last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another Heaven
and another Earth must pass before such a one can be again."
|Shopping Cart • SEARCH ALBC|
This article appeared in the November/December issue of the ALBC newsletter. ALBC members receive 6 bi-monthly newsletters that contain articles about the breeds of livestock and poultry that we work to conserve as well as the people involved in these efforts. Members also receive an annual breeders directory that provides contact information for ALBC members who have breeding stock available, as well a list of products from these breeds that they offer for sale.
Multi-Tasking Livestock – ALBC’s 31st Conference
Multi-Tasking Livestock: Adapted Breeds for Productive Farms was the title and theme of ALBC’s 31st conference and the event lived up to all expectations. Attendees learned from a stellar group of presenters (all experts in their fields of endeavor), networked with members from all over the country, sat down together to enjoy fabulous meals featuring rare breed meats and products, and shared their own knowledge and experiences over the course of the three day event. The days of the ALBC conference couldn’t have been prettier despite flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ike that put much of downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan under several inches of water.
Four pre-conference clinics were held on Friday. Beginning in the morning at 9:00 a.m. 24 people gathered around a Tamworth pig that lay on the preparation counter at Zazios restaurant, located at the Radisson Hotel in Downtown Kalamazoo. Attendees were eager to learn how to break down – or “fabricate” – a whole hog into roasts, chops, and more. Matthew Millar, the executive chef at Journeyman’s Café in Fennville, Michigan, walked the group through the process. After a tasting during the workshop, much of the final product went to the Food Dance Café where Julie Stanley used the pork in the conference’s opening meal. What remained at Zazios was featured on their evening menu to the great delight of Zazios chefs.
This was an effort by ALBC, with the support of Chefs Collaborative, to help bridge the gap between chefs and farmers. We look forward to more opportunities to bring together farmers, chefs and heritage breeds with one another to help establish these valuable connections. For more about the workshop see Chefs Collaborative’s blog by Elizabeth Kennedy (http://chefscollaborative.org/category/blog/)
At the same time, a dairy production workshop, "The Rest of the Picture: Rare Breeds for Dairy Production", funded by a CERES Fund grant and moderated by Don Bixby was held at Tillers International in Scotts, Michigan. After a delicious lunch provided by Tillers, a hands-on poultry breeding stock selection workshop and a breed association governance clinic were held. All of the clinics were filled to capacity and we plan to repeat a few of them at future annual meetings due to their popularity.
Friday evening’s reception was held at Food Dance Cafe in Kalamazoo where ALBC hosted an American Traditions Picnic as part of its participation in the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) alliance. Guests enjoyed local foods and meat from several rare breeds including Tamworth pig from the morning’s fabrication workshop, roasted Giant Chinchilla rabbit, Hog Island and St Croix lamb, Red Poll beef, and pumpkin custard made from Australian Spotted duck eggs. Chef Julie Stanley and her staff did a wonderful job showcasing the rich flavors and textures of all of the rare breed products.
All workshops and meeting activities on Saturday were held at Tillers International. Along with the presentations, there was a wonderful livestock exhibit organized by Tillers. Rare breeds on display included Australian Spotted ducks, Milking Devon oxen, Milking shorthorn oxen, Belgian Draft horses, American Cream Draft horses, Steinbacher Geese, Giant Chinchilla rabbits, a Caspian horse, Belted Galloway cattle, an American Mammoth Jackstock, Miniature donkey, Tennessee Myotonic goats, Dexter cattle, Tamworth piglets, Karakul sheep, Tunis sheep, Jacob sheep, Dutch Belted oxen, Percheron horses, and many chicken breeds including Orpington, Spanish, Wyandotte, Dominique, Sussex, Cubalaya, Java, Orloff, Black Langshans, and Buckeye. Some of the animals, their keepers, and the ALBC staff stayed for the Tillers annual Harvest Fest on Sunday to share in the celebration of the season’s bounty.
The opening plenary session on Saturday morning, led by Ann Wells, ALBC’s outgoing Chairperson for the Board of Directors, framed the issues of multi-tasking, productivity, and regional adaptation of rare breeds. Attendees were challenged to think of their animals beyond a means to provide meat, milk, and eggs, and to include fertilizer, grass and browse harvesters, and insect managers. Ann described the array of contributions that regionally-adapted animals make to farming ecosystems which are at the center of sustainable agricultural systems. In "Sustainable Management for Livestock Health," Ann developed the theme of regional adaptation and quality husbandry as a means to happy, healthy, and highly productive animals.
