The blog of Hope Grows

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Crop Mob Comes to Savannah

(...and maybe Hope Grows some day)

Get in on the fun in Savannah NEXT WEEKEND, friends...

A bit about Crop Mob:

Crop mob is a group of young, landless, and wannabe farmers who come together to build and empower communities by working side by side.

In the past farming was much more labor intensive. Activities like planting, harvesting, processing, and barn raising often required the collective effort of entire communities. This interdependence fostered strong communities. As farming became more mechanized and reliant on petroleum based inputs, it became a more independent and solitary career. Today in the industrial farming system a few people may manage hundreds or even thousands of acres.

While nationwide the number of farms and farmers has dwindled, right now there is a surge of new sustainable small farms. These farms are growing diversified crops on small acreage, using only low levels of mechanization, and without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. This is a much more labor intensive way of farming that brings back the need for community participation.

Many crop mobbers are apprentices or interns on these sustainable farms. The need for community participation matches a desire for community among people interested in farming. The crop mob was conceived as a way of building the community necessary to practice this kind of agriculture and to put the power to muster this group in the hands of our future food producers.

Any crop mobber can call a crop mob to do the kind of work it takes a community to do. We work together, share a meal, play, talk, and make music. No money is exchanged. This is the stuff that communities are made of.

Friday, February 25, 2011

New ducks! New chicks! Read all about it!

Ducklings and chicks live in perfect harmony at Hope Grows. They arrived yesterday, and are settling into the brooder together. The 30 ducks are much larger, but they get along with the other 300 chicks--live and let live seems to be the motto. If they do become bullies, we figure the worst the chicks will suffer will be blunt blows (bad duck bill joke)...and it'll build character.

This year we're trying out 30 Pekin ducks--making the farm more diverse, and way cuter overall. We'll brood them with our broiler or meat chicks (raising Freedom Rangers) this year for the first two weeks, and then put them out to pasture as well...perhaps with a kiddie pool.

According to the literature, the ducks should grow up to full size in the same time as the broilers (about 9 - 10 weeks), so look for it on the farm availability list around the first of May.

Until the moment of deliciousness, we relish in the cuteness. We know it may seem weird, but it is entirely possible to love something--to think it's cute, to talk to it in stupid baby voices (which we may or may not actually do), to care for it, to make sure it's happy and healthy--and then eat it. Eating itself can be a tremendous act of love--for the land, for health, for community, for good taste--especially when what you eat comes from us.

By the way...ducklings "cheep" just like chickens do. Apparently the quacking comes later. Oh, and while we're looking at pictures, here's an update on the growth of our new laying hens. At over three months old now, they're past the awkward, bad-hair, teenage phase and have moved into a phase more graceful...


Thursday, February 24, 2011

2011 CSA: The Hope Grows FARM TRUST

Become a Co-producer
CSA stands for Community (that’s you and us!) Supported Agriculture. It’s the system where you help the farm by making a commitment early in the year (just like we farmers do). By your advance payment—your FARM TRUST—you commit to buying a portion of your food from our farm—you invest in the new season, in your year of great food. You plant $, we plant the food! You become a co-producer.

Keepin’ It Clean, Keepin’ It Real

Community Supported Agriculture is an idea directly inspired by our work on the land. It emphasizes and reinforces our interdependent relationships. Our work feeds the land, feeds us and in turn feeds you. It’s constant, perennial and cyclical. It’s renewed now; looking forward, building on our accomplishments. When you join our CSA, you anticipate your family’s needs for the upcoming year (in fact, even beyond that--good health for life!). Every year you plan with us: clean air, water and soil, happy animals, a vibrant community, satisfying, nutritious food. You get terrific food and support the special work being done here at Hope Grows: pasture-based ecological agriculture, farm apprenticeships, educational programs and more. But mostly you participate in the existence of a diverse community farm.

Our CSA’s Different!

