SMALL FARM QUARTERLY Good Living and Good Farming that Connect Land, People, and Communities
Feature Articles Brovetto Dairy Farm and Cheese House . . . .4 Quality of Life - What Does It Mean to You? .9 Grazing and the Environment . . . . . . . . . . .14 Small Is Flexible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Youth Pages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 & 13
Supplement to Country Folks
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
By Claire Hebbard Welcome to the third issue of SFQ. I encourage you to curl up with a cup of cocoa and a blanket to read, and pull out the middle page to share with the children in your life. Recently I was asked, “Why produce a publication that is for so few people?” I replied - without questioning - that our mission is to provide a publication dedicated to smallscale farmers in the Northeast, with valuable information about small-scale farming, and featuring writing by, about, and for small-scale farmers. As editor of the Home and Family section, my goal is to highlight the ways that farmers balance their personal, family and business responsibilities. Some of us refer to this as the farming lifestyle. After I answered the question, I realized that I hadn’t stopped to question the
assumption that SFQ is “for so few people.” True, less than 2% of the population is involved in farming. However, I see individuals rather than percentages. In New York, over 90% of the 32,000 farms are considered to be small farms, according to USDA’s definition (gross sales under $250,000). In other words, in New York alone there are more than 28,800 small farms - most of which help support more than one individual. 28,800 people is a not a small number! Plus, with a circulation of over 63,000 in the Northeast, SFQ reaches many non-farming supporters of small farms - educating others on the importance of small farms. Although I know that many farmers don’t have any great desire to have their name become a household word (in fact, most of you prefer to avoid it at all costs!), I ask you to consider contributing your stories and sharing your expertise about small-scale farming. Writing is a great opportunity to provide leadership in agriculture and to shape the future of small-scale farming.
There are many things I appreciate about farmers -independence of thought, strong work ethic, honest reflection of themselves, eagerness to help others, loyalty to their profession, a sense of humor, and passion for family life and relationships. I greatly appreciate the families who have shared their ideas here, and invite you to contact me, or any other section editor, with your stories. I also ask that everyone take the time to recognize the dedication and courage that our writers have expressed by spending precious time writing. These busy farmers have made the extra effort to promote their life’s focus by sharing experiences, knowledge, tears and joys. They recognize the value of farmers sharing and offering encouragement to each other.
Page 3 like myself, believe there are great benefits to raising our children on the farm. Independence — self-sufficiency — is a trait that farmers need in order to be successful. However, I have seen independence get confused with isolation, and isolation can become destructive to the farming way of life. Sharing ideas and experiences through SFQ allows us to balance our independence with our dependence upon our families, communities, and other farmers. As you may note, there are as many ways of balancing independence with dependence as there are farm families. In this issue you may recognize some ideas familiar to you, as well as encounter some new ideas. Everyone has something to offer somewhere in the field of SFQ - what seeds can you offer for the small farm field?
Having a great deal of personal experience navigating my own farm family relationships, I now direct my energies to helping other farmers create and maintain strong family relationships. Most farmers I know,
READERS WRITE Great reading!!!!!!!!!!! Keep up the great work. The articles are exceptional. Fits a need, for sure. At present I am not farming, but I am looking for a small place in the Canajoharie, NY area. I worked on farms a good part of my life (dairy) and would like to raise heifers. I love to read about farming especially the small family types. Those boys that drove tractors to school should all get medals. I did the same in the 50’s with a John Deere Green and a manure spreader full of nice fresh product. It was unfortunate the vice principal’s new Pontiac convertible was behind me when the power take off accidentally slipped into gear. Keep up the good work. Bob Wentworth, Wallingford, CT Editor: Hah!! Good story!! It’s not really true is it?
Hi Joanna, yes it is true. The John Deere was a model “G” and I had to pay for cleaning the white upholstery and got suspended for two weeks. Of course, It was haying time so I really considered it a vacation. There are so many more little stories I keep in my memory. Life on the farm in those days was hard work, but we always seemed to find time to have some fun. Of course what we called fun in those days the city kids do not. City people are not the same as farm people. For instance, I have probably witnessed over a thousand animal births (I am guessing) and it still humbles me. I am in awe and feel great to see a young suckle its mother. Only farm people understand and get the satisfaction from the many things that happen on the farm. Bob
How can I get Small Farm Quarterly? Country Folks subscribers automatically receive SFQ four times a year at no extra cost. Country Folks is delivered weekly for $35 per year. SFQ-only subscribers receive just the 4 issues of Country Folks that contain the SFQ insert for only $5 a year. Cooperative Extension Associations and other organizations can offer their members a subscription to SFQ as a member benefit! Your organization collects the names, forwards them to Country Folks Subscriptions, and pays Country Folks just $2.50 for each subscriber. Country Folks mails out the copies. Bulk orders: You can order multiple copies of any issue for just10¢ a copy! Minimum order is 100. Orders must be placed at least 4 weeks before the publication date - Spring 2004 copies need to be ordered by March 26. To find out more, contact: Tracy Smith Country Folks Subscriptions P.O. Box 121 Palatine Bridge. NY 13428 1-888-596-5329 email: email@example.com
As a dairy farmer and part-time logger I’m very disappointed that the article on page 16 of your Fall Small Farm Quarterly (Cutting Your Own Firewood) did not mention safety equipment, e.g. hard hat with hearing and eye protection, safety chaps, steel-toed boots. Logging is a very dangerous occupation and safety equipment is important! I would also recommend attending safety programs to learn the proper felling of trees. David Silloway, Randolph Center, VT Editor: We couldn’t agree with you more! Thank you for pointing it out.
Thanks for the (March 2003) Small Farms Task Force meeting, also for the Small Farms Quarterly in Country Folks. The NY Pasture Association news — Greener Pastures - Small Farmers Journal and Organic Crop Improvement Association’s newsletters arrived at the same time! Perhaps SFQ might put NY small farm organizations like NYPA, NOFA-NY and NY OCIA in your Resource Spotlight section and have an article about “Certified Organic vs Farmers Sustainable Practices Pledge of NOFA-NY.” Big farms can be certified organic and ignore many practices easier to use on small farms. Hal Bauer, Springwater Farm Editor: Good suggestions for resources to highlight - see NYPA spotlight in this issue. We’d welcome an article on the pros and cons of, and alternatives to, organic certification. We’re always looking for farmerauthors, too.
Is Small Farm Quarterly connected with a publication called Farmers Quarterly that was published in the 1960s? If so, I have a board game called “First Class Farmer” that was produced by Farmers Quarterly in 1965. It looks like a monopoly type game with a farming theme since it has farm deed cards & harvest cards & farming products cards. The game board is set up in a monopoly type fashion, but is has the four growing seasons sectioned off. Looks
like it would be fun to play! However I am missing the game instructions! Here are some pictures. I realize this is a long shot & this was made almost forty years ago but I was wondering if anyone could help me in locating a set of instructions? Rennie Murphy 5731 Willow View Drive Camarillo, CA 93012 firstname.lastname@example.org Editor: Will SFQ readers will rise to Rennie’s challenge? Tune in again next issue for the answer....
I recently read Jim Hayes’ article “Capture Higher Profits For Your Livestock With Direct Marketing” (Summer 2003). What really intrigued me was the question being raised concerning, “Economic stability - or sustainability.” With my particular area of interest being Agroecology - and especially the aspects of bio-sustainability - I get the feeling that there is a misconception out there that economic sustainability is the main focus when looking at the holistic sustainability of a farming enterprise. Too often the biophysical sustainability is neglected... Sustainability is very difficult to measure as it always exists in the future. It’s necessary to look at both ecological and economic indicators to measure sustainability. By design it requires a thorough understanding of agroecosystems to succeed. The whole topic of farm sustainability is vital for the future of small farmers, and a way needs to be found to assist them with decision-making tools if they are to be successful in incorporating the laws and principles of ecological design into their farming plans. Marco Turco, William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, NY
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Brovetto Dairy Farm And “Cheese House” One Family’s Dream Come True By Janet L. Aldrich On-farm cheese houses used to be commonplace across the Northeast. But now they’ve entered the realms of nostalgia, and that’s part of the draw at the Brovetto Dairy Farm in Harpersfield, NY. Ronald and Corinne Brovetto and their son Russell milk cows and make cheese for sale to local and regional consumers. Thirty years of experience in dairy farming is the main ingredient that makes it all work - the ability to work long hours, pay close attention to detail, build what needs to be built and fix what needs to be fixed. Cheesemaking was a dream from day one for Ronald Brovetto, and it took an entire family, their faith in God and each other, their friends, and their neighbors, to make it a reality. The Brovettos make a specialty cheese which they called “Harpersfield.” The original recipe is similar to Tilsiter, the third most popular cheese in Germany. It’s a cheese that Ron loved growing up, so he knew what cheese he wanted to make. “It is one of the most difficult cheeses to make, but, well... thirty years ago we didn’t know how to milk a cow when we moved up from Long Island either,” says Corinne with a smile.
“We estimated about $60,000 to get started, but it ran into more like $80,000,” said Corinne. “Ron designed the facility and we started pouring concrete in the spring of 2000. The whole family was in on it and we had a lot of help from our friends and neighbors. We worked all summer, and the following spring the kids laid the waterlines. We got the equipment late summer and set it all up ourselves. We made the first batch of cheese the day after Thanksgiving, and a couple of batches in December. Then we had that snowy winter and just had to keep the farm going so we didn’t start again until the end of February. That’s when we got to taste our first batches. We knew we liked it but didn’t know if any one else would. So we brought our cheese to church functions and I brought it to the nursing home for the staff to sample. They loved it.” A GROWING MARKET After this initial “taste testing,” the Brovettos had to wait for the first batches to age fully, and then brought some of their “Harpersfield Cheese” to local farmers’ markets. Customers were delighted by the robust cheese, with its highly piquant rind, ivory white to yellow cheese, and slightly sour flavor. “Our cheese is unique,” Ron explains. “It can’t be duplicated by the big cheese manufacturers like Kraft. We use only the milk from our own cows, bred especially over the last 30 years for our cheese. Our ripening room can’t be duplicated - it’ a unique environment that allows specific molds and bacteria to grow, which are critical to the aging process.” The only ingredients are milk, salt and enzymes, plus various natural herbs and spices that make the different varieties of Harpersfield cheese.
Soon a few local farm stores picked up the product, and it began to take off. By now the Brovettos sell to over 25 local and regional outlets including grocery stores, caterers, restauCheese wheels are left to age in “The Cave,” which maintains 100% rants, farm stores, and humidity. Photos by Janet Aldrich farmers’ markets, and it’s in demand throughout the state. They have increased production to Ron and Corinne raised four children on 300-400 pounds a week. Their cheese this 40-cow, 280-acre dairy farm. They both always sells well and they feel they could worked off the farm as well, she as a nurse, easily market more than twice that amount. he as an engineer. Now their son Russell manages the farm and cheese plant, Ron The Brovettos plan to expand their cheese does the milking, and Corrine takes care of production to two days every 2 weeks, the calves. adding value to 20-30% of their own milk. Also, in a unique partnership arrangement, GETTING STARTED IN CHEESE MAKING Joe Popovich of Popovich Provisions now uses the Brovettos’ facilities to make his In October of 1999, with the family’s full famous mozzarella cheese. They are develsupport, Ron and Corrine began by developing their capacity to make curd for him oping a business plan. They received from their milk, and anticipate this to hapadvice and help from their local bank, the pen in ‘04. nonprofit Regional Farm and Food Project, The American Cheese Society, A GROWING INDUSTRY International Machinery (a Wisconsin equipment supplier), and specialists from Since beginning their own cheese making the NYS Department of Agriculture and business, the Brovettos have also become Markets. active in helping to develop the fledgling farmstead cheese industry in New York.
Ron hands the “harp” over to Corinne, as they draw it through and cut the curd into small pieces. They are founding members of the NY Farmstead and Artisan Cheese Makers (see Resource Spotlight). They have hosted educational tours for diverse groups, and freely offer advice to farmers interested in starting a similar enterprise. Why? “The money is there, in specialty cheese, and it can save a farm,” says Corrine. “We get a lot of calls, but helping other farmers is our top priority.” Many other people visit the Brovetto Dairy Farm and Cheese House just to see the operation. “Sometimes when people come in here, they actually get tears in their eyes because it reminds them of childhood memories of cheesemaking in Europe.” The Brovetto family is heartily enthusiastic about the future. Their dream now is to expand their reception area so that they can accommodate small farmer-oriented workshops on-site and create enough room for an on-farm Cheese Shop where they can more effectively sell retail. They envision working with other local agriculture entrepreneurs in the area to blend their “Pride of New York” campaign with a local emphasis honoring the history of Harpersfield farm products. Ron and Corrine have placed all their efforts in this
The Harpersfield Cheese House.
farm project and plan to continue being a part of the farm operation for a long time to come. ONE MORE SMALL SUCCESS As this tiny farmstead cheese house grows in stature and recognition for its culinary quality and educational outreach, it is one more signal that small farms and their farmers do have a big future in American agriculture. Small farms like the Brovettos’ are shaping the future of our food system by finding new pathways to sustainability — producing local farm products we can trust for top quality and real, wholesome taste. To find out more about cheese making you can reach Ron and Corrine Brovetto at their home in Harpersfield at 607-2786622. Or write to them at Box 216, Harpersfield, NY, 13786, or email email@example.com. Just don’t call on Wednesdays - they’re a little too busy! Janet L. Aldrich is a Community Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County. This article was adapted and updated from an article published in the NovemberDecember 2001 Part Time Farmer.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Why I Make Maple Syrup by Lane Clute It has been a long, cold winter and finally March has arrived. The sun is getting higher in the sky, warming everything its rays touch. The thermometer reads 35 degrees but it feels like 55 degrees. The air is soft and the breeze is warm. It’s a whole different world from four weeks earlier and a good time to be outside. It’s sugaring time. A question every sugarmaker hears repeatedly is, “Why do you make maple syrup?” My reasons are numerous. My father did it, my grandfather did it and Grandpa’s father did it before him. It is truly a family tradition.
Syrup production varies as much as sap collection. Some make syrup on flat pans over wood fires outside, finishing off just 1/2 gallon of syrup per day in the home kitchen. Some have small sugarhouses and evaporators capable of making 1/2 gallon per hour. The largest sugarhouses and evaporators are capable of producing 60 gallons per hour. Large sugarhouses use reverse osmosis and piggyback or steam-away systems as enhancements to the process.
individual marketing strategies, payback for these new technologies can be quite short.
mare. Having “your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted” is essential in wholesale contracts.
MARKETING STRATEGIES Marketing strategies include bulk, wholesale and retail sales. Retail selling gives the producer optimal control over pricing and profit. Retails sales can be from your sugarhouse or roadside stand; a local farm market or “jumping in with both feet” and setting up a site on the internet.
Lastly, the bulk or drum market is available to local producers. This option allows you to “barrel” whatever you produce, market it to a bulk buyer and accept whatever payment is offered. This option is the least profitable.
Maple syrup production is a second source of income for many Northeast farms. It is the time of the year to get out of the shop and barns, but too early to be in the fields. The equipment is in place, the trees stand ready; the weather is right and tradition says it’s time to draw sap and make maple syrup. A FAMILY AFFAIR You will frequently find as many as three generations of a family in the sugarhouse during the 4-6 week season from midFebruary to mid-April. Grandparents, husbands and wives, sons and daughters are all involved in some aspect of maple syrup production on family farms. Tapping the trees; evaporating the sap; making maple cream and sugar cakes; packaging products; marketing products and shipping are among the many jobs done by the multigeneration farm family. Maple production operations are as diverse as the individual sugarmakers. Sap collection systems range from buckets hanging on trees and gathered using horses, to oldstyle tubing systems, to the most recent developments in vacuum technology and small diameter spouts.
Whether you use a high-tech system or just a few buckets, making maple syrup is often a family tradition. Photo courtesy of NY Farms! Photo by Susan J.M. Everdyke Maple syrup production can be a profitable aspect of farm operation. Some estimates show that 1,000+ taps is the break-even point. Others suggest that 600+ taps in combination with other farm enterprises can be as profitable. With the new technology - high vacuum and small diameter spouts; a properly set up tubing system can produce up to 1/2 gallon of syrup per tap. Previously, a quart of syrup per tap was considered the normal crop. Depending on
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Value-added maple products are profitable. One gallon of maple syrup will make approximately 8 pounds of maple cream at $10 a pound - you receive $80 for that gallon of syrup and a little extra work. One gallon can also fill around 75 of the 50 ML leaf bottles which retail for $3. The cost of the bottle ($.60) plus 1.7 ounces of syrup you do the math. Not bad for that gallon of syrup!!! Maple production is like any other farm enterprise - you get back what you put in it. In closing, I’ll quote a popular saying from the maple business: “Old sugarmakers never die - they just evaporate.” Lane and Kathy Clute own and operate Clute’s Maple Products in Naples, NY.
LANSING, NY 607-533-4850
Another option is the wholesale market. Local retailers; fundraisers; high visibility fruit and vegetable stands and health food stores are some venues. Wholesale business is very competitive. Local producers generally cannot compete with the major packers on pricing. You need to find a unique outlet for your wholesale business. Wholesale business requires strict delivery and payment terms - which can be a night-
ADDING VALUE Worldwide consumption of maple products continues to rise 10% a year. This trend is due to educating the consumer to the use of maple syrup and value-added maple products. Value-added maple products include maple cream, granulated maple sugar, formed sugar cakes, maple syrup packed in fancy glass containers; maple mustard; maple glazed nuts and maple toppings. New maple confections arrive on the market continuously. All value-added products that are not pure (maple nuts, maple mustards, maple toppings, dressings and sauces, etc.) require a NYS Ag and Markets license.
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NYS Cheese Guild The NYS Cheese Guild was organized to foster a strong and vibrant farmstead artisan cheesemaking sector in the state. At the founding membership meeting in January 2003, the numerous cheesemakers present identified four major objectives: • To encourage excellence in NY state farmstead and artisan cheeses • To provide activities that will promote and sustain cheesemaking as a craft and livelihood within NY state • To assist small scale cheesemakers with marketing and distribution initiatives fostering greater access to the broad range of buyers, from brokers to chefs to consumers
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• To represent the interests of members to government agencies and the media. The Guild addresses the need for a collective trade organization for the growing number of small-scale cheesemakers in New York state. In addition, the organization will develop a voice and a collective market presence for farmbased and artisan cheese makers. The Guild is the recipient of a $26,000 start up grant from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. These funds will be used for educational and marketing efforts. By next spring, the Guild should have a greater public presence, including its own website and brochure listing all member cheesemakers. For more information, contact: Peter Kindel, Listening Rock Farm (President): (845) 877-6335 Jane North, Northland Sheep Dairy (Secretary): (607) 849-3328 Tracy Frisch, Regional Farm & Food Project (Convener): (518) 271-0744 Ron Brovetto, Membership (Treasurer): (607) 278-6622 For a Guild membership form, please email email@example.com
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
FarmNet Profile: Family Communications Is Key By Jim Ashton Many Northeast farms are experiencing serious problems. They are suffering not only from poor prices and weather-related issues, but also from stress, tension and poor communications resulting in anger and disruption of the family and business. The key word here is communications. The NY FarmNet Program, based at Cornell University, has provided free and confidential financial and family consulting for nearly 20 years, working with farm families to help them confront and alter communication patterns that block healthy family relations. Sometimes communication problems are causing the farm business to spin out of control because family members are not able to talk to one another. Many farmers request help from NY FarmNet with financing, marketing, or business planning. But often the consultant finds that the underlying problem is a lack of sound communication — sometimes a
lack of any communication — between father and son, or between spouses, or with neighbors, service providers or regulating agencies. A recent FarmNet case provides a good example (names and some of the details are changed here.) A CASE IN POINT Stan, a dairy farmer in his mid-sixties, wants to retire and transfer the farm to his son, who is currently working for another farmer. Stan wants to spend winters in Florida and summers on the family farm. He has not mentioned these goals to his son Chuck because he knows that most conversations between them break down, with one or both becoming offended, and one or the other stomping off with yet another wound to think about. They always seem to bring up old grievances, such as the fact that Stan has never been able to accept Chuck’s wife as a daughter in law. Stan finally called the FarmNet 800 helpline for assistance with his son not being able to listen to him. A pair of FarmNet consult-
Juggling By Martha Goodsell I don’t think of myself as an entertainer, not in the true sense of the word. As a mother I certainly have some entertaining to do, but the audience is captive and I don’t get paid for it. But, I have gotten really good at juggling. I didn’t learn to juggle like most folks do. I sort of adapted to it. I don’t juggle balls, or rings of fire. No I just juggle life — four kids, a husband, a house, a farm, a few large projects, a few part time jobs, and many organizations! “How do you do it?” is the question I get most often. “Do what?” I tease back, knowing full well what folks are really asking. “You know, juggle it all.” I don’t often think about it, I just do it. But, I suppose my life, my juggling act, is like this: In the air are four small balls, very bright in color, very delicate and extremely valuable. These balls must be handled with tender, loving care. I need to be able to watch them at all times, and I juggle them close to my heart. These balls represent my four children. My children are my priority and always come first. I don’t man-handle them, or treat them roughly. I never put them down, rather I guide them and keep them continually on course. In orbit are a half dozen rubber-like balls that I am constantly handling. They are not large, they are not small; neither are they heavy nor light. They get tossed in the air and they come down on their own. Once in a while a ball may need to be mended or replaced but juggling these balls is very routine. I know what to expect with each and every one. The balls are consistent, so juggling them is easy. The duties I have at my jobs, on the farm and in the house are like this. Do some research, make some phone calls, read the mail, feed the animals, pack the orders, prepare the invoices, load the washers, sweep the floor. It’s all very frequent and all very methodical. I juggle about a dozen balls that are as light as a feather. When they get thrown into the sky they fly high and it takes a long time for them to come back. These balls are fun and enjoyable to work with. They have lots of up-lifting qualities. Volunteer
work is like this. Boards and organizations tend to meet once a month. There I take on jobs that I can handle. I learn from these groups. I enjoy the company of their members. I work with people I like and respect. Everyone shares the workload. The light balls give me time to manage the balls that are heavy and can’t go very far in the air. Heavy balls need constant attention. These are the big projects; the ones that need lots of work just to make it off the ground. These balls can easily sap you of your energy. It’s better to juggle the biggest of balls with a team approach. I have a few very heavy balls, some of which I juggle alone, some I juggle with others. Leading an organization for which there is little support is like juggling a bowling ball! Fighting the opposition at every turn for the survival of an industry is like juggling a cannon ball. It’s not fun, it’s hard work and it definitely has made me a stronger person. Just for the thrill of it all, there’s always some ball that will explode or fall apart. I never know which one it might be, so I’ve always got to be ready. It might be a flat tire in the middle of a snowstorm. It might be a gate left open and animals in the yard. It might be a customer that needs an order filled yesterday. I never know exactly what will happen, I’ve just learned the hard way that something always will, and I need to expect the unexpected. Life’s like juggling. I choose the balls I want to juggle. I can put balls down and I can pick balls up. The most important thing to remember about juggling is that it is important to pick and choose the right mix of balls. If they are all too heavy I’ll quit. If they’re too light I’ll get bored. I can handle balls frequently or just enough to keep them going round. I can throw balls high or I can choose to keep balls close. I’ve got to practice juggling to keep good at it. The stronger I am the better I’ll be. And I’ll never know exactly how many balls I can handle until I try. Martha Goodsell raises fallow deer at Fallow Hollow Farm in Candor, NY. Among the many other responsibilities she juggles, she serves as Executive Director of NY Farms!
ants were assigned to work with the family and started by interviewing family members as to the cause of poor communications. At the next family meeting everyone’s grievances were listed. They made a chart of each problem, and a solution for the problem. A consultant coached them on communications: statements beginning with the word “you” were to be dropped and substituted with statements beginning with “I.” This way attacking statements were turned into “I wish” statements. Quickly the courtesy level of conversations rose. Family members worked at rewording “you should be doing such-and-such” to “I feel such-and-such is next on our agenda, what do you think?” The family, wanting good relations, was quick to adopt these
positive conversational behaviors. Discussions are now being completed peacefully, decisions are being made and personal and business goals are being shared. Family members recognized how a few words, tone of voice, body language all contribute to misunderstanding, hurt feelings and anger. FarmNet is available at no cost to farm families in New York State (see Resource Spotlight.) For farm families outside of New York, counseling is available from professional family counselors or through clergy, offices of mental health, conflict mediation programs, or your school counselor. Jim Ashton is a Family Consultant with the NY FarmNet Program in Eastern NY.
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SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
NY FarmNet: A Resource for Small Farmers According to Cathy Sheils, Director of NY FarmNet, “Farming is a challenging and sometimes stressful occupation, requiring careful management, thoughtful decision making, and constant problem solving and planning.” Given the stresses and challenges of operating a small farm, it’s extremely important to seek out information, assistance and support from a variety of resources to assist you with your business planning and problem solving. NY FarmNet is one important resource for farm families in New York State. The NY FarmNet program was established in 1986 to help farm families with the inherent problems and decisions related to managing a farm business and farm family life. Since the program began FarmNet has
responded to approximately 28,000 helpline calls and has provided on-farm financial and family consulting to approximately 8,500 New York farm families. “We specialize in working with farmers on financial, family, farm transfer and legal issues,” says Cathy. “If there is a production or technical concern we make referrals to other sources of assistance.” Farmers call the 800 helpline (1-800-547-FARM) with questions or problems related to farm management, finances, enterprise changes and analysis, farm transfer, retirement, farm entering or exiting, family communications, conflict and legal issues. NY FarmNet works with all sizes and types of farms. Each call to the 800 helpline is responded
to in a personalized manner by staff who have farm knowledge and backgrounds. Depending on the situation, responses include providing information, phone consulting, making referrals, research and calling back or assigning a FarmNet consultant to work directly with you. In 2002, we responded to over 2,045 helpline calls and our consultants made 998 on-farm consultations, working with farmers to help them identify options and resolve problems. Consultants work one on one with farm families to address their particular business and family needs. All services are free and confidential. FarmNet is supported by the New York State Department of Agriculture and
Markets, Cornell University Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York and County Farm Bureaus, NYSEG, Kraft Foods and other industry organizations. A phone call to 1-800-547-FARM will put you in touch with a FarmNet consultant. Or visit our website at www.nyfarmnet.org. For farm families outside of New York State, some financial consulting help may be available from Cooperative Extension, Farm Credit, private consulting firms, accountants, or attorneys. Family counseling is available from professional family counselors or through clergy, offices of mental health, conflict mediation programs, or school counselor.
FarmNet Profile:Getting Help With Tough Management Decisions By Anita Cassard Peter started growing organic vegetables in the early 1990’s on about 4 acres of land. Within a few years he purchased additional acreage — with owner financing — making a total of 20 acres in production. Using existing outbuildings, Peter remodeled to establish greenhouses and to provide areas to sort, clean, pack and store produce. The following years he spent completing capital improvements to increase production. He installed high tensile fencing to
keep out deer, drilled an additional well for irrigation and ran electricity to the outbuildings. It was important to Peter and his family to grow vegetables organically. From the beginning his growing methods were aligned with NOFA-NY standards, and the farm is now in it’s sixth year of certification. The first few years he spent developing the soil organic matter, using cover crops and compost on most of the cropland. Then the fields were gradually rotated into vegetable production.
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The farm now produces vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit and berries, and sells them at farmers markets, restaurants, on site and through wholesale organic cooperatives. Originally Peter relied partly on off-farm income, but over the past few years he’s been reducing that, which was part of his plan. Recently Peter contacted the FarmNet 800 helpline because he was considering an expansion of the farm and the current business was experiencing cash flow problems and high employee turn over. As a FarmNet Financial Consultant, I was assigned to work with Peter to help him analyze his current business and to discuss expansion plans. One of the first things we worked on was developing a system to keep monthly records of income and receipts in order to track financial performance of the farm. The farm was making its debt payments each year, but Peter was borrowing money to cover operating costs and the level of operating debt was increasing each year. He had some harvest problems and was unable to meet some cus-
With the help of FarmNet, Peter developed a budget and cash flow plan for the current farm business and identified areas for improvement in financial management and employee relations. Peter continues to meet with me to discuss and update his plan, and to work on developing his financial management systems and employee relations skills. I’ve also encouraged him to take advantage of Cooperative Extension business management and human resources courses and publications. Peter is still considering expanding his operation, and has a friend willing to invest in his business. But before he takes on any more debt he is going to focus on improving farm business performance at his current size of operation. Anita Cassard is a financial consultant in Central New York with the NY FarmNet Program.
Crossroads with Claire Hebbard Successful small farm families are the foundation for successful small farm businesses. This column is dedicated to farm families working together, and provides a forum for your questions about the intersection of the farm family and the business.
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Q: We have three children, ages 9, 11 and 14. The kids are expected to help out around the farm, but our son (the oldest) doesn’t like the farm and is difficult to deal with, being sulky and crabby. Is this just a normal part of having a teenager, and how can I lighten the mood around here?
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tomer’s orders because employee turnover prevented him from getting the crop picked on time.
A: First born children are often natural leaders, but may be easily discouraged if they can’t be as competent as adults. Supporting tradition and tending to be conventional, firstborns often feel threatened at the loss of love. Your son may seem sulky and crabby if he is trying to please others but feels resentful. Parents often have high expectations of their firstborn children, and want them to set an example for the others. This may be viewed as “unfair” by the oldest, who may complain, give orders, be
uncooperative or refuse to participate. Misbehavior is usually an attempt to gain attention from others. It could be helpful to talk to your son about his feelings about the farm. Perhaps you could let him know that everyone is expected to contribute to the family’s well-being but offer some flexibility around what chores he does. Are there chores he prefers over others? Encourage him to participate, let him know that his contributions are valuable, and find ways to allow him to develop some leadership skills. Offer constructive support when he makes mistakes. If his mood or attitude does not improve, you may find it helpful to consult with a professional concerning your parenting options. Although rebellion and crabby moods may be common among teenagers, you don’t have to let a bad attitude rule the roost. Send a question of your own to Crossroads, c/o Claire Hebbard, NY FarmNet, 415 Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Potential for Profit: The Icelandic Sheep by Frances Smith What kind of livestock venture can be profitable for the small farmer living in today’s world? Most consultants would not say sheep. And in the main, we would agree with them. Yet there is a breed of sheep available today that can be profitable — Icelandics! At one time, wool was a valuable harvest for the farmer, and the meat produced by sheep provided both food and income for the family — enough income to allow a comfortable living. Today that is generally not the case. Wool prices are at a record low, and lamb is no longer an American staple. Supermarkets can buy imported lamb at very low prices, and American producers have a hard time selling their meat at a profit large enough for them to stay in business.
very minimal, for these ewes are masters at natural pasture lambing, giving birth to twins and triplets without assistance and raising them without help. Gestation time is usually 145 days, slightly shorter than most sheep, so lambs are born slightly smaller, hence fewer lambing problems. Lambs that are born at 6-10 lbs. reach 90-120 lbs. by slaughter time.
for more information at 585-335-3439, email@example.com, or visit their website at www.icelandicsheepworld.com.
Their naturally short tails eliminate the need for docking and the health risks associated. Castrating is not necessary as these sheep are seasonal breeders, and by the time lambs are ready for slaughter they have been weaned and separated from the ewes. Prolificacy is a naturally
What can brighten this picture for the American small farmer wishing to keep sheep? Enter the Icelandic Sheep. Less than twenty years ago, Stephania Dignum Sveinbjarnardottir was able to import some of the sheep from her native Iceland into Canada. It was a long, involved process, a combination of patience, persistence, and a refusal to give up. But why is this significant to us today, and to our future?
Icelandics are easy to raise - hardy and prolific. This is Moonwink, polled ram.
The Icelandic Sheep can provide what has been missing for the small sheep farmer. This is a triple purpose, hardy, prolific animal that can bring the word profitable back into the farmer’s vocabulary. The Icelandic sheep is a dairy animal, a fiber producer, and an excellent meat animal. It can bring in multiple sources of income. Handspinners are excited about the luxurious double-coated fleece and the soft roving. The renowned Lopi style yarn sells by the ounce. The discriminating and increasingly health conscious public is buying the delicately flavored, natural Icelandic meat and delicious home produced natural cheeses produced by farmers of Icelandic Sheep. Specialty cheesemaking companies purchase raw milk, and knowledgeable individuals wanting to tap into this growing market are buying breeding stock. Hand felted items like mittens, boots, slippers, vests, and jackets are easy to make and much in demand for excellent prices. The list goes on for the person willing to invest the time and commitment to succeed. EASY TO RAISE What sets this breed of sheep apart? A number of things. Hardiness certainly is the hallmark of a breed able to withstand the bitter winters of Iceland and survive by grazing out in the hills for much of the year. Housing needs are
The fleece of the Icelandic has a longer outer coat and a soft, downy inner coat. These are fleece samples of Icelandic black grey color pattern. Photos by Frances Smith
Icelandic lambs weigh just 6-8 pounds at birth. This is little HeartsEase Lentil, just days old. occurring trait, with twins the norm and triplets not unusual. Some lines produce quads. Because of their milky natures, ewes very seldom need assistance raising lambs. MULTIPLE MARKETS The meat from Icelandic sheep has an unusually delicate and mild flavor, and has been frequently imported from Iceland by some of the most exclusive restaurants in this country. Now domestic meat is available without the import costs, while still at a premium price for the farmer/direct marketer. Also, Icelandics do exceedingly well as grassfed animals, making them perfect for direct marketing to individuals who are health conscious and want exquisite flavor.
The Icelandic Sheep is a triple purpose animal, producing milk, meat and fiber. This is HeartsEase Hawkweed.
