Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ammonia: The Hidden Danger in the Coop

By Jennifer Roberts

We all like to think of the chicken coop as a place to unwind and relax, but did you know that there may be a hidden danger to you lurking in your chickens’ home?
When you open the coopdoor, egg basket in hand, are you hit with an acrid burning of the nose, lungs and throat? That my friend, is the signature trademark of ammonia.
Ammonia is naturally occurring in urine and manure. Most of us know that ammonia is harmful for our chickens, but we don’t realize that it is more than just an noxious odor for humans… in fact it is an extreme health hazard.

According to the New York State Department of Health, “Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in air causes immediate burning of the nose, throat and respiratory tract. This can cause bronchiolar and alveolar edema, and airway destruction resulting in respiratory distress or failure. Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation.”
The irritating and corrosive smell of the chemical is an adequate warning of its presence, but unfortunately the chemical causes a phenomenon known as “olfactory fatigue,” effectively reducing your awareness of the smell after prolonged exposure. This means that the longer you spend in the barn, the less you will smell it, and the more adverse affect it may have on your body.

Don’t think that adults are the only ones at risk. Be sure to check out the condition of the coop before you drop your kids in on egg duty. “Children exposed to the same concentrations of ammonia vapor as adults may receive a larger dose because they have greater lung surface area-to-body weight ratios and increased minute volumes-to-weight ratios,” reports the New York State Department of Health. “In addition, they may be exposed to higher concentrations than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher concentrations of ammonia vapor initially found near the ground.”

Luckily there are ways that we can combat this caustic chemical. In addition to frequent coop cleaning and proper ventilation, consider the use of Koop Clean

This innovative chicken bedding is an all-natural, quality chicken bedding consisting of a chopped blend of hay and straw, combined with the unique superior odor-neutralizing ingredient, Sweet PDZ. The addition of Sweet PDZ effectively neutralizes the ammonia and other harmful odors; this helps your chicks and chickens (and you!) maintain their respiratory health.

Be sure to pick up a bag the next time you visit your local Paris Farmer’s Union Store!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Hay There! Are You Looking For Hay?

Are you looking into your hayloft with a sense of dread? This time of year, you may be doing your best to draw out your hay stores, trying to stretch it through to when the grass and green and the pastures are ready for your horses. Your stress is compounded when you give your hay supplier a call, only to learn that the last of the previous season’s hay has been reserved or sold to someone else?
So what are you to? You can try to find a barn with a bit of extra hay, but let’s face it, the pickings are slim and the there are no guarantees when it comes to quality.

Let us propose a better, more feasible idea. Stop by Paris Farmes Union and pick up several bags of Lucerne Forage Products to supplement your remaining hay supply. It’s the perfect way to extend your forage supply while providing your horse with quality, consistent nutrition.
This bagged forage product is available year round at Paris Farmers Union and is easy to add to your horses’ feed routine. This high temperature dried forage product is treated with molasses or soybean oil to be virtually dust free. This unique drying process effectively “locks in” nutrients while killing off mold spores that may irritate your horses’ respiratory systems.

Another benefit of this bagged forage product? The quality is consistent from bag to bag to year to year. This means that you can be rest assured that you are providing your horses with more than adequate nutrition, with the guaranteed analysis that is provided by the company for each bag.
This high quality forage can be fed in whatever quantity you need. Whether it be a forage supplement or a complete hay replacement, Lucerne Forage Products are here to support you and your horses’ needs.
If your hay supplies are dwindling, don’t be scared. Hop in your car or place an online order for Lucerne Forage Products. Whether it’s one bag or 25, Paris Farmers Union has your forage needs under wraps!

