I came across this post in the Local Harvest newsletter. As you read this, think about who grows and cares for your food – or who prepares your food – and thank them. Think about the quality of the food you are consuming – do you want GMO’s in your body ? Is the organic label or local label important ? What do those labels really mean? Why is organic food often wrapped in plastic ? Is plastic organic? How far away was that local food really grown ? Or is it more important to KNOW your farmer. KNOW the person and the methods that go into making your food from seed to table. Be an educated consumer. ASK QUESTIONS !

“Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

A little while back I was on a road trip and stopped at a coffee shop for a snack. I picked up one of the extra large cookies on the counter to see what was in it, and there, listed at the end of the usual ingredients was ‘love.’ I am sorry to say that my initial reaction included a tiny bit of eye rolling. It felt a little gimmicky – but it got me thinking. If we can put love into food, all sorts of possibilities open up, including how we think about good food.

We who appreciate good food sometimes struggle when it comes to describing it. Does it need to be grown within a certain number of miles? Does all organic food count? What if its parent company was a multinational? It gets complicated. Maybe there is some shorthand that would help, and maybe that shorthand is this: good food is grown and prepared with love.

What does that mean, exactly? How do we add love to our food? For myself, one important piece is simply paying attention to both the ingredients and the act of cooking. It’s the easiest thing in the world to throw together a quick supper while thinking a thousand racing thoughts about everything but the vegetables in my hands. But really, it is almost as simple, and infinitely more satisfying, to close the mental door on the day, focus on the task at hand, and take note of the fact that this food – this onion, these beans, this rice – this food right here will nourish me and my family, will become the energy that sustains us. Being mentally present and open-hearted changes what happens in the kitchen. It’s noticeable. My husband appreciates food and the effort home-cooking requires, and even when I’ve just thrown dinner together he looks at it and says, “Thank you for cooking, sweetie.” But when I’ve really put my heart into it, he’ll almost always say something like, “Wow, this is beautiful.” And it is.

So love changes food and the way we perceive it. I think this is one reason so many of us are drawn to farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs. Much of this food has been loved its whole life, and some part of us knows that. While not every farmer would use the word “love” in relation to what he or she does in the fields, I think it’s a fair descriptor of what’s going on when someone works for months to raise a crop, poring over crop rotations and seed orders, scraping weeds away from seedlings, sifting soil between their fingers to test the moisture, and getting up at 4:00 every morning to care for animals and load trucks and do the million other things necessary to bring in the harvest. Such work requires sustained attention, and usually, what people attend to deeply opens their hearts. Crops raised in this way, like meals prepared with care at home, are good food.

When we give our full attention to that which sustains us, whether we are growing, preparing, serving or eating it, that attention becomes a form of blessing. And we too are blessed.

Until next time, take good care and eat well.

Erin Barnett
LocalHarvest “

What more appropriate time to think of these concepts than when the tillage begins!

Happy Spring Everyone

What Costs in Farming

The past Farmer’s Market season found me Sundays at the market in Rhinebeck. It’s a bustling market with customers from the local area but also entices weekend area visitors to peruse its wears. I sell lamb and goat meat as well as a variety of other farm produced fiber products including yarn and socks.

The animals raised for meat are pasture raised during the months pasture is able to nutritionally support animal health and growth. In leaner months they consume farm harvested hay and a small amount of locally produced grain.The grain mix, to date, has been whole grains – corn, wheat, oats – added to which is a dry molasses granule and some alfalfa pellets. The animals are not fed very much grain at all. Primarily the bred ewes and nannies receive the majority of the whatever grain is fed.

Recent months have seen the cost of grain rise at a brisk pace.   50 pounds of grain that cost $7.50 in the spring now costs $10.50 a bag. That’s close to a 42% increase in feed costs. In conversations with other sheep growers locally I find the same to be true.

What’s causing the increase in feed prices and what is the impact of those higher costs on our local agricultural community ? Increased price might be attributed to a myriad of causes but two that quickly come to mind are fuel costs and fuel costs — the cost to fuel the equipment that is used in the planting and harvesting of grains. Cost of fuel to transport. But also the high cost of fuel at the gas pump drives the price of grain based fuel additives to a level where it competes with the food market for the same grains consumed as food by humans and livestock. In the Northeast and other colder regions of our nation these same feed and food grains are also used as home heating fuels further adding to the competitive market and driving costs higher. Hay prices are on the rise as well and the cost of straw for bedding is upwards of $7.00 per small square bale.

The impact on our local agricultural community is a much more delicate measurement. I suspect that the consequence will ultimately be the decrease in livestock numbers growers are able to sustain on their farms. Once numbers decrease growers are reluctant to add more livestock back into production. Unless… they are able to market their farm product at a price that reflects the increasing costs of growing that product. At our recently held Bred Ewe Sale during the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck,  sale numbers of sheep were markedly down with almost 20% of the bred sheep having no bid placed on them at all. In reviewing these alarming statistics breeders participating in the sale attribute the outcome to the high costs of feed needed to support these animals in the Northeast. Farmers can not afford to feed them ! Fewer animals being carried over the winter will mean fewer animals in the spring, which will mean a decrease in the availability of locally sourced food. Instead of being able to expand the locally sourced market to include lesser served populations, the market will contract with only a small minority being able to obtain these products.

Here’s the connection of all this to the farmer’s market. Farmer’s Markets are the ideal place for us producers to educate the public – our customer – regarding the challenges and rewards of producing a quality consumable. WE farmers know our product is a healthy, nutritious food. WE farmers know how it was raised, what it ate, how it was cared for, what went in to making it. Those customers, in return, are in a better position to make an educated choice about where to spend their food dollars. They NEED to support their local agricultural food supply network with those dollars so their local food network will be able to remain intact supporting them.

That’s full circle and that’s important.

Happy Harvest season to all.
Happy Thanksgiving. Safe journeys.