Friday, August 29, 2008

Biodiversity vs. Human Greed

Calf. Farmers Use Guns, Poisin to Safeguard Crops

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press Writer
18 minutes ago

FRESNO, Calif. - Farmers in "America's Salad Bowl" are turning into hunters — stalking wild pigs, rabbits and deer — to keep E. coli and other harmful bacteria out of their fields.

It's part of an intense effort to prevent another disaster like the 2006 spinach contamination that killed three people, sickened 200 and cost the industry $80 million in lost sales.

The exact source of the contamination was never discovered, but scientists suspect that cattle, feral pigs, or other wildlife may have spread the E. coli by defecating near crops.

The pressure to safeguard crops comes from the companies that buy fresh greens. In response, some farmers are taking gun-safety classes to learn how to shoot animals that could carry the bacteria. Others are uprooting native trees and plants and erecting fences to make their land inhospitable to wildlife.

Spinach grower Bob Martin has even poisoned ponds with copper sulfate to kill frogs that might get caught in harvesting machinery or carry salmonella on their webbed feet.

Produce buyers "got us by the short hairs," said Martin, one of few growers who would talk publicly about how he is protecting his crop.

But some officials have questioned whether such drastic measures are necessary based on limited evidence.

"We're trying to talk now with the companies, buyers, retailers, wholesalers to bring things back into balance," said Scott Horsfall, executive director of the Leafy Greens Handlers Marketing Board, which oversees new farming standards drawn up after the 2006 E. coli contamination. "There's a real pressure out there on growers that goes beyond what the science justifies."

Concern over contamination is most pronounced in the Salinas River Valley, where valuable farmland and sensitive wildlife have coexisted for centuries. The lush valley, described in John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" and nicknamed "America's Salad Bowl," grows 60 percent of the nation's lettuce.

The nonprofit Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, which works with landowners to sustain wildlife habitat, surveyed 181 leafy greens growers who manage more than 140,000 acres. The survey showed that more than 30,000 acres had been affected by trapping, poisoning, fencing or removal of natural habitat.

The survey also indicated that 32 percent of respondents were convinced by corporate food-safety auditors to remove non-crop vegetation. More than 47 percent had been asked to "remove" wildlife, and 40.7 percent of those surveyed complied.

Growers, packers and shippers adopted new food-safety standards last year for farms, including a requirement that farmers establish 30-foot buffers between their fields and grazing land for cattle, which are known carriers of E. coli.

The standards acknowledged that wildlife could also carry the bacteria, but they had no requirement for buffers between wildlife habitat and fields.

"I think there's a little brinksmanship going on," said Hank Giclas of Western Growers, who was part of the committee who wrote the standards. He worries that processors are exceeding the rules to gain a sales advantage without good science.

Going beyond the guidelines "without going through a review process is something companies have the right to do, but it would be better if they'd go through the program," he said.

Smaller growers argue that stricter guidelines aren't warranted for farmers growing fresh bunched greens. They say the problem is primarily with cut greens that are bagged, which allows bacteria to multiply if temperatures rise.

Industry representatives defend their above-and-beyond restrictions.

Fresh Express, with 41 percent of the bagged greens market, demands a mile between farm fields and feedlots for cattle instead of the agreement's recommended 400 feet. The company also requires that a field intruded on by a wild pig be kept idle for two years.

Barbara Hines, a spokeswoman for Fresh Express, which processes 40 million pounds of salad each month, said the company's tighter regulations are "generally valued" by its retail customers, which include grocers such as Safeway, Vons and Harris-Teeter.

Earthbound Farms also exceeds regulations in many areas, especially in seed and water testing and its one-mile requirement between farms and feedlots. But the company views fencing and removal of natural habitat as a counterintuitive last resort.

Habitat is what animals want. "If you remove it, they will go into the field," said Will Daniels, Earthbound's vice president of quality, food safety and organic integrity.

Fresh Express has funded a $2 million study into methods of potential E. coli transmission. Results are due next month.

The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security is conducting a separate study funded by the federal government. It plans to analyze carcasses and anal swabs from 7,000 birds, wild pigs, cattle and other animals collected by state officials. Hunters are being asked to turn in deer colons for the research.

Officials are also collecting 13,000 soil, water and plant samples in the hope that the study will rule out wildlife as risks and ease buyers' fears.

