Monthly Archives: September 2012

Organic FarmingOrganic Farming

The other day I had my annual physical, yuck. I was certain that the doctor would comment on my age, activity level, overall health, but she didn’t. Instead she asked more questions about  our family’s medical history. It made me think about how differently we live today in comparison with our relatives only a couple of generations back. Someday medical history might become inconsequential because of the dramatic changes in diet and the environment. There’s a barrage of chemical and genetic assaults that our grandparents, parents, or anyone born prior to 1996 weren’t exposed to.  There’s no history of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes in our family. However, food was produced differently.

Meat came from farms where animals grazed, lived outdoors, and foraged. Antibiotic use wasn’t a casual addition to feed like it is in today’s factory farming. Today drugs are fed to animals as if sprinkling sugar on cereal. Is there a plan to combat future antibiotic resistance? Added to this threat is the introduction of antibiotics into the DNA structure of genetically engineered plants. For a thorough look into genetic engineering I highly recommend the book Seeds of Deception.

Our grandparents and parents weren’t raised on overly processed, nutritionally vacant food. My grandmother’s mashed potatoes were made from real potatoes. She didn’t open a box and pour potato flakes into a dish and add water. She washed, peeled, boiled, and mashed them herself. Foods rich in nutrients and minerals (absorbed through healthy, chemical free soil) were eaten. Food was bought raw and taken home to prepare. There was a time, not too long ago, when every farm was “organic.”

During World War II victory gardens were a patriotic contribution in supporting the war effort. In both city and suburban yards poultry, rabbits, vegetables, and fruits were grown. One family might have an abundance of squash, another an excess of tomatoes to exchange. Families baked, canned and stored food. They took care of themselves. Milk was the number one drink for growing children not soda or sports drinks. In our house if you wanted to grow you drank milk, if you were thirsty you drank water. Milk didn’t contain bovine growth hormones and cows still ate grass. Imagine that, cows grazed, how absurd! Dairy’s were family run operations not mega factories moving cows on conveyors for around the clock milking cycles.

The countryside was populated with diverse family farms. Very few were mono-species operations.  In our area most farms had a flock of laying hens and meat birds. The eggs and dressed chickens were sold to supplement the family budget. Our neighbor’s mother bought a player piano with her 'egg money', another took orders on Saturday morning for dressed chickens which were delivered on Sunday's following church.  Her chicken sales paid the tuition for her children’s college.

Not too long ago hogs were considered the “mortgage lifter.” They payed off  farm debt and enabled farm growth. Dairy farmers usually kept pigs. They sold the cream. The whey was poured into barrels with grain added to feed the pigs.  Each fall, after harvest, animals were turned into fields to forage and fertilize. Manure, uncontaminated with drugs or chemicals, was spread across fields to boost organic matter in the soil. Erosion was controlled by grazing steep ground rather than  planting row crops on it. Crops were rotated. The impact that each crop had on the soil was calculated into the rotational process. Building soil was essential to the success of the farm and critical to the environment.

Soil health is in jeopardy. Erosion and chemical run-off threaten clean water supply. Confinement animal operations feed livestock a diet of pharmaceuticals. Genetically engineered crops  are invading all plant species from weeds to corn. This science is still new but studies indicate that feeding genetically engineered crops threatens the health of both livestock and the end consumer. In the future will the medical community stop looking at family history for the answers to our current health deficits? Will crop scientists be held accountable for poor health? And most importantly, is there an 'off switch' to all this genetic engineering?

The answer might be organic farming.

More food for thought.

"Health nuts are going to feel
stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.”



Last week's storm had me breathing a sigh of relief. I'm hopeful that the summer drought pattern is being replaced with soaking fall rains. The few summer storms we've had haven't brought significant accumulation. Unfortunately though, along with the rain came hail. I couldn't sleep because I was waiting for the skylights to shatter. They didn't. I was also unnecessarily concerned for our calves. They can fend for themselves but I still think about them. The pigs are always fine. They go into their pasture huts or hoop building as do the sheep. The shed provides plenty of protection for them.

The cool crisp nights are a certain sign that fall's on its way.  Another sign that fall is coming is the incessant sound of crickets. During last week's storm when the hail stopped, the cricket, whose been hiding in our room all week, started chirping. Apparently he was listening to the storm too. After searching for him unsuccessfully I've determined that crickets can throw their voices across the room. Certain that I'd located him, he began singing from somewhere far off. Counting their chirps gives an accurate reading of the temperature, but I was less interested in counting cricket chirps and more interested in counting sheep. The cricket wanted to be heard. This went on throughout the night but this morning our goofy kitten came bounding out of the closet batting at a cricket. It looks like tonight will be peaceful again.

Last week the pasture was full of wild geese.  This year they've started traveling earlier than I ever remember. Their flyovers have been steadily increasing with the shortening days. Our dogs know better than to bother the wild geese. Instead they watch them from the safety of the hilltop where a wire fence clearly divides the boundary. The corn harvest is also underway starting earlier as well. The Asian Beetles (I refuse to call them ladybugs) are clustered into every corner, covering each window pane.  Vacuuming them up seems to make even more of them magically appear. They're sneaky, smelly little bugs and even the chickens avoid them. There aren't too many insects that the chickens avoid.

Racing against the weather to get our hay put up wasn't an issue this year. Instead, finding hay at a reasonable price was. Our neighbor with CRP grass saved us again. He's been wonderful to us since we moved to this farm. With permission from Farm Service Agency we were able to rent a portion of his field. It's been mowed, baled, and it's ready for winter feeding. We won't be culling cows. Our herd is safe thanks to the help of our family and our friend. The cattle coats are thickening, the horses also have a light layer of winter growth, and the starlings have gathered earlier and are swarming in the treetops. Great masses of them fly in group formation and throw acorns out of the trees. The pigs are quite happy with this arrangement. Several trees have shed their leaves already, not because of fall, but because of the drought.
Lastly, the farmers market comes to a close this Saturday. It's a bitter sweet ending to another season. We love the markets, the crowds, and our customers. Saturday mornings are never quite the same. They feel empty. When spring returns we are eager to get back to the business of the summer.  As this market season ends we humbly thank you for your patronage and wish you all the best.

Warmest wishes,
Glenda and Keith

Food For Thought:
Only a few will learn from other people's mistakes; most of us have to be the other people.

Back To School Humor

Rick, having served his time with the Marine Corps, took a new job as a high school teacher, but just before the school year started, he injured his back.

He was required to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. Fortunately, the cast fit under his shirt and wasn't noticeable. On the first day of class, he found himself assigned to the toughest kids in the school.

The punks, having heard the new teacher was a former Marine, were leery of him and decided to see how tough he really was. They started acting rowdy and opened all the windows so their new teacher's papers blew off his desk.

The strong breeze also made his tie flap so he picked up a stapler and promptly stapled his tie to his chest.

There was dead silence in his classroom and absolutely no trouble from his students for the rest of the year.

     Seize the Bees!

The Illinois Department of Agriculture
seized privately owned bees from naturalist Terrence Ingram who has been raising them for  58 years. Ingram was actively researching   Roundup's effects on bees. Prairie Advocate News reports that before a court hearing on the matter or issuance of a search warrant the bees were seized. Read the story here


A couple of years ago, when I was writing a weekly column for the local paper, I was given an old calendar. Each month featured a quotation or concept. This is the page from July 1958. It's from the KVP company in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Dwight D.Eisenhower was the president. The KVP company manufactured food protection paper and food wrapping papers.



Guess the pet

Keith came in holding a feed bag and asked me to guess what was inside. Snakes are always my first guess followed by my usual response, ‘If that's a snake you’d better get it out of here!’ He knows better than to bring a snake near me.

After reassuring me that it wasn’t a snake I started guessing.
Is it a bird?
No, it’s a baby animal.
Is it a mouse or rat? No.
Is it a raccoon? No, but you’re close.

He reached inside the bag and pulled out a very small opossum which was clinging to his hand with his tail wrapped around Keith’s finger. She has huge pink ears and delicate pink toes, beady little eyes, and a very prominent pouch. An opossum is the only marsupial in America. Keith found her crawling on the road, her mom had been killed. We rarely find young, wild animals on the road in the fall. I named her Irving after my mother’s uncle who also had small eyes, large ears, and gray hair. I called our local DNR agent to ask how we should care for Irving or where we should take her for care. At the moment she's in a warm box and being fed applesauce and milk.