Tag Archives: National Center for Appropriate Technology

Let’s Update Mississippi’s Local Food Laws!

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about a really great small farm operation in Clay County that produces pasture-raised poultry, and grass-fed beef and swine. See: “Farm Field Day Draws Lots of Moms, Kids” – https://shooflyfarmblog.wordpress.com/tag/grazing/

Operated by Dustin Pinion and his partner Ali Fratesi, it’s truly a model farm for sustainability – and was showcased as a good example for other farmers by both the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) which partnered with Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute to hold a field day there. It was also promoted as a premier example of small farming by the Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network.

But farms like this are in danger of going bust – or never getting started – because of the way food laws are skewed to protect large industrial operations and punish or deter small, sustainable family farms.

Local Food

For many visitors to High Hope Farm, Beaverdam Farm, and other local farm producers that have customer lists and farmers market presence, their operations are often the first and perhaps only time to see a real non-corporate family farm in operation. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Mike and Alison Buehler, founders of GGSIM, are promoting a petition to update Mississippi’s local food laws to allow mom-and-pop farmers like High Hope Farm and Beaverdam Farms to sell poultry at farmers markets. It’s long overdue.

Farmers across the South, I’ve found, have similar issues regarding on-site processing of the food they grow. Joe Salatin is perhaps the best known proponent of the “idiocy” of local food laws. See his book: “Everything I want to do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front.”

Here in Mississippi, though, it appears that a very simple change in the law could help rectify the situation, at least as far as selling sustainably grown chicken is concerned.

Alison and Michael write:

The federal poultry regulations provide an exemption for small farmers processing less than 20,000 birds a year in an approved facility. However, only in Mississippi do the regulations say all poultry sold off the farm premises must bear a mark of inspection:

b. All poultry products offered for sale by a vendor at a farmers market must be sold by a vendor who holds a retail mobile food establishment license from the Department. The poultry products must bear marks of inspection from a poultry inspection program administered by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce or the United States Department of Agriculture.

 There is no inspection facility located in Mississippi. This significantly cuts off farmers from their customers, and only allows them to sell from the farm.

Every other state allows for farmers under the 20,000 bird exemption to sell off site. Here is an example from Pennsylvania:

Producers who raise and slaughter no more than 20,000 poultry on their premises in a calendar year may, under PDA inspection, sell within Pennsylvania to customers through the following venues:

§  farmers markets

§  farm stands

§  CSA members

§  buying clubs

§  hotels and restaurants

§  schools

§  hospitals

§  wholesale distributors (sales within the state),retail stores

Small farmers are finally on the resurgence in Mississippi. In order to foster their success so we can continue to access healthy food, our regulations need to be updated to reflect this change. They simply haven’t been addressed because there were no small poultry producers in the state. We now have dozens of young farmers coming into the market.

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture wants to support small farmers. They simply haven’t had it brought to the table up until now. After long emails and discussions with them, they encouraged us to create a petition that would show them where public will fell on this issue. They want to hear from us. While the regulations they have dealt with in the past were designed to keep people safe in the face of super-large poultry operations, they also want to know how to create realistic and safe regulations for small farmers.

Here is how you help.

1.    We need an individual present at EVERY farmers market in the state this week, beginning May 17th collecting electronic signatures. All you have to say is, “Do you think farmers markets should be allowed to sell chicken? Let the MS Dept of Ag know!” If you are interested in being one of these coordinators, please let me know.alison.buehler@ggsim.org

I already have covered: 2 Oxford Markets, Starkville, Brookhaven, Jackson, Hernando, and Meridian

2.    Sign up for our 20 Calls for 20 Days campaign to tell 5 people at the MS Department of Agriculture Thank You for aligning our regulations on small poultry producers with the surrounding states. Thank You for supporting small farmers. We appreciate you efforts to increase our access to fresh, local foods. If you sign up, get your spouse to sign up. You will receive a script and a reminder email the day before you make your calls. We need to fill this asap because calls begin the day the petition is delivered.  http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0844ADA829A75-mississippi

3.    Sign the petition. Get your spouse, your mother and father, you kids over 18 to sign it. Share it with your churches, your co-ops, your organizations. We have one week to get as many signatures as possible. Our lawyer is drafting this today. It will be on the FB page tomorrow to start sharing.

This is doable! Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to make this happen for you. Don’t lament that other state have better food options. Make this a reality here!

Me again: If you truly are concerned about promoting local food, take action. This is a simple way to do it!

 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.

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FoodCorps Group Tours Alabama Sustainable Farms

Went to Montgomery, Ala., last week to tour some sustainable farms, as part of our NCAT Gulf States Office mission to promote sustainable agriculture in the 5-state region. It was a bringing together of some real heavyweights when it comes to local food, urban ag and community activism.

Members of the NCAT Gulf States Regional Office, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and FoodCorps service members pose with EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty (right) in Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 16, 2013. From left: front: FoodCorps Members Mariel Parman, Claire Brown and Rebecca Rosenthal; Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt and NCAT Ag Specialist Felicia Bell; back row: FoodCorps Director Willie Nash, FoodCorps Fellow Liz Broussard, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director Rockiell Woods and Marty. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Members of the NCAT Gulf States Regional Office, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and FoodCorps service members pose with EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty (right) in Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 16, 2013. From left: front: FoodCorps Members Mariel Parman, Claire Brown and Rebecca Rosenthal; Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt and NCAT Ag Specialist Felicia Bell; back row: FoodCorps Director Willie Nash, FoodCorps Fellow Liz Broussard, NCAT Gulf States Regional Director Rockiell Woods and Marty. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The FoodCorps service members who went on the trip seemed to have a good time and learned a lot. I can’t say enough good things about FoodCorps. Those who are based at Mississippi Roadmap for Health Equity next to our office at the old New Deal Grocery in Jackson are top notch! I see them every day going out to the local schools helping kids and moms appreciate fresh, local food that they grow right there at the inner city schools.

