Tag Archives: community supported agriculture

What Community Supported Ag is All About


A few weeks ago on March 10, I wrote a blog about the family of Will, Amanda and Magnolia Reed and their small farm in Tupelo. Last night, I received word while traveling in Texas that little Magnolia, 1 1/2, has cancer. She underwent surgery this morning and was expected to start chemotherapy.

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) We have since learned that Magnolia was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called  and underwent surgery today.

Here’s the message from Will, as relayed by Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network Executive Director Daniel Doyle:

Our lives have taken a strange turn over the last 24 hours. After taking Magnolia to CSA member Dr Richmond McCarty’s office to have a cough checked out, a chest ex ray revealed that we should be sent to Lebonheur children’s hospital. After receiving a ct scan we have learned that little Magnolia Jane has a very rare cancer called neuroblastoma. Her tumor and bone marrow will be biopsied Monday and she will have a port implanted to receive chemotherapy. We expect chemo to begin next week and to continue until the tumor is shrunken enough to be surgically removed. We are receiving excellent care and remain optimistic. We will likely be absent from the farm for a couple of weeks but have a GREAT crew that is poised to take over. Farmer Sam McLemore is coming over from Starkville to head the farm and will be aided by farmers Taylor Yowell, Cliff Newton, Jana Eakes and Gabe Jordan. These guys are amazing but with 230 shares to pack each week will have a huge workload and could use support from our CSA. We are asking for the community in our community supported agriculture program to come together and help the farm keep going. If you are available to volunteer on the farm, please email Chris Macalilly at cmcalilly@gmail.com and he will try and get you scheduled. If you have other talents or are willing to cook a meal for our/your farm team that would be great as well. Please pray for Magnolia, our family, our farm and farmers.Love,

Will and Amanda Reed
People are chipping in to help the family in Tupelo, and from across the state. They are volunteering to help work the farm and sending donations. This is what “community” in community supported agriculture is all about!
The family has been such an inspiration for so many people – growing food for their community and being a vital part of it in the central part of the city.
If anyone would like to help out, or read more, see the Facebook page titled Thoughts and Prayers for Magnolia Jane Reed: 
The family is certainly in our prayers. They are sweet and wonderful people.

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

‘Edible forest’ can supplement organic garden

Feb. 3, 2012

‘Edible forest’ can supplement veggies for organic produce
When we think of “organic” or growing food, we naturally think of veggies. But with February tree planting time, what about “edible” forests?
Next Friday is Arbor Day in Mississippi (each state selects its own date to coincide with the best planting time).
Why not plant a fruit or nut tree?
Why not incorporate your plantings as an “edible arbor” alongside, around and through garden plots?
Mississippi farmers and homeowners have been growing blueberries for years. But edible forests may include apples, pears and other fruit-bearing trees. Some are adaptable to Mississippi’s hot, humid climate.
Some fruit trees don’t do well in the South because they require a certain number of “chill hours” or temps below 45 degrees. For example, apples are best suited for the northern third of the state, but some root stocks can be planted statewide.
For additional information on preferred fruit varieties in Mississippi, see Fruit and Nut Recommendations by the state Extension Plant and Soil Sciences Department, online, at http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p0966.pdf.

Plant chestnuts: There’s something of a movement under way to replant chestnuts across America, too.
There probably aren’t too many people who remember when chestnut trees lined many boulevards in the United States – before they were virtually wiped out by an Asian fungus called chestnut blight.
But they may be coming back.
The American Chestnut Foundation is promoting the planting of new trees.
According to Paul Franklin, TACF director of communications in Asheville, N.C., at one time, the American chestnut stretched from Georgia to Maine. An estimated four billion trees were lost to the disease during the first half of the 20th century.
“We will need to plant a lot of trees if we are to eventually restore the American chestnut to its former range,” TACF President and CEO Bryan J. Burhans said recently.
The American chestnut grows quite large – up to 100 feet tall – with a wide canopy. It’s good for meadows, Franklin says, and excellent for wildlife, including deer, turkey and bear. There are also Asian-American hybrids that are smaller.
For more, see the TACF website, http://www.acf.org, or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (www.sfiprogram.org), or read the chestnut planting guide:
Or write The American Chestnut Foundation, 160 Zillicoa St., Suite D, Asheville, NC 28801; Phone: (828) 281-0047.

