Thursday, November 12, 2015
Friday, October 16, 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
We can't wait for our next Home-School Day!
See some of the pictures below:
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Is it? Yes. We admit, our produce IS a little more expensive than most. However, there are a couple of reasons for this beyond our sustainable methods, our all-heirloom produce and beyond organic nutritional value, which I will discuss here.
First, it is important to take note of the market that we are dealing with here. For instance, are we talking about expensive for Colorado? For Denver? For a CSA? For Colorado Springs? Compared to the Grocery Store? For the first three, Colorado, Denver or CSA the reality is that our produce is not priced high at all - especially for Denver and especially for a CSA (who receive up to a 35% discount). We could, therefore, sell our produce exclusively to Denver and by doing so raise our prices an additional 25% or more. Believe me, the price for Farmer's Market produce in Denver, even for NON-ORGANIC produce, is exorbitant. We could also get out of the CSA business all together and only sell at Farmer's Markets. But that's not why we are in this business. We love what we do. We have a passion for growing (and feeding people) pure, sustainable food, and beautiful food. We also love you, our customers. We love the community. We love being a part of something bigger than us and we love doing something that matters.
So what matters? Well, for starters, getting pure, local, fresh food into the bellies of those that either can't afford it, or don't have access to it. Colorado Springs, and especially the surrounding area of El Paso County is a food desert. The definition of a "Food Desert" according to the USDA is as follows:
Below is a map of El Paso County. All the areas shaded in Pink are Low-Access Areas
Below is a similar map of El Paso County reflecting Low-Income Areas.
Below is a combined image: Both Low-Income and Low-Access.
Now, one must keep all of this in perspective. Unfortunately, when placed in context and kept in perspective, it gets much worse. These definitions by the USDA do not include "Local Food." They also do not include "Organic" or "Pure," "Fresh" food. Simply stated, the USDA defines these deserts as access to a "Supermarket or Large Grocery Store." The truth is that only 1-2% of the food in El Paso County is local. Of that 1-2%, a much smaller portion is considered "Organic" and an even much lesser portion is considered "Pure."
So what am I getting at? I am trying to explain the things that matter. The reason for our existence as a small, local, "pure-food" farm in El Paso County is so that we can make a difference in people's lives. For those that can afford the food and have access to it, does it make a difference? Well, according to our many customers and the feedback we receive, yes it does make a difference. But what about all those people that are on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits that, simply-put, cannot afford access to healthy food? We aren't talking about lazy bums and deadbeat dads that are so often the stereotypical SNAP recipient. Do those exist? Sure. Will we help them too? Of course. But for those of you who struggle with this idea, we are talking about the working poor. Say what you want about those on SNAP benefits, but the truth is, many of them are the hardest working individuals in this country! Often, they are blue-collar workers who wake up at the break of dawn and end their day just in time to kiss their children to bed at night. These are people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families the basics, never mind actually healthy food, in an economy where you have individuals with MBA degrees working two minimum-wage jobs (read the book "The Working Poor", by David Shippler), with two or more children at home, and are barely making ends meet. Want more? Watch the movie "A Place at the Table" to learn about these hard working individuals who are doing everything they can to feed their children, but are living in a food desert just like ours.
I digress. Here's my point...
We, Ahavah Farm, double all SNAP benefits. We also give away literally hundreds of dollars of food per week. We do have "Suggested" prices that may be higher than the grocery store or even some other farms, but we also allow those who are struggling to pay what they can and take what they want and need. When you purchase food from Ahavah Farm you are doing more than paying for Sustainable agriculture, no-till farming that cares for our soil and our environment, beyond organic growing methods, 100% heirloom produce which means a better taste and higher nutritional content and supporting a small, local farm. When you purchase food from Ahavah Farm you are also making a difference. Yes, our prices are a little higher for those that can afford it, but by your purchases we are able to provide pure food to those that need it the most. It might not be much, and we may sound a little idealistic, but it is something. By the end of the season we will have given away hundreds of pounds of food and thousands of dollars of irreplaceable nutrition because of you!
