Friday, November 16, 2012

11th Week (November 5, 2012)

I am afraid I have to start with some sad and disappointing news on the Sustainable Food Production Program at M-State Fergus Falls.  The powers that be at M-State have decided to discontinue the program.   The official reason that the students were given was that the program was not generating sufficient numbers of students for them to keep it.  This years class only has 7 students, (which has been great for us) but the previous classes had been in the 12 to 15 range.  My personal belief is that this is such a unique and well taught program in an area of great importance that the demand has to be there. What they need to do is make a better effort at identifying their potential students and advertising the program to the right audience. They also need to expand the area they recruit students from, to at least the Midwest.

This years class of students will get to complete the program and then that will be it.  The administration did say that some of the classes would be available through contract education services but will not be scheduled until they have a sufficient number of students committed.  I don't see this method as being anything except for a way for the Administration to not have to actually say they have cancelled the program (only suspended it) to help deflect some of the heat they are starting to feel from their unpopular decision.  

There is a facebook page supporting the program that I invite you to checkout and join.  Here is a link to an event to save the program!/events/555974344419976/  There is also information on who you could contact at the college to express your displeasure with their decision.  I will post more information on the blog regarding efforts to save the program when I have the information.

I am multi-tasking here.  Deer hunting and studying for the upcoming
plant test in our crops and forage class.
 This weeks blog post will be a short one as I tortured readers with long posts the last two weeks and you probably need a break.  But first with the fun and interesting stuff.  This week was deer hunting in Minnesota, and I headed to deer camp to hunt Sunday and Monday of this week.  Even though I was hunting I still managed to work in a little study time in the deer stand.  I did not get a deer this year but our party did bag 5 nice bucks and 2 does, so there will be meat in the Fabian freezer for the next year.

On Thursday we were in the classroom for Principals of Sustainability class and Farm Ecology Class.  We started with a review discussion on Matter and Matter Quality.  Then we reviewed Energy and the Laws of Thermodynamics: 1st Law we cannot create or destroy energy; 2nd law Energy Quality always decreases.  These concepts were then related to how energy flows from the sun (solar) energy into chemical energy (via plant photosynthesis) to chemical energy (food) to mechanical energy (moving, thinking, and living).  Basically this portion of the lecture was about how energy (which originates from the sun as solar energy) is turned into chemical energy by plants through photosynthesis, then to food chemical energy and finally to mechanical energy of living.  There was quite a bit more to the lecture, but I am not sure how to explain it in this blog so I will end it here.
 For Principals of Sustainability our assignment was to read Parts III & IV of the "Gift of Good Land" by Wendell Berry and then write a paper about two of the essays.  One of the essays that I was assigned was "The Economics of Subsistence".  The main purpose of this essay was to disprove the commonly accepted rule being propagated at the time that the farmer "could not afford" to produce his own food; the time and acreage required for the family's subsistence would be better used for market production.  To make his point Berry provides an economic analysis comparing the annual cost of food for a family of four to what it would take (land and effort) for a farm family of 4 to raise a similar amount of food on which to subsist, thus arriving at a value for the food produced.  What the family needed to subsist was a vegetable garden and a family milk cow.  Berry refers to this as the "milk cow economy": in which the cow provides milk, cream, butter; her calf for beef; a meat hog to consume the surplus of skimmed milk (also kitchen scrapes, residues from the garden etc.).  Berry estimated that the food produced to eat well plus extras that result would have a value of at least $3,000 (in 1980) and would require 2-acres of land.  This results in a net of $1,500/acre which is significantly more than a person could make farming an acre in 1980.

A similar economic analysis was made in a follow-up lecture by Dr. Wika entitled "The Goat in a Subsistance Economy".  As shown in the following summary a family dairy goat has significant value.

Total Homestead Goat Costs:
Doe purchase = $100; Feed = $110 = $210
Total Income and realized savings = $1010
Milk Value = $910; Kids value = $100;
Year One Value $800 + fertilizer & brush reduction
Year Two Value $1720 + fertilizer & brush reduction
3.5 gallons/wk… 182 gallons … $1820 milk value (“milking through” allows for year-round milk )
Feed costs: $110

Friday at Bluebird Gardens we continued to work on construction of the high tunnels.
The rafters were all assembled on the ground first

Each rafter was then raised and set in place.  It took only 15-mins to set all of the rafters in place.

Friday afternoon was back to the classroom to take our plant identification test.  For this test we had to be able to identify 25 out of a possible 50 forage plants, both common and scientific name.  I am happy to say I was able to identify all the plants by there common name.  Unfortunately I was not that good with the scientific names.  But I was happy with the results as coming into the program I knew very few of the common names of the plants we studied.  After the test was completed we continued on learning about how to use cover crops to build soils health.  Friday evening I attended the Fall Harvest Potluck and Barterfest at M State.

Saturday we headed to Wadena, Minnesota to visit the Harvest Thyme Bistro.  Here we had the opportunity to learn from one of the owners of the 3-yr old restaurant, about their experiences in starting the business.  Everything from the initial business plan, financing, stress involved, marketing and building client loyalty, and how they are able to balance family life, personal sanity, and the demands of starting a new business.  We also gained a little insight into how they go about purchasing locally grown foods and getting local farmers to grow the type of produce they want.   I took the following description about what they are about and their philosophy from their website

"Harvest Thyme Bistro is dedicated to promoting locally-grown food in the dining experience and through education, community outreach and networking. Our core philosophy and the overall principle that drives our business is being conscious of food that is good for our bodies, our community, and our planet."

The use pretty much all locally grown and raised food to prepare the meals they serve.  One of the biggest things they had to do in making the business a success was to educate the customers on why their product was better than what could get at other restaurants for a lesser price.  It is all about providing a top quality, healthful product.

No comments:

Post a Comment