Questions? Leave us a comment below!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Paws For A Cause Fundraiser

We are teaming up with Traeger Grills again this year for our third annual fundraiser in support of eleven local non-profit animal help organizations or shelters near each of our Paris Farmers Union locations! Our "Paws for a Cause" Animal Benefit Fundraiser will begin on March 16th, 2018 and end on June 24th, 2018. During this time, when you visit any Paris Farmers Union retail location, we will ask you if you would like to purchase a "Paper Paw" to help us support this great cause. In 2016 and 2017 we were able to raise over $10,000 each year with your help. We hope to surpass that total this year!

You can purchase: 

1 paper paw for a dollar
3 paper paws for $2.50 
6 paper paws for $4.00

100% of the funds from these paper paw purchases will go to the 11 animal help organizations listed below. At the end of our fundraiser, we will pool together all funds received, and donate the total equally among all 11 organizations. 
For each paper paw purchased your name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a Traeger Select Pro Wood Pellet Grill prize package worth over $1500! This amazing prize package includes the Traeger Select Pro Wood Pellet Fired Grill, Traeger flavored wood pellets, grilling sauces & rubs, and more!

On June 24th, 2018 one winner will be selected randomly from all Paper Paw entries. The more Paper Paws you purchase, the greater your chance of winning will be, and 100% of your purchase money will be going directly towards supporting animals in need! The Traeger Select Pro Grill package must be picked up at a Paris Farmers Union retail location of your choice, or we can ship the grill at the winner's expense. (Any applicable taxes will also be the responsibility of the winner)

Benefiting Organizations
Each Paris Farmers Union location has partnered with one local animal help organization which will benefit from the Paws for a Cause Fundraiser. At the end of the fundraiser, 100% of the funds raised will be divided equally among these following eleven organizations:

Raymond: Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland -- Westbrook, ME
The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland nurtures the connection between people and pets to advance animal welfare and improve the quality of life in our community.They provide temporary care and shelter for stray, abandoned, confiscated and relinquished animals, and place as many pets as possible into responsible and caring homes; they create awareness and support for the humane treatment of all animals and strive to end animal overpopulation through education and the promotion of spaying and neutering. The ARLGP makes end-of-life decisions based on safety and animal welfare considerations.

Turner: Community Cat Advocates -- Buckfield, ME

The mission of Community Cat Advocates is to help Maine to become a no-kill state through Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR), taking feral cats from shelters, trapping and relocating feral cats with no caretaker, and occasionally taking in friendly cats who due to severe fear or anxiety issues would not do well in typical shelter settings.
Community Cat Advocates are a small and devoted group of individuals who are passionate about TNR, keeping pets in loving homes, finding homes for stray cats, networking between rescues and shelters, and community knowledge sharing in order to better the lives of animals. They are a registered 501(c)3 (non-profit) and all donations are tax deductible.

Middlebury VT: Homeward Bound, Addison County's Humane Society -- Middlebury, VT
Homeward Bound, Addison County's Humane Society's mission statement is to educate the community and improve the lives of animals, alleviate their suffering, and elevate their status in society. They safeguard, rescue, shelter, heal, adopt, and advocate for animals in need, while inspiring community action and compassion on their behalf.

Winthrop: P.A.L.S No-Kill Cat Shelter -- Winthrop, ME
P.A.L.S (Protectors of Animal Life Society) in Winthrop, Maine is a no-kill cat shelter that began in 1980 as a non-profit, charitable organization. P.A.L.S is supported by memberships, fundraising, memorial gifts, donations, and bequests. P.A.L.S staff and volunteers are committed to finding a solution to stray and homeless felines, and providing them with the home and health services that they require.

Lewiston: Tommy's Feral Feline Friends -- Greene,ME  

Tommy's Feral Feline Friends is named after "Tommy", a feral cat whose love, loyalty, and devotion inspired the rescue of thousands of feral cats. Tommy's is strictly a volunteer organization, providing feeding and living accommodations, as well as spay and neutering services, to feral felines. Tommy's Feral Feline Friends holds true to their moral convictions of tender love, kindness, loyalty, and devotion, and no animal under their care is killed or declawed. 

