Thursday, March 26, 2015

Webinars: Goat products for you and for sale

Goats as the Centerpiece of a Diversified Homestead -- Did you know that goats can provide you with milk, meat, and fertilizer? We'll talk about equipment and ingredients used to make your own soap and a variety of cheeses, yogurt, butter, buttermilk, and meat. We'll also discuss whey and milk as fertilizer, as well as the basics of composting, so you'll never need to buy fertilizer again. If you want to make money with your goats, check out "Creating Value-Added Products With Goats" below.
8 p.m. central time, Monday, March 30
Cost: $19
Click here to register.

Creating Value-Added Products With Goats -- Learn the basics of making money with your goats by selling soap, dairy products, compost, and leather, and putting your goats to work in a landscaping business. This webinar covers the business and legal side of selling products from your homestead. To learn more about how to make products with goats and how they can enhance your homestead, check out "Goats as the Centerpiece of a Diversified Homestead" above.
8 p.m. central time, Monday, April 6
Cost: $19
Click here to register.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chat with the authors of Homemade for Sale

Today we're chatting with author Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko, authors of Homemade for Sale: How to Set Up and Market a Food Business from Your Home Kitchen.

What type of home-based business do you have and why did you decide to start it?

We're all about returning to a nation of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. We write about this in many of our books, which include Rural RenaissanceECOpreneuring and now, Homemade for Sale. Our focus on home based businesses relates to "cottage food laws" recently passed as a positive outcome of the Great Recession, giving people back the freedom to earn from their home kitchen. Depending on the state, these cottage food laws are only for "non-hazardous" foods, either those that are low moisture, like breads or cookies, or high-acid, like jams and jellies. They address food products (not services) and in nearly every state, involve direct sales to the customer, not wholesale.

On our farm and Inn Serendipity B&B, we're always looking for ways to diversify. In diversity is stability. By creating value-added food products using fruits or vegetables from our growing fields, we can increase our profits with practically no financial investment -- since everything we needed to launch the business was already in our farmhouse kitchen! In our case, we just canned an additional four dozen jars of sauerkraut and pickles for sale to the public at community events in Wisconsin.

Tell us about two or three of your favorite entrepreneurs mentioned in the book?

The husband-and-wife team of Erin Schneider and Rob McClure of Hilltop Community Farm based in LaValle, Wisconsin, use the excess summer harvest on their farm to make various high-acid pickles and preserves, which they sell at winter holiday markets. Like us, they used the cottage food law to help further diversify their farm operation sourcing the ingredients needed for their preserves and pickles directly from their organic farm.

Regina Dlugokencky of Seedsower Farm in Centerport, New York, rises early in the morning to bake her loaves of bread for sale at her winter farmers' market. The fresh-baked breads are sold alongside her collection of jams, products that perfectly complement each other and that maximize what she can do under her state's cottage food law.

Why did you decide to write this book?

To celebrate the freedom to earn, at least in the 42 states now have cottage food laws on the books. It's amazing to us just how many people don't even know you can launch a food business out of your home kitchen, often with little governmental regulation and nearly no start up expense. Homemade for Sale is the first authoritative book that serves as a guide to go from idea and recipe to final product.

What is one of the biggest mistakes that people make when starting a home-based food business?

A lot of folks have a fantastic recipe, delicious product and love to cook. They've always had this dream of running their own business or of turning their passion for baking or talent for making great tasting jam into a bona fide business. Marketing is an essential ingredient, from what you name your product to what you choose to put on the label and how you sell it. Since a great tasting product is just the beginning, Homemade for Sale focuses on the marketing aspects that help cottage food operators increase the likelihood of their success. So, sometimes folks jump the gun and don't craft a carefully devised marketing plan or do the necessary feasibility study. Your customers, not you, ultimately determine the product you sell and the price you receive. In our case, we've found a market for pickled pumpkin at $6 a pint. Interestingly, it's often purchased as a gift for someone else.

What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you before you got started with your business?

