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Saturday, March 31, 2007


Yesterday I started on planting onions. We are doing many kinds of onions-yellow cooking, yellow sweet heirlooms and a couple of kinds of red.

Lauren was back to help and together we raked two beds to get the weeds out and the soil in some other form than big dirt clods. After an hour or two of raking we were ready to put in the Copra onions.

I love Copra onions. They are a wonderful storage onion (I am still using last year's onions, though they are going fast) and have a great flavor too often lacking in yellow cooking onions. The bad news is Copra is a hybrid that was bred by the Seminis Corp which was bought up by Monsanto so after this year we will not be growing Copra any longer. We are trialing another yellow onion called varsity that is also a hybrid but not associated with Monsanto. There is also an open pollinated Copra called Clear Dawn that I will likely trial next year if I do not like Varsity or Varsity gets bought up by Monsanto.

Any Hoo, by sunset I had put about 1000 onion seedlings in the ground. Just have another 5 to 6 thousand to go.

Who knew onions could be so political?

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Busy Monday

A busy Monday.

We had a woman named Lauren come out and helped us weed out the raspberry patch this morning/early afternoon. I met Lauren at the march Winter market in Oxford. She had just moved to town and needed a place to play in the dirt and asked if she could help us out. I said yes. And she works for food. She was an interesting person, secular and politically left of center and because she teaches Medieval Lit at a college in PA she is fluent in middle and old English. I think that's way cool. She's here to be with her SIO while on sabbatical. And she seems to be a careful gardener which is good. We have lots of work for her to do this spring.

When she arrived I was folier feeding garlic, spinach and the strawberry plants in a hoophouse (that are already in flower!). Eugene and I had already made 2" soil blocks and transferred some basil and pac choy to those and he was getting ready to plant more seed. he stopped his seed planting and worked with Lauren weeding out the raspberries for about an hour and when I was finished feeding fish emulsion to plants I got in on the action.

I noticed the raspberries are beginning to leaf out. This is early for them but considering we have had temperatures about 25 degrees above normal who can blame them. They probably think that it is far later in the spring than it is. They are hardy plants as long as they are not producing flowers and fruit so if they leaf out and the weather decides to go to 25 degrees below normal next week they should be alright.

Lauren had to leave around 2pm. She got a nice big bag of lettuce and a couple of garlic bulbs and a bag of dried basil. It's like having a CSA again only this time the member is engaged with the farm and I do not write a newsletter. Of course no money is changing hands, but that is okay with me. Right now we can use help more than cash.

After she left I read email and than ordered the first of the planned 600 meat birds. I ordered a straight run of 50 rock cornish cross day old chicks to be picked up this coming Sunday and a second batch of 100 cornish hen chicks to be picked up Easter Sunday. It sure will be fun to have baby chicks again. They are entertaining and a good source of meat, manure and income for us. Hopefully Danny boy and Nate will not think of them as snacks. Last year Nate was quite bad about wanting to kill the chicks but we managed to keep most alive other than the first day we stupidly put them on pasture and than left the farm to do a farmers market and also left the dogs out to "guard" the chicks. When we got home, Nate had pushed their fence down and had killed a couple of the chicks and was mouthing a couple of others when we arrived. We had to punish Nate and gather up about 25 peeps that had run into tall grass and weeds to hide from the huge predator and put their fence back together all before unpacking from the market. It was a bad scene, one that will not be repeated.

As I write this blog entry I am making a chicken and vegetable soup for dinner. I have been having cooking problems for the past week, ever since the element in the oven burned up. I find I am oven dependant and not having one has taken me out of my cooking comfort zone. Granted, I know how to make literally hundreds of dishes on the stove top but complete meals here often include baked squash, biscuits, a cake, roasted potatoes, roasted chicken, etc.. And at the moment I cannot embellish meals not make dessert from scratch (which is a good thing health-wise but a bad thing enjoyment-wise)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Toad Song

Last night the toads were in full voice. I could pick up 4 different notes, most seemed to minor keys except for the middle A. Their singing was driving the dogs nutz.

Toad song is sure sign of spring (as are the 20 degree above average/normal temps we have been enjoying)

Sustainable Links!

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture

Consumers are paying a high cost for substandard, cheap factory food. The following links are working on different areas but all have the same goal - to support sustainable agriculture. There are far too many groups to mention here (apologies to those we missed). Be sure to find local sustainable agricultural groups in your area as many of them hold extremely informative annual meetings where you can meet local farmers. Depending upon your area of interest, familiarize yourself with any or all of the following links.

  • If you are concerned about the quality of the food you are buying at the grocery store, some of the following links will help guide to healthier more humane choices through local farms.
  • If you are interested in stopping factory farming, some of the following links will help show you how to get involved.
  • If you are a farmer who is interested in producing food for consumers, there are links below that will help show you how.
  • Some of the following links will also be able to provide scientific literature supporting the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

It is important to understand the impact you have when you spend your money on factory food. Changing your shopping patterns by supporting local agriculture will not only help improve your health, it will also help improve the environment and bring back our rural communities.

Weston A. Price Foundation
The Foundation is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism. It supports accurate nutrition instruction, organic and biodynamic farming, pasture-feeding of livestock, community-supported farms, honest and informative labeling, prepared parenting and nurturing therapies.

Slow Food
The association's activities seek to defend biodiversity in our food supply, spread the education of taste, and link producers of excellent foods to consumers through events and initiatives.

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is an advocate for the many thousands of independent farmers, ranchers, livestock owners, and homesteaders in this country.

Eat Wild is an excellent source for safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork and dairy products.

The Meatrix
An excellent flash presentation about factory farming and links about what you can do about it.

