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Farmers Markets are such an interesting
microcosm of our society. They bring together such a wide variety of
people all to support the broad community each Market services.
Farmers, bakers, entreprenuers, organizers and the broad spectrum of
consumers that make the market. It seems interesting what I learned
from a few of my fellow vendors last week.
As the market slowed and we had a
chance to breathe, we struck up conversations amongst groups of
vendors to pass the time until time to pack up or a last rush of
shoppers demanded our attnetion. We were a group of farmers, farm
wokers, soap maker and baker. What I learned is that this is a
default money maker for each and everyone of us. We all had other
things we are trained for and prepared to do but choose to be at
market. One of us was a former investment banker, one an accountant,
another a mathmatician and other assorted professions. I've met
teachers, musicians, artists to show the variety of people drawn to
markets. Our reasons are all the same. The market provides a
wonderful opportuity for all of us to benefit from the time and
energy we put into our products and offerings. It has a better
schedule than the office. It is direct to consumer interaction and
many of us thrive with that type of contact. The baker was happy to
be a dad when not at market. The office demanded too much. I enjoy
providing great food for famlies to nourish themselves. The farm
worker was glad to work outside and have something different to do
I tend to think the markets have grown
and expanded because they meet the needs that our society has ceased
to offer. Opportunities is the big one, but people interaction and
support is another big part of it.
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 03:55 PM EDT
Weather and subtle seasonal changes can
be noted on the farm. We had a big overnight storm during last week.
It blew hard, rained down hard and left us with dramatically milder
weather. The storm left us with power out for 36 hours, enough downed
trees and limbs to supply wood burners for at least a season and a
bit of damage to some plants. The power meant a generator was needed
to water the cattle herd and supply wash water for the vegetables.
From warm and humid to cool, dry and sunny was a welcome change.
Suddenly the sweat was no longer dripping down my nose or soaking my
clothes within 5 minutes.
A nest of barn swallows are nearly
ready to fledge. As I enter the barn the parent on duty would swoop
at me and sound alarm. Over time the swallows learned my
untheartening habits and merely observed from a safe perch. As I
exited the barn they would follow and circle a few times before
sounding a call I think was an “all clear” and returned to bird
calm. I can tell the 3-maybe 4 chicks are almost ready to fledge.
Their droppings are growing to a significant pile (I learned last
year to be careful not to leave equipment under the nest) and they
crowd the nest. Flying lessons soon!
Monster the 18 month old farm cat has
become a proficient huntress. Catching mice, voles, and gophers at
will. She finds pickings so easy that she offers extras to those of
us working on the farm. In return she'll share a cheese snack when
offered but swears of all vegetables. Must be a true
I started reading a story by a favortie
storyteller, Ivan Doig. I liked the description of one of the main
characters and identified with the message. Doig wrote that the
character had gotten to their place in life by not taking the easy
way but by, “..taking the uphill route.” A smile to myself with
recognition that life's path is not always one we can plan.
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 10:38 AM EDT
In the 90’s an executive was addressing a workshop at an
industry convention. A question about all of the changes in the industry was
put forward. The executive had a great answer that has helped me and others.
His advice on change had more to do with attitude. The sooner you accept change
as a constant the better you’ll be at handling change and preparing for the
future. Ever since, change has become a constant. How I handle and adapt to the
change is up to me.
This spring has been one of handling and adapting to change.
Weather, markets, and economy have had profound impacts. My usual spring work
begins when the ground is workable. That didn’t occur till mid-April, a full 2
weeks later than any of the last 12 years. We’ve had major weather systems move
through. Before global weirding the systems were more low key. Now they are
super systems that rival tropical storms. Hail in April, straight line winds
over 60mph, rain at rates that ponds and moves with erosive power. On a regular
basis! Keeping row cover over tender crops has been a challenge. One day the
winds are 30mph with gusts from one direction then the weather changes and it
blows harder from another direction. Yes, I’m adapting as best I can.
