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Paying the Feed Bill

For more than 20 years we’ve been trying to reach people about our farm, the goats, our soaps and the planet, but always kept things local. I know now that we can’t just work locally for everything. There is a lot of information that needs to get out there, and for the most part, no one wants to pay for it.

But we are paying, with every blast in the ocean, every pipeline through a lake, every recall from our food supply, every old house that is destroyed so a Mac-Mansion can be built. That cost may not be coming from your wallet, but it is coming from your future, your children’s future, and the very world we live in.

So, “Overalls Knowledge” is asking you to pay a little, as much as you’d like, through Ko-Fi, a crowd funding program that allows you to support blogs, podcasts and other programs that you believe in. It recommends $3/donation, for a cup of coffee, but we don’t drink coffee, your donation goes toward the feed bill, because this farm can eat! Please support us, so we can continue to do the important work of interpreting the planet for the people. Happy New Year

Find us at kofi.com/overallsknowledge  Thanks!

Blog, environment, Farm

Where to Start?

High and Dry, or Stuck?

I will try not to derail in this blog, but this has been brewing for a long time. It’s why I started “Overalls Knowledge,” but in the last week or so I have been aghast at the lack of coverage of the floods in Nebraska, the tornadoes in Michigan, the super high snow fall throughout the winter. Now that the country seems to be covering Nebraska a bit more I am seeing in print, and hearing over the airwaves, that “it’s sad that these people lost all of this, but if they’d just move to the city, they wouldn’t have to deal with it.”

Television, radio and other media have exhibited a tremendous sense of superiority over the people who live in rural America.  They cite “obsolete skill sets,” and a lack of interest in “technology.” I wonder if they aware that technology started with farmers. Technology that took a stick and drew a row for planting seeds, was a technological leap over broadcast seeding.  When John Deere invented the metal moldboard plow, replacing a wooden blade with a metal one, was a huge technological advance. Those were both done in the name of raising food, which is still the goal of agriculture. 

Everyone has to eat, and because of the convenience of supermarkets and now the Internet people no longer have to work to grow, tend, harvest and process their own food.  Many have a hard time even preparing a meal if it doesn’t involve a microwave, or have directions on the packaging. When the public diminishes the activities and needs, and losses of farmers, they show how little they have contact with their role in the environment.  We are consumers in the biological sense, not producers. We can produce food as long as we consume it from another source. We don’t yet have chlorophyll in our cells, so we can’t make our own food internally.

When farmers talk about losing their homes, they are talking about a house, but they are also thinking of their barns, their sheds, their equipment and their livestock and fields. Those are all part of a home to a farmer.  Without that barn the livestock has no shelter. No shed means no shelter for the equipment. No equipment? No planting, cultivating or harvesting of the crop. No soil? Nothing grows, whether it’s green or walking around. It’s not just losing their house. It’s losing their livelihood, their future, their past, their records, and their hope.

Even those who don’t farm in rural America understand that caring for the water, soil and air are vital to the success of a farm, and the communities around it.  Farmers cannot live without markets, or grain stores, or suppliers for metal or wood, or even food that comes from another part of the world. These needs bring rural communities together in the same way that corn, squash and beans build a successful ecosystem in a garden. One provides shelter, one provides structure, one provides food, and each provides shade to hold the water in the soil.

Communities, large or small, are symbiotic. They fall apart when one species takes over the ecosystem, as the balance disappears. The same is true in a successful city, town, or neighborhood. A huge house diminishes the value of the smaller ones. Agricultural giants overshadow small farms and rural cooperatives.

Rather than pity, or console the people who have suffered in the climate changes, each person needs to look at how they can contribute to strengthening their own communities.  We need to look at how our government supports, or doesn’t support small farms and towns. Rather than focusing on growth as progress, how about shifting to resiliency as the goal.  Instead of worrying about “progress,” why not aim for strength?

If our country is going to survive, if our planet is going to continue to function in what we know as “normal,” we need to recognize that there is strength in diversity, deep knowledge, respect and curiosity.  If you don’t know why a farmer does something, or why something is good or bad, please ask me. If I can’t explain it right now, I will within a matter of weeks.  But to make proper decisions for the planet we need to know why farmers do what they do, why, and how, they do those things.  That’s what “Overalls Knowledge” is all about, and I hope that I can continue to build respect for those who choose to live without sidewalks, because they are necessary if the sidewalks are going to have people walking on them. Without the farm there is no food, and then there is no grocery store, or restaurant, or breakfast for all who live in the cities.

