Notes from Your Farmer

“Real Food needs time to grow and it needs the money to work with that in mind.  – Arno Hess, Slow Money

In other words, if we care about access to Real Food, Real Local, and Regeneration of our Environment we need to accept the fact that pushing food to grow “faster” will involve chemical inputs, inhumane practices, and environmental destruction.

The chemical inputs are showing up in our bodies through the applications of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.  Growth hormones, antibiotics and a host of other chemicals in the food sources of chickens, pigs, cows etc…are transferred to our bodies as we eat this “food”.

The inhumane treatment of industrial poultry plants, cattle feedlots and confined pig operations is horrifying.  Not to mention the quality, or lack thereof, of the meat from that system.  Stress is considered to be one of the most significant health risks to humans….don’t think that doesn’t apply to animals.  Hence the need for constant antibiotics/medications throughout the life of those animals to keep them alive (as a close friend commented one day “why go to the doctor when I can get all the antibiotics I need from the meat I buy at the grocery store”).  Hmmm, that’s an idea.

Environmental destruction is everywhere but most of us are not aware of how bad it has gotten.  Take a look at the CAFO production for pork in North Carolina (wikipedia – Intensive Pig Farming) will give you a shock, with pictures and links to articles etc.  70% of U.S. pork is raised there.  In 1995 a manure lagoon broke and released 25 million gallons of noxious sludge into North Carolina’s New River and killed approximately eight to ten million fish and created a dead zone where it dumps into the Atlantic Ocean.  Oops.

Hence the need for local farmers and Farm Membership i.e. the CSA model.

What does Farm Membership mean?

Technically it means you buy your weekly/monthly food from the farm on account.  It allows us to forecast what we will need to grow/raise today to feed you tomorrow and in the future.

Here is what it really means…

·         Feeding yourself/family healthy food that lends to less health issues and lower health costs.

·         Supporting a local business that puts your money back into the local economy by buying local.

·         Supporting the environment.  Reduction of greenhouse gases due to growth of perennial grasses year round that process CO2 out of the atmosphere. 

·         Humane treatment of animals, which you can see for yourself.

·         Regeneration of 300 acres of soil badly damaged by overgrazing for 200 years, increasing topsoil.

·         Education of thousands of kids and adults alike through our weekend free tours, school programs and Tara Firma Farms Institute for Agricultural Education.

But it isn’t easy, is it?  It is in-con-ven-ient (said with harsh tones and drama on each syllable).  I know. 

Nothing worth building, supporting or driving toward is easy or convenient until we get used to it.  You have to make adjustments…

·         Changing the way you plan meals.  You have learned to plan your meals vs running last minute to the grocery store (at least most of the time).

·         Changing what you eat.  Learning to eat seasonal foods, cooking with greens, slow cooking amazing meats, utilizing cuts you never heard of before.

·         Saving money. I hate that part (said, sarcastically of course). Lots of saved dollars eating at home with friends.  Local wine, local food at less than half the price of eating out not to mention the health of the fare you are sharing.

·         Eating out healthy - if you drink wine you know what a corkage fee is.  If you know your chef you can pay a moo fee, oink fee or baa baa baa fee.  Meet your chef and set up a fee that works for both of you.

·         Putting up with your friends that don’t care what they eat and being asked to eat at their home…relax on that one a bit. Help educate them or better yet, bring them out and let us do it.  If you eat mostly healthy then once in a while won’t kill you (at least we don’t think so).

·         Picking up your bag/box/egg carton or storing your bag/box/egg carton – Tedious for most but not the Petaluma members.  We began delivery door to door in Petaluma in January.  It is Convenient. It saves us hours of phone time with missed pick-ups and nothing goes to waste…yeah!  You will see door to door in your neighborhood soon!

CSA Member vs Shopping – “I will just come by to pick up my food instead of being a member”.

While we love our farm shoppers, it simply ISN’T the same.

·         Membership allows us to forecast what we need to raise/grow – veggies, chickens, pigs, cows and turkeys need time to grow!

·         You make a difference.  We need a minimum # of people on a delivery to make the finances work.  If you were the last person to make the minimum number and decide to “just shop” at the farm, the drop becomes costly and we scramble to increase membership or cancel that drop. The other members who picked up there are now trying to make another situation work for them.

·         We want you to know what is going on here – farm events, specials, piglets being born – if you aren’t getting our weekly/monthly food then you’re missing out on all the great stuff to participate in.

·         In-con-ven-ience (that word again). Chances are you will end up shopping somewhere else.  You want to support the farm, but now that the food isn’t given to you on a regular basis, you find it harder and harder to support the farm FIRST, the other stores second. You pick up that package of rib eyes at Whole Foods or that bag of lettuce (probably from Mexico) at Trader Joe’s.  Pretty soon you come out once a month and get a few things – not enough to last you more than a week and you forget that buying somewhere else is supporting the big ag production you didn’t intend to support.

·         Learning to eat seasonally.  Because grocery stores stock things like tomatoes year round, you can literally have whatever you want, whenever you want it.  But that mentality is part of what got us in this food mess to begin with, isn’t it?

·         Knowing your Farmer - do you know that those “free range” eggs are raised in the way you think/hope they are?  When you got eggs from us, you could literally see for yourself that the hens were out in the sunshine, eating grass and bugs.  But I’m sure that farmer in (where is that label again) Idaho is raising his hens outside too……right?

At the end of the day we choose our future and sometimes it is, let’s say it together, with nasty tones, and drama, “IN-CON-VEN-IENT”.  But only for a while. 

Remember Rosa Parks (my favorite story).  She sat on the bus in front.  She went to jail.  MLK paid her $14 fine to get her out and began a yearlong boycott of the bus system.  The day the State Government stopped paying subsidies to the bus system, the bus system said “sit wherever you want”. 

Vote with your dollars…take a stand for Real Food.  Become a member and bring your friends and neighbors.

We love and appreciate all of you.  

Conveniently, Your Farmer Tara Smith