Wednesday, October 28, 2009
This is Coriander.
This is my beautiful girl, Chamomile.
And their man, Chicory.
I can't wait to get an incubator and start trying to hatch out eggs from these beauties.
They spent their first night in the bathroom because it was raining but they are now outside in a temporary pen while I build their permanent pen. They won't be free ranging with the rest.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Copies of your personal message will be sent to your representatives, so be sure to write a personal message.
Now, what’s happened since last Sunday…
As you recall, on Thursday, October 15, state inspectors from the meat division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture came to our pickup site, looking for illegal meat. Of course they found none (all of our growers are fully licensed for all of their products), but they did discover our load of raw milk many of you had ordered from Cows R Us dairy in South Carolina and seized the entire load on orders from Peggy Gates, director of the dairy division of the state Ag Department. Instead of taking it away themselves, they left it on my truck and told us they’d be at my house the following Monday to destroy it all.
I spent the next few days trying to prevent the milk’s waste by arranging to get it donated to Nature’s Harmony Farm, who could have used it to feed to their pigs, but Peggy wanted to be personally present when the milk was destroyed and she was not available any sooner than Monday morning.
So, I invited to my home everyone who had milk on the truck, along with a few other interested parties. Several dozen people did come out, but at five to nine, Peggy’s secretary called to say they she had been “held up at another inspection” and wouldn’t be arriving until 1:30. Some people had to leave, but the delay also allowed several more people who couldn’t come in the morning to come after all. Among those present was a cameraman for the documentary project “Farmageddon” (http://www.ftcldf.org/kudos/canty2.html), and several of us had our own cameras running the entire time as well. Peggy Gates came with Marybeth Willis, an agent with the FDA out of their Atlanta office (http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/FederalStatePrograms/InterstateMilkShippersList/ucm114736.htm), and one of the meat inspectors that had originally impounded the milk. They wasted no time in wasting the milk, and from the time they gave us the orders to dump it all (they wouldn’t do it themselves) to the time they left took twenty minutes. The whole thing is up on YouTube in two parts, and I invite you to watch it and share the links with anyone who may be interested. Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMfQXxVAPgk and Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPey52Ybp0U. Thanks to our very nice Rubbermaid coolers and the record cold weekend temperatures, the milk was still cold and fresh to drink. Except for the two gallons that were passed around, it all ended up pour out in the grass at my house.
Unfortunately, they gave us no wiggle room at all for allowing the South Carolina dairies to offer their milk in the future. Marybeth from the FDA declared it a federal crime to bring milk across state lines for any reason. She specifically said that if you go to the dairy yourself, buy a gallon for your own use, and bring it back to your own home in Georgia, you would be a federal criminal. It doesn’t matter how it’s labelled, even if specifically as “POISON — DO NOT DRINK”. They handed out copies of the FDA rule in question, 21 CFR 1240.61 (PDF here: http://www.ftcldf.org/docs/21_CFR_1240.61_pasteurization.pdf), but this may be the first time they have enforced such an absolute interpretation of that rule. With that interpretation, there is no way to have South Carolina raw milk offered through Athens Locally Grown.
So, how can we get that changed? There are two way: through legislation and through court action. Both are being worked on. Ron Paul earlier this year introduced HR 778 (http://ftcldf.org/federal_bills-HR778.htm) that would specifically allow what we’re doing while keeping in place the ban on bulk shipments and other practices that caused the ban to be put into place in the first place. It seems there’s little likelihood of it passing, but its important to let our legislators know that we want this sort of legislation just the same. On the other end, a federal judge could rule that the enforcement of the rule as it has been done against people like us is unconstitutional, and could also allow direct-to-consumer purchases cross state lines while keeping the other bans in place. I have signed the paperwork to become a plaintiff in a federal suit to try for this result. I can’t say more yet, but I will keep you informed when the suit is filed, hopefully very soon.
(The federal raw milk rule aside, the fact remains that our truck was searched without a search warrant, and the milk was impounded and destroyed without due process. We’re as yet undecided about what action to take about that. Both state and federal agents were involved.)
Another avenue is finding legal Georgia raw milk. Georgia actually does allow the sale, so long as the dairy is registered as a “pet food” producer and the containers are labelled as such. THe trouble is a) there is no testing of the final product, b) anyone can get a license by just paying $75, regardless of the cleanliness of their dairy, and c) there aren’t any near Athens. In contrast, South Carolina has established a strict testing regimen that ensures milk being sold raw has bacterial levels below that required of pasteurized milk. If Georgia were to adopt laws similar to South Carolina, it would take time for the raw milk to enter the market.