Food Routes
The FoodRoutes Find Good Food map can help you connect with local farmers and start eating the freshest, tastiest food around. Find your local food on their interactive map, listing farmers, CSAs, and local markets near you.

Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE)

  • Grace Factory Farm Project
  • The GRACE Factory Farm Project (GFFP) works to create a sustainable food production system that is healthful and humane, economically viable, and environmentally sound.

  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals
  • The Eat Well Guide is a free, online directory of sustainably-raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns and hotels, and online outlets in the US and Canada.

  • Sustainable Table
  • Helping consumers make healthy food choices to create a sustainable system.

  • Sustainable Food In Schools
  • If you don't like the food being served in your or your child's cafeteria, do something to change it! Includes guidelines on what to do, how to do it, and examples of successful initiatives underway around the country.

Local Harvest
This website will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably-grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets
National listing of farmers markets.

Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
The Kerr Center was established to provide farmers and ranchers in the area with free technical assistance and information on how to improve their operations. Wise stewardship was emphasized.

National Farm to School
Farm to School programs are popping up all over the U.S. These programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, and supporting local small farmers.

Farm to College
This site presents information about farm-to-college programs in the U.S. and Canada collected by the Community Food Security Coalition.

Center for Food and Justice: Farm to Hospital
The CFJ has a program Farm to Hospital: Promoting Health and Supporting Local Agriculture.

Farm to Cafeteria: Community Food Security Coalition
Putting Local Food on the Table: Farms and Food Service in Partnership
Farm to school programs have been addressing the dual issues of improving children's health and providing new marketing options for family farmers.

Food Security Coalition
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) is a North American organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times

The True Food Network
The goal of the True Food Network Working is to create a socially just, democratic and sustainable food system.

Acres USA
Acres U.S.A. is the only national magazine that offers a comprehensive guide to sustainable agriculture. Drawing on knowledge accumulated in more than 35 years of continuous publication, we bring our readers the latest techniques for growing bountiful, nutritious crops and healthy, vibrant livestock. Acres U.S.A. has helped thousands of farmers feed the nation's growing appetite for clean, delicious food.

Ecological Farming Association
Eco-Farm supports a vision for our food system where strengthening soils, protecting air and water, encouraging diverse ecosystems and economies, and honoring rural life are all part of producing healthful food.

National Family Farm Coalition
The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) provides a voice for grassroots groups on farm, food, trade and rural economic issues to ensure fair prices for family farmers, safe and healthy food, and vibrant, environmentally sound rural communities here and around the world.

Rural Coalition
The Rural Coalition is an alliance of regionally and culturally diverse organizations working to build a more just and sustainable food system which: brings fair returns to minority and other small farmers and rural communities, ensures just and fair working conditions for farm workers,
protects the environment, delivers safe and healthy food to consumers

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

GRAIN is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge.

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture explores and cultivates alternatives that secure healthier people and landscapes in Iowa and the nation.

Rodale Institute
The Rodale Institute works with people worldwide to achieve a regenerative food system that renews environmental and human health working with the philosophy that "Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People ®

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program.

National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture is a diverse nationwide partnership of individuals and organizations cultivating grass roots efforts to engage in policy development processes that result in food and agricultural systems and rural communities that are healthy, environmentally sound, profitable, humane and just.

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
ATTRA provides information and other technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States.

Family Farm Defenders
The FFD mission is to create a farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber system, based upon democratically controlled institutions that empower farmers to speak for and respect themselves in their quest for social and economic justice.

The Center for Food Safety
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is an interest and environmental advocacy membership organization established in 1997 by its sister organization, International Center for Technology Assessment, for the purpose of challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives.

ETC Group
ETC group is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights.

Environmental Working Group
EWG specializes in environmental investigations. They have a team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers who pore over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions.

WorldWatch Institute
WorldWatch is an independent research group working for an environmentally sustainable and socially just society. An excellent book published by WorldWatch institute is by Brian Halweil, Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, 2004.

Union of Concerned Scientists
UCS is an independent nonprofit alliance of more than 100,000 concerned citizens and scientists. We augment rigorous scientific analysis with innovative thinking and committed citizen advocacy to build a cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world.

Institute of Science in Society
ISIS promotes science responsible to civil society and the public good, independent of commercial and other special interests, or of government control and a science that can help make the world sustainable, equitable and life-enhancing for all its inhabitants.

Organic Consumers Association
OCA is building a national network of consumers promoting food safety, organic agriculture, fair trade and sustainability.

Organic Center for Education and Promotion
OCEP generates credible, peer reviewed scientific information and communicate the verifiable benefits of organic farming and products to society.

Food and Water Watch
FWW is working on issues such as food and water safety, mad cow, sustainable agriculture, irradiation. Also has a factory farm campaign which aims to change government policies that promote factory farms, fight corporate control that forces farmers "to get big or get out," and encourage sustainably raised meat.

United Poultry Concerns, Inc
UPC is dedicated to the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

Sierra Club
(Including a toolkit for Factory Farm Pollution Activists)
The Sierra Club's mission is to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth. Practice and promote the responsible us of the earth's ecosystems and resources. Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment. Use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

Beyond Factory Farming
Beyond Factory Farming is a coalition of citizen's organizations from all across Canada that share a vision of livestock production for health and social justice. Their mission is to promote livestock production that supports food sovereignty, ecological, human and animal health, as well as sustainability and community viability and informed citizen/consumer choice.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Wegmans Cruelty
Video showing what goes on inside a factory chicken farm. Includes news and events.

Humane Society of the US
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has worked since 1954 to promote the protection of all animals.

Humane Farming Association
HFA is an animal protection organization. Campaigns against factory farming and slaughterhouse abuse. Also home to the world's largest farm animal refuge.

Compassionate Consumers
Compassionate Consumers was founded in 2003 by a small group of people concerned about animal welfare in the food industry.

FYI, Many of these links already reside on the sidebar of this blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy Spring

We are enjoying our first full day of spring. it is 70˚F right now, mostly sunny with a stiff 15mph breeze.

Despite the warmth, it is not really the best condition to get done certain garden tasks such as thinning out and transplanting spinach plants so they can grow big (but we can do this during rainy days which it sounds like we will be getting several in a row starting tomorrow afternoon).

It is a good day to plant seeds and hoe beds and a little of both has been done today. We got most of the beds that will be planted with onions hoed up as well as beds for the second pea planting. I made soil blocks and planted 4 kinds of zucchinis-Costata Romanesque, green tint Patty pan, Sunburst Patty pan and Zephyr which is our best selling zuke (it's 1/2 green and 1/2 yellow).

This morning went to see the oral surgeon so he could check out the implant he put in my jaw 2 weeks ago. He said everything looked excellent and if I keep healing the way I have been I should be ready for the fake tooth in 3 months. My next appointment is June 20th.

Went to the Streit's to pick up our milk after getting my jaw checked out. They had just weaned a calf off of one of their milk cows and he was pitifully mooing for mom. Weaning is not a pleasant thing but a fact of life on any farm that breeds animals and pretty essential in the dairy biz. We saw Joe and talked a bit about the fact the ODA has dropped its suit against the Schmittmeiers who were told to cease and desist from selling raw milk about a year ago. I guess the new ODA head is not as adamant about prohibiting the sale of raw milk in Ohio as Fred Daily was . This is great news.

now it is time to fix dinner. tonight we are having sloppy Joes made with locally grown hormone/antibiotic free beef, Sloppy joe sauce I made last fall that was supposed to be homemade catsup, some onions and garlic we grew last year and peppers from the freezer. for a vegetable I will either cook up the chard we picked for market last Saturday that I kept back or I will go get some lettuce from the hoophouse and make a salad with the marked down organic maters I found at the Eaton Kroger's. I'm leaning towards the salad. I picked lettuce last night and it was really really good. And the bed does need some thinning so the rest of the lettuce plants get big.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Seed Starting

Onion seedlings beginning to poke out of the soil

Late winter is when we start the first of our seedlings. Right now we have a lot of onion and leek seeds on the light tables. We also have been doing lettuce on a regular basis. next week the early zucchinis and cucumber seedlings will be started along with cabbages and broccoli.

Eugene watering the seedlings on a light table

Eugene is thinking about changing how we do the cabbages and broccoli. For the past 12+ years we have started them inside under lights using soil blocks. last summer Eugene direct seeded the last planting of cabbages and they were about the best cabbages we have ever grown. likely because direct seeded plants are always stronger and healthier than transplanted seedlings because the direct seeded plants do not undergo transplant shock which really weaken plants but its something you do not notice if all you do is grow seedlings inside for a particular crop. what he is thinking of doing is planting the broccoli in a raised bed built last year for spring mix. While we will have to transplant the seedlings they will be grown outside which should make them a lot heartier than indoor grown starts. And if some don't get transplanted they can grow in the raised bed as there do not seem to be any other plans for the thing.

March Winter Market Day

Me at market in Oxford, OH this morning before we sold out of most things

Went to market this morning to sell dried herbs, garlic and leafy greens. Sold out of all the leafy greens we took, sold about 20 heads of garlic and a few packets of herbs.

there were a decent amount of vendors selling all sorts of things from bread made in a brick oven to veggie seedlings to meat to eggs to soap to apples to goats. yes goats, Deborah Bowles brought two buck kids to market and was selling them for $35 plus a feeding bottle and instructions. They were way cute. One started bleating when Crossan Curry (old family friend, artist and former goat man who was made to give up his goat herd due to age infirmities) showed up. I guess the one knew when a goat devotee is in the house

It was clear but cold with a brisk wind careening through the market. After it being in the seventies earlier this week no one seemed to appreciate the invigorating breeze. I believe we are all more than ready for spring to come on in.

Saw 3 of my canine friends-Skye the Scottish deerhound, Gilligan, the Heinz 57 and Stormy, the chocolate lab. Saw lots of human friends as well.

Bought a months' worth of meat from the Filbruns and was happy to Evelyn, the matriarch of the farm. She does not often come to the Oxford Market, usually it's Dale or some combination of their kids. I also bough eggs. I don't have to buy veggies as the garden is providing them regularly now.

Scott, the guy who sells apples and cider next to us, told us about a weasel that has been getting into his chickens and killing them. The weasel is driving him crazy because he cannot find it to kill it. Says the thing has got him muttering things to himself. Varmints will do that to a person.

Our bane, once again, is voles. The little bastards are having a fine time eating our snow and snap peas we have planted in a hoop house. Eugene way over planted the peas so they would survive the onslaught but I am wondering if there are enough peas on the planet to feed these voracious rodents. We do have a decent stand of peas and they are getting big enough to with stand the vole onset but they have over grazed fairly large areas and every morning we find more vacant area. We have traps in the hoop houses and the dogs have been busy all winter hunting moles and voles and have been getting 2 to 3 a day so we know the population is steadily getting smaller. Someday they will be under control.

Oh yeah it looks like I get to manage the Tuesday market for this year. I will be working with someone named Derek on getting vendors to come to this market. It will be officially known as the Tuesday Mini market. Sounds a bit like a convenience store only one that does not sell beer or cigarettes. Deborah Bowles said she was willing to help with this too. I was hoping, 3 years ago when the OFMU took over the Tuesday market, I would not have to be manager any longer but last year things went south on the market and it almost was killed off. I now realize this is my baby, I have been with this market since its' birth and if I want it to succeed I am going to have to spend a few more years nurturing it. But, at least this year it sounds like I have some support other than my buddy Jules who was the real originator of this market and who came out retirement last summer to keep it alive with me. Hopefully this will become a wonderful, growing, weekday market.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Luv that Springtime Weather

Yesterday it was in the mid seventies and today the tempuratures are in the low thirties. Gotta love that springtime weather.

Out of the Ashes

One of the blogger farmers in mt list of farm blogs had a devastating fire recently. But out of the ashes has risen a lot of good community things like his CSA members and church helping him out in a myriad or ways and the Internet communities to which he belongs have also come forth with offers of money to help him re-buy seeds, tools etc..

Marlin you may not have a house but you seem to have excellent Karma and I think that your God's message to you is community is far more important than stuff.

Go read his story

GMO's Killing Bees?

Could genetically modified crops be killing bees?

John McDonald, Special to The Chronicle

Saturday, March 10, 2007

With reports coming in about a scourge affecting honeybees, researchers are launching a drive to find the cause of the destruction. The reasons for rapid colony collapse are not clear. Old diseases, parasites and new diseases are being looked at.

Over the past 100 or so years, beekeepers have experienced colony losses from bacterial agents (foulbrood), mites (varroa and tracheal) and other parasites and pathogens. Beekeepers have dealt with these problems by using antibiotics, miticides or integrated pest management.

While losses, particularly in overwintering, are a chronic condition, most beekeepers have learned to limit their losses by staying on top of new advice from entomologists. Unlike the more common problems, this new die-off has been virtually instantaneous throughout the country, not spreading at the slower pace of conventional classical disease.

As an interested beekeeper with some background in biology, I think it might be fruitful to investigate the role of genetically modified or transgenic farm crops. Although we are assured by nearly every bit of research that these manipulations of the crop genome are safe for both human consumption and the environment, looking more closely at what is involved here might raise questions about those assumptions.

The most commonly transplanted segment of transgenic DNA involves genes from a well-known bacterium, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which has been used for decades by farmers and gardeners to control butterflies that damage cole crops such as cabbage and broccoli. Instead of the bacterial solution being sprayed on the plant, where it is eaten by the target insect, the genes that contain the insecticidal traits are incorporated into the genome of the farm crop. As the transformed plant grows, these Bt genes are replicated along with the plant genes so that each cell contains its own poison pill that kills the target insect.

In the case of field corn, these insects are stem- and root-borers, lepidopterans (butterflies) that, in their larval stage, dine on some region of the corn plant, ingesting the bacterial gene, which eventually causes a crystallization effect in the guts of the borer larvae, thus killing them.

What is not generally known to the public is that Bt variants are available that also target coleopterans (beetles) and dipterids (flies and mosquitoes). We are assured that the bee family, hymenopterans, is not affected.

That there is Bt in beehives is not a question. Beekeepers spray Bt under hive lids sometimes to control the wax moth, an insect whose larval forms produce messy webs on honey. Canadian beekeepers have detected the disappearance of the wax moth in untreated hives, apparently a result of worker bees foraging in fields of transgenic canola plants.

Bees forage heavily on corn flowers to obtain pollen for the rearing of young broods, and these pollen grains also contain the Bt gene of the parent plant, because they are present in the cells from which pollen forms.

Is it not possible that while there is no lethal effect directly to the new bees, there might be some sublethal effect, such as immune suppression, acting as a slow killer?

The planting of transgenic corn and soybean has increased exponentially, according to statistics from farm states. Tens of millions of acres of transgenic crops are allowing Bt genes to move off crop fields.

A quick and easy way to get an approximate answer would be to make a comparison of colony losses of bees from regions where no genetically modified crops are grown, and to put test hives in areas where modern farming practices are so distant from the hives that the foraging worker bees would have no exposure to them.

Given that nearly every bite of food that we eat has a pollinator, the seriousness of this emerging problem could dwarf all previous food disruptions.

John McDonald is a beekeeper in Pennsylvania. He welcomes comments or questions about the bee problem at General comments to

This article appeared on page F - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring is Here

It's over 70 degrees so I have the windows open and my shoes off!

The buzzards and red winged blackbirds are back so I think the whistle pig was correct in predicting an early spring.

Did some work in the garden this morning. Pulled all the cabbages and put them on a new compost pile. Weeded out the spring mix so it will be pickable this Friday for the Winter market on Saturday. Transplanted a few heads of lettuce that were growing too close to other heads of lettuce so they would all have room to grow to full size. helped Eugene weed out a bed of spinach than thinned/transplanted a lot of spinach to fill out the bed. Need to do this to 6 more beds, transplanting/thinning, that is, not weeding/hoeing as that has been done.

Since I am out of shape I quit the garden after 3 hours of work. Hung out the laundry on the line and made some lunch. Than I made up 6 bags of catnip and 16 bags of roasted squash seeds. I will likely do more bags of squash seeds. They are so good. I coat them lightly in virgin olive oil than lightly season them with our garlic powder and a salt and roast them. Yum!

Now I am blogging and baking chocolate chip cookies.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Time Change

Today those of us who live in the United States of America sprang forward and set our clocks ahead 1 hour.

Now I have no idea what time it is. The clock sez 12:34pm but my body sez it's 11:34am.

