Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
So far, we have had a very cold December with lows hitting 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of these days have been associated with high-winds and wind-chills around 0 degrees.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
All births went smoothly and so far, the piglets have been thriving in their nursery in the barn. We had a total of 4 sows with piglets born including one hereford, within a matter of 5 days. The result has been an absolute mosh pit of legs, snouts, ears and eyes peering up at us! lol
The moms have been doing a wonderful job so far, lying leg to leg in a circle. This has helped to keep the piglets warm as they bounce back and forth from one set of teats to the next!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
One thing that became clear in all of these food contamination occurrences was that the Food and Drug Administration lacked the ability and authority to inspect, regulate, and enforce safety standards for industrial agriculture. The problem of course, is that many necessary and important rules that would help control food borne illness outbreaks are impractical and detrimental to small producers like ourselves. The government always wants to put in place regulations that cover all parts of our agricultural system without understanding how different these systems are.
-recall food products
-increase regulatory requirements for anyone ( a corporation is considered a person) processing food.
-produce safety standards for food production.
The primary concerns have been how these regulations would affect small producers who are not setup for such a deluge of regulation and paperwork. These rules would also address a problem that doesn't exist in small production models like ours because we work with nature and don't have the same problems with bacterial and other contamination that industrial agriculture experiences with ever increasing frequency.
What kind of regulations are we talking about? These rules would require a 'Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventative Controls' plan involving:
-identifying and evaluating known or reasonable hazards and developing written analysis of said hazards.
-identifying and implementing preventative controls.
-monitoring effectiveness of preventative controls.
-identify processes if such preventative controls are ineffective
-verifying that preventative controls are adequate, that monitoring meets FDA requirements, that appropriate decisions are being made about corrective actions, and that preventative controls are working through the use of environmental and product testing programs.
Of course, all of this would require record-keeping, a written plan and documentation, and would be subject to FDA approval, fees, and inspection/re-inspection.
Small producers like us are already highly regulated by state and local health departments, as well as state departments of agriculture. In all case, local requirements are at least as stringent, and often more stringent than USDA requirements. In addition, risks are limited based on the mere size of smaller, local operations. Small producers feel these requirements would be unmanageable and cost/time prohibitive and would force even more small producers out of an ever dwindling market for local food.
To counter this, two U.S. Senators added the Tester-Hagan Amendment (Senator Kay R. Hagan D-NC and Jon Tester D-MT) which was successfully added a few days ago to the Food Safety Modernization Act. This amendment would provide an exemption to small producers who would continue to be regulated at the state and local level. There would be no change in the existing regulatory and inspection systems in place. Small producers would be defined as those who sell most of their food directly to consumers, local restaurants and retailers within a 275 mile radius of their farm, and producers that earn $500,000 or less in annual sales.
Big industrial farming groups have already come out against the Tester-Hagan Amendment. Thirty or so industrial agricultural groups such as the United Fresh Produce Association and the American Meat Institute have cried foul claiming this amendment exempts small farms and business operations from "basic federal food safety requirements."
So, as things stand, I can support the Food Safety Modernization Act as long as it contains the Tester-Hagan Amendment that allows an exemption for small producers like us. Of course, Big Ag knows that if they can kill this amendment, they have a greater chance of killing the entire bill. Without the Tester Amendment, the Food Safety Modernization Act becomes untenable to small producers.
In the meantime, we continue to sell the best-tasting, safest, highest-quality food money can buy!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
With the recent tsunami of conservatism that swept the country, all of our local county commissioners opposed to this boondoggle were swept out of office (all Democrats) and an entirely Republican Board of Commissioners was chosen.
Interestingly, despite the cost of this project and the 'fiscal conservatism' boasted by most of these Republican candidates, they are all in favor of this massive expenditure. The outgoing Democratic commissioners were all opposed.
Thus went our best chances for true fiscal responsibility in Frederick County.
Just had to put that out there!
Here's link for mercury poisoning:
And here's Will:
Most of the candidates running for local office are focused on the economy and growth issues. With unemployment high, commercial space sitting empty, and a stagnant real estate market, that is understandable. But, the reality is Frederick county is caught up in a National, and to some extent, global recession. There is little local politicians can do to jump start the National economy. The only real “local” issue in the upcoming election is whether or not the next board of County Commissioners proceeds with the planned $600 million dollar municipal solid waste incinerator. The single largest debt ever imposed on the citizens of Frederick County.
It only seems logical to see how existing municipal waste incinerators are doing. After all, the past is the best prediction of the future. In the last few weeks alone, 3 incinerators have made headlines. Harrisburg, PA’s incinerator is about to go into receivership because the city can no longer pay for it; Hudson Falls, NY is trying to sell their incinerator; and most troubling, Spokane, WA’s incinerator violated air pollution limits for mercury in June. Why did it take until September for the violation to surface? Apparently, the permit for Spokane’s incinerator only requires continuous monitoring for three pollutants. Nine other pollutants, including mercury, are only tested for annually. Much like the proposed Frederick incinerator, the Spokane incinerator purports to have “state of the art” pollution controls. Officials think that there was something that was going through the system that was high in mercury. That is precisely the problem when permits only require an annual snapshot of emissions for the majority of pollutants of concern. More troubling is that the monitoring requirements in Spokane’s permit are typical for incinerators.
Proponents of incineration like to point out that incinerators are designed to meet EPA Clean Air Act Standards, known as maximum achievable control technology levels (MACT). MACT requires the maximum reduction of hazardous emissions, taking cost and feasibility into account. The MACT must not be less than the average emission level achieved by controls on the best performing 12 percent of existing sources, by industrial category. What this translates to, is “do as good as the best in your field are doing.” In other words, these are technology-based standards and not health-based standards. MACT levels represent what can be reasonably achieved versus what is safe for human health and the environment.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element and a potent neurotoxin. Mercury is hidden in compact fluorescent lamps (the coiled light bulbs everyone has been installing), light switches, thermostats, thermometers, irons, space heaters, security systems, and batteries (yes, even kids shoes that light up have mercury in them). Once released, the mercury travels through the air and is deposited back to earth through precipitation or dry deposition. The mercury is deposited directly into aquatic environments, and also deposited on land surfaces, where it can be transported into aquatic ecosystems through run-off and erosion. Much of this mercury deposition occurs within 50 miles of the smokestack from which it is released.
Maryland Department of Environment currently has a state-wide fish advisory for mercury recommending limits on the consumption of fish and shellfish due to mercury levels found in their tissues. We already have a problem with too much mercury in the environment in MD.
High variability is considered the norm in todays municipal waste stream. Disposable products are increasingly coming from oversees manufacturers that operate under less stringent regulation and oversight (cadmium in childrens jewelry anyone?). In addition, no matter how successful state recycling campaigns are, some batteries and compact florescent light bulbs will always make it into the waste stream. Is transferring a solid waste problem into an air pollution problem really the best solution?
10720 Dern Road
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Thursday, September 30, 2010
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and onion are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the cavatelli to the squash mixture in the skillet, then stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and toss gently to combine. Add the 3/4 cup of caciocavallo, season with salt and pepper and stir gently; add a little more pasta water if necessary. Serve the pasta right away, passing more cheese at the table.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
SLOW FOOD originated in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986 in reaction and opposition to the opening of a Mc Donald's in Rome near the Spanish Steps. The name is meant to evoke all that is opposite or contrary to the fast food movement.
Initially focused on preserving traditional and regional cuisine and promoting farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem, the slow food movement has expanded its scope and offers intriguing ideas about how and what we eat affects our lives.
This would be the French concept of terroir which literally translates into 'land'. In reality, terroir really refers to the unique characteristics of any area (soil, geography, culture) that produce unique foods, and that these unique foods are integral to our culture, the environment, and our food enjoyment, and need to be protected.
While most commonly associated with more celebrated products like champagne (from the Champagne region of France) for example, even a relatively young country like the U.S. has it's own terroir - vidalia onions, vermont cheddar and maple syrup, georgia peaches, and washington apples.
Terroir could also include items like Buffalo chicken wings, spedie meat (Binghampton, N.Y.), or scrapple in the South. Perhaps not as refined as champagne, but ours....all ours nonetheless!
SLOW FOOD has since grown into an organization with over 100,000 members in 132 countries.
The Slow Food movement incorporates a series of objectives within its mission, including:
- promoting the preservation of heirloom varieties of plants and heritage breed livestock.
- development of the 'Ark of Taste' for foods of exceptional quality or in danger of extinction
- preserving and promoting local food traditions
- organizing celebrations of local food items and traditions, often in the context of community.
- promoting food education including the risks of 'fast food', the antithesis of 'slow food'
- education about the risks of large agribusiness and factory
- education about the risks of monoculture
- promoting the preservation of small and family farms
- lobbying for the inclusion and promotion of strong local food systems, increased organic and sustainable farming
- lobbying against genetic engineering and GMO products in our food chain
- lobbying against the use of pesticides
- encouraging ethical buying in the marketplace such as fair trade products
Recent events organized by Slow Food USA include:
Pie on the Porch, Miami, FLA Sept 25th, 2010
Clash Farm to Table, Falmouth, MA Sept 26th, 2010
Whatcom Harvest Dinner, Ferndale, WA Sept 26th 2010
Heirloom Harvest Farm Barbeque, Exeter, RI Sept 26th, 2010
Screening of 'Grown in Detroit', St. Louis, MI Sept 27th, 2010
Pawpaws & Persimmons, Ann Arbor, MI Oct 2nd, 2010
Sounds awesome, doesn't it!
I think slow food represents an organization working towards a food delivery system that we could all live with. A 'slow'-er America would help to reverse some of the damaging affects that our 'modern' agricultural system has had on our health, our environment, and our culture.
As SLOW FOOD puts it: 'supporting good, clean, and fair food'! I couldn't say it better or more simply myself.
Take a minute and look over the Slow Food USA home page and consider becoming active in your local Slow Food Movement!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
- to research a new model for humane egg production on a commercial scale, the Rondeel model
- to visit a sheep farm that produces cheese from a traditional, non-dairy breed of sheep, the Texel.
The cheese making workshop, attached to the main house
Some of the finished product on display. The Bakkers run a cheese shop from their house and sell locally to residents, tourists, and restaurants.
- the wool was definitely of a finer texture than the wool we've examined on American Texels. The wool has very little lustre.
- we saw Texels in many shades of blue, black, and grey although only white is allowed for registration.
- the Bakkers are experimenting with crosses using the Friesian sheep (a traditional dairy breed from the islands to the east of Texel).
- there was limited intensive rotational grazing being used.
- Footrot is ubiquitous - all pastures and farmland were very damp with a lot of mud and standing water. The Bakkers vaccinate with the rot vaccine which causes a transient febrile illness in their sheep.
- The Bakkers run about 500 ewes on 50 hectares, about 120 acres of sandy soil. They are limited on how much fertilization they can apply to something like 40 #'s per acre.
- There appear to be no restrictions on the sale of unpasteurized cheese products.
- Most lambs are sold at about 10-12 weeks (?) for about 100-110 euros each!