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Grounded by the Farm

Grounded by the Farm brings food lovers conversations with farmers every other Wednesday. We learn about how the foods are grown, tips on storing & preparing and how their family prepares it, and more.

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How Americans Love of Spicy Food Gave This Farm Room to Grow

Links:  Video of Bailey Farms peppers https://groundedbythefarm.com/pepper-farm/ Scoville scale:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoville_scale Bailey Farms website:  baileyfarmsinc.com Bailey Farms Instagram https://www.instagram.com/baileyfarms/ Bailey Farms on Facebook Peppers are a food that spark a lot of passion and nowhere is that more clear than with Bailey Farms. Randy Bailey started the farm in Oxford, NC as a young adult knowing how much he enjoyed the spicy foods a friend’s mom cooked. That was in the 1980s and American food culture has certainly embraced the various Latin foods and the specialty peppers category has grown with grocery stores and farms like the Baileys’. I first met Randy, Debbie and their young son Ryan on the family’s Bonita Springs, Florida farm that enables them to get multiple growing seasons in a year. My memory is strong because I smelled the poblanos and almost immediately craved a chili relleno! In fact, the memory of that alone made me go to a nearby taqueria the day I was editing this episode of the podcast! Read the in-depth show notes, photos and more at https://groundedbythefarm.com/tag/peppers/ 


5 Feb 2020

Rank #1

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Building a Community Garden in Chicago and Online

Natasha Nicholes has been building a community garden & the community that inspires more people to grow food in their backyard for years. She started locally, growing a efw plants at a condo and grew to a backyard before getting permission to plant lots on Chicago's South Side & online. Her community lives the moniker "We Sow We Grow" meeting gardeners where they are and seeing all celebrate each other's accomplishments and helping them manage challenges.  Links Read more and see photos at https://groundedbythefarm.com/building-a-community-garden/ The We Sow We Grow Gardening Chat community on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/wesowwegrowchat/ You can support We Sow We Grow through PayPal donations https://bit.ly/3f28bYb as well as buying various products like the “Dirty by Nature” t-shirts on TeeSpring https://teespring.com/stores/we-sow-we-grow Natasha Nicholes’ blog Houseful of Nicholes https://housefulofnicholes.com/  she has a category that shares a lot of gardening information including some projects to do with your kids https://housefulofnicholes.com/category/food-farm/wesowwegrow she walks through basics like how to read a seed packet Time codes of interest: Finding a Family Passion for Gardening  1:36  Growing in Containers & Square Foot Gardening  5:35  Pride on Chicago’s South Side  7:21  Becoming a master urban farmer / master gardener 11:50  Tough years & good years  17:18  Creating community & a non-profit  19:50  Lots of people turning to gardening  22:21  Difference in scale farm - garden 24:55  Growing all the things 27:13  Planning to Plant 29:45  Where to Start 30:52  Supporting the community 32:48 


29 Apr 2020

Rank #2

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Getting the Perfect Avocado For Our Kitchens & The Farm

The search for the perfect avocado is a search many of us have been on. But avocado farmers like Mimi Holtz, who is known simply as Mimi Avocado online, know what to look for and what impacts the tasty goodness we all crave. Listen as she shares favorite recipes, some of the everyday ways the Holtz family enjoys avocados, insight on how the crop is grown and tips for delighting kids.  Links mentioned in this episode: a video tour of the farm https://groundedbythefarm.com/avocado-farm-tour/ detailed post from podcast https://groundedbythefarm.com/the-perfect-avocado/ Mimi Avocado's blog (includes great recipe, farm stories, etc http://mimiavocado.com) Website where the Holtz family sells avocados & other fruits & vegetables direct https://www.californiaavocadosdirect.com/ Key topics & timecodes in the episode include: Selling produce by the box including expanded vegetables due to COVID19 1:23 Varieties of avocados they grow (Haas, Fuerte, Bacon, Reed, Nabal, Gwen, etc) 4:30 Favorite ways to eat avocados 9:20  How to store avocados at home 12:35 Understanding avocado growth 16:40 How long do trees produce 20:00 Food safety 22:00 Pruning and picking 24:20 Avocado box subscriptions 26:50 Blogging as Mimi Avocado 28:00 Ways to draw kid's interest 30:00


15 Apr 2020

Rank #3

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Having Enough Food for a Farm Family Takes Time & Effort

