Life on a family dairy farm
in the wilds of
Upstate New York
Monday, September 10, 2012
Farmer Parties and the Cost of Food
The veterinary practice that takes care of our cows and horses puts on a customer appreciation picnic every fall. We all look forward to it and not just for the food (which by the way is always great). Every year it seems sweeter to sit down with folks we rarely see because everyone is too busy farming and living and catch up on our news. Yesterday was no exception and we came away warm with the comfort of dear friends and good neighbors. As planned, we stopped off at our favorite orchard on the way hometo pick up some early season apples for eating and maybe jelly making. Scratch the latter, I will glean our own trees for that. These will be eaten carefully as if made of spun gold. I was chilled to see nearly bare shelves , with painfully high prices, and limits on how many of some varieties could be purchased. One of our greatest fall favorites, the ginger gold, was already sold out and picked out. Earlier, when I opened a grain bill on Saturday I almost fell off my chair. Nearly four hundred dollars a ton for generic, not in any way fancy, low end, dairy grain. We have never seen expenses like this and coupled with the price of diesel for the tractors and the choking noose of property taxes it is no wonder dairy farmers are selling out in droves. If this is a sign of things to come, the stocking up on canned goods and staples we have been talking about, but not doing anything about, needs to begin to take place immediately. I would feel better with the pantry shelves full of vegetables and the freezer full of bread and flour (I freeze flour to keep it safe from beetles and such...as long as I have room.) We have a beef ready to send and three more ranging from a baby calf to a good-sized Holstein steer growing in the cow barn. Liz and Jade have one that we gave them started too. They will take him home when they get moved into their new place after the wedding. Thus as long as we can pay the butcher and keep the freezer cold we will have good meat. And even if we can't pay the butcher, there isone good thing about other days in another life when times were challenging. I personally know how to dispatch chickens, rabbits, goats, squirrels, lambs, and even great big steers and prepare them for the freezer. I used to dress the boss's deer for him, as he was squeamish (he only hunted them for me because I like venison). Alan took a meat cutting class in college so he is much better at it than I am. I learned home butchering on the kitchen table and in the back yard, way before I met the boss...if we wanted to eat we grew our own back then and made it into something we could cook. The first animal was the hardest, but if you are broke enough that you wax poetical and get teary when someone gives you a bottle of ketchup, you learn to do what you have to. I hope this winter isn't as hard...not just for us, but right across the nation...as I am afraid it may be. However, the drought that wrecked the corn crop, late frosts, severe hail and high costs for the folks who grow, process and transport food, are going to get in everybody's wallets sooner or later. Meanwhile I am going to have an apple snack for breakfast.