Steve’s Update 0ct 3, 2013

Member message for Beneficial Farm CSA, week of October 3rd 2013

Climatology 2013:   The late fall moisture was scoured out and replaced by the first real cold of the season arrived this past weekend and Mesa Top morning lows went below freezing for two nights.  This killed off a lot of pesky garden bugs and also led to the full harvest of winter squash.

Now it is fall, days are warm and the air is clear.  Nights are cool and hover close to freezing in the little valley where the gardens, buildings, pens, coops and corals of Mesa Top are located.  We can expect to see the parade of storms, with cold weather behind them and warm weather and stiff winds ahead of them, and hopefully these will continue to bring moisture.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project:  Still plenty of grass for the Mesa Top herds.

Update and correction on Tippy and her calf:  I spoke to the neighbor who brought us the calf and he corrected my story.  He and his wife were on their way to town and found the calf sleeping in the middle of the road.  I am unconvinced that he got there by his own power, since calves are instinctively programmed to hide in tall grass, but there he was.  They put him over the fence on the other side of the road, thinking that he belonged to our neighbor across the way.  When they came home that night he was still there, so they picked him up and drove home and then another rancher neighbor sent them to us with the calf.  This explains why Tippy was at the fence the next morning.  Odds are she had gone to that fence several times and saw him across the road and called him but certainly not able to get to him or vice versa.

Now, a week later, Tippy is very healthy.  She is giving us a huge amount of milk, about 4 gallons a day, and her boy is still totally confused.  He does not have good, strong suckling instinct.  He does not curl his tongue around the nipple and hold it and suckle.  But he is drinking, about ½ gallon twice a day.  Tippy is trying to mother him and he recognizes her but does not really understand why she is so interested in him.  We have opened up a portion of the garden area, which is now empty of vegetables, and Tippy and Junior share this with the turkeys.

The burden on us is that Tippy produces so much milk that Colleen is milking twice a day.  This also enables us to have fresh, warm bottle milk for junior.  Shortly we will bring Dottie and her little calf back and we are hoping that when junior meets another little cow, he will start to get the idea what it means to be a 4-legged.

And Bow, one of our other top milkers, cousin to Tippy, was looking big and bagged up when I dropped off water at the lease pastures, so we will go looking for her ASAP this weekend.  Soon we will have 3 and maybe 4 cows on the milk line.

This week’s protein update:  The veal is in stock and ready to go.  It is beautiful, nicely cut and presented, and very tasty.  We think you will like it.  Regular beef packs are also in stock, along with plenty of extra lean ground beef.

The turkeys are out on fresh green ground, and surprised us by coming home to their shelter on their own at dark even on the very first night that they went out onto the large pasture area.

This week’s cheese making update:  Colleen made the first batch of fall cheese Monday.  And we have a nice supply of 6 to 18 month aged cheese as well.  As the fall veggie varieties decrease, we hope you will enjoy an occasional chunk of cheese in the share.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

It is quite a variety of vegetables in this week’s share.  As we move into fall we will be missing some of the summer standbys like squash and cukes, and seeing more roots and heavy, “long season” items like onions and winter squash.

No fruit in the share this week, we are still working on getting apples in from the Western Slope.  The exciting feature item this week is freshly roasted green chile from Talon de Gato

For your salad we have Mesa Top’s last cucumbers and lettuce from Red Mountain Farm.  We also have garlic chives, baby turnip greens from Talon de Gato, and fennel from Red Mountain Farm.

We have several root vegetables in the share this week, beets from Synergia Ranch, Sierra Blanca Onions from Red Mountain Farm, and rutubagas from Talon de Gato.

Membership news:  Please follow us online at Facebook and Twitter. This is a great way to show your friends our weekly shares, recipes and updates.

Remember when you help us spread the word and sign up more members; we add $10 to your Farm Account for every member you refer.

Thank you for your investment in and continued support of the CSA.  We appreciate your support!

Steve Warshawer

Food Safety regulations threaten local and regional food systems, and why dirt on your vegetables is one way to prevent that threat from materializing

I have dedicated a lot of my off farm time over the last five years to the work of addressing commercial buyer expectations around food safety and to protecting our local and regional food systems and the farms and food producers who supply them from the imminent threat of food safety regimens soon to be implemented as part of FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act).

I have learned a lot by working with produce food safety experts.  We have spent long hours discussing farm practices, and addressing the challenge of how to handle produce so it can travel long distances, over extended periods of time, and look good on the retail shelves or in a finished meal.

I learned from them that a major point for risk of contamination in the produce that we eat comes during the cleaning process.  I have countered their descriptions with experiences in our short supply chains, where few hands and little time passes between harvest and meal time.

When you think about it, common sense says that the best scenario is that produce should be moved from the field (or garden) to the kitchen with as little extra handling as possible, and cleaned once and only once, at precisely the time when it will be eaten.  The combination of consumer expectation of “movie star” appearance and the long distance supply chain’s need to create consistent product that travels well has led to practices of washing and waxing for many types of produce.  These processes introduce one of the most significant opportunities for contamination of produce.  The Jensen Farms cantaloupe nightmare was created by a cantaloupe washing system that spread lysteria monocytogenes to much of the fruit through the washing process.  For that reason FSMA rules will place very stringent expectations on produce operations that wash their crops.

If the same expectations are placed on local and regional food producers, many will cease to be economically viable and will go out of business. The cost of entering the market will go up, and new farmers will be discouraged.  This factor will be among many that will eventually lead to more expensive and less available fresh produce in general, except from the largest farms who have the resources and technical expertise to sanitize and ship.  Eventually most of those operations will be located outside the US where enforcement will be less rigorous and low labor costs, and lesser environmental standards will allow businesses to be profitable while also spending more of their money on “food safety requirements”, some of which (movie star looks?) have no direct correlation to ACTUAL food safety!  Let’s all eat our vegetables from China!!!

One of the hot topics among produce people has been whether we could get our customers to remember a by-time gone when getting a little bit of the farm dirt on your veggies was a reason to smile.  “It rained!  So my cukes are not so clean.  Well Hallelujah, praise the rain!”

In general our New Mexico produce comes clean from the field.  That’s because it hardly ever rains!  So given the recent drought relief, there is more dirty produce out there in our NM fields than there has been in some time.  When we look at our dirty cars and trucks, and muddy clothes and boots, we find ourselves saying “Thank you” for the gift of rain. Yes, it is inconvenient, but it is not unhealthy to clean the produce when it gets to your kitchen. AND sometime soon you may be saving your local farmers, who are able to avoid costly regulatory requirements by telling FDA “our customers wash their own veggies.”

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