Category Archives: Tours

Interns and shared learning

When I attended the Indiana Horticulture Congress recently a conversation and discussion came up that wasn’t on the intended schedule but it should have been. Internship, interns and the ups and downs of them.

This topic came up while discussing organic pest management and the study with biochar. The biochar discussion quickly turned over to interns and the benefits. This carried over into the organic pest management and came back up in a later discussion. The majority of small farms speaking indicated that they had previously steered clear of interns and internship believing that they would spend more time having to “babysit” the interns and their involvement with the school would micromanage their normal operations and be more geared to academic study vs growing. This perception was smashed when all the farms involved in the study met monthly and discussed lessons learned, tools, and how to optimize resources. All the farms stated that interns were a valuable asset to their operations. Surveys of both farmers and interns showed for the most part a positive perception change and positive educational experience on both parts as a result of the interns working with the farmers. Some interns have never been on a farm and didn’t know how their food got to the plate. The internships get more people excited and hands on into farming. It also give the farmers a way to pass on their knowledge, and assistance for regular farm chores or the extra set of hands to complete projects that otherwise have been put off for lack of time or manpower.

While we have not looked into the option of an intern we are not at a  production level that we could support that type of involvement. This is why we do have tours. It exposes people to some of the farm operation without a huge time commitment.

Speaking from experience, I somewhat interned at a friends farm who needed some extra help, and in turn I got an education. Interns typically are paid but not always. Sometimes it is a share of crops/products, sometimes it is a wage but lower than a farm had as the education is part of the payment. I personally had never been around a animal based farm production model. I spent about 3 years helping and sometimes working while the owners were otherwise engaged at Simpson Family Farm in Martinsville, IN run by Darby Simpson, and his Family. This experience was extremely valuable in the little things that were learned. What works, what doesn’t, little tricks that aren’t taught in school, but farmers take for granted. I asked a bunch of “dumb” questions that Darby took as just farm life and the way things are done. There isn’t a one size fits all model of what to duplicate. Each situation, each farm, each individual is different and systems that work on one farm for one reason or another may not work on your farm. The key is to learn, and experience what other people are doing and adapt it for your own situation. As an example, Darby is a full time farmer, and income is based on production, so many things going on at once, and volume. 500 meat birds in each cycle, and five cycles is a lot of birds. That is a lot of feed, lot of chicken tractors, having to have a processor lined up, way to transport birds to processing, being able to store the birds after processing, timing of when to get chicks, when to start the next batch. It has taken him years to get a system that works for him. Would this system work for the newbie? Maybe, but his land has been developed over years, his land can support that number of chickens, he has the bugs in the pasture, he has the forage growing.  He has a large flat level area of pasture and cows rotated with the birds, water is already set up, tractors are already build, tractor designs have gone through several rounds. LOTS of stuff I learned by working beside him. Darby, also has a consulting site where if you feel you are ready to go the commercial route he can help advise at DarbySimpson.com. Spending time with him made me realize we needed to work our land for three to five years before we were even to start looking at commercial meat production as an option. I learned a lot from Darby, some things I really liked, some things I liked but modify for our own situation, some things I would stay away from as they were just not right for our operation. The things that we determined were not right, we would have tried on our own farm if we had not experienced them first on theirs. Not that they were bad, but just didn’t fit into our operations. An example would be all his farm operations are geared around single adult operator, say moving chicken tractors. While Brandie can and did move them successfully, Wee One could not, but his system wasn’t designed to have a 5 year old move them nor perform the operations, it was designed with an average adult with enough strength to do the jobs at hand (lifting 5 gallon buckets of grain and water). This is also where I learned a HUGE and valuable lesson, scaling up is NOT just adding more of X, being animals or plants. There usually is a tipping point where the current size system will no longer support more X. You have to have a new system to get bigger. And the same goes true for scaling down, what works on his level of operation, may NOT work for a homesteading model.

Brambleberry Farm down in Paoli had an opportunity for interns and their situation was 16 hrs/week work in exchange for free housing, and access to sections of land to do with as you wanted. Read all about it at the link. It was a separate living space, and the land use had to be approved with their overall farm policy. In past years the interns grew market vegetables and sold at the farm stand and farmers market booth, some grew their own food and had an outside job for income. I have toured Brambleberry several times and incorporated portions of things I learned there into our own operations. It was a tremendous learning experience. Completely different from my experience with Darby who is a meat based operation, Brambleberry was more a plant based operation with animals adding inputs to the farm. Animals were there as meat/protein but not the focus. A more let the land show you what to farm/grow vs change the land to what you are growing. Changing the land isn’t necessarily a bad operation, as an example Darby took a historically GMO traditional crop field and turned it into a lush organic pasture feeding cows, ducks, chickens and turkeys. It’s working with nature, BUT needed man to change it in the right direction for the intended purpose.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms one of my mentors and a farming icon has a completely different model of “Fiefdoms” on his farms. He also has internships and apprenticeships, as well as books, tours, videos, documentaries, presentations, speeches, and interviews While not directly intern related, it does allow someone with a specialized knowledge get further into farming without some of the issues on starting from scratch. And I am not even going to summarize, but you can watch a presentation he gave about it.