So next time you think "Boy, your food is really expensive," keep in mind what you are really paying for and also who you are feeding through your support.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
It's just been so insanely busy around here to say the least, the last thing I have time to do is post on the blog. Let's see, we are prepping and planting for all the fall and winter produce, we finished our 80 foot greenhouse, we are expanding our 1/2 acre garden, we are expanding our egg business and we just got 10 Alpacas! All this, in the absolute height of the season...yeah, I'd say we are busy. This is how our days go:
Our typical day lately goes from somewhere around 4 or 5am to about 8 or 9pm. We start the day by opening the greenhouse and rotating the irrigation for both the greenhouse and the garden (all 4 zones). We then go let the chickens out, fill their feed and water them. Then we do the same with half of the ducks (long story) and we do the same with the other chicken coop. We rinse out the duck pools and fill them while we are at it. Then we go back into the greenhouse and hand-pollinate every single squash flower. Then we let the other ducks out. Then our real work begins and the rush doesn't end until lunch time (if we are lucky) and then dinner and then on to about 8 or 9pm. The rush is a mixture of harvesting and washing produce, weeding, thinning, collecting eggs, tearing out old plants, prepping beds, re-seeding, re-planting, rotating irrigation, spreading compost etc., etc. Then we mix in the projects: picking up supplies at the store, expanding our garden, checking on the bees, repairing and putting up fencing in all the paddocks, building the greenhouse, walking the fence, performing repairs, assembling and delivering shares, talking to customers and on and on it goes until almost bed time. Oh, I forgot to throw in here the other "daily" stuff we have to do - like homeschooling our four children and taking care of their needs throughout the day. Thankfully though, a few of them are a big help! I also forgot to mention my real job. All day long I am interrupted with phone calls, e-mails and texts...that's when I am not at work and in the garden. Otherwise, I am spending the rest of my time at work, so we have to do all the above mentioned things in my "spare time." We make a TO-DO list every night, and every night the list just seems to get longer and longer. Add in the farmer's market, the responsibilities for our new Alpacas, marketing and other "business stuff," prepping and building new shelters and coops and you can see why we haven't posted in a while.
I think we need a vacation!
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Sunday, July 26, 2015
I thought about the meaning of Tisha B'Av: The remembrance and mourning of the destruction of the Holy Temples (both the first and the second temple were destroyed, as it were, on the same calendar day), the crushing defeat of the Jews in 132 C.E. during the Bar Kochba revolt, the first crusade against the Jews in 1095, the expelling of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and the declaration of WW1 all occurred on Tisha B'Av along with a host of other destructive events. In short, Tisha B'Av is a sad day. For me as a farmer, I have an opportunity on this day, however.
As I am fasting and mourning and reflecting on the atrocities that have occurred to the Jewish people, to our people, over the centuries and I am feeling weak and hungry while working in the field, I could feel sorry for myself. But I don't. I realize instead what a privilege it is to live as free as I do and to be able to feed people with such pure and whole foods that bring healing to their bodies and to our land. While working I think of how grateful I am to be able to practice my faith openly and without apology in such a free country and during such a time as this. Sure there is anti-semitism, and I am not immune from it believe me, but comparatively, we are living in a time of immense peace and prosperity. Yet, there are so many around the world who are not.
I think of those in parts of China, India and parts of Africa that are suffering from malnutrition and hunger. I think mostly, however, of those even here in America, the most prosperous nation the world has ever seen, that are suffering from unseen starvation. Today there are 50 million Americans who are literally starving to death (Watch "A Place at the Table). These American's who can barely afford to purchase food are not all aching for food, some are, but they are starving (Read Stuffed and Starved). Stuffing themselves on foods laden with refined carbohydrates like high fructose corn syrup, added refined sugars, stripped of all nutrients like white bread and white rice, these people are literally starving of nutritional deficiency to death. Some of them don't even realize that they are starving, as they make the choices to eat this way while suffering ailments that doctors tell them are "hereditary," while giving them a prescription for statins to lower their cholesterol. Others, however, wish they could eat healthier. They long for pure, clean, fresh food, but cannot afford it, or it's simply not accessible to them (See Food Desert).
This is where we come in. Colorado Springs and El Paso county as well as other areas in southern and eastern Colorado are some of the areas that many people are suffering. Only 1-2% of the food in El Paso county is considered local and a huge percentage of the area including much of the rest of Colorado outside of Denver and a few exceptions are considered to have low availability to fresh food (see USDA Map Here). Even if they do have access to fresh food the question then is first, can they afford it, and second, is it really pure, healthy food that is going to bring healing, or is it conventional food that will further damage their bodies because it is laden with chemicals and modified organisms that are not recognizable or digestible by the human body (see a great video about this HERE)? The reality is, however, that even with an additional 100,000 acres of pure food, it still wouldn't meet the local demand. But we can make a small difference. Our little farm is responsible for feeding about 30 families per week pure food. We bring healing to a small amount of additional people with those that purchase our food from the farmers market as well. It's not much, but it's a start. We have been told by so many, how the food makes them feel, how much they enjoy it and even more so, how thankful they are that we are here to provide it for them. What a blessing!
With so many people that are starving each and every day, I choose to be hungry for one day with them. I am hungry and I am tired and I am sad because of Tisha B'Av, but I am also thankful. I am thankful that my family is so healthy. I am thankful that my family is safe and does not have to worry about being expelled, murdered, or persecuted to such an extent as those who have gone before us have been. I am also thankful for the opportunity to provide food and bring healing to people who otherwise do not have access to it.
Fasting brings a reflection that encourages appreciation for the things that we have. To go without food for one day is no problem, even if I am working hard for much of that day. For, there are almost a billion people around the world right now who do not have food (see HERE). I am making a choice not to eat. They don't have one. How dare I complain, whine, snivel or pout about not eating for one day, for running after children or working hard in the field? I can't. I must, therefore be grateful for the opportunities that I have. For the opportunity to have a choice not to eat for a day, for the opportunity to provide health and financial well-being for my family and for the opportunity to bring health to others through the food that I grow.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Danielle Zitoun, now a local, came out to our farm to do a photo shoot with our family. Danielle is currently doing a photo series on "Individuals and businesses contributing positively to an ethical and sustainable world." Danielle heard about our humble family farm and thought that we modeled this and wanted to do a shoot on us. What a blessing it was to meet Danielle, a passionate individual trying to make the world a better place. The photos are absolutely amazing as well! Danielle is fantastically skilled, and she does family portraits and other freelance work as well. Check out Danielle's website here: http://www.daniellezitoun.com/
Sunday, July 5, 2015
This is our trademark and our mission. But what does it mean, and why does it matter? Many business' clout themselves as SRC's (Socially Responsible Corporations), but when it comes down to it, many times it can be a mere marketing campaign and a way to advertise. With Social Responsibility being as important as it is, many people are waking up to the things that their money supports and therefore many companies are falling in line and becoming socially responsible themselves, or at least acting like they are. Ideas such as "Environmentally Friendly," "Organic," "Sustainable" etc. get thrown around regularly and many times they are simply meaningless phrases that catch the eye's of the consumer, luring them into supporting their business.
The term "Organic" is one such term that really get's under our skin. It's also a word that we refuse to use to refer to ourselves and it is something that we refuse to get certified as. Let me explain why.
With "Organic" pushing the envelope and walking a fine line between pure food and your typical CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or Commercial Agriculture Farming Operation), the range of "Organic" farmers is very wide. From your small-town and family-owned, truly "organic" farmers, to your large and thousands-of-acres, corporate-owned and operated giant multi-national corporations, the term "Organic" has lost much of it's meaning. In many cases, it has been corrupted by those very multi-national corporations and the government certifying agency that they, essentially, run. For instance, did you know that "Organic" certification allows for 38 synthetic chemicals to be used on your food? Did you know that a percentage of GMO's (Genetically Modified Organism's) can still be considered "Organic?" http://gmo-awareness.com/2011/05/05/is-organic-always-gmo-free/. Did you know, that sewer sludge (aka, human waste) and irradiated food can still be considered "Organic?" (http://evergreenfarm.typepad.com/evergreenfarm/2007/06/why-we-choose-n.html). Did you also know that the Organic Certification could care less how the soil is treated, how our environment is impacted, how much water is wasted, how much emissions and petroleum products are consumed and emitted and how the animals are treated? (http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/free-range-organic-meat-myth/)
Certainly, purchasing organic food is MUCH better for you than purchasing non-organic food and I am not saying that there aren't amazing Certified Organic growers. My "beef" is not with those that call themselves "Organic" because many are wonderful, but with the Certification itself. It's a sham. Does Organic mean that it is sustainable? Is it as fresh as local or as economically responsible? Is it really considered pure? Are the animals really that much healthier, happier and humanely treated? The answer, sadly may be a resounding "NO!" with a few exceptions, including us. We claim to be "Better Than Organic" and this is why...
Local. By being a "Local" farm, not only do you the consumer have the opportunity to "Meet the Farmer" and visit the farm and see first-hand what and how we are growing and producing our food, but you also get to support the local economy and support the "little guy." In addition, by being local, the food you get is usually picked either the same day, or pretty close to it. Ripe, fresh and not shipped in from Mexico, California or worse, China. You know where your food is coming from. You know that it is fresh. You know how it is produced. You know who you are supporting.
Sustainable. Sustainable goes hand in hand with "pure." In order to be sustainable, you have to be "organic" but being "organic" doesn't make you automatically "sustainable." In fact, Organic farming can use many of the same farming methods as non-organic like having an enormous carbon footprint, the destruction of the soil by over-tilling and the extreme waste of other resources like water and fossil-fuels (most synthetic fertilizers are oil-based, even "Organic" ones). Sustainable agriculture takes care of the soil, uses compost, no-till methods and preserves water. There is minimal water waste, fossil fuel waste and other un-natural methods of farming are not used.
Pure. Pure ties this all together. As mentioned above, because we use sustainable farming practices, your food is pure. It's not "organic" it's better-than-organic. No synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, sprays or genetically engineered seeds etc. are used. In fact, every vegetable that we sell is heirloom. This means that it hasn't been altered in any way. In addition, we use row-covers, hand-tools and old-fashioned pure and natural farming methods to avoid pests and to control weeds. Your food is picked fresh and ripened on the plant and not on a truck. The same goes for our animals. Our chickens and ducks get to roam the land eating bugs and grasses as well as our kitchen scraps and our left-over produce. All supplemented feed is "organic" and soy and corn free and the animals are loved, well-cared for and simply the cleanest birds you have ever seen! In short, there is no possible way to get fresher, healthier and more pure produce than you can from our farm or from your own garden.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Someone told me the other day that people get grossed out over free-range eggs because the chickens eat bugs. Really? Are you kidding me? That's what they are supposed to eat! Someone told me just yesterday at the Farmers Market that someone, regarding organic food, said "I would rather eat chemicals than something that a bug crawled on!" Joel Salatin, in this book "Folks, This Ain't Normal" tells the story of how many people have no clue how to break down a chicken. I thought he may be exaggerating until I actually spoke to someone recently about this very thing recently. Chemicals over natural food? A GMO shiny red tomato laden with pesticides over a pure tomato that may be a little misshapen? An egg that has been raised in a commercial agricultural facility that treats their chicken in-humanely while causing them to live in disease infested warehouses where they are so close together that they go stir crazy and try to peck each-other to death, rather than an egg from a chicken that runs free on the land? What is wrong with our world today? How could I not provide local, pure, wholesome food to the local community?
I don't want to make this long, but the very sad reality is that the majority of people in this world no longer know where their food comes from besides "the grocery store." Watch the clip below...
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
I am linking to an article by Jason Plotkin of Ekar Farm and Golden Acre Farms. It is important that you read this article: HERE
Jay talks about the struggles with the weather - struggles that we (local farmers) are all facing right now. In the article, he mentions that Denver's YTD rainfall is 14 inches, and yet Denver has already received 11 inches! With Jay, a 16 year veteran of farming all over the country he states: "I have been growing food now for 16 seasons across Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and Colorado and this season is by far the most challenging and the worst season I’ve seen."
As bad as that is, I want you to get a glimpse of what is happening in Peyton, where Ahavah Farm is located: The average YEARLY rainfall for Peyton: 16.2 inches. The YTD rainfall for Peyton: 15.72!!!! Yes, that's correct, we have gotten almost two inches more rain than Denver, in their "most challenging and worst season" and less than a half an inch will complete our total yearly average. We have even gotten over three inches more rain than nearby Colorado Springs! Yikes!
In short, if we did not have our hoophouse, we would have virtually nothing, and that's what a lot of farms have right now: nothing! How does this translate to our customers: It translates into higher prices, less selection and a shorter season. It means we need your support, financially and emotionally. This is tough. To come home from the farmers market to see the garden over-saturated. To plant new beds and see no new growth. To see your tomato plants turning yellow because they can't handle all the water...it's frustrating to say the least!
It's not all bad news, however. For what we are going for, even regardless of the conditions, we are doing alright. From what we know, we are the first farm with carrots and we are the first farm with squash and zucchini. That's something to celebrate! We also have peppers that are almost at maturity, and green beans as well as a host of other items. Below is a list of our current crops:
Ready for harvest / being harvested:
Crooked Neck Squash
Black Seed Lettuce
Noble Giant Spinach
Purple Top Turnips
Purple Top Turnip Greens
Almost Ready For Harvest (2-4 Weeks):
Sugar Snap Peas
The bottom line is that to some this list sounds great. However, what you aren't seeing is the quantities. We have an entire garden growing at a pace of what seems like a negative rate. Plants need water, yes, but they also need sun and warmth and drainage. If we do not get those things, this is going to be one tough season!
Please continue to support us. We are working an extreme number of hours trying to produce as much of the best, purest and healthiest food available. Yes, your financial support is important, otherwise we cannot provide clean, sustainable food to the local area. However, your words of encouragement, your patience and understanding when your CSA share doesn't have what you were hoping for, these are the things we need the most from you. Emotional support.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Come check out our booth at the Colorado Farm and Art Market!
Every Wednesday evening starting June 10th at Ivywild School in Colorado Springs from 3-7pm.
Here's the info:
1604 S. Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Monday, May 11, 2015
OK everyone, as you are all aware, probably because your back yard is still covered in snow, we got hit with a pretty horrible storm over the past few days.
Many farms are advertising the enormous set-back this has caused them. In fact, Colorado as a whole is currently at 15% of where we normally would be, or should be, at this point.
However, I am happy to tell you, that due to our techniques and our utilization of our greenhouse and row cover, we are actually still ahead of the game.
So, pending any upcoming freakish storms, while other farms are just starting to plant, we will be selling our harvest!
We are still planning our first CSA for the last week in May. It's also quite possible that we may also have smaller shares available before then!
In fact, we currently have peppers, zucchini and tomatoes forming. We also have lettuce, mesculin mix, radishes, spinach that we are already harvesting.
Let's cross our fingers that the weather holds out, so the rest of our product can make it to your bellies soon!