Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurship’

The HOMEGROWN Kickstarter page

Monday, March 28th, 2011

kickstarter

From Kayla: This week, I started a HOMEGROWN.org-curated page on Kickstarter, “the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.”. Each week we will highlight those projects that we think will interest the HOMEGROWN.org community.

For our first week, we are showcasing the TV Series, The Perennial Plate, a show HOMEGROWN blogged about when their first season aired in Minnesota. We are excited about their plan to travel the country and highlight local food in states across the nation. Another project on Kickstarter, Cambridge Community Kitchen, incubates local businesses, inspires strong community and therefore has landed them a spot on our first project list, too!

For more information about these projects and the others we chose, visit our page at kickstarter.com/homegrowndotorg.

I am very excited about our new page as it provides another outlet to showcase really inspiring and creative ideas. Check in weekly for current projects and we look forward to helping foster success of homegrown initiatives across the web!

Kayla

Kayla is a sophomore at Northeastern University and is currently studying communications and environmental studies. Growing up on the North Fork of Long Island taught Kayla the importance of local family farming and buying fresh produce. Her interest in nutrition and passion for the environment motivates her to be an activist on and off campus. Kayla is dedicated to helping the Farm Aid staff and loves to keep things nice and organized. In her off time Kayla loves to experiment in the kitchen, explore Boston (especially restaurants) and spend lots of time at the beach when the summer months arrive!

Why We Farm: Trying Raw Milk

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Neysa working 2

A year and a half ago, my husband Travis and I decided we wanted to be organic farmers. Neither of us had a background in agriculture. In fact, I was probably about as disconnected from physical labor as you can get — I was pursuing my PhD. This weekly series will take you through Travis’ and my journey to own and operate our own organic farm. From a farm internship in a tiny New York town, to management positions at the largest CSA farm in the southern United States, and now our current project of running a one-acre farm in Austin, Texas, our experience has been filled with wild successes, sharp disappointments, and self-discovery. I hope our story can provide others with ideas and resources for their own farming projects–urban or rural, big or small, hobby or professional. I also hope it can shine some light on the new organic movement surging in urban spaces and among America’s young people. To me, our collective attempt to reconnect with food is a testament to the ability of youth to create, even in difficult times.

Have you tried raw milk?   Maybe you’ve noticed that opinions about it vary pretty drastically.  To hear the CDC tell it, raw milk will instantly kill you.  If, on the other hand, you listen to some raw milk proponents, raw milk cures cancer and gives you the power of mind bullets.  Since it’s the FDA and CDC who get to influence policy, raw milk is pretty difficult for average people to get their hands on.  There are only a handful of states in which it is legal to sell raw milk in stores.  One of those states is Connecticut, and the state line, as it turned out, was only 5 minutes away from Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York.

One Sunday in early August, Travis and I decided we were going to try raw milk and decide for ourselves.  We headed into Danbury, Connecticut, to a little health food store that sold raw milk from a nearby farm.  We walked into the dairy section and picked out a half gallon.  As we made the short drive back home, we began to talk about what we were doing.  Were we really “playing Russian roulette with our health” like the FDA’s John Sheehan has said?  Or would we feel incredible and never go back to store-bought milk?  Was this stuff poison or magic?  We walked into the farmhouse kitchen and each poured our own glass.  Travis and I looked at each other, braced ourselves, then took a swig at the same time.  My immediate reaction? Disappointment.

It wasn’t sour; it wasn’t yellow; it wasn’t thick. I didn’t die, and I didn’t turn into Popeye.  It was just … milk.  This is illegal in most states? I thought.  It was milk.  From a cow.

Death and super strength aside, the core of the raw milk debate is whether raw milk is an inherently dangerous product.  That is, whether milk from an animal is very likely to have harmful bacteria in it.  According to the CDC, that’s exactly the case, and in response it has launched a general assault on raw milk, its producers, and its consumers.  The information on the CDC web site is presented as an honest look at raw milk, but taken as a whole turns into a collection of horror stories designed to scare people away from raw milk and delegitimize small dairy farmers.  But look closer, and the CDC’s own numbers don’t back up its message.  According to the site, over the last 10 years raw milk has caused 1,600 illnesses and 2 deaths.  There aren’t solid numbers for how many people are consuming raw milk, but the estimates I’ve seen consistently hover around 3 million.  That means that over 10 years, 0.05% of consumers have been sick from raw milk, while the number of deaths is miniscule.  In contrast, a different product that has full support from the CDC, pasteurized eggs, caused 2,000 illnesses during the 2010 outbreak, from May to November.  That’s one and a half times as many illnesses in half a year from pasteurized eggs than raw milk caused in 10 years.  Thinking about it that way, what reason do I have to think that raw milk is inherently dangerous?

PaperMilkPhoto Source

So why is the CDC so adamant that raw milk is the major health risk of the millennium?  Do they just want to destroy the good nutrients in milk, keeping the population perpetually anemic and therefore easier to control?  I don’t think so.  Pasteurization, even ultra-pasteurization as is currently practiced in the United States, makes sense for our current milk distribution system: mass production, factory farming conditions, nationwide shipments, long shelf time.  Try putting raw milk into that equation, and you’re sure to get health problems. But there is no reason why small producers selling milk from their cows (or goats or whatever) can’t work outside this system and provide a safe and nutritious product.

