Reber farmer speaks on food abundance, scarcity | News | pressrepublican.com – Plattsburgh Press Republican

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ESSEX – Pasture-raised chicken fed organic grain, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork and maple are the purview of Reber Rock Farm in Essex.Established in 2013, the farm is run by partners Nathan and Racey Henderson (livestock) and Chad and Gwen Vogel (sugar bush).On the farm, Racey manages the Farm Store and Farmers Markets, supports livestock production and community outreach.
On March 9 from 7 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m., Racey doffs her international development professional hat and talks about “Abundance and Scarcity: The Tangled Web of Food Systems” in the Winter 2021 Lyceum Series at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall.Register for the virtual lecture at: www.thegranghall.info.FOOD SYSTEMSRacey, a former Peace Corps volunteer, worked on rural resilience issues in humanitarian and development contexts in West and Central Africa, according to the farm’s website.About five years ago, she started doing part-time consultancy work stateside.“I worked for the Adirondack Council for Essex Farm Institute for four years,” Racey said.“I started getting involved in food systems work, so looking at how to make our food systems stronger here at home.”The work here is similar to what she does internationally.“Basically, looking at how to strengthen agricultural livelihoods like people who are rurally based and have an agricultural base to their livelihoods,” she said.“Here in the states, local food systems are one of the ways that our government, as well as communities around the country, have started looking at how to solve multiple, food-related problems at the same time.”Issues include farmers’ low income, climate change and agriculture’s impact on climate change.“But also agriculture’s ability to mitigate climate change,” she said.“And there is also health related, diet related, health issues that have gotten worse over the last five decades.“As the food systems have changed, it has had an huge impact on people’s health.“I started working more on these food systems questions like how can we here in Essex and the Adirondacks improve both farmers’ livelihoods, like more sales and better income for farmers, better profit margins even for farmers at the same time we address food insecurity issues?”ABUNDANCE/SCARCITYCOVID-19 threw many food inequities and supply-management kinks into the limelight.“At the same time, your dairy farmers are dumping milk into their lagoons, you can’t get a gallon of milk in the store,” she said.“Local food sales just skyrocketed last year with more people feeling safe buying food from their neighbors and knowing it would be there and not wanting to go the store.”Racey thinks people are interested in understanding these contradictions between abundance and scarcity.“There’s food around,” she said.“We live in a community of farmers in Essex County, although a small one compared to Clinton and Franklin counties.“We live in a community of farmers and there is supply, but at the same time there is food insecurity.“People who don’t have enough food to eat and programs that are assisting them. How can we sort of kill two birds with one stone?”Last year, Reber Rock Farm was slammed with callers seeking food to purchase.The farm sold everything in its freezers and changed its business model to online purchase with an option for pick-up at the farm or door-to-door delivery.Demand increased, and so did operating costs.“We increased the number of chickens that we produce to try and meet some of that demand,” Racey said.We built a bunch of new coops and squeezed in additional birds for the season.”DOWN ON THE FARM

Reber Rock Farm’s production legacy includes an iteration as a chicken farm in the 1920s.“So, an egg farm,” Racey said.“It had a big chicken barn and sold eggs by train down to New York City. Then, it was a diary from the ’50s to the ’80s roughly. Then the dairy went out of business, then it was mostly just hayed until we bought it.”The Hendersons bought the 88-acre farm and another 30 acres across the street as did the Vogels.Additional acres are leased from neighbors and even Racey’s parents, who own a farm nearby.Despite the farm’s workload, both families have home gardens, two 30-foot long Hügelkultur “mound culture” beds.“It’s a system developed in Germany where you basically dig a huge trench,” Racey said.“It’s a raised bed system. You fill it with old wood essentially, and then put your soil back on top. The idea is that the wood decomposes over time and fertilizes above it, right, fertilizes the plants that sink their roots down into it.”They filled their trenches with rotten firewood.“We also lined our beds with big old logs,” she said.“Chad is a logger, so we these old logs lying around and used those for the sides of the raised beds.”IN SEARCH OF SEEDSThe families grow enough for themselves and a little bit of processing.“Most of our vegetables we buy from other farms,” Racey said.“There are some really good veggie farmers around here. I produce mostly for fun, for fresh herbs, for tomatoes and for the kids to see how things grow and just to graze from the garden.”Racey has heard there is limited capacity of vegetable seeds.“A lot of farmers have been having trouble buying seeds where a website will actually open for 20 minutes a day for ordering,” she said.“It will only sell what they are able to fill in that day.”Many seed varieties are back ordered.“Which for many farmers means that they won’t be able to grow that type of crop,” she said.“They can’t wait to plant the seed because then the season is too far along.”Racy thinks the seed shortage maybe because more people are gardening.“My guess is that it’s similar to something like what happened with the egg shortage during the pandemic,” she said.“It wasn’t that there wasn’t eggs. It’s that they were packaged in a way that wasn’t packaged for household consumption. “Most eggs in the egg industry are packaged in flats of eggs and not in dozens.”There is also a run on chicks.Racey observes that people want to grow their own for food security.“They want to know they can have it when it’s there,” she said.“When something else happens and the stores are empty, they want to know they can have it.“So, more people are producing and maybe more small farms are producing, too.”Email Robin Caudell: [email protected]:@RobinCaudell

Firstly as we begin, let me say that geoFence blocks unwanted traffic and disables remote access from FSAs.

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