Friday, July 31, 2009

HR2749 - a thorough reading reveals many problems

Written in response to a blog elsewhere that states the latest version isn't so bad...

I believe I have the last copy of HR2749 in my lap; it was “ordered to be printed” yesterday. I have a number of concerns still.
1. It gives the Federal government jurisdiction over interstate commerce, still, which violates the Constitution. There is no exemption for farmers, homesteaders or small processors who sell only in their own states.
2. The exemption for those who sell over 50% direct to the public will of course require some of us to PROVE the mix of our business, which means government inspection of our paperwork, farms, etc anyway. I own a small local food store. I am the sole owner and the sole employee and currently have nothing of my own in the store other than tomatoes and cucumbers, but will have goat meat within the month and eggs and bread as soon as my egg processing room and kitchen are licensed. Now you’d THINK since I am sole owner, this would be direct to the public, but since I have a storefront instead of a farm stand, it is not. Complying with HR2749 would make my tiny 9 acre farm cost me more money and heartache than it is worth. Those folks who sell at a farmers market and at a retail store or establishment will have to watch their sales very, very carefully and keep their records for years, just in case. I know someone who underreports farm market sales because the market takes a percentage and he thinks that is so unfair even though he signed a contract. This person will pay eventually, but to the Feds rather than to the market he’s cheating, because he also sells to a restaurant. There goes his more than 50% direct!
3. Despite what seems to be the popular consensis that the 50% rule protects most small operations, I know a lot of family farms and homesteads that will have to comply. They have zero employees and due to lack of time (full time jobs, full time families) or lack of sales skills, sell more items to stores than to individuals.
4. This isn’t directly a part of NAIS because this bill regulates how the FDA and HHS handle food. The USDA has jurisdiction over most livestock products (meat, poultry AND eggs). However, there are still quite a few NAIS-like provisions in the bill (for those who don’t sell more than 50% directly to consumers according to the government officials who inspect them. I take the worst case scenario when inspections are involved since I know at least a dozen farmers who have had USDA agents on their properties, despite no wrongdoing or disease issue.) If you “misbrand” your products, which would include simply not registering your facility and securing a “unique identifier” (NAIS language) or paying the fee, you could be fined, your product could be seized, you could be thrown in jail, you could be quarantined, your animals could be seized… and possibly you could lose your property itself. You still have to provide full traceback (information about your growing methods and ingredients, including where you purchased them) and traceforeward (who distributes and/or buys your product, including their name, address and telephone number).
5. Something I haven’t seen discussed nearly enough is THIS ISN’T A ONE TIME FEE! This is an annual fee of $500. How many small producers honestly make a profit big enough to cover it? A lot of times people who sell small quantities of foods are trying to recoup some of their costs for their lifestyle in the country and would roll their eyes if you suggested they made a profit. I’ve had assorted livestock for 11 years. I lost money all 11 years on goats and sheep, but I love them so I keep them anyway. I used to make money on chickens. Oregon requires I build a separate room with three sinks, a separate refrigerator, have it inspected and pay a fee before I can sell eggs to any retail facility, even my own. I will lose money on chickens for at least this year and the year following. I gutted a bathroom to wash eggs in and have gotten no further because I ran out of money. I can’t wait to see how much it costs me to get the licensed kitchen done. Virtually all states require licensed kitchens to sell even one loaf of bread or jar of jam. The costs to sell anything more complicated than produce were ALREADY quite high before this bill. HR2749 also allows the fee to be altered in future years, and you can bet it will go up. Does it reassure me that the maximum amount is $175,000 for someone who owns multiple facilities? Hmmm…. do my home and my store count as multiple facilities? There is a note that fees may be refunded for years 2011 and up if the fees exceed the salaries and expenses of the FDA, but I am not holding my breath. The FDA, despite its inefficiency, is not known for frugality. Any fees due and unpaid within 30 days of the due date are “treated as a claim of the United States Government subject to subchapter II of chapter 37 of title 31, United States Code.” Folks, I don’t know what this means and I am afraid to look it up. I suspect it gives them seizure rights.
6. We still have to submit HAACP plans, no matter how small our facilities are, unless we can prove we sell more than 50% direct to the public. The FDA is allowed to decide your HAACP plan is not good enough and to change it. This means you are subject to their whims about stainless steel versus fomica or ceramic, certain brands of cleaners they like or dislike, whether your dishwasher is appropriate, whether you can use your licensed kitchen for preparing home goods, even if the state allows it, what could happen if your sink backed up and how you could prevent that, whether you have enough sinks, what could happen if you became near sighted and your lights were no longer placed and aimed well enough to help you and what you could do about that, what could possibly go wrong if your refrigerator didn’t get cold enough one day and the steps you could take to prevent that, what could possibly go wrong if a visitor came in without a hairnet on and how you could prevent that, what could go wrong if a bird flew in through an open door and how you could prevent that, etc, etc… if it seems I’m getting silly, it’s because that’s how HAACP is. And if somehow the government finds out a bird did fly in, you have to prove somehow that you have “established and implemented procedures to ensure that… no product from such facility enters commerce!”
6. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, not your very clean grandmother who taught you how to clean your kitchen, gets to decide what is acceptable. He gets to “review international hazard analysis and preventive control standards” to decide. I’ll bet vinegar and lemon juice, things used by our ancestors, won’t be on the approved list. I was given a ridiculous list of approved brands of cleaners for eggs. Yaay.
