Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
Eat healthier. Save money. Create local jobs.
[ Member listing ]

Give that farmer a tip!

moonique dairy cows kriannmon Give that farmer a tip!

Dairy cows from Moo-nique
{Image Credit}
Kriannmon on Flickr

Today I wanted give you a brief peek into a sweet conversation that recently happened at our house.

Owen has been experiencing some growing pains lately. I heard once that a dose of extra calcium can help to soothe growing pains, so I always offer him a glass of milk. Maybe it’s an old wives tale… maybe it’s all in his head… but he usually calms down and goes to sleep afterwards.

The other night at bedtime I was laying down with him and he said “Mom, can I have a glass of milk?”

“We’re all out” I replied.

“Can’t you just go to the store and get some?” he asked.

“No, because in a couple of days we’re going to get more and it would be wasteful to spend extra money on milk from the store when we’re already paying for milk from the farm, especially since it’s kind of expensive.”

He paused for a moment.

“Umm… Mom? Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy milk from the store?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Do you mean ‘Wouldn’t it cost less money?’”

“Yeah!” he replied “Couldn’t you save money and just get our milk from the store? Wouldn’t that be better?”

“Well, yes, it would cost less money” I said, “but it wouldn’t be better. Here are a couple of things...

Click here to read the rest of the conversation. (It's cute... I promise!)

 
 

Thinking about African Americans in Agriculture

black farmer in corn field

By definition, being a minority means that in most circles and situations I’m among people who are different than me. I don’t mind. In fact someday I’d like to write about how being a multi-racial person has helped (and in some ways necessitated) me to appreciate and be comfortable with people from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. That’s for another day. Today’s post is much simpler.

February is Black History Month, but the idea behind this post first came to me this past summer. At the time I was looking for stock images to use in promotional materials and I wanted them to be diverse, showing people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. That was the first time it dawned on me that, in our culture, the title “Farmer” usually means “White guy.” Think about it – when I say “farmer” to you, my guess is that the first image that comes to your mind is a middle-aged white man with a straw hat… maybe sitting on a tractor. There were no farmer stock-images of female farmers. And there were no stock-images of minority farmers of any color.

That brief experience got me thinking about all of the farmers I’ve met in real life and it dawned on me for the first time that none of them are minorities. (It’s not that I’m slow – I promise – it’s just that racial surveying is not high on my priority list when meeting new people.) I could think of one farmer’s market employee who was Hispanic. But as I mentally surveyed the faces of all my new agriculture friends and acquaintances, there was only one face of African American descent in the bunch: Me.

I wondered about whether this trend was consistent throughout the nation. Is our stereotypical idea that a farmer is a white guy based on real probability? And if so, why? Why wouldn’t a career in agriculture be just as appealing to black people as it is to white people?

Some Statistics

african american farmer

So I started doing some research. What I discovered is that agriculture used to be a very significant occupation for the black community in America but as of today (2010 census) black farmers aren’t even statistically on the map. Here are some numbers to paint the picture.

In 1862 when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established, 90% of all American were farmers. By 1920 (nearly sixty years after emancipation) just over 14% of all farmers were black. Fast forward to 1987 and you can reduce that statistic to about 1.5%. Today less than 1% of all US citizens (regardless of race) are farmers. Compared to the entire US population, African American farmers comprise a teeny, tiny .01% of all Americans.

The decline in American farmers overall is shocking – and the numbers for African American participation in that small subset are abysmal. I wanted to get a better feel on the percentage change of farming within the black community itself. Since I can’t find hard-and-fast statistics on a portion of this, let’s make a reasonable assumption. Given the educational, economic and prejudicial hardships newly-freed slaves faced as they attempted to create a living for themselves, let’s assume that half (50%) of the nearly 4 million black Americans emancipated turned to something they had significant experience in: Agriculture. This number obviously could be significantly higher or lower, but it isn’t unreasonable.

By that statistic, nearly 2 million black citizens (50% of African Americans) would be employed in agriculture. According to the 2010 census, today there are approximately 47,000 African Americans employed in agriculture – an unbelievable .1% of the black population, representing a 49.9% reduction in 150 years.

Voices of Agriculture Video

Those numbers certainly paint a picture, but they don’t really answer why. Based on the numbers I think it’s safe to say that agriculture was once an important occupation for all Americans – regardless of race – and is a dwindling group of people – regardless of race. Still, I wanted to know more specifically about the African American agriculture experience. This post doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the African American contribution to and historical impact on agriculture. I have a lot more to learn and investigate. I’m still researching, but I found this documentary that fills in some of the narrative outside of statistics, and I wanted to share it with you. (Interestingly, almost all of the useful information I found on present-day African American farming came from a source related to South Carolina in some way or another.)

