Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why We Do What We Do

Some of my pets, who happen to leave good food around for me to share.

Recently, someone lovingly told me I was cheating myself on the price I ask for my chicken eggs. She said mine were organic-er and fresher than Costco, yet I was charging less than they were. Well, I thought to myself, maybe I am cheaper, but then, I also am not a big store with huge overhead and a staff of hundreds to pay. No middleman either. It doesn't cost me anything to pick them up as I walk through the barn on my way up to the house, and thank heaven's I'm not doing the hard part - the laying of the eggs! No, I thought, I think I'll keep them at the price they are. I think they are already twice what "regular" eggs are at the grocery store!

Amy the local bees' wax candlemaker's son Max helping

weed at our first community garden area several years ago.

Part of my mission here, is to try to make this good stuff accessible and affordable for folks so they will be more likely to eat it. I don't really try to run an egg layer business so that means, on the down side, we only get eggs as we find them, (we don't have a huge supply of them because these girls are not very consistent all of the time about their favorite places to lay eggs), and these chickens eat mostly a diet of whatever chickens eat on their own, (you don't want to know), so sometimes they may not lay as abundantly as those fed a constant diet of "laying mash". But on the up side, it keeps the cost down cuz I'm not constantly having to buy 50lb bags of organic feed just for them to survive and lay eggs, I don't spend time on paperwork figuring out how many eggs per flock or whatever tracking an egg farmer does and our eggs are probably chocked full of omega 3's since most of their diet isn't laying mash, so I can eat about as many as I want and not worry about cholesterol.

To me, eggs are kind of the bonus for having chickens as more or less pets. Can't say that about most pets now can ya? They are educational, too. How many a previously scared of birds child (or adult), has pet one of my roosters? Whereas the chickens most assuredly are part of the overall farm business, I suppose if I turned the egg laying part into more of a business and tracked those expenses it may cause me to bump the price up as I calculated how much square footage they take up and how much that space actually costs, etc. Maybe I'll start setting aside what I get for the eggs to put towards new electric chicken fencing to keep them all on my property so I don't get a ticket for stray chickens - and that will mean even more eggs for us as they won't lay them all over the neighborhood! Hmmm, something to ponder....

Heading this farm in the direction of a "closed-loop" system will eventually mean less inputs from outside sources, too. So, in the future, as those costs of ammendments rise, I hope to be able to hold down the cost of our shares and the food we sell at the market day tables, because we won't need as much of them to grow our farm's food with. (That is unless our taxes all go through the roof to pay for the things our government invents for us to pay for. And then we may all just have to live out here on the farm to save money!)
Again, making our farm food more affordable so anyone who truly desires this food, this beautiful, nutritionally dense grown with TLC food - can afford it.

I don't mean to "cheapen" its value. NOT AT ALL! This food is priceless when it comes to your health, the relationships we are building through the farm and the taste....oh don't get me started on the fresh taste! But I do look for ways to keep my expenses down, diversify the farm's resources and make this food available here in this community, or a short drive away. I believe that is how local food should work. I don't want organic/fresh/local to be a gourmet priced only type thing. We may grow specialty foods for chefs at some point or there may be a shortage of something one year that causes the good ol' "supply and demand" theory to kick in. But I am working very hard to make Eden's a paradise for all those who seek it.

Anne "Kip" Rogers teaching some ladies
the value and simplicity of a healthy
eating lifestyle at a free class in 09.

And of course, that is part of why we have work shares, a community garden area as well as the various classes, too. I want to help empower people to find ways to live healthier lives by eating better food than they can find elsewhere and teach them how to use it, too. A fresh head of broccoli doesn't do anyone any good if no one knows how to prepare it. Zucchini will get old fast if you only know one way to use it and it would be a shame for home grown tomatoes to not be enjoyed all winter long because someone didn't know how to preserve them. (Watch for canning classes this summer!)

Don't get me wrong, it is not cheap to have a 14 acre piece of land inside of city limits paying for 2 school districts' taxes and all of the "amenities" of living in a large metropolitan county. So yes, all of those incidental expenses must be covered of course. And yes, most of the mainstream food is subsidized by our taxes in the way of the "farm bill" that gets passed every year or so. I thought about grant money, but then decided I didn't want to be at the government's beck and call or be told what I could or couldn't do on my farm. (we already face that fear if the looming "food safety" bill S510 passes the Senate.)

But as more people jump on board, the costs will even out, the farm will get healthier and risks will even out more and more and as the production rises, I suspect I'll have some of you hollering "UNCLE!" on the food distributions and everyone will feel they've made a more than wise investment in this farm. That is my goal anyway - we have to keep hoping the weather will cooperate sooner than later!

