Friday, March 24, 2006

J-P Fish and Wildlife Reserve Hike

While our son was at the neighbors the other day, we picked up our new 2006 Ford Escape from the dealer -- a gas conserving 4-cylinder -- much cleaner for the environment than either of our two older vehicles.

When we went to pick our son up, the neighbor's two little girls wanted to come along for a little drive we had planned... through the J-P F&W Reserve. We brought them along, much to their delight.

There were 4 things I wanted to make note of:

1. The water levels of the streams and water bodies on the reserve.
2. The proximity to the CAFO fans for the Target range.
3. The proximity of the CAFO to our favorite family fishing holes.
4. The proximity/direction of the Sandhill Crane observation deck and waters running through that area.

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, the water in most of the small streams winding through the woods have dropped by almost an inch (basing this on the line green stems vs. old winter-dead stems above water level - not science). Considering the large amounts of precipitation we've had in the past week, I found this a bit disturbing.

Here's why...

When a large water-hogging industry enters an area, water tables tend to be affected further away (about 2 miles away, one site reported) before shortages are noticed as you get closer to the facility, from what I understand. It takes time for closer inhabitants to notice major differences.

The thousands of hogs have only been at the Jasper County CAFO for a week. Should water levels have gone down by a full inch owing to their water usage? The larger bodies of water and streams feeding into them at the J-P Reserve are about 1-1/2 to 2 miles from the CAFO.

We enjoyed our little hike through the woods, playing in the small playground, climbing onto the observation deck, watching hundreds of Sandhill Cranes coming in for the late afternoon/evening rest, and of course -- visiting our favorite little fishing holes.

It's difficult to say right now how much longer we have left to enjoy our little patch of nature in the heart of northwestern Indiana. My husband and I have both agreed to give it 2 more years here, providing the CAFO doesn't force us to move away before then.

I'll be taking several pictures and keeping you posted on developments in the months ahead as we take a front row seat and watch the impact a CAFO can have on such precious environmental habitat.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

No Smell Yet

I know it's way too soon to tell, but I couldn't resist posting this.

Winds have been from the west and southwest lately, so even if there were any smells from the thousands of breeding sows that moved into Jasper County the other day, those smells are unlikely to reach our yard since we are 2,500 feet northwest of the hog factory.

The wind has been blowing directly at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife reserve.

Also, we've had a tremendous amount of rainfall these past 4 days. There's standing water everywhere! So, even though the CFO is now using about 50 gallons of freshwater per minute over there, it's doubtful that we would see any impact -- YET.

Yes, I'm worried. But you already know that.

Stay tuned. If/when something happens here, I'll definitely be writing about it!

On another random (related) topic, here's some interesting information I've uncovered for a Special Report I've been working on for BLV Health Watch. Copy of the first article on the subject follows:

New Research Presents Stronger Case For Organic Foods

"Nutrient levels in fruits, vegetables and some food crops have dramatically declined in the past 50 years." Source - FoodNavigator

Some scientists have been saying it for years, but Agricultural organizations and some government entities have been denying it and/or glossing it over. We're referring to the actual nutrients you are getting from foods today -- versus the nutrients you could/would have gotten had it been grown differently.

It's no secret that Agricultural practices have changed considerably over the past several decades. Most research by the Agricultural industry for better methods to produce fruits and vegetables have focused on:
- faster growth of crops
- higher yields of crops
- higher resistance to crop parasites and weeds
- and faster returns in revenues for farming in general.

Some experts believe this focus on efficiency has been at the cost of losing valuable nutrients, claiming those very same crops are no longer providing nutrition in sufficient quantities to bring the same benefits food has when grown organically (similar to methods used before so-called "efficiency experts" stepped in).

One such concerned expert is scientist Donald Davis, a biochemist at the University of Texas.

The primary reason for the decline in nutrient content and quality of several foods is the way the food is grown, processed and prepared, according to Davis.

“High-yield crops grow bigger or faster, but are not necessarily able to make or uptake sufficient nutrients to maintain their nutritional value,” said Davis at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in St Louis.

Recent studies of vegetables, fruits and wheat have revealed a 5 to 35 percent decline in concentrations of some vitamins, minerals and protein over the last half-century, a phenomenon that has come to be known as ‘the dilution effect.'

Davis makes a strong argument in favor of organic produce, stating “On average, antioxidant levels increased by about 30 percent in carefully designed comparative trials. Organically grown produce offers significantly enhanced health-promoting qualities, contributing to the achievement of important national public health goals.”

Now you might think this dilution effect applies only to fruits and vegetables.

Think again.

