Let It Grow

“Seasons round, creatures great and small, up and down, as we rise and fall”
~John Perry Barlow

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One eternal truth that I am constantly reminded of as I traverse this jagged path through life is simply that stuff takes time; typically more time (if done with quality and integrity) than the modern human has patience for in this era where we’ve grown to expect most everything to be instant or at least close to it. To me, this notion applies powerfully to food production and our food system as a whole in this country. It was also evident throughout my time at the small farm unit and during my community work at the WA Foster Center. Many a melon, cucumber, and sweet pepper were harvested underripe or downright unripe by myself and others. Sometimes it’s difficult for the novice to know how to identify peak ripeness, but, more often than not, it’s just difficult to have that restraint to hold back from harvesting that full-bodied, outwardly vibrant fruit. However we can learn that if we give it time and let it grow it will develop that inner vibrance of sweetness, nourishment value, and flavor complexity.

 

Now that the 2015 apprenticeship has concluded, we can look back at the wealth of knowledge and experience in sustainable agriculture that we have gathered through nearly a full growing season here in eastern NC. With summer now fully in the rearview, the summer squash, hot peppers, okra, corn, and zinnias of the season are but a memory that conjures thoughts of sweltering heat and t-shirts saturated with dirt and sweat.

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Ahh, summer memories.

We were able to put together some hefty late summer donations though before saying goodbye to those crops until next year.

 

We departed in the heart of the fall season, but during our final weeks we were making steady harvests of kale, collards, kohlrabi, cabbage, turnips, and mustard greens with more crops due for harvest very soon.

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Beautiful violet and green “Red Giant” mustard greens.

The moringa trees that we planted as seeds back in May have grown up so fast. It seems just yesterday they were tiny seedlings, now they have become their own little forest with heights of nearly 15 feet. For those unfamiliar with moringa, it is a tree native to India. Leaves and seed pods can be eaten or used in herbal medicine. It is of high nutrient value, particularly with regard to vitamin and mineral content. It is also sometimes used for water purification.

My work at the WA Foster Center and the pasture-based beef unit moved along steadily. With just a little of the summer crop still producing at the Foster Center, I transitioned 2 of the raised beds over to fall vegetables. A lot of the focus at the beef unit during the fall season was on baling hay and weaning of the calves from their mothers’ milk.

About a month ago we attended and volunteered at the Carolina Meat Conference in Winston-Salem. A number of thoughts and ideas from the conference really stood out to me. First, the notion that meat from older animals being somehow inferior to that of younger animals is in large part just cultural perception, when in fact meat from older animals (while usually not AS tender) it typically more flavorful. Also, the keynote speaker spoke on the need for more properly managed livestock to improve pasture land, reverse desertification, and in turn help reverse climate change. Finally, I found it surprising that it seemed a theme amongst speakers that we, as Americans, consume far too much meat and it is not sustainable. I certainly strongly agree, and believe there is an abundance of evidence to back that belief, but I didn’t expect it coming from people who make their living in the meat business.

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Cured ham aged for years to be sliced prosciutto.

Lastly, on our work on the small farm, we continued maintaining our memorial herb and flower garden adding some perennials such as rosemary while I recently noticed some ravishing new kids on the block (in the form of flowers) that are hangin’ tough through this colder weather.

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Journey to the heart of the sublime Cosmos.

Amongst the countless tangible lessons learned over the past 9 months, there have been a number of more abstract lessons learned and beliefs solidified- most of which apply to life outside of farming.

Policy made from a distance is too often misguided and ineffective- this applies to sustainable agriculture, food inequality, food insecurity, food safety, and most anything you can think of in my opinion. I hope we can learn that those who know best what is needed to alleviate issues in those sorts of areas are usually those entrenched in it and are familiar with the struggles first-hand. More “from the ground up” input and influence has the potential to start turning the tide where things have swayed far off track in my eyes.

You can’t always tell a fruit by its skin- often while harvesting tomatoes in particular I would come across a gorgeous, almost ideal looking fruit only to find, upon further inspection, it had been infiltrated by worms and/or had an entire side that was rotten. Conversely, some of the fruits with a rough outer appearance of scars and cracks were the sweetest and most exquisite on the inside

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Some fruits are just impeccable inside and out; a few lovely Maxifort/Cherokee Purple grafted tomatoes

Letting go at least some- I have always had great personal struggle with letting go. I have made some small, yet significant strides in that area during the course of this program. With farming, you’re going to lose sometimes, and the unexpected will arise; in times like those one must learn the art of deciding where to hold on and where to let go- understanding that sometimes, as my favorite high school physics teacher often said, “good enough is”.

Second chances and resilience- in the spring, due to nutsedge overtaking our crops, we disked-in several rows including some chard that appeared weak and on its way out. However, weeks later, it was back, looking vigorous and healthy.

Strength and fragility- generally speaking, living things are built for survival. Plants and animals (including humans) alike are typically provided the tools to weather most of the adversity that may come along. If provided the basic necessities along with even somewhat favorable conditions, we will likely be strong and flourish. Yet, when conditions decline as a result of neglect, malnourishment, or an out of balance environment it allows stress, pests, and disease to take hold; the once healthy and robust life quickly becomes very fragile. When in a state of fragility it is difficult to recall what it was like to be strong, and when in a state of vigor it is difficult to imagine once being so vulnerable. Just as humans, sometimes when a plant is in a state of fragility or vulnerability it requires some intervention in the form of protection or support to carry it through to where it can sustain again on its own. Furthermore, it seems that oftentimes in nature those that require the most nurture and the most delicate balance of conditions are the ones that bear the tastiest fruit.

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One may wonder how I see my undergraduate studies in biochemistry applying to sustainable farming. My biggest takeaway from from my studies in biochemistry is that life is fascinating, amazing, and beautiful. All of the tiny, intricate processes that take place in any living body happen with such precision and just little steps at a time that make life on this Earth possible. So much goes into each seed germinating, each flower blooming, every heartbeat, and every breath. It seems almost inexplicable how it all works together to create such complexity and magnificent harmony in nature. It amazes me how biochemical processes have the ability, starting with a tiny seed nourished by sunlight, air, water, and soil, to transform, re-encode, and arrange life’s chemicals to create the tasty and nutritious fruits that are borne of the earth. In the world of sustainable, organic farming we are provided the constant gratification of witnessing the brilliant wonders of life up close with reduced modern day distractions.

