Our Mission:

"We work hard and with care every day, without compromise, so we can bring health to our region, healing to our earth and love to our community by growing the absolute purest, and most sustainable food available and by selling our food in a way that provides access to all individuals in all income brackets."


Ahavah Farm is the ONLY locally recognized Regenerative Farm in the region and the ONLY Pay-What-You-Can-Afford farm in the region. Go to www.ahavahfarm.com to learn more about our farm or click here to be added to our mailing list and "Like" us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ahavahfarm

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Letter to Our Members...



Dear 2018 CSA Members,

We want to say THANK YOU for joining our CSA for 2018.  We want you to know that without YOU, we could never make the impact (both socially and environmentally) that WE are – and it is so important that you know, sincerely, that each and every one of you are making a difference with the dollars you trust us with!

There are so many good reasons to join a Community Supported Agriculture program.

Joining Ahavah Farm’s CSA is about relationships, environmental stewardship and about “really” supporting local.  It’s also about the food, and as a member of Ahavah Farm you will never, EVER, have to worry about whether we grow our own food or whether it is grown with chemicals etc.  You can always be assured that your food is literally the absolute purest food you will ever eat.  We go way beyond all organic standards and go way beyond simple sustainability as well.  Our food is grown without chemicals, without pesticides, without tractors, without excessive water, without GMO varieties…and without fertilizers (of any kind – organic or otherwise!).  The only thing we put on our crops are water, compost and home-made biological ammendments (from manures, weeds and fermented vegetables etc.). 

Your eggs come from heritage-only breeds and they are raised in a completely natural state without the aid of lights, heat, culling, debeaking or forced molting etc.  We allow our chickens to roam completely free on our land and they are protected by their coops at night.  They are fed hundreds of lbs of produce and weeds on a weekly basis and their diets are supplemented with certified Organic soy-free feed. 

All of your food will be grown using 100% renewable energy (solar power) which runs our entire farm and home.  All of the packaging that your food comes in, whether it is a bag or a box will be compostable and / or biodegradable packaging.  In addition to the above mentioned, 20% of everything we grow goes to charity, all of our CSA’s and our market booth sales are all “Pay-What-You-Can-Afford,” and our family along with help from some of you have donated $10,000 worth CSA’s to people in need, this year alone!    

So when YOU support Ahavah Farm, and the best way to do that is through the CSA, YOU are supporting all of OUR initiatives as well as all of OUR educational programs, composting program, OUR non-profit “Ahavah Community Initiative” and OUR agro-ecological projects. 

Whether it is a good year or bad, YOU can feel positive about the decision YOU made to be a part of the change that is occurring in this community – and NONE OF IT COULD HAPPEN WITHOUT YOU!
SO, THANK YOU!

Thank YOU so much for supporting not only YOUR local farm, our employees and our family, but the community beyond YOUR farm and beyond yourselves and thank YOU for allowing US to continue to make a difference through and by YOUR support!

We love you and cherish your relationships and your trust in us.  We don’t promise that this will be a perfect year, we can’t control everything, but we can promise that we will work harder than any other farm at ensuring that the things that ARE in our control are taken care of and that the planning, preparation and our workmanship is above reproach, open to accountability and transparent to all.\

   
Sincerely,

Ahavah Farm

The Camire FaRmily:  Yosef, Havah, Asher, Aiden, Israel, Eliana, Ovadya

And our staff:  Josh, Sarah, Andrew, Hailey, Tracy, Kelly and Gretchen.

And our interns: Mark, Charles, Dan and Will

Monday, May 14, 2018

Just Say "NO!" To the Tractor?

Yes, that's right. Say "NO" to tractors around your food!  Why?  How else will we feed ourselves without those big shiny (or in many cases not-so-shiny) tractors?  The answer is simple and so is the explanation. 

This is the first of a series regarding small-farm, regenerative agricultural practices that I will be writing about. This post is regarding tractors.  I will be following up with other dubious practices such as: Tilling, fish emulsion and other "organic" fertilizers, flood irrigation, the benefits of heirloom vegetables and more - so make sure to subscribe to our RSS feed and comment below as well!

I get asked all the time why we do not use tractors, and what is our beef with them.  There are multiple issues that I have with the tractor, the least of the reasons may shock you, and it is probably what you are all thinking:  The greenhouse gas emissions. 

Although tractors do emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, that is not the reason I am so adamantly against them - though it is definitely a reason, it is the smallest of them all. 

