Living Hand to Mouth?

One day Cathy and I walked into our local Giant grocery store, and as I walked in, the thought that struck me was: we could not stock up on food for the winter at that store. It is a HUGE grocery store but every thing is sold in small quantities. The selection of food is incredible. Apples are sold by the piece, but you can’t buy a bushel of apples. You can buy one sweet potato, but not a 50lb. bag.

Bulk food
We like to purchase as much as we can in 50lb bags. We buy the whole wheat grain and grind our own flour. Wheat, when it is made into flour, loses almost all of its vitamins in 72 hours.

Even cereal can be purchased in single serving bowls for $1 each. I realized that the HUGE grocery stores give the impression that there is an abundance of food to eat, but they have forced Americans to live hand to mouth by only being able to purchase small quantities at a time. They have also forced people to buy food the most expensive way possible – in small quantities. People find themselves running to the grocery store multiple times a week.

The grocery stores also function on a hand to mouth mentality. Most fruits and vegetables are not purchased locally and stored to be sold during the winter. Instead, there is a global dependence. Much of the fruits and vegetables that are produced locally are consumed in the summer months. For the rest of the year, we depend on other countries supplying much of our fruits and vegetables. We as a country are living hand to mouth, more dependent than we would like to admit, on other people all around the world supplying our food for us when we want it.

But the good news is that all is not doom and gloom. It is possible to eat local, eat healthy, and significantly cut your food costs. The key is to buy in season, in a large quantity, and store it for the winter. It is usually much cheaper buying a 50lb bag of potatoes or a bushel of apples than buying them by the individual potato or apple in the grocery store. When you buy it locally, you can find out how it was raised. When you buy those fresh fruits and vegetables one at a time in the grocery store in the middle of winter, you have no idea what unregulated pesticide might have been sprayed on it in that distant country on the other side of the world, even if it is called organic.

There is a real satisfaction in having food stored up for the winter. I enjoy opening the freezer and seeing it full of good food for us to eat this winter, or looking at the pantry shelves full of food that we raised ourselves and canned for the winter months. Our family has opted out of the hand to mouth mentality of purchasing our food in small quantities. We do not want to go back!

One of our freezers full of sweet corn, apple cider we made at our neighbor’s house, cucumber juice, peaches, and meat.

One of Cathy’s pantry shelves with peaches, tomato sauce, pickles, apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling, and beets.

Yukon Gold potatoes from our garden stored for the winter in our cellar.

If you want true pasture raised chickens to eat this winter, this fall is the time to stock up. Over a year ago, we upgraded to a heavier 2mil plastic bag for packaging the chickens and turkeys. That has improved the amount of time that the poultry can be held in the freezer without freezer burn. Cathy recently got some turkey soup bones out of the freezer from almost a year ago (last Thanksgiving). She did not find any freezer burn. Our biggest chicken customer likes to eat local all winter. They plan to have 100 chickens in the freezer to last until May. While that sounds like a lot of chickens, it is only about 4-5 chickens a week until the May 2011 chicken processing. That "customer" is our family. Yes, we eat a lot more than just chicken. When you set four hard working, growing boys down at the dinner table, it had better be more than just a salad!

Another one of our freezers full of home grown food – Chicken, green beans, and raspberry jam.

Food, Inc.

We recently watched "Food, Inc." Many of you have already seen Food, Inc., and if you haven’t seen it yet we highly recommend it. They take you inside the chicken houses, feed lots, and poultry and beef processing plants and give a behind the scenes view of where food comes from and how it is processed. They give you an inside view of how some of the large multinational companies are bullying farmers into submission to their program. You will see why I said "I’ll NEVER raise chickens" after working on a farm when I was in college where I took care of 75,000 broiler chickens in the big factory farm "jail" chicken house.

We saw Food, Inc. the week before the latest egg salmonella scare occurred with the 500,000,000 egg recall. When I saw the processing plants with the conveyors, shackle lines, pipes, etc. that move raw meat and other food ingredients from one place to another, I was amazed that there has not been a lot more food poisoning. For example: it would be difficult, on a daily basis, to completely clean a big long belt conveyor that carries raw hamburger. There are rollers and other contact points under the conveyor that carry the conveyor belt back to the starting end of the conveyor that would be difficult to completely clean. It is a totally different situation than a small butcher shop where it is relatively easy to clean down the tables and small machines at the end of the day. Because of the difficulty of totally cleaning up the big processing plants, they have to use irradiation, ammonia, and other chemicals with names that we can hardly pronounce to control bacteria from growing in the final food product.

The chicken houses are very similar to the ones I worked in when I was in college. The chickens walk a short distance to the feeder, or a short distance to the waterer and then they plop down. There are so many birds packed together. Every day I walked through the chicken houses and picked up the dead chickens just like the lady does. What you can’t experience in the movie is the strong ammonia smell inside the chicken house from the manure nor do you experience all the manure dust that is continually in the air. My one uncle developed a bad cough from breathing all that dust in his chicken house. He finally had to sell his farm because of his health.

One of the newer changes in most chicken houses today is the windows have been closed up and the chickens never see sunlight. They are dark tunnel houses with controlled lighting so that the chickens can be stimulated to eat more. The chickens never know when it is day or night.

Chickens can be controlled very easily with light. When I worked in the factory farm chicken house, it was fun to play with the dimmer switch. When I turned the lights up the chickens got up and started eating, then when I turned the lights down the chickens sat down. I could make the whole sea of chickens move up and down at will with the lights. The poor chickens never see sunlight!

Another characteristic of confinement raised chickens, and this includes chickens raised in confinement in small chicken tractor pens on pasture is that their legs have difficulty holding them up. They plop down rather than gently sit down. This is mentioned in the movie. When I saw a chicken plop down in Food Inc. I suddenly realized it is not as much a characteristic of our chickens any more, even though we have the same breed of chicken. It is not a breed problem, it is how they are raised. Our chickens get lots of exercise and have strong healthy leg muscles that can support their body. They are not the flabby, weak muscled, couch potato, lazy chickens that people buy in the grocery stores and restaurants. We are what we eat and I wonder how much the way the meat is raised affects the person who eats it to be flabby, weak muscled, lazy, etc.

Our broiler chickens getting plenty of exercise and sunshine and a fresh "salad bar" pasture.

The laying hens eagerly going out to the pasture in the morning.

One point in Food, Inc. that was misunderstood by at least one person is that they said that there are 13 main slaughter houses in the US that process the majority of the beef. That does not mean that there are only 13 slaughter houses in the US. There are still many small butcher shops left. We get our lamb processed at Horst Meats, a small family owned USDA butcher shop that is located on their farm near Hagerstown, Maryland. Our butcher is a relative and we feel confident that we get back the same lambs that we take in. When you purchase pasture finished lamb from us you are supporting not only our farm but also a local small butcher shop that is not part of the factory food industry.

What Food, Inc. does not have time to address is where the other half of the food that the US consumes comes from. Almost half of the food consumed in the US comes from other countries. What are their processing plants like? How do they control food borne bacteria? Are the methods USDA approved? What are the working conditions of the employees like? When we eat at a restaurant, or buy food in the grocery store (organic or conventional), what practices and growing methods are we actually supporting overseas with our food dollars? Is the food really fit to eat? What is the environmental impact in those countries?

When you buy local from us at Jehovah-Jireh Farm, you can meet the farmers, you can see where your food comes from and how it was raised, and you can taste the difference.

The Importance of Local Food – Lessons from Haiti

Last month, on March 20, the Washington Post ran an interesting article titled "With Cheap Food Imports, Haiti Can’t Feed Itself". After reading the article, I realized that our national agricultural situation in the United States is similar in several ways to Haiti – we import about half of the food that we eat, and the cheap food imports have caused many farmers to go out of business. As a nation, we can no longer feed ourselves.

Thirty years ago, Haiti imported only 19 percent of its food and produced enough rice to export. It was able to do that in part as a result of protective tariffs on rice of 50 percent which were set by the father-son dictators Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier.

