Jesus says in Matthew 12:34  that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."  In other words, if you listen long enough to someone, you'll get what's really down deep inside there.  You can't hide it but so long.

              Cultural orthodoxy surfaces in media, sometimes tucked into news stories where you'd least expect to find them.  One of these prejudices is about farming.  Many people blanch when I point out that for all our alleged interest in food and farming and resource stewardship, as a culture we have a subconscious condescension toward farming.  Relegated to the unsophisticated, to the backward elements of society, farming is philosophically if not physically marginalized.

             As a case in point, a recent issue of The Economist carried an article about the burgeoning elderly population in Vietnam and how it will strain the much smaller younger generation to pay for elder care.  Mind you, this is not an editorial; it's just supposedly an objective news article, an analysis of facts.

             Tucked neatly into the article is this:  "But none of that will change the structure of the economy.  Usually as countries climb the income ladder they shift from farming to more productive sectors, like services."  Just for effect, you might want to read that again.  Slowly.  Did you get it?  Notice it doesn't say 'shift from farming to services."  The phrase that stuck in my craw is "more productive."  So attorneys are more productive than farmers? 

             Again, this is not editorial; it's hard news.  Catch the prejudice?  It's so deep and ingrained that it comes out:  services are more productive than farming.  Really?  Has anyone eaten a computer motherboard lately?  If you're starving, do you care if your laptop is working or not?  Is a teacher in front of starving children more important than a farmer who could feed them first? 

             Statements like these, buried as gee whiz understandings, belie a ubiquitous prejudice, an assumption about agrarian value, that ultimately determines how an economy functions.  If this is the soul of an economy, it will not value farmers nearly as much as the sophisticated folks who fix the problems farmers have created.  And so we have a nation of impoverished farmers alongside a nation of high paid engineers and technicians.

             Would it not behoove us to incentivize good farmers in the marketplace, or in the first place, so we don't have to fix as many pathogens, pollutions and poverty nutrition?  What we're dealing with here is the ultimate expression of a paradigm.  By definition, a paradigm is so much a part of our belief system that we don't even know we have it.

             I wish I could count the number of times I've been disrespected because I'm a farmer.  Urbanites who give heartily to environmental causes and champion tolerance and inclusiveness routinely make caricatures of farmers, forming condescending stereotypes and perceptions around baseline land stewards.  That farmers are simply a footnote, numbering half as many people as we have incarcerated in prisons, moves us into a category called societally invisible.  We're so few the Census Bureau does not even record us as a vocation any more.

             The point of this blog is to call out this kind of ubiquitous prejudice for what it is.  It indicates a deep seated value system that views farming as a cultural footnote.  Well, I hope this reporter dines well on The Economist pages when that's all that comes from the kitchen.

 What have you done to elevate the status of farmers?


            The Real Organic Project is one of several groups responding to the adulteration of the government organic label.  They recently highlighted a delightful couple, Caitline Frame and Andy Smith of Milkhouse Dairy Farm and Creamery in Monmouth, Maine who saved their farm through freedom.

             The back story, and one that you're reading more about (USA Today carried a big story just last week about dairy farmers going out of business in Wisconsin) is the plight of America's dairy farmers.  This is not just conventional folks; it's the organic ones too.  Of course, much of the organic milk is produced by 5,000-15,000  cow confinement dairies in the desert in direct defiance of organic requirements.  But like all government regulations, enforcement becomes subjective if you're big enough and can stack watchdogs agencies with industry lackeys. 

             When Milkhouse Dairy received their termination notice from Horizon Organic, along with several other organic dairies in Maine, this entrepreneurial couple buckled down and created an alternative market for their milk.  Because Maine allows raw milk and encourages direct farm sales, the regulations are not as onerous as many states and this created wiggle room for this small 35-cow grass-based Jersey dairy to move their milk another way.

             Organic Valley, which is considered the most farmer-friendly of the organic milk brands, walks in lock-step with the others in denying their supplying farmers the freedom to divert any milk to other markets or uses.  A farmer who wants to sell a few gallons of milk to neighbors can't under the purchasing contract.  This is not a government regulation; it's a stipulation of the supply contract.

             The result is that farmers who face termination cannot gradually shift their milk from wholesale to retail.  They can't gently change direction.  It's a catastrophic shift, and most farmers can't shift fast enough or local market conditions are not as lenient as those in Maine.

             Perhaps it is good to revisit the words of newly freed slave Frederick Douglass, as recorded in The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass published in 1882: 

 To understand the emotion which swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had no master who could take it from me--that it was mine--that my hands were my own, and could earn more of the precious coin . . . . I was not only a freeman but a free-working man, and no master Hugh stood ready at the end of the week to seize my hard earnings.

             Even though I've read that statement many times, I still find the words captivating in my soul.  That corporations, even organic ones, have tied the hands of their farmers begs for justice and freedom.  And that our government denies me the freedom to sell the work of my hands is a modern slavery as abhorrent as that of colonial America.  These are strong words, but strongmen who use safety, security, oversight and protection as justification to deny something as intimately life-affirming as the work of my hands deserves nothing less than strong words.