7. We have to submit our products for testing. They get to decide who performs the test. I know two Virginia goat cheese manufacturers who had cheese seized and sent off to labs. They both sent samples of the same cheese to facilities they knew. Surprise! The results were different. One of the farmers said the inspectors did not pack her cheese on dry ice before mailing the package off. If you dispute the results, you get to pay for both tests, a retest, fines, and perhaps a lawyer once your facility is shut down. Plus you lose business and possibly receive bad press over the closure, even if you are not guilty. You’d be surprised if you knew how reluctant newspapers were to handle cases like this where the farm is right and the government is wrong. I thought reporters had an obligation to report the truth. I began farm rights activism in 1999. I have seen very little media coverage, no matter how badly a farmer has been wronged. If it weren’t for the internet, people would never know.
8. The FDA still gets to decide how we may grow, harvest, process, pack, store, sort and transport produce that they consider potentially risky. Considering recent news, this could mean lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, almonds, pistachios, peanuts…
9. The FDA still gets to decide what they consider a risky facility that requires inspection at least once a year. If you make raw goat cheese, watch out. They’ll be interupting your sleep, your breakfast or your four year old’s birthday party to demand an inspection without warning and they WILL go in your kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, living room, etc. They will. They are not required to have a search warrant. A warrant limits the search in time, place and scope. Guess what? No warrant? They can be in your house for hours, even days. And guess what? At least some of them will be packing guns! How do I know this? It’s happened before (USDA, though.)
10. The FDA can also modify the inspection schedule and inspect a facility more often than what is stated in HR2749. Yep, it says so on page 30.
11. The FDA can take your address book, your computer, your written records, your cell phone. Will you get them back? Possibly. Will they read your personal business? Possibly. At this very moment, I probably have four or five dirty jokes stored in the text function of my cell phone. Do I want the FDA reading them? Probably not.
12. The FDA can chose to interview your kids, your neighbors, your customers, your interns, or whomever else they want. Can you honestly say that if two or three agents dressed in black and packing pistols show up at your neighbor’s door asking questions about you that your neighbor will assume you are still the sweet person they know and will defend you? Probably not.
13. The FDA can access your records remotely. HR2749 does not specify that they will do so, but it has been rumored in Washington state and Vermont that both state and USDA officials have remotely accessed farmer’s computers. You know, hacked.
14. There are a number of places in the bill where the words “EXCLUDING farms and restaurants” have been removed and where “farm” has been inserted where “factory” was used in previous versions of the bill. There is a section in which the Secretary of the HHS no longer has to have reason to believe that a health concern may exist and now only has to believe that there are misbranding or recordkeeping errors. See pages 35 and 36. On page 64, dealing with surveillance, search and seizure,”credible evidence” was replaced with “reason to believe” and ” serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals” is replaced with “adulterated, misbranded, or otherwise in violation of this Act.”
15. It is clear that handwritten records will not satisfy these people. For one thing, they do not comply with traceability requirements.
16. Restaurants and grocery stores must keep records of all food purchased and sold or used as ingredients. No more casual cash transactions, even for something that seems totally harmless like green beans.
17. If the FDA deems your facility does not comply and they shut you down, you get to go through the reinspection process and pay all the associated fees for this. Don;t assume this is another $500 - although you’ll pay that, too. No, they’ll charge you man hours for however many people they decide are necessary to inspect you. You may also have to pay man hours for your facility to be inspected and shut down. If you make a few dozen jars of jam a week, you may see one inspector, or perhaps three or four or six… depends on whether you are a risk, I suppose. I noticed that the peopleI know who were treated the worst by state and federal ag agencies also had licenses to carry a gun. So if you chose to exercise your Second Amendment rights, you may pay emotionally and finacially with a veritable SWAT team in your kitchen. Supposedly none of the inspectors will have a conflict of interest. This sounds like it is to protect you, but what it is likely to mean is that the inspectors will be from another state. The fact that you will never see your inspector in the grocery store makes them a lot less likely to treat you with kindness. By the way, none of these man hours will be at minimum wage.
18. The Secretary of the HHS can provide information to state, federal and local agencies at will, but may not necessarily disclose this information to you. This could result in your having no idea what the people in your house think you are guilty of! Even better, they may also release information to foreign governments, international organizations, the public in general and the IRS. You don’t have to be proven guilty of selling unhealthy food in a court of law. You could simply sell “misbranded” food.
19. Quarantines are still in effect. There is no set mileage, but often it is a wider geographical area than you would expect, like 6-25 miles. From my house driving 25 miles south I pass TWO WHOLE TOWNS! And I live in a rural area. Quarantines do not affect only the farm or factory suspected of causing a health concern. They affect everyone who produces food within that region. The Feds can limit your movements and require your “food transport vehicle,” which is usually the only vehicle that runs on a farm (!) not move off your property. So you can’t go to the grocery store, the post office, the bank or your job…
20. The fines are way steep! Places that violate rules but can not be determined to do so knowingly: up to $20,000 for an individual but also up to $50,000 for any one "proceding"regarding that individual (I suppose this means if they find two or more violations). Places with more than one individual involved (I’m thinking Joel Salatin, who has family members on the same property operating slightly different business ventures) can face fines of up to $250,000 or $1,000,000. Fines double if they think you knowingly violate the rules.

