I read an article in the Sunday October 18, 2009 edition of the Tallahassee Democrat that disturbed me. It was an article about a small family owned farm in rural Georgia that is part of an upcoming farm tour put on by New Leaf Market in Tallahassee. This farm tour features several organic and natural farms, some of which are located in Jefferson County.
The quote from the article that bothered me so was this: "Eleven of the farms on the tour are certified organic, and the rest are all natural and stay away from the conventional agribusiness way of farming," New Leaf's Cristin Burns says. "The products they're producing are healthier because they're not using artificial chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones. Generally, they have a philosophical belief in the way they farm and in providing products that are free from harm."
The reason her quote concerns me is two-fold. The first reason is that she claims that products produced on organic/natural farms are healthier than the products that are produced on conventional farms. To date there is not sufficient research to back this claim. In fact, there are just as many “food scares” with organics as with conventional products. Remember the spinach scare in 2006? That was organic spinach that had e-coli bacteria on it causing several deaths. And just yesterday I read about an organic baby food that was being recalled due to botulism. So organics are not free from harm and should not be touted as so until it is scientifically proven. Moreover, the USDA and others have done significant studies on the amounts of residual antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides in food that comes from animals/plants treated with such and have proven that the amounts are trace at most and show no significant difference between their organic counterparts.
The second reason I am troubled by her quote is because she is stepping on one type of farmer in order to promote another type of farmer. If one can afford organic food and believes it is the best option for them and their family, by all means they have the freedom to buy it and enjoy it. But when those same people choose to put down the conventional farmers in the process, I cannot be silent. I therefore chose to write a letter to the editor of the Tallahassee Democrat in response to the above published statement. It follows:
As the proud wife of an American farmer, and part owner of a small family farm in Jefferson County, I have some concerns with Cristin Burns’ quote in the article “Down on the Farm” printed on Sunday October 18. She contrasts the “conventional agribusiness way of farming” (as she puts it) with the farms on her upcoming tour that have a “philosophical belief in the way they farm and in providing products that are free from harm.” What is being left out of a loaded comment such as hers is that the conventional agribusiness way of farming (versus a purely organic farming model) is what brought America from a third world country to a first world country. It is also this exact model that keeps our grocery stores full of safe, affordable, and abundant food and therefore our fellow man from starving. Furthermore, we as traditional conventional row crop farmers most certainly have strong philosophical beliefs in the way we farm, and strive to provide products that are free from harm. I stand behind all American farmers, conventional or organic, who tirelessly work to provide the food, fiber, and now fuel that we all enjoy on a daily basis. (end of letter)
It is great that so many people have taken a recent interest in where their food comes from and also how to support local farms. In this process however, we have seen first hand that misinformation from the media can serve to negatively impact conventional American agriculture. As conventional row-crop farmers, our family plays a significant role in providing the food staples that the world needs in order to continue eating. As long as there are mouths going hungry, conventional agriculture will be what feeds these mouths. We are proud to be a part of the big picture of feeding the world.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
When I was a little girl, I loved watching Little House on the Prairie (that was one of those red flags to my family that I was really a country girl at heart). I always thought it was interesting that Maw and Paw would “go into town” only every so often. I would get as excited as Laura and Mary were upon their return to see what they had brought back for them as gifts from the country store. It was usually fabric or candy. I thought that was funny…why would you need fabric? Why was candy such a big deal? I went to town daily-I lived there!
Well, now, the tables have turned. I refer to making a trip to Winn-Dixie as “going to town” and because I am out in the country, it isn’t convenient to go every day or on a whim. I don’t need fabric, but the kids do look forward to the days we go into town and they can get some little treat at the store.
Recently my parents took both children for a 3 day vacation to their house to give me a stay-cation at home. This was quite thrilling for the kids, of course, because this was 3 days of intense spoiling. They went to the zoo, the donut shop, the indoor bounce-house playground, out to eat several times, the beach, and probably several other things that they aren’t revealing. All of this took place in a much bigger city than the one they are used to, with any and everything your little heart desires within a 5 minute drive. Of course the children had to be constantly reminded not to dart out of the house into the yard without an adult. They had to be instructed on busy streets, watching out for cars and stranger-danger. They weren’t in Kansas anymore… or Jefferson county!
When they returned home, they promptly greeted each and every animal with open arms. My country mice had returned from the city! They were most amazed at the fact that the donut shop was so easily accessible…little do they realize now that there are some things that are better left uneasily accessible! And just yesterday, my 6 year old said to me at dinner, “We didn’t go anywhere in the car today!” She had become so accustomed to going, that staying just felt odd. I said, “No sweetie, everything we needed today was right here.”
I’m very grateful for the convenience of stores and shopping. Let’s face it, they are necessities of life. But it is so nice to not go anywhere in the car each and everyday just because you feel the need to go into town. And it is so nice to have all my bumpkins under one roof again.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
So many of my readers (and friends and family and extended family) have asked for an update on our animals so I think it is time.
Our four remaining chickens (of the original 9) are doing great. They are laying beautiful brown eggs daily and seem to be quite proud of themselves. The “rooster” (if you read my article several weeks ago) is not a rooster. The children and I have come to accept that now. But she is the first lady in the pecking order. When we bring them food scraps to distract them as we gather eggs, she is the one who gets first dibs on what there is to choose from. The other day I gave them a few pieces of stale French bread. It was funny to watch them eat the middle of the bread out and leave the crust! I don’t eat crust on bread, and neither do my kids, so I guess the chickens are really part of our family.
The kittens continue to leave treasures on the front door step several times a week. Recently they’ve been leaving a small green frog, no longer “with us” but perfectly in tact. I’ve told them to please leave the frogs alone…they eat bugs. So the next morning after my discussion with them, they left half of a mouse. I think I prefer the frogs.
My daughter’s vacation Bible school fish, whom she refers to as her only “pets”, are thriving. We have had a few incidents where one of the kitties was in her room and was caught with wet paws and a longing look in his eye…I think he tried to go fishing. I can say with 100% certainty that out of our 13 animals, these 2 fish are by far the easiest to take care of. Not the most entertaining, but definitely easy. And with our 3rd baby due next month, I am placing more value on the easy than the entertaining these days.
Mallory, our beloved Native American Brown Dog (a very rare breed, if you’ve never heard of it), turned 9 recently. For once being a cat hater, she is doing remarkably well handling the feline presence in her territory. She still won’t allow them to snuggle with her, but she does allow them to live, so I suppose that is more important. Snuggling can happen in time.
The three billy goats gruff are also enjoying life. The continue to have head-butting fights each morning to see who is the strongest, and after that is established, they go about grazing, sleeping, and following their Mama cow around the pasture. Whenever she goes, they follow. When she says jump, they say how high. That is just their lot in life and they don’t seem to mind it.
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for-a Sweetums status update (and no, she isn’t on Facebook). Let me pause here and say that I get stopped in restaurants and chased down in parking lots for people to ask me, “Is the cow pregnant?” With so many people pulling for her and wondering about her, I think Sweetums has become a local celebrity. The farmer refuses to have my precious cow officially “preg-checked.” He says that all signs (and lack of certain other signs) point to her being with-calf. I do agree with him here, but I would really love to know for sure. She has not come into heat since returning to our pasture in late June. She will not allow us to skip even one scoop of corn, which she gets in the evening. If she hasn’t had her dinner, she will moo and bellow at us until we give it to her, even if it is 10 o’clock at night. Once she gets the corn, she is quiet. There was one morning when she was mooing for food, which is very unusual because she is only fed at night. I started out to go feed her and the farmer said, “You are a push over.” I said, “You don’t mess with a hungry pregnant woman. I know how she feels!” So I fed her an extra scoop of corn that morning and we exchanged a wink. Her middle is really getting big. But then again, she never misses a meal, so this could be deceiving me. Her calf, if their really is one in there, should be due in late March. So until then, or until I finally convince the farmer to get me some real proof, all I’m able to answer your questions with is, “I sure hope so!”
So there you have it. The 13 animals are all doing what they are supposed to by continuing to bring us laughter, frustration, and bewilderment. Can’t wait to see what may happen today…