Friday, June 30, 2006
Michael Pollan wrote a letter to the CEO of Whole Foods after he took issue with his book Omnivores Dilema. This link has a bit of a response:
The next part in the drama is cut & pasted here:
From: CommonDreams.org> June 29, 2006 > Whole Foods CEO Mackey Endorses Cato Book No More Corporate Crime> Prosecutions> by Russell Mokhiber> > Most people who shop at Whole Foods are liberal yuppies.> > They have enough money to spend $9 on a pound of cherries.> > They believe that shopping for groceries at Whole Foods instead of Safeway> or Food Lion or Giant or Wal-Mart is the politically correct thing to do.> > They probably believe that the President and CEO of Whole Foods is a liberal> like themselves.> > They of course would be wrong.> > John Mackey is instead a libertarian with right-wing tendencies.> > Mackey says that Milton Friedman is his hero.> > He¹s a devotee of Ayn Rand.> > He¹s opposed to national health insurance.> > He¹s a union buster.> > And he has recently endorsed a book published by the libertarian Cato> Institute whose author concludes that no corporation should ever be> prosecuted for crimes no matter the corporation, no matter the crime.> > The book Trapped: When Acting Ethically is Against the Law is written by> Georgetown University Professor John Hasnas.> > ³John Hasnas shows that new laws and regulations too often force CEOs to> choose between acting legally and acting ethically,² Mackey says in a blurb> on the back cover.> > Unlike most books on white collar crime, which tend to rehash bland academic> theories or cut corporate crimes of years past and paste them with dogmatic> rants, Trapped is actually a compelling read with an original idea sprinkled> here and there.> > Hasnas¹ big idea is that the whole system of prosecuting corporate crime is> undermining the liberal principles built into traditional criminal law and> designed to protect individuals against the power of the state.> > The result is that corporations are forced to turn on their own employees to> save their own corporate hide.> > Hasnas is a hard line libertarian. He worked for a time as lawyer for the> politically aggressive, right-wing, and privately-held Koch Industries one> of the nation¹s largest oil companies.> > And instead of concluding that we should fix the criminal justice system so> that corporations and federal prosecutors can no longer gang up on> individual employees he concludes in his book that corporations should> never be criminally prosecuted ever.> > No matter the crime.> > No matter the corporation.> > Hasnas wants to do away with corporate criminal liability.> > If there is a crime committed by someone within the corporation, criminally> prosecute the individual, he says.> > But a corporation can¹t commit a crime and should not be criminally> prosecuted.> > Ever.> > We wanted to know: does Whole Foods¹ CEO Mackey agree corporations should> never be criminally prosecuted?> > No matter the crime?> > No matter the corporation?> > Does the libertarian John Mackey support the big business funded Cato> Institute and its right wing ideology with cash or just with quotes?> > Whole Foods spokesperson Kate Lowery did not return numerous calls and> e-mails seeking comment.> > Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime> Reporter.> > For a complete transcript of the Interview with John Hasnas, see 20> Corporate Crime Reporter 27(12), July 5, 2006, print edition only.> > ###> >********************Ryan ZinnNational Campaign CoordinatorOrganic Consumers Association1834 Juneau Dr #2Anchorage, AK firstname.lastname@example.orgCampaigning for Health, Justice, and Sustainability
I'm not going to pretty it up like some of the other cut & paste from emails things. You can read it.
Mutton, baby beef, two pigs, lamb... that is how I am going to treat my omnivore's dilema. I've gotta get the book...
Peter sheep has to be dropped off at Nowers today. Had is a term I use lightly. It was better than using a sharp knife and saying a prayer before I sliced his throat. Peter sheep tried his best to kill Kool, an Arapawa buck.
Kool has a concussion and nerve damage in his shoulder. He is in crazy pain. I had Wayne come by to have a look at him. He gave me something to inject to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Pretty mush the rest of the instruction was rescrict movement, give fresh water and good hay/grass. No contact with other goats for 2 months at least.
Peter sheep then had an appointment. Thank you Scott for leaving your trailer when you brought Fritz up to see "the Girls".
Claire and Ginger Beagle are on way to Massachusetts. Claire told me that she wasn't going to miss us because we were going to see her at the picnic (with the big whale). I wanted to cry. I grabbed her in a Bear Hug until she promised she would miss me terribly. It still feels like she is just down for a nap. I need a nap...
Nina Plank is due to the area this weekend. Troy is bringing her around. They will get along. Both want to be Rock Stars. I do too, but I don't like the way they are doing it. Nina more than Troy, but even she is boardering on not really being for the farmer. Heck the cheese and dairy part of her new Farmer's Market plan was to go through Murray's only. Yah, so I can drive 3 1/2 hours and wholesale my products! I cannot blame her. The location was why I wanted the market, but it is too close to Murray's for them to really allow a cheesemaker to compete with their market. Nice new store. I am just not going to comprimise on price right now. My batches are too small and the market too far away. Too bad.
Guess I should make this Blog more open to become a Rock Star. Cannot be so open about what I think about things in Food and Farming then. Heck, I'd have to add photos of pet sheep and talk about gourmet cooking or something other than making a real living off the farm. Sucks not having a trust fund. That and I gave my pet sheep a death sentence after he tried to kill another animal and then charged me. Cannot have Claire around him. He'd kill her, hurt me (or kill me) another buck...
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I was due to have a baby in April. David caught pneumonia 3 times that winter. After getting the cows ready for milking in my 8th month, I injured my pelvic bone (moving a gate) and was confined to the house until the baby was due. Customers complained when, with David still with pneumonia, we had to bottle our low fat products a day late and could only do a portion of the Whole and Creamline products. We wrote a note for the farm stand explaining what was going on. I do not think many of them read it.
Meat sales, especially of our cull cows and veal calves, helped improve the overall offering of products and got us a better price for our cull animals. With our farm stand being on the honor system, higher priced items such as meat, meant that thefts of product cut into profits a bit more. That winter I began to sell “shares” of meat. We figured that a once a month pick-up of product would be better than having people at our place at all hours looking for products. Product pick-up began 2 weeks after I had Claire. In between the time that I had Claire and the first pick-up, I had to arrange for livestock transport, processing and then take our refrigerated truck 1 ½ hours away and pick up the meat. (Oh yes, and plastic bottles for processing and the cream and pints of flavored milk as we had to stop processing something at that time).
Anyone who tells you that you can strap on the baby and go, is either a lot tougher than I was or full of compost!
We got married in June. We were aiming for the justice of the peace deal between chores, but our mothers got involved and I just gave up any real planning and let them have it out between themselves. I only put my foot down when it meant spending money on nonsense or on inviting the entire state and some. When it rained that day, we were glad because we were able to see other farmer friends who would have been trying to catch up on other farm chores due to the late spring.
Did I mention that we were late with first cutting of hay due to the weather?
The summer went along about the same as usual… people letting heifers and dry cows out of their pasture; customers not reading signs, letters or any form printed matter; learning more foul language when moving haying equipment across town to the rented piece - where the owner planted pine trees or nut trees so that you cannot get equipment through; needing to replace the gas steam furnace in its 6th year of life; and then there was our house…
See our house was down a donkey path behind our barns. Customers, for the most part, had no clue where we lived. When you direct market products, it has an advantage. With meat shares, they found us. They came late, early, or not at all. They drove up to see the dogs, to get a special cut of meat for a dinner party they decided to throw, to see the turkeys grow up, they were in the neighborhood… No amount of writing in newsletter, signs, telling them…nothing would make all 100% of my customers show up on their appointed day.
I did have customers I liked. I miss some of them a lot. Notice the past tense?
We sold the farm in MA and moved the cows to NY! There you have it. Our stress release was a total change in location. We sold our processing plant, farm, in town property and moved to NY. Cows, a few sheep, some dogs, et al. Started fresh – with no mortgage this time.
We are milking cows on the commodity market again. Wrong timing with $10 milk, but we have a small herd and no mortgage now, so we will survive. I work at SUNY Morrisville in the dairy processing plant. We miss the cash flow that a farm stand gave us. We want Claire to get a little older and we definitely want to process something again. What? I do not know yet.
After 6 months of snow (the locals tell me this isn’t normal), we can say that we made the right decision. We are calmer, have time to see our daughter grow up and have something that we can see a future with. Now if only we can figure out where we are going to put that new farm stand…
For the first time ever, we have almost had to buy grain from Cargill. We always support more independent local feed mills. With Organic, you have to be careful about quality and our cows will not eat grist. With $12/hwt for milk during the last three months of transition, we had to consider Cargill. I found it odd that when I was conventional, we never had to consider Cargill. We found another regional mill.
My husband feels deeply about the care of his cows. We just had to treat an older cow for pneumonia after her last calf. The weather would go up to mid 70’s and dip to 20 or lower then go back up. The stress sometimes causes pneumonia. She is dry. The air in our barn is good. She is clean. My husband rang and organic dairy farmer locally to ask what he’d do. After listing a number of herbal treatments and suggesting sugar for milk fever, he didn’t feel comfortable. You’d use sugar for ketosis, not milk fever he said. It bothered him for four days until I rang a friend. It use to be that you’d double the withholding or one month, which ever was longest. Now we’d have to treat the cow conventionally and ship her. We only milk 20-30 cows.
We do a lot of conservation on our farm. We started that when we were conventional. We didn’t consider organic then. We are developing a wetland. We have buffer strips along waterways. My daughter and I encourage cliff and tree sparrows and make butterfly habitats. We also cleaned up old farm dumps and hauled our old metal and debris.
My head is spinning. We always considered ourselves Beyond Organic. Beyond the confinement farms in Colorado that ship to Horizon or the ultra High Temperature Short Time pasteurization of the organic milk. Beyond the whole shipping of organic grains and produce from other countries. We bought local. We supported local people as best we could. We are going Organic and I have to consider suppliers in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, soybeans from Brazil, Cargill…
The cooperative told us that they lost money because the consumers aren’t buying cheese like they use to. Cheese prices have increased from 11.3/# annual consumption per person to 31.2# annual consumption per person. The cooperative now sells more than 20% of our cheese to WalMart. The farmers know why we are loosing money. It isn’t the consumers. The consumers are telling our cooperative what they want. They are not listening to the farmer owners or the consumers.
The newspapers tell us there is too much milk on the market. That is why the milk price is going down so low. We have had four markets conventional and organic stop by our farm in the last two weeks asking for our milk. Sign on bonuses, no hauling charges, three milk checks per month instead of two, quality premiums… There is a market for everything. Why isn’t the cooperative pooling non-rBST milk like we asked them to last fall.
CWT was suppose to help our milk prices. We paid $.05/hwt for the program. So far our milk prices have been at 30 year lows twice and there are more cows and more milk. I thought we hired our staff to work together to make the farmer’s money. Seems the retailers are making a lot of money and the farmers are paying $.10/hwt for record milk production. Nice to offer a subsidy for all-in-all-out confinement farms that are contributing to the problem. This isn’t working. Take it out of the CEO’s salaries. Not mine, I cannot pay for health insurance or groceries.
We are transitioning to Organic even though we think that it is a temporary fix. Cargill is selling Organic grain now. What is going to happen next? I think we’ll milk goats. I hear a Greek outfit is opening a yoghurt plant up north of here…
We have been turning cows out in spite of things. The gutters are flooded and the humidity is too high to keep them in the barn. Combine it with the heat and humidity and we'd have a stinking mess and pneumonia throughout.
Thought we lost Mike's bull. Dave looked all through the pastures. I am SOOOOOO glad he didn't fall into the brook or something. Dave found him in with Bruce Barne's heifers. They are all bred and were in better shape water wise than ours.
Dave is spending all of his spare time with Nolan. Yes, Nolan. That boy is back in the scene again. Funny how much Dave adores someone that isn't related. Very untypical of the family to devote so much energy to a non-family member. I kinda have to give in despite the money he cost us the last time he worked with Dave. $10,000 for cows, lack of rent payment, lack of excessive food eating payment... Kid even stole the sap spickets and hasn't even appologized to me for getting all of those virus' and spyware on my computer after looking at porn sites.
