What’s a hectare?

One of the common questions we get comes when dealing with measurements in agriculture.  The first is what is the difference between an acre and a hectare, whats a hectare, why us it, can I convert etc. The first difference is acres are used in the Imperial (American System) which takes up 43,560 square feet (13277 square meters) while a hectare is part of the metric system.  A hectare is not part of the International System of Units (SI) but is the scientific standard for area.  A hectare is 10,000 square meters (107,639 sq ft) which is also the size of the international rugby field.  (a little fact I got from Google)

What if I want to convert from acres to hectares?  When going from acres to hectares divide your acres by 2.471 example: 5 ac / 2.471 = 2.023 ha

OR you can go the other way and convert ha to ac by multiplying your ac by 2.471 example: 2.023 ha X 2.471 = 5 ac

How can I determine how much my garden, land, pot or crate is in acres?

1) find the your area in square feet by using the formal Length X Height

2) Then DIVIDE that by 43,560 sq ft (1 acre) – then from there you can convert to hectares.

Example 25×25 = 635 sq ft / 43560 = 0.o143 acres or / 2.471 = 0.0058 hectares.

Hope that helps – Dr. Dirt aka the Poopsmith

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The Voice Results are in and Anne Hathaway has a malfunction….

The Voice results are in from the TV show and according to Google over 100,000 people have searched for the results since last night and even more have tried to understand why Anne Hathaway was foolish, yet there has not been enough searches for Brazil finds Mad Cow, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), to cause a trend in Google.   It is true that on December 7, 2012 Brazil, our main competitor for beef exports, announced it had a cow test positive for BSE.  This cow went down 2 years ago and they just now received the final test results.  (this is another issue but it seems odd that this is barely hitting media outlets but if it was in the US the world would be outraged) http://uk.news.yahoo.com/brazil-moves-calm-mad-cow-disease-fears-003000257.html    This particular case is unique and complex with both a positive and negative test, it was an older cow that could have died from other old age causes, and the lab was backed logged in getting results to the appropriate authorities.   The US cattlemen are pushing for Brazil to be listed as a BSE country like the US (http://r-calfusa.com/), Japan cancelled Brazilian imports and Russia is probably not going to, while the US remains silent, for the most part.  In my opinion we are still safe but the two year lag was unnecessary…now here is the bait and switch…

Global Food Security is a complex issue that goes beyond tonight’s dinner table.  The weather, markets, a random pest, the work force, politics, access, education, extension networks and countless other issues outside of whether you are in a developed or developing nation converge to key play roles.    The issue is complex and needs to be looked at from all sides with all players.  Having BSE in an exporter nation like Brazil or having 30 years of rice imports into Haiti from outside groups are just examples of larger topics playing a factor in food security.  The grand challenges of food security keeps me pacing my office because I want to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

As the person who directs the agricultural division at Convoy of Hope I am always trying to find ways to communicate the issues to the people around me. Kindly, before you see who won the Voice or whether or not the Seahawks won the Superbowl take a minute and answer this question for me.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear food security?

Thanks The Poopsmith aka Dr. Dirt

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The Field Season

I loved this time of year as a kid.  I would spend time driving around the orchard on the Honda Trail 90, watch the Peterson’s harvest Christmas trees next-door and ship them to the Midwest, work at the mink ranch during pelting season and help Bomps close up the tractor.    As the cold damp rainy weather set in until 4th of July it was time to make account for the field season.  The ups and downs, the blessings, lessons learned, winterize the equipment, and determine what to do for the next field season if blessed to have another one.

I have come to think of life in the terms of a field or growing season.  In American agriculture and climate we are always trying to lengthen the season but in the end we generally get just one.  This past growing season has been filled with blessings, challenges, and adventure, however it is the next growing seasons ahead that have me striving forward.  Why?

The general consensus is that roughly 870 million people in the world are still chronically undernourished and 16 million of those are from developed countries (FAO, 2012 (1)).  The world population is primed for an increase of 9.1 billion by 2050, which will demand a 60% increase in agricultural production. This increase has to also take into account the good soil that remains, sustainability, economic viability, yield increases on existing land, and the ongoing debates over the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism) and total effect climate change on farmable lands (FAO, 2012 (2)).

As we roll into 2013 I am reminded that 2050 is just 37 field seasons away.  If seasons remain reasonably stable when the first tractor breaks ground in 2050 I will only be 76.    As I look to the next growing season as a person who deals with farmers and some of the 870 million chronically undernourished daily I am reminded of the lesson I learned growing up – every growing season is different and growing season matters.

Therefore, if I going to impact 2050, whether I am the husband, dad, scientist, farmer, preacher, or runner THIS next field season must be better than last because the last season is in the field notes and almost closed.

Preparing the Soil for Harvest

FAO (1) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.  The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 is published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. Released October 8, 2012.

FAO(2) World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050: The 2012 Revision.  ESA E Working Paper No. 12-03.   Released June 2012.   

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A Gear Review: The Garmin 610 GPS Watch

A Review: The Garmin 610Garmin Forerunner 610 - Dick's Sporting Goods

I have logged a few miles over the years and currently working on marathon 11 and during the runs there has been a Garmin 205 on my wrist.   This unit lasted almost 7 years before finally biting the dust.  There was a moment of silence followed by great trepidation over what would replace my faithful companion.  The Garmin brand had gained my trust, as 7 years of Western Washington running without fail is an accomplishment, but I wondered what else what out there.   I read reviews, checked pricing, and evaluated my true needs then I settled on the Garmin 610 a couple months ago.  I have never once regretted my choice.

Since using the Garmin 610 I have logged runs in Haiti, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, South Dakota, and Florida without system failure, lost satellites, usability frustration on the run, or sync issues with the computer.  If that is the only piece your read then I recommend this powerful little computer on the run.    However here are a couple reasons why I like this unit.

1)   It picks up and keeps satellites seamlessly and quickly.  I used to plan extra time on the workout to make sure the acquisition was complete before starting.  The new technology in the watch makes acquisition quick under almost any condition.

2)   It keeps locked to the satellites.  In the past I could run in the woods of Washington and lose reception creating frustration and inaccurate data.  I have run the same courses with this new watch and I have yet to lose acquisition.

3)   Seamless syncing with the computer and Garmin Connect is awesome.  The ANT wireless technology literally picks up the watch signal as I walk into the front door of the house and downloads all the data.   The ability to be wire free for download makes life simple.  I can go through my regular post run routine and the computing if done for me.   Then on my schedule I connect to Garmin Connect and all the data this nerd wants is available.   The Garmin Connect website has really advanced over the years.

4)   It is lite weight and resembles a normal watch.  This might not seem like a great benefit but after 7 years of the 205 brick it was nice to wear it in the office after a bike commute.

5)   It stood up in the rain!  In Missouri we were in the middle of a drought making me resistant to writing a review until I had a good rain run.  The opportunity came a couple weeks ago as Hurricane Isaac blew through Springfield for me to test the resolve of the unit.  I completed a nice 7 mile run in a down pour without any signs of water damage which is important to this Washington native.   (Note: It should not have because it is waterproof)

The Garmin 610 is the real deal.  Happy Running!


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The Power of Partnership

When someone goes into a community with the intention of “helping the poor” without taking the time to build relationships it can do more harm then good in the long term.  The storm the beaches and impose our worldview approach has proved itself as erroneous thinking time and time again globally.   

As I started trips into Haiti and working closely with a co-op of local rice farmers it became evident this was a partnership worth investing but at the correct time and place.  Early on in the endeavor a man traveling with us declared these farmers need a tractor, to direct seed their rice from a plane, and understand their small fields will produce no real economic benefit.  When I actually listening to the federation leadership and fi their needs with the cultural realities of Haiti no one really cared about direct seeding and yes, one field producing more rice might not affect the Haitian economy at large it would benefit that individual family.  As one family saw the example more would follow their lead and ultimately the enhancement of this community food system could impact generations. 

