It was exciting to hear Karen Lubbers speak at the Deidre Currie Festival on Saturday, since she owns the farm where we get our raw milk. (Read her guest post from a while back about finding clean, safe raw milk.)
Following are my notes from Karen's talk:
How Karen became a dairy farmer
- When our daughter, Jamie, was six years old, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. It was a terrible ordeal. She went through eleven hours of surgery, and died twice on the table. She received two years of chemo, and six weeks of radiation. Thankfully, she turned 22 this summer. Although she will never live on her own (she has hearing loss, severe memory loss and battles fatigue), she is vibrantly healthy – Jamie is full of joy.
- She goes back to clinic once a year, and this last year I asked, “How is she doing compared to other kids who had a similar diagnosis, in a similar time in history, and who received similar treatment?” They said, “She is so far on top of the heap, she's not IN the heap.” I know it's because of the food.
“Much of Jamie's healing has to do with our first cow.”
- Going through this we were very overwhelmed by it all and had to do something on our own. We went to a conference on organic agriculture and there was someone on the agenda named Sally Fallon. I was totally riveted by what she was presenting. All of a sudden there was some nutrition information that made sense and spoke to my internal knowing. As a matter of fact, we have a cow named Sally, and on our farm that is a high honor indeed! She's gentle, intelligent and persistent.
- We're also now farming, which we weren't before. We practice rotational grazing and increasingly practice mod grazing; we do not rake our beef at all. We feed our non-grazing animals organic grain. (Note from Kelly – this city girl doesn't understand most of that paragraph and couldn't get in touch with Karen OR get anywhere when I tried Googling. Kent grew up on a farm and if he was still awake I could run it by him, but as usual, I'm working on this in the middle of the night. A request to any farmers out there, or Karen if you read this when you're back in town: please comment below and explain what is “mod grazing”, and what it means to “rake” beef? Also, please correct me if I got anything else wrong…which is very likely. Thank you!)
- OK, Karen emailed me back and I had things a little mixed up… “The word ‘rake' should read ‘grain'. We do not grain our beef (feed them grain). Mod grazing should be mob grazing. The cattle are packed pretty densely into a small paddock. It’s an imitation of natural mob grazing as in buffalo, antelope and similar species. Thanks! Karen Lubbers”
Our food looks very different today than it used to:
- Our son, Casey, runs his Little Rooster Bread Company here on the farm. He ferments all his bread products.
- Our pigs get excess milk from the cow share program.
- We raise our own meat, fruits & vegetables, and cows for milking.
- I freeze, can, dry, and ferment for winter.
- I can't tell you the last time I bought food from grocery store. I occasionally buy wax paper there.
- I don't use many supplements, except Jamie gets cod liver oil and garlic for seizures.
We learned a cow is a lot more than a source of milk.
- Humans were milking cows long before growing crops. There are only two domestic species that no longer have their counterparts in the wild at all: cow and corn.
- Recommended: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and King Corn.
- 40% of cows in the U.S. have mastitis. Life expectancy for conventional cows is 42 months and is 10-15 years for cows out on pasture.
- An old saying, ‘a man needs piece of land, a cow and a wife, and he don't strictly need that last.' I have two sons and I suspect they need the latter the most!
- There is a book by Annie Dillard called, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. (Her first book: The Living: A Novel.) It is about life on the West coast in the late 1800's when the depression was threatening livelihoods. Two men were in a bar discussing their impending financial ruin, one reassured the other that they'd be OK because they own their own cow.
- With our cow, Rosie, we had independence from what was happening with commercial milk. She taught us that all milk is not the same.
- As an ex-diet coke lover, I was a little nervous about drinking raw milk. I set raw milk and commercial milk each in a jar on the refrigerator. The raw milk separated and formed a cheese looking substance on top – it smelled a little sour, but not bad. (I found out later that it is called clabbered milk.) In the commercial milk there were things floating around. It was gray and brown, and it looked like someone blew their nose in there. I took the top off and it was really nauseating. That did it. I gave raw milk to my immune suppressed young daughter, she thrived and we all thrived. With an open bucket out on the pasture and without any cleaning chemicals, we all thrived.
- Raw milk is deliciously diverse, it varies by season, by where the cows are on pasture, and it varies by cow. There are all kinds of milk.
- Raw milk is the best milk for us: Raw Milk Benefits and Information: Q & A with Mark McAfee
- If you have a product that is consistent, it is dead in my opinion.
- Dirty milk and dirty spinach can cause problems. Pasteurization and irradiation are a cover up for dirty operations. They do nothing to solve the problem, but they create a whole other set of problems on their own.
- We are rightly concerned about what is in our milk these days: pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics, and hormones.
- However, I am more concerned with what is not in our milk (when pasteurized): vitamins, enzymes, healthy fat, nutrients, probiotics.
- When we eat food that is in its “original package” (or as close as possible), the healthier that food will be for you.
- People ask what's wrong with soy milk, well, a lot of things, but the biggest reason is because beans don't make milk, cows make milk. When we adulterate nature's product, we always pay a price.
- Lactose intolerance is more prevalent today, and usually due to pasteurized, homogenized milk – this is not real milk. Many who are told they are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk with no problem.
- A wise quote: “It is very difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.”
- Recommended: Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA's War on a Family Farm
- Recently we were at a meeting on the new Animal Registration Act. Certain groups are exempt from this: Amish, certain religious groups, and Native Americans. A group of Native Americans came to the meeting and offered to legally adopt any farmer. Neat when you think of what farmers have done throughout history to Native Americans and now they're still reaching out to us.
“Remember that you are dust.” Dirt matters.
- We believe that local dirt matters most of all. It changes with the seasons.
- Similar to local honey. Kids who eat local honey have less allergies – when they take in what the bees gather early in life, and take in small bits of it, it prevents allergies later in life.
- When I buy my barley from my neighbor, his dirt matters to me as much as my dirt does.
- In some areas Rosie would graze and her milk tasted weird; in some areas I didn't even want to drink it; and in some areas she wouldn't graze at all. We discovered that when Rosie led us, she taught us a great deal.
- If you start looking at your pasture, you start looking at your soil. Soil feeds the grass that feeds us. We can mask it with fertilizers and pesticides, but masking only delays problems.
- We have lost the ability to understand our dirt. If we kill our bugs, we die.
- My experience with the medical profession tells me that they don't get the soil connection at all – if our dirt is healthy, we will be healthy.
- My grandma used to say, “Every kid should eat a bushel of dirt before they're 5.” I think she's right.
The germ theory of illness dominates western medicine
- In the mid 1800's there was a huge battle between two competing paradigms.
1. The “germs cause illness” movement led by Louis Pasteur. (His work led to dairy pasteurization.)
2. The “disease is caused by failure of immune system” movement led by Claude Bernard.
- This debate was huge in its time. It turns out that Pasteur had financial connections and a dynamic personality. Toward the end of his life, he said that he thought Bernard was right: the microbe is nothing, terrain is everything.
- The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but rather will teach lifestyle and diet – the cause and prevention of disease.
- In the 1800's there weren't chemicals – they were developed to kill the microbes, which were demanded by the “germs cause illness” theory. My daughter is a walking example of the side effects of medicine.
- We wanted to know how to be sure Rosie's terrain was healthy, so we would be healthy.
- Cows that are fed a natural diet have low levels of pathogens.
- We learned that you can't have just a cow – one thing leads to another to another.
- Recommended: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
- Frogs are the first to tell us if there is an environmental problem. Another indicator of healthy animals: can they breed?
- Last year our beef cattle herd were out of pasture due to the drought – we had two choices: butcher early or hay feed and hope the rain would come so we could get them on pasture – beef is most nutritious coming right off grass. We decided to butcher early, but our butcher was busy, so we had to take 5 cows to a USDA butchering facility. (We could use the same guy to process it, but for killing we had to use the USDA. The law says you have to use these facilities for parts, but not if you sell a half or whole.) One pen was packed with dairy cows all jammed into one pen; one cow was dead, one was dying, and others were walking on those that were down; several were wheezing. This is what goes into the ground beef found in fast food restaurants.
