Monthly Archives: April 2013

Crazy Boy Farm Goat Babies

The farm babies exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo has always been one of my favorites. This weekend my sister went to see them. I am feeling so blessed that I have my own farm babies this year that I get to spend as much time with as I want.

Here are some teaser pictures.

Rose has the little spot on her forehead and Joey on his leg.

I love how Effie interacts with them, playing with them and cuddling them and letting them chew her hair. Such a great experience for her.

Avril named Rose–I think naming is their favorite part. Both these babies are purebred Nigerian Dwarf Goats and registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. I love having goats but while selling them is neccessary in order to be able to maintain a herd that is always the hard part. So in the next couple of weeks check back for our goat page. There we will have information about our goats and list the ones for sale. While these 2 are the only ones born so far we will likely have 5+ goats available for purchase.

Mother Earth Fest

This last weekend we had a great opportunity to attend the 1st annual Mother Earth Fest on the West Side of St. Paul. As Proeun said, “they really know how to throw a party, that was the best party I have ever been to.” We had a booth for our farm. The plan was that we would all stay together in the morning and Proeun and I would take turns walking around with the children, but they loved it so much they didn’t want to leave. So we reworked our schedule, saved errands and chores for another day and had a great day hanging out with the children, sharing our farm story and celebrating diverse communities coming together to say they care about what happens in our neighborhoods and to earth our home.

Proeun and I in a rare moment together at the booth with the children acting as photographers. We had matching shirts made at Great Ideas in town which was by the way a great idea. Everyone knew the children belonged with us and if they wandered off it was easy to pick them out of a crowd.

Avril getting her groove on in one of the dance classes. I even joined her for the fun of it.

Petting zoo.

Spoon making demonstration.

The kids learning about casting and fishing limits. It was a great time.

Sustainabilty for all–EBT and CSA

“We all do better when we all do better.” ~Senator Paul Wellstone

I am blessed that I never went to school hungry. In fact all my growing up life I never went hungry. I would get hungry sometimes in between meals but I never missed one.

This was not the case for Proeun. As a child growing up in America he was hungry alot. At 4 he moved from a refugee camp in Thailand to Alabama. A local baptist church sponsored them. They helped them fill out forms, find a place to live and apply for foodstamps. And the family grew. Eventually there would be 6 children in the family and they would share 2-3 eggs among them. My in-laws were masters at stretching food but still sometimes they went out so the children could eat. Proeun told me he loved school–because he got to eat. He even loved it in the summer. He once told me, “Imagine not eating in a couple days then trying to take a Math test, see how good you do.”

There is much talk about sustainable agriculture and how it is good for local communities. But we realize that sustainable is only sustainable if it is accessible to everyone.

This weekend we will be at the Mother Earth Festival on St. Paul’s westside. I am going to be speaking about CSAs and the future of sustainablity. The coordinator pointed out to me that 50-75% of children of color are living below the poverty line and that for many families CSAs seem an unreachable goal financially much like a new car.

This of course is a concern. In order to be sustainable we also have to have to make money in order to keep doing this work. But with Proeun’s background we really wanted to find a way to make it affordable. We were blessed a few years ago to meet a fellow farmer who offered EBT to his customers. We learned how and applied. Last year was our first year accepting EBT. This year we were hoping to expand and reach 25 families but so far only 2 are taking advantage of the opportunity.

We continue to look for ways to make CSA more affordable and strive to keep our quality high and our prices low. If you know anyone who would like to know more about EBT and CSA please pass on our information to them. And stop by this weekend if you have an opportunity.

creating art

Imagine a world without great music, or art, one in which Mozart’s genius was stifled by the neccessary duty of going to school or Michaelangelo’s art was censored by the common ideas of the time. Imagine a world where everyone ate the same things, where they all dressed the same and talked the same. A world in which you could never excel past your “peers” or radical ideas were stifled.

This is not a political blog, this is a blog about farming, living close to the earth and family, creating a life worth living. But I am troubled. In school I honestly idealized the social contructs of Scandinavian nations. They seemed to have it all together. But now after having children of my own and thinking more about the life I want to live I realize there are very real and harsh consequences of those of us who choose to live outside societal norms both there and here. One is that of constant criticism. Whether you want to make your own healthcare decisions or at least demand that your doctors inform you of all your options, or you choose to raise your children at home and educate them there, whether you want to make decisions about the foods your eat based on your personal convictions and many of the decisions we must make on a daily basis that don’t jive with common culture all bear much criticism. Sometimes it is hard to focus on the fact that I am crafting a life, I am creating art. Art that some would wish to censor.

There has been much chatter about the quote by MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, stating, “break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents” and recognize that “kids belong to whole communities.” Her comments were met with outlash by the right and some people who would do well to just stay quiet for once. I must admit I was a little nervous. I make regular decisions that are not supported by my larger community. Later she said, “I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together. So those of you who were alarmed by the ad can relax. I have no designs on taking your children…”

I am glad she restated and now we can understand each other better. We must all be careful what we say,

Little ears are listening. And what I hope they are hearing is that their mom believes in raising them in the beauty of the home, the shelter of my arms and that I will fight for that right. I am constantly aware of the fact that art is dangerous, none more so then the lives we lead, the decisions we make.

