Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is a term with complex meaning.  However, in this modern age of marketing the term gets thrown around to make the products sound more appealing.  It has no standardized meaning and therefore anyone can claim it as long as they have a specific reason for claiming it.  "I compost my waste material and reuse it in my fields... I practice Environmental Stewardship."  "I use drip irrigation instead of overhead spray... I practice Environmental Stewardship."  "I haven't used DDT in 5 years... I practice.. bla bla bla."  But beyond the hype, what does it mean.  The dictionary defines a Steward as: 


1.a person who manages another's property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others.
2. a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing the servants, etc.
 What I notice right away in these definitions is the fact that whomever the steward is, he/she is taking care of someone else's stuff.  I don't know about you guys, but when I borrow someone else's things, I treat them with a level of respect higher than that of my own things.  If I'm running out to the fields before the rain, I'm going to grab the sledge I borrowed from my buddy before the shovel which I own just in case I don't make it back out there in time.  I mean really, I don't care if my shovel gets rained on a bit, but am I sure of how my buddy feels about rain on his sledge?
Environmental Stewardship implies that your land belongs to something bigger.  It's not wholly yours.  It's part of an environment that belongs to all of us, and not to just us, but to the animals, plants, and our future.  Yes, I do in some respect own a piece of your land, just like you own a piece of mine.  Maybe the Native Americans had it right... land belongs to no one.  
So what does practicing Environmental Stewardship mean?  Treating what you steward with better respect than what you really feel is should have.  Not leaving that sledge out in the rain.  Treating your land in a manor that maybe doesn't sound like a necessary way to you, but in a way that no one could complain about.  
It transcends working for the almighty buck.  It means working hard, in every decision and method, to keep what you steward in a manor that will not offend the other owners.  One that makes the other owners happy that they put you in charge of their land.  
Maybe I don't think herbicides are a problem, but do all the owners of this environment agree?  Maybe I see no trouble at all with the amount of oil used to fertilize and ship products all over the world, but do the future owners agree?  Organic practices???  Shoot, that's just the start of Environmental Stewardship. 
I would like to think I practice Environmental Stewardship on my land. Come see for yourself.  I think its important...  for all of us.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Have you read The Tragedy of the Commons?

So F.R.O.G. fans, I pose an idea to you.  We of course have land.  Many of our friends in town don't.  I've considered a CSA, but there are a few details of them that I don't enjoy (such as charging my friends).  What about a COA... Community Operated Agriculture.  We don't charge you, nor do we drop food off to you.  But if you're looking for good tomatoes come pick a few. If you got some spare time and are looking for some relaxing time in the sun, come weed a row or two.  Grab a squash while you're here.  You get the idea.  My job would be to organize and regulate.  Dot the I's and cross the T's.  It goes against the lesson of The Tragedy of the Commons, but what do you think?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Post Solstice

The Winter Solstice came and went and as a result the days are getting longer.  This means a few things on the Fresh Roots Farm.  First, I've learned (being that this is my first spring with them) the chickens respond to longer days by getting broody.  Each time I go in there now, two or three of the hens are sitting on their eggs in attempt to hatch them.  They don't like it when I take their eggs.  The hiss and peck.  This has prompted be to put a big stick in there, so that I can poke them when I come into the coop.  This makes them jump out of the next box, leaving eggs for easy retrieval.
Second sign of spring is the arrival of seed catalogs.  Sarah and I have been spending evenings pouring through these to find the perfect collection of things to try this summer.  We only got 4 last year, but as you can see, the word is out that we have a farm now.
Third, its time to get back into shape.  A little bit of rigorous work recently has left me winded.  Winter has made me soft.  So its back on the treadmill for me.  Today, during Mickey Mouse clubhouse for Adeline, I did 5 miles at an easy pace.  Once the cardio is back where it should be I'll hit the weight bench.  By spring I should be ready to do the rigor that spring farming demands with no trouble.  I recently heard a fellow farmer say, "why ever would a farmer join a gym," implying that farming is work out enough...  well not during the winter it seems.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I find it amusing.

So since moving to Traverse City I have established quite a few roles.  First and foremost, I'm a stay at home dad to a wonderful little lady and a little boy on the way.  Second, I am developing this small diversified farm.  Third, I manage a new business in town, The Michigan Hop Alliance.  This gives me many jobs.  The thing I find amusing is that this morning I did some paperwork and worked on the business plan of Michigan Hop Alliance, mid-day I laid concrete in the basement (building a new bathroom down there) and I finished up in time to iron my wife's clothes for tomorrow.  Talk about wearing many hats.  And since I'm no longer a Gemini, I don't know if I can handle these multiple personalities. 

Ah whatever, I'm going to go start making dinner.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mango anyone?

Mango is a very large tree hailing from the Old World tropics.  It could not survive a Michigan winter.  Most likely not even a Michigan autumn.   However, it can fruit in long and short day periods and therefore could be productive in a greenhouse.   I guess F.R.O.G. couldn’t produce mango as a fruit crop… but perhaps a few trees in a greenhouse could produce a modest harvest.  Mango is used in many medicinals, treating a range from diabetes to asthma.  It has been shown to stop cancer growth even in advanced stages.  Dried and ground, mango is called Amchur, one of the delicious spices used in Indian cooking.  But my favorite mango fact is that my father-in-law is highly allergic to it, so it could be used as a deterrent.

This little mango tree was planted from seed to celebrate Adeline's birth almost 3 years ago.  Since we have not yet built a greenhouse, he's had a hard life.  Also, like the avocado, coming from seed there is very little chance that he will produce good fruit.  The best this little guy can do is be a test plant for survivability... and remind us of our little girl.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Should this blog be revived?

The Fresh Roots Organic Growers blog has been quiet for quite some time. Last we spoke, hop plants were popping out of the ground... that means last blog was around May.  Since then I've spent a summer lamenting the struggles of growing commercial hops, harvested a modest crop in the fall, put the fields to bed for the winter, co-created a group of hop growers (Michigan Hop Alliance), and made sales.  A lot has gone on.  The chickens are in full production... we get about 17 eggs each day even in the middle of winter.  The guard dog, Perle, is now about 90 lbs and owns the full 10 acres.  Fortunately, she doesn't seem to leave it.  She is now a woolly beast and loves the snow.  She's out there right now playing in it even though it is only 8 degrees out there.  During the winter months, I've started renovating the basement to put in a guestroom and bath.  Our current guestroom is becoming a nursery, since Sarah is expecting a son in May.  Another farm hand. 
The question I pose to you all who may be reading (or that may be none) is this: Should this blog be continued?  I will try to update more often.  We got a new web connection and it makes updating a lot easier.  We have a lot that is going to happen this year: son being born, barn raising, tractor purchase, spring planting, hop stringing, new crop development, and I'm sure a lot of things I haven't thought of yet.  If you care to read up on the events here, please comment.  This blog could sprout up again this spring with the other crops on the farm, or we could consider it a loss.  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early success!!!

They say that you won't see hop sprouts until about 2 weeks after planting, but today I have found at least 2 or 3 sprouts from each of the five varieties planted.  Welcome to the world F.R.O.G. hops.  Michigan hop farming has a new major player.