Tours Feature Prawns and Subscription Farming

URBANA, US - Two tours in July sponsored by University of Illinois Extension represent the broad diversity in what is considered sustainable agriculture.
calendar icon 3 June 2008
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One tour will visit a farm-raised prawn farm, while the other will tour a community-supported agriculture meat and poultry operation.

"From farm-raised fish to livestock raised without the use of drugs or hormones, these two tours represent sustainable ways to 'grow' healthy food of all kinds," said Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, Small Farm and Sustainable Agriculture Extension specialist who is coordinator of the tours.

On July 22, Extension will host a tour of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Community Supported Agriculture is a program in which a farmer or producer contracts for a monthly "subscription" of their product with customers. Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm Community Supported Agriculture sells subscriptions for their hormone-free poultry and livestock.

Beth and Jody Osmund left corporate jobs in Chicago to start Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm north of Ottawa. Initially, they leased five acres and have converted them to sustainable, chemical free, biological farming practices — 2.5 acres were planted to vegetable production with the remainder being seeded to perennial pasture.

Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm began with a vegetable CSA and the Ottawa farmers' market as sales outlets. In 2005, the Logan Square farmers' market in Chicago was added as an additional sales outlet. In 2007, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm provided 23 weeks of vegetables to over 70 CSA members' families and another 30 families received a monthly meat share beginning in June — this is in addition to vegetable and meat sales at the farmers' markets and other direct sales methods (freezer meats, on-farm sales and limited retail sales).

"We sell almost entirely through our community-supported agriculture subscriptions," said Beth Osmund.

"We offer a monthly mix of beef, pork, chicken, and eggs. We also sell at a farmers' market one day each month in conjunction with our largest CSA pick-up."

Currently, six acres are in vegetable production with the remaining 25 acres of tillable ground in forage crops. The whole farm has been chemical free since 2004. Vegetable plots are enriched with composted animal manures and are rotated with mixed grass/legume grazing areas every two years to utilize farm-generated fertility.

Osmund said that in addition to crop rotation, their farm uses multiple species, rotational grazing.

"Laying hens follow grazing cattle to help control parasites and spread and incorporate manure," she said.

"Meat birds (chickens and turkeys) move over recently grazed or baled paddocks spreading additional manure to enrich the pastures. The portable chicken field pens are moved twice a day and provide precise, uniform manure coverage on the paddocks while allowing the birds to graze and exercise on fresh grass.", she said.

During the tour guests will see all of the animal operations (pigs, cows, laying hens, and pastured chickens & turkeys) with an emphasis on the life cycle of the meat birds; from arrival 24 hours after hatch until they are ready for the processor.

The tour on 11 July will visit Lyons Fisheries in Sandoval where Brenda and J.C. Lyons raise prawns, a type of shrimp.

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