dancerjodi: (Geek)
"Farming is a challenging business – but what isn’t today?? We ALL have good days and bad, stresses and triumphs; changes and challenges. However, several recent conversations with other livestock farmers in our area leave us concerned for the future of livestock farming in the northeast. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s many thousands of small and medium sized dairy farms were purchased and developed, still others simply sold the cattle and made hay or ran heavy equipment or chopped timber and sold firewood to make a living. It seemed as if corporate Ag, home of the super dairy, was going to be the future. These are the farms with a 1500 to 10,000 cows in three or four HUGE barns where the cattle move from feeding to milk parlor to rest in eight hour chunks of time so that they are actually milked three times a day; not twice. They produce tens of thousands of gallons of milk each day and the marginal cost in miniscule – especially compared to the single farmer who can milk 75 to 100 cows per day.

The resurgence of the local food movement seemingly reversed the downward trajectory of farming and the existence of small farms in New England. Many people began to really develop an understanding of how food is grown; the connection to farms and farmers became important as did supporting local food systems. In early 2000’s the CSA became a popular model allowing farmers and consumers to by-pass the big corporations and all the associated poor animal care, high marketing costs and ridiculous requirements. However, those of us immersed in farming often fail to see the challenges of perpetuating our lifestyle in today’s economic, legal and political climate.

Two years the Zimmermans went out of business. One day they closed shop and a few months later they held an auction. They were livestock truckers based in Leyden, MA who served all of New England for over 40 years. The business was founded by the father and carried on by two sons; they had three pot-belly trucks (large tractor trailers for moving a large number of animals) and a slew of smaller trailers. Increasing operating costs, insurance costs (significantly!) ever-expanding regulations, and decreasing revenue ultimately forced a painful decision. However, they were part of the fabric that wove small and medium farmers together all over both MA and all of New England. Animals and farm news traveled together on the Zimmermans trucks and they often knew generations of the same farm family for years. This kind of connection is NOT found on Facebook; it is born over a cup of coffee next to the kitchen woodstove after unloading a group of new cattle or a slew of swine. The loss of the Zimmermans was far more than simply having to find a new way to move animals or the purchase of a new livestock trailer – it was the connection of farmers to one another in ways that are NOT based in technology but rather in the conversations that sometimes spanned decades.

During January, there was a conclave of farmers in the local farm store one day. All of us are on the north side of middle age and all were lamenting winter and its effects on our livestock (but not of course ourselves!). We were comparing and contrasting the challenges secure in the knowledge that we understood three am flashlights, heating pads that are warm on one side and frozen on the other as we try desperately to save a lamb or kid or piglet that was born on the wrong side of the day in the wrong month –and always between midnight and five am.

A local goat farmer, who at 62 milks 226 goats by himself every day, noted that people are always asking why he doesn’t get some help. Simultaneously, we all hooted and laughed at the concept!! Help – in JANUARY! Who besides us (probably all certifiably insane) would voluntarily shovel poop, clean milk equipment in the 10 below weather and move animals?? A (cow) dairy farmer noted that his barn cats have more skill in the milk parlor than anyone who has tried to help him. Another man noted that he can sometimes get his son and his son’s friends to help cut and stack hay – but then they just want to go play video games. Still another farmer noted that he tried to hire a neighbor to burn brush, but that even offering $10 and hour to stand at the fire pit was too much work for the neighbor. The collective opinion of this conversation that there is a single person under the age of 45 who is raising livestock in our area and no one going into the business. According to the USDA Statistics – the local farm store conversation was correct: In 1945 the average age of a farmer was 39; in 1974 it was 45 By 2012 the average farmer is 57 years old.

Joel Salatin wrote a great article for Acres Magazine this month about the challenges of farm apprentices. Essentially he said it is not about anything other than trying to support the future of farming – apprentices offer little, cost a lot and have few skill sets for the first month or two. By the third month (of a five to six month commitment) the farmer should be breaking even (at a pay of $100 per week)- however, there is nothing to be gained, but a hope that the farmer is supporting others going into the business. He correctly noted there is a serious commitment in having apprentices on the farm and too many famers expect to have help moving forward, when a goal needs to be NOT to move backward too much each day. He said to expect to have EVERY aspect of your life questioned including how you vote, discipline your children and where and why you go to church. From a farming perspective, the article was spot-on; but from a sustainability perspective, it is very concerning.

