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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Like a CSA Only More So

On Facebook today I was asked what makes our farm Share Program "more so" as in "Like a CSA Only More So", good question.

I have noticed as the locavore and organic foods movements gain strength more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. This is good as long as the people are local producers. But producing all the food you sell is a lot of hard work. So when something is hot there are people who are not exactly honest about what they do. I have seen a lot of this with the USDA certified organics program. Check out the Organic Consumers Association's as well as La Vida Locavore for some eye openers as to how companies thwart the regulations.

Well, I see the same thing is happening with the locavore movement. My first inkling of this was when I was interviewed by Ben Sutherly of the Dayton Daily News last year about Fulton's Farm Market getting into the CSA biz. At the time I was not exactly pro-CSA and was less so when I had described to me how they would do their CSA. It would go something like 10 months of the year and most of the year members would get about 40% of their share from produce grown on Fulton farms and the rest would come from elsewhere. And I was told Fulton's had invested in a fleet of delivery vans to deliver the shares to the member's doors.

This rankled me because one of the reason's one should use the CSA model as a marketing tool is so the members get reconnected with the farm. This cannot happen if everything is delivered off farm. If the farmer is not growing most of the food, well, how can that farmer hope to be able to start the reconnection of eater to their food process. I say it would be getting close to impossible.

This winter via the Cincinnati locavore email list I was made aware of Door to Door Organics which advertises itself as a CSA as well (but at least they don't claim to be a farm). I was also made aware of another such company setting up shop in SW Ohio/Cincinnati area but I cannot recall the name. Anyhoo, I have a real problem with such companies saying they are CSA when they have no connection to a farm. Yes, they may buy from some local farms but this is not Community Supported Agriculture in any way shape or form.

So here we have various example of the CSA marketing model being stretched all out of shape so pinhookers (a term I like for farmers who resell) and non farmers can participate. A model so warped that there is virtually no agriculture left for a community to support. A model so bent out of shape that it is a parody of itself.

And this is why I say our Farm Share Program Is Like a CSA Only More SO. Because, like fewer and fewer such programs, ours is farmed based, does not have any delivery and has activities such as farm tours that, hopefully, will engage our members with the farm they have joined.
When people join our FSP they will be getting food grown on our farm and they will be able to experience a real deeply sustainable working small diversified farm that is there to serve our fellow locavores.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pictures from the Equinox

A redwinged Blackbird sitting in an apple tree

A pair of Canada geese that flew onto the pond for a morning swim

Onions and leek seedlings in a cold frame

Eugene in the wood pile that is in the process of being shredded so it can be used as mulch

The perennial herb patch. The green things are chives

Freshly harvested heirloom lettuce from one of the hoop houses

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Myth of HR 875 and SB 425

There has been a lot written and posted all over the world wide web and Internet about 2 bills in congress, HR 875 and SB 425.

Paranoid people with an agenda to kill all government regulation have interpreted this bill as one that will kill organic farming, criminalize the back yard garden, fine housewives for cooking food that they have grown in their own kitchens and make what I do for a living virtually illegal as small farmers will be forced to comply with the draconian regulations that may be imposed on the interstate/international corporate farms and food processors. I have even seen people claim that the NAIS is a part of these bills (it is not).

Amazing what a few writers good at arousing emotions can do on the interwebs.

The trouble stems from two emails that I guess started out life on a couple of anti government/pro farming blogs.

Here is one of them

HR 875 Would Essentially Outlaw Family Farms In The United States

I get a lot of e-mails each day and one today (hi Cheryl!) pointed my attention to HR
875, a bill introduced into the 111th Congress for consideration. SO, I went and did something that members of Congress rarely do and actually went and read the bill, or more accurately, at least glanced through it which is still more than they ever do. It was introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd) and has around 36 co-sponsors including Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN 7th) as of this writing. It immediately strikes me as being terribly bad legislation.

Under a heading described as protecting the public health and ensuring the safety of food it creates a "Food Safety Administration" within Health and Human Services. Oddly, not just adding regulations to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which is also under HHS. And don't we have the USDA as well? The bill applies to all manner of "Food Establishments" and "Food Production Facilities" (note the following excerpt).

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

The bill would appear to even cover fishing boats and your downtown hot dog street vendors. In fact, the bill probably would also apply to your family garden since no exemption is apparent.

What it essentially does is place a tremendous regulatory burden on all of these organizations and individuals by requiring them to have "food safety plans", consider all relevant hazards [note: I wish Congress would consider all "relevant hazards" or unintended consequences of everything THEY did], testing, sample keeping and to maintain all kinds of records. The bill also allows the government to dictate all manner of standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, packaging, temperature controls and other items.

This massive bloat in government regulation (and taxpayer expense to support it) would add additional cost and headache to every farm, fishing boat, restaurant, slaughterhouse, processing plant, CO-OP and anyone else associated with growing, storing or processing food. The bill authorizes fines of up to $1,000,000 (one million) dollars for "each act" and for "each day" of a violation.

We'll skip over the concern over how important food production and distribution, largely recession proof, could be if our economy continues to decline and inflation takes hold and just address this on the apparent lunacy that it is. As those familiar with history know, large dominant corporations often will use government to demand industry regulations that force the small competitor out of business or introduce barriers to entry that prevent new companies from starting up to compete. In the early part of the 20th century a tremendous amount of regulation was written by the industries themselves to be enacted into law.

In this case, I think this bill could do tremendous harm to family farms or independent food operators. Only massive companies have the ability to meet these regulations and imagine the legal expenses that could be incurred to defend oneself? Never forget, the government has near unlimited resources where you might have to cough up $200 to $500 an hour for a good attorney to defend yourself, your farm, boat, truck, restaurant, orchard, vineyard or hot dog stand. And what about the increased cost of food associated with the cost of compliance, it's not unreasonable to think that many places would have to hire staff or outside assistance just to comply with the law.

We have an excellent history in the United States of safe food, but as Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel suggested recently, "You should never want a serious crisis to go to waste." He spoke those words relative to looking for opportunities to do things that people would not otherwise accept without some crisis. We should be very careful not to let the very rare instance of something like the recent peanut problem be used as such a "crisis". There is no impetus to point the bureaucrats of government and the guns they control, their ability to not only deprive someone of life or freedom but to destroy whole families, careers and reputations, at everyone in the country who might be involved in ensuring we have stuff to eat.

We're doing just fine without this legislation.

Here are a couple of diatribes by Lin Cohen-Cole who writes for


These articles talk about things that these congressional bills do not touch such as seed saving and NAIS (both under the jurisdiction of the USDA and not the FDA). She writes to scare people and get them all in a tizzy about a brand new bill that will not make it in to committee for many months, if ever.

Now here is what Tom Barlow has to say about these bills he does not see these bills as doing anything close to shutting down farmers markets, criminalizing organic farming etc., etc..

Nor does the Organic Consumers Association which calls this fear mongering "the Internet Myth of the week"

This week, we received numerous calls and emails from OCA supporters who came across alarming YouTube videos and emails circulating on the Internet that claimed a new food safety bill (HR 875) introduced in Congress would make "organic farming illegal." Although the Bill certainly has its shortcomings, it is an exaggeration to say that is a secret plot by Monsanto and the USDA to destroy the nation's alternative food and farming system. In actuality, HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, is a limited-vision attempt by moderate Democrats and Republicans to craft food safety legislation to address the out-of-control filth and contamination that are inherent in our industrialized, now globalized, "profit-at-any-cost" food system.
This being said, OCA does not support HR 875 in its present form, given the fact that, if the Bill's regulations were applied in a one-size-fits-all manner to certified organic and farm-to-consumer operations, it could have a devastating impact on small farmers, especially raw milk producers who are already unfairly targeted by state food-safety regulators. Although the OCA deems this Bill as somewhat well-intentioned, we are calling on Congress to focus its attention on the real threats to food safety: globalized food sourcing from nations such as China where food safety is a joke and domestic industrial-scale and factory farms whose collateral damage includes pesticide and antibiotic-tainted food, mad cow disease, E.coli contamination and salmonella poisoning. And, of course, Congress and the Obama Administration need to support a massive transition to organic farming practices.