Tommy's Mission is to make the state of Maine a no-kill state and continue to rescue and save the lives of abandoned, abused, and neglected animals.

Bridgton: Harvest Hills Animal Shelter -- Fryeburg, ME

Harvest Hills Animal Shelter is a non-profit organization which contracts with 19 towns in Western Maine to accept stray, neglected, and abandoned cats and dogs. Since opening it's doors in 1992, Harvest Hills has found homes for approximately 17,000 dogs and cats. Harvest Hills strives to serve more animals in need, reduce stress and suffering for every animal passing through their doors, and to educate the community about the responsibilities of pet ownership.

North Conway: Conway Area Humane Society -- Conway, NH
The Conway Area Humane Society's Dog Adoption Center was completed in 2004 and since then has helped nearly 10,000 animals, taking in homeless dogs, cats, and small mammals. They take in animals from both near and far, accepting stray animals from 13 neighboring towns. The Conway Area Humane Society is a private, non-profit organization that relies on donations, fund raising, and funds from grant foundations.

Portland: Friends of Feral Felines -- Portland, ME

FoFF is committed to helping feral cats in southern Maine. 
Their mission is to humanely reduce the number of feral cats in their communities through trapping, neutering, and then releasing them back to their colony sites (a method called Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR). In time, the colonies' populations shrink due to lack of reproduction. 
Friends of Feral Felines provides the colonies with food and water regularly and monitor them for new, sick, or injured members who need medical attention. They also find barn homes for some of the cats, and foster and socialize kittens to prepare them for adoption. Their efforts include public education and fundraising to support the ongoing need for food and medical care. 

South Paris: Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills -- South Paris, ME
Responsible Pet Care is a no-kill, non-profit shelter and adoption center for cats and dogs. The shelter is equipped to care for more than 150 cats and kittens and up to 12 dogs at any one time. All adopted animals leave the shelter healthy, spayed/neutered, FeLV/FIV tested-cats, heartworm tested-dogs, vaccinated for rabies and distemper, and treated for internal and external parasites.

Newport: Somerset Humane Society -- Skowhegan, ME
Somerset Humane Society is a non-profit organization committed to providing temporary housing and care to stray and abandoned animals. Somerset Humane Society currently serves 24 towns and 82 unorganized townships in the surrounding counties. They return lost animals to their owners and find suitable homes for animals that are not reclaimed, as well as taking in owner surrendered animals.

Jay: Franklin County Animal Shelter -- Farmington, ME
The Franklin County Animal Shelter is a non-profit organization committed to providing temporary care and shelter to stray, homeless, and abandoned animals. The shelter provides medical treatment and vaccinations and sterilization to all animals prior to adoption. 
Franklin County Animal Shelter strives to educate the public in the proper care of pets, including increasing public awareness of the companion animal overpopulation issue. 

Stray, abandoned, and mistreated animals need our help, so please join us in raising funds to support this great cause! Please leave any questions in the comments below, or you can email us at customerservice@parisfarmersunion.net for more information!

Monday, March 5, 2018

A New Product For Chick Days!

Chick Days are here! It’s always a thrilling occasion when the first shipments enter the store, with their fluffy bodies and adorable noises.

Doting on chicks, and our chickens, is quite the job, albeit enjoyable, and we are always looking for ways to make that easier on our customers. We are thrilled to announce that Koop Clean chicken bedding is now available through Paris Farmers Union!

This innovative chicken bedding is an all-natural, quality chicken bedding consisting of a chopped blend of hay and straw, combined with the unique superior odor-neutralizing ingredient, Sweet PDZ.

The specialized blend of hay and straw is chopped which allows for easy handling as well as increase absorption. As an added bonus, the short cut makes cleaning it a breeze!

The bedding is insulating, which is perfect for chicks. Helping the coop to maintain a healthy temperature year round. The addition of Sweet PDZ effectively neutralizes the ammonia and other harmful odors; this helps your chicks and chickens (and you!) maintain their respiratory health.

