Jan 2013 frac sand battle and fake farms

small town politics

See that guy at the table, with dark brown hair peeking up over his glasses, right below the red bell on the wall? That’s the man who owns the 80 acre parcel next to us, which has been getting bored for frac sand samples. We’re still unclear if he is paying for this exploratory boring himself, or if a mining company is doing the exploration for their potential multi-million dollar frac sand mine. We don’t know a lot of things right now, and it’s making me shift from crazed to bawling to depressed to hopeful to defeated to heartened, and repeat. We don’t know what our approach will be until we know whether there is the right kind of sand there. All we can do is keep working with our Concerned Citizens Group to try to get our concern heard by the board. There are some other tactics we are utilizing, which I am not at liberty to discuss until later. I am proud of our group of neighbors is all I’ll say right now!

Our town board meeting (pictured) was last week, and 100 of the 300 residents showed up by the start of the 8pm meeting. It was quite an awesome turnout, way more than I expected! Many of us made our public comments to the board – asking for a moratorium on mining until we, as a township, can fully examine the issue and effect of sand mining on our township. Asking for a citizen’s committee so that more than just 3 people are involved in making the decisions that affect all of us. Nothing happened in regards to a moratorium or a citizen’s committee that night, and sadly, the board chairman actually seemed to dismiss our concerns, saying only some boring has been done, there are no imminent mines coming into our township. There are some ordinances that will be proposed by a lawyer at the next meeting, but they could be too weak.

Honestly, I am just getting sick of all of this. I hate politics, and I hate how important they are! It is such a lot of work to get involved, to defend yourself and get other people to care and get involved. But that is really the only choice unless you don’t mind living with the consequences of others’ decisions. We are in such a weird position here too- we make our living on our land, which is not the case for the majority of our Citizen’s group. We do not want to farm next to a mine, for many, many reasons. While some of the folks would accept an ordinance that would limit the mine’s hours of operations to 9-5, Monday through Friday, that makes us just groan with sadness! That’s our work day, and that would mean the mine is running all day long while we are working outside. Massive hauling trucks speeding by our place, over and over and over. You can have 20 or more back and forth truck trips per hour. EVERYDAY. We can’t even handle the noise of the 2 or 3 tanker trucks on “manure lagoon emptying days” – done by that very same neighbor who might be putting the mine in net to us. Yep, he ALSO runs a confinement dairy operation. What a great dude.

The two of us will have to make the best decision for us, based on what happens. I’m not afraid of moving, I really don’t want to, but we need to farm, we need to build systems and infrastructure now, while we are younger and able, get our farm really established so it runs like a well oiled machine. That’s been our plan here, and we want to do that here, building our lives and our farm around this particular parcel of beautiful western Wisconsin. But we can’t if the mine goes in next door. And we can’t make any decisions until we know what is happening next. It’s hard to explain how completely excruciating this is.

ordering for the future

We are nonchalantly ordering seeds in the 100’s and thousands, sometimes by the ounce, or even by the pound! Suddenly I felt this “thing,” this feeling of, hey- we are REALLY doing this! We actually know we can grow this much, and that we need this many of all these different kinds of seeds!

That feeling is:

“I am really a farmer for real.” If only you knew how very long I waited for this feeling to finally be true, well, it’s a great feeling. Take time to smell your freekin’ roses….they are all around you.

I went to the Midwest CSA Conference last week, and was surrounded by many of my farming heroes, pioneers of CSA farming in this region. It was rather intimidating actually, even though I’ve met many of them before. That same weird feeling kept creeping up on me during the conference….(I feel like I have to whisper — I made it!)

No matter what happens with the frac-sand shit going on in this region, we will be farmers. Here or somewhere. It’s a noble profession and an incredibly fulfilling job. Farming how we do and growing food for people is an honor and a joy. It’s very hard and challenging too, but seeing the results of your best and 100% effort is really beyond gratifying. Hearing feedback from your customers, eating the food you grew for them, roasting one of our Bubsters for dinner, or savoring their last tomatillos in a January white chicken chili….wow. The rose I am stopping to smell right now is the one that I longed to smell for soooooooo long- fulltime farming. I did it! But, I wouldn’t have come to this point without my wonderful people; my loving & do-it-all husband, and our supportive and dearest customers & friends. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. oxox

faceless, fake farming

Another book I devoured recently is “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s a philosophical examination of what it means to eat meat.

This book reminded me that FACTORY “FARMS” are my #1 enemy. If there is one thing I could do with a snap of my fingers, it would be to take away all industrial farming of animals. For the beings, for the environment. I am a farmer and we raise hundreds of animals to eat, so does this make me a hypocrite?

I know people can and will eat meat. I just don’t want anyone to deny the fact that it was a living being, and I don’t want you to eat it if it came from a factory. If you can’t raise it yourself, then find someone who does it for you, someone you can trust to do a good job of stewardship of the meat animals an well as stewardship of the land used to raise the animals. If you find meat raised with these standards in place too expensive, think about what a restaurant meal costs, or how much you spend on a vacation. What you eat is so important on so many levels! You could also opt to eat less or no meat.

One major pet peeve I have with the co-ops (who are dear to my heart) is that the co-ops sell meats that are marketed as good meats, implying that this meat comes from animals on a nice little farm. The companies love to take advantage of very confusing wordage and imagery on their packaging to fool you into thinking the meat products are not only natural, but the animals were raised naturally on huge pastures in the sun and fresh air. If it says “all natural” on a package of deli sliced turkey breast, that says absolutely NOTHING about how the turkey lived. If the package says antibiotic free, no nitrates, that also is only talking about the meat as a food, not the animals’ quality of life. One such company is Applegate Farms.

From an interview by www.inc.com  “Twenty-five years after Stephen McDonnell started Applegate Farms, the Bridgewater, New Jersey-based meat company is one of the largest natural and organic food brands in the U.S. With almost $200 million in revenue and 80 employees, the company sells its products in a variety of retail outlets, from small specialty food stores to Whole Foods to big chain supermarkets such as Stop & Shop and A&P. McDonnell made his products a household name not only by riding the trend toward healthy eating and organic food, but also by creating a lean company with minimal overhead (there’s actually no farm at Applegate Farms), and by cultivating an unusual management style that puts him in the office just one day a week. He told his story to Donna Fenn.”

So……THERE IS NO FARM AT APPLEGATE FARMS!?? How could we know about how the animals lived on this non-existent farm?
(customers wanted) “natural ingredients and asked for antibiotic-free products. So in the early ’90s, we started to develop antibiotic-free meat. Organic came several years after that…We used to sell 2,000 or 3,000 pounds a week; now, we sell 700,000 pounds a week. We work with 18 co-packing companies, 12 slaughterhouses, and 1,000 farms. We’re not farmers or processors or cookers or retailers. What we do is create the recipes and manage the very complex variables to ensure that everything is done on time and with the highest quality.”

the whole interview is here: http://www.inc.com/magazine/201211/donna-fenn/stephen-mcdonnell-applegate-farms-a-household-name.html

While it is true that an antibiotic-free meat came most likely from animals not so crowded tightly in factory barns, that’s not saying they get to go outside or have any quality of life. One such example I have in-person experience with is a MN poultry company who provides nearly ALL of the local “free range” antibiotic free chicken in this region. I have seen with my own eyes what their free range means- the broiler chickens are in a airplane hangar sized building, thousands of them on pine shaving bedding. They raise thousands of chickens to be processed every week to supply all of their accounts, so many chickens that this company actually has other farms raising them for their brand as well. While some people would argue that this is not too bad of a life for a chicken, and some might not really care at all where their chicken comes from or how it lived, it makes me angry that this company can imply pastured, roaming and ranging birds out in the sun and on grass with the word “free range.” Yes, the birds are not in cages, but they are being raised in huge mobs entirely indoors. IS that free range as you think of it?

My solution to my frustration with factory farming, is to do it properly. We raise small groups of chickens seasonally- outdoors on grass, in the sun and fresh air, where they grow healthily with lots of exercise, gorging on organic feed and foraging as much as they desire. I know not everyone can or wants to do this. But I think if everyone had the chance to be this intimate with their food, it’d be impossible to NOT be enraged at factory farming and refuse to support it. We raise our chickens to supply an alternative to the faceless, fake farming. It takes alot of time, investment and energy to do this and we’d never ever consider compromising the quality of our birds’ lives in order to make more money. We charge what we need to make it make sense for us to do, which means we’ll have a limited customer base of people who really get it, really appreciate what we are doing and are willing to back their beliefs by putting in a Chicken Share Order. In return, they get the BEST chicken they have ever had in their life!

I don’t want to pick any fights. I just would like animal welfare addressed when dinnertime comes around. The “Eating Animals” book made me think about the effect I might be having when I talk about the meat we are eating at our home. There might be the subtle nuance that I approve of meat eating as a whole. I want to be clear on what my stance is- I didn’t raise it I don’t eat it. There are so many amazing small scale farmers you can support with your meat dollar. Consider it, eat well and do well.

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