1.  Tractors compact the soil.
2.  Tractors emit particulates all over your food and soil.
3.  Tractors release heavy metals.
4.  Tractors leak.
5.  Tractors encourage a lack of land-use efficiency.
6.  Tractors encourage the use of herbicides.
7.  Tractors emit greenhouse gases - lots of them.

1.  Tractors compact the soil.

If you have been following me or our farm for a while now, you should be well aware of the problem with tilling our soil and the damage it has created to our environment and soil web.  You are also probably aware that one of the most detrimental things to soil is compaction and the lack of oxygen - not allowing the microbes and bacteria to breathe or room for roots to grow.  Whenever we use a tractor we are compacting the soil, causing major amounts of compaction and therefore destroying the microflora in that area. We are also encouraging the need for tilling.  Reference: https://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/soils/tillage/soil-compaction/

2.  Tractors emit particulates all over your food and soil.

This one is so obvious, yet no one thinks about it.  Everyone thinks that tractor emissions simply turn into a gas and go up into the atmosphere.  Some gases that come from the tractor do, but not all.  There are over 40 toxic air particulates that come from the exhaust of these engines.  Many (most) of these particulates are heavier than air and when they get released from the tailpipe of the tractor - where do you think they go?  That's right, on your food!  Not only is it going right onto your food, it is going in a way that acts like a foliar spray, right onto the leaves so it can't even be filter by the soil, it just gets absorbed right away into the plant...isn't that lovely?  So yea, next time you pick up that "Organic" lettuce at the store, you can think about all the toxins you most likely are ingesting. References:
https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/diesel_exhaust_hazard_alert.html http://www.tractor.com/features/diesel-tractor-engines-and-the-epa-1630.html
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/17/farming-is-single-biggest-cause-of-worst-air-pollution-in-europe

3.  Tractors release heavy metals.

Everyone knows about the numerous studies that have been done concerning the dangers of brake dust in our cities and in our air.  Brakes, especially on older tractors and vehicles, contain major heavy metals - like even asbestos and other nasty chemicals.  Every time the brake is pressed, dust is created and that dust...yes, goes right into your food!  This is such a big issue that there are actual lawsuits over this because it causes diseases like mesotheleoma!
References:
http://www.news.gatech.edu/2017/08/25/brake-dust-may-cause-more-problems-blackened-wheel-covers
http://www.lipsitzponterio.com/jobsites-occupations-Farm_Tractor_Mesothelioma.html

4.  Tractors leak.

Have you EVER seen a tractor that doesn't leak?  Especially the older ones? Ever worked on a tractor?  What happens when you go underneath one of these tractors is that you will find that it is black and covered with oil, grease and other fluids.  Well, my friends, the absolute truth is, that vehicles, tractors, and especially the older tractors, leak  a lot!  There is no regulation for this, and all those "Organic" or "Beyond-Organic" farms that are going along with those older tractors (even new ones too!) are most likely spreading these chemicals on your food. 
References:  Simply Google "Tractor Engine Leaking Oil" and you will get 530,000 results. Don't tell me "MY tractor doesn't leak!"  Ya, right.

5.  Tractors encourage a lack of land-use efficiency. 

This is a broad topic and one that a whole book could be written about. However, the idea is an easy one to convey:  Tractor agriculture requires a large amount of space - duh!  On our farm we produce over 47,000 LBS per acre pf mixed vegetables without a tractor.  We use almost every square inch that we can, outside of the pathways.  For example:  In a 30inch bed, we can grow 5 rows of carrots.  With a tractor, we can typically grow 1 to 2 at most. 
References:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29463755

6.  Tractors encourage the use of herbicides. 

It's common sense, but it's also eye opening.  Thing about how a tractor cultivates crops:  It drags a tine down the middle of the row.  What about the weeds that are directly competing and up against that onion?  Well, the only way to get rid of these weeds is through the use of chemical herbicides. Yes, there are organic herbicides that can be used - and this IS what is used.  You can also pull the weeds by hand, and many organic and small farms do this, so it is not the rule.  However, the purpose of tractors is to minimize labor and to be able to grow on a larger space, as mentioned above.  When this happens and it is time to cultivate the crops and remove weeds, if we do it by hand it is nearly impossible to do because the tractor encouraged such a large growing area that to walk it and weed by hand is an incredible task.  However, if the farm is set up to utilize hand-labor and to make efficiency of every square foot, weeding all of a sudden become a much smaller task. 