I also can’t say enough good about Roadmap Executive Director Beneta Burt, who has created a food oasis in the inner city of Jackson. Roadmap is located in Ward 3, the poorest of the city’s wards. She started a farmers market, providing a place where people in the neighborhood can come buy fresh, healthy, nutritious food locally.

She put in a fitness center so that neighborhood moms and elders can stay in shape. She started a summer school program that teaches kids good health habits and the importance of fitness and nutrition. She sponsors the FoodCorps volunteers for the local public schools.

She muscled through a rule with the capital city’s school board that food service personnel in the public schools can actually get paid to take fitness classes (which, in turn, make them more fitness aware in creating the food in the public schools). She’s a pillar of the state food policy council. And more than I can ennummerate here. Suffice it to say, she’s a real powerhouse.

Now, with this visit to Montgomery, Ala., she’s seen how E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty has created an urban ag program in the inner city there. E.A.T. stands for Education, Act, Transform! The organization encourages healthy lifestyles through education and sustainable food production in urban areas throughout the Southeast.

Burt had already started such a program; she was able to see how an established program works. E.A.T. South ushers some 5,000 school kids through its site annually, offering a demonstration for local folks there on how to grow their own food.

I can’t say enough good about Edwin, either. He literally wrote the book on urban agriculture, called Breaking Through Concrete, published by the University of California Press in 2012. See: www.breakingthroughconcrete.com.

I’m honored to know and be friends with both people. They certainly are incredible role models. If every city had a Beneta Burt and an Edwin Marty this would be a much healthier, happier planet!

E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty (left) of Montgomery, Ala., is shown with Beneta Burt, of Jackson, Miss., executive director of Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Inc. , and Jim Ewing, outreach coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Region. (NCAT photo)

E.A.T. South Executive Director Edwin Marty (left) of Montgomery, Ala., is shown with Beneta Burt, of Jackson, Miss., executive director of Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Inc., and Jim Ewing, outreach coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Region. (NCAT photo)

For more, see:
NCAT blog: https://www.ncat.org/gulf-states-office-tours-sustainable-farms-in-alabama/
Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity: http://mississippiroadmap.org/
E.A.T South: http://www.eatsouth.org

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, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

More and More Pursuing Sustainable Farming

Got back late last night from Baton Rouge, La., where I gave a talk to beginning farmers on how to market your crops.

Nationally, grim statistics are saying that farms and farmers are dwindling, spelling a dire future.

I’m finding that it’s just the opposite: Average people, in rural and urban areas, are thronging to learn how to grow their own food, share it with others and even make a little profit at it. And I’ve been giving these talks all over the South, in urban and rural areas.

Jim Ewing speaks at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, La., Oct. 23, 2013. The subject of his talk was "Beginning Farmers: Marketing Your Crop." The one-day workshop was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the Southern Sustainability Research and Education (SSARE) program, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

Jim Ewing speaks at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, La., Oct. 23, 2013. The subject of his talk was “Beginning Farmers: Marketing Your Crop.” The one-day workshop was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the Southern Sustainability Research and Education (SSARE) program, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

I guess it depends on how you define “farms” and “farmers.”

In preparation for my talk at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, I did a little research on this. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, most farmers in Louisiana are “small farmers.” About 50 percent earn less than $5,000 per year; 66 percent of farms earn less than $10,000/year; 83 percent earn less than $49,999/year

Most farms are “small farms,” too: Only 3.5 percent of the farms in Louisiana have 2,000 acres or more and only 6.3 percent make more than $500,000/year.

The averages are about the same in Mississippi, give or take one or two percentage points either way, and nationally.

So, when politicians talk about “farmers” and “farming,” they really aren’t talking about the majority of farmers. They’re alluding to big farmers swallowing up smaller farms — the same as big corporations in other sectors of the economy are swallowing up others, even becoming “too big to fail.”

They’re talking about and appealing to the big money farmers: those with big incomes and tight ties to corporations. They aren’t talking to the majority of average people who like to farm, or have a small stake (in either rural or urban areas), or want to expand to serve more people.

They aren’t talking to or about people who grow local food for local people. Or people who prefer sustainable farming methods, or grow organic, or practice permaculture, or ecofarming. They are speaking to and about those who are into industrial agriculture and ship their food and fiber off to feed the big agribusiness multinational regime.

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s part of the dance politicians play between the interests they serve and those who serve them. And those who are growing for the major markets are doing just that; there’s nothing sinister about it. It’s just how our economy/business/government works. But average people — voters — should also see it for what it is.

Those politicians aren’t speaking to, about or for the people who are putting food on your plate locally — who don’t use chemicals and who plant with the taste and nutrition foremost in mind, and not just profitability over size and shape and ability to withstand long shipping times without rotting.

Those politicians aren’t speaking to, about or for the moms who want to buy chemically free, healthful and nutritious food for their children and be assured that it’s safe and take the time to know who is growing their food locally and how they are doing it.

