Climatology 2010: I will finally admit that this summer’s weather pattern IS a typical monsoon season, the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time. Streams of tropical moisture moving up from the South, slow moving storms, clouds building up through the afternoon, evening rain. It is nice to experience this again. The warm season grasses just went crazy with growth in the last couple of weeks. We have blue stem gramma aplenty, and it has been a long time since we have seen that! Even the pastures with cows on them are growing faster than the cows can eat! It looks like there will be abundant standing forage for winter consumption after the growing season ends.
Steve’s Soapbox: This week I am working on the East Coast on two very different topics. I will write about the first, and also connect it to a meeting that I am helping to organize in New Mexico next week.
Tuesday in Atlanta I will be working with GlobalGAP; US stakeholders who are considering the GRASP (GlobalGAP Responsibility and Social Practice) standards for the US. The focus of the document is on fair farm labor practices, such as pay rate, child labor laws, overtime, right to organize, and other basic worker rights. In reading over the draft document in preparation for the meeting I note the incredulity of the (probably European) GlobalGAP staffer who prepared the material. The author seems amazed by the complexity of our laws (each state has its own and in some cases state law supersedes federal and in some cases it is the reverse) and the overall lack of worker protection here.
To me this is one of many “side effects” of our national commitment to cheap and easily accessible food. This national policy is a foundation of our 20th century democracy, and has led to many good things and quite a few that are not so good. Lack of equitable wages and “opportunity” for farm laborers is certainly one of those. We need cheap labor to produce cheap food! And the cheapest labor will always be that of the most recent or even of the illegal immigrants.
The need for immigrant workers in agriculture and food delivery systems places farmers on a collision course with interests who want to limit or exclude immigration. Our porous borders have become a substitute for an accountable immigration policy which could support and encourage future citizenship and responsibility for those who seek employment and opportunity here.
Another current policy theme that indirectly affects agriculture is the need to address Green House Gas emissions from human controlled sources. As I wrote about last week, there are differing opinions about the role of agriculture in creating this problem. But one thing is for sure, currently there is no indication that policy initiatives that seek to mitigate GHG from human causes by driving up the cost of energy are considering the effect on the cost of food! I ask simply, in the debate to mitigate the effect of climate change, who is tending to our national commitment to affordable and accessible food? What will that look like as GHG mitigation moves forward? Will agriculture be recognized as part of the solution, or will food become more scarce and expensive?
Recently I was in a meeting with Ilana Blankman from Farm to Table and Donnie Quintana from New Mexico Economic Development Department, and Caren Cowan, the executive director of New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association. We learned from Caren that there are 29 different regulatory bodies may have authority in one way or another over a typical cattle raising operation. Each set of regulations comes with its own costs.
Now, with the pending implementation of additional regulations to reduce GHG pollution, farmers and ranchers are again asked to shoulder a new set of costs. And the question is, who is keeping an eye on the cost of food? How will we continue to produce abundant, affordable food while also answering to these important new criteria?
Farmers and ranchers want to do what is best for our country and for the land that they steward. They respect the desires and preferences of our public, our customers. Increasingly they wonder at the complex requirements that are placed on them.
Next week a group of Cattle and Beef industry representatives along with agencies and institutions that support the industry will get together to look at a strategy to respond to the next wave if regulations with an educational approach, hoping to get some attention for the question of how agriculture will survive, and in what form, as regulatory and related cost burdens continue to pile up.
More on this subject next week!
This week’s Cow stories: update on Mesa Top cows, Jim Miller Ayrshire projects and more:
It worked out that my trip to Atlanta this week was best begun from Denver as flights from Albuquerque to Atlanta had terrible connections and were very poorly priced.
This allowed me to visit my friend Colleen, who bought our wild bull “Bill”, who was tearing things up at Twin Mountain, and our lone heifer who came from our dear old cow Dottie last summer, and was being raised at Cresset Community Farm. I visited Bill the bull at Kurtis Ketchem’s farm south of Fountain. Kurtis is working diligently and quickly to build up his milking facility on 40 acres of dry land pasture. From my point of view, this is not a moment too soon. Due to a big change in management at Twin Mountain, Andy’s herd of 6 cows is looking for a new home.
At Colleen’s “Common Sense Farm and Dairy” Southeast of Denver, I got to see our lone heifer who has been named Abigail. She is beautiful! Far larger than other heifers that are her age in New Mexico. She is a little skittish, and Colleen has a halter and lead rope on her and she is calming down.
Watch for a photo album of the Ayrshire cows coming soon to the blog!
It looks to me that a new “family” of Ayrshire cheese and milk collaborators is gathering there on the front range. All of the necessary pieces are present – committed farmers, improving facilities, markets for more raw milk, and plenty of good grass and hay. I sure wish I had about $10,000 to help get each new operation up on its feet, along with its starter herd. Every situation that I encounter is “going in the right direction,” but is hampered by lack of access to simple, critical “pieces” that should not be so hard to access. A little bit of risk capital in the hands of the right people could go a long way.
This week’s cheese share update:
This week the cheese share will be 1 lb of Ayrshire Desert Jack
This week’s Veggie/Share Update:
This week, as many members have requested, we are cranking up the tomatoes with the help of Vida Verde Farms. We also have big bunches of basil from One Straw Farm. Ric Gaudet tells me that he has a huge amount of basil and hopes that we will use it again in the shares and also that we will offer it as a special order item for members. We hope that this combination is exciting for members. We hope to be able to offer it again.
We are skipping the mesa top Salad this week, and offering big heads of Nappa instead. Some members will breath a sigh of relief while others will wish we had the salad as well! That is the balancing act of the CSA: we can’t please all of the people all of the time.
We came up with the idea of bigger bunches of chard because of several member suggestions that the regular sized bunches were not yielding a big enough meal when cooked. The mesa top chard is beautiful this year! We hope you enjoy it!
The next couple of weeks will feature the last Shiraz peaches of the year. Please take this opportunity to buy in bulk if you want to process or freeze peaches: $2 to bulk pricing per pound and contact Dena at 470-1969 for more details.
Bulk pricing on pickle cukes is also established at $1.25 per pound.
Watch for bulk tomato pricing soon!
We also have a special treat this week as we have the first lemon cucumbers fom Grant Morrison’s Elijah Farm in Albuquerque. These little treats are a favorite with youngsters. We’d love to know whether members would appreciate them as a “staple” in the weekly share while they are available.
Next week we hope to finally begin to offer a steady supply of carrots from Dan Hobbs in Aviondale, Colorado, on the lower Arkansas River east of Pueblo. Dan is one of the original Beneficial Farmers from 2005-6 when we also operated a Beneficial CSA in Colorado Springs!
And David Banikarim’s fabulous Persian Melons will hopefully be available in large enough numbers to offer whole or half melons as part of the share!
To our members who have school aged children; please look for opportunities to promote Beneficial Farm CSA in your school communities – remember you will receive $10 in your Farm Account for every person you refer who becomes a member! We have posters, postcards and smaller business card-sized promotional pieces you can pick up at distribution.
Thank you for your continued support!