Organic Farming

“Organic”

What does organic mean today? We at JVF don’t want to sound like whiners, but we do want you to know the facts. And the fact is, it’s not what it used to be. But to be fair, it is better than before the organic movement got legs. That’s also the fact. There are fewer chemicals sold and put down on the ground today than there were before the movement. That’s progress and we should recognize it. And support it when we can’t find it from a local farmer. Our family does. You should too. But you also need to know that when it comes to meat, you have to ask more than whether it is “new organic”. Are the creatures raised in cages or feedlots? Are they fed antibiotics and hormones? Are they sprayed with pesticides to keep the flies off of them. Where are the waste materials dumped? Are the waterways, air and soils being improved? How far away were the creatures raised and how did the government know if the standards were really followed? In how many different plants were the meats processed?

Or you can keep it simple – buy locally from farmers you know. As a subset to that suggestion, true grass-fed and pastured meats are also less expensive than Big Food charges.

Sustainable, affordable sustenance. That’s what it’s all about at Jolie Vue Farms.

It’s More Than Food for the Critters

Grass feeds more than just our beeves and pigs. Don’t forget the birds, raccoons, deer and microbial subterranean life. What is not generally recognized is how grass nourishes the planet’s atmosphere. That virtue is now gaining recognition with the widespread effort to encourage landowners to embrace their grasslands as carbon traps which would then be “sold” to those industries that add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.

So it feeds our creatures, saves and builds our topsoil, and cleanses our air and water.

GRASS. IT’S WHAT WE DO. It’s a good thing.

Embrace Our Planet!

The Flush reminds us of the importance of saving our grasslands, perhaps the most effective yet overlooked tool for cleansing carbon emissions in our air. Grass is an amazing gift, acting as Earth’s washateria to remove carbon from the air, taking it down into the soil where it is used to grow the next cycle of grass and repeat the atmospheric cleansing. Contrast that with row farming where the carbon in the soil is actually exposed to and escapes into the atmosphere.

Instead, we have incentivized the plowing of the earth with the methane misadventure. More ground is plowed up than ever before for the growing of grains, mainly corn, to make gasoline or for feed for the nation’s feed yards and other CAFOs (confined animal feeding operation). Any reduction in plowing would be beneficial but turning even half of the corn grown for livestock or gasoline and returning that ground to grasslands would have a significant, measurable and positive impact. If that conversion also included well managed rotational grazing of cattle, pigs and chickens, we would have an environmental policy that worked with instead of against Mother Nature. And nobody protects and builds the planet better than her. She only awaits our invitation.

Is my hope simply pie in the sky idealism? Well, the same thing was said in the early days of organic farming which began in Austin, Texas with the advent of what we now know as Whole Foods. Today you cannot enter a conventional grocery store without finding organic fruits and vegetables, organic broth, organic this and organic that. The elimination of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers that would otherwise have been polluting our air, water, soil and bodies with the advent of organic farming techniques is monumental and ever-expanding. Grass should be the next frontier.

Let’s make it happen!

Link: Nutrition and Flavor

Are you amazed by how much the food world has changed in the last 10 years? I am, and the Real Food world made it happen. It was moving along at a steady pace from its inception with a bunch of “old hippies” and Whole Foods in Austin. That was 40 years ago. But the pace of change accelerated over the last ten when the retailers realized you were serious about the food thing. Now we have fast food and grocery companies competing to see who can get on the bandwagon first.

Which brings me to today’s revelation: did you know that the lack of nutrition that goes into the industrial chicken, turkey, beef, pork and lamb also dilutes the flavor? So what have they been doing since factory farms started? They are adding artificial flavors that mimic those meaty tastes. Yep, there’s a chemical company in New Jersey that does nothing but that – invents in the test tube whatever a piece of meat is supposed to taste like and sells it to the producers so their meat can taste like something it is not but used to be.

Wow. More cooked chemicals in our food that nobody told us about. And they convinced us it was “fresh”. What a bunch of rascals.

Remember, the real value is found in Real Food. JVF brings it to your door.

Jolie Vue Pork

It is easy to discuss nutritional advantages of grass-fed beef, raw milk, chicken and eggs — the research on all of these are deep and wide. Pastured pork is not so. I have found nothing on the subject of the superiority of naturally raised pork except this — pigs finished on seasonal acorns, as they are in Spain and Italy, have fatty acid profiles that look just like olive oil. So that’s a good start. Let’s take it from there.

First, the old wood forest at JVF is loaded with oak trees. In a good acorn year, you can’t take a step without stepping on acorns. But there’s more. The other dominant tree is the native pecan. It is well-established that the pecan contains the most complex variety of oils of all of the nuts. The pecan falls like rain every year as well. Then, I read a study of nuts in general — it turns out that every nut, including the lowly peanut, contributes some quantity of healthy oils, regardless of type.. So from acorns to pecans to almonds, cashews, to peanuts and the rest, very good oils are available to enrich the heart-healthy nature of well grown pork. So how do we take advantage of this knowledge?