 Are you making the shift away from industrial faux-organic?


Animal welfarists are euphoric today that provisions to outlaw eating dogs and cats in the upcoming Farm Bill speak to a kinder, gentler society. 

 If this isn't a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I have no idea what is.  The height of provincialism is to label something as cultural as dietary mores evil if it assaults our senses.  What's next, guinea pigs?  Those have been a staple in Chile and Peru for millenia.

 What, exactly, makes eating a dog or cat horrible and a chicken or cow pleasant?  Several years ago the animal welfarists succeeded in outlawing the final two horse slaughter plants in the U.S.  This horse meat was not sold in the U.S.; it was exported to countries where eating horse meat is perfectly normal.  Many of our pioneering ancestors survived on horse meat when all else failed.  They didn't have Costco to save the day.

 In fact, never content with whatever today's holiness prescription is, these animal welfarists have now outlawed an owner's ability to even put down his own horse if it gets old, sick, and feeble.  It requires a veterinarian using a certain drug in a certain protocol.  So people unable or unwilling to comply simply open the gate and turn their horses into the street.  A veterinarian friend has had horses dropped off by his house in the dark of night.  He owns a pasture and folks open the gate and drop off horses under cover of darkness rather than comply with these asinine and onerous do-gooder regulations.

 To be sure, I don't eat dog and cat, and have no intention to start.  But it is the height of elitist self-righteousness to decry those who do.  What's next on the platitude of plate police?  You see, the problem with these prohibitions is that they create a superiority attitude, which I contend is not nice, gentle, or charitable.

 Further, they fuel the notion that a few should dictate to others what is an acceptable diet and even what is culturally acceptable.  That's a slippery slope toward prejudice and all sorts of prohibitions.  What's most disconcerting is that this kind of legislation adds precedent to create more and more outlandish bans.

 I thought we were in the era of tolerance, choice, and consent.  Next might be turtle eggs.  Then chicken eggs.  It's not much of a jump philosophically.  It's only a jump politically.  Philosophically, outlawing eating dog is identical to outlawing eating chicken or pork.  To allow something as culturally provincial as eating habits to occupy our time and attention at the heights of federal legislation is unbelievably meddlesome and elementary at best, or tyrannical and intolerant at worst. 

 Several years ago one of our farm apprentices decided he wanted to eat as many different kinds of things as he possibly could while he was here, knowing that once he left, he might not have the opportunity again.  The list was epic:  skunk, ground hog, raccoon, possum, mink, weasel.  His verdict on the best tasting?  Skunk.  Go figure.  I did not imbibe.

 The point is that what people eat is highly personal.  When you look around the world and see the variety of culinary traditions, from blood pudding to fried gonads and from monkey to dog to camel, you realize just how varied and wonderful our world is.  That some think all this variety is somehow inhumane or anti-ethical, or has some sort of evil morality attached to it, is simply elitist prejudice translated to overreaching governmental tyranny.  Enough.  Enjoy it all.

 What's the most bizarre thing you've ever eaten?


            There you are, brilliant red cardinal, flitting among the dogwood branches.  Of all the beautiful things in the world, when you perch against a snowy backdrop, you're mesmerizingly gorgeous.

             When perfect white snow, your bright red plumage, short, sharp beak, blue sky, sun rays, and stark winter dogwood branches all intersect at a moment in time, it's a picture memory for a lifetime.  Fortunately, you visit during every snowfall, so I look forward to seeing you again and again.

             Whenever I hear a forecast of snow, I think of seeing you, again, in all your glory.  The camouflage of warm seasons obscures you in leaves and more colorful backdrops, reducing your ruby contrasts and sharp outlines. You and snow go together like bread and jam.

             What brought you into my world today?  Mom's bird feeder?  Leftover berries and flower seeds in the garden?  Or did you just come to show off for me, knowing how much I enjoy beholding your beauty?  I don't care what brought you into my view, but I'm grateful.

             Thank you for hanging around during the winter when things are more dreary and drab.  You brighten even the most rotten day.  The deeper the snow, the more difficult the coping with life and chores, the happier you seem to be.  Carefree, agile, lighter than air.  Nothing keeps you from dabbling beauty into my life.

             So thank you, Mr. Cardinal, for stopping by today, in this moment.  May your nest be warm and dry, wherever it is.  May you find the weeds, seeds, and feeds you need to keep your little leg landing gear functional and your feathers properly smoothed.  When the next snow comes, I'll be watching for you.

             As winter gives way to spring, I trust you and your mate the blessing of offspring, that our winter snows and your brilliance may be a rendezvous assured for all posterity.  Here's to you, beautiful friend.  And many more.

 What do you think is one of the most beautiful things in nature?


Dec. 11, 2018


The fur industry is fighting back against the fake fur industry.  Real fur tallies up $1.2 billion in U.S. sales per year, but it's been losing ground in recent years to animal rights groups who promote fake fur.  The real fur folks are fed up and have now launched an anti-fake fur campaign, according to the Wall Street Journal.

 Here are the main talking points for real fur:

 1.  Legacy garments become heirlooms,  worn for generations.

 2.  Natural decomposition if and when the garment is discarded.  Plastic doesn't.

 3.  Fake fur is made from petroleum-based stuff:  nylon, acrylic, etc., and slough off microplastics that threaten aquatic life.

 As good as these are, they missed a big one:  PROTECT PASTURED POULTRY!

 Around our farm, we're constantly trying to outsmart carnivorous furry predators who think a group of pastured chickens looks like a freezer full of ice cream.  Anyone who has not seen what these furry critters do to feathered friends has missed true violence and carnage.  Intestines strewn all over the field.  Wounded chickens with legs ripped off, heads scalped, and wings missing. 

 Wearing these predators' fur on my back is the ultimate just desserts.  I think the real fur industry should show pictures of mass violence in a pastured chicken field to stimulate empathy for wearing these perpetrators.  Years ago, before factory farming, before plastics, these furry predators had a price on their heads around every backyard and farmyard in the country. Trapping often provided farm children spending money and helped the family stay on the land.

 Just 80 years ago, a good fox pelt would bring $50.  Today, that pelt is worth less than $5, often only 50 cents.  The result?  Nobody traps anymore.  The result?  More than 50 percent of foxes in the wild have mange.  That's a terribly painful and slow way to die, developed by nature to balance an over-population of foxes.  Animal rightists would rather see pastured chickens ripped apart by foxes and slow, painful mange deaths than see a participatory human ecology. Rabies is also a natural balancing act.

 This is not a justification for factory fur farms; it is an argument for participatory environmentalism and the non-contrived clothing economy such historically and normal activities ensure.

 Does anyone in your family have grandma's fur coat?


Anyone who has followed me very much has run across my signature line:  "a society that does not respect the pigness of pigs will eventually not respect the Maryness of Mary or the Tomness of Tom.  How we respect and honor the least of these creates an ethical moral framework on which we honor the greatest of these."

 Many people hear the words, smile, and emotionally pat me on the head with a "that's sweet, but is it practical?"

 I hope the blockbusting news of Dr. He's genome-sequenced human twin babies born in China now settles the practicality of the matter once and for all.  The bio-ethics community has its pants in a wad over this egregious assault on human dignity.  Some 122 scientists--in China--have signed a letter condemning He's rogue science, wandering outside the norms their fraternity generally endorses.

 Although the global scientific community universally condemns it, what He has done is nothing new or breakthrough.  According to genome editing experts, He's technique has been known for nearly 10 years.  What is new is that he went Lone Ranger on the fraternity and acted on what was common knowledge within the genome editing community.

 Actions follow beliefs.  When life is viewed as fundamentally mechanical rather than biological, it follows like hand in glove that all of life, not just tomatoes, not just pigs, but humans too will be cheapened to nuts and bolts.  Let's go back to an historical confluence:  1837.  Three things happened that year that framed the world in a whole new light.

   Austrian chemist Justus von Liebig wowed the world with his discovery that all of life is just a re-arrangement of three elements:  nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.  This ushered in chemical N,P,K fertilizer.  Second, Cyrus McCormick in his blacksmith shop in Steeles Tavern, Virginia introduced the reaper, which made the scythe obsolete and ushered in the official beginning of the industrial revolution.

  Third, Charles Darwin set sail on the Beagle and told the world God had nothing to do with creation.  To understand the conventional world view of today, we must appreciate the confluence of mechanization, chemicalization, and Godlessness in 1837.   Prior to that time, all religions, whether animist, pagan, or monotheistic posited a spiritual component to life, both in development and in sustenance.  Darwin took it out and enabled mechanization and chemicalization to leverage the biological space with brand new manipulative thinking that resulted in a profound freedom for innovators to practice unfettered manipulations on life.

 Slippery slopes are real.  That's why we discipline 2 year olds, so they don't become monsters at 16.  And that's why seemingly trite things like respecting the pigness of pigs have such profound consequences. 

 If these suddenly-ethical and moral-thumping scientists had been standing up for the pigness of pigs 30 years ago, we would not have genome-edited humans today.  So on that note, I wonder how long it will take these suddenly offended scientists to speak for the factory farmed pigs, the feedlot housed cows, and the industrial ammonia-covered chickens? 

 Do you think they will ever connect the dots?

 P.S.  If you like my blogs, please send them to some friends.  This thing is growing slowly and steadily; that's fine.  I'd like to hit a million subscribers some day.  Fortunately, we're not losing anybody.  That's cool.  Thank you.


