Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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a lot of ways we are environmental activist. We belong to
many groups that support environmental practices. We attend
continuing education classes as a way to keep our nutrient management
certification or certified farmer status as it is called in Maryland.
are members of various groups local and national that relate to
specific functions associated with the farming community and specifically to
environmental issues that we practice. We practice what we preach,
that is how, with confidence, we can give tours of our sustainable
operation and impart ways that non-farmers can help the environment in their
there is the consumer activist side that dictates my spending
habits. I firmly believe, and economics proves, that my money speaks
louder than I do. After each of my posts I implore the buy local
mantra. I have learned that if you do not walk the
walk, you cannot talk the talk. It is that simple, I am not
naïve, I know that there are limits based on income. However, I know of a lot of people who are spendavist and products labeled Non-GMO Project Verified are their targets.
you find a genuine sustainable farmer support them. Speak up with your money
and gratitude. These people are working and committing themselves to your
health and the health of your family and generations to come. It is important
to note that if we all made choices to support local businesses and
growers then the industrial food complex will react. If you look at the
countries that ban GMO's it will surprise you. One of the latest
country's to refuse GMO food from US big Ag is China. China, the same
producers that brought us high sulfuric dry-wall, leaden toys
and clothing, killer pet food and treats.
admit, I was stunned to learn that they rejected GMO's, then I got scared. It
was one of those out of body experiences a moment of clarity
that solidified my stance against eating GMO's. Then knowing that we
have joined a cause that really is a worldwide issue adds to the pressure to
is not just us in the USA, it is humans all over this planet. We are
all in it together and it is a fight for future existence. What I see is that
it is greater than all of us and will impact future generations. The science
points this out but does not reach as drastic a conclusion. It merely
states the facts as they find them. If however, nothing changes then
the environmental impact continues in an increasingly negative way and we
will run out of clean resources.
local is not a fad, it is a core shift in how we as individuals can
communally join hands and fight for those who will inherit this earth long
after we are gone. Because it is those people who will suffer the greatest but
it also you who will benefit now. Spend your money in a way that helps you,
your community and your lineage. Be a spendavist, use your money to dictate
what big Ag should be doing. It is the only voice they know to listen
to. If the money stops flowing they will change course to capture it back.
Local: Help make a difference and impact the future in a
Posted by Brian
@ 08:08 PM EST
It is farmer’s market time. From the beginning of our foray into growing professionally, eventually you hear someone say “So and so grows using organic methods but they are not certified”. Then it is usually followed up with "They say it is too expensive," or "The paper work is too much". Oh, really, I am sorry I just do not buy it. As a consumer if you hear that walk away. If they are going to talk the talk then they should walk the walk.
These folks usually are wannabe’s and are in it for the money. If they were true to the principles, they could register as "Organic Exempt". It is the minor leagues of certified organic and costs a whopping thirty-five dollars to register and you do not get audited, you do have to submit the appropriate paperwork but it is no where never the volume the certified folks have. What they are really telling you is they follow organic practices until something goes wrong then they pull out conventional herbicides, insecticides and fungicides to save their crops.
The first excuse “It is too expensive”. What are they talking about? Is it the certification fee or the cost of inputs for use in the growing practice? If it is the former, it is simply not true. There is a five hundred dollar certification fee; however, if you pass you get four hundred dollars back. Therefore, they cannot be referring to the certification fee. Now if it is the latter then they are not using organic methods. The reason organics is more expensive is that you are using basic organic ingredients. Ingredients that if it rains are washed off and you have to reapply or have a very limited shelf life. Again, if they are referring to the inputs as being too expensive they are not using true organic methods and they are in violation of the National Organic Program and undercutting everything that hundreds of thousands of us do on a daily basis and demeaning the integrity of the organic label.
If they say they are natural, what does that mean. We use plants that are indigenous to our area. That way they grew up and evolved to cohabitate in our growing area. Meaning they can defend themselves from viruses, insects, weather conditions and other environmental factors. But I can tell you we still have to help the plants out every now and then. More often then not really but it is because our environment is changing faster then the plants can evolve. BMSB is just one of many factors that would lend credence.
Let us face it; they use those words to draw you in, to give you a false sense of comfort. They know you are not going to get a tissue sample or evaluate their soil for chemicals. We have to though. At any point, the MDA or USDA can come onto our farm and take samples of plant tissue or our soils. Then they will do a chemical analysis and determine if in fact there are non-organic substances. The people that say they use organic methods do not face that scrutiny. Nor do they face an audit each year. This brings us to the second excuse.
“There is too much paper work,” Once again hundreds of thousands of us in the United States and the rest of the world can do it. We both work full time jobs and we are able to keep up with the paper work. I know that there are some that truly think they are adhering to organic principles but if you are not certified or exempt you have no business advertising your food as organic, organically grown, or using organic methods. Actually if you are not certified or exempt you are not allowed to use the word “Organic” at all, period. Unless you want to pay a ten thousand dollar fine. All natural, aqua-ponic, perma culture any of these terms replace organic, but no, the word that conjures money in their mind is organic and that is why they say, “We grow using organic methods”. Just say thanks and walk away. The better educated you are the worst chance they have of ripping you off and providing you something lesser then true organics.
As a consumer, we are always under attack by charlatans, a huckster posing as growers trying to cash in on what they think is a lucrative market niche, without really having to do the work, the research or spend the money that it takes to handle outbreaks. Instead, they pretend and take the easy way out, when honestly they are just con artists.
If you are going to talk the talk, walk the walk. If it was easy everyone would do it but growing organic is not easy, it is mentally taxing, hard physical labor on the hottest days of the year, inputs are expensive and outcomes heartbreaking at times. The longer you do it the more you learn, the more audits you go through the stronger you become. Then you hear someone say so and so grows using organic methods, yeah and I am good looking. Unfortunately, just because I say it, does not make it so.
Buy Local: Ask questions, if they say they, use organic methods ask for their certification. Otherwise, walk away feeling proud you were not duped.
Posted by Brian
@ 12:05 PM EDT
BPA, BHA, BHT, DDT, PCB's Sodium Nitrate and Nitrites, 2, 4-D, 2, 4-T Atrazine, Glyphosate and Phthalates, all chemicals that the manufacturer has claimed were safe backed up by studies they funded. Atrazine is not supposed to stay in the human body (according to industry research), yet Canadian researchers found it in the blood of pregnant women and then in their umbilical cords. Does that mean it will be in the fetus? Scientist have reported that pigs eating GMO corn leaves them with higher stomach inflammation then those fed non-gmo corn they have also found a new mutation in the DNA of GMO corn called Gene VI known as a viral gene. Viral as in virus.
Atrazine, is an endocrine disruptor found to castrate and feminize frogs, bass and other predictor species. What do you think it is doing to fetuses? We have a problem with our food supply. Additives, preservatives and other synthetic substances are in our food with very little empirical research focusing on the affect to the human body. Bombarded by health claims that truly are false, Michael Pollan in his book “In Defense of Food,” stated rather bluntly that if the package reports to be healthy or has any other claim of benefits, to the human body, it is not. He went on to say, paraphrasing: read the ingredients, if the ingredients were not around when your grandmother was alive it is not good for you. Whole foods are good for you, fruits vegetables, nuts and berries and yes, the occasional protein input
It is our time; we as a nation are a spending economy. If we do not spend, then the one percent does not make money. Raise your voice with your wallet. Shop local, support local business, go to the mom and pop stores, and most of all source your food. Find a local farm or CO-OP and ask questions; most importantly buy products labeled as NON-GMO. Each of us has a duty to those less informed about their food choices. You will hear "I cannot afford the prices of organic or naturally grown". I know given economic choices hard decisions are made, but that does not mean you have to make the wrong choice. As Pollan pointed out in his book, we spend money now for cell phones, cable, internet, internet games, streaming video and other services that we never had to before. Once again, it comes down to choice. It is a choice that profoundly affects the future health of you and those to come after us.
