Showing posts with label The Farm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Farm. Show all posts

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Catching up!

As tomorrow is September 8th and I have not posted anything since late April, I want you to know I am still here, still standing, still doing well, still overcommitted (again, LOL, what else is new?), and thus going to share just a very brief update.

Highlights since my last posting?

(1) Actually going through the organic certification process and coming out the other side with that USDA Organic Certification!! Finally!! It is not an exaggeration to say that we are still very excited about finally having our farm officially certified. We chose our farm name (Dyer Family Organic Farm) very intentionally back in 2009. We never dreamed that our process would take so much time (for so many reasons), but here we are, five years later. We proudly hang the USDA Organic symbol from our market tent. At some point over the winter months, we'll do a better job of having it inserted into our farm website, market banner, business cards, and other materials.

(2) Having the pleasure and privilege of both sons and their wives live with us for many weeks during this past summer, as they were between chapters in their life, between leases, and we welcomed them with both open arms and an open heart. We put them to work on our farm, of course, and we were busy beyond busy, but having them here was enormously helpful and enjoyable for us (and I believe for them, too). Again, I repeat, having our grown sons and their wives live with us was both a pleasure and privilege that I could not have seen in my future as I struggled through the various times I was undergoing chemotherapy and/or recovering to rebuild my life after all cancer therapy was completed.

Gratitude. Pure. And. Simple. 

(3) Although I don't have time to post on any of my blogs at the present time, I am still writing our farm's newsletter, which is weekly when we are in the marketing season. If you wish to subscribe, that is easy to do on our farm's website, and if you only wish to browse previous archived newsletters (there are lots of photos), you may do so at this link. In addition, if you want to follow daily updates for our farm, you may do so two ways via Facebook: a) Facebook feeds are visible at the bottom of our farm website's homepage without joining Facebook, and b) on Facebook itself (find and Like The Dyer Family Organic Farm/Dick's Pretty Good Garlic). Many customers stop by our table at the markets to say how much they enjoy reading the newsletter, even if they do not need garlic or honey that day! Awww…….I confess that I enjoy hearing how much they enjoy the newsletter. I look forward to writing it, just as I always have looked forward to writing on my blogs! :)

I don't know that there is any one photo that captures the summer perfectly. So I will include one of the first sunflowers we have had on the farm (planted by one of our summer interns). I have enjoyed looking forward to seeing them finally bloom, which only happened this week. And only this week did I first read a quote by Helen Keller that fits with my happy sunflowers:

"Keep your face to the sunshine, and you cannot see the shadows. 
It's what the sunflowers do."

I know that each of us has challenges, and shadows, but I hope your summer has had some healing R&R, some happiness, and some sunflowers. I hope you are looking forward to fall. And I also hope that you can keep life's shadows behind you. Addendum: The wind during a recent ferocious storm flattened these sunflowers after I took this photo but before I got it posted. A few days later, they are now doing their best to stand back up, with their faces still facing the sun. I'll just bet that the vast majority of my blog readers can relate. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 25, 2014

Winter is over, really!

Because my last post about headlines has gone a little 'viral', I thought I should finally change the upper photo on my blog which showed Phoebe walking the paths in our snowy garlic fields last December, with her ears blowing up and back from the strong wind. Yes, it nearly the end of April and our snow is finally gone, frogs are singing, and the garlic is coming up through the mulch in all the fields. So spring is clearly here, even if we may still get one more quick snow storm before spring fully settles in.

However, sorting through photos, I saw one I could not resist sharing. Instead of a spring fling, it is like Phoebe's final winter fling as she is throwing herself into the air to chase something, which surely seems like a better way to chase a critter than plowing or trudging through the snow (we all got tired of doing that this winter!). 

This photo won't stay up there long. I'll get some spring photos taken and share one at the top of the blog soon. But in the meantime, here is one photo that shows it's hard to keep a good dog down (I got lucky with this shot)! 

One of those exceptional, gorgeous mornings when the hoarfrost covers everything. 

Ok, now it's time to download the camera of recent photos and take some more new ones, showing spring. That would include showing our chicks now full-grown, our rooster also being full-grown but with a modified comb due to frostbite (still quite handsome, just different), our garlic on its way up through the mulch, asparagus peeking up, spring beauties and other wild flowers, our thriving bee hives that (shock of shock) made it through this past winter (with uncountable polar vortexes and a record amount of snow), geese and ducks on the pond, bluebirds flitting through the farm, and on and on. 

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend, with your hands in the soil, helping spring along as you get something cleaned up or planted. 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013!

Winter has finally come to our south-eastern corner of Michigan, with a full snow cover today, covering up our garlic field with its white, fluffy, and warm winter blanket. The roots of our nearly 25,000 garlic cloves planted during October and November will keep growing, deep into our healthy soil, even during the winter giving us the best possible start to a great harvest during July of 2014.

Phoebe LOVES the snow and could stay outside forever. Here she is in our main garlic field where ~20,000 cloves are planted for this coming season (the overflow of ~5,000 unexpected cloves is planted back in the 2009 field). Her ears are blowing in the wind, and the snow is flying into her face and eyes as I captured this photo. What is far more fun for her is simply racing, racing, racing back and forth, up and down the paths, through the underbrush coming back with masses of burrs of all sizes and shapes, chasing a frisbee, following tracks and smells, dashing at the birds at the bird feeders, and on and on and on. Although not obvious in this 'still life' photo, her zest for life is a joy to watch and feel. :)

"Dog in winter garlic field" at The Dyer Family Organic Farm
I have just written and sent the final Garlic Friends Newsletter for 2013, which gives you more of an update on our farm plus our warmest wishes for the holidays and 2014. Feel free to sign up for our farm's newsletter at our farm's website ( It's easy, free, and of course your email address is never shared with anyone for any reason.