Sweet PDZ is completely safe if ingested by the chicks, as it is an all-natural, organic zeolite. It is also a welcome addition to your garden, so the bedding is an excellent additive to your compost pile after your chickens have added their “special touch.”

And have we mentioned convenient? The bedding is packaged in plastic, makes it so easy to throw in the trunk of your car, with literally no mess. It also makes any leftovers that you have easy to store in the coop.

Specially formulated using only ingredients from the earth, Koop Clean chicken bedding will make your flock happy, while keeping your coop fresh, dry and insulated. From chicks to chickens, Koop Clean will be a welcome addition to your coop!
Be sure to pick up a bag the next time you visit your local Paris Farmer’s Union Store!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How To Grow Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can successfully thrive in a garden for decades if properly planted and maintained. Asparagus is actually one of the very first springtime crops to yield harvest, so when properly planted and cared for; you can enjoy an abundant crop of spears for up to 30 years!

A favorite in North American diets, perky green asparagus stalks can add a delicious bright crunch to daily meals, in addition to B and C vitamins, iron and plenty of calcium. Even though maintenance isn’t difficult, planting asparagus does have its delicate intricacies, which we’ll outline below so you can plan accordingly!

Growing Asparagus

First, you’ll want to get your hands on asparagus crowns. While growing asparagus from seeds is possible, it becomes more difficult because of their extreme delicacy and overall stubbornness to take root. Instead, opt for one-year-old crowns. This gives you a head start over seeds. Crowns are actually just dormant roots and are available at local garden centers and reputable nurseries in early spring. We recommend an all-male asparagus variety if your primary goal is to have a high yield. Since female plants produce seeds, much of their energy is expended there.
Next, you’ll want to prepare your new asparagus bed. Whether you’re isolating asparagus on a raised bed or digging a trench in the ground, ensure the removal of any signs of weeds or potentially harmful grasses. Asparagus does not compete well with others for growing space and unfortunately, it won’t survive at the first sign of competition.

Prepping the Soil

To ensure long-term fertility, you’ll want to create non-acidic soil that is well drained and nutrient-rich. You can fortify the soil with compost, a vegetable fertilizer, rock phosphate or organic greensand.

Planting Asparagus From Roots

To plant the crowns, you’ll want to dig trenches approximately a foot wide and six inches deep. If you’re utilizing a sandier soil, dig down eight inches. Place the crowns two feet apart and cover them with an additional two to three inches of soil—approximately two rows of asparagus crowns will nicely fit into a 4-foot wide bed. You want to space your crowns to produce larger spears. Water them deeply right after covering them.

Maintaining Asparagus – 1st Growing Season

You’ll want to keep your asparagus bed moist through its first growing season. To ensure moisture conservation, you can spread a light layer of mulch over top. As your asparagus grows, you’ll want to fill furrows with soil. Overall, maintain wet soil for the first eight inches. Be gentle since you want your asparagus to develop a strong root system.

Maintaining Asparagus – 2nd Growing Season

You won’t want to harvest the asparagus the following year after planting. Instead, allow them to grow into a small bush. If it’s brown, you’ll want to remove the old stalks and any new signs of weeds. Periodically check the pH level of the soil with a soil test kit and squeeze some lime to maintain proper levels. You’ll also want to water biweekly through any dry weather.

Maintaining Asparagus – 3rd and 4th Growing Seasons

If you see spears larger than four inches, you’ll want to harvest them. Utilize a knife and while holding the spear in one, cut it off about one inch below the soil line. Avoid deep cuts because you’ll end up damaging the crown. Follow a two, four and 6-week harvest sequence. You’ll want to harvest stalks every two weeks in the second year, four weeks the third growing season, and finally six weeks after the fourth growing season. Every fall season that follows, remember to remove any brown brush.

Asparagus needs a whole lot of love to get started, but the annual rewards make it worthwhile!

