Category Archives: Farming

GMO’s Roasting on an Open Fire…

By Dwayne McIntyre

For the past few days, I have caught wind of a Washington Post article circulating around the social media circles.  Its title, Unearthed: Thanks to science we may see the rebirth of the American Chestnut. Its subheading, “Scientists are breeding a blight resistant variety, and its everything other GMOs aren’t.”  I have seen a lot

By wwarby

By wwarby

of excitement from fellow farmers, naturalists and normally anti-GMO advocates expressing their pleasure for such good news, and as the article articulates, there is such a romantic idea of bringing back the great American chestnut.

For those who don’t already know, the American chestnut tree was a prolific timber and food tree up until the early 1900’s and was wiped out almost completely by a blight that came here on the more inferior Chinese chestnut tree we tried to introduce to our country.  All the chestnuts you eat today are from those trees from China.  The article cites 3-4 billion trees gone overnight, which is an apocalyptic tragedy comparable to that of the Truffula trees, so it’s easy to just guess how devastating this loss was.

Immediately it feels important to point out that the article is talking about GMO chestnut trees, more specifically chestnut genomes genetically modified with genes from wheat.  Sounds harmless, right?  At least it’s not spliced with toxic pesticides and herbicides.

The immediate curiosity that comes to mind is, are we against GMOs because they are unnatural and potentially dangerous in the long term, or is it just when its spliced with things foreign to our palette and the lack of any real long term research isn’t really as important when “it’s everything other GMOs aren’t? “

Regardless the writer of this article opens up with a great walk down memory lane of what it was like back when America reveled in the bounty of such a wonderful natural blessing of an innate food supply, like the chestnut, available to anyone and everyone.  I even have to agree, our fore generations had quite a blessed abundance from these trees.  The idea of having again “a readily available supply of high-quality, good-tasting food, growing out there in the woods contributing to a wholesome, healthful diet” makes me want to believe that this new Frankenstein genome will deliver. Can it? Will these scientists, the writer thinks we need to thank, deliver us this lost Promised Land once again?

First off it’s GMO, so the nutritional stats and romance with real actual chestnuts will not be what we’re going to get from the GMO version. I can’t name one GMO variety of anything that is nutritionally equal or superior to its real counterpart.  In fact, GMO foods are so synthetically grown (denser plots, sprayed toxins, liquid sewage fertilizer, etc.) they usually don’t carry any nutritional value at all. Sure we might see a lot of unaffordable furniture stores popping up everywhere with a lot of nice product putting ma and pa out of business, but cheap chestnuts from the store, probably in boxes in every aisle, might not be as romantic as pen and paper can delude.

Take corn for instance.  Genetically modified with the intent of saving a starving world with an abundance of good healthy food, yet almost immediately became the most subsidized, overabundant, nutritionally empty Franken food out there, in every aisle of the supermarket, in almost every box, driven by a profit model that has put virtually 75%, if not more, of all small farms out of business.  But don’t worry, as the article suggests, the chestnut trees will be different.  We will have our healthy utopia once again.

Its total naivety to think that designer GMO Chestnuts aren’t going to be exploited for profit, especially after explaining in great detail in the article how exquisite chestnut timber is and how one mature tree produces a half a ton of nuts. That sounds like an exact recipe for exploitation.  The timber and food markets will capitalize on its overabundant output levels which will launch demands for the trees way above the Johnny Appleseed levels of frolicking in the forests and repopulating the countryside so all the folks of the land can have their fill of free “healthy” food.   So easy we buy the dream, cast all our convictions aside, and pretend this new American wheatnut tree won’t come with a patent.

Honestly, the more I think about this article the more I think the American chestnut is the mascot for the great American Tragedy.

America was the great Promised Land loaded with a bounty of blessings, such as the innate food supply described in this article, and we wiped it out by means of the cheaper more inferior versions from China.  I suggest letting the American chestnut rest in peace and reflect upon its death for wisdom on how to change our industrial habits for the better and give rebirth to the great America that once was.  But that’s just me.

I suppose with Christmas right around the corner though it’s just the right time to believe in Monsanto Clause and sit around the fireplace roasting great cheer to his name.