  To watch the video, please visit our site: http://www.arcadia-farms.net/thinking-about-african-americans-in-agriculture

 
 

Why Raw Milk?

Why Raw Milk?One of the commitments our family made as part of the Locavore90 challenge is to find local sources for our meat, eggs and dairy. This week I had the privilege of speaking with several local dairy farmers as part of my search for the right source of our family’s milk. As I began thinking through our personal dairy needs I started asking myself a bunch of questions, like…
  • Should we even be drinking milk?
  • Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?
  • How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?
  • How am I going to find a way to purchase enough milk to drink and make our own butter and cheese?

That’s when it occurred to me that before I can share information with you about where to find local, raw milk, first I should share about why you should find local, raw milk.

Local and Raw

Yes, I said local. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. After all, the mission of our farm revolves around buying local and Locavore90 is all about incorporating more local foods into the diets of families in Southwest Michigan. (If you’ve not yet become convinced that buying your food locally is beneficial to the health of your wallet, your body and your community, click here.)

I also said raw. This post may be a little long, but it will explain to you why during our Locavore90 conversations about dairy I will be talking exclusively about milk that is:

  • Local (see above)
  • Raw (unpasteurized)
  • From grass-fed animals
  • For cow’s milk, from A2 cows only

 

Raw Milk

Research – both scientific and anecdotal – suggests that raw milk has several health benefits not retained by its pasteurized counterpart. Or perhaps a more accurate way to say it is that pasteurized milk has been altered in ways that reduce its health benefits and, in some cases, actually cause the milk to be more harmful than healthful.

The general premise is that raw milk contains proteins, antibodies, a perfect balance of minerals and good bacteria that are destroyed, altered or diminished during the heating process of pasteurization.

Pasteurization

According to Wikipedia:

“Pasteurization… is a process of heating a food, which is usually a liquid, to a specific temperature for a predefined length of time and then immediately cooling it after it is removed from the heat. This process slows spoilage caused by microbial growth in the food.

Unlike sterilization, pasteurization is not intended to kill all micro-organisms in the food. Instead, it aims to reduce the number of viable pathogens so they are unlikely to cause disease (assuming the pasteurized product is stored as indicated and is consumed before its expiration date). Commercial-scale sterilization of food is not common because it adversely affects the taste and quality of the product. Certain foods, such as dairy products, may be superheated to ensure pathogenic microbes are destroyed.”

In general terms, Americans pasteurize milk to reduce the possibility of “viable pathogens” causing disease or spoilage in the milk. Sounds good, right? But in reality “some research suggests that unpasteurized milk contains antimicrobial components absent in pasteurized milk. These studies found that pathogens grow more slowly or die more quickly when added to raw milk than when added to heat-treated milk. This does not mean that raw milk cannot be contaminated with bacteria, nor does it mean that raw milk ‘kills pathogens’. Rather, unpasteurized milk may be somewhat less susceptible to contamination than pasteurized milk due to its probiotic bacteria and antimicrobial enzymes.”

Natural News provided an excellent overview of the health benefits of raw milk – all of the things we’re missing out on when we drink commercially pasteurized milk from feed-lot cows. Here is a verbatim copy of the info they shared here.

Proteins

Raw cow’s milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids, which saves our bodies the work of having to convert any into usable form. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins (reasonably heat stable but easy to digest). The other 20% fall into the class of whey proteins. These are also easy to digest, but also very heat sensitive.

The immunoglobulins are an extremely complex class of milk proteins also known as antibodies. These provide resistance to many viruses, bacteria and bacterial toxins and may also help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms. Research has shown a significant loss of these important disease fighters when milk is pasteurized.

Carbohydrates

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in cow’s milk. It is made from one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose. People with lactose intolerance do not make the enzyme lactase and so cannot digest milk sugar. Raw milk has its lactose-digesting Lactobacilli bacteria intact. This may allow people who traditionally have avoided milk to drink raw milk.

Fats

about two thirds of the fat in milk is saturated. Saturated fats play a number of important roles in our bodies. They construct cell membranes and key hormones, they provide energy storage and padding for delicate organs, and they serve as a vehicle for important fat-soluble vitamins.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is abundant in milk from pastured cows. This is a heavily studied, polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid that has promising health benefits. Some of CLA’s many possible benefits are (1) it raises metabolic rates; (2) it helps remove abdominal fat; (3) it boosts muscle growth; (4) it reduces resistance to insulin; and (5) it strengthens the immune system and lowers food allergy reactions. Grass-fed raw milk has 3-5 times more CLAs than the milk from feed-lot cows.

Vitamins

Whole raw milk has both water and fat soluble vitamins. No enriching is necessary. It’s a complete food. Pasteurized milk must have the destroyed components added back in, especially the fat soluble vitamins A and D.

Minerals

Raw milk contains a broad selection of minerals ranging from calcium and phosphorus to trace elements.