Have you had any luck growing asparagus? Leave any additional helpful tips below!
Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tips for Deciding What to Plant in Your Garden

Small, stubborn sprouts and pitiful produce can be discouraging – especially for beginners. Even if you’re cultivating crops correctly, it’s possible the variety of seed you’re planting is hindering your success. If you want your buds to blossom and your harvest to be plentiful, it’s important that seed selection is approached strategically.

To help you understand the complex considerations that drive a well-informed plot planning process, we’ve outlined the major factors that should influence your decision. Read on to discover the impact smart seed selection can have on the vibrancy of your garden!

Assess Your Skill Level

Before getting your hands dirty, you need to objectively analyze your gardening expertise and be cognizant of your own limitations. Successful gardeners with green thumbs should be significantly more ambitious with their seed selection than beginners who are still a bit “green” when it comes to cultivation. Each variety of vegetation requires a unique level of tender care, and it can be easy for inexperienced planters to struggle with stubborn seeds.

This frustration can be highly discouraging to beginners—it’s much more reaffirming to start simple and achieve immediate results. We recommend beginning with basic crops that are relatively low-maintenance and that won’t leave you demoralized. Examples of a few vegetables and herbs that are among the easiest crops to grow include: carrots, chard, beans, basil, cucumbers and radishes. Our favorite flowers that are guaranteed to flourish in any garden include: Sunflowers, Marigolds, Poppies, Cosmos and Zinnias.

If you’ve proven your ability to sow seeds and reap a hearty harvest, consider advancing to more demanding and time-consuming plants. When it comes to fruits and veggies, experts should try planting cauliflower, artichokes, head lettuce and melons. These crops may be stressful to cultivate, but the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from picking ripe produce off the vine is unforgettable. To test your skill, try planting azaleas in your garden. Azaleas are arguably the hardest flower to grow and will wither if the temperature ever rises above 65 degrees.

Access to Sunlight

When you’re choosing plants to include in your plot, you should definitely take the amount of available sunlight into account. Without sufficient sun, plants aren’t able to use photosynthesis to produce the fuel necessary to survive. The amount of light that a plant needs, however, is variable and depends upon its species. If part of your garden is obscured by shade, it’s important to place sun-loving plants elsewhere. Some vibrant flowers that thrive in the shade and are easy to maintain include Hydrangea, Geranium and Impatiens.

Soil Quality

Nutrient-rich soil is the foundation from which beautiful gardens are grown. Unfortunately, some regions (like the American Northeast) have rockier, less flower-friendly soil than others. While hauling in new top soil and adding fertilizer is an option, you should consider growing tough plants that can withstand the limited nutrients offered by your native soil. For gardeners in rocky regions with shallow soil, we recommend planting seeds like: Perennials, common Sage, Lamb’s Ears and Black-eyed Susan.

Climate Considerations

Conduct research before selecting your seeds to ensure your climate is conducive to success and suitable for cultivation. There are four major categories of climates: tropical, mild, continental and arid. A plant that thrives in a wet, tropical climate will obviously suffer when exposed to the debilitating dryness of a desert. Growers looking for fast results and satisfying returns should try sticking with varieties of plants that are indigenous to their region. If the seeds you plant occur naturally in the wild, it means they’ll require less attention when placed in your garden.

If you’re itching to get a jump-start on spring and start planting, take a step back and strategically plan your seed selection first. The seeds you choose should reflect your expertise, climate and growing conditions. To get yourself started, be sure to check out Paris Farmers Union’s wide selection of garden supplies. Leave a comment below if you have additional tips for choosing what to plant in your garden.

