CSA

Our student driven CSA starts soon!  This is a collaborative CSA between Flagstaff EcoRanch, Tree A’Lolly Farms, and WIC.  Here are a few photos of some of the veggies growing and awaiting your dinner plates!  We are selling ten shares and donating five to WIC.  Please send us an email if you are interested.  We do have a waiting list, but as the season progresses we are hoping to determine whether we can offer more shares at a reduced cost.  If so, we can get in touch if you are interested.  Shares run $250 for a twenty week period. This will be slightly experimental for us as we have never run a CSA before so we will be checking in with our members for feedback.  Shares will have about three to four pounds of produce each week and towards the beginning of the season, may be supplemented with eggs, dried herbs, or teas as we wait for everything to grow.  One of the biggest challenges in Flagstaff is working with the weather (like 2 inches of snow last week) and making sure everything doesn’t freeze.  Interns and capstone students will be getting involved and using this CSA as a learning tool.  They will be collecting harvest data, consumer feedback, learning about marketing and sales, working with finances, and strengthening community partnerships. We hope that through this CSA we can continue to “grow food to grow the local food network.”

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Salad Mix.

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Peas and Beans

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Asian Salad Mix

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Fresh Thyme and Sage

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New Drip Lines

We wanted to give a huge thanks to Chris and Phil from Warner’s who donated time and materials to our drip line system and upgrades.  This project had a lot of moving parts and a lot of help from the community.  Chris, our grant writing intern, helped us secure the Grower Grant through Flagstaff Foodlink for materials for our drip line irrigation system; thanks Foodlink! Chaz, another intern, researched and designed the irrigation system and then collaborated with Chris Whitney from Warner’s to fine tune his designs.  We had eight volunteers who came out to learn about drip lines and helped us install the system. Currently we are fine tuning the lines and the system. Normally, purple line is used for non-potable water, but we are using it here with water from our rain barrel and underground well.

This gives us a huge advantage in understanding our irrigation needs and water use.  The line installed is from Rainbird and has pressurized emitters every twelve inches that release 0.9 gallons of water per minute.  We can calculate the number of emitters and figure out how much water will saturate the soil and then double check our water meter to see that the lines are emitting the same amount.  If we see discrepancies, we can check for damaged lines/emitters or leaks in the system.  We can also cross-reference the amount of water and soil moisture with the variety of plant, temperatures, and the amount of wind to fine tune the length of time we irrigate so don’t over or under irrigate the beds, one of the problems we had last year which damaged a good amount of our kale.

Thanks again for everyone’s help in this project.

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Chaz (intern) in green, working with Chris (Warner’s) on calculations and other volunteers setting up lines.

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Chris cutting the lines.

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Chaz checking the lines.

 

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A new CSA in town

This semester, I have had the pleasure of working with six capstone students (Cory, JJ, Gabe, Sean, Kolby, and Austin) at NAU from January through May.  This group has been one of the hardest working and most professional groups of capstone students I have worked with.  I am excited to announce their project, that the Flagstaff EcoRanch and Tree-a-Lolly Farm in Doney Park run by Peggy Pollak, will be partnering to offer a low cost CSA that will support Coconino County WIC (Women, Infants, and Children).

This is a 100% student designed and developed CSA.  The students were first tasked with conducting a feasibility study on 20 CSAs in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico focusing on high elevation farms.  They analyzed what products were included in shares, marketing strategies the farms used, and the cost and length of time for each share.  Next, the students analyzed our harvest data from 2013 to 2016, compared it to their research, and then applied what they learned to their own CSA program.  Finally, the students developed a website, outreach materials, and blog posts for their CSA.

We are starting small, selling ten shares this year, and for every share we sell, we will be donating a 1/2 share to WIC.  We hope this collaboration will get healthy, locally grown produce to families in need but also raise awareness about WIC’s voucher program.  This program gives WIC members vouchers to use at the Flagstaff Farmer’s Market which starts this month in the parking lot of City Hall.

We are offering shares for $250 for a 20 week period, June through mid October.  Student interns will be managing the plant health, recording harvest data, delivering produce, and collecting feedback from our share members.  Although not as abundant as the one from the “Flagstaff CSA and Local Market,” which most people are familiar with, the produce in our CSA will be 100% local to Flagstaff and grown and managed by local students, teachers, and community members.  We already have a waiting list and if everything goes well (planting, weather, crop health, etc.) we plan to offer 10 week shares starting in August as the harvests become more abundant.

Part of the students’ project was to write an educational blog post so I included it below.  If you have any questions about our CSA please send us an email and we hope to grow you food in the future.

