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This Thursday: Our Annual Open Farms Tour

resized-bisson2Join New Entry this Thursday for our 6th Annual Open Farms Tour!

Date: Thursday, August 1st (Rain or Shine!)
Time: 4:45 – 7:45 pm
Location: starting at Ogonowski Memorial Fields, 126 Jones Ave., Dracut, MA; and visit to a 2nd incubator training farm in Dracut
Cost: Free (donations welcome!) – but please register online

You are invited to join New Entry for an insider’s tour of our beginning farmer incubator training sites. Join New Entry farmers and staff for an informative and fun-filled 6th Annual Open Farms Tour on Thursday, August 1st, beginning at 4:45 PM, at the Ogonowski Memorial Fields, located at 126 Jones Avenue, Dracut, MA.

Speak with project farmers and staff to learn about our beginning farmer training programs, our farmland preservation efforts, and farm employment resources. Discover what motivates New Entry farmers and learn steps that New Entry farmers take to mitigate risks on their farms. Explore where your food comes from! Meet and network with other project supporters who believe in New Entry’s mission. Taste delicious appetizers made with locally-grown produce from the farms.

This event is free and open to all New Entry friends and supporters, and registration is required. Donations are always welcome to support and expand our work. Click on the link below for registration and directions. See you at the farm!

Register Now!

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New Entry’s 5th Annual Farm Tour: They Came, They Saw, They Stayed for Some Appetizers

Rechhat, one of New Entry's earliest farmer-trainees (left), shows off his plot at Whitegate Farm.

New Entry opened its training farms to the public during their 5th Annual Open Farms Tour August 2nd.  Guests visited with four New Entry graduates at four farms in Dracut, to learn about what motives New Entry farmers, discuss soil conditions, market outlets, pests, irrigation and everything else that affects the day-to-day life of our farmers.  Visitors included CSA members, future potential farmers, neighbors and other supporters of New Entry farmers.

Visitors began the tour with a trip to White Gate farm, to visit Rechhat Proum (2004 graduate, originally from Cambodia).  Rechhat has farmed at Whitegate since 1999.  As Richhat proudly displayed his harvest-ready bitter melon, garlic chive, and Asian cucumber, guests inquired as to how much time he spends in the fields.  His response?  “Oh, I cannot start to count the hours!  Farming is a lot of hard work.”  In addition to selling produce into the World PEAS CSA, Rechhat and his wife sell their produce to local Asian grocery stores, and to local farmers markets.

Next, guests visited farmer DC Denison (2011 graduate) at the Smith Farm site (about 1 mile from Whitegate Farm). In addition to their farm work, DC and his wife Gretchen open their Cambridge home each Wednesday to host a World PEAS CSA distribution.  Also, as World PEAS shareholders, they receive a weekly box of World PEAS fruits and vegetables.  DC reflected on what it means to be involved with New Entry at so many different levels – “We spend many hours in the field carefully cultivating our kale crop. We harvest it and deliver it to the CSA packing and distribution site in downtown Lowell. The next day, the World PEAS delivery truck stops at our house to drop off the CSA boxes for distribution to shareholders in our community.  Our friends and neighbors arrive to pick up their shares. As shareholders, we get to enjoy a share as well.  Gretchen and I open the box… and there is our kale! “

Tim Carroll talks about his experiences as a first-year farmer at Smith Farm, one of our incubator farm sites.

Next, visitors got a first-hand glimpse into the life of Tim Carroll (2012 graduate), who farms with his family at a nearby site, also at Smith Farm.  First, Tim greeted visitors at the Smith Farm wash station, to walk visitors through his meticulous post-harvest handling process.  According to Tim “nobody likes to see grass in their baby salad greens.  Everything gets washed twice, then spun, then bagged.  Thank goodness I have kids to help out!”  Guests then followed Tim to his field where he emphasized the need for weed control.  “As you can see, my weed control systems are not ideal.   Even though several hours per week are committed to weed extraction, we still have trouble keeping up with it. Some areas have more weed that crop… but the ongoing battle continues!”