7.  Tractors emit greenhouse gases - lots of them.

Again, this is the least of my worries, but it is still a worry.  Compared to other forms of greenhouse gases produced by agriculture, like methane from animals or GHG's from synthetic fertilizers etc. (65%), tractor use is small in comparison.  However, with agricultural emissions anticipated to increase 15% or more by 2030, why is it ok to say "the tractor and transportation of our agricultural products are only 35% of the total GHG's that agriculture produces, so it's ok!"  It's not ok.  We need to take measures in every area to reduce our need for fossil fuels, and it can start with the tractor and our means of delivery - i.e. supporting local!
References:
http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/everything-you-need-know-about-agricultural-emissions

Now, you may have read all of this and thought to yourself:  "That's great, Yosef, but how else are we going to feed the world?"  The answer is simple in that the overwhelming number of farms in the world do not use tractors at all.  There are currently about 2 million tractors in the world today, but there are 570 million farms in the world.  That means that 3/10ths of one percent, or .0035 of the world farms have tractors - so you can simply answer that question for yourself.

References: 
https://www.farm-equipment.com/articles/10018-worldwide-sales-of-farm-tractors-surpasses-2-million
https://www.globalagriculture.org/report-topics/industrial-agriculture-and-small-scale-farming.html

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Please share it with your friends, please comment below and do not forget to subscribe to the RSS feed of this page and sign up for e-mail alerts!

By Yosef Camire



Thursday, May 10, 2018

Our Farm Pledge to YOU!




Ahavah Farm is a Values-Centered-Farm and This is Our Pledge

ü  We pledge to never compromise on the purity of our food.  This includes the use of any chemicals or anything synthetic (even if it is certified “Organic”). 
ü  We pledge to use microbiology, composts, green manures and other organic matter to build and sustain healthy soils.
ü  We pledge to use beneficial insects to control pests and to increase the bio-diversity on our farm.
ü  We pledge to never use pesticides or fungicides. 
ü  We pledge to never use GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).
ü  We pledge to use only NOP “Organic” certified seeds, our own saved seeds or locally grown seeds from farms that I trust and am assured of their growing practices.
ü  We pledge to never use a tractor on our fields or near my crops.
ü  We pledge to always be transparent in all of my growing practices.
ü  We pledge that I will utilize pure, regenerative practices and I agree with the phrase: “Just because it is ‘Organic’ doesn’t mean that it is pure.”
ü  We pledge that I will never use antibiotics or hormones on my animals – unless the animal is sick and the only way to save the animal is through these measures (and then we pledge to never sell their eggs).
ü  We pledge that I will only raise heritage breed animals.
ü  We pledge that all of our packaging will always be compostable or biodegradable.
ü  We pledge that if I cannot make the fertilizer or other input (feed and more) myself, in a sustainable manner, then I will refuse to use it on my crops or give it to my animals.
ü  We pledge to give my animals adequate shelter, water and food and to feed them before I feed myself.
ü  We pledge to reduce emissions and to use as many alternative fuels and sources of energy that are renewable and that our financial capabilities will allow.
ü  We pledge to use water conservation methods and to completely avoid inefficient irrigation practices and systems such as flood irrigation.
ü  We pledge to allow my animals to live freely, according to their nature – this includes unethical castration practices, branding, debeaking, declawing etc.
ü  We pledge to strive to be as sustainable and regenerative as I can possibly be within the financial parameters and budget of the farm.
ü  We pledge that I am a lover of the environment and that I will do everything in my power to protect it.
ü  We pledge to raise my animals in a humane and loving manner that allows them to live as free, happy and loved animals.
ü  We Pledge to never till my soil unless there is an extenuating circumstance.
ü  We pledge to be transparent in all of my business practices and marketing.
ü  We pledge to give back to my community by means of education and to always share all that I know.
ü  We pledge that I, personally, will do everything within my ability, and our family’s ability, to eat local, and to only support local restaurants when available.
ü  We pledge to give back to my community by being a voice for environmental stewardship and the importance of local, sustainable and pure food.
ü  We pledge to allow visitors to my farm and to show them my fertilizer, my growing practices, my soil and water reports and my seeds or anything else they would like to see which is related to our growing practices.
ü  We pledge to use local sources, when available, and when they meet sustainable and purity standards as set forth in this pledge, for all inputs and feed on our farm.
ü  We pledge to partner with other like-minded farmers and to support my farming community and to never judge them for where they are, as long as they are making active strides to improve toward similar goals.
ü  We pledge to continuously improve and to strive to be a greater steward of the earth, supporter of our local community and to never stop learning and increasing our awareness of growing practices that bring health to our community and our planet.
ü  We pledge to give back to the community a percentage of everything that I grow or raise.
ü  We pledge to allow customers to pay-what-they-can-afford and to never turn away a hungry person when within the financial parameters and reasonable ability of the farm and our family.
ü  We pledge to always pay my employees the best I can afford and to NEVER give myself a raise until I give them one.
ü  We pledge that just because we are not “there” yet, and are not perfect, that we will not settle for the status-quo.

