Steve’s Weekly Update for 10/7/10

Dear members,

Climatology 2010: Hail at Mesa Top again.  The third time this season we have had “damaging hail”.  It was Saturday afternoon, after another 10 days of total drought.  Again we go from extreme to extreme.  Still no serious cold nights.  As a result of the hail, this week’s salad mix, arugula, and cooking greens will have to be put off so that the plants can recover.  It will make for a strange mix of produce this week.  See below.

Steve’s Soapbox: This week I begin what should be a regular engagement writing for the blog of GlobalGAP.  Some of you will remember my references to this non-profit, international “partnership for Good Agricultural Practice”.

Here is the link for the Farmer TV episode featuring Steve Warshawer

GlobalGAP is working hard to develop a presence in North America, where in my humble opinion their approach to Good Agricultural Practice is very much needed and a “breath of fresh air”.

I have been hired as a consultant to GlobalGAP on a limited basis, helping them with writing a regular opinion piece and also with “translation” to and from the North American / United States context.

In fact, I am in London this week attending their Global Summit on G.A.P.  I am being trained in their field crop standards and certification.  I will also be part of a panel on Friday morning speaking about issues facing small producers in the US who wish to enter  conventional supply chains.

For my soapbox this week I am going to refer you to a USA today article that recently came out, criticizing “private food safety auditors” such as those who had inspected the PCA (Peanut Corporation of America) and Wright County Egg.

I have taken that article as a starting point to write a more broad review of government vs. private food safety systems, advocating for a mixture of the two.  My draft article is posted under the food safety menu and the top of the blog.

Here is the link

Last week I was in Washington DC for my first meeting of the NACMPI (National Advisory Council on Meat and Poultry Inspection) which I was appointed to in July.  It was fascinating to be a part of this committee, and to hear for the first time, clearly articulated, the strongly held beliefs of the major national consumer advocacy groups who are pushing hardest for serious increases in government regulation of all foods.  The NACMPI oversees the USDA FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Services) which is responsible for meat and poultry (and seafood and catfish), while FDA is responsible for all the rest.

The consumer groups want the government to not only inspect and regulate, they would prefer that all food establishments “graded” and the grades published so that consumers can vote with their pocket books and reject businesses with lower ratings.

I was fairly quiet (hard to believe but true) in these meetings, but at that point I spoke up.  I pointed out that if the US government helps make food safety into a competitive attribute, then poor people will end up eating less safe food and the safest food will be more expensive and will be sold to the wealthy.  We did not have a chance to discuss this idea in detail as it was a bit of a tangent from the primary conversation.  I look forward to coming back to it later.

All of you CSA members and blog readers probably know where I stand on this: all farmers are responsible to provide the safest food possible, and if the government is to be involved at all, it is to give pass/fail regulatory oversight to the riskiest activities, where mistakes have the most far reaching and dangerous effects.  It is up to “private groups”, such as globalGAP and other partnerships, to create systems to encourage continuous improvement in best practices.

I also look forward to writing more about the NACMPI meeting.  They took each of our pictures and we will be receiving fancy “appointment certificates” from the administrator of USDA FSIS.  I hope I can get a copy of the picture to share with you all!

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

Dottie Jr. and her boy are doing very well at Common sense Farm and Dairy!  Last Friday we had Colleen’s vet, Dr. Dale Rice come over and check out all of the calves and give them TB tests, which are a mandatory health requirement for dairy cows.

It turns out that Dr. Rice is a “retired” food safety specialist, having worked for some major companies in quality control.  He is also a scientist and researcher who recently presented a paper showing how to analyze risks of e-coli contamination using aerial photography and other observational tools.

Also last week the RMAC board took a firm stand that all member producers will have to have HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plans, which are well respected approach to reducing risk through a “systems approach”.  There was an e coli and campylobacter outbreak linked to a RMAC member goat dairy last summer that was well publicized and was very damaging to other member farms, not to mention for the 16 people who got seriously ill.

I have an idea that some of the techniques for simplifying verification and certification processes at small farms that globalGAP has pioneered, along with Dr. Rice as a Colorado resource person, and along with the commitment of RMAC leadership to creating a safe product will lead to an interesting and worthwhile collaboration.

Meanwhile, much as I love raw milk, and I do, all I can say is be very careful who you trust.  It is important to remember that raw milk is a risky food.  It takes careful handling all the way through the process from caring for the cow, to milking and bottling and eventually delivery of the milk to assure that this risk is minimized.

One thing that we do know for sure that raw milk cheese, aged for over 60 days, is as safe as any food can be.

This week’s cheese share update:

This week the cheese share will be a piece of Goat Feta form Jennie Knoblauch’s Laz-Ewe Farm and Ayrshire Cheddar or Gouda.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

As I mentioned above in the weather report, Mesa Top had a setback that cuts out or greens for this week, so we have an odd looking share.

We are near the end of the tomatoes from Virgin, but are expecting a full pound per member, or maybe a bit more this week.

We owe you all a pound of extra potatoes, because the plan was last week to include a pound of tomatoes and when they came up short we were supposed to fill in with potatoes, but somehow the wires got crossed.  Whenever we deliver potatoes next, we will add in an extra pound.

We will very likely include your first winter squash of the season as well—spaghetti and perhaps delicata as well.  Look for recipes on the blog on Friday.

We will have the hakura turnips from Mesa Top, which can be eaten raw and are delicious in salads or as a cracker substitute with hummus or other dips.

We may have a special radish from Gemini Farm this week. Called a watermelon radish, it is much like the turnip (radishes and turnips are relatives).  We may be able to fill in with salad from Agricultra Coop.  We are still working on this.

Membership news:

Dena is on vacation this week!  Colleen is filling in.  We expect no complications as we have been preparing for this week, but we do know to expect the unexpected…

Thank you for your continued support!

Steve Warshawer


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