25+ Foods With More Sugar Than You Think

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Are the negative health effects of sugar starting to freak you out?

Maybe you’ve tossed your candy, cookies, and daily desserts aside in the interest of eating healthier. That’s a great start, but in all likelihood, it’s only making a dent in your overall sugar consumption.

The truth is, most processed foods have far more sugar than you would expect from their taste alone. Sugar is used both as a preservation agent and a flavor mask when companies pull the fat content out of food, meaning that even seemingly savory dishes like tomato soup can be loaded with a full day’s supply.

Today, the average adult consumes almost 32 teaspoons (126 grams) of added sugars a day, much of it in seemingly healthy foods. In contrast, the American Health Organization1)http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.WgH1KWhSxPZ suggests that adults eat no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons (36 grams) a day. This means that most people are eating four or more times the sugar they should—and much of it comes in forms they aren’t even aware of.

Navigating this world of added sugar is anything but easy, as most food manufacturers are keen to keep you in the dark about what their products genuinely contain. Understanding where added sugar lurks in your daily diet is the first step toward cutting it out for good, and this article is designed to show you how.

But first, why is sugar so dangerous in the first place?

Why Is Sugar Bad for You?

It might be hard to think of your daily candy bar as devastating for your body, but health research consistently shows that sugar might be one of the most damaging substances you can consume. Because the human body evolved during a time when sugar was scarce, it’s hardly surprising that our bodies haven’t adjusted to the plentiful portions available today.

This means that the approximately 300 to 500 empty calories from sugar you eat daily may someday lead to a variety of negative symptoms, including type 2 (and 3) diabetes, cancer, cavities, broken bones, general malaise, and more. Sugar has been linked to most chronic diseases, and cutting down your consumption is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health.

Creating Marketing Tactics in the Sugar Industry

It’s wrong to assume that the added sugar in processed food is an innocent mistake; in contrast, it’s part of a concentrated effort by the food industry to get us comfortable consuming more of their products.

In many ways, parallels can be drawn between sugar lobbies and the tobacco industry2)https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/a-big-tobacco-moment-for-the-sugar-industry, as both invest billions of dollars to circumvent scientific research and find new ways to convince consumers that their products aren’t as dangerous as they seem.

For instance, during World War 1, sugar was advertised as a quick energy builder that could build muscles in minutes, making it a practically patriotic item to ration for America’s soldiers.3)https://food.avclub.com/how-wwi-food-propaganda-forever-changed-the-way-america-1798259481 Later, it was advertised almost exclusively as a “chemically pure food” because of the lack of other ingredients contaminating its chemical structure—that these missing components were essential vitamins and minerals was conveniently left out.4)http://www.businessinsider.com/vintage-sugar-as-diet-aid-ads-2014-10.

Finally, rebranding sugar as a “carbohydrate” moved it from the realm of dessert to the largest food group. Most people know that they are supposed to eat several servings of carbs each day, and putting refined sugar into the same nutritional category as brown rice makes it seem significantly less threatening.5)https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/refined-sugar-toxic-to-your-health/

Thanks in part to this clever marketing, Americans have moved from consuming 60 pounds of sugar a year in the 1920s to over 130 pounds annually today.6)https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/refined-sugar-toxic-to-your-health/ And in most cases, this sugar isn’t coming from homemade cookies—it’s found in a pernicious variety of hidden forms on supermarket shelves.

Where Is ‘Hidden’ Sugar Most Common?

It’s usually bad for business if companies let on about how much sugar their products contain, so the food industry has devised clever ways of concealing the sugar content in food. Today, there are almost 40 industrial names for sugar, including brown rice syrup, carob syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, sucrose, and more.7)https://www.rodalewellness.com/food/scary-sugar-statistics A cursory look at a food label often isn’t enough to track all these sugar references, which is what companies rely on to get their product in your shopping cart.

These 25 foods may shock you with their sugar content, and finding ways to quarter your daily consumption might come down to addressing their role in your diet today.

Remember: your daily sugar consumption should be around 30 grams, meaning many of these foods can put you close to the limit with a single serving.

#1. Barbeque Sauce

While this savory seasoning is synonymous with picnics and roasted meats, it packs a punch of sugar that will likely surprise you. Just one tablespoon contains at least 6 grams, and even a modest plate of ribs will quickly pile on 20 grams or more.

#2. Flavored Yogurt

Though touted as a health food, overly flavored yogurt can contain as much sugar as a candy bar. Fruit-filled flavors and brands marketed toward children tend to be the sweetest, and beware any advertised as “low fat.” It’s common for companies to make up for lost flavor in low-fat varieties by filling the void with added sugars instead, meaning the “healthier” product often has the same number of calories as the full-fat version. Many yogurts contain between 19 and 33 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving, making your “healthy” snack little better than a scoop of ice cream.

A better option? Buy your yogurt plain and add in your own fruit.

#3. Pasta Sauce

Few people think of spaghetti sauce as a sweet topping, but processed tomato products are notorious for being off the charts with their sugar content. While some of this sugar comes naturally from the tomatoes, it’s also added as a preservative and flavor enhancer. A single half-cup serving can contain 12 grams of sugar or more, and the damage is multiplied when you pair it with a starchy pasta that quickly breaks down into simple sugars in your digestive system.

#4. Soda

You know that soda contains tons of added sugar, but the overall amounts may still be shocking. A single 8-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 29 grams, and a medium-sized fast food drink has 44 grams.

Even worse? Energy drinks.

These caffeinated cans are veritable sugar bombs, and some brands pack in 83 grams of sugar per serving.

#5. Agave

Being found in “healthy” foods doesn’t make this natural sweetener any better for your body than traditional table sugar. In fact, agave is 85 percent fructose, meaning that it strains your body when the liver metabolizes it. Despite convincing marketing by agave suppliers, your body is better equipped to handle sucrose-based cane sugar (though neither form has many redeeming qualities for your health).

#6. Instant Oatmeal

Oatmeal can be an ideal health food, but instant packets are usually stuffed with added sugar—as much as 15 grams per serving. For a healthier option that still has enough sweetness to keep you satisfied, opt for plain oatmeal and add fresh apple slices and cinnamon.

#7. Granola Bars (and Granola in General)

More often than one would prefer, granola bars are merely rebranded candy bars. Their chocolatey coatings can quickly add up to 12 grams or more of added sugar, and even “naked” varieties usually contain concentrated servings of fruit mixed with honey, corn syrup, brown sugar, and other sweeteners.

A bowl of granola can be equally damaging with 10 grams of sugar or more per half cup, and it’s all too easy to eat multiple servings in a single sitting. If you simply need to satisfy your sweet tooth, toss a small handful into your plain yogurt to ensure you maintain a healthy serving size.

#8. Breakfast Cereal

As with granola, almost all cereal brands are bad news for your sugar levels. Even “adult” brands like Raisin Bran contain 18 grams per cup (with about 9 grams of that coming from the raisins)[ https://www.huffingtonpost.com/hemi-weingarten/raisin-bran-deconstructed_b_552981.html], meaning that you can easily get much of your sugar content for the day within an hour of waking up.

#9. Salad Dressing

What’s the easiest way to compromise the nutritional content of your salad? Coat it in sugary dressings. Sweet, fruity vinaigrettes can pass on 5 to 7 grams of sugar in just two tablespoons, turning your healthy salad into an unexpected sugar bomb. To avoid the threat, use a light homemade vinegar dressing and toss in some fresh fruit instead.

#10. Dried Fruit

As healthy as it sounds, dried fruit can quickly cause you to overload on sugar. Most brands list sugar as their second ingredient, and a 1/3 cup serving can quickly top 24 grams. You aren’t much safer if you stick to brands without added sugar, as the drying process concentrates fruit sugars in each piece, meaning that a half cup of dried apples can contain the same amount of sugar as two to three fresh ones, or 40 to 60 grams of sugar.

#11. Coleslaw

It turns out this supposedly healthy side dish is often anything but. A standard serving can contain at least 15 grams of sugar, usually because of the sugary vinaigrette that the cabbage gets drenched in. The good news? Making your own lets you control the sugar content and can let you keep this dish in your food repertoire.

#12. Bottled Tea

Staying away from juice and soda might be second nature for you, but it’s easy to forget that bottled sweet tea can be just as damaging. Many brands contain upwards of 32 grams per bottle, maxing out your sugar quota for the day in a single carton. A better choice is brewing your own and adding lemon juice for flavor instead of sweeteners.

#13. Ketchup

French fries’ favorite companion boasts an impressive sugar content. At 4 grams per tablespoon, it’s best to keep in mind that those squirts add up. For sugar-free flavor, stick to mustard or malt vinegar instead.

#14. Sushi

What could be unhealthy about rice and vegetables? In truth, cheap supermarket sushi contains much more than these wholesome ingredients. Sushi rice usually contains added sugar, and the imitation crab meat, sweet and sour sauces, and rice vinegar all lead to 2 to 4 grams of sugar per piece. If you wish to indulge, stick with high-quality sushi and sashimi instead.

#15. Smoothies

The term “smoothie” can refer to anything from a wheatgrass blend to pureed frozen yogurt, so making comprehensive statements about their sugar content is close to impossible. To keep yourself from sipping on a sugar trap, stick with homemade varieties that rely on plain yogurt and fruits and vegetables for nutrition. Otherwise, you risk having your “health drink” really be a fruity form of ice cream.

#16. Most Bread

It’s no surprise that white bread is filled with sugar, but the amount in most “healthy” breads may astound you. Many wheat breads are only brown because of caramel coloring, and a single sandwich can give you 3 to 5 grams of sugar from the bread alone. Be especially careful with premade sandwiches in the supermarket deli—many contain sugary dressings to remove bitter tastes. Bagels, muffins, and English muffins are even more sugar prone, especially if you top them with jam or peanut butter.

#17. Canned Baked Beans

Most canned foods have the potential to be a disaster for your health, but baked beans are especially notorious for their sugar content, which can top 30 grams per can. The good news is that making your own is easy, and the results are far more tasty and nutritious than their canned counterparts.

#18. Fruity Muffins

Despite its name, an apple-oatmeal muffin is rarely a health food. Many commercial muffins have quadrupled in size in the past decades, and their sugar content has increased to the point that they are basically personal-sized cakes. Treat these muffins like the dessert they really are by eating them in moderation.

#19. Alcohol

Mixed drinks pack a major punch of added sugar into your daily life, and overindulging on Friday nights won’t do your body any favors. One pint of hard cider can contain 20 grams or more of sugar, and sweet white wines can top 6 grams per glass. If you must imbibe, stick to dry red wines, as they tend to have less sugar—or fully fermented white or red wines[http://www.dryfarmwines.com/thegrownetwork], which are statistically sugar free.

#20. Canned Soup

It goes without saying that canned soup is high in sodium, but this classic processed food also contains more than its fair share of sweeteners. Like salt, sugar works as a preservative to extend soup’s shelf life, and a single can often contains 15 grams or more. In fact, canned tomato soup easily tops 25 grams per serving, so you might be better off leaving it on the shelf.

#21. Frozen Dinners

Who knew meat and veggies could be so sweet? It’s shocking how much sugar can be found in these classic convenience foods, but one look at labels reveals that 30 to 40 grams of sugar per serving isn’t uncommon, WITHOUT counting the dessert.

#22. Natural Fruit Juice

It’s clear to most that it’s best to avoid high fructose corn syrup, but even natural sugars can have negative effects on your body. Eating a piece of fresh fruit provides your body with fiber, but just drinking the juice gives your system a rush of sugar that’s hard to process. Just one cup of unsweetened apple juice provides 25 grams of sugar.

#23. Canned Fruit

Canned fruit companies seemingly never got the memo that fruit is naturally sweet, because most forms are loaded with sugar-filled juices and syrups that act as preservatives. A single cup of canned fruit contains 30 grams or more of sugar, meaning you might as well eat seven Oreos and be done with it.

#24. Instant Gravy

Does your meatloaf really need an injection of extra sugar? Then stay away from instant gravy. In fact, since many types also contain palm oil and artificial colors and preservatives, sugar might be the safest ingredient in this side dish. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to skip out on the 2 grams of sugar per serving it contains.

#25. Peanut Butter

Though peanut butter sandwiches are a staple of childhood, many brands contain over 3 grams of sugar per serving. To avoid any added ingredients, stick to natural brands, and top your sandwich with fresh fruit, not jelly.

Bonus: #26. Infant Formula

Does your newborn baby need sugar? Then why on earth is it an ingredient in many infant formulas? Many U.S. formula brands contain corn syrup and sugar, but these companies often aren’t required to list their nutritional information.8)http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/target-5-sugar-baby-formula-139339308.html However, research shows that many brands include around 3 grams of sugar per serving.

Because sugar addiction starts young and can last for life, it’s important to think twice before feeding sweetened formula to your infant.

Less Sugar = Better Health

Hidden sugar is found in almost every processed food available today, but there’s a lot you can do to keep your levels in check and avoid the chronic disease it causes.

By avoiding these 25 sugar bombs in the grocery store, you can dramatically lower your daily consumption … and enjoy the sugar that you do you consume with more gusto—and better health.Save

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References   [ + ]

1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.WgH1KWhSxPZ
2. https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/a-big-tobacco-moment-for-the-sugar-industry
3. https://food.avclub.com/how-wwi-food-propaganda-forever-changed-the-way-america-1798259481
4. http://www.businessinsider.com/vintage-sugar-as-diet-aid-ads-2014-10
5, 6. https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/refined-sugar-toxic-to-your-health/
7. https://www.rodalewellness.com/food/scary-sugar-statistics
8. http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/target-5-sugar-baby-formula-139339308.html

The post 25+ Foods With More Sugar Than You Think appeared first on The Grow Network.

Cancer’s #1 Favorite Food

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There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cancer and what causes it, but everyone seems to agree on at least one thing:

Treating cancer is expensive. Preventing it can be a lot cheaper.

Nearly 1.6 million Americans faced a cancer diagnosis in 2014 (the most recent year for which numbers are available),1)https://nccd.cdc.gov/USCSDataViz/rdPage.aspx with a cost of care that, in some cases, ranged upwards of $115,000.2)https://costprojections.cancer.gov/annual.costs.html

Yet, while study after study has shown that diet plays a major role in whether a person gets cancer, and that people tend to make healthier food choices when they’re eating at home,3)https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier Americans allocate less money toward food consumed at home than pretty much anyone else in the world. For example, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service,4)https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx we spend 6.4 percent of our income on eating at home, while the Finnish spend twice that and the Venezuelans spend triple that percentage.

And it’s not just people in other countries who spend more of their income on food. Our grandparents did, too. Back in 1960, Americans spent about 17.5 percent of their income on all food—including what they ate at home and what they ate out. Now, we spend about 10 percent of our income on eating, regardless of where it takes place.5)http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do

These numbers represent a disturbing shift in our national mindset. We’ve moved from a time when soils were healthier and food was more nutritious and generally less processed—but more expensive—to the present day, when the soils used in commercial agriculture are more depleted, the produce grown in them is less nutritious, and widely available foods are more processed—but also more affordable.

Simply put, Americans are not used to paying what high-quality food costs anymore.

Even people with access to sustainably produced, locally grown food via a farmer’s market, natural grocery store, or CSA often struggle with the cost. These products are more expensive to grow or raise—and therefore more expensive to buy.

But even though processed, packaged foods are sometimes cheaper than their sustainably produced, whole-food alternatives, their true cost can be astronomical.

According to Dr. Raymond Francis, author of Never Fear Cancer Again, disease has only two possible causes: toxicity and malnutrition.

The foods that increase cancer risk often contribute to both.

The bottom line is that we can pay more now for healthier foods and the deeper nutrition and reduced toxicity that come with them—whether we’re paying financially or, if we’re backyard food producers, through an investment of time and energy—or we can pay more later to treat the diseases that can stem from malnutrition and toxicity. As one young TEDx speaker, Birke Baehr, put it back in 2011, “We can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital.”6)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvVZwJbs54c

In the end, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of cancer is by eating the diet we all know we should—filled with high-quality vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats.

If you’re not quite there yet, and you’re interested in reducing your risk of cancer by cleaning up your diet, the following list of carcinogenic (or potentially carcinogenic) foods is a good place to start. You can improve your health even further by replacing them with foods from our list of 30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods.

One final note: As you read this list, remember the old adage that “the dose makes the poison.” Even water, which everyone would agree is absolutely essential for life, can kill you if you drink too much at once.7)https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill While it’s best to avoid these foods on a consistent basis, most of them probably won’t hurt you if they’re consumed every once in a while. After all, what’s a BLT without the bacon?

  • Sugar: Cancer has a favorite food. It’s sugar. Without it, cancer cells can’t grow and spread—in fact, they need almost 50 times more sugar to function than regular cells, according to Dr. Nasha Winters, author of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. In addition, up to 80 percent of cancers are fueled by glucose and insulin, in one way or another.8)http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/recent-observations-indicate-cancer-cells-readily-utilize-fructose-support-proliferation-and It’s easy to see why too much sugar in the diet is a very bad thing. In fact, the less refined sugar, the better!
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Our bodies turn the ethanol in alcoholic drinks into acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. In addition to damaging the body’s DNA and keeping cells from being able to perform repairs, alcohol also increases estrogen levels in the blood (a contributor to breast cancer), prevents the body from absorbing several nutrients, and may contain carcinogenic contaminants.9)https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet#q3 It should be noted, however, that red wine contains resveratrol, a substance that has been shown to have anticancer properties.10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28123566 While the substance itself has been widely studied, only a few studies have looked at whether drinking red wine reduces a person’s cancer risk.
  • Tobacco: This one’s no surprise. While tobacco is lovely when used for plant gratitude, and Native American cultures believe it offers its own gift of interpretation to help with disputes, it can wreak havoc on a person’s body when it’s smoked or chewed. Smoking tobacco, inhaling secondhand smoke, or using smokeless tobacco—whether chewing tobacco or snuff—all put loads of carcinogenic chemicals into your body.11)https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
  • Processed Meats: Defined as any meat that’s been preserved through curing, being salted or smoked, or by other means, processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats including corned beef, salami, pepperoni, capocollo, bologna, mortadella, and ham. They are categorized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “carcinogenic to humans.”12)https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf Scientists suspect that the nitrite preservatives contained in processed meats are what causes the harm. The body can convert these nitrites into N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), which damage cells in the bowel lining. To heal the damage, cells replicate more often, which in turn provides more opportunities for DNA replication errors.
  • Red Meat: Beef, lamb, and pork contain heme iron, a naturally occurring red pigment that helps form carcinogenic compounds in the body and has toxic effects on cells and genes.13)http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/2/177 It’s important to note that, in their research, scientists are lumping industrially produced red meat together with meat from animals raised on a natural, healthy diet. There’s no discussion in the scientific community on whether meat of healthier animals—such as cows fed and finished on grass—has the same negative effects.
  • Charred Meats: Grilling meat at high temperatures can produce heterocyclic amines and polycyclic amines, both of which can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.14)http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer
  • Salt-Preserved Foods: In addition to the processed, salt-cured meats mentioned above, this category includes salted fish and some pickled vegetables. The IARC lists Chinese-style salted fish as carcinogenic, but hasn’t yet made a determination on whether other types of salted fish increase the risk of cancer in humans.
  • Coffee: Is it, or isn’t it? Thanks to a recent lawsuit, coffee’s been in the news lately. At issue is the fact that roasting coffee beans causes the formation of acrylamide, a naturally occurring substance that has the potential to interact with DNA.15)http://www.newsweek.com/fear-coffee-causes-cancer-prompts-california-add-warning-labels-672831?yptr=yahoo Coffee isn’t the only culprit, though. Acrylamide develops in many foods when they are cooked at high temperatures for a long time (think baking, frying, and toasting, in addition to roasting). This year, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency launched a “Go for Gold” campaign to encourage people to avoid overcooking foods—thus minimizing the creation of acrylamide—by aiming for a finished color of golden yellow or lighter.16)https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/reduce-acrylamide-consumption Despite the fact that coffee contains acrylamides, the popular beverage offers several other health benefits. So many, actually, that the American Institute for Cancer Research includes coffee on its list of Foods That Fight Cancer.
  • Areca nuts: About 10 percent of the world’s population still chews this addictive berry. It’s been shown to have several ill effects on the body, and is linked to numerous cancers.17)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080659
  • Artificial Sweeteners: According to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the link between artificial sweeteners and cancer is inconclusive—but possible. Since some studies have shown a correlation between the two in lab animals, the current recommendation is to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharine altogether.18)https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may-2015/FOH-cancer-love-sugar.html[/note]
  • Toothpaste: Okay, so, technically toothpaste is not a food, but it made this list because it’s ingestible and some formulations may contain disperse blue 1, a dye that’s listed by the IARC as possibly carcinogenic to humans—and that’s also used as a hair and fabric dye.19)https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/disperseblue1.pdf Worth keeping an eye on!
  • Very Hot Beverages: Studies in cultures where people typically drink their tea or mate at about 149°F (70°C) have found a correlation between very hot beverages and the risk of esophageal cancer. But, unless you keep a thermometer handy when you’re drinking your morning Joe, how are you supposed to know how hot is too hot? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to sip it to be able to drink it, let it cool a bit first.

What about you? What’s your take on what causes cancer—and what you can do to prevent it? Leave us a comment below!

(This article was originally published on October 2, 2017.)

 

References   [ + ]

1. https://nccd.cdc.gov/USCSDataViz/rdPage.aspx
2. https://costprojections.cancer.gov/annual.costs.html
3. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier
4. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx
5. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do
6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvVZwJbs54c
7. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill
8. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/recent-observations-indicate-cancer-cells-readily-utilize-fructose-support-proliferation-and
9. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet#q3
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28123566
11. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
12. https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf
13. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/2/177
14. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer
15. http://www.newsweek.com/fear-coffee-causes-cancer-prompts-california-add-warning-labels-672831?yptr=yahoo
16. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/reduce-acrylamide-consumption
17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080659
18. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may
19. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/disperseblue1.pdf

The post Cancer’s #1 Favorite Food appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, May Certification Graduates!

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Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in May!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Sharon Companion
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Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in May!

  • Downing
  • Nanciann Lamontagne

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members on completing Home Medicine 101:

  • david jones
  • ginaBacigalupo Zappia
  • goldenangel0819760
  • JessicaPatel
  • Kerry Lowe
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  • Nanciann Lamontagne
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Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in May:

  • ChimneyFieldFarm
  • Daviddulock
  • Diane Massey
  • jbartlett
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Whtwtrldy

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Suzette Carlin

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Medicine,” “Growing Mushrooms,” “Raising Ducks,” “Beekeeping,” and “Growing Medical Marijuana.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

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Awesome Information Resources (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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We’re guessing that, like us, you’re constantly striving to improve your garden and your gardening methods … to make your composting processes a little bit more efficient … to strengthen the microbial activity in your soil a little bit more … to improve your favorite vegetable variety through seed saving and experimentation … and the list goes on!

And while you can achieve those goals by yourself, no one would argue that getting a little help from others makes the process a whole lot smoother, faster, and more fun!

So where do our Community members turn when they’re looking for advice and information on gardening, homesteading, and home medicine (besides The Grow Network, of course!)?

We asked them recently and compiled the following list of recommended resources. (Many thanks to Fibrefarmer, Marcia, Mary Kathryn, Permies949, Scott Sexton, tracyWandling, and all the other TGN Community members who contributed their ideas!)

Wildcrafting, Foraging, and Plant Identification

  • Eat the Weeds (blog and educational resources about foraging and edible wild plants)
  • Plants for a Future (database containing the edible, medicinal, and other uses of more than 7,000 plants)

Gardening, Farming, and Permaculture

  • Acres USA (Marjory says, “Mostly geared towards small farmers, the in-depth articles on a particular crop are great.”)
  • Your local Extension office (Merin says, “The climate and wildlife here (SW Colorado) are so different from those where I used to live (SE Texas) that it has been really helpful to be able to speak to our Extension agent and fellow Master Gardeners in this area to learn how to tackle some of the differences. A lot of them are also a wealth of information on organic and permaculture practices that work in this area….”)
  • MIgardener.com (gardening products and information)
  • North Texas Vegetable Gardeners Facebook group (“I love this group because it’s focused on gardening in my region,” says TGN’s social media manager Ruth Reyes-Loiacan. “It’s nice to have a large community of local people doing the same thing. Currently, the group has 29,000 members!”)
  • Permies (Of this forum for permaculturists and homesteaders, tracyWandling says, “It has a category for just about everything, and a wide variety of contributors of all levels who share their experiences and expertise with readers. It’s a great place to ask questions and interact with others who are doing the same things you are and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Great site.”)
  • PermaEthos (educational and community-building site)
  • Permaculture Apprentice (permaculture-related resources)
  • Permaculture Design Magazinere (contains articles on eco-regeneration, broadscale farming systems, agroforestry, home garden design, and community action)
  • Permaculture Magazine (magazine for permaculture enthusiasts covers all aspects of life)
  • Praxxus55712 YouTube channel (Marcia says she also recommends the YouTube channel WisconsinGarden.)
  • Self-Reliant School (information on growing, cooking, and preserving food)
  • Stacey Murphy/BK Farmyards (offers educational training about backyard farming and real food)
  • Tenth Acre Farm: Permaculture for the Suburbs (information on micro-farming)

Homesteading and Sustainability

  • BackYard Chickens (Merin adds that, with nearly 100,000 members—many of whom are both knowledgeable and willing to share information—the related Backyard Chickens Facebook group is also a great resource for backyard chicken keepers.)
  • Food in Jars Community Facebook group (Wendy Meredith says it offers “great ideas and new recipes on how to can much of what I produce.”)
  • MelissaKNorris.com (information on raising, preserving, and preparing food; home of the Pioneering Today podcast)
  • Mother Earth News Magazine (articles on homesteading and organic gardening, with a focus on self-sufficiency and sustainability)
  • The Prairie Homestead (blog offering homesteading advice)
  • Starry Hilder’s Off-Grid Homestead (blog about off-grid homesteading)
  • The Survival Podcast (online talk show about modern survivalism, sustainability, and alternative energy)

Health and Herbalism

Finally, regardless of the category, remember that your local library likely offers myriad excellent, free resources. “My library is a tremendous source of inspiration,” says TGN Community member Fibrefarmer. “They have the best books for the best price (free), but I have to give them back after a few weeks :(.  But still, it saves money, and they let me borrow the books as many times as I need. If they don’t have the book, they can order a copy or borrow it from another library via interlibrary loan.”

What about you? Is your favorite resource on this list? If not, let us know about it by leaving us a note in the comments!

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The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

 

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3 Expert Tomato Growers Share Their Best Tips

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Name: James Worley
Home Digs: Kansas City, MO
Business: KC Tomato Times
Blog: KCTomatoTimes.wordpress.com
Follow on Social Media: KC Tomato Times (Facebook)
Fast Fact: I won the 2017 World Championship Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Claim to Fame: I’ve been growing rare tomato varieties for over a decade and have grown almost 800 types so far. I pride myself on growing the most hearty, tough, and ready-to-plant seedlings available in the area. I also host a tomato tasting each year on the first Saturday in August. This will be our 10th annual event! We’ve had as many as 100 different types of ripe fruit in years past, but always have at least 40–50 types for people to taste and experience the uniqueness of each variety.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Soil building is key. I make my own soil for my raised beds with locally produced compost mixed with peat, perlite, and vermiculite in an 8-1-1-1 ratio. I do not use manures as they tend to be too high in nitrogen. I fertilize with Tomato-tone when I plant and then every 3 weeks throughout the season.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Mulch is your friend. Use some sort of mulch to keep your soil moisture consistent. Also, I prefer silver reflective film, as this keeps the moisture in and the weeds out, and it bounces light under the leaves to drive off insect invaders like aphids and hornworms. It is very shiny and you’ll need sunglasses when working with it, but you can see your garden from outer space!

Favorite Tomato Variety: Carbon is hands down the best I have ever grown. It has deep, complex flavors and a beautiful purple color, and is fairly disease resistant and very productive. I plant at least a dozen Carbon in my gardens every year.

Sharin’ the Love: I’m an educator at heart and in my profession. I make sure that anyone who buys my plants knows the best way to plant them, care for them, and eat them as well. I’m available year-round by e-mail to help gardeners with questions they may have. As for ripe tomatoes, we eat them at home in myriad ways; however, I love to take in a box of ripe tomatoes and other vegetables from my garden to local restaurants and trade them for delicious meals or have the chefs prepare them for me in their own special ways.

Read More: “TGN Talks Tomatoes With Dave Freed, Local Changemaker”

 

Robin Wyll, Tomatoes

Nominee: Robin Wyll
Home Digs: Woodinville, WA
Business: Robin’s Gourmet Garden (Nursery)
Website: GrowTomatoSauce.com
Follow On Social Media At: Robin’s Gourmet Garden (Facebook)
Fast Fact: Well, besides gardening, my other obsessions are theater and politics, so, of course, I can rap the entire opening number of the musical Hamilton!

Claim to Fame: I grow tomato sauce—125–200 pounds of tomatoes from 36 plants! I roast them, puree, and freeze about 2–3 gallons each year for winter meals. People asked me for help, so I created a website to help inspire others. People also asked me for cuttings, so I started a business raising around 1,800 heirloom tomato plants (nine varieties) and selling them directly to customers as well as supplying five stores. Customers say my varieties are unique in the local market and more robust than industry-grown options.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Test your soil for everything down to the trace elements, and then mineralize accordingly. I started this five years ago after reading Steve Solomon’s book The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food, and it made a world of difference in my tomato production. Also, to get the most flavor out of your tomatoes, do not water the plants during the 24 hours before you pick the fruit. Watering just dilutes the sugars in the tomatoes, thereby diluting the flavor.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Here in the Pacific Northwest, the biggest challenge is wildly fluctuating weather conditions. Sometimes the temperature will drop 20–30 degrees overnight, and we tend to get a lot of rain off and on throughout the summer. My solution is twofold. I select varieties that mature in fewer than 85 days, and I grow them under a protective shelter that can be opened up during good weather for air flow and pollination. The goals are to keep the leaves from getting rained on, which can lead to fungal issues, and to hold in the heat as much as possible. This method allows me to plant tomatoes in April when it’s still pretty cool and wet and extends the harvest into November.

Favorite Tomato Variety: My single favorite tomato variety is Speckled Roman, because my goal is to freeze as much tomato puree as I can—and the Speckled Roman is thick and meaty with few seeds and excellent, rich flavor. Some of the fruit will grow to more than one pound each—and it is so dense that you can grill the slices. My preferred pick for salsa is Black Sea Man, which is a Russian variety that produces lots of beefsteak-type tomatoes that are a beautiful mottled deep green and red with delicious sweet tomato flavor.

Sharin’ the Love: I share my 15 years of tomato-growing experience, failures, and successes via my website; I answer questions and share info related to my plant business on my Facebook page; and I share my expertise live by giving presentations to local garden clubs and, of course, in casual conversation. It seems that successfully growing tomatoes is a subject of great interest in my area. Plus, my tomato sauce gets around—lots of it went to college with my daughter, and I share it with neighbors and friends in the hopes of inspiring more people to try growing tomato sauce.

 

Leslie Doyle, Tomatoes

Nominee: Leslie Doyle
Home Digs: Las Vegas, NV
Business: Sweet Tomato Test Garden
Website: SweetTomatoTestGarden.com
Follow on Social Media: Leslie R. Doyle (Facebook)
Books Authored: Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat, self-published (1996); Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat (2nd edition), self-published (2002); Slam Dunk Easy Desert Gardening, self-published (2009)
Fast Fact: I actually don’t usually eat vegetable greens. I prefer berries; tree fruit; nuts; grilled steak, fish or chicken; and chocolate (yum!).

Claim to Fame: I wrote new directions for growing tomatoes and veggies in the desert—including new ways to irrigate and fertilize the farm or garden, a way to increase light on the plants, and a method to repel insects and avoid disease. I also developed a soil/compost that is very popular and widely used in the desert.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Help them be all that they can be. You get more reliable results when you grow a variety that is known for prolific production and then give them ample water, nutrients, and sun—and grow them in the right climate.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Gardening in Las Vegas is very, very different for new residents—and impossible for them without some coaching by a successful gardener. Growing here is actually easy, but there are growing rules. Wherever you live, pay attention to your plants, and learn how to fulfill their needs and diagnose their ailments.

Favorite Tomato Variety: My favorite tomato variety is Hawaiian Tropic for several reasons: It has an 8- to 10-ounce average size, is simply delicious, and is very prolific. It grows extremely well in our hot desert climate and has been disease resistant. Hawaiian Tropic tomato is only available through me at this time. I also like Juliet, a smaller Roma-like tomato. It is easy to grow, delicious, and an All-America Selections winner.