Blog, Farm

Food Comes from Where?

This chart was made in 2016 by the Cornucopia Institute. For a higher quality graphic visit http://www.cornucopia.org

Salmonella, e. coli, listeria, are all in the news these days. Right after they discuss the recall they start talking about where the food came from. When the Internet was just starting I was participating in a newsgroup conversation about agricultural education. A woman from Great Britain actually posted “I wish you farmers would just accept that you are antiquated.  We have grocery stores now, we don’t need you.” 

This woman was met with many responses, but most of them boiled down to “where do you think the food comes from?” The problem is, nearly 30 years later people still don’t know where their food comes from. I hope this woman in the UK learned her lessons, but today’s children, their parents and their grandparents still haven’t figured that out.  They still look to grocery stores to teach them which food to eat, when the grocery store is really engaged in getting them to buy something.

One of the things I really love about farmers markets is having the discussion which almost always happens:  “I can buy soap a lot cheaper than that at the grocery store.” 
“Yes, but it won’t be real soap.  It won’t be as good for your skin as this is.”
“But I can’t afford to spend that much on a bar of soap.”
“What do you spend on a lotion? I bet it’s a lot more than this, and with this, you probably won’t even need a lotion.”

Then, when they do buy I try to add “Thank you, the goats get to eat next week.” This usually brings a smile to their faces and they leave with that thought in their heads – their purchase directly from me made a difference for my animals.  Does Colgate give you that idea?

Several years ago one of my co-workers showed me her Senior project on the connection between people and their food. She had taken a class of teenagers into a garden for lunch. When they got there they expected to be served.  “Find it yourself. It’s all right here,” and she leaned over to yank a carrot from the Earth.  The students were shocked that she would pull food from the dirt, but it opened their eyes and they discovered the lettuce, the radishes, the tomatoes, and many more salad ingredients. Together they washed the food, cleaned and peeled it and prepared their lunch, and discovered what fresh food really tastes like.  That direct connection between the source and the meal probably still sits in the memories of those students, nearly twenty years later.

The truth of the matter is, for the most part, the closer the food is to you, the less the farmer got for his work.   Commercial agriculture in America is linked from the farm, to the processor, to the wholesaler, to the grocery store, to you.  How long does that take? A lot longer than you might think.  Market farmers can’t grow the best types of food, like heirloom tomatoes because they won’t ripen in transport. Those tender crops won’t stand the rigors of interstate transport, and even if they are still edible when they get to the store, no one will buy them if they are bruised or blemished. 

Want the best food? Find a farmer, or a farmer’s market, and buy from the farmer. Each one of those steps needs to get paid, and there’s only so much that a consumer will pay. So if buy tomatoes for 2.49 for a tiny box, the farmer might get .25.  His payment is based on a pound or a bushel, not by the box, unless you buy it directly from him. When the news looks into food contamination, they may look beyond the farm, but no one wants to see a packing house, or a slaughter facility, so those don’t get the attention. But it is in those places that most problems happen.  Especially in cases like the salad greens that had been chopped and bagged, that did not happen in an open field.  That processing is done in another facility, where everything is washed, cut and bagged within walls. People blamed the farm hands, but it was most likely the processing hands, but that’s not easy to explain.

So where your food comes from is really important. To you because you want the best value for your money, and to the farmer because if you purchase directly from the farmer he or she gets the highest level of profit. That means he or she can work the soil and raise the food to their highest standard, not simply the lowest cost. 

Organic is a name that is valued, but the wrong reasons in many cases. Organic originally referred to the small farm where the farmer and the land’s inhabitants experienced the same highs and lows. The ecological health directly affected the farmer and their family.  But today organic is strictly a label controlled practically by Big Ag.  Organic is now grown on a large scale, overseas even, and the farmers don’t live on the land that they harvest from. Their farms are too big to be able to live everywhere. But if you want that ecological connection, that healthiest food, buy from a small, regenerative farm. You, the farmer, their family and the planet will all benefit from your purchase, and that pretty feels pretty

environment, Farm

You Don’t, Do You?