Tomorrow I will make another post here with some additional updates. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, choosing your gifts carefully, and spending as much as possible as locally as possible. :)

I want to end with a lovely quote that is new to me, seen in a newsletter from some friends' local company in the Ann Arbor area called Nature and Nurture Seeds:

As you hold loving thoughts toward every person and animal and even towards plants, stars, oceans, rivers, and hills (along with soil - I added this), 
and as you are helpful and of service to the world, so you will find yourself growing more happy each day.   

~~   Luther Burbank

I'm smiling as I type this, and I hope you are too after reading those wise and thoughtful words. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday night posts

Last Friday night, I put up a post that I took down almost immediately. I really hope no one had a chance to read it. I actually hit the delete button, which I am pretty sure I have never done before since I started this blog in 2007. Re-reading it when the post was actually live (not just the preview version) gave me quite a start, as 1) it sounded like I was whining, and 2) it gave me chills remembering how 'behind' I was, how overwhelmed I felt two years ago, ending up in the ER which I blogged about in four different posts once things settled down, after I got my thoughts together and had time to share them (here #1, here #2, here #3, here #4).

Yes, I am 'behind', but I am not in the is busy, but the vast majority of things not getting done are really not all that important in the big scheme of life. Yes, we look disorganized, the front of the house is still a frightening overgrown mess because our basement still floods (sigh.......) which means we really do need work done on the front foundation of our home (sigh........), but I am not in the ER. :)

So with that realization and relief, I quickly took my post down, decided that the best antidote to being behind was taking the time to cook and letting the Universe send us help if we really need it. :)

It's too late to post up the delicious easy recipe I made last night (I'll do that tomorrow night), but here are few pictures of our chickens. They are just so much fun to watch.

I think there are 8 chickens here in some high grass between our house and the barn. 

I guess our chickens prefer dry feet!

One lone red hen in the coop. She may be the one who prefers to come home at night instead of spending the night roosting in the oak trees behind the coop!

Here are all 8 chickens dashing from under the oak tree to the apple tree in the rain (for some reason unknown to us!). 

Remember, a great recipe is coming tomorrow night!

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row, 

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cultivating, inch by inch, row by row

I changed the photo at the top of my blog today to that of one single organically-grown strawberry in our new garden on our farm. It looks pristine and perfect, and it is, but not without an enormous effort. :) This new strawberry bed has been prepped (cultivated) over and over, weeded over and over, the blossoms picked off these 50 first year plants over and over with a few that still escaped my attention and went on to actually become this one gorgeous berry, giving us a preview of our hopes for a huge harvest next year!

Now we need to finish the fencing around this bed, which also contains our 50 rhubarb plants, 50 asparagus plants, and the additional tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and corn that could not fit into our other family garden (because of rotational space needs). We have already found turtles, which love strawberries, and if the deer find this garden and chow down on everything before we get that fence up and electrified, that will be a very sad day. We have been stopped by rain, rain, rain and the need to finish the first attempt at a chicken coop in order to get our chicks out of the garage.

Time to get outside (now, since more rain and thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon) so here are just a few photos of the chicks and Phoebe, their guard dog:

The coop with the 8 chicks (1 rooster and 7 little red hens) all nestled in a pile together underneath their nighttime roosting spot. 

The chicks exploring their new home. After they have had a few days to get used to their home, when they start putting themselves 'to bed' each night in their coop, then they will be able to become free-range again. 

The chicks free-ranging in one of their favorite spots, kicking the leaves underneath an oak tree.

All 8 chicks are there somewhere, with the white rooster clearly visible.

Phoebe on break from guarding the chicks, hopping in my car while getting its first inside cleaning since we bought the farm

Phoebe doing guard duty. The chicken coop is just to the left out of sight in this photo. She comes running if she hears a bit of a distress call from a chick. She frightens them herself with her exuberance and herding instincts, but she is 'on guard!' She throws herself into the air if a hawk or vulture flies over our farm. I don't expect she will ever catch one, but she lets them know this is a 'no-fly zone' in her view. 

PS - I started a new tag with this post - Chickens!

Cultivate your life (even the same spot, over and over) - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Green Heron and Green Garlic Dip

I stayed home this afternoon instead of taking our garlic scapes to our Wednesday farmers' market with my husband since we didn't really know when/if the severe storm sweeping through the country this afternoon would really hit our area in SE Michigan. If it was just the two of us to worry about, I would have gone as usual. However, with a dog that trembles, shakes, pants, and downright quivers when thunder is 100 miles away (let alone sirens for tornado warnings), we decided that one of us could stay home because the market might be slow today due to the impending storm plus one of us should stay home to be able to reassure Phoebe (since the potential storm is supposed to be particularly severe).

So what to do when I am so far behind that I'll never catch up? First Phoebe and I made the rounds of the farm and battened down the hatches so to speak outside, making sure anything that could fly away in the wind was in the garage or barn. Then I decided to download photos that were backlogged and even look at and label them (while keeping an eye on the weather outside and on the TV channel).