Calcium is abundant in raw milk. Its benefits include a reduction of some cancers, particularly colon; higher bone density in people of all ages; lower risk of osteoporosis in older adults; lowered risk of kidney stones; the formation of strong teeth; as well as a reduction of dental cavities.

An interesting fact about minerals as nutrients is the special balance they require with other minerals to function properly. For example, calcium needs a proper ratio of phosphorus and magnesium to be properly utilized by our bodies. Raw milk is in perfect balance.

Enzymes

The 60 functional enzymes in raw milk have an amazing assortment of jobs to perform. Some of them are native to milk and some come from beneficial bacteria growing in raw milk. When we eat food that contains enzymes devoted to its own digestion, it’s less work for our pancreas. Other enzymes, like catalase, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase help to protect milk from unwanted bacterial infection, making it safer for us to drink.

Cholesterol

Milk contains about 3mg of cholesterol per gram. Our bodies make most of the cholesterol we need. This amount fluctuates by what we get from our food. Cholesterol is a repair substance. It is a waxy plant steroid that our body uses as a form of water-proofing and as a building block for key hormones.

Beneficial Bacteria

Raw milk is a living food with amazing self-protective properties. As most food goes bad as it ages, raw milk gets better. From helpful bacterial fermentation, the digestibility of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals all increases.

Flavor

In addition to all of these health benefits, many people think that raw milk has a superior flavor and texture to pasteurized, homogenized milk. Here is a quote from Emily Weinstein who blogs for The New York Times. She describes her first raw milk experience in this way:

“The milk — oh man, the milk! — was creamy and full of flavors, not white like supermarket milk, but yellow-tinged. It was milk with a taste that wasn’t just defined by it texture — it was distinct, satisfying, delicious. All food should be like this, I thought, so natural it seems to redefine the word.”

With all of this fabulous info in mind, it’s difficult to believe that selling raw milk is illegal in all but 1 of the United States, isn’t it? More on that later (don’t worry – there is a legal way to still get it.)

Who cares what the cow eats?

Dairy From Grass-Fed Animals

For optimal health (and conversely, to avoid health detriments) it’s important for raw milk to come from humanely raised, grass-fed animals. Why? Because dairy animals (we’ll focus on cows and goats) have a digestive system that includes a rumen. The rumen is the first chamber of the digestive system of animals that graze (including cows and goats). It serves as the primary site for microbial fermentation of ingested feed. The rumen was not designed to digest grains such as corn – it was designed to digest grasses. When we feed grain to cows (the majority of US dairy cows are not pasture raised but eat corn and soy) we are feeding them an unnatural food and their bodies react in unnatural ways. Add on top of that unsanitary, inhumane and anti-biotic laden food-factory practices and you have a recipe for ‘milk’ that is not the same product as the milk our grandparents and great grandparents used to drink.

Here are a couple of videos that do a much better job of informing you about the consequences of feeding grain to dairy cows than I ever could.


This video may seem a bit long and off topic at first, but hang in there! You need the corn explanation to get to the cow-pertinent part at the end.

 

Devil in the Milk

What is an A2 Cow?

While talking to a local dairy farmer this week I learned about the important difference between an A1 cow and an A2 cow. I’m no expert, but let me do my best to piece together resources from those who are experts and provide you with an introduction. The most direct way I know to give you a solid overview is to share this article at www.mercola.com verbatim:

“Prominent food researcher Dr. Thomas Cowan has been involved in thinking about the medicinal aspects of cow’s milk virtually his entire career.

His studies on the subject started in earnest when he read the book The Milk of Human Kindness Is Not Pasteurized, by maverick physician, William Campbell Douglass, MD.

Cowan became convinced that a large part of the disease in this country is related to the way we handle, or rather mishandle, milk and milk products.

However, he still felt that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Many of his patients, in spite of eating only the proper dairy products, still had illness and still seemed not to tolerate milk. Recently, he was asked to consider writing the foreword to a book called The Devil in the Milk, written by Dr. Keith Woodford, which was again an eye-opener for him.

All proteins are long chains of amino acids. Beta casein is a chain 229 amino acids in length. Cows who produce this protein in their milk with a proline at number 67 are called A2 cows, and are the older breeds of cows (e.g. Jerseys, Asian and African cows). But some 5,000 years ago, a mutation occurred in this proline amino acid, converting it to histidine. Cows that have this mutated beta casein are called A1 cows, and include breeds like Holstein.

Proline has a strong bond to a small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from getting into the milk, so that essentially no BCM 7 is found in the urine, blood or GI tract of old-fashioned A2 cows. On the other hand, histidine, the mutated protein, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk.

BCM 7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM 7 interferes with the immune response, and injecting BCM 7 in animal models has been shown to provoke type 1 diabetes. Dr. Woodford’s book presents research showing a direct correlation between a population’s exposure to A1 cow’s milk and incidence of autoimmune disease, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.

