Taylor Brown

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since Jun 11, 2012
Little Rock, AR 7b
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Recent posts by Taylor Brown

So, does your growing operation need to have no outside inputs to be truly permie?

No. If it follows the ethics, it is worthwhile and good. People are meant to be part of a society. We exchange goods and services.

Do you make sure that your inputs come from sustainable sources as much as possible?

Absolutely. Yes.

What happens when a sustainable input isn't available?

If your NET output benefits the earth, benefits mankind, and allows the surplus to be returned, go for it! I don't think many people here would object to using diesel fuel to construct permaculture earthworks that will provide many years of benefit.

Thanks for starting a great thread.
4 years ago
"SELF-sustaining" is not really my goal. Designing a system that more efficiently produces a good with little waste...that is permaculture is my mind...that is more my goal: sustainability, not self-sufficiency.

My inputs come from an sunflower farmer and a big-box garden center. I wish my next door neighbor produced seed or potting soil...but I do the best I can.

Regardless, the seed is an easily transported and stored dry good that is being transformed into a perishable product weighing 3 times as much. This production is best done nearest the consumer (in my case, next to my kitchen). I only sell locally. In my opinion, this model is SO much more permie than lettuce shipped from California. It's a step in the right direction.

Keep in mind, this article describes the current production model for greens.

4 years ago
I love 'em.

I'm doing microgreens on a very small scale as a hobby business. I have been producing one tray of sunflower, and one other experimental tray each week since June. No lights. No fertilizer. Captured rainwater for irrigation.

My inputs are organic seed and organic potting soil.

My sunflower costs per 10x20 nursery tray:
8 oz. seed $2
1" soil $1

In 10 days, I get 6 - 5 oz. bags that I sell for $4 each. I typically just sell one bag a week to friends at work, but that still gives me a profit, and I have over 2 lbs of greens for me and my family to consume every week, just from the sunflowers. The remaining root mat after the harvest is put in the garden as mulch.

At this scale, I am just fine tuning the process and making sure I can get a high yield consistently. In the future, it would be easy to expand production 10-fold without a major expense (like a greenhouse).

I think every household should do this. Even if you sell none, compare the cost of 2 1/2 lbs of sunflower microgreens vs $4 for one organic romaine clamshell at the grocery store.
4 years ago
I use it to fill holes in the lawn and spread over swales. As I understand it, the nitrogen isn't immediately plant-available. It needs to be digested by worms or other critters first. It tends to cake together and repel water if mixed as more than 30% of a soil mixture. That might be desirable as a compacted footpath with a gentle slope.
4 years ago
Since this might be a temporary solution, I would recommend simply tying into the existing supply line leading to the existing house. If there is too much pressure loss, put in a booster pump with a pressure tank. Setting a second pump in the same casing sounds problematic and unnecessarily risky to me.
4 years ago
I've been growing microgreens for a few months. I am aware of two soil-less media products for growing in 10x20 trays. SuretoGrow pads are a light fiber mesh and MicroMats are a compostable wood pulp sheet that expands into a mushy goop when watered. Both cost $1.40 per tray. I use the MicroMats for small seed like brocolli, arugula, and amaranth.

For larger seed like peas, sunflower, and beets I use a loose organic potting soil media. I imagine that the water retention and structure of the media are more important than the nutrients when growing microgreens (10 days to harvest). Since the seed cost is much higher than the grow media cost, I have not yet experimented with soil alternatives. Perhaps a mix of shredded newspaper and used coffee grounds (free from Starbucks) would be a good option. For comparison, organic potting soil costs about $1.00 per tray.

Pea shoots taste like peas, except without the sweetness. The bottoms of the shoots can get a little tough and stringy when eaten raw. Sunflowers are my most popular crop so far. They are very tender and delicious.
4 years ago
In my state, Arkansas, a grower of microgreens would be considered a "farm" by the Health Department. You are free to make "one cut" when harvesting vegetables, then package and sell. However, if you sell "prepared salads", or if you "process" foods like drying herbs or washing greens, then you become a "food processing facility" and a whole bunch of other rules come into play: independent bathroom facility, 3 compartment sink, approved water supply, inspections, permit, etc.

If you do "interstate commerce" then you are subject to FDA regulations. Currently, there are FDA "guidelines" for seed preparation when growing sprouts, but no requirements.

FDA Guidance - Sprouted Seeds

So, technically, a microgreen farmer, whether using soil (for bigger seed like peas, beets, etc.) or hydroponics, is under the same regulations as any other farmer. (Your individual state may differ.)

Given that a microgreen farmer typically uses sterile potting soil, or hydroponics, there would be no additional risk of bacteriological contamination from the growing media. Growing indoors also eliminates the risk that a passing bird might drop a "salmonella bomb" on your greens. The highest risk comes from the seed itself. Use organic to be sure there are no chemical treatments. I might use the FDA guidelines method to wash the seed beforehand if the seed husk is likely to cling to the final product.

I imagine that the restaurant chef would expect to have to wash their own greens prior to use, especially when buying direct from the local farmer.

Back to packaging. I was thinking of trying to fold freezer paper, or maybe butcher paper into pillow boxes, or take-out boxes like those used for Chinese food. It sounds like a little square of moist paper towel in the bottom might help. Perhaps a Koolyok:

Koolyok Explanation, History, and Instructions
5 years ago
In the US, public water system sources are classified as either Groundwater, GWUDI (Groundwater under the direct influence of surface water), or Surface Water. Since you're taking from a reservoir, I would technically consider you a Surface Water system. Granted, you would be a relatively less risky surface source because they are concrete lined reservoirs fed only by groundwater. They are still open to some contamination. Boiling will neutralize bacteria and most microorganisms, but not cryptosporidium. To use this source safely , a state agency would typically recommend applying a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses (most commonly chlorine bleach below 4 mg/L), then running it through a 5 micron filter (not required, but extends the life of the more expensive 1 micron filter), then a 1 micron absolute filter. Personally, I am not a fan of chlorine, so I might just use a Berkey for the portion I'd be consuming.

I think there is some hard-to-quantify additional risk from contamination (bird drop, insects, algae, etc.). It's expensive to test for crypto, but a simple total coliform bacteria+E. Coli test at our State's lab runs US $17.50.
5 years ago
Your soil type becomes an issue as well. Increasing the moisture content of the sub-base of a road makes road maintenance more difficult if you're on a silt/clay soil. You will get soft spots and the fine soil particles will migrate into your gravel road as you drive over it. Sandy base soils have less cohesion, making erosion more of an issue. In that case, try to design more flat retention areas and larger sills so the water moves slower through the system.
5 years ago
If the problem is indeed in your well, a chlorine shock is probably the easiest solution. I don't like drinking chlorinated water either, but a shock is just temporary to kill the bacteria. The well is then flushed, the chlorine dissipates fairly rapidly and you're left with a sanitized water source.
5 years ago