Steve’s Weekly Update for 3/18/10

Dear members,

Okay, Okay. UNCLE already!  El Nino is absolutely kicking our butts.  As I talk with long time farmers and ranchers around the state, people say that they “never have seen” a winter like this.  Everyone points to a vivid memory of a really tough one, the snows of 1990, the freeze of 1977, but then adds, “but that was not like this”.  I actually had one drive home from Santa Fe, it was Sunday afternoon before the snow started, when even the mud bogs in the road had dried…  Briefly…  Now we are deep in it again.

We are probably a month behind on outside work at Mesa Top.  We are trying to clean up inside the building, but it is two steps forward and one step back.  We can’t yet clean up the hen houses well enough to get clean eggs for hatching.

Help?  Anyone know a good, general construction person who can handle a one week project to move a sink, an put in a door and an interior, non-load bearing wall to divide a room differently?  We are trying to “re-arrange” our two-story, passive solar straw bale building so that there is a separate, complete staff living area with bathroom and shower, and also a bathroom and triple sink in the work area.  Email Amy at blog@beneficialfarm.com and she can connect you to Steve.

This week’s update on cheese value chain and Jim Miller Ayrshire projects:

Speaking of “two steps forward, one step back”, the Old Windmill Dairy guys have given it up on milking the Ayrshires.  I cannot tell to what extent this is a casualty of the difficult winter, but the upshot is that we had been working on a “temporary”, one-season milking setup that was supposed to be nearby to their cheese plant and convenient for them to develop skills making cow cheese and to perfect some varieties.

We had a basic understanding with the dairy inspector that would allow for low-cost temporary solutions that would assure safety and health of the product, but not involve major expenses.

Also, it seems that once folks get used to goats, which are “better” because you do not have to muck their yards, since the maure is dry and the wind can just blow it away, cows feel like a lot more work.  I have not been willing to accept that there is such a divide between “goat people” and “cow people”.  Maybe I have been wrong, and it is a rare person who simply loves to work with all kinds of animals.  People’s preferences become pretty dominant, it seems.

Finally, finding staff that can milk, take proper care of the animals, and uphold high standards of health and safety, for a modest hourly wage, is not as easy as one would hope.

So now I am looking at moving them, and we will not see cheese local Ayrshire cheese again for another season…

More on this next week.

This Week’s Veggie/Share Update:

This is the last week of carrots from Gemini Farm, and also of fingerlings potatoes from White Mountain Farm.  We also have turnips from Gard-N-Hers, which will be the only early season root crops from the south that we know of so far.

We have increased the portion size on the pea shoots.  The feedback on them has been very positive and they are quite reasonably priced!

The frozen peaches are a one-time offering.  These are the last frozen items from last summer/fall harvests.  We think that the frozen program was a good way to provide diversity in the local/regional food mix during the winter and hope to do freeze more this year for next winter.

The fair trade avocados are the result of work done at the La Montanita COOP warehouse to create access to New Mexico markets for various fair trade products.  Avocados are the first to arrive. There will be fair trade bananas soon also.  For the story behind the fair trade avocados, you might want to visit this link http://www.fairtrasa.com/ and listen see the video from the organizers.  We will only have them this week and next week, but if the program is a success for the COOP, it will begin again in April some time.

Next week will be the last round of Rio Star grapefruits through the distribution.  We will have a modest amount left for Special Orders.

In general with fruit, this is the most challenging time of year even the best local apples are losing their appeal and it is a couple of months until anything new comes along. We will probably be filling with Big B’s juice here and there to keep things interesting.

With the long, cold winter and slow movement to spring, it is liable to be a slow start on the vegetable side as well.  I will continue to keep you posted through this weekly update of this year’s trends and availability.

Thank you for your support.

Steve Warshawer

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