Tag Archives: cng

Native Son Farm A Real Showplace

Last Friday, it was my privilege to attend a board meeting of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN) held at Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS. It’s a real showplace!

Will Reed talks about the chemical-free crops he's planted, March 7, 2014. To look at it, you wouldn't know from this photo that Will and Amanda Reed's Native Son Farm is smack dab in the center of Tupelo, MS. It's surrounded by houses and subdivisions. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Will Reed talks about the chemical-free crops he’s planted, March 7, 2014. To look at it, you wouldn’t know from this photo that Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son Farm is smack dab in the center of Tupelo, MS. It’s surrounded by houses and subdivisions. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

If anyone has ever visited the farm, the first thing that stands out is that it’s rather spread out. By that, Will and Amanda Reed and their toddler live in one house, they have a farm stand about a mile down the road from that, and they have a 30-acre or so plot in the middle of town. They do farming on each spot.

Farmer Will Reed shows visitors some of the 3,000 plants he has started for planting in coming weeks at the high tunnel behind his house at Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Farmer Will Reed shows visitors some of the 3,000 plants he has started for planting in coming weeks at the high tunnel behind his house at Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

For example, behind their house they have a high tunnel with about 3,000 plants started. From that, they expect to have about 15,000 to 20,000 tomato plants to feed their 250-member CSA. Will says he intends to start setting plants out around April 15.

Talk about urban agriculture, their 30-acre plot is in the center of town, surrounded by houses and subdivisions. They already have strawberries growing there for their CSA’s first food boxes in coming weeks. Their farm stand (where the MSAN board met) is big enough to house a good-sized dinner party or banquet if they were of a mind to do it. In one room, for example, where their walk-in coolers are located, they had a vintage Allis Chalmers tractor. (Will says he uses it to pull weeds.)

A vintage Allis Chalmers tractor is housed in a back room of Will and Amanda Reed's Native Son Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

A vintage Allis Chalmers tractor is housed in a back room of Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

But even with all this spaciousness, it’s still a family farm. Daughter Magnolia, 1 1/2, is at home on the place as are Will and Amanda. That’s a major driver for them to use organic growing methods. Native Son Farm is Certified Naturally Grown (www.naturallygrown.org), a type of third-party certification that is well suited for direct-market growers who sell locally.

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

As Will and Amanda note on their website (www.nativesonfarm.com) this expansion of their farm is rather new. “Will became interested in farming while living off the grid in California in 2006.  After graduating from Humboldt State University in 2009, Will moved back to Tupelo to begin Native Son Farm.

“Amanda grew up off the grid in Thetford, Vermont.  As a child, self sufficiency and living off the land were basic family values.  This instilled in her an interest in farming for production.  She met Will at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, where she received  a degree in Child Development.  After graduation, she joined Will in Tupelo to begin Native Son Farm.”

They started with a 3/4-acre garden which grew to a 10-acre farm feeding 150 families to the 250 families and 25 acres in production today.

Since he already employs organic growing methods, Will says he might switch to USDA certified organic if he starts to sell to large grocery stores where he can command a higher price to pay for it, but for now, CNG suits him fine.

They are proud to state they are “Committed to growing healthy, chemical free fruits and vegetables for our community…”

The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors meets at the farm stand of Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors meets at the farm stand of Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Will is the president of the MSAN Board of Directors. I’m on the board and also am a former board member and serve in an advisory capacity for CNG.

Will and Amanda (and Magnolia!) are fine folks who practice natural, sustainable and organic growing methods worthy of highlighting as a demonstration or teaching farm, and it was great fun to visit on Friday.

For more on MSAN, see: http://www.mssagnet.net

Here’s a video on Native Son Farm: http://www.mssagnet.net/programs/featured-farms/native-son-farm/

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Organic Gardens Need Water in Hot Weather

June 27, 2012
Hot-Weather Watering

The hottest part of summer may require us to use more treated water than we may prefer. Chemicals from city water-treatment plants can build up and can also stunt microbial life in the soil. To help alleviate the chemical load, consider using a chlorine filter that screws into your garden hose. Filters are available at pool-supply stores or online. If you don’t have an untreated pond or rain barrels, this is the next best thing.

Frequent watering leaches nutrients from the soil. The best and easiest way to replenish the soil short term is by using a top dressing of worm castings. Just apply a thin layer at your plants’ roots. Find worm castings at your favorite local garden store.

Stressed plants may exhibit powdery mildew or blights, especially on tomatoes. You can remedy this organically by using Bacillus subtilis, a soil-dwelling bacterium that controls leaf blight, black mold, powdery mildew and many other diseases. It’s sold under various brand names, including Serenade Garden Disease Control, and is OMRI approved for organic growing. Ask your local garden store to carry this for you, or go online to Arbico Organics (arbico-organics.com).

In the end, nothing beats rainwater, but these tips can help your garden thrive in hot weather.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Ewing was recently elected to the board of directors of Certified Naturally Grown, a national non-profit organization offering certification tailored to small-scale, direct-market farmers and beekeepers who use natural methods. Many growers who use organic methods prefer not to enlist in the U.S. government’s certified program; CNG was founded in 2002, at the same time the USDA’s National Organic Program went into effect to fill that gap, providing local, community-based third-party certification. It is not affiliated with NOP. For more information, visit naturallygrown.org.