A detailed transcript and photos are available at  http://groundedbythefarm.com/enough-food/.  Links for this episode are at the bottom of the list of timecodes, etc.  Val Wagner and her husband Mark farm and raise a family of four boys in Monango, North Dakota. We talk with her about how they plan for and store food for a family that size as well as a bit about the crops and livestock they raise. The latest episode of Grounded by the Farm speaks to something many of us are facing this week whether we are at home in big cities or rural areas — we are focused on having enough food at home. Buying, storing, and cooking more meals. The last time I was at home cooking this much was when I lived in the Mississippi Delta, an area I frequently called the middle of nowhere. I personally am looking at food differently. Although I have many grocery stores and restaurants within a mile or two, I am planning for my meals, thinking about what I need to have in the house for a week or two instead of going out to the grocery store every few days or stopping by restaurants so much more often. My friend Val Wagner who lives in North Dakota came to mind as she lives well away from a grocery and has a big family. I knew she’d have a lot of tips to share. Meet Val Wagner & Her Family 1:05 Not Everyone Visits North Dakota 1:40 Growing Sweet Corn 5:31 How do you store sweet corn & other food long-term?  7:46  Having Freezers Ready  11:14  Getting Meat Processing Done 13:15 Focus on Herd Health 17:35 2019 Was a Bad Weather Year  21:44  Thinking about Empty Grocery Shelves  23:33 Planning Further Out, Eating at Home More 27:03 Caring for Special Dietary Needs 33:18 May Need To Consider New Normal  36:47  Supporting Local Businesses  39:21  What if you want to buy local meat? 42:55 Find Val Wagner Online 45:54  Wag'n Tales (wagfarms.com) her blog @wagfarms on Twitter Val Wagner or Wag’n Tales on Facebook posts about their sweet corn https://wagfarms.com/2012/05/18/some-sweet-sweet-corn/ and https://wagfarms.com/2012/08/17/the-ultimate-gift/ More info about the metabolic issue Eli has https://wagfarms.com/tag/ornithine-transcarbamylase-deficiency/ Other Links of Interest The website Grounded by the Farm http://groundedbythefarm.com/ and the contact form for ideas on local food or to offer suggestions for the show https://groundedbythefarm.com/contact/ Post about working cows at the Wagners' farm https://jploveslife.com/agriculture/animal-ag/city-slicker-working-cows-dakota-vacation-highlight/ How to freeze sweet corn https://www.beyerbeware.net/2013/07/how-to-freeze-sweet-corn.html Discussion on cattle care with a veterinarian https://groundedbythefarm.com/caring-for-beef-cattle/ Farm near Memphis that sells beef direct to consumers https://www.facebook.com/SpringValleyFamilyFarms/ Moving cattle close to home and barn https://groundedbythefarm.com/beef-cattle-farmer-veterinarian/ Favorite popcorn to have around https://groundedbythefarm.com/growing-popcorn/ A good pantry recipe red beans and rice https://jploveslife.com/food/red-beans-and-rice-recipe-instant-pot/ post about a friend's farm that sells avocados directly https://jploveslife.com/food/avocado-farm/ 


1 Apr 2020

Rank #4

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Caring for Beef Cattle, The Planet & Our Communities