Skipping ahead almost a year we have been purchasing this federations rice while enhancing our friendships.  We have been building trust, creating market by buying locally grow rice, and finding value added revenue for the rice waste products a transformation has started to take place.  As the yield has increased so has the income of the farmers and in direct response ownership in the process has lead to the federation now paying for the school teachers – NOT A NGO.  They are cleaning their irrigation canals – NOT A NGO.  They entered into a cooperative loan to purchase an upgraded milling system – NOT A NGO.  As they have started this change it was time to increase our partnership and take them to a new level of production.   (Granted still small scale by American standards) But when you partner with a group of people who have ask, not for a handout but a little push, the results are amazing.  


Two weeks ago we partnered with the federation by holding the note on a nice 51 horsepower Kubota tractor with a rotovator attachment.  When I say hold the note I truly mean these farmers who once depended on the handouts from NGO’s for almost everything came up with the terms of 8% interest, $1000 dollars a month and over a 36 month period.  We gave them the grace of 3 months (next harvest) for first payment and a reduction of 8% interest compared to the normal Haitian rate.  There is nothing like being approached to partner when we are both putting skin in the game.

In a half a day of working the tractor they prepared the same amount of land it would take 10 farmers 1 week to complete – that is the power of partnership. 


Brooks Pure Connect in Ozark Mud (Fine-loamy, mixed, active, mesic Typic Paleudolls) for the soils nerds among us.

Overall the sole on the Pure Connect is very impressive and for a multiple surface run from road to trail it is a good option for the Ozark clay, but if you are strictly running trails in the Ozarks stay with the Cascadia.

As a runner transplanted to the south central United States from the beauty of Northwest Washington it has been an interesting adjustment to say the least.  The upside of the move comes on days like today – it is currently 65 degrees and the sun is shining bright.  The downside will hit in July when the temperature is 100 degrees and 90% humidity with a heat of index “don’t run you will die”.

In the attempt to find my new happy place for running that is comparable to my favorites back home like Silver Lake Park in Whatcom County, Bridle Trails in Kirkland, The Inter-Urban Trail in Bellingham, or my personal favorite “Freeman’s Trail” which is nestled in the hills of Mt. Baker and created by Hall of Fame Coach and 68 Olympic marathon hopeful Jim Freeman, I have stumbled on a 1.5 mile trail just outside of Springfield, MO.   This trail is a perfect combination of hills, trees, lake views and plenty of soil.  This soil when wet is full of clay that ribbons well into the 2-inch range.   (Soil speak for lots of clay content)

Over the last few weeks I have ran this trail in wet conditions in the Brooks Cascadia and Brooks Pure Connect.  Each of these shoes is created differently but equally impressive for all things in a quality running shoe.  The Cascadia is a trail shoe with very aggressive tread while the Pure Connect is the new neutral minimalist shoe recently released by Brooks.   As the Pure Connect isn’t a trail shoe I was curious how it would compare.  Here is Jason’s Review

As a trail shoe the Cascadia was 9.5/10 based on traction, cushioning from roots and rocks, and mud collection.  The only reason I throw in a 9.5 is because when running in wet Ozark clay the mud collection was extreme which added to shoe weight and traction issues.  This however is petty because I was spoiled by the high organic matter mountain soil of the Northwest where this extreme clay build up is not an issue.

As a trail shoe the Pure Connect was 8/10 based on the same three qualities.  The overall performance of the shoe was slipper like.  I can say I have never felt a running shoe feel so natural – like wearing a slipper on the run.  On the trail it displayed the same natural feel but because of the less aggressive tread (Brooks does have a minimalist trail shoe) it was hard to navigate up a couple hills but didn’t keep me from getting up them.  The surprise was the small amounts of clay pick up on the run.  The flat tread was the reason but I expected much greater clay clinging to the shoe.  The cushioning was good but because of the sole design some rocks were felt but not painfully.  Overall the sole on the shoe is very impressive and for a multiple surface run from road to trail it is a good option for the Ozark clay, but if you are strictly running trails in the Ozark stay with the Cascadia.

Happy Running

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A Letter to Bomps

Over the next 4 days one of my hero’s will be having most of his blood drained and replenished to keep him here on earth just a little longer.  In an effort to keep him busy thinking about other things thought I would post this letter so the world (the 3 people who might read this) can see why he is so special.

