Climatology 2011: Still no frost at Mesa Top, though the nights are dipping into the mid 30’s. Beautiful blue skies that signal fall. Puffy winter storm clouds, and north west to west winds. I heard a weather report that there might be a shower of snow later this week along the mountain tops…
This week’s Cow stories: Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: One of my farmer friends who has been part of the Ayrshire project is Ray Vaz, who used to milk 900 cows in Roswell, NM. I met him and his wife Julie a couple of years ago just as they were selling their herd and closing down to re-think what they wanted to do with their farm. Ray traded me some cows for 6 of my first Ayrshire bulls. We learned a lot about the challenge of moving cows from a dry lot dairy, with a TQR (Total Quality Ration) out onto grass. That did not go so well. But the Ayrshire bulls worked very well for Ray and his brother in law, who continues as a fluid milk producer in Roswell.
Ray has been redesigning his farm to be an organic, pasture based dairy. His hope has been that he would find a dairying partner to run the milking operation while he concentrates on building the forage and feed production aspect of the farm. Ray has green pastures at times when Northern farmers do not.
Ray also is just a mile from Pecos Valley meats, the last medium sized processor in the state, owned by Rick de los Santos and family. Roswell also has a vigorous livestock auction, and I have been able to sell some live cows and calfs there with Ray’s help.
Roswell has endured a summer of record heat and drought; more days over 90 and 100 degrees than ever before in recorded weather history. But Ray’s steady, determined efforts to develop a forage base on his farm have paid off and he will have good green feed from November to April, when we have nothing but snow and dead standing grass.
I have learned a lot from Ray and hope I have been able to help him a bit as well. My working relationship with him has added a lot to the Ayrshire project already, and I will be interested to see how we come up with for this winter and early spring.
This week’s cheese and herd share update: We sent in samples of the grated Ayrshire Salado Jack last week, and supplied the cheese shares as well. Dena says that although the samples were all eaten up, none sold. We do need to find the best form for selling the Salado cheeses and feel that the grated product is the most versatile for our members’ many uses. We hope you will try some!
We have gotten a new mold for hard cheese making that allows us to make 20 gallon batches and is easy to handle and keep clean and well sanitized. We are going to keep making the Ayrshire Salado hard cheese, and soon will try a feta. We need to experiment with our hard cheese recipe still, so it is important for us to keep getting it out to you and getting your feedback.
This week’s cheese share includes: Asadero and Romano
Mesa Top Meat (Protein) update: This week your ground beef will be from chuck and arm roasts. We have another beef going to the butcher in Roswell. This one is cousin to the beef we have been eating for the last couple of months. We hope you will keep supporting the beef side of the Ayrshire project through the family beef shares. Anyone wanting larger beef portions for their freezer should contact me at Mesa Top.
This week’s Veggie/Share Update: Dena and I were talking the other day about the CSA’s core commitment to local and family farmed food. I encouraged her that we should emphasize these values, rather than tags such as “chemical free” and organic.
It has been my experience that ALL farmers, organic and otherwise, use the least chemicals and outside inputs possible without risking losing their crop. As we get to know our “family operated” farms who preserve their identity in everything they sell, and concentrate their marketing and distribution close to home, we experience sustainability on a number of levels including environmental and economic. Soil and water are protected, and fresh, clean food is produced. The choice to be organic or not is less of an issue on these family based operations. They are balancing sustainability of many kinds.
Beneficial Farms CSA strives to source as close to home as possible, and to balance that with variety and seasonality. This leads us to move further out into our region when necessary. We know our farmers and in nearly all cases there is a unique story of how they embrace sustainability. There is no single formula or equation. For our farmer/suppliers, it is not only about the chemicals, or the USDA organic label, though these are elements of a farm’s sustainability commitment.
In this week’s share you see a move toward larger amounts of fewer items. This is a trend that makes sense as we move toward fall harvest. We can give our members better value with larger amounts of each item, as it saves labor all along the way from field to fork.
The share includes carrots from Gemini, beets from Synergia, and onions from Espanola Valley Farm. Also tomatoes and poblano peppers from Rancho La Jolla.
This week’s fruit are western slope Colorado peaches, probably the last of the season, from Steve Ela Family Farm, one of the oldest organic orchards in Colorado.
Enjoy the new varieties and the continuing bounty !
Steve’s policy and advocacy corner, a.k.a: I’m from the government and I am here to help you…. Really? I used to write a lot in the weekly member message about my policy and advocacy work. I was discouraged from doing so last fall when a member survey indicated that very few people read that section. I have recently been encouraged to try again. I am saving that segment for last, to provide info for those of you who are interested while avoiding boring those of you who are not.
I am on my way to Washington DC as I write this entry, for the first time since January. I have two purposes for the trip. One is that I am an appointed member of the NACMPI (National advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection). We are a group of business, academic/extension, and consumer watchdog groups who are asked to discuss and make recommendations regarding issues. The USDA FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) is tasked with keeping meat and poultry (and seafood) safe. As a committee member, I have pushed the idea that all food should be safe and that grading of facilities so that consumers can avoid those with lower, but still passing grades is a terrible idea. The consumer watchdogs want this, as they feel that public pressure will make lower ranked plants push to improve. I contend that all they will accomplish is to “differentiate” the facilities so that the wealthy are served by the higher ranking plants and the poor and less powerful will be served by the lower ranking plants.
Elsewhere in the “developed world” it is understood that all food should be safe as possible for all people. But here in the US, there is a growing tendency to compete on the basis of safety. I am seeing this also in the produce industry, where major retailers try to emphasize the superiority of their safety standards, and the produce industry attempts to subtly target farmers markets and local food as less safe because it is unregulated.
The other part of my work in DC is with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) who has contracted me to be the point person in our follow up to the Food Safety Modernization Act, (FSMA) which has given the FDA a whole new set of mandates and tools with which to make our food supply safer. My work involves responding to FDA requests for input designed to avoid “one size fits all” regulation. As an advocate for local and regional food systems, I want to see FDA put its efforts where the problems are greatest, in the industrial production and distribution system where product identity is lost and mistakes or contamination is multiplied and transported far and wide, creating serious public health risk whenever a contamination incident occurs.
To support that goal while assuring that best practices are disseminated clear to the smallest farms, NSAC negotiated the Tester Amendment (Jon Tester, Organic Farmer and Senator from Montana was the sponsor) to identify a class of farms who would be regulated by local and state programs, designed to be equivalent to the FDA, but administered without the heavy hand of the Federal Bureaucracy. Now we are hammering out details of all kinds, as industry keeps trying to find ways to undermine the content and intent of the amendment. This process is slow and arduous. And in the current political and economic climate, it is not easy.
It is a goal of mine to build consumer awareness and readiness to act (through action alerts and messages to our political leadership) at critical moments. Stay tuned, if you are interested in this sort of thing.
Membership news: Thank you for your investment in the CSA . We appreciate your continued support!