Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dear Editor

I have sent this in to our local paper...
Dear Editor:
I want to thank you for your article a few weeks back asking the question, “Have you thanked a farmer?” As the wife of a multi-generation American farmer, I can answer with a resounding, “YES!”

I would like to add another important question: “Have you considered the source of your food lately?” In America today, there is an increasing need for the provision of a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply. We have all seen the negative effects of outsourcing our food supply to other countries. We are beginning to realize that cheap food can come at a very high price. As conventional farmers, we sometimes find ourselves in heated discussions over organic food and fiber with the public. And while these issues are important to discuss, I would like to suggest that the more important issue facing consumers today is the proper labeling and knowledge of country of origin on our food and fiber products. I have recently begun to scour the labels and bottles of what I am taking off of the shelf to see if everything inside has come from the USA, or if anything has been imported. I was shocked to read what I did! China, Argentina, Chile, Brazil…. All were contributing countries to my bottle of apple juice and canned fruit for my kids. I was glad I looked.

Most people have no idea of the strict regulations and standards that are imposed on all America’s farms and ranches. Detailed documentation, inspections, and the requirement of licensure are all part of an American farmer’s operation. Our food supply is the safest one in the world because of it.

I appreciate the hard work, dedication, and pride that go into farming in America and believe it is worth its weight in gold. I fully trust the farmers and ranchers who have produced it and trust that the standards and regulations that they are held to will continue to supply us with a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply.

Tracie Fulford, Monticello

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Puberty at 5 months old?

Last night, we were kept awake every hour on the hour by a crying baby. Rather, a moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooing cow. All kinds of thoughts were going through my head at 1:45 this morning as to why she was calling to us. We've had her since she was 1 week old and NEVER before has she mooed in the middle of the night. Well, she mooed all night long. Stephen went to sleep in the guest bedroom because it was so loud!

This morning he called me at work to tell me that when he let her out of her pen to take her to the pasture, she tried to jump on his back. She followed him everywhere sniffing his rear end. Poor guy! Poor sweetums!

Long story short, she thinks she is ready for a gentleman caller, but she has to wait a whole year! 18 months is the recommended age for pregnancy. Unfortunatley for all parties involved, she will go in heat every 21 days and it lasts for 15 hours. So technically we "should" get some sleep tonight. Of course, most of you know that the midnight snacker aka Gannett could wake us up at any moment with a cold Motts bottle of juice in my bed next to my skin as I am sleeping...

Monday, October 1, 2007

White Gold

2 questions for ya: What color cow makes chocolate milk? and.... Where does your food come from? If you ask these questions to a child, they will probably say BROWN! and PUBLIX! And maybe some adults would too.... Some families have such little association with agriculture that they literally have no idea where their food comes from, or what it took to get it onto the shelves at the store. This is a problem! And it has become such a problem, that it has fueled the organic food, hormone free milk, and free range meat debate to a degree that US farmers are now in danger of not farming... but that is a different topic for a different post... don't worry, it's coming. This was supposed to be about the $4.50 gallon of white gold in your fridge. Got milk? Let me start with some definitions:
  • cow- a female bovine who has birthed a calf
  • heifer- a female bovine who has not birthed a calf and who is of birthing age (+12 mo)
  • steer- a male bovine who has had his manhood taken (or twisted) from him; the majority of beef we eat
  • bull- a male bovine who is ready and waiting
  • Holstein- black and white cows used primarily for MILK that is used for milk products
  • Jersey- light brown cows used primarily for MILK that is used for cream products; Sweetums is a Jersey
  • Angus/Brahman/Limosine; - bovine used primarily for BEEF
  • homogenized: no cream
  • pasturized: to kill bacteria- taken up to 161 degrees
  • ultra-pasturized: taken up to 250 degrees - most creams, organic milk
I have toured a few dairy farms in north FL and we are friends with several dairymen throughout the state. This is a very labor intensive, time consuming, stressful occupation. Women, remember all the factors that go into successful nursing? Well, think about a 2000 pound animal with the same problems. Mastitis is frequent. "Bad nursers" are not uncommon. Slow let down. Low supply. Stress. Sickness. The same things happen as with humans. And it is not easy to make sure cows are happy! People talk about organic or free range animals being "happier." Trust me---unhappy animals are not a farmers friend. Regardless of being organic or free range, a farmer/rancher tries their hardest to keep their animals happy. Think about it! So generally speaking, after a calf is born on a dairy farm, they nurse for 24 hours-3 days. They are then seperated from their mother and given formula. The mothers are put back into production. For those of you who just thought, "how sad"-- remember a few things. 1-America needs milk. 2- animals are NOT humans. Depending on the size of the herd on the dairy, cows are milked 1-3 times a day; 24 hours a day; 7 days a week. They are put on pasture or on grain in between milkings. When it is time to be milked, they walk into the milk parlor, go to their stall, their hind end is washed off, their udder is sterilized with iodine, and the milker is attached (think breast pump). They are also checked for clogged ducts. They are milked for a few minutes, and then out they go and in comes the next group. The milk goes into a huge vat that is immediately cooled to 34-38 degrees F. The semi you see driving down the interstate that says MILK on it drives to dairies all day and all night. Also depending on the size of the herd, they go to the dairy 1-3 times a day. The driver tests the milk for hormone/antibiotic levels, temperature, and quality. For those of you shocked by this, yes, the US gov't has regulations that milk cannot have traces of antibiotics AT ALL in it. I'm not talking about organic dairies! (This is what irritates us the most about organic claims-I'm trying very hard to not go off on this right now). Sick cows who have been given antibiotics are simply taken out of production until they are off of them. What a concept! Then the driver hooks up a giant hose from the vat to the truck and then he is off on his way to the milk bottler in that area where it is pasteurized, bottled under several different labels usually and turned into milk products. Now here is my most favorite and fascinating fact on FL milk.... from the time the cow is milked, to the time you have thrown the empty milk jug away---- an average time of 7 days has passed! Now that is some fresh milk. (To contrast, non-local organic milk that is sold in stores has a very long shelf life due to ultra pasturization and has usually traveled a great distance to get there. )

Whoa. That was a lot of info. Any questions?