Tag Archives: agriculture

Organic. It’s Worth It-New Website

This weekend the whole family had a chance to experience the MOSES Organic Farming Conference. Over 3300 farmers were in attendance making it the largest organic farming conference in the nation. This conference is one of my favorite conferences of the year. I am not sure if it is all the delicious organic food, the great chance to meet awesome and inspiring organic farmers, or all the new ideas that we take away. While wondering the trade show with a sleeping baby, I found the Organic Trade Association booth.

They have a new website that is a go to for all things in organic information. Need information on what the Organic label means? What to learn why did it is important to eat organic food? Need tips to make buying organic affordable? This website has it all: Organic. It’s Worth It.

organic worth it food family farm usda

There is a lot of great information on this website. I recommend it to anyone who has questions about organic food and organic farming. There is also a section with recipes (but  any recipe can be organic, just use organic ingredients).

Enjoy!
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Fun Day at the Fair

Today was  a great day at the Dakota County Fair. Our family participated in the Open Class Dairy Show. I was going to blog and tweet directly from the fair, but for some reason my data connection on my phone wasn’t working. Ohh well. So here are a few pictures from today.

erik, jonnie, calves, dakota county fair, 2011

Erik and Jonnie "helping" Tim get the calves pretty

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Erik and Jonnie with their calves before the show starts

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Sam with Hannah

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Novice Open Dairy Show Class, 17 participants

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Jonnie showing in the novice class

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Erik getting his first 1st place ribbon-Holstein Spring Calf

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Tim, Erik and Jonnie showing off their awards with Bobbi the Brown Swiss Calf

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Erik and Jonnie enjoying a snack of Cheese Balls

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Our entire string of cattle resting after the show

Here is short video of today’s judge, Larry Tande, explaining why the novice class is important.

Today was a success. We walked away with many first and second place ribbons. Our family also won Champion Brown Swiss. When I tucked Erik in bed tonight, he asked if he could show again tomorrow. Tomorrow is the 4-H show. Sam and three young adults who lease from us will be participating. In Minnesota, you need to be selected as the top from your county before you can participate in the 4-H show at the MN State Fair. This is Sam’s last year in 4-H; we hope that she does well. She needs to be in the top nine.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Filed under #AgChat, Ag Education, Calves and Heifers, dairy, family, Livestock, Raising Animals

Surprise! You are Being Inspected!!

Part of the USDA Organic Certification rules is that farms can be inspected at any time. This is to ensure that they are meeting all the National Organic Standards Board’s rules and regulations. All farms get an annual surprise inspection by their certifying agency. It truly is a surprise. We have never been inspected in the same month.

We got our “Surprise, you are going to be inspected” call recently and yesterday the inspector came out to review our paper work and make sure EVERYTHING on the farm was in compliance. The inspectors don’t give you much notice, usually a few days. It is enough to rearrange any plans you had (if you were going to be off the farm), but not enough time to “cover up” any mistakes. If a farm was cheating, they will be caught. Being inspected is serious business. The inspectors don’t care if you are in the middle of a (now a week late) hay harvest like we were or if you are trying to get crops planted or harvested. When the inspector comes you stop what you are doing.

Unlike our Grade A milk inspection, where the inspector comes, does his work and leaves without speaking with us, we need to be with the inspector during the organic inspection. She tours our farm, looks in barns and holding areas, views our pastures and fields, inspects all medications we are using, and more. After the visual inspection, she sits down with (usually) Tim, since he does the paperwork, and reviews ALL our organic certification paperwork. This includes pasture and housing records, manure application records, field planting and harvest records, animal health records, etc. The whole process yesterday took about four hours.

We are always on edge right before an inspection. It is not that we doing anything wrong, but it is like the nervousness you get before a big exam at school. There is always the chance that we interrupted the rules wrong or that the rules changed and we were unaware. We are in close contact with our certifying agency, but there is always the “what ifs.”

Often organic farms get a bad rap that we are some how “cheating” the system. I think that if anyone saw how thorough our paperwork has to be or how intense our surprise inspections were, they would not question if we were following the regulations.

Well, we passed the inspection with flying colors. Everything we are doing is within the rules and regulations. We can continue to produce milk for you and your family under the organic label.

