Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Books Campaign: Trespassing: Dirt Stories and Field Notes

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

Trespassing: Dirt Stories and Field Notes
by Janet Kauffman

Wayne State University Press, 2008
Trage Paperback, 165 pages
Made in Michigan Writers Series
ISBN-13: 9780814333747
highly recommended

Trespassing is composed in equal amounts of short fiction and essays that illustrate the impact of modern factory farms—confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs)—on a rural Michigan community. Michigan author Janet Kauffman debunks the myth of the idyllic “clip art” farm of decades past by giving readers a close-up look at mega-meat and mega-milk, the extreme amounts of animal waste and barren countryside CAFOs produce, and the people who live in the midst of this new rural landscape threatened by agricultural sprawl. Trespassing considers the consequences of violating nature’s limits, giving readers a vivid impression of the irreversible damage that violation causes to our habitat.
My Thoughts:

Janet Kauffman's Trespassing: Dirt Stories and Field Notes combines short stories (Dirt Stories) and nonfiction essays (Field Notes) to illustrate the impact of confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, as well as other environmental issues, on rural Michigan communities. Janet Kauffman is a resident of rural Michigan, and in fact, has lived her whole life on farms. As a result of this, she approaches the environmental issues she writes about as an informed participant.

While the CAFOs produced great quantities of meat and diary products, they have some very real negative effects on the environment that are far reaching. While many people don't live in the country near a CAFO, you may very well live down stream from one. These issues actually should concern not just those living in Michigan, but everyone.

This fight concerns Kaufman personally. She lives daily with the effects of a CAFO. In the article "Farmer Turned Activist Fights Manure-Spreading Faults" we read that:
"The farms are home to 20,000 cows and produce as much waste as a city of 200,000 people. Waste from the barns where the animals live -- a stew that includes antibiotics, blood from births and cleaning solvents -- is washed into lagoons, where it sits until it can be pumped into trucks and spread on fields. When too much manure is applied to fields, it forms puddles that run off into streams."

If you've ever been in the area where a lagoon from a large farm operation is located, you know how awful the stench can be. Now imagine that in your water supply.

As part of the Eco-Libris campaign, allow me to point out that "this book is printed on 50% postconsumer recycled paper and 30% postconsumer recycled cover stock." "Recycled paper requires fewer trees to produce, is more energy efficient, results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous air pollutants, and generates less solid waste and water pollution."

Janet Kauffman hit several hot buttons from some of my past personal crusades.
Those of you who know me in real life, know that before I started She Treads Softly, several moves and states ago, we lived on four acres outside a town in rural South Dakota. We liked living in the country and some of our fondest memories are of our huge garden, orchard, and watching the night sky for meteor showers or the Northern lights.

While living there, the community, still full of small family farms where cows did graze in fields, was fighting against a huge hog operation starting up in the area - and it was a fight. As Janet Kauffman would well know, the owners who wanted to start the hog operation weren't "farmers." They came from out of state. They didn't live on or even near their operations. They already had operations stinking up rural landscapes in nearby Nebraska and causing environmental problems. They also had some well paid lawyers on their side.

During that time we also were attending county commissioner meetings trying to keep a huge cell phone tower from being erected right by us. The representative from the company that wanted to erect the cell phone tower was from Boston. He had a condescending attitude toward those of us opposing the tower, not realizing that most of the neighbors were well educated. (It was a pity we never had a say about the new guy who moved out there the summer before we moved away and put in a high-watt night light, ruining the night sky.)

I've experienced a city (small town outside of the city) engineer (not trained) deciding a road needed to be straighten which resulted in the removal of two beautiful maple trees in our front yard. And, why, no, their actions did nothing noticeable that improved the road or the drainage; all it accomplished was the removal of several healthy trees and a whole bank of irises.

Finally, I have a real hang-up about watering grass. I have refused to water grass when I lived in places where water is generally plentiful and rains frequent. I especially refused to plant large areas of grass and water it when living in the high desert, where rain and water are not plentiful and people fight over water rights. I always found it absurd that many HOAs required a high percentage of grass in the landscaping. When we landscaped our front yard, our plans made it clear we were using xeroscaping.

Trespassing: Dirt Stories and Field Notes contents include:

Dirt Stories:
With My Hands, Swimming
Snail, Snail, Shoot Out Your Horns
Monitoring:10 Spot Samples
A Geography, A Library (Cecilia Says)
Carried Away

Field Notes:
The Fantasy of the Clip Art Farm
Letting Go: The Virtue of Vacant Ground
Buried Water
malinger, meander, in perpetuity (A Creed)
This Stream, That Stream
Skinhead Agriculture
Highly Recommended


Hey, don't even picture cows in green pastures. No, they walk on concrete, and their knees bulge like your grandmother's, crawling on cobblestones for whatever crimes. pg. 3-4

She does not perk coffee for the EPA guys. But she assumes they'll show up, and when they do, she says, "Sit down. Here are the maps. Here's Child's Drain. This is what's happening." pg. 21

We've been sitