Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The winter solstice - the longest night of the year.

It has come and gone - the first day of winter. It always evokes so many different e-motions. Being that I am not a cold weather person, it depresses me. . . the FIRST day of WINTER, and yet it is the solstice. . . days are now getting longer -more light! Woohoo!!!!

I spent the first day of winter in our fair state capital. That's Augusta for you flat landers. Before one of the Ag department's subcommittees was legislation governing small family run poultry operations. You see, there exists in Maine (at the moment) an exemption for small farms that process less than 1000 birds in a year and ONLY sell on the farm, through a CSA program (same as selling on farm really), and at farmers markets. Under this exemption these small farms can't sell to restaurants, groc stores or across state lines. The exemption eliminates certain inspections and allows for on farm, open air butchering of poultry. At the outset that may sound like a bad idea and the proposed change in legislation aims to eliminate the exemption. But think about it for a minute. These folks are selling birds to people who CHOOSE to buy their birds, know the farmers, often times know the birds, and are welcomed onto the farms at any time to inspect the facilities and practices for themselves. This is not a case of some big mega corporation trying to hock birds in mass to an unsuspecting public. . .
For me the bill boiled down to the government wanting to tell people what to choose rather than just letting them choose - all the hallmarks of freedom - Hancock, Adams and Washington would be proud!

It was phenominal to see the agricultural community on the whole come together. There were fish farmers, beef farmers, veggies farmers, consumers, authors, public policy groups, poultry farmers (of course) and best of all. . . kids!! What an amazing community the local agriculture community is. People whose livelihoods are not directly affected turned out to speak against this change of regulations. (I might take a moment to mention that in the whole span of human history it has only been the last 75 years or so that food has become so dangerous as to render it inedible unless some government inspector blesses it with his clip board after having it processed in a lab, operating room or a bubble)

My favorite part of the hearing was when the director of the Maine CDC got up and started spewing facts and recent statistics about the dangers of un-inspected poultry to general health. He may have forgotten to mention that ALL of the violations came from the big corporation factories. . . but we will forgive him. In fact the more he spoke the more it became clear that in light of all of the recalls, contaminations, etc., that regulators might be looking at the wrong folks. It seems perfectly logical for us to impose tighter regulations and loftier tax burdens on the little people who are producing real food in the open air and haven't tried to kill anybody? Let's leave the folks with oodles of money alone in spite of the fact that they still manage to cause nationwide salmonella pandemics in their so called "sterilized" butchering bubbles. It was probably just a little mishap anyway.

Enough of my soap box - things here at the farm are moving along at a sluggish pace. Maybe "leisurely" is a better word. Everything is growing lazily. The other day I had to teach the sheep to walk in the snow. . . they are so weird. The birds are doing well, and even our hidden garden is showing signs of promise!!! Tomorrow the plan is to add the last of the compost for 2009 to pile 4 and maybe, just maybe turn the other three. That will depend on temperature (outside) and energy levels (four piles by me onesie may require super human endurance).

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