Posts Tagged ‘Farmers’

Posted on February 24, 2011 - by

The Happiest Pigs in France

We’ve been talking about genetically-modified and factory farmed pigs lately, so let’s take a break to look a decidedly more pleasant sort of pig farm.

Anyone who has even briefly investigated livestock production at industrial farms knows that the process is wholly unnatural, with animals reduced to meat-generating machines, forced to live in dirty, cramped conditions.

At Ferme des Levées, owners Anne and Jacques Volatier firmly believe in treating their pigs with respect and raising them with traditional, organic farming methods. Jacques began raising pigs in 2000, and prior to purchasing this farm, he had no farming experience and worked as a civil engineer in town planning. “I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but I had an intuitive sense that I wanted to find a way to help grow the planet and start a project that would benefit the local economy. The intuition has now become certainty and a way of life in the countryside.” He attended an agricultural training program for a year, acquired the necessary capital and decided to launch a pig breeding operation because it was a product that could be raised and transformed entirely on the farm.

Fermes des Levées is now fully organic and consists of 40 hectares of fields, some which grow cereals that will be used for pig feed. The pigs also eat the natural vegetation of whatever field they live in, and over the course of a year, they are capable of mowing down a field to its roots. Between the fields, Jacques has planted 400 elderflower plants to provide shade. The resulting fruit is used to make elderflower preserves and a syrup perfectly suited for flavoring water.

The Volatiers hold about 150 pigs, and it is impossible not to smile as Jacques waves at his drift of pigs and says enthusiastically, “I know this sounds funny in English, but I call them ‘Mes ti-tis!'” (This is a shortened version of “petits,” or “little ones” in French.) The pigs will grunt, root and frolic here for one year before being taken to slaughter; compare this to an average lifespan of four months for an industrially raised pig.

Each week, 3-4 pigs are chosen to bring to the slaughterhouse, 18 km away in Beaune. “We are lucky that there is a slaughterhouse so close by, because more and more often these days the small slaughterhouses are closing down,” explained Jacques. Even so, being in a new, noisy environment can visibly stress the pigs, and Jacques has lost several to the red ravages of porcine stress syndrome. He now tries to minimize the time the pigs spend at the slaughterhouse and spends time calming them beforehand. Unfortunately, due to legal restrictions, you cannot slaughter a pig on site in France.

Some of the meat is sold fresh, but much of it is cooked, cured and transformed into charcuterie products. We sat down to a buffet of crusty baguette, salads, and a platter of fresh pork products: ham with mustard seed, a specialty of the farm; pâté en croûte, marinaded meat wrapped in pastry crust; jambon persillé, jellied ham with a strong dose of parsley; farm-smoked ham; country pâté; rillettes. “All done without e-numbers!” said Jacques.

Some charcuterie products are sold directly to people who travel to the farm or randomly stroll past, but 80% of the goods are sold through the Dijon market at Les Halles. You can find the Volatiers there twice a week on Friday and Saturday mornings.

Drop me a line at


Posted on August 24, 2010 - by

FRESH 1% Applicants

As you may already know, FRESH has decided, in the spirit of generosity, to give 1% of our 2010 annual income to a nonprofit who is doing incredible things in the food world (read previous blog here).  We received 42 applications and as we have been reading through them, we decided that they were all doing such incredible work that we needed to share them with you.  Please scroll down to peruse!  Applicants are organized alphabetically.

In a few weeks, after we’ve gone through the applications, the FRESH team is going to pick 10 submissions to offer to you (50K FRESH supporters) to vote on.  Stay tuned!
The Ample Harvest campaign diminishes hunger in America by helping backyard gardeners share their excess garden produce with neighborhood food pantries.

Bountiful Cities Project
The Bountiful Cities mission is to create an urban land community spaces that produce food in abundance while fostering social justice and sustainability.

Bowdoin Organic Garden
The Bowdin Organic Garden strives to foster an appreciation for an understanding of taste and high quality food and draw the correlations between seed selection, growing methods, food preparation and pleasurable outcomes.

