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Genuine Faux News of the Farm

Vol 4 Issue 1 - January 2008

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What is Sustainable?

Black & White winter picture of farm copyright RFaux





Monthly Cartoon

Farm News


CSA Report


Buy Local Guide

What is Sustainable?

One of the current buzz-words in the media is 'sustainability.' But, of course, media and popular recognition is a two-edged sword. On the plus side, a broader segment of the population will be ready to learn about sustainable practices. But, unfortunately, the concept also becomes prone to corruption as it gets misused and abused. Since we've been asked by a couple of people to explain what sustainable agriculture is, we thought we'd give it a try.

I've heard a few approaches for defining sustainable agriculture:

1. Sustainable Agriculture provides us with "Food with Integrity" for our consumption. Consumers are easily able to see who raised the food, what methods they used and can confirm and encourage that the farmer avoids exploitating resources (labor, environment, etc).

In this definition, interaction with the community is important. This is where the 'connection to our food' component of sustainable agriculture comes into the picture. Everyone who eats should be concerned about their connections to who grew their food and how it was grown. One implication is that responsible methods of farming are preferable for food we consume. Why would any of us want to support businesses that willfully mistreat workers, pollute the environment or sacrifice quality to acquire every last penny possible?

2. Sustainable Agriculture operations work to minimize inputs from outside the farm to maintain the operation. If the operation cannot provide certain necessary resources, a sustainable response would be to work with a local provider.

We can look at farming from an input/output standpoint. An increase in materials we bring in from 'off-site' to grow the season's crop increases cost. The more self-sufficient the operation is, the better, in terms of these direct expenses. So, if a farm can develop its own composting operation, it can maintain soil fertility without relying on other sources exclusively.

We also refer to inputs as 'additions' to the soil, feed, compost, etc. in efforts to achieve greater production. But, every addition costs us (in time, labor, money, etc.) and each addition has limits on their returns. Additionally, many additives can have long range impacts. For example, reliance on Round-up will impact long range health and productivity of the land where we grow our food. This is where organic practices usually enter the picture. Inputs to the crop are carefully selected in an effort to reduce residual deleterious effects.

3. Sustainable Agriculture stands on three legs: Community, Environment and Profitability. Each of these is important for a sustainable system. (Dr. Francis Thicke, PFI Conference keynote 2007)

What I like most about the third definition is that it encompasses the other two. But, it also makes no bones about the business side of sustainable agriculture. If there is to be a sustainable agriculture system, it has to be attractive to new and existing farmers. Otherwise, very few people will fill food production needs. What we want are healthy, prosperous farms - with people who love what they do.

For some reason, many people believe that profitability comes at the expense of ideals. And, frankly, if it were a matter of starving or being fed, I might agree. But, when did we decide that having enough wasn't enough? There is a difference between healthy profit and exhorbitant growth and income. We can provide our food needs AND pay the farmer fair prices AND the farmer can use practices that are environmentally sound.

The New Look on the Web

Our web site underwent a facelift in December. While there are clearly some things that need more content or further work, we are more comfortable with what is provided for your (and our) use.

Of particular interest to you might be some of the items in our "Resources" section of the web. In particular, the newly organized links page and the library have a good start. And, we have a personal goal to add one or two items each month to the library.

Our Genuine News of the Farm pages will be updated with the most recent events, schedule and farm news, including links to the last three newsletters. Newsletter back issues can easily accessed from a newly organized page - just put your mouse over one of the irises and you should have choices for each month of the year. Our new photo journal will encourage us to give you periodic pictures as the season progresses in 2008.

Important Dates

  • Jan 9 - NIFFP subcommittee
  • Jan 11&12 - PFI Annual Conference
  • Jan 23 PFI Vegetable Cluster Meeting, Hiawatha
  • Jan 30 NIFFP large group meeting
  • Feb 8 - NIFFP subcommittee
  • Feb 21-23 Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference
  • Feb 25 - Producer's Food Safety, CF Public Library 9:30-1:30
  • Feb 29- application deadline for workshares
  • April 1 - Last day to hold CSA spot with Deposit
  • May 26 - Iris Fest
  • August 23 - Summer Harvest
  • October 4 - GF7

One butterfly or one wildflower does not an ecosystem make. Stanwyn Shetler

Vol 4 Issue 1 - January 2008

GFF Featured in Wartburg Magazine

It is a strange thing to see your own face staring back at you in a picture. And even stranger when it is on the cover of a magazine. And yet, there we are, doing a poor rendition of American Gothic by Grant Wood on Wartburg's Alumni publication.

