E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection

Sometimes an article you read, about a subject you think you know a lot about, just shows you how wrong you are. The New York Times recent article "E.Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection" set off a lot of discussion about the safety of ground beef. I was really amazed and disgusted at its findings. After the article appeared, there was a lot of comment about if from the beef industry that disputed its findings. The Daily Green wrote a tough piece listing disgusting facts about ground beef.

We never buy ground beef in the grocery store. Ours comes from our own cattle that are grass finished and processed locally.

There is scientific support that if you get your ground beef from cattle that have been totally grass finished and never grain fed you greatly reduce your chance of obtaining contaminated beef. The article below is detailed, but gets the point across.

Forage feeding to reduce pre -harvest E. coli populations in cattle, a review.
Todd R. Callaway1, Rob O. Elder1, Jim E. Keen2, Robin C. Anderson1, David J.
United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Food and Feed
Safety Research Unit, College Station, TX1 and Meat Animal Research Center, Clay
Center, NE2
Although E. coli are commensal organisms that reside within the host gut, some
pathogenic strains of E. coli can cause hemorrhagic colitis in humans. The most notable
enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) strain is O157:H7. Cattle are asymptomatic natural
reservoirs of E. coli O157:H7; and it has been reported that as many as 30% of all cattle
are carriers of this pathogen, and in some circumstances this can be as high as 80%.
Feedlot and high-producing dairy cattle are fed high grain rations in order to increase
feed efficiency. Because cattle have low amylase activity, much of the starch passes to
the hindgut where it is fermented. EHEC are capable of fermenting sugars released from
starch breakdown in the colon, and populations of E. coli have been shown to be higher
in grain fed cattle, and this has been correlated with E. coli O157:H7 shedding in barley
fed cattle. When cattle were abruptly switched from a high grain (corn) diet to a forage
diet, generic E. coli populations declined 1000-fold within 5 days and the ability of the
fecal generic E. coli population to survive an acid shock similar to the human gastric
stomach decreased. Other researchers have shown that a switch from grain to hay caused
a smaller decrease in E. coli populations, but did not observe the same effect on gastric
shock survivability. In a study that used cattle naturally infected with E. coli O157:H7,
fewer cattle shed E. coli O157:H7 when switched from a feedlot ration to a forage-based
diet compared to cattle continuously fed a feedlot ration. Results indicate that switching
cattle from grain to forage could potentially reduce EHEC populations in cattle prior to
slaughter; however the economic impact of this needs to be examined.

If you are interested in buying grass finished ground beef, or other beef cuts direct from our farm please contact us by email. We will have some beef available early November and more in January.


Trashin' the Dress at the Greer Farm

Kandice Ray is an exceptional photographer and frequent farm guest. When she called to ask about a "trashin' the dress" session on the farm I was set back. I had never heard of messing with a wedding dress and for sure not trashing it. Not wanting to be a spoil sport I said it was okay and as you can see from Kandice's blog called Trashin' the Dress at the Greer Farm you will be impressed with her photography talents. The picture below is just a sample at what you will find at the link above. I highly recommend her to you if you have a photography requirement in the north Texas area.

Larson Speak

"If people concentrated on the really important
things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles."

Doug Larson, American columnist

Meet Eva & Sid in Dallas Thursday Night: It is the Farmer's Market Hoedown

We will be at the Friends of the Dallas Farmer's market Hoedown Thursday night. Buy a ticket to support a great cause and feast on some wonderful savory food. Our Greer Farm blackberries will be in a special dish prepared by Jeffery Hobbs of Suze restaurant in Dallas. It is considered one of the top restaurants in America and has been featured in many national publications. See you at Fair Park and bring a health appetite.

Each year, the Friends host an annual “Hoedown” which is our largest fundraiser. In partnership with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s program “Go Texan”, farmers from around the state donate ingredients that are used by local chefs to create unique and delicious samplings for event participants. In addition, local Specialty food producers sample products from cheese to salsa to tapenades and dips. To round out the experience, local wineries contribute wine, and local artisans bring their products. This year’s event will be held in early November. The event will honor our rich heritage while anticipating a thriving future for the Market.

Hard Times Hit Rural East Texas: Almost 16 % Unemployment Locally

There is not much to add that has not been said in the article. We only hope that the global economy recovers and returns us to better times.

Subject: Highest unemployment rates in Texas

'Company county' in NE Texas anxiously tries to weather another bust cycle
Posted Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009
LONE STAR — At 8.2 percent, Texas’ unemployment rate is the highest in 22 years. But that sounds enviable in Morris County, an isolated industrial island in the northeast corner of the state where the jobless rate has reached 15.6 percent, even higher than in Michigan.
There isn’t a drilling rig at work in the county, 130 miles east of Dallas, but the slowdown in places like the Barnett Shale has rippled across Texas and virtually shuttered the area’s prime employer, the sprawling U.S. Steel Tubular Products plant in Lone Star, which produces pipe for drilling.
Since January, more than 1,300 jobs have been lost at the mill, said Kay O’Dell, executive director of Workforce Solutions Northeast Texas. An estimated 200 workers are still on the job.
The impact has rolled across the rural region, said O’Dell, who noted that many mill workers commuted from Cass County (12.5 percent unemployment) and Red River County (10.5 percent). The workers earned an estimated $18.50 to $21 per hour. But when the mill was "blowing and going" in full production, steelworkers frequently racked up 20 and 30 hours of overtime a week for months at a time, union workers said. "People drove a long way because these jobs paid very good for this area. And they didn’t require a very high educational level," O’Dell said.
Those factors sent generations of steelworkers’ sons from high school to the mill, creating a "company county," said John Feezell, an economics professor at LeTourneau University in Longview.
People here say they’re a resilient bunch who over the decades have toughed it out through bitter strikes and other downturns in the steel business.
But this is different.
The recession has limited people’s options, and after U.S. Steel bought the mill in 2007, there’s no local connection to the plant’s future. "That’s a major change," Feezell said.
More so than most areas, all of Morris County’s economic eggs are in one basket, and that stiffens the odds for jobless workers — there are no comparable jobs within easy commuting distance, and friends, neighbors and former co-workers are competing for the few positions available. And for people willing to move for work, selling their homes becomes equally problematic, Feezell said.
'We’re praying’
At the Church on the Rock in Daingerfield, where contributions are down and requests for help are up, people are anxious, pastor Randy Seybert said. "We’re doing a lot of praying," he said.
The 175-member congregation meets in a former Chevrolet dealership, which is emblematic of small-town America’s woes. County Judge J.C. Jennings said there were once five auto dealerships in the county of 13,000 but the last holdout closed in 2003. "That didn’t help our tax base," he said.
Seybert said: "As a church, we’re struggling. A few people have moved away and we have families split because the husband goes out of town to work and will be gone for two months."
The struggle has moved in with Seybert and his wife, Elizabeth.
A former county agricultural extension agent, Seybert hasn’t planted a garden for 15 years. But this summer he organized a community garden in his yard with four families. "That garden fed a lot of people," he said.
But the bigger impact has been inside the house. The couple’s two daughters have grown up, but their "empty nest has been repopulated" by two men who lost their jobs.
Morris County’s small businesses have been decimated by the mill’s troubles.
Lone Star gas station owner Bruce Hall has seen revenue drop by 65 percent. "People are scared," he said.
At Lone Star Lube, which services trucks that haul steel, owner Mike Rogers has slashed his staff from nine to three. "I’ll be working here for nothing this year," he said. "The truckers aren’t moving so they don’t need service."
But the two businessmen worry that the layoffs are just the first wave of woe in the town of 1,300.
"U.S. Steel wants to cut their tax evaluation in half," Rogers said. "And that’s going to kill people like me and Bruce. We’ll be the tax base."
On the shore of Ellison Creek Reservoir, known locally as Lone Star Lake since it was constructed to provide water for the mill, Jim and Kim Sly have seen revenue drop more than 85 percent at their Scenic View Marina, which has the only motel rooms in town.
Their bread-and-butter customers were contractors at the mill, and in 2006 and 2007 they worked off a waiting list. "The gravy train: You can’t ride it forever, so we planned for the slowdown," Kim Sly said. "But it’s pretty depressing. We’re praying."
'It’s not food’
Six miles up the road in Daingerfield, the county seat, a sign of the hard times is on the marquee at the Morris Theatre, a fixture since 1923: "All seats, all showtimes, $1.50!"
"There’s no jobs anywhere here and people can’t afford to move," said Jerry Hurndon, 52, who recently lost his job at Walmart and has been reduced to selling sweet potatoes at a makeshift roadside stand. "The mill shutdown hit everything. Kids are trying to join the Army to get a life."
Perkison Jewelry, a family shop since it opened in 1953, has withstood the typical challenges for small businesses in small towns. Initially, it was the first mall 35 miles south in Longview, then came the big-box retailers in neighboring towns like Mount Pleasant, said Betty Dawn Weir, whose father started the store.
And now it’s the economy.
"We started seeing the recession a long time ago," she said with a rueful laugh. "It’s getting harder and harder. When you think it’s bad as it can get, it gets worse."
"This isn’t necessary," Weir said, gesturing toward her inventory of jewelry and watches. "It’s not food."
But one local institution is thriving: Fall enrollment is up 19 percent and work-force programs are up 50 percent at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant, President Brad Johnson said.
The automotive repair program’s enrollment has soared from 131 students in fall 2008 to 496, and the criminal justice program jumped from 461 students to 1,247, he said.
But Johnson is still uneasy.
"What is unsettling to many of us is we aren’t sure what the local economy will look like as we come out of the recession. There is a lot of anxiety about that," he said.
Steel cycles
Iron and steel have been a bedrock in Morris County from its earliest days. Iron ore deposits have been mined since before the Civil War, and those deposits attracted the federal government during World War II when a blast furnace was built in Lone Star.
The Lone Star Steel Co. bought the furnace in 1948 and built the steel mill in the early 1950s. In its heyday, during the 1970s, the plant employed 10,000 workers, Jennings said.
But multiple strikes over the decades and the oil bust of the 1980s, which forced the company to suspend operations and sent the county’s unemployment rate to 24.2 percent, have left the work force with an uneasy familiarity with busts.
Donnie Qualls, 58, president of the United Steelworkers of America’s local union, has seen it all. His father and two uncles "worked in steel," and he’s been at the mill for 39 years.
"In the past, these were the best jobs around," he said. "People drove here all the way from Arkansas."
Qualls estimates that 100-200 workers are still at the mill after a recent callback to service a pipe order. In the meantime, he fires up the coffeepot early for a regular procession of workers hoping for news.
But U.S. Steel isn’t saying anything. Courtney Boone, a public affairs specialist at the Pittsburgh-based company, said it does not comment outside of its quarterly reports. "We do adjust our production to meet demand," she said.
Frank Green, 56, has been laid off four times in his 27 years at the mill.
"It’s always boom or bust; as soon as they have you working 60 or 70 hours, you know the bottom is about to fall out," he said. "But it’s a good living when it’s blowing and going."
Union workers do have more options than most unemployed people. Supplemental unemployment pay and medical insurance can provide an extra cushion for up to 18 months, Qualls said.
Some workers, like Mike Blackburn, 63, are biding their time. "It don’t bother me; I’m an old man. I can retire," he said. "I’m hurting for the young people. They don’t have options."
That’s what worries District Attorney Steve Cowan.
"We’ve had a tough economy for a long time. What really happens is that our kids leave," said Cowan, whose three children have pursued careers elsewhere.
And if more people are forced to migrate, there’s lingering hope that maybe the next cycle could complete a shaky economic circle.
"You can buy a house here for a third of the price in the Metroplex," Cowan said. "We are getting people who are coming back to retire in their parents’ home."

Highest unemployment rates in Texas
1. Starr County 17.8 percent
2. Presidio County 17.8 percent
3. Zavala County 16.3 percent
4. Sabine County 15.9 percent
5. Morris County 15.6 percent
6. Reeves County 14.0 percent
7. Willacy County 13.9 percent
8. Maverick County 13.6 percent
9. Cass County 12.5 percent
10. Duval County 12.5 percent
Source: Texas Workforce Commission
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981

A Focused Direction for Our Farm: Center of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture

We have added the section (see below) to our website under the category About Greer Farm to be more specific on the direction we are going in our agriculture activities and to set a high standard for ourselves that is reachable and benefits the farm, our environment and us.

Our farm has seen major changes and evolved dramatically from where it was in 1979 when acquired to where it is today. Originally, it was part of an an overgrown plantation taken out of production in the middle of the depression about 1938. Mixed forest replaced most of the 550 acres and by the time we acquired over 250 acres of it only about 35 acres remained clear for production. Our Rocky Branch Grass Ranch had a different experience with all of it remaining open and in production, but terribly abused by intensive farming techniques and irrigation.

Over the years, we have segmented the land we own into managed mixed forest land of pine and hardwoods, planted pine plantation, crop land and pastures for fruit and berries, hay and animal production. It would have been impossible to accomplish this using organic standards. It just could not have happened. Some will debate me, but to clear and maintain fences, control invasive species of woody plants and weeds that preclude crop or animal production and create an environment where we can farm and make a profit took non-organic means.

Today, we have reached a point where we use a very small amount of non-organic artificial inputs, but we still do so when we need to. Examples are spraying for species of plants that will kill our horses if left in the field. We use herbicides to allow our young blueberry plants to survive. In time, we can probably eliminate most if not all of those used on the berries as the plants mature and we can just use a weed trimmer on the rows. We spend more time now grubbing by hand out thistles so we do not have to spray. Two years ago Dog Fennel appeared in one pasture. This year it tripled in frequency. To not allow the seeds to pass on into other pastures we cut hay early in that pasture. We will use a specific herbicide in 2010 and eliminate it before it overtakes the grasses in the pasture. Every year our level of non-organic inputs gets smaller and smaller.

I have issues with organic standards, but can not change them. For one, it is expensive to get certified and stay certified for what you get out of it. People are not willing to pay that much of a higher price for food certified orgainic. Some of the rules are stupid. As an example, you can have a pre-existing creosote treated fence post or pole in a field and after the three year process to become organic it is okay for it to remain as it was preexisting. You can not add a new post after that and stay organic certified. Well, that original post is leaching the same amount of creosote no mater what the certification is. Fertilizer is another point. There is a long list of organic certified fertilizers which are great if you are not covering hundreds of acres. They say you can use chicken litter on large acreage and be organic, but who wants the hazards being identified all the time by this "organic" fertilizer. Chemical fertilizer is made from natural gas. Natural gas is a type of hydrocarbon which evolved from decaying plants. If oil is spilled on the ground and left, in time nature's bacteria and various organisms will eat it and it will return to an organic form. When there are major oil spills, the treatment method that works best is organic. So if natural gas based fertilizer is organic based, why can it not be classified as "organic"

In any case, this and other similar debates will continue. For our farm and ranch, we shall do the best we can and try to be an example in balanced and sane techniques that will allow us to be recognized as a Center if Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture.

Our goal is to be a Center of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture demonstrating that a family farm can be profitable, practice environmental stewardship and produce a stable food supply and timber in perpetuity without degrading the natural resources that support the production processes.

What is sustainable agriculture?   Sustainable Agriculture is a way of growing food that is healthy, does not harm the environment, respects workers, is humane to animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports farming communities. Characteristics of this type of agriculture include: conservation and preservation, biodiversity, animal welfare, economic viability and socially just. (from
What are the differences between sustainable and organic agriculture? When is organic not sustainable?

Both organic and sustainable agriculture strive to preserve the land for generations to come and have many similarities, but one system is not necessarily better than the other. The main difference between the two methods of production is that organic food production must be certified yearly by an independent third-party certifier approved by the US Department of Agriculture. Sustainable food has no independent certification process, and the consumer must rely on the word of the farmer. In addition, sustainability is more of a philosophy or way of life, whereas organic is a specific set of government-verified standards. (from
sustainabletable.org). On our farm and ranch we will use the minimum of artificial inputs, but recognize that to be good stewards of the land and be profitable we cannot be organic.

Smarter Food Production Can Benefit Everyone

The great food debate continues even as our newspapers loose influence do to changes in readership and their former readers seeking other outlets of news and opinion. For now, local newspapers are still important and they still can influence the direction of our lives. I know that many will go away and those that remain will change, but I see no emerging way for those of us that seek knowledge of what is happening in our community and what issues affect us on a statewide basis to replace the local new room.

The Dallas Morning News published this editorial on a weekend and for some reason it did not get picked up on their internet site. This newspaper is no longer distributed in Daingerfield due to cost, but I read it online. I wanted to share this editorial on my blog, but it was not posted. I asked that they place it online and it has happened finally. You may agree or not agree with it, but is continues an important debate in households as they make food buying decisions, on family farms as they seek a niche that allows them to remain in business and more important in the giant factory farms and food corporations as they evolve to new demands in the market place.