I know it is a radical suggestion, but by making that choice, you are supporting people that are benefiting the air you breathe, the food you eat and the earth that your family inhabits. Besides, your taxes already go to pay for environmental ills caused by those that sell you this cheap, chemically laden food. My question is why would you want to support that? By staying local, you build your community backup. The money you spend on a farm or at a farmers market goes to pay for local labor, local supplies and kept in your community.
Do not kid yourself, you are paying a larger price then you know, the choice you make today influences the lives of our future generations. The science of today has proven the ill affects of the chemicals mentioned above. Given the greed that we see around us from big-ag, would you have any other reason to believe that this history is not going to repeat itself? GMO makers might have the upper hand but you my friend have the greatest gift to benefit yourself and future generations, you have a choice.
Buy Local: Help the hundreds of thousands of us, struggling to bring you fresh, safe, food
Posted by Brian
@ 12:37 PM EDT
There is no denying that science has been a crucial function in the evolution of man. Scientist are held with high regard and esteem in this country and elsewhere and rightly so, for their dedication is what has moved us out of the dark ages and into today’s light. We think of scientist as being pure of heart and morally motivated for the good of humanity and everything that inhabits the earth. However, with every profession a percentage are motivated by means that are nefarious and or dubious at best. Like the scientist that backed big tobacco for decades proclaiming the products relative safety.
There is a difference between those that recommend a new substance or process, that they think will improve life, health and understanding of things not known; as opposed to those that sell their soul for whatever the cost to produce a report that backs up their benefactors claim. Take a minute, how many events can you think about where this scenario has played out. Our history is littered with bad science and manipulated data so a few of the rich can get richer.
I use scientific studies to make decisions and learn how to take care of a particular problem or system. Yet here I am about to blame science for our human and environmental ills. That hypocrisy is not lost on me. That is why when someone approaches me to discuss the “falsehoods” of organic food I let him or her talk and agree with what is said. Let’s face it, for every scientific study pointing to a benefit of organics there is one pointing in the other direction. You have to ask yourself, why someone would care or spend money on scientific research to refute a claim that a particular method was beneficial or detrimental unless they see or fear an intruder in their wallets. With that kind of motivation there will be rigging of results to benefit the existing status quo. Besides the undisputed facts are that organic food is easier on the environment, does not cost as much and does not have trace amounts of carcinogens, end of argument, debate and story.
For those of you questioning the "cost" statement, you need to take into account the tax dollars being spent to detect, identify, clean and restore our environment to its natural existence due to the imbalance brought on by inputs from conventional farming practices. If you read the literature that is against organics it speaks to how there is no difference, that sustainable/organic practices cannot feed the world and that organics is not scaleable among others. When pro-organic studies come out the IFC is quick to refute those claims with scientific claims of its own. However, it is what they chose not to address that is the most telling.
You never hear of a scientific report refuting the damage being done to our environment and our health. Maybe the IFC learned from tobacco to leave the health issue claims alone. I have not read anything that refutes recent studies finding Atrazine present in the human body. First, it was blood in pregnant women, and then it was found in umbilical cords. It is now known that Atrazine does not pass through the body as we were lead to believe and the build up is causing genes to mutate and metastasize. How can a male bullfrog become feminized if Atrazine left the body? Diactyl, 2-4,D, Atrazine, and all the other endocrine disrupters being used in the IFC, is starting to showing long term affects on us and the flora and fauna. In 2014, Dow-Chemical is getting ready to sell Agent Orange corn seeds. Which means 2,4-D is back in production and ready for even wider use in the United States.
Good science has found a viral gene in the DNA helix of GMO products. This gene identified as GENE VI is a virus that was newly discovered and this causes great concern about its effects on the human body. This is after the manufacture assured the government and the public (with scientific studies) that GMO would not harm animals or humans if ingested. This new finding indicates otherwise. Then there is nano-titanium dioxide (NTD). Have you all noticed that your ketchup does not cling to the sides of the bottles anymore?
Thank NTD, never mind the only independent study done was at UC Berkley, it lasted two years and they found health risks and organ failures in lab rats. Never mind that the England banned the substance. Things like NTD are added all the time to our food supply and we as the consumer are kept in the dark. The IFC will not say they use it and if they do, then the IFC got it into the food supply with a GRAS designation. Generally recognized as safe is what FDA, USDA, EPA and other agencies use to fast track new substances. However, you will never hear that it is being used, how about your mustard or mayonnaise if the inside of the bottle is clean and the entire product is at the bottom, then my guess is NTD is in the substance. The product consistency is still the same, then what changed to make it do that.
Some will say it is normal debate, that people have different opinions and so forth. However, I was taught that you start with a hypothesis and develop a scientific study that can be replicated to prove or disprove the hypothesis. The IFC is trying to thwart science, with support from ALEC, by trying to pass "Ag-Gag" laws, and other ways to hide their problems. We are all paying a price that is not known and we end up being test dummies for the new technology that the IFC adds to the food supply. While the few who are making money off the technology will continue to benefit, in order to remain healthy, the rest of us are left to be our own food scientist.
Buy Local: It is the only way
Posted by Brian
@ 12:18 PM EDT
Without knowing at the time, I first learned about the degradation of our food supply before I was a teenager. Sad really, but I now know what I thought was a bad idea really was. It was the late sixties, early seventies and we had a High’s ice cream store down the street. I loved their Butter Brickle ice cream, I do not know what butter brickle is I just know it was decedent.
One day I went to the store and got my favorite, only this time it tasted different. It did not have the same taste. Now, I ate it, but I dismissed what I tasted knowing the next time it would be okay. However, the next time I got my favorite the taste was off again. It then occurred to me that something had changed and for the worst, but still not really understanding that what I was witnessing was the demise of all things natural, tasty and actually healthy. I did not know it at the time but the industrial food complex started to bring chemistry into our food supply because it increased their profits, not the consumer’s health. When the flavor of your ice cream changes a ten-year-old palette is spot on even though a child’s palette is not that sophisticated.
I stopped buying butter brickle and went back to vanilla. When their vanilla changed, I stopped buying ice cream. Through the years, I would try different makers but never got that taste. I still eat ice cream but we make it ourselves from the cream of an organic Guernsey cow’s milk. No chemicals, preservatives, hormones, steroids or antibiotics, flavor enhancer’s stabilizers nothing but sweet cream. While being fun to make it is healthier to eat.
Say, what you want about the advancement of food science, one thing for sure is that the greedy have used it at the detriment of taste, health and the environment. I am sure everyone can remember a special food or treat that one day changed taste. I am not talking about new Coke versus old Coke, but that made from staples, milk, eggs, meat, breads, fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, we are the generation that saw the humble, tasty tomato turned into a tasteless cardboard orb. There is no argument that anyone could make about the benefits of food science without feeling a modicum of shame when talking about the tomato.
The bastardization of our foods is why the "Slow Food", "Local Food", "Sustainable/Organic" food movements have been gaining in followers and spreading around the world. Slow food started in Italy, organic started in the European community and local food came about in the United States. Sustainable agriculture is a worldwide initiative, as it should be. If we do not take care of our environment, our children’s children will be the ones to feel the brunt with future generations in even greater peril. As you read this there are people out there trying to protect us from GMO’s. Monsanto on the other hand spent millions to defeat Prop 37 in California. This is all to close to the great tobacco debate for my comfort. How many years did big tobacco provide scientific evidence that cigarettes were not bad?
