Tag Archives: food

Open Transparency or Is it?

As I’ve been going through a couple of classes, I’ve been trying to integrate what I’m learning into some blog posts. What I am discovering is rather disturbing and alarming in some respects.

My question goes out to all those farmers out there: If you are sharing what you do, are you doing with transparency and communication or are you just telling people what you do and then dictating to them what’s okay and what isn’t?

Many farmers I know aren’t afraid to hold an open discussion with a back and forth dialogue with consumers (or customers of food, if that suits better). Sometimes, we stumble upon that one person with a great deal of practical knowledge that offers advice in a reasonable and sensible manner. Do we listen? Most of the time, the answer is a big, fat NO. Don’t get mad before you hear me out, please.

As a farmer, I also have the tendency to immediate jump when someone gives me any advice because they don’t know my specific circumstance or my mission for the future on my farm. While I am sharing my story, I’m not listening to comments with much more than a grain of salt because… well, let’s be honest here: very few people in today’s society are farmers and how could someone outside of farming possibly know what I’m dealing with? Over the years, I’ve learned just how wrong that assumption can be.

Why am I bringing this up? People have real fears and concerns today when it comes to the production of their food. People have the same access to internet and teachings that we do. Maybe they don’t know each specific detail about something you do, but they do have an idea of what they would like to see in the ways of humane treatment, environmental concerns and more. I bet there are farmers reading this right now saying that “It’s because they have listened to non-sense, non-scientific data” and immediately slam the proverbial internet door in someone’s face. If you were never told what ASSUME means, let me explain. My high school history teacher told me that “To assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

It’s not just farmers that need to stop assuming either. It’s the customer and consumer. Only a fraction of the farmers out there should be classified as bad farmers. Lumping us all together is hurtful and unproductive. I know I hate the word “factory farming”… what does it even mean anyway? If I had 100 cows, would I be a factory farm? How about 1,000? Does anything else I do matter? Here’s an example I want you to think about: One farmer milks a 1,000 dairy cows in a freestall barn and let’s his/her cows out to pasture for roughly 18 hours a day. Another farmer raises 1,000 steers on 2,000 acres of pasture. Why is one a factory farm and the other isn’t?

Farmers are trying to tell their stories, showing how animals are cared for and how well they are treated. I will again and again express to you that EVERY FARM is DIFFERENT! It’s a huge load of factors from taxes, land, water and food availability, environment, buildings, equipment, manpower and overall knowledge that determines what farms become. Texas farmers and ranchers to things very differently than ones in Vermont, Colorado, California, and every other state. Farmers aren’t behind a desk, depositing money in armored trucks to the bank and we must continue to learn more and more.

Without communication and transparency by all parties, farmers and consumers alike, we don’t know the whole story or situation. I know I don’t want to be judged the same as a farmer that doesn’t give 100% compassion and care to his/her animals. I encourage you to talk to local farmers, even farmers talking with other farmers. I encourage you to talk to your consumer/customer about their fears and concerns WITHOUT dictating to them.

I am open about 99% of the happenings here on the farm. The one percent that I don’t is the struggles about finances, the tears I shed or the sleep I lose over battles on hard choices that have to be made. If you would all like me to begin journaling and discussing that too, I will. Especially if it helps you to see and understand how hard this life is on many different levels. I’ve shared the good days and the bad (we have way more good days). It’s not easy for any farmer to lay themselves out there to the public. We are fairly private people but we also know that our consumers honestly want to know more about what we do. I know that I also look forward to conversations with consumers because I’m a firm believer that perspectives matter.

I’m just a small time operator but that doesn’t mean that I don’t give 100% to what I do either. One cow or a thousand, each still requires the same work and care. That’s not something that is going to change here. It’s the root of who I am as a person. I’ll listen and discuss anything with anyone at anytime. Just please don’t ask me to do a halal butcher on my beloved cattle… morally, I can’t do it. If you want to know why, ask and I will gladly share the horrifying experience.

