Never Thought A Billboard Could Be Used This Way!

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An innovative way to supply potable water in an area where there is only .51 inches of rainfall annually.

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Lack of clean, potable water is the cause of disease and death worldwide, and some engineers at U-Tec in Peru have been working on ways to help. This U-Tec project may look like an ordinary billboard, but it is actually an innovative way to supply potable water to villagers in a desert area with almost no annual rainfall. Of course, it would only work where the humidity level is high enough, but perhaps this could be duplicated in similar areas and save untold lives. 

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Mothers’ Milk: More Than Meets the Eye?


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Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

I attended a symposium on the safe production of raw milk recently at Chico State University and was fascinated by the presentations of each of the speakers. A common theme relating to health is that raw milk has undeniable health-promoting qualities that we don’t yet understand. Dr. Bruce German,  a well-respected, widely-published researcher (one that I’ve quoted in other articles) and founder of the International Milk Genomics Consortium, detailed ways that raw milk is responsible for all human life on the planet. One of his associates, Dr. Danielle Lemay, was also at this meeting. Some of her words inspired this article about a surprising quality of human milk. Click through to read more!

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Indigenous diets can help fight modern illnesses, say health experts

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Traditional food consumed by rural communities contain nutrients that are lacking in high- and middle-income countries

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Indigenous food systems – gathering and preparing food to maximize the nutrients an environment can provide – range from nomadic hunter-gatherers such as the Aché in eastern Paraguay, the Massai pastoralists in northern Kenya, and herding and fishing groups including the Inuit in northern Canada, to the Saami of Scandinavia and the millet-farming Kondh agriculturalists in eastern India.

But the trait these groups share is a keen knowledge of how to eat nutritiously without damaging the ecosystem. "Indigenous peoples’ food systems contain treasures of knowledge from long-evolved cultures and patterns of living in local ecosystems," says an FAO-supported study on indigenous food systems, nutrition, and health co-authored by Kuhnlein in 2009.

In recent years, grains such as quinoa, fonio and millet – long harvested by indigenous and rural communities in developing countries but increasingly overlooked by a younger, richer generation that prefers imported foods – have instead grown in popularity in developed countries.

Research, marketing and donor-funded financing have helped raise awareness of the ability of these high-protein grains to reduce cholesterol, provide micronutrients and lower the risk of diabetes. "Because of the many health benefits of these forgotten, or until [recently] unknown foods, valuing the wisdom of indigenous cultures [and] earlier generations is vital for reducing disease and inflammation." 

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“Expired” food is good for you: A supermarket exec’s bold business gamble

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Trader Joe’s’ former president wants to sell you the food that other stores throw out. Will it work?

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Last September, a major report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School squashed the long-standing myth surrounding “sell by,” “best by” and “use by” dates on food. It revealed how those dates, which are mostly unregulated and surprisingly arbitrary, tell the consumer next to nothing about how long a product will stay fresh. Yet 90 percent of Americans are under the mistaken impression that they do – and that they are inviolable – causing us to needlessly throw away food.

The problem, however, begins even before such food reaches people’s refrigerators: It’s against most supermarkets’ policies (including that of Trader Joe’s) to sell food once it’s aged past these mystical dates. Dana Gunders, who co-authored the NRDC report with Emily Leib, sees Rauch’s project as the logical next step in freeing us from the tyranny of date labels. “Just the fact that he’s doing it, I think is a huge proof point to indicate that what we’re calling ‘expired food’ is in fact still good to eat,” she told Salon.

Rauch isn’t the first to look at the vast storerooms of perfectly good produce, bound for the trash heap, and see an opportunity. Stanley’s organization, Lovin Spoonfuls, also serves the Boston area, and New York’s City Harvest, to take a prominent example, has been “recovering” surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants and redistributing it to food pantries and soup kitchens since 1982. And as Rauch himself pointed out, a number of high-end retailers already repurpose their unsellable produce as hot, prepared food.