Sharin’ the Love: We sell our harvest here at the Sweet Tomato Test Garden and donate extra fruit to the Lutheran Social Services Food Panty. Some is also shared with friends. Over the years I have written articles and tips for various publications, including Organic Gardening magazine, where I worked for almost 10 years. I publish a subscription-based e-newsletter for desert gardeners, and I have decades of teaching and speaking experience at our Desert Gardening School, the library, our local university, civic events, and nurseries. People are welcome to visit my garden, and I am delighted to answer questions!

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The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

 

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TGN Talks Tomatoes With Dave Freed, Local Changemaker

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Nominee: Dave Freed

Home Digs: Cypress, CA

Blog: GrowTomatoesEasily.blogspot.com

Fast Fact: Known as “Dave, the Tomato Guy,” his motto is, If you don’t have a green thumb, I’ll give you one.

Nominated By: Tirzah S. | Hindsville, AR

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Tell us about your background—where you grew up, your education, and what career or life path led to your current role as a Master Gardener, speaker, and tomato enthusiast?

I live in Cypress, California (in Orange County), but I was born and raised in the Midwest in North Central Kansas on a farm with cows, pigs, chickens, corn, wheat—and always a big vegetable garden. We did lots of fishing and hunting, and we lived off the land. I remember hunting with my father for rabbits, squirrels, ducks, pheasants, etc., for our next meal. It was a hard life, but we always had food to eat. I suppose that’s where I got my roots for growing a garden. Eventually, we left Kansas and ended up in California. I have always grown an annual garden and always include tomatoes, as this is the one fruit you cannot buy in the supermarket with a great, homegrown taste.

I worked in the foodservice industry before owning a full-service restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, near the University of Southern California. About 10 years ago, I sold the restaurant and retired, figuring I would relax and enjoy life and probably become very bored within about six months and then get back out into the business world. That never happened, and I’ve never looked back.

I volunteered to become a Master Gardener in Orange County, where we volunteer our hours helping others with their gardens. My heart has always been about growing tomatoes, and I’ve always been a competitor. So, since growing tomatoes easily was always a challenge, I learned how to make it easier, more foolproof, and more simple. People began calling to ask if I would come speak to their group or organization and share my tips on how to grow tomatoes easily in an urban setting. Today, I speak to 15–30 southern California gardening clubs and organizations every year on how to grow tomatoes easily. Last year, I even started a blog. I tell people, “If you don’t have a green thumb, I’ll give you one.”

What do you think makes your techniques so easy to follow? What kind of feedback have you received from your “students”?

My motto may seem rather bold, but it’s really not. You see, if you go on my blog site, I show you pictures of the tomatoes I grow—some plants with more than 100 pounds of tomatoes on them. And I tell you specifically what I do to grow these great tomatoes: which potting mixes, soils, fertilizers, and tomato plants to buy. I explain when to plant and how to water. I give you no room for failure as long as you follow the suggestions. And I have people let me know all the time that they’ve grown tomatoes for years and never had so much success as they do now.

I don’t do everything from scratch. People tend to live in the fast lane and want hassle-free and time-saving methods to grow tomatoes in home gardens. Some people are enthusiastic organic growers, while others are not—I demonstrate how to produce great results either way.

I’ve always said that if I ever write a book, I’ll try to keep it to about eight pages. Short and to the point!

You’ve said you research growing techniques as a backyard farmer before sharing them on your blog and in gardening classes. Can you give us an example of a tip that you found to be a great success? How about one that fell flat?

An idea that was a success was using great potting soil for backyard tomatoes. I detail my steps in the tips below. Basically, use one of the three great potting soils I recommend, then mix in some composted steer manure with compost.

Until this discovery, I was like most others—simply mixing in compost with backyard dirt and planting tomatoes. They never did very well. And you never have to worry about planting in the same spot year after year. If you think you need to change the soil, you dig out the potting soil from the hole and replace it with new potting soil. This is one of the biggest improvements the backyard tomato farmer can make.

An idea that fell flat was grafted tomatoes—attaching a disease-resistant, hearty rootstock to your favorite top, such as the heirloom Brandywine. This was supposed to result in a great root system that produced a huge top with lots of your favorite tomatoes. For several years, I would plant a grafted Brandywine next to a Brandywine with its original roots. Every year, the original Brandywine outperformed the grafted one by a large margin.

You’ve taught others to build self-watering containers. What makes you such a big proponent?

Self-watering containers have been around for a long time. You can find many different designs online. The one thing they all have in common is that they have a water reservoir at the bottom of the container that will hold water for the plants to use as needed.

Remember, a full-grown tomato plant will use 2 to 3 gallons of water every day. Most of the time we do a lousy job of consistently watering our gardens and tomatoes. Self-watering containers help to keep those roots moist—and even more so if you are using great potting soil.

You frequently yield 100+ pounds of tomatoes on a single plant. Can you share some tips for prolific production that are universal across climates and growing regions?

Sunshine. Tomato plants convert sunlight into food and energy. The more sunshine—especially morning sun—the more food and energy your tomato plant has to produce a big top with lots and lots of tomatoes.

Soil. This is probably where the biggest advantage can be gained by the average tomato farmer. I first recommend you dig a hole at least 2 feet deep and 2 feet in diameter. Throw away the dirt, and fill the hole with water to make sure it drains. Then I suggest filling the hole with at least a 15-gallon container of one of the three potting mixes that I mention on my blog, followed by mixing in a little bit of composted steer manure. Plant one tomato plant in the middle of that hole.

Why do I suggest one of these three potting mixes? Because they contain a very large amount of sphagnum peat moss, and 1 pound of sphagnum peat moss can hold up to 25 pounds of water. It’s like surrounding those roots 24/7 with a sponge, which promotes a big root system, which promotes a big top with lots of tomatoes. A small root system gives you a bonsai tomato plant. . . . I know, because I’ve been there.

Schedule. For your city or ZIP code, look up historical weather averages for a guideline on planting tomatoes. They generally need 50- to 55-degree nights to produce pollen—no pollen, no tomatoes. Once temperatures rise to 85 degrees and warmer, tomato plants will generally quit producing pollen. That is your window. (And, yes, there are tomato plants that will produce tomatoes in 90-degree weather.)

Variety. If you plant a lousy variety, you are going to get lousy results. My blog site shows you different varieties that will give you lots of tomatoes—and I mention them in the next question as well. If possible, pick one of those to plant, and buy a live plant.

Watering. A mature tomato plant can easily use up to 3 gallons of water every day. Try to water in the morning, as excess water on the leaves or surface of the soil will evaporate quickly, whereas evening watering leaves the surface soil wet too long and invites disease.

How do you know when to water? Use a moisture meter. You can buy these at your brick-and-mortar stores or online. Stick the probe down into the soil, and the meter will read dry, moist, or wet. If the reading is on the dry/moist side, it’s time to water. Water down deep, slowly, about 18 inches to 2 feet. Using deep watering pipes can help. This water carries all the nutrients from the soil up to the tomatoes and the growing tips of the vines. And then 80 to 90 percent of that water evaporates out through the leaves.

Fertilizer. Tomato plants are very heavy users of fertilizer. If you do not remember anything else, remember to use only a liquid fertilizer that is recommended for tomatoes and/or vegetable gardens.

In liquid form, fertilizer can be taken up by the tomato plant almost immediately. In dry form, it can take weeks or months.

Tomato Cages. You will want to use a heavy-duty tomato cage to keep the tomatoes up off the soil. You can find these at your local nurseries or big-box stores. I like to use concrete-reinforcing wire and make my own approximately 2 feet in diameter and 5- or 6-feet tall, depending on the plant you’re growing. Some of my cages are 3 feet in diameter and 8-feet tall.

Do you have a favorite tomato variety?

There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes. Hybrids, heirlooms, determinants that grow like a bush, and indeterminates that grow like a vine.

  • My favorite hybrids are probably Better Boy, Big Beef, Husky Cherry Red, and Celebrity.
  • Top heirlooms are Pink Brandywine, Red Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple.

For the most part, these are all thin-skinned varieties with great flavor that produce many pounds of tomatoes per plant. Some other varieties produce very few tomatoes even under ideal conditions.

So if you see some of the above for sale in your area of the country, give them a try. No. 1, I recommend that people plant a great tomato each year that will give them lots of tomatoes. After that, try something new.

What do you do with all those tomatoes? Sell them through a farmers’ market, distribute them within the community, do a ton of canning—or give them away to lots of grateful friends?

I love the flavor of homegrown tomatoes, and growing them is a hobby I really enjoy. I do not sell any of my tomatoes. I do not can, freeze, or dry any either. I give away as many as I can to friends, relatives, neighbors, my barber, my dry cleaner, and so on. Sometimes, I just leave a box of fresh tomatoes on someone’s porch . . . and I haven’t had any returned yet!

What do you find most valuable about being part of The Grow Network community?

I come into contact with hundreds of people when I’m teaching. America is probably the most diverse nation on earth, with many differing views on life and politics. Vegetable gardens and homegrown tomatoes . . . turning back to the basics . . . healthy living and healthy eating—all these put us on the same page, and differences are forgotten. The Grow Network offers a forum for all of this, with something there for everyone. When we live life in the fast lane and finally slow down to enjoy a homegrown garden, it’s surprising how rewarding it can be.

 

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International Heritage Breeds Day 2018

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Nearly one in five of the world’s farm animal breeds are at risk of extinction.1)FAO. (2015). The Second Report on the State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Retrieved from www.fao.org/3/a-i4787e.pdf The reason? They’re underemployed.

For thousands of years, farmers have carefully bred and raised diverse animals perfectly suited to their corners of the world. These animals are well adapted to local environments and are designed to produce products that meet the needs of local communities. But over the past century, farming in many parts of the world has evolved into highly specialized operations designed to produce as much meat, milk, eggs, fiber, or other products as quickly as possible in order to maximize efficiency. For example, in 1927, the average American Holstein milk cow produced less than 4,500 pounds of milk per year. In 2017, she produced just shy of 23,000 pounds of milk2)USDA- National Agricultural Statistics Service (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/mlkpdi18.pdfmore than five times that of just 90 years ago!

While numbers like these are impressive, placing too much emphasis on productivity sometimes leads to the diminishment of traits like drought tolerance, parasite resistance, mothering abilities, fertility, foraging instincts, and even flavor.

Meanwhile, the populations of many slower growing but still incredibly valuable “Heritage” breeds have crashed. Livestock like Wiltshire Horn sheep, Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs, and Oberhasli goats can’t keep up and have now found themselves on endangered lists of conservation organizations around the world. Although heritage livestock and poultry may not be as efficient as mainstream breeds, they are important sources for valuable genetics and traits, protecting them from being lost.

In addition to animals known for food and fiber, rare equines have seen sharp declines, particularly over the past decade.

But there is still hope!

Today has been designated by fifteen livestock conservation organizations around the world as International Heritage Breeds Day to raise awareness about the status of rare farm animals, highlight examples of how they are still relevant to family farms, and bring choice to the marketplace. Breeds like Leicester Longwool sheep, Caspian horses, Tamworth pigs, Aylesbury ducks, Silver rabbits, Spanish chickens, and more than 1,400 other breeds worldwide need our help.

What’s the best way to support these breeds? By giving them a job!

Many livestock conservation organizations have compiled directories to help consumers locate products from breeds historically used in their local regions. By purchasing eggs from Heritage chickens, pork from Heritage pigs, milk from Heritage cattle, or wool from Heritage sheep, you encourage farmers to raise more animals, and can discover the difference in the kitchen and on the loom for yourself.

According to acclaimed French chef and proponent of Heritage breeds Antoine Westermann, “An animal who has pure roots, the life, and food he deserves, offers it back to us in his meat.” By establishing their spot in the marketplace, biodiversity for these Heritage breeds is secured.

To learn more about how you can get involved and where to locate Heritage breed products in your local area, visit HeritageBreedsWeek.org or call 919.542.5704.

 

References   [ + ]

1. FAO. (2015). The Second Report on the State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Retrieved from www.fao.org/3/a-i4787e.pdf
2. USDA- National Agricultural Statistics Service (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/mlkpdi18.pdf

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TGN Team Favorites: Hori-Hori Knife

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‘Tis the season—the gardening season, that is! Well, at least here in Texas, spring has officially sprung! As we’ve mentioned before, every member of The Grow Network team shares our Community’s values and produces some of our own food and medicine.

As we experiment, learn, and “grow” in gardening and homesteading wisdom,  we often come across some of the best gardening gems (besides our hands, of course!). The tool we’re featuring today is no exception: the hori-hori garden knife!

HORI-HORI GARDEN KNIFE

There are several brands that manufacture the hori-hori knife, and they all appear to be pretty comparable in quality and price.

KEY FEATURES

  • Double-edged blade—one side serrated, the other extra sharp
  • Embedded graded ruler
  • Replaces tools like trowels, weeds pullers, digging tools, bulb planters, and more! 
  • Ships with a premium leather sheath

Anthony Says: The hori-hori is my all-time favorite gardening tool. Pretty much anything from grafting fruit trees to starting spring seedlings, the hori-hori knife makes the job a little bit easier!

Marjory Says: I absolutely love the hori-hori gardening knife!  Stainless steel, planting depth measurements, tooth edges for cutting through roots (but also cuts irrigation, so be careful – ha, ha), full tang with three rivets in the handle so it doesn’t break under the typical abuse I tend to give tools. I just got one as a gift, and I love it! This is by far the most solid tool I have used!

Here are a few hori-hori knife options we found available on Amazon:

Hey, one more thing … Did you know Marjory does a Facebook Live every Thursday at 5:00 p.m. CST? A few weeks ago, Marjory did a Facebook Live where she announced some HUGE news and showed you the hori-hori knife she received as a gift. Check it out!

If you haven’t attended an airing of one of Marjory’s live videos, you totally should! You can interact with her during the live video by commenting and asking questions.

Again, you can catch these awesome live videos on the TGN Facebook page every Thursday at 5:00 p.m. CST. If you have a topic you want to hear her talk about, just let us know and we’ll do our best to fit it into the schedule!

Leave us a comment and let us know: What’s your favorite gardening tool, and why? 


TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter


The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!


 

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Meet Elena Upton, Local Changemaker

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Elena Upton, Local Changemaker

Elena Upton
Local Changemaker

Website: ElenaUpton.com

Follow on Social Media: Mastering Alternative Medicine (Facebook)

Fast Fact: Elena’s first book, Mastering Alternative Medicine: Your Family’s Guide to Wellness, is set to release this spring. Find all the details and more great tips on her website!

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Tell us a bit about your background—your heritage, where you grew up, and what first drew your attention to the world of natural remedies?

I am a native of New England, and my family ancestry is Italian. You know what that means . . . good food!

My paternal grandparents had a garden, and my grandfather made his own wine. He also owned small neighborhood grocery stores (five at one point). I remember them as being no more than probably 500–600 square feet and jam-packed with fruits and vegetables and imported Italian grocery products.

I would go into the store up the hill from my house after school and, of course, make my way to the little ice cream cooler. He kept a box of change by the register for those who needed a little extra, and I’d pick out a nickel to buy a frozen treat.

I also remember he had a large notebook with names and numbers scribbled in it. He said it was for “credit.” The locals would come in and pick up food staples they needed and run a tab, promising to come back later to pay.

This didn’t connect me with natural medicine specifically, but it gave me a foundation for good, healthy food and a sense of taking care of the community.

Was there a particular “Aha!” moment in your family’s medical history that you’d consider a true turning point away from traditional treatment methods?

The “Aha!” moment that changed my life forever was a ski trip to Colorado with my husband and sons in 1988.

We were visiting my husband’s former college roommate, George, when his wife, Colleen, pulled out a little white box filled with vials. She referenced a booklet, opened one of the vials, and popped a few little pills into her mouth.

She had been getting noticeably sick with a cold. Within an hour or so, though, there was no sign of the cold continuing to materialize.

I asked her what had been in the box, and she said homeopathy.

I had never even heard the word before!

She went on to explain that it was natural medicine from Germany. It is made from tiny expressions of plant, animal, and mineral substances that act as “information” for the body to follow to heal itself.

I thought that was the most amazing thing I had ever heard! When we went back to Massachusetts, I immediately went to the library to research homeopathy. (There was no World Wide Web then.)

The reason I was so interested was because I was developing some health issues, my husband had health issues, and both my sons had their own health problems cropping up. It seemed whatever conventional medical intervention we were given only suppressed the problem or made it worse. I wanted to know what this magical medicine was and why I’d never heard of it.

Soon after, my husband was transferred to California, and my good friend’s family was also transferred there. At our first West Coast reunion, my friend mentioned learning about homeopathy in Ohio and had a prospectus in her hand for The British Institute of Homeopathy. They had opened a satellite school in Los Angeles. Needless to say, we both enrolled. This was the beginning of a decade of formal training in homeopathy.

My health immediately improved with the use of homeopathy. My husband’s lifelong allergies were gone, and my son’s chronic, seasonal bronchitis cleared. I never looked back.

You’re a strong believer in “food as your first medicine.” How has your diet and that of your family evolved since the days before your homeopathic training?

Wholesome, fresh food was always my first medicine with the rich experience from my family.

The piece of the puzzle that came next, once I was deeply ingrained in the holistic medical community, was developing an understanding of how our food sources had deteriorated with the use of preservatives, the introduction of fungicides into “modern” farming, and the advent of GMO seeds.

What studies/training did you undergo to lead to your role today as a homeopath, author, lecturer and product development specialist?

When you study homeopathy, or any other form of holistic medicine (naturopathic, acupuncture and Chinese medicine, chiropractic, etc.), you gain insight into working with the whole person mentally, emotionally, and physically.

This includes their energetic body.

It is a huge departure from the Western model of medicine, with its use of pharmaceutical drugs and invasive procedures. Instead, there is a respect for the innate intelligence of the body to heal itself, if given the correct information. This information comes in the form of clean, nutritious food and natural-based medicines.

My earliest experiences included a Canadian naturopathic doctor who came to work with me in the clinic I opened after finishing school. He had trained in Germany and opened my eyes to many modalities beyond homeopathy.

We found herbs, supplements, and homeopathic remedies to be a winning combination.

In addition, my older son became a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist (yes, I’m very proud!), and we have clients we work with together. He can read their pulse, use needles to direct or unblock energy, fix structural issues, etc., and homeopathy adds another dimension.

Sometimes, when someone is stuck in a certain health pattern and not making the expected progress, I treat with a homeopathic remedy that reaches the emotional blockages, and Bam!, their physical issues clear up.

Grief is, by far, the largest block to healing.

You make an especially ardent case against commonly used antibiotics. Please explain the research behind this movement and the top alternative treatments you credit with keeping you and your family off of antibiotics for 30 years now.

Before antibiotics (and before vaccines were introduced in response to epidemics), there was homeopathy.

It is over 230 years old and is the second largest system of medicine in the world—everywhere but America.

In my upcoming book, Mastering Alternative Medicine: Your Family’s Guide to Wellness, I briefly explain the history of homeopathy and how this inexpensive, safe medicine has been systematically driven out. The space here simply doesn’t allow me to explain the volume of research that exists for homeopathic remedies and the true facts about people saved from smallpox and other diseases when conventional medicine failed.

Armed with a reference guide and a homeopathic kit, you can stop many illnesses in their tracks before they even develop.

Examples include using Euphrasia as soon as symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye) arise; Hydrastis for sinusitis, and adding Sanguinaria if it’s chronic; mercurius solubilis or mercurius vivus for tonsillitis; hepar sulph calcarea for dental abscesses; Allium cepa for hay fever; Aconitum and Bryonia (or Gelsemium, depending on symptoms) for the common cold or flu; Belladonna or ferrum phos (depending on symptoms) for fever; and Nux vomica for acid reflux.

I could go on with pages and pages of natural solutions, and this is exactly the subject of my book. Listed above is just a small sampling of the FDA-approved remedies you can buy for $6 to $8 in any health food store or pharmacy or online. (I have an extensive reference section in the book on how to source the remedies you need.)

Not everyone has an opportunity to grow their own food or healing herbs. Even if you do, there are important natural remedies we all should know about sitting on a shelf in your health food store. Just as it takes effort to grow your own food, it takes effort to find health solutions not readily spoken about in mainstream society.

Please tell us how your new book came about and the personal research that fueled it.

For nearly 30 years, I have studied homeopathy and other holistic modalities.

It never gets old to see how quickly people improve (with no side effects) when they use remedies from nature.

I have gathered data, researched, and studied with medical professionals who have found another way . . . a safe way to stay healthy. It was a natural transition to pull it all together and share information you’ll never hear on the nightly news or from your insurance-mandated doctor.

It is your right to keep your family and yourself as healthy as possible. Bringing holistic medicine into your life may be what you are looking for, as it was for me.

Can you offer any last piece of healthy living advice that would be of interest to our Grow Network community?

I would like to stress that, because of the source of homeopathic remedies, they are safe for pregnant women, infants, and the elderly, as well as animals and plants. In essence, when you feed the body what it needs—clean, organic food and clean, natural medicine—it responds in kind.

 

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Congratulations, February Certification Graduates!

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Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in February!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in February!

  • Robert Held
  • Scott Sexton

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • cathy.marcotte
  • DeniseChristensen
  • emull
  • Heather Duro
  • James Douglas
  • RoseBruno
  • Barefoot Kent
  • Catherine
  • JaneMcCutchen
  • George
  • Ruthie Guten
  • Bonnie Guffey
  • Shelley Buttenshaw
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • cathieonline
  • Emma May HunterHunter
  • janetch2008
  • russraiche
  • ShirleyJohns
  • Markkroneberger
  • Sharon Companion
  • joysong42
  • Carol Harant
  • jonhg
  • Lisa Cannon
  • Ericka Bajrami
  • rachelthudson
  • Patricia McBurney
  • PamWatros
  • Scott Sexton
  • Jane Mobley
  • Kim McClure
  • Waylon Olrick
  • Lisa Carroll

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in February:

  • Robert Held
  • PatriciaWolfe
  • tnsh5699
  • Lisa Carroll
  • Scott Sexton

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab member on completing this Certification:

  • Scott Sexton

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’ve put the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving Certification, which has just been added to the Honors Lab:

NEW! Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

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March Question of the Month

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TGN Community members, please let us know:

What are your favorite combinations for companion planting?

Leave us a reply in the Forums, here: https://thegrownetwork.com/forums/topic/what-are-your-favorite-combinations-for-companion-planting

Then, stay tuned—we’ll be compiling your answers into an article soon!

 

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Cold and Flu Remedies (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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What’s your most effective remedy for colds and the flu?

Cold or flu got you down? Our Community’s got you covered! Check out these great tips and tricks for treating (and preventing!) colds and flus naturally.

Silver

When it comes to fighting off colds and flu, several of you swear that silver is worth its weight in gold.

  • Suz says, “Since flu starts in the gut, we take colloidal silver at the first symptoms: 5–6 ounces for adults over 170 pounds, 4 ounces for adults under 170 pounds, 3 ounces for those between 80–110 pounds, and start with 2 ounces for a child. After 90 mins, you should see a reduction in symptoms. Four hours after the first dose, take a second dose of equal amount. Six hours after the second dose, take a third dose of equal amount.” She says it will stop not only flu in its tracks, but also stomach viruses and food poisoning. Suz also suggests taking probiotics or eating yogurt the next day to help restore healthy gut bacteria.
  • At the first sign of illness, Marly gargles with and swallows ASAP Smart Silver, and keeps it up all day while symptoms persist.
  • Dsymons recommends snorting some colloidal/nano silver to help assuage a stuffy nose.
  • Phil Tkachukrecommends 10ppm colloidal silver. He says you can either buy it, or make it yourself using The Silver Edge generator or Atlasnova generator.

Fire Cider/Four Thieves Tonic/Dragon’s Breath

Community members velaangels, Mark, Kathy, Brodo, and Rhonda all rely on homemade fire cider as a winter immune booster. Rhonda takes 1 shot per day throughout the winter for prevention, and also uses it to shorten the duration of the illness if she does catch a cold or the flu.

Loa uses Dragon’s Breath—which she says is similar to fire cider—daily during flu season. She works at a high school “around a LOT of sneezing, wheezing, coughing kids” and says she hasn’t had a cold or the flu in the 13 years since she started boosting her immune system with Dragon’s Breath. Here’s how she makes it: “I layer onions, garlic, horseradish, ginger, parsley, and cayenne peppers in a jar and cover with natural apple cider vinegar. I let it steep for about 6 weeks, then strain, add some powdered turmeric, and put the glass jar into the refrigerator. To use, I mix a tablespoon of the mixture with a tablespoon of honey added to a cup of warm water.”

Read More: “How to Make Fire Cider”

Teas, Tonics, and Tinctures

You offered our Community members some wonderful ideas for teas, tonics, and tinctures.

  • Thomas Hodge makes an infusion with crushed Linden flowers and stems by adding 1/2 ounce of plant matter to a quart canning jar and then filling the jar with hot water. He seals it, lets it sit overnight, and strains it in the morning, squeezing the liquid from the linden. Then, he says, “chill it or drink it right away—8 ounces every 3 or 4 hours.”
  • Val recommends a “flu tea” made with 1 teaspoon each of elderflower, mint, yarrow, and lemon juice. This makes 2 cups of tea. “The elderflower is anti-catarrhal and anti-inflammatory, the mint is diaphoretic (it increases bile, thereby helping to release toxins), and the yarrow increases sweating but lowers fevers. It is a pleasant-tasting tea.” Brodo makes a similar tea, but substitutes lemon balm for the mint and adds a spoonful of local, raw honey.
  • Sunny makes a tea from dried elderberries, turmeric, freshly ground black pepper, and slices of fresh gingers, and drinks it all day long, usually mixed in with coffee or chai tea.
  • peaveyplunker mixes together 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon honey and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and takes 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture every half hour until symptoms subside.
  • Stephanie Lebron creates a tea with hot water and lemon juice, plus either ginger, rosemary essential oil, or lemon eucalyptus essential oil.
  • w13jenjohnuses a homemade tincture of elderberry, licorice, and wild cherry bark, and also recommends a tea made with sage, lemon eucalyptus, and ginger, then sweetened with honey.
  • Shrabonisays that a “ginger, pepper, and turmeric-powder decoction in a glass of warm water works wonders.”
  • moncaivegan90boils 2 cups of water with a cinnamon stick, adds 1 cup of fresh red or purple bougainvillea flowers, turns off the heat, covers it for 2 minutes, and then strains it. “I like to add a spoonful of raw honey and enjoy 2 to 3 times a day. This works especially well for colds and coughs.”
  • Yvette McLean makes a tea with mullein, peppermint, and lemongrass, and drinks it around the clock—hot or cold—for 2 to 3 days. She also uses the tea in the following recipe:5 cloves garlic
    2 Tbsp. sage (fresh or dried)
    2 Tbsp. oregano (fresh or dried)
    3 Tbsp. fresh ginger
    1 Tbsp. thyme (fresh or dried)
    1 Tbsp. rosemary (fresh or dried)
    2 Tbsp. honey
    2 whole lemons (including skin)
    2 c. mullein/peppermint/lemongrass tea, cooledBlend all ingredients together. Do not heat mixture. Take 1–2 ounces 3 times per day.

    “You will be better by the third day,” she says.

Oregano Oil

Several of you recommend using oregano oil to fight off colds and the flu. But do your research! Joy Deussen says, “Be careful with oregano oil. It is hot and will burn the inside of your mouth. I recommend you put it in a capsule and swallow for no discomfort.”

Vitamins

Increase your vitamin intake when you’re fighting off a cold or the flu.

  • Sunny increases consumption of vitamin D.
  • Stephanie Lebron says she takes 2000 mg of vitamin C every hour or so in the first 24 hours of feeling something coming on.
  • Nance Shaw also takes vitamin A morning and night.

Elderberry

Take some form of elderberry for its immune-boosting properties.

  • Along with taking homeopathic oscillococcinum and drinking a Linden infusion, Thomas Hodge takes a tablespoon of black elderberry extract before bed.
  • Denise takes 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup every day during cold and flu season.
  • Scott Sexton takes elderberry syrup and/or tincture, plus recommends “Lots of water and rest. Meditation and yoga. And frequent sips of apple cider vinegar. I use essential oils, too. Oregano and the Thieves blend. Plus, I always add a citrus oil. Citrus oils are just happy, and I think they put me in a better mood, too.”

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are a favorite food when you’re dealing with colds and the flu.

  • For air purification, Rebecca Potrafka leaves a cut-up onion sitting out in a glass dish. She also takes honey onion syrup for a scratchy throat.
  • Susanne Lambert offers an interesting thought on using onions: “I’ve done some experiments with onions underfoot before bed with a pair of socks. I found that when I woke in the morning, my stuffy nose was gone.”
  • Sunny adds raw or slightly roasted garlic cloves plus sautéed onions to meals.
  • Michael Gray says that if he feels something coming on, he adds to his meals “a fresh clove of garlic, smashed, chopped fine, left out for 2 to 3 minutes” and says that he gets better faster than others who are sick at the same time but don’t take fresh garlic.
  • Marjory is also a huge fan of using raw garlic as an immune booster when she’s fighting off a cold. She’ll chop up several cloves, let them sit for about 10 minutes, and swallow them straight. (Yes, we’ve seen her do this firsthand! 😉

Over-the-Counter Remedies

Sometimes, the pharmacy is your friend. Our Community members recommended several over-the-counter products that help fight colds and the flu.

  • Bonnie Camo and Thomas Hodge both recommend homeopathic oscillococcinum. Bonnie says it “usually cures colds or flu if taken in the first 24–48 hours. Available in most pharmacies and inexpensive.”
  • Jill recommends cocolaurin. “It’s a natural supplement, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. Very effective and safe.” (Cocolaurin is a super-concentrated form of monolaurin, which is distilled from coconut oil.)
  • Several of our Community members take zinc when fighting off a cold or the flu. Nance Shaw recommends a dose morning and night, kathybelair52 sucks on zinc acetate lozenges at the first sign of cold, and Jill takes zinc in the form of Zicam. Sunny also occasionally uses Zarbee’s Nighttime Cough and Throat Relief drink mix, which contains zinc.
  • Sunny also puts Plant Therapy Organic Immune Aid essential oil in the diffuser, under the nose, and on the soles of the feet.
  • When TommyD feels something coming on, he takes 3 capsules of echinacea 3 times a day for a few days.
  • Marius says colloidal silver usually helps him avoid the flu. However, “this year the flu strain was extremely potent, and it got me for the first time in 8 years. I cured it in about 2 days by ingesting hydrogen peroxide 3% In the next days, I rebuilt my intestinal flora—which could be damaged by hydrogen peroxide—by eating probiotics.”
  • Among other things, Nance Shaw recommends soothing coughs at bedtime by putting Vick’s VapoRub on the arches of the feet.
  • Several of you recommend using a neti pot during the sickness to help relieve symptoms. (Remember, though—the FDA recommends rinsing only with distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water, as tap water may contain harmful organisms that could actually make the problem worse.)

Encourage Fever

PInteaReed says, “If you are stricken with flu, make sure to help your fever. Wrap up in heavy blankets and try to keep the fever at 101°F to 102°F. Of course, if it goes higher, unwrap! Fever is what helps kill the viruses inside you. We just used this on this recent strain of really nasty flu that is going around. An hour after you wrap up, you should see a huge abatement of symptoms.”

Prevent It

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and our Community members offered some great suggestions for keeping colds and the flu at bay.

  • TommyD says he can’t remember the last time he had the flu, and attributes part of his immune strength to cooking regularly with a spice mix of turmeric, freshly ground black pepper, ginger powder, and Ceylon cinnamon.
  • Sandy Hines says neither she nor her husband have caught the flu or a cold in over 30 years. “If your
    body is alkaline, flu viruses and cold germs cannot live. Every night before bedtime, we have 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a few inches of cool water.” They also eat about 2/3 cup of plain yogurt with a teaspoon of raw, unfiltered, local honey in it during the day; drink plenty of clean water, eat nutritiously; drink orange juice; and take 1,000 to 2,000 mg of vitamin C every day.
  • Michael Gray helps prevent illness by taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of honey mixed in warm water every day.
  • Emily says she doesn’t catch colds or the flu, and attributes it to taking Citricidal brand grapefruit seed extract at least once per day. She adds, “I take up to 24 drops. Three is what the package says. Vitamin C is one reason it works so well, and that’s natural Vitamin C, not ‘ascorbic acid.’”
  • Community member bobcarmenmertz has been taking homemade Golden Paste for more than 8 months and credits it for feeling well. “I did start to get a cold, but the severity and duration were greatly reduced. The paste includes turmeric powder, coconut oil, and freshly ground black pepper. You can make it yourself and refrigerate for 2 weeks.” One recipe we found for Golden Paste is as follows:Golden Paste Recipe
    1/2 c. turmeric powder
    1 c. water (plus up to an additional cup of water, if needed)
    2–3 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1/3 c. healthy fat—either from raw, unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil, flaxseed oil, or virgin/extra virgin olive oilCombine the turmeric and 1 c. water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 7–10 minutes or until the mixture becomes a thick paste. (You may need to add some or all of the additional water during this step.) Remove from heat and let the turmeric/water mixture cool down until it is warm and not hot. Add the freshly ground black pepper and oil, and stir well to incorporate. Allow it to cool, then keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze some if you don’t think you’ll use it up by then. You can use Golden Paste in smoothies, in yogurt, as a condiment—even as as an immune-booster for your pets!