Food and water watch has this to say about these bills:

Food & Water Watch’ s Statement on H.R. 875 and the Food Safety Bills

The dilemma of how to regulate food safety in a way that prevents problems caused by industrialized agriculture but doesn’t wipe out small diversified farms is not new and is not easily solved. And as almost constant food safety problems reveal the dirty truth about the way much of our food is produced, processed and distributed, it’s a dilemma we need to have serious discussion about.

Most consumers never thought they had to worry about peanut butter and this latest food safety scandal has captured public attention for good reason – a CEO who knowingly shipped contaminated food, a plant with holes in the roof and serious pest problems, and years of state and federal regulators failing to intervene.

It’s no surprise that Congress is under pressure to act and multiple food safety bills have been introduced.

Two of the bills are about traceability for food (S.425 and H.R. 814). These present real issues for small producers who could be forced to bear the cost of expensive tracking technology and record keeping.

The other bills address what FDA can do to regulate food.

A lot of attention has been focused on a bill introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (H.R. 875), the Food Safety Modernization Act. And a lot of what is being said about the bill is misleading.

Here are a few things that H.R. 875 DOES do:

-It addresses the most critical flaw in the structure of FDA by splitting it into 2 new agencies –one devoted to food safety and the other devoted to drugs and medical devices.

-It increases inspection of food processing plants, basing the frequency of inspection on the risk of the product being produced – but it does NOT make plants pay any registration fees or user fees.

-It does extend food safety agency authority to food production on farms, requiring farms to write a food safety plan and consider the critical points on that farm where food safety problems are likely to occur.

-It requires imported food to meet the same standards as food produced in the U.S.

And just as importantly, here are a few things that H.R. 875 does NOT do:

-It does not cover foods regulated by the USDA (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, catfish.)

-It does not establish a mandatory animal identification system.

-It does not regulate backyard gardens.

-It does not regulate seed.

-It does not call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct marketing arrangements.

-It does not apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food that is sold across state lines).

-It does not mandate any specific type of traceability for FDA-regulated foods (the bill does instruct a new food safety agency to improve traceability of foods, but specifically says that record keeping can be done electronically or on paper.)

Several of the things not found in the DeLauro can be found in other bills – like H.R. 814, the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, which calls for a mandatory animal identification system, or H.R. 759, the Food And Drug Administration Globalization Act, which overhauls the entire structure of FDA. H.R. 759 is more likely to move through Congress than H.R. 875. And H.R. 759 contains several provisions that could cause problems for small farms and food processors:

-It extends traceability record keeping requirements that currently apply only to food processors to farms and restaurants – and requires that record keeping be done electronically.

-It calls for standard lot numbers to be used in food production.

-It requires food processing plants to pay a registration fee to FDA to fund the agency’s inspection efforts.

-It instructs FDA to establish production standards for fruits and vegetables and to establish Good Agricultural Practices for produce.

There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture – the largest industrialized operations. That’s why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesn’t stop there – if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can’t afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.

You can read the full text of any of these bills at

Sarah Alexander
Senior Food Organizer
Food & Water Watch

1616 P St. NW Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
So you can see these bills while they need the wording tweaked a bit are not the death knell to small organic farms selling their products direct to the public.

All that said, NAIS Is a real threat to small farms that raise animals and NAIS is in committee and can be commented upon right now here is where you do that

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Raccoon in the Pond

Early this morning I got up and let Nate out as I do most mornings. Usually Nate runs around for about an hour than wants back in. This morning I heard him barking furiously at something in the distance. I went to the back door to see what he was barking at but is was still dark. All I could do was hear him off in the distance very excited about something. When it got light about an hour later he was still barking at that something. I looked out the window and saw what Nate was all excited about.

It was not a fish and it was too big to be a muskrat (which we do not have at this pond, though we may in the future). So I grab a pair of binoculars and see that Nate has cornered a rather large raccoon in the pond and it is not at all happy.

I grabbed the camera and walked out in 40 degree windy conditions in my robe and got some pictures of the poor thing.

My presence distracted Nate, who very wet and tired. This allowed the coon to try and get out of the situation by hiding in some cattail reeds. I took some pictures and went back in the house and let Danny out to help Nate bark at the raccoon. Than I got thinking that if the raccoon cannot get out of the pond soon it will die in the pond and than someone has to extract a bloated, fetid coon carcass from the pond at some point in the future and decided to call the dogs back in the house for a few minutes. this allowed the poor animal to get out of the pond and the last I saw it it was sitting in a half dead tree on the west edge of the property drying itself .

