Save The Honey Bees

Save the honey bees

They're vanishing at an alarming rate.

Lets pretend that in your line of work the numbers started to change. There's a sudden decline in people needing your services. Lets pretend that you're a teacher.

One morning you walk into the school. Something's wrong, you can feel it. When the bell rings one-third of your students are missing.

A few minutes later the principal walks in and asks to speak with you. She shares that in each classroom thirty percent, and in some classrooms seventy percent, of the students are missing. The trend continues day after day. The declining enrollment is alarming. And it's not just your school. This is happening at all the schools in your state.

In the coming months you learn the trend is happening globally. 30 - 70% of school-aged children have vanished. What's causing this and where have the children gone?

Now it's getting personal. The decline is affecting your contract. Lower school enrollment equates to lower numbers of teachers. How will you meet your financial obligations and feed the family?

Seems far-fetched, right? Well, this is exactly what's happening to the bees. They're vanishing without a trace. Beekeepers have lost 30% of their colonies. In some areas the numbers are closer to 70%. Remember; one out of every three bites of food requires bees for pollination.

In the book, More Than Honey , (there's also a video available) Markus Imhoof and Clause-Peter Lieckfeld use a similar scenario;

If 70 percent of all cattle or 30 percent of all chickens were to die annually, states of emergency would be declared everywhere. The death of bees is at least that dramatic and with even more far-reaching consequences.

Vanishing Bees is a Global Crisis

The more personal an issue is the more meaning it has for you. The declining bee population does directly affect you. One of the reasons for the decline is due to herbicide and pesticide use. Studies show that when hives are located close to genetically engineered crops both honey and pollen contain toxic levels of chemical residue. Bees suffer with memory loss and nervous system disorders after visiting plants genetically engineered with systemic pesticides (neonicotinoids). The toxins create confusion, the bees can't find their way back to the hive.

Save The Honey Bees

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has a free publication; Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects.

Planting a cover crop of Buckwheat is great for honey bees and other pollinators. It will improve your garden, too.

Please,  Save the honey bees.

August 20, 2016 is National Honey Bee Day.

'Know Your Farmer Know Your Food'

'Farm to Table'

Really great slogans.  But, what’s really  happening on the farm that’s producing food for your table?

Close your eyes. Imaging a farm. Do you see lush pastures. Animals grazing. Pigs sleeping in the warm sunshine surrounded by shade trees and green grass.

I drove past a farm yesterday with a new van parked out front. The signs on the side read, 'Farm to Table’ and ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’. This particular farmer has several confinement hog houses.

Do they qualify for the ‘Farm to Table’ campaign? Of course. They’re farmers. They sell direct from their farm to customer’s tables.

Do they fit the model for the ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’ campaign? Yep, they do.They sell at farmers markets. Customers get to know them.

But, DO YOU, as a customer picture something different when you support a farm?

Are you thinking of pigs in a pasture or hogs crowded inside of a building.

Are you thinking of cattle grazing under a blue sky and sunshine or steers stuffed under a shed roof with just a few square feet to move around.

Across the mid-west farmers markets are re-opening for the season. I suggest that you really get to know your farmer. Ask questions. Things aren’t always as they seem

How familiar are you with these terms:
Free Range vs Cage Free

Pasture raised vs Confinement

Organic vs 'Beyond Organic'

The California Supreme Court ruled that producers who mislabeled products as organic are open to lawsuits as protection from fraud in the organic industry.
I’m not sure whether the farms that label themselves as ‘Beyond Organic’ will have to change their advertising but it 's food for thought.

And remember; If we are what we eat most of us are fast, cheap and easy. Lets change that!

Know Your Farmer Know Your Food

 

Four years ago we completed an area of direct seeding trees; Walnuts, oaks, and Chestnuts.  The walnut trees are about twelve feet tall, the oaks four to eight and the Chestnuts about five.

The project was so successful that we’re direct seeding other areas. One of them is along the lane.

Some years oaks don’t produce many acorns, last year was one of them. For a successful direct seeding it’s best collecting from trees within a fifty mile range. Outside of this range the variety of tree may not grow as well as local species.

We spent most afternoons last fall scavenging acorns from our timber. On windy days there would be a windfall, other days were sparse.  Because our own trees weren’t producing many acorns  we kept a nut roller and bucket with us. Everywhere we went we’d search for trees shedding nuts.

