Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grazing for Profit Workshop, Part 1 of 4

Multi-species Watering System

      Rural Resources hosted another delicious, fresh and locally grown Seasonal Supper last Thursday at the Holley Creek Farm. Following the supper, folks were invited to stay for a Grazing for Profit Workshop and Pasture Walk, with speakers from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Circle W Enterprises on Ararat Farms out of Virginia and the UT Extension service.

NRCS District Conservationist Mike McElroy, left, explains the construction of Rural Resources' multi-species watering system.

      Mike McElroy, district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA, began the pasture walk with a discussion of an innovative, multi-species watering system he designed for Rural Resources, using recycled materials.

      Rural Resources’ Executive Director, Sally Causey, and Site Director Teddy Dabbs, asked McElroy to design a watering system that would accommodate a variety of species and work with Dabbs vision for a multi-paddock, multi-species, rotational grazing pasture.

      “We needed something to be relatively freeze-proof because we didn’t want to be breaking ice all the time,” said Causey. “But our problem was, we had all these really short animals, like goats and hogs, but we also had some of the taller variety, cattle. So we had to figure out a system where they could all drink from the same well.”

      McElroy accepted the challenge. He researched watering systems for each type of animal and used past experience to guide his design. The result is a remarkably simple, inexpensive, environmentally-friendly and low maintenance watering system.

      The system is built from a recycled industrial tire that he obtained from Free Service Tire Company, Inc. in Kingsport, Tenn.

This multi-species watering system can be viewed at Rural Resources' Holley Creek Farm.

       “They’ll load them for you and they’re glad to give them away, because they have to pay to get rid of them and have them shipped to Texas and have them chipped up, or put in a land fill,” McElroy said, adding, “We like to use them to keep them out of the landfill.”

      Although using industrial tires is nothing new – McElroy estimates that at least 150 tires have been used on about 40 farms in Greene County over the last fifteen years – the concept of an integrated, multi-species watering system is.

      “This is the first time that this has ever been tried as far as I’m aware of,” McElroy, said. “There’s nothing you could actually purchase that would fit all of them very well.”

      The tire is trimmed with a reciprocating saw, laid on excavated ground, and surrounded by crusher run rock.

      The system was put to the test during last winter’s frigid temperatures, but Rural Resources’ staff said that there was very little freezing. The reason is a recycled 15 gallon plastic barrel McElroy placed in the bottom center of the tire, buried two feet in the ground and filled with water.

      “I put that barrel inside just to get some thermal energy from the ground,” he said. “Heat’s going to rise.”

      McElroy picks up the free barrels from dairy farms. They usually contained teet dip or antiseptic and are ready to use after a thorough cleaning.

To retain the thermal energy, McElroy put a layer of 3/4-inch Styrofoam brand insulation over the top of the tire and secured it with exterior plywood held by four bolts.

      Other features include a Gallagher float valve and an optional cement floor in the sidewall to make cleaning easier. Because of its construction, animals are unable to flip or move the waterer, and its construction limits contamination from animals getting into the water.

      The system is surrounded by a heavy-use area constructed of geotextile fabric and crusher run gravel to ensure low maintenance. McElroy said that, when using a 2- or 4-ball freeze-proof trough for cattle, a 16-foot by 16-foot concrete slab, surrounded by a 5-foot gravel transition area, is often used for the high-use area.

      Though it’s the first time it has been tried, both McElroy and the Rural Resources staff are pleased with the system’s low cost, high functionality and low maintenance.

      “It serves its purpose,” said McElroy. “Pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, horses, whatever, they all can have access to water.”

For more information about the watering system, contact Mike McElroy at michael.mcelroy@tn.usda.gov or (423) 639-7397 Ext. 3.

To view the system or tour the Holley Creek Farm, contact Sally Causey at info@ruralresources.net or (423) 636-8171. 

Also, be sure to check out Rural Resources' Four Season Grazing Club.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Don't miss Thursday's Seasonal Supper on the farm!!!

Come out to the farm for food, fun, music and dancing!


      A scrumptious dinner is in the making for tomorrow night's Seasonal Supper on Rural Resources' Holly Creek Farm, courtesy of Farmer Melissa! Check out some of the delicious recipes on her blog, Eating Greeneville, including this one for fried green tomatoes and homemade basil mayonnaise. (How could anything with basil not be yummy!?!?!?)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Farm Day Camp: Too Much Farm Fun and Little Sprouts

      Farm animals, food, crafts, and a creek – it’s time for Rural Resources’ summer Farm Day Camp!

      In fact, two more sessions of Farm Day Campers scampered through Rural Resources’ Holly Creek farm over the last couple of weeks. Children from Pre-K through third grade took part in two sessions: Too Much Farm Fun Camp and Little Sprouts Camp.

      “I’ve milked a cow,” 7-year-old Corinne Southerland said, with a grin. “It was pretty cool. And I’ve played a lot of games.”

      Corinne’s big sister Grace, a seventh-grader, volunteered to help with the younger children in the Too Much Farm Fun session. Anticipating the start of her own FDC session, she talked about last year’s memorable camp moments.

      “Last year we went to Paint Creek,” Grace said. “And we went canoeing on the Nolichucky. That was my favorite! It was my first time in a canoe.”

      The opportunity to try new things is one of the things that keeps kids coming back, year after year. But Doak Elementary School teacher Margaret Ayers, who was there with her daughter, said there are many good reasons for kids to come to camp.

      “Being around the animals and being able to feed them,” Ayers said. “Just even being around the creek. These are things that kids don’t get to do every day. They see where food comes from and how animals live. Their understanding of food isn’t just from the grocery store.”

      Ayers also said she thinks this kind of an experience makes kids more compassionate to animals and each other, and opens the door to new friendships.

      “They’re all from different schools, so they’ve made new friends who have similar interests,” She said. ”I think it’s a great camp.”

      Sissy Rabern’s son, Wolfgang, participated in the Little Sprouts camp.

      “It’s a lot better than sitting inside, to actually get out and do stuff, like figure out where milk comes from,” Rabern said. “He absolutely loves it.”

      Doak Elementary School teacher Nick Baumann led the sessions and said he believes that tuning into students’ interest levels and keeping things fun is the key to successful summer learning at Farm Day Camp.

      “The highlight for most campers is probably creek time,” said Baumann, as Ben, a Little Sprout, climbed onto the creek bank cradling a freshwater shellfish in his hands.

      “I think they’re having a good time,” he said, taking the tiny creature from Ben’s cupped hands and giving him a sprout-sized biology lesson.

      Perhaps wide-eyed wonder and unending opportunities for discovery are the best reasons of all to come to Farm Day Camp.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rural Resources will receive $300K grant!

      Thank you to all who helped Rural Resources reach its Capital Campaign goal for the construction of a new building! 

      The June 20 deadline found the final tally at 112 percent of the matching funds needed to qualify for a $300K grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

      Work can now go forward on the construction of a new, multipurpose Farm and Food Training Center that will house a certified teaching kitchen, bathrooms, classrooms, office space and a community meeting room.

      Because of your generosity, Rural Resources will be able to serve our community more effectively and comfortably.

      "As staff, we appreciate it because we feel like we’re clowns in a clown car," said Sally Causey, Rural Resources' executive director. "You know, packed into this office trailer, which we’re absolutely grateful for. ... But just to have a space that actually has a bathroom that flushes and not having to run out to the outhouse when it’s snowing or hailing or pouring down rain. And to be more efficient all the way around."

      But although the new facility will allow staff to work more efficiently and comfortably, it's about much more than having a building. 

      "The new building is not just about bricks and mortar," Causey said. "It’s about having the programming space that we need for the kids that we work with. The teens in particular are very anxious to get into a kitchen and having a situation where they’re harvesting the food from the garden and then preparing it in a more immediate kind of way."

       Causy said one of the biggest impacts will be the freedom the children will have to explore and pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.

      "The kids, more than anybody, they are just so anxious," she said. "They have all of these ideas for businesses and things that they can do, and they just need a space." 

      It's not too late to contribute to the project. Donations can be made, online or by mailing a pledge card, that will provide the equipment, furniture and miscellaneous needs to complete the vision. 

      Check back often to see what's happening on the farm!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gross! Camp

      The Rural Resources’Farm Day Camp is a hands-on farming and food adventure that connects children of all ages with the natural world.

      Nick Baumann, a teacher at Doak Elementary, opened the Gross! Camp session on June 2nd by introducing a pair of giant cockroaches to a lively group of 1st – 3rd grade students. 

      “When you touch them, remember they’re a bug,” Baumann admonished, placing them on a table with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “You don’t want to squeeze them, or it might get reeeaaal gross!”

      The children erupted into gasps and squeals of, “Eeewww!” and “Gross!”

     Baumann introduced a variety of smelly, slithery, creepy-crawly critters throughout the day – snakes, insects, pigs and rats to name a few – with an unexpected bonus of a tiny, pink, hairless baby in the rats’ nest.

      Baumann also produced a kitten. The children buried their fingers in its fur and hugged it to their chests, while he assured skeptics, who weren't convinced she qualified as gross, that “she has stinky gas.”

The week also included art, crafts, feeding farm animals, milking the cows, visiting the Rural Resources garden, playing games, climbing trees and exploring the cool, shaded creek during the afternoon heat.

      The days were filled with lots of amazement, laughter and good-natured bantering between Baumann and his campers.

      Although the sessions are pre-planned and structured, Baumann said one of the key principles to creating a positive experience for little campers is flexibility. He said he allows more time for activities they are enjoying or moves on to something else if they are losing interest.

      Campers represented a number of area schools, as well as the home school community.

      Watch for more Farm Day Camp adventure photos!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

can help Rural Resources receive a 
grant to rebuild!


      After fire blazed through the Rural Resources primary office and programming space in 2009, the staff began working out of a tiny construction trailer with no indoor plumbing.

      Ever resourceful and committed, they have cheerfully carried on their mission to connect farms, food and families, while working to advance food security and nutrition, environmental sustainability and local food markets within the community.

      In spite of the devasting loss, they have continued and touch the lives of children with the Farm Day Camp, the Farm and Food Teen Training Program and by bringing farming and food into local classrooms.  

      Other Rural Resources programs to serve the community include the Four Seasons Grazing Club to encourage better forage production and grazing management, the Mobile Farmers’ Market and the Food Security Task Force.

      Imagine what could be accomplished with an adequate facility! The Rural Resources team has. In fact, they have more than imagined. With the help of an architect, they have created plans for a new, multipurpose Farm and Food Training Center that would house a certified teaching kitchen, classrooms, office space and a community meeting room.


      But to make this dream a reality, Rural Resources needs your help. The organization is eligible to receive a $300,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the construction of the new facility, with the stipulation that they raise a local match of $100,000 by June

      Donations can be made on the website by clicking on the Capital Campaign link. Donations can also be made by printing and mailing the pledge card. Consider asking your employer if they will make a matching gift.

      Rural Resources has tenaciously clung to their mission and worked to make our community stronger. With your help to fund the multipurpose Farm and Food Training Center, Rural Resources can continue to serve the community even more effectively in the future.