Start small and grow your enterprise. It all starts with a seed of an idea (or recipe), but it's important not to do too much, too fast. That's what the cottage food laws are for: test out your products, build market demand and grow, slowly, your business. We devote much of one chapter in Homemade for Sale to examining whether scaling up is even what cottage food operators really want. For many operators, family balance, flexibility and sharing their love of cooking is far more important. That said, the last section of the book goes into options for scaling up, including renting a community incubator kitchen or building a commercial kitchen on site.

If you'd like to have your own copy of Homemade for Sale, you can purchase it at your favorite bookseller or enter our giveaway, which started Monday!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Homemade for Sale

If you happen to live in one of the 42 states that has passed a cottage food law, and you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you might have thought about starting your own home-based food business. If so, you should check out Homemade for Sale: How to Set Up and Market a Food Business from Your Home Kitchen by Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko, a couple of ecopreneurs who write.

This book has everything the home-based entrepreneur needs to get started with their own homemade food business. Just a few of the things you'll learn:
  • product development from name to packaging
  • pricing your product
  • where to sell your product
  • marketing, advertising, and public relations
  • zoning and licensing
  • liability protection
  • insurance
  • financial management and bookkeeping
  • growing your business and scaling up
The two best things about the book are the authors' enthusiasm for home-based businesses and their effort to make sure that entrepreneurs protect themselves legally. In response to a start-up guide that warns, "In many instances, it would be better to take the money required to start such a business and invest it in a certificate of deposit," the authors respond:
Oh, really? Last we checked, you can earn only .99% APY on a CD for one year; for a $500 investment, you'd get back $4.95 in interest earnings. We don't know a cottage food business on the planet that couldn't beat that.
Authors Lisa Kivirst
and John D. Ivanko
They also offer plenty of great advice on protecting yourself legally. For example, they suggest that you keep records of every batch of product that you make. Even though this may not be required by your local authorities for cottage food businesses, you are still responsible for the safety of the food. If someone got sick after eating something you made, a log that detailed "the date, what and how much you made and what ingredients you used" could be used to show that you were not negligent.

Each chapter also includes stories of entrepreneurs from all over the U.S. who have started home-based food businesses. By the time I reached the end of the book, I was ready to pull out my baking pans and get started!

While you can purchase the book from your favorite bookseller, the publisher has agreed to give a copy to one lucky reader of my blog. If you click on "Leave a Comment" to enter the contest, be sure to leave a comment and use your real name so that it can be matched up with your entry. You can also earn extra entries by tweeting about the giveaway every day. The book can only be mailed to winners in the U.S. and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thinking about homesteading or raising goats?

Learn more about raising goats and how they can enhance your life without leaving home. Three goats webinars will be offered over the next three Monday nights at 8 p.m. central time.

Intro to Raising Goats Naturally
-- We'll talk about raising goats without routine use of drugs while letting the mothers raise their own babies, as nature intended. You'll learn the basics of housing, fencing, goat nutrition, parasite control, and how to tell if your goat is sick.
Monday, March 23, 8 p.m.
Click here to register.

On the following Monday night, March 30, we'll discuss Goats as the Centerpiece of a Diversified Homestead, and on Monday, April 6, the topic will be Value-Added Products With Goats. Sign-up for those webinars will open next week.

You Can Do It! 
 -- Wondering if you're crazy to want to live a homesteading lifestyle? Curious if it's possible for someone who has spent his or her entire life living in a city or small town? Whether you are still dreaming or have already taken the plunge and started homesteading, you'll find inspiration in this webinar where Deborah talks about how her family moved from the Chicago suburbs to 32 acres on a creek in the middle of nowhere. Their livestock experience consisted of two cats and a poodle, and suddenly they had a farm filled with chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, sheep, cattle, and pigs. Discover how they learned to live a more self-reliant life -- and how you can too!
Tuesday, March 24, 8 p.m.
Click here to register.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dewormer resistance in goats

