28. February 2017 · Comments Off on Is a rose by another name still “Organic” · Categories: Farm Thoughts
Compost Gothic

Compost Gothic

It has come to our attention that some potential members have concerns that we are conventional rather than organic farmers. Perhaps this is because you do not see the word “organic” on our web site or brochure.

This is because the word “organic” has taken on a legal definition and is reserved only for those farms who have certified through an entity overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture, an agency of the Federal Government.

Oversight of organic programs by the Federal Government began just as we were beginning our farming operation. When this change occurred we made a choice not to certify, partly because of this change in oversight.

For a discussion independent of our personal interests, you may want to consult the Wikipedia article on organic certification, paying attention to the later sections covering “issues with organic certification.”

From our point of view, it is not that we disagree with certification, but feel in our situation it is an unnecessary expense and added burden. Our customers are welcome to come and see our practices and discuss them with us.

Like certified organic farmers we do not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. In some ways we may be more “unconventional” than many organic farmers.  Organic certification does allow use of some “organic” pesticides.  So far in our operation we have not found this necessary.  Even with some of these organic pesticides, some non-pest species may be harmed.

Organic certification does not preclude the use of plastics. We do use some plastics, but try to limit our use.

Furthermore, organic certification does not address many of the social issues that agriculture involves. For example, organic certification does not address the conditions faced by farm laborers.  Jim and Diane are the only farm laborers on our farm, so you only have to worry about how we treat ourselves.

Certification may offer a seal of approval that we cannot. Before you cross our name and other “non-certified” CSAs off your list, be sure you have thought about what values you are looking for in a farm, and ask whether the farm in question, certified organic or not, meets your needs.  After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

24. February 2017 · Comments Off on THE JOY OF CSA · Categories: Farm Thoughts

Published by huntersgreens.com (shares available)

Today is CSA Day, when we celebrate Community Supported Agriculture. We’ve decide to celebrate by exploring the “Joy of CSA”.CSA-Day-v1

For consumers the Joy of CSA might include the following.

  • Access to the freshest, and therefore the tastiest and most nutritious food money can buy.
  • Certainty about where our food comes from and who grew it.
  • Knowing that our food was produced using fewer resources and creating less pollution than other sources.
  • Knowing that the farm where our food is grown provides habitat for diverse plants and animals.
  • Knowing the money we spend on our food stays in their local economy and circulates in the community.
  • The pride of being a part of a movement that holds solutions for many of humanity’s challenges.

For farmers the Joy of CSA includes the following.

  • The freedom of being our own bosses.
  • The advantage of capturing all the value of our product from the field to the dinner table.
  • The ease of working from home and only commuting once a week to deliver our produce.
  • The satisfaction of providing good food, protecting the environment and enriching the local economy.
  • The wonder of working in the midst of nature.
  • The pride of being a part of a movement that holds solutions for many of humanity’s challenges.

There, now that we’ve celebrated the “joy of CSA,” Jim would like to share the recent journey he took that inspired this exploration of joy. Here in Clark County, one of our fellow CSA farms has incorporated “joy” into the very conception of their business.  We speak of April Joy in Ridgefield, owned and operated by April and Brad Thatcher.

 Lettuce Pom Poms

Lettuce Pom Poms

Jim had the true joy of finally meeting April and Brad at Clark College’s recent Food Summit. April Joy has captured the attention of food system leaders who want to celebrate and encourage a new phase in the development of sustainable agriculture that they call, “ag of the middle.”  These are farms that are large enough to begin to enter and impact more mainstream commercial markets that can impact large blocks of our region’s food system.

Ever since we heard of April Joy, we have wrestled with alternate feelings of admiration and envy. The admiration is borne out of joy that a new generation of CSA farmers is taking this awesome food system element to new heights.  The envy comes out of the fear that we are being left behind, are yesterday’s news, and of our continuing struggle to find a comfortable niche in the marketplace.

