Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Investigative Hold

Investigative Hold is Quarantine just with different words...

We experienced our first forced poultry quarantine in our existence.   We were within a six-mile radius of an avian flu outbreak and it was not a pleasant experience.  It all started one Saturday morning, with a call from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Veterinarian.  We were told that a USDA and MDA pathologist would be visiting the farm on the next day to take samples of our flock.  This is something we thought we would never go through.  However, once it happens you just hope for the best, keep everything in check and have patience.  Also, it makes you realize how vulnerable you are  and need to start to develop a plan where flocks are completely separated so that you do not have total losses.

One bird with avian flu means the entire flock goes.  This was a sobering thought.  If we lost our flock, we would be dead in the water.  One of the few moneymaking activities we do on the farm is egg production.  With time to think, we started to realize that we would quickly go out of business and suffer huge monetary losses if we lost the flock.  We are already on a thin margin and starting over does not seem likely.  This then made us think about how we actually could survive if we did have an outbreak.

While on the phone with the Veterinarian, we learned exactly what an Investigate Hold would entail.  First, no poultry could leave the farm or come onto the farm. Second, if a truck or car came to the farm before the vehicle left, their tires were prayed with a two parts per million solutions of bleach and water.  We took the added precaution of stopping vehicles before they came on the farm and sprayed the tires.

This could not have come at the worst time, it was in the spring and we had peeps ordered for layers and broilers.  We also had sales of peeps that had been ordered in the winter by a few of our customers.  So we  had peeps that would be leaving the farm.

Sunday morning arrived along with the USDA and MDA pathologist, dressed in biohazard suits and set about testing  one third of our flock.  The broilers were not tested because they were in their pen and not exposed.  We also practice strict bio-security protocols on the farm as a routine.  Because I was able to tell the Veterinarian about our bio-security protocols, we did get a waiver for our eggs.  If we did not have that procedure in place, we would not have been able to take eggs off the farm until the “Hold” was lifted.  That is another story.

Sunday, I helped the pathologist round up the thirty chickens and take throat cultures of the birds.  As if the stress was not high enough, I looked under a trailer and spotted what seem to be a lifeless. chicken.  I poked I to get it to move and nothing.  Honestly, there was a split second where I thought I could easily get rid of the bird without being seen.  That lasted a nano-second and I knew what I had to do, I took the bird to the pathologist and showed it to them.  They looked at it determined that it did not have any of the symptoms of avian flu and told me to dispose as normal.  

Our "normal." is to place the chicken in the compost and tell it that it is time to nourish the soil as the soil has nourished you.  It is our humane practice and acknowledgement that she has given us eggs, joy, entertainment and humility, while growing from he nutrients in the ground.  

We were getting peeps on Monday and I asked about receiving them.  They looked at me and said they will get back to me.  Monday came and we picked up our layers and broilers.  The first problem was a fifty percent mortality of the delivered layer peeps.  On Wednesday, we got a call from USDA stating that we could not bring peeps onto the farm or take any off.

We have a small window of time each spring to bring in our peeps and get them to laying stage before winter sets in and they are hearty.  The quarantine lasted close to two months; we lost sales and the ability to replenish our aging layers.  Our flock tested negative and eventually we received a release from the quarantine, but our timing was off and we need to figure out how to integrate twenty-five layers instead of fifty.

Adding new flocks to established flocks is a delicate process and takes planning.  That time is coming and we still do not have a sure integration program yet.  At least not one that we both agree will work.  It will come but until then the growing peeps are in a moveable pen and on grass.

Buy Local: It is how we can change the industrial food complex

 
 

Economics

The FDA and USDA or I should say the poultry industry announced that frozen chickens could ship to China for processing into nuggets, patties, hot dog’s etc.  Contemplate this thought for a second.  US manufacturers slaughter chickens here, freeze them and ship the frozen bird to China.  They ship the frozen bird to China mind you; the carbon footprint for this part alone has already surpassed the existing footprint for the same product.  Add to that, they are going to allow the kill line to speed up and reduce the number of federal inspectors in the slaughterhouses.  How can the logical mind not see the seeds of destruction that this process creates?  

