Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hello blogger friends!

Today is MICFA day in Annapolis!

MICFA = maryland independent farm to consumer association - promotes small family farms and consumers access to their high-quality products.

MICFA = the alternative to factory farms.

MICFA promotes local, sustainable agriculture.

Each year we go to Annapolis to showcase contraband high-quality food products produced by small family farms in Maryland, that current law prevents or severely restricts us from selling to our customers.

These include things like raw-milk products (artisanale cheeses and milk), on farm processed chicken and rabbit, and locally produced chicken eggs. Current laws give a producer in China less regulation and better access to Maryland consumers than Maryland farmers have!

Here are our talking points:

Farm‐to‐Market Poultry and Rabbit:
A Commonsense Reform for Maryland Farmers and Consumers
MD is Keeping Farmers and Consumers Apart

o Existing federal law and regulations allow farmers to sell up to 20,000 farm‐processed chickens, turkeys and rabbits directly to consumers in their home state each year.

o But Maryland imposes an unnecessary restriction requiring these products to be sold on the farm – separating customers who want the meat from MD farmers who sell it.

o Independent poultry farmers are disappearing: in 1950, 95% of US poultry farmers were independent; by 1994, 99% of all poultry was produced under contract or at corporate‐owned facilities.

Products to Market = Income to MD Farmers

o More than 250 Maryland farms are ready to sell farm‐processed poultry and rabbit, providing millions in much‐needed revenue to family farms.

o Farmers’ market attendance in the region is skyrocketing – there are over 100 farmers’ markets in Maryland alone.

o Maryland’s 2008 Egg Law establishing farmers’ market egg sales as an extension of on‐farm sales is a win‐win worth repeating for poultry and rabbit.

A Simple Solution for Maryland’s Economy, Communities and Environment

o The Legislature should let farmers access the USDA exemption for farm‐processed poultry and rabbits. This would not alter state health codes or inspection requirements that ensure healthy, safe products.

o Small poultry operations are cleaner: a typical large‐scale broiler factory produces 6.6 million pounds of waste annually and approximately 44 million tons of animal manure is generated each year in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Industrial poultry farming accounts for nearly 2/3 of this waste that pollutes the Bay.

o On‐farm processing is more humane because animals are not subjected to long‐distance hauling in tightly‐packed crates.

Let Maryland’s Family Farmers Bring Healthy, Natural Products to the Customers Who Want Them

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shearing Day @ Stoneybranch Farm

I thought you might enjoy pics from last February's shearing day at Rick & Rose's farm next door. They have Coopworths, a production breed developed in New Zealand.

The shearer is shown here using a traditional hand-shearer, as opposed to electric clippers which have become very popular for obvious reasons.

If handled properly, the sheep become very placid during the shearing process. A good handler does not stress the animal and obviously avoids cutting the animal during the shearing.

This picture shows the end product which is ready to be cleaned and sent for processing into roving. The wool is placed on a large table and is hand-cleaned, trimmed and checked for 'VM', i.e. vegetative matter (leaves, burrs, etc).

Roving is then hand-spun into yarn and is ready to become a fine sweater. Wool has a unique ability to keep its wearer warm even when wet and is fire-resistant.

Synthetics like polarfleece are made from petroleum products and are not really biodegradable. They are also highly flammable and not great for insulation when wet.

I buy wool products whenever possible and there are many forms of wool now that are washable and wrinkle-free. Its renewable, local, and durable.

The fine wools like merino are softer but are not as durable and pill after a short time.

So remember to buy and wear wool products!



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Preserving rare breeds

For those of you interested, there was a good article about the preservation of heritage breed livestock genetics in the NY Times at:


Check it out!



Sunday, January 3, 2010

If I could only read one book this month...

...it would have to be this one. I CANNOT RECOMMEND this book enough:

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.

RUN, don't walk, to the bookstore and buy it!

This book hits the nail on the head as far as what's wrong with our new Western diet and I say 'new' because its really what we've been eating for the past 150 years, and especially the past 50 years, that is killing us!

This is the biggest national health crisis we face and it far outpaces (or is directly related to) the rest like obesity, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and cancer.

We at Whitmore Farm, have literally staked everything we have to try and offer an alternative to factory farmed products.

Now the USDA is looking at exporting meat to China for processing and reimportation into the United States, but I can't process a chicken on my farm and sell it to you at a farmer's market 20 miles down the road!

If Americans don't take more of an interest in where their food comes from and stop buying food because its cheap, we are headed for disaster. While there are many hungry people in this country, most Americans are over-nourished and mal-nourished at the same time.