The day we met, April and Brad set us firmly on the path to overcoming our envy with admiration and joy. They practically burst with the positive joyful energy that their chosen name implies.  April affirmed Jim’s role as an inspiration to her on her CSA journey.  Brad greeted Jim with true warmth when Jim popped his head into April’s presentation on systems thinking.  Jim missed the session, but Brad shared a handout that rocked Jim’s world, when he later read their excerpt from Donella H. Meadows, a systems thinker Jim had read forty years ago and then lost track of.

As Jim explored April Joy’s website with our newly acquired access to high speed internet (thanks to Stephanie and Troy Kotek), we found the tools to conquer the envy that gave new meaning to our chosen name Hunters’ Greens.

We were able to conquer the envy by reframing our mental model of CSAs in Clark County and our region. We came to understand that CSA is an awesomely scale neutral model that creates a space for a richly diverse ecological community of farms, from Coyote Ridge that may serve five to ten members while doggedly maintaining a witness to local powers that we must protect our land and water, to  Full Circle Farm that serves large portions of the state, to Full Plate Farm that specializes in serving Vancouver and Portland consumers during the dark winter months. Davey Maxwell of Hidden Oasis CSA, one of the grandparents of sustainable agriculture in our community always insists, “there is room for all of us.”

And through this reframing, we at Hunters’ Greens were able to reaffirm our pride and joy in the niche we occupy, a “Small is Beautiful” scaled CSA with a passion for wayward pets, historical preservation and speaking truth to power, even when it requires examining the darker corners of our own hearts.

A respected local food systems leader once described Jim as, “a kind of out West prairie prophet.” When you are a prophet you sometimes have to peer into the darkness to point the way toward the joyful light.

 

 

11. March 2016 · Comments Off on And We’re Still Beginning · Categories: Farm Thoughts, season update

When last we checked in we were trying to get the garlic in. We did get one 80 foot bed in the other day before the rains returned. We figure thats about 500 bulbs. We’ll need more, but its a start. We managed it without the Troy Bilt tiller, which remains “in the shop” due to errors in judgement by the mechanic (Jim).

Eight flats of walla walla onions have sprouted green shoots in the green house germination chamber.

Jim's First Selfie

Jim’s First Selfie

One of you (a very orderly minded mathematical modeler for a computer hardware company) asked why we don’t do our maintenance at the end of the season. The simple answer is that we clearly don’t possess such orderly minds, but the question had us both puzzling it for the last few weeks. We came up with a few answer/excuses: 1) We desperately want to hibernate at the end of the season, 2) In our climate, we often don’t know that the season has ended until the next one is about to begin, and 3) Jim works to deadlines.

Even more deeply it got us to musing about how different minds work differently. Jim has always been interested in understanding systems and believes he has a certain facility for managing them. For years he would perk up when a computer person would say they were a “systems analyst,” and then be crestfallen when he learned the narrow meaning of their job title.

But recently he has come up with a title for what he does. He likes to say he is a “systems artisan” when he is farming, and a “systems poet” when he is writing about. Jim has concluded that his facility is an intuitive approach to systems. He holds all the elements in his head and finds himself inspired to act at particular moments. He maintains equipment when he “feels” it is the proper moment. Is he alway right? Clearly not, but in the highly fluid natural world of farming he would argue that intuition serves him as well as a mathematical equation, but perhaps he just suffers from “math envy.”

27. January 2016 · Comments Off on Why Jim Appealed an Environmental Impact Statement · Categories: Farm Thoughts · Tags:

In the last few e-mails we have been recounting the dramatic events of our fall. It was about mid-October, as we decompressed from the summer season, that we thought we heard the other shoe dropping on the plan to convert our neighborhood dairy farm to an industrial park. After a couple months of relative quiet, we received a notice that the deadline for comments on the draft EIS would be due in two weeks.

