Price Controls and Subsidies

Lets explore Price Controls and Subsidies. My second favorite thing to Google search.


Whats the first you ask? Tea cup pigs inside teacups! Duh. Back on track now. According to the Cambridge Dictionary. A price control is a limit set by government on the price that can be charged by companies for particular goods or services.


Sounds great! I think.


I am stuck asking myself Why? Why do we need price controls?


According to Investopediacom price controls are

usually implemented as a means of direct economic intervention to manage the affordability of certain goods. Governments most commonly implement price controls on stapes, essential items suck as food or energy products”.


Sounds reasonable, try and make sure we don’t run out of the basic necessities of life. I can agree with that to a point, but I am still not sure. When so much influence and leverage is given to people I tend to cringe.


Now lets look at government subsidies. A government subsidy is money paid by a government to help an organization or industry reduce its costs, so that it can provide products or services at lower prices.


Sounds great! These sound like such good ideas, but there is a nugget of suspicion in the back of my brain.


I recently read an article that had these pros and cons on subsidies that are specific to agriculture. Taking just the bullet points here is what was said.


Pros of Agricultural Subsidies

1. It lessens the need to source food from outside borders

2. It gives farmers access to consistent income

3. It helps manage food supply

Cons of Agricultural Subsidies

1. It damages the environment

2. It involves government intervention

3. It hurts agricultural businesses growing produce not covered by subsidies


Now I know little about most governmental programs. In saying that it’s always been my philosophy that if a product or service cannot withstand the stresses of the market place something more effective or efficient will naturally take its place. Similar to an organism adapting to its environment. As long as the adaptations lead to a more effective interaction with the environment then the organism with thrive. If the adaptations are not beneficial the organism will more then likely parish.


Of course our government isn’t an amoeba, but maybe those natural laws may still apply.


Lets say an energy company has an inefficient business model yet has been around for a while and was able to get away with it for whatever reasons. The idea would be to prop it up so we don’t have to deal with the pain of the energy company collapsing. Maybe in the short term that is a good idea, but what about in 50, 75, 100 years when that company is still around syphoning resources just so it can stay afloat.


I say rip that bandaid off. Allow a more effective and efficient organization to come in and learn from the previous ones mistakes. Things don’t improve if you sweep them under the rug. You gotta air that puppy out and beat it with a tennis racket!



Of course I am left with more questions then answers. What questions came to your mind?


Comment below and lets see if we can answer some in a future blog post.


Also here is a Crash Course video on the same topics


This post is split into two parts. Part 1 will be text and part 2 will be an amazing video linked at the bottom.

There are many wonders between heaven and earth, but sometimes one needs to look just below their feet to find things unimaginable!

Tens of thousands intelligent organisms living in subterranean megalopolis’s all around the world may be more common then we think. It is possible that you pass buy them everyday with out the faintest idea.

Looking at this structure it is easy to speculate that an architect was at the forefront of the design and execution. When designing this structure ventilation and efficient movement pathways were paramount. Why, what is the purpose of having consistent flow of fresh air and efficient routes. Why not a scenic byway?

There are subterranean highways connecting main junctions and chambers. Branching off of those main routes are side roads that lead to fungus gardens, rubbish pits, and birthing sanctuaries.

The structure covers 50 sq meters and plunges 8 meters into the earth. During the construction 40 tons (2,000 lbs) of soil was excavated and brought to the surface. Billions of trips were needed to complete this task. Each load weighed four times as much as the worker carrying it and in human terms, it was carried 1km (.62 miles) to the surface.

An unbelievable feat done with no tools or equipment! What creature was at the core of this build? Continue to part 2 below to find out!!!

The All Natural Chicken

Raising chickens can be pretty easy, until a disease or illness pops up.  When faced with illness, chickens tend to slip very quickly, sometimes within a few hours of noted behavior.  But with a few easy steps you can create a natural system to keep your chickens’ immune system strong and healthy.

