Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

Plus, what's in the news about foods, systems and regulations around the world.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Big E.Coli Smear Campaign

Escherichia coli (E. Coli) bacteria are found in the intestines of cattle, poultry and other animals. If people become infected with these bacteria and those from raw sewage, the infection can result in serious illness, as is the case that has recently sickened many and caused the death of 22 people to date in northern Germany.

German authorities were quick on the draw, passing judgement by falsely blaming Spanish cucumbers and leading to a devastating loss of sales for innocent Spanish farmers. Some were probably forced to go out of business. Then the net was spread to blame not just cucumbers, but also tomatoes and lettuce, affecting sales for farmers across Europe and beyond, as panicked customers were advised not to consume these salad vegetables. Now, the spotlight has turned onto local German-grown beansprouts. Still they blame the vegetables and, by extension, many more innocent farmers.

To me, this smacks of a trigger-happy blame game waged against farmers, hatched up by big corporations and governments (together with the science experts they have in their pockets), and broadcast by their mainstream media, including the Associated Press, BBC.  All as a diversionary tactic for seeding maximum panic and doubt in a concerned public. As noted above, E. coli originates from contamination by animal and poultry (even human) waste and fecal matter, just as the tainted spinach in California did. The source of the E. coli found in spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200 in 2007 was found to be a small cattle ranch. Investigators found E. coli in river water, cattle feces, and wild pig feces on the ranch  adjacent to fields of spinach. E.coli may pass through vegetables, but it is usually antibiotics fed to animals, raw sewage, runoff, unsanitary washing practices, contaminated water that are the true cause of such outbreaks.

Scientists say the new E.coli strain is an aggressive hybrid form toxic to humans and not previously linked to food poisoning. How can such a toxic new strain suddenly appear in the food system, particularly at one small farm in northern Germany that is currently taking the rap? The answers will unfold as forensic evidence comes to the fore in the coming days. They won’t be pretty.

For more, read Mike Adams’ in-depth insights at

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fast Afternoon at Riverdale

Though it is early in the season and the fields are a week away from first production, I always feel it worthwhile to go to market, if only to keep loyal customers abreast of availability. It was touch-and-go whether I could make it in to Toronto for the Tuesday afternoon market at Riverdale. The garage was waiting overnight on a part crucial to the full fix of the shot brakes on the car. I called first thing in the morning, and, yes, we were on, the part was in. So I pressed into action picking beautiful baby chard, beet greens, kale, lettuce greens from the greenhouse, and made up a mix of spinach, lettuce, bi-colour beet greens, rainbow chard, mizuna, mustards. Thank goodness for the greenhouses! Jerrica and Leigh paused in their fragrant de-grassing of the bushing-up lavender plants and set to washing, weighing and bagging the greens.

On the lovely first true sunny and warm afternoon of the season, I set up our stand midst the trees in Riverdale Park. My colleague Chris was recuperating after surgery so I was on my own. Along with the greens, I had 50 bunches of rhubarb, 10 pounds of sunchokes and some grass-fed grass-finished Dexter ground and stewing beef. The mostly female summery feeders pecked the greens, sunchokes, fresh herbs and rhubarb off the table with abandon and withing an hour and a bit, the table was a greenless desert. The frenzy can be put down to the fine weather and the fact that we, Rolling Hills Organics, were the only vendor with any greens this particular afternoon at market. I explained to the baffled buyers that farmers – ourselves included – are way behind in getting out on the fields planting after this exceptionally cool and wet May that we have just endured. The familiar refrain that I am forced to come out with once every few seasons – we’ll have more next week – was put to good use, before I scooted out of there. Ire was setting in and I didn’t want to be chased out, greenless as I was. Even after snarled traffic on the highways, I was home early to kick back with a hearty carmenère on the balmy deck, to the accompaniment of raucous evening birdsong.