The barriers to entry for livestock farming are significant (and that does not seem like a strong enough word). The cost of land, infrastructure, livestock and equipment is high. The knowledge base required to raise multiple species is extensive and the simple physical work hours are long – no nights or weekends off –animals need to be fed and watered seven days a week; 365 days a year. As we reflect this winter over our collective farm and business plan, Rich and I were struck by the conversation and are starting to think about long term sustainability in our planning. In January I “celebrated” my two year cancer-versary (I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in January of 2012- but feel great and am medically stable) and Rich has increasing pain in his hips from years of building, climbing and lifting. We are simply a part of an industry sustainability challenge.

We don’t have any epiphany or great solutions. Our children have all been raised on the farm but at this point none seem poised to step in and take over. Over the years, Rich and I have watched many people become interested in (and even passionate about) local foods, local farms and sustainable food systems. The vast majority have worked for a year or two at a vegetable farm and then moved into supporting roles, often in an office or at least clean environment. The daily, dirty, physical labor – the work that seems so foreign to so many – remains shockingly unappealing.

As your farm and farmers, we just want to put this out there – we know that you are not at the local farm feed store, but as supporters of local farming, it is a critical conversation – and one that transcends industries. Small software companies actually often strive to be bought by larger companies; small accounting firms, law firms and other professional services are often purchased by larger companies – farming is no different. How can we support and maintain small family farms??"

Green

Jan. 24th, 2014 08:36 am
dancerjodi: (Geek)
Over the years I've tried to take steps to be more 'green', less wasteful, more conscious of chemicals and how I consume things. Having a kid and being responsible for all of the 'stuff' she is exposed to makes it yet more important.

I struggle with the cost, convenience and 'green' issues related to things related to Mina. For the most part we gave her organic baby food, and the cleaner of those options. If you actually read the ingredients on the Gerber organics, you'll see a lot of crap in it that isn't food (or added sugar). This came at great expense, but we had the luxury of doing it. We made our own sometimes (as much as cooking and mashing a potato is making your own). But we are both working, and have things to do. There is the formula of time/money/talent to consider.

Convenience and cost really are the big factors. The $10 cotton PJs at Old Navy that come in lots of cute styles and fit her perfectly are such a sticking point. Fit her well. Soft/good for her skin. Cheap. Easily accessible. But Old Navy = Gap companies = questionable labor practices. I can't bring myself to spend $30 on organic PJs online, that take a while to arrive at our front steps, that may or may not fit her, and if they do, she'll only wear for a short time. On one level I'm OK with this - you make an educated decision and do what works for you. But Old Navy! We have tried to find good-quality stuff in hand me downs from friends or at thrift stores, and have succeeded for the most part with the exception of the PJs. That counts for something, right?

I've had similar struggles with her bed. I'd like her to have the schmancy, 'green' mattress like Brian and I do. But she is a kid, that is going to do lots of gross things to that mattress reliably for years. There are covers and all, but really? We ended up getting one cheap at a local shop that sells a good traditional product. We'll splurge on the natural latex when she's older. Convenience, cost, practicality. It is a mattress on the floor, and we've been playing around with options for a simple frame. Low to the ground, something we can put a rail on. There is the convenient/cheap/easy route (Ikea) which is quite disposeable and made with questionable materials. The next level is more work/time (Craigslist). A local wood furniture store has a simple wood-platform style one which isn't crazy costly, so we may go with that. Her mattress is sliding all over on the floor so she ends up between the bed and the wall OR rolls out and across the floor.

We are learning that parenting is all about the balance. Sometimes having some kind of fruit is more important than having local/organic/fresh fruit. Sometimes, you gotta buy the processed pears in water in a plastic-sealed cup so that you have something in the morning when life has dictated that you can't get to the grocery store for something perishable. Sometimes you just gotta order a pizza.