Simply switching breeds of cows could result in amazing health benefits.”

Conclusion

At the beginning of this post I shared some questions with you – questions I’ve been asking myself about the dairy products I feed my family. You may be asking some of the same questions, so I thought I’d conclude with some answers.

Should we even be drinking milk?

There are some schools of thought out there that milk should be avoided completely because of the (substantiated) negative consequences milk has on health. I do not refute in any way that milk consumption has caused health issues in our society, but after learning more about the negative health consequences of pasteurizing milk, it stands to reason that the issue may not be milk itself but the unintended consequences of our attempts to improve upon nature. How ironic that the same food which has been discounted as dangerous to your health actually has medicinal value when consume the right (natural) way! Our family will continue to consume dairy – the right way.

Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?

In short, because raw milk contains numerous health benefits while, conversely, processed milk can be damaging to health. The significant benefits of raw milk and the significant risks of processed milk make it a clear choice. Some would argue that raw milk is actually dangerous to drink because there is an increased chance of pathogens (it hasn’t been boiled at high temperatures like pasteurized milk). Click here for more scientific data to address that claim.

How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?

The reality is, buying local, raw milk will cost you more than buying a gallon of pasteurized milk at Meijer. Local, raw milk costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 per gallon but, depending on the farm, can be as high as $8. That number comes with some sticker shock when you’re used to spending $2.99 per gallon! We personally drink about 1 gallon of milk a week. Your family may drink more, but let’s use the 1 gallon per week rule as an example. Before you decide that you can’t afford to buy raw milk, please consider that there are very reasonable ways to save an extra $3 per week on other items (i.e., drink one less latte a week; grow your own spinach; conserve gas so you buy one less gallon, etc.). On the flip side, the real cost to you in allergy medication, over-the-counter gas treatments and other potential side effects of pasteurized milk cost more than $3 per week. In some cases, the difference between your life drinking raw milk verses pasteurized may be the kind of difference that a price tag cannot depict.

How will you know if you don’t try?

Now What?

I hope you’ll review this information carefully and talk with your family about it. For those of you who’ve decided that local, raw milk is worth serious consideration, I’m going to be sharing info next week that answers these questions:

  • If it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Michigan, how am I going to (legally) get it?
  • Where can I get raw milk?
  • Show me the numbers – how much is it really going to cost me?
  • What about milk from animals other than cows, like sheep and goats

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Frost! (And Other Updates)

There’s a reason why the last frost date in Michigan (the reasonable date on which you can plant outside in the spring without worrying about frost harming your plants) has been moved to May 18. Last night (May 12/13) we had a visit from good ole Jack Frost! Pretty strange considering the old Last Frost Date was May 10 and we’ve been having beautifully warm weather before this sudden cold snap. Then again, this is Michigan, and it wouldn’t be spring if you didn’t have to trade your flip flops for the winter coat all in the same week at least one time…

I’m not sure if you would call it impatience or optimism, but it was sooo warm last week that I couldn’t resist the urge to plant out at least one warm-weather crop. My original plan was to transplant just three golden zucchini plants… I planted six. Here’s what I did to keep these little guys cozy over the very cold weekend (and right through last night’s frost).

Row Cover

On Friday afternoon I covered the raised bed with a plastic row cover. The row cover is attached with utility clips to hoops made from PVC pipe. The zucchini share a bed with radishes which actually prefer the cold weather. Fortunately these are the Rat’s Tail radishes which I’m growing not for the root but for the edible seed pods. The row cover will warm them up substantially in sunny conditions, causing them to bolt (grow faster and produce a flower). Bolting is bad for regular radishes because it alters the taste and texture of the root, but in the case of these radishes, a little extra heat will just move the I-want-seed-pods process along a smidge faster.

row cover

This row cover was put in place to protect golden zucchini plants from May frost.

Cloches

In theory, a row cover should be enough to keep my precious golden zucchini plants from being frost-bitten. But since I got a little overzealous and planted out six instead of three, I decided to bring in some insurance. Enter the cloche (pronounced “klohsh”). A cloche is a tool that originated in France to keep plants from being harmed by frost and to force their early growth. The cloche is typically bell shaped and made from glass. Here’s a picture of a classic cloche.

classic French garden cloche

{Image Credit}
betterlivingthroughpermaculture.com
Click on the image for a DIY cloche idea.

I’m not fancy enough to have beautiful French cloches like the one above so I used my own micro-farm-style cloches: mason jars.

diy cloche

The zucchini plants get double frost protection – glass cloches made from mason jars and a plastic row cover.

diy cloche

The upside down jars keep the plants warm and safe from frost.