Those politicians aren’t speaking to, about or for the thousands of young people who are turning to small, local, urban and rural farming in order to ensure the people around them and those they love have healthful, safe food grown in a caring way as an act of passion and joy. Grown from the heart; for the community; as an act of compassion, giving and sacrifice.

Nor are those politicians speaking to, for or about the average people who have no clue about what chemicals are being sprayed on what they  eat, or how the seeds are concocted from GMO genetic cocktails that ensure they actually grow in a soup of poison but who knows what it’s doing to humans.

No, the people who are now clamoring to grow their own food and for others — who are definitely new and beginning farmers, just not big, industrial, chemical farmers — have to speak for themselves, and to and for each other. The politicians apparently don’t care much about them. They don’t “count,” with money, clout or influence regionally, nationally or globally. Statistically, they’re as invisible as their influence in Washington and state capitols across the U.S.

But I suspect, as the food movement continues to grow, and more and more true farmers — the majority of farmers as the Census of Agriculture attests — begin to see that what they believe, think, say and do actually matters, and that in aggregate they have the numbers and “clout” behind them, that politicians will begin to take an interest.

And I think that as more and more consumers reach for the non-GMO label on their food, and as more voters get savvy about the dangers of GMO, its attendant flood of poisonous chemicals to keep it afloat, and its downward spiral of sustainability depleting both farmland fertility and fossil fuels, that even more small, local ecofarmers will appear.

That wasn’t the subject of my talk at LSU. Just some musings the next day.

There’s a new “dance” between local individual consumers and farmers nationally that soon could reconfigure the whole dance floor. The politicians just haven’t picked up the beat yet, still lost in another era doing the funky chicken!

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, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

Great Talk at Alabama A&M Workshop

August 23, 2013

Just got back from Mobile, Ala., giving a talk for NCAT at the Agricultural Risk Management and Business Development Workshop.

photo

National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States Outreach Coordinator Jim Ewing speaks about sustainable agriculture at a workshop in Mobile, Ala., Aug. 22, 2013. The Agricultural Risk Management and Business Development Workshop was sponsored by the Small Farms Research Center of Alabama A&M University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Held at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Jon Archer Agricultural Center, the workshop was sponsored by Alabama A&M University’s Small Farms Research Center and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

I don’t think there could have been a more active, thoughtful, engaging audience. Although I was scheduled to give a PowerPoint presentation, which I did, we ended up having a discussion back and forth about sustainable agriculture, organics, and traditional methods of planting (which many in the audience remembered from their parents’ and grandparents’ times).

The speaking time period actually was extended as we engaged in a dialogue that, I think, was informative and positive for everyone. It was like talking with neighbors across the back fence. There were good questions from the audience and a lot of sharing of personal stories and recollections.

What a wonderful time. What wonderful people. I hope I get to speak there 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, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

Montana Fly Fishing Trip

Aug. 19, 2013

Just got back from visiting the National Center for Appropriate Technology headquarters in Butte, MT, where members of our NCAT Gulf States Region office met with the board of directors to give an update on what we’re doing.

Had a GREAT time, visiting with other like-minded sustainable ag folk. But a big highlight of the trip was going fly fishing.

I started fly fishing about 30 years ago (am I giving away my age here?!). But since I was living in the Mississippi Delta, there wasn’t a whole lot of diversity in fishing – either bream or small bass or occasional crappie. I fly fished during the 1980s and early 1990s, but sort of fell out of it.

But when I was in Butte in June and looked around, I saw that this place is the fly fishing capital of the world. People come from all over to fish the Montana mountain streams. While I was “self taught” in fly fishing, and certainly no model when it comes to casting, fishing for trout on a mountain stream was one of those “bucket list” items. When I found out that they wanted me to come back in August, I was ecstatic!

One of the things I bought in preparation for this trip was a Tenkara rod — because Carl Little, who heads the ATTRA program (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) at NCAT suggested it.

Years ago, during the 1990s, I used to carry a portable fishing rod with me wherever I traveled. It telescoped to about 8 feet, but would collapse to about 18 inches. With a lightweight spinning reel, I fished all over with it: from the Northeast and Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Chesapeake Bay to San Francisco — I carried it everywhere. But, again, that sort of fell by the wayside.

The Tenkara collapses to about 18 inches, but the one I bought (the Amago) extends to about 13 feet. The Tenkara system is somewhat Zen – which I really like! It’s simplicity itself: just a rod and a line, no reel. And there are only three types of flies, small, medium and large. It’s based on the Japanese system of professional mountain fishermen, who used only this simple method to catch fish.

While I also have a 5-weight Orvis Clearwater rod for traditional Western style fly fishing, I only took the Tenkara rod on this trip. Here’s a video:

As you can see, I didn’t catch any fish. I got a couple of bumps and broke the line on one big one that got away, but that’s not the point. Nor is this video meant to be taken as a way to fish; I found that I couldn’t video and fish at the same time, so I just held the rod with one hand (to show what I was doing) and video taped with the other, with my iPhone, to show the scenery.

The real value as the morning. The sky. The water. The breeze. The Spirit of the Place. Just being there. It was a priceless morning spent slowly fishing along about half a mile of a mountain  stream. The video is just a snapshot, for the memory.

I’m hoping for a return trip. Next time, if I’m called in for business, I intend to take a couple of vacation days and perhaps have my son come along for a father-son trip. (He’s 26 and has a new, 8-month-old son, so maybe there are future trips for Dad, Grandad and Grandbaby, too!)