- When we were there another farmer pulled up and you should've seen this his truck and trailer. It was all aluminum and his truck had duals – my husband was drooling. We were thinking, “They must be pretty successful at this.” We ended up having to wait for their last cow to get off, they were dragging her and couldn't get her back up. We had to walk our cows around her. This was obviously not a healthy farm, even though they had a cool truck and trailer.
- In 1950 3.7 million out of the 5 million cows were out on pasture; in 2000 there were less than 2 million farms with cows on less than 100,000 of those farms – and most of these cows are in confinement.
- Our neighbor lives in the house he was born in. When his pants rip he gets out a stapler. He's never been married and raises cattle just as his parents and grand parents did. We buy his calves – they've had no grain whatsoever. They get hay in the winter, grass in the spring, summer & fall, and then we butcher them.
- Recommended: Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
A real farm embraces bio-diversity.
- We have Muscovy ducks because they love fly larva; chickens rotate behind the scattered manure and eat the pathogens so we don't have to; laying hens that don't get butchered go into the greenhouse and we have no bugs! We put pigs by our garden to keep the deer away. (Deer are afraid of pigs.)
- 6 companies control 98% of seed sales. In 1981 there were 5000 non-hybrid vegetable varieties to buy; in 1998 there were 600 available.
- Seeds re-grown in the same area adapt to microbes in your own garden – every year it gets better. It takes nutrients from the soil where you live and nourishes you with what you need.
- Seed Saver Exchange – they're teamed with Slow Food and are saving an incredible reservoir of seeds. They identify heritage and heirloom grades of seeds to be preserved. The tastes keep you coming back.
- The narrowing of selection is happening with livestock too. All the cow icons you see are black and white. When is the last time you saw a picture of a pig that wasn't pink?
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy list the breeds that are most threatened and what their status is. This is a good place to buy breeds. (There is an ALBC conference in Michigan this weekend, which is where Karen is and why I can't get in touch with her right now.)
- Genetic diversity is critical to our survival.
Rudolph Steiner, father of biodynamic agriculture, says we have 3 things to learn. The last lesson is that “the world is a just place”.
- We often have to go one place to get bread, another place for meat, another for milk. First we have to find it, then secure it every week, then wonder about the environmental impact of going all over the place. Many can't do this. Where is the justice in that?
- One Mom said she felt like a felt like hunter-gatherer, but it shouldn't be this difficult. (Note from Kelly again: I TOTALLY AGREE! This is one of the most frustrating things about eating healthier. There are tricks to reduce this though. One is to spread the word to your friends and neighbors near you, so then you can take turns picking up the milk or the meat or the eggs, etc. – this helps a LOT.)
- A child in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes. An EMT recently said that over half his calls are diabetic related! Where is the justice in that?
- The American Medical Association says this is the first generation that their life expectancy is shorter than their parent's. Where is the justice?
- 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will be diagnosed w/ cancer in this lifetime. Fastest growing cancer is brain cancer, and it has devastating effects.
We've lost our connections!
- We can't connect with what we can't see. We used to have a connection to a farm even if we didn't live on one, because a relative usually still did. Now there are more prison inmates than farmers.
- What if suburbs were populated with animals and vegetable gardens and fruit trees?
- What if you had something for your kids to do every day that mattered whether or not they did it?
- What if schools required a farm rotation?
- Recommended: Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression – a memoir of growing up on a farm in the 30's.
- People say, “If you've named it, how can you eat it?” I say, “How can you eat it if you haven't named it?”
- One of our raw milk customers sent out adoption notices after he bought a cow share. They said, “We've adopted a gal from jersey – we pay monthly support and get weekly visitation.” 🙂
- It means something to look into the eyes of the cow whose milk you'll drink that night.
- If you can't raise or grow your food yourself, second best is to know the farmer who does and know them well – this is a critical connection.
Raw milk needs to become more accessible, but one good thing that comes from the “outlaw status”: it forces you to know your farmer and have that crucial connection to your cow.
DO YOU FEEL CONNECTED TO YOUR FOOD? PLEASE COMMENT BELOW!
- Where to find healthy meat