When their reign ended, the United States and Europe pushed Haiti to tear those market barriers down in the interest of "free trade". In 1994, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was freshly reinstalled to power by Bill Clinton, cut the rice tariff to 3 percent.

The Haitian farmers, unable to compete with the billions of dollars in subsidies paid by the U.S. to its growers, abandoned their farms and moved to the cities. Today, Haiti depends on other countries for 51% of the food that it needs and 80% of the rice. For the Haitians, their dependence on imported food has been a disaster.

Last month, after being in Haiti, Bill Clinton publicly apologized for championing policies that destroyed Haiti’s rice production. On March 10, Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else." Clinton is to be commended for seeing the consequences of a failed policy, apologizing for it, and now working to rebuild the agriculture in Haiti.

Here in the United States, the same "free trade" policies have destroyed our ability to feed ourselves. Like Haiti, we import close to half of all our food. When I was young, America was called the bread basket of the world. Today, cheap imports from China and other countries have forced many American farmers out of business. Many of the farms that remain are large farms that are heavily subsidized by the US government.

The difference between the food situation in Haiti and here in the United States is that we have money to feed ourselves and we have not had a national disaster. A war, or a breakdown in relations with China could change our food situation rather quickly.

Fortunately, millions of Americans in recent years have realized the importance of supporting small local farms and eating locally produced food. The demand has grown considerably for locally produced food. However, it is still difficult for small local farms to compete with cheap imported food and food produced by big corporations. As a result, there are few new farms starting up. Currently in the U.S. there are millions of unemployed people. Our high unemployment problem could be ended if we brought our food production and manufacturing back home. Support your local farmers. They need you and you need them. Let’s learn an important lesson from Haiti – it is important that we, as a nation, are able to feed ourselves.

A link to the AP article: “With Cheap Food Imports, Haiti Can’t Feed Itself”

A related article is one I wrote in our newsletter two years ago " Creative Destruction Related to Farms". In it are some excerpts from the Federal Reserve describing how they used financial engineering to reduce the number of farms and factories in an attempt to create a higher standard of living for Americans.

Monsanto – Too Big to Fall?

Here in the Washington DC area you often hear Monsanto running ads on the radio touting how they are helping farmers feed the world and how they are supporting sustainable agriculture. However, Monsanto is anything but a supporter of sustainable agriculture. They are a giant agricultural chemical and genetically modified (GMO) seed corporation that has done much damage to sustainable agriculture. Many people have lamented how Monsanto has been able to "legally" run rough shod over farmers in developing a monopoly in the agricultural world.

Last month, a little reported, but very significant event happened. France’s Supreme Court ruled against Monsanto, saying that the agrochemical giant had not told the truth about its best selling weed-killer, Roundup. Monsanto had falsely advertised Roundup as being "biodegradeable" and claimed that it "left the soil clean".  Roundup is not biodegradable and it does contaminate the soil.

For years we have been told that when Roundup is sprayed it kills plants, but when the chemical comes in contact with the soil it is neutralized. It has been said so often that many believe it to be true. France’s Supreme Court’s ruling shows proof that Roundup is not neutralized in the soil. The use of Roundup is one of the leading reasons why Monsanto has developed genetically modified seeds. The plants grown from their genetically modified seeds can be sprayed with Roundup and will not die. That enables farmer to spray their fields with Roundup and kill the weeds after the corn or soybeans have come up and not harm the corn or soybeans.

Keep watching. Someday – maybe in the distant future – but someday, Monsanto and their Roundup will likely disappear, never to be seen again.  "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.  Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." (Psalm 37:35-36)

Monsanto’s philosophy is built upon the evolutionary mindset that there is no God and that genetic selection (including genetically modified organisms—GMO’s) is THE answer to improving food production and feeding the world. What is being missed is that while genetic improvement has increased food production, the nutrient density of the food has decreased along with human and animal health. More food has to be consumed to supply the needed nutrients and as a result, obesity is increasing among children. The majority of people and animals today are either on pharmaceutical drugs or natural supplements to try to have some semblance of health. This is a testimony that Monsanto’s method of genetic selection is not THE answer.

God created the soil full of minerals in the Garden of Eden. The soil has been declining ever since. It has been documented that in the last 60 years that the mineral density of the soils has significantly decreased. We need to first rebuild the mineral and organic density of our soil. Then we can select for genetic superiority. The seeds that have been genetically selected by Monsanto to grow in mineral depleted soils do not have the proper genetic expression to grow in nutrient rich soils and produce nutrient dense foods. Many organic farmers and gardeners have discovered this and that is why there is a growing interest in heirloom seeds. The heirloom seeds in improved soils produce higher protein food and nutrient density. Along with the nutrient density is a significantly improved flavor. Our mouths tell us what food is best for our bodies by how good the food tastes.  When a tomato looks like a tomato but acts and tastes more like a tennis ball, you can be sure that that tomato was genetically selected for some other quality than nutrient dense food. Listen to your mouth and eat what is good! If it has a poor taste quality it is poor quality food. That is true of meats and eggs as well.

Links to articles on Monsanto  – An article showing how the "inactive" ingredients, the trade secret ingredients, that make Roundup more potent have been found to cause human liver cells to die.

Eating Local All Year

Over the past number of years we have changed the type of foods that we eat as a family. We used to try to buy the cheapest food, thinking that nutritionally, all food was basically the same. That is probably more true than what most realize if you are talking about grocery store food. However, as we have learned about nutritious, nutrient dense foods, we realized that if we want to eat nutrient dense food, we have to grow it ourselves. It also means preserving the harvest so that we have it to eat all year, not just in the summer months.

It is hardly worth gardening if you are just trying to save money at the grocery store. For all the time, equipment, and work involved, it is probably cheaper and definitely easier to just buy it at the grocery store. However, like most things, the cost of grocery store food is much greater than what you pay at the register. The fact that health care is the number one industry in America is proof of the poor quality of foods in the grocery stores. I find it interesting watching the people purchasing cheap food at Walmart – observing what they are buying and looking at the people to see if they look healthy. A large percentage of the people do not have the picture of health.  The government’s idea of fixing health care does not address the real problem. True health care reform needs to start with the soil and adding in the nutrients and minerals that are necessary for human health (not just what is necessary to make a plant grow). The food that we eat is a big contributor to our health or lack thereof. We are what we eat.

There is something satisfying about improving the quality of the soil, producing nutrient dense vegetables for our family, and storing up all that good food for the months ahead. It puts gardening in a totally different perspective. For us it is no longer about saving money. It is not about keeping a weed free garden – a few weeds won’t change the nutrient density of the food. It is about giving my family the health care they need from the ground up.

I looked at our calendar and saw what Cathy had written down over the past month of what she and the girls had harvested and stored away for us to eat until the garden produce comes in again next summer. I thought you might be interested in peeking over my shoulder at what she had written there. This, of course, does not include the other varieties of vegetables that are yet to be harvested as they ripen over the next several months.

Everything, except for the peaches, was raised here on our farm.

July  1   Made 6 pints of butter
        4   Picked and froze 42 1/2 quarts of green beans
        6   Froze 30 quarts of green beans and 5 pints of sugar peas
        8   Made 45 pints of wineberry jam(wild red raspberry) plus 12 pints
             frozen raspberries
        10 Froze 20 quarts of green beans
        13 Froze 12 quarts of green beans
        14 Canned 92 quarts of dill pickles
        15 Made 13 1/2 pints of butter (Put in the freezer)
        18 Froze 18 quarts of green beans
        21 Made 6 gallons of cucumber juice and froze to later make into V8
            juice when the tomatoes are ripe
        22 Processed and froze 21 quarts of corn. The corn was husked, silked,
            blanched, and cut off the cob.
        23 Made 9 pints of butter and froze
        25 Froze 11 quarts of green beans
        27 Froze 17 quarts of corn.
        28 Froze 14 1/2 quarts of beans
        29 Made 2 gallons of cucumber juice
             Canned 20 pints of zucchini relish
             Canned 36 pints of dill pickle slices
Aug  1  Froze 10 quarts of peaches and 18 quarts of corn
         3  Froze 17 quarts of beans
         4  Canned 70 quarts of  peaches, 5 quarts of peach nectar, and 22
             pints of zucchini relish
         6  Canned 40 pints of cucumber relish

Pictures of Processing Corn For Freezing

Cutting Corn
Cathy and Joel trimming the corn after it was husked.