Keep planting, keep working, the season is not the next few
weeks, rather it is months of changing opportunities. Kind of a motto I remind
myself of. So resiliency and good work habits have some impact on handling the
changes. Thoughtfulness and planning help too. One of our changes was a move to
a new facility for our Friday Farmers Market. A Timber Framed Marketplace now
houses the market. The market managers work to appease the concerns of the
vendors. Of course issues arise, feelings and egos get bruised. I missed the
first week with outside obligations. In the last 4 weeks I have been in 3
different locations, had busy weeks and some of the slowest weeks since I’ve
been at the market. My satisfaction is a concern of the Market Managers. I’m not
sure that they grasp my underlying uneasiness that the change may have had some
real positives but also negatives. Vendors increased to 33 from around a stable
20. The increase was all Cottage Food type businesses. The Market now has just
7 farmers. My comment to recruit more (other markets certainly do) farmers
brought the response, “Well, we may have to.” The sense of success is tempered
with a slow recognition that the foundation of the Farmers Market, farmers
offering fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, cheeses and eggs, is being changed to
a flea market that has a few desperate farmers trying to unload excess produce.
Not a growing market that attracts customers from increasing distances.
The natural world has to adapt to the changes or perish. So
the adaptability of our pollinators, butterflies and birds are indicating a
stressed situation. For a long time this spring the only pollinators observed
were the natives. No Apis Mellifera, honey bees. They finally started to be in
evidence in early June. They are occasionally seen on the clovers. Occasional
observation are also made of Monarch butterflies. A few have visited the
Milkweed stands that are preserved in our fields. Only a few….though it was
thrill to see a Giant Swallowtail working through the crimson clover last week.
I’m happy to hear the Bobolink adding
their song to the Meadowlark and Song Sparrow tunes that create my background
symphony on the farm. Change is constant, I hope for the positive kind!
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 08:35 AM EDT
I felt a tickle on my leg; under my long pants and above my
sock line. At first I ignored it. Then something deep in the mind urged action
and I pulled up the pant leg. Nothing on the leg… so I continued on, doing
absolutely nothing while a soccer Champions League game played out on TV. Then the
tickle was felt again just under the knee. Another check and this time a black
dot with legs is working its way up my leg through the wool. Yanking and pulling
its way upward,,, Yes, ticks are out and about again for the season. A few
months of creepy crawlies before their lifecycle leads them to other activity
than seeking warm blooded mammals to suck blood from.
The spring weather has been relatively good for early field work.
Bed prep and some direct seeding have been done. Strawberries look absolutely
robust after the winter snow cover. Soil temperatures remain low so no reason
to hurry with much other than the truly hearty crops. A few early greens have
emerged but growth is barely perceptible with the cold temperatures. To give
you an idea about where the seasons’ progress is, we have not had any flowering
fruit blossom yet, tulips will flower on time for the first year in many at the
Holland Tulip Fest, and the perennial crops of asparagus and rhubarb will be
harvested during the traditional May into June time that has crept earlier the
last many years.
Bird life on the farm has been active. The meadow seems to
be sectioned off in tight quadrants by numerous Meadowlarks. They like wooden
fence posts as perches and sing their song endlessly. It just happens to be a
favorite birdsong along with the crazy jumble of song from the Bobolinks that
arrive a bit later in the season, and the deep wood song from the Thrush. When
the wind is right and road noise minimal, I can listen and watch the
Meadowlarks to distraction. They seem to have a self-conscious streak in them.
If I watch too long they seem to feel the gaze and leave the perch for the
safety of the tall grasses. So I watch and keep it brief, maybe look away for a
while or keep them in the corner of the sight. They seem to sing and perch
longer. The bug eaters are having
trouble filling up on the wing so they are less visible than the last few
years. Still the Swallows and Bluebirds are seen making flyovers but keep on to
other places till more bug life is on the wing.