ü We pledge to never compromise on these values.  Ever.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Winter Production. The Costs. The Labor. The Reality

I have been prompted, more than once, to give a summary of what it REALLY takes to grow (regenerative and pure) food in the winter here in Colorado, at 7,000ft, in one of the roughest and most terrible locations in the country - all while doing so with no supplemental heating, tractors or chemicals.

IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?  It sure is!  Here is what our greenhouses (unheated) look like in the winter:



 Not only is it possible to grow food in the winter in these conditions, but here are some of the results from 2018:


Beautiful, right?  Yes.  Piece of cake, right?  Not so much.

In the winter, it takes a lot more than you would think to do this and there are MANY obstacles to growing in the winter.  Things like:  Row cover maintenance (and cost), varieties, regeneration time, diseases, frozen pipes, irrigation, processing, greenhouse temperatures, ventilation and more.

ROW COVER - What is it and how is it managed?

Row cover is essentially a breathable blanket that goes over the crops.  We use it as a double cover and it is installed over hoops that are set about 5 ft apart.  There are many different kinds of row-covers available, but we use Agribon with a weight of AG-70.  This is the heaviest weight available and it costs us about $1,000.00 to cover 6 greenhouses (not to mention the $3.00 per home-made hoops, the $1.00 clamps and the incredible amount of labor to set it all up).  The total installation cost of these row-covers for a single 80ft x 20ft greenhouse = $538.00 per greenhouse multiplied by 6 greenhouses for a total of $3,228.00 of costs that are not also in the summer.  It's definitely not cheap, and it should last a minimum of 5 years (that is if children don't tear it - ah-hem - yes, that's the sound of my throat clearing!).   The row-cover essentially holds in the soil heat and the results are amazing!

In this split image below, you can see what the greenhouse looks like on the bottom, and on the top you can see the temperatures.  The 6 degree temperature is the temperature that is on the INSIDE of the greenhouse.  Yes, even in the greenhouses it gets that cold (and colder!). The temperature on the left is the temperature underneath those white covers (the row cover).  We don't have a picture of it, but the lowest temps we have seen under the row-cover is 22 degrees and -12 inside the greenhouse (a 34 degree difference!)!
Every single day it takes one person to remove the row-cover in the morning and then in the afternoon it takes two people to put it back on. This is an added labor cost of about 1.5hours per day (about 180 hours per winter season) just for the row cover management.  At a hypothetical cost of $15.00/hour that is an added cost of $2,700.00 (add in the installation cost of about 32 hours and we are at $3,180.00)!  So far, just for the row cover we are at a total of $6,408.00, or $5,608.00 if the row-cover lasts 5 years (Ya Right!!!), and of course we are NOT including the cost of the hoophouses themselves, OR their maintenance.

Varieties

One caveat about growing in this manner is that you must have very hardy varieties that can handle very low temperatures.  Varieties like spinach, kale, turnips, carrots, beets and more.  The upside to these varieties is obvious - they can be grown in the winter.  However there are at least two downsides to this:  They are all low-value crops (with the exception of beets and carrots), they like a lot of water and they are not the most popular (so they sell less) - with, again, the exception of carrots.

Regeneration Time

In the summer we can expect regrowth on many of these crops to be every 7 to 10 days (things like kale, lettuce, spinach etc.).  In the winter - good luck!  You may get regrowth every 3 months!  What does this mean?  It means that the value of the (already low) crop is cut to much less than half.  Here is an example:  We can get 3 cuts of kale in the summer (one per week).  At a 21 day regrowth time, this is a total of 3 cuts in 6 weeks.  We then replant and within 21 days can have another crop for 3 more weeks.  We can do this 3 times for the season (18 weeks).  At a hypothetical value of $480.00 per cut, that's a total of $4,320.00 in the summer for a single bed of lettuce.  In the winter (not including the very, very, VERY real possibility of a complete crop loss) we can only get 2 total cuts (MAYBE!) for a total of $960.00.  That's a reduction of 78%!  