Dr. David Thomas, a primary healthcare practitioner and independent researcher recently made a comparison of government nutritional tables published in the UK in 1940, and again in 2002. The results are alarming...

For example, the iron content in 15 different varieties of meat had decreased on average by 47 percent, with some products showing a fall as high as 80 per cent, while the iron content of milk had dropped by over 60 per cent.

Copper and magnesium, essential for enzyme functioning, also showed losses in meat products. Magnesium levels have typically fallen by 10 per cent while copper levels have fallen by 60 per cent.

Stay tuned to BLV Health Watch. We'll be bringing a special free "white paper" in the months ahead that go into further detail on this very important subject.

It will give new meaning to the phrase, "You are what you eat."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Pigs Arrived

Yesterday, at least 6 huge semi truck loads of pigs thundered past our home, headed for the Jasper County swine CAFO. It was a full hour later when we saw the first of them drive back empty.

Considering the weather has been absolutely miserable these past 4 days -- high winds, tons of rain -- they must have had quite a "muddy mess" on their hands. We're still holding our breath here to find out what kind of "mess" it will mean for us.

Did I mention the giant exhaust fans from the building are pointed directly at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Reserve?

We drove through Area 8 of the Reserve on our way to the CAFO Open House, and noticed some preliminary cutting has already been done in preparation for the controlled burn happening there this summer. The forested area is only about 30 feet from the CAFO monster fans. Beyond the forested area (much of which will be gone after the controlled burn) is the shooting range.

Interestingly enough, prevailing winds in our area generally point in that direction, too.

One poor fellow has to go to the shooting range and unlock it each morning, then remain there all day to supervise anyone using it ...he has to stay there all day long. Imagine... he'll actually be closer to the CAFO than we are -- and directly in the path of those fans once the controlled burn has been completed.

I already feel sorry for him!

Sadly enough, about a mile and a half further in the same direction is the bird observation deck.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jasper County Hog Farm Open House

Although we were one of the few neighborhood families who DID NOT receive an invitation to the Belstra Milling Hog Farm Open House, we were one of the few close neighbors to attend.

To be fair ...they answered all our questions thoroughly and seriously.

In fact, they went to great limits to make sure we felt welcome and to forge a bond of friendship -- if at all possible.

Many of my fears were confirmed, and only a few of them have been addressed. They made a promise to us that they planned to operate this facility responsibly ...and that we should barely even notice they are there.

I told them we plan to hold them to their promise.

The answers to my question regarding manure treatment using one of the newer digester systems was fair, in that they claim they will not be producing enough manure at this facility to be able to feed such a digester unit. I'm no expert on these digesters, so I can't say if this is an honest answer -- but it was a fair answer.

I'm still upset by the lack of pathogen testing prior to knifing the manure into the ground. I'm still not satisfied by the possible impact on water tables in our area. And I'm not entirely happy with their comments regarding air quality ...and told them they will be hearing from us if their promises of us "not even noticing them" do not hold true.

At least they gave us the opportunity to see their side of the operation and the issues. And to be fair, at least we gave them the opportunity to show it to us.

BUT, as I expressed near the end of our tour, had they come into this area in an honest and open manner, instead of sliding in through the back door hoping no one would notice them until it was a "done deal" ...maybe -- just maybe -- we wouldn't be so defensive about the whole thing. It didn't speak well for "responsible" business ethics ...and Jon, the fellow in charge of us for this tour, agreed.

Interesting points we discovered on this tour.

A HUGE amount of their operation will be automated and carefully controlled/monitored by computer (with regards to feed). Each sow will receive their own portions of feed, delivered automatically through a computer controlled feeding system.

Special enzymes (called "green moss") will be added to their feed to ensure proper digestion, and hopefully eliminate and/or reduce a large amount of pathogens from their waste. Again, the amount of additive will be scientifically controlled and delivered via the automatic feeding system.

Even the "teaser bores" will be walked up and down the aisles in front of the confined sows (to get them "excited" and ready for insemination) will be done using a robotic leading system.

The building temperatures are also carefully monitored, section by section, to reveal any hidden "hot pockets" and ensure proper airflow ...with automatic controls in place should ventilation be required.

They'll be trucking out approximately 1,200 weaned piglets per week -- three "bus loads" per week to be exact. The piglets will be headed to a finishing operation they run in Illinois, where they plan to have 18,000 finishing hogs, where they fatten them for slaughter. Wow! I feel sorry for the people living there!!

Even more interesting... the exhaust fans for the building blow directly at the forested Game Reserve land, pointing directly at the Jasper/Pulaski F&W target range (and one hunter's deer stand). I have a feeling there might be a few Reserve visitors a little upset by this.

The sows show up next week. We'll keep you posted!