Long range forecasts have us likely lower than normal for
the next 90 days. As a CSA farmer it matters little. We grow so many things
that a few less peppers or melons are balanced with more peas, spinach, and
fewer bolted early season crops. The work continues and the plants keep
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 08:24 PM EDT
Tillers International has a regular newsletter, "The Nigh Ox". Follow the link to look over the Spring edition:
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 07:44 AM EDT
The certainty of spring and rising soil temperatures has
been resoundingly confirmed. So the work of getting the early direct seed crops
in has begun. The winter has had mixed impacts on the farm. The blanketing of
snow protected the overwintered crops of spinach and parsnips. It also
benefitted the strawberries and garlic. Both of those crops are in beautiful
condition. We still have plenty of cold weather forecast for the week ahead so
transplants will have to hold a bit longer before they take their places in the
The parsnips were dug a while ago. Not many people have had
the opportunity to try this awesome root crop. I see them at the store and it
occurs to me that as plain as they appear, it’s no wonder that few attempt to
work with the vegetable. It has a unique
taste that takes getting used to. A musky, rooty flavor that stands alone. I’ve
been eating them since youth, dad always planted them in the garden, and miss
them in the years they don’t produce or don’t get planted. Well this year is
not a year of longing for parsnips. I put in half a row last spring and did
little other than run a hoe through the row occasionally. When they were forked
out recently the harvest was sizeable. Roots were about 80% true to type. The
off form were dominated by forked or monstrous turnip shaped roots. Many keepers
exceeded a foot and a half in length with impressive heft. Beyond appearance the eating quality was
evident right away. We fix them in a carrot parsnip sauté that is finished with
a bit of orange juice and like the purees that can be produced. Raw they were pleasant
and cooked the preparations were gobbled up. All commented on how nice they
came out this year.
If anyone is interested in purchasing some send me a note;
agropraxisfarm at gmail dot com.
There are plenty, they sell for $2.00 a pound.
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 08:43 AM EDT
Kudos to colleague Gina Wirtz. Gina took the lead to promote
local farms at the showing of a documentary at Alamo Draft House that was sponsored
by the local Food Bank, Loaves and Fishes. I joined the CSA Fair to promote our
Harmony Acres CSA. It was a nice collaborative effort as farmers shared tables
and conversation while the documentary was showing. The farmers were trying to
get through this lingering winter and maybe pick-up a new shareholder. It
really felt like being at Market except nobody really had any produce to sell. We
all passed out a lot of information and spoke with a wide range of interested
people. What a great start to an annual effort to promote local CSA’s.
The conversation was about the prospects of spring making an
appearance. We’ve had a few brief glimpses but nothing resembling typical
spring weather. We had snow the other morning; wet, and cold that nearly
deflated all hopes of green grass and spring blossoms appearing anytime soon. We
also talked about the damage winter weather may have done on our farms (more
than I thought) and how the growing transplants are filling all spaces available
since they can’t go outside or be hardened off yet.
Gossip was exchanged and relished (No I don’t make a habit
of spreading it more than a teensy bit). Hopes for the season were typically
high with the winter used to plan for success and adjust mental attitudes. Some
of the farmers brought younger members of the farm families and they were ohhed
and aahhhed over. Some of us talked about uncertain plans that may have hatched
in ideal minds. What a great sounding board for these ideas… A few may survive
and become reality. A comment that a nice day of work on the farm would help
with mental attitudes, restlessness and random thoughts that steal sleep at 2
am. I had to agree!!!
What I found really cool about this event is that it brought
the food consumers together with the food producers and allowed us an enjoyable
way to pass a late winter evening. Here’s looking forward to next years’ CSA
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 11:42 AM EDT
Helping people gain a better understanding about their food
choices and how food is produced seems to be a significant part of what I do. At
events, market and conferences I take a view that an informed customer is a
good customer. I take the time and gladly answer questions. There are so many
conflicting bytes of information bombarding people the farmer would seem a key
source of information on how food is produced, how this impacts the farm
ecosystem, and consumers’ health and wellbeing.