The zucchini plants were covered from late on Friday afternoon all the way through this morning (Monday). When I first placed them over the plants, it was chilly and windy but the sun was shining, and they looked like like the picture above. When I retrieved the cloches this morning, the plants looked like this:

diy cloches

The “after” shot is pretty much the same as the “before”!

diy cloche

Despite a smidge of mud on one leaf, this plant
(just like the others) looks great!

So based on my experience, the combination of row cover and cloche worked beautifully! My zucchini plants are ready for spring!

Other Plants in the Garden

Everything else that is planted out in the garden is frost tolerant – lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, peas, carrots (teeny tiny seedlings), beets (just now coming up), onions, strawberries and a few other things I can’t think to name right now. There is one sad exception: The potato plants.

Since potatoes are planted out so early, my novice-farmer brain assumed that they are frost tolerant. But as I was coming in from the garden this morning I noticed that many of the leaves looked very frost bitten and dark. What a giant bummer because they have been coming up SO nicely (about 4 to 6 inches each)! One of the garden tasks I was planning for this afternoon was hilling potatoes. After doing some quick research it appears that I just need to trim the dead/damaged leaves and the plants should continue to grow just fine. Next year I’ll throw a row cover over these too!

potato plants

Here are the potato plants before last night’s frost. They don’t look as cheerful this morning…

The only thing planted in the Fenceline garden right now is turnips… or perhaps I should say “was” turnips. These are frost-tolerant and were coming along nicely… until one or two certain four-legged creatures who are otherwise quite lovable dug half of them up. Not. Happy. Time to get that electric fence fixed

The other heat-loving plants have been hiding out in the greenhouse snuggled together on the shelves near the heater which came back into action for the weekend. After today the heater should be going into hibernation until fall.

Also the blueberry bushes are starting to blossom! This is exciting but also a bit sad because I was planning to transplant them to their permanent home before they blossomed. (They are currently in large pots inside the garden fence.) I suppose that task will now have to wait until fall, which is ok, because I’m still not sure where I want to put them.

If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.

If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.

Did you have any frost issues in your garden? Is anyone out there going to be adventurous and transplant heat-loving plants before the actual last frost date? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Kalamazoo Social Media Week

kalamazoo social media week 2013

Here’s something I’m crazy excited (if not a little late to share) about: Kalamazoo Social Media Week! According to an article on www.mlive.com by Ursula Zerilli:

“Kalamazoo Social Media Week kicks off on Sunday, April 14-18, 2013 with a week full of events and contests celebrating local businesses, pop culture in Kalamazoo and community engagement…

The community is being asked to vote now for individuals and businesses, who are best incorporating social media into their communications strategy on Foursquare, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Nominees will be judged by a panel of five people comprised of social media experts in the field to avid community supporters.

Award categories include the best local blog, most inspiring Pinterest board, best locally-produced video on social media and the most engaged business.”

Click on the image at right to learn about events hosted by Klassic Arcade, Kalamazoo State Theatre, Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Bell’s Brewery and Old Dog Tavern. I’m especially excited about the food truck lunch Tuesday and the Social Media Awards celebration on Wednesday!

Award?! Best Local Blog?!

Part of our farm’s mission is to share information about sustainable living with our community (click here for more on that). Kalamazoo Social Media Week is a perfect opportunity for us to share what we’re all about with our neighbors! Will you help us?

Show Us Some Love – Vote for Arcadia Farms

If you love this blog, please click here to vote for Arcadia Farms in Best Blog – Individual Category.

If you love our Pinterest boards, please click here to vote for Arcadia Farms in Most Inspiring Pinterest Board.

You can nominate as many times as you’d like… really… scout’s honor!

{Click here to see the 345+ reasons why our 322 followers think this board is inspiring!}

Not Sure What to Say?

By all means, I encourage you to use your own words. But in case the whole free-form nomination thing makes you a little woozy, here’s what I wrote (yes, I nominated myself… shameless…):

Blog Name: Arcadia Farms

Blog URL: http://www.arcadia-farms.net

Blog Author: Chief Veggie Whisperer, Katie Shank

Why is This the Best Local Blog? This blog is about a Portage family learning to live a sustainable lifestyle and focuses on eating healthy, buying local and saving money. Katie is a former HR Director who recently quit her desk job to dig in dirt full time and share the story via social media. She offers inspiration and advice from personal, wet-behind-the-ears-but-fearless experiences to other families who are new to topics like homesteading, gardening, seasonal eating and healthy living. This blog is also consistently in the top 10 blogs (often #1) at www.local-harvest.org.

Contact Email Address: katie@arcadia-farms.net

Keep In Touch

Social media is all about up-to-the minute details, right? Get all the Kalamazoo Social Media Week updates by following @tweetupkzoo and @ArcadiaFarmsCSA on Twitter! (Or check us out on Facebook where I’m much more active.)

As of today, there are about 1,500 people visiting this blog each week. If you’ve found the Arcadia Farms blog helpful or inspiring and would like to help us spread the message of sustainable living to others, we’d love to have your vote. Thanks for your support!

 
 

Why Chickens?

isa red chickens group

We have chickens! Why raise chickens? I’m so glad you asked! If you live in the city or the suburbs or think chickens are gross or too much work or you just can’t do it because you don’t know enough or or or… this post is for you. There are lots of benefits to raising chickens. Add in the fact that chickens are relatively easy and inexpensive to care for and you just might change your mind.

Reasons to Raise Chickens

First, naturally raised eggs taste better. Of course this point is completely subjective, but I have consistently noticed that naturally raised eggs are darker in color. In my opinion, they are also more flavorful than the standard white dozen we used to buy from the grocery store. (I also happen to think that naturally raised chicken meat is tastier too!)

Naturally raised eggs are healthier. According to www.backyardchickens.com, backyard eggs contain:

  • 1/3 the Cholesterol of store bought eggs
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2 times the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids
  • 3 times the amount of Vitamin E
  • 7 times more Beta Carotene

Chickens are family-friendly, low-maintenance pets.

Chickens are great pest-control assistants! They eat pretty much any kind of bug. If you’re looking for a way to get rid of insects in or around your garden, or if you have a specific pest issue to address (such as termites or fleas), adding chickens to your backyard is a natural, chemical-free, low-cost way to kiss those buggies goodbye!

Chickens are also great at weeding. Chickens love to eat… if you have an area that needs weeding, let chickens loose; they’ll turn your patch of weeds into a salad. (Be careful – your chickens don’t know the difference between what you call “weeds” and what you call “lettuce.” We’ll talk later in the week about how to safely incorporate chickens into your garden and yard without sacrificing the plants you actually want keep.)

In addition to all of that, chickens can provide you with effective, natural fertilizer for your yard and garden. Chicken manure has great levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, all of which are essential for proper plant growth. Because of the high amounts of nitrogen, chicken manure is too “hot” to use directly in your garden. Chicken owners should compost their birds’ manure to breakdown potentially harmful pathogens and render the manure safe as a fertilizer or soil amendment. If you compost your chicken manure in a pile, you’ll need to wait 6 to 12 months before you use it in the garden. If you turn the pile once a week, you may be able to use it as early as 4 to 6 months. Another way to compost your chicken manure is the use the deep bedding method in your chicken coop. We’ll talk about that more later in the week as well, but if you just can’t stand to wait, you can find out more by clicking here.

Raising your own eggs (and potentially meat) and fertilizer can save a gardening family a good chunk of cash throughout the year.

Why We Are Raising Chickens

At Arcadia Farms we desire to keep chickens for several reasons. One of the chief reasons is that the ability to gather naturally-raised eggs from our backyard contributes to the physical and financial health of our family. Another reason is that the symbiotic relationships of chickens to other areas of our farm provide environmental health and cost-savings for our operation. (As I mentioned above, properly composted chicken manure provides fertilizer for our gardens and as omnivores who eat bugs, chickens provide additional pest control to our property.)

Choosing Birds

I’m no chicken expert. So as a newbie I discovered quickly that there are many, many breeds to select from. After some research we initially wanted to purchase Orpingtons (Buff or Blue) but ended up with ISA Reds. These breeds are considered good choices for suburban settings because they are very docile and make less noise than other breeds. They are also known to be good-to-excellent egg layers.

If you’re interested in raising chickens but have no idea where to start, check out this Which Chicken? Breed Selector Tool resource from www.mypetchicken.com. For more super-helpful information check out About.com’s Small Farm guide to Choosing Chicken Breeds by clicking here. And just in case you’re as wet behind the ears as I am was about the world of chicken’s, here is a glossary of chicken-related terms provided by Tractor Supply Company (click on the image below). You’ll probably want to start here so that you better understand the terms used by the other references listed above.

 

Can You Have Chickens?

If you live in Portage, MI and are interested in taking the next step, click here for local ordinance information. For those of you in other communities, be sure to check with your local municipality about the application of ordinances to your ability to keep chickens.

There may be other reasons to raise your own chickens. Can you think of any? Do you have any questions about raising your own chickens?

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.    

 
 

Heating the Greenhouse

When I was growing up my mom always had a countdown to spring. I’m not a fan of cold weather, or snow, or the cold-meets-muddy mess that is early spring in Michigan. For all those reasons I always joyfully joined into the countdown. And for all of those reasons I was always sorely disappointed. Here’s why: Mom counted down to The First Day of Spring… as in the little square on the calendar that tells us the day of the astronomical vernal equinox has arrived (March 20 this year). In Michigan, that usually means it is still cold, possibly snowy and muddy beyond belief. Once I became a teenager and wised up to all of this, I vehemently refused to participate in the countdown to avoid the imminent disappointment. I’ve learned that it’s best not to expect spring until May.

