Mid-October Garden Report

The mid-October garden report finds the farm in pretty good shape. We survived festival season and got a lot of much needed clean up done. Tomatoes and peppers are dwindling, but the fall beans are banging. Besides six rows of blue lake, we have many rows of October beans whose time has come.

These were sown in the old potato field in late July, along with long gone cucumbers and yellow squash. Above them we have rows of arugula, mizuna, ale and turnips. A field of purple tops and mustard are growing at the very top.

turnips, mustard greens, fall greens, organic tn

A half acre of greens followed a summer garden, planted in early August. Bok choys and chinese cabbage were started here and then transplanted out to other fields. Next to several rows of our own flat leaf kale we have a big collard patch and one row each of Red Russian, Siberian, and Dwarf Scotch curled kale. A young spinach patch is starting to poke up.

The squash field is in assorted greens daikons, awaiting Sandor Katz’s Nov. 5 workshop and inspiration to make kimchi. A taste and sharing of muscadines was heavenly. The last pears were the very best.

In the store house we are busy sorting sweets and butts, our affectionate name for sweet potatoes and butternuts. They look (and taste) good. We still have irish potatoes to look through, too.

The barn loft has plenty of onions and garlic left. We have the new garlic beds planted and about half mulched. I’d like to get some ground composted and plowed for an early onion crop next spring.

It’s beed a good growing year, with plenty of rain most of the time. We thank the gardens with cover crops of buckwheat, crimson clover, wheat, rye and peas And we thank all of our customers, from far and near, who support local organic farming.

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River Run Garden Project

To inquire about having Jeff Poppen out to your small garden or large farm, please click here. 

About six months ago David approached me with a job he thought I might be interested in. He manages Second Harvest Food Bank and has been getting donations from our farm for many years. David has a goal to be able to offer more fresh produce, and he had a plan.

Jess had recently purchased a big farm out on River Road and was willing to donate some land and resources to create a community garden. I met with David and his helper Becky, along with Jess and her helper Dustin. As I’d done similar projects before, I could give them a realistic idea of what it would take to grow an acre garden to give away at Second Harvest.

I revisited the farm a few weeks later and drove around the 300 acre property. We talked about mob grazing cattle, a deer fence around the garden spot, and the vision for the farm. Jess loves horses and envisions a community farm where teenagers can enjoy horseback riding. She also likes the idea of farm to families and exposing people to growing food. 

Now that the project had the green light, I measured the plots, noting a wet spot in the middle. We checked out a nearby spring, and plowed four beds for the berry patches. Potatoes and corn were on our minds, along with a row each of cucumber, beans, squash, lettuce, tomatoes and a row of flowers. 

On the spring equinox I stirred the biodynamic preparations and applied them over the whole garden area. I met Ken and Lucy from KDL Farms and looked at some old manure. It seemed composted enough and they graciously offered it to the project. Dustin hauled two 10 ton loads and soon it was incorporated. Meanwhile, we checked out two 140 Farmall tractors in Clarksville, before deciding to just fix up Dustin’s grandpa’s tractor. 

Within the week we got the potatoes in. Second Harvest sent a crew over to cut 450 pounds each of Red Pontiac and Kennebec, and then dropped them into the furrows made with the tractor. We skipped over the wet spot, and the tractor straddled the rows to cover them up. 


Ten days later I harrowed over the field, to prevent evaporation and disturb the surface weeds. Dustin helped me set out the berry patch, which are four different beds, 75 feet long. The Heritage Raspberry and thornless blackberry came from our farm, and Jess had bought 15 blueberry and 10 grape plants. 

I dropped in a few weeks later to harrow the potato patch again. Frequent stirring of the soil keeps it loose, aerated and weed free. Another biodynamic preparation was stirred and applied, and I checked on our berry patch. 

My new intern Chris joined me on May 8th to plant the rest of the garden. I chisel plowed and harrowed the field, and then laid off 26 rows. He dropped G-90 bicolor sweet corn into 16 rows, and Incredible into 4 more. I planted one row each of cucumbers (Marketmore and National Pickling), green beans (Blue Lake and Roma), summer squash (yellow prolific straightneck), zinnia (Giant Dahlia), four kinds of head lettuce (Freckles, Fenberg, Avenue and Nevada) and tomatoes (14 each of Cherokee Purple, Parks Whopper, Pink Girl, Big Beef, Tiren Paste and Bradley). A small patch of large leaf basil was sown at the end of the tomato row, and Dukat Dill with the cucumbers. I also cultivated the young potato plants. 

