Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Prepping for sunflower planting...

Starting a Farm Business Update

I am just incredibly excited to start planting my sunflowers but I still need to do a little bit of research.  I know that I have a 200 foot row and I am not sure exactly how wide it is but I have a feeling that I can plant 3 rows within this 200 foot long row.  I am spacing all my plants 9 inches apart.  Which means I can get about 266 sunflowers per row which would make for a total of 800 sunflowers!  I am planning on planting 50 feet (of the 200 foot row), 4 times at 1 week intervals to extend my cuttings throughout the summer.  I have selected 8 varieties of sunflowers to plant...probably went overboard but I wanted a nice variety and it will also let me know what grows/sells best.  If I put 5 sunflowers in a bunch, I will have around 160 bunches to sell...okay, this was the plan...but...

This is a 9 inch square that I was using as a guide to plant.
I positioned it like a diamond and then planted at the corners so the 3 rows would be staggered.
I went out for my first planting on Monday, April 20th.  I guess I must have planted a little more than 9 inches apart because I got to the end of the 50 foot row and I still had 2 varieties to plant!  I planted about 24 seeds of each variety.  Pat said he may be able to give me some more space...

Here is a link to the Tall Sunflower Comparison Chart from Johnny Seed.  If you open it, you can look at the varieties I bought:
Sunrich Summer Orange
Moulin Rouge
Sunbright Supreme
Double quick Orange
Pro Cut Gold
Pro Cut Red/Lemon Bi-colour
Pro Cut Bi-colour
Pro Cut Lemon
These are all pollenless and single stem, hybrid varieties.  You can buy branching sunflower but you have to give them a LOT of room and I didn't want to mess with that.

I spent a total of $74.60...this includes shipping and received 1600 seeds.  So, I have about twice as much seed as I need.  If I can grow all the sunflowers I am saying and sell each bunch for $5 (I will be honest, not sure what the flowers are selling for at market...could be more, but let's just go with this low estimate for now...).  Then, I will make $800 - $74.60 = $725.40.  Of course, I will have a few more expenses...I also need to purchase new clippers for harvesting my flowers, buckets to transport them to market and rubberbands to keep the bunches together, flower sleeves (to keep the flowers from dripping all over the place befroe they get home)...these are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head.  I would say I could probably clear $500 and that seems a good goal to me.

Of course, if I could make $1000, I would officially be considered a farmer according to the USDA.  I will also have garlic to sell too...

Finding a local farm

So, I continue to look at local farms to see what different people are growing and selling.  My friend, Nora, told me about the 12 Mile Market.  It is a garage that they transformed into a farm stand.  It is operated by 2 farms.  So, we went for a visit and to get some fresh eggs!

They also have goats and sell goat cheese.  They have sheep and sell wool and lamb meat.  Margo was at the Food Stand which is on her property.  She let Joshua feed some of the goats.  I just love her donkey, Angel...

We bought 2 dozen eggs and some goat cheese!  Yummy!  Joshua was fascinated by the chickens and spent most of the time watching them.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Growing potatoes in a bag

Just because we don't have our farm yet, doesn't mean that we can't grow a good amount of our own food.  Denise got a potato bag for Christmas and we are going to plant Yukon Gold potatoes in the bag.

The Environmental Working Group compiles a yearly list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues, based on USDA and FDA testing data.  The current top 12 are:  
Sweet Bell Peppers
Nectarines (imported)

So, I figured that growing potatoes was a good place to start in reducing our pesticide exposure.  

Here is also an article about potatoes and McDonalds: Activists Stand Up Against McDonald’s Toxic Pesticide-Potatoes

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I only have 2 - 4X8 foot gardening beds.  So, if I were to grow any good amount of potatoes, it would take all my gardening space.  That is why I have been wanting to try growing potatoes in a bag.

Here is another image of what this could look like:

I got this Smart Pot for Christmas (yes, it was on my Wishlist)
I ordered some Yukon Gold potatoes from Johnny's Seed and they finally came.  I was so exited to finally get my potato bag planted!  I placed it right between my two garden plots...

