Our Biggest Challenge

Today I saw a woman carrying a reusable shopping bag with the phrase “Locally Grown” on the outside.  As I watched her purchase her produce from a competitor and fill her bag, I realized my challenge. Our biggest challenge is not fighting the unseasonably cool weather, the need to water, finding the time to get chores done (weeding, watering, harvest, packaging).  Our biggest challenge is educating the customers on local food.

The market that we are selling at this year has several other produce vendors.  Most of these vendors do not grow their own produce.  Others grow some of what they sell, but bring in other produce to round out their offerings.  As I look at some of their booths, I see “grocery store produce.”  A lot of customers probably see beautiful colors and great variety.  But I see perfection gained through chemicals and pesticides, I see out of season produce that was shipped in from other states.  Unfortunately, a large number of customers at the farmer’s market think that because a vendor is there, he must be farming it himself, or that the produce is somehow fresher than the grocery store.

There are customers that we have gained at the market through our story.  They understand the difference and once you know the difference between the mass market grocery store produce and locally grown, you can tell the difference.  Everything on our table was produced by us.  Another competitor who does grow his own has a sign that says, “Where was it grown?  Who grew it?”  Those are important questions.  If the guy behind the table can’t tell you he grew it himself and where he is growing it, then what’s the difference between that tomato and one at the grocery store?

We’ve been able to gain some regular customers, and I would say that the regulars that buy from us know the importance of buying local, and they know what local means.

Update

So much has been going on, much that I want to post about, but I’ve been almost too busy to post it.  I have noticed a similar trend with many of the other agrarian blogs that I follow.  But this is the time of year that one must make haste.  When the weather is right, you’ve got to be taking advantage of it.  Make hay while the sun shines!

I have gotten my spud barrel constructed (drilling holes in the bottom of a trash can only takes about 5 minutes – and half of that is getting the drill and bit).  The spuds have been planted and I am awaiting emergence.  This year I will be growing Yukon Gold potatoes.  As I mentioned before, I’ve never used the spud barrel approach, so I am looking forward to reporting on how well it works.  Interestingly, I haven’t really seen much in the way of how many potato pieces one should plant in there.  I went with four good ones.

I got one of these mini-greenhouse kitson clearance at my local farm store.  I think it will work well for my seed starts.  It is kind of unstable though, so I used pieces of 3/4″ pvc pipe to seat the legs in.  I marked the ground with the assembled greenhouse, then drove the pvc into the ground, and replaced the greenhouse, setting the legs inside the pvc.  This allowed me to get the bottom shelf off the ground and be a little more stable.

Saturday was the first day I could direct seed.  I had opportunity to try out my new (well, new to me – I bought it used) BCS tiller.  It worked like a dream!  I love it!  I also got a great new rake this year.  It is similar to one that is available at Johnny’s, but like the greenhouse, I got it cheap at the farm store.  Between the BCS and the rake, my seed beds were a dream for my (also new) Earthway seeder.  Planting went so well compared to previous years.  I am looking forward to more planting, which should happen tomorrow and Saturday.  The new tools are doing their job.

I have lined up a Saturday farmer’s market for sure.  We also have a friend that may add our produce to his stand at another market, so we expect to have good market exposure.  There is additionally a Sunday market that we can do on an as needed basis if we have produce to move.  Now, Lord willing, our growing will keep up with demand and vice versa.

That’s all for now.

A Major Loss

If you read agrarian blogs at all, no doubt you are familiar with Herrick Kimball.  For the past few years, Herrick has published a blog called “The Deliberate Agrarian.”

On April 2, Herrick posted that he will no longer be updating his blog.  This is a big loss for me, and no doubt for many others like me.  I thoroughly enjoyed Herrick’s blog.  He is an excellent writer, but an even better story-teller.  His essays would teach and entertain, and would provoke one to ponder many things – economics, theology, faith, and life.

I had suspected for some time that Herrick would draw things to a close.  Over the past year, he had posted a few times that he was taking a break from blogging.  This is quite understandable as there are other things that take precedence, such as raising a family, tending your land, and work.

If you enjoyed Herrick’s blog and have not purchased his book, “Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian” I would strongly suggest that you do.  You can buy it from Amazon, and other places, but why not buy it directly from the author.  Herrick signs every book (at least he used to), and frankly I felt more connected to the man by contacting him directly for my purchase.  When I bought and read the book, I enjoyed it so much that I returned to buy more copies to loan out to friends.  It says a lot about a book when you have trouble getting those copies back.

I have most of his other books as well.  Check out his Whizbang Books site for his other books.  I definitely recommend the Whizbang Garden Cart plan book.  Not everyone needs a chicken plucker or wants to grow garlic, but EVERYONE can use a Whizbang Garden Cart.

Herrick, I want you to know that I have been richly blessed by your blog and I will miss your regular updates and essays.  I enjoyed your real-world wisdom and your homespun humor.  I learned a lot about you, about faith and agrarianism, and I also learned much about myself.  My heartfelt thanks to you for taking the time to share a slice of your life with so many of us.  May God richly bless you and your family as you continue on your agrarian journey.

Earthway Precision Seeder

My Earthway seeder arrived today.  I was excited to assemble it.  However, the ground is still to cold to be direct seeding yet, so I will have to wait (patiently) to try it out.

Growing Potatoes in a Spud Barrel

This year, I plan to test out the “Spud Barrel” method of growing potatoes.  If you have never heard of a spud barrel, this is essentially a process of growing potatoes in a barrel (or trash can, a stack of old tires, or some other type of cylindrical object) and filling it with new soil as the potato plant grows higher.  Once the growing process is complete, you tip it over and – VOILA! – you are rewarded for your efforts with pound upon pound of potatoes.  Or so I’m told.

I haven’t tried this method before, but I have considered it.  I seems entirely reasonable and considering my limited growing space, I like the idea of using containers that I can place pretty much anywhere.

If you have limited space, don’t want to give up garden area for potatoes, or if you just like trying new ideas, the “Spud Barrel” might be something you’d like to try, too.

An excellent description of the process can be found here: http://www.weidners.com/spud_Barrel.htm

Mother Earth News has a good article on how to grow potates in a barrel as well: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1980-03-01/Taters-in-a-Barrel.aspx

I’ll report on the spud barrel as the project progresses.

Welcome

Welcome to The Suburban Agrarian, a blog by Chad Butler.

This is not my first blog by any means.  I have been involved in blogging for a number of years, going back to early 2003.  My primary blog (http://butlerblog.com) focuses primarily on WordPress, its development, and the plugins I have developed for it.  That is also the site of my technically focused articles (or will be, if I ever finish all my content migration).  At this time, there is other content there not related to these topics, but I am trying to move that to a more relevant location.

The focus of suburbanagrarian.com is to be a running commentary of my journey to a more agrarian lifestyle.  I believe in agrarian living and would love to move to a self-sustaining existence in the country.  But that is not happening at this point.  Instead, we continue to live in the suburbs.

That does not mean we cannot incorporate agrarian principles into our everyday life.  I believe that by incorporating agrarianism into our here and now, we can live better, healthier lives with less impact on the environment.

I believe that God has given man dominion over His creation.  Man is charged with the care of creation.  To that end, we should be good stewards of the land.  But we should not forget our purpose, nor our Creator.  So this blog will focus on bringing the principles of Christian Agrarianism into our everyday lives – even if those lives are lived in an urban or suburban setting.