L'Amour Speak

Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content.
Louis L'Amour

Texas Discovery Gardens

For those of you in the DFW metroplex area, there is a gem of a place to visit on the State Fair grounds called the Texas Discovery Gardens. This is not only a beautiful garden that changes as the seasons go by, but a unique educational outreach center. Their programs are geared to all ages. The Organic in the City lecture series concludes September 2 and Skies of Butterflies will have 200+ native live butterflies in the butterfly house starting September 13 and running through October 24. If you have time for a neat outing, check out the center. For those of you that go to the State Fair, it is tucked away in the southwest corner and is totally secluded from all the excitement of the fair. Its a place you can relax during your State Fair visit and contemplate nature within the city.

Why Write?

Sometime you find a cartoon that is really good.

East Texas Organic Workshop

The Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association is planning an interesting workshop Saturday, September 13, 2008 in Kilgore. This is one of the many farm and gardening organizations we are members of that are striving to improve the way we farm or garden. If you go to the State Fair this fall in Dallas, they have a nice booth in the Food & fiber building.

East Texas Organic Workshop
Saturday, September 13, 2008

For home gardeners, new growers, organic producers, and everyone else
interested in local, healthy food!

To be held at Bodacious Barbecue, Kilgore, Texas
Hwy 42 at I-20
7:30 a.m. Registration, Light Breakfast
8:15 a.m. Welcome by TOFGA representative
8:30 a.m. The Soil Food Web presented by John Ferguson
Natures Way Resources, Conroe
9:30 a.m. Organic Insect Management presented by Joe T. Berry
Entomologist, Athens
10:30 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. Organic Growing on the Small Farm presented by Brad Stufflebeam
Home Sweet Farm, Past President of TOFGA, Brenham
Noon Lunch (Included)
Brisket, turkey, beans, potato salad, cole slaw, bread, tea
A vegetarian lunch of baked potato and salad will be available
1:00 p.m. Backyard Chickens, Free-Range Layers and Broilers presented by
Windy Meadows Farm, Campbell
2:00 p.m. Marketing your Organic Products
Panel discussion, question & answer session
3:00 p.m. Optional - Travel to Hallsville for a tour of Loftis-Stevens Creek Farm
Grass-Fed Beef hosted by Pat & Ted Stevens

$25 per person - TOFGA members
$35 per person – non-TOFGA members
Become a TOFGA member at registration and save $10.00!
$15.00 – children under 12
Registration fee includes light breakfast, BBQ lunch, featured speakers, Loftis-Stevens Creek
Farm tour, goodie bag, reference materials of the day’s events, and lots of networking!

Registration is limited…register early to avoid disappointment!

Map and registration forms are available at www.TOFGA.org
Call 936-655-2416 or 903-986-9475 for more information.

One Tank Vacations: CBS Visits The Greer Farm

As the season was ending in the berry patch and the dog days of summer had not arrived (they never did this year), the CBS affiliate in Tyler, Tx (Ch 19) visited our farm. Amada Kost was preparing two news specials on where to go on a tank of gas.

The video segment is available at this link by scrolling down to the bottom of the page, underneath the star rating and comments section, there is a lake photo with a small icon of a camera and "One Tank Vacations-Part One".

We have been very blessed this year with publicity. Four times we were featured in the Dallas Morning News, several times in the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune, once in the Paris News and in several local weekly papers. The most interesting to us were the visits by the ABC affiliate in Shreveport and the CBS affiliate in Tyler.

Marketing is the name of the game for a family farm today. We depend on "free" publicity like that received this year in the newspapers and television news programs, and most of all "pass along" comments from those that visit the farm and tell their friends about us.

Our staying in business depends, in large part, on you. We make every effort to make your visits to our farm a fun experience and will continue to strive to add new products and interesting things to do. Maybe next year there will be a pile of hay bales in the old barn where farmer Greer sits down and reads children's farm story books to our smallest visitors. You just never know what to expect when you visit Greer Farm.

Join the Effort to Support Bees

Most everyone is aware that bees are dying at an alarming rate and the reason is not clear. We started a hive in 2005 and they did fine for most of the summer than either left it or died. Today, to pollinate our berry patch, we depend on Johnson's Bee Farm from Paris who set out twenty-five or so hives within a quarter mile of us each spring.

Bees are a critical element in our food chain. In addition to providing delicious honey, they are the greatest contributor to pollination. This includes food, drop and flower plants. In the United States, bees pollinate 80% of our vegetables and fruit.