Being obese or overweight does not mean that a person is eating well or getting what they need from their diet. There are some that say overeating is in part, the body's attempt to replenish micronutrients absent or deficient in our modern agricultural products.

The USDA stopped tracking nutritional content of fruits and vegetables in this country in the 1970's, but at that time, our food was showing a steady and significant decline in its mineral and vitamin content as compared to the 50's, and these were things that we even know to measure.

Currently, the average American spends 8% of their budget on food, as compared to 18% in Europe. Interestingly, we Americans formerly spent over 15% on our food back at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, at a time when heart disease, obesity, and type-II diabetes were rare.

It has been the USDA's disastrous promotion of cheap food (at any cost to the environment, animal welfare, human health, national security) through a policy of artificially cheap corn and oil, that has created this problem.

So, when you get a burger at Mc Donald's for a buck, its not because corporate America is better at what they do than your struggling local farmer, but because our tax dollars make their products artificially cheap.

Just something to think about...thanks for listening to my rant.



Why I can't sell you a chicken at farmers market in Maryland

Hello blogger friends!

Here is a copy of a letter I recently sent to the Maryland Farm Bureau asking for their help in getting outdated poultry processing requirements off the books in our state. This would allow us to sell on-farm processed chickens to our farmers market customers within the state, something they are clamoring for. K.

Hello Farm Bureau,

My name is Kent Ozkum and I own a small farm operation in Frederick County, Maryland. We are a certified-organic, grassafed and finished operation that targets high-end consumers in Maryland and D.C. By providing a very high-quality product to a niche (but rapidly-growing) market, we are able to produce a high return on our small farm of only 30 acres.

I recently rejoined the Farm Bureau with the encouragement of my state Senator Brinkley and Delegate Stull after quiting a few years ago. At that time, I felt (as do many small producers within in the state) that the Farm Bureau does not represent them equitably within the state. I hope that this is no longer true and thought I would give it another try.

Issues that are important to myself and producers like me are:

1. Organic production as a viable and sustainable model for agriculture into the future.

This does not mean that there is no place for current models commonly in use in the U.S. but lets have some equal time for alternatives. (I think its useful to remember that current agricultural practices in the U.S. have been in use for about 75 years - traditional farming really refers to agricultural practices that precede that and were in use for about 10,000. years).

2. Policies like on-farm processing of poultry and rabbits for resale direct-to-consumer at local farmer's markets. Current state regulations arbitrarily allow on-farm sales but NOT sales at farmers markets, effectively killing the production and sale of poultry and rabbit direct-to-consumers in the State.

Why is that so, you might ask? There are NO USDA inspected poultry processing facilities in the State open to small producers and crossing state lines adds an entire new gamut of regulation, testing, etc that must be met in order to process our birds in Pa or Virginia, not to mention the 3 to 8 hours travel time each way and the costs that incurs.

Free-range poultry sell for $4 to 6/lb. in the local marketplace and the only barrier to taking advantage of this market is state regulation that goes above and beyond what the USDA requires with no evidence of increased safety.

3. Promotion of value-added production like cheese-making as a way of maximizing profits for small producers.

Having grown up in New York and Vermont, both states have created a very strong local agricultural movement based on artisanale products that maximize profit for the farmer. These products have created an entire food movement based around these farms.

These models have been based on the experiences commonly seen in the Napa Valley and many places in Europe, and they work especially well in places where land costs are high, like Maryland.

4. Promotion of small-farm incubators to allow young farmers to enter into farming - this specifically targets young people who are not fortunate enough to inherit an existing farm to enter farming as a career. As you know, the demographics of farming are changing and unless we do something quickly, there won't be enough farmers in our lifetime.

Currently, Montgomery County is setting up a program whereby young farmers can lease parcels from the county at a much reduced rate and receive help in setting up their farm business free of charge.

I don't see any of these types of issues being addressed in your current POLICIES section and was wondering if perhaps I overlooked them?

If the Farm Bureau wants to remain current and attractive to young, innovative farmers, these are the kinds of programs and products that consumers are asking for and younger farmers find attractive.

Farm policies need to be more inclusive than just protecting lands rights issues and the status quo.

I would be happy to work with the farm bureau to generate some policy statements in regards to these types of issues.

A few of the farmers in our area that share our interests and passions for these issues include: Kathy Ecker (Washington County), Rick Hood (Frederick County), Will Morrow (Frederick County), Mike Akey (Carroll County), Ron Holter (Frederick County), and Eric Wakefield (Frederick County).

I look forward to hearing from you and to speak with Ms. Connelly and Mr. Fuchs about these issues in the near future.


Kent Ozkum
Whitmore Farm
10720 Dern Road
Emmitsburg, M.D. 21727