Category: Farm

The Benefits of Shopping Farmers Markets

Farmers markets have grown in popularity in recent years. Nowadays, consumers interested in farmers markets can likely find one near their homes whether those homes are in rural communities, the suburbs or bustling cities.

People who have never before shopped farmers markets may be curious as to why many people find them so appealing. The following are a handful of benefits of shopping farmers markets that might turn market novices into full-fledged devotees.

• Freshness:

Many people visit farmers markets because the fruits and vegetables sold at such markets seem to taste more fresh than those sold at chain grocery stores. People are not mistaken, as the produce available at farmers markets often comes from local farms, meaning there’s no long-distance shipping necessary. Locally sourced foods need not be frozen en route to the market, meaning foods purchased there tend to taste especially fresh.

• In-season foods:

Some grocery stores may sell fruits and vegetables even when those foods are out of season. Farmers markets only sell in-season fruits and vegetables. To grow fruits and vegetables out-of-season, farmers may need to rely on chemicals or other unnatural methods. No such means are necessary when farmers stick to growing foods in-season.

Environmental benefits:

According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to consumers’ plates. Such journeys burn natural resources, pollute the air and produce sizable amounts of trash that ultimately ends up in landfills and/or the world’s oceans. Because food sold at farmers markets is locally sourced, considerably fewer natural resources are necessary to transport the food from farm to table, and the relatively short distances the food travels translates to less air pollution.

• Biodiversity:

Many farmers market shoppers find unique foods not readily available at their local grocery stores. This is not only a great way to discover new and delicious foods, but also a way to promote biodiversity.

• Hormone-free animal products:

Farmers markets do not exclusively sell fruits and vegetables. Many farmers markets also are great places to find meats, cheeses and eggs. Animal products sold at farmers markets are typically antibiotic- and hormone-free, which is both more humane to the animals and healthier than animal products produced with hormones or antibiotics.

Farmers markets are more accessible than ever, and the benefits to shopping such markets are endless.

Safety Tips for Parents of Young Farmers

People who live in cities, exurbs or suburbs may not come across farms very frequently. But millions of people, including children, still live on farms. In fact, in 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that more than one million children under the age of 20 lived, worked or had a regular presence on farms in the United States.

Protecting children from injury on farms, especially those who perform work on farms, is of paramount importance. The American Society of Safety Engineers offers the following safety tips to parents of children who will be spending time on farms.

• Know and obey the laws. Various state and federal laws are in place to protect young children from farm-related accidents and injuries. Age requirements dictate which jobs children can perform on a farm, and parents should adhere to those requirements. Asking children to do more than they’re physically capable of can lead to accident, injury or even death.

• Review equipment operation instructions. Before assigning children a task on the farm, parents should review the equipment operation instructions. Doing so can help parents reacquaint themselves with tools and equipment they may not have used in awhile, and that can make it easier for them to teach kids how to use such equipment. In addition, reviewing equipment instructions may provide insight to parents unsure if their children are old enough to use certain tools.

• Inspect equipment. Before children perform any tasks on the farm, parents should inspect the equipment their children are likely to use to make sure each tool is safe. Make sure tools are in proper working order, as broken or poorly working equipment increases the risk of accident or injury.

• Enroll children in farm safety camps. The ASSE recommends that parents contact their local Cooperative Extension and Farm Bureau offices to enroll children in farm safety camps. Such camps can teach kids safe farming techniques and the proper ways to use age-appropriate tools.

• Set a positive example. Another way for parents to protect their children on the farm is to set a positive example. Parents can do so in various ways. Using equipment properly, removing tractor keys from ignitions when tractors are not in use and exercising caution when using hazardous materials shows kids the importance of caution when working on farms.

Hundreds of thousands of children perform jobs on farms across the country. Parents who want to teach their kids to farm should always do so with safety in mind.

Give Your Christmas a Country Feel

Christmas decorations can range from grandiose lighting displays to more subtle adornments. Some families may prefer more traditional holiday decor, while others might like the look of modern trimmings.

Holiday decorations can also be used to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a certain type of locale, giving a home a holiday in the city vibe or a more rustic feel. For those who prefer a rustic look reminiscent of a country Christmas, consider the following tips.


* Start with the tree. The Christmas tree is the center of many a home’s holiday decor, and those who want to create a country Christmas can start with their tree. Instead of traditional holiday lights, choose lights that look like candles while adorning the tree with wooden ornaments and strands of popcorn.

* Forgo traditional wrapping paper. Instead of flashy, store-bought wrapping paper, wrap presents in brown paper and put presents under the tree as early as possible. Instead of store-bought gift tags, create your own and attach a candy cane or another candy to the gift.