Two weeks later I cultivated everything and hilled up the potatoes. The wet spot in the center of the garden had dried up, so we planted four rows of butternut squash there. I finished the day up with another stirring and application of the biodynamic horn manure. 

On the second day of June I returned to plow out the garden and check on it. The soil is beautiful and everything was thriving. I’m planning a compost operation utilizing the daily cleanings from the horses somewhere near their barns, with the turning to happen as we move it closer to the garden area about six months later. 

Within the week I came back to hill the corn, cultivate the other vegetables and plant a row of late summer squash below the tomatoes. David came and he got a tractor lesson and we made tomato cages. 

On my 13th visit to the garden I staked up the grapes and felt they were getting ignored. I could see why, the garden is huge and starting to produce a lot of food. It will take more than just David to keep up with harvesting, mulching and weeding. As in other projects I’ve done, the summer squash did not get picked and became as large as clubs which are big enough to beat up the guy who planted all this stuff. I take it as a sign that my job is basically over. 

The team made this garden possible. Dustin came through with the compost and tractor, David with the helpers, and Jess with the deer fence and beautiful land. My erratic schedule made it hard to organize an official educational day, although I believe we all learned a lot. We will soon be digging a bumper crop of potatoes, harvesting fresh corn, cucumbers, beans, squash and tomatoes, and enjoying the flowers, lettuce, dill and basil. I have high hopes that this is just the beginning of another great community garden, supplying tons of delicious produce to a wide variety of people.

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First Press Release: TN Local Food Summit 2016

The 6th annual Tennessee Local Food Summit is at TSU’s downtown Avon Williams campus on December 2-4 this year. Local food means many more jobs, food security, better health and revitalizing family farms.

According to Joel Salatin, “Local integrity food will enjoy a huge boost from the Tennessee Local Food Summit in December. For enthusiasm, inspiration and how-to, this is the place to be.”

food gourmet tn local food summit by alexandra gellis

Joining Salatin will be Sean Brock, Hugh Lovel and other leaders spearheading the local food movement. Expect a vibrant trade show, invaluable networking and plenty of local food. Brought to you by Barefoot Farmer, LLC and Tennessee State University College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.

For more information, please visit tnlocalfood.com.

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Strawberry Fields

Let me take you down ’cause I’m going to strawberry fields. The harvest is real. Gallons upon gallons are picked every few days, and we are not selling them. Instead, we are trying to set a new Long Hungry record for desserts.

Besides simply eating too many strawberries, the kitchen crew has produced pies, tarts, cakes, cream roll ups and other red, juicy delights. We are also freezing a lot for next winter. Jams and wine seem to loom in our future as well.

Strawberries are planted in the fall. I’ve made the mistake of spring planting, and this involves a whole spring and summer of weeding. Market gardeners often follow a summer crop with a September planting of strawberries, and then pull them out after the May harvest, allowing for another summer crop. All they need is a few months of growth before winter, not a whole summer.

strawberries organic fresh red

We had some leftover landscape cloth from an old watermelon patch, and it was folded up and had slits cut into it at two feet apart. Chandler plants were set and watered a year and a half ago. Last year a beautiful harvest kept us jamming all winter, and I decided to leave the patch in. We are sure glad about that.

A floating row cover protected the plants last winter, after the runners filled up the bed. As we weeded them it looked like they were too thick. The cover was pulled off in the spring during bloom so the bees could get in there to do their thing.

Deer love strawberries, so a big fence is required. Compost is their fertilizer of choice and weeds are the main problem. Keeping the grass and other plants away allows the berry plants to thrive and take over the patch. We’ve had no other issues besides the tedious task of daily picking.

The berries are perfect, heralding the new season on the farm. Gertrude the Guernsey plays no small part in the strawberry festival, with her fresh cream, butter and yogurt. Add farm fresh eggs, some sugar and flour, and let your imagination ignore your calorie intake. There is something to celebrate everyday.


Strawberry patches need renovation every few years. They tend to grow up so thickly they shade each other out. Yields decrease after a few years, but runners can be transplanted to a new spot. This is how you have strawberry fields forever.

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Plan Your Plantings

Planning plantings to provide people who’ve previously pledged payments with plenty of produce places particularly peculiar and perplexing parameters around the potential possibility of periodic over productions. It is way too easy to grow way too much.

Our first plantings pose no problems. We can never grow too many onions or potatoes. These storage crops are always in high demand, and we are able to off load extras.

On the other hand, when it comes to summer squash and cucumbers it is easy to overload everybody. Unless you make pickles, who needs a peck of cucumbers? And surplus summer squash has neighbors locking their screen doors.

I plan for about 150 families, and plant accordingly. This supplies a 100 member CSA, a restaurant, some other accounts, and leaves us an abundance to put up and give away.

The rows average about 300 feet in length. Fifteen rows of beets will get everyone in a pickle. Twelve rows of lettuce makes sure everybody gets lots of heads. Three rows each of swiss chard and celery provides plenty of weekly pickings, although just one row of parsley suffices. Unless you really relish radishes, two rows work well. Two rows of carrots is all we want to keep weeded, but we all could eat more.

We are so lucky when the work we do is the fun we do.

We are so lucky when the work we do is the fun we do.

Successive plantings are the way to deal with beans, squash, cucumbers and corn. Yesterday we sowed an 80 day variety along with a 90 day one of sweet corns. We will do the same two or three weeks later. Three rows each of summer squash, cucumbers and green beans were also sown, and I’ll wait until June to plant more of them. A third planting happens in July, and this gives us fresh pickings throughout most of the summer of all of these vegetables. Six rows each of tomatoes and peppers makes everyone happy. Three rows of watermelons are about right, although every year is different with them. One row of okra is all I want to be responsible for picking, and one row of sweet basil keeps many freezers full of pesto.

As for the winter squash and sweet potatoes, I say “the more the merrier”. Like Irish potatoes, we store hundreds of bushels of these crops and divvy them out weekly until Christmas. Having something to sell in the off season is handy, so we don’t mind leftovers.

In the fall we plan for about 1,000 heads each of cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and bok choy. This keeps the kraut and kimchi makers satisfied. A half-acre each of kale, mustard, daikons and turnips is way too much, but they are good cover crops so I just go for it. Four rows of spinach was about right, but I bet I plant more this year.

As market gardeners, we have to grow excess. It’s taken me a long time to learn how not to grow an excess of excess, like the annual plantings of 21 rows of lettuce that comes in at once and half of which bolts. Ponder your plans and prepare your planting for appropriate production.

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Educational Opportunities Abound

Educational opportunities abound on a farm and in a garden. Two groups of school kids spent extended stays here last month, and I spearheaded garden projects at two different Nashville schools. I am learning a lot.

Last fall I got a message from Brad, a teacher at High Mowing School in New Hampshire. He had attended our Biodynamic Conference back in 2000 and it “changed his life”. He became a gardener and then a garden director at this Waldorf High School, and wanted to bring some students down for a week in April.

It was chilly spring weather, so instead of the campground and outdoor facilities they used the new barn and my kitchen. Fifteen New England kids, ranging from freshman to seniors, experienced a Tennessee farm. We dug out briars, weeded the onion patch, cleaned up the berries and took long hikes.

When they piled in the house to get warm and rest, I was pleasantly surprised to see them all reading books. They had smart phones but weren’t obsessed with using them. Livi knitted a hat for my grandson, Austin asked questions about his garden, and Feona explained the contrast of  comedy and evil in Shakespeare’s plays. It was good to see higher education alive and well

Soon after they left, Linden Waldorf school had their annual 3 day adventure for the 3rd graders. Now we really had fun, running around and being 10 years old. We had bonfires and played in the creek. A treasure hike up Grissom holler yielded lots of geodes for them to take home.

A few years ago I double dug four garden beds for them, and they asked me back. A group of teachers and parents came to the workshop on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I explained the concepts of opening up the deeper layers of soil, minerals, composting and soil biology. Then we got to work and removed the topsoil, loosened up the subsoil, pushed the adjacent topsoil on to it, loosened that subsoil, and continued down the beds.

