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Devon Point Farm's BLOG
Posted 9/15/2014 9:05pm by Erick & Patty Taylor.

Patty’s Pointers for Living Better & Spending Less

How we do it... many of our customers have experienced the same results…

It’s easy to start living better by feeding your body well and with the right foods; it’s something most of us now understand. The problem is that it costs more… or does it? I’m not here to sell you on the health benefits of eating all-natural, chemical-free local food, if you’re getting this email, you’ve either joined our email list or already are one of our customers, which means you already care about the quality of the food you eat.

I’m writing to provide you with a real example of what you can do to dramatically save money and eat healthier than ever. It begins with the acquisition of a relatively small asset… a freezer!

But a Freezer is So Expensive? I would argue that it’s one of the best investments you can make!

•    Buying A freezer saves you money on LOTS of things! When my special all-natural, whole-grain, no high-fructose corn syrup bread goes on sale, I buy 10 loaves and store them in the freezer. I drive an extra 20 minutes to Marketbasket in Oxford, MA once a month and buy butter for almost half the price than at the local store, that goes for blocks of sliced American cheese, shredded cheese, burrito shells, orange juice, chicken stock in the cardboard containers, ice cream, frozen berries, and anything else I can buy and freeze. The amount I save in one bulk shopping trip more than pays for the entire year’s worth of added electricity from running the freezer!  

•    Buying A Freezer allows you to save your OWN Fresh Vegetables & Fruit, leftovers, and homemade baked goods! Our CSA members who are savvy savers, take an extra few minutes each week to process and store whatever vegetables they don’t finish… and if you’re not part of a CSA, you can SAVE extra food that is going bad in your fridge instead of throwing it out! It only take a few minutes to blanch and freeze green beans or other veggies, slice the kernels off of leftover corn, cut the tops off the strawberries that no one is eating in the fridge and place them in a Ziploc in the freezer. I take extra greens like kale, arugula or swiss chard, chop them up and seal them in a Ziploc, squishing all the air out and freezing them for later use in green smoothies or soups, stews, or in lasagna. I bake zucchini bread in summer, and wrap and freeze the loaves for a taste of summer in the middle of winter. Once you get used to having and using your freezer, you can buy less at the grocery store, waste less of what you do buy, and enjoy saving everything from leftovers to homemade baked goods.  

•    Here’s my math on freezer savings: A 5.8 cubic foot Sears Kenmore upright freezer (21”W x 22”D x 56”H) costs $231 to buy and $38 per year in electricity to run it. I would personally buy the next bigger size… a 12.1 cubic foot upright which costs $379 to buy and $62 per year to run. The average freezer lasts 16 years, so the cost of just the freezer is $85.68 per year when spread out over it’s lifetime… I can save that in just a few purchases… by buying frequently used items when they go on sale (like my expensive healthy bread) or buy buying meat in bulk (buy a whole or half all-natural animal from a farmer, rather than feedlot meat at the grocery store), or most importantly by just NOT WASTING what I’ve already invested in whether it be the vegetables from my CSA share, or items from the store.   Add to this, that food costs at grocery stores are rising exponentially in America. The Fiscal Times reports that regular grain-fed ground beef is up 11 percent, pork is up 9.4 percent and fruit & veg prices were up 7 percent in 2014. Why? Ongoing drought throughout most of America’s critical growing areas, and a gloomy forecast from scientists from UC Davis and other sources that there’s a 71 percent chance for next year to be drier than normal. Buying now, and buying in bulk, saves you money in the future!

Think about some of the things you’re already buying in bulk…toilet paper, laundry detergent, cereal, etc. Why do we do this? Because buying in bulk is always cheaper. And this same principle holds true for meat!

We all want meat that comes from animals that were raised humanely, lived in their natural habitats, fed only what nature intended… grass, never given antibiotics or hormones, and processed responsibly, but these kinds of meats can be expensive — especially for those who are feeding entire families. Fortunately, there are ways to make feeding your family natural & properly raised meats completely affordable… buy in bulk and buy a freezer!

