Real Food | Real Farmers
PAUL MAGEDSON of Good Earth Organic Farm
Say hello to Paul.
Paul runs Good Earth Organic Farm in Celeste, Texas.
He works hard to maintain a clean, natural farm and there are many challenges.
Here's the story of why he goes to the extra trouble to produce organic food and how he got into it...
PM: I started with a plant store in Dallas. I would lease and maintain plants in show rooms and offices.
Seeing folks spray their plants with harsh chemicals, I started looking into alternative treatments for the safety of myself, my employees and my customers.
1980 holds the Dallas record for number of days in a row with temps over 100° degrees. I was at home at 10pm and my sheets where hot. I could not sleep. I astro-projected myself out into the cool country.
That's what gave me the idea of buying a farm.
Running this farm takes all my time and energy. It is always an uphill battle. You are pitting small producers with little or no budget against companies that spend billions on ads. The small company is producing clean, hand-raised food while the huge company is using toxic chemicals on plants and animals in unnatural, torturous and destructive conditions.
Only a small portion of the population will realize what is going on.
People only buying and eating conventionally-produced food are poisoning themselves. You can go to the pharmacy and pay for drugs to fight your cancer or you can pay for good food which prevents & fights health problems. It is lots of hand work but not using any harmful chemicals should be essential in all farming practices.
You should not feast on the suffering of your food. My stock is healthy. I hope that they are happy. I try to keep them at low stress levels until the end.
Frugal Foodie spoke with the lamb processor Paul uses, Hannah Buses at Bluebonnet Meat Company. Hannah studied with Temple Grandin and runs a top notch meat processing facility :
HB: I went to school for a M.S. in Food Technology and had been working in the meat industry for about 10 years. My brother and I were looking to change careers - his in the restaurant industry and mine in the corporate machine. There was a little meat plant for sale close to our home town. We decided to take the chance.
As a part of my prior job, I underwent PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) which certifies auditors for animal welfare. Temple Grandin is an instructor, and I had classroom hours with her. In addition, the certification required one-on-one training and I was able to have her train me. What a great opportunity!
She has had such a huge impact that her methods are not the exception but rather the norm. Despite what the animal rights organizations portray, the vast majority of the meat industry is doing the best they can do to handle animals humanely. In years of touring and auditing slaughter plants I never saw one act of abuse in a meat plant. Unfortunately, one or two bad meat plants can cast a dim light over everybody.
Tell us how the animals, specifically lambs like Paul's, are handled and slaughtered at Bluebonnet.
HB: Our first interaction begins when we unload them from the trailer and move them into our pen systems. Of course, they have access to water and we strive to move them through the system in the calmest manner possible. Ideally, we use the animal’s natural movement tendencies, like point of balance, to move and sort them. Point of balance utilizes their natural instinct as a prey animal to move in specific, predictable ways to stay out of harm’s way. For example, if you walk towards a cow that is in a chute, once you pass it’s shoulder it will naturally move forward in an attempt to put space between you and it. We are conscious of where we stand in proximity to the animals for the same reason.
Harvesting a lamb is similar to harvesting a cow, pig, or goat. The animal is stunned prior to exsanguination (bleeding) so that they actually do not feel anything. They are conscious one moment and then unconscious the next. We use a captive bolt stunner at our plant to knock the lamb unconscious. We exsanguinate the animal as quickly as possible and after about 10-30 seconds they are totally dead. We then proceed with normal dressing procedures.
Harvesting animals is something that takes some getting used to. There is always a realization that a life is passing from us. We also try to maintain an appreciation for the animal that is making a sacrifice to sustain our lives. Part of which is expressed by trying to fully use all parts of the animal, allowing as little waste as possible.
At Bluebonnet, we don’t use chemicals to process the animals except a diluted vinegar wash before we place them in the cooler to age. One of our best microbiological defenses is that we dry age the animals. Having the surface of the carcass dry out is something that does not happen in large commercial slaughter plants, but we believe it is important for food safety and flavor. Also, we wouldn’t dream of using something like finely textured lean beef (aka pink slime) because we know people don’t want an ammoniated beef slush added to replace muscle cuts that should make up ground beef.
Clean, natural diets (for people and animals) are the best things we can do for ourselves. Not only that, it tastes better! And it is a scientific fact that low stress handling and good health result in better meat quality.
Generally, we’re purists. If we don’t want to eat it, we expect our customers wouldn’t want to either.
Paul echoes that sentiment...
PM: I would never use poisons on food that I will sell. My two boys inspire me to figure out how to run this farm completely organically and make a profit. It's how all our food should be cultivated.
One of Paul's sons on their farm
While visiting his farm, Paul passed on the below "farming the right way" idea...
PM: My ex-wife (Lynn, a 4th generation farmer) used to say "If you are breaking out mowers and tractors all the time, you are doing something wrong."
Meaning : If you rotate crops, land and animals properly, you get efficient sustainability. Animals graze on grass and leave behind their natural fertilizer, chickens kick up dirt and pick out bugs, various plants draw out various nutrients then re-fertilize as leaves and other raw nutrients are dropped as they wilt and die.
PM: Lynn has been a vast source of support and knowledge for me. From animal husbrandry to proper crop knowledge and machinery usage. She is a huge part of why this farm is as strong as it is.
What advice do you have for those wanting to garden organically or take the first step towards growing something to eat, period?
Buy some seeds and plant them.
Know where your food comes from.
Once you know, you won't want that in your body. And we should all know.
Support real farmers, seek them out. They are everywhere working their asses off to bring us clean, sustainable, healthy food. Cheers to Paul, Lynn, Hannah and the many others like them!
Stay tuned for the next edition of Real Food | Real Farmers.
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