Category Archives: Update

Indiana Horticulture Congress

Recently I attended the 3 day Indiana Horticulture Congress put on by Purdue. It was a great experience with multiple sessions going on throughout the day, and a host of trade vendors to check out between educational sessions. I figured for anyone who missed out I would highlight some of my lessons learned, and vendors I spoke with. This in no way endorses the vendors, merely that I found some of it interesting. On the lessons  from the sessions it may be notes I took or points I found interesting not a summary of the presentation, or even the most relevant material the speaker wanted to convey. I was only able to attend one of the five sessions going on. There was a cider taste testing, and meals (had to pay separate but look great), and was for produce only.

Food Safety (Tuesday AM)

While I had intended to go to the Hemp series, it was postponed so I had to make another selection. Why not food safety? Glad I did vs walking the trade show.  A few years back Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, and it is now going into effect in 2017. This is the first I have heard of it. But we haven’t been growing produce for sale yet, but it is something to pay attention to.  Prior to this law food recalls related to foodborne illnesses were a reaction event. This new law puts more emphasis on prevention. There is a whole series of trainings supervisors or persons in charge must take to comply, in addition to giving the correct level of training to employees. not everyone needs the whole list. Something else I learned that 90ish (I didn’t write down the number) percent of foodborne illness is transmitted fecal to oral…meaning eating poop. Not necessarily human,  and pickers aren’t pooping on your food. But it all went back to sanitation, cleaning, washing hands, washing produce, utensils etc. There are a bunch of new laws that came out including water testing. The level is is based on income from produce on your farm on what you need to follow. Since we are small at the moment I didn’t pay attention to the breakdown, but under $25,000 in averaged rolling 3 year sales and you are exempt from the legal obligation. Meaning in any given three concurrent years your annual sales needs to be less than $25,000 of produce only and you are exempt. What stuck out to me is that you may be exempt from the law, but you are NOT exempt from liability in a lawsuit. If you do not implement some sort of food safety initiatives then you could be liable for illnesses or death.

Hemp (Tuesday PM)

I got to attend the hemp session in the afternoon. It was educational and rather than write a bunch on it they have done much for me on their website. Purdue Hemp gave the talk and Indiana Hemp Association was there as well. For 60 years hemp has not been grown in Indiana. Hemp is different than marijuana in that Hemp is <0.3 % THC (The psychoactive drug in marijuana), and marijuana is >0.3%. They are doing some genetic investigation if they can be considered two different plants. Hemp is not as easy to grow as I once thought. I was always told throw the seeds anywhere and it will grow. This is not the case as their data showed. Soil depth, temperature, daylight hours all important. The focus for Purdue is growing two types of hemp. One plant that grows short (3-4 ft tall) but produces abundant and easily harvested seeds, and a taller (7-9 ft tall) plant that puts its energy into fiber. They did say, speaking of fiber, there is NOT a demand for hemp rope made from the fiber. I was surprised to learn there is no studies going on for hemp’s role in animal feed. I was told this is due that hemp is not on an approved animal feed list from the federal government. We also got to learn about CBD oil which has been talked about for lots of neurological issues from parkinson’s to seizures to pain and depression given by a representative of RealHemp.  All cannabis (Hemp and marijuana) and now CBD oil has been classified as Schedule 1 Narcotic by the DEA, which means it has NO medicinal value. Yet here is a patent from the US that claims it HAS medicinal value US6630507BL. I will let you form your own opinions.

Organics (Wednesday AM)

Wow, this was one of the most eye opening. Unfortunately I didn’t write down where the small farms were from or I would have included links. The first part of the session was about using biochar in organic gardens as a soil amendment. None of the data, to me, seemed to prove that it did anything. But they are having ongoing studies. What I found more interesting is the intensity and variety of pests that affect growers. This has made us revisit our biosecurity program here at the farm. From listening to the speakers discuss, I have come to the conclusion (my own opinion) there are three types of growing produce. Each is as unique as it is different.

Home grower- Back yard plot, produce food for your family, and maybe sell the overage at a road stand, or to friends and family.

