The End

After four years of updating Legume Loyalist, it’s time to retire. For more recipes and stories of farm life, you can now follow me and my goats on my new blog

If you’re interested in my work on farm women, please see my farm women page and other work for more information.


62 Mail Order Chicks Later…

So, we’re raising 62 meat chickens.

After finishing up evening chores yesterday, I walked into our make-shift greenhouse (the room below our kitchen area where I’ve been nursing various seedlings) to find a whole new set of tender challenges. In a metal incubator set on the seeding table were 62 tiny chicks peeping and scuttling like 1st graders let out for recess after a week of rain. The owner purchased them online and they arrived during the day with only one chick DOA (a good turnout).

The chicks are Cornish crosses, so they’ll quickly lose that adorable yellow-fluff and transform into dirty white little monsters. Their legs will forever be too bulky for their bodies; their breasts will grow heavy and tip the pullets toward the ground. Cornish crosses are the meat industry standard: their modus operandi during their short lives is to eat – constantly and furiously – as they mature to processing weight within six to eight weeks. Past that? They die off by ten weeks.

Totally crazy, right? After working with both Heritage meat birds and some gorgeous layers, I’m a little apprehensive to work with these franken-chicks. Plus, this will be the first time I’m raising something solely for slaughter. I’ve been on most sides of the animal industry equation (distribution, retail, slaughterhouse, dairy), so I guess it’s about time that I take on the system as a whole.

{Beautiful and healthy layers, a far cry from a mature Cornish cross}

My newest venture notwithstanding, I’m definitely not eating meat anytime soon; I’m viewing these next eight weeks as an experiment in sustainable meat production. To begin, I picked up a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Until next time…

The Year of the Goat(s): Unemployed and Homeless in Washington

It’s been about one year since I donned my purple graduation cap and gown. At the time, I had no job prospects; my immediate post-grad plans were to travel to Europe for three weeks and deal with the realities of adulthood after a binge in the French and English countryside.

One year later, I’m living in an a-frame  studio apartment above a shed in Washington state; from our porch door I can see the summit of Mt. Rainier peeking above the tree line of the field across the street. I’m surrounded on all sides by goats, alpacas, hens, and cawing roosters.

Our set-up is not too bad. Of course this is only after a minor life crisis: a week and a half ago Noah and I were literally homeless and unemployed in a state unfamiliar to both of us. We drove all the way across the country with our belongings in tow to begin the second installment of our farm apprenticeship, only to experience something like anaphylactic shock at seeing the disarray that ruled our newest farm-stay. We lasted six days, the whole time cringing at the mal-treatment of the animals, the disgusting condition of the cheese room, and the complete battiness of the farmer. That’s what we get for taking an apprenticeship on blind trust. Early on a Saturday morning, we broke our six-month contract just in time (we were still within our week-long trial period), re-packed our car and headed to the nearest cafe to begin our research. Adrenaline pumping, we remained in a state of hazy disbelief until the following day. We camped that night in the Wenatchee National Forest (gorgeous), drinking beers by the fire and having minor existential frets. Both of us college educated, largely cordial and cooperative, and passionate. What the hell were we doing living out of our car in the middle of Washington state with no income and nowhere to call home?

What followed was a Jack Kerouac-esque adventure, with us sleeping every night in a new place, camping or motel stays. We spent our days surfing the ATTRA Internships and Apprenticeships and WWOOFUSA at cafes in random Washington towns, making phone calls, and visiting farms. Our friends and family all offered us the names and phone numbers of anyone they knew on this side of the country. We were determined, though, to make farming work. If all else failed, we were headed to Portland (I’m totally not kidding). In five days, we toured four farms and crossed the Cascades three times.

We ended our adventure here, at Left Foot Farm on the Western side of the state, only about an hour outside of Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. We’re charged with evening milking, chores, and feeding kids. We’re also gardening a quarter acre lot on the farm – we’re both super pumped to finally be getting our hands in some real dirt, but there’s a serious learning curve as the largest garden we’ve worked was our tiny porch in Brooklyn last summer. Nonetheless, we’re ready for the challenge. Pictures to come soon.

I’ve started reading Margaret Hathaway’s The Year of the Goat (given to me by the wonderful farmers at Willow Spring Ranch in Montana). It’s the story of a former Magnolia Barkery manager and her photo-editing boyfriend who leave their comfortable life in Brooklyn to travel the country for one year visting various goat farms and dairies. It’s refreshing to know that we’re not the only ones totally insane enough to leave behind our former selves, all in search of the perfect goat farm.

The Trip Begins

Once again, our car is packed with all we care to carry with us to our new home. Primarily work clothes, books and mix cds.

Our cross country route is above – we’ll be passing through the Hudson Valley, NY; Toledo, OH; Chicago, IL; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; the Badlands National Park, SD; Billings, MT; Yellowstone National Park, WY; Willow Spring Ranch, MT; Couer d’Alene National Forest, ID; and finally Omak, WA. We’ve refigured our route a few times as most of the mid-to-north west of the country is still snowed in! Apparently winter is still a thing in some places.

