We recently rescued a Karakul ram lamb whose mother died. We named him Ali Baba. We have bottle fed him and raised him with the dogs, which the lamb seemed to think was just fine. The dogs never were too excited about having a ram as their colleague. This week we decided to integrate the little ram into the flock of sheep. We figured that he would have a rough time and monitored the situation carefully. He was sad and lonely but the reaction of the other sheep was the surprise. They were fearful. They escaped their electric fences to get away from this little ram. This ram was 30 pounds and the other sheep averaged about 100 pounds. One of the things I like about sheep is that they are creatures of instinct. If you can interpret their instinctual response you will know what they are doing. I never suspected that they would react the same to a little ram lamb as they react to a dog. Sit! Stay! Baa! He is back with the dogs.
One of the most difficult hurdles in farming is access to land. If you live in a rural area, a spread-out city like Houston, or a blighted city with many vacant lots it is apparent that there is no lack of land. The problem is that the land belongs to someone else. It is possible that the new program for farming does not include owning the land.
Governments, corporations, and wealthy land owners sit on land that is unused, save the occasional criss-cross of a lawnmower, costing the owner money and increasing greenhouse gasses. A much better use of that land would be to give some of the many people who would like to farm the opportunity to use it. The government, corporation or land owner would benefit from the bragging rights of presenting an organic garden and the farmer would make some money with the produce. The problem arrises when we bring up the word profit. Governments and large corporations, in particular, do not like for-profit entities on their property unless they are getting a cut. And we all know that the profit in farming does not leave a lot to share.
A solution to this would be to form a non profit organization that helps promote organic food, gardens, children in gardening, etc. This organization could pay the workers in the garden a modest wage, pay themselves a modest salary, and donate the rest to gardening education which they would do on a Saturday or a field trip, etc. Of course, like most business owners, they are taking on the risk, not knowing if they can make enough to make it worth their while. All proceeds would end up in the hands of the people who did the work, and that would not be a lot. Being a non profit, if you got to the point that you were making too much money, that would be used to expand–work more land and hire more people.
The land owner could be assured that the sign at the garden, introducing a nonprofit organization, would reflect an atmosphere of altruism. People farming would make money, unused land would be made productive and the people/governments/companies would feel pride in their reallocation of resources. The land owners would be responsible for paying water and taxes, but they were already doing that.
If one company turned a small lot into a beautiful garden the competing and neighboring companies would follow. Of course the farmers would have to keep their gardens looking better than my gardens in order to please the owner who is used to an accepted view of landscaping. This might require fund raisers to make beautiful fencing and mulched paths.
A model of land leasing is already in use with livestock that graze power company easements and farms. These typically lease for $1.00 per year and give a land owner the opportunity to apply for agricultural valuation on their real estate taxes after five years. Maybe the tax authority in counties and cities could work on such an incentive for urban land. Multi-year leases would be necessary because of the work involved in improving the soil.
Such an enterprise would require a business plan and all the bookkeeping forms that go along with getting a non-profit off the ground and approved by the IRS, but it could be a game changer. Just look at what Growing Power has done in Milwaukee. It has companies asking them to take unused land. They do a fundraiser to provide a greenhouse (it is cold in Milwaukee unlike Texas) and use paid untrained labor under the direction of knowledgeable employees to build and maintain the facilities. They get lower unemployment, better land use, and provide farmers markets in underserved areas.
These land owners have spent a lot of money on landscaping that is not providing food for people, chickens or sheep. Turning these into farms could help the land owner, increase local employment, improve the environment, and give opportunities to farmers. It would also help the dietary health of a community at little to no cost.
We need new solutions when land ownership is beyond the financial reach of farming. If your business plan does not allow for enough profit to buy property you should not be excluded from farming. We need more farmers, particularly younger enthusiastic ones. And it does not take a lot to be younger than the average farmer in the United States. I have heard figures ranging from 55 to 65, and rest assured I am one and I welcome the company of younger colleagues.
Wednesday was shearing day at the farm. Fifteen ladies, and one ram were not so happy about it, but they will be much cooler this summer without that 10 pounds of wool. I suppose they will thank me then. We finished the working pens about 2:00, Danny, the shearer, arrived about 3:00 and was gone by 4:30. For our first time it went well, but I did have to carry one 120 pound ewe to the chute. I know I was more tired than Danny, just because I did not know what I was doing. Next year it will go more smoothly. Now we have to think about weaning.
Farming for profit
Farm businesses seldom fail because farmers don’t know how to raise their product. They most often fail due to poor planning and a lack of information. On Sunday, May 18 I will be teaching a class that will explore ways to define your goals, write a business plan, find a way to market your product, talk about harvesting and storage, introduce you to organizations that provide outside guidance and present information on government funding. This class is only 2 and one half hours long, but it could send your business in the right direction. Unlike most of my classes, I do not promise you will have a good time. This class is about the business side of farming. Record keeping, planning, cost analysis, and government agencies are not terms that get us farmers excited–at least not in a positive way– but they are the tools we need to make the right decisions. The class is offered through Urban Harvest and must be signed up through their website. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.
How could you better respect your mother than to play in the mud? On Mother’s day we are going to put the next layer of mud on the cob oven from noon until we get done. Come when you can and we will find room for your toes. This involves stomping the mud and plastering it on the sand form until we have a 4” thick dome of cob. Mud was never appreciated by my mother, but I bet there are a few mothers who would like to play in it. Mothers, fathers, children and everyone else are welcome. I would appreciate an rsvp
I caught a story on the radio today about the effects of recreational marijuana use on a student’s attendance records and grades. It seems that students in Colorado who regularly smoke the weed are less likely to show up at class and make poorer grades. “What!! You spend your time and money researching something we all figured out in the 70’s”
Then I thought, what if they did a study concluding that people who eat fast food 10 times a week were more likely to have diabetes? Or what about a study that showed that eating a diet rich in locally grown fresh vegetables and grass fed meat would lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Those studies would be no less ridiculous to me than one that says that marijuana makes you more interested in a dripping faucet than a calculus equation.
I assume that everyone knows that most of our health problems are related to our diet. If there are people out there that do not understand the relationship between what we eat and our health, I suggest that behavior has consequences. Marijuana consumption can make you consume junk food and the junk food can cause diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, those can result in high medical bills. Pharmaceuticals will mask the symptoms but not cure the effects, side effects of the legal drugs will cause you to be prescribed more drugs.
The question is, is it the fault of you consuming the marijuana or the fault of you not eating your vegetables. (Either way you should have invested in pharmaceutical companies instead of majoring in theatre.)
Some people even eat fast food without the influence of munchie inducing drugs.
For a few million dollars in research money I will collect the statistics, coo-elate the conclusions and produce a paper evaluating whether you should expect to get out of your body what you put into it. Or you could do like me and say “They did a study on what?”
occasional use of junk food can be hazardous to your health
marijuana makes you very hungry and too lazy to cook–and that is a good thing because cooking would be hazardous
Knowing I have followers whose first language is not English I must say that there is satire in this post.