That is why what small farmers do is vital to the future of the environment and health of all humans. Have you ever heard of a recall from a local farm or a local butcher? While the New York Times and Wall Street Journal print stories about how sustainable farming will not work, they conveniently leave out the facts from decades of studies. From the beginning of our nation to the 1950’s farmers were organic. Chemicals were not introduced into the farm model until after WWII, when the government had to do something with their stockpile of ammonium nitrate from unused bombs.
A scientist found it made a good fertilizer but also fed weeds. You know the rest, as the “green revolution", took foothold. As chemical use rose so did cancer rates, upper respiratory problems, food borne allergies and most importantly the decline of nutritional values in all of our fruits and vegetables. USDA has been keeping track of nutrient values for produced fruits and vegetables since the 1950’s and since then the nutrient values have declined.
That fact shocked me but I guess it did not surprise me. I learned a long time ago that an organic plant would struggle to get nutrients from the ground and conventional plants do not. That struggle makes the plant nutritious and tasty, the saying “that which does not kill you serves to make you stronger,” really fits. America's diet, known as the Western diet, is from highly refined grains and sugars, high fat and little organic or nutrient benefit. To learn more read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”. It is informative and gives vetted reasons why obesity and other Western diseases are prevalent here but not in France, where their diet is high in fat and sugars. Known as the French paradox in nutritional circles, their diet creates a conundrum for Western food scientist, who can not explain how such an unhealthy diet does not cause the rates of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and obesity that afflict American eaters.
When you consider Americans use to eat as the French, before the 1950’s, questions about todays dietary diseases naturally occur, especially when you hear the French do not have the numbers of obese people, heart attacks, food allergies and all the other Western anomalies in comparison to our numbers. Not only has food science played a roll in the degradation of our nutrient sources but of taste. It has taken forty years but I am finally understanding and able to connect the dots.
Buy Local: Now that you know, what will you do?
Posted by Brian
@ 08:15 PM EST
There was a study a while ago linking Atrazine to the castration and feminization of frogs in test labs. Frogs are known as a predictor species. Predictor species have human genetic make-ups, that is, their internal organs and systems are most like humans so scientist can see what is happening to them and extrapolate what can happen in the human body. Industrial farms and large operations use Atrazine primarily in weed control applications. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the affects that Atrazine is having on the environment. The study conducted at UC Berkley and published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" spoke to the affects of Atrazine. .
As you would expect the maker of the weed suppressant is fighting the study and pointing to every flaw they can find. Interestingly, the author of the study worked for the maker of Atrazine years before. His findings showed Atrazine to be an endocrine disruptor but the manufacture dismissed the report. Remember feminized bass, they are a prime example of what an endocrine disruptor can do and bass are predictor species too. The other problem of concern, with the use of Atrazine, is the development of the super-weed.
Weeds are becoming round-up resistant. Leave it to Mother Nature to put man in his place. Therefore, we have weeds now that are resistant to Atrazine, one of the chemicals used in Round-up. Which means these new weeds are going to need a stronger chemical in which to control or eliminate them. That chemical, scientist have said, is 2, 4-D. 2, 4-D is an unknown chemical to you and me until you hear the product name it was used in. 2, 4-D was the major ingredient in Agent Orange. The use of Agent Orange occurred in the sixties and seventies until all hell broke lose when those exposed to the herbicide started getting sick. However, I digress.
The endocrine system regulates hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Any wonder feminization and castrations is taking place in frogs found with high levels of endocrine disruptors. I cannot make this stuff up, yet those charged with protecting our food, environment and health are benefiting from the very industry they are suppose to regulate. They rely on scientific data where the funds to conduct the study often comes from the manufacturer or industry pushing the chemical.
Am I missing something, is it that we die off and are replaced by other people who spend and that is why killing us to make a profit is okay. Why would we expect the FDA or EPA to crack down on the use of endocrine disruptors? Things have to get out of control like Thalidomide, DDT, Bisphenal A (plastic containers) and Phthalates (cosmetics), before the public is warned and then protected from those that seek profit no matter the outcome.
If this is happening to the frogs then what is happening to the humans that have to work around the stuff and ingest trace amounts. If you think washing the food will help think again. You just cannot wash this stuff off; if you could then it would not be affective in the field when rain comes. It has to be able to withstand water in order to be affective in the field. That and the fruit and vegetable actually absorb and contain trace amounts of the chemicals used on them.
Twenty-five years ago, we started growing organic because I learned about trace amounts of chemicals on and in my food. To me “trace amounts,” means the “existence of”. My thought was if I were trying to eat healthy why I would ingest trace amounts of carcinogenic chemicals. I am sorry, I respect science and scientist but they are human and we as a society do not have a good record of accomplishment when it comes to protecting people over profit. If we did, big tobacco would not be the standard-bearer by which we judge corrupt corporate malfeasance in the pursuit of profit over health.
Buy Local- Save a frog, a bass, yourself and the environment by doing so
Posted by Brian
@ 10:29 AM EST
Well the industrial food complex won this latest round in the fight to have a safe food supply. The IFC pumped enough money into the California proposition 37 to convince people that labeling GMO foods, as such, was not warranted.
It passed by a slim margin so there is still hope. The fight will go on, those of us dedicated to safe, sustainable food supply are growing. More people everyday are learning about the ills of GMO foods. More research is coming out pointing to the flaws of GMO food. Studies that report findings of GMO corn in the placenta of pregnant women and in there blood samples.
Unfortunately, for the uneducated American consumer some of them or their family members will end up being a statistic in the whole GMO debate. There is just too much information out there that suggests we need to re-evaluate the use of GMO food. Why are we the only industrialized nation in the world that allows GMO's in our food supply?
Could it be the lobbyist that the IFC spends millions on to peddle influence when it comes to food policy? Or is it the government relying on studies conducted by the IFC that prove GMO's are safe?
Either way it should cause you some concern. Corporations are not people; they have no heartbeat, no endocrine system, no feelings and no regard for human safety other then what their insurance policies dictate. Okay, so I am cynical, but I know the bottom line and we as a nation have become so bottom line driven that the human equation is not even taken into account. Actually, a car company made a car that when it was rear-ended the gas tank exploded. That car company did a cost benefit analysis and found that it would be cheaper to pay for death and personal damages then to recall all the cars and put a ten-dollar part in the car (Elkhart County, Indiana v. Ford Motor Company). That was back in the seventies before the real greed and bottom line decision making got worse.
I will ask again, if GMO is not bad for the human body, which predictor species show is not the case, then why doesn't the IFC open up the research findings? Why have the EU, Mexico and other countries outright ban the use of GMO seeds, let alone food for human consumption? This battle was lost, but it is just but one bump. As long as there are concerned foodies fighting for a safe food supply, we will prevail. Lobbyist or not we will prevail.
By Local: By organic and you will know it is not GMO.
Posted by Brian
@ 06:32 PM EST
To show you how important GMO is to the industrial food complex (IFC) you only need to look at California’s Proposition 37. It is a bill that would require food manufacturers to label foods made with GMO tainted products. Why is this important to you? Because as California goes so goes the Country. California represents about 12% of the total food consumed in the United States.
The IFC has poured in over 25 million dollars to defeat the referendum. Monsanto alone has contributed 4 million to defeat the measure. Coke, Pepsi and others have contributed as well. People are suggesting boycotting these companies. I suggest eating healthy. Eat whole foods that you know do not contain GMO's. GMO’s have been getting bad press about the ill it is causing in the human being, the environment and the flora and fauna.
More of us want food that does not have GMO added. The EU and other countries do not allow GMO in there food supply and there are reasons for that. To me the bottom line with GMO is that an anti-biotic needs to be spliced into the DNA helix in order for the DNA to accept the modified trait being introduced. Then there is the actual substance that is being placed in the DNA. Let me explain, the anti-biotic helps the DNA accept the modification into its makeup say the round-up gene. Round-up ready corn has the round-up gene spliced into its DNA with the help of the anti-biotic. Then if we eat tacos, corn chips or whatever is made with the substance that genetic modification is consumed along with the anti-biotic strain.