We all need to be more open minded and learn from each other. In closing, just give what I’m saying some thought. Stop the bashing and hate, start building bridges.

Advertisements

Make it Monday ~ Noodles

Okay…so I’m a day late. Been some issues around here with our furnace and our dog. They were more important than a blog post but I’m still here today.

Today, I want to share a recipe for something that we all know and love! Noodles! You can’t make chicken noodle soup or chicken alfredo without them.

I don’t have any photos but will get some the next time I actually make some.

My recipe comes from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. It was originally published in 1896 and is hands down my favorite cookbook. You can get new prints used through Amazon for around  $5 and it’s well worth it, especially if you like old fashioned recipes with grandma’s home cooking tastes.

The recipe is called Homemade American-Style Noodles.

Ingredients:
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups flour

Directions:
Beat the yolks and egg until they are light. Beat in the salt and 3 tablespoons of cold water. Using your hands, work the flour into this mixture to make a stiff dough. Cut into three equal parts. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest a few minutes. Dust a board or pastry cloth with flour and roll out one part of the dough as thin as possible. Cover with a dishcloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other two pieces. Sprinkle one sheet of dough very lightly with flour and roll up like a jelly roll. With a sharp knife, cut across the roll into 1/8″ wide strips for fine noodles and 1/2″ wide for broad noodles. Open out the strips and hang over a broomstick or chair to dry. (I use  wooden spoons over a stock pot).
They will be ready to cook when they have lost their surface dampness. About ten minutes should be enough. Bring a large pot of boiling salted water to a boil and drop the noodles in. Boil vigorously until just tender, roughly 5-10 minutes depending on how thin the noodles are. Pull one out with a fork to taste and determine doneness.

Following this recipe in the cookbook is also a recipe for Alfredo’s Noodles.

Ingredients:
1/4 pound noodle, 1/4″ thick
1/4 pound unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:
Have a large cowl warmed and ready before you cook the noodles. Drain the cooked noodles and put them into the bowl. Quickly add remaining ingredients, tossing briskly to coat all the noodles, and serve at once.

There are about 20 different recipes for these noodles with a multitude of variations. You can also flavor your noodles too. Instead of adding cold water, you can use cold carrot or spinach puree. I’m thinking of trying some with pumpkin and the alfredo topping, just to see what it tastes like as a nice fall alternative.

If you try any recipe shared, we would love your feedback and to hear of any successful alternatives or even failures! Just leave a comment or a link if you repost!

Happy Eating!

Tasty Thursday #1

It’s snowing like crazy here in Upstate NY today. The roads are slick and I sure don’t have any desire to brave the snow, the cold or the wind to go anywhere. I’ve spent the day preparing myself to get better organized for 2014, so I can stay on top of things and give myself some budgeted time to blog more often.

As part of that “planning”, I decided to add in a menu planning section too! You see, someone is HORRIBLE at remember to take food out of the three full stocked freezers to prep for the evening meal. Oops. I’m going to explore some new recipes in these age old cook books I have and maybe throw a little of my own flair in there too. Since almost everything I cook comes from scratch, I decided that maybe it would be good to share my favorite recipes via this blog page. Once a week, I will share my favorite recipe or food good I made! Tasty Thursdays we will call it!

So for my first Tasty Thursday, I’m going to share my good old chips! This year on New Year’s Day, these were a huge hit and I couldn’t make them fast enough!!! Ahem, I was the only one eating them but hey, they were good!

I just used regular white potatoes. I scrub them clean and use a mandolin to slice them nice and thin.

Next I put them into the fryer at 350 degrees for about three minutes. Flip them a couple times with a slotted spoon. Once they start to brown (do not brown them all the way this time), remove from oil. I preheat the oven to about 300 degrees and line a cookie sheet with a paper towel. Place the sheet into the oven to keep them hot. I do a couple of batches this way (about two whole potatoes). I turn the heat up on the fryer to about 375 degrees and refry the chips. Keep flipping them until the center of the chips turns a nice golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. I like to sprinkle a mixture of salt and garlic powder on as quickly as possible. Shake them around and dump into a bowl. Serve hot or cold! Simple, easy and delicious. I’m sure that you can mix up 1,000 different things from the spices you have that would taste excellent.