California Food and Justice Coalition
The Coalition promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice priorities.

California Institute for Rural Studies
The mission of CIRS is to conduct public interest research that strengthens social justice and increases the sustainability of California’s rural communities.

Ceres Community Project
Through an integrated model, Ceres brings teens into the kitchen to teach them about growing, preparing and eating whole foods. The teens learn by volunteering as the program chef’s, preparing delicious and nutrient rich free meals for families dealing with cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

Collective Roots
Through the integration and implementation of two key program areas, garden based learning and food system change, Collective Roots is seeking to educate and engage youth and communities in food system change through sustainable programs that impact health, education, and the environment.

Community Agriculture Network
The mission of Community Agricultural Network is to engage students in meaningful dialogue about sustainability issues using technology, to facilitate relationships between students in classroom and people working on sustainable urban agriculture projects, and to motivate students to take action for sustainability in their own communities.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)
CISA has brought together farmers and community members to support and strengthen agriculture in western Massachusetts through programs which promote local farm products, educate community members and consumers, provide technical assistance to farmers, and analyze and address gaps in the local food system.

Community Kitchens Northwest
This organization brings people from all backgrounds together to cook up good, healthy food to take home and eat later.

Cooper Landing Community School
Offers a program that is designed to create health awareness and to address social and community concerns through the use of skills, ideas and knowledge offered by people in their town.

D.C. Farm to School Network
The mission of D.C. Farm to School Network is to improve the health and well being of schoolchildren in the District of Columbia, and of our local environmental and food economy, by increasing access to healthy, local, and sustainable foods in all Washington, D.C. schools.

Engaged Community Offshoots, Inc. (ECO)
ECO works to strengthen communities through the recalibrating the regional food system in the Chesapeake region by introducing new ways of making food and money that are environmentally sustainable.

Farm Aid
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America.

Farming Concrete
The purpose of Farming Concrete is to preserve and legitimize community gardens by collecting data and mapping urban sustainability.

FarmFolkCityFolk Society
The FarmFolkCityFolk Society has supported community-based sustainable food systems in British Columbia by engaging in public education with farm and city folks; actively organizing and advocating around local, timely issues; building alliances with other organizations; harnessing the energy of our volunteers; and having foresight into the future of food and agriculture.

Free Farm Stand
The Free Farm Stand is dedicated to aiding the food security and health of their community through garden and food education and the growth, harvest, and dispersal of organic backyard and community grown produce.

Full Circle Farm
An 11 acre educational farm that offers garden-based education to middle school children all school year long.

Garrard County Farmer’s Market
With a goal of promoting local food, the market serves as an avenue to educate the community about food and health.

Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council
Through policy, projects and education, the Greater Grand Rapids Food System council works to make the food system more sustainable, with an emphasis on affordable, healthy food available to everyone.

Hayes Valley Farm
Hayes Valley Farm’s mission is to serve as a community and agricultural hub empowering San Francisco residents to connect with one another, grow their own food, and learn about sustainable ecological systems.

Healthy Solutions
Health Solutions is working to enhance the lives of the undeserved, underprivileged, and/or marginalized and to help them make informed decisions through the creation of community based food systems allowing all community members access to healthy, affordable foods, quality jobs through agriculture and education and training.

Indiana University Food Studies
The Indiana University Food Studies program is working cooperatively with many organizations in their local community and on campus to promote new thinking about food,food security, and sustainability, with the a focus on food that is good for the community, food that is good for the environment and the future, and food that is good for human health and all its dimensions.

Just Harvest Education Fund
The Just Harvest Education Fund works to ensure that the public safety net of food and income assistance is strong, accessible, and responsive to people in need, to enable low-income people to navigate the complexity of safety net programs and to empower them to speak for themselves to policymakers on the issues that affect their ability to keep food on the table.

Kaslo Food Security Project
The Kaslo Food Security Project aims to build a resilient food system for North Kootenay Lake residents by working directly and in support of our regional farmers, retailers and residents.