If you ever have any questions on this process please let us know. You can email us or leave a comment. We are happy to answer your questions.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Almost a Date Night-Wordless Wednesday

On Saturday, my parents wanted to take the boys overnight. I was excited to “maybe” get a date night with my husband. He had worked 16 hour days all week trying to finish the first crop of hay. I should know better. Tim did get the “night off” but he first had to get round bales from a farm we lease to the home farm. Of course he asked me to help. Nothing screams romantic like helping your husband with farm tasks.

When we went out to get the truck we had to make sure all the chickens were out from under it.

Loading round bales on the trailer to take back to home farm. Tim trusted me to drive all by myself. Nothing says love like trust.

Hot air balloons taking off from the private airport (yes, private) next to our field. Did I mention it was a beautiful night for a date?

Sharing a magical sunset with my husband, as he loads the last of the bales.

Now that is how dairy wives roll on date night.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Dairy Farming in a Storm

Yesterday, I posted two pictures Tim took on Saturday. In case you missed it:

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We were enjoying a fun day at my parents’ celebrating our oldest’s birthday. Clouds started to appear in the sky and Tim suggested that we should make our way home. Tim doesn’t like to mix feed in the rain. Once we started on our way, we heard on the radio that townships in our county and neighboring counties were under a tornado warning. Hail, strong winds and funnel clouds were being report. Tim’s reaction was “ohh &*%$” , I drove a little faster.

We all know being outside in severe weather is a bad idea, but what do dairy farmers do when you have to get animals taken care of? This particular storm came at the most worse time. It was evening chore time. The first priorities were: getting equipment in, shed doors shut and getting the cows in from pasture. If the animals are out on pasture, we normally just leave them out there. That is the safest place for them. Cattle are pretty smart. They will find a low spot and usually lay down and wait out the storm.

We needed to get our milk cows in on this day, because needed to get them milked. We had no idea how long the storm was going to last and it is safer to get them in early than being out on the 4wheeler in the middle of the storm. The cows must of known something was up because as you can see in the second picture, they are all waiting at the gate to come home.

Once the cows are in, chores proceed as normal. That means, fighting rain, hail, wind and lightning to get everyone fed and cared for. If we know the storm is going to be short, we sometimes will wait on calf chores. But, if not, we buck up, put on our rain gear and head out. I have been feeding calves and seen the barn (200 feet away) be hit by lightning. (Talk about scary).

The safest place for us farmers to be in a tornado is our milking parlor, a three foot deep concrete pit. Milking goes on no matter the weather, we are more reliable than the post office. If the new fences have been put up before the storm, the cows are let right back out after they have been milked. Liked I said before, it is safer for them away from buildings and in a low pasture area.

Luckily, this particular storm just delivered marble sized hail, pouring rain and 60MPH winds for about an hour. None of the funnel clouds ever touched the ground. We know this will not be our last storm of the season.

I am such a worrier when it comes to storms. I hate knowing my husband is out there and not home safe. Tim is a true farmer and will protect the lives of his animals before his own. I knew Tim was frantically trying to get tasks done before the storm hit, so from our basement I was text messaging him weather updates. It really was the only thing I could do to help.

Meanwhile, the boys and I had a good time looking through the boxes of baby items under the basement stairs. It kept our minds off of what was happening outside.

Again, luckily this was a small storm (comparatively). We count our blessings that we were safe. Many others have not had that same fate this spring. We pray for everyone affected by all the terrible storms that have happened recently.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Organic Lawn Care Tips from a Dairyman

When we moved into townhouse two years ago, we were excited because we would no longer need to care for a lawn. After hours at the farm all day, we didn’t have the time or the energy to care for another plot of grass. Heck, we care for hundreds of acres each day.

It wasn’t long before we realized how uneducated our lawn care company was. They would mow the grass within centimeters of its life, spray and fertilize constantly and of course water ALL the time. This drives Tim crazy. It drove us even more crazy when we learned how much of our association dues were being spent on lawn care. I remember at our first association meeting Tim saying “I care of hundreds of acres of grass and I NEVER water.” He got a lot of blank stares.

Our pastures look better than most lawns and we don’t do anything special. In fact they are certified organic. Here are some organic lawn care tips from a dairyman on how to care for your lawn.

