Thursday, December 22, 2011

FOOD: Holidays, Milestones and Blessings

The winter holidays are definitely the time of the year we celebrate with food, and I am amazed at the crucial role food has played in my life during the past month:

I crafted my first successful Thanksgiving dinner. I had attempted it once before, but this time it all seemed to turn out perfectly, and my family and in-laws gave me rave reviews.

Yummy turkey.

Table setting 1.

Table setting 2. So thankful my in-laws gifted us their large dining room table. I had enough "good" seats for 12.

I killed and processed my first chickens. A local farmer was nice enough to give me a couple of meat-type chickens, but my laying girls did not take too kindly to their new friends. With my husband’s help, I said a nice prayer and thanked God for each chicken, and I made sure it was quick. I felt such a sense of empowerment. This was also a perfect opportunity to have a great conversation with my daughter who did not like the idea of eating her new “pets.” But she was quick to realize that the other chickens were out for blood. I did not want her to watch this first attempt in case something went awry, but she was eager to get a look at what made those chickens tick. We will be having one of those chickens for dinner tonight.

I cheated... we just skinned them instead of plucking. Too much work!

My nearly three-year-old son has decided that he likes bell peppers, so I get to add one more veggie to his list of food likes. That is such a blessing! I need someone else in my household to help me eat them.

And did I mention that my daughter has slimmed down? It’s amazing what will happen when you don’t allow your child to continue eating double lunches and cookies every day at school. I think she had a “eureka” moment. The pants I had to buy her in November are now too big.

My younger sister and I were passed the Reed Christmas Cookie torch. For years and years, my grandparents made holiday cookies and presented each of their kids and grandkids with a box of delight prior to Christmas: chocolate chip with walnuts, oatmeal, date nut balls (similar to wedding cookies), and Pop’s special chocolate caramel cookie bars. After my Granny passed away a few years ago, my “Pop” continued the cookie making with my sister’s help, but finally decided to give it up due to being uncomfortable with a full day on his feet. I gladly took on the role as the new cookie guru even though I had some worry that my cookies may not be as good. But they were. And I know why Kristen does not want to make the cookies at her house… they won’t be there for her to eat until they are gifted away. I may have to make a few more.

We added a new cookie this year: peppermint sugar cookie. Thank you, Pillsbury! They are fabulous!

Finally, I have eggs running out of my ears. The hungry hawk has migrated, and my remaining hens miraculously starting laying the day after I “processed” the meat chickens. I laugh to think that my girls might have thought they would be next if they didn’t start earning their keep, but I honestly think they just got happier; they aren’t looking over their backs every second of the day worried about being a local critter’s dinner. Don’t laugh, but I also now feel a Godly connection with my chickens. I don’t want to call myself a chicken whisperer, but I can honestly say that I understand what is going on with them. Instead of running away when I walk by like they used to, they squat down still as can be, and allow me to pick them up with nary a fuss. They also seek me out when they need something. They even came running out to my car one day when the door on their coop closed shut. I got out, walked up to the coop with a line of anxious chickens running behind me, and they hopped in as soon as I opened the door. They were ready for some real food. And to my husband’s displeasure, they have also decided to venture to the house and get on the front porch. I don’t mind it a bit; we have formed a symbiotic partnership, and maybe they’ll keep all the bugs off the porch next summer.

My peeps.

The first publicized photo of our chicken mansion. My husband is an engineer and it had to be perfect.

I love my food-centered life! And my Christmas prayer to my readers is that we all learn to celebrate food as the wonderful blessing that it is. Thank you, God. Thank you, farmers. And thank you, chickens.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fury, Frustration, Failure and School Lunches

While it may not have been the most horrifying thing for a parent to experience, yesterday’s family food drama was this food mommy’s worst nightmare.

I get a note from my child’s school that her meal account balance is negative, and I wonder “what the heck? I just put $50 in about a month ago.” The good thing about the new internet-based system is that I can check what my child has been purchasing. The bad thing is that I discovered where all the money went: cookies and extra entrĂ©es. I was livid. I had really been perplexed as to why the healthier choices I had been giving my child, along with regular doses of exercise, had not produced any results. Guess I can’t blame Nana on this one.

The fury came first, and it was directed at the school: Why didn’t the cashier think it was inappropriate for an 8-year-old little girl to be buying so much food. I know they want to sell the cookies, but extra pieces of pizza, corn dogs, and hamburgers? (I know, you may be wondering, “what happened to taking lunch to school every day?” I’ll get to that later.) I can’t believe they even offer that. I don’t remember being able to buy extras when I was in school, even in high school. We were given a dollar every day, and what they provided for that dollar was all we got. I never thought that there was not enough food.

So, now I have a problem with the meal account system. Our society as a whole definitely has a problem with self-control – with food and spending – and this system obviously doesn’t do us a bit of good to control either. Fortunately, I was able to have a conversation with the cafeteria manager and they put a note in the system that my daughter is not allowed to purchase anything other than the $2 meal. However, they won’t be getting more money from me for a long time.

Next came the frustration: Why can’t I make my child understand how much food is necessary to sustain us, and that too much food is a bad thing? We have this conversation over and over, and I hate that I have to talk about food and health so much to my child. I just want her to make good choices so she does not have to worry about her health her entire life. It is not fun! I regularly allow my kids treats, but under the assumption that they are making good choices most of the time. This has obviously not been the case.

Finally comes the feeling of failure: I have failed my child because I let a busy life get in the way of better habits. For the first couple months of school, I was making her lunch every day (except one – check out “The Great Chocolate Milk Compromise”). Then she was accepted into the school choir which meant getting to school earlier a couple days of the week. So one day, became two, and then three. And finally she was lucky to get one lunch from home a week. I didn’t feel bad at the time because they changed the menu, and it looked pretty decent. I just had no idea that they let the kids buy as much as they want. I also stopped asking her what she was eating at school, and just assumed everything was peachy. I had a few hours of self-loathing, but finally came to realization that we just need to start anew.

Miss E now has no choice but to take her lunch to school every day. She also has to do extra chores to work off all the extra money spent on her school food extras, and no spending any nights away from home for a while. I might also be doing some hardcore research on the number of calories a young person should be getting, and show her what that looks like in terms of volume. The sheriff just got a little bit meaner.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cooking with Cabbage - Part 2

Pop's Cabbage Burger Soup

It's finally here! This is absolutely my most favorite soup in the world. The recipe belongs to my grandfather, who is my family's head culinary creator. He was an Army mess sargent during the Korean War, and learned a wealth of knowledge he has lovingly shared with us. I am sure much of my love for this soup is emotionally-based, but I really do think it tastes great and is super simple. I made it this past weekend, and am still enjoying the left overs.


Brown 1 lb. ground beef
Add 1 cup chopped onions during the browning
If you are using high-fat burger, be sure to drain most of it off.

Chop cabbage finely. I use half of a large head of cabbage.


Add a 15 oz can of tomoto sauce, a 15 oz can of dark red kidney beans, and the cabbage to the ground beef. Also add two cans of water. Season with celery salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder.

Enjoy with your favorite corn bread and large glass of milk!

If you try this, please let me know how you like it. You are also welcome to share your mofications.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cooking with Cabbage - Part 1

There are so many vegetables that I did not learn to enjoy until I was near adulthood, so I am trying to encourage my children to start early. Cabbage is one of those vegetables. Cole slaw I could handle, but the only other way it was usually presented to me was sauerkraut, and I can say that I am still not a fan.


My mom showed me the following recipe many, many years ago, and then I finally became a fan of cooked cabbage. This is a favorite with my kiddos too! AND, cabbage is still in season in my part of the nation, so try to find a fresh one. You won't be disappointed.

One Pot Wonders: Cabbage, Potatoes and Sausage

Slice red potatoes thinly into a large, deep skillet or soup pot. I use 4 to 5 potatoes.


Add half a large onion, cut into large pieces.


Add cut cabbage - about half a large head (I'll share what to do with the other half later).


Add cut Polish sausage. While the beef/pork versions taste the best, I have become a fan of the turkey sausage to save fat and calories.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a cup of water and cover. Cook on medium heat until cabbage and potatoes are tender. Stir occassionally.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eating Healthy has Paid Off

Apparently, today is “Start Eating Healthy Day.” I am not certain, but I think the initiative was started by the American Health Association since they are referenced in several news articles. On their web site, they have a link to a “Healthy Holiday Eating Guide” serving as a reminder to not overdo it the next few months. I am proud to say that this day will serve as my reminder to continue eating healthy (it’s also my mama’s birthday.)

Last summer I finally quit making excuses for having too much post pregnancy/too much stress weight and started to do something about it. I began exercising daily and made sure to make healthier food choices. To me, this means eating more vegetables, whole foods, and less sugar. I’ve always been pretty good about eating fruits, nuts and whole grains in my diet, but I also amplified those efforts as well. My meat intake has probably decreased a bit, but only because I have increased egg consumption. Dairy remains the same; I consume a lot of milk, cheese and yogurt. And since I do all of the cooking at my house, my family has benefited from my new habits as well.

The word “diet” is currently not in my vocabulary. I know that if I dramatically cut calories or refrain from having my favorite foods, I won’t be able to sustain my weight loss. So, I still eat my favorites on occasion. I also make sure that if I want to splurge on a treat, it has to be the good stuff – none of that low fat, low sugar stuff.

So what are the results? In about 14 months I have dropped 35 pounds and am back to what I consider my average adult weight (the weight I was back in high school, most of college, and pre and post 1st baby.) Yes, I’ll tell you… I now weigh 170 pounds and am 5’7”. My waist is currently 31 inches, down from a high of 37. I would still like to lose at least 10-15 more pounds to put myself within the healthy BMI range and other average recommendations for someone my height and build. But I refuse to set a time goal to reach this weight. I am just going to see where my new habits take me.

I am also proud to report the numbers from my last physical:

Blood pressure – 112/65

Triglycerides – 82 (should be below 150)

Cholesterol – 190 (healthy range is 125-200)

HDL-Cholesterol – 49 (should be greater than 46)

LDL-Cholesterol – 125 (should be less than 130)

Cholesterol to HDL ratio – 3.9 (should be less than 5.0)

Glucose – 85 (should be between 65 and 99)

I had these same tests done this time last year. While I don’t have the exact numbers, I do know that they are better this time. Therefore, I am concluding that the dietary changes I have made are healthier. The only thing I may change is to eat a little less… or exercise more (which may be the harder thing to do with my schedule).

Today, I did not have to “start” eating healthy. I am and will continue to do so.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar in the Landfills

Since it is Halloween, I am going to refrain from preaching about giving kids too much candy today. I do allow my kids to go trick or treating, and they are allowed to eat a few pieces of their treasured loot (after I go through it to find the good stuff, that is). But in about a month I am sure I will be tossing about three quarters of their candy in the trash. Not because I am that mean mommy all the time, but thankfully because they forget about it.

At our house, Halloween is all about the costumes and making a show for all to see. Since we do not live in a great “trick or treating” neighborhood, we travel to Nana’s each year where there are more people to impress. And when Eden dresses up, she plays the part. Since she is a peacock this year, I am sure she will be making that awful peacock cry and fanning her tail. Little Lane will be happy just walking around and seeing everyone.

When the candy comes home, there are rules attached. Eden has been my daughter long enough that she knows to ask before getting into her bucket. I let her have a piece or two of candy a day, usually after she has had something good to eat. After the fourth day, she quits asking, and it just sits on top of the refrigerator. Daddy will go through and find the things he likes – anything made out of chocolate. I am bit pickier; it has to have both chocolate and caramel (I’m so glad that candy costs more and people are less likely to buy it to give out).

So now I am wondering if my family is atypical, or if most families end up tossing a lot of the candy in the trash. I’m also wondering if we should be doing something different these days if our candy money is wasted. Should we be giving quarters to every great costume that comes knocking on our door? I think Unicef used to give kids boxes in order to collect donations during Halloween, but I have not seen that lately. Could we be collecting for local children in need to good food? It would take a great deal of effort to change the tradition, but I am all for it. Now who’s with me? Mars and Hersey’s, please don’t send me any hate mail!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food Day & Learning to Say “NO”

While I appreciate the efforts of FOOD DAY organizers, I have a few issues and will attempt to address them in time. (Initially I wanted to tackle one each day this week, but I am a busy mom.)

Food Day Principle #5 - Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing aimed at kids

Food, Mommy Principle #1 - Promote health by providing your kids better food choices and teach them to say "No" to poor food choices

I think it is very ironic that everyone is pointing their fingers at “junk-food” producers and marketers for making our kids fat, when they don’t have any real buying power. Who buys it for them? WE DO!

“No” may be the most important word you ever teach your child. My kids hear it at least 50 times a day, and at least half of those “no’s” are aimed at their food choices.

“Mommy, can I pick a cereal that I want?” And I say, “No, we are not going to get a cereal with that much sugar.”

“Mommy, can I have some ice cream?” Me, “What did you eat today at Nana’s house?” Kid, “Well, we had pancakes for breakfast, macaroni and cheese and a popsicle at lunch.” Me, “No, not today. If we make better food choices tomorrow, then I will consider letting you have some ice cream.”

“Mommy, I’m starving. Can we go by McDonald’s or Taco Bell.” Me, “No, I have something to cook for dinner. Eat an apple when we get home.”

As marketing tactics become increasingly aggressive, we the adults need to put on our fighting gear and quit asking the government to step in or stop filing silly lawsuits against the best food marketers. Slick advertising does not make our kids fat. They may ask for it, but adults are giving in. I will even be so bold to say that parents are worse than the marketers. We get lazy or blame the fact that we just don’t have time to do better.

On more occasions than I can count in the last few months, I have seen adults making very poor food choices for our children. Pizza, hot dogs and sodas were the main fare at a juvenile diabetes research fund raising walk this weekend. Every time my child is sent home with a fundraising form, it is for selling doughnuts or treats or cookie dough. Upcomoing Halloween and fall festivals will be filled with bags of candy and food our kids just do not need. How often do our kids have an extra-curricular activity and pizza, cookies, cupcakes, sodas and sugar-filled drinks aren’t on the menu? The kids aren’t shelling out the cash for these things, and I bet they aren’t even asking for it. We just assume that is what they want to eat and we provide it for them.

I am not opposed to pizza and treats on occassion, but let’s get off our duffs and show our kids that we care about their health. Just say, “NO,” and give them a good meal for a change.

Friday, October 21, 2011

In Search of the Best Broccoli Soup

I love soup. Beyond chili and my grandfather's cabbage soup (a recipe I may share soon), broccoli soup is one my top food pleasures. My children love it as well, and it is usually ordered at most any restaurant that has it on their menu. But I would love to find that perfect recipe so we can enjoy broccoli soup at home.

I have tried a couple recipes over the last year without much luck. I came close last night with this recipe I found on Food.com - http://www.food.com/recipe/panera-broccoli-cheese-soup-150384 - which claims to be what Panera Bread serves. Since we are huge fans of Panera Bread, we thought we would give it a try.


I call this our "hurry up and take the picture so I can eat" broccoli soup!

It was pretty delicious, but I think improving some of my stovetop handiwork may make it better. Since the broccoli was still pretty crisp, I may consider cooking it a little longer. I think I will also omit the nutmeg in the future. Leaving out the floor dirt may also be a good idea. I let my daughter chop up the broccoli and carrots, and she then called her little brother over to help. After he took a few cranks on the rotary chopper, he thought it would be a good idea to dump the broccoli all over the floor. It had to be saved! All in all, we were pretty happy with the result, and every bowl was licked clean. But still I would give it an only an 8.

If you have a favorite broccoli soup recipe for my family to try, please send it my way. The search is still on. I may also be in need of a few soup cooking tips.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Big may not be all BAD, but Small is not OUT OF TOUCH

In my post "Incedible Cause for Concern" last week, I shared my frustrations with the public's lack of understanding about today's farmers. Whether you praise their efforts or curse the current direction of our food system, the average U.S. farmer is feeding 155 people, compared to 27 people in 1950. The point of my post was to encourage people to remember the faces behind all the farms that are providing us 82% of our food, as they are not all huge food company conglomerates hundreds of miles away. What I may have failed to do, however, is praise the small farmers (whatever your definition of "small" may be) in which so many hold dear to their hearts. Each farmer has a unique story, and we all need to learn to listen to every voice at the "table," myself included.

Therefore I wanted to share this post by a fellow Kentucky blogger, Friends Drift Inn. She wants to make sure we know that she is also a famer - a very tired farmer -  trying to produce food for reasons she believes the current food system has failed her.

"I am a farmer. I am not the enemy" - http://www.friendsdriftinn.com/real-life/world-food-day-2011.html


Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Something Old, Something New, Something Wild

I was pretty proud of the dinner I made on this past Sunday night. I had a bunch of my chicken's eggs in the fridge, so I decided to make a quiche. Loaded with bacon, cheese, onion and butter, there is nothing that says "comfort food" more than this dish I learned to cook from my mama. We usually reserve it for holiday mornings, but I wanted to splurge a bit (I skipped the crust to reduce a few calories).


Bacon, cheese and onion quiche, acorn squash, and sorrel garnish. Quiche recipe below.

What made this dinner even better was that I cooked up something I never had before, acorn squash. My mother-in-law and good old Betty Crocker instructed me to cut the squash in half, sprinkle with a little sugar (I used Truvia) and salt, add a pat of butter and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. When they halves were done, I scooped the flesh out and served. Can we say, favorite new food!

Now here comes the "wild." I was outside playing with the kids earlier and saw little plants with yellow flowers growing all over the walkway to the house. I was convinced these little greens were edible, so I looked them up. Turns out they were wood sorrel and very tasty. They have a strong lemony flavor. So they were added to the plate as well. I did learn that you can't eat too much because of the high oxalic acid content (which gives them their flavor). Since, I have put some on my sandwiches as well. Love the "free" food.

I'm so glad I am getting more creative in the kitchen. It is such a joy to try new things and try to improve on old favorites. And don't forget to involve the kids. Happy cooking to everyone.

My favorite quiche:

Saute' a cup of onions in one stick of butter and pour into a pie crust (you can just pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish to save some calories)
Add crumbled bacon (about 6 pieces, more if desired)
Add a 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Mix 4 large eggs, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and a 1/2 cup of milk, salt and pepper
Pour over the onions, bacon and cheese.

Cook for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce temperature to 300 and cook for 30 minutes longer.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

I don't even want to think about how many calories are in one serving!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Incredible Cause for Concern

What is your definition of “farmer?” Apparently to many of the visitors to the Incredible Food Show in Lexington, Ky. this past weekend it is someone who is growing their own food in their backyard or selling at a “Farmer’s” market.

Farm women volunteers, who are part of the CommonGround initiative, went to the Incredible Food Show to engage with the public and answer any questions they may have about how food is produced on their farms. I was able to assist by moderating a panel discussion about food marketing and production concerns, as well as, encourage conversations at the CommonGround booth.

While it seemed everyone was glad we were there, it really shocked me that every time I mentioned to someone that we were there on behalf of farmers to encourage conversation about how food is produced, the instant response was, “Oh, I love that. I visit the Farmer’s Market all the time.” Or, “My sister has a garden. That’s great.”

The Voltaggio brothers - of Top Chef fame - showed the audience at the Incredible Food Show in Lexington how to use every part of local veggies for some very creative and "artful" eating.

Another thing that really got to me was the fact that one of the guest celebrity chefs, Michael Voltaggio (his brother Bryan was also there) made the comment during their show that “produce from local farmers was great, but everything at the grocery store was test tube food grown in a factory.”

Really? Why does everything think that?

I admit 100% that the fruits and vegetables grown right under our noses taste better to the 100th degree. Farmers that have local markets are able to pick the produce at the peak of freshness and can get it to the consumer very quickly. Unfortunately, this makes up a very small portion of the food supply, at least in Kentucky. There is a big push right now to get more local food to our local customers, but it will take some time.

In the meantime, however, the produce farmer in Ohio, or even California, who is large enough to service several grocery stores in our state now has a big “X” on his/her face. Some folks are just convinced that since the farm is not “local” and is producing food on several hundred acres instead of two, that the product is bad, industrial food.

At what point does a farmer or farm become “industrial?” And when did “success” become a bad word in agriculture?

Having visited several Kentucky farms recently, I wish all the best for them. If Mary and Shane Courtney’s vegetable business is thriving, and they are able to add more acres, more labor, and service more customers, I hope that is what they do. And what if they are able to grow enough produce that they can move beyond the local CSAs, wholesale and restaurant markets? Is there a point where they will no longer be considered farmers? Maybe that is when they are able to hire enough help that they can actually take a vacation during the growing/harvest season? Heaven forbid.

We have farmers and farms of all types and sizes, using various production techniques and located in all geographic areas. Some areas are great at growing produce, and other land is best suited for grains or livestock production. I know that it will take all farmers and farms to satisfy the needs of our growing population. Just today I saw the following statistic:

“Up until 1920 more people lived on farms than in cities and it took almost 20 million farms to feed the U.S. population which at the time was about 100 million people. Advances in and modernization of agriculture since then now allows for 6.5 million farms to feed 300 million people in the U.S. and export food to people around the world.”

While some may not like the idea of fewer farmers producing more food, this is our current food reality, and I don’t think it is all bad. Jerome Monroe Smucker of Ohio made apple cider from a few apple trees planted by Johnny “Appleseed” in the late 1800s. As popularity grew beyond the locals, he needed more supplies of fruit and he eventually had to move some of the processing to Washington, where fruit was more plentiful. Now his family’s products are sold all over the world.

Back to Kentucky, many of our grain farmers are selling corn and wheat to the local distilleries for bourbon and other spirits. Those products are also sold worldwide. Our local family grain farmers are selling to the food industry as well. Our wheat ends up in crackers and cookies sold throughout the U.S. at Wal-Mart stores via Siemer Milling in Hopkinsville. Our corn ends up in corn chips sold all over the country via Mesa Foods in Louisville. Weisenberger Mills in Midway has used corn and wheat from local farmers since 1865 to make its baking products.

My hope is that no matter the origin of the food products, the consumer remembers there is a face behind the production of the food ingredients, and that face is local to someone. To me, the term “farmer” goes beyond a person or family growing enough fruits and vegetables for themselves and few folks at a farmer’s market. It goes beyond the person like me with a few chickens in a coop. Farmers are producing food for the masses.

Just a side note before I close – I was also perplexed at literature I saw from Whole Foods at the Incredible Food Show. On the back of a local magazine, they placed an ad that said “Eat Seasonal. Eat Local.” On the front page of their newsletter/coupon book, however, they were advertising a pasta product produced in Italy. To me this is very hypocritical. The whole premise of eating local is to reduce the environmental impact of shipping food all over the place. Why aren’t they selling pasta made from Durum wheat in the good ole USA? Seems like the Pacific Northwest, where Durum is grown by our farmers, is a little more local than Italy. I’m just saying.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Singing the Busy Mom Blues - Dishes in the Sink

It’s been one of those weeks. I’ve been away from my home/office nearly every day this week for work, and as soon as I am home, my family and animals have warranted my full attention. This busy schedule has left little time for blogging, and as usual, the household chores. Toys are everywhere, beds are rarely made, dust dragons lurking in dark corners, and there are a new pile of dishes in the sink every night.

While this may put most OCD moms in a state of panic, I at least can be proud of one aspect of my out-of-order home; more dishes in the sink means less meals out. In fact, every dinner this week has been cooked from ingredients I had at home… no boxes and definitely no fast food cartons and wrappers.

It would be so easy to make the 15 minute trek into town to purchase a ready-made meal for my kids and husband, but I took the high road. This is in no disrespect to moms that choose that route, because I have been there, and still visit that option on occasion. But it has been so rewarding for my soul to cook for my family… and did I mention the fact that I have the “mother lode” of fruits and veggies in the fridge that I don’t want to throw out. It has become harder and harder these days for me to toss food (and money) into the trash.

And while home cooking takes quite a bit more time and gives me a pile of dishes that won’t fit in the dishwasher, this is one chore I have stopped groaning about. I am providing my family nutritious food made from my heart.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Letters to My Food: Dear Chickens

Dear Chickens,

I know you want to get out and enjoy the sun, cool breeze, bugs and lush plant life, but you will stay inside. I am not trying to punish you, but want to keep you safe from the hawk that decided to eat your sister yesterday. In fact, that hawk has eaten several of you the past month, including your most beloved rooster.

Until I can get a nice fence around and over your yard, you will have to remain confined, but I will try to bring you treats for your patience.

Most sincerely,

JE

Friday, September 30, 2011

Broadening My Local Food Horizons

Yesterday my eyes were opened wide to a brand new food world. It was almost like I had been living in an M. Night Shyamalan’s version of a food “Village,” and I had no idea what was on the other side. The best, and most shocking part of this story, is the new world was not too far from my backyard.

My day job took me to Courtney Farms, where we were shooting an educational video series about Kentucky farms, farmers and food. This farm, which recently decided to grow vegetables to replace several tobacco acres, was our first stop for the series. They are growing about 100 different vegetable varieties they sell through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares and to wholesale markets.

Can you believe it? 100 different types! I think I may eat less than 30 different vegetables on a regular basis. My daughter Eden was able to visit the farm with me, and she also was amazed at the variety. We saw patty pan squash, acorn squash, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, starburst squash, zephyr squash, eggplant, purple peppers, apricot peppers (which were absolutely fabulous, by the way) and more. That was just what had been harvested that morning. In the field we saw Swiss chard, green beans, spinach, radishes and many, many more. I wondered what kind of tizzy the teenage grocery clerk would have been in if I wandered through his/her lane with such fare.

I had the chance to meet and talk with Mary Courtney a couple times before, but this is the first time I was really able to see what she produced. I remembered that she had told me that she and her family will eat the raw vegetables straight out of the field, and my daughter and I were able to do that, too. In fact, Eden almost ate an entire cucumber and was easily coerced into trying one of those sweet apricot peppers. The best part is we were sent home with an assortment of the goodies, and I can’t wait to find recipes so we can enjoy them.

Having been a nearly 100% buy-from-the-grocery-store-chain kind of lady due to convenience and my location, I can now tell you I will definitely be eating more of this fabulous food in the future. If I can’t figure out how to grow my own in the garden I have planned for next year, I will definitely be giving Mary a call. The taste and freshness of her veggies was beyond compare.

But don’t despair, farmers across the U.S. and outside our borders. I will still need you come the first killing Kentucky frost. I have not yet learned the fine art of canning, and I still want my weekly supply of bananas and grapefruits.

You may also be interested in the interview I had with Mary about their production practices – “Why I don’t buy organic, most of the time.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eating by Example

When you are a parent, even the smallest milestones make you jump for joy. My most recent jubilation came this past Sunday night; my 2-year-old son ate an entire piece of raw broccoli. What was even more amazing was that I did not even offer it to him. He just took it off of my salad plate and in his mouth it went. I told him that I was so very proud of him and gave him a big hug.

My daughter sat their staring at me wondering why I didn’t give her the same hug, but she has always been a great vegetable connoisseur. I do try to tell her on a regular basis however that I am so happy that she enjoys nutritious food.

My son, on the other hand, has been a bit pickier about his food choices. I was beginning to think that I had done something differently in raising this child since anything green usually hit the floor. I had resorted to “hiding” vegetables in his food. And since I discovered that he is very fond of “salads,” which I am sure is mostly due to the fact there is some kind of dressing masking the taste, I started sharing my salads with him on a regular basis, and he was none the wiser of me including bell peppers and onions in his bites. I also make a chopped broccoli salad quite often that includes many of his other favorites like Craisins, cheese and nuts. And the last few times we have had asparagus, I asked him if he wanted to eat a little tree, and he replied, “Roarrrrr. I eat like a dinosaur.” He did take a couple bites. And carrots and sweet potatoes have also become a few of his more recent favorites.

While these new eating habits did not occur overnight, I am now a true believer that we must show our kids how to eat properly by example. A dose of patience also goes a long way. Now that I feel that I have a true success story, here are a few of my tips to help you steer your kids to eating a larger variety of nutritious foods:

1 – Do not get into the habit of cooking your kids separate meals, especially at dinner time. It’s hard on you and sets your kids up to think they can always eat exactly what they want. And make sure to put a little of everything on their plates.

2 – Do not force your kids to try something new, but bribery works pretty well. Tell your kids they can eat something you know they like if they try what is on their plate. I always try to hold back the bread until after they have eaten an ample supply of veggies.

3 – Dramatize! It may sound silly, but if you make a big deal about how good the vegetables are, they might eventually want try it on their own to satisfy their curiosity.

4 – Get your kids involved in selecting things at the grocery or market. My daughter loves getting her own grocery cart and filling it with all of the fruits and vegetables, especially if she knows she will be eating it later. She is also pretty good at selecting the produce on her own. Nothing makes her more proud then to hear another customer compliment her on her choices. To get my toddler son involved, I make sure to have a conversation with him about all of the different things we buy.

One of the biggest failures I have seen with parents/caregivers is that they think kids won’t like certain foods because they are kids. I have also seen parents/caregivers give up too easily and resort to not-so-healthy choices so the kids have something to eat. But be persistent. If they see you eating and enjoying healthy food choices and also providing good choices, maybe they will learn to love good food as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Know Your Story. Write it Down. Share, Share, Share!

I was so incredibly frustrated last night. I had a perfect platform and opportunity to share my “story,” and in my mind, I flopped.

I was invited to be on a panel of women agriculture leaders at a farm women event yesterday. The coordinator wanted us to share how we got to the positions we have today. I was thinking that would not be a problem since I know my life pretty much better than anyone.

I thought it would be good to talk about how I came from a small semi-subsistence farm, my horses led me to an education in agriculture, and the fact that I never thought in a million years I would work for farmers. I also wanted to point out how after so many years, we are finally realizing the importance of empowering women to help share the message of farming and food.

Fortunately I made it through all that, but then my nerves started messing with my head and I completely forgot to share the good stuff, where I and my experience were heading.

Because of this new tool called social media, I am no longer just talking to the local fourth-grade class about grain, creating web pages and trade show displays, or writing content about and for my farmers; I am connecting with people across the country and beyond. While I am not a farmer, my work in the “field” has given me a unique viewpoint, and I now have a way to easily share that with who will listen. Social media also provides a richer learning opportunity. I am more aware of the feelings and struggles of other farmers, whether big or small, modern or traditional. That has helped me lift my blinders to my specific niche and learn to embrace others.

My day job might be “woman in ag,” or as some folks like to call me “corn girl” (which I hate by the way), my most important job is MOM: buyer and preparer of the food. My biggest motivation for involving myself in food and farm conversations is my desire to have the food choices I have today in the future.

Now that I can actually look at what I want to say on the screen, hopefully I will be a little more prepared to share this story when the opportunity presents itself. (FYI: I am one of those visual learners). Or better yet, maybe I, as well as others involved in farming, need to create those opportunities.

Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/foodmommy or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/foodmommy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Backyard Eggs - Tastier?

This past Saturday we ate the first eggs from our chickens. It felt really good to eat food that we helped produce. But did they taste better? Many people have told me that they do.

Our first eggs were on the small size. I expect they will get bigger as the chickens mature and lay more.

The yolks were definitely more orange than a store-bought egg. Some say this is because chickens allowed to forage will eat grasses and other plants which contain beta carotene. 

We decided to scramble the eggs. I always add a little bit of milk and a pinch of salt. I will admit that the darker color weirded me out a bit, and I expected that they would taste different than the store eggs.

Eden was in charge of stirring them around the skillet.

We let Eden take the first bite, and she said, "Yum!"

Breakfast is served. We made sure to say a prayer thanking the Lord for providing this wonderful meal.

Somewhat-picky-eater Lane also approved of the eggs and ate every bit.

I eat a lot of eggs, and I did not think they tasted any different than what I usually buy (the cheapest eggs at the store), but the experience is what made them better. I can't wait until we have some more!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hogs on the Highway

I was traveling up the interstate today and saw a semi-trailer load of hogs making its way north. (Okay, I smelled it first and pretty much knew there were hogs on board before I saw their pink little hides.) My reaction when I passed was, “Hello, little piggies. Thank you for feeding me.”

Then I began to wonder about the truck driver. Does he get dirty looks from vegetarians? I wonder how he handles looks of disgust or vulgar gestures. But then I began to wonder about the localvores. Do they also grimace at the sight of food traveling up the highway? Obviously this line of thought intrigued me, and I wanted to think more about why our food, specifically pigs, must travel long distances to get to our dinner plates.

After some research, I calculated the following numbers:

• The average American consumes about 48 pounds of pork each year.

• Market weight of a hog is between 240 and 260 pounds, which yields about 184 pounds of meat.

• Therefore, 1 hog feeds about 4 people per year.

Then I began to think about the town in which I live, population 9,344. In order to feed the people of my town the pork they desire, it would require a local farmer to raise 2,336 hogs per year. That sounds like a lot. So I called one of my favorite Kentucky farmers in the county just south of me and asked about his operation.

The Mackey family feeds 5,000 -6,000 hogs per year. They receive a new batch of weaned pigs every 5 weeks and those pigs are fed for 5 ½ months until they reach 260 pounds. Each batch of pigs received and fed is considered a group, and those groups are sold throughout the year..

The Mackey’s also produce the pigs' feed—corn and soybeans—on 250 acres of adjoining crop ground. All of the manure produced from the hogs is used to fertilizer the feed crops. They have to purchase very little extra nitrogen for the field corn. So all in all, this operation is pretty self-sustaining.

My thought is that it would be fairly easy for a hog farmer to produce enough pork to sustain my town, so long as someone was willing to do it, had the land and resources, and could get a permit for such an operation. The operation would only have to be half as large as the Mackey’s.

But what if we wanted to feed my entire county, population 74,319? That would require 18.5 thousand hogs, so at least 3 to 4 hog operations the size of the Mackey’s would be needed. Since Bullitt County is 300 square miles in size, one hog farm would need to be located every 100 square miles. Most likely, every resident would live within 10 miles of a hog farm. Would they want to do that if they knew they were getting local pork? Of course that is depending upon enough farm acreage available to support the operations, which I am unsure of, and if a local processing facility could be constructed and operated.

But then let’s think about my nearest metropolitan area, just 20 miles north of me (which is likely where the hogs on the highway were heading in the first place). The population is 740,000 people, which would require 185,000 hogs. Land is not available for hog operations, so the pork must come from elsewhere in the state.

The total population of Kentucky is 4,340,000. Today, the commonwealth produces less than 300,000 hogs each year, which is only 1/3 of what we consume. The last year that we produced enough pork to feed the current population was 1980. So to be completely local do we consume two-thirds less pork, or does two-thirds of the population do without? Or, does the price of the pork go so high for increased demand that we can no longer afford to eat it?

I asked the director of my local pork producers association what barriers there were to farmers not producing more hogs. She said profitability was number one. Other factors were that it was harder for new operations to start due to environmental regulations and the fact that the growing suburban population does not want to live near a hog farm.

This scenario is not unique to hog farmers. Whether it is beef, poultry, eggs, or even apples, there are many factors at work that prohibit the required local food production. Demand for food beyond what our land and resources can produce is first and foremost.

Could we do more for ourselves? Those of us who have some land and money are in a better place to be more self-sustaining, but I can’t even get a cabbage to grow or keep my chickens safe from the local carnivores. I could raise that one hog to feed my family of four for a year, but did I mention that hogs are not allowed in my neighborhood? Thank goodness for hogs on the highway!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Food Marketing Mayhem

Produced the way God intended.

That was the first thing that popped into my head when Eden was trying to come up with a slogan to put on a carton to sell her eggs. For the chickens are free to go wherever and can eat anything they want.

Or maybe we can say, “all natural” when we sell our eggs; they are of this earth, at least to my knowledge. Free-range, raised with integrity, from a small family-farm, home-grown, gluten-free, sugar free, no high-fructose corn syrup, raised with no added hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics, local, and proceeds from all sales will go to a college fund. Who wouldn’t want to buy Eden’s eggs?

But this is exactly the kind of marketing mayhem that is making my head spin. Food companies are playing on our emotions and lack of knowledge to sell their products.

The tactic I like the least is saying a food is free of some ingredient or additive, when it never had it to begin with. In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, when the newest diet crazes required eating less fat, everything became “fat free.” Remember seeing sugar candies labeled “fat free?” Oh, yea. I can eat all I want!

Fast forward 25 years, fat is no longer the enemy; it’s sugar. Even worse in some minds is high-fructose corn syrup, which is silly. But I admit that I have hopped aboard the “sugar is bad” train. I caught myself looking at several yogurts at the store wanting to find the one that had the least sugar, but without aspartame… because that’s really bad? Oh, trans-fats are still bad. Yes? I haven’t seen a label that says no trans-fats in a while, so do we care anymore? It seems that you now need to know the difference between Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Both are naturally-occurring. Which one am I looking for, again?

The chicken companies have started to add “no added hormones” and “no steroids” to their labels. But just in case you didn’t know, chicken producers have not been allowed to use hormones and steroids since 1954. But would you buy the chicken labeled as such above a brand that is not labeled that way? I also think it is funny that they place “cage free” on packages of chicken cuts. Most all chickens produced for meat are raised cage free. Chickens from cages that have exceeded their maximum egg producing years may end up in a can of chicken noodle soup, but who would eat that anyway? Have you seen the sodium content? Wait, the soup now has “a 1/3 less sodium which is ‘heart healthy’?”

While I have not seen it as much lately, “hormone free” really gets me going. If it has ever been alive, plant or animal, there are hormones. Unless you are eating synthetic food, get used to consuming them.

My next least favorite tactic is food companies trying to make less than healthy foods seem more healthful. Jars of spaghetti sauce and canned pastas contain “two full servings of vegetables.” Wait a minute. I thought tomatoes were technically fruits. We may next be seeing that veggie slogan on a bag of potato chips. If you eat the whole bag, you may be getting several day’s worth of veggies. Yes! And while I do appreciate the breakfast cereal companies using more “whole grains” which many of them have done for years, that does not change the fact that they are still full of sugar. Hmm? Some say that cows fed corn are less healthy than cows only fed grass and hay. Will corn--which is a whole grain--make me unhealthy and fat, too? Suzanne Somers says so. What’s next? “Contains no corn” or “no grains?” Actually, I have seen that on bags of dog and cat food. Those bags also read, “Real meat.”

Since Paleolithic man did not eat grains, they must not be an ideal food choice. However, I just saw a magazine cover that says Dr. Oz swears by eating for your blood type. Since my blood is A-, I am supposedly a perfect candidate to go vegetarian, and I digest grains very well. I expect that very soon we will see frozen meals that will list blood types: “Type A approved!”

Lastly, I have been seeing foods marked, “farm-grown.” Are there so many synthetic food ingredients out there that people honestly think their food was created in a laboratory?

Or better yet, I recently saw bins full of vegetables marked “Home Grown.” I stood there with my mouth open for a few seconds. I really had a hard time believing that this mound of produce came from a local person’s back yard. The logistics alone did not make since for a large grocery chain to buy from small, very local producers.

Then I saw another store chain advertise the same in their weekly flyer and an explanation followed. The produce came from X Farms: they are family-owned, grow produce on 2,500 acres and are located in Ohio. Nothing against Ohio, but that is not close to my home, 2,500 acres is a very large operation requiring lots of labor, and most all the farms I know of are family-owned. Why isn’t the corn bread mix in the next aisle labeled “home grown” then, or the steaks in the meat aisle. I know for a fact that those came from family farmers in Kentucky, even though they are sold at a regional store chain. Maybe I need to put a bug in their marketers’ ears.

The list of food marketing tactics goes on and on. While some can claim it is a better understanding of food and nutrition that makes food companies want to cater to our desires and aim to eat better, I also believe it plays into a lot of people’s lack of understanding and fear. I am also inclined to think that these marketing buzz words give food companies justifiable reason to up the price on our food. Are you willing to pay more for the same food that is perceived as being better? I am not.

We have more information about the food we eat than ever. But while I cannot make claims on the overall health of our population, I know for a fact that we are definitely a heftier nation than we were before we knew the simplest calorie, fat and sugar content of our food. So, what is really making us fat: the food or our tendencies to embrace fancy words and slick packaging? I am still a believer that food with the least amount of frill, plastic, cardboard and ink is still best. Wash the dirt off and enjoy.

You may also enjoy - Hormones, Steroids, and Antibiotics. Oh, My! or Silly Chefs, High Fructose Corn Syrup is not the Enemy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What about the potato?

My good friend Sharon Burton, publisher of The Farmer’s Pride newspaper, gave me permission to post her latest editorial from the September 7 edition. I can totally relate to her struggles in trying to determine what eating healthy really is when you get so many conflicting reports. And these conflicting reports undeniably affect our perspectives of the food industry and agriculture.

I’ve been trying hard to educate myself about healthy eating. I’ve been counting carbs and sugars and have lost some weight since I began.

I’ve read a couple of books, visited health food stores and gotten on a number of email lists to receive encouragement and information.

I thought I was doing well. I thought I had learned something. I was starting to look at most breads as the enemy and green leafy foods as my friend. I had weaned myself from a lot of useless food—items that provide no nutrient benefit—and improved my menu dramatically.

Then I heard something on the radio that astounded me this morning. A study has shown that a group of obese people lowered their blood pressure by eating potatoes twice a day.

Really?

The reason I began my research was because I wanted to check for diabetes. I knew I tested just fine when blood was drawn but believed there might be something going on.

I learned that the medical industry usually just lets you know when you become a diabetic. There are warning signs along the way before your body stops converting glucose to energy if you know what to look for.

One of the ways to test your blood glucose level is to eat a fast acting carbohydrate. One website I found recommended a number of foods, including a large boiled potato.

Now, if potatoes will jump up your blood sugar level, how can they be good for you?

I went back to one of the books I read to see what I could find. The book, “The Belly Fat Cure,” recommends no more than 15 grams of sugar and 6 servings (around 120 grams) of carbs a day, spaced out in meals and snacks, thus the number 15/6.

A red medium potato uses up three of those 15 sugars and 2 of those 6 carb servings.

A large baked potato uses four of each—two-thirds of the recommended carbs.

A researcher told USA Today that the potato skin is the key. Potatoes contain a substance similar to ACE inhibitors, a widely used family of blood pressure drugs, according to the statement released about the research project.

So, is the potato my friend or enemy?

Is there any wonder people are beginning to question the motives of the food industry? Do you understand why agriculture is under attack? If we don’t know whether or not we can trust a potato, what can we trust? Who do we trust?

There are so many similar stories. Remember the attack on the egg? Everything I read now says to start my day with a couple of eggs, real butter and some bacon.

Each one of these items has been the target of attacks in the past.

Honestly, trying to learn the truth about food is one of the most frustrating experiences I have gone through in a while. It’s no wonder people give up and go back to eating Twinkies.

But I’m determined not to eat Twinkies. I want to do better for myself. I just have a simple question. What about the potato?

The Farmer’s Pride, is a statewide newspaper that provides hometown news for Kentucky’s farm community. Sharon has been in the newspaper business all her adult life and has enjoyed traveling the commonwealth visiting farms, rural communities and covering all aspects of Kentucky agriculture since 1989. Under Sharon’s leadership, The Farmer’s Pride has been recognized by commodity and other farm organizations across Kentucky with various communications awards for its role in covering issues vital to Kentucky farmers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Proud to Wear Dirt

I am writing this post for two reasons: 1) it makes sense to honor a hard worker at Labor Day, and 2) there is no better time to celebrate my mother than on my birthday.


A couple of weeks ago a Facebook friend who rides at my parents’ horse stable commented that she could not believe how dirty she was after spending a few hours at the barn. I replied, “Now you know why my mother looks such a mess most of the time.”

My mom did not think this was amusing, but after I thought about it, I think it can be paid as a compliment, because I know she wears her dirt with great honor. She loves her job. She gets to work with horses every day. She gets to teach people how to work better with their horses so they form a wonderful relationship. While she is a teacher, she is also always in student mode, soaking up every bit of information she can find, whether from a book, video or another instructor.

Because of her success and great love for her job, she always gave me the same advice when it came to my career. “I will be proud of you no matter what you do; I just want you to be happy doing it.” She did not push me to go to college (even though I did) or have a job that would make lots of money (though sometimes I wish I had chosen that route). She just let me find my own happiness, and I can truly say that I also love my job.

When I speak to school children, and even now to my peers, I proudly say, “When I was thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never in a million years thought that I would work for farmers. But I am so glad that I do, because I cannot think of a job more important than providing food to people who can’t provide it for themselves.”

While working with the land or livestock may not be the fashionable career choice, it is most definitely an honorable career choice. I hope, like my mom, anyone who gets their hands dirty to make a living, will stand strong and be proud to wear their dirt. I appreciate you!


My parents gave me a wonderful birthday present on this Labor Day - they took me and my daughter horseback riding at one of their favorite riding spots. Thank you so much!

Friday, September 2, 2011

More for Your Food Dollar – Resources Worth Sharing

My last few trips to the grocery store again had me shaking my head at higher prices on many of the regular items I buy. (FYI – corn and ethanol are not THE reasons for higher food prices, as some would have you believe. Higher energy prices and local/global weather events have much higher impacts on our food supply and the prices we pay at the grocery.)

Unfortunately I have not learned the art of creative coupon clipping; those “extreme clippers” crack me up. What the heck are you going to do with 100 bottles of mustard? Are you sure need all those candy bars? I have made sure to clip a few coupons on things that I know I buy and use regularly, but I don’t want to eat and breathe coupons. I am all about buying in bulk and stocking up when things are on sale, some suggestions that the following folks share. Check them out.

Arizona Farm Bureau - @Cottonaggie does a fabulous job posting weekly menus and tips that help save consumers money. Check out these pages:

• 10+ Tips for Stretching Your Food Dollar: http://fillyourplate.org/news/10plus-easy-tips-to-help-stretch-your-food-dollar.html  

• Latest Food Price Trends: http://fillyourplate.org/latest-food-price-trends.html

• Menus and Shopping Lists to Stretch Your Food Dollar: http://fillyourplate.org/stretch-your-dollar-menus.html

Food and Farm Hour with Ray Bowman (@jrfarms) on America’s Web Radio – Jenna Hogan, a nutrition and wellness educator with the University of Illinois, shares ways to save while not skimping on quality or nutrition: www.feedstuffsfoodlink.com/Media/PodcastItems/Jenna%20Hogan%20food%20prices-072911-3_0.mp3

I also like to buy food that are processed as little as possible. That way more money goes back to the farmer and not the processor. If you have tips you would like to share for saving money at the grocery, please post in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scientific American Busts Myths on Organic Farming; I tackle daddy-long-legs


Having posted my own reasons why I do not usually purchase more costly organically-produced foods, I thought this post was an excellent companion piece. Actually, I am thrilled that a professional writer from Scientific American magazine is tackling this tough issue. She may hold a bit more clout than this rural mommy from Kentucky.

Here are the myths she takes head on:

1 – Organic farms don’t use pesticides

2 – Organic food is healthier

3 – Organic farming is better for the environment

4 – It’s all or none

One of my favorite points she makes is that the factory farm definition is not exclusive to conventional methods. There are many very large organic farms in this country. Organic does not mean small or local. It reminds me of my disdain this summer when I visited a little home-based, roadside market between swimming practice and home. I asked the proprietor if he grew all the food there and he said the only thing that was locally grown (100 miles away) was a small pile of squash. The rest was purchased at a wholesale produce market and he was charging much more than the local grocery store. He did not claim any of it was “organic,” but I can guarantee that many people had that perception.

I want to reiterate that I am not against organic production, and I believe there are several benefits to having varied production methods. I just don’t think one is necessarily superior to the other. I am a bigger fan, however, of food produced by farmers that I “know.” I appreciate being able to talk to them about what they are doing, regardless of the label they are given. Then it becomes personal, and in the end we may meet on common ground to figure out what methods are good for everyone and everything.

Before I provide the link of the said blog post I want to do some of my own mythbusting: Daddy-long-leg spiders are NOT the most poisonous spiders on the planet. In fact, they are not poisonous at all, nor are they spiders. I have no idea who started this myth, but hear it just about on a weekly basis. These creatures are called Harvestmen, and they eat decaying plants or animals. Pass it on. Source: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/relatives/daddy/daddy.htm  

Mythbusting 101: Organic Farms vs Conventional Farms - http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

You may also enjoy - Why I don't buy organic most of the time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eating Meat Can Be The Green Thing To Do

I have read several blog posts and comments recently regarding the livestock industry's negative impact on the environment, and I have made sure to provide a different view point to each. My guess is that since most of us aren't willing to give up meat based on health or welfare/right claims, some are trying to pull at our "I care about Mother Earth" heartstrings. Below are some myths/facts about the environmental sustainability of livestock production that I helped compile for my 9 to 5 job last fall.

Meat is In For Our Environment!


The agriculture industry is constantly evolving. Today’s farmers are producing more food using less land and resources—an important fact considering that global food demand will double within the next 50 years. Farmers are showing their commitment to land conservation and sustainability time and time again.

Myth: By eating less meat, Americans will improve the environment and free land and resources for the production of more plant crops to feed the world’s hungry.

Fact: Americans who eat both animals and plants are managing the nation’s natural resources in the best way possible to feed its people. For example, about half the land area of the U.S. can’t be used for growing crops—it can only be used for grazing. That land would be of no use as a food resource if it were not for grazing livestock like cattle, goats and sheep. Grazing animals in the United States more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food while limiting soil erosion, preserving wildlife habitat and reducing the risk of wildfires.

Myth: Meat production is not an efficient use of grain.

Fact: Environmentalists have devised some pretty creative ways to blow the feed needed to produce meat out of proportion. There are many factors of meat and grain production that are not being considered. As for beef cattle, most are grazed for the majority of their lives, and they are eating low quality forages in which humans cannot utilize. If and when beef cattle are placed on grain rations (corn and soybeans), it is fed with additional forage material. Many livestock producers are utilizing grain byproducts from biofuel and milling industries. This feed is higher in protein, fat and digestible fiber and results in similar if not better weight gain.

Myth: Meat production is a large contributor of greenhouse gases.

Fact: Animal agriculture has minimal impact on greenhouse gas production in the United States. All animals naturally produce the greenhouse gas methane by way of food digestion, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the entire U.S. agricultural sector contributed only 6.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2006.

Consumers may also hear that animals raised in a feedlot or in modern production systems create more methane than animals raised alternative ways. According to a report on beef released by the Hudson Institute’s Center For Global Food Issues, pound-for-pound, beef produced in a conventional feeding system generates 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions and uses two-thirds less land than beef produced using organic and grass-fed production systems.

Myth: Meat production creates large amounts of water-polluting manure.

Fact: The efficiency of manure use to support crop production is the critical metric. Because of the nutrient and organic matter content, manure is an alternative to commercial fertilizers with the added benefit of substantial energy savings. For example, in the case of corn production, energy savings from the substitution of swine manure for commercial fertilizer result in net energy savings on the order of 31 to 34 percent. And all farmers ensure proper conservation is practiced to protect our water supply. They drink it too.

Other stories & resources on food/meat production and environment:

Vegan Visits a Feedlot
Ryan Andrews is a registered nutritionist, exercise physiologist and a strict vegetarian. So when he visits a 20,000-head Colorado feedyard and writes about the experience, you might expect the usual rants about factory farming, abusive conditions and animals “pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.” But no, his article actually offers an objective summary based on his personal observations and research, touching on environmental management, nutrition, and animal health. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cattle-feedlot-visit

Ex-Hippie/Ecologist says vegans have it wrong and eating animals in moderation is good for the planet and only logical: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-1316382/Carnivores-rejoice-Eating-meat-good-planet.html#ixzz1107TrgmY

More links to information can be found at www.kylivestock.org/steakoutthefacts/.

You may also be interested in my June 2010 post - Why I Choose to Eat Meat: http://foodmommy.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-i-choose-to-eat-meat.html

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Grocery Store

Why I love the grocery store:

1) It's a convenient place to buy most of my food, and I am there at least 3 times a week. (Glad it's on my usual route ).

2) My chain offers gas rewards. For every $100 I spend in groceries, I get 10 cents off per gallon at the pump. It wasn't that long ago that I got 60 cents off! Woo Hoo! Then, "Aaaaccck, I spent $600 on food between fill-ups?" Surely I had a few out-of-town fill ups in between, I hope.

Why I hate the grocery store:

1) Long lines and never enough checkers.

2) Terrible baggers - do they teach people how to bag groceries any more? I worked at a large chain when I was in high school and we always had a manager telling us how to do it better. I now set my groceries on the the belt in categories in hopes that they are bagged that way... never happens. I remember the little old, grumpy ladies who would insist on bagging their own groceries at my store. I have become one of those grumpy ladies.

3) There must be a list of all the things I like to eat that is used to decide which products are to be discontinued. The latest is Yoplait Greek Yogurt which I am convinced is the best, and I will pay whatever it costs to get it. There is no local grocery that carries this now. Grrrr.

4) It's nasty dirty - the only other place that gives me worse germ anxiety is a hospital. When I was getting apples the other day, one fell and rolled across the floor. I announced loudly, "And that is the reason why you should always wash your fruits and vegetables!" And no matter how hard I tried to stop him, my son would find a way to lick the grocery cart. Luckily he has outgrown that.

5) Carts are always all over the parking lot waiting to dent an automobile. They have the nice, convenient cart corrals these days. I cannot think of a good enough excuse for someone not to put their cart up. Laziness? Come rain, snow, or a screaming child, my cart will end up in the proper place. I also make sure to take a cart from the parking lot into the grocery store to help their efforts.

6) They set all the things kids want but parents don't at cart level. I have ended up with all sorts of things in my cart that I did not select. The worst spot is the checkout counter. Do you kow how hard it is to keep a toddler's hands off the M&Ms while you are trying to load your groceries? They count on that, I am certain. If anyone has any tips to avoid this, please send them my way.

I'm done hating now and off to the grocery store, again.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photo Friday: A New Respect for Organic

My oldest child was given a Bonnie cabbage plant at school last spring to grow and take a photo in hopes of winning a $1,000 scholarship. We have been caring for the cabbage diligently using what I consider organic methods – no pesticides and a “natural” fertilizer mix. I will admit that I consider myself less knowledgeable than a novice gardener, but thought we could manage this. The cabbage plant is not doing so well. I left for a couple days and found this.


If a certified organic farmer can achieve a great looking and great tasting cabbage (obviously this one tasted great to the bug) without using pesticides, I have no choice but to respect the craft and work put in to achieve that. I understand why organic produce carries a higher price tag, but also understand why many farmers do not want to take on that kind of risk. I’m so glad we have all food production systems working together to ensure we have an ample supply of safe food.

As for the photo contest, do you think we will get votes for “most interesting?” They never said it had to be the biggest, prettiest cabbage. Wish us luck.

You may also be interested in my April 14 post, “Why I don’t buy organic, most of the time.”

You are welcome to follow me at www.twitter.com/foodmommy or www.facebook.com/foodmommy.

Chocolate Milk Continued

The day following my blog post, "The Great Chocolate Milk Compromise," I saw a story in the Baltimore Sun that calories and sugar content are being reduced in flavored milk products. This is great news, and I'm glad the milk processors are thinking more about our children's health.

I also this week ran into my good friend Denise who is a dairy farmer and works for the Kentucky Dairy Development Council. She confirmed that my child was probably not exagerating about the white milk tasting funny at school. She said milk packaged in paperboard cartons can pick up odors from other foods quite easily. Denise also told me that one milk company is trying to get schools to purchase milk in recyclable plastic bottles and will then pick up the bottles to recycle them. One more "mooovelous" idea.
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