Steve’s Weekly Update 11/2/11

Climatology 2011: We saw some snow on the ground here at MT last week on Thursday morning.  More cold expected, but still riding the fall roller coaster from record warmth to unseasonable cold.

Are you interested in sourcing firewood from Mesa Top Farm?  Several members have contacted us about firewood.  We are working out details to begin cutting and delivering and also to making the wood cutting areas accessible to “cut your own” arrangements.  There is plenty more wood out there, so if you are interested, please email stevew@plateautel.net and tell us what you want.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: Alfalfa hay is now selling for $400 to $500 per ton.   Last year it cost me $150 per ton.  I am finding ways to keep things going a little at a time with small mounts of alfalfa from my friends at Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos, but I need a big buy of hay to get us through the winter and if I am lucky, with a little horse trading, I can get my costs down to the $250 or so per ton.

Meanwhile our fall calvers are all moving on toward their due dates.  We expect 5 fresh cows to be on the milk line by early December.

This week’s cheese making update:   The paint brushes may well be out by the end of the week.  Progress continues in the cheese room.  I will see our NM Dairy Bureau inspectors next week at a Food Safety Conference in Albuquerque and will bring them photos of our improved plant.  We should be ready for inspection within a couple of weeks.

This week’s cheese share includes:  a variety of artisanal cheeses.

Mesa Top Meat (Protein) update:   We had a question from a member about whether our beef is organic.   This is an interesting question when it comes to overall sustainability in which organic is not always the highest standard.

All of our cows get as much of their nutrition as possible from standing forage, in pasture.  Our pastures are never treated with anything at all, except wind, rain, (and snow) and the droppings of the livestock and wildlife.  The drought makes that a challenge at times, as does the need of lactating dairy cows to have higher quality nutrition, so that they can produce lots of milk (more than their calves need, so there is plenty for us as well) and also to keep themselves healthy.

We source our hay from small farmers in our area, and as you have read above, that is an increasing challenge.  Certified Organic hay is scarcely available from local sources.  At our scale of operation, there is little to gain from becoming certified organic, or from requiring that our hay suppliers do so.  If we were certified, then most of the time, more of our feed would come from further away.

Our core value is local, and organic practices come with the territory, even if we are not certified or asking that our suppliers do the same.  As we work more with Ray Vaz in Roswell, whose land and dairy are now certified organic, we may be able to add certification to our program in affordable and sensible ways.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:  A head of lettuce and a full pound of spinach from Red Mountain Farm in Abiqui, organic beets from Synergia Ranch, leeks from Talon del Gato, 8 oz of Daikon from Gemini Farm South, and a 5 lb bag of organic red potatoes from White Mountain Farm in Mosca, Co.

Steve’s policy and advocacy corner.  Thank you to anyone who chimed in last week asking that the budget reconciliation super committee NOT write our 5 year farm bill behind closed doors.  I hear from friends in Washington that the legislators who were up to this trick were caught totally off guard by the wave of calls and emails on the subject.  They are now “re-messaging” their work to avoid reference to the farm bill, but we think that they are still trying to reach beyond their rightful scope.  We will keep you posted in case there is another time when we need to jam the switchboard.

I mentioned above that I will see our dairy inspectors at a food safety conference next week in Albuquerque.  I will also see regional staff from FDA, and I hope to raise the question about whether county level action on food freedom and “eater’s rights” can be effective in setting up protections for farmers and their customers.  It appears that the big sticking point concerns entry into commerce.  Once engaged in commerce, every possible manner of regulatory process comes into play.  I think that the local food movement of the future will also include alternative approaches that escape being categorized as “commerce.”  The original CSA’s intended that, and now the stakes are being raised.

Membership news:  Thank you for your investment in the CSA .  We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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