Local Food Abroad

Here are some food and farm related photos from Eden and Dylan’s trip around the world.

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St. Petersburg, Russia: The milk for our coffee came from this little truck down the street.
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Most of the food in St. Petersburg (including these delicious pickled items) is still grown in former Soviet Republics such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.
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Sturgeon Caviar is a delicacy. We decided to try some, but put it back when we were told the price: $100/oz. The Black Sea holds one of the only remaining fisheries for these prized eggs.
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Street market in Hanoi, Vietnam.
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Bananas are being cultivated underneath this main bridge in smoggy, Downtown Hanoi.
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This is Hang. She runs an organic tropical fruit farm and education center called Tropical Aroma in the rural Dong Nai provence in Vietnam. She is one of the few organic growers in the region and strives to teach new skills/provide work to youngsters in her village. Here she is drying bananas for market in Ho Chi Min City. She is always in need of volunteers, so if you’re heading to Vietnam, be sure to stop by.
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Cow in Vietnamese jungle. Nice horns, man.
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Weeding in the Vietnamese jungle
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This propriety composting system in Auto City near Penang, Malaysia breaks down food waste from local restaurants in six days. The secret’s in the sauce: a microbial blend that dramatically speeds up decomposition. 
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The compost is then used by this crew to tend a small farm plot.
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New Zealand Forgotten World Highway. A lot of the sheep in NZ have been replaced by dairy cows.
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Kiwi ingenuity: a homemade macadamia nut cracker cobbled together using bike chains and gears. Been working like a charm since the 70’s.
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Grumpy German teenagers sorting macadamia nuts. Because of a shortage of farm labor in NZ, a lot of farms rely on Volunteer/WWOOF labor.
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Puppies!
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Small farms are often associated with low-technology–this farm in the Canterbury region of NZ proved different. They maintained a herd of top-quality Dorper sheep (white specks in background) and harvested the sheep embryos to ship around the world. Latest batch went to Costa Rica. Bahhhhhhh.
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Again, getting milk for our coffee. This time from a roadside raw milk vending machine in Golden Bay, NZ.

 

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Back home now in Monmouth, Oregon rasseling wid dem hawgs. Stay tunes for more posts.

WWOOFing in the Desert

We spent two weeks WWOOFing at Ofaimme farm, a beautiful and productive organic farm in the middle of the Arava desert in Idan, Israel. Idan is moshave (farming community) where many farmers grow off season vegetables for export to Europe. Ofaimme stirves for sustainability and focuses on producing eggs and goat dairy products for local sale.

Thoughts on a goat’s horns

Q: What is surprising about this picture?

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A: These goats have horns.

On most goat farms in North America horns are removed to prevent the animals from hurting each other and their handlers. Some people disagree with this practice, arguing that the removal process causes pain and prevents a goat from expressing their overall “goaty-ness.”

While WWOOFing on a goat dairy in southern Israel, I learned that Israeli organic certification for goat milk prohibits horn removal. The same rulebook, however, does not require access to pasture or forage. Under these standards, one can raise goats with big, beautiful horns in small, dirt-floored pens. This situation highlights contradictions that may arise by promoting animal welfare through certification: one aspect of an animal’s wellbeing could be upheld, while another is ignored.

This got me thinking. What assumptions are eaters in America making about the living conditions of meat and dairy animals?

Some animal welfare requirements are obvious to us. Laws banning the use of gestation crates for pigs and small cages for laying hens are spreading rapidly across the USA. In these cases, consumer pressure is causing these obviously harmful practices to be outlawed.

Other animal certification standards are a bit murkier—common phrases seen on packaging are often not what they seem. A free-range chicken is required “access to the outdoors.” Similarly, “access to pasture” is mandatory for organic dairy cows. This vague regulatory wording allows for creative interpretation. Free-range chickens can end up living their lives in a cramped barn and organic dairy cows often spend their days eating from a manger in a dirt lot.

And if that’s not confusing enough, animal welfare requirements get even more ambiguous. Take for example the docking of sheep tails. It is common practice on both conventional and organic sheep farms to shorten a lamb’s tail (either with a rubber ban to cut of circulation or a surgical knife). This prevents the accumulation of poop on the tail: a hotspot for infection. Yet some farmers believe this practice is inhumane and in order to be Animal Welfare Approved (the gold standard of humane certification), tails must be intact. Even for me it is unclear if a long poopy tail is better then no tail at all.

As a farmer and an eater, I consider raising livestock as a pact between man and animal. A good farm creates a balance between natural animal tendencies and making a profit. To ensure the best life for an animal, more regulation may not be the answer. On one hand we need farmers who consider animal welfare to be part of the bottom line. On the other, consumers who bring a ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) attitude to the grocery store.