We had been busy farming for the last several months, so we felt very unprepared for the sudden announcement and the short turn around period. Jim took a few days off from preparing for the Winter Share to try to absorb enough bureaucratic verbiage to comment intelligently. Finding the important points and critical gaps in the study was like searching for a needle (or the absence of a needle) in a hay stack.

In reading the announcement of a deadline, we noticed that in order to appeal the EIS, one had to file the appeal within a few more days, and before even the Planning Commission would hold a hearing on the proposal. Also peculiar, was that the planning department was holding another open house regarding the proposal after the comment deadline.

So Jim submitted comments. Jim is commenter #8 so keep scrolling through the letters.

The open house clarified some of the seeming peculiarities. Apparently commenting on the EIS is one process, and commenting on the proposal itself is another process. So the deadline wasn’t the final deadline. Likewise, appealing the EIS is separate from appealing the county’s decision on the proposal. When you appeal the EIS, you are challenging the study upon which the decision will be made, and not the decision itself. Appealing the EIS is challenging the work of the Planning Department, appealing the decision is appealing the judgement of the County Council.

So, to appeal or not appeal, that was the question.

From the beginning, Jim would have preferred not to be involved in all this political and legal wrangling. He felt he could be more effective working in the private sector, trying to find a consortium of investors who might buy the property for agricultural purposes, thus making the zone change a moot point. Some of the information he gathered suggested that there might be five to twenty years to put together such a consortium, before a sale for industrial development might occur. However, since he’d been farming all summer, he hadn’t had time to turn those “might”s into even “probably”s.

Given the stakes involved, and given the terrible uses he had imagined the land might be put to, Jim was not willing to close any doors to appeal, that might be open to him.

Now, when we think of appeals, we think of lawyers and courts and boards in Olympia, but when Jim read about this appeal, it only goes before the County Council, and it said that “citizens have a right to appeal.” So he went ahead and wrote a short simple appeal and e-mailed it to the council. What Jim has gotten us into, Lord only knows. Stay tuned.

19. March 2015 · Comments Off on CSA Shares 2015/ Farm Updates · Categories: Farm Thoughts, season update · Tags: , ,

Dear Once and Future CSA Shareholders and other Friends,

We’ve had a good early response to our first CSA communication with several of you renewing your membership, plus some new folks as well.  So don’t miss out if you haven’t contacted us yet.  A check or your proposed payment plan will reserve you a spot. Again shares are $500, winter storage shares are $125.  The season will start sometime in mid to late May and end in early October and will last 20 weeks.  We are hedging on the dates a little this year because of the phenomenal weather, which may push for an early start.
FARM UPDATE.  Diane continues to fuss about the need to communicate with you more frequently, on a variety of topics.  First, of course is her desire to know who will be joining us this year.  But there is much more afoot at Hunters’ Greens.
We have been keeping up pretty well on the farming thanks to the glorious weather.  Jim saw the first sprouts of the sugar snap peas emerging this morning.  We also have planted three 50 foot beds of direct seeded spinach.  There are a score of trays of spinach transplants leafing out in the green house as well.  The walla walla onion starts are up and now we’re germinating cabbages and kales.  We have many more beds in the fields ready to receive seed and transplants than we ordinarily would this early.
SAVING THE LAGLER DAIRY.  Somehow around our farm work we have taken on trying to save the Lagler Dairy which is just down the highway from us, and is slated to become a rural light industrial land bank (don’t let that word “light” fool you).  We just can’t bear to see 600 acres of prime farm land turned into warehouses for cheap foreign goods destined for big box stores that put local merchants out of business (or something worse).  Our number one strategy is to put together a consortium of investors to buy it before it gets converted.  Jim sent an e-mail to Eco-trust recently, which captures the spirit of our quest:

Dear Mike,

I visited the Ecotrust website this evening, and your contact information was on the page that looked closest to what I am looking for.

My wife Diane and I operate a small CSA farm in Brush Prairie, Washington, about 12 miles northeast of Vancouver, Washington.  A large dairy farm about a half mile from us is being proposed as a light industrial land bank.  We believe this is a poor land use decision for a variety of reasons.