Expecting that warm weather won’t be here until May has implications for our greenhouse. In order to plant by the phases of the moon and have my transplants ready for the garden by the time our last frost date passes I have to start seeds as early as next Monday (March 11). We don’t have room in our tiny house to store the thousands of seeds I plan to start in March and April so they need to go elsewhere. The greenhouse is naturally a good candidate. This time of year there should be plenty of light to keep my seedlings happy during the day, however, the temperature is still well below freezing most days. We need a heater.

Sustainable Heater?

Enter my desire for low-cost, sustainable processes. We have an electric space heater in the greenhouse which did a fine job of heating our 6’ x 6’ space this fall. I was hoping to find something a little more sustainable – or at least less expensive – to do the job. Here are some of the things I considered (solar powered heater, terracotta pot heater and rocket stove) :

[pin here]

Source: youtube.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Choices, Choices

Of all the options I decided to try the terracotta pot heater. Online reviews from other users seemed to indicate that the heater didn’t give off as much heat as they had hoped but it still “worked.” One person said it could be used to heat a small room. A 6’ x 6’ greenhouse is a pretty small room so I felt optimistic. Plus I already have plenty of pots so materials wouldn’t’ be very costly. Materials include:

  • Two terracotta pots (10? and 12?)
  • Lamp
  • Heat bulb
  • 2” threaded bolt (1/2 inch diameter)
  • 8 washers
  • 4 bolts

I decided to use a light bulb instead of a candle because I felt the energy would be more consistent and then I wouldn’t have to buy a supply of candles. (If I ever needed to use the heater with a candle instead of a light bulb, that would still be an option.) We’re preparing for chickens so I recently bought a pack of two 250W heat bulbs. Using a lamp I already own, I tested the heater by placing a large pot over the bulb. Presto – heat!

Next I went to Home Depot and bought the bolt and a handful of washers and nuts.  I used the bolt to thread the 10” pot inside the 12” pot.

terra cotta pots threaded together

Then I setup the lamp (used an extension cord from the garage), surrounded it by 6” pots placed upside down (like a tripod) and set the threaded pots over the lamp (resting on the 6” pots).

terra cotta pot heater with heat lamp

terra cotta pot heater

In very little time the pots began to heat up – a lot!! I even burned myself on the bolt once. But alas, after several tests I determined that the heater at best was making a 1-3* difference in the air temperature of the greenhouse. And that at best difference was happening in the afternoon when I need it least. At night time (when I need it most) there was no measurable difference at all. Even if I had two or three of these bad boys, I don’t think it would help.

Bummer.

Oh Mr. Sun

The good news is that since I was monitoring the greenhouse temperature closely for several days I noticed that the sun has reached a point in the sky where it is adequately heating the greenhouse during the day. Today it is 100+ degrees in there with just solar heating! So long as we continue to have moderately sunny days, I think I’ll be able to get away with letting the sun keep my plants warm (above 60*) during the day and using the electric heater at night. If time allows, I’d like to try making a small rocket stove to use at night. No promises there, but if it happens, you can be sure that I’ll share my findings with you.

Does anyone have tips for how they heat their greenhouse? Any creative ideas you’d like me to try?

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Garden Apps Wish List

Wish List Wednesday | Garden Apps (from seed to table!)

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing organic or sustainable about apps for your mobile device. At first glance it may seem a little off-center that a website about living sustainably is featuring a Wish List of Android and iPhone apps, but please, hold the phone! Our take on sustainable living is a wee bit different than you might expect. In this recent post about the topic of sustainable living I mentioned that “the beauty of sustainable living is that we can (responsibly) enjoy the comforts of modern resources without worry for what we’ll do if or when they’re gone. Living sustainably does not mean utterly forsaking modern resources, but it does mean that we have a plan for living well should we need to live without them.”

So in the spirit of smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, I give you this month’s Wish List Wednesday! There’s a whole world of nifty apps out there just waiting for you to discover them! Check out these neat programs that can be accessed from your mobile device and can make garden planning, planting, watering, harvesting, local eating, cooking and recordkeeping one step easier.

Square Foot Gardening Spacing

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing Cheat Sheet. Its written to be easy to read from your mobile device so you can check it on your phone while you’re in the garden. {Arcadia Farms}

 

Gardening Toolkit
The Gardening Toolkit – The app that loves to grow! Organize your plants in multiple gardens. Advice on what to grow and when to grow it. Data and photos for 1000 plants and vegetables.

 

Gardenate
The garden calendar shows the vegetables and herbs you can plant every month. A detailed guide to growing the most popular garden vegetables, with local planting information for the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.