CSA Capstone

Relative to human history, the idea of NOT eating locally produced food is a new phenomenon. Prior to industrial agriculture, food consumed within a community was inevitably produced in close proximity. It has only been within the last six decades or so that modern transportation and refrigeration has allowed produce to cross both nation-wide and international borders. There now exists a food culture in the US where “local” food items are the exception, and not the rule. However, in recent years the inevitable negative health and environmental consequences of industrial agriculture began to manifest, causing an emergence and rise in the demand for locally sourced food.

Community Supported Agriculture is an agreement between local farms and supporting members of the community to consolidate the production and consumption of locally produced food. In return for a financial contributory stake prior to the growing season, members receive a weekly share of freshly harvested, local produce and specialty items. By supporting local farmers, members assume the risk and bounty of local food production alongside the farmers themselves. This connection between a supporting community and the farmers they endorse helps to bridge the ever-growing gap between food production and consumption. Moreover, this bridge continually fosters a symbiotic relationship between the land, the farmers, and the supporting members of a given community.
Rekindling the connection between local farmers and the community they support is the first step toward an agricultural system that promotes sustainability and empowers education. A functional CSA serves as a catalyst to revamp the diminished connection between the production and consumption of food.

The Flagstaff EcoRanch and Tree-A-Lolly Farm CSA collaboration will operate from June through mid-October with shares costing $250 each. For every share sold, a half share will be donated to W.I.C (Women, Infants, and Children), a charity organization that gives nutritional aid to vulnerable nursing women, infants, and children under 5 years. Weekly shares will include 3-4 lbs of organically grown produce harvested from the Flagstaff EcoRanch and Tree-A-Lolly Farm. Occasionally, specialty items such as eggs, herbs, and dried/canned items will supplement weekly shares. Shares will also include a list of recommended recipes or preparations that will help members better utilize items in the weekly share. Furthermore, educational information will be disseminated weekly such as storage techniques, ways to utilize all parts of a given item, health and environmental benefits of locally sourced food options, and suggestions for a more sustainable lifestyle.

 

 

 

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Web pages, bats, and plants.

Check out our shout out to student worker page…is shout out still a thing?  Anyways, we just made a page to highlight all the awesome people and work that is being completed here at the EcoRanch by our student interns and capstone groups.  Click Below!

Interns and Capstone Students

 

On another note, we’re excited to say we have become a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.  We also just had some students install three bat boxes for their capstone project in order to monitor bats (Little Brown, Big Brown, and Pallid) around the Flagstaff area.

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Our hoop houses and soil are finally ready and today will be dedicated to planting starts, seeds, potatoes, and flowers. Here’s to another great season!

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Press

We were recently nominated as a Green Champion by Green Living Magazine here in Arizona.

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Grants for WWOOFers

We just received an email from WWOOF and they are running a grant opportunity for all you WWOOFers and volunteers.

Project Requirements
Project requirements include producing a minimum of 20 high quality photos, 3 or more short videos (3 min max) following the instructions described at https://stories.wwoofusa.org/, and a 7-day social media ‘take-over’ featuring the awardee’s photos or videos online. By submitting materials, awardee grants WWOOF-USA the right to copy, distribute, display, as well as authorize others to use those materials for any promotional purpose.  This program also requires that the awardee is a member of WWOOF-USA, and that project materials are created at multiple WWOOF host farms in the USA during the grant period.

The grant is for $2000, with half awarded at the start of grant period, and the remainder awarded upon completion of project.  Proposals will be accepted prior to May 15, 2017 at 11:59 pm, PT.  Awards will be announced by June 15, 2017.  All funded projects must be completed no later than May 31, 2018. Project applications must follow submission guidelines below to be considered.

You can learn more info here.

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Donations

We are pleased to say that with the help of one of our many interns, Chris, we have been awarded two grants this year.  The first was through Flagstaff Foodlink and their Grower Grant for $500.  With this money, another intern, Chaz, has been designing and planning to install a more efficient drip system.

Our second grant was through the WWOOF organization.  WWOOF stands for worldwide opportunities on organic farms and is a work exchange program that we have used many times.  We have had over 40 WWOOFers live and work with us in exchange for room and board.  They have visited from Russia, India, France, and all over the United States.  This grant is for $2000 and will help us run electricity to our barn, install a water pump on our rain barrel, and create a safer work environment for volunteers around our barn and agricultural space.

