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Agrarian Harvest

Wholesome, Organic, Experience. Our small farm, food, and simple life.

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Produce

Does Organic Mean What You Think it Means?

When we started farming, we followed the organic rules for years before we actually certified. The first and second years of certification were very simple. The third year was very irritating. They decided to audit our winter squash; asking how many acres we had. Guess they are not used to dealing with small producers and also did not read the application documentation that provided the information they were asking about.  I told them that we had 200 plants. They said that they could calculate that out. They asked how much we harvested. I showed them my sales records. They then asked how much I had stored. I told them that I only harvested what was sold. Anything left over after frost became pig food. They wanted to know how much the pigs ate. I answered honestly and said I did not know. This was a big problem for them. My records were not audit-able according to them since I didn’t weigh every squash left in the field. Should I have lied and said some random number of pounds? They issued my certificate in spite of my failure to weigh every rotten squash that the pigs ate. Multipurpose ground like cropland and grazing is too complicated for inspectors or their expectation of farmers is industrial.

Since I started certifying organic, my inspection was done in the spring and all of my fees were paid before July. This allowed me to apply for assistance with certification prior to an October 31 deadline. This year I was inspected in late summer and did not receive a bill prior to the October 31 deadline and will not be eligible for the assistance. That will cost this farmer around $700; that’s a lot of tomatoes. My certifying agency claimed that there were a lot of new farms wanting to certify and our inspection was late because they wanted to get the new facilities done first. So to the back burner I go, behind the mega dairies and corporate farms looking for the big money.

Another item of concern this year is that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted to allow hydroponic and aquaponic production into the Organic program. This means that soil is not required. If soil is not required the plants can only get nutrients from the farmer. There are no healthy soil microorganisms, no fungi, no bacteria, no beneficial life forms to help release micronutrients to the plants. If the nutrients are not provided in the system they cannot end up in our food to nourish us. There are also no microorganisms or adequate sun exposure to breakdown or compete with harmful products or bacteria. Yes, beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil can protect us against harmful organisms.

So what does the Organic Label mean to me? At this point, I am in limbo. Most of our customers know who we are. They know our practices and are welcome to come inspect anytime they want and would likely buy from us even if we dropped our certification. We are after all a very small farm. At 17 acres, we actually consider ourselves market gardeners. Our production can be large enough though that we need some larger outlets like restaurants and grocery stores. These customers typically look for the Organic Certification when paying our prices. Their customer do not know who we are and thus depend on a third party verification that we are following acceptable methods of food production. But do the consumers actually know what Organic means? Do they know that their product may be raised in a chemical soup provided by a hydroponic system?  Do they know that broad spectrum chemicals like Neem oil that are approved for use as an insecticide in organic production?  Do they know that farms (big farms) can petition to get chemicals accepted because their system is broken and they want to resort to a chemical to “fix” their problem?

At our farm, we have had infestations, some were fixed by an army of lady bugs and others resulted in destroyed crops. We are diverse and learn to roll with it and try to use crop rotation and plant selection to avoid future problems. When you are a mega farm in a mono crop system, you are not as agile and go back to the bottle at the first sign of stress.

We want to call out consumers. What do you think of when you purchase food? Are you looking for the best price? Are you looking for nutrient density? Are you looking for pesticide-free? Are you looking for humane animal husbandry? Do you care about the people who grow your food?  Do you want to know the farm your food came from or is it just the labeling that matters? Does your food come with a warranty?

“Off-Season” Work

Fall was way too short. It felt like we had a week of Fall and then went straight into Winter. Maybe it’s because the farmers markets are over, we’re exhausted and quickly go into hibernation mode. But, most likely, it’s the weather. It got way too cool too quick for this warm-weather-loving- body. We’d prefer our fall consisting of three months of 70 degree days. Most of our days are now cool and blustery; and it’s snowing while I type this. With all the leaves off the trees, looking bare and cold, it give us a chill  just looking out the window. But out we must go, there is work to do still.

Since the our growing season is over for the year, we will be spending our days in the field doing farm clean up. This consist of mowing the froze plants, pulling up the plastic row cover and tilling the plant debris into the soil. And the chore of pulling hundreds of t-post out of the ground that were used to stake the tomatoes up. Then there are tasks that need to be done before seeds can be planted for next year like replace the plastic on the cold-frame and, possibly, put another cold-frame up.  

There is also planting to do, believe it or not. It is time to plant garlic. It has to overwinter 20160729_224038in the ground to be ready to harvest by July or August next year. So, hopefully, the weather will hold out, meaning no snow . . . . but since that is already happening, maybe the ground won’t freeze hard as a rock just yet. We are trying to brace ourselves for winter, since we keep hearing that this winter is forecast to be worse than last year. We are just not ready for snow and cold and neither is the farm. Really . . . . we could skip winter this year or spend the whole winter on a warm beach.

November Happenings:

  • Besides the farm clean-up, we look forward to Thanksgiving and eating lots of warm, delicious food.
  • We still have winter squash, pie pumpkins, onions, dry beans, honey, eggs, pork by the cut, beef by the cut, whole chickens, and whole ducks for sale.
  • We are taking orders for whole or half pigs. The butcher dates are set and have limited quantity of pigs available.

Feeling the Change

I live by the seasons. Really,  I didn’t give much thought to the seasons before I was a mother. I just lived day to day wanting everyday to be a summer day that I could lay in the sun reading a book. Then I became a mother and discovered the seasons of motherhood; the season of newborn, season of milestones, toddler season. I now feel I’m in school-age season; feel like I’ve been in this season for a long time and now realize I’m about to enter the season of having a teenager. I once had a friend tell me, “It’s just another season of life; it will pass.”

The seasons of the year and motherhood do pass, sometimes all too quickly and sometimes slower than we would like. But then when you look back you wonder where the time or days have gone. How did it go by so fast? Our summer was like that. There was so much work to do and so many markets and deliveries to make, we didn’t know how we’re going to make it through the days. We wondered how we were going to manage until October and not collapse from exhaustion before the first frost and life would slow down again.  And now looking back, I’m wondering where my summer went. How could it be gone already? I’m feeling sad . . . .  I want summer back! Just like I want back the seasons of early motherhood. . . . . it’s just gone too fast.

We are feeling the change from summer to fall. The nights are crisp and cooler, days are cooler too, plant production is slowing down, kids are back to school, the pumpkins are turning, the wheat fields around us have been thrashed, early potatoes have been dug, storage potatoes are being dug and silage corn is being chopped. And the hopes or fears of first frost are in the air. It’s definitely the feel of fall. A welcoming season with the colors of orange, red and yellow, cups full of warm drinks and the smell of pumpkin spice in the air.

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Welcome Fall . . . . .  the slow-down season for us. My new favorite season.

 

September & October Happenings

  • Harvest winter squash & pumpkins
  • Most of the produce will slow its production or stop producing altogether. It will soon be the last of the corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, melons & basil for the year.
  • Our first frost, then the tomatoes & peppers will done for the year also.
  • Farm clean-up: weeds to be mowed & row cover to be picked up

Update: Help Us Be Farmers Again

We have had amazing, positive response to our  post, Help Us Be Farmers Again. We thank everyone for their responses and trying to help us figure out a better way for marketing and distributing produce. We appreciate all the feedback we are hearing. We know there has been some concern and worry among some of our customers also. We would like to share our plan with you and say please do not worry. And a special thank you to all those that are now coming to the farm to buy and working with our partners at Freshocal and Kraay’s Market & Garden.  

At this time, we plan to continue to be at the Ketchum and Hailey Farmers’ Markets. We will also continue to do wholesale deliveries in the Wood River Valley.

In the Magic Valley, we will be cutting down on the days we will be at the Twin Falls farmers’ market. We are planning on being there, the first and third Saturday of the month. However, this month we won’t be there on the third Saturday, but will on the fourth. Watch the Twin Falls Farmers’ Market facebook page or our Agrarian Harvest facebook page , we post on there if we will not be there. Even though we aren’t at market our products are still available, everyday of the week, either by coming to the farm to buy on Mondays or Wednesdays (4 pm to 6 pm) or order and pick up or get it delivered through Freshocal (freshocal.com).

We are a dynamic, intensive farm. We are trying to get that work/ life balance figured out. Balancing family life, production and marketing is a huge challenge and not just for us. After visiting with other farmers, we found that is a very common theme during the growing season that farmers struggle with: the demands of the farm, demands of the consumer, and demands of the family. We don’t only like to farm but also to think outside the box and try new things. We wouldn’t be growing produce for a living if we didn’t think outside the box and want to do something different than “normal agriculture”. So we don’t want to worry our customers, only to inform of issues that may not of been seen or thought. We are honored to be your farmers and to have your help and support making sure everybody’s need are met in the farm to consumer relationship.

Help Us Be Farmers Again

This blog was started to write about farm life and happenings on the farm. Honestly, I’m finding that very hard to do lately. Here is why . . . . .

When we set out to be farmers that grow produce years ago, we never saw ourselves where we are today . . . . on the road four days a week going to farmers’ markets, delivering and paying an employee to do the farming. Our purpose was to grow organic produce and get it in the hands and mouths of as many people as we could without leaving the farm. Our vision was to be a family working happily together to grow, eat and sell organic produce. We are no longer a family happily working together . . . .  we are exhausted and spend our days crowded in the car . . . . we aren’t even doing the farming anymore!

