Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jersey Boy

The latest farm resident is a small Jersey steer calf that we've been calling Jersey Boy. He came from a grass based Jersey cow dairy near Berlin, PA. He's still being fed milk replacer at this point. This is the youngest calf we've ever gotten. But he seems to be settling in just fine. As you can see in the photo, the donkeys seem to have simply added him to their list of things that they check on and watch over.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Meatrix

There are two good web sites you need to know about. The first is and the second is If you do a search for our area code, 26757, we are the only farm listed. You can get to either site from the other one. There are short animated films called "The Meatrix" which of course is a title variant of "The Matrix" films. The films have won all sorts of awards and discuss how to avoid the industrial meat production system. Another nice feature is the harvest cooking videos where a chef teaches you how to make and use seasonal foods. Check them out. Lastly, has a good blog you can subscribe to via email or your news reader.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

USDA Meat Inspection - Recent Events

Recently, an article in the Washington Post described the plight of a small farm near Charlottesville that was selling uninspected pork products. They also were using Certified Organic labels without authorization. The real irony here is that most of the food borne contaminants such as ecoli are coming from the industrial food system, certainly not from small farms. The Beans at Double H Farm in Charlottesville were butchering their pork on the farm. Even though small farms have been butchering their own pork safely for generations for their own use, this is clearly not permitted when the meat is to be resold. As far as the organic certification, most producers have simply dropped it due to the cost of the regulation and because of the fact that its nearly impossible to verify that any purchased feed is truly "organic". There was another story last June in Britain where 89% of "organic" chickens were contaminated. So just because organic feed was used, there is no assurance that the processing was done cleanly. For grass based operations, feed is less of a consideration anyway. Joel Salatin has been processing poultry on the farm for 2 decades without incident while there have been countless incidents of problems with commercial chicken. While meat products are not our leading farm products, I wanted to do this post to clear the air in light of recent news items and any future news stories you might hear related to meat processing and small farms. Our beef is currently processed, and our first lamb will be processed next year, at a USDA inspected facility, Emrick's Meat & Packing Co south of Hyndman, PA. Their address is 1966 Hyndman Road, Hyndman, PA 15545. Phone 814-842-6779. They also have a small grocery store at the same location. A USDA Inspector is on site at their facility on the days that animals are processed. You should visit them if you have an interest. For chicken, its not as strict. There are exemptions for small producers, 3000 birds in VA and 1000 birds in WV and on farm processing is permitted. However, we have not gone that route. Our poultry is processed at Berry Blossom Farm in Waynesboro, PA. This is a smaller scale Amish run commercial poultry processing facility and we transport the birds there. Their address is 14116 Hollowell Church Road, Waynesboro, PA 17268. Phone: 717.597.4945 Again, if you have an interest you should visit them. The you can visit a large poultry factory, and contrast the difference. So, I hope this fully documents any processing that our farm has done for meat products. Most people, except for enlightened consumers that seek local producers, don't even want to be confronted with food processing facts. They just want to see the meat products in their cellophane containers. But if you do have an interest, you should have access to all the facts related to the processing. As far as our farm, I've outlined all of the pertinent facts here but if you ever have any questions, just ask.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Foraging for wild foods and game are longstanding Appalachian traditions. Foraging examples would include ramps, morrel mushrooms, black walnuts, hickory nuts, native plums and dozens, if not hundreds, of other items. I took the photos near the gravel lane leading to our house. This persimmon tree is absolutely loaded with fruit. If you taste one before it is ripe it will parch your lips and mouth. The fruit softens after a freeze or two at which point the fruit becomes very sweet. Pretty amazing that with no cultivation, watering, fertilizing or anything, a bountiful natural fruit crop occurs. If you do a web search for persimmons you'll get a wealth of information. We hope to try a few recipes this year. The new Nov/Dec issue of Hobby Farms magazine had some info also. "Wild On The Farm": Sweet and sumptuous wild persimmon pudding is a Thanksgiving tradition throughout the South. Persimmons are also delicious right off of the tree but only in late autumn when they're at their mouthwatering sugary best. The word persimmon is derived from the Algonquin word"pessamin" , meaning "dry fruit". Dried persimmons were a staple in Native American villages; the Indians taught white settlers to eat persimmons too. Of persimmons, Captain John Smith wrote, "If it be not ripe it will drawe a man's mouth awrie with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricot". Persimmon trees flourish from Massachusetts to Florida and as far west as Nebraska and Texas. A member of the Ebony family, the persimmon tree's wood is highly prized for fashioning textile shuttles', pool cues, and golf clubs. Only female trees bear fruit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Joseph "The Man"

Well the big day finally arrived! Joseph has been anxiously waiting to meet his girlfriends.

The Ewes gave Joseph a warm welcome. He especially liked Mary, but she wasn't sure if she wanted him so close... so she gave him a run for his money. He got tired of chasing her and turned to Molly. Molly was friendly and apparently ready to get together. So was Missy. Sweetheart, Little One, and Mary went out to graze. Later on, everyone was in the barn snuggling up together like old pals.

So, if everything happens like it's supposed to, we should have little lambs hopping around the farm mid March 2008. Way to go Joseph!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sylvester Junior

We just got a new barn cat and we've named him after a cat we used to have, Sylvester. There must be millions of black and white cats named Sylvester, nothing very original there. The first Sylvester died at age 18 after moving the the farm. So the new one is Sylvester Junior. The black and white coloring is reminiscent of the original Sylvester. Ruth took this photo of one of the sheep getting acquainted with Sylvester Junior.

Autumn Glory Festival, Oakland, MD

Hello everyone,
Just a reminder that we'll be at the Mountain Fresh Pavilion in Oakland, MD on Saturday from
10 AM until 5 PM. See for info. We'll probably get there about 9 AM if you are running nearly. This is in conjunction with the annual Autumn Glory festival held in Oakland, MD. See for more details. This is actually a 5 day event,
Oct 10-14th, although we'll just be there on Saturday, Oct 13th. This will be the final day of our market season for 2007. Hope to see you there!

