Did You Dare. . .

To watch the Rolling Stone expose on factory farms? (click here to check it out, but we warn you that the content- especially the video- is very graphic and disturbing).

I listened but couldn’t watch.  I don’t want to have those pictures in my head.  It leaves me sickened.  It makes me question my entire existence within a world that seems to be out of control and I know I am a part of that mess.  So I tell myself that doing this food part, while small, is something.  It feels right.  It has integrity.  I can look in the mirror and squeak by for another day.  I am in my 50’s and have watched my generation take, destroy and create this mess we are in.  However, there is good news. 

The young people, with no wrinkles, can stay up late; they have hope.  They see things differently…. (The following is a different point of view from one of our star employees Diana.  She wrote this for this newsletter and it reminds me of why we are here and all the beauty that is still present)…

It’s always exciting to step out and show someone new around the farm on a weekend tour.  Starting with the quiet warmth of the chick brooder, illustrating how we are able to raise them from newborns without ever giving them vaccinations -or putting antibiotics in their food, for that matter.  Telling the farm’s story to a fresh set of ears is a real treat.  Even on the coldest days, taking a stroll around the property is always a fun way to spend an hour, and things are always changing. You never know when we’ll have a cow escape, or a new batch of babies (one very lucky tour got to see a sow in labor! Ahh, Farm Life.)

Hands down, the very best tours always host people with an inquisitive nature and, no matter how seasoned I get at this, I’ll never stop coming across questions I’ve never heard before.  Still, my favorite question that nearly always gets asked is:

“What do your cows eat?” 

“Grass,” I say. 

This raises eyebrows, “Just grass?  NO corn?”

“Nope. Never. Just grass from start to finish.”

I always love seeing eyes go wide at that fact- like the very notion of feeding a cow grass is shocking. . .   But it is!  With factory farming being the norm in this country, the very idea that you can use nature’s processes to raise healthy animals has this almost magical quality.  I found myself wondering on MY very first tour how something so simple could work so effectively, but it really does.  Feed the animals what they’re meant to eat, move them across pastures in a manner that mimics old migratory patterns, herd them in a manner that keeps their stress levels low (just open the way to a fresh patch of grass and your work is basically done- cows don’t need much telling) and in the end you have a healthy, happy animal.  More than that, you have a complete life cycle that includes soil restoration, extended life for perennial grasses, and MUCH needed carbon sequestration via photosynthesis.  Not to forget the health and nutrition of the meat from these animals.  What goes in is the key to that nutrition- all corn and soy does NOT make a healthy piece of meat.

People often come to us informed, very aware that factory farming raises sick animals (not to mention it’s terribly inhumane).  Sometimes people come to the farm still reeling from the shock and horror of having just watched "Food Inc." or read The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  I’m always glad to show them that there is another way, and I’m glad that so many people are taking initiative and getting skeptical, digging deeper and looking for alternatives. It’s an important quality to have as a consumer, especially in today’s world where food is treated so much more like a product than, well, what you need to nourish your body and live a healthy life. 

In the past few years, “Organic” and “Sustainable” have become buzz words used just as frequently as “All Natural” (what a joke).  Even the terms "Free Range" and "Cage Free" are steeped in nuance and often much less than you'd expect.  The bare truth of it is, you don’t really know what’s up with your food until you SEE where it comes from.  There’s some real value in that, too.  I love getting a box of vegetables and knowing I can trust in their quality because they came from Jesse at First Light Farms, our neighbor and grower of some of the best organic veggies I’ve ever tasted.  And everyone looks forward to our weekly visits from “Willy Wonka”, our Fruit Guy and purveyor of a year-round smorgasbord of incredibly sweet fruits. Arguments about GMO versus Organic put aside, produce with such consistently good flavor is a rare find in the static piles you see in the grocery store.

In a nutshell, that’s what makes our members so great- they’ve taken the time to investigate us and trust us to provide them with clean, healthy food.  It’s a privilege we don’t take lightly, and the reason that farm tours will continue through the winter, rain or shine.  It’s why members have exclusive access to the property at any time- because we’re open, transparent, and totally accountable for what we do.   

If you haven’t yet, come by one of these days!  I’ll be glad to show you Tara Firma’s astounding grass-eating cows :)

-Your Tour Guide/ Office Girl (who is also fond of writing)