Organic cost-share, the Farm Bill, and us

Among the hoopla and uproar over the still-delayed Farm Bill is one situation that has important implications for our farm. As a general rule we’re not directly sensitive to Farm Bill contents, as we don’t take government handouts, grants, subsidies or other funding as a matter of personal principle (though the Farm Bill has all sorts of implications for our competition, both locally and nationally). Our stubborn independence comes with one exception, though: the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP). Here’s why we reluctantly take this money, how it reflects the deeper problems in agricultural policy, and what will happen if the current Farm Bill doesn’t pass soon or loses this provision. Continue reading

How marijuana legalization could influence local foods

The recent successful ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado have interesting, but overlooked, implications for small-scale agriculture and local foods. This attempt by states to circumvent a Federal law seen as unnecessarily restrictive on personal freedom of choice parallels other attempts to increase freedoms for small farmers to process and sell farm products independent of government interference. In both cases, over-regulation suppresses an in-demand consumer product and thus creates a real and potential black market for those products while blocking law-abiding entrepreneurs. It will be very interesting to see whether the attempt to allow more freedom to purchase recreational drugs will influence consumers’ legal ability to purchase fresh food from farmers of their choosing. What will it take to change the FDA’s position that Americans “do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”? Continue reading

The opening of Trey Bistro

This past week, we were honored by an invitation to the soft opening of downtown Columbia’s newest restaurant, Trey Bistro. We’ve been looking forward to this opening for a while now, and were excited to sample the possibilities of this latest venture. Though we’re hardly impartial reviewers, as friends and admirers of Trey’s cooking & support for local foods, we were still thoroughly impressed with the experience and suspect that even those who don’t care about local foods will appreciate the restaurant for the simple reason that the food is so good. Trey seeks out the best, most flavorful ingredients possible and prepares them in creative ways, the result being really delicious food. You can read a nice roundup of the restaurant’s background and opening menu here in the Tribune; we’ll share our own experiences below the break. Continue reading

August day off: birding & Bamboo Terrace

We took our August day off this Tuesday, heading down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area for a morning of birding, followed by lunch at the new Chinese restaurant in town, Bamboo Terrace. A post-lunch hour at the library followed by an afternoon on the couch at home felt very nice. The restaurant was a pleasant experience, and we’ll give a brief review below. Continue reading

Kirkwood by rail

Last Tuesday we took our first day off since late May. We were too tired to even take one of our normal road trips, and just wanted a good context to do & see something different while mostly relaxing and escaping the heat. So after getting up early to do milking & animal chores, we drove down to Jefferson City, and caught the morning train to Kirkwood (a suburb of St Louis), so we could indulge in our love of train travel while enjoying unique views of the Missouri River. Researching online, Kirkwood seemed like it had a nice downtown, worth spending a few hours in before heading back, so we went for it. This turned out to be a great, unusual, memorable day exploring interesting parts of Missouri, the type of day trip we love. Continue reading

The problems with drought relief programs for farms

Most of the attention in this ongoing drought is focused on how to help corn/soy commodity farmers survive their crop losses. I’m sympathetic to individual farmers watching their crops wilt in this brutal summer, but less so to the grossly tilted farm program landscape that focuses solely on commodity farms and ignores most of the other kinds. Here’s why we feel the emergency farm programs being thrown out there to help mean little or nothing to a farm like ours, and are problematic even for those they intend to help. Continue reading

JJR Farm quitting organic meat & egg sales

John & Julie Rice of JJR Farm face an uphill battle trying to produce certified organic meat & eggs in central Missouri. There are no reliable local sources for organic grains; John’s often had to drive to Kansas or Iowa to get his bulk feed (our bagged feed is shipped in from Wisconsin). The only organic-certified slaughterhouse is in Illinois, a 600-mile round-trip every time they have to process an animal for legal sale as organic (the only way to justify the price of organic feed). 1200 miles, actually, one trip to drop the animal(s) off and one to pick up the meat once it’s ready. Unfortunately, the prices they can get for local organic meat & eggs don’t really relate to the cost of production and certification. Now, after seven years of organic production for local sales, they’re calling it quits. Continue reading

North Missouri day trip

We don’t take many days off during the growing season, but when we do we often like to explore the back roads of rural Missouri to see what we can find. As farmers, landscape geologists, history buffs, and railfans there’s more than enough to keep us occupied. Such road trips let us sit down, listen to music, see scenery, and take lots of short walks/hikes that don’t tire us out, since the idea is NOT to expend energy. Past short trips have included NW Missouri, the Niangua River, Royals baseball, lots of birding days, and in mid-May this year, north-central Missouri. Continue reading

Adapting a great Mexican pumpkin-seed sauce

Rick Bayless has a great recipe for a Green Pumpkin Seed Sauce using lots of fresh ingredients that are generally in season in spring. Its complex flavor is fantastic with meats or vegetables, and is well worth trying; it’s quite easy to make vegetarian if desired. The link above is to a rather poorly formatted Readers Digest version but will give you the idea. However, like many recipes, we often adapt it to meet the ingredients we have on-farm, since we don’t grocery shop on a regular basis and prefer creativity to targeted purchases. The original produces a thick green sauce that looks & tastes quite nice. The version we present below results in a equally good, but far more hideous-looking, brown sauce that doesn’t photograph well. The major difference involves replacing green pumpkin seeds, which we don’t normally have around, with organic Missouri pecans, which we order in bulk as our basic house nut (other than me). Below we’ll present the original and our latest adaptation of it, to illustrate how you can be creative with interesting recipes and items on hand. Continue reading

Ribs & borscht

We’re eating a lot of salads, sautes, stir fries, and other seasonal dishes lately that make quick & easy use of the produce on hand during our long and busy days. Tuesday’s dinner, though, was a nice treat based on a more even mix of fresh product and still-preserved items, highlighting the quality and diversity of foods we’re able to prepare and eat year-round sourced primarily from just this farm. All on-farm ingredients listed in italics. Continue reading