We added lime and wood ashes for minerals, and raked in the compost on top. Lettuce, radishes and green onion sets were planted after an hour of stirring horn manure and applying it. Several folks were inspired to dig in their own garden beds so the plant roots could really penetrate deeper.

A friend of the farm from Davidson Academy invited me to dig a garden for them. The soil was really compacted and we had to use the pick a lot more than the shovel. We added a few buckets of sand from the nearby volleyball court to help keep the clay loosened up, and we also stirred up some horn manure. The students and teachers enjoyed the afternoon, and we soon had the quick growing salad garden of lettuce, radish and green onions planted.

Kids offer a fresh and nonjudgmental attitude that opens me up. The awe and wonder of discovering new things and new capabilities in themselves is food for thought and introspection. The world will be taken over young people, and that’s a good thing.

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Reversing Climate Change Through Agriculture

I have good news and bad news. First the bad news. There is more carbon in the atmosphere than is healthy for our planet, and it takes 25 years for the carbon we’ve been emitting to get up there. So there will be much more in the next few years.

What happens when too much carbon is in the atmosphere is up for debate. Rising sea levels, weird weather patterns, and some sort of greenhouse effects have been predicted. The known fact is that the carbon in the atmosphere 200 years ago was 265 billion tons, and today it is 402 billion tons. This is measurable.

Carbon is not a bad thing. It is necessary for life. We live on a carbon-based planet. All things alive or that were alive have carbon in them. Nature has a wonderful way of working. Animals breathe out carbon dioxide, and plants take it in. Through photosynthesis, sunlight on leaves brings carbon into the plant, forming carbohydrates like sugar and starch. We get it by eating plants and animals.

The good news is that plants also send carbon into the soil This is called carbon sequestration. A teaspoon of good, rich soil has billions of tiny microorganisms in it, and each one needs carbon to live. As a plant photosynthesizes, carbon goes from the air into the soil, if the soil has these carbon-needing microbes in it.

The problem is that 70% of the world’s agriculture land no longer has the little live things in it. They get killed by tillage, chemicals and antibiotics. “Bio” means “life”, so antibiotics means “opposed to life”.

Scientists have recently reported that by regenerating soil with these live microorganisms, enough carbon will be brought back out of the atmosphere and into the soil to avoid negative climate change. When you grow cover crops and till less, you raise the organic matter of your garden or field. This is a measure of the increase of carbon in your soil.

More good news is that giant corporations are wanting to help. It will be business and economics that help us shift from putting carbon into the atmosphere to pulling carbon back into the soil. Composting is key to propagating the beneficial microbes, and good farming practices will bring about a reversal of carbon going up to carbon coming down. A good source of information iswww.thecarbonunderground.com. With organic farming to rescue, maybe we can keep driving cars.

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Compost Month

March is the compost month. The cows have cleaned up the hay and are eagerly awaiting the greening of the pastures. By harrowing where they’ve been, old hay and cow pies get spread around and mixed with a little soil. This is called sheet composting, where the decaying and rebuilding of humus happens directly on the fields.

piles of manure cropped

This is taken from an old farming book written before 1900.

In places that cows have been fed rolls of hay we pile up the resulting manure, hay and soil mess into windrows five feet tall and ten feet wide. They may be 100 or more feet in length. A concavity is created on top of the pile by inserting the front end loader bucket and backing up. This is done to allow rainwater to soak in, and also gives access for air flow.

Last year’s compost is loaded into the manure spreader and flung out on the garden areas. The first priority is the potato patch. It then gets chisel plowed and harrowed, ready for the ton of seed potatoes that are cut up in baskets down in the cellar.

The early spring garden is also ready for seed. A row of English peas is already up, and a quarter acre of onions are in. A couple of cold frames have lettuce up, and the others are ready for tomato seeds.

The rich earthy smell of the compost is such a pleasure to breath while it is spread. It is quite the contrast to the unusual practice of spreading the toxic waste products from the new industrial chicken houses we are trying to keep from overrunning our lovely community. With a NPK value of only 2-3%, farmers will surely quit angering their neighbors, fouling the air and polluting the water table with dead birds, antibiotics and who knows what else.

A neighbor brought over the clean out from the stockyard, and it would have been horrible to spread. Instead, I added soil and old compost to it, made the windrows and will let it ferment down into sweet smelling compost before it is used. All of our piles get our homemade biodynamic compost preparations in them when they are made and after they get turned.

There has been much March mulching. Berry bushes love old hay or rotten wood chips around them. I’ve been threatening to put the old tin from the barn reproofing underneath the orchard trees to smother grass. It’s unsightly but effective. And as we march through the garlic beds, weeding and mulching, the delicate pastels of March’s redbuds, maples and wooded hillsides foretell of April’s showers and flowers, and what may come gushing forth in May.

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Too Much Sun

We sat in the field, letting the sun kiss our skin while we watched the butterflies and fairies play, and the wildflowers and grass dance. Our fingers worked to pull up the weeds that were choking the garlic and stealing their food, and in return they thanked us, one by one, with a deep sigh of relief.

Garilc in the spring

Garilc in the spring. Photo by Kristina Rossi

At lunch we ate food that was more alive than we were. It made our insides stand up straighter  and our brains spring up higher. We had started to feel it earlier from the air and the soil, and we thought we heard it whispered among the insects and the trees, but now we were sure- it was getting to us.

Things were changing. We were seeing deeper, clearer. It was all connected, we were all connected, everything is connected.

We wandered up the hill, higher and higher, and our bodies started to feel even lighter. The kale spoke to us of the past and the future, and the cows so readily shared with us their essence and ways of being. How intricate, how deep, how universal every little part is.

cows on the farm ss 2015

Photo by Mac Hill

Back into the woods the trees towered us and stood openly and honestly, not pushing their message onto us, but allowing us to see it and feel it ourselves. The creek hummed, and sang, and sparkled and wished, and we danced along beside it, winding and moving to the rhythm we heard.

The long and hungry creek.

The long and hungry creek. Photo by Kristina Rossi

Hours passed this way before anyone realized the sun had turned angry and against us, burning us with the same fire that it had kissed us with earlier. The brush was too thick, the trail was too treacherous, and our enthusiasm to continue was dwindling.

Now my body is sore, my skin is hot, my head is aching and I am so painfully aware I did not drink enough water. The highs are too good to give up because of the lows. I am an addict. I can not wait until morning comes, the rooster crows, and I can jump up to milk my cow and get high on farm life again.

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Improving the Hillsides

Pastures can get compacted, acidic and in need of renovation. I’ve been doing some things to improve our hillsides. The soil color is getting darker and the texture looser, so maybe I’m on the right track.

The most important aspect of grazing cattle on pastures is to keep them off of it. The grass needs to be able to grow back for a few months with no animals grazing it. This allows the roots to grow deeper into the decaying organic matter left over from the last grazing.

cows on the farm ss 2015

Photo by Mac Hill

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has been helping farmers with cross fencing and water systems, because resting pastures conserves soil. Ideally, animals should eat the tips of the new growth, tromp in the majority of growth, and then move off of it to let it regrow. The alteration of grazing and rest builds soil.

Another good idea is key line plowing. I take a transit and find the level contours along the hillside. Then the chisel plow, with every other shank removed, is pulled along the contour making four inch trenches, two feet apart. Water that is flowing down the hill gets caught in the trenches, soaks into the soil, and is used later in the summer rather than running off to the creek.

Lime is the cure for soil acidity. I like to apply a ton and a half per acre every two or three years It helps to do this in connection with loosening the soil by chisel plowing. Litmus paper is a good way to check soil PH.

cows in a field farm

Photo by Kristina Rossi

In late February I mixed oats, fescue and red and white clover seed together in a five gallon bucket. I walked over the hillside flinging it out. Then I harrowed the field to knock down the ridges and cover the seed.

I also use the harrow after the cattle have grazed a paddock. This scatters the cow pies out and slightly tills the field. It seems to really help with the fertilization.

Cute spring calves are hitting the ground, and trees are budding out. Plants are springing up out of their winter sleep, and I am wound up like a spring, planning gardens and farm activities. The pastures will soon spring back to life, with the extra bounce from winter’s pasture renovation. Happy Spring!