We have become traveling salespeople and delivery drivers. People now expect to be delivered to, for everything, including food. When a farmer leaves the farm most days of the week, he is no longer a farmer. When a farmer is off the farm, the farm work is not getting done. So how are we supposed to be growing food when we are having to leave the farm to deliver it and sale at farmers’ markets four days a week? We aren’t! We have to pay a H-2A employee to do the farming because it’s very hard to find people in our community that are willing to come to the farm to help do the work to grow the produce that they want to buy. So if we are on the road doing sales, markets and delivering most days of the week, are we still your farmers? We don’t think so. Our hands aren’t in the dirt doing the growing anymore. We help with harvest, but we are no longer able to tend the plants and be on the farm as our vision started. That is not what we want to be.  We want and need to be the ones on the farm doing the work. Therefore, consumer need to be willing to go to the farm to buy food or have a sales and delivery service deliver, which we have found for you (details below). We don’t want to be doing three farmer’s markets a week, we would prefer to only harvest what is needed.

Now let’s talk farmer’s markets for a moment. What is a farmers’ market? It is suppose to be a location where farmers come together to sell their food directly from the farm. It is more than just a couple of hours off the farm to sell my goods, it’s full days . . . . the markets have rules that require us to be there two hours before market starts and we have to unload a whole 16 foot trailer of produce instead being able to sell out of our trailer or vehicle.  Here is a huge issue we have with farmer’s markets, we never know how much is going to sell or how many people are going to be at market each week. So we harvest as much as we can and end up with waste! So it is a waste of our time to harvest it and now the excess produce is thrown out or fed to the animals. Farmers’ markets would be great if it was just a couple of hours to do the sales and if we didn’t have to set up a mini grocery store on the street. Honestly, farmers’ markets are exhausting, they aren’t geared toward or convenient for the farmer and we end with too much wasted produce.

We feel we have turned into a mini grocery store on wheels. That is not and never was our vision or purpose for farming. Farmers need to be on the farm growing the food. We would love to see all our customers come to the farm to buy, but we also know that is not feasible for some. So we are very happy to now offer our products through delivery services in the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley. In the Magic Valley, you can buy our products through Freshocal,  freshocal.com. You order on their website, we harvest just for you, they come to the farm to get it and deliver to you. Freshocal  In the Wood River Valley, you can order through Kraay’s Market & Garden, kraaysmarketgarden.grazecart.com . You order on their website Sunday and Mondays, we harvest, and they deliver on Wednesdays.  Kraay’s Market & Garden  This is a dream come true for exhausted farmers that are trying to find a way to be farmers again.

We may be willing to do one farmers’ market a week, but anymore than that and we are not farmers anymore. We need your help to be farmers again. Our plea to our customers is to come to the farm to buy from us directly or buy through one of the above marketing and delivery services. So try it, let us know what you think and help us figure this thing out. If you have any trouble ordering any of our products from Freshocal or Kraay’s, please let us know and we will help you.

We can’t keep going at the pace we have been of constant traveling to deliver and do markets. Something needs to change. We are setting out to figure this thing out, we want to go back to our roots . . . . our original vision and purpose . . .  to be your farmers, we want to do the growing for you and not pay someone else to do it. And where do you find farmers? On the farm! Please help us be farmers again!

For those of you that already come to the farm to buy and pick-up CSAs, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You share the same vision and purpose with us. You are allowing us to be the farmers we set out to be.

Heat of the Season

The weather is heating up and so is our growing and market season. We are going to three markets a week (Twin Falls, Ketchum, & Hailey). The foot traffic at the markets is also increasing, which is good. That means less produce waste from market that is fed to the animals, which we like, the less waste the better.  We also have CSA pick-up and delivery three days a week. If you are doing the math, that means three harvest days a week, sometimes four which only leaves us with one day of rest. But most weeks we can’t even call it a day of rest because there is still work to be done: animals fed, irrigation water to change, and lots of projects that need to be done, which usually take priority over resting. That’s the life of a farmer, there are no days off or at least not very many of them.

We are busy . . . and about to be in the middle of the busiest part of our season and the heaviest harvesting; when the majority of our produce varieties are ripe and ready for harvest and market. Which means lots of heavy totes and boxes to be carrying, loading then unloading and lots of phones calls doing wholesale sales and customer relations. In the next couple of weeks, we expect to start harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, okra, fennel and new potatoes. Then soon after that: green beans. This is the heat of the season for us, when the real work begins. We start our days at dawn, we are going all day, and we don’t stop until dark. We are still tired when we get up in the mornings. We just get up and keep moving.

So if we don’t return a call, text or e-mail promptly, know that we will get back you. We don’t have hours to sit and chat or answer phone calls at all hours like in the off-season, but we do have minutes here and there. You are important to us. You are the reason why we do what we do. It is important to us that you eat wholesome, real food.  You keep us motivated to keep moving when our days are long and we are feeling weary. So do your shopping from your local farms. Just by showing up with your smiling face, you are motivating a farmer to keep up the hard work that he/she is doing.

