Living Without Plastic

  • Cheryl Lohrman victorious after finding a specialty deli that would sell her cheese and put it, plastic free, in her steel tin. (Photo courtesy of Sadie Babits)

We use a lot of plastic. Every year some 30 million tons of plastic in the U.S. from diapers to bottles get tossed in landfills. One woman wants to change those numbers. She’s trying to live her life without plastic. Sadie Babits caught up with her to find out if that’s really possible.

Transcript

We use a lot of plastic. Every year some 30 million tons of plastic in the U.S. from diapers to bottles get tossed in landfills. One woman wants to change those numbers. She’s trying to live her life without plastic. Sadie Babits caught up with her to find out if that’s really possible.

When Cheryl Lohrmann comes to the grocery store all she sees is plastic. Plastic yogurt containers, cheese wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap, juice bottles, plastic bags. She doesn’t want this stuff in her life. So Lohrmann decided she’d vote with her wallet by refusing to buy anything with plastic.

“We’re at cherry sprouts grocery store in Portland, OR where I’m going to purchase some cheese and some eggs.”

Eggs are no problem. She just puts them in her used egg carton. But cheese is a different story. She has a small steel tin that looks like it belongs with her camping gear – not the grocery store. And Lohrmann has a special request for the guy behind the counter.

“And that is if I get the cheese not wrapped up in plastic but just in this container or maybe you could put this on paper.”

“Aahhh. I don’t think we can do that because it needs to be wrapped up.”

Lohrmann gets that reaction a lot. So she won’t buy cheese here. It means a trip to another shop – this time a high-end specialty deli.

LouAnne Schooler owns this store. She explains to Lohrmann why they use plastic.

“Plastic, it’s the unfortunately simplest choice because we wrap and re-wrap continuously throughout the day and it can’t be left unwrapped and people need to see the cheese so that precludes it from being wrapped in most papers.”

But Schooler says she’s only too happy to help people like Lohrmann who don’t want their cheese shrink- wraped. So she drops the cheese –plastic free – into Lohrmann’s tin.

“That’s a good chunk of cheese. Magical moment here–thanks for letting me do that”

“Sure.”

Lohrmann started going plastic free a couple of years ago after reading Elizabeth Royte’s book Garbageland. The author tracked her trash to find out where it ended up. The chapter on plastic struck a nerve with Lohrmann.

“I think it’s been taken too far when you have toothpicks individually wrapped in plastic. You know you just start to think is that really necessary given the fact that this is such a toxic material that doesn’t have high enough recycling rights to really justify having it.”

Lohrmann also gets miffed that you end up paying for plastic three times. You pay for it at the grocery store and again to have it hauled to the landfill. Finally, she says we pay for it environmentally – plastic doesn’t disappear. So you might think it’s a little nuts to even think about living a life free of plastic. Lohrmann gets that.

“It is hard right now to feel like you can maneuver to get whatever you want without plastic.”

“Ok, so on a scale of one to ten–ten being plastic free–where are you?”

“I would say probably a nine.”

That’s a nine when it comes to buying groceries. Because let’s face it. Plastic is everywhere even in Lohrmann’s home. There’s her computer, picture frames, even the parts on her bike. She realizes going plastic free is nearly impossible but she’s willing to try to send a message especially to businesses that we need to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.

For The Environment Report, I’m Sadie Babits.

Related Links

Going ‘All-In’ on Goat Farming

  • Anderson and Abbe Turner are in the midst of adding a creamery to their goat farm so they can make cheeses. (Photo courtesy of Lucky Penny Farms)

A lot of companies have been slowing
down and cutting back because of the
economy. But tough times aren’t
stopping some new businesses in the
midst of the ‘local food movement’
from moving forward. More than a
year ago, Julie Grant spoke with the
owners of a goat cheese farm. She
visited them again this year. Now,
they’re opening a new creamery, despite
lots of economic obstacles:

Transcript

A lot of companies have been slowing
down and cutting back because of the
economy. But tough times aren’t
stopping some new businesses in the
midst of the ‘local food movement’
from moving forward. More than a
year ago, Julie Grant spoke with the
owners of a goat cheese farm. She
visited them again this year. Now,
they’re opening a new creamery, despite
lots of economic obstacles:

Abbe Turner just quit her day job. She’s had a good-paying
university job – with benefits – for many years. But today
she’s waiting for the delivery of a $5,000 dollar pasteurizer.