Today I'm coming home from the annual ACRES USA conference in Louisville full of fellowship and enthusiasm from meeting with folks who do fantastic things.  One fellow I met with yesterday is participating in the growing movement to use agriculture as therapy in a crumbling and hurting culture

 As recently as 50 years ago mental institutions and prisons grew their own food with inmates and patients, not just to save money, but also to give folks meaning and purpose.  Everybody needs to feel needed, and nothing does that better than plants and animals.  Plants and animals never call you names and they are always glad to see you.  And they need us to care for them.

 The connection between pets and quality of life for retirees is well documented.  When Grandma has to get up to feed the cat, she feels important and necessary.  In that vein, the ecological farming community is truly embracing imbedded farming in some of the worst areas of cities.  Michael Ableman has been doing this for several years in Vancouver with portable urban garden beds.  The homeless and drug addicts finding relief from their demons through tending gardens is nearly miraculous.

 Yesterday I met with a guy who uses urban food production to salvage addicts, homeless, ex-offenders, struggling PTSD veterans . . . the list goes on and on.  One of his partners has cured 1,500 schizophrenics with food.  What?  No drugs?  I can't imagine a healthier development in the mental health field. 

 Offering solutions without drugs has to be one of the most liberating options, and that more people are connecting the dots between nutrition and farming and overall health is truly wonderful news.  These folks are getting authentic results with the most basic elements of life:  growing and eating integrity food.  I think it's good to step back from this whole thing and realize that while all this awesome food and farm stuff is going on, driven by thousands of people, at the same time thousands of researchers are developing new drugs to administer instead.

 In other words, a war is being fought over the nation's most vulnerable, hurting people.  One side is working from an affirmation, connection, nutrition angle; the other is working from a mechanical, manipulative, money-dominated angle.  I'm deeply grateful that our ecology-driven healthy food and farming movement is gaining ground and developing a track record second to none. 

 Have you seen a troubled child respond to a farm animal?


I'm in Louisville, Kentucky where this evening I'll keynote the 2018 national ACRES USA conference.  But last night was Eliot Coleman's keynote.  For those of you who don't know Eliot, he is one of the granddaddies of American ecological agriculture.

 Last night, he treated us all to an endearing recount of his 50-year love affair in four season organic farming.  Like me, he has never participated in the government organic program.  He and wife Barbara treated me to a night cap after the program and told me he's done playing games with the USDA, which bans nonparticipants like us from using the word "organic." 

 "I'm just saying I'm organic and telling them to sue me," said Eliot.  Kudos for him.  I was threatened with litigation when I coined the phrase "beyond organic."  Because the word "organic" was on our website, we were held in violation of the government organic licensing regulations.  Pete Kennedy, at that time lead counsel for the Farm to  Consumer Legal Defense Fund, responded on our behalf and that was the end of it.  I'm overjoyed to know Eliot's fighting spirit is alive and well.

 What struck me about his story is that he started in a fir forest rock pile on the coast of Maine, with no money, no equipment, and no customers.  That parallel with my own start is striking.  I'm so thankful for poverty because it makes you innovative.  I'm thankful for the tough situation because it makes you emotionally and spiritually creative.  And when the tough land begins to respond to caressing stewardship, the redemption is remarkable.

 I consider Eliot one of my mentors and it was a privilege to listen to his story.  He's nearly 80 and keeps saying he's going to slow down, but I don't believe it.  He's been saying that for 10 years.  Author of THE NEW ORGANIC GROWER  and FOUR SEASONS HARVEST, he's an icon in our tribe, a prince and chief of the ecological farming movement.  I hope I get to follow him for many more of my years.

 Have you read any of Eliot's essays or books, and if so, what is your biggest takeaway?


Responding to a recent post, a subscriber said she had applied to her homeowner's

association for a couple of backyard chickens and it was denied because chickens

are not a "generally recognized house or yard pet."

Well, forgive me, but if you don't recognize it, who is blind?  Plenty of people have

chickens as pets.  Just because someone doesn't know about chickens as pets does

not mean chickens can't be as viable a pet as a dog, iguana, or cat.

 I think the real prejudice here is toward farming.  An animal associated with a farm

is inherently unable to be a pet.  And I suppose it's true that seldom do you

eat a pet, although they eat dogs in China.  At our farm, we eat rabbits.  I wonder if

this same HOA would allow rabbits.  Now there's a conundrum.


For that matter, by what common sense must HOA people only be allowed animals

that are recognized as pets?  Goodness, a chicken makes less noise and her manure is much less toxic than dog or cat manure.  It takes 11 chickens to produce the manure of one average-sized dog.  And chicken manure is almost yummy enough to eat.  I've certainly eaten my share--inadvertently.


This segregated thinking is quite elitist when  you think about it.  The HOA only wants animals that have no utilitarian value.  The only people who live here are the ones who can afford nonfunctional animals.  The whole prejudice smacks of snootiness and none-of-those-kinds-of-people-hereness.


