goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Buy American

Early in my blog writing a woman who I really didn’t know messaged me “don’t yell. No one listens to someone who is shouting at them.” Or something like that. She became one of my best friends and I trust her judgement often and always.

But it is apparent that many people don’t listen to anything that involves thinking and change.

I will try again, though. I am Taurus = stubborn.

So we have the start of the growing season here. The earth is warming and food crops are being planted. In large mechanized commercial farms, much of planting can be done by machines with one worker covering a large field. And some food crops can be harvested mechanically also.  However, many require hands-on. And that needs a work force.   Part of our national history is the transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial and now a post-industrial economy.  Almost 200 years ago most people living in the United States were involved with farming. You can see what has happened over time. 

In the past twenty years more and more of these farm jobs have gone empty until filled by migrant workers. Many are Latino and here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon we very much recognize that our vineyards, orchards and large commercial food farms need these workers.

It’s hard work. I know. I took a farm hand job three summers ago. Me. At 60 years of age, overweight, arthritic and with a bad back. The high school worker was heading back to school in August and the farmer needed someone until the end of the season. I never had done this kind of work and my body let me know. But this is not impossible work. So anyone who can walk, can bend, can use their hands, can do this work.

However, it seems that in most areas of the country, white people do not want to do this work so much. And so, others fill in. They are not taking jobs away. They are helping feed us. Some are not legal workers. 

Trump ran for President hollering (hey! he yelled and people listened……or maybe they didn’t, but that’s a different blog) that it was important to put America first. That we needed to get rid of all the bad hombres and that has translated into all people who are here without full legal status, no matter the agreements in the past.  Trump supporters have not yet woken up to the fact that when the work force is removed, something will happen.

In this case, it means the food raised here on large farms in the United States most likely will not be successfully harvested. One farmer we know lost his work crew last year when the blueberries matured early. His strawberries matured late. All that is because of the weather. But it meant his picking crew went off to attack the blueberries, which are easier picking than strawberries. He lost thousands of dollars and many of his strawberries rotted on the plants because there was no one to pick them.  This situation will happen again more and more in more places, not necessarily because of the weather but because of a shortage of willing workers.

Trump’s policies are convincing many people without family roots to head back south to their native lands. The risk of imprisonment and deportation is high. So, many people are leaving. There are also many people who are not leaving because they have been here for 20 or more years. Part of their family was born here. Others may have legal status.  The undocumented workers are still here, but there are fewer than before and many are not taking jobs because of the risk of being arrested.

As this situation will exist in the coming months everyone, including Trump and his supporters, are going to feel it. They may be cheering now, but the time is going to come when they realize there may have been a better way. They’re already feeling it in southern California and in Florida where harvests happen several times during the year.

How?

  • Prices will go up. To keep your business and their profits supermarket chains will contract for produce from other countries.
  • Flavor will go down. That long distance produce gets harvested a bit early, a bit green or immature, to give time to the transportation process before it starts to rot. Flavor just does not develop that way. If you buy produce from overseas, you miss the flavor of how it really should taste.
  • Farmers here in the United States will not be able to continue to farm. Or at least to farm food. (Much of the Willamette Valley farmland is used for wine grapes, hops, hazelnuts and landscaping plants.) Farms will fail financially, and the land will go fallow. That will have a ripple effect on the economy, too.

So, Southern and Central California are where the bulk of supermarket produce is grown. And harvested. Or not harvested…and then not shipped to your grocery store. 

So, why do I say BUY AMERICAN when I also am saying food raised here in the US is going to have smaller harvests and higher prices?  Because if we don’t support American farmers we are going to see our food production, like our manufacturing, move offshore.

There are ways to buy produce at affordable prices but it means a commitment to change your shopping pattern. Only you can decide if giving your children and grandchildren a chance to buy American food is important.

Am I exaggerating? Unfortunately, no.  I remember my parents complaining that it was getting harder to buy American made when they replaced our black and white television with a color model in the late 1960s. At that time, Magnavox was only one of a few and they are still in business today.  All the other tvs that are manufactured here are by Asian corporations who have built factories here to save on shipping and other costs.  How did this happen?  Simple-we consumers like to buy based on price, not patriotism.

Yet I bet you believe you are a patriotic American.  Demonstrate it by investing in America’s economy.  This is a consumer driven industry! Buy locally raised food. Go to a website like Localharvest.com to identify when your farmers markets are, where the farms are near you that offer CSAs, where you can pick your own produce. Perhaps this whole discussion is meaningless as most Americans do not eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, but if you do try to eat in a healthy way, this will affect you unless you also grow your own food. 

And get those teenagers to take summer jobs working on farms….they’ll buff up, tone up, and get a great tan!

 

 


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Farm to Table Pork

For those of you who started reading recently when I have been writing about my reaction to the political hoohah of the past year, you might not know that I have been involved in the farm to table movement for the past six years or so. 

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My business, Can-Do Real Food, works with small local farms capturing their surplus produce and preserving it either by canning or dehydrating. This helps reduce food waste, offers the farmers another income stream, and provides local consumers shelf-safe local food that can be eaten any time of the year. I work with produce only; vegetables, fruits and nuts.eat-local

Most of the farmers, however, have animals for eggs or meat production. One of my farm partners, Wooden Mallet Farm, is located northwest of the small town of Yamhill in the foothills of the Coastal Range.  They offered the opportunity to buy a whole or half hog and we plunked down $50 about 6 months ago to help with feed and reserve our half. pigs

This morning I went to the farm to observe the processing. Why? Because I am curious. I get the meat all wrapped up in white butcher paper, so if I lived in a fantasy land I could imagine there is some “immaculate conversion” from hoof to plate, but instead I wanted to honor the animal by being there.

Several years ago I naively went to a farm in West Virginia to observe chicken processing and ended up being involved literally up to my elbows.  So I understood the general process.

One amazing aspect of farming in Oregon is that mobile slaughter is allowed to occur on the farm. The processor butcher explained that the regulations are not as strict as the indoor facilities and we discussed the differences between this winter time processing with the low temps (we are having unseasonable cold weather…it was maybe 30 degrees this morning) and the need to work fast while there is light. Summer time processing has the issues of flies and other insects as well as concerns about higher temperatures affecting potential spoilage.

So from the time the 22-caliber bullet was fired into the brain and the carotid artery was severed, until the time the carcass was hanging in the truck was perhaps 15 minutes. Hoofs were saved for a friend of the farmer to make dog treats. The processor collected the hides and offal for someone else who processes the skin and renders the rest. The livers were inspected and several rejected; winter hogs apparently often have some liver damage. The ears and hearts were saved by the farmer.

The carcasses will be weighed and I will receive an email tomorrow about the hanging weight. That check goes to the farmer.

The email will also give me contact info for the butcher and I will call to give him the cutting instructions. We like our pork chops one inch thick for example. We will get a small ham and the rest cut into ham steaks. We want the baby back ribs and country style ribs. And the bacon. There is never enough bacon. There will be some roasts and a few other steaks and then the rest will be ground. We will request Italian sausage.  There will be a fee for that butchering, the curing for the hams and bacon, and the wrapping for all.

All in all we will purchase a whole lot of pork that will feed us for about a year for about one-third the cost of purchasing the same amount at the store. In addition, we know our farmer so we know how the hogs were raised, the food they ate, and the way they were treated.  And, as much as you love bacon you get at the supermarket, I want to tell you that this bacon is better….way better.

I could take a few hours to honor the animal that will be feeding me. hogs


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Something New Learned

I think I wrote about feeling a bit like George Plimpton a few years ago when I was writing for The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia.  (To bring the youngsters up to speed, George Plimpton was a writer/journalist who decided he would actually have the experience before he wrote about the Detroit Lions. That experience became a book, Paper Lion, and then a movie. He wrote of other sports as well, always having participated fully.)

At the time I was visiting farms and other food producers for the year-round local food market, there was a lot I did not know. I still don’t know much about farming, but it is because of all the questions I asked and the experiences I had that I have learned a bit. For example, milking a goat and processing chickens. That last one was never on my bucket list but I am glad for the experience.

Well, yesterday I had a similar chance to do something related to farming and processing that I never expected to.  The fact that it all was legal means I can tell you about it!

A friend vaguely asked me if I would help with his harvest and I asked, simply, winter squash?  It’s that time of year, after all, and Can-Do Real Food has a killer Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup recipe, so you see where my mind was.winter-squash

No….he kept me guessing and then showed me a photo. Ahhhh….here in Oregon we are permitted to grow our own weed. There is a limitation and rules about how much you can grow for personal use. What I didn’t know at the time was his is a licensed medical grow operation, so we really were helping legitimately.

It has to be dried….a lot like tobacco. Anyone who has lived or visited the South or the Connecticut River Valley has noticed the drying sheds and barns.Image result for tobacco barn

It has to be trimmed….the unused portions removed from the good parts so the drying surfaces are smaller and easier to treat.

It has to be checked for mold….always something can go wrong but even with the recent rains, this harvest had only minimal amounts of decay.

3" Thickest Best Quantity Steel Rings Foldable Heavy Duty Hanging Dryer Rack,2Feet Diameter 4 Layer Collapsible Mesh Hydroponic Drying Rack Net w/ Clips&Storage Carrying BagI saw some awesome drying racks he was using that we have ordered for curing garlic next year! The synergy of learning new things in action.

 

So, why share this small blip in my education? Because I like to show you that learning can be very fun indeed. Be a life-long learner. Do not be afraid to step away from your comfort zone and learn new facts and abilities.

You never know who will invite you to an awesome activity!

 


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As I started visiting small farms in West Virginia to market local food to consumers, I learned a lot I didn’t know.  And it got me very alarmed.

My blogs started taking on a urgent tone…you MUST change your ways….until a woman I barely knew and subsequently became a best friend, cautioned me that no one listens to yelling.

So, I think I will let photos tell the story and just give you something to think about each one.

Did you know that the US government permits chickens to be sent to China where labor costs are so much lower? The chickens will be processed and then shipped back, the better for you to continue enjoying chicken at a low price.567372-usda-allows-chicken-processing-in-china

Did you know that a number of food items prepared in China, from dog treats to baby food, have been recalled because of toxic and unhealthy items?  Unless you know your farmer, you will not know where the meat was processed.

Starting in 1994 some crops were genetically modified. Within ten years it has been estimated that over 75% of the average American diet was obtained from genetically enhanced foods….plants and animals that would not occur naturally and are only designed to help with weeds and pests or other environmental annoyances to the producer.  While the jury is still out about the genetic changes in our food affecting the eater, it is already clear that the manufacturers have not obtained one of their goals: to reduce the use of chemical sprays. So, anyone eating GMO food is getting a huge dose of chemicals that are being determined, because of consumer pressure, to be carcinogenic. gmo-awareness-blog-masthead-4

In the past five years there have been efforts made in a number of states to require foods that use genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. The companies that make the chemicals, control the seeds for planting, and the organizations that manufacture and sell the food involved have poured in billions of dollars and persuaded people who are not taking time to read independently that there is no ill effect. However, in each fight the margin is getting closer and closer so now these organizations are fighting in Congress to prohibit labeling. They think the typical American is too stupid to understand and if they see an issue they will not buy the products.

Most meat that is sold in supermarkets are from animals that have spent at least a few months in what is called a animal confinement facility.  Efforts by activists have raised awareness that the automatic use of antibiotics to increase the growth rate and keep the animals from getting sick in the dirty and congested facilities have resulted in antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria that mean people who get sick may not be able to be helped. Some places have eliminated its use and are advertising “antibiotic free.” pig factory farmKS cattle feedlot

 

 

 

 

It has become illegal to obtain and show these photos, as the organizations behind it realize you might get concerned and stop buying their products. Stopping the photos does not mean the practice has stopped.

So, now what?  Well, take a few minutes and think about your own body or your kids.  Does anyone have pretty constant tummy problems?  How about immune system problems, like allergies, eczema,  arthritis, and there even has been some discussion about chemicals in conventional food related to higher rates of ADHD.  If anyone eating out of your kitchen or eating out regularly has any of these symptoms, you may want to switch a pattern of spending.farmacy

You might want to try what we did……we did a 6-month trial. We did not buy organic as our first choice, but from local farmers we got to know and understood they used no sprays and other organic practices to raise their food. We supplemented with organic products only if we could not obtain what we needed. My husband was skeptical but after 6 months my arthritis was more easily managed and my daughter’s gut issues which had bothered her since her teen years improved dramatically.

Local Harvest  is a national organization that provides information near your zip code for farms. No excuse you don’t “know your farmer.”localharvest_logo

We also discovered one more benefit….our food tasted better than what we could buy in the supermarket.  If only for THAT reason, if you ENJOY eating, you might want to run a test.

 


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The Connection Between Us

Each of us is the center of our own universe and yet we experience similar pains and joys. I have learned that the ability to share helps me ease the anguish and magnify the happiness. Does your pathway include sharing?

About four years ago I started visiting farms that had expressed interest in providing food to The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia. A new concept, The Wild Ramp combines the shopping experience of the outdoor farmers’ market with the ease of indoor shopping.  It is a year-round indoor local food market that has increased in appeal since its inception about 4 years ago.

Although I had one grandparent who had retired from running a chicken farm, my childhood in the New York metropolitan area was focused on suburban and urban living. I even got a degree in urban planning. So you can imagine just how tickled I am that I have become enmeshed in the local food movement.

When I started I knew next to nothing and today I know just a smidgen more.  But armed with my curiosity, I spent an hour or two visiting the farmers, hearing their stories and learning about their growing practices. I then wrote blogs to inform the consumers, the better to market that individual farm and its products and The Wild Ramp Market overall.

My visit to Mil-ton farm in mid June 2012 just prior to the market opening was a learning experience for me. Dad Tim was working off-farm at his day job. Mom Stephanie was home with the four kids, in charge of daily farm chores and home schooling and also working a part-time job. Grandma lived on the land as well, part of the extended family.

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My favorite often used photo from Mil-Ton Farm

One thing that immediately struck me was how curious the kids were. They came with us as Stephanie and I walked along, eager to show me things and be part of the experience. I learned a lot about that family that day and made a foolish assumption that all farm families were that cooperative and involved with life learning. No, as I learned over time, the Appletons are unique.

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Tim and Kellen working to renovate the shop

They all pitched in, even the youngest, helping renovate the shop space. They all helped other farmers in the Wild Ramp extended family of farmers as there were calls for help. The kids helped develop salable items over the seasons.

Vivian helping raise a high tunnel at The Potager, a Help A Farmer Day project.

Vivian helping raise a high tunnel at The Potager, a Help A Farmer Day project.

The Appletons walk the walk. Caring, loving, with high standards and expectations to strive for them. They have a strong faith in God and strong belief in the goodness of life.

But Tim just died, after a long and valiant experience with cancer. The Wild Ramp family is feeling this pain.

Personally, it brings my own loss of a loved spouse very much back into my mind. I can clearly imagine how Stephanie, a pretty strong woman, must be spinning in torment, trying to comfort the kids to provide them a sense of security while not quite really sure intellectually and emotionally where her footing will be in this earthquake. And the kids, scared of future loss, needing a lot more reassurance that all will be okay.kids

Although she might beg to differ today while everything is so raw, I know Stephanie and the family will work through this. The hole Tim’s passing  has left is a horrible learning experience for all, but they will learn to meld the pain of the loss with the rising spirit of his memory.Stephanie and Tim

The outpouring of love and prayers for this family is a testament to the goodness they have been as a part of the community. Tim’s legacy is priceless. We ARE connected, all of us.

 


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Serendipity

Not once did I consider it an April Fools joke but we have no idea how the photo showed up on Graham’s Facebook feed last night.  Kentucky State University has a mobile fruit and vegetable processing truck that visits farms in season to help them preserve their harvest.KSU mobile fruit and vegetable kitchen

Finding no info to take me specifically to the person in charge, I emailed the head of the agricultural school at KSU, dropping The Wild Ramp market experience to give me local “street” cred (more like farm cred).  And now we are setting up an appointment for me to go look-see!

Why the excitement? Two factors. In case you missed it, I am setting up a business here in Oregon to help small farmers preserve their surplus fruits and vegetables. AND we will be in Kentucky for Graham to do some forensic business in May, less than an hour from where the KSU research farm is located in Frankfurt!!Can-Do Company Logo Final

WOW! Life is good!  Now, who can I get to help me write a grant application?

 


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Silly Me Smart Me

I did something silly at my age. I took a part time temp job, helping at a farm. The farmer looked at me and asked me if I knew it was hard work. Oh, yes, I assured her, thinking of all the farmers I had met in West Virginia and now here in Oregon. Intellectually I know it is hard work.  She then asked me why I thought I could do it. Well, thinking of several people, I know there are some people my age and older farming. And thinking of a few others, I know there are people my weight farming. I assured her if I did not injure myself, I would be there each and every day until the rains came and her need for an extra pair of hands ended.

The first day we picked beans. The farmer and the other helper kneeled or leaned over, bending at the waist. I knew my arthritic knees and my lower back would never forgive me, so I semi-squatted and soon discovered my quads and my hamstrings were a bit angry at my decision. It definitely was mind over matter to walk anywhere for the next couple of days.  Ibuprofen helped. So did lots of MSM and glucosamine and heat and ice.  And being stubborn.2014-09-17 08.52.38

I2014-10-05 08.03.22 talked to Beth Ann Earl of Noni’s farm in Huntington, West Virginia who told me to sit down and scoot along. Compensate for my age and body. Stretch.  I have two pairs of jeans that may not be wearable out in public after this job, but I can pick beans with the best of them now. LOL  The last of the beans which have been drying on the bush need to be harvested and laid out inside the high tunnel, joining other beans, some popcorn, and the onions.

2014-08-31 13.23.10The farm is organic, which means no herbicide. That also means an amazing crop of pigweed.  Not wanted, but it turns out I’m a pretty darn good weeder. Dubious honor as the garden is 200 feet long and a kazzilion rows wide. I also scooted along much of this process too, carrying the weeds to the ends to load on to the 4-wheel to bring to the compost pile. Fun driving the Kubota!. 2014-08-29 12.20.13I’m pretty proud how wonderful that garden looks now.2014-10-05 11.51.14

I started working a couple of months ago and it was pretty warm.  Recently we had 2 days of light rain, just enough to split the tomatoes. The forecast looks like this may be the last summer weather, as the rain is showing daily for the following week.

At that point we’ll shell the beans inside and then she’ll probably let me go. I will be looking for a desk job next. 2014-10-05 09.56.31

Don’t get me wrong. This was a great experience. After visiting farms in West Virginia and really getting to know many of the farmers supplying The Wild Ramp Market, I had a great respect for the work they do. Now, understanding how it really truly feels, my admiration has soared.

We consumers take the food that appears in the store for granted. We have abundant supply of an amazing selection of food. If you buy from the supermarket, items come from all over the world. If you value the effort and want to support the local economy, you purchase from local farmers and you follow a more seasonal approach in your diet. Either way or a combination, realize this:

Our small farmers are finding it harder and harder to make a living. Industrial farming does not look like the story book version of a farm. Industrial farming typically grows one kind of crop, year in and year out, feeding the soil with chemicals to try to restore the nutrients. Small farms may be conventional, using chemicals, but many make an effort to farm in the time honored way, whether certified or not, organically with a variety of crops and rotation of the land with cover crops helping restore the nutrients to the soil for the next edible crop.2014-09-17 08.52.45

You can tell the way I lean. I love my local farmers. I was happy with all we could find to eat in West Virginia and feel abundantly blessed here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  You can eat well too. Without the sore muscles.