Subsequent sessions built on the themes of multi-tasking, adaptation, and productivity. Ed Snavely elaborated on this subject by sharing his family’s health-based decision to get out of contract hog production and move into independent organic pork and poultry production. With the large increase of interest in keeping poultry, ALBC member Gray Moore Jr. gave a presentation on small-scale incubation. Using easy to understand terms, he explained the basics of incubation, and the various options for equipment. Attendees learned that incubation can be simple and straightforward with the right equipment and biosecurity practices.
ALBC continues to expand its efforts with groups such as 4-H and FFA - programs focused on engaging youth with rare breeds. Four speakers including Philip Ackerman-Leist, the Director of Green Mountain College’s Farm & Food Project in Vermont, Susan Och of the Michigan 4-H Youth Association, Callene Rapp of the Sedgwick County Zoo and newly appointed Chair of the ALBC Board, and ALBC Research and Technical Programs Manager Jeannette Beranger, were the presenters. The group gave an overview of projects across the country that involve youth and rare breeds and provided much food for thought as to how participants could create or expand programs with youth in their regions.
In “Connecting with Consumers,” representatives from three of the four partners in the RAFT alliance talked about the resources and connections from their organizations that might be useful to ALBC members. When the time was up, Elizabeth Kennedy of Chefs Collaborative, Ben Watson of Slow Food USA, and Don Bixby of ALBC found themselves surrounded by attendees wanting more.
“Driving Diversity” spotlighted various breeds and techniques used for draft power. Tillers International staffers Dick Roosenberg and Dulcy Perkins led the presentation, which began with a discussion of their Milking Shorthorn oxen. Other oxen in the demonstration included Dutch Belt and Milking Devon. Following the oxen segment, the program continued into a discussion of draft horses and a live demonstration of the animals at work. A highlight of the event included a rare side-by-side team of four American Cream Draft horses. The audience was delighted to see all of the horses and oxen in action in one of the fields at Tillers and compared how they each approached plowing . The presentation ended with a draft training session, led by locally renowned horse trainer Harlan Yoder, on a novice driving horse
“Multi-tasking Goats” introduced participants to the wonderful array of products that goats produce, as well as tasks they perform. Yvonne Zweede-Tucker and Phil Sponenberg focused on the Spanish goat; recent advances made in documenting this breed and their excellent meat production capacity for a pasture-based system.
The Annual Members Meeting was held during a tasty buffet lunch that included stew made with Milking Shorthorn beef. During the meeting both current and former ALBC board members were recognized, and ALBC staff reported on their efforts for the year.
The conference presentations concluded with a plenary session presented by Byran Childress, a new ALBC board member. In a lighthearted way, Byran gave a human and cultural face to the breeds that currently populate ALBC’s Conservation Priority List. Born and raised in the coal country of the Appalachian mountains of western Virginia, Byran told about having improved their scrub sheep with great economic success during the first two years, only to have the herd hit hard by foot rot. In that brief period the scrub sheep in the region all but disappeared, making it very difficult to re-establish a resistant flock. Hog-killing season, which followed the first hard frost, found their extended family moving from one farm to the next until early December. The men did killing and butchering, while the women rendered lard, and packed, canned, and cured the meat. It is out of this combination community and self-reliance that our endangered breeds were developed. They were, and still are, working animals, with a history, a purpose, and a future.
The afternoon sessions were followed by a reception and poster session. The poster session continues to grow; this year's session had approximately 15 presentations that allowed for members to share their experiences with the rest of the conference attendees. Phil Sponenberg and Don Bixby were on hand during the poster session to autograph Managing Breeds for a Secure Future, ALBC’s most recent publication.
The Saturday evening dinner was served under a big tent by the light of Japanese lanterns and again featured rare breed meats. It was hailed as one of the best conference banquets many attendees had ever had, and featured items such as American rabbit sausage, heritage turkey, Ancient White Park and Milking Shorthorn beef. The evening concluded with the presentation of the 2008 ALBC Award for Organizational Excellence given to Tillers International in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the stewardship of rare breeds. Tillers Director Dick Roosenberg accepted the award presented by ALBC former Director and long-time friend to Tillers, Don Bixby. Following the presentation, Don bid his heartfelt farewells to the membership as he announced his retirement from the ALBC staff as of the end of the conference. Following his farewell speech, Chuck Basset presented Don with a framed photo and plaque to express the appreciation of all who have known and worked with Don on rare breed conservation during his time with ALBC.
2008 Conference Sponsors: