The Big E features livestock, fun and food!

CN-MR-3-The Big E 3by Sanne Kure-Jensen
For almost 100 years, The Big E has highlighted New England agriculture, livestock and produce. Since 1917, this fair has hosted agricultural competitions and displays, following the vision of Joshua L. Brooks, founder of Eastern States Exposition. Well over one million people visit New England’s Grandest Fair, enjoying its 4-H and FFA demonstrations, exotic animal rides and petting zoo. Teens and families return year after year for the midway rides, live entertainment, and naughty foods.
Agricultural Shows and Competitions
The Mallary Agricultural Complex hosts most livestock shows and competitions. Visitors can walk among hundreds of dairy, beef and sheep. Families can see farmers shearing sheep and grooming their cows and watch sheepdog herding demonstrations. Most of the livestock shows and competitions are during the first week or 10 days of the fair. [Read more…]

Raising the Roof on Manda Farm

CN-MR-3-Raising the roof 1by Laura Rodley
This summer has been full of happy endings for Anna Hanchett and Michael Kalagher, owners of Manda Farm. The two have sold certified naturally grown beef, turkey, eggs, organic vegetables and Gloucester Old Spots since 2006 on Pleasant Street in Plainfield,MA. “Manda” is derived from combining letters of their first names, M and A.
On Friday, Aug. 16, a crowd of 50 looked on as a huge crane lifted a new second story onto the top of their stately 1825 farmhouse that burned in January.
The fire affected only the second story and roof, travelling around the metal of the chimney in an enclosed space, which kept it contained, then going up into the rafters.
No people or animals were hurt, but extensive water and smoke damage made the main house unlivable so the two have been living in an onsite trailer until it is restored.
“So many people invited us to dinner. We didn’t have to cook for weeks,” said Hanchett, who besides running the farm full time, is chairman of Plainfield’s Agricultural Commission. [Read more…]

Living Acres: Making organic matter

by Tamara Scully
Living Acres, in Sharon, Maine, is all about “making soil more alive,” and providing plants with the optimal nutrients needed to thrive. Living Acres makes organic-approved compost, growing mediums, foliar seaweed and fish emulsion sprays. Their products are made with local, natural inputs — the farthest comes from about 125 miles away — and serve to add fertility and to enhance the health of nursery plants or field crops, via nature’s own ingredients.
They strive to keep ingredients “as local as we can get, without sacrificing quality,” owner Tony Ramsey said.
Begun in 1980 by retired dairy farmer Stu Mayo, the company has since grown from the flagship product: Mayo’s compost mix. His recipe for the compost came from years of experience, and a belief in the positive effects of healthy soil. Instead of incorporating manure directly into the soil, where the microbial population reacts by going on “a feeding frenzy,” Ramsey explained that Mayo knew there was a better way. So he created Living Acres Kompost. [Read more…]

James Brown part of effort to test chickpea production in Virginia

CM-MR-3-James Brown 1by Karl H. Kazaks
CLOVER, VA — James Brown has long been a diversified farmer, growing corn, wheat, beans, and tobacco as well as raising cattle. This year, though, he planted an entirely new crop: chickpeas.
Brown is one of four farmers in Virginia participating in a test project organized by Virginia State University, to determine if chickpeas could be a viable (high-value) commercial crop in the commonwealth. Brown is one of two participants from Halifax County. The other two are from Surry and Greensville Counties. The project is funded in part by Sabra Dipping Company, the country’s largest maker of hummus. (Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus.)
Farmers were selected based on two criteria. They had to be interested in growing a new crop and have available land and equipment to grow the crop (what you would need for growing soybeans, using a different planter plate).
Brown met those criteria and then some, said Cliff Somerville, small farm outreach agent at VSU and one of the main organizers of the chickpea demonstration.
“Mr. Brown has been very successful in the other crops he’s grown,” Somerville said.
Each of the farmers planted four varieties of chickpeas to, Somerville said, “get an idea of which variety responds best to this general area.” [Read more…]

Shoot ‘em up!

CM-HR-MR-3-Shoot em up7183by Sally Colby
It’s the fastest growing equestrian sport in the nation. Contestants in western garb race the clock as they use two .45 caliber single action revolvers with five rounds of specially loaded blanks to shoot at balloons from the back of a horse.
It’s called cowboy mounted shooting, and nearly every horse and rider has the potential to train and compete.
The process of starting a horse in mounted shooting should be slow and steady. Bobby Knight, who trains horses and riders for mounted shooting, says that the first step is evaluating the horse. As Knight worked with a first-time shooter and her mare, he described the process he uses to see how a horse might react to the sudden sound of gunfire.
“I clap my hands — with just that noise alone you can see how a horse is going to react,” said Knight, who was in Pennsylvania recently for a training clinic. “I could see that the horse was pretty comfortable with noise. We worked the mare, then when she was resting, I made a lot of noise so that she’d accept the noise as part of the resting time.” [Read more…]