It is my belief that, in nature, all living things are connected on this planet, and everything works together to create the natural balance that makes it all work. Through my time here on the farm and my time looking inward in recent years I have found what has seemed to elude me much of my life- my enthusiasm and my purpose. For me, getting into organic & sustainable agriculture is far more than working to just grow and sell food. It is more than my love of being outdoors and working with animals. It is about a food revolution. It is about strengthening communities. It is about working with nature to create a healthier planet with healthier air, water, and soil. Much of this country seems to have forgotten what healthy food is, where it comes from, and how it grows. If we can begin to abandon the excess, the race for more- more production, more consumption. If more of us can start getting out more from the boxes we’re in under artificial lights running the never-ending rat race, and put ourselves in fresh air, under the sun, and tending to the soil of the earth, working with the rhythm of life. If we can just slow down and begin to take steps, then we can just let it grow- let it grow into a planet where lives work in more peaceful harmony with one another, with whom we are all connected.

A single tiny seed, packed with information
A brief glimpse of light as it leaves its fruit
And nestles just beneath the soil surface
Darkness again, darkness until…
The time is right, the conditions just right
It sends its sprout to break for light
New life has begun…
Simply seeking elements necessary for lush growth
Until it can give back its seeds to the earth,
So as the cycle may begin again.

Closing Time
Alright, after my shoddy attempt at poetry, I’ll close. As I leave this apprenticeship to move forward, uncertainty lingers. But there is always hope- I keep reminding myself that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” (Seneca (and Semisonic)). With that in mind, I will ride off to what lies next on my path and I will continue, “dripping in this strange design” (Anastasio/Marshall).

~Jamie

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To everything there is a season…

The small farm has been transitioned to fall production and so far everything is growing well. Despite the persistence of grasshoppers, aphids, whiteflies, and a variety of worms, our fall brassicas are hanging on tough. To recap my experience for the past month I attended a cut flower production workshop through the Cooperative Extension of Chatham County where I learned all there is to know about growing cut flowers for profit. The workshop spanned two days and was led by Debbie Roos, one of the best extension agents who maintains an excellent website, growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu with a list of resources for Chatham County and the state of North Carolina on workshops offered, pest and disease management, direct marketing, forestry, and anything else a beginning farmer could be interested in. She has great photos too, here is one from the workshop.

Perry Winkle Farm grower Cathy Jones let us loose in one of her gomphrena beds to practice harvest techniques. Photo Credit, Debbie Roos

Perry Winkle Farm grower Cathy Jones let us loose in one of her gomphrena beds to practice harvest techniques. Photo Credit, Debbie Roos

The workshop was also led by Wild Hare Farm grower Leah Cook. Both Leah and Cathy shared a wealth of knowledge they have gained through many years of experience growing and marketing cut flowers. We covered species/cultivar identification, harvest and postharvest techniques, irrigation, deer fencing and more.

Back on the farm, we have had a successful summer of peppers, tomatoes, and okra as our top producers.

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Iko Iko, Olympus, and California Wonder are all the varieties of peppers we’ve harvested

Crimson okra flower

Crimson okra flower

After such a hot August, we are all relieved to start feeling the weather change and rainfall has been better than before. This helps with our fall production because our irrigation is set divided into two fields on the lower part of the farm, which are then divided into quadrants for water pressure reasons. This allows us to control the water pressure to each block better than if we had not divided the irrigation system up in this way. The only other hurdle with irrigation this fall has been cleaning the sand out of the filter upon every change of watering. This is a common scenario when you are growing in sandy soils.

Getting some tractor time conditioning one of our fall fields.

Getting some tractor time conditioning one of our fall fields.

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Fall brassicas in their adolescent stage. We have a variety of produce growing, and we are all glad to have some greens again. Kale, collards, kohlrabi, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, broccoli, chard, and assorted lettuces are just some of what we have growing.

Taking ownership of the fall production has been gratifying for all of us, because now that we are in the last leg of the apprenticeship program, it is a welcome opportunity to put our technical and management skills in action. We are all pretty grateful for Marisa’s teaching style of allowing us to take on more responsibility for what happens with the fall crops.

The school garden at Dillard Academy

The school garden at Dillard Academy

I have been enjoying my work at Dillard Academy, the summer program revolved around food traditions in a global society, so the students were able to learn about different regions of the world and how/what food is grown. The garden consisted of primarily crops grown from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which is a company that seeks to preserve heirloom seeds from all over the world, so this was a good intersection with the summer program’s focus on global food. I had some assistance from interns Chris, Alison, and Julianna in maintaining the gardens over the summer, and we also all had the opportunity to come into the classroom and talk with upcoming sixth graders about the dynamics of small farms in comparison to large scale farms and how the consolidation of the food system affects us all.

The four steers are doing pretty well, we are getting them ready to move down to the lower fields this week where we will supplement their diet with some grain so we can hold them in this pasture for a little bit longer.

Having a riveting conversation with my bovine counterpart, Jessica.

Having a riveting conversation with my bovine counterpart, Jessica.

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We had a good haul out of our home garden, despite all the initial damage from the deer. I grew ali baba watermelon and it was received by the crew as the best tasting variety we had. We filled up the white truck with Boston marrow squash, an old favorite that has a subtle flavor similar to butternut squash. Justin is pictured here with some peanuts he grew. Great job Justin!

I spent a morning with Mark and Jamie at the pastured beef unit, where we assessed the pastures and helped Mark corral a herd together to be sprayed for flies. Staying on top of how flies are affecting your herd is important for animal welfare and for production efficiency, and Mark has taught us a lot over the course of this program about the element of reciprocity regarding treating animals humanely. Quality animal treatment means you are putting a quality product on the market, stewarding and rebuilding soil with rotational pastures, and gaining returns on the investment and commitment you make to provide for animals.

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Jamie strikes a pose

Jamie strikes a pose

Lastly, we have been keeping up with the bees. We just gave them some sugar water to supplement their diet because this time of the year can be hard for bees to find enough to eat. I am still interested in pursuing basic beekeeping skills, but I have become a little shy after being stung repeatedly that maybe the venom has gone to my head. It will be different when I buy a fancy bee suit like Justin 🙂

Not only can he keep bees in this outfit, he can also impersonate an astronaut.