When we talk about buying meat in bulk from a farm, we’re taking about purchasing a half animal or a sampler box. I know — it sounds intense. When people first learn about buying a half animal, they probably can’t help but imagine somehow trying to stuff half a cow or a whole pig into their freezer. But buying in bulk is nothing like that. The meat still looks exactly like the meat you usually get — packaged separately according to the cut. The only difference is the amount of it that you’ll be getting at once, which will be a lot more than you’re used to (hence the need for a freezer — and you’ll be surprised how quickly it pays for itself)!

By purchasing a half animal, your price per pound will be significantly less than if you were to purchase that same amount of meat over time in smaller amounts — savings that equate to over a thousand dollars on a half beef! The best part about buying meat in bulk? You and your family will be eating the best, most nutrient-dense, toxin-free meat available — and you’ll save money!

In addition to saving on cost, buying in bulk also offers the following additional benefits:

•    You get it all! Your beef half will come with everything from ground beef to fillet mignon. You’ll expand your culinary prowess by cooking/trying different cuts of meat that you may have never been exposed to otherwise. Who knows — you might even find a new favorite! Acclaimed butcher Tom Mylan says, “If you’re going to kill an animal, then it only seems polite to use the whole thing.” Buying in bulk allows you to do just that.â�¨  

•    Your connection to your food will be enriched. Buying from a local farm (and especially buying in bulk) will deepen your understanding of how the animal was raised, who raised it, and how it was processed. Your relationship with your meat will become more transparent and less opaque.

Not sure you can eat that much beef in a year? Try “Cowpooling”… it’s when you ask some friends, family or neighbors if they are interested in eating great, healthy meat and saving money at the same time! Go in on a half animal with family and friends!

Make the investment in a freezer and reap the dividends… nothing is more comforting than sitting by a warm fire knowing that you have all the food you need to make it to next Spring. This is something that is hard to put a value on, but I assure you it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of being a farmer… why shouldn’t you enjoy it too? I hope this idea saves you money and helps you live better. Best, Patty

Posted 6/19/2012 9:39am by Patty Taylor.

 
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!!!

On June 19th, Erick Taylor, owner of Devon Point Farm was interviewed on WINY 1350 AM. 
Click the link above to listen! Special thanks to the Woodstock Agricultural Commission for
inviting us to be interviewed! 

Posted 12/17/2011 8:12am by Erick & Patty Taylor.

Why is what's happening in Texas important to us here in New England?

Excerpts from the article (see full article link below):

"The worst drought in Texas’ history has led to the largest-ever one-year decline in the leading cattle-state’s cow herd, raising the likelihood of increased beef prices as the number of animals decline and demand remains strong."

“Consumers are going to pay more because we’re going to have less beef,” Anderson said. “Fewer cows, calves, less beef production and increasing exports.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that beef prices will increase up to 5.5 in 2012, in part because the number of cattle has declined. That follows a 9 percent increase in beef prices in the past year.

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/12/16/texas-drought-takes-cow-numbers-down-by-600k/

One more good reason to buy Devon Point Farm's gourmet grassfed beef, great quality at an excellent price!

Posted 8/9/2011 10:08am by Laura Fisher, Apprentice.

What's Native? (Get To Know Your Farmer)

an essay by Laura Fisher, Apprentice

 

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.


Many of us have heard the old saying that corn should be “knee-high by the fourth of July.” Among farmers, the saying meant that it had been a good spring, and a decent yield could be expected come late summer. While different climates and variations in soil make growing patterns vary widely across the country, here in Connecticut it still holds true that native corn is not ready until mid to late July, and given this year’s strange weather, even a bit later this season. So how does one explain these multiple “authentic” farm stands, with their earnest hand-drawn signs proclaiming “Fresh Native Corn” appearing as early as June? Despite my desire to trust anyone claiming to support local growing efforts, I have to admit it looks a tad suspicious. I begin to wonder what “native” really means anymore – is it a true indication of where food is coming from, or just a marketing buzzword?


Now, I am not saying that buying corn from other parts of the country and selling it in Connecticut is the most offensive crime one can commit. After all, where there is a market there is money to be made, and anyone who works in and around agriculture knows how hard it can be to keep up with the bills. The part that disturbs me is that once we begin to stretch the meaning of certain words, when do they lose their meaning in their entirety? After all, food that is touted as “local” but is in fact shipped across the country loses many of the benefits that encourage people to buy local in the first place, such as exceptional nutritional quality and lowered fossil fuel use, and not to mention the unmistakable taste of fresh food. Take tomatoes, for example – most of us relish slicing into that first ripe, juicy tomato of the season, blood-red and crying out for a little olive oil and fresh basil. It’s no wonder that markets have capitalized on that treasured moment, and are now able to offer fresh local tomatoes as early as – June?! Tomatoes can only be planted safely outdoors until all danger of frost is past, with chill damage occurring at temps below 50°F for many varieties. This year, because of a cold spell, we weren’t even able to put our tomatoes into the ground until mid-May. Once planted, tomatoes need anywhere from 60-90 days to grow and ripen. The math makes sense – the first week in August is when we had our first tomatoes ready this year, and our juice-stained grins were proof that it was worth the wait. So those local tomatoes in June found at your farmers market? Most likely carted in from warmer areas of the country, or grown in hot-houses (which, as most of us know, can’t hold a candle in taste to a field-grown tomato.)


Or what about meat that is branded “Grass-Fed,” when it is really only grass-fed for part of the year, and grain-fed for the other part? Much of the grass-fed beef found on the commercial market is, in fact, grain-finished for the last 90-160 days before slaughter to fatten the animals up and provide the marbling that most consumers are used to seeing in their steaks. During that finishing period, levels of saturated fat go up, and healthy Omega-3 levels decrease, thereby losing the health benefits that can be claimed only by truly grass-fed beef. While people who are used to seeing this “grass-fed beef” at supermarkets might not realize it, we are so proud of our 100% grass-fed beef here at Devon Point Farm because of its rarity within the market. And it is a totally transparent system - customers can come by, any day of the week, and see our cattle happily munching away on grass and hay (and the occasional kale bunch when they manage to sneak into the CSA fields!).


The point here is not to vilify farm stands and farmers markets, but to stress the importance of finding accountability and traceability within your food system. We are all aware of how marketing is used to trick and cajole consumers into making certain decisions, so why do we expect it to be any different when it comes to agricultural products? The only way around it is to get to know your local farmers – go visit where your food is grown, where your beef is being raised, and see how it is produced and handled. Join a CSA – our members come and pick their own peas, beans, and cherry tomatoes throughout the season. It doesn’t get any more “farm fresh” than that. Most importantly, be a critical consumer, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to validate your food source. Decide for yourself – what does native mean to you?


About Apprentice, Laura Fisher...

 

    
         
Laura Fisher just finished her Master's Degree at NYU in environmental conservation education, with a concentration in sustainable food systems and urban agriculture. She previously worked with 'Green Guerillas' a non-profit community group that uses a mix of education, advocacy, and organizing to help people cultivate and sustain community gardens. In addition, Laura has interned at the NY Coalition of Healthy School Food, has taught English as a second language in both the Galapagos and in Ecuador. Her hobbies include reading, cooking, hiking, and horseback riding. 


Posted 8/2/2011 10:01am by Adrienne Barrett, Apprentice.

Making Up The Difference

an essay by Apprentice, Adrienne Barrett

 

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.


      This past weekend while visiting a neighbor I was offered a snack. She threw wide the refrigerator door, reached into the veggie crisper, and pulled out a zip-top bag of “baby” carrots. It was then that I thought to myself, what’s the difference?  Is there any substantial variation between the nutrition that a bag of shaved-down carrot torpedoes from Sacramento can provide compared to the rainbow carrots I had gotten from our fields that morning? The answer I found was a resounding…maybe. That is to say that as with most things, the details make all the difference.

       There are a large number of factors that put Sacramento’s carrots (commercially produced and shipped) at a nutritional disadvantage to the rainbow carrots (the local, naturally-grown model). Our dear friend time can do a lot of damage, especially to vitamins B2, C, and E, so the time it takes the vegetables to get to store shelves can be very detrimental. For example, peas will lose about 75% of their vitamin C content after one week in storage. Another major source of nutrient degradation comes from damage to the plant’s cells. Vegetables (and all other plants for that matter) are made of billions of cells that are constantly producing and repackaging the building blocks of life; sugars, proteins, and fats along with trace minerals, vitamins, and other compounds. The moment the cells are broken into by a knife, a bruise, or other means, these tiny factories are exposed to the air and their nutrients leach away rapidly. This kind of damage often happens with mechanical harvesters, the jostling of refrigerator trucks, and pre-sliced convenience packages of food, but it can just as easily happen with rough handling by workers in the local model as well.

            Another component to a vegetable’s level of vitamins and minerals is the specific variety being consumed. The old adage “a horse is a horse” doesn’t apply here, and oftentimes commercial varieties of a crop are selected for maximum output and durability so that they can withstand the shipping and picking process. This also means the plants are designed and selected to grow quickly, leaving the plant less time to store away micro and macro nutrients it absorbs from the soil. In contrast, many local farms are geared towards a direct-to-consumer system, so they tend to choose vegetables that are brightly colored with unique flavors. These varieties typically have higher concentrations of minerals, vitamins, and sugars as evidenced by their strong visual and taste appeal. In addition to this, these vegetables can be picked closer to the peak of ripeness because they do not need to be shipped great distances. The price of these foods may be higher, but the cost per unit of vitamins and minerals is comparable, and the consumer doesn’t need to eat a double helping to get great nutrition.

            Besides choosing more flavorful (and therefore more nutrient dense) types of produce, small local farms such as ours often use organic growing practices. When plants don’t have the crutch of chemical pesticides to defend them from insects or nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) fuel-based fertilizer to spur them into watery upward growth, they create much larger concentrations of a group of compounds known as phytochemicals. Well-known members of this group include beta carotene and lycopene along with many other compounds that are essential to our health. In fact, in a recent study by the European Union and Newcastle University, organic tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and lettuce had between 20 and 40% more nutrients than their non-organic counterparts.

       So there we have it; with proper plant selection, care, and harvesting (and the fun part, rapid consumption!) that local, naturally raised rainbow carrot can knock the nutritional snot out of the pre-sliced baby-cut competition. But only if we as a web of producers and consumers care enough about each other, our families and our health to have the dedication to make healthful food happen.

 

Sources

http://chge.med.harvard.edu/programs/food/nutrition.html

http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=3&tax_subject=279&topic_id=1468&level3_id=6746&level4_id=0&level5_id=0&placement_default=0

http://www.naturalnews.com/022264.html

http://usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com/2009/01/evidence-on-declining-fruit-and.html

 

About  Apprentice, Adrienne Barrett...

Adrienne     Adrienne is joining Devon Point Farm for a second season, interning part-time with us, and part-time with a local large animal veterinarian. Adrienne will be going into her Junior year at UCONN where she is in the honors program majoring in animal science. Adrienne is planning on being a veterinarian and has worked as a veterinary assistant at the Niantic Animal Hospital, and as an animal education intern at Holcomb Farm in West Granby, CT.  Adrienne grew up in Granby, CT but attended the Green Mountain Valley School, a world-class ski academy and independent high school in Waitsfield, VT. She is also a varsity rower on UCONN's crew team. Her hobbies include sailing, competitive skiing, crew, and spearfishing.


 

Posted 7/26/2011 10:14am by Laura Fisher, Apprentice.

The True Cost of Food

an essay by Apprentice, Laura Fisher

 

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.


Sometimes it seems like everywhere we look, we are bombarded with advertisements for the next cheap deal, especially when it comes to food. Between $1 menu items at fast food chains around every corner, bulk food retailers, and inexpensive meat and dairy from factory farms, why would we expect to pay anything but bargain basement prices for our meals? Even accounting for recent rises in food prices, Americans spend less than 10% of their disposable income on food , a number that is much less than any other country. For comparison, other high-income countries such as Canada and the U.K. spend an average of 16% of their income on food, while middle-income countries spend 35%, and low-income countries spend 55% .

 

So how is our food so inexpensive in this country? The answer is our intensive industrial agricultural system, which relies on high-energy inputs and government subsidies (funded by taxpayers like you!) to keep our country supplied with cheap meat, dairy products, and processed corn products. Additionally, fruits and vegetables imported from countries with tropical climates and low labor costs help keep prices of fruits and vegetables low year-round. When you take a closer look at our system, it becomes apparent that the price we pay at the supermarket doesn’t reflect the true cost of food.

 

The hidden costs can be found in the current obesity and diabetes epidemic and the subsequently rising prices of healthcare, the pollution of our waterways from fertilizer runoff, the rising prices at the gas pumps, and the steady erosion of our nation’s farmlands. The list goes on and on, but the end result is that the price tag on the cheap food we have come to expect is misleading, and ignores myriad externalities.

 

One solution is transitioning to a smaller-scale farming system, one that utilizes sustainable levels of energy use and limited chemical inputs to produce healthy food for the local community. Food that is produced with natural and sustainable methods has gotten the reputation of being out of financial reach for the general public, but the truth is, the slightly higher cost of food produced in a sustainable system carries no hidden overheads; no crop subsidies, no massive energy costs, and no future burdens in the form of healthcare and ecological damage.

 

An additional advantage to a local system is ensuring that more of each dollar spent on food goes directly to the farmers, and not filtered through large agribusiness and transportation and processing costs. While farming has fallen out of the public eye, agriculture is the essential profession to human sustenance. Despite its necessity, farmers across the country are struggling to make ends meet. According to USDA reports, American farmers receive only 11.6 cents of every food dollar spent in the U.S.  As the worldwide movement for local food continues to grow, hopefully the farmers’ income will begin to reflect the massive amount of work that goes into sustaining such a system.

 

In the meantime, encourage your neighbors to buy locally and participate in CSA programs to ensure their money is used efficiently as possible to feed your community and to keep farms like Devon Point Farm running.

 


About Apprentice, Laura Fisher...

 


         
Laura Fisher just finished her Master's Degree at NYU in environmental conservation education, with a concentration in sustainable food systems and urban agriculture. She previously worked with 'Green Guerillas' a non-profit community group that uses a mix of education, advocacy, and organizing to help people cultivate and sustain community gardens. In addition, Laura has interned at the NY Coalition of Healthy School Food, has taught English as a second language in both the Galapagos and in Ecuador. Her hobbies include reading, cooking, hiking, and horseback riding. 


 

 

Posted 7/19/2011 9:56am by Adrienne Barrett, Apprentice.

What’s In A Name?

an essay by Apprentice, Adrienne Barrett

 

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.


    At Devon Point Farm, we truly aim to be a well-rounded, multi-faceted establishment that gives back into the earth and the community. With that in mind, I would like to take some time to tell you about our grass-fed beef as it is one of the pillars of the farm and is instrumental in helping us create a sustainable business.

    Cattle that are fed a pure grass diet such as ours have some fundamental differences from the beef for sale in the average American grocery store. To begin with, the beef sold in most grocery stores comes from animals that are being fed a diet consisting mainly of corn silage (corn cobs and stalks chopped up and piled to ferment) with other elements such as cereal grains, beet pulp, and a small amount of hay. This type of food must be taken to the animal with specialized tractor equipment and is fed out into a concrete feed trough. The cows are being fed this diet high in calories in an effort to speed up their average daily gain, or the amount of weight they put on per day because the faster they reach market weight, the faster they can turn a profit for the farmer. This diet pushes the average slaughter age for a Hereford steer up from 18-20 months for a pastured animal to 15-18 months for one fed grains. There are some inherent problems with this strategy. For one, the breakdown of large amounts of high-energy starch such as that found in the typical cow’s diet causes the pH of the cow’s rumen (stomach) to drop. This causes a condition known as acidosis and also creates the perfect environment for bacteria such as E. coli to flourish. This necessitates the use of antibiotics and acid buffers to help keep the animals alive. Also, as the cows are on concrete, their manure needs to be scraped up and sprayed onto the corn fields as fertilizer. This means more debt to the farmer as he must pay for all of the equipment to chop and store the food, collect and spread the manure, and plant and maintain the corn.

Grass-fed cattle lead a slightly different lifestyle. They are given a piece of pasture and set out upon it to harvest their own meals with the tools evolution has honed for them. From between their wide malleable lips there appears a long, rough tongue that quickly swirls around the grass clumps and pulls them into the teeth where the grass is sheared off at just the right length (any shorter and the grass would die, any longer and the plant will not be as stimulated to create new growth). Their cloven hooves in a well-managed herd serve to work manure back into the soil and create micro-climates ideal for the germination of new grass seeds.  As the cattle are not getting large quantities of sugary feed, they do not have problems with acidosis and therefore do not need antibiotics (so we are happy to not give our animals any!). The main drawback to this method is that it takes the steer about three months longer than grain-fed beef to reach an optimal weight. Then again, there’s a reason that good cheeses and wines can take years to fully ripen; good things often take longer to create.

In addition to the animals leading a more natural life, the product they make has many benefits over grain-fed beef. Along with its robust, meaty flavor come many other nutritional benefits such as; five times the levels of vitamins A and E, twice the beta carotene, and higher ratios of omega-3 fatty acids with lower levels of saturated fats than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed cattle also have a much higher concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a potent anti-cancer agent and has also been proven to decrease cardiovascular disease and aid with weight maintenance.

One of the most important considerations in any grass-fed beef operation is which breed to choose, because each breed has been specifically adapted to thrive under certain conditions. Here at Devon Point Farm, we have chosen the American Milking Devon for countless reasons. Devon Cattle are a heritage breed and were in fact the first cattle brought to the colonies from England when they arrived in Plymouth Colony in 1623. They are a true tri-purpose breed, intelligent for work as oxen and with the ability to efficiently create both milk and meat from grass alone. Devons adapt remarkably well to hot and cold weather alike by virtue of their red coats and are noted for their docility, mothering, fertility, and hardiness. You may also note the beautiful white horns on all of our cattle. These are a pasture-raised animal’s first line of defense from predators such as coyotes and we would never think of removing them in much the same way as it is unsafe to declaw an outdoor cat. In addition to all of this, Devons also create a superior eating experience because they are designed to eat solely grass, so as a result, their meat remains tender if cooked with care, despite the fact that they walk for their meals instead of having the food trolley come to them.

It is my hope that the next time you drive in past our sign or see a herd grazing in our fields, you’ll smile like I do when I see those beautiful animals doing exactly what they are meant to do, in complete harmony with their surroundings and the farm.

 

About Apprentice, Adrienne Barrett...

Adrienne      


Adrienne is joining Devon Point Farm for a second season, interning part-time with us, and part-time with a local large animal veterinarian. Adrienne will be going into her Junior year at UCONN where she is in the honors program majoring in animal science. Adrienne is planning on being a veterinarian and has worked as a veterinary assistant at the Niantic Animal Hospital, and as an animal education intern at Holcomb Farm in West Granby, CT.  Adrienne grew up in Granby, CT but attended the Green Mountain Valley School, a world-class ski academy and independent high school in Waitsfield, VT. She is also a varsity rower on UCONN's crew team. Her hobbies include sailing, competitive skiing, crew, and spearfishing.

 

 

Posted 7/11/2011 9:51am by Charlie O'Dowd, Apprentice.

Food Security by Apprentice

an essay by apprentice Charlie O’Dowd

 

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.


   Food security may not be one of the reasons CSA members make the choice to support local farms, but it may be one of the most important. Food security is simply the availability and access to food. It is hard for many Americans to imagine that food security could be a critical issue for such a well-developed and prosperous nation, but there are several factors which suggest that food security will soon become something we must all consider in our lives.  The key factors likely to affect our food security in the United States are fuel shortages, price increases,  destabilization of climate patterns, and a shortage of farmers. Fortunately, by supporting local farmers, CSA members are helping to address these challenges to the food system.

    Everyone knows that energy costs are rising, a fact that is hitting hard at the gas pumps, and many people are coming to the realization that there is a global energy supply crisis looming in the not distant future. This is a key factor affecting food security, since much of the country’s food supply comes from industrial farms that are dependent on natural gas and oil to make fertilizer, fuel farm machinery, power irrigation pumps, to create pesticides and herbicides, in the maintenance of livestock operations, in crop storage and drying and for transportation of farm inputs and outputs. The energy usage in agriculture in the United States is double the energy usage of the U.S. military, requiring on average 10 calories of energy input (mostly liquid fuels) to produce each edible calorie of food (http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5045).  A rise in energy prices must necessarily lead to a rise in consumer prices for food and energy shortages could be a major threat to the food system, because of the grand scale of industrial agriculture’s use of fossil fuels. This is an important reason to support local farms that are closer to customers and can operate with much less energy inputs.

   It may not be apparent because agriculture is in many ways out of public view in contemporary American life, but there is a shortage of farmers in the U.S. In 1900 40% of Americans were involved in agriculture, but now only 1% of the population farms. Another factor is that the average age of an American farmer is between 55 and 60, soon to retire, and without heirs who want to farm. This is a problem because with less energy available agriculture is going to need more people with the knowledge and will to get the job done and the food to the table. By supporting local farms CSA members are helping to correct this problem because local farms are able to teach young and interested people how to farm at a sustainable scale.

      Despite arguments in support or refutation of global warming and climate change theory it is clear that there have been major problems recently with adverse weather conditions affecting the global supply of grains and other cornerstones of the world’s food supply. Promoting small scale, diversified farms is a major safeguard against the problems that can occur when the large scale industrial food chain is shorted out by freak storms, droughts, floods and other unfavorable climate conditions.  Having many flourishing small scale farms is a major hedge against the problems that can occur when the large scale industrial food system fails on a large scale.

    Wealth has taken many forms throughout human history, but food has always been the first wealth. All families should seek to ensure that they have that first wealth and ensure their food security by supporting local farms, growing gardens, and keeping a few weeks or months supply of food in case of an emergency. The food at your local grocery store traveled a long distance and a lot of energy was expended to grow it and to get it there, but when you grow it yourself and support a local farm you are ensuring that you will have food regardless of what may happen in the large scale industrial food system which can suffer catastrophic breakdowns due to economic turmoil, rising energy costs and unfavorable climate conditions. It is also important to consider that if local, small-scale farms are not able to stay in operation we lose the ability to choose a farm that grows the food we like in the fashion that we like it grown, and without that choice we are subject to whatever food corporations choose to provide in a nameless, faceless, less accountable way.

 

 

About Apprentice, Charlie O’Dowd...

Charlie Charlie O'Dowd comes to Devon Point Farm with a wealth of experience in organic farming practices, formerly apprenticing at Henry Brockman's Organic Farm in Illinois and Paradise Farms Homestead in Florida. Charlie grew up in Clinton, CT and graduated magna cum laude from Southern CT State with a degree in anthropology. His hobbies include hiking, kayaking and canoeing. Charlie plays the guitar and sings a little too. Charlie is serious about owning his own farm in the very near future!


