Archive for the ‘Sustainable Farming’ Category

Growing Local Farm Movement is Expanding to Meat

It’s great to see articles like this in the mainstream media.  Local, sustainable farmers are the most important people in having a safe and healthy food supply – Mom

By Wes Little

ELBERTON, Georgia  — In a parking lot in suburban Atlanta, customers mill in the summer heat, waiting for freezer bags full of beef, pork, chicken and other meats.

Tim Young raises cattle, pigs, chicken, turkeys and more on his “beyond organic” farm.

The draw that pulled them away from their grocery store and to the tailgate of a packed freezer truck? The meat is from animals raised naturally on a small family farm just two hours away.

“By supporting local farmers, we are essentially voting to support the local economy,” said Anthony Chan, a member of a group that gets its meat monthly from Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton, Georgia.

Nature’s Harmony is a member of a growing local-food movement, often referred to as Community-Supported Agriculture. Video Watch video of Nature’s Harmony »

The CSAs, as they’re called, are a model in which consumers pay for their food in advance and receive it directly from the farmer. Working much like a magazine subscription, customers pay for a period of usually at least six months and receive packages either at the farm or at established delivery locations like the one in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Although thousands of farms have sprung up over the past two decades selling fruits and vegetables using the system, experts say there are probably only a few dozen that, like the Georgia farm, offer meat.

Farmers Tim and Liz Young raise cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and lambs on their 76-acre farm in northeast Georgia, near the South Carolina state line.

The couple describes their farming technique as “beyond organic,” saying they use no artificial fertilizers, growth hormones or antibiotics and don’t keep their animals penned up.

Life on their property — where cattle and sheep graze in open fields and chickens follow along to clean up after them — looks much like the classic image of a family farm. But the couple say they consider themselves healers to both their customers and, according to their Web site, a food system that “had become a machine with little regard for food safety, food taste and animal welfare.”

“People are becoming very disconnected from the food system,” Liz Young said. “Buying from a local CSA or just shopping at a local farm, you can see where it’s coming from. You can talk to the farmers and figure out how the animals or the produce is raised.”

The couple has 50 subscribers, plus a waiting list, and say 2,000 people receive a newsletter on the farm’s activities.

Members of the nation’s handful of meat CSAs, and the thousands of others, offer a list of reasons.

The food is healthier and tastes better, they say. They like supporting their local economy. Eliminating cross-country delivery is better for the environment, as are the sustainable farming techniques the farmers tend to use.

“Being part of a CSA means that I know the first names of the people who are raising the meat I eat,” said Andrew Johnson of Kansas City, Missouri, a member of the Parker Farms meat CSA in Richmond, Missouri. “Whereas, with the meat I buy from the grocery store, I don’t know where it came from or who raised it.”

Others say they appreciate that animals from the usually small family farms don’t spend their lives in processing plants, conditions that advocates call inhumane.

Because CSA members deal with the farmers directly, they are able to visit the farms and see exactly how their food is produced. The transparency, they say, creates an incentive for farmers to raise their animals as naturally as possible.

“If we have any questions about how it is being grown, we can simply visit the farm ourselves,” said Kristen Johnson, Andrew’s wife.

Robert P. King, a professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, said that although community-supported agriculture “provides a good opportunity for farms that want to use sustainable practices to actually do well in the marketplace,” it’s nowhere close to challenging conventional agriculture’s domination of the food market.

King said geographic availability can be limiting to CSAs. Generally, they require a rural area suitable for farming near an urban area that provide enough customers to make it work.

And then, King said, there’s the cost. Operating on a smaller scale and avoiding mega-farm practices designed to cut costs and improve yields almost always mean higher prices.

A six-month Nature’s Harmony membership ranges from $360, or $40 a month, for a poultry-only delivery to $840, or $140 a month, for 20 pounds of a variety of meats.

“Is it as cheap as the lowest-price chicken in the grocery store? Absolutely not,” Tim Young said. “But with our prices and the prices of any sustainable farmer, you’ve got everything baked in: the cost to the environment, the cost to the health care system, the cost of producing that animal [in a humane way].”

Johnson said that any difference in prices at the Missouri farm, which charges a $1,150 annual fee, are worth it.

“I don’t think it is significant, but if it does end up costing a bit more, it is still important to us to make this a priority,” he said. “There are other expenses I am willing to give up rather than give up a safe, trusted food source.”

The Youngs hope more people will get the chance to choose.


“There’s a big, burgeoning demand out there for local meat, for local food, for organic foods and we’d like to see more famers step up to fill that demand,” Tim Young said. “We’re trying to do that but we can never meet the demand that’s out there.

“We’d love to see more farmers try to do what we’re doing.”

Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,

Michael Pollan’s latest thoughts on the White House Kitchen Garden

Michael Pollan first called for an edible landscape at the White House way back in 1991, during the Bush I era.