If you eat raw honey grown locally, you can improve your health and it helps control allergies. Honey contains bits of pollen in the honey. Taking some every day is like taking an allergy immunlogy injection. Small doses of allergens are in each spoon of honey.

In the 1940's, the United States had over five million beehives. today the number is less than half that. In the mean time, you are well aware of the increase in population and increased demand for vegetables, fruit and crops. The honey bee needs everyone's support.

If you are interested in learning more, or doing something yourself, the Pollinator Partnership is a great place to start. The North american Pollinator Protection Campaign is the other major group that is trying to reverse the decline in bees. Check these sites out and see what is happening in this critical area of agriculture and gardening.

I am sure that the use of modern pesticides and chemicals and genetically modified seeds are having a significant impact on bees, but I have no proof. I do know that a decade ago I was raising Bahia seed and the fields were attacked by grasshoppers. I was losing the crop. I mixed two different chemicals, one an instant contact kill and one with a two week kill life, and sprayed the fields. The next morning I went outside and there was not a bug, butterfly, moth or grasshopper to be found. Even the birds had left the farm. I was shocked. That was the last time I used artificial chemicals to broad spray fields and crops. It was scary what happened. Today we practice sustainable agriculture and use the least amount of artificial input to raise animals and crops. You can learn more about this at the National Sustainable Agriculture Center.

Locally, we get a very high quality honey ffom two sources. the Johnson Beef Farm in Paris, TX that have hives all over northeast Texas, and more important to our community a local bee keeper producing honey under the Boggy Creek brand. They are a family farm and their hives are on the banks of Boggy Creek which is a narrow wet land strip that stretches over 35 miles before entering the Lake O' the Pines. The bees have an abundant supply of native plants and clover pastures which give the honey a wonder taste. If you are interested in obtaining this honey contact us and we will pass on your interest the the folks at Boggy Creek. I can guarantee you that if you taste compare their honey to what you buy in the grocery store you will never buy in the store again. Most of the honey in stores is a blend and if you are a label reader you will see it is from China, Argentina, Brazil and other countries. No wonder it has an odd after taste.

The next time you see bees in your garden consider how you can add plants that will support them.

Is the Beef You Buy From Cattle Eating M&M's and Potato Chips?

The video

As a farmer and rancher practicing sustainable agriculture techniques, it amazes me what other farmers and ranchers will do to raise crops or animals that can be done naturally to a large extent versus a lot of artificial inputs.

Most everyone eats beef, pork and chicken. All are now factory raised. Even dairy cattle are now confined in huge buildings by the thousands and never touch natural grass. Large commercial cattle feed lots using grain were uncommon until the early 1950's. The beef people bought in the store was generally all grass-fed, and very healthy. The exception might be the rancher that raised his own grain and fed the cattle to finish them for 6-8 weeks before selling them to the slaughter plant. At least this grain was natural and probably was what today we might call organic. There was no such thing as medicated feed laced with soda to control stomach acid, and growth hormones. The problems with feed lot finished animals is clear and well documented.

You would not expect the Wall Street Journal to have much to say about the beef you eat except to occasionally report on cattle prices. At this link is an amazing video prepared by the Wall Street Journal on what cattle are fed. They have just exposed the tip of the iceberg. With corn and other grain prices going through the roof, ranchers and feed lots have resorted to feeding all kinds of waste food products to cattle and other animals in our food chain.

Here at the Greer Farm our beef cattle are all grass-fed. The only exception is for those customers that want more traditional grain finished beef. We meet this need by leaving the cattle on pasture and feed an all natural grain that is "all grain"; no medication or hormones. These cattle are on grass in the pasture and grain for six weeks. The beef from this cattle will be more tender and have more fat than the cattle we sell that are all grass-fed. Being in a business, we feel we have to meet our customer's needs and at the same time try to do it in as healthy way as we can so we can stay profitable.

We are contemplating working with Stephen F. Austin University on a pastured port project where heritage breed pigs are raised on pasture. Everyone has seen the ads for pork that call it "the other white meat. Guess what? Pork meat is only white if raised in pork factories where the pigs never leave a concrete pad their entire life and are fed a rich diet of medications, grain and hormones. Pork from pigs raised on pasture, like they were until the late 1950's, is red and healthy with a completely different taste.
We have a lot of hoops to go through before we can start this project, but one of them is ensuring we will have customers for the pork meat at the end of the growing cycle.

Over time, we also hope to raise grass-fed sheep providing to those that desire a more healthy lifestyle lamb meat that is compatible with their health goals. Until them, we only have beef available.

We have sold all of the cattle for beef that we have at this time. In 2009, we will have significantly more available. If you are interested in getting on the list for beef you can trust contact us. If you think you may want to buy lamb or pork, let us know so we can gauge the interest.

Farmer's Don't Blog in the Dallas Morning News

I mentioned some time ago that Karl and I were interviewed for an article on farmer's blogging by a reporter from the Dallas Morning News. The article, complete with two photos, was in the business section of the DMN today. In case you do not get the paper, the caption to one photo of Karl and I said we were "like two peas in a podcast". The only item to correct is our website count. We did have over 220,000 website hits in June 2008, but not all went to the blog. This month in 24 days (before this article) we have had almost 86,000 hits and about 41,000 went to the blog. It's fun to share our story when a reporter calls and even more satisfying to know how many people have read at least one of our blogs. Some of our lakeside log cabin renters say they sat in a rocker on the porch of their cabin while here and using the wireless internet available read every blog from day one. That's quiet an accomplishment.

Slopping Hogs: A City TV Crew Visit the Farm

The ABC television station in Shreveport, Louisiana visited the farm in July. Rick Rowe broadcast live from the farm during the 5:00 am to 7:00 am morning news show. Arriving way before the sun came up the farmhouse was as bright as day with the lighting they brought. You can watch and hear one segment that captures some of that mornings broadcast.

Farm Facts: Believe It of Not

Of all the vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables are perennial and must be replanted every year. The two are asparagus and rhubarb.

What is the only vegetable that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked or in any other form other than fresh? Lettuce

What fruit has its seeds on the outside of the fruit? Strawberry

When you buy pear brandy and there is a fully mature pear in the bottle, how does that pear get inside the bottle? It grows inside the bottle. The bottle is slipped over a pear bud and tied in place. When the season is over and the pear is ripe, the stem is snipped and the pear stays in the bottle.

How many weeks are in the blueberry and blackberry picking season at the Greer Farm? Only seven. We are generally open the last days of May and close mid to late July. Write a note in your 2009 calendar June 10 so you do not forget to come and visit the farm.

When is the most beautiful time to visit the Greer Farm? Well, just about anytime is good, but my special times are in the spring when the farm wakes up from winter and there are hundreds of different shades of green in the trees, plants and pastures. The other time is November when we have a fall as colorful as the forest in New England.

Zola Speak

"If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." Emile Zola

What has happened to the weather?

Generally it can be said in this area that if you have not had your summer rain by June 30, you will not have it. Well this year I thought they were right. We had the most terrible stretch of 10 days where it was 104-107 degrees most every day. At the same time, our deep well pump had problems and we could not water our gardens. We had a back up for the cattle, the old barn and the house. The berries are watered by lake water and that was working thank goodness. We had our pump problems there when it was not so hot. Things were looking pretty bleak as the yard and years of work on flower beds appeared to be lost. We got the pump back running and that saved the day. Then as sudden as the excessive heat had come it was replaced by Noah's flood.

In 10 days, we have had almost 10 inches of rain and the temperature has ranged from 73 to 91 as high. Can you imagine that in August in Texas? All this wet weather has changed our plans. We are now in the process of shredding pastures to cut off the old grass that will be replaced by fresh green forage due to the rain. My fall garden plans are in the mud; too wet to cut off the old growth in the garden and too wet to plow. It is amazing how the weather affects you and especially so if you are on a farm.

As for that deep well pump, it is gone. Yep, totally gone. This week I was getting a drink of water and suddenly there was none. The service company came out and said we had a bad problem, but how bad I had no idea. Friday they pulled over 500 ft of pipe out of the well and there was NO pump at the end. For some reason, the pipe had become super heated and the pipe threads on the pump just slipped off and the pump descended into the bottom of the well. It is there all by itself now. This is NOT good. A new pump was put back in the well and some time this week they will tidy up the control panel, switches and bury the new wire. What is it going to cost? Probably about the same as two business tickets to Italy and a cruise around the mediterranean sea for a week. Not that I had planned a cruise or anything, but when they are finished Eva and I will put on our cruise deck clothes, sit in lawn lounge chairs and enjoy a glass of wine by the damn well and imagine what it might be like not to farm.