No one took me to task for trashing pale, free-range eggs. Silly me was forgetting free range in this context does not mean access to the great outdoors, to greens, bugs and such that turn a yolk a rich orange color. Reading about McDonald’s pledge to phase in free-range eggs, however, I realized “free range” is not like “home on the range” where buffalo roam. It only means the birds are not penned up. They can be, and probably are, indoors all the time, fed commercial mixes – wheat-based for the most anemic looking eggs.
Just as “local’s” boundaries expand to suit sharp marketers, so there’s little nailed down with regard to terms used to sell a stalk of this or a leaf of that. Certified Organic is the price-setter in the market, with many other growers riding certified’s coattails to greater gain without third-party verification. Who’s to say claims like “no spray,” “grown organically,” or “natural” have substance? This must drive committed and certified organic grower a little crazy.
Disregarding contrary opinions, I’ll hold out for free range meaning access to all outdoors; what generally is referred to as “pastured.” During the recent dry spell my flock of three tore the yard to pieces in places where there must have been grubs. Pigs could not have done much more plowing about. Quite something.
Then came rain. Finally rain, which was welcomed by gardeners and chanterelle pickers. I came on a guy gathering chanterelles in “my” patch and warned him that someone had peed there. “That’s okay,” he replied with a grin. “Lotta rain last night.”
Rain just now may not be appreciated by anyone trying to harvest grain or potatoes. Especially in Prince Edward Island where rain can equal mud, rendering fields a no-go area. Years ago an older friend recalled getting stuck trying to turn around on some back road on P.E.I. He found it a curse there wasn’t rock to be had to stick under spinning tires.
A media farm tour organized by the N.S. Federation of Agriculture about which I have written (page 26) was sadly under-subscribed. If NSFA does it again we are going to try to get the word out to all freelancers with any interest at all in farming, because there was a perfect chance to ask all sorts of questions without being under pressure to tie the information together in a story in time for a looming deadline.
It is a good thing people love to farm. Few would go into it because they wanted to get rich and fewer would stay the furrow. With mechanical, chemical, and tech (read computer chip) help, one man, or woman, can raise one whale of an amount of food; more today than yesterday and it does not stop. The result, as with fish or logs, is the price comes down as our ability to produce goes up. Unlike diamonds or coal, it is a rare comestible that can be stockpiled for any length of time.
Supply management, we were told as we were leaving Cornwallis Farms Limited, was making it possible for the Newcombe family to carry on and to innovate. They fear pressures from without and within Canada to scrap protection from an influx of cheap milk, eggs, or chicken, from countries where labor is cheap and regulations lax. “We don’t want to see what happened to the pork industry happen to dairy and poultry,” Geneve Newcombe said.
However, there are serious problems with supply management as it exists here in Canada, with dairy in particular. Consolidation of quota limiting access to new entrants has only been tickled by needed change. A lack of courage to bring new – as well as old – products to the market place is another hang-up. Lasting shame on Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia for having stood in the way of local farmers wanting to provide organic milk. A bottle of real heavy cream, rather than adulterated “whipping cream,” would be a treat. Unprocessed milk for those who want it would be another.
As for the pork industry, it isn’t what it used to be but as long as there are innovators like Jim and Margie Lamb of Meadowbrook Meats in Kings County, N.S., there is a pulse and a good chance for a rebound, although it is unlikely to look like it did in days gone by.
In the course of updating my “Small Scale Pig Raising” book for Echo Point Books, first published by Garden Way in 1978, I’ve come across a number of innovations and oddities. There’s “The Pig Sleeper” from the Netherlands described on page 24, that may become a common fixture on larger farms raising piglets. It provides a non-chemical way to relieve the pain and suffering wee barrows are routinely subjected to. Gilts too, for that matter, where tails are being docked.
Something else I came across while on a quick visit overseas: One can buy prosciutto from Italy fattened in the Netherlands on non-GMO corn grown in Brazil. I was told this by a farmer raising feeders in Zeeland – on Brazilian corn when the price is right. U.S. corn might be cheaper but the European Union bans the importation of GMO corn.
About GMOs, U.S. readers may have heard about the house and senate attempting to pass a law that would make it illegal for states to require labeling of foods containing genetically altered products. Vermont has such a law, and when they passed it they included a commitment of funds to ward off any challenges. Other states are said to be on the verge of following Vermont’s lead. Monsanto must be quaking in its Roundup boots.
The air is cooler today. Lord, hold a frost. The tomatoes are only now coming into their own. As singer and songwriter Guy Clark pointed out some years ago, “Only two things that money can't buy/ That's true love and homegrown tomatoes. . .” DvL