The fleece of the Icelandic is dual coated, with a longer outer coat called the tog, and a soft, downy inner coat called the thel. Spun together either by handspinners or by a proceesing mill, this can result in the lovely Lopi style yarn so in demand for sweaters, or in two ply sock yarn that is extremely durable. Separated and spun separately, the thel can produce yarn soft enough and fine enough for baby clothes and items that can be worn next to the skin, while the tog can produce a superior yarn for weavers and rug makers. Add to this the incredible array of natural colors, and you have an unbeatable-and profitable-combination. Icelandic sheep have successfully been used by sheep dairy farmers to produce really high quality milk for rich, flavorful cheeses. Some sheep dairy farmers have found this to be the kind of milk processors will pay a premium for, and others have produced their own unique, local cheeses which are in high demand by the discriminating public through direct marketing channels. Breeding stock now commands excellent prices, and the use of artificial insemination with imported Icelandic semen produces stock that sells for premium prices. We believe that as the value of the Icelandic sheep becomes more widely known, the demand will be even higher, because more animals will be needed to satisfy these growing markets. All in all, if you’re a farmer interested in a profitable livestock venture, the Icelandic Sheep could be your opportunity to enter a financially rewarding market. Frances Smith and Wendy Fast own HeartsEase Farm Icelandic Sheep, south of Rochester, New York. They raise Icelandics and sell fleece, roving, felting batts, pelts, lamb meat, and breeding stock. Contact them
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SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Quality of Life: What Does It Mean to You? by John Thurgood and Phil Metzger The way we live our lives and conduct our affairs affects our quality of life. We make hundreds of decisions each and every day. Think about it — have you ever considered how many decisions you make from the time you get up in the morning to when you go to bed at night? DECISIONS, DECISIONS The alarm clock rings, you hit the snooze button once (your first decision of the day), it rings again and you get up. You think about how the weather is going to be today ... cold ... and decide to put on several layers. Should I grab a bite before going to the barn? OK, just a little coffee cake and a cup of joe. Now, you’re in the barn and a quick scan shows all is in order, no overflowing waterers, no loose stock. You start chores by feeding your cows hay before grain to maintain good rumen health. This was a decision made several years ago, and you set a feeding protocol that you follow each day. You begin milking. Last winter you decided to maintain a milking interval of close to twelve hours, which is why you only hit the snooze button once to make sure you would start milking on time.
HOW DO YOU MAKE DECISIONS? So how do you commonly make decisions? Most of us tend to choose actions that direct us toward a single goal or objective. In dairy farming we often focus on milk production per cow. In other businesses, it’s commonly next quarter’s profit and loss statement. If the world were simple or linear, this would work nicely. However, the world is actually quite complex, and everything is interconnected. Or said another way — the world is holistic in nature. Holistic is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “... dealing with wholes or integrated systems rather than with their [individual] parts.” Conventional, linear decision-making lacks a holistic perspective and therefore usually leads to unintended consequences. A holistic decision means that you consider not only the economic impact of a twelve-hour milking interval, but also the environmental and social aspects of the decision. The environmental impact of the twelve-hour milking interval decision probably isn’t that significant, except that more milk per cow with about the same use of inputs means that you are maximizing the use of resources, which is a good thing.
as land or finances, they should be involved. Start by giving each person time to say what is most important to them. Don’t interrupt. Listen. Write each person’s ideas down. Then discuss what is important as a group. Finally, work to put what all desire into a concise 25 paragraph statement. It might start like, “River Bend Dairy values ...”. Your Quality of Life statement is now the beacon that all involved in the family and business are moving toward. When making decisions, all should ask, “Is this action going to take us farther from, or closer to the quality of life that we desire.” For each decision ask yourself, “What impact will this decision have on the profitability of our farm, how will it affect our family life and how will it affect the natural resources that our farm depends on?” Wow!!! You can see the power in that approach. FARMER TESTIMONIALS Here is what some farmers that we’ve worked with say about the experience of learning about Holistic Management and the power of developing a Quality of Life statement:
“It helps everybody involved get their goals in line with each other.”
If you look at this closely, you will find that from the time you wake up until you put the first milker on, you’ve already made many decisions. Most of these are “small” decisions, the kind you make continually throughout the day.
“We referenced our statement and made a decision that most closely related to what we want for quality of life” “I feel it is very beneficial in helping farms identify their needs, wants and goals and helps them to understand how to... get to where they want to be and what they want out of life.”
Now let’s look at the bigger decisions. There were two large decisions mentioned above — the decision to feed hay before grain, and the decision to maintain a twelvehour milking interval. What criteria did you use in making these decisions? Was it solely economics, trying to maximize milk production per cow? Or did you consider other aspects of these issues before making the decision?
So what do you think? Is this doable for your family? Maybe you’re thinking that you could use some help working through the process of developing your Quality of Life statement. Many people with facilitation skills can help you, including your extension agent with farm management responsibilities, your pastor, or a personal counselor. A Quality of Life statement may be just what you need to help your business thrive and your family to attain the quality of life you desire.
You’re probably asking yourself at this point, where are John and Phil going with this discussion? The point is, each and every day we What do YOU want out of life? Are fresh air, beautiful views and friendly, farming neighbors part of the For more information on Holistic Management make hundreds of decisions. Some quality of life you value? Photo by Bill Henning contact John Thurgood at 607-865-7090, firstname.lastname@example.org or Phil Metzger at 607are rather small - you probably don’t 334-3231, x4 or email@example.com or visit even think of them as being choices. Others are large, the The social aspects of maintaining a twelve-hour milking www.holisticmanagement.org and click on Holistic types of judgments we ponder for days, weeks, or someinterval can be very significant. Carried to the extreme, Management in the left hand column. times years. While the small decisions don’t seem imporfamily activities may be sacrificed to maintain the interval. tant, when put together they add up to having a significant For example, you know you need to start milking at 5:00 John Thurgood is a Senior Whole Farm Planner for impact on your quality of life. The large decisions obviously pm and Sherry’s soccer game starts at 4:30 pm. Should Cornell Cooperative Extension as part of the NYC have a greater influence on your future, and you need to you forgo the game? When she is finally off to college and Watershed Agricultural Program and Phil Metzger is take time and consider all of the potential ramifications. you haven’t ever seen her play you might wish you made the USDA NRCS Coordinator for the Central NY the cows wait on occasion. Other families face similar Resource Conservation and Development Council. choices — a corporate executive decides to maintain a 60hour workweek to ensure continued career growth and promotion. Meanwhile, he/she hasn’t seen his/her children play soccer in years. What are the effects of that choice?
Annual Performance Tested Bull Sale May 1, 2004 Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange GALLAGHERS ANGUS FARM 349 Legget Rd. • Ghent, NY 12075 (518) 392-4110 • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phil Trowbridge PJ.Trowbridge Mallory Mort Cell (518) 369-6584 Cell (518) 755-7467 Cell (518) 821-9030 www.gallaghersstud.com/angus.htm
Sample Quality of Life Statement
So here’s the essential point. Your desired quality of life has three main elements: economic; environmental; and social. To attain the quality of life you desire, your decisions need to take all three elements into account. Making a Quality of Life statement If you are going to attain the quality of life that you desire, begin with writing a Quality of Life statement. It’s been said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Articulating what you and your family desire in life, along with a clear statement of purpose for your business, will provide a focal point for all to work toward. Consistent decision making over time, focusing on the quality of life you desire, is the key. It is an essential part of managing holistically. You may be asking “How can I develop this Quality of Life statement for my farm?” Everyone on your farm needs to be involved. Include all family members, and the hired help. If there is an older generation that is not involved in the business day-to-day, but controls key resources such
We desire a safe, comfortable, supportive and financially secure environment for our children and ourselves. We want to maintain good health. We desire all family members to lead happy and fruitful lives. We desire to have healthy cattle and land. We want our farm to be aesthetically pleasing to passersby to promote our farm and the wholesomeness of our farm products. We want Hometown to be a vibrant community.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Forestry Practices to Avoid: Just Say No To High-Grading By Peter J. Smallidge and Michael C. Greason Currently the prices paid for timber in New York woodlots are good and harvesting activity has increased during the last decade. However, what may surprise many forest and woodlot owners is that some forestry techniques can limit options for future benefits and enjoyment — both in the long run and short term. While wellplanned timber harvesting can increase your benefits, “high-grading” and related practices should be avoided. WHAT IS “HIGH-GRADING?” Cutting the best trees (those of highest value) and leaving the low value, often diseased or malformed trees, is too common. This type of forestry is called high-grading, where the highest grade (or value) trees are removed. By cutting only the largest and most valuable trees you remove those best suited to that site. The trees that are less well adapted remain as the next forest and the seed source for future forests. The financial gain of high-grading exists only briefly, yet ownership objectives can be sacrificed for decades. A similar analogy from livestock is the farmer or stable manager who shoots the blue ribbon bull or winning race horse and uses the losers for breeding stock. The quality of the herd, just as the quality of the forest and woodlot, declines rapidly! In addition to high-grading, similar practices exist with different names. High-grading is often disguised under the name of “diameter-limit cutting”. This is a practice that removes all trees above a certain minimum diameter. In some rare situations diameterlimit cutting is appropriate. For example, if old pasture trees are shading the growth of good quality and desirable young hardwood saplings. Often however, diameter-limit cutting removes trees of commercial value (say above 12 or 14 inches in diameter) before these trees can attain a more valuable size and add seed and seedlings to the forest. Selective cutting is another technique where high-grading can occur. Technically, selective cutting can include beneficial activities such as improvement cuts. But as commonly practiced, selective cutting usually means selecting the highest quality trees and cutting them. Selective cutting, generally not recommended, differs from the selection system, which is a legitimate technique. The selec-
tion system involves someone professionally trained in silviculture — the science, art and practice of caring for forests with respect to human objectives — to select trees from all age and size classes, both high and low quality to produce an unevenaged forest. Diameter-limit cutting and selective cutting are often rationalized by arguing to remove the bigger trees so the smaller trees can grow. However, the smaller trees may be undesirable species, poor form, or poor heath. By any name, high-grading degrades the value of the forest regardless of the “logic” used by foresters or loggers trying to make a quick buck. Why does high-grading happen? A common cause for high-grading is greed to maximize immediate profits. Beginning in the early 1970’s, demand for high-value timber increased and sawmills could pay more for certain species. Thus, markets for high-value trees grew stronger while markets for low value trees did not. Further, it costs about the same amount of money to cut and haul a $10 tree as it does to cut and haul a $300 tree of the same size. Another factor is that taxes on forest land not under the NYS 480-a Forest Tax Law can create financial hardships that encourage landowners to maximize immediate profits. The result is that more immediate profit is gained by cutting only the highest value trees, but left behind is a legacy of low quality trees and under-productive forests. This knowledge helps explain highgrading, but doesn’t excuse it. Is it really that bad? What are the consequences of high-grading? One result is that the trees that are left behind won’t grow as quickly as better quality trees and the time until the next harvest is lengthened. In addition, the next harvest will remove the low quality trees previously left so the value at the next harvest will be reduced. If you magnify the practice of high-grading across a region, assuming the demand for wood products remains steady, then more acres must be harvested to meet the same demand. While timber harvesting is not bad, accelerated harvesting is not in the best interest of our natural resources and conflicts with a growing demand by the public for accountability of natural resource management. As the value of the land to produce timber crops decreases, the incentive to subdivide and develop increases.
Tree tops from cutting of a high value stem. High grading can eliminate some species and shift the forest to other, less desirable and less productive species. Photo by Peter Smallidge Although high-grading leaves a forest of trees behind, there are hidden ecological costs. Because the healthiest trees with the fewest defects are removed, the overall health of the forest is reduced. The remaining trees may be more susceptible to the effects of insects, pathogens, strong winds or ice-storms and less able to recover after these disturbances occur. They will likely grow more slowly than the trees that were removed would have. Often high-grading emphasizes cutting of a few species and leaves behind other species. This reduction in tree species diversity can have negative consequences for wildlife that depended on the harvested species for food or shelter. Species such as red oak, sugar maple, and black cherry are economically valuable and produce seeds that are valued by wildlife. In any particular year, only one or a few species may produce an abundant crop of seeds. If those species were removed by high-grading, wildlife that used those seeds will need to find alternative food sources and that seed source may be permanently gone from the woodlot. What can you do to avoid high-grading? One step is to work with competent and professional loggers and foresters. When you select a new refrigerator or car you likely consider several features, including price, reputation, service after the sale, and other long-term benefits. You’ll certainly go see what the refrigerator looks like. You should use at least these same criteria when you select your forester and logger. Ask for references, find out if the forester participates in continuing education programs and whether the logger has completed the “Trained Logger Certification” program, make a visit to forests or woodlots where they have worked, and know that the best price may not provide the best treatment for your land. The logger who out bids his competitors for a timber sale by a few percent may be more efficient or may not devote enough effort to ensure your property is left in good condition. Similarly the forester or logger who promises you maximum short-term profit likely doesn’t have in mind the best interests for you and your land. The consequences of selecting an incompetent forester or logger will exist longer than a bad choice on a refrigerator.
A stump left behind after the high quality stem was removed. Note the diameter of the cut stem is much greater than the diameter of the remaining stems. Photo by Peter Smallidge
Another step to avoid high-grading is to have a written management plan. Your management plan will state your objectives and help keep you on track. The harvesting
High-grading sacrifices the long term productivity of your woodlot. Photo by Jim Ochterski schedule in your management plan will help you decide when harvesting is appropriate. Just because a forester or logger offers to cut your timber doesn’t mean it’s the best time for your interests. The value of trees increases greatly as trees get bigger, and it’s probably a safe assumption that good markets will continue to exist for high quality trees (although markets fluctuate). You may be advised that the trees are “over-mature” or “need to be cut”. Know that these labels are subjective and they are only accurate in the context of your ownership objectives. Third, look for creative solutions to remove the low value trees at the same time the high value trees are harvested. A harvest that removes high-value and low-value trees provides financial benefits from the high- and low-value trees and improves the quality of the residual forest. One way is to have the forester mark and the logger skid the low value trees to the log landing. Then you can cut them yourself for firewood, or sell them to a firewood processor. This will require extra effort on the part of the logger and forester, which means you might not make as much money, but the benefits, including even greater profits, will exist a few years down the road. GET HELP WITH YOUR LONG-TERM PLAN Finally, get assistance from people focused on your interests to help you develop longterm objectives and management plans. continued on next page
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Forestry Practices cont. from previous page
Your local Cooperative Extension office should be able to refer you to sources of free, unbiased information and advice that will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of practicing short-sighted forestry. Here in New York State, we have Master Forest Owner Volunteers who are trained through Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide non-technical assistance to forest owners. The Catskill Forest Association and New York Forest Owners Association are landowner groups dedicated to helping other landowners enjoy their forest land. Contact your county office of Cornell Cooperative Extension or the nearest DEC office for more information.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation public service foresters are available for free consultation and can provide technical expertise and guidance on forest management. The DEC and the Society of American Foresters also maintain lists of foresters with certain credentials. These lists include people who have made certain investments in their professional development, but in no way do the lists assure competency. WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR WOODLOT WAS PREVIOUSLY HIGH-GRADED? In simple terms, you need to have a vision for what you want your forest to look like and then a planned set of actions to move you towards that goal. High-grading often happens incrementally, where the first entry removes the very best trees and months or
a few years later the rest of the valuable trees are cut. Once you get started on correcting past exploitations, your actions — which should link directly to your ownership objectives — depend on what you have to work with in your forest. A lightly high-graded forest may need only some thinning around the best trees and steps to ensure the forest can be effectively regenerated when the time comes. A heavily high-graded forest may no longer have the tree species you desire which will require you to create openings that you then plant to your desired species. The size of the openings and the species to plant will depend on the specifics of the site. A competent forester and your willingness to invest time and probably money are necessary to move a high-graded forest back to a sustainable forest.
For more articles on forest management, a virtual tour of sustainable forestry practices, and links to agencies and organizations to assist you, visit the Cornell University Forestry Extension web page at http://www.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/forestrypage Have fun and enjoy your forest. Peter J. Smallidge is NY State Extension Forester with Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources. Michael C. Greason is a Private Consulting Forester in Catskill, NY, and retired Chief of DEC’s Bureau of Private Land Services. This article is reprinted with permission from the series “Looking Into Your Woodlot,” published cooperatively by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the New York Forest Owners Association.