And we’re off! First stop, Toledo!

A Grand Change

It’s been almost 6 months since my last post, and in that time I’ve managed to quit my full-time job, buy a car, rent our Brooklyn apartment and pack our most necessary belongings into the trunk of our Subaru Outback. It was about time that Noah and I began realizing our dream of starting a farm: post-grad life in the city was making us restless. We said bittersweet goodbyes to all of our closest friends and moved our lives (temporarily) to the great state of Vermont where we begin our farmer training. Of course, we threw ourselves a bangin’ goodbye party in our gutted apartment for all of our friends. Balcony, keg, beer pong, good company, what more?

Our journey began here, interning at Consider Bardwell Farm during their busiest time of year: kidding season, when all of their 92 milking does give birth.

Sadly, our time in Vermont is already coming to an end. We’ve fallen head over Muck boots for this tiny village called West Pawlet and of course, the farm. We’ve met some pretty incredible folks during our time here, not the least of whom are the farmers. It’d be impossible to sum up all that we’ve learned in just a single post. Instead, I’ll offer a video of what fills our days:

Next up? Grand ol’ Washington state. Barring any more car trouble (check engine light blinked on yesterday), in four days, we’ll be packing up our lives once more and trekking it across the country where we’ll be interning at Pine Stump Farms. I’ll be posting a map of our route later this week; we have just 10 days to get ourselves across the continent!

The Greenhorns Movie Comes to Brooklyn! This Sunday Only!

Have you heard about the Greenhorns? You haven’t? Then it’s about time you got to know this awesome organization! Its mission is to recruit, promote, and support young farmers across America. How cool is that? The average age of the American farmer in 2002 (the last available ag census data we have) was 55 – and the number continues to climb as the farming generation gets older, and less young people name “agriculture” as a preferred profession. But the Greenhorns is here to change that! As an aspiring farmer (who qualifies as young for now…), I can’t help but nerd-out over the Greenhorns’ commitment to encouraging more young people to go into farming.

As part of its non-profit venture, the folks over at the Greenhorns have produced a film that explores the lives of young, American farmers. Their hopes is that the film will inspire and entice more young people to chose farming. The film has been highly anticipated for the past three years in the sustainable agriculture community, so I’m super pumped to announce that the film is coming to Brooklyn this Sunday at the Bell House! Tickets are dirt cheap (mind the pun) at $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Music, snacks, and agricultural inspiration are guaranteed to be had by all!

Don’t forget to check out the Greenhorns website, blog, and radio show hosted by the Heritage Foods Radio Network!

A Moveable Feast: Photographs of the NYC Green Cart Program at MCNY

{Gabriele Stabile, Untitled, 2009}

If you live in New York City, then you’re probably familiar with those ubiquitous sidewalk green carts. Fruits and produce for a reasonable price, on the go, anywhere, anytime. They’re not usually organic, nor do they typically boast any sustainable practices, but these carts serve an arguably even more important purpose: to bring fresh fruits and veggies to under-served communities, where the closest thing to “vegetables” are often the french fries at the local McDonald’s. But with a head full of organic sensibility and quests for the most sustainable kale, it’s easy to ignore the cultural and social significance of these humble green carts.

Moveable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Cart Program,” a photo-journalism exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, aims to highlight this oft-invisible part of city life. Five photographers spent a year exploring the lives of the independent green cart owners, their customers, and the neighborhoods they serve. The result is a stunning collection of photos and a bit of history. Most of the green cart photos were taken over the past few years throughout the five boroughs, but the exhibit also features a number of pictures, taken from various museum archives, from as early as 1895.

{Empty Vegetable Stand On Valentines Day, Looking East From 3rd Avenue & 110th Street, Will Steacy, New York, 2010}

The exhibit runs through August 22, and is absolutely worth a visit. Launched in 2008 by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the green cart program was designed to bring accessible fresh fruits and vegetables to communities where 12 percent of adults reported to not have eaten a fruit or vegetable the previous day, according to a DoHMH study.

The images remind us of the families that depend on the green carts for their health, and livelihoods. One collection of photos by photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier includes snapshots into the life of a green cart vendor who operated his cart 24 hours a day until he was beaten and robbed late one evening. Now, he depends on his brother and other family members to man the cart with him at all times. Another interesting anecdote includes the cut throat, but often unacknowledged competition between green cart operators and other food carts, like the Sabrett hot dog vendor. (In this case, the police favored the Sabrett vendor and the green cart operator in question was forced to move his cart onto a less busy block.)

{Will Steacy, McDonalds Drive-Thru Adjacent To Dominos Pizza, Looking Northeast From Jerome Avenue, Bronx, 2010}