Not only can he keep bees in this outfit, he can also impersonate an astronaut.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll leave you with this misty morning fog rolling through the high tunnels.

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~Jessica

Here Comes the Sun

Portrait of a Compost Pile, curated for the Guggenheim Museum, 2015

Portrait of a Compost Pile, curated for the Guggenheim Museum, 2015

As you can see summer is in full swing here and we are all accomplishing a lot at the small farm unit. We have crafted a gigantic compost pile out of turkey litter and straw, evenly moistened and covered with black plastic to heat up to 150 degrees. Through careful timing and management of the summer field we have been able to get far enough ahead of the nutsedge so that competitive advantage has been established.  We have achieved this through tilling in between the rows of the till side of the summer field and hand weeding around the tomatoes and peppers. On the no-till side we have been mowing and weed whacking around the squash, cucumber, and melon plants to continuously deplete the energy of the nutlets.  One of the best ways to accomplish these tasks in record time is to invite ten interns to assist you in your efforts! The interns arrived from various corners of the country to learn more about organic production and we could not be happier to have the chance to meet such an enthusiastic group from various fields of interest in sustainable agriculture.

The whole crop of interns and apprentices!

The whole crop of interns and apprentices!

We have also been very lucky in that the Caterpillar company was generous enough to donate new work boots, gloves, safety goggles, and shirts to the interns and apprentices and we are all truly grateful for this quality equipment.

Here I am receiving my Cat swag

Here I am receiving my Cat swag

In other news, the guys are very excited about the blueberries that have been ripening and bursting with flavor, I keep catching them in the bushes.

Caught red handed burglarizing blueberries

Caught red handed burglarizing blueberries

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Ray and I work in the long term farming systems research unit every Thursday, and lately we have been marking off plots for soil sampling that will occur later in the season.

Ray using GPS coordinates to mark off soil sampling areas in various plots to determine the long term effects of various crops and tillage applications on soil.

Ray using GPS coordinates to mark off soil sampling areas in various plots to determine the long term effects of various crops and tillage applications on soil.

Community work has been going well and everyone is excited to have the opportunity to work with children in the garden on various topics related to food production, healthy eating, and gardening. I have three interns, Jules, Alison, and Chris, who are assisting me and Maria (the Food Corps lead at Dillard Academy) with the summer program. We hope to have some educational activities and nutrition lessons for the kids in the coming weeks.

Justin beaming with pride in the library garden

Justin beaming with pride in the library garden

Marisa organized a family field trip to Virginia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. for all of us. We piled into the coach van and started our adventure, which I was very excited about because I did not bring my car to Goldsboro. Although I made that economical decision, you can understand why I was excited to go on a three day trip!! We stayed with Justin’s family in Fairfax where we were treated like royalty. I had the most comfortable queen size bed of my entire 26 years of life on this planet. Thankyou Carrie Brill, you do not know how much that meant to me.

Our first stop was in Monkton, Maryland where we visited Connor and Christy who were apprentices with CEFS several years ago. They both run 12 acres of vegetable production at Little Gunpowder Farm, half an hour north of Baltimore City. We discussed the dynamic of being supported by the nonprofit Civic Works, whose mission is to work on community improvement, workforce development, education, and green programming throughout Baltimore. Connor and Christy run a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that has been pretty successful!

We proceeded on to Baltimore where we met a young woman named Sasha who works as a food justice consultant for the health alliance in the Park Heights neighborhood. She is organizing all aspects of a one acre community garden through which she has created the foundation for a truly bottom-up strategy of addressing urgent food security needs in her community.

Park Heights community garden

Park Heights community garden

Sasha’s work is inspiring because not only is she working to directly address food insecurity in Baltimore she expands and connects this issue with the lack of adequate health information and adequate access to care experienced by many in her community. This part of Baltimore is recognized as a literacy desert due to multiple libraries being closed down. Sasha provides books for people to take to their families when they come to get their share of vegetables. I am a more optimistic person after visiting with Sasha and seeing how possible it is to take a multifaceted, bottom up approach to community development and be successful.

We proceeded to visit Whitelock Community Farm in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. Whitelock Community Farm is a resident-driven farm which aims to pursue affordable and sustainable fresh food sources, provide neighborhood job creation, and help revitalize the neighborhood through greening and positive community activity. The farm operates a farmstand, a bike powered mobile market, neighborhood composting program, and CSA. The farm began in 2010 when Reservoir Hill residents converted a vacant lot into an active urban farm with the help of hundreds of volunteers. This serves as a model community based project showing that providing neighborhoods access to land and resources is a sustainable way of revitalizing urban environments and building communities that flourish for all. In my opinion, this is the kind of investment that can bring returns we could only dream of seeing for many of our struggling urban areas across the US.

Mama Kay at Whitelock Community Farm

Mama Kay at Whitelock Community Farm

Next we met up with one of last year’s apprentices, the one and only Myeasha Taylor. She is kicking butt in Baltimore managing a piece of land on a vacant lot for the nonprofit Civic Works.

Myeasha and Marisa

Myeasha and Marisa looking over the cucumbers. Myeasha has been connected with Civic Works through her AmeriCorps service with Real Food Farm, which is an organization dedicated to improving food access and growing fresh food in Baltimore. 

Myeasha showed us the site she has been managing, where infrastructure plans are subject to the hurdles of zoning laws in the area that have left many vacant lots growing delinquent, and where many people have been moved out as a result of demolition. In the middle of such an economically disenfranchised environment, Myeasha is growing a whole variety of different vegetables and plans on hosting community film screenings and yoga classes for the public. One of the challenges of the reality of doing this work within the overarching power structure of a nonprofit is that the people doing the service everyday within a given community are often pulled in two directions by a desire to respond realistically to the observable needs and palettes of community members, and at the same time follow the protocol of the organization which is usually predetermined with less personal understanding of what the situation looks like on the ground. Myeasha walks this tightrope with grace, and we appreciate her taking the time to meet with us and help organize the sites we visited, making for a well balanced and insightful trip.

Our last trip was to Washington, D.C. where we stopped in at Eastern Market, the oldest fresh food public market in D.C. It was a great experience to see all of the different vendors selling amazing produce and cut flowers.

