Our vegetable season has ended. The harvest is finished, and Bill has planted a cover crop of oats and vetch to prepare the soil for next year. Although the cattle and the pigs are keeping Steve very busy, we are reflecting on our first summer of vegetable production. We certainly thank you, our customers, for your business. But we get more from our customers than pure business transactions. We get a lot of moral support—and never more than this year as we figured out our vegetable operation. We thank you for teaching us the meaning of “Community Supported Agriculture.” I used to avoid that term in favor of “vegetable subscription.” But I think “Community Supported Agriculture” fits now. Our community is part of us, and we are part of it, and we are grateful.
This animated short (sponsored by Chipotle) has gone viral on YouTube. Its anti-industrial-farming message is generating a lot of discussion, but the film is worth watching for the beautiful art direction and music alone. The studio that made the film—Moonbot—is not terribly generous about giving credit to all those who contributed (other than the directors Brandon Oldenburg and Limbert Fabian), but it appears that the Art Director was Joe Bluhm.
One small quibble: I realize “All Natural” is fairly meaningless as a marketing claim, but I’m pretty sure you can’t inject chickens with things that plump them up and call that “All Natural.” Just saying.
Craig and Omar are in the news lately because of their efforts to build a new USDA-inspected chicken processing facility in Leominster, Massachusetts. Residents of the next-door residential neighborhood are objecting, mainly because they fear for the values of their property. No matter how much modern technology might prevent any public nuisance, the word “slaughterhouse” triggers negative emotions. I think this would happen anywhere—or am I wrong? Any volunteers out there for bringing a chicken plant to their town?
I did not even wear a coat and tie to my own wedding, but I had to wear one last week when Craig and I traveled to Washington DC as part of a New England Farmers Union delegation. Along with other members of the National Farmers Union, we were there to lobby our region’s representatives in the House and the Senate, to work on getting a new Farm Bill passed and not to just extend the old one for another year. Extending the old Farm Bill would jeopardize some of the programs that support our farmers the most in New England. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program would fall by the wayside due to lack of funding as a result of their expired baselines.
We also brought attention to some of the sticking points in the FDA’s recommended Food Safety Modernization Act that would have a catastrophic financial impact on small farmers all over New England. On Tuesday, NFU presented Rep. Annie Kuster (NH) with a Golden Triangle Award, the organization’s highest legislative honor. This annual award is presented to members of Congress who have demonstrated leadership and who support policies that benefit America’s family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and rural communities. Finally, we briefed both House and Senate New England representatives about the increased livestock and aquaculture production in our region, and we highlighted some of challenges we are facing due to lack of infrastructure, lack of skills and training.
It was a busy week and a great opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of policy making, but I was really happy to get back to the farm and “slip into something more comfortable”!
As the fall approaches, we are preparing to send large numbers of our animals to the butcher. The problem is, so is everyone else who raises cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats. Then deer hunting season arrives, and you can forget about booking a meat processor until January. Lucky for us and for everyone else in southern New Hampshire, a brand new USDA-inspected red meat processing facility, “The Local Butcher,” is opening up in nearby Barnstead.
The proprietor, Russ Atherton, is a pro at handling animals, having been a dairy farmer in his previous career. Low-stress handling is important to us for its own sake, but it is also vital for meat quality. We are eager for Russ to succeed, and we have already reserved a number of dates on his calendar. This means our customers who have ordered whole sides of beef and pork will have to fill out a different cut sheet this year. But not to worry, Russ has done a great job designing a cut sheet that is logical and clear.
The Local Butcher is having an open house on Saturday September 21, 2013 at 9:00 am to celebrate their Grand Opening. There will be a presentation to explain their cut sheet, plus a tour of the facility and refreshments. We’re going to check it out. We hope to see you there!
For some time now, we have been big fans of Noack’s Meat Products of Meriden, Connecticut. We send our hams and bacon there for nitrite-free smoking. If you have tried our smoked meats, you will agree that the results are amazing. Now, we are pleased to announce that Noack’s has made some nitrite-free beef hot dogs, beef kielbasa, and liverwurst for us, as well as nitrite-free pork hot dogs, pork kielbasa, bratwurst, sweet Italian sausage, hot Italian sausage, and breakfast sausage—all with our very own 100% grass-fed beef and pork!
In addition to sausages, the freezers are fully stocked with beef, chicken, and pork (yes, bacon is back!). So stop by the farm store (note the new hours Tuesday and Friday 3-6, Saturday 9-1) or check us out at the Bedford Farmer’s Market (Tuesdays 3-6) or the Derry Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays 3-7).
The USDA rules require that organic egg-laying hens be allowed access to the outdoors. But advocates for animal welfare feel that large-scale organic egg producers do not currently provide their hens with enough outdoor access. There is an effort to convince the USDA to strengthen the outdoor access requirement.
Now, it turns out that the FDA has a rule of its own for egg farmers. (That’s right, the FDA—a completely separate government department). The FDA “Egg Rule” says if you are a large scale producer (over 3,000 hens), you must takes steps to prevent your hens from picking up the Salmonella Enteritidis bug. The Egg Rule is not new. But the FDA just recently issued a “draft guidance” which basically says that the Egg Rule means that laying hens—even organic ones—should never be allowed outside. At least not in the real world. You can let the hens into an outdoor area as long as you keep them away from all wild birds, rodents, and flies.
Setting aside the annoyance of two different agencies playing tug-of-war with the rules, it just seems wrong that the term “organic” should be watered down in this way. Outdoors where the wild birds are, where the rodents and the flies are—that is exactly where chickens naturally belong. If we can’t let the hens interact with nature, I don’t think we should be calling their eggs “organic.”