Government and Meat and E.Coli OH MY!

Hello Everyone,

Over the past month we have been hearing alot about the E.coli scare in Western Canada. Since I am a butcher’s daughter I hear many comments about what is happening in the industry.

Questions Like:

Are we safe?

Is this a huge deal?

Who is to blame?

Where should we buy our meats?

and comments like:

Those slaughtering plants are just too large.

They kill hundreds of cattle a day.

I will be buying a lot more local meats now.

It’s sad that the small abbitoirs were so quick to vanish.

Since small abattoirs have such a small voice because so little of us are left, I thought I would speak out for the small slaughter houses across Ontario about this matter.

Your first questions:  Why are there so few small abattoirs left in Ontario and even across Canada?

Running a small abattoir with today’s goverment standard is incredibly hard and frustrating. Starting one is next to impossible because of all the demands pressed by society and the government.

Meat can cause a huge health risk to buyers, which concerns the goverment. Canada’s has free health care, allowing Canadians to take whatever health care they need, leading to lots of taxpayer dollars. If people are getting sick from a meat product it is the government who has to put the tax dollars towards the health care. However, this is only a small bump in the road. The meat in Canada is inspected by goverment inspectors who allow the animals to be passed for human consumption. Abattoirs cannot slaughter animals without the inspector on site watching the acts of the butchers. This means that any animal passed into consumption is done by that of a goverment official. They are educated in the various problem areas of the beef, pork, lamb, etc. The inspectors in these many small plants cost the goverment alot of money every year. To help all these costs the goverment makes it extremely costly to open a provincially run,and even federally run, small abittoir. The book of rules is so large that everyone runs away because it will take FOREVER to make the investment back.

But WHY? What is the logic behind this?

With fewer, larger, federally inspected plants, it requires fewer inspectors than many smaller , local abbatoirs. Many of the meat processes can then be done by machines rather than actual people, so there are fewer workers to pay.  Management costs are lower too, since there is only one management group to deal with if there is a problem.   However, these changes create more of a gap between consumers and farmers.

But why do consumers buy from the large plants instead of the small ones?

In short, it’s cheaper!  Since these large plants process such a large amount of product everyday they can have lower costs compared to the small abattoirs. Consumers begin to make it a regular purchase – buying something they know with a cheap price tag. Small abattoirs are normally quite expensive, but give you the fresh-off-the-farm meat instead of the I-have-no-idea-where-this-animal-came-from meat.

The large abattoirs were once small as well, but it was at a time when the goverment standards and cost of production were lower and more consistent. For my family’s plant things can change daily! I remember when I was younger; the rules for the drains changed, so my dad had to tear apart the whole plant to put in the new drains. Luckily our plant was doing well enough to pay for the costs. The scary thing is if we did not have the money to pay for the drains we would have lost everything because we would have been shut down. If you are just starting out and they change a rule, you must comply or leave the business, nothing more and nothing less.

One main question that everyone should know the answer to, What is E.coli? How does it make you sick?

If I was to explain this it would take all day so here are some great links that will tell you everything you need to know.

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escherichia_coli

Overall, Escherichia coli is a species of bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of warm blooded mammals. This means that is it transferred with fecal matter from any warm blooded animal. The problem with this is that it is everywhere! All of our fruits and veggies are covered with it, our meats, not to mention our pets and even YOU, but do not be alarmed. In small amounts E.Coli is basically harmless. Most strains of E.Coli cannot even make you sick, but there are a few which cause food recalls like the one we are discussing.

How did these strains of E.Coli evolve and why are we just hearing of them over the past ten years?

Since most – if not all- livestock is given various shots and treatment keeping them from getting sick – much like humans – the E.Coli bacteria are regularly brought face to face with their “treatment” this means that they can evolve over time and learn what they can do to get around this treatment. The evolution of the E.Coli brings them to be more harmful to their animal host. Since people’s sanitiary methods are much better than those of animals, the E.Coli become even more harmful to us, since our immune systems are not prepared to handle this change in bacteria.  Now, something that used to be totally harmless can make us sick. In some cases, E.coli can even be deadly.

