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Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category

What’s in a Name?

When gearing up to start Clear Creek Organics, my wife and I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what to name the farm. We knew the importance of the farm’s name as a first impression to future customers, so we made lists and asked for input from other people. Should we have a name that is playful that reflects our own personalities? Should we simply name the farm after our last name and call it the __ Family Farm. What words did we want to use to convey what we are doing? Farm? Acres? Organic? Family? We hope to work with a few high end restaurants, so should the name be one that would look good on a fancy menu? We went round in circles for what seemed like months trying to come up with the perfect name for the farm.

During one of our “let’s try to come up with the farm name” conversations, Lauren was calling out names, hoping that one would stick. We were walking along a greenbelt trail that journeys along the banks of Clear Creek. At one point she said, “What about Clear Creek?” We live a block from the trail, and we can walk a few miles along it to come within blocks of the farm. Also, the irrigation ditch that will water the fields at the farm is drawn from Clear Creek. I was recognizing more and more how significant this creek is for us. The concept of “place” has become increasingly important to me over the last decade as I’ve been influenced by the writing of Wendell Berry. Berry writes, “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” And a more lengthy quote, but one that gets the the heart of the idea of community being rooted in a particular place:

“Community, then, is an indispensable term in any discussion of the connection between people and land. A healthy community is a form that includes all the local things that are connected by the larger, ultimately mysterious form of the Creation. In speaking of community, then, we are speaking of a complex connection not only among human beings or between humans and their homeland but also between human economy and nature, between forest or prairie and field or orchard, and between troublesome creatures and pleasant ones. All neighbors are included.”

As we walked along the Clear Creek trail, the notion of “place” in my mind, I felt drawn to the idea of a name that centers around the place in which we live.

I was drawn to the name Clear Creek Organics after that. Adding the word “Organics” gave a distinction to what we are doing. My entry into agriculture was through organic production. The first farm I worked for was a certified organic farm. Organic production is what I know and believe in. The basics of organic production are restoring biodiversity, utilizing biological controls for pests and weeds, avoiding GMOs and the use of biosolids, and improving the soil. Some folks don’t like the fact that the USDA controls the use of the word by deciding the rules for who is “certified organic” and who is not. I like the fact that the word Organic has a specific meaning and that it’s a great way for people to recognize our farming practices as it lines up with their beliefs. We are hoping to be certified through the Colorado Department of Agriculture this year.

Our farm’s name holds a lot of significance for me. I hope you find significance in it, too.

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A little deviation from my typical content.

Well worth an hour of your time.

Thoughts?

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More words from Trace at Cricket Bread.  His language is poetic.  Enjoy

Many of us never meant to become farmers.  We had our ambitions to enter the world as accountants or lawyers or teachers or some other clean, respectable professional.  We never really thought about the origins of our food; we always knew that the supermarket shelves would fill themselves, food came in boxes or cans ready to serve and farmers were simply one dimensional photographs in the mix of a hot new marketing campaign.

Farming was at best some idyllic retirement scheme, never a seriously considered career possibility.

But then something happened.  In the previously steady route of our lives, a shift occurred.  The soil moved under us somehow, got stuck in the creases of our pants, in the ridges of our shoes, in the lines of our palms.  Suddenly white picket fences, situation comedies and mutual fund returns didn’t seem so interesting anymore.  The big ball game and the driving range became distractions from the reality of a new love affair.  We got hooked on the possibilities of growing our own food and also providing that food to others.

The epiphany was likely different for many of us.  Maybe a friend took us to a farmers market.  Maybe someone had a plate of local hamburgers or collards at a picnic.  Maybe the news of some global food disaster made us question the monocultures piled high on our plates.  Maybe a real life farmer entered our life.

For a few of us, those with farming in our past – a childhood spent in the fields of the big farms or the family plots, throwing rocks into the hedgerows for little or no pay or watching over milking machines in the stench of industrial sized barns – there was no love, no kind of encouragement, no appreciation for our part in the dynamics of food production.  We were simply limbs and calluses then, small gears in a giant cranking clock.  We left the farm to pursue something else only to be pulled back hard when it became apparent that we could abandon everything that farming once meant to us.  We could make it ours.

Still others came to farming from DIY and anti-authoritarian backgrounds, building urban community gardens or putting up food in anarchist collectives.  Gardening always had a community aspect to it, but we wanted something more.  We knew that we could do the work, that we had the right vision and skills.  We just needed the access and the resources to get started.

Regardless of how we arrived at this point, here we are; we will call ourselves farmers from now on.

Our new loves – with their sharp hooves and unfamiliar odors, bright green leaves and bee covered flowers – give all the confidence to continue and pursue every goal we can imagine.  Our new hates – hail, crop failures and rain on market days – fully test our tolerance and keep those same goals in the territory of attainability.  Throughout all the highs and lows we can look at ourselves over and over again knowing that, if we stick to our ideals, we can do noble and appropriate work no matter what happens.

Local and sustainable farmers are our peers and our heroes, the most supportive, loving and steadfast community we could ever hope for.

We young and new farmers have the opportunity to change the features of the agricultural systems we have come to inherit.  Through the way we speak, act and work we can change the old infrastructure, market by market and county by county.  We have the time and ability to influence extension agents, educational systems and other institutions to make them function the way we need them to function in order to attain a sane and purposeful community based food system.

We are the new blood in the old body.

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a rant:

There has been something that has been bothering me for a while.  At first I thought is was just something that I was going to have to get used to or a feeling that would fade away.  But over the course of the past year, neither of those two things have come true:  I’m not used to it and it’s not going away.  So I need to get this off of my chest.  Hold on, it might get bumpy.

I’m getting really sick of the idea that if you are farming 1 acre you are less of a farmer than the person farming 10,000 acres.  Or that if you have a ranch with 5 head of cattle you are less of a rancher than a person with 1000 head of cattle.  Look up the word farmer in the dictionary and what do you find? “A person who farms; person who operates a farm or cultivates land.”  There is no qualifier in that definition.  It does not read, “A person who cultivates X number of acres.”  Yet this is the attitude that I have seen in my time in agriculture.

I have no aspiration to farm 100’s of acres, but this doesn’t change the fact that I am a farmer.  I have chosen to spend my days as a steward of the soil, working with the earth to provide a harvest of food for myself and others.  I live in connection with the soil that I grow in.  Yet, for some reason, other farmers feel the need to disqualify what I am doing.  In their eyes, I am a hobby farmer or market gardener.  My response to this?  I ask them if they can tell me how many people they are feeding?  The response usually has something to do with a certain number of acres of corn or wheat or soy.  But how many people are you feeding?  There is no answer for this.  Once the commodity leaves the farm they have no idea if it is being used or not.  I let them know that with 2.5 acres I fed over 500 people this season.  500 people from about 125 CSA shares.  I am a farmer feeding people.

What makes these comments about acreage so frustrating is that there is a rallying cry from ag folks about the need for more farmers.  Farmers from all size farms recognize the need for more farmers, yet I am not recognized as a farmer because I’m on 8 acres of land?  This is idiocy!  If they really wanted more farmers, more people growing/raising food, then they should be talking like Will Allen: “We need 50 million more people growing food, on porches, in pots, in side yards.”  But then again, Allen probably isn’t a farmer in their eyes either, so his voice is discredited.

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One of the things that I like about using Twitter is the variety of ways that people tweet. I love it when someone posts a series of tweets that rant on about a particular topic. I like these because I get the impression that the person tweeting has reached some sort of breaking point and is fed up, so the type out a string of 140-character bursts of frustration as if to scream, “I just can’t take it any more!”

That may or may not be the case for my friend Brett today, but I loved his burst of posts this afternoon. I hope you enjoy them too.

Here’s @emptysandwich:

Local summer produce is always available if you make the effort to preserve in season.

Why do people keep arguing you can’t eat local or regional in the winter?

We add value to foods by preserving them in season when they’re less expensive. They return the investment off season.

When you are willing to invest in your food, your willing to adjust your diet to fit preserved and fresh foods from your region.

We eat greens like lettuce and chard late fall through mid spring. Summers to hot to grow them. So we adapt.

Who wants to eat a fresh tomato from the store in February? It doesn’t taste like a tomato, so use something else that adds flavor

It’s not winter produce that’s boring, it’s the cook. Start exploring.

365 days a year the store has the same produce. Learn to wait for the excitement of seasonal.

I’ve learned more about food prep in the last year from people who care, than I ever learned from boxes at the store

There are so many cooks and chefs available to you on Twitter. If you need help or inspiration, just ask, they’re social.

Thanks, Brett. You made my day.