Grasses need soil: This may seem obvious, but some don’t seem to understand this. Soil (in contrast to dirt) is a living organism. It is full of life and nutrients. Most grasses for lawns don’t even need “good” soil. An easy way to keep your soil healthy without fertilizing is leaving your grass clippings on the lawn. As they break down they create more bio-matter. How many people waste hours raking their lawns, bagging the clippings, then PAY someone to dispose of them? Madness in my book.

Worms equal good: Last week when Lisa was working her part-time job at the greenhouse, a lady asked her how to get rid of the earth worms in her yard. What? Worms are good. First off they mean you have bio-life in your soil, second they aerate the soil. The tiny little holes and mounds they leave after a rain are GOOD. In addition, slugs are also good although not for hostas.

The structure above ground equals the structure below the ground: To have healthy lush grasses you need to have a strong root system. The amount of grass above ground equates to the amount of roots below ground. If you mow your grass within centimeters of the ground, you will have short roots. The grasses will not produce deep strong roots unless there is taller grass above ground. The simplest way to keep grass green is to not mow too much height at once or mow too short.

Weeds, what weeds? I think people stress about weeds way too much. A healthy grass stand will not allow weeds to grow. If you are constantly violating the basic principles above you are going to get weeds.  Also, many weeds love soils that are over-fertilized.

You don’t need to water! If you have a healthy grass stand, you shouldn’t need to water your lawn most of the time in Minnesota. I cannot imagine how much money people in our neighborhood spend on watering their lawns. Besides the fact that I see some many sprinklers watering driveways and sidewalks, watering every night (or even every other in the case of our city regulations) you just weaken the grasses root system. A little stress is good on grass. The stress forces the grass to develop deeper roots. But then again if you are mowing really short your roots are going to be short and will need water. So don’t over mow and you will not need to water. It is much better to have a good natural soaking rain once a week. Healthy grass can even go up to two weeks without water. Also, in Minnesota you can plant fescue type grasses that don’t go dormant in dry weather (like bluegrass) and will just grow more slowly.

This morning while I was opening our curtains, I spied our neighbor watering his lawn. Really? We have had nothing but rain the last three months. Our grounds are so saturated that we cannot get tractors in many of our fields. Our neighbor violates all the rules above. He mows too often and too short, rakes his grass clippings and the result is his grass is already turning brown in spot. Don’t be our neighbor! Save yourself some time and money and enjoy a healthy yard without chemicals and hours of unnecessary work.

If you have specific questions seek out your local Extension office. In Minnesota you can email the Extension Master Gardeners and they will help you with your individual needs.

So here is to a happy organic lawn this summer! And don’t be a slave to your lawn.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Raising Healthy Chickens

We got our first batch of chicks two days ago. They are very cute at this age and of course all we want to do is hold them. Hear the boys and I explain what the chicks need to be healthy at this age.

To get a healthy start, the chicks will need a mixed feed of variety of grains, clean water and of course a very warm (90 degrees) room. In a few weeks they will have their feathers. Then we will move them out to their pasture home to live until they are market age.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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You Think We Would Know It All by Now

Our kitchen counter is covered with farming and agriculture industry magazines and news papers. On average we receive about two-three publications each week. In addition, we receive several publications via email or subscribe to their RSS feeds. The information that is available to process is overwhelming at times. This week when I was purging our counter for the recycling bin, I got to thinking “Shouldn’t we know everything there is about agriculture? Shouldn’t we have this figured out by now?” I mean come on, humans have been cultivating plants and raising animals for over 10,000 years. Agriculture is an old science.

Of course I am being sarcastic. Science by definition is systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. As cultures, economics, and other societal pressures change, our “observations,” facts and knowledge do to. We don’t live in a static world. Our earth is a living and ever changing thing.

As farmers it is hard to keep up. Culture and society constantly change what is in demand and science is always changing what is fact. Sometimes it feels as if us farmers are caught between a tug of war of demands. One side tell us to produce what the customer and markets wants and the other side knowing limitations of our land, animals and our human strengths. We cannot be everything to everyone all the time.

Research is also constantly changing what is “fact.” Sometimes it feels like science is a never ending circle. Take for example calf feeding. Dairy calves were traditionally fed from bottles. Then science “showed” that calves who drank from pails were just as healthy. Farmers changed their methods (because pails are easier to feed from). Then science said “ohh never mind, we were wrong.” Now science “shows” that calves that drink from bottle digest the milk better due to the saliva they produce while sucking. I can give you hundreds of examples of science that is constantly circling around its self. IT IS MADDENING!!