    Imagine an 18-acre victory garden on the grounds of the White House, managed according to the highest organic principles. This garden, which need not contain any broccoli, would stand as a paradigm of environmental responsibility.

    The White House has enough land to become self-sufficient in food — a model of Jeffersonian independence and thrift. Alternatively, a White House garden could help supply food for Washington’s poor. Depending which party is in power, a few elephants or donkeys should be maintained for the purpose of fertilization.

    Earlier this week, he was interviewed on Fresh Air, mainly about his new piece in The New York Times Magazine, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch: How American cooking became a spectator sport, and what we lost along the way.

At the end of the interview, guest host Dave Davies and Michael Pollan had this exchange :

    DAVIES: You know, last October, you wrote a piece in the Times Magazine called “Farmer in Chief,” which was an open letter to the next president – the election was still going on then. And you essentially argued that changing the way we grow and process food was critical to energy policy and, thus, a matter of national security – you know, the way we grow and process food at an industrial scale and transport it thousands of miles drains energy, pollutes the environment and harms our health. And you said that it’s really important for the next president to take a lead in changing things. How would you rate President Obama on the challenge of rebuilding the food culture?

    Mr. POLLAN: Well, I think Obama’s taken some very encouraging steps. I think that Obama has shown that he recognized the links between the way we grow food and feed ourselves and the health-care crisis on the one side and the climate-change and energy crisis on the other.

    So I’m encouraged by some of the rhetoric. I’m encouraged by some of the appointments. There are some progressive people in the USDA, the Department of Agriculture. And there has been the new agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, has spoken in, you know, very encouraging terms about the importance of local food systems, the importance of farmers’ markets, the importance of organic food.

    So all that is very encouraging, I think. But, you know, frankly, the most important thing that’s happened has been the garden that Michelle Obama planted, which has had a galvanizing effect around the world.

    There’s now a garden in Buckingham Palace. People are planting gardens all over America. You can’t find seeds in garden centers, there’s such a run on gardening. I think that’s a very encouraging thing. I don’t think it is merely symbolic. And by the way, I think it’s very deliberate on the part of the Obamas. I think they understand that before you can begin to change this food system, you need to raise consciousness about it because for a lot of people, the food system works just fine.

    There’s plenty of cheap and abundant food. The fact that it makes people sick, the fact that it takes an enormous toll on the environment, on animals, on workers, isn’t really clear to everybody so that there’s a kind of raising of consciousness that needs to happen. And I think that Michelle Obama is playing a very important role in that. And then you can follow, one hopes, with a different kind of farm bill that would encourage the kind of fresh, local food that Michelle Obama has been extolling.

    So, you know, I’m encouraged. I don’t see any evidence that they’re willing to take on agribusiness in any significant way yet. I think what’s more likely to happen is that this administration will take steps to educate people on the value of real food and cooking and that they will also do things to promote local food economies.

    Whether they will also go after the large food companies, it may happen in the anti-trust realm. It might happen with the farm bill, but there is, you know, some huge obstacles to real reform at that level, beginning with the agriculture committees in Congress.

-Michael Pollan’s next book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma Young Readers Edition, hits bookstores in October.

-For more on the Buckingham Palace vegetable garden, see Obama Foodorama’s post, The ‘First Lady Factor’ In Action? A New Organic Vegetable Garden At Buckingham Palace.

-If the new Pollan article puts you in a cooking mood, perhaps as a service to military families, see Obama Foodorama’s post, Supporting Our Troops: The Michelle Obama Military Family Menu…With Recipes.

Oldschool photo of Michael Pollan gardening with his son Issac courtesy San Francisco Chronicle photo by Penni Gladstone.


Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,

Food Matters Review

We watched Food Matters for the second time this weekend. It’s a very informative movie about how food and nutrients can heal us from so many common and serious ailments and how important it is.

The movie has a number of well know and knowledgeable speakers including, Charlotte Gerson, Andrew Saul, David Wolfe, Philip Day, Dr. Dan Rodgers and more.  I have to say, I’ve been involved in alternative healing and nutrition for over 30 years and there were some new things I learned from this movie.

Here’s just a small sampling of information from the movie:

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the amount needed to prevent disease, not the amount needed for good health.

Medical professionals treat disease with medicine. They treat symptoms but don’t know a lot about curing disease.  Food and nutrition is about cures.

The drug companies don’t want nutrients and diet to be the cure it will put them out of business.  “Good health makes a lot of sense but it doesn’t make a lot of dollars”.

Our Society has long term malnutrition, that is leading to many health problems. Much of this has to do with the quality of our food; it being genetically modified, full of pesticides, our soil being depleted and our food not being fresh. Supermarket produce is on average at least a week old when you buy it. All these factors leads to deficiencies.