With the help of these basic supplies, you can begin carefully cultivating seeds before the onset of spring and receive unparalleled satisfaction from watching your seedlings sprout. If you’d like to try seed starting for yourself, be sure to check out our full selection of seed and plant starting accessories and if you are interested in purchasing your garden seeds in bulk, download our 2018 Bulk Seed Order Form.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What You Need for Seed Starting

If your green thumb is getting antsy during the off-season, seed starting can give you an early jump on spring. Cold conditions make it impossible for seeds to survive outside, but by beginning the cultivation process indoors, your plants can thrive when the weather inevitably improves.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t access a greenhouse! Incredible results of starting seeds indoors are still possible for amateur gardeners on a budget. Best of all, seed starting is a simple technique to practice—it only requires a bit of foresight, a little time for preparation and a few basic supplies.

To help you understand the practical process necessary for the implementation of this technique, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide that outlines the materials every seed-starter should have on hand. Read over our list below to distract yourself from the dreary winter weather – and to begin cultivating seeds of your own year-round!


The most important factor influencing the results of your seed starting experiment is—wait for it—the quality of the seeds themselves (self-explanatory, we know). Luckily, finding good seeds is simple if you know what to look for. When choosing seeds, be sure to select an Open Pollinated (OP) seed rather than a Hybrid (F1) variety. Along with being more expensive, Hybrid seeds are used more frequently by commercial farmers than by backyard botanists. It takes more time for an OP seed to mature than an F1, but the extended waiting period gives amateur growers flexibility when harvest season rolls around.

When choosing what type of plant or crop you’d like to grow, don’t get overly ambitious from the onset. Seeds that naturally thrive indoors include: basil, zinnia, tomatoes, marigolds and cosmos. We suggest that you stay away from seeds that require very particular, native soil like petunias and azaleas.

Starting Mixture and Fertilizer

Instead of simply tossing your seeds into garden-variety topsoil, it’s essential that you use a pure, unadulterated seed starting mixture. By choosing a seed mix, you ensure that your soil is devoid of any contaminants that could potentially alter the germination process and harm the plants’ overall health. Seeding mix contains fewer nutrients than soil straight from the ground, so be sure to supplement the mix with an organic liquid fertilizer

Tray or Container

As long as the container you choose has enough depth (2 to 3 inches), your seeds should grow properly. This leaves growers with plenty of room to get creative. Yogurt cups, newspaper and paper towel rolls are effective DIY options, but we suggest you use a greenhouse starter kit instead. Specialized trays are better equipped for handling the increased levels of humidity your seedlings will be exposed to, and these trays won’t mold with moisture.

Lighting Setup

Providing your growing trays with adequate artificial sunlight is a fundamental key to seed starting success. Relying upon a window for natural sunlight during the winter is a surefire way to get stunted sprouts. Instead of settling for uneven lighting, we suggest investing in a grow light set up or a compact lighting system.


This small apparatus isn’t critical – but it will make your seed growing easier since you won’t need to remember to turn the lights on and off at the start and finish of each day. Your budding seeds need an environment that simulates that of being outdoors, and daylight is a big part of that. So save yourself the effort of remembering to hit the lights each day and invest in a timer. 

Spray Bottle & Watering Can

As your seedlings grow, you’ll be watering them from the bottom, so you’ll want a vessel that makes this process easy, like a watering can. You’ll also want some sort of spray bottle to keep the seeds from drying out from above without dumping too much water on them. It’s a fine balance, and these supplies will help you reach it. 

Heat Mat and Enclosure

If you’d like your seeds to start sprouting in no time, a heat mat may be just the thing. By placing your tray of growing seedlings on this mat, germination and rooting will take place sooner than otherwise with the elevated temperature. The root area will be about 10-20° warmer than what it would be otherwise, giving it that extra boost for growth. Adding a dome to that tray will create an enclosure for the growth – a layer of protection for your budding vegetation. 

With the help of these basic seed starting supplies, you can begin carefully cultivating seeds before the onset of spring and receive unparalleled satisfaction from watching your seedlings sprout. If you’d like to try seed starting for yourself, be sure to check out our full selection of seed and plant starting accessories as well as our 2017 bulk seed order form.