Dear Bomps,

As your only grandson there has always been a strong bond between the two of us.  The bond is unique because of the years of being in your immediate presence 24/7 on the orchard at the end of Putman Road.  I believe a large part of my character and personality was foraged at the home you built from the ground up.  The memories that flood my mind are vast and  I am so pleased I have been able to share some of those with you over the last few months. For the sake of those who have never met you I wish I could share all the moments that made me laugh, cry, and smile but they are to numerous to share, for that would take a lifetime.

The stories from your life where priceless to this boy listening at your feet.  There was being pulled over at 14 for not having a license while delivering milk for Great Grandpa McEwen, leaving for Alaska at 16 to start something new, lying about your age to get into the Navy so you could chose your branch of service or watching you try to explain why Aunt Irene had been around longer then you and Grandma Ag had been married.  (I appreciate the awkwardness you felt on this one much more now than then).  The fires you fought in Bellingham for your 20+ years on the department , and the story of how you and Kenny Smith got the jobs in the first place.  For the record you would have not enjoyed working for the post office anyway, you were a firefighter.  Your helmet hangs on my office wall today as a reminder of those days.  I could go on and on….

The shared memories we have that I will one day lavish on my kids and grandkids are golden.  The frozen manure pile, your personal favorite, will forever mark the beginning of my manure research.  The trips to Loon Lake in the back of the truck while using the Tab cans as toilets, getting lost on the Honda Trail 90 on the hill and ending up in Canada, shooting birds for hours, watching the pea combines, learning if you roll a tire into the burn pile at the right time it won’t burn black and alert the neighbors, plus splitting wood and hauling it with Dad.  I still remember watching your knee go out on the hill and watching you get so upset because Dad had to stop cutting the Alder down.  I continue – watching you build cabinets, prune trees, spray, mow, garden, can veggies, run the only registered cherry orchard on the westside of the state of Washington with ease.  Then there was that fateful trip to HiNotes, we travelled that way so many times it is hard to remember why that day, but you had to make a pit stop in the woods and I yelled those famous words, “Hey Bomps what you doing? I can see you bald head!” then on your return, “Hey Bomps, what happened to your hanky?”

Time and time again in my daily life I remember you.  The smell of oysters or clams always takes me to the TV room for the noon news to catch the weather.  The room where we would have a 5 episode marathon of All My Children on a Friday night.  It was in this room I fell in love with the news, Donahue, M.A.S.H, Peoples Court, The Price Is Right and Matlock mainly because I was sitting next to you.  It was there where you tried to explain the nature of the Jim Jones cult and tragedy as I stumbled over the Newsweek pictures.  You taught me about stocks with Ed and how to sit and listen to family.   It was some of those moments in the living room with Ed, Aunt Evie, Art, Kenny and Lorean Smith, Grandpa McEwen, Aunt Dotto, Earl, and Grandma Ag I wish I could repeat in my own live.   For as high strung and patient lacking you and I are you knew how to invest in family.  I am still learning this lesson a lesson I need to learn quickly before it is too late.

You loved a woman who came with an extra in a day when no one talked about such things.  I don’t know if anyone will ever know how you and grandma felt during those years when Grandma Z raised Kathleen but I would have been hurt and mad.  All I ever saw was love.

Don’t worry, I remember those times when you showed the less then perfect side of Vernon McEwen but it was these moments that assured me Jesus loved all our flaws and we could love Him through them as well.  (Trust me I fully understand you and I are two peas in a pod and can be pretty short with those around us at times)

Bomps, you have showed me how to work hard and provide for my family.  You showed me how to love a woman through for better or for worse.  You showed me how to worship God while sitting at an organ or working in the yard.  You showed me how to carry a gun.  You showed me how to run an orchard.  You showed me I have a tremendous Dad.  And more importantly you showed me how to live and die.

Whether you go home tonight, next week, or as you said in 21 years know you have lived well and given you family the best examples of living life through the ups and downs that come our way.  I am proud to be the only grandson of Vernon McEwen.  When you do see Jesus – thank him for letting me have you as my Bomps.


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