Jamie marveling at the peaches

Jamie marveling at the peaches

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sunflowers on fire

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After Eastern market we went to visit another star apprentice from last year, Philip Sambol, who is managing a grocery store called Good Food Market located in northeast D.C. Good Food Market offers produce, staples, some meat and cheese, and other groceries in a neighborhood that has traditionally required a bus trip for residents to get to a grocery store. We had a tour of the 1,000 sq foot store which offers a great variety of affordable foods, most sourced as locally as possible and with a generous blend of organic and conventional products that make the store approachable and accessible and not another high-end niche natural foods store. I appreciated this aspect of the store the most and feel that Philip is on to something great, as difficult as it is to operate a business with little space and equipment that would assist with keeping produce fresher longer. I bought rhubarb which warmed my spirits because I am used to picking it in Maine and have not been able to find any until I went to Good Food Market. Philip is responsive to what his customer base wants, and is open for suggestions, which is key for keeping a young business on its feet.

I learned a lot from talking with Philip about the opportunities and challenges for farmers looking to supply small grocery stores.

I learned a lot from talking with Philip about the opportunities and challenges for farmers looking to supply small grocery stores.

The guys with a case of Van Fever on the way home

The guys with a case of Van Fever on the way home

We had a great trip, and this experience gives me more motivation to continue to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities for education and practical application that I have as an apprentice at CEFS. I appreciate how lucky I am to be in this position right now and plan on using what I have gained here fully when I leave the program in November.

The magic continues…

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~Jessica

Moooving Right Along

The steer crew relaxing in the shade.

The steer crew relaxing in the shade.


Here comes the summer. We recently wrapped up our spring field work along with our Baker Creek variety trial. The last of the collards, cabbages, turnips, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and chard has been harvested for the season. Despite some losses, the spring season seemed to be quite successful overall.
Just harvested collard greens.

Just harvested collard greens.

A gorgeous Purple Top turnip.

A gorgeous Purple Top turnip.


We donated around 4,000 pounds of fresh produce during the spring, but we could have probably tacked on another 50 or so lbs of cabbage had it not been for the imported cabbage worm and Hank. How much cabbage does a woodchuck munch when a woodchuck does munch cabbage? The answer is: a lot! Or at least a little from a bunch of separate heads of cabbage. Our friend, the groundhog, who we have named “Hank” has taken up residence under the bridge; conveniently close to our spring field where he seemed to make nightly visits to delight mostly in the crisp cabbage we were growing. Fortunately he left some for us and the array of people in the Goldsboro community to whom we donate.
A nice head of cabbage that was spared.

A nice head of cabbage that was spared.


As we completed our spring season we simultaneously got to work on our summer field. Half of the field was tilled conventionally, while the other half was planted using a no-till method where we planted directly into the mulch/residue of the previous cover crop.
Planting into a mulch of ryegrass and crimson clover.

Planting into a mulch of ryegrass and crimson clover.


Our summer field will include tomatoes, zinnias, marigolds, peppers, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, and zucchini. For our tomatoes we employed a trellising technique known as the “Florida Stake and Weave” as shown in the image below.
Ye ol' Florida Stake and Weave.

Ye ol’ Florida Stake and Weave.


Most of the harvesting lately has been of loads and loads of cucumbers from our high tunnels. The harvests continue to be very strong despite some issues with pests, disease, and nutrients.
Huge high tunnel Tyria cucumbers.

Huge high tunnel Tyria cucumbers.


As the apprenticeship moves along, we as apprentices continue to get better and better at working as a team.
Tractor teamwork!

Tractor teamwork!


Our work away from the small farm is coming into focus as well. I work twice a week at the beef unit where we constantly move one of the bulls, the cows and their calves to new paddocks for strip grazing. ‘Tis also the season for lots of hay-baling.
Handsome bull.

Handsome bull.


I also do some work twice per week at the W.A. Foster Rec. Center where I recently planted a variety of summer fruits and vegetables. As the school year comes to a close, I will be assisting the Foster Center staff with teaching the kids about growing, harvesting, and preparing fresh fruits and veggies.
Peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, Malabar spinach, and okra in a bed at the W.A. Foster Center.

Peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, Malabar spinach, and okra in a bed at the W.A. Foster Center.

Watermelon, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, and zinnias in another bed.

Watermelon, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, and zinnias in another bed.


Of course it is not all work and no fun. This past weekend we volunteered at an amazing event dubbed the Farm to Fork picnic where Triangle area farmers pair with Triangle area restaurants to dish out delectable hors d’oeuvres. Our job as volunteers was face-painting. Justin wanted to practice his craft on me, so, just like when I was a little boy, I got to be Spiderman for a day.
History repeats itself- almost 3 decades later at the Farm to Fork picnic.

History repeats itself- almost 3 decades later at the Farm to Fork picnic.


We also enjoyed a day away from the small farm to assist one of last year’s apprentices in getting his summer field planted.
Jessica, Justin, and Ray laying out drip-tape for the summer field of a former apprentice.

Jessica, Justin, and Ray laying out drip-tape for the summer field of a former apprentice.


I am trying my hand more and more at preparing the fresh produce we get from the farm. I am pleasantly surprised thus far with the results. I never knew that cooking fresh veggies was so fun and easy.
From top to bottom: roasted beets, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, and rutabaga.  Kale chips before baking. And boiled turnips, kohlrabi, and baby beets.

From top to bottom: roasted beets, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, and rutabaga. Kale chips before baking. And boiled turnips, kohlrabi, and baby beets.


Finally, as it warms up, we have started to get ripe blueberries and blackberries as well as flowers in bloom.
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Enormous Natchez blackberries.

Enormous Natchez blackberries.

County Fair Blend zinnia.

County Fair Blend zinnia.


Keep checking in- we’re just heating up.

~Jamie

Aww Nut…sedge!!!

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SPRING TIME IS ENDING!!!  I’ve constantly been humming the bambi song “drip drop drip little April showers” and now its the end of May and we are getting closer to the 90s in temperature than I would like to admit on the hotter days.  In the high tunnels it feels like 100 degrees, so I am really looking forward to experiencing the high tunnels in the summer time!

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Jessica posing after pulling up some strawberry plants!

Our group has finally started to feel more like a family.  We eat together often, and I must say, Jamie can cook one delicious pork tenderloin!  🙂 Life off the farm has started to become more planned and routine.  Wednesdays I have choir 🙂 which always brightens my week.  Although I absolutely love working on the farm, their is something nice about going home after work and doing something familiar like church choir, it makes me feel like I am just a little closer to home and family.  We have also had the chance to meet our awesome neighbors and could not have been luckier with our apartment situation.