I hate the spring time change and now the GOP congress of last year has made the damn thing 3 weeks earlier. Hmmph.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chicken on the Brain

I have chicken on the brain today. Actually I have been doing a lot of thinking about how we sell chicken ever since we gave the pastured poultry workshop at the OEFFA conference this past Saturday. Ever since we got into growing chickens for commercial purposes (that makes us sound like big time producers when we raise well under 1000 birds each year) we have sold whole uncut birds only. And we generally sell out but than we are not selling a whole lot of them so it is not too hard to sell out of them.

at the conference we talked to several people who have been doing this for a couple of years and sell a lot more birds than we do and all of them sell cuts instead of whole birds. I was intrigued at this and than Tuesday afternoon we visited my friend Linn Stutts to pick up some home grown grapefruit sent to her by a mutual friend of ours who lives in Florida. While we spent time Linn's kitchen talking, the Food Channel was on in the background and both Eugene and I noticed that literally all the chicken used in every recipe on every show was boneless skinless breasts. This really caught Eugene's attention and he started making a lot of comments about how these shows were doing nothing to teach people how to deal with a whole chicken. I mentioned to him that boneless breast have pretty much been the standard for well over a decade. Linn mentioned that while she appreciated a whole bird because you can do so much with them (and she is an excellent and accomplished cook) it is true that most modern Americans have no clue what to do with a whole bird and skinless breasts are incredibly easy to deal with.

Me, being a slow foodie, I forget that not everyone is willing to take 12 hours to cook a great meal completely from scratch and most people are into this whole kinda, sorta from scratch using a lot of processed/pre-made food type of cooking. The kind of cooking that made Rachael Ray famous. And while this is not my bag baby, it is how about 80% of our customers cook and these meat eating people have not been buying our whole chickens like they are going out of style. Despite the fact our chickens are about as good as you will get in the USA. These are the Rolls Royce's of poultrydom. The meat melts in your mouth, the flavor is to die for. I have never had better.

I believe it is the combination of raising them on pasture, feeding them top notch organic feed and the fact we raise them with love and respect during their short lives. Allowing them to live the best life possible, running around on green pasture in sunlight eating clover and chasing bugs.

Okay, so for the past 11 years I have had no problem dealing with whole birds. I can cut one up in about 1 minute but, generally, I just roast the birds because I am too lazy to to cut them up when I can quickly rub them with kosher salt and garlic powder and maybe sage and rosemary put the bird in a roasting pan and pop it into a 350˚F oven for a couple of hours. And for years I have assumed my customers felt the same way.

Today I found out how wrong I was. You see after the conference and watching the Food Channel at Linn's we here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm started coming to a realization that perhaps we should start offering something other than whole pastured chicken. So we got to talking about what we could offer. We came up with Cornish hens, big whole roasters, skinless breasts and other cuts. Than Eugene had a great idea-what if I were to write an email asking our customers what they wanted from us and send it out to everyone on my emailing list. So this afternoon I did just that and have gotten a far better response than I imagined. So far I have gotten 10 responses and I expect many more over the next few days. The overwhelming verdict is yes people want cut up chicken and most are intrigued by the thought of Cornish hens.

Now we have an idea of where we want to go with the pastured meat birds this summer. It looks like we will be raising a lot more than last year and by packaging them in a way people like we should make money on the birds instead of just breaking even.

If you live in my local area and have an opinion about our chicken leave an eludication. Hey, even if you are not in my local area go ahead and tell me how you feel about our chickens.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Got the Implant

but I don't believe I will fill it. I also was given a script for some sort of antibiotic that has the side effect of deadly Got the implant and I am feeling pretty much no pain. This is good. Of course I took 2 Advil when I got home and I think that is helping a lot. I was given a script for Vicoden for the pain but I doubt I will fill it. I was also given an antibiotic whose worst side effect is deadly diarrhea. That drug is making me a bit light headed but that is one of the side effects. I know this will do a number on my digestive tract but I will be replacing the flora with doses of raw milk and yogurt. And the course lasts only 4 days, not the usual 10 days.

It took Dr Silvers about an hour to drill a hole in my jaw due to extreme bone density (this is very good). I'm in the top 5% as far as dense bones go. he got the hole drilled put in the implant and than found a pocket of infection in the tooth next to the implant and scraped that out while he had the gum open and the root exposed. than he packed it with bone powder in hopes of regrowing the bone that had eroded by the tooth allowing crud to creep in and cause a small abscess.

I gotta say this is the best my mouth has felt in about 7 years. There is almost no pain and for the first time in years I believe there is no infection present in my mouth.

Getting the Implant Today

Today, at 9am, I get a titanium screw implanted in my lower jaw and I am a bit nervous about this. I know it's going to be painful, though apparently not as painful as a full deep periodontal cleaning/scraping (which I went through about 5 years ago). I visited my friend Linn yesterday (to pick up some home grown grapefruit, fresh from Florida, that a mutual friend grew in her backyard) and she had an implant put in a while ago and was telling me that it feels like they take a drill (like a drill you would use for a construction project, not a dentist drill) and drill a hole in your jaw than put in a titanium screw and than you let that set up with the jaw bone for a while. Linn said a year, my periodontist who is putting this thing in said 2 to 3 months (I have a feeling it will be far closer to 2 to 3 months as I seem to have tremendous healing abilities-likely from the great diet I eat and the fact I do not do prescription drugs, especially antibiotics, so my immune system is top notch and can do its' job). After the screw is set into the jawbone than I go to my regular dentist and get a veneer (fake tooth) put on the screw and I am done and should have no further problems for the rest of my life (knock wood).

