My Passion – Fast Food Farm

WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?   My passion is teaching our youth as well as adults at times about the importance of agriculture.  This time of the year ends my nine months of fulfilling my passion.  My year starts with the beginning of the spring season and ends with the end of the fall season in teaching about “Where Does Your Food Come From?”                                                        

Fast Food Farm sign

At the Fast Food Farm the youth become physically involved in the growing process of their food.

Through hands-on activities they learn how the weather affects the plants, and what happens to the food when it leaves the farm.   They also learn about food nutrition, food preparation, and food processing.

#3 .Harvesting for the Needy - Geans 2

In working with the Ag Science students throughout the school year I have seen them grow in leadership and character to become leaders in our community.   At the Fast Food Farm students learn how to respect the land as they discover how to cultivate and prepare the soil for planting.  

 Throughout the nine months over 5000 students are learning about “Where Does Your Food Come From?”  It is so rewarding to see our youth connect to the soil, plants, animals, and the source of their foods.

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Father’s Day

I’m sure everyone will describe and celebrate  their father differently tomorrow. I look back and remember my father  instilling a sense of independence and fearlessness in me. Through his eyes I believed I could do anything. As I look at my husband I see him instilling a sense of interdependence in our children and grandchildren. They too believe they can do anything but they have an awareness of uncontrollable  conditions and an ability to be flexible that I had to learn later in life.   DSC03249Farming together we have learned that we all need each other because there are so many things we cannot control or change like the weather.

As we work through each day we realize this is the only time we will have this  moment, this decision and this opportunity. Make the most of every moment this weekend and every day that follows because,

Following in your footsteps.

Following in your footsteps.

Seed, soil and sparkles

Seed, soil and sparkles

Girls can farm too!

Girls can farm too!

whether it’s tutus or tractors we all need each other.

Some one is always watching.

Some one is always watching.

Remember some one is always watching us. What are we teaching them?

Dads - working together, learning from each other.

Dads – working together, learning from each other.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Family farm or corporate farm?

We all live busy lives today. Add to that busy-ness, information overload. What do you do with all that information? Who has time to sort through all the information surrounding us? Let me help you with at least one question. What’s the difference between a corporate farm and a Family farm? I have read so many articles lately on the evils of corporate farms and how they are pushing family farms out of business. When I follow the resources I find conflicting information; farm sizes are shrinking/Corporate mega farms are growing, family farms are being pushed out of business/more families are bringing the next generation back to the farm, too much land is being used for food and fuel production/we need to feed more people today than ever before in history ??? My head is still spinning.

Welcome to our farm

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We are a family that grows corn for food and feed, soybeans for cooking oil and sweet corn for immediate consumption :-) My husband and I raise this food together with our daughters, sons in law, grandchildren and my father and mother in law. In order to be able to sustain our farm for future generations we incorporated several years ago. Our grandchildren love working the land with us and talking to our neighbors about what we are doing as well as sharing sweet corn with them in the summer.

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So, as you can see from our farm, things are not always as they are portrayed. We are a family farm that is incorporated. Statistically you will find us included in the “corporate farm” numbers and not family farm. I think that’s very misleading. Incorporating has nothing to do with size or mission and everything to do with financial and long term identity. For us that means we can pass the farm on to our children and grandchildren in a way that protects them in the future.

What’s the difference between a corporate farm and a Family farm? Most of the time NOTHING.

“RICE”

As a young child, my father was a rice farmer in Crowley, Louisiana; “The Rice Capital of  America”.  Now as an adult I live in Arkansas, rice producing state.

 

Arkansas is the nation’s largest rice growing state, producing half of the nation’s rice and nearly nine billion pounds annually.  Arkansas ranks first among rice producing states. 

 

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Rice production is concentrated in the eastern half of the state.  The top five rice producing counties are Arkansas, Poinsett, Cross, Lawrence and Lonoke.  Arkansas rice is sodium, cholesterol and gluten free.  Rice has only a trace of fat and has not trans  fat or saturated fat.