 

From speaking with other farmers I have heard positive and negative on both sides of internships. There are bad farm managers who don’t know how to manage interns appropriately, and interns who don’t want to work or won’t follow directions and are disastrous for the farmer. My best advise whichever side of the equation you are on is to talk with people who have had real experience with interning, and if possible people who have directly interned in the situation you are looking to get into. If you are a farm, go to markets and talk to other farmers who have had interns before. Go to conferences where other farmers can share their experiences. Learn how to weed out bad interns. One lesson I heard about at the Horticulture Congress, was application, letter about why farming important to them, references, and a 1 day trial period before committing by either side. A try before you buy. Could they do one day labor, could they follow direction, could they put their phones down long enough to work, are you ready to manage an intern, how bad does it mess with daily operations.  Same holds true for interning on a farm. I know of a intern program where the interns have to pay for their internship, and are encouraged to “beg” from friends and family, even GoFundMe pages to get more money pumped into the educational opportunity. They are worked hard for having to pay for education. Just not something I can support. I know of another “internship” where interns are treated like slave labor because they are required a set number of credit hours of working to offset  a regular school education.  Hours are stretched and approval signature is dangled like a carrot. No signature and either tuition is due or kicked out of program.  How do you find interns and intern opportunities. There are programs like Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA (WWOOF-USA) and Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I do not have any experience with either one so cannot speak to them. I think we need a better local database/website of connecting local farms, interns, and opportunities. Purdue said they were working on something. But, best way to find opportunities is get out there and start talking to people, farmers, and get connected into your local farming communities.

I highly encourage you to tour as many farms as you can. Do not try to duplicate 100% of what you see and expect identical results Sometimes variables (soil, light, temperature, wind, lifestyle etc.) are not the same on your farm and you may not get the same result. But do experiment, and never stop experimenting, even after you are successful. Do not risk your whole operation on an experiment, but the only way to improve is to continue to evolve. If you are running 200 meat birds at a time, and want to try a 100% pasture/forage type bird try 20 or 40 alongside your regular 200. If it doesn’t work, try to figure out why, and improve. Rather than risk your whole operation failing, you learn one way that did’t exactly work for your operation.

Tours on our farm should begin this spring. If you want an individual/family tour please use the Contact Us page and we will try and work something out.

Meet the newest members of the farm

We have grown so much in the last 60 days since moving to Greencastle, IN. Many people ask us what all we have on our farm. So why not introduce the more permanent residents?  This page will grow as more long term residents come to stay.  We will be having tours in the near future, or you can schedule one by appointment only. Use the Contact Us page of if you are friends you know how to reach us via-email, phone or text.

Click here for a list of our animals. 

Back after a break!

Well, hello all, we are back after a break. LOTS of new updates and info to share.

1st we recently purchased a 32 acre farm in Greencastle, IN and have been working on it EVERY day since December. Very busy. Between the two properties it has been very time consuming. We also moved during this time.

The Greencastle property will be our main farm and we remodeled almost every room before moving in. Additionally we have been working on farm infrastructure, some things were here already, some needed improvement, some we needed to build.

We will have a tour in April/May sometime. We would like to get additional structures built and in place. We will also be having more workshops here. There will be hands on activities as well.

Our Wingate property will be our example of suburban/urban farming and Tiny house living. It is a 2 bd, 1 ba in 550 sq ft.  Once we finish the inside we will have house tours and tours and talks about how to maximize small space living. We will have no animal onsite due to issues with the previous Town Council and not being onsite to manage them. We will talk on how to incorporate and are leaving much of the infrastructure to show how to set it up. It may be available for rent on short term basis (2 week or less) to evaluate Tiny House living.

We went from 15 chickens and 3 ducks to now 32 chickens, and 15 ducks (more to come). This is our layers. We will also be raising meat chickens (50-200) and turkeys this year and will be selling them. They will be fed NON-GMO grains and on pasture.

We added two lambs currently, and plan to add 10-20 more before June. Lambs will be available in late fall/winter and will be sold live, and can be transported for butcher to your specification. We will also have wool available for sale/trade. All grass fed. No hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening. We are attempting to keep parasites managed as natural as possible (herbs/oils).

