Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Inner-city Columbus school farm tour.

Flying J Farm
Johnstown, OH

Here at the Flying J Farm, we believe that sustainability begins with human health. "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything", Count Rugan, The Princess Bride. We know that human health is sustained best by a plant-based diet. On the other hand, we also know that every person has been designed uniquely and therefore needs to be sustained somewhat uniquely (e.g., some have allergies to otherwise healthy food). Therefore, we are not totally committed to a one-diet-fits-all model.

Second we believe that we humans were placed here with brains to care for the rest of creation. Therefore, recycling, waste management, alternative energy production and management, minimizing financial costs, and environmental care are essential to sustaining life on this planet. We would like to say that our ultimate goal is not to buy anything, though we know that this is not achievable. At least we minimize inputs from off the farm. Every aspect of the Flying J Farm is designed to do these to the best of our ability.

Third, we are committed to educating people to live sustainable lives. Visitors are always welcome and are frequent. Regular events include the maple sugar festival, mushroom hunt and foraging, and the Fall harvest festival. Every visitor is considered a student and a teacher, I can't help spouting health and green living but always expect to learn from them. Special events include the Green Living Fayre (2004 & 5) that brought over 1,000 guests, school tours are frequent, cooking classes, Annual  Slow Food, Columbus dinner; health retreats, environmental studies majors from Denison University come here for freshman orientation classes. We are nearly finished building an ecological learning center, totally from trees on the farm, especially the ash trees that are dying from the emerald ash borer. We plan to add off-grid solar electricity and water heat to the learning center. In addition, I have interns who come here specifically to learn organic farming and sustainable living. I am pleased that some of these "graduates" now have their own sustainable farms.

Finally, marketing and education is done through a "weekly Farm Journal" that is now into the 15th year. It is written in a humorous way, started before anything was called, "blog" and goes to over 1,000 people in 17 countries -- that I know of. Here we talk about the foibles of farming (From my study of human error in aviation, I know that every mistake is an interesting story to someone else.) and provide encouragement to readers to be healthy, green and to start their own gardens. We include food preparation ideas and let readers know what is going on and available at the farm.

These are highlights of our economic and environmental sustainability efforts in place on the Flying J Farm:

1) Outdoor wood furnace provides heat for three buildings and hot water, wood comes from on-farm sources. Wood ash provides potash for the garden and fields;
2) Solar thermal heats water in the Garden Barn during the summer;
3) An 11 KW solar electric system provides about three quarters of our electric needs;
4) Most food consumed here is grown on the farm including some that are preserved through canning, drying, fermentation, and freezing;
5) Food is prepared from scratch using on farm or local ingredients when possible;
6) Food waste is composted or offered to chickens;
7) Water for animals mostly comes from barn roof runoff. A rain barrel collects water for garden use; 8) We recycle everything that can be recycled, burn the rest;
9) A straw bale outhouse with composting toilet has been constructed for use at the farm lake;
10) Biodiesel fuel is produced from waste oil and used in most tractors;
11) One vehicle, the golf cart, is all electric and used for garden harvesting;
12) Hay is produced on the farm for cows and horses, they are grass-fed and get no grains.
13) Grains are produced for chicken feed. They are also cleaned and milled into flours and cornmeal for human consumption;
14) Machines are mostly used to minimize cost and then operated and maintained to extend life;
15) When possible, lumber used for building is cut from on-farm trees using our sawmill;
16) Seeds are saved for use the following year where possible;
17) Woods are used for maple syrup production, timber, nuts, foraging and heat as well as recreation;
18) Maple syrup is produced using wood for energy;
19) A fruit orchard has been started to provide tree fruits. We also grow blueberries, grapes, raspberries and strawberries;
20) We have an oil expeller to be used for producing vegetable oils from sunflowers and other vegetables;
21) A large market garden produces food for CSA, farm markets, and a plant-based diet;
22) Chickens provide eggs and some fertilizer; 23) Cows and horses provide fertilizer for the garden and fields;
24) The animals get no antibiotics, hormones, steroids, or other chemicals that are given to conventional stock. They do get mineral salt blocks, especially selenium which then goes into manure to add these back to the soil;
25) We do not buy any cows. All were born and raised here at this farm. The herd began with the purchase of three cows each with calves from a neighbor, and then later two bulls. Since then, the herd has grown by reproducing here at the farm only;
26) A high tunnel has been installed to extend the season for vegetable growing.

Green Energy Ohio; Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association; Slow Food, USA; Acres, USA

Slow Food: Terra Madre delegate, 2010; Licking County Soil & Water Conservation: Cooperator of the year 2012

Farm Winter
An aerial view of most of the barns on the Flying J Farm. The Ecological Learning Center as it was being built.
Planting Table
Participants from an inner-city Columbus group visiting Flying J for a farm tour. The Slow Food Columbus dinner, held at the farm.