Mid Summer Garden

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Well I don’t think I can ever get caught up in the backyard these days! My gardens have become so large that I’m constantly cultivating the soil! It seems as if just as I’ve finished one thing, another bed needs redone!
It has been a very successful tomato season for us even though many farmers have said the complete opposite due to all of the rain! Plenty of heirloom tomatoes here! At this time I have planted about 102 in my small space. The reason for that is a greenhouse lesson learned. In the years prior I seed started in the house where the environment wasn’t ideal for sprouting. Davin was able to finish the greenhouse coop last fall and I was able to start my favorite varieties successfully for the first time. I put 3 seeds in each pod, and guess what, they all came up! So, I was able to sell a few at the farmer’s market, and donated about 40 to a few local families. Lesson learned! We will be expanding our greenhouse coop into a full greenhouse with aquaponics in one section and a chicken care station below, in addition to our seed starting stations. That will be our next big project after Davin remodels the new coop again. I swear, how many times  can you rebuild something until you are satisfied with the end result?
Our chickens are 20 weeks old on Wednesday! One of our Campines has been laying for almost 2 weeks straight now but none of the other ladies have begun yet. The campine eggs are tiny, a little smaller than a guinea egg actually. The new flock is having a hard time adjusting to the heat I think because we had so much rain in the spring that it was actually pretty cool for much longer than it usually is. Since it’s dried up for the past month or so it’s been pretty hot and they are struggling, even though it hasn’t reached 100 degrees yet. Luckily we have multiple fans in both the new coop and the old coop so all of our hens are getting some relief. It does help them to lay in the summer if they have places to cool off. We have multiple locations for water and I like to give them refreshing frozen or chilled afternoon fruit treats.
We also have ten different breeds, within the 20 birds we own. Four of them are 16 months old and three of them are consistently laying. The Ameraucana hasn’t been laying eggs but has a deformed dorsal, which I’ve read is how some of the original Arcaunas were shaped. She did have some very soft shelled eggs and I’m not sure if she will lay again or not. So right now she’s helping to control the bad bug population, and fertilization. She is one of the original ten pullets that we bought 8-10 weeks old and lost 60% for different reasons. Davin calls her Corky. For anyone considering raising chickens, get them as chicks, not as older pullets. They’ll have a much better chance of survival and be much healthier if they grow up in the same environment.
Here are a few pictures to show you what’s new at our market garden-backyard homestead and some of the things we’ve done this spring and summer!

SNAP, WIC, and Nutrition Build Community Based Food Systems and Food Security

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Turning community supported agriculture into agriculture-supported community would allow community food security to thrive within the local food movement (Ackerman-Leist 2013). Community food security targets the local population and strives to, “make healthy, fresh food available to individuals, organizations, businesses, and government entities (Ackerman-Leist 2013).”
The food justice movement is present in Austin with organizations like Urban Roots, which targets lower-income families and troubled teens. The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) has created Farmer’s Market Incentive Programs (FMIPs) through the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) to increase local food access among nutrition assistance beneficiaries (Jeanie Donovan 2013). They have also targeted mobile vending, community-based farm stands and grocery stores to reach beyond the farmers market (Jeanie Donovan 2013).
New policy recommendations include increasing electronic transfer benefits (EBT) availability at local food retail locations and making it mandatory for all farm stands and farmers markets (Jeanie Donovan 2013). This will be one of the biggest challenges because out of seventeen farmer’s markets/food stands in Austin only six are EBT equipped. Additionally Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-enrolled and WIC (woman, infants, and children) customers must be included in all the programs and locations in order for it to be the most effective (Jeanie Donovan 2013). However in order to be SNAP qualified one must apply to determine their eligibility and TBB (The Benefit Bank) assists our diverse population (Jeanie Donovan 2013). Installing EBT technology with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program requires excess funding. Targeting public and private sources, available grants, annual reporting and reapplications can help sustain funding possibilities (Jeanie Donovan 2013).
Since other cities show the benefits of increased sales between SNAP customers as a result of FMIPs the SFC believes that this would be a successful program here. SFC doubles the value of SNAP, WIC, and FMNP benefits totaling up to $20 per market per day through the Double Dollar Incentive Program (DDIP), but only for fruits and vegetables (Jeanie Donovan 2013). Consumers can save keep their incentives to use on other days as long as they use them by the end of the year.
By increasing the frequency of access for low-income consumers to obtain locally produced fruits and vegetables, the programs will redirect consumer spending to local agricultural producers (Jeanie Donovan 2013). This could also provide environmental opportunities like reducing food loss in conjunction with local composting programs and gleaning opportunities, as well as turning excess food into animal chow. It will decrease energy output by cutting transportation costs and minimizing distribution beyond a fifty mile radius. Direct market sales and relationship development between consumers and farmers will be socially beneficial. Additional education benefits will help individuals learn new life skills; understand where their food comes from and empower better nutrition decisions.
Works Cited
Ackerman-Leist, Philip. Rebuilding the Foodshed. White River Junction: Chelsea Green, 2013.
Jeanie Donovan, Amy Madore, Megan Randall, Kate Vickery. Farmers Market Incentive Program. Policy Recommmendations for Austin, Texas, Austin: Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013.

Spring Fever!

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Here in Texas we’ve experienced spring weather for quite some time. You can really tell it’s spring when all the plants are blooming like crazy and there is green growth everywhere!

My lemon balm is crazy right now! Thank goodness the chickens love it and it smells incredible. Lemon balm, or Melissa, is excellent to grow anywhere in your garden. It’s great to promote beneficial insects and deter pests. It’s in the mint family.

I wanted to update you on some of our latest projects and with pictures because there have been so many this past year that the website doesn’t do our backyard justice! So bare with me, I’m on my one week vacation from school, thank goodness! However the week isn’t ever long enough, because the intensive six weeks classes can sometimes be pretty brutal. Just being honest and from me, you get nothing less. I don’t sugar coat it, I’m sorry if that’s what you wanted. This website is based on honesty.

Moving right along. I will attempt to blog more often, in my defense, I’m engaged in lengthy discussions online with school, so I will continue to share some of those blogs because often times I’ve done a bit of research and you may find them a lot more interesting since they are very informative in the food movement. My next class is vegetables to table, 5050.