We all experienced this kind of stuff and 'we all came out fine'. Only time will tell what health/societal impacts have come from our quick/easy/instant lifestyles. Folks didn't know 50 years ago what cigarettes would do to them. I wonder, what did I do to my kid now that will be something seen as just terrible years from now? I think the most important thing I've gained as a parent in myself, is the ability to just chill a bit and let those kinds of thoughts go, just to get through the day sometimes. There is always an argument on one side or the other. You could make yourself crazy trying to be "perfect".

Anyway, this rambling brought to you by a cold, quiet Friday morning at work. Have a wonderful weekend, peeps.
dancerjodi: (Default)
Brian and I have belonged to a meat CSA http://www.chestnutfarms.org/ for a few years now. We love being a part of Kim and Rich's extended farm family and look forward to their monthly e-mail updates. From time to time I have shared them here, this one I think is most intersting because it touches on a few areas: slaughtering, raising animals as family, and the impact of federal law on the small family farm. Read up if you are curious. And support your local family farmer!

Read more )

Masswholes

Apr. 8th, 2011 07:32 pm
dancerjodi: (Default)
Going to San Francisco was a breath of fresh air. If I wasn't so tied to this are (the people and the seasons) I could live there in a heartbeat. Brian and I have been commenting on small things since we've been back, that are so anti-California.

Right off the plane we were a bit hungry, and stopped at the Dunkin Donuts to get something small before we grabbed our luggage. It was 7:30 AM and very busy, but the cashiers were friendly enough. The woman making our food however was nasty - nasty! It wasn't that crazy, and I know from experience working the Burger King drive through for years that being a grump doesn't make it any easier. I don't know why people put in effort to be nasty - not just frustrated or annoyed but downright, I hate everyone nasty.

San Francisco's goal is to be waste neutral (iirc) in 2020, and boy are they making a great effort to that goal. Every place we ate recycled and most had bins for trash, recycle and compost. Many (even the mall food courts) gave real plates, cups and flatware. Though it may have a reputation of being hippy dippy (Haight Ashbury anyone) I loved how it was just a normal way of life for most folks. OF COURSE most of you would have your own shopping bag, or coffee mug! Many vehicles were efficient or hybrid. There was little of the "LOOK AT ME I"M BEING ALL GREEN" that you may see around these parts, i.e. the hybrid plastered with 100 bumper stickers of various green persuasions. Its like, folks just are more conservative with their resources and it's how it is.

Friendlier, more laid back, yet still getting things done. The feeling has stuck with me so when the asswhole Boston stereotype surfaces I'm a bit caught off guard. I know that stereotypes are stereotypes and all. It can be amusing to see them played out.

Whatever. We're taking our fabulous 'straight back from the Castro' selves tonight and going to see a local production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at the Turtle Lane playhouse. I love our blue state despite it's penchant for being mean, and have hope that we'll get closer to the greener side of the street in a true, 'taking care of our property lifestyle' kind of way, rather than a PC 'look how cool I am' kind of way. Time, time.

Stuff

Mar. 19th, 2011 08:54 am
dancerjodi: (Default)
I am not a gadget geek, but I'm married to one.

I discovered http://www.storyofstuff.com/international/ a long time ago, but hadn't been able to sit and watch it (20 minutes). Ironically enough it came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago, and I have been working my way through in 5 minute chunks. Right before Brian bought a new schmancy TV.

Ours is being sold to a friend, and his ancient one will my guess go to the dump or be recycle.

Which bring me to this http://storyofstuff.org/electronics/ which I watched this morning.

This is a system we created, but it is tough to not participate in it (no matter what your intentions). Still, it is a good thing to be aware about.

I look forward to watching her other short videos on the different subject areas.
dancerjodi: (Default)
These were extremely popular amongst girls when I was growing up, but somehow I never managed to read them. Just like I never read Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden. What's wrong with me? I was really an avid reader. But I digress.

I have been meaning to read them at some point, easily found at the local library. This post just inspired me to check them out for another reason entirely, which I hadn't thought of before.

Random

Jul. 17th, 2009 11:28 am
dancerjodi: (Default)
Yesterday was one of those days where the best laid plans fall apart. Despite that, it was a wonderful evening chatting with Brian in the cool night air (in a hoodie) on the front porch with the cats.

I'm seeing Catwoman as Mame on Sunday http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/articles/2009/07/16/lee_meriwether_in_mame_at_waltham/ .