There’s also a lot of information about high dose vitamin therapy, such as vitamin C. Vitamin C as a cure for viruses, (swine flu?) have been documented by doctors since the 1940’s.  It’s an impressive and important body of knowledge that’s being ignored and pushed under the carpet by physicians and the drug companies. Less then 6% of M.D.’s have any nutrition education.

In the UK – and I would guess that the number are similar here – 3x more people are killed by adverse drug reaction, then by car accidents. And these are for people taking the drug as directed, not overdoses or accidents.

There are 2 dozen nutrients, that are responsible for countless thousands of chemical reactions in our body so vitamin deficiencies can cause many diseases.  “You nourish the body and the body heals”

One of my favorite quotes was by Andrew Saul, “What if they gave everyone in America free health care [which they should!], but nobody needed it?”

This movie has lots of information about teaching people for be healthy and responsible for their own health care. “Education not medication”

The movie contains lots of vital information, presented in an educational, yet entertaining way.

The filmmakers website is here,

Read more, great, Real Food Wednesday posts here:

HR 2749: Food Safety’s Scorched Earth Policy

HR 2749: Food Safety’s Scorched Earth Policy


Barbara H. Peterson

HR 2749 is being rushed through Congress, and the house may look to suspend the rules and fast track the bill at Obama’s request. Just what can we expect from this legislation? A lot more of the following: 

Dick Peixoto planted hedges of fennel and flowering cilantro around his organic vegetable fields in the Pajaro Valley near Watsonville to harbor beneficial insects, an alternative to pesticides. 

He has since ripped out such plants in the name of food safety, because his big customers demand sterile buffers around his crops. No vegetation. No water. No wildlife of any kind. 

“I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop,” he said. “On one field where a deer walked through, didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.” 

In the verdant farmland surrounding Monterey Bay, a national marine sanctuary and one of the world’s biological jewels, scorched-earth strategies are being imposed on hundreds of thousands of acres in the quest for an antiseptic field of greens. And the scheme is about to go national. (Lochhead, C. )

The question that must be asked is, do we really want to destroy our local organic farming industry by poisoning ponds, bulldozing crops and killing wildlife all in the name of food safety? 

Recently someone asked why I thought that the current food safety legislation would jeopardize organic farming. This is why! People who have no idea what it is to farm, and are in collusion with large corporate food producers, buyers, and sellers, draft legislation that is intolerable to the environment and our health, all in the name of food safety, in order to promote corporate profit. 

Not one instance in “16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, has Seattle trial lawyer Bill Marler had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market” (Marler, B.). Yet, farmer’s markets and local organic food growers who sell at these markets are included in this legislation, and factory farming scorched earth methods are forced on them. 

The Scorched Earth Policy 

It is impossible to sanitize the earth. When slash and burn methods are used to supposedly control pathogens in our food supply, nature’s natural balance is destroyed, and with it our health. “Sanitizing American agriculture, aside from being impossible, is foolhardy,” said UC Berkeley food guru Michael Pollan. (Lochhead, C.) 

Invisible to a public that sees only the headlines of the latest food-safety scare – spinach, peppers and now cookie dough – ponds are being poisoned and bulldozed. Vegetation harboring pollinators and filtering storm runoff is being cleared. Fences and poison baits line wildlife corridors. Birds, frogs, mice and deer – and anything that shelters them – are caught in a raging battle in the Salinas Valley against E. coli O157:H7, a lethal, food-borne bacteria. (Lochhead, C.) 

In fact, in the fierce battle to sanitize the earth, one thing has been overlooked: 

Some science suggests that removing vegetation near field crops could make food less safe. Vegetation and wetlands are a landscape’s lungs and kidneys, filtering out not just fertilizers, sediments and pesticides, but also pathogens. UC Davis scientists found that vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water. UC Davis advisers warn that some rodents prefer cleared areas. (Lochhead, C.) 

Food Safety Fraud Culprits 

So who is behind this massive attack on our food supply? You guessed it – giant food retailers, agri-business, and anyone with a bankroll larger than the state of Texas. It seems that paying “more than $100 million in court settlements and verdicts in spinach and lettuce lawsuits” (Lochhead, C.) as well as realizing a loss in sales is galvanizing these corporate giants to lead the charge in instituting a “quasi-governmental program of new protocols for growing greens safely, called the “leafy greens marketing agreement.”” 

A proposal was submitted last month in Washington to take these rules nationwide.” (Lochhead, C.) And just what is this proposal? HR 2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act. 

A food safety bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, passed this month in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It would give new powers to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate all farms and produce in an attempt to fix the problem. The bill would require consideration of farm diversity and environmental rules, but would leave much to the FDA. (Lochhead, C.) 

The requirements of this bill would put small farmers out of business entirely, but this is not the only threat to the little guy. 

Large produce buyers have compiled secret “super metrics” that go much further. Farmers must follow them if they expect to sell their crops. These can include vast bare-dirt buffers, elimination of wildlife, and strict rules on water sources. To enforce these rules, retail buyers have sent forth armies of food-safety auditors, many of them trained in indoor processing plants, to inspect fields. (Lochhead, C.) 

Most of these inspectors have little to no experience other than inside four walls. Take for example Ken Kimes, who owns New Natives Farms in Santa Cruz County. He was told that “no children younger than five can be allowed on his farm for fear of diapers” (Lochhead, C.) 

Reaping the Consequences 

It is this type of micro-management that our entire nation can look forward to if HR 2749 passes. These are rules no-one can comply with other than large factory operations. Not only do they conflict with common sense, but with organic and environmental standards as well. They are causing what they propose to eliminate, and that is, a dangerous, contaminated food supply controlled by no one but the biggest corporations. 

And what can we expect to reap from this harvest? Higher prices due to increased costs to implement the measures and ship the food, nothing but factory-produced food that has travelled for miles to get on the shelf, increased pesticide use, the elimination of organic standards and the family farm, and the rape and desecration of nature itself. 

The consequences of California’s draconian measures which are scheduled to go nationwide with the implementation of HR 2749 are already resulting in irreparable harm. 

…trees have been bulldozed along the riparian corridors of the Salinas Valley, while poison-filled tubes targeting rodents dot lettuce fields. Dying rodents have led to deaths of owls and hawks that naturally control rodents. (Lochhead, C.) 

The Fear Factor 

Why is the public going along with this? 

“It’s all based on panic and fear, and the science is not there,” said Dr. Andy Gordus, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game. 


Preliminary results released in April from a two-year study by the state wildlife agency, UC Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that less than one-half of 1 percent of 866 wild animals tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 in Central California. 


Frogs are unrelated to E. coli, but their remains in bags of mechanically harvested greens are unsightly, Gordus said, so “the industry has been using food safety as a premise to eliminate frogs.” 


Farmers are told that ponds used to recycle irrigation water are unsafe. So they bulldoze the ponds and pump more groundwater, opening more of the aquifer to saltwater intrusion, said Jill Wilson, an environmental scientist at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in San Luis Obispo. 


Wilson said demands for 450-foot dirt buffers remove the agency’s chief means of preventing pollution from entering streams and rivers. Jovita Pajarillo, associate director of the water division in the San Francisco office of the Environmental Protection Agency, said removal of vegetative buffers threatens Arroyo Seco, one of the last remaining stretches of habitat for steelhead trout. (Lochhead, C.) 

The Real Problem 

The problem does not lie squarely in the lap of the farmer, where this legislation places it. It lies in the processing that happens after the produce leaves the farm. This legislation pronounces a death sentence on all small farmers, organic growers, and our nation’s very health as well, yet fails to address the real problem. “Industry rules won’t stop lawsuits or eliminate the risk of processed greens cut in fields, mingled in large baths, put in bags that must be chilled from packing plant to kitchen, and shipped thousands of miles away” (Marler, B). 

Mass-production is the culprit, not my neighbor down the road who grows strawberries and sells them at the local farmer’s market. Yet the cause of the problem – mass-produced, industrialized food production methods are supported, while the innocent victims – family farmers, organic producers, and neighbors selling fruit at the local farmer’s market – are punished and quite literally put out of business. 

©2009 Barbara H. Peterson


Lochhead, C. (2009). Crops, ponds destroyed in quest for food safety.  SF Chronicle

“I want to live my life in such a way that when I wake up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, satan shudders and says, oh shit, she’s awake!” (Maxine)

Localize yourself!

Barbara H. Peterson

Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,

Interview with Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is a hero to those of us want to eat real food, raised by real farmers. Here’s a great interview Joel gave recently.

Sustainable Farmer Joel Salatin Goes Beyond Organics

By Jedd Ferris

Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin explains how his heritage-based practices have restored the natural cycle of his land in the Shenandoah Valley.

On a modest, idyllic 550 acres in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm has given the modern food industry a lesson in agrarian integrity. On his pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm, Salatin raises animals with ethically and ecologically sound methods that mimic natural movement patterns and preserve the landscape.

The self-declared “Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Lunatic” has entered the national spotlight as a main subject in Michael Pollan’s bestseller, The Ominivore’s Dilemma and the upcoming film Food, Inc. The author of six of his own books, Salatin is not shy about his beliefs. He bluntly speaks out about the disgraces he sees in the current industrial food system, and lately he  spends about one-third of his time giving lectures.

The Polyface Farm land was purchased by Salatin’s parents in 1961, and today the farm remains a small family-based operation, anchored by Salatin’s son Daniel and a meager staff of fewer than two dozen, which includes interns and apprentices.

At his farm, Salatin offers complete transparency. He invites his customers to visit the farm and see how the animals live. Despite a great increase in demand for Polyface’s sustainably produced meats, shipping farm-fresh meats is not an option, as it goes against Salatin’s principle of recreating a local food chain. He invited BRO to the farm in late spring.

