In the changing agricultural landscape of the 21st century, Americans are rediscovering their connection to food and how it’s produced. In the process, they are also discovering a desire to hear the stories of the visionaries, farmers and ordinary people guiding how food is produced so that it better reflects our values and ideals.
The stories are out there—books and films that chronicle the people and events vital to ensuring safe, humane, nutritious food reaches every table. Animal Welfare Approved is pleased to be launching a new section of its website dedicated to finding and reviewing the books and films that inform, educate and inspire.
We’re kicking off our reviews with a look at Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. Published last year, it’s already a classic in the field.
Jill Johnson and Mary Wills raise Animal Welfare Approved hogs and laying hens on Crane Dance Farm in Middleville, MI. Named for the Sandhill Cranes that make the farm their home each spring, Crane Dance Farm is nestled among the rolling hills, beautiful woods, and wetlands of Barry County.
Blue Strom and Skye Zitkus raise Animal Welfare Approved hogs (Black Mulefoot), sheep (Tunis), and cattle (Scottish Highland Beef) on Shady Blue Acres Farm in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Established in 2003, Shady Blue Acres is a certified organic farm located on 75 acres in the picturesque hills and valleys of Southern Wisconsin. The hogs are raised on pasture and are fed certified organic feed. The sheep and cattle are entirely grassfed, and all meat on Shady Blue Acres Farm is hormone and steroid-free. Strom and Zitkus’ vision of producing organic, natural food “without harmful chemicals, additives, preservatives, and ‘synthetic over-processed nonsense’” is what keeps their passion for farming alive.
Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband raise Animal Welfare Approved Nubian and La Mancha goats on their farm, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, in Champaign, Illinois. Jarrell and Cooperband moved to Champaign in 2003, and started building their five-acre diversified farm in 2004, including the purchase of their first four dairy goats. In 2005, they were licensed as a grade A goat dairy and farmstead creamery. Over time, they expanded their farm to an additional 55 acres. Jarrell and Cooperband are extremely dedicated to sustainable farming practices. “We strive to keep our goats as happy and healthy as possible,” say Wes and Leslie. “We manage our herd using sustainable practices, feeding them home-grown, top quality grass-alfalfa hay as well as locally produced grain during milking. We have a little over 10 acres of grass-legume-forb pastures in which the goats graze during the growing season.” Jarrell and Cooperband also rotate the goats through their different pastures every three to four weeks, ensuring the grass has enough time to grow back naturally.
| March 26, 2010
The demand for locally produced meats is well-documented, and there are farmers eager to produce it. Too often the bottleneck in this scenario is simply an absence of independent processing facilities. A new report by Food and Water Watch explores the reasons behind this absence and the changes that would be needed to rectify it.
Entitled, “Where’s the Local Beef?,” the report describes an monopolistic industry that favors large operations at the expense of smaller ones. Despite a large number of small start-ups, the authors note that most of these will go out of business. The current regulatory and industrial climate is just not designed for independent slaughter plants – existing or planned.
Among the obstacles faced by smaller plants (defined as having fewer than 500 employees) are: scale-inappropriate regulations, lack of skilled personnel, and a near absence of competition in the industry. For instance in 2005, the top four beef-packing companies controlled over 80% of the market…
| March 25, 2010
Bill and Miriam Keener raise Animal Welfare Approved beef and dairy cattle on Sequatchie Cove Farm in Sequatchie, TN. The 300 acre farm is nestled in the shadows of the Cumberland Plateau and bordered by the Little Sequatchie River.
Timothy Koegel, owner of Windy Ridge Natural Farms, strives to produce products that are healthy for customers and humanely produced. At the farm he observes the philosophy that animals should be treated with reverence and respect. Timothy explains, “I believe that we must be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us including the environment, the animals and our bodies. I believe in the organic system and humane practices because it is the best for the consumer, the animal, the environment, the farmer and our collective future. “
All the heat wasn’t in the kitchen on March 17, when a group of chefs, led by AWA supporter Chef Bill Telepan, wore their traditional white jackets to Capitol Hill to push for increased funding for school lunches. Chef’s Day of Action, coordinated by the NYC Alliance for CNR (Child Nutrition Reauthorization), brought together celebrity chefs and school lunch reform advocates to urge Congress to provide an additional $4 billion in funding per year for school food programs.
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act comes up every five years and this year President Obama has asked for an additional $1 billion per year. The Senate, however, is considering only authorizing $500 million per year—half of what the President has requested. Even $1 billion wouldn’t make much of a difference to the 30 million school children who depend on the National School Lunch Program for meals. And when you consider the size of the budget—$3.7 trillion—it’s pocket change. $1 billion only equals 17 ½ cents per day per child. The government reimburses schools $2.68 for fully subsidized lunches.
The chefs say much more is needed to really make a difference. An increase in funding to $4 billion will provide an additional $0.70 per child. “We need school lunches to be about the best food, not the cheapest food,” says Chef Bill Telepan, who is also a board member of NYC’s Wellness in the Schools. “This is what we practice as chefs and we have a responsibility to bring the best food there is into schools.”
Kathryn Spann and Dave Krabbe raise Animal Welfare Approved meat and dairy goats on Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, NC. Kathryn is somewhat native to Rougemont- her mother’s family farmed tobacco in the area for generations. She and Dave met in New York City, while Kathryn was practicing law, and soon after decided to return to Kathryn’s roots and realize Dave’s long-time dream of owning a farm. Prodigal Farm spans 97 acres and is complete with a 120 year old farmhouse, original log tobacco barns, mule barn, corn crib, smokehouse, and outbuildings. These beautiful historic buildings remind Kathryn and Dave daily of the area’s rich farming history. They are in the process of placing a conservation easement on their farm, which will then be preserved as farmland forever.
April Jones raises Animal Welfare Approved pigs on April Joy Farm in Ridgefield, WA. Her mission is to help grow a sustainable, place-based food economy by building relationships with local chefs, grocers, and consumers and providing them with the best of organic, sustainable agriculture. April manages 24 acres at April Joy Farm on which she grows an array of vegetables, table grapes, herbs, apples, figs , cherries, pears, plums, hay, and of course, her AWA Tamworth pigs. On farming April writes, “This work requires collaboration, patience, and thoughtfulness… My hope is that this farm and the passion I feel for my work will help others come home to nourishing seasonal food and an appreciation of farm life and land.”