Monday, November 30, 2009

CSA

In the spring of 2010 we will begin our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Customers purchase a membership in the farm at the beginning of the growing season. Members receive a weekly box of seasonal produce, herbs, eggs, and chicken. In addition you will receive recipes and cooking ideas in our newsletters for the food you receive. A CSA share is a wonderful way for you and your family to share the fresh, seasonal bounty of Bluebird Farm. Fresh food is more nutritional than week old food picked unripe and shipped across country. In addition, reestablishing the connection between farmers and eaters is an important step for personal health, community vitality, and environmental stewardship.

What is a share?
A share is a weekly box of fresh, seasonal produce, herbs, eggs, and chicken from Bluebird Farm. We plan to offer large and small summer vegetable shares. A large summer share will feed four people with a season’s worth of wonderful summer crops like sweet carrots, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and potatoes for 20 weeks (mid May- mid Oct). Additional options will include egg shares, chicken shares, early spring and late fall shares, and shorter “trial” shares. If you purchase a chicken or egg share you will receive our pastured chicken or eggs in addition to your vegetables. See example shares here.

Interested in helping?
We want to emphasize that our CSA is still in its formative stages. We want your input! The wonderful part of a CSA is that it is a two way street of mutual support and ideas between growers and eaters. So we want to know what sorts of vegetables you want to eat, how many vegetables you want, how you want to get your share, and any other ideas you have. We plan on having an organizational meeting in early January. We hope to see you then or hear from you in emails. To learn more about the CSA concept check out our website.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Food Safety

You may have heard people talk about a new bill in congress that will radically change the way we can produce and purchase food. House bill H.R. 875 and senate bill S 510, better known as The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 is probably the legislation referred to. This bill stems from legitimate concerns about the safety of our food system. The major focus of the bill is to ensure that food processing and handling is undertaken in a manner to prevent food borne illness such as E. coli 0157H7.

While the impetus for the bill stems from real danger in our food supply it does address the heart of the matter. Rather than proposing real solutions to the problems posed by centralized production, long distance transportation, and centralized processing, it proposes to pile more regulations onto the pile of already under enforced current regulations.
We know that our current rules don’t work. A recent example is the January 2010 Consumer Reports which found that 2/3 of fresh whole chickens in grocery stores contains at least one of two potentially deadly bacteria: campylobacter and salmonella. The birds are contaminated in spite of our current regulations. They are, in fact, contaminated because of the way in which we raise, transport, and process most of our meat in this country.

Cattle, pigs, and chickens are all primarily raised in confined situations with high levels of fecal matter. This fecal matter harbors disease agents. As animals are transported and slaughtered there is high risk of fecal matter coming into direct contact with the animals and finally the meat. The solution is to raise animals outside on fresh pasture where they do not wallow in their own excrement. The second part of the problem is centralized processing. This puts pieces of thousands of animals into one piece of processed meat. So even if only one cow carcass is contaminated the meat will reach thousands of people via thousands of burgers. The solution here is to butcher at local slaughter houses in smaller numbers. This way if one animal is contaminated a limited and easily traceable quantity of meat is affected.

The Food Safety Modernization Act does not really address these alternative ideas. It applies blanket rules designed for large producers to all producers regardless of size. Most of the time the new rules probably wouldn’t stop an outbreak, they would simply make it slightly faster to trace. We need to stop these problems before they begin. Furthermore, we must recognize that these are problems of our large scale Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and centralized processing and not problems of small farmers selling to local markets.

Please learn about this bill at these sites:

http://sustainableagriculture.net/
http://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/NSAC-Food-Safety-Policy-Brief-October-2009.pdf
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-875

North Carolinians have a good opportunity to provide input because both Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr are on the committee reviewing the bill. After learning about the bill and reading the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s talking points, please call your senators and urge them to modify the bill to allow small producers like us to operate without undue regulatory burden.

You can reach them at the following numbers:

Senator Hagan's office at (202) 224-6342
Senator Burr’s office at (202) 224-3154

Thank you

Monday, November 23, 2009

Morganton News Herald

Read about Bluebird Farm in the Morganton News Herald...

For those of you who are interested in finding out more about the farm, please read on through our blog or new website.www.BluebirdFarmNC.com

We welcome your comments, ideas, questions about our Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) project, local foods, and Bluebird Farm. Email William and Marie at BluebirdFarmNC@gmail.com. We also invite you to visit the farm!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apples, garlic, and chicks!


Our pigs got a special treat a few days ago! We were given a load of deer apples which the pigs have enjoyed immensely. Besides the taste, which they clearly enjoy, they roll the apples around with their noses.




Our garlic is growing well. The heavy morning dew has created some jewel bedecked leaves. We are all used to very uniform garlic in the store, but there are three different types and dozens of varieties of garlic all with unique growing properties
and flavors. Soft-neck garlic is the type most often sold in grocery stores. Soft-neck garlic can be braided into wonderful displays. The two other types are stiff-neck and elephant garlic. Stiff-neck varieties are more resilient to grow. Elephant garlic is not true garlic but a very strange leek. Consequently it has mild flavored large cloves. We are growing soft-neck and hard-neck varieties this fall. They have wonderful names like Chesnook red, Nootka Rose, and Music. We look forward to taste tests next year!


Our chicks have finally grown large enough to move to pasture. They were excited about the grass this morning. Our only problem with the move appeared tonight when I went to close them into the coop. The silly chicks don’t recognize the new coop as home yet, so they did not return as it grew dark. I had to collect little piles of chicks from around the pen to put them inside. They had just plopped down anywhere. Some adventurous birds were roosting on top of the coop-those were hard to reach.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Webpage

We have a webpage now! www.BluebirdfarmNC.com You can find recipes, old newsletters, directions, and other general information there without having to sort through the chronological blog posts. Keep checking the blog for our weekly activities growing on the farm!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sustainable Agriculture Event

There is one more speaker in Western Piedmont Community College's Food for Thought forum. Their first speakers, farmer Joel Salatin, author Anna Lappe, and teacher Chip Hope were all very good. Don't miss the final speaker Joel Bourne. He is a contributing writer for National Geographic magazine. The title of his talk is The Global Food Crises: The End of Plenty. You can read his article by the same name here. The lecture is in Moore Hall at 7:15 pm, Thursday November 19th.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quiche recipe


Quiche is one of my favorite recipes to highlight the flavors of fresh eggs and greens. It is also easy, relatively quick, and delicious. This recipe is adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Crust:

Tart Pastry (one nine-inch tart)

This well-balanced, basic recipe produces a firm, crisp crust with the taste of butter. You can sweeten it slightly, if you wish, by adding 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar to the flour. The tart pastry will not get tough if you handle it a lot and you can mix it in a food processor.

1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pound cold butter, in small pieces
1 egg yolk (save the white for the quiche)
2 tablespoons ice water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal or tiny peas. Whisk the egg yolk and water together in another bowl, add the flower mixture, and blend until the pastry is smooth and holds together in a ball. It can be mixed in a food processor; process first the flour, salt, and butter quickly together, then add the egg yolk and water through the funnel and process until the dough balls up around the blade.

Pat the dough into a pie pan or springform with your hands. Pull pieces of the dough from the ball and press them over the bottom and sides of the pan, using the heel of your hand. The dough should be thick enough to hold the filling, but be careful that it is not too thick around the bottom edge or the finished tart will seem coarse.

Prick the bottom with a fork and bak2e it unfilled for 12 minutes in a preheated 425 F oven. If you used a springform pan, do not remove the sides until you serve the tart.

Fresh Greens and Onion Quiche
(Serves six)

½ pound fresh greens (spinach, chard, stir-fry mix, radish greens, or any other fresh cooking green you have on hand)
4 eggs
1 egg white from tart pastry
2 cups light cream or milk (if you use milk whole milk works best although I have made it with 2%)
½ tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 ¼ cups grated swiss, cheddar or other hard cheese
1 partially baked Tart Pastry from the first recipe
Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Dice onion and sauté in olive oil or butter. While the onions are cooking wash and chop greens. When the onion is almost done (when it starts to turn transparent) add the greens and put a lid on the pan to help it steam. Cook the greens until they are soft.

Sprinkle ½ of the cheese over the bottom of the tart shell. Place the onions and greens into the tart shell. Combine the eggs, egg white, cream (or milk), salt, and spices in a bowl and beat thoroughly. Ladle the mixture over the greens and onions. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese over the top of the egg mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 F; then lower the heat to 350 F and bake for 30 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve in wedges hot or cold.

Play around with other flavors and fillings as substitutes for the onion and greens mixture. I used this same quiche recipe for a summer tomato and basil quiche. You can also make it a bacon and onion quiche. Really you are only limited by what is in your fridge and your imagination.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cautious Science

When people learn that I am raising food using organic methods they tend to have one of two responses. On one hand many folks immediately begin discussing the benefits of food raised using organic methods compared to chemical, anti-biotic and hormone laden foods. On the other hand some people question the benefits of organic and natural methods.

The most recent challenge I heard was an explanation that protein based growth hormones are completely safe to humans. The argument was that the hormone was protein based so our stomach simply digests it. Furthermore, the protein is not a protein that we have a receptor for, so even if it were not fully digested it could not bind to any of our receptors.

This argument is based on two basic assumptions. First, what we currently know about hormones indicates that the growth hormone shouldn’t have any effect on us. Second, the lack of studies linking the ingestion of hormones to any short-term health effects means that there are no health effects. Both arguments stem from a view of current science as interchangeable with technology. This view holds that science can and should be undertaken with desired end results in mind. The results of this science should then be immediately applied to develop technology for everyday use.

However, science is not technology. Technology is simply the use of tools to produce results. Science is the careful exploration of the world around us without preconceived end results.

In my science classes I learned three lessons repeatedly, none of which was that science provides us with absolute answers. The first lesson is that in our scientific exploration, we are consistently wrong. Only after years of study, new ideas, and new discoveries do we ever reach theories that begin to adequately explain a given subject. The second lesson is that we only study what we think to study. And third, is that nothing occurs without any affect and we frequently fail to see the connections. Together, these three lessons have made me view science as an important tool, but one that must be used with much caution when developing new technologies. This is in direct conflict with the view of new technology as the immediate and beneficial result of scientific exploitation.

In the case of growth hormones the first view of science advocates their use unequivocally. There are no immediate measurable harmful outcomes and there are immediate measurable positive outcomes. The second view of science requires that we proceed with caution on principle. It recognizes the possibility that, because of inadequate knowledge, we have misunderstood the full role of proteins and hormones in cellular function. It readily admits that in our studies of the affects of such substances we may not be asking the right questions to find connections between their use and harmful (or beneficial) outcomes. And finally, it assumes that because we have added a component to a living system it will change whether or not we notice it.

Caution is particularly well advised when it comes to food. We ingest food and use the components to build our own bodies. If we have made changes to our foods that are not fully understood it is likely that we have introduced changes to our own bodies that we do not fully understand. Currently, we are experiencing higher than ever levels of poorly understood “diseases” such as ADHD, diabetes, cancer, and autism. It is true that correlation is not causation. The fact that the massive increase in chemicals and hormones into our food happens to occur at the same time as massive increases in systemic diseases and disorders does not imply that one causes the other.

However, it does give one pause to consider that many of these health problems are poorly understood, related to body systems tied to nutrition, and have no apparent cause. At the same time we have introduced a large number of substances into our environment and directly into our bodies without good knowledge of their effects.
Remember: we are usually wrong, we often ask the wrong questions, and in complex living systems everything is connected. We need to stop confusing science with technology and proceed with caution.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November Newsletter

Hello all,
The hard frosts of mid-October brought out all the color in the trees. The crisp mornings were refreshing even if our fingers did get a little cold.

The colder weather slowed down everything in the garden, but the greens are growing well. The plants are a vibrant shade of green from the wet autumn weather.

We have been enjoying salads with buttery lettuce mixed with spicy arugula If we are looking for extra flavor and texture we can add baby stir-fry mix to our salad. The stir-fry mix consists of several types of mustards and Asian greens. When the stir-fry mix is mature, it is excellent lightly steamed and served on the side with rice or added to a rich soup. We should have all of these greens available for much of the fall. These greens are full of flavor, fresh harvested, and always chemical free.

The most exciting news on the farm is that we now have pigs! The pigs come from Wild Turkey Farm just outside China Grove, near Charlotte. It was a little bit of a drive to get them, but the high quality pigs they raise made it worth it. The pigs are a mix of Berkshire/ Tamworth, which are both heritage breeds. Heritage breeds have been bred over time for traits that made them particularly well-adapted to environmental conditions.
These breeds have hardy characteristics that allow them to flourish outdoors in pastures and have also been selected for the flavor of their meat. These heritage breed pigs will make delicious pork! Our pastured pork will be available in late February. Available in a variety of delicious cuts. Roasts, Ribs, Chops, Sausage. Please contact use to reserve your pastured pork! Sold by the pound, family packages, ¼ hogs, and ½ hogs.

We also have whole, frozen chickens and fresh eggs for sale. Chickens are sold as frozen, whole, dressed birds for $3.50/lb, and weigh approximately 3-4.5 lbs. We will be butchering some more chickens on November 10th. If you would like a fresh chicken you can let us know in advance and schedule a pick up at the farm on the 11th.

Next spring we will have a Community Supported Agriculture project or CSA. Customers join a farm’s membership group at the beginning of the growing season. Members receive a box of seasonal, fresh, healthy vegetables and other farm products like eggs, chicken, and flowers on a regular schedule throughout the growing season. This is a great way to enjoy the bounty of a farm’s crops with your family. We will let you know when we will have planning meetings and sign-ups this winter for next season.

This fall our products can be picked up at the farm or we will deliver if a group of people order $100 of farm products. Get your friends together and place a group order! Please call or email to arrange to arrange a visit or pickup at the farm at: (828) 584-7359 or bluebirdfarmNC@gmail.com . See how your chickens were raised, where the fresh eggs come from, walk through the garden, and visit our animals in the pastures. We would love for you to visit; just call or email to let arrange one.

Happy eating!