Like most direct marketers of food, I have to be able to
engage and discuss how my food is produced and how that benefits consumers. Of
course this is easiest to do if I am transparent about what I do. No
fabrications or misrepresentations (That’s right, completely unlike a
politician). No false claims and the willingness to challenge misconceptions even
if they threaten a persons ideals. The people I have to work the most on are other
farmers and gardeners that have a limited scope focused on hot weather crops.
Other farmers are often specialists, it could be tree fruit
or poultry. They take their specialty understanding and often overlay it onto
market vegetable/CSA production and make comments or ask questions. A frequent
comment is monocroppers (corn/soy) who wonder what we do about bugs? I used to
ask, “The good ones or the bad ones?” Which typically prompted the response, “They’re
all bad!” But this season I’ll probably shift to a slightly different version
by responding, “We love bugs and the important things they do for our farm
ecosystem! What should I do with them?” The other common question deals with
how many acres I work. If I was a western cattle rancher I’d need tens of
thousands. If I was a monocropper producing government subsidized grain then I’d
need several thousand acres to make a living and service my debt. But as a CSA
farmer I need only a few acres. So I take the time to let farmers know that I
can generate over $20M of market value crops per acre and I don’t have to work
a huge number of acres to make my way.
Gardeners develop their skills by watching shows, from
others or from childhood experiences. So they end up with a lot of creative
ways of doing things. For some reason the most common question from gardeners is,
“When do you start your garden?” Like a certain date on the calendar holds a
key to success with cabbage, tomatoes and cukes. I really like this type of
question though, because it allows me to push open a door to understanding;
that gardening never has a starting day, rather it is a continuous process.
When I can get gardeners to grasp that perennial, cold weather and hot weather
crops will all fit into their plans, they realize that they don’t need a whole
weekend to “Put in the Garden.” The other thing I like to emphasize with
gardeners is that mulching is such a key part in promoting a healthy garden. So
many gardeners strive for the bare dirt, weed free ideal that they quickly get
discouraged when nature tries to heal their wounding of the land. Mulching with
compost, leaves or other yards wastes really helps.
I’d like more questions from food consumers though. The
emphasis in agriculture has been on finding ways to increase yield. This
typically fails when we look at nutrition and eating satisfaction. The lower
yielding varieties can have much greater nutrient values. Many heirlooms are
valued because of their flavor and the unique eating qualities. I grow a
variety of carrots. Some for flavor, some that store well and others for fresh
eating. None because they yield the highest. A final important point. The
farmer with the first crop of an item gets a premium at market. The efforts to
grow for early sales often requires extraordinary measures. This effort is
often contrary to what nature would support. I’ve had a feeling that producing at peak times is also
where we’ll find peak nutrition. Those early strawberries may look nice but when
the main crop is in, is when the best value can be found!
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 11:00 AM EDT
Decades have passed since I can remember a winter that
persists as this one does. When a daytime high temperature of 35 feels balmy
and the light coat gets worn rather than the parka. We were sprinkled with
another light dressing of snow yesterday. Driving on snow covered roads has
become all too familiar.
The last few years we would be making early harvests of
perennial greens and spring onions starting about now. The kale that survived
would be growing and pushing out new leaf. The buds on the early flowering
trees would be swelling. Birds would be migrating through and their song would
be a welcome addition. However, the snow shovel is still needed, and the dog
has been confined to a smaller and smaller relief spot that will be an unusual
mess when the snow melts. The puddle ducks typically have a multitude of lakes
with open water to choose from but only the rivers are open so they all cram
into the quiet eddies and wait. The kids who love to play on December snow are
tired of the white mess and grump there is nothing to do. Where is spring?