I am so glad Dave can go out of his way to "help" everyone and spend all of the time fixing all of the neighbors problems when our own farm isn't up to snuff. Sounds like jelousy, but I think that the slap in the face is when he laughs at me and says "promises are made to be broken" and then tells me that the reason he cannot finnish getting forages off the field is that "he is a man of his word and will not go back on his promises" (in reference to helping Tom with his chopping).
When in-laws and daughter are in MA, we are going to re-evaluate our holistic goals before the lawyer does. This kind of thing is common in any relationship. I just have to keep both of our personal goals in keeping with the "both of our" goals. We need one of those Board member retreats that I use to set up. That and the rain to stop so that I don't have to walk around on egg shells.
Why our milk costs so much. It may do a body good, but this dairy staple is a pricey commodity in Chicago thanks to `archaic and inefficient' rules.
By Andrew MartinWashington Bureau
Published June 25, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Here's something to sour your next trip to the grocery store. Chicago-area consumers are charged more for milk than consumers in all but ahandful of urban markets, according to statistics maintained by the U.S.Department of Agriculture. Milk might be an all-American staple, a beverage so important the federal government recommends drinking three cups a day. But in Chicago, it also is a cash cow. Chicago was the most expensive market in the nation for whole milk in 2005, averaging $3.96 a gallon. In the first half of 2006, it has slipped to second behind New Orleans, which has Hurricane Katrina to blame. For 2 percent milk, Chicago does a little better. It was the fifth-most expensive market in the nation in 2005--at $3.58 a gallon--in the USDA'ssurvey of 30 urban markets. So far in 2006, Chicago has slipped to seventh place for 2 percent milk. In comparison, a gallon of milk in Carbondale, Ill., just five hours away,was among the cheapest in the nation last year, averaging $2.68 for wholemilk and $2.55 for 2 percent. It might seem that Chicago would have a competitive advantage over other cities when it comes to milk because the second-biggest repository of milk in the nation--Wisconsin--is just up the road. But not much makes sense when it comes to milk pricing in the United States. The marketplace has been warped by consolidation and outdated federal regulations that even the Justice Department describes as "archaic andinefficient." When it comes to milk, there isn't much that resembles a competitive marketplace. The federal government determines the minimum price that dairy farmers should be paid for raw milk based on a formula that is staggeringly complex and roughly follows the price of block cheddar cheese at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The cheese exchange, in turn, is controlled by a handful of major dairy companies and milk cooperatives, the largest of which publicly boasted to agroup of dairy producers in 2004 about artificially boosting the price. Meanwhile, because of consolidation, there are fewer milk bottlers and fewer grocery store chains to sell the milk. Who profits? So who is cashing in on Chicago milk? Based on industry and USDA statistics, it isn't the dairy farmers. Dairies do not sell raw milk directly on the market; they are represented by cooperatives that collect the milk and find a place to sell it, balancing the ebbs and flows between production and demand. Once they sell it, they send payment to the farmers. Last year, dairy farmers in Wisconsin received about $1.34 a gallon for raw milk, which translates to about 34 percent of what Chicago consumers spent on whole milk. Nationwide, dairy farmers received an average of about 39 percent of what consumers paid for whole milk. The cooperatives that serve Wisconsin farmers receive about 22 cents for each gallon of milk sold in Chicago. That is among the most expensive in the country, according to USDA statistics. In Denver, for example, cooperatives make about 7 cents per gallon. Once the milk is sold to a processing plant, it typically costs 70 cents to 80 cents per gallon for processing, packaging, distribution to stores and profit, said Corey Durling, a partner with the consulting firm DairyTechnomics in New Jersey. Those "non-milk costs" incurred by milk processors are not available for public review, and Durling said it was possible,though unlikely, that bottlers in the Chicago area charge higher prices. Adding all those costs, using the higher number for "non-milk costs," the result is that Chicago supermarkets and convenience stores paid about $2.36for a gallon of whole milk in 2005. That means grocery stores--at least the ones charging $3.96 --made an average gross profit of $1.60 off every gallon of whole milk sold in 2005, or 40 percent of total revenue." Baby, that is out of sight," Durling said. "Way screwed up."Chicago-area retailers appear to be making far more than the national average on milk. According to Durling, retailers usually make about 30 percent of total revenue on milk. Ed Jesse, a dairy economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, speculated that because Chicago has such dominant grocery stores in Dominick's Finer Foods and Jewel-Osco, the chains are making most of the profit. In fact, Jewel-Osco and Dominick's were accused in a class-action lawsuit in 2000 of fixing the price of milk; the case was later dismissed for lack of evidence. In that lawsuit, the plaintiffs' attorneys argued that Jewel and Dominick's were making up to 63 percent of what the consumer paid for milk. In addition, Jewel and Dominick's have the largest market share -- 61 percent-- when compared with chains' market share in 10 urban markets, according tothe Food Marketing Policy Center at the University of Connecticut." You have considerable concentration at the retail level in Chicago," Jesse said. "While there isn't any overt collusion, I would argue that there's passive collusion in that they are not going to under cut each other."But Mary Ledman, a dairy consultant based in northwest suburban Libertyville, said she was surprised by the high prices. She questioned whether the USDA monthly survey was capturing the overall marketplace because many stores offer milk at lower prices, and even large supermarket chains had recently offered discounts that reflect falling prices for rawmilk." I buy a lot of milk, 4 to 6 gallons a week, and I'm buying it at Walgreens for $2.29 per gallon," she said, adding that Dominick's recently offered two gallons of its house brand of milk for $5.Wynona Redmond, a spokeswoman for Dominick's, echoed Ledman's remarks, saying that the USDA survey isn't an accurate reflection of what customers are paying for milk at Dominick's stores."Milk is a highly competitive item, and one we actively and frequently promote at deep discounts," she said in an e-mail last week. "For instance,we often feature milk in our ads--last week we had