It has been some kind of week. For starters, the farm has been trying to fight off double story condo’s that developers want to build in the empty lot nextdoor. This would be disastrous for the farm, because it would decrease and block out sunlight throughout the fields, leading to a drastic decrease in farmable space. On Wednesday night I joined the crew as we huddled together to present (1) why the farm is a great part of the Pomona community and (2) why the development is detrimental to the well-being of the farm. It was the first time I had ever been to something like that and found myself pretty fascinated by some of the protocol.
Personally, I am working through some big decisions in my life and this week(end) I made the decision to pursue a Masters of Science in Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona. I was debating betweeen that and being an Ayurvedic Practioner. Both paths were compelling but at the end of the day I went with my heart and with what I think will be the best decision in the long run.
And lastly, this week on the farm we ‘rotated’. I have been on Nursery team and Field team (my personal favorite) and now I am on chicken duty. At first I felt a lot of apprehension, mostly because I was just getting my groove going in the fields, but also because I haven’t spent a lot of time with chickens and I don’t really understand them all that well. I am looking forward to spending more time with them, with feeding them and observing them, and I am excited to get back to the farm and the onry birds.
As I walk on the dusted mulch pathway towards Sarvodaya Farms at 8am my body is trying to wake up. My head is groggy, my eyes are trying to make sense of what is in front of them and the caffeine from a Starbucks cup of coffee is slowly blocking the receptors responsible for drowsiness. After I clock myself in I walk into the nursery and immediately my body wakes up. I carefully observe the various trays where the seedlings have not yet popped up and pronounce their presence to the world. My initial thoughts are filled with concern and disappointment. I quickly look at the masked taped tab to check if it was I who planted the seeds. The handwriting always gives it away. Lo and behold it is my handwriting and questions are running through my head. Did I plant them correctly? Did I wash my hands before planting the seeds in each cell? Did I put the correct number of seeds in each cell? Have I not been watering them enough? Why aren’t you growing??! Working in the nursery makes me feel like I am going through motherhood. I have never had a child but whenever I am in the nursery I feel responsible for the seeds and hope that they grow into beautiful successful plants. It gives me great joy when I see the trays with my handwriting growing into cute little seedlings.
The process from seeing these tiny little seeds being planted in the cells to growing into dazzling adult plants fills me up with a lot of happiness. Witnessing the process of life every week inspires me to better my life, my body and soul.
Over the weekend an acquaintance of my husband’s (so, a complete stranger to me) shared his two cents on GMOs. His instagram post stated that GMOs are not inherently bad, and that “there are good ones out there like golden rice that are saving millions of people in the country of Africa.” Now, seeing this sort of information all over the internet is not new or news, but this person has a following as an exercise and nutrition expert and I could not turn a blind eye. At first, my mind could not decide on where I should even begin. I started out writing a short comment that ended up being 500 words. Whoops! There was just too much to cover! In the end, I simply wrote, “Golden rice is still in development and has yet to be commercially grown and distributed. It is being created for countries in Asia, not Africa, as their staples are tubers and not rice. Source: International Rice Research Institute, the organization behind golden rice (irri.org).” I felt that my response was unbiased and did not attack him in any way, but invalidated his argument that because golden rice exists, GMOs are OK. Yet only 30 minutes later my comment was deleted, while others that praised his thoughts stayed up.
This encounter frustrated me but also reminded me of a conversation we had on the farm during one of our Wednesday check-ins. No matter how you approach it, there will always be people who do not want to see or listen to any view points other than their own. What can you do? My response during check-in was to lead by example, which I obviously did not follow this time around. I wish their was a one-size-fits-all answer approach this, but for now I guess my best option is to put my head down and focus on what’s important to me.
Just this past week, our favorite bantam chicken was attacked by what we think was some kind of animal. She was the smallest of the chickens my team tends for in this current rotation. Her name was Holly named by Sabriel and she was beloved by almost anyone who visited the chickens.
When we found her, she was half eaten or pulled apart. Sorry this photo is graphic! But perhaps it will help us further investigate the causes of her untimely death.
Silvia helped to facilitate a gathering and ceremony to mourn the loss of Holly and also help her transition. I’m really glad she helped us hold a circle, because frankly it all happened so quickly. We were rushing to put away the chickens in time for weekly check in and then we found her and called Manju over. While we were late to check in, the chicken team+ Sabi, Manju, and Silvia were able to share memories and collect wildflowers as we buried her.
Losing a life is never easy, and I don’t think it ever gets easier. However, I am thankful that we as a group could hold space for one another. It’s kind of funny how we as a team celebrated the death of 2 gophers we were able to catch while on the fields team, while the death of Holly was very sad. I guess this is all a part of nature and the cycle of life or the cycle of death, depending on how you look at it. All those that died on the farm continue to feed our eco-community whether it is through cats eating the gophers, or the remains of Holly giving back to the soil and the microbes that will break her down and build the nutrients there. When I was working on a farm in New Orleans, we were raising ducks and there was a morning where we found like 5 dead ducks spread out throughout the back plot. They were killed by dogs that roam the neighborhood. We buried them throughout the farm and that summer those spots were buried them in had seriously some of the most lucious soil I had seen throughout the farm. Crazy how something like dogs took their life but they continued to give back past its death.
I know I can be more conscious of keeping my giving and taking to be more harmonious and in balance. everything is like a relationship- you can never take too much or give too much- theres always gives and takes for relationships to be healthy.
While I know I’m behind on my weekly posts, I do a lot of reflection on my commutes back and forth to the farm. At first I used to listen to a lot of NPR, so much so that I would catch repeats of different segments since I was driving very early in the morning and then in the late afternoon. One of the main reasons I was listening though was because it was the first 30 days of the Trump administration and I was in need of some ammunition in direct relation to current events. I know that very few people hold the same beliefs and values as I do so intellectual ammunition is needed when I need to defend and counteract to comments coming from mostly old men like my dad and my old boss. While some would say NPR is very liberal biased- at least they try and interview people from the opposite side. I think it’s always important to understand, study, and analyze those in power and who/what they are controlling.
A few weeks ago, Sarvodaya Farms encountered an enemy… the parasitic nematode! They had some significant root damage on the beets!
While it was sad to pull up the beets and see their roots turn into cyst like beaded curtains (lol side tangent: I feel like Maya would have beaded curtains in her room); what an incredible teaching moment I encountered with Manju. (side tangent: For anyone who is looking to apply for the internship- Manju is an incredible teacher- she verbalizes her thought process in her observations and makes sure that everything she does is a teachable moment- it’s very inspiring and also has taught me so much in how I can be a better teacher. Rishi is an equally amazing teacher- his lessons are literally mind blowing- every Wednesday I leave the farm questioning everything related to life, find myself saying this a lot “dang this makes so much more sense!”)
I had never witnessed nematodes before and now that I’m writing this post I will remember them forever and hopefully can teach someone else around me as I continue and build my farming super powers. What an incredible teaching farm Sarvodaya Farms is!
Back to the enemy. I think when studying any opposition, one good and effective strategy is to study their life. Where did they come from? What are their daily habits? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? When it comes to pests I think questions like when do they breed? What kind of environments do they seek out? These questions can then hopefully lead to answers since lets face it Bt isn’t the miracle pest bacterium for all pests. I wouldn’t want nature to work like that anyways.
Here are some things I found out about the life of the nematode:
LIFE/EVOLUTION of Nematodes
PLANT PARASITIC NEMATODES
HOW TO DETECT
https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/viewhtml.php?id=149 (I liked this one the best!- most comprehensive.)
Whenever people ask you in an interview, what is your biggest weakness? Everyone is usually encouraged to bend the truth on this one because you want to show them only the perfect parts of yourself. If I were to truly answer this question, it would be time management. Not that I can’t plan things out in a timely fashion but rather I have the problem of believing that my desire to want to do everything can be achieved. While having Hermoine’s time turner would be dope (I own a knock off lol!), it’s not actually real. So instead sometimes I wish I could be a fungus! ….if I were a fungus I could potentially be in 2 places at once…(since you know they are the world’s largest living organism and are miles long)
Ever since I started at Sarvodaya Farms, I feel myself slowly evolving into one of those microbe groupies… although to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of the Hidden Half of Nature but I will admit that I have significantly deepened my respect and appreciation for the hard work these “closest thing to a zombie” put in to keep our ecosystem in balance.
A long time ago, Rishi sent everyone an email suggesting that we look into Bt and neem oil. With my slow and steady pace with these posts, I was sure someone would have already posted about one or the other. But since I haven’t seen anyone write on it, I did a quick google scholar search on Bt hoping that I would find more history on Bt… Unfortunately SCIENTIFIC articles and journals spend very little typing space on history… go figure- could be one of the ways science is white washed…(check out Alexis’s teach in on this with the Free Radicals https://freerads.org/events/)
However I did come to find that Bt is also part of the microbe family! woohoo- who knew science research could have moments of joy 🙂 Anywho here is some bulleted summary points and my commentary sub-bulleted from my findings.
Overall conclusion, if you’re a farmer who is conscious about the ecosystem and still need to produce food for people, then I think Bt is a good short term solution to when your crops come across a moth, worm, or beetle problem. The longer term solution being you need to maintain and promote high soil fertility/health and strong, resilient ecosystems in your farm. Then you won’t have to go to the store to purchase this spray, unless you know how to cultivate this bacterium yourself. (anyone know how to? wouldn’t it be cool if we could make our own Bt like kombucha lol)
These are the 2 articles I sourced my bullets from. sorry was too lazy to use MLA or APA citation style, but hey this is just a blog so who cares!
As you may know or not know the chickens are fed pretty nicely here at Sarvodaya farms . They are fed an all organic scratch and peck feed, they are fed fat juicy grubs, and of course wheatgrass. The wheatgrass I feel is so important and essential to the chickens nutritional diet. They really enjoy eating it from what I see once we place the grass in their roaming area. This week my team and I (also with the help of Sara’s fabulous penmenship) made the wheatgrass station quite presentable.Thank you Laurette for being so detailed oriented, your vision made the whole thing come tother. It was very neat to watch you get in that zone.