“Edible Forest” in Jackson: The Mississippi Urban Forest Council is a state leader in promoting “edible forests.” An example of an edible forest in Jackson is at Wells United Methodist Church, see:

Fruit and Vegetable Growers: I was recently elected president of the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, the statewide nonprofit for commercial growers.
While most of the state’s produce farmers are not organic, I think it reflects a commitment by the state’s growers for environmental stewardship and recognizes organics as a viable option.
It’s a great honor, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve small farmers, the backbone of the state’s agricultural community.

Note: I’ll be speaking on community-supported agriculture at the Urban Forest Council’s Conference Tuesday at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. For additional information, see: http://www.msurbanforest.com.

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.

Reality and ‘myth’ of organic

May 20, 2011

Consumer must sort out reality from the ‘myth’ of organic

As hard as it is for me to say this, and as much of an advocate of “organic” as I may be, there’s a lot to be desired in the genre.

In fact, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture has commandeered the name “organic,” and now defines it, a lot of small, organic farmers are at a loss as to how to describe themselves.

For example, at our little corner in the earth, we don’t use pesticides or herbicides. Period. But there are a number of such chemicals that are allowed as USDA certified “organic.” (For a list, see: http://www.omri.org.)

The USDA also allows a lot of other practices that small farms tend to reject, as well (especially regarding confinement of animals, preferring instead to allow chickens free range and cows to have access to pasture).

I got to thinking about this after seeing an ad on Facebook for Cascadian Farms, which touted itself as “organic” since 1972.

It may have started out as a “pure” organic farm back then, but it’s now a division of cereal giant General Mills.

Yet, here are thousands of people on Facebook “liking” part of the Big Ag industrial food machine because they think it’s something it’s not – part of the “myth” of “organic.”

When people see the word “organic,” they probably think it’s from small, independent farmers, who care about what they eat and grow. And they may even envision old hippies or young idealists or at least “salt of the earth” types who enjoy farming for its earthy pleasures and honest values as much as making a buck.

But, increasingly, they would be wrong. It’s part of the “myth” of organic that Big Ag organic seeks to promote.

Most of the “organic” produce you see in the supermarket is not produced by small farms – unless you deem tens of thousands of acres as “small.”

It’s shipped from far away factory farms – even other countries. For example, Cascadian Farms buys its “organic” fruits and vegetables from China and Mexico, among other countries. U.S. Silk soy milk, for instance, is made from “organic” soybeans bought in China and Brazil.

Consumers looking for the safest and most nutritious foods buy organic. That remains true. And the “myth” of organic is not truly a myth, in there are local organic farmers across the nation who are growing pure, fresh, healthful food without chemicals. The reality, though, is that there are factory farms that dominate the market and most of the certified organic food in grocery stores is produced by these farms.

The reality is also that many of these large conglomerates are cooperative arrangements whereby small organic farmers sell to the big operations to distribute their food nationwide.

So, while the “myth” of organic is the idea that its driven by the small independent farmer, the reality covers the range from the folks (like my wife and I) making the myth a reality to the large corporate food giants that make mockery of the myth. Truth is within the myth, but diffused and often distorted.

It’s up to the individual consumer to make reality from the myth, and you, the reader, can choose the reality you prefer by your choices.

You can create a better reality than the myth of organic by using these buying criteria.

•Good for you: More fresh produce.

•Good for you and environment: Organic produce.

•Good for you and your community: Any local fresh produce.

•Best for you, your community and the environment: Local, fresh, organic produce.

And, finally, the best of all possible worlds in my view anyway: Growing your own fresh, organic produce and sharing it with others – either friends, family and community members – through gifts or creating and selling through community supported agriculture where they buy “shares” in the produce you grow for weekly delivery, or selling to the local store, farmers market or fruit stand.

The bottom line is that without the myth of the small organic farmer being the one supplying the produce at Walmart and Kroger, the giant “elites” (industrial agriculture with a designer label) couldn’t exist; without the giant elites spurring the demand for their products, the consumer wouldn’t even be aware there was such a thing as organic pesticide-free farming. And without both united against watering down strict organic practices (including rejecting genetically modified seeds and sneaking in toxic chemicals), small farmers wouldn’t have the market they do and a growing demand.

Certified organic is better than “conventional” chemical farming. But increasingly, what is deemed “organic” accommodates the factory farms which can vastly underprice the hand-grown methods of small farmers.

The big farms do, however, have pretty labels and lots of advertising that promotes the “myth.”

Eat local. Know your farmer. That’s the way to go. Or, better yet, grow your own!

