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The Goat and I | 05.20.2013
By Alexis Bonogofsky
Seven years ago, I moved back to the family farm south of Billings and decided to raise goats for meat and weed control. Goats are amazing, versatile creatures that can provide high quality lean meat, milk, fiber and control weeds. Goat meat, or chevon, is the most widely eaten meat in the world and well-managed goats are easy on the land.
But there are moments – ok, many moments – where I question the wisdom of this decision. As one Wyoming goat rancher put it, “if you can build a fence to keep in water, you’ve found yourself a fence that will keep in a goat 80% of the time.” I tell most people that our fences are more like suggested guidelines.
The Wandering Goats
Goats are unique. They are different than any other type of livestock and will test your patience daily. Why? Goats are browsers, not grazers and act more like bison than cattle. In fact, when looking for a fence that could keep them in I found that goats have the same electric fence requirements as bison.
Browse makes up about 60% of a goat’s diet but only about 10 to 15% of a cow’s diet. That means that my goats take a few bites from a plant, move five to ten yards, take another bite and so on. If they had their way, they would be three miles up river by sundown. The neighbor to the west of me came home numerous time last summer to see my goats lounging on his porch with his newly planted flowers eaten and the goats contentedly chewing their cud in the shade, feet dangling off the side. The neighbor to the west of us has at least benefited from the goats quite voracious appetite for leafy spurge.
But this very characteristic is the reason that goats will continue to grow as a livestock of choice for many producers, large and small. Their browsing characteristics make them ideal for land rehabilitation and weed control without having to use herbicides or other heavy-handed methods. Seven years ago, leafy spurge was taking over in many places on our property. Now, we can’t find a single plant. They also love Russian Olive trees that use tremendous amounts of water and choke out native cottonwoods. They strip the bark and will eat the new shoots until nothing comes back.
But on top of all of the benefits to the land when goats are properly managed, the meat quality and characteristics are phenomenal. It is low in fat, cholesterol, calories, and saturated fat and high in protein. But I’m not going to lie. This part of the business has been the hardest for me. The first time we took a group of goats to the butcher, I cried the entire way home and thought about it for weeks. I kept waiting for that day to get easier but it hasn’t. There is a struggle that I think many producers face on shipping day but there is a need for sustainably and locally produced meat.
And that is what we can promise our customers. Our goats are happy, healthy and definitely free-ranging. If you would like more information about raising goats or goat meat, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How I Learned to Love Goat Meat http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/dining/01goat.html?
Editor’s Note: GEM does not carry goat meat due to low demand, but you can meet Alexis and have a taste of got meat at the Early Season Farmer’s Market this June!
Board Notes: “The 2020 Challenge” Part 2 | 05.13.2013
As I noted in the last article, the 2012 Year of the Co-op has come to an end, but in the eyes of the International Co-operative Alliance, 2012 marked the beginning of the “2020 Challenge”. The “2020 Challenge” is simple:
- Co-operatives will lead in economic, social and environmental sustainability and
- Co-ops will be the preferred model for business and
- Co-ops will be the fastest growing form of enterprise.
The starting point for this “2020 Challenge” is the powerful claim which co-ops make to the outside world – we have a way of doing business that is better than most. We give individuals active participation through ownership, making them more engaged in the success of the co-op. And the co-op business model creates greater economic, social and environmental sustainability.
There are 5 interlinked themes that will make this decade of the co-op successful:
1) Elevate participation within membership and governance to a new level.
2) Position co-ops as builders of sustainability.
3) Build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative identity.
4) Ensure supportive legal frameworks for co-operative growth.
5) Secure reliable co-operative capital while guaranteeing member control.
Democratic member participation is the best know feature of the co-operative way of doing business and a major part of what characterizes a co-operative in contrast to traditional businesses. The individual member has a role to play in a co-op which goes beyond the basic economic relationship of customer, worker or producer.
Collectively, members own their co-ops and therefore participate in the governance. Individually, members have a right to information, they have a right to a voice and they have a right to representation.
There is good evidence to suggest that providing consumers and workers with a voice inside an organization produces better, more intelligent and responsive forms of business. The social pioneers who established co-ops over previous centuries had a clear vision – they could see that by getting people to collaborate and work together, they could meet both their individual needs and their collective needs (i.e., access to goods and services).
But the contemporary consumer world of developed economies is very different than it was when co-ops were founded. Co-ops started because there was a lack of access to goods and services. Now there is an over abundance of access to goods and services, making us somewhat complacent and less likely to become “active” participants in much of what we do. If you are over the age of 50, think about the organizations where you and your parents were active members. Many of them are gone, and many more are slowing fading into the sunset.
As a co-op business model, we must continue to rely on active membership to differentiate us from other forms of business. But let’s face it, the expectations people have (especially younger people) to participation in a membership organization have changed dramatically – looser networked forms of associations are the norm and the division between “member” and “non-member” is less clearly defined.