In a way, it's hard to accept praise for the article, because its.. well... it's just what we do and who we are. And, let's be honest, this wouldn't be newsworthy if there weren't 42 subscribing families in our CSA. It is because of you that this article was written!


We will endeavor to put a copy of the article on our web site at some point in January.

Our thanks go to Karris Golden for producing a fine piece of work and guiding us through the process.

Organic Certificate Issued

The Genuine Faux Farm passed muster for organic certification by IDALS (Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship). Certification by IDALS meets national organic standards. There were no noncompliances cited. Fully half of our plots will contain fully certified produce. The remaining ground is still in transition from conventional farming methods.

We are proud of this certificate.

New Business Phone

We broke down and acquired a cell phone, not without a great deal of consternation - since we might qualify at some level as luddites. This will serve as our business phone number from this point forward: 319 610 9201

Rob will have the phone in the field with him typically from 10-noon and at other times when it is reasonably convenient to answer. At other times, you should leave a message.


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GFF Receives Scholarship

The Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference held in LaCrosse is an annual event that interested us greatly. Unfortunately, the price of attending in terms of time and money is significant enough that we opted not to attend last year. This year will be a different story.

Both Tammy and Rob applied for and received scholarships to attend this year's conference. It is our hope that we can learn some new things and benefit from the combined knowledge of many competent vegetable growers. We suspect that we will enjoy our time there greatly and hope to make this an annual item on our schedules.

We would like to encourage others who have interest in the conference to visit their web site at this location:

PFI Conference Report

Tammy and Rob attended the PFI conference January 11 and 12 in Des Moines. For most sessions, we split up to cover a wider range of sessions and were able to learn more about on farm renewable energy, vegetable farm tools, managing labor for vegetable operations and numerous other topics. As was true last year, the most valuable component of the conference was the opportunity to meet and learn from other farmers.

For those of you who may be interested in eventually raising animals, produce, fruit or even those who are just interested in knowing about how your food is raised, we recommend membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Season Festival Plan

Our three season festivals have been given dates and are ready to be marked in your calendars!

The annual Iris Fest will once again fall on Memorial Day weekend, May 26. The Summer Fest has been moved back to the end of August as it never seemed to work out in July. It has now been dubbed the Summer Harvest and will occur on August 23. And finally, the fall festival has also been moved back and has been redubbed the Genuine Faux Farm Fall Festival and Fetid Fruit Fling (GF7). It will be held on October 4. Please visit our Festivals page for more information!

Michael Pollan in Iowa City

Michael Pollan promoted his new book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, at the Iowa City Public Library on Sunday, January 13 at 2pm. The event was sponsored by Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City.

Vol 4 Issue 1 - January 2008

New Varieties in 2008

#1. Boston Marrow Winter Squash

Red skinned squash, reasonable sized and teardrop shaped. These are supposed to have excellent eating qualities and are quite different from any other squash we currently grow. A member of the Ark of Good Taste.

#2. Golden Midget Watermelon

Yellow skin and pink flesh. Small, personal sized watermelons that seem to be popular. These should extend our watermelon season on the early end.

#3.Black Krim Tomato

We are looking for an intermediate sized "black" tomato. Nyagous fills the smaller end and Cherokee Purple the larger sizes. Tomatoes with this darker color are often said to have a robust tomato flavor. Here's hoping!

#4. Moonglow Tomato

Yellow-orange tomatoes. We had excellent luck with our intermediate sized yellows this past season and have room grow into the demand. Moonglow joins Golden Sunray and Nebraska Wedding as intermediate yellow to orange tomatoes. Certified organic seed.

#5. Queensland Blue Winter Squash

The color is a slate blue and the squash are said to be excellent keepers. Success in squash often depends on diversity - so this ought to help. We suspect these will be a good companion in style to the Marina di Chioggia squash.

#6 Crane (Crenshaw type melon)

To our knowledge, we have not grown a Crenshaw type of melon. So, of course, we have to try. We are hoping to find melons that ride in the truck better - hence this one and Schoon's Hard Shell join the farm variety list. This is an Ark of Good Taste melon.

#7 Boule d'Or melon

Smaller, personal sized melons with a sweet fragrance. Fruit are supposed to be good keepers. Every once in a while, you read a catalogue description that makes it difficult to say no. Let's see if it is as good as it reads.

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#8 Wisconsin Lakes bell pepper

We continue to look for open-pollinated/heirloom replacements for the remaining F1 hybrid peppers on our variety list. We have had reasonable success thus far, but have yet to find the best combination. This is a new introduction by Seed Savers, so we will test it out right away.

#9 Casper Eggplant

We have been surprised by the range of taste eggplant varieties produce. Successful trials of Pintung Long and Diamond last year will result in their integration into the main crop. Casper is a white variety that is said to have a mild taste.

#10 Japanese Climbing Cucumber

Our search for open-pollinated cucumbers continue. We still rely heavily on F1 hybrids as we search for good substitutes. We will attempt to trellis this variety to encourage straight, long cucumbers. Perhaps it will making picking a tad easier? The seed is certified organic.

Other new varieties:

Delicata Squash, Soldacki Tomato, Tasty Evergreen, Siberian Tomato, Isis Candy Cherry Tomato, Lemon Drop Cherry Tomato, Roman Candle Tomato, Chelsea Watermelon, Schoon's Hard Shell Melon, Straight 8 Cucumber, Boothby's Blonde Cucumber, Siberian Garlic, Chrysalis Purple Garlic, Bogatyr Garlic, Lorz Garlic

Removed from our growing list:

Hillbilly PotatoLeaf tomato, Crookneck Summer Squash, Early Fortune Cucumber, Cornfield Pumpkin, Brandywine Tomato, Reisentraube Cherry Tomato, Christmas Grapes Tomato, Anaheim College 64 Pepper

Special Report: CDSF

[ed. note: the Chicken Decoding Special Forces periodically reports on their efforts to piece together scrambled messages found in the barn.]

We (the members of the CDSF) have been working around the cluck in order to bring you up to date reporting on barnyard events. We remain committed to be at your beak and call for all things scrambled.

This just in: "The sky IS falling."

Recommendation: Run around (alot). Make sure you run in a somewhat circular pattern. Paths that interfere with the movement of humans is wise. After all, they are clueless and fail to see the impending danger. And when the sky falls, they are taller than you. Vocalize your warnings insistently until your message gets across to your audience - or until you are presented with more food and water.


  • Applicants for our workshare program
  • an intern for 2008
  • Signups for the 2008 season
  • Persons to tear down the old hog building.
  • Feedback from 2007 to use in 2008
  • Feedback on workshare and market card ideas

Vol 4 Issue 1 - January 2008

Subscribe for 2008

It is time to begin thinking about 2008 CSA shares. A mailing is scheduled to go out to 2007 subscribers on January 21. This mailing will include all of the forms and information you need for the upcoming season. If you want to see what is coming for 2008, please feel free to visit the appropriate CSA web pages. You can also download the appropriate forms.

Remember, Rob likes real mail with real stamps. :)

Philanthropic Opportunity Knocks

We expect to support the food shelf in Waterloo again this season and hope to exceed our volume donated. If you would like to use the CSA as a way to give back to the community, please consider purchasing part of a share for families that can not afford the share price on their own.

While we believe every member should pay something for their share (in work time or money) in order to maintain a sense of value and self-worth, we recognize that many with lower incomes are often excluded from healthy eating choices. Indicate an amount you are willing to donate to this program and we will work with to find families who will benefit from your generosity. We will provide up to five such slots for families in need in 2008 provided sufficient funding is received.

Work Shares in 2008

There will be up to three (3) work shares in the CSA for 2008. Our vision for the work share is still in development, and we are willing to make adjustments depending on who shows interest in this idea. At present, a work share would entail the following:

  • we will do work shares for large or small full season shares
  • work share participants would agree to work on a consistent schedule
  • a work session would be 2 hours to 4 hours in length as scheduled
  • small shares would work 36 total hours, large shares work 50 total hours
  • participants would agree to attend a 'training' session
  • work share members would need to be able to do potentially strenuous manual labor in warm weather -but we are willing to work to strengths

We are hopeful that we can pair up with persons who are interested in coming to the farm on a consistent schedule. This will allow us to plan for and best utilize the help we receive.

To apply for a workshare, send us an email. We will be choosing those applicants from the pool who will best fit the farm's needs.



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CSA Tally Sheet

  Goal Actual
2008 Members 60 1
2007 Members 40 42
2006 Members 20 27
2005 Members 10 20

GFF Stories: Drive by Vegetabling

Rob would occasionally work for Grandpa Faux for week-long stints during the summer, painting, cutting down weeds and being an accomplice in semi-frequent drive-by vegetabling trips.

In order to better understand the beauty of the arrangement,some background may be in order. Grandpa was a contractor (cement and other general contracting) who had a shop near the edge of town. He also grew up on a farm. Needless to say, some of the land around the shop was pressed into service as a place to grow some peppers, squash and other vegetables. Most of the plants he chose to grow were things that were easy to pick quickly, but were likely to produce more than he could, or would, eat.

