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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another Mouth To Feed

After protests against the initial plan to drown it in a 5-gallon bucket Angel 2 is welcomed to the Farm Team.

If you follow the blog you will remember that Angel Cat was run over a few months ago. And now we have been blessed with Angel 2, I guess its true what they say - God doesn't miss a 7-10 split without allowing the snack stand to open a little early.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food Is A Human Right


Farming in the South has taught me that food is political. By design, obviously, it is first biological; the fruit of soil, rain and sun providing our bodies with nourishment for living.

In an economic structure that regards food as a basic need of life ,rather than a commodity, what we put in our bodies is also of principle importance in our society. Yet the great difference between our current market based system and a decentralized, fair-trade food economy is the alarming relationship which food now has to political power and violence.

In a matter of decades the worlds dominant cultures have revolted against once widespread viable networks of stable and diverse food production. In their place they have established a monoculture of eight industrialized crops to provide for 3/4 of the worlds food. This shift, though sudden, was not without dramatic and immediate consequences.

This drastic change resulted in a national food policy that forced family farmers to surrender their land if they could not compete with federally subsidized commercial crops grown for corporate profit. An astounding number of farmer suicides in the 1970's and 80's followed. This same process continues today in India where indigenous farmers are killing themselves at intolerable rates in reaction to global policies which drive down the price which the market will pay for their once valued products and labor.

Food is now another weapon in an undeclared but very real war on biological and cultural diversity that 'civilization' wages, or so it claims claim, to feed the hungry and bring stability to the 'developing' world. In reality, it is clear that international food policy, as dictated by groups like the World Trade Organization, is designed for the monetary benefit of a world-wide class of elites whose livelihood is derived from the exploitation of the land and those who bring forth its fruit.

According to food scientist and author Devinder Sharma, in the year 2008 alone riots broke out in over 37 countries to address the unequal distribution of food. We force other countries to import our over-produced and over-subsidized grains while demanding they accept a culture of serfdom in the place of once lively and beautiful local economies. Thus economically 'poorer' countries of the world are increasingly threatened with famine and social unrest.

The relationship between food and the political state of our world is impossible to overstate. Our current means of production and distribution with its inexhaustible need for petroleum is worsening the divide between ruling and exploited peoples. Under the current design, rich nations will continue to profit from the very process which is impoverishing rural cultures and soils worldwide.

A network of smaller economies committed to bringing health, nutrition and life from the soil for all people is needed now more than ever. If food continues to be exploited as commodity, poverty violence and hunger will grow as the wealthy classes continue to fight over increasingly scarce resources. It is exactly because food is so political that building bio-diverse food communities is now the work of freedom and the human right of cultural and culinary self-determination.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meat on Feet Update

Here's a pic of our half-grown broilers at 4 weeks. I had intended to do a week-by-week picture update to chart their growth, but alas...the last photo shoot we did with these birds was at 3 days old. What you expect to do and what you actually accomplish are not always the same when you work on a farm. I'll try and do better in the coming weeks...

Our first batch of broilers grew larger than we expected--some around 7.5lbs dressed out (a small turkey). Turns out that they have no sense of restraint, and will eat whatever you put in front of them. So with the batch above, we're going to stock less per pen, feed them less grain (to encourage more foraging and exercise), and hope for smaller chickens. They were, of course, still tender and delicious...but big, honkin' birds. We materialized our first local meat fantasy tonight...fried, pastured chicken. Holy crap--it was good!

Expect a future post from Elliott and I on our adventures in bringing the birds to South Carolina for processing.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Food Manifesto


An entire sky of rain has settled over the farm today, and I'm celebrating by pouring down my thoughts. Rain makes you look out the window and see more than just grass, chickens and trees - but all of them, woven together within a texture of life which is creations magnificent gift to us.

Being from Iowa, at a young age I was constantly told that farming the land was hard, dirty and poor-paying work. Farms were gigantic acreages managed by one man with a squadron of expensive green machinery. I only came to understand later that this was all part of a national shift in agricultural practices manufactured by corporations like Monstanto, Cargill and DuPont, whose Capitalistic principles caused the average amount of land worked by farmers to balloon from 50 acres, in 1950, to 200 acres in 2000.

The traditional farming culture that made such hard work sustainable through creative, humble, and principled living, was soon destroyed by an economy designed for the benefit of CEO's and bosses. In a shamefully short series of decades, the 10% of the U.S. population once involved in agriculture in 1950 plummeted to less than 1% in 2000. Today, there are more blacks imprisoned in the United States (2.1 million) than there are farmers (900,000).

We have created a wasteful and unfair system of production which pits farmers against a board of directors whose profit margin forces them to produce as much food for as little pay as is possible. No wonder the majority of the world's youth want nothing to do with agriculture. As it is currently organized, it degrades both human and soil health; replacing once rich and independent rural cultures with a way of life founded on the exploitation of the land and those who work it.

Enter the screwdriver. Recently, while Elliott and Ari-Anne were off the farm, I was faced with the task of removing some tin roofing from one of our pastured broiler pens. While digging through the shed for enough extension cord to reach the opposite side of our pecan orchard, I found the perfect Phillips head screwdriver in a pile of cobwebs on the shelf. The sun was beaming strong and the air was crisp and sweet, so I said, "why not?"

Instead of lugging a power drill along with 100 foot of cord, I stowed the humble screwdriver in my front overall pocket and enjoyed the stroll across the orchard. While working, I felt the aliveness of birds, grass, trees and clouds. Rather than an electric drill whirring, I sung along with mocking birds. Instead of the hasty and begrudging attitude which typically accompanies work in our culture, I passed a quiet 10 minutes twisting my arm, feeling that delightful tinge of muscle pain that lets you know you are getting stronger and using your body well.

That one simple choice taught me that working with the body is a joy; as opposed to burdening it with resource-intensive tools that often do more harm than good. Now to be sure, the drill is a welcome innovation on the farm most of the time. But in the context of the problems facing agriculture in my home and across the world, I use the screwdriver as a metaphor for the potentially most egalitarian solution that we have.

The tools and people exist right now around you to create a community independent of exploitation. Despite the hegemony of Capitalism over our lives and food, we are still truly powerful. They depend on a divided and disorganized rural culture, one that values money over real, authentic life. Its up to us whether we will give it to them or not.

Let's replace their destructive and wasteful machines wherever we can with creative, intelligent and dedicated bodies. Let's organize the production of food such that it not only brings a viable economy and culture back to the countryside, but that it also be nutritious, shared, and most importantly, part of a design for life which recognizes the fullest potential the human body has for meaningful labor.

For now that looks like poultry for us. Though simple creatures, the culture which market forces have created around chicken products is extremely complex. Ever since the 1980's, corporations have been contracting more and more factory farms to mass produce chicken. And as before, the farmers work for extremely low wages, and so to scratch out a living must produce an extremely unreasonable amount of product which the corporations then turn around and sell at unrealistically low prices. Thus everything related to chicken (eggs, meat, by-product, etc) has been cheapened to an extent that for us to make a respectable living raising poultry is tough.

But we do it anyway. And despite an increasingly stale political atmosphere, we have freedom enough to make our food the way we want it to be. There is no better way to begin a long term process of transformation than to build a well nourished community.

Our dream is to care for the soil, care for our relationships, and determine how to share the bounty. Join us as part of a growing generation emboldened to live lives of real substance, importance and health.

-Mark B.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Farm Team's Holiday/Birthday Wish List

It takes a village....and a lot of good make a good farm. If you're interested in giving this year, or know someone looking to get rid of any farm supplies, here's a list of things we're looking for. Also, we're more than willing to trade for any items on this list.

The Farm Team

--sturdy work boots
--rain coats
--hats (wide brim, breathable, but secure)
--fencing (2"x4" galvanized, electric poultry netting)
--AgriSupply gift certificate
--Seed Savers gift certificate
--perennials (trees, shrubs, herbs, bulbs, vines, etc. - preferably edible)
--truck (diesel, 4wd, good on the road long distances)
--canning supplies (jars, lids, etc.)
--Brighter Day Natural Foods gift certificate
--large glass bowls (for baking)
--work sunglasses
--walkie-talkie set (6.5 acre range)
--Amazon gift certificate (for gardening books, etc.)
--Red Mill or King Arthur Flour
--electric flour mill or "Country Mill"