Links mentioned during this episode: Previous episode talking steaks, burgers, types of cattle and animal use/waste https://groundedbythefarm.com/picking-out-steaks-under-appreciated-cuts-of-beef-part-1-feutz/ Video of Marybeth with the cows talking about feed https://groundedbythefarm.com/beef-cattle-farmer-veterinarian/ Marybeth’s website is myfearlesskitchen.com easy recipes you can make at home & great resources on meat especially Experts on sustainability and the impact of animal agriculture include Dr. Jude Capper https://twitter.com/Bovidiva and https://bovidiva.com/ Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam https://twitter.com/BioBeef and https://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/alison-van-eenennaam Contact Lyles Station lylesstation.com and read more here https://www.indianalandmarks.org/2016/06/telling-the-story-of-lyles-station That time I worked cows https://jploveslife.com/agriculture/animal-ag/city-slicker-working-cows-dakota-vacation-highlight/ Recipes from the Farm on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/recipesfromthefarm/ Additional Show Notes: First time to do an interview via phone, so now I have a whole new set of lessons to learn about audio. Sorry occasionally the echo is rough here. Stress in cattle can sometimes impact the meat. There are four things farmers do to minimize stress: Provide enough of the right type of food — pasturing makes this pretty easy some times of year but you also have to consider the winter, etc and how much you need to supplement with hay, etc. Insure a supply of clean water — Keeping it going year round can be a challenge with freezing, etc. but it is critical Give them shelter — Windbreaks, maybe a three sided shed, all have the ability to help cattle with the cold and wind. In the summer, access to shade on hot days is critical. Amazing their herd instinct keeps most of them together even when it is so hot. Pay attention to predators — The Feutz family has their cattle in small pastures closer to the house which helps as do dogs. We discuss the health and care for beef cattle, how the decision differs from pets. How something simple for humans like a broken leg can create intense issues for a cow and how the herd mentality and need to keep moving really makes recuperation near impossible. As well as how flies which can seem pesky to us can present real health challenges if left uncontrolled in cattle. Talk a bit about veal production and how that works, how Marybeth’s opinion has changed as she’s talk to veal producers and come to understand how they treat animals. The meat is different for a couple of reasons 1) veal calves are raised on milk so the meat stays a light pink color and 2) the calves have smaller areas to walk around in and consequently don’t get as intense muscular build so even short ribs are more tender. Explains filet mignon placement and why it is tender vs short ribs. Talk about cow farts, cow burps and the environment going into why cow farts aren’t a concern at all, but burps are methane releases from the fermentation process that naturally happens in the rumen. The information online Marybeth sees frequently is incredibly misleading because animal agriculture has such a small impact on climate and carbon, especially when compared to the various pieces of the energy and transportation. Experts on sustainability and the impact of animal agriculture include Dr. Jude Capper https://twitter.com/Bovidiva and https://bovidiva.com/ Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam https://twitter.com/BioBeef and https://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/alison-van-eenennaam On manure management. They have started a program for containment & use of manure on their farm, the family’s garden and are donating some to an educational farm nearby called Lyles Station lylesstation.com. Lyles Station was one of the first African American farming communities in the state and still runs a lot of programs to help children understand history, our food and more. You can read more here https://www.indianalandmarks.org/2016/06/telling-the-story-of-lyles-station We talk a bit about getting attached to cows and knowing when it is their time which is different in a cow-calf herd like the Feutz’s versus steers raised for beef. In a cow-calf operation farmers have cows for 15 maybe even 20 years sometimes whereas raising steers is usual a year or a year and a half. They are especially attached to Michelle who was born on inauguration day in 2009 along with a bull calf they named Barack. Michelle is a great mom and looks after other cows calves almost like day care. Marybeth knows it will be hard to lose Michelle, but also understands they are here for a purpose and need to serve the purposes they can. Cows can drink 50 gallons of water a day and will eat you out of house and home faster than a teenager!  We talk cowboy boots, knee high rubber boots and Danskos too. Working cows with Val https://jploveslife.com/agriculture/animal-ag/city-slicker-working-cows-dakota-vacation-highlight/ Red beans and rice recipe mentioned https://jploveslife.com/food/red-beans-and-rice-recipe-instant-pot/ Marybeth’s website is myfearlesskitchen.com a lot of ideas on easy stuff you can make at home Short rib recipes slow cooked https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/slow-cooked-short-ribs/, sweet onion teriyaki https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/sweet-onion-teriyaki-beef-ribs/, slow cooker Italian https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/slow-cooker-italian-short-ribs/ and garlic herb short ribs https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/garlic-herb-slow-cooked-pork-ribs/ Ground beef buyer’s guide https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/ground-beef-buyers-guide/ and 79 recipes you can make with ground beef https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/79-amazing-ground-beef-recipes/ Recipes from the farm Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/recipesfromthefarm/


18 Mar 2020

Rank #5

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Picking Out Steaks & Under-Appreciated Cuts of Beef (Part 1 Feutz)

Links: Video of Marybeth talking about the cows, their feed, etc. https://groundedbythefarm.com/beef-cattle-farmer-veterinarian/ Marybeth’s blog myfearlesskitchen.com This episode of Grounded by the Farm takes a bit of a different path as Marybeth Feutz discusses beef and her Indiana cow-calf operation with us. One of those differences was planned — rather than ask questions I had, I asked several millennial nieces and nephews to give me their questions and they loved making me ask questions that would make me feel awkward while also getting info they were interested in. The other difference was far more awkward in that we somehow encountered a tech issue halfway through the interview that wasn’t caught til we were in editing. Its a hard lesson learned  but we’ll be fine with a two-part episode. Getting to Know Marybeth Feutz, Farmer & Vet Marybeth grew up in the suburbs of New York City — West Milford, NJ to be exact. She met John while in vet school and he convinced her to marry him and call the midwest home. She is a large animal vet whereas John works as a “mixed animal vet” meaning he can work on pets like chihuahuas or livestock. Marybeth says she likes working with horses the most. They have a small herd of black Angus cows as we showed in the video earlier this week.   https://groundedbythefarm.com/beef-cattle-farmer-veterinarian/ Included in this episode: Cooking & Serving Steak Buying Steaks Tips on burgers Types of Cattle Beef vs Dairy Cows, Heifers, Bulls & Steers Fave Under-appreciated Cut of Beef How much of the animal is wasted? 