“If you would like a more scientific response to these questions please check out the links I have given above.”

The next question is, where did the E.Coli come from?

The ecoli was found in one of the meat plants tenderizer machines which pulverizes the meat so that it will stay more tender when cooked. How did it get onto the machine? It most likely was not on the machine, but on the meat that was put through it. Most meats have E.Coli on the outer layer which is exposed to oxygen.  Many people do not realize that once that outer layer is ground or pushed into the centre of the meat the bacteria can then inhabit the inner portion of the meat.  If this meat is not cooked enough, the bacteria can survive, and people get sick.

If E.Coli is in everything why did these people get sick now.  Would cooking the meat not kill the bacteria?

The most sensible cause for the sicknesses by the recent E.Coli outbreak is that the tenderizer pushed the E.Coli into the centre of the meat and stayed there until it was cooked and eaten. This means the meat that was eaten was most likely beef. Beef is the only red meat that most people can handle eating raw through the middle without becoming incredibly sick. However, E.Coli is easily destroyed by heat. Likely, whoever had bought the meat did not cook it to the proper temperature all the way through. Tenderized meats and hamburger are especially dangerous because the outer layer of the meat is pushed/ground into the middle where the meat may not reach the correct temperature for a long enough period of time to kill bacteria.

Who is to blame?

The entire meat industry is to blame of course! Government, inspectors, butchers and consumers! We are not educating our buyers and buyers are not wanting to be educated enough about how to cook their meats. No matter how sanitary we are there will always be accidents. Being overly sanitary can also be harmful because our body’s immune system may not be able to handle any – even small amounts – of bacteria that may arise. With our sanitary methods bacteria are only going to get stronger. Our overly sanitary food industries are one reason why uncurable diseases arise, the bacteria will find a way to change and adapt to survive.  Ten, even twenty years ago you never heard of the many sanitary things we do in the food industry’s today, but why? Because most of today’s society is so far away from the farm many young children never get the chance to see or touch a cow in real life. Some do not even know they are eating a cow when they have a hamburger! This is a HUGE problem! Farming needs to stay relevant in everyone’s mind. Those of us who are not in agricultural industries often forget (or never knew!) what happens with our food.

Questions? Comments?

Let me know!!

Happy Farming,

Jessica Oelschlagel

The Inside and Out of Wrapping Bales.

Howdy All,

The other day I was out in the field collecting round bales that were on their way to be wrapped.  When I was younger the bale wrapper always intrigued me and still does to this day.  It is efficient and practical if you want to save your hay, even if it is a little but wet. The problem for most farmers is the investment of the equipment. I though if I was so interested in this topic maybe other people will be too. So here I am writing a blog about wrapping hay bales.

This passed weekend I was in a field where we were collecting bales for wrapping and took the opportunity to grab some pictures for our REAL Ontario Farmer facebook page. While I was taking the pictures it made me stop and think about the importance of bale wrapping and how it is not something that people talk about to often. I myself didn’t know to much about wrapping other than the fact that the wet bales keep longer and that the wrapping machine is pretty intense. I decided to do some research on the topic and there isn’t too much to find. I looked deeper and deeper into the internet and found as much information as I could about wrapping bales. The main topics that came to my attention were hay quality, equipment price and storage space, so that is what I am going to talk about in this blog. Make sure to check out some other blogs on the page while you are here, there is a lot of interesting farming information.

First…

How does a bale wrapper work?  Well there are many different kind of bale wrappers that are available. They make one for ever shape and size of bale for the convenience of the farmer. I think it would take me a day to write down all the different styles of bale wrappers, so I will put links and a small write up for the different styles .

Integrated Baler Wrappers

The vertical wrapping ring on the Fusion 2 integrated baler wrapper is fitted with two 750mm dispensers, which take approximately 20 seconds to apply 4 layers of film and 30 seconds to apply six layers of film using both dispensers. This means the wrapping platform is always waiting for the next bale.