gallons of whole milk on sale with a `super coupon' for 99 cents the entire week."Jewel officials did not return calls seeking comment. Milk prices since the first of the year have declined across the nation because of a glut of milk and increased imports. Farmers in Wisconsin made 26 cents less per gallon in May than they did in December. But since the first of the year, the price for a gallon of whole milk in Chicago has dropped by only 6 cents, according to the survey. Survey revisions considered The Agriculture Department is considering revisions to the survey process because of the growing influence of Wal-Mart and other non-traditional grocery chains in the retail milk marketplace, said John Rourke, chief of the market information branch for the USDA's dairy programs. As it stands, the department surveys three retail outlets in 30 U.S. cities each month. The three outlets are always the same: the two largest grocerystore chains and the largest convenience store chain. The USDA declined to provide the names of the stores it surveys in the Chicago area. Surveyors are instructed to sample prices only of the milk brand with the most shelf space, meaning that discounted milk isn't counted in the survey unless it is the store's biggest brand. But even if the system isn't perfect, the fact remains that Chicago's largest grocery stores and its largest convenience store are, on average, charging more than their counterparts in other cities. As for the overall high prices in Chicago, dairy experts say they are caused, in part, by a shift in how milk is sold to consumers. Where it was once a "loss leader" to draw customers into the store, the milk case is now seen as a profit center.- - -Got high milk prices? MILK PRICES Chicago-area consumers pay some of the highest milk prices in the country despite the city's proximity to Wisconsin. One expert says this is due to the fact that Chicago is dominated by two food-store chains. Per gallon, for selected cities, in 2005 CITY WHOLE MILK REDUCED FAT (2 PERCENT) MILK Atlanta $3.35 $3.28Chicago $3.96 $3.58Dallas $3.18 $3.22Denver $3.78 $3.69Philadelphia $3.28 $3.12Phoenix $3.68 $3.52Seattle $3.65 $3.31St. Louis $3.05 $2.92Avg. for 30 selected cities $3.32 $3.20Source: U.S. Department of AgricultureChicago Tribuneemail@example.com
Monday, June 26, 2006
Magee did this one. Sue Evans was the secretary. Phil, John, Elmond and Bill were making pallets of restaurant equipment junk. Walk in was ok. The only reach in was a freezer. There were two under the counter coolers, but one had a bad door and rotten coils. The walk in freezer was in awsome shape, but wasn't for sale. There were some ss and aluminum pieces, but they were going last.
I decided to get out of rain, do bank deposit and eat at Zina & Eddie's new diner around the corner from the farm. I also need to get the info off to Cornell with invoices. Tim's plan also needs to be sent in. He hasn't signed off on it, but I have come to the point of loosing money on this one because of all of the changes.
Elmond said that he was suprised that we can now make Ricotta from raw milk in NY. I asked if we needed the recording thermometers and all. Apparently not! Woohoo. I can sell that stuff at Hamilton Farmer's Market BIG TIME. I guess it is because the cook time is well above pasteurize temperature. I'm wondering about some of the Hispanic and Indian cheeses too.
I got the paperwork back from Becca and Vickie for my HACCP plan. I need to sit down and work on it now. I also have to get another Maple board, set both in the cooler for the Gouda's and Alpine cheeses this week. I want another waxing set up BIG TIME. (my phrase of the week).
I'll be setting up the Workshop schedule for the summer. I need the money to fundraise for the cost share on that grant.
Lots to do, lots to do...
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Brian Rivington is making cheese. I am trying hard not to stand over him while he is making the cheese. I think I intimidate him. Elmond use to do that to me and it annoyed me.
So, I thought I'd post this cute picture of Bear. I forgot who took it. I think it was Rona Sullivan. We are both sitting on the couch. She is 31/2 years ond here.
Claire is in her teen years early. Kinda snotty, "I don't wanna" phase. We are working through it with time outs and removal of certain key toys until manners return. I think that with the last toy purg, she is getting it and has decided that things are better if we work as a team, not like a monster child.
Her school is done for the year. Thank God. It is at a Methodist church here in Hamilton. Nice enough people. I am not a posure, so it is kinda hard to relate to pretty people. I also don't like the idea that kids have to do the same are project, the same workbook, sign in every day and all of these non creative things. Maybe that is needed to install the basics of life. I think it is too rigid for someone so young. At least I don't have her in the sign language courses and Chinese courses since she was 10 months old like the ones in Clinton area. They are nuts about making their children into brilliant students from the get go that I think it makes them resent learning.
What do I know, I am only a farmer... Well that is the attitude I get from the teachers. Maybe we'll homeschool. I don't know. This is too complicated to figure out. I am glad it is just one Bear and not 4 like Erin.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Ok, for real. This guy's name is Bob. He is a certified as an Elementary school teacher. (I got him to pronounce it correctly and not use the local dialect way of saying it which drives me nuts). I get a kick out of this hoof trimming job. Bill, our last trimmer use to work for Farm Credit and is in the process of completing an MBA! Educated farm service people.
I enjoyed working with him. Dave took me to Zina & Eddie's new restaurant around the corner from our place. Boy did they do a lot of work on the place. Clean. Good food like when they were at the Emporium. Place always seems packed. They look relaxed for a change. Good luck to them.
The only morons were Winnie and Sage. Sage was the last one. She took total offence to the idea of being tilted to have her nails done. Claire and I got poops in our hair from things flying in the air. Ayrshire's are stubborn cows. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If they didn't make mil kperfect for cheese making, I would not have them. I liked Shorthorns, Dave liked Holsteins. Comprimise was Ayrshires. I have the poop in my hair to proove it!
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
My shoulder hurt when I woke up. Something about sleeping in one possition all night.
Knee is cracking more lately. I think that is from too much cement work. That and stairs, bad shoes because I'm broke while getting this cheese business off the ground.
Got invoicing done and all of my Order Reports/Promotional stuff up to date. (JoAnn will be proud of me, I finally did send them). I still have more work to do on the paperwork side of things.