BRO: What should people know about the meat they get at Polyface?

JS: Our cows are moved every day to a fresh paddock, so we’re mimicking the patterns of herbivores in nature. They’re moving away from yesterday’s manure. We take the natural, moving, mobbing, mowing pattern as a template. Fertile soils of the world have been built with herbivores. This grazing allows grass to grow through its cycle. If everyone practiced this pattern, we’d sequester all of the carbon that’s been emitted in the industrial age in fewer than 10 years.

Good food should be aesthetically pleasing from field to fork. We’re standing here among thousands of chickens with no odor. A good food production model doesn’t force a huge landscape change. It’s gentle on the land. It actually nests into its ecological umbilical cord. We only touch each square foot of land once a year with these birds. We move them every morning, so they get fresh salad every day, away from yesterday’s excrement. This is to eliminate pathogens that affect crowded chickens. We also don’t want to exceed the carrying capacity of the soil.

BRO:  What’s the difference between this and free range?

JS: The pastured poultry is what we’re most famous for. We don’t call it free range. We call it pasture. Most free range chickens are on a dirt pile. That’s where we differ from operations that don’t have a portable infrastructure to give them fresh ground every day.

BRO: Can you explain what you mean by “beyond organic” in describing Polyface?

JS: Organic has become an extremely loose term that people don’t really understand. Now it’s been codified by the government and prostituted, so industrial food can enter the marketplace under the guise of organic. We’re beyond organic in that we put the animals on fresh grass and move them around all the time. We process at the farm with neighborhood labor.

BRO: What are your thoughts on vegetarianism and benefits to land use?

JS: Animals are one of the most healing things possible on the landscape, if they’re managed and raised properly, especially herbivores. The main reason for vegetarianism is an anti-vote against inhumane industrial agriculture. That is certainly valid, but I think it would be a lot healthier to turn that into a positive vote and purchase from grass-based farm outfits. The data that supports a conclusion that eating beef is a leading cause of global warming is based on grain-based industrial feed lot production. As soon as you go to a paradigm of a perennial, non-tillage, self-fertilized system, all that negative data goes out the window.

Beyond that, vegetarianism is actually totally foreign to the three-trillion member community inside of us. On this planet, things are being eaten all over the place, whether it’s the preying mantis eating an insect or a lion eating a wildebeest. From any way you want to look at it, there’s no ecological reason for vegetarianism.

BRO: What is your vision for the future of farming in this bioregion?

JS: I envision entrepreneurial local food collaboration, where we actually consume what’s grown here. Right now in the developed world, only five percent of the food consumed is produced locally. Food should be grown and eaten in its own region. People need to find their own kitchens and begin eating more seasonally.

BRO: What’s your biggest frustration in running this type of farm?

JS: Government regulations. The market is there, but the only reason we don’t have a more viable local food system is because of malicious, capricious regulations that put undue burdens on small producers and give big producers a free pass. I’m not just talking about the USDA. The problem also includes zoning regulations that don’t let somebody, for example, sell a quiche they made in their house because they’re in a zoned residential area. It’s the ultimate compartmentalized society. Throughout history the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker have been embedded in the village, not confined to their living quarters, so they have to drive somewhere to get to work.

You can’t buy a glass of raw milk legally in Virginia, even though it’s legal in 22 other states, and no one is getting sick. Our ability to make our own food choices is being infringed upon by people who tell us it’s safer to feed our kids Twinkies and Mountain Dew than raw milk from a neighbor.

BRO: What makes these battles worth it to farm this way?

JS: I want to leave a better world for my children and grandchildren. If things keep going the way they’re going, the only choice my grandchildren will have is Archer Daniels Midland eradiated, amalgamated, red dye 29, fecal junk.

BRO: Has your outlook on farming become more positive with public awareness?

JS: I am positive about what you and I can do as individuals, but I’m not positive about the agenda of the industrial food system to demonize and marginalize the type of food I want to produce. There’s a bill running through Congress right now that would allow the USDA to come onto any farm and determine if it is using scientific practices in the name of food safety. Scientific practices means industrial feed lots. Scientific means eggs come from nine birds cooped in a 19 x 22-inch cage with eight other cages stacked high in a confinement factory house. What I do is considered non-scientific. In the food system, we are at Wounded Knee. The industrial food system is not going to be happy until those of us who adhere to heritage-based principles are exterminated or put onto the reservation.

BRO: So we need a food revolution?

JS: I say we need a Food Emancipation Proclamation that would give us, as eaters,  autonomy over the food that we eat. The only reason the founders of the Constitution didn’t give us that right is because they couldn’t have envisioned the day that selling a quiche to a neighbor would be considered illegal. What good is it to have the freedom to assemble, own firearms, or pray, if we don’t have the freedom to obtain the food that gives us the energy to shoot, pray, and preach?

BRO: Are we shedding the perception that local food is elitist, due to the higher price?