You can help support the Flagstaff EcoRanch too.  First, we currently have a group of capstone students from NAU helping us develop a small scale CSA that will support the WIC program here in Coconino County.  More details will be available soon, but for each share purchased, we will donate a free share to the WIC program to be distributed to registered families.

The second way is to donate through AZ Gives starting at midnight on 4/3/17 until 11:59 on 4/4/17.  You can click on the link here or by copying this link into your browser: https://www.azgives.org/flagstaffecoranch

You can make charitable donations to lots of great organizations across Arizona through this website.

Help us continue to “Grow Food to Grow Our Local Food Network” and support sustainable education for K though college students and community members here in northern Arizona.

Thanks!

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Moving? Looking to Fight Hunger?

I received some great news the other day.  One of our Airbnb guests arriving in March works for an organization called Move for Hunger.  They connect people who are moving, who usually throw away a lot of food, with local food banks.  They also run food drives, have races, offer internships, and have tools for hunger advocacy.  Here is a good article on childhood hunger from their website.

As some of you know, my parents started a franchise of Two Men and a Truck back in Cleveland in 1993. From age 13 to 24, my job was working for the moving company.  Early in it’s infancy, my parents would call me in sick to school because we didn’t have enough people to work or someone wouldn’t show up.  But as we grew, I was “forced” to attend school…ugh, how could they do that to me?  But I would work on weekends, over the summer, on spring and winter breaks; pretty much any free time I had and I have seen first hand the amount of stuff people throw out, food included.  I’m happy to say that Cleveland Two Men and a Truck has been registered with Move for Hunger in the past but currently participates with Movers for Meals among other community service programs.  If you’re planning on moving, look for companies who work with Move for Hunger or partner with organizations that help communities in need.

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Goodbye 2016 – Hello 2017!

What a crazy year 2016 has been for the world!  Well, now that things are finally slowing down, I think it’s a great time to fill everyone in on our 2016 accomplishments.  We’ve had another great year, working with students of all ages, planting and eating lots of delicious food, working on projects, and planning for 2017, which by the way…Happy New Year!

Again, we have felt the love and acceptance from the Flagstaff community.  Students, neighbors, friends, interns, and WWOOFers have donated 1924 hours of volunteer service helping us plant, harvest, clean coops, turn compost, work in the soil, learn about plants and their pests, and develop new partnerships and resources for us.  This year we had three groups of NAU capstone students work with us.

The first group got us organized with 10 different grants we are eligible to apply for and organized submission dates, requirements, and ideas.  Then they applied for one grant through APS.  Although, not funded, the group learned a lot about grants and the EcoRanch learned a lot about the preparation and planning it takes to get awarded.

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The second group helped increase our community outreach. They started a composting program with Toasted Owl and laid the ground work for a future collaboration with the YMCA.  Along with our composting program with Flagstaff Collective Coffee Co., formerly Higher Grounds, we were able to collect over 10,000 lbs of preconsumer food waste and spent coffee grounds, which we turned into valuable compost.  That compost is now buried beneath the snow, feeding the worms and microbes, ready to support a new crop of high elevation adapted plants in 2017.  Unfortunately, those two programs are not currently functioning due to some schedule issues on our part and the challenges of winter with water and decomposition rates.  We hope to reignite these programs in the spring.

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Our third group developed a Self Guided EcoRanch Nature Tour.  They made a pamphlet that visitors and Airbnb guests can use to tour the EcoRanch and learn about Ponderosa Pines, collecting rainwater, making compost, the Fort Valley area, and the San Francisco Peaks.  They even created a virtual tour using Google Earth that you can take on our website by clicking here.

We also worked with four NAU student interns.  Mike, Gabe, Micah, and Meagan were summer interns that helped manage our plants.  Without their involvement, hard work, and dedication to our vision and goals, we would not have been able to grow 2192 lbs of produce.

Each year we grow kale for Local Alternative to make Tepa Burgers, donate extra produce to local food banks and shelters, and eat a bunch of delicious food.  But this year was a bit more stressful.  We decided we would try to grow all the food for Julie and I’s wedding.  We used all the information from the previous year’s interns, figured out what would grow well, and developed a vegetarian menu we thought would be hearty, delicious, and provide enough variety.  One of our great friends, John Christ, owns Wil’s Grill, a local catering company specializing in BBQ (he actually interned for us a few years back renovating and insulating our chicken coop and building gates and fences).  We approached him and asked if he might be able to help design a menu with the produce we could grow.  He was up for the challenge and followed through with amazing food.  Many of our families and friends approached us throughout the night, telling us how amazed they were that they could be so full and so satisfied from a vegetarian meal!  Way to go John and everyone at Wil’s Grill!  Thanks for an awesome spread!mitchdenice_20160924_0469

Every year we have classes and school groups take tours of the EcoRanch in order to observe the sustainability practices they learn about in class put into action.  They have the opportunity to ask questions, get their hands dirty, and use the data we collect to continue their learning experience.  This year we were visited by NAU’s Sustainable Botany and Environmental Ethics courses, Hopilavayi, PREP/JUMP, and Gulf Stream middle school.