Researchers have just discovered another avian flu called H7N9.  This particular strain is anti-biotic resistant, but more importantly has the ability to regenerate itself with no impedance.  Guess where this flu originated?  It is dismaying to know that our government, the government that we were taught was there to protect the Country’s interest and us has been bought by corporations. 

In my first year of college, I took Economics 101.  Our first test had one question that still to this day I believe I was right but the instructor said I was wrong.  I argued to the point of being threatened that I would fail the course if I did not shut up.  The question was multiple choice and it went something like this:

Corporations are in business for:

  1. making profit
  2. the good of the community
  3. better the country
  4. give people jobs

I am a capitalist, my father taught me how to invest in the stock market, at young age and I had some business savvy having cut lawns for a bunch of years.  So I chose A.  After all, if a business does not make a profit it ceases to exist.  No, I was wrong.  The answer was B.  You can play out in your own mind how things went during the review of the test after grading.  I could not believe that an Economics professor could be so naive.  What a rube everyone knew the answer was not B and I held steady in my argument.  That was when he had heard enough and threatened me with failure.

Now, today, I wish he were right, now I long for the days when he would have been right.  What we have today is what I knew all along.  Business is a bottom line driven decision-making model.  What has changed though is the sheer greed, narcissism, hatred and down right prejudices of those that lead these corporations along with the politicians that they have bought.  I am tired of all the vitriol that passes for public discourse and the narrow mindedness of a minuscule number of people being bolstered and manipulated by the one percent.  I do not mean the Hells Angles one percent; I mean the other one percent.  We were a country that accepted the worlds tired and poor, where by working hard lead to the path of stability and better things to come.  Where the American dream was to own a home, educate your children and provide them with better opportunities. 

I miss the days when people were cordial and allowed others to express their beliefs without yelling and belittling the person for those beliefs, where government was for the people and by the people.  Those days are gone I know but there has to be an alternative to the course we are now heading.  Sending frozen chickens to a country that produces the most avian flu then all other countries combined seems like an incredibly risky adventure.  Not to mention we loose more jobs.  We have shipped enough manufacturing out of the US to jeopardize a huge part of our population.  They were called the middle class and we were large in numbers.

On our farm, we try to grow food so that all can afford not just the lucky few.  I want to get to the point were my neighbors in the old section of town can purchase safe, healthy organic fruits, vegetables, eggs and chickens.  I am not a good executive; I have too much empathy and compassion for my fellow man.  When people do buy from us, especially those using WIC or SNAP coupons they get extra.  This act is part of our mission; our spent layers are processed and given to soup kitchens or to food banks.  

I know I am not alone but our legions are small compared to the sheer amount of greed.  We will be cutting back drastically this year in the amount of things we will grow, in an effort to stay economically viable.  I know our business model is environmentally and economically restrictive but I cannot change it for it is how we feel and what we believe is the correct thing to do for humanity.  

You really have to ask yourself, "How do they raise those chickens, slaughter them, ship them to China, process them there and ship them back for sale in the US" and still my chickens are too expensive.  Use all the economic models you like, but make sure to take into account, pathogens, residual chemicals, inhumane living conditions, carbon foot prints, quality of work-life in the both raising and slaughter, environmental degradation and medical conditions that we all pay for while the owners make millions for their greedy practices.  

You can change their model; we all can make them change their model.  It is as simple as buying local.  Your choice, the choices you make every day when purchasing food can and does have an impact on their decision-making.  Greed drives these people, not helping humanity or the environment, but lining their pockets with as much cash as they can.  Moreover, you can make a difference if the choices you make help support your community farmer or farmers market.  You will need to do some research to make sure you are dealing with a reputable farmer but that is the fun part.  Ask to see the farm and the operations if you get anything other then “come on down,” walk away knowing you have identified a huckster, not someone that toils to bring you safe, fresh food. 

 God Bless and Season's Greetings from our family to yours.

 

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