Friday, December 30, 2011

Recommended Nutrient Levels in Soil

The average acre foot of soil weighs in at 4 million pounds. This is a lot of material in the top 12 inches of your soil! Remember it is a lot easier to purchase farm land the way you want it (in soil constituents) than to try to modify it later. If you have clay soil, then you need to learn to garden in clay soil. It is impractical to consider adding enough sand or loam to significantly change the soil in a large area. Note, take care even in small plots, as sand mixed with clay could form a product very similar to concrete. We can amend the soil to the proper nutrient levels, and that will be our focus on this article.

The chemical nutrients desired can be measured in parts per million. This is how your soil analysis will be measured from the lab. If your objective is 40 ppm and you have 4 million lbs of soil (in 12" of soil over an acre) then you would ideally have 160 lbs of that specific nutrient. (40 ppm x 4 m lbs = 160 lbs). If your lab test identifies you have 37 ppm in the soil, then you could calculate your field has 148 lbs of the nutrient present. (37 ppm x 4 m lbs = 148 lbs). The difference between the goal of 160 lbs and what you have as 148 lbs would be 12 lbs of that nutrient should be applied and mixed into the soil at a depth of 12 inches to reach the optimal nutrient density in the soil.

So, lets review some of the quantities suggested for soil nutrients. Table 1 represents the suggested totals from Bob Gregory, a farmer with extensive agriculture experience. Table 2 is the best I have found from various sources to note deficiency. This table is hard to nail down, as different plants need different levels of the nutrients, but it is an interesting point to compare with. The 3rd table has notes and toxicity levels of the nutrient. And again, toxicity is per crop and hard to nail down.

Table 1: Desired nutrient levels

N             40
P              40
K             220
Mg           180
Ca            2000
S              20
Zn            10
Mn           40
Fe            20
Cu            2
B              2
pH           6.5-7.0
Organic    3-5%

Table 2: Deficient nutrient levels

P              10
K             30
Mg           30
Ca            400
S              10
Zn            2
Mn           10
Cu            0.5

Table 3: Notes

Ca            Ca : Mg = 6:1 to 7:1
S              N : S = 10:1 to 15:1
Cu            Toxic above 40 ppm
B              Toxic above 4 ppm

Remember that additions are not 100% of the active element. You have to calculate the weight of the calcium in a bag of calcium carbonate, and use that percentage of the bag weight to calculate how many pounds of material you should evenly apply.

Table 4: Common nutrient amendments and the constituent nutrient %

Ammonium nitrate                         34% N
Ammonium Sulfate 21-0-0-24S    21% N          + 24% S
Urea 46-0-0                                 46% N
Soft rock phosphate                      15 - 25% P    +    30% Ca
Single super phosphate                  18 - 20% P + 12% S
Tripple super phosphate 0-45-0    45% P
Potassium Sulfate 0-0-52              52% K           +    18% S
Magnesium Sulfate (epson salt)     24% Mg         +     4% S
Calcium Carbonate                       38% Ca
Hydrated Lime                              54% Ca
Dolomite                                       22% Ca          +    11 Mg
Calcium Sulfate (gypsom)              79% Ca          +    12% S    - does not alter pH
Elemental Sulfur                             90 - 100% S                       - lowers pH via biological reaction
Zinc Sulfate                                   36% Zn           +    16% S
Manganese Sulfate                         24% Mn         +    15% S
Iron Sulfate                                    36% Fe           +    11% S
Copper Sulfate                               25% Cu          +    11% S
20 Mule Team Borax                      11 - 14% B

Finally remember that the rates of application that we calculated where based on an acre field. If you have more or less, then you will need to adjust the total needed by this ratio. 1 acre of land is 43,560 square feet. This is about 208 ' x 208 '. Take your garden size in square feet and divide this by 43,560 to get your % of an acre.

When applying amendments, make sure you mix the minerals in well. A turn over plow is suggested. Apply 1/2 of the amendment to the soil, and plow to 6 inches and then add the remaining 1/2 of the nutrient, and then turn over the entire 12 inches with second pass. If you use a disc or chisel plow, the effective mixing will be 1/2 of the plow depth.


Taking a Soil Sample for Analysis

A soil test will provide a quantitative analysis of your soils chemical components. This test can inform you as to amendments you should make to place your soil in the optimum condition for growing food. Crops removed from your garden required nutrient inputs to grow, and unless you are composting wastes back into the field, there is a net loss of nutrients. The sustainable farmer wants to replenish nutrients to hold the soil at the optimum levels. Before we can amend, we need to know where we are starting. You would not just pour gas in your car, not knowing if there was room in the tank or a need for it. Our goal is to provide balanced, healthy soil for crops. Chemical balance is where pH, and mineral quantities are optimum. Some nutrients is too high a concentration could adversely affect production, so there is a precise level of each nutrient to be achieved.

In this article, I am dealing with chemical balance, but I want to always acknowledge that this is one of three areas defining healthy soil. There is also physical characteristics, and biological components that are also crucial. Organic matter, both fresh and decomposed, are needed for all three of these factors to yield a healthy soil.

How much of a mineral is needed? Well, it is not as straight forward as you would think to answer this question. Various plant types may require unique nutrient characteristics. For example, blueberries like a more acidic soil than most other plants, and their plot should be amended with this in mind.

Plants utilize nutrients via their roots, and various plants will reach different depths of soil. There is a fascinating set of root diagrams for various garden plants in the book: Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon. Even through some plants may stretch roots deeper, we usually amend soil to the depth that we can till, since we need to be able to mix the amendments to a uniform spread. I suggest a depth of 12 inches. This gives a good bank of minerals for current and future crops.

Rather than a non-calibrated home test, I suggest sending your samples to a high volume lab, where their technique would be proven, and their tests are routinely calibrated, and therefore highly consistent. If you are interested in a recommendation, I use A&L Labs, and this company has regional centers around the country. Some A&L Labs offer the "S3" test as a complete workup, others you have to specify "S1 and S3". In 2011, a "S1 + S3" costs under $20 per sample. Either way make sure that you get the complete test, as clarified below.

Aspects of the quantitative analysis you want:
S1: Organic matter, available phosphorus, exchangeable potassium, magnesium, calcium, soil pH, buffer pH, Cation Exchange Capacity, Percent Base Saturation of cation elements.
S3: Sulfur, Zink, Manganese, Iron, Copper, Boron

Note that other labs may call these same tests under different test identifiers, but these are the mineral tests that you want.

To take a soil sample, you need to extract a representative average of soil to the depth you want to amend. You can do this by digging a hole, and getting a clean sample with a stainless steel spoon. Take care that your sample does not become contaminated by the shovel used to dig the hole. I suggest removing a column of soil in the hole with the spoon, and then take a second clean sample in the same area. Draw the spoon from bottom to top, and collect a uniform sample through the depth you want to analyse. Place the soil directly into a soil collection bag. (The soil collection bags can be ordered from A&L free of charge. You can also request the transmittal forms at the same time.) You should have several samples from around your field to get a good average. You could test a field of under 2 acres by just taking several representative samples from around the field, and mix them into one submission bag. Large fields of 2+ acres could be sampled by grid or zone. If you are going to amend your fields separately, then you need to take separate tests to be able to specify the needs of each more specifically. If there is some natural feature of the land that makes you think it has a different soil type or characteristic, you may want to sample that area separately, taking a sample for the various zones of your field.

Some farmers take the top 6 inches and the bottom 6 inches from several samples in the field and they submit the lower samples in one bag, and the upper samples into a different bag. There are soil probes which make the process of collecting a pure sample easier. You just press the probe into the soil, and pull it out. The core sample can be scooped out of the open cylinder, and deposited into a sample bag. If like me you want to sample 12 inches deep, I suggest a soil probe with a foot pedal to assist in penetrating the soil.

With the test results in hand, you will be able to come up with a plan on how to exactly amend your field. The lab may offer recommendations of treatment, but the formulas I will present to you may or may not agree with the Labs amendment suggestions. You can get the results for comparison, but I would not consider the suggestions as authoritative. In an upcoming article, I will present the desired quantities for your soils.

It is suggested that you add lime to your soils in the fall or early winter (as long as the ground could still be worked). You do not really want to place your amendments at the time of planting. Lime takes several weeks to months to react with your soils to impact pH. 

Now, let's get some soil samples!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seed Saving

If land is our bank account, then seeds are our currency. What a return on investment the farmer can enjoy! God established agriculture, as first mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so." Gen 1:11

Plants are prolific seed producers. The task of the gardener is to preserve and improve the seed line. Some plants are self pollinating, making them easy for seed saving. Varieties that require cross pollination need to have enough flowering plants in the gene pool to maintain a strong and vibrant seed line. If you have the room, err on the site of too many plants than too few.

To improve the seed line you will want to save seed from plants which exhibit the best characteristics. This is the way gardeners have improved plants since the time of Adam. Each selection is a small nudge toward the characteristics you appreciate.

Crossing plants of very different qualities can yield exceptionally unique "hybrid" seeds. These plants can have unusually favorable combinations. If you were to save the seed for another generation, the combinations would likely not be exhibited in the same way, and in some cases the poor characteristics of the parent plants may become dominant. For these reasons, I suggest you plant heirloom or non-hybrid seeds, and improve your own seed through selection of the traits you desire. Saving seed is very enjoyable, and allows you to easily share a vegetable or herb that you have enjoyed.

Seed longevity is dependent on consistency of moisture and temperature. Low moisture and low temperature each improve seed longevity. Temperature and humidity swings mimic spring time, and the seed has to "wake up" more often, and uses more energy in the process. Dehydrate seeds at 100 degrees F. for 12 hours before storage in a chest freezer. Drying the seeds is critical, as water under the seed coat will burst the seed upon freezing. I often low pressure seal seeds in glass jars with silica gel packets. These steps are not required, but anything you can do to stabilize low humidity and low temps will extend the viability of your seeds. Storage above freezing temps is fine, but the lower the temp the longer the seed will last. I have seen recommendations that seeds should not be stored below 0 degrees F. This is really not a concern for most of us, as all general food storage freezers I know of have a range around 10 degrees to 25 degrees F.

Each vegetable will be unique in how exactly you will collect its seeds. Many plants have their seeds dry in capsules, and these simply need to be opened and the seeds cleaned and stored. Examples are the brasicas, beans, and many of the herbs. Fleshy vegetables like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, etc, need to have the seeds removed and cleaned, then dried. Some seeds do best with a fermentation process, which is what naturally happens when the vegetable sits over winter on the ground. In tomatoes, removing the seeds with the pulp into a glass jar, add some water, and allow the mixture to ferment for several days, then float off the scum, and separate the seeds from the pulp. At this point, you can gently dry the seeds and prepare them for storage.

Seed saving is where you really have to keep good records. The other day I cleaned out my refrigerator, and I found some seeds there from a few years past. I suspect they are still perfect for germination. A few of the seed bugs were labeled with variety and date. A few, I have only the seeds in a clear plastic bag. Perhaps that is the way they were given to me, but at this point, I can not tell you even who gave them to me, what they were like, or why I would want to replant them. I could tell what general type of plant it would produce, but knowing nothing of the parents, makes it a bit of a guess of what to call the seeds I would save from the plants from here on out. I like the idea of making my own new variety, but I would like to create a new variety name because of my work in selecting characteristics, and have records to show the new variety holds true for 16 trails over 4 seasons. Forming a new variety simply because I did not write down the name on the seed package does not count. The point I am working at here, is that you have to write down notes, and keep notes with the seeds themselves inside the storage container. Record the variety, date, and noted characteristics. Perhaps you could note the characteristics you were selecting for when you selected these seeds to be saved.

Most seeds are viable for 3-7 years, depending on the variety. I expect to perhaps double these ranges with how I store my seeds, but I will see how long my seeds remain viable with research and germination tests each year.

Some seeds are pollinated by the wind, and others by insects. For these to continue breeding true, you need to know what other gardeners around you are planting. If there are other gardens within range, then you would need to take barrier protection during pollination time.

Seed saving is easy, and a lot of fun. I hope you do give it a try. There is no need to purchase your seeds over and over again. You can just save some with minimal effort, and have your own renewing supply.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Improving Your Soil

Soils become depleted with pounds of produce being grown from your ground. It is logical that removal of produce needs to be balanced with replenishment of nutrients that have been required by the plant and produce. As we initiate sustainable farming, we want to replenish the soil to an ideal mineral content. Minerals are finite, physical substances. When these minerals are depleted, the soil will not produce as well. The idea of can be expressed as the law of the minimums. If one critical mineral is deficient, it will limit the entire production of all mineral inputs to that minimum level available. God has given plants the marvelous ability to extract what they need from the soil. But low nutrient levels make the plants work harder, and yield along with disease resistance declines.

Now is the time to build and replenish our soils through amendments, mulches and cover crops.

1) Amendments are nutrients added to the soil and blended to depth for a uniform mixture. Minerals are from rock sources, raw or refined. Traditional farming amendments have been calculated to a depth of 8 or 9 inches, perhaps based on the depth of their plow. I suggest amendments down to 12 inches depth. There is no need to amend for more soil than you will be able to adequately till, so keep this in mind when calculating your amendment values.