It is a well known fact that internal parasites are the leading cause of death among goats. Unfortunately, it is a problem of our own making. You have probably heard of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which resulted from the overuse of antibiotics. A similar phenomenon has occurred with chemical dewormers and internal parasites in livestock. Veterinary professionals thought parasites could be eliminated in livestock and began recommending routine use of chemical dewormers in healthy animals. Although this worked in the short term, the long-term result has been dewormer-resistant parasites.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the standard advice was to deworm livestock on a pre-determined schedule in an attempt to keep internal parasite loads so low that they would never adversely affect production. When people started to see that the parasites were surviving dewormings, the advice was changed slightly to tell people to switch dewormers from one treatment to the next so that the worms that weren’t killed by the previous dewormer would be killed by the new drug. To reinforce this idea one company even came out with a horse dewormer system that numbered their different dewormers so owners could use them based on which quarterly deworming they were administering. To complicate matters for the goat owner, large animal vets see plenty of horses and may focus their continuing education on the animals that make up the largest portion of their practice. This means that when it comes to goats, many vets are still repeating what they learned in vet school fifteen or twenty years earlier. Depending on where a vet went to school and who taught the small-ruminant classes, even some newer vets are still practicing with old information. One researcher told me that about half of what we know about parasites has been discovered in the last twenty years and much of that was not taught in vet school until the last five years. Many of the old recommendations were based on personal experience, opinions, and logic, and subsequently have been proven to be wrong.

In the last ten years, a lot of research has been done on internal parasites, especially on barberpole worms, because of the large losses experienced by sheep and goat producers in the southeastern United States. A great deal of research in this area, however, has been done in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. One study after another clearly shows that dewormer resistance is a real problem. Because there are only three categories of dewormers, it does not take long for a resistance problem to develop when they are used frequently. Research shows that if parasites are resistant to one drug in a class, the other drugs in that class may not work.

In addition to being used for internal parasites, ivermectin and moxydectin are sometimes used as a pour-on for external parasites, such as lice and mites. Unfortunately the internal parasites are being exposed to the dewormer when it is used as pour-on, and it only kills about 50 percent of the internal parasites when used in that manner, which means it leads to problems with resistance faster. When talking about resistance, it is important to understand that we are not usually saying that the drug kills zero percent. Ideally, a dewormer will kill as close to 100 percent as possible. But the more you use a dewormer, the fewer worms it will kill because the population of resistant worms is growing and reproducing. Depending on how sick a goat has become from a heavy load of parasites, a reduction of 70 or 80 percent may not be enough to save it from dying. It is also possible that a severely debilitated goat will die even if all of the worms are killed. The sooner you stop over-using chemical dewormers when parasite resistance is evident, the better your chances of reversing the problem will be.

Common deworming practices

Using dewormers selectively means that you deworm only when an animal has a level of worms that is causing it to be anemic, not grow normally, not produce milk as expected, or otherwise show signs of illness. You do not deworm a doe simply because she has kidded or because other goats in the herd have a high level of parasites. These two practices will lead to rapid dewormer resistance problems. Now, you’re probably wondering why so many people do prophylactic deworming and why many vets recommend it. Without looking at long-term research, prophylactic deworming seems to work.

Common Practice #1: If you deworm all the does after kidding, they have lower parasite loads, lose less weight, and produce more milk. Why wouldn’t everyone want to do this? Because in the long term, this is part of a losing strategy. It is unlikely that all of the does needed deworming, and using a dewormer when it isn’t needed means you have just taken one more step towards dewormer resistance and the day when a dewormer will be needed and it no longer works. By deworming all of the does you are selectively breeding worms for dewormer resistance. Also, by deworming routinely at kidding, you lose the opportunity to select breeding stock based on parasite resistance.

Common Practice #2: If you have a couple of goats with a high parasite load and you deworm the whole herd, no other goats wind up with a high parasite load. Why wouldn’t everyone want to do this? First of all, the rest of the herd probably would not have gotten sick, even if you had not given them a dewormer. I’ve heard vets say that it’s only common sense that if a couple of goats in a herd have high worm loads, the rest of them do too. Unfortunately, common sense fails this time. Research has shown that in most cases only a few animals in the herd will have a high parasite load. Eliminating nearly all worms works well in the short term, but if you want to have goats long term, you will eventually face the consequence of dewormer resistance.

If you deworm the whole herd, you kill every worm that is susceptible to that particular dewormer. Sounds great at first. Unfortunately, no dewormer kills 100 percent of worms. This means that every worm left living in your goats is resistant to the dewormer that you just gave them. The only reason a dewormer is effective more than one time when you do a whole-herd deworming is that the goats are continuing to ingest worms in the pasture and those worms are not resistant. But they mate with the resistant worms inside the goats, and some of those offspring are resistant to the dewormer. So, the more you use a dewormer, the greater the number of resistant worms you are breeding.

Common Practice #3: Deworm your goats ten days after the initial deworming to kill parasites that have just hatched because the first deworming will not have killed the eggs. Of course, when you do that, you do kill some worms that have hatched, but you also wind up with more resistant parasites that survived the second deworming, increasing the number of resistant parasites on your pasture. The more often you use a dewormer, the faster you are breeding the parasites to be resistant to the dewormer you are using. This advice for a follow-up deworming was originally given for fenbendazole, which had poor efficacy against arrested worms, which would then be killed by the second dose a couple weeks later. Unfortunately, a lot of people concluded it would be a good idea with all dewormers, regardless of whether it was necessary. After using any dewormer, you should continue to monitor the body condition and anemia status of the goat. If the animal does not improve, follow up by doing a fecal exam. If the reduction in fecal egg count is minimal, you may need to give a second dose of dewormer or to use a different dewormer.

The fewer the goats that you use a dewormer on, the better the chances are of the herd never developing dewormer resistance because the proportion of the resistant parasites will be small compared to the total population of non-resistant worms on the pasture and in the goats. For example, if you have a herd as small as ten goats and you deworm only one goat, killing 90 percent of its worms, and this goat had 25 percent of the worms in the herd, only 2.5 percent of the worms (10 percent of 25 percent) in the herd would be resistant to the dewormer you used. Therefore, only 2.5 percent of the worms will be producing dewormer-resistant babies, compared with 100 percent of the surviving worms in every goat if you had dewormed the whole herd.

This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book excerpt: Eat Your Greens

Lettuce makes up over 70 percent of all leafy vegetables sold in the US, and most of that is iceberg lettuce. If you were to stay up all night trying to think up the worst food distribution plan possible, you would have trouble coming up with something as illogical as the iceberg or head lettuce industry. While greens as a food category are extremely nutritious, head lettuce is a notable exception. A comparison with kale is instructive. Kale is well known, easily grown, and nutritious (though there are still many greens with greater nutritional value). An equal weight of kale has triple the protein, four times the iron, seven times the calcium, 30 times the vitamin A, and over 40 times the vitamin C supplied by head lettuce.

Growing five billion pounds of a nutritionally crippled food that is 96 percent water in southwestern deserts with subsidized irrigation water is the start of a very bad plan. Then, wrapping each lettuce head in plastic and shipping it thousands of miles in a refrigerated truck doesn’t ring of genius either. Days later, the lettuce arrives at supermarkets in areas where local farmers who could be growing far better greens are struggling to stay in business. It sounds like a spoof on modern agriculture, but this is how we eat.

Because it grows close to the soil and is eaten raw, lettuce is one of the most frequent sources of food poisoning. Because it is so mild flavored and tender, it is attractive to many insects and so it must be protected with insecticides. Enough of the pesticides remain on lettuce to make it one of the ten worst foods for pesticide residues. Despite its many nutritional and agricultural limitations, iceberg lettuce is our most important vegetable in terms of sales. You could almost describe it as the corn syrup of leafy greens.