We participated in the Festival of Science this year and visited an 8th grade MIT-e Biology and Engineering class at Sinagua Middle School and a freshman AP Human Geography class at FUSD.  We gave presentations in Sustainable Botany, Environmental Health, and Upward Bound at NAU, and were interviewed three times by graduate and undergraduate students working on various types of environmental research.

On top of all this, we were able to renovate our kitchen, cut down, split, and stack 12 pine trees to increase the solar gain on the house, renovate the Airbnb bathroom and kitchen, built a new set of stairs outside for Airbnb guests, put new gutters on our barn and wood lean-to so we can catch more rain water, built a stage, benches, and trail for the wedding which will now be part of our self guided tour and nature trail, repaired fencing, started 2 new bee hives, and got our chickens healthier and happier by improving their flock (they laid 1946 eggs in 2016!)

Unfortunately, our monthly average energy use increased this year by about 300 kWh/month despite the fact that we have been decreasing our energy use each year for the last three years.  When looking at our data, we can attribute that to more friends and family staying with us, more Airbnb visitors, more house projects using more power tools, the wedding, and most importantly, the fact that we decided to stay on the main floor this year.  If you remember, we replaced our roof in October last year because it had no insulation….seriously….none at all.  We had an r-value of about 4.6, which was from the wood, tar paper, and shingles.  We were able to replace the roof, partially because of leaks, and we upgraded the insulation to r-24 (six inches of foam iso-board).  That really helped keep a lot of heat in, but we still needed to rely on small electric heaters in the bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen.  The past two years, we would move into the Airbnb space which is much smaller to heat and maintain.

Although we are using more energy this year, it will be interesting (and a challenge) to see what methods we can implement over the next coulpe years to reduce our energy while living on the main floor.  Whether that’s upgrading the electric heaters, making thermal drapes, or getting a more efficient wood stove, we’ll find out, but we’ll also be sure to tell you how we did it.

We used about 4,000 gallons less water in the house this year as compared to 2015 and 2014.  This year also allowed us a full years worth of irrigation data since we were donated a water meter last year.  We used about 30,000 gallons over a six month period which, based on 2015 data, we can assume we used about 20,000 gallons.  These data give us a baseline in order to continually reduce our water use.  That being said, we are currently working with an intern, Chaz Walters, who is redesigning a more efficient and more accurate drip irrigation system which incorporates a blue tooth regulator and blue tooth moisture sensors.  We plan to collect more accurate data on each raised bed, monitor our irrigation system more closely, and make more use of our 4,600 gallons of rain water capacity.  While Chaz is designing this system, we are working with another intern, Chris Kocay, to seek grant funding through Flagstaff Foodlink and WWOOF to help fund these projects.

We did save and reuse just over 7,700 gallons of water this year alone (29,456 gallons since 2012) 3,700 of which irrigated native plants and shrubs using our recently approved grey water system (thanks Coconino County).

Last, we keep track our our waste throughput, meaning all of the trash and recycling we produce.  In the end we made 0.9 lbs per person per day here at the EcoRanch (up by 0.1 lb from 2015).  The average American produces 4.4 lbs per person per day so we are still way ahead of the game but again, we hope to drop that to about 0.6 lbs in 2017.

We’re excited to see what 2017 brings us.  We have hopes for grant funding, new partnerships with schools, teachers, restaurants, nonprofits, and students.  We hope to continue to share what we do with all of you and that you can make it out to visit us.  Even though we are an educational nonprofit, with each person who visits, we feel that we learn more about the world and ourselves.  We love when people visit, share stories and knowledge while working outside in front of the San Francisco peaks, soaking up the sun, watching the birds, hearing the buzzing of the bees, and most importantly laughing and learning about the natural world around them.

Happy New Year, enjoy the snow, and see you soon.

 

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Support the EcoRanch

We just signed up on Amazon Smile at the following link:

https://smile.amazon.com/ch/46-0729780

If you choose to shop, and you shop online, do so with Amazon Smile.  Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to the Flagstaff EcoRanch.

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