Bit of Fall Color

We're starting to get just a bit of fall color now and Jonathan Jessup has posted some new photos which are outstanding. You can see them by clicking Here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Donkey Slide Show

Hello everyone, Ruth created a slide show with some photos of our mini donkeys using a new tool called Some good pics.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Farmer's Market - October 6th

Hello everyone,
We are starting to get a bit of Fall color this week but there is no real chill in the air yet. Temperatures are still in the upper 80's. We haven't had any rain in nearly a month. This weekend is the annual Apple Harvest Festival in Burlington, WV. This is the big event of the year in Burlington and proceeds support the Methodist charities and the shelter and orphanage in Burlington. They do a lot of unheralded work which you can see at their web site, At the festival, Apple Butter and Brunswick Stew are made over open fires and fresh apple cider is pressed. Anything you can imagine being made with apples, i.e. pie, cobbler, sauce, cookies, dumplings, etc, well its all there. The woodsmoke, creek side setting, and fall color make for a nice setting. A nice brochure about the festival can be found by clicking Here. Also this weekend is the Folk Festival in Springs, PA. This is real Amish Country, for example, the children all go barefoot and their tractors have solid steel wheels. Springs PA is just North of Grantsville, MD. More details are at We'll be at the Romney Farmers Market on Saturday AM from 9 AM -12 Noon and then we'll be over at the Potomac Eagle Station from 1PM to 2 PM. Our honey harvest is done for the year and Ruth packaged lots of different bottle sizes this week. We'll also have plenty of red raspberries. We hope to see you somewhere!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Romney Farmer's Market - Sep 29th

Hello everyone, Just a short note to say that we WILL be at the Romney Market on Saturday. The weather looks to be beautiful, sunny and 77. We'll have raspberries, honey, and many jarred products. We will probably be there until 11:30 AM as after that we have been invited to set up over at the Potomac Eagle train station at Noon. This is when the 10 AM train returns and before the 1 PM train departs. This weekend is the start of the Potomac Eagle fall season and they will run daily. See for full details. Looks like they have big crowds already lined up for this fall as more people discover the train and Romney. We were told yesterday that the 1st class tickets for all of October are already sold out. This is also Heritage Weekend in Moorefield, VA and many folks will be going there also. The fall festivals season is in full swing with something scheduled nearby most every weekend. For ex, the Burlington Apple Harvest festival is next weekend. So come on out and enjoy the fall color over the next 3-4 weeks!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mary Poppins and Choco Bell

Next March will be our first lambing season on the farm. There are numerous predators around our area including coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. All of which would happily prey on baby lambs. So we had been casting about for a solution to protect our sheep flock. The normal solutions include a Great Pyrrennes dog, llamas, or donkeys. We heard of someone, Mr Bob Odle, that was downsizing their farm operation and had 4 mini donkeys available. So we purchased two of them, already named, Mary Poppins and Choco Bell. We can see by their reaction to our dogs just how they work to protect a flock. They face the dog directly, stare them down, and then walk straight at them to get them to back off. If necessary they will stomp an intruder with their front feet or turn and kick with their back feet. They are fearless when faced with a growling, barking dog. Ruth is holding Mary Poppins here. They have a stripe and cross on their back which is their biblical tie to "the way of the cross". These animals have been around a long time. So they are now part of our farm family and have their own job to do, to protect the sheep flock.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Appalachian Festival

Hello everyone, just a reminder that we will not be in Romney on Saturday. We'll be in Frostburg, MD at the 2007 Appalachian Festival. You can get complete details by going to
We attended the event last year at it was quite informative. Its held right in the middle of the campus. This year we'll be vendors and we'll also be giving a talk related to beekeeping at 12:30 PM. The festival highlights Appalachian culture, crafts, history, music, food, etc. There is live music all day long. Perhaps we'll see you there.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Romney Farmers Market - Sep 15, 2007

Just a short note here to tell you that tomorrow will be our final day at the Romney market for the season. Looks like summer's gone. We'll still have lots of red raspberries and still a few blackberries. We put in green beans as a second planting and we should have some available. We harvested honey so we'll have some brand new honey. Its an interesting time as everyone is canning and preserving and preparing for winter. A chill is definitely coming, we had a 48 degree low the other night. On September 22nd we'll be in Frostburg, MD for the Appalachian Festival. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Heritage Days Wrap Up

This was our first year with a farm stand at Heritage Days. All in all it was a good experience. We met a lot of visitors to town and our jarred products and honey products were quite popular. Just a few photos here to document the event. I got my picture taken with Abraham Lincoln. He IS quite tall. Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, was born just west of Romney in Antioch, WV. She left WV and moved to Indiana when she got married. The observation bee hive was very popular especially with kids. It was featured on the front page of the Cumberland Times on Sunday. Lots of people get into the Heritage Days spirit by wearing colonial costumes as they walk around town. Often they are involved in some sort of reenactment. The photo is of the Fletcher family's triplets in their colonial dresses. We were set up across from the gazebo near Taggert Hall on High Street in Romney so a nice fringe benefit was that we got to hear the live music all day while we were there.

Strawberries in September

I love strawberries and this is a certainly new farm experience, getting fresh local strawberries in the Fall. I did a trial planting of the new strawberry variety, Seascape, which is one of the new "daylight neutral" varieties. And they worked well. Out of the 100 foot trial row, we picked several quarts of berries yesterday. Quite a real treat to have strawberries in September. The birds love them too however, the berry on the right was clearly enjoyed by a bird. These plants do not seem to put out runners like other strawberry plants. They seem to stay put, and save their energy for the second crop of the year. Shorter daylight hours tell them to put out more berries instead of runnering. Berry size is smaller than the spring crop, likely because there is little moisture in August except for a passing thunderstorm. Flavor was very good and they were very sweet. So this is a successful trial. We'll plant more and also when we get our high tunnel greenhouse built we'll have to plant some in there. In the green house we can begin to water them perhaps in mid August and get a larger berry size. It will be quite a novelty to have some to sell at September farmers markets, perhaps next year.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hampshire Heritage Days Reminder

Hello everyone, just a short reminder that the Romney Farmers Market will not be in its normal location this coming Saturday, September 8th due the the annual Hampshire Heritage Days event held in downtown Romney. Instead of the Farmers Market there is a car and motorcycle show in the Bank of Romney Community Center parking lot. We will be set up on High Street in downtown Romney, near Mario's restaurant and the Taggert Hall Chamber of Commerce Building from about 8 AM until 4 PM or so. There is a parade that assembles at 5 PM so most of the artisans and vendors will probably close down just before the parade assembles. We will not have much fresh produce this Saturday. Instead we will mostly have jarred products, honey, and smaller snack packs of raspberries. We will also have an observation bee hive at our area. Based upon our experience at the summer fairs, people really like to see the bee hive and learn about how honey is produced. We packaged lots of honey this week and we'll have a good selection. You can get much more info at or at Heritage Days draws lots of visitors to Romney for the weekend. Romney is the oldest town in WV and history is very prominent for events like this weekend's. There was a fair amount of civil war skirmishing in the area and local militias were active in the area. Civil war enthusiasts track down some of this historical info. Romney itself changed hands numerous times as the town would be occupied, then reoccupied by the other side, when the previous occupiers were called away elsewhere. There is a very large civil war encampment and reenactment held on the field by the river just west of Romney. Its very popular and its quite a display of living history. Hope to see you in town on Saturday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hampshire County Fair Round Up