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, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

Alabama Farm Tour Sprouts Ideas

Aug. 12, 2013

Just got back from an incredibly packed two-day tour of farms in Alabama conducted by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network. The farm tour was videoed in collaboration with the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network. Clips will appear in the future on both MSAN’s and ASAN’s websites. We’ll keep you posted on that.

The tour included seven farms of various types in two days that spanned a couple of hundred miles across Alabama north to south, from Jasper to Montgomery, including: Camp McDowell, Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Petals From the Past, Downtown Farm (EAT South, Montgomery), Hampstead Insitute, Oakview Farms, and Druid City School Farm (Tuscaloosa).

Here’s a photo essay.

Let me say that I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet the farmers, handing out info for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Some of these initiatives are squarely in NCAT’s mission to help people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. And, of course, a big part of that is the ATTRA program – The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service!

Camp McDowell (Nauvoo, Ala.) http://campmcdowell.dioala.org/

We started the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network Farm Tour of Alabama Farms at the conference center for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama at Nauvoo, Ala. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

We started the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network Farm Tour of Alabama Farms at the conference center for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama at Nauvoo, Ala. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

We started out at the conference center for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama at Nauvoo, Ala.

As Jon Nee, director of the McDowell Farm School at Camp McDowell explains, the diocese has big plans to expand its farming operations (to include the field shown behind him). (Photo by Jim Ewing)

As Jon Nee, director of the McDowell Farm School at Camp McDowell explains, the diocese has big plans to expand its farming operations (to include the field shown behind him). (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Camp McDowell hosts the McDowell Farm School which currently has several farmers growing food for the camp. But the big message at this farm is its expansion plans, which includes the addition of eco sensitive buildings to be constructed that will be using geothermal energy. Pipes will be laid in an adjacent lake which will allow heat transfer units to heat and cool the complex. The farm currently allows local farms to grow on the fields and the camp buys the local food from the farmers. Plans are to make the camp self-sustaining.

Jones Valley Teaching Farm (Birmingham, Ala.) http://jonesvalleyteachingfarm.org/

At Jones Valley Teaching Farm, it's noteworthy that its farm stand has an honor system for paying for produce! Even in downtown north Birmingham, shoppers pick their produce and pay according to what's posted. It's a delightful place to be! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

At Jones Valley Teaching Farm, it’s noteworthy that its farm stand has an honor system for paying for produce! Even in downtown north Birmingham, shoppers pick their produce and pay according to what’s posted. It’s a delightful place to be! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Katherine Davis of Jones Valley Teaching Farm in downtown north Birmingham, Ala., welcomes farm tour visitors to the center. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Katherine Davis of Jones Valley Teaching Farm in downtown north Birmingham, Ala., welcomes farm tour visitors to the center. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Jones Valley Teaching Farm in downtown north Birmingham, Ala., was a surprise. Here in an utterly urban area, the 3-acre farm has hoop houses, food plots, chickens, compost, a farm stand, and collects its own rainwater for use in the gardens. It’s a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours.

One of the funnier aspects of it is where it gets its manure for compost: from elephants! Farm director Katie Davis said that the elephant doo is traded by the local zoo for garden consultation work. There seems to be plenty of it!

Prices change according to market conditions at Jones Valley Teaching Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Prices change according to market conditions at Jones Valley Teaching Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The chore board at Jones Valley Teaching Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The chore board at Jones Valley Teaching Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Every farm needs a “chore board” in order for everyone to know what everybody’s doing and what’s getting done and needs doing. I love this one at Jones Valley Teaching Farm: get, got, finished!

However, I know via personal experience from our little ShooFly Farm that chores are never finished. Nor can they all get done, certainly not in a day. You just do the ones you can and must and get to the rest when you can.

Rows are freshly tilled for a fall garden at the Jones Valley Teaching Farm in north downtown Birmingham, Ala. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Rows are freshly tilled for a fall garden at the Jones Valley Teaching Farm in north downtown Birmingham, Ala. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Skyscrapers seem dwarfed in the background as a high tunnel for urban agriculture is erected at the downtown north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Skyscrapers seem dwarfed in the background as a high tunnel for urban agriculture is erected at the downtown north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

These urban chickens seem content at their shady roost in the downtown north Birmingham, Ala.,  Jones Valley Teaching Farm. The wires overhead are to deter hawks - though operator Katie Davis says that they only seem to deter the larger hawks, like red tails. Smaller hawks, like Cooper Hawks are more maneuverable and can zip between the wires, she said. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

These urban chickens seem content at their shady roost in the downtown north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. The wires overhead are to deter hawks – though operator Katie Davis says that they only seem to deter the larger hawks, like red tails. Smaller hawks, like Cooper Hawks are more maneuverable and can zip between the wires, she said. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The bottle tree offers a colorful addition at the Jones Valley Teaching Farm in north Birmingham, Ala. Bottle trees are considered folk art, often found in rural areas of the South. The theory is that having a bottle tree near a home offers good luck. Bad spirits are drawn to the colorful bottles rather than entering a house. Because the necks are narrow, the bad spirits can enter the bottle, but then expand inside and can't get out! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

This bottle tree offers a colorful addition at the Jones Valley Teaching Farm in north Birmingham, Ala. Bottle trees are considered folk art, often found in rural areas of the South. The theory is that having a bottle tree near a home offers good luck. Bad spirits are drawn to the colorful bottles rather than entering a house. Because the necks are narrow, the bad spirits can enter the bottle, but then expand inside and can’t get out! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Good idea! I LOVE this portable wash stand for produce at the north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. It's a real chore to haul buckets of produce around to be washed. This allows the picker to wash where he/she is working. The produce can them be bundled in the field and taken to a cooler for greater freshness -- and healthful harvesting! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Good idea! I LOVE this portable wash stand for produce at the north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. It’s a real chore to haul buckets of produce around to be washed. This allows the picker to wash where he/she is working. The produce can then be bundled in the field and taken to a cooler for greater freshness — and healthful harvesting! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I love this rainwater catcher at the north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. The roof of the structure is ridged inward, rather than upward. Called at "butterfly roof," it channels rainwater into this cistern. The funnels keep the water from splashing out. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I love this rainwater catcher at the north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. The roof of the structure is ridged inward, rather than upward. Called at “butterfly roof,” it channels rainwater into this cistern. The funnels keep the water from splashing out. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Here's another view of the butterfly roof and cistern at the north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. It's a nice cistern system. (Try saying that rapidly a few times! :-) (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Here’s another view of the butterfly roof and cistern at the north Birmingham, Ala., Jones Valley Teaching Farm. It’s a nice cistern system. (Try saying that rapidly a few times! 🙂 (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Petals From The Past (Jemison, Ala.) http://www.petalsfromthepast.com/

Our next stop on the Alabama Farm Tour was Petals From the Past at Jemison, Ala. I thought as we pulled up, "Why are we stopping at a garden center?" (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Our next stop on the Alabama Farm Tour was Petals From the Past at Jemison, Ala. I thought as we pulled up, “Why are we stopping at a garden center?” The answer was in what owner Jason Howell had to offer! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The answer to my question why we're stopping at Petals From the Past, a garden center in Jemison, Ala., was quickly answered by the fact that owner/operator Jason Howell is a bonafide plant guru. He's sustainable through and through. He tests all the plants he grows and sells for hardiness in local conditions and can was forth for hours on minute details about any plant anyone might want plant! He's incredible! I could have spent a couple of days asking him questions and still had a lot to learn. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The answer to my question why we’re stopping at Petals From the Past, a garden center in Jemison, Ala., was quickly answered by the fact that owner/operator Jason Howell is a bonafide plant guru. He’s sustainable through and through. He tests all the plants he grows and sells for hardiness in local conditions and can wax forth for hours on minute details about any plant anyone might want plant! He’s incredible! I could have spent a couple of days asking him questions and still had a lot to learn. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The little ones on the Alabama Farm Tour found a little one to play with at Petals From the Past. The kitty's name is Ghost. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The little ones on the Alabama Farm Tour found a little one to play with at Petals From the Past. The kitty’s name is Ghost. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Jason's greenhouse is really cool! And a large part of that is the evaporative cooling system. Notice the brown wall in the back. That's actually corrugated cardboard that looks -- and acts -- like a radiator. The wet wall or wet pad or swamp cooler as they are variously called, are located on one wall while fans pull air through them into the room. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Jason’s greenhouse is really cool! And a large part of that is the evaporative cooling system. Notice the brown wall in the back. That’s actually corrugated cardboard that looks — and acts — like a radiator. The wet wall, or wet pad or swamp cooler as they are variously called, is located on one wall while fans on the opposite wall pull air through it into the room. If you garden in the South, it’s just about imperative to have some type of cooling system in the summer.  (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Petals From the Past was a great stop on our farm tour. Owner Jason Howell explained that he chooses to offer plants based on their ability to survive. His garden shop is a demonstration farm of sustainable plant varieties. Many are heirloom varieties more than 150 years old, many from the early 1800s. He grows about 75 percent from stems, 20 percent from seed and 5 percent from grafting, he says. Of that, about 70 percent are heirlooms and the rest are modern.

Eat South Downtown Farm (Montgomery, Ala.)  http://www.eatsouth.org

Next stop….. Eat South in Montgomery:

If I only had one urban farm to recommend as a showplace on how to do it, I'd choose the Eat South Downtown Farm in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

If I only had one urban farm to recommend as a showplace on how to do it, I’d choose the Eat South Downtown Farm in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

If I only had one urban farm to show people on how to do urban farming, I’d choose the EAT South Downtown Farm in Montgomery, Ala. Why? one might ask. Especially since I spent so much time here on the blog showing the Jones Valley Teaching Farm in north Birmingham, Ala. The reason is this: The Jones Valley farm has all the bells and whistles and lots of really great ideas; it has it all. But the EAT South farm has all the elements in a way that anybody could do it.

Anyone interested in creating an urban farm could just look at the EAT South farm and recreate it. Of course, one might do more here, or little less there, but all the elements for a sustainable agriculture and/or organic farm are included.

In addition to being an urban farm, it’s located on a Brownfield site that in most communities would be “written off” as unusual, too polluted for any use. But director Edwin Marty has designed the farm so that it does two things at once: growing in a sustainable, healthy way by separating contaminated soil from productive soil; and reclaiming areas of the soil through biological remediation.

I like the photo above because it shows air and water and biomass. The windmill uses wind power to pump water that is collected by the butterfly room and stored in the cistern. The (recycled) compost material is awaiting being used to  grow healthy vegetables in raised beds.

EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty explains why they use cinder raised beds rather than wooden, as EAT South Education and Community Outreach Director Mark Bowen takes a photo in the background. The reason for cinder over wood is that although it has a higher initial cost, it lasts longer. The beds have a wider than needed space between them so that visitors may move freely through them, as well as equipment, and to accommodate those with special needs. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South Executive Director Edwin Marty explains why they use cinder raised beds rather than wooden, as EAT South Education and Community Outreach Director Mark Bowen takes a photo in the background. The reason for cinder over wood is that although it has a higher initial cost, it lasts longer. The beds have a wider than needed space between them so that visitors may move freely through them, as well as equipment, and to accommodate those with special needs. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South encourages healthy lifestyles through education and sustainable food production in urban areas throughout the Southeast. EAT stands for Educate, Act, Transform.

EAT South Downtown Farm Manager Jetson Brown explains his abundant growing techniques to the Alabama Four Tour participants (and Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network Outreach Coordinator Shaundi Wall, center) during the group's tour of Alabama farms on Aug. 10, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South Downtown Farm Manager Jetson Brown explains his abundant growing techniques to the Alabama Four Tour participants (and Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network Outreach Coordinator Shaundi Wall, center) during the group’s tour of Alabama farms on Aug. 10, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South has a state of the art greenhouse with its wet wall, lightweight growing tables, and hydroponic features. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South has a state of the art greenhouse with its wet wall, lightweight growing tables, and hydroponic features. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

While not a major component of the EAT South Downtown Farm, hydroponics is on display. Here's a small vertical unit. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

While not a major component of the EAT South Downtown Farm, hydroponics is on display. Here’s a small vertical unit. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South is largely a teaching tool. About 5,000 school children pass through it annually.

EAT South Hampstead Farm

The EAT South Hampstead Farm outside Montgomery, Ala., is part of a "new urbanist" community as its ag component. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The EAT South Hampstead Farm outside Montgomery, Ala., is part of a “new urbanist” community as its ag component. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The other campus of EAT South is the Hampstead Farm, located a few miles away at the Hampstead Community, a planned, “new urbanist” community. The campus provides greenspace, acts as a community garden, provides food for the communities restaurants and has a 40-member CSA or “shares” in a community supported agriculture operation.

EAT South Farm Manager Catherine Doe shows off the farm's healthy produce. The facility has raised beds with various types of produce, plus chickens. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

EAT South Farm Manager Catherine Doe shows off the farm’s healthy produce. The facility has raised beds with various types of produce, plus chickens. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Oakview Farms (Wetumpka, Ala.) http://www.oakviewfarms.com

Next, stop…. Wetumpka!

Joe Lambrecht, who owns Oakview Farms with his wife Patty, shows freshly ground corn from his mill. His milled wheat and corn with the germ intact has become quite popular. (Photo by Jim Ewing.)

Joe Lambrecht, who owns Oakview Farms with his wife Patty, shows freshly ground corn from his mill. His milled wheat and corn with the germ intact has become quite popular. (Ole Miss Professor Greg Johnson in background.) (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Joe Lambrecht of Oakview Farms in Wetumpka, Ala., grows lettuce year round in his self-fashioned hydroponics operation.  (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Joe Lambrecht of Oakview Farms in Wetumpka, Ala., grows lettuce year round in his self-fashioned hydroponics operation. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I was really impressed by Joe Lambrecht's hydroponics operation. He fashioned the floating boards from blue house siding, boring the holes for the plants himself. He monitors the water by the condition of the algae in the water, and keeps it running 12 months of the year. His fertlizer? "Secret," he says. Looks like it's working. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I was really impressed by Joe Lambrecht’s hydroponics operation. He fashioned the floating boards from blue house siding, boring the holes for the plants himself. He monitors the water by the condition of the algae in the water, and keeps it running 12 months of the year. His fertlizer? “Secret,” he says. Looks like it’s working. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Joe Lambrecht of Oakview Farms at Wetumpka, Ala., was certainly one of the most interesting individuals we met on the Alabama Farm Tour, full of tales and wisdom. MSAN Outreach Coordinator Shaundi Wall interviews him, while videographer Mike Stanton films him and Ole Miss Associate Professor Greg Johnson holds the sound boom. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Joe Lambrecht of Oakview Farms at Wetumpka, Ala., was certainly one of the most interesting individuals we met on the Alabama Farm Tour, full of tales and wisdom. MSAN Outreach Coordinator Shaundi Wall interviews him, while videographer Mike Stanton films him and Ole Miss Associate Professor Greg Johnson holds the sound boom. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I have to admit, I really enjoyed meeting Joe Lambrecht of Oakview Farms. He is a study in contrasts. While unabashedly proclaiming “I love Monsanto!” (because he grinds GMO corn in his mill), he also practices sustainable growing methods.

He explains the contractions by unabashedly saying that his is a pursuit of the dollar. If a farming method doesn’t make money, he won’t do it. And the more money, the better (presumably).

While I abhor GMOs and RoundUp (which he uses in spot spraying to keep weeds down around his farm buildings), Joe is an example of economic sustainability as defined by the USDA and the Farm Bill. Economic sustainability should definitely part of the definition of sustainable agriculture, and while I think he could use some other non-chemical methods to achieve his goals and still be economically sustainable, he’s an example of farming as a profitable enterprise.

He wastes nothing on his farm, using everything, and limits outside inputs as much as possible. He eats everything he grows and considers his customers the same as his own family when it comes to food safety. He rigorously practices all safety handling techniques and, while hundreds of people may visit his farm, he’s careful to explain good agricultural practices and why it’s important to ensure food is kept clean, healthy and fresh. He’s an innovator, a shrewd practitioner and wonderful example (except for the GMO & Roundup maybe) of successful farming today.

