Meet Miss April 2013!
by Traci Nachtrab, Lucky 3 Farm
reposted with permission from http://www.lucky3farm.com/blog/
Editor’s Note: The USDA NASS found Lucky 3 Farm from one of Traci’s guest posts on The Sweet Potato! If you are interested in guest posting, please email Anna MacDonald Dobbs, email@example.com.
The calendar promotes the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Farmers, make sure you are counted! The response deadline is February 4, 2013.
Well you could have knocked me over with a feather a few months ago when the USDA National Agricultural Statistic Service emailed us and asked if they could use one of our farm photos for their calendar!
It took me about a nanosecond to respond YES! How cool is that? Little ole us featured in a national calendar!!
So…we are pleased to reveal Lucky 3 Farm’s Miss April 2013! (otherwise known as Rachel Nachtrab).
We’re thrilled! Rachel not so much. She said “Couldn’t they have picked a better photo of me?!” Sounds just like a woman.
Now we’re gonna picture you to death! (Cuz we’re about to bust with pride!)
So there you go. We have a calendar pinup girl in the family now.
And Rachel, here you go…a “good” photo of you for all of the world to see:
Lucky 3 Farm is a small family farm in Franklin County, owned by Calvin and Traci Nachtrab. They raise beef, chicken and pork for their CSA members. You can find out more about Lucky 3 and follow their blog on their website: http://www.lucky3farm.com/.
Winstead Farm has Successful First Year Farming
by Gwen Roach, New Farmer
photos provided by Winstead Farm
Editor’s Note: This is our third in a series of blog posts featuring current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
Food has always been a central and growing passion in our family. In 2008-09, while facing significant health challenges, we began to understand the huge connection between the quality of our food and our health. We read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, Adelle Davis’ Let’s Have Healthy Children, and watched the documentary Food, Inc. All of these thoroughly convinced us we needed change.
Gwen, Graham & Ephraim at the Cobblestone Market
We started to change our patterns of food consumption from buying and eating all commercially-produced supermarket food to sourcing larger portions of our diet from local farmers producing whole foods naturally. Gwen started to learn about and experiment with cooking truly wholesome, scratch-made, traditional foods without processed ingredients.
On New Years Day 2010, we looked forward to a new decade and found ourselves dreaming about a different life direction. The dream that was born in us that day was to raise our family close to Graham’s in NC, and to become producers of good, clean, high-quality food. We also wanted to share our passion for healthy living with our community. We spent the year researching small-scale sustainable farming. Reading Joel Salatin’s books, You Can Farm and Pastured Poultry Profits, got our wheels spinning and we were excited to get started. We felt like starting with pastured poultry and a bit of gardening before adding other ventures would be a good way to learn without taking on too much risk.
In early 2011, we purchased our farm and in June we packed up and left good work and friends in Houston, TX to become NC farmers. We spent summer and fall growing chicken and produce for ourselves and gearing up for business. We also shopped regularly at the CFSA’s Cobblestone Farmers Market open on Tuesdays in downtown Winston-Salem. We got to know other farmers and the local food scene that way.
We joined CFSA and attended their 2011 Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham. We made significant contacts there and gained a lot of encouragement and excitement about getting our farm business off-the-ground.
We found out at the perfect time that CFSA was helping to establish a Saturday Cobblestone Market at Old Salem for the 2011-12 season. This market would be producers-only, just like the Tuesday market downtown. We applied and were invited to participate as vendors. This was the best thing that happened to us. Being at this market just one day a week during our first season allowed us to build a solid customer base and maintain very good sales. We couldn’t have asked for a better outlet. The managers and other vendors have been marvelous. This new market was hugely supported by shoppers in the city and was amazingly recognized as the #11 Farmers Market in the nation by US News and World Report!
This season we sold pastured-meat chickens, eggs from pastured hens, and fresh-ground whole-grain treats baked at home. In the beginning, we struggled to meet demand for chicken. We were dealing with a learning curve and losing our birds to predators. On several early batches, we processed only 50% of the chickens we bought as chicks. After a good bit of research and some trial and error, we found a better way to secure our mobile coops from predators. With the last few batches of broilers, we were able to process almost the entire batch. We ended the season strongly with a great survival rate, a strong customer base, and excitement for the next year.