No other CSA works this way! Instead of getting a subscription box of vegetables for each of 20-25 weeks, like most CSAs, we give you choice to shop like you usually do. You decide how you want to shop, how much and what you want from a wide selection of sustainably raised foods, both meats and vegetables, eggs, fruits, nuts—whatever we raise, year ‘round. And there’s no due date or expiration. You send us your subscription money, and we keep track of it—like a debit account. You use your pre-paid credit whatever way you want, whenever you want, on our products at the farm, or at farmers’ markets where we sell. Simple, convenient, flexible and fun. If winter rolls around and you want to re-subscribe, you can easily rejoin—or purchase a membership as a holiday gift for someone you really love!

Our CSA is called The Hope Grows FARM TRUST.

A Farm Trust Membership gets you:

· the best food money can buy—no contest!

· a connection to your farm!

· join-up bonus

· whatever we sell at the farm (no blackouts/restrictions)

· whenever you want (no “pick-up day,” we’re open 7 days)

· any time of year (we’re open year ‘round)

· whatever we have
Vegetables, Meats (chicken, pork, turkey, duck, lamb), Eggs, Fruits, Nuts

· no quantity limits, no exceptions, no expiration

· an e-newsletter with freebies, discounts, and members-only super special sales

· referral bonus (sign a new member—get a super treat!)

How to Subscribe:
You can become a Farm Trust member immediately--help us now! Visit our website to download our membership form and mail it in or bring it to the farm or markets with a check. You will receive an e-mail confirmation and your benefits will start immediately. There are lots of wonderful things available on the farm now! We have suggested membership levels, but join at whatever amount you’re comfortable in between. We know you want us to get through the winter and have great stuff (delicious, real, local, lovingly grown, ecological, health-giving food) for you all through the coming year.


COWS ($1000 plus level) $100 value bonus:
4lb Chicken x 4
A kiss from your choice of Elliott or Arianne!
Dinner with your farmers on the farm!

PIGS ($750) $60 value bonus:
4 lb Chicken x 3
An awkwardly long hug from Elliott and Arianne!

SHEEP ($500) $40 value bonus:
4 lb Chicken X 2
A loving pat on the back from Elliott and Arianne!

CHICKENS ($250) $20 value bonus:
4 lb Chicken
A hi-five from Elliott and Arianne!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recap: Potato Planting Potluck

Success! Ten sets of hands turned what would have been a lot of work for Elliott, Dillon (our current WWOOFer), and I alone into a pleasurable community event. So how did we do it, exactly? We started with seed potatoes--purple, pink, and yellow ones--and cut them into pieces no smaller than an egg, making sure each piece had a sprouted eye. This was done a day before planting to allow the cuts to seal to prevent rotting in the ground.

Then we prepared the garden beds, which looked like tearing away last year's plastic mulch, making two 6-inch trenches per bed, and lining the trenches with composted chicken manure/straw mix from the farm. The cured potato hunks were then placed--eye up--every 8 inches along the trench.

Then the trenches were covered over with soil, lined with drip tape, and mulched with straw. Now all we have to do is have another "party" when it's time to dig them up. But in fairness we did feast after working up an appetite--on roasted chicken from the farm with greens, potato salad (ha!), and bread from some farmer/gardener friends...and local wine!

For some, potato planting was old hat. For others, this was their first time. For all, it was a worthwhile and delicious affair. Note: All persons over 21 years of age.

Let's do it again soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Some Visioning for the Future

I have been preoccupied lately with how to tie the disparate threads the work we do involves - not only food - but the environment, energy, community, health, etc. into a coherent vision for the future.

What triggered the urge to start putting these thoughts down was a presentation we gave to a class at Georgia Southern. The presentation went well - but afterward Arianne and I agreed we did not do a very good job of holding it all together with a unifying theme - that maybe we didn't know ourselves what it was.

I feel that in producing clean, fair, food we have one answer to a question. But what is the question we are trying to answer?

To take a crack at it - "How should I live to truly express my humanity, to lead a fulfilling life, to be good to others who are alive now and to future generations?" One essential answer to this question is clean, fair, food - but it is just one part of a radically different way of thinking about the world. What are the rest of the answers?