Safety Strategies: Managing the Farm Shop By Ellen Abend All farms, regardless of size or commodity produced, have a place where tools are kept and equipment is repaired or maintained. Over many years of visiting farms as a safety specialist, I have encountered shops of various configurations: a back room of the farm house; a small room adjacent to the milk house; a shed that used to be “something else”; and of course, actual shop buildings. The shop or tool shed is an integral part of every farm, but it’s also the site of many preventable injuries. The winter months provide an ideal time to assess and correct potential shop hazards. During busy crop seasons the farm shop can easily become disorganized. The clutter that accumulates often results in comments such as “watch your step” to visitors; maybe fixing the problem is a better approach. Serious farm-related injuries generally do not occur in the shop; however, injuries that do occur in shops may result in a day or two of lost work time. As a small farm owner, you need to ask yourself if you can really afford an injury like that. SHOP-RELATED INJURIES The most common injuries in shops affect the eyes, hands and back. Eye injuries are the result of not wearing safety glasses when using tools like grinders, drill presses, wire brushes, portable power tools, or anything that causes small particles to fly into the air. More severe eye injuries can occur if no eye protection is worn when using an oxyacetylene torch or welder. Even simple acts such as
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Here’s HOOF ROT Help! Dr. Naylor Hoof 'n Heel is a topical antiseptic aid in the treatment, prevention and management of HOOF ROT, FOOT ROT and FOULS • Colorless • Easy to use • Labeled for use on cows • No withholding Spray it on affected hoofs once or twice a day or make a foot bathing solution for preventive walk through. Always read and follow all label directions. Hoof 'n Heel is available from your favorite animal health supplier or H.W. Naylor Company, Inc., Morris, NY 13808-0190 (607) 263-5145.
climbing under equipment and looking up can result in dirt or debris getting into a person’s eye. Reducing the potential for eye injuries involves wearing proper eye protection when working in the shop. The type of eye protection needed depends on the equipment being used. Always wear safety glasses that meet the ANSI Z87.1-1989 standard to protect your eyes from flying objects. Operating the oxy-acetylene torch requires greentinted gas welding goggles or face shields to protect the eyes. A full face welding helmet with approved UV radiation filter plates is necessary when using ARC, MIG or TIG welding equipment. Hand injuries can result from using the wrong tool for the task, using a broken or damaged tool, not using the tool properly, hurrying, or not focusing on the task. The tool may slip causing a bruise, laceration or puncture wound to the hand or fingers. Sometimes a hand injury seems so minor that it is ignored, but considering the potential for infection, this is risky. Wearing work gloves can help to reduce hand injuries, but be careful not to wear them around moving parts of equipment. Also, you need to wear the appropriate gloves for the task; for example: gauntletstyle leather welding gloves will protect hands and arms when using a welder, but they should not be worn when handling chemicals. If you are handling chemicals in the shop, it is very important that you wear the type of gloves that are recommended on the material safety data sheet (MSDS) that should accompany every container purchased. Finally, leave all of your rings in the house - they do not belong in the workplace. Back injuries that occur in the farm shop are most often related to slips, trips, falls or improper lifting. Many back injuries require long-term treatment that can be expensive, and some result in disabilities lasting a lifetime. Prevention of back injuries is an important measure that relates to good housekeeping practices in the shop. Cleaning up spilled liquids at the time of the spill should be a top priority. Keeping the floor free of clutter and putting tools away after each job reduce the potential for trips and falls. Much has been written about proper lifting but we don’t always follow the recommendations, which include lifting with your legs, keeping your knees bent, carrying the load close to your body and not twisting at the waist or lifting over your head. MAKING YOUR SHOP SAFER Part of managing the farm shop involves making it a safer place to work. A clean, well-lit and organized shop not only provides a safer workplace, but it also encourages people to keep things neat. The following suggestions will help you to evaluate your shop for potential hazards: • Is the floor free of clutter? • Are tools neatly stored after each job? • • Do you have tool storage areas? • Do you clean up the work area after one job is completed? • Do you check the electrical wiring on power tools and extension cords for fraying, and replace them when damaged? • Is the lighting in your shop adequate? • Do you have oils and fluids stored away from heat sources? No fuels should be stored in the shop unless they are in spring-loaded containers that prevent explosion or fire.
• Are the protective guards and shields in place on bench equipment such as grinders and table saws? • Is personal protective equipment (safety glasses, gloves, etc.) available and regularly used? • Is ventilation adequate for welding, painting or using other aerosols? • If you have a heat source in the shop, is it well-maintained? Are there combustible items near it? • Do you keep charged fire extinguishers mounted near the exits? Have you checked them recently? Do you know how to use them? • Is there a first aid kit for minor injuries? • Does it get checked and restocked on a regular basis? Whether your farm shop is large or small, good housekeeping is the key first step in providing a safe place to work. Winter is an excellent time of year to clean up the clutter and re-organize your shop so that it will not only be a safer, but also a more efficient place to work. Ellen Abend is an Injury Prevention Specialist with the Agricultural Health and Safety Program at Cornell University. For more information about farm safety you can call Ellen at 607-255-1597.
Community, Food And Agriculture Web Site And Email Listserve
Are you looking for resources to help strengthen the community in which you live and farm? If so, check out the Community, Food and Agriculture Program website at www.CFAP.org. Among many other things, it includes an extensive Agricultural Economic and Community Development Information Clearinghouse. You can also join the CFAP-L email listserve and become part of the ongoing discussion about food and ag-based development in the Northeast. Learn about new strategies for strengthening farms, communities, and economies. Discuss topics ranging from emerging markets to value-added processing, economic development, diversification, assisting beginning farmers, agritourism and more. Keep updated about upcoming conferences and workshops; agriculture development jobs and funding opportunities. Share your thoughts about contemporary issues affecting food, agriculture, and communities. To join the CFAP-L listserve, draft an e-mail message with the following: In the “To” field, type: email@example.com Leave “Subject” field blank In the body of the message, type: subscribe CFAP-L followed by your first and last name, e.g. subscribe CFAP-L John Doe. If you use automatic signature block, turn it off. Send message. To visit CFAP on the web, go to www.CFAP.org; to visit the Ag Development Clearinghouse directly, go to www.nyagdev.net.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
Small Farm Quarterly
Youth Pages Having Piglets
Orrin James Wyman, Madison County, NY, age 9 Two months ago my Dad’s sow Bertha had piglets. This was the first litter ever born at our small farm in South Hamilton, NY. Dad has raised several pigs for meat but this was a new experience. When we went up to our barn at about 8pm, Bertha was going into labor. She had been restless for many days so we knew the time was close. A friend of ours told us it takes 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days for baby pigs to grow in their Orrin Wyman helping newborn piglet begin mother. to nurse. Photos by Shelley Wyman We were all very excited. My Mom called our neighbors and cousins so they could come and watch too. It was a neat experience, there wasn’t much blood and our sow did real well. By about 10pm six had been born. The seventh piglet born was stillborn. I was very sad. I buried it next to our barn with a big headstone that read: Here lies Bertha’s piglet. More came after that. My Dad cleaned out each piglet’s mouth and rubbed them to help get them breathing. When we guessed she had finished, we went to the house as it was getting late (already 11 pm) and everyone went home. When my Dad went to the barn to check her just an hour later she had had another. It had died. By morning, she had had four more, but they died as well. All in all, she gave birth to 16 piglets - only 10 survived. For the next several hours and days ahead we kept checking on Bertha and her piglets because we were afraid she would step on or roll on them. She didn’t roll on any but stepped on ones foot. The piglet’s leg swelled, so my Dad and me stopped the swelling by draining it. They are all doing well now. Bertha has been a good mother. My Dad gave me one of the piglets; I named him, Stepped-On. I bet you can guess which one that is! And so, we are “learning by doing,” raising pigs some to sell, some for our own use. Orrin Wyman holding For information about 4-H swine projects, visit: newborn piglet. http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/4H/swine.html
4-H MAZE Created by Marnie Lersch, Hilltop Riders 4-H Club, Yates County, NY, age 16
Follow the maze from start to finish and use the letters you come across to fill in the blanks below and find out what YOUth think of 4-H! Answer: ___
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January 26, 2004
Dinosewers 4-H Club Does Bird Rehabilitation! Jeremy Herz, Dinosewers 4-H Club, Yates County, NY, age 11 The Dinosewers 4-H Club found a bird we thought was a downy woodpecker in our yard. Although Dad returned it to the nest cavity, the next day there it was again, and another one too. We called our local vet clinic to find the name of a rehabilitator in the area. No luck. We tried Cornell, Keuka College and the Cummings Nature Center, but no one was available to help us that day. The bird that had been in the yard died, as we suspected it might. The second fledgling survived overnight but died at noon; we found a third Friday morning.
Jeremy Herz feeding Spearo, Nicole and Ashley Owens watch. Photos by Robert Galusha The third baby was in better condition than the first two. We looked up what they eat and collected grubs, worms, bird cherries and ant eggs to feed it. The big test was the first 24 hours. My friend Nicole Owens (4-H’er), her sisters and her friend Courtney got maggots from the trash. A feast for a bird! We thought it was gross. Finally, on Saturday morning we got the name of a rehabilitator from the nature center. His name is Leland Brun. My mom called Mr. Brun and we told him some things about our baby. He confirmed with us that it is a breed of woodpecker called a Flicker. Because it was not an endangered species, Mr. Brun said it would be ok for us to foster the chick. He told us if it got too hard to find food for it, we could wet down dry dog food and feed it from a dropper. He told us we were doing really well. Mr. Brun was worried about the other babies in the nest. So were we. We hadn’t seen a parent bird at all, but they are shy. He advised us to supplement their food for a few days. That meant seeing how many there were. We knew there were three at least. That’s how many stuck theirs heads out for food. We don’t have a ladder tall enough so we used a rappelling rig with a sling for safety. Brantly Ellis, a 4-H’er, could reach the birds to feed them, but not see down into the nest cavity. I’m not tall enough either. There were three in the nest, and a parent. That was a relief. We thought it would be ok to put the baby back in, but out he came. We learned that this is not because he had our scent on him, but because these birds can only raise 2-3 chicks to adulthood successfully. They have a survival strategy that incorporates predation. This means that nature allows for some to be food for other animals. The weaker babies get tossed out. We have been sharing our bird story with others. Several guests have helped us to raise “Spearo”. As he grew, Spearo outstripped our ability to find insects unless we hunted 24/7. Now we know why the broods are ruled by natural selection. Mr. Brun helped us devise a schedule based on his experience with Flickers. They have to learn to hunt for themselves very quickly. We were lucky to have nestlings to observe. We really like having animals as club projects. We are now members of the nestbox network through Cornell Ornithology Lab. We are pursuing information on how to keep pets and wild birds in a safe proximity. This means keeping the feral cat population to a minimum. Brantly and I wanted to know how to re-introduce the bird to the wild. We learned that we had to wet him down every day to get him used to weather changes, provide some sort of “flying lessons” and make sure he was released by mid-late August, had to wean him off dependence on provided food and make sure he was still in juvenile plumage while learning to hunt and establish his own territory. Whew! As of September 9, 2003, Spearo was wild and independent. This was a very exciting project. We see him sometimes but he doesn’t come close anymore. Special thanks to: Eastview Vet Clinic, Penn Yan, NY, Cummings Nature Center, Naples, NY, Leland Brun, Honeoye Falls, NY, Cornell Ornithology Lab, Ithaca, NY — Marilyn Mustov, Menaboni’s Birds — Auguste and Sara Menaboni.
Answer on page 18
For more information about birds and birding, visit the following sites: Cornell Ornithology Lab, http://birds.cornell.edu/, Wild Birds Unlimited, http://www.wbu.com/
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
4-H’er Produces Poultry In Motion Betsy Jensen, Independent 4-H Member, Yates County, NY, age 16 This past year, I started a pastured poultry project. I learned about pastured poultry in my high school agriculture class where we made cages for chickens and attempted to incubate eggs. At the same time, there was a local farmer who wanted to help a 4-H’er in Yates County get started with a pastured poultry project. I took him up on his offer and started my project. I started by ordering chickens. I ordered a batch of 25 Rock Cornish cross day-old chicks. This was the interesting part because the chicks were mailed to me in a box. I thought that was neat. Then I raised the chicks in a pen in my barn until they were three weeks old, and then into the pasture. I was able to use the cages that we had made in school for my chickens. Twice daily, I moved my chickens to a new spot of fresh grass.
Betsy Jensen with pastured poultry.
At eight weeks old, my chickens were ready for butchering. With the assistance of my mentor farmer, I butchered my chickens with a system he has developed. This was a totally new experience for me. Before the butchering date, I had marketed my poultry by contacting family and friends. When my customers came to receive their poultry, I had the product weighed and packaged for their selection. I raised two groups of chickens so far with this project. My customers have been very pleased with the poultry that I have raised. They have commented on the tastiness and the overall quality of the pastured poultry. Currently I am in my 9th year in 4-H in Yates County. My projects have been varied, with clothing and textiles, dairy, beef, sheep, natural resources, food and nutrition and home environment. As a member of the Penn Yan Future Farmers of America I have received my Greenhand Degree and have participated in the Tree ID, where I placed 8th, and Wildlife ID contests at State Fair. This project was a new experience for me. I am currently analyzing how I am going to increase my skills in this project next year. For more information about 4-H Poultry raising projects, check out: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/4H/birds.html
Betsy Jensen learning to process poultry. Photos by Jennifer Jenson
Raised on Goat Milk & Country Sunshine Julianna Huttar, 4-H Glory Goat Club & Independent member, Yates County, NY, age 14 I live on a small farm of 50 acres near Rushville, NY, with my family of 8 children. We have named our place Misty Vale Farm, as our valley is usually misty in the early morning. We raise ducks, meat chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and goats for our own use. The goats are my favorite animals and since we’ve had them for as long as I can remember, they are a part of my daily life. We’re slowly building up our barn and are breeding for better dairy does and my dad has plans to have a goat dairy. Most of our goats are Saanens, but we do have some Nubian, LaMancha, and Toggenburg mixed with Saanen. LaManchas have those funny little ears. All of the goats, except our newest Alpine buck, are mixed breeds.
Taylor and Hershey - Julianna Huttar’s goats.
I like to sketch animals and have drawn all 6 of the dairy breeds and have used them in my 4-H Public Presentations and entered them in the county and state fair. I am also in a 4-H Glory Goat Club to learn about goats.
One of my favorite parts of taking care of goats is the “vet” work...I’ve learned how to give shots, to clean and bandage wounds, how to clip hooves, dehorn, and disbud. I also learned how to put a cast on broken bones. But the part I like best is helping during kidding season. Right now we’re figuring out to which of our bucks we will breed certain does, and when. I’ve found that keeping dependable records helps a great deal. We try to stagger our does so that we have milk year round. We do this because goats are seasonal breeders. Goats are in the deer family, making them excellent jumpers. We have about 5 foot electric fences around our pastures, but this doesn’t always do its job. Some of our goats just crawl right through it! Goats are also browsers, so they’ll eat our fruit trees before they’ll touch the grass. Did you know that if you make their pens out of soft wood, they will eat right through them? Well, they do, and they are also very picky when it comes to the grain. Each of our goats has different food preferences too. We started to drink goat’s milk because most of my family has sensitivity to cow’s milk. Goat milk is more easily digested, is rich in antibodies, and has a lower bacterial count. It is also naturally homogenized because of its smaller fat globules, and it has more food energy, thiamin, and niacin than cow’s milk. This past year we’ve had plenty of milk from our 5 does that I milk by hand. At the does’ prime in milk production, we get 4 - 5 gallons of milk a day. With all of this milk, I have made ricotta, mozzarella and chevre cheese; also butter, yogurt, and fudge. These are all fun to make. We also give it to a dog breeder to use it for his Newfoundland puppies. Farm life is never dull at our place. There is always something going on in the house, barn, or shop. Living on a farm helps to teach responsibility, perseverance, and many other traits that can be used in other areas of life. For more information about 4-H goat projects, visit: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/4H/dairygoat.html
The Huttar family.
Photos by Judy Huttar
The Youth Page is written by and for young people. Many thanks to the 4-H Teen Ambassadors in Yates County, NY, for most of the material in this issue. We believe there’s a bright future for young farmers in the Northeast. Whether you live on a farm or only wish you did, we’d love to hear from you! Write to: SFQ Youth Page, c/o Celeste Carmichael, 4-H Youth Development Program Specialist, CCE State 4-H Youth Development Office 340 Roberts Hall • Cornell University • Ithaca, NY 14853 607-255-4799 • firstname.lastname@example.org
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Grazing is Good for the Environment, Right? By John M. Thurgood Grazing has many environmental benefits. However, not all grazing practices are good ones. Some can lead to substantial degradation of natural resources. Let’s start our discussion with why grazing does makes environmental sense. Environmental benefits of grazing Grazing livestock on high quality pasture reduces the amount of purchased grain being imported to the farm. The decreased import of nutrients reduces the phosphorus and potassium build-up on the land over time. Land that has excessive levels of phosphorus and potassium is prone to leaching and run-off into streams. Grazing can allow you to distribute manure where a manure spreader can’t reach. Most dairy farms in New York have more nutrients in manure than they need for crop production, so distributing manure on pastures utilizes these excess nutrients and reduces nutrient accumulation on cropland. Grazing farmers tend to have grass based forage systems, which reduce the amount of erosion they experience compared to farms growing crops in rotation. Since they don’t grow much if any corn, they tend not to use pesticides for crop production. Having livestock harvest feed themselves reduces the need for mechanically harvested forage. This reduces the use on nonrenewable fossil fuels, and decreases the wear and tear on equipment and human resources devoted to crop production. Farmers tell me that it takes less time to build and move fence than it takes to harvest, store and feed forages. Grazing farmers also tend to use less electricity. When animals are out on pasture, they are not in mechanically ventilated and artificially lighted barns that may use a considerable amount of electricity. Grazing dairy farmers report that they have lower culling rates compared to when they continuously housed their cattle in the barn. The lower culling rate means that fewer resources need to be devoted to raising dairy replacements. If we assume that $1,500 is the value of a good dairy replacement, then economics would say that just about $1,500 worth of resources have been devoted to raise the animal. Grazing conserves these resources.