Starting a farm business update:

Well, I have finished reading the "Green" book aka Protecting Your Farm or Ranch: A Guide for Direct Farm Marketing in Idaho.  I got lots of great tips.  One thing I was happy to read is that you can have up to 300 chickens without having to get a license!

On Monday, I went out to Allan Family Farm.  Pat showed me around.  He also has chickens of ALL sizes...babies, youth, teens and adults...he incubates his own eggs to increase his flock.  He has a nice large area for the vegetables.  I told him that I would like to grow sunflowers.  1) I don't want to "compete" with his business and 2) this will give me some good practice to see if I enjoy planting/growing sunflowers for market.  I will post more about the sunflowers next week.

So, after seeing the property and committing myself to growing something for the Farmer's Market, I filled out my paperwork and went down to City Hall and signed up as a Walk On Vendor for the market.  The Farmer's Market is run through the Arts Department.  Kathleen Burns is the Director.  When I came to pay my $15, she asked me a little about ReMARKable Farms.  I explained to her the situation...that I was just getting started...going to try some sunflowers but I have bigger plans for eggs, berries, pumpkins and trees once we locate property.  She then started to tell me about all the you-pick berry operations in the area (there are only a couple) and about Sexton Farms and that the owner might like some help.  So, I called up Dallas Sexton and he said to get back in touch with him in July when the blueberries are ripening.  So, looks like I may get some on-farm experience this summer at a berry farm!  Kathleen also mentioned that he supplied duck eggs and that there is a big demand for them.  I had never really considered raising ducks but maybe I will learn more about it when I visit Sexton Farms this summer.

Speaking of property...last Sunday, I ran a half marathon.  The only reason that I mentioned 
this is because I literally ran past a farm house for sale with a beautiful pasture located in front of the home.  It was set up so that you drive in from the side and you could sit on your front porch and look at over the pasture (kinda hard to explain...).  Anyhow, it was SO lovely and there was a small pond in the pasture.  

When I finished running, I went home and looked it up online.  It just seemed perfect!  Four bedrooms and 10 acres with a pond...exactly what I am hoping for in a property.  I even made an appointment and looked at the house.  It was an older home but the inside had been completely remodeled and was all like new.  It was way out of our price range and there were already 2 offers on the property but it was fun to dream...

In the Kitchen

A couple of weeks ago, I made pickled asparagus...DELICIOUS! 

This morning, I needed to hard boil some eggs.  However, all I had were fresh eggs (what a bummer)...if you didn't know, it is easiest to peel shells off eggs that are "old" (at least a few weeks).  I had heard about a different technique that involves steaming the eggs when they are fresh and the shell will come right off.  So, I gave it a try.  Set up my steamer and put the eggs in for 20 minutes.  Then, put them on ice.  Perfect!!! The shell came right off.

I also made this...spoiler alert....Christmas gifts...sunshine in a jar (also, making some sunshine in a bottle and it will be ready in December)...can you guess what it is?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Learning more about starting a farm business in Idaho

Starting a farm business

This week, there was a meeting in Moscow about the Extension service and what Extension can do for local food growers.  So, I attended the meeting.  Iris Mayes gave a brief presentation about the University of Idaho Extension Small Farms and Horticulture program.  Basically, she described what activities that Extension is involved with in Latah county.  Extension at the University of Idaho is involved with 4-H, Small Farms and Horticulture educational programming (i.e. Master Gardeners Program), and Financial Education.

Then, they had a series of questions that they wanted the local growers attending the meeting to answer.  Some of the questions were:  ideas to increase the number of growers, how to increase local food production, how to increase food being sold locally, etc...  I did not have too much to add to the conversation because I am just still learning.  Unfortunately, the meeting was poorly attended with only about 3 of us "local growers" in attendance.  