But Rauch’s focus differs from that of other nonprofit organizations, which are mainly concerned with fixing the broken link between excess food and empty stomachs. For example: Stanley’s ultimate goal for Lovin Spoonfuls, she said, is to put herself out of business – in other words, to solve hunger. “We must never forget that food’s not only a commodity,” she told Salon; more important is its role as a life force. But like it or not, our culture does treat food as a commodity – as something to be coveted and indulged in. Rauch sees that as an advantage.

Rauch, a capitalist first and foremost, is looking for a market-driven solution to food waste. The store is a nonprofit, but after an initial round of funding gets it started, he intends for it to be self-sustaining. And he expects that supermarkets will work with him, “not just because it’s the right thing, not just because they feel bad about throwing it out. All those are true, but also because it’s an underrealized asset”: There’s a federally enhanced tax deduction on the books for restaurants and grocery stores that donate their surplus, which allows them to recover up to 50 percent of their lost margin.

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Vitamin C: What it Does, Where to Get It, How to Supplement It

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Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

The harsh winter of 1534 was challenging for explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew. Their ship was immobilized in Canadian ice, and nearly all 110 men were deathly ill. There was little to eat except what scarce provisions remained, and no chance of fresh fruit or vegetables. Twenty-five men died, 50 more were on the verge of perishing, and the rest were weak and worsening. From the indigenous people, Cartier learned of a traditional remedy. They ground, then boiled the bark and leaves of a specific tree, drank the resulting tea, and used the dregs as a poultice.


Luckily, there are easier ways to obtain Vitamin C than making tree bark tea!


Every crew member who drank the concoction recovered so quickly that Cartier declared it a miracle.

Today we understand that Cartier’s crew was suffering from scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. The tree’s green leaves (or needles) were rich in the vitamin C that the crew so desperately needed, and the bark’s flavonoids enhanced the vitamin’s healing effects.


Two centuries after Cartier’s voyages, in 1742, British naval doctor James Lind laid the groundwork for the discovery of vitamins when, as part of a study, he prescribed doses of vitamin C–laden citrus to scurvy patients, and observed that they recovered rapidly. When the British navy later included lemon juice as rations for sailors, their incidence of scurvy on the high seas nearly disappeared.


Click through to read more about VItamin C!

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Pregnant Nurse Fired for Refusing Influenza Vaccine


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I just read the Associated Press story about a pregnant nurse who was fired from her job with a healthcare company for refusing a “flu shot” (influenza vaccine). According to the health news article, Dreonna Breton had suffered two miscarriages before this pregnancy, and was concerned about the health of her unborn baby. She offered to wear a mask in lieu of vaccination, but she was still fired on December 17, 2013.

Breton shared the fear of many others in her situation—she contended that “the immunizations may not be safe enough for pregnant women.”

The cautious words of a biology professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and research professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (who indicated that if his wife were pregnant, he wouldn’t want her to get vaccinated) prompted me to write an article on the subject (published on He studies the relation of maternal infections to both autism and schizophrenia, and his arguments against the vaccination of pregnant women gave me pause.

Of course it’s not as simple as “vaccination causes autism,” and there’s a strong outcry in the medical world against such a direct connection. However, recent research does show a strong connection between maternal infections (especially influenza) during the first half of pregnancy and increased risk of schizophrenia in the fetus. The infected mother’s immune system releases special proteins to fight the infection, and these cytokines (specifically interleukin-6) may have a negative effect on the neurological development of the unborn child.

So, then, is the answer to vaccinate all pregnant women? As the professor said, “And what does a vaccination do? It activates the immune system. That’s the point of vaccination.” So an activated immune system could trigger increased cytokines, which may in turn cause neurological difficulties in the baby.

You can read more about this topic here:

Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Vaccination Debate

Both the safety and the efficacy of vaccines are under question as well. I have been researching these topics lately, resulting in two blog posts for the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. But there is much that we do not understand. Although it appears that vaccines have been helpful in some cases, there have been many cases of disease and death that seem to be a result of vaccination, but it’s not usually provable. The long-term effects are still unknown, and each individual may react differently to immunization.

You can read what I wrote about the efficacy of vaccines here: 

Influenza Vaccines: Are They Effective?

and the safety of vaccines here:

Vaccines: Are They Safe?

Is it more risky to be vaccinated or is it more risky to reject vaccination, even if it means losing your job when you need it most? For one woman, the answer was clear.

Below is the Associated Press article that started this whole post.

Until next time~

Pregnant nurse fired after refusing flu shot

By Associated Press

Posted: December 28, 2013 – 8:30 pm ET
A pregnant woman who refused to get a flu shot due to her fear of miscarrying has been fired from her job with a healthcare company.Dreonna Breton worked as a registered nurse for Horizons Healthcare Services in central Pennsylvania. The company requires all personnel to get the influenza vaccine.

Breton contends the immunizations may not be safe enough for pregnant women. She suffered two miscarriages earlier this year, and doesn’t want to risk a third.

Company spokesman Alan Peterson says it’s unconscionable for a healthcare worker not to be immunized. He also says pregnant women are more susceptible to the flu.

Breton offered to wear a mask during flu season. But the 29-year-old was fired Dec. 17.

Urban Gleaning: Food Forward


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I cannot bear the thought of letting food go to waste. Especially preservative-free home-grown produce. We’re fortunate to have an abundance of this on our property, and I enjoy the culinary challenge of using it in every way possible. But sometimes I still can’t get through it all.


After I’ve eaten, frozen, preserved, candied, fermented, salted, pickled, dehydrated, chutneyed, marmaladed, sauced, juiced, reduced and given away all I can to people I know, there’s usually some left.


Homeowners who have neither the time nor the inclination to harvest their produce sometimes find such abundance to be a burden. I often see urban trees full of overripe produce dropping and rotting, attracting vermin and making a general mess—produce that could provide sorely-needed nourishment for those in food deserts that may be a few short miles away in the same city.


Sharing such abundance with others in need is not a new concept. We find it first mentioned as a statute in the ancient Hebrew scriptures, where those working the land were instructed to leave the edges and the corners of the fields unharvested for the poor to glean.

Gleaning grain

According to Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, “This was the earliest law for the benefit of the poor that we read of in the code of any people; and it combined in admirable union the obligation of a public duty with the exercise of private and voluntary benevolence . . .”

Much urban produce goes to waste simply because it’s not always easy to get it to those in need and “exercise . . . private and voluntary benevolence.” We may have the will to share the bounty, but it takes a bridge to get it to those who may need it.


Fortunately, someone in Los Angeles started building that bridge a few years ago.

Rick Nahmias saw the potential of unused urban produce to help nourish those in need. He took that first step in 2009 when he gathered a few friends to pick a neighbor’s tangerines (with permission!), donated the crop to a local food pantry—and in doing so, built the foundation of Food Forward.


Their mission? To rescue “fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same.”


So I contacted them, hoping they would want the organic Duncan grapefruit that was dripping from our huge trees. I found out that for scheduling purposes, it is best to call or email a few months before the fruit will be ripe, but a scout was able to stop by to assess how much fruit was on the trees, how many volunteers and what equipment would be needed.

The fruit was ready, so the pick was scheduled for the next week.


The pickers showed up on time with ample equipment to tackle the project. Thanks to grants, donations and fundraising, they have a “Fruit Mobile” and a “Glean Machine”—snazzy, hardworking vehicles that announce their arrival and cheerfully advertise their services.


A yard sign gave another chance for neighbors and passers-by to notice the activity. I did get some questions from neighbors with fruit trees, and Rick left some informational flyers for them.


I appreciated that and other details, like Food Forward’s sturdy produce boxes, printed with a design reminiscent of vintage fruit crate labels, that carry the fruit to their destination in safety and with style.


Backyard Harvesting is their core program: Food Forward volunteers pick at public and private properties throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, with an occasional foray into Santa Barbara County. The harvested food is immediately donated to Receiving Agencies who then distribute it to those who are food-insecure. Healthful, perishable produce is, understandably, far more difficult for these agencies to come by than unhealthful processed food, so the donations of fresh fruit and other produce are especially welcome.


For homeowners with fewer or smaller trees, they have a DIY Pick program. Food Forward supplies all information needed and a kit with tools and resources to harvest backyard fruit, including volunteer release forms, fruit pickers, produce boxes, a first aid kit, goggles, a Food Forward yard sign, clippers, gloves—even sunscreen and hand wipes.


In addition to backyard harvesting, Food Forward has other related programs. Their Farmers Market Recovery Program gleans about 15,000 pounds of unsold produce per month from Farmers Markets around Southern California and distributes it to nearby non-profit agencies, including shelters and pantries.


When they learned of the dozens of produce wholesalers, vendors and brokers who routinely dump untold pounds of grade-A fruits and vegetables in the trash, Food Forward started their Wholesale Recovery service—a win-win solution, offering pickup service for unwanted produce and a tax deduction in exchange.


Food Forward also offers Private Fruit Picks, which are customized events for groups up to 300 people. Some people book them as team-building alternatives to birthday parties and company picnics. What a great opportunity to get to know each other better and serve the community as well!


As the mother of an Eagle Scout, opportunities for youth to serve the community are always on my radar. Food Forward is equipped to mentor teens who want to conduct a Youth Service Project, culminating in planning and executing a Fruit Pick on their own.


I was delighted to learn about Food Forward’s Can It! Academy, which offers classes in different aspects of food preservation far beyond strawberry jam and canned tomatoes. They address topics that are near and dear to me: pickling, fermenting, liqueurs, brewing, curing, and even sourdough! Seeing this organization encouraging the revival of such important yet nearly lost arts relating to real food is very encouraging to me. They even offer a food preservation and cottage arts certificate program.


And the practice what they preach.


Inevitably, some of the fruit fell, and the juicy grapefruit would crack ever so slightly. This meant that the fruit could spoil more quickly, so it was not put in the boxes for donation as whole fruit. Instead, the bruised or cracked fruit was set aside to be juiced or otherwise processed immediately—perhaps into a rosemary-grapefruit syrup or thyme marmalade, or maybe made into a grapefruit-mint body scrub to be sold at one of their outlets or on line.

When the pick was over, they cleaned up and left the area looking better than ever. I received a follow-up email thanking me for the several hundred pounds of fruit, and a receipt arrived a few weeks later detailing the tax-deductible donation.


I’m happy to see that this organization has expanded in just a few short years to become the nation’s largest urban gleaning organization. Food Forward includes 5000 volunteers and sees the distribution of its produce to over 40,000 clients per month. Their continued growth and expansion is heartening, and I hope others will follow this model in urban areas across the world.


Los Angeles may be unique in its twelve-month growing season, but if cities as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, can (and do!) have urban gleaning programs, it seems every city should encourage such organizations. Some estimates indicate that there is enough food in the world to feed 70% more than the world’s population, but so much of it goes unused.


Urban gleaning in just one city is already helping thousands of food-insecure families by being the bridge—giving them access to fresh, nutritious, free produce that would otherwise go to waste. With efficient distribution, imagine how many millions of people around the world could be helped through similar adaptations of the ancient philanthropic principle of gleaning.

~Until next time!

(Credits: Most photographs in this post courtesy of Jessica Leigh)

The Art of Gliding: Stemme S10-VT Opens Up a New World!

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Unpowered flight offers a rare opportunity to soar far away from everyday pressures. But flying without an engine carries its own problems.

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Impressive design, with a range of 750 nautical miles (and even more if you catch some good thermals!). This efficient aircraft opens up a world of possibilities that were just a dream last time I took to the air in unpowered aircraft. (Yes, it’s been a few years.) Worth a watch—and a place on my wish list!

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Water Storage key to climate change adaptation

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Communities across the globe can build resilience to climate change by re-inventing old water storage strategies and investing in new ones, according to a new book by the International Water Management Institute.

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Combining water storage and savings options often is the most effective way to tackle increasing weather variability, the researchers say. But communities need to weigh trade-offs and be wary of unintended consequences.


“Water is a scarce resource, but the reality in many river basins across the world is that it also is an inefficiently under-used resource that can be better utilized to offset climate change and ensure food security,” says Jeremy Bird, IWMI’s director-general. “But the challenge is complex and solutions must be tailored to local situations.”


For example, in Rajasthan, India – dubbed the Great Indian Desert – the state government is responding to an inefficient canal system by subsidizing farmers to make farm ponds. The ponds are filled from the Indira Gandhi canal system once a month.


Farmers can then draw water as needed. The storage strategy can be combined with water-saving technologies such as micro-irrigation. “Combining water storage and savings options is one of the most practical, immediate and cost-effective ways to respond to climate-induced water scarcity,” says Vladimir Smakhtin, IWMI’s theme leader on water availability and access.


The research was supported by Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE) research programs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)

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Dairy Manager Ted Fansher: Reconsidering Managed Grazing


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The following article, shared below in its entirety with permission from, describes some of the ideals of my grandfather, Ted Fansher.

Fansher's passport—1929

Fansher’s passport—1929

He was a well-respected dairy manager, known for his prize-winning herd of registered Jersey cattle.

Judge ribbons

Judge ribbons

Fansher was in demand as a speaker, as an international judge, was a member of the National Dairy Shrine, and was a director of the American Jersey Cattle Club for many years.

Passenger list, 1929

Passenger list, 1929

On a trip to the island of Jersey in 1929, he personally chose 18 head of cattle, one of whom was the dam of the first “Elsie”, the famous Borden mascot. She and some of the other offspring traveled with Fansher to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, where they were on display at “Borden’s Dairy World of Tomorrow.”

Jim Cavanaugh, one of 150 "Borden Boys," who took care of the show cows at "Borden's Dairy World of Tomorrow" at the 1939 World's Fair  (Photo courtesy of Borden)

Jim Cavanaugh, protégé of Fansher and one of 150 “Borden Boys” who took care of the show cows in “Borden’s Dairy World of Tomorrow” at the 1939 World’s Fair (Photo courtesy of Borden)

Ted Fansher did not live long enough to see what the real Dairy World of Tomorrow turned out to be.

Some of Fansher's awards

Some of Fansher’s awards

He died before CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) became popular, and I am certain that as much as he would have been horrified at that specter, he would also be overjoyed to see the pendulum beginning to swing back to more natural, healthful ways—both for cattle and for consumers.

~Until next time . . .

Jersey cows in pasture at Longview Farm

Jersey cows in pasture at Longview Farm

Reconsidering Managed Grazing

The popular image of bucolic bovine bliss involves contented cattle browsing in verdant fields of fresh fodder. But such a picturesque ideal is rarely a reality for modern cows.

Historically, cattle were most often part of mixed-use farming, and animals grazed on land that was in fallow or was not suitable as cropland. The resulting natural fertilization process (dropping manure and urine as they grazed and working it into the soil with their hooves) provided benefits to the environment, including improved soil health and weed control.

But with new technology and financial incentives toward the second half of the 20th century, farmers began to cultivate the biodiverse grazing land (turning it into single-crop fields), and cows were moved to large factory feedlots. There they were kept inside year-round, fed corn, soy and byproducts from food manufacturing processes, and their manure was trucked away to central ponds. This seemed to make economic sense at the time, but today traditional agricultural methods are being rediscovered, and seem to result in healthier cows, more nutritious beef and dairy products, and a healthier planet (see “Bovine Methane: Just a Lot of Hot Air?”).

The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has a goal of helping “landowners conserve natural resources in efficient, smart and sustainable ways.” To that end, the NCRS published a report on grazing lands, showing the benefits of managed grazing. Some points raised in the report include:

  • Grazing ruminant animals require only one calorie of fossil fuel to produce two calories of human food. These animals turn plants that are not suitable for human consumption into products that are edible for humans in a very efficient manner when compared to animals fed grain and vegetable crops, which may require 5 to 10 calories of fossil fuel per calorie of food or fiber produced.
  • Grazed lands are efficient carbon sinks (removing carbon dioxide from the air and sequestering it in the soil), more than offsetting the methane emissions from ruminant animals. While grazing land can contain over 40 tons of carbon per acre, cultivated cropland contains about 26 tons per acre (on average).
  • Properly managed grazing lands reduce the need for pesticides and artificial fertilizer and have increased biodiversity that provides habitation for wildlife. Such land absorbs rainwater with reduced water runoff compared to cultivated cropland, providing cleaner, more abundant water for wildlife and human use.

The NRCS warns, “Improper grazing can lead to other detrimental environmental impacts. Twenty-five percent of . . . grazing lands need some form of conservation treatment to reduce erosion.” Proper management takes into account the needs of the environment as well as the needs of the animals.

With this in mind, it may be beneficial to study the managing techniques of those who were successful in these areas before the days of widespread factory farming. One highly respected mid-20th-century dairy manager was particularly adamant about abundant pastures for grazing. Dairy manager at Longview Farm near Kansas City, Ted Fansher was already well known for his prize-winning herds of Jersey cattle, but his reputation grew during his years at the establishment known as “The World’s Most Beautiful Farm.”

Country home—Longview Farm

Country home—Longview Farm

When owner R.A. Long died, Longview’s Jersey operation was disbanded. At that time, Joyce C. Hall, founder of a successful greeting card business, cared enough to find the very best. He hired Fansher to build both the fanciest dairy barn and the finest Jersey herd in the nation.

Hall and Fansher

Hall and Fansher

Under Fansher’s care, Hallmark Farm and its Jersey herd fulfilled Hall’s expectations.

Some of the medals won by Fansher's Jersey cows

Some of the medals won by Fansher’s Jersey cows

The cows regularly exceeded milk production and butterfat standards, winning medals, awards and designations as “excellent,” which reflected production standards set forth by the American Jersey Cattle Club.

Fansehr's American Jersey Cattle Club Director certificate

Fansehr’s American Jersey Cattle Club Director certificate

The cattle were pastured on a variety of grazing combinations, depending upon the dietary needs of the animals and the seasons. Basic crops included bluegrass, Balbo rye, and Brome grass (grown with alfalfa, lespedeza and sweet clover). Sometimes, depending upon the need, Fansher called for oats to be sown with lespedeza or Sudan grass with soybeans. He carefully mixed grasses with legumes to provide optimum nutrition for both the cattle and the soil.

Hallmark Farm Raw Milk logo

Hallmark Farm Raw Milk logo

A variety of grazing crops provided the cows with a broad range of nutrients, and Fansher felt both the cows and the farm benefited from the biodiversity. The animals enjoyed a more nutritious diet, while the crops were less likely to fail due to disease or infestation. In an article published on the front page of the July 18, 1945, issue of The Weekly Kansas City Star, Fansher said, “I’m a believer in giving the cows what they like. They are just like people, [and] want a change in their diet. Providing several types of pasture also is a necessary point in managing a commercial dairy herd, since the operator cannot take a chance on a single pasture crop failing.”

Kansas City Star article featuring Ted Fansher

Kansas City Star article featuring Ted Fansher

This land was not always so fertile, however. Much of it was, according to the article, “badly run down” when Hall first acquired the 700 acres that would become Hallmark Farm. But with careful application of manure and thoughtful sowing, even the worst of the fields were able to support grazing.

Fansher felt each acre of managed pasture could support two or three cows, expecting them to graze for nine months out of the year. This pastureland also yielded enough to provide necessary hay for the winter. The cattle were rotated from pasture to pasture throughout the growing season as the crops matured and were cut for hay or silage.

Hallmark Farm's State-of-the-Art Dairy Barn

Hallmark Farm’s State-of-the-Art Dairy Barn

During inclement weather, the cattle were housed in a clean, well-ventilated barn. They were fed hay from the local fields with a small amount of grain, depending upon the need of each cow. Manure was removed daily to fertilize fallow fields. And when the weather cleared, the cattle were again free to browse in the well-managed fields of green.

Hallmark Farm Diary Barn plan and overview

Hallmark Farm Diary Barn plan and overview

Ted Fansher would most likely be shocked to see the conditions, care and feeding of today’s factory feedlot cattle. But as we learn more about the consequences of such practices, some farmers are seeing the wisdom in emulating thoughtful management techniques such as those practiced by Fansher. He was dedicated to providing the very best for the cattle and the land. The result was more than just a picturesque farm—his methods provided measureable benefits to both the cows and the environment.


Bovine Methane: Just a Lot of Hot Air?


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