WATERERS Place waterers away from streams and drainage areas to allow for buffering of runoff from these areas. We all know that when a cow drinks, the cow will generally manure. Avoid placing waterers in draws in the pasture. Finally, have many watering points. The more sites for water, the better will be your distribution of manure. Cows on pasture at the Paul and Gwen Deysenroth Farm, Bloomville, NY Photo by John M. Thurgood
Finally, when animals graze they manure on the countryside and only limited odors are generated. This is in contrast to the odors made when a spreader load of manure is applied to the land. Manure odors are attracting more attention as a form of air pollution. In addition to reducing odors, people that live in and visit rural areas say that they love to see cattle on the land. Cows on the land help to enhance neighbor relations and in a broader context, may lead to greater tourism and the economic benefits from the tourism industry. This tourism then leads to a more economically vibrant rural community. GRAZING PITFALLS OK, so that’s the positive side of grazing. How can this very positive animal husbandry practice go wrong? As you might expect, problems usually involve manure. Manure from poorly engineered laneways can flow off into stream corridors. This is especially true since laneways are commonly placed on the edge of pastures, and these borders often have a stream, or drainage ditch associated with them. This same type of run-off can occur when waterers are place on the edge of pastures, or in laneways. Manure from grazing animals can be concentrated in small areas if there are limited watering sites, or if livestock are not rotated in relatively small paddocks where they are then forced to eat all
The Northeast Grasstravaganza! A Grazing Conference for producers, consumers and ag professionals, February 27 & 28, 2004
nomics will be supplemented with the latest on grazing animal behavioral research.
The Northeast Grasstravaganza 2004 is scheduled for February 27 & 28, 2004 at the Binghamton Regency in Binghamton, NY. The Conference is aimed at producers, consumers and ag professionals and is being held in conjunction with the Northeast Pasture Research & Extension Consortium.
Featured speakers include Dr. Tilak Dhiman and Dr. Fred Provenza, both of Utah State University, along with speakers from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of NY, Cornell University, Penn State, West Virginia University, North Carolina State, University of New Hampshire and experienced producers from throughout the Northeast. The Central NY Resource Conservation & Development Council is coordinating Grasstravaganza with assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Nationally recognized experts on topics such as the health benefits of grass fed meats, eggs and milk products will be featured along with current information on solar watering systems, fencing and other new grazing technologies. Additionally, workshops on value-adding sheep and dairy products, grazing nutrition and eco-
A farmer gave me a really interesting idea on how to keep manure out of your laneways and in your pastures. When bringing his cattle off pasture, he allows them time to stand up and loaf for about five minutes before leaving the paddock. When cattle stand after having been resting, they almost always... well you know. Here’s his point, he would rather have the manure nutrients in his pasture, feeding plants, than in the laneway. Is it worth the extra five minutes? He thought it was.
For more information, contact the Broome County Soil & Water Conservation District at 607-724-9268.
of the plants, and in-turn, manure over the whole area of the paddock. Over-grazing of pastures can lead to areas of bare ground that run-off with significant rainfall, or snowmelt. With this run-off goes manure nutrients and sediment, possibly polluting nearby streams. Finally, livestock that are allowed unlimited access to streams, lakes and ponds, make significantly “deposits” of manure directly into the water. So, grazing can, in fact, lead to very severe environmental degradation. The good news is that these potential environmental concerns can be at least reduced and at best eliminated. LANEWAYS Constructing laneways away from the edges of pastures will reduce run-off to streams and ditches. On slopes, make use of broad-based-dips to divert water from the laneway at regular intervals. These dips will also reduce your longer-term maintenance on the laneway, since you will be protecting the lane surface from erosion. Building the laneways on an angle up the slope will improve drainage and reduce the erosive power of water moving down the laneway. Moving livestock through alternate traffic routes can, in some cases, eliminate the need for an improved laneway. This may be less feasible with dairy cattle that move to and from the barn twice each day.
OVER-GRAZING So, what causes overgrazing and bare ground on pastures? Is it having too many animals? Not really. It’s not giving the plants in the pasture enough time to regrow between grazings. This lack of rest leads to a shallower root system and less vigorous plant growth. Over-grazing tends to push plant species over years of grazing to those of shallower root systems, such as bluegrass and white clover. Bluegrass is less drought-tolerant than deep rooted species such as orchardgrass. So, overgrazing leads to plant species that are more susceptible to environmental factors such as drought, and keeps these plants in poor condition with short root systems. Over a period of years, this leads to bare ground and unproductive pastures. The solution is to allow your pastures enough rest so that they will grow vigorously. If there isn’t enough forage in the paddock to meet nutrient needs of your cattle, and “you have to move them,” it is better to provide supplemental forage than to move them to a pasture that is not ready. Access to streams and crossings Cattle that have unlimited access to streams can create significant environmental havoc. The direct deposition of manure into the stream can be considerable. Penn State graduate student Erin James has researched cow manuring in streams. She relates that there are may factors that affect the direct amount of manure deposition continued on next page
January 26, 2004
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
Getting Started in Farming — Make a Marketing Plan! By Steve Richards In most businesses, a marketing plan is the most critical piece of the start-up pie. New farm operators are sometimes loath to make marketing plans a part of their startup efforts. If you are starting a new farm operation, take the time to prepare a marketing plan-it may be the difference between success and failure. What is a marketing plan? It sounds a lot worse than it is! It really boils down to: what are you going to sell and how are you going to sell it? What type of farm do you want to start? This will influence what should be emphasized in your marketing plan. A direct marketer has different marketing challenges than a wholesale marketer. While all marketing plans need to address the “4 P’s” of Product, Pricing, Promotion and Placement (distribution), it is my observation that the direct marketer has more problems with the first two P’s: product and pricing. The wholesale marketer has more problems with the last two P’s; promotion and placement (distribution). DIRECT MARKETERS: PRODUCT AND PRICING CONCERNS Direct marketing operations have problems deciding what products will sell the best. Given that many farm-raised products have to be planned at least 3-4 months in advance, this poses a logistical challenge. You must grow something that your customers want! Give them a reason to buy your product. Don’t just grow something and then try to figure out how to sell it.
Pricing is also a challenge. The most common mistake of first time direct marketers is pricing their products too low. Often, new marketers just look at what it cost them to grow the particular product and leave out the overhead expenses. With small businesses, the overhead expenses are often a higher proportion of the total cost of production! Warren Abbott of Abbott Farms in Syracuse uses the snow plow example: a young fellow purchases a snow plow, charges $10 a driveway and thinks he is making a lot of money-until the truck breaks down. He then realizes he hasn’t considered truck repairs, insurance or truck payments into his $10 price! He goes out of business eventually; but there are always 3 more new snow plowing businesses every year.
WHOLESALE MARKETERS: PROMOTION AND PLACEMENT CONCERNS Wholesalers are often commodity producers, with a product similar to many other farmers’ product. And they’re price takers, having to accept the price the middleman gives them. Given that wholesalers have little control over product and price, this makes promotion and distribution that much more important. Successful promotion strategies for wholesalers concentrate on promoting quality differences and adding services to their product. Distribution strategies such as adding a retail outlet and identifying new market/buyers have also proved to be important keys to success. Steve Richards is Director of the NY FarmLink Program in Cornell’s Department of Applied Economics & Management.
Publication can help you create a marketing plan A marketing plan is essential for today’s small farm. It provides you with a marketing road map - it establishes objectives, recommended actions, and a timeline. A marketing plan takes into account the marketing environment facing your new business including consumer trends, demographics, location, regulations, local economics, etc. Developing a Strategic Marketing Plan for Horticultural Firms, by Gerald White and Wen Fei Uva of Cornell’s Department of Applied Economics and Management, is a resource that can help you develop your plan. In spite of the title, most of the information is relevant to livestock and other non-horticultural businesses too. You can find the publication online at http://hortmgt.aem.cornell.edu/pdf/resources/eb2000-0.pdf. Or order from Publications, AEM Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Cost is $10.00 - make check to Cornell University.
Getting Started in Farming: 5 Keys to Success Getting started in farming is not easy. Successful farm start-ups tend to share these common traits: 1. Experience. Successful farm seekers have 3-10 years of farm experience. It takes a good farm manager to keep the farm running and supporting a family. Nothing substitutes for real-world experience on the farm. If you don’t have a lot of experience, start by volunteering or working on a farm. Make sure to gain management experience, not just labor. 2. Education. Farming requires business savvy and technical skills! Business management education will go a long way to improve your chances of success. Do you already have all the technical knowledge necessary? If you are starting from scratch, chances are you need some farm production education. 3. Equity. It always helps to have the ability to invest in a farm opportunity! Livestock, equipment, and cash (of course) improve your chances of getting a loan in order to get started. If you or your spouse has an outside job, it can certainly help with the cash flow. You may not want to quit your outside job immediately-give the farm a try first. 4. A Business Plan. Your business plan summarizes the business opportunity & how you are going to seize it. Primarily used for raising capital and as a means for guiding business growth. 5. A Marketing Plan: How are you going to sell what you produce? The most important key to success for farmers engaging in direct marketing, and the most often overlooked piece of the puzzle when getting started. — Steve Richards
NYPA - the NY Pasture Association The New York Pasture Association’s mission is “to encourage a diversified grassbased agricultural system that furthers the development of healthy families and communities through the creation of economically viable and environmentally sound family farms.” NYPA members are farmers and any others interested in sustainable agriculture, and sustainable lifestyle. Nationally, groups such as Eat Wild and the American Grassfed Association, and publications such as Grass Farmer and Graze provide information to support the burgeon-
Grazing continued from previous page
including the size of pasture, width of the stream, location of shade, supplemental feed, alternative water supplies, etc. This being said, her research on a farm in the NYC Watershed shows that a when a cow is on pasture with unlimited access to the stream an average of 3-5 percent of the cows flops are direct deposited into the stream. So, working the numbers of a 50 cow Holstein dairy herd, on pasture 18 hours a day with unlimited access to the stream, about 6 to 10 tons of manure can be deposited over a six month grazing season. Wow, that’s two to four spreader loads!!! Where cattle have access to streams it is common for stream banks to become unstable and slough off. The streambank is no match for the power of the hooves of a 1,500 pound cow. Stream banks are even more prone to eroding since they are covered in many cases by overgrazed grasses that have shallow root systems.
ing interest in this “new” approach to farming. This approach is based on raising and keeping animals in a way that relies heavily on sunshine and photosynthesis, while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources. That is to say, we grow grass and use livestock to convert it into food and products for humans. Research is being conducted at the national and international levels concerning the many health benefits of grassfed meats. Locally, NYPA is active in supporting grass farming for mostly NY farmers. Its bimonth-
The most effective solution to direct deposition and unstable streambanks is, you guessed it, fencing. Financial assistance for cattle exclusion and establishment of riparian forest buffers is available from the Farm Service Agency through the Conservation Reserve Incentive Program (CREP, pronounced cr_p). Cost sharing money is available for fencing, alternative water supplies, cattle crossings and tree planting. (For more information on CREP see “Buffer Basics” on page 21 of the Fall Issue of SFQ.) Total exclusion with alternative watering sites is far and away the best option to protect stream health and water quality. If total exclusion isn’t feasible, providing limited access points is a big help. By only allowing 2-3 cattle to water at a time, the cows will tend to push each other on, so cows tend to drink and go, and not linger in the stream. Cattle pressure on streams can be reduced somewhat without fencing. Providing alternative water in the pasture away from the
ly publication Greener Pastures includes farmer-written articles related to pasture farming, as well as a resource calendar for local pasture walks, workshops, and presentations of interest to grass farmers.
bring grassfed guru Joel Salatin to NY for several days of workshops. NYPA also helped sponsor the statewide workshops of Graze columnists Janet McNally and Jim Van Der Pol, and other such activities.
In addition to supporting the newsletter, NYPA member dues also support workshops on pertinent topics. Whenever possible, workshops are presented in a number of areas around the state, enabling more farmers to attend with less travel time. Last year NYPA organized and sponsored workshops on farmstead cheesemaking and processing pastured poultry. NYPA provided funds and board member assistance to
Want to get involved? Join NYPA! There’s room for many activities within the NYPA mission, and the NYPA board welcomes your input in order to best serve the membership. For more information contact Wendy Fast (President) at 585-335-3439, email@example.com, or Keith Morgan-Davie (Vice President) at 315 8397105.
stream corridor tends to draw cattle away from the stream. If your stream corridor is wooded, having shade areas away from the stream will give animals an attractive alternative to the stream. Still, these approaches are not nearly as effective as fencing.
solution I’ve seen is using a three-point hitch mounted bale unwrapper in the field. The bale is unwrapped in a different location each feeding. Moving large round bale feeders or feed wagons can generate similar results. If you have to use the same site on the longer-term, a concrete pad with buckwall at the feeding area will allow you to collect and spread the nutrients. Plan for a 300 foot natural filter area below the permanent feeding site.
Cattle crossings can be significant sources of pollution. If the crossing has stable banks, the only action needed may be to limit the width of the crossing, so that the cattle push each other across the stream. Unstable banks should be protected in some manner. Alternatives include shaping and applying some form of aggregate, use of cattle slats, or building a bridge. Your decision on which alternative is the best for you really depends on the specifics of the site, the number of cattle using the crossing, the frequency of use and what you have to spend. FEEDING AREAS Permanent supplemental feeding areas in pastures should be avoided because they tend to become denuded and nutrients tend to build up at these sites. The slickest
So is grazing good for the environment? With thorough planning and management, you bet!!! Avoiding the pitfalls will ensure that you are maximizing the environmental benefit of grazing. John Thurgood is a Senior Whole Farm Planner for Cornell Cooperative Extension as part of the NYC Watershed Agricultural Program. Special thanks to Dan Flaherty, Small Farms Program Manager, NYC Watershed Agricultural Program and Frank Winkler, NRCS Resource Conservationist, for their input and review of this article.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Starting Small, Staying Small In just 3 years, this young couple has launched a successful small dairy in big dairy country by Barb Ziemba “You’re only going to milk 32 cows? How will you survive on that?” That’s the reaction many people have to the decision my husband, Kevin and I made to renovate my parent’s tie-stall barn in Aurora, NY, and put on a herd of registered Holsteins and Brown Swiss! But just shy of 2 years being fully operational, through the worst milk prices in years, one of the coldest winters on record and being surrounded by the “big guys”, we are still forging ahead! It was back in 1992 that my parents, Norbert and Pat Schmitt, sold the cows and rented the facilities and land to another family for 3 years before they sold out. It was then that the cropland was rented out to a neighboring large farm and the barn went vacant. At that point I was just entering community college and still undecided of my career goals. BIG DAIRY EXPERIENCE, SMALL FARM ROOTS By the time I had graduated from Cornell in 1999 I was back in the swing of working with cows. I had done some dairy research in the Animal Science department, and had an internship through the Dairy Fellows program with Aurora Ridge Dairy, a very large local dairy where I was able to work for a short time after graduation. A little later, while working as a herdsman on another large, 1000-cow dairy in the area, I realized that I simply wasn’t cut out to work with so many cows! I had to get back to what I grew up with and loved. In the meantime, I took a position with Quality Milk Promotion Services as a research/field technician. In 1999, my soon-to-be husband and I decided to start raising a few calves from his home farm, Ziems Farm, in Weedsport, NY. We started out with three registered Holsteins in my family’s empty barn, and in the fall added the first hint of “color” to the bunch. We purchased a cute little Brown Swiss calf from the Golden Milk Sale in Dryden, NY. She was only three weeks old and the two of us having no previous experience with the infamous “stubborn” Swiss — let us say that it was a learning experience! I just remember saying to Kevin as we left the sale with the little bundle in the back seat of our truck, “She’s three weeks old, certainly she is bucket trained by now!” Needless to say, as time went on, we started to understand that we needed to deprogram ourselves and rethink our calf-rearing strategies! The following year we added a couple more Holstein heifers of Kevin’s and it was then that the two Barb’s, Kevin’s mother and myself, went on a mission to the National Brown Swiss sale in Harrisburg, PA. “Well, honey,” I told Kevin over the phone from the sale, “we need to find a milker and a trucker — I bought a real nice 2 year old Swiss cow and I bought another heifer calf!” The cow’s name is “Rosie” and she is the matriarch of the Swiss cows in our barn to this day! It was interesting to call DHIA and say that we had a new herd for them to test, consisting of one cow! It made for a small bulk tank, but she fed the calves that we had there on milk. This opened the door for us.