Winstead Farm chickens on pasture
This fall, we both attended the Sustainable Agriculture Conference again, and the value of the conference was magnified significantly after having a year of experience under our belt. We knew what questions to ask, and who to hear from and talk with. Graham went on the livestock tour, had significant discussions with experienced livestock farmers, and gained a wealth of great advice from the pastured poultry workshop. We were thankful to receive scholarships through CFSA and the Forsyth County Extension Office to attend.
CFSA has been a key resource in our first year farming by helping us make significant connections, get our product to market, and learn new skills to help us be successful. We’re thankful for those who support CFSA, and in turn, support farmers like us working to produce high-quality food for our local community.
Ephraim and his chicks
Gwen, Graham, Ephraim believe that humanely and naturally raised food is the tastiest and healthiest food. They are also excited to be welcoming a baby girl, due in March. Find out more about their story and farm-fresh products, visit their website: http://winsteadfarm.com/.
Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…Farm
by Jim Dykes, Hundred Acre Wood and Sanctuary Steward
photos provided by Hundred Acre Wood
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts by current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
I am a retired physician, now farming. I have been a part of CFSA for more than 35 years. I was at the first organizational meeting of CFSA. I’d love to share a story about that meeting.
But first I need to tell you just how I happened to be there. In my second year of Duke Medical School a grateful patient gave me a book of poetry: “Farming, A Handbook,” by Wendell Berry. The book changed the course of my life.
I would read his poems whenever my work on the wards would let me catch a moment of rest. I’d put on some fresh scrubs, find an empty stretcher in a quiet room, and read. “A Man Born to Farming,” is the first poem in the collection. I began to wonder if I too might be such a man.
Though I was doing well in school, I started to believe I was called to be a farmer, not a doctor. To the consternation of parents and medical school faculty, I dropped out.
Back in those days, Graham Center in Anson County, NC, was the mecca for those interested in sustainable agriculture. It was a joint project of the Rural Advancement Fund and the National Sharecropper’s Association. I went to learn to farm organically and connect with others who had similar dreams. While I was there, what would become the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association had its first organizational meeting.
Rosie the dog, Cathy, daughter Lia, Jim and goats
The room was packed with farmers and would-be farmers. There was a general consensus that the name of the organization should be Carolina Organic Growers. But at some point in the discussion, a farmer from Virginia stood up and gave an impassioned, impromptu speech about the necessity of stewardship.
As farmers, our relationship to the land is vitally important. A good steward manages things in a way that
fosters the long term growth of the good, that improves circumstances rather than exploits them. Good farming is
more than our choice of fertilizer, it requires compassion for the land and the creatures on it. It requires stewardship.
So Carolina Farm Stewardship Association was proposed as a name and was adopted unanimously by all present. I was proud to be there.
Although I eventually returned to Duke Medical School and practiced medicine for almost 30 years, I have remained a staunch supporter of CFSA. Now, like I did 35 years ago, I retired from medicine to farm. My farm, the Hundred Acre Wood Farm and Sanctuary, is on the CFSA fall farm tour. I hope those who visit can see signs of good stewardship. Nothing could make me more proud.
Farm-fresh dinner overlooking the garden
Cultivating Connections: How CFSA Membership Can Benefit Your Farm
by Meredith Mizell, Farm Manager, Red Fern Farm
photos provided by Red Fern Farm
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts by current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
Farming is a great life: you can be your own boss, build community, connect with nature daily, and know that your work is meaningful and important. But small, sustainable farming also presents challenges for both new and experienced growers. When you’re growing and guiding your own farm, sometimes you need additional training in aspects of production or marketing. Sometimes you need help finding new markets. Sometimes that big blue sky and those long rows stretching out in front of you get a little lonely and isolated. And sometimes you just need a little reassurance that yes, all that hard work really does mean something!
That’s where an organization like the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) can make a substantial difference in the life of a farmer.
As the manager of a small family farm– Red Fern Farm in Gray Court, SC — I am constantly amazed and encouraged by CFSA’s work. My first experience with CFSA was at the 2008 Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Anderson, SC. I was 11 when my family moved to 100 acres south of Greenville in 1996, and throughout my teenage years I was just counting the days until I could leave for college. I graduated with a BFA in graphic design in late 2006, but by 2008 had decided a long-term career in graphic design just wasn’t for me. Working in a cubicle farm was hell. But maybe a real farm would be just the thing…
I attended the entire 3-day conference that year armed with pen and paper, determined to absorb as much information as possible. It was a memorable weekend; I enjoyed seeing Joel Salatin deliver the keynote, and I’ll never forget going to Tradd Cotter’s standing-room-only mushroom workshop on Sunday morning. There was so much to see and do, and so many like-minded people surrounding me. The possibilities were endless! What I learned at my first SAC helped form the foundation of my farming knowledge, and has definitely informed my journey.
Since 2008, I’ve been involved in a variety of CFSA events as a member–often as an attendee, and occasionally as a host or presenter. One of the most visible ways our farm has been a part of CFSA events is by participating in the Upstate Farm Tour for the past three years. It’s a lot of work (I admit that I’m something of a perfectionist leading up to a big event like that) but it’s a tremendous opportunity. We average about 300 visitors each year, most of whom are not regular customers. Through their efforts to organize and promote the tour, CFSA puts us in touch with a group that we might not otherwise reach. We get a nice revenue boost during that weekend from on-farm sales, and some of those visitors have become regulars. It’s a win for both us, the farmers, and for the consumers as they have a chance to connect one-on-one with local producers. It’s especially gratifying seeing parents with their children coming out on the tour, because that’s our future!
Speaking of organizing and promoting, I’ve discovered that CFSA is staffed by a cadre of extremely enthusiastic and very hard-working folks. Diana Vossbrinck, our regional coordinator, is a tireless champion of local farms; I love working with her because it’s obvious she cares very much about the people behind the movement. Her many connections–with farmers, chefs, retailers, the media, and consumers–are more than just names and phone numbers, they’re real relationships that benefit everyone involved. That kind of authenticity is a rare commodity, and I’m glad that people like her are a part of CFSA.
My CFSA membership not only connects me to educational opportunities, to potential customers, and to supportive staff members, but also to other member farms. The Sustainable Agriculture Conference is an excellent opportunity to meet other Carolina farmers and to exchange ideas and experiences, but even something as simple as the quarterly CFSA newsletter keeps me feeling like part of the community with farm profiles, an “ask the experts” column, interviews, and sustainable agriculture news. The member listserv also plays a vital role in keeping me up-to-date on training and grant opportunities, regional and national news, special events, and more.
These are all concrete benefits of my CFSA membership. But the value I get from my membership is more than the sum of its parts. Being a part of CFSA reminds me that we’re all in this together and we’re all working towards a better future–for farmers and consumers. Like anyone, I have moments of doubt and worry and insecurity. I get discouraged and wonder if pursuing the life of a farmer and herbalist will pan out for me. But then I remember that I’m not alone in this endeavor. While I cultivate the soil, CFSA is out there working to cultivate a more favorable economic and philosophical environment for small, sustainable farms. Knowing that there is an organization that is advocating on the behalf of farmers, working to help educate consumers, and believing strongly in this movement is reassuring to me.
I’m planning on being a member of CFSA for many years to come, and I’m looking forward to seeing what great things will continue to happen as a result of sustainable agriculture in the Carolinas. I hope you’ll consider becoming a member yourself or, if you’re already a member, telling your friends, family, and customers about CFSA!
Meredith Mizell is a graphic design artist turned full-time farm manager. While she loves growing and cooking our own produce, her real passion is herbs and she is currently studying to become an herbalist. Find out more about Meredith & Red Fern Farm: www.redfernfarms.com.
by Gillian March, conference blogger
Greenbrier Farms, a three hundred acre organic livestock and produce farm in Dacusville, Pickens County, South Carolina, is operated by Chad Bishop and Roddy Pick. Roddy and Chad have downsized considerably in terms of livestock and are, to a certain extent, having to ‘do-over’. In the last year, they have sold their 287 breeding ewes and the majority of their breeding cows, shrinking the herd down to 37 steers and heifers. Greenbrier Farms used to be in the breeding business for cattle, but now the farm is in the finishing business.
