02.24.13

Going high-tech on the farm!

Posted in Food Policy, Veggies at 9:11 am by Farmer

Prior to farming both Carl and I spent our life writing software, assisting companies in automating and streamlining their processes or manually done tasks, thus saving them money and time which allowed them to grow and flourish. Doesn’t it seem crazy that we’ve never evaluated our business from an automation standpoint?
When the Palm Pilot first made its debut, I ditched my day timer that had been a part of my life for a good 20 years, in favor of the Palm. The Palm went with me everywhere and I had all my contacts on it, appointments, meeting notes, my dream places to visit, my dream list of things I would like to accomplish, an ongoing list of books to read, etc. I even used the Palm for record keeping (although in a pretty archaic format) the first couple years while we farmed until the Palm bit the dust. I couldn’t financially justify purchasing a smart phone because out here in rural America we didn’t have data coverage. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that we actually could get a cell signal yet our signal strength was never strong enough for data and still too expensive. Because we spend so much of our time here on the farm without a strong cell signal, Carl and I have never yet entered into the world of smartphones and texting. We figured why bother with such technology if we couldn’t use it for receiving calls, emailing or texting because we had no data coverage, not to mention the smartphone still had a screen too small for the record keeping we do on the farm. So I must admit we are technologically a little behind the times.
Perhaps us being technically behind the times will be changing with the introduction of the Nexus7. Carl has been trying to talk me into this computer after he read reviews about it, then while at the store he showed me it, and I was sold after seeing how big the screen resolution was. The tablet can run software for displaying and editing spreadsheets, so now we can realistically export our reports from our PC and have them on the tablet. I am fascinated by this little computer and now am interested in one day having a smart phone.
Our hope is that we go paperless this season and I think the Nexus7 will actually allow us to do this. It is complete with a development environment so we are hoping one day to have a thin version of our farming software on this computer.
Here is an article that makes for an interesting read, and just another reason to buy local in supporting a regionally diversified food system, helping to protect the US food system from being impacted by extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods.  Also interesting is this article about the science of junk food being addictive and I found it astounding that in 1979 James Behnke of Pillsbury organized a meeting, with companies producing unhealthy food, to discuss what can be done for the health of America. Yet nothing has been done since that meeting and today, twenty four years later, junk food continues to be subsidized by our government.
For the past 13 years we have been using this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, used as our farm journal for tracking those items seeded in the greenhouse. We are trying to get rid of our paper journals so this report is going to be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years we have been using this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, used as our farm journal for tracking those items seeded in the greenhouse. We are trying to get rid of our paper journals so this report is going to be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking those items transplanted or direct seeded to the field. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking those items transplanted or direct seeded to the field. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking our harvest. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking our harvest. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

Paper generated for our record keeping after a season of farming.

Paper generated for our record keeping after a season of farming.

The tablet with our Seeding schedule.. It is taking me more time to organize seeds for seeding and complete tasks because I am learning this new tool.  Too bad I wasn't born 20 years later and this tool would already be a part of my life because I would have grown up with this technology.  When the Palm Pilot was first introduced, I ditched the day timer for the palm, and it was life changing. I have been slow to adopt new technology on the farm. I think the tablet is the first portable computer with a large enough screen to do what we do here on the farm.

The tablet with our Seeding schedule. It is taking me more time to organize seeds for seeding and complete tasks because I am learning this new tool. Too bad I wasn't born 20 years later and this tool would already be a part of my life because I would have grown up with this technology. When the Palm Pilot was first introduced, I ditched the day timer for the Palm, and it was life changing. I have been slow to adopt new technology on the farm. I think the tablet is the first portable computer with a large enough screen to do what we do here on the farm.

Making Transplant Soil Mix! It is that time of the year to begin seeding and growing seedlings for our 2013 season. We are using a concrete mixer this year to save time! We bought the mixer for the cabin but will use it for soil mix making when we have a lot to seed!

Making Transplant Soil Mix! It is that time of the year to begin seeding and growing seedlings for our 2013 season. We are using a concrete mixer this year to save time! We bought the mixer for the cabin but will use it for soil mix making when we have a lot to seed!

Filling flats. It feels good to have my hands in the soil once again!

Filling flats. It feels good to have my hands in the soil once again!

We like to fill a lot of flats before we begin seeding and this year we started seeding with about 150 flats filled. We do this so we can fill our greenhouse as quickly as possible, with seeded flats, because with the greenhouse full one is germinating seeds rather than wasting propane heating air.

We like to fill a lot of flats before we begin seeding and this year we started seeding with about 150 flats filled. We do this so we can fill our greenhouse as quickly as possible, with seeded flats, because with the greenhouse full one is germinating seeds rather than wasting propane heating air.

Notice that we are using plant tags for labeling flats! We have always been rather neurotic about information included on our flat label such as variety, date, supplier and lot number. The computer program we wrote would print flat labels according to our production schedule. That would require us to tape the label to the flat then remove the label once the flat has been transplanted. Now we are just using one plant tag for each flat with plans that the plant tag will also be used in the field. We have always worried about the plant tag falling out then not knowing what was seeded in the flat and yesterday morning I did notice one tag that was on the ground and I think our cats are to blame for the plant tag falling out.

Notice that we are using plant tags for labeling flats! We have always been rather neurotic about information included on our flat label such as variety, date, supplier and lot number. The computer program we wrote would print flat labels according to our production schedule. That would require us to tape the label to the flat then remove the label once the flat has been transplanted. Now we are just using one plant tag for each flat with plans that the plant tag will also be used in the field. We have always worried about the plant tag falling out then not knowing what was seeded in the flat and yesterday morning I did notice one tag that was on the ground and I think our cats are to blame for the plant tag falling out.