The ground breaking crew for Eden's Community Gardens - Home Depot of Balch Springs helped in a big way

Don't forget that in March we're helping sponsor "Farm Day" in Balch Springs. I'm looking for helpers/volunteers to over see the chicken petting/feeding area, answer questions about local food and our farm/CSA, see that kids don't eat too much of the potting soil at the FOFA potting station and oh, you get to watch the movie FRESH! with us for free and be entertained by Ms. Petunia Hopper and Kevin Davin Fine's Mission of Nutrition series.

March 17th - noon to 5 at the Library on Elam Rd. More details as they firm up.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Eden Under Snow

Somewhere under there is Savoy Cabbage!

Well, I'm anxiously awaiting the first thaw and word from my organic farm consultant up in Iowa to see what he has to say about 12" of snow on a young winter garden. I think everything will probably be fine, but I honestly must say I've not ever experienced this farming extreme. When it did this in Chicago, everything was already harvested for the winter or in a greenhouse. Cole crops are pretty tough though, and I'm hoping for the best. I'll keep you all posted soon as I hear word.
A new meaning to "winter garden"

I covered the mature things, (never dreaming we'd get a foot of snow!), to protect them from the possible ice they were calling for. Now I'm hoping they are not crushed under there. We've had a few power surges, but fortunately, never lost power.

There isn't any need to irrigate of course, which is a good thing because as you can see, there isn't a lot of sun getting through to the solar panels right now.

It was very pretty to look at this morning, at least till my mom's old snow boots sprung a leak and my foot started to get cold. But, I'm all for warm sunny weather and can't wait for spring.

I just wanted to shoot this quick update and share some pics. I heard from Herb and Barbara who were without power today and saw pics of the Gordon's playing in the snow. I hope you are all toasty and warm again.
Pray for sunshine. The seed potatoes are in and it would be nice to plant them soon.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DC is at it - AGAIN!

Please, don't forget to keep sending info to your your out of town friends, family and to your local Senators about the S510 bill - please read the story about some of the specific ways this bill, as it is currently written, will mean the end to many small farm operations.
This bill will mean smaller, low staffed farms won't be able to legally produce many of the yummy cut greens, and as the restrictions grow, many of the other vegetables you love due to cumbersome handling restrictions designed for large operations.
DC and individual states can't even keep up with the current inspections now, which is why there are food safety problems, and they want to further restrict farms by implementing tons of paper work, new regulations and fees? How is this going to help keep your food safer? It won't.
Passing this bill as it is currently written, will, however, either make criminals out of good, small farmers or put them out of business - meaning you will have fewer choices about where your food comes from as only the larger, factory type operations can afford to impliment all of the paperwork and extra procedures being called for. We'd have to hire someone just to READ all of the new restrictions!

Your food from Eden's, and other small, local farms. comes directly from the field to you. THAT is the safest way to get your produce.
Well, for all of you out of town that follow our blog, we have had a bit of a snow storm here in Dallas! The gardens are totally under snow cover - I shot these pics earlier this morning and have not ventured out again with it being so wet and not wanting to ruin my camera. But, I'll get more of the gardens later - when it stops snowing for awhile! Everything that was at risk was covered up and should be ok. The rest may just be a bit waterlogged again, but then, that is the same broken record we've played since September....
The seed potatoes have arrived - not that we can plant them any time soon - but we'll be cutting them up and dusting with sulfur next week so when it does dry out enough, we're ready to get them in the ground. It has to dry out sooner or later. Onions are on the way but I suspect it is too wet where they are, too, so they are delayed as well. Ironically, they would be loving this weather but they are not here to enjoy it.

The chickens didn't seem to want to venture out much today so they got an extra helping of their organic feed. And the horses weren't sure what to make of the snow either, so after a brief investigation, they returned to the barn hoping to find some dry hay to munch on. Can't say as though I blame them.

Needless to say, there isn't a lot to do outside today other than keeping the snow off of the roof of the greenhouse so it doesn't collapse - a real possibility as we've had about 5+ inches of very heavy snow fall already, and it is still coming down! This is NOT typical for Dallas that is for sure.

We have a mattress heater on the way so we can start seeding as soon as that gets here. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and some more cool season things we may need to replant and have a late harvest of things like broccoli, beets, kale and chard.

I hope everyone is enjoying this taste of winter - I had my fill of them when I lived in Chicago though, so I'm quite ready for SPRING! :) Back to my Eliot Coleman and John Jeavons books... and some acorn squash soup.....

Stay Dry!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!