Circle of Healing Arts and Cloudwalk Chiropractic

As with anything in life great partners make all the difference in the world. We have been blessed in our farming journey with some absolutely fabulous partners. I would like to introduce one of those organizations to you–Circle of Healing Arts in Lino Lakes. This will be our 3rd year working with them as a dropsite and every interaction we have had with them has been fabulous.

I talked with Dr. Carol Jillian-Ohana of Cloudwalk Chiropractic, one of the healing businesses housed at the circle,

Me: What is your mission?
Dr. Carol: Our mission is to improve the health and wellness of our surrounding community using many healing modalities, nutrition, education and outreach.

Me: Tell us about some of the services offered at the Circle of Healing Arts.
Dr. Carol: We offer: chiropractic, yoga, massage, intuitive readings and classes, Pilates, Thai massage, Tuina massage, Hypnotherapy, Brain Gym, Herbs, Kinesiology, Acupuncture, Nutritional coaching, Foot care and more.

Me: Why do you think that local, healthy food is import?
Dr. Carol: We stress food as medicine. Eating well, eating local, eating healthy. And we nurture relationships with farmers to bring produce, milk, eggs, flowers, fruit, fish etc to our patients/clients.

Me: What is your number one wellness tip?
Dr. Carol: Tips: Breathe in, breathe out. Take time to notice. Be grateful. Fix and Eat real food.

For more information about Dr. Carol go to Cloudwalk Chiropractic or the other businesses housed at the
Circle of Healing Arts

Dr Carol Jillian-Ohana
Cloudwalk Chiropractic
at The Wellness Circle
7094 Lake Drive,
Lino Lakes, MN 55014

The Dust Bowl’s Legacy in CSAs

I love it when I get the Land Stewardship Projects newsletter in the mail. It encourages me to slow down, relax and remind myself why I am farming. This issue had a very interesting article about the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Few people are alive who remember living through it, most were children at the time and hopefully shielded by the adults in their life of the worst horrors. Dana Jackson said in the article that the Dust Bowl which resulted from extensive tilling of native shortgrass prairie and natural drought caused the worst, “man made environmental disaster in history.”Just to give you a hint of how bad it was here are some pictures courtesy of a PBS documentary and Farm Service Agency workers. 

Yes this is in the U.S. I believe this one is the Texas panhandle. Just a few short years before this was productive farm land.

Car trying to escapt a dust storm.

Abandoned farm (for these and more pictures of the dust bowl go here). This is what the dust bowl has to do with CSAs. Let me be clear no farmer intentially harms their land, but all farmers depend on their land to make money. Sometimes with fluctuating market prices, national policies that can do more harm then good and personal issues farmers gamble. During the dust bowl farmers gambled on rain that didn’t come. In this age of extreme weather gambling is dangerous. Just last year we were declared a disaster zone for heavy rains followed by drought.

Many farmers we know are gambling again. Giving up hay production (required for animal feed) for less labor intensive crops like corn and soybeans. Finding affordable hay will be much more difficult unless you have the land to produce it. But this isn’t about hay, it is about what communities can do to support their local agriculture and hence economy and environment.

I got an email this week saying that the Living Green Expo was not going to happen this year because it was no longer financially sustainable. We have presented at this Expo and so have an inside on info. The email said that awareness of environmental issues has increased many fold in the past couple years and thanked the community for its support. It was a pretty sad email actually.

See on the surface the community is more aware of environmental issues but sometimes financial support still falls short. When we tell people we are farmers and that we have made the decision to leave our urban home and actually pursue this lifestyle we often get sympathizing looks, like “you poor idealistic fools.” Farming doesn’t have a reputation as being secure, let alone sustainable.

But the good news is that local foods is gaining alot of popularity and maybe a happy undertone to the email about the Living Green was that perhaps it wasn’t needed as much anymore. More and more families are aware of the issues surrounding the environment, local foods and local economies. One great way to support local food is through a CSA membership. For us our members are the key to sustainability. For example we have friends that sell at the St. Paul farmers market–the big one. They have to pay over $900 a year just to be members. Then each day they sell requires an additional fee. They have told me candidly that a really good day would bring in $400 in sales but sometimes (often actually) it is closer to $100-$200. This barely covers their time prepping and attending the market let alone the months of field management and growing. They really depend on the farmer’s market to drum up interest in their CSA, not for profit per se.

As the number of farms grow that is good for local food, local communities and the state of Minnesota, and it gives you options. But one option that I personally feel is the best way to support local foods is through CSAs. This ensures that you get a wonderful variety of high quality vegetables (some you may never have thought of trying) and the farmers get security in knowing that they are not wasting mountains of food (and effort and money) not knowing what will sell and what won’t. Also it makes certain that another small piece of Minnesota and the U.S. remains devoted to sustainable agriculture. Thank-you for your support. For more information on our CSA go here.