Diseases and Crop Loss

In the summer there are crop losses.  In the winter, there can be a lot more.  If it is a very cold winter, well then the losses on some of the more fragile crops like lettuce, cabbage, pak choy etc. are lost for obvious reasons.  But what if it is a mild winter?  Well, in a mild winter, disease creeps in because of two reasons:  The soil and plants dry out, and as mentioned above, due to the varieties, they need a lot of water.  What happens when plants are watered, then they are put to bed under the row cover at night when it is really cold?  They get diseased and you lose the crop.  It's a catch 22 - don't irrigate and lose the crop, or irrigate and risk disease.  The problem gets amplified when you realize that replanting is not much of an option because plants don't grow in the winter due to the lack of light.  So, go ahead, tear out that diseased crop in January and replant.  The next time you will be able to harvest?  It will be at least the end of March (that's only for the absolute fastest growing crops)!  So, the very real possibility is that the $960.00 crop that you were banking on, but was already 78% less than the summer crop, gets completely wiped out and that is a huge loss!  This year we lost about 6 crops in a similar fashion.  

Then there is the rest...

Frozen hoses and pipes, irrigation drainage and breakage, processing in freezing conditions, heating the processing area costs, repairs to fencing and other infrastructure that gets blown down in these terrible winds and so, so, so much more!  We estimate that all of these issues add about 6 hours of labor (for two employees @ 3hrs each) time per day.  At 100 days per season, that's 600 hours.  At the hypothetical cost of $15.00 per hour, that's a total of $9,000.00 of added costs that are also not found in the summer.  

Summary

So why do it?  Is it worth it?  It is...sorta.  Why?  By having a winter CSA, we are able to keep our employees throughout the winter and not lay them off.  Here is the break down:  The winter CSA this year made our farm $24,500.00 for 75 members.  Subtract the costs of $5,608.00 per year for the basic overhead and the estimate (from 2018) of $4,500.00 of added costs (heating the processing room, repairs etc.) and we end up with a total of $14,442.00.  7 months of labor (November through May) at the hypothetical $15.00 per hour $16,800.00 per employee.  This year we had only 1 employee over the winter.  That's an overall loss of -$2,358.00 over the course of the season - and this does not include paying ourselves, the owners!  So essentially we lose out over the course of the season, right?  Well, yes and no.  We start selling our summer CSA's in November.  If it wasn't for this, we wouldn't be able to support winter growing at all, but we utilize a lot of that money and allocate it to the winter/spring payroll.  This helps out a lot.  

So what IS the benefit?  The most important benefit is that we get to employee people for the entire year.  No more temporary employees and a solid team that can benefit the business and the community.  In addition there is also our mission of feeding people - kind of a big deal!

See, the winter is when the biggest impact is made for your health and local food. The winter vegetables in the stores are the majority hydroponic or from Mexico and China (yes, even the organic ones).  None of these are good options to provide healthy, sustainable or even tasty food.  Going local in the winter - even if the cost goes up - is worth every penny - particularly when you purchase from us:  Grown in soil, grown using no chemicals, grown without using fossil fuels and grown locally.  

Now, if we lost like this all year-round then we wouldn't be a-round for very long.   That's why we manage the farm in a way that allows us to make up for our losses in winter time with our summer season profits and in diversifying our crops and our market streams.  However, without the CSA, we wouldn't exist.

This year's CSA was a tremendous success!  There were no missed weeks, the members got the value for their food.  The members were able to get 19 varieties of freshly harvested produce - right in the middle of the winter and the feedback we received was amazing!  Of course, it could have been better.  Next year, it will be.  Every year we continue to get better and refine.  What we have learned this year is incredible.  The amount of data we were able to collect and are now able to implement is priceless and we are ridiculously excited to implement it next winter too!

So, next winter, when you sign up for your CSA, remember what you are paying for.  Remember why the costs are increased and realize the benefit that you are bringing to not only your health, but to our farm, the local community and regenerative food.  We couldn't do it without you!

Questions?  Comment below - we want to hear from you!