In October, Decorah, Iowa hosts the annual Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour. It’s wonderful. In one neighborhood in particular, Shagbark Hickory vastly out number all other tree species. I looked forward to the artwork, Keith looked forward to collecting hickory nuts for our direct seeding. While I toured the studios Keith visited with the locals and collected seed stock.

In the fall a seed bed was prepared. Then nuts were scattered across the tilled ground and finally, the seeding rolled for good ground contact. This winter we noticed fat squirrels, with full cheeks, running back and forth from the seeding area. It’s OK, we seeded heavily. The direct seeding is a collection of acorns and nuts from burr, red and white oak along with shagbark hickory.

Direct Seeding TreesThe faster growing walnut’s in our fourth year direct seeding trees are shading out the slower growing young oaks. Next winter the walnuts will be coppiced (cut at ground level) to allow the oak’s to grow above the canopy. The walnut trees will be stunted but make a full recovery.

Last year Keith and I took the Master Woodland Managers program through Iowa State University. It's a wonderful class with combined teachings in the classroom, on timber walks and through volunteer work in managed timber. We’re continuing our education through reading, observation, and attending more classes. And of course, traipsing through the timber. I highly recommend this forestry program, and the book, Forest and Shade Trees of Iowa.

 

A new Study on Organic Farming confirms quality is the key ingredient.

A newly released study concluded that Organic meat and dairy products are healthier; more nutrient rich than meat and dairy products from conventionally raised animals.

Professor Carlos Leifert of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at the University of Newcatle reports that Organic meat and dairy has 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are linked to better immune function, reduced cardiovascular disease, and improved neurological development.

Researchers, led by Leifert, found that organic crops had 60% higher key anti-oxidants and lower levels of the toxic metal cadmium than conventionally produced crops.

We're organic farmers because we believe it's the right way to farm, not because it's the popular way. In fact, it's only become popular in the last few years. Organic farming is about quality over quantity. Organic farming is better for the animal, better for the environment, and healthier for the consumer.

“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Additionally, other studies have shown that Organic grass-fed beef is the best source of lean protein.

Did you know that the average Weight Watcher customer looses six pounds in two years? That’s less than half a pound per month. They count calories, buy expensive pre-packaged food and anxiously step on the scale.  They’d get better results by switching to grass-fed beef.  And they wouldn’t have to make any other dietary changes. I highly recommend reading  Pasture Perfect, by Jo Robinson.

Organic, grass-fed beef is better for kids, too. Studies show that pesticides lower IQ scores. Evidence suggests that genetically engineered food may contribute to Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, and allergies in children. Organic food is clean. It's pesticide free.

Read the study on organic farming here:

Nafferton Ecological Farming Group

study on organic farming

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Red Meat - In The News

The safety of Red meat is in the news, again. Health concerns about red meat, along with processed or grilled meats is brought up periodically. Now the World Health Organization (WHO) is weighing in -

As an organic meat producer I believe our farm is distinctly different; Organic, grass- fed beef is healthy.  The practice of MIG grazing improves meat quality, restores the environment, and is beneficial to the life-cycle of livestock, crops, and soil. Quality is more important than yield.

A  customer shared this podcast from WGN Radio in Chicago. The guest, Dr. Michael Fenster is a cardiologist and chef. This doctor highlighted interesting issues and omissions in the latest study. Some of these include:

Antibiotic use in animal feed
Dying gut bacteria
Grass-fed, grass-finished beef
Heritage breeds of pastured hogs
Artificial additives in food
Genetically engineered crops and Glyphosate
Hormones in meat
Safe Food Labeling; House Resolution 1599
and much more...

The connection between healthy food and overall health continues to grow. Our herd continues to grow, too. The steers are sold out for this year. In January we'll start taking orders again. The details will be posted in the January newsletter.

Listen to the podcast here

 

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Organic Certification...Done

Organic Certification
Forest Hill Farm's organic certificate

There are 19,474 organic farmers in the United States. We're proud to be one of them. If you think about it there aren't even enough of us to fill a football stadium on any given Sunday. We're a small group who share our customer's appreciation in healthy living. We value the environment more than the bottom line and believe the health of water, soil, and wildlife are our shared responsibility.

Every year I look forward to our annual organic re-certification visit. Our inspector is great, his name is Gary.  He's a wealth of information and very pleasant to visit with.

 Gary  shared a link to a video featuring Roy Thatcher. Gary inspects Roy's organic farm, too.