Life Cycles Project Society
A predominantly youth driven organization that is geared towards education and building community connections through hands-on projects that work towards creating better local and global food security.

Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
The Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance works to raise public awareness about the need for a decentralized, earth and people-friendly food system.

Mission Food Access Network
The Mission Food Access Network includes members of local groups and citizens who are working towards a healthy, sustainable food future for Mission. The goals of the Mission Food Access Network consist of decreasing hunger, improving nutritional health, and increasing local food sustainability.

Karpophoreo Project
The Karpophoreo Project is a ministry of Mobile Loaves and Fishes that reclaims abandoned backyards and front yards, church lots and empty lots to feed, settle, and employ the population most in need of the centering effects of a functioning local food economy, the homeless.

National Hunger Clearinghouse Program/ WhyHunger
The National Hunger Clearing House collects and distributes information about programs that address the immediate and long-term needs of struggling families and individuals in order to build the capacity of emergency food providers.

Northeast Animal Power Field Days
This annual event has become a clearing-house for educational and operational resources, building networks, and sharing experiences around the many aspects of draft animal-power, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and local food systems in the Northeast.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey serves the state of New Jersey and surrounding areas with year-round public programs including farmer meetings, workshops for homeowners and consumers, professional development training, farm business planning courses, and the annual Winter Conference.

Our School at Blair Grocery
The mission of Our School at Blair Grocery is to create a resource rich safe space for youth empowerment and sustainable community development. Our School at Blair Grocery envisions a community where empowered youth engage in reflective practice with others to actualize effective, replicable Environmental Justice based local solutions to global challenges.

Produce to the People
Produce to the People works to build food security and community health through garden and food education, the creation of green jobs for youth, and the growth, harvest, and dispersal of organic backyard and community grown produce.

Research, Education, Action and Policy (REAP) on Food Group
REAP is committed to projects that shorten the distance from farm to table, support small family farmers, encourage sustainable agriculture practices, preserve the diversity and safety of our food supply and address the food security of everyone in our community.

Rural Education Action Network
The mission of the Rural Education Action Network is to celebrate renewable land-use practices that advance the cultural web of our local communities.

Seven Generations Ahead
SGA advocates for pro-active community solutions to global environmental issues, and works with municipal, business, and community decision-makers to promote green community development, clean, renewable energy, eco-effective products, zero waster strategies, green building design, and fresh, local, and sustainable food raised using healthy practices.

Sierra Bounty
The mission of Sierra Bounty is to create a healthy, sustainable food community by uniting farmers with their local market and supporting efforts to increase access to fresh, organic produce for all residents of the Eastern Sierra.

The Lord’s Acre
The Lords Acre grows fresh produce to provide nutritious food from a local, sustainable resource garden in support of local nonprofit food banks.

Tierra Miguel Foundation
The mission of the Tierra Miguel Foundation is to inform and educate on the value of local, sustainable agriculture practices and to demonstrate these practices on our 85- acre working produce farm.

Triskles’ mission is to provide and run practical, experiential programs (Food for Thought, for one), for underserved youth, that emphasize sustainable, healthy practices which teach the importance and long-term benefits of making healthy food choices and other life altering decisions. The impact of these activities expands to their families and communities through the gardens they plant and harvest, the recipes they prepare and share, and the skills they learn while working on local farms (teamwork, time management, etc.) – all of which engender a healthy lifestyle for our leaders of tomorrow!.

United Methodist Ministries – Missouri River District
The United Methodist Ministries utilizes creative collaborations to work towards the eradication of hunger, poverty and racism.

Virginia Food System Council
The mission of the Virginia Food System Council is to advance nutrient-rich and safe food system for Virginians at all income levels, with an emphasis on access to local food, successful linkages between food producers and consumers, and a healthy viable future for Virginia’s farmers and farmland

The mission of YouthLaunch is to provide empowering service experiences for young people through innovative programs that combine the best practices of positive youth development with the transformative powers of service.