Garlic & Apple Cider Vinegar

As for people, garlic is a natural immune booster & antibiotic for chickens as well.  It helps repel mites, fleas & lice; and acts as an intestinal wormer.  Apple cider vinegar not only helps keep water clean by preventing growth of algae and bacteria, it also aids in digestion, calcium absorption and promotes respiratory health.  Add a crushed clove and a splash of ACV to your chickens’ water a few times a week.

Diatomaceous Earth

Dia…what?  Diatomaceous Earth is a soft, crumbly, porous sedimentary deposit formed from the fossil remains of diatoms.  Its rough texture literally acts like glass and cuts the skin of insects, causing them to lose moisture and die.  Although you must exercise caution when breathing this dust in, it is my go to mite preventer.  When I add new litter to the coop I sprinkle D.E. all over, including in the nest boxes.  Make sure to do this when the chickens are out and about, the dust could irritate their respiratory system just like yours.  It can be added to feed to control intestinal parasites, but check the label on your feed- it is probably already added.

Crushed Egg Shells

A great way to add calcium to your hen’s diet is to feed them the dried egg shells you have leftover.  Although they are great for fertilizing roses, they also make a good dietary supplement to your hens.  Allow to dry and crush them up, offer free choice in a small bowl or container.  They can also be added in with oyster shells, if you use them as a calcium supplement already.


Herbs are truly a gift from heaven.  Not only do they add flavor and nutrients to our food, they also have medicinal qualities for us and our chooks as well!  Do you have expired, or just plain OLD herbs sitting on the shelf?  Toss them in the nest boxes, scatter around the coop, and/or add to chickens’ feed and water.  Listed below are a few of my personal favorites, but there are many more found here:

Basil: Antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory. Aids in circulatory & respiratory health.  Relives stress, source of protein, Vitamin K, & iron.

Bee Balm: Antiseptic, antibacterial, calming, supports respiratory health

Calendula/Marigold: Heals wounds, repels insects

Cayenne Pepper: aids circulation, antiseptic, digestive enhancement, natural wormer, increases egg production

Chamomile: Kills mites & lice, reels fleas, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic calming detoxifier.

Cilantro: antioxidant, fungicide, builds strong bones, high in Vitamin A & K

Dandelion: health tonic, diuretic, high in calcium, aids in digestion

Dill: promotes feather growth, antioxidant, antibacterial, relaxant

Lavender:  antibacterial, calming, increases blood circulation

Lemon Balm: relaxant, antibacterial, insect repellent, increases blood circulation, laying stimulant

Lemon Verbena: aromatic, fly repellent, antiviral properties

Marjoram: laying stimulant, detoxifier, decongestant, anti-inflammatory

Mint:  insect & rodent repellent, antioxidant, aids in respiratory & digestive health, feather growth, increased egg production.

Nasturtium:  laying stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, insecticide, wormer.

Oregano:  antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, combats coccidian, salmonella, infections bronchitis, avian flu blackhead & e-coli. Strengthens immune system & aids in respiratory health & digestion.

Parsley:  High in Vitamins A, B, C, calcium & iron. Laying stimulant, aids in digestion.  Antioxidant & anti-inflammatory.

Rosemary:  Relaxant, pain reliever, aids in respiratory health. insect repellent heals wounds, aids blood circulation

Sage:  antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, immune system booster, thought to combat Salmonella


I hope you found some of these tips helpful, they certainly help me maintain the healthiest flock, naturally.

Good Ole Chicken Egg

I can remember eating chicken eggs since I was a young lad, but up until recently I never gave them a second thought. After helping take care of chickens and now wanting chickens of my own I seem to have developed an intrigue and a desire to know more about the EGG.

After traveling deep into the Himalayan mountains to find the secrets of the allusive chicken egg I realized I could just google it and save myself a lot of time.

Putting it simply there are EIGHT main parts to the chicken egg.  The inner and outer membrane, shell, yolk, vitelline membrane, air cell, chalazae, and the albumen.

The inner and outer membrane lies between the eggshell and the egg white, these two transparent protein membranes provide defense from a myriad of bacterial invaders. They’re made partly of keratin, which is one of a family of fibrous structural proteins. It is the key structural material making up hair, horns, claws, hooves, and the outer layer of human skin. 