We may have a lot to do, but we really do love this time of year. The sunshine, the smell of the great outdoors, the produce and all the meals we get from it, the sunsets, sounds of all the animals and insects, and people we get to interact with all week long. We hope you are eating wholesome, real food. If not, come see us, we can change that!

May Produce & Planting

May is the month of planting for us. The busyness of planting has already started and will only get crazier as the month goes on. Since the weather delayed our ability to plant all of our cool weather vegetables earlier in the spring, we are now in a rush to get every plant and seed of all our produce in the ground.

On the bright side, our first greens of the year are ready. Part of our kale has overwintered and we have been picking it.  We will do the first cutting of the early planted kale, spinach and lettuce at the end of the week! Last month, we had our first meal of the year that included our homegrown, wholesome kale. We sauted the kale with garlic, grilled steak kabobs with onions and bell peppers. It was delicious!! The first kale of the season is exciting to us, it is always our first greens of the season. In early spring, we are starved for greens, especially ones we harvest ourselves. And it is very exciting to think of our first cutting of lettuce and spinach too!! The first greens of the season always taste the best.

We tend to get caught up in all the work that needs to be done, so I have to remind myself and the farmer to enjoy the season and don’t stress, no matter how much there is to do. Do a little bit at a time and it will all eventually get done.  I’m a doer, a hard worker, and a pusher when it comes to getting through a to-do list, it’s not a race, although I feel I need to race through the tasks. I have to take a deep breath, lifting my face to the sun and smiling . . . . . . because the sun is shining and it is warm . . . . .  finally! So I will enjoy planting. And not think of all the weeding that will need to be done before long.

May Happenings & Plans

  • Plant, plant and more planting
  • Twin Falls Farmers Market starts Saturday May 13th, 9 am – 1 pm at Breckenridge Endowment Farm on North College Road.
  • CSA (full season) deadline is May 15th, this deadline does not include the partial season shares. You can continue to sign up for partial season shares throughout the spring and summer.         csa2017
  • Full season and Spring partial season CSA begins this month! We will email or call you with the exact date.
  • Meat bundles still available        Beef              Pork

 

 

Green . . . Life Springs Forth

Green! I can see green growing again. It is so nice to see green . . .  plants growing again: grass and even weeds, lots of weeds. At this point, I’m happy to see weeds growing. Some will be tilled under when we roto-till the ground and others will just be a nuisance to deal with all summer. But after the long, snowing winter we had . . . . . . .  I’m welcoming the growth of weeds.

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Of course, I’m excited for the growth of vegetables too!! The greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula and swiss chard) have all been planted and the low tunnels are up. Thousand of seeds have been started in the cold frame and are up and grgarlic sproutsowing. The garlic is growing too. It’s a beautiful sight to look out the window to admire the rows of green sprigs of garlic starting to grow. And, the crazy farmers we happen to be, are trying something new this year; we planted peas. Yes, we
plant and grow peas every year, but never have we planted peas this early in the Spring. We’ll see how it works. If it works out, we’ll have peas available at the beginning of farmers market season.

Along with plant life beginning, Spring also brings on the joy of babies being born. Animals all over the farm are having babies; there are kittens, calves, chicks and piglets.  Although, at our farm pig farrow at all times of the year. Since we farrow all year round, we also have pork available during all the seasons instead of just one time a year. We have several pigs that are ready to be butchered and also have weaned piglets available. If you are interested in buying a pig contact us, we have several that are ready to go. We are also working on putting together bundles of pork and beef at various price ranges.           Pork         Beef

March Happenings & Plans

  • Start more seeds
  • Till the fields
  • CSA shares are still available to purchase through the month     csa2017

Another Year

It’s a new year. The time of year when people are making resolutions. I have never liked the word “resolution”, but a word I can focus on is goal. A goal is something to work toward. It gives you ambition to put all your effort into achieving it. So we have goals on this farm. Our goals for 2017 are:

  • To keep doing what we do; grow Organic, wholesome produce
  • Grow more produce to provide our community with wholesome produce
  • Continue to make a living at it
  • Take care of the soil
  • Learn to live with quack-grass

 

We would like to work toward our goals with plans. Our plans for this growing season are:

  • Produce CSA
  • Meat CSA  (something new we are working on)
  • Being at more farmers’ markets. We are planning on adding the Ketchum Farmers’ Market to our market schedule this year.
  • Planting more acres of produce

At this time, we don’t have a plan on how to live in harmony with quack-grass without it causing us headaches.  . . . . but I’m sure we will figure it out.

 

We are excited for all that 2017 holds for us.  We would also like to thank all of our supporters for choosing to support local in 2016. We are looking forward to growing for you in the new year.

 

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