Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Catch You Up

We took a little bit of time away from the blog and facebook to recuperate and build up energy for the upcoming year.  As a result, there is a batch of things that maybe we need to catch everyone up on with regards to the Genuine Faux Farm.

Currently on My Mind
Since Tammy and I have spent a large portion of today either conversing about this topic or attending a legislative subcommittee meeting on a bill pertaining to it, I thought I'd start here.

Most of you know that in 2012, our farm was oversprayed by a flier with Stratego, Lorsban and Sniper.  As a result, all of the crops from the West side of our farm and the crops in our high tunnel (the only one we had at that time) had to be destroyed.  We destroyed eggs for 10 weeks and we had to make emergency moves for our poultry to get them off of sprayed pasture areas.  Of course, our initial response to figure out how we would address things on our own farm.  But, we have also tried to be active in trying to encourage change that will help reduce the likelihood of scenarios such as the one we lived.

Iowa Senate Bill 3125 had a subcommittee hearing on February 17th (today) and Tammy and I felt it would be important to attend this fact-finding meeting.  We were given the opportunity to share our story, our insights and our knowledge of the process and its relative shortcomings in hopes that it might help this bill along.  In the end, we were informed that the bill would leave the committee
and go to 'appropriations.'  In short, the bill still lives and could see action yet this session.  This is good news.

This bill focuses on addressing slow testing turn around times, reporting issues and low fine structures that fail to discourage misapplication.  We feel this bill is an excellent first step that, regardless of your position with respect to the use of chemicals, is a reasonable and practical approach to address a problem that is becoming more prevalent for those who do not grow row crops in our state.

If you agree with us that this is a good idea, contact your Senator.  We intend to provide more detailed information in a future post.

Looking Forward to Nota
Every year during the Winter months the Gang of Four farms (Blue Gate Farm, Grinnell Heritage Farm, Scattergood Friends School Farm and Genuine Faux Farm) hold a "Nota" Conference.  We spend some time together at Blue Gate, enjoy some good food, some great company and we have a chance to talk over a myriad of farm issues with people we know and trust.  It's coming up and we're shifting gears so we can be ready for it!

CSA Workshop
Rob was asked by Practical Farmers of Iowa to help lead a CSA workshop for those who are in the beginning stages of running a CSA farm share program.  Since Rob was a teacher in a former life, this gives him the opportunity to revisit the process of facilitating learning.   Yes, he still likes that kind of stuff.  But, best of all - there wasn't any grading.  Just good opportunities to give feedback and to encourage critical thinking.

Since the workshop was a two-day affair, you can guess that it required a bit of preparation prior to the event.  So, if you wanted some idea as to what Rob was doing with all of the time he was spending NOT weeding in January, now you know.

Research Agenda 2016
Every year we undertake a series of trials and/or research projects on our farm.  Some of them are simply to explore techniques or varieties that we might use on our farm.  Other things are a bit more formal.  For example, we have applied and received SARE grants for research in the past.  We have also participated in numerous Practical Farmers of Iowa projects in the past.  This year, we have a few projects going on that we thought we would share with you.

1. Summer Broccoli Variety Trials
Many growers in the state have a difficult time growing summer broccoli, which is something our farm tends to focus on.  A fairly large number of farms will be running trials of three broccoli varieties (Belstar, Gypsy and Imperial).  We will be running randomized, replicated plots to measure yield and other qualities of these varieties as we grow them this season.  The side result for the CSA and others interest in our product?  There's likely going to be a bit more broccoli this year!

2. Annual Flowering Companion Trials
After Rob showed a picture of the 2015 GFF melon field at the PFI Cooperator's Meeting, several people wanted to try and figure out what annual flowers they could add to their fields.  We will be trialing borage, lemon basil and anise hyssop in an effort to assess their relative benefit and cost to our farming operations.  We will be measuring speed of germination and establishment, canopy density, flowering period and attractiveness to pollinators.  Plus, these plants should look great in our fields.

3. Living Mulch in Cucumbers
Cucumbers sprawl and cause a myriad of problems once they do so.  Among them is the issue of weeds and muddy fruit when it rains.  We will running a
trial using New Zealand white clover in a randomized, replicated study to determine if yield is affected and if there is additional cost (or savings) associated with this.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Go Caucus with This

If you are going to caucus, please remember that this is an opportunity to bring plank proposals for the political party of your choice to consider.  This is AT LEAST as important as who you stand for in the presidential races.

These are planks that were drafted by the Iowa Organic Association, of which Rob is a board member.  Print these out and bring them along so you can easily submit them.


General Support for Organic: We support a farmer's right to farm as they see fit as long as the practices used do not infringe on the rights of others.  These rights include clean air and water, the ability of future generations to successfully farm, and the rights of farmers to use alternative growing practices on nearby farms without fear of loss due to the actions of a neighbor.  It is a farmer's responsibility to adopt practices that support a healthy and diverse environment and use techniques that prevent chemical drift, promote soil health and protect water quality.  We believe it should be the government's role to support sustainable and organic agricultural practices, education and research.  Similarly, the government should discourage actions that are shown to have deleterious effects on the quality of our shared natural resources.
Labeling of GMOs:  We believe that people have a right to know what is in their food; and thus, the FDA should require mandatory labeling of GMO ingredients.  Studies show that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs). State and Federal officials are urged to support mandatory, on-package GMO labeling at the State and Federal levels.
Pesticide Drift:  We believe that pesticides should not travel away from the intended area of application and that pesticide applicators have a responsibility to apply pesticides so that they do not cross property borders.  Pesticide drift can damage neighboring crops and it can cause bodily harm to people and animals when it drifts off-target.  State and Federal officials are urged to better execute their delegated responsibility to regulate pesticide drift and enforce the federal pesticide label requirements around pesticide drift.
Water Quality:  Recent research published by USDA Agricultural Research Service in Ames and Iowa State University in the journal "Sustainable Agriculture Research" showed that a typical organic crop rotation reduced farm nitrate leaching by nearly 50 percent, compared to the conventional Iowa corn and soybean rotation. Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy calls for a 41 percent reduction in nitrate leaching across Iowa agriculture. Changing to an organic cropping system could by itself achieve the goals of the INRS for those farms that make that conversion.  We believe that subsidizing the transition of conventional farmers to organic management is the most cost-effective and efficient way to achieve the water quality goals of INRS.  State and federal officials should recognize and fund financial and technical assistance programs that help Iowa farmers transition to organic agriculture to mitigate nitrogen pollution in our waterways.
Because we want tomatoes like this.