Tuesday, April 30, 2013

First Little Sprouts Work Day!

Tomorrow marks another first for Little Sprouts. We have decided to host our first ever official work day. We get asked frequently if there is opportunity for customers and such to come out and work on the farm from time to time.  The answer to date is.. there is always plenty to do! BUT.. as always... we have to consider the legality of everything we do.

So.. we are beginning to host "work days" where you can come and be a farm hand for a day, for pay.  We offer minimum wage, for a variety of tasks. Some require experience and some are just plain hard manual labor. Each work day will have a different list of projects depending on season and situation.  The days will take place regardless of weather ( as true farm work does).

You can expect a day full of hard work, tight schedules, constantly changing priorities, and unexpected challenges,  requiring flexibility, and a deep desire to be productive and be part of the food creation business. Here's a quick list of some possibilities:

planting, weeding, watering
scraping animal stalls
animal care
rough carpentry
general labor (digging, scraping, carrying, etc)
repairing of.. anything

If you'd like to experience farm work, play farmer for a day, or just help out when we are behind, then sign up for a Little Sprouts Work day and join the fun! (yes, we actually consider this stuff fun!)

The first one is this wednesday, May 1.

Stay tuned for pictures!

Alexa Schmidt talks to 4-H about GMOs

This is a very impressive talk given for the local 4H on the topic of GMOs.

Great Job Alexa!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Celebration - Restoring the world through food production!

Earth Day 2013 is officially here. Each passing year the talk of green movements, carbon footprints, restoration, climate change, global warming, desertification, etc etc gets stronger and more pointed.  Dozens of theories float around on global warming, the causes and fixes. Extreme technologies aimed at reversing this huge man made problem, that some spend their lives fighting while other don't acknowledge exists. This whole issue is reaching a peak, a pinnacle, and stands ready to divide our society down multiple lines.


There is an easy answer. An answer so seriously easy that it is shocking. The good news is, this answer does not require huge outlays of cash, nor extensive technology. This answer will please both the deniers and evangelist   It is a true win - win - win solution with absolutely NO negative side effects.

What is this great planet miracle cure?  simple.... Food.

That's right, food production, done right, solves not only world hunger, but climate change. We can restore our land, our water, and air by growing more nutritious food than is currently available  at lower costs than  is currently required.  Food.  Feed the world, and the world will be healthy -  man, beast, plant, and environment. Feed the world, and there is no need to change industry, fight big business, pass laws left and right, fight this or that. No.. instead, lets feed the world.

I am not referring to just any food production, but one specific system. This system has been proven in two totally different models, to validate that it works across a variety of concerns. One is pioneered by Joel Salatin at Polyface farms, the father of the modern small farm movement. The other is pioneered by Allan Savory of the savory institute, dedicated to reversing desertification across our planet, Both men hav arrived at the same solution. Salatin raises cows for profit and to heal his own land. Savory raises cows, sheep, and goats to heal the land and provide food for the hungry.  One in america, one in africa. Both are a huge success.

Here is the theory in all of it's simplicity:

Raising animals in their true natural herding manner - mimicking nature has the following benefits:
1. Heal the land - grasslands and pastures are fertilized, and recovered into lush growing oasis
2. Increase Water conservation - the water needs of plants are drastically reduced
3. reduces feed costs - in our own experience as much as 1/2!
4. Increased grasslands increases natural air purification, including reducing greenhouse gases
5. Increased grasslands reduces overall planet temperature, reversing global warming

In a nutshell, growing food properly not only feeds the planet, but restores the environment. Our problem is not overgrazing of animals, the problem is not that deserts happen from global warming. Rather our pastures are UNDERGRAZED and deserts is what CAUSES global warming.  WE have had it backwards all this time!

The system is called managed intensive grazing. It is the process of producing the natural herding instinct in animals grown for food on grasslands in a controlled space. Systematically restoring the land while producing food.

We have been toying with this idea at Little Sprouts Farm. Our pastures are worn out, tired, unproductive, water hogs. We have not been able to feed even a dozen sheep on a few acres. The land was previous used to hold horses, quite a few horses, conventionally raised with chemical parasite treatments.  This year we started a test to see if this stuff really worked.  Well it did. After only 3 months the results are simply astounding! Browse through the pictures below to see for yourself.  The pictures dont actually do this justice.. you should truly see it for yourself.

Our approach was to use turkeys and chickens. We built our self powered movable solar powered pasture  coops, which crawl around the pasture on their own keeping the birds on fresh grass throughout the day. We placed a flock of turkeys and chickens inside and let them spend the winter on pasture.

The first notice was that, with moving the coops every hour, our feed cost dropped exactly in half! Seriously! I was shocked. the birds would much prefer to graze on their own than consume the packaged feed.  Every time the coops moved the birds would run up to the front to get to the fresh grass first.

We let the coops sit for anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days, to test the difference in the land improvement. I have commented on the pictures below to note this.  Remember that in the comparisons, the short grass you see was untouched, growing free all winter! The taller grass where the coops were is fresh and new growth only 1 to 3 months old.  The birds totally obliterated the ground under them, but when it grew back it grew back fuller, greener, and easily 6 times faster and taller.

Let me close by saying.. this works. What you see here is one half season... imagine what is possible year round! Imagine pasture land... all around our own valley, restored without water use.. into lush grasslands, cleaning the air while providing food for animals. Imagine enough animal production, in small coops all around the area, producing enough food while cleaning and restoring the environment to feed everyone in this valley. Imagine good nutrient dense grass fed animal products at nearly HALF the price! The only problem I see with tis approach, being implemented world wide, is ... we don't have nearly enough people on the planet to consume all this food it will take to restore the earth!  BUT.. stamp out world hunger while reversing global warming with NO side effects... now that's a prospect to consider!

Happy earth day!

Remember that these photos are after only 1 season with NO additional water applied at all. 

You can see two tracks from the coops, one on the left, one on the right, both curving off to the back right. In between, the little grass, is the normal pasture. 

You can see the tracks from the three coops here, snaking out into the background

Here is a picture showing a mud boot sitting to the side of one of the coop tracks.  Notice the grass barely reaches past the soles of the boot, about 1 foot tall.  Also notice the deep grassy are behind.  Then check the next picture below.

This is a shot of the grassy area in the rear of the picture above. Can you find the boot? it is in the middle of the grass! only 4 feet from the above picture, but in the middle of a coop track.  

Here is a good shot along the edge of a coop track, showing the abrupt change. Remember that the grass on the left is less than 2 month old, but the grass on the right is a year of growth. 

In the distance you can see the tracks of the coops again. In the front is where the coop sat for about 3 days. Over fertilization causes open spot surrounded by huge grass. Those open spots will fill in within a few months.

Another closeup of an edge of a coop track showing the dramatic difference. 

And another closeup of the edge of a track.

This picture is looking down at an area inside a coop track showing the full lush grass cover. 

This closeup shot is of the SAME GRASS only a few feet away, just outside the coop track.  Notice the sparseness  and unhealthy look of the grass. 

Here is a more distant shot showing the end of a coop track that trails off to the right. 

Another shot like above

You0 can see the area all around where the coop was. Imagine enough birds raised here to cover the pasture within one season., and imagine all that food!

This area was in a wetter spot, a low spot. Notice the coop traveled around the low spot in the middle where water was more abundant, yet the grass didnt grow nearly as well. 

The far end of hte pasture near the fence.  Same results. 

a closeup down shot of the grass from a coop track

This is the same area as the grass above, just 3 feet away!

Her is an easy to see 2 day stay for hte coop. just enough but not too much. 

Interesting note here... the coop track in the center is "bleeding" off to the right in green growth. This is downhill. The fertilization works even around the coops, along the water flows. 
A final note. If you'd like to talk about restoring your pasture to grow good grass without water, and take part in healing the earth while feeding the hungry, please contact us. We are exploring options to spread this success all across the Rogue Valley. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Chickens Dont Love Me

MY CHICKENS DON’T LOVE ME  --- Written By Ira Edwards

Having chickens again brought me back to my childhood. Sitting on the floor of the warm brooder and having little chicks around me, sometimes with a favorite jumping up on my knee, was a childhood delight.
Add 70 years. Margaret was given six baby chicks for mother’s day. I was not happy. Taking care of chicks is not easy, and in a few weeks we would have to find a proper way to get rid of them, or a way to keep them
They won my heart. I built a 4x8 movable cage, to give them protection and access to different grass areas. The protection wasn't good enough. Scrub jays got two of the chicks, and I bought two more to replace them.

Big Chick was bigger than the others. Buff was a Buff Orpington. Goldie was a Golden Sex-link. Wild chick, a Wellsummer, was more like the ancestral jungle fowl. Beauty and Rocky, like Big Chick, were Barred Rocks.

Beauty was missing, and we assumed a jay had got her. Then Margaret heard her faint cry, and we found her wedged in a crack under the edge of the shop where she had escaped from the jay. She was cold and weak. Margaret held her under her chin for two hours as she began to revive.

I built high fences. Buff was our escape artist. She could find a way out, once being gone for several hours before our grandson found her several blocks away. I made access to a section of the shop, and made roosting rods and nesting boxes. The chicks grew up and began to lay eggs.

Buff died, and I mourned. I had to adjust to having only five chickens.

Chickens like to be together as a flock, but they are never nice to one another. They have no love, no thankfulness, no sharing. If one finds a worm others rush to take it away from her if they can. Five chickens racing around the yard is better entertainment than auto racing. If one finds a good place to scratch for bugs, others rush over to take it. For no good reason, they pick at each others necks, or get in a jumping beak-to-beak contest to determine who is top chicken.

Their interest in me is only for the goodies I bring them. They squawk to demand more, and I usually give it to them. If I don’t, or if they are satisfied, they ignore me. I can relax in the grass with the chickens around, or walk with them in the garden, and they act as if I didn't exist. If I chase them out of the beets, they come right back. They don’t take no for an answer. If things go wrong, they seem to think I am at fault.

In the garden, Goldie will wait on top of each shovel of dirt, ready to grab the first worm that appears as I bring it up. When I am planting or weeding by hand, Goldie is between my hands as I work. She acts as if I get in her way, rather than making her goodies available.

When we meet eye to eye, it is if they are asking what life is all about. They try to figure it out, and can’t. They kindle a deep feeling of love, and a desire to have them love me as I love them. I don’t need their love; I don’t need their obedience, except for their own protection. But it would be good.

I still miss Buff. She was an individual, not replaceable, forever a loss.

I wonder, how much my Heavenly Father sees how I am like my six chickens, and how much more He cares.

Ira Edwards

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hoss seeder puts first seeds in the ground

It is that time of year where seeds go in and start a new life cycle. This year we have grand plans if adding more veggie crops for animal food as well as fermented goodies for sale. so much so that we decided it was time to look into some faster method of getting sees in the ground quickly and accurately.

I remember as young boy working in my fathers huge garden. He came to the same conclusion (or maybe he just liked gadgets) and bought an automatic seeder. It was one that is still sold today in fact....the kind made from plastic and aluminum, with a red hopper in between front and back wheels. We would put seeds in the hopper and push the little gadget along merrily planting long rows. I also remember it being a tad finicky. Wasting seeds, hard to control, inaccurate depth, in short useful but problematic.

Do when i faced the same need, and not ready to spend the money on a tractor implement, research was in order. I quickly discovered that there are few options available. Basically three contenders... The one my dad had,a fancy improvement on this made overseas, and this weird little contraption from a company called Hoss. I choose the latter for a variety of reasons.

Price: Hoss is mid priced at a few hundred. I like mid priced solutions, finding they usually offer the best value.

Versatility: Hoss does the transformer thing to become seeder, cultivar, plow, or trencher.

Rugged: Hoss is much more sturdy. Heavy metal and wood frame built to last

convenience: you can empty the bucket without turning the while tool upside down. You can adjust depth and seed plate easily,

Performance: reviews were glowing about spacing and depth accuracy, germination rates, etc.

So... We have one now and i have to say that i am fully impressed.this is a perfect midrange tool. It is easy to use, rugged, effective, accurate, and built to last.

So far we have planted one whole area in beets and cabbage.what used to take hours of preparing, planting, covering, shaping... Took all of 10 minutes. Incredibly easy! This thing is ready to drive and push on two large front wheels, cuts an accurate depth, drops a single seed at accurate spacing, covers it and packs it tight with a broad spiked wheel that also drives the mechanism quite well.

I am very happy with the purchase. This well enable us to greatly increase production of veggies without requiring the investment of a tractor tool and the compaction if good soil under tractor tires. It is a perfect size for our current needs.

Here is link to the device: http://hosstools.com/products-page/seeder-4/seeder-garden-hoss/
I give it  an overall glowing review.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

New face on the delivery route today

Today is another first for little sprouts! Today marks the first time we run two routes simultaneously. Part of today will be handled by our family as normal, but the other part of the route belongs to christian, one of our new interns!

Christian will concentrate more in the talent area this week, so if you see a new face bringing your farm fresh delivery, take a moment to say hi !

Driest first quarter on record brings best growing season

Shocking headlines! Medford had just completed the driest first quarter every on record! Who knew? We have been rejoicing here about the best grass in our pasture in the 7 years we have been here! Spots in our pasture are lush green growing paradices of growth.... And without any irrigation! Just how is this possible?

First let me say... Or pastures are... Well... Poor. We have struggled to grow anything meaningful for as long as we have been here. any decent growth is unusual, let alone during the driest first quarter ever.

Yet, visit or land and you can see plainly the areas of beautiful green growth. In fact, it is plain to see that you can see why. The areas of growth exactly follow where the animals concentrated last session. Every coop location or track is now outlined in lush growth. You can follow how we pulled the coops across last season. You can see the coop outline where they sat. You can see the corners where the horses spent time. Growth this season is a drawing of the activities of last session.

The trick is stress and relax, with animals between crop production. Instead of raising animals on concrete our tiny pens and cages like factory farms do, move those animals to the land, properly managed, and crop yields explode. instead of paying for fertilizer, farmers can make money for increasing land fertility.

The problem with modern agriculture, as i have stated before, is this crazy notion that there can be a successful single production farm. It can't be done. Nature exists, thrives even, on variety. Symbiosis of variety is inherent in natural processes everywhere. This is the secret.

The second problem with land fertility is the other crazy notion that herds must be limited to prevent overgrazing. That notion is itself a misunderstanding of nature and a path to failure. Keeping land from being stressed prevents improvement. Land slowly degrades if kept resting under minimal animal loading. land needs more animals, not fewer, to improve.

Also, fertilizing is not the same as herding. Fertilizing is only one of many aspects of the benefits of herding. By itself fertilizing does not build fertility!

Herding is the answer, nature holds the key. Farmers need to stop fighting nature, stop trying to change and control things, and instead just manage the natural processes and duplicate nature.

Nature works, if you let it work.

Underneath the gmo debate

I ran across an article posted in southern oregon online that exemplies the problem underneath to arguments in the gmo debate. The link to the full article is below. What caught my eye in a reasonably well done peice is the closing statement:

" Regardless of the type of agriculture or the location, there are limits to how long any land can remain productive, applying imported fertilizers, or utilizing GMOs, only provides, at best, a temporary halt to the land’s transition to non-productive “wasteland”, and to desertification."

The argument being made here is this - that soil depletion is a given in any style of agriculture so as long as humans use land to grow food, we are killing the planet. Therefore even though gmo crops are bad, we have to do what we can to produce food in a dying world.

All I can say is WOW. I feel so sad for a seemingly knowledgeable author who understands so little and lives with such a fatalist view. On the contrary I can assure you that proper agriculture practices not only stop desertification and depletion, but reverse it! In short.... growing food creates fertile soil when done right.

The problem though, is that anyone educated on modern agriculture assumes that feeding man is the great evil that is killing the world. Science is necessary to come up with ways to lesson the damage. First chemical fertilizers, next genetic alterations. But this itself is the lie. If these beleivers in science would just look to true nature based agriculture, they would see that its not about how little damage we cause, it can be about how much fertility we can add per year. Creating topsoil, increasing fertility, by properly growing food in harmony with nature is the answer. Not only are gmo crops dangerous, they are totally unnecessary!

We have proven this on our own land. I will be posting about this in the days to come in more detail. For now let me share that we have finally found the secrets to fertility, and it is in producing food, not limiting that production. Literally the more food produced, the better the soil, when done right. Amazing! Nature is designed to support an ever increasing population! All we have to do is learn how nature works, and work in harmony.

What are these great mysterious secrets? We will discuss in more detail in coming days, but the root lies in following nature. If you'd like to see for yourself, come on out to the farm and look at what we are doing so far. Look at the growth and fertility brought on by last years food production. One year, one season, and the evidence is dramatic. Producing food increases the ability to produce food!

Here's the article I am referring to:

"Monsanto Protecion Act signed by president" http://feedly.com/k/10jYXuu

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two days of Duck Eggs lost

It seems we have lost at least a couple days of duck eggs to the new pasture management process.  There are so many small details in this sort of thing, and so many chances for things to go wrong!

This time, we had an unexpected rain. This produced mud overnight that didnt do well with 150 ducks in a small area. their little webbed feet are just perfect for flattening land... and that they did! No more holes! the down side is they laid eggs all over in the mud and water. These eggs, of course, cant be sold.

I think we will be ok yet for delivering orders. The production went up dramatically with the light in the duck pen in march, then back down when we moved them to pasture, but was recovering when this happened. I wont know for sure till friday rolls around and we do a count, but lets hope there are enough to go around!

The birds are now moved to the other pasture, the one with taller grass to keep these little ladies up out of the mud in the next rain.  Hopefully this is a one time thing.