Posted on June 16, 2010 - by

Letter from a raw milk producer

This is a guest post from FRESH supporter Evan Sayre

I had been considering trying raw milk for a few months. Not only are my food decisions based on how the food is raised but also how it tastes. Through The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund I found a farmer, Kalish Family Farms, in Southern Minnesota that delivers raw milk to the Twin Cities. I had been considering ordering from him so that I could at least try raw milk and see how it tastes. I had signed up for the farms e-mail list to try to get more info from them before I purchased. They also raised beef, pork, chicken and sold eggs.

Last month there was an E-Coli outbreak that has allegedly traced back to a different raw milk producer in Southern Minnesota. Soon after this e-mail came:

To all my dear customers:

Thank you for all the kind emails and voice messages you have left me this week. Sorry I could not reply to every individual email and voice mail, as I received hundreds, and you all mean a lot to me. My decision to pack it in is due to the e-coli breakout down in southern Minnesota, and the way the government is putting the fear of God into all local farmers with threats and machines guns (ok I just threw the “machine gun” part in for kicks).

The dairy farm where I have my guersney cows is quitting with all the raw milk production and I have been backed into a corner as a result, with no other options. I cannot do just the meat and eggs and still be able to provide for my family. If I can’t farm with the quality and high standards that I set for myself, I do not want to do it at all. I refused to take shortcuts like my previous partners do.

I would happily like to keep going, but getting the finances to do so is out of the question at this time (unless any of you are venture capitalists and want to invest?)

It has been said that big government is pushing away all the small farmers. I now have experienced this first hand. I may not have been the best businessman, but I have always been an honest, hardworking individual, who loves what he does.


Jay Kalisch

As someone who wants to begin small-scale farming my biggest fear is regulation designed to kill a fly with a shotgun. More small farmers go out of business and we let more and more consolidation of our food sources. Minnesota is a large agriculture state but we import about 90% of our food.

Also, the E-Coli strain is the famous O157:H7 which only emerged when we stopped allowing cattle to eat grass and started making them eat corn.

Please call and e-mail your government representatives and make sure they understand that people do care where their food comes from and want to know the people that produce it for them.

Evan Sayre

Photo from Chiot’s Run on Flickr


Posted on June 15, 2010 - by

The Fight Against Monsanto in Haiti

On June 4th, 10,000 peasant farmers gathered in protest in Haiti to burn over 400 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds donated to the country by Monsanto.  This was a hugely symbolic gesture and one that the rest of the world needs to listen to. Haiti is asking for our help in establishing a local, sustainable food system from the rubble that the country currently lies in.  This is our opportunity to raise our voices in protest against Monsanto’s involvement in the fragile beginnings of true food sovereignty in Haiti.

This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a Brooklyn church’s community meeting I heard peasant farmer Leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) share the concerns of Haitian peasants regarding Monsanto’s donation hybrid seeds.  I was greatly moved by his words and I want to share them with you. Below are the highlights from his speech.  Please note that the quotes are not exact as Jean-Baptiste was speaking in Creole and his words were translated into English.

  • Hybrid seeds are a poison gift.  They don’t reproduce, and therefore cannot be shared among a community.  Haiti does not yet view seeds as a commodity like the US does.  These hybrid seeds threaten the cultural fabric in Haiti because they break the cycle of food sharing.
  • Jean-Baptiste believes that Monsanto has taken the opportunity of the recent earthquake in Haiti to intentionally introduce the seeds and destroy Haitian agriculture, creating a dependency on Monsanto each season for new seeds.
  • If the Haitian government accepts Monsanto’s seeds, rather than trying to build a system of food sovereignty, the Haitian farmer will become a day laborer, working for industrial farms.  This would completely transform the economy to an industrial system instead of working to support farmers through a local economic system.
  • “We are an occupied country and want to recover our freedom, starting with food sovereignty.  The struggle against Monsanto is not a small thing – they are extremely powerful.  We need to unite ourselves – this is a global struggle.”
  • “Haiti is essentially road kill, and not even road kill that can serve as proper food.  We are at the point that the dogs and vultures are tearing us apart.  Companies like Monsanto are devouring what is left of us at this point.”
  • “This is a country that is used to struggle.  We will fight and have the capacity for resistance, particularly when the threat is to the very fabric of our country.  A large population of Haitians do not yet understand the implications of the relationship with Monsanto, many have never heard of the company before.   The first task is to educate. “

