Tag Archives: greenhorns

Young Couple Turns to Crowdfunding for Farm Expansion

(I’ve written about Dustin and Ali several times before in this blog. They are truly role models for young people entering farming. I wrote this piece to highlight their plight as they face regulatory barriers to achieving the American dream of being successful, sustainable small farmers in a world of agri-giants. Please feel free to repost it, share it, retweet it, whatever. They could use a little help. Thanks, Jim)
STARKVILLE, Miss. — By all outside measures, young farmers Dustin Pinion and Ali Fratesi are the picture of success. They’ve grown their Beaverdam Farm operation from nothing to now having about 350 laying hens and 800 meat birds a few miles from here in Clay County. 
Dustin Pinion (center) and Ali Fratesi (left) explain the basics of their pastured poultry/cattle operation at High Hope Farm in Clay County, MS. The couple has been hit by regulations aimed at larger industrial agricultural operations threatening to shut them down and have turned to crowd funding to build a processing center that meets state and federal approval. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Dustin Pinion (center) and Ali Fratesi (left) explain the basics of their pastured poultry/cattle operation at High Hope Farm in Clay County, MS. The couple has been hit by regulations aimed at larger industrial agricultural operations threatening to shut them down and have turned to crowd funding to build a processing center that meets state and federal approval.   (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

But the couple, in their 20s, are now what some might say are “victims of their own success.”
Dustin, 27, worked hard to get where he is, apprenticing under now-famous author, speaker and Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, to learn the ways of pastured poultry.
He has been a managing partner of High Hope Farm, a combined pastured poultry, swine and grass-fed beef farm, to try to save enough money to someday buy his own farm.
Fratesi, 26, his partner, works from before first light to well after dark, doing farm chores and tending to their buying club – which has more than 700 members – and carrying their dressed, all natural, chemical-free chickens 140 miles to sell at the Jackson Farmers Market on High Street. These are “better than organic!” they proclaim.
Every day, they monitor or move the netted and open bottom enclosures they have built from scrap tin and old cotton trailers so that the chickens are allowed to free range over the pasture. They follow the cattle that are constantly herded using temporary electric fencing so they might intensively feed on lush, green grass. They follow the swine that have been turned loose into scrub wood land that they are rooting and clearing for food, again herded by temporary electric wire to do the job a bulldozer would otherwise do, but is now done in a natural and sustainable way.
It’s a 7-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day job. And, yes, Ali admitted recently over her farmers market stall with fresh grown vegetables from their garden, it’s a hard life. But it’s one they relish – as countless other young couples have done in building a farm business from a few eggs and a lot of hard work.
Now, though, they’ve met a barrier to their dreams. They have reached the “1,000-bird limit” for small direct market poultry farmers and must build an on-site processing facility.The good part: it will allow them to process up to 20,000 birds a year. They hard part: they have to raise $30,000 to help them meet that goal.
Like a lot of young couples, Dustin and Ali don’t have a lot of money, certainly not $30,000 – and being young people with few tangible assets, they don’t qualify for much in the way of loans. So, they have turned to the public in trying to reach their goal. Called “crowdfunding,” they have turned to friends to help them launch a “kickstarter” campaign to raise the funds. (See: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1682257709/growing-the-farm-feeding-mississippi)
At this writing, they are about halfway toward their goal — a testament to the support they have from the community and their customers. But the goal is still elusive.
To lure donors, they are offering a lot of gifts that people might find enticing: from a mention on their website ($15) to naming a pig after you ($50) to really cool-looking T-shirts ($75), all the way up to $1,200 for a three-day farm stay weekend.
“The biggest problem we are facing is we are charting unknown waters,” they say. “Regulations and recommendations are in place for large scale chicken processing plants in Mississippi, but not for small farms like us.”
While the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the state Health Department are helping guide them in designing an on-site facility that should pass inspection, they don’t know what further fees and expenses they may face.
They believe that small, direct market growers like themselves are the future of agriculture in Mississippi and the nation.
It would be a shame if the ability to help make that dream a reality fell short because of state and federal regulations.
Take a look at their kickstarter page, buy a t-shirt, or a day on the farm! Helping young people achieve their dreams is a lasting gift in itself.

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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‘Farm on Wheels,’ nematodes, ‘greenhorns’ helpful

July 14, 2011
‘Farm on Wheels’ offers hands-on organic food outreachRecent graduates of the Mississippi School of Math and Science have converted a school bus to biodiesel and turned it into a sustainable “Farm on Wheels.”
Based in Oxford, it’s a rolling greenhouse, chicken coop and more that will serve as an educational outreach tool.
The Farm on Wheels made stops in Jackson, Starkville and Hattiesburg in recent weeks. It plans to travel throughout Mississippi and the South and return in time for the fall school year so Mississippi schoolchildren can take a look.
The Legislature this past session passed legislation to study alleviating “food deserts,” or areas in the state where no fresh produce is available. This Farm on Wheels could be a great tool for outreach so people in underserved areas can be reintroduced to self-sufficient living by growing their own food.
I say, “reintroduced,” because within the living memories of many Mississippians, growing vegetables and having a few chickens was the norm. But, unfortunately, since World War II, the mechanization of farming, the use of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and elders having died off, too many rural people have lost the knowledge of how to grow for themselves.
The surging popularity of Community Supported Agriculture is one helpful method, where farmers obtain subscriptions for growing food for others by selling shares in the crops, thus raising needed money upfront to be able to afford to plant.
That is bringing fresh, nutritious, organically grown foods to ever increasing numbers. Community gardens are also springing up in urban areas of the state; for example, at Tougaloo College, operated by Rainbow Natural Foods Co-op in Jackson.
Where it’s not economically feasible to run full-time stores in rural or urban areas, such community oriented ventures can fill in the gap.
They are a benefit to everyone and are becoming popular across the Magnolia State, along with ever more local farmers markets being created under the auspices of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce.
For more about the Farm on Wheels, see: http://msmobilefarm.com/Or, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/farmonwheels.
It’s getting a little late in the season for it, but some bug issues can be solved by using beneficial nematodes – roundworms that live in the soil.
Nematodes can be a “bad” thing – some spell death for tomatoes, for example. But others only attack insects that prey on plants.
They are most effective when ordering by soil type.
Arbico Organics (www.arbico-organics.com) sells a variety for use on sandy soil that attacks armyworm, artichoke plume moth, Asian cockroach, beet armyworm, black cutworm, bluegrass weevil, codling moth, corn earworm, cotton bollworm, cucumber beetle, fall armyworm, fly larvae, fruit fly, German cockroach, leaf miners, mole crickets, tobacco budworm, wireworm and more.
Other varieties are for lawns or high clay soils, and even attack ticks and fleas.
They can be ordered for garden sizes up to fruit growers’ orchards and full farm sizes. Check it out. If nothing else, it could disrupt the cycle for next year or help with fall planting.
•Online: Here’s a blog for young people by self-described farming Greenhorns for Greenhorns, with links to farm-related blogs by and for young people getting into farming:http://thegreenhorns.wordpress.com/
•Online: In Kansas City, there’s a food truck called The Beans and Greens Mobile to combat local food deserts; see: http://bit.ly/lQNlAc.
•Online: Farmers markets beat supermarkets on affordability:http://tinyurl.com/ylzpkwv.

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.