DOUBLING THE MILKING HERD 2001 was an eventful, turning point year. We purchased another Swiss cow at the National Sale, increasing our “milking” herd to a whopping 2 cows! I had decided to leave my job at QMPS and pursue other avenues, not knowing what those were. It was only a month after I quit that we received a call from an acquaintance we’d made showing cows. He left a message that he had a “couple” of cows for sale and thought we might be interested. Well, turned out, he had a herd of about 30 head of registered Brown Swiss for sale. Kevin and I batted the thought around. I was currently unemployed, but had an offer for another job awaiting my decision. We had always wanted to pursue the dream of having our own farm, so do we jump in now, or wait? Well, after much discussion amongst ourselves, we presented the concept to my parents, since it would be at their farm that we would be pursuing this dream. They were supportive. But they were skeptical that it would really come to be and that we could make it go. They were concerned about the way that the dairy industry has changed in the last decade, seeming to be more favorable to the larger operations. But if that was what we wanted, then that was okay. I have 3 other siblings, none of whom had any serious interest in using the facilities themselves. My brother had a couple beef cows there, but he didn’t have any bigger plans than that. So, it was settled then — we would “rent” the facilities, paying my parents for the utilities and maintenance needed. We planned on purchasing all our feed and hay, so my folks were able to continue renting the land, with no disruption. We did end up taking a small portion of acreage to have pasture for the cows.
Kevin and Barb with Hills Valley Jetway Cola, who took 1st Place Fall Calf and Honorable Mention Jr. Champion at the 2001 Eastern Brown Swiss Show in Syracuse. Photo by Norbert Schmitt extremely cooperative, with little to no snow and cool, but not extreme cold temperatures. If we had to do it any other fall, it could have been a nightmare! In October we had taken in 8 cows from the group that we were purchasing. These were some of the cows that needed immediate attention for minor problems with feet, and a couple of the best show cows. This was the best idea for us, it gave us a chance to give more personal attention to those cows that needed it and it gave us a chance to work ourselves into things gradually. UP AND RUNNING So, we got up to 15 cows with our Swiss and Holsteins that we had already, milking! Two bucket milkers and we got the job done, but whoever said it was easy to clean out a gutter for 15 cows with one wheelbarrow and a pitch fork was nuts! We shifted the cows from one side of the barn to the
other when they weren’t outside during construction and what a difference it was to go from the narrow tie-stalls that were breaking apart to nice big stalls with mattresses! Construction, of course, took longer than expected, but it was still all completed on January 2, 2002 and that night, the rest of the cows came and our gutter cleaner was running! Phew! We had started shipping milk for our 15 cows in November 2001, taking us again back to the old days of the dumping station, carrying the buckets down to the tank and pouring it in through the strainer. It was the end of December that we had the milking system fixed and ready to roll. Talk about starting at the very beginning and moving up through the ages in the matter of a few months! The only thing we hadn’t done was to milk them by hand - like my dad used to do when he was a kid. continued on next page
GETTING SERIOUS Okay, now we had the barn and the cows that we wanted, what about financing? We evaluated what we needed to do to get the barn back in working condition, what equipment we would need and what our assets were to start with. We consulted with Farm Net for help on making sure that we had all our ducks in a row, and then started calling different lenders. One loan officer told me that I was not going to be able to pull it off with only 32 cows milking, not to mention that most of them were Brown Swiss, and who cares if they are registered or not. This was a turn off! Okay, let’s call someone else. I finally found a bank that was willing to work with us and help us put together all the loose pieces of the puzzle so that we could get the money we needed and be on our way to having our dream. One thing to point out here is, we didn’t even need a huge amount of money, we weren’t purchasing any real estate and we were financing the cows through the seller. Our biggest expenses were a down payment on the cows, renovating the stalls, a new barn cleaner and getting the pipeline up and running again after sitting for so long. My dad still had a couple tractors that we could use, so all we needed to buy was a manure spreader and skid steer. We were able to start construction immediately, using our Patz dealer for the gutter cleaner and all the construction work inside the barn. That worked out unbelievably well, especially since the weather was
El A Ray Blend Babi Powder, Grand Champion NYS Fair 2003, 1st & Best Udder All-American Dairy Show 2003 Photo by Cybil Fisher
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SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Starting Small continued from pevious page
By 2002 we had all the cows, we were shipping milk, Kevin still had his job managing a private genetics cooperative through Cornell, and I was in my glory! Looking back, it was a sticky start. It was tough getting to know which cow was which, since they were all mostly brown and, being registered, had no big yellow tags. But that was easier than setting a routine of how chores would be most efficient. We were picking up our feed — a premixed TMR from Fessenden’s, a 500-cow herd a few miles away — in my dad’s gravity flow wagon every day.
Champion of the Brown Swiss Show, and we had first place junior yearling and junior 3-year old in the Holstein Show. Overall, our show winnings have been numerous but we take nothing for granted. It is all proof to us of how hard we can work all year long to have the best group of cows that we can have. It has not been until this year that we feel comfortable enough with our internally growing herd to be able to market some of what we have bred and or raised to sales and personal consignments. This was a good year for heifer calves and our barns are bursting with high pedigreed offspring that we’re very excited to watch develop. These are animals that we have bred ourselves, so they will be the proof of whether or not we’ve done a good job.
It is amazing how our routine has changed since then. Our milking times are probably the only thing that has remained the same. I really think that it has taken us just over a year to get into a flow where there is at least a general pattern to how things are done. I think that we remained open minded enough to realize that as time progresses and we discover new and easier ways to do things, we make those changes accordingly.
Ziems TDA Sonja, 1st Junior 3 & Best Udder, NYS Fair 2003 Photo by Maggie Murphy
Using a Business Plan By Ed Staehr As more and more creditors require business plans from loan applicants, an increasing number of farms are developing business plans. But a business plan is not just for your lender - it’s greatest value is in helping you monitor performance and measure progress towards your own business goals. A business plan usually starts with an executive summary, which outlines the business and business plan in two or three paragraphs. A mission statement follows the summary and describes the business’ overall purpose. Next comes a description of products or services offered, illustrating any unique features or proprietary features such as patents or trademarks. Future products or services are also included in the description. Then comes the “meat” of the plan - usually organized in five major sections: business statements; operations plan; marketing plan; financial documents; and supporting documents. Target markets, customers, and an analysis of the competition are key components to include under business statements. Many agricultural businesses often underestimate the importance of defining who their customers will be and which businesses they will be in competition with. In this section you should also define the type of business structure you will have, and who will be your advisors for accounting, legal, financial, insurance, and other issues. Lastly, an industry profile, describing government regulations, business cycles, and competition, completes the business statements section of a business plan. Your operations plan illustrates a production plan and the production process. A production plan includes facilities, equipment, management, and labor. Production process steps encompass manufacturing, suppliers, distribution plans for products or services, services outline (for a service business such as custom harvesting), production capacity, and whether outsourcing or subcontracting
Since both our Holsteins and Brown Swiss are fully registered and we are seeking to market our genetics, we classify both breeds and have achieved a Holstein BAA (Breed Adjusted Average) of 112.2 and a Brown Swiss average score of 89.3. Milk production is also an important measurement of success to us. For a short time we were the top herd in our county, before Fessenden’s took back the title! They, of course, take our success as a success of their own, since we feed their TMR. Right now our rolling herd average is 24,394 lbs with 1008 lbs (4.1%) butterfat, 821 lbs (3.4%) protein. That is with the Holsteins and Brown Swiss combined. AND STILL DREAMING We have achieved a great deal in the last couple years and we still have dreams for the future. Whether we’re dreaming of opening ourselves up for other markets or just buying that electric feed cart, it’s good to keep dreaming! It’s the only way to survive in an evolving industry. “Progressive” is not just a term for large corporate farms!
Since we started last year, Kevin has changed jobs and I am still on the farm full time. Kevin is there for morning and evening milking when he can, and when he’s away for work, his young cousin Chris comes and helps out along with a couple of students from Cornell who work part-time. REAPING THE REWARDS Through all this we have been lucky enough to go to a lot of shows with our cows, locally and nationally, and we are very proud of our achievements in the show ring. Our latest winnings were at the New York State Fair this past summer. We had the Junior, Reserve Junior and Grand
We are starting to flush more of the better cows in the herd, but sometimes it’s difficult for us, because with our small herd we don’t have enough recipients for those embryos. For that reason we tend to freeze more of them and put them in as we either have heifers or cows that we feel could carry them. We are open to selling our embryos at this point as well. We also were able to collect semen on a “Pride” son out of “Rosie”, some of which we have sold for crossbreeding programs with Holsteins and semen is still available for anyone interested.
will be utilized. Businesses often underestimate the potential for growth, and defining the production process helps you quantify capacity and identify potential bottlenecks. A key area where many businesses do not devote sufficient effort is in developing a marketing strategy and action plan. This part of your business plan includes market definition, business objectives, target customers, advertising/PR, sales techniques/tactics, and competitive selfanalysis of the business. Having a product to sell and lacking information on customers and business trends can be disastrous to a business. A well-defined marketing strategy considers such factors as market size and trends impacting future growth. Financial documents provide potential lenders or investors with key performance measures necessary to determine the feasibility of your business. The financial documents section begins with a summary statement of all financial performance factors. Following sections include a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash flow, operating budget, and capital budget. Lenders and potential investors can evaluate present business financial performance and evaluate how additional funds will be used to create business growth. Supporting documents round out a wellwritten business plan by illustrating all proper steps have been taken to commence business. Certificates, licenses, applications, permits, and owner biographies are specific documents contained in the supporting documents section. For more information about business planning, visit www.smallfarms.cornell.edu. Click on Business Management, and then click on Creating A Business Plan. Or contact your local Cooperative Extension office or Small Business Development Center for assistance. Ed Staehr is Team Coordinator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County.
Barb Ziemba owns and operates Ziem-Barb-Way Brown Swiss and Holsteins in Aurora, NY, with her husband Kevin. For more information she can be reached at (315) 364-5581 or email@example.com. Or visit www.ziemsfarm.com/ziembarbway.htm.
Venison Recipes By Martha Goodsell
Editor’s note: Perhaps hunting season helped you to fill your freezer with venison, and you’re looking for some delicious way to fix the meat for a satisfying winter meal. SFQ asked Martha Goodsell, of Fallow Hollow Deer Farm in Candor, to provide some exciting recipes for venison lovers. Venison really holds spices used in cooking. I love it for Mexican style cooking. (The kids love venison fajitas and tacos.) Here’s a Chili recipe I’ve worked on over the years. Most folks say it’s the best they’ve ever had. You be the judge! HUNTER STYLE CHILI 3 lb. ground venison 1 T. vegetable oil 3 lg. onions 3 lg. green peppers 1 1/2 c. shredded carrot 3 cloves garlic, crushed 3 T. chili powder 3 tsp. beef bouillon 3 tsp. ground cumin 3 tsp. dried oregano 1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper 1 tsp. Hot Sauce 2 28 oz. cans tomato sauce 1 28 oz can kidney beans Brown venison in heavy skillet. Remove browned venison to crock-pot. In same heavy skillet add oil, peppers, onion, carrots and garlic. Cook until tender and vegetables begin to brown. Add vegetables to venison in crock-pot. Add all remaining ingredients to crock-pot. Stir. Cover and simmer 4 hours over low heat.
SPINACH-FETA VENISON SPIRALS What do you do with all those cuts not considered prime? They don’t have to end up in ground, stew or sausages. Here’s a filled roast from the neck. To cut
this you’ll need to start at the middle of the lower side of the neck and cut the meat off the bone going up and around. You’ll end up with a flat piece 14”x8” (depending upon the size of your deer). I’ve filled this cut with various stuffings, but this one features spinach and feta cheese, which I can get locally at a neighboring farm. Here is the secret to cooking great venison— low, slow and moist. Low temperatures allow the meat to cook without getting tough. Keep it under 350˚. Of course the lower the temperature the slower it cooks. Venison is always best lesscooked. When you remove venison from the heat, it will continue to cook. Finally, keep it moist. Add liquid and keep a lid on it. Stocks, wines and juices are great. Think seasonally. Cider, grape juice or cranberry juice and of course NY wines, are excellent choices to accompany vegetables from the fall harvest. Enjoy! 1 1/2 lbs. venison neck roast 1 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. pepper 1/4 tsp. garlic powder 1/2 tsp. basil 1/2 tsp. chopped parsley 1/2 c. water 1/2 c. white wine 1 c. steamed spinach 1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese Flatten neck to uniform thickness. Season with salt and pepper. In small bowl combine spinach, cheese, garlic, parsley, and basil. Spread spinach mixture onto half the roast, lengthwise. Beginning at the filling end, roll roast.(There should be no filling in the outermost roll.) Secure with butchers twine. In Dutch oven, brown rolled venison on all sides. Remove roast. Add water and wine to deglaze pan. Add roast. Cover and bake 11/2 hours at 325o. Remove from pan and let rest before slicing.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Small is Flexible — How My Small Farm Lets Me Keep My Options Open by A. Fay Benson The feeling that we have the ability to change or adapt to situations that turn up during our lifetime, is one component to a happy life. Realizing that every decision we make may not be the correct one, it is a good idea to leave our options open. These two philosophies have been guideposts for me while bumping along the road of life. The flexibility of a small farm allowed me to keep these philosophies in my work. BIGGER IS BETTER... RIGHT? When Linda and I started Benterra Farm some 20 years ago, my vision of what it would grow into was different from the Benterra of today. My vision looked a lot like my father’s farm, which was 200 cows and growing. This was in the late 1970s. It was understood then that to compete in the dairy business a farmer had to capture the economic advantage of scale. But after a few years on the farm I realized I enjoyed running a farm that had less than 50 cows. The enjoyment came from my need to be a jack-of-all-trades: herdsman, mechanic, agronomist, banker, etc... and from the solitude of being solely responsible for the work. The challenge then was to make a small farm, which was heavily mortgaged, pay for itself, and to enjoy a certain level of quality of life while doing it. FLEXIBLE FARMING I tried renting another farm to grow crops to sell, as an additional enterprise to my dairy, figuring it would be a good way to make the farm profitable. The Dairy Farm Business Summary (DFBS) offered by Cornell, was a good tool to track the performance of the new enterprise. I could see that my time and management used on the cropping portion was not only generating very little income, it was stealing from the dairy side by lowering production during this period. I quickly ended this experiment. Intensive rotational grazing was another management strategy that might lend itself to a farm of my size. So I spent a considerable amount of time building fences and learning how to operate a grazing system. The capital investment was small compared to the positive change to my profitability. When making changes like these in larger operations the capital and time required to experiment can make it prohibitive, essentially limiting the options. Being the sole manager on a small farm allowed me to observe the changes and tweak them to get the desired results, and evaluate the changes to my bottom line. ANTICIPATING THE TRENDS With the introduction of BST it was evident to me that there was going to be more down side pressure put on the milk price. If this was true, I needed to evaluate my financial equation. My financial equation had profit (or loss) equal to price received for product minus the cost of production. Up to this point I felt the only part of the equation that I had control over was cost of production. Using the comparisons in the DFBS, I realized that I had cut cost to a point where there wasn’t much farther to go. If I wanted to stay in business and make the level of income required to keep the quality of life I desired, I had to look at the price received part of the equation.
From my conversations with the person in charge of purchasing milk for a milk handler in NYC, I learned that even though upstate consumers had not resisted the introduction of BST, NYC consumers were concerned. From this I had a hunch that there would be an increase in demand for organic milk, and on this hunch I started my transition to organic certification. Because of the need to incorporate many new strategies in herd management and crop production, I felt that organic farming would not be conducive to large-scale dairy farming, which would make it a good option for my farm. The two-year transition was financially painful because crop and milk production were lower while I was still receiving the conventional price. Linda’s off farm job helped through this period. The outside income made more of an impact on our small farm finances; this would not have been the case if we had been a larger farm. Our lenders were also curious about the possibility of this organic market, since in 1996 there wasn’t much information on organic dairying. I believe that since we were small they felt their risk was small also, which allowed them to be more flexible with our capital needs. Organic farming was the business change that really made an impact on our farm profitability. Not so much because it’s the best way to farm, but because it was the best way for me to farm. It’s widely accepted that what would make one farmer successful would put another out of business. The trick for me was to keep trying different strategies, evaluate them by the use of good record keeping, and discontinue them quickly if they didn’t work. Having a small farm allowed me the flexibility to find the farming strategies that worked for me. NOT LOCKED IN I am now enjoying another benefit to a small farm, which is to be able to transition to another occupation in steps rather then dissolving one business before starting another. Linda and I decided that 20 years of being responsible for chores 7 days a week was long enough. I felt I wanted to try a different occupation before I retired. We contacted FarmLink, a program created by and affiliated with NY FarmNet to help farmers look at different ways to transition out of or into farming.