Posted 6/28/2011 10:37pm by Laura Fisher, Apprentice.

Devon Point Farm and Sustainable Agriculture
an essay by Apprentice, Laura Fisher

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.

Environmental sustainability has gained increasing attention over the past decade, with an opportunity around every corner to “go green.” For consumers who do care about the earth and their footprint upon it, it can be difficult to navigate the landscape of ecological living and all the choices that must be made on a day-to-day basis. The food we eat is one of the critical choices that we have regarding our impact on the environment, with 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions coming from agriculture. By supporting farms that practice sustainable agriculture methods such as Devon Point Farm, you can rest assured that the food you get on a weekly basis is healthy both for your family and for our planet.

 

While agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II, sustainable agriculture is an adherence to time-honored farming traditions, developed over thousands of years to feed our people in a healthy and sustainable way. Sustainable agriculture helps restore balance to our ecosystem, giving back wherever it takes to conserve resources and minimize environmental damage. It accomplishes that goal through the following methods and principles.

 

On an industrial farm, pollutants are emitted in large quantities on a regular basis. Mismanagement of animal waste and overuse of machinery leads to air pollution on both the farm and the communities around it, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides runoff the land to contaminate both drinking water as well as fish habitats. In a healthy farm system such as Devon Point Farm, there are no synthetic chemicals sprayed on the crops. Additionally, machinery is used on a much smaller scale basis, with much of the labor done by hand. Animal waste is also managed carefully in order to avoid pollution as much as possible and to utilize its ability to fertilize the land naturally. If you look into the distance at Devon Point Farm, you’re likely to see cattle grazing in the fields. By allowing our cows to range freely and eat grass, we are taking the nutrients from the land and putting them right back into our fields. In that way, we reduce our waste, maintain the fertility of our land, and keep our cows happy!

 

Sustainable farms use many other methods to reduce the risk of depleting the soil, making it possible to keep up productivity levels without relying on synthetic fertilizers. Crop rotation involves moving families of crops from field to field each year, often putting one field to “rest” occasionally to allow it to recover. Each crop has different fertilizer requirements, and by changing the location you can reduce the risk of stripping the soil of specific nutrients. Additionally, crop rotation is an easy and natural way to reduce insects and diseases by removing the host plant. All this healthy soil means that the land remains in production for longer with no reliance on chemical inputs!

 

Another important facet of sustainable farming is the harmony between the farm and the environment that surrounds it. A truly sustainable farm should function as a nature reserve – by existing in a balance with nature, sustainable farms serve as homes to a variety of insects, birds, and wild animals. Sustainable agriculture also maintains biotic diversity through the planting of many varieties of crops and staying away from genetic engineered seeds and crops.

 

Sustainability is the capacity of an ecosystem to renew itself. We must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same through conservation of natural resources and stewardship of our land. Through ecological management and time-honored farming principles, small organic farms like Devon Point Farm contribute to both local and global environmental health. Without economic viability, however, there can be no environmental sustainability. By supporting a sustainable farming system through membership in CSA’s and providing community support for local farms, consumers play a critical role in ensuring both the nutritional and environmental quality of the food they eat – a choice that is as virtuous as it is delicious!

 

About Apprentice, Laura Fisher...

         
Laura Fisher just finished her Master's Degree at NYU in environmental conservation education, with a concentration in sustainable food systems and urban agriculture. She previously worked with 'Green Guerillas' a non-profit community group that uses a mix of education, advocacy, and organizing to help people cultivate and sustain community gardens. In addition, Laura has interned at the NY Coalition of Healthy School Food, has taught English as a second language in both the Galapagos and in Ecuador. Her hobbies include reading, cooking, hiking, and horseback riding.