I finally changed the photo on the top of my blog today, showing our latest and best new bird on the farm. It is a green heron, patiently waiting for its breakfast to appear on the edge of our pond. I don't have a great camera, and I take many photos through windows, using the zoom, always just hoping for the best, meaning that the photo is not too blurry. I have seen green herons many times over the years, but this was the first sighting on our farm, so it was a special day!

In addition, here is an easy spring-time bean dip recipe using lovely green garlic, if you're lucky enough to find some at your local farmers markets. Ingredients are easy, readily available (other than the green garlic), flexible, and healthy.

Green Garlic Bean Dip

~1 can (2 cups, 15-oz) drained northern white beans
~2-3 Tbps. lemon juice
8-10 trimmed stalks of green garlic so that you are using mainly the bulb end (trim off the roots - they are edible, wash them well and save for a salad - trim off any brown tips of the leaves and then cut off most of the leaves to use later in pesto)

Cut green garlic into ~1-inch pieces, add all ingredients to a large food processor, and blend until beans are smooth and there are small flecks of green stems. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. If it is still too thick, add just a small amount of water to thin it down a bit. Add a bit of salt and pepper if desired. 

This recipe freezes well as most bean recipes do. 

Yum, yum! When green garlic is no longer available, the garlic scapes come next (which is right now in our area of the country this year - their emergence is always variable!), and they can also be used easily in this recipe! Enjoy!

Cultivate your life  - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happiness, continued!

Our wood thrush is still singing from the woods behind our house. Oh happy day!! Honestly, I had a near melt-down of disappointment when I had the thought that maybe what I heard on Sunday was someone playing that song on an Ipod to try to attract the bird from their section of the woods. The thought and worry lasted only a nano-second or two, but I confess that I was relieved to hear it again last night in the early evening (while planting tomatoes) and again this morning (while weeding garlic) from roughly the same area. In each case, the song was 'less than perfect', not what would be chosen for a bird song 'app'. Whew! :)

As if that wasn't enough happiness, today I finally can announce that my friends and colleagues at The Farm at St. Joe's have won a major award for establishing a working farm on the grounds of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. Being a member of the Advisory Committee for The Farm is one of the happiest and most meaningful lines on my very eclectic resumé. I have moved from working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at St. Joe's (the far, far end of the health care spectrum where individuals need extreme medical interventions to be brought back from the edge) to now working my own organic farm plus working collaboratively with St. Joe's on their farm (the far, far other end of the health care spectrum) where our collective focus is now on disease prevention, wellness, and creating healthy and thriving communities.

For the upcoming award ceremony, a short documentary has been produced to show The Farm and its vital work. My friend and fellow farmer Dan Bair says it best at the very end: "Health care is happening here." Yes it is, in the very best sense of those words. Thank you, Dan, thank you St. Joe's, for leading by example, for showing other health care institutions how to truly create a healthy community by nurturing, nourishing, and being stewards of all the resources entrusted to your care.

PS - I'm in the video, but I'm awfully glad that 90%+ of footage ends up on the cutting room floor, because in at least one spot of the filming, I got all misty-eyed about something they asked me which I was trying to answer. :) And an additional full disclosure here, even though my hands are certainly dirty, I did decide to quickly press the front of my shirt just for the filming. I did not want to embarrass my other good friend, Lisa McDowell, MS, RD, who is also in the film and has been so instrumental with helping to establish St. Joe's Farm and to help it put down deep roots.

So for only the second time ever on this blog, I urge my readers to go look at a video. You'll be glad you did, and who knows just how the ripples of good health and happiness will spread? :) :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Four years + five days later

I'm finally trying to get some of our tomatoes into the ground this morning (even though it is supposed to go down to 43 degrees tonight) when my heart stopped! I stopped digging, I stopped talking with our wonderful Sunday morning helpers. I listened, I yearned, I tried not to believe I was only imagining what I had heard, but when I heard the flute-like song of a wood thrush ring out from the woods just behind our garden, it took everything in me not to burst into tears of joy and happiness right then, right in front of my helpers.

I did have them stop digging like I had to just listen to some rare music, even just a verse or two. I didn't need to go find this bird. Hearing it's haunting and even magical music was plenty for me. Those few notes took me right back to some place I've been before. To hear it again for real, not just in my memory, was joyful, a blissful experience. :)

Here are the ending verses of one of Mary Oliver's poems in which she speaks of a wood thrush:

'Such Singing in the Wild Branches'

Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last
for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,
is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then - open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

The wood thrush population has significantly declined over the past several decades. So yes, indeed its song may already be drifting away. I hope you get a chance to hear it someday (soon). If you have, if you have really heard it, if you have dropped what you are doing or thinking about to really listen, you will never need a tape or an 'app' to hear it again to fix it in your memory. You will just know it. It has become a part of you, and you will hope (long, even ache) to hear it again like I do. 
I really hope the tomatoes we got planted today (many more to be done asap) are not stunted by the hard night they are going to have. If so, I will simply think of each of them as my "2013 wood thrush tomatoes" and appreciate each one even more.  
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Four years later

We closed on our farm purchase 4 years ago today (the Tuesday after Memorial Day, 2009, not sure of the actual date). We drove right out to the farm with our new keys as soon as we had signed on the dotted line, and while getting out of the car, we could hear a wood thrush singing from the woods behind the house, my favorite bird song in all the world. It sang and sang that afternoon and evening. Sadly we have never heard it again, but its appearance and welcome that day will always sing in my memory and told me we needed to harbor no deep fears about this 'big leap'.