So, what to do with extra zucchini? Trailer courts are often a community of their own, with many persons who would enjoy fresh veg once and a while. This was especially true of many of the retired persons living there. Of course, Grandpa was happy to share the excess freely with those he knew.

So, what exactly, is the problem with this situation? Person with extra produce meets those wanting some produce. Sounds good, right?

Ok, you've forgotten something. Remember "Aunt Ruby?" You know, the one who would try to give you money for everything and anything. Of course, manners dictated that you should not accept the money - especially for what was intended to be a gift. The resulting tumult of repeated offers to pay and refusals to accept payment could become tedious, frustrating, uncomfortable and...well... you get the idea.

Entering the picture - grandchild who is capable of dashing from the cab of the truck, to the front door with a bag of produce and back to the truck in a few seconds. A quick rap on the front door or ring of the doorbell - followed by burning rubber (ok, I exaggerate a bit there)... There it is, the anatomy of a drive by vegetabling. I was never sure who was having more fun - me, Grandpa...or the people who began trying to anticipate when we would arrive so they could find some way to catch us.

Vol 4 Issue 1 - January 2008 page 5

Botany of Desire - Recommended Reading

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan, perhaps best known for Omnivore's Dilemma, is a local food activest and creative non-fiction writer. His newest book, In Defense of Food, focuses on how all of us should be involved in farm policy and food choices, but Botany of Desire is less transparent in agenda while still providing excellent food for thought.

Botany is a good read for someone who doesn't have significant portions of time to spend reading a book. A person could potentially read any one of the four sections in any order. Pollan focuses on four plants (apple, potato, tulip and marijuana) and challenges us to consider the possibility that the plants manipulate us as much as we believe we control them.

Each section is filled with detail regarding the history of each of these plants, along with a dose of personal dialogue and a fair amount of philosophical exploration. It doesn't really matter whether you agree with everything Pollan says, what does matter is that you'll learn new things and have a chance to consider how you feel about those things.

For other recommendations from GFF, visit this page.

Life on the Farm: Turn, Turn, Turn

While we don't expect everyone to become experts, we like to periodically share our decisions and the reasons we make them. The month of January is full of decision-making and planning. One of our decisions may seem minor on the surface, but it actually required a little more thought than we anticipated.

We have two sets of plots (field sections). One set has four plots, the other has seven plots. In each case, we rotate crops through these sets. Thus, we have a four-year rotation and a seven-year rotation. Last year was our first year with our current plot orientation.

Our rotations are carefully thought out and respresent the best of our knowledge at this time. For example, tomatoes and pepper/eggplants are in seperate rotation sections. Vine crops never land in fields on back to back years and crops with different requirements are placed near each other in the time sequence to avoid excessive soil depletion.

So, what exactly is the problem?

Well, which way do we take our rotation in year 2? It seems simple at first. After all, we've done a good job of making sure things are spaced well and logically placed. So, pick a direction and go with it.

To make a long story less long:

  • Plot 1: Corn/pumpkins
  • Plot 2: Cover crop/fallow
  • Plot 3: Winter squash/radish/nasturtion/borage

If we rotate upwards, we can limit our tillage to where the hills/rows are. This should reduce weed germination during the year. But, with the winter cover of vegetation, insect pests have had a great location to survive. On the flip side, so have insect predators. But, since this is a 7 year rotation. It also puts the heaviest feeder (corn) at the end of the rotation - that has its pros and cons.

If we rotate down, corn gets a field that has been boosted by a fallow year and cover crops. We can't benefit as much from limited tilling because corn rows are too close. And, winter squash goes to a field where we don't have the same opportunity to limit tillage.

Every group of three in the 7 year rotation has similar considerations. In the end...we took the second option. We think....

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else is now open in Tripoli! Brenda, Sue and their families have worked hard to remodel the former pizza parlor/beauty shop into their new restaurant. Located in Tripoli on Highway 93 as you enter town from the west, they are working to feature local products. At present, you can have Hanson's ice cream and Genuine Faux Farm produce during the growing season.

Consider taking a trip and encouraging them in their endeavors! For a small town restaurant to succeed, they need support from the surrounding communities.

Print this page and present it for $1 off of your purchase at their restaurant. Good until February 29, 2008.

Read what Dr. Francis Thicke of Radiance Organic Dairy in Fairfield, IA had to say to the United States Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in March 2007.

Rhymes with Orange cartoon