As you may know, Clark County Government’s council members are very conservative and are likely to support the conversion out of agriculture.  As a life long political activist, I’ve tired of beating my head against that particular wall.

So, I got inspired to see if it were possible to put together a consortium to buy the dairy farm and re-purpose it into a community of smaller, more diverse farms.  I imagine this including several small diversified produce farms like my own and some medium sized more conventional berry acreages, which are the dominant use adjacent to the property.  A smaller, possibly organic, dairy could utilize some of the existing infrastructure, and the property has enough beauty to possibly attract a winery/tasting room complex or a micro-brewery.  An adjacent Battle Ground School District environmental education center might be a launching pad for an agricultural/environmental public education center similar to Lake Farm Park in Ohio.  The possibilities seem as diverse as a person could imagine.

Working from a greener perspective than most local Clark County folk, I believe that there is enough value in diverse agricultural uses to compete in the open market with a vague proposal for a land bank hoping to attract light industrial development.  However, considerable financial backing would be necessary to shepherd the project from its present state to a working alternative.

Initial contact has been made with the seller’s legal representative, and the seller is willing to consider a proposal.

Despite a good liberal arts education and a background in community organizing, I find the prospect of researching and implementing such a proposal overwhelming (particularly when the sunshine beckons me to my principal livelihood).

The name “Ecotrust” has come up in a number of conversations with others who support this idea.  Is this a project for which Ecotrust could provide technical and/or financial support?  Would someone there be interested in exploring and assessing the possibilities with myself and a small group of co-consirators?

Sincerely,

Jim Hunter
Hunters’ Greens Farm
15716 N.E. 112th Avenue
Brush Prairie, WA 98606
huntersgreens@spiritone.com

So, that’s our Quixotic agenda for this year.  If anyone has ideas of investors, lenders or donors that might look favorably on this project, be sure to let us know.  And know that when you sign up for a share with Hunters’ Greens, this is the work you are helping support.  Of course in the spirit of full disclosure, know that you are sharing the risk of Jim getting carried away and neglecting the farm a little.  But also know that you all saw us through the period of coordinating care for Jim’s ailing parents and the process of settling their estate, and none of us went hungry.  This may be a slightly larger challenge, but hopefully not as gut wrenching.
Thanks again for your awesome support.
Jim and Diane Hunter
Hunters’ Greens Farm
360 256-3788
p.s.  Diane wants to add that Jim may neglect the farm, but she will be the ever present shrew in the background crying for justice for all, including the CSA shareholders.
09. February 2015 · Comments Off on Happy Valentines to all our CSA friends · Categories: Farm Thoughts, season update · Tags: ,

We hope you all had joyful holidays.  Here at Hunter’s Greens we are struggling to emerge from our winter hibernation phase and get back in the swing of preparing for another bountiful growing season.

Caylor Rolling of the Portland Area Community Supported Agriculture (PACSAC) gave us a little nudge to wake up to the marketing aspect of our business.  PACSAC is holding a kind of Valentine’s day promotion contest to help the CSAs in the area get rolling.  The idea is that we ask you (our tried and true CSA members) to send an e-mail or face book post to PACSAC about why you love us.  All this is a bit beyond us, so we’re glad Caylor is helping us out.

Here’s how Caylor said it for us:

“Send some love to CSA

You can help us win a gift certificate for our farm from Concentrates. The Portland Area CSA Coalition is inviting CSA members and friends to send Valentines about their farm. Valentines could be a memory of the farm, a photo, a recipe, some sentences describing why our farm is important to you.

Post your Valentines on https://www.facebook.com/PortlandCSA. You can also email them to Caylor@portlandcsa.org.

The contest ends on February 14, and they’ll draw the winning farm on the 15th.  We thought this might be a fun thing to do this time of year, and we hope you’ll join us. Thanks! ”

So that’s how we’re kicking off our marketing, we’d be tickled pink for Valentines Day if you joined in.