We got involved in setting up a display at the fairgrounds for the Hampshire Beekeepers and so while we were doing that we decided to enter many of our farm products. The Beekeepers display took the blue ribbon in competition with the other farms and business displays. The observation bee hive we set up was a huge hit at the fair. We ourselves won 10 blue ribbons for our farm products, and Ruth won another 3 blue ribbons in the CEOS (Community Education and Outreach) displays. The CEOS competitions involve baked goods, preserves, lots of other jarred products and lots of other things in the "homemaker" category. The horticulture competitions focus on crops, fruits and other agricultural products. So we won a total of 13 blue ribbons for Church View Farm, a very pleasant surprise in that we hadn't even considering entering anything until just a few days before the fair. Admittedly, Hampshire County is a very small fair, but it seems to be rapidly growing. There were many more displays than there were last year. People were still streaming through the Horticulture building when we went to pick up our displays late on Saturday. So while it involved numerous trips to the fairgrounds, I think it turned out to be well worth the effort and a real nice experience.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Farmer's Market - August 25th

Wow summer is rapidly drawing to a close. We'll have lots of berries at the market on Saturday. Still its best to come early for them. After the recent rains they have really come on strong. Especially the golden raspberries. We'll have plenty of these. Up to this point we've just had a few and we sometimes packaged a mix of golden and red. We'll have the gold raspberries packaged separately on Saturday. Also, we'll have plenty of sweet peppers. The yellows and reds are particularly sweet. Plenty of hot peppers too. Weather has been kind of strange for August. Cool and damp this past week. With the daylight shortening significantly you can tell that summer is rapidly dwindling. Its unusual to have as much mowing and grass cutting to do in late August. Still its better that hot and dry. We'll also have many of our new jarred products made by Gourmet Central. One last thing, please get your chicken preorders pinned down and notify us so we can have them available for you. The next batch gets processed on Sep 4th. Hope to see you Saturday morning.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Raspberry Benefits

Our red raspberries were running a bit late this year due to the lack of rainfall in June and July. But with adequate rain in the last few weeks, they are now doing very well. Raspberries can't really be shipped very well and the ones that are imported or shipped have to be treated with fungicides to prevent mold. This info below was gleaned from the web site Besides compiling PYO farms, they provide lots of reference info, canning tips, etc. Thought I would pass on the info they provided about raspberries. We should have plenty at the market this weekend. However, if we pick them too quickly after a rain, they will mold quickly so they must be consumed or used right away, within a day or two. Its just not worth the potential health risks of getting involved with fungicide use just to get a few days of extra shelf life.

Raspberry Facts and Tips

  • Raspberries come in many colors besides red: there are also black, purple and gold raspberries.
  • Raspberries are a very healthy food; they are high Vitamin C and naturally have no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They are also a good source of iron and folate (which is used especially in treatment of low red blood cells or anemia). Raspberries contain a natural substance called ellagic acid, which is an anti-carcinogenic (cancer-preventing) compound. Raspberries have been shown to lower high blood cholesterol levels and slow release of carbohydrates into the blood stream of diabetics.
  • Raspberries are high in fiber. Half to one pound of raspberry fruit per day can provide twenty to thirty grams of fiber which is adequate for an adult daily nutrition requirement.
  • Select plump, firm, fully black berries. Unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
  • Raspberries 1 pint = 2 cups = 500 ml and about 3/4 lb (about 1/3 kg) and is good for about 2 to 4 servings.
  • 1 cup of raspberries is about 123 grams,
  • The USDA says 1 cup is about 64 calories!
  • Raspberries are a type of bramble, like blackberries and are also known as "Cane berries"
  • Raspberries are different from blackberries in that the fruit has a hollow core that remains on the plant when you pick the raspberry.
  • Raspberries are so expensive in the grocery store because, since they are so soft, they bruise easily, spoil quickly and do not ship well. It's much better to pick your own!
  • 2 pints (4 cups) of raspberries are needed for a 9" pie
  • 1 - 1¼ cups = 10 oz. package frozen berries
  • 1 cup of raspberries is only 61 calories and high in dietary fiber
  • Raspberries are high in potassium, vitamin A and calcium
  • Raspberries contain about 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
  • U-pick Raspberry farms typically sell berries by the pound or pint. A pint equals 3/4 pounds of fresh berries.
  • Do the math and be careful not to over-purchase as Raspberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • You can easily freeze berries that you can not use right away - just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible. Those vacuum food sealers REALLY do a good job of this! The berries will keep for many months frozen without air.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Farmers Market - Saturday August 18th

Wow, this week has been a total blur. Just a quick update here to get you prepped for tomorrow's market day. Cherokee Purple tomatoes are back this week. We'll have at least one full crate.
I know a few folks were very disappointed last week, dismayed even, maybe even depressed, when we ran out early. Recent rain has helped immensely. We have a lot of very nice red sweet peppers. Sweet as candy, the smaller size concentrates the flavor. We'll have habanero, jalapeno, thai, and carribbean red hot peppers in half pint and pint containers. I now understand that hot pepper loving people are called chiliheads. Who knew? We also have new smaller honey jars this week for those not needing the larger jars, ex quarts. The newest item will be the Bloody Mary mix that Gourmet Central made for us this week. Its very spicy and very thick. It can also be used as a cocktail sauce for shrimp or something similar. It could also be a soup base. Lots of possibilities. We did a taste test of a another product not made with fresh tomatoes and there was no comparison. We did our county sponsored Food Service training course this week so we are now officially authorized to serve samples. Hope to see you at the market. One last thing, we have a Ton of Roma tomatoes. Ton with a capital T. We'll never get them all picked. We probably won't be bringing these to the market unless we have an advance order for them. They just don't seem to sell and don't present well when sitting side by side with the big slicing tomatoes. Good for fresh spaghetti sauce or on pizza.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gourmet Cental Delivery

Yesterday we delivered some of our produce to Gourmet Central in Romney, WV for processing. This included sweet peppers, green and red tomatoes, as well as several types of hot peppers. We managed to pick a whole pallet of produce on Wednesday. Our backs are still tired. Ruth is holding a box of the hot peppers in the photo. This will be turned into bloody mary mix, hot sauce, and a green tomato relish (chow chow). This processing is being done by Gourmet Central as part of a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. The goal of this program is to connect growers to the capabilities of a commercial kitchen such as Gourmet Central and ultimately to customers through the web site which goes live in the next few days after its presented and demonstrated to Governor Manchin at the WV state fair this week. We'll be picking up some products by the end of the week and we'll have them at the Romney Farmer's Market on Saturday. This really helps growers extend the season by having the jarred products available year round.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Farmers Market - Saturday August 11th

Wow the summer has really been racing by. We'll have lots of very nice red sweet peppers at the market this Saturday as well as numerous kinds of hot peppers. We have lots of different kinds: Jalapeno, Thai, Caribbean, Cayenne, red chili, etc. , quite a variety. We'll have these packed in pints. Sadly, the blueberries are all gone for the year. I know many of you really enjoyed them too. But they've now been replaced by an abundance of blackberries. So dig out that blackberry cobbler recipe or get one on line or at We'll have red raspberries too. That along with the usual tomatoes, green peppers, squash, honey, eggs, etc. We're getting some storms tonight (Thursday eve) but only about 1/3" of much needed rain so far. Hopefully it will continue overnight. Hope to see you Saturday morning in Romney!

WV Fresh Logo

We attended a meeting at Fairmont State University yesterday where the new WV Fresh Logo was unveiled. The WV Collaborative web site will be going live next week after it is presented at the WV State Fair. Farms that have been involved with the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program like us were participants in the meeting at Fairmont yesterday. Its a nice logo and its getting some good publicity nationwide. The web site will help connect stores, restaurants, and the public with local producers. We'll be listed there as a producer when it goes live next week. On our way home we visited the WVU Organic Research Farm in Morgantown where they were having an open house and field day. Quite an informative day yesterday.

Excellent WV Photo

As you know by now, any good photos we have are a result of Ruth's skill and eye for detail. Here's another WV landscape that I think just about captures it all. Taken near our house. You've got the the fields, woods, pond, mountains in the distance, an apple tree, big open sky, nice clouds. All the best of WV. But note the drought stress in the sunflower leaves and grass. Sure there is human interference, the road, the rowboat, the distant building rooftop, but it does not overtake the natural setting. Like a park. Which may actually be the point. Living in WV is like living in a pastoral park. Great photos like this capture the foreground detail, a middle subject, and the far distance.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Color Guide to Staying Healthy and Eating Right

I found this article at the Lifehacker blog. Its a good description of nutrition and food colors. Click the link above or Here for the article.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hot Peppers

Some folks have been asking for weeks now and finally the hot peppers are ready. Mostly jalapeno. We'll have them at the Romney Farmer's Market tomorrow. We have them packed in pints this year. Some Thai hot peppers will also be available shortly. We'll also have plenty of sweet peppers again. Some were allowed to turn red. Very sweet. Still lots and lots of tomatoes. A slight bit of misfortune with the heirloom tomatoes. From the big storm last Saturday evening we got about 2 " of rain. This was just too much for the thin skinned heirlooms as many of them cracked and split with the rapid moisture uptake. So the heirlooms may get picked out in the next week or so. We have lots of nice large blackberries in pints and red raspberry pints also. No matter how many we bring they sell out in the first hour. Been meaning to mention eggs also. We have them in a cooler and often forget to display them. We'll have 10 dozen or so for tomorrow. Lastly, tomorrow will be the last day for Richard Cutter's blueberries which we have been selling for him. Looks like we are into a long stretch of 90 degree muggy days. Great for homemade ice cream and with fresh fruit. Hope to see you at the market on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Aroma's Coffeehouse

Catching up on blog posts today that I've neglected for a while so on this very hot afternoon its desk clearing time. If you are in Moorefield, WV looking for a nice place to eat or have a good cup of coffee, do yourself a favor and stop at Aroma's Coffee House. See Its on the main street running through town. Its quiet and comfortable with nice tables, sofas and free WiFi. Basically its like your den at home. Proprietor JD and his wife treat every customer like a part of their family. They also roast their own coffee on site. They became our customers this year and they have a keen interest in serving local and seasonal produce at Aroma's. A few of their lunches are shown on their web site. Check it out. JD takes a special pride in checking that each and every customer is very satisfied with their visit. Each and every town in this country needs a place like this.

WV Gazette Article and On Line Guide

WV Gazette staff writer Tara Tuckwiller has been writing about WV local foods and had a good article in the paper on July 22nd. The WV Gazette is the Charleston, WV daily newspaper.
Click here for the article. The WV Gazette also now has an on line local foods guide. Some information about Hampshire County should be included in the on line Guide in the next few days. You can access the WV Gazette on line guide here.

First Apples

This morning we picked our first marketable quantities of apples from the farm. These apples have never been sprayed with anything and they are surprisingly free of marks and insect damage. We'll have some containers at the Romney Farmers Market next Saturday. They are small buy very very sweet. We've harvested only small quantities of apples before this. Raising apple trees turned into a continual battle with deer, rabbits, groundhogs, etc not to mention simply hoping for favorable weather conditions. We did lose several large branches laden with apples in a severe storm last Saturday evening. After losing peaches and cherries locally to the spring freeze, some nice fresh sweet apples are very welcome in mid summer.

NY Times Editorial - Factory Farm Map

July 31, 2007


A Factory Farm Near You

Once upon a time, only a decade or so, it wasn’t hard to know where
factory hog farms were because they were nearly all in North Carolina.
But since those days, the practice of crowding together huge
concentrations of animals — hogs, poultry, dairy cows, beef cattle — in
the interests of supposed efficiency has spread around the country.

Wherever it appears, factory farming has two notable effects. It
threatens the environment, because of huge concentrations of animal
manure and lax regulation. And it threatens local political control.
Residents who want a say over whether and where factory farms, whose
stench can be overwhelming, can be built find their voices drowned out
by the industry’s cash and lobbying clout.

These farms are spreading so rapidly that it’s been hard to get an
accurate, up-to-date picture of where they all are. A research and
advocacy group called Food and Water Watch has released an interactive
map — — that
allows users to track the proliferation of factory farms by state and
county, number of farms, type of operation and even number of animals.
The only thing that would make this map more useful — and we hope it
will be an ongoing project — is the ability to track changes over time,
showing how rapid and pervasive the growth of factory farming has been.

It’s important to read this map not as a static record of farm sites or
a mere inventory of animals. It is really a map of overwhelming change
and conflict. It raises two of the fundamental questions facing American
agriculture. Do we pursue the logic of industrialism to its limits in a
biological landscape? And how badly will doing so harm the landscape,
the people who live in it and the democracy with which they govern

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Local Harvest Video

Pretty interesting short video Here from the Local Harvest newsletter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Supermarkets Tout Fresh, Local Offerings

Great National Public Radio story Here about supermarkets picking up on local produce and the expanded interest in farmers markets. Well worth a listen. Thanks to Kim Sykes, WV Dept of Agriculture for recommending it. Typical high quality and timely reporting from NPR.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Washington Post Local Foods Article

Yet another good article in today's Washington Post about the local foods movement. Front Page coverage. This time focusing on the suburbs, in Loudoun County. The local foods movement has really taken hold in 2007. Its likely a combination of a lot of factors lining up. The high fuel cost, some good books coming out on the topic, as well as the scandals involving imported food, all seem to have really brought a focus to local foods. And we are right in the middle of this. At the farmer's market yesterday, we had a conversation with one of the other vendors about the increased interest and traffic at our local Romney Farmers Market. It has been interesting seeing this grow in 2007.