4 Mar 2020

Rank #6

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More Mushrooms for the Middle of the Country

Interview with Scott Engelbrecht, J-M Farms Mushrooms    Key Links:   Video from a tour inside J-M Farms https://groundedbythefarm.com/mushroom-farm/ JP’s first visit to J-M https://jploveslife.com/food/mushroom-farm/ and answering a lot of questions about mushrooms https://jploveslife.com/agriculture/growing-mushrooms/   Find J-M Farms online at https://www.jmfarms.com/, on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jmfarmsmushrooms and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JMFarmsmushrooms     As a child, I remember mushrooms usually being in cans or bottles. But today most US farmers grow for the fresh market. It was a shift that really started in the 1970s and was a way for the US farmer to be a preferred source in the global market. There is some cannery mushrooms. Those are usually mushrooms that don’t meet fresh standards usually. They are a byproduct, a way to use some now that may be wasted.    The company sells into both food service and retail (grocery stores, etc) throughout the region. About 25 percent of their business is retail. Located in northeastern Oklahoma, close to the Missouri & Arkansas lines, they go as far north as Cheyenne, Wyoming, as far west as Albuquerque, New Mexico and cover Texas, Arkansas, parts of Missouri. It’s a pretty good-sized market.    For the bulk customers, they ship in trays or boxes. And for retail, most prefer the small carton or till that is packed & shrink-wrapped by J-M before going out on a truck. They sell whole and sliced to both bulk and retail. I ended up catching some in a store while in Oklahoma visiting a college friend and had to take photos. I had brought a few bags of mushrooms from the farm so I didn’t need to buy anymore!    Types of Mushrooms They Grow   The typical white mushroom is generally called a button mushroom but it can be confusing call button is also the smaller size of mushroom. To be specific, the mushroom we see most frequently is the button white mushroom. J-M grows a lot of those but they also grow other mushrooms including brown ones that are called crimini or portabella depending on the size. The portabella is planted to enable it to grow to the five to six inches. Those are all agarigus mushrooms which means they grow in compost.    These mushrooms have gotten a lot of investment and that has helped make them easier to grow consistently that people will really enjoy. But there are other mushrooms that are getting more investment now too.    There are other kinds of mushrooms that like to grow on wood, especially hardwood so growing them is a little different. Shiitake are on the list of plans for J-M’s future. Scott says the company is investigating various exotic mushrooms and they watch adoption patterns on the coasts. And shiitake have definitely been gaining ground.   Morels are totally different. It is hard to grow commercially and Scott says lots have tried without finding the answer. Scott says he thinks the elusive nature of morels combined with the complexity of its growth will make it hard to do commercially. How much would people be willing to pay?    The Right Place for a Growing Family Business   A farm this size, got it’s start as Virgil Jurgensmeyer decided to leave his corporate job in St. Louis and branch out on his own in the 1970s. His three sons are running various parts of the business today as it continues to grow.    Miami, Oklahoma ended up being the right place. He looked for an area that had good transportation access, energy access, knowing that the middle of the country was underserved. The company started out growing 2 million pounds of mushrooms and has increased to 26-27 million pounds of mushrooms! With medium sized mushrooms, that would be 18-20 mushrooms per pound and everyone of those millions are hand-picked!   The business has been in Miami for 40 years and there are a lot of long-term employees. Growing the business has also meant a lot of hiring and looking longer term J-M knows that providing employees the type of environment that makes people choose J-M as the type of place they want to work, is an area of focus for Scott and the rest of the leadership team.    Food Safety Developments   The idea of fungus being a safe food... it is something to wrap your mind around. But Scott explains growing fungus in a clean environment is critical to good mushroom production.    Growing the mushrooms in a controlled, indoor environment is a major piece of that, but mushroom farmers have also been pasteurizing compost. That helps make sure the bed produces the desired mushrooms and only that. It also kills E. coli, listeria and more which can happen.    There are also other practices, like having just one person touch the mushroom one time. The vast majority of the mushrooms are picked and placed directly into the container which it will be shipped in.    Creating Compost    Since mushrooms are grown on compost, J-M has a recipe for compost that they make up in mass quantities. The put in ratios of carbon, nitrogen, and manage pH, water, etc. When you are composting, you are really just feeding microbes. They use wheat straw (mostly from within the 60-90 miles), chicken litter, cottonseed meal and gypsum which helps prevent sticking. Everything feeds the microbes, and the oxygen and water come in, the mushroom thrives on it.    Making compost is the part of the process which can be most impacted by weather with rain, heat, cold, drought all impacting the recipe J-M uses.    Spawns Not Spores   The planting of mushrooms isn’t spores, but a mycelium attached to a grain like rye or millet. That grain provides the energy source to get the mushroom started.    Mushrooms don’t need light — so they are kept in rooms that don’t have a lot of light. Mushrooms do need moisture, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. And a combination of microbes and nutrients, the combination of which remains more art than science. Lots of research has been done, but there is still a good bit to learn.    As the mushrooms grow, and oxygen needs to be brought in. And that can end up bringing in drier air, especially in winter. And making sure you get the humidity right means high energy use like other indoor agriculture.