Some nutrients are more soluble than others, and some will drift down, especially in sandy soils. In this situation, nutrients could be drawn out of the reach of vegetable root zone. Some nutrients do not have much mobility in the soil. I will go into great detail on mineral testing of your soil and amending it in future posts.

2) Mulches are materials not blended into the soil, but set atop soil. The advantages include moisture retention, sunlight shielding which in turn keeps weed pressure down, softer rain incorporation into the soil, less soil compaction, encouraging earthworm activity, prevents soil saturation, percolation of mulch nutrients into the soil below. Some mulches like wood chips should not be mixed into the soil, as it would decrease the available nitrogen in the soil, it being tied up in the bacterial breakdown process. Let the mulch decompose on top, and share their goodness to the soil through gentle seepage. Heavy mulching lends itself to a no-till methodology.

Planting of seeds is best done in the soil, so if you have mulched your field, pull away the mulch in the furrow for planting. When the crop comes up, dress the plants again with the mulch to cover the ground.

Mulching may encourage mice and other vermin, so take care that this does not cause problems in your farm.

3) Cover crops are a way to increase nutrients to your garden area, and can be done on your garden plots as an over winter crop or as a rest period where you leave a plot fallow. Alfalfa is a perennial crop that can stay strong for 6 or 7 years. Regular cuttings of alfalfa can provide mulch and amendment material for your fields. Alfalfa has deep roots, and pulls nutrients from deep below. Alfalfa can be cut before it goes to seed, and as such it makes wonderful mulch.

It may be well to compost cover crops to retain nitrogen from being lost in the atmosphere. A covering of soil with its bacteria could capture the released nitrogen, binding it for later use.

Coverings are God's natural plan of nature. Only where man has disturbed the soil will you find bare soil. The Bible records that after sin, man began to till the soil. (Gen 4:2). God is very specific about covering the human form, and looking at nature we see plants actively covering the earth, wherever possible.

Improving soils involves more than just chemical nutrient balancing, but also physical and biological characteristics.

No matter what soils we have to work with, we have promises from the Lord for His blessing to grow food. Following are quotes of encouragement.
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chron. 7:14 
"Human beings were to cooperate with God in restoring the diseased land to health, that it might be a praise and a glory to His name. And as the land they possessed would, if managed with skill and earnestness, produce its treasures, so their hearts, if controlled by God, would reflect His character." BLT 253.3
"You are not working alone. When you are tempted to become discouraged remember this. Angels of God are right around you. They will minister to the very earth, causing it to give forth its treasures." SpM 447.2
With this encouragement - let us join our angels in working our land for His glory. If you do not have land available to feed your family fruits and vegetables, now is the time to procure, even at a sacrifice, such land. God's plan for us is to work the soil, and perfect our characters in the process.

Kneel in your garden, and ask God for wisdom on what to do next. Ask for His leading on what amendments, mulches and cover crops to use. Ask how to best lay out the garden plot. Ask for His blessing that you can learn how to produce more food that ever thought possible, that you might offer the "5 loaves and 2 fishes" to be miraculously multiplied for the blessing of others around us.

I have prayed these prayers on my land, and while there, I have prayed for you. May God strengthen you to sacrifice to follow his leading. May your focus be on how God will use your land to be a blessing to others.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Land is the foundation of farming. Is is the capacity to feed yourself via crops. Land grows the wood lot which offers wood to heat your home, water and food. Land provides an environment of growth and development for your family. Farmers, gardeners, yes all of us love our land. As I have grown older, and perhaps wiser, and I have moved around the country several times, I realize that the land we own is truly just ours for a short time. We are stewards of the land we own. If time will last, our land will surely outlast us.

My interest in land has grown as I have wanted to enlarge our family garden enterprise. Without tillable land, we can have interest but may be limited in our production potential.

How much land can you work effectively can be calculated by the number of people working the soil, the type of crops, your environment and soil type, how intensively you will grow crops, and what machinery will assist you in the farming process. One farmer friend in West Virginia estimates that one person can handle from one to two acres of vegetable garden without mechanical equipment. Techniques can be employed to improve efficiency, and over a period of years, weed pressure is decreased.

For those looking for land, the key criteria are: 1) room for crops in tillable land and room for nutrient fields of cover crops and crop rotation, 2) wood lot with enough trees to sustain your wood heating needs, 3) available water.

As I have looked for land, I have added these criteria (from a list made in 2010):
  • 20+ acres
  • Water available
  • Land suitable for food production
  • Wood lot suitable for heating and cooking
  • Remote, with lower immediate population pressure, but have outreach potentials
  • South facing land for crops, north facing for fruit trees
  • Opportunities for nature / hiking / camping in the greater community
  • Some elevation change would be preferred for a basement walkout, root seller, and water gravity flow
  • All acquisitions be dept free
  • Scenic vistas would be enjoyed

I do not know what to suggest for the quantity of these three root criteria. A large part of the equation is how many people you will be having work in your enterprise. For an independent family farm, by current guess at a minimum would be 20 acres. A promise from inspiration: "God can bless twenty acres of land and make them as productive as one hundred..." 5T 151.3 The context of this quote is that we need to guard against amassing or hording land in greed. Other references balance this with the encouragement for schools and sanitariums to obtain as much land as possible as a buffer around the institution. Some of these recommendations specify into the hundreds of acres.

One thing is clear, we do not want to make our land our idol. We should ever be ready to heed God's call or public coercion to abandon it. If we amass a fortune of time and wealth in land, surely it would be hard to leave it. In these last days of earths history, we should heed the Biblical counsel to "remember Lot's wife."

I know of a CSA farm in middle Tennessee which comprises over a hundred acres, supports four families plus interns, and of this total they have under 10 acres in tillable production. Another CSA farm that focuses more on large machinery has 1200 CSA customers, and utilizes around 150 acres of production. So the volume parameters are very diverse, depending on the situation and plan.

In upcoming posts, we will deal extensively with amending your soil to achive a perfect balance of nutrients and physical and biologic qualities for growing excellent crops. It should be noted that land weighs in at 4 million pounds at the top 12 inches of soil, which is your effective gardening depth. With this kind of volume, it is impractical to think of changing a soil type. You may be able to nudge the organic matter in your soil, but you will not be able to change a clay soil to a sandy soil of vise versa. It is simpler to purchase land suitable for crops than to work in vain to try to change it.

Some encouragement from inspiration related to your land:
"In God's plan for Israel, every family had a home on the land, with sufficient ground for tilling. Thus were provided both the means and the incentive for a useful, industrious, and self-supporting life. And no devising of man has ever improved upon that plan." MH 183.3
"Many do not see the importance of having land to cultivate, and of raising fruit and vegetables, that their families may be supplied with these things. I am instructed to say to every family and every church, God will bless you when you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, fearing lest, by unwise treatment of the body, you will mar the Lord's plan for you." MM 296.6
"To parents who are living in the cities, the Lord is sending the warning cry, Gather your children into your own house; gather them away from those who are disregarding the commandments of God, who are teaching and practicing evil. Get out of the cities as fast as possible. Parents can secure small homes in the country, with land for cultivation, where the children will not be surrounded with the corrupting influences of city life. God will help his people to find such homes outside the cities." RH July 5, 1906 Par. 30
 May we claim this last promise for ourselves. If you are longing for land for cultivation, and to live in a rural environment, this promise is for you to claim. God will answer!

Monday, December 26, 2011


When you are planning your farm, you need to think about diversity. Mono crop farming is not being self reliant. You are growing one crop, in the desire to sell that crop and then purchase what you need. While I don't suggest the goal is financial isolation, the model of years past was not mono crop farming. It is not sustainable or self-supportive if one crop fails, or you fail to find a buyer for your one crop. The idea of independence is harmonious with diversity. Farmers of the past may have had a cash crop, but they also had a personal garden to support the variety of food needs for their families.

Diversity is good for being able to supply all of your home needs. It allows you to offer this same diverse spread of food for your customers. It protects against a complete loss with one crop failure. Diversity allows more complete crop rotation, in mini-rotation cycles, and ultimately aids in soil-development.

Currently, we are participating in four areas of farm diversity as self support and cash crop income. Our current list is: 1) full spectrum vegetable crops, 2) perennial fruit crops, 3) plant propagation and 4) animals. Items we could add in the future: medicinal herbs, essential oils, candles, wood fuel, fiber arts, crafts, flowers (fresh or dried), CSA/ASC, farmers markets, road side vegetable stand, and I am sure the list could continue to even more diversity.

Vegetable crops: are naturally diverse, and we want to offer a balanced diet with our produce. Garden development has a lot of pre-work, in amending and healing your soil to be balanced, complete and mineral rich, good organic matter content, etc. Some vegetables will grow best in your area, and we suggest planning your balance from what your climate and area supports best. For homestead use, you will want to plan on your food preservation and storage capacity. For public sales, you will want to find the best interface in your area. Some venues to consider: road-side stand, CSA/ASC, restaurant contracts, grocery wholesale, and/or farmers market. You can consider the time of picking, and quickly chilling food in the field to preserve freshness.

Some farmers we talk with enjoy the CSA/ASC repeated contacts with their customers, while others find the weekly schedule rigorous to fulfill a weekly demand. While I am suggesting diversity, you need to start only what you can handle, and this likely means you need to ramp up what ever production level you want to commit to in a sane and family friendly way.

Perennial fruit crops: these range from easy to hard depending on the types of fruit to be grown, and the climate and pest pressures around your farm. In Michigan, it was common to hear of some fruit crop failure each year.

The list would include: apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, pomegranates, nut trees, grapes, raspberries, black berries, blue berries, strawberries, etc. The advantage of the perennial fruits is that they are generally more established, and require less frequent intensive care as compared to vegetable annuals. In some areas, fruit pests are a problem, and bringing organic fruit to market is a challenge. We need to educate consumers that surface imperfections are not the problem, rather insecticide drenched fruit is the problem.

Customer contact could be similar to the vegetable markets. I have seen one organic tree farm offer a "rent a tree CSA" in which you could purchase the produce to be harvested (and even harvest it yourself) from one specific tree. This makes a direct connection between the tree and the customer, which is very satisfying.

Plant propagation: is working with trees, bushes, ornamentals, etc, where you are multiplying a plant. The focus could be on developing stock for your own orchard, or to sell as a cash crop. It can still be diversified but time is the key. Taking cuttings, allowing them to root, grafting if needed, growing to sell-able age, will in total be several years.

Find markets for plants, and focus on what these markets need. Plan to offer your product at a good price when entering a new market, but establish being local to your advantage. Avoid the rush to the bottom when it comes to price. You could sell retail to the public, and consider mail order options as well. I would think that wholesale to a store would provide more volume, especially if you are in a very remote or rural location.

Animals: are a long standing tradition for historic farms. Farm animals were used to assist with farm work, like oxen and horses to production animals such as chickens and bees. There may be interest in milk or hair products (fiber arts) from various animals. Some animals would require significant infrastructure and tools, such as dairy barns, and milk processing facilities, or bee hives and tools. Expand as your knowledge can afford and as the Lord opens the way.

So, how can you diversity? Consider the options available to you, and the income sources that may avail you a living and support your budget. I encourage diversity as long as you can effectively give adequate attention to the existing operation. The word for today: diversity.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Our family is not your stereotypical farming family. We have to look back to our great grandparents for ancestry that subsisted by farming. My wife (Sunshine), is a nurse by training; and I (Harvest) a teacher, physical therapist, and businessman. We have always enjoyed a small supplemental garden, but we are now launching into farming as a new chapter in our life experience. We embrace this activity with our two sons, who will be key to our success. At 10 and 12, they are able to carry a man's load of the enterprise.

We have many reasons and goals that make agriculture a good fit. As society comes apart at the seams, we want to represent a cohesive family. As food represents 10 times more petroleum calories via production and transportation than from the food itself, we want to work with our hands, and offer locally grown food to our neighbors. As food security and safety is more and more a problem, we want to grow wholesome, pesticide free, mineral rich food. While others turn to genetic modifications and chemical farming, we seek plants that reproduce "after their own kind" Gen. 1:11. As interpersonal relationships decline to shallow posts and isolation, we want to form a community of meaningful community relationships. While the world looks for leisure and ease, we want to embrace the idea that growing your own food requires physical work. While the world denies a higher power, we welcome the goodness of God and seek to partner with Him in all we do, and we see His footsteps next to ours along our garden paths.

There is a joy of working with the soil, and we embrace this joy into our lives. We have enough to share with you as well. We desire to outline our experience, and encourage you to consider joining us in a similar life endeavor. We see small market gardens and farms, like rays of light, dotting the landscape and feeding our communities across this land. We invite you to consider standing on our shoulders, and advance the cause we have now begun. Feel free to improve on what we have started. Make your farm your own. Side-step the mud puddles we may get stuck in. Move directly to profitability in family character building, outreach potential, and even financially. At the same time, know that the goal will not be to avoid trial and perplexity. You will have plenty of these, just as we do.

Part of this blog will be sharing what we have learned from others; part will be pure from our own experience. Some posts will be a blend of the best information that we have gleaned, and our hands-on experience. Some posts will be instructional, while other posts will be historical: news as it happens in our farm.

The sun has risen. Let's get to the chores. God bless your day!