Friday, April 16, 2010

Sunflower Savannah in the News

Hello everyone,

Most of you are probably aware that Sunflower Savannah's Crop Mobbing made the front page of the Post Dispatch. Georgina Gustin focused on the Mob as was the whole reason for the story, to bring attention to what Pat Quigley is trying to accomplish. Sarah Conrad took some awesome pics that are not included here w/the article as they are under copyright but can be purchased online at the Post STL link.

There were a lot of comments online about the article. The 1st one about the Hippie Camp set everyone off, I'm not really sure why as it could've been taken either way. The concept is kinda like what the "commune" era of the 60's was supposed accomplish but fell far from, as human nature took over. The comment that bothered me the most was the one about Farming being a business and if it's not making enough money, "too bad". Spoken like someone who has never farmed and I'm betting has not stopped long enough to think about where her food comes from. If this were just about money...Trust, we can all find an easier way of making it. What would happened if we left the farming to those who have made it a business? Monsanto? Look at what they are doing to our food. It has been altered to the point that our kids don't even know what vegetables are really supposed to taste like. To the person who said that he doesn't see where the president is trying to make growing our food illegal, I don't know if that exact article was in the paper, but there is much going on behind the scenes making it harder and harder for the small farmer to produce. Many people don't know that Monsanto has raided seed banks in other countries under the guise of seed purity and destroyed the seed in those banks to the point where people are smuggling seed out of those countries just to keep varieties from disappearing off of the face of the earth. Guess who holds the rights and provides 95% of the seed available on the market? Ummm...Monsanto? Lane McConnell sent me her blog yesterday about how the government is further trying to regulate the production of local food and as usual making it too expensive for the small farmer to survive. Lane used to head up the Missouri Farmer's Markets. Read more here.

Another thing that people are not aware of is the Food Bill which is written ambiguously enough that eventually it could lead to personal home kitchens being inspected for potential hazards such as home canned foods. Sure they're saying that's not what it means but the loopholes are there. The funny thing is that it's the large companies that are constantly causing food hazards and deaths from contamination and poisoning even w/all the laws about pasteurization and homogenization. It's the produce that's coming in from other countries that is bringing the food borne illnesses. Why aren't we pushing the LOCAL food movement instead of making it harder for the small guy to feed his own community? And as Barbara Kingsolver writes about in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, think of how much less petroleum we as a country would need to use if our food was produced and eaten locally instead of being trucked hundreds of miles away before it gets to your table. Okay hang on...just hopped off of my soap box... and here is the article that was in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Wednesday and thanks again to Georgina and Sarah.

'Crop mobs' take root in Missouri

Jamie Drake, of Glendale, Gina Dahlstrom, center, of Augusta, and Derek Bryant, of Glendale, help clean the chicken coop at Sunflower Savannah in Beaufort, Mo. (Sarah Conard)
Beaufort — Spring arrived at Sam Wiseman's little farm with a huge to-do list. The fences were collapsing after a long winter; the chickens running amok, laying eggs everywhere. The weeds popped up in every possible spot, and trays of seedlings sat in the greenhouses, waiting for someone to plant them.Until the "crop mob" rolled in.
More photos of the Missouri Crop MobThis weekend, a group of about 30 people flooded the 22-acre property, with shovels, wheelbarrows and good will, to help Wiseman as she tries to whip the farm into shape. The volunteers cleaned the chicken coops, planted cabbage, weeded strawberry beds and cleared away broken fences. With a day's work, they got the place ready for the growing season. Or at least close to it."It's back to the old barn-raising thing," said Nicola Macpherson, a mushroom farmer who lent a hand at Wiseman's farm near Union in Franklin County. "You can't do all this stuff by yourself."

Sometimes you need a mob.The basic notion is almost as old as farming itself: People join together to get a big job done. And crop mobs are contemporary incarnations of this old-fashioned concept.The first group calling itself a crop mob launched in North Carolina about a year and a half ago, and thousands of work hours later, the idea is spreading. Pat Quigley, a carpenter from Jefferson County, heard about crop mobs earlier this year and decided Missouri could use its own. He got in touch with the North Carolina Crop Mob, which gave him its blessing to use the idea and name, then launched a "Jefferson County Crop Mob" Facebook page. Within weeks, he had 200 would-be volunteers. "People want to know about their food," Quigley said. "They want to be in contact with the earth." With an interest in food and farming, many crop mobbers are landless urban types who just want to help out, getting their hands dirty for a day or two and plugging into the farming community in the process. Unlike the barn raisers of the past, crop mobs have the added tools of social networking sites and e-mail, forming a virtual community of volunteers scattered across regions. Saturday's crop mob at Wiseman's farm gathered most of its volunteers through Facebook."I e-mailed Pat, and one thing led to another," said Gretchen Morfogen, a farmers market manager. "And now here I am with my wheelbarrow. It's just one day, and we pool our resources. It can get you weeks ahead of where you'd be without the help."In recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more people have started small-scale farm businesses buoyed, in part, by demand for produce from farmers markets, produce subscription programs and co-ops. For crop mobbers, helping a small farm is their way of supporting this growing small farms movement and helping ensure a supply of locally grown food."We definitely want to support the smaller sustainable farmer. We're not going out to the guy with the big combine," Quigley said. "We want to help the diversified farmer."And, by some accounts, that farmer could use the help. Often new to farming, this new generation of small-scale farmers has a huge learning curve to face."It's really isolating. A lot of people don't know how hard it is," said Katie Nixon, a small farms specialist with the Innovative Small Farmers Outreach Program at Lincoln University. "It can be really overwhelming."The Lincoln and University of Missouri extension programs co-launched the Grow Your Farm program three years ago to help new farmers develop solid, sophisticated business plans. As interest in the course has grown, organizers have realized that some budding farmers are struggling to get experience in the field."You can find all kinds of web-based information, but nothing beats getting your hands dirty," said Dean Wilson, of the University of Missouri's extension office in Jefferson County. "With that in mind, finding spots where people can actually work on farms is important."Libby and Randy Tempel of Webster Groves are hoping to start their own farm. In the meantime, they are racking up experience by volunteering through the crop mob. "We're interested in the community aspect," Libby said, "and eventually we'd like to have our own farm."When Nickie Burge of Maplewood decided to spend her Saturday at Wiseman's farm, she had her future in mind, too. "We're looking for property right now, and I'd like to get hooked into the community," Burge said, joking, "This isn't altruistic."But mostly it is."It's a really great thing for any community to have that support," Nixon said. "It's worked for the Amish. That's how they've done things successfully for hundreds of years."For Wiseman, that support could be what saves her after a tough winter. Her husband, Bill, was laid off last fall and took a job in Texas that keeps him away from the farm for weeks and months at a time. She has some health problems. The condition of the farm, where the couple raise ducks and sheep and grow heirloom tomatoes and flowers, had slipped. So when Quigley offered to hold the group's first foray into mobbing at her farm, Wiseman didn't hesitate."So many of these people know what a hard year it was for us," she said. "When people ask what they can do, they really mean that. You can't even put a word on how that makes you feel."



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