Sunday, February 4, 2018

"Organic" Does Not Always Mean Pure

I remember one time being at the Farmer's Market and a woman asked me if we were "Organic." I told her about how we went well beyond "Organic" and she laughed. Really. Out loud. She didn't believe that Organic wasn't pure. Little do people know how sad the Organic certification has become and how little it resembles pure food. Better than GMO? Yes! But, really, it's almost like comparing Cyanide to Sugar. Sure, sugar is much better than Cyanide, but it by no means is going to cure you from cancer! Sugar is still not good for you...and dare I say, perhaps "Organic" isn't either. Check out this eye-opening article that I came across from don'twastethecrumbs.com where it lists the top 14 things that the Organic Industry is hiding from you, the consumer.  Then, after you are thoroughly disgusted, you can leave your thoughts below.



Friday, February 2, 2018

Don't Just Take Our Word For It!

Beyond-Organic.
Beyond-Sustainable. Beyond-Labels.
Tag-lines. Catch-Phrases. Labels…Greenwashing. 

We HATE labels.  Really, what are they but marketing tools anyway?  We have them and use them like everyone else, but really,  how do you know if your farmer truly is what he/she says they are?  They say they are “Regenerative,” “Beyond-Organic,” “Pure,” “Sustainable” and that their animals are “Grass-fed,” “Pasture Raised,” “Humanely Raised,” “Free-Ranged,” but are they REALLY?  There’s only one way to know for sure.  That’s why we open our farm to the public for tours, to come and volunteer, to visit our farm store (open Spring 2018) and see the property , to visit with our animals, to walk our fields and ultimately to build a relationship with YOU! 

Want to see what we use for fertilizer? Ask! Want to see the condition the chicken’s live in? No Problem! Want to dig your hands in the soil to see the worms and to see the living organisms?  Feel free! Want to see the seed packages? Want to see our soil analysis?  Want to see our water analysis? Want to see our production area, our wash station, our greenhouses, our…you name it, we are 100% completely transparent and have nothing to hide. 

So what is “Regenerative Agriculture” anyway?  Well, according to Regeneration International a regenerative farm must practice the following:
  • No Till/Minimum Till
  • Restore the plant/soil microbiome composts, cover crops and manures
  • Building biological ecosystem biodiversity
  • Well-managed grazing systems
  • No synthetic chemicals (even “Organic” ones)
  • Animal welfare
  • Water conservation practices

If a farm says they are regenerative and does not follow the above practices they cannot say they are “Regenerative.”  Not only are we recognized by Regeneration International as a “Regenerative Farm,” but we take it one step further and do a lot more:
  • We are 100% powered by renewable energy with one exception: Our irrigation. 
  • We use no commercial fertilizers (if we can’t make it at home, we won’t use it!)
  • We grow using only certified organic seed
  • We are tractor FREE!  This means no brake dust, leaky oil, soil compaction or           emissions impacting your fresh produce.
  • ALL of our packaging is compostable, even our “plastic” bags.

The rumor-mill churns out false information every day.  People talk. People hate. People greenwash and people lie.  Then, YOU wonder… “Is it really as pure as they say?”  Come find out and don’t wonder any longer.  Go to our website www.ahavahfarm.com/classesto register to come out to the farm for a tour, to volunteer or to sign up for one of our classes or open houses.  All classes and tours are free of charge (see details on site). 

See you at the farm!

Ps.  If you aren’t signed up for our mailing list, click here to be added and if you haven't signed up for the 2018 CSA yet, there are less than 50 shares left out of 160 openings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Note About Our Eggs

What makes orange yolks that are the trade-mark of free-range hens?

The dark color of the yolk is due to the chickens' diet of bugs and greens - specifically carotenoids. In the summer our egg yolks turn dark orange and are beautiful. However, because it is winter, the chickens have very few bugs and virtually no greens (except what we give them in addition to their feed). Thus, our egg yolks are paler than usual. This doesn't mean they are lacking any nutritional content. In fact, companies like Egglands Best (yuck!) supplement their chicken feed with artificial ingredients to promote the darker color and thus fool their customers.

Let us be very clear: Our chickens roam our land all day long. They scratch and peck and have a fully 100% organic diet. We supplement with only 100% certified organic grain and they are as healthy as any birds you will ever see. Our chickens are beyond organic, well-loved, well-cared for and completely free-range with 40 acres+ to roam.

If you have any doubts about our chickens, we invite you to please come to our farm, pet and hold one of ours and most importantly see how well they are cared for.

Monday, February 22, 2016

CSA - It's About More Than Just the Food.