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Just a Few Thoughts

We had the most beautiful day here at Harry’s Cherries Orchard. The sun was out, the wind had subsided, the winter birds were chirping, the river calm like glass and the smell of cut wood and dried leaves all bring us so close to nature right here at home.

The latest snow had melted and the ground was firm. For an orchardist, that means its time to get back out and get some work done. Our work today is called brushing…. I have no idea why. Personally to be more descriptive I would call it logging! After the orchard has had the major cuts and find pruning completed, the tree limbs and branches are left on the ground to be picked up. On a good day, Harry and I pick up brush for anywhere from 4-6 hours. It is back breaking work and for the most part, we wear our back braces to avoid too much strain.A day in the orchard 2-21-14 003

Our day today was interrupted a number of times by other must dos, so we were only able to pick up 1 ½ long rows, which really is quite a bit for two people, (one who is 4’10). We also had the fire going so we could burn our previous brush along with todays. A day in the orchard 2-21-14 023

As the day winds down and I walk out through the orchard and along the river, I am able to see all that we have accomplished. It feels good. I can’t help but be so grateful and to thank God out loud for this life I live as a cherry farmer and steward of His land.
A day in the orchard 2-21-14 004

From Parks to Pits

Camera Pictures 268In 2001, I had finished up my career with Washington State Parks as the Washington Conservation Corps Coordinator on our side of the state. This is where I met and married my husband Harry. He was about to retire as the manager of Sun Lakes State Park.

It was during this transition from parks that we purchased the small cherry orchard that I helped plant as a child. Harry had never been exposed to fruit tree farming, and I recall how comical it was when he announced that he needed to go and “trim” the cherry trees. The term “pruning” was not even a part of his vocabulary at that point. On his retirement cake it read “from Parks to the Pits.” It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the orchard in the pits of not knowing where to start.

I thought I knew a lot about agriculture. After all, my dad owned both a cherry and an apple orchard. I grew up in an agricultural community surrounded by apple orchards. Tests taken in high school determined that agriculture is the career I should go into, (although I didn’t until this time). So it was late fall and we needed to start pruning our 1,100 trees. Harry got up on the 12’ ladder, (our trees were old, not recently pruned and were about 14-15’ tall). I directed him on where to cut utilizing the chain saw. An hour later, we stepped back to admire our work, and our first tree looked just like an apple tree! Okay, so I didn’t mention that other than planting, our family had not actually worked the orchard…instead it was hired out.

It was the most horrible winter I have ever experienced. We cut and cut and didn’t have a clue. But after cutting, we then had giant limbs and tree tops that needed to be picked up…7 ½ Acres worth! We didn’t have a tractor with front forks, so we were loading that heavy wood by hand into a trailer. We also unloaded it by hand onto the burn pile. Thank God for the help we got from some wonderful friends Andrew & Jen, as well as Harry’s son, daughter and son-in law. It was never ending but finally completed. Our blossoms that spring were far and few between and our cherries were sparse. The cost to farm was not what I remembered from doing the bookkeeping in the late 1970’s. Throughout this time we asked “WHAT DID WE GET OURSELVES INTO??!!.

But God is good. That was our turn around and this is why I am so grateful to be a farmer. That winter I contacted Northern Fruit Company…wonderful people! Jerry knew we had no experience at farming, but he took us on anyway. He sent Tim out to be our field man and guide. Tim stood side by side with Harry as he taught him where to cut and how to prune. Another farmer, Pat who owned the warehouse adjacent to our orchard, went out of his way to help us wherever possible. He directed us to Northwest Wholesale. Their field man was sent out to test our soils, leaves, bark, etc… to determine the health of our trees and what would be needed to bring them around. When it came time for harvest, we were put in touch with Victor who provided our picking crew. The heat was incredible, so our friend Pat also gave us access to his CA building to store our fruit until we could get it in to Northern each afternoon.

So many people helped us out, “farmers helping farmers”. I was just beginning to see the community we had joined. Our lives were changing. What seemed hopeless, through the help of our friends old and new became a blessing. That is only the beginning of our tale and there is so more to follow. Until then, I am wishing you all blessings and hope as you follow your own journey in life.