One of the local growers, Pat Allan, described his vegetable farm.  He then offered me some space on his farm if I wanted to get the hang of growing some vegetables.  I asked for his contact information and called him.  I am going to go out to his farm on Monday afternoon!  He has a Facebook page: 

He also mentioned that his dad was a wheat breeder.  So, when I got home, I asked Henry (my hubby) if he knew of a wheat breeder with the last name of Allan.  Henry knew his exactly and said that Dr. Allan had studied at Kansas State University!  Henry and I met at Kansas State.  What a small world.  Dr. Allan works with club wheat and is now retired but Henry says he still comes into "work" each day at Washington State University.  Henry said he thinks he may be working on writing a book.  What a small world...

Okay, back to the Extension/Local Growers meeting...at the end of the meeting, they asked me what I would like from Extension.  Since I am just beginning, I said that I was in the process of looking up rules, regulations, licensing and such for farm products.  I know that there are different rules for different crops but I have NO idea what they are.  So, Iris ran up to her office and brought me this book:

If you click on the book, it will take you to the website.  So, I have started reading all about doing business in Idaho, direct marketing strategies, selling specific products and labeling...

One last thing that I learned at the meeting...There is a Palouse Grown Market that is online and available for people to sell their locally produced good through.  

If you click on this picture, you will be taken to their website.  It is supposed to be opening sometime this spring 2015.  This is a 100% local online market where community members, farmers, ranchers and artisans sell their products straight to the consumer.  Members order online, swing by the pick up spot, pay, and leave with their weekly order of fresh, local goods. 
Simple and Local, Fresh and Healthy!  I have a LOT of garlic planted that will probably be ready in July.  I am considering the Palouse Grown Market as maybe one way to sell my extra garlic!

So, I would say that was a pretty productive meeting: made a local Farm contact, got a book about starting a farm business in Idaho, and possibly identified a market to sell local products through!  

I will have a big garden update next week...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

What type of business is best for our farm...

What does Mark want for Easter dinner?

Farm Business Research

I have been thinking a lot about what type of business our farm should operate as.  I watched this webinar about different farm businesses.  If you click on the picture, you should go to the page that has the recorded webinar.

At one point, I was thinking about setting up the farm as a nonprofit.  Mostly because I have worked in nonprofits so I am familiar with the infrastructure.  However, to be a nonprofit, there are certain criteria you have to meet.  For example, you have to have an educational component to your nonprofit.  I like the idea of having people coming to the farm and learning about growing fruits or vegetables and health eating.  However, I realize that this is not our main reason for having our farm. The main reason is to provide a business for Mark and I to run.  Luckily, other skills that I have learned while directing a nonprofit will be useful in our farm business (like accounting, marketing, and communication).  So, after viewing this webinar, it looks like setting up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) will probably be the way to go.  The next thing I want to research are the "rules" for selling produce and farm products.

Another question that has entered my mind is, "When are we considered "farmers?"  I heard this definition of a farmer from the USDA on a podcast that I was listening to:

The U.S. Agriculture Department defines it (a farm) as "any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year."

So, I guess I have here a good goal when we do get into production.  I have linked this definition to an article entitled, "USDA Definition of Farmer Twisted".

Garden Update:

I planted carrots and radish into the garden.  Everything is coming along nicely.  It has gotten cool again at nights so I have been covering my garden if it is getting closer to freezing.  The spinach was slow to germinate but has really taken off now...
Baby Spinach

Find a Local Farm Update:

I ran into a good friend last week and she told me about Link'd Hearts Ranch.  They have pastured poultry.  You can click on this picture to visit their ranch.  I put in an order for some pastured poultry for the summer.  I am familiar with the farm because last summer, I was doing a lot of cycling and I went past their farm a few times on my long rides.  Also, there was a nice article in the local newspaper about their farm a couple of months ago.

My youngest said, "Well, I like chicken from the store so I bet I will like chicken from the farm."

In The Kitchen:

I picked up a "Rooted" magazine, a quarterly publication featuring articles about food systems, healthy eating, sustainability, and more!  The Moscow Coop prints this publication.  You can view the publication and the recipe I mention below by clicking on this picture: 
There was an article about pickling asparagus.  I LOVE anything pickled but have only made refrigerator pickles.  So, I decided to give this a try.  I just made them yesterday and it says to wait 48 hours before opening so I will let you know how they taste next week.

Happy Easter!