* Think nature with decorations. Items gathered from nature can give a home a rustic appeal during the holidays. Hang a homemade wreath on the front door and include pine cones and clippings from evergreen trees when adding decorative accents around the house. Tuck a few decorative woven baskets in corners to further emphasize a rustic look.

* Create homemade ornaments. Homemade ornaments can also give a home a more rustic look come the holiday season. Spend an afternoon creating holiday crafts with the kids and use these instead of store-bought ornaments. For those who are especially gifted craftsmen, put your woodworking skills to the test to create decorative wooden stockings that, if not functional, can be replaced with more traditional stockings come Christmas Eve.

* Don’t forget the music. Another way to create a country Christmas is to play country Christmas albums instead of classical or more traditional Christmas records. Nearly every country music star of the past and present has recorded a Christmas song or album, so create a master playlist of country Christmas songs on your digital music player and play it throughout the season to set the holiday mood in your household. HL12C747

How to Pick the Best Apples & Pumpkins!

Although scores of people cite summer as their favorite time of year, autumn also is a beloved season. Cool breezes and crisp air seem tailor-made for afternoons spent enjoying the great outdoors. The pleasant autumn weather and awe-inspiring foliage may be the reason so many festivals and outdoor events are scheduled this time of year.

Apple- and pumpkin-picking are popular fall pastimes. Neighborhood orchards open their doors to the public, allowing men, women and children to scour their fields and trees for the perfect finds. Heed these picking tips to make the experience even more of a success.

Apples

Many orchards that have open picking seasons plant dwarf apple trees to make the picking process easier, particularly for young children, so there’s no need to bring along a ladder. You should still be able to find plenty of apples close to the ground.

A good farmer will know when certain varieties of apples are ripe, and he or she will likely cordon off trees that are not ready for picking. Ripe apples will be crisp and firm. Keep in mind that apples ripen from the outside of the tree inward. Those are the ones usually picked first, anyway.

Try to get to an orchard earlier in the season. If you wait too long, the trees may be picked of most of the best fruit. Depending on where you live, apple-picking season may begin in mid-September and continue into mid-October.

Apples can bruise, so don’t toss them into baskets when picking. Also, wait to wash apples until right before eating to prevent moisture-related spoilage. Apples keep best in a cool location.

Pumpkins

Pumpkin patches are often found in close proximity to apple orchards. Picking pumpkins to eat or decorate the home is a popular autumn activity, one that families often enjoy together.

When visiting a pumpkin patch, dress accordingly. That means wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as the patch may be muddy. Layer clothing in case it is a chilly day. Breezes are more pronounced in open fields.

Pumpkins are “long-keepers,” which means if they are uncut or not damaged, they can last for several weeks. This means you can pick pumpkins at the same time as apples. When selecting a pumpkin, look for one that is completely orange. After picking, a green or yellow pumpkin may never ripen to orange.

Bring along a small wagon and knife so that you can cut the vine, if necessary. Pumpkins are heavy, and a wagon will come in handy, especially with youngsters in tow.

Ripe pumpkins should not dent easily. Examine your pumpkin for holes or insects, which could indicate internal rot that greatly reduces the shelf life of the pumpkin. Remember, carving the pumpkin reduces its life expectancy, so be sure to reserve that task until close to Halloween.

If you desire a pumpkin to turn into a baked treat or other dish, you will need a type of small, sweet cooking pumpkin known as a “sugar pumpkin.” The meat of this pumpkin is much less stringy and more smooth than decorative pumpkin varieties.

Autumn is the season for apple- and pumpkin-picking. This is a great way to spend an afternoon outdoors with the family. If possible, visit an orchard on a weekday, when the crowds will be much smaller than during prime fall weekends.


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Maximize Your Farmer’s Market Trip

Community-based farmer’s markets can introduce shoppers to an array of foods they may otherwise never experience. Farmer’s markets are great places to find fresh, locally grown foods, and many market customers are happy to know they’re benefitting both the environment and local businesses with every dime they spend.

Farmer’s markets can range from the very large to the relatively small, and first-time visitors may not know where to begin. The following are a handful of ways to maximize your visit to farmer’s markets of all sizes.

· Take time to explore. Farmer’s markets tend to have many of the same fruits and vegetables you can find at the local chain grocery store, but farmer’s markets also are known for offering more than what you may find in the produce aisle. Take time to explore the market and you may just find foods you typically only find at your favorite restaurant. Exploring also may introduce you to new foods you may otherwise never have tried.