I know I have blogged about my love for, my attachment to, the wood thrush in the past, but I recently read a (new to me) poem by Mary Oliver about the rare and brief appearance of a wood thrush's song each spring in her woods. In essence her poem was about the fleeting appearance of this rare and special gift, her recognition and acceptance that seeing this bird or hearing its song daily would likely make it 'common' and no longer as beautiful as it truly is.

So I am content to not worry, not fret, not yearn (ooo - that one's hard) or strain to hear a wood thrush sing each spring, but instead, to enjoy the memory that is now incorporated into the very fabric of my DNA, each strand within each cell of my body.

My cardiologist has told me that he wishes he had the courage to tell all his patients to 'start a farm' because he is convinced all the physical work I do on our farm has actually helped to stabilize all of my various/multiple cardiac problems that are secondary to all the cancer therapy I have had. I don't want to burst his bubble (and of course he may be correct), but I have wondered if hearing that wood thrush's welcome on the day we had (at last!) begun a long-hoped-for chapter in our life was the real reason for my stabilization.

Actually I have no need to explain anything. I am just appreciating and enjoying this Spring day (even with its rain, thunder, a frightened and quivering dog, plus a tornado warning).  :)

To end this post, I close with Henry David Thoreau's words about a wood thrush:

“The (wood) thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Here is a bird in whose strain the story is told…Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; whenever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.”

I do hope that my readers can hear a wood thrush singing somewhere, someday. In addition, if you have your own favorite sound that brings peace and healing plus joy to your soul and DNA, I'd love to know what it is.

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Big Leap :)

Today's weather forecast was for a high of 65 degrees with 0% chance of rain. Current temperature is 50 degrees with increased heaviness of rain since around noon or so. We LOVE and need the rain, no complaints about that. And in fact, having an unexpected cold and rainy day has been just perfect for doing an unexpected inside job, like quickly filling out responses to questions required for our farm's nomination for an award!

Think Local First, an organization that promotes locally-owned businesses in our county, has created its  first 'Indie Awards', and our farm has been nominated for The Big Leap Award, which is for a business that 'took the leap' and successfully created new idea, model, or solution despite all the risks. Of course we are both delightfully surprised and honored to have received an email on Friday with the news that we had been nominated (wow - good thing one of us quickly scanned our farm's email account on Friday night), but truth be told, I am not sure we would have squeezed in the time to fill out the tough (but good) questions except for the fact that today (the deadline for submission) was not a day for outside farm work although I weeded during the early afternoon until I was starting to get cold and was also tired of 'dripping'.

The questions were great. They made us really think about our farm and what we are doing here. We had two friends (a fellow farmer and one of my dietetic students who is working with us on the farm this summer) help us brainstorm concepts on Saturday over dinner, I let things percolate in my brain while weeding yesterday, and then I word-smithed some answers this morning. My student helped catch omissions and repetitions this afternoon, and then my husband gave it the final review and finishing touches before I pushed 'submit' a few minutes ago.

Winning is not important to us. However, we are touched to have been noticed and nominated. And yes, I can appreciate anyone who has made a 'the big leap' after evaluating the risks, taking a deep breath, finding the courage to do something hard, and choosing to try to fly high into the unknown instead of staying low in the safe, known, and easy spot.

My father was an entrepreneur, ultimately taking an idea from nothing tangible to a company doing international work. I wish I could ask him if retrospectively he wishes he had kept his company small, doing great work focused in a community/regional area instead of spreading out nationally and to the world. I'm currently reading the book Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, which discusses companies who have done just that (such as our local Zingerman's Community of Businesses).

Our farm's business goals are the same as many of those companies featured in Small Giants:

  • to be economically profitable and thus sustainable,
  • provide the best place possible for us to enjoy working every day (along with any potential employees or volunteers), 
  • to help diversify and revitalize our local economy with organically-grown and produced food, 
  • to grow and provide the highest quality garlic and garlic products to our local community, 
  • and through the care of the soil, land, and water under our stewardship to ultimately contribute to the creation of a healthy and thriving community. 
Here are the responses to the questions we were asked, which really made us think. Frankly, answering them was not quick; it took me all morning. I hope you enjoy reading them. (Every time I cut and paste, the formatting seems to get weird. I do not have time to re-type everything, so I hope the transfer is not too bad.)


Tell us about your business:

We are a small specialized farm, growing 40+ varieties of garlic using organic growing practices. Although we could easily (and more profitably) sell all of our garlic via the internet, we intentionally sell ~100% of our garlic to our local community (shipping only to our two sons and a small number of friends and relatives who live across the country). We also intentionally sell our garlic to eaters across the full economic spectrum within our community, being as happy to sell our garlic to people using food assistance programs at 4 local farmers' markets within 12 miles of our farm as we are to local chefs at high-end restaurants.

Define success for your business:

Success........yes that it hard to define, as it is different for each business. We'll state right up front that we are close but not yet making a profit (which is only one measure of success). The start-up costs for our farm (i.e. our barn, our tractor) have been huge. However, while a profit is our goal and is necessary for all small farms to be sustainable and provide a reasonable quality of life, we have other measures of success:

  • we have enjoyed the creative (even artistic) process of working together to start a business from an idea and watch it develop, 
  • we both enjoy growing food and working outside as farmers, 
  • we have enjoyed the learning curve of taking the big step up to commercial production (i.e. market gardening) versus home/hobby gardening, plus 
  • we truly enjoy being food educators as we introduce and bring both awareness and discovery to our community of the "wide world of garlic". 