Meanwhile we’ve been taking a break from our hibernation to stick some garlic in the ground between rain storms.  Jim has been whacking back the blackberry vines that are creeping towards the vegetable beds.  Diane is pleased by the tidy order of it all, while Jim worries about destroying bunny habitat.  When it gets too dark or wet (most of the time) we snuggle up to the stove and pursue our winter hobbies.  Diane quilts, while Jim spreads family history papers all over the dining room.

 

There, now we’re rolling, so we’ll be writing again soon.

Jim and Diane Hunter

Hunters’ Greens Farm

 

 

24. August 2014 · Comments Off on URGENT: PROTECT CLARK COUNTY FARM LAND · Categories: Farm Thoughts

There is one week left in the comment period for the Scoping Phase of the Clark County Growth Management Plan Update.  Comments are needed asking for the plan to address farm land.  As an example here are the comments Jim submitted this morning.

“The plan should address preservation of agricultural resource lands to provide local sources of wholesome food and provide ground water recharge and wildlife habitat.  Land available for a range of farm sizes is needed.  Agricultural resource land in the western half of the county should be prioritized because of it soil quality and water availability.  Small to medium owner operated farms could provide a significant source of quality employment.  Opportunity for comment is inadequate.”

Comments can be submitted by going to the Clark County Government website at the address: http://www.clark.wa.gov/planning/2016update/     if you scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the sentence, “Send comments in to the record by completing this form.”, a form will appear with blanks to fill out.  Note that the subject line must be 25 characters or less and the comment must be 500 characters or less.  When your comment is submitted, a message thanking you for your comments should appear.

I believe “agricultural resource lands” is the technical term used in the planning process for lands that should be preserved and zoned for agriculture.  I don’t know if this is important to include in your comments.  Our farm is currently not zoned agriculture but is in the “current use taxation program” which is another tool for preserving farm lands and might bear mentioning.

On a better computer than ours, this process should only take a few minutes.  It is important to submit comments in the scoping phase so the subject you want addressed is included in the plan.  If I understand the process correctly, you don’t have to make an elaborate case at this point, just get the subject you want considered into the record.

Thanks.

Jim and Diane Hunter

06. August 2014 · Comments Off on About those Cucumbers · Categories: Farm Thoughts, season update

Dear CSA-ers,

One of you called about the cucumbers.  Diane got the message, but Jim is responding, so if he doesn’t  address your question correctly it was lost in translation via the Hunters‘ Greens post office.

It appears Jim has been doing this too long and has lost the ability to empathize with those who are just discovering the diversity of vegetables that he has come to take for granted.

Some of your cucumbers may be yellow, and some may even be a combination of yellow and russet brown.  This is a weird variety Jim decided to try from India called something like Poona Kheera.  So don’t be alarmed by the color.

The message may have had something about them being soft.  This may be.  We apologize.  If they are, we picked them on Tuesday and probably didn’t keep them moist enough over night.  Which raises the question of how to store them.  We are “binging” that question on our molasses slow computer as we speak, but if memory serves, cucumbers don’t really like to be cold, but they should be kept moist.  Maybe a damp towel over the colander or bowl they are in.

As with the zucchini, we pick all sizes, and the smallest ones will get soft first.  So… we don’t think there is probably anything seriously wrong with them, just a little dehydrated.

So… if we have not totally confused you already, the message may have said something about telling the difference between zucchinis and cucumbers.  Alas you may have two shades of green zucchini and one shade of yellow zucchini, as well as green and yellow cucumbers.  We guess the key is that the zucchini all have a fat stem, where as the cucumbers will have a tiny stem or the stem will be absent.  Once you cut into one it should be obvious.

So… our computer choked on the storing cucumber question, so our memory will have to do for now.

Good night to all, and to all a good night.