· Consider the timing of your visit. The popularity of farmer’s markets has increased dramatically as more and more people embrace the concept of buying locally grown foods. While that’s great news for the planet and local farmers, shoppers should keep that in mind when planning their visits. If you love trying new foods, arrive early to the farmer’s market before the more unique offerings have been snapped up. Foods that have small yet devoted followings may not be available in abundance, and you may end up leaving empty-handed if you arrive late. If it’s a bargain you want, then visit later in the day when farmers with substantial remaining inventory may be more inclined to lower their prices.

· Know your seasons. Some fruits and vegetables are better at certain times of the year than others. Freshness draws many people to farmer’s markets, and foods that are in-season are more likely to have that unforgettable freshness than those that are out of season or nearing the end of their season. Knowing the seasons is important for budget-conscious shoppers as well. If you’re shopping on a budget, purchasing foods while they’re in-season may save you some money, and you can always stock up on your other favorites later on when it’s their turn to be in-season.

· Speak with the sellers. First-time farmer’s market shoppers may feel like they’re lost in the woods while everyone else seems to know exactly what they want and where to get it. If you find the farmer’s market somewhat intimidating, speak with the sellers. Shopping at the local farmer’s market tends to be more intimate than shopping at the chain grocery store, and many sellers would be happy to offer you some tips and make some suggestions based on the meals you like.

Farmer’s markets are great places to support local businesses and find fresh foods.


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Dependable Tractors and Farm Equipment + Natural Fertilizer Tips

Today’s local highlight —> We are featuring Antietam Tractor! It is the local spot for trusted sales on both new & used tractors, farm equipment, loaders and more! Since 1978 they have offered dependable quality on equipment, parts and customer service.

Antietam Tractor 

20927 Leitersburg Pike

Hagerstown, MD 21742

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~ Natural Fertilizers ~ 

Lawn and garden enthusiasts know a handful of items are essential to maintain a healthy landscape. Water, sunshine and the proper nutrients all work in concert to promote a healthy lawn. Although nutritional material is inherent in the soil, many gardeners feel soil must be amended with some sort of fertilizer to give plants a healthy boost.

All-natural fertilizers are growing in popularity, and home gardeners have a variety of such products at their disposal. Ambitious homeowners can even create their own all-natural fertilizers from items around the house. Organic fertilizers, or those that are derived from living organisms and not manufactured through chemicals, can provide sufficient nutrients and minerals to grow healthy plants.

Bone meal

In order to store energy and reach maturity, plants need phosphate. This mineral is released over a long period of time from finely ground rock. However, a faster way to supply it to the landscape is through bone meal. Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones that are a waste product from meat-processing plants. Adding bone meal to soil is one of the most effective ways to increase phosphorous levels.

Manure

The waste from herbivores (animals that feed on grass), including rabbits, horses and cows, can make super fertilizers. Some gardeners shy away from manure because they believe it to be an odoriferous, dirty product. The best produced manures are allowed to compost for at least nine months and are mixed with hay or straw. They should not produce an offensive odor and will provide plants with a host of nutrients. Never use manures from meat-eating animals, like dogs, cats or humans. Feces can harbor a lot of bacteria, which can be transfered to the garden soil.

Fish and seaweed

Improving soil nutrients may be as simple as looking to the ocean or other bodies of water. Fish emulsion, a mixture of ground fish and water, is a good nitrogen source. Nitrogen gives plants the energy to grow. Seaweed, which is actually a type of algae, contains the primary nutrients that plants need in order to thrive, including phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. It also serves as a food for natural bacteria that break down nutrients into the soil, making them easier for plants to absorb.

Worms

Earthworms are vital to soil health. They burrow and wiggle around in the dirt, helping to aerate the soil. But the castings, or waste, of the worms also provide valuable nutrients to the soil. The castings contain beneficial microorganisms from the worms’ digestive system that help break down organic matter into a form that plant roots can use. Many gardeners participate in vermicomposting, or farming worms in order to use their castings as fertilizer.

Compost

Compost can also be used as fertilizer. Gardeners can make their own compost from discarded materials. Compost is one of the most widely used soil amendments in vegetable gardens. Yard refuse, fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and other items can be added to a compost pile. Natural bacteria will slowly break down these materials into a product dubbed “black gold.” Compost can be mixed into soil before planting and used as a dressing after plants have been established.

Gardeners can experiment with different ratios of fertilizer to create a mix that enhances the soil. Test the soil to determine which, if any, nutrients the soil is lacking so the fertilizer can be adjusted accordingly.


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Deer-Proofing a Garden

Creating a beautiful and bountiful garden is a popular pastime for people all across the country. It is important to keep in mind that aesthetically appealing plants may be appetizing to area wildlife, including deer. Those who do not want their gardens to turn into all-you-can-eat buffets for deer, rabbits and other wild animals can take a more proactive approach to gardening.

Deer are opportunists who will no doubt see your garden as a salad bar ripe with all of their favorite foods. As housing developments continue to encroach on the natural habitats of deer and other animals, these animals are becoming more visible. Deer may not be able to forage for food effectively in their smaller, natural surroundings, or they may become accustomed to the “easy pickings” they find in neighborhood yards. Either way, you may encounter a deer in or around your area.

Keeping deer at bay involves some work and maintenance on the part of a homeowner. There are safe and humane methods to repelling deer, or at least blocking access to the plants worth protecting. Here are the main ways to deer-proof a garden.

Fence It

Fences are one way to deter deer from entering a yard and dining on your garden. Keep in mind that deer can jump fences that are quite tall, but they have to be especially motivated to jump an eight-foot-tall fence. Still, they tend to be weary about scaling a fence when they cannot see what is on the other side. Therefore, if you are fencing out deer, choose a fence that camouflages the garden well and completely encloses the area to be protected. If you do not want the fence to be solid, consider putting stakes or thorny plants within the garden so that the deer will hesitate to jump into the garden.

Scare Them

Deer are naturally skittish around people, but over time they can become quite complacent around human beings. Once a deer decides that something will not present a threat, the deer can adapt to its presence.

Motion-activated devices may not work, nor the presence of pets. Predator urine is typically an effective way at keeping deer at bay. Bottled coyote urine can be quite effective, although human urine may work as well. Reapplying the product weekly around the plants is a good idea.

Repel the Deer

There are many organic or chemically-based products on the market that deer may find offensive to the taste or smell.

Hot pepper, sulfur and eggs or even the use of soapy water have been successful in certain instances. The use of blood meal or even human hair around the garden may repel the deer and keep them on a different foraging path. However, remember that any deer that is very hungry may ignore unpleasant tastes or smells for a quick bite.

Change Plants

If other food sources are available, there are some species of plants and trees that deer will avoid. Filling your garden with these plants can help you maintain a beautiful, albeit untasty, environment for deer.

When planting annuals, select among:

* Alyssum

* Begonias

* Calendula

* Celosia

* Dianthus

* Foxglove

* Geraniums

* Parsley

* Poppy

* Snapdragons

In terms of perennials, plant these items once, and deer could stay away:

* Ageratum

* Anemone

* Astibe

* Bearded iris

* Catmint

* Honeysuckle

* Lantana

* Monkshood

* Rock rose

* Rosemary

* Soapwort

* Wisteria

Plant these herbs alongside flowers for even more protection:

* Chives

* Eucalyptus

* Garlic

* Mint

* Thyme

* Wintergreen

Gardeners who use a combination of methods to keep deer out of their yards and gardens may have a higher success rate at deterring these animals.

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Repair Dead Grass

A patch of dead grass on an otherwise lush lawn can be a frustrating eyesore for homeowners. Whether lawn care is your passion or just something you do to maintain the value of your home, dead grass can be exasperating.

But as unsightly as dead grass can be, addressing it and restoring the dead patches can be somewhat simple. Before you can restore grass, however, you must first identify the source of the problem. Grass often dies because of urine damage, which is typically characterized by a dead spot surrounded by otherwise green grass. Grub infestation might be at fault when dead grass appears, and such an infestation often produces patches of light brown grass that are scattered throughout the lawn. It’s also possible that dead grass is a result of human error. If your lawn was overfertilized, then patches of gray-green grass may appear. Fungal disease is another common culprit behind dead grass, and such disease can manifest itself in different ways. Once you have identified why the grass is dead, which may require the help of a professional, then you can begin to treat your lawn.

Urine damage

Urine damage is often limited to a particular area of the grass where your family pet routinely relieves itself. Once a particular patch of grass has worn down, the pet may move on to another spot. But if you quickly notice a dead spot due to urine damage, you can train the animal to urinate elsewhere, limiting the damage it causes. When repairing the grass, dig a hole that’s roughly four inches deep and fill it with fresh soil until it’s level with the soil surrounding the dead patch. Then you can sprinkle seed on top of the freshly laid soil and water the spot.Grass should grow in and stay green so long as you prevent further urine damage.

Insect damage

Addressing dead spots caused by insect damage can be a little more complicated, and some homeowners may prefer to hire a professional. If you want to handle the problem on your own, apply pesticide to the affected areas so the insects behind the problem are killed. Once the insects are no more, cut the grass, raking the affected area to remove the dead grass and any additional debris. Scatter grass seed over the affected areas and then apply an appropriate fertilizer and water immediately. Professionals may know just the right fertilizer for your lawn, so even if you want to go it alone, visit a local lawn care center to ask for advice about addressing your particular problem.