Market grower – 1-5 acres (may be more may be less) intensively growing produce for sale at regular farmers markets, CSA, Small restaurants, and/or small groceries. Variety of crops, rotated, and varied harvest times.

Commercial grower – 1 maybe 2 crops growing at a time, uses commercial machinery,  5+ acres, hired labor possibly, sells to wholesaler, grocery chains, restaurant chains, national brands

Being that the topic was organic pest management how  each of these growers deals with a particular pest problem is different. And pests impact them differently. Additionally what is available to them to treat problems is different. I learned thes market growers work hard, harder than i thought. To be fair there wasn’t any commercial growers in the panel, but there were a few in the audience who gave feedback and they work hard, but seems the market growers have to hustle more and wear a wide variety of hats in their operation. Another lesson I took away that moving from one level to the next is just not scaling up. You just don’t grow a bigger garden. It is a different ball of wax.  Think bowling, hockey, and formula 1 racing are all sports. Bowling is an individual sport and really only depend on yourself. Hockey has lots of things going on all the time, and constantly changing, and you must be adaptive. Racing is expensive to get into, is not like nascar, or drag racing. You get sponsorship as well to share in costs.  Sorry, best analogy I could come up with.

Trade Show (Wednesday PM)

I met the guys from 3 Caps who are partners for mushroom growers. You can learn more about them from their website. They ship you pre inoculated bricks for mushroom growing. You soak the brick, place it in the correct conditions, and in 7 days you have a mushroom harvest. Eat them all? Let the brick dry, soak again, and boom, more mushrooms! Then, when you eat all those (or sell them, this is a commercial type operation) you have mushroom compost ready for your garden as a freebie. These guys are local here in Spencer Indiana. They can assist you in developing the correct room for growing conditions at your site.

Ecocert – One of the speakers at the Organic session. Originally we were not going to go the route of organic certified on our farm. We felt it was an undue expense to prove we were doing things right, we have tours, and planned to know our customers. After talking to a certification manager, and inspector we have reconsidered this. When you can have face to face connections with your customers you are the face of your company. You are the one conveying your passion for organic, clean, quality. Once you move to a point due to growth you can no longer have that face to face connection, it is the certification and certifiers stamp of approval that says you did everythign you could to ensure your product is of the utmost quality. With my background in quality and validation, this resonated with me. The end customer wants to know that you have met the standards, you are doing all you can. Without it you are a barn with closed doors and nobody knows what is going on behind those closed doors. So certification makes sense when we reach that level of success. Would if turn away potential customers who don’t know us yet? Maybe, but we are not there yet. This doesn’t mean we can’t look up the standards and follow them so that is is a way of life once we are ready to get certified. Curious what some of the standards are? Jeff Evard gave me this link for Livestock.

Random trivia

Did you know what the difference between apple wine and hard apple cider is? Both have alcohol, both made from apples.  A) Apple wine has added sugar, hard apple cider has no added sugar.

NRCS – is a division of the USDA. NRCS stands for Natural Resource Conservation Service. I have spoken about NRCS before and have tried working with them on 2 different times locally and that left me turned off to the organization. I do know other NRCS agents in Indiana and seems my experience is isolated here. I spoke with them again, and happen to sit next to a mentor NRCS agent in one of the sessions to encouraged me to try again and not give up. NRCS offers technical assistance and financial assistance to property owners to make improvement, preserve, and conserve the natural resources on their property. This can be from erosion control, to fencing, to high tunnel purchase, to solar panels installed. There is a process and since I haven’t gone through it yet, I will wait and write that up some other time. But notice I didn’t say “farms”. There is no minimum property size for applying for help.