JS: I don’t know if we’ve turned the corner on that yet. People need to know that much of the cost of local artisan food has nothing to do with inefficient delivery or production. It has to do with the onerous government regulations that are non-scalable. A normal business that is our size should be paying $2,000 for worker’s comp, but we have to pay $10,000 because we don’t fit into a specific category. A lot of the problem is strictly regulatory requirements, as opposed to inherent inefficiency of small-scale production.

BRO: How does the work you do relate to your faith?

JS: I believe we don’t own the earth. We’re just pilgrims going through it. I do what I do as a steward of creation. God put us here to nurture his creation, not pillage, rape, and extract everything in the short term. In spiritual terms, I am in the business of trying to build forgiveness into nature. All of our farming techniques nest into the landscape as opposed to dominating the landscape.


Joel Salatin’s website,

Read more great Real Food Wednesday posts here,

Why Eat Local & Organic

It’s turned into list week, this week. Found this great list about why we should eat local and organic.

Reasons to Support Local Food:

   1. Produce Ripens Longer – Because of the relative ease of bringing produce to market, fruits and vegetables can be allowed to ripen until the last possible minute, giving you extremely juicy and tender fruit and veggies ready to eat.

   2. Produce is Very Fresh and Nutritious – When ripe produce is picked it naturally starts to lose taste and nutritional value. Farmers market produce is usually picked the same day or the day before. The fresher the produce, the tastier and more nutritious it is!

   3. Better for the Environment – Local food travels less distance from farm to mouth, meaning fewer carbon emissions from transportation.

   4. Diversity of Produce Variety and Animal Breed – Farmers markets bring many different varieties of produce and livestock to consumers, many specifically adapted to the local environment. Different varieties bring diverse kinds of tastes, textures, and color to the table.

   5. Appreciate Seasonal Food – Eating seasonally means eating foods when they are tastiest and least expensive. Waiting to eat that first tomato or melon of the summer is one of the most enjoyable parts of the season!

   6. Eat More Safely – Direct contact with farmers means getting to know how your food is grown and where it comes from. Knowing exactly where your spinach comes from means not having to worry about outbreaks of E. coli in California-grown spinach.

   7. Preserve Farmland – The support of small farmers who go to market translates to the preservation of local open spaces like farms and pastures.

   8. Support the Local Economy – Money spent locally generates more income for the local economy. Money spent locally stays local and encourages local economic growth.

   9. Establish Positive Relationships – Interact with neighbors at a farmers market. Listen to good music and make friends. Studies cite good relationships are one of the biggest indicators of happiness. Farmers markets create a meaningful place in which to live and work.

Reasons to Eat Organic Foods:

   1. Nutrition – Studies show that organic produce contains more nutrients than non-organic produce.

   2. Healthy Environment – Organic farming is usually based on sustainable methods of production that support biodiversity within the soil and the farm. Organic production uses less energy than conventional production and does not pollute water and air sources.

   3. Improved Soil and Prevent Erosion – Millions of organisms live in the soil.  Using compost, crop rotation, and other methods, organic farmers prevent erosion and maintain and improve the complexity of soil while growing food. A healthy soil is essential for healthy plants, increasing their resistance to pests and disease and giving high yields. Studies also show that using organic methods increases long-term production as well as show that soil on organic farms absorbs more CO2 than on non-organic farms.

   4. No Pesticides –  Using smart sustainable growing methods, the need for pesticides and herbicides is eliminated. This in turn means no pesticide residue on produce and a healthier biodiverse ecosystem.

   5. No Antibiotics – Animals kept with organic standards have no antibiotics in their meat, eggs, or milk.

   6. Good Livestock Conditions – Organic standards ensure the good treatment of animals. They eat no animal byproducts. Access to fresh air, water, sun, pastures and organic feed enable the healthy growth of livestock. Healthy animals mean safe and excellent quality meat, eggs, milk and cheese.

   7. Clear Costs of Production – Organic food has no hidden costs – organic means no federal subsidies, no environmental damage and cleanup, no hazardous waste disposal, no illnesses from chemicals and pollution, and less medical care due to healthier eating.

   8. No GMOs – Organic certifiers prohibit genetically modified organisms, which have not been extensively researched in respect to possible effects on human health. GMOs may also endanger a diverse seed supply, local farming, and biodiversity.

Reposted from the original site,

Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the story of author Barbara Kingsolver and her family and their quest to eat locally and in season for one year.

She packed up with her husband and two daughters and moved from Arizona to their farm in VA where they’d been spending their summer for many years. This time they were planning on staying and spending a year eating what they could find locally and grow for themselves.

The book reminded me of how much we take for granted with our mass produced food.  Winter tomatoes are not a local food – and you can tell by the taste!  Having to wait for the fruits and vegetables of summer was both an adventure and a challenge to the author and her family, and it’s one she shares with us.  The book is full of funny and touching stories of their trials along the way.  Daughter Lily’s plans, and how they changed, about going into the egg business, the first tomatoes and cherries of the season, the abundance of tomatoes and what to do with them.

