Friday, June 14, 2013

Midwest Nature Quote of the Week

I was leery of walking under the great rookery, having an awe of herons that’s akin to my respect for skunks, buzzards and carsick puppies.

For nothing on earth can equal the cosmic, monumental defecation of a startled heron. Several times, while canoeing close-in riverbanks, I have been almost beneath perching herons before they saw me. As the startled birds lumbered into the air they voided incredible ropes of excrement that could have whitewashed an entire fleet of canoes. One startled heron is bad enough; a whole heronry could be a catastrophe.

John Madson, Stories from Under the Sky

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Practical Farmers of Iowa, Part 1

Interview with Luke Gran, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Part 1

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of 2,000 farmers and friends of farmers. The organization’s mission is to advance profitable, ecologically sound, and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Below is acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks’s interview with Luke Gran, the coordinator of PFI’s Next Generation program.

Catherine: Can you briefly describe the Next Generation program and tell me why it’s needed?

Luke: The Next Generation program was developed in response to PFI members’ requests for more support in dealing with their children’s wish to come home and farm with them. Farmers wanted to share with each other their struggles and successes in making this happen. Established with seventy-five beginning farmers in our membership, it has now grown to include 1,300 beginning farmers in Iowa and continues to grow each month by about thirty beginners. Now the majority of people involved in the program tell us they are not the children of farmers. They’re new farmers without that rich family background and experience to draw from who are looking to network with other farmers.
        Keep in mind, if there’s no place for beginning farmers, if we don’t support and encourage them to explore their diverse farm business dreams, we will have a stark rural landscape, without a lot of humans in it—just a limited number of families with the large equipment that is necessary to support the production of corn or soybeans. Add in clusters of animal confinement complexes from county to county. So much of Iowa’s cultural identity depends on us creating space for families to continue farming, and this means ensuring the generational transition and conveying knowledge. Even if you don’t farm, think about your favorite recipes or meals or season—our food is very intimately tied to humans on the land, living with natural cycles. Farmers are key part of that. So think about what we could lose if there is no new generation of farmers.

Catherine: What are the top three obstacles to getting started as a farmer?

Luke: The most recent information we have is from a March 2012 survey. As of last year, beginning farmers listed marketing as their top challenge, followed by production issues, financing (access to capital), pricing farm products, and financial recordkeeping.

More Information: Farming's New Faces

Monday, June 10, 2013

Interested in living off the land?

Today's post comes to us from Housekeeping: Knock Out Dirt and Clutter For Good.

As grocery stores continue to raise food prices, more people are turning to their own land to produce food instead of purchasing it at the store.  Whether you want to grow your own herbs, harvest your own fruits or vegetables or raise cattle, there are many ways you can maximize your land as a food source. These 25 blog articles will dig into how you can live off the land.

How to Do It
There’s no way that one blog could give you all of the information that you need to live off the land, but combining these five blog entries can give you some ideas on how to go about starting the adventure.
Hunting isn’t the only way to have meat on your dinner table if you are living off the land.  Many folks choose to raise their own livestock to butcher for food.  A family of four can eat for several different meals from the meat that comes from a whole pig or cow.  If you live by water, you can add fish or other seafood to your diet.  These five blog posts will share some of their insights with you.
Probably one of the easiest ways to start saving money and living off the land is by growing your own garden.  For instance, one tomato plant will yield about one bushel of tomatoes. These tomatoes will allow you to make and can your own tomato sauce, stew tomatoes and make salsa, in addition to eating them fresh.  Just think of all that you could do if you had more than one plant.  Making your own salsa is a snap when you grow your own onions, jalapenos and cilantro, and you don’t have to step foot into a grocery store.  These five blog posts will give you some ideas for getting started.
Off the Grid
Some people have taken ‘living off the land’ one step further and have decided that they are going to live off the grid as well.  Living off the grid means that you don’t pay for electricity from a company; instead, you create your own by using solar, wind or water power.  Or you could go completely electricity free.  Take a look at these five blog entries to see what others are doing to get off the grid.
Little House on the Prairie Living
When you were a kid you may have read the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder or watched the spin-off TV show.  If you did, you may remember how hard life was on the prairie and how the Ingalls family survived by living off the land for the most part.  Read these five blog posts to learn a bit more about living like they did back then.