Abbe Hills Farm CSA

  (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)
[ Member listing ]

Long newsletter, a lot on my mind this week!

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
This week's market is tomorrow, December 15, 11:00 until 1:00 at the Community Center in Mt. Vernon.  Charlotte and I will be there with bread, eggs, cabbages of various sorts, and garlic.  There will be lots of vendors with crafts and treats that would be good Christmas gifts. 
 
If you get new tires for Christmas, and your old set is in pretty good shape (good enough to run around a farm, not good enough to drive to Des Moines in the winter) and will fit 15" rims, I would be happy to have them.  Seems like I keep running out of 15" tires.  Too many wheels around here, I guess.
 
Matt Steigerwald, chef and owner of the Lincoln Cafe and Lincoln Wine Bar in Mt Vernon, and I started an exciting project last week.  We are both interested in making the world a better place, keeping stuff out of the landfill, and saving money.  After being mutually inspired by a series on food waste on NPR a couple of weeks ago, his people have started collecting all the kitchen and plate waste from the two restaurants, and I have started bringing it home for the chickens / compost pile.  So far, so good, and very exciting that we are making it work. 
 
But, it's complicated.  His people have to negotiate one more thing in their very small kitchens, and I have to make a trip to town every morning.  I can't help Matt's space problems, but if I'm going to persist, I'll need a delivery assistant.  I'm looking for somebody who drives by here most days, probably on the way to work, who would be willing to stop at the back door of the restaurant between 9:00 and 10:00 every morning and pick up a couple of heavy bags of food, then dump them in/near the compost pile here.  I can pay them with a CSA share and/or eggs.  There will be complications when the snow finally gets here and the road gets bad, but we can figure out how to make it work when the obstacles present themselves.  I don't want anybody to make a special trip to do this job, however.  The idea is to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and making one more trip in the car will cancel our good works.  So, if you know somebody reliable, strong, brave on icy gravel roads, and already going in this direction, please have them call me.
 
If you are a weather geek like me, you'll like reading the latest from Dr. Elwyn Taylor, THE weather and climate guy for Iowa.  He's not optimistic about the drought ending any time soon.  Bummer.
 
In 1972, the Clean Water Act became the primary federal law on water pollution.  Since then, water quality has improved in lots of places, especially where the pollution came from a point source like a pipe from a factory or sewage treatment plant.  But it hasn't worked so well in Iowa.  We still have appallingly poor water quality, with 80-90% of our pollution problems coming from non-point sources like farm fields and lawns.  Our biggest pollutant is soil, and the two nutrients that run into our surface waters along with the soil are nitrogen and phosphorus.  Soil and nutrients in the water are bad for those of us who use water here, and of course, become a problem in the Gulf of Mexico eventually. 
 
Here's a newly released study from the Environmental Working Group that describes the nature of our water quality problem and offers policy suggestions to start to solve it.  EWG is willing to suggest that the voluntary approach that we've used for the last 40 years to get farmers to practice conservation that will reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff hasn't worked all that well, and needs to be juiced up with some kinds of regulations.  These, or course, are fighting words to most farmers.
 
Because of our lack of progress in meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act and the continued growth of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2008, Iowa was ordered by EPA to come up with a plan to tell what we are going to do to reduce the size, severity, and duration of the dead zone.  Iowa's plan, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, was released last week.  It recommends that we continue to use the voluntary approach to solve our non-point problems.  Most farmers and farm groups support this plan of attack and the document is on its way to becoming our state policy.  The report's not exactly an easy read, but the executive summary is manageable.  It will make you a better citizen.
 
Whatever approach we end up with, it's going to have a big impact on all of us, both farmers and taxpayers, primarily because the improvements we need to make to reduce our contributions of nitrogen and phosphorus (soil loss will decrease at the same time) are BIG and EXPENSIVE.   Either way, the Legislature is going to have to deal with it this session, and we're going to have to help them get us moving on this big challenge.
 
I believe that we need to do something about natural resource conservation RIGHT NOW.  Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of confidence that farmers are going to step up as much as they need to in this time of very high crop prices, based on our history and what I see.  I HATE being regulated, but I also HATE standing by and watching our irreplaceable soil and water resources being degraded.  I know from my experience here on my own farm that we can improve soil and water quality with some easy and not-so-easy changes in farming practices, that we can still grow lots of food, and that we can make enough money to support ourselves and our communities.  I'm happy that we're finally going to address the issues.  I hope you will get involved.  Informed and thoughtful eaters and taxpayers need to be participants in the discussions. 
 
I think our next market is Saturday, January 5, in Mt. Vernon.  The chickens are going to lay a lot of eggs between now and then.  Please stop by whenever you need more.  I plan to be home most of the time.
 
Hope to see you at the market,
Laura
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