Success can also be measured by the large number of repeat customers we have, the number of customers who heard about us from their friends, the large number of customers who drive over an hour to buy our garlic, the large number of people who ask if they can volunteer on our farm plus the large number who sign up for our farm’s email newsletter, the legion of customers who tell us they can ‘never go back to store-bought garlic again’, and the fact that it was our customers who suggested we start a Garlic CSA.

The goal of our farm is to be a contributor to a healthy community, attaching the word 'healthy' to many outcomes (physical, economic, environmental, social, cultural, spiritual, and likely more). We sleep well every night living our values and knowing we are hitting many of those high notes, while caring for our land as we literally and figuratively sink deep roots into our community. 

Describe your Big Leap

Going from being long-time vegetable gardeners who have been gardening together even before being married (our first date as undergraduates was Dick asking Diana if she would help him weed the beans in his vegetable garden on Purdue's campus), we became 'old-new farmers' at age 59 when we bought 15 over-grown acres (and a foreclosed house in need of major repairs) to start a small specialized garlic farm. There are many ways in which this 'leap' made sense to us, it seemed the natural thing to do, but we can understand how our serious lifestyle change would appear to be a HUGE (and maybe crazy) leap to most everyone else. :)

Here is what our Big Leap looks like in bullet points:

  • We became 'old-new farmers' at age 59.
  • We started the first garlic farm in this area.
  • We jumped from a small community garden at County Farm Park with Project Grow to being market gardeners at four local farmers' markets. (we were growing 500 garlic bulbs of 10 different varieties in our Project Grow garden, 5,000 the first year on our farm, 10,000 the next year, to now planting ~20,000 garlic bulbs annually of 40+ varieties)
  • We went from being very private people to being very public people who are still surprised but enjoy it when someone sees us around town and points out to their friend/family "There is our garlic farmer!".
  • We have both professionally leaped from being focused on the treatment end of the health care spectrum to the wellness/prevention end (Dick led various drug discovery teams at Parke-Davis and Pfizer. Diana is a Registered Dietitian who previously worked at St. Joe’s in the Medical Intensive Care Unit and is still an advocate at the national level for the inclusion of oncology nutrition services as a proactive component of true comprehensive cancer care)
  • Instead of always wondering when and where we would be moving along (neither of us grew up in Michigan nor were we educated here), we made the big decision to stay in the Ann Arbor area forever. 

Describe the catalyst for your Big Leap

Dick lost his job as part of the “Pfizer fall-out” during an earlier phase that was not announced in such a public way as when Pfizer actually pulled out of Ann Arbor. At that point we began to take serious stock of what was to be next for us, i.e., “What are we going to do with the rest of our lives and where do we want to do it?” Of course this was an opportunity, but there is nothing quick or easy about answering that question when it happens as abruptly as it did for our family. 

It took us several years to sort through the opportunities, options, challenges, and constraints to answer this question. To make a long story short, Dick wanted to ‘garden out the back door’ and Diana wanted to ‘create a healthy community’. Combining those desires with our love of being outdoors listening to the birds, growing food, cooking with garlic, and doing our market research at several local farmers markets to see that no one else was providing garlic as a specialty crop, led us back to an early dream of starting a farm. It is still easy to procrastinate and not make the leap, however, one day Diana had the ‘epiphany’ that “we are as young today as we are ever going to be so if we want to start a farm, let’s get on with this!” We did. :)

What makes your business unique?

We are a specialized garlic farm, growing 40+ varieties of garlic. Nearly every aspect of production is by hand and with love. We are not really exaggerating when we tell people that we sell ‘hand-crafted garlic’. 

We sell green garlic in the spring to local chefs and our CSA members, garlic scapes from 20+ varieties at four local farmers markets in June, and then our 40+ varieties of garlic plus garlic braids, garlic gift boxes, garlic sampler bags, “40-clove” bags, dried green garlic and dried garlic scapes, with more plans in the works, at local farmers markets during August and September until sold out. We offer a Garlic CSA to those people who want ‘first choice’ and just cannot get enough of our delicious garlic. To our knowledge, we offer the only Garlic CSA in the country. 

How does your business support the community?

We sell 99% of our garlic to our local community: to chefs and caterers (Arbor Brewing Company, Bona Sera, Tammy's Tastings, Juicy Kitchen, The Ravens Club, Jolly Pumpkin, Moonwinks Cafe, Zingerman's Deli, Zingerman's Roadhouse, The Grange Kitchen & Bar, Cafe Japon, and several more), food product producers (Granny's Garlic Salt, The Brinery, Nightshade Army Industries, Delicious Diversity, etc), and to garlic lovers at 4 local farmers markets (Ypsilanti Downtown Market, Ann Arbor Wednesday Evening Market, Ann Arbor Westside Market, and the Dixboro Market) and Lunasa. 

We happily accept all food assistance vouchers (SNAP, WIC, Senior Fresh, Double-Up Bucks, etc etc etc) at our local farmers’ markets. 

We work with various Farm to School programs in the area to ‘talk garlic’ and the importance of sustainable farming with various age school children (King School, Greenhills School, Honey Creek School). 

We have also offered our garlic products to many local non-profit organizations (Growing Hope, Habitat for Humanity, etc, etc) as a fund-raising item at their silent auctions. 

We’ve helped other farms put up their hoop houses (Growing Hope, The Farm at St. Joe’s, Capella Farms, Green Things Farm). Dick is on the market committee for Ann Arbor's Westside Market at Zingerman's Roadhouse. Diana is on the committee that developed and maintains the Dixboro Farmers' Market in addition to be on the Advisory Committee for The Farm at St. Joe’s. 