Thanks so much to each and every TGN Community member who shared your favorite home remedies in response to our February Question of the Month! You are highly valued!

___________________

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TGN Team Favorites: Chick Brooding Supplies

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If you have never brooded chicks before, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are quite a few supplies needed to get started the first time, and you are probably wondering where to start. There is a lot of knowledge required to successfully brood chicks..They need proper housing, light, temperature, ventilation, feed, water, bedding … and so much more! If you are looking for that information, this article is not for you. 😉

In past TGN team favorite articles, I surveyed the entire TGN team. In this article, I am going to focus on the best chick brooding supplies I have personally used and why I recommend them. Let’s just say … I’ve learned some lessons the hard way!

However, if you want a detailed article about the nitty-gritty how-to of brooding chicks, leave us a comment and let us know!


TGN Team Favorites: Chick Brooding Supplies

Chick Brooder

The number one thing you need is obviously a brooder. Like I mentioned above, this article is not going to be about how to build the perfect chick brooder. Is there even such a thing? There are a huge variety of chick brooders available and they all have their pros and cons. With that said, the best, most affordable brooder I have used is honestly so simple. A kiddie pool! No, seriously—a kiddie pool!

Cheap, Simple,, and Effective Chick Brooding Alternatives

Here are just a few reasons why I recommend a kiddie pool. Kiddie pools are cheap, light, and easily portable; they can be easily cleaned (literally hose them out); they are reusable; and you can secure the sides using fencing.

Below is a photograph of our first kiddie pool chick brooder. We’ve since improved upon some things. But, overall I have found this type of brooder to be a huge success!

Kiddie Pool Chicken Brooder


Bedding

The best bedding for your chicken brooder

My favorite type of bedding is flake pine shavings. I prefer the flake—as opposed to the fine—pine shavings because I feel like they create less dust and are easier to work with when changing out bedding. With that said, the downside to the flakes is that they take longer to break down in the compost than the fine shavings.


Heat Lamp vs. Heating Plate

I like both of these products for very different reasons. As shown above, we started out with the heat lamp and bulb. My favorite thing about this setup is the price! It’s very inexpensive and a great place to start. The con—and this is a big one—is that they can be dangerous and have started many fires.

Chicken Brooder Heat Lamp

On the other hand, the heating plate is much more expensive, but definitely a lot safer than the lamp. They are available in multiple sizes to suit your needs. In addition to being safer, they make it really easy for chicks to escape the heat if they are not needing as much as the others.

Chicken Brooder Heating Plate


Waterer

Chick Waterer

Oh, the chick waterer! This is a tough one. The first time I brooded chicks I got so stressed out because I was using the waterer above. The chicks kept kicking pine shavings into the water dish—the pine shavings would absorb all the water and the chicks would be left with sloppy pine shavings and no water! UGH! It had me so stressed out! Then I got wise … to the chicken nipple!

Chicken Nipples

Let me clarify. I totally recommend starting off with the mason jar chick waterer when the chicks first arrive home. It makes it easy for them to drink, and there isn’t much of a learning curve for them.

With that said, now I put both types of waterers in from the get-go. It’s relatively simple to make a waterer using the nipples shown above combined with a milk jug or mason jar. Doing a quick Google search will yield hundreds of results. The reason I recommend making your own is that you can reuse the nipples in the coop later on.

But, if DIY isn’t your thing, then try one of these simple fountain brooder bottle cap attachments. Simple and extremely effective!

chick brooder simple bottle cap nipple attachment


Feeder

The chick feeder. Oh boy, it has just as many problems as the waterer! The chicks love to scratch their food out and throw it all over the brooder! And that’s okaythat’s what chickens do. But, it really caused me a lot of stress the first time around. Therefore, I do not like to use any type of open trough feeder for this reason. It is vital to have a lid atop the feeder with a hole for the chicks to stick their little beaks in. This greatly reduces the waste!

Different types of chick feeders

I use both the mason jar chick feeder and the trough with sliding lid feeders shown above. I started off using the plastic products. But, I’ve grown to prefer the glass and galvanized steel products because they are more durable and easier to clean.

I use two feeders because, well … chicks are just mean. The need for the pecking order is instilled in them from day one and I always have a chick who tries to prevent the runt from eating. Having multiple feeders provides said chick a better opportunity for survival!


Chick Starter

Chick Starter Feed

You’ll obviously need food for your chicks and it does matter the type of feed you provide. It must be chick starter. It has the proper nutrition to support healthy growth in your babies. I prefer to feed Texas Natural Feeds to my flock, and the type of feed you choose is entirely up to you. Just know that you’ll need chick starter, pullet grower, and laying hen blends as they grow (which happens so fast!).

I like Texas Natural Feeds because they are non-soy, non-gmo, and non-medicated. Yes, I know. It’s not organic. I pick and choose my battles. I save heaps of money not paying for the organic label, and the feed comes from local farmers. To me, it’s a win-win! So, do your research on this one!


Chick Supplements

Chick Grit

Best Chick Grit

You’ll need to provide your chicks with some chick grit so they can digest their food. Like other birds, chickens have gizzards and need grit to digest their food. I prefer the DuMor brand grit because it’s inexpensive, granite-based, and insoluble.

There are also all kinds of electrolyte, vitamin, and probiotic supplements you can provide your babies to help them through the first couple of weeks. You can also make a DIY version of some of these products yourself.


Chick Toys

Try using parakeet toys to keep your baby chicks busy!

Your chicks will need something to do all day! I have found that it is best to keep the chicks busy so they don’t bully each other. I have had the most success with turning sticks into roosts, creating mazes with small cardboard boxes, and even using parakeet toys. All of these options work really well to provide healthy activities for chicks! You can get super creative with this, and it’s a lot of fun!


I hope this guide has helped you to feel confident in purchasing your chick brooding supplies and has maybe even shed some insight as to why some products work better than others. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave me a comment! Cheers _ Ruth Reyes-Loiacano (TGN Social Media Manager)


Please note that the Tractor Supply links above are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you should make a purchase after clicking one of the links. Thanks for supporting TGN! 


 

 

The post TGN Team Favorites: Chick Brooding Supplies appeared first on The Grow Network.

Gardening Humor: Need a Laugh? Watch This Now!

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Got spring gardening fever? So do we. That’s why this video by TGN blogger Scott Sexton strikes such a chord. Plus, it’s hilarious … and who couldn’t use another chuckle in their day?

Trust us … do yourself a favor and press “Play” now. This is too funny to pass up:

Then, leave us a note in the comments section and let us know: What seeds have you already planted (whether indoors or out) for your spring garden?

 

Subscribe to TGN's bi-weekly newsletter

 

The post Gardening Humor: Need a Laugh? Watch This Now! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Slow Food USA Launches Plant a Seed Campaign: Are You In?

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Slow Food USA launched the Plant a Seed campaign today, inviting individuals and schools to plant the “Three Sisters” in biodiverse gardens across the country. It ties into the Slow Food theme for 2018—Food for Change—that encourages individuals and communities to make changes in everyday eating habits that will impact the food system as a whole and address climate change.

The Three Sisters are beans, corns, and squash that, when planted together, help one another thrive and survive. Corn provides a tall stalk for the beans to climb. Beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the other plants to use. Squash create a microclimate to keep the soil moist and free of weeds. This indigenous technique of companion planting has been embraced the world over.

Read More: “Three Sisters Gardens: Grow More Food With Less Work”

The specific varieties selected for the campaign are on the Ark of Taste, Slow Food’s library of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction: Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn, the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, and Christmas Lima Bean. These plants each have fresh flavors and a story of near extinction, and Slow Food USA hopes to see at least 1,000 gardens growing a Three Sisters garden with them this season.

“We are especially excited for gardeners of all ages to rally around traditional methods of companion planting,” says Slow Food USA executive director Richard McCarthy. “In each garden, we see an emblem of hope and pragmatic action that adds up to the kind of systemic change we need to make food a significant part of the climate-change conversation.”

In support of its vision for a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it, and good for the planet, Slow Food USA is offering kits containing all three types of seeds. For every kit purchased ($45), Slow Food will send a kit to a school garden in order to help teach kids about climate change and the wonderful new flavors of biodiversity.

If you’re ready for your garden to become one of the thousand, you can order a kit at slowfoodusa.org/plant-a-seed.

 

The post Slow Food USA Launches Plant a Seed Campaign: Are You In? appeared first on The Grow Network.

Three Sisters Gardens: Grow More Food With Less Work

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Imagine a small garden that produces an above-average harvest, yet needs minimal water, fertilizer, and weeding—and, as a bonus, leaves your soil more fertile at the end of the growing season. Some might call that a dream come true, but what it’s really called is a Three Sisters Garden.

Yet this remarkably savvy strategy for growing corn, beans, and squash wasn’t developed by a Ph.D. in a modern research garden. Instead, it began centuries—perhaps millennia—ago as a Native American agricultural tradition.

Three Sisters Garden 3

What is a Three Sisters Garden?

Unlike today’s gardens where plant varieties are separated by straight rows, a Three Sisters Garden allows corn, bean, and squash plants to grow together and benefit from each other.

The beauty of a Three Sisters Garden comes from the symbiotic relationship between these three crops.

  1. As corn stalks grow, they create poles for beans to climb on to gain support and find sunlight without getting outcompeted by the sprawling squash.
  2. The bean roots also help stabilize the corn in heavy winds and fertilize it by “fixing” nitrogen from the air into a form that corn and squash roots can absorb.
  3. The squash’s large leaves are prickly enough to deter pests from coming close, and they shade out weeds while keeping the soil moist.1)The Old Farmers’ Almanac: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash 

History of the Three Sisters Garden

When agriculture began in the Americas 7,000 years ago, it quickly changed the landscape and local cultures beyond recognition.

Maize, beans, and squash were domesticated in Central and South America and gradually made their way to the American Midwest.2)University of Nebraska: The “How” of the Three Sisters: The Origins of

Different Native American tribes began to integrate these crops into their horticultural traditions, though the Iroquois (also called the Haudenosaunee) first used the phrase “Three Sisters” to describe the practice of growing them together in highly productive garden plots.

Over the centuries, the Three Sisters gained physical and spiritual importance for the Iroquois. Their planting method involved sowing all three seeds in fertilized mounds that prevented the young plants from getting waterlogged.

Women then weeded and hoed these mounds throughout the summer and harvested the crops in the early fall before drying and storing them for winter. Celebrated as a gift from the Great Spirit, corn, beans, and squash were eaten together for most meals.

American colonists first learned of Three Sisters Gardens over 300 years ago.

Since they were used to straight, orderly farm fields, most settlers first dismissed these densely planted gardens as wild.

However, they soon learned that this biointensive combination-planting method was perfectly suited for the region, as cleared land was difficult to maintain and small Iroquois garden plots needed to produce higher yields than European ones.

Today, a Three Sisters Garden is a great example of an ecological guild in America because each plant directly benefits the others.

Grown together, Three Sisters crops produce more food with less water and fertilizer.

In fact, Three Sisters Garden plots tend to produce 20 percent more calories than when the same crops are grown apart.3)Estimating Productivity of Traditional Iroquoian Cropping Systems from Field Experiments and Historical Literature

A Nutritional Cornucopia

Not only are the Three Sisters naturally suited to grow well together, they also pack a powerful nutritional punch. In fact, a diet of corn, beans, and squash is nutritionally balanced without the need for other protein sources.

Corn kernels are rich in carbohydrates and become a complete protein source when eaten with beans.

Full of vitamins and minerals, squash rounds out the diet nutritionally.

Making them even more valuable, corn, beans, and squash all could be dried and eaten throughout the winter.4)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden When combined with other vegetables native to America like peppers and tomatoes, the Three Sisters fueled culinary creativity and promoted health all year long.

Three Sister Variations

Not all Three Sister gardens are the same.

While squash, beans, and corn were important food crops throughout America, many native cultures made variations on the growing method to better fit their local conditions.

For example, throughout the dry Southwest, the Three Sisters were often planted in separate fields with wide plant spacing to maximize the use of a limited water supply.5)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

In some places, a fourth sister joined the trio. Sunflowers attracted insect pollinators to the garden while distracting birds from the corn and providing support for bean vines.

Throughout the Southwest, tobacco was interplanted with the Three Sisters as a ceremonial plant.

Likewise, watermelons and gourds were easily substituted for squash.6)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

Three Sisters Garden 4

Tips for Getting Started

When you follow the Three Sisters method today, you equip your garden with the building blocks it needs to grow flavorful plants that are well suited to your natural conditions.

You can also help preserve a Native American heritage and benefit from centuries of horticultural innovation and experimentation by growing your own Three Sisters Garden at home.

Layout

There are plenty of variations for laying out a Three Sisters Garden, but it’s always best to plant your corn in clusters instead of rows. This makes it easier to attract pollinating insects for your squash plants and for wind-pollinated corn tassels to fertilize each other.7)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

Make sure you choose a spot with plenty of direct sunlight and a neutral pH level (6.0–7.0 is best).

Minimal space is needed for a Three Sisters Garden. A 10-foot-by-10-foot plot tends to be ideal. That’s a small enough space to be fairly simple to prepare and maintain while ensuring that you sow enough corn (about 10–20 plants) for it to cross-pollinate.

To set up a traditional Three Sisters Garden in a 10-foot-by-10-foot plot, mark off three rows spaced five feet apart. Each row will have five 18-inch mounds, alternating corn/bean mounds with squash mounds.8)Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Growing a Three Sisters Garden

Planting

Sowing a Three Sisters Garden takes a little longer from start to finish, but the steps are simple—and the results are oh so worth it!

  1. Start by fertilizing the garden bed with your favorite amendments.
  2. Form the soil into flat mounds that are a foot high and 18 inches in diameter.
  3. Alternate the corn/bean mounds with the squash mounds.
  4. Stagger the planting by species to create a “stacked” garden that gives the corn and/or sunflowers a few weeks’ head start. This also prevents the plants from outcompeting each other in their beginning growth stages.
    1. Once the danger of frost has passed, plant four kernels of corn an inch deep and six inches apart, with each kernel forming one of the four points of a diamond shape.
    2. Once the corn reaches five inches tall, plant four bean seeds in a pattern that adds corners to your diamond shape, effectively making it a square.
    3. Squash seeds should be planted one week later in the remaining mounds. In each mound, plant three squash seeds four inches apart in a triangle shape.9)The Old Farmers’ Almanac: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash
  5. Make sure to hill up the soil as it starts to level out so that there is plenty of material for the root systems to work with.

Maintenance

As the Three Sisters grow together, you will notice the bean sprouts starting to climb the corn stems, and heavy squash leaves starting to fan out along the ground.

While squash leaves help shade out weeds as they grow, it’s best to regularly weed your plot when the plants are young to prevent them from getting outcompeted. Laying down a layer of organic mulch is also a good way to help the soil retain moisture on hot summer days.

Insect pests are likely to find your garden as exciting as you do, so make sure to watch for squash bugs, squash vine borers, and corn earworms.

A drop of vegetable oil on the tips of corn ears can help fend off an invasion, and you can keep your beans healthy by working them only when the plants are dry.10)The National Gardening Association: Growing the Three Sisters

To preserve the purity of heirloom varieties, you can hand-pollinate your corn plants. Simply place waxed paper bags over the corn silk to prevent pollen from getting in. When the tassels are two inches out, remove the bags and shake your preferred pollen on the silks before replacing the bags to prevent contamination.

Harvest

By mid-to-late summer, your Three Sisters Garden will be brimming with produce.

Summer squash is often the first to mature. You can harvest the squashes once they are two inches in diameter, as they taste best when small and tender.

Winter squash needs to be harvested when the outside skin is hardened and the squash has lost its natural sheen. Make sure to cleanly slice the stem with a knife, and leave the stem on the squash to help it stay fresh for several months.

Green beans are best harvested when the pods are slim and tender. So long as you prevent your beans from over-maturing and going to seed, they should produce vigorously for a month or two. Take care not to damage the vines as you pick them, and you should enjoy fresh beans for much of the summer.

Ears of corn are ready to pick about 20 days after the first silk stacks appear. You’ll know the ears are mature when the silks are dry and brown and the kernels are smooth and plump, and emit a milk-like juice when you puncture them with your thumbnail. Simply twist off each ear when ripe, and eat immediately for the best flavor.

Three Sisters Garden 2

Best Three Sister Varieties to Grow

Not every variety of corn, beans, and squash grows well in a Three Sisters Garden.

Oftentimes, traditional heirloom varieties are better suited to the specific growing conditions that companion planting calls for.

Below are varieties of corn, beans, and squash that are well suited for Three Sisters Gardens.

Corn

Sweet corn was a staple food in Native American diets,11)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More and most varieties grow well using the Three Sisters method. Native corns tend to be heartier and more drought resistant than industrial varieties, so make sure you look to corn varieties that are naturally suited for your growing conditions.

It’s best to choose a tall variety so that your bean plants have plenty of room to grow.

Pencil Cob corn is a prolific, six-foot variety, and Flor del Rio is an excellent heirloom popcorn.

If water is an issue, Southwestern varieties like Tohono O’odham and Hopi mature fast and use less water, but their short stature makes it harder for them to support beans.

Beans

When choosing your beans, it’s essential that you select pole beans instead of bush beans to ensure they trellis themselves on the corn stalks. Common pole bean varieties include pinto, kidney, black, lima, and navy.

Ideally, you should grow “corn beans,” as they have adapted to growing in shady conditions and won’t suffer from overcrowding.12)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More

Few Native American bean species have been preserved, but the Ohio pole bean and Amish Nuttle are two options.13)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More Other versatile pole beans include Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, O’odham Vayos, and Four Corners Gold. If you do end up with a short corn variety like Tutelo Strawberry, you might pair it with a bean variety like Wild Pigeon, since it isn’t aggressive enough to overpower the shorter corn.

Squash

Unfortunately, few squash varieties that were common in traditional Native American gardens are still in use. While Yellow Summer Crookneck and Early White Scallop date back at least to the 1700s, the varieties available today are significantly different from the originals.

The best squash variety depends on the amount of space you have to work with.

If your garden provides ample room for plants to sprawl, go for a winter squash variety like Tarahumara Pumpkin or Magdalena Big Cheese.

Tighter arrangements better suit Yellow Crookneck squash, Ponca butternut, and Dark Star zucchini.

A Harvest of Heritage

A delightful combination of science and history, the Three Sisters Garden nurtures both body and soul.

Yes, it provides larger harvests with less work and water. But it also connects gardeners with centuries of heritage—and lets them play a vital role in ensuring that this wondrous planting method survives to nourish yet another generation.

For more information on Three Sisters Gardens, check out THE definitive book on the subject—Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods.

 


 

 

The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

 

References   [ + ]

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Antibiotics in Dirt ‘Annihilate’ Superbugs

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According to a study published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers at New York’s Rockefeller University have discovered a new class of antibiotics—called malacidins—that “annihilate” several antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

As you know, the lack of still-effective antibiotics is quickly becoming a global crisis. In fact, the study says, “In the absence of new therapies, mortality rates due to untreatable infections are predicted to rise more than tenfold by 2050.”

So where did researchers discover these new “drugs”?

In good old-fashioned dirt!

Those of us who strive for healthy soil and appreciate its incredibly active microbiology won’t be surprised to hear that. (And, actually, soil is where most of our widely used antibiotics started, including penicillin and vancomycin.)

You can learn more about the study’s finding here, or click here to read the study itself.

 

 

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TGN Team Favorites: Unique Valentine’s Day Gifts

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Gifting can be hard—am I right? Especially with the high-pressure, romantic holidays like Valentines Day! Not to worry, we’re here to help….

The TGN team thought it would be fun to look beyond the cliché of teddy bears and a dozen roses and really think outside of the chocolate box. We came up with a few unique Valentine’s Day gifts that keep on giving, all year long! 


Unique Valentine’s Day Gifts

What better way to show your Valentine how much you love them than with a thoughtful gift—that keeps on giving? Let’s take a closer look at some truly unique Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

Dry Farm Wines

Dry Farm Wine | http://dryfarmwines.com/thegrownetwork

Dry Farm Wines curates only the highest quality natural wines from small, organic family farms, which is quite the contrast to today’s commercialized and processed wines. Dry Farm Wines is just real wine like you’ve never tasted before!

These wines are not only organic, but also sugar free—making them perfect for the waistline! If you follow a paleo or keto lifestyle, then this is the wine for you. 

We don’t just love that these wines are organic and sugar freewe love the monthly (or bi-monthly) subscription. You can sign up for the Friends of the Farm Wine & Social Club and choose whether you want to receive your delivery monthly or every other month. And shipping is always free! 

Dry Farm Wines originate with natural farming and traditional winemaking practices, including:

  • Natural, organic or bio-dynamic viticulture/farming
  • Dry farming (no use of irrigation)
  • Old-growth vines, generally 35-100 years
  • Hand-harvested fruit from low yields
  • Minimal intervention in the vinification and aging
  • Wild native yeast in fermentation
  • No commercial yeast for flavor alteration
  • No or minimal filtering/fining
  • No or minimal use of new oak
  • No or minimal addition of sulfites
  • No chaptalization (adding sugar to the grape to aid fermentation)
  • No chemical additives for aroma, color, flavor, or texture enhancement

Sharon Says: “I love Dry Farm Wines because they taste fantastic, with deep, rich flavor profiles.  And they don’t wreck my blood sugar because they are certified ketogenic … meaning the have essentially no sugar content. I also feel really good about how they demonstrate environmental stewardship because they are farmed using old-world, sustainable farming techniques.  And, every batch is tested and certified to be free of any glyphosate, pesticides, herbicides, etc.  I LOVE Dry Farm Wines!”

Dry Farm Wines | http://dryfarmwines.com/thegrownetwork


Butcher Box

Butcher Box - Monthly Meat Delivery

Butcher Box provides monthly or bi-monthly delivery of thoughtfully sourced and ethically raised meat directly to your door! Grass-fed and -finished beef, free-range organic chicken, and heritage-breed pork are humanely raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones, ever.

Here’s how it works: You simply choose a curated box or build your own, and it’s shipped directly to your door! Easy! You can choose a large or small shipment depending on the size of your family, as well as choose a monthly or bi-monthly subscription. And the best part is that you can update the contents each month to spice things up! 

We love Butcher Box not only because of the quality of the humanely raised meat it provides, but also because the subscription makes putting highly nutritious meats on the table easy and convenient.

Ruth Says: “I love Butcher Box because not everyone has access to local grass-fed ranches. They make it accessible to everyone and deliver it right to your doorstep. This is meat that you can truly feel good about feeding to your family.”Butcher Box


Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh | http://amzn.to/2Fj8POn

Amazon Fresh is an unlimited grocery delivery service provided by Amazon that you can add to your Prime membership. While this may not be for everyone, it could be a great alternative to weekly grocery runs if you have a large family or a busy schedule. It’s like giving the gift of time for Valentine’s Day!

Amazon Fresh will add an additional $14.99 per month on top of the cost of your annual Prime membership—but you will get unlimited delivery. Each order must total at least $50, however many of us already spend more than that on our weekly grocery trips.

The service offers a really impressive array (thousands!) of fresh and boxed organic, non-gmo options. And now that Amazon owns Whole Foods, you can even have their house brand, 365, delivered right to your door!

Amazon Fresh | http://amzn.to/2Fj8POn


Thrive Market

Thrive Market | Organic, Non-Gmo brands you love - for less!

Thrive Market is an online shopping club that offers organic and non-gmo products at 25% to 50% below retail prices! There is $59.95 annual membership fee, and all orders of $49 or more ship free. Thrive says their members usually make back the cost of membership in the first two orders. 

The best part about this company is that for every new paid member, they donate a free membership to a family in need! 

We love Thrive Market because they provide easy and affordable access to a large variety of organic non-gmo groceries, nontoxic cleaning products, organic beauty products, and so much more!

Thrive Market


Raw Spice Bar

RawSpiceBar | Monthly Spice Subscription

Raw Spice Bar is an inexpensive monthly subscription that delivers fresh and flavorful ready-to-use spice kits to your door. What better way to supplement your Butcher Box and Amazon Fresh service than with clean, healthy spices?

Raw Spice BAR


Well, what do you think? Will you be thinking outside the chocolate box this Valentine’s Day and giving a gift (or two) that keeps on giving?



Please note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for TGN to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!


 

 

The post TGN Team Favorites: Unique Valentine’s Day Gifts appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, Members, on Completing These Certifications!

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Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing one or more of our Certifications!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification!

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Alice Krueger
  • Ann Kudlicki
  • Carole Barrett
  • Chantal Turcotte
  • David Clark
  • Diane Jandt
  • Ellie Strand
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • George Griggs
  • HP P
  • James Tutor
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kristina Head
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lyndsy Schlup
  • Marlene Wild
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Oden
  • paulasmith
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Rogers George
  • Saunya Hildebrand
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Stephen Biernesser
  • Stephen Bolin
  • Susan Faust
  • tnsh5699
  • William Torres

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • Raelene Norris
  • Alfredo Moreno
  • Alice DeLuca
  • Alice Krueger
  • Alta Blomquist
  • Amanda Gossett
  • Amy Blight
  • Amy Marquardt
  • Andrea Hill
  • Angel Hartness
  • Angela Wilson
  • Anna Zingaro
  • Anne McNally
  • Annette Coder
  • Antony Chomley
  • Arlene Woods
  • Barry Williams
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bohn Dunbar
  • Bonnie Shemie
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Brian Moyers
  • Camilla-Faye Muerset
  • Cara Hettich
  • Carol Bandi
  • Carol Ryerson
  • Carole Barrett
  • Carolyn Winchester
  • Carra
  • Catie Ransom
  • Chantale Mitchell
  • Charles Marian
  • Chelsea
  • Cherisbiz
  • Christi Crane
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christine Lawler
  • Christine Sadilek
  • Cindy Farley
  • Constantine Spialek
  • Craig Mackie
  • Cynthia Parker
  • Dale Bolton
  • Daniel Shook
  • Danielle Stenger
  • Dave Danner
  • Debbi Sander
  • Debbie Ford
  • Debbie Hill
  • Deborah Scribner
  • Debra Jensen
  • Debra Miller
  • Denise Callahan
  • Desiree Garcia
  • Diane Devine
  • Diane Jandt
  • Diane Massey
  • Dianna Burton
  • Don Wong
  • Donna Detweiler
  • Donna Norman
  • Dr. Carol Viera
  • Ellen Reh-Bower
  • Emily Bell
  • Emma Dorsey
  • Felicitas & Leandro Cometa
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • Gail Maynard
  • Gary Flinchbaugh
  • George Griggs
  • Gilbert Sieg
  • Gina Jeffries
  • Ginger Cline
  • Hannelore Chan
  • Heather Munoz
  • Helen Bailey
  • Helen McGlynn
  • HP P
  • Irida Sangemino
  • Jamie Birchall
  • jamingo62
  • Jane Burkheimer
  • Janna Huggins
  • Jaudette Olson
  • Jessica Bonilla
  • Jessica Conley
  • Jim Hadlock
  • Jodee Maas
  • John Kempf
  • Jouski
  • Joyce Tallmadge Tallmadge
  • Judith Johnson
  • Julene Trigg
  • Julian San Miguel
  • Julie Kahrs
  • Juliet Wimp
  • Justin Talbot
  • Karen Brennan
  • Karen Suplee
  • Kat Sturtz
  • Katherine Keahey
  • Kathy O’Neal
  • Kathy Williams
  • Kelly Pagel
  • Kim Adelle Larson
  • Kim Kelly
  • Kim Osborne
  • Kimberley Burns-Childers
  • Kimberly Dolak
  • Kimberly Martin
  • Kristen Fitzgerald
  • Kristen McClellan
  • Laura Elliott
  • Laura Riches
  • Laurie Swope
  • LeanneTalshshar
  • Leediafast Bailey
  • Leslie Carl
  • Liann Graf
  • Linda
  • Linda Adair
  • Linda Beeth
  • Linda Cavage
  • Linda Grinthal
  • Linda Maes
  • Linda Raymer
  • Lisa Emerson
  • Lisa O’Connell
  • Lois Pratt
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lori Spry
  • Lyudmila Kollin Kollin
  • Mandi Golman
  • Mandy Allen
  • Marcel Legierse
  • Marie Kidd
  • Marilyn Lange
  • Marjorie Hamrick
  • Marlene Moore
  • Martha Stanley
  • Mary Atsina
  • Mary Coons
  • Mary Dove
  • Mary Holt
  • Mary Sanderson
  • MaryAnn Kirchhoffer
  • Michael Hedemark
  • Michele Langford
  • Michelle Messier
  • Mike Scheck Scheck
  • Millicent Drucquer
  • Mimi Neoh
  • Monika Thompson
  • Nancy K. Young
  • Natalie Burton
  • Nellie Bhattarai
  • Nikki Follis
  • Nikki Thompson
  • Pamela Morrison
  • Patricia Scholes
  • Paula Frazier
  • Pete Lundy
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Rebecca Hale
  • Rebecca Riddle
  • Renee Hume
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Richard T. Tungate
  • Rick Horton
  • Robert Harris
  • Robert Kennedy
  • Robin Marshall
  • Rochelle Eisenberger
  • Rodger Huffman
  • Rogers George
  • Ruth Hester
  • Ruth Macrides
  • Ryan Johnston
  • S. Henshaw
  • Samantha Stokes
  • Sandi Huston
  • Sandra Mikesell
  • Sarah Cowan
  • Sarah Schwartz
  • Shalise Klebel
  • Sharon Marsh
  • Shawn Elmore
  • Shelly B.
  • Shelly Vogt
  • Sherry Hofecker
  • Steve Frazier
  • Sue Mortensen
  • Susan Abdullah
  • Susan Auckland
  • Susan Friesen
  • Susan Gray
  • Susan Phillips
  • Suzanne Oberly
  • Tammy Gresham
  • Tamora Gilbert
  • Teresa Elston
  • Teri Moote
  • Terra Eckert
  • Terry Bomar
  • Theresa McCuaig
  • Theresa Schultz
  • Tracie Velazquez
  • Wanita Martinelli
  • Wendy Meredith
  • William Torres

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Dianne
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Aldo
  • Alice Krueger
  • Andrea Hill
  • Annie Degabriele
  • Barb
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Bryson Thompson
  • bydawnsearlylite
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christy Dominguez
  • csells815
  • Cynthia Parker
  • David Clark
  • Debbie
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Deborah Gonzales
  • Debra Frazier
  • Debra Hollcroft
  • Doc Hecker
  • Elmer Caddell
  • Gary Conter
  • Gayle Lawson
  • Geraldine Christmas
  • Gregg
  • HP P
  • Ibeneon
  • James Judd
  • Jamie Barker
  • Jeanette Tuppen
  • jeff780
  • Jennifer Johnson
  • JoAnn
  • Joe Prohaska
  • John Kempf
  • Karen
  • Karyn Pennington
  • Katycasper
  • Kcasalese
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kenneth
  • Laura Mahan
  • Leah Kay Olmes
  • Lisa Blakeney
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Marti Noden
  • Mary Falkner
  • Megan Venturella
  • metaldog227
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Merriken
  • Michael Dirrim
  • Nicole Mindach
  • Philip Vance
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Robin
  • Rogers George
  • Ron Atkinson
  • Samantha Straw
  • Sammabrey
  • Sandy
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Sheila Robadey
  • Sherry Ankers
  • Sherry Baer
  • Spraygsm
  • Stacey
  • Teddy Plaisted
  • Teresa Wolf
  • William Torres

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Brian Moyers
  • Diane Jandt
  • Gary Conter
  • HP P
  • Janna Huggins
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • William Torres

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’re putting the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving certification, which will be added to the Honors Lab very soon:

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, Members, on Completing These Certifications! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Extending the Growing Season (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

Click here to view the original post.

What’s your favorite trick for extending the growing season?

In January 2018, we asked you to share your favorite tricks for extending the growing season. Read on to learn our Community’s best season-extension tips!

Use Enclosures, Covers, and Windbreaks

Lots of you use various types of plant covers to extend the season, whether you’re growing in a greenhouse or hoop house, under a floating row cover or cold frame, or even—as Emily Sandstrom does—in a wheelbarrow with holes drilled in the bottom that she then covers in plastic overnight. The real beauty of Emily’s method is that it also allows her to wheel her mini “greenhouse” into a warmer area if it’s really going to get cold, and she doesn’t have to do a lot of bending and kneeling: “Just put the wheelbarrow on something that makes it the height you want,” she says.

We got some really creative suggestions for DIY enclosures, too.