The dispensers are fitted with film break sensors, which notify the operator through the control box in the tractor cab if one or both dispensers run out of film. If one dispenser runs out of film the Fusion 2 will continue working and automatically slow bale rotation and increase the number of rotations of the wrapping ring to ensure that the round bale is wrapped correctly.

Single Round Bale Wrapper

The wrapping table on the single round bale wrappers tilts forward for bale loading, this allows the round bale to gently pass from the lift arm to the bale wrapping table, reducing the stress on the chassis of the single round bale wrapper.

When the bale is on the table the wrapping cycle commences. The bale wrapping table on the round bale wrapper is constructed of four heavy-duty belts, which ensures a smooth and even bale rotation even when dealing with loose or asymmetric bales.

A smooth wrapping seal is guaranteed as the machine delivers a 50% overlap. When the wrapping cycle is complete the wrapping table on the single round bale wrappers tilts rearward and the round bale is gently placed on the ground.

Ever single wrapper is made a little different, but with the same general premise of wrapping a single bale.

Sausage Wrapper (wraps rows of bales):

One of the most recent developments has been a machine which allows bales to be stored in long rows but which uses stretch wrapping much like the individual bale wrappers. This machine allows bales to be placed on a platform and then the plastic is wrapped around the exterior of the bale, sliding the wrapped bales down a ramp in the rear in sausage fashion. The advantages are low cost of plastic per bale and rapid processing. A wide range of bale sizes can be processed, although uniformity is beneficial in wrapping. If a hole forms in the plastic it will only damage the bale near the hole as the plastic is stretched tightly around the bales. The disadvantages are the somewhat higher cost of equipment, and the fact that the ends of the sausage tube are open, so spoilage can occur.

These are only a few different way you can wrap bales. There is also different types of wraps and equiptment to make your folage last as long as possible. Here are some great websites where you can look at what will work for your operation and how you can improve the amount of harvest that makes it through the winter.

http://www.ibiblio.org/farming-connection/grazing/forgey/baleage.htm

http://economics.ag.utk.edu/extension/forage/Economic%20Comparison%20of%20Hay%20Storage%20032008.pdf

http://www.dow.com/silage/testimonials/wrapping.htm

I hope this opens discussion about what your opinions are about bale wrapping. I also hope that your harvest this year is high yield and healthy!

Happy Farming,

Jessica Oelschlagel

REAL Ontario Farm Reporter

reporter@realontariofarmer.ca

Changing the world by Cultivating Toronto? I Think So.

Hello Farmers and Friends,

I was happy to spend some quality time with these lovely ladies who are some of the harvesters for Cultivate Toronto. This program was created by Young Farmers CSA a group of young Ontario agricultural advocate looking to make a differnce through agriculture. Cultivate Toronto is a gardening program that was made so Toronto locals would have availability to fresh local produce throughout the summer and autumn months. These ladies spent their afternoon picking vegtables and herbs of many different varieties.

How does the Cultivate Toronto program work?

Local Toronto residence can offer some of their lot space to the Cultivate Toronto Program. In return the resident will receive a portion of the gardens produce.  There rest of the garden is given to shareholders who purchase a portion of the years produce, the number of shareholders ranges for each garden, but averages about 5 shareholders per garden. The Cultivate Toronto team manages and harvests each garden at the appropriate time for each particular plant,harvests are executed weekly. The produce is weighed into amounts for each shareholders so they are ready for pick-up.

How can you get Involved?

The Cultivate Toronto program has a great website. There you can learn how to offer lot space, how to purchase shares in a garden and how to volunteer with Cultivate Toronto. The costs to buy a share range from $350.00 to $450.00 depending on your finances. To become a lot provider costs nothing and Cultivate Toronto does all the work , but you do have to meet the requirements. If you want to learn more about Cultivate Toronto feel free to visit their shareholders and lot providers write-up and their website.

Thanks

I would like to say thank you to all the young ladies I met at Cultivate Toronto on my visit. You were all very friendly and inspiring, maybe someday it wont just be Cultivate Toronto, but spread to Cultivate Ontario. I believe that you are all great examples of REAL Ontario Farmers!

Happy Farming,

Jessica Oelschlagel

REAL Ontario Farm Reporter

Keep the Kids Agriculturaly Inclined at Your Event

Hello Everyone,

The REAL Ontario Farmer, with the help of Minto Township have worked together to make seminars for youth. We incorporate many different activities such as edible aquifers, learn to rope a calf, the why organic game, make your own butter, farm animal headbands, pet a farm animal both feather and fur, fall fair crafts, and plant your own seeds. The REAL Ontario Farm Reporter and a Minto Township Representative  will come to your event set up some activities and help your kids  to learn a little bit more about farming, agriculture and the environment. In the post about Jessica Oelschlagel the REAL Ontario Farm Reporter, there is a section about the first agriculture seminar run ever run, it was made for for grade three students. We have worked to make learning for all age groups and would love to bring our activities and knowledge to your event.

To see picture of a previous Youth Agriculture Awareness Seminar please visit the REAL Ontario Farmer facebook page.

If you would like to have us visit your event and bring some activities for kids please email the REAL Ontario Farm Reporter

reporter@realontariofarmer.ca

Happy Farming

Jessica Oelschlagel

REAL Ontario Farm Reporter

realontariofarmer.ca

One of Ontario’s Hidden Beauties, Holland Marsh

Howdy Everyone,

This past weekend I had the chance to visit a place that I had no idea even existed. It is a small valley nestled at the bottom of a “bowl” which was a lake thousands of years ago.  Canals follow the edge of the marsh keeping it well arrogated all year round with fresh water from Ontario’s lake Simcoe, even in a hot year like this one. The soil was a dark, rich peat-moss full of organics rather then the sandy, mineral-rich highland soil I am accustomed to. Another strange sight to me was the crops, they do not call it Ontario’s Salad bowl for nothing: carrots, celery, lettuce, onions, beets and many other types of edible horticulture lined the fields. Nothing like the  tall corn and bright mustard I see in Wellington county. The fields were neatly placed side by side without a fence in sight, allowing for an extra few rows to be planted, I am thinking these farmers must really get along.

The farmers work hard in the fields all of the growing season. Hand picking weeds and delicate produce to make sure that everything is good and fresh for people to eat. They protect their precious crops with plant protection agents and give them all the vitamins they need to grow as big and strong as possible, they treat these plants as they would family. Conventional farming is the norm for the Holland Marsh, getting the most produce at the best quality to store, ready for your dinner plate. Some Holland Marsh farmers have contracts with company’s such as Purina pet food and Campbell Soups. Their conventional efforts are sustaining well and making for a happy and healthy yearly crop.

Holand Marsh farmers like to learn new things all the time so they can grow better food for you. The University of Guelph has been a huge help to the Holland Marsh as their research team discovers new plant variants and crop growing methods to keep the plants, soil and farmers happy. The UofG students spend long hours looking at the growth of the various plants types in various conditions. This will help us learn how to better protect against weather, disease, and pests so we can have more yield and better crops to feed the population. Holland Marsh thanks the University for their efforts in supporting not only the marsh, but agriculture as a whole. Learn more about Guelph University!

Holland Marsh places to look up and visit! (click the picture to go to their website)

Picture One – Holland Marsh Winery

Picture Two – Holland Marsh Market Store

 

 

I would love to thank Avia Eek and her family for letting my come out to the marsh and taking Ollie and I for a tour. The onions you gave us were delicious and Ollie loves his new bandana to wear to our events! To learn more about the Holland Marsh do not hesitate to twitter or facebook myself Avia. Her website is linked to her name above.

 

Happy Farming!

 

Jessica Oelschlagel

REAL Ontario Farm Reporter

realontariofarmer.ca

reporter@realontariofarmer.ca

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away, We Need You So We Have Hay!

This gallery contains 19 photos.

Hello Everyone, I wanted to write a blog about the importance of the water cycle. Many people LOVE the heat and being able to go outside with shorts and tee-shirts without a worry, but for farmers it is a different story. Many will see farmers shake their heads at longs days of scotching heat, not […]

Education is Key

Hey Everyone,

I saw an article while surfing through twitter the other day and the topic shocked me. The topic in this article was unheard of to me , but it does exist. Some people do believe that buying local is bad, even worse then the across the planet alternatives…

This is great! Diversity of opinion is what makes our world work, I am not saying that this article is wrong and that the author should not write about their opinions, but there was one problem that stuck me as odd. This is a news paper article was for the Globe and Mail which is praised highly on their writing standards; however, this article on the other hand was nothing of the sort! The author was using very little evidence for their opinion, it was just plain opinion bias.

News is suppose to be an educated writing style that is based on evidence. This article was far from the standards of the average news article. It made me sad to think that many people who are uneducated about this subject are reading and believing an article that is basically a trashy writing about one reporters opinion. This opinion could be right, but the writing style is all wrong. I would expect more evidence and science to back up the data. Throwing random and misleading facts that have no reference to any sort of scientific documentation or studies turns a good article bad very quickly. I would expect someone who was to talk about this subject to take their time carefully creating arguments that are fully backed-up, but this was thrown together and pushed into the news. 

I refuse to include any names to this piece because I feel as if I am not in the place to talk about the writer because I am only talking about this writing style that they have decided to use. If you are interested feel free to visit the Globe and Mail website to find this article. I have posted it below with simply the body, no title or author. I have added the questions that have not been answered and the explanations that should be included, I try to tie up lose ends that should have been covered to make valid arguments.

Nothing beats the taste of a homegrown tomato. I should know. I’ve been growing them for years. My idea of heaven is a ripe, fresh-picked tomato still warm from the sun, eaten plain with a little salt.

Mind you, (Canadian)tomato-growing has its challenges. Drought , damp and blight are constant problems – doesn’t every other place on earth? Some years it’s too rainy and some years it’s too cold. Sometimes everything goes great until August, when the tomato leaves suddenly turn brown and shrivel up. And no matter how we try to stagger our harvest, we always have too few tomatoes (11 months a year) or too many (the other month). Every fall I wind up making eleventeen -what is eleventeen? – quarts of tomato sauce from our surplus harvest. I call it our special hundred-foot sauce. I now have frozen sauce dating back to 2007.

And that’s what’s wrong with locavorism-because you cannot grow a tomatoes?. It’s the most wasteful, inefficient way to feed the human race you can possibly imagine. It’s also bad for the environment -what about hauling it across the planet option? What are the numbers and statistics?

Case in point: Our own idyllic countryside, an hour and a half’s drive from Toronto. In the mid-1800s it was settled by hard-working farmers who all, by necessity, had 100-mile diets. I pity the poor wretches who tried to eke a living from our stony, hilly, clayey soil, whose only good feature is the views-percentages? Statistics?

Subsistence farming was backbreaking and unprofitable work– doesn’t everyone have to eat?. It was also terrible for the environment. The land wasn’t very productive, so farmers needed a lot of it to grow stuff. Soon most of the forests had been chopped down and serious erosion had set in. The area turned into a giant dust bowl.

Today, vastly more efficient methods allow farmers to grow a lot more food on a lot less land. Now they can specialize. Some of our local land is ideal for potatoes, so farmers grow trainloads of them and sell them all over Canada. They do very well – so what is the problem?. Not only does long-distance trade maximize output and lower prices – chemicals, GMO’s and masses of low quality production are not an issue? –, it’s also good for the environment. Today much of the crummy, unproductive farmland (such as ours) has reverted back to forest –numbers, statistics, examples? The area is greener and more hospitable to wildlife than it’s been for 150 years– how come animals can eat local, they do not need trade to survive? Why is it so bad for us?

Locavorism makes no more sense for food than it does for clothing or computers– which people only buy a few times in their life, we buy food everyday. It wouldn’t occur to people to assign extra virtue to a locally manufactured iPad, or to develop personal relationships with the folks who made it. So why is it the rage to look in the eye of the people who grow your vegetables? – wouldn’t you like to know who is taking care of something that you are putting into your mouth?

My theory is that the farther we get from life on the land, the more we romanticize it – What if we can no longer get food from far countries? Should we rely so heavily on trade? Why is it wrong to try and supply ourselves?- We also have a powerful longing for the personal and artisanal, and for connectedness. As the writer Rod Dreher put it, “Learning the names of the small farmers, and coming to appreciate what they do is to reverse the sweeping process of alienation from the earth and from each other that the industrialized agriculture and mass production of foodstuffs has wrought.”

Today the countryside around our place is thronged with a brand-new generation of farmers – eager young idealists who have fled back to the land. Every weekend they show up at the little farmers’ market with their colourful bouquets of organic carrots and their tender non-commodified artisanal greens. I love these people. They work like dogs.Their produce is delicious, and I am thrilled to shell out a dollar a carrot to support them. I am certainly not about to argue to their face that everything they believe is wrong– why is it wrong to supply fresh produce right off the farm from that mornings harvest?- I’ll leave that to folks like Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu, the Canadian authors of new book called The Locavore’s Dilemma. In it, they systematically dismantle the cult of locavorism that has sunk its roots so deeply among the urban upper-middle class.

In fact, the globalization of the food supply is nothing new -isn’t that because of population growth and moving into large cities where people do not own land?-, and the more of it there is the better off we have become. Modern mass-produced, globally distributed food (not junk food, real food – you mean the food that sits on the trucks for days? Chemicals for shelf life? – is cheaper, more nutritious, safer – GMO’s ?-, higher-quality, more reliably available and far less wasteful-don’t groceries stores have a code that food has to meet so many “imperfect” foods are thrown away?- than the local kind. Modern food systems have done wonders for our standard of living– are they not so safe that people are beginning to become sick with things that we shouldn’t be? –   and have liberated humankind from the chains of rural serfdom – chain? the convenience of food within 100 miles of your home?-. They have increased, not decreased, food security and made famines (except for those that are politically induced ) all but extinct. As for food miles, numerous analyses – where is your example?- have shown that claims made for the alleged benefits to the atmosphere of eating food grown close to home are largely bunk.

On top of that, the core beliefs of locavores – that organic is best, chemicals are bad, and genetically modified crops are evil – are responsible for keeping large parts of Africa mired in poverty and food deprivation. Why?

Does all this mean that I’ll stop patronizing the farmers’ market and the Hundred-Dollar (I mean Mile) Store? – Wouldn’t  it be better to spend money on good food than anything else? – Absolutely not. I love those places. I love the sense of community and chatting with the neighbours. It’s much more fun than shopping at the superstore, and when the produce is in season there’s nothing that tastes better – didn’t you just mention that it doesn’t? I am confused?. In spite of all the rot and blight and inefficiencies and waste – use comma’s not ‘and’ in between every word- nothing beats the taste of a homegrown tomato – either mine or anybody else’s.

I understand that in this blog I may seem as if I am bias, but I am only trying to represent the opposing side to the article. If this article were to be about local food and how they were so great I would have taken the opposite stand because the point of an educated article is to use facts to contradict other facts of the opposing side. It is impossible to answer every question in one article and there will always be gaps in writing, but writing structure is learned in grade four and up to help write a proper persuasive writing and that structure should always be present. The point of this blog is to show you why many people have trouble making decisions and why manipulation is set in to persuade people to think different than they would if they knew the exact fact. This opinion could be true, but without facts and evidence it is meaningless. Make sure when you are reading a set of writings that the author sounds educated and formal about the topic. Don’t let someone else’s opinions sway the truth from what it is, even if it were to be a writing about why local food is so great, dairy is bad, eating McDonald’s is good or any other controversial topic, make sure they back up their opinion with either their own education or from readings. Once you have been educated with facts about a topic is when an opinion can be made because then you can now back up your opinion with fact. Creating an opinion on something you know nothing about will get you nowhere because education is the key.

Overall, be very careful of what you are reading. Look for facts, numbers, statistics, quotes etc, to make sure the author is trying to prove their point rather then dance around the topic with no real proof of it, no matter what that topic may be. Everyone is capable of their own opinion and any opinion can be right, but make sure that opinion is educated or it may come back to bite you in the butt!