Thursday, August 26, 2010
We want to continue this week sharing our thoughts on how to get away from the conventional, corporate food system and how to develop a dependable, community-based food system free especially of chemical and pharmaceutical dependency. This week our focus is dairy. Increasingly, dairy cows are being kept (like poultry and hogs) without any access to forage or any fresh feed at all. Fortunately (unlike poultry and hogs), real, significant fresh feed is a part of the USDA organic requirements for dairy cattle. Of course, as with all rule-based programs, there are producers that seek to meet the minimal letter of those rules without following the spirit of the rules in order to gain cost advantages and increase their market share. However, there is one fairly big organic cooperative with farms in Iredell and Rowan Counties (and all over the country) that has really impressed us with their integrity, and that's Organic Valley. If we had to buy milk and butter, etc., in the grocery stores, we would definitely choose Organic Valley. First, so far as we're aware, there is no other government-regulated dairy or cooperative with farms in North Carolina that sells organic milk. Second, we've seen a couple of the farms that sell to Organic Valley and we've talked to some of the farmers, and what we've seen up until now are real family farms with cows on green pastures. If you're going to buy government-regulated dairy products, the Organic Valley cooperative would be, by our recommendation, the best option (and well worth the price compared to the other supermarket options we're aware of.) [However, see here for later thoughts on the declining integrity of the Organic Valley brand.] Of course, even the best milk in stores still leaves a whole lot to be desired in terms of community accountability; dependency on "organic" grain and/or hay from halfway across the continent; dependency on conventional transportation, processing, and distribution systems; and other issues of sustainability.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Our farm is as much a homestead as it is a "for market" production farm. This means many of the things we grow or do are just for ourselves. Dry beans, for example. When we moved to this farm three years ago we had enough garden space to experiment with growing a larger variety of our own food. So we pulled some dry beans out of the pantry and planted them. To our delight, the kidney, black, pinto, white beans and black-eyed peas all gave a pretty good yields. We've yet to have any luck with chick peas.
Without a combine to harvest the crop, we were left with low-tech options. So we hand pulled the dried plants and put them in feed sacks. Then this week, we finished the final steps of getting the beans back into the pantry. Since the plants were good and dry it took only a couple minutes of beating with a bat or stick for the beans to fall out of the pods and to the bottom of the bag. The empty plants were lifted out of the sack and the beans were poured into a bowl. Then we winnowed them in front of a fan to get the chaff out. Before using them, the beans will just need a once over to make sure they are fully clean.