Hoof trimmer due in tomorrow. Brett dropped off the tops (firewood eventually) today. Dave and Dipper capped off the silo. Didn't get the two loads in like they hoped. Something about junk used equipment. Cheese making tomorrow afternoon at this point. I am getting backed up here. I need to wax cheese and set up another shelf. Thursday is Rivington and bank stuff.
I still need to get the Farmer's Market tent out to wash. Get invoice and contract ready for Rivington's. See about the scale in Holyoke. Get Beagle's paperwork (she got spayed a couple of days ago and Marcia & Ken will be picking her up the 25th or so). The Beagle and the Bear.
Coyotes got something. I always worry when there is a heifer or cow due to freshen. Dave figures it is a deer with twin fawns. That or the Canadian geese in Claire's "Big River". You know, by the "jungle". Sheep and goats are near the shed. I am not worried about them. One buck maybe, but that has nothing to do with coyotes.
There is grant season. I'm in that now. I wrote a grant and a quickie b.plan for this couple in the north country. It is due today. They need signatures this year, so I have to hand deliver it. FUN FUN FUN.
The year generally starts with the conference season. This is when the non-profits and government folks feel they should educate us farmers. From the farmer's perspective this is more of a time to get off the farm and socialize with others. The bonus is a workshop that offers something useful or entertaining.
Generally there are the NOFA winter conferences. This is where the organic types meet. I've gleaned great speakers at these conferences. Great food generally as well. Laid back atmosphere. You tend to walk away saying the word "basically" quite often. Odd little word. Quite contagious.
There are the Direct marketing Conferences. New York has one. There is also a northeast one. I think the New England ones or any workshops with Abbott Orchards in Baldwinsville are CRAZY useful. I only wish there was a workshop on displays at farmers markets. That is where my natural utilitarianism comes in. I respect the multi layered vendors. They seem to achieve the enthusiasm of the typical consumer.
Haying season. That starts at the end of may (chopped haylege) to snow flies. At times I've seen farmers baling hay with snow flying. Farmers get cranked at this time of year. Well my farmer anyways. It is quite a bit of work. I've been trying to milk at night to make marital bliss extend a little bit.
There is planting season. This generally starts with plowing, harrowing, planting... There are variations that can include no-till planting, deep plowing, spraying for various plant ailments and critters. We tend to let sod stay sod. This BMR experiment is an exception. Around here morons try to plant as soon as March or April and get the corn seed in early enough to rot or freeze. It is the biggest and fastest mentality in a way.
We have a lambing/kidding season in the late winter and early fall. I tend to leave the boys in lately. Not how I'd like to do things by any means, but the cows take presidence and materials and equipment and money... kinda why I sold most all the breeding ewes to Green Rabbit.
I hibernate in the winter. I guess that is a season. I want to get some of those special day light lights. Suppose to help with moods and general well being. That is my recovery season.
Holiday season tends to come at the same time as pay for winter feed season. That means that we don't generally have much in the way of holidays. Well, that is except for the gift giving that our families do. I prefer the food tradition side of things anyways. That and Claire is getting into crafts.
So onto Albany to complete grant season obligations...
Monday, June 19, 2006
So, this is where it all started. I met Dave in a hay barn here at this farm. I bought some cheap first cut meadow hay. Only fit for sheep and beef heifers. I think I paid $5/bale or something for that rubbish. Well, it was not exactly love at first site, but we seemed to have this thing in common. We were sick of wealthy people and non-profits telling us how to run our farms.
For me it was the end of a horrid "Slaughterhouse project". For Dave it was Community Involved in Selective Agriculture. That is what a lot of hilltown farmers called it anyways. Either way you play the game, the deal is that unless you are a "pretty person" and played the games they outlined, they used and abused you.
Dave was processing his own milk then. My housemate told me that this was a great example of successful agriculture in New England. I think that the best thing it did was improve cash flow. I think success depended on having a number of children and their friends offering cheap labor. Well, cash flow, a distributor and cheap labor.
There were the usual cast of characters that are attracted to a farm. There was the contractor, Dunnovan, Dave's farm help - Bruce, Dipper - the neighbor (and his clan which is now out here in NY), etc. There were also the various regulars at the farm stand. There was Kessie, the guy who paid in pennies (always one short), Mandy, etc. Jim lived next door with his sister and girlfriend. He also has a sweet daughter that was there too. Dave sold him that building. Later Janice got the property in the center of town too.
The Bisbee's had this Mill Museum across the street. We helped out on occassion. Allen's dream. It was a pain on the days they had events because people seemed to think our farm was a public parking lot. Allen said it was, so they parked there. Kinda forgot that he didn't own the place anymore.
I miss and don't miss the place. I miss A1 pizza in Williamsburg. They made better pizza that the Italians here in Central NY. Greek guy named Con owned the place. It was run by El Salvadorians. We enjoyed them. I missed good restaurants. It is far and few between to find a decent meal here. Expensive too.
The dairy plant was also a perfect place to make cheese. I only wish that I learned more about cheese when we were in MA. I think that we could have started making it there. I bet we could have made an easy transition to cheese. Boy was it easier to market in MA then here in WalMart happy Central New York.
OK, I sound sappy. I guess I am a wee nostalgic today. Going through photos does that to me. Trying to find photos of some of the dairy processing stuff to put into the Hill's b.plan. Well, gotta finish their grant.
Donna sent on a couple of photos from the last cheese workshop.
This is Renate Nollen. She is also one of the people who come during regular weekly cheese processing days to help. She is interested in goats milk Gouda. Maybe Camambert or Crottin. Very dynamic person.
In this photo she is holding the cheeses she can take home to practice aging. There are cows milk Camamberts, goats milk Crottins and half Camamberts made with goats milk. It was a great workshop. We all learned a lot.
I also have this one of Claire. She is my daughter. She is VERY interested in anything that involves cheese and people. The photo is at the wrong angle. After I figure out how to get this in the right direction, you will just have to imagine what Claire looks like in her hair net.
