Preparing for peeps

CN-MR-1-PREPARING FOR PEEPS2522by Sally Colby

Open the door to the local hardware or feed store at this time of year and you’re likely to be greeted by the peeping of newly hatched chicks. Whether you’ve raised poultry in the past or are thinking about it for the first time, there are some considerations for successful, small-scale poultry production.

“Raising chickens can be fun,” said Chicken Whisperer® Andy Schneider, USDA/APHIS national spokesperson for biosecurity for birds. “But it’s a major commitment not to be entered into without careful research and a clear understanding of the downside. Like other animals, chickens can create an odor if not properly taken care of. Chickens and their coops must be kept clean, and chickens must be kept safe from predators. Daily attention includes providing fresh food and water and regular egg collection. Coops must be cleaned regularly, including basic cleaning several times a month and a good overall cleaning with disinfectant once or twice a year. Nesting and bedding materials must be provided and changed. And chickens can be noisy.” [Read more…]

Efficient agricultural lighting systems and energy conservation opportunities

by Sanne Kure-Jensen

A recent webinar, “Lighting Systems: Analysis, Performance, and Energy Conservation Opportunities,” described agricultural lighting system functions and how new systems can improve efficiency and performance. Dan Ciolkosz of Penn State described lighting system vocabulary, design and its impact on people, animals and plants. Kip Pheil of USDA NRCS National Energy Technology Development Team described NRCS practice standard 670 – Lighting System Improvement, used to implement lighting system upgrades.

The lighting industry uses its own terminology. Lumens, foot-candles and lux are measures of light level reaching a set area. Bulbs are called lamps. Fixtures are called luminaires and may include a bulb, ballast, reflector and lens. Fixtures will have a photometric report including performance data and where it can be used. [Read more…]

Managing manure on a large scale

CN-MR-3-GERVAIS FARM 248by Sally Colby

No matter how big or small a farm is, managing cows, crops and nutrients is a balancing act. As farms grow, manure management can become especially challenging. The small dairy herd that Robert and Gisele Gervais started in the 1960s is now home to 1,800 milking cows and is operated in partnership with their sons. Son Clement Gervais explains the growth of Gervais Family Farm in Bakersfield, VT. “In 1995, we built a 400-cow freestall barn at the home farm and formed a corporation that includes me, three brothers and my parents,” said Gervais. “By 2003, we were milking 1,000 cows, which is the current number at the home farm. In 2008, the brothers purchased a neighboring dairy farm and we milk 800 cows there.”

The family farms 2,000 acres of grassland for hay and 1,300 acres of corn for silage, all of which requires careful nutrient management for optimum yields. Vermont requires any farm classified as an LFO (large farm operation) to have a manure management plan that is updated annually. Part of the plan includes manure and soil tests, with recommendations for manure applications based on those figures along with the crop grown and the nutrients removed by that crop. [Read more…]

The healthy, profitable business at Green Pastures Farm

CN-MR-1-Greg Judyby Sanne Kure-Jensen

Greg Judy runs a profitable, managed grazing operation at Green Pastures Farm. He uses pasture stockpiling so his livestock collect their own winter feed.

Judy manages his pastures for healthy soils, drought resistance and diversified forage. His ruminants improve land, soil and water quality without the use of fossil fuels. Judy explained his pasture management practices in the keynote address at the 2015 Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts Winter Conference. His presentation was called “Managing Our Farms In Sync With Nature Heals Land And People.” [Read more…]

Direct marketing of local foods

by Tamara Scully

Annual sales of direct-marketed local foods has decreased by at least $123,000 during the 2007-2012 period, in northern New Jersey, New York City, and in many portions of New England, particularly along the coast, according to a recently released USDA report. Eastern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier region of New York State were a part of this trend as well. While the majority of the country saw no major changes in direct-to-consumer local food sale dollars, a few pockets of very large increases were scattered across the nation, including in the northernmost regions of Maine.

“Foods sold through direct or intermediate marketing channels” are defined as local food for the purpose of the USDA’s Economic Research Service study, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress, which was released on Jan. 28, 2015, Sarah Low, ERS Economist, said. Farms selling via these distribution channels are considered to be local food farms, for the purpose of the report. [Read more…]