High Tunnels (Thursday AM)

High tunnels are essentially greenhouses that use plastic. There are a variety of sizes and shapes. You can build them yourself, buy them, or have them built for you. NRCS does reimburse up to 95% of costs associated with high tunnels if you meet the requirements. Which is why we may be looking into them. One requirement that stands out, you must grow in the ground in your high tunnel for the first 1-3 years depending on your contract with NRCS. Growing in a high tunnel does allow you to grow for longer season and if you supplement with heat year round. You can use it as a heated greenhouse to grow tomatoes in winter, or a cool house (minimal heat) and grow greens in the winter. And for winters here, gothic roofs vs dome roofs seem to do better here in Indiana. You do not have to grow anything over winter. You can use them for annuals, perennials, canes, and even trees. High tunnels do have some drawbacks such as pollination, moisture, moisture related disease, heat etc. From the session, it appears that anyone who has started using high tunnels have increased production in almost every instance. Pollination can be solved by purchasing bumblebees and releasing into the tunnels which is what many of the speakers did. Something I found interesting is that NRCS supports using the high tunnel with the intent of soil improvements. Yet in every instance speakers encountered soil health actually decreased inside the high tunnel. This would be expected if you harvest constantly and do not replenish nutrients equal to or above what you are removing.

Social Media Marketing (Thursday PM)

The last session of the day was using social media for marketing. While it was mainly geared to winerys, I was informative. Many of the audience was older and do not use social media for their business. The biggest social media platform was Facebook, then Twitter, then others. They put Pinterest in marketing which I had not thought of as a marketing tool, up until then. Pinterest market is 85 or more percent women. The presenter was advocating 20 or more hours a week on social media. This just isn’t feasible for many farm owners. But I also think that is complete overkill and her job was marketing and social media so unless you have money to pay someone, or a marketing firm it may be overkill. Some important notes were if you do use social media be responsive to customers, delayed response will lose customers. Also, if you are a business have a business account on Facebook, and separate personal from business use. They touched very little on the use of a website as social media.

Summary 

All in all, it was eye opening. I ended up having to pay $120 for the 3 day conference, $100 if I had done early registration like my wife told me to do. I feel it was worth the money I spent. I learned a lot, and learned how much I don’t know. I would have liked to attend other sessions but had to make a choice and the above sessions won. Would I recommend it to others., definitely. But more if you are already selling produce, or are on the edge of selling. If you are just a home producer and not really moving to regular sales, it is informing,  go if you have the money, but there are other conference that may be more appropriate for time off or if cost may be an issue.

New additions and updates

Yes, yes, ye. It has been a while since we have done an update. We have been very busy since buying a farm. I would say I will go into more deation on some of these topics and builds, but, who has the time!

We are now at 115ish animals on the farm. Yes, that is roughly 100 new animals since March 2016. We may be around 150+ by spring 2017. We have had our first births on the farm. Seven American Guinea Hogs and two goats (only one lived). The AGH piglets are for sale if you are interested in your own grass fed pork, and we can partner with a family member who also has AGH if you are interested in an unrelated breeding pair.

We have planted hundreds of trees and bushes.

We have literally put in miles of fencing, and hand hammered hundreds of fence posts.

  • 8,615 ft of woven, chain link, & welded wire fence
  • 10,575 ft of electric fence
  • 630  hand hammered six-ft T posts
  • 3.6 MILES of hand installed fencing.

And this is only enclosing  8.75 acres of the 32 acre property.  We still have a bunch to do.

fence

We have two new livestock guardian dogs (LGD). Freyja and Sigyn. They will be training with Jack. Total dogs 5

7 new piglets

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1 new goat kid “Bucky”. He will be a breeder.

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1 new breeding male goat The Todd

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4 new barn cats to keep mice away

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Marcy
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Belatrix
Puss
Puss

“Boots” refused to have his picture taken for posting.

8 new sheep, although some are just visiting.

The Girls
The Girls
Mocha
Mocha

We have added on a sunroom/greenhouse to protect some plants, start plants and seeds early this spring, and house any bottle babies that may need some help when it is cold outside.

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400+ bales of hay put up, and still more to come

Still to come or works in progress

  • 10,000 gallon creek/pond through the orchard with koi, waterfalls, and bridge
  • Sugar shack for maple, black walnut, and sassafras syrups
  • Campground with a variety of style cabins and primitive campsites
  • Major barn addition with blacksmithing area
  • Spring house
  • Solar power
  • Wind power
  • Water power
  • Hoop house over garden

Whispering Woods Haunted Halloween Hike Fall 2017 along with hog roast, and party. 2nd weekend in October.