  • Vikki Blalock uses raised beds and makes her own medium hoop houses with homemade tomato cages and thick-gauge roll plastic.
  • Dee creates a warmer growing space by looping 40 feet of gutter heat tape back and forth (but without touching itself) in a 5 foot-by-8 foot space. She tops it with a foot of good soil and then builds a low hoop house over that with PVC, rebar, and 6mm clear plastic sheeting. Dee then hangs two brooder lamps inside and places a 5-gallon bucket full of water to add humidity and trap bugs. She says she “learned to do this when raising competition pumpkins” and that it lets her get a 6–8 week head start on the growing season, minimum.
  • Terri from Northeast Ohio has a wire-enclosed raised bed that gives her about 150 square feet of room. When the weather turns chilly, she wraps the whole exterior in bubble wrap, and says it “works great well into December.”
  • Greta in Kentucky saves 1-gallon water jugs all year long and cuts out the bottoms, leaving the plastic screw tops in place. When things start turning cold outside, she presses a round electric fence post into the ground at the end of each garden row and hangs jugs through their handles on the post. This keeps them from blowing around the farm. “Anything that needs warmer soil and protection against cold air and frost gets a ‘mini greenhouse’ in the evening, if needed,” she adds. “If I can’t be out first thing in the morning I pop the caps off the top to keep hot air from building up when the sun hits them. This works for vines after planting, too.”
  • John varies what he uses by time of year. To start earlier in the spring, he uses garden fabric, plus Wall O’ Waters for his early tomatoes. To extend his season into the fall and winter, he uses garden fabric combined with plastic-covered low tunnels.
  • Rick P. warms the soil in his raised beds with black plastic sheets, in addition to using a homemade cold frame.
  • Sandra Forrester in Northeast New Mexico uses tires to protect her plants. “The tire is not used as a planter to hold the soil, but simply as a plant perimeter wall. It acts as a windbreak and creates a microclimate. Plus, we can easily cover the tires with gardening cloth for added warmth.” Sandra says that, for taller plants, she inserts chicken wire (or other wire fencing) around the inside perimeter of the tire to make a cage and covers that with cloth to create a makeshift cold frame. “We stack two tires for plants that need more support. Works like a charm all year round and we’ve found a use for the tires, which are a free resource.”
  • In Northwest Central Texas, Rufus creates raised beds out of tires stacked two or three high. “They warm the ground faster in early spring. and the sidewalls hold water longer than just dirt.” He adds that the height makes weeding easier, since there’s not so much need to stoop over. Like Sandra, he also uses wire cages to “keep the West Texas wind from ripping things apart and hold a shade if need be.”

Grow Cold-Hardy Varieties

Many of you use multiple methods to cheat frost in the garden, and one that several of you mentioned was choosing cold-hardy varieties – or creating your own by letting plants self-seed and produce volunteers the following spring.

  • “I do the research!” says Elaine Kettring. “What plants are cold hardy? Collards and many green leafy vegetables—especially the ones with crinkled leaves. The more crinkled, the more cold hardy.” She adds that she’s had good cold-weather success with drumhead cabbage, the salad green Mâche, and Blue Max for collards.
  • Bunkey in Tobermory, Canada, says, “I let most of my plants self-seed. Volunteers always do better than ones I plant.”
  • Kathy Harbert in Missouri tosses lettuce seeds onto late-winter snow. She says she always gets a nice bed of early leaf lettuce that way.

Warm the Soil With Mulch

Many of you also cover the soil with deep mulch to extend the season.

  • Deep rich mulch helps my black clay soil warm up more quickly in the spring,” says Jeannie. “I can plant earlier and avoid the stress on the roots.”
  • Carol uses raked leaves as mulch on her raised bed in late fall and winter.
  • Bunkey, who has a Back to Eden garden, says, “I plant my garlic and potatoes under the mulch in the fall, making sure they are well covered. What joy, as they pop up as soon as the soil is warm enough for them in spring. I never have to break my back digging for potatoes—as long as the mulch excludes the light and frost, they are happy and productive!”
  • Kathy Harbert lays black plastic or reusable landscape cloth down in early spring to kill weeds and help warm the soil.
  • Burt Crew uses wheat straw from a local farmer for mulch. He also adds it to his chicken coop and run for use as mulch later.

Grow in Containers

Several of our Community members start seeds in pots—or grow them in containers all year long!

  • Crystal in mid-coast Maine says, “I attended Peter Burke’s talk and then read his book Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening. I now have a ready supply of shoots (not quite microgreens, but close). It is easy to do—no grow lights required. Plant seeds in the soil mix he recommends, put them in the dark for four days, then put them in natural light (even a north window) for 3–5 days. My one-year-old grandson loves picking and eating my shoots—even the spicy radish shoots.”
  • “I grow in containers and cheat the weather, so my season is 12 months,” says Charles A. Pledge. “I find I cannot extend that. I have a 900-square-foot inside growing area and am adding 256 more square feet in late winter. Plus, I am adding about 800 square feet in the form of a roof-covered shed to protect from frost and may rough part of that in and add heat to get extra freeze time eliminated. “
  • Debbie starts seeds indoors, then transplants them once the weather warms up enough. “I start seeds inside in repurposed food containers or whatever else I can find that will hold a little dirt. I find they need heat and light—lots of light to grow well. In spite of being by a double window, I shine several regular light bulbs in inexpensive, portable light fixtures on them. I know you are supposed to use grow lights, but I am just supplementing the sunlight for a couple of months to keep the plants from getting too leggy, and they seem to do okay.” Debbie then moves her plants outdoors into a PVC enclosure wrapped in clear plastic, and transplants them once the ground is warm enough.

Create Zones

Some of you contour the earth so that it works as an ally in protecting plants from frost damage.

“We extend by building multiple tiered beds,” says Marianne Cicala. “It naturally creates a variety of zones—a.k.a. morning sun with afternoon shade—which keeps the soil cooler and more moist, thus allowing cole crops to grow longer into the summer season and fall crops to  be planted earlier. The opposing portion of these beds provides hot afternoon sun, which allows summer crops to be planted earlier and last longer into the fall season.”

(By the way, you can read more about Marianne’s gardening methods in our Local Changemakers series, here.)

Finally…

If all else fails, Wayne Lyford offers a final, failproof suggestion: “Move to Florida!” 🙂

 

The post Extending the Growing Season (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Extending the Growing Season (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

What’s your favorite trick for extending the growing season?

In January 2018, we asked you to share your favorite tricks for extending the growing season. Read on to learn our Community’s best season-extension tips!

Use Enclosures, Covers, and Windbreaks

Lots of you use various types of plant covers to extend the season, whether you’re growing in a greenhouse or hoop house, under a floating row cover or cold frame, or even—as Emily Sandstrom does—in a wheelbarrow with holes drilled in the bottom that she then covers in plastic overnight. The real beauty of Emily’s method is that it also allows her to wheel her mini “greenhouse” into a warmer area if it’s really going to get cold, and she doesn’t have to do a lot of bending and kneeling: “Just put the wheelbarrow on something that makes it the height you want,” she says.

We got some really creative suggestions for DIY enclosures, too.

  • Vikki Blalock uses raised beds and makes her own medium hoop houses with homemade tomato cages and thick-gauge roll plastic.
  • Dee creates a warmer growing space by looping 40 feet of gutter heat tape back and forth (but without touching itself) in a 5 foot-by-8 foot space. She tops it with a foot of good soil and then builds a low hoop house over that with PVC, rebar, and 6mm clear plastic sheeting. Dee then hangs two brooder lamps inside and places a 5-gallon bucket full of water to add humidity and trap bugs. She says she “learned to do this when raising competition pumpkins” and that it lets her get a 6–8 week head start on the growing season, minimum.
  • Terri from Northeast Ohio has a wire-enclosed raised bed that gives her about 150 square feet of room. When the weather turns chilly, she wraps the whole exterior in bubble wrap, and says it “works great well into December.”
  • Greta in Kentucky saves 1-gallon water jugs all year long and cuts out the bottoms, leaving the plastic screw tops in place. When things start turning cold outside, she presses a round electric fence post into the ground at the end of each garden row and hangs jugs through their handles on the post. This keeps them from blowing around the farm. “Anything that needs warmer soil and protection against cold air and frost gets a ‘mini greenhouse’ in the evening, if needed,” she adds. “If I can’t be out first thing in the morning I pop the caps off the top to keep hot air from building up when the sun hits them. This works for vines after planting, too.”
  • John varies what he uses by time of year. To start earlier in the spring, he uses garden fabric, plus Wall O’ Waters for his early tomatoes. To extend his season into the fall and winter, he uses garden fabric combined with plastic-covered low tunnels.
  • Rick P. warms the soil in his raised beds with black plastic sheets, in addition to using a homemade cold frame.
  • Sandra Forrester in Northeast New Mexico uses tires to protect her plants. “The tire is not used as a planter to hold the soil, but simply as a plant perimeter wall. It acts as a windbreak and creates a microclimate. Plus, we can easily cover the tires with gardening cloth for added warmth.” Sandra says that, for taller plants, she inserts chicken wire (or other wire fencing) around the inside perimeter of the tire to make a cage and covers that with cloth to create a makeshift cold frame. “We stack two tires for plants that need more support. Works like a charm all year round and we’ve found a use for the tires, which are a free resource.”
  • In Northwest Central Texas, Rufus creates raised beds out of tires stacked two or three high. “They warm the ground faster in early spring. and the sidewalls hold water longer than just dirt.” He adds that the height makes weeding easier, since there’s not so much need to stoop over. Like Sandra, he also uses wire cages to “keep the West Texas wind from ripping things apart and hold a shade if need be.”

Grow Cold-Hardy Varieties

Many of you use multiple methods to cheat frost in the garden, and one that several of you mentioned was choosing cold-hardy varieties – or creating your own by letting plants self-seed and produce volunteers the following spring.

  • “I do the research!” says Elaine Kettring. “What plants are cold hardy? Collards and many green leafy vegetables—especially the ones with crinkled leaves. The more crinkled, the more cold hardy.” She adds that she’s had good cold-weather success with drumhead cabbage, the salad green Mâche, and Blue Max for collards.
  • Bunkey in Tobermory, Canada, says, “I let most of my plants self-seed. Volunteers always do better than ones I plant.”
  • Kathy Harbert in Missouri tosses lettuce seeds onto late-winter snow. She says she always gets a nice bed of early leaf lettuce that way.

Warm the Soil With Mulch

Many of you also cover the soil with deep mulch to extend the season.

  • Deep rich mulch helps my black clay soil warm up more quickly in the spring,” says Jeannie. “I can plant earlier and avoid the stress on the roots.”
  • Carol uses raked leaves as mulch on her raised bed in late fall and winter.
  • Bunkey, who has a Back to Eden garden, says, “I plant my garlic and potatoes under the mulch in the fall, making sure they are well covered. What joy, as they pop up as soon as the soil is warm enough for them in spring. I never have to break my back digging for potatoes—as long as the mulch excludes the light and frost, they are happy and productive!”
  • Kathy Harbert lays black plastic or reusable landscape cloth down in early spring to kill weeds and help warm the soil.
  • Burt Crew uses wheat straw from a local farmer for mulch. He also adds it to his chicken coop and run for use as mulch later.

Grow in Containers

Several of our Community members start seeds in pots—or grow them in containers all year long!

  • Crystal in mid-coast Maine says, “I attended Peter Burke’s talk and then read his book Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening. I now have a ready supply of shoots (not quite microgreens, but close). It is easy to do—no grow lights required. Plant seeds in the soil mix he recommends, put them in the dark for four days, then put them in natural light (even a north window) for 3–5 days. My one-year-old grandson loves picking and eating my shoots—even the spicy radish shoots.”
  • “I grow in containers and cheat the weather, so my season is 12 months,” says Charles A. Pledge. “I find I cannot extend that. I have a 900-square-foot inside growing area and am adding 256 more square feet in late winter. Plus, I am adding about 800 square feet in the form of a roof-covered shed to protect from frost and may rough part of that in and add heat to get extra freeze time eliminated. “
  • Debbie starts seeds indoors, then transplants them once the weather warms up enough. “I start seeds inside in repurposed food containers or whatever else I can find that will hold a little dirt. I find they need heat and light—lots of light to grow well. In spite of being by a double window, I shine several regular light bulbs in inexpensive, portable light fixtures on them. I know you are supposed to use grow lights, but I am just supplementing the sunlight for a couple of months to keep the plants from getting too leggy, and they seem to do okay.” Debbie then moves her plants outdoors into a PVC enclosure wrapped in clear plastic, and transplants them once the ground is warm enough.

Create Zones

Some of you contour the earth so that it works as an ally in protecting plants from frost damage.

“We extend by building multiple tiered beds,” says Marianne Cicala. “It naturally creates a variety of zones—a.k.a. morning sun with afternoon shade—which keeps the soil cooler and more moist, thus allowing cole crops to grow longer into the summer season and fall crops to  be planted earlier. The opposing portion of these beds provides hot afternoon sun, which allows summer crops to be planted earlier and last longer into the fall season.”

(By the way, you can read more about Marianne’s gardening methods in our Local Changemakers series, here.)

Finally…

If all else fails, Wayne Lyford offers a final, failproof suggestion: “Move to Florida!” 🙂

 

The post Extending the Growing Season (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Meet Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker

Click here to view the original post.

Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker

Mike Reeske
Local Changemaker

Company: Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans

Website: RioDelReyBeans.com

Fast Fact: It was a happy accident that first led Rio Del Rey to introduce the Anazapi bean, a cross between the Anasazi and Rio Zape. The company will produce its first commercial crop of the hybrid bean in 2018.

Nominated by:
Cat M. | Escondido, CA

____________________________________________

Please explain a little about your background and what first sparked your interest in developing organic dry heirloom beans?

I grew up in Anaheim, California, where my parents were orange ranchers and restaurant owners. I graduated from Chapman University in 1967 and began teaching high school science, a career that spanned more than 40 years in the classroom.

During this time, I opened the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point Harbor as its education director, developed the Outdoor Education Program on Palomar Mountain for the Vista Unified School District, and worked 12 years as a writer and developer on the Science Education for Public Understanding Program for the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I have co-authored 13 books there, including Science and Sustainability, Understanding Environmental Health Risks, and Plastics in Our Lives. My last book, The Life Cycle of Everyday Stuff, deals with natural systems.

In every place I have lived, I’ve developed programs that were community-based, teaching people about their local environments and the need to preserve them. I live in the chaparral now and have merged my bean-growing philosophy with the cultural and historic themes of the Southwest.

After retiring, I began what is now an eight-year effort to bring heirloom dry beans to more people as a fantastic superfood that is both very flavorful and great for personal health.

How did your passions grow into what is today Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans and the “small family farm” that yields them?

While teaching, I had the opportunity in the early ‘70s to offer gardening as an alternative to a semester of life science in high school. There was an acre of land behind my classroom, and it soon became the center of 36 student gardens. There, the kids discovered that kohlrabi actually tastes great, and real learning takes place when we provide relevant, hands-on experiences.

Soon after this, I was hired at a new high school in Cypress, California. In addition to teaching science, I was asked to lead a volunteer community and student effort to raise funds in order to landscape the new school—a task both fun and formidable. It took two years of work, and when I wasn’t in the classroom, I was out pushing a wheel barrow of hoses to water the burgeoning plants.

After I retired, I asked myself, “What would I like to do when I grow up?” You see, in all of our lives there are opportunities to reinvent ourselves—to germinate the dormant seeds of creativity we have made in other parts of our lives and call upon those energies and ideas to lead us into the future.

I remember thinking back to what Voltaire said in the ending to Candide. After experiencing the world’s conditions and catastrophes, Candide was asked what he learned about life. His reply was, “We must tend our gardens.” That really struck me in its beautiful simplicity. I had always enjoyed working the soil and seeing the fruition of my labor. But what would I grow?

There are meaningful coincidences in our lives. In 2008, I was reading an article on heirloom dry beans—and it struck me that I had never really tasted these critters. I did some research and discovered Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona. It was founded to preserve the native tribal seeds of the Southwest (including Northern Mexico).

I obtained some purple Hopi beans. They were like the purple, black-striped, shiny Rio Zape beans we sell today.

I was blown away by their taste!

After preparing them simply with garlic, onions, and some salt, I took my first taste. Wow! These were not my mother’s limas. They were meaty, full-flavored, and oh, so creamy. They were so unlike the canned pinto, black, and kidney beans that I had come to think of as my culinary bean palette. They sung with flavor and richness. I had to have more, and I needed to do my homework on beans.

I was able to begin growing some varieties of heirloom beans to determine which ones had the best taste and were adaptable to the inland valley of San Diego County. After three years of work, I had grown enough beans organically to begin commercial production on 23 acres of land adjacent to the San Luis Rey River that I leased from an Indian tribe.

I named my farm Rio Del Rey (“the King’s River”) and began growing heirloom beans in 2013. In 2017, we moved the farm to the land surrounding our home in Valley Center, California.

Can you describe the main tenets of the organic and sustainable farming practices you employ? How can Rio Del Rey serve as a model for other small farms that share your climate?

As I began my farm, I realized that to produce great food, you must employ the best of farming methods—and do this in a sustainable way. Conventional farming methods are, at many times, at odds with nature and interfere with the natural systems that produce soil fertility. The heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on our food crops is not sustainable and, in many cases, harmful.

We go through a great deal of effort to say that our beans are certified organic. Unlike with other terms, such as “natural,” our beans are regulated through an extensive certification process and undergo an annual inspection to ensure they meet the USDA’s National Organic Program requirements.

Our products are also certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), a not-for-profit organization. It is important to me to share with others the goal of sustainability and the stewardship we practice in caring for the land we grow on.

There are more small farms and organic farms in San Diego County than in any other county in the U.S. More than 5,500 farmers call it home and make their living on 5,732 small family farms. Sixty-eight percent of these are nine or fewer acres in size.

When I decided to farm heirloom dry beans organically, I made the commitment to a holistic management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.

In short, it’s restoring the soil to the point that it can sustain healthy growth now and in years to come.

Beans are a natural complement, because they add nitrogen to the soil and are a part of the traditional rotation of crops to promote long-term sustainability. As farmers, we work for years to restore this natural balance of the soil. Sustainable farming works in harmony with the renewable systems found in nature. Because it requires long-term goals, it costs more to implement—and leads to increased costs for organic produce.

Heirloom dry beans are a niche market with few organic players. Our farm serves as a model for what is possible using relatively inexpensive equipment and enhanced farming practices to produce a unique crop that is highly desirable for a healthy lifestyle.

Rio Del Rey’s goals focus on:

  • Developing new and disease-resistant bean varieties
  • Collecting and preserving rare and endangered beans from around the world
  • Supplying unique organic heirloom beans for cooking and for planting as seeds
  • Creating a sustainable farming system as a model for future small farms to use in further developing heirloom beans
  • Providing educational opportunities for everyone interested in our heirloom beans

You source rare and endangered bean varieties (and even the farming equipment used on them!) from all over the world. Please describe how some of these connections came about.

When I met Steve Temple, a highly respected bean researcher at the University of California, Davis (UCD), he pointed out that the greatest barrier for the small bean farmer comes in the cost of a bean threshing machine, because no small machines have been made in the U.S. for many years.

My earlier research had confirmed this, and lingering at the back of my mind was the impending harvest of 4 acres of beans. Imagine freeing the beans by hand labor! (We do this now for our 44 experimental beans, and I can assure you that shelling thousands of beans is no pool party!)

The only small-scale threshers on the market were those made in China and Italy, but after intensifying my search, I also found a company in Konya, Turkey—home of the Whirling Dervishes. These threshing machines are used all over Greece, Turkey, and northern Africa. And the best part? They were affordable! I contacted them and purchased two machines. The thresher runs off the PTO drive of a tractor. It met my desires for a more sustainable use of energy, as opposed to buying a diesel or electrically powered model.

In October 2013, my wife, Chris, and I flew to Konya for a day to meet the owners, Osman and his son Nuri, and the workers at their thresher factory. [It astonished me that the threshers were completely manufactured there using large rolls of steel and steel bars, formed by milling, bending, and welding. Only the wheels and tires were outsourced. Even the painting was done there.]

It was a great visit, demonstrating to me the high quality of the product and the integrity of the owners. I also learned how to operate the thresher and diagnose any problems that might arise during operation.

As for the beans themselves, I spent time in 2014 in Mexico’s Hidalgo state learning to harvest and prepare many foods in a 1704 hacienda. I had the opportunity to meet bean farmers who had preserved some of the great diversity found in beans.

One Hidalgo farmer gave me a bag of large, purple runner beans—each just sparkling like a deep purple gem—the Ayocote Morado.

I planted these beans back home along with subsequent beans that we collected from Turkey in 2014 and from Chile and Argentina in 2015 to determine which kinds were most productive and well-suited to our soil and climate. All of this has led me to the passion I have today for growing and sharing my heirloom beans with people.

Can you explain the goals behind the research you conduct on your own and in conjunction with the University of California?

Our goal is to make the supply of heirloom dry beans available in larger quantities and at a cheaper price than the going rates of $6-plus per pound.

We face two challenges.

The first is the lack of availability of high-quality organic bean seed, and the second (and much more daunting) is the limited amount of seed free of the Bean common mosaic virus (BCMV), which stunts plant growth and pod production.

Any industry is always in need of good research and development, and I found that partnering with UCD was an ideal answer. It has one of the most well-known bean researchers in the world, Dr. Paul Gepts. With his support, we are making great progress toward our goal.

As I mentioned, one of the greatest problems in growing heirloom dry beans is the presence of BCMV. Plants infected with the virus have light green or yellow mosaic patterns on the leaves, accompanied by puckering, blistering, and downward curling and rolling, resulting in stunted growth or death of the bean plant. This is a major barrier in producing substantial bean yields.

In 2015, we provided a grant donation to help fund the research efforts of Travis Parker, a UCD doctoral student. Travis’s work involves inserting the BCMV-resistant I gene (found naturally in most string beans and many commercial beans) into some heirloom varieties using the traditional processes of plant breeding. This begins with growing, then cross-pollinating, an heirloom plant.

In this example, the Rio Zape is crossed with a white bean, the Matterhorn, which contains the resistant I gene. The plant is grown to maturity, producing what is called the F1 hybrid seed. The hybrid seed (all brown) looks quite different from the original Rio Zape seed (purple with black stripes), but now contains the I gene. This process is repeated six more times. With each generation of back-crossing to the heirloom parent, more heirloom seed characteristics are recovered. To regain all of the original qualities of the Rio Zape bean, the hybrid seeds are planted, and their pollen is used to cross-pollinate a normal Rio Zape parent.

At the end, 99.6 percent of the qualities of the original Rio Zape have been added—with the benefit of the plant now being resistant to BCMV. From our 2017 research, this bean produces a plant twice as big as the original and with many more pods!

Our goal now is to scale up seed production and distribute the seed free of charge to farmers across America.

How about the work you’re doing to develop your own hybrid bean made from crossing an Anasazi with a Rio Zape?

Since there are no large bean processing warehouses in southern California, I needed to find a way to further clean my beans. I purchased a new Clipper seed and grain cleaner—the most widely used air screen cleaners in the world—from the A.T. Ferrell Company, which has been manufacturing them since 1869.

It worked wonders in separating split beans and debris from the beans. However, no cleaner can further separate out discolored or slightly cracked beans.

The big warehouses use a $750,000 color sorter that uses computers, laser beams, and air jets to do the final sorting. For a small farm like ours, it’s my wife and I who do the final hand sorting, a slow but effective process.

In 2014, while hand cleaning some Anasazi beans, my wife noticed a very different bean that looked like it had the characteristics of both the Anasazi and Rio Zape. After cleaning several hundred pounds of beans, we had gleaned about 50 of these seeds.

Since beans are self-pollinating, there had to be a pollinator, which we attributed to the four beehives on the farm (the Anasazi beans were planted on a field next to a field of Rio Zape beans). The following year, I planted these seeds and they stayed “true,” producing the same hybrid seeds we began with. After two more years of planting and selectively harvesting, we now have almost 30 pounds, enough to finally produce a commercial crop in 2018—God willing and the creeks don’t overflow!

Anasazi and Rio Zape beans are some of our best-tasting beans. The new Anazapi bean, as we call it, should surely excel in taste, and it also has a more upright bush habit and shorter maturity date than the Rio Zape.

You work with chefs in San Diego County and throughout southern California. How do you partner with them to determine which heirlooms will most complement their menus?

Our beans serve as an alternative to traditional bean varieties, offering unique taste and freshness free of synthetic residues. (Commercial bean producers employ up to six different synthetic pesticides.)

Unlike the limited variety of dry beans found in stores (that can be up to five years old), our beans are sold fresh each year. The difference in how fast they cook is amazing! But the real delight comes in the remarkable taste of heirloom beans.

After hosting many cooking demos at farmers markets and stores, I realized that another valuable way for people to learn about heirloom dry beans was to educate the chefs of top San Diego restaurants. I invited the chefs and their staffs to our farm to see how we grow and process the beans and, most importantly, to do some tasting!

I developed a bean-tasting scale to evaluate the flavor, texture, and other qualities people look for in a good bean. This provided an education for the chefs and helped them discover what traits were valuable for use in their cooking. They assessed our current crop of beans and also some new varieties we had been growing to help determine what we would plant the next growing season.

This made them feel more connected to the farm and also provided us with a future market for these new beans. My philosophy here was to have chefs taste and think of the beans as a culinary palette of colors and flavors. A creative chef could use these experiences to come up some great new ideas that featured our beans in their menus.

You’ve said your work is a “celebration of a common heritage we share with all the people of the Americas.” What makes this a focal point of your efforts as a farmer and business owner?

Dry beans were domesticated from wild plants and first cultivated in Mexico more than 10,000 years ago, then shared with people who spread both north and south to form some of the great empires of the Americas. Today, we find these beans in a multitude of shapes and colors throughout the world. It is these dry bean seeds that are the heartbeat of Rio Del Rey.

I share a love for the indigenous people of the Americas, who gave us so many foods, including beans, corn, tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes, quinoa, and myriad more.

I first discovered this on my honeymoon in 1968, when we visited my best friend, John, who was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. We traveled through Quito and reached the headwaters of the Amazon in the small village of Tena, crossing the river on a cart attached to a wire and pulley. There was no electricity, but infinite night sky and bats flying through the open houses!

It was here that I first experienced the wonder of the unknown, the sweet taste of so many different foods, and, most importantly, the friendship of the people.

We continued our travels, and in early 2017, we met organic farmers in Lima, Peru, who shared some of their beans with us. They are now growing outside our home so we can determine whether they are adaptable to a southern California climate.

We all benefit from the great diversity of people, cultures, and food traditions found in the Americas. In a time when there are forces at work to separate us from our common humanity, I find the mentality of the campfire most useful. Around the warmth of the fire, we share songs and stories and celebrate our differences rather than our prejudices. In our eyes is reflected the fire that radiates our hopes and dreams for the future and our optimism that those forces that would divide will fade away in the coming dawn.

Are there plans for Rio Del Rey to provide formal educational opportunities to those interested in heirloom beans?

We are currently working with CCOF to promote more agritourism in San Diego County. In the past, we have hosted groups, such as Farm Bureau members, schools, garden clubs, and permaculture clubs. We are working on a plan with a major tour company in San Diego to promote Valley Center, where our farm is located, and the new, unique groups of farms, wineries, and specialty livestock growers in this area 40 miles north of San Diego. We also teach organic farming to students at the local high school adjacent to our farm.

Can you offer a specific piece of farming, cooking, or healthy living advice that would be of interest to our Grow Network community?

Beans are an excellent, nonfat source of protein. Just one cup of cooked dry beans provides as much as 16 grams of protein (adults generally need to eat between 50 to 60 grams in a day). Beans can also help to counteract increases in diseases linked to lifestyle, such as obesity and diabetes, and are celebrated for increasing food security in areas with shortages. Plus, they improve cropping systems and are good for farmers.

 

The post Meet Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker appeared first on The Grow Network.

TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting

Click here to view the original post.

As the growing season approaches, there is a lot of flipping through seed catalogs, browsing the internet for the perfect grow light, and garden planning going on. We thought it would be fun to poll our TGN team members about their favorite seed starting products and tools.

Every member of The Grow Network team shares our Community’s values and produces at least some of our food and medicine—more and more as we experiment, learn, and “grow” in gardening and homesteading wisdom! And since it’s not always easy to decide which product is the best, we thought we’d share our favorites to make your seed-starting adventure a little simpler!


TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting Tools and Product Recommendations

Please note this page contains Amazon Affiliate links. The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products to you! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. We really appreciate the support!


VIVERO HOME JAPANESE HORI-HORI GARDEN KNIFE

Anthony Says: The Hori-Hori is my all-time favorite gardening tool. Pretty much anything from grafting fruit trees to starting spring seedlings, the Hori-Hori knife makes the job a little bit easier! 

KEY FEATURES

  • Double-edged blade—one side serrated, the other extra sharp
  • Embedded graded ruler
  • Replaces tools like trowels, weeds pullers, digging tools, bulb planters, and more! 
  • Ships with a premium leather sheath and garden gloves

Secret Garden Burgon and Ball Stainless Steel Widger/ TransplanterMarjory Wildcraft's favorite Transplanting Widger

Marjory Says: I love using this transplanting widger when I am tiny rows to start seeds. It works so great for moving small amounts of soil! 😊

KEY FEATURES

  • Ergonomic Hardwood Handle
  • Tempered and Hardened Stainless Steel
  • Rust Resistant
  • Ideal for plug plants and transplanting

Jiffy 36mm Windowsill Greenhouse 12- Plant Starter Kit

Jiffy Seed Starting Greenhouse

Marjory Says: The little Jiffy Greenhouses make it really easy to start seeds indoors. Plus, they fit nicely into a windowsill if you don’t have any grow lights!  I know, I know – it’s a lot of plastic. But, you can resue the greenhouse and purchase replacement peat pellets.

KEY FEATURES

  • Slender Design, making it easy to store and use on a windowsill
  • Clear Plastic Dome retains heat, creating an optimal seed starting environment
  • Starts 12 plants from seeds or cuttings
  • Pellets expand to form pot and soil all in one


EARLYGROW DOMED PROPAGATOREarlyGrow Domed Seed Propogator

Ruth Says: I already own several of these EarlyGrow propagators, and I use them all the time to start all of my seeds indoors. I like to use them in conjunction with reusable plastic pots and Jiffy Organic Seed Starting Mix. The reason I LOVE these propagators is that they have little vents on the top that allow oxygen in and help prevent molding of the soil. And they’re reusable!

KEY FEATURES

  • Made of High Quality, Sturdy Plastic
  • Shatterproof
  • Reusable
  • Vented dome to control humidity levels


Smart Pot Soft-Sided Container, BlackSmart Pot

Jimerson Says: Smart Pots are great because they let in oxygen in from all sides for increased growth! I found them to be great for newbies because it helps to prevent overwatering. They also help to prevent mold growth, root rot, and root ball formation prevention by air pruning on sides. Great for use indoor and outdoor use. I really can’t recommend these enough!

KEY FEATURES

      • Soft-Sided Fabric Aeration Container
      • Retains Shape
      • Provides Aeration to enhance root structure
      • Allows excess heat to escape

Maxicrop 1001 Liquid Seaweed

Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer

Marjory Says: When I just don’t have time to make my own fertilizers, I like to use a liquid seaweed fertilizer to help boost up the mineral content available to the seedlings!

KEY FEATURES

  • Pure Seaweed Extract
  • Promotes Vigorous Root and Stem Growth
  • Contains Trace Elements 


HM Digital TDS-EZ Water Quality TDS Tester

Water Quality Tester

Jimerson Says: With this handy tool, you can test the pH of your water before giving it to your plants (if you’ve got plants that are sensitive about this, or if you are just a super gardening nerd, like me 😊). Also, this is good for testing water runoff of potted plants to get more info on your soil’s pH.

KEY FEATURES

  • 100% Durable Plastic
  • Highly Efficient and Accurate with Advanced Microprocessor Technology
  • Hold Function to save measurements for convenient reading/recording
  • Auto-Off Function
  • Measurement Range – 0-9999 ppm 

MarsHydro 300W LED Full Spectrum Grow LightMars Hydro Full Spectrum Grow Light

Jimerson Says: For those of us who grow indoors or live in apartments, this full spectrum LED grow light is top notch and not overly expensive (relative to others).

KEY FEATURES:

  • Full Spectrum 300W LED Grow Light
  • Emits Wavelengths which are fully absorbed by seedlings
  • Works for both Vegetables and Flowers
  • Easy to Assemble
  • Energy Saving and Eco-Friendly


TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter


The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!


 

 

The post TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting appeared first on The Grow Network.

TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting

As the growing season approaches, there is a lot of flipping through seed catalogs, browsing the internet for the perfect grow light, and garden planning going on. We thought it would be fun to poll our TGN team members about their favorite seed starting products and tools.

