The last few months the kind of people that pay attention to changes in Washington, DC that are going to affect small farms have been issuing dire warnings about the rules the FDA is writing as part of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Unlike the organic advocacy groups, our objective isn't to get you to petition the FDA. (Besides wasting time and losing focus, petitioning the FDA probably can't hurt, though.) Now that the FSMA is already law, our best remaining hope is to partner more deeply and directly with a tight network of customers in ways that will hopefully enable us to work around the new threats and burdens to local and homegrown ways of producing food.
As groups like the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association have highlighted, earlier regulatory burdens
have already pushed most of the small-scale meat processors in North Carolina and across the U.S. out of
business. We lost our local meat processor, Johnson Meats, with
whom we had dealt as far as regulatory restrictions had allowed, a
couple years ago. We're very pleased to have found another
processor that will kill on the farm -- they're the last processor
in North Carolina that still kills on the farm, and no new
processors are being allowed to do the same -- but they're further
away, they only process beef for roughly the first six months of the
calendar year (much of which time is booked up a year in advance), and we'd really be limited if they, too, went out of
The FSMA is designed to bring that same kind of pressure on the
one major remaining food sector that was until now mostly free to
bring homegrown style food to farmers' markets and otherwise sell to
the general public, namely fresh produce. The battle for selling
homegrown style produce freely to the general public isn't over yet
-- it will take a little time -- but
the writing is on the wall with the FSMA, and we can be sure that battle is lost.
Of course, it's well worth noting that the foodborne illness
episodes that prompted the passage of the FSMA -- here's a CNN
decade's 10 biggest food-borne illness outbreaks -- were all
from very large-scale producers such that individual farms sickened people all
across the country and a half billion eggs, 30 million pounds of
sliced deli meat, etc. were subsequently recalled... yet, the FSMA
created a regulatory system that will disproportionately advantage
the kinds of operations that caused these outbreaks while pushing
the small-scale alternatives out of business. One might blame
corporate influence on the Washington system, but more fundamentally
Washington control is simply a lot more compatible with large
corporate operations than lots of small, diverse farms. In any
case, the FSMA is now law and customers now face an imminent threat
of losing the one good, relatively easy connection they have with a
locally controlled alternative agriculture, namely produce.
How can the local food movement hope to survive without being
able to easily sell produce? Like we said above, we think the
answer is solidifying the gains the local food movement has made in
the last 10+ years by deepening the relationships that already exist
between small farms and their patrons. Going forward it's going to
be much harder for the small farms that offer substantive
alternatives to the mainstream corporate food system to build
connections with new customers, but there's hope in the connections
we've already built, and that's a place from where we might slowly
grow. We lost a major battle when we gave Washington the power to
define Good Agricultural Practice (which now goes with sinister
capital letters and the acronym GAP), but we believe moving beyond the superficial freedom of supermarket style consumerism to real partnerships between consumers and local farms offers
the best hope to continue to pursue alternative ideas to good
agricultural practice, ideas that aren't just minor variations on 30
million pounds of recalled deli meats and all the other many ills of
corporate-industrial agriculture beyond the foodborne illnesses.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
A good spot on the south side of our house and a little added protection on the coldest winter nights was about it all it took to produce our first delicious little crop of satsumas. We don't really understand the taxonomy, but our understanding is that satsumas are very similar to but not the same as tangerines, clementines, and mandarin oranges. In any case, they're an outstanding fresh eating fruit.
Local pecans are in short supply this fall, likely due to the wet spring and summer. The pecan farmer in Rowan County we normally get a good quantity of in-shell pecans from said there wasn't even enough pecans at his place this year for the squirrels. Not having a local source for our usual staple nut has definitely added to our recent interest in black walnuts. These we can source even more locally - from trees already growing wild on our own farm. With the kids on board, feed sacks worth of walnuts were picked up from under two of our trees this year. Word got out and a neighbor brought over a few more feed sacks full. The hulls were rubbed off and the nuts washed. Then we hung them in feed sacks to cure. Now a little bit at a time, we're cracking them. Many of them are shelling out with relatively large pieces.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Hattie and the rest of us have really taken to greens this fall. A simple preparation has been working for whatever comes in from the garden - chard, mustard, kale, turnip, collards, tat soi, and mizuna. Wash and chop into about one inch pieces. In a cast iron frying pan, saute some chopped bacon or fat back until browned. Or just add some fat. Saute a chopped onion if you'd like. Then add the greens and stir until they are wilted. Add small amounts of broth or water as needed to keep them cooking until they reach the desired tenderness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cider vinegar can be a nice addition as well.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
It started so small this spring and then just kept growing and growing. Here it is after it's 2nd hair cut, ready for a third (picture taken about a month ago). We dried the cut leaves and have been using them for tea. Stevia and lemon grass has become a favorite. We got the small plant from a friend this spring and set it out after the last chance of frost. It was so vigorous it out competed all the bermuda grass around it, making a small bush in a short time. It is not winter hardy, so we divided the roots six ways and trimmed stems and potted up each new plant separately. We're overwintering them in various locations - a sunny window, a friend's greenhouse, and an outbuilding that doesn't freeze - to determine what is the most successful. We look forward to growing it in different places around the farm next year.