There are also mouthwatering recipes throughout the book, many of which have already been added to my own.  This book is chock full of information about farming, food and cooking too.

I loved this quote, as it really does seem to relate to what’s going on with our own food supply these days, “When centralization collapses on itself, as it inevitably does, back we go to the family farm. The Roman Empire grew fat on the fruits of huge, corporate, slave-driven agriculture operations, tot eh near exclusion of any small farms by the end of the era. But when Rome crashed and burned, its urbanized citizenry scurried out to every nook and cranny of Italy’s mountains and valleys, returning once again to the work of feeding themselves and their families”

I first listened to this on audio-book, read by the authors and I really enjoyed their reading.  As wonderful a writer as Barbara is, she is that great of a reader too. As is her husband Steven and daughter Camille.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a terrific book for anyone interested in real food, cooking, gardening and stories of home. A wonderful book, highly recommended in any format.

You can read more great posts about real food, on Fight Back Friday here,

Click picture to buy the book.


Fresh, and Food Inc. – Two Movie Reviews in One

Fresh and Food, Inc Movie Review Coordinator

In the past week, we’ve seen both of these documentaries. They are both about our food supply, industrial farming, and safe food.  One is Fresh and the other Food, inc.  Fresh we bought on DVD and Food, inc is playing at our local movie theatre. I took the kids. Links are below.

There are a lot of similarities in the movies so I’m reviewing them together.  They are about how monocultures (growing just one crop) is environmentally dangerous and how industrialized food has lead to unhealthy, over-processed food and abused and neglected animals. My cousin, who lives near a cow CAFO, (Concentrated animal feeding operation) calls it, Cowchwitz, which unfortunately it is for the poor cows who live there.

Both movies have soy and corn farmers who don’t use GMO’s (Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed).  These conventional farmers are a vast minority these days and Monsanto is suing them anytime their field get contaminated by Monsanto’s products. Monsanto is also suing the seed cleaners and putting them out of business so even the people who want to grow and save their own non-GMO seed have no one to clean it anymore.  It’s unconscionable.

Fresh had Michael Pollan (who’s also in Food, inc) discussing how CAFO’s are creating manure lagoons that are toxic waste fields of animal manure, filled with antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, and hormones that leaches into the water supply. These toxic conditions are causing not only local pollution,  but has lead to outbreaks of e-coli in spinach, peanut butter and other foods.

Both movies also feature segments with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, one of my personal heroes, because he is farming in a safe, ecological and sustainable way.  In Fresh, he discussed how Mad Cow disease has come about from the  CAFO practice, of feeding cows other dead and diseased animals.  Cow are herbivores, and only supposed to eat grass, not corn, and certainly not dead animals.

Faster, bigger, cheaper is the motto of industrial agriculture. The cheap corn and soy that are fed to animals in this country are subsided by our tax dollars. I think those dollars would be better spent subsidizing cheap fruit, vegetables and organic and sustainable food.  Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, said it’s now been scientifically proven that a mid-sized organic farm can produce more and safer food then their agribusiness counterpart.  He also said these agribusiness farms have cost us 90% of our crop and animal diversity and lost more then 14% of our topsoil, through the use of non-sustainable methods.

The amazing thing is that 70% of the row crops that are grown in the U.S. are not for human consumption but for the animals that can’t digest them.

I liked both movies but have to say that I did like Fresh better.  The topics are similar but Fresh held more of a positive message about what we can do to stop this; eat local, eat organic, shop at your local farmer’s market.  Food, inc, while also having the same message, had a number of very disturbing scenes of confined animals being mistreated and slaughtered.  Fresh had a few confinement scenes also but it was balanced with many scenes of what real farming and husbandry should be.

On the other hand, my 17 year old son said he liked Food, inc. better, because it clearly said this is not an acceptable way to treat animals as well as the humans that had to work with them. Food, inc. did provide more detail of how terribly the workers are treated in industrial food production.  They are both good, and highly recommended movies.

The overall message, and the message of us here at is the same:  Eat Local, Eat Organic, Eat safe, fresh food for you, and your family. As more of us do this, the system will have to change.

You can read more great posts about real food, on Fight Back Friday here,

Links to buy:


Would You Call 60,000 Cows Fenced Together on a Dirt Patch a Farm?

By Lisa M. Hamilton, Prairie Writers Circle.

Between 2002 and 2007, the United States lost 43,603 real farms — we can’t let agribusiness control our food supply.

When the Agriculture Department released its 2007 census recently, the news appeared surprisingly good: For the first time since World War II, the United States did not lose farms, it gained them — 75,810, to be exact, for a total of 2.2 million.

But on closer inspection, the numbers aren’t so hopeful. The discrepancy stems from this tricky question: What is a farm? The census has changed its definition nine times since 1850, most recently to “any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.”