That is my elementary understanding, I am not a scientist, and I have no empirical facts other then observations. Those observations are the following: more viruses are becoming anti-biotic resistant, more food borne allergies are being reported, scientist report environmental impacts like feminization and castration of predictor species and flora is starting to become round up resistant. In essence making a super-weed that is impervious to weed killers and strain of viruses that are anti-biotic resistant. Which in turn leads to the need for even more nefarious chemicals to control the weeds. 2.4-D for instance would be used. 2,4-D was the checmical in agent orange.
We are certified organic and GMO drift is one of those things that must be monitored and stopped if possible. I can tell you it is not possible unless you have a very isolated well-protected field you are susceptible to GMO propagation of your plants. We take great pains to find out what is being planted around us and when the germination is going to start to take place. We then plant around that window of propagation. It is the only way I know how to safely grow food. Sometimes we will not plant corn a second time due to drift potential.
The same people that developed GMO technology are the ones that recommended the use in the US food supply. That fact alone answers the question of is it bad for you. If it was healthy wouldn't they open it up to transparency just to prove it is not harming the environment or us?
Buy Local: They do not use GMO.
Posted by Brian
@ 08:29 AM EDT
Recently there was as a study published by a Stanford researcher about the merits of organic versus conventional food. Specifically the study looked at the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables and the cost difference between organic and conventional food. Although there are studies that refute these findings: University of Washington, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0012346 , http://www.bioneers.org/programs/food-farming-1/articles-interviews/organic-food-has-a-higher-nutrient-content-an-interview-with-charles-benbrook and http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/06/16/best.organic.produce/index.html I tend to stay away from all of the back and fourth and look at the undisputed facts.
First, conventional food contains trace amounts of carcinogenic chemicals http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/172223 . Trace amounts that are allowed per FDA, USDA and EPA standards. Yet every year we find that what was once approved is now harming us. Diactyl and Bisphenal-A (BPA) are the most recent that come to mind. Diactyl causes lung cancer, which is a fact. However, for years it was allowed in the food supply particularly in butter-flavored popcorn and other foodstuffs. That is until people started getting lung cancer due to build up of Diactyl in the body. Then there is BPA. BPA is an endocrine disrupter and is shown to cause birth defects in children and hinder their mental development. Recently studies have shown that BPA is narrowing arteries in adults. The list of approved then disapproved fungicides, insecticides, additives and preservatives just keeps growing.
Second, there is the environmental detriment big industrial farms create while they produce all of the meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables. One example is Atrazine, an herbicide. Atrazine has been linked to castrating bullfrogs and feminizing bass http://www.sfgate.com/green/article/Study-says-herbicide-causes-frogs-sex-change-3197878.php . Yet it is still in use.
I would like to point out that there is a distinction between local conventional farmers and the big industrial corporate farms and imports. Our local farmers feed their family with the products they grow and produce. Their children and grandchildren play in the fields and water on the property. I know these farmers are much more judicious when it comes to using fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. I feel comfortable buying my sweet corn from Mayne’s Tree Farm or fruit from Bob Black at Catoctin Mountain Orchard.
Then there is the cost argument. What consumers do not take into account with conventional costs is that they pay for cleaning up the environment through their taxes not through the price of conventional food. With organic and sustainable farm practises, the cost of environmental protection and rejuvenation is built into the price of the product.
Your tax dollars go to environmental protection, clean up and rejuvination of our waterways and fields because of industrial farming practises. Environmental degradation from industrial farms have been well documented. So when they say conventional food is cheaper they are not telling you about these hidden costs. Ultimately, sustainable organic food is cheaper, safer and an environmentally sound agricultural practice.
Organic food does not have trace amounts of carcinogenic chemicals, steroids, hormones or anti-biotic's. That is fact. Conventional food does contain trace amounts of most synthetic substances used in the production process and these trace amounts are not being processed out of the body like we are told. "Canadian researchers this year reported that the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women and 80 percent of their umbilical cord blood samples contained a pesticide implanted in GMO corn by the biotech company Monsanto, though digestion is supposed to remove it from the body. "Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed," they wrote in Reproductive Toxicology". http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-gmo-food-labeling--20110524,0,5841902.story.
Whether they are carcinogenic or not, to me, trace amounts means the existence of a substance. You would no more stick your finger in an insecticide, wipe it off on your pants then lick your finger with your tongue. Yet in essence, that is what you do when you eat conventional food from the industrial food complex.
If you think washing the food off before eating it protects you, think about rain. These chemicals are designed to stay on the vegetables when it rains. The effectiveness of the chemical would be useless to the industrial farmer if rain did wash them off. Organic sprays are water soluble, that is why each time it rains we need to retreat those plants that are in distress (raising operational costs).
If we know anything from the use of chemicals, it is that history proves that what was once considered safe is no longer the case, Thalidomide, Agent Orange, Benzene's, DDT, Diethylstilbestrol, Cyclamates, Bisphenal A, Diactyl, and Phthalates (cosmetics) are some. So what, if from a vitamin standpoint both conventional and organic are the same. From a health, safety, cost and environmental standpoint there is no comparison.
Buy Local: The earth will be a better place,
Posted by Brian
@ 08:51 AM EDT
There have been warnings about BPA (Bisphenal-A) for years. Now we read news that it is affecting more then just kids. BPA resides in food grade plastics and can linings. Scientist found that when BPA gets heated, by the sun or other means, it leaches into the substance it is suppose to protect. What it is protecting is the profits of the few at the detriments of the masses. When the product is eaten, BPA enters the body. Once again, the authorities will argue "trace amounts" to point to the relative safety of this supposed benign substance.
Yet, BPA is an endocrine disruptor (think castrated bullfrogs, feminized bass). It has also been proven to cause birth defects. However, the industrial food complex still disregards these findings and continues to use the substance in there packaging and canning material.
Now more adults are being adversely affected with the latest news that BPA is causing the narrowing of arteries. You cannot make this stuff up. We are actually supporting the people that are slowly poising us so that their stockholders and executives came make a fortune.
At our farm, we use corn containers, pulp and wood boxes and wooden bushel baskets. It is part of being organic but it fits our practice of environmental sensitivity. I do not think the cost of our containers and jars out-weigh the potential ill affect of using plastics made with BPA. Could we benefit from purchasing cheaper containers? Yes, we could, but not at the cost to the consumer, or environment or future generations. It is not within our DNA to sacrifice health for profit.
I have said it often; we are in it for the health not the wealth. Besides, there is no such thing as monetary wealth on a small farm. Wealth is measured against mostly environmental and sustainable health. Are we raking in tons of money, no, (for that matter not even ounces). However, our consumers get SAFE, fresh wholesome food and at the end of the day that is why we started growing for ourselves in the first place.
We just had this crazy idea that other people would want the same thing. If you are going out of your way to eat healthy why place yourself in peril because of the industrial food complex’s' penchant for the almighty dollar. Take the next step to find local farms. Small farms are out there and waiting for your support. Do something that the next few generations can look positively upon and makes them feel good. They will reap the benefits of the stand their parents and grandparents took on their behalf.
Buy Local: It might not be perfect looking but it is healthy and safe
Posted by Brian
@ 12:36 PM EDT
It is unique how we use euphemisms to describe the human condition. Like "No good deed goes unpunished", means usually you sacrifice time by helping someone or thing and you get dumped on for your sacrifice. There is, "Don't let the screen door hit you on the way out," meaning you are no longer welcome and cannot leave fast enough. Another lesser-known one is "Off farm income,” that's the euphemism for “works two to four jobs in order to pay all the bills associated with small farming and living”.