Etc. I’m tired. It is 3am. You get the idea. This bill is not harmless. We must keep a similar bill from passing the Senate and we must chastise our Representatives soundly for voting for it.

action on the state and local levels

It is time for us to go to our county and state governments and pass ordinances (which carry more weight than resolutions) that the federal government shall not conduct any searches or seizures or otherwise enforce any action on individuals, small farms or homesteaders producing food only for interstate sales, direct to the consumer. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution states the Federal Government has no authority to interfere with interstate commerce. We need to remind our local governments that the money promised to them by the feds to carry out surveillance on small farms will fall short of their expenditures, that such plans as NAIS and HR2749 will cause great distress to their constituents and also that by shutting the Feds out of where they do not belong, local governments are morally doing the right thing. We need to enact as many ordinances as possible before this type of bill is passed in the Senate.

My immediate goals are: go to Portland, screen Fresh, talk to as many people as I can and go to Douglas County commissioners, all by the end of September. In February, Patrick and I plan to host a feed your legislator day at the Oregon General Assembly building in Salem. I've helped host similar events in Virginia and at the Nation's Capitol and they are wildly successful. The gist is this: legislators need to see that we are real people, normal families who will be devastated by such plans. We feed them fabulous home grown and produced foods, provide information and generally be friendly. I started making posters with pictures of Oregon farm families and had to stop for lack of submissions (I can't just pull 'em off the internet!) but maybe readers of this blog will submit more photos, even if I have to print them. Or you can mail them to OCFA c/o Localvore, 115 E. Central Ave, Sutherlin, Or. 97479.

Hopefully by mid summer of 2010 we will have an Oregon version of Farm Food Voices, where we rent a school cafeteria or some similar large place in a central area like Eugene, invite well-known farm rights and nutrition speakers, have a lot of home grown and produced food again and then invite the public for FREE. We will accept donations, will sell raffle tickets and will have a book table and OCFA membership table. Again, I helped host the first two of these in Virginia and they were wildly successful.

Naturally, I will be looking for volunteers... !