Every member of The Grow Network team shares our Community’s values and produces at least some of our food and medicine—more and more as we experiment, learn, and “grow” in gardening and homesteading wisdom! And since it’s not always easy to decide which product is the best, we thought we’d share our favorites to make your seed-starting adventure a little simpler!


TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting Tools and Product Recommendations

Please note this page contains Amazon Affiliate links. The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products to you! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. We really appreciate the support!


VIVERO HOME JAPANESE HORI-HORI GARDEN KNIFE

Anthony Says: The Hori-Hori is my all-time favorite gardening tool. Pretty much anything from grafting fruit trees to starting spring seedlings, the Hori-Hori knife makes the job a little bit easier! 

KEY FEATURES

  • Double-edged blade—one side serrated, the other extra sharp
  • Embedded graded ruler
  • Replaces tools like trowels, weeds pullers, digging tools, bulb planters, and more! 
  • Ships with a premium leather sheath and garden gloves

Secret Garden Burgon and Ball Stainless Steel Widger/ TransplanterMarjory Wildcraft's favorite Transplanting Widger

Marjory Says: I love using this transplanting widger when I am tiny rows to start seeds. It works so great for moving small amounts of soil! 😊

KEY FEATURES

  • Ergonomic Hardwood Handle
  • Tempered and Hardened Stainless Steel
  • Rust Resistant
  • Ideal for plug plants and transplanting

Jiffy 36mm Windowsill Greenhouse 12- Plant Starter Kit

Jiffy Seed Starting Greenhouse

Marjory Says: The little Jiffy Greenhouses make it really easy to start seeds indoors. Plus, they fit nicely into a windowsill if you don’t have any grow lights!  I know, I know – it’s a lot of plastic. But, you can resue the greenhouse and purchase replacement peat pellets.

KEY FEATURES

  • Slender Design, making it easy to store and use on a windowsill
  • Clear Plastic Dome retains heat, creating an optimal seed starting environment
  • Starts 12 plants from seeds or cuttings
  • Pellets expand to form pot and soil all in one


EARLYGROW DOMED PROPAGATOREarlyGrow Domed Seed Propogator

Ruth Says: I already own several of these EarlyGrow propagators, and I use them all the time to start all of my seeds indoors. I like to use them in conjunction with reusable plastic pots and Jiffy Organic Seed Starting Mix. The reason I LOVE these propagators is that they have little vents on the top that allow oxygen in and help prevent molding of the soil. And they’re reusable!

KEY FEATURES

  • Made of High Quality, Sturdy Plastic
  • Shatterproof
  • Reusable
  • Vented dome to control humidity levels


Smart Pot Soft-Sided Container, BlackSmart Pot

Jimerson Says: Smart Pots are great because they let in oxygen in from all sides for increased growth! I found them to be great for newbies because it helps to prevent overwatering. They also help to prevent mold growth, root rot, and root ball formation prevention by air pruning on sides. Great for use indoor and outdoor use. I really can’t recommend these enough!

KEY FEATURES

      • Soft-Sided Fabric Aeration Container
      • Retains Shape
      • Provides Aeration to enhance root structure
      • Allows excess heat to escape

Maxicrop 1001 Liquid Seaweed

Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer

Marjory Says: When I just don’t have time to make my own fertilizers, I like to use a liquid seaweed fertilizer to help boost up the mineral content available to the seedlings!

KEY FEATURES

  • Pure Seaweed Extract
  • Promotes Vigorous Root and Stem Growth
  • Contains Trace Elements 


HM Digital TDS-EZ Water Quality TDS Tester

Water Quality Tester

Jimerson Says: With this handy tool, you can test the pH of your water before giving it to your plants (if you’ve got plants that are sensitive about this, or if you are just a super gardening nerd, like me 😊). Also, this is good for testing water runoff of potted plants to get more info on your soil’s pH.

KEY FEATURES

  • 100% Durable Plastic
  • Highly Efficient and Accurate with Advanced Microprocessor Technology
  • Hold Function to save measurements for convenient reading/recording
  • Auto-Off Function
  • Measurement Range – 0-9999 ppm 

MarsHydro 300W LED Full Spectrum Grow LightMars Hydro Full Spectrum Grow Light

Jimerson Says: For those of us who grow indoors or live in apartments, this full spectrum LED grow light is top notch and not overly expensive (relative to others).

KEY FEATURES:

  • Full Spectrum 300W LED Grow Light
  • Emits Wavelengths which are fully absorbed by seedlings
  • Works for both Vegetables and Flowers
  • Easy to Assemble
  • Energy Saving and Eco-Friendly


TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter


The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!


 

 

The post TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting appeared first on The Grow Network.

TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting

As the growing season approaches, there is a lot of flipping through seed catalogs, browsing the internet for the perfect grow light, and garden planning going on. We thought it would be fun to poll our TGN team members about their favorite seed starting products and tools.

Every member of The Grow Network team shares our Community’s values and produces at least some of our food and medicine—more and more as we experiment, learn, and “grow” in gardening and homesteading wisdom! And since it’s not always easy to decide which product is the best, we thought we’d share our favorites to make your seed-starting adventure a little simpler!


TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting Tools and Product Recommendations

Please note this page contains Amazon Affiliate links. The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products to you! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. We really appreciate the support!


VIVERO HOME JAPANESE HORI-HORI GARDEN KNIFE

Anthony Says: The Hori-Hori is my all-time favorite gardening tool. Pretty much anything from grafting fruit trees to starting spring seedlings, the Hori-Hori knife makes the job a little bit easier! 

KEY FEATURES

  • Double-edged blade—one side serrated, the other extra sharp
  • Embedded graded ruler
  • Replaces tools like trowels, weeds pullers, digging tools, bulb planters, and more! 
  • Ships with a premium leather sheath and garden gloves

Secret Garden Burgon and Ball Stainless Steel Widger/ TransplanterMarjory Wildcraft's favorite Transplanting Widger

Marjory Says: I love using this transplanting widger when I am tiny rows to start seeds. It works so great for moving small amounts of soil! 😊

KEY FEATURES

  • Ergonomic Hardwood Handle
  • Tempered and Hardened Stainless Steel
  • Rust Resistant
  • Ideal for plug plants and transplanting

Jiffy 36mm Windowsill Greenhouse 12- Plant Starter Kit

Jiffy Seed Starting Greenhouse

Marjory Says: The little Jiffy Greenhouses make it really easy to start seeds indoors. Plus, they fit nicely into a windowsill if you don’t have any grow lights!  I know, I know – it’s a lot of plastic. But, you can resue the greenhouse and purchase replacement peat pellets.

KEY FEATURES

  • Slender Design, making it easy to store and use on a windowsill
  • Clear Plastic Dome retains heat, creating an optimal seed starting environment
  • Starts 12 plants from seeds or cuttings
  • Pellets expand to form pot and soil all in one


EARLYGROW DOMED PROPAGATOREarlyGrow Domed Seed Propogator

Ruth Says: I already own several of these EarlyGrow propagators, and I use them all the time to start all of my seeds indoors. I like to use them in conjunction with reusable plastic pots and Jiffy Organic Seed Starting Mix. The reason I LOVE these propagators is that they have little vents on the top that allow oxygen in and help prevent molding of the soil. And they’re reusable!

KEY FEATURES

  • Made of High Quality, Sturdy Plastic
  • Shatterproof
  • Reusable
  • Vented dome to control humidity levels


Smart Pot Soft-Sided Container, BlackSmart Pot

Jimerson Says: Smart Pots are great because they let in oxygen in from all sides for increased growth! I found them to be great for newbies because it helps to prevent overwatering. They also help to prevent mold growth, root rot, and root ball formation prevention by air pruning on sides. Great for use indoor and outdoor use. I really can’t recommend these enough!

KEY FEATURES

      • Soft-Sided Fabric Aeration Container
      • Retains Shape
      • Provides Aeration to enhance root structure
      • Allows excess heat to escape

Maxicrop 1001 Liquid Seaweed

Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer

Marjory Says: When I just don’t have time to make my own fertilizers, I like to use a liquid seaweed fertilizer to help boost up the mineral content available to the seedlings!

KEY FEATURES

  • Pure Seaweed Extract
  • Promotes Vigorous Root and Stem Growth
  • Contains Trace Elements 


HM Digital TDS-EZ Water Quality TDS Tester

Water Quality Tester

Jimerson Says: With this handy tool, you can test the pH of your water before giving it to your plants (if you’ve got plants that are sensitive about this, or if you are just a super gardening nerd, like me 😊). Also, this is good for testing water runoff of potted plants to get more info on your soil’s pH.

KEY FEATURES

  • 100% Durable Plastic
  • Highly Efficient and Accurate with Advanced Microprocessor Technology
  • Hold Function to save measurements for convenient reading/recording
  • Auto-Off Function
  • Measurement Range – 0-9999 ppm 

MarsHydro 300W LED Full Spectrum Grow LightMars Hydro Full Spectrum Grow Light

Jimerson Says: For those of us who grow indoors or live in apartments, this full spectrum LED grow light is top notch and not overly expensive (relative to others).

KEY FEATURES:

  • Full Spectrum 300W LED Grow Light
  • Emits Wavelengths which are fully absorbed by seedlings
  • Works for both Vegetables and Flowers
  • Easy to Assemble
  • Energy Saving and Eco-Friendly


TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter


The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!


 

 

The post TGN Team Favorites: Seed Starting appeared first on The Grow Network.

TGN Interviews Marianne Cicala, Local Changemaker

Click here to view the original post.

Marianne Cicala, Local Changemaker

Marianne Cicala
Local Changemaker

Companies: Cricket’s Cove Farm & Forge (working biodynamic farm) in Victoria, VA; Twigs & Berries (organic grocery store) in Kenbridge, VA

Website: CricketsCove.net

Follow on social media at: Twigs & Berries (Facebook) and Cricket’s Cove Farm & Forge (Facebook)

Fast facts: Cricket’s Cove not only offers regular permaculture workshops, but also serves as the studio of artist and blacksmith Jim Cooper (who also happens to be Marianne’s husband).

Nominated by:
Patricia M. | Kenbridge, VA
Joyce J. | Palmer Springs, VA

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

When did you first become interested in organic farming and clean eating?

In college, I rented an old sharecropper house on a working farm. The caretakers were an elderly couple, born at the turn of the last century and raised during a time when self-sufficiency and true homesteading were the norm.

Mrs. Skinner (the farmer’s wife) couldn’t comprehend that I grew up without a home garden, and my knowledge of canning involved buying them at the grocery store. I became her project and mission.

Mrs. Skinner read the night sky as the basis for everything that happened in her kitchen garden, referred to a silver maple as her “rain tree,” split open persimmon seeds in the early fall, and looked at corn silks and the undercoat of her beloved donkey’s rump for the winter forecast.

She taught me how to can, make jam, and pickle everything from squash to pole beans. It was literally a brand new world which grabbed me in a way that nothing else ever has or will. Mrs. Skinner introduced me to the importance of observation and being a partner with nature. Those memories underscore how much knowledge we’ve lost in an age when the ease of buying bottles and bags from garden centers has replaced a millennium of skills.

What path led you to the countryside of southern Virginia?

I was reared in Memphis, Tennessee, then got out of school and pursued a corporate career. I escaped that world as often as possible to go hang out in the country or woods.

My career took me to North Carolina, and my escape act continued—whether it was in my garden or the forest. My husband, Coop, had the same passion about the peace of the country, but, as an artist, residing in a large city also had professional benefits.

While living in Raleigh, we began looking for land with a short punch list in hand: not farmed for at least 50 years; running water via a river, creek, etc.; rolling hills; and loads of wildlife. We were lucky enough to eventually find our “home.”  As we bushwhacked our way around this land, we instantly knew it was perfect.

We spent the next 10 years buzzing back and forth between our city life and our future life, and we’ve now lived here full time for 10 years.

How did your passions grow into what is today Cricket’s Cove Farm & Forge and your Twigs & Berries organic grocery store?

I didn’t intend to be a farmer; I only wanted a personal garden. But I was completely sucker punched by the lack of good food available living deep in the country. I had naively assumed that by being in an agriculture-based community, I would have access to an abundance of mouthwatering, clean, fresh produce. I had a lot learn.

Unbeknownst to me, the stars began lining up for my future. While a local man helped me install a small orchard, I also faced the challenge of planting a proper kitchen garden. Since I was dealing with compacted clay for the first time, I began educating myself by listening to Dr. Elaine Ingham’s podcasts about soil. However, not only was the closest garden center almost an hour away, but it was also a big-box store. I was frustrated by the selection and was forced to blindly purchase via the Internet.

Out of the blue, the same man who had helped with my orchard called to let me know that a dilapidated building and bit of land on Main Street in nearby Kenbridge were for sale—and they would make a great garden center.

My future began to unfold. Twigs & Berries would come to specialize in young fruit trees, berries, and other edibles, hence its name. We also invited local truck farmers to sell their produce inside, since there was only one area chain grocery store and no farmers market in this county.

As I began getting to know the local growers and their practices, though, I realized the common approach was to pelt the crops with Sevin® Dust regularly and use Roundup® between seasonal plantings. I also realized that my edible plant customers weren’t buying the local produce, but were driving over an hour to get clean, fresh food.

It was inexcusable to me that so many locals like us, people who had left city life for the peace of country living, were heading back to the city every week to buy food.

I contacted the USDA and, since our homestead was untouched by “modern” farming practices, we got certified organic quickly—and my kitchen garden grew into Cricket’s Cove Organic Farm (my last name translates to cricket). Twigs & Berries then shifted our edibles to only organics. (The local grocery store didn’t offer any organic goods at the time.)

How did you earn the title of first certified biodynamic produce farm in Virginia? What differentiates biodynamic from organic?

We’ve been certified organic for seven years and certified biodynamic for three years. In the United States, you must be certified organic for a number of years before applying for biodynamic certification—and you must maintain both.

Biodynamic is an internationally recognized certification that is actually older than USDA Organic Certification. I learned of biodynamics a few years after we had been certified organic—and as I watched the constraints of organic certification ease to allow synthetic amendments and accommodations for industrial farms. I became disenchanted to a degree and asked around for direction to a cleaner alternative. What I got was an avalanche of responses pointing to biodynamics.

It’s a holistic approach that I prefer to coin as “wholistic.” It is heritage growing, right up there with what Mrs. Skinner educated me about all those decades ago.

Our farm is basically a closed system with next to nothing coming in, and almost everything coming from within. I use no mechanical equipment on any of our gardens today and no fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.

Planting, transplanting, and harvesting follow the biodynamic calendar, which maps moon phases and more. Our beds are permanent (no till), we plant intensively, and we companion plant like mad. We have massive compost piles that we empty and start up again throughout the year.

There are so many practices common to permaculture, sustainable growing, and biodynamics—like our orchards serving as food forests, complete with herbs, berries, perennial flowers, annual crops, etc.—that the transition was virtually seamless. This is the basis of the entire farm’s design.

You’ve earned both Permaculture Design Certification and your Advanced Permaculture Practicum. How do you balance the “bookish” side of your expertise with your love for the “down-and-dirty” aspects of daily farm life?

I see them as one thing.

How can you be really good at anything without constantly learning, especially with something so fluid and ever-changing as farming?

I know that I have so much more to learn, and the deeper I dig into this life and passion, the more questions I have about it. The beauty of this exploration today is the open dialogue on an international basis. People like me are so ready to share their practices, their successes, and their failures and questions. The massive number of global comrades in this quest for deeper discovery is truly awesome and so important given the current challenges.

You’ve said that your farm experiments extensively, resulting in both successes and what you describe as “epic failures.” Can you cite an example of one of your victories?

An example of a success beyond my hopes happened this past fall. Our challenge was impressive heat and 10 weeks without more than .10” of rainfall. In early August, I began to hear a lot of chatter about a possible fall drought and began reading about growing practices in desert areas.

We grow rice in conventional rice paddies; the base of these beds is below ground level. We harvested our rice in late August, which left several unoccupied below-grade beds. In deserts, sunken beds are a common approach, since their soil temperature and evaporation rate are lower (i.e., they hold water longer). We carved out narrow walking paths and used that soil to build up beds within the paddies.

I’m kind of a maniac about water retention and movement, so we also sculpted waterways so that we could simply flood the paddy, allowing the water to move around the raised beds. This resulted in easy and quick watering (since by dropping a hose at one end, the water would meander throughout) and deep, root-soaking penetration (since this approach works much like a swale and berm, which it is).

We planted the same crops in these beds as in our other above-ground gardens. There were marked differences. We watered the paddy gardens much less, and they boasted bigger, healthier plants and an earlier harvest. We even got a second fall crop planting in a couple of these beds.

Here’s the surprise—the plants in the sunken beds did just fine when we dipped to temps in the low 20s; plants in our other beds got smoked.

How about an example of a failure?

An epic financial failure was our foray into aquaponics. I loved the idea, especially since it is a closed system for the most part, with fish-fertilized water pumped throughout the grow beds and plant roots supplying some shelter and food for the fish.

We dedicated half of a greenhouse (normally used during the winter for veggie and herb propagation) and three 650-gallon drums for the fish. We cut the tops off the drums for grow beds and invested in pumps, pipes, heaters, and pea gravel; pipes for crawfish homes; baby tilapia; and, of course, fish food.

The first mental failure on my part was assuming that the submerged heaters would be enough to allow this tropical fish to thrive in an unheated greenhouse. They survived, but were incredibly slow to grow.

Technically, the experiment worked—and we enjoy some of the sweetest strawberries, peas, etc.—but from a financial standpoint, it was folly.

It was too small to produce anything other than for personal consumption, but we still had to power the pumps and heater. It was a great novelty, and had it been a much larger system and our primary focus, it would have worked. Instead, it was simply a distraction. Lesson learned—keep your eye on the ball and don’t spread yourself too thin.

Of the many hats you wear (among them farmer, educator, and business owner), do you have a favorite?

I’m always happiest when I’m knee deep in and covered with soil, but I think presenting workshops is probably my favorite aspect of what we do.

It’s easy to sometimes get overwhelmed with the day to day of farming, so it’s important to me to surround myself with new faces and like-minded people. Spending the day with others interested in the moving parts of how we do things and happy to share what they’re doing as well is important. It’s an incredible mental break and reaffirmation when I see our farm through the eyes of our guests. It just does my soul good.

How do you and your husband partner in the workings of your businesses?

We share the same passions about life and, luckily, are incredibly different in our approach to it. I’m a bit of a taskmaster, while he’s laid back, usually rolling with the flow. We mutually admire what the other is doing, and I think that ensures a great partnership.

Plus, since we have separate businesses on the same piece of land, there is automatic interaction throughout the day. My college major was metals, so I have a bit of knowledge about what he does, and he is constantly reading up and watching the happenings on the farm, so he has a bit of knowledge about what I do. Coop is my sounding board, and his areas of expertise are invaluable to me and the farm’s success.

We’re also fortunate that Twigs & Berries is run by a few dedicated people, but Coop heads there once a week, and I’m there two and a half days—just to keep in touch with our customers. It’s a good break for both of us to be in town, see people, and keep up with the community.

What advice would you offer our TGN community?

At least a couple times a week, I schedule time to just walk about. I do this alone, so there are no distractions … no tasks other than observation. We have spots to sit and rest at throughout the farm and, after such a walk, I’ll pick one and just be. I think it’s important to make sure there are places to sit, take it all in, and just breathe for a moment.

 

The post TGN Interviews Marianne Cicala, Local Changemaker appeared first on The Grow Network.

Meet The Changemakers: 14 People Inspiring & Leading Change In Sustainable Farming

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It’s no secret that industrial agriculture is wreaking havoc on our planet. But, in a world of seven billion people, can alternative growing strategies really feed everyone?

In truth, sustainable agriculture is the ONLY option for adequately feeding the world. While conventional strategies steal fertility from the future by relying on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides at the expense of soil health, organic methods leave the earth better after every season.

There are thousands of people working hard to promote alternative agricultural techniques around the world today, and together they are slowly changing the conversation around food.

This week, to kick off our four-part Global Changemakers articles series, we’ve chosen to celebrate 13 individuals who are transforming how we all get our food — educating others about how we can eat well and still leave the planet healthier in the process.

We hope these individuals will inspire YOU to find NEW WAYS to improve the sustainability of your own diet.

Listed in no particular order (because each of these folks deserves to be celebrated and honored in their own right):

Sustainable farming changemaker - Howard Garrett

#1 – Howard Garrett
Radio Show Host, “The Dirt Doctor”

As one of the legends of organic gardening, Howard Garrett (the ‘Dirt Doctor’) has long been a leader in the movement in the United States. Throughout his career, Howard has worked in greenhouses, as a landscape contractor, golf course planner and organic product developer, and he is the chairman of the Texas Organic Research Center (TORC).

Born in Pittsburgh, Texas, Howard served in the Marines from 1970 to 1977 after graduating from Texas Tech University. The birth of his daughter in 1985 was a turning point in Howard’s life, and concerns about the world she was going to grow up in caused him to commit his career to the education, research, and the promotion of organic gardening practices.

Howard is the author of over a dozen books based on gardening, lawn care and natural wellness for the planet, including Marjory Wildcraft’s personal favorite, Bugs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Today, Howard hosts the Organic Gardening Show as the Dirt Doctor, a nationally-syndicated radio show that airs each weekend on the Salem Radio Network. You can learn from Howard Garrett by checking out his radio show live from 8 to 11 am CST on Sundays, or by listening to his weekly radio show as a podcast through the Dirt Doctor App.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Joel Salatin

#2 – Joel Salatin
Sustainable Grass Farmer Extraordinaire

As the persona behind Polyface Farms, Joel Salatin needs little introduction in the world of natural farming. Salatin got his start in agriculture when his parents moved to an abused, worn-out farm in the Shenandoah Valley. As a family, they began to heal the landscape and restore fertility through innovative farming techniques that relied on nature as a guide.

Today, Salatin still farms that same plot of land and continues to improve it by planting trees, digging ponds, and building fertility through compost piles. He is famous for his rotational grazing strategies that move animals around his property through portable electric fences, and his ‘pastured poultry’ strategies for producing meat that’s raised entirely on his property’s fertility. For this reason, Joel considers himself first to be a grass farmer, as a healthy prairie system is a key to the functioning of every aspect of his farm.

Today, Polyface feeds hundreds of people and is considered to be a premier non-industrial production oasis. Beyond working his farm, Joel seeks to educate the world about the benefits of natural farming through numerous books and a lecture series that takes him throughout the country. In this way, Salatin works endlessly to make environmentally- friendly agricultural practices more accessible to people everywhere.

 

Sustainable farming changemaker - Hank Will

#3 – Hank Will
Molecular Geneticist turned Magazine Editor

From molecular geneticist to editor for eight national magazines, Hank Will’s career path has hardly been typical. Forever in love with the prairies of the Midwest, Hank became a professor of molecular genetics while still dabbling in the world of heritage livestock and unconventional farming as much as he could. His parent’s seed company was a major inspiration throughout his life and was the primary reason why he studied genetics in school.

After two decades as a professor, Hank transitioned his career and became a freelance journalist while working at his home farm, Cottonwood Creek Farms. His farm experience has allowed him to be an educational voice for small-scale, sustainable agriculture around the world. Today, he is the Editor in Chief of Mother Earth News Magazine and Heirloom Gardener Magazine, as well as the editorial director for all other brands from Ogden Publishing.

Hank’s personal farming experience spans more than four decades and is predominately focused on small-scale, high-cash flow operations, as well as maintaining perennial plants and raising heritage chickens. Today, he has written multiple books about natural farming while living in Kansas with his wife at their home on Prairie Turnip Farm.

#4 – John Dromgoole
Organic Gardening Radio Talk Show Host

His south Texas roots might account for John Dromgoole’s passion for southwest plants, but John has kept his passion for organic agriculture alive for over three decades. He is the host of America’s longest running organic gardening radio talk show (Gardening Naturally with John Dromgoole) and was the host of the first natural gardening series on PBS, called “The New Garden.”

John is also the owner of The Natural Gardener, an award-winning organic garden center in Austin, TX that is considered one of the top five garden centers in the United States. His main passion is finding better ways to bring professional and novice gardeners alike information about organic gardening techniques and resources so that they can personally experience how easy and beneficial following sustainable practices can be. Dwelling in the desert southwest, John is primarily concerned with the increasing scarcity of water resources and focuses his efforts on educating gardeners on water conservation efforts.

Thanks to his work for the organic farming movement, John has won local, state and regional awards, including the “Texas Legendary Promotor of Organics.”

#5 – Roger Doiron
Replanter of the White House Garden

Considered to be one of the “10 Most Inspiring People in Local Food”, Roger Doiron has made a significant impact on the planet in surprising ways — including through starting the campaign to replant the kitchen garden at the White House. Most notable, Roger is the founder and director of Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit based in Maine that today includes over 35,000 individuals from 120 countries who are making a conscious effort to grow their own food at home.

Roger is also a freelance food and gardening writer, and his efforts to promote local, slow food has been featured in numerous news sources, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Mother Earth News Magazine and more.

By combining his passion for supporting his own local food system and the state of slow food at large, Roger has helped bring the issues of sustainable food to the global stage — one kitchen garden at a time.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Sustainable farming changemaker - Dan Bussey

#6 – Dan Bussey
Seed Savers Exchange’s Heirloom Apple Enthusiast

As a longtime apple lover, perhaps only Johnny Appleseed has more passion for this classic fall fruit than Dan Bussey. Dan is the author of a 7-volume set titled The Illustrated History of Apples in North America, which is an encyclopedia collection that documents all 17,000 apple varieties that have grown in America between 1623 and 2000, making it the most complete collection of its kind.

Currently, Dan works as the orchard manager for the Seed Savers Exchange’s Heritage Orchard in Iowa. There, he tends to over 1,100 apple trees to preserve rare varieties so that they can be propagated and sold to customers of the exchange.

Founded in Missouri in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange started with two heirloom seed varieties from Bavaria and has since expanded to include over 20,000 plant varieties and 13,000 members. Almost every variety of apple is included in the Exchange’s collection, and if you choose to plant an heirloom apple tree, you might have Dan Bussey to thank.

Sustainable farming changemaker - John Jeavons

#7 – John Jeavons
Grow More Food With Less Water,
While Boosting Soil Fertility

As the Executive Director of the global non-profit Ecology Action, John Jeavons has long been a leader in the field of bio-intensive agriculture. His passion for developing small-scale, high-yield farming systems led to the development of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming method, which is an approach to farming that allows small farmers to increase their yields while using two-thirds less water and building up their soil fertility up 60 times faster than nature can manage. This technique has been used for over four decades and has been successfully implemented in almost every climate system of the world, including 143 different countries.

John has also authored a book about his techniques, titled How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Now translated into eight languages, this book is considered the primer on sustainable mini-farming.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Paul Gautschit

#8 – Paul Gautschi
Back to Eden Soil Star

Known throughout northern Washington as a master arborist, Paul Gautschi has been puttering in his backyard soil for over 55 years. Though he rarely raises food to sell, Paul has been feeding friends and his seven children off his garden for decades. Over the years, he has also given tours of his orchards and gardens to groups that sometimes range to over 400 people.

When Paul first moved to Washinton, he struggled to make plants grow in the heavy clay soil. However, he slowly started modifying his techniques to mimic the ways plants grow in the natural world with much more success.

This achievement made Paul the star in the popular film Back to Eden, which has been viewed online over 50 million times. The film shares Paul’s lifelong journey as a gardener, his relationship with God, and the simple, sustainable growing methods he incorporates into his garden to achieve impressive results. Through this film, you can gain inspiration from the life of a man who has devoted himself to organic growing and better understand what you can do to your own garden to increase yields simply and sustainably.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Ron Finley

#9 – Ron Finley
Los Angeles’s ‘Gangsta Gardener’

A lifelong South Los Angeles resident, Ron Finley knew firsthand what the consequences of living in a food desert were when he set out to make a change for his community. Today, Ron is working to create urban food forests that can provide food to urban residents.

In 2010, Ron planted a small garden in a dirt strip near his home and started giving away the produce it delivered to his neighbors. Despite the value he was adding to the neighborhood food system, Ron was cited by the City of Los Angeles for illegally using the city’s property. Rather than let the government shut down his garden, Ron fought back with other green activists and demanded the right to grow food in his neighborhood. The city eventually backed off, and Ron has been expanding his operation to the surrounding communities ever since.

Thanks to his popular TED talk, Ron’s mission gained mainstream attention, and today he is supported by a team that knows him as the ‘Gangsta Gardener.’ Together, they are working to turn Los Angeles into a place where communities come together to create gardens and kids can grow up with more options for healthy food, sustainably grown food.

 Sustainable Farming Changemaker Justin Rohner

#10 – Justin Rohner
Founder, Agriscaping Technologies

If Justin Rohner has his way, every family will be able to step outside into a beautiful, easy-to-maintain yard and harvest dinner from “edible, elegant landscaping.” Rohner has dubbed this new perspective on landscaping “agriscaping,” defined as “what you get when you bring together the best of ornamental landscaping and the best of productive agriculture.”

The co-founder and CEO of Agriscaping Technologies, Rohner works with homeowners to help them discover their yards’ microclimates, choose the right plant for the right place, determine how much space they’ll need to cultivate to feed their families, and evaluate their properties’ water-harvesting potential. Clients who want further help can hire the company to create and maintain a beautiful, food-producing landscape.

A believer in using the power of technology to advance the synergistic principles of self-reliance and sustainable food, Rohner is leading the development of MyAgriscapePro, a mobile app that will serve as a virtual mentor for those interested in DIYing an edible landscape in their own backyards.

In addition to his work with Agriscaping, Rohner is a founding partner of Astonishing Families International and has created several other products and programs. In 2014, he was named one of Arizona’s Top 35 Entrepreneurs Under 35.

 Sustainable farming changemaker - Allan Savory

#11 – Allan Savory
Rotational Grazing Pioneer

Born in Zimbabwe, Allan Savory has long held a passion for managing ecosystems. He studied botany and zoology in South Africa and pursued a career as a research biologist. In the 1960s, Allan had a breakthrough about the cause of deforestation around the globe when he realized how important grazing animals were for preserving the African Savannahs. These observations led him to the conclusion that rotationally graving cattle on degraded land could improve grasslands and keep desertification at bay while promoting a more sustainable food source than tilling up soil to plant crops.

In 2003, he was the recipient of Australia’s International Banksia Award “for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a global scale.” A TED talk he gave in 2013 has since gotten over 3.4 million views, earning it recognition as one of the top fifty most intriguing TED talks of all time.

Though his views on increasing cattle around the globe have been controversial, Allan Savory’s organization continues to promote the idea that bunching and moving livestock in ways that mimic nature is good for the environment. Savory’s book, Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision-Making is a record to his effort to find ways for regular people to find the means to combat the ecological damage of the modern age by implementing strategies that mimic how nature naturally works.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Maheswar Khillar

#12 – Maheswar Khillar
Rooftop Gardener Inspiring His Indian Neighborhood

Mahesward Khillar is a retired OAS officer in India who is making rooftop gardening trendy in his community. His love of homegrown vegetables inspired him to start producing his own, despite severe space limitations. He has maintained his impressively diverse rooftop garden for the past 25 years and has inspired others around him to do the same.

Though Mahesward has been interested in plants since he was a kid, his house in Bhubaneswar had no space for anything but potted plants on the roof. Not one to back away from a challenge, he gradually began experimenting with putting different plants and fruit trees on the rooftop. Now, his collection has taken over the entire roof and takes him roughly three hours each day to maintain. The produce he grows regularly winds up in the meals that his wife cooks and the excess is often given to local friends that appreciate the ability to eat food that hasn’t been tainted with synthetic chemicals.

Now, roughly 300 other families in the region have been inspired enough by Mahesward’s rooftop garden to start their own, making him the leader of a gardening movement in his community that shows no sign of slowing down.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Echo International

#13 – Echo International
Development Hub for Sustainable Agriculture

For the world’s most at risk-farming communities, surviving the crisis of climate change will come down to cultivating robust seed varieties, utilizing appropriate technology, and having the knowledge to implement it- three missions that ECHO has taken to heart for decades.

ECHO is an information hub for development practitioners that strives to find agricultural solutions to feed the world’s most vulnerable populations. ECHO maintains a demonstration farm in southern Florida as well as retreats for development organizers and an annual conference on sustainable farming for impoverished communities.

The organization began in the early 1970s when Indiana businessman Richard Dugger took a group of high school students to Haiti and saw firsthand how difficult farming could be for people in developing countries. ECHO (Educational Concerns for Haiti Organization) was formed to address the problem, and since then ECHO has grown its involvement to include countries throughout Central America, Africa, and Asia.