Could it also be this longing that has me unhappy with what
I’ve been reading. I turn to books for ideas and understanding, entertainment
too. Jo Robinson’s, Eating on the Wild Side, was a disappointment. The
book was well researched and written. The books’ focus on nutritional
attributes of foods is something one would expect from a nutrition writer.
Little aspects troubled me as well. New potatoes were mentioned. Unfortunately
if it wasn’t a “new” potato it was called an “old” potato. How awkward! The
author grouped certain categories of foods together that was confusing.
Blueberries with Raspberries and Cranberries with Blackberries. What? Brambles
together and small bush fruits together! Her research had a preference for West
Coast info. Some of the writing showed an ignorance of the Great Lakes Region. The
author is from Vashon Island. Maybe that isolation has kept her from a more
inclusive vision. A final comment. Nutritional attributes of foods can vary
depending on the fertility of the soils they are grown in. Albrecht worked hard
to educate on this decades ago. His main points are overlooked in this work. It
leads me to question the validity of the book.
I finished Stephen Leslie’s, The New Horse-Powered Farm.
I was so excited when I saw this book. I finally got around to reading it this
winter. I applaud the work and encourage small farmers to pursue animal power
to provide work on their farms. At Tillers we are kindred spirits. Photos of
work being done at Tillers is included in the book! If you want to learn about
these methods and practices, no better place to learn than Tillers! I don’t
want to be critical of this splendid work but find a desire to urge farmers to
use their critical thinking skills when approaching tillage. In one
illustration, about a seasons work in a field, the farmers make over 10 passes
with tillage equipment. The preference for plowing, discing, harrowing and
cultivating seems excessive. Horses can do this work so well, but the toll on
soil life has to be questioned. We find fewer passes are better. Proving that
you can get the horses to do your work is not the point. The highest efficiency
is our goal. So sometimes grabbing a hoe and spending 20 minutes to weed the
pepper row is all you need to do. Sure the horses could do it, but it takes as
much time to harness/unharness the animals as it does to get the work done
Both of these works are highly thought of and widely
recommended. I agree with Leslie’s work. I read every line in the book and
found it very informative. Robinson’s work is best targeted to the conscious consumer.
I found myself skimming through whole chapters wondering if anything was
relevant. Sadly, I found little that was inspiring, thought provoking or
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 12:05 PM EDT
The allium’s are up and thriving under lights, early cold
tolerant lettuces stretching for light and celery to begin soon. So it feels
like late winter but to be honest it is a winter of discontent. This morning a
record low was set with a -13 degree recording. Ouch!!! We ate some parsnips as part of a roasted
vegetable dish but they were harvested in November and stored, rather than having
been freshly dug as typical when winter relents. The ground is buried under 1.5’
of snow and frozen solid. It’s not unusual to have snow and cold this time of
year, our most memorable blizzards and severe storms often occur now. We feel
the lengthening days and increasing intensity of the sun but the NOAA forecast
remains frigid through the end of March. Makes me dream of warm weather
vacations and the sight of green grass…
Yesterday the weather
closed up everything for the ninth day of the winter. Cold and blowing snow,
and another “Snow Day”. I read, tended plants, fixed food, and other busy
things during our discontent. Of course
I learned new things, amazed myself and managed to spend some time on
fitness so when the spring does come, I’m
ready to begin.
I learned about the father of modern Horticulture!! Liberty
Hyde Bailey, from South Haven, Michigan. He had a miraculous career that
spanned the end of the 19th century into the early parts of the 20th.
A vigorous researcher and writer. There is a museum in South Haven about L.H.
Bailey that is on our “intend to visit someday” list. Some cool quotes from Wendell Berry about the
writings and importance of this man. Google Books and the Gutenberg Project has
some works from Bailey that you can read on an e-reader or online.
Online I read about a farm I’ve admired, Trillium Haven
Farm, and the challenges they have endured. All the best to Michael and Anja as
they take a sabbatical for the 2014 season. We who grow food know the
incredible commitments that are required to begin and carry through with our
plans. The difficulties of the last many years have been felt by many. The
policy makers say we need more farmers, more organic produce and more markets.
We who produce, know that the massive oversupply that has come to market is a
real problem. The only way to stay in this market is to raise outstanding
produce and satisfy our customers. Both are a real challenge!!!
I began a CSA farm for a Kalamazoo NGO in 2011. The NGO and
I weren’t a good fit so another farmer took over after less than a year. He was
soon succeeded by another farmer. Now in year number four they are on their
forth farm manager. When I moved on to Tillers International I felt that the
NGO would probably continue to move through farm managers. I’m thinking that
the group of us that have had short stints as Farm Managers should get together
and have a bash the NGO bash…Ha Ha Ha!!! Maybe on another occasion I’ll get
into the damage this NGO has and is perpetuating.
All for the end of Discontent!! Farmer Pete
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 05:52 PM EST
Whoa, this winter is persistent. Whenever I bump into
friends they ask the inevitable question, “How’s the weather going to affect
the garden?” I kind of shrug and let them know that winter weather that is
typical for winter won’t hurt things, rather if we have winter when we are
expecting spring or summer things will be negatively impacted! Like most
people, should spring arrive near its typical time, I’ll be ready for a celebration
and to put time in the field. Should winter dally, and extend its stay, we’ll
have to make the best of whatever scenario and adapt.
Each season I do a select set of Demo’s on new varieties or
crops. This year it is largely inspired by the increased involvement of an
Intern at Tillers. Nelson brought a love of cooking and for this season has set
up an expanded food preparation scheme that will utilize produce from our
production. His wish list includes Asian vegetables that I’m excited to
experiment with. Many are already standards for CSA and Market but having a
dedicated and experienced cook have input and interest in additional varieties
is nice. So the list of Demo’s includes daikon, senposai, Chinese broccoli,
additional turnip varieties and more.
In the past a lot of the demos were inspired by something I
saw at market, read about online, in catalogs, or curiosity. I remember demoing
agretti. The seed went in the ground, the herb was harvested and cooked as
suggested and the family was quick to comment that it was like eating a pine
tree. The flavor was not part of our historical food flavors so it wasn’t at
all satisfying. That demo was not repeated. Collards on the other hand were a
huge success. We eat a lot of greens to begin with and the texture and flavor
was a welcome one. I still haven’t found much of a market for collards, they
have a soul food/poor south image issue, but they sure are a favorite at our
table. Maybe we could get a celebrity chef to inspire some curiosity about
I also like to demo heirloom crops. The last few years I
tried a few corn varieties. The dent corn, Earth Tones, is a favorite, and last
season I began with a bit of popcorn. Both of these are successful. They will
become a regular planting. The proliferation of tomato varieties is amazing.
For several years I would demo a few each season. This past season saw the
second year of the Bobcat hybrid tomato demo. For the second year in a row this
was the first tomato to succumb to disease, and produce the fruit with the
blandest flavor. No more! The pineapple heirloom will also not be continued. With
our soil and conditions it was a big gorgeous fruit but intensely unappealing
in texture and flavor. Others report decent success. By the middle of September
the fruit was left on the vine. No one wanted anything to do with the
pineapple. So when the season turns to spring or maybe suddenly to summer, I’m
excited to have some new crops to grow and have some fun with.