I have mixed feelings about letting the raccoon live. When we have chickens coons are a real pest. they will damage a coop to get at hens of young chicks and kill more than they eat. But I felt the raccoon had been harassed enough and likely will not come back onto this property if it thinks there is any chance a dog might be out (and there is an excellent chance at any time of day this will be the case).

Years ago Arlo almost killed a large raccoon trying to get some free chicken babies for lunch. We called Arlo off before he did too much damage and that coon crawled across the street and cried like a human infant for about an hour than disappeared. We saw it a couple of days later crossing the field across the street from us. It paused and took a long whiff of chicken. Than it started walking towards the chicken coop (it was about 1/4 mile away). It took about 3 steps than stopped and you could see it was thinking about Arlo and the fact Arlo will kill a raccoon. The coon decided it was not worth trying to get some chicken and ambled on and never stepped foot on that farm again, though we did see him many times but always at a very safe distance from the dog.

This is why I suspect this animal will not come by this farm ever again-just too risky. Raccoons are not stupid

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Farm Tours

Eugene and a group of students from IU east

We have now given three private farm tours this month after not having had a farm tour out here in well over a year. Seems what we do has become interesting to the public so we are getting more and more requests for private farm tours. For years we have done these tours free of charge even though they are a bit of work and we have freely given out knowledge that we had to work a lot of years to amass. No more, we now charge $25 a head for a 2+ hour private tour where we show and explain to folks how we farm and allow them to ask as many questions as they want. For years we have felt a bit strange about charging for this service and as long as we did not have to do this more than a couple of times a year it seemed no biggie to give away what we know for free. But after getting many requests already for winter farm tours (and I am suspecting as the weather gets warmer, the farm greener and us much much busier we will have many many more requests for private tours) we realized it is insane to give away this valuable knowledge (not to mention the time involved), that we have worked very hard to obtain, when we should be making income from it. If a PhD makes income from teaching, so should we (after all, the learning curve for this occupation is that of getting a doctorate, only without having to defend a dissertation or dealing with university politics). And thus Boulder Belt has entered the realm of Agro-Tourism (I think this really should be considered Agro-Education but I guess tourism is often educational)

The IU East Students in the strawberry hoop house (which regular readers will note is back up after the big snow) Eugene is explaining to them how we grow spring mix over winter

This particular farm tour was for 4 students from IU East in Richmond, IN. They needed to visit a sustainable business for an anthropology class about food and they choose us. They came out in the early afternoon and we walked around the market garden in a cold biting NE wind and talked about what we do. Eventually we took the tour group into the strawberry hoop house where there was no wind and it was rather pleasant and talked about season extension and how that effects our bottom line. We than toured the store where we talked about the business side of things as well as small vs industrial agriculture and what the future holds for us. We finished up in the barn where we start our seedlings and showed them that part of the operation. It was a good tour and I believe the students got quite a bit out of it.

Correct me if I am wrong guys

Feburary Farmers Market

A line of folks waiting to buy organic meat from the Filbrun's

We did the February edition of the Oxford Winter Market Series last weekend. We missed the January edition because it was way to cold to have produce out doors without it freezing and being ruined. The weather profits predicted a not too bad day. The reality was a cold, windy day with snow/ice pelting us until about noon when it cleared up a bit. The temperature was warm enough to not worry about the spud or spring mix freezing but cold and nasty enough to keep the crowds down a bit. We were still able to sell out of all leafy greens and around 98% of the red onions, 90% of the leeks and about 1/2 the parsnips along with a lot of garlic. I was also able to buy lots of pastured eggs and organic meat the few minutes we were not busy.
All in all a good if windy and damp market

From left to right Artistry farm with goat cheese, art and goat's milk soap, Tahapsia'a farm (sorry for bad spelling) selling fine hand made soaps and other body care and Greenbrier farm selling hand crafted pastas

Eugene selling produce to our Buddy Scott

Happy but chilly OFMU regulars