Sounds good, but frankly I am nervous about the whole thing. I know this is gonna hurt like Hell for a couple of days (and I am not a fan of the NSAID's like Advil but will probably take my fair share over the next 48 hours). It's going to make my mouth feel different than it has since the offending tooth came out last May and there is some small chance that the screw will not set and I will have to get it taken out and a bridge put in (or just go toothless). Linn has told me that tobacco smoking is a no no and I do smoke 5 to 7 hand rolled cigarettes a day and I am not very interested in stopping this addiction. But this might just get me to quit. Than again, I was told that smoking while having stitches in my gums from the periodontal deep cleaning/scraping was a big no no and I still smoked and recovered about 3 months ahead of schedule. Perhaps all the prescription drugs big Pharma pushes on people are far worse for the human immune system than a few smokes. Not that you will hear such blasphemy from them or anyone influenced by them, such as 99% of what you see/hear on television and the radio

Ah, well I am now rambling and it is time to get more ready for this ordeal

Monday, March 05, 2007

NASS/NAIS, A Lawyer's View

The 2006 Agricultural Identification Survey and the NASS/NAIS Identity
by Mary Zanoni, Ph.D., J.D.

Like many small-farm advocates, I have been fielding questions over the past few weeks about the above survey being sent out by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Many people ask if there is any relationship between the survey and the data being collected (often without the knowledge or consent of farmers) for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). As we shall see, although USDA personnel won’t admit it, NASS data is the foundation of the USDA’s aggressive pursuit of NAIS.

To my great surprise, in this morning’s mail I myself received a 2006 Agricultural Identification Survey (2006 AIS). I say “to my great surprise,” because I am not and never have been engaged in any type of commercial agriculture whatsoever. I have never before received any type of communication from NASS.

The envelope states in very large letters, “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” The envelope further states that the due date is January 29, 2007. As explained below, it is clear that many people receiving this form are not in fact “REQUIRED BY LAW” to answer it. Further, a recipient has only a couple of weeks between the receipt of the form and the purported deadline, and it would be impossible for the average non-lawyer to do enough research within that time to figure out whether he/she is or isn’t actually required to respond.

The form itself begins with several general questions, such as “Do you own or rent any land?” “Do you grow vegetables, hay or nursery stock?” “Do you receive government payments?” The questions appear deliberately designed to imply that anyone who would answer “yes” is among those “REQUIRED BY LAW” to fill out this form. The USDA is thus casting a very wide net in this particular intrusion into the lives of American citizens, because, frankly, just about everyone who is not homeless “owns or rents” real estate; some 75 million people in the United States “grow vegetables;” and some 60 million people receive “government payments.” (See 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, Table 1226 (vegetable gardening); Table 528 (government transfer payments).)

Now, perhaps it is possible that this “wide net” might not be as intrusive as it appears. After all, maybe NASS has only sent this form to people reasonably assumed to be farmers. But in fact it was distressingly easy to confirm that intrusiveness and deliberate over-inclusiveness are the hallmarks of the NASS approach. This morning, I called the information number listed on the form and spoke to a woman at the USDA’s Helena, Montana call center. According to her, the call center is being swamped with calls from people who live in cities and have nothing to do with agriculture. She stated that the call center employees really have no idea of why or how all these people have been sent the 2006 AIS. When asked for some conjecture as to how so many unnecessary people could have been included in the mailings, the woman explained that, for example, anyone who had ever subscribed to a “horse magazine” might have been included in the database.

Now, that raises interesting questions. How is the USDA/NASS getting the subscription lists of “horse magazines”? Why and how are “horse magazines,” or, for that matter, any rural-life publication, any breed association, feed store, or private or public livestock or horticultural enterprise whatsoever, giving their member/subscriber/customer lists to the government without telling their members, subscribers, or customers?

Or, worse yet, how is the government accessing such lists or databases without the awareness of the businesses or organizations in question? During times when the Executive Branch of the United States Government has secretly gathered the records of most people’s incoming and outgoing phone calls, and the President asserts a right to open your mail and my mail without a warrant, this is not a trivial question.

Returning to the first page of the form, we see the wide net growing ever wider. The form states: “Many people who don’t consider themselves farmers or ranchers actually meet the definition of a farm or ranch and are important to agriculture.” “We need your completed form even though you may not be actively farming, ranching, or conducting any other type of agricultural activity.” Finally, the first page of the form reinforces the threat of the “REQUIRED BY LAW” language of the envelope:
“ ‘Response to this survey is legally required by Title 7, U.S. Code.’ ” (Emphasis in original.) (Note the single-double quotation marks – the threat actually is in quotation marks, employing that common tenth-grade stylistic conceit of “quoting” something to make it appear extra-important.) One senses evasions aplenty here — the form has referred to the “definition of a farm or ranch” but nowhere tells us that definition. It suggests that anyone receiving a form has a legal obligation to answer it, even though their enterprise may not meet the definition of a “farm.”

Given the foregoing ambiguities, I had further questions about the definition of a “farm” and the possible legal penalties for not responding to the 2006 AIS. Specifically, I asked if my understanding of the definition of “farm” as an operation with at least $1000 in sales from agriculture was correct. (See 2002 Census of Agriculture, FAQs, HYPERLINK “″ Further, having found the penalty listed in 7 USC § 2204g (d) (2), namely, that a “person . . . who refuses or willfully neglects to answer a question . . . . shall be fined not more than $100,” I noted that, insofar as the 2006 AIS actually contains 42 separate questions, it could be important to know whether there was a separate $100 fine for each unanswered question, or just a single $100 fine for not answering the entire 2006 AIS. These questions were beyond the purview of the call-center woman, so she made a note of the questions, referred them to a member of the NASS professional staff, and promised that the NASS staff member would call me with the answers.

