Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Food With Integrity

A lot of people visiting my blog are unaware of my personal slogan which I use when communicating with my copywriting clients: "Conversions With Integrity"

It's more than a slogan -- it's a philosophy I use in all my direct sales copy work. It means a lot to me. In fact, I've turned down more writing jobs than I've accepted because of this very same philosophy. It's an ethical decision that ties directly into my own personal values.

If I don't believe in the product -- or feel the offer is unethical -- I won't accept the job.

Sure... staying true to my personal values has cost me a bit of money. One contract I turned away would have paid me $35,000 for less than 5 weeks worth of work (research included). Plus, there was a "royalty" attached to the job which would have added several thousand per month to my residual revenue stream.

But I don't regret that decision, nor any other similar decisions, one bit.

That's why, when a friend told me about a billboard he saw during his commute home last week with the slogan "Food with integrity" ...I was naturally curious.

I followed the link to the restaurant's website (Chipotle's Mexican Grill) and was pleasantly surprised.

On their website, they write,
Food With Integrity means working back along the food chain. It means going beyond distributors to discover how the vegetables are grown, how the pigs, cows and chickens are raised, where the best spices come from. We learn how these factors affect the flavor of the finished product. And what we can do to improve it.

Take our carnitas, for example. In pursuing new sources of pork, we discovered naturally raised pigs from a select group of farmers. These animals are not confined in stressful factories. They live outdoors or in deeply bedded pens, so they are free to run, roam, root and socialize. They are not given antibiotics.

Consequently the pork they produce has a natural, moist, delicious flavor. We think it tastes better and is better for you. Our customers love it. And because they do, we buy all we can. By creating a market for meats raised in a healthier environment, we make it worthwhile for these farmers to raise even more. That's how Food With Integrity works for everyone.
You really want to read Steve's Vision, where he writes about reading acclaimed food writer Ed Behr's newsletter, "The Art of Eating" and learn more about the impact that article has had on the shaping of their restaurant chain. Here's just a brief quote,
In it he wrote about Niman Ranch and Paul Willis, a farmer in Thornton, Iowa who ran his hog farming program and raised pigs the old-fashioned way. The way it was done for many years before factory farms grew prominent in the 1960s and 70s.

The pigs Behr wrote about got to frolic in open pasture or root in deeply bedded barns. They weren't given antibiotics. The farmers who raised them truly cared about the welfare - and well-being - of the animals in their care.

In short, these farmers relied on care rather than chemicals, and practiced animal husbandry the way their parents and grandparents had, and their parents and grandparents before that.
Read further and you'll discover Steve's personal opinion regarding CAFOs ...and why he avoids factory farmed meats for his restaurants.

There's more on their website. It's worth a visit. And the next time you're feeling hungry, look for a Chipotle's in your area.

Disclaimer: No, I'm not being paid to write this post. In fact, we unfortunately don't have a Chipotle's anywhere near our house... but I'm really looking forward to tasting their food on our next trip.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Storms Chasing Through Indiana

Whew! What an afternoon! Our little guy was just getting of the Kindergarten bus when the edge of the storm hit our area. Although one lightning strike hit one of the trees over our house, we luckily had no major damage.

The storm systems to the south and to the north of us in Indiana were much more brutal. Valporaiso got hit pretty hard -- check this story out in the Post Tribune.

Speaking of storms, have you heard about what's brewing on "Flyash Mountain" over at the Schuringa/DenDulk calf CAFO? I'll bring you an update soon.

Also, check out what's been happening in Delaware:
No results have been released from the unannounced inspections in March and April by the Environmental Protection Agency. The inspections have sparked concerns from state agricultural officials, including those on the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission.
Here's a link to the article.

Meanwhile, the "wheels of justice" are turning slowly on the IDEM vs. DeGroot Dairy LLC and Johannes DeGroot case. Check out more here.

In personal news, something truly incredible entered my WAHM world yesterday. Not sure where it will lead, but it could mean a remarkable change in direction for my writing career -- a small door opening on a lifelong dream. I'm still "pinchng" myself while I wait for the package to arrive.

A lot of writers out there would sell their souls for an opportunity like this ...and I gotta tell 'ya... I feel truly blessed and humbled all at the same time. I'll tell you more about it in a couple months. Can't say anything more right now.

Meanwhile, I'll be back tomorrow with one of the 5 articles I mentioned in WAHM Monday. Stay tuned and stay safe.

Monday, May 14, 2007

WAHM Mondays Mean Massive Action

Being a full time work at home Mom (WAHM) means Mondays can get pretty hectic around our home. WAHM Mondays are usually a day of massive action for my clients, so I rarely get to post long articles... unless I've already done some of the groundwork for each.

I have five rather large articles in the pipes for this blog, all of which are at various stages of research prior to being ready to write them. Here they are, in no specific order;
1. Pet Food Follow-Up and FDA Shake-up: It's not so much what they are telling you. It's more about what they are NOT telling you that makes this story alarming.

2. Acrylamide Connection: ...and more from the world of nutrition research. Some of this is making BIG headlines in Europe, yet by comparison the silence over here is deafening.

3. Blowing in the Wind ...and Harming Crops?: Many of us are aware of the air particles attacking us on a daily basis, but what's blowing on the wind these days that could seriously impact crops in Indiana this year?

4. Some Answers, More Questions over Honey Bees: Updates on research and more news regarding the disappearing honey bees appears to be serving up more questions than answers. But there are a few theories which appear to be getting scientific support now.

5. Science History - Lessons Learned?: You might think we've come a long way in the field of science, but then politics and profits step in. Here's why we need to think twice before believing everything we read in some science Journals.

By themselves, each of the above are HUGE topics -- and important for many reasons -- but I just haven't had the time to piece everything together yet to let you know what I've learned.

Being a full time work at home mom also means plenty of interruptions that you wouldn't ordinarily find in the workplace.

Not that I'm complaining... I absolutely LOVE what I do, and being able to flex my schedule to meet so many different demands on my time is priceless.

But it also means hobbies, such as this blog, often don't get a lot of my time some weeks. To let you know I haven't abandoned my readers here, I'll be doing WAHM Monday posts on a regular basis to at least keep you up to date on some of the topics I'm working on which I will be bringing to you soon.

Meanwhile, if one of the subjects mentioned above interests you most, post a comment to let me know and I'll do my best to complete the topic that is most popular based on readers comments.

Otherwise, I'll continue working and completing them in random order ...whichever gets done first will appear first.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Birthday Thanks and IDEM getting Sued?

It's my birthday today... and the flowers and gifts started arriving late yesterday. Just wanted to let everyone know how pleasantly surprised I am. You've all truly made this an incredible day -- and it's only just begun!

I'll be writing each of you but just wanted to post a
here, too. I'm truly blessed to know such wonderful people!

What's happening at IDEM?

I was going to leave this news story for tomorrow, but thought it should be posted while the story is still new...

Most of us here in Jasper County don't get the LaGrange News from LaGrange, Indiana but a friend forwarded me a scanned copy of this story published yesterday, (Friday, May 11/2007):
Local group sends notice of intent to sue IDEM (by Rochelle Schlemmer) -- A group of LaGrange County residents has sought legal counsel and has sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) under the Citizen Suit provisions of the Clean Water Act.

The suit stems from the group's claim that IDEM is considering granting a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit for a fictitious entity "Toll-Tail Diry, LLC."

The application for the CAFO submitted by Aart-Jan Venema stating the applicant's name as Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC was signed under the penalty for perjury by Venema on June 27, 2006.

Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC was not in existence at that time, according to the news article.
Documentation from Secretary of State Todd Rokita certifies the "Toll-Tail Dairy LLC" has filed the necessary documents to commence business activities in the State of Indiana on April 23, 2007 and is authorized to transact business in the State of Indiana on April 26, 2007.

The intent to sue notification states that the LaGrange County residents have "instructed the initiation of a federal lawsuit seeking de-certification of IDEM's authority to administer the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) in Indiana.

The document goes on to state, "Whether this suit is filed depends on how IDEM handles the illegal CWA NPDES application for the fictitious entity 'Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC'"

There is more mentioned in the article, including questions into "...a pattern of other fictitious CWA NPDES applications associated with underlying developer Vreba-Hoff..."

So the big question was raised:

If IDEM fails to penalize Toll-Tail Dairy LLC (and others who have committed similar perjuries), does this create an environment where applicants are aware that no legal action will be taken against them for providing false information?

I said it before, and I'll say it again... I like to believe we are entering an era of accountability and responsibility.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Dairy IDEM Approvals Revoked

The Fort Wayne JournalGazette carries the story today regarding the DeGroot Dairy near Andrews (link):
In its letter mailed to DeGroot on Tuesday, IDEM outlines 13 permit violations by the dairy, dating to September 2005 and continuing until the April 11 spill, and IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly revoked the approvals for the confined feeding operation.

According to the article, DeGroot's attorney, Peter Racher said, "...there is still a question as to how the dairy could be decommissioned in a way that is not harmful to the animals or the environment."
And he said he needs to research whether any agency can allow a significant investment into a private business and then have that agency say it has rescinded the business' right to exist based on a permit violation.

Not to be picky or anything, but it's 13 violations ...not "a permit violation."

Still, DeGroot's attorney raises some interesting questions. This case is sure to test how much authority IDEM actually has to protect our environment ...and how far they are willing to go in order to do so.

It also raises another question in my mind. Does this mean "13" is the "magic number" that CAFOs in Indiana have to reach in violations before serious actions are taken?

I also find it interesting how now the CAFO appears to be stressing it is a business -- not a farm, not a farm business -- but a private business.

In a separate court case, the state is also seeking an injunction prohibiting the dairy owner, Johannes DeGroot, from spreading manure from the cows on nearby fields. This court case is still expected to proceed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jasper County Power

Did you hear the news? The ethanol plant in Rensselaer is being sold. (link to news) I'm not sure if you recall me telling you a bit about it a while back (here and here). I'd heard rumors that they were in "financial distress." Guess I lost the bet, though -- I thought it would end up being closed. They got lucky and found a buyer instead ...from Australia.

Speaking of alternative fuels, here's a novel approach. Check out this article from USAToday Science and Space: "Algae — like a breath mint for smokestacks"
Enter Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. About three years ago, while working on an experiment for growing algae on the International Space Station, he came up with the idea for using it to clean up power-plant exhaust.

If he could find the right strain of algae, he figured he could turn the nation's greenhouse-gas-belching power plants into clean-green generators with an attached algae farm next door.

...Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40% less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86% less nitrous oxide.

And there's another bonus attached to this unique science that could help coal fired power plants net a tidy sum -- biofuels.
One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density — about 50% of its weight. Because this kind of algae also grows so fast, it can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Just 60 gallons are produced from soybeans, which along with corn are the major biodiesel crops today.

As the price of corn keeps rising, forcing food costs higher and higher, this new science might become even more inviting for plants like the NIPSCO plant near Wheatfield. Listed as one of the nation's Top 50 Dirty Power Plants, this would be a unique way for them to clean up their emissions while raking in a tidy little side profit.