This loose definition is meant to err on the side of inclusion, but ultimately it just errs. Take, for example, the four chickens I keep in my back yard. I sometimes sell eggs to neighbors, and at the going rate I could make $500 a year. If I got four more hens, my suburban home could qualify as a farm.

Silly, right? But where do you place the lower limit — or the upper limit? The Cargill feedlot in Lockney, Texas, consists of 60,000 cattle kept in dirt yards and fattened on feed grown elsewhere. Is that a farm? While the census says yes, most Americans would say no.

So then, what is a farm? To answer that, we must first ask: Why do we care? Really, why is it good news when farms — and, more importantly, the farmers who run them — increase?

There are sentimental reasons, of course, but there is also a practical reason. Farmers are valuable because they bring human scale to our massive food system. Think of how many people, in the wake of each new salmonella scare, turn to the farmers market. We do so because we know that farmers bring oversight and ethics to food production, contributions that only individual humans can offer.

In the future, farmers’ importance will only grow. Their intimate, human-scale knowledge of the land is what will allow agriculture to adapt to climate change. And as the cheap energy that industrial agriculture depends on disappears, it is farmers, with their small-scale innovation and sheer manual labor, who will feed us. Why do we care about having more farmers? Because deep down we know they are essential to a functioning food system.

So I offer this new definition of a farmer: someone who grows crops in sufficient quantity to be a true commercial entity, yet is still close enough to the ground to bring human scale and values to the process. Not the backyard chicken enthusiast, nor the corporation behind the feedlot, but the individual human on the land, growing our food.

Revisit the census with this definition, and the good news vanishes. The USDA’s reported increases occurred exclusively in farms with yearly sales of less than $2,500 or more than $500,000 — that is, the backyard operations and the corporate-scale businesses. In every other category, the numbers dropped or, in one case, stayed the same. Between 2002 and 2007, the United States actually lost 43,603 real farms.

To stop this hemorrhaging, we must shift from blindly encouraging production to investing in a system that values farmers and propagates them. We need to help new farmers obtain markets, land and credit. And we must inspire nonfarmers to enter the profession. Imagine, for instance, a program that puts interns on farms — an AmeriCorps for agriculture. In this “AgriCorps,” participants would learn the skills of farming and experience the lifestyle; hosts would receive valuable labor to bolster their businesses.

Such a program would face an obvious objection: AmeriCorps offers volunteers to public service organizations, but most farms are private businesses. Why should the rest of us help support them?

But maybe we need to reconsider that line of thinking. By defining farms and farmers as purely economic entities, we condemn them to a system that inevitably eliminates them. What if instead we began to see farmers as the public servants they are, and enabled them to be the public servants we need: stewards of our soil and water, pillars of our rural communities, and guardians of our food. Perhaps by redefining what farms mean to us, we can help their numbers grow — this time, for real.

Lisa M. Hamilton is the author of the new book “Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness.” She wrote this comment for the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan. Hamilton lives in California.Read more about her.,000_cows_fenced_together_on_a_dirt_patch_a_”farm”/

Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,


All in This Tea – Movie Review

We saw a terrific movie this weekend. It’s about tea, the power of one person to help make real change and worms.

All in This Tea is about tea importer, David Lee Hoffman. He spent a decade during his twenties traveling around Asia and developed a love of good tea. The documentary follows his travels in China as he tries to encourage the farmers to give up their recent addition of chemical farming and go back to the traditional and organic methods of growing tea. Those methods were lost once the Cultural Revolution arrived, as the farmers started growing for quantity over quality.  As is happening on our farms here — after the initial boost in crops you get from chemical fertilizers, crop production lessens, and soil quality depletes.

As he tries to describe more natural fertilizers to the Chinese officials, David discusses earthworms, and worm castings (droppings), which are one the most wonderful fertilizers available today. We use them in our garden and whenever we put fresh castings on, everything has a wonderful growth spurt. I was happy to see worms and organic methods discussed as we are trying to encourage our farmers here in the U.S. to move away from chemical fertilizer too.

As he winds his way through China’s tea bureaucracy, he found that the companies don’t want to deal directly with the farmers, including those craftsmen who produce the finest teas.  Mr. Hoffman decides to travel through the country finding exactly the teas he prefers, buying them directly from the farmers and then he had to deal with the red tape of getting them shipped to the U.S. There’s also small segments with different people teaching classes about tea and it’s history, that’s very interesting.

David succeeded on his mission of encouraging more organic tea farming, and buying directly from farmers. It was inspiring to see how much change could be brought; by one determined man.

This is a wonderful, almost meditative movie. Watching the beautiful countryside where tea is grown, seeing how the different teas are made and tasted. I think the movie should come with tea!  We couldn’t wait to make a special cup of green tea right after we watched.

To read other great blogs about saying No to GMO’s click here,