So, in the meantime, only milk from Johnston Family Farm will be available through Athens Locally Grown. I’m not knocking their milk in any way — it’s of the highest quality and the best milk you can buy in Georgia, from anyone. But for those who want and need clean raw milk, it’s just not the same.
Also, we’re not able to regularly drive to Split Creek Farm or to Fred’s Bread (both near Anderson, South Carolina) anymore, without significantly raising the “delivery fee” portion of the final price to cover our cost of going out there. However, we will go out there on the 19th of November, so you can buy cheeses, fudge, bread, and other items for your Thanksgiving table. I know I was planning on having some of it on mine.
And finally, thanks to your generosity, our tip jar was overflowing this past Thursday. Cows R Us did get paid for all of the milk that was wasted, and our shared cash box was filled back up to cover the expense on our end. Thank you so much for that. I can’t begin to tell you how stressful this last week has been, but you have given your support in every way possible, and that was wonderful beyond belief. Thank you.
Here are some news links from the past week. The news spread nationwide, partly due to the new strict interpretation and enforcement of the FDA rule, but here is some local coverage:
ABH News: “Some sour as state grabs raw milk” http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/101709/new_505698081.shtml
ABH News: “Unpasteurized drinkers cry foul over spilled milk” http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/102009/new_506640054.shtml
ABH Editorial: “Raw milk advocates should work within system” http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/102109/opi_507140444.shtml
ABH Commentary: “Raw milk is danger to public health” http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/102509/opi_508629389.shtml
NewsTalk 1340 Interview (10/22/09) http://feeds.1340wgau.com/NewsmakersWithTimBryant
Raw video of the milk dumping: Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMfQXxVAPgk and Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPey52Ybp0U
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
So, Logan and I started digging and Logan found a few sweet potatoes under one of the plants. It was very exciting! So, we kept digging and finding more and more potatoes! I was really shocked.
Here are just 2 of the plants we dug up.
Here is our final sweet potato harvest. 20 pounds! (They are all piled up here, so it is hard to see how many it really is. I guess I should have spread them out for the picture.)
And to add to all the excitement, a couple of our new girls have started laying. You can see their eggs here with Buttercup's eggs. I forgot how small first eggs are. They are so cute!
Friday, October 16, 2009
I belong to an organization called Locally Grown, where we place orders on the internet with farmers around the state and SC, the farmers deliver the ordered goods to a central location and we pick up our orders at a specified time. I get all my meat, my produce and milk and eggs (when my animals aren't producing) there. It is the only source of raw milk in GA since it is illegal to sell raw milk in GA. The milk comes from SC and is picked up by a volunteer and brought to our pick up location. We buy the milk directly from the farmer in SC.
Anyway, yesterday at the the pickup time, representatives from the state of GA seized all the milk! They said it was illegal for us to have it in GA (which it is not). They entered the truck that contained the milk without a warrant and taped all the coolers shut.
I dried up my goat last week so my milk was part of the confiscated load. Now I will have to buy milk at the grocery store or try to find someone with a goat in milk that will give me some milk. I'm glad I have milk goats and can produce my own raw milk, at least most of the time.
Part of me finds this funny coming from the state behind the whole Peanut Corporation of America fiasco. Sure, FDA inspected and approved facilities are perfectly safe, but not those local farmers. Right.
Needless to say I'm angry and think this is ridiculous! Whose business is it if I want to drink raw milk? This is why I'm a Libertarian.
Here is the email that was sent from the organizer of Locally Grown:
Hello! It’s late and I’m exhausted, but I wanted you all to know what happened today at our Athens Locally Grown pickup.
When we arrived, we were greeted by three badged inspectors from the Georgia Department of Agriculture who were there waiting for us. “We read about you on the internet,” they told me.
I explained to them what Athens Locally Grown is, how we work, discussed that I’ve been diligent to make sure all of the growers who sell through the market have the appropriate licenses when needed, and so forth. The inspectors were very friendly during this time and everything that followed — I do not fault them in any way.
They talked to the growers as they arrived. They were particularly interested in the meat, and indeed found all of that to be legal.
When my wife arrived with the raw milk ordered by ALG members directly from the Cows R Us dairy in South Carolina (A USDA Grade A dairy fully licensed to sell raw milk), the inspectors entered our truck and began opening our coolers.
To be clear, I did not give them permission to enter or search my truck, and they did not have a warrant to do so. When they discovered the coolers to be full of clearly labelled raw milk, they immediately began calling their supervisors. They chain of calls made their way up to Peggy Gates, the director of the Dairy Division of the Consumer Protection Division of the State Department of Agriculture. She immediately gave orders to seize the entire load of milk.
I did try to explain to her all of the very strict rules that we follow to keep things legal. She was very gruff with me and was not at ll interested in hearing what we do. “I know exactly what you’re doing” she told me. She told me what we were doing is a Federal offense (it is not, and of course she has no jurisdiction over FEderal statute). In the end she declared all 100 gallons an “imminent health hazard” and ordered it seized.
Oddly enough, the inspectors could not seize it themselves, as they only had several small sedans. So, it was impounded in place on my truck, and I was ordered not to disturb the milk in any way, or else I “would be guilty of a felony”.
The inspectors and director Peggy Gates herself personally will be coming to my house Monday morning to witness my “destruction” of the milk. I am hoping they will not be also coming to arrest me, but they do have that power.
Let me reiterate that I believe we have not violated any laws whatsoever. What we are doing is also being done by thousands of groups and individuals throughout the country, and I have been extremely careful that we are doing what has legal precendent. Namely:
•You order via the website directly from the dairy
•The dairy receives the orders without any intervention from me. They have a name for every carton of milk
•We pick up, on your behalf, exactly the cartons that have been pre-ordered. We have a name for every carton of milk
•You meet us at the pickup location and get your milk.
•We do not store it beyond the pre-established pickup time.
Given those steps that are followed to the letter (and those of you who ask me every single week “can’t you just bring an extra gallon or two with you?” can attest that they are), I do not believe that the Georgia Department of Agriculture has any authority over those cartons of milk. We are not violating federal law. We are not violating state law.
So where do we stand? Right now, raw milk can no longer be offered through Athens Locally Grown. I have 110 gallons of milk sitting on my truck until Monday morning, when a team of officials will be coming to my house to witness its destruction (and hopefully nothing more). Until Peggy Gates changes her mind (which seems unlikely), that is that. It may well take a court order to change things. I know our membership includes a fair number of lawyers, and if any of you wish to help in this, please let me know. I really don’t know where to even begin.
I’ve taken a big financial hit today too, so please forgive our putting out a tip jar next week. I paid the dairy $440 for the milk on the customers’ behalf (and yes, I’m a customer too. I’ve got two gallons of my own sitting on the truck) and since the market operates on a break even basis (during the best of times), I don’t have that sitting in the bank.
I’ll keep you all informed. I’m surprised it took so long for them to harass us, and I’m also surprised by how unsympathetic they turned out to be. And by “they”, I really mean director Peggy Gates, who issued the order. Her website address is http://agr.georgia.gov/00/channel_title/0,2094,38902732_125874866,00.html and her office’s phone number is (404) 656-3625. Please don’t harass her, but it may help if they do hear your stories., why you order raw milk, and why you are a member of Athens Locally Grown.
I know many of you were relying on your milk delivery today, especially since our truck’s engine problems kept us from bringing a full load last week. I’m sorry. Hopefully something will happen soon to make them loosen their grip and allow us to once again bring your milk that you ordered directly from the dairy to you.
Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you see fit.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
They are their own little flock. It is cute to see them run around together. They even have their own level in the coop to themselves. Calendula will be bunking with them when she finally goes outside, since they probably won't pick on her.
They don't have names yet. We name all poultry after plants. So if anyone has any suggestions of 3 plant names that kind of go together, I'd love to hear them. We already had ducks named Sage and Thyme, so I'm not sure I want to go that direction.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The first day we picked the maggots out with tweezers and used hydrogen peroxide on her. It seemed like we had gotten most of them but by the next day she was covered again. I picked maggots out of her wounds 6 times over 2 days. We finally ended up getting some screw worm spray and put it on her. That stuff really works! The maggots were all gone within an hour.
She is now recovering in the bathroom. She is eating a little and drinking a lot. We've been putting calendula spray on her wounds and have decided to name her calendula. I know she isn't out of the woods yet, but I'm hopeful. She has been maggot free for 4 days.