This sounds like it could be very hot http://www.bust.com/blog/2009/07/16/whip-it-whip-it-good.html .

I'm going to be experimenting (again) with making some health and beauty products with the help of http://www.amazon.com/Earthly-Bodies-Heavenly-Hair-Personal/dp/1886101043 . I saw the book suggested in a blog that I like, the reviews on Amazon were pretty good, and I had a gift card to cash in that I was having a hard time figuring out what to do with. This is something I've kind of toyed with here and there, but I think it may be a neat thing to play around with and could potentially save me some money. I've enjoyed knowing what's in my food and my cleaning products, and being able to say the same thing about health/beauty aids is tempting.

Work has begun on planning our annual Woburn Halloween Parade festivities (10/25), which has been one of our largest events of the year and has resulted in some of our coolest large props. This year be on the lookout for an Ewok Village and some Clone Era droids - more details to come!
dancerjodi: (Default)
I went out kayaking with Margaret on the Charles last night, for the first time ever. It was amazingly perfect weather and I'm surprised my arms and shoulders aren't sore this morning (though, I did kind of soak myself in the boat - it's going to take some time to learn control with rowing).

We dropped into the water at the dock on the Island http://www.islandneighborhood.org/ and rowed out to the Newton Marriott and back. I kept thinking of all of these years that my parents have talked of boating "at the lake house", and they've had a free boat drop about 2 minutes from Crafts Street. I only wish Brian could swim and would be up for trying this adventure, because if he was I would definitely start saving for my own boat.

Food

Jun. 30th, 2009 08:52 am
dancerjodi: (Default)
Aptly timed, a Hannaford beef recall http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/19891723/detail.html

We saw http://www.foodincmovie.com/ at the Embassy last night. I thought it was excellent - a lot of material that was in Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma (as expected) but expanded since then given that some time has passed. I didn't appreciate the extent to the seed saving issue (Monsanto owns the patent for the most popular soybean seeds, and farmers are fined and sued for saving their own seeds, due to "patent infringement"). It was neat seeing the farm and the farmer from http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ - what a neat guy!

It is more costly to buy natural and from the farmer direct, but it was inspiring to see how the market can really make changes (Stonyfield Farms yogurt being carried in Walmart now). We used to spend more money of our budgets on food. Now we spend so much less, but we get quite a different product for it. It's a complicated issue given how much costs in other areas have increased (housing, healthcare) and it is a personal choice. As wealth and health technologies improve in the US, don't you think we'd do a better job at keeping people healthy and at feeding them good food though?

Green

May. 29th, 2009 01:15 pm
dancerjodi: (Chill)
A neat organization http://www.cogdesign.org/index.html is having a plant sale in Waltham this weekend. I'll drop by there to grab the things I've been looking for (herbs, tomatoes and some flowers). I need to get myself some dirt too!
dancerjodi: (Default)
I've been looking for a purse that:
-fits my daily essentials (wallet, phone, keys, checkbook, with a bit room to spare)
-is professional enough for work but casual enough for jeans (and isn't 'girly')
-is comfy in my hands or on my shoulder
-fits inside of my favorite green bag
-matches whatever it is I'm wearing (colorwise, seasonwise)
-doesn't cost an arm and a leg BUT is good quality and will last forever if I take good care of it
-is 'sustainable' (I've been checking thrift shops for forever for something)

I was poking on Etsy and found one I liked from http://www.etsy.com/profile.php?user_id=5733817 , but it was a bit smaller than I wanted (the 'wristlet' - perfect for just my keys, phone and wallet, but sometimes I like to carry more than that). The owner and I wrote back a bit and she offered to make me one built to custom measurements, including a zipper (which I wanted), with the perfect strap length. I paid for this on Sunday, she made it on Monday and I received it today (shipped from Oregon).

Its PERFECT!

If you're into natural fabrics, supporting local businesses or building the perfect simple bag, please check her out. She's got some super cute baby shoes on her blogspot site too (old entries though, not sure if she's got the same ones for sale).
dancerjodi: (Finance)
I had posted an update about a month or so after insulating our house, but here's another:

Nov 07 therms: 197
Nov 08 therms: 124

Dec 07 therms: 329
Dec 08 therms: 162*

*OMFG!