Today, the organization operates as an experimental farm for low-tech agricultural solutions and as a pipeline for sharing information, ideas, methods, techniques and even seeds that have potential to lessen the impacts of world hunger.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Biodiversity International

#14 – Bioversity International
Supporting Farmers In Developing Countries

Bioversity International is a global research and development organization that strives to support smallholder farmers in developing countries. The organization provides resources for sustainable agriculture techniques that improve harvests while promoting resource conservation around the planet.

By partnering with low-income countries, the organization is working from the soil up to improve agricultural sustainability and global food security for the world’s most vulnerable populations. The organization works to deliver scientific evidence and policy options that fit the unique conditions of each community to ensure that farmers have the resources they need to make improvements that increase their yields and profit margins.

In this way, Bioversity farmers are taught techniques for harvesting and using rainwater, creating on-farm fertility and rotational grazing techniques that enhance pastureland. The program specifically works to improve the range of appropriate technology options in regions where large-scale agriculture isn’t possible.

Want To Meet Even MORE Changemakers…? 

Want to spend more time learning from and supporting the work of Changemakers?   Consider becoming a member of The Grow Network here. 

And stay tuned… because this article is #1 of 4 in this series, highlighting the important work of Changemakers from around the world.

(This article was originally published September 11, 2017.)

The post Meet The Changemakers: 14 People Inspiring & Leading Change In Sustainable Farming appeared first on The Grow Network.

Gift Ideas: TGN’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

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As the holiday season approaches, we thought it would be fun to poll our TGN team members about what gifts they’re hoping to receive or planning to give (or buy for themselves! 😉 ) this season.

As you know, all of us here at The Grow Network share our Community’s values and produce at least some of our food and medicine—more and more as we experiment, learn, and “grow” in gardening and homesteading wisdom! And since it’s not always easy to know what to buy for those special people in your life, we thought we’d share our own lists of gift ideas in hopes of making your holiday shopping a little simpler!

 

Gifts Under $25

 

FAVOFIT 12KN WIREGATE CARABINERS (ORANGE)

Merin Says: I’m currently using locking carabiners to secure the hasps on my chicken coop’s nest boxes, but they take extra time to open and I’m concerned they’ll freeze up when they get wet in winter. I’ve been looking for a quicker, better solution, and I think these are it. Raccoons have a hard time with these; they don’t lock, which means less trouble opening them when everything is frozen; and they’re brightly colored so I don’t lose them when one inevitably falls into my heavily mulched garden (which is right next to the chicken coop). In addition to the two orange carabiners, you get two black ones in this pack, which is fine by me. (Because when is it NOT awesome to have a couple of extra, super-strong carabiners handy?)

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $9.95)

 

ANY GARDENING T-SHIRT!

Ruth Says: Gardening is a huge part of my life, and I find that wearing T-shirts about it is a great way to meet other people who share that passion. Plus, as much hard work as we do on our property, I seem to go through T-shirts faster than people with less … interesting … lives. I constantly seem to be tearing holes in my shirts or getting paint or grease on them. I can always use another T!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $16.99)

 

EARLYGROW MEDIUM-DOMED PROPAGATOR

Ruth Says: I already own EarlyGrow’s Large-Domed Propagator, and I use it to start all of my seeds indoors. I need a second propagator because my garden is just too big! I use the high-dome version for taller plants like tomatoes and peppers, and I’ll use this medium-dome propagator for lettuce and herbs. I like that EarlyGrow’s propagators have little vents on the top that allow oxygen in and help prevent molding of the soil. And they’re reusable!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $16.99)

 

TOPLIFE STAINLESS STEEL EGG SKELTER (FOR THREE DOZEN EGGS)

Merin Says: I generally don’t wash my chickens’ eggs, so I keep them in cartons on the kitchen counter. When I use eggs, I pull from the front of the top carton and move all the other eggs forward one by one so that I can remember which are freshest and use those first. Honestly, it’s a pain. Enter the egg skelter. I debated between this one and a version that holds two dozen eggs, but I get enough eggs every day (and my family of five eats enough eggs every week!) to justify the larger version.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $17.99)

 

CAMPFIRE PROS EGG-COLLECTING APRON

Merin Says: These people are geniuses. How many times have I gone out to the coop, grabbed some eggs, thought about another thing I should really get done while I’m out there, and had to make a special trip to the house to store the eggs before I can work on something else? This thing would totally solve that problem. It’s denim, so it would work for men and women. And if you’re sending your young kids or grandkids out to collect eggs, smaller versions of egg-collecting aprons (like this adorable one for $19.00) are available to help them get the eggs back to the house in one piece.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $19.99)

DRAMM HEAVY-DUTY BRASS SHUT-OFF VALVE

Marjory Says: A bit pricey at $20 each, but irrigation and hoses are a big part of my life. I have destroyed all of the plastic stuff in short order. These are super-long-lasting, well-built valves that I can depend on to work properly. The big handle has lots of leverage to open and close for when my hands are wet or covered with soil. You can send me a half dozen for Christmas. 😉

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $20.98)

Gifts Under $50

 

VIVERO HOME JAPANESE HORI-HORI GARDEN KNIFE

Anthony Says: The Hori-Hori is my all-time favorite gardening tool. Pretty much anything you need to do in the garden, this Japanese soil knife will help make easier.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $26.95)

 

FARM INNOVATORS SUBMERSIBLE WATER TANK HEATER/UTILITY DE-ICER

Jimerson Says: Winter is coming, and I can’t have enough warm (or at least not frozen) water for the chickens and bunnies!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $39.99)

 

KATE AND LAUREL DESKTOP SOLID WOOD APOTHECARY CABINET

Jimerson Says: I’d love a good case for storing and drying herbs that also looks nice!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $39.99)

 

WEATHERBEETA 1200D DELUXE DOG PARKA

Merin Says: We live at altitude, and we have short-haired dogs who need a little help staying warm outside when it’s super cold. These coats are warm, waterproof, and reflective. Plus, they’re super tough, which is a huge plus for durability if you hike with your dogs. WeatherBeeta has a reputation for quality, so these coats should last a while.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $44.95)

GARDEN ROCKER ORIGINAL COMFORT SEAT

Ruth Says: I already have a very well-loved one of these, and it’s time for another one! This is a fantastic garden seat. I like that I don’t have to kneel in the garden. I’m able to sit on the stool and keep my back straight when planting seeds or transplanting seedlings. It’s also quite nice that it rocks, as I’m able to easily reach to the side or behind me to grab whatever I need. And it’s an ab workout! 🙂

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $49.88)

GILMOUR FARM AND RANCH HOSE (90 FT.)

Jimerson Says: I’ve found that, around the homestead, cheap hoses don’t last. All the dragging around and such . . . it’s industrial strength or nothing!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $49.98)

Gifts Under $80

 

CARHARTT WOMEN’S FLANNEL-LINED JEANS

Marjory Says: In keeping with the saying that “cotton kills” (or basically that cotton is a terrible cold-weather clothing), I am almost never warm in jeans. But flannel-lined jeans . . . now that is something else. Stretch jeans are a sign that civilization really does have some merit. And you can’t go wrong with Carhartt’s toughness.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $54.99)

PATHONOR 12-PIECE GARDEN HAND TOOL SET WITH CASE

Ruth Says: Every year, I try to invest in sturdy, reusable tools for the garden. I’ve had my eye on this hand tool set for a while now. I love that the handles are orange, which makes the tools hard to lose when you set them down for a second in the garden. And how neat is it that they come in their own case to help keep them organized?

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $56.98)

 

VERMIHUT 5-TRAY WORM COMPOST BIN

Jimerson Says: I tried a homemade, DIY worm farm and, well, it turned out to be a mess. This worm farm is well-reviewed; small and odorless enough to be kept indoors; and it has a cool spigot feature on the bottom tray so you can easily drain off the “worm tea.”

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $68.95)

 

FENIX HP25R 1000 LUMEN USB RECHARGEABLE HEADLAMP

Merin Says: This thing is a beast. I bought one for my husband last Christmas, and everyone is totally amazed by how bright it is. We live in the country, so there are no street lights and it’s really dark here at night. If we need to go grab firewood, or I need to check on the chickens after dark, we can just put this thing on, see enormously well, and still have our hands free. All that to say, I’d like one of my own!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $79.95)

Gifts Over $100

 

INSTANT POT 8-QUART, 7-IN-1 PROGRAMMABLE PRESSURE COOKER

Ruth Says: Okay, full disclosure here: I already have one of these. But I love it so much, I want another one! One of the many things I make in my Instant Pot is yogurt, and it’s an hours-long process. It would be so nice to be able to pull out a second Instant Pot so I could keep pressure cooking while the yogurt ferments!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $129.95)

 

ALEXAPURE PRO STAINLESS STEEL WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM

Ruth Says: The water where we live isn’t great, and whole house filtration can get expensive fast. This seems like a great, affordable way to have lots of purified water on hand—without having to constantly refill my water-filter pitcher.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $138.90)

 

ALL AMERICAN 21-1/2 QUART PRESSURE CANNER


Marjory Says: This pressure canner is solid enough for a lifetime. And since it doesn’t use a gasket, I’m expecting to pass mine down to the kids and grandkids.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $273.43)

GOODLAND BEE SUPPLY COMPLETE BEEKEEPER STARTER KIT

Jimerson Says: Pardon the pun, but Goodland Bee Supply’s Complete Beekeeper Starter Kit is pretty much the bee’s knees. It’s got every high-quality item a beginning beekeeper needs to get started, including two complete honey supers, a highly rated extractor, and a well-stocked tool kit. I mostly want one to give bees a good home . . .  but also for that delicious honey!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $445.99)

 

(Please note that the listed prices were valid at the time of publication, but … you know how that goes!)

The post Gift Ideas: TGN’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide appeared first on The Grow Network.

How to Butcher a Chicken

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Chicken slaughter is often a tough topic for new, and even experienced, chicken keepers. Even if you theoretically know how to butcher a chicken, actually doing it is another matter entirely.

Even though we all know where meat comes from and what has to happen for it to make it to our tables, there is some part of us that wants to pretend it just magically showed up at the grocery store or farmer’s market booth.

Part of becoming a backyard butcher is facing your meat consumption habits head on.

The most important advice we can give you on butchering your first chicken is, don’t overcomplicate the process.

Historically, backyard butchering was the norm. It didn’t take weeks of planning and preparation. It just took the will to do it, a little skill, and some basic tools.

Do Your Homework

Most of us didn’t grow up learning these skills, so we do have to do a little homework to prepare in advance.

But, unless you want to spend an unnecessary fortune or will be processing a ton of chickens, you probably want to make your process very similar to what your grandma’s (or great grandma’s) would have been.

There is an art to home butchery that comes only with experience.

Your first time butchering will be rough on you and possibly on your chicken.

In fact, even when you have become very skilled at doing it, it will probably still be rough on you.

You are taking a life, and if you don’t recognize the sentience of the being on the other side of that transaction, then maybe you need to seek psychological help!

That said, if you have been buying chicken at the grocery store, you have already been an active participant in slaughtering birds that were likely treated with less dignity and respect than you have shown the chickens you will be processing.

For meat eaters, home butchering could be one of the least ethically compromising decisions you can make.

Philosophical considerations aside, let’s talk about a few practical aspects of processing chickens.

Slaughter Planning

A clean kill starts with good planning. You need to decide how you are going to do it and what tools you are going to use.

Three Methods

Using a kill cone and sharp knife to slit a chicken’s throat on both sides is most common for small poultry processors. When using this method, some people put a straw bale under the cone area to collect the blood.

Since this is not a job you want to have to do twice on the same chicken, make it a habit to cut to the bone on both sides.

Chickens often try to back out of the cone in response to having their throats slit, so hold the head tightly and don’t let go until the chicken is no longer moving. This also prevents blood from splattering and making a big mess as dying chickens twitch.

You can also decapitate your chickens using a sharp knife and a butcher block or tree stump.

This method is easier if you have one person to hold the chicken and another to do the beheading.

One blogger decapitates her chickens using a feed bag to hold and then hang chickens during and after the kill. This method works really well and saves you the cost of a kill cone. Straw bale blood collection works in this scenario too.

You can also break a chicken’s neck. This method requires no tools for the kill, but as the blood is not drained during the process, it makes for a messier evisceration process. So be prepared to collect or clean the blood when you take the chicken to the table for evisceration.

Whichever method you use, speed and accuracy is critical. Watching videos of other successful kills and studying pictures in advance can help mentally prepare you for the task.

The neck has valuable stock meat and flavor, so the closer you can make your cut or break to the head, the more you get to keep.

Be Well-Prepared Prior to Culling

Set up your station before you start.

  • Slaughtering at home can be messy, so a lot of us opt to do it outside.
  • Having a hose with a sprayer makes it easy to keep things clean.
  • A work table makes evisceration easier.
  • Having some kind of hook for hanging to defeather helps.
  • If you plan to scald, you need a burner to heat your water.
  • You may also need electricity if you use a plucker.
  • Some people like to set up a three-bucket cleaning station, with soapy water, bleach water (1 Tablespoon per gallon), and fresh water to use to clean your knife and other equipment as needed during processing.
  • You also want to choose a location with good drainage so you don’t end up with chicken blood and scraps stinking up your backyard.

Plucking

Once you’ve dispatched your chicken, the next step is to defeather the carcass.

There are a couple ways to do this:

  • You can skin, dry-pluck, scald, and hand pluck.
  • You can scald and machine pluck.

Skinning

Some people skin the entire bird. However, for many, the skin is delicious and worth the extra work. You can check out this blog posting for a look at the process.

Dry-Plucking

Dry-plucking is exactly what it sounds like. You simply pull out the feathers after slaughtering.

It helps to hang the bird by the feet and pull down to extract the feathers.

The rule of thumb on defeathering the body is to pull away from the direction the feathers grow in. For wings, you need to hold the tip of the wing and then grip and pull the feathers straight out. Tail feathers are also easier to pull straight out.

Scalding

You can also scald a chicken before plucking, which makes it much easier to pull out the feathers.

You need a pot big enough to hold your entire chicken, a pair of tongs for dipping and stirring, and a thermometer (e.g., a fry thermometer) so you make sure you get the water to 135–145°F for scalding dry birds.

If I am processing a large flock, I like to use a garden hose to rinse my poultry thoroughly before scalding so the water does not need to be changed as frequently.

When I soak before scalding, I aim for a water temperature between 145–155°F since the cold water from the rinse, retained in the feathers, will drop my scalding pot temperature.

Also, birds like the Cornish Cross which have been breed for easier defeathering and are processed at a younger age scald well at around 135°F, and more heavily feathered birds are easier to pluck if scalded on the higher side of the scale.

  • If you’ve got your water temperature right, it takes about one to three minutes for the feathers to loosen. Use the tongs to move the chicken around, up, and down in the pot to make sure the hot water penetrates the feathers and reaches the skin.
  • After the first minute, tug on the body feathers with your tongs every 15–20 seconds to check.
  • As soon as the feathers are easy to pull, take the chicken from the pot, hang the carcass, and begin defeathering as described for dryplucking.
  • Pluck quickly for best results.
  • Also, don’t leave the chickens in the water too long, as they begin to cook and the feathers get harder to pluck.

Plucking manually, whether you scald or not, is about the hardest part of the process. It takes time and there are always some small feathers you have to pluck out with tweezers, torch off, or shave off with a straight razor.

If you’ll be processing chickens regularly, machine defeathering is a good option. You can build your own, like the Whizbang Plucker. Or, if that’s outside your budget and time constraints, you can buy drill attachments like the one that Marjory found at the Mother Earth News Fair a few years back. See her quick video about it here.

I like to think of plucking as a kind of meditation. And, sometimes, having company helps pass the time.

You can use the feathers for craft projects like jewelry, writing quills, and Halloween costumes. And anything you don’t use can be composted. Feathers are very high in nitrogen.

Evisceration

Once the feathers are removed, your next step is to eviscerate (remove the internal organs).

This is also usually the time you remove the feet, head (if not decapitated), and oil glands. Once you get the hang of it, evisceration is pretty easy to do. But it’s easier to learn if you have a coach or watch a few good videos, like this one with Joel Salatin.

Also, if you get your copy of the Mother Earth News Summit hosted by Marjory Wildcraft, it includes presentations from Joel Salatin and Patricia Foreman on raising and processing chickens. Patricia’s presentation on processing has very detailed pictures to make the process accessible to newcomers.

After you have a basic idea of the process, then keep in mind these few tips to have a successful first experience.

  • Use a clean cutting board or table. Plastic or stainless steel surfaces are easier to clean and disinfect, so they are recommended.
  • Have a hose at the ready in the event of accidental contamination, such as could be caused by cutting the intestines and contaminating your chicken area or work table with feces or by nicking the gall bladder when removing it from the liver.
  • Lungs don’t always come out clean in scalded chickens, so rinse the interior of the carcass and use your fingers to scrape out residual lung tissue if necessary.
  • Chill the heart, liver, and gizzard as soon as possible. The quality of organ meat degrades quickly once it comes in contact with air.

There are a lot of different techniques used to remove the head and feet, so feel free to use whatever works for you.

One method is to cut the feet above the orange socks and around the knee joint. Then, fold the knee in the opposing direction to loosen the tendon and cut through it. After that, twist and cut until the foot is off.

For the neck, you can cut the meat around the spine, twist the neck once around and then slice through the ligature.

Chilling, Aging, and Storing

Chilling

If you are processing poultry professionally, your goal after evisceration is to chill your meat to an internal temperature of 40°F as quickly as possible. That usually means plopping it into a cooler of ice water, like you would a bottle of champagne.

The longer it takes for a chicken to cool down, the more risk there is for bacterial contamination of the meat. And unless you happen to have a flash freezer at home, ice water baths are the fastest, safest, and cheapest way to chill your meat at home.

Ideally, you want to leave your carcass in ice water for about one hour per pound of carcass to make sure it is properly chilled.

Aging and Storing

At that point, you can package your chicken and place it in your refrigerator for aging or in your freezer for storing.

Whether you age your meat right after processing or after you defrost it, your meat will be more tender if you give it a day or two to “rest” at refrigerator temperatures. You can do double-duty by letting it rest in marinade before cooking, as well.

Some people keep chicken in their freezer for years. But, for best results, you should eat chicken within six months of processing.

Safety and Sanitation

When it comes to keeping things safe at a molecular level during processing, the No. 1 rule is to use common sense.

  • If you plan to process more than a chicken or two at a time, you’ll want to clean all your surfaces and equipment at least every couple hours.
  • If you suspect any kind of contamination (e.g., chicken feces, fly-by droppings from a wild bird, etc.), stop and sanitize.
  • A tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water makes a good sanitizer.
  • Use clean towels for handwashing.
  • Avoid touching your face or other body parts while processing.
  • Sharpen your knife before each kill and as needed during processing.

Again, use common sense. If your basic hygiene is bad, you could pass on norovirus and other nasty stuff, but only if you also fail to properly cook the meat before eating. Poor hygiene while processing and unsafe cooking procedures are both necessary for bad things to happen.

Just use your brain, and you’ll be ok!

You want to raise your own chickens, which means you’re probably a smart person. So use your own good judgment to keep risks out of your process.

Appreciation

After you raise, kill, and process your own chickens, take a few minutes to sit down, think about the experience, and figure out what worked, what didn’t, and how you want to do it better next time.

Then remember all that went into it—from picking your breed, to brooding your chicks, to moving them around in your pasture tractor, to watching them chase grasshoppers in your lawn.

Be amazed at all you learned in the process.

Celebrate your success in raising high-quality food for you and your family.

And of course, give thanks for the way nature provides, for the chickens who will grace your table, for anyone who helped you along the way, and for the fact that you have healthy food to eat and choices about how to provide for yourself.

The post How to Butcher a Chicken appeared first on The Grow Network.

Raising Chickens: Coop Considerations

Click here to view the original post.

If you are reading this article hoping to figure out the absolute best coop option available for raising chickens, you’re going to be disappointed.

That’s because the coop, as we know it today, is more about what humans want than about what makes chickens happy.

Depending on your location, regulations, and preferences, you might decide to go with a movable chicken tractor, a fixed coop and run, or a fixed coop with free-range access or paddock areas.

You can raise healthy, happy poultry in any of them, as long as they meet your birds’ six basic needs, provide them with enough space to keep your chickens healthy and happy, and make it as easy as possible for you to manage poop and thwart predators.

Meeting Chickens’ Needs

From a chicken’s perspective, its needs are basic:

  • Fresh air
  • Clean water
  • A patch of dirt to use as a dust bath
  • Lots of forage (particularly insects)
  • Options to let it escape from predators
  • Enough freedom of movement that it doesn’t have to spend all day standing in its own poop

Sometimes it needs a little private time, away from the rest of the flock. If it’s a broody hen, then it also wants a safe place to nest, undisturbed, for about twenty-one days.

The Last-Century Chicken

If it had been a backyard chicken a hundred years or so ago, it may have roosted in the barn with other animals, roosted in a tree, or found shelter around the porch of the family that threw it scraps.

Maybe it spent its nights in a designated outbuilding reserved just for chickens, but it probably wasn’t anything like the luxury chicken manors found on sites like Pinterest today.

It probably didn’t have a nest box.

Eggs were often collected by children in a manner resembling an Easter egg hunt, since the hen’s goal was to hide its eggs for safekeeping until it had enough to make it worth risking life and limb to set a nest.

As long as it laid eighty or so eggs a year and managed to hatch a brood of chicken replacements once in a while, the family that let it forage in the yard was content to keep the bird around.

As far as predator protection went, the bird and its flock mates kept watch and used elaborate vocal communications to warn each other when trouble was near. If there was a rooster among them and the flock was attacked, he might defend the hens in his care to the death, if necessary.

Mamas would also protect their chicks by sheltering them in her wings.

But, among mature hens, with the moral imperative to survive and reproduce hardwired into their chicken nature, the expression “you don’t have to be faster than a bear, just faster than the guy behind you” usually applied.

Weak or sick hens were often pecked to death by stronger hens for the health and safety of the flock.

And though the birds may have really appreciated it when the lady who lived in the house threw them kitchen scraps or a handful of grain, they’d watched her wring enough chicken necks to realize they should scatter if she got too close.

How Things Have Changed

Things have changed a bit in the last hundred years.

As more areas are developed and populations increase, so does predator pressure on livestock. And it’s not just your random roaming mountain lion (which is now a rarity in the suburbs) or a wily coyote.

Now, chickens have to be careful about domesticated dogs and cats, escaped pet snakes and ferrets, car traffic, and even overzealous or malicious neighbor children. Top that off with all the local legal ordinances, HOA requirements, and other lethal hazards in our environments, and we’ve got to rethink the way we raise chickens.

Toward that end, let’s take a look at chicken space needs.

The Truth About Chicken Spaces

A hundred years ago, eggs were eaten when available and chicken meat was reserved for special occasions. Now, the average American eats 90 pounds of chicken meat1http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/percapita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-inpounds/ and about 250 eggs2https://www.uspoultry.org/economic_data per year.

In fact, chicken-based products rank No. 3, just below bread and dessert, among our sources of calories in the American diet.3http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/top-10-sources-of-caloriesin-the-us-diet

Living Space for Factory-Farmed Chickens

The amount of space and quality of life considered suitable for raising chickens seems to have declined in direct proportion to the amount of chicken meat and eggs we want to eat. Today, your grocery store egg layer gets about a sheet-of-paper-sized allotment of space and shares a battery cage the size of a filing drawer with five to nine other hens.4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage

Your typical grain-fed broiler gets only eight-tenths of a square foot per bird.5http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/industry-issues/animal-welfare-forbroiler-chickens/

“Free-range” birds need only two square feet of space outdoors to qualify and “pasture-raised” requires 108 square feet per bird.6http://certifiedhumane.org/free-range-and-pasture-raised-officiallydefined-by-hfac-for-certified-humane-label/

All of us who are concerned about the state of our factory-farmed food system would love to give our chickens as much room to roam as their hearts desire. But sometimes you’ve only got a limited area to work with.

And when you factor in the costs of predator protection, less space starts to make a whole lot more sense.

The Ideal Amount of Space for Chickens

So, how much space do chickens really need to be healthy and happy?

We’re not talking about how much they can survive in, but more like what amount of space would be enough to keep you from having to trim their beaks to keep them from pecking each other to death.

The answer is, “less than you might think, but more than factory farms allot.”

Right-Sizing Your Coop

As Marjory tells us in her Grow Your Own Groceries video series, you will need about four square feet of space per chicken in the coop if they will be allowed to forage outdoors most of the day.

If your chickens will be confined full-time, then you need to add an additional 10 square feet to that number. If you have an 8-foot-by-8-foot coop, or 64 square feet of chicken space, you can protect 16 chickens for overnight lodging and only 4 chickens for full-time living quarters.

But as Marjory also points out in her video, a suburban backyard may be best suited for about two or three hens if you intend to allow your chickens unfettered access to your landscape.

Cost Considerations

Building or buying coops can be expensive—even if you free-source your materials by using discarded pallets, scrap wood, or non-traditional building materials.

The larger your coop, the more labor intensive it will be to build and the more space you have to maintain. It may also mean more regulations to navigate and more hoops to jump through. Additionally, if you live in cold-climate areas, smaller coops that keep chickens in close contact are warmer without supplemental heat.

So, bigger is not always better when building a coop. However, for overall chicken health and happiness, the more outdoor foraging space you can provide the better.

These space suggestions are just a starting point for determining your coop size and style of raising chickens.

Coop Concerns When Raising Chickens

All chicken owners need to think about two major things: predator protection and poop.

Chicken books and blogs often break these ideas down into more categories. But for simplicity and easy memorization, we settled on these two concepts as the big ideas chicken keepers should address to provide safe, healthy habitats for chickens.

Predator Protection

Many chicken owners will tell you that the hardest part about keeping chickens is keeping them safe. When you confine chickens to a limited space, you also limit their ability to protect themselves from predation.

Also, when you invest your time and resources into caring for your flock, you don’t want to face the 40 percent loss rate that would occur if your chickens were not housed in a predator-proof coop.7http://www.thehappychickencoop.com/a-history-of-chickens/

Suburban development has placed pressure on wildlife to seek new habitats and find alternate ways of feeding themselves. As a result, suburban areas are sometimes the most predator-prone places of all.

Add to that the number of backyard pets eager to express their genetic history (i.e., dogs descended from wolves, house cats from jungle cats), and you’ve got lots of incentive to place priority on building a rock-solid coop.

Ways Predators Can Breach a Coop

Here’s a few predator facts to be aware of when planning predator protection.

  • An owl can fly through an open window and carry away a small chicken.
  • A fox or digging dog can tunnel under a foot of dirt to get to your chickens.
  • A determined raccoon can claw through chicken wire, reach a paw through openings over an inch wide, and open many doors.
  • A bear can tear a door from its hinges.

Planning All-Around Predator Protection

Given these examples, as you are planning your coop, you will want to consider predator protection overhead, underground, and all around (e.g., windows and eaves).

This includes measures like the following:

  • Burying wire mesh (better than chicken wire) underground around the perimeter of your coop or placing it underneath moveable coops, over windows, around eaves, and over any openings otherwise not protected
  • Building a floor in a fixed coop or elevating a coop off the ground to deter diggers
  • The use of electric fencing, motion-sensing lights, or even a well-trained livestock guardian dog (LGD)
  • The use of overhead netting if flying predators (e.g., hawks, owls, magpies) are a big concern—or keeping chickens confined until they are full sized

You may also want to keep separate storage and feeding areas and make egg collection a frequent activity.

Many predators, such as bears, snakes, and opossums, are more interested in your chicken feed or eggs than in eating your chickens. By removing red-carpet invites like a feed trough housed in your coop and by emptying nest boxes daily, you can discourage some predators.

If there are other chicken keepers in your area, talk to them to find out what kind of predator pressure they have experienced to determine where to focus your efforts and what to expect.

Poop (Ventilation and Cleaning)

Yep, we just said poop, not manure. When the thick, putrid stink of fresh chicken droppings first hits your nasal passages, you’ll understand why.

This stuff doesn’t come out as lovely, garden-friendly manure.

It’s as rank and nasty as our stuff is until the freshness dissipates, which—depending on degree of soppiness and external humidity—can be minutes to hours.

How poop is treated in the collection process also determines whether it is useful manure or nuisance “feces” (as it is often referred to in city ordinances on chicken keeping).

Managing the Smell

Chickens may have just as many olfactory senses as human beings,8http://www.wardhenline.com/uncooped/behavior_senses so managing poop odors is as important for your chickens as it is for you (and your neighbors).

For indoor areas, good ventilation is key.

  • You can use wire-mesh covered windows or vents for this purpose and open coop doors during the day. Placing windows on opposite sides of the coop with access to the prevailing winds can be helpful.
  • However, keep in mind, ventilation is good, but drafts in extremely cold weather are bad.
  • For cold-weather areas, avoid placing ventilation openings directly across from nest boxes or roost bars.
  • For warmer climates, feel free to take advantage of cross breezes over roost bars. Or better yet, opt for an open coop, with plenty of fresh air for your chickens’ olfactory pleasure.

Other ways to minimize poop odors include adding a layer of fresh litter to poop-catching surfaces (e.g., straw, wood shavings, or cardboard chips on floors) or using a square head spade to scrape up manure and ladle it into a lidded bucket on a daily basis.

Alternatively, if you use a chicken tractor instead of a coop, you may need to move your chickens once or twice daily to keep them from spending the day standing in their own poop or creating problems in your soil from excessive nitrogen and phosphorous.

Except with a chicken tractor–style coop, you will need to the clean up the poop in the coop—and the more often the better if you want to cut down on pests, attract fewer predators, minimize the potential for health issues in your flock, maximize compost for your garden, and remain friendly with your neighbors.

(NOTE: Some people also use the built-up litter method to control odors, generate a little heat during the winter, and produce some nice compost for their spring garden.)

Coop Design With Cleanup in Mind

So, an important consideration related to poop and coop design is easy cleanup.

If considering an elevated coop, it’s a good idea to bring it up to waist height and make sure you can reach all parts of the coop by bending at the waist rather than hunching. This way you can use a hand shovel, dust pan, and brush for easy cleaning. In larger elevated coops, this may require more doors for comfortable cleaning access.

A coop that is tall enough to stand up in with easy-to-sweep floors or pitchfork-accessible areas also works. And the fewer unnecessary horizontal poop-catching surfaces, the better.

Bottom line, the easier your coop is to clean, the more likely you will be to clean it.

A clean coop contributes enormously to chicken well-being. It also cuts down on the likelihood that neighbors will take offense over your keeping chickens. Plus, fresh poop has a lot more benefits for your compost pile than old, dried droppings, so collect it early and often.

If chicken poop accumulates in outdoor run areas or heavily trafficked chicken hangouts, occasionally adding some kind of mulch material or hosing down the area to dilute and distribute can help.

You can also minimize poop plots by using movable pens or paddocks to direct chicken activity.

Once you’ve established how much space you need for the number of chickens you want to keep and how you want to manage the two chicken biggies of poop and predation, you can move on to choosing the coop style that works best for you.

Remember, there is no one perfect coop for everyone. But, by thinking through these coop considerations ahead of time, you’ll be well on your way to choosing a coop that’s perfect for you.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/percapita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-inpounds/
2. https://www.uspoultry.org/economic_data
3. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/top-10-sources-of-caloriesin-the-us-diet
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage
5. http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/industry-issues/animal-welfare-forbroiler-chickens/
6. http://certifiedhumane.org/free-range-and-pasture-raised-officiallydefined-by-hfac-for-certified-humane-label/
7. http://www.thehappychickencoop.com/a-history-of-chickens/
8. http://www.wardhenline.com/uncooped/behavior_senses

The post Raising Chickens: Coop Considerations appeared first on The Grow Network.

Raising Chickens: The Scoop on the Coop

Click here to view the original post.

If you are reading this article hoping to figure out the absolute best coop option available for raising happy chickens, you’re going to be disappointed.

That’s because the coop, as we know it today, is more about what humans want than about what makes chickens happy.

There is no single perfect coop.

Most of your decision-making depends on your location, regulations, and preferences. As long as you keep a few basic chicken needs in mind, the rest is up to you.

Meeting Chickens’ Needs

From a chicken’s perspective, its needs are basic:

  • Fresh air
  • Clean water
  • A patch of dirt to use as a dust bath
  • Lots of forage (particularly insects)
  • Options to let it escape from predators
  • Enough freedom of movement that it doesn’t have to spend all day standing in its own poop

Sometimes it needs a little private time, away from the rest of the flock. If it’s a broody hen, then it also wants a safe place to nest, undisturbed, for about twenty-one days.

The Last-Century Chicken

If it had been a backyard chicken a hundred years or so ago, it may have roosted in the barn with other animals, roosted in a tree, or found shelter around the porch of the family that threw it scraps.

www.TheGrowNetwork.com 64

Maybe it spent its nights in a designated outbuilding reserved just for chickens, but it probably wasn’t anything like the luxury chicken manors found on sites like Pinterest today.

It probably didn’t have a nest box.