Next is the shell, ya know the part that’s really hard to get off after you hardboil an egg. Most shells have a bumpy and grainy texture. There can be as many as 17,000 pores!!! The shell it self is a semipermeable membrane, which allows air and moisture to pass through. A thin outermost layer called the bloom or cuticle functions as another barrier to protect the precious golden cargo from bacteria and particulates.

The yolk, that tiny golden sun, contains water, protein, some fat, andmost of the vitamins and minerals of the egg. It is also a source of lecithin, an effective emulsifier. Yolk color ranges from just a smidge of yellow to a splendid deep orange, according to the feed and breed of the hen.

Gently embracing the yolk in a blanket of love and warmth is the vitelline membrane. This is simply a clear casing that encloses the yolk.

If you were to stand an egg upright, the pointy end up, at the bottom is where the air cell would be located. The space forms when the egg is cooled. It usually is between the outer and inner membrane, and this is the reason why you will at times find a crater on the “bottom” of a hard boiled egg. As the egg ages the air cell will grow larger.

The chalazae are located on opposing sides of the yolk and act as an anchoring system to keep the yolk centered within the egg.  The fresher the egg is, the more prominent the chalazae.

The word albumen is derived from the Latin word albus, which means white. In general the albumen is primarily composed of water and contains about 40 different types of proteins. There are two layers of the albumen; the exterior and the interior. The exterior albumen is a narrow fluid layer that is located next to the shell membrane and is usually very thin. The interior albumen is thicker and is found next to the egg yolk.

Its funny how a random tangential thought can take you down a path that may at first seem quite short and uninterested, but once you start down it you see how deep and interconnected it is. We barley scratched the surface of all that emcompasses the chicken egg let alone all the other eggs out there!!



A new AmeriCorps Service Member in the office!

Ellen Gray Gregory grew up in the small town of Lancaster, South Carolina, but spent much of her childhood in the Lowcountry and Western North Carolina. She attended Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas and graduated with a degree in Literary Studies. After graduating Ellen Gray applied to join the United States Peace Corps and was invited to serve as an English Teacher and Teacher Trainer in the Kingdom of Cambodia. While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer on a small Island in the Gulf of Thailand, Ellen Gray was disturbed by the ecological issues affecting this tiny island community, especially those pertaining to food and water security. Upon her return to the US, Ellen Gray felt compelled to pursue a career in conservation and environmental stewardship. Before accepting the position as Outreach and Education Associate with the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development, Ellen Gray worked on trail maintenance projects on Mount Mitchell and spent several weeks working on a homestead in Vermont. She is looking forward to continuing to learn about sustainable food and local food systems in Polk County!

Support Small Farms

Public consciousness regarding the dangers of industrial scale factory farms is on the rise. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector, which is largely dominated by industrial scale farms, generates more greenhouse gas carbon emissions than all the world’s transport combined. These types of farms also utilize vast amounts of fossil fuels to produce livestock feed and fertilizer and are major sources of land and water degradation. Small scale producers, on the other hand, typically follow more sustainable practices with less fossil fuel consumption and chemical pesticide use through careful management of diversified ecological systems. It is clear that supporting small-scale farmers – the principal demographic in Polk County – goes hand in hand with promoting environmental conservation and responsible land stewardship.

Over the past quarter, I have had the opportunity to interview several of these small-scale area farmers as a part of a “Farmer Needs Survey” that we are conducting in Polk County. The purpose of the survey is for our office to identify areas in which farmers need assistance (like with labor, marketing, etc) and to evaluate ways in which we can help farmers improve their farm businesses. I have learned a lot about the struggles that small-scale farmers face and have gained interesting insights into the history of farming and the future of farming in Polk in conducting these interviews. When asked the question, “What advice do you have for a farmer who is just starting out?” the answer I have received is nearly always the same: “Pace yourself”; “Start small”; “You have to crawl before you can walk”; and, almost overwhelmingly, “It’s nearly impossible to get started nowadays”. I hope that the insights gained from veteran farmers through this survey will enable our office to better support the agricultural community and new/beginning Polk farmers so that they have best chance of succeeding despite the seemingly “impossible” odds.