Guests finished the tour with a visit to Ogonowski Fields, to meet with Joann Robichad (2011 graduate), and her partner Kamal.  Guests viewed Joann’s crops of Swiss chard, arugula, basil, tomatoes, and baby salad greens.  In addition to selling her crops into the World PEAS CSA, Joann operates her own CSA, in which she delivers shares to her customers.

Before leaving the farm for the evening, guests were treated to delicious appetizers made by the teens from United Teen Equality Center, using produce grown by New Entry farmers.

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A new video about New Entry, and Adisson and Seona driving a tractor

Have a look at this this excellent video Molly Bedell made about New Entry!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdC6rcd9uHM&feature=youtu.be

As he talks about planning for the growing season, New Entry farmer Adisson Toussaint has a line in this video that pretty much sums up why we have a Farm Business Planning Class:

“It’s easy to think about what you’re going to do, but it’s sometimes difficult to put on paper.”

Adisson has moved onto his own land, and is at the point of mulling tractor options. He and another movin’-on-up New Entry farmer, Seona Ban Ngufer, recently got some tractor operation lessons from Tim Laird at The Food Project. There’s nothing like seeing our farmers take their business to the next level. This is why we do what we do!

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You need expert panelists? We’ve got expert panelists

See the videos below, where Jennifer Hashley (New Entry’s Director) and Ethan Grundberg (up until recently,  our Technical Assistance and Incubator Farms Coordinator, now Farm Manager at Allandale Farm) make up 100% of the expert panel at a Northeastern University open classrooms session on food systems:

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A Little Help From Our Friends (at B.U.)

New Entry’s three incubator farm sites underwent a makeover this year at the hands of Boston University’s FYSOP Volunteer Program. Groups of 15 incoming freshmen spent five hours on August 31st, September 1st, and September 2nd getting to know some of the New Entry farmers and working on a number of projects at Richardson’s Dairy, Smith Farm, and Ogonowski Fields. The energetic groups helped clean out our hoop houses, weed the annual grasses that were taking over the pick-your-own herb garden, organize the farmers’ storage sheds, and harvest produce in the farmers’ fields. Volunteers seemed to be both tired and full of a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and the farmers were very appreciative for the extra hands (hands that happened to be protected by work gloves generously donated by Magid Glove & Safety). Thanks to all of the hard-working volunteers and we look forward to seeing the FYSOP folks again next year!
- Ethan

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New Entry and the MPPU on NPR!

The Mobile Poultry Processing Unit was recently featured on Radio Boston! Read and listen here: http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/09/12/slaughtering-local-poultry

Moved to try these chickens out for yourself? You can preorder from the next batch (with pickups in Dracut on Oct. 3 and Medford/Somerville on Oct. 5) here. If you want to try it out before buying, you can find our chickens at Bondir restaurant in Cambridge. If you decide to buy one, you’ll be in good company! Email sanderson@comteam.org if you have any questions about the chickens.
Moved to try your hand at processing chickens? Step right up! You can volunteer for our next processing day-slash-workshop here. Whether you’re thinking about raising birds of your own or you just want a better sense of where your food comes from, it’s sure to be an experience to write home about.

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Chicks!

Things have been happening out at the farms – fields plowed, crops planted, a new hoophouse skinned – but none quite as adorable as the newest tenants at Ogonowski Memorial Fields: our chickens! At just under two and three weeks, our two batches of chickens are still in their cute phase. Enjoy them now – and, if you’re one of the many people who has been wondering where you can find local, pasture-raised chicken, email sanderson@comteam.org if you’re interested in buying the finished product later this year. You can also click here to participate in the remaining poultry workshops.
Without further ado, here they are:

Here they are shortly after first arriving.

These chicks, an Italian red broiler strain (“redbros” for short), came a week ahead of the faster-growing Cornish Cross chicks.

We kept them separate for a couple of days so the Cornish Cross could get adjusted. Both batches will finish at the same time, on July 11 – 8 weeks for the Cornish, 9 weeks for the redbros.