 

GMO’s roasting on an open fire

Blood flow skipping all your toes

Your funeral dirge being sung by a choir

And folks all dressed in hospital clothes

Everyone has a prescription and a pharmacist

Helps to make the food digest

Tiny tots with their bellies full

Will find it hard to want real food

 

They know that Monsanto’s on his way

He’s loaded lots of trees and chestnuts on his sleigh

And every mother’s child is a guinea pig

To the Franken food giants who are raking it in

 

So I’m offering this simple phrase

If you want to live to ninety-two

Although it’ll never be told by the industry goons

“Health comes from real food”


Dwayne McIntyre is a small family farmer from Russell County Virginia who raises organic free ranged children with his wife Stacey. Together his family produces grass-fed beef and pastured poultry for sale at the Abingdon Farmers Market.  He is also the chairman of the Russell County Republican Party and is a strong advocate for Virginia Food Freedom.

www.virginiafoodfreedom.org

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Appreciation for Legislators, Education for Constituents

by Bernadette Barber

This will be an interesting fall,  educating people on the Virginia Food Freedom Act and on how the agricultural system works.

I think it will be much easier than I thought, with a news aggregate of Virginia Public Access Project, I get some pretty interesting articles with Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore’s quotes along with some select politicians and of course, Farm Bureau’s take on their version of Agriculture.

As many of you know The Virginia Food Freedom Act has been introduced in the general assembly twice, and previous to that, my delegate, Margaret Ransone, was aware of it and although promised that she would introduce it, chose not to at the last minute or at least strung me along, until the last minute. The bill would help many small farmers because the profit is in the processing.  If small farmers have a government enemy, it’s the Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture.  Farm Bureau  would have you believe it’s the Environmental Protection Agency.  They say that because they want to keep the corn and bean subsidies, and keep Big Foods control on the processing.  The profits for them are in the stock investment that the insurance company holds, not the risk targets policy holders are.

The latest story from VPAP is from the Progress Index covering a cook out in Dinwiddie.  For the Secretary of Agriculture to attend the event at Mr. Blaha’s farm,  it must be a very important event or at least one more opportunity  to get out the state /Farm Bureau propaganda.  Mr. Blaha received over a quarter million dollars from your tax dollars.  Parties like his are part of an elaborate, yet little known  system of tax dollars and awards systems from the state, “Century Farms” and industry “Farmer of the Year”  or  “Legislator of the Year.”  Mr. Blaha is also president of Dinwiddie Farm Bureau. 

This story  entitled  “Whose side is Farm Bureau on?”  gets it right when it comes to what the issue is.   Farm Bureau would like everyone to believe the EPA’s “overreach”  surrounding the Ditch the Rule issue is about normal water runoff through small ditches from the  small diversified family farm. But remember, one pound of organic soil holds four pounds of water, and big Ag does not farm organically.  

What it is really about is a CAFO, Confined Animal Feeding Operation.  When someone raises 200,000 birds at a time- 3 or more times a year-  you get a lot of poop… combine that with cocktails of toxic chemicals the animals are fed along with their corn, and the chemicals to sanitize the floors ( if indeed they do)  and you are ripe for nasty  RUNOFF situations that you don’t want near your children or your water sources.   You better believe CAFO’s are from where MRSA came, of course, it will be denied but just use common sense.

Lots of antibiotics used sub- therapeutically (not acute situations- only for feed gain and to keep the animals alive in such crowded conditions)  kill off all the weaker strains of bugs..leaving only the super bugs.  When cattle live in feedlots up to their knees in manure for months at a time gorging themselves on subsidized corn and beans  there is no grassy green carpet to slow or retain storm water.  IT RUNS OFF. 

The problem with the “Rule” regarding “Ditch the Rule”  campaign from Farm Bureau is that they are pulling small farmers into THEIR problems.  Small pasture-based  or very small feedlot operations that have natural buffer zones don’t  need onerous rules.  And of course, the small farm and ranch sell direct and know their customers the customers know them, they  even pet the animals.