Some guiding principles that inform my thinking -

1. To think 100 years ahead - what systems would impress someone from the future?

2. Material Culture + Agriculture = The World as We Know It

3. What do we truly need?

4. Being CONSCIOUS of our choices. How we spend our time, resources and money determines what kind of world we want. Being aware of how our decisions - how we use energy, what clothes we wear, what food we eat, etc. - effects other people and the environment.

To try and answer my question I would like to start with where we are today in our farm and food culture and contrast it with where I think we should be headed.

Farm/Food Culture of Today
Overall Principles: Bigger, faster, fatter, cheaper. Resources generally wasted. Agriculture as strip-mining. Ecological systems are exploited with a capitalist mindset. Farm land destroyed by suburban expansion.

Farmer - Underpaid, undervalued, marginalized in society.

Energy - Powered by fossil fuels.

Fertilizer/Feed - Unsustainable off-farm inputs whether for conventional or organic systems.

Distribution - Dependent on fossil fuels, long distance travel for foodstuffs.

Community - Most farmers are isolated from customers and markets.

Health - Incentivized by subsidies to grow/manufacture unhealthy food, creating epidemics.

Scale - Multinational corporation controlled food systems.

Government - Regulations that benefit the the powerful, punish small producers and take away citizens rights to eat what they wish.

Farm/Food Culture of the Future
Overall Principles: Food systems to nourish people, conserve resources/energy. People and animal power return to farms, and many small farms flourish instead of a few enormous farms. Communities protect farm land from development.

Farmer - Fairly compensated, valued as a critical member of society - a teacher, scientist community activist, health and green energy guru.

Energy - Farms will grow their own energy - using solar, geothermal, wind, biofuels, etc.

Fertilizer/Feed - A farmers' goal will be to use as few off-farm inputs as possible - by including animals in their production, growing fertility with cover crops, recycling nutrients that are currently buried in landfills, etc. It will be common practice for cities to compost their sewage and return it to the farms who serve them.

Distribution - Local and regional food-sheds will be the norm and the idea of eating a grape from Chile will seem like a bizarre notion from a strange past.

Community - Local communities take back our material culture from corporations - we don't need IKEA, or Wal-Mart. Farms are a focal point for community, everyone know their farmers. There is life and energy in the countryside.

Health - People have stopped buying food that makes them sick - the corporations that sell it are no longer needed - and the vacuum is filled by chemical-free healthy food.

Scale - Regional and local food systems.

Government - People are free to buy whatever food they like from farmers they trust. No subsidies for anyone.

So those are some of my answers to the question! Do you have any any?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

SAGEs in the blueberries

Yesterday we were grateful to host four students from GSU's Student Alliance for a Greener Earth (SAGE), who got up several hours earlier than usual - for college students, a feat - to come out to the farm and help us complete blueberry patch pruning before the weather warms and the buds potentially open this week. It's very important to prune the bushes while in dormancy, because the flowers are quite delicate and you will want to avoid touching them once open.

While clearing the bushes we prattled on about what they want to be when they grow up, food/farming issues, their efforts at the university, and how satisfying it was to perform a tangible task and see its progress (they brought this up, not me). Hopefully we'll see them again in June for the harvest.

Friday, February 11, 2011

They're writin' about us in the papers...

From Georgia Organics' Winter 2010/2011 Issue of The Dirt:
Click on it to enlarge!

This one's for you, Mom--Elizabeth and Molly.

A & E

Calling ALL Farmers!

The Greenhorns, Georgia Organics, and Coastal Organic Growers will kick-start the 2011 Georgia Organics Conference with a Farmer Mixer, Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. at Moon River Brewing Company. Moon River is providing a private space, putting together a local menu and of course will have their house made brews on tap. Elliott and I will be there!

Moon River Brewing is located at 21 W. Bay St., Savannah, GA 31401.

Please RSVP by clicking here.

Elliott and I--last summer--thoroughly "mixed."