Thursday, July 30, 2009

HR2749 passed

Grrrr... I take this personally, as I know does every farmer and homesteader and consumer who cares about where their food comes from. Everyone who called and emailed their Representative should do it again, expressing displeasure. DeFazio voted for it AGAIN, and I called to say please don't because they sneaked NAIS into the bill and you haven't had time to read it.

screening Fresh, the movie

I found out from Kathryn Russell that at the award ceremony in Portland, Joel Salatin will be giving me a signed copy of Fresh, the movie. I know it is a bit premature (I haven't gotten it yet!) but I have already reserved a stage and kitchen at the Sutherlin Community Center for a screening September 19th at 7:15 pm. Now I'm just working out the details. Seems there are room fees, insurance, licensing fees... I talked to Lily at Think Local Umpqua and they will help. Oregon Consumers and Farmers Association will help. And of course, I'm going to NEGOTIATE as much as I can. However, it looks like the FREE showing I wanted to have will be impossible. Instead, I will probably charge $3 admission, with all proceeds going to OCFA, which would please Joel. The admission will include refreshments. As I find out more, I will post more, but I am so excited I couldn't wait!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From Pete DeFazio about raw milk

Dear Ms. Sparrowhawk:

Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 778, introduced by Congressman Ron Paul, which authorizes the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk intended for human consumption. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe informed consumers should have access to raw milk, but this issue is regulated at the state level. While I work frequently with Congressman Ron Paul, I do not think the U.S. federal government is going to usurp state's rights to legislate the availability of raw milk. Raw milk regulations vary from state to state, with about half of the states banning the sale of raw or unpasteurized milk. Oregon currently does not allow for raw milk to be sold for human consumption.

Some believe pasteurization changes the nutritional value of milk, but findings vary amongst studies. On the other hand, pasteurization does kill off bacteria in milk, and raw milk accounts for 70 percent of illnesses attributable to dairy consumption. The Center for Disease Control advises that unpasteurized milk should not be consumed.

Because states currently regulate milk production and safety, I encourage you to contact your state representatives about this issue. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope you will continue to stay in touch.

Rep. Peter DeFazioFourth District, OREGON

My thoughts: Actually, there is a licensed raw milk dairy in Oregon... only one that I am aware of, Fern's Edge Goat Dairy. And their milk is goooooood. It may be quite naive for DeFazio to think the Feds really won't mess with states' rights, anyway. They do it all the time. They are voting right now whether to meddle in interstate commerce of small farms. (HR2749).

My reply, sent by email through his website on

Dear Congressman DeFazio:
Thank you for your reply regarding Representative Ron Paul's HR778. I wish I believed that the Federal government would not meddle with individual and state rights. A bill before the House today, HR2749, would allow the Feds quite a bit of control over interstate commerce, which the Constitution says the Feds can not do. Ordinary citizens like me would like you to fight every instance in which the Federal government might step into individual and state areas of responsibility and choice, even when it seems that standing up for us may be a moot point because nothing ever happens. You and Ron Paul are in a very small minority of Congressmen who seem to care; caring, like genius, comes with great responsibility.

Also, there are licensed raw milk dairies in Oregon, athough I only know of one personally that actually sells milk rather than cheese. Fern's Edge Goat Dairy sells delicious raw goat milk in health food stores in Eugene.

I will be watching HR2749.


Larisa Sparrowhawk

HR2749 going for a vote today, perhaps RIGHT NOW

HR2749 is going for a vote and the format has changed to what they call "on suspension," which does not mean to Congressmen what it means to us. To us suspension means on hold or floating - it makes it sound like no big deal, we can worry about it later.

On Suspension to Congress means they do not allow any debate or amendments. No debate means it's too late for a Representative on our side to sway another. No amendments means no exemptions for homesteaders, small farmers and anyone who sells small amounts of goods in their own states.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