Why CSA?  Community Supported Agriculture is a way to support local, build community and eat healthier.  Community Supported Agriculture is a program that is both beneficial for the farmer, and for those who are enjoying the fresh produce and eggs.  Many people want the fresh, organic produce that comes from local farms.   They get excited about the idea of reducing their carbon footprint, supporting local agriculture and feeling healthier.  However, in order for this food to be available, in order for the farmer to return year after year to the market, the farmers need YOU!  Like any business, without loyal support, the business will fail. 

CSA programs help the small farmer in many ways including guaranteeing that they will be around from year to year and it allows the farmer to gain some front-loaded funds in order to purchase seed, tools and other supplies for the upcoming season.  During good seasons, the members receive a huge bountiful harvest, much more than what they paid for (our CSA members received 17-24% more produce last year!  And that was “one of the worst years in Colorado’s History”), and during down years, the farmer is supported through these tough times and the member can be assured that their produce was grown in a sustainable way and that other years will more than make up for this season. 

It is estimated that out of ten years there may be one down year, four average years and five bountiful years.  Of course, much of this depends on weather patterns etc., but the majority of it falls to the responsibility of the farmer.  Does the farmer plant extra “just in case?”  Does the farmer utilize hoop-houses and row-cover to protect from frosts, hail and wind?  Does the farmer utilize dry-land agriculture techniques to prepare for drought?  We do all of those things, so our potential for great seasons is much higher than many of the expectations. 

There are some greater reasons, to us, however, to be a part of a CSA.  Sure, you get to eat in season, learn new recipes and be healthier.  Sure you get to support the local food movement and feel good doing it, but there is something else about a CSA membership that goes beyond just the food.  To us, the most important aspect to joining a CSA is the people you meet and the community you develop as a member.  There are not many opportunities to meet like-minded individuals in such a neutral atmosphere as you do with a CSA program.  During the pick-up times most members hang around and chat. This time is spent meeting with the farmer and the other families that have the same values.  Volunteer days, discounts, eating in-season, experiencing new foods and recipes, classes and more are all perks of being a member of a CSA and worth every penny.  In addition, when CSA members volunteer, they get extra produce and more importantly, they get the feeling and satisfaction that comes with contributing to their food and to the local community in a very tangible way that is larger than themselves. 


In short, being a member of a CSA is an experience that the majority of people in this world will never experience, and it is something that can be exhilarating, rewarding and life-changing.  In the end, however, it's about what you make of it.  Can you get a CSA from a farm out in California?  Sure.  Can you get one from one far out on the other side of Colorado?  Sure.  But what do you gain if you don't get involved, learn the farm, share the dream, meet some great friends?  

Will you be joining a local CSA this year?  Will you support  our local agriculture?  Will you help the small farmer?  Will you meet other like-minded people and develop relationships and build an incredible community around yourself, all while eating and feeling better and being a part of something bigger than you?  

We hope so.  We know you will be happy you did!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The REAL Cost of Free-Range, Soy-Free, Organic Chicken Eggs

When you don't get government handouts, don't force-molt your hens, don't keep your hens in battery cages, don't mess with the hen's natural laying cycle by not using lights in the winter etc., but feed the  hens pure, organic feed while allowing them to roam the land free as a bird (pun intended), the real cost for eggs is much higher than you would expect.  According to David Robinson Simon, author of "Meatonomics" (2013), the real cost of organic eggs should be $13.00!  Our eggs? They are $7.00 per dozen, here's why...

Here's our own personal math for the cost of our eggs:


  • Cost of feed per week per hen...........$0.86 (2.1 lb per week X $0.41)
  • Eggs laid per week per hen..................2.96 (% productivity X 52 Weeks)
  • Number of hens to make a dozen...... 4.054
  • Cost of feed per dozen eggs...............$3.48 
  • Cost of egg carton..............................$0.33
  • Cost of Labels (2)...............................$0.30
  • Cost of utilities per dozen...................$0.16 ($350.00 per year / 52 weeks / 175 hens X 4.054)
  • Cost of hen houses per dozen.............$0.16 ($3500.00 / 10 years / 175 hens / 52 weeks X 4.054) 
  • Cost of hens per dozen........................$0.06 ($3.50 / 5 years / 52 weeks X 4.054) 
Total expenses per dozen eggs:  $5.32

Labor:  Each dozen takes about 17.5 minutes of labor.  If we sell our eggs for $6.00 per dozen, as some other farms do, we would be making $0.68 for those 17.5 minutes, or $2.33 per hour in labor! 