While we make free-choice grains available about 22 days of every month, it’s the other 10 days when the pigs are rooting for native grasses, sapling roots, dewberries, grapes, and wild plums. When our native grasses go to sleep, we broadcast winter grass seed, including rye, oats and clover. Then when we are finishing the pig for market, they also get fresh fruits and roasted peanuts.

Lastly, what they don’t have is as important — no drugs, no antibiotics, no hormones, no steroids. 
In summary, fresh fruits and roasted nuts, along with the foods provided by nature and topped off with good grains give our pigs a wide variety of nutrients.

If flavor tells you anything about the nutritional value of any given food, and it does, you know you must be getting the best with JVF pork. It’s flavor still surprises us favorably after 10 years of eating. It simply raises the bar for the rest of the pork world and we have found no one who has hurled that bar. That’s a fact.

Soil Armor

One of the keys to a successful grasslands farm is what we call “soil armor”. A vibrant living soil is the foundation for good grasses and it is at its productive best when it has cover over its head. The armor makes it warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and saves its moisture from the drying wind and sun. What it’s really doing is protecting the home of the soil creatures – be they microbial or the larger versions.

This time of year, that armor starts with the grasses of the previous warm season. We were lucky in that regard because fall rains were plentiful and the grasses recovered quickly from the dry heat that August always brings. Those grasses become standing hay that provide some dry matter for the cattle through the winter but more importantly, put that roof and wind-break over the soil. When we see spring approaching, we shred it down, and it then becomes a blanket, and that is when you see the benefit of the armor – green stuff is revealed that was previously hidden by the armor. As the blanket dissolves into the soil, it provides food for the soil life which in turns grows more green armor. In your electronic version of the newsletter, the 3 photos below show the three stages described here.

Nature is an amazing thing.

The Synthetics

Let’s discuss the effect of the agricultural chemicals that cause so much concern among us consumers. They all have their negatives, but those negatives differ in kind and degree. I’ll start with the least harmful, the synthetic fertilizers, consisting of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash, or “NPK”.

I rank NPK as the least harmful of the synthetics. It’s negative effects are more prominent in the soil and waterway environment than any direct effect on human health so far as we know. A few studies suggest that vegetables grown with NPK have a narrower nutritional profile but others point to no difference versus organically grown produce.

The environmental impact of NPK is where we find the harm. NPK comes in the form of mineral -like pellets and is broadcast over the land. Assume that a hard and fast rain comes down shortly after it is applied. The fertilizer can wash down the hills and into the waterways that ultimately end in the Gulf of Mexico. Now imagine that happening on the farms and ranches all along the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans. NPK draws oxygen from the water in the Gulf and hence, you have the infamous Gulf Dead Zone, currently the size of Rhode Island. All forms of aquatic life dies in the Dead Zone.

Many critics claim that NPK also kills soil microbial life that is essential to a living soil, but there is some legitimate dispute about that. My guess is that overuse is required before that mechanism kicks in.

Bottom line on NPK - not likely to cause harm to your food.

The poisons: herbicides and pesticides are the clearer villains in our food production system. Both poisons are used by conventional planters as well as stockmen and it is scientifically demonstrable that residues of both will stay with the plant or animal as it is delivered to your grocery store. Bad stuff.

Here I express my personal opinion on herbicides as it applies to the stockman’s pasture. By killing off the diversity of plant life in the pasture, we are also killing off some of the natural medicines and food that nature provides for the entire creation, including that which is beneficial to humankind. Remember this - many of our healing medicines were discovered in plants. In fact, plants were the original medicines administered in their natural form by the early “doctors” and “medicine men”. I witness our cattle and pigs eating those so-called weeds regularly. The animals know what is good for them. So, herbicides deposit poisons in your food while also banishing good plants from your pasture. Stay away from herbicides at every opportunity.

Pesticides: in the stockman’s realm, pesticides’ primary application is to thwart the hated flies that pester our critters and retard their growth. The conventional answer is to spray or coat them in fly killers. Like the herbicides, thaeir residue is found in the animal after processing, just like an apple, a cabbage or a tomato. There are other natural ways to minimize or entirely eliminate the flies.

So that’s the primer on the synthetics - NPK, not so bad at least for the human consumer. The poisons: keep them out of your diet as much as possible. Bad stuff.

 

Opinion (sort of)

I cannot be critical of the model created by our agricultural colleges in achieving a mass production system for our food supply. Farmers and ranchers were asked to follow the lead of the government and their ag colleges that dictated that they produce an exponentially greater supply of food for ourselves and the world. The U.S was on rations and Europe and everybody east thereof were in starvation mode. The colleges did what they were told and the farmers followed. It was a huge success and right for its time. If criticism is deserved it is for their failure to reckon with the unsustainability of the model. We know there is a sustainable model. Embrace holistic farming as you embraced its alternative. Their model is only 60 years old and has led to exhaustion. The holistic model sustained the world for centuries before that and we now know how to do it even better. Get over it. See why in the next section.