Roddy, who runs the livestock side of the operation, now considers himself a grass farmer as his main focus is on getting his pastures right. In past years when his herd was bigger, he would bring on the hay for the winter. But now, in his words, he has “kicked the hay habit” completely. The cows at Greenbrier Farms are purely grass fed, with a daily free-grazing bucket of minerals (‘cattle health insurance’). A free-grazing system is in place, and each paddock is managed separately in terms of the season and the nutritional needs of the herd. Once a field has been free-grazed and then stripped down with a bush-hog, it will be over-seeded with seasonal specific seed. However, with Roddy’s research and attention to – literally – the grass roots of his land, he hopes to have a multi-species forage system that will be self-sustaining in his five year business plan.
There is no doubt that Mr. Pick is a businessman, but his attention to animal welfare is exemplary. When we, the thirty something spectators, got off the bus and among the pigs, they were as happy running round our legs as puppies in a kennel! The hogs are used to being handled and are extremely calm (well, as calm as a pig can be when exciting things are happening – like the arrival of food or a busload of visitors). Each day, when Roddy brings the feed to his hogs and the minerals to his cattle, he goes on foot. Roddy walks through the herds to be in touch with each member of his livestock, spotting any issues with the wellbeing of his animals off the bat, thus preventing undue stress in dealing with any problems.
Is the livestock business currently keeping food on the Bishop’s and Pick’s tables? This is a transitional period
for the farm and a third of their income comes from agritourism. The old hay barn that was part of the farm when Chad’s Aunt and Uncle owned it has been converted into an ‘events room’ and many weddings are held on the abundant acreage of Greenbrier Farms. Have Chad and Roddy ‘sold out’ to cater to tourism? I think not – this profitable sideline enables them to pay attention to restoring the land and best practices for the livestock..AND all the meals prepared for the weddings and events are locally sourced, with the majority of the meat and produce raised and grown on-site at Greenbrier Farms.
A cut of meat is only as good as the animal it comes from, and the animal is only as good as the forage it eats, and the forge is only as good as the organic matter that is in the earth. Become a grass farmer like Roddy Picks and the animals will practically take care of themselves!
Final Stop on the Livestock Tour: Happy Cow Creamery
by Gillian March, conference blogger
For many health aficionados, raw milk is nutritionally a perfect food. But, for most, it is a commodity that is not easily found and, for some folks, the health concerns of drinking milk straight from the udder leave them worried about diseases. So, what is the next best thing to raw milk – one that alleviates the worry of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis while maintaining its nutritional content? The answer: milk that is not heated beyond 145 degrees Fahrenheit and not homogenized…and that’s the milk you get from Happy Cow Creamery!
So, how happy are the cows? Well, given their lush pastures guaranteed nearly year round, life is quite good…for a dairy cow. Milked twice a day, these Holsteins are relieved of their 74lb plus load of milk in a procedure lasting not much more than ten minutes, so they fair quite a lot better than their industrialized counterparts who are usually milked three times a day. Dairy cows are worked harder than any other farm animal since tractors and ploughs became motorized. Milk production lasts ten months per year at Happy Cow Creamery, leaving a two-month rest period in the final stages of a cow’s pregnancy. Farmer Tom’s eighty or so milking cows have about 70 acres at their disposal and are corralled and moved around on a rotational grazing system. On a not-so-“happy” note (and to reiterate the sad demise of family farms), in the 1980s there were 44 dairies in Pickens and Greenville counties, but now only one remains. You guessed it – the Happy Cow Creamery.
