Archive for the ‘2010’ Category

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Six months later, I’m a better man.

  • Fit Farmer. I lost 10 pounds, recovered from farm-induced tendinitis, heavy boxes feel light, and I’m not exhausted at the end of the day.
  • Planting Machine. I can plant 100 plants in a row by hand, look back and have them line up like soldiers.
  • Happy and Dirty. I’m at peace with the soil under my nails.
  • Rock Demolisher. Okay,  I still can’t destroy the many rocks in our soil, but I can dream… and live with them.
  • Master Pimp. I know my hoes and can handle a hula hoe, hand hoe and eye hoe.
  • Turkey Janitor. I’ve cleaned up cute little chick poop and massive 32-pound gobbler poop.
  • Tomato Wrangler. I can weave a mean trellis and deliver a bruise-free two-pound heirloom tomato.
  • Agricultural Tourist. I’ve visited twenty different farms and seen twenty different ways to grow the same veggie.
  • Vendor Extraordinaire. Can I sell you my new favorite pepper, the awesome Jimmy Nardelo?
  • Weed Lover. Who am I kidding, I still hate ‘em.

Of course, what I’ll miss the most are the everyday farm activities with the crew: Sean, Sara and Genevieve.

Don’t cry for us Zenger Farm!
The truth is we’ll never leave you
All through the rainy days
Our mad harvesting
We kept on weeding
Don’t stop educating

Thank you for an awesome 2010 apprenticeship!

-Bryan Allan

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October At The Farm

Hello Farm Followers!

Sadly, this post marks my last as a Zenger apprentice, but on the upside, October has been so glorious that there is much to report on!

Today is a good place to start, as this morning was devoted solely to the mass harvest of all the winter squash that have been sizing and ripening up all summer long. Pruners were used for the smaller squash, but the loppers got brought out for some of the biggin’s. We piled the squash together in the fields, and with the help of a school group tour, arranged a line of volunteers and tossed the squash up to the truck bed like sandbags or sacks of flour. Very efficient method. The loads were then brought to the greenhouse and are now stacked beautifully on table tops to cure before going into storage for the winter. There were a few damaged ones, as can be expected, but these can simply be sold for use immediately. Yum!

Also in the greenhouse, are onions and popcorn that volunteers have been helping us pull out of the fields. The popcorn must dry completely before it can be twisted off the cob and stored away for popping. Again, our volunteers will come in handy, as the twisting of kernals off the cob makes for an excellent winter activity when the weather turns more sour.

But since the weather is still grand, there are plenty of veggies still growing in the fields. Bellow, you can see our brassicas enjoying the summer afternoon weather, and the leeks coming out of the ground have beautiful white stalks and are just begging to be steamed of simmered in winter soups. We’ll have brassicas, leeks and more at this Sunday’s Lents Farmer’s Market, and since it’s the last of the season, be sure to come out and support your local farmers so they can come back again next year!

To finish, I’ll give you an update on our turkeys, who’ve been quite the superstars of the farm this year. We’ve less than a week now before they go in to meet their maker (and before they meet your Thanksgiving table). As a special treat, we moved their outdoor playpen into the empty winter squash field, and below you can see them happily exploring new territory. But fear not, the chickens are not getting the short end of the stick here. Tomorrow we will be moving their coop into the other greenhouse, nicknamed the “melon house” because this was where the melons were planted this year. With the melons all being past due, the melon house was set up to receive the chickens tomorrow, and the chickens were treated to a few of the overripe melons to give them a taste of what’s to come. For anyone who owns a chicken, melons are clearly their favorite treat, so we can only imagine how happy they’ll be.

Well, I think that’s it. Still lots to be done before the three of us say goodbye, so keep checking in, and thanks to everyone at Zenger farm for a truly amazing experience!

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Why is food so inexpensive?

I had a little revelation when I sat down with my niece and nephew to watch I Love Lucy. In the later seasons, Lucy and Ricky move to the country and decide to earn some extra income raising chickens and selling eggs. Lucy went through the financials with Ricky to justify her idea, “We can sell our eggs for seventy-five cents a dozen!”

Wait a minute, $ 0.75/dozen?!?!? I can get a dozen eggs at Winco for less than $1.50! Inflation has been well more than a factor of two since the 1950’s! What’s going on here!

Lucy gets 500 chicks in the mail.

Well, later in the episode Ethel complained about Fred, ever frugal, who wouldn’t “waste three cents on a stamp.” Postage basically matches inflation and the cost to mail a letter has increased by a factor of fourteen! So based on my quick math, if the price of eggs matched inflation Lucy’s eggs today would cost $10.50!

Of course, by today’s standards, Lucy’s eggs would be organic, free-range, and local. After speaking with other farmers in the area, I know that the profit margin is razor thin on organic, local, free-range eggs. And that is completely understandable after watching I Love Lucy, considering that the price at farmer’s markets ranges from $5.00 to $7.00/dozen. How can we expect our small family farmers to survive when we pay so little for our food?

Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food today, but in the 1950’s, we spent 30% of our income on food.

Cheap food is a mixed blessing. The benefits are huge. It raises the standard of living for those who have less income. Cheaper food allows people to spend more time bettering themselves, raising their education level, providing a more skilled workforce, etc. Really, the snowball effect is huge.

This is not what Lucy had in mind!

The dark side is the increasing industrialization of our food.  Fossil fuels are cheap right now, but they pollute. Less labor is needed when chickens are in tiny cages in warehouses, but, as we saw recently, eggs can be contaminated with salmonella. There are many more downsides, animal welfare, labor abuses, health concerns, environmental effects, and on and on.

I want to leave you with two thoughts.

  • When you go to a market, don’t ask yourself why the market food costs more than the factory food from Winco and Freddie’s, ask yourself how can this small farmer sell his food at historically dirt cheap prices and survive ?
  • When our fossil fuels run low, and factory farming becomes too expensive, are there going to be any small farmers left to feed us?

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Moving the Turkeys…

The turkeys have a new home! After two of the turkeys went missing and one was found dead outside of the coop, it was necessary for us to give them a more secure place to call home at night. We’re not sure if the turkey kidnapper/killer is a raccoon or a coyote or some other type of critter, but we noticed week or so back that some of them were roosting outside of the barn at night. Some would go on top of the coop or even on top of the barn, most likely to keep at a safe distance from whatever has been hunting them. Just yesterday and this morning we have converted the back of the barn, from dungeonous storage area overrun with rusty things, to a sparkly new turkey house! The turkeys will be spending the months of October and November safe and tucked away in the barn. And hopefully we won’t have to show up to work and find dead turkeys laying around anymore, which obviously is never a fun sight.

By the way, the turkeys are getting just plain huge, some have weighed in at upwards of 30 pounds, which is pretty big, especially compared to last year’s flock. The males actually scare me sometimes when they come around a corner or something and they’re all big and puffed up. For those of you who haven’t seen this phenomenon, once male turkeys reach puberty they try to get the attention of the female turkeys of course. They do this by puffing out they’re feathers and waddling around very slowly. It looks weird, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. But I suppose it is kind of cool how they strut their stuff for the ladies. Here’s what it looks like…

Anyhow, I must get back to my farm crew, we’re busy putting in a strawberry patch. See you guys next week!

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