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Archive for August, 2010

Looks like we may be heading to The Robinson Farm sooner than we thought! According to an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette they, along with other farms in Massachusetts, will be hosting Raw Milk Dairy Days. There’s additional information, such as directions to the specific farms and their open house hours, on the NOFA website.

Our challenge will be mustering the energy to drive out to Hardwick after flying back to Boston from Portland, OR at 11:59 p.m. the night before.

We could always try Eastleigh Farm in Framingham, since their open house is Saturday and Sunday, but they’re not certified organic.

So it looks as though we’ll be sleepwalking through The Robinson Farm open house on September 11th! I’ll let you know whose milk is tastier: Robinson Farm’s or Misty Brook’s.

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Sundays are our shopping days. My husband and I normally drive 45 minutes to Whole Foods to buy our groceries for the week, jaws dropping at the cost when we check out. Still, we go week after week, knowing that good food costs more. It’s a price we’re willing to pay, since we believe the adage: You are what you eat.

A few months ago, we went vegetarian for moral and health reasons. At the same time, I started looking into the local farm scene, wanting to support the local agriculture. As a member of NOFA Mass, I get emails and newsletters letting me know about the goings on in that scene. Recently, there’s been a lot of hubbub about raw milk and the Association’s mission to make it more readily available.* So we decided, instead of driving the 45 minutes to Whole Foods to brave the crowd and the cost, we’d instead drive to one of the nearby farms that sells raw milk.

We chose Misty Brook Farm in Barre, because it’s close, organic, and has limited fruits and vegetables for sale. The farm is located on a partially paved road, a little off the beaten path. (Not too far, though, since my GPS was able to find it.) Though it took us nearly 40 minutes to get there, it was a scenic drive on a winding road through the hills and woods of central Massachusetts. The first sign that we’d reached the farm was fenced fields with grazing cows. We probably drove past a half mile of them before reaching the farm store, a tiny wooden shack situated at the top of a dirt driveway. Thank goodness a kid was sitting in a station wagon out front. We were about to leave when he told us we could enter the closed shack, take what we needed, and leave money in the gray deposit box.

What?!

Yes, it seems Misty Brook Farm, at least at noon on a Sunday, operates on the honor system. In the shack was a fridge full of raw milk bottles, two freezers with various meats, and wooden boxes with tomatoes, greens, onions, and other fruits and veggies. Since we couldn’t find a scale, and the other stuff was priced by the pound, we opted to just take the milk and leave a check. I plan to contact them and find out how the weighing of and paying for fruits/veggies works when nobody’s there to man the farm store.

On the way back, we stopped at Carter & Stevens farm store, also in Barre, to see if we could check a few more items off our grocery list. Turns out we could: organic tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, apricot jam, corn on the cob, and raw cheddar cheese.

I admit we couldn’t get everything we needed at the farm stores, so we bought the balance at Trader Joe’s. But even with the expensive raw milk in our bags, we spent less than we normally do at Whole Foods. And we feel better about having bought local, organic stuff!

The first thing we did upon unpacking the groceries was to try the raw milk. I already think I’m hooked and am not sure I could ever go back to pasteurized milk. The raw milk was sweet and creamy as it went down my throat, and I quickly downed a full glass. My husband did the same. This sweet deliciousness is completely worth driving 40 minutes to the middle of nowhere. And if we tire of the dirt roads leading to Misty Brook Farm, we can also try Robinson Farm, which also sells raw milk and limited fruits and vegetables. We may not be buying all of our weekly groceries from local farms, but it’s a start we feel good about.

* It’s been found that raw milk has many health benefits that pasteurized milk does not. The following links provide more information about raw milk:

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…I’m 20-something at brain.

Yesterday my brother posted a link to an article about 20-somethings that got me thinking. Though I’m no longer in my 20s, this article helped me to understand why, at 31, I’m still struggling to figure out what would make me happy in my career. There are certain constants, like my love of writing and photography. But for the most part, those passions don’t bring in much income–at least not the kind of writing and photography I prefer.

The article speaks a lot about how peoples’ brains are still in development well into their 20s, which is why it’s taking much longer for the younger generations to “get down to business.” They say the reason it’s coming up now is because society enables it, as opposed to with older generations, where life expectancy was shorter and people started working, marrying, and having children at a much younger age, because it was expected.

I’ve always thought the whole high-school-to-college thing was a little bogus. You’ve barely gotten over your acne when you’re expected to pick a major and start paving the path for the rest of your life! In hindsight, I certainly would have done many things differently. Until you live in the real world for a while, you don’t know what’s really out there. I guess some lucky people are born knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives and happen to be good at it. I’m not one of those people. I went to college for one thing, worked, went back to graduate school for another thing, worked, stopped working to be self-employed, and am now back to looking for work. But I’m still unsure of what I should commit to. Writing’s a good place to start – it’s something I like to do. The main issue is that once you’re on a certain trajectory, it’s hard to change directions. Someone with my corporate communications background, for example, would have a hard time transitioning into an environmental career.

On a semi-related note, I like this quote from the article:

“N.I.M.H. scientists also found a time lag between the growth of the limbic system, where emotions originate, and of the prefrontal cortex, which manages those emotions. The limbic system explodes during puberty, but the prefrontal cortex keeps maturing for another 10 years. Giedd said it is logical to suppose — and for now, neuroscientists have to make a lot of logical suppositions — that when the limbic system is fully active but the cortex is still being built, emotions might outweigh ration­ality.”

To anyone who thinks I’m a little emotionally unstable, the above paragraph is my excuse. My brain had been (and still is) developing more slowly than the general public’s. Especially my prefrontal cortex.

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I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I was reading my friend Heather’s blog and saw one of her posts that had a badge bearing the words “I write like Arthur C. Clarke.” Of course I was intrigued and wanted to know who I write like. So I clicked on the link in her badge and was brought to a website where I was asked to plug in a few paragraphs of my writing. Crossing my fingers that it wasn’t some sort of trick to steal peoples’ writing for a very interesting (and random) book, I went ahead and tried it.

Who the hell is Cory Doctorow?

He is a science-fiction, postcyberpunk (??) Canadian writer who is also a journalist. He seems like a pretty cool newer author. Of course I don’t write science fiction – not even close. I may have to try out the application again. In the meantime, it’s better than being compared to Tucker Max. His book is the last one I finished, and it’s got to be the worst piece of crap I’ve ever read. So if you EVER are compared to him, change your writing style ASAP. That is, unless you’d prefer to be a sellout like him.

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I recently emailed a local farm to ask why they don’t consider themselves “organic.” The farm’s response was that they refuse to be certified as a form of “philosophical protest.” When I asked them what that means, they gave me a really great response, which I think helps to sum up my previous post:

Hello! Our philosophical protest came about after the USDA took over the
administration and nationalizing of the organic standards. Those rules
would allow, for example, that beef could be certified as organic if
they never saw a blade of grass and were fed a starchy, rich and
unnatural diet for ruminants. Our objection to feedlot beef production
(and this applied to dairy, too) that does not encourage the use of
feeds and practices that are suited to ruminants, forced us to bow out.
More of our philosophy can be viewed at our website,
http://www.caledoniafarm.com, or click here http://www.caledoniafarm.com/about.htm

However, there was a recent development in the standards that dictate
that ruminants must have access to their natural diet throughout their
lives. This is a positive development, though we will resort to staying
our course and and have our customers judge for themselves if we meet
their needs.

Going organic and/or local, like all things in life, afford benefits and
costs and it is up to the consumer to weight those costs on an
individual basis.

What is most important for you in your food purchase decisions?

We feel local production helps local economies, reduces carbon
emissions, maintains open space, and builds local capacity and self
reliance but will be more expensive to the consumer.

Organic production will keep various chemicals out of the environment
and promote more environmentally sensitive practices. And now that
organic food production has gone “big-time”, you can benefit from
economies of scale resulting in overall lower costs. These are all very
good developments in my opinion. However, food sourced from far away
carries a sizable carbon footprint and one cannot tell if the workers
who toiled over the food were treated fairly. As a point of interest,
click here for an eye opening take:
http://money.cnn.com/2010/07/07/news/economy/farm_worker_jobs/index.htm

Money and where it is spent is a powerful force. Many people don’t want
to work for minimum wage, in triple digit heat, bent over a field, so
those at the bottom of the economic ladder do it for us……….

Thank you for your interest!

You can also feel free to visit Calendonia Farm’s website.

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Since I made the decision to be vegetarian (with few exceptions), I’ve come across a dilemma. Do I eat organic, or do I eat local? In a perfect world, I’d eat food that’s both organic and local, but that’s hard to come by. Seems that I either need to support the organic camp or the local camp.

Benefits of Local: Usually local is equated with sustainable. After all, if you’re getting your food from local sources, you’re not supporting the transport of produce (and meats) across the country and even the world. You are, however, supporting the local community, which always feels good. You’re not wondering where your food actually came from, because you bought it from your local farmer or store that carries local stuff. You know it’s fresh and probably didn’t travel miles in a refrigerated truck or train.

Drawbacks of Local: Local doesn’t necessarily mean better or organic. You really need to do your research to determine if the local food meets your standards. I’ll attempt to do some of that research and post it here eventually, but the research will be based on my own standards. Also, local means you can only get what’s growing that season. Being from New England, I’ll have limited   choices in winter, since you can’t really grow much under a blanket of snow. This presents a culinary challenge, especially for people like me who despise complicated cooking. Being a vegetarian just makes it that much more difficult.  This website may help people determine what’s being grown locally and in-season.

Sustainable: Let’s throw another definition into the mix. According to the Sustainable Table website, sustainable “involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.” This would include buying local (the whole environment thing). However, buying local doesn’t necessarily mean you’re buying sustainably-farmed food.

Confused yet? I haven’t even touched organic.

Organic is more of a government-developed concept. We all know organic (when it comes to produce) means without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The organic animals should be fed organic food without antibiotics, and they need access to the outdoors. The problem is that the term “organic” can be loosely interpreted. Industrial farms can get away with calling themselves organic, even though they barely meet minimum standards. Take this quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals:

“To be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have ‘access to the outdoors,’ which, if you take those words literally, means nothing. (Imagine a shed containing thirty thousand chickens, with a small door at one end that opens to a five-by-five dirt patch—and the door is closed all but occasionally.)”

The milk from organic dairy cows can still be considered “organic,” even if those cows are jammed on industrial-style feedlots, and their only access to the outdoors is through screened windows. There is also no limit to how far organic food can travel to reach its selling destinations. I see organic greens at my local Whole Foods that were grown in California.

Unfortunately, much of the local food available at Whole Foods is grown “conventionally,” meaning it’s not organic and probably not grown using sustainable methods.

So do I choose to buy local produce, which may have been grown using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, or do I buy organic produce that’s been shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to reach my local store?

The answer is: neither.

What I really should do is strive to buy local, sustainable produce. By getting my produce from local farmers, especially at their own farm stands or at farmer’s markets, I can ask the farmers themselves how their produce was grown, whether or not they used chemicals to grow their food, if their animals are given antibiotics, and if they rotate crops and use animal waste as their fertilizer. Of course, doing this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It means finding farmer’s markets, being able to get to them, and driving to various places to get what I need. It also means adapting recipes on the fly, just in case I’m unable to get the ingredients I need. It’s by no means a feat for lazy people (and I consider myself fairly lazy). But I’m trying to muster the energy to work on this, for the sake of our planet and the animals that reside on it.

To start, I’ve found a website listing many of the local farmer’s markets.

More to come….

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