 

Follow us on Facebook for updates, as we don’t get too much time to update online. Interested in a tour, contact us for availability.

 

 

 

Oops we did it again…

Well, it looks like we have another new addition in as many days. This time it is turkeys and Freedom Ranger meat birds. Last night while going to the farm supply store (Rural King) to get fencing, so we could put the pigs on pasture, they had new birds. And well, since we were already there, added Bourbon Turkey (breeding and or meat), seven more Khaki Campbells (for eggs), and eighteen Freedom Rangers (for meat).  Then another three hundred pounds of feed to make our One Feed to Feed them All (this is for treats in the morning and at night).  Finally almost 1,000 feet of fencing and posts. It was a busy night.

To see a complete list of our animals we have on site, check out our “Our Animals” page.

We now have piggies

This weekend we had three more new additions to our farm, three American Guinea Hogs. Burt (Reynolds), Dolly (Parton), and Sally (Fields) are full grown and will be our breeders. We should look to get bacon seeds by June/July sometime. The AGH is classified as threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. The bacon seeds will be for sale as piggies for your own farm, pets, or when they get bigger we will sell them whole and take to a butcher for you. They are only 50-100 lbs of meat, but lots of lard. Lard can be used for all those yummy baking dishes like grandma used to make. Our three prefer fresh grass over any kinds of feed we have provided them. The breeders and the bacon seeds will all be out on pasture. They are part of our rotation plan for the fields. To learn more about our animals visit the animals page.

Click on the images for larger pictures

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Kids went and picked grass from the field until the pigs can get out on pasture.

Six more new additions at Wolf-Beach Farms

Friday we got six more new additions to our farm. Six baby Saddleback Pomeranian geese. These are heritage breed that are on the critical list for the breed through The  Livestock Conservancy.  We would like to thank our new found friend Shannon for introducing them to us and keeping the breed active. These birds will be for breeding only as they are very low in numbers. They are already very friendly. This is what they will look like as adults.  This is mom. Baby pics soon.

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We are heading out to pick up two new guests today, a breeding pair of American Guinea Hogs. For a list of all our animals on farm check out our animals page.

 

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).

New upgrades and new project

We did some upgrades to our site and now have a members area, where you can sign up and interact with other like minded people. There is also a forum. I have started populating it with topics I get asked most. Most people want to know where to get stuff, from education, to plants, to materials. While I could populate it with some, I would leave it up to you to ask. All completely free. So “stuff” is the first topics I listed. If you want some other topics I would be glad to hear and possibly list them. We added the forum because not everyone has a Facebook nor do they want one. Facebook seems to be where a lot of dialogue comes in about different topics. This option can allow people to interact, ask questions, get questions answered outside facebook.  The link to the forum is here.

While we were doing the upgrades to our site we started investigating work for an exciting new project. We feel this project would serve many people, and something that is definitely needed. While still in development it MAY be out by this fall/winter. It would make getting food from the producer to the consumer much, much, much easier.  Alas it is it outside our current skill sets to develop the idea. We know how we want it to work, how it would be super awesome. We are looking for someone who has mobile App development skills to incorporate. Too early in the game to bring the developer in, the back end and infrastructure needs to be developed first. But if you know someone who is a mobile app developer please let them know and direct them to our opportunities page.

We are still alive…

It has been a while since we have posted anything, and we apologize. We are still alive. We have been very busy lately. Here are some updates and some coverage from the Indiana-Illinois Farm and Outdoor Power Equipment Show.

Work continues on our small house. Walls are up, insulation, kitchen, bathroom, etc. We are making great progress considering we are cash flowing everything and doing the work ourselves. This is even a bigger challenge as almost all furniture and cabinets are custom made. We started with completely demolishing the inside of the building and gutting everything down to bare walls.  No plumbing, no electrical. All outlets, switches, lights, plumbing and drains had to be built. We also have constructed a “barn” from almost 100% recycled materials. The main component has been pallets. We have a privacy fence installed on a portion of the animal yard, and started fencing in the rest of the land area. We are shrinking from 1900 sq ft and a garage to 550 sq ft with a small storage area. So we have been doing lots of downsizing and donating. We are moving the majority of our medicinal herbs, permaculture plants in the process as well. It has been a lot of work but will be well worth it in the end.