2 goats have been added, and 10-15 more planned. These are mowers for pasture maintenance. We MAY (I was TOLD I would be milking) have milk, and fiber from them as well. LEGAL DISCLAIMER Milk will be sold for crafts (soaps/lotions etc.), bottle feeding animals, pet milk. What you actually do with the milk is your business, not ours.

Pigs may be making an appearance this year, or next. Pigs will be available for sale whole or 1/2 sold live and taken to butcher for your custom processing. Non-GMO fed, and pasture raised. Same as other animals no hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening and we would always tell you that before purchasing.

Beef will make an appearance, but we are not sure when at this point. The pastures need some work and fencing added. Same as above, no hormones, antibiotics unless life threatening, and transparency.  Sold in 1/4. 1/2 and whole cow. We take to butcher, and you pay them for how you want processed.

We have increased our rabbit operation from 4 to 14 and will be offering rabbit as well. We will process for you or you can do it yourself.

Geese will also be here, but we are specific to the breed we want and they will be available too for sale.

We have begun tapping trees this year, and will be offering a variety of syrups next year. Maple, Black Walnut, Sassafras, and maybe more.

We have almost 500 fruit, nut, and other beneficial trees coming in April, so massive planting underway.

Our herbs and herb gardens will also increase this year. Other than comfrey no herbs are available currently since we are splitting and growing our gardens.

We will have almost an acre of vegetable production and will be selling the overage.  More information once we begin to harvest.

We may be offering a you pick blackberry option this year, we would like to see how the berries turn out first. These are all wild berries, but almost 6 acres of bushes.  It will be picked and eaten or turned into wine.

We have also begun making a variety of fruit and herb wines, experimenting with recipes and different blends. Currently not for sale, but is something that is on the horizon to look forward to. While we cannot sell we can speak to making your own, or how to get started.

The farm is an open operation and people can see how we raise our animals through tours or by stopping by (by appointment or tour only). Not that we have to hide anything, but we have schedules, and projects as well, so to drop everythign each time someone comes by, we would get nothing done.

We look forward to our new adventure, and much more to offer in the future. I am still available for permaculture consulting, training, and speaking. with all the new additions we have much more to speak about. We (I) will try and be more diligent about posting information.

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New Lambs
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).

Animal care-husbandry & Permaculture

Recently it came to my attention that some people believe our animal care and farm practices are dirty and unkept. 1st before making assumptions you might want to get facts straight, learn what you are talking about before opening your mouth, and lastly ask us, we would be glad to tell you all about it.

We will educate the uneducated and ignorant. Grass should not be cut 1/4 inch above the dirt. It is very unhealthy, longer grass survives drought better, and longer grass will hold more water in both roots and green tissue. The ability to hold water has been important lately.

What one person views as weeds is actually medicinal plants we grow for FREE , do not require a prescription, doesn’t have nasty side effects. It is also food for our animals. This is why we do not spray any chemicals on our property.

We let grasses grow longer because it has more nutrients for animals, reducing our dependence on buying processed feed. Ask any rancher using grass fed techniques.

We clean our combined rabbitry and coop every 3 months. We use deep litter bedding inside to absorb and hold wastes. After 3 months it moves out to the compost pile where it is turned into soil for future gardens. Properly managed neither have an odor. I have the training and experience on both. Due to the excess rain and poor stormwater drainage in our area, some of this bedding became wet. we immediately changed and dried it out once we were able.

We house our rabbits and poultry together to harness heat in the winter, and the chickens reduce any worms or parasites, as well as till the litter naturally and help it all break down faster.

We even installed fans this summer to keep both rabbits and poultry cool, and help keep air moving in the coop.

All of our animals have names. When the chicken went past their prime for laying, they remained and are still productive, just not as many eggs a week. We did not butcher them. They still eat bugs, they still turn the compost, they still have a name, and they still process food waste from our kitchen. When old age finally takes them, we will look at replacing them.

For more on chickens read my post on In defense of the back yard flock

We used to give tours, and will do it again soon. We are still working on many things, since moving in March, and because of Avian flu we do not want additional traffic if we can help it. We had to start a great many plants and systems all over, so we would like to showcase more than just concepts, but actual practice.

To make sure our rabbits had access to water all winter long we made a rabbit watering system that does not freeze. Our rabbits (4) have  access to 275 gallons of water 24/7. This is our system from Indy but we rebuilt here in Wingate

We have had Animal control on our property (for a neighbors issue, not ours) and were commended on how well we took care of our animals. We have had a vegans, and staff of animal control and also tell us how well we take care of our animals.

