The blog of Hope Grows

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"A safe, comfortable and lucrative career..."

It has been nearly six months since I left school in Iowa. Soon I will begin to resolve my college debts, and I know am not alone. Hundreds of thousands of college graduates will soon become obedient workers in an economy built to ensure that money, at all costs, never stops flowing. Yet still, many of them, myself included, had transformative social, political and spiritual experiences during their studies.

College, if nothing else, was an environment of ample free-time. And I give thanks that a handful of strong people helped me to radical shifts in consciousness through study and dialogue. But for the vast majority, college functions as a factory for the next generation of consumers who will live under the rule of ciphers, debts and bosses.

Most of you reading this know a young person who, by choice or necessity, is desperate for a safe, comfortable and lucrative career. As well they should be; no one needs the social and economic stigma attached to outstanding debt. Yet through this very process our youth, our education and our dreams are treated as the property of an economy that profits through co-opting our values and selling them back to us. Many young people are waking up to the truth that such a design has been based all along on an illusory and hopeless relationship with the world.

The degree of radical change needed in our economy and culture can, and should be, argued. But any sensitive person knows that we long ago lost the wise balance which has traditionally kept humanity healthy, happy and humble. Nowhere is this reflected as clearly as in our work; how we make wages in order to eat, live and survive. Most work today is organized by one ruling principle; the endless exchange of the dollar. But if our communities are to achieve any sustainable harmony, we must have work that seeks much more than a Capitalist economy can offer us.

What that looks like should be determined on a decentralized and creative basis. But good work always responds to a real, material need of humans attempting to live healthy and connected lives. My experience farming has taught me that the most vital piece of this multi-faceted solution is the production of healthful food on bio-diverse and modestly scaled farms. When what and how we create can be nourishing for our bodies and our soil, we can also meet peoples fundamental need for a socially purposeful freedom. Instead of mass-production, we can have production by the masses; thus allowing us to eliminate or minimize environmentally and socially destructive agricultural inputs.

With this in mind, food is much more than nutrition. It is a means by which we secure health, sustainability and the strength to face hardship. As long as our food system is dominated by a cash economy, I believe we will remain an endangered and undernourished people.

-Mark B.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Young Farmers Unite!

Here's a link to one of our new favorite projects devoted to young farmers, also known as Greenhorns. Enjoy the trailer, and know that we young agrarians are not alone...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Roots, Wings, and Free Thinkers

Favorite time of day on the farm...

Also, we have a few birds in the older flock we like to call "free thinkers," in that they prefer an idle life of grazing on the edges of the property and in our gardens, far from the other birds. We suspect they have liberal political ideas. This is one in particular has decided to make our kitchen porch her roost. She's slept here with Devil Cat for the past week. And though it's a bit inconvenient to have chicken poop on the porch, she's too cute to turn away...

(...this is the part where I realize we are crazy chicken people...)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Professional Type Brooder Facility

A great improvement from brooding in our dining room!

Here's a quick video of our new brooder facility, which is a "remodeled" 100 year old chicken coop. It's big enough to fit two 8 ft x 4ft brooder boxes (each holding 100 chicks) made out of plywood and a 2x4 frame, with chicken wire on top to keep out predators. These birds will be out to pasture at 2 weeks old, and then harvested at 8 weeks. These are our last chickadees for this calendar year, but we'll be starting up again next spring, and plan to produce at least 200 tender, delicious birds every month from March through November.

Health is Our Best Accessory

Just had one of those middle of the night epiphanies, and needed to put some thoughts down. I'm sharing them here in hopes that they'll encourage me--and maybe you--in the future.

The farm team is pretty healthy, but let's face it: we could do better. We're unusual, Mark, Elliott, and I (Ari-Anne) in that we eat mostly (80-90%) local foods, most of them vegetables. Meat does happen, but it tends to happen responsibly, usually once or twice a month from local farms. In many ways, I have to affirm what we already do--compared to the average American family, we seem to come from a whole other universe. But the thing is, I want to do better.

For example, Elliott has a bit of a sweet tooth and an affinity for junk foods, especially when we're stressed. And though I know the Klondike bar or the bag of sea salt and vinegar tasties represent an industrialized food system I want no part of, they can be so damn tantalizing. Rationally, I don't "want" the food, but if it enters the house it whispers incessant eat-me messages from the cupboard or the freezer. This is especially difficult to deal with when I'm on my cycle, feeling vulnerable and generally uncomfortable.

Another place we splurge is at the modern southern-style dinner*, where there's always a dazzling array of high fructose corn syrup, Crisco, Velveeta, country crock, refined sugars, etc. You know the typical fare: extra sweet tea, fried Claxton chicken, ham, bacon, mashed potatoes, bar-b-que, macaroni and cheese, more ham, fried chicken, biscuits, casseroles topped with bacon, pork chops, and don't forget the potato salad with copious amounts of mayonnaise. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this food, and the fact that I grew up on it makes it a comforting, nostalgic experience. But to be honest, the comfort only happens on the way down. We usually spend the rest of the day in and out of the bathroom, wondering if the 20 minutes of taste bud bliss was worth it. This is no exaggeration--the stuff shocks our systems. But it can be pretty darn difficult to turn down, especially from a social standpoint.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about asceticism here. I do think that food should be an enjoyable experience, even comforting from time to time--but we, the farm team at least, can start doing better at it. We don't have to eat outside of our values to have enjoyable experiences. The food that we produce, "we" being a community of farmers here in South Georgia, simply tastes better. And food that's good, clean, and fair should taste better. But why the slippage from time to time? Convenience is a big part of it. Social convention. Upbringing. Opting for something else is easier said than done.

Lying in bed in the middle of the night with a stomach ache after one of these southern-fried binges, I realized that true health is the best marketing accessory we've got--for the eggs, the chicken, the bread, and for local foods in general. If I don't project an image of health, then my message is lost. From a business and a personal perspective, no one will want the Kool-Aid that I'm selling if it doesn't make me look and feel great. And what we're selling here isn't just food, it's un-industrialized thinking, it's chemical free, it's local economy, it's interdependent communities, it is health--all part of a future we want.

*Let it be clear that I respect southern food traditions, and often cook southern recipes in my own kitchen: field peas and rice, stewed tomatoes, potato salad, etc. But what I'm referencing here is not the food of our forebears, i.e. the food that came from small, diverse family farms, served up fresh. What I'm talking about is southern convenience food, made with ingredients that come from factories and large, monoculture farms far from right around the corner.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The New Farm Blog!

Hello! Welcome to the Official Adcote Acres Weblog!

This is the next generation of Farming With Elliott. I wanted Farming With Elliott and Friends but was shouted down. You can still see all the classic posts there.

To kick things off here is a video of our 4 week old broilers on pasture. For reference, here they are at 2 weeks -

Here is the video:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Earth Oven Pizza

Mark has constructed an Earth Oven from sand, clay, and bricks, it is pretty darn impressive...

And here is the first succesful use of the oven - pizza! It was awesome and had a flavor like it came from a commercial wood fired brick oven. Fantastic! Unfortunately the only picture we have of it is this blurry one, but you get the idea.



Mama and Her 3rd Brood of Chicks

This is our prolific mother hen who is on her 3rd group of chicks in 3 months or so... we just saw these little ones yesterday.


Barred Rocks Go Outside!

This morning we moved our Barred Plymouth Rocks out to pasture... here they are in their brooder...

To the Orchard!

Meet a Barred Rock!