Fresh Facts: The Interconnectedness of Organic Produce to Organic Livestock

By November 14, 2013Newsletter

Volume 7, Week 12, November 11-13, 2013

Fall starts with “F” and that stands for fertilizer. Every fall for the last 120 years, we take the manure from our chicken houses and spread it in our orchards. A hundred and twenty years ago, this was done by shoveling the manure into horse-drawn spreaders and then going out to the peach patch to share the wealth. Today, one man can remove the manure from a 20,000 square foot house in a day, while another guy using a big loader—that’s the one I used to get so high up in the tree—can spread about 20 acres a day if the pile’s close to the patch.

Those of you that have visited your farm here have seen the interconnectedness between livestock and produce. We always try to time our farm tours to the arrival of a new batch of baby chicks, which cycles about every 10 weeks. Children love to hold baby chicks; there’s a reverent wonder in their eyes at the down-covered little cheeping life in their hands. And if you’re a female over the age of 13—despite your best efforts to suppress it—you are hardwired when we open the chicken house door and you see your first house full of baby chicks to say: “OOOOOOOOHH how cute, can I hold one?” It’s never failed yet.

The education however that occurs as folks visit their vegetable farms, walk or ride through orchards and vineyards, then step into a chicken house is priceless. The interconnectedness of organic produce to organic livestock production becomes crystal clear. You can just see little light bulbs appearing over people’s heads.  In our case, it takes a chicken to grow a peach. For somebody else, it takes a cow to grow an onion. We’re just one of those old style farms that still have both crop and livestock production so you physically only take a few steps to make the mental connection.

So guys, we’ve been doing life together for over 6 years now and there’s nothing more personal and intimate than the food we choose to put in our mouths; I think we can speak openly and frankly, so here goes. All organic produce is dependent on livestock for its fertility. We could spend more time on this subject, but the urgent matter before us this morning is food safety.Your participating farmers in this alliance all practice a self-imposed protocol that’s very rare to non-existent in CSA local produce production and distribution. We keep binders of our activities and have the farms and fields third party audited twice a year for verification, but mostly, we just do the right common sense stuff as if we were growing, packing, and delivering for our own families.

This approach is being threatened by the Food Safety Modernization Act that is finishing its path into law. As currently envisioned, it will force all US farming into the industrial model that’s causing our problems in the first place. You know I eschew politics in this forum because it’s always going to offend somebody, and our goal here is to positively unite folks around great organic produce from our local farms. I believe this is the first time we’re issuing a call to arms from our co-producers and I’ll try to make it another 6 years before we do it again. We’ll send out an email with a link to one of those infernal comment sections. No money, just some time for public comments that—if heeded—will allow us to keep sending you this fresh organic produce into the future.



 ~Vernon Peterson

Author AHO Kitchen Team

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