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 10:57 AM EST
The 2014 season for Harmony Acres Community Supported
Agriculture (CSA) begins in a few months. Regardless of the snow and below
average temperatures the growing season will arrive. The work for a productive
start is already underway. Questions about what type of season we’ll have will
be answered in due time. With exceptionally fertile soil, the support of
Tillers International and great shareholders I look forward to the coming
We have allowed plenty of time for renewing shareholders, so
now we welcome open enrollment. Our season runs for 23 weeks (Late May through
Late October), shareholders are permitted 21 pick-ups during the season. Pick-up
locations are Mon.-Sturgis Drop, Thurs.-On Farm, and Friday at the Vicksburg
Farmers Market. Shareholders love our Market Style pick-up. Each week’s harvest
is prepped and displayed for shareholder selection. The shareholder has a wide
variety of choice in selecting each weeks share. No one gets stuck with items
they don’t like or won’t use. You take what your household will utilize.
Sound ecological-biological farming methods (exceeding certification
requirements) are used to maintain the excellent soil we are stewards of. Most
of our cultivated land was cover cropped and had prep work done to ready for
spring. When the season permits, the land will again produce a bounty shareholders
will be the beneficiaries of.
Harmony Acres CSA has requested that shareholders contribute
a bit of volunteer time to the farm. Last year we had excellent contributions
from many shareholders and are happy to continue this casual request for volunteers.
We have no requirements for work. In the future as the CSA grows we may add a
work share for a few at a discounted rate. Pricing remains the same: Full Share
$400.00, half share $200.00. Enrollment closes when we reach our planned goal
of 25 shares, or May 1st. Pre-Payment of the share is requested for
the farmer to make needed purchases for the farm, meet financial obligations
and continue the development of the farm.
A sustainable and vibrant CSA is the goal of our farm. It
continues as our primary focus. Other venues of distribution will be continued
till the CSA has grown to a sustaining size. Our shareholders are our most
important customers. You will always receive the best, and have top choice in
direction and support of the farm.
Please renew or join today!
Farmer Pete Robertson
agropraxisfarm at gmail dot com, 269 659-7481
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 10:21 AM EST
Another Mike is what I was thinking. This smooth and
charming CEO has a bio that is a testament to the career track held as the path to success. Interesting
that his undergrad came from esteemed local institution, Kalamazoo College!
Back to the “Mike” club…at one time I was seemingly befriended by a multitude
of Mike’s and a few Bob’s. My wife was always asking, “Which Mike are you
talking about?” Almost as many “Mike’s” as there are Vern Yoder’s or Harley
Miller’s in the Amish directory…. Could
it be something about the name “Mike” and charisma or charm that appeals to us?
Watch the following from the World Economic Forum to get a
feeling of what I’m on to:
What a nice guy! We learn he has a wife and a couple of
teenage daughters. Was fortunate to spend time over the Christmas Holiday bicycling
in Cambodia observing local culture and agrarian practices. Enjoys time in “nature”
as a way to recharge in his adopted home of Basel, Switzerland. He is excited about his corporations
initiatives like, Syngenta Good Growth; http://www.syngenta.com/global/corporate/en/goodgrowthplan/home/Pages/homepage.aspx
Way to go Mike! What a company man!
I feel a bit like a sock that is still wet and thoroughly dizzy
following the spin cycle…. I replayed the mystifying comments to several
of the questions. My favorite, “Most of the worlds’ poor are farmers, ironically.”
Really Mike? Could it be the poor are
trying to achieve a level of subsistence with small hold farming. If they had gotten big, or out as suggested in
the 60’s during our Green Revolution, they’d be doing fine, right Mike! They’d be able to afford the advanced
production seeds and chemicals provided by your company, benefitting the
shareholders! Also good to hear that you’re on the bandwagon of “Feeding the
World”. Repeating the irritating talking points of corporate ag only supports
the base of similarly misinformed sycophants. Helping the world feed its self,
building a resilient agro-ecological base capable of mitigating climate issues,
and reducing “Aid” disruptions that have destroyed countless local production systems
is a commendable endeavor. Your efforts to enrich shareholders and deceive the
gullible public with talking points makes this Mike not one I want in my circle.
Listen and read for yourself… not our friends no matter how smooth and nice
they come across!