Fay Benson is operates a small farm in Groton, NY, and is Grazing Program
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
From Both Sides of the Fence By Fay Benson The call from Extension came Monday afternoon to schedule an interview for the position of Grazing Program Associate for the South Central NY Area Ag Team. The interview was set for Wednesday, I was called Friday with the job offer, and the next Monday I was sitting at my desk. I remember thinking about the old saying “Be careful what you ask for, because you may get it”. After getting our farm on solid ground financially, we had new options opened up to us, we could stay and continue to farm or stop milking and take a job off the farm. I decided I wanted a change, which is what I was remembering as I sat at my new desk that Monday morning. These past 6 months have flown by. The first 2 months I still had my cows to milk, which was a blur. Even after they went to their new home in Vermont, I still had 36 heifers to raise and 150 acres of crops to get in. My life is finally getting some order to it now, and I have some time to reflect on the changes in perspective I’ve been through. My workday is totally different. I worked alone on the farm; if I had help they would show up in the afternoon, I spent most of the day in solitude rarely talking to anyone but the animals. With Extension I need to communicate; ideas, plans, be able to understand another’s point of view, I no longer have the final say in decisions. It has not been difficult. I think I enjoy sharing the responsibility, working as a team is much more effective, more points of view give a clearer picture. When I was farming there was never time for keeping up on industry news and research — there always seemed something more pressing in the barn. Now I feel it’s more important since I may need
to pass on the information to others, it’s not just for my benefit. There is a great wealth of information and resources at Extension, which brings me to another change of perspective. After spending the summer in the grazing position, I realize how much there is to learn about grazing. I wish I had been a little more open-minded and had attended more of the pasture walks when I was milking. There are always a lot of ideas and new research being done. After viewing Extension for years from the outside, I now have the opportunity to look at Extension from within. Besides seeing what a great resource it is, I realize that Extension only helps those that ask for assistance. Many of its abilities are under-utilized since farmers aren’t asking. One cartoon from a farm magazine I’ve always remembered showed an extension agent standing in the field talking to a farmer about a meeting coming up, the farmer says “I already know how to farm better than I am.” I now view the time I spend learning as investing in, rather than stealing from, the farm. The Dairy Farm Business Summary is a good example of a specific program that I have changed my perspective on. I always thought I filled out the summary for myself so I could evaluate my business. I now see how that data is also used to evaluate practices so dairy farmers can benefit from the experience of other farmers. The data is also used to inform lenders and government agencies, so that they can promote financially sound agricultural practices that will give farmers the best returns. I certainly don’t know what the future holds, but from the past I’ve learned that nothing stays the same. So I had better expect more changes.
4-H MAZE SOLUTION
Using FarmLink’s workbooks and other resources, we looked at the tax liabilities and considered what options we had and which ones would put us in the position we wanted to be in. We decided to leave the farm in steps, first selling the milking cows. Keeping the heifers, land and machinery would allow me to get back into dairying if I didn’t find what I was looking for. The position of Grazing Program Associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Cortland County became available this past spring. It was a position that I felt I would enjoy doing, and that I would be good at. I started my new job in April. Selling my milking herd didn’t take long because of the demand for organic cows. My plan is to continue to raise my heifers, raise crops organically, keeping the option open to go back into farming if the funding for this job disappears. It sure is nice to have options.
Associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension in South Central NY.
Answer: I LOVE 4-H!
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Calibrating Your Manure Spreader - It’s not Rocket Science By Terry Lavigne
I know that most farmers look on spreading manure as a necessary evil. For obvious reasons, manure can’t be allowed to remain in the barn, and you can’t pile it outdoors indefinitely. Sooner or later it needs to be removed from the vicinity of the animals.
The most obvious way is to spread it on the crop fields. This is not simply to exercise the spreader or to spend a few hours before the afternoon milking. Manure is a concentrated source of plant nutrients and needs to be managed as such. Each spreaderful contains plenty of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (hereafter N, P and K) as well as many micronutrients necessary for plant and animal health.
In addition, each load of manure helps build organic matter levels in the soil. It is organic matter that allows soils to hold water without becoming waterlogged. Organic matter also creates soil structure-soils deficient in organic matter pulverize into dust, become hydrophobic (repel water) and form heavy crusts which inhibit seed germination and water infiltration. Fields in row crops with no cover crop for three years or more begin developing these problems, starting with crusting.
Most farm fields—whether in hay, corn, soybeans, cereals or vegetable crops-can benefit from an annual application of manure. That does NOT mean to go and smother fields in six inches of manure! That is a major excess and could cause water quality problems with N leaching and manure run-off, and neighbor problems because of the smelly mess you’ve created.
KNOW HOW MUCH MANURE TO SPREAD The best way to use manure as a soil amendment is to have both the manure and the soil tested for nutrient levels. Unless you do the tests, you are only guessing about fertilizer needs, and guesses are wrong most of the time. A
soil test can give you recommendations for many different crops for a three-year period. A manure test will accurately indicate the N, P and K levels in the manure. From there it is just a few simple calculations to figure out how much manure is needed on each field to provide the nutrients for the coming crop. Once you determine how much manure to apply to the fields, you need to make sure that much gets applied; not more, not less. My work in the Capital District has found little correlation between how much the manure spreader manufacturer says it will hold and the real, practical amount Calibrating your spreader can help you manage crop nutrients and protect local water that it actually does hold. resources like this reservoir in Renssalaer County, NY. Photo by Tom Kilcer Most spreaders we have checked end up holding anythetical spreader is 6’ wide by 13’ long by 20” to the top of where from 10-25% less than manufacturer’s specificathe box. Multiplying this gives us about 130 cubic feet. tions. So if you think your spreader holds five tons but it is Multiplying this by 60 lbs per cubic foot gives us 7800 lbs. actually only carrying four, you could be shorting your Dividing this number by 2000 gives tons per load, or 3.9 tons. crops by 20%. The calculation above is for level spreaders only. To calcuCALIBRATE YOUR SPREADER late a piled spreader, you use the same equation PLUS the There is a really easy way to calibrate your spreader. If you result of (length x width x height) divided by 2, where ‘h’ or a neighbor has truck scales, weigh the spreader empty, equals the height of the pile above the top of the box. So, then full, subtract empty from full and-voila!-you have your say we pile about a foot over the top of the box. That spreader capacity. Unfortunately, we do not all have would add 6’ x 13’ x 1’ = 78, divided by 2 = 39, times 60 lbs access to truck scales, so here is another way to do it: = 2340 lbs or 1.2 additional tonnage. The full load would be 3.9 + 1.2 = 5.1 tons. Measure the length, width and height of your spreader box to come up with cubic feet. Multiply this result by 60 lbs Once you know how much is in the spreader, you need to per cubic foot to give total weight of the load. Our hypodetermine how much is being applied per acre. There are two relatively easy ways to do this: 1) Spread a tarp-preferably one that is 56” or 72” square, but a tarp of any size will work-on an area to be spread and drive the spreader over it while applying manure at your normal manure-spreading speed. For a 56” square tarp, the tons-per-acre just happens to equal the pounds of manure on the tarp. Any other size, figure the tons per acre by using this equation: Tons/acre= lbs of manure on tarp X 21.8 Size of tarp in sq. ft. (length X width)
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2) The other method is to actually measure the spreader pattern to determine amount of coverage. First you need to measure your spreader capacity. Then you need a VERY big ruler. Instead of measuring the length of the pattern physically, try measuring the circumference of one of the spreader tires: make a VERY visible mark on the tire, then count how many times the wheel makes a complete revolution while spreading. Number of revolutions times tire circumference gives the total length of the spreading pattern. Also measure the width of the spreading pattern. Only measure the heavy spread, not the lighter areas at the edge of the pattern. Multiply length by width to get square feet of coverage. For example let’s say your spreader, carrying 5.1 tons, throws a band of manure 10 feet wide and travels 1,670 feet before it’s empty. Multiplying the 1,670’ length times 10’ width equals 16,700 square feet. An acre contains 43,560 square feet, so we divide 16,700 by 43,560 to get .38, the percentage of an acre covered in one load. Now you take your 5.1 tons per load, and divide by .38 acres per load, to get 13.4 tons per acre at that ground speed. If you need more manure per acre, say 25 tons, you will need to slow down during application, or apply a second coat at a little higher speed. So you see, calibrating your manure spreader really doesn’t require a mathematics degree; just a few simple tools and the desire to use the nutrients in your livestock manure wisely. Terry Lavigne is Agriculture Program Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Producer Groups - What Could They Do For You? by Bill Henning
Nothing sells beef like chicken! and Nothing sells chicken like vegetables! A farmer with finished beef put a huge sign out on a busy road advertising grass fed beef. People saw it, morning and night, as they drove back and forth to the big city. The beef was slow to sell. Meanwhile, two counties away, there was another farmer who started selling produce. While not on a main road he still built up a clientele. After a couple years he added pastured poultry. The customers that came for his vegetables bought all the chicken and eggs he produced. He bought some stocker cattle and finished them on grass. In his first year producing beef he ended up with beef orders he couldn’t even fill. RETAIL FARM MARKETING 101 Simplified condensed version of the course abstract: • Consumers must perceive the benefits of the product before they will buy it. • It’s usually easier to sell something to a person who is already a customer.
• People generally prefer to start out with a small purchase before trying a larger one. • The size of the sale has to match the size of the freezer as well as the size of the pocket book. • Word of mouth advertising has yet to be improved upon. • Giving a little something extra (after the sale) has profound promotional impact. • Experiences are every bit as important as the product. • Customers will bypass a great location to experience a great relationship. Perhaps now it’s easier to understand why vegetables sell chicken and chicken sells beef. But to do all the right things in all the right places at just the right time is no simple task. Having access to assistance can shorten up the learning curve and possibly offer some other benefits as well. Many olden day farming practices are still beneficial. Fifty years ago, neighbor helping neighbor was an everyday farming event. People frequently needed each other’s labor. One negative aspect of modern technology is that it has reduced the need for that community experience. But there are some good reasons to revisit this concept of farmers helping farmers in today’s small-scale farming arena. Increasingly, this phenomenon is being revisited in the form of “producer groups.” WHY PRODUCER GROUPS? There are some very good farmers who don’t necessarily relish dealing with the public. There are some very skillful people-persons who are not comfortable operating machinery or castrating a calf. Yet others were born with a green thumb. It is the rare person who holds above average abilities in many different areas. When we share expertise we all stand to gain.
Should your group agree to directly assist one another consider the immediate economics. Help from a Producer Group members may cooperate in on-farm neighbor involves no income tax, projects, marketing, and purchasing. Here members of no workman’s compensation insurthe Seneca County Beef Producers Group work togeth- ance, no social security withdrawal, er to put in fence posts at one person’s farm. and no book keeping. Yes, we are
expected to help our neighbor in return and there is a certain amount of vulnerability as to what is fair. Good neighbors can work that out. Your immediate net savings can be as much as 30% when you legally avoid the bureaucratic requirements. Group purchasing can bring the volume savings experienced by the industrial producers to the smaller family farm. For example, a beef producer group in the Finger Lakes pooled their fence post purchases into trailer load lots and beat every price available had they bought individually.
Members of the Seneca County Beef Producers Group meet regularly on each other’s farms. Input and ideas from a producer Photos by Martha Wright group broadens the horizon of to a common point where the consumer viewpoints available to you on any given can become a customer in an enjoyable cirsubject. You now have a portfolio of cumstance. The potential benefits are endthoughts and perception on which to draw less, to both the producer and the conbefore coming to conclusions. The final sumer. Not only can you gain from a syndecision is still yours. ergistic phenomenon, you can pass the essence of a nostalgic experience along to And in spite of technology, let’s not oversomeone who just might live in a world look the benefits of sharing labor. Recently devoid of that emotion. portable poultry processing units have sprung up around the country. Very often a Would you like to belong to a producer group of people will get together to help group? To be successful and endure, a one another on these units. A common producer group must result from the desire word heard after the initial experience is of a group of people. That is to say it must fun! That’s right, a task once held to be be initiated by the people, not an entity like loathsome is being considered fun. People Cooperative Extension. However, not only enjoy the sense of accomplishCooperative Extension can provide assisment, they also enjoy the camaraderie. tance. The group is responsible for its activities, direction, and its results. Shared learning, farmer to farmer educaCooperative Extension can make the tion, is yet another benefit. As a group you process easier. can invite speakers, consider common questions, share thoughts and experiences, If you operate a family scale farm and are conduct your own field trips, and explore interested in forming a producer group, talk new opportunities. You are only limited by to a few of your farming colleagues. If your imagination — not just your own, but you’d like some assistance, contact your that of the whole group. local Cooperative Extension office. MARKETING Bill Henning operates a grass-based Perhaps an area that offers the potential of beef farm in Livingston County. He is the greatest possible benefit is that of maralso the Small Farms Specialist with keting. A producer group can match abiliPRO-DAIRY/CCE-NWNY Dairy, ties and interests with tasks. It can draw Livestock, and Field Crops Team. different commodities from different farms
Small Farms and Sustainable Agriculture in Cuba By Amy Kenyon When I left home for a two-week study tour of Cuba’s sustainable agriculture system, I felt ambivalent about the trip. Leaving home so long to travel with 70 people would be difficult, and I was certain we would only see one side of Cuba. It did prove to be a logistical challenge to coordinate four busloads of people in a culture where no decision is made quickly. It was also clear that we did not see chemical, conventional agriculture, though we know that continues on the island. However, I was won over by the spirit of the Cuban people we met, their creativity and resistance in the face of hardships, and the obvious strides they have made toward food self-sufficiency using small farms and organic methods. What follows is a bit of what we learned. AFTER THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION, CUBANS FACED A FOOD CRISIS. In less than two years, the two million tons of animal feed, one million tons of pesti-
cides and chemicals, and machinery and spare parts the Cubans imported annually disappeared. Their agriculture had been highly mechanized and specialized, similar to large-scale agriculture in the United States. The loss of their trading partner, along with the embargo from the U.S. meant that many Cubans did not have enough to eat. The average Cuban had less than 1,800 calories daily. This crisis gave them the opportunity to implement widespread change in their agricultural systems. Faced with no access to pesticide, chemical, and feed imports, the country underwent a major shift towards producing their own food. The Cuban government encourages farms that are selfsustaining, provide fair wages to the farmer, improve rural quality of life and create jobs. Cuba has found that their small farms are the most productive, and uses extension and farmer-to-farmer education methods to promote diversified and organic production using low-input technology.
SELF-SUFFICIENCY AND NATIONAL SECURITY Although the Cubans were forced to make a rapid transformation due to world events, the seeds of change had been present in their society for years. The Cuban government had already adopted a policy of pesticide reduction in the 1980’s. The country has been able to quickly implement herbal treatments into their medical system because the military began developing herbal remedies decades ago in case of a blockade that kept them from importing pharmaceuticals. Because of their emphasis on education for all citizens, research and new technologies were more easily disseminated through the countryside. Fidel Castro had long been aware of the need for a shift to more sustainable systems. A professor at an agricultural university told of us his own graduation in 1963, when Castro personally presented each graduate with a copy of the newly published Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Cubans see their drive toward self-sufficiency as part of their national defense,
and have incorporated it into all levels of policy. CUBAN FOOD SYSTEM POLICY A government official described their economy as “a huge mixed salad”, with a flexible mix of planned and free-market mechanisms for growing and distributing food. The government has certain ideals that guide their decision-making: • Affordable food for everyone. The basic ration is subsidized so every citizen has access to the staples. Children are provided with milk every day until they are 7 years old. • Fair wages to farmers - farmers are now making about three times the average professional salary in Cuba. • Cooperative efforts and small entrepreneurial efforts rewarded over the corporate model. Cubans are seen first as citizens, not consumers. Land ownership is limited to approximately 150 acres per family, and groups of farmers can form cooperatives.