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Spring Equinox 2016: Feedback Form

Spring Equinox has come and gone, and we are still walking around as if in a dream from all the great energy that you all brought to our farm. How thankful we are to have so many people bring such goodness to the farm that the plants in the upcoming season can then use to grow strong and healthy!

We also don’t like to leave home, so it’s nice that you all come here to party with us.


Our thoughts on the event

We loved the overall vibe of the event, and we loved how everyone loved and partied in a mellow, cool way. We loved the music, dancing, flow toys, personality and kitchen donations you all brought to share, and we loved the respect and kindness we saw people show themselves, one another, and our farm. Although only about half of our attendees donated to the event, we want to thank everyone who did. Your financial support helps us keep the farm going, and we are thrilled to be able to make an extra payment towards the bank note.


Thank you to everyone for not bringing your dogs and thank you, thank you for allowing us to have a vehicle-free camping space to enjoy nature together in. How beautiful it was! To the 12 or so people who used the unloading area as a parking lot, we hope you make the right decision next time.

Thank you to our vendors and thank you to our volunteers. Thank you also to our attendees who contributed something a little extra to the event.

We are already so looking forward to the Summer Solstice Music Festival, and the Fall Equinox Family Campout that will both be happening later this year. But first, please let us know your thoughts and feelings about this past Spring Equinox by filling out the form below. We want to hear from you!

 Thank you so much again for sharing the farm with us this past weekend. You all help push us into the season and through it until the next one!

Fill out my online form.
Use Wufoo templates to make your own HTML forms.

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I Am But A Single Cell, By Olivia Cantrell


We are so lucky to always have such talent and creativity on our farm. The poem below is by an intern from two seasons ago, Olivia Cantrell.


I Am But A Single Cell

I am but a single cell within a seed, with little energy I must proceed
To the sun above that beckons me.

I endure until the light I reach, thrusting myself up and one root underneath.
I feel a flourish within my feet as I’m allowed to grow taller within my strength.

I find myself amidst rolling thunder and my first experience with electric light, that makes the rain fall hard and heavy.

I hope for time that I am ready.
I wake the next morning less sore than assumed, and everything around me thickly covered with dew.

The world seems to sparkle, washed fresh and new, as the sun rises soaking up my sweat, I feel myself spreading, stretching higher yet.

Underground the soil grows thicker, my roots become stronger anchoring deeper.
Searching for life that exists far below, finding a foundation as taller I grow.

My thin green skin’s been turning darker with days.
Stretching, maturing into bark it will stay.

Becoming strong and bold, rising high into the canopy.
My branches sprawl to soak up the sun above me.

With seasons change in the wind I sway,
Forever as I grow old in this spot I’ll stay.

kristina Rossi and Olivia Cantrell looking up at the trees
Photo credit: Becky Little

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I Love Organic Gardeners

I enjoy being around organic gardeners. They are a fun and inquisitive bunch, with lots of questions and unique experiences. Every garden is different, an artwork of soil, plants, and animals created by an artist with dirty fingernails. Winter time offers several area conferences for us all to run shoulders with each other.

Last weekend found me near Chattanooga at Sequatchie Cove Farm, for a biodynamic talk with 50 eager growers. Next weekend, February 26-27, I speak at the Georgia Organics Conference, which will be in Columbus, Georgia. This will be a big event with over 1,000 attendees.

jeff poppen conference

The following weekend, March 4-6, is the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show. I have given the last lecture on Sunday there for over 15 years. It’s a great place to run into old friends and make new ones.

A new conference for me will be the 23rd Spring Conference of the Organic Growers School at the University of North Carolina Asheville campus. They are expecting over 2,000 folks for the three day event. I’m on for 3 hours on Friday, March 11, and then sessions on Saturday and Sunday, too.

Biodynamics is the topic I’m often asked to speak on. As the oldest organic movement, it continues to gain respect and interest. I like to point out that biodynamics arose soon after the synthesis of nitrogen and the problems associated with its use.

cow horns biodynamic conference

Studying how farms were managed before then gives us insight into the biodynamic method, which relies on biological activity rather than bagged fertilizer. Compost, cover crops, and cattle and crop rotations kept farms fertile and productive. This age-old systems really work, and we simply don’t need all of the agricultural chemicals so widely used today.