Fertilizer damage

Fertilizer damage can also prove difficult to address, as applying fresh seeds too soon can kill any freshly growing seedlings. So grass that has been damaged by over-fertilization must first be allowed to fully die. Once that has happened, the grass can be cut and any remaining debris or dead grass can be removed. Seed can then be scattered, and you can even add some additional soil before laying down an appropriate amount of fertilizer and watering the lawn immediately. If you don’t trust yourself to use fertilizer correctly, then hire a professional to do the job for you. This will cost a little more, but you likely won’t wake up to more dead patches of grass down the road.

Dead grass can be unsightly and turn an otherwise lush lawn into a patchy eyesore. But addressing dead grass can be easy and can quickly restore a lawn to its green grandeur.

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Improve your Home & Diet with a Vegetable Garden

Planting a garden can add aesthetic appeal and functionality to a property. Vegetable gardens can transform landscapes while putting healthy and homegrown food on the table. By growing their own fruits and vegetables, homeowners have total control over what foods can be harvested, and they can ensure sustainable, safe practices are used to care for the plants.

Vegetable gardens can be compact or expansive, depending on how much space is available to cultivate. However, first-timegardeners may want to begin small so they can hone their skills and experiment to see which plants are most likely to thrive in their gardens. Expansion is always a possibility down the road.

Choose a location

Spend some time examining your landscape. Vegetables generally need ample warmth and sunlight to thrive, so find an area of the yard that gets several hours of direct sunlight per day.

A sunny spot is good, but you also want a location with adequate drainage so your garden does not succumb to flooding or fungus during and after heavy downpours. Don’t place the garden too close to rain gutters or near a pool, where splash-out may occur. Select a location that is isolated from pets so the plants are not trampled and cats and dogs do not relieve themselves nearby.

Decide what to plantveggarden2

When deciding what to plant, consider what you eat and how much produce the household consumes, then choose vegetables that fit with your diet. Some vegetables, like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and squash, produce throughout the season. Others, such as carrots and corn, produce one crop and then expire. Plan accordingly when you purchase plants or seeds, as you want enough food but not so much that it will go to waste.

Choose three to four different vegetables and plant them in thegarden. Select varieties that require similar soil conditions, so that you can adjust the pH and mix of the soil accordingly. This will serve as good practice, particularly the first year of your garden. After you have mastered the basics, you can branch out into other produce.

Know when to plant

Many of the foods grown in vegetable gardens, including tomatoes and peppers, are summer vegetables, which means they reach peak ripeness after the height of the summer season. Pumpkins, brussel sprouts and peas are planted to be harvested later on. These plants may be put in the ground a little later than others.

It is less expensive to start seedlings indoors and then transplant them to a garden when the time comes. Seeds can be started three to four weeks before they would be put outdoors. Many vegetables are planted outside in April or May, but definitely after frost conditions have waned. Read seed packets to know exactly when to plant or consult with the nursery where you purchased established seedlings. You also can visit The Garden Helper at www.thegardenhelper.com/vegtips to find out when to plant, seed depth and how long it takes plants to reach maturity.

Vegetable gardens can become central components of outdoor home landscapes. Not only do gardens add aesthetic appeal, but also they produce fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy throughout the season.


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Fall Canning – Farm Fresh Flavor

If you’re planning on preserving your produce this fall harvest, it’s important to plan ahead and have all of the tools you’ll need. Being prepared can help save time, ease stress and make clean up a breeze! Preserving local fruits and veggies is a fun way to support your local community and savor the farm-fresh flavors all year long.

Must-haves for fall canning:
• Large soup pot or pressure canner
• Tongs
• Jars and lids
• Funnel, for easy fill-up of jars (mess-free!)

-> Visit a local store like Mountain View Farm & Garden to get your fall canning supplies!

Don’t forget, you’ll also need:
• Sugar
• Pectin
• Lemon Juice
• Butter (Add 1 TB and melt before canning jam or jelly to reduce foam!)

-> Stock up on apples & fall produce at Shatzer’s Fruit Market!

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Recipe Ideas for Fall Canning

Plan ahead to stock your shelves or whip up some tasty holiday treats!

• Apple Butter
• Peach Pie Filling
• Sliced Pears
• Classic Tomato Marinara Sauce
• Garden Salsa

What’s your favorite thing to can? Leave your recipe idea in the Comments!