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Nutsedge with its roots. PURE EVIL!!!!

Life on the farm has been very busy, and our arch nemisis “Dr.Nutsedge” has been invading our happy farm making weeding very very VERY difficult.  Just last week we spent a good portion of our Friday picking out all the nutsedge from our garden spaces only to see the evil weed come back over the weekend as if we did not even do anything.  It is truly eye opening to see how powerful a weed can be and how hard it can be to maintain organically sometimes.  We have learned that organic farmers have had to suspend their organic certification for a few years and then later come back just in order to contain certain weeds.  It is really crazy to see how much labor it takes to battle such a invasive and fast growing weed.  On the brightside, even though we lost a portion of our spring field, and our summer field is COVERED in nutsedge, we have managed to produce lots of delicious produce.  I’ve really enjoyed sharring some of our food with the local community, including our neighbors and community projects.

Speaking of community projects, I am becoming involved with the Goldsboro Library.  They have a BEAUTIFUL garden that has been filled with all kinds of summer goodies just starting to blossom in time for the first day of the junior master gardeners program that will start in June.  It’s looking like we will have a large group of children.  Donna has tasked a group of folks (including me) to be part of the task force for planing activities for the younger children up to the fifth graders. I am really excited at the opportunity to share the things I’ve been learning with the children.

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Goldsboro Library Community Garden

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Purple Cauliflower!!!!

Right now on the farm the biggest producer we have these days are the cucumbers.  We have donated hundreds of pounds of cucumbers just from one days harvest to meals on wheels.  I’ve enjoyed all the cucumbers myself and have discovered an amazing Thai Cucumber Salad recipe that has me addicted.  Marisa was especially excited over the cauliflower, and last week I got to do a mashed cauliflower demonstration for the cooking class at the extension office.  It was actually pretty good!  Teenagers came back for seconds, so I figure that has to mean something.

189Pests have started to show themselves now that the weather has warmed up.  Cucumber beetles, potato beetles, flea beetles, cabbage worms, groundhogs (he really likes our pointy head lettuce), and a mouse (who keeps finding its way into my lunch during the day time before lunch time…)

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Piglets are growing up fast!

The experience so far on the Small Farm Unit has been eye opening and simply amazing.  Marisa has done everything in her power to make sure we have a balance of classroom learning and hands on experience. The rest of the CEFS staff have all been wonderful as well. I have really enjoyed my Twice weekly time on the swine unit  playing with the baby pigs and feeding the mothers or soon to be mothers.  The staff really enjoys sharing their knowledge and they go above and beyond what they are required to do in order to make sure we learn as much as possible.  They are really great people, with generous hearts and respect for the world around them.

Stay tuned for my next blog!! It should be exciting as my fellow apprentice Jessica and I work with the Bee clubs president (Summer) to learn care and maintenance of the CEFS bee hives!!! I seriously can not wait!!!

Here’s The Dirt

Well Francis, you have some artists here at CEFS.

Well Francis, you have some artists here at CEFS.

One reason I enjoy the spring is because it offers the opportunity to turn goals into action by using up all the stored energy collected over the cold winter months. Simultaneously nudging us out of our collective slumber, the spring rewards us with beauty and the reminder that life goes on, like it or not! I was under the impression that spring in eastern North Carolina would be more like a week long oddity but it has been more of a steady unfolding with comfortable temperatures overall. I have begun to recognize that within the group of us, we have all established a common ground in terms of our work, and supporting one another in the stuff of everyday life. Marisa had all five of us attend a workshop on team-building where we were able to express individually our values, interests, and challenges. This exercise was beneficial in giving us insight into how respect means more than just getting along with a person because they like the same things as you do or do things the same way that you do. Respect, in fact, has a lot more to do with upholding a respectful environment within which people who share different beliefs can move freely. I take this lesson to heart and appreciate how much each person brings to the job everyday, because everybody is bringing something different.

It's not just a salad, it's a health insurance plan!

It’s not just a salad, it’s a health insurance plan!

A major incentive for me to become an apprentice was the opportunity to integrate agricultural work with community outreach and leadership training. So you might imagine I was looking forward to making this hearty vegetable salad for the EFNEP cooking class demonstration.

All of us are delving deeper into our community worksites in terms of understanding what the goals are for the summer and how we can best provide support. I am working with staff at Dillard Academy and attended a cooking demonstration for fifth graders, hosted by Maria Limon of FoodCorps, where the kids harvested lettuce grown in their school garden. I was impressed with how many questions the kids had about growing food. Next time I see them I will need to have some peer reviewed research at hand.

Baker Creek radishes during a taste test

   Baker Creek radishes during a taste test

We have been conducting evaluations of vegetables from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, which means we are looking at consistency of color, texture, and size, as well as determining quality in flavor and sweetness. A great variety of produce is harvested and weighed, and we hope that this data will assist Baker Creek with their work in preserving and marketing heirloom seeds.

We have acquired four steers on the small farm unit, and they teach me to find a balance between wanting to pal around with them in their pen, and realizing that they could in fact, end me. So I admire from a distance unless I am on animal duty. We have them on a rotational grazing formation so every couple of days the boys are moved to a fresh plot of pasture of diverse plants such as dock, fescue grass, vetch, lespedeza, and crimson clover to name a few.

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We have named them: Justin, Jamie, Ray, and Jessica.

We have been learning a lot about cover crops as well as cover crop and animal interaction. The idea is that you take leguminous plants (which are plants that fix nitrogen in the soil), and grasses which add carbon, and the ratio of these mixtures should increase soil organic material and provide a supply of nitrogen. The main advantage to keeping soil covered at all times (whether it is in production or in cover crop) is to prevent soil erosion and to increase soil organic matter over time. The order of operations for cover cropping systems goes something like this: Plant, reach maximum biomass (the end of flowering), sample biomass, flail mow depending on circumstances, and then disk the soil to incorporate the cover crop, which may have to be done twice.  There are other methods of killing cover crops besides flail mowing, and for no-till practices rolling/crimping the cover crop down when the seedhead is starting to form but not fully formed provides a mulch to plant directly into.

Ray taking a biomass sample.

Marisa and Justin in the freshly crimped rye and clover field, where we will plant summer annual vegetables.

