Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm

  (Ottawa, Illinois)
Sustainable Thoughts

Sometimes it hurts


Sometimes it hurts…

Much of the joy we receive from farming is in the connections we have with our customers/members and the other businesses that make CVSF go. At each delivery, we get to talk with our extended farm family.  Usually, we hear about yummy dishes made with our meats and good words about our eggs.  Sometimes, there’s a comment about something we’ve shared of our farm or lives in a newsletter or on our face book page.  Rather than loading our animals on a truck for some distant commodity market and that being the end of our story, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) business model allows us to complete the circle and connect with our eaters. Farming the way we do make us happy, the many allies we have make us wealthy.

Last night’s delivery was bittersweet. Linda, a long-time member (When I say that Linda is a long-time member, I mean that Linda - and her husband Bill – joined our vegetable CSA in our first season nearly ten years ago. They’ve remained stalwart supporters ever since. They’ve cooked out with us by our creek, and we’ve pot-lucked with them at another member’s home. We’ve shared our lives and they’ve shared ours), was picking up her share after missing her last couple of scheduled deliveries. We learned that Linda had lost her Bill several weeks ago.

When Linda walked in to pick up her share, I gave her a hug and told her how sorry Beth and I were for her loss. She told me it had been a hard day – lots of memories of Bill. We spoke some more and talked inevitably of food. Linda told me that, for a while, she hadn’t done any cooking. It was an activity she and Bill did together. Recently, a friend whose son wanted to learn to cook reached out to Linda. For the past couple of weeks, Linda and this young man have gotten together to cook dishes with our meats; teaching cooking, she has found comfort and connection with our food. In a small way, our work has helped comfort a grieving friend. This makes me proud. I’m sad, but proud.

Today, Beth is on her way to Arthur, IL to pick up frozen chickens we’ve stored in a meat locker there since the end of our pasture season. While she’s there she will stop in to Central Illinois Poultry Processing to offer our condolences to Andy Jess and his family. This winter, Vera Jess died unexpectedly. We’ve grown to know the Jesses as they have processed our chickens for going on six years. Andy and Vera founded the Illinois’ first and only poultry processing plant that can do certified organic processing. The Jess’s hard work and attention to detail allow small, sustainable, and organic poultry growers across Illinois – and neighboring states to offer the best and most humanely processed chickens possible. The Jess’s business makes our business possible. We thank them, and mourn their loss.

Connections are important and enrich our lives, but sometimes they hurt, too. Rest in peace Vera and Bill; you are missed!



Boneless, tasteless, skinless!

It’s a little frustrating that most recipes I find for chicken call for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Don’t misunderstand; I certainly appreciate the ease of those neat little cutlets.  They cook quickly, they are easy to work with, and they don’t even look like any sort of living animal.  The down side of course is they don’t have much flavor, and the texture is pasty, and if I think about it, even a little bit, I know that they WERE part of a living animal, usually one that had a miserable, drug laden life and was butchered in  appalling nditions.   

Wait, that’s more than one downside isn’t it?  I also know that, as a farmer it’s difficult to provide my customers with boneless, skinless breasts that would be tasty, and humanely raised and butchered.  The processing is significantly more expensive and the chickens we raise are more than just that one part.  We need to make use of, and profit from, as much of the animal as possible.  That’s part of keeping our prices reasonable, and our business sustainable. 

So all of that brings me back to my original complaint, the over abundance of recipes for boneless, skinless chicken breasts!  Here are some ways I’ve found to get around that problem.

Cook a half chicken ahead of time  I often put a half chicken in a skillet with a little bit of water, cover it, and turn it before on starting the rest of the meal.  It takes about 30-45 minutes to cook while I take care of whatever else is going on (homework, food prep, emptying the dishwasher, whatever) and when I’m ready to put the rest of dinner together I can easily pull the meat off the bone and get on with the recipe.   (If I’m using a small whole chicken this way I cut it in half with kitchen shears before putting it in the skillet, this cooks quicker than keeping it whole.)

I can easily add the cooked chicken to pasta or rice dishes.  This has the additional benefit of stretching a smaller piece of meat to feed more people.  Last week I did this with a two pound bird and easily fed four adults and three kids with a Lemon Caper chicken similar to the one in last month’s newsletter.

Crock pot cooking is another easy way to use whole chickens.  Like the above method, I can remove the meat form the bone and add it to other recipes, or I can make the whole meal in the crock pot.   I used to think of  cocrock pot cooking as more suited to wintery comfort foods, but I do love not having to heat up the kitchen in the summer!

Finally, I’ve learned how to cut up a whole chicken.  Julia Child I’m not, but I can get it into recognizable pieces.  I learned by following the pictures in my old Betty Crocker cookbook, but there are lots of resources online now with video and audio instructions to follow. This one from Gourmet Magazine is quite helpful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5BFvCmV7k.  Give it a try!  Don’t forget to save the neck and back.  Keep a zip lock bag in the freezer and throw them in until you’re ready to make a batch of stock.

D is for Democracy

On Wednesday the Osmunds traveled to Springfield for Local Food Awareness Day sponsored by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) - http://www.ilstewards.org/.

Over 30 local food advocates from throughout the state converged mid-morning on Pasfield House (http://www.pasfieldhouse.com/) just a short walk from the capitol building. After introductions, Lindsay Record and Wes King of ISA taught us "Lobbying 101." Next, we joined our lobbying team and pored over lists of senators and representatives we wanted to see and plotted our stategy while deciphering maps of the Capitol and Stratton office building.

Fortified by lunch, prepared with talking points, loaded with information packets, and stocked with heirloom seed packets (thoughtfully donatated by Baker Creek Seeds (rareseeds.com) , we walked to the capitol.

Once through the security screening, we were set to spread the word about local foods.

A slight hiccup (and an explicit sign that more citizen lobbying is needed) ocurred when a capital police officer asked "Who's your lobbyist?"

Beth replied, "We're all lobbyists - citizen lobbyists."

"Ma'am, I don't think you understood my question" he replied rather pointedly.

Wes showed him his lobbyist id and quickly smoothed things over, but this dismissive attitude toward citizen participation in government was galvinizing.

We didn't speak with any representatives as they were in session; but we visited each of their offices and left our materials with their secretaries and staffers.

Onto the sentate! We did meet with our 38th District senator Sue Rezin (http://www.senatorrezin.com/).

Richard Osmund, Duncan Osmund, Senator Rezin, Beth Osmund, Jack Osmund, and Jody Osmund

After a visit to the gallery to watch some of the house proceedings with the boys, we regrouped at the ISA offices.

We hydrated with ice water, had the boys run off some steam in the yard, and enjoyed some quiet after the noisome capital, before heading back to the capitol for our meeting with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon (http://www.ltgov.illinois.gov/).

Our group of local food advocates from throughout the state discussed how Simon could use the bully pulpit of her office to further our efforts to build a local food economy in Illinois.

(Lt. Governor Simon with Beth and Jack Osmund)

(Simon, Deborah Cananaugh-Grant, & Dayna Conner)

(Wes King of ISA pulls out our lobbying materials – including a packet of seeds.)


Green Earth Fair this Sunday in Naperville, IL

Green Earth Fair

May 3, 2009 1 to 5 p.m.

Come to the organic farm in Naperville for our 6th annual Green Earth Fair. The event is free and open to the public!

  • Experts speaking on organic lawn care, sustainable landscaping, organic home gardening, green home building and remodeling, personal steps to control your carbon footprint, nutrition, and more. The full schedule is below.
  • More than 50 organizations and vendors providing information about their activities and products to help you achieve a greener and healthier lifestyle.
  • Children's activities include planting seeds, exploring the rich organic soil to find some critters, and making musical instruments. The children's parade with their musical instruments made from recycled materials will start from the Main Stage at 3 p.m.
  • Entertainment including local folk and blues musicians
  • Tours of the organic farm
  • Organic vegetable seedlings and native landscaping plants available for purchase.

The Green Earth Institute is located at the McDonald Farm, owned by The Conservation Foundation.
Address: 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road
Naperville, Illinois 60565

Jody Osmund of Cedar Valley Sustainable farm will be on hand to talk about the meat CSA he and his wife Beth operate in Ottawa, IL.

Encouraging/Training New Farmers

This is the text of a recent email we recieved:

Hi Jody and Beth,
Just a quick, and well overdue note to let you know that your farm has left an indelible mark in my life. 
I was fortunate to attend your pasture poultry workshop last April, walked in not knowing the first thing about raising chickens, and left the workshop feeling as though I had gained some mastery.  Thank you.
Then this winter at our Farm Beginnings class, Jody made a presentation that was quite informative and impactful.  Thanks again!
Today, Joanne Wiedemann-Wolf sent a link to the 190N show and I watched the piece about Cedar Valley and was reminded about how important good farm models are in the life of a beginning farmer.  So again, thank you for all of the good work you do, and the way that you continue to inspire others to practice good farming as well. 
Much regards,



Jody & Beth Osmund

Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm CSA 

Reasons for Optimism

Recently, I had an email discussion with a good friend regarding "Peak Oil," our current economic crisis, and the future of agriculture and community. With his permission, I'm sharing some of our discussion here.[Read More]

TV crew visits the farm

TV Crew Visits The Farm

Yesterday afternoon, a TV crew from Chicago came to the farm to do a story on our Community Support Agriculture meat shares.

They filmed at our farm and our neighbor, Mike Warren’s, farm. Mike raises fantastic black Angus beef which often goes into our CSA shares.  They interviewed Beth & Jody Osmund about Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm’s CSA.  Mike got to speak about his cattle operation and the quality of his beef.  It was fun to see/hear the pride of a farmer who’s been improving his herd for nearly 30 years. It, also, feels good to know that our CSA pays him a premium for his high quality beef. 

Jody talked about what sustainability means and the powerful connection between farmers and CSA members. Beth explained how gratifying it is to know that our meat is the only meat that some of our members children have eaten. The “on air” personality picked some eggs for the camera, too.

The real stars, however, will likely be the kids and the animals. Our three boys, Richard, Duncan, and Jack got to ham it up for the camera.  Most of the tape, though, was devoted to baby calves, momma cows, fat steers, sows, piglets and chickens. The crew like the pigs so much, they took personal pictures with them after the “official” taping was done.

On Saturday, the crew will be at Marion Street Cheese Shop in Oak Park, IL to interview some of our members at a delivery. Altogether, they’ll have spent nearly six hours of time to get footage and audio for a segment that will only be 3-5 minutes long. Hopefully, all that time will pay off in a good farm and local food story that will carry the message of Community Supported Agriculture.

The show will air April 19th at 10:35 pm on ABC Chicago channel 7.


What I'm currently reading.

Deep Economy - The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben

Top 10 Reasons to Eat Locally

Here is a link to University of Missouri, Agriculture Economics Professor Emeritus, John Ikerd's top ten reasons for eating locally.




My New Favorite Book

Tina vs. Lois

An Exotic Seductress vs. the Constant Lover

In my new favorite book, The Small-Mart Revolution (www.small-mart.org), Michael Shuman pits Tina against Lois, and Lois kicks *ss.

As you might guess by the title, this is a book about local businesses competing against the likes of Wal-Mart and other “big box” stores. TINA is Shuman’s acronym for the status quo view of globalization – “There Is No Alternative.” LOIS stands for “Local Ownership Import Substitution.”

For many communities’ chambers of commerce and economic development corporations attracting Tina businesses is the brass ring. From states in the deep, south clamoring for foreign auto manufacturers to locate in their humble burgs to neighboring communities vying to outdo each other to land the next Home Depot or Super Wal-Mart, Tina gets a lot of attention. And, why not, she’s the glamorous gal from out of town making big promises. Jobs and money, jobs and money, jobs and money..  

The promise come with a price, Tina sure NEEDS  bling – grants, low interest loans, loan guarantees, industrial development bonds, tax breaks, preferential zoning, streets, sewers… You name it Tina wants it. Baby, can you throw in some regulatory reform and reduced red tape to provide a friendly “business climate” for me, too? Translation: let me erode your public standards related to health, labor, environmental protection and product safety so I can improve my margins.

Are the costs worth it? Michael Shuman doesn’t think so, and he offers some compelling data to support his opinions – his book is well noted with a couple of excellent appendices. Of course his reasoned ideas haven’t (yet) stopped the escalating bidding wars for Tina businesses. Southern states spent from $59,000 to 193,000 per job for auto plants. New York governor George Pataki gave IBM $500,000 per job to keep them from leaving the state (can you say extortion?). Jeb Bush of Florida gave $1,000,000 per job to attract Scripps Biological Research Center. Over the last 10 years, Wal-Mart (the world’s richest company) has extracted over $1 billion dollars from state and local governments in 244 separate deals.

Economic developers argue that these incentives are long term investments that will pay dividends in the long run. Their point would gain validity, if these firms stayed around for generations. Unfortunately, Tina is a fickle mistress with wandering eyes and obligations to distant managers and shareholders following every quarterly report. She can be lured away by a community with shinier baubles (read bigger incentives) or “friendlier” business climate (read Mexico, China, or other places with cheaper labor and lower environmental standards). Huge net losses accrue to the community, when a Tina a firm leaves after 5, 10, or even 20 years.

Chambers of commerce and EDCs, also, posit that they love Lois business just as much as Tina and are even handed in their approach. Shuman says the current approach is akin to making “elephant-mouse casserole.” Because of the great disparity in scale between Tina and Lois enterprises, the incentives are disproportionate as well. Local politicians are seduced by the front page media attention and photo ops afforded by grand multi-million (or billion) dollar projects. New Lois projects are usually relegated to a small square buried in the business section of the local paper. For Lois to prosper, this recipe needs to change.

Why is Lois a better option?

Local Ownership –

When a business is locally owned, the owners and managers are tied to the community. They attend local churches and social events. Their children attend local schools. Their employees, customers, and business associates are their friends and neighbors. Their business decisions affect the community in which they live.

A beneficial push/pull dynamic is set up by proximity and connection to community. Business owners with deep ties (social, economic, and spiritual) to community, don’t move their businesses to chase incentives, cheap labor, or easier regulation. Nor are they inclined to mistreat workers or damage the environment as their friends and neighbors and customers can are there to see their actions – scrutiny and transparency count. As many Lois businesses span generations sustainable business models are typical.

Import Substitution –

Locally owned businesses buy a much higher percentage of supplies and services within their own community/region than their Tina counterparts. Prosperous local businesses foster complementary businesses and lead to vibrant interconnected economies. When local inputs are processed/manufactured into higher value products within the same community, more dollars accrue to and circulate within the community. This increased wealth and monetary circulation has positive effects on wages, tax bases, and community investment – schools, roads, civic institutions.

Rising wages and improved community services, retain talent, and alleviate the “brain drain” experienced when skilled jobs are exported by Tina entities. With thriving Lois businesses and growing tax bases providing improved infrastructure, social, and educational institutions; people will want to join the community. Talented newcomers will join existing innovators to build on the comm., unity’s success. Goods and services will continue to be traded across regions and countries, however; having Lois businesses with strong communities ties negotiating the deals these transactions will garner net benefits to the community rather than padding the profits of distant shareholders and boards of directors.





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