On a recent, ridiculously gorgeous Saturday, I finally made it to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. My upstairs neighbor Deb joined me, and I got to talk to some of the meat farmers. They all had small family farms and raised their animals on pasture, but none had the “humane certification” I’ve been looking for (a stamp of approval from a third-party certifier guaranteeing the farmer adheres to certain animal welfare standards; see Humane Seals of Approval).
The market was crowded and the vendors were busy, so I didn’t get to ask all my questions, but everyone I talked to invited me to come visit his or her farm, which to me counts for a lot. There’s definitely some disconnect between small family farms and the third-party certifiers. Some said it was the fee, but I know that Animal Welfare Approved doesn’t charge farmers for inspections or certifications. I had brought along some pamphlets from the AWA press kit, so while trying not to seem too much like an AWA “mole,” I handed the pamplets to the farmers, who all seemed interested.
A farmer I met from Lynnhaven Farm raises goats for meat and milk (as well for livestock shows). She told me she’d looked into AWA certification, but that they prohibit dehorning (the removal of horns), and that the practice of disbudding is under review (buds are “pre-horns” that erupt from the young kid’s skull—could this be the origin of “nip it in the bud”?). She believes these practices are necessary to keep the goats from hurting people, each other and themselves; one of her goats strangled himself getting his horns caught in a fence. However, others believe that disbudding and dehorning are simply more convenient for farmers, and that horned goats are less dangerous than is commonly believed, provided farmers follow proper safety practices. Who am I to say who’s right? I’ve never tried to make a living raising goats.
Bringing Home the Bacon
Becky Wilklow works with her parents at Wilklow Farms. They produce the best bacon I’ve ever had. Deb and her husband Glenn came downstairs a few nights ago for a Wilklow Farms bacon-fest: baked almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon (“devils on horseback”), and baked potatoes with bacon and cheddar. Both were great, but the bacon on its own was the showstopper.
Ray Bradley of Bradley Farm in New Paltz is a chef-turned-farmer with a bit of a cult following. After reading Everybody Loves Ray, it strikes me that he’s less Old MacDonald than New Evolved MacDonald. I didn’t get to talk to him because his stand was totally mobbed.
Next on the agenda: local farm visits.