Farm Bureau’s Poster girl for the Ditch the Rule campaign was based on Lois Alt’s problems with the EPA.   She is an eight house  contract grower with Pilgrims Pride.   Warehouse operator seems more in line with occupational description rather than farmer. She doesn’t even own the chickens.  And JBS, a south American company now owns 75% of the Pilgrims Pride.  JBS is the largest food processing company in the world, leading in sales.  So please note, this is really not about “small farmers,”  it’s about complete control of  the meat and poultry food supply.  Those small farmers are just the pawns in a very large game of Cargill, JBS, and the likes.

 

 Dave Harp http://www.chesapeakephotos.com

 

Another Farmer with a similar background of contract growing is Carole Morison,  but she  worked for Purdue.   She ran a chicken warehouse and decided that she wanted to raise birds right.  She believed the industrial model had too many problems including antibiotic resistance, culling of perfectly fine chickens that didn’t fit size requirements, farm log entry books that the company controlled, expensive upgrades for standardization. The final kicker was when the company wanted to  “upgrade” and deny any natural sunlight to the birds, ( they move less in the dark- using less energy). Purdue ended her contract when she refused. 

She raises chickens on her own terms now  and does not have to worry about the EPA.  She’s a real farmer.  Her chickens see  and feel real sunlight, their feet have touched grass and scratched for real worms. 

Back to the news story of the  Dinwiddie cookout where our illustrious Secretary of Agriculture spoke.  

Todd Haymore, the Virginia state secretary of agriculture and forestry, said making farming more profitable for farmers is an issue he is tackling in Richmond.

“The things we try to do from the governor’s office are to promote economic development in agriculture, recruiting new agribusinesses in the state, helping existing agribusinesses expand; also, global trade, move more product into the global marketplace,” Haymore said.

In terms of ecological impact of farming, Haymore said he was working to put less limitations on farmers.

“[We’ve been] working with EPA to be sure we’re not having onerous regulations placed on our farmers. Most farmers are good stewards of the land. They know if they take care of their land and water, it’s going to take care of them,”

– Progress-Index,  Aug 23, 2014

I  have worked directly with the department of Agriculture on the very topic of making farming more profitable.  When it comes to making farming more profitable for VA farmers, they are doing nothing meaningful.  The profit is in the processing.  And they will not allow farmers to process what they raise on their own land without their approval of course (SSOP, HACCP), and very expensive processing equipment.  That keeps small farmers out of the market place and is a profit protection measure for the large processing houses- who will then be bought up by the larger processing houses.

How can Secretary Haymore  say he is making farming more profitable, when under his watch Smithfield was sold to  Shuanghui, lock stock and barrel?  He knows contract growing keeps farmers down and profits up for the processors. Now it is under foreign control.  Howabout those Virginia farmers he is looking out after?

He does promote agribusiness to the state with taxpayer money- incentives to create jobs read my blog on Shamrock Farms  for details on how that works.  The state charges me taxes to give a subsidy to a processing house- to bring jobs- but denies me the ability to create my own job processing  the food I have raised on my own farm.

Wouldn’t we love to hear In terms of economic impact of farming, I am working to put less limitations on farmers  or we are working with the FDA and USDA to be sure we’re not having onerous regulations placed on our farmers.  Most farmers are good stewards of the food they raise and know how to process it into healthful nutritious products for their neighbors.  We want to rebuild our local economies and make them thrive.  I think that is what most people believe the Secretary of Agriculture’s mission is.

Secretary Haymore is right that farmers take care of their land, but I wouldn’t be so sure of warehouse operators.

ISOs in VA and Bakers Green Acres in Michigan

by Bernadette Barber

Dear Friends,

After two years and pressing $700,000.00 fines looming above him…Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres is free to raise his hogs.

Please consider donating to Farm to Consumer legal defense.  Story is below.

http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/news_wp/?p=14725

The ruling stemmed from an ISO ( invasive specie order) from Michigan DNR.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Del. Danny Marshall Chairman of the  Ag Subcommittee  introduced a bill,  HJ 29,  this year and I suspect it would have laid groundwork for a Pig ISO ( invasive specie order) for Virginia.  It was left in the rules committee.  The reason I suspect it would have laid the groundwork for a VA ISO, was that stories were planted in the media over the past year about feral hogs in VA.  If there is a problem of feral hogs, then open season on them is the answer.  We need more local farmers and more local butcher shops and even on farm processing.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?141+ful+HJ29

Please be wary, I think he may try to reintroduce it again next year.

The Sham of Shamrock Dairy, The Shame of VA Economic Development Partnership

by Bernadette Barber

The state of Virginia has brought an Arizona- based “family-owned” Dairy to Augusta County.  Shamrock Dairy is a 10,000 cow CAFO operation ( Cow Warehouse) in the desert of Arizona. It is indeed family owned, but how many family dairy farms do you know of that could build a 50 million dollar processing plant? Shamrock’s sham is that it perpetuates the image of what Americans perceive a family dairy might be- maybe a quaint independent operation with green fields, open space, cows contently chewing their cud in dappled sunshiney pastures?  Little children dashing about while siblings do farm chores?Shamrock-Dairy

No, a 10,000 cow dairy in the desert is neither natural nor sustainable.  It is an industrial  ( not familial) operation.  How many family members run day to day milking? Do they push a button, is it purely robotic?  An operation like that also eats alot of taxpayer subsidies. and produces food like substance, that is far inferior to real, raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized locally purchased milk.

Unbeknownst to many Virginians, they unluckily footed the bill to bring Shamrock Dairy here. Virginia Economic Development Partnership gave both Augusta County and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership $250,000.00 to broker the deal with Shamrock Dairy. Governor McDonnell also gave to  Shamrock another $50,000 from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Fund.    A bill creating that fund was introduced by both  Del. Steve Landes and Senator Bill Stanley and passed in 2012.  Its purpose was to  lure Big Agricultural  processing  operations to VA if they would use  atleast 30% of “Virginia Grown” product.  Shamrock is also eligible to recieve Road Access Funding from the Department of Transportation.    The Virginia Jobs Investment Program, will provide funding and will service the company’s training and re-training activities.  Shamrock has and will recieve much more than $300,000 from the Virginia taxpayer- who is denied the ability to process and sell their own dairy products.

The shame therein of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, whose purpose is to create jobs- is that they incentivize foreign or alien companies ( those not in VA) to build, with taxpayers money.  When they tout  “Virginia is open for Business”  they only mean big business, because the agricultural food processing field is so entrenched in red tape and fed tape-Virginia couldn’t even feed herself nutritiously if she wanted.  The fact is, Virginia does want to feed herself and keep the profits thereof. One only need to see the burgeoning presence of farmers markets, cow share operations, and food buying clubs.   The problem and shame of the VEDP is that it should be looking into allowing VA, herself, to create her own independent jobs by examining the costly burdensome regulations that prevent the opportunity. Legislators need to give farmers and families the freedom to process their own foods to sell direct to their neighbors and communities.  Small scale production is very safe. And for over 400 years up until less than 40 years ago, its what sustained her.

There are thousands of Virginians who would joyfully and safely run a family dairy and sell direct to their customers, if it were legal.  But Virginia state law does not allow for the direct sale of “raw” milk.  It must be sold to a licensed processor, such as Shamrock Dairy.

Next time you see “welcome news of  agricultural jobs creation”, know that it is a sham, because it is quite possible your tax dollars paid dearly for it, and a shame that legislators deny you the legal framework to create your own job, profiting from your own labor on the farm.

Misconceptions and Misrepresentations: Top Ten Clarified for VA Agriculture

By Bernadette Barber – www.virginiafoodfreedom.org

Matt Lohr, the VA Commissioner of Agriculture  has issued his Top Ten List of Misconceptions About Agriculture.   http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/news/releases-b/031413agwk.shtml Here is a clarification and analysis of  that Top Ten List.

Photo By Nicholas_T

Photo By Nicholas_T

No. 10 Small farms are unimportant.  Small farms are important, but those small farms need to be able to process what they grow into “value added” items.  It was common only a few short decades ago to stop at a family roadside farm stand and purchase many family and farm processed items. We need to re-legalize on farm processing so these small farms can thrive.   No. 9 All large farms are corporate farms. Technically, a misconception, but let’s add clarity so we don’t compound it with misrepresentation. “The vast majority of farmers live on the land they  work” But they don’t own the animals they serve.  Animals are owned by vertical integrators- corporate processing houses such as Tyson, Purdue or Smithfield.  The corporations dictate how the animals are raised, what they are fed,  and whom may come and see the operation.  That’s not very transparent to the consumer, friendly to the farmer nor neighborly to the community. No. 8  Farmers are destroying the environment.  ” This is absolutely not true. In fact farmers are the original good stewards of land and water resources.”   Farmers WERE the original good stewards of the land.  That was when their production was diversified and when they held financial independence, held unencumbered freedom for on-farm processing (“value added” to the initiated) and worked within the confines of the seasons.  Now the larger operations in VA are mainly providing subsidized GMO grain to the subsidized Animal Feeding Operations ( AFOs)  whose contaminated effluent is destroying the environment. Organic  manure from sun bathed pastoral farms is far different from the chemical -laden “nutrient” coming from the warehoused AFOs and CAFOs ( Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.)  Monoculture crops needing more and more pesticides and herbicides have created more and more environmental problems, from honey bee loss to super weeds. No. 7 There is no future in agriculture. It is a misconception.  There is a huge future,  but it is not to be determined by the increased enrollment at state and corporate controlled Land Grant universities. A farmer does not need a university degree to provide good wholesome food for his community, just a good personal library.  The determination of the future of farming is the explosive growth on the local food front. It is evident in the numbers of people wanting to know how and where their food is made, of the explosion of media outlets providing shows and websites on growing, cooking, preparing, and preserving foods, of restaurants and chefs seeking high quality locally grown meats, eggs and produce, and of the boom of private buying clubs.  No. 6  Farmers are uneducated  “The days are long gone when you learned everything you needed to know about farming from your grandfather”  The days are now HERE that one needs to know the wisdom from his great grand father.  Food production was quite safe before the industrialization and mechanization of the food supply.  Personally hand crafted foods gave attention to detail which is in huge demand right now.  “If you’ve been on a farm recently, you’ve probably seen a farmer using his cell phone in the field to make decisions about planting, applying pesticide and fertilizer.”    Virginia Agriculture is not all about GPS technology, smart phones, subsidized GMOs, huge tractors, applications of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers.  Its  about knowing ones limitations and abilities within the seasonal weather patterns, about methods of livestock, plant and  pasture rotations,  about produce storage, processing and preservation methods, about integrated pest management, as well as direct marketing.  Farmers that utilize their grand parents wisdom certainly have an advantage today. No 5   The cost of food goes directly in the farmer’s pocket.  That misconception is fed to the consumers through marketing campaigns processors use to sell the old time warmth associating one’s food with the farmer who grew it or his wife who lovingly prepared it.  It builds consumer confidence by

Photo by Petr Dosek

Photo by Petr Dosek

using the imagery of people you  knew or wished you knew. The perception was the reality of years gone by.  Through the course of government regulation over the years that part of farm life has disappeared.  A sweet potato farmer can no longer sell you a sweet potato pie his wife made without reams of red tape and a costly government inspected facility, because the FDA has deemed a sweet potato pie a “Potentially Hazardous Food”…. Sara Lee needs to bake it for you now. When food is sold directly to the consumer, then the farmer is making the most money, which he or she should, because farmers deal with the riskiest side of food production…the weather and nature herself. The processing is where all the profit is.  It is extracted from the risk side of nature.  There is no reason farmers should not be able to sell foods they have produced and processed transparently on their farm.  As misconceptions go, people believe farmers can anyway. No. 4   Food costs too much. The Commissioner notes that “the US has the most abundant and affordable food supplies in the world”  he does not say it is the most healthful, wholesome, nutritious or safe.  If a nations’ overall health is indicated by its food sources, then the US food supply is totally lacking.  The US has more health issues than any nation on earth, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, allergies, asthma, obesity, lactose intolerance are just a few.  Most all modern American diseases are traced to foods people are eating or not eating. What is also missing in the analysis is the cost of the subsidized corn, soy beans and other commodities, and the costs of the soil conservation efforts in subsidized toxic manure handling storage facilites.  The illusion of cheap American Food is perpetuated when these real costs are not averaged into the equations. No. 3 Our food is unsafe. This one is totally debatable. Let’s define unsafe: a foods ability to kill one immediately or slowly over the course of a short lifetime?  Industrialization of the food supply has certainly taken its toll on American health, but the criminalization of the sale of hand crafted foods from non-industrial farm and home production has created a lack of choice for safe, wholesome, and nutritious food at the immediate point of freshest availability.  Food sold closest to its production and processing points is the safest. No. 2 Farmers abuse their animals. “in any industry you will find a few bad players..” Howabout the entire Pork and Poultry industry in VA are bad players.  An

Photo By Bob Jagendorf

Photo By Bob Jagendorf

industry that veils its metholds and shrouds itself in secrecy is hiding something. Again, lets define abuse.  Is crating animals for months and months if not years, where they cannot turn around, scratch an itch, where they are devoid of any natural environment the Creator Himself deigned it be a part, cruel and abusive? Chickens not only eat grain, but were designed to scratch the soil,  catch bugs and eat worms and vegetation as well.    They dust themselves and enjoy short bursts of flight.  Denying them their very nature, to many, would seem cruel and abusive. Pigs have a wonderful nature as well.  Wallowing in cool mud, rubbing against a tree to scratch, using their powerful noses to turn up logs to find bugs, roots and other tasty items, sleeping in the sun.  They gather twigs and branches and dried tall weeds to create a nest to bear a litter of its young.  Crating these animals in concrete and steel for months and years unable to even turn around, devoid of sunshine and soil, to many would seem cruel and abusive.  Making them live above urine and manure pits where fumes burn the lining of their lungs is cruel-but the $130K grant from the USDA to VT to study medications for respiratory diseases must assuage the soul of the animal warehouse operator, knowing help is on the way in the form of a subsidized patented pharmceutical cure. “Why would a farmer abuse his animals when those animals are the source of his livelihood?”  This needs clarity to prevent misrepresentation.  Most animal warehouse operators don’t even own the animals there-in, although Dairy farmers do own their cows. These warehoused animals are numbered production units utilized for optimum efficiency for the bottom line. Lets see what could  possibly be defined as abuse or pampering within an animal warehouse operation. When cows in a “tie stall” operation are tied so long, it elicits problems.  They are given waterbeds to alleviate the stress on their knees, hocks and udders…. is that kindness and pampering?  Maybe these cows need to be out in the green grass and sunshine and feel the soft earth beneath their hooves instead of concrete so they would suffer laminitis less.  To lie in the soft grass would be more sanitary than to lie in toxic manure and the animal would suffer less mastitis from microbial contamination. The real answer is community transparency-the people should have the choice on where they buy their foods and from whom.  It rewards the farmer who raises his animals with good husbandry methods and the market will cure the rest who don’t.  Right now, the state ( Ag Commissioner?) sets the stage for the winners and losers in the food production market by denying choice and subsidizing cheap food policy.  Freedom is an American Tradition to which we need to return to the farm.   No. 1 All farmers are rich. It is easy to think all farmers are rich if one saw the subsidies today’s farmers receive. Just view the subsidy database  to see what your local farmer is getting at www.farm.ewg.org   People see “landed” farmers driving around in brand new trucks every three years, buying more land, taking yearly vacations and buying more equipment, even in this economy when most are scrimping just to pay their taxes.  That certainly lends to the perception that farmers have more financially comfortable life than their neighbors. Little does the neighbor  know that he is subsidizing the commodity grown, the toxic manure handling or even paying off the farmer’s mortgage with conservation easements. Lets not use the face of the old time diversified independent thrifty farmer as the image of the modern big tractor- driving -welfare king, who ironically is the subsidy- receiving serf to big corporate interests. Being rich in America means freedom and independence.  When we go back to that, all farmers in America will be rich.