We LOVE LOVE LOVE co-marketing through Facebook, our website (, and our Garlic Friends email newsletter for other companies who purchase and use our garlic (i.e., The Brinery, Nightshade Army Industries, The Grange Kitchen & Bar, Zingerman’s, etc, etc, etc). 

Lastly, Diana works adjunctively with several local and state universities by providing their dietetic students and interns with opportunities on our farm to get their hands in the soil as they learn that the starting point of sustainable food systems is not ‘we are what we eat’ but instead it is ‘we are what we grow’ (University of Michigan, EMU, Madonna University, MSU, Western Michigan). These dietetic students are also given the opportunity to work on other area farms and with non-profit organizations such as Growing Hope and The Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Healthcare Initiative in order that they may obtain a wider view of the community benefits provided by a local food system.  

Is there anything else you would like to share about your business?

We almost dropped out of our graduate school programs in the mid-70's to start an organic farm near Madison, WI. For a variety of good reasons, we did not do that, so we are both happy and grateful that we have had the opportunity to finally (at last!) come back to one of the first dreams we had as a young married couple. 

The tag line for our farm is 'Shaping our future from the ground up', where the word 'our' is very large and inclusive, starting with our soil and then working its way up to our family, our community, and our society at large. We are passionate about being stewards of our farm's soil, its land and water, plus nourishing a healthy community. We feel that passion and those goals are captured in the following two quotations: 

"Land is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy that flows through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals."
~ Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1948)

"Soil is the tablecloth under the banquet of civilization."
~ Steven Stoll, Larding the Lean Earth (2002)

We will end by repeating that we are beyond grateful and happy to be 'old-new' farmers. While our customers may think they are buying garlic, we are really sharing this gratitude and happiness with them. 

Dick & Diana Dyer


Now I think I may take a short nap, another perfectly acceptable activity for an unexpected cold and rainy Memorial Day holiday afternoon. 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow (and leap for!) - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Still no time to blog, but.......

A while ago I chimed in on a professional listserv of oncology dietitians (my friends and my professional peers) with my 2¢ regarding an article recently published pointing out the inconsistent information on the internet about cancer and nutrition information, which caught the attention of Dr. Sanjay Gupta who actually gave it some light of day (instead of having the article just buried in a professional journal).

One of the dietitians on this listserv asked if she could post my listserv response on the website for Meals to Heal, a company that provides home delivery of healthy meals for cancer patients. I agreed (with some tweaking), and it was posted up yesterday.

Please note, I am providing my readers the link to my 'guest blog post' on another website only as a reinforcement of everything I have been writing about on this blog since I started it in 2007 (I have not been paid to write this other blog post, nor am I paid in any way by that company, nor is my posting on that website a 'testimonial' for that company.) For long-time readers, it will contain nothing new (although perhaps I am a bit more frank than usual). For new readers, it will give you a very clear and succinct view of my opinions based on the work I have been doing for the oncology community at-large since my 2nd breast cancer diagnosis in 1995.

Bottom line – oncology centers need to have (more) Registered Dietitians (RDs) on staff, preferably those who are achieved the rigorous credential of being specialists in oncology nutrition with the initials CSO after their name. In fact, I had this very conversation with a friend this morning after she told me of a dear young friend of hers who has just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 40.

"Tell them to get a referral to an RD at their cancer center 'asap'. Do not wait for a crisis, and do not let your friends take 'no' for an answer. Cause a 'ruckus' if necessary. Sending them a copy of my book is a good start, but this young man and his family will need much more of an individualized nutrition assessment and intervention than my book can possibly provide."

Today was non-stop filled with hand-weeding a field that is too wet to cultivate with the tractor and then harvesting, marketing, and cleaning our green garlic. Tonight it has been used as an ingredient for a catered dinner in town for many CEO's who belong to a national organization called Small Giants. It seems like a nice fit since our goal for this new farm has always been to become big enough to contribute to our community while also staying small enough so our focus can stay on "creating a healthy community".  We have tried to encompass those dual purposes in our farm's tag line/mission statement "Shaping our future from the ground up" with the choice of the word 'our' starting with our soil and working its way up to our community.

So even though I have no time to blog, I did it again. :) However, it's almost 9 pm, so now I need to quickly figure out what we are eating for supper and then get back to helping my husband prepare our chefs' orders for tomorrow's delivery.

Oh, and Phoebe had a new experience tonight while we were walking the farm for a break. She saw two turkeys and made them fly, clucking and gobbling away, high high high up and over some trees!

We should all get t-shirts or bandanas to wear that say "Life is Good". :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Spring Morning

I don’t have time to blog, but I cannot help myself this morning. :)

Spring is rushing to catch up, it is literally ‘popping’ before our eyes and ears. It is as if it has been held back behind a dam, but the gates have finally opened, and now, look out!, here it comes. I am used to being able to ‘hear the corn grow’ in the summer, but I think I can literally see and hear spring growing in front of me right now. 

I have been celebrating each bird that has come back, but yesterday I realized that I had not yet heard any wrens bubbling away. I always harbor a little worry that significant habitat destruction in wintering grounds will lead to a noticeable decrease in the spring return of my bird friends. However, not to be denied, this morning (before we had even opened the windows), my husband announced that he could hear wrens singing away. :) :) ("Thank you, Dick! I’m so glad your ears are better than mine. Diana, stop, stop, stop being such a worrier!")

