Friday, December 24, 2010

Action Alert from Organic Consumers Association

I wanted to encourage everyone who is in favor of protecting small farmers to comment to the USDA on their pending decision to release GMO alfalfa onto the market:

In an earlier post, I talked a lot about the dangers of GMO products and the inadequacy of safety testing requirments on those products.

In another, problems with the overuse of, dependence on, and persistance of herbicides and pesticides in the environment.

This decision kind of brings all of those ideas to the forefront.

Some people say 'what's the harm' in releasing a product like this onto the market - 'it can always be pulled backed off the market if need be'.

But, what our previous experiences with other GMO products have shown us is that there is 'leakage' of GMO genetics into non-GMO seed banks and even into the natural environment around us.

This is one problem once created that cannot be easily reversed.

Please urge the USDA and your representatives in Congress to ban GMO products in the United States!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hardy PALMS and CACTI update

On an earlier post, I described some experiments I've been conducting on the farm testing the cold hardiness of two genuses of plant not normally thought of as cold-hardy in our zone 6 area: the hardy palms and agave.

I brought along an interest in this subject after living in Washington, D.C., where microclimates allowed us to grow plants normally found in more southern climes like ficus pumila, southern jasmine, voodoo lillies, and a host of other plants 'that don't grow here'.

Of course, the hardy palms and agave were part of this tradition.

Last winter was pretty harsh with very cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. We had two trachycarpus fortuneii that wintered over with significant protection and several colonies of echincereus, the claret cup cactus, which did very well with no protection in pots.

Here are two Trachycarpus that wintered over with minimal trouble last winter. This season, I decided to try them with no protection.

The top specimen is a generic plant I picked up at a local garden center here in Maryland.

The lower specimen is smaller and is one of my original 'Bulgaria' Trachycarpus, originally one of 4 growing in my Georgetown garden, and the only one that survived multiple transplants before settling into its current location on the farm.

These Bulgarian palms are offspring of fortuneii palms growing in Sofia, Bulgaria, that have survived very cold temperatures. They are thought to have originated from Soviet-era breeding programs north of the Black Sea working to develop more cold-tolerant strains of palms, citrus, and the like.

As many gardeners who have experimented with these cold-hardy palms, one thing that tends to kill them off is fungal disease, in particular affecting the crown of the plant. So, in theory, they may perform better despite the cold with the better air circulation provided by NO winter protection.

Certainly, the larger the specimen, the greater their cold tolerance appears to be.

In addition to my original specimens, I added several Trachycarpus fortuneii and Chamerops humilis 'cerifera', the Morrocan form of the European Fan Palm, to the front garden of our house. Previously, the standard green European Fan Palm had proven NOT to be hardy in our protected Georgetown garden in Washington, but the cerifera (blue Morrocan) form is felt to be more cold-hardy.

While in Morroco on vacation, we witnessed 20 foot specimens of the Morrocan Blue Palm growing in the Atlas Mountains outside Marrakech at high altitudes in very cold conditions (maybe 20's with heavy snowfall and no protection). I love the blue color and found these to be very cold-tolerant in D.C.. The ones we have grown seem to be more of a clump forming palm, but all the specimens we saw in Morrocco, were single trunked and quite tall.

The last palm we have on the property, the needle palm or Rhapidophyllum hystrix, is native to the Southeastern U.S. and is one of the more well-known cold-hardy palms. It is definitely a clump-former and there are large specimens of this palm in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. I expect this species to be very reliably hardy on our farm.

It does require hot, humid summers and does well in our area. It has been reported to tolerate temperatures as low as -15 to -20 degrees celsius (~ 0 to -5 degrees F).

It is also commonly known as the porcupine palm for the 2 inch, needle-like projections around its trunk!

On the Agave side, we are trialing species including Agave parryi and a cultivar, Agave 'sharkskin' (shown immediately below).

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.

I'll keep you posted as to how my little friends do this winter along with minimal temps and other findings.

If you're interested, many of these plants can be ordered through Yucca-Do Nursery and Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Geography and factory farms.

I found an awesome website recently that does a really nice job of showing people how the numbers of animals in factory farms has changed over the past 15 years or so:

Texas, Iowa and California lead the race towards unhealthy food, animal abuse, and just general nastiness in the 1, 2 and 3 positions in terms of absolute numbers.

However, California counties holds 3 of the top 4 spots for sheer numbers overall on a county level.

The website is packed full of interesting factoids such as:

-there are 4 factory farmed broilers (chickens) for every American alive today.
-US beef feedlot operations added ~1100 cattle overall per day to their operations between 2002 and 2007.
- in Maryland, the nearly 31 million broiler chickens, mostly concentrated on the Eastern Shore, produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from 10 million people, nearly twice the state’s population.

The great thing about this website is you can actually zoom in on your own home state (or neighboring states if you live in a bi-, tri- or quad-state area like we do) and find where the concentrations of feedlot/confinement operations are concentrated in your back yard!

Check it out! Nice work!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

101, I mean piglets!

We were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first round of Gloucester Old Spot piglets in November and I can happily announce that we are proud parents to 14 beautiful, black and white spotted piglets!