Off farm income is a category tracked by the USDA. When you look at those numbers, in the small farm catagory, it is appallinb. As of 2010, small farm income as a percentage of total farm-household income is projected to be a whopping 8.7 percent. Down from the 11.1 percent it was in 2008. That means that for every dollar of income a farm brings in, 91 cents is from "off farm income". As in "farms and works another job to earn enough in order to sustain an existence".
Okay, so I am late to the party, but is this normal? I mean, I know it is reality but is this normal for any industry. Let alone an industry whose main function is to provide a basic form of human sustainability. Maslow's paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation" points out the hierarchical needs of humans. The paper was accepted in academia in the forties and is still being taught today. After air and water, food is at the level that everything else in human life builds upon.
Food, water and air are what sustain human life. Would not small farmers producing food for human consumption be allowed to focus all their energies on producing that food in an environmentally sustainable way, be healthier then forcing them to use practices that are detrimental to the environment and humans because it saves time? Should not the person growing your food be able to spend the time learning new technology and methods in order to use and preserve scarce resources like soil and water? Why did we compromise the small family farm? What dove tails with the demise of the small family farm is manufacturing. As consumers, why have we left ourselves so vulnerable to other countries. We buy American as much as we can, it is almost as hard as growing. Try it, see for yourself.
You can very easily be mired in the economics of this argument but my point is to explain yet another hurdle that small farms face as part of being a sustainable, safe and eco-friendly operation. Small farms, as defined by the USDA, are those farms with net-income of $1,000 to $250,000 in gross sales. Small farms represent about ninety percent of all farms in the United States but make up only twenty percent of all gross farm sales.
Within the small farm category, there are two sub-categories, those that make fewer than 10,000 dollars and those making 10,000 to 250,000 dollars in gross sales. Sixty plus percent of small farms makes less than 10,000 dollars in gross annual sales. Thirty percent of small farms fall into the other category of gross sales over 10,000 dollars.
I am not saying that farming is the only profession in which people have to work two jobs in order to maintain some standard of living. The term “standard of living” is very subjective when it comes to the individual consumer. Economic compensation has always been disproportionate when you look at the value added to society from a particular profession. Teaching comes to mind, for instance. We put the weight of the world on our future generations but the people that are there to teach and prepare them for that burden are grossly under-paid.
The men and women that risk their lives whether in the military, law enforcement or other hazardous jobs face the same inequities. On the other side are those people that can put together complex derivatives and manipulate hedge funds such that they topple the economic stability of an entire country and they are valued economically at grossly astounding figures. Money does not feed a nation food does.
There is no wonder small farming is so incredibly hard when you see those numbers. The deck is stacked against you from the start; it is an uphill battle that most people would not think of taking on. As I tell our staff, “you all are very unique people, first off very few people choose to work such a physically demanding job and of those that try most cannot do it". We have a great staff of hardworking conscientious people. They never cease to amaze me with their eagerness to learn, there ability to understand, ask deeper questions and how they carry themselves.
We also have a business plan, one portion is strategic the other dynamic. Our long-term goals quite simply are to be sustainable both environmentally and economically. Our dynamic goals are geared more towards revenue generation and expenditure controls. The two are symbiotic but it is the strategic plan that we have the greater concerns about. Without the ability to be totally, sustainable we are not going to be in business long. At least ninety percent of small farms face this dilemma. When you find out that only nine cents out of every dollar is earned from farm activities you start to question the sanity of why anyone would get into a business like this (see Who in Their Right Mind).
We work full-time and I can attest to those numbers about outside income. We are a small farm and the total income from farm related activities, in a given year, has not been enough to cover just farm expenses, let alone what living expenses there are. Yet we persist, because each year we do a fraction better in terms of revenue, knowledge, our customer base, our reputation and our ability to expand yet keep the food safe and tasty. For us, it is important to do the right thing, to not shy away from hard work or impossible tasks and to help those that need help because that was instilled in me when I grew up. Growing safe, fresh food is as much a part of me as “off farm income”.
Buy Local: From a farmer that grows it not hucksters claiming they do
Posted by Brian
@ 08:40 PM EDT
The industrial food complex (IFC) is faced with another study showing the ills of atrazine on the human body, specifically the female anatomy. There seems to be more evidence showing reduced levels of estrogen and other abnormalities.
I read this in the Environmental Health News article. It started with this paragraph:
Women who drink water contaminated with low levels of the weed-killer atrazine may be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels, scientists concluded in a new study. The most widely used herbicide in the United States, atrazine is frequently detected in surface and ground water, particularly in agricultural areas of the Midwest. The newest research, which compared women in Illinois farm towns to women in Vermont, adds to the growing scientific evidence linking atrazine to altered hormones.
In early 2010, another published study revealed atrazine was castrating and feminizing bullfrogs. Before that, it was the feminization of bass. Both the bullfrogs and the bass are known as predictor species. That means their organs and other internal workings are much like that of humans. What happens to them is an indication that it can happen to humans.
Ask yourself, how long and how many of us will have to suffer because the IFC continues to make profits off the demise of our environment and to the detriment of our bodies? Do not forget we have still yet to hear anything about Nano-Titanium-Dioxide. I cannot help but think it is here and in our food supply. Just as we found out about GMO corn, my bet is we will find out about NTD the same way.
Posted by Brian
@ 04:08 PM EST
Now is the time to make your voice heard on GMO's and labeling food. The FDA is seeking public comment on lableing food products containing GMO's. It is time to stand up and help fight against the industrial food complex.
Follow this link, to let the FDA know that you want to be able to chose whether or not you eat GMO tainted foods. This is our time, when we stand up and say "I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore." (from the movie Network). Tell the FDA we want to know when a product has GMO's. When you talk about food safety it does not hit closer to home than this. When you talk about selfless acts and giving, now is the time.
GMO has not been proven safe for human consumption. As a matter of fact evidence exists that shows it is harmful to human beings. You do not have to be a scientist to question why are there so many super-bugs that are straining the use of anti-biotics and the fact that anti-biotics are spliced into the DNA of GMO food.
Please, follow the link and make your voice heard, for you, your family, your children and the generations to come. It is time to protect our food supply, our environment and our health. Today, right here, right now, more then ever, it is our time.
Buy Local: Keep the momentum up.
Posted by Brian
@ 03:29 PM EDT
Farming for profit, has there ever been a greater oxymoron? Okay, maybe humane slaughter is bigger but let us not split hairs. At least from the small farmer's stand point, when more than seventy-five percent of all small farms in the nation, bring in fewer than ten-thousand dollars a year, of farm income, is there true economic sustainability in small farming. Of course, these are USDA 2008 census numbers. We could have improved since then but it would be, marginally if at all.
This year we changed our business model in that we are concentrating our selling on farm only. The first three years growing, we sold at the bottom of the driveway and we made a modest profit. We abandon the farm for, what we thought were lucrative spots at farmer's markets. We stopped selling at farmer’s markets because we only sell what we grow. Because of our size, we cannot grow, as much so consequently we do not have a large variety. I want to be a successful grower, not a successful vendor. Selling only what we grow is hard because we do not have a bevy of different fruits and vegetables.
This year we decided to break our luck and go back to the farm. We set up signs pointing people up the drive to the house. We got six signs printed up and placed them throughout the neighborhood only to have two signs stolen, the first time we used them. Volume was not as great as hoped for, so we decided to move the veggies down to the street. We are taking the tractor and the wagon loaded with what we have and set up shop at the end of the driveway. It takes extra salesmanship and education but it feels right, lonely at times but at least not ALL day.