In midst of this somewhat stagnant state of affairs, there is a whiff of change in the air. We appear to finally be getting bored with head lettuce. The share of sales going to leaf-type lettuce is increasing at the expense of iceberg-head types. We are also gradually becoming more adventuresome, adding a bit of other greens, such as arugula, Asian cabbages, and endives to salads. It should also be noted that leaf vegetables grown with organic methods, whether certified or not, have essentially no pesticide residues. This is true for organically grown greens from industrial farms, local farms, or backyard gardens.

If You Can Afford Organic Greens, Why Grow Your Own?

Buying organic leafy vegetables (along with apples, celery, peaches, strawberries, bell peppers, and grapes) is clearly justified in order to avoid pesticide residues. However, just being labeled “organic” doesn’t guarantee that the greens are any fresher, more nutritious, or free from the pathogens that may cause food poisoning. Buying from a farmers market or CSA usually means fresher greens that have been grown in better soil and handled with greater care, but they are probably only available once or twice a week. Buying from either a supermarket or a local food market, your choices of leafy vegetables will be limited by what is most profitable to the retailers or the big farmers.

Growing your own changes all the rules. As you progressively master the craft of gardening, you can gain a level of control over the food you eat and access possibilities well beyond the offerings in the commercial sales outlets. Nowhere are those possibilities greater than with leaf vegetables. There are over 1,000 species of plants that have edible leaves. They offer a dazzling array of shapes, colors, and flavors currently unavailable to consumers.

Leaf crops can be annual herbs, perennial shrubs, or even trees. Some are vigorous twining climbers that can quickly turn a chain link fence into a wall of edible greenery. Barley and Austrian winter peas make mild-flavored greens, and they are hardy enough to last after frost has killed the tomatoes. Cowpeas and fenugreek can be grown for edible leaves and for enriching the soil with nitrogen. They can be planted in between rows of heavy nitrogen feeders, like corn.

Tropical leaf crops can be raised that shrug off the hottest days of summer - when lettuce and spinach turn bitter and go to seed. Summer in much of the world’s temperate zones has long stretches of tropical weather. That is all it takes to grow great crops of tropical greens like molokhaya, soko, and vine spinach. When it does turn cold, you can still harvest Siberian kale at temperatures down to 0°F (–17°C). If your soil is too salty for a garden, you can still grow orach, a very salt-tolerant leaf crop in the Atriplex family.

The following chapters will give you the practical information you need to take leafy vegetables to the next level. I hope you can forget all about pale, bland, plastic-wrapped leafy vegetables and have fun taking a plunge into the chlorophylled world of edible foliage.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Eat Your Greens: The Surprising Power of Homegrown Leaf Crops by Dave Kennedy. Don't forget to enter Monday's give-away to win a copy of this wonderful book.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Q & A with Eat Your Greens author David Kennedy

Today we are chatting with David Kennedy, author of Eat Your Greens: The Surprising Power of Homegrown Leaf Crops ...

How did you learn about non-traditional greens?

After a number of unsatisfying jobs in the janitorial and dish washing field, I decided to try life without a job by moving to the woods, building a cabin, and growing all my food. It turned out that building a cabin was a lot easier than growing all my food. I began to study everything I could about growing food. It quickly became evident that growing leaf crops provided more essential nutrients in less space and in less time than other ways of producing food.

I learned how to make leaf concentrate and began working with a British charity on nutrition intervention programs in the tropics. People were eating mainly corn, rice, and cassava and having lots of health problems. With almost no income, they couldn't afford meat, milk, eggs, or fish. Green leaves were the cheapest source of most of the nutrients that were lacking in their starchy diet. I studied foods from different cultures looking for low-cost sources of nutrients. It was amazing how many different plants had edible, high-nutrition leaves and how underutilized this vast food resource was. I began learning to grow as many of these different leaf crops as I could, both in the tropics and in the US. In 1986 I founded Leaf for Life a non-profit focused on improving health through better use of leaf crops, and have continued learning about non-traditional greens as director of that organization.

