Crockpot Ham and Beans with Cornbread

Ham and beans with cornbread are one of those recipes that are truly southern but the sweet part is a nod to my northern roots. No self-respecting southerner would ever make cornbread sweet but I grew up in the North and that is the way I prefer it. The two things you can count on in the south are beans with cornbread and humidity. There are a lot of inexpensive comfort foods here but nothing will sustain you like beans with pieces of leftover ham or pork and really yummy potlikker. The beans get creamy and the flavor is indescribable. It is also one of those meals that gets better the next day. Back in the depression, every farm grew beans and ever farmer raised a hog or two to butcher during the first cool days of fall. In the South that can be as late as December.

Comfort Becomes Tradition

This is the dish I make for New Year’s Eve. Kind of a tradition. This is a great way to start off the New Year with a dish that is very budget-friendly. It is a great way to use up ham ends or pork pieces from a shoulder roast. You can also use leftover smoked turkey or combine them. The recipes I tend to make most are easy, very forgiving and really tasty. You can add or subtract ingredients for what you have on hand or what your family likes. You can also use any type of beans you have or get adventurous and try some heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo. I have used navy, cannellini, cranberry, Great northern, and myacoba beans with good results. I have never served this without someone feeling warmed and comforted. You can feel good serving ham and beans with cornbread to your family knowing they are well nourished and that you stayed within your budget. Enjoy!

Print Recipe
Ham and Beans in the Slow-Cooker
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Southern
  • 1/2 pound of Cooked ham or Ham Hocks or Leftover Pork Shoulder
  • 6 cups Organic chicken stock or broth
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves ground
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Southern
  • 1/2 pound of Cooked ham or Ham Hocks or Leftover Pork Shoulder
  • 6 cups Organic chicken stock or broth
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves ground
  1. Rinse beans in a large pot; discard shriveled beans and any small stones.
  2. Cover beans with cold water. Let stand overnight.
  3. In the morning, drain and rinse beans in cold water. Add all the rest of the ingredients and the beans to your slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or until liquid is absorbed and beans are tender.
Recipe Notes

For thicker beans: Remove 1/2 cup of beans part way through cooking and mash beans with a potato masher and add back to the slow cooker.

Non-Crockpot: Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until beans are tender. Add more water during cooking if necessary.

Make sure to serve it with Sweet Cornbread:

Print Recipe
Sweet Cornbread
Cuisine Southern
  • 1 cup flour Organic, Unbleached
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal Organic, Stone Ground
  • 2/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp safflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla Pure, Organic
Cuisine Southern
  • 1 cup flour Organic, Unbleached
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal Organic, Stone Ground
  • 2/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp safflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla Pure, Organic
  1. In a small bowl, soak cornmeal in milk for 15 minutes without stirring.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Oil a 10-12 inch round pan (I use a cast iron frying pan for even heating).
  4. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder with whisk. Stir in eggs, cornmeal and milk mixture, and vanilla. Stir only until mixed, batter will be lumpy.
  5. Pour into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

11 Dirty Little Farming Secrets

This is Everything You Want to Know About Farming

There are way more than eleven dirty little farming secrets but for now, we will only deal with eleven. The eleven farming secrets I have chosen will make you a better shopper and better able to make the right food choices for your family. Advertisers want you to think they know what is best for you and they will go to great lengths to prove it. The internet stories are abundant on farming.

Not all of the information on the internet is true. Say what? This is especially true when it comes to farming. Most people come with preconceived notions of what is true in farming and that’s how they make food buying decisions. But what if you had truer information than the average consumer? You would spend your food $$$ wiser and with more clarity. Well, hold on to your seats because it’s about to get real in here. Forget the pretty farmhouses with white picket fences and the clean animals eating grass on pasture. Forget the notion that all farmers tell the truth and grow or raise with the same principles you have. You need to know the questions to ask your farmer before you buy a thing from him or her. In no particular order of importance, let’s get started formulating those questions.

1. Not Every Farmers’ Market is a Producer’s Market

Every farm stand in a farmers’ market looks basically the same. The farmers load their tables with the best product they have. They pick out the brightest colors and they pile it up to make it look inviting, You say what could be wrong with that?  Well, all farming is not created equal. All farms are not created equal and the stuff they sell isn’t either. Most farmers’ markets have a portion of tables where the product sold is not raised/grown locally. In fact, it may not even have been grown/raised in this country. It is pretty and probably cheap but cheap food has a very real cost. Just because they are selling produce or meat at a farmers’ market does not mean they are even farming or that they are farmers.

            Ask Your Farmer

If you ask, the vendors probably won’t know how the product is grown/raised. That’s because they probably didn’t grow/raise the product. They bought it at auction. Probably at the same place that grocery store buyers and large restaurants buy their stuff. It doesn’t matter if it is vegetables or meat. The result is the same. Farming practices of unknown standards are questionable at best. However, you will never know because they can’t answer your questions. Look at all the pretty peppers piled high in April in Missouri. They have vegetables that are out of season for the area. It is your job to know what is in season and when it is available in your area. If they say they grew them in a greenhouse ask a little bit about their growing practices. If they really are the grower they should be happy to talk about the way they grow and even be passionate or animated while talking. That holds with meat as well.

Asking questions puts the farmer on the spot. You can tell if the farmer is making up a story or telling you the real truth about their farming practices. If they are being truthful and trustworthy support them with everything that is within your ability. Like and share their Facebook posts, share their e-mails, tell your friends and family and most importantly buy from them. Their livelihood depends on it. If you don’t that farm may not be there when you need it.

2. Animals in Confinement

Many people today want to put the human condition onto livestock. Animals are not humans and if you are an omnivore that distinction is important. Meat does not magically appear wrapped in plastic in the grocery store. Well, it doesn’t do that in the farmers’ freezers either. To put meat on your table, an animal has to die. That is a fact of farming life. That’s why in farming we need to respect the life of the animals that are giving up their lives to feed us. Small farms set themselves apart in this aspect of farming. Large farms have an economy of scale working to their advantage. On a large farm, a certain amount of loss is acceptable because of the volume they raise. On a small farm, even a small loss is unacceptable if the farmer wants to continue farming.

            Ask Your Farmer

For the good of the animal or the good of the farm or both animals must sometimes be confined. Let me give you some examples. When weather conditions are unfavorable, i.e. snowy, icy, windy, or excessive heat the farmer may bring the animal in to protect it from the elements. If the farmer does not confine it the animal may injure, make itself sick or even kill itself. Before being put in with existing animals a new animal must be quarantined for a minimum of thirty days to observe the animal and have testing done. The animal may also be a carrier of communicable diseases or may be sick or diseased itself. You cannot always tell by looking at an animal if it is sick or diseased.  For treatment and observation, a sick animal that is exhibiting symptoms should be confined away from the other animals.

So if you see confined animals on a farm or farm tour before jumping to conclusions ask why the animal is confined. A good farmer cares more about excellent livestock management practices than appearances.

3. Heritage Purebreds are Not Always Better — Why We Have Cross-Breeds

If they have been bred without adding another breed to their genetics even Heritage Purebred animals have their problems. Crossbred vigor helps reduce illness, disease, and parasite load. That is part of what allows us to treat animals holistically. Animals that have good health traits bred in are less susceptible to disease or parasites in the first place. Our breeding animals are two full-blooded Heritage breeds but animals being raised for meat are a cross between those Heritage breeds. This also allows us to breed for the best traits of certain breeds. By doing this we have produced a hardier animal, more efficient feed conversion, better mothering abilities, better foragers, healthier animals, and a better-tasting bite.

             Ask Your Farmer

When choosing breeds much is dependent on the geographical location of the farm and the management practices of the farmer. To make informed food choices, you need to get the right information. Ask your farmer what specific traits he/she was looking for when he/she chose the breeds they are raising. Weigh the answers to your questions against your values for humane management in farming, the animal’s ability to be raised in a natural environment (expressing its’ unique animalness), and the nutrition and taste your family is looking for,

4. What Your Meat Eats

Animal diet is probably the single most important aspect of animal husbandry and probably the most overlooked by farmers. At different stages of growth, each specific animal has different nutritional needs and these needs must be met to ensure proper development. For each different animal’s age, an age-appropriate feed is required. Ruminants should have limited/no grain depending on the animal’s condition and hay/pasture availability and quality. Trusting the big feed companies to make a feed that is nutritious without medications/antibiotics and synthetic additives and minerals is an impossible premise.

Developing a feed ration that uses wholesome ingredients with no artificial additives, is age and species-appropriate, and will deliver a superior tasting meat or egg product is no easy task. Also, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to provide quality salt, minerals, and grit for chickens. These and amino acids contribute to the quality of the end product and quality animals=quality meat. Everything that goes into the feeding of an animal ends up in the meat from that animal. Just think — medications, GMO soy and corn, pesticide residue, and growth hormones could potentially be in the meat you eat courtesy of the feed that animal ate.

               Ask Your Farmer

Make sure to ask your farmer what animal feeds they use including the brand name. Ask them if the animals have free-choice access to the supplements they need and what are the sources of those supplements. After you are given that information do your own research. Look up the brands on the internet and find the label information. Take notes. Then ask yourself if those are things you would want on your plate. If not find another farmer and do the same thing again. Rinse and repeat. Then when you find your farmer buy all your meat from them, you will feel better and so will your farmer.

5. Pesticides/Herbicides/Hormones/Antibiotics

Here is a dirty secret that not many people talk about. It gets swept under the rug as we buy the meat and vegetables we love from the farmers’ market. We assume that smaller farms grow organically and use none of the above. However, remember the example above about vendors selling at the farmers market who buy at auction well they are not farmers but sellers and likely do not know what’s in the food they are selling. Then there are the farmers who use pesticides and herbicides on their vegetable crop because God forbid you should have an insect or a weed. I will let you in a secret here some consumers are also to blame because we need beautiful produce without a blemish and that can only be achieved by spraying. So we need to cherish the ugly vegetables and buy them when we see them.

If we knew hormones and antibiotics were in our meat, eggs, and dairy products we would not like it. Not even a little. But you cannot see them. You have to ask. Poultry, by law, cannot be fed growth hormones yet companies advertise that their products do not contain them. Sorta like gluten-free where gluten does not exist naturally. Besides growth hormones, you can also count on eating pesticide residues. You cannot convince me that a ruminant animal needs to be fed GMO corn and soy to maintain condition or to taste good or to be tender. You will convince me that farmers who know what they are doing prove that theory wrong every day. Pigs and chickens eat more GMO corn and soy than any other livestock and they thrive without either. I have seen it work. I have done it.

               Ask Your Farmer

Before buying those vegetables ask if they have been sprayed with anything. Even the sprays used by Organic farmers have lasting effects on the environment and your health. Ask them about the methods they use to combat weed and insect pressure on crops. Find out from the person selling meat what they feed their animals and if they use growth hormones. Always question whether any dairy products were fed and the source. If it is conventional dairy you can be sure it contains the growth hormone bovine somatotropin (also called bGH, rbGH, bST, or bST). It is given to cows to make them mature faster and produce more milk. Be sure to ask about any medications that have been given to the animal and how long before slaughter they were given. Make sure that the farmers’ methods of feeding and treatment align with your values. If they do support that farmer with your food $$$.

6. Eggs – Cage-Free/Free-Range/Pastured and Then White or Brown

Here’s where it starts to get good. Few consumers are aware of the different egg labels and what they mean. So let’s examine them closer. Most people think free-range is the right choice because they think that the birds are running around all day being chickens. Commercially that couldn’t be further from the truth. Free-range means they have access to a small outside porch with barely enough room to turn around. Then there is cage-free. That simply means the birds are raised in a large building without windows and artificial light with thousands of birds and generally have no access to the outside. Pastured eggs are usually raised on pasture and the chickens’ pens are moved daily. There currently is no industry standard for pastured eggs.

People love the notion of vegetarian-fed chickens, however, chickens are omnivores. The word omnivore comes from the Latin words Omni, meaning “everything or all” and Vorare which means “to devour.” Chickens are like little dinosaurs who eat both vegetables and meat. They will eat worms, bugs, small frogs, and mice. If chickens are raised on grass it is impossible and in buildings, it is ill-advised to keep them on a vegetarian diet. In all probability, if it says vegetarian-fed on the label the chicken that laid those eggs never saw the light of day.

There is much debate on the internet and elsewhere about brown vs. white eggs and on a commercial egg-laying operation, there is no difference. Not in nutrition, quality, or taste. That’s because the hens laying the eggs are all commercial hybrid breeds. Egg color is determined by the color of the earlobe and the breed of chicken’s earlobe

               Ask Your Farmer

Buy your eggs direct from a farmer to ensure you are getting the freshest eggs possible and the most humanely raised. Be sure to ask your farmer how his egg-laying chickens are housed. Look for farmers that actually free-range on grass that provides a balanced diet and allows the bird to forage for some of its’ diet. Pastured chickens that are moved daily are also a good choice. Here a farm tour can go a long way to showing you they can be trusted. Also, ask what breed of chickens they have and why they chose those breeds. You may be pleased to find out their white eggs come from rare breeds and not commercial Leghorns.

7. GMO Truths – Hybrids/GMOS and Heirlooms/Open-Pollinated

Hybrid Seeds. Genetically modified (GMO) seeds. Heirloom seeds. Open-Pollinated Seeds. These labels are confusing. Every day some well-meaning reader leaving a comment like this one: “GMOs are perfectly safe. Farmers and gardeners have been cross-breeding seeds like this for thousands of years. Take off your tinfoil hats, people! Um… no. Just no. Farmers and gardeners have NOT been cross-breeding seeds like this for thousands of years. What those well-intentioned readers fail to understand is the fundamental difference between hybrid seeds and GMOs.

There has been much controversy lately regarding Genetically Modified Organisms. I believe they are here to stay and I say Just Label It! Arm yourself with the truth and you will be able to make important food choices and you can pass on the correct information to others. There is no debate here that GMOs are evil. I believe that they are and there is enough independent research to back that up. This is about defining GMOS and why they are different from hybrids. First, there are no GMO seeds available to the home gardener. However, if you are trying to avoid lining Monsanto’s pockets with more $$$ you can find out more about the Safe Seed Pledge here http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/pageDocuments/MDY2JSPBRC.pdf and check out this list of seed companies that have signed the pledge here http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/viewpage.aspx?pageId=261

GMOs vs Hybrids

Here is the dictionary GMO definition. The abbreviation for a genetically modified organism. A GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. Note: A high percentage of food crops, such as corn and soybeans, are genetically modified.

Patience is a virtue when developing hybrid seeds. Wikipedia says “In agriculture and gardening, hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants. Hybrid seed production is predominant in modern agriculture and home gardening. It is one of the main contributors to the dramatic rise in agricultural output during the last half of the 20th century. All of the hybrid seeds planted by the farmer will produce similar plants, while the seeds of the next generation from those hybrids will not consistently have the desired characteristics. Hybrids are chosen to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance.”

The difference is there is no DNA manipulation in hybrid seeds that are not naturally occurring in hybrids. Unfortunately, because GMOs aren’t currently labeled in the U.S., you have no way of knowing whether or not you’re eating them. Roughly 85% of all grocery store foods contain GMOs, and there are only a handful of sure-fire ways to avoid them:

1. Opt to buy single-ingredient certified organic food.
2. Choose Non-GMO Verified labeled foods.

Open-Pollination vs Heirlooms

However, if you really want to protect the diversity of our seeds and the varieties that have been passed down through generations and have unique flavors, colors and textures choose open-pollinated or heirloom seeds.

  • Open-pollination is when pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural mechanisms.
    • Open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. This can cause a greater amount of variation within plant populations, which allows plants to slowly adapt to local growing conditions and climate year-to-year. As long as pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species, then the seed produced will remain true-to-type year after year.
  • An heirloom variety is a plant variety that has a history of being passed down to a family or community.
    • An heirloom variety must be open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. While some companies create heirloom labels based on dates (such as a variety that is more than 50 years old), Seed Savers Exchange identifies heirlooms by verifying and documenting the generational history of preserving and passing on the seed.
                 Ask Your Farmer

Know your farmer and ask pointed questions about his or her growing practices, then opt to support GMO-free growing. Ask your meat farmer what they feed their livestock and if that feed contains GMO ingredients. Support farmers and their farming practices of contributing to biodiversity and local adaptation by using open-pollinated seeds and by saving those seeds. If you would like to try taste that is as old as agriculture seek out heirloom seed varieties and the interest they bring to your culinary adventure.

8. Land Costs/Inherited Land – Paying the Bills

Here are some interesting facts from the most recent census taken by the USDA in 2012:

  • The total number of farmers in the United States fell by 95,000 since the 2007 Census of Agriculture. At the same time, the total number of minority farmers grew – nearly 97,000 of them checked a race box other than “white” on their census forms. That’s a 6.9 percent increase from 2007.
  • The population of Asian farmers grew by 21.9 percent, the fastest rate of any minority group, up from 11,214 in 2007 to 13,699 in 2012. More than one-third of Asian farmers in the United States live in California.
  • The number of farmers of Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino origin also rose by just over 20 percent over the same period, up to a total of 67,014 – 22,353 of whom live in Texas.
  • Although the supposed rise of “mega-farms” receives a lot of press, 75 percent of all American farms grossed less than $50,000 in 2012, and just 4 percent grossed more than $1 million.
  • Just over half (52 percent) of the 2.1 million farmers in 2012 reported that farming is their secondary occupation. More than three-quarters of all farmers, though, have been at it for 10 or more years.
  • The United States had 95,000 fewer farms in 2012 than it did in 2007 and 7.5 million fewer acres of farmland. That’s equivalent to more than 11,700 square miles – an area only slightly smaller than the entire state of Maryland.
  • Over that same period, the average farm size increased slightly from 414 acres to 434 acres, while the median farm size held steady at just 80 acres.

One thing that might keep some young people out of farming could be the barriers to entry – land prices have skyrocketed in recent years, and some equipment, like tractors, can cost thousands of dollars. A lot of younger farmers have started farming on inherited land from their farming relatives. Some have started on leased land. Some have gotten government loans.

Paying the Bills

Farming is a business. Let that sink in. No matter how passionate the farmer, no matter how much they love farming, no matter how much they love their animals, farmers have to pay the bills. Farming requires a great deal of money to stay afloat. Infrastructures such as fencing and gates, equipment such as tractors, feeders, waterers, and seeders, and ongoing expenses such as livestock feed, feed supplements, and hay cost astronomical amounts of money. Profit margins are slim. Electricity, insurance, and spoilage just make it worse. Farmers must get the prices they ask or risk literally “Losing the Farm”. Also, realize for every layer of clean eating it costs the farm another layer of spending. Some examples of those layers are Organic, soy-free, free-range, grass-fed, Heritage, or Heirloom. You get the idea.

               Ask Your Farmer

Showing a very real and vested interest in your farmer and their farming journey will open your eyes to their very real struggles. Make sure to ask your farmer how he/she started farming. Ask how you can help support his bottom line. Usually, buying their product is number one but not always. You can ask him/her about ballot issues that affect them and candidates that support the food movement. Be sure to follow through with your plan of action. Your farmer and their business depend on it.

9. The High Cost of Cheap Food – Government Regulations/Subsidies/Farm Bill/Health Costs

Americans love cheap food. Most big-box grocery stores and chain fast food places are counting on it.

Americans spend less money as a percentage of income on food than people of any other country in the world. On average, only 6% of our household budget goes to pay for food, compared to the French, who eat through 14% of their income, or the Kenyans, who spend 45% of each paycheck on groceries.

Organic is usually slightly higher in price due to slightly lower yields and no subsidies. Small farms are hit harder by government regulations than their larger counterparts.

But even though it seems like we may be saving money on food compared to the rest of the world, what is the real cost of cheap eats? Let’s find out.

  • It Costs Tax Payers — Although fresh produce is out of the budget range of many Americans, the sick irony is that food, especially packaged food, is cheaper in the United States than pretty much anywhere else in the world. This is because the cost of crops like corn is kept artificially low by the government. Food in the United States wasn’t always this cheap, though. In 1960 our grandparents were spending about 17.5% of their income on food. Then, in the 1970s, Earl Butz, Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, re-engineered New Deal farm programs that were meant to stabilize the food supply, into a support system for the factory farming of corn and soy. Starting in 1971, crops like corn, soy, and wheat started getting heavily subsidized. Corn farmers can make more money from their government subsidies than by actually selling corn. Of course, since farmers have such a wonderful incentive to grow corn, they grow lots and lots of it.
  • We End Up Spending More Money on Health Care — So how do farmers dispose of their artificially cheap product, paid for, in part, by taxpayer dollars? By selling it to food manufacturers as filler, preservatives, and binding agents. Surprise! All those mystery ingredients listed on food packages like citric acid, fructose, sorbitol, dextrose, lactic acid, MSG, malt, and diglycerides are all corn byproducts. And, each of these non-food ingredients contains calories.
  • We Pay for Cheap Food Twice — Documentary films like Super Size Me and Food Inc. have spotlighted the health consequences of cheap food, especially on America’s poor. But obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not the only health problems linked to fast food. A Harvard Medical School study also found that children who eat fast food three times a week had increased risks of asthma and eczema. U.S. farmers actually produce the equivalent of 3,800 calories per person per day. This is at least 1,000 calories more per day than is recommended for moderately active people. So is it any wonder that Americans are fat?
  • It Causes Poverty and Hunger — As a result of NAFTA, Mexico has been flooded with cheap, government-subsidized corn from the United States. Mexico, which is the birthplace of corn, now imports a third of its corn from America. There are some huge problems with other nations becoming dependent on subsidized American crops. First, Mexican corn farmers who were unable to compete against the artificially low cost of imported U.S. corn were forced out of business. Obviously, when farmers lose their farms, they don’t grow food to eat, they don’t grow food to sell, and without work, they have no money to buy food. Millions of Mexican farmers lost their jobs due to cheap, imported food. Also, when poor countries become dependent on cheap imported foods, they risk a food crisis when there is a price spike in staple foods. This can lead to widespread hunger, which is what happened in Mexico with corn in 2007 and the Philippines with rice in 2008.
  • The Environmental Cost Is Staggering — To quote FDR, “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” Farming is difficult and expensive, so many farmers are forced to max out production or go out of business. This ‘go big or go broke’ behavior is not financially or environmentally sustainable. Monoculture farming, although extremely efficient, burns through resources like water and topsoil. Commercial agriculture is currently draining groundwater in the Midwest about eight times faster than rain is putting it back in. This could lead to a second Dust Bowl.
  • Animals Pay the Price — If you forced a dog to live in a small box for its entire life, you could be arrested for animal cruelty and your neighbors would treat you like a pariah. Most people don’t want to think that this kind of torture is the typical experience of factory-farmed chickens, pigs, and cows. Some animals will only see daylight on the day that they are slaughtered. Animal cruelty is the price of cheap meat.
  • The Working Conditions Are Terrible — Animals aren’t the only ones that subsidize low food prices with their bodies. Last year an investigation by The Guardian revealed that much of the shrimp that the U.S. imports from Thailand were the work product of slaves. But slave labor doesn’t just happen in the Third World. Thousands of farmworkers in the United States work in very poor conditions. More than 1,200 people have been rescued from agricultural slavery rings in Florida alone.
  • You Risk Sickness — While Chipotle is blaming its multistate E. Coli outbreak on Australian beef, it’s frankly shocking that this type of mass food poisoning doesn’t happen more often. For starters, it is common practice in the United States to feed cows chicken poop. Also, to cut costs, some slaughterhouses have managed to speed up their kill lines by 50%. Not only does this massive increase in volume result in more food contamination from fecal matter, but also more animal abuse and human rights violations. Stool run-off from factory farming, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in agribusiness parlance, pollute the water table and create dead zones in oceans and rivers
  • We’re Funding the Zombie Apocalypse — One of modern life’s existential horrors is the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria caused by antibiotic overuse. So, while parents are becoming more selective about dosing their kids for minor illnesses, these same moms and dads are unaware that livestock in the United States — because the animals are constantly sick from a diet of garbage and from standing in their own waste — is pumped full of antibiotics. In fact, the FDA has confirmed that animal agriculture consumes 80% of all antibiotics used in America. While meat producers argue that they are not breeding superbugs along with their livestock, a team of researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute discovered that one in four packages of meat and poultry in the United States contains multidrug-resistant staph bacteria.
  • What Can One Person Do? — Ugh. All of this is terrible. Is it actually possible to eat responsibly without going broke or supporting human trafficking? Here are some things to consider.
  • 1. Don’t Waste Food
  • 2. Eat Healthy on a Budget — Leanne Brown created Good and Cheap, a free online cookbook for people living on the SNAP budget of $4 per day for food. Staying on a budget means cooking with what’s on sale and available.
  • 3. Don’t Eat Factory-Farmed Meat — Livestock accounts for 18% of greenhouse gases. Eat more nutrient-dense meat and you will need a smaller portion size.
  • 4. Drink Less Sugar — Drink water instead of sugar-laden drinks.
  • 5. Shop Seasonally — Buy in-season produce. Produce that is shipped long distances are bred for shipping, not for flavor. In-season produce, allowed to ripen in the field, not only tastes better than produce that was picked green, but is more nutritious and much of the time is less expensive.
  • 6. Shop Locally — Just do what you can. Support your local farmers. It costs a lot of money to grow high-quality food, sustainably. Even if you cannot afford to buy all your food locally, every purchase counts, and local money is circulated back into your own community. Lastly, it pays to ask around. you can get tons of free backyard fruit and vegetables for free from neighbors who can’t eat through all their backyard produce and don’t want it to go to waste.
  • 10. How Size Matters – Scaling Up Helps the Bottom Line, the Customers Wallet, and Not Much Else
  • 11. What is Sustainable and Do Labels Matter?

Accidental Working Dogs Who Actually Work

Introducing OUR Working Dogs … Oreo and Finley

Blue Heeler/Shepherds as Working Dogs 
How Oreo and Finley Find Their Forever Home

Everyone knows that a farm needs working dogs, right? Well, we had really never been exposed to what a working dog can do. We were just looking for companionship. We were in for a real surprise and in a good way.

Our neighbor farmer had some pups that he needed to find homes for. He had been driving around all day with the last two available puppies.  I just wanted a male but he asked if we would let them both spend the night. He said we could return the female in the morning. Yeah … right! They whimpered and we held them. They whined so we let them sleep in our bed. Needless to say by morning we could not return either dog. We were hooked.

We started to train them like you would any puppy and that’s when we noticed just how smart these working dogs were. They weren’t any smarter in the traditional way dogs are. What amazed us was their instincts and their deductive reasoning. They would do working-dog things instinctually in spite of our training. They are fiercely loyal, stubborn, and quirky. The love that they have for their humans is genuine and they are definitely looking for their humans’ approval much of the time.

Working the Pigs

Most of this we discovered totally by accident. One day the feeder pigs got out and pigs are well, pig-headed and sometimes it seems like an uphill battle to get them to go where you want them to. We were getting frustrated and ended up bickering with each other. We were yelling at the dogs to get back and move out of the way. That’s when they said to the dumb humans you move out of the way and we’ll show you how it’s done. They rounded up every last pig by nipping gently at their hocks and Finley put every last one in the pen.

We had the pigs escape on a regular basis and until that moment it was a sinking feeling when they got out. From then on we just called the dogs and they went to work.

Working the Cattle

At that time we had two milk cows and two beef calves. They were out on a five-acre pasture and separated from the milking parlor by a pretty good distance of open land. Finley and Oreo would round them up by nipping at their hooves and getting out of the way of kicking. All by instinct. We used simple commands and hand gestures that we never knew were right. They listened and reacted. What was great to watch though was the instincts and reactions of the animals they were herding. Those animals knew just what to do when being moved by the working dogs. There was no harm to the dogs and no harm to the livestock.

Yep…Working the Chickens

One of the problems with free-range chickens is that they are everywhere. They are fun to watch but annoying as heck. We had a large metal garage building that we used as a milking parlor and farm store. It is also where we stored grain and supplements. When we moved there it had no doors. Needless to say, the chickens loved it. It kept them out of the elements and they found all kinds of insects and critters inside to chow on.

We needed them gone. They were messy and noisy and laid everywhere but where they should be laying. We called in the dogs. They moved every bird out of that building. Finley nudged them toward the door and Oreo stood guard at the overhead door and wouldn’t let them back in. All 250 of them. It was a wonderful day that ended with putting doors on the building.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t trade either of them for anything. This is the best farm decision we ever made and we are so glad we kept them both. Working dogs. They continue to be our farm’s greatest asset.

Come see the working dogs Oreo and Finley in action at one of our farm tours http://twisteddixiefarm.com/farm-tours-booking-information/

A Farm in Arkansas and How We Got Here

From Farm to Failure to Farm

Worst. Mistake. Ever.

How We Began Our Dance With The Devil

A farm in Arkansas. First of all, this is a story of our journey South. Secondly, it is a story of how we lost everything in Colorado to get here. Never get into bed with the federal government. The death knell on our 12.5 acres in Colorado was The Farm Service Agency loan that was supposed to save our farm. We had worked hard. Harder than we had ever worked in our life. We sold like our life depended on it because it did.  It was not enough. We were on our own. Never mind that we asked, actually begged, for help. Lastly, the Loan Officer that was supposed to help us did not understand.

How could he?

We were not conventional meat producers feeding conventional livestock feed. First of all, we were raising livestock organically, grinding and mixing our own feed from organic, non-soy/non-corn ingredients with special recipes made just for us, and treating the animals holistically. No farrowing crates for the pigs. Piglets were raised in family groups and weaned naturally.  Dairy cows were grass-fed and beef cows were grass-fed and finished. Calves were raised by their mothers. Chickens for both eggs and meat were allowed to free-range. Laying hens who were all heritage breeds living with heritage breed roosters and scratching in the grass and eating small seeds and bugs. Meat birds got fat and sassy on grass. Heritage turkeys roosted on rooftops and made contented turkey sounds. They were our own personal security alarm.

And Then What Happened Was…

Everything came crashing down. It flooded. The ducks loved it. Everyone else…not so much. The laying stopped and nobody (me included) could figure out why healthy birds would stop laying and new pullets would not start laying. We lost a lot of meat birds to huddling during rain and severe thunderstorms. Whatever we did in preparation for severe weather did not help. The turkeys would not gain weight in sustained below-freezing temperatures.

We lost a calf to BVD when its’ mother passed the disease to him in utero. That happened when a neighbor’s Charlois bull broke down our fence and found our 1/2 mini, 1/2 mid-Jersey, Daisy, in heat. We lost three cows in a two-year timeframe, Lily was lost to an injury which was being treated with herbs and massage. She was making progress when she reinjured it when getting up. Daisy and Luna were lost to a mysterious illness that even the vet could not diagnose. They ran every test in the world. The dollars multiplied and we never got an answer but the vet got paid.

Finally, the nail in our proverbial coffin was when our USDA poultry processor closed down with no warning. We could no longer legally sell poultry at off-farm markets. As a result, we lost about 60% of our business. Thank goodness for the pigs!

The Death Throes

Needless to say, we could not pay back our operating loan. We did manage to stretch a one-year operating loan into two market seasons but it wasn’t enough. It was time to renew our loan. Our loan officer said he would roll over our note into a new operating loan that would help us recover. Then he valued our livestock, grain, and other assets at commodity prices and that killed us. According to the FSA, we did not have enough collateral to guarantee a new loan. So they called our loan…it was due immediately. The loan was guaranteed by our farm. This would be the end.

What Happened Next

We finished out the market season by selling every bit of product we had. Then we sold some stuff at deep discounts and began selling equipment and animals and fencing. It was depressing and my mind went to a very dark place. In other words, you begin to think your life is over and that you’ll never recover.

But I had started over before, been a survivor before. I could do this. Therefore, we could put one foot in front of the other and climb out of this quicksand. The fog started lifting and I began to breathe. The worst part of feeling like this is you cannot make a decision, even a bad one. You just have to take one step at a time. Finally, I was able to start formulating a plan. However, the one thing  I knew for sure is that I could not, would not live my life in an apartment in the city. I may not have been born to it but farming now ran in my veins. The FSA credited our account the appraised value of the house and we paid the rest with the sale of our things.

Onward and Southward

We packed everything left into a travel trailer, a cargo trailer, and our vehicles. We were determined to rebuild and to start a livestock farm in Arkansas and we would do just that. After everything we had been through it was nice to have an uneventful trip here. We pulled into seven acres in a holler in the Boston Mountains and set up camp. The very first thing we did was start a garden area of 75′ x 75′. We got that garden cleared and planted with the help of a rented tractor and a box blade.

Then I fell when a step collapsed due to the manufacturer’s defect. I broke my left wrist and had to have surgery and metal bars to repair it. The whole summer…gone. Then 4 months of physical therapy. Then in January of 2017, Kevin fell down a stairwell and broke his right wrist, and shattered his left elbow. Consequentially he required surgery to repair it. Next, I would undergo surgery to repair my shoulder that was damaged by my original fall. Finally, I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist which I had put off for a long time.

Building an Arkansas Farm … Our Way

Starting with fully wooded acres and very little money we started carving out a small farm. We will be growing for the animals and ourselves in our garden space. Slowly we added animals. You will hear their stories in future blog posts. Finally, we had a farm in Arkansas without pesticides, without herbicides, without antibiotics. A farm that treats animals humanely and with respect. A farm that uses holistic methods for the soil and for the animals. Lastly, we thought we lost everything and instead, we found true North in the South … in Arkansas.

On the move again…

In Mountainburg we thought we found our forever place but it wasn’t meant to be. On a whim and a Craigslist ad, during a pandemic, we were headed to Norman, Arkansas which is even further South. We are starting over again in a tiny house and 9 acres. It is beautiful and scary. So much to do … so little time.

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Read more about Our Commitment.

Why Raise Non-GMO Meat? The Answers You Need

Why we raise soy-free meat at Twisted Dixie? Good question. Let me count the reasons:

Raising soy-free meat is a VERY Good Thing … but it is NOT the Norm

Soy-free meat is our primary focus.Feeding our animals a soy-free diet is treating our animals humanely and with respect and is why every animal on our land is fed a non-soy diet. Livestock who eat soy-based feed does not absorb micro-nutrients such as iron, manganese, copper, selenium and zinc well. It also prohibits the absorption of macro-minerals that include calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.These minerals are essential to an animal’s health and well-being. As a result, under-absorption of these minerals may result in low fertility. Birthing problems including malformation, blood disorders, auto-immune diseases, bone development issues and organ atrophy and sometimes failure. Therefore, without supplemental minerals, the animals fed a diet high in soy would be more likely to die, be unable to reproduce or deliver healthy babies.

You’re Eating What Your Food Eats

Processing of soy protein for animal feed results in the formation of toxins and carcinogen and forms MSG, a powerful neurotoxin. In test animals, soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth. Furthermore, soy-based feeds contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys. There is proof that soy in animal feed is transferred to the meat. Consequently, that makes a soy=free diet for food-producing animals a better alternative.

Farmers are convinced by superior marketing that animals cannot be fed soy-free feed and maintain animal health and optimum growth. Actually, when good substitutes like flax meal and camelina meal can be found, animal health far surpasses animals fed soy. Weight gains and feed conversion rates are similar. Thus, ending the argument against soy-free.

If you would like to do some additional reading about soy in animal feed and its’ effects Weston A. Price Foundation is a good resource. They have directories of food sources and local farmers who do not use soy. You can start with this article The Soyling of America.

Around 90% of Soy Produced in the US is a GMO…Follow the Money

This genetic modification was created to provide resistance to Monsanto’s toxic herbicide Roundup. In order to provide you with less expensive soy under the guise of “Feeding the World” the resulting catastrophe is that your soy is loaded with this toxic pesticide. Consequently, our food supply is now contaminated, possibly forever.

However, although GMO soy, corn, canola and sugar beets have been banned in many other countries, there is simply too many $$$ to be made here in the US to ban them.

The Trouble With Glyphosate and Soy

The dramatic increase in devastating birth defects, as well as cancer, is blamed on Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Sterility and miscarriages are also increasing. A web search will turn up thousands of studies showing the dangers of GMO foods and the dangers of glyphosate.

 Soy in Our Food Supply…Not for Human Consumption…Read the Labels

Soybeans originated in China and have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. However, it is “fermented” soy. Examples of health-promoting fermented soy foods include Miso and Tempeh. The fermentation process breaks down harmful elements in the soy. Providing health-promoting natural probiotics. WARNING: Tofu is NOT a fermented soy product and should not be consumed. RAW soy is not fit for human or animal consumption. It can be considered toxic.

Soy is not a complete protein, lacking some important amino acids. Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D.

The Link Between Estrogen and Soy

Phytoestrogens occur naturally in many foods, including eggs, cheese, and soy. The levels of phytoestrogens in soy are significantly higher than any other food. Chickens who free range have much lower levels of phytoestrogens than chickens who are caged up and fed a soy-based feed.

The phytoestrogens in soy cause many health issues. Some of the most devastating harm occurs in the 2nd and 3rd generations. Soy increases levels of estrogen (possibly simulating the growth of related tumors) and decreases levels of testosterone. It has been related to premature sexual development in females and delayed development in males. Animal studies show that soy foods cause infertility in just a couple of generations.

Your Allergy Problem May Be Hidden Soy

Because soy is a Top 8 food allergen the FDA requires it to be listed clearly as an ingredient in processed foods. However, at this time the FDA does not require meat, raised on soy feeds, to be disclosed. Furthermore, people highly allergic to soy may also have allergic reactions to eggs, dairy, fish, chicken, and meat from soy-fed animals.

GMO soy has been linked to an increase in allergies. Disturbingly, the only published human feeding study on GM foods ever conducted confirmed the gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of our gut bacteria. And remember…it is everywhere. Ask your local farmers if their meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are fed a soy-free diet.

Environmentally Unsafe….the Most Offensive Agricultural Crop in the World

Around 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down, mostly to grow GMO soy. It was created so that the plant itself could not be damaged by toxic pesticides and herbicides. These toxins leach into the soil and water and impact the vegetation and animal life in the area. In days past, soy was grown as a “green manure crop” only and then tilled into the ground for soil fertility. Today, GMO soy is grown primarily for human and animal food. It is destroying the soil structure. In addition, production of GMO soy has created “superweeds”. These weeds become resistant to aggressive chemicals like Monsanto’s “Round-Up”.

Soy Can’t Be So Bad, Why is it Used

Everybody knows the answer to this question! – IT’S CHEAP! – Soy isn’t a nutritionally better food for livestock. It’s just cheap. It’s a by-product of the vegetable oil industry. It would be garbage if it weren’t for the fact that they’re turning it into animal feed. Factory-raised farm animals are literally eating off the dollar menu.

But, Whoaaaaaa!! Put the Brakes On!!!- There Is a Hidden Cost – Soy is Only “Artificially” Cheap

Soy producers in the United States are one of the main recipients of government crop subsidies. It doesn’t matter if a farmer does not sell all of his soybeans. Tthe government pays him anyway. About 70% of the true cost of growing soy is paid for by the government. Paid for with American tax dollars. You and I pay for the unhealthy effects of soy.

Organic or Non-GMO Soy Milk is NOT a Solution…

Unless it is fermented, soy (organic or not) contains a number of other problematic components that can wreak havoc on your health.

A common source of soy is soy milk consuming it as an alternative to milk. Soy milk is a significant contributor to thyroid dysfunction or hypothyroidism in women in the US.

There is evidence that soy may disturb endocrine function, cause infertility, and promote breast cancer. Drinking two glasses of soy milk daily for just one month provides enough of these compounds to alter your menstrual cycle. Although the FDA regulates estrogen-containing products, no warnings exist on soy.

Your Health … What’s at Stake

Soy prevents the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.This is particularly problematic for vegetarians. Eating meat reduces the mineral-blocking effects.The soybean has one of the highest phytate levels of any grain or legume.The phytates in soy are also highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking. Actually, only a long period of fermentation will greatly reduce the phytate content of soybeans.

Soy contains natural toxins. They are known as “anti-nutrients”. Some of these factors interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein. While a few anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy that many Americans are now eating is extremely high.

Soy has a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together. These clumped cells are unable to properly absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.

Soy Formula – The Most Dangerous Soy Product of All…

Sadly, soy formula (organic or not) is FAR worse than conventional formula, in large part due to its excessive levels of phytoestrogens. The estrogens in soy can irreversibly harm your baby’s sexual development and reproductive health. Infants fed soy formula receive a level of estrogen equivalent to five birth control pills every day. They also have up to 20,000 times the amount of estrogen in circulation as those fed conventional formulas! In addition, soy formula has up to 80 times higher manganese than is found in human breast milk, which can lead to brain damage in infants, and altered behaviors in adolescence.

Educate Yourself about the Health Effects of Soy…

A primary motivation of the soy industry is money as opposed to health benefits. You can see through the high-priced marketing hype and misleading health claims. This information is just the tip of the iceberg. You should continue to review the evidence against soy. Consequently, when armed with information, you will have the power to take control of yours and your family’s food choices.

This is a great article on how you can eliminate soy from your diet.  Check this out.

Whenever you eat eggs, poultry, dairy products, meat or farm-raised fish you are eating…
It may not look like soy, taste like soy or be labeled as soy, but remember…

Here are the products at Twisted Dixie Farm. All choices are soy-free. Our Products.

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