Knowing I can tell you the exact history of the fruit, vegetable, egg or chicken should be a valued commodity. The problem is we as consumers, do not ask the questions we should. Next time you are at a market, ask what the name of the fruit or vegetable is. The grower should be able to tell you the common name (lets face it, who can pronounce the Latin names?). Which type of basil or tomato? The point is the grower should be able to give you the characteristic or history of the plant. Another question to ask yourself is the fruit or vegetable in season where you are, in Maryland tomatoes are just starting to come in. Around here people selling sweet corn, before July 4th, are not selling what they grew.
As consumers, we sometimes fall short when sourcing our food, which is why the Maryland Department of Agriculture just came out with language and policies for selling “Local” produce at farmers markets. It goes to show you how widespread hucksterism has become, and how fed up consumers and real growers are becoming. This regulation would not have come about if there were not a large outcry from educated consumers and people that really sell what they grow. That is why it is called a “Farmer’s Market” not a Flea market
Being a small enterprise has great disadvantages, especially, when we go up against the bigger growers and grower associations. We did not take on this farm with star struck eyes but with the realization that failure was more likely then success. We are going back to the model that first made us money and that is by going down front.
That brings its own challenges. We are trying to figure out what is the least costly way to staff the cart. My suggestion bent towards the most logical and cost effective conclusion. The person that makes the least amount, on an hourly basis, should be the person to sit down at the end of the road and read his bug book.
So far, there has been some opposition to that plan from a member of the management team. I do not want to alienate anyone on the management team so I will leave my wife out of this. Seems even though I am not a paid employee (which makes me the lowest earner); I was informed, I have the most responsibility when it comes to overseeing safety, productivity and workforce harmony. The idea is still in debate.
I tried to unionize the workforce a couple of weeks ago but the vote was overwhelmingly defeated. Somebody made the stupid comment that management was good therefore no reason to unionize. I knew then, I was not working them as hard as I should. I have to juggle my roles. We will come up with a mix that allows some of our longest employees the ability to sit down at the stand and talk to customers, while I work in the blazing sun. Let us face it we are not a conventional business using conventional business models. Even though they are young and can work in the heat, it is important to us, to expose them to as many aspects of the operation as we can. in our minds we are molding future growers.
This past weekend we brought in more money then the previous weekend and I think this trend will just continue upward the longer we are down there. In the mean time:
BUY LOCAL: Do your family justice, find a local farm, ask questions and then support it if it feels right. If you do not get straight answers, it is probably because they are hucksters not growers.
Posted by Brian
@ 04:40 PM EDT
I read in the Chicago Tribune that there was a study on the existence of GMO's in the human body. It was about an article written in "Reproductive Toxicology" by Canadian researchers. The researches simply looked at blood from pregnant woman and then blood from the umbilical cord. What they were looking for was if there were any GMO's in the blood.
The Tribune article went on to say, "genetically modified crops differ in that the plants grow from seeds in which DNA splicing has been used to place genes from another source into a plant. In this way, the crop can be made to withstand a weed-killing pesticide "Think Atrizine- my words" for example, or incorporate a bacterial toxin that can repel pests. Canadian researchers this year reported that the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women and 80 percent of their umbilical cord blood samples contained a pesticide implanted in GMO corn by the biotech company Monsanto, though digestion is supposed to remove it from the body".
It is the "removed from the body," that is unsettling. Here we go again with those annoying trace amounts. This is what the Industrial Food Complex (IFC) and their equally huge lobbyists want everyone to believe. The article points out that trace amounts are okay as defined by the FDA, EPA and USDA. I use Diacetyl, again, as one of those chemicals that left trace amounts, but were supposed to be, processed out of the body. Instead, it caused lung cancer when a man consistently ate microwave popcorn. OHSA required workers that made microwave popcorn to wear masks that filtered the Diacetyl while they breathed. Why? Diacetyl, a known carcinogen, caused lung cancer when breathed consistently. Research said it was safe in trace amounts but not in the concentrated amounts that workers faced.
If you have the money, you can buy scientific studies. DDT, Asbestos, Agent Orange, Atrizine, Nicotine throw a dart. The cigarette industry proved for decades that their products were not addictive. Only until consumer advocacy groups and the ethics of a scientist, proved otherwise, but at that same time millions of us suffered through the loss of a loved ones linked to one carcinogen or another from the 316 plus chemicals in cigarettes. The tobacco industry and lobbyist had thousands of studies to document the safety or their product. Have corporations turned a leaf and have they become more ethical both environmentally and with what they sell us to keep our bodies healthy. Not when the bottom line is the goal, they are not.
Not only is research purchased the statistics can be manipulated based on a few factors, like standard deviation or the amount of data collected. It is like the banking industry and the housing market. The banks created categories of loans, bundled each one separately then sold the bundles. Then they bet against the bundle holding its worth. The bankers get rich, homeowner, takes the loss.
I realize that I am using a scientific study to justify the ills of GMO's. I am not missing the paradox. However, when you learn what DNA splicing is and how it is accomplished, you do not have to be a scientist to know there will be problems. I would rather error on the side of caution, especially when you find out that in order to get the corn DNA to accept the foreign DNA gene, and anti-biotic strain needs to be spliced in to the new DNA helix. There are stories of super bugs that have bacteria resistant strains. This does makes me wonder if there is a correlation.
The article failed to mention how we, as consumers, discovered GMO's in our food supply in the first place. I think it was in 2004 that a woman ate a taco shell made with GMO corn and had a bad reaction to the food. It was eventually determined GMO corn made up the taco shell. In European countries, regulations make the food industry prove that the changed chemical or genetic make up of the additive or preservative is safe for human consumption and cause no ill affect. In the US, it is Caveat Emptor, think of nano-technology and titanium dioxide.
I would bet that it is already in our food supply, we just have not found out about it yet. It is not as if the IFC was fourth coming with the whole GMO thing. That is another strong argument for buying organic as the article points out. It is against organic regulations to use any GMO anything. However, if GMO corn that was planted in Colorado shows up in a Mexican corn field you really wonder what chance does any organic farm have against cross pollination. Could it drift into organic production fields?
You bet your sweet @$$, it can. In the US organic requirement, you need to have at least a twenty-five foot wide hedgerow or buffer zone. Most of our buffer zones are greater than one hundred feet. However, when you find the same strain of GMO corn planted in Colorado in Mexico does a buffer zone really matter?
We need better labeling on our food. That is the only way we as consumers can make the industrial food complex clean up their act. When they are hit in the pocket, they will take notice and they will take action. Right now, their action is to fight against new labeling requirements.
If you want to buy GMO food, have at it. If you do not want to buy foods made with GMO products, the only way you can do that is to buy organic or have the label indicate that GMO is in the food. The industrial food complex is fighting hard to stop regulators from requiring new labeling that identifies GMO in their products. I wonder why? It would not have anything to do with the profit motive, do you suppose? Get active write your federal officials in favor of labeling GMO products as such.
Buy Local: Keep the momentum up, tell a friend to tell a friend
Posted by Brian
@ 05:49 PM EDT
I watched "GASLAND," on Showtime recently. It is a documentary made by Josh Fox that explores the process of Hydraulic Fracturing. Go to Waterunderattack.com. Once there you will see the effects that fracture drilling has on the water table. If you get to see "GASLAND" you will be affected and hopefully in a way that motivates you to contact your representative. .
It is unbelievable, I thought the Industrial Food Complex (IFC) was bad but natural gas drillers using the fracture method, developed by Halliburton, make them look like saints when it comes to health and social and environmental preservation. I do not have the vocabulary to describe the utter disdain for the environment and people with the use of this method. When you can light the water in your house on fire there is something drastically wrong with the way government is protecting our drinking water. When the secret chemicals that drillers use start showing up in the tap water, would not one naturally see a direct cause and affect relationship?