A Whole Different Way
This new reality cannot and must not cause us to abandon our focus on membership. What we need to do is change the way we think about membership and member engagement. We need to elevate the participation of membership through totally different channels. This will mean more than just “liking” us on Facebook. It will mean developing systems and initiatives that engage members (especially younger members) in comment, conversation, debate and decision making a whole different way.
I am not sure what the “whole different way” looks like, but I know that GEM has access to resources that are going to help us understand what other co-ops are doing to engage members in a “whole different way”. The “Challenge 2020” project is already working on finding successful new ways of giving every member a voice – the way they are used to having a voice – so they feel connected and engaged. Because at the end of the day, the co-op relies on its members to make it successful. And the only way we will continue to grow is by growing our membership – that means engaging members with different interests in different ways than we do today.
Do you have thoughts on how you would like to have your voice heard? How do you engage with others today and would you engage with GEM the same way if you could? I would love to hear from you to better understand how we can better meet your needs as a member to keep you informed, keep you active and keep you engaged. You can call me at (406) 248-1512, or email.
Thank you for any thoughts you have on this month’s topic or on the series of topics. In the next article, we will look at positioning co-ops as builders of sustainability.
Carol Beam is the President of the Board of Directors.
Between May 1 and 21, 1% (minimum donation of $5,000) of your purchase of Alaffia, Alter Eco, Divine Chocolate, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Equal Exchange products at your Co-op will be donated to Root Capital. These companies are strong supporters of Fair Trade principles, including stable and fair prices for farmers, organic and sustainable agriculture practices, and community-led development projects.
Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund that grows rural prosperity in poor, environmentally vulnerable places in Africa and Latin America by lending capital, delivering financial training, and strengthening market connections for small and growing agricultural businesses. Learn more about Root Capital at www.rootcapital.org.
World Fair Trade Day
Join us this May 11 as we celebrate World Fair Trade Day. When you choose a product from a committed fair trade brand like Alaffia, Alter Eco, Divine Chocolate, Dr. Bronner’s, Equal Exchange, Farmer Direct and Maggie’s Organics, each fair trade product you choose supports:
- Long-term direct trading relationships
- Prompt payment of fair prices and wages
- No child, forced or otherwise exploited labor
- Workplace non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom
- of association
- Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours
- Investment in community development projects
- Environmental sustainability
- Traceability and transparency
Your purchase has power. Learn which of your favorite products are fair trade. Choose them with pride on World Fair Trade Day, and throughout the year.
What is World Fair Trade Day?
World Fair Trade Day is an annual global celebration occurring each May. Celebrations bring consumers and businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches, student groups, and advocates together to host thousands of events worldwide. This year, World Fair Trade Day is May 11.
What is Fair Trade?
Fair trade is a social movement and market model that aims to empower small-scale farmers and workers in underdeveloped countries to create an alternative trading system that supports equitable trading, sustainable development and long-term trading relationships. Fair trade supports fair prices and wages for producers, safe working conditions, investment in community development projects, and the elimination of child labor, workplace discrimination and exploitation.
Organic vs. Sustainable | 05.06.2013
The word “organic” itself tells the consumer how the farmer grew the piece of produce. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce don’t use conventional methods like herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or GMO seeds. When raising cattle or poultry, the farmer does not use antibiotics or hormones and the animals must be organic-fed. Rather than using chemical weed killers, organic farmers may conduct a more sophisticated crop rotation and spread mulch or manure to keep weeks at bay among more guidelines.
To be an organic farmer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established a certification program that requires all organic foods to meet government standards. Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified. This certification also is regulated to ensure quality in the food.
Sustainability is fundamentally about our relationship to the world around us and our responsibility to future generations. Sustainable is not regulated but it still addresses the whole system. Three essential elements to being sustainable are economic prosperity environmental stewardship and community well-being. For produce production, the farmer does not use pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers or GMO seeds. In the case of meat production the sustainable farmer does not use antibiotics or hormones and the animals must be free range fed.
Organic and sustainable may have their similarities and differences, but they are always a good choice for you. These foods have fewer toxins in them than conventionally farmed foods, making your life a healthier one. Organic and sustainable may seem a little more expensive when it comes to grocery shopping, but you, the consumer, can decide – pay now or pay later. If you don’t know where to start fitting these healthier choices into your budget, start small with produce, then dairy and after that choose organic or sustainable meats and poultry.
My name is Andi Buckley! I am your Good Earth Market intern! I have been running around doing a lot of fun things at GEM but of course working hard. I am organizing some pieces of the Early Season Farmer’s Market (June) and am getting the Local Producer Map out into our community and all around the state! Be sure to keep your eyes open and grab a free copy around town!
I have been very blessed with the opportunity Good Earth Market has given me and I hope I can help them out as much as possible with a couple projects!