We talked a good bit about hydroponics versus aquaculture. I think that if anybody could make a profit at it, Joe would be the guy. But he’s unconvinced. He didn’t rule out expanding in that area, but didn’t embrace it, either. We’ll see.

Druid City Garden Project (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) http://www.druidcitygardenproject.org/

Our final stop was the Druid City Garden Project in Tuscaloosa, Ala. http://www.druidcitygardenproject.org/

Druid City Garden Project Director Lindsey Turner explains how a school garden in Tuscaloosa, Ala., provided an oasis of beauty after the horrendous 2011 tornado destroyed much of the city and countryside. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Druid City Garden Project Director Lindsey Turner explains how a school garden in Tuscaloosa, Ala., provided an oasis of beauty after the horrendous 2011 tornado destroyed much of the city and countryside. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Many people outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala., may not remember how an April 27, 2011 tornado left the city in shambles. The E4 tornado flattened houses and leveled the landscape, including the tiny garden of University Place elementary school. A Title I school, where over 90 percent of the student population is minority and 83 percent of the students receive a free or reduced lunch, students replanted their garden in the days after the devastation and it became a place of beauty while the community sought to recover from the storm.

Now part of the EAT South “A Garden at Every School” project, the Druid City Project has 2,500 square feet of growing space that soon will double in size. As we were visiting, a new greenhouse had just been completed, and water was about to be installed in it. The school system had also installed lines for a 1,700-gallon cistern with rainwater catchment from the school gymnasium, and plans are to add more rainwater catchment and a tank so the garden can be self-sufficient for water at 3,000 gallons.

The 2,500-square-foot Druid City Garden Project provides food for elementary school students and for them to sell at their own school farm stand. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The 2,500-square-foot Druid City Garden Project provides food for elementary school students and for them to sell at their own school farm stand. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Students are active participants in the garden, said Executive Director Lindsey Turner. They not only plant and pick the produce, but they sell it at their own farm stand as part of its Budding Entrepreneur Program.

Back to Oxford, MS

The Alabama Farm Tour concluded with a trip back to Oxford, MS.

While a few people on the Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network's Alabama Farm Tour managed to slip away before this photo was taken, it's a safe bet that everyone went away from it with some useful information on sustainable farming. (Photo by Mike Stanton)

While a few people on the Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network’s Alabama Farm Tour managed to slip away before this photo was taken, it’s a safe bet that everyone went away from it with some useful information on sustainable farming. (Photo by Mike Stanton)

While those who attended the tour may go their separate ways, they had the opportunity to see some top notch farming operations. Special thanks are due to Daniel Doyle, executive director of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network for designing and orchestrating the tour, and to MSAN Outreach Coordinator Shaundi Wall, Ole Miss Associate Professor Greg Johnson and videographer Mike Stanton for sharing transportation.

For more information, see the MSAN webpage: http://www.mssagnet.net

Or, MSAN Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MississippiSustainableAgricultureNetwork

Alabama Sustainable Ag Network: http://asanonline.org/

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.

Great fun at Florida Small Farms Conference

Aug. 5, 2013

OK, let’s get this out front and center: I had a blast at the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference this past week.

It was supposed to be business for me, and it was, in that I had a booth there for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and was informing people about ATTRA (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) info. But, to be honest, I had so much fun talking with people who were small farmers and interested ecofarming that it was hardly “work.”

Here’s a photo essay of the conference, which ran Aug. 2-4 in Kissimmee, Fla.

It was a matter of pride to see fellow NCAT worker Dave Ryan, an energy engineer, fill up one of the conference rooms with his talk “Powering Your Greenhouse with Renewable Energy.” Solar, compost and geothermal options were explored. For more, see ncat.org

Then, there were awards given….

Margie and Nick Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, Fla., won the Innovative Farmers Award at the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Fla., Aug. 3, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Margie and Nick Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, Fla., won the Innovative Farmers Award at the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Fla., Aug. 3, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Margie and Nick Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, Fla., won the Innovative Farmers Award (third place). They are longtime friends and it was a delight to see them! An organic farmer of many years, Margie is an encyclopedia of wisdom in ways to grow abundantly organically even in the demanding conditions of South Florida. Their farm is located near the Everglades in an area that has lost much of its farmland to residential growth. (See American Farmland Trust for more about that! http://www.farmland.org/)

Bee Heaven Farm, in my opinion, should be a national model for organic growing. The soil conditions there are only about 8 inches of “topsoil” consisting of sand, some vegetative matter, and porous limestone rock is a challenge for consistent growing. Conventional growers essentially are depleting the few nutrients in the soil and collapsing the structure so that it only hold what’s put into it.

Organic growers, like Margie, however, are building up the soil structure, building soil nutrients in the soil, encouraging microbial life and thereby actually adding to the soil medium as they grow, rather than depleting it.

The result is that organic growers like Margie and Nick are seeing positive yields and tasty crops while conventional growers are seeing ever worsening and more expensive growing conditions.

Farmers who are not taking the extra effort to rotate crops, build structure that helps hold moisture that otherwise would pass through the porous sand and limestone are seeing more expensive inputs and having to add biological agents and fight desertification (salt build up and nutrient loss through over use of irrigation).

The Bee Heaven model is one that should be seen as meaningful for sustainable farming as climate change intensifies, in my opinion.