I received a handout at this event that I can’t seem to find online that has a number of important and informative facts regarding Monsanto and Haiti.  I’ve scanned it and made it available – you can VIEW HERE.

There were also three letters that we were asked to sign.  Please feel free to download, sign and send.

Thank you for listening, eat safe!

Lisa Madison
FRESH Distribution & Outreach Coordinator

photo from Ian Hayhurst on Flickr


Posted on June 3, 2010 - by

Strawberries Strawberries

I just wrote a petition asking that we all take a moment to write to the EPA and tell them how horrific we think methyl iodide is, ESPECIALLY as used as a soil fumigant for strawberries.  You can add your comments to our petition through the month of June, and we, along with CREDO Action and PANNA, will deliver them to the EPA at the end of the month.

In the depths of despair, working to craft my message with enough clarity and passion so that it may spread far and wide, I began to feel an urge to ‘close the loop,’ to include the farmers who AREN’T using horrible pesticides like methyl iodide on their strawberries.  So I sent out a message to our flourishing Facebook page (if you aren’t a fan, you should be!), and immediately got responses from across the country from farmers who have found better ways to grow their strawberries.  I wanted to share them with you.  I hope it gives you hope for both the future of our agricultural system and for the future of the strawberry.

If you would like to add your thoughts about how you grow your strawberries, please email me at

As a small-scale Certified Naturally Grown strawberry producer, my main techniques include: selecting a variety that balances disease-resistance, berry size, and overall yield; thinning plants to let the sunshine ripen berries properly and to reduce mold problems; fostering rich, healthy soil to give the strawberry plants all they nutrients they need to produce a good crop and fight pests on their own; keeping the berries off the ground by using straw; and, over the long-term, rotating the patch to a new location. This is all that is required to produce big, tasty berries — no chemicals needed!
Donna Wellman
Grinning Planet Farm
Berea, Kentucky


Keep plants thinned well. for runners – snip off well established runners and transplant close by.  I plant to the east since that is the natural direction of new growth. if you have runners, but have trouble getting them root established (the just get lanky) pin them to the ground just before the new crown.

For ever-bearing type – snip all first spring flowers; for June type and second flowering on ever-bearing type – when fruits start to mature snip all small flowers and small fruit , leave only 3 – 5 fruits per plant , helps produce a bushy habit and better fruit. snip back all flowers new crowns.

Water under plants and not over – helps with fertilization & to prevent mildew. i try not to water a day or two before harvesting if i can help it.

When I do have mildew problems I immediately remove the affected plant and spray the area leaves with sulfur, also thin well when the weather will be wet for a few days. Any leaves that don’t look healthy –  snip snip.

Strawberries love acidic soil & very good drainage – I live in an area with lots of sand and pine trees, many varieties of strawberry run rampant everywhere there is good sun.

I also inter-crop with clovers – clovers are an awesome living mulch, green manure & bees love like crazy. I also plant beans nearby and inter-crop with other flowers and never plant near or after nightshade.

I mulch with both hay and stones, I prefer stone, in my area near the beach, it helps to prevent mildew and spotting problems from ocean fog.

I feed with compost tea and only weed and snip back maybe once a week during full production. Too much disruption I find can stunt growth.



Here on our farm in Southeast Kansas we’ve been raising strawberries for many years and have never felt the need to use harmful chemicals to control pests or disease. Fresh air, sunlight and good management practices do wonders! The strawberry patch started out pretty small, producing just enough berries for the family. When our son, Josh, decided to begin the adventure of CSA gardening five years ago he began to enlarge the strawberry patch so he’d have enough berries for his shareholders.