"We have two extraordinary resources in this area: wildlife and our agricultural community," said Terry Palmassno, a senior wildlife biologist at the California Department of Fish and Game. "It's our position that you don't need to destroy one in order to save the other, and that's what we're working on doing."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

head ache

I refinished the floor in the livingroom/dining room. I painted the exterior doors to the house, some trim associated with the doors and a side porch off the cut&wrap room. I have a head ache. I am not sure if it is a chemical sensitivity issue related to the house projects, or because I am allergic to a mold that is at it's peak in Aug-September in the north east region of the states. Our Dr.'s office has a fairly unorganized lady now and not only is she taking her time to get Dave his prescriptions (you know the kind that you have to pick up and they want you to call in, but you are either too early or too late to call it in...). She kinda didn't tell me the truth about getting it signed off on and I am still in pain. I hope she has a head ache tomorrow. Actually for three days like me, so she can develop a more caring personality. I liked the staff there last year. Way more professional than this new lot.

I have done squat for processing. Yoghurt and that is it. I have to work on fluid milk and feta tomorrow.

I will only make the Skaneateles f. market this week. State Fair week and I am not sure if this is worth my time, but it will have to do. My head hurts...

The boys from the milk delivery business in NYC tried to say that I did not give them all of the information regarding the sale of the farm and business and that I insulted them. Kinda funny considering the listing that they found it on said everything they thought I did not tell them and they were the ones to say they did not know anything about a dairy farm and needed assistance and resources to do this project right. I just sent them the links to be able to get a feasibility project done, like they asked. He basically parroted Dave and I on their plans... I don't care at this point. We are making money here and they can buy it at our price or get a farm in St. Lawrence county... I'll be nice because I truely want someone to succeed, but I am not giving anything away that I do not have to because they did not read or listen to what I had to say. It is not my fault and I know as much as they do that this is all about Union Square and the other Greenmarkets and that is it.

Dave finally admitted that cheese has done it's part in providing an on-farm income to me like our business plan stated. It has played a significant role in the over all farm profitability. It takes a lot to get him to admit that what I do is a contribution to the greater whole. From what I hear, it is not uncommon for male farmers to have this idea that the support system that farm wives give them means little compared to what they do. It is a sad deal and for some women a lonely deal. I've logged in 90+ hours a week on a common work week just like him. I may not do all of the milking, but I was the one to do dishes, laundry, shopping for school, homeschool Claire, make yoghurt, do sales calls, ring the Dr, pharmacy, grain companies regarding chick starter, arranged to get rid of whey, fed us and all of the farm help and mascots that came about. I have also started, done or finished chores while he gets hay in. I also do all of the organic and inspection paperwork, accounting, and other things...

I have a head ache and I think it is mold.

Thoughts on a Better Food Policy and our Health

Ten points to better health
1. Know what you're eating. Find out where it comes from and what's in it. Think about what's in season now - what's ripe, not just fresh. A lot of these foods will turn out to be local.
2. Get cooking. And try making things from scratch. You'll save money and rediscover skills you forgot you had.
3. Plant something. It could be an herb pot on your kitchen counter or, if you have space at home, a small kitchen garden, or a communal plot in your neighborhood that you tend with family and friends. (The Victory Garden on Civic Center Plaza is a landscape of ideas, staffed by experts who can guide your hands to the soil.)
4. Pack a bag lunch.
5. Drink tap water. It's healthier for you, and it's free.
6. Learn about and celebrate the food traditions your family still possesses. These are like seeds, long stored and just waiting to be planted.
7. Invite someone to share a meal. Strengthen the bonds of friendship and community by cooking and eating together.
8. Learn about endangered foods and how we can bring them back to our tables.
9. Conserve, compost and recycle.
10. Vote with your fork.

Healthy Food and Agriculture Declaration, orchestrated by Roots of Change as a response to the farm bill

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Quark is a fresh lactic cheese. Consumed in quantities in Germany, Holland and eastern Europe. I normally drain it in brick hoops, but I tried to make 3 batches of cheese last Tuesday and had to hang the Quark. Made a consistency like cream cheese. Quite lovely actually, but a little thicker.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Green Hills Farmers Market

Here are some of the other vendors at Green Hills Farmers Market on S.Salina Street on Wednesdays 3-7 pm. I'm the one with cheese. I didn't take my own photo...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Argyle Cheese

Dave and Marge Randles have a relatively new cheese business in Argyle, NY. Marge refers to me as her "Cheese Coach." I prefer "Goddess" or "Consultant" or "Cheese Technical Advisor"... Basically, I showed her how to make some of the cheeses they make and offer help when emergencies come about. Marge has a great support system in place to help as well. It makes a difference.

You can find her, her sister and her husband at Troy Riverfront Market, Saratoga and Glens Falls F. Markets. She also has an expanded farm store (which will be open soon, until then use old store).

Woohoo, more cheese makers in NY.