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!

Too funny!

Here, our hereford sow shows the other girls how its done!

Anyone interested in purchasing registered breeding stock can contact me via the website for more information.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

HR 2749 - the truth about federal food safety regulation changes

Food safety has become a more prominent issue in the public eye with the ever increasing incidence and severity of food contamination in the news. This is a natural and expected process as I see it as our industrial and non-sustainable ag system begins to break down at the hands of the mightiest of forces - Mother Nature.

Rather than working with the laws of nature, we have chosen a system for our food production that promotes cheap food at any cost sacrificing human health, environmental health, animal welfare, and the welfare of our workers.

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.
Additionally, the really serious food-borne illness outbreaks, from a national public health perspective, really involve the largest and most industrial producers. Its a simple volume and system thing - large producers supply the largest proportion of food products to the American market. Additionally, they use systems that work against nature and then try and compensate for these unsustainable practices through the use of antibiotics as an example.

In an effort to better prevent and control these outbreaks, the Food Safety Modernization Act, HR 2749, has been proposed and is in front of the U.S. Senate as we speak. This bill would give the FDA the authority to:

-recall food products
-increase inspections
-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."

Of course this is completely not true and fails to identify the source of the problem: current food safety systems in place for small producers (=working) vs. industrial agriculture food safety systems (= completely inadequate and failing repeatedly).

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.
So, I would encourage everyone to call their Senators and ask them to support the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Tester-Hagan Amendment. It may be imperfect but I do think its an important step in the right direction to adding more safety to the industrial ag business.

In the meantime, we continue to sell the best-tasting, safest, highest-quality food money can buy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

INCINERATOR plans really burn me up!

Here is a letter to the editor Will recently wrote in regards to our County's plans to build an incinerator in Frederick County despite the fact that there is no looming crisis for waste disposal.

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?

William Morrow
Whitmore Farm
10720 Dern Road
Emmitsburg, MD 21727

Thursday, September 30, 2010

100 MILE DIET: local eating for global change

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

But think about it - if we all started eating locally, as in products produced within 100 miles of our home base, think of how things would change, how our diet would change.

Sounds too restrictive, impossible, unrealistic, painful doesn't it! lol

Well, in reality, up until the 1940's, this was the norm for most Americans. It still holds true for many people around the world.

Of course, we always had our luxury items like oranges and lemons, coffee, tea, and chocolate/cacao, but for the most part, we ate what was produced within a reasonable distance of our home. We canned, dried, cured and stored foods to eat throughout the winter.

Since then, we live in a time of the winter tomato - flown halfway around the world, with 1/10th the flavor, and at 5 times the cost of a real, local tomato of summer.

At Whitmore Farm, we take our seconds from our market tomatoes, still picked at the height of their flavor, and freeze whole and pureed tomatoes which is about as easy as it gets. In January, its simple to pull out a block of tomato for wonderful winter soups and sauces and a real taste of summer in January! Fantastic!

Entire food traditions have slowly withered away. Take winter squash, formerly a STAPLE of the winter diet, high in vitamins A, E, fiber, and flavor.

Who eats winter squash anymore? I mean really!?

So here's an interesting idea then, the 100 mile diet.

The authors of this and other similar websites call it the 'new organic' - better for your health, the environment, your local economy, local farms, and the animals and plants involved.

'Plants?' you say - think of all the grief poor spinach took last year with the great spinach scare because a factory farm contaminated their spinach crop with E. coli tainted water, sickening hundreds? Peanuts again the next year! Talk about unsafe foods!

Also, the 100 miled diet helps reconnect the eater with seasonal foods, foods that have fallen out of favor but have so much to offer in terms of flavor, variety, and nutrition.

While a 6 or 12 month commitment to eating local only might seem overwhelming, consider sponsoring a local dinner for friends and family.

Try something new - pick up a fruit or vegetable you've never used before, take it home, and check online for a tasty recipe to try.

Join a CSA for a season and try to use everything you get - seriously, just TRY! lol Most CSA members complain that they can't come close to finishing everything in their box or basket. A CSA can be a very economical way of feeding your family, all the while supporting local agriculture.

Most city folks are surprised at how much fun they have visiting and working on the farm, and for those of you on a budget, many CSA allow the exchange of labor for food shares.

To get you started, here's a recipe from FOOD&WINE for spicy squash with cavatelli, but I substitute whatever kind of pasta I have - larger pasta like rigatoni work better than spaghetti or linguini:


  1. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  3. 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  4. 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  5. 2 pounds winter squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  6. 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
  7. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  8. 1 1/2 pounds cavatelli, small shells, rigatoni, etc
  9. 3/4 cup freshly grated caciocavallo, pecorino or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving.


  1. 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 in the U.S.

With all the press recently about food safety and the morbid obesity epidemic, I decided to feature a movement I support, the Slow Food Movement and SLOWfoodUSA.

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!

It's a BOY!

....and a GIRL!

Well, actually two boys and two girls!

Heidi Ho and Kate both kidded yesterday without incident.

Heidi Ho doeling

Heidi Ho doeling - looks like the same doeling in a different color, doesn't it!