The picture has part of my drain table/dutch press and the can rack in the back ground. A simple plant. I'll try to get more pictures on here, now that the high speed internet thing doesn't mean that uploading pictures take 15 minutes to load.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
About every neighbor and friend has stopped by to ask about the camper. One asked how long they planned to stay this time. (I think he knew that they were in the sheep barn all winter). I told Rivington that they were gypsies who asked to park for the night. I think he belived me. Heck, he had illegal immigrants that the state got for him, why not have legal itinerants??
A neighboring farmer to the north has driven by a half dozen times. I think that also has something to do with Dave's use of antique varieties of equipment and the numbers of guests that we have staying at any given time. I think we should have has a B&B. I may have made money on these people.
Dave is humored. I think that the sedate life with Penny in the Cape his parents built for him in Chesterfield has been crazy changed since Gale, Floss and I came on the scene. But then, the itinerant carpenters are remenants of his life in Chesterfield. I only wish he'd get Donnavan and Jim to come out too. We need some more inteligent life out here.
Friday, June 16, 2006
I want to take a class on screen writting. Between the daily happenings, there are also the Mountain Street Memories of Dave's youth and the Nomadic Shepherd days of my earlier attempts at farming and horsemanship.
I'm thinking something along the lines of Northern Exposure, only with a true American Rural twist.
We have Liberals, Conservatives, Born Again Catholics and Pentacostals, Sheep Farmers, a vet who sleeps in his car, Bob and Tom, a Christian logger, gypsie carpenters (Jenny & Cecil), etc. I dunno. Our life is the cross roads of conventional and organic agriculture. We are associated with people who work for millionaire "Farmers" and those almost loosing thier shirts, the wanna be wealthy suburban farmers... I do think that there is something here. A real cross section of rural American with the whole opportunity to shed light on the true nature of living in rural America today!
I'm thinking here... Heck if I cannot make money as a farmer, maybe we can all make money on the whole farming experience??
Onto Dave's real life Bob & Tom show. Tom is our neighbor. A Cornell educated dairy farmer. Devout Christian. A pretty good example of God wanting to see what happens to a man's phyche if she puts a lot of road blocks in his way. Bob is, well Bob. He started out as Hay Bob. Became our silo unloader. Lost his position as milker after we found our dislike for his way of handling cows. Right now he is Wood Bob with sprinklings of Forage Bob. (thinks cord wood is his next lottery and is helping Dave get forages in to get use of our Hesston tractor ~ to get wood in).
Forages. What a cluster f*^%#. Dave is trying like heck to get it in with sprinklings of those two making things more difficult and people like Aaron (veggie guy down road), etc. making demands of time and equipment while Dave is trying to get our stuff in. Dave figures he should start drinking. I've tried to join in, but with our cash flow right now a beer a night is all we can afford. Can't become a drunk if you want to pay your bills on time (sort of).
Bob is also trying to figure out how to do little or nothing and stay under the radar of his wife (didn't get divorse because it costs money) and his girlfrield. Both of which have children by him. Neight of whom get decent support from him. In my book it is reason enough to ban him from our place, but I think that it is often the case that people are often in the sphere that have a crappier life than you ~ if only to make your life seem less hellish. Well Bob's girlfriend got the court to send a letter to Bob's current employer. This employer is paying cash and pretty firmly doesn't want to have anything to do with court ordered payments. Bob was suppose to take care of that on his own. (Mmm). Boss was thinking about putting a trailer up for Bob. When asked about what he was going to do about his "situation", Bob says "nothing". About possible jail time, Bob says "I guess I'll be going to jail". Not a good argument for puttign a trailer in or keeping the guy employed, but in Bob's little mind nothing is wrong.
I'm not even going to go into the Tom side of the equation. NICE GUY, but I'm thinking ADD or something. I think that if he can focus on the "Big picture", he'd see that God has given him all of the signs to tell him to get out of Dairy farming... His wife finished her education and has tenure, two barns burnt down, fell down silo, lost two farms (one rented), etc. It isn't so much a sign from God he is looking for, he is looking for God to tell him to follow this dream to stay in business. It is like having God validate what he does or something. I think it is a crutch. He needs to stop and figure out his own goals and how to achieve them. God will appreciate it, big time.
Wow, all this talk about God. I must be in Central New York.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I love to get these spreadsheets to people. They play with them. They get excited. "I've decided to sell commodity style cheddar for $10/#, because I think I'll make $100,000 right off...waaahaaahoooooooo"
The reality is that forages have to come in and the four year old needs watching and the heifers broke through the fence again and the pigs broke through the gate and the farmers market was rained out for two weekends in a row... Well, not all true, but that could have happened.
The Farmland Viability grants are due on the 20th or so. Grants are not the end all of succeeding in a business. If you depend on a grant to get into or stay in a farming business (or any for that matter) you are not proposing a sustainable project. What would happen if you didn't get it? Many don't. Does that mean that you are out of business? How can you prove that you will not be out of business after the end of the grant cycle?
I got one last year. Didn't really need it. Wrote it to write one for myself. Kind of a shits and giggles kind of thing. Now I have to cashflow my cost share and actually do this stuff. Also it is a reimbursement kind of thing. Hence writting business plans and those spreadsheets and writing more grants for others. Have to cash flow my business plan and my grant now...
Man, I should be making cheese today. If I make 90 batches of Gouda this year, I can make $35,000...
Monday, June 05, 2006
The Way We Live Now
New York Times Sunday Magazine
By MICHAEL POLLAN
"Elitist" is just about the nastiest name you can call someone, or something, in America these days, a finely-honed term of derision in the culture wars, and "elitist" has stuck to organic food in this country like balsamic vinegar to mâche. Thirty years ago the rap on organic was a little different: back then the stuff was derided as hippie food, crunchy granola and bricklike brown bread for the unshaved set (male and female division). So for organic to be tagged as elitist may count as progress. But you knew it was over for John Kerry in the farm belt when his wife, Teresa, helpfully suggested to Missouri farmers that they go organic. Eating organic has been fixed in the collective imagination as an upper-middle-class luxury, a blue-state affectation as easy to mock as Volvos or lattes. On the cultural spectrum, organic stands at the far opposite extreme from Nascar or Wal-Mart.
