[blockquote]My name is Lee Riggs. This is the story of my journey to be a farmer, to make a living at farming, to create food security for myself, my family, and my community. To grow good food that is good for our bodies and our soul.[/blockquote]
BC Food Processors Association
As of recent, the Rural Meat Regulations have altered to include a Class D and E category. The Authorities, with the help of the people in Powell River, The Queen Charlottes, and Bella Coola have had an enlightenment.
I spoke to Maria Castro BC Food Processors Assoc. in the Meat Industry Enhancement Strategy area. Her job is to give the proper information to the public involving many things, one of which is "Meat Regulations". She explained that altering the abattoir rules to consider small farms in rural areas was no small feat. First off when the meat regulations were changed so that everyone needed to go to a certified slaughter house for everything, the Ministry could not figure out why all the small farmers were so mad at them and were screaming at them. That was three years ago. It took all that time to work through the gook.
When they were done, the process to make the slaughter rules easier for farmer to sell to neighbor, i.e. farm gate sales was created. She explained that personnel changes actually happened and that seemed to help. Slowly more open minded people in strategic positions occurred. Collaboration between the Ministry, small farmers and larger industry started to occur. Low and behold the Class D and E classification of abattoirs was born. Class D allows both direct sales to neighbors and retail outlets such as restaurants, (live weight max. 11,350kg). Class E allows sales to local consumers.(live weight max. 4,540kg). At first the 3 regional areas that truly made this legislation change will be the test areas to iron out the bugs, Powell River, The Queen Charlotte, and Bella Coola. The Sunshine Coast will be added to the eligible areas, some time in the next year.
I am concerned with chickens and processing them. I and others that apply will be taking a food safety course and with the help of our local Health Department Officers we will design my area for processing. Some of the concerns are fly's and dust. So certain precautions will take place to safe guard against that.
The meat regulations changing for the small producer in rural areas is a really big deal. This fact alone will allow me to sell meat to my neighbors and my neighbors to have the freedom to choose where their meat comes from. The conspiracy part of me wonders why the change occurred. Maybe they are hoping to open it up enough to allow some of us to make someone sick and then they can point their fingers and say, "see, I told you so." The new abattoir classifications mean that we as producers of meat need to be very diligent and never give anyone a chance to point the finger.
Ministry of Agriculture
Last week I spoke with Stewart Paul son, a poultry industry development specialist for the Ministry of Agriculture. A very helpful person only adding valuable information and encouragement. Certainly his perspective is one from industry but also looking to newbie's with whacky ideas that might actually improve the industry. My particular whacky idea is my tire bale barn. We spoke of reference books on pasture poultry. I will use Joel Salatins book on pasturing chicken. We spoke of water needs. Each week as they grow the water needs go up. If I had 2000 roasters birds, in the 6th week they would consume 880 litres of water. He spoke of getting going on a conversation with the Chicken Marketing board and getting them on my side. When it comes to being legitimate or not I have always leaned on the side of legitimacy. I want my operation to be up and up. I don't want to be looking over my shoulder, wondering if someone is going to shut me down.
In Food Inc., Joel Salatin, an American farmer speaks of his personal fight with the food police over his poultry slaughtering facility, which involves the open air concept with no walls, fresh water and sunshine. He has proven that his chickens have 90% less bacteria count than the ones in the store. In Joel's case, the health officials do not care. They will not count bacteria. If they were to count bacteria, they may be forced to close down many large slaughtering operations. The regulations are about killing bacteria through our cooking and their use of radiation. Sounds yummy EH? Joel Salatin is opting out of the system. Joel is 3rd generation in his family to opt out of the farming "system". While wanting to play the legal game I will use Joel as my mentor. I may have mentioned in an earlier column that I attended a chicken forum up in Quesnel where Joel was the key note speaker. Joel is a very inspirational man with lots of integrity. I've watched him on '"Food Inc", read about him in "Omnivores Dilemma", and listened and conversed with him live. A great example of integrity he is. He is at my fore front as I travel this path.
In the rural areas like here on the coast we will be allowed to process in open air. This once again is a really huge deal. This ruling means that small farmers will not be required to spend thousands of dollars to create their own indoor facility and in my opinion, having an enclosed abattoir is way more of a breeding zone for bacteria. I will take their food safety course and implement their knowledge and experience. When it is offered, I will register for a Class D license.
Sunshine Coast Regional District
The barn: Would they even entertain the concept of building a barn out of tire bales? Allan Whittleton, a building inspector for the SCRD was on my list. Much to my surprise, Allan was very encouraging. Whittleton stated, "I would be very excited over the possibility of a quality chicken growing operation right here on the coast". I spoke of my desire for this barn to require much less electricity or natural gas for heating. "Draw up some plans and lets have a look", he said. We spoke of some of his concerns but nothing with a stop gate to it. He simply liked the idea and wants it to succeed.
I am also a guest speaker on a SCRD sub-committee for Agriculture issues on the Coast. I have attended 2 meetings to date. My second meeting was becoming more specific about what I am doing. The barn was quite the conversation. One of the people on the board is also a roofer. He had lots of questions around the tire bales and off gasing. I spoke of the fact that with old tires off gassing is at a minimum and that the bales are buried between dirt and cement. Each bale has 100 tires compressed within them. The bale becomes 2000 lbs. of rubber in a 5' x 5' x 2.5' footprint. They are so compressed that they cannot start on fire, they're too dense. I will have some plans for the barn in the next month or so and I will take them to the Building department.
Composting: On the sub-committee we talked about another hurdle that exist for such an operation to be on the coast. What to do with the entrails and mortalities. At present the SCRD is directed to line a hole with lime and bury it at the dump. This would involve trucking to Sechelt and wasting all this organic material that could go into great compost material for our gardens.
When I was speaking to an industry representative, I asked about what to do with the entrails and mortalities. "Just compost it", she said. "The rules state in British Columbia that composting your own waste is totally acceptable and legal". I was shocked again. In the last meeting I requested the sub committee bring forward to the main SCRD board my requests to look at a new policy of composting the remains. I will email the Chair with this information. This seems to be another hurdle being cleared.
I'm starting to get a little excited with the prospects of being a farmer. I must come down though. I don't even have a barn yet, "so whoa Silver".
BC Chicken Marketing Board
I have the name of the person to talk with , but I have not had a talk yet. Even though Stewart Paulson is encouraging me to call sooner than later, I am still a little nervous.
More to come. Lee Riggs