Feeling anything other than grateful this morning? Read on. This blog will change your attitude and open your eyes . . . I hope.
First, anyone care to bake for a living? Lucia’s is looking to hire a full-time pastry chef to replace their longtime chef of fifteen years. The position requires some serious experience, but interested parties can send resumes to Lucia’s or call 612-825-1026.
Secondly, Scott at Corner Table is serving Eric Hoiland's turkey on his menu now. Hoiland was recently asked a series of questions re: the flood net-net by the Bluff Country Co-op in Winona. He sent the e-mail info below to Scott, who shared it with me . . . amazing stuff.
The co-op asked:
1. Do you have any thoughts to share with our members about your experience?
2. As a part of the local food system in SE MN, how does a farm crisis impact your perspective on the local food infrastructure? Is there enough government support for farms?
3. Does your farm have different needs during a crisis than a conventional commodity production system? How do the state and federal relief programs accommodate your recovery process?
4. The floods carried high levels of fertilizer and manure in the water. Does pollution from conventional farms in your area impact the integrity of your fields? What is involved in the soil's recovery from a flood?
Hoiland’s answers are below:
There are a lot of answers to the first question, but I think you want to hear about my farming operation. This probably sounds cold, but since the flood wiped out all of my turkeys, all of my pumpkins and gourds, and 24 of 29 of my cattle, I haven't thought a lot about my farming operation since the first couple of days after the flood, when we got rid of the carcasses that we could find. Since our home was also destroyed along with the mill, my focus has been on the house. The farm site is a total disaster, and right now, it is way down on the list of worries. I guess since all the livestock is gone, which is horrible, it isn't very helpful to dwell on it other than the fact that they represented a majority of my yearly income. Not to mention I lost my refrigeration truck which had stored product in it. So I estimate I lost one-and-a-half years worth of income and am left to rebuild from scratch, along with paying of all my debt. Believe me: It's as vicious as it sound.
The local food infrastructure is very fragile. Commercial agriculture does not suffer from these localized disasters because those products can be quickly and easily replaced from other areas. In my case, if I choose to restart my operation, it will be over a year before I could have product again. And finding a replacement product like mine might prove to be very difficult and/or expensive. This is the risk local producers take, regardless of the flood, every year you risk losing it all: be it predators, tornado, fire, etc. I guess it would be hard to put a value on this concept because a local producer's inputs go way beyond the simple figures of 'cost of production,' which are easy numbers. The hard part is putting a value on the fragility and availability of a local product that the consumer trusts. As for "government support for sustainable farms" it is too early to speculate what help will be available, if any.
I don't think my needs are any different than a conventional farm. I think my situation is unique in that I lost my entire operation aside from a few head of cattle which I can't take care of. More importantly, this brings an abrupt end, or lengthy interruption, to the relationships I had with all of my customers, many of whom I consider my friends. On the customer side, it leaves a lot of people looking for another place to find a Thanksgiving turkey. Again, as for state and federal relief programs for the farm, nothing has happened as of today, which is four weeks after the flood.
As for the last questions, it is my opinion that Mother Nature is able to heal itself over time. By next spring, the flood mud deposited on our fields will be transformed into topsoil with little or no residues left from chemical fertilizers or manure. The sand and debris and trees left behind are another story. They will have to be moved off our fields, at a pretty big cost, to make them productive again. This does not include areas where the Rush Creek and Root River have tore into the banks and made the fields smaller or gouged out holes in the fields or made new channels through fields. These areas are usually not recoverable so you deal with the prospect of shrinking field sizes.
So, in the spirit of changing the world, how about chiming in on the 2007 Farm Bill debate in the Senate. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar need to hear from you today!
Former Clean Up the River board chair Brian Wojtalewicz suggested you could e-mail the following, for those of you who are stumped on what to talk about.
Please do all you can to support Senator Harkin's Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program. The degraded ecology of the Minnesota River Valley, the entire Midwest, and most of the farmland in America desperately needs real, accountable conservation steps on production land. Please make sure that production land is required to meet conservation thresholds. Please also end the loopholes that allow mega-type farming operations to avoid limits on production payments. Lastly, please take steps to prevent the mega-CAFOs from using public money to build giant sewage lagoons.
I have read that repeated surveys have shown a large majority of farmers are in favor of these long-awaited steps.
Senator Norm Coleman, Washington Office: 320 Senate Hart Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-2240-5641 Fax: 202-224-1152
Senator Amy Klobuchar's office, attention: Hilary Meggin Bolea, Washington Office: 302 Hart Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3244 Fax: 202-228-2186