Kate buckling - he's a total firecracker!

AY MATIE! I would be Kate's other pirate buckling!

We offer our congrats to our two awesome mums!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dutch cheese is lekker!

Lekker : adjective (slang) delicious, tasty, luscious, choice, savoury, palatable, dainty, delectable, mouthwatering, yummy , scrumptious (informal), appetizing, toothsome, ambrosial

Example: 'We had a really lekker meal.'

Recently, Will and I had the pleasure of visiting Holland for two purposes:
  1. to research a new model for humane egg production on a commercial scale, the Rondeel model
  2. to visit a sheep farm that produces cheese from a traditional, non-dairy breed of sheep, the Texel.
Our trip started in Amsterdam where we were able to visit a couple of neighborhood farmer's markets. Dutch friends were able to confirm a renewed interest in locally-produced products and a resurgence of interest in farmer's markets amongst the Dutch.

We did look for locally-produced products and farms featured at local restaurants, but really didn't see as much of this as is common in the U.S. these days.

After a day in Amsterdam, our first stop was a day trip to Barneveld to visit the poultry museum, the Pluimveemuseum. There was an interesting display on the history of the chicken in Holland including several breeds developed in Holland like the Barneveld and Welsummer. These two breeds are known for their dark brown eggs which may look familiar to those of you enjoying Whitmore Farm eggs - we raise Welsummers!

Barneveld chickens

The primary purpose of our visit however was a visit to a commercial poultry operation using the Rondeel model. This model is offered as a humane option for commercial egg production by the Rondeel organization in Holland.

The basic design of the structure was a central service core, with laying areas and 'lounge' areas numbered 1 and 2 below, and then a ring of open space for ranging, scratching and such (area 3).
Unfortunately, as Will explained, chickens typically form 'family groups' compromised of a rooster and a group of hens up to about 20 birds in a more natural environment.

When crowded in commercial production facilities, this normal social structure breaks down and pathologic behavior emerges - pecking and egg-eating being two examples.

Consequently, hens are debeaked to prevent damage from pathologic pecking, eliminating their ability to 'scratch', further worsening this disconnect from normal habitat, behavior, and family structure.

Stress also significantly and negatively impacts the immune system, increasing the chances of disease, decreasing production, and increasing emergence of pathogenic organisms like salmonella and shigella in the end product.

I think both Will and I were disappointed with the end product, although it was clearly was more humane than the current commercial egg production model found in the U.S.

The second part of our trip was a visit to the island of Texel, in the western end of the Friesian Islands, to the north of Amsterdam.

Our primary point of interest was a visit to De Waddel Farm, a traditional farm raising Texel sheep for meat AND dairy. De Waddel was one of only 2 farms left on the island still producing traditional Texel cheese using unpasteurized sheep's milk.

De Waddel 'schapenkass' or cheese shop!

De Waddel, circa 1625

These are some fine examples of Texel sheep. The breed is best known for phenomenal muscling and is generally considered a meat sheep. Their wool is of medium grade and has little value in today's wool market.

Texel's have a distinctive look with a clean head, heavy muscling, and a very BLOCKY head that strikes fear in the heart of most shepherds. When it comes to lambing time, imagine a square peg and a round hole - well, you get the idea.

The Bakker Family and Jan-Willem in particular took 3 hours out of his busy day to discuss his experiences with the Texel breed, management of his sheep, and what life is like for shepherds in Holland these days. It was a pretty incredible day and we enjoyed some unusually nice weather.

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.

They sell 3 types of Texel cheese - young, 6 months, and 1 year.

The young cheese has a very creamy texure and all 3 have a natural rind. The 1 year is very similar to a parmesan or other sharp, dry cheese, fantastic for cooking as well as for eating.

Uncle Baker, the local postman, stops for a visit and coffee

We ended our tour with an opportunity to sit with the Bakkers and enjoy some coffee and cookies, and look over the elder Mr. Bakker's book chronicling the development and history of the Texel breed.

Unfortunately, it is only available in Dutch at present - anyone out there interested in translating and publishing an English version?

Will, Jan-Willem, and Mouse (Jan's assistant farmer) examine his best ram recently back from a Texel show. Jan said that his rams typically don't win because his farm specializes in a larger-framed sheep currently out of favor with breeders in Holland.

A wool shop in the main town on the island of Texel, Den Burg.

For the shepherds amongst you, here are a few interesting tid-bits of information and observations from our visit to the Bakker farm:
  • 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!
We recently introduced a Texel from Bev Pearsall's Farm near us in Thurmont and are excited to see what affect this has on our carcass quality in next year's product. Bev's Texels have been winning the carcass competition at the Maryland Sheep & Wool for years and we are very fortunate to have access to stock from such an accomplished breeder in our area!

Texel rams have become the breed of choice for using as a terminal sire for meat production because of their fantastic muscling. At last year's sale in Lanark (Scotland), a Texel ram sold for a world-record price of 231,000 pounds!

While our new Texel ram, Arnold Schwarzenegger, may not be world-class, we look forward to lambs from him in 2011!