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I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to write about my time at the Growing Power workshop, so I’m going to try to gather my thoughts and share them as best as I can.  Part of me feels that I should allow myself some time to digest all that I experienced before trying to share it with other people.  There was so much energy and information and excitement that it was impossible to absorb and remember everything that happened.  Rather than writing a long post about every detail of what we did I think I’ll write a few posts on some big picture experiences that I had.  Any objections?  Ok, here we go.

There were about 40 people there for the Saturday/Sunday workshop and another 30 people that were there for the first of a “once a month, for five months” Friday-Sunday workshop.  When we gathered together for the first time on Saturday morning there was a lot of nervous excitement.  A long row of tables was set up in one of the green houses.  This would be where we gathered together to eat and gather together when we were not in a workshop.  When I sat down to eat it was easy to start to talk to the people around me.  A few guys were there from Connecticut where they work at Urban Oaks.  Another lady next to me was from a place in northern Wisconsin who was working to revitalize her community through community gardens.  There was guy from the Rogers Park in Chicago.  He was on the board of a community garden/farm and he was the one who was elected to come up for the weekend.  We ate breakfast and mingled–wondering what the weekend was going to be like.

After a while Will Allen emerged from the one of the other greenhouses.  His presence is as commanding in person as it seems to be in video.  He was wearing a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt; that made me smile.  Will gave us an introduction to some of his staff and a quick briefing of what we could expect during the weekend.  Before we took a tour of the farm Will asked us go around and introduce ourselves and tell everyone else where we were from and what we do.  It was a little surprising to hear that we were going to take the time to introduce ourselves to everyone in that way, but it really set the tone for the whole weekend.  As we took turns introducing ourselves it became pretty clear that although we were all coming from areas of the country (and even a number of people from Canada) we were all looking for inspiration and support.  Even thought we were there to see and learn about the things that Growing Power was doing, I think the opportunity to get to know people from different places and working on different projects was just as beneficial.  People are so important to Growing Power.  They proved this by providing us time to sit, talk, and learn from and with each other.

“The thing we do best is to inspire people into action.” -Will Allen

Will wants people to learn.  He comes across as being a teacher at heart.  As the weekend’s activities unfolded Will would stop into each of the workshops to ask what we were learning. “Take me back to the beginning.” he would prod the group.  A person in the group would start explaining the steps until Will found time to interject, “And then what happens?”  He would ask this question until he heard the answer he was looking for, playfully prodding the group for the answer.  When he heard what he was looking for he would put his hands up in defense and exclaim with a smile, “I’m just trying to learn.”

One concept that Will continually returned to was the importance of maintaining relationships with the community around Growing Power.  He stressed the importance that once a relationship is built you must work to maintain that relationship.  If you create an agreement with a restaurant or grocery store to take their kitchen wastes for compost, then you had better be there to pick them up.  If those relationships are fractured they are hard to put back together.  There were a few chefs in the group that he asked to support this idea, and then we listened as Will began to preach a short sermon on building relationships with chefs.  “Chefs today…” he said with the rhythm and force of an African-American preacher—building momentum as he spoke. “Chefs today know what good food is…Chefs today want to have the freshest ingredients to serve their guests…Chefs today are a huge player in the Food Revolution.”  And as he preached, we responded with several “Amens.”

Will spoke often about the Food Revolution.  “This is no longer a food movement,” he would say “this is a food revolution.”  This word play on what is being done is powerful.  The thought of participating in a revolution is inspiring.  This food revolution is taking place all across the country.  The food revolution is rising up in urban centers and rural communities.  And the food revolutionaries that are taking up this cause span all ages, genders, races, and political preferences.  “This is a revolution, and it’s growing.  You cannot have a sustainable community without involving sustainable foods.”

The other thing that Will stressed as he spoke was that this revolution would only continue if we did things.  The revolution needs action.  There is a need to hash through policy issues, but simply talking about it wouldn’t show what the solutions could look like.  This workshop weekend was a great example of this.  The purpose wasn’t to show people how to create little Growing Powers all across the country.  The purpose was to inspire people to think creatively about ways that their own communities can take part in the food revolution in ways that are most beneficial to those communities.

“We could talk about this stuff all day, but now is the time for action…” –Will Allen

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Growing Power Workshop

This weekend I am attending a workshop at Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Yesterday was packed full of information that I would love to be able to remember and recall, but I know that even in my attempts to scribble notes and take pictures I know I will be forgetting more than I will remember.

I wanted to share some pictures I took from the first day, and I’ll be writing more about my time after I get back home and have some time to process all the information.

“There is a way to get good food to every person in every community.  We just need to find new ways to do it.” -Will Allen

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