Hog Heaven

Today, I took my family on a farm tour at TLC Ranch. Jim Dunlop and his wife Rebecca Thistlethwaite, raise pigs

and laying hens

in Watsonville. The animals are raised on pasture, fed organic feed, and, as ethicurians would put it it, have only one bad day in their lives.

Jim now has 3,500 chickens. That is a lot of chickens, but it is only a drop in the bucket compared to the current demand for pasture-raised eggs. Because of the consolidation of the meat industry, Jim either has to slaughter his animals himself, or drive them hours away to have them slaughtered at USDA-inspected slaughterhouses. The slaughterhouse infrastructure is designed around the huge CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in the Central Valley,

not for the convenience of small producers who treat their animals humanely and feed them the way the animals evolved to eat.

This is a subject that I am passionate about, but I will turn this back to water by mentioning two things. One is that these enormous CAFOs dump untreated sewage laced with antibiotics into the environment. Jim rotates his pigs and chickens throughout his acres of pasture, where their manure enriches the soil, instead of turning into toxic waste.

The other is that the Water District sets its water rates lower in South County to encourage the preservation of farmland as open space. I think that there is much greater potential for farming in the Santa Clara Valley, that the huge and growing market just a few miles to the north is a wonderful opportunity to embrace local production of sustainable food.

ETA: Here is an excellent discussion of CAFO pollution, and the EPA’s attempts to weaken further their reporting requirements.

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Working to build a local, sustainable food system in San José