Grazing begins + Organic vs. Non-GMO & Italian Sausage Minestrone Stew
Updated: Apr 30
With all the rain this spring we just needed a little warm weather to get the pastures growing, and the handful warm days we had in the past few weeks were just the ticket. The laying hens have been out on pasture for a few weeks already, but this week we started grazing both the beef and dairy herds for a few hours per day to get their rumens adjusted to the fresh grass. We will slowly expand their daily grazing time for the next week and still supplement them with hay until the pastures are longer and their digestive systems are fully adjusted.
One of the side benefits of the grazing season is that our Guernsey cows are producing quite a bit more milk on the fresh grass vs. winter hay. So much more that we are not selling out everything online each morning like we were a few weeks ago. Therefore we have made a slight change to our morning milk sales routine. As before we put everything we have available for sale on the website 30 minutes before the store opens. However, if we still have milk available at store opening time (10 AM weekdays, 9 AM weekends) we will pull the remaining inventory off the website and sell it in the store to walk-in customers for as long as it lasts. This past week we have had raw milk available in the store most of the day.
We welcomed another new Guernsey heifer last week - we've had a good string of heifers so far this year without many bull calves. The team named her Minnie, mostly an ironic name because she is really big and long-legged like her mom, Moose, and her Grandma Samantha. Funny story about Samantha, we purchased her as a really large bred heifer a few years ago from a well-known Wisconsin Guernsey breeder. She was supposed to be carrying a calf but at some point miscarried the calf so we bred her back to our bull. As is typical for our bred heifers we put them in with the beef herd to graze until a few weeks before they are due to calve. But Samantha was having nothing to do with the beef herd. She went right through the single wire electric fence that keeps the beef herd in their daily paddocks, then jumped over two closed gates (destroying one), we found her back with her Guernsey buddies in the dairy field on the opposite side of the farm. She's a determined one.
When our vet came to check on Samantha's pregnancy progress a few weeks before her due date, he reached into her and commented that he could feel some really big hooves and joked that she was going to be delivering a "moose". Hence the name.
Curious Minnie with her attentive mom Moose watching closely
WOW WHAT A RESPONSE!
Thanks to all of you who donated to the rebuilding campaign for Jeff and Jen Miller at Prairie Wind Family Farm. There was a big surge in donations after I sent out the last newsletter and they continued for the next several days. I saw many of our customers and subscribers on the donor list, and believe that collectively we raised over $5,000 to help in their rebuilding efforts. I can't thank everyone enough for their generosity and support for our friends in need.
If you missed out contributing last time, please consider contributing to their GoFundMe campaign to help them rebuild their farm operation.
KAROLINA STILL HAS A FEW CSA SHARES AVAILABLE
For those interested in getting a weekly vegetable share of locally-grown, organic, chemical free, and super fresh veggies, our on-site grower Karolina still has some of her 10 and 20-week CSA shares available. Pickup your share just outside our farm store or at the Glenwood Sunday Market in Roger's Park. Learn more and sign up on her website.
ORGANIC VS. NON-GMO?
We get a fair number of questions about the difference between Organic and Non-GMO, in particular when it comes to the topic of animal feeds. We source all of our certified organic chicken and hog feed from Cashton Farm Supply out of Wisconsin. They primarily sell organic feeds to larger commercial farms all over the upper midwest, but they also carry a line of non-gmo feeds which are very popular now with the homesteaders and families with small backyard flocks.
As many of our readers are aware, GMO is an acronym for genetically modified organism. Back in the 1990's, chemical giant Monsanto came out with their patented genetically modified corn and soybeans. They were originally touted as a "breakthrough" in agriculture because the plants DNA had been altered to supposedly make them resistant to certain pests (i.e. insects). In addition they were genetically altered to survive the herbicide glyphosate (brand name RoundUp) which was supposed to be a more environmentally friendly herbicide. At the time, I remember reading some glowing articles about how great this GMO technology would be because it could reduce the use of harmful herbicides used on the millions of acres of corn and soybeans planted in the midwest every year. What a scam that turned out to be!
No, some 20 years later we have come to realize the true benefit to Monsanto was that it created a huge market for its Glyphosate/RoundUp herbicide, which has increased in use astronomically as more and more weeds became resistant to it. And of course there are numerous studies indicating how damaging Glyphosate is to the environment and human health with several class action lawsuits pending due to its carcinogenic status. And there still have been no long term studies showing the impact of eating genetically modified foods on either animals or humans, but the huge increase in chronic illnesses that began about the time GMO crops were introduced in the mid-90s is a telling signal.
So back to the main question. Any certified organic food, feed, vegetable, or food product CANNOT be from a genetically-modified source. For now GMO's are banned from use in organic production. In addition, certified organic food, feed, and related products are supposed to be produced in sustainably-managed soils without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Certified organic meat, dairy, or egg products must come from animals fed certified organic feed and hay, and not administered any antibiotics or synthetic hormones. Of course as large food companies have moved into the organic space they are slowly eroding some of these stringent organic requirements to make it easier to produce organic food products in industrial farming settings. That battle continues to maintain the integrity of the organic label.
However, any product labeled "Non-GMO" simply means the ingredients do not come from a genetically modified source. They could and likely did come from plants that were sprayed with herbicides or raised with synthetic fertilizers. Animal products labeled non-gmo were likely fed with corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, or hay that were sprayed with herbicides and grown with synthetic fertilizers. And possibly raised with the use of antibiotics and hormones. I see the "Non-GMO" verified label on all kinds of products in the grocery store for which no genetically-modified source exists (i.e. hot sauce), so its been a good marketing tool for many companies because many consumers think its the same as organic but it really doesn't compare. Stick with certified organic products if you really want the cleanest, chemical-free food sources, unless you are sourcing from a farm you know and trust. The certified organic label is not perfect, but its the best option out there right now.
Italian Sausage Minestrone Stew
Many of our readers enjoyed the chicken with sour cream marinade recipe developed by our long-time customer Jackie and included in our March 24 Post. So we asked her to develop more recipes using our products, we are excited to present the first in a series below:
Hearty Minestrone stew loaded with All Grass Farms sweet Italian sausage, a plethora of veggies and pantry staples. Feed the family straight from the pot and savor the leftovers!
Cook time: 1 hour
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 lb ground sweet Italian sausage (All Grass Farms)
2 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, diced
3 long carrots (5oz), diced
3 celery stalks (3.5oz), diced
2 whole roasted red peppers from jar, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste, and pasta water)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp EACH oregano and thyme
1/2 tsp EACH rosemary and red chili flakes
1 large bay leaf
1 15.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (regular or fire roasted)
1 15.5 oz EACH canned cannellini and kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 cups beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for serving)
1 bunch of kale, deribbed, chopped (optional)
Half a pound of egg or macaroni noodles
Over medium heat, add olive oil to a Dutch oven. Once hot, add sausage and cook until browned, around 10 minutes. Set aside. Melt butter in the same pot, then add onions. Saute until onions are translucent. Add carrots, celery, roasted red pepper and garlic. Mix so butter coats all veggies. Once fragrant, add salt, tomato paste, herbs and red chili flakes. Let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, beans, warmed broth along with Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes. In the meantime, boil and salt water for noodles. Boil until noodles are al dente. After the 20 minutes is up, add the cooked sausage, parmesan and kale (if using) to the pot. Let cook for a few minutes so the kale wilts and the sausage is warmed through. Taste and add more salt if needed. If serving right away, combine noodles to stew, if not, keep noodles separate to avoid them absorbing liquid or going mushy. Serve with more parmesan grated on top. Left overs are even better!
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To Your Health,
Cliff, Anna and the Farm Team