it's easy to contact your congressperson about HR2749

I have two jobs and although I currently spend a lot of time at a computer, I never really feel like making phone calls. I always feel like it's going to take too much time and it will be a big hassle. So I already signed three petitions and sent an email to Rep Pete DeFazio urging him to vote nay on HR2749. But you never really know for a fact if petitions get taken seriously and emails get read in time, so I sighed and picked up the phone. It seems I have daily horrible experiences with various companies and government agencies (take your pick- ODA, USDA, USPS, VDACS...) but I have to admit right now that I HAVE NEVER IN 35 YEARS OF ACTIVISM EVER SPOKEN WITH A RUDE LEGISLATIVE AIDE WHO ACTED LIKE I DIDN'T MATTER. Let me repeat: never.
In case you are also delaying your phone call, this is what to expect. First, look up and click on the button on the left side under "Take Action" that says "Find your official" and when that page loads, type your zip code in. It will pull up your Senators and your Representatives in Congress. This is good for people who have trouble remembering whether the legislator they have in mind works at the state or national level! In this case, since we want to protest a bill that is in the HOUSE, you want to click on your Representative. You will then be taken to your Rep's webpage, which will let you leave an email AND call him/her, which is what I hope you will do. If you need talking points, see my blog on HR2749 below. It will walk you through what the problems are. It would be best if they scrapped the bill and started over, but if Congress sees a need to DO SOMETHING in a hurry because there has been such bad news about food safety lately, they can at least write an amendment that clearly exempts farms and homesteads with 5 or fewer non-family employees (this allows farms to have interns) that sell goods in their own state. The federal government is not supposed to meddle in interstate transactions anyway. It violates the Constitution.
So you will take a deep breath and call your Rep's phone number, which may even be an 800#. You will tell the charming person who answers the phone that you want to register your opinion on a bill that is coming up to be voted on. You will give your name and address. Then you will state something like, "I request that Representative _________ (name) please vote nay on HR2749." The aide may ask you why and jot down some notes, which is why you may want to make the call in front of the computer or take your own notes before you call. The whole process should take less than five minutes.
Thank you in advance for picking up the telephone and calling. God bless!

amazing phone call

I just got an amazing phone call from Patrick Donaldson in Portland. Apparently he and Joel Salatin are going to honor OCFA (Oregon Consumers and Farmers Association) and me during a 2 day event in Portland with a field day in Corvallis. I am awaiting specifics on where everything is held and if it is public.

So now I have to figure out how to keep the shop open, get the animals fed and watered and go!

Joel will be speaking. Patrick will be the MC, I think. I will run up, give a five minute speach while trying not to blush and sit back down! I haven't seen Joel in two years. He is an awesome speaker, intelligent and charming. In the middle of a very serious talk he can pull out a relevant funny comment with a huge smile that totally disarms everyone in the audience and makes it hard for even legislators and USDA inspectors to dislike him. I can only pray to one day hold an audience in my hand half as well as he does.

Monday, July 27, 2009

creamy no cook blender soup

When it’s hot outside, we tend to eat lots of salads. As much as I love my greens, sometimes I want something creamy that does not taste QUITE so good for me. Blender soups are healthy, creamy and do not heat up the kitchen at all. This is a variation on the green smoothie concept (if you blend greens rather than juice them, you get all their healthy fiber, too), but one almost anyone will enjoy.
In the morning soak a handful of hazelnuts, cashews, almonds or pine nuts in twice as much filtered water. At least 4 hours later drain the nuts, slip the skins off those with skins by pinching one end of each nut, and put the skinless nuts in a blender. Add spinach or chard, a pinch of basil, dill or garlic, a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper. Add enough water to blend well. With a commercial high speed blender, you will have silky soup in no time. A home blender may require multiple pushes of the liquefy button with several minute pauses between to cool the machine. I enjoy my soup cool, but others may want to warm theirs up briefly on the stove.
Avocado may be substituted for the nuts.
My store currently has no ac. A mason jar full of this soup is a cool and satisfying lunch. I just need to remember to wipe the green mustache off before I talk to customers!

Friday, July 24, 2009

You can make foie gras pate humanely and cheaply!

Sometimes when I'm alone I make food no one else likes and I enjoy it tremendously. An example is the foie gras I am savoring on my tongue now.

Foie gras technically refers only to liver from fattened ducks and geese, but you can make delightful seared liver slices and pates from humanely treated pastured animals, too. Just make sure it is from animals that have been slaughtered as soon as pasture grasses dwindle, when the animals are their fattest - in July here in southwestern Oregon.

I've had three goat livers and three kidneys in the freezer for nearly a year because my daughter says liver stinks up the entire house. She's off at grandma's so I can stink up the house if I want!

The proper way to cook liver is to slice it when it is still very cold and put it into a pan that's been heated on high with duck or bacon fat or a high temperature oil like coconut or olive. Add a little butter after you put the liver in, but cook it very fast, just a couple minutes at most on each side, just until it has a crispy edge on both sides and is still pink inside. Enjoy it as is, with a little salt and a platter of fruit or turn it into pate.

Or if you do not want the crust, you can do as I did Wednesday, and put the livers (I added the kidneys, too) into an oven safe pan with some butter, semi-sweet liquor such as brandy or sherry and onions, then cook them at 225 degrees while you do other things. I used apple jack because I'd made it by accident (instead of juice) in a previous year. Since I don't drink, it's what I had. You can also add mushrooms if you wish.

When the liver is seared, remove it from heat and let rest 15-20 minutes to cool and reabsorb its juices. Then place it in a food processor with whipping cream, more sherry or apple jack if desired, a pinch of salt and a little ginger and nutmeg. I don't give exact quantities because livers vary so much in size and availability around here (sometimes I use duck or chicken liver) so I never tried to make an exact recipe. Process it until it is very smooth. Don't worry if it is a little bit runny since it will firm up in the refrigerator. Taste it to see if you want to add white pepper and/or ground mustard. Serve cold for lunch or dinner with crusty bread, apple slices and a good mesclun salad. Pate is delightful also at brunch with a sweet bread like gingerbread, served inside of a flaky pastry, or even in the scooped out seed cavity of apples or pears with some pecans sprinkled on top.

Me? I enjoyed some of mine straight out of the food processor with ripe plums, marionberries and crunchy carrot sticks from my store. The rest I put some in little tupperwares for luxurious lunches later, even after my daughter returns home.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

handy little article on food additives

food related bills in Congress

Lifted out of my newsletter, OCFA Fare, because I'm short on time today, but the public absolutely must be educated on these bills. Please spread this post around!!

Bad Congressional Bills Pending: NAIS for Bread and Jam and the Livestock Flatulence tax

HR2749, called the “Food Safety Enhancement Act” in the House would give the FDA significantly greater powers over farmers and would reduce penalties for improper actions of FDA officials in a lawsuit. The bill requires a $500—1,000 registration fee for farms that produce value added products, including those who sell small quantities of food like pickles, cheese, bread and jam at farmers markets in their own states (interstate commerce, which is not supposed to be under federal jurisdiction). HR2749, like NAIS, also requires farms to have a premises ID and allows the FDA to conduct random searches, without warrant or proof of any farm’s wrongdoing. It allows the FDA to regulate produce growing methodology and to ban raw milk sales completely, even in states that currently allow raw milk. It provides authority to quarantine all farms and vehicles used to transport food within an area, regardless of whether all the farms could be considered a risk for the disease outbreak. Suppose a disease strikes stone fruit trees in your area and you grow tomatoes. Yes, your farm could be quarantined, too—and so would the pickup you take to the farmers market and to run errands. Even more alarming is that farmers with value added products will be required to provide full trace-back and forward. You must supply customer information and also keep proof of where you buy your ingredients, even if you produce items generally considered harmless, like bread. If you do not comply, you face fines from $10,000 to $100,000 and prison terms up to ten years. A recent amendment allows seizure if food is simply misbranded. This bill treats your grandma with 36 jars of jam at the farmers market to the same conditions, regulations and fees as a corporate food processor producing thousands of jars per hour. The definition of an exempt farm is as narrow as the definition for who does not need to comply with NAIS: if the food is grown and consumed on the premises, compliance is not required.
The EPA still plans to tax dairy and swine farmers by the head for their “emissions.” The New York Farm Bureau estimates the cost to be $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per beeve and $20 per hog. Margins for many dairy and swine farms are dismally slim already. Although pasturing animals tends to improve, not harm the environment, the EPA neither treats pastured animals differently from feedlot animals, nor is willing to exempt livestock raised solely for direct sales. If you have more than 50 beef cattle, 25 dairy cows or 200 hogs, you would have to purchase a greenhouse gas permit, regardless of the amount of land the animals graze. Please contact your congressmen about bills HR 1426 in the House and S527 in the Senate and ask him to vote nay.

And now for something completely different… A Good Bill in Congress!