I feel making the area personalized really added some more life to the chicken area. The station sort of looks like a wheatgreass stand where one could buy some fresh wheatgrass from. I sure would! It is a huge plus to be able to have quick access to the wheatgrass and be able to tend to it ourselves. Hopefully we can continue to keep the wheatgrass growth as well as the nursery team has kept it so far. Wish us luck!
Here are some picks of the station.
Monday was quite an interesting morning and the highlight of the week I must say. I was walking towards the nursery to plant some wheatgrass when i see on the corner of my eye one of the cats on the other side of the fence on the other yard over. Which is normal but it was walking a little different and appeared to have something in its mouth. Thats when i noticed little feet dangling from its mouth. It crawled under the fence back onto the farm towards the nursery where the cat released the gopher. I first thought the cat had caught a mouse but it was much to big. The gopher was still alive! The cat continued to chase and play with the gopher making it think it had a chance for escape.The cat would hit , paw at, bite and toss the gopher all kinds of ways . There was a point were I wanted the cat to end it already and put this poor gopher out of its misery. But this is very norma behavior for cats , as they like to “play” with their food. It is sort of like sport for them to do this to their prey. After about 30 mins cat had laid to rest and so did the gopher . The cat took a short break and then went on to consume the gopher . That was my cue to go ahead and continue my task that I had originally began to do but the excitement and slight discomfort of the whole scene still lingered as the day week went on. Oh and if you didn’t get from the end of the story there, the gopher lost =/ .
This week there was a big focus on beets , as they were being harvested heavily . A lot of the beets that were harvested were quite large and had a very pretty color on them. Let me just say, beats are not my favorite and I’ve never been a fan. But thats because i have always had canned or pickled ones. Those were the only ones i was introduced too.I was curious to taste them fresh since i had never done so before. So beats were available for staff to take that Friday and i was able to take one small one. I took it home along with some swish chard. I decided to cook them up tougher and make a warm said. Let me just tell you , it was an amazing combo. The sweet beet taste countered the chard taste and balanced so beautifully. It was an amazing meal and let me just tell you I am a fan now !
Here are some cool facts about beets and their benefits :
-Blood pressure can improve
-May drop risk of heart
-May improve stamina
-Help regulate you
-May help fight better against Chronic disease
I must admit that I am really naive to a lot of things. I might have a bad case of ‘Out of sight out of mind’ syndrome, and to make matters worse, Im not alone in my thinking. I’ve always been a recycler, but never thought much about the process. I was a consumer (and still am) and then after consumption I just put the leftover unwanted parts in its appropriate bin and wait for someone else to come take it away. They could be taking it to the planet Mars as far as I was concerned. Come to find out, they aren’t shipping our trash to Mars, but China!
According to a US News article from April 2016, China and Ghana are the two largest destinations of US electronic trash. Imagine a world filled with IPhone 4’s, ‘un-intelligent’ tv’s and maybe a pager or two. This world exists, but it’s not exactly legal. It’s not technically trade between nations but more like trade between businesses, since both China and Ghana signed a treaty (Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal) agreeing to ban hazardous waste imports. According to the news artilcle, “scrap dealers, repairman and second-hand salesman constitite ‘informal cottage industries’ by showing up at docks to buy the electronic waste and risk exposure to toxic material in the hope of making extra cash by recycling.”
Recyling electronics isn’t as profitable as it used to be, because many companies are saving costs by using less minerals like gold and copper in their electronics. It’s becoming more expensive then for recycling companies to make a profit recycling, and many businesses get around that by shipping recycleables overseas. In 2014 the UN reported that in fact only 16% of all the worlds electronic waste was recycled by government agencies or sanctioned businesses.
The problem is that (1) consumers want the latest and greatest devices, (2) phones seem to just break too easily and (3) the general public just doesn’t think about the impact that all of these electronics has on the environment – myself included (until now that is). I grew up with the ideas that as long as you put it in the appropriate bin then its all good…but its not ‘all good”. According to the EPA, in 2013 the average U.S. household owned 28 consumer electronics and generated 3.14 million tons of electronic waste.
In 2016 China, apparently fed- up from being the worlds dump site, issued a ‘Green Fence’ policy in which they would reject shipments at ports if the recycles were too contaminated with unrecylcable materials. The problems was that a lot of the reclylables they were receiving (not just electronics) were too dirty to recycle and ended up in the Chinese landfills. The ‘Green Fence’ has actually helped maintain a higher standard when it comes to recycleable materials, and some US businesses are benefiting because of it.
All of this information is to say: it just doesn’t go away. Old, broken phones don’t dissapear. Cracked screens become someone else’s problem, and I don’t think any government has found a way to send our trash into outer space yet. We, as a world, have engineered amazing machines that can process trash and recylcleables, but the sheer quantity alone is alarming. I have come to realize that I can only be responsible for myself, which is both frightening and empowering. The farm has taught me to value and treasure food more than I ever thought I could. I am learning to be less greedy and slowly limiting my consumption, but these are hard habits to break. In a world where convenience is king and efficiency queen, it often feels like an uphill battle.