You know what's really telling?  I'll bet numerous people in that HOA are members of environmental organizations.  The foundation of ecology is integrated systems.  And yes, that means frogs in ponds, birds in trees, and butterflies on flowers.  Few things could be more illustrative of ecosystem vibrancy than chickens in an HOA.


What's illegal where you live?


Many of you know I've taken the moniker Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer, and I'm sure that many folks chafe at my oft-libertarian leaning diatribes.  Today, I'll switch the tables and show why I can't just take the pure libertarian view.

 In a recent post on the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education website, Steve Horowitz takes a swipe at those of us who advocate buying locally.  His timing coincided with Small Business Saturday, an effort put forth the day after Black Friday.

 He makes the case that nationalism Trump style is akin to localism locavore style.  Noting that big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target often employ 400 people per outlet and purchase goods made by income-increasing folks in China, he chides anyone who would dare to offer a moral argument for shopping locally.  "It is not clear why people more near to us geographically should have moral weight than those further away," he says, using improper grammar.  I think this sentence is missing a second more somewhere between have and moral, but that's beside the point.

 He equates "Made in the U.S.A." with Trumpism, which is the same argument as buying locally.  And since he apparently can't stand Trump, he feels obligated to impugn the entire notion of geographic considerations when purchasing anything.

 I wonder what he would say if instead of working from the top down we worked from the bottom up?  For example, would he say my son or daughter is no more deserving of my care and protection than a child living in Shanghai?   The Biblical injunction to care for your family first has a reasonable and moral imperative that we help those closest to and most known to us before helping those in distant lands. 

 To say that my next door neighbor bears no more concern or care from me than someone I don't know in China is simply anti-relational.  Paul Harvey used to say that freedom is best when we're free to do what we ought, not just what is easiest.  Otherwise we're as free as a driverless car or a train without a track.  He was right, of course.  Freedom without responsibility doesn't work.  And freedom without morality doesn't work.

 My libertarianism is tempered by a neighbor-centric mindset, and I suggest that's a better way to build functional and secure communities than a who cares morality.  The imperative to care more for those close to me, those I know, lies deep within the compassionate breast.  Libertarians, such broadsides do not give you credibility.

 Are you glad I finally took a swipe at libertarians?


Today's front page news is a partnership between Smithfield hog farms and Dominion Power to put plastic bladders over factory farm manure lagoons and pipe the methane off to electric generation.  Like too many news articles, it doesn't give enough details to satisfy me, but having witnessed many of these projects in the past, I'll hazard a couple of guesses.

 First, this is being touted as an environmental victory.  Probably both companies will get wined and dined at some environmentalist gala, receive a plaque, and be lauded for their earth-saving endeavors.  Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club will grin ear to ear for this great climatic victory.

 Second, because it fits the mindset for tax concessions, you and I as taxpayers will undoubtedly foot a large credit or concession--probably even grants--to defray the costs and help the project pencil out.

 I have a couple of questions about this whole thing, the first being:  so am I no longer an environmental steward if I raise pigs on pasture and in the woods to fulfill their heritage roll?  You see, by fawning over this techno-project, the media, environmentalists, and bureaucrats--the governor will probably get his picture taken with the CEOs of the companies as they lay the first bladder--it demeans those of us who don't start with a factory farm that requires a monster cesspool in the first place.

 The second question is what happens to if and when factory farming bites the dust?  Whether the public wakes up and quits eating factory pork or whether we run out of enough new generation antibiotics and vaccines to keep the pigs alive in such horrid conditions, what if factory farming becomes obsolete?  The only way this works is to start it with a factory farm that concentrates too much manure in too small a place.  You have to start it with an anti-ecology paradigm.

 This is classic misapplied green washing.  We doctor up a sick system with some green lipstick and call ourselves noble.  This is hogwash--pun fully intended.  I'm not upset because I don't get the recognition; I'm upset about this because it makes people think they're doing much better than they are.  This project will not make money without subsidies and fleecing the taxpayers, many of whom abhor the factory farms this helps keep in business.

 Meanwhile, those of us out here plodding along with pig-respecting systems in natural settings that democratize the manure into nest-absorbing quantities must compete with subsidized and publicized industrial factory counterparts.  The icing on the cake is that those folks have the audacity to call us elitists because our pork prices are higher than theirs.  Even food justice advocates point their waggly fingers at farmers like me, calling us uncaring elitists.  Where are they when these kinds of projects get the limelight and standing ovations?  A flood of letters to the editor from environmentalists should blanket the newspapers.  You won't hear a whimper.

 The capacity for human stupidity can hardly be fathomed.  This is just another case of doing bad and feeling good about it.

 Have you visited pigs in a pasture?


I'm returning today from speaking in Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, to organic farmers in the Atlantic provinces of Canada.  As an out-of-the-way place, food security becomes more important.

 All the time I was here, the common lament was that the province imports literally 100 percent of its pork because no abattoir exists to legally process it.  One of the largest agricultural exports on the island is potatoes.  They have a perfect climate and good soils for growing spuds.

 What do spuds and pigs have to do with each other?  Well, tubers are great pig food. 

And whenever you have commercial production of something, you have waste.  Lots of waste.  Tractor trailer loads of waste.

 Food safety regulations shut down the last abattoir on the island several years ago.  That eliminated pig growing.  That eliminated waste potato feeding.  It's a domino effect that happens all over the first tier world:  government intervention destroys local food processing options, then stimulates waste and food insecurity.

 The biggest culprit in food insecurity is not big farmers, big business, lack of knowledge or lack of interest.  It's harassment of local food processors by the tyrannical hand of government, all done in the name of protection. 

 When will we begin mistrusting government as much as we mistrust Monsanto?


I was just in Alberta over the weekend doing a speaking gig and heard some incredibly encouraging numbers.

 Alberta has a burgeoning farmers' market scene that spins circles around anything I've seen in the U.S.  According to their stats, 15 percent of Albertans routinely shop at farmers' markets.  If you take their expenditures and spread it across that number, it means the average farmers' market shopper spends $1,600 per year.

 If you spread that across the entire province, it means the per capita expenditure by all Albertans in farmers' markets is more than $200 per year.   In other words, that includes the 85 percent who do not routinely go.

 In our county of Augusta, which includes Staunton and Waynesboro, we have 100,000 people.  To put what Alberta is doing into perspective, that would mean that the Staunton-Augusta Farmer's Market would be $200 X  100,000, which would be $20,000,000.  That's $20 million if you missed it.  Currently, our local farmers' market takes in between $100 and $200,000 per year.

 So when folks ask about possibilities and opportunities, this is the kind of thing you need to tell them.  Can you imagine what that kind of participation would mean to the local agrarian economy and community? 

 Lead on, Alberta.  And thank you for creating a real benchmark.

 Why do you think so few people buy local food?


I'm just returning from doing the two-day Stockman  Grass Farmer business school in Calgary, Alberta, with fellow farmer/rancher/SGF columnist Steve Kenyon.

 Steve has been practicing first class prairie development and soil building through bio-mimicry in Alberta for a couple of decades and is a great sidekick as a faculty member.  He doesn't use bison to build these prairie soils; he uses electric fence, water pipe, and cattle. 

 One indisputable fact of carbon sequestration is that perennial polyculture grasses like prairie and pasture pump carbon into the soil while tillage and annual monocultures deplete carbon.  Nobody contests that.  And nobody contests the need to put carbon in the soil.

 Canada pays a carbon credit to farmers for practicing modalities that minimize carbon loss.  You'd think that would be a good thing, right?  You would be wrong.

 Last year, a couple from whom Steve rented 320 acres for 14 years passed away.  He took these 320 acres and through prairie management built fertility, increased carbon, and diversified the vegetation and animal life on the acreage.  The deceased couple's baby boomer children decided to get as much money out of the acreage as fast as they could and switched managers, leasing it to a canola crop farmer.

 Of course, he could pay more and in a moment you'll see a reason why.  He did not plow down the prairie; he simply nuked it with herbicide.  Not once, not twice, but three times.  Steve's prairie vitality was so vibrant it took three applications of herbicide to finally kill it all so canola could be planted.  The farmer used no-till, the darling of the carbon program, and received a check for $60,000 for practicing good soil stewardship through the carbon credit program.

 Steve received nary a penny.  Why?  Well, grass isn't a crop.  It never registers on programmatic radar.

 Dear folks, when well-intentioned environmentalists ask for government programs to help things, they seldom realize that by the time the agricultural industrial complex gets down writing the regulations it seldom accomplishes the original intent.  In this case, it incentivizes eliminating the prairie and depleting soil carbon.  This happens routinely; it is not an isolated case.  We simply can't expect government programs to do the yeoman's lifting in responsible living.  That is up to individuals and how we purchase things day to day.

 Can you think of another instance where a government program did the opposite of its intentions?


Today is Thanksgiving, time to be thankful and express gratitude to people, God, trials, successes and failures.

 For me, the must humbling, grateful thing is to realize that I can participate in land redemption.  Having watched soil grow, carbon sequester, immune systems strengthen, and patrons by the thousands find healing through integrity nutrient-dense food, I'm thankful to say that I have not sat on the bleachers watching.

 Both the responsibility and privilege of being able to extend redemptive capacity in such a practical, visceral way, whether it's to earthworms or earth muffins (greenies), feeds the mind, body and spirit with sacredness.  Perhaps the most common urban questions I'm asked is:  "Okay, I want to help.  What can I do?"  People yearn to be helpful, to be pro-active and I can honestly say I have never wondered for something to do. 

 It has always been right there outside the back door.  One day it's spreading compost.  Another day, like yesterday, it's pruning junk-type trees and chipping them for a carbonaceous diaper to make compost.  Another day it's planting a tree or tomato.  The idea that I might not be able to participate never crosses my mind.  For that, today, I'm thankful.

 When my daughter Rachel was about 12 years old, she and a couple of friends did a little newsletter.  At Thanksgiving, I remember Rachel writing how thankful she was for "work," because "think of what a chaotic world it would be without it."  Amen.  And work done properly is noble.  All of us who know our work is righteous and who get to passionately enjoy it every day are blessed indeed.

 How are you participating in the healing?


Finally, someone nailed the California fire problem.  An opinion piece by Silas Lyons, executive editor for north central California for the USA TODAY Network in that newspaper's Wednesday edition poked around the problem as well as anything I've seen lately.

 He and I both lament the devastation and grieve with those who have lost their homes and for Paradise, businesses and entire livelihoods.  That all of us, through instant media, must share the emotional trauma of this is a burden we may not have been programmed to bear, as humans.  But know it we do, and grieve we do.

 After that, though, comes the time of evaluation.  And he says poignantly:  "Many of us are also good and angry.  Like New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, none of this is a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention."

 The only thing worse than tragedy is tragedy created by neglect.  So what's the neglect?  He puts his fingers on it in the rest of the column: "dry forests, tangled with brush. . .  In response to rapacious logging, environmental lawsuits shut the chainsaws out of the forests without any reasonable plan to replace their work of thinning and fire-breaking.

 "We pursued policies of aggressively extinguishing small beneficial wildfires, instead letting vegetation build up until there was no such thing as a small, 'good' fire anymore . . . "

 The pre-European American landscape was not a vast wilderness like baby boomers learned in history class.  Neither was Australia.  Neither was New Zealand. It was a manicured landscape by indigenous peoples, producing more food than it does  today.

 The anti-human, anti-animal, anti-cow, anti-livestock veganistic urban radically ignorant environmentalist cult surrounding land use management, epitomized in California's demographics, is expressing its result there more than anywhere.  The ecological firestorm resulting from wealthy elitists divorced from dirt-under-the-fingernails involvement with the land, but injecting themselves and their hubris into it, is the political fuel for this very real human suffering.

 Thinning the trees, yes with chainsaws and chippers, to compost all the factory farm manure in the state would be a great starting point.  Then bringing in herbivores to graze all that understory:  goats, sheep, cows.  Yes, those burping, farting herbivorous pruners, the ultimate human security.  And underneath that pruned biomass a newborn healthy population of methanotrophic bacteria, gobbling down methane and transferring it to glomalin.  Wow, what we could have if we'd only pay attention to authentic ecology.

 So while we weep over the real human suffering, we should weep more over our own ignorance, our failure to steward.  Included in that, of course, is hydration.  A farmer cannot build a pond bigger than a bathtub in California.  If the state were covered with ponds, imagine what a difference it would make.  Nothing is more important in parched landscapes.  If all the money currently spent to reimburse and rebuild homes and infrastructure from these explosive fires were spent on carbon management and hydration (permaculture style ponds in high valleys), the state would be habitable again and the earthworms would dance.

 How many of these fires and how long will it be, do you think, before people realize that integrated symbiotic mega-fauna and mega-flora are nature's template?


I had one of the most exciting days I've had in a long time yesterday.  I spent the day with three attorneys at the top of federal government agencies.  I won't divulge more specifics than that, but they were high enough to be presidential appointments.  That's high.

 They spent the day with me--I even cooked them omelets (Teresa was gone for the day)--to see what could be done to cut through regulatory hurdles that make it difficult for farmers to sell and for local consumers to buy from farmers.  These guys came in with President Trump, and they will go out if he loses the next election.

 This is not a post to beat Trump's drum--he does that enough himself.  It is a post to help you understand that food is THE ultimate bipartisan bridge.

 What did I tell them?  We had numerous far-ranging discussion threads, but the main one I pushed toward the end of the day was this:  Republicans are viewed as the friend of Monsanto and everything corporate.  It's unfair, of course, because President Obama named Michael Taylor, the Monsanto attorney who shepherded genetically modified organisms into existence, as his czar of food safety.   Yeah, right.

But the perception is there, nonetheless.

 Can you imagine what the left would do if Trump championed a directive mandating the right of people to purchase the food of their choice from the source of their choice?  The justification, of course, would be a foodie's dream.  It would guarantee you and me the right to sue the government for discrimination if I couldn't buy raw milk from a farmer, or pepperoni from that food crafting deacon at church, or chicken soup from Aunt Matilda.

 The roll out messaging would include the notion that the answers to nutrient deficiency, food pathogens, farmer suicides, and the stranglehold of the industrial food complex is to allow consenting adults to engage in food choice.  Bring all the new bedroom lingo into the kitchen.  Wouldn't that be the coolest thing?  It would make the left's head explode, the ultimate stealth takeover.

 It would be equivalent to Dan Cathy, founder and main owner of Chik-fil-A responding to the protestors over his "one man one woman" position saying:  "we believe in the Bible so much that we believe in respecting life, so we're going to start getting our chickens only from farms where chickens can express their chickenness and be fed non-GMO food."  Wow, that would have turned the tables.

 The left owns the ecological, integrity food space.  If the right championed that from liberty rather than more government tyranny, it would muddy the partisan waters, which is always fun to see.

 What food would you like to buy that is currently illegal?


Let’s talk heritage turkeys. Would you know one if you saw it?

The top gourmand food outfit in the U.S., Slow Food, recently financed a
factory farm barn for the largest heritage turkey producer in the country.
Why?  Because he couldn’t control them.  The top heritage turkey producer
in the country is now a factory farmer.  

Several years ago we did blind taste tests with a couple of our Washington D.C.
chefs:  Polyface pastured turkeys versus heritage turkeys.  Guess who won?  
Polyface.  Know why?  Because we can control ours and put them on fresh salad
bar every day or two, keeping them away from yesterday’s stale area and excrement.

Heritage birds roosting in a foot of poop and staying on the same worn-out area
every day don’t hold a candle to Polyface pastured turkeys moved around to fresh
grass and fresh roost areas.  The difference is not in the genetics; it’s in the production
model. Don’t be fooled by slick nostalgia.

If you want a heritage turkey from someone who only grows half a dozen, fine.  But
commercial production requires control, and regular turkeys are far more controllable
than heritage.  That means here at Polyface our regular-bred turkeys have a far more
sanitary and happy life than the average heritage bird.  Proper movement, proper green
material, and proper hygiene are more important than whether all of the genes came over on
the Mayflower.

Furthermore, the Polyface goal is to offer a credible alternative to factory farm turkeys. To prove that we don't need a single factory farm in the world. Offering a pastured turkey at an affordable price is the first step toward this goal. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Whenever I'm asked how we'll know if our side is really making progress, I always respond:  "The day McDonald's starts closing stores."

 The business community is abuzz over poor performance at McDonald's--domestically, not in foreign markets.  Apparently American sales are flat lining.  In response to profit needs, they raised their prices.  No more customers, just higher prices.

 And interestingly, a growing discontent among franchise owners indicates frustration over a solution.  It's not a mutiny yet, but definitely expanding and accelerating discontent over not being able to pay loans these folks took out to buy into the celebrated brand.

 Is this an early crack in the castle?  We can hope.  Sometime I want to do a blog on all the businesses that would not exist if everyone spent money like me.  The one at the top of my list is McDonald's; it epitomizes everything that's wrong in our food and farming system.  And wields incredible influence over how soil is treated, how animals are treated, and how our microbes are fed.  As an influence peddler, it makes a big ripple.  Time to rein it in, don't you think?

 How about a great American McDonald's out, like the Great American Smoke-Out?

 How long has it been since you or anyone in your family entered a McDonald's?


In a wonderful headline ":Your Doctor, the Meal Planner," the Wall Street Journal publicizes a trend wherein hospitals are opening food pantries and sending patients home with fresh veggies.  Some hospitals are even growing the food on their lawns.

 This is a fabulous development and I applaud every effort to heighten nutrition.  Buried in the story, however, is a red flag.  "Two major food companies, U.S. Foods and Baldor, donate surplus produce and canned food."  The food bank sends over food too.  Oh boy, here we go again.

 You do realize, I suppose, that these companies can deduct their donations as charitable giving and take it right off their tax bottom line.  It ain't all altruistic.  And of what quality is this "surplus?"  That word is code for "salvage."  In other words, this is wilted, blemished, crashed, dented, sell-by expired food.

 And beyond that, I notice that nothing--nothing--is said about meat and poultry.  I get it; we love to applaud and celebrate even a tiny step forward.  But remember, any movement creates inertia to continue the same path.  In other words, someone like me trying to nudge in there finds it harder when "it's already being taken care of, thank you very much."

 And since when have doctors and hospitals been the nutrition experts?  Medical training includes about 3 hours of nutrition classes.  The notion that U.S. Foods, which handles industrial factory chemicalized food, and their buddies the food banks are going to get discharged patients into nutrient dense food is comedic.  Forgive me for pessimism; I've seen this over and over and over and over.  The way to bet is that over the next couple of years, most of these efforts will slip into an industrial-food salvage provision and whatever gardens got started will fall into disrepair.

 Some half-hearted effort gets big press for being earth-shattering when it's actually a feel-good deal for corporate tax evasion.  Meanwhile, the folks who suddenly got canned green beans in their grocery bag from the hospital are given a feel-good notion that they've now entered food security and health.  Why start sprouting mung beans on your windowsill?  Why get two chickens for the apartment to eat scraps and lay great eggs?  Why put a hanging herb garden on the balcony?  Why do anything else when you've been told you've reached the pinnacle of nutrition?--a bag of leftovers from U.S. Foods.

 And let's not even discuss meat and poultry.  They're too hard.  I'd be glad to supply our local hospital, but they aren't interested.  Am I being too pessimistic?