Eggs were often collected by children in a manner resembling an Easter egg hunt, since the hen’s goal was to hide its eggs for safekeeping until it had enough to make it worth risking life and limb to set a nest.

As long as it laid eighty or so eggs a year and managed to hatch a brood of chicken replacements once in a while, the family that let it forage in the yard was content to keep the bird around.

As far as predator protection went, the bird and its flock mates kept watch and used elaborate vocal communications to warn each other when trouble was near. If there was a rooster among them and the flock was attacked, he might defend the hens in his care to the death, if necessary.

Mamas would also protect their chicks by sheltering them in her wings.

But, among mature hens, with the moral imperative to survive and reproduce hardwired into their chicken nature, the expression “you don’t have to be faster than a bear, just faster than the guy behind you” usually applied.

Weak or sick hens were often pecked to death by stronger hens for the health and safety of the flock.

And though the birds may have really appreciated it when the lady who lived in the house threw them kitchen scraps or a handful of grain, they’d watched her wring enough chicken necks to realize they should scatter if she got too close.

How Things Have Changed

Things have changed a bit in the last hundred years.

As more areas are developed and populations increase, so does predator pressure on livestock. And it’s not just your random roaming mountain lion (which is now a rarity in the suburbs) or a wily coyote.

Now, chickens have to be careful about domesticated dogs and cats, escaped pet snakes and ferrets, car traffic, and even overzealous or malicious neighbor children. Top that off with all the local legal ordinances, HOA requirements, and other lethal hazards in our environments, and we’ve got to rethink the way we raise chickens.

Toward that end, let’s take a look at chicken space needs.

The Truth About Chicken Spaces

A hundred years ago, eggs were eaten when available and chicken meat was reserved for special occasions. Now, the average American eats 90 pounds of chicken meat15 and about 250 eggs16 per year.

In fact, chicken-based products rank No. 3, just below bread and dessert, among our sources of calories in the American diet.17

Living Space for Factory-Farmed Chickens

The amount of space and quality of life considered suitable for raising chickens seems to have declined in direct proportion to the amount of chicken meat and eggs we want to eat. Today, your grocery store egg layer gets about a sheet-of-paper-sized allotment of space and shares a battery cage the size of a filing drawer with five to nine other hens.18

Your typical grain-fed broiler gets only eight-tenths of a square foot per bird.19

“Free-range” birds need only two square feet of space outdoors to qualify and “pasture-raised” requires 108 square feet per bird.20

All of us who are concerned about the state of our factory-farmed food system would love to give our chickens as much room to roam as their hearts desire. But sometimes you’ve only got a limited area to work with.

And when you factor in the costs of predator protection, less space starts to make a whole lot more sense.

The Ideal Amount of Space for Chickens

So, how much space do chickens really need to be healthy and happy?

We’re not talking about how much they can survive in, but more like what amount of space would be enough to keep you from having to trim their beaks to keep them from pecking each other to death.

The answer is, “less than you might think, but more than factory farms allot.”

Right-Sizing Your Coop

As Marjory tells us in her Grow Your Own Groceries [LINKTO:] video series, you will need about four square feet of space per chicken in the coop if they will be allowed to forage outdoors most of the day.

If your chickens will be confined full-time, then you need to add an additional 10 square feet to that number. If you have an 8-foot-by-8-foot coop, or 64 square feet of chicken space, you can protect 16 chickens for overnight lodging and only 4 chickens for full-time living quarters.

But as Marjory also points out in her video, a suburban backyard may be best suited for about two or three hens if you intend to allow your chickens unfettered access to your landscape.

Cost Considerations

Building or buying coops can be expensive—even if you free-source your materials by using discarded pallets, scrap wood, or non-traditional building materials.

The larger your coop, the more labor intensive it will be to build and the more space you have to maintain. It may also mean more regulations to navigate and more hoops to jump through. Additionally, if you live in cold-climate areas, smaller coops that keep chickens in close contact are warmer without supplemental heat.

So, bigger is not always better when building a coop. However, for overall chicken health and happiness, the more outdoor foraging space you can provide the better.

These space suggestions are just a starting point for determining your coop size and style of raising chickens.

Coop Concerns

All chicken owners need to think about two major things: predator protection and poop.

Chicken books and blogs often break these ideas down into more categories. But for simplicity and easy memorization, we settled on these two concepts as the big ideas chicken keepers should address to provide safe, healthy habitats for chickens.

Predator Protection

Many chicken owners will tell you that the hardest part about keeping chickens is keeping them safe. When you confine chickens to a limited space, you also limit their ability to protect themselves from predation.

Also, when you invest your time and resources into caring for your flock, you don’t want to face the 40 percent loss rate that would occur if your chickens were not housed in a predator-proof coop.21

Suburban development has placed pressure on wildlife to seek new habitats and find alternate ways of feeding themselves. As a result, suburban areas are sometimes the most predator-prone places of all.

Add to that the number of backyard pets eager to express their genetic history (i.e., dogs descended from wolves, house cats from jungle cats), and you’ve got lots of incentive to place priority on building a rock-solid coop.

Ways Predators Can Breach a Coop

Here’s a few predator facts to be aware of when planning predator protection.

  • An owl can fly through an open window and carry away a small chicken.
  • A fox or digging dog can tunnel under a foot of dirt to get to your chickens.
  • A determined raccoon can claw through chicken wire, reach a paw through openings over an inch wide, and open many doors.
  • A bear can tear a door from its hinges.

Planning All-Around Predator Protection

Given these examples, as you are planning your coop, you will want to consider predator protection overhead, underground, and all around (e.g., windows and eaves).

This includes measures like the following:

  • Burying wire mesh (better than chicken wire) underground around the perimeter of your coop or placing it underneath moveable coops, over windows, around eaves, and over any openings otherwise not protected
  • Building a floor in a fixed coop or elevating a coop off the ground to deter diggers
  • The use of electric fencing, motion-sensing lights, or even a well-trained livestock guardian dog (LGD)
  • The use of overhead netting if flying predators (e.g., hawks, owls, magpies) are a big concern—or keeping chickens confined until they are full sized

You may also want to keep separate storage and feeding areas and make egg collection a frequent activity.

Many predators, such as bears, snakes, and opossums, are more interested in your chicken feed or eggs than in eating your chickens. By removing red-carpet invites like a feed trough housed in your coop and by emptying nest boxes daily, you can discourage some predators.

If there are other chicken keepers in your area, talk to them to find out what kind of predator pressure they have experienced to determine where to focus your efforts and what to expect.

Poop (Ventilation and Cleaning)

Yep, we just said poop, not manure. When the thick, putrid stink of fresh chicken droppings first hits your nasal passages, you’ll understand why.

This stuff doesn’t come out as lovely, garden-friendly manure.

It’s as rank and nasty as our stuff is until the freshness dissipates, which—depending on degree of soppiness and external humidity—can be minutes to hours.

How poop is treated in the collection process also determines whether it is useful manure or nuisance “feces” (as it is often referred to in city ordinances on chicken keeping).

Managing the Smell

Chickens may have just as many olfactory senses as human beings,22 so managing poop odors is as important for your chickens as it is for you (and your neighbors).

For indoor areas, good ventilation is key.

  • You can use wire-mesh covered windows or vents for this purpose and open coop doors during the day. Placing windows on opposite sides of the coop with access to the prevailing winds can be helpful.
  • However, keep in mind, ventilation is good, but drafts in extremely cold weather are bad.
  • For cold-weather areas, avoid placing ventilation openings directly across from nest boxes or roost bars.
  • For warmer climates, feel free to take advantage of cross breezes over roost bars. Or better yet, opt for an open coop, with plenty of fresh air for your chickens’ olfactory pleasure.

Other ways to minimize poop odors include adding a layer of fresh litter to poop-catching surfaces (e.g., straw, wood shavings, or cardboard chips on floors) or using a square head spade to scrape up manure and ladle it into a lidded bucket on a daily basis.

Alternatively, if you use a chicken tractor [LINKTO:] instead of a coop, you may need to move your chickens once or twice daily to keep them from spending the day standing in their own poop or creating problems in your soil from excessive nitrogen and phosphorous.

Except with a chicken tractor–style coop, you will need to the clean up the poop in the coop—and the more often the better if you want to cut down on pests, attract fewer predators, minimize the potential for health issues in your flock, maximize compost for your garden, and remain friendly with your neighbors.

(NOTE: Some people also use the built-up litter method to control odors, generate a little heat during the winter, and produce some nice compost for their spring garden.) [LINKTO:]

Coop Design With Cleanup in Mind

So, an important consideration related to poop and coop design is easy cleanup.

If considering an elevated coop, it’s a good idea to bring it up to waist height and make sure you can reach all parts of the coop by bending at the waist rather than hunching. This way you can use a hand shovel, dust pan, and brush for easy cleaning. In larger elevated coops, this may require more doors for comfortable cleaning access.

A coop that is tall enough to stand up in with easy-to-sweep floors or pitchfork-accessible areas also works. And the fewer unnecessary horizontal poop-catching surfaces, the better.

Bottom line, the easier your coop is to clean, the more likely you will be to clean it.

A clean coop contributes enormously to chicken well-being. It also cuts down on the likelihood that neighbors will take offense over your keeping chickens. Plus, fresh poop has a lot more benefits for your compost pile than old, dried droppings, so collect it early and often.

If chicken poop accumulates in outdoor run areas or heavily trafficked chicken hangouts, occasionally adding some kind of mulch material or hosing down the area to dilute and distribute can help.

However, your best method for minimizing poop plots is to use moveable pens or paddocks to direct chicken activity.

The post Raising Chickens: The Scoop on the Coop appeared first on The Grow Network.

Meet the Changemakers: 11 Leaders in Permaculture and Sustainable Living

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How much damage does tilling up farm fields really cause? A lot, it turns out. American farms are losing 30 soccer fields’ worth of topsoil every minute,1https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/ and the global food system is careening toward a resource shortage that may lead to dire consequences in the coming decades.

However, losing soil’s natural fertility is hardly inevitable.

Throughout the world, thousands of farmers and gardening enthusiasts are experimenting with better ways to use land — ways that conserve and restore natural resources like water and fertility in a manner that mimics nature’s design. Often falling under the category of “permaculture,” these strategies strive to create farm systems that are both sustainable and self-sufficient (no tilling required).

For this list, we’ve highlighted 11 changemakers working to promote sustainability in the food system. Some are permaculture experts, others are gardeners, educators, and even podcast hosts. Regardless of the specifics, we believe that every person on this list will inspire you to think differently about what the world’s food future could look like.

Sustainable Living Changemaker David Goodman

#1 – David Goodman
Author and Blogger

The author of five books and the force behind the daily blog TheSurvivalGardener.com, David Goodman (known as “David the Good”) is a permaculture enthusiast and an educator on all topics concerning gardening and sustainable living.

Goodman learned the specifics behind traditional farming at an early age on his family’s farm and discovered his passion for permaculture while living in Florida. However, after several years he realized that he wanted to experiment with permaculture techniques that went beyond Florida’s ecosystem, so he moved farther south.

He and his wife now live at an undisclosed location near the equator, where he continues to publish content on his blog and YouTube channel that draws on his 30 years of growing experience. You can also find his content at other places across the Internet, including Mother Earth News, Heirloom Gardening magazine, ThePrepperProject.com, and right here at the Grow Network!

When he’s not experimenting with better ways to grow food, Goodman spends his time painting and making music.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Paul Wheaton

#2 – Paul Wheaton
Founder, Permies.com

Wheaton is a certified master gardener and permaculture designer as well as a hügelkultur enthusiast. Considered by some to be the “Duke of Permaculture,” Wheaton strives to make sustainable living both straightforward and attainable for people around the globe. He is also the founder of Permies.com, the largest permaculture forum on the Internet today. There, he provides members with detailed information about the principles of permaculture through comprehensive guides, articles, and question-and-answer sessions.

Though his passion for plants is evident from his website, Wheaton actually began his professional life as a software engineer. His prior knowledge of coding and design were essential to his forum becoming a success, and he has used his technological expertise to draw attention to numerous other permaculture experts over the years. You can connect with him through the Permies.com forum, on his YouTube channel, and often through personal workshops on his own property in Western Montana.

Recently, Wheaton has been experimenting with rocket mass heaters and developing his own designs for a semi-underground natural building technique that he calls “wofati.”

Sustainable Living Changemaker Jerome Osentowski

#3 – Jerome Osentowski
Founder, Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute

By common consensus, Jerome Osentowski is considered one of the most accomplished permaculture designers in North America today. Known as a forager and sustainable design enthusiast, Osentowski grew up in Nebraska but now maintains a passive solar house in Colorado.

A permaculture designer for over 30 years, Osentowski founded the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, where he successfully farms at more than 7,000 feet above sea level. His permaculture specialty is greenhouses, and he maintains an acre of intensively cultivated indoor and outdoor forest gardens, as well as a plant nursery. These gardens are the foundation of his permaculture courses, which are the longest-running in the world.

Osentowski’s greenhouse designs range from homesteader-friendly to high-budget commercial systems. However, regardless of size, they all rely on ecological principles to trap heat and regulate interior conditions in order to encourage the best possible plant growth. His book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse, presents the principles he uses to bring forest gardening indoors through zero-energy techniques and permaculture design.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Geoff Lawton

#4 – Geoff Lawton
Managing Director, Permaculture Research Institute

Renowned permaculture designer Geoff Lawton has spent thousands of hours teaching and consulting about permaculture, as well as implementing self-sustaining building and garden designs around the world.

Taught by the “father of permaculture,” Bill Mollison himself, Lawton has worked in over 50 countries for clients ranging from private individuals and community centers to governments and multinational companies. He has educated over 15,000 permaculture students worldwide, and his designs in Australia won him the Permaculture Community Services Award in 1996.

Throughout the years, Lawton has established demonstration sites for his permaculture techniques that work as sustainable educational centers. Today, he is the managing director of both the Permaculture Research Institute Australia and the Permaculture Research Institute USA. To access some of his training online, visit GeoffLawtonOnline.com.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Jenny Nazak

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-nazak-b44b4a7/

#5 – Jenny Nazak
Author, Deep Green

A longtime sustainable farming enthusiast, Jenny Nazak is a permaculture educator, eco-activist, and community organizer. She has made it her mission to help environmentalists improve their effectiveness in “walking the talk” of personal sustainability without compromising the benefits of financial security, health, free time, and inner peace in the process.

Nazak’s passion for permaculture started in childhood during long walks outdoors, and was furthered during the time she spent in other countries that incorporated sustainable design into their infrastructure. Inspired to make a change in her home country of America, Nazak took permaculture classes in 2005.

Today, she heads up the Austin, TX, Permaculture Guild and offers workshops, presentations, and consulting that help small businesses find innovative ways to incorporate permaculture principles into their practices. Her first book, DEEP GREEN, was published in August 2017.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Jack Spirko

Source: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast .com/

#6 – Jack Spirko
Host, The Survival Podcast

Jack Spirko is the founder and host of The Survival Podcast, a daily online audio show about self-reliance, disaster preparedness, and debt-free living. He is also a passionate follower and teacher of permaculture principles.

Spirko’s career path to podcast host isn’t typical. He spent time in the military and learned technical, marketing, and sales skills as a small business owner afterward. “The Survival Podcast” began in 2008 as informal recordings Spirko made each day during his 55 mile commute to work. Within a year, the show grew from about 2,000 daily listeners to over 15,000, so he developed it into a full-time business.

Today, the show attracts a half million-plus daily listeners and has inspired thousands to improve their self-sufficiency and start taking control of their own lives. The podcast regularly covers topics related to homesteading, personal economics, investing, small business ownership, debt elimination, homeschooling, permaculture, primitive skills, and more.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Matt Powers

Source: http://www.adamcortell.com/ permaculture-matt-powers/

#7 – Matt Powers
Author, The Permaculture Student 1 & 2

Matt Powers is a renowned expert in the world of permaculture and regenerative agriculture, and he teaches gardening and farming techniques to families, schools, and adults on every continent besides Antarctica through online courses, videos, and books. His first book, The Permaculture Student 1, has been translated into over a dozen languages and is considered by many to be foundational to an understanding of permaculture.

Despite his success in the world of natural gardening, Powers never set out to be an author or farmer. Instead, as a young adult, he worked as a recording artist and musician in New York City. After his wife lost her thyroid to cancer, the two underwent a major lifestyle change to better understand the role that food played in their physical health and how to eat the best food for their bodies. They turned to local, organic food, but found it hard to source as much as they needed due to the desert conditions in the Sierra Nevadas where they lived. For this reason, they started taking steps to grow their own food sustainably and with minimal inputs.

After learning the basics of permaculture, Powers grew inspired by the philosophy and implemented the techniques in his garden to great effect. Passionate about spreading the knowledge of sustainable agriculture design to as many people as possible, he became a speaker, writer, and podcast producer who presents information about the practical implications of permaculture for farmers and backyard growers alike.

 Sustainable Living Changemaker Tom Elpel

#8 – Tom Elpel
Founder, Green University

A successful author, builder, educator, and conservationist, Elpel credits his grandmother with much of his passion for outdoor living. As he was growing up, the two of them spent hours exploring the hills of Montana looking for arrowheads and evidence of wildlife. During these adventures, Elpel gained an interest in native plants and the ways they could be used, which inspired a passion for nature and survival skills that has stuck with him ever since.

Because of this passion, Elpel founded Green University in Pony, Montana. With a focus on equipping students to answer the world’s big sustainability questions, the university’s programs offer a unique way to connect the dots between wilderness survival, botany, and sustainable living by integrating them into a set of practical skills that students can apply in their daily lives. Students learn how to harvest wild food, make their own clothing, and thrive in survival situations.

In addition to his work with Green University, Elpel is also the founder of the Outdoor Wilderness Living School, an innovative program that educates school groups through immersive wilderness experiences, helping them reconnect with nature. Through his publishing company HOPS Press LLC, Elpel has published numerous books and videos about wilderness survival, nature, and sustainable living.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Brad Lancaster

#9 – Brad Lancaster
Author, Rainwater Harvesting for Dryland and Beyond

Living in a place that gets very little rainfall has helped make Brad Lancaster passionate about harvesting it. The Sonoran Desert that Lancaster and his brother call home gets just 11 inches of rainwater a year, but the two still manage to harvest over 100,000 gallons on their eighth-acre urban lot. They then use this water to tend to their food-bearing shade trees, numerous vegetable gardens, and landscaped rain gardens. In turn, the trees and gardens provide wildlife habitats, natural beauty, medicinal plants, and more.

Hoping to empower people to make the most of the natural resources around them, Lancaster cofounded HarvestingRainwater.org. He also authored the book series Rainwater Harvesting for Dryland and Beyond, which reveals ways that desert dwellers can transform their communities for the better by making the most of the water that’s naturally available. Since 1993, Lancaster has also run a permaculture consulting and design business.

Sustainable Living Changemaker David Blume

Source: http://www.permaculture. com/node/237

#10 – David Blume
Founder, Blume Distillation

The founder of Blume Distillation, David Blume is a permaculture teacher, entrepreneur, and force for social change for the betterment of the environment. Growing up, he worked with his father to grow almost all the food that his family ate, despite the fact that they lived in the middle of urban San Francisco.

Blume put himself through college by teaching summer backpacking and ecology classes, and majored in Ecological Biology at San Francisco State University. In the late 70s, he worked for NASA on experiments with solar-powered sewage treatment plants. He joined the Mother Earth News Eco Village as an expert in alternative building techniques soon after.

After the 1980s energy crisis, Blume began experimenting with alternative fuel sources like ethanol and wrote and hosted the 10-part series Alcohol as Fuel for PBS affiliate KQED. He also wrote the accompanying book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas! However, the information he presented was so inflammatory to oil and gas companies that they threatened to sue PBS unless it pulled the content, and the network caved. Despite these setbacks, Blume has continued to develop Blume Distillation into an ethanol company that promotes the power of sustainable, small-scale fuel production.

Sustainable Living Changemaker Cary Fowler

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Cary_Fowler

#11 – Cary Fowler
Founder, Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Cary Fowler is the brainpower behind the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is designed to survive any crisis. Also known as the “doomsday vault,” Svalbard was created to ensure viable post-disaster agriculture through seed diversity. It provides the highest possible security for almost a million unique crop varieties and has been described as an “inspirational symbol of peace and food security” for all humanity.

It was Fowler’s suggestion to create the vault within the Arctic Circle in Norway. He headed the committee that developed it and is the chair of the international council that manages its operations.

The vault was completed in 2008, but Fowler was involved in its planning for decades prior to that. He led the team that created the first global assessment of the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in the early 1990s, and he drafted the first Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The latter eventually led to the creation of the vault. He is also the author of several books, including Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity; Unnatural Selection: Technology, Politics, and Plant Evolution; and Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault.

Want To Meet Even MORE Changemakers…? 

Want to spend more time learning from and supporting the work of changemakers? Consider becoming a member of the Grow Network here. 

And, if you missed the previous articles in this series, you can read them using the following links:

  • Read the first article, focused on sustainable farming, here.
  • Read the second article, about changemakers in natural health, here.
  • And read the third article, about female changemakers, here.

Then, would you let us know if we missed someone?

We know these are just a handful of the many, many people making a difference in the areas of sustainable farming, permaculture, and natural health today.

Please leave us a comment to let us know who else you look up to in these areas — whether it’s a big name, a relative, or your next door neighbor! (Because, yes, we have something else up our sleeve — stay tuned! 😉 )

References   [ + ]

1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/

The post Meet the Changemakers: 11 Leaders in Permaculture and Sustainable Living appeared first on The Grow Network.

Meet the Changemakers: 14 Women Leading Today’s Natural Food Movement

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The term “Mother” Earth should tell you something: Female power makes the world go ’round. And the natural food movement is no exception. Today, countless women are making it their life’s work to preserve and protect the planet we all call home.

The following list of female changemakers includes just a handful of the many women who are powerful forces of change in the world of gardening, natural health, and sustainability. From starting preschool gardening programs to protecting the rights of small farmers, the women on this list are making our world a better place every day.

Female Changemaker Jacqueline Freeman

#1 – Jacqueline Freeman
Author, Song of Increase

Farmer, author, and beekeeper Jacqueline Freeman is celebrated for her gentle treatment and innate understanding of bees. By striving to understand the world from a bee’s perspective—and sharing this knowledge across the globe—she has taught myriad beekeepers better methods for maintaining their hives.

Freeman lives on a biodynamic farm in Washington, but her work has taken her around the world—including to the Dominican Republic via a USDA program. She was featured in the award-winning honeybee documentary Queen of the Sun.

Her recently published book, Song of Increase: Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World, has been translated into numerous languages and can be found on every continent. To connect with Freeman and see videos of her working with thousands of bees without protective clothing, visit her website at SpiritBee.com.

Female Changemaker Patricia Foreman

#2 – Patricia Foreman
Creator, Chickens and You

“Chicken lover” is a term that falls short of truly describing Patricia Foreman. An author focusing on sustainable agriculture, Foreman is also a local foods activist and speaker. In fact, she and her famous chicken, Oprah Hen-Free, are renowned for giving presentations about raising poultry across the country.

Foreman’s love of chickens has led her to maintain her own flock of broilers, layers, turkeys, and more for over 25 years. She also cohosted the Chicken Whisperer talk show for several years, and her interviews were often featured on NPR and CBS.

Eager to help new chicken owners gain support for their flocks, Patricia has developed a Chickens and You training series that culminates in a Master Backyard Chicken Keeper Certificate. She is also the author of City Chicks and the coauthor of several other chicken-themed publications. You can find her online at ChickensAndYou.com

Female Changemaker Stacey Murphy

#3 – Stacey Murphy
Founder, BK Farmyards

Stacey Murphy is the founder and force behind BK Farmyards, an urban farm in Brooklyn dedicated to promoting work opportunities and social justice for urban teens and young adults. Working two acres of property altogether, BK Farmyards maintains a CSA, offers a Backyard Farmer Training Program, and provides educational space where thousands of beginning gardeners have learned to grow, harvest, and cook with homegrown food.

A former engineer and architect, Murphy’s most thrilled about what she’s building now: a generation of kids who are excited about growing food and learning about herbal medicine. Beyond working directly in the dirt, Murphy has written children’s books, including the Amazon bestseller My Dinosaur Ate My Broccoli. Thanks to her impact, Stacy has been featured on PBS, Martha Stewart Radio, and the David Letterman show.

Female Changemaker Stephanie Syson

#4 – Stephanie Syson
Founder, Biodynamic Botanicals

Sustainable agriculture has always been Stephanie Syson’s passion, and she spent years working directly in the dirt growing botanical herbs for food and medicine. After more than 10 years of herb-growing experience, Syson drew on her extensive knowledge of herbs to create Dynamic Roots, an herbal medicine product line.

A Certified Permaculture Designer and an educator about greenhouse management, permaculture, seed saving, and herbalism, Syson is also a lead grower of the herbs she sells through her company Biodynamic Botanicals, a Demeter-certified herb farm at high altitude in Colorado.

When she’s not growing herbs or running her businesses, Syson helps others learn about herbal medicine and sustainable agriculture and apply the benefits of both to their daily lives.

Female Changemaker Marjory Wildcraft

#5 – Marjory Wildcraft
Founder, The Grow Network

Though some have called her “the most dangerous woman in America,” Marjory Wildcraft’s goal for world domination is simple: She wants the world to free itself from dependency on supermarkets and drugstores.

The founder of the Grow Network, Wildcraft has helped people around the world realize that they can find food beyond the grocery store—namely, in their own backyards! The Grow Network is an online global gathering of people who produce their own food and medicine, and Wildcraft helps facilitate the conversation.

Through the Grow Network, Marjory inspires people to self-sufficiency by growing their own food and is famous for promoting techniques that provide ways to grow half your food in less than an hour a day in a small backyard garden. You can find her online at the Grow Network.

Female Changemaker Jeannette Beranger

#6 – Jeannette Beranger
Author, An Introduction to Heritage Breeds

Animals have always been Jeannette Beranger’s passion, so working for the Livestock Conservancy was a natural fit. Today, Beranger is the Conservancy’s Senior Program Manager and uses her position to help implement livestock conservation programs by conducting field research and advising farmers about the best ways to utilize the unique benefits of heritage breeds.

Relying on over 30 years of experience working with heritage livestock, Beranger helped author the bestseller An Introduction to Heritage Breeds: Saving and Raising Rare-Breed Livestock and Poultry and maintains a heritage chicken and horse farm at home. Recently, Country Woman magazine honored Beranger’s conservancy work by including her on its list of “45 Amazing Country Women.

Female Changemaker Machaelle Small-Wright

#7 – Machaelle Small-Wright
Founder, Perelandra Center for Nature Research

As a teacher, writer, and passionate proponent of the environment, Machaelle Small-Wright is the co-founder of Perelandra, a nature research center in rural Virginia. The center was founded in 1976 and is focused on fostering healthy relationships between visitors and nature.

Perelandra is a space for anyone who wants to gain more control over their health and the environment by learning about the power of the individual. For this reason, the center teaches visitors how to live in harmony with nature in three areas: the environment, health, and  the cultivation of “soil-less gardens” like businesses, homes, and creative projects.

Small-Wright is also the author of multiple books, including Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered and Perelandra Garden Workbook I & II—A Complete Guide To Gardening With Nature Intelligences.

Female Changemaker Judith McGeary

#8 – Judith McGeary
Founder, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

As a child, Judith McGeary was a passionate horse rider and loved participating in mock trials in school. So it’s hardly surprising that she grew up to be an attorney, environmental activist, and sustainable livestock farmer in Texas.

Throughout her law practice, McGeary repeatedly watched as government regulations were proposed that were designed to benefit industrial agriculture at the cost of small family farmers. To help small farms retain their rights, McGeary founded the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance to aid the promotion and legislature of common sense policies for diversified farm systems.

Thanks to her work, McGeary has been featured in the magazines Texas Observer and Edible Austin, in the food documentary Farmageddon, as well as on radio shows across the country.

Female Changemaker Carol Deppe

#9 – Carol Deppe, PhD
Founder, Fertile Valley Seeds

Getting a PhD in biology was only the beginning of Carol Deppe’s career as a plant enthusiast. As the founder and owner of Fertile Valley Seeds (FVS), Deppe is passionate about developing and distributing organic gardening seeds that have exceptional flavor and can grow well in a variety of climates.

Seeds from FVS stand out because they are open source, meaning that a patent doesn’t restrict who has access to them. Deppe believes that the best seed varieties should be available to everyone, and FVS operates with this philosophy.

Deppe is also the author of several books about organic gardening. Her popular titles include Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, and The Tao of Vegetable Gardening: Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy, and Serenity. You can find her online at www.CarolDeppe.com.

Female Changemaker Nicole Telkes

#10 – Nicole Telkes
Founder, Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine

Nicole Telkes is an herbal enthusiast and member of the American Herbalists Guild. She attributes her love of herbalism and wildcrafts to her maternal grandmother, an herbalist and avid mushroom and berry forager. From her, Telkes learned how to walk through the woods and observe the potential of the plants she saw around her.

She uses her extensive knowledge of ecology, biology, and herbal medicine to educate people about the use of wild herbs and responsible harvesting strategies. For the last 20 years, she has traveled throughout different regions in North America studying and experimenting with native plants.

Author of Medicinal Plants of TexasA Guide to Locating, Growing, Harvesting, and Using Plants in Texas and the Deep South, Telkes is the founder of the Austin-based Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine, which also offers online classes. Since 2003, she has lived on an eight-acre botanical sanctuary in Central Texas.

Female Changemaker Vandana Shiva

Source: http://vandanashiva.com/?page_id=22

#11 – Vandana Shiva, PhD
Founder, the Research Foundation for
Science, Technology, and Ecology

The power behind the non-GMO movement in India, Vandana Shiva, PhD, is a whirlwind of intelligence and a force of inspiration for encouraging sustainable agriculture around the world. Shiva trained as a physicist at the University of Punjab and earned her PhD in quantum theory in Canada. Since then, she has shifted her interests toward science and environmental policy, which she teaches at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India.

Founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology, Shiva is known throughout the world for her courageous activism and support of rural peasant farmers throughout South Asia. Upset about the impacts of genetic engineering on farmers who can’t afford to pay for patented seeds each year, Shiva worked to support the propagation of heirloom seeds that are genetically suited to the region in which they were developed. Her work has made major contributions to the growing field of intellectual property rights and biotechnology.

Shiva is the author of numerous books about the importance of sustainable agriculture, including The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology, and Politics; Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversty and Biotechnology; Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; and more.

Female Changemaker Elaine Ingham

Source: http://greengardensgroup.com/ portfolio-items/dr-elaine-ingham/

#12 – Elaine Ingham, PhD
Founder, Soil Foodweb

A world-renowned soil microbiologist, Elaine Ingham, PhD, has focused on soil health for the past 30 years. She has worked with everyone from produce farmers to livestock grazers to help them understand what their soil needs to function better.

Ingham is the founder and president of Soil Foodweb, an international laboratory dedicated to assessing bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and other soil dwellers in order to understand which ratios make for the best agricultural land. The organization’s website provides information to help farmers understand the quality of their soil and grow the most resilient crops for their soil conditions.

The focus of Ingham’s work is to return the soil to full health through natural nutrient cycling, disease suppression, and other restoration techniques. She leads workshops and seminars about her findings, and her engaging, easy-to-understand presentation style has inspired countless gardeners and farmers to make the health of their soil the first priority for their fields.

Female Changemaker Ruth Stout

Source: http://allthedirtongardening.blogspot. com/2015/05/ruth-stout-original-naked-gardener.html

#13 – Ruth Stout
Author, How to Have a Green Thumb
Without an Aching Back

Though deceased, Ruth Stout was an American author whose “no work” gardening books and techniques are still popular today.

Though Stout was in her mid-40s before she planted her first garden, she quickly made up for lost time. During her first few seasons, Stout attempted to follow conventional techniques but found them lacking because she always had to wait for men to plow her field before she could start. Sick of wasting so much time during her already short growing seasons, Stout began experimenting with simply sticking seeds in the ground to see what would happen. When she found that her plants flourished, Stout found that she had stumbled upon an effective no-till gardening strategy.

Over the years, Stout refined her technique and eventually adopted a year-round mulching system that eliminated almost all the labor involved with traditional gardening methods. This minimalist style of cultivation proved inspiring for gardeners everywhere, and Stout published several books as well as multiyear article series in Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine.

Female Changemaker Rosemary Gladstar

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Rosemary-Gladstar/e/B000APUXMK

#14 – Rosemary Gladstar
Founder, United Plant Savers

Like many herbalists, Rosemary Gladstar’s passion for plants began in early childhood. After she completed a middle school project on native medicinal plants in her region of Sonoma County, she was hooked for life. In her early 20s, Rosemary went on a months-long horseback riding trip with her toddler and friend to Canada. Throughout the journey, the trio relied on native plants for dinner most nights, which only enhanced Rosemary’s passion for how beneficial the plants could be to her health.