And so just to show you that the universe is moving in sync this morning, I picked up a new book of Mary Oliver’s poetry at the library, could not resist looking in it before I had even left my parking space, so read just one poem where the book opened up. Here it is:

I Happened to be Standing

I don’t know where prayers go
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opposum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really 
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I being every morning.
Then a wren in a privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be 
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air. 

~~ Mary Oliver, in A Thousand Mornings, ©2012

“positively drenched in enthusiasm”…………..I don’t know if I am a worrier by nature or if I have honed this characteristic by being such a long-time cancer survivor ……… but my dearest hope is that I can balance (and maybe even over-ride) my tendancy to worry, to be careful, to be preparing for or avoiding ‘trouble’ (like a truly awful case of poison ivy I currently have that came from nowhere in spite of all my appropriate precautions) with a sense of being alive, deeply alive, flying high plus “positively drenched with enthusiasm” like the house wren I heard this morning.

I am hopeful (am I sending a prayer?) and I would be honored and grateful if this wren decides to set up a home somewhere on my farm where I can hear it bubbling away all day, every day for the next several months, helping me remember the first poem I read from Mary Oliver’s book A Thousand Mornings.

I have had years where I have not been well, years when I have been in crisis mode, years where spring has come and gone and I have not had the energy or capacity to ‘be there’ to see it or feel it, to only know that I missed it.  My hope, my prayer, for you, my friends, is that spring has sprung, has burst, has popped right before your eyes and ears already, and that you are well enough this year to be right in with it as it is happening, and that spring, along with enthusiastic new hope, is happening within you, too.

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wild weather and winter are still flying high (and more)

Just when I thought it was time to put away the winter coats and my turtleneck shirts, WHAM! comes winter roaring back again along with tornado watches, crazy wind, and rain, rain, rain, and more rain (the hail missed our farm). Our garlic is fine but the cold weather, some snow, combined with ALL the rain we have had makes it too miserable and not good for the soil to be out tromping around doing spring farm work. (Does Phoebe have sandy paws? No she has muddy paws, and belly, and tail, and nose, and is as happy as can be!)

So I am buckling down on finishing up 'stuff' on my desk and computer, knowing that soon, very soon, I will likely not be back to desk-work or paper-work (or vacuuming or dusting or unpacking) or even much computer-work for nearly 6 months. While I had been saying how much we will appreciate April, now I am saying how much we will all really, really appreciate May!

I don't accept many speaking engagements anymore, but I did recently visit Richmond, Virginia, where I was honored to be invited to deliver the opening session at The Virginia Dietetic Association. The theme of their meeting was "Steer Your Course", so I talked about my eclectic career, my various positions as a Registered Dietitian where I have been considered a pioneer expanding the professional boundaries, in which I have 'steered my course' from one end of the health care spectrum (kidney dialysis and then intensive care units focused on the extreme end of disease and treatments), to a middle ground (focused on nutritional aspects for optimizing cancer survivorship), to the far other end (organic farming focused on the other extreme of disease prevention and health creation).

I gave these RDs and students (I had the students show their hands and was thrilled! to see a big block of them in attendance) numerous, numerous examples of additional RDs who are currently working outside the box ('bok choi') so to speak, outside a 'typical' career path where they have also 'steered their own course' based on their own values. I showed them real-life examples of RDs who are also all currently pioneers also working at the far end of the health care spectrum focused on disease prevention and health creation, either right in the soil like I am or by facilitating various and multiple aspects of sustainable food and agricultural systems.

Several students came up to me afterward to thank me for everything I had to say. Since they are the future of our profession and the future of our country, I thanked them for coming, for listening, and for thinking widely about their career options. I urged them to jump in, to not to be afraid to be different, to Go Big! with their career, to be leaders now (don't wait until ________, fill in the blank), and to call me if they needed courage. Lastly I invited them to keep in touch with me to share their career plans or even to brainstorm with me if desired. It would give me great pleasure to include slides highlighting them as new RDs contributing in their own unique way to a fair food system if I do any future speaking.

In the meantime, I am also trying to finish reading a book recommended by a young woman I recently met, The Icarus Deception: How high will you fly? by Seth Godin (actually my new friend recommended the author, and this book, one of many he has written, was available at our library). IF I had read even part of this book prior to speaking at the Virginia Dietetic Association, I would have added it to my resource list, urging all dietitians to read it and think deeply about what is keeping each of us from thinking outside the box, expanding the boundaries of our careers, what is keeping each of us from being leaders?

Read this book for courage.

This book has finally given me validation that my work, particularly my work advocating for cancer survivors via my book, my website, my blogs, and my speaking has been my 'art' for nearly the past two decades. I already had come to that understanding without the language or the realization that other people also thought like this, that one's work can be and even should be viewed as an expression of art. I remember being bewildered several years ago when a copy of my book offered to a local silent auction was rejected because it was not considered 'art'. Huh?

Godin pushes out the edges of defining art and artists by saying "Being an artist isn't a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It's an attitude we can all adopt. It's a hunger to seize new ground by choosing to do something unpredictable and brave (deep breath here), making connections, and working without a map. If you do those things, you are an artist, and you are making art, no matter what is says on your business card." (slightly paraphrased by me)

I repeatedly find myself saying a quiet 'wow' as I am reading this book, wow for validation of what I have been doing, yes - we all need or at least appreciate validation, but also for a deeper understanding of how my work, yes - my art, has continued to develop and evolve. In addition, this book also highlights the vital nature and importance of connections to the creation of art, to our new 'connection economy', and to our sense of purpose.