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Georgia Organics is coming to Savannah!

Friday/Saturday, March 11th and 12th:

Vandana Shiva will be the keynote speaker this year—gasp! If registration is a bit pricey for you, there are other ways to participate. You can volunteer for a 20% discount, or you can attend the Expo on Friday night from 4:30 to 8:30pm, which is open to the public at $10/person, and includes local, organic tastings and a cash bar.

Elliott and I will be hosting a farm tour on Friday and teaching a pastured poultry class on Saturday (descriptions below), auctioning off dates with ourselves (start saving your money now—local food and wine included), and generally running around like chickens with our…uh…never mind.

Farm Tour - Idealism & Production
Hope Grows is a six-acre pasture-based community farm operated by young farmers Arianne McGinnis and Elliott McGann. Their mission: to grow “farmers and food with integrity”. As the day-to-day managers of balance and symbiosis between the animals and the land, they use a seasonal rotation plan that supports the health and sustainability of the entire farm. They produce and sell pasture-raised eggs, broilers, turkeys, and pork. They are currently constructing an on-farm poultry processing facility – the first of its kind in the region.

Educational Session - Pastured Poultry Palooza

A comprehensive introduction to pastured poultry production: including laying hens, broilers, and turkeys. Topics will include brooding, breed selection, pasturing models, regulations, animal health, marketing, and on-farm processing. Special emphasis will be given to evaluating markets, economic sustainability, and low input solutions. Hope Grows’ mission is twofold, to provide clean, fair food to their community and to grow new farmers. They direct market pastured eggs, chickens, turkeys, and pork from their 6 acre farm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Blueberry Pruning Minutiae

In the depths of winter--when everything is brown and drab--it's time to consider the summer and prune the berries. We prune now when the bushes are dormant, not in any active stages of active growth or flowering/fruiting. You don't want to disrupt those processes, nor do you want to stress the bushes in periods of hot weather. It's also easier to simply see what you're doing in the winter, when the canes (aka branches) are bare.

Our blueberry patch was installed on the farm in the 60's, and over the past two years we've been attacking it in phases. Phase one was simply clearing back invasive vines, trees, etc. seen here (anything green--they were quite infested):

Phase two looked like clearing out old, diseased canes indicated by a white fungus--which is what Corwin (our first unofficial WWOOFer in 2010) is doing in this picture, never mind his back side. The diseased canes are in the pile in the front of the photo. Note: the laying hens also spent the winter in the blueberry patch doing a bit of weeding and a lot of fertilizing in addition to our efforts.

And this year, phase three looks like simply opening up the bushes to sunlight and air, ultimately making sweeter berries. Specifically this looks like "pruning away water sprouts, dense but spindly growth and low branches that graze the soil or do not grow in an upright position." Below is a photo of the bushes before phase three:

And after phase three:

You can almost hear the bushes sighing with relief. Now all we have to do is sit back and wait for the flowers to bloom, the bees to do their sacred business, and the berries to come in June.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Real Food Film Festival

Thursdays, February 10 - March 10 at 6:00pm: In preparation for the 2011 Georgia Organics Annual Conference in Savannah, this festival at the Telfair Museum of Art features food-centric films such as Dirt, Fresh, Fridays at the Farm, and Ingredients. On March 10th from 6:00 to 7:30pm Arianne will be part of a paneled discussion on the themes from the films with policy makers (ahem…Mayor Otis Johnson), food producers (that's us!), nutritionists, and other food professionals. See the Facebook page here.

Potato Planting Partay and Potluck

Tuesday, February 22nd: Farmers’ Almanac says it’s a good day for root crops, so come out to the farm and help us put some sprouted spuds in the ground. We’ll work from 4 to 6pm hoeing, amending with compost, planting, and mulching. Then we’ll feast together—once we’ve washed our hands, of course. Please RSVP via e-mail or Facebook.

Elliott gleefully harvesting some 2010 baby German Butterballs. Sometimes in winter it's hard to imagine things will ever be anything but brown again.

See you there!