Tom Trantham, the owner of HCC, was formerly an ‘industrialized’ dairy man and tells a cute story (apparently true) about how, when at then end of his tether, down to his last dollar, and about to sell his herd before the bailiffs moved in, it was one of his own cows who showed the rest of the herd and Tom that all was not lost so long as there was fresh green forage to eat. The lush pasture on the farm was all they needed to produce the richest, creamiest milk, and Tom didn’t need to be spending thousands of dollars to produce milk that didn’t compare to the new pasture produced milk rich in GLAs and omegas. “Here’s this big 1,400-pound cow, and she’s standing there in the lush April growth, and she just takes the top half of the plants, and then moves on,” he says. “I said, ‘Whoa, cow!” And there began the “12 Aprils” rotational pasturing. There are 29 pastures at Happy Cow Creamery and the dairy herd is moved daily to fresh forage. The cows eat the soft green tops of the grass and then move onto the next pasture so that, by the time they get back to the first pasture again, the forage has regrown. And so, the cycle moves on.
Happy Cow Creamery milk has a wonderful reputation in South Carolina and the on-farm shop is as busy as any market. Lesson learned: cows know best!
Architectural Trees: From Psychology to Nursery
By Lesley Lammers
(On my romp around the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour during one of this growing season’s most beautiful days yet, I came across three farms that particularly caught my local farm-loving eye. Part 3 of 3.)
Approaching Architectural Trees amidst a quiet, windy, pine-laden Bahama road, you come upon a huge sculpture akin to an old tractor implement — my first indication that this was not your typical nursery. The more I chatted with owner John Monroe, the more it became clear that like Samantha Gasson, he had been dreaming of running a nursery from a young age. “Since I was a kid, I did nursery drawings with price tags on the plants and everything.” He bought what was once the Betsy and Amed Tilley farm, a historic tobacco farm with bucolic barns that John has renovated and turned into an office and plant show rooms.
Trained as a psychologist, John admits it was a difficult career change, but one that was well worth it. Somehow he managed to work both as a psychologist and a nursery owner for seven years before ultimately working the nursery full-time. He fondly recalls that when he finally made the big identity switch, “this peace came over me.”
Architectural Trees sells specialty, rare, unusual trees of every kind, from pitcher plants to Japanese maples. Walking around the nursery at certain points felt like walking through a Dr. Seuss book, with so many strange and enchanting cultivars of trees and shrubs I had never seen before. This is indeed intentional, as John describes the vision for the nursery as an artist would describe his paintings, “I saw the intrinsic value in making something beautiful, plus I wanted to get my hands dirty.”
Not only are the trees rare, but the resident pets as well, which includes two peacocks who roost on the farmhouse roof. Be sure to come for a visit this coming summer when their hundreds of blueberry plants are fruiting!
Bull City Farm: A Childhood Dream Becomes Reality
By Lesley Lammers
(On my romp around the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour during one of this growing season’s most beautiful days yet, I came across three farms that particularly caught my local farm-loving eye. Part 2 of 3.)
Scott and Samantha Gasson of Bull City Farm began raising animals on their property in Rougemont because of what Scott calls “a bad habit of collecting animals.” They first started out as somewhat accidental farmers after offering to help a neighbor raise 40 heifers when he lost his help. This pushed the Gassons from a hobby to a working farm. Grazing animals on the land at first was no easy task. Samantha recalls, “It was just sand. There were big open spots with no graze, no pasture whatsoever.” It had been overgrazed by horses which can severely compact the soil and not add much nutritionally.
“But the cows were just fantastic. We put 40 calves in a little area. They were a week old and we kept them for one and a half years,” says Samantha. The amount of cow manure and how well it supplemented the soil astounded her. “It’s taken us 12 years to get here, but we’ve never added anything. We’ve never fertilized. We’ve never over-seeded.”
While Scott’s family grew up on big farms out west, Samantha’s farming inclinations appear to have come from her own imagination as she dreamt of being a farmer as a young girl. “My mom found it so amusing that I’ve been obsessed with farming since I was little. She thought it would be interesting to find out where the last farmer was in our family. She said, ‘you had to have gotten this gene from somewhere.’” What they found was a fisherman from the 1400s who came from France to England, and that was the closest they could come to some kind of farmer. “So I am technically the genetic reject. Actually no, I am enlightened” and clearly proud to hold the title of the family’s first farmer.