It's a short book and an 'easy read', except that it's not. It's challenging, it's affirming, but it's mostly challenging. I have begun reading bits of it to my husband (always a sign of a good book!). The author has posed questions that we are thinking about together as we go forward with our joint 'art', i.e., our farm, our work.

It's also a hopeful book, which is important to me, as I read far too many depressing books about our many broken systems, even ones that try to end on a hopeful note.

This may be my last blog post for a while although I will be having several dietetic students on the farm over the next several months for the School to Farm Program sponsored by The Hunger & Environmental Dietetic Practice Group so perhaps I'll have them develop a blog post or two during their time with us. Thus I invite those of you who wish to stay connected to "Like" our farm's Facebook page so that you will automatically receive the short updates that my husband or I post there. For those of you who are not Facebook members, the very same short updates can be seen at the bottom of our farm's website

It's now been 18 years this month since my second breast cancer surgery, and it's been 16 years this month since my story as a Registered Dietitian/cancer survivor was written about in The Detroit Free Press, which was the article that first pushed me out of the trenches into the wide, wide world.  So even though both wild weather and winter are still 'flying high' here during April in the upper Midwest this year, I am grateful beyond measure to also still be 'flying high' as a multiple-time cancer survivor with the opportunities before me to 'make a ruckus' (another of Godin's mandates!), to do something 'interesting' (yet another of his mandates), plus to be making art that is ultimately helping to create healthy communities.

Have a great spring and summer everyone! I'll check in when I'm able to carve out the time (I don't ever stop thinking about this blog and its readers). In the meantime, we have to get ready for our newest venture "Dick's Chicks!". We have 30 baby chicks arriving on May 16, and no, we are not ready for that steep learning curve yet. :) Interesting for sure, and perhaps even a neighborhood ruckus to boot since 50% of them are likely to be baby roosters!

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,                                                (and peep, peep, peep, too!)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday Photos

The rain and gray clouds from this morning are almost gone, the snow piles are almost gone, the ice on the pond is almost gone, there is not too much mud :), we have no flowers blooming yet, but it's warm enough to walk around the farm without a winter coat.

No matter the weather tomorrow, no matter what jokes may be in store for April Fool's Day (actually for an early joke my fingers automatically typed April Food's Day!), no matter if we still get a late snow, we will really appreciate April's spring and renewal this year!

Here are a few photos, just a few from this afternoon.

Photo: The 2013 garlic field at The Dyer Family Organic Farm, where yesterday I walked through the field to straighten (or find and replace) the stakes marking the end of each section for our 40+ varieties. Deer walk through the fields all winter at night without out any regard for carefully walking on the paths between our raised beds (Walking 101), or an even more advanced concept, walking in the designated sections between the varieties (Walking 201). Not too many deer signed up for either class! As a matter of candor here, neither did Phoebe. :)

Photo: Two years ago, our 2013 garlic field was covered with scrub/overgrowth, all of it 10-30 feet high, most of it invasive species. We saved as many good trees as we could. Here is one being tapped for our maple syrup in a sumac copse that had significant ice damage this winter (like a good deal of our farm) and still needs clean up. 

Photo: We have debated and debated about cutting down this box elder tree, which is on the east side of our 2012 garlic field and on the west side of our 2011 garlic field . It is considered a 'junk tree', but this single tree (a member of the maple family) is our largest sap producer. We actually have two taps on this tree and fill that 5 gallon bucket almost daily. The sap is not as concentrated as that produced by a sugar maple tree, but it is still delicious! Besides, for two years we positioned our wooden swing to be in the shade during the heat of the day so we could sit down once in a while for a short rest when harvesting our garlic in July. I think the debate is over and this tree will stay!

Photo: Our pond, the ice almost gone, looking to the west with our grape arbor in the foreground. It has taken us (mostly my husband) three years of careful pruning to: 
#1) find the number of vines that had been planted, 
#2) find the base of each individual live vine, 
#3) cut out the dead and excessive vineage, 
#4) remove all the other vegetation that was in there - awful rose bushes, buckthorn, honeysuckle, autumn olive, and red-twig dogwood, but we saw no poison ivy!, 
#5) untangle the vines from and take out the old welded wire fence, 
#6) put in the correct support, which is two 8-foot cedar posts supporting a two-wire arbor and one 6-foot t-post at each plant, 
#7 tie up and prune the remaining vines, and 
#8 now we are waiting for blossoms (there are buds) and grapes!! 
A one-line item on the the 'to-do' white board in the kitchen has been a 100-step process and taken three years, but we are very near the finish line - whoo-hoo!!

Photo: Our pond with the ice almost gone, photo taken from the back of the garage. The 'bare area' in the center of the photo actually does have lawn grass and clover planted and growing. This is the area that was wet with water flowing back into the house due to poor grading, poor drainage, poor planning, etc etc. There are still sections where cattails growing although they are not clearly visible in this photo. Someday (maybe this summer) we'll start developing this low area behind our house (and where our walk-out basement is) into useable outdoor living space. We have such grand visions and in fact we bought this whole mess because we had those grand visions of what care and love could bring to the sadness that overcame this land and house. :)

Happy spring everyone! It won't be long now before I'll have to put blogging on the back burner as we move into our outside focus. Phoebe can't wait!! She has already had to have one emergency bath at the pet store as she found something to roll-in that was just glorious in her view of the world and just downright awful in ours!

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row, or trim out vine by vine!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD