Rettland Farm

Rettland Farm

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Fascinating Report on Dietary Fat

I stumbled upon this incredibly interesting report on the myths of a low saturated fat (what you find in animal products) diet, and the scarier facts about diets high in polyunsaturated fats (the stuff you are SUPPOSED to eat.)

The moral of the story? Eat more Rettland Farm pork. It's good for you! And the second moral of the story? Don't believe anything that is supposed to be taken as gospel.

Seriously, though. Check it out. It's a little lengthy, but it is truly worth the read.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Need a New Word

I took a road trip today to pay a visit to a prospective client. We had a great discussion about our respective businesses, and I came away really charged about the "food" movement, especially in the mid-Atlantic region.

On my way home, I recounted to myself parts of our conversation, particularly the part about our shared frustration over the overuse and corruption of "buzzwords" in the "local food" movement.

The new client (hey, I'm optimistic) related to me that it was especially hard for her to sort out the real deal of sustainable, local, humanely produced food--from those opportunists who put the right words and a pastoral logo on a box of shit so they can charge a few extra bucks for it.

I gave her my somewhat standard answer, that the best way to keep out the posers is to do what she and I were doing at that very moment: sitting down, face to face, and talking. We build trust, we build relationships, and we (well, me, as the farmer) start to display our integrity by sharing our philosphies and practices. You can't bullshit people when they ask you directly what your pigs eat, or what the procedure for slaughtering the animal is--you either know it or you don't.

We can take it one step further, and the client can come visit the farm, and see with their own eyes whether the farm is really genuine, or just a slick marketing campaign.

But every industry has buzzwords, so what's the new buzzword for this kind of business? How do we sum up what we do in a word or two, and yet keep the wannabes from usurping it for their own nefarious causes?

I've used the phrase "Real Food" in the past, but I'm not sure about that. I also came up with "Verifiable Food," but that sounds way too stuffy and sterile.

As I cruised up the road this afternoon, though, I came up with a few that had a nice ring to them...

How about "Authentic Food?" "Give-a-damn Food?" Or maybe "Food Done Right?"

Are any of these winners? Any other suggestions?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Layin' Hen Blues

The original intent of this blog was for me to talk about what I'm doing and the thought processes that I go through in the course of producing food on the farm. As I looked back over my 2009 posts, I realized that I didn't do much of that at all. Not surprising, if you know me. I'm not really into talking about me.

Add to that the fact that when I did post, I felt obligated to defend the world against vegans and rogue Texas History professors (did that twice), and I didn't really talk about the farm that much at all. So, I'll work on that. Starting today.

We have produced eggs from free range hens for about two years. If you've never had an egg that came from a chicken that ate lots of green grass and insects, then you haven't lived, friend. They are superb. I really like them, my family likes them, and most importantly, my customers like them. I actually had a customer tell me once that she dreamed about my eggs. Yeah, they're that good.

The problem is, this year has not been a good year to be an egg laying chicken on this farm. To put it briefly, we have become a Four Star Dining Mecca for every damn predatory species within a mile (or more) of this place. We had a major chicken slaughter in the early summer, and we have never really gotten our production back since then.

I hatched my own chicks and raised them.

I bought some really beautiful black hens from another small farmer.

And yet, every week, our head counts continue to decline, to the point that I have the fewest number of layers on the farm that I've ever had.

I have taken steps to protect the birds, but it's been difficult, and largely ineffective. I have (until recently) insisted that the hens be allowed free roam outside during daylight hours. This stubborn, but well intentioned position has resulted in big losses during daylight hours in the last few weeks, to the point that I'm now keeping the hens inside. I hate to do it (and rest assured, it is only temporary), but it's less cruel to leave them in a spacious, well bedded henhouse than to allow them to die a horrible death in the jaws of a cunning, greedy predator.

So, we have to change a few things. I need to change my management style with the hens. I am going to have to move from the laissez-faire approach that has given the birds minimal safety but maximum freedom; to a more hands-on, managed system that allows me to provide them with the protection they need, while still allowing them access to green grass, sunshine, fresh air, and bugs.

I have always said, "If I have to raise chickens indoors, then I won't raise chickens", and that maxim is still true. But I have a few ideas that I'm going to try that will still give the birds great lives, and keep most of them off the menu at the Fox Cafe.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Who's YOUR Farmer?

So, Who's YOUR Farmer?

(That's how these T-Shirts are supposed to sound. Yes, I had multiple discussions with the printers, signed off on multiple proofs, and only after I took the finished product home, did I realize that I should've emphasized "YOUR"! On the shirts, it sounds more like "Who's your DADDY?!" than "What person do you entrust to produce food for you and your family?" Even a simple underlined "your" would have done the trick. Sorry. I'll know next time.)
Anyway, Who's YOUR Farmer?

Hopefully, if you're reading this blog with any regularity, the answer is an exhuberant, enthusiastic, "YOU are, Rettland Farm!"

The idea for this tagline comes from my belief that we all need a Farmer or two in our circle of people we rely on. We have our doctors, an accountant, maybe a lawyer, a mechanic, an insurance agent (if we actually care about quality service, and not just dirt cheap premiums, eh CBR? :) ).

Why not a farmer?

I would guess that 95% or more of Americans have no idea what country their food is grown in, much less the name of the guy (or gal) who's growing it. I think that should change.

I think that we should all have a few of the people that grow our food stored in our cell phones. If not that, then written on the door jamb by our home phone, or on the fridge, or in our email address book, or somewhere that denotes the importance of that person to our households.

But we can't stop with just posting the number. We need to use it.

We need to call our Farmers, even if it's just to chat. We should stop by the farmers' market just to maintain that relationship and that connection that we have both worked so hard to develop. We should fire off an email to see what's new on the farm, and how our future pork chops (or peaches, or brussels sprouts) are doing.

This person provides the third most important ingredient in your life and the lives of your family. Should that person be a nameless, faceless, stranger?

Who's YOUR Farmer?