4.28.2007

Our AG Exemption gets Press!

We wanted to share an article about our farm in the Houston Chronicle on April 25th. Many of you are aware of the challenge we have been faced with this year when we were denied our AG exemption back in February (see previous post). We received many letters from you in support of our case, and because of your concern, the news finally got into the hands of Lisa Gray, a journalist with the Houston Chronicle. Lisa came out to our farm last week to investigate, and wrote a beautiful report on our farm (read below). Having a journalist interested in this issue was both a surprise and a concern, as we did not want to upset our county appraisers, however, we considered this dilemma, from the very beginning, as another educational opportunity for local food and sustainable agriculture.

Needless to say, our county appraisers came back out that morning, after reading the article, taking photos and re-evaluating our agricultural enterprise. The appraisers were more than friendly and gracious, and by the time the farm tour was over, we were all smiling together as they rewarded us our AG exemption!

Lisa Gray did a follow-up piece announcing the good news which was published in the April 27th Houston Chronicle.

Thanks to all our friends and community, for your support and encouragement. We could not do it without you!


-Farmer Brad


The Articles:

E-I-E. You Owe.
All's Sweet now down on the farm.

4.25.2007

Heroes In Unexpected Places

by:
Glen Boudreaux
Jolie Vue Farms
Brenham, Texas

Most of us know about the local heroes of sustainable agriculture and "eating where you live". Monica Pope of t'afia; Gerard Bach of Chez Nous French Restaurant; Chefs Joseph and Chris of Quattro's; Joan Gundermann of Gundermann Organic Farms; Brad Stufflebeam of HomeSweetFarm and TOFGA; John Mackey of Whole Foods; and Gracie Cavnar with her Edible Houston Schoolyards.

From there, you can spread out to the coasts, where you find Alice Waters and her Farm to School Cafeteria program on the left coast and Nina Plank's Greenmarket on the right coast.
But now we have to add another local and one foreigner to our list of heroes in unexpected places, Monty Dozier of Texas A&M, and Prince Charles. Yes, that is Princes Charles of the Royal Family of Windsor.

I, and my devoted earth mother/wife and children, have been some sort of livestockman and gardener since 1989 when we acquired Jolie Vue Farms. I have had many conversations with various professors in the Ag department at Texas A&M. When I was doing things the "modern" way, those conversations were always friendly, information-rich, and helpful. That changed when I made the decision to go "au natural". Suddenly, my friends at A&M became disdainful skeptics. Mostly, they had no clue as to how to answer my questions about organic, chemical-free, or sustainability. I stopped calling, and that was fine with them. There simply was no benefit to either party to discuss issues about which we had nothing in common.

That has apparently changed, or at least is changing. Be introduced to Dr. Monty Dozier of the Agriculture College at A&M (m-dozier@tamu.edu), who is bringing his extension agents and students out to places like HomeSweetFarm to study sustainable agriculture methods. I am told by Farmer Brad, who was as surprised as anyone by Dozier's request to visit his farm, that Dozier said "this is a trend that people are interested in, we are public servants, so I am here to learn about it and teach it"(paraphrased). If our agricultural college gets behind sustainable agriculture, folks, you will see warp speed advancement in the art and therefore in the supply. Send the professor your support and congratulations - you can bet he's having to swim upstream at the college.

And how about Prince Charles, a guy who will be King of England someday? Well, he's no johnny-come-lately to the movement. In fact, he is one of the earliest leaders. Hear this, from and about the prince, as reported by the recent NY Times: "Given another life, I think he'd have been a farmer." (his farm manager) From the prince: "I can only say that for some reason in my bones I felt that if you abuse nature unnecessarily and fail to maintain a balance, then she will probably abuse you in return." and, "We no more want to live in anonymous concrete blocks that are just like anywhere else...than we want to eat anonymous junk food that can be bought anywhere".

Prince Charles owns and personally oversees Home Farm, an 1100 acre sustainable farm where he preserves British meadow and wildflowers, raises GMO-free vegetables and heritage stock, and promotes his farmer cooperative "Duchy Originals" products for the benefit of charities and British sustainable farmers.

So there you have my "heroes in unexpected places", Monty at A&M and Charles of Windsor. Congratulate them.


Yours in the local harvest,
Glen

Our Local Food Cooperative and how it Works.


Our farm provides fresh vegetables and herbs to our CSA Members. These dedicated members are what make our farming possible. Knowing that our work and food is pre-sold each month assures our efforts and guarantees our income to continue operating throughout the year. Our CSA Members are confident that they will receive the freshest seasonal food each week. It’s a beautiful relationship between our farm and our community. Thus the term, CSA, meaning Community Supported Agriculture.