Representative Ron Paul from Texas, who sometimes seems like family farms’ only friend in Washington, D.C., introduced HR778 in the House. This bill would allow interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption… so customers wouldn’t have to pretend it was for their very hungry puppies week after week, month after month, year after year (funny how these puppies never grow up!) This bill currently has no co-sponsors and is in the Energy and Commerce Committee. HR778 disallows any federal action—seizure, lawsuits, regulation, etc—solely because the dairy products are unpasteurized. Raids on raw milk suppliers would legally be required to cease unless the raw dairy products created a bonafide health threat.
Please call or write your congressmen to request votes against HR2749 and HR1426 (or S527) and for HR778.

Read these bills on;
Find your congressmen:
Call, email and fax fast!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

quick, cheap and healthy ice cream substitute

Peel and break ripe one to one and a half bananas per person into chunks and freeze until solid in freezer bags. The bananas MUST be frozen; they create a creamy texture. Put them in a blender with your choice of cream, half and half, milk, hazelnut milk, coffee, plum juice, orange juice or water. Add a little cinnamon, carob or cocoa powder. In a regular blender you will need more liquid than in a high speed commercial blender, and the result will be more like a shake. In a good high speed blender you can approximate soft serve.

Everyone likes this! If you're on the raw food diet, this is something you can share with friends (unlike green smoothies) that will make them envious!

There are endless variations: Banana and blueberries, raspberries, blackberries - all those taste good alone or with ginger or cocoa. You can substitute a flavorful herbal tea for the liquid. You can add raw coconut butter and pineapple juice to make a virgin pina colada. You can even add raw cacao butter, but it tends to freeze fast and stick to the sides of the blender. It's so expensive I will spend way too much time trying to scrape every last bit off the blender wall so I can eat it and not waste any.

I might as well admit it - all these are so good I slurp up every drop I make and then wipe the blender walls clean with my hand (which I then lick) before washing the blender. My mom did teach me to be a lady, but I forget when it comes to banana ice cream!

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Monday, July 20, 2009


Shall I start at the beginning? It seems the appropriate thing to do. Growing up, I ate a pretty Standard American Diet (SAD) until my family was involved in a bad car accident in 1976 that put Mom in bed for a couple years. Dad, who was raised on a ranch in New Mexico, taught me how to shop for food. He took me around the store, snapping bottoms off spinach and asparagus because he didn't want to pay for stems, telling me he wouldn't buy fruit with pits because he didn't want to pay for the pits, wouldn't buy food in boxes because he didn't want to pay for the boxes, didn't want to buy canned food unless I shook the can to make sure it wasn't full of water... by the time we were done shopping, I was terribly embarrassed, but I had a cart full of fresh and frozen vegetables, meat and cheese. It is odd to think that a car accident can improve the family's health, but it most certainly did. I learned to cook, and incidentally, so did Mom when she got better... in fact, her bread is consistantly better than any bread I've had in stores, and I wish she could supply some for Localvore, but she lives too far away.

I experimented with various diets as a teenager and college kid... I was always convinced I was fat and sick. I tried macrobiotics, which made me very skinny and seemed to solve stomach issues I'd had for years, but I remained exhausted. I tried the typical ovo-lacto cooked food vegetarian diet and the stomach aches with random bouts of unexplained vomiting came back. Plus, when I was pregnant, I really, really craved red meat. I would stand in front of the meat counter at the grocery, practically drooling. When I was pregnant with my third child I also worked a night job and sometimes ordered meat sandwiches for "lunch." One of these gave me food poisoning and I lost the child a few weeks later.

I'd miscarried before, but this one was especially awful. In addition to the emotional trauma, I hemorrhaged and months of hormones didn't stop it. I ended up with two blood transfusions and daily b-12 shots. My daughter, then 4 years old, helpfully told people I used needles. Since I had shaved my head in a moment of anguish, and since I had become very white, I am sure they thought the worst. Once I had regained my emotional and physical health, nearly a year later, I began to research food poisoning.

Turns out, it is incredibly common. And the government does little to help protect us from it. Recalls of bad beef are voluntary, not mandatory. The USDA inspects less than 1/2 of 1% of all slaughtered meats and leaves it up to the meat processor to inspect the rest. Needless to say, in an environment where animals are run through at warp speed and hamburger is processed 16,000 pounds at a time (all that is ground on a shift), employees seldom find and report issues.

My own illness may have been caused by bad meat, or by the sub shop not cleaning off the meat slicer. Meat slicers sit on a counter at room temperature all day. Have you ever seen anyone remove the blade and clean it, even in a high-end grocery store or deli, before the end of the day? I haven't. I'm pretty sure I lost a baby due to lazy or poorly-taught employees.