Conducting the “Farmer Needs Survey” has been a incredibly rewarding and unique experience. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to sit down with local farmers and learn about their struggles and successes.  In addition, the data gathered from these interviews has provided our office with tangible opportunities to strength our local agricultural economy and help secure a resilient local food system. From the feedback that we have received from these surveys, we will be establishing a Livestock Swap at the Columbus Farmers’ Market and we will be working to reinstate the local Cattleman’s Association. I’m looking forward to conducting more of these interviews over the coming months and seeing what other ideas emerge.

And one of the best ways that you, the consumer, can make a difference is by coming out to the Columbus Farmers’ Market, which returns this Saturday, April 8th! We will be hosting our first Livestock Swap and are excited to celebrate the start of the market season with you all. Come kick off the spring season with us and help support your local farmers!


The Magic of Mushrooms

Back in November, the Polk County AED team headed out to Durham for the annual Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) Sustainable Agriculture Conference, where farmers and advocates gather together to network and learn about new farming techniques.  The weekend was packed full of panels and workshops that covered a dizzying array of farm-related issues, including soil health, livestock fencing techniques, community-scale food policy, new marketing opportunities, and everything in between.

The Friday before the conference featured a series of full-day workshops that allowed attendees to take a deep dive into a topic of interest.  I was lucky enough to attend a workshop on mushroom cultivation hosted by Tradd Cotter, founder of Mushroom Mountain in upstate South Carolina and author of the popular mushroom growing guide book Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation.  We covered the basic biology of fungi, the various methods of growing mushrooms, and a few of the exciting areas of new mushroom research, including medicine and mycoremediation (using fungi to break down and reduce contaminants in an area).

While there are far too many interesting mushroom tidbits to cover in a short blog post, here is just a sample of some of the possibilities for mushroom cultivation on your property:

  • A mushroom patch in your garden or woods:

Check out this great video from Steve Gabriel of Cornell University Extension as he explains the basics of creating a simple, productive patch of Stropharia mushrooms in a bed of wood chips.

  • Producing mushrooms on logs:

If you need or want to thin some of the hardwood trees on your property, you can use the logs to grow valuable and delicious mushrooms!  Alabama Extension has produced an informative primer on how the process works.

  • Growing mushrooms indoors in bags or buckets:

You can start off small with a simple pre-made kit from a company like Mushroom Mountain to provide you with some tasty mushrooms for dinner.  Once you get the hang of what it takes to keep one bag going strong, you can scale up to create your own enterprise.

Beyond being culinary delicacies and potentially lucrative agricultural enterprises, fungi also play a critical and largely unseen role in maintaining our natural habitat.  This fascinating podcast from Radiolab investigates the hidden world of mushrooms in the forest and the way they connect trees to each other.

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to learn about the wide world of mushroom cultivation at the CFSA conference.  While I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface, I’m excited to try growing my own mushrooms, to hunt for them in the woods and fields around the county, and to uncover more of the secrets of these weird, wonderful fruits.

A Sustainable Ag Education

Between starting the AmeriCorps gig, learning the ropes of Agricultural Economic Development in Polk County, and exploring the diverse communities and landscapes of WNC, the past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind.  An exciting whirlwind! Which has included a valuable professional development experience that I’d like to share now that things have quieted down a bit.

From November 4th to November 6th, 2016, the Polk County Farms team got to attend the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham, NC.  As someone with a beginner level of agricultural and horticultural experience, I was excited by the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and to learn best practices from food and farming pioneers.

My CFSA conference experience began on Friday with a half-day pre-conference Intensive on fermentation from the team at Two Chicks Farm.  Aside from viewing a SCOBY (short for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) one time and being mildly grossed out by the sight of it, I knew little about fermenting prior to attending this workshop.  As you may know, fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar into acids, gases, or alcohol.  Many of us consume fermented products everyday: sourdough bread, cheese, pickles, and, of course, beer.  The presenters did an excellent job of sharing the cultural significance of fermentation and the science behind the process; they explained that the SCOBY that I was once freaked out by is, in fact, beneficial for gut health and immune system development.