But all this is about to change, now that Wal-Mart itself, the nation's largest grocer, has decided to take organic food seriously. (Nascar is not quite there yet.) Beginning later this year, Wal-Mart plans to roll out a complete selection of organic foods — food certified by the U.S.D.A. to have been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers — in its nearly 4,000 stores. Just as significant, the company says it will price all this organic food at an eye-poppingly tiny premium over its already-cheap conventional food: the organic Cocoa Puffs and Oreos will cost only 10 percent more than the conventional kind. Organic food will soon be available to the tens of millions of Americans who now cannot afford it — indeed, who have little or no idea what the term even means. Organic food, which represents merely 2.5 percent of America's half-trillion-dollar food economy, is about to go mainstream. At a stroke, the argument that it is elitist will crumble.
This is good news indeed, for the American consumer and the American land. Or perhaps I should say for some of the American land and a great deal more of the land in places like Mexico and China, for Wal-Mart is bound to hasten the globalization of organic food. (Ten percent of organic food is imported today.) Like every other commodity that global corporations lay their hands on, organic food will henceforth come from wherever in the world it can be produced most cheaply. It is about to go the way of sneakers and MP3 players, becoming yet another rootless commodity circulating in the global economy.
Oh, but wait. . .I meant to talk about all the good that will come of Wal-Mart's commitment to organic. Sorry about that. When you're talking about global capitalism, it can be hard to separate the good news from the bad. Because of its scale and efficiency and notorious ruthlessness, Wal-Mart will force down the price of organics, and that is a good thing for all the consumers who can't afford to spend more for food than they already do. Wal-Mart will also educate the millions of Americans who don't yet know exactly what organic food is or precisely how it differs from conventionally grown food.
The vast expansion of organic farmland it will take to feed Wal-Mart's new appetite is also an unambiguous good for the world's environment, since it will result in substantially less pesticide and chemical fertilizer being applied to the land — somewhere. Whatever you think about the prospect of organic Coca-Cola, when it comes, and come it surely will, tens of thousands of acres of the world's cornfields — enough to make all that organic high-fructose corn syrup — will no longer receive an annual shower of pesticides like Atrazine. O.K., you're probably registering a flicker of cognitive dissonance at the conjunction of the words "organic" and "high-fructose corn syrup," but keep your eye for a moment on that Atrazine.
Atrazine is a powerful herbicide applied to 70 percent of America's cornfields. Traces of the chemical routinely turn up in American streams and wells and even in the rain; the F.D.A. also finds residues of Atrazine in our food.
So what? Well, the chemical, which was recently banned by the European Union, is a suspected carcinogen and endocrine disruptor that has been linked to low sperm counts among farmers. A couple of years ago, a U.C. Berkeley herpetologist named Tyrone Hayes, while doing research on behalf of Syngenta, Atrazine's manufacturer, found that even at concentrations as low as 0.1 part per billion, the herbicide will chemically emasculate a male frog, causing its gonads to produce eggs — in effect, turning males into hermaphrodites. Atrazine is often present in American waterways at much higher concentrations than 0.1 part per billion. But American regulators generally won't ban a pesticide until the bodies, or cancer cases, begin to pile up — until, that is, scientists can prove the link between the suspect molecule and illness in humans or ecological catastrophe. So Atrazine is, at least in the American food system, deemed innocent until proved guilty — a standard of proof extremely difficult to achieve, since it awaits the results of chemical testing on humans that we, rightly, don't perform.
I don't know about you, but as the father of an adolescent boy, I sort of like the idea of keeping such a molecule out of my son's diet, even if the scientists and nutritionists say they still don't have proof that organic food is any safer or healthier. I also like that growing food organically doesn't pollute the rivers and water table with nitrates from synthetic fertilizer or expose farm workers to toxic pesticides. And the fact that animals raised organically don't receive antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. Sounds like a better agriculture to me — and Wal-Mart has just put the force of its great many supermarkets behind it.
But before you pour yourself a celebratory glass of Wal-Mart organic milk, you might want to ask a few questions about how the company plans to achieve its laudable goals. Assuming that it's possible at all, how exactly would Wal-Mart get the price of organic food down to a level just 10 percent higher than that of its everyday food? To do so would virtually guarantee that Wal-Mart's version of cheap organic food is not sustainable, at least not in any meaningful sense of that word. To index the price of organic to the price of conventional is to give up, right from the start, on the idea, once enshrined in the organic movement, that food should be priced not high or low but responsibly. As the organic movement has long maintained, cheap industrial food is cheap only because the real costs of producing it are not reflected in the price at the checkout. Rather, those costs are charged to the environment, in the form of soil depletion and pollution (industrial agriculture is now our biggest polluter); to the public purse, in the form of subsidies to conventional commodity farmers; to the public health, in the form of an epidemic of diabetes and obesity that is expected to cost the economy more than $100 billion per year; and to the welfare of the farm- and food-factory workers, not to mention the well-being of the animals we eat. As Wendell Berry once wrote, the motto of our conventional food system — at the center of which stands Wal-Mart, the biggest purveyor of cheap food in America — should be: Cheap at any price!
To say you can sell organic food for 10 percent more than you sell irresponsibly priced food suggests that you don't really get it — that you plan to bring business-as-usual principles of industrial "efficiency" and "economies of scale" to a system of food production that was supposed to mimic the logic of natural systems rather than that of the factory.
We have already seen what happens when the logic of the factory is applied to organic food production. The industrialization of organic agriculture, which Wal-Mart's involvement will only deepen, has already given us "organic feedlots" — two words that I never thought would find their way into the same clause. To supply the escalating demand for cheap organic milk, agribusiness companies are setting up 5,000-head dairies, often in the desert. These milking cows never touch a blade of grass, instead spending their days standing around a dry-lot "loafing area" munching organic grain — grain that takes a toll on both the animals' health (these ruminants evolved to eat grass, after all) and the nutritional value of their milk. But this is the sort of milk (deficient in beta-carotene and the "good fats" — like omega 3's and C.L.A. — that come from grazing cows on grass) we're going to see a lot more of in the supermarket as long as Wal-Mart determines to keep organic milk cheap.