“How old is a cow when she starts giving milk?” This was a question asked by a visitor to one of my workplaces.  The woman asking it was quite pregnant with at least her third pregnancy. She was very smart, and very curious, and quite taken aback when I replied “How old were you?”

I’m not known for my tact, but I do try to turn things into something you can smile at. She thought for a moment, looked back at me quizzically and replied “When my first child was born.”  I smiled at her and said “Exactly, it’s the same way with cows.  We are both mammals, and it’s all in the biology.”

The look that she gave me at that point was a bit embarrassed and a giant “aha.”  We went on to explain that the gestation is about the same with both humans and cows, but that because cows are kept for their milk, they calve nearly every year. I think at that point she gained a respect for the life of a dairy cow, and a new appreciation for how important milking time is for a dairy farmer.

I was brought to my supervisor at another employment site because a teacher took offense to an answer that I gave to a parent when they asked where the animals were taken for harvest. “They go to Blood Farm,” was the answer, and while my boss knew that she wanted me to explain to the teacher. The instructor’s answer was “You don’t eat them do you?“  We explained that she could buy the lamb, eggs, pork and other products at the entry window.  She ruffled her shoulders like an flustered hen and said “If I had known that, we would have gone to the zoo.”  There is a shortage of slaughterhouses in Massachusetts, but one of the remaining houses is owned by Barney Blood, a seventh generation family operation.  The Blood family was instrumental in settling the towns outside of Boston, especially in the area of Middlesex County. Many of us honored that this family still operates this essential service.

I met a young man from Lowell when he was visiting a dairy farm where I worked. His first reaction when he saw the Holstein heifers was “What did you do, nuke ‘em?”  I asked him how tall he thought they should be, since these were still growing babies.  He just muttered, “they’re not that big on TV.”  That was the only exposure he’d ever had to livestock.  I explained that these were “teenage” cows, as they hadn’t had any calves yet, and weren’t officially cows yet. 

Stories like these happen all over the nation.  Until World War II even urban people still attended farmer’s markets, or had neighborhood chickens, or knew the farmers who served their area. With supermarkets, long distance trucking, refrigeration and the concentration of human into cities has built an invisible wall between the urban experience and the rural one. That in itself is sad, but without those connections people are now eating food that would never have been developed without mass production.  Chickens are raised in such numbers that there is no way they can grow naturally, and in many cases they grow so fast they literally can’t walk to their food or water. Turkeys can no longer mate naturally. Cows die of “old age,” at six years of age when they could naturally live to be nearly twenty.

It’s critical that people understand what is needed for healthy food, for their families and for the planet. I’ll try to explain this is the next series of blogs. If we want to shrink our carbon footprint, we need to understand what we’re walking on, and in. 

Earthmas, environment

Survival Doesn’t have Time

We can walk lightly, and live.

I have read many people writing about the Green New Deal as the end of the world, or the ultimate guidepost to the future of our world.  We even have a candidate who is now running on Climate Change, but I haven’t seen him talk about anything except energy change. That is too simplistic. His website says “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change.”  That is not true. It’s been going on for a while, and for those of us who have been involved in environmental care and conservation, we’ve been stinging for a while now.  

The Green New Deal sounds wonderful, except there are no “how-to’s,” for how to implement it. I have heard spokespeople say that “the time for individual action is past, it’s time for Industry to step up.” This  makes me want to scream.  People get frustrated with millennials but this is not limited to being less than 35 years old, or 50 years old. It goes back to people who were born after the Depression.  As a Baby Boomer I know that I was taught that the world would be better for me; that our parents made that a surety.  But they didn’t.  What it did was make people complacent and expect that people will do things for them. 

My parents didn’t believe that Climate Change was real, because in their lives they hadn’t seen the impact that people were having on the Planet. I tried to explain to them, but I think they came to the point where they felt their success was diminished by our concerns. I failed. But as one of their children, I may have been at a disadvantage.  It’s no use blaming people for what has been done in the pass. We have identified the damage, now it’s time to repair it. It’s time to learn from our ancestor’s mistakes, because for the most part they were mistakes due to ignorance, not choice. Blame is useless in looking back, other than to identify those who have the ability to make things better.

Climate Change is more than a political issue, or a national one. It is Survival. It is more than just our homes being endangered. It’s about our food, our water, and neighbor species, all disappearing.  People paid a bit of attention to the honeybees when they started disappearing, but it wasn’t altruistic. It was because they were worried about their cherries, their vegetables, their food supply. The immigration issue that is being so strongly pushed is actually about Climate Change too.