What is really maddening, is when you invest thousands of dollars in the latest and greatest new findings in science. New facilities, technology and equipment can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A few years back compost barns were all the rage. These barns gave cows the freedom to roam as they please and all the farmer had to do was add new bedding material to keep the bedding pack dry. The barns were cleaned out twice a year. MIRACLE, no more scraping manure every day. The bedding just naturally composted. These barns worked (and still do) for many farmers, but not all. Some are experiencing higher mastitis rates and are shaking their heads at the $100,000 building they put in.

The truth is we humans do not know it all and probably never will.  I know that God and I will have lots of funny stories to swap some day. The best we can do, is listen to what our soils and animals are telling us and do what we feel in our hearts is right.

Emily

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Happy Anniversary AgChat!!

Today, AgChat is celebrating its second anniversary as an online community discussion and first anniversary as a nonprofit foundation. Tim and I are proud to be involved with such an amazing group of farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists. Tim serves on the advisory board and I have helped the foundation by speaking at various events about my experience in social media.

#AgChat, the weekly moderated chat on Twitter,  has served as an international meeting place where the people of agriculture can discuss difficult issues, tell their farm stories and identify ways to connect with people outside of agriculture. More than 2,000 people from seven countries have participated in #AgChat since it started in April 2009.

The AgChat Foundation,  a 501c3, was started a year ago by some top-notch, self-proclaimed #agnerds. The mission of the foundation is:  to empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms. The AgChat℠ Foundation is designed to help those who produce food, fuel, fiber and feed tell agriculture’s story from their point of view. The foundation educates and equips farmers and ranchers with the skill set needed to effectively engage on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Linkedin and other social media services. It gives them knowledge to unlock new tools to effectively tell their story. AgChat Foundation doesn’t tell farmers and ranchers what or how to tell  their stories, but offers them education in the tools that can help them do it in their own way.

AgChat is only as diversified as the people who choose to be a part of it. Organic, conventional, small, large, crop, livestock, hobby and full time farmers have all benefited from AgChat Foundation’s educational workshops, seminars and online tools. We love learning from all types of people who are passionate about growing and consuming food, fibers and fuel. Hopefully, more continue to join us in the future. As the foundation matures, so will diversity in the organization.

Due to our involvement, our reach with this blog, our Facebook pages, YouTube videos and Twitter conversations has reached further than just those who farm like us. We have connected with many people interested in topics such as food, farming, family life, music, organics, politics, love for the outdoors, and much more! We love learning just as much from others and we love telling our story.

It is true, Tim tweets and posts to our Facebook page from pretty much anywhere; the tractor, milking parlor, 4-wheeler and machine shed are popular places to find him. We are proud #agnerds and again want to wish AgChat Foundation a happy anniversary!!

Emily and Tim Zweber

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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Farmers Have a Story To Tell

Tim and I are currently at the American Farm Bureau Federation in Atalanta, GA. Home of the peach trees, grits and snow. What? Yes,  snow, ice and other miserable weather. We thought we were escaping our terrible weather, but in fact it has followed us.

In-spite of the snow, we having a wonderful time networking, learning new things and laughing at all of Georgia who cannot drive in a measly one inch of snow (in a kind and loving way of course). The purpose of our trip was for I to sit on a panel and talk about our use of social media.  That was accomplished, but this is also a time to take in all that the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Meeting has to offer.

AFBF is the largest grassroots farmer lead organization in the nation. Tim and I are proud Farm Bureau members. Tomorrow we will be able to watch some of the policy setting session. This is where farmers from all across the nation will join to discuss issues that are relevant to agriculture.  They will set policy that will become what AFBF staff use when talking with elected officials.

As farmers, we don’t always have the time to be at our state and national capitols, put with Farm Bureau it is like we have extra set of eyes, ears and mouths.  Tim and I try as much as possible to meet directly with our elected officials to tell them how certain policy will affect us, but that is not always possible. AFBF (and the MN Farm Bureau) make it possible to tell our story even when we are working on our farms.

Hopefully, our flight will not be canceled tomorrow, but if it is we will be able to spend another glorious night in this awesome state. At least we brought our swim suits and we will be able to relax by the pool and dream of warm weather.

Emily

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