Marisa and Justin in the freshly crimped rye and clover field, where we will plant summer annual vegetables.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association held its annual Piedmont Farm Tour last weekend, and the four of us went off to visit a variety of small farms throughout the Piedmont region. This was an excellent opportunity for us to ask some questions and see for ourselves what full operations look like on diversified small farms. Thank you to CFSA for allowing this opportunity and for all the farmers who took the time to open themselves up to the public for a whole weekend.

Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough is hosting a trial of this hydroponic shipping container system. Does 600 heads of lettuce per week sound like enough to you? This could work wonders for areas of the country and of the world that have difficult growing conditions.

Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough is hosting a trial of this hydroponic shipping container system. Does 600 heads of lettuce per week sound like enough to you? This could work wonders for areas of the country and of the world that have difficult growing conditions.

It’s been a busy spring but we know how to keep our spirits up.

Our resident jester, Justin, playing air guitar while hoeing nutsedge.

    Our resident jester, Justin, playing air guitar while hoeing nutsedge.

HAPPY PLANTING!

HAPPY PLANTING!

~Jessica

ps) Happy Mothers Day 😉

Fueling Our Dreams With Greens

Now that spring is in full swing we have all been working really hard. For starters, we have harvested the last of the lettuce and greens in the cool season tunnel which has been mostly donated to the O’berry Center, which is a facility for people living with developmental disabilities.

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Our strawberry project has been going well. We have been getting a plentiful amount of berries in our recent harvest, which too have been donated to the O’berry center.

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Our trip to Alex Hitt’s place in Graham N.C was a pleasure. A very wise man who has been very successful in the small farm world. Peregrine Farm has been around since 1982. If you ever get a chance you should check out Peregrine Farm at the Carrboro Farmers Market.

Here's Alex with Marisa showing us his transplant hole puncher he uses.

Here’s Alex with Marisa showing us his transplant hole puncher he uses.

We have all our cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers planted in our warm season high tunnel. We also have a grafted tomato and cucumber project going on in our other warm season tunnels.

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Our community work has begun too. We all have been getting our plans ready for the summer camps and programs Goldsboro has going on this year. We are all excited and ready to start. I have chosen the Parks and Recreation center and hope to teach the kids about how to garden successfully and the importance of local food. We have also begun our involvement with the extension service in the EFNEP cooking class, which is teaching people about healthy food choices and a healthy lifestyle.

A delicious veggie scramble

A delicious veggie scramble

In conclusion this program is teaching me something new everyday and I cannot wait to see what else lies ahead of us on the farm.

Peace,

RAY GRADY

To Everything There is a Season…

A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time for unexpected frost, a time for nutsedge (apparently). A time to cast away weeds, a time to gather greens together.

It has been a busy several weeks since our last post. As with almost anything, and perhaps more than with most things, farming comes with the unexpected and obstacles will inevitably arise. Several weeks ago a two night cold snap damaged a significant portion of our plants in both our Spring field and our Baker Creek seed trial field despite row cover protection. Some of the cauliflower and other brassicas were damaged beyond repair. Fortunately the vast majority of our plants survived and have bounced back quite nicely.

Baker Creek Seed Spring field trial.

Baker Creek Seed Spring field trial.

The other major obstacle recently regards the return of the nutsedge in our Spring field. Last Spring the apprentices blogged about their nutsedge problem, and again, despite efforts to minimize the return of the invasive and pervasive weed, it is back with a vengeance. For those unfamiliar with nutsedge, on the surface it looks like a little innocent grass, but it does it’s devilish work beneath the soil. The grass-like sprouts grow up from tubers (or nutlets) that also have the ability to spew out rhizomes, which are underground stems capable of producing new shoots and roots. As a result of its sneaky attributes, nutsedge can and will spread like wildfire, and it has done just that in our Spring field. It is difficult enough to control with conventional methods, so organic control is beyond painstaking and involves attempting to pull the plants up by hand or hoe in the hopes that you get most of the nutlet/rhizome/root system.

Supposed to be a row of carrots- if you can spot carrot sprouts amongst the henbit and nutsedge, you have a good eye.

Supposed to be a row of carrots- if you can spot carrot sprouts amongst the henbit and nutsedge, you have a good eye.

Uprooted nutsedge with unusually weed-free carrots growing behind.

Uprooted nutsedge with unusually weed-free carrots growing behind.

Of course, in spite of (and due to) the aforementioned hurdles, the last few weeks have been loaded with productivity, learning, and fun. A couple of weeks ago we were able to attend a vegetable grafting workshop put on by CEFS, and even got to attempt some hands-on tomato grafting as well as watermelon to squash grafting. I thoroughly enjoyed the very educational workshop, and especially liked getting to try to do some grafting for my first time.

Me happily trying out some vegetable grafting.

Me happily trying out some vegetable grafting.

A few weeks later- my results to this point: most of the tomatoes were successful; one of my five or so attempts at the watermelon grafting is hanging in/on there.

A few weeks later- my results to this point: most of the tomatoes were successful; one of my five or so attempts at the watermelon grafting is hanging in/on there.

We also recently got the opportunity to attend a workshop and field day on organic certification presented by CCOF. This workshop was also incredibly well done and highly informative with excellent speakers. The field portion was a visit to Down 2 Earth Farms in Rougemont, NC for a tour and mock-inspection. For me personally, the most inspiring part of the day was visiting the farm as it was very much how I envision my own farm being someday.

Jessica and Ray in front of the new barn at Down 2 Earth Farms.

Jessica and Ray in front of the new barn at Down 2 Earth Farms.

There has certainly been plenty of work at our small farm unit as well. Beyond the daily duties, we have been doing a great deal of harvesting greens, lettuces, pak choy, and spinach from our cool-season high tunnel. I’ve always loved most vegetables, but I’m not sure I knew until recently how much I enjoy greens mixes and fresh spinach in particular.

Ready-to-harvest Spretnak lettuce in our cool-season high tunnel.

Ready-to-harvest Spretnak lettuce in our cool-season high tunnel.

Emperor spinach in cool-season high tunnel.

Emperor spinach in cool-season high tunnel.

Also, we recently prepped another one of our high tunnels for tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. That was a multi-step process that involved mowing the winter cover crop of oats, tilling the soil, laying plastic mulch, and putting up a trellising system.

Ready for some tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers!

Ready for some tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers!

