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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink What information can you give me on setting up a centralized value-added processing kitchen facility for a group of farmers?


The resource listed below is a very good report on two models of such a facility. The report contains sources of further information and resources.

You can also access a feasibility study for shared-use commercial kitchen facility at (PDF/1.13MB). It is over 200 pages long and contains a wealth of useful information, things to consider, and so on.


Greenberg, Laurie. 2005. Adding Value for Small-Scale Producers: A Study of Cooperative Kitchen Incubators and Values-Based Marketing. Minneapolis: Northcountry Cooperative Foundation.



Permalink What information can you give me on crops I can raise to feed hogs?


Answer: Thank you for requesting information about crops you can raise on a small scale to feed hogs through the winter.

Referenced below are various articles dealing with raising hogs on pasture. But if I understand what you are asking, you don’t necessarily want to know about forage crops; your hogs are going to need some grain through the winter.

It’s too late this year, but for next year you might think about: corn, turnips, pumpkins, and lots of other crops. There is a chapter in “Raising Pigs Successfully”, by Kathy and Bob Kellogg, which seems to answer your question. I also found an article in an old Mother Earth News, and I recommend you ask at your library for “Small-Scale Pig Raising”, by Dirk van Loon. Each of these sources has ideas on supplemental feeding of pigs, and the books do a nice job of explaining nutrition for pigs. From what I read, I would say you should plan to feed a complete feed and then supplement with excess garden vegetables, ear corn, whey or excess milk, and other extra foods. That way you can be sure your pigs are getting what they need, and they will enjoy the treats.

For feeding through the winter, though, it seems to me that ear corn and pumpkins would be fairly practical, since they store well. You may be able to pick up pumpkins very cheaply after Halloween, and experiment with feeding some this year. Storage and spoilage will be issues for you to solve.

For additional information see ATTRA's Hog Production Alternatives publication.

Kellogg, Kathy and Bob. 1985. Raising Pigs Successfully. Williamson Publishing. Charlotte, Vermont. 190 p.

Van Loon, Dirk. 1978. Small-Scale Pig Raising. Garden Way Publishing. Storey Communications. Pownal, Vermont. 263 p.


Anon. 1970. Ham, bacon, pork, lard. Mother Earth News. March/April. 8 p.

Kellogg, Kathy and Bob. 1985. Raising Pigs Successfully. Williamson Publishing. Charlotte, Vermont. Chapter 6. p. 65–80.

Van Loon, Dirk. 1978. Small-Scale Pig Raising. Garden Way Publishing. Storey Communications. Pownal, Vermont. 263 p.

Cramer, Craig. 1992. “Hogs just might be the ideal grazers.’ New Farm. September/October. p. 18-23.

Gunthorp, Greg and Lei. No date. Pastured pigs on the Gunthorp farm. 5 p.

Gunthorp, Greg and Lei. 2001. Tips for raising pork on pasture. American Small Farm. July. p. 34, 35.

Kephart, Kenneth B., et al. 1990. Forages for swine. Pork Industry Handbook. 8 p.

Nation, Allan. 2002. Crabgrass said to be favorite of pastured pigs. The Stockman Grass Farmer. April. p. 9-11.

Rachuonyo, H. A., V. G. Allen, and J. J. McGlone. 2005. Behavior, preference for, and use of alfalfa, tall fescue, white clover, and buffalograss by pregnant gilts in an outdoor production systems. Journal of Animal Science. September. p. 2225-2234.



Permalink What can you tell me about using zoo manure on my garden?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information on using composted zoo manure for gardening.

Based on current compost research, most studies show that applying composted manures from zoos is safe to use in gardens. Many zoos currently offer or sell their “zoo manure” as a means of waste management. Some zoos, such as the Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle, have developed educational programs and marketing components based on “zoo manure.” In fact, the Woodland Park Zoo sells their composted manures as “Zoo Doo” and also has a hotline for any questions one may have regarding its use. The Zoo Doo Poopline phone number is (206)625-Poop or 7667.

Although most zoos promote their compost as being safe, there are a few precautions that one should be aware of. With any compost, one should ask the following three questions:

1. Where is it coming from?
2. What did the animals eat?
3. How will it impact my crops?

Since you have already answered the first two questions, the concerns with using the compost have to do with levels of antibiotics, pesticides, heavy metals, and other medications. Composting may take care of some of these concerns by eliminating or lowering levels, but not all. For example, composting may not bind the heavy metals cooper, zinc, and arsenic, thus preventing a reduction in levels even when the compost is finished.

It should also be noted that the finished compost from zoos may contain small rocks. This is a result from elephants that require small rocks to aid in digestion. Elephants are considered to be one of the main suppliers of zoo manure.

Please be aware that if you are considering organic certification, zoo manure that does not follow the organic rules and regulations for compost applications are not permitted.

Although the Kansas City Zoo may claim their manure as “safe” and may back up their claim with lab results, you may want to consider having the compost tested prior to applying large quantities on the land. The ATTRA publication, Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories, provides a listing of companies that test compost.



Permalink What can you tell me about sugarcane production as a possible crop?


Answer: Thank you for requesting information from ATTRA on sugarcane production as a possible crop.

Please refer to the ATTRA publication Sorghum Syrup.

Recent free-trade agreements (CAFTA, NAFTA) have made U.S. sugar production unprofitable. These agreements allow unrestricted access to the American sugar market from many other countries. As a result, the 200-year-old sugar industry in Iberia Parish, LA, has seen mill closures and cane farmers looking for other enterprises.(1)

Many U.S. manufacturers of sugar-containing products are considering relocating to Canada and Mexico, where less expensive sugar is available for processing. As a result, domestic marketing allotments and import quotas are likely to disappear altogether from the 2007 Farm Bill.(2) About half of U.S. production has come from cane, and half from sugar beets. For U.S. home-scale production, sorghum has been traditionally processed, rather than cane.


1) SoSARE Staff. 2007. Farmers as entrepreneurs. Common Ground. Autumn. P. 3.

2) Haley, Stephen, and Mir Ali. 2007. U.S. sugar program at crossroads. Amber Waves. September.



Permalink What can you tell me about making value-added products from lavender?


Answer: Thank you for requesting information from ATTRA on making value-added products, particularly skin lotions, from lavender. Please refer to the ATTRA publication Lavender Production, Products, Markets, and Entertainment Farming.

For specific directions on making herbal ointments, balms, salves, creams, compresses, poultices, and suppositories, please refer to the section entitled “Making Herbal Preparations,” from Growing 101 Herbs That Heal.

Soaps, moth repellant, spritzers, shampoo, conditioner, candles, bath blends, wreaths, arrangements, wands, and culinary items are some of the products listed in the Lavender publication. Products for external use are usually easier to make and market than are ingested items. Keep in mind that lavender essential oil is almost always the ingredient used for soaps, candles, bodycare, and other scented products. That is why so much space has been devoted to a discussion of essential oils in the ATTRA publication.

Wands (especially PYO), wreaths, and arrangements are other ways to market lavender. For culinary uses of lavender, stocks several books on cooking with lavender. I note, also, that many of the lavender farms around Sequim, WA, and other parts of the U.S. provide information on lavender culinary treats on their Web sites.

A good resource for use of essential oils in aromatherapy is Aromatherapy Workbook.(1) Other resources for value-added products may be found listed in the ATTRA publication.


1) Lavabre, Marcel. 1990. Aromatherapy Workbook. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT. p. 16–37.


Hartung, Tammi. 2000. Growing 101 Herbs That Heal. Storey Books, Pownal, VT.
p. 119–135.



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