19 Feb 2020

Rank #7

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Crafting a Beer that Has a Depth of Local Flavor & Connecting to Farmers

Resources mentioned in this episode: Interview with Brandon Whitt, Batey Farms (episode 106) Video from inside the brewery & on the farm https://groundedbythefarm.com/craft-beer-tennessee-brew/ crawfish episode https://groundedbythefarm.com/crawfish/ Video of TNBrew Works https://www.facebook.com/tnbrew/videos/369475823833814/ Finding Tennessee Brew Works online: Brewery website:  https://www.tnbrew.com/ Instagram TNBrewWorks. instagram.com/tnbrewworks Facebook TNBrew. www.facebook.com/tnbrew Tumblr TNBrew. https://tnbrew.tumblr.com/ Twitter TNBrewWorks https://twitter.com/TNBrewWorks Interview notes:   Christian Spears, founder of TN Brew Works As Christian Spears and the Tennessee Brew Works team began getting their new craft brewery together, they reached out to the Department of Agriculture to see what the ag department may know that could be helpful. That started a great relationship for the brewery, some chances to learn a lot about what they needed to do as well as ultimately led to his connection to local farmers like Brandon Whitt of Batey Farms. The camaraderie continues and has really brought some benefits personally and professionally. Brandon came in to meet Christian and others and while he loved talking to them about the foods they may incorporate into the kitchen, but they soon started talking about the grains used for the beers. It was a long conversation — taking years to find quality grains — mainly wheat and barley — that would grow well in the area. The brewery has a commitment to local and Christian says they do what they can to “celebrate the land, culture and heritage in our beers.”  They do it through the brands, ingredients and more. The winter seasonal is a sweet potato stout and the sweet potato farmer is even featured on the bottle! There are lots of opportunities, and the success is mutual for farm and brewer. Barley wasn’t common in the area so it took some work. Hops can be grown locally but to get some of the bigger areas you may need to go elsewhere. Tennessee has been known for corn and corn whiskey a long time, barley fits there. Hops may not be as scaleable. Having employees of both the brewery and the farm trying to figure it out. The early rounds of estimates meant it may be twice as much as some other sources. So unmalted wheat was a entry point and the blonde beer was high on wheat. The risk of changing the beer was a bit worrisome and Tennessee Brew Works ended up needing to go in wholeheartedly. Buying locally seems to Christian to have had quality and taste differences which is appreciated. On some foods it may be easier to notice but daily beer tastings lead Christian to say there is a difference. Tennessee Brew Works bought the building in 2012, the neighborhood was rough but as the city has exploded, it came to the brewery. The neighborhood has built up around it and the restaurant has built the neighborhood too. The craft beer trend may be slowing but having transparency, finding a way to do what they love for a living, they are working to do this the right way. Christian got into craft brewing through home brewing. As a former member of the financial industry, he reinvented himself and found people who would help him with the leap of faith. His best friend is his partner. They are talking about grains, etc. as well as the finances. Christian wants his team to be successful and compensated well but realistically says lot of the team could probably make more doing other things. The team actually came up with the ways to describe the beers and ultimately labels and brands were drawn from that. With the Nashville scene, beer and live music, the crowd can differ by day and include varying numbers of locals, tourists, musicians and more. The brewery ended up being mentioned in a list people.com ran about bachelorette parties. There is room for all groups, especially with good weather and the patio. The business is really two groups. The brewery team comes in early mornings, getting trucks out for customers. The restaurant team comes in later. You want people to come in for the taproom and in 2013 as they started, they embraced social media and the grassroots buzz was helpful. Transparency of having the brewing on the other side of the windows from the restaurant. Enjoying a drink just 50 feet from where it was made, with ingredients grown just 30 miles away. Matt Simpson runs the brewing operation. He has forgotten far more than Christian has ever known. The brewing team has really turned out some good beers, they make some great beers and on some days it is truly world-class that Christian is honored to be part of it. Tennessee Grain Initiative.... Agriculture is the number one industry, spirits are the number one export and brewing is the fastest growing industry. Christian knows that agriculture has some pain points right now with dairy industry having been so important. Dairy is really hurting. Spirits and brewing could really help raise up the local ag community and solve some problems the community is experiencing. It helps everyone over time and reduces some of the risks. Working through this supply and distribution dilemma can really In general, people don’t just call their regulators but calling the Tennessee Department of Ag was a great move for them. All of this has led to a great feeling of community pride. Tennessee Brew Works brews a State Park Blonde Ale for the Tennessee State Parks. It’s a major source of pride in the state, with the parks department and who doesn’t love the state parks?!?! It is a first time in the country as far as we know. Tennessee Brew Works' Christian Spears (left) & Matt Simpson (right)


22 Jan 2020

Rank #8

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Ever met a beer farmer? That malted barley has to start somewhere!

Resources mentioned in this episode: Interview with Christian Spears (episode 107 issued at the same time as a bonus episode) Video from inside the brewery & on the farm https://groundedbythefarm.com/craft-beer-tennessee-brew/ Popcorn episode (Grounded by the Farm #102) https://groundedbythefarm.com/growing-popcorn/ Finding Batey Farms online: Instagram BateyFarms1807 https://www.instagram.com/bateyfarms1807/ Facebook BateyFarms https://www.facebook.com/Batey-Farms-121633014572778/ Website BateyFarms.com https://bateyfarms.com/ Closeup photo of two-row barley Interview notes:  Brandon Whitt, barley farmer, Batey Farms He never thought he’d be a beer farmer but Brandon Whitt says Batey Farms welcomed the new spin on the centuries old farm. He says the motto is “preserving the past and embracing the future” and the two really come together at the Nashville area farm. Murfreesboro, TN is among the top five, fastest growing counties in the country and this eight generation farm is trying to remain viable. They have seen change and honoring the past is a big part of it. They do a lot of small grain work — focusing on malt quality barley as wheat production is well-established. Still working on rye to get quality where they want it but the barley has really been coming along. He says wheat has been grown in the area for decades and so has the knowledge farmers have. In the past Batey Farms grew cotton, had a dairy, etc. and it remains diverse but has evolved. Whereas the small grains used to go to the dairy, small crowns were fed to the dairy cows (used as a forage crop). Now those small grains go to various customers. Brandon discusses how farmers like him try to stay on top of what people in their area want while also bringing a knowledge of the local environment. Being able to keep your crops moving into the market is important. What really drives Brandon is seeing customers with smiles on their faces. It is a true working farm but also has areas of agri-tourism like a retail shop for pork products, a u-pick berry patch and more. It is so picturesque it even has that grain silo made into a gazebo that rocks Pinterest feeds (here’s one of the early articles on this idea https://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/a43277/diy-grain-bin-gazebo/). His father-in-law John L Batey says farmers are always repurposing things. Thinking about making the most of things and extending the lives of things, shifting the farm is different. Batey produces pork products which were being considered for the kitchen but as he toured the brewery, seeing all those bags of grain… Brandon also wanted to see if that could be supplied locally. Brandon pointed out that moving to new crops is investing and taking risks, risks that need to be taken to build into the future. Getting wheat into the Southern Wit blonde beer was the first step. Barley looks a bit like wheat or beautiful grass. The stem that produces the grain in barley can be a two-row barley or a six-row barley. We have a photo of two row barley on the website as well as this snippet in the video we shared. The difference in size of grain matters when you start talking about beer production and getting into the scientific of sugar production and details of chemistry of malting. Malting involves letting the crop grow through it’s green stage to begin drying down for harvest. Looking at freshly harvested barley seed, you have complex sugars in it. And those sugars are bonded and tied up in the seed. It would take a lot of enzymes to break that down. Instead, we  let the seed rest for two months and then run it through a malting facility.The seed is soaked in water, raising the moisture back up to 45-50% after making sure it had been dry for harvest. In this steeping tank with water for 48 hours or so, the water is drained and seed is laid out so it starts to grow. The root sprout emerges and you will then dry it back down, like roasting it in the oven. What that process does is convert complex sugars to simple sugars which is useful in making beer, spirits (Tennessee whiskey), etc. Growing barley is a winter crop for Brandon — that means it is planted in late September - October. It is planted after you harvest soybeans or something. That seed germinates and gets started before winter makes it dormant (stop growing) for a few months. The crop stays 4-5 inches tall all winter. Then around Valentine’s Day fertilizer provides the nutrients to wake it up and it starts growing. In late March they check again with fertilizer to insure they get a big seed as the malting process will take it from a moist grain to a dried product — like drying grapes to raisins. So bigger seeds make a difference. Quality comes first for Brandon as he looks at harvest. He wants as many quality bushels as he can get. Last year he had to harvest around some low areas where water flooding delayed the crop, there were potential fungus issues, etc so they need to use care in choosing what to harvest. Barley is used extensively in beer production — it’s the number 1 ingredients. Tennessee has a long history of distilled products, but there it is used for energy, not flavor. Barley in distilled products doesn’t add to the flavor but acts as an enzyme to help break down corn, rye and other grains. In beer it provides the flavor profile. Traditional Tennessee style products use malted barley. Brandon says they are looking at the potential to introduce their grains to food products like the Pillsbury products made nearby. In that, malted barley is used in pastries to provide a bonding agent. He discusses the issues facing dairy farms, perhaps grains like this can help. And people like Christian like knowing they can help their neighbors. The complexities of local, loving it for a range of reasons and yet also liking some of the diversity of foods that have come to plates over the past few decades. Selling pork products locally is great, but Brandon also appreciates the role that major companies like Tyson have. As a farmer who works across direct, commodities and more. You will have trouble getting locally grown popcorn in some regions of the US. (shout out to the Ella & Ollie popcorn episode!) The Batey Farms retail store is open two days a week. In summer, there are strawberries, blackberries and blueberries to pick as well as fields of sunflowers. You really should check it out if you get to the Nashville area! 