Finally, after doing our rotations and getting to try out each of the units at CEFS, we each selected a unit to work with for the remainder of our apprenticeship. Jessica and Ray chose the Systems Unit, Justin chose the Swine Unit, and I chose the Beef Unit.

Happy cows just moved to some fresh, lush rye grass.

Happy cows just moved to some fresh, lush rye grass.

New piglets!

New piglets!

It has been a long week of pulling nutsedge, so for me it is now a time for peace and relaxation.
On that note, I won’t hog the blog anymore. Keep checking in, as there will be much more to come!

~Jamie

Trowels and Tribulations

Justin blog 4Wow, a month has flown by and it’s hard to believe that it is already almost the end of March!  The other apprentices and I are starting to get into the swing of things.  We know some basic daily farm duties that need to get done at the start and end of the day and are starting to become more independent of needing Marisa’s direction every couple of seconds.

This month has been packed full of information and new experiences.  We have learned a variety of new things from an intro to bee keeping , to an intro to berry production, from  pruning classes, to small farm business classes, to tours of the A&T farms, lessons on Soil Science, and classes on Food Justice just to name a few.  All the information being thrown at us is overwhelming at times but even if I only retain half of all that we learn on a daily bases I would be a very lucky man.  It is wonderful to talk to people on a personal level and not to listen behind a desk in a classroom. Due to our small group size we have been afforded one on one attention with top ranking leaders of the agricultural industry.

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The end of winter and beginning of spring is a beautiful but busy time on the farm.   It started out with lots of transplanting.  We have been covering and uncovering lots of plants because temperatures will drop below freezing one day and be hot the next!  Crazy weather!  Finding a dry time to till was next to impossible, we ended up having to compromise and till slightly moist land.  Thankfully the sandy soil drains well so there is not as long of a waiting time for the land to dry up as some people have with more water retaining soils.  The strawberry tunnel has also been producing lots of odd looking fruit, most likely because of the cold weather.  My fiancé (Melissa) came over one weekend while I had farm watch and loved the way they looked calling them “Franken Berries.”  Makes we wonder if a farmer could sell the deformed but otherwise delicious berries to families with children at a farmers market.

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One of the more tedious farm jobs that thankfully is over was the process of getting plants ready for transplanting outside of the greenhouse.  We would remove them to be outside during the day and then return them inside at night.  It was easy, just very time consuming.  Most of the transplants are now safe and happy in the ground.  We laid out drip tape irrigation and hooked it up.  The next task was to then surround the fields with deer fencing.  The deer fences are made by two separate layers of thin wire about 4 feet apart.  Apparently deer get spooked by the idea of jumping in between the two fences and stay out completely.  So far it looks to be successful.

One thing I miss most about home is the absence of Fire Ants.  Those little guys really annoy me.  I’ve been bitten more times than I can count, and have a few blisters that look like they may never go away.  😉

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We all have finally finished our different rotation on the specialty units.  I’ve been to Beef, Dairy, Swine, and the agroforestry units now.  Tomas and I were going to measuring the Ash trees when he discovered small holes about 5 feet from the ground.  Come to find out it was a new pest to the area that has not been seen until now, called the Emerald Ash Beatle.  It was crazy how these little holes they create can cause such havoc.

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I also got to inseminate a pig (Sorry no pictures) and even milk cows.  Things I’ve never done! I had NO IDEA the rear end of a cow was as intimidating as it is.  It’s scary to be behind something sooooo massive.  I look forward to learning more as this apprenticeship goes on.  TTYL!

-Justin

Breaking The Ice

The four of us have arrived in Goldsboro for the 2015 apprenticeship, and as a snow refugee from Boston, Massachusetts, I was disheartened to see that the relentless winter followed me to North Carolina. One thing I can say for sure after spending the last three weeks here is that unexpected ice and low temperatures are not able to get the best of the hard working people I have met at CEFS. If anyone is interested in a great arm workout forget about your bowflex machine because all you need is a couple of high tunnels and a greenhouse, cover that with two inches of ice, then add some PVC with a tennis ball attached to one end. Continuously poke the roof until you have removed all ice and you are on your way to becoming an athlete of Olympian status.

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Of course, the winter is not all bad. Sometimes it can be pretty nice.

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We are all excited to share this experience with you. The apprenticeship program is an opportunity to immerse all four of us in the complexity of living systems, and how economic and rural development can be achieved through agriculture. Being a part of the effort to support farmers through research, and the public good of the surrounding community through education and outreach, are both objectives that we feel devoted to for the duration of the program and for the future to come.

Meet the 2015 CEFS Apprentices!

Well to start off my name is Ray Grady. I’m 25 from Seven Springs North Carolina, which is near Goldsboro. At an early age I was introduced to agriculture from my Grandfather John Bartlett who has been farming since his childhood. Our main crop grown is cotton and soybeans. The land around this area is very sandy which has its challenges. Growing up I knew that I wanted to continue the family business, thus one of the many reasons I have a great deal of respect for the research and programs that help fund and educate people of the aspects of sustainable agriculture. After graduating from high school I continued my education at Wayne Community College majoring in Turfgrass Management. Obtaining this degree I thought would help to have another skill to help with my goals of owning my own business.  Sustainable agriculture has changed over the years. With commodities and budgets having negative impacts on small farmers over the nation I wanted to gain a better understanding on how to be successful in agriculture, therefore I have this great opportunity to be in the CEFS program. My reasons for being here are to gain a better understanding on sustainable agriculture, learn more skills to help the program as well as to bring home to apply to the family farm. With a better knowledge and skill level I feel that others and myself can make sustainable agriculture prosper for many years to come.

Well to start off my name is Ray Grady. I’m 25 from Seven Springs North Carolina, which is near Goldsboro. At an early age I was introduced to agriculture from my Grandfather John Bartlett who has been farming since his childhood. Our main crop grown is cotton and soybeans. The land around this area is very sandy which has its challenges. Growing up I knew that I wanted to continue the family business, thus one of the many reasons I have a great deal of respect for the research and programs that help fund and educate people of the aspects of sustainable agriculture. After graduating from high school I continued my education at Wayne Community College majoring in Turfgrass Management. Obtaining this degree I thought would help to have another skill to help with my goals of owning my own business.
Sustainable agriculture has changed over the years. With commodities and budgets having negative impacts on small farmers over the nation I wanted to gain a better understanding on how to be successful in agriculture, therefore I have this great opportunity to be in the CEFS program. My reasons for being here are to gain a better understanding on sustainable agriculture, learn more skills to help the program as well as to bring home to apply to the family farm. With a better knowledge and skill level I feel that others and myself can make sustainable agriculture prosper for many years to come.