CNG members Joseph Ballard and Paul Speros with SB Farms of Malone, Fla., also won the Innovative Farmers Award at the Florida Small Farmers and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Fla., Aug. 3, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

CNG members Joseph Ballard and Paul Speros with SB Farms of Malone, Fla., also won the Innovative Farmers Award at the Florida Small Farmers and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Fla., Aug. 3, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Since I’m a former board member of Certified Naturally Grown (and still an advisor on fruit and vegetable growing using organic methods), I was delighted to see CNG member SB Farms of Malone, Fla., also win the Innovative Farmers Award (second place). Joseph Ballard and Paul Speros offered good advice, as well, for beginning farmers. Congratulations!

Natalie Parkell and Kevin Osburn of Vertical Horizon Farm won the award (first place), also. Parkell gave an excellent talk on hyroponics for backyard or small or beginning farmers. They started out growing in their parents’ backyard, since they lived in a condo with no ground for growing — that is, until their parents told them to move, since they had dug up all the grass! So, they found a local business that would let them operate on a corner of their property. It became a big hit, especially marketing to the neighborhood. A small scale truly local success story!

I was intrigued by the prospects of hydroponics and aquaponics  as potential sustainable growing methods (especially since both are considered “iffy” when it comes to being certified organic – see earlier blog: “Organic Hydroponics: The Future of Farming?”). So, the bulk of my time when not manning the NCAT booth was attending seminars on these topics.

In pursuit of that, I went on the farm tour that included The Land exhibit at Disney World’s Epcot Center. Here are some photos:

When you enter The Land exhibit at Epcot Center, the first thing you see are gigantic fruit grown hydroponically. The growing medium is sand, infused with a fertilizer mixture. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

When you enter The Land exhibit at Epcot Center, the first thing you see are gigantic fruit grown hydroponically. The growing medium is sand, infused with a fertilizer mixture. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

As a demonstration of hydroponics as a growing method, The Land exhibit at Epcot grows small plots of grains, sugar cane and cotton. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

As a demonstration of hydroponics as a growing method, The Land exhibit at Epcot grows small plots of grains, sugar cane and cotton. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Within The Land pavilion at Epcot, actual plant research is being done to find ways to combat devastating diseases for commercial crops. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Within The Land pavilion at Epcot, actual plant research is being done to find ways to combat devastating diseases for commercial crops. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Much of the facility at The Land at Epcot has plants suspended from an automated growing system, whereby plants grown vertically are sprayed with fertilizers and the dripped overspray grows plants in the sand medium below. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Much of the facility at The Land at Epcot has plants suspended from an automated growing system, whereby plants grown vertically are sprayed with fertilizers and the dripped overspray grows plants in the sand medium below. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The sunward climb of plants on the spray conveyor allows fruit to be grown vertically rather than horizontally at The Land exhibit at Epcot. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The sunward climb of plants on the spray conveyor allows fruit to be grown vertically rather than horizontally at The Land exhibit at Epcot. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The Epcot demonstration is fascinating, but I’m not sure it’s very “sustainable,” at least not commercially as a farming method. The cost of the facilities and mechanical devices seems out of kilter with the potential sales of crops. But that may not be the point of the exhibit. Rather, the center shows how it can be done, and that it can be done. I’m going to have to think more about it before I’m convinced it’s a sustainable growing method. It certainly offers possibilities.

One of the concerns I have with hydroponics is that what you get from the produce is limited to what you give. By that, it’s like so-called “conventional” agriculture, in that the major nutrients are supplied. In such industrial agriculture models, NPK or the ingredients for synthetic fertilizer are present; but missing are the trace elements that a healthy organic soil provides. Better fertilizers would remedy that; ensuring it, of course, is the goal of organic certification. It’s an issue consumers should be aware of in making hydroponic purchases.

Regarding aquaponics, a key issue preventing organic certification, according to the farmers I talked to in Florida who practice it, is that the effluent from the fish is considered a “manure” by the National Organic Program. But, as Orange County Extension Director Richard Tyson explained, that is an inappropriate designation. First, regarding health concerns, neither E coli nor salmonella are — or even can be — present in such effluent because those only occur in warm-blooded animals; secondly, beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia waste into nitrates which are only then absorbed by the plants; so, a more appropriate designation would be classifying the effluent as nutrients, rather than manure.

In my opinion, especially when coupled with other energy saving methods such as using solar and wind for electrical needs, raising fish for animal protein and using the byproduct of that for fruit and vegetable food production in hydroponic vats is the type of sustainable methods that organic supporters should embrace.

We’ll consider more of this later.

But not all of the conference was “work.”

Rachel (right), daughter of longtime friends Nick and Margie Pikarsky, and her friend (and now my friend) Nicole Fiori, were great to be around at the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Fla, Aug. 2-4.

Rachel (right), daughter of longtime friends Nick and Margie Pikarsky, and her friend (and now my friend) Nicole Fiori, were great to be around at the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Fla, Aug. 2-4.

No, I wasn’t looking for beautiful young women to hang out with while in Florida, but I found them! It was most enjoyable visiting with Nick and Margie’s daughter Rachel Pikarsky (right) and her friend (and now my friend) Nicole Fiori. They were a total delight!

The fifth annual event was hosted by the University of Florida and Florida A&M.

I can’t wait to attend again next year!

For a good example of a successful, local hydroponics operation, see the Farmweek episode on St. Bethany Fresh Tomatoes on Pontotoc, MS:

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, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.