One last point... Ol’ Mike is now a hero to all the country café
farmers in this part of the corn belt. The farmers gather in the cafes and
share their bond of toil and burden daily. Work, family and risk avoidance along
with disdain for change in life molds a deeply narrow view and conservative
framework. Ol’ Mike was speaking to them not you or me. Those born and bred to
industrial farming are championing Ol’ Mike and his ability to stick it to the
critics of “The Farmers who feed the world”. Mike leapt into the ring with the
liberal press and told them how it is. Told them GMO’s are an important tool in
our toolbox to feeding the world! How they are safe and have caused not so much
as a tummy ache yet. And how very little about farming is natural… seems to me
that corporate profits are like the nose on Geppetto’s puppet, both grow when lies are told.
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 12:02 PM EST
We know industrial agriculture occurs as a manipulated process.
Variables in production are managed or minimized and sustainable measures are
too costly to undertake in a production maximization model. This leads to time
and money spent on “methods” to control aspects of farming that organic farmers
don’t really bother with. Those of us
that work with nature rather than manipulate nature, call the items we don’t
bother with,” Non-Methods”.
As a soil builder and cultivator of biological diversity, my
favorite non-method deals with irrigation. The mega-production farms in our
part of Michigan are reliant on ground water to push for maximum production on
our sandy soils. The field hands will cover hundreds of miles on our county
roads to keep irrigation pivots moving and water pumping. A few warm days with
no rain and the irrigation systems come to life. Weather forecasts dictate time
and energy spent to keep the soil wet. On our land at Tillers International we
mulch, add compost and maintain a fertile soil. The healthy soil and plants
thrive when the rains abate for a few weeks. Ground water sprayed on the field
would add little while increasing the possibility of plant diseases. Capillary
action continues to pull moisture from sub-soil and the plants root systems, with
healthy fungal symbiosis, provides bountiful conditions for plants to thrive.
In most conditions, not irrigating is a favorite non-method.
“Ohhhh, you’re organic!” the farmer with a Pioneer cap says
while perusing my produce at Market.
Next thing they
usually ask, “Whadya do bout bugs?”
And, my much repeated response, “The good ones or the bad
Most times the curt reply is, “They’re all bad!!!”
So begins a discussion about another non-method. Diverse
plant and animal populations tend to find stasis and pressure from pests are
minimal for healthy plants. I bought a
pound of an OMRI approved cabbage bug pesticide several years back. A few times while field checking I had reason
to use the spray-able powder. I think I made to 2 passes last year during a
wet-warm spell when everything was growing gangbusters and the loopers got
ahead of the predators. About 2 tablespoons of natural pest control. Nothing
like the industrial farm that uses broad spectrum pesticides like chlorpyrifos
to kill pests and beneficial bugs in a mega-application. Over the years
scouting the fields I’ve learned to anticipate natures response to a pest. In
late July we witness the grasshoppers mature and begin to pressure some crops.
Nature usually responds to the feast. The sparrows and other insect hunters notice
and forage in the field. The grasshopper population is diminished to a
tolerable level. ‘ No need to kill anything with toxins. I just observe and use a time tested
I could continue with many more non-methods. I’d like
readers to understand that working with nature is such a time and energy saver. Non-methods make farming so much easier than
the industrial group would have you believe. The imminent demise of the whole
farming system and starvation is just myth.
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 11:36 AM EST
Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader
Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference
(go to: smallfarmconference.com)
Date: Feb. 1st, 2014
Place: Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City MI
I look forward to this conference. Put together by farmers
for farmers. It is newly located to a
great convention facility in one of the best parts of Michigan. I will have some responsibilities this
conference. I’ll help staff the Tillers International table in the trade show
and present an informational session about Reducing Fossil Fuel Use in farming.
My family makes a weekend out of it. A chance to enjoy a
great small city and northern winter
location. Snow, recreation and relaxation. Join US!!!
Posted by Farmer Pete
@ 11:00 AM EST