"Know Your Farmer" is just one more of the ever popular agricultural phrases making the rounds lately. For some customers it's as simple as asking a few questions while they are picking up their weekly supply of raw milk, burger of veggie CSA, while for others; it means spending several days working alongside us and actually getting dirty.
|Most farmers love to talk about their operations|
but don't expect them to sit still for long!
But the point is, we highly recommend you get to know a little about your farmer before you begin purchasing items from them directly. Just because someone calls himself a farmer, does not automatically infer wholesomeness. Sad to say there are "farmers" who raise little of their own produce or meat, contracting instead with other growers and then marketing the products as their own.
|Attending a field day at a local farm is a great way|
to walk and talk with "your" farmer
Some to consider of your meat farmer might be:
How are your animals raised?
What (specifically) are your animals fed?
Do your animal feeds contain antibiotics, hormones, steroids ?
Does your farm hold any certifications such as; certified organic by the National Organic Program, certified grass fed by The American Grass Fed Association, or certified humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care Organization (keep in mind professional certifications does not automati-cally infer a well managed farm but it can make a good farm, better. Some certifications are cost prohibitive to small family farms)
How are sick animals cared for on your farm?
Are your animals on pasture or feed lots?
How are your animals slaughtered?
And then one of the best questions you can ever ask...
May I visit your farm?
A visit to the farm you are interested in, will tell you far more than anything a farmer shares with you over the phone or via a shiny, happy brochure or professional web page. In fact, some of the most ethical farms have neither blogs, Face Book pages or Web Sites. What they do have is hard working people growing the best meat, vegetables and milk you will ever find, if you willing to take a drive and take a walk.
Keep in mind, farmers usually work where they live and one should not expect a farmer to drop whatever it is he is doing to give you a tour of his farm, but most farmers are very proud of their operations and are more than happy to make an appointment with you for a brief visit. Be respective of their work load and keep an eye out for the things your farmer may not talk about. Are the animals inquisitive and friendly towards the farmer or do they appear fearful? Are the shelters adequate against rain and snow and without overcrowding? Is there evidence of clean water supply?
Finally, look at the animals. Are their eyes clear and bright without drainage? Do they have shiny coats of hair or are they dull and brittle? Are they standing knee deep in manure? Remember again, manure is part of farm life and although some areas may have more manure than others, as long as animals have places to go which are dry and clean, an immaculate barn is not necessary or practical.
The best way to get to know your farmer is simply to talk with him. Ask him or her or them WHY they do what they do and why is it important to them, and if you can spare a little time, volunteer a day to work with them side by side. The best way to learn is by doing. Farming is hard work.
Help is always wanted.