Steve’s Weekly Update for 8/25/10

Dear members,

Climatology 2010: The first cold front of the fall is scheduled to slide down the Front Range toward us early this week.  We will see our first nights of temperatures below 50 degrees at the farm.  It is always interesting how quickly we move from summer to fall.

With cooler and drier air, temps at sunrise on Wednesday are currently “guestimated” at upper 30s at the usual cold spits like Chama and Angel Fire and we will probably see mid 40s at Mesa Top.

Within a few weeks we are likely to have our first frost at Mesa Top.  We expect it around mid September.  Usually it occurs in conditions like those that are promised this week:   dry cold air and still nights after the front passes.

Often, after the mid September light frost, we can have several weeks of warmer weather.  We usually let some plants, like the summer squash, go to that early frost.  We are always hoping for the winter squash to make it through, to grow and cure for a little longer.  By then we are hoping for the onions to finish up soon, so we can harvest them and cure them properly for winter storage.

With the approach of fall, most farmers are “ready” for frost.  The frantic pace of growing and harvesting has had its effect on enthusiasm, and farmers are ready for rest.

Steve’s Soapbox: Food safety is on the minds of millions of Americans again as FDA investigators try to root out the source of Salmonella in eggs that have sickened over 1,000 Americans.  550 million eggs have been recalled so far.  Egg Industry spokespeople remind us that this is “only” 1% of the 80 billion eggs shipped annually.  Meanwhile buyers shop local and organic sources, driven by the comfortable assumption that local and organic eggs are either safer or cleaner.

It is a fact that the large and devastating outbreaks are always eventually traced back to large scale, global sources.  It is a fact that with smaller producers and local distribution and “identity preserved” labeling (as opposed to comingled products from anonymous sources) the risk of illness is reduced for many reasons.

It is also a fact that “best practices” are absent at the greediest, most lax and poorly managed farms and food processing and production facilities.  It is a fact that relying on regulatory intervention to minimize this risk is naïve.  We need to vote with our wallets and our feet.  Stop buying products of abusive global food producers, and stop patronizing stores that refuse to send a message to these abusers.

Here is a link that you can use to tell major grocers to stop purchasing from the “Bad Egg,” Jack De Coster, who seems to be at the crux of this latest mass poisoning of unwitting American citizens:

Click here to tell major grocers to stop purchasing from the “Bad Egg”

Public/private partnerships are needed.  “Industry,” large and small, has to self-regulate as much as possible.  Best practices have to become part of our culture of food production, whether at the local or global level.

Today I write to you from Philadelphia where a voluntary produce industry project to develop a consistent, scalable, mutually agreeable set of “Good Agricultural Practices” approaches a year in process.  Our technical working group is composed of food safety professionals from farms, retail, food service, and all segments of the produce industry.  Our second draft of our “harmonized” standards will hopefully be complete by end of October.  This project has occupied much of the travel budget for my work on food safety for the National Good Food Network.

I am pleased to be able to represent small and mid scale producers in this discussion.  I also recognize much room for improvement on my own farm.  I am steadily making changes to minimize risk and improve hygiene and cleanliness at my farm.  I talk about this regularly with all of the farmers that I work with.  No matter how good we are at what we do, we can all improve.

It is the spirit of “continuous improvement,” wherever it is present, in small, mid and even large global conerns, which should be the foundation of our confidence in our food supply.

I encourage members to spread the word, reminding all of our friends that unlike anonymous global food, we can learn all we need to about our local food sources from the farmers themselves.  There are no secrets, no surprises, just freshness, flavor, quality, and opportunity to support our own home towns and their small businesses:  our friends and neighbors.

Meanwhile on the political front, the Senate will at last take up its “Food Safety Modernization Act” (Senate bill S510) after the summer recess…  We hope…  And thanks to incredible persistence and effort on the part of an active coalition of local and regional food system advocates, as well as the willingness of Senate HELP (Health Education Labor and Pensions) committee staff to listen and learn what will be needed to pursue and minimize abuses and risks associated with the globalization of food while minimizing undue burdens to small and mid scale farms, we have a bill that is quite workable.

See NSAC link summarizing changes that have made the bill workable for small to mid scale and local farms:

At the same time you can expect to see a flurry of panic emails, proclaiming that this bill will end organic and local farming and is driven by Monsanto, etc.  I encourage you to read them only if you are looking for entertainment, rather than information.  These falsifications were ubiquitous in spring 2009 when a draft of Rosa DeLauro’s House Bill HR875 was released.  They are useless from the standpoint of understanding what the bill means and what its consequences will be.

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

We closed down Twin Mtn milk house last weekend.  After 3 weeks in and out of jail and hospital, terrorizing friends and co-workers, supposedly Andy went to drug and alcohol treatment on the same day that we loaded up and moved the cows.  Yay!  But we who have tried to help him are beat up, abused, and robbed of resources and time.  Special thanks to the Sherriff’s department of Rio Grande County, Colorado.  Only because they understood the severity of the situation and stood by and monitored it all carefully were we able to reduce the drama and eventually get out of there with only financial losses.

Nonetheless we all wish Andy success on his road to health and recovery.

The momma cows are healthy and they are now at Kurtis’s.  A new dairy is literally rising from the ashes as along the way Kurtis lost his home to an accidental fire.

The few calves that we got are also healthy, though wild due to lack of handling and human contact.   We can work that out over time.  Colleen has the calves at her farm in Elizabeth, CO.

We will update you on the building process as the new dairy emerges.  It can only be better news than we have had for the last month or so.

This week’s cheese share update:

This week the cheese share will be green chile cheddar and asadero.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

This week, we continue with modest quantities of Vida Verde tomatoes.  We also have “B” fruit, which is very ripe and perfect for processing.  You can order the “B” fruit for $1.50 per pound.

Remember that you can also order One Straw Farm basil for pesto and drying.

We also have bunched onions from White Mountain farm, salad, collards, and squash from Mesa Top and Elijah Farm’s lemon cucumbers.

We also have available hot peppers from Agricultura, on a special order basis, for you “heat lovers”.

On the fruit side we have two special treats from Shiraz:  another type of grape and a small amount of prune plums.

David tells us that the sweet pomegranates are just a few weeks away!  We can hardly wait.  If you have not eaten these before, it may be life changing experience, so be prepared!

Membership news:

Each week we ask for your support to spread the word about the CSA.  Thank all of you who continue to do this.  We cannot continue this business, connecting farmers and eaters as directly as possible, without your ongoing help.

Thank you for your continued support!

Steve Warshawer


1 Comment

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One response to “Steve’s Weekly Update for 8/25/10

  1. Great blog. I’ve been following S. 510 and it’s refreshing to hear a reasoned voice.

    Cheers and good luck with the frost! I hope your squash turns out nicely and that you can continue to work on behalf of good agriculture.


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