To help protect them, Rosemary founded the California School of Herbal Studies, the first herbal school in California, and Sage Mountain Herbals in Vermont. She also founded United Plant Savers, an organization dedicated to protecting native medicinal plants in the United States and Canada by preserving their native habitats and educating people about their benefits. Today, United Plant Savers has chapters around the country that are filled with passionate herbalists working to protect at-risk populations of native medicinal plants.

Rosemary is also the author of several books about herbalism, including Herbal Healing for WomenHerbs for Natural BeautyHerbs for the Home Medicine ChestHerbal Recipes for Vibrant Health and Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs.

Want To Meet Even MORE Changemakers…? 

Want to spend more time learning from and supporting the work of changemakers? Consider becoming a member of the Grow Network here. 

And stay tuned … because this article is No. 3 of 4 in this series, highlighting the important work of changemakers from around the world.

(Miss the previous articles in this series? Read the first article, focused on sustainable farming, here, and the second article, about changemakers in natural health, here.)

The post Meet the Changemakers: 14 Women Leading Today’s Natural Food Movement appeared first on The Grow Network.

Meet the Changemakers: 11 People Inspiring and Leading Change in Natural Health

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What does it take to make a permanent improvement in your health? For the 11 changemakers on this list, it involved questioning the promises of conventional medicine and turning instead to the ancient wisdom of deep nutrition and herbal medicine.

Their stories may all be different, but every individual on this list is leaving a mark on the field of natural wellness and finding ways to improve the health of those around them. Hundreds more could be included here, but for now, we are celebrating the achievements of these 11 changemakers and their work providing strategies that lead to long-lasting health.

Natural Health Changemaker Mike Adams

Changemaker #1 – Mike Adams
Founder, NaturalNews.com

Illness often inspires major lifestyle changes, and Mike Adam’s bout with type 2 diabetes was no exception. After his diagnosis, Adams threw himself into detailed research on nutrition, wellness programs, and even pharmaceutical drugs to understand the best ways to improve his health.

Throughout his extensive research, he noticed a common theme. Almost all diseases could be prevented, treated, and cured without invasive drugs or surgery. Rather, the solution was a deeply nutritious diet. Adams began improving his diet, and in a matter of months he had cured his diabetes and improved his overall health.

Eager to inspire others with his research, he founded NaturalNews.com, one of the most popular natural health websites today. Through this site, Adams provides well-researched information to his readers about the dangerous heavy metals, hormone disruptors, and synthetic chemicals in food, beauty products, children’s toys, and other ordinary household objects. NaturalNews.com presents alternatives to these products, as well as information about holistic wellness, natural gardening techniques, consciousness and spirituality, and nutrition.

Through this website and others that he’s founded, Adams is advancing a greater awareness of modern health risks and encouraging people around the world to regain control of their health.

Natural Health Changemaker Dr. Patrick Jones

Changemaker #2 – Patrick Jones
Veterinarian; Traditional Naturopath; Founder, HomeGrown Herbalist LLC

While the world is filled with plant lovers and animal lovers, Dr. Patrick Jones is an individual who loves both. A practicing veterinarian, clinical herbalist, and traditional naturopath, Jones has made a career out of using the power of plants to promote health for both his human and animal patients.

He founded HomeGrown Herbalist LLC with an aim to help others improve their health through botanical medicine. Today, Jones leads workshops, herb walks, and lectures that teach people how to take natural remedies beyond the theoretical to the practical.

And he practices what he preaches. On his two-acre property, Jones grows more than 100 different medicinal plants that he uses in his practice and workshops.

Through his pioneering medical work, Jones has used herbs to bring health and healing to his patients—and a broader public awareness of the power of plant medicine.

Natural Health Changemaker Sam Coffman

Changemaker #3 – Sam Coffman
Founder, The Human Path; Author, The Herbal Medic

Though he owes much of his medical education to his service as a medic with the U.S. Special Forces, Sam Coffman’s passion for herbalism goes beyond active duty. Traveling through remote areas with minimal medical supplies taught him firsthand the value of recognizing and using whatever healing herbs and wild plants might be available at that moment.

Since leaving the military, Sam has worked as a clinical herbalist for more than 15 years and is registered with the American Herbalist Guild. Through thousands of clinical hours, he has learned to integrate herbs with more standard medical methods for optimal success.

Today, Sam runs The Human Path, the survival and herbalism school he founded in Central Texas. He is also the author of The Herbal Medic.

Natural Health Changemaker Susun Weed

Changemaker #4 – Susun Weed
Founder, the Wise Woman Center; Author, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Though she never finished high school or graduated from college, Susun Weed has been a force in education for decades. While living in Manhattan in 1965, Weed discovered the field of herbalism. She has been passionate about it ever since. Her first book, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, has been in print since its first publication in 1985. Her other books also focus on the role of herbalism in women’s health, particularly pertaining to menopause and breast health.

In addition to being an author, Weed works with women directly through training apprenticeships and correspondence courses at the Wise Woman Center in New York. Weed also utilizes her knowledge of wild plants in her role as a Peace Elder, a High Priestess of Dianic Wicca, and a member of the Sisterhood of the Shields. You can regularly find her on BlogTalkRadio and National Public Radio, as well as through her personal website at www.susunweed.com.

Natural Health Changemaker Ocean Robbins

Source: https://www.oceanrobbins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ocean-in-santa-ynez-crop.png

Changemaker #5 – Ocean Robbins
Founder, Food Revolution Network

As the grandson of the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins, it’s hardly surprising that Ocean Robbins has dedicated his adult life to food. However, the path he’s taken is anything but typical. His father rejected the family ice cream business and the consumerism that came with it in his 20s, meaning that Robbins was born in a one-room cabin and grew up producing his own food, practicing yoga, and living on less than $500 a year.

Despite this intentionally simple lifestyle, he demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit early on and sought opportunities to reach out to his generation, even as a child. At 16, he founded Yes!, a youth social change organization he directed for the next two decades. Today, Yes! offers conferences and workshops in over 65 countries.

In 2012, Robbins founded the Food Revolution Network, an organization focused on improving access to healthy, sustainably grown food across the globe. The international network now has over 500,000 members.

Today, his blog reaches millions each month, and Robbins is actively organizing webinars, workshops, and classes around the country to reach millions more. His books, The Power of Partnership and Voices of a Food Revolution, are national bestsellers.

Natural Health Changemaker Rob Greenfield

Source: https://twitter.com/robjgreenfield

Changemaker #6 – Rob Greenfield
Founder, The Food Waste Fiasco Campaign

While 50 million Americans are food insecure, close to half of the food in the country is tossed in the trash. Adventurer, environmental activist, and food enthusiast Rob Greenfield is working to change that.

Greenfield is the founder and creator of The Food Waste Fiasco, a campaign that seeks to end hunger in the United States. Throughout the campaign, he has recovered food from over two thousand dumpsters to show just how much food is wasted each day in America.

Although he’s had a passion for outdoor living since childhood, it wasn’t until he was 24 years old that Greenfield realized how threatened the natural environment was. Today, he is famous for taking bike trips across the country carrying nothing but what fits in a backpack.

All of the media income Greenfield earns is donated directly to nonprofits, ensuring that he puts his resources to the best possible use.

By challenging the modern definition of happiness and by drawing attention to the waste inherent in the American food system, he hopes to inspire millions of people to make better choices for the good of the planet.

Natural Health Changemaker Nick Polizzi

Source: https://vimeo.com/user3682419

Changemaker #7 – Nick Polizzi
Film Director

Nick Polizzi is a passionate proponent of natural alternatives to conventional medicine. His life’s work so far has been creating feature-length documentaries that highlight the positive potential of plant-based medicine for treating the world’s common diseases. Nick is currently directing The Sacred Science, a film that calls viewers to honor, preserve, and protect traditional medicinal knowledge from indigenous people groups around the world.

The inspiration for the film came when a group of chronically ill people from the Western world abandoned their standard medical treatments to investigate the effectiveness of traditional Peruvian medicine instead. The positive health results they experienced convinced Nick’s film team to explore the greater implications of this traditional medicine. The film provides the most in-depth look at these forms of medicine to date—and documents them before they are forgotten forever.

Natural Health Changemaker Doug Simons

Changemaker #8 – Doug Simons
Founder, Chanchka Remedios

Doug Simons’ lifelong attraction to principles of sustainability and native plants began when he was 11 years old. Aided by his mother, Simons learned about the plant species throughout his region of Colorado. As an adult, his travels took him through the Western United States, Mexico, and Central and South America, and he studied the traditional medical techniques of indigenous cultures along the way.

For more than 20 years, Simons lived primitively in the Sonoran Desert and Gila Wilderness in southern New Mexico. Only in the past few years has he rejoined society to share his wilderness experiences with others.

Simons’ organization, Chanchka Remedios, offers workshops throughout the American Southwest that range in length from one to three days. Through daylong herb hikes and in-depth lessons, students learn about medicinal plants and benefit from Simons’ extensive personal experience and engaging personality. He encourages his students to connect deeply with each plant through taste, touch, and smell.

Simons’ video set Treating Infections Without Antibiotics teaches viewers how to take care of wounds, snake bites, and other injuries in the wilderness using the power of the plants around them.

Natural Health Changemakers Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons

Source: http://www.bioneers.org/25th-anniversary-bioneers-conference-peek-behind-curtain-bioneers-founders-kenny-ausubel-nina-simons/

Changemaker #9 – Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons
Founders, Bioneers

When Kenny Ausubel was 19 years old, he woke up one morning completely paralyzed on his left side. Multiple doctors couldn’t explain his condition, so Ausubel began to research alternative medicine. Eventually, he discovered that his symptoms were caused by overexposure to the toxic environmental pollutant dioxin. Understandably alarmed, Ausubel committed himself to finding less dangerous ways for the modern world to operate.

That experience eventually led Ausubel and his wife, Nina Simons, to found Bioneers in 1990. Fueled by the belief that enduring changes for environmental sustainability begin at the community level, the nonprofit operates as a hub for social and scientific innovators, encouraging collaboration as they work together to solve the world’s most dire environmental problems. A renowned annual conference of the same name reaches millions of people around the world through radio and the Internet.

Natural Health Changemaker Kami McBride

Changemaker #10 – Kami McBride
Creator, Herbal Kitchen Remedy Solutions

Kami McBride went on her first herb walk as an 8 year old at summer camp, and she hasn’t stopped since. A health concern in her teens turned her toward the potential of plants for promoting health, and today McBride is the creator of Herbal Kitchen Remedy Solutions. This online course teaches the foundations of herbal medicine and ways to maintain an herb garden for self-care and illness prevention.

McBride gained her herbal certification as a Clinical Herbalist from the Southwest School of Botanical Studies and has worked over the past 25 years to help thousands of patients apply the benefits of herbal medicine to their own lives. She has also developed and taught an herbal curriculum in the Alternative Medicine department at the University of California.

McBride’s book, The Herbal Kitchen, demonstrates ways that you can put common herbs to use in a variety of culinary dishes for health and flavor.

Natural Health Changemaker Katrina Blair

Changemaker #11 – Katrina Blair
Founder, Turtle Lake Refuge

Wild plants have fascinated Katrina Blair since her childhood, and a summer spent in the wilderness as a teenager found her foraging much of her diet. Unsurprisingly, this multimonth walkabout inspired her later career as a native plant educator.

In 1998, Katrina founded Turtle Lake Refuge, an educational nonprofit that celebrates the connections between human health and wild spaces. Today, she is a wild-foods advocate, gardener, community activist, chef, and teacher who presents internationally about the health benefits of foraging wild foods. Katrina has also authored a self-published cookbook titled Local Wild Life: Turtle Lake Refuge’s Recipes for Living Deep.

Her second book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival, discusses the importance of wild spaces in the world today and what we can learn from them in an age of overwhelming technology. It is designed to help people from any part of the country identify the nutritious weeds around them so that they never need to go hungry in a true survival situation.

 

Want To Meet Even MORE Changemakers…? 

Want to spend more time learning from and supporting the work of Changemakers? Consider becoming a member of The Grow Network here. 

And stay tuned … because this article is No. 2 of 4 in this series, highlighting the important work of Changemakers from around the world.

(Did you miss article No. 1 in this series?   You can read it here now!)

The post Meet the Changemakers: 11 People Inspiring and Leading Change in Natural Health appeared first on The Grow Network.

Meet The Changemakers: 13 People Inspiring & Leading Change In Sustainable Farming

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It’s no secret that industrial agriculture is wreaking havoc on our planet. But, in a world of seven billion people, can alternative growing strategies really feed everyone?

In truth, sustainable agriculture is the ONLY option for adequately feeding the world. While conventional strategies steal fertility from the future by relying on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides at the expense of soil health, organic methods leave the earth better after every season.

There are thousands of people working hard to promote alternative agricultural techniques around the world today, and together they are slowly changing the conversation around food.

This week, to kick off our Four-Part Global Changemakers articles series, we’ve chosen to celebrate 13 individuals who are transforming how we all get our food — educating others about how we can eat well and still leave the planet healthier in the process.

We hope these individuals will inspire YOU to find NEW WAYS to improve the sustainability of your own diet.

Listed in no particular order (because each of these folks deserves to be celebrated and honored in their own right):

Sustainable farming changemaker - Howard Garrett

#1 – Howard Garrett
Radio Show Host, “The Dirt Doctor”

As one of the legends of organic gardening, Howard Garrett (the ‘Dirt Doctor’) has long been a leader in the movement in the United States. Throughout his career, Howard has worked in greenhouses, as a landscape contractor, golf course planner and organic product developer, and he is the chairman of the Texas Organic Research Center (TORC).

Born in Pittsburgh, Texas, Howard served in the Marines from 1970 to 1977 after graduating from Texas Tech University. The birth of his daughter in 1985 was a turning point in Howard’s life, and concerns about the world she was going to grow up in caused him to commit his career to the education, research, and the promotion of organic gardening practices.

Howard is the author of over a dozen books based on gardening, lawn care and natural wellness for the planet, including Marjory Wildcraft’s personal favorite, Bugs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Today, Howard hosts the Organic Gardening Show as the Dirt Doctor, a nationally-syndicated radio show that airs each weekend on the Salem Radio Network. You can learn from Howard Garrett by checking out his radio show live from 8 to 11 am CST on Sundays, or by listening to his weekly radio show as a podcast through the Dirt Doctor App.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Joel Salatin

#2 – Joel Salatin
Sustainable Grass Farmer Extraordinaire

As the persona behind Polyface Farms, Joel Salatin needs little introduction in the world of natural farming. Salatin got his start in agriculture when his parents moved to an abused, worn-out farm in the Shenandoah Valley. As a family, they began to heal the landscape and restore fertility through innovative farming techniques that relied on nature as a guide.

Today, Salatin still farms that same plot of land and continues to improve it by planting trees, digging ponds, and building fertility through compost piles. He is famous for his rotational grazing strategies that move animals around his property through portable electric fences, and his ‘pastured poultry’ strategies for producing meat that’s raised entirely on his property’s fertility. For this reason, Joel considers himself first to be a grass farmer, as a healthy prairie system is a key to the functioning of every aspect of his farm.

Today, Polyface feeds hundreds of people and is considered to be a premier non-industrial production oasis. Beyond working his farm, Joel seeks to educate the world about the benefits of natural farming through numerous books and a lecture series that takes him throughout the country. In this way, Salatin works endlessly to make environmentally- friendly agricultural practices more accessible to people everywhere.

 

Sustainable farming changemaker - Hank Will

#3 – Hank Will
Molecular Geneticist turned Magazine Editor

From molecular geneticist to editor for eight national magazines, Hank Will’s career path has hardly been typical. Forever in love with the prairies of the Midwest, Hank became a professor of molecular genetics while still dabbling in the world of heritage livestock and unconventional farming as much as he could. His parent’s seed company was a major inspiration throughout his life and was the primary reason why he studied genetics in school.

After two decades as a professor, Hank transitioned his career and became a freelance journalist while working at his home farm, Cottonwood Creek Farms. His farm experience has allowed him to be an educational voice for small-scale, sustainable agriculture around the world. Today, he is the Editor in Chief of Mother Earth News Magazine and Heirloom Gardener Magazine, as well as the editorial director for all other brands from Ogden Publishing.

Hank’s personal farming experience spans more than four decades and is predominately focused on small-scale, high-cash flow operations, as well as maintaining perennial plants and raising heritage chickens. Today, he has written multiple books about natural farming while living in Kansas with his wife at their home on Prairie Turnip Farm.

#4 – John Dromgoole
Organic Gardening Radio Talk Show Host

His south Texas roots might account for John Dromgoole’s passion for southwest plants, but John has kept his passion for organic agriculture alive for over three decades. He is the host of America’s longest running organic gardening radio talk show (Gardening Naturally with John Dromgoole) and was the host of the first natural gardening series on PBS, called “The New Garden.”

John is also the owner of The Natural Gardener, an award-winning organic garden center in Austin, TX that is considered one of the top five garden centers in the United States. His main passion is finding better ways to bring professional and novice gardeners alike information about organic gardening techniques and resources so that they can personally experience how easy and beneficial following sustainable practices can be. Dwelling in the desert southwest, John is primarily concerned with the increasing scarcity of water resources and focuses his efforts on educating gardeners on water conservation efforts.

Thanks to his work for the organic farming movement, John has won local, state and regional awards, including the “Texas Legendary Promotor of Organics.”

#5 – Roger Doiron
Replanter of the White House Garden

Considered to be one of the “10 Most Inspiring People in Local Food”, Roger Doiron has made a significant impact on the planet in surprising ways — including through starting the campaign to replant the kitchen garden at the White House. Most notable, Roger is the founder and director of Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit based in Maine that today includes over 35,000 individuals from 120 countries who are making a conscious effort to grow their own food at home.

Roger is also a freelance food and gardening writer, and his efforts to promote local, slow food has been featured in numerous news sources, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Mother Earth News Magazine and more.

By combining his passion for supporting his own local food system and the state of slow food at large, Roger has helped bring the issues of sustainable food to the global stage — one kitchen garden at a time.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Sustainable farming changemaker - Dan Bussey

#6 – Dan Bussey
Seed Savers Exchange’s Heirloom Apple Enthusiast

As a longtime apple lover, perhaps only Johnny Appleseed has more passion for this classic fall fruit than Dan Bussey. Dan is the author of a 7-volume set titled The Illustrated History of Apples in North America, which is an encyclopedia collection that documents all 17,000 apple varieties that have grown in America between 1623 and 2000, making it the most complete collection of its kind.

Currently, Dan works as the orchard manager for the Seed Savers Exchange’s Heritage Orchard in Iowa. There, he tends to over 1,100 apple trees to preserve rare varieties so that they can be propagated and sold to customers of the exchange.

Founded in Missouri in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange started with two heirloom seed varieties from Bavaria and has since expanded to include over 20,000 plant varieties and 13,000 members. Almost every variety of apple is included in the Exchange’s collection, and if you choose to plant an heirloom apple tree, you might have Dan Bussey to thank.

Sustainable farming changemaker - John Jeavons

#7 – John Jeavons
Grow More Food With Less Water,
While Boosting Soil Fertility

As the Executive Director of the global non-profit Ecology Action, John Jeavons has long been a leader in the field of bio-intensive agriculture. His passion for developing small-scale, high-yield farming systems led to the development of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming method, which is an approach to farming that allows small farmers to increase their yields while using two-thirds less water and building up their soil fertility up 60 times faster than nature can manage. This technique has been used for over four decades and has been successfully implemented in almost every climate system of the world, including 143 different countries.

John has also authored a book about his techniques, titled How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Now translated into eight languages, this book is considered the primer on sustainable mini-farming.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Paul Gautschit

#8 – Paul Gautschi
Back to Eden Soil Star

Known throughout northern Washington as a master arborist, Paul Gautschi has been puttering in his backyard soil for over 55 years. Though he rarely raises food to sell, Paul has been feeding friends and his seven children off his garden for decades. Over the years, he has also given tours of his orchards and gardens to groups that sometimes range to over 400 people.

When Paul first moved to Washinton, he struggled to make plants grow in the heavy clay soil. However, he slowly started modifying his techniques to mimic the ways plants grow in the natural world with much more success.

This achievement made Paul the star in the popular film Back to Eden, which has been viewed online over 50 million times. The film shares Paul’s lifelong journey as a gardener, his relationship with God, and the simple, sustainable growing methods he incorporates into his garden to achieve impressive results. Through this film, you can gain inspiration from the life of a man who has devoted himself to organic growing and better understand what you can do to your own garden to increase yields simply and sustainably.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Ron Finley

#9 – Ron Finley
Los Angeles’s ‘Gangsta Gardener’

A lifelong South Los Angeles resident, Ron Finley knew firsthand what the consequences of living in a food desert were when he set out to make a change for his community. Today, Ron is working to create urban food forests that can provide food to urban residents.

In 2010, Ron planted a small garden in a dirt strip near his home and started giving away the produce it delivered to his neighbors. Despite the value he was adding to the neighborhood food system, Ron was cited by the City of Los Angeles for illegally using the city’s property. Rather than let the government shut down his garden, Ron fought back with other green activists and demanded the right to grow food in his neighborhood. The city eventually backed off, and Ron has been expanding his operation to the surrounding communities ever since.

Thanks to his popular TED talk, Ron’s mission gained mainstream attention, and today he is supported by a team that knows him as the ‘Gangsta Gardener.’ Together, they are working to turn Los Angeles into a place where communities come together to create gardens and kids can grow up with more options for healthy food, sustainably grown food.

 Sustainable farming changemaker - Allan Savory

#10 – Allan Savory
Rotational Graving Pioneer

Born in Zimbabwe, Allan Savory has long held a passion for managing ecosystems. He studied botany and zoology in South Africa and pursued a career as a research biologist. In the 1960s, Allan had a breakthrough about the cause of deforestation around the globe when he realized how important grazing animals were for preserving the African Savannahs. These observations led him to the conclusion that rotationally graving cattle on degraded land could improve grasslands and keep desertification at bay while promoting a more sustainable food source than tilling up soil to plant crops.

In 2003, he was the recipient of Australia’s International Banksia Award “for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a global scale.” A TED talk he gave in 2013 has since gotten over 3.4 million views, earning it recognition as one of the top fifty most intriguing TED talks of all time.

Though his views on increasing cattle around the globe have been controversial, Allan Savory’s organization continues to promote the idea that bunching and moving livestock in ways that mimic nature is good for the environment. Savory’s book, Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision-Making is a record to his effort to find ways for regular people to find the means to combat the ecological damage of the modern age by implementing strategies that mimic how nature naturally works.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Maheswar Khillar

#11 – Maheswar Khillar
Rooftop Gardener Inspiring His Indian Neighborhood

Mahesward Khillar is a retired OAS officer in India who is making rooftop gardening trendy in his community. His love of homegrown vegetables inspired him to start producing his own, despite severe space limitations. He has maintained his impressively diverse rooftop garden for the past 25 years and has inspired others around him to do the same.

Though Mahesward has been interested in plants since he was a kid, his house in Bhubaneswar had no space for anything but potted plants on the roof. Not one to back away from a challenge, he gradually began experimenting with putting different plants and fruit trees on the rooftop. Now, his collection has taken over the entire roof and takes him roughly three hours each day to maintain. The produce he grows regularly winds up in the meals that his wife cooks and the excess is often given to local friends that appreciate the ability to eat food that hasn’t been tainted with synthetic chemicals.

Now, roughly 300 other families in the region have been inspired enough by Mahesward’s rooftop garden to start their own, making him the leader of a gardening movement in his community that shows no sign of slowing down.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Echo International

#12 – Echo International
Development Hub for Sustainable Agriculture

For the world’s most at risk-farming communities, surviving the crisis of climate change will come down to cultivating robust seed varieties, utilizing appropriate technology, and having the knowledge to implement it- three missions that ECHO has taken to heart for decades.

ECHO is an information hub for development practitioners that strives to find agricultural solutions to feed the world’s most vulnerable populations. ECHO maintains a demonstration farm in southern Florida as well as retreats for development organizers and an annual conference on sustainable farming for impoverished communities.

The organization began in the early 1970s when Indiana businessman Richard Dugger took a group of high school students to Haiti and saw firsthand how difficult farming could be for people in developing countries. ECHO (Educational Concerns for Haiti Organization) was formed to address the problem, and since then ECHO has grown its involvement to include countries throughout Central America, Africa, and Asia.

Today, the organization operates as an experimental farm for low-tech agricultural solutions and as a pipeline for sharing information, ideas, methods, techniques and even seeds that have potential to lessen the impacts of world hunger.

Sustainable farming changemaker - Biodiversity International

#13 – Bioversity International
Supporting Farmers In Developing Countries

Bioversity International is a global research and development organization that strives to support smallholder farmers in developing countries. The organization provides resources for sustainable agriculture techniques that improve harvests while promoting resource conservation around the planet.

By partnering with low-income countries, the organization is working from the soil up to improve agricultural sustainability and global food security for the world’s most vulnerable populations. The organization works to deliver scientific evidence and policy options that fit the unique conditions of each community to ensure that farmers have the resources they need to make improvements that increase their yields and profit margins.

In this way, Bioversity farmers are taught techniques for harvesting and using rainwater, creating on-farm fertility and rotational grazing techniques that enhance pastureland. The program specifically works to improve the range of appropriate technology options in regions where large-scale agriculture isn’t possible.

Want To Meet Even MORE Changemakers…? 

Here at The Grow Network, we’re dedicated to connecting Changemakers from around the globe, to extend the reach of these visionaries to spread their messages and teachings.

Because while the Changemakers on this list are accomplishing incredible things for the planet’s food system, most of them started  small. In fact, many of the leaders on this list began by keeping a simple garden that let them discover the joy of feeding themselves real food for the first time.

Want to spend more time learning from and supporting the work of Changemakers?   Consider becoming a member of The Grow Network here. 

And stay tuned… because this article is #1 of 4 in this series, highlighting the important work of Changemakers from around the world.

The post Meet The Changemakers: 13 People Inspiring & Leading Change In Sustainable Farming appeared first on The Grow Network.

The 12 Most Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

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The threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is quickly becoming a huge concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) is ready to take a stand. For the first time, the WHO[i] has created a list of the top twelve most dangerous superbugs. The reason for drawing attention to these deadly diseases is so they are taken seriously.

A panel of international experts[ii] at the WHO, list disease-causing bacteria based on four things: [iii]

  1. Prevalence in the general community
  2. Overall mortality rates
  3. Burden on the health care system
  4. Level of resistance to treatment

The twelve that ranked highest on their list are the most dangerous bacteria on the planet today.

The Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

Concern over antibiotic-resistant superbugs[iv] is becoming more and more important. Every year, antibiotic resistance in the United States is responsible for 2 million illnesses and almost 23,000 deaths.[v] Most fatalities come from people with weak immune systems, including cancer patients, infants, and the elderly. A widespread, antibiotic-resistant superbug epidemic is just a matter of time. There are diseases now resistant to every antibiotic we have available.

One reason why the supply of antibiotics has dwindled to dangerously low levels is because new drugs are difficult to create. Seventy years of antibiotic research discovered dozens of effective drugs. But new ones aren’t being developed fast enough to beat the resistant stains. There have been decades of overuse of antibiotics by both humans and livestock. It’s easy to see that a perfect storm of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is brewing.

New Antibiotics?

Pharmaceutical companies aren’t likely to create new antibiotics anytime soon. They take years to develop[vi], and most aren’t profitable enough for drug companies to invest millions in research and development. There has not been a new antibiotic brought to the market since 1984. It looks like there is less of a chance that a new “miracle drug” will be on the market anytime soon.

Nonetheless, the stakes have never been higher to become better prepared to fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

The superbugs that made the WHO list are separated into three categories: critical, high, and medium.

Acinetobacter baumannii © Kateryna Kon

Priority 1: Critical

According to the WHO, there are three types of superbugs that require immediate attention in order to keep them under control. They are categorized as a critical priority because each one is multi-drug resistant and often prove fatal in hospitals and nursing homes.

Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant

Acinetobacter baumannii is highly drug resistant and affects people with compromised immune systems, meaning it often leads to pneumonia and is increasingly responsible for deadly blood infections in hospital patients.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant

Highly adaptable in developing antibiotic resistance, pseudomonas aeruginosa is responsible for skin rashes, ear infections, blood infections, and often deadly bouts of pneumonia in hospital patients.

Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, 3rd generation cephalosporin-resistant

As a family of bacteria often found in the human gut, enterobacteriaceae has been called a “nightmare bacteria”[vii] by health officials. It is resistant to over a dozen antibiotics and kills half of all infected patients. Hospitals are the main place to contract enterobacteriaceae. It is known to cause urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

antibiotic-resistance

©Eldar Nurkovic

 Priority 2: High

Next on the WHO list are a variety of multi-drug resistant microbes that spread quickly and are dangerous to contract, including staph infections, salmonella, and gonorrhea.

Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant

Though often harmless in the human intestine, enterococcus faecium can also cause dangerous diseases like meningitis and endocarditis.

Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin intermediate and resistant

More commonly known as MRSA[viii], staphylococcus aureus is the bacteria responsible for roughly one third of flesh-eating bacteria[ix] in the United States. This superbug is a prime cause of skin and respiratory infections and food poisoning. Often it is resistant to penicillin. MRSA is regularly found[x] in hospitals.

Helicobacter pylori, clarithrocin-resistant

Often present in the stomachs of people with gastric ulcers, helicobacter pylori has been linked to stomach cancer.[xi] The majority of infected patients don’t show any symptoms. Strains of antibiotic-resistant helicobacter pylori are becoming more common, making effective treatment very difficult.

Campylobacter, fluoroquinolone-resistant

Found in poultry, campylobacter[xii] spreads to people who eat the contaminated meat. This microbe causes blood diseases, diarrhea, and food poisoning, especially in developing countries that do not have access to proper antibiotics.[xiii]

Salmonella spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant

Found worldwide, strains of salmonella cause a variety of illnesses, including typhoid fever and food poisoning. Throughout the U.S., an estimated 1.4 million people[xiv] become ill from salmonella every year. Infants, young children, and the elderly are most at risk.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, 3rd generation cephalosporin-resistant, fluoroquinolone-resistant

Shaped like a coffee bean, neisseria gonorrhoeae is responsible for an antibiotic-resistant superbug of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. Antibiotic resistance against penicillin was widespread by the 1940s. Today most forms of neisseria gonorrhoeae are resistant to every drug but cephalosporin, which is “the last line of defense.”[xv]

antibiotic-resistance

©VadimGuzhva

Priority 3: Medium

Childhood infections make up the “medium priority” for the WHO. However, many researchers fear that antibiotic-resistant superbugs will soon become more widespread.

10  Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-non-susceptible

While Streptococcus pneumoniae is relatively common in the lungs of healthy people. However, those with weaker immune systems (like children and the elderly) often come down with pneumonia, infections, and meningitis.[xvi]

11  Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant

Once thought to be the cause of the flu, haemophilus influenza is still known as “bacterial influenza.” Actually, it’s responsible for infections like bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, and infectious arthritis. It is resistant to penicillin antibiotics.

12  Shigella spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant

Naturally found in humans and gorillas, shigella is a leading cause of diarrhea worldwide. It contributes to 74,000 to 600,000 deaths every year.[xvii] Many of the antibiotics used aren’t working any longer.

The looming threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a medical issue likely to be the talk of the 21st century. The WHO hopes that making this information public will help bring proper research and new discoveries in the fight against these antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Sources
[i] WHO: Global Priority List of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria To Guide Research, Discovery and Development of New Antibiotics

[ii]The Washington Post: The World’s Leaders are Finally Holding a Summit on Superbugs

[iii]Stat News: WHO Releases List of World’s Most Dangerous Superbugs

[iv]New York Times: Deadly, Drug-Resistant “Superbugs” Pose Huge Threat, W.H.O Says

[v]Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Antibiotic Resistance

[vi]IDSA: Despite Superbug Crisis, Progress in Antibiotic Development ‘Alarmingly Elusive’

[vii]PBS Frontline: Illinois “Nightmare Bacteria” Outbreak Raises Alarms

[viii]New York Times: MRSA Health Guide

[ix]New York Times: Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infection Health Guide

[x]Oxford Academic: Dominance of EMRSA-15 and -16 among MRSA causing nosocomial bacteraemia in the UK: analysis of isolates from the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS)

[xi]Pathobiology of Helicobacter pylori-induced Gastric Cancer

[xii]Medscape: Campylobacter Infections

[xiii]Antimicrobial Susceptibilities of Multidrug-Resistant Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli Strains: In Vitro Activities of 20 Antimicrobial Agents

[xiv]Human Health Implications of Salmonella-Contaminated Natural Pet Treats and Raw Pet Food

[xv]Planned Parenthood: STD Awareness: Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea

[xvi]New England Journal of Medicine: Community-Acquired Bacterial Meningitis in Adults

[xvii] Status of vaccine research and development for Shigella

 

 

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