March on the Farm
Making a Difference for the Environment – with Our Food Choices!
By Peggie Griffin
What a winter! How exciting that spring is just around the corner! Get those seed ordered and those hoes sharpened! I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt again!
When the hands get dirty, one also needs a good soap! One of the luxuries I allow myself is hand-made soap. Today as I was noticing that my soap supply is low – I remembered that I haven’t written about the farm from whom I purchase wonderful soaps.
Farm of the Month: 7 Paths Farm
At left: LaVona Mickler at 7Paths Farm with one of her goats
7 Paths Farm is a Certified Natural Grown farm in Lincoln, Alabama. The farmer, LaVona Mickler, works with her three children to make the farm diversified and to try to preserve some of the diversity of the wildlife around her.
When asked the story behind the name of her farm, LaVona commented, “It’s a bit of humor – a path to the chickens, one to the rabbits, one to the garden, one to the goats – and so forth. It also represents my multiple heritages and the diversified crops I grow.”
LaVona has always loved animals and nature. “I grew up around ponies, horses, getting to walk in the woods and enjoy the trips to the mountains. I love Nature, animals, mountains and the woods with creeks and streams. I enjoy watching the hawks fly, listening to the crickets at night. Music is a pond with the bullfrogs at night. . . or the swaying of the trees before a storm.”
She got her first look at some aspects of farming when she started raising rabbits as a young mother in Oklahoma – and worked with the children in 4-H Club. When she returned to Alabama to be close to her family, she had to decide how a young single mom could support her family and still have time for her children. Her love for animals and nature and her desire to grow her own food seemed to make farming a natural fit.
She has now been marketing produce at the farmers’ market for 4 years. Last year they sold produce through the Sand Mountain Clean Food Network, a local farmers market and directly off the farm. “I grow a hodge podge of everything,” she commented. Indeed, if you look at the 7 Paths Farm website, you will see an array of farm fresh free range eggs, flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. She also has CAE clean registered Nubian and LaMancha goats, goat milk soap, layer hens, rabbits, and rabbit manure for gardens.
Learning to make a living by farming has been a learning process for LaVona, and now she eagerly shares it with others who want to learn to farm. Her first students were her children who have their chores that help with the day to day work of the farm. (One of her children is now married and lives in Oklahoma.) In addition to their daily chores, Alex, Valarie, and Rebecca each get to raise their own crop and earn the proceeds.
LaVona also serves as a resource person for people in the community who come and learn from her. She told me about one person who came for a lesson in trimming goat hooves. Another came for a demonstration on learning to handle and care for rabbits, as well as to determine the sex of the rabbits. Feeling very strongly that farming is an important part of our heritage, she is eager to share her knowledge and to help folks acquire farming skills.
Children are important to LaVona. She enjoys sharing her love of farming with children – and introducing them to her goats, chickens, rabbits, and dogs – as well as to her garden-fresh produce. “I let the children get first hand experience – giving the children an opportunity to interact with life, instead of computers, televisions, and electronic games.”
LaVona’s life-choice of farming is a spiritual and philosophical decision. She writes, “What I have learned these last few years about how our food is grown opened my eyes to what is a scary situation that everyone who cares about this earth and their families should know about. But people don’t have a clue – or don’t want to know.. . . It requires an awakening.”
As I concluded my interview with her, La Vona summed up her commitment to farming: “Farming is a lot of work. It’s a necessity – that if you’re not able to grow for yourself, then support someone that can. If you are able, continue sharing and growing. If it inspires someone along the way, then its even better.
“We’re here to take care of the earth – the earth takes care of us. We need to try walking a better path – learning from those before us to pass on to the future. Carson Waterman said – “You may be as modern as you wish, but please learn and take your traditions and heritage with you on into the future.”
For more information about 7 Paths farm, go to www.7pathsfarm.com.
Recipe of the Month
Apple Cider Vinegar Ricotta
1 gal. fresh whole goat’s milk
1/4 c. cider vinegar
¼ - ½ tsp. non-iodized coarse or kosher salt to taste
Bring the fresh whole milk to 185*. Remove from heat. While stirring the milk add in the vinegar. Tiny curds will form very quickly. Pour into a cheese cloth lined colander. Drain for 20 minutes. Mix salt to taste. Keeps well in the refrigerator for about 1 week. For a creamier texture add a little heavy cream or milk.
I have taken this cheese and added fresh herbs mixed them together and used as a spread on breads.
My daughter has cooked the recipe idea below.
Take 4 large tomatoes. Cut off the tops of the tomatoes and set aside. Clean out the seeds.
Take the cheese and add fresh basil, parsley, garlic, onion... mix together at this time if you wish to add any roughly chopped cooked meats like chicken, beef, or bacon pieces you can blend them in together with the cheese mix.
Stuff the Tomatoes with the mixture and add reserved tops. Bake at 350* for 5 to 10 minutes depending on your preferences and your oven.