Keep in mind that there are a number of additional costs that did not go into the calculation here:   Things like rent / mortgage costs, miscellaneous costs like wood shavings, tools, loss of birds due to either sickness or predators, gas to deliver the eggs and pick up supplies, advertising costs etc.  The reality?  If we sell our eggs for $6.00 per dozen, we lose money.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

No-till is the ONLY Way to Go!

I read an incredible peer reviewed white paper the other  day.  It was on the impacts of no-till farming under arid conditions and the benefits to watershed hydrology.  The title of the article is "Conservation Tillage in Dryland Agriculture Impacts Watershed Hydrology" by Van Wie et. al. 2013 (Full reference below).  

What was particularly interesting to me about the article was the emphasis not just on no-till, but on the importance of this in arid conditions and locations.  Although the study was primarily in the Palouse region of Washington, the study related to myself as a farmer in the high-desert of Colorado; Colorado being one of the driest states in the country with abnormally high rates of evapotranspiration (evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants).  The article discusses that the utilization of no-till methods is a BMP (Best Management Practice) for soil management (Van Wie, et. al. 2013).  The benefits to the watershed, as found by the authors of the article were many.  

In addition to enhancing soil structure and biological activity in the soil, the authors found that less fertilization was required, there was less water runoff and therefore less pollution to watersheds and there was less need for irrigation, since the soil was now able to maintain a greater amount of water in the root zone - thus less pumping of water from the watershed was needed (Van Wie, et. al. 2013).  
By utilizing no-till there is less run-off of water, specifically in the winter months when rain falls on frozen soil and snow (Van Wie, et. al. 2013).  When this occurs, the water runs off and contributes to streamflow instead of infiltrating the soil.  This is due to lower soil temperatures in tilled soil vs. no-tilled soil (Van Wie, et. al. 2013).  By using the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model, the team was able to determine an absolutely astonishing difference between the tilled and no-tilled fields when it came to soil infiltration vs. run-off.  The tilled soil generated a 66.0 mm of run-off during a 5 month period while the no-till soil generated a run-off of only .3 mm!  In other words, the soil that was not tilled held 220 times more water than tilled soil!  In addition to this staggering result, during run-off events such as high amounts of precipitation or snowmelt, while there were numerous events with tilled fields, there were zero observed events with the no-till fields (Van Wie, et. al. 2013)! 

Not only is there reduced to virtually zero amounts of run-off from the fields utilizing this BMP of not tilling their fields, but the moisture that is held in the soil is also dramatically increased and the amount of evaporation decreased to a an almost astonishing extent.  The results from the study were that the fields that were conventionally tilled had an average evaporation loss of 3 mm/day while the no-till fields had an average evaporation loss of .001 mm/day!  The tilled fields lost water at a rate of 3,000 times those that were not tilled (Van Wie, et. al. 2013)! 

Finally, in addition to the obvious benefits to the watershed and the environmental benefits to not tilling our soil, the increase in yields were also discussed by the authors:  21-26% increase in crop yields with no-tilled BMPs vs conventional tilling methods were found (Van Wie, et. al. 2013)!  

So here are the benefits to not tilling your soil in a nutshell:

  • Increased moisture held in the soil - reduced evaporation.
  • Decreased run-off and pollution, 
  • Increased infiltration of moisture particularly in the winter  months.
  • Decreased need for fertilization.
  • Decreased need to pump water and use precious resources.
  • Keeps the soil structure intact which reduces erosion.
  • Increased microbial activity in soil.
  • Greater amount of carbon sequestration.    
  • Increased crop yields of 21-26%!                                                                                                              Photo Credit: pnl.gov

The results of this study were astonishing to say the least.  At our farm we don't till our ground.  We have been aware of many of the benefits to not tilling our soil, but we had no idea of the extent to which these benefits were.  To learn that tilled soil evaporates water at a rate of 3,000 times that of soil that has not been tilled and to learn that no-till soil held 220 times more water than tilled soil are results that blew me away! 

Clearly, the science is obvious and the results are clear.  Tilling our soil is ruining our environment, creating smaller yields, and is contributing to over pumping of our precious water resources!  

Source:

Van Wie, J. B., Adam, J. C., & Ullman, J. L. (2013). Conservation tillage in dryland agriculture impacts watershed hydrology. Journal of Hydrology, 483, 26. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.12.030