The Dilemma


Although we are one farm, our members and others in the broader community (from Austin to Houston) are in constant contact with us wanting to find more local food than just our farm can provide. As we have worked to promote good eating and seasonal food, we have met great local producers, and every farm is different, providing different culinary delights.

The challenges we collectively face as local producers is distribution. Producers, like our family, live in rural communities an hour or more from major metroplexes. Farmers Markets are great, but they do not necessarily meet the needs of all the producers. For example, when we sold at a downtown Farmers Market, our family would get up at 5 am, do our farm chores (feeding animals, milking, gathering eggs, etc), mom would wake up the children (ages 5 and 7 at the time), get them dressed and breakfast prepared for them to eat in the car, dad would load up the van for market sales, and we would hit the road driving over an 1.5 hours to get to market. We would then set-up our stand a half hour before Market opening, settle the kids to help with customers (they loved it, and so did we) and interact with our customers selling our produce hoping to have a good turn out and a good sales day. After 4 hours of sales, we would be beat, exhausted and hungry, so the family would have to go out to eat at a restaurant (spending a good percentage of our sales for the day, and against most of our principles about eating local). The family would then get back in the van driving the 1.5+ hours to get back home, in order to unload and do the afternoon chores (watering plants, animals, milking again, etc). Needless to say it was the most exhausting day of the week, and the promise for good sales was risky for all that effort. Thus our CSA… and it has worked out great for our family farm. However, the problem still remains: more people need more local food; the solution: a local food cooperative.

The Solution

Food Cooperatives generally offer their members (for a $50 annual fee) an opportunity to pre-order organic produce, however the food options are generally no different than the factory organic food offered at our specialty grocery stores, i.e. organic produce from California and around the world. Although these Coops are great for some, and need to be encouraged, as they provide food cheaper than most of the specialty grocery stores, they really do not satisfy the demand for more local food, or help cut down on the use of fossil fuels used to distribute food over 1500 miles (on average).

A Local Food Cooperative is different in many ways in that it is a local food network. Local food eaters, for a $38 annual fee (covering administrative costs, location and maintenance), partner together with local producers committed to providing the freshest quality food for our communities. This is going beyond typical factory organic. The Local Food Cooperative offers only local seasonal food, which can be pre-ordered by its members. The program is designed to be more farmer-friendly in that the farmers receive one collective order to deliver each month, making their lives a lot easier, and cutting down on the risk of having a good sales day at a downtown market along with additional costs and time for distribution. Local farmers and local food eaters then gather together each month on the 3rd Sunday to celebrate local food. The best part about it, members and farmers get to experience a rural setting, eliminating the need for everyone to go into the big city. We find that most of our members live in the suburbs outside of the metroplex, and after a hard week’s work do not want to go back into the big city to shop on the weekends. By meeting in a central location and in a rural setting, people can be in more contact with where the food comes from, the country, the fresh air, the rolling hills of green pasture, basically, the farm.

The Details

Members, who join, can order artisan cheeses, raw dairy products, grass-fed beef, lamb, poultry and bison, from an online list updated with the monthly availability from the participating local farms. Fresh produce and eggs are available seasonally, first come, first served. Like other coops, there is a deadline to order, because the meat and dairy producers need to custom process for each month’s market day. Members can join by sending their membership dues by mail or at their first pick-up. Then, by ordering before the deadline, your food will be delivered directly by the farmers for pick-up on the 3rd Sunday of the month from 2-4pm.

You can join our local food market, serving South Central Texas, by visiting www.homesweetfarm.com. Look for links to our Monthly Market Days for more details.

We hope that this innovative local food cooperative can become a model for others wanting to establish a local food network in their region of Texas. Local food, it’s a thousand miles fresher!

4.24.2007

The Farm Bill

Michael Pollan has done it again with his recent article in the New York Times. This article eloquently breaks down the impact of our US Farm Bill. Its not just about cheap commodities (corn, soy and wheat) for food producers, it is about health, obesity, global justice, immigration, the environment and our local food economies.

The Farm Bill happens every 5 years and ALL food eaters should be concerned.

-(unsubsidized) Farmer Brad

4.22.2007

Monthly Market Days... The Omnivore's Delight!


Eating local food can be an ominvore's dilemma for most families. For one, it's hard to aquire all you need from one local farmer or Farmers Market, plus it takes too much time driving to all the possible farms to gather what you need. Farmers also have a hard time preparing everything for market and heading into the "Big City" to hopefully have a good sales day.