If food can’t grow, then gangs can control the food there is. When people get hungry, they panic, and get fearful, and become defensive and dangerous in protecting what they already have. If they can’t get to the food, like any other animal, they will go where they can find the food and water or shelter.  There will be fights, wars and violence in the name of sheer survival.  People aren’t risking their children’s lives because they want freedom. They want life.

If we’re going to adapt to Climate Change, and in time, slow or even reverse it, each of us has to what to do what we can. We need to help others do what they can.  We need to demand that corporations do what they can, and we make sure our government knows what it needs to do. This is not limited to carbon tax, or solar/wind/tidal energy.  It’s about changing the way we get our food so that land is managed for health, not just for profit. It means fishing the oceans in such a way that there is a long-term strategy, not a short-term gain. We also need to look at how much damage each of us does with every step we take and find ways to lessen that damage and repair what we do cause.

Nature is incredibly resilient. I can’t quote any science, but I truly believe that if we start to treat the Earth like she is a part of our family; that our neighbors are our family, and that we consider our actions and choices and make wiser ones – she’ll rebound.  But if we damage the oceans, the forests, the farm lands, she won’t be able to. Those are our “antibodies,” not just our energy policies.  If we’re going to have a future on this planet, we need to consider James Lovelock Gaia Theory. The Earth is a holistic entity and we each play a role. We can choose to be a cancer, or we can choose to be healers.

We don’t have time for another Senate Committee. That work has been done and presented to the Congress already. Those who doubt it are listening to their purses, not their hearts.  The Climate Report needs to be implemented, with the guidance of the scientists and the educators.  We need to stop listening to those who delegate to someone else and empower those who have the skills and knowledge to make things better. There will always be disagreements, and each of us has to deal with that within in our own lives. We don’t have to stew or simmer. It’s time to move forward, NOW.

There is a saying “God doesn’t make Trash,” and I believe that. But I also know that God knows humans do make trash and wants to us to be more mindful of how we generate it.  Humans are not the reason for the planet. Whether you believe in Evolution or in Creationism, humans came after the gardens, the oceans, the forests and the animals were created. He didn’t make Trash when he made microbes, or seagulls either. They are not disposable, and we need to realize that if we’re going to make the Changes for the World that we need to make. It’s not just about politics, it’s about Survival.

environment, Farm, Perceptions

City Meet Country

When I started working as a naturalist I was introduced to a world I didn’t know – the city.  I taught at a very special school where the students came from New York City and visited the school farm every year, three times a year.  For me, it seemed like a dream job. It was a dream that I didn’t even know I’d had.

My first meal with the students was my job interview. Some of the kids were returning for the first time for the new school year. They were having hamburgers for lunch when one of the students asked “Is this Butterscotch?”  I chuckled to myself, “these kids really do need to get to a farm.”   Then I listened to their conversations and understood. 

Butterscotch was the name of a milk cow that had been in the barn the last time they came to the farm. They had been to the farm and realized that she wasn’t there anymore.  They were eating Butterscotch-burgers, and they were fine with them.   I asked my potential employer how many students had become vegetarians in the 26 years the farm had been in existence. The answer – 2, and only one had remained so.

After I was hired I took some of the older students up to an overlook.  Standing behind us was a tree with shredded bark, the remnants of a bear that had come through to stretch its front legs. To me, it was fascinating. The students felt otherwise. They couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  When I tried to explain that the bear wouldn’t come back with us sitting there, they didn’t believe me. Over time the conversations shifted from the bear, to fear, and that they were very frightened by being in a place without walls to protect them from a bear.  A bear they hadn’t seen, heard or even thought existed until they saw the claw marks.  But their imaginations had them wanting to run for the safety of walls.

I took that opportunity to try and get them to understand how I feel when I go to a city. Though I grew up in the suburbs, open space and agriculture were always a part of my family’s heritage. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t everyone’s experience. The students were aghast that I would fear the city, feel apprehensive among all the people yet perfectly at ease in a forest. This point was brought to sharper focus when I took the students down into the small town near the farm. They acted like creatures with no manners, running on porches, checking out people’s backyards and puzzling as to why I was so embarrassed at how they acted.  It wasn’t until I was able to get them back to the farm that I was able to have a serious two-way conversation. 

