A Fragile System Exposed

2020 Spring Newsletter

A trip to the local grocery store or supermarket in the past days and weeks turns up many empty shelves—a sight that most Americans have not seen before.  This is just one of a myriad of ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak. Without a doubt, this will affect us for months to come. 

But this may be positive in a sense because it exposes a larger problem: the fragility of our food system.

Contributing to this fragility is the fact that the average American shops for food every fourth day, the available food in any given foodshed is only a 3-4 day’s supply, and it is estimated that the average meal travels over 1,500 miles from farm to plate.  How can anyone think that this is not a fragile system?

Americans, through their buying dollars, have dictated this system into place.  By purchasing food that is grown elsewhere, out of sight and out of mind, the stage has been set for the empty shelves we see today.  And now Americans are in a panic because they are not confident in their food supply.

True, the empty shelves we now experience are due to panic purchasing. However, to have to rely on a meager 3 day supply before depending on another truck to arrive is absurd, to say the least. I could list numerous occasions that would cause the collapse—or insufficiency—of the food distribution system as we know it. And three days is a very short time to resolve a major problem of that proportion. Plus, merely a whisper of potential shortage/shutdown causes panic and hoarding, like we’ve recently seen.

However, there’s plenty of food. The January 31, 2020 frozen food stocks in the U.S. are actually staggering. We have 480 million pounds of frozen beef, 563 million pounds of frozen pork, 1.2 billion pounds of frozen poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), just over 1 billion pounds of cheese, and 230 million pounds of butter. In addition, we have 1.1 billion pounds of frozen fruit and 1.8 billion pounds of frozen vegetables. Total food available in frozen storage equals just over 8 billion pounds. With just over 329 million people in the U.S., those food stores amount to 24 lbs of food for every man, woman, and child in the U.S., in just the excess frozen stocks.

So why are we panicking over food? Why do we believe that we will run out sometime soon? It is all because of panic buying. The reason for the bare shelves is not due to a lack of food items, but the inability of our transport system to keep up with the panic buying. We have only so many trucks and so many drivers. They cannot make more deliveries than they currently are.

Understandably, Americans lack confidence in the food supply, but perhaps of equal importance is the fact that the food source is also failing their health.  The nutrient density of the food produced in the industrialized, commoditized model has decreased in nutrient density anywhere from 15-65 percent in the last 50 years.  A person today would have to eat twice as much meat, three times as much fruit and four times as many vegetables to get the same nutrients and minerals, as compared to the same food in 1940—a mere eighty years ago.

So, how do we change this?  How do we restore not only confidence, but do so in a way that will improve our health and bolster our immune systems to ward off infectious viruses and other diseases? 

The answer lies in our local ecosystems. 

In this time, it is very important that we not only have food available, but foods that are healthy for us. Foods that feed our bodies the vital nutrients we need to promote strong immune systems and ward off challenges like the flu and coronavirus. That is why we believe so strongly in producing foods through the practice of regenerative agriculture. That is why we believe in pastured proteins. Healthy soils promote healthy foods. Healthy foods promote healthy bodies. Healthy bodies have strong and vibrant microbiomes. How do we instill confidence in a system that is 1,500 miles away?  The answer is, of course, you don’t. The solution, instead, is to identify local farmers and ranchers who are applying the principles and rules of soil health.  Go to their farms, see for yourself. Is the farm alive? Can you smell the flowers? Do you see a diverse abundance of plants and animals? Can you hear the buzz of honeybees and other insects? 

What are they growing?  Is it only one or two crops or is it a cornucopia of plenty?  Most importantly, find out if they are feeding their own family what they grow.

A crisis often becomes a wake-up call. The current coronavirus outbreak is that wake-up call and must result in a serious re-examination of our food system, and That’s the View from the Country.

Join me in a brief circuit of our plans for Freedom Acres in 2020 and beyond. Given the coronavirus concerns right now, vibrant gut health has become paramount for optimal immune function, I will outline each food group’s positive impacts in that regard, as well as any changes we plan to incorporate this year that you should know about. It’s a year of important changes and as always, we aim for full transparency with you, our co-producers.

All-grass Raw Dairy –

An increasing number of people—especially children—are declared lactose intolerant. At Freedom Acres, we question whether they truly are lactose intolerant or merely pasteurized milk intolerant. Having been producing raw milk for a decade now, we’ve encountered numerous folks who claimed lactose intolerance, but were fine with raw milk from grassfed cows. Plus, with what is now known about A2A2 versus A1A1 milk proteins and the difference in digestibility, even more folks are demanding A2A2 raw milk because they feel better on it.

Raw dairy has been proven many times over to propagate friendly bacteria and kill bad bacteria. Of course, you will not see these studies featured in the mainstream press (because raw milk is bad, ya know), but as usual, the truth is in the fringes, away from the center of attention. Plus, we now have science for—and can measure—the benefits of culturing milk into kefir, sour cream, yogurt, etc. Prior to modern refrigeration, culturing was merely a means of preservation, but we now know it promotes the growth of friendly bacteria, which in turn promotes healthy gut function and optimal health. If you do nothing else to promote wellness, drink raw milk kefir and eat yogurt.

