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Posts Tagged ‘Cloudland Farm’

I am in wholehearted agreement with the motivation behind the New York Times editorial of a few days ago, “Farms and Antibiotics,” and with the legislation it promotes, which aims to drastically reduce the amount of antibiotics used in raising meat.   The figures in this editorial are staggering.  There are so many good reasons to pass this legislation: the overuse of antibiotics leads to super-resistant bugs that can affect human and animal health; the animals are given antibiotics not because they are sick, but to prevent them from getting sick, which surely would happen because of the crowded and confined conditions in which they are raised, and because of the unnatural diet they are fed to fatten them up faster than their bodies can handle; antibiotics in farm run-off (i.e. manure) leach into ground- and open water.

But the problem will not be easy to solve.  It would be simplisitic to think that it’s just a bunch of bad-boy capitalist farmers injecting their animals with too many drugs in the name of profit.   Those farmers are stoking, yes, but are also feeding an insatiable appetite for meat.  The change won’t come with legislation alone but with massive shifts in the American (and first world in general) diet–away from cheap meat–and toward more easy access to healthy, whole foods.  Legislation to limit antibiotic use on factory farms will need to be accompanied by some consciousness raising about the unsustainable scale of the meat industries, and with many more legislative actions. (Michael Pollan had some great suggestions for what these might be, in his pre-election open letter, “Farmer In Chief.”)

The road blocks to changing the first world diet might better be described as an intricate and incredibly strong mesh, made up of socioeconomic inequalities, socioeconomic history, and the history of the food industry and of the first world diet.  A century and a half ago, fresh beef was a specialty food of the wealthy.  That all changed with the invention of refrigeration in the late nineteenth-century.  First came the icebox in upper-class homes; then came ice-cooled warehouses, both of which were unreliable but which led to greater changes .  Then came compressed-air, and electric refrigeration–in homes, in warehouses, on trains, in steamers.  The growth of the refrigeration industry, which was directly related to that of beef, completely changed the culture of meat consumption.  Large-scale cattle farms, slaughter-houses, and warehouses, and the increasing demand they were set up to meet, displaced small-scale businesses of all sorts, and introduced the factory-farming of cattle.  This was when grain-fed beef and the first CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) were implemented.  As supply increased, demand increased, and prices fell.  And now here we are, habituated to a diet of cheap, abundant beef that we are finally recognizing to be unsustainable.  (A compelling and carefully researched description of this history can be found in the new book by Susanne Freidberg, Fresh: A Perishable History.)

The reduction of antibiotic use in cattle will have to go along with a reduction in beef consumption, but because of the socioeconomic realities of beef consumption, this won’t change easily.  We all know that highly processed, “fast food” is cheaper and easier for many to get than fresh, whole foods.  This socioeconomic disparity will have to be addressed as well. (Salmon and shrimp are fast becoming the new beef: the prices are dropping and the antibiotic use is going up.  The Times had a chilling article the other day about antibiotic use by salmon farms in South America.)

If you have the means, switching to grass fed beef is a good idea, but it will only help to keep beef production sustainable if the beef is local and eaten infrequently.  Speaking of which… it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been to Cloudland Farm….

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Roving is a romantic way of saying moving from place to place.  At one time, the word contained more layers of significance than it does now, including something like “lookin’ for love.”  This sense finds its beautiful epitome in Byron’s love lyric, “We’ll go no more a-roving.” More than a poem of love, this is a poem of eros.  The short, simple poem, which Byron wrote while in Venice, speaks of the sweetness of longing and nostalgia as it relishes ironic double entendre.

Today, I’ve had a decidedly more banal, and boring, experience of roving: I drove all around this spread-out rural center of civilization in the northeast—seemingly just to keep the car capable of more driving.  It was a day of logistics: dropping the boys at camp; driving to White River Junction with my sister to get her tire repaired for $13, which took all day; driving to drop off my sister at my dad’s office so that she could use his car; driving to the library for two hours of 1794 literary journals on microfilm; driving to pick up my boy; driving to CVS and the Hanover Food Co-op; driving back to the back roads of Norwich to drop off the cold food; driving to my dad’s office to pick up my sister; driving to the mechanic’s to pick up her car.  On the way out of there, my automatic transmission problem alert signal came on.  It’s an orange-lighted gear with an exclamation point in the center.  Whoa!  So, then we drove, in caravan, to another mechanic’s, who directed us to another, farther south along route 5 in Vermont.  This will probably cost me quite a bit more than $13.

And then we drove back up route 5, which, happily, leads to Killdeer Farm Stand.  I dropped off my sister and the boys at the UPS warehouse to see the trucks (my nephew’s current obsession) and drove to Killdeer.  After a day of aggravation, this was bliss.

The vegetable baskets are more bountiful every day.  I wanted to make a pasta dish with a classic combination of vegetables.  I bought an eggplant, sweet green pepper, sweet onion, costata romanesca.  I looked at everything, admired everything, knew I’d be back tomorrow.

spring veg

I left, reluctantly, to do more driving.

For dinner we had farfalle with all of the above, and some sweet Italian sausage, flavored with fennel seeds, from Cloudland Farm, which we’d had in the freezer.  It was warm, green, springy, delicious.

Spring Pasta

Get the water boiling for pasta.  Meanwhile, break a half-pound of sweet Italian sausage into chunks, and slice half of a sweet onion, one or two Japanese eggplants (their skin is more tender), one sweet green pepper, and one costata romanesca.  Sauté the sausage until mid-rare and let drain in a bowl lined with paper towel.  Sauté the vegetables, beginning with the onion, followed by the eggplant, pepper, and eggplant.  Cook the pasta.  When the vegetables are lightly caramelized, spoon in a couple of big spoonfuls of pasta-cooking water, and cover for a minute or less.  Put the sausage back in the pan, and then combine pasta and vegetables in a big bowl or pot and toss with grated parmgiano  reggiano.  Serve with extra cheese at the table.

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We had the most delicious meal last night.  Sauteed broccoli raab, beet greens, and green garlic from Killdeer, polenta, and spicy grass fed beef sausages.  After our morning with the Jersey cows at Thistle Hill in North Pomfret, Vermont, yesterday, we drove up and down the winding roads and along River Road in search of more cows—this time the black Angus steers of Cloudland Farm.

cloudland steers
“Cloudland” is an appropriate name for the farm at the top of the mountain road of the same name.  There are some long tunnels of trees along this climb that then break open into gorgeous vistas.  Before the twentieth century, the whole hill was most likely a cloudland—open pastures that seemed to touch the sky, for sheep and cattle and countless stone walls.  New growth forest has filled in some of this land, but Cloudland Farm still maintains a thousand acres of pastureland for its herd of grass fed steers.  (They’ve farmed this land for one hundred years.)  Like the population of grazing animals, that of farming families has thinned over the decades, too.  This empty hilltop school is evidence of a once-thriving community:

cloudland school
(The bigger Pomfret school down in the valley is underenrolled, now.  Old farmhouses are being bought up by wealthy non-farmers whose kids have already grown up and stayed in the cities.)

While I shopped around in their farm store, Jack and his cousin stood in the driveway admiring all of the vehicular activity. There was a big John Deere tractor, a skid steer, two ATVs, and a kid-sized pedal tractor.  The boys were happy.

cloudland sign
So was I.  I bought a whole variety of frozen beef, and started thinking about dinner.  Outside, the sun was streaming down at intervals between the big cumulonimbus clouds that have covered this region for over a month, drenching it again and again.  Bill Emmons, the Cloudland farmer, was talking about how little haying he’s been able to do, because of the constant rain.  He was enjoying the chit-chat, but was also twitching to get away and grab this sunny moment to hay.  “I hope I remember how,” he joked.

Visit their website here.

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