Homemade Chips

Costs of Products

I was part of an interesting conversation today about the prices of Organic Food versus Other Food. I’m going to attempt to break it down so non-producing people can understand.

Each farm does things differently, each step costing a different amount. In a traditional business, we call this production. In farming, the consumer associates that word with assembly lines of animals or parcels of land providing goods at the expense of those who care for it or them.

As a farmer, each thing I do has a cost associated with it. We call this the cost of production. It covers everything from seeds, fertilizers, wages, marketing and feed. It also covers taxes and fuels and every other thing in between. Businesses call this overhead. Small farms are like those boutique shops where everything is done on a smaller scale and products are limited. Larger farms are like chain stores where they get discounts for what we call “purchasing power.”

With these comparisons, just why is Organic more expensive if it doesn’t involve costly fertilizers and spray chemicals? It’s actually rather simple to do the math. For example purposes, I am going to use the terminology of convention and organic with no line drawn in the sand between the two. I am not a supporter of either system for various reasons.

Let’s take a look at things that are the same for both systems:

1. Land taxes – Yes they vary from town to town, county to county and state to state but each acre of land has an associated cost of using that land.

2. Insurance – It doesn’t matter what type of farming you do. Building insurance, farm machinery insurance and auto insurance all have fees associated.

3. Electricity Consumed – Unless a farm is providing its own electricity through wind, solar or capturing methane gases, there is always a cost for fences, lights, milking pumps, water, etc.

Here’s where things start to drastically vary:

1. A Consolidated Feeding Operation (CAFO) will utilize more harvested and stored materials while Organic utilize more pasture based systems.

  • CAFO have high costs associated with planting, maintaining and harvesting materials. Organic has high costs for fencing and electricity to charge the fence.
  • Most farms purchase supplements grains. Let’s say Conventional or GMO corn is selling for $4.25 per bushel provided, Organic Corn for feed is selling for $10.00 per bushel. Most Organic farms do not have the “buying power” discussed about to play the market futures for corn commodities either, which results in slightly lower price structures. On these market based reports, Organic corn for feed costs 242% more.
  • On CAFO operations, the overhead costs of lights are at a lower input rate on a per head basis. If you are comparing at 100 cow dairy to a 1,000 cow dairy the prices to provide lights, heating/cooling, water and other associated costs are normally close to the same cost per month. So if that monthly bill is $200, it’s a $.50 fee per cow on the small dairy and $.20 fee per cow of the larger farm. It works the same with fuel to provide feed.

2. It isn’t that Organic farms don’t use fertilizers, sprays or chemicals. It’s that what can be used is limited. With any other “specialty” market, we expect to pay higher prices for these goods. You can do some research via the internet and discover the differences in pricing structures and what’s allowed for organics according to the USDA.

As you can see, Organic is in my view-point a much costly endeavour due to feed costs alone. Organic farms also deal with different commodity brokers or do much of their own marketing on smaller farms. No answer is ever simple and it’s difficult to express the real differences in costs. Again, this is another reason I suggest you purchase from a farm you can talk too. Boxed goods on the shelf, unfortunately, do not tell us the real story behind the scene.

If there is anyone who would like to sit down and discuss our pricing structures, we always welcome you to come look over the books. Here on our farm, we do not fit into the brackets of conventional or organic. We base our choices on economic, environmental and animal benefits. The system we use isn’t a marketing tool, but instead a sound decision based off those three aspects. I will keep all opinions on both of these productions to myself today. If you want to know more, feel free to comment or send us a message via twitter or Facebook.

Muddy Tires, Sore Knees and Baby Chicks

Spring equals mud! Mud makes farm girls happy!
Spring equals mud! Mud makes farm girls happy!

Nothing like starting right out with a photo that can manage to bring a big ol’ happy grin to my face and a twinkle to my eye. I love mud. Spring mud specifically. That greasy, slimy stick to everything kind of mud.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the truck or the four wheeler…I must drive/ride to get “dirty” every spring. It’s my way of saying GOODBYE OLD MAN WINTER! HELL-LO SPRING!

I think that thing that makes it best right now is the simple fact that my knee has been driving me insane over the last week. I think it has something to do with the 5-6 mile walks everyday, chasing loose cattle and sliding down very steep hills. Could just be old age too. Not really sure…all that matters is it gives me an excuse to get muddy! Mud makes me happy!

As the paper lining the box says...Great Expectations
As the paper lining the box says…Great Expectations

Babies make me happy too! Doesn’t matter what variety, two-legged or four. Covered in fur or feathers, doesn’t matter either. This time, we have NINETEEN babies! Little associated, mutt mixed chicken chicks ranging in all sorts of colors and color mixes.

They are so much fun to watch running around, learning how to peck at food and scratch the paper to shreds. The first day is always kind of quiet. It takes a lot out of the chicks to hatch…but they are just too adorable to watch as they run around and just flop down to take a nap.

Of course, all those fluffy feathers make it that much cuter!  Nothing like babies to make a grown woman act like a young child.

Needless to say, I am definitely young at heart….now I think I need to act my age and take a nap. Maybe I can take this little chick with me?!?! Nah…maybe another time!

Napping newborn chick
Napping newborn chick

Lots of Activity

I thought life was crazy before! I have changed my mind. Currently, we have added in the woes of fence construction, new seeding, grazing management, frost seeding, and relocating temporary fences.

Let’s start with the temporary fence. A great deal of our fence areas are set in with step in posts and braided wire. I hasn’t been a problem until now. The issues that have come up now are long-haired animals (see photo below) just walking through the fence. Hair seems to NOT conduct the electricity within the energized wire. Needless to say, about two to six times a day…I am putting cattle back inside the fence or getting a phone call while I run errands because the cows are out.

Two Irish Dexter calves on the wrong side of the fence.
Two Irish Dexter calves on the wrong side of the fence.

It really doesn’t make much sense. As you can see, the grass is very low to the ground in that area. Inside the area fenced in, some of the grass under the laid over hay is several inches long. In this case, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence!

This shows the grasses inside the fence
This shows the grasses inside the fence

Now let’s talk about this photo a little more. This is part of our pre-spring grazing management. We have an area fenced in that needed some “work”. The area gets very steep and doesn’t allow for any type of tractor work. So we are using the cattle to do the work for us. As you can see in the photo, the old forage growth within the paddock has provided a sort of blanket for the new grasses underneath to sprout and grow quicker than the worked up field areas that we grazed last fall.

This is just part of the area that we are "working" with the cattle
This is just part of the area that we are “working” with the cattle

The standing stalks of weeds will get eaten, trampled and the ground develops as the cattle hooves dig into the ground. We have already seen improvements…in 2 days! Take a look!

This is at the end of day one in this paddock. Note how the stalks are broken or eaten. Also note the addition of cow pies for fertilization.
This is at the end of day one in this paddock. Note how the stalks are broken or eaten. Also note the addition of cow pies for fertilization.

I will be posting follow-up photos with before, during and after shots. We are trying this as part of an experiment for land reclaiming. They are eating the briars and the weeds! Proof in these next two photos.

Here is Tommy eating Golden Rod stalks that grew last year (2012)
Here is Tommy eating Golden Rod stalks that grew last year (2012)
Cow clipped briars!
Cow clipped briars!
Here is Tommy, sniffing to see if he wants to eat the briar.
Here is Tommy, sniffing to see if he wants to eat the briar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stage for us will be fencing in the 90 acres we will be using for rotational grazing this year and for many years to come. It’s a big job with over 14,500 linear feet of fencing, posts, wires, etc to have put up! Once it’s all completed we will have enough area to grazing 45 animals. To someone like me with an obsession with cattle…it means I can buy more cattle! (Reminder: I like to buy cattle like most women like to buy shoes!)

We also have 30 acres to get seeded for another grazing area too. Rich has been researching, reading and learning what types of grasses and legumes will be best suited for both the soil and the cattle. He thinks he has finally figured out which blend (a custom mix with lots of plant diversity) he wants to go with. In the meantime, we will be frost seeding clover on last years pastures to start building nitrogen in the ground. Did you know that clovers are nature’s way of providing nitrogen? I didn’t…but it’s very cool! No more synthetic fertilizer for nitrogen!!!

Saturday, we will be headed to a grazing seminar that will help us learn how to become more adapt at managing our grazing plan. I am super excited to go and I will make sure I take LOTS of pictures!

For now…it’s back to chasing cattle, taking more photos and reading more books! Thanks for stopping in to read about my adventures and sharing our little piece of Heaven!

 

 

A Little Help

I have to say, I am amazed at how much just one extra pair of hands to help around the farm makes a difference. Typically, it’s just me for morning chores. But this week I have some very special helpers! All the way from Texas.

Mr. Farmer’s youngest sister and her family are here visiting for a couple of weeks. This visit, her two girls are working at “Farm Camp”. This is a whole new and not so welcome camp for them. The oldest is very much a city girl and is afraid of the cow, that the calves are going to bite her and is scared of the chickens pecking her when she gathers eggs. The youngest is doing better but, I think that’s because she loves animals.

Day one involved a long pasture walk in wet grass that came up to nearly their waist and it was so foggy, it was hard to see the cows 50 feet in front of you. Needless to say, wet pants and socks are not the most comfortable thing in the world. Then I demonstrated milking the cow and the feeding routine for the calves. Daughter #1, the oldest, was extremely fearful of the calves biting her fingers. We carefully explained that they only had bottom teeth and they were really interested in suckling on her fingers just like they would a mother cow.

On the evening of day one, they watched Mr. Farmer as he milked the cow, they gathered eggs and yes, got pecked by a broody hen or two while attempted to get the eggs from underneath a sitting hen.

On the morning of day two, Daughter #1 did a great job putting the milking machine onto the cow. It only took one reset of the small vacuum pump we use. She even managed to share a smile or two at her accomplishment! Getting up early is not something either of these girls really enjoy.

Morning two, I headed out to the barn at normal time….to find that most of the animals were already fed. The scratch grain for the chickens was already out, the cow’s grain was ready and waiting, and the smallest calves were nibbling on their grain. After getting the cow from the pasture, in the rain (again) and helper #1 doing such a great job….literally, the only thing I did was a little instruction and dispense milk into buckets for the calves! The girls even fed the calves their milk. It almost seems to easy!!

Day number three started the same way with all of the grain out and fed. I even left eggs last night for the girls to gather up this morning…which went without a hitch and helper #1 is an old pro with the chickens now! Helper #2 did milking this morning. After a bit of an issue with getting the milking machine hooked up…she managed to milk her first cow! Smiley face and all!!!

Three days, four times assisting with chores and I see a HUGE difference in them already! Helper #1 was allowing one of the calves to suck on her fingers this morning and she gathered eggs without too much fuss. Helper #2 stated that farming was harder than it looks but still enjoyed learning.

Mr. Farmer and I discussed last night about getting them some shirts that say “I survived Farm Camp” with a picture of a cow and a chicken that says Barrows Farm under that for the back and then on the front put their names…Farmer Ashley and Farmer Autumn.

I do have photos to share, that I will tag into this post in a revised addition tomorrow morning…but I had to share this. It means so much to me to experience first time farming with the next generation! It means the world to me to know that even if they don’t become farmers, at least they know what goes into different agricultural production.

I am off for another busy and hectic day! Take care and God Bless!