You've written two other books on this topic -- 21st Century Greens: Leaf Vegetables in Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture and Leaf for Life Handbook: How to Combat Malnutrition and Improve Food Security with Green Leaf Crops. Why did you write this book? How does this book differ from those?

Actually, I've written three other books about greens; the ones you've mentioned here and Leaf Concentrate: A Field Guide for Small Scale Programs. The field guide and the handbook are “how- to” books targeted to development workers trying to improve the health of women and children living in poverty in the tropics. The emphasis was on how to use green leaf crops to address micro-nutrient malnutrition, especially the common deficiencies of iron and vitamin A. Twenty-First Century Greens presents the case that greens are a seriously underutilized food resource throughout the world. It provides some background on how that neglect came to be and describes several strategies for increasing the importance of leaf crops in our global diet and agriculture. Eat Your Greens is focused on the realities of North American kitchen gardeners. It looks at how the rapidly evolving movement of savvy home gardeners can have a catalytic impact on our food system. Gardening is a micro-scale agriculture that is is relatively free from the market pressures that constrain commercial food production. Eat Your Greens is about taking that freedom out for a spin; experimenting with the subtle and the complex. It is about integrating ecological science, beauty, and leisure into the economics of growing food. I wrote this book to encourage adventurous home gardeners to raise some non-traditional leaf crops, and to experiment with different techniques for growing and preparing them to eat.

What's your favorite non-traditional green?

That is a tough question. Don't make me choose between my children. My favorite non-traditional green changes frequently. Okinawa spinach (Gynura bicolor) is a favorite right now. It is a hardy perennial that will die down with a freeze but, if covered with a thick mulch, will renew itself vigorously at the first sign of warm weather. It is a very productive plant, but doesn't have any imperialist plans to take over your whole garden. It is easily propagated from stem cuttings and rarely bothered by pests. Okinawa spinach is an ideal cut-and-come again crop, recovering quickly from repeated partial leaf harvests. As a vegetable it lends an interesting flavor with hints of pine and rosemary. And to top it off, it is a beautiful plant with rich purple undersides of its glossy green leaves.

Other than the non-traditional greens, is there anything else about your garden that is different or unusual?

What is very encouraging is that the gardens that my partner, Therese, and I grow are becoming less different and unusual every year. When I began gardening there were a lot of vegetable gardens with straight rows of handful of reliable varieties of common vegetables. A sprinkle of 10-10-10 fertilizer would get plants growing, roto-tillers would keep the wide paths free of weeds, and a bit of Sevin dust would kill any insects that ventured into the garden.

Our garden is a lot more complex, and relies on biological rather than chemical approaches to fertility and pest control. We use hugelkulture (buried wood and brush) and bio-char to build up longer term carbon and increase the water holding capacity of the soil. We grow plants in permanent beds to reduce the amount of space lost to paths and prevent soil compaction. We try to always have plants growing to continually feed the soil life with carbon compounds and grow edible cover crops whenever or wherever space becomes available. We aim for a dense and complex poly-culture of perennial and annual plants, with lots of trellises for climbing plants and bird perches. Some of this is unusual but more gardeners are experimenting with ecologically oriented horticulture every year, and this is great news!

Do you have any particular advice for beginning gardeners?

Here are a few ideas about gardening that I wish I had heard sooner:

~ Embrace your ignorance. It takes a while to learn to garden well and if you can accept the first few years more as paying tuition (without a student loan to repay) to learn a craft than getting paid for your labor it removes some pressure. Experiment freely. The garden can be your own personal biology lab.
 ~ Beware of formulas for perfect gardening. The best cooks develop a feel for the food and don't blindly follow instructions in cook books. The same is true for gardening.
 ~ Have fun with your garden and try to make it a place where you enjoy hanging out.
 ~ And of course, eat your greens.

Don't forget to enter the give-away that started on Monday, and you could be the winner of a copy of David's book, Eat Your Greens!
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