Speaking of changes here at Freedom Acres, our dairy is on the forefront of change. Due to the demands of the growing business—and the increase in workload that accompanies it—we’ve entered a partnership with Elam & Linda Stoltzfus at Narvon Natural Acres in Narvon, with them producing dairy on their farm and we meats here. Formerly, they were doing it all and we were trying to do it all, so we see a benefit in partnering not only to manage workload, but also to increase efficiencies as well as having more people involved to optimize quality and manage growing demand. We’ll still be carrying the full line of dairy including butter, yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and kefir as we have been, with the only difference being that it‘s produced on their farm instead of ours—and we assure you, they’re producing at least as quality a product as we were. Freshness will remain the same, which is the beauty of partnering with a farm that’s only 6 minutes away. Plus, with their herd being 90% A2A2, we’ll be able to offer A2 in all our cultured and fresh dairy products.

Pasture Raised Broilers (& Turkeys) –

As savvy eaters across the nation become paranoid of corporate food, many are giving their trust to local farms more than corporate brands, and are turning to producers who uphold pasture raised meats as the “gold-standard.” We have seen more visits to our website in the past two weeks coming from search engines than ever before. To me, this indicates a society unhappy with their current source and searching for something better. This could be a positive result of Covid-19, given the instability of the current distribution network.

Perhaps the foremost advantage of pasture raised chicken lies in the health of the birds, as well as the absence of drugs and other synthetics. Fresh air, exercise, greens (grass), sunshine, and low-stress are the five health-promoters in both livestock and man, and allow small producers like us to raise poultry with zero growth promoter antibodies—or other artificials. Food—like many other things—has little or no gray area. What we eat either promotes abundant health, or inhibits it. And we are only as healthy as our food animals.

Outside of slightly increased production numbers, 2020 will bring minimal change to Freedom Acres poultry. We plan to offer soy-free pasture raised chicken in addition to our usual GMO-free pasture raised. While we haven’t had many requests for soy-free, we have a wholesaler who is asking for it, therefore we’ll give you the choice as well. Due to the limiting factor of alternative protein sources versus soybean meal, we need to feed them a bit longer (more feed and labor), which causes soy-free to be slightly more expensive. We’ll keep you posted on the actual price/availability etc. when processing nears. Fresh chicken will be available the first week in June.

Pasture raised Eggs –

Eggs carry more nutritional punch per pound than perhaps any other food. Throughout history—until our modernized era of unreality—the possession of a few chickens and a milk cow were the definition of riches, and the lack thereof made many a pauper. I know this will blow some people away, but if you’re really serious about staying healthy, consider raw eggs. I know it’s not the most appetizing thing you can think of, but it’s a powerhouse of nutrition. Mix it with a glass of milk and a trickle of maple syrup to add palatability. And be sure your eggs are from a good source. Also, I’m hearing from several sources of people buying laying hens for backyard flocks.  All of a sudden there’s an explosion of demand for 3-6 bird home flocks.  This signals renewed interest in self reliant food production.  If the chickens eat your kitchen scraps, dropping their purchased feed needs by half, at 2 oz. per day a 50-lb. bag of GMO-free chicken feed can last a long time. I think this is a great idea. DO this at home.

Aside from a slight increase in numbers, we will continue with egg production as usual in 2020. Due to our limited land base—which restricts how many hens we can sustainably keep—we collaborate with several other farms to meet the sharp demand for pasture raised eggs, and plan to continue thus as of now.

Salad Bar Beef –

There is nothing more damaging to American beef consumption than the practice of marketing imported beef as a “Product of the USA” simply because it was processed in a USDA facility upon arrival.   This misleading label places concerned American eaters at a significant disadvantage, because there’s no way of knowing if it’s imported or domestic. Nothing does more to undermine consumer confidence than deliberately misleading them with deceitful marketing practices. The same could be said of the Grass-fed label. Unless it’s specifically labeled as grass-finished it was very likely finished on grain.

Beef raised in feedlots on a concentrated high-starch diet have an inherent acidosis problem, which then warrants the feeding of sub-therapeutic Rumensin, a drug that buffers stomach acid. Otherwise the acids eat away at the stomach wall and allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which wind up in the liver and cause abscessing and impaired liver function. Even with Rumensin, 15 to 20 percent of feedlot beef are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers.  To take this discussion a step further, any animal—or human—who suffers from impaired liver function will have some degree of toxicity. When the liver constantly struggles to eliminate toxins, it wears down the immune system and creates opportunity for disease. Again, not only are we what we eat, but also what our food animals eat.

Due to the partnership opportunity with the Stoltzfus family (as mentioned earlier) and the absence of dairy cows here, we will now have the beef herd here on our home farm instead of the rented farm in Elverson. After having us rent her farm for four years, Mrs. Flagg decided to sell it (although we love that farm, we were in no position to purchase it) and entered into an agreement with a buyer this winter. What an example of the providence of God! When He closes a door, quite often He opens another. We’re excited to be able to raise our own grass-fed-grass-finished beef here at home and are confident that quality and consistency will be enhanced in this change. Beef availability will remain much the same, with harvests primarily taking place in May/June and November when the grasses are optimal for grass-finishing excellent beef.

Pasture/Woodlot Pork –

Pastured pork, the ultimate brain food! Nora Gedgaudas, a widely recognized speaker and author on what is popularly referred to as the “Paleo diet”, says pastured pork fat is the best brain food. She completely opposes eating grains of any kind.  She said the human brain has shrunk as more grains are consumed, versus its size when consuming far more animal fats.  A diet high in carbohydrates equals an 87 percent higher likelihood for dementia; a high animal fat diet equals a 46 percent lower likelihood for dementia. Breast milk offers infants all of these essential fats and our brains deteriorate if the fats and ketones (dietary fats in the absence of glucose) don’t stay high. What’s more, Vitamin K, that elusive and most recently discovered of all the essential vitamins, is found exclusively in animal foods IF the animals are on pasture.

In all honesty, this resonates with me. Brain health is directly linked to gut health, and vice versa. I suggest that the majority of people who follow the Standard American Diet (SAD) are digestively compromised, and therefore inhibited mentally as well. If we’ve ever been in a time when clear thought was necessary and in high demand, it’s now. Five years ago when I suffered from what was likely leaky gut—along with other long-standing digestive and immunity challenges—I experienced more brain fog and cognitive dysfunction than ever before. And since taking measures to optimize gut health, I’m sure my cognitive health is clearer and sharper as well. And why not, our bodies are highly interwoven and no member is independent.

Pork is known to be a fatty meat, although in conventional confinement pork production much effort has been made to create lean pork, due to several generations of fat-phobia. But small-scale outdoor producers like us have reverted to heritage breeds—primarily because the hyped-up modern breeds fall apart in an outdoor environment. However, an unintended consequence of modern pork is that it lost its excellent flavor, which we believe is the result of losing fat. Allan Nation, long-time grass-farm advocate and traditional food activist used to say the fat is where the flavor is. I suggest it’s also where the nutrition is.

In 2020 we will continue expanding our woodlot pork model that we’ve been developing in the last two years. This past winter we installed a concrete crossing in the creek which gives us better access to the wooded acreage on the far side, and allows further expansion. With fewer cattle numbers on the open acres, we also plan to enlarge the pastures model for pigs.

Fermented Foods –

This is not an item I usually visit in our spring newsletter because we primarily buy and sell these products. However, given the circumstances in the past few weeks I decided to include it here. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing the immune system. Studies show that even a small amount of fermented vegetables with each meal can replace digestive enzyme supplements. Ferments are an absolute to gut health and disease prevention.

Although we’ve had a small amount of ferments to sell in 2019, as of this week we’re offering additional fermented foods from Gap View Homestead. This includes fermented sauerkraut, ginger carrots (which are beyond excellent, BTW), dilly beans, and fermented kimchi.

The Last Word –

After a few weeks of the news being filled with Covid-19, I must admit that I simply do not know what is truth and what isn’t. Except for a once-a-day overview, I have stopped following the mainstream media’s hype—which is made up of negativity and half-truths anyway. Simply put, I lose my focus on the things in my control if I pay too much attention to what the news has to say. However, I’m beginning to believe that Coronavirus will not be short lived, which makes me more passionate than ever about investing in vibrant health, good relationships, and stress management. Before closing this lengthy newsletter, I would like to just encourage you to take heart and address the things that you can control.

Make vibrant health a goal for yourself and your children, and do not relent until it is achieved. From my own experience, I realize for some of us this may require ongoing effort—as it does for myself due to 25 years of ignorance. During this time when your children are home, invest in developing relationships and use your positive influence to help them develop character. Good parental relationships and an upright character will take them further in life than an excellent education. Make a point to eat together around the table at least once a day. Manage stress (I know it’s not easy, and I’m still working on it). Enjoy nature and teach your children about it.

I will close with a candid excerpt from Joel Salatin’s blog The Lunatic Farmer (I’m sure you realize by now that I appreciate Joel’s frankness and his saying-it-how-it-is). In this post he wrote of the “exciting trends” we may see as a result of Covid-19; “Humility.  Most of society has been drunk on hubris for a long time.  With computers and smart phones we’ve decided we’re above biology; we’ve conquered nature and cheated historical normalcy.  We don’t need animals for protein.  We don’t need organic matter in the soil.  We don’t need regional self-reliance.  Suddenly, this pandemic shocks us back into reality.  Nature does indeed have a balance sheet.  We don’t have it all figured out.  Life isn’t just a glorified video game.  Oops; maybe life is bigger than us.”

To all of you, thank you again for supporting us along the way, and we hope to return the favor.

God Bless,

The Fisher’s @ Freedom Acres LLC

   Samuel & Esther and family; Sadie (12), Lena (10), Elmer (8), Eli (6), Laura (4), & John Ivan (21 months)

Quote worth re-quoting…

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” ~ Robert H. Schuller