 

Green Drop
Green Drop is a full featured garden/plant manager. – Organize your plants into gardens with locations – Monitor and get reminders when plants need water, food, or are ready for harvest. – Keep notes on your plants. – Manually adjust watering, feeding, and harvest dates if needed. – Keep a gallery of pictures of each plant with notes and date picture was taken (to track growth).

 

Herbs+
Herbs+ gives you images and information on the most popular herbs in an elegant, fun-to-use application. Each herb offers gardening tips, culinary ideas, medicinal uses and a crisp image to help you identify the herb.

 

Bugs in the Garden
Quickly ID common North American insects in your vegetable garden. Includes realistic illustrations and photos of both adults and larva (caterpillars and grubs). Gives basic advice on management and damage assessment. If you have seen while gardening: * Beetles * Moths * Aphids * Caterpillars * Grubs This app will help identify them. 33 pictures of 23 bugs all on one page to swiftly pinpoint the bugs in your garden.

 

Mother Earth News
The new MOTHER EARTH NEWS app acts as a virtual library of our electronic resources, conveniently bringing them all together in one handy tool. You can browse through our resources and download those that most interest you. Our How to Can and Food Garden Guide tools, previously available only as separate apps, are offered for free within the MOTHER EARTH NEWS app and together will guide you through growing a great organic garden and preserving your fresh harvests.

 

Garden  Guide (Mother Earth News)
The Food Gardening Guide from Mother Earth News is a one-stop gardening app from America’s leading magazine on organic gardening. The app provides expert advice on Crops and Techniques, plus a Resources section to find even more helpful information. Shown with beautiful illustrations, the Crops section includes planting and harvesting instructions along with recommended varieties, pest control advice and extra tips to improve your garden’s yields.

 

How to Can (Mother Earth News)
This app explains how to can fresh produce using both water bath and pressure canners. Complete basic instructions plus timing details for over 20 crops make this free app a must-have for anyone who cans or wants to learn how to can. Incorporates advice from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ball brand home canning products company. The Basics section will fully equip even the most novice of canners with all the information needed to get started.

 

Harvest Plan
Harvest Plan is a neat little application for your mobile device that lets you keep tabs on your garden. With a library of more than 200 popular plants at the start, harvest plan will keep you abreast of what’s where and when it’s going to be ready. Keep track of plantings, losses, and yields – even attach a picture of your plants to the entry. When it’s time to check on your plants, Harvest Plan will post a notification to your device’s notification panel so you won’t miss it.

 

Taste of Home Recipe App
Taste of Home’s recipe app brings provides tons of recipes featuring the season’s freshest flavors right to your phone. Each season brings a new collection of recipes for fresh fruits and veggies. Recipes have photos. Allows you to browse by course, cooking style, cuisine, ingredients or holidays. My favorite part: You can find which locally-grown ingredients are available in your state this season—just choose your location, browse the ingredients, and find hundreds of recipes!

 

AmpleHarvest
While America has more than 50 million people who are hungry or are at real risk of being hungry (“food insecure people”), more than 40 million Americans grow food in home gardens – often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you deliberately planted an extra row of food or just harvested more zucchini (or any other fruit, vegetables, herbs or nuts) than you can possibly use, AmpleHarvest.

 

Honorable Mentions

Fooducate
Don’t Diet – Eat Healthy with Fooducate! Featured App on Android Market Dec 2011. Scan and choose healthy groceries. Over 200,000 unique UPCs! As featured in Oprah’s O Magazine, USAToday, NYTimes, WSJ, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and on ABC, FOX, NBC and more… Instead of trying to decode nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists… …use your Android phone to: ? Automatically scan a product barcode ? See product highlights (both good & bad) ? Select better alternatives

 

Locavore
LOCAVORE: It’s your seasonal, local food network. Locavore makes searching & sharing in-season, local food a breeze by mapping farms and farmers’ markets, and what is in season based off your location. Features: 1 – Share photos about local, in season food & sellers 2 – Locate farms and farmers’ markets near you 3 – Browse what’s in-season and soon to come 4 – Find who is selling it and where 5 – Get details about your local farmers’ market 6 – Post what you ate locally to Facebook

 
 

I'm "Farmer of the Day" at www.urbanfarmonline.com!

Well isn't that something? I'm pleased to announce that I'm listed as the "Farmer of the Day" at www.urbanfarmonline.com!  [Read More]
 
 

The Fruit with a Thousand Names

This week I was hoping to provide you with a video tour of the gardens. But as I type this it’s raining… and has been for almost an entire day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! I’m grateful for the cool weather and rain. Instead of a video tour, I thought I’d share with you about our Cucuzzi plant.  [Read More]
 
 
RSS feed for Arcadia Farms blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader

Calendar


Search


Navigation


Topics


Feeds


BlogRoll