Here are some pictures of custom projects. Some of these are older and we have made updates since then.

Master bed – We raised the bed 36 inches so that we could have storage drawers under it. Essentially it is like taking your bed and sitting on top of 3 dressers. We keep the storage and don’t lose any floor space. The entire place has over 10 foot ceilings so it doesn’t feel confined. The bedroom is only 8 ½ feet by 9 feet roughly. When finished we will have all sorts of photos and collections of where it was to where it is today.

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Tub – we wanted something unique to the space and keep with the rustic theme. We decided to use a stock tank for the tub and shower. Again, this is a custom job, not quite finished yet. We had to drill holes for the drain, coat the inside with a sealer, and install fixtures, and a curtain. The nice thing is this will be extra deep compared to a normal tub, and can be used as a soaking tub.

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Bunk Beds – with a smaller footprint for rooms we went vertical. These are triple bunks, made almost 100% from reclaimed wood from another project. Each bunk has it’s own power pack and lighting. It is strong enough to hold me and my wife at the same time. This is an older photo and they have since been painted and decorated by the kids. Top bunk is 8 feet off the ground, and plenty of head room. The younger two kids have already claimed the lower bunks. An additional loft bed is ready to be installed once the walls are painted.

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Bench-table – We needed a creative way to have meals without a table since there was no room. We came up with a bench behind the couch. There are also 3 additional spots on the kitchen island. We picked up some great deals on bar stools at Habitat for Humanity Restore  and Asset Recycling.

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Kitchen cabinets and sink – More custom. We got a great deal on 1950’s metal cabinets we sanded and repainted. Added a wooden top, and dropped in a cast iron sink we picked up for 1/10 the retail price. Sanded the wood top, and sealed it. The upper cabinets are what they originally looked like.  The lower cabinets are what they look like now. We painted in some areas, and are leaving exposed brick in many spots. It will be sealed once we decide how much plaster to take off the wall. We liked the industrial look.

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Here is the start to the attached greenhouse.

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Building raised beds for medicinal and culinary herbs. We took old concrete field tiles that were being discarded and turund it into a raised bed.

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I went to the farm equipment show the other day, it was free at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I went hoping to look into smaller farm equipment and see what is out there. Up until recently we haven’t had a need. Well, everything there was monstrously large, almost 100% computer GPS controlled. I was a bit depressed that this is what our farmers are today, not farmers, but an industry. Our youngest got a kick out of being able to run under the larger tractors. There wasn’t much for the small scale farmer and most wouldn’t talk to you unless you had over 1000 acres. I felt greatly out of place. It was all geared to soy, wheat, corn, feedlots, CAFO operations and little else. It was free, other than parking, so I wasn’t out too much. It was suggested I attend the ACRES events, if they were closer I would.

I did meet and talk with Organic Valley and what it takes to become an organic certified farm, and how to join their co-op. This sounded real promising for once we get larger land area. Being part of the co-op had many benefits such as borrowing equipment, grant writers, and marketing. Some of these would be cost prohibitive if we were doing it alone. One option was, if you plant some (acres here) black sunflower on your land, they can bring in equipment to press it for the oil, which you can then use for biodiesel on your land. Never knew that was an option. I also found that one of my inspirational heroes Mark Sheppard is part of their co-op and we discussed him for a bit too.

Another connection I made was with the living trust attorney. This is something we looked into and got more information. A living trust will allow you to put land and farm into a entity that doesn’t have to go through probate in order to be passed down from generation to generation. Many farmers, or large land owners are already aware of this option and utilize it. We are just being educated. If you are a smaller farm or land owner you may want to look into this. Probate can last 6mo to 2 years or more and that is if it is not contested. Who takes care of the farm during that time? Who pays the taxes? A trust can prevent many issues down the road. We have an appointment after the show is wrapped up, and I will share more of what we learn.

 

Today was a hodgepodge of topics but it has been a while and I wanted to take a few minutes to update. This next spring hopefully things will settle down and we can focus more on experimenting and sharing what we learn.