22 Jan 2020

Rank #9

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The Sweetness that is Candied Pecans with Trish and Brian McKeighen

You can see video of the farm at https://groundedbythefarm.com/trish-brian-mckeighen/ Belenus Farms Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/BelenusFarms/ Trish and Brian McKeighen purchased a farm in Saint David, Arizona that had a dozen pecan trees. The couple used Brian's baking knowledge to create new recipes for candied pecans including a local flavor called Mexican chocolate.  For Trish and Brian, the farm was located in a great area -- Brian's family ranches nearby -- but the couple didn't know anything about pecans. And with a dozen or so trees on the property, they decided they needed to quickly learn more about them as it offered a way to begin getting some return on their investment in the farm.  Bringing back the trees that had been neglected for years was only one thing to consider. The McKeighens also knew there were a lot of other places that could sell customer pecans. So they wanted something more. They went through a lengthy process of developing flavors and recipes and had fellow farmers taste test and provide feedback on the candied pecans.  The unique Mexican choclate flavor was inspired by a family member's love of Mexican hot chocolate -- a long time local favorite drink for winter. When it comes to favorite ways of eating pecans, Trish's dad likes them plain as he watches television but Brian's baking skills take the path toward desserts like pecan pie cheesecake. As they built various new pieces to the farm, they added backyard chickens, so the couple have home grown eggs to use in the recipes.  Brian shares some of the learnings they have had with food safety also led to product quality improvements. For instance, soaking pecans shortly before their are cracked allows them to remove any chicken litter, but also seems to yield more halves and larger pieces in the shelling process. 


8 Jan 2020

Rank #10

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What makes Virginia hams so legendary? DeeDee Darden explains her family's traditions

This interview with Virginia farmer and ham expert, DeeDee Darden takes place in Smithfield, Virginia where the family raises cotton & corn and maintains the family smokehouse where they salt cure hams the way it was done decades ago.  She explains the almost year-long process of salt curing and smoking hams to get the color and taste that is so desirable. As well as some of the history around Virginia and Smithfield hams in particular.  DeeDee also shows us around the family's farm, telling us about the fall visits by many school groups in the area. Hosting school groups provides a chance for children to learn about cotton (even checking out a cotton picker, playing in corn boxes, seeing various animals, taking a hay ride and picking out the perfect pumpkin in the field!  DeeDee mentioned an element of laughter with cotton underwear used to provide insight on where clothes come from. I have long blogged about cotton on a site called HundredPercentCotton.com and had to explain how other cotton farmers soil their undies to demonstrate soil health You can read more here https://hundredpercentcotton.com/farm/why-farmers-soil-their-undies/ Watch a tour of the smokehouse, country store and family farm at https://groundedbythefarm.com/smokehouse/  Check out the Darden Country Store Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Dardens-Country-Store-170438426355067/ Visit the Darden Country Store website at http://dardenscountrystore.com/


25 Dec 2019

Rank #11

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Who knew there were red & white crawfish? A conversation with Bill & Janice Cheek

This is a conversation with crawfish farmers Bill & Janice Cheek at Stelly's Restaurant in Lebeau, Louisiana. We talk about the important things like crawfish, crawdads and mudbugs as lingo.... but seriously, we talked about the red swamp crawfish & white species that are raised commercially and the difference between them and the small crawdads people see in creeks.  The programs at the LSU Ag Program does a lot of research into the crop. And there are a few other areas of the US where crawfish are grown.  Bill provides a lot of historical and cultural context on crawfish from the Louisiana perspective. We talk about creating new markets for the crop, hosting crawfish boils and the family's favorite ways to eat crawfish at home between boils.  See the video shot of the Cheek's crawfish ponds and a post of photos from inside Stelly's Restaurant on the Grounded by the Farm website. 


