Dear CSA members,

 

Quite the weather change from our last newsletter!  The temperatures are more normal for the time of year now, but the lack of rain has had us on edge.  We were hand watering everything for the past month to conserve water.  Now we may experience the other extreme: a deluge which may cause erosion in the new orchard area.    

 

Selling our 9-Week Old Chicks

We have chickens in order to a have healthy eggs for ourselves and to add fertility to the soil.  Due to the high price of organic grain and the time we spend moving them each day, we make about $5 / hour caring for them (while selling a dozen for $6.00).  We ordered more chicks in February because we were planning to buy feed in bulk at a more reasonable price.  We were basing this on a 2011 price sheet; since then prices went up 60% on this feed source!  Therefore, we have decided to sell the chicks.  The chicks have eaten organic grain from their first meal and, starting at two weeks of age, were outside and moved daily.  If you are interested in buying them, please give us a call (minimum of five, $12 each, or take all 20 for $10 each).  We are going to put them on Craigslist as well.

We will still have our older chickens on the farm, for soil fertility and eggs.

 

In the Greenhouses

We have already planted tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in the new (unheated) greenhouse.  This is 7 weeks earlier than they are normally planted outside (and a month earlier than we started them last year in our little greenhouse), so we our keeping our fingers crossed that it will work out well.   The beets and carrots are also sizing up nicely.  Beets will likely be ready for the beginning of the CSA.  We’ll also be planting cukes soon in our little greenhouse.

        Carrots                            Beets                              Pepper                            Tomato                     Eggplant

                

 


In the Field

Here is what we currently have growing in the field: lettuces, spinach, radishes, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, kale, onions, beets, carrots, peas, and strawberries. We have been spending much time watering everything, and so far everything looks good.

            Strawberries                                      Garlic                                  Broccoli                                  Cabbage

 

             Onions                          Spinach                                    Beets                                 Spicy Salad Mix

 

             Arugula                                        Carrots                                     Lettuces                                         Peas

 

Discussion – Allergies, Quality Food Sources, and Inclusion

As discussed in the last newsletter, we were planning a meeting of people who wanted to talk about food concerns.  We held the meeting; attendance was light, but still informative and productive.  Some concerns and comments people had:

·        Allergies – We (Shundahai Farm) have not considered allergy problems before.  Please let us know if you or your families have allergies that we should take special precautions for.  If you or your family have severe allergies to something we grow, we need to discuss whether it is feasible for us to prevent contamination.  We also use used, but clean, grocery bags at times, which could be another sources of allergenic foods.  Let us know of any concerns.

·        Choosing quality food sources – how does someone not very familiar with farming practices know what to ask/ look for when buying food?  We were asked to share what know, and one way we can do that is to tell you what we look for when buying food for our family.

o       Animals:

§         Living Conditions – We believe that animals should be on fresh ground with living grasses, weeds, etcetera. Ideally we like to see animals rotated on pastures, or have so much land to wander that it never becomes devoid of vegetation.   We do not like to see animals confined to a small pen with bare earth without a blade of grass in sight or, even worse, confined to a building.  Not only is this important for animal health, it also prevents environmental degradation.

§          Feed – We do not want to eat, nor would we want to eat meat, eggs, etc. from an animal that eats food that contains genetically modified (GM) organisms.  Almost all corn and soybeans grown in the US are GM, and corn and soybeans are the primary feed for farm animals.  The only way we know of to ensure that animal feed is GM free, is to buy organic feed.

§         Dairy –Realize that the pretty cornfield you drive by near your local dairy farm is more than likely genetically modified corn being sprayed with the herbicide Roundup to be fed to permanently housed animals.  Local does not necessarily mean good for you, the animal, or our planet.  Local gives us the ability to scrutinize the establishment, and scrutinize it we should.  Local is great because it gives us the opportunity to have a face to face encounter with the farmers, and ask important questions about their farming practices. Find a local source that you agree with.  The more demand there is for farmers to follow ethical farming practices, eventually the more farmers will be doing it. Also, expect to pay more for food produced in these ways.

§         Chickens for Meat – If we were to buy chicken, we would look for birds fed non-GM (almost always organic) grain, and living outdoors in movable coops or in an area large enough to have healthy vegetation growing all season.

o       Fruits & Vegetables (our raspberry bushes)

§         Pesticides – Simply ask, “Do you spray any pesticides (this includes herbicides, fungicides and insecticides)?” If the answer is “Everyone sprays,” or “Just a tiny amounts when I need to,” we would walk away.  We don’t spray anything and we know other growers who don’t and have been farming a lot longer than we have.  It is not necessary, but it certainly makes life easier in the short-term, so most Certified Organic and conventional growers use pesticides. 

§         Soil Fertility – “How do you address soil fertility?” is a good question we ask.  The answer should include the following: soil testing to address macro and trace mineral deficiencies, composting or a rotation system (ideally with animals), and cover-cropping.

§         GM (genetically modified) – Most genetically modified crops are not sold directly to consumers, but are processed and put into packaged food or fed directly to animals.  But more and more GM crops are coming on the market so this will be a greater concern and we will have to ask this question of farmers more if we want GM free food. 

o       Honey

§         I know this sounds absurd, but you need to ask these questions: “Is the honey in this jar (that is labeled with the name of your farm) actually produced by you?”  And: “Do you use any chemicals in your hive?”  I was recently speaking with a beekeeper who informed me that beekeepers can and do “legally” sell honey purchased from out of state, re-package it, and sell it with a label as their own.  Legal and ethical are obviously un-related. 

§         There are a myriad of health issues with honeybees, which are difficult to address.  Raising bees without using miticides and other pesticides is difficult, but we need to support whoever is doing it successfully.  Expect to pay a higher price.

·        Inclusion – This was not discussed in so many words, but we had the realization that we need to offer a more hands-on experience, especially for families with small children.  This year we will try to do a few pick-your-own items, not so much for people to pick large quantities at a lower price, but more for kids to go home to the other parent and say, “Look what I picked for dinner!” 

 

The Orchard

We are starting an orchard this year, 100 trees will be planted this spring.  Ed has learned to graft (we’ll see how he did) and 50 of the trees are from his grafting work.  Those trees will take 8-12 years to be highly productive.  The other 50 are dwarf trees and we hope to have a good harvest within 3-4 years from those.  Next year we will expand into other fruits as well.

 

One of our existing trees              A grafted tree

blossoming 22 April                       ready for planting

   

Rice

Our rice has sprouted!  We are excited to try growing rice this year; this is just a trial for our own consumption.  We don’t expect it will be financially possible for us to grow rice for others, but it will be nice (if successful) to know there is one more thing we can grow for ourselves, and for the community if it were necessary someday.

                               

Cover-cropping

Cover crops protect the soil from erosion, add nutrients, hold on to nutrients during the winter that would be otherwise lost, and look beautiful.  We are still learning how to manage them, what varieties to select, and the best time/method to incorporate them. 

 

Here is Raluca in a tall stand of winter rye, clover and alfalfa just before we mowed it prior to incorporation.   

 

Peace and Blessings,

Ed and Raluca