The more I read, the more determined I got that my family would never be at the mercy of food processors again. I bought a little farm and stocked it with chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, bees and a steer. I grew a garden. I read some more. It seemed at first a no-brainer that selling excess food would help me pay the feed and seed bill, but I found out that the government saddles the small farmer with more regulation than multi-national corporations. So I joined Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, a farm rights group, as soon as Joel Salatin became President. I thought with Joel at the helm, we'd see some action. I became Secretary of the group and served nearly four years before moving across country.

While with VICFA, I participated in several demonstrations, lobbied the Virginia General Assembly and Congress, wrote letters and emails to legislators, helped with the newsletter, went to court in support of farmers who had been wronged, tasted some of the best food anywhere and enjoyed comeraderie I have to admit I've missed since moving. During this time, I also joined the Weston A. Price Foundation and continued to learn more about traditional foodways.

Dad died, leaving Mom alone in Oregon, so I renovated my house as fast as I could, sold or gave away nearly all my livestock and belongings, put my house on the market and drove across country in April of 2007. My brother drove the pickup that had the great pyranees (Lacuna), a cage with three muscovy ducks and another cage with a cat in it. I drove the truck with three pygora goats in a pen fitted to the pickup bed. I also pulled a 4x8 trailer piled with people and animal food, tents and clothes. I swear we had to pull over two or three times in every single state to replace tarps and bungee cords.

We took Rte 40, the southernmost route, specifically to be in the warmest possible temperatures. At night we'd stop and camp near the animals. I was very nervous about animal health, and left two of my favorite angoras behind because I was afraid they wouldn't make the trip. But the pygoras settled in quickly and Aeroplane, my favorite, stood near the back of the pen and watched cars go by. She seemed thoroughly amused by the whole trip. We stopped three or more times a day for gas, potty and food breaks. We walked Lacuna, checked the tarps, watered the animals, stretched and got back in to drive some more. Police stopped us twice to check under our tarps for illegal aliens. At the Hoover Dam, one of the policemen leaned on the goat pen and lost a little hair to Aeroplane, who just had to taste it.

It took us every bit of seven days to get from Virginia to Oregon. It took 18 months to sell the Virginia house - at a loss. My nerves piled quite a bit of weight on me (used to be nerves made me lose weight, but not since I hit 40!), which I lost by eating a high raw diet (more on this in future posts).

The trip was actually very interesting, but I'm going to fast forward. VICFA set up a national non-profit farm rights group, NICFA, which serves as the umbrella over individual states rights groups. There was not one in Oregon. So I organized one. I was somewhat intimidated by the prospect, since I work waaay too many hours off farm as it is (night job and day job!), but there wasn't exactly a long list of volunteers. The Vice President is Sharlyn Homola, a horsewoman from Umpqua with a huge charming smile, who trolls the internet looking for NAIS news on a regular basis. Our membership is tiny and it is financially difficult for me to keep writing, publishing and mailing newsletters. We also have not had any of the fundraising dinners I had hoped for, or gone to the Oregon General Assembly yet. Enter Patrick Donaldson from Portland, a man who has contacts and energy and promises to help recruit members and help.

I worked in automotive for 14 years and was downsized. So I took my twenty nine cent savings and opened a farmers market/health food store. Ok, so I had some help financially from Donnie Murray, an old flame from Virginia who believed in me even when the banks would not. Essentially, Donnie bought refrigerators and freezers for me. I rounded up some new and used furniture, stained and painted it to match, and found a few farmers who wanted to sell on consignment. I bought some coffee, tea, cheese, bulk food, herbs and spices from Oregon companies that sell primarily organic food. And once the Oregon Department of Agriculture inspected the store, I opened the door on June 16th.

Prices are very good. I am the only employee and do not see the need to mark items up 50% like a lot of health food stores do. When I weigh quick profit versus repeat customers, repeat customers win every time.

That said, it has definitely been a challenge. I need a cash infusion from somewhere to purchase more food, pay the electric and phone bills, etc... and it is somewhat nerve wracking. Customers come in and tell me they hope I won't go out of business like the last health food store in Sutherlin did. I reply that I am too stubborn to fail.

And I am.

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