Our new monthly market hopes to connect local food buyers with local food producers by taking the risk out of the process for everyone. Local food buyers can become a market member to pre-order food for pick-up every 3rd Sunday afternoon of the month. This eliminates their risk that the time will be well spent knowing that the food they want will be waiting for them to pick-up. It also eliminates the risk for the producer knowing that they have a customer waiting to pick-up their product. It's a win-win situation. It's also a new technique for promoting local food.

It is a community supported program that guarantees the best food for everyone.

More details on our website www.homesweetfarm.com.

Join the local food revolution! Be a part of the omnivore's delight!


-Farmer Brad

4.20.2007

Local is Better & Grass-fed is Greener...

Local food is gaining attention, and the public is becoming more aware how it supercedes the organic factory fare from California and far off countries... with little accountability.

A few local stories this week about Grass-fed beef (featuring yours truly, Farmer Brad)... is helping to draw more attention. One article gave excellent attention to the fact that Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Delima, has created a lot of awareness for local food.

One thing is for sure... who do you trust? The USDA or your local farmer? Knowing who produces your food is the ultimate food security. Buy Local! Buy food that you can trust! It's a thousand miles fresher.

Health benefits of grass-fed beef:

Studies have shown a number of health benefits to eating beef from cows that were 100 percent grass-fed.

* Lower in saturated fats

* Slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids

* Higher in vitamins A and E

* No antibiotics

* Substantially lower chance of E. coli contamination

4.15.2007

4.11.2007

CSA video podcast by TX A&M

This is an educational podcast produced by Texas A&M Soil & Crop Dept. It is a great introduction into Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and features our farm with scenes including myself giving a tour, my muddy boots, spring chicks and our farm dog "Sunny".

Enjoy!
Farmer Brad

4.07.2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

whichever season you choose

by
Glen Boudreaux
Jolie Vue Farms
Brenham, Texas

As I sat my tractor yesterday, pulling the Bush Hog to shred standing hay from last year, and observing the lush green undergrowth that was waiting for its turn at a shot of bright sun and clean air to herald our 2007 Spring Flush, the Christmas song that is one of my favorites kept coming to mind. I didn't know that the next morning I would be writing this while a 35 mph Canadian norther was blowing in, bringing us weather more like Christmas in the Northeast than springtime in the Southwest. (OK, so I heard rumors about this norther, but didn't really believe it would happen quite so forcefully.) Yesterday I gloried in the bright cloudless skies, sweet dry air and cool temperatures of Washington County, Texas. I reveled in the sight of the emerging blue-green bluestem and grama native grasses and the reds, blues and yellows of the eager young wildflowers, singing "Wonderful Time" to myself. This morning I can hear the sleet hitting the tin roof on our porch as I write. Farming has always been about the weather, but this is getting out of hand.

We rely on the rhythm of the seasons to set our schedules in the farming community. Weather is never absolutely predictable, but if you look at the typical signs, know what your last average freeze date is, and generally observe Mother Nature, you can predict within a week or two when the season has in fact changed. Let me modify that - you used to be able to predict. What happens when stockmen are thrown a curveball like we have today, the 7th day of April, 2007?

First of all, the cattle get the blues. By this time of the year, they are anxious to get back to the springing, juicy, new-growth grasses. Their diet has been pretty monotonous for the last 4 months. Also pretty dry, even though we put out some winter varieties to give them some green stuff along with their standing hay. Before I mounted the tractor yesterday, I cut the herd into a small pasture we call the oak patch. Having been protected from the northwest winds all winter, the early grasses of spring were knee deep. If the cattle could talk, I'm sure they would have been singing "Auld Lang Syne" to me. Boy, were they grateful. It's going to be a short-term treat, Daisy. Sleet and lower temps will set the flush back by a good 2 weeks. Get ready for more dry hay from the barn, old girl.

Still skeptical about global warming? Well, call it what you will, but our weather patterns are changing. Here are 3 historically significant events in the weather records of Jolie Vue:
-in 18 years of keeping close rain records, we have never recorded 10+ inches of rain in January. The average is 4.7 and the previous high was 6 inches. January caught 10.25 inches. We had to bring the herd up to the top of the farm to keep them out of the mush.
-in the same 18 years, including some pretty droughty years, we have never gone more than 3 weeks without some recordable rain. This February recorded no rain for the entire month. So we went from too much rain to none at all from one month to another, each one setting a record.
-in my 58 years, farmers could always rely on the pecan tree to tell us when the freezes were over. When they budded, there was no more freezing weather to come. Well, they budded last week. And it will freeze this evening. Maybe not in Houston, but it will at the 400' level at Jolie Vue.

From the friont line, I remain

Yours in the local harvest,

Glen
boboud@aol.com