The following scenario happens hundreds of thousands of times: Water table is fine, community is not sick, air does not smell and water does not catch fire. Natural gas drillers come in; drill down to the gas using a process called hydraulic fracturing and put in a well. The elements that leach into the air and into the water table from this process are a toxic mix of carcinogenic chemicals. Chemicals by the way those natural gas drillers do not have to disclose.
Not only do they get away with not reporting what they use, but how much they use, and what gets collected back after use. It is known as the Halliburton loophole to the Clean Air and Water act. Why, you ask are they allowed to do this? It is because the Energy Bill of 2005 specifically exempts hydrofracking from the Clean Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Citizens Right-To-Know Act (Freedom of Information) and even EPA regulation. The EPA cannot regulate them. The Environmental Protection Agency is prohibited from regulating an industry that is ruining the very environment the Agency was setup to protect. Why do you think those provisions were specifically added to the bill?
You have to ask yourself, why do corporate citizens get this kind of treatment? Do not expect anything to change, with the Supreme Courts ruling on corporate campaign donations, the ability for the common citizen to protect themselves and their environment through their representative has been made moot because of that decision. We are all naïve if we believe that special interest groups will not move to the head of the line when it comes to getting favorable legislation passed.
It has been proven that the human body can go weeks without food. Water on the other hand is something that you cannot do without for less than half as long. Once again, the profit motive outweighs environmental impacts and personal health. It is alleged that because of the Halliburton loophole more people are lighting their water on fire, getting sick and dying from the type of cancers that coincide with the chemicals used in the drilling process. Because of independent water analysis, scientist and environmental advocates are starting to uncover just what secret chemicals are being used. Nevertheless, does the fact that you can set tap water on fire prove, in and of itself, that there is something drastically wrong? When people who have lived on their land for generations can point out the difference and still be ignored by the very government that is suppose to protect them is appalling.
People complain how our current President is ruining the Nation. What did Halliburton and the previous administration accomplish? Chaney formed the energy commission and met more than forty times with gas executives. To their credit, the commission met with environmental advocates one time. What came out of Chaney’s Energy Commission was the Energy Bill of 2005. I am not making a political statement. I am merely pointing out the impact the loophole has had on the environment and people’s health because it came to fruition from the previous administration. It lets natural gas driller’s have unfettered access to public land and the ability to use carcinogenic chemicals without having to clean them up, report what and how much they use and allows them to operate with no government or independent oversight. .
Stop fracture drilling before the chemicals they use get into water tables near you. Of course, unless you want to be able to light your drinking water on fire, fight against the drilling of the Marcellus Shale site.
Posted by Brian
@ 08:14 AM EDT
Judge not, lest ye be judged, as the saying goes. Just as you cannot tell how good a book will be by its cover, you cannot judge a reasonable person from a one-chance encounter. I have always been aware of how people pronounce the word ricotta. The national mispronunciation of this cheese bothers me more than the incorrect pronunciation of our farm name. I think one out of a hundred people will pronounce the name of the farm correctly. I am okay with that, it is any body’s guess whether the vowels are long or short in our name, Miolea, which comes from the previous owners and represents the beginning name of the son – Mike, mother – Olive and daughter Lea.
The farm name is a confusing mix of potential enunciations and inflections. We pronounced the name wrong when we first visited and a couple more times after that. When we took stewardship of the land, we decided to change the name of the farm in pronunciation to invoke an Italian theme. We changed some vows to long while others were changed to short. Over the years, if a customer mispronounces the farm name we have given up on correcting the mistake. They can pronounce it anyway they like if it helps them remember us, all the better. For some odd reason I care more about how to say ricotta, this creamy-sweet, beautiful sheep’s milk cheese than I do our farm name. For the record, My-Oh-Lay-a, is how the farm name is the way we pronounce the name.
I grew up in a predominately-Italian household with my grandmother being the last generation to speak Italian. Her children and grandchildren did not learn Italian from her as much as we learned the Italian emphasis when pronouncing words. Much like the way we pronounce words from other cultures, with their own intonation and enunciation, we as an American culture do not pronounce Italian words with an Italian articulation. I can think of Chinese - General Tao and Mexican - Fajitas as two examples of how people will use the correct pronunciation when saying these words. In Italian "P" is pronounced like a "B", so pasta would sound like "basta" in our family and millions of other Italian households. This leads me to my pet peeve.
As a nation, we had no problem pronouncing words from other cultures. My best example is Fajita. Nationally the pronunciation of that word with the correct Spanish enunciation happens all the time. Take Chinese, French, Greek and Indian culinary delights, we order these cuisines and generally pronounce them with the correct intonation, cadence and inflection. I feel that Italian cuisine is getting a short shrift in the "foodie" world when it comes to pronouncing Italian words correctly.
To that end I present these facts, most people pronounce fajita correctly, and most people pronounce ricotta wrong. Italian, much like Spanish has its different inflections and dialects. I do not know where we missed the boat on pronouncing ricotta correctly but it is almost universal. Pasta, okay, I will concede pasta instead of basta or managot for manicotti. Nevertheless, a sheep’s cheese as noble and diverse as any of the best cheeses known to humans deserves the foodies reverence relegated to other delicacies such as Foie Gras, or the more mundane like Tortilla.
Fajita is the example I use to draw my conclusions, however misguided. I have never heard, okay I once heard, a person ask for a (FA-GEE-TA), in a Hispanic restaurant. It is most always pronounced (FA HEE TA), The "JI" has a "hee" enunciation instead of a "jee or ji". You do not order FaGEEtas or Fa-jI-tas; you order faHeetas, when asking for the delicate flour tortilla. I bet you pronounced the last word of that sentence like (tor tee a) not (tor till a). You are starting to see the pattern of neglect Italian pronunciations suffer.
In my family when talking of Italian things the letter "C" was pronounced as a G (ga), the letter "P" came out as "B" and there were other slight variances. I did not get all the Italian variations, which is why I can only be the least bit indignant.
However, ricotta, pronounced correctly with the proper inflection, tone and dialect would sound like Ri- Gaw-ta. The "i" is silent the "C" sounds like "Gaw". When we hold cooking classes, if we are using the cheese I make a point to pronounce ricotta as part of the class. It is just because it sounds so much better pronounced correctly.
Rigawta is used in main dishes as well as deserts. It is a bit nutty with a creamy texture suitable for Tiramisu or in delicately stuffed ravioli. I am not asking for much, just a simple “g” when saying the word rigawta. As far as the farm name, pronounce it however, you see fit.
Buy Local: It is not just a fad, it is real.
Posted by Brian
@ 05:40 PM EST
Why did the goverment of Mexico outlaw ALL GM (genetically modified) foods, especially corn? Then only to discover that strains of GMO corn have made their way into the corn fields of Mexican farmers. They Mexican government had the foresight to see that what represents their national pride, their heritage should not be tinkered with. The Mexican government simply wanted to keep what is there mainstay as pure as possible. Corn is their way of life always has been. Maize was discovered in Mexico from the teosinte genus. Go to www.hulu.com and search for the "Future of Food", it is a documentary that discusses corn and its origin. You will also find that GMO is not as safe as the IFC pretends.
This documentary on how genetic engineering was accomplished, how seeds are patented and then used as a big stick to force farmers into the herbicide ready club was the fore bearer of Food Inc., We are at a cross roads in our concepts of food, where you see grass root efforts like the slow food, buy local food, and support local farms movements spawn because of this. We have groups like Ark of Taste which is a movement to bring back heritage breeds from pigs, cows and chickens to tomatoes and everything else that has been genetically modified to fit the needs of the profit motive not that of the taste of the consumer.
GMO is part of the larger picture of food safety. From my stand point trace amounts of nasty chemicals on the food, or pathogens that cause recall after recall year after year is a real concern. Why? because consumers are losing their lives. What got us growing organic food over twenty years ago was that we were eating more vegetables to get healthy but I kept hearing about trace amounts of chemicals being on what I was ingesting. Not only that but vegetables were being imported from country's that used herbicides and insecticides that were ban in the U.S.