The students were being asked to conduct a role-playing activity with a mock Town Hall about whether there should be regulations in the town, to protect the open space or to allow development that would bring more employment to the citizens. At first, they were completely in favor of development because for them a small patch of grass was sufficient to feel that they were “in the wild.”  But when I showed the acreage across the street, 200 acres that could be developed into 400 houses, or even 100. Then they cried, “You can’t do that. That’s OUR view, not just anyone’s.”  When I explained NIMBY as a concept they finally understood Not in My BackYard through their own eyes. It wasn’t relevant to them until they saw it from how it affected them.

It is this very separation and focus on each of our individual needs that is driving the divide between city and country.  Because people are content with parks and gardens, they have a difficult time understanding the needs of people who require more to do their jobs, to maintain their mental health.  It is vital that we connect urban dwellers with farms and open space and get them attached to our way of life, so that it can continue.  If we can connect people to how their food is raised, why we do what we do, and why that is important to their health, we have a chance. But for this to happen we need to open our farm gates, invite people to experience our lives, and build that connection between themselves and the rest of the planet – not as an onlooker, but as a participant; a Member of the Earth Community.

Blog, environment, Farm, Perceptions

It Matters

Sometimes I think I live in a world of “it doesn’t matter.”  But it matters to me.
It matters that this is a picture of ram sheep attacking a woman, not an angry goat.

It matters that this

is an angry donkey, not an angry goat. 
and
this is
is a horse.

If we don’t know what animals we share the earth with, how can we know its wealth. If we don’t know have a common, shared vocabulary, how can we discuss things? If we think that the world revolves around us,

It matters that this is a pony:

and this is a horse:

If we don’t know what animals we share the earth with, how can we know its wealth. If we don’t know have a common, shared vocabulary, how can we discuss things? If we think that the world revolves around us,

(https://www.permatree.org/permaculture/ego-centric-vs-eco-centric/)

How do we get the proper perspective on the problem?

My little farm is just one of millions of little farms put things back into perspective. While the media may try to focus everyone’s attention on urban areas, if we’re going to save our world, both our communities and our planet, we need to remember that human beings have the
same needs that every other species on the planet needs – food, air, water and safety. For some, safety is community among people. For others it’s community with nature. Even those who seek solitude, often find the peace of silence and the sounds of the wild.

If we are going to make the changes that the Green New Deal are trying to make we need to put our needs on par with those of the rest of the planet’s need. When I hear people talk about the Green New Deal it’s with such skepticism – how can that big a goal be accomplished?  Humankind did it for thousands of years.  The changes that were made in our atmosphere, our oceans, our soils, have primarily happened over the last one hundred and fifty years. Before industrialization the rate of change was something the planet could adjust to. But now “technology” moves so fast that the Earth doesn’t have a chance to catch up.

Young people are concerned about “adulting,” and how much information they don’t have at their fingertips. The Internet can provide knowledge, but not experiences. Reliance on media, through the ‘Net, television and now “Virtual Reality,” has made many people so human centric that they no longer consider anything other than themselves. My earlier comment about the sheep vs. goat is because a search on “angry goat,” brings up that image. The television has an advertisement that includes a bawling goat that is labeled as such, but is actually a sheep. The donkey picture is because the Beekman Boys commented on a fashion show that featured an image of a donkey that one of the “Boys” highlighted as an image of a goat making it to the fashion runway. If a person who makes his living off of goats can’t recognize a goat from a donkey, how can they understand the true value of the animal they work with?

The pony vs horse images are because I once had an supervisor correct me when I pointed out the difference between a pony and horse to a little girl. I was told that the little girl would figure it out on her own, but her parents had brought her to an educational farm so she could learn something new. Letting this little girl “Figure out,” that a pony is not the same as a horse, and that pony doesn’t grow up into a horse, does her a disservice, and diminishes the very value of the animals that were there to teach with. If she were to grow up to be a “horsey girl,” like me, she’d be dismissed by others “horsey girls,” if she used the wrong terminology.

Dismissing correct terms, ignoring facts, shifting attention toward flashy objects and services won’t make our planet more livable. It won’t make our food safer. It won’t even make conversation easier. It matters that we listen to each other, learn from our differences instead of dismissing them, and celebrate our place among a magical world of wild things, tame and feral.