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SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Deer In The Garden? Try This Ask the
Garden Guy By Will Tillett I recently interviewed Mr. L. Sedgewick Dorfney, who offers an enterprising way to deal with the ever-growing dilemma of deer in the garden. Small gardeners everywhere can learn something from Mr. Dorfney’s unique approach to the problem. (This interview was taped live for a canned audience. Time restraints prevented actual proof-reading.) Garden Guy: “Thank you for sharing your ideas with us, Mr. Dorfney. You say you’ve found a particularly effective deer deterrent for the small-time gardener?” L. Sedgewick Dorfney: “Yes, indeedy, I have. Ayuh.” G.G.: “Could you tell us how your system works, and how you stumbled upon it quite by accident?” L.S.D. “Ayuh, I could do that. You see, I stumbled on it quite by accident.” G.G.: “How so?” L.S.D.: “Well, I was out in the garden one day, picking cucumbers, I think, or pulling weeds, I don’t remember. Pulling weeds it was, because my wife, Elke, had been complaining.” G.G.: “About the deer?” L.S.D.: “Nope. ‘Bout the weeds. She had been pickling that morning, and ran out of
Cuba continued from previous page THESE BROADER IDEALS HAVE INTERESTING RAMIFICATION IN CUBAN SOCIETY: Different models for communication — Dense social networks in Cuba are a major advantage for communicating priorities, transmitting knowledge, building consensus, and effecting change. Citizens are not bombarded with advertising. The absence of billboards along the highways was immediately evident. However, there were community signs, promoting recycling, education, children’s health, or world peace. Farmers’ economic security not tied to land values — In Cuba, land may be privately owned, as long as it is kept in agriculture, and passed on through the family. It may not be sold or developed. However, unlike the US, land is not a farm family’s only future security. The government has promoted a policy that allows farmers some free-market access within a socialist system to earn an above average living, rather than struggling to survive and later selling the land to the highest bidder. Sustainable agriculture - the Cuban model — Cuba’s model for sustainable agriculture includes the following elements: Urban Agriculture — 80% of Cuba’s population lives in cities. The government has instituted a policy of turning all urban open space into agriculture, and is moving towards decentralization of food distribution. Urban agriculture is defined in Cuba as any crop production in an area from the city center to a radius of 10 kilometers around the city. The goal is for food to be produced and consumed as locally as possible. In 2002, over three million tons of
pickles. ‘Sedgewick’, she hollered, ‘if you’d pull them weeds, you’d prolly find more pickles for me, and I could finish this batch.’ She makes a mean garlic dill pickle, Elke does. Puts too much garlic in it, if you can believe that. Some people say there’s no such thing as too much garlic. Real diehard garlic fans, they are. They haven’t tasted Elke’s pickles.” G.G.: “But the deer, Mr. Dorfney. What about the deer?” L.S.D.: “Oh, ayuh. The deer. Nasty crop of ‘em this year. Mowed my beans down three times before I got them under control.” G.G.: “How’d you do it?” L.S.D.: “Well, you plant ‘em heavy, in stages. I like to put in yellow beans first, then two weeks later some green beans . . . “
L.S.D.: “Ayuh. That’s exactly what they are.” G.G.: “Do they work?” L.S.D.: “Oh, Ayuh. They work nifty. Hold more stuff than the paper bags, too, we think.” G.G.: “Against the deer? Do they work against the deer, Mr. Dorfney?” L.S.D.: “Well, this is what I’m tryin’ to tell you. I’m out there, bent down near the fence, pullin’ weeds, and I hear this weird buzzing-fwacking sound. ‘Bzzz-fwack! Bzzfwack!’ I look around and can’t see anything, and pretty soon it does it again. ‘Bzzfwack!’ It’s hard to describe. But I go look in one of the bags, and there’s this big grasshopper, who somehow got caught in there, and was raising hell trying to get out. So I got a brainstorm to try it with the deer.”
get tired of all that ‘bzz-fwacking’ and simply die. Maybe they get heart attacks, I don’t know. They just up and die on ya’.” G.G.: “So the system is a complete failure?” L.S.D.: “No, the system works fine. See, if you want to see the project through, you gotta keep replacing the grasshoppers every hour and a half or so.” G.G.: “And then it works?” L.S.D.: “Well, sure. ‘Cause you’re out in the garden replacing grasshoppers all night, and the deer won’t come anywhere near it when there’s a human in the garden.” Will Tillett (aka Jim Bush) writes a regular column, “The Garden Guy,” for The Courier Journal in Palmyra, NY. Reprinted with permission.
G.G.: “Catch the deer in grocery bags?” G.G.: “No, I mean how’d you get the deer under control?” L.S.D.: “Oh, that was a fluke, let me tell you. I was out there pulling weeds, and about three weeks earlier, I had fenced in a little area around the beans, what with the deer getting ‘em and all, and I put plastic bags on top of the fence, all along it, every two, three feet or so, and the wind gets the bags a rustlin’ around, and the idea is the deer, which come along at night, you know, will see the bags, and hear ‘em rustling, if there’s any wind, and they won’t go into the fenced in part of the garden, I guess.” G.G.: “These are, what, plastic grocery store bags?”
food was produced in cities (25 kg/sq meter/year), and 300,000 jobs were created by urban farming. This is one of the most stunning successes of Cuban agriculture during their ‘special period’ after the collapse of their trading partner the Soviet Union. Integrated Pest Management — this is seen as a first step towards ecological pest management. Cuba has achieved an 8-fold reduction in the amount of pesticide used per ton of product produced. Intercropping and crop rotation — the goal is to increase the functional and productive biodiversity within agricultural systems. Cuba is also experimenting with integrating crop and livestock systems, and is finding that overall productivity per energy input increases dramatically. Soil conservation and recuperation, organic fertilizers and bio fertilizers, animal traction and alternative energy are also promoted. Reverting rural emigration — As jobs are created and farmers’ standards of living improve in the countryside, the flow of young people to the cities is slowly shifting. Increasing cooperative use of land — While 76% of the agricultural land is in private or cooperative ownership, an individual can only own 67 hectares (approx 150 acres). Larger farms may be owned jointly by a cooperative. The government encourages cooperative production by providing cooperatives with a tractor and a truck to get product to market, which can be shared among member farms. Fair wages for farmers and affordable food — The Cuban government is still struggling with how to do this. Farmers are currently making almost 3 times the average
L.S.D.: “No. You’re a city boy, aren’t you? See, this ‘bzz-fwacking’ made such a racket, I figured if I caught a bunch of grasshoppers and put them in all those plastic bags on the fence, it would keep the deer out of the garden at night.” G.G.: “Genius. Did it work?” L.S.D.: “Well, yes and no.” G.G.: “Yes and no?” L.S.D.: “Ayuh. See, the grasshoppers don’t last long in the bags. Sometimes they get lucky and jump out, even though the opening is pretty small. Mostly, though, they just
salary in Cuba! They are required to contract with the state for a certain amount of product, then they can sell any surplus on the free market. This has led farmers to develop intricate systems of intercropping, and they are experiencing very high productivity with organic systems. Access to education — Cuba’s education system is free, and the extension system heavily promotes farmer-to farmer learning. The state actively promotes organic and low-input agriculture, and funds research in these areas. One interesting point at a technical school for farmers was that agricultural students are taught the fundamentals of public speaking and communication, so that they will be able to teach others. Low-input technologies — During our visits to farms, we saw many innovative uses of low-input technologies to improve productivity. These included: leguminous trees planted both as living fence posts and as fodder for animals; composting and vermin-composting; animal traction; a process using bacteria to convert nitrogen in sugar cane to create a 7-8% protein feed for cattle; smallscale methane digesting for energy to run a 38 cow dairy; intercropping both for pest control and productivity increases; and diversity of crops within farms and fields
THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE IN CUBA Cuba has institutionalized sustainable agriculture in their higher education curriculum. They believe agro-ecological agriculture has been so well integrated into the agricultural scientific and technical community that it would be difficult to return to old ways if the embargo were lifted. However, they see the importation of agricultural products
from the United States as a means to open a crack in the embargo towards improved trade relations. Cuban researchers continue to document improved productivity in their organic farming, especially where crops and livestock are integrated on the same farm. They are learning their limitations, for example realizing that it is less expensive to import poultry than to import the grain to raise the chickens themselves. The Cubans are eager to buy and sell with the United States, but their hope is to do so in ways that strengthen the Cuban economy without jeopardizing the strides they have made toward environmental and agricultural sustainability. MY “TAKE HOME” LESSON I’m still trying to find ways to incorporate what I learned on this trip into our farm and my work with other farms. After much reflection, I think what I found most meaningful about our trip was the evidence that Cuba has begun to look at their food system more holistically, giving factors such as nutrition and health, food security and the environment equal weight to economic factors when making policy and community decisions. Making these choices has led them to find that their farms can be more productive using organic techniques, that their own farms can feed the Cuban people and contribute in a meaningful way to the economy, and that it is possible to construct a food system with very little assistance and inputs from multinational agribusiness. This was my ‘take-home’ message from Cuba. Amy Kenyon is with the Watershed Agricultural Council in the Catskills of New York State.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
The Unheated House— “Most Profitable Venture on the Farm” By Judson Reid Is there a market for out-of-season produce? Let’s look at tomatoes. Today American consumers want fresh, quality fruit year round and farmers in other nations are capitalizing on this. US imports of greenhouse tomatoes increased 379% from Holland and 692% from Canada during the late 90’s. These nations have the advantage of lower utility rates, with heat the most expensive input for US growers. An alternative to a fully heated greenhouse is a hoop house or high tunnel. What is a high tunnel? Picture a greenhouse with no vents or heaters. The tunnel could be anywhere from 8-15 feet high. Here in the Finger Lakes most are designed and built by farmers themselves. Typically a single layer of polyethylene covers rebar, pvc or aluminum arches. Dimensions are about 30X100’, although I saw one this summer that was 300’ long. I remain a big fan of full-scale heated greenhouses for tomato production, but the unheated hoop has some advantages over the hothouse: • Varieties for hoop houses have less expensive seed. • High tunnels use no electricity. • Soil management can be simplified. • Generally there are fewer insects and diseases in unheated hoops. With lower inputs, the return to investment is greater, sooner. If we look at sustainability, hoops use less non-renewable
resources than heated greenhouses. One farmer in Lancaster, PA told me his tunnel is the “most profitable venture on the farm.” Tomatoes are the most common tunnel crop, but beans, cucumbers, lettuce, and squash are also grown. Lets look at the production side of tomatoes. TRUTH IN ADVERTISING Actually, high tunnel growers do heat a few times a season. After plants go in the ground in March or April LP heaters are used on an emergency basis for extremely cold nights. Reflective cloth can also be drawn over the crop at the end of the day. Growers soak the soil with water when the sun is out, then the moisture buffers night temperatures. One Penn Yan grower plans to fill teat-dip jugs with water, let them warm in the sun, then radiate at night. All great low-input ideas. Even though there are no vents, and often no fans, ventilation is essential. Sides should be rolled up during warmer months. A 3-5’ side-wall makes this practical, and the ends can be opened up too. Ventilation is required for nutrient uptake, disease prevention and stem strength. Ventilation will also help pollinate the crop. In a traditional greenhouse pollination must be done by hand or bumblebee. In a high tunnel the wind lifts pollen. But venting is tough during the first few weeks when it’s still cold out. If its still too cold to vent when the first set of flowers open, plants can be shaken by hand.
Cucumbers and tomatoes in a home-made high tunnel in Dundee, NY. The grower estimates a construction cost of .25 per sq. ft Photos by Judson Reid
WHICH VARIETIES? Every high tunnel I’ve been in uses determinant, or ‘garden’ tomatoes. These plants have a bush habit. In NY and PA the varieties Mountain Spring, Mountain Fresh, and Big Boy are popular. Choosing the right variety will depend on market. For example the Mountain series ships very well, but growers with roadside stands prefer a softer tomato with better flavor such as Supersonic. Hothouse growers use indeterminate varieties that are pruned to a single leader, which grows straight to the sky. These plants are prolific. But to yield 20 pounds they take a lot of fertilizer and care. A Penn Yan grower and I are putting together a research project to evaluate the potential of these varieties in high tunnels. KEEPING IT REAL Tunnels usually end up on reverted pastures or vegetable gardens that will require amendment. Since no rain enters the tunnel, tomatoes should be drip irrigated. To maximize yield soluble fertilizer is injected. There are some great nutrient-recycling options for tunnels too. One grower in Penn Yan keeps a flock of broilers in his hoop starting in late fall. These birds are butchered in January, after they’ve gorged
A 300 foot long high tunnel in Lancaster PA
High tunnel tomatoes in Penn Yan, NY. This production style fits well with low-input, diversified farms.
Corn stubble and Cayuga in Winter.
on bugs and cull tomatoes. Their manure contributes phosphorus and potash to Spring’s tomatoes. Their roasted meat feeds a family of twelve. So maybe tomatoes are the least important thing to come out of the hoop. With snowflakes melting on the plastic, parents and children work side by side in shirtsleeves. The 100-foot long shell is a forum for cultural instruction. No internet, no MTV. These kids’ days are filled with the smell of warm soil and their parents’ gentle, green stained hands. Judson Reid is a Resource Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County, NY.
SMALL FARM QUARTERLY
January 26, 2004
Take a Walk After Morning Milking Maintain Grass Filter Areas for Pollution Control By Lee Telega The morning milking is done. The pipeline and units are cleaning and you have just finished hosing down the milkhouse floor. You pull out your list of things-to-do, knowing the vet will be coming up the drive in the next half hour for herd check. Halfway down your list there is something you wrote several nights ago-”Walk grass filters.” It’s an odd job you probably would not have thought of except for an article in a recent farm newspaper. On many farms, grass filter areas are used to remove sediment, organic matter, nutrients and other pollutants from contaminated water. They are used as the final treatment for barnyard and bunker silo runoff and milkhouse wash water. When designed and maintained properly, they result in excellent protection of nearby streams, lakes and wells from these potential pollution sources. DESIGNING A GRASS FILTER The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) maintains standards and has expertise in use of grass filter areas. The filter areas should be placed where vigorous dense vegetation exists or can be established. To insure slow, even sheet flow through the vegetation, filter strips should have a level cross-section and be
graded no less than 2% and no more than 12% slope. This slow, even flow allows for filtering, deposition and infiltration into the soil to allow biological processes to work on the contaminants. The lower edge of a designed grass filter area should be at least 25 feet from a stream or lake, and at least 100 feet from a well or spring. Aggressive-growing grasses such as tall fescue, orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, redtop, and/or reed cannarygrass do a great job in these filter areas. Grass filter areas should be at least 100 feet long and no more than 40 feet wide. If needed, several filter areas can be used to treat a waste source. As a rule of thumb, grass filter areas that treat barnyard runoff should be between 1.5 and 2 times the size of the barnyard, depending on slope. For treating bunker silo runoff, the most concentrated juices must be collected — only diluted runoff from rains is allowed to enter the filter area. The filter area should be at least 1/3 the size of the bunker silo floor. For treating milkhouse wash water, 10 square feet of filter is needed for each gallon discharged per day. Since milkhouse wash water is produced every day, it is necessary to have at least two different filter areas. While one area is accepting the wash water, the other is rested to allow the soil to dry and aerate.
Screen box filter for barnyard runoff at the Ralph and Irene Buel Farm, Delhi, NY. Photos by Gale Neal, Delaware County S&WCD Solids from the waste stream must be captured before discharging into the grass filter area. Screens are used to catch large floating feed particles in barnyard and bunker silo runoff. Because it also contains manure, barnyard runoff should then enter a settling basin or tank to capture the finer particles. Settling tanks that also capture the floating milk fat are used in milkhouse waste systems. If not captured, solids will quickly collect in the grass, smothering it, causing kill zones in the filter. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the screens, settling tanks and basins of the solids collection system is an integral part of operating a grass filter area. Effluent from the solids collection system is directed to a device that allows the liquids to evenly distribute and infiltrate into the filter area. A constructed ‘level-lip’ spreader is often placed at the head of the filter area. Level lip spreaders position a treated 2 x 12” plank on the downside of a trench filled with packed backfill and clean gravel (see diagram.) Levelness of the plank requires maintenance, particularly in the spring because of soil heaving during winter. Gravel-filled, shallow trenches cut across the filter area will also act as a spreader by slowing the flow and interrupting channels. If solids build up in the spreader trench over the years, the solids will need to be removed.
MAINTAINING YOUR GRASS FILTER A few other maintenance duties are needed to keep grass filter areas healthy and well functioning. Annually, mow and harvest the vegetation. Fill in small channels that form to keep water flowing evenly across the whole filter area. Areas of dead vegetation in the filter indicate contaminant overloading, and steps should be taken to reduce flow to that area. Monthly inspections are best to spot problems early. Suitable sites for grass filter areas can be found on most farms. If you think a grass filter area would improve the quality of the stream, pond or lake on your farm, contact your county Soil & Water Conservation District or USDA NRCS offices. A well-designed grass filter will continue to function properly if you check it regularly and correct problems early. So now that you’ve read this article, maybe you should pull out that to-do list and jot yourself a note. And next fine day, take a stroll after morning milking. Lee Telega is Farm-Environmental Specialist with the Cornell PRO-DAIRY Program.
Learn About New Marketing Strategies at www.smallfarms.cornell.edu Good marketing is becoming a must for successful small agricultural enterprises. Marketing can take place through a variety of direct retail and wholesale channels. Typically, direct retail marketing will offer a farmer a better price as well as direct connections to customers, but not every farmer wants to work with retail customers. Creative wholesale marketing, such as collaborating with other farmers or farm-toschool, provides a way for small farmers to compete within wholesale channels.
A variety of fact sheets, newsletters and small farm examples on alternative marketing strategies is available online in the Marketing section of the Cornell Small Farms Web Site. Here you will find tools and information to help you decide the best marketing strategy for your small farm business. Our website also offers loads of information on other small farm topics. Check it out at www.smallfarms.cornell.edu!
Recently constructed grass filter area (two cells) for barnyard runoff and milkhouse waste at the Ralph and Irene Buel Farm, Delhi, NY. Runoff and wastewater is doused by a pumping system, alternating between each cell every two weeks.