Editorial: Smarter food production can benefit everyone
The Dallas Morning News
Friday, August 28, 2009

You don't have to be a Berkeley prof in Birkenstocks to wonder whether we could grow food here in a way that places less stress on the environment, puts fewer pounds on our bodies and doesn't consume so much of our federal budget. Growing so many grains to feed cattle, pigs and poultry in feedlots affect water supplies and air quality. Producing ample supplies of fatty meats adds to our waistlines. Subsidizing crops like corn takes a big bite out of the federal budget.

"Sustainable agriculture" is how reformers describe new farming and ranching techniques that don't stress the environment, our bodies or the federal budget. Time magazine's Bryan Walsh wrote a controversial cover story on the subject last week, "The Real Cost of Cheap Food." It sparked criticism for buying too much into to the "good food" movement that is driving sustainable agriculture.

We don't agree with everything he writes, but he does raise a fundamental point: Is there not a better way to grow our food?

First, let us be upfront: Organic farming and backyard gardens won't replace the efficiencies of America's breadbasket, which supplies meat, grains and vegetables to millions of Americans and millions more around the world. Radical changes in the way we grow that food will increase our costs at the grocery store. Given everyone's current economic straits, we don't see the wisdom in that. But North Texas shoppers, West Texas farmers and ranchers, and policymakers in Austin and Washington could help create a more sustainable agricultural system. Here are a few ways:

•When permitting dairy farms, which are fast expanding across the Texas Panhandle, the state should examine what impact a farm would have on the Ogallala Aquifer, the Panhandle's ability to grow more grain to feed those dairy cows, and how to get rid of more animal waste. Texas AgriLife Extension Service researchers are studying the impact of dairy farms, so their work should give groundwater district officials and others information to make an informed decision.

•The state needs more experiments like the one state Sen. Robert Duncan and the Texas Water Development Board have helped launch in Lockney in Floyd County; ranchers and farmers there are working on raising cattle and crops using less water, including more efficient irrigation techniques.

•The federal government should look for opportunities to buy produce from local farmers who use techniques that don't damage soils or the environment. The feds purchase huge quantities of food, including for school lunches and the military, so even targeted purchases could boost the cause of sustainable agriculture.

•The next time you shop for produce or meat, look for a locally grown product that hasn't required so much diesel fuel to market. Or look for meats that have been raised with less corn or antibiotics pumped into them.

We're encouraged that some organizations, like the Chipotle fast-food chain and the W.W. Kellogg Foundation, already support the move toward a more sustainable agriculture. This movement won't supply all of our food needs, but there is certainly room for better ways to produce what we eat.

November 14 Cooking Class: Roasting Meats: Succulent Roasted Lamb, Beef & Pork

Fall has arrived and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods are upon us. What better time to learn some new meat roasting skills with great recipes that will impress your family and friends this holiday season. Over the last 160 years on our farm, many roasted meat meals have been prepared. All that is in the past. On Saturday, November 14 at 11:00 am, at the farmhouse, Chef Eva's cooking class focusing on Succulent Roasted Meats: Lamb, Beef and Pork and will create a new standard in culinary excellence. Only a few class slots remain. $75

Petite Rack of Lamb Chops with Herbs and Homemade English Mint Sauce
Succulent Beef Rib Roast with Homemade Gravy
Milk Braised Pork Loin with Herbs
Crisp Roasted Potatoes
Roasted butternut Squash Souffle
Roasted Fruit and Toasted Pound Cake

Oktoberfest Texas Style: Cooking Class October 17

Texas may not be the place you associate with Oktoberfest, but at one time San Antonio was the largest German city outside of Germany. Texas has a long association with Germany and German food. To celebrate the fall festival of Germany, Chef Eva has taken a number of German dishes and added a southwestern flare to them.

She will start out with Texas Bratwurst rounds with horseradish mustard sauce followed by Rouladen with jalapeno and pickles, Greer Farm farm made sauerkraut, braised red cabbage and red apples and German roasted potatoes. There will be homemade pretzels and dessert will be a wonderful Linzer Torte with east Texas Greer Farm blackberry jam. There will be complementary Texas "German" beer from Shiner. This is a class not to be missed.

There are only a few class slots available.