Does raw milk have more nutritional value than pasteurized milk?  Personally, I think it does, but I don’t have the science to back it up.  What I think is more important, though, is that current pasteurization laws for milk prevent market competition.  Farmers cannot start small, independent dairies because they cannot afford the pasteurization equipment, which often costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Then, if they do somehow manage to purchase the equipment and pasteurize, the price of milk per gallon is so depressed by the large milk producers, remaining solvent becomes unlikely.  If a producer tries to do raw milk, the restrictions are so tight and the difficulty to sell so high, that the model is often unworkable.  What we have, then, is a monopoly of large dairy farms selling to large food processors.  Raw milk has arisen as a tiny pocket of competition, and raw milk producers should be encouraged, not slandered and shut down.

I continue to drink raw milk whenever I have the opportunity.  There are a few producers in and around Austin.  At www.realmilk.com, you can find a list of distributors of raw milk in your area.

Neysa is currently farming an acre of organic vegetables in Austin, Texas. For updates on her farm, visit www.dissertationtodirt.com or follow her on twitter @farmerneysa

Why We Farm: Country Folk vs. City Folk

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Neysa working 2

A year and a half ago, my husband Travis and I decided we wanted to be organic farmers. Neither of us had a background in agriculture. In fact, I was probably about as disconnected from physical labor as you can get — I was pursuing my PhD. This weekly series will take you through Travis’ and my journey to own and operate our own organic farm. From a farm internship in a tiny New York town, to management positions at the largest CSA farm in the southern United States, and now our current project of running a one-acre farm in Austin, Texas, our experience has been filled with wild successes, sharp disappointments, and self-discovery. I hope our story can provide others with ideas and resources for their own farming projects–urban or rural, big or small, hobby or professional. I also hope it can shine some light on the new organic movement surging in urban spaces and among America’s young people. To me, our collective attempt to reconnect with food is a testament to the ability of youth to create, even in difficult times.

There was a young woman, about my age, who regularly bought from our stand in New York City’s Greenmarket.  Whenever she came by, we’d talk for a while about food, cooking, and whatever else was happening in our lives.  One Saturday, she invited me to a tango class she and her roommate took on Wednesday nights.  “I’d love to, but I don’t live in the city,” I told her.  She raised her eyebrows, “Oh, so you’re the real deal.  You’re not just a city girl pretending to be a farm girl.”  I laughed,  “Something like that.”  I looked after her as she walked away with a canvas bag full of kale.  A city girl pretending to be a farm girl.  That’s exactly what I felt like.

By July, whenever I had a day off at Ryder Farm, my first impulse wasn’t to explore the natural beauty around me, but to reconnect with urbanity.  I would go into the surrounding towns seeking out independent theaters or museums.  In New York City after market days, I would go hear music or have a drink somewhere.  But because I wasn’t surrounded by a group of peers who would be creative and urbane with me, I ended up doing a lot by myself.  Two months into my internship, I still enjoyed the work on the farm, but I was beginning to feel like the lifestyle it afforded was cramping my style.  Once I had so closely identified with city life and culture.  Now, I felt disconnected from it.  The larger farming community I had entered was uninterested in city life, even hostile to it (Joel Salatin asks why New York City should exist if it’s too big and dense to feed itself). Conversely, people I’d meet in NYC treated me differently when they found out I was a farmer.  If they didn’t express outright confusion or condescension, they usually treated me like some romantic revival of rural life.  I felt caught in between two stereotypes.  Country folk vs. city folk: was there really such a deep divide between the two?  Could I be a part of both communities?

Boggy Creek Carrots

Without a doubt, there were massive differences between working on a farm in Brewster and working at a university in Boston.  Some of these differences were so fundamental, they didn’t translate from city to farm, or vice versa.  The most apparent of these was the very definition of work.  It was the difference between working with things and working with ideas. When you did things on the farm, you were actually doing things—you were acting on the world; changing your observable environment; creating things that weren’t there before: weeding, planting, potting, harvesting.  Doing back at university had had a distinctly cerebral slant: organizing, rethinking, formatting, planning, writing, researching.  At Northeastern, most actions were intangible.  The world I was acting on was inside my head.

But there were similarities between farm life and city life, too.  For one, the relationship between person and space.  It’s easily accepted that a farmer has intimate knowledge of his land.  But I discovered from being separated from Boston that I had cultivated a similar relationship with the city.  I knew Boston.  Every day I rode the T or dodged a Nor’easter, I was participating in a relationship with it.  For two years, Boston welcomed me, comforted me, hassled me, and pushed me around. Boston is not the easiest city to live in, and among its residents there was a prevalent and constant attitude of perseverance, independence, and making one’s own way.  There was a toughness about Bostonians that I really admired, and I’d say in all that, they have the same characteristics that drive farmers to move to the country and live off their land.

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So was it possible for me to occupy both worlds?  In the end, I couldn’t let go of either, so I really didn’t have a choice.  I still shop for high heels and read the New Yorker and listen to Lauryn Hill, at the same time that I drive tractors and spread compost and plant onions.  Is this a contradiction?  Does it make me less of a farmer because I love the culture of the city?  I don’t think so. I’ve found the city vs. country standoff unrealistic.  The truth is that the two need each other.  The relationship between cities and farms is less antagonistic and more symbiotic.  Cities would starve without farms, and farmers would have few ways to make a living without a city market.  It has taken me time to come to terms with it, but that day at the farmers market, maybe I wasn’t trying to pretend I was somebody else at all.  Maybe I was just discovering who I was all along.

Neysa is currently farming an acre of organic vegetables in Austin, Texas. For updates on her farm, visit www.dissertationtodirt.com or follow her on twitter @farmerneysa