Category Archives: Farm Policy

Less Mowing, More Pollinators

Buterfly Garden in Portland Maine

Less mowing, more pollinators…that is Glenn’s mantra.  As much as he says that, you would think that he was the one who took care of our mowing and was coming up with a strategy to lighten that chore, but, nope, I am the one who mows the yard.

During our recent travels, he did enjoy pointing out examples of his “no mow” philosophy.  The Bee and Butterfly Garden in Portland, Maine was a great example of both a beautiful and useful habitat.  We also paid attention to how states were choosing to maintain their roadsides.  The case has been made that roadsides could provide a valuable pollinator habitat.  This article from Xerces Society makes the case in Pollinator Conservation at 60 MPH.   Then, if you are so inspired, the Xerces Society has even created a good sample letter to send your state representative and/or your state DOT to let them know you are supportive of these roadside efforts.

There is also value in re-envisioning our yards:  meadow gardens, cottage gardens, butterfly gardens…there are many options to consider beyond the traditional mown lawn.  When we lived in the city, my goal had been to eventually get the mown lawn area down to size that was manageable with only a human powered lawn mower.  Now that is an interesting google search:  human powered lawn mower.  Have fun with that!

When we moved to the farm, however, our mown lawn size increased to the point of needing a riding lawn mower.  Yes, we thought about goats, and then thought better!    There may be a meadow garden in the future for our lawn, but for now, I will at least mow on the high setting as to leave the clover blooms for the bees to enjoy.

Save our farms!

If North Carolina wants to feed itself, it better save its farms!

What you can do?

Contact your elected representatives and tell them that you want farmland conservation to be made a funding priority.

Donate to your local farmland conservation organization.

Buy from local farms.

A farmer’s view of rural America

Think about this with your morning coffee.

An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America 

Cover Crops and Craft Wine

Thanks to Bruce Larson for sharing these interesting posts/articles.

(22 March 2016): “Cover Crops Are Making A Comeback” (

——–“Farmers looking for profits are increasingly turning to an old technique to preserve soil health: cover crops.  The use of cover crops . . . is ancient: even the Roman poet Virgil references cover crops, but the practice is undoubtedly far older.  In recent decades, these living mulches have fallen out of favor, replaced by commercial fertilizers producing repeated commercial harvests without interruption for soil recovery.  Now that commercial yields are declining, some farmers are returning to older methods.  Given the many benefits of properly used cover crops, it’s amazing that their use ever declined.”

********The article upon which this post is based is “Cover Crops and Living Mulches” by Nathan L. Hartwig and Hans Ulrich Ammon.  The link to the article is included in the post.  This seems to be an instance where the exclusive focus on one thing, by ignoring many other things, can undermine the one thing that is cared about.  This is a common problem when one linear relationship is considered and the systemic features are not.  This is so prevalent that it seems like a logical fallacy.  It does seem like an instance of the fallacy of composition (


(29 March 2016): “Craft Wine?  Craft Beer’s Innovation Edge (and What Wine Can Do About It)” (

********Asheville, North Carolina, the home of craft breweries aplenty, craft ciders, and craft spirits.  What about craft wine?  More vineyards, to be sure, and the home of America’s most-visited winery.  In any event, Mike Veseth has some interesting thoughts about how the business of wine might be informed by recent success of craft beer.

Monarchs and Milkweeds

This fall, Glenn and I were pleased to observe Monarchs, and we plan to increase the native milkweeds in our landscape.  Here is a good resource:  Also, it looks like Hop’n Blueberry Farm in Black Mtn. sells milkweed and provides informational tours.  If you know of any other local sources for native milkweed that haven’t been treated with insecticides or pesticides, please share.    It is such a joy to be still and observe.

Eastern United States Milkweeds and Monarch Butterflies

Veggies and pesticides: know what you eat!

You will be very happy you and your family are eating Bee Branch Farm veggies, especially green beans, after learning more about the potential effects of pesticides on your health.

Recently, Consumer Reports released their Pesticides in Produce Report.  I am hopeful that with this respected mainstream publication sharing their well-researched findings that more people will educate themselves on what they are consuming and how it affects their health, as well as how the specific farming practices being utilized affect the health of the farm workers, community and environment.

Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, discusses an overview of this report in this interview on WNYC.  It is worth a listen, but for the detailed information, I suggest reading the report and downloading the free full scientific report with risk guide.

We all have to weigh our options and make choices based upon our values and means.  I believe the first step in being able to make the best choice possible is by educating ourselves.   First, the report reinforces the health benefits of eating your veggies, even if you can’t choose the lower pesticide risk organics.  However, given the choice, vegetables grown using organic methods without synthetic pesticides reduce your risk of exposure to harmful pesticides.  This is especially pertinent if you are pregnant or have children; the young are more susceptible in their development.  If you need to weigh and choose which veggies you can select organic vs. conventional, then the report provides a risk guide to help you assess where best to invest your organic dollars.   You will see that they recommend always buying organically grown green beans and peppers because of the high risk rating.  You can enjoy all the Bee Branch Farm peppers and green beans you want with a smile on your face!

Definitely, eat your veggies and fruit.  Know your farmers and their farming practices.  Educate yourself.  Make the best informed decisions you can for your family, your community and the sustainability of farming and the environment.

We hit water!

Okay it might not be as exciting as hitting oil to some, but I was very excited when we hit water at 180 ft with 8 GPM on our new farm well.  We chose to go a little farther for a better reservoir of water, and the water was beautiful and clear.

This means we can get the cattle fenced out of the creeks and streams, which is healthier for our watershed and for the cows; and as a bonus, we will have irrigation for our veggies this summer; no more dragging hoses all over the garden.  I love making progress on the sustainability of Bee Branch Farm.

Bee Branch Farm’s Supporting Role in Community Projects

This past year it was our pleasure to participate in a couple of community and state projects that we hope will help further health and education.

These two YouTube videos are part of a 4 series that CTG Region 2(Community Transformation Grant)  hopes will help communicate the positive transformation that our communities are going through in WNC to make the healthy choice the easy choice where we live, work, and play.

Thanks to Adams and Rod of Industrious Productions for making the filming fun and painless, except for that electric fence incident which was, of course, my fault.

The benefits of open space; conserving farmland.

Smoking Cessation; the farm’s tobacco history.

We also thought Jordan Smith’s work at NC State was worth volunteering a day of time to show him around the farm; you can view  360 degree panoramas of the farm and learn more about his project:  Valuing Ecosystems Services with IVEs.

Queen of the Sun Documentary

Last night we enjoyed watching the 2011 documentary Queen of the Sun: What the Bees are Telling Us.  I am concerned that we take way too much for granted in our hurried lives.  We must slow down, pay attention, and care for the honey bees; they are essential for life.  This brief article, 3 New Studies Link Bee Decline to Bayer Pesticide, has interesting information with links to resources that are worth reviewing.


The importance of soil

I believe the importance of the health of our soil must not be overlooked for the long-term sustainability of our farms our food and our health.  If you are truly concerned about our future generations, then please start educating yourself about farming practices and farm policy and support those who are working to build healthy farms.  Here is another interesting article from Tom Philpott; this one focuses on the connection between soil and climate change.

Wendell Berry has highly recommended The Soil and Health by Sir Albert Howard.  I have it on my order list and will start reading it soon.  I believe education is three-fold:  learning from others who know the land and have worked it, researching and reading what others have learned in the field, and your own daily experience of trial and error.  There is never a dull day!