Earth Day & The Future of the Organic Movement

Earth Day and the Organic Movement

April 18, 2012

Forty-two years ago, a new way of looking at our Earth arose in human consciousness.
It came about on Christmas Eve in 1968 when Astronaut William  Anders looked out the window of Apollo 8 and snapped a photo that he  dubbed “Earthrise.”
The photo was featured on the cover of the first “Whole Earth Catalog,”  which celebrated natural living and a back-to-the-earth credo in 1970.  It became the icon of a movement that saw the first Earth Day that same  year.
That holistic way of looking at the world—seeing us all as voyagers on a  tiny, bobbing blue and green vessel in the vastness of space—gave vigor  to another movement that came to be called organics.
On Earth Day this year, it’s time to review where that movement went, where it is likely go and maybe even where it should go.
For those deeply involved in the organics movement, this year could  prove transformative. Some of its pioneers believe that industrial  agriculture has
co-opted the movement since the U.S. Department of  Agriculture took over administration of organics, and that the movement  has lost its spirit. The USDA has even made it illegal for a farm to use  the word  unless it us USDA certified.
Most of the USDA Certified Organic produce you see in your local  grocery store is grown on huge factory farms using migrant laborers who  are often abused and exploited, paid pennies on the dollar, housed in  shanties and, because they are often undocumented, are afraid to  complain for fear of being deported. That’s if the produce is grown in  the United States.
Much of the produce marked USDA Certified Organic in your market is  imported from foreign countries where inspections to ensure harmful  synthetic chemicals, fertilizers and poisons aren’t used or may be lax.  Corporate ownership of organic brands is becoming the norm. (For a list  of corporations that own certified organic farms and their brands, see http://www.bit.ly/i6zF44.)

Beyond the Label
Eliot Coleman, author of “The Winter Harvest Handbook” (Chelsea Green  Publishing, 2009, $29.95) among other titles, grower, and owner of Four  Season Farm in Maine (fourseasonfarm.com), was a founder of the organics  movement in the 1960s and helped set up the original National Organic  Program guidelines.
Now, however, he rejects USDA certification.
Indian Line Farm in Egremont, Mass., one of the first Community  Supported Agriculture farms in the U.S. and a founder of the CSA  movement, also rejects USDA certification, choosing instead to be listed  with Certified Naturally Grown, a nonprofit alternative eco-labeling  program for small farms that grow using USDA organic methods but are not  part of the USDA program. (Disclosure: My ShooFly Farm in Lena is CNG  certified.)
The organics movement faces a dilemma, even from within: whether to  embrace “evil” Big Ag and all it entails, including greater corporatism  and devaluing of workers, or to reject the mainstreaming of organics and  its promise of a better planet.
This schism is playing out around the world. Countries in Europe and  elsewhere have rejected genetically modified, or GMO, seeds and food  because they believe these mutated strains are untested for human health  and safety and could pose a threat to the environment. However, under a  quirk of U.S. law, GMO doesn’t have to meet independent testing and  analysis to be proven safe. The foods are safe because companies that  genetically engineer them say they are safe, and they fund their own  studies to prove it. Hence, companies can market GMO food and seed to an  unsuspecting public even without labeling.
Organic growing practices do not allow GMO seeds or plants. But even  here, corporate agriculture is pushing to include GMOs in USDA organic  certification rules. (For more, see: OTA ‘Modified’ by GMO interests,  Organic Consumers Association, June 9, 2011: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bytes/ob280.htm.)
A real risk exists that, ultimately, the food and farming label of “USDA Organic” will be a distinction without a difference.

Organics’ Gordian Knot
This growing divide forces a dilemma for the consumer as well.  Certainly, Certified Organic is better than conventional chemical  farming. It’s healthier,
safer and more beneficial for the planet. But  it’s a Faustian bargain: In exchange for safe, healthy, pesticide-free  food under the guise of saving the
planet with environmentally friendly  farming methods, consumers may be dooming the planet to worse air  pollution, depletion of natural resources and
exploitation of workers,  while putting land ownership and food production into fewer hands.
Like the fabled Gordian knot that many said was impossible to unravel,  the answer for consumers is almost embarrassingly simple: Grow local,  buy local. In other words, cut through USDA and Big Ag-generated  confusion.
Here is the key to the future of organics if it is to continue in the  spirit in which it began: The organic movement must transition from an  idea of
sustainability using old growing methods to a new model that  embraces modern social change and science. In centuries past, growers  who used organic methods knew the practice worked, but they didn’t know  why. Now, with all the research into soil science that is broadening  horizons as to the vital role of fungi and microorganisms in the soil,  we know and can scientifically prove that organic methods can feed the  world for a safer, sustainable and nourished planet.
Consumers want safe food, and young people have embraced the idea. Many  have started small backyard and “boutique” farms to grow foods. This  small but growing postmodern organics movement embraces a worldwide  awareness under the moniker “ecoagriculture.” I believe this is the next  phase of organic growing.

The Power of Choice
In America, I suspect this movement will likely veer increasingly away  from pure crop production and toward a more holistic view of the  environment, such
as permaculture. Coined in 1959 by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren,  permaculture incorporates two concepts: “Permanent Culture” and  “Permanent Agriculture.” The practice eschews soil disruption, an  agricultural hallmark since its beginning 10,000 years ago.  To the  untrained eye, a permaculture food plot may appear to be a jungle.  However, if it is well crafted, it can serve as a continuing ecosystem  through the seasons, providing food with a minimum of human  intervention.
Consumers’ continued demand to label genetically engineered foods will  boost natural growing techniques and, perhaps, reverse the decline in  seed diversity. Demand can revive heritage foods and crops, while  shifting attention toward fruits and vegetables, lessening health  threats caused by high-fat, high-sugar, processed “food products.”
The future of organics is in our hands. We each can do our part in  keeping our precious Earth of Anders’ iconic photo blue, green and clean  by growing our own food — whether in our backyards or with our neighbors  in community gardens — and by buying organic, rejecting GMO, supporting  locally grown food and only voting for those who look out for the  consumer first.
This is the type of organic growing that those of us who  marveled at that little planet in the black void of space envisioned  some 42 years ago.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.