The two breeds get along famously, at least for chickens, and it didn’t take them long to spread out and make use of their expanded brooder. This is about how they looked when we held our Brooding Workshop on May 24.
And now a few of the greatest hits, adorableness-wise:



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New Entry’s New Digs


If you haven’t already heard, New Entry has moved. Don’t worry, Lowellites, we’re still here – we just moved down the street. Now we share a building with one of our financial sponsors, Community Teamwork, Inc., in the Bon Marche building at 155 Merrimack Street. The entrance is next to Barnes and Noble, and we’re on the 3rd floor. Otherwise, aside from a few hiccups during the move, it’s back to business as usual!
For those inspired (or required) to visit the new space, here’s a map.

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The New MPPU: It’s Real!

Yeah, yeah, so this blog has been stuck on chickens lately. I promise to move on in the next post, but first, exciting news: our second mobile poultry processing unit is almost done! The final details are being worked out right now. To prove it really does exist, here are some pictures I took when I visited the unit during construction late last year. The unit has come a long way from what you see in these pictures, but this should give you an idea of what we’re working with:

It’s pretty big.

Here’s where the birds are loaded in.

This is the fancy new plucker, complete with a kickout door. This means that when the birds are done, they automatically shoot into the next room. Pretty spiff, right?

Here’s the new scalder. If you’re familiar with the old scalder, you’ll be glad to know that this one heats the water up less than half the time. It also requires less water. And it’s not as small as it looks here.
Stay tuned – before too long it should be arriving in Massachusetts! In the meantime, we’ll take a hiatus from chicken-oriented posts.

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Chicken Processing Is All the Rage

