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Announcements 6/28/24


Petit Teton Farm Report - May 2024

Hi all,

At one time or another I'm pretty sure I wrote about the subject of meat, the raising, the slaughter, the butchering and the selling of it. I bring it up again because the process becomes more and more difficult, and for those who eat meat, more and more risky health wise. We raise pigeons, rabbits, pigs, and cows for meat and chickens for eggs and meat. Since we process our chickens, pigeons and rabbits ourselves, they won't be a part of this essay, but they do deserve their own.

Our farm is very small and in a typical year we raise 2-3 sets of two pigs each, the piglets being acquired from a lady who lives on a mountain in the woods across the road from us. Her pigs are both for show and for the kids in FFA and 4H with any unsold going to locals like us. She has won numerous awards for them over the years and the meat is perfection, but she has recently cut back on the number she breeds due to disease, regulations and costs.

The cows are Angus and are bred and raised by another neighbor in the hills across from our farm. They are perfectly raised, on grass from beginning to end with no hormones or antibiotics involved. He either sells us a calf or two which we raise for two years on our fields, or, since he owns property abutting ours, he finishes them on our grass and sells us one he has raised. In years of drought both he and we sometimes have to also feed them with alfalfa bales which are purchased at a local farm supply store. As the climate becomes more uneasy and water more scarce, growing the grasses needed becomes more difficult and the price keeps going up. The grass hay bales my son bought recently for his rabbits were $30 each. Unheard of until now.

Raising the animals is only the first step in bringing them to market. There are federal and state regulations on every aspect of the process and all products for sale must be USDA slaughtered and butchered. "Corporate" megafarms generally have all the facilities needed for both as part of their operation and they are places where animals are not treated with respect. Our animals have large swaths of land on which to run, play, eat, drink and rest in both sun and shade; they eat organic food and are free from antibiotics, hormones, etc. The chickens are free ranging and only go into a coop at night. But pigeons and rabbits require caging at all times since they are bait for a lot of daytime wildlife and in the case of rabbits, also extremely sensitive to various grasses and forbs. My son raises most of the grasses with which he feeds the rabbits, supplementing with some orchard grass hay.

So, I come to the nut of the problem for our small farm and all the small farms in this country raising animals…finding a reliable USDA slaughterhouse and butcher. It is a PROBLEM. Several years ago the sole slaughterhouse in Petaluma shut its doors to all private farmers with less than a week's notice. We had 2 pigs ready for slaughter that were canceled. That left a slaughterhouse in Eureka as our closest choice, more than 3-4 hours away - not cost effective (or healthy) for pigs since stress ruins the meat.

In our "neighborhood" (Marin to Mendocino including Sonoma and Napa) there is little choice so a large group of farmers raising many different animals, banded together and pitched in the money to have a mobile slaughter unit built on one participant's property. It took two years to get it up and running after jumping through endless difficult government regulation hurdles. In that time we were lucky to find that a young cattle farmer had just opened a mobile slaughter unit in Sonoma County and would take our pigs. He has been our go-to ever since the unit we all chipped in to purchase and build closed almost immediately after opening due to regulatory issues. We learned recently that the Eureka facility also closed which explains why both butchers and slaughterhouses are so overwhelmed. Our slaughterer does a good job but his response time regarding scheduling is poor making it difficult to coordinate slaughterer and butcher times, a job that is the small farmers' to manage.

Most recently when I called and texted to schedule a date three weeks prior to the date I was requesting, I had no response until he wrote to say bring them the next day. I had been waiting to schedule the butcher once I knew the slaughter date so the timing was too tight by weeks. When I called the butcher, I was told that starting that week he was going on vacation for two weeks. Unlike cows which can hang for several weeks, pigs need to be butchered fairly soon after slaughter. It was a nail biter, but our butcher avowed that his temporary replacement would do a good job. We'll see.

Over the years we've tried almost all the local butchers and have had major issues - not following cutting instructions, not processing parts that we want, not responding. They too are overwhelmed with work. And we only bring in one or two animals at a time. What about the small farms with many head of sheep, cows, pigs, or goats? Where can they find space?

