Monthly Archives: June 2016

Uninformed consumers are just more profitable

I make it a policy not to wade into politics here at Cartermere Farms.  It has always kind of annoyed me when companies become political – if you sell a good product, just be the absolute best at selling that product. Drawing lines in the political sands normally just alienates people and takes the focus off producing a great product. However, an issue is currently being shoved through the congress which affects everyone who values clean food, and openness and honesty in our food system. At the risk of cannon-balling into the political deep end, I have fired off a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee currently deciding how much we are allowed to know about the food we eat.

A tentative agreement in the the Ag Committee will allow large food companies to hide the inclusion of genetically modified organisms in our foods. The political “compromise” will allow GMO ingredients to be scuttled behind QR codes and 1-800 phone numbers, rather than clearly stated on the ingredient label.

This is not a partisan issue. This is a simple matter about keeping the American people in the dark so large agri-corps can make more profits. It is all about withholding information from us so we cannot easily make informed decisions. I find it offensive when folks in ivory towers sell my rights to the highest bidder, so I was compelled to offer my point of view on the matter…


United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry

328A Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC, 20510

June 27, 2016

Dear Senators,

As the owner of a small farm, I rarely have the time to weigh in on matters of national politics. Feeding hungry chickens or nursing a sick lamb simply carries a greater demand for my attention than that of the latest political wrangling. However, a subject has crossed my email so many times recently I am having a difficult time ignoring it – GMO Labeling.

I am quite certain each of you has received more than your fair share of canned letters scripted by lobbyists and various associations representing all sides of the issue. So, I am not writing to regurgitate the position of some consortium, but rather offer you the perspective of a consumer and small farmer striving to make a living in an increasingly difficult industry.

While I don’t claim to grasp the inner workings of the Legislative Branch, I am perplexed by the degree of debate and wrestling on this subject. Please allow me to provide some insight on how issues such as this are perceived by the folks back in the districts.

The matter seems to be a simple tug-of-war between consumer rights and big business. This is not a complex issue relating to international trade deficits or Middle-Eastern military strategy. This is not an emotional social issue relating to religious rights or racial equality. This dispute is merely whether or not the common man should have the right to know what is in the food they eat. Seems like a pretty basic right, does it not?

As representatives of individual states and citizens, I am baffled as to why there is such a scramble to thwart states’ rights and hide knowledge from consumers. In a season in which politicians are less popular then used-car salesmen, I would think there would be a particular sensitivity to perception. The perception is the Senate is in the pocket of big business, and is happily selling out their constituents as part of political self-preservation.

Step back and consider how this issue is interpreted back home. The people must not be competent enough to make their own decisions about what they put in their mouths, so the facts need to be hidden behind QR codes and 1-800 numbers. Can we imagine the Surgeon General embedding tobacco or alcohol warnings behind QR codes? Would this be a reasonable compromise? If GMO ingredients are a good thing why do they need to be hidden? Should these ingredients not be highlighted and celebrated by their respective manufactures, rather than concealed? As legislators, is there any aspect of your decision process in which you would prefer to have the facts hidden from you?

In full disclosure, my farm is organic. My market niche is underpinned by open and honest relationships with my customers. I tell them everything about the food I am producing for them, down to the ingredients of the feeds, fed to the chickens, which lay their eggs. In reality, the more the government manipulates the food system in favor of big business, the more customers I gain – people desperately in search of food providers who will just be honest with them. So, selfishly, a federal bill hiding GMO labeling ironically helps me. I am not writing because it benefits my farm. I am writing as a husband, and a father, and a consumer who arrogantly believes he is smart enough to make sound purchasing decisions when all the facts are given.

I think this issue is representative of the chasm which has been established between America and Washington D.C.  A handful of influential companies have again trumped the most basic rights of hundreds of millions of people.

Please reconsider the tentative “compromise” of hiding genetically manipulated ingredients from consumers. We were smart to elect each of you; indeed we are equally smart enough to make educated purchasing decisions regarding the food we eat – we just need the information to do so.

With sincere regards,

Nelson Carter

Cartermere Farms, LLC.


