Small Farms Conservancy

Brought to you by the same fine folks who publish the Small Farmer’s Journal, the Small Farms Conservancy is leading the way to a better small farm future. Their mission is to educate, advocate, protect, sustain, and inspire small farming worldwide. Some of the immediate needs they plan to tackle include apprenticeship programs, farmland preservation, affordable insurance, legal aid, and a whole host of concerns unique to those who farm. They are looking towards the future by establishing an agrarian think tank, a micro-loan program, a retirement program, farm care-taking services, and many other services sorely needed by today’s small farmer.

It’s easy being green (especially if you hate spending money…)

…or if you like being lazy about buying new stuff. Really. I’m a master at not buying things. (It’s almost embarrassing sometimes.) Here is my modus operandi:

  • We remodeled a kitchen using refurbished cabinets from Restore. It was cheap but the cabinets were solid wood. You can’t get those anymore. I’ve bought bath appliances there and, sometimes, furniture.
  • I own antiques (otherwise known as gently used) furnishings. I like the style and
    they’ve stood the test of time
  • I compost because it’s easy on a farm – just make a pile of green stuff and horse
    leavings, and mix it up once in awhile. It takes care of itself.
  • I recycle, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I hate paying
    extra for garbage service.
  • I hate throwing out old tech and I refuse to do it. I still have my TI99 computer
    from 1978, and it still works. I can play a very slow game of Pong on it or write a program in Basic. (That is, if I can remember Basic…) I refurbish and give away or recycle any other used computers and their parts.
  • I give any unused cell phones to women’s shelters, veteran’s hospitals, or any other group who can use them.
  • Almost all of my kitchen appliances, such as the can opener, coffee grinder, coffee maker, etc. are hand operated, no electricity required.
  • I like CFLs. They give off a lower light than the energy-gobbling incandescent bulbs. Mood lighting is good for the soul.
  • I really like antiquarian books – the older, the better.
  • I keep cars until the wheels, or other major parts, fall off, usually 10 years. (That is, unless someone smacks into me while I’m stopped at a light, totaling my car, and then runs away. That, however, is an entirely different posting, which will be saved for when I’m in a snarky mood.)For me, it’s actually easier to reduce, reuse, or recycle than it is to buy new or toss things in the garbage.

Oh, and there’s this little thing I have against shopping…

The Year’s Best Film

The best film I’ve seen all year is a little documentary called Good Food. It got amazing reviews and several awards. I really enjoyed its feeling of hope for our small farms and its reverence for the land. The movie just makes you feel good. Here’s a bit of a description:

“Something remarkable is happening in the fields and orchards of the Pacific Northwest. Small family farmers are making a comeback. They’re growing much healthier food, and lots more food per acre, while using less energy and water than factory farms.”

It will have a showing on September 19th and 20th, 1:30 p.m., at the Laurelhurst Theater in Portland, Oregon and on September 21st at the National Council of Churches in New York City (475 Riverside Dr – 3rd Floor Conference Room). It will be broadcast on November 12th on KCTS – Seattlen and KYVE – Yakima. (Check the local listings for the specific dates.)

Here’s the official website: Organic Consumers

The Best Part

It’s late summer, almost threatening autumn, and this is the best part of living on a farm.
It’s harvest time!!! It’s too few hands and too many vegies. Still, it’s such a delight to see so many things grow and ripen, to reap the rewards of months of hard work. We’ve been blanching and freezing and picking and eating. (I wonder how many vegetables you can eat at one meal?) We keep tripping over hidden squash we didn’t even know were there.

The Japanese pumpkins have strayed into the pasture and we have to track them down. There are purple green beans, plums, apples (many different kinds), tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, Walla Walla Sweet onions, green peppers with some strange stripes, oregano, mint, rainbow swiss chard, broccoli, golden, blue, and russet potatoes, cabbage, English cucumbers, blackberries, summer squash (according to my sister, she’s never met a squash she didn’t love) 6 different types of pumpkins, beets of different…er…stripes, corn, the haul is endless.

There have actually been several trips to area food banks throughout the summer, but the bulk of fruits and vegetables ripen right about now. We end up harvesting most of it all at once. I’m sure we can scare up a some friends who wouldn’t mind taking a few bushels home with them. (There will be plenty enough for everyone.) If not, there will be food for
the wildlife this winter and fantastic compost for next spring.

And the cycle continues…

Life beyond the Digital Divide

Who knew that the divide between those who can access digital content and those who can’t would be between the city and the country. Usually, it’s between the rich and the poor, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to high speed access. There are, fortunately, ways for those in the city and the suburbs to go online, such as public libraries. In so many rural places, however, there are no full broadband providers and no accessible outlets.

I live 47 minutes drive from a major software manufacturer, 52 minutes from a major metropolitan area, 10 minutes from a suburban development. Yet, because I live on a farm, I have no access to VoIP, VPN, or video streaming. YouTube and Skype are mere fantasies out here. There is no cable, no DSL, no wireless broadband…only bad dialup and expensive satellite. (Who has $1,000 to install a satellite system?) I’m writing this entry with a speed of 11 Mbps on satellite (and it took me years to scrape that installation money together), which is still better than the 21K maximum I could get via dial-up. (Yes, even the phone lines here are antiquated.) Half an hour per email message is just a bit excessive, I think.

I have a number of neighbors who have become so completely disenchanted with lack of access to the internet, that they’ve given up. They might do their accounting on their computer (and maybe play spider solitaire of an evening), but that’s it. The cost of technology in the country can easily overwhelm a rural budget. Where a city or suburban dweller can have broadband, phone, and cable for around $90, someone in the country must pay much more. There’s $70 for satellite internet, $80 for satellite television,
$30 for basic phone service, and additional charges for long distance. (My cell phone won’t work in the house because the signal is too weak and I refuse to wander in the rain in order to save some pennies.)

Essentially, those who live in the country must pay twice as much for less service than those in more urbanized areas. We need, once again, an initiative such as Rural Free Delivery by the U.S. post office in 1896 or the national phone system by Bell several decades later. There are potential technologies out there ( but many are still years away.

In the mainstream…

Last week, Time magazine featured, on the front cover, a major article on the broken state of our food production system: Time Cover (Go to the “Read the Cover Story” link at the bottom of the page.) It was enlightening in that this issue is finally becoming a mainstream concern, that people are more aware of what they eat and where it comes from. Our food is cheap but at such a high cost to us, our economy, and our environment. Read it. See what you think.
Ah, here’s some edifying reading materials you might find interesting:

I Live in the Country

I’m a techno-geek and I live on a 20 acre farm on the rainy side of the Cascades in a 93 year old farmhouse.There are so many advantages to being here. It’s quiet. I have fresh vegetables and fruits just outside my door nine months of the year. My neighbors raise or grow anything I can’t. There’s a fantastic community here. There is always something going on. I have my dog, Max, with me. Everytime I drive down the valley and up the hill to my house, all my worries and stresses fall away. It’s just lovely every day of the year, rain, shine, or four feet of snow.

However, there are issues…and some disadvantages to this life. They include:

  • How do we conserve farmland and make it sustainable?
  • How do we deal with the rural technology divide?
  • How do we bring farmers back to the land?
  • Why did my bak choi bolt this year?
  • What role does the online world play in sustainable food growing practices?
  • How can farmers contribute to preserving the environment?
  • How do we get farm fresh products to under-served markets?
  • How do we get kids out to the farms and teach them about their food?
  • What’s the perfect background for my page?

I’m going to explore these themes, and a few other tasty topics, on these pages.

Ad infinitum…