I also appreciated the fact that the presenters explained the history of Two Chicks Farm, from how they first got into fermentation to how they’ve grown their business over time.  They provided valuable tips on how to start fermenting and shared helpful resources on the subject.  After walking through some of the basic do’s and don’ts of fermentation, we pulled out our cutting boards and knives for the hands-on portion of the Intensive, in which myself and roughly 30 other attendees got to prepare classic sauerkraut, cortido, and dill kraut & pickles.


Two hours and a banquet hall floor full of cabbage remnants later, I walked out with jars of goodies to take home and ferment to my desired taste.  It was awesome.

The “official” conference took place between Saturday and Sunday and consisted of 65 workshops on varying topics: beginner farmer, farm business, specialty crops, food systems, livestock, and more.  My weekend looked like this:

Workshop A: I nerded out at a policy presentation from Organic Seed Alliance on the state of organic seed in the US.  Bottom line – there is a major need for more skilled organic seed producers in order to keep pace with regional demands for organic crops.

Workshop B: Got schooled on innovative horticultural strategies from permaculture guru, Chuck Marsh.  Living & woven fences = majorly cool.

Workshop C: Learned about NC State’s Fork2Farmer initiative, a video project that highlights farmer-chef relationships and trains farmers on agritourism and hospitality best practices.

Workshop D: Attended a thought-provoking presentation on food as an avenue for equality and social change from Garrett Broad of Fordham University.  Here is an article written by Mr. Broad for any of my fellow ag-tivists who may be interested in learning about his food justice theories.

Workshop E: Sat in on a truly comprehensive presentation on the production, marketing, and sale of cut flowers from Cathy Jones of Perry-winkle Farm.  That lady knows her stuff.

My brain was overloaded with information, both practical and theoretical, by the time Sunday rolled around.  Throughout the weekend I got to eat delicious local food and build my agricultural knowledge base.  But the value of the CFSA conference extends beyond the educational workshops.  The opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who are working toward a common goal – to build sustainable food systems within their communities – is so important.

To borrow a phrase from Chuck Marsh, I left the conference feeling inspired to “cultivate abundance in a limited world… to consciously rely on living systems again”.  I am looking forward to taking the knowledge that I gained at the CFSA conference and applying it to the remainder of my AmeriCorps term and to the upcoming growing season.

Some (holiday) food for thought.

For me, food is one of the highlights of the holiday season.

Actually… let’s be serious.  Eating is one of my most favorite activities, in general, at any time of year.

However, the act of gathering with family and friends and chowing down on some lovingly prepared holiday food is particularly special to me.  And that’s what I appreciate so much about agriculture; the food that our farmers cultivate has an ability to bring people together.  I’ve been lucky to get to experience this through the monthly Friends of Agriculture Breakfast that we manage here at the Office of Agricultural Economic Development.

The Friends of Agriculture Breakfast is held on the third Wednesday of each month from 7:00 am to 8:00 am at the 4-H Building in Columbus, NC.  That requires a 6:00 am (or earlier) wake-up call for most folks who attend.  I am consistently amazed by the number of people who come out each month to show their support for our agricultural community, despite the early nature of the event.

The staple Breakfast menu includes sausage, eggs, bacon, and grits, and we strive to feature food from local farms as best we can.  We also make a point of preparing a “special item” dish each month, depending on what’s in season.  This month, we baked up some apples from a local orchard and we also made pancakes with eggnog syrup.  Yes, you read that correctly. Eggnog. Syrup. You can find the recipe here to try the sugary, buttery, eggnog-y deliciousness for yourself.

Whether it’s gingerbread cookies, holiday ham, eggnog, or whatever it may  be – we hope that you all enjoy your holiday food traditions and the company you share it with.  Happy holidays from the Polk County Ag Economic Development team!