There was a time when honesty and openness were valued qualities in our country. Here are a series of ads from the Heinz company from the turn of the last century, espousing the purity of their products. No chemicals, no drugs, no artificial preservatives. The company warns consumers to “read the small type on the labels,” to ensure the food they are buying contains nothing impure. The company goes on to say that if manufactures truly believe unnatural ingredients are good, “then they should blazon it in great letters on the label instead of whispering it in the smallest type he can find!” They also ask, “it is for you to choose whether the food brought to your own table shall be drugged or not?”

Almost a century later, in 2012 Heinz spent a half million dollars lobbying to oppose GMO labeling in our food. Is it still for us to choose what is brought to our own table?

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The best feed for the best food

When we started Cartermere Farms we knew from the very beginning we wanted to produce the absolute highest quality we possibly could. During first few months of raising chickens we bought standard commodity feeds but soon realized they were not in keeping with our vision of an organic farm. After some of our more discerning customers began to ask us about the ingredients in our feeds, we set out on a mission to better understand animal nutrition, and organic feeding.

Almost all livestock feeds in the United States are genetically modified. If the feed contains corn there is an 88% probability it contains GMO’s, If it contains Soy there is a 97% likelihood is contains GMO’s. These two grains alone represent the main protein additives in almost all livestock feeds. In addition to the GMO’s, one can be certain these feeds contain grains grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, 30% of which test positive for chemical residue post-harvest.  If all that isn’t enough organic kryptonite, the “controlled atmosphere fumigation” in storage probably guarantees the raw materials have been exposed to enough poison to ensure nothing will ever healthily grow in it… or from it. As such, it is generally impossible to raise organic eggs or animals on commodity feeds.

So, we set out on a mission to find a truly organic feed for our chickens, and a challenging mission it was. There are feeds out there which purport to be organic, but they are actually batch-milled in large commodity mills which run non-organic materials through their equipment daily. There are actually very few mills which have a genuine commitment to true organic feed.

After extensive research and interviews we settled with Hügelland Feeds out of Llano, TX. They are an independently run family mill, which never allows non-organic materials into their facility, strictly avoids the use of soy, and runs independent non-GMO verification tests on all raw materials as they are delivered to the mill. They personally know the farmers who grow their grains, and they are never fumigated. They procure natural additives from as far away as Greece to ensure they are mixing the very best. Hügelland also has a contracted nutritionist which we can bounce ideas off of and even adapt our feed mixes in balance with the current conditions of our pastures.

Zane Deckmann, along with his wife Anne Deckmann, own and operate Hügelland Feeds

Zane Deckmann of Hugelland and Nelson Carter of Cartermere Farms at the mill in Llano, Tx. Zane, along with his wife Anne, own and operate Hügelland Feeds

“Hügelland”, which is German for “Hill Country”, has a web address of “www.nongmofeed.com” – that says it all!

 

When we switched to Hügelland we noticed a significant improvement in the quality of our eggs, as well as increased laying rates in our hens. Today we also exclusively use Hügelland Feeds for our heritage meat chickens and we also supplement our ewes with a custom ration to ensure they have the optimal nutrition to breed and lamb well (our lambs who are destined for processing are grass fed).

Hopper auger full of raw milo ready for crimping and transport up to the main mixer.

Hopper auger full of raw milo ready for crimping and transport up to the main mixer.

It stands to reason, if we are going to produce the best food for our families, friends and customers, we must feed the best feeds we possibly can. As the old computer programming adage goes, “trash in, trash out”. How can we expect to produce the best in our animals if we are not feeding them the best? Cartermere spends about 30% more to use top quality feeds. Since our feeds are not fumigated we have to feed them faster/freshener to ensure they are not spoiled by insects, whose larva is inherently present due to the lack of pesticides in the cultivation of the raw grains. All these aspects create challenges for a farm, but we believe it is the right thing to do, even at a cost to the bottom line. We believe the end product; be it an egg, a chicken or well-nurtured lamb, will be exceedingly better for the extra effort.

 

Hugelland feed sacks ready for fillling

Hugelland feed sacks ready for fillling