“There we go. There’s my pasteurizer.” (cheering)

The truck arrives with a six foot round stainless steel tank.

“I never thought I’d be so excited by a 3,000 pound hunk of
metal in my entire life. But…” (laughter)

Abbe and her husband, Anderson Turner, started dreaming
of goat cheeses three years ago. This big hunk of steel will
help them finally to get their creamery off the ground.

“The pasteurizer will allow us to make cheese in small
batches, artisan cheeses. We’ll do some cheves in the
pasteurizer, some tommes and probably a goat gouda.”

The Turner’s dream started after they bought a few goats for
their hobby farm. They made a little cheese for the family.
And they liked it. So they kept getting more and more goats.

Now they have more than 160 Nubians, La Manchas, and
Alpines. Abbe and Anderson had been getting up before
dawn every morning to milk them. By hand. Then they
would get their 3 kids ready for school and head off to their
full-time day jobs.

The Turners wanted to automate milking, to make things
easier and faster. They even had a group of 23 investors
chipping in to renovate their barn into a milking parlor. But
that was last fall.

“Unfortunately, with the stock market crash, the calls kept
coming in. ‘Hi. We really believe in what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, I’m watching my investments tank and a goat
cheese operation is not something I can write a check for
right now.’”

Some people thought it would be smart to forget about
starting a new creamery in the midst of a recession. Matt
Ord used to sell the Turners feed for their goats. But he had
to shut down his family business when the economy
crashed. Now he’s working with Abbe to build her goat farm
and creamery – even though he’s not convinced it’s the right
time for this kind of venture.

“She’s nuts. But I hope everything goes good for her, I really
do. She’s got a lot of patience and a lot of nerve starting this
business right now. It’s a very scary time. And I know
things are very tough for everybody.”

Abbe likes to think of her family as bold, rather than nuts.
And most of her investors have come back on board since
last year.

Her husband Anderson Turner is glad she’s starting full-time
to get the creamery off the ground instead of waiting for the
economy to turn around.

“I can’t think negatively about opportunity. My time is now.
My opportunities are now, my life is now. So, this is the
cards I’m dealt with. I’ve got to deal. So, let’s go.”

The Turners believe that the local food trend is just getting
off the ground, and that support for local foods will more than
compensate for the tanked economy. They say restaurants
have already put in orders to buy their cheeses.

Now all they have to do is start making it.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

A Return to the Family Farm

  • The kids at the Turner family's Lucky Penny Farms (Photo by Julie Grant)

We’ve heard lots of stories about the
loss of family farms – about children growing
up and leaving farms. But there’s a new trend
of young professional families moving back to
the land. Julie Grant talks with three generations
of women in one of these new farm families:

Transcript

We’ve heard lots of stories about the
loss of family farms – about children growing
up and leaving farms. But there’s a new trend
of young professional families moving back to
the land. Julie Grant talks with three generations
of women in one of these new farm families:

Abbe Turner is a goat farmer.

(barn sounds)

She also has a career as chief fundraiser for Northeast
Ohio’s regional medical school. But raising goats – that’s her
passion.

“And this doe is due to kid probably tonight. You can see
she’s got the arched tail, she’s hollowed out.”

Abbe didn’t grow up learning how goats give birth.

In fact, her parents didn’t even want her to ride a horse when
she was little. Now she and her husband Anderson have
literally bought the farm.

“I joke with my parents that if they just would have bought
me that pony when I was 14 years old, they would have saved me a
heck of a lot of money.”

Today Abbe and Anderson have a pony, a full size horse, a
llama, and 51 kids – you know, baby goats. They’re starting
a boutique goat cheese business.

Oh, and they also have three young children – you know,
kids.

It was a busy life before the farm. Now, it’s up at 5 a.m. to
do chores. They bottle feed the baby goats. Then they get
the kids off to school, and go to work for the full day. Once
they’re back home, it’s more chores on the farm.

And the kids – the children – help. Abbe says she and her
husband chose this life for them.

“Anderson and I are trying to raise the children with an
understanding of food, food systems, and where it comes
from. Food comes from farms, and it comes from the
land. It doesn’t come from the store. And I think the children
understand that.”

The Turners say they chose life on the farm to give their
children better food, and a better life.

This is not necessarily the dream Abbe’s parents expected
her to realize. It’s a lot different than their hometown –
Brooklyn, New York.

“People ask me all the time, ‘how did a nice Jewish girl end
up on a goat dairy with 51 goats?’ You know maybe the
answer is just sheer luck.”

Abbe’s mother, Syma Silverman, doesn’t see it as all that
lucky. She thinks farm life is going to be a tough row to hoe
for Abbe’s family. She and her husband, Irwin, wanted their
children to have an easier life than they had.

“Abbe and Anderson both work very hard at their regular
jobs as well as with their family and with the farm. We’re all
for whatever they want.”

Abbe isn’t trying to create an easier life for her kids. But she
does think it’s a better one. They can pick apples right off
the trees. They’ve seen baby goats born and old goats die.
And they can ride a pony any time they want!

Just like Abbe’s parents, her children were surprised when
they moved to the farm. The Turner’s daughter, Madeline, is
almost nine.

“In the beginning, I didn’t want anything to do with this. I thought it was going to be some big plant where my mom
would just take our goats and make some weird stuff out of
it. I really didn’t want to do this in the beginning. And then
slowly along I came and I’m like, I thought, this could be
good.”

She says most girls her age are more into Hanna Montana
and Webkinz than milking goats.
But she’s really come to love the farm. Her mom is glad the
children are learning about the animals, the business, the
science of farming, and where their food comes from.

“We kind of joke that this is either a grand experiment or
really messing them up and it will take years of therapy
to correct. We’ll figure that out. Check back in twenty years,
how about that?”

Well, we’ll just have to do that.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Food Prices on the Rise

  • Produce section of a supermarket in VA. (Photo by Ken Hammond, courtesy of the USDA)

Food prices are going up worldwide. A new survey
by the American Farm Bureau Federation finds supermarket
checkout costs have risen nearly 8% this year.
Julie Grant has more:

Transcript

Food prices are going up worldwide. A new survey
by the American Farm Bureau Federation finds supermarket
checkout costs have risen nearly 8% this year.
Julie Grant has more:

Retail food prices usually increase 3% per year. But over the last year the
cost of flour, cheese, bread, meat, oil, and produce is up – by more than
double the average.

The United Nations has predicted prices will stabilize in the long term. But
that consumers worldwide will face at least 10 more years of rapidly rising
food prices.

Commodity prices for corn, wheat, soybeans and other staples have been
skyrocketing over the past year – to more than double 2006 prices.
The higher costs are due in part to weather affecting crops, and growing
demand in China and India.

Economists also point toward the increased use of grains for ethanol and
other biofuels, putting pressure on food prices.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Trash Burning Can Threaten Human Health

  • Burning trash smells bad and it can create the conditions necessary to produce dioxin. If livestock are exposed to that dioxin, it can get into the meat and milk we consume, creating health risks. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance)

For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the curb. But not everyone can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… that choice could be affecting your health:

Transcript

For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the
curb, but not everyone can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn
their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
reports… that choice could be affecting your health:


(Sound of garbage trucks)


It’s not been that long ago that people everywhere but in the largest cities
burned their trash in a barrel or pit in the backyard. That’s not as often
the case these days. Garbage trucks make their appointed rounds in
cities, small towns, and in some rural areas, but they don’t pick up
Everywhere, or if they do offer service, it’s much more expensive
because the pick-up is so far out in the country.


Roger Booth lives in a rural area in southwestern Illinois. He says
garbage pick-up is not an option for him.


“Well, we burn it and then bury the ashes and things. We don’t have a
good way to dispose of it any other method. The cost of having pick up
arranged is prohibitive.”


He burns his garbage in the backyard. Booth separates bottles and tin
cans from the rest of the garbage so that he doesn’t end up with broken
glass and rusty cans scattered around.


A lot of people don’t do that much. They burn everything in a barrel and
then dump the ashes and scrap in a gully… or just burn everything in a
gully or ditch. Booth says that’s the way most folks take care of the
garbage in the area. No one talks about the smoke or fumes put off by
the burning.


“I haven’t ever thought much about that. So, I don’t suppose that I have
any real concerns at this moment. I don’t think I’m doing anything
different than most people.”


And that’s what many people who burn their garbage say.


A survey conducted by the Zenith Research Group found that people in
areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota who didn’t have regular garbage
collection believe burning is a viable option to get rid of their household
and yard waste. Nearly 45-percent of them indicated it was
“convenient,” which the researchers interpreted to mean that even if
garbage pick-up were available, the residents might find more convenient
to keep burning their garbage.


While some cities and more densely populated areas have restricted
backyard burning… state governments in all but a handful of states in
New England and the state of California have been reluctant to put a lot
of restrictions on burning barrels.


But backyard burning can be more than just a stinky nuisance. Burning
garbage can bring together all the conditions necessary to produce
dioxin. Dioxin is a catch-all term that includes several toxic compounds.
The extent of their impact on human health is not completely know, but
they’re considered to be very dangerous to human health in the tiniest
amounts.


Since most of the backyard burning is done in rural areas, livestock are
exposed to dioxin and it gets into the meat and milk that we consume.


John Giesy is with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at
Michigan State University. He says as people burn garbage, the dioxins
are emitted in the fumes and smoke…


“So, when they fall out onto the ground or onto the grass, then animals
eat those plants and it becomes part of their diet, and ultimately it’s
accumulated into the animal and it’s stored as fat. Now, particularly with
dairy cattle, one of the concerns about being exposed to dioxins is that
then when they’re producing milk, milk has fat it in, it has butter fat in it,
and the dioxins go along with that.”


So, every time we drink milk, snack on cheese, or eat a hamburger, we
risk getting a small dose of dioxin. Beyond that, vegetables from a
farmer’s garden, if not properly washed, could be coated with dioxins,
and even a miniscule amount of dioxin is risky.


John Giesy says chemical manufacturing plants and other sources of
man-made dioxin have been cleaned up. Now, backyard burning is the
biggest source of dioxins produced by humans.


“So, now as we continue to strive to reduce the amount of dioxins in the
environment and in our food, this is one place where we can make an
impact.”


“That’s the concern. That’s the concern, is that it’s the largest remaining
source of produced dioxin.”


Dan Hopkins is with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says,
collectively, backyard burning produces 50 times the amount of dioxin as
all the large and medium sized incinerators across the nation combined.
That’s because the incinerators burn hot enough to destroy dioxins and
have pollution control devices to limit emissions. Backyard burning
doesn’t get nearly that hot and the smoke and fumes spread unchecked.


The EPA wants communities to take the problem of backyard burning
seriously. It wants state and local governments to do more to make
people aware that backyard burning is contaminating our food and
encourage them to find other ways to get rid of their garbage.


“(It) probably won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but by exchanging
successful efforts that other communities have had, we should be able to
help communities fashion approaches that have a high probability of
success.”


But public education efforts are expensive, and often they don’t reach the
people who most need to hear them. The EPA is not optimistic that it
will see everyone stop burning their garbage. It’s not even a goal. The
agency is just hoping enough people will find other ways to get rid of
their trash that the overall dioxin level in food is reduced.


For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Organic Farmers Look for New Recruits

  • A neighbor feeds Sir Herman, a calf at Beaver Creek Ranch. Herman is a Scottish Highland bull. Highland cattle are raised in the Midwest for their lean meat. (MPR Photo/Cynthia Johnson)

Organic food has become so popular, it’s hard to keep up with demand. For organic farmers, that booming market is a mixed blessing. When they can’t supply as much as the customers want, it puts pressure on the farmers. Some farmers are trying creative ways to fill the demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:

Transcript

Organic food has become so popular, it’s hard to keep up with demand. For organic farmers, that booming market is a mixed blessing. When they can’t supply as much as the customers want, it puts pressure on the farmers. Some farmers are trying creative ways to fill the demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:


About a year ago, chef Kirk Bratrud and his family built a small restaurant near the harbor in Superior, Wisconsin. It’s called The Boathouse, and it features fresh-caught fish, local vegetables, and — Scottish Highland beef.


“It’s a very lean but tender piece of meat, it has a slightly peppery flavor, something approaching elk but more like beef.”


Bratrud says his customers love Scottish Highland beef.


“Our problem with beef however is that we wish more of it was available.”


He has to take it off the menu when he runs out. It’s hard to find, and the only way he can get it at all is because three farmers in the area raise it. One of them is Doug Anderson, owner of Beaver Creek Ranch. He says Highlands offer plenty of advantages to a farmer.


“There is no waste in the animal, as the fat is on the back of the animal rather than a heavy marbling. And our animals are not grained at all. We don’t even have a feedlot. When we’re ready to take an animal to processing, it will just be picked out of the herd, put in a trailer, and go for processing.”


The animals graze in pastures. They don’t need the antibiotics that are routinely fed to animals in feedlots. Anderson has nearly 50 Highlands. The herd is growing, but it takes time to raise cattle. About 20 steers are ready for market each year.


When he started selling to The Boathouse in Superior, he realized there was a bigger market out there than he could supply. He’s recruiting his neighbors to help out. Three nearby farmers have bought brood cows and bulls. Anderson says when their animals are ready to butcher, he’ll put them in touch with The Boathouse and his other markets.


Three miles away, another organic farm has a different specialty – aged cheese made from sheep milk. Mary and David Falk milk about 100 sheep, and make about four dozen cheeses a week. The aging cave is a concrete silo, built into a hillside.


(sound of door opening)


Inside, it’s dark and cool. Nearly a thousand cheeses are resting on cedar planks. Mary Falk enjoys the different molds growing on the rinds of the cheese.


“We’ve got a gold mold, there’s a mauve colored mold, there’s a blue mold, there’s a soft green. So each one of those little molds adds a a hint of flavor and complexity to the cheese.”


The Falks used to sell their Love Tree cheeses to restaurants in New York and San Francisco. But after September 11th, the orders dropped off suddenly, and the Falks found new customers at a local farmer’s market. Now, they don’t have enough cheese to satisfy their local retail customers AND supply restaurants and cheese shops.


To boost her production, Mary Falk tried buying sheep milk from other farmers, but it didn’t taste the same as milk from the flock on her Love Tree Farm. So she tried to recruit farmers to buy some of her sheep and sell her the milk. A couple of neighbors tried it, but quit after awhile.


Her latest idea is what she calls the Love Tree Farm extended label program.


“What Love Tree is known for is our grass-based milk. And if somebody is making a high quality cheese on their farm, we are willing to put that into our market for them. We would put the Lovetree label on their cheese, like “Love Tree introducing Johnny Smith.”


Falk says it would give customers a chance to learn about new cheeses from a name they trust, and it would give new farmers access to an established market.


It takes time and ingenuity to match producers and consumers. But more and more people want organic food. Farmers who’ve been successful are trying to recruit other farmers to join them in the organic producers movement… an effort that can be profitable and easier on the environment.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.

Related Links

TRASH BURNING CAN THREATEN HUMAN HEALTH (Short Version)

There’s an effort underway to get people to stop burning their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that experts have found that toxins from backyard burning can get into food:

Transcript

There’s an effort underway to get people to stop burning their trash. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that experts have found that toxins from backyard burning
can get into food:


Often, garbage truck routes don’t include rural areas, so many people there just burn their trash.
But that can lead to toxins getting into food. John Giesy is with the National Food Safety and
Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.


“Well, when we burn waste in a barrel, the dioxins will be in the gas and in the particulates. And,
so, they go downwind, but those particulates ultimately fall out.”


And they end up on the grass that livestock eat. We end up taking in the dioxins in the meat and
milk products that we eat. Because backyard burning is the largest human-caused source of
dioxins, the Environmental Protection Agency is working with states and communities to try to
get people to get rid of their trash some other way.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Trash Burning Can Threaten Human Health

For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the curb. But not everyone can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… that choice could be affecting your health:

Transcript

For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the curb. But not everyone
can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Lester Graham reports… that choice could be affecting your health:


(sound of garbage trucks)


It’s not been that long ago that people everywhere but in the largest cities burned their trash in a
barrel or pit in the backyard. That’s not as often the case these days. Garbage trucks make their
appointed rounds in cities, small towns, and in some rural areas. But they don’t pick up
everywhere… or if they do offer service… it’s much more expensive because the pick-up is so far
out in the country.


Roger Booth lives in a rural area in southwestern Illinois. He says garbage pick-up is not an
option for him.


“Well, we burn it and then bury the ashes and things. We don’t have a good way to dispose of it
any other method. The cost of having pick up arranged is prohibitive.”


He burns his garbage in the backyard. Booth separates bottles and tin cans from the rest of the
garbage so that he doesn’t end up with broken glass and rusty cans scattered around. A lot of
people don’t do that much. They burn everything in a barrel and then dump the ashes and scrap in
a gully… or just burn everything in a gully or ditch. Booth says that’s the way most folks take
care of the garbage in the area. No one talks about the smoke or fumes put off by the burning.


“I haven’t ever thought much about that. So, I don’t suppose that I have any real concerns at this
moment. I don’t think I’m doing anything different than most people.”


And that’s what many people who burn their garbage say. A survey conducted by the Zenith
Research Group found that people in areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota who didn’t have regular
garbage collection believe burning is a viable option to get rid of their household and yard waste.
Nearly 45-percent of them indicated it was “convenient,” which the researchers interpreted to
mean that even if garbage pick-up were available, the residents might find more convenient to
keep burning their garbage.


While some cities and more densely populated areas have restricted backyard burning… state
governments in all but a handful of states in New England and the state of California have been
reluctant to put a lot of restrictions on burning barrels.


But backyard burning can be more than just a stinky nuisance. Burning garbage can bring
together all the conditions necessary to produce dioxin. Dioxin is a catch-all term that includes
several toxic compounds. The extent of their impact on human health is not completely known…
but they’re considered to be very dangerous to human health in the tiniest amounts.


Since most of the backyard burning is done in rural areas, livestock are exposed to dioxin and it
gets into the meat and milk that we consume.


John Giesy is with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.
He says as people burn garbage, the dioxins are emitted in the fumes and smoke…


“So, when they fall out onto the ground or onto the grass, then animals eat those plants and it
becomes part of their diet. And ultimately it’s accumulated into the animal and it’s stored as fat.
Now, particularly with dairy cattle, one of the concerns about being exposed to dioxins is that
then when they’re producing milk, milk has fat it in, it has butter fat in it. And the dioxins go
along with that.”


So, every time we drink milk, snack on cheese, or eat a hamburger, we risk getting a small dose
of dioxin. Beyond that, vegetables from a farmer’s garden, if not properly washed, could be
coated with dioxins. And even a miniscule amount of dioxin is risky.


John Giesy says chemical manufacturing plants and other sources of man-made dioxin have been
cleaned up. Now, backyard burning is the biggest source of dioxins produced by humans.


“So, now as we continue to strive to reduce the amount of dioxins in the environment and in our
food, this is one place where we can make an impact.”


“That’s the concern. That’s the concern, is that it’s the largest remaining source of produced
dioxin.”


Dan Hopkins is with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says, collectively, backyard
burning produces 50 times the amount of dioxin as all the large and medium sized incinerators
across the nation combined. That’s because the incinerators burn hot enough to destroy dioxins
and have pollution control devices to limit emissions. Backyard burning doesn’t get nearly that
hot and the smoke and fumes spread unchecked.


The EPA wants communities to take the problem of backyard burning seriously. It wants state
and local governments to do more to make people aware that backyard burning is contaminating
our food and encourage them to find other ways to get rid of their garbage…


“(It) probably won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but by exchanging successful efforts that other
communities have had, we should be able to help communities fashion approaches that have a
high probability of success.”


But… public education efforts are expensive… and often they don’t reach the people who most
need to hear them. The EPA is not optimistic that it will see everyone stop burning their garbage.
It’s not even a goal. The agency is just hoping enough people will find other ways to get rid of
their trash that the overall dioxin level in food is reduced.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Dairy Farmers Revive Old Customs

  • A revival of pasture-based agriculture in the Midwest is pleasing cheese maker's palettes. Photo courtesy of Uplands Cheese Company.

If you drive out into our Midwestern countryside these days, expecting pastoral scenes of placid cows grazing leisurely on grassy hillsides, you’ll be at least 50 years too late. Traditional pastoral herding practices, based on the summertime abundance of self-renewing grasses, has mostly disappeared. It’s been replaced by year-round production based on dried feeds grown from intensively worked soils. However, if you were to visit Pleasant Ridge Farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin or a small number of other farms around the Great Lakes region, you would find a successful and quite modern, revival of pasture-based agriculture. You would also find an incredibly tasty cheese. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ed Janus reports:

Transcript

If you drive out into our Midwestern countryside these days expecting pastoral scenes of placid cows grazing leisurely on grassy hillsides, you’ll be at least 50 years too late. Traditional pastoral herding practices, based on the summertime abundance of self-renewing grasses, have mostly disappeared. It’s been replaced by year-round production based on dried feeds grown from intensively worked soils. However, if you were to visit Pleasant Ridge Farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin or a small number of other farms around the Great Lakes region, you would find a successful and quite modern, revival of pasture-based agriculture. You would also find an incredibly tasty cheese. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ed Janus reports:


Although they own a dairy farm and milk 200 cows, Mike Gingrich and Dan Patenaude really don’t farm at all like their neighbors. They’re grass farmers and herders. Their cows feed themselves on well-managed, systematically rotated pastures of flavorful summer grass – on farmland that does not know the plow, or soil erosion. So fresh is their grass that their cows convert it into milk that is unusually rich in essential dairy flavors. As Mike explains:


“This rotational grazing was a way that we preferred to run a dairy. It’s easier on the soil, it’s easier on the animals, and easier on the farmer, I think, too. All of our land is pastureland. We graze our cows all summer long. That is unusual. So they’re eating a live plant. Pasture produced milk is sort of like going back in time. You know, a hundred years ago and earlier, all milk was pasture produced.”


As traditional dairy farmers, Mike and Dan’s labors had been both anonymous and poorly compensated. Their milk was combined with that
of hundreds of other farmers and processed into a standardized,
personality-free product. But, on the way to proving that herding could be economically viable, they learned that this method of farming also made a real difference in the richness and flavor of their milk.


“I had always heard from old-time cheese makers that the best milk for making cheese was the June milk when the cows were on that new pasture. And that’s the ideal stage… for both nutrition for the cow and the flavor development of these cheeses coincidentally. That’s why, for instance, dairy products from New Zealand will have a stronger dairy flavor because their national milk supply is grass-based. Whereas in the United States, our national milk supply is stored feeds predominantly, and they’re much milder, they don’t have these dairy flavors.”


Because of their system of rotational grazing that allows them to move the cows from pasture to pasture, their cows are regularly introduced to new and flavorful grass. That means that they have that strong tasting June-like milk from late spring through October. Finding a way to get that milk with its unique qualities directly into the mouths of consumers was the next step for Mike and Dan. They decided that making their own cheese was the answer. So, Mike got his state cheese maker’s license, apprenticed in a small road-side cheese factory and became a farmstead cheese maker.


“A farmstead cheese comes from the milk from a single farm.
It has the potential of having unique and different and interesting flavors that are not available in production cheeses. And that’s because the cheese maker is the same person that milks the animals. Because we use only our milk, and we manage our cows so differently than a
typical farm, we really get a substantially different milk, and then of
course the cheese that we make is only from that milk.”


To make a cheese worthy of their milk, Mike chose a French alpine cheese called Beauford as his model because it too is made from the milk of grass-fed cows that gives it a pronounced but subtle, earthy
flavor and color. Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, like its French cousin, is cave-aged and turned by hand at least fifty times. And like its French cousin it has something lacking in mass-produced cheeses. It has “terroir” – the flavor of a particular place and the character of the people who make it.


Apparently there is a place for “terroir” in America. Last year Pleasant Ridge Reserve was awarded the Best in Show by the American Cheese Society. This year Mike and Dan will sell 2,000 ten-pound wheels of their cheese to top-scale restaurants, gourmet cheese retailers and on their Web site, at prices many times what they would get if they just waved goodbye to their milk at their farm gate. And, happily for cheese lovers, Mike and Dan, like a handful of other Great Lakes states farmstead cheese makers have found a way to package some of the splendor from their grass.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Ed Janus.