My name is Justin Brill and I was born in Fairfax County Virginia. I grew up in the suburban area of Northern Virginia.  I have been very involved with my home church and love working with children and youth.  I graduated high school and soon after became a firefighter/emt for Fairfax City.  After completing my fire science degree and Paramedic training, I began to work for a biological cultivation company.  During this time I was exposed to the current state of agriculture and began studying, reading, and talking to many of my friends with farming experience and eventually applied for the CEFS SFU apprenticeship with hopes to learn fundamental lifelong skills that I can use to benefit my future community, while pursuing my other passions simultaneously.  I am currently engaged and getting married in June.  My fiance also shares interest in sustainable agriculture, small farming, and community based work.  She plans on visiting the farm as often as possible on the weekends when she can drive up from Wilmington NC, where she is a Chemist for a pharmaceutical company.  I enjoy the idea of community outreach and believe that food is one of the most powerful tools for bringing communities together in a positive manner.  Although I do not expect to be farming for profit in the immediate future following the apprenticeship, I do have hopes of starting my own business in a few more years down the road after my family moves to a permanent location.

My name is Justin Brill and I was born in Fairfax County Virginia. I grew up in the suburban area of Northern Virginia. I have been very involved with my home church and love working with children and youth. I graduated high school and soon after became a firefighter/emt for Fairfax City. After completing my fire science degree and Paramedic training, I began to work for a biological cultivation company. During this time I was exposed to the current state of agriculture and began studying, reading, and talking to many of my friends with farming experience and eventually applied for the CEFS SFU apprenticeship with hopes to learn fundamental lifelong skills that I can use to benefit my future community, while pursuing my other passions simultaneously. I am currently engaged and getting married in June. My fiance also shares interest in sustainable agriculture, small farming, and community based work. She plans on visiting the farm as often as possible on the weekends when she can drive up from Wilmington NC, where she is a Chemist for a pharmaceutical company. I enjoy the idea of community outreach and believe that food is one of the most powerful tools for bringing communities together in a positive manner. Although I do not expect to be farming for profit in the immediate future following the apprenticeship, I do have hopes of starting my own business in a few more years down the road after my family moves to a permanent location.

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Hi, my name is Jamie McMurray. I was born in Denver, Colorado, but my family moved to Charlotte, NC when I was 2 years old. I grew up in Charlotte, mostly distanced from any significant degree of agriculture. However, back in the 1970s my grandfather bought farm land near Morganton, NC in the North Carolina Foothills. To my knowledge, no one in my family has ever farmed that land. To this day, it has always just been a beautiful piece of land with a small cabin that we like to visit to go camping, watch meteor showers, tube the river, and go on hikes. During my childhood, we visited the “farm” often; our only neighbors were an older couple who ran a small farm- complete with horses, cows, sheep, chickens, hogs, ducks, corn fields, and more. I will forever cherish the childhood memories of learning about life on the farm. I suppose you could say I grew up a city boy in Charlotte, and most of my life never thought much about living a rural lifestyle. I graduated from NC State University in 2006 with a degree in Biochemistry and a minor in Genetics. I still felt little direction in my life at that time, so I returned to what had been my summer job in 2005- Tobacco Genetics research at NC State. I stayed with that job through 2009, and gained a lot through that experience including a love for working with plants and working outdoors. However, I still did not know what I wanted my next step to be. I dabbled in the idea of Medical School or Veterinary school, but realized neither was particularly realistic to me, and my heart was not really in it. What I did know was that I love science and life and have a passion for working with plants and animals. From 2010 through 2013 I bounced around a bit, spending time in several places including Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC. I continued to feel little direction or purpose during those years, but credit that time for allowing me to put a lot of thought into where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. In early 2013, while in Asheville, a good friend of mine helped set up a day to shadow a veterinarian who was one of his family friends. Over lunch that day, I spoke with the veterinarian about myself and my passions and asked what direction he could suggest that I follow. Together we came to the conclusion that farming would fit me just right- that was the day that it “clicked”. After about a year in Asheville, I returned to Raleigh and the Tobacco research while looking into what steps I wanted to take to begin my pursuit of becoming a small farmer. I heard of CEFS from a good friend/former co-worker who now works for CEFS. I met with him last October- while enjoying some live Bluegrass music- to discuss opportunities through CEFS. He and his wife (who also works for CEFS) told me about the Small Farm Unit Apprenticeship, and my eyes lit up. It sounded perfect! After a few visits, including the 20th anniversary SOILbration, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be an SFU apprentice. Within the next few years, I intend to move to the land near Morganton, NC to begin my own farming operation. I hope to eventually produce a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I plan to employ some of the wooded land for growing mushrooms. I also wish to incorporate a small number of animals including chickens, sheep, and goats. I could not be happier to be here, and look forward to enthusiastically pursuing my farming goals.

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My name is Jessica Puzak and I am coming to North Carolina from Boston, Massachusetts. After spending the previous four months in Petaluma, California on a natural process farm I decided that the apprenticeship with CEFS would be an excellent way to continue to build on my technical skills and agricultural knowledge. I received my undergraduate degree in Political Science from Salem State University, in Salem, Massachusetts. Through a series of varying experiences I have realized how fundamental it is to have small-scale community based food systems in order to promote a healthy society and democratic ethics. I am highly motivated by the aspects of CEFS that integrate research, education, and community food systems work to create a holistic experience that I plan on expanding on further when I return to Massachusetts. Because food is a common denominator for people of differing political opinions and affiliations, finding ways to connect institutions with local agriculture is one key way that I believe can make a difference for regional economies in the United States, and therefore the overall quality of life for Americans. At this point in my career I do not believe there will come a time when I will not be involved in the growing process because I have always found joy in nurturing plants to their full potential. My family has 18 acres in Western Maine that I assume responsibility for maintaining throughout my life. I would like to apply the production skills I am learning at CEFS to this land in the future in order to preserve a respect for natural processes and maintain family heritage. I hope to be a resource to my community wherever I find myself growing in the years to come.

Stay tuned to see more of what’s growing on at the small farm unit!

~Jessica