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