BCF offers free range eggs from their 50 hens, pasture raised meats from their frolicking sheep and cows, as well as kid summer camps, classes and tours. Something you won’t see on every farm is that the chickens, a donkey, cows and sheep are all in the same pasture together, seemingly getting along just fine. Samantha explains to me this is good for the animals and the soil, “It works out really well. There are some animals that eat different things than others. Mostly the reason why we do it is because it helps with parasite control. All of those parasites have basically the same life cycle. They go from the poop, through the soil, up to the grass, and depending on the species they go up the blade of grass to a certain extent. If they are trying to infect a cow, they will stay low to the ground. If they are trying to infect a sheep or goat then they will go up higher. But if a cow comes along and eats that parasite that was destined to go into a sheep, it will die.”
Meanwhile, the chickens peck at the feces and spread it out over the field, picking up any little eggs they can find and helping with fertilization. She warns aspiring farmers, however, not to put goats and sheep together because they share a lot of the same parasites. They chose cows over pigs, deciding swine didn’t fit into their particular system. “Cows are not destructive. They just go and do their own thing.” As for goats, they went from several, to just one — who is very friendly, I might add, and was happy to steal apple slices from the farm tourists’ hands that were intended for the horses. Samantha bemoans, “Goats are horrendous. They just do things you don’t want them to do. They don’t listen. They are like eight year old boys.” Ending on a positive note that gets a chuckle from her listeners, “but the sheep are so polite!”
Homegrown City Farms: Keepin’ It Urban
By Lesley Lammers
(On my romp around the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour during one of this growing season’s most beautiful days yet, I came across three farms that particularly caught my local farm-loving eye. Part 1 of 3.)
Homegrown City Farm, new to the farm tour this year, is a 1/4 acre urban farm tucked away on a residential street of East Durham created by Durhamites Collier Reeves and Maryah Smith-Overman. “It’s definitely been a long time coming,” says Maryah. “My background is in fine woodworking and furniture, but I’ve always grown food for myself and been interested in plants, food quality and accessibility. I really came into this through Collier who studied sustainable agriculture and worked on a bunch of farms. We moved here together with the interest of farming in town.”
Maryah brought the business knowledge, having run a business prior to starting the farm, but admits that she is learning everything, “and that’s the really exciting part for me.” Collier and Maryah plan to expand the farm over into the neighboring property. They currently serve 15 CSA (community supported agriculture) members with their produce as well as local restaurants like Vin Rouge and Panciuto when they are able. Both need to have jobs outside of the farm to pay the bills, but a goal of Homegrown’s is to make a partial living off of farming, while also providing food to their community.
Homegrown received a Slow Money loan to kickstart the farm. “It’s basically a person-to-person loan. There are no banks involved. It’s low interest, so it’s really reasonable and realistic for us to get the drip tape for irrigation and buy seeds and tools. That really made it possible to start it up,” Maryah gratefully notes. They aren’t just growing food at Homegrown, but offer services off-site including garden consultations, education, design, installation as well as construction of wood and stone masonry walls, retaining structures and garden beds.
BB and HomeGrown City Farm host Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Workshop
by Lesley Lammers
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour workshop hosted by Durham’s very own worker-owned edible landscaping cooperative, Bountiful Backyards (BB). This hands-on edible landscaping demonstration at HomeGrown City Farm’s property attracted the gardening-curious and aficionados alike, who came ready to learn and get their fingers down in that North Carolina soil! BB worker-owner Sarah Vroom starts off with this mantra, “When thinking about your own yard, plant things that you want that also support your landscape. This will increase the ‘joy factor.’”
Fall is an ideal time for planting fruit trees and berry bushes, says Vroom. “You get them in the ground and they go to sleep for the winter. If you mulch them well, they are going to put on root growth, spreading themselves out, getting themselves happy and comfortable before the summer comes.” Then when summer does come, the tree won’t have to be watered as much because of all the root mass supporting the plant.
(CLICK THE LINK ON THE BOTTOM RIGHT FOR FULL STORY.)