It is inspiring to see so many imaginative young people excited about careers in organic farming. Consumer demand far exceeds current production, and we are getting interest from schools, hospitals and other potentially huge accounts. I’m honored to be a part of these educational events, especially since the organic crowd is so curious, interesting and fun-loving.

-Jeff Poppen

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Gertrude and Fred are Dating

You probably already know since I am too excited about it to keep it to myself, but I just got a dairy cow! She is a Guernsey named Gertrude.

gertrude being sweet


She started out really angry. I took her away from her last calf and moved her here to the farm. She screamed all day for 3 days straight! She is hanging out here on the farm to spend time with Jeff’s Bull, Fred, until she gets bred. Then she can move to my house to live with me. I have plenty of pasture and she will be happy there. But first we need to get a baby in her!

Gertrude screaming


Fred and Gertrude have had no interest in one another for over a week and a half now. For over a week and a half, I have driven to the farm twice per day to milk her. I couldn’t wait for her to get with Fred.

Tonight it happened! They started hanging out!

gertrude and fred


I am so thrilled. Hopefully they ended up working it out and hopefully Gertrude has a baby in her now. Next she comes to my house to live with me, and I am so excited!


-Kristina Rossi

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Here’s Why: White Oak Bark Preparation

The following is a blog post written by Jeff Poppen in response to the question “Why?” after Kristina’s post about a day spent scooping brains out of a cow’s skull. 

An open grown white oak tree can attain a magnificent crown, rounded and easily as wide as it is tall. When you burn the bark, 77% of the left over ashes are the element calcium. Calcium is the element that helps move other elements around, so it is extremely important for the health of plants, animals and humans.

A skull cavity is also round, and houses the brain. The difference is oak bark before and after its time in a skull is the proliferation of enzymes, which are catalysts for biological processes. We put the finished product in small amounts into compost piles, where these new enzymes ( and other microbes) can propagate. The compost will later be spread on fields to support the clay/humus complex.

cows in a field farm

As plants grow, their root exudates wake up soil microbes that can colonize around these food sources and contribute to the plant’s health. The greater the biological diversity in the soil life, the better chances we have for really health crops. The oak bark preparation contributes to this diversity, and is meant to be used in conjugation with five other preparations; yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, dandelion and valerian, all of which undergo a particular process.

Rudolf Steiner gave these preparations as for farms that had the misfortune of applications of artificial fertilizers. They help to bring the soil back up to par. We have found them to be the cheapest way to grow good foods here on our farm.

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Dear Facebook Friends: I Don’t Read My Own Facebook

Dear Facebook Friends,

I have chosen not to look at computers for a variety of reasons. My time is spent outside during daylight, tending plants, animals and farming equipment, or shooting the breeze with neighbors and friends. I value computers and all they offer, and if I’d been born later I’m sure I’d be using them myself.

As it is, I hire that out. Just as I hire out some of the planting and harvesting, or machine work, I have hired Kristina to do computer work. She has done a remarkable job, from typing up my newspaper columns to organizing the website and social media platforms.

Last night I spent an hour looking at my Facebook page, where 5,000 “friends” “follow” me. Looking through the names I found old high school buddies, and great people who have visited the farm that I’d love to reconnect with. After an hour it became clear that I can’t do this, and I barely got through a few hundred names.

flower red zinnia pretty tn organic farm

I’m in a dilemma. Kristina says we’ll have to delete some “friends”, but she doesn’t know which ones are real acquaintances. I feel honored that so many people are interested in the farm, and I treasure the experiences I’ve had with visitors here over the years.

You can help me. Just let me know that you know me. If you’ve tried to connect and I haven’t responded, please do so again. An email or direct message is more reliable, but we’ll be keeping an eye out over the next few weeks to hear from you via Facebook, etc.

My apologies for being obstinate about this computer thing. It is simply unpleasant for me to look at the screen. Kristina is happy to pint out messages that I can respond to with old-fashioned pen and paper. Thank you so much for bearing with me and I really do look forward to hearing from you. Better yet, come visit when you get a chance.

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Cow Skull Biodynamic Prep

I spent this afternoon scooping the brains out of a cow’s skull. Then I helped shove white oak bark into it. Then I helped bury it in a muddy spot. I’ll get back to it after it stays there through an autumn and a winter.


This is one of the Biodynamic preparations that we use on our farm. It is one of the many things that seem to help our gardens, pastures and whole farm organism thrive.


This cow had been on the farm some 25 years or so, and died of natural causes. A neighbor came over and helped Jeff get the cow out of the pasture and into the woods, and remove it’s head.

Jeff and I scraped oak bark off one of our bigger white oaks, being careful to only take the bark with bright red on the inward-facing side. He said the red ones seem to be thriving more.

We ground up the bark, shoved it in the skull, sealed it up, then buried it in a watery spot to sit for an entire autumn and winter. Then we will dig it up, and use it in our preps.



  1. Decapitate dead cow. (Use a sharp knife. Start behind ear, crack off the bone right at the base of the skull where the vertebrae join it. The rest of the tissue comes off in a straight line down).
  2. Scoop out all brain matter.
  3. Gather oak bark. Jeff liked only oak bark that was deep red. He said that seemed to be “thriving better”.
    white oak bark
  4. Grind up oak bark. Steiner says, “crumbs”, and Jeff and I could not agree on what size that meant. We went with the finer grained “like cornmeal” consistency that he liked as opposed to the bigger-chunked pieces I liked. He said that when I start making them then I can do it whatever way I’d like, as Steiner’s lectures are often times up to user’s interpretation.
  5. Stuff ground oak bark in skull. Like, really stuff. He used a piece of wood and hammered it in so we could fit as much as we could.
  6. Close up hole with according to Steiner, something bone-like, but according to Jeff, a rocks or two that he likes for it. That may be another thing I do differently when I eventually start making them myself.
  7. Find a muddy, mucky place that according to Steiner has water flowing over it, and according to Jeff has water. We chose the corner of a pond, and used the tractor to dig a huge hole. Jeff carefully placed the skull in the hole so that it wouldn’t be upside down, then dumped the mud and muck back on top.
  8. Remove after it has been buried through an autumn and a winter.


-Kristina Rossi

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General Overview of Our Planting Schedule

The following is an excerpt taken from a consultation report by Jeff Poppen on a farm in Tennessee giving a general overview and synopsis of our planting schedule:


In April we plant onion, potato, lettuce, carrot, beet, and swiss chard.

In May we plant beans, corn, squash, and cucumbers. Later in May we plant tomato, pepper, sweet potato, melon, and okra.

In June we’ll replant the early May vegetables for later harvest.

By the end of July, as potatoes and onions come out, we plant fall veggies. These include cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, and then in August as other stuff comes out we plant kale, turnips, mustard, etc.

If you would like Jeff Poppen to come to your small garden or large farm for a consultation, please fill out our consultation form here. 

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What’s Your Opinion?

Here at Long Hungry Creek Farm we like to deliver only the best, highest quality produce. We have these turnips, and we think every single one of them are de-lic-ious, but we heard that some people don’t like the big ones, and some people don’t like the small ones.

turnips vegetables organic farm tn tennessee

What’s your opinion? We want to know what we should leave in the field and what we should take to our customers, eaters and friends.

Big, medium, or small? Is it a texture thing? Bitterness or sweetness kinda thing?

Leave your input in the comments and we’ll use it to shape our harvesting habits accordingly!

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Cave’s Carvings Deciphered

The old carvings in the cave where we store our potatoes have finally been deciphered. They were carbon-dated at about 30,000 years ago, and resemble carvings in Swiss lake caves and one up in the Himalayan mountains. It reads something like this:

To advance from wondering nomads to permanent agriculturalists requires little else than land, labor and love. You will need the split-hoofed grass eaters and to use their impact wisely. Burn bones and rocks and spread the ash and sow the three-leafed, podded knotty-rooted plants. Keep the soil growing useful species alternating every few years with crops for grazing. Eat what makes you feel good and rot the leftovers with dung and spread the compost. Be quiet occasionally and think about important things.

Join us at this year’s Tennessee Local Food Summit, and we will delve into how to feed ourselves and boost our economy following the advice from thousands of years ago.



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