Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stay Tuned: My Experience at Pond Hill Farm

About a month ago I packed my belongings, got in my car, and set my sights on Michigan. This summer I will be working as a farm apprentice at Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs, MI located right on Lake Michigan and in the upper northwest corner just before you reach the Upper Peninsula. You may wonder why I would move to Michigan when I could be working at one of the many local farms in Connecticut. I had my personal reasons to move (my boyfriend lives in Michigan) and well, after a year of traveling to five different states within ten month in AmeriCorps NCCC, I couldn't resist my urge to travel any longer. It was time for my next adventure.

Yet even though I am many miles away from Connecticut, I was asked to blog about my experience at Pond Hill. I was very grateful for this opportunity since I am sure I will be eager to share my trial and tribulations of true farm life to which I'm sure many of you can relate.

Jimmy and JJ 
Next Monday will be my first official day at the farm and I am very much looking forward to meeting the Pond Hill Farm family and staff. The farm is owned and operated by the Spencer family which consists of mother Sharon, son Jimmy, his wife Marci and their two very adorable children Emma and JJ. They also have a full-time farm staff as well as a hand full of interns like myself that assist them with the hectic summer months and growing season.

One of the main reasons I wanted to work at Pond Hill was because they have effectively developed their farm into a full-fledged agritourism experience for their visitors and customers. Not only do they provide herbicide and pesticide free produce and organically raised meats through their CSA and on-site market, but they also have a winery complete with a tasting room as well as a Garden Cafe that is open from May through October. Throughout the summer and into the fall, their calendar of events is packed with activities ranging from barn dances, pig roasts, hayrides, farm to table and wine tasting dinners and fall festival weekends.

A squash rocket! 

It is currently snowing as I write this post and I guess you could say that adjusting to Michigan's horribly inconsistent weather has been my first trial and tribulation of this experience. Two days ago it was 65 and sunny and today it is wet and cold. I can only look forward to the summer days ahead and all that I will learn and share with you in the upcoming months. 

Until next time,


Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone! We'll be at a number of Earth Day fairs this upcoming weekend!

On Saturday you can visit us at:
Woodbury Earth Day
Hollow Park, Woodbury, CT
11:00 am – 4:00 pm
FREE Admission
Rain or Shine

Newtown Earth Day

Newtown Middle School
Queen Street
10AM - 4PM
FREE Admission
Rain or Shine

We hope you've had some time to plant your garden! On Saturday, Melissa and I went to the Peabody Museum's Earth Day celebration! What a great day - we were seated in the Peabody's Great Hall giving out pea and bean seeds to Connecticut's youngest (but most enthusiastic) gardeners.

With all the celebrations of our environment, the budding trees, sprouting plants and greening of the landscape, spring is such an inspirational time! Part of your celebration of the Earth this year might be to become involved with the legislative process.

Here's an excerpt from a GMO Free CT update:

The 2013 legislative session ends on June 5th. This gives us 45 days to pass a GMO labeling bill in CT.  We remain hopeful that with your help, CT will be the first state to give its citizens the right to know what is in their food.  As we track our bills through the legislative process, actions will need to be taken.  See below for our current action alerts.  The only way these bills will pass is if the legislators hear from you.  Please remember that every e-mail, every phone call, and every meeting is extremely important.
The Public Health Committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of HB 6519 with a vote of 23-4 on April 2nd.  The bill was then analyzed by the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis.  HB 6519 will now most likely be sent to the General Law Committee for a vote.  We need to ensure that the committee will vote in favor.  If your legislator is on the General Law Committee, please reach out to them and ask them to support the bill.  If your legislator is not on General Law, ask them to speak to their colleagues on General Law and encourage them to vote in favor.  We have heard that the General Law Committee is not in favor of the bill as of now.  We need your help.  If you are not sure who your local town or city legislator is, you can enter your address to find them here.
The Children’s Committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of HB 6527 with a vote of 11-1 on March 12th. The bill is currently in front of the Public Health Committee for a vote. While it would seem logical that the Public Health Committee would vote in favor of HB 6527 as it did for HB 6519, we can not take anything for granted. If your legislator is on the Public Health Committee, please contact them and ask them to support HB 6527. If your legislator is not on Public Health, ask them to speak to their colleagues on Public Health and encourage them to vote in favor. If you are not sure who your local town or city legislator is, you can enter your address to find them here.

Whether you're calling your legislator to improve the transparency of the food system or reducing your reliance on industrial food by planting your garden - you're improving our environment and your health!

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rethink Your Cellphone and the Global Food System

For many, cellphones are used for a few primary services; communicating with others and (if you own a smartphone) staying connected to the internet and often times your Facebook page. Yet for farmers in Sub-Sahara Africa, having a cellphone could mean the difference between making a profit on your crop in the global market or none at all. 