This year the 700+ row feet of strawberry beds have produced enough berries to put 1 to 2 quarts in each of his 59 shareholder’s garden shares plus have lots of extra berries to sell. The beginning of the strawberry season was wet and we were somewhat concerned with the berries molding, but God sent the sun at the right time to prevent that problem. Slugs and roly-polys were attacking the berries, causing damage. We put beer in small containers scattered throughout the beds to attract and drown the slugs as well as a product with the main ingredient being iron phosphate  – the problem is reduced to an acceptable level – no harmful chemicals needed.

It is a shame for the authorities in California to be considering allowing another harmful chemical to be used in strawberry production. So many people eat these berries and have no idea what they are ingesting. They trust the authorities to keep them safe and they are being betrayed. This should never be allowed to happen.

Deanna Mitchell


Posted on November 16, 2009 - by

12 Things Kids Should Learn on their Own about Food

By: Orren Fox
Guest Blogger: Orren Fox is 12 years old and lives in NoBo (North of Boston). He goes to school where there is a greenhouse and a bee hive! Orren has 24 chickens and four ducks (three Call Ducks and one beautiful Mandarin). He is really interested in farming and the ethical treatment of animals. Orren would love to change the way egg layers and meat birds are raised. He says he has a lot to learn. He blogs and tweets about these issues.

There are all sorts of really interesting things to learn about food, actually I imagine you might not have really THOUGHT about food. Maybe someone hasn’t taught you about food. Most kids would rather think about other stuff.

But just for a minute, right now, stop and ask yourself – What did I have for breakfast? Ok now, think – Where did all those ingredients come from? Who made that bagel? What time did they have to get up? Where did that egg come from? Where did the chicken live and how did it live? If you knew the animal was poorly treated would that make a difference? Or not? Where did the orange juice travel from? Florida? California? Have you ever traveled to those states? Is it a long way from California or Florida to your house? How much gas did it use to ship the OJ that far?

All really interesting questions I think.
1. Vegetables taste great with butter and cheese

Honestly, what doesn’t. Even asparagus, really even asparagus. I know there are some people who will say butter and cheese aren’t healthy, but hey I’m a kid and actually I think these are true foods or “real foods.” They aren’t chemically made in a laboratory. They come from recipes not chemical compounds or lab experiments. Maybe that is too harsh. But I understand eggs and cheese, I know where they come from. I don’t know what SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE is, so I Googled it (here is what Wikipedia says – Polyphosphates are moderately irritating to skin and mucous membrane because of their alkalinity). Hmm. Not really interested in eating that.

Actually most veggies that you grow yourself or that come from your neighborhood farm taste completely different than those from the buckets in the supermarket. I actually think the veggies in the supermarket don’t really taste like much. A carrot that was harvested yesterday tastes very different from one that was harvested a few weeks ago, then spent the next few days on a truck, then the next few days sitting in the supermarket. I think the flavor must just drain out of everything as time passes. Also in the supermarket there are very few types of veggies or fruits. Very rarely would you see a Green Zebra or a Brandywine, and those are just tomato variations! Each of these variations tastes completely different, we are only really offered one or two types of tomatoes at the supermarket. These two types of tomatoes are the kinds that travel well and that are easiest to ripen or harvest. I actually don’t like the kind in the supermarket, I like Brandywines. They are sweeter.

I think kids might like veggies if they could choose the varieties they like, but they can’t because the choice is so small. I wouldn’t eat tomatoes if I could only eat the kind in the supermarket.

2. Food taste better when you grow it yourself

Food tastes better because your work is in it. I am an impatient gardener, so for me the food tastes great because I have had to wait for it to go from seeds to seedlings to flowers to fruit to ripe fruit. Somehow that makes it taste like you did it. So i guess there is a little bit of pride in those vegetables.