Silking Corn
Daniel and Nathan taking the silk off of the corn. The spinning brush on the motor takes the silk off.

Creaming Corn
Cathy, Kara, and Daniel cutting the corn off the cob to get it ready for the freezer.
The corn was 28 brix, and the best corn we have ever eaten!

Why Organic?

We feed our chickens organic feed. With prices of organic feed close to double that of conventional feed, it is easy to wonder, "Is it really worth it?" Nutrient-density tests of organic produce have often shown that "organic" does not equal "nutrient-dense". Sometimes, organic produce will be as bad as—or worse than—conventional produce. Some, therefore, with good reason, start the chorus: "Why pay more for organic if it’s not higher in minerals?" Of course, we all know that organic has not been sprayed with pesticides, and eating food sprayed with substances whose names end in "cide" (from the Latin, meaning "death") does not seem like a good idea. But another, just as important reason is that organic produce must not be genetically engineered.

Companies like Monsanto engineer corn, soybeans and other plants to make them resistant to herbicides (so you can spray Monsanto’s Roundup on the corn field and kill the weeds, but not the corn) or produce their own pesticide (as with Bt corn). Really? Corn with a built-in pesticide? These genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) seem to be everywhere in our food supply. Much of the corn grown in this country is genetically modified (GM). Due to the use of corn for making high fructose corn syrup, many foods that contain corn syrup (from soda pop to ketchup to fruit cocktail to ice cream to "honey" graham crackers) therefore contain genetically modified ingredients.  So how do they modify plant genetics, and what are the results?

Dr. Arden Andersen, speaking at the Weston A. Price Foundation 2006 Conference, tells, in a nutshell, the GMO story:

"Now here’s the big issue, really, that you have to understand, it’s even more severe, or as severe, as the immune reaction, that is that absolutely they have proven horizontal gene transfer into our gut bacteria. Horizontal gene transfer. And the problem is, is part of that horizontal gene is an antibiotic resistant gene. An antibiotic resistant gene. So automatically, we become antibiotic resistant to whatever antibiotic that company is using in that genetic technology, because that’s part of the genetic engineering technology…

"So, how is this process happening? Well, what happens is that they have to take cells of this GM crop and they have to culture them, and then somehow they have to get that gene into that cell. But how do they know if it’s in there? They can’t wait for it to grow out and then determine that. So they have to somehow evaluate those cells in culture for the presence of the gene they have randomly shot in. By the way, this is not an absolute technology. It’s very random. They take a plasma gun and they literally just shoot in this plasma into the cells. It’s a random process. And they hope some of them get into the nucleus of the cell. So what they do is they take, for example, the Roundup Ready gene, and they have to attach to that an antibiotic resistant gene, because they have to have some way of identifying whether or not this gene was implanted. Well, then the other thing is  you have to understand is this is a foreign gene. In our body we have switches that turn on our genes, turn off our genes, all right? And they do that at the appropriate times in our development, embryonic development. But this is a foreign gene, so there’s nothing there to turn it on or off, so what they have to do is put an on switch. So they put an activator gene in there. What is that activator gene? Typically that is a virus that they put in there. A virus that our body has never seen before. Great!

"So then what they do is they shoot that in, and then they have to figure out, "How are we going to identify this?" So since they have the antibiotic resistant gene, they then coat all of these cells in culture with that antibiotic, and typically it’s ampicillin — penicillin. So any cell that survives that antibiotic treatment — "Ah, that tells us that gene, then, was accepted. We got that gene into those cells." But the thing about it is, you have an activator gene there. So every cell in that soybean plant is also going to have ampicillin resistance. And as soon as you eat that? Direct horizontal gene transfer to the biology in your gut. So now all of the gut in your body also has ampicillin resistance. Great! We don’t have enough resistance to antibiotics in this country, so I know we need to increase that.