The next day, January 12, 2007, I received a call from Jody Sprague, a NASS statistician. First we addressed the question of the “farm” definition. Ms. Sprague conceded that someone whose property or operation did not meet the “farm” definition would have no obligation to answer the 2006 AIS. She also conceded that the basic definition of a “farm” as an operation with at least $1000 in agricultural sales was correct, but explained that in addition to the gross sales figures, NASS also assigns certain “point values” for particular agricultural activities. If the points add up to 1000, your operation would meet the definition of a “farm.” When asked for an example of how the point values work, Ms. Sprague explained that 5 equines would equal a farm but 4 would not. (Subsequently, she explained that each equine equals 200 points.) When asked how many cattle equal a “farm,” Ms. Sprague said she did not know. At one point Ms. Sprague said that NASS wanted, through the 2006 AIS, to determine if they could delete people who should not be on their mailing list. But for the most part she contended the opposite, e.g., that she would “advise” anyone who had received the form to fill it out; and that even a person with one horse should complete the questionnaire, although she previously had conceded that someone with fewer than 5 horses would not meet the definition of a “farm” and therefore would not be required to fill out the survey.

We next turned to the issue of how NASS may have compiled its mailing list for the 2006 AIS. First Ms. Sprague maintained that the sources of the NASS mailing list are “confidential.” I noted the call-center woman’s reference to a subscription to a “horse magazine” as a source of names, and asked for some other possible sources. Ms. Sprague said that growers’ associations, such as the Wheat Growers’ Association and Barley Growers’ Association, were examples of sources. I asked for more examples but she was reluctant to give any, claiming that some are “confidential” and some are “not confidential.” She explained the overall process of list building thus: as NASS comes across lists where there are “possibilities of agricultural activity,” NASS incorporates those names into its mailing list.

We returned to the subject of “point values” for different livestock. Explaining that many people were likely to have questions about this, I asked if Ms. Sprague could find out for me the point values of cattle or other non-equine livestock. She put me on hold for a long while. Subsequently, she gave me the following point values: beef cattle, 310 points per head; dairy cattle, 2000 points per head; goats and sheep, 50 points per head. (I wanted to ask about chickens, but I was getting the distinct sense that I might be pushing my luck.)

Ms. Sprague stressed that she did not want people to be concentrating on the point values. For example, she noted that people should not say they have 4 horses if they really have 5 horses, “because it wouldn’t be ethical.” (But apparently under the NASS moral code, rummaging through some of those Choicepoint-type consumer profiles to track your reading habits is perfectly “ethical.” And, as we shall see, the NASS moral code also permits forking over your data to states that are in hot pursuit of the NAIS premises-registration quotas imposed as a condition for the states’ continued receipt of federal NAIS grant money.)

We went on to the question of the $100 non-compliance fine. Ms. Sprague assured me that a farmer’s failure to answer any or all of the 42 total questions on the 2006 AIS would only result in a single $100 fine. She also said that the fine is “rarely enforced” and that if any “producer” “chooses” not to report, no one from NASS would seek them out.

Finally, I asked Ms. Sprague if there were any relationships between NASS and the APHIS NAIS program, and she said, “Absolutely none.” I asked her if any other agency, state or federal, would ever be allowed to use NASS’s database to solicit premises IDs for NAIS, and she said, “Absolutely not.” And indeed, pursuant to 7 U.S.C. § 2204g (f) (3), “Information obtained [for NASS surveys] may not be used for any purpose other than the statistical purposes for which the information is supplied.”

Several weeks ago, Missouri antiNAIS activist Doreen Hannes sent a series of questions about Missouri’s solicitation of NAIS premises IDs to Steve Goff, DVM, the Animal ID Administrator of the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA). Dr. Goff provided written answers on December 20, 2006. When asked where the MDA had obtained addresses for its solicitation of NAIS premises IDs, Dr. Goff stated: “the mailing was done through a contract with the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.”

I won’t answer my 2006 Agricultural Information Survey. Instead, I will send a copy of this article to my Congressman and my two United States Senators. I will ask them to have the House and Senate Agriculture Committees investigate the rampant and shameful abuses of federal law and common morality inherent in NASS’s compilation of its mailing lists and use of those lists to promote the APHIS National Animal Identification System. Why will I do this? Because I don’t live by the USDA’s false code of ethics; I answer to a higher authority.

Copyright 2007 by Mary Zanoni. The following article may be distributed solely for personal and non-commercial use without prior permission from the author. Non-commercial distribution and posting to assist in disseminating information about NAIS is, in fact, encouraged, so long as proper credit is given and the article is reproduced without changes or deletions. Any other distribution or republication requires the author’s permission in writing and requests for such permission should be directed to the author at the address/phone/e-mail address below.

Mary Zanoni, Ph.D., J.D.
P.O. Box 501
Canton, NY 13617

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sir Albert Howard

Fertile Ground
Reviving a much-cited, little-read sustainable-ag masterpiece
By Tom Philpott
01 Mar 2007
The real Arsenal of Democracy is a fertile soil, the fresh produce of which is the birthright of nations.
-- Sir Albert Howard, The Soil and Health

Sir Albert Howard.Around 1900, a 27-year-old British scientist named Albert Howard, a specialist in plant diseases, arrived in Barbados, then a province of the British Empire. His charge was to find cutting-edge cures for diseases that attacked tropical crops like sugar cane, cocoa, bananas, and limes.

To use the terms of the day, his task was to teach natives of the tropics how to grow cash crops for the Mother Country. The method was to be rigorously scientific. He was a "laboratory hermit," he would later write, "intent on learning more and more about less and less."

But the "natives," in turn, had something to teach him. On tours through Barbados and neighboring islands, through "contact with the land itself and the practical men working on it," a new idea dawned on Howard: that "the most promising method for dealing with plant diseases lay in prevention," not in after-the-fact treatments.

The insight was radical. Then, as now, conventional science tended to view plant diseases as isolated phenomena in need of a cure. But Howard began to see diseases as part of a broader whole. As quickly as he could, he fled the controlled environment of the lab and concerned himself with how plants thrive or wither in their own context -- outside in the dirt, tended by farmers.