FoodTank, an organization that has created a network of connections and information that offer solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our food system, has highlighted five major ways cellphones are changing agriculture in this region of Africa. Check them out:

1) Access to market prices: Mobile phones allow farmers to gain access to vital information about prices of crops before they travel long distances to markets. Cell phone services employ SMS text messaging to quickly transfer accurate information about wholesale and retail prices of crops, ensuring farmers can  negotiate deals with traders and improve their timing of getting crops to the market. SokoniSMS64 is one popular service used in Kenya to provide farmers with accurate market prices from around the country.
2) Micro-insurance: Cell phones are also used for a “pay as you plant” type of insurance. Kilimo Salama, meaning “safe agriculture” in Swahili, is a micro-insurance company that protects farmers against poor weather conditions. The insurance is distributed through dealers who utilize camera phone technology to scan and capture policy information through a code using an advanced phone application. The information is then uploaded to Safaricom’s mobile cloud-based server that administers policies. Farmers can then receive information on their policy, as well as payouts based on rainfall, in SMS messages. This is a paperless, completely automated process. 
3) iCow from M-Farm: This cell phone application calls itself “the world’s first mobile phone cow calendar.” It enables farmers to keep track of each cow’s individual gestation so farmers never miss the valuable opportunity to expand their herd. iCow also keeps track of feed types and schedules, local veterinary contact information, and precise market prices of cattle. 
4) Instant weather information: Mobile technology provides farmers with crucial weather data so they can properly manage their crops. Programs such as Tigo Kilimo in Tanzania give small-scale farmers instant weather information combined with appropriate agricultural tips. 
5) CocoaLink: This app makes use of western Ghana’s rapidly expanding mobile network to deliver important information to cocoa farmers. The World Cocoa Foundation created this program to provide free voice and SMS text messages about farm safety, child labor, health, and improvements in farming practices, crop disease prevention, and crop marketing. Farmers receive messages in English or their local language. 
It is amazing to see how technology is being used all over the world for more purposes than what we are accustomed to. It is also interesting to note that while we advocate for sustainable agriculture and organic farming which tends to stray from the technological advances of the modern world such as those used in industrial agriculture, people of other areas of the world are utilizing technology in a way that advances their profits and maintains their livelihood of being a farmer.

Have a great afternoon!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Make This Year's Farm Bill Count - Support Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act 2013

The Farm Bill. You know, that large (about $300 billion large) legislative package that rolls around every 5 years or so, intended to shape the future of our food system by setting standards for food production, food cost, nutrition, environmental health and rural development? Oh yeah, that one.

Five years have passed since 2008 when the last Farm Bill was implemented and while it was largely geared towards supporting industrial agriculture, progress was made to add new provisions that supported local and regional food systems in the United States. But like every Farm Bill, this one came with an expiration date of September 30th, 2012 and when Congress failed to agree on a new Farm Bill before that date (no surprise here) the bill was extended, returning the bill to it's permanent legislation and erasing those new provisions supporting healthy food and farms. Battle lost.

That is why supporting the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act is so important. It is a proposal to improve the upcoming 2013 Farm Bill and implement legislation that will allow for greater sustainable production of fruits, vegetables, and meats, expand access to healthy foods to consumers, and further improve the infrastructure and markets of regional and local food systems.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is one of the many organizations that is supporting this Act and is providing ways for you to take action as well. You can click here to show your support and tell Congress to cosponsor the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013!



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Become a Volunteer with CT NOFA!

CT NOFA needs you!

A message from Debra Sloane, the CT NOFA Board Member Responsible for Volunteers:
This could be you!
CT NOFA is actively recruiting volunteers to be part of a sustainable team committed to supporting the incredibly wide array of events and activities we sponsor and get involved with throughout the year. Only with your support can we continue to be a dynamic and growing organization able to participate in all of the state’s events and programs committed to organic farming and organic food. That’s why we need you to be part of our volunteer team!

Please plan on joining us at either one of our two upcoming volunteer training sessions:
Sunday, April 7, 2013
3:00 – 6:00 PM
Auerfarm, Bloomfield CT

Monday, April 8, 2013
5:30 – 8:30 PM
New Morning Market, Woodbury CT

The agenda will be the same at both events and food and drinks will be served. Please join us at the date and time that suits your schedule by registering HERE.

Your commitment to our volunteer team is essential to helping CT NOFA reach the

entire state with our message. We will have opportunities for you to be active throughout the year to help strengthen and grow our membership base and support the CT NOFA vision. Our plan is to become a regular presence at various farmers markets, open farm days, conferences, fairs and to provide informational brochures to a targeted set of natural food stores and CSAs. We will support you with training and mentoring so that you are comfortable with your role and so that you look forward to your volunteer commitment.
Volunteering with CT NOFA is fun!  Depending on what's happening at the time, you might be able to visit farmers markets, table at expos and symposiums, or learn new computer skills.  As someone who has done all of those things and more with CT NOFA, I can say that it's a great way to grow, meet amazing people, and have a great time!  Again, if you'd like to get involved, sign up for one of the training sessions online here.

Have a great evening,