Monthly Archives: March 2015

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

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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