If people want to eat good meat why isn't the work involved in producing and processing it valued and respected as it should be? Farming, slaughtering, and butchering are all age-old art forms and care and quality count. You are, in good part, the food you eat. We vote to be more humane in our treatment of the animals we eat, eg: pig and chicken caging, but in the end really vote with our dollars by buying the cheaper meat. We know that the food we eat has a lot to do with our health issues, but we continue to spend vast quantities on our pets and our "looks" such as clothes, vacations, accessories, etc. Eating healthy food does not appear to be as important.

Yes, corporate food does cost less because of the vertical monopoly the megafarms enjoy. But those concentrated animal feeding operations also result in a loss of food and health value. In addition, farm diversity is not valued; their focus is on a singular product in vast quantities. People working in them do repetitive, boring jobs, not creatively engaged enjoyable work.

How will this play out? If the trend continues the only slaughterhouses left will be the ones owned by the megafarms which cater solely to the livestock they own. The small producers will be squeezed out entirely. Alternatively, an increased number of consumers demanding locally-sourced quality meat could result in a resurgence in the number of small slaughterhouses and butcher shops. Time will tell which direction we all go.

Thanks for listening and enjoy SUMMER. Stay cool.

Nikki Auschnitt & Steve Krieg



by Louise Simson, Superintendent

Construction charged full stream ahead at the high school with all of the six classrooms and the adult bathrooms being fully gutted and abated. Now comes the hard work of putting everything back together. There has also been significant exterior grading and asphalt cutting as we prepare for the ADA path of travel improvements that are required as part of new construction. I want to remind everyone that the Junior/Senior High School site is not accessible at this time due to the construction and potential tripping hazards, etc. Please do not come on the property. .

The elementary school asphalt was completed and we are working on a plan to lay the flooring and deal with the required abatement. We will keep you posted.

The Bond Oversight Committee is meeting this Thursday at the District Office in the high school at 4:00 p.m. if you would like to attend. We are still seeking a member to represent a tax payer organization and the public is always welcome.

Summer school is set to begin on Monday, so please make sure that you are sending your student if they are signed up. Summer school for all grades is at the elementary site. The high school students participating in A-G or credit recovery will be in the classroom at the back of the elementary school which was formerly the family resource center. Elementary students will enjoy classes as usual. We are grateful to all the staff who have agreed to work the summer school schedule. The state requirement of 30 extra days of school is very difficult for us to staff, and we appreciate the partnership of our two unions and their members to make that happen for our kids.


Here are some of the most recent construction photos. Also, two new vans were purchased with after school high school money. Vans have become the new variety of transportation as bus drivers have become scarce!


Permitting Application Underway!

We are completing the final steps in preparation for submitting our permitting application in August! The following work is underway:

The wonderful folks over at Frontier Skateparks are finalizing construction plans for the skatepark.

Our wonderful civil engineer Tyler Pearson at Cornerstone Civil Design is finalizing the drainage plan design to fix the park's drainage problems and also accommodate skatepark runoff.

Our wonderful architect Alex Korn is updating our site plan and preparing the permitting application package.

Students Learn From St. Helena Organizers

In April, AV Service Learning Team students traveled by St. Helena to meet with local skatepark organizers. The St. Helena Department of Parks and Recreation kindly coordinated the visit. It was incredibly helpful to learn from the organizers' wisdom and experience based on years of fundraising for and planning to successfully develop their community skatepark.

Students Present Tribute To AV School Board

This past March, AV students presented a handmade tribute to the AV School Board, in gratitude for transferring 2.2 acres of school property to the AV Community Services District (for one dollar!) for the explicit purpose of skatepark development. 10th grader Aster Arbanovella wrote: "We are so grateful to the AV School Board for recognizing the importance of this project and for taking this big step to improve our lives and the lives of future AV skaters to come!"

Fundraising Update

371,000 Raised!

We're on our way! We are very grateful to have received a $250,000 General Fund Specified Grant from the CA legislature (thank you Assemblymember Jim Wood!!), and we are leveraging those funds to elevate our campaign. We are currently in the midst of a study to help hone the scope and timeline of our fundraising effort. Stay tuned! :)

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