Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Warm like an old world grandma

This evening looking north from the feed bunks by the barn

For those of you who know me well, some of this will be old news.  I am a weeny about the cold if my neck and ears aren't out of the wind.  I will stay perfectly warm, so long as I have one of my scarfs (wild rag kind, not long, fringed kind) tied tightly around my neck.  For my entire twenty six years I have assumed that women in the 1950's and earlier wore their scarves tied over their hair so that it wouldn't be "mussed" in the wind.  Never did it cross my mind that there was more function to this - naive I know - until this evening.  The wind was blowing like crazy at the barn.  A cold, damp wind from the northeast.  I cannot keep my hood over my head with out the zipper scratching me and my ears feel as though they are filling with tiny icicles.  Here is where you Montanans start laughing because it really wasn't that cold today.  Anyways, finally decided that I would just wrap my scarf around my head so that the hood of my jacket wouldn't scratch me and my ears would be warm.  Wow.  It essentially made my hood silk-lined, kept the wind out of my ears, and still kept my neck warm because it was tied around it under my chin.  Here is where all "stylish," cool chick points go right out the window, but it was heavenly and I will do it again.  

In the last couple weeks I have been calling dairies across the country that are doing anything local and small-scale-ish.  Wow is it depressing.  I cannot come up with the words to explain how disheartening some of these stories are.  Some started by investing a LOT of money, without ensuring that the local market could support their business.  There are artisan cheese makers out there selling cheese for $27/lb.  Pretty steep compared to Tillamook right?  They are only clearing $2/lb on their product.  $2!!!!  Am I the only one who thinks this is insanity?  They give their whey (by-product) away.  No ricotta made, pigs or calves fed and then profited from.  They have incredible, beautiful structures on their property for cheese tasting and their barn looks like something out of Country magazine...but all they talk about is how broke they are.  
We are obviously green, and I listen to these owners with great interest and respect, but in my mind I cannot seem to understand many of the aesthetic things that they are investing in.  

I'm sorry this isn't very organized, but I am floored and saddened by the things we're learning.  

Our food system is set up (regulations etc) for large, mass-production farms and I really was clueless about the extent of the difficulties in starting a small farm purely with the intent of supplying food to our community.  I guess I'm a simpler person that I thought, but I really don't see why on earth everything is priced to keep the little guy out of the market.  No wonder so many people just sell raw milk or go around the law in some other way.  Going with the law not only requires a lot of money, but also a lot of paperwork and fuss - which we'll deal with but geez.  All to sell minimally processed products.
My goal for this week is to look into grants for land/equipment purchases as well as learn a little bit about the government subsidizing farms.  I am fairly in the dark regarding subsidies, really my only real experience is with apricots in California a few years ago.  Our family received the "OK" to go pick all the apricots we wanted from an orchard there.  A large orchard.  Fruit so thick it looked like giant clusters of creamy orange colored grapes running down the length of each branch...and the farmer was being paid to let the fruit rot.  He could not give it away to the community (but apparently a few families like ours would go unnoticed).  What was wrong with the fruit you may wonder?  It was blemished by a wind storm a couple weeks earlier.  Not destroyed, not badly bruised, just a few scrapes here and there but it was declared a total loss.  What a waste.  Remembering this and hearing of how little money there is in dairying made me want to look into subsidies, because the numbers just don't pencil out unless there is some sort of hand out added in.  I'm willing to bet the small farmers aren't receiving the bulk of it though.  Just think of all the things that could be done with "waste" like those apricots if the local communities were mobilized to make use of it.  


Tammie said...

the scarf is cute. you'll be a trend-setter.

that is so sad about the farm industry.

i wish there were a source for raw, organic milk--uh, reasonably priced. i didn't know that the regulations were a big part of what makes it so difficult for people to provide it.

it's all very interesting. i hope that the discouragement passes, and that the way opens up for you.

Erin said...

Raw milk is a huge, hot issue for both government and farmers. It was OK to sell it until 1998 or 99 when there were several illnesses associated with it. Of course, they never mention how many people are made ill by store bought, pasteurized milk - but it may be something to do with not being able to control the product entirely, as well as monitor the producer. Who knows.