I'm debating whether to stick with balanced billing because its going to take a while for them to adjust things down and lower our monthly payment. If we switch to useage billing the impact would hit right now, but its harder to budget that way. I am on top of the budgeting though. We're entering our time of highest typical useage (Jan and Feb). What would you do?

Energy Use

Dec. 3rd, 2008 10:11 am
dancerjodi: (House)
Its been a month since our house was insulated (mind you, its been mild for November temperature-wise), but here's our gas usage for the last three years for this period:

Date Therms Cost
11/26/2008 124 $214.61
11/28/2007 197 $323.37
11/28/2006 136 $242.42

Our second floor bathroom and our den (converted porch) are the warmest they have ever been, and we haven't needed to supplement with electric heaters in there. Time of course will tell what kind of payback we get for this investment but I'm very happy that we finally went ahead with it, despite the pain to the pocketbook.

Nstar Green

Oct. 9th, 2008 10:04 am
dancerjodi: (fall)
I had signed us up for http://www.nstaronline.com/residential/customer_information/nstar_green/nstar_green.asp back when it was first available. Yesterday I received a little thank you note from the company with a small green flag reading "gone green" to put in my front lawn.

My boss has been making fun of me for my green efforts, so I brought the letter in this morning to show him just how green I've been. I considered bringing the flag to wave around in the office when I'm taunted, but I stuck it in my lawn on the way to the car this morning instead. I've earned a new nickname now ("greenie"), but I'll take it!

You can see a picture of the flag and text of the letter in this blog post http://writinglife3.blogspot.com/2008/10/gone-green-thanks-nstar.html , as well as this writer's concern about the cost of making and mailing said flags. Its definitely a form of advertising for the company and I have no delusions of their well wishes being anything less. The question is I guess, is advertising going to be necessary to get folks to move over to this way of thinking? I tend to agree.
dancerjodi: (Default)
This article does push me more to want to insulate before the winter.
dancerjodi: (Garden)
I called Keyspan/National Grid to schedule a free energy assessment. There is a huge backlog for appointments and the woman on the phone said that she's guessing they wouldn't call me to set something up until November - yikes!

In order to qualify for the interest-free loan on these improvements through MassSaves we need to do this assessment, so I guess we wait. In the meantime we'll ponder if we want to do any other improvements on our own. I'm dreading this winter's gas bills already.

Green Blog

Jul. 30th, 2008 08:38 am
dancerjodi: (Default)
I found this blog via the terrapass e-mail that was in my inbox this morning and wanted to share http://fivepercent.us/ . The guy lives in Newton, so some of the posts are relevant to being green in the Boston area.

I'm pondering getting one of those home energy meters but I'm still on the fence. At some point though I'll schedule a free energy audit through our gas company. I know they are going to suggest insulating (I want to look into how expensive that would be and think of possibly doing it in the fall, savings willing). I think though, perhaps I should pay off my car first.

Somewhat related, we're going to cancel our membership with Just Dairy - I love the raw dairy but for the amount that we drink and the rising costs of membership and goods we can't rationalize it in our budget. I know that you can freeze raw dairy, so I'd like to look at options in picking it up from the farm ourselves - anyone want to brainstorm on working out some kind of arrangement like this?

Peace

Jul. 8th, 2008 03:05 pm
dancerjodi: (Garden)
I've been reading the Cage Free Family Blog and I look forward to the sporadic updates as they continue with their adventure. I'm not looking to do anything as far as going off grid, but its been inspiring to read of one family's efforts to do so (as well as blogs of other readers commenting with their own blog urls). As I try and scale down the stuff and scale up the love, friendship and experiences in my life, reading about these folks' bare-bones approach to things is thought provoking.

Their experience at The Gathering (a big hippie-type camp out) turned violent. More details are coming of course, but here's a taste of it:
http://www.cagefreefamily.com/2008/07/fear-and-terror-at-gathering.html

I hope to learn more about this and hope that the local media, ACLU and other organizations get more information out there. People are so scared of the strange that they are very quick to attack. Hopefully some coverage of these events may help folks stop and think before reacting like this.

Profile

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