I know people want to feel a sense of control in their lives. It’s part of feeling secure. But it is ultimately unsafe to ignore the sources of our food, the conditions in which that food is raised in, from an industrial farm to organic homestead.  Staying in the dark about how food is raised, how the planet runs, puts consumers at the risk of manipulation, which Big Ag has succeeded in doing, and our politicians have been chugging the Koolaid.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you’ll share it with others who might find it instructive. I will keep trying to make our farm and your food relevant to the world at large. If you think it’s worthwhile, please pass it on. Regardless, please enjoy the company that surrounds you, and ask questions about where your food and clothes come from. Knowledge will help save the planet, and you. Thanks,

environment, Farm

Why are Fresh Eggs more Expensive?

People ask me why fresh eggs are better than older eggs, and they wonder why my eggs are more expensive than those at the grocery store.  The difference is in the price.  When you buy from a grocery store you don’t know where the eggs come from, or how long they’ve been sitting in a cooler.

When you buy directly from the small farms that raise chickens, you get eggs that were laid that day, or very recently.  In grocery stores those eggs come from giant egg farms, where they are shipped wholesale to a handling center. It is more economical to have a centralized distribution center and ship things out once or twice a day to a particular store. Those eggs may have been waiting for weeks in the distribution center before getting to the grocery store, and then how long do they stay at that market?

The top two eggs were harvested at our farm. The bottom ones were store bought.

On my farm eggs are collected daily, and I can usually fill a carton every three days. If a dozen eggs sits in my refrigerator for more than two weeks, it is labelled for family use only, not for sale. A fresh egg yields a lighter flavor, a poofier quiche, a taller meringue. One advantage to those older eggs is that they are easier to peel for hard-boiled eggs, but for me that’s not a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

Home raised chickens that run free range, like mine, get to build their own nutritious meal, especially in the warmer weather.  If left to their own devices they’ll eat a little bug here, a seed there, some leaves over there and grab some fresh water where they can find it.  They are free to use the oyster shells that I provide them to build their eggs, or they can drink some milk that I’ve left out for the cats, or stones from the driveway, or just scratch in the dirt to sharpen their beaks.

In a commercial chicken operation often beaks are trimmed so the hens don’t hurt each other. This makes it harder for them to eat, so even if they were left to run free, they wouldn’t be able to grab things the way they would with a full beak. It’s only natural for chickens to fight if too crowded, or if they aren’t given outlets for their energy, so farmers take these extreme actions. Even in no cage houses, those birds have access to each other more than they have access to space and fresh air.

One of my favorite things about keeping chickens is watching them dust bathe.  It’s amazing to me that they know that dust will kill the mites that bother them.  They know that fluffing those feathers feels good, yet in a poultry house they usually don’t have access to that luxury.  It’s not really a luxury because it does do them so much good, but it’s hard to keep that dusty area clean if hundreds of birds are running through it.

If eggs are going to have their utmost nutrition, then the hen must have her best nutrition.  This means giving access to stones or grit for their crops, so that they can digest things.  The crop is a little bag in the base of a chicken’s throat that holds stones that the bird picks up during their travels are the farm. In a confinement situation grit is left in feeders around the hen house, but those stones have to be brought in by the farmer. Without teeth, birds swallow their food basically whole. It enters the crop and then the gizzard where the grit grinds up like a millstone. Without sufficient grit, chickens wind up malnourished. 

Crack open a fresh egg that’s been raised on a local farm, and compare it to an opened egg bought at a chain store.  How high is yolk?  What color is? Does the egg white (albumen) stay close to the yolk, or does it run all over the plate?  A flat yolk or a runny albumen are all signs of older eggs.  What is more appealing to you? 

So given that a fresh egg is purchased from the farmer that feeds the hen, it’s worth that extra money. The eggs will last longer. They’ll taste better, and since there’s no “middle man,” the farmer gets a bigger share of the price.  Commercial growers have huge operations because their price/egg is not able to meet the cost of the work.  By having thousands of birds, the scale offsets the losses, but it doesn’t offset the benefits to the birds who live on small farms.

You can’t put a dollar sign on every benefit for a small flock, but all you have to do is to eat a frittata made with fresh eggs for you to taste the benefit for you. Is that worth it for you? Each person has to decide for themselves.