M Foti

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since Oct 21, 2013
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Recent posts by M Foti

This is an old thread haha... although, I would say that most of it is still relevant.  Tryon is quite a ways from us though, I am located in the furthest western tip of N.C. about 2.5 hours west of asheville (most folks think N.C. stops at asheville).  Anyhow, if you're interested in some sort of a workstay, we can work out some details via email.  ajilaamafarm@gmail.com
5 years ago
Look up "under cover farmers" on youtube, that is one of the best growing systems I have ever seen. Those guys are still using roundup, but you don't have to. In my opinion, there is no replacement for a plow, you're gonna need it, but hopefully only once or twice. You really have to convert your existing land into something that you are controlling, otherwise the grass/weeds will just be too much to deal with, at least for something to make a profit with. After you get the grass/turf flipped over with a plow and the area turned into a nice workable spot, then I would start seeding it with the cover crops that I want... Something that will not only take care of the soil but also be easy for you to manage... If you're talking about production farming for an income, you're really going to want it easy to manage and easy to harvest your cash crop without fighting weeds to do it. If it were me, i would keep a disc harrow around as well, you want to transition away from using a plow even though in my opinion they are necessary at least once... The disc harrow is what you would need to incorporate the stubble and remnants of your terminated cash crop back into the first inch or two of soil without destroying the soil structure and deeper than you have to. This will chop it up and incorporate it just a little bit to speed the decomposition process and have a field that is easy to work. I love permaculture techniques, but in my opinion the best way is to incorporate proven permaculture techniques into proven traditional agriculture techniques so you not only maximize your profits but do so without damaging the structure and overall health of the soil.

You do NOT have to own a tractor to do any of this, you can hire the heavy work out and work the remainder of it by hand. Even with the rolling/crimping of cover crops, that has been done completely manually with boards that have steel lips on them... I guess, it really all depends on how large of an area you're talking about... 1 acre? definitely not worth buying a tractor for, 10 acres? maybe a walk behind tractor... more? Less? I've not seen anything work as well as a plow does for the initial transformation of grass covered ground into something that you can then work, after that, I recommend against using plows and if possible even tillers at least for anything more than just the first inch or two to help incorporate that crop residue.

While some folks wouldn't call the cover cropping technique in the video "sustainable", I would heartily disagree and call it the MOST sustainable. To be sustainable, you have to also be economically viable, this type of system you are buying seeds every year for your cover crop, those seeds come from other farmers, it keeps the money flowing and keeps the money on farms instead of in labs. Farmers buying all they need from other farmers, that's a pretty awesome way to be if you ask me, although I am a capitalist at heart, I'm in this for earning our living and not trying to be a self sustaining homestead. If you have the proper markets and such, you can be both, it just wasn't in the cards for us, so this is the route we like the best.

We've been on this journey for a while and I've learned quite a bit, but techniques are going to be different if you are truly "farming", or if you are gardening for extra income or if you are growing to be self sustainable... If the stars align and you have as stated, the correct markets available to you, you can do it all on the same land.

Good luck and most of all, enjoy the life!
8 years ago
There is plenty of land available, even cheap and small parcels... what is difficult is finding everything you need in a place where marketability is viable... Our farm is 30 acres, we have more land than we can get the things we want to do done on in any timely manner, so we just concentrate on getting one thing going at a time. Most of our land isn't traditionally "farm land" so we have to also be creative in what we grow on it, either that or hire a fleet of bulldozers and that isn't what we want to do. Markets should be the number one priority when choosing where to locate your farm. We do not have much in the way of "local" markets, they exist but if you can't match non-organic grocery store prices, then you're going to be taking your product home at the end of the day, where we do get lucky is we are 2 hours from 5 major cities, so direct marketing is possible but still not really ideal for us, that is why we chose to focus on wholesale since we actually can viably do that.

If you're looking to start a self sufficient homestead, then your options will be pretty vast provided you aren't picky about location, but if you're looking to start an income producing farm, you have to get closer to the people who are going to buy your product at a price that you can make money at, and that means paying more for the land (unless you just get lucky).

There are lots of good posts on here about marketing and viability of small acreage production, some folks are able to make it work and some aren't that is where choosing your market and choosing your products are key.

Good Luck!
8 years ago
ice isn't gonna do it but I appreciate the response! There will be too much produce for ice to be suitable for. I will also have to have a very large reefer trailer for our large deliveries, but those are pretty easy to figure out. I've been collecting materials for the last couple of years to get our reefer trailer together, but no need to get out the big truck and trailer for a delivery if I am only hauling a van load or less.

R. scott That's actually not a bad idea, I had touched on it before, just making a window unit that is easily swappable I just never really thought about just having 2 doors... I mean, 4 bolts and it's off and on and I DO like the idea of using easily replaceable components rather than something complex. That way when something breaks, I can just wheel in wal-mart and replace it at any time and in any location. Good to know those rooftop units aren't very good, I had never had any experience with one.

it's a 2003 chevy express cargo van 3/4 ton. 5.3 engine. No dual A/C, it's possible to put one in, but the reason I bought this van is because as far as vans go, it's pretty easy to work on, i'd rather not clutter up the engine bay if I don't have to, I get frustrated easily working on things that are a pain in the butt haha

I've researched HVAC tech for years, and you can actually just replace your refrigerant with HVAC compatible propane refrigerant and get gains in every aspect, but as you pointed out, I like the idea of not losing a couple thousand pounds of product if I have a breakdown.

Since it is a plain white cargo van, your idea actually sounds like it is probably the best way to go about it, just buy another rear door to swap when it is needed and would be pretty easy to find.

I like that idea better than any I've come up with yet, I usually overthink things and miss something easy like that! I'm going to start looking into an ambulance package alternator setup and see what it'll do. Just need one to charge a few AGM batteries stowed under the van and a good inverter, that way I would have a few hours of buffer run time if needed. it would be nice to have something really cool in there, but... simple is usually best
8 years ago
Justin nailed it, those are absolutely great things to look at, I will add one more for you or anyone else who may come across this, in regards to meeting the locals, feel them out for personality. Lots of these small towns in the south will have different attitudes while only a few miles apart. You also definitely want to meet the neighbors and really feel them out well... Nothing is more tiresome than having 2 neighbors who both own their land that are constantly bickering. I would also put it down on the 'con' side if any of the neighboring properties are rental homes. The only issues we have ever had out of neighbors have been renters at the next property over. Luckily since they're renters they are not permanent neighbors, but still having someone there for a year or more that is troublesome is a real pain. We've had everything from people who raised pitbulls for fighting to drug dealers and had to deal with the problems associated with that. 10 acres might sound like alot, but we're on 30 acres and it wasn't enough to separate us from the trouble.

so, in short, make sure you have neighbors you can live beside forever, it might be worth having a bad neighbor for the 'perfect' piece of land, but then again it might not...
8 years ago
I'm to the point of just making my own unit out of parts from a window unit a/c... I have enough understanding of HVAC technology to make it work, but seems like an awful lot of work... I guess the plus side would be that I could put the evaporator and condensor/compressor anywhere I wanted and plumb it all up...

8 years ago
Hey folks, I'm a pretty handy feller, can build just about anything that can be dreamed up but before I start getting all crazy with stuff I was wondering if anyone has some ideas that I haven't thought of. We just got a pretty nice cargo van for transporting our produce to both farmers markets and to wholesale markets. I am looking for a way to keep the cargo area cool enough for those times that I may be caught in traffic in a city or just for transporting... The van air conditioner will keep it from getting sweltering hot, but I want to go a step further and keep it actually COOL in there...

First step is insulation, I know that, but does anyone have any affordable ideas for the actual cooling? I was thinking about getting a rooftop RV style air conditioner and mounting a very small generator under the van to run off of the fuel tank of the van... That would get me by with several scenarios, including if our van happened to break down, we could still cool the produce... I don't like the thought of putting the big unit on top of the van though, that is my only reservation, I don't want to have something permanent up there if I can help it... A window unit in the back window would work, but that just looks so ugly that I'd rather not go that route either... The van is fairly new, (2003) so I'm not sure it would really be easily achievable to add another compressor onto the serpentine belt system, certainly possible, but would require a little more involvement with this project than I care to go... Oh, and I definitely do NOT want to do the ice chest air conditioners :p

anyhow, never hurts to ask, I usually miss the easy stuff and overthink things! I'm hoping to find someone else who has already solved this problem haha... I can get an ambulance package and install it to increase the 12 volt output, but I would honestly only want to do that if I found an actual 12 volt air conditioner, if I am operating on 120 volt AC power, I have no problem locating a small generator under the van and out of the way, I feel that would be better anyhow since it would be able to operate if the van happened to die on us.

8 years ago
ok, you seem to really know what you're doing! Would you care to take the time to explain how one "fits" this whole thing to their body and mechanics? I understand that's alot to ask, just thought it was worth a shot
9 years ago
I have a pretty large utility atv, and have tried lots of different equipment for it... I haven't really liked any of it and was left wanting. My advice for folks would be to get the tractor and wait on an atv... I also happened across a very cheap Suzuki Samurai (very small SUV/truck) and it is by far the finest farm vehicle I've ever been in. They're stronger than the biggest utility atv's and utility UTV machines, you can get most of the parts at a regular automotive parts store, and they are built like a little truck so you can abuse them more by pushing/ramming things and wrapping chains around stuff and yanking on things like logs and stumps... I haul quite a bit more in trailers than our ATV can as well... The only reason I keep the ATV around is because I can throw a few small things in it and run around a bit faster...

I think if you got rid of your tractor and just kept an ATV with equipment for it, that you would really regret that decision...

on another thought, what a bummer that you have to pay for license and insurance on a tractor!!! wow!
9 years ago
Thanks folks, yeah I have seen the hydraulic tillers during my search, there isn't any way I can afford one of those, we really don't use them here on the farm anymore except for opening up new ground or if we have something that we really want to decompose in the garden quick, so I couldn't justify the expense haha...

Rscott, I have seen those big hondas, they look impressive! Have I mentioned my sheer laziness? haha, that's why I like the larger rear tine self-driving types of tillers. The old tecumseh engine on the troy-bilt is about to give it up, checked compression last week and it was around 55-60 psi, still runs but cold starts are hard now, pretty much have to use starting fluid on her, I am looking to re-power the critter with a nice honda engine, I absolutely LOVE those honda small engines. I grew up in construction and all our pressure washers had honda engines on them, it was quite rare to ever have an engine problem... Probably went through 3-4 pumps on each one and still the engines would start by the third pull.

I had forgotten about the rotary plows, has anyone here ever used a rotary plow on virgin hard ground? Just wondering how well they do on really tough stuff...
9 years ago