I appreciate Roy's hard work and ethics - especially regarding quality. While most farmer's biggest concerned is yield, organic farmers greatest concern is quality. We do our absolute best to provide products that are good for our customers and of the highest quality. I couldn't have said it better myself,  thanks, Roy!

Enjoy the video.

Murphy's Law of Farming

Murphy's law of farming
Murphy's law of farming

1.  The week your new chicks or bees arrive so will a cold snap.

2.  You'll ONLY have problems with the planter on the rows most visible from the road

3.  Animals ONLY escape when you're running late and DON”T have time to round them up.

4.  As soon as the hay is raked a pop-up rain shower will bless your farm

5.  The hay baler ONLY breaks when you're trying to beat the rain

6.  If you borrow something it will break

7.  The day that guests, or the vet, come to the farm everything goes wrong and the chores don't get done

8.  The newer your clothes the more animal slime they'll collect

9.  While lecturing your children on the importance of closing gates the one you've just latched will swing open behind you.

10.  You'll discover you're wearing your barn shoes when everyone in the grocery line starts sniffing the air and looking around.

11.  When you are trying to finish your own project (gardening, canning, cleaning) your husband will interrupt you at least 300 times. When you need his help he'll have vanished.

Feel free to add your own in the comment section...

 

Sometimes, I forget....

...I forget what store-bought eggs taste like, how pale the yolk is.

...I forget that store-bought chicken doesn't have flavor, that the flesh is pale, the texture rubbery. Pastured poultry is superior to conventionally raised in every way.

pastured poultry
pastured poultry

...I forget that pasture raised pigs don't smell bad, the meat is tender, juicy, and the fat is beneficial.

...I forget that most families don't cook with lard. They've never tasted homemade pie crust or biscuits.

...I forget that walking out your front door to pick cherries, raspberries, gooseberries and apples, from the trees you've planted, is a luxury. It's a special benefit of arranging your life differently than most people choose to do.

raspberries
raspberries

...I forget that fresh garden produce is a choice. It's trading your time, planning, and labor in exchange for a plentiful harvest.

I forget that there's nothing sweeter than homegrown peaches or the sight of baby ducklings chasing after a bug.

I forget that most livestock producers don't believe in the restorative powers of MIG grazing. Instead of planning a grazing program they allow their animals to forage randomly. This creates a barren pasture, soil depleted of nutrients, and not enough organic matter or cover crop to control evaporation. These poor decisions, made by many farmers, are a choice. A choice that negatively impacts water quality, wildlife, and climate.

There have been several visitors to the farm recently who've enjoyed the beautiful views and learning about grass based farming. Many of them recall memories of their grandparents farms which were like ours in many ways.

Their grandparents had pigs in the pasture and chickens pecking in the yard. Small orchards provided fruit and cider. Large gardens fed the family and everyone worked together. Picnic tables were sheltered under shade trees where cool breezes relieved the heat of the day.

Sometimes I take for granted that each day is my own. I'm greeted by beautiful surroundings with the people I love and the life we've chosen. Our farming practices are intentionally organic.

Our plans for this farm included rotational grazing, we started out following this practice but in 2009 Keith became interested in Management Intensive Grazing (MIG Grazing). It's the practice of heavily grazing  an area by increasing the number of livestock on a small parcel of land for a very short period of time and then moving them to the next paddock. This practice replenishes the soil by allowing grazing, trampling, and animal waste to increase organic cover and vital nutrients.   This restorative practice is essential to preventing desertification.  We've been following the practices of  Allan Savory and Greg Judy.

 

 

This is the 2010 areal view of the planned paddock layout:

 

MIG Grazing paddock layout
MIG Grazing paddock layout

These photos show the paddocks after grazing with new areas the cattle have moved to.

 

Cookie ran past me and shouted something about needing to find a marking flag. I had no idea what he was talking about but I followed along to help him look . We found an older, tattered one in the machine shed. When I asked what he was marking he ran ahead to show me. He was seeding the pasture behind the hoop building with oats, barley, clover and rape seed.  He noticed a Killdeer faking a broken wing, carefully he searched for the nest and found it in the gravel at the edge of the field. That's when he rushed past me looking for a flag. I'm proud that our boys have an appreciation for nature and respect their habitats. Over the years we've had unusual guests at our farm. When Garrett was younger he would find snakes in the spring and keep them until August, then he'd release them. Turtles, squirrels, bunnies, snakes, opossum, salamanders, and starlings have all made their way from our farm back into their natural habitat. Here's a small sampling: