Keepin' Up with LIG
Sunday
Jan152012

The Fifth Season

Tucked somewhere between the fading din of holiday merriment and the darkest depths of winter doldrums comes a hidden season: seed catalog season.  Seed catalog season is a magical time, a time of limitless hope and optimism for the coming growing seasons, a time when visions of the coming year's cornucopia are full of colorful, tasty, and flawless fruits.  Something akin to Christmas as a kid before the Santa myth was debunked...or spring training for a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.  THIS will be there year when the tomatoes will not be afflicted by birds, worms, blight, or splits! THIS is the year that the peppers will free of blossom end rot!  THIS is the year that global currencies will fail and be replaced with the zucchini standard and then we will be the 1%!

Me, waist-deep in seed catalogs:

I've been lost in my stack of seven catalogs for the last week or so mulling over what exactly to grow for our first year growing for people other than ourselves.  It can be an overwhelming task at times...All Blue or Adirondack Blue potatoes?  Straightneck or crookneck squash?  How many tomato varieties is too many?  Will everyone like Malabar spinach as much as we do?  

I find myself very excited, even giddy at times, at the prospects of the coming months.  Within weeks we will have the seeds ordered.  In two weeks, we will have the mounting frame, fast-hitch, cultivators, and implements in place for our (Caroline's grandfather's) Farmall Super-A.  In mid-February we'll be moving to the newly renovated house across the road from the farm (a post on that to come).  By March, we should have a lot more chickens than we have now.  By April, we'll have a whole lot of plants in the ground.  And by August, we are aiming to have veggies, eggs, and chicken ready for market.  We can't wait.

Take care,

Michael

P.S.  For any other growers who may read this...please offer any advice or input you might have on precision seeders.  I'm looking at the Earthway because of the cost, but it seems like it would be too light and has so much plastic.  A lot of people seem to use it and do just fine, though.  The Jang looks better, and the Cole Planet Jr even better yet, but the money adds up.  I'd love to find an old used Planet Jr, but I only have so much time to look around for one (about two months, to be precise).  Anyways...any input would be much appreciated.

Sunday
Jan082012

Foundations, Part 1: Community & Economy

We have many sources of motivation for starting to farm and adopting a more agrarian lifestyle.  Some reasons are simple and direct, like the sheer deliciousness of a perfectly ripened tomato just pulled from the vine, the pride taken in eating meals prepared with foods that we grew, or the undeniable entertainment provided by watching chickens be chickens.  Other motivations are much bigger and more complex and cut to the values by which we aim to live our lives.  Throughout our “Foundations” essays, we hope to touch on both the big and the small, the simple and the complex, the direct and the indirect.  Today, we’ll address a couple of the bigger and more complex issues.

Along with the explosive economic growth worldwide over the last half century, we have seen the scope of our individual world widen proportionally.  We are all now directly affected minute-to-minute in our daily lives by people and events a world away.  A part of that is the production of goods, services, and commodities that we rely on for survival, convenience, and entertainment.  Many of the things that were produced by or done by Americans are now produced by or done by people in other countries.  People who, due to political, economic, social, and cultural circumstances much different than our own, produce things and do tasks for a fraction of the wages that we would.  Why can we buy jeans for $15 at Wal-Mart?  Because a 14-year-old girl in China works for $0.30/hour, 70+ hours per week to make them (Read here, click the “View the chart” link at the bottom of the page).  It isn’t yet practical to outsource all perishable goods such as food, so much of the fresh food we eat is produced domestically.  However, even within our country, our fresh food system is very much dependent on the labor of immigrants.  In fact, three-quarters of hired farm workers in the US are immigrants, most of them undocumented.  As evidenced in Alabama’s recent hard-line immigration crackdown, our food system does not fare well when you take away the cheap imported labor.  All of this suggests that we are extremely disconnected from the sources of the goods and services upon which we rely.

Given that portrait of modern life, let’s consider some of the advantages to be had in a locally centered community economy.  Because we’re ultimately talking about farming, I’ll refer to the food systems of a community.  In a locally centered community, you know who grows your food and who makes your clothes.  If someone grows especially good food, everyone knows about it because everyone raves about it.  If someone grows subpar food or pollutes a waterway or mistreats employees, everyone will know it and many will decide not to buy from them and they will go out of business.  If you need to know how something is made or done, you likely know someone who knows how to make it or do it and will be aware of what goes into making it or doing it.  In a locally centered community, vibrant and quality businesses will thrive because they not only supply the community, but they also employ the community.  Furthermore, these businesses are also responsible to their community because the community is their customers and their employees.  In such a system, all stakeholders, consumers, producers, employers, employees, are invested in the local system and have a strong interest in making it work because their own interests and the community’s interests are one in the same.  Contrary to the situation depicted in the previous paragraph, all members are quite connected to the sources of their goods and services.

So why is the first situation reality and the second situation not?  We at LIG do not claim to have the training in economics to come close to answering that question, but there is one loud chorus in our culture that seems to have something to do with it.  In any news story, article, or column about the economy, the topic usually returns to the importance of growth.  For an economy to be considered healthy, it must continue to grow.  For the last several centuries, this worked quite well.  We had all sorts of frontiers to explore and resources to discover and we had the ingenuity to use them to our advantage.  We did such a good job that our population grew, and continues to grow, exponentially.  Currently, however, there are glimpses that continuous growth may not be advantageous or even possible.  Can we continue to feed 7 billion people with our existing land and water?  How about 10 billion?  Can we maintain our infrastructure using fossil fuels that will eventually run out?  And what about the drive for growth in personal economics?  In our society, we want the best and we want more of it.  We work long, hard hours so that we can enjoy our bigger houses (up in size almost 100% since 1970), bigger cars, and more gadgets.  In order to have it all, it has to be made cheaper.  So instead of dealing with unions and labor laws, companies find people in other parts of the world to make it for much less money and in much worse conditions.  Because we’re spending more money and time on other consumer goods and distractions, food gets a smaller and smaller slice of our pie, so we want it cheaper and easier.  In response, food producers have to find ways to constantly cut costs, which include things like confinement production of animals, cheap imported labor, government subsidies, cheaper but less-healthy processed foods, diminishing quality of fresh foods, and environmental disregard.

All of this can be very confusing and frustrating and the scale of it all can be very intimidating.  The culture, the social system, the government, and other systems all seem to be working against our best interests.  However, we find ourselves consoled by one simple fact.  We live in a capitalist system in a (relatively) free country.  We, and only we, control where our money is spent and where our efforts and passions are devoted.  Think about how your time and money are spent.  If you have an idea of how you want the world to be, find someone working toward that end and buy what they are selling!  Or better yet, find a way to do it yourself!

Thanks for reading and please comment.

Take care,

Michael

Wednesday
Jan042012

More than the planting and growing...

This post serves to introduce a series that we’re going to name “Foundations”.  In this series of posts, our aim is to present some of the ideas and themes that have brought us to where we are today and underlie our drive to change our lifestyle and begin farming and homesteading.  The topics of the “Foundations” posts will be many and varied, because agriculture is about more than just farming and food.  It is directly connected to health, public policy, economics, national/regional security, culture, the environment, spirituality, and many other facets of life.  So, this series of posts is going to be kind of like 8th Grade Social Studies class, except it’s way more interesting than Mr. Skiles was.  We will touch on some ideas that may not resonate perfectly with everyone’s personal schema of how the world works.  That’s perfectly OK.  The world is plenty big for us to have different ideas, especially if we can agree to talk about them respectfully and deliberately.   We encourage you to participate in this activity by commenting on the posts. 

In the coming days we’ll post the first volume on economy and community.

Take care,

Michael

Tuesday
Jan032012

The LIG Email List!

The email list is up!  See the "Keepin' Up with LIG" section to the right.  Just enter in you email address, click "Subscribe", complete the form, and you will receive emails from us upon any updates, important news, or funny stories.  This will be the primary line of communication for any news, updates, or funny anecdotes, so sign up today!

Thursday
Dec222011

Keepin' Up with LIG

You can see in the frame to the right of this page a section titled "Keepin' Up with LIG".  That little section will be home to links to various ways of following all of our internet goings-on.  It currently is home to only an RSS feed for this journal, but it will soon also have a sign-up for an email list and a link to a Facebook page.  If you click on the "Journal RSS" link, it will take you to a page that lists all of the new posts to the journal.  This in and of itself is not all that useful, but subscribing to the RSS feed can be.  

For those of you unfamiliar with RSS feeds (as I was until I set this one up), it is a way to keep notified of page updates without actually visiting the website.  The nice part about it is that you can sign up to feeds from all of your favorite sites and see the most recent updates from all of the sites on one page.  In order to do this, you must use an RSS reader.  There are many readers, but I have only worked out how to subscribe to the RSS feed through Google Reader, which is described in the next paragraph.  If anyone has any further tips or insight into RSS feeds, please feel free to contribute in the comments section.

Subscribing in Google Reader:  Go to Google Reader here.  Enter your Google ID & password if you have one, or get one if you don't.  Once you are signed in, click on the big red "SUBSCRIBE" button to the top left of the page.  That will bring up a small text box in which you should type in "letitgrowfarm.squarespace.com" and then hit 'Enter'.  That should bring up a results page and we should be right at the top.  Make sure to select the 'Journal' page and then click on 'Subscribe'.  Then, any time you open up Google Reader our posts to the Journal should be included.

Unless you already rely on RSS feeds to get updates on the things you like to follow online, the email list will probably be a simpler method for you.  I hope to have that set up within a few days and will let you know as soon as I do.

Take care,

Michael