"So think about it a moment. Take identical twins, and let’s say that one donates a kidney to the other one that has kidney failure. Identical twins! Does the recipient automatically accept that kidney from its identical twin? Absolutely not! We still have to give that person anti-rejection drugs, okay? And those are human to human transfer of identical twin tissue. So think for a moment: so you think that an absolute foreign protein, put into a plant and then into our body, is not going to have an immune response?

"The Swiss Federal Research Station–so remember now, all these organizations, these are not fly by night organizations, these are government organizations–the Swiss Federal Station found out that when you take green lacewings and they eat corn borer caterpillars that are feeding on GM corn, 50% more lacewings die than if you actually hit those lacewings with Bt directly. "Ah, but it’s essentially the same." Ladybugs, the same thing. They looked at ladybugs eating aphids that are feeding on genetically engineered potatoes. What did they find? 30% fewer progeny and lived half the normal life expectancy. And then they tell me that there is no issue with genetically engineered food? There’s no such thing as genetically engineered food. It is not food at all. It is poison. Every level of nature tells us that it’s poison. Tell me that we have a placebo effect with ladybugs and green lacewings. Amazing!"

Does this sound like something that we should consume every day? It more sounds like a wonder that it hasn’t killed us all. I agree with Dr. Andersen. It is poison!

And so, I support organics, if for no other reason than to avoid GMO’s. I cannot believe that I should put antibiotic resistant bacteria and viruses (implanted into the very genetics of the "food") down my throat. It seems risky, if not downright dangerous!

A very good documentary discussing GMO’s is The Future of Food ( It goes into detail about just what Monsanto and friends are doing to our food supply. You can see the introduction to it at

Thanks for Supporting Our Local Farm

Thank you for your support this year. It is your support that makes it possible for us to provide clean, healthy, nutritious, pasture-raised meats and eggs for you. Now, more than ever, it is important that small local farms have the support of the consumers around them. We have been hearing a lot in the news about the credit crisis and the government’s $700 billion dollar bailout.

What we have not been hearing much about is the poultry industry crisis. Pilgrim’s Pride, the country’s largest chicken producer, is on the verge of bankruptcy. They were not able to meet their financial obligations at the end of September and their lending institution gave them a 30 day grace period. Their stock has dropped to less than $3.00 a share from a high of $40 a share in July of 2007.

The other big poultry producers have also been experiencing huge losses due to the high grain prices and their stocks have been dropping as well. Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson made appeals to the government to ease the ethanol production mandates for this year to reduce the demand and the cost for corn.  The appeals were rejected. The government is more interested in energy production and bailing out Wall Street than in domestic food production!

The supply of cheap imported chicken and a reduced demand and oversupply of chickens has prevented the poultry industry from being able to raise their prices when grain prices went up dramatically this year. Chicken prices should be much higher in the grocery stores than what they are. With the price of conventional grain where it is, the price of conventional chicken should be about the same as what organic chicken was a year ago.

For years I have observed one poultry company buying up another. Then another company would buy up that one. With each buy out, the smaller company was merged to make a bigger poultry company. It was a dog eat dog world. I wondered what would happen when the biggest dog (poultry company) died and there was no one to take its place. We are about to see that happen.

With each year, we are losing more and more of our food independence and have to rely more and more on other countries to feed us. Along with that dependence on other countries for our cheap food is an increased health risk because of the reduced food regulation in other countries. The past two years has seen a huge increase in the problem of food poisonings from Salmonella in tomatoes and other vegetables to melamine in Chinese milk and pet food products. For years, the big factory farm model has been promoted as the best food production method. The big factory farm model is failing as we thought it would. And we see how very foolish it is for us to rely on other countries to provide our food for us. It is important now more than ever to encourage the development of smaller local farms and know where your food comes from.