Making Hay
Week of March 3rd, 2002 | The weather was a little bit of everything.

Inspecting hogs at the plant.

Inspecting hogs at the plant.

What a week! As you read on, you'll see what I mean!

We had a little snow Tuesday, but it melted Wednesday. A few inches of snow fell Friday and Saturday. It came with a lot of wind and that made snowdrifts. We were lucky we didn't get as much snow as other areas received in the state.Sunday, Dad, Sammy, and I sold 17 organic hogs. Some of them were very hard to move, but with patience we got them onto the truck that hauls them to the processing plant. Then while Dad finished chores, I cleaned out and re-bedded Sammy's doghouse even though she still wouldn't use it!

After that, Mom, Dad, and I drove to Storm Lake, Iowa, to visit Jess. Mom took Monday and Tuesday off from work to go. Jolene didn't go because she had a choral festival to attend and participate in on Sunday and Monday.Storm Lake is about 180 miles west of our place. As we drove, Mom and I decided to count the confinement sites that we could see from the car. We started counting when we got onto Interstate 35, which is about 70 miles from home. We counted a total of 80 factory farms from I-35 to Storm Lake. Who knows how many there are on the other side of the hill? It was sickening to see so many!

When we got to Storm Lake, we went to Buena Vista University, the college where Jess attends, and also went to her home. What a mess! She's not a very good housekeeper. Neither are her roommates! She lives in a small house near campus. I rushed to hug Jess because I missed her so much! Then we went to her Senior Art Show. This is a requirement of all senior students majoring in art. Jess had about 10 paintings and drawings and 2 sculpture pieces on display in the gallery on campus. Sunday was her opening and her show will run through March 4th. I thought each piece was very well done. Most of them are for sale. In fact, two paintings got sold that day. Mom, dad, Jolene, and I gave her a bouquet of flowers for her reception table. They were very pretty. She liked them.

After her art show, Mom, Dad, Jess, and I went out to eat at a restaurant. After eating a good meal, we said good-by to Jess and left Storm Lake. We drove to Orange City, Iowa, about 60 miles northwest of Storm Lake. We stayed overnight at a hotel in Orange City. At 5:30 the next morning, Mom, Dad, and I drove to Sioux Center, Iowa. This is about 10 miles away from Orange City. Here, we found out what Jess means when she says 'Western Iowa Winds!' It was so windy that I couldn't believe it! At Sioux Center, we went to Sioux Preme Pork Products. This is the processing plant where our organic hogs are killed. We toured the plant.

The line always starts at 6:00 AM. The hogs were delivered on Sunday and spent the night in a separate pen from any non- organic hogs. The hogs are then moved to a chute where they are tattooed. This way, we can tell whose hogs are who's. Our hogs are labeled S 03. The hogs are stunned. Then a knife is stabbed into their necks so they can bleed to death. I really didn't like this part, not because it was gross, but because I knew that some of these hogs were ours that we raised and didn't like seeing them die.

Next, the hogs are washed in boiling water for cleaning and hair removal. I did learn that every hog's natural skin is white. It is the hair that makes the hogs look like a different color. Afterwards, the hogs are flamed in a small room. This process removes any remaining hair. Then the hogs were cut open by the belly. The insides were taken out and checked through for bad or good livers and hearts. The good livers and hearts are used for food ingredients. The hog carcasses are inspected and checked for disease. The workers at the plant all have certain jobs and work just like any other assembly line in a factory. They all stay busy. The place is really organized and much cleaner than I thought it would be. Then, the pork carcasses are moved into a large refrigerator. During the night the pork is moved onto a trailer on a semi-truck and shipped to the next plant. In the trailer, the pork stays at a cool temperature.

After touring the plant, we went back to Orange City to eat breakfast. Afterwards, we viewed the Dutch city! Orange City is very much Dutch heritage. Many of the buildings were decorated with a Dutch look. We did a little shopping in a really neat Dutch store. It was very interesting. I saw a lot of wooden shoes and a machine that makes Dutch wooden shoes. We drove outside of Orange City only 1 mile and found a huge cattle lot. This is a farm that feeds 5,000 cattle. They are penned together and cannot run much. We got pictures to show others. This was not a good site. No one wants to see all these cattle crowded together like they were. After talking to some people in the area, we heard this is not the largest cattle lot outside of Orange City. There was another lot west of Orange City with about 15,000 cows! We were already depressed from seeing the lot we saw, so we didn't want to see the larger one. We were told it smells so bad you get nauseous just driving by.

As we drove south of Orange City we made an unintended stop at the Van Beek Scientific Plant. We purchase organic herbal alternative medications to put in our feed for our hogs from them. Some of the medications are also used while we process baby pigs. They gave us a tour of their place. It was an interesting place to see. Oil of oregano is one of the main herbal remedies that they manufacture.We than continued on to Sioux City. We drove through the town of LeMars, Iowa, home of the Blue Bunny Ice Cream plant. The plant looked very big as we drove by it! Almost a whole block long! A lot of ice cream! When we arrived in Sioux City, we checked into our motel. After resting a bit, we decided to visit the Sergeant Charles Floyd grave and monument site. Floyd was the only one to die on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806). We saw this monument on the TV many times before and were very happy to see it, even if it was really cold and windy standing on the top of the hill. We saw the Missouri River from the hill. Then we drove to Jackson, Nebraska, so I can say that I went to Nebraska! (Just across the border.)

Tuesday morning, we woke up at the same time as Monday morning. We went to view the cutting plant. This is also a Sioux Preme Pork facility. Next weeks journal will share what we saw here.

After the plant tour, we went to Ida Grove, Iowa, to view the beautiful castles in the city. Many of the homes and businesses are made as castle architectural design. It was cool! I liked that! From there, we went back to Storm Lake, Iowa to see Jess again. We went out to eat lunch with her, said our good-byes, and headed home. We went back home missing Noel and Sammy so much! Even though I missed two days of school, I learned a lot about how our hogs are handled when they leave our farm to when they are ready to be shipped from the plant as meat to eat. It is very interesting for anyone to tour a farm first and than a processing plant, to better understand the raising of an animal and how it becomes a package of meat sold in grocery stores and supermarkets for human consumption. It can be very educational to research the foods you eat. Sally Fallon is a writer. She writes about the correct and healthy food to eat and how it is truly handled and processed. We own a book written by her, Nourishing Traditions. Our family learned about some healthy food items that should be in our diet and how some foods we were eating were maybe not the best choice. We learned that there is truly a difference between butter and margarine.

From the book Nourishing Traditions, we learned that margarine is a cheap way to make a butter spread. To produce it, manufacturers begin with the cheapest oils-soy, corn, cottonseed, or particles-usually nickel oxide. The oil with its nickel catalyst is then subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor. Next, soap-like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed into the mixture to give it a better consistency; the oil is yet again subjected to high temperatures when it is steam-cleaned. This removes its unpleasant odor. Margarine's natural color, an unappetizing grey, is removed by bleach. Dyes and strong flavors must then be added to make it resemble butter. Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold as a health food. But this 'health food' is even worse for you than highly refined vegetable oils! By eating butter, you can live longer! Margarine is proved to give you heart or other health related problems. After Dad and Jolene read about this a few years ago, we got rid of margarine in this house so fast you wouldn't believe it! For about 5 years, we have been eating butter. Butter is a lot better for you.

This is only one of the many health related facts in Nourishing Traditions book by Sally Fallon. I encourage you to read health books like this one to learn about your food and diet. My family shops at a health food store for some of our foods. Because it is 40 miles from where we live, we do most of our shopping at our local grocery store where mom works at. We try to shop wisely and look at labels first. We also grow and raise much of our own food for eating. How many of you ask questions and know where your food is coming from when you are at the store? This was one of the reasons why we wanted to tour the processing and cutting plants where our hogs go. We now have a better understanding of how our hogs are handled after leaving the farm. We were very impressed with the way they were handled from beginning to end.

Wednesday, Dad worked on records. He also moved one sow from the pre-farrow pen to a farrowing room in the barn.

Mom and I had to do the chores Thursday, Friday, and Saturday because Dad was gone. He attended the Upper Midwest Organic Conference. He taught courses on Thursday and Friday.

Chores were easy to do until it snowed Saturday. It was very hard to do the cattle chores. The platforms on the cattle feeders were very slippery. It was safe with the new railings, though. We have one feeder that doesn't have any railings on at all because it is wide. This was the tricky one. I had to crawl down on my knees to pull the strings out of the large rectangle bale of hay. These strings hold the hay together. When I got up, it was hard to push my body up because of the slippery platform and no railings to hang on to. I got up, but it was tricky. When it snows and when the wind blows like it did, it makes chores harder to do.

With snow, sometimes you have extra chores to do, too. I had to clear the snow (with the loader) from the alleyways of the hog floors and hoop buildings. As I drove back into the yard, a strong gust of wind came toward the tractor windshield. This windshield is made out of plexi-glass because we built it to go on and off of the John Deere 7405 tractor. A while ago, a strong gust of wind cracked the windshield in half. Now, the bottom of the right side broke off from the wind and the right half came flying into my face! It hurt, but at least I didn't get injured. Now we'll have another job to do. Fix the windshield!

Farm Fact: In both the killing and cutting hog processing plants, the rate of the line is 1/4 the speed of larger meat packing plants. This way, we are sure the job is done safely and without error. This also is done in a humane fashion and treats the workers and the animals with respect.

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