So, if I was ingesting trace amounts then why isn't that a problem? According to scientific findings the trace amount of chemicals on the fruit or vegetable isn't concenrated enough to cause harm. Okay, didn't science tell us that thalimide was safe, PCB's, DIOXIN, Agent Orange, Declomicin or (fill in the blank).
I know there are people that spend their life's pursuit in the sciences and I have the greatest admiration for them. To often the means of a few outweigh the detriment of the masses (think my old friend Atrazine). Our history is littered with examples, current and past.
But my most base of all arguments is taste, the simple fact of taste. Remember taste, remember when tomatoes tasted like sweet, soft, watery spheres of nirvana. It has been said the reason organic fruits and vegetables taste better is that they have to struggle to get nutrients out of the ground. Unlike conventional veggies that have ready supplies sprayed on them. I've learned that which does not kill you serves to make you stronger. In an organic plant that is basically the same concept. When a plant is attacked by a predator the plant releases its own sent that attracks bugs that are predators of the bug eating its leaves. This is how the plant has evolved and survived. Evolution is why heritage and heirloom species taste so much better. We all have been told nothing good ever comes from something easy, so too with the plant world. The plant grows stronger and has a better taste then the plant that was sprayed with synthetic fertilizers and insecticides.
I trust my taste buds, I know what is on my plants, I know that the more we allow large corporations to genetically modify food the greater susceptibility we all face from unknown genetic mutation and greater risk of bacterial out breaks caused by an increase in antibiotic resistant pathogens.
We are in control of our own destiny, that of the earth's scarce resources and our future generations. If we all don't start talking more about the negative affects the IFC has on all of these then it is our own fault.
Buy Local - From a local farm; Their effort is well worth yours.
Posted by Brian
@ 06:59 PM EDT
I was on a local NPR affiliate, on the "Farm to Fork" movement taking place. It is part of the whole buy local, support family farms and sustainable farm practices effort happening all across North and South America and European countries. We were in studio because I had written to the local paper in response to an article about local farm produce prices.
During a break in the show a question was asked about the general demographics of our customers. At the farm we’ve found consumers to be in two groups: those that want to buy local and those that look solely at the price. In other words you get people who buy food for its nutritional value, freshness and safety. Then there are those that buy based on what they perceive as a fair amount for the commodity. From what we have observed this attitude cuts a cross socio-economic and educational lines.
I’ve gotten price grumblings from people who I know make over $100K a year and from people that work in some of the lowest paying jobs. A couple of years ago, we were selling certified organic tomatoes, two for a dollar. Closing time came and we were packing up when this man stopped by our truck. He was in a brand new convertible Cadillac. He was a gray haired gentleman with gold chains around his neck, gold rings on his fingers and a diamond pinky ring. I had a bag of six tomatoes and he asked "how much?” I wanted to get rid of them so I said “two bucks”. He then said "how bout one-fifty". I took the bag back from him and said have a nice day. Okay, stop right now. Fight your urge to write me to say the ability to haggle goes back to early homosapiens, I understand that. From a market farmers view point in order to grow and produce fruits and vegetables there is no haggling.
Capitalism and sustainable farming are two beliefs that are not mutually exclusive. As a person that grows fruits and, vegetables and raises animals in such a way that it benefits the environment, there is no bargaining for us. I don't try to cut corners in order to benefit the cash-flow of the enterprise. When it comes to being a humane farm there is no wiggle room. Growing organic fruits, vegetables and eggs is not a negotiable process.
We set prices based on national databases, local supermarket prices and what costs we have incurred. The sad truth is, as farmers we all face this behavior at the market, which brings me to education. The more we can educate consumers about the benefits of sustainable farming practices to them, their children, and their children’s children the more they understand why long term support of local sustainable agriculture is needed.
The cost to fix the environment from documented damage being done, using industrial farm practices, never gets added into the price of the product the Industrial Food Complex (IFC) sells to us. But think about it? Who steps in to say, wait a minute male bass are starting to exhibit female tendencies? Who does pay for the cleanup of the coastal waterways and our tributaries? I’m not saying that the IFC are the only polluters but they are at least part of the problem (think Endocrine Disruptors and atrazine).
The cost of environmental sustainability is in the price of the food organic farmers sell. We are not poisoning the soil and water table but just the opposite. We are benefiting nature by adding to the poly-culture that Mother Nature intended. If I can get a person on the farm and give them a tour they get to see the benefits that sustainable practices bring. It is that simple, they see what you are talking about, they get to look at the poly-culture all around them and understand how green manure and resting, replenishes soils and nutrients. They will also complain about the amount of bugs flying around their heads. But, they’ll see the birds, the bees and other wildlife and we’ll explain these are good things. That this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us what we are doing is benefiting the ecology.
At the radio station, I knew what the person was getting at, with the question, that people of means and education would be the ones wanting the safest, healthiest and freshest food at their disposal. Being educated, they would know about CAFO’s and the Industrial Food Complex’s profit driven decision making that puts the food supply and our natural environment in danger. So the more affluent and well educated would be more inclined to purchase from a local farmer regardless of cost.
It's not quite like that entirely. More people are becoming aware of what is at risk (and its them they find out) when food borne illness breaks out. I think because of the frequency of events more people are questioning safety which drives them to make safer choices. Have we had a recall from a local butcher or local fruit and vegetable farms?
We encourage people to taste the difference. The best way is the blind taste tests. With all things being equal, people will gravitate towards what tastes best to them. What tastes better, a store bought tomato or one from your garden or a local farm? You can’t taste vitamin content or micro nutrients or the fact that there are trace residues of carcinogenic chemicals. The only thing you know is what your palate tells you. One food is going to taste better than the other and that food happens to be the safest for you to eat and for us to grow and the earth to produce.
Buy Local: From a farmer that you visited, know and can trust
Posted by Brian
@ 06:39 PM EDT
Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader
Food science is going nano; believe it or not we as consumers are now facing another menacing aspect of the adulteration of whole foods. The FDA has a classification known as GRAS or Generally Recognized As Safe. They have a list of chemicals and ingredients that are known to be safe and are classified as such. What nanotechnology is doing is taking and combing elements from the "Periodic Table" to make new substances that can prolong the life of fruits and vegetables or make ketchup come out easier or cake mix pour without lumping.
Because they are using elements deemed safe then the theory is the bi-product would be safe. So something like nano-titanium dioxide under GRAS would be considered safe. Andrew Schneider writing for AOL Science reported that "One of the few ingestion studies recently completed was a two-year-long examination of nano-titanium dioxide at UCLA, which showed that the compound caused DNA and chromosome damage after lab animals drank large quantities of the particles in their water."
Yet the IFC is trying to get or might already have this in our food supply. Why? Because, it allows the food to have a longer shelf life. Longer shelf life means a longer time in which to sell the product. Are we going to have another tobacco fight on our hands? Where after hundreds of thousands of deaths someone will finally find the memo that states how dangerous this stuff is and how it should not be used.
Nanocoating is being developed in Asia and is sprayed on foods to help them last longer. The only problem is that it has not been tested at all for possible side affects or adverse reactions to humans. As complicated as the human body is, shouldn't someone test what these things can do to our organs or cells or what the heck how about the double-helix? The British House of Lords conducted a study and found the technology is already in salad dressings, diet drinks, sauces, boxed cakes and so on. So it is already in foods in United Kingdom. Do you believe its not here now? I urge you to follow the link above and read Andrew Schneider's three part article to really get the full picture.
In the mean time BUY LOCAL- Support a local farm to support your health
Posted by Brian
@ 06:42 PM EDT