The Soil and Health, by Sir Albert Howard.Sir Albert Howard would eventually transform the insights he gained from farmers in Barbados and later colonial India into the founding texts of the modern organic-agriculture movement: An Agricultural Testament, published in 1940, and The Soil and Health, which came out five years later. Inflamed by his readings of Howard, a young American named J.I. Rodale launched his seminal Organic Farming and Gardening magazine in the early 1940s. That publication popularized Howard's ideas in the United States, galvanizing the first generation of organic farmers here.

Perhaps appropriately for an author who concerned himself with the ground beneath our feet, Howard -- who died in 1947 -- is a genuine underground hero. If his influence has been epochal, his books have remained maddeningly obscure, out of print since their initial publication. Until last December, that is, when the University Press of Kentucky -- perhaps inspired by Michael Pollan's excellent work on the history of organic agriculture -- brought out a new paperback edition of The Soil and Health. Now we don't have to hunt down musty, pricey old copies of the book to find out what the fuss was about.

Sixty years after its initial publication, what does The Soil and Health have to teach us? Plenty, it turns out. Howard never foresaw the brand of agriculture he championed as an "alternative" that would occupy a trendy niche. He launched a broad and fundamental critique of industrial agriculture that still resonates -- and indeed applies to much of what passes for "organic" agriculture today.

Madmen and Specialists

Howard began his career not long after the triumph of the Industrial Revolution. The rise of mass production had prompted a mass migration from farms to cities, leaving a dearth of rural labor and a surplus of urban mouths to feed. Tasked with the problem of growing more food with less land and labor, scientists in Howard's time worked to apply industrial techniques to agriculture.

By then, science itself had succumbed to industrialism's division-of-labor logic. The study of plant disease had become a specialized branch of plant science, itself a subset of biology. The task of growing food could only be studied as a set of separate processes, each with its own subset of problems and solutions.

Soil specialists working at that time had isolated the key elements in soil that nurture plants: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Known as N, K, and P, respectively, these three elements still dominate modern fertilizer production. By learning to synthesize them, soil specialists had "solved" the "problem" of soil fertility.

The process for synthesizing nitrogen, it turned out, also made effective explosives. The same specialists who had industrialized agriculture also, as tensions among European powers mounted in the early 20th century, began to think about industrializing war. During World War I, munitions factories sprouted throughout England, using those fertilizer-making techniques to mass-produce explosives.

Soon thereafter, weapons technology repaid its debt to agriculture. As Howard puts it, "When peace came, some use had to be found for the huge factories [that had been] set up and it was obvious to turn them over to the manufacture of [fertilizer] for the land. This fertilizer began to flood the market." These technologies made their way over the Atlantic to the United States.

Thus began modern agriculture. No longer dependent on animal manure to replenish soil, farmers could buy ready-made fertilizer from a fledgling chemical industry. For the first time in history, animal husbandry could be separated from the growing of crops -- and meat, dairy, egg, and crop production could all be intensified. As production boomed, prices for farm goods dropped, forcing many farmers out of business. Technology had triumphed: fewer and fewer people had to concern themselves with growing food.

But Howard prophesied that the victories of industrial agriculture, whose beginnings he lived to see, would prove short-lived. In its obsession with compartmentalization, modern science had failed to see that the health of each of the earth's organisms was deeply interconnected. Against the specialists who thought they had "solved" the fertility problem by isolating a few elements, Howard viewed the "whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man as one great subject."

Artificial fertilizer could replace key elements, but it could not replenish the vibrant, healthy topsoil, or humus, required to grow health-giving food. Humus isn't an inert substance composed of separable elements, but rather a complex ecosystem teeming with diverse microorganisms. Only by carefully composting animal and plant waste and returning it to the land, he argued, could topsoil be replaced. For Howard, agriculture wasn't a process sustained by isolated inputs and outputs; rather, it functions as a cycle governed by the "Law of Return": what comes from the soil must be returned to the soil. Farmers who violate the "Law of Return," Howard claimed, are "bandits" stealing soil fertility from future generations.

Looking Back for a Way Forward

The real arsenal of democracy.For Howard, the ideal laboratory for agriculture lay not in some well-appointed university building, but rather in wild landscapes. As he put it in a celebrated passage in An Agricultural Testament, "Mother earth never attempts to farm without livestock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; [and] the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another."

Was Howard right? Despite his gloomy pronouncements, industrial agriculture has so far kept many of its promises. Food production has undeniably boomed over the past century.

And yet, the Green Revolution -- the concerted effort, begun at about the time of The Soil and Health's publication, to spread the benefits of industrial agriculture to the global south -- has failed to eradicate world hunger. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 800 million people live in a state of undernourishment. And in the United States, where industrial agriculture arguably won its most complete victory, diet-related maladies are reaching epidemic proportions. Howard's contention that chemical-dependent soil can't produce healthy food may yet be borne out.

And, of course, industrial agriculture's environmental liabilities are piling up, and could still prove its undoing.

Howard's books belong on the shelf with other 20th-century classics like Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities and E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful. These works challenge a scientific/bureaucratic establishment that seeks to solve the problems of mass industrialization with more industrialization. In the words of the great German-Jewish writer Walter Benjamin, a contemporary of Howard, they seek to "make whole what has been smashed" by a zeal for specialization. Much-cited and little-heeded, they may yet point a way out of our mounting environmental and social crises.

Got a question about where your last supper came from?
Fork it over.

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Grist contributing writer Tom Philpott farms and cooks at Maverick Farms, a sustainable-agriculture nonprofit and small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.