Tag Archives: agriculture

Going, Going …

Fall foliage nearly gone from South MountainFall, as I have previously mentioned, is my favorite season. Spring is bathed in beautiful pastels, summer is a fine time for swimming in a creek, and winter offers superb excuse for curling up inside with a few of those books one intended to read four months ago. But fall – that season of glorious arborous fireworks, celebrating successful end to another trip around the sun, is, as has been said, da bomb.

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If we love it …

$140k to $180k in less than three yearsOn the coast of Maine, investors found undeveloped sections of rock upon which gulls sometimes still roost and waves crash. A little dynamite reduced the moguls to rubble and bulldozers pushed them to the ocean’s edge, leaving a flat place on which to build a cottage in which city folks will pay exorbitant amounts to live for a week. I know; I’ve been among those city folks.

Miles away, other investors have found really nice lakes populated only by Common Loons and bullfrogs. They have divided the shorefront into tiny lots so people from crowded burgs can move to crowded lakesides.

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At last, I’ve found my milk

Fresh raw milk awaits in Oyler's Organic Farm's refrigeratorI like raw milk. I will die one day, I am told, but I think I would not blame the milk.

On the other hand, it could be dangerous when carried in the handlebar basket of a teenager’s bicycle. We picked up two gallons of milk every other day from a nearby dairy farm. One day, as I coasted down Norton Hill on the way home, I met a car speeding the other way, enough on my side I was forced off the pavement.

I rode onto the berm, and when I tried to get back on the pavement, it gave way, and down I went. I broke my pointing finger and tore my thumbnail. I’m pretty sure the two gallons of raw milk had little, if anything to do with the fall, though they did make the front of the bike about 16 pounds heavier coming home than going away.

Years later, I became a journalist, and wrote a story about Kenton Bailey, a seventh-generation Mainer and the last fellow in the state to deliver raw milk door-to-door – though he would not allow me to call it “raw.” The word upset some people, he said. I had to call it “unprocessed.”

One of the treats of drinking raw milk is you can taste when the cows are put in the barn for winter, and when they go to the pasture in summer. It is a subtle accent on the flavor.

Milk we buy in a grocery story has been so mixed up it’s lost all its character. A tank truck picks up milk from Farmer Jones, then Farmer Smith and Farmer Brown and the white liquid slosh-mixes on its way to the processing plant, where it is dumped in huge tanks to mix with milk from farmers McBride, McHugh and McGillicutty.

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On assigning value to the fruits of our (neighbor’s) labors

Most of us do not know the work that is involved in so peaceful a scene.Few of us really know the work others of us do. That goes for everyone from the farmer to the potato chip maker. Most everyone works pretty hard doing what they do, but few of the rest of us are as willing to pay for their work as we are to charge for ours.

I’m not suggesting that everyone be paid the same, regardless of task. But last week a potential buyer loved and wanted a print I’d created – until she learned the price. Suddenly, there were serious problems with the print, all of which came down to she didn’t want to pay for it. Continue reading

Welcome to Emanon

Hay fields like this are prime targets for developers who claim the new homes will increase the tax base.(First printed in the Gettysburg Times, 7/5/2013)

Life was good for many years in Emanon. Herons and osprey hunted the creek, and people generally enjoyed living here. There was a move to pave Main Street, but a rather vocal group claimed it would just allow drivers to go faster. Better to leave the potholes as sort of inverse speed bumps.

Far and wide, word went out that people in the town were friendly, schools were good, and a place to build a home was, relative to many bigger burgs, affordable. Development firms with offices in several states touted the jobs they would create for local workers who would build new homes for new residents, resulting in new revenue in town coffers from the new residents who bought the new homes. All would be beautiful and prosperous in the quiet rural air of Emanon. Continue reading

GE labeling bill author says it’s about choice

Acres of corn prepare for harvest.Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery & Delaware counties, told a gathering in the state capitol Tuesday morning his bill to require labeling of genetically engineered foods was about allowing consumers to make choices, not a statement about food safety.

“People in America demand information,” Leach said. “People don’t like being told, ‘You don’t need to know that; it’s OK.’” (Additional remarks by Leach in video at the end of this piece.) Continue reading

More of what joins us, please

Last weekend (Feb. 24), much was made of Danica Patrick becoming the first woman to start the Daytona 500 from the pole position. Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag in first place; and if Danica hadn’t  been a woman, few among us would have noticed she even finished.

I met many voters in 2008 who voted for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. Some even admitted that had she been a man with the same track record, they’d have looked elsewhere.

Even John McCain, once a serious contender for President of the United States, found for a running mate Continue reading

Support a farmer, eat heartily, and stomp to some great music

Hamburgers on the hoof wade and feed in a pasture creekFarm Aid 2012 is Saturday, Sept. 22, at Hersheypark Stadium. This is Year 27 of the event begun in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp – Dave Matthews joined the team in 2001 – to raise money for programs that support family farms in their competition with land developers and huge factory farms.

I was raised on a farm, of sorts. There was Mom, Dad and four of us youngsters, and a 50-foot by 100-foot patch that kept us in veggies. We grew corn, asparagus, beets, carrots, and several other crops. And we picked crab apples from the Bates’ tree, bought raw milk from the Ellises.

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The hidden cost of food

Fields of crops becoming ready for pickingMen and women are picking tomatoes to earn 50 cents for each 32-pound bucket, $50  to hand pick more than two tons of tomatoes in a 12-hour day.

Of course,  cheaper isn’t always better. The idea leaves thousands of farm hands needing taxpayer support for food stamps and medical care because their wages will not cover the expense.

For one more penny a pound, the person who picked it can see a doubling of her wage, but it’s hard convincing grocery chains and restaurants it’s the right thing to do.

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Limiting soft drinks to 16-ounces is a gimmick, not a solution

A cup of unsweetened ice is a drink of choice for someNew York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week proposed soft drink sales be limited to 16-ounce containers. Indeed!

I don’t even like soda much, and I’ll accept that being overweight is less healthy than being at an ideal weight – whatever that is. But there are better ways of fighting obesity than insulting us overweight folks and limiting the size drink we can buy.

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Consumers demand may be restoring an endangered species

Customers crowd around to inspect a display of fresh produce at a farm market
The 2011 Census of Agriculture by Statistics Canada reveals the past five years have seen a 10 percent reduction in the number of farms in our northern neighbor’s inventory.
But the average farm size has increased by about seven percent. In one province, the number of farms is down 17 percent, while the average farm size is up 15 percent.
A similar phenomenon has been taking place in U.S. agricultural areas. What’s up with that?

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Speaking of bullies – a case in point

A field of plowed furrows awaits planting the new year's cropVermont residents would like to know what the heck is in their food. So they went to their legislature to ask for a law, and it looked for a time that their request would be honored. Unfortunately, Monsanto – the poster child for Genetically Modified groceries – informed the state that should it have the effrontery to pass such a law, the agricultural mega-corp would sue.

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Notes From a Road Trip

Bright colors and a stereotypic sarape and sombrero welcome travelers to South of the BorderYou can’t look out a window from 30,000 feet and see a flame burning on a wastewater treatment plant in Richmond, Va. I wonder what a wastewater treatment plant would have to burn to make that much flame.

I made that note on a drive last week to Florida, a purpose of which was to gather some photos and maybe contact some people working to get better wages for migrant farm workers. You can’t do either of those things in an airplane at 30,000 feet.

I sleep when I fly. When I drive, I think a lot, and talk to a voice-to-text app to keep notes. Such as, in 2,600 miles of driving, how much construction is putting people to work … Continue reading …

Thinking green? Leave a memorial among the trees

Chemicals and concrete boxes not required beneath the monuments and grass
My wife occasionally asks me how I want my final send-off to be arranged. Being a country boy with a penchant for history and “a blaze of glory,” I’ve suggested placing the part of me that used to look like me on a large pile of dry wood, crack a couple kegs of Corona and whatever other libation pleases those in attendance, turn up the Jimmy Buffett and set the pyre afire.

That’s illegal, she says.

Anyway, where I live the blaze likely would result in a fire department response, and a visit from a representative of the Department of Environmental Protection. Continue reading …

Organic and independent farmers feel under assault

An independent organic farmer tends cropsOn a trip to New England last week, my niece treated me to some really good salsa. It was made in Maine, we were in New Hampshire, and I’m now home in Pennsylvania, way south of where I can buy some.

On the other hand, there are several Mexican stores almost within walking distance of home where maybe …

Meanwhile, I was in the local discount grocery store the other night and picked up a container of Marketside Chipotle salsa. It actually has a nice flavor, and adds a pleasant bite to my favorite chips which, the way I eat the stuff, are simply devices for scooping large dollops of salsa the way someone might otherwise use a soup spoon to scoop the favored ice cream.

If fresh salsa is what you seek, though, you probably won’t find it in a container marked “Manufactured for Marketside, a division of Walmart Stores Inc.” Continue reading

Adams County farm markets season open

A prospective customer questions a farm market vendor about herb seedlings

Wednesday was opening day for the Adams County Farmers Market Association. Nearly a dozen vendors, representing growers from around the county, set up their tents at the Gettysburg Rec Park.

There is nothing tastier than fresh stuff on the dinner table. Place two dishes of lettuce on the table, one from the grocery store plastic bag produce section and one from the farm market, then chomp into a sample from each. Continue reading

Off the interstate, into history …

Ivy covers the gray stone walls of Gray Towers, Gifford Pinchot's childhood summer home.
At about the mid-point of a 450-plus mile journey home, we crossed the Delaware River westbound from Port Jervis, N.Y., to Matamoros, Pa. ate at the Perkins, and decided to see whether there might be less expensive gasoline if we followed U.S. 6 for a bit. We found the less expensive gas, but the real treasure was on the way uphill from the center of Milford back to the interstate. Continue reading

Visit to a multi-market

A handful of blue plastic backpack clips
My wife and I visited Morningstar Marketplace Saturday.
We hadn’t been since at least last year, but I have a back pack that lost a clip on its waist strap, and I remembered there was a display at that particular market that probably would have it. So off we went. Continue reading