11 Dec 2019

Rank #12

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Popcorn... family legacy and local future

In this episode, we talk popcorn with Matt Helms who is returning to his family farm part-time as he starts a popcorn business serving customers in the St. Louis local area and online. With a family tradition of farming, Matt tells us he wanted to participate in that while still living in the city and working off farm as well. While he and his wife Michelle considered a few things, popcorn rose to the top and has become a family business that includes their young daughter Lily Ella. He talks about taking on that new level of risk and feeling more connected to his ancestors.  In this interview, Matt also shares his excitement for finding new customers and the help Lily offers as well as telling us about the various types of popcorn grown on the farm -- heirloom, butterfly and mushroom.  He also talks about the various ways the family enjoys popcorn and gives a tip for a recipe that he says was a hit as a holiday appetizer!   After you listen to the podcast, you may want to check out a video tour on the farm as we learn about moisture testing, a key point in popcorn quality.  You can order directly from Ella & Ollie’s website and find Ella & Ollie Popcorn on Facebook.


11 Dec 2019

Rank #13

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How I Got Here & A Convo with Mr. Ray Young (The First Farmer I Interviewed)

This bonus episodes provides a bit of background on the show's host Janice Person, the way she got into agriculture and memories of a first farmer interview decades ago.  As the launch of the show began to near, it became clear that connecting back to Mr Ray Young -- the first farmer I (Janice) ever interviewed -- just seemed to make sense.  Mr Ray and his wife Mrs. Dorothy welcomed me into their home and as he and I laughed and talked, I turned on the microphone to explain a bit of the project and to get his grounding once again.  Thanks to great people like Mr. Ray, I am now Grounded by the Farm.  Learn more about the show at http://groundedbythefarm.com and go along with Mr. Ray and I as we look at his farm, and take a much closer look at soils in this post https://groundedbythefarm.com/mr-ray-young/ 


11 Dec 2019

Rank #14

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Talking Lettuce Farming, Food and Family with Jon Dinsmore

More information available on GroundedbytheFarm.com Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/2381122262203711/ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/groundedbythefarm_/ Twitter https://twitter.com/groundedbythef Find Jonathan Dinsmore on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thefarmerjon/ Discussed in this podcast: Jonathan Dinsmore farms with his father in Yuma, Arizona. Dinsmore Farms produces head lettuce (iceberg lettuce), fresh romaine and romaine hearts, red & green leaf mixed lettuce and alfalfa hay. Romaine and romaine hearts are frequently grown from the same seed but farmers like Dinsmore plant the fields that will be harvested as romaine hearts more closely together so the plants will remain more columnar. We talked a good bit about how his family looks at lettuce. Romaine hearts are a favorite of his but he loves a wedge salad with iceberg, his son agrees. But cultural issues early on for one of the kids means a funny story. He also throws romaine hearts on the grill.  Jon has enjoyed getting to know other farmers growing lettuce in Michigan, Florida and Colorado &  they stand in touch via social media. He's especially a fan of Instagram where he is @TheFarmerJon. His love of photography has a family history too. Enjoys accounts like RAM628 (https://www.instagram.com/ram628/), Trevor Bales of @BalesHay https://www.instagram.com/baleshay/, and Jay Hill @HillJay45 https://www.instagram.com/hilljay45/. On the farming side, Jon is looking forward to doing more drip irrigation is a method of putting water right in the root zone. Food safety — there have been times when lettuce was having concerns. Jon stresses food safety and he sees the farmers in his area all looking at this. The Leafy Greens Marketing Association and the Yuma Safe Produce Council. These groups have been showing the kinds of water testing, employee training, field measures, etc. and now we are going further to sanitize irrigation water for 21 days prior to harvest. Irrigation water in Yuma comes from the Colorado River. It is valued, conserved and efforts made to limit foreign objects, and now they are sanitizing the water. Workers in the field have a number of precautions to take, including rubber boot, gloves, sometimes customers ask us to go above the standards too. Standards also require inspection for animal tracks, etc. They want to be sure vegetables going onto the plates are as safe as possible. That said, we should all always wash your lettuce.


11 Dec 2019

Rank #15