Harmon would rather be hiking than seeding. Half way through the day he went back to our house so he could sleep on the couch.

Harmon would rather be hiking than seeding. Half way through the day he went back to our house so he could sleep on the couch.

Spotfoot is not afraid of heights. I wish I had a bit of her personality in me.

Spotfoot is not afraid of heights. I wish I had a bit of her personality in me.

02.17.13

We are not afraid to eat our spinach!

Posted in Food Policy, Production Note, Veggies, Video at 11:09 am by Farmer

This Valentine’s day we decided to make gnocchi as our main entrée along with steamed spinach and sweet potatoes for our sidedish. Is it right for two people to eat a 1/2 pound of fresh spinach for one meal? Perhaps, if one knows the individual who grew the spinach, otherwise maybe it is a bit too risky. Once again a top news story is the recall of spinach that has been shipped all across the country. I wonder if the new food safety rules can eliminate problems with a situation such as this most recent recall of spinach? I’m curious about this mostly because if you read this article you will note that manure is in the air across these central valley farms that supply much of our country with veggies. With the proximity of farms growing our veggies to CAFO’s, I am not sure how they can keep pathogens out of our food if manure is indeed in the air and I also wonder how the farms in this region become “Certified Organic”. USDA Certified Organic food must not come in contact with fresh manure within 120 days of being harvested. The food harvested in California’s Central Valley will have a “manure particles”, that are coming from the air, so manure must be coming in contact with the food as it is being harvested. We make it a practice to spread fresh manure into our fields in the fall of the year prior to that field being planted early spring. Our spinach, grown here on our farm is still healthy, even though critters such as rabbits, deer, cats, dogs, rats and mice might wander across our spinach patch. Not to mention, only perhaps 80 families per week might eat our spinach while it is in season, so if some rat or mouse spread a disease, we would not make most of the country sick because we are not shipping across the country.
So act on food safety today and purchase your food locally from our highly diversified farms here in Western North Carolina by joining a CSA or shopping at area tailgate markets!
Our Valentines Day Celebration complete with gnocchi, steamed spinach and steamed sweet potatoes. Is it right for two individuals to eat a half pound of spinach at a meal? We did and love it! Our gnocchi, made with German Butterball potatoes, were melt-in-your mouth deliciousness.

Our Valentines Day Celebration complete with gnocchi, steamed spinach and steamed sweet potatoes. Is it right for two individuals to eat a half pound of spinach at a meal? We did and love it! Our gnocchi, made with German Butterball potatoes, were melt-in-your mouth deliciousness.

Just a few ingredients commonly used in our meals this time of the year (used weekly). We made Aloo Saak which is an asian indian dish. Along with this we had homemade Naan and rice. We are proud that 80% of our food is what we have grown and raised.

Just a few ingredients commonly used in our meals this time of the year (used weekly). We made Aloo Saak which is an asian indian dish. Along with this we had homemade Naan and rice. We are proud that 80% of our food is what we have grown and raised.

2500 Strawberry plants to weed! One would think that weeds don't grow during the winter. Henbit and chickweed flourish in the winter so we must remove these weeds from around each strawberry plant. We probably have this issue because we use landscape fabric as our weed barrier, which is used for several years, rather than disposable plastic.

2500 Strawberry plants to weed! One would think that weeds don't grow during the winter. Henbit and chickweed flourish in the winter so we must remove these weeds from around each strawberry plant. We probably have this issue because we use landscape fabric as our weed barrier, which is used for several years, rather than disposable plastic.

Do you see a strawberry plant in this hole? Normally we weed our strawberries late January or early February; however, we must make a note to begin weeding in December. We think because of global warming (warmer winters) the weeds are growing much faster throughout the winter.

Do you see a strawberry plant in this hole? Normally we weed our strawberries late January or early February; however, we must make a note to begin weeding in December. We think because of global warming (warmer winters) the weeds are growing much faster throughout the winter.

This strawberry plant has been freed from the henbit! This is the strawberry plant in the previous photograph. It makes you think that nothing so sweet as strawberries come free and requires patience and work. Hopefully come spring our patience and work will pay off.

This strawberry plant has been freed from the henbit! This is the strawberry plant in the previous photograph. It makes you think that nothing so sweet as strawberries come free and requires patience and work. Hopefully come spring our patience and work will pay off.

Production note to self: Weed strawberries mid December because the weeds are growing much faster earlier in the winter. It took 25 hours to weed all strawberries which was completed 2/11/2013.

03.28.10

Articles worth reading

Posted in Food Policy at 3:20 pm by Farmer

Michael Pollan is one of my favorite food writers so I am posting a link to articles of his that are extremely thoughtful and worth re-reading from time to time.

With Health Care Reform underway I think the below article is worth re-reading:

Farmer in Chief

Below is a great article in support of a decentralized food system.  Safety begins by knowing your farmer not by regulating all the small farms making it impraticale for them to stay in business.  If we regulate our small farms to death, we will end up putting them out of business, only to be left with a centralized food system.

The Vegetable-Industrial Complex

Soon to pass is the S 510 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. It is important that we call our senators to request amendments to the bill so that it does not negatively impact our small farms. Such amendments might be: (1) Farms earning under $250,000 annually be exculded from on farm inspections (2) Assist small farms in implementing a “Food Safety Plan” (3) Allow for working dogs/wild animals (birds, racoons, ground hogs, deer, etc) without negatively impacting the food safety rating.

Read Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s response

Letter with some good suggestions when calling your senators in regards to amendments to the bill