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  • Writer's pictureCliff McConville

January Healthy Eating Newsletter


Winter has finally settled into a more normal routine after a strange cold/snowy early fall and very warm December. Many visitors ask what a pasture-based farm in Northern Illinois does in the winter when there is no grass to graze?

Of course we feed lots of hay (dried grass). We don't raise broiler chickens or turkeys in the winter, and we are not rotationally grazing the cows, laying hens, or pigs, so our daily farm chore schedule is about half of what we do in the summer. But still enough to keep two people busy on farm chores most days. Our largest time commitment is the raw dairy operation, milking the Guernsey moo crew twice daily, plus time spent refilling their hay feeders, cleaning their loafing area and shelter, putting down fresh straw 2x/day, and of course cleaning the barn and equipment after each milking. On average we spend about 9 hours of labor per day caring for the dairy herd in winter.

In between milkings and cow care, we also tend to about 1200 laying hens and ducks wintering in three separate hoophouses. Chicken chores include feeding and watering twice daily, collecting eggs, and putting down fresh bedding every day or two. What takes more time is sorting, cleaning, and packing the eggs for the store, which is almost 2 hours of work per day at their current production level.

We are also raising about 40 pigs over the winter so they need fresh water 2x/day and feed every day, along with fresh bedding in their shelters every few days. The beef herd is very low maintenance in winter, we simply bring them four large round bales of hay every couple of days, they have an automatic waterer in their winter paddock that only ices over on very cold days.


The good news is that our egg shortage has eased up, we are getting almost twice as many eggs as we were a month ago so the only challenge now is finding time to get them packed and into the store with several of the guys on vacation this week.

New In the store this month we now have our Friends of the Farm CSA card, which we profiled in our last blog post. Its like a gift card on steroids with really juicy bonus amounts added if purchased before the end of January (through Friday midnight). See the early season bonus levels in the picture below - these cards make great gifts as well! They can be purchased in the store or on our website.

Other new items in the store include pure elderberry juice from River Hills Harvest - a farmer-owned elderberry coop in Missouri. We ran into them at the ACRES conference in December and immediately ordered their juice for the store when we got back. We also started carrying Conscious Cup whole bean coffee, the beans are roasted right in nearby Crystal Lake. And we will soon have Ethereal Chocolate in the store (later this week), organic/fair-trade chocolates made in Woodstock.

Our Chef Douglas is baking fresh artisan sourdough breads from local+organic flours for the store on Tuesday and Friday mornings. And now he started preparing soups made from organic ingredients and our own meat products. This week we have Split Pea with Ham and Tomato, Bulgur, and Bell Pepper soups in stock, as well as a full line of vegetarian soups made locally by Bushel and Pecks with organic ingredients.


Yet more research that indicates the problems with soybeans - and why you should avoid those fried fast foods! New UC Riverside research shows soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes, but could also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, and depression.

Used for fast food frying, added to packaged foods, and fed to livestock, soybean oil is by far the most widely produced and consumed edible oil in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In all likelihood, it is not healthy for humans.

It certainly is not good for mice. The new study, published this month in the journal Endocrinology, compared mice fed three different diets high in fat: soybean oil, soybean oil modified to be low in linoleic acid, and coconut oil.

The same UCR research team found in 2015 that soybean oil induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver in mice. Then in a 2017 study, the same group learned that if soybean oil is engineered to be low in linoleic acid, it induces less obesity and insulin resistance.

However, in the study released this month, researchers did not find any difference between the modified and unmodified soybean oil's effects on the brain. Specifically, the scientists found pronounced effects of the oil on the hypothalamus, where a number of critical processes take place. READ FULL ARTICLE.

RECIPE OF THE MONTH - MEAT LOAF WITH ORGAN MEATS Super easy to make, tastes wonderful and very nutritious. We made it with organs and without and both versions are delicious. You can find this recipe and many more in "the HEAL YOUR GUT - Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet" cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett (available in our store). Serves 6 - 8.

1 1/2 pounds ground meat (beef, pastured lamb, pork, or a combination)

1/2 pound ground organs (chicken or beef liver and/or heart)

3 pastured eggs

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup button mushrooms or baby portobellos, chopped fine (optional)

1 cup finely grated carrots (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

1 tablespoon kelp seasoning (optional, but great for trace minerals)

8-10 slices bacon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place all of the ingredients (except the bacon) in a bowl, and mix together with your hands. Place the mixture into a glass loaf pan and lay strips of bacon across the top. Bake for 1 hour, or until the center reaches

degrees Fahrenheit. You can enjoy the meat loaf right away, or freeze it in thick slices for quick school lunches, I often double the recipe and stick a whole uncooked loaf in the freezer for a fast future dinner. Just wrap in parchment paper, then tinfoil, and pop into the freezer.


We hope everyone has time to relax, spend time outdoors and enjoy each other. We look forward to seeing you soon at the farm store.

Happy February!

Cliff, Anna, and the Farm Team

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