What one person sees as “unsightly” another sees it as a 40% reduction in a grocery bill of all natural all organic food. Some people see it as beautiful and natural. Being ignorant and failing to educate yourself is ignorant in itself. Singling one person or a group of people out because you dislike something is called discrimination. Using position of power to go after that group is called harassment. Both of which can land someone in court. Since some people are ignorant of what I mentioned above I just thought they may also need some education on the latter as well.

Aquatic Design Open House

Here is a great chance to meet new like minded people, ask questions, get some deals, get great ideas, and generally have a fun time. I will be presenting a class, have Q&A, so ask about aquaponics, ask about permaculture. ask just about anything. it is FREE

Aquatic Design and Supply

August 8th 10:30 AM -7PM

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Medicinal Herb class this Saturday July 12th

Don’t forget the medicinal herb class this Saturday July 12th. We will be having our medicinal herb class and talk about the various plants and herbs you can grow here in Indiana as well as some preparations, storage techniques, and uses. Come join us. PLEASE RSVP at the link below so we know how many packets to print. As part of the tour you will receive a 60 page packet of the information covered.

 

Medicinal herbs you can grow here in the Midwest

Saturday, Jul 12, 2014, 10:00 AM

Wolf-Beach Farms
8418 Chickasaw Ct

3 Gardener/Homesteader Attending

During the last tour people asked for a medicinal herb class and now we are ready. 57 herbs will be discussed that we have growing currently or are in the process of growing, and can be cultivated here in Indiana. The majority of herbs will be discussed are also available to see on the property, some we have grown in the past and we will discuss (O…

Check out this Meetup →

Medicinal Herb Class Preview

I wanted people to get a feel for what to expect in the Medicinal Herb Class Preview, with handouts from the class. This is just one page, and is only the text. There are 56 other plants and bonus materials. We will be discussing in more details during the tour. What we have experienced, and touring through all what is growing while on site.  We will also have live plants for sale, fresh you pick cuttings, dried plants,  and more. Touch,  and smell some different preparations, ask questions, get answers. Disclaimer, we are not medical practitioners, and we are only conveying information we have learned, and have been using as a family.  Seek your own information before using any medicinal herbs.

Calendula– We will also have a chart in the handout of actual pictures of plants from out place.

RSVP – please use this link to RSVP so we know how many packets to put together. You can also prepay online.

July 26th General “Farm” tour

People have asked to have another general farm tour. We are having another on July 26th 9am. It will again be $20/person.

If weekend tours do not work for you schedule, please contact us and we can try to arrange one that better fits into your schedule.

Signup and register here.

Come out see, ask questions, see what is going on. It is estimated 3 hrs but I like to talk, and if there are more questions we are not on a time constraint. Some areas may have more questions or information if people are interested.

Suburban “farm” tour. Come out and see what is possible on 0.2 acres of suburbia. We have ducks, chickens, 5000 gal outdoor aquaponics, 4000 gal frog pond, a new 50 gallon indoor aquaponic system, fruit trees, berry patches, edible landscaping, rabbits, grapes composting, vermicomposting, vertical gardening, rain harvesting, and medicinal herbs. The goats may be on property, if not we will discuss different aspect of back yard goats as well.

In addition to covering all of the above and lessons learned through “failing”

We will cover how to use an A-Frame level for finding contours on your property as well as how to make an A-frame level.

Anti-chicken tractors

Where to find materials for cheap or free

We will talk and show different aspects of permaculture we are practicing.

Talk about the many ways to use a aquarium air pump to benefit your property.

Making and using compost tea

Possibly have a plant exchange as well (please if attending put what you will bring in the comments so others may benefit/trade)

Seem like a lot? We are only using about 40% of our 0.2 acres.

This is our home, and please respect we do not let the public in our home, so no public restrooms are available. You may also park in the drive as we will have moved our vehicles to accommodate you.

We can/do accept PayPal/credit debit cards. However cannot do both cash and electronic payments on the Meet-up space. Our PayPal ID is wolfbeachfarms@gmail.com and we use both Square and Paypal Credit/debit payments. Space is limited.

Start time is 9am. If you need to make payments or otherwise, please show up a few minutes early.

 

Chicken Podcast on 2 Midwest Guys

The 2 Midwest Guys latest podcast is up. In this episode we talk about back yard chickens. From suburban chickens to rural chickens. SOme lessons we learned along the way and some things to consider. Come on over and give it a listen at 2 Midwwest Guys.

 

Just a reminder the tour of Brambleberry Farm is June 7th. Darren and Espri are offering discounts on plants for the tour. Check it out here.