We're also going to see more organic milk — and organic foods of all kinds — coming from places like New Zealand. The globalization of organic food is already well under way: at Whole Foods you can buy organic asparagus flown in from Argentina, raspberries from Mexico, grass-fed meat from New Zealand. In an era of energy scarcity, the purchase of such products does little to advance the ideal of sustainability that once upon a time animated the organic movement. These foods may contain no pesticides, but they are drenched in petroleum even so.
Whether produced domestically or not, organic meat will increasingly come not from mixed, polyculture farms growing a variety of species (a practice that makes it possible to recycle nutrients between plants and animals) but from ever-bigger Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO's, which, apart from using organic feed and abjuring antibiotics, are little different from their conventional counterparts. Yes, the federal organic rules say the animals should have "access to the outdoors," but in practice this often means providing them with a tiny exercise yard or, in the case of one organic egg producer in New England, a screened-in concrete "porch" — a view of the outdoors. Herein lies one of the deeper paradoxes of practicing organic agriculture on an industrial scale: big, single-species CAFO's are even more precarious than their conventional cousins, since they can't use antibiotics to keep the thousands of animals living in close confinement indoors from becoming sick. So organic CAFO-hands (to call them farmhands seems overly generous) keep the free ranging to a minimum and then keep their fingers crossed.
Wal-Mart will buy its organic food from whichever producers can produce it most cheaply, and these will not be the sort of farmers you picture when you hear the word "organic." Big supermarkets want to do business only with big farmers growing lots of the same thing, not because big monoculture farms are any more efficient (they aren't) but because it's easier to buy all your carrots from a single megafarm than to contract with hundreds of smaller growers. The "transaction costs" are lower, even when the price and the quality are the same. This is just one of the many ways in which the logic of industrial capitalism and the logic of biology on a farm come into conflict. At least in the short run, the logic of capitalism usually prevails.
Wal-Mart's push into the organic market won't do much for small organic farmers, that seems plain enough. But it may also spell trouble for the big growers it will favor. Wal-Mart has a reputation for driving down prices by squeezing its suppliers, especially after those suppliers have invested heavily to boost production to feed the Wal-Mart maw. Having done that, the supplier will find itself at Wal-Mart's mercy when the company decides it no longer wants to pay a price that enables the farmer to make a living. When that happens, the notion of responsibly priced food will be sacrificed to the imperatives of survival, and the pressure to cut corners will become irresistible.
Up to now, the federal organic standards have provided a bulwark against that pressure. Yet with the industrialization of organic, these rules are themselves coming under mounting pressure, and forgive my skepticism, but it's hard to believe that the lobbyists from Wal-Mart are going to play a constructive role in defending those standards from efforts to weaken them. Just this past year the Organic Trade Association used lobbyists who do work for Kraft Foods to move a bill through Congress that will make it easier to include synthetic ingredients in products labeled organic.
Organic is just a word, after all, and its definition now lies in the hands of the federal government, which means it is subject to all the usual political and economic forces at play in Washington. Inevitably, the drive to produce organic food cheaply will bring pressure to further weaken the regulations, and some of K Street's finest talent will soon be on the case. A few years ago a chicken producer in Georgia named Fieldale Farms persuaded its congressman to slip a helpful provision into an appropriations bill that would allow growers of organic chicken to substitute conventional chicken feed if the price of organic feed exceeded a certain level. That certainly makes life easier for a chicken producer when the price of organic corn is north of $5 a bushel, as it is today, and conventional corn south of $2. But in what sense is a chicken fed on conventional feed still organic? In no sense but the Orwellian one: because the government says it is.
After an outcry from consumers and some wiser heads in the organic industry, this new rule was repealed. The moral of the Fieldale story is that unless consumers and well-meaning organic producers remain vigilant and steadfast, the drive to make the price of organic foods competitive with that of conventional foods will hollow out the word and kill the organic goose, just when her golden eggs are luring so many big players into the water. Let's hope Wal-Mart recognizes that the extraordinary marketing magic of the word "organic" — a power that flows directly from our dissatisfaction with the very-cheap-food economy Wal-Mart has done so much to create — is a lot like the health of an organic chicken living in close confinement with thousands of other chickens in an organic CAFO, munching organic corn: fragile.
Michael Pollan, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the author, most recently, of "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals." He also teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Busy day. Renate came to help with cheese again. Tim made feta with me last Sunday. He didn't bring pails. I hope he does soon. I don't have many.
Got caught up with waxing and re-waxing Gouda. Taught Renate the importance of making sure there are no pin holes or cracks during aging. Take wax off cheese, clean rinds and then re-wax... You learn to be detail oriented pretty darn quick. She bought half a wheel of cheese. I like her. It makes chores go quicker.
Claire was good today. She is going through one of those youthful "phases". OOf. Dave and I are pretty laid back about things. We have NO CLUE how to deal with little tantrums or demands. Her most annoying trait lately is to interrupt us when we are talking to anyone. Ourselves, eachother, friends, phone, service people. Ignoring doesn't work, she climbs your leg or throws something at you! I get through tantrums and time out works to a certain extent, but how to deal with it without your neighbor thinking you are a mad woman yelling at your kid... (yelling doesn't work and it actually makes you more angry. Stopped doing that one two days ago)
Great make today. I really think I am getting into the commercial groove. I am actually getting anxious about not making cheese. Even a 20 gal. batch makes a difference to me. That will satisfy the urge to make cheese. An addiction I believe?
Marcia and Ken will take Beagle. They took Dave's knickname for the dog and are going to call her "Ginger". Nice name. I have to go and get treats to get her to come to that name though.
Kid goats are annoying their mothers. Just like human kids. Mom calls for them to come and they only come if something scares them or the mood strikes. Found Moonbeam behind a round bale in the pole shed. Stuck, I should say. Two leavles up. Good think I take a head count twice a day or more. Morons run up the bales (with the new hole in the hay feeder thanks to Knick and Peter sheep) and fall in holes between the round bales. I've had to remove three levels of bales before.
Have to return book on Limericks to library. Forgot it yesterday.