For a list of supermarket “organic” brands and the corporations that own them, see: http://bit.ly/i6zF44.

In Mississippi:

•There are only about 25 USDA certified organic growers. Most that sell locally list themselves with Local Harvest: http://www.localharvest. org.

•Not all farmers who grow organically are USDA certified. A few Mississippi farmers are Certified Naturally Grown, see: http://www.naturallygrown.org.

•Locally, some organic farmers sell at the Jackson Farmer’s Market on High Street on Saturdays and at Rainbow Natural Foods on Old Canton Road. Check the Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce website for farmer’s markets statewide: http://www.mdac.state.ms.us.

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.

Soil fertility, humus, tilth

February 25, 2011

Test soil of gardens, lawns to ensure fertility, balance

In a previous column, we wrote about how one can look at the weeds growing in a field and determine soil deficiencies.

For example, dandelions tell us we have too much soil sedmentation; consider them natural tillers of your field; when they die back, the hollowed out root system is used by earthworms to travel and further break up and fertilize the soil, bringing calcium to the surface. So, far from being “just a weed,” they’re the gardener’s friend. (Thank Charles Walters of Acres USA for this good advice!)

But beyond what our “weed” friends are telling us, it’s a good idea, too, to take a soil sample and have it tested, not only for your organic garden (certified organic growers must test every year), but also for your lawn and flower beds. You might be surprised at what you find (that you’ve been overfertilizing or adding the wrong amendments).

The Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory analyzes soil. It only costs $6 for a routine analysis.

For additional information, see http://msucares.com/crops/soils/testing.html, visit your local extension service office or write: Soil Testing Laboratory, Box 9610, Mississippi State MS 39762; or call (662) 325-3313.

As an example, while it’s not required, we sample three areas of our little ShooFly Farm because we’re on a hill, and we actually have three different types of soil; at the top of the hill, it’s red clay sandy soil, highly acidic; at the middle, halfway down, it’s loamy and high zinc presumably from previous owners using composted chicken manure as fertilizer; at the bottom, it’s dense clay soil.

Each has its own needs. For example, we’ve been steadily working to build humus and composted material in the top area, to hold moisture and build tilth, and provide optimum conditions for microbial life.

In the middle area, we’ve concentrated on building fertility through adding composted horse manure and high nitrogen cover crops.

At the bottom, we’ve just used standard crop rotation along with allowing natural weeds and brush as a “buffer” zone between the highway and our fields.

For your 4-by-8 “Jim’s plot,” of course, it’s a lot simpler. Just take a small trowel or spoon and fill the cardboard box that MSU provides for a soil sample, send it off with your payment, and in a few weeks, you’ll get your results.

Reader response: An online reader wrote from Hawaii about starting a backyard CSA (community supported agriculture) plot to share produce with friends and family:

“But alas, I can’t plant a garden. Military housing is strongly opposed to us digging a garden in our backyards. We can’t even compost in housing here.”

I suggested that perhaps there was a community garden somewhere that she could donate time to help tend in exchange for food, and she wrote back that, in fact, she shopped at a local farmer’s market at least once a week and would look into it.

People who live in urban areas might also consider “yard sharing.” That’s where they link up with people who have space to grow but not the inclination.

Yard sharing has grown in popularity nationwide. To find someone in your area, check out: http://hyperlocavore.ning.com/page/about-us.

It’s a free yardsharing service operated by Liz McLellan in Boise, Idaho.

There is good value in getting your hands dirty and thinking about things. Lately, I’ve been employed a good bit in farm work and, consequently, have had lots of time to mull things over.

One of the items that has long simmered just beneath my consciousness is the sorry state of rural America. I remember when I was a boy, small rural places were bustling. Now, they are like ghost towns. I remember local communities thriving, filled with the commerce of farms and farmers who came and shopped. What happened to those people? Those communities?

We can’t just blame it on the lure of cities. For, indeed, the ties that kept rural people rural were broken loose, over the decades from the 1950s, when I was a boy, to before now.

The economic, social, moral and spiritual collapse of rural America may ultimately prove not to be the result of America’s decline but the cause of it.

Let’s reverse this. Let’s renew rural America from the ground up! I think we can do it with just the same kind of initiative and self-reliance that I’ve been writing about here; with backyard farming, micro-farming, growing local food for neighbors, churches, friends, family, and creating markets for our goods.

We lost our roots because we let them go. But roots can grow again, if we plant our feet and try again.

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.