Thursday, August 16, 2012

Christmas Tree and Drought

Lots of media stories out there about how drought in some areas are "hurting Christmas trees". Not a lot of understanding how a Christmas tree farm is managed though. Summer weather patterns don't really impact trees harvested later this year. Those are more mature trees with well-established root systems so they're not as susceptible to seasonal weather patterns as are younger trees. Low rain fall, excessive rain fall, early cold snap, bugs, disease...any number of those types of environmental factors could cause a tree to go into dormancy earlier than typical. Regardless, by the time they are harvested around Thanksgiving or later, the environmental conditions on the farm have changed much since summer time anyway. The seedlings farmers planted in the Spring however, can be damaged by excessive or insufficient rain fall. Mortality rates of newly planted seedlings can go up due to weather extremes. This is the risk any farmer faces regardless of the crop being raised. Consumers should not worry about the quality of trees they can find this year no matter what the weather was like in the summer.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guest Blog from New Jersey Farmer

Guest blog from a farmer in New Jersey. We're not advocating one way or the other, just thought it would be interesting to share.
Subject: anti-farm laws not the answer Dear farmer friend, I received a request from an animal rights group seeking my farm’s support of a bill in the NJ State Senate. The authors of the bill claim that it will outlaw farmers’ abuse of animals by “using pens so small that nursing pigs cannot stand up or lie down.” It seems that they also feel that this law will “level” the playing field between those big greedy corporate conglomerates and us nice little friendly family farms (kind of a clever way to get our support, don’t you think?). I know of not a single NJ farm where pigs are in pens so small that they cannot stand up or lie down. Perhaps this group does. If so, I wish they would tell me the name and address of those farms. Although I no longer raise livestock (I grow choose and cut Christmas trees), I have had many years of experience raising pigs in the past. It is important to provide appropriate pens for nursing sows so that baby piglets are not crushed by the mother. What may appear to the inexperienced observer as a “cruel” process of restricting a sow’s movement is actually a method of keeping the babies alive. When I raised pigs, the farrowing pens were about 10’ x 10’ and had, what we referred to as, baby bumpers on all sides. The mother would lean against a wall and basically “flop down” to a prone position. Without the bumpers, babies would get squished without the mother pig even realizing what she had done. There may be a very small minority of farmers who actually abuse animals. That, I find despicable. But there are already laws on the books and more than adequate agencies to enforce those laws. I don’t buy into the concept that family farms (like mine) are in conflict with “industrial operations,” as this group implies. There is more than enough room for all of us in this country and I do not consider farms larger than my own to be the “enemy.” I have always been very reluctant to support new restrictions on agricultural endeavors. It’s hard enough being a farmer these days without “Big Brother” placing restriction after restriction on our activities. I believe that farmers (both small and large operations) have the best interest of animals as a top priority. I am sure that members of this group have only the best intentions in promoting new laws regarding farming. However, I have found that so many of the animal “rights” organizations simply don’t understand (or don’t wish to understand) the nature of farming. Farmers are good people. And left alone, we will do the right thing...for our farms and for our animals. It is for that reason that Shale Hills Farm cannot endorse this legislation. Mike Garrett Shale Hills Farm Sussex, NJ