Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Afternoon with the Food Alliance Inspector

Last Wednesday we had our inspection of our farm by Nancy, an independent 3rd party inspector for Food Alliance  Joe and brother in-law, Jay along with myself were on hand to greet and answer questions.  Nancy arrived around 1pm ish and the inspection took a little over 4 hours.  Pictured here from left to right is Joe, Jay and Nancy.
It started out with lots of paperwork and going over crop reports, field monitoring reports, furnishing our employee handbook, records of what products we used on our crops, pest management, etc.  So the first 2 hours of the inspection were spent around our dining room table providing all the documentation Nancy requested and answering her questions. 

The picture above  is where we had to demonstrate that all chemicals housed on the farms were in a secure area and properly identified as a chemical storage area.

Then we all jumped in the pick-up for tours of the farms, all the while answering more questions and visiting about our farming practices. This picture is when we stopped by the Tammany shop for inspection.
We explained that we used the latest technology by incorporating a global positioning systems (GPS) in our tractors thereby enabling us to utilize the concept of precision agriculture.  In a nutshell, it helps the farmer to not waste fertilizer or crop treatment by reducing any overlap of areas already sprayed.  Plus the satellite imagery transmits down to the GPS unit to adjust the rates as needed.  It is helpful to read the excellent article about Precision Agriculture/GPS as well as watch our video (just click on the screen) taken during spring work and using the GPS system.

We think the inspection went well, but will know more when Food Alliance releases it's findings and if we have anything to correct based upon Nancy's report.  So I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Farm Projects

After the crops are planted, we usually have several projects to complete before harvest.  So in between spraying for thistles, other weeds, or bugs we also do the usual maintenance/checking of the equipment in order to try to avoid breakdowns during harvest.  Above is one of the combines in the farm shop with its "header" off.  In the picture is Jay and at the very back of the photo in the white shirt is our newly hired employee, Cody Kinyon.

So before harvest gets here, we have two big projects for this year.   1) complying with the new regulatory laws  that require a containment structure for bulk fuel storage and 2) readying ourselves for an inspection of our farm to be certified by the Food Alliance organization.

For the fuel containment project, we dismantled our old grain storage bin that looks like this (note: by the time I thought about getting pictures of the grain bin being dismantled it was already gone, so these are our neighbors  bins so you understand what I am talking about).

Pictured above is what the dismantled site looks like now. As we no longer do home grain storage we thought the site of the old bins would be good for the fuel containment structure. 
In the event you were interested where the majority of farmers store their crops, this is what the commerical storage containers look like.  Pictured here are the storage containers for Pacific Northwest Farmers Co-op in Genesee.  

Anyway, the point of having a fuel containment structure is to help protect the environment in the event of a major spillage and a concrete barrier is constructed around the fuel tank.   Ultimately this is what it should look like.

We are anticipating an inspection of our farm sometime next week as part of the application process to become certified by Food Alliance.    Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization that certifies farms, ranches and food handlers for sustainable agricultural and facility management practices.  So stay tuned, hopefully I'll be able to be on site when the inspector arrives so I can take pictures to capture the event.  There are a quite a few farms on the Palouse that are already certified and we want to join their ranks. So wish us luck!  =)