Steve’s Weekly Update 7/7/10

Dear members,

Climatology 2010:

Here is a little excerpt from an email that I wrote to an out of state  friend about our weather Saturday morning:

We had a WONDERFUL “female rain” from about 3 am to sunrise.  The Dineh (Navajo) have differentiated rain into female:  slow, steady, “absorptive” (from the standpoint of our desert/clay soil) and “male”:  harsh, abrupt, aggressive, often with hail and lots of thunder and lightening.  The pix I sent you previously were the aftermath of a “male rain” on Monday afternoon, and we are SOOOO lucky to have been blessed not too long after that with a female rain.

I had rescued (after nearly killing) a tiger salamander about a month ago when I was working our soil with the one mechanical implement that we use on the farm, called a spader.  After “disturbing” Sally, since our surface world was so dry, I had the duty to care for her until the weather became more hospitable.

I kept Sally in a big wash basin in the shower, with fresh water and rocks.  She was fed flies and spiders.  Behind the farm house is a big canyon with a natural pool fed by an intermittent waterfall.  So the male rain filled up the pond and got the canyon running.  I brought Sally up there last eve.  This was PERFECT because when the female rains come, the salamanders and toads make their way to the various water holes to reproduce.  So if there were no cousins in that pond already, I bet there are now….

Steve’s Soapbox:

I have been working for over a year with an international nonprofit called GlobalGAP.  They work all around the world “certifying” Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) on behalf of “food buyers”.  They were founded in the mid 1990s after the mad cow disasters in the UK, and have made it an important part of their mission to assure that these certification/verification processes do not disenfranchise small producers and limited resource producers.  I met the CEO last year at a Big-Ag sustainability conference, and have been a loyal supporter ever since.

Here in the US, we have “reduced” GAP to a fairly narrow focus on microbial food safety and food born pathogen and related concerns.  And our “buyers” have also sought independent certification of GAP.

In Europe the buyer community realized from the start that the certification that they sought was “pre-competitive,” something that they wanted to expect of all producers whose food was entering the supply chain.  In the US it has been a competitive process, as buyers strive to place ever higher burdens on producers through independent certification, so that they can imply that their food is “safer”.

The US buyer community realized at last that this approach was hurting everyone and not increasing the safety of the food supply.  As a result a GAP Harmonization Process began.  I have been a member of the technical working group that is developing the harmonized GP standard.

My colleagues at GlobalGAP have invited me to attend their summit in London in October!  I will sit on a panel discussing issues and challenges for small farmers wishing to be certified for their Good Agricultural Practices.  They are providing all expenses for travel and lodging and registration for the summit, and allowing me free access to training that they are providing for their expansive, sustainability oriented GAP program.

For an entertaining picture of food safety and GAP, see the “Meet the Farmer TV” show that featured me last fall.

This week’s Cow stories:  update on Mesa Top cows, Jim Miller Ayrshire projects and more:

Yesterday 4-year-old heifer calves moved to La Puebla, in Northern Santa Fe County, between Chimayo and Espanola.  Friday I will pick up 4 heifers that are 6 months old, that are now weaned at High Desert and they will move to La Puebla. I also have a single yearling heifer up in Northern Colorado, at Cresset Farm, where she was born from one of the last of the older cows from the Ayrshire herd that I originally bought from Pat Sullivan in 2007.  Andy has 3 more heifers that are just a month of two old at Twin Mountain.  So the girls are growing up and thankfully I have been able to work out a lease with old friends Scott and Julie Bennett for about 15 acres of irrigated pasture in La Puebla.  It is wonderful to see them out standing in deep grass, running around and around and kicking up their heels!

The plan is that young heifers after weaning will go to Scott and Julie’s, and young bulls will come to Mesa Top.  Ideally when the heifers are breeding age, they will move to the dairies where they will eventually have their calves, and be bred there, and begin to be trained to the milk line.  I am still working to get the costs fully figured out and under control for these different phases of the process.

I meet with my ag accountant this week to take the data that we have gathered and begin forming it into a more clear business case.  The process of building up the heard of milk cows is very expensive, and the goal is for me to determine how big of a herd I can grow, and at what cost, and hopefully to offer ways for private parties to “invest” in the herd!

This process is the “underpinning” of my bigger goal of enlivening a small scale, artisanal cow cheese-making “industry” here in NM.

It all starts with the kids, the heifers and the bulls, in this case…

This week’s cheese share update:

This week we will give 1 piece of Ken Carter’s Queso Blanco (goat cheese) and 1 piece of Native Pastures Feta.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

The next planting of Mesa Top salad is ready.  The share size will be smaller than they have been, but it will be very tasty.  We noticed that our recent plantings at Mesa Top did not include as much red lettuce as we like.  Sorry about that, it is not as beautiful as it could be.  We have more red lettuce seed coming that we can blend into our mix for future plantings.

We hope everyone was okay with the “holy” arugula from Vida Verde.  There was more flea beetle impact than we would have liked to see, but it was pretty tasty.

We have found some mid-season root crops!  Carrots from Elijah Farm in Albuquerque, who provided us with the amazing Fuji apples that lasted most of last fall, and maybe some beets as well.  Also some hakura turnips from Kyle and Anne, 2009 Mesa Top farm manager and staff, who are now farming in the Gila.

This week the featured cooking green will be Mesa Top green kale.  We continue with Southern NM Squash from Desert Gardens.  Cucumbers from Desert Gardens are soon to be available as well.  And there will be a few more heads of Baja bus garlic.

We are done with the apricots, and this week we have our last or next to last helping of Sage Creations cherries from Palisade Colorado.  The Saturn peaches from Shiraz start next week!

Membership news:

Farm volunteer days at Mesa Top are being scheduled by Amy.   Contact her at  473-1403.  Adam and Amelia, the stalwart farmers for the next few months at Mesa Top, would love to see you and help you learn by helping us with basic farm tasks.  There is never too much help when it comes to weeding in the summer!

Thank you for your continued support!

Steve Warshawer


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