Dawn renewed


“It will never be the same,” said a Boston athletic association representative in the dawn following yesterday’s tragedy.

He might well have been talking about all of us because those are the words a nation grieved with after innocent lives were lost on 9/11. 

“It will never be the same” is that sickening punch to the gut each time our freedom and security are attacked in broad daylight and when we might least expect it.

Young Martin Richards was just eight years old welcoming his father across the finish line even as God welcomed this young soul home at the hands of unspeakable evil.

Yesterday was not only the running of the iconic 26-mile marathon, it was also “Patriot’s Day” in the city that fathered the Sons of Liberty, Paul Revere and the Mechanics, the Boston Tea Party — the birth of a free nation.

Our hearts are heavy as a nation. This tragic act of terror is the work of coward(s). We must remember that.

And in the face of events that shatter our security, we must remember we are America: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Though the violence of evil may seek to extinguish it, America’s light is not of fear, but of faith and of freedom and — Godspeed — will continue to shine in a dark world in the same way God’s hand renews from dark the dawn each day.



APRIL IS KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL month. Bet you didn’t know that. Remember the old commercials and the Native American with a tear in his eye?


We just don’t see the emphasis on this anymore.

While photographing this eagle in flight at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area this recently, I was disheartened to see roadside trash and rubbish along our driving and walking route.

Farmers also deal with the effects of littering when they harvest hay or silage as feed for their cattle and other livestock and find it has roadside rubbish, bottles, cans and plastic mixed in, causing costly machinery repairs and animal health problems if ingested.

Trash in any area attracts rodents and pathogenic activity as well. Broken glass and other sharp objects are also dangerous to people and animals.
Did you know that plastics and styrofoam can not only cause birds, wildlife and farm animals to choke, it can also lay undigested for a long time in the digestive tract causing illness and even death?
When I see dirty diapers, bottles, cans, fast food bags, cups, old furniture, old appliances, and even full garbage bags of trash strewn alongside a road or walking path, I feel as though this can’t be some poor soul who has no other way to dispose of his/her trash, but just chooses to be thoughtless.
I feel that Indian’s teardrop for the careless, thoughtless, cruel, and ugly act to care so little about the world around you…


NY-FARM-TO-CITY FIRST! Telling Milk’s Story at “Just Food”


My friend TAMMY GRAVES wrote the guest post for my FOODOGRAPHY blog today. It also made the cover of today’s Farmshine newspaper, telling how she and dairywomen Deb Windecker and Lorraine Lewandrowski of Herkimer County NY had the rare opportunity to present a 75-minute workshop telling milk’s story at the JUST FOOD CONFERENCE in New York City. Great Job Ladies!

NEW YORK, N.Y. – For the first time, New York State dairy farmers were on the workshop list at the Just Food Conference March 29-30 in New York City. A 75-minute presentation entitled “Introduction to the New York Milk Shed” was prepared and offered by Herkimer County dairy farmers Lorraine Lewandrowski and Deb Windecker of Newport and Schuyler, respectively. Tammy Graves, a dairy farmer advocate from Otsego County also contributed by explaining the mutually dependent relationship between consumers and dairy farmers.

“We provided faces and stories about our milk for attendees. Many more conversations still need to occur, but it was a huge step in bridging the gap,” Deb Windecker reported. “So many people think there are antibiotics in our milk. We are pleased to report that we dispelled that myth by explaining the penalties and protocols that are in place at the farm, at the processing plant, and with our regulators, to ensure that never occurs.”

The presentation provided answers in four parts: 1) Where is dairy farming in New York State? 2) Why should you care about a Milk Shed and/or dairy farmers? 3) What does a dairy farmer do?  4) Why should you eat real dairy products?

Our message was “Milk is clean and safe. Milk is water. Milk means healthy cows. Milk is Local. Milk is a life’s work.”

Part One of the workshop for Just Food consumer advocates summarized the facts and included a visual overview of the NY Milk Shed: 5100 dairy farms, 610,000 cows, 113-cow average herd size. A pictorial tour of the milk regions (Lower Hudson, Upper Hudson, North Country, Mohawk Valley and Western New York) was the background for discussion. The discussion included a look at the diversity among NY dairy farms in terms of cow breeds, farm size by acreage, herd sizes and strengths and prominent resources by region.

Part Two illustrated the long-standing connection New York City has had with dairy farmers, highlighting the 1939 milk strike. As a result of the milk strike, then NYC Mayor Laguardia was an advocate and influencer for achieving adequate farm milk pricing at that time. Cheese pack boats, milk trains and today’s tractor trailers carrying 150,000 glasses of milk were mentioned. 

Additionally, Lewandrowski emphasized why the average New Yorker should be concerned about the state’s dairy farms.  A series of photos accompanied her points regarding economic development, food security, open space, watershed protection, floodplains, biodiversity, rural tradition, and the diversity of people working in New York’s dairy industry.

Part Three of the presentation evoked the most questions from attendees as it gave a micro-view of the cycle involving a dairy cow, a dairy farmer and soil. Growing seasons, equipment costs, feed storage were discussed, in addition to milking procedures and newborn calf care. 

Part Four explained that buying real dairy products translates to eating food that most closely mirrors the clean and safe milk that dairy farmers put into the milk truck. Attendees were very appreciative to learn that not all brands or types of cheese and Greek yogurt are created equal. 

“The experience provided us with invaluable insight to perspectives and beliefs of individuals that are keen on food topics,” the presenters reflected after the event. New York City residents who attended left with a better understanding.  One member of the audience approached the presenters about the possibility of chartering a bus to bring New York City food and farm-interested people to visit dairy farms upstate and to spend a day at the Fair.

Sweet Beginnings


I had this idea many months ago to start a blog about the people, places an issues relating to the food we eat, and since I’ve spent my life as an ag journalist and avid photographer, the name of my blog is “foodography.”

I had the idea, the name, the framework, but it seems I’ve been too busy to jumpstart it. Today, I’ve been prodded to do my first post because of the confusion I see lately about milk. So I’m kicking off my foodographic blog with an opportunity to shed light on some of the controversey about a dairy / sweetener petition that has been talked about in social media and mainstream media the past few weeks.

Below are my dozen points of light… Please read and then use the link at the end to go to the FDA website to read the petition and to tell FDA what you think about non-caloric sweeteners in flavored dairy products and while you are at it, ask FDA to talk to USDA about its school lunch rules. Chocolate milk – and whole milk for that matter – is not the cause of childhood obesity.

1) I am an advocate for real foods, whole foods. The less artificial, the better, in my opinion. But I am also a busy mom who raised three kids and worked full time. I know what it’s like to be going 100 directions and still strive to put a healthy meal on the table. Today, I have grandchildren. I care what they eat and drink. Whole milk is, was, and forever shall be a staple in our house, period.

2) THE MOST IMPORTANT TAKE-HOME POINT: ***Dairy farmers work very hard 24/7/365 to ensure they are producing wholesome high quality milk, but by the time it reaches the store or the school cafeteria, the lowfat and nonfat varieties are not the flavorful creamy product that came from the cow! Farmers I talk to are frustrated by this and they are frustrated even further when they see headlines about the mere suggestion that certain sweeteners with a bad reputation could be put into their product, even though said non-calorie sweeteners would only relate to flavorings like chocolate, strawberry or fruit, and not to the milk itself! I don’t blame them for being mad. They want to sell unfooled-around-with milk, the best kind of course!

3) I do not approve of using aspartame in drinks intended for children. However, I would allow my kids (grandkids) to use stevia. Both stevia and the maligned aspartame are considered non-nutritive (which means no-calorie) sweetener alternatives to traditional caloric or nutritive sweeteners called sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

4) Current FDA standards of identity for milk and certain other dairy products do not allow the use of non-nutritive (no-calorie) sweeteners and this includes the flavorings that are added to make variations of these products (i.e. chocolate milk, which to me is no different than a marinated steak vs. a plain steak. One is pure from the animal and the other has a recipe of flavoring added!)

5) Most consumers – and even pediatricians – do not realize that whole milk is less than 4% fat to begin with. People think it’s 10%, even doctors are so misinformed.

6) Furthermore, the USDA school lunch program forces schools to reduce the lunch fat percentage to the equivalent of a heart patient’s diet so the milk that is offered is nonfat or 1% in order to meet the total lunch requirement. This is by REGULATION, even though current studies show kids who drink whole milk are leaner and that whole milk is better for the brain.

7) Because nonfat white milk is essentially tasteless, kids opt for the chocolate nonfat in the school lunch line. Now we have another wrinkle in the milk story: Starting in 2013, the USDA school lunch program is mandating reductions in sugar content of school lunches, so schools are forced to give up flavored milk if they can’t make their menus work. The full impact of this rule is YET TO COME.

8) #7 above is essentially one of the reasons the 2009 petition filed by IDFA and NMPF on non-nutritive sweeteners was revived four years later in 2013 and why FDA is now looking at it. It’s because the sugar rules will affect FLAVORED yogurt and FLAVORED milk servings in the school lunch program. Furthermore, older adults may want to limit their sugar intake and yet they may love a strawberry or chocolate milk. They can buy a flavoring at the store that is made with a non-nutritive sweetener and add it to their real milk at home, and that’s okay, but a bottler can’t do that right now and still call it “milk.” They have to change the name to chocolate or strawberry “milkshake” or “drink” or find a different name. Or in the case of a flavored yogurt sweetened with non-nutritive (no calorie) alternative they have to call it something else, like “smoothie”. 

9) In the case of the flavored milk beverage, this failure to observe standard of identity on the flavoring not the actual milk, puts the beverage in another “class” other than “class 1” for the purpose of milk pricing back to the farm.

10) The root problem is that whole-fat milk gets an unfair bad rap and should be promoted for its health benefits and surprising lack of fat less than 4%. The industry needs to stand firm and battle the increasing levels of misinformation. Chocolate milk sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup gets a bad rap also, and should be touted for its perfect carb/protein ratio. The industry is doing that through promotion, but it needs to do more.

11) Sadly, the USDA school lunch regulators don’t care about the truth. They don’t care about whole foods or real foods. They are numbers people, bean counters, who want to see menus that add, subtract and multiply to the right mathematical answer! Meanwhile, Milk bottlers and dairy foods makers are trying to deal with these realities and to compete with other beverages and look-alikes that don’t have these standard-of-identity restrictions. For that matter, if milk has a standard-of-identity, how can crushed almond or soybean juice be called ‘milk’? But that’s another blog post!

12) For sure, Chocolate milk is not the cause of childhood obesity in this country. For that matter, kids could drink whole chocolate milk til the cows come home and it’s not the cause of childhood obesity. But, by the same token, the controversial sweetener petition is not affecting milk or yogurt or sour cream or any of the 17 products itself. It is specifically directed to the “use of any safe and suitable sweetener in the optional characterizing flavoring ingredients period.

13) This sweetener argument is sort of like arguing about what can be put in a marinade for a london broil if you want to call it beef at the grocery store. (i.e. London broil = real and pure beef) and the ingredients in a marinated London broil (beef plus whatever is in the marinade).  I read the label for those too, don’t you?

14) Read the petition here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-P-0147-0012

15) Tell FDA what you think here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2009-P-0147-0012