A Shorter Link Between the Farm And Dinner Plate
Some Restaurants, Grocers Prefer Food Grown Locally

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page A01

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nutrition Action Article

You may not be able to see the numbers on the article below unless you enlarge the page. Its from the latest Nutrition Action Health Letter which we get in the mail. You can go to to read it on line, or to get on their mailing list. Also, a link to the data is Here. As we head into peach, apple and pear season its important to remember that they have the highest pesticide levels of any fruit and vegetables. This is because they have to be sprayed so many times. Basically you should avoid the top block, the "Dirty Dozen" unless you can verify that they have been grown organically without pesticides. You can be sure that anything imported is loaded with these toxic substances. It will be interesting to see if there is any follow-up at all to the latest China import problems beyond a few reporters going over to have a look around. The small fruits are not quite as bad, they mostly require fungicides after harvest to preserve them during shipment. Needless to say, none of our fruits and vegetables have any pesticides or fungicides on them. Thus they are not as "ornamental" as you might see in the grocery store. For ex, a few spots on sweet peppers. But for the informed consumer, a couple of marks on a tomato or pepper is far better than ingesting pesticides, the full effect of which can not even be pinned down. Its just better to avoid them altogether. Hope to see you at the market Sat AM. All varieties of tomatoes are in now. If you are interested in larger quantities for canning or preserving, now is the time. Advance orders can be packaged up and waiting for you at the market. We've gotten a little rain, about 1/2 inch the other day so tomato and pepper sizes are near normal. Some nice slicing tomatoes will be available.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Romney Farmers Market Photos - July 21, 2007

We had our busiest day ever at the Romney Farmers Market today. During a lull in the action Ruth snapped a few photos of our area as well as a few other vendors and the view down the sidewalk. The weather was great, mid 70's during most of the morning after a chilly 57 degree start. Great to see all of those that came out today. The beautiful weather had everyone in good spirits. Just like the past few weeks, blackberries and raspberries sold out in the first hour. Our busiest time seems to be from 9 AM until 10:30 AM. Tomatoes were very popular as again we were the only vendor that had any tomatoes. That was because we planted most of our tomatoes in mid May on some cold rainy days. And we were lucky enough to not have a late May frost this year. Many people were very interested in trying the Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Since the tomato sizes were small we were doing 4 of anything for $1 today. We joked that were were like the Dollar Store for vegetables which got a few laughs. July is definitely the peak month for the farmers market. The Romney market seems to be gaining some popularity for the listing I posted at and some other local advertising such as the Community Calendar in the Hampshire Review. Hope to see you next Saturday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Update for 7/21/07 Farmers Market

Wow, its been a busy week. We still haven't had any significant rainfall but tomatoes and peppers are still bearing very nicely. Salad greens are gone until the fall planting. They actually lasted longer than I thought. Targeting September for more salad mix. We'll have lots of tomatoes and peppers for the market. Cherokee Purple tomatoes are in. This is a much sought after heirloom. Mild tasting, often requested by chefs. We'll have may other varieties also. Sweet peppers are decent size and very crisp and sweet. We'll have blackberries and red raspberries again. They will likely sell out early again. They were gone in the first hour last week. We will also have more of Richard Cutter's blueberries. They sold like gangbusters last week. These blueberries won the blue ribbon and best of show at the Allegheny County MD fair this week. We were at Richard's berry yard on Tuesday picking and eating right from the bush. Just like the birds do. Awesome and heavenly blueberry flavor. As with almost everything this year, fruit size is smaller due to the lack of rainfall but the flavor and sweetness is enhanced. I was also lucky enough to have blueberry pancakes several times this week courtesy of Ruth. Speaking of the Allegheny fair, Ruth and I helped man the Allegheny beekeepers booth. It was quite a joy to show people the observation bee hive. Children delighted in finding the queen and in seeing honey in the comb. It also gave us numerous opportunities to explain the difference between wasps, that sting aggressively, and honey bees which do not. It also allowed us a chance to clear the air about the more aggressive Africanized bees. They can't survive our cold winters so they are pretty much confined to the dry southern states such as Texas and Arizona. Seems like we spent most of our time trying to clear up the misconceptions spread by the popular media. Tree fruits are a total bust this year. This week's Hampshire Review had an article about the local tree fruits. Gary Shanholtz was quoted as saying that the peach crop is 10% of normal and the apple crop is about 30% of normal yields. And of that, the fruit quality is not up to par because of the spring fronts, the cold month of May and the recent drought conditions. Looks like is a berry year, not a year for tree fruits. One last thing, if you are interested in the pastured poultry please be sure to get your order in, the first batch is gone. Batch 2 will be available the last week of July but only 25 birds. Batch 3 will be about Sep 1st. That will be about 100 birds. We don't want to disappoint anyone, but its first come first served, so get your reservations/orders in ASAP. Long post, but lots to cover! Hope to see you at the market on Saturday.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Taylor's Excellent Church View Farm Photos

We recently met Taylor Kuykendall at the Romney Farmer's Market. Somehow we got to talking about photography and his web site, I guess because he had his camera along with him. Later that week he came out to the farm for a visit to shoot some photos which you can see at his blog site and the link is Here. He obviously has a very keen eye for detail and snapped these photos during a very short visit and walk around the farm. We see these things every day, but his photos somehow manage to bring out detail which we can overlook simply because of their familiarity.
Its all a reminder to simply slow down and see the detail. Not many people have ever noticed the perfect whorls of a sunflower. The photos are very well done. Inspiring in fact. When Taylor emailed and said he be out around sunrise for the best light, I felt I was not dealing with a typical college age young person but instead a very motivated and focused young person continuing to learn by pursuing their interests and passions on summer break. Its enough to restore your faith in Generation Next.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Berries Galore - July 14th Romney Farmer's Market

Hello everyone,
Well this is Thursday AM which is a bit more notice than last week when I didn't get a pot done until Friday. We'll have blackberries and red raspberries at the Romney Farmer's Market tomorrow. Prices are $2.50/half pint and $4 per pint. Our friend, Richard Cutter, has some blueberries that will be available at our market stand. Richard is from Midland, MD which is near Frostburg, MD. Pricing is the same as raspberries. Our blueberry plants are still small and will hopefully bear next year. Richard's blueberries are chemical free. He gave us some to try last year and they were really good. These berries will sell quick and will probably be gone by 10 AM. The early birds have been getting all the berries. We'll also have plenty of tomatoes. We were the only vendor to have tomatoes last week and we clearly didn't bring enough. We'll bring two or three crates this week to meet the demand. We have some real nice green peppers, very tender, sweet and flavorful. These are not the boxy green peppers you see at the grocery store. They mature with more of a point at the bottom. Much better tasting. And we'll have green beans also. We'll be doing the mix and match quarts again which was very popular last week. Your choice of beans, squash, tomatoes, etc for $3/quart. Hope to see you there. Just direct anyone else you know that might have an interest to our blog, They can then subscribe via the blog to get notified by email.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Farmer's Market - July 7th - Tomatoes In

Sorry for the late notice post. Its about 8 PM but we just got finished doing the picking for tomorrow's farmer's market. Produce is in! We'll have ripe tomatoes, sweet peppers, summer squash, green beans, some berries, etc, etc. at the market tomorrow morning in Romney. The market is supposed to start at 9AM but folks have been asking about the raspberries so we'll likely have some early birds. We got some rain yesterday which really helped. Starting Sunday, we are supposed to have 5-6 days in the mid 90's which will really ripen the tomatoes. We'll have an avalanche of them starting this week. So if you are contemplating a large order, now is the time to get your order in. Hope to see you at the market.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

True Blue Coffee Roasters

We like a nice high quality cup of coffee. We found out last week that there is a world class coffee roaster right in Moorefield, WV, True Blue Coffee Roasters. See Their speciality is organic, fair trade coffees and they have a wide selection available. We were able to stop by their location for a quick view of the process. The upshot of this is that we will offer their products at the Romney Farmers Market, via our web site, or by special order. They have a nice sampler pack available which has 8 different selections. This also makes a very nice gift. Individual 2 oz. sampler packets are just $2 each. The complete sampler pack is $12. 12 oz. and 16 oz packages are also available at $9 and $12 respectively. The packages are a nice royal blue with the True Blue label and it identifies the company location in Old Fields, WV. A very nice WV discovery and something which will make a nice addition for the farmer's markets.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Early Girl Tomatoes

The early girl variety tomatoes are in! This is the earliest bearing variety that we planted this year. We've been picking small quantities for a few days now and will likely be picking daily from now on. We could still use more rainfall, but they seem to be doing OK with as little as we've had. Next variety to come in will probably be Celebrity and Glamour. All varieties have green tomatoes on the plants at this point. The Romas are looking particularly bushy and vigorous. So with fresh tomatoes the height of summer is definitely here! With as cold as May was, the tomatoes have done well but conditions are still not optimal, for example last night it was only 52 degrees. What that means is that with a week or so of warm weather in the next few weeks, and a few warm nights, we'll likely have a deluge of fresh tomatoes. Beat the rush and let us know your requirements early. We'll have half bushel boxes available. Or we can transfer them to your own containers, whatever works for you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Farmer's Market Shopping Tips

I found this article while doing some web browsing at Good points on how to shop at farmers markets.

What better way to spend part of your Saturday or Sunday (or Mon-Fri) than paying a visit to your local farmer’s market? Going to the market is a mix of culture, community and of course, free tastings. One of the huge advantages to shopping at the farmer’s market is being able to ask the farmer questions about the food that he or she is selling. Another major benefit is knowing that the food you are about to buy is fresh, humane, and locally grown (as opposed to being shipped 1,800 miles). These are important things for our environment, and they are important for our farmers and our local economy.

Listed below are some tips to help you make the most out of the food you buy and the experience you enjoy, (they are not in any particular order). If you have any more to add, please let us know.

  • When was this picked?- Usually farmers pick their produce the day before or the morning of the farmer’s market. Knowing when it was picked will give you an idea of how ripe it is. Generally speaking, farmers want to harvest produce when it’s perfectly ripe, so you shouldn’t have to wait very long before you can eat it. It’s not a bad idea to ask. Also here is a guide on how to choose perfectly ripe fruits and veggies.
  • Where’s the farm?- This is another important question to ask. Our assumption is that all the food at the farmers market was grown locally. This is not always the case. If the food was trucked in from hundreds of miles away, then shopping at the farmers market will be no better than shopping at the supermarket.
  • Organic- Not all the foods at the farmers market are organic. The best practice is to ask. Many times, local farm representatives will tell you that their food is "organic," despite the fact that they do not carry a "certified organic" label. The reason behind this is that for some small farms these certifications cost a lot of money that can prove financially prohibitive. In general I trust the farmers at the market, and in most cases, I think their hearts and practices are in the right place. If they say their produce is organic, I believe them. However, even if the food is not organic and was grown conventionally (using pesticides and fertilizers) and locally, this is still a good thing and definitely the next best choice in environmentally friendly agriculture. You may just want to subtly ask your farmer if they have plans to go organic in the future.
  • Sustainable- If you’re interested, you can ask your farmer if they perform crop rotations and employ bio-diversity on their farm. These practices usually help the farm become a closed loop where the plants, animals and soil all benefit from each other.
  • Are those free range eggs- There is a stand at our farmers market that sells eggs. If yours has one also, it may not be a bad idea to ask all of the above plus whether the chickens are allowed to roam about freely. I noticed the last time we were at the market the egg stand put up a sign that listed all of these answers, so they must get these questions frequently.
  • Is it in season- Because most food at the farmers market is grown locally, generally it’s in season. Just in case you are curious, here is a link to check what’s in season in your area.
  • Recipes and Storage- Who better to ask how to prepare and store the food than the person that grew it? Farmers usually enjoy the produce they grow and have some good tips and tricks on cooking it and making it keep for awhile. Who knows, you may even walk away with an old family recipe.
  • Create a list, and get those items first- Sometimes the excitement of the farmers market can send us into a buying frenzy…I think cheap, fresh food has that effect. However, stick to the list. If you’ve got your meals planned out for the week, get those necessary ingredients first. After that, you can check out some other treats. The key is not to buy so much food that it spoils before you can eat it. Since most of the produce is ripe when you buy it, it’s shelf life is probably only a few days.
  • Give the kids a couple bucks- Let them choose and purchase some fruits and veggies on their own. You never know, they may be more inclined to actually eat the healthy items that they picked it out and paid for.
  • Bring your own bags- Globally, we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. They fill up our landfills, open spaces and oceans. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this, please use reusable bags to help reduce this number.

Overall, these tips should help you make an educated decision on the food you are about to buy. You’ll probably only need to ask them once, as you’ll purchase from the same farmers from week-to-week. After awhile, you will get to know them and they will usually take special care of you in pointing out the best produce and give you more tips and suggestions.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Romney Farmer's Market and Sidewalk Sale, June 23rd

Sorry it has been so long since the last post. We were extremely busy getting everything planted in May. Which out us behind on mowing, which put us behind on ........... everything else! Many thousands of tomatoes and peppers were planted this year. We are chronically short of rainfall in June but everything seems to be growing acceptably, including the weeds of course. A late frost pretty much destroyed the cherry, peach, and early apple crops in our area. Mid season and late season apples seem to have survived. There was just no way the blossoms could withstand temperatures in the low 20's.
We were notified this week by the Hampshire County Chamber of Commerce that there would be a sidewalk sale in downtown Romney this weekend. So this seems to be a good weekend for our first set up at the Romney Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. We'll have young tender green and yellow summer squash and with any luck a few Early Girl tomatoes. We may have a few sweet peppers and some spinach also. We're a few weeks away from beginning the blackberry and raspberry harvest however. We'll also have honey and beeswax products for sale. We won't be cutting salad mix this year for the market. We found that with a hot summer market day there was just too much wilt and waste. We refuse to spray tender crops such as lettuce/salad greens with chemicals or fungicides to retard the wilting as the grocery store does. That's just not wise or healthy. So we'll just continue selling salad mix and other greens from the farm or with deliveries. Hope to see you at the market. Feel free to place an advance order and we'll have it ready for you to pickup at the market. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Its been a strange cool dry spring so far, but things are now starting to happen fast. The spring greens are coming along nicely. We've been busy planting, especially tomatoes, for about a week now. The photo shows you one of our tomato rows. There are 600 plants in this row. At a conservative estimate of 10 pounds of tomatoes per plant, this row should produce 6000 pounds or 3 tons of tomatoes. We have some really great varieties for this year including, Celebrity, Early Girl, Supersonic, Roma, Glamour and some nice heirloom varieties including Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and Old German. Many of the tomatoes have blossoms on them already so with any luck the Early Girls will be available in about a month. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Preserving Fossil Fuels and Nearby Farmland by Eating Locally

Preserving Fossil Fuels and Nearby Farmland by Eating Locally -- NY Times

This article was in the NY Times today and discuss those devoted to eating local products, called "locavores" . The article also mentions several new books coming out including Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".

Monday, April 23, 2007

FDA Was Aware of Dangers to Food

Today's Washington Post has a fairly worrisome article which states that the FDA knew of numerous food related problems including the latest ecoli outbreaks for years, and simply did nothing about it.
They don't have the staff or resources to really enforce anything related to food safety. Read it and worry. Make your best efforts to source your food locally to avoid this contamination which is now pretty much unavoidable in the industrialized food processing system.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Daisy's New Little Sister, Zoey

Zoey is a new addition to the farm as of yesterday. We got her from the shelter in Morgantown, WV. I think we drove though every climatic condition on our trip there yesterday: snow,sleet, rain, fog, sun... you name it. She was apparently just too much energy for her senior woman owner and she was surrendered to the shelter. The owner was a widow and her son thought a pet might be good company for her. But it was likely a case of just too much energy in too little space. Daisy took to her right away and will look after her. We believe Zoey is a pure bred border collie, a great country dog. Although she came with no papers. Not that it matters to us. She seems to really like the farm, she'll have the room to roam that she needs, and she'll have plenty or work to do. She just 11 months old but her genetics is apparent as she was very anxious to round up the lambs.

Monday, April 02, 2007

View of the Farm

I was thinking this morning that many of the blog readers and some of our customers have not actually ever seen the farm, or perhaps may have not even been to West Virginia. The other day Ruth snapped this photo of the farm from the front road. You can see the house, garage, shop and barns. You can see that the area is a very nice pastoral view of basically woods and fields. At this time things have just started to get green again. Just behind the small grove of locust trees you can just make out our bee hives. In a few weeks when the trees all have leaves on them, it will be difficult to see the house from the main road. Our pasture begins at the fence line in the lower middle of the picture. Just off the frame to the left are the three churches of Three Churches, WV, and thus our farm name, Church View Farm. We'll try to get a photo of that view for the blog also. But for now, we'll say welcome to West Virginia by way of this photo of the farmstead.

Easter Eggs

Just a reminder that we have green eggs from our Easter Egg chickens, the Aracaunas. These are green but can also be light tan or even pick. So you don't even have to color the eggs for your Easter egg decoration. Just let us know if you need some. Happy Easter prep!

Bush Cherries

Its the start of cherry blossom season! Here are a few photos of our bush cherries. These are small bush type cherry trees originating from Asia. For example, one of the varieties is called Nanking. The famous cherry trees in Washington DC are of course Japanese. The ornamental cherries bloom first. Our sweet cherry full sized trees have not yet blossomed nor have the local wild cherry trees. The bush cherries seem to bloom just slightly later than the pure ornamental cherries, about the same time as forsythia. So they a good early spring sight. The bush cherries are a slightly tart cherry but they are loaded with Vitamin C. The honey bees are of course enjoying these blossoms.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Maple Syrup

We recently visited Indian Water Maple Camp in New Creek, WV. They were getting ready for the annual Potomac Highlands Maple festival held every year in mid March. We bought some of their fresh maple syrup to try. We bought several taps and pails then came home and began tapping our maple trees. This is something I've always wanted to do.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Orange Tomatoes Pack Bigger Antioxidant Punch

We grew orange tomatoes last year. But no one seemed very interested in them. Perhaps that will change this year as more info is now coming out on orange tomatoes. An interesting article follows:

Food scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus have grown a special variety of orange tomatoes that may be healthier than garden-variety red tomatoes. The orange tomatoes contain a type of lycopene that is more readily used by the body than the type found in red tomatoes, they report.

Lycopene -- an antioxidant thought to have a number of health benefits such as reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye problems -- is what gives red tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables their rich color.

Dr. Steven Schwartz and colleagues had 12 adult volunteers eat two spaghetti test meals on separate occasions. One meal was made with sauce from the orange tomatoes and the other with sauce from red tomatoes. For 13 days before the test meals, the volunteers avoided eating tomatoes or food made with them.

Blood samples taken from each subject right before the spaghetti meals and every hour or two up to 10 hours after the meals were analyzed for lycopene content.

Results showed that lycopene absorption from the orange tomato sauce was 2.5 times higher than that absorbed from the red tomato sauce. Blood lycopene levels spiked about 5 hours after the orange tomato sauce meal and at this time the levels were some 200 times higher than those seen after the red tomato sauce meal.

"While red tomatoes contain far more lycopene than orange tomatoes, most of it is in a form that the body doesn't absorb well," Schwartz, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, explained in a university-issued statement.

"The people in the study actually consumed less lycopene when they ate sauce made from the orange tomatoes, but they absorbed far more lycopene than they would have if it had come from red tomatoes," he noted.

The orange tomatoes are not readily available at grocery stores; they were grown at an Ohio State-affiliated agricultural research center. Schwartz and colleagues suggest that interested consumers could seek out orange or gold-colored heirloom tomatoes as an alternative -- although they haven't tested how much or what kind of lycopene these varieties contain.

SOURCE: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Eating Better Than Organic

Local food has made the cover of Time Magazine. A real nice article. A link to the article follows.,9171,1595245,00.html

2007 Vegetable Plants

The students at Hampshire School are starting our plants in the Vocational Education greenhouse. There are several farms that do this locally. We stopped by the greenhouse for a look at how things are progressing. The plants are coming along very nicely.

A Traditional Harbinger of Spring

We saw the first robin of 2007 on February 28th. More seem to be arriving daily. Spring is just around the corner.

Washington Post Article about cattle antibiotic

Article in the March 4, 2007 Washington Post discussed the proposed use of a newer stronger antibiotic for cattle. The fear is that this will lead to continued antibiotic resistance in people. This has been a continuing and evolving problem. The bottom line is that you have no idea what commercially raised beef may have been contaminated with. All the more reason to only consume small farm raised, grass fed beef. A link to the article is below.

FDA Rules Override Warnings About Drug

Cattle Antibiotic Moves Forward Despite Fears of Human Risk

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WV Farmers Market Listing, Seasonal Sites

I came across two interesting web sites for seasonal and local foods. They are Seasonal Recipes and Seasonal Chef. The Seasonal Chef Site had a good listing of nationwide Farmers Markets including our very own Romney, WV market. The complete WV farmers market list is here. I noted that there were many more WV listings than were listed last year. Local farmers markets are really catching on in WV and nationwide as the web continues to spread the word on the local foods movement.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

.1 Acres and Independence

The well-read kitchen gardener is familiar with the classic homesteading guide "Five Acres and Independence" by Maurice Cains. One California family is showing that the food independence equation may be be more flexible than previously thought.

Very few of us have five acres or even one for that matter. The Dervaes family of Pasadena is proving that what you lack in land can be more than made up for with creativity and passion. Their urban family farm, built on an ordinary city lot, yields 6,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables each year. They were recently featured in the Los Angeles Times. Below is a shorter "how to" article that went along with the feature.

For more info about the Dervaes and their farm, please see:

Novice's Guide to an Urban Homestead

By Joe Robinson, published in the Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2007

FARMING is inherently an optimistic act, a belief that you and your hands can make something happen, even if you couldn't last year. That's a good thing, because nurturing your crops to a fruitful harvest can take some trial and error as you find the right mix of soil, sun and weather exposure. Plants sensitive to cold, for instance, may grow better close to the house, where it may be warmer than in the rest of the yard.

Jules Dervaes suggests starting your micro-farm with just a few plants, hardy ones that will do well even for rookie green thumbs. Start with some herbs, such as basil, and tomatoes. And even the horticulturally challenged can triumph with squash.

You'll want to spend serious time upfront getting the soil right. "If you don't have healthy soil, you don't have healthy plants," he says. Think in terms of feeding the soil as much as the plant, with a regimen that includes mulching and compost.

As you add more plants, you have to be imaginative in maximizing space. Dervaes and his three adult children use trellises along the walls and down the center of the backyard for snow peas and flowers. In one optimizing technique traditionally used by Native American gardeners, they combine several plants in a "three sisters" bed — black Mexican/Aztec corn, cornfield beans and winter squashes with a cover crop of mustard. The family has a portable corridor of crops grown in pots they can rotate depending on the season.

Because of space limitations, home farmers need to pick their plants carefully, going for harder-to-find items that can fetch a premium price, Dervaes says. That means you need quality customers who will choose taste over price.

His family started with flowers, selling them to local stores. Building on that success, they hit the streets to see whether their salad greens could find a market. They discovered that getting their products taste-tested by the chef got them on the table. It's possible to break through to the restaurant market, Dervaes says, because owners are always looking for freshness.

Customers have to be able to adapt to your micro-supplies. The Dervaeses have had to limit sales to customers who can adjust to their crop availabilities and quantities.

Dervaes suggests that would-be urban homesteaders first try in a small way at a community garden or by selling to churches or schools. If you want some up-close advice, he holds evening classes in the warm months in everything from gardening to making your own biodiesel.

If at first you don't succeed, keep going back to the drawing board, he says. "There's failing, but when you climb to the top of the mountain, you feel pretty good."

Michael Pollan's Nine-Step Program

If Wendell Berry is America's unofficial farmer laureate, Michael Pollan is making a very good case for being the moral voice of the American eater. His most recent essay in the New York Times offers nine concrete suggestions on how we can build a better food system, one bite at a time:

1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best. Don’t forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was more healthful than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks. When Kellogg’s can boast about its Healthy Heart Strawberry Vanilla cereal bars, health claims have become hopelessly compromised. (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.) Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.

5. Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation. And those of us who can afford to eat well should. Paying more for food well grown in good soils — whether certified organic or not — will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also to the health of others who might not themselves be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people who live downstream, and downwind, of the farms where it is grown.

“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention. Food abundance is a problem, but culture has helped here, too, by promoting the idea of moderation. Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called “Hara Hachi Bu”: eat until you are 80 percent full. To make the “eat less” message a bit more palatable, consider that quality may have a bearing on quantity: I don’t know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants — the antioxidants? Fiber? Omega-3s? — but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you and certainly can’t hurt. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less “energy dense” than the other things you might eat. Vegetarians are healthier than carnivores, but near vegetarians (“flexitarians”) are as healthy as vegetarians. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat more as a flavoring than a food.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around. True, food cultures are embedded in societies and economies and ecologies, and some of them travel better than others: Inuit not so well as Italian. In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and alcohol?!) so much as the dietary habits: small portions, no seconds or snacking, communal meals — and the serious pleasure taken in eating. (Worrying about diet can’t possibly be good for you.) Let culture be your guide, not science.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal or journalism. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it. So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases. That of course is an argument from nutritionism, but there is a better one, one that takes a broader view of “health.” Biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields. What does that have to do with your health? Everything. The vast monocultures that now feed us require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. Diversifying those fields will mean fewer chemicals, healthier soils, healthier plants and animals and, in turn, healthier people. It’s all connected, which is another way of saying that your health isn’t bordered by your body and that what’s good for the soil is probably good for you, too.