Thanks to CISA for including us in their newsletter! If you have more questions about chicken processing or are interested in renting the MPPU, email Sam (sanderson@comteam.org).
The part about the MPPU is below, and you can read the whole article here: http://www.buylocalfood.org/~buylocal/page.php?id=459
A (local) chicken in every pot
By Molly Sauvain, CISA Intern
Published in the December 2010 CISA Enewsletter
Lots of people want to eat locally grown food—and, luckily for us, more and more skilled people are interested in growing it for us—but sometimes there’s no good road between the farm and the table. Meat is a good example. Most eaters don’t want to receive a live, fully-feathered chicken or turkey, so selling these birds for meat requires slaughter and meat processing facilities. Governed by a complex array of federal and state regulations, these facilities are limited in Massachusetts and throughout the region. Luckily, the number of options is growing. Here, we introduce you to several local poultry farmers and explain the choices they’ve made about poultry slaughter and processing.
Ten years ago, the New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown began developing a mobile poultry slaughterhouse (known as the MPPU, for Mobile Poultry Processing Unit). NESFI director Judy Gillan and Jennifer Hashley, Director of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and poultry grower, spent years developing a prototype unit and gaining approval from multiple state, federal, and local agencies (through “home rule,” Massachusetts grants an unusual degree of oversight to local Boards of Health, which adds a layer of complication to mobile facilities). Although still considered a pilot project, the MPPU was used by 3 farmers during 2010, its 3rd year of full operation.
A second option is provided by a new USDA-inspected slaughterhouse, Westminster Meats, which opened in Vermont in late July 2010. USDA inspection allows farmers to sell meat across state lines and to sell it for resale, for example to a retailer. The only other USDA-inspected poultry slaughter facility in New England is privately owned and not open to the public.
Slaughterhouses provide a service needed by farmers. The kind of service the farm needs may vary depending on farm size, farm labor options, market outlets, and more. In the last two years, three new regional options for slaughter and meat processing have been created: the MPPU, Westminster Meats, and Adams Farm in Athol, which provides USDA inspection for livestock but not poultry. All three facilities find it challenging to cover all their costs and turn a profit. Yet farmers point out that these businesses, though valuable, don’t provide all of the services needed by all farm businesses.
Replacing some of the current global trade in food with more food grown closer to home requires creating the services, like slaughterhouses, that allow for local and regional processing and distribution, providing an infrastructure for local food. That infrastructure needs to be diverse, in order to serve the needs of varied farm businesses, but also able to cover its costs and turn a profit. There’s a role for consumers here: as demand rises, farmers can support a wider variety of infrastructure businesses.
“We’re now building a second-generation MPPU,” says Jennifer Hashley of NESFP. “Adding a second unit will alleviate some of the logistical and transportation challenges related to using one unit across the whole state.” As some of the businesses that have gotten started by using the MPPU grow, they may want to consider fixed-location or on-farm slaughter facilities, in order to avoid the scheduling and transportation requirements of the MPPU and to expand operations year-round. “It would be wonderful if the MPPU served the needs of start-up and small-scale businesses, and maturing businesses could move on to another option. But we don’t know if we can use the lessons learned from the MPPU to provide clear blueprints to farmers who want to build their own slaughter facilities. The regulatory agencies aren’t currently providing clear guidance to make this transition cost-effective,” says Hashley.
Mockingbird Farm:
What Pete Solis describes as “personality traits” translate nicely into the perks of the farming profession. He loves to work with good people, eat good food, and see progress at the end of the day. Mockingbird Farm may only be two years old, but it has a reputation for producing meat that tastes like the sweet grass and sunshine the animal grew up on. Pete raises chickens – Kosher Kings and Freedom Rangers, “because nobody else was doing it,” Hampshire pigs because, “they’re delicious. It’s hard to get good quality pork and I wanted to raise them the right way,” and a few Belted Galloway cows, “because I had pasture, and I like cows!” Walking around the farm it is abundantly clear that these animals are happy. You can see it in the way the pigs snuff around in the mud, trotting up to say hello as we approach their pen. You can hear it in the contented chirps and gobbles of turkeys roaming around together in the meadow. The chickens are pecking about in pasture pens, which allow them to graze under protection from hawks and other predators.
Since he started his farm, Pete has seen a tremendous surge in the interest and demand for local meat. His customers want to be consumers in a new way, which includes forming relationships with those who grow their food. Pete is at the Northampton Tuesday Farmers’ Market each week, and is excited to see meat CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture farms) popping up in the Valley.
Pete knows that it can be difficult not just financially but psychologically to pay $6 a pound for chicken when it costs much less at the grocery store. “The big poultry companies do a really good job of cutting every conceivable cost.” Despite this, Pete has no lack of customers for his free-range birds. His customers are concerned about how meat animals in this country are treated and want to support an alternative. If not for that, he concludes, “none of this would be possible.” After all, the price he charges isn’t arbitrary or meant to take advantage of well-off customers. Instead, it reflects exactly the amount of money that goes into raising the birds. Pete tells me that his main expense is organic feed.
Mockingbird Farm is currently the only farm in Western Mass that uses the MPPU. A farmer must be licensed to use the MPPU to slaughter their birds, a process that involves several days of trainings on the rules and regulations and site visits from multiple department and boards of health. Renting the unit costs $200. Pete relies on an enthusiastic bunch of friends, interested strangers and customers, who volunteer their time on processing day. “It’s cool – a neat experience. The volunteers have a good time and we have the hands we need to process the birds,” he says. Pete chooses to use the MPPU because it allows him to process on-site, avoiding the stress of travel for the birds. “It’s better for the animal and results in better tasting meat,” he explains. He has enough birds that it makes financial sense as well. “You need to process at least 150 birds to make it worthwhile. It averages about $2 per bird using the MPPU, which is a better price even with the licensing fees for me because it costs $5 a bird at the Vermont facilities, plus transportation.”
The bottom line? The MPPU allows Pete to provide his customers with locally-grown meat that has not been stressed by travel before slaughter. As we walk around the farm, Pete with his toddler son on his back and me with my camera out in an attempt to capture the charm of the place, it’s hard not to wish all animals were raised this way. So despite the challenges, there is excitement. Local meat, says Pete, predicting what’s to come, “has a great and necessary future here in the Valley.”
Full article: http://www.buylocalfood.org/~buylocal/page.php?id=459

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