Summer 2024 — Vote for Local Farmers

It's my pleasure to announce our 15th summer season. As always, we kick off the registration season with a month of savings. From now until March 9th, we are offering our Early Bird Pricing.

This early registration is critical for us as this is the time of the year we are making investments in our local farmers. From buying seeds and fertilizer to grow the crops, to jars and lids to put them up, there is a lot to invest in to provide for our health and food security.

Further, it has become a tradition for me to use this announcement to share with our members my reflections on the world of local farming. In the 15 years I've been doing this, I've never seen so much volatility in this industry as the last 3 to 4 years. Considering this, I will summarize my statements in terms relevant to 2024.

My theme for 2024 is Vote. I'm talking about a more humble vote; one that can immediately and directly impact your life and the lives of those in your local community. I'm talking about using your dollar to Vote for Local Farmers.

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Expecting that Washington or Columbus do something to lower our health care costs, protect our food security, and build a robust and competitive small farm ecosystem is simply wishing. It is up to us - the consumer - to roll up our sleeves and plant the seed, metaphorically. Where there is money, innovation and hard work follow. We can have impacts on all of those subjects simply with our diet, what we eat, and where we buy it.

Good food is the cornerstone of a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. There is no pill or therapy that can imitate the nourishment provided by clean, wholesome food. And not all food is clean or wholesome. It is our responsibility as consumers to become educated about our food system and ask how and why. Then, we must vote for the solution we want.

That's my job as your liaison to local farmers. Here is an example. In a recent conversation with a vet, I was discussing GI issues in hogs. Today's genetics of hogs want to grow fast. They eat a lot, and unlike humans, when they are having digestion issues and aren't feeling full, they will keep eating. This "sour gut" is an imbalance of enzymes and carbohydrates. When the carbohydrates aren't fully broken down in the stomach, they can pass into the small intestine and feed bacteria, like clostridium. The bacteria blooms and produces toxins that eventually can kill even the healthiest of hogs. It's sometimes referred to as overeating disease. The hog eats more to try to feel full, but in turn just throws gas on the fire, so to speak.

Traditional veterinary advice and the standard practice of commercial farming is to neutralize the bacteria with a mild - but constant -dose of tylosin, an antibiotic. Learning this blew my mind. Instead of addressing the cause, he was suggesting to jump straight to medication.

I asked him a series of questions. "Couldn't we just slow down the digestion? Add more fiber so that it stays in the stomach longer and the enzymes have time to work? Or can't we increase the amount of enzymes in the gut to work on the feed faster?"

This led me down the rabbit hole of research and experimentation. My solution was to do both of the alternatives. Dry hay and oats were added to the feed, reducing the energy and nutrient concentration, but also slowing down digestion. We also started feeding a concentrated probiotic in the feed and supplementing that with lacto-fermented brine from the sauerkraut and pickles we make.

Becoming a farmer was the best thing that happened to me at Fresh Fork. It has provided me the insight to understand the challenges farmers face, to find technical solutions, and to choose the options most consistent with the objective of providing the highest quality, most nutritious food we can.

I hope this spring you'll consider joining our network of farmers at Fresh Fork as a big powerful vote for healthy families, our local communities, for flavor, and for our Earth.





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