preserves open space. As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

Local food keeps your taxes in check. Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.

Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife. A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm - the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings - is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats, and rabbits.

Local food is about the future. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.

 

Adapted from "Growing for Market"

Reasons to Buy Locally Grown Food

 Reasons to Buy Locally Grown Food

 

1. Locally grown food tastes better. Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from California, Florida, Chile or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

2. Local produce is better for you. A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some “fresh” produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

Taken from Growing for Market

 
 

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

 Here is a great recipe for a cold, snowy, night.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 - 3 lb. whole chicken

2 qts. water

2 tsp. salt

1 ½ c. chicken stock

2 c. celery, chopped

2 c. carrots, chopped

1 tart apple, chopped

1 c. onions, chopped

Dash pepper

4 c. egg noodles

Place chicken in kettle with 2 quarts water. Cook over medium heat until tender (about 2½ hours). Remove chicken from kettle and strain broth. Debone chicken and return to kettle with strained broth. Add chicken stock, celery, carrots, apple, onions, and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender. When vegetables are tender, add noodles and cook 8-10 minutes.

 
 

Grandma's Pot Roast

Grandma’s Pot Roast

1 – 3 to 5 pound chuck roast

3 tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Roll roast in the flour and brown in the vegetable oil in a large pot. Then stir in:

1 ¾ cups of beef broth

1/4 teaspoon of peppercorns

1 teaspoon of salt

2 bay leaves

Bring this to a boil and reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 2 hours. Then add:

 

2 pounds of potatoes, pared and quartered

1 cup of sliced celery

2 cups of sliced carrots

1 pound of peeled white onions

 

If needed, put in more water or broth to cover the vegetables and cook for 1 more hour or until vegetables are tender. Put meat and vegetables onto a hot platter and sprinkle with parsley. Pour off drippings and thicken with enough flour to make gravy.

 
 

Cabbage

Today has been a long day. First we harvested snap bean samples for a customer; then we weeded. This afternoon was spent planting cabbage. Andy, Peter and I put in about 900 today. I was just out and weeded some more. It is very dry and the rain we thought we were going to get does not look like it will make it. I guess that is why we have irrigation. 

Some of the things to remember about planting cabbage came to mind today as I was planting.  One of the basic things when planting cabbage is not to plant it where you planted it the year before. If you do, the results may not be all that satisfactory, as the plants will often be much more susceptible to disease. It's best to plant them elsewhere in the garden. In fact, you should not plant cabbage where any other members of the Crucifer family have been planted. We rotate our crops to avoid this issue.

Like most vegetables, cabbage is a sun loving plant and will usually not do well if planted in a shady area. Being a cool season plant, it will benefit somewhat from partial shade, especially in the afternoon, in areas where the summer temperatures are quite high. The warmer weather we are experiencing is causing some issues with our crucifer crops.

The rewards from giving the plant sufficient water will soon be evident. The right combination of fertilizer and water can result in some giant-sized heads, if that is what you want, although heads of 9 or 10 inches in diameter will sell better at the market. I think tomorrow I will start irrigating my cabbage!!! Have a great evening! God bless!

 
 

Thankful for the Rain

Today has been kind of slow as I am not feeling the best. I have a terrible cold and chest cough. I guess getting wet and being out in the hot then cold weather got the best of me, I planted more seeds this morning and kept up with the sowing schedule. I do not want to get behind as it is very difficult to get caught up again. Everything looks great after the rain. Our onions are up about two inches and the potatoes are nicely sprouting. It won't be too long and things will be rolling real fast. I want to plant the tomatoes in the high tunnel towards the end of the week or the first part of next week. I am waiting on the weather to stabilize a bit before I gamble again. The same goes for the sweet corn, I want to see what the weather is going to do before I start putting it in the ground. 

After seeding this morning, I cleaned up the garage and pulled some equipment outside. I then did a bunch of paperwork and organization. I am going in the house now to lie down for a little while. The medicine I took is working, making me drowsy. I am very thankful for the rain we received over night and yesterday. This really helped our plantings. May God grant you a wonderful afternoon and evening!

 
 

A Synopsis of the Produce Business

The success of any business depends largely on the clearness the entrepreneur conceives as to the aims and purposes which he is to attain. Many persons grow crops because their family grew them, because they know how to grow them, or because the land and locality are adapted to them. All three apply to me. This is okay; but it is better if the grower can also picture to himself the destination of the crops which he is to raise. That is, he should grow a crop for a distinct purpose. He should find his niche. At Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce, our niche is producing heirloom vegetables, sweet corn and locally grown food available for the local community.

Good farming, like any other business, is primarily a matter of ideals and principles. Vegetable gardening for an income is not an easy business. In fact, nothing is easy if it is worth the having. In the farm produce business, competition is great; the margin of profit is small; there are risks incident to season, diseases, insects, and marketing. Moreover, many of the products are quickly perishable. Most vegetables are used as staple necessities, not as luxuries; and the prices are therefore not high. Nearly every person who has a bit of ground in our rural area around Hinckley, grows a few vegetables. So when our tomatoes are in season, so are theirs. In most cases, earliness of crop is a prime requisite; and to secure the crop very early requires the closest attention to all the details of growing. One must find a dedicated customer; and this customer rarely takes pains to wait for the produce of one grower or to search for it in the market, for the vegetable supply is usually great: consequently, the small grower may have to work diligently to sell his vegetables.

In many cases, the vegetable farmer must keep long hours and must work hard, (Trust me, I work from no later than 7 in the morning till sometimes 9 at night). He must not expect much reward the first two or three years. He must learn his soil, market and climate. If he is a good grower and a good business man, he will succeed. If he is only a grower, he will probably not be very successful. Its like a good mechanic who opens a shop but knows nothing about managing a business; it many times results in failure.

There are many growers who make great profits from certain acreages of land, but they are usually old hands at the business, and they do not make equal profits every year on every acre. They know the market thoroughly. In certain cases, when competition is not severe, decent rewards may come to the novice; but these are exceptions. A niche crop well grown, or produced much ahead of the normal season or much behind it, may turn a handsome profit. High Tunnel and greenhouse products often bring fancy prices; but the risks are also great. Some of the best locations for small produce operations are in the neighborhoods of small cities, where competition is likely to be less severe than in the larger cities. Another great venue is a location or event where the grower may deal directly with the consumer. The grower who has a big farm, and enough capital to run it effectively, can set the market, and can grow sufficient product to bring a fair reward even at close margins. The person who likes the business, and who goes into it with a full appreciation of all the difficulties and discouragements, will almost always succeed. To this person, it is a most attractive business, for the returns are quick; and it is an inexpressible delight to bring forth a beautiful product at the exact time when it is desired by the consumer. Good vegetable production is an indescribable satisfaction.

 
 

Cold Frame

Twenty-eight degrees this morning in Illinois. It is supposed to warm up to forty-two this afternoon. Tomorrow it going to rain. I will be working on the cold frame today. I need to get it finished so I have a place to put the seedlings for hardening off. There is never a lull in activity around the Bountiful Blessings Farm. It seems like there is always something to do. And if there is nothing to do for the produce business, I can always cut wood for the wood stove. 

I am considering making two cold frames 48" by 48". This will give me ample space to place for our seedlings.  I wish they were done as time is getting short, but I think I can accomplish the task in one day. I will be using 2 inch material for the sides and then placing cement block around the base of the frame for support and added insulation. My dad suggested putting Styrofoam insulation between the wood and the block. This will make it even better. There will be a poly top on hinges to allow ventilation as a cover. The frames will be places in open sun on a cement platform near one of our buildings. The building will act as a windbreak and the cement will gather solar heat to somewhat stabilize the temperature in the frames at night. I have some heating coils to put in the bottom of the frame should I decide to make one a hot bed. I am not sure a hot bed would give us any gain but the cables are available if needed.

Last night I made a very tasty supper. I made one of my favorites, chicken and biscuits. What a great comfort food! Of course we had fresh frozen vegetables for last years crop to go along with the chicken! It made me yearn for the new season and the fresh vegetables right out of the field. Of to a new day!

 
 

Cold in Illinois

Another cold and blustery day here in Illinois. However, it is supposed to warm up. Yesterday was very productive. Due to a snow day, my nephew, Andy came out and helped me most of the day. The day started with my daughter going into the ditch with her car and daddy attempting to rescue her. By the time I was able to get there, someone else pulled her out. That was so nice of them! When I got back to the farm, I started seeding tomatoes, onions and cauliflower. The season has officially begun! Andy worked on a few projects I had lined up for him and he did such a great job! I am blessed to have such a super family! There is still a lot more preparation work to be completed, but things are moving right along.

Today is the Grundy county auction. I'm not sure yet if I am going or not. My back is bothering me and I am not sure I can stand around in the cold for fear it would just agitate my back even more. My wife went to town for her normal Saturday morning coffee at her brother's house, so I will probably work in the seed room and get somewhat more organized. It was so wonderful to walk into the seed room this morning and smell the damp soil and feel the warmth when it is only 17 degrees outside. It won't be too long and seeds will start popping through the top layer of soil. How exciting is that? Another miracle! Bountiful Blessings is growing once again! Thank you God!

 
 

The New Hotbed

Today is the first of the week and time to start getting the hotbed built. I have decided to build a nice little hotbed to extend the season. It would be nice to have lettuce, beets, greens, spinach and other cool crop veggies available early this year. So, today I am going to brave the cold (not too bad today) and start building a hotbed. It will be fairly simple.I am going to make a frame from 2x6 material and cover it with 6 mil poly doors. There will be a heating coil placed under the soil to keep the soil temperature around 70 degrees. I am not sure how this will work, but if anyone has tried it, let me know your experiences. Tomorrow it is off to shovel manure. I am getting some cow and chicken manure to supplement the soil here at the farm. I am hoping to build the soil by adding organic material. I hope there is not too much weed seed in the manure! This could make for a messy job later, trying to keep the weeds out and the rows clean.
 
 

Seed Orders

Getting Ready

Well it's that time of year at the farm where I look over last year's records and plan for the upcoming season. Actually, I have been planning for weeks, but I am finally mapping out the ground and preparing seed orders. I never realized there is so much work involved with a produce business! One cannot imagine the amount of planning that it takes to get everything in order. So, with my pile of catalogs, records and projections, I am making a master plan for this season's crop. I enjoy looking through the catalogs and seeing what is new, but it is just as exciting to see some of the heirloom varieties that look so inviting and interesting. I think of how it was back in the day and how much more work it took to grow a crop. Nonetheless, when a person bites into a Black Krim tomato or tries their first Moon and Stars watermelon, they get a sense of that old timey pleasure of eating something that folks enjoyed many, many years ago. I am also working on a hotbed and cold frame to extend the season; trying to provide locally grown vegetables earlier in the season. Many people are already asking me when they can get their first tomato! Well, it's still a bit early! Back to the seed order!

 
 
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