Jim (for Jim and Diane)

17. April 2014 · Comments Off on CSA: THE FRESHEST FOOD… · Categories: Farm Thoughts

It is the time for marketing our CSA. Marketing is tough these days. As the wider society begins to recognize the importance of healthy food, the options for purchasing it are multiplying. We find ourselves asking, if people can find can naturally grown products in the super market, why will they want to accept “potluck” of the locally available produce we provide?

Our answer is freshness. The only way to beat the freshness provided by the CSA model is to pick it yourself.

Food you buy off a shelf may have traveled thousands of miles and sat in a warehouse or on the shelf for who knows how long. Even local food purchased at a market or farm stand must stand on a shelf until you buy it, often under less than ideal storage conditions. The key to CSA is that you’ve already purchased the food when it is harvested from the field. By committing to buy in advance the need to store until a purchaser is found is eliminated.

Freshness matters. The fresher the produce, the better the flavor, texture and aroma will be. For many vegetables, the freshest food is also the most nutritious. Some have argued that frozen foods are more nutritious than fresh produce, because the nutrients are locked in when the food is frozen. That analysis only flies if the fresh food is sitting in a warehouse or store shelf for days before you eat it. CSA food can go from the field to your table the same day.

And finally, because CSA farmers can get produce to the consumer fresher than anyone else, we can offer varieties of vegetables that are chosen for their flavor rather than their shelf life.

While the “potluck – take what we give you,” model isn’t for everyone, some find it to be an adventure that can transform their eating habits toward a healthier lifestyle. If the model does work for you, the rewards of eating the freshest food money can buy are abundant.

For more information visit huntersgreens.com

29. March 2014 · Comments Off on BEHOLD THE IDES OF MARCH · Categories: Farm Thoughts

The soothsayer’s warning for Julius Ceaser turned out to be about a specific peril, but I wonder if his “beware” might be considered more generally.

The ides are just a week before the vernal equinox (was this true in Roman days?). Diane’s Grandmother used to blame volatile weather on this moment in our annual revolution around the sun.

Jim finds the ides equally turbulent in his emotional and work life. A weather book he read a while back supports the notion that at our latitude, the arctic and the equatorial forces are fighting for control as our earth comes about in its revolution so that it’s northern pole begins its path into the light.

We used to call it the time of twirling, but as our minds and bodies build memory of the changes of the annual cycle for farmers we recognize what is happening. There is a rhythm of rest and energy that ebbs and flows with the intensity and duration of light and warmth.

As the light fades in October, and the plants shut down their growth, we too slow in our movements, enjoying an extra half hour in bed, allowing ourselves to stop our efforts in the darkening cold of the afternoon.

The long list of winter “catch up” chores is ticked off very slowly as the days begin to lengthen in February. Guilt is the first motivator, as we wonder if age is catching up with us, and we will never summon the energy of spring days past. By June we will be a well oiled machine, but now lethargy and creativity whipsaw us with the undulating highs and lows, warm fronts and cold fronts.

Along comes a warm week in March and the tendons begin to loosen. We recognize that a rare opportunity could be lost. Diane, Chief Aesthetics Officer asks if Jim has sharpened the mower blades yet. Jim, the Chief Utility Officer, asks if Diane can find a moment from mowing to set out the Walla Walla starts in the bed Jim has shaped in the mud. He has waited as long as he can for the drying sun, but the forecast is for the return of the seemingly incessant rain, and we can wait no longer.

And it comes, and our souls are plunged back into the darkness. The dog has contracted giardia, our favorite cat has a bladder infection, refusing to yield to antibiotics. Diane calls last year’s subscribers, a dear and generous member drowns in our produce as professional pressures steal time and energy.

Putin’s artillery masses on the Ukrainian border, the middle class still doesn’t feel the recovery coming, Diane returns to her spring time refrain that subscriptions will never come.

Will summer ever come? Will we ever feel young again? Is history just a larger light/dark revolutionary cycle? Behold the ides of March!