April Healthy Eating Newsletter
It's been a few weeks since my last post, which came at the beginning of the state shutdown for Covid-19. We've experienced some crazy times since then, with our normal spring busy season of new chicks, turkey poults, calves, and piglets arriving on the farm, complicated by growing interest in local food and long lines at the farm store. And lots of phone calls, so many that we had to put an automated attendant on the farm phone to screen off some of the calls so we could take care of customers in the store.
See pic below of our first Guernsey heifer calf of spring, Molly, getting some milk from her mama (Dolly). We've got a lot of new Guernsey calves on the way over the next several months. Our little bull Boom has been getting the job done.
With all these new calves scheduled to arrive, we are drying off their mothers about 60 days before the new calf is due, Essentially we slowly stop milking them so their bodies can take a break from producing milk and rebuild energy to raise the new calf. So with some of our biggest milking cows now dried off, our raw milk supply is lower than usual. In fact we are selling out every day, usually within an hour of store opening. So for all those calling to check if we have milk...you need to be at the store before or at opening time to get in line. I expect it will be that way for at least another month.
SUPPLY VS. DEMAND
We have a long planning cycle - our production for the beef, hogs, chickens, and turkeys we raise are scheduled months in advance so we can order chicks, calves, piglets etc. at the right time and setup processing dates with vendors. Grass fed beef is even longer, It takes us 12 - 18 months to finish a weaned beef calf on grass.
We were planning for about 15-20% growth this year across all of our product lines compared to last year, and the sudden surge in demand brought on by the pandemic has depleted much of our beef inventory. Consequently we have turned off online orders for beef halves and quarters, as well as the bulk beef packs, so we can maintain the store inventory.
We made calls to some of our local farmer friends that raise grass fed beef like we do, on rotated organic pastures with no hormones, antibiotics, or grain. We were able to find about 20 head that were available over the summer. The next challenge was finding a processor that had space available to cut them up, our local beef processors Lake Geneva Country Meats and Eickmans were booked solid through year end. We were able to find some processing dates at Chenoa Locker, a USDA facility about 2 hours away near Pontiac, Illinois. So we have more grass fed beef and processing capacity lined up, and may open up a limited number of the bulk beef packs online once we have our inventory replenished. We did pickup six beef this week that will go into the store ... our first priority is keeping the store freezer stocked with locally produced, 100% grass fed beef.
Our egg supply is actually increasing, as we have 500 new pullets (young hens) that are just starting to lay eggs. They should be in full production within a few more weeks and that will give us about 400 - 450 more eggs to sell per day. These are in addition to the 1200 or so producing hens we have on the pasture already, so we should have a good supply of eggs in the store for the summer.
Our hoophouse is full of several thousand Freedom Ranger chicks and turkey poults, getting ready to move out to the pasture shelters once they are fully feathered out and the weather warms up a bit. Our first batch of broiler chicks moved out to pasture this past Monday, and will be ready for processing the first week of June.
FARM STORE UPDATE
Beginning on Friday, May 1st we will require face coverings or masks in the farm store, as required by the Governor's mandate. We will also be postponing our guided farm tours which were to begin on Saturday. Look for some self guided farm tour maps, and potentially a virtual farm tour on the website soon.
We have a number of new items available in the farm store. Most exciting to all those home gardeners out there are organic vegetable and herb seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. We have 48 different varieties available now, while they last. We should also have some organic tomato seedlings available the second week of May from our greenhouse.
From East Wind Nut Butters in Missouri we are now carrying organic Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. And from the Maple Valley cooperative in Wisconsin Maple Sugar. Plus lots of new varieties of local, organic flour from Janie’s Mill – high protein bread flour, pastry flour, and cake flour. And don't forget about Mom - we have some very lovely Mother's Day Chocolates from Ethereal Chocolates in Woodstock.
HEALTH NOTES - HOW INDUSTRIAL FOOD MAKES US MORE VULNERABLE TO COVID
It's all over the news these days: If you have “underlying health conditions” you’re more likely to get COVID-19. And if you do, your symptoms are more likely to be severe.
What few if any news outlets are reporting on is the connection between industrially produced food and some of those underlying conditions—like obesity and diabetes and metabolic dysfunction—conditions that in a pandemic world, could literally mean the difference between life and death.
In her most recent article, Kristin Lawless connects the dots between food, health and the coronavirus. Lawless, author of the book, “Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture,” writes: “Preliminary findings show that metabolic dysfunction is causing devastating complications from COVID-19 and, shockingly, only 12 percent of the entire U.S. adult population is considered metabolically healthy. Metabolic dysfunction has one primary source: our highly processed, sugar-laden, nutrient-poor food supply.”
Lawless says the pandemic has the potential to make us rethink how we produce food, and rethink the connections between food production, the environment and our health—connections Big Ag and Big Food have worked hard to hide from us.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH - STEAK AND SHIITAKE FRIED RICE
This recipe comes from the Walnut Acres Family Farm, published in the Band of Farmers Cookbook (I think we still have a few of those left in the farm store.
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or substitute any variety of mushroom)
8 oz steak (cubed, kabobs, or try skirt steak)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. dried ginger, or 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup snow peas
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add eggs 1 to 2 minutes until firm. Transfer eggs to cutting board. Slice and add to rice. Cook ginger and garlic in skillet 1 minute. Add steak and cook 3 - 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, carrots, and peas. Cook 5 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Heat to simmer. Stir in rice and eggs until warm. Add scallions. Remove from heat and serve.
I am working on Part 3 of our journey to farming story, and hope to have it ready later this weekend. In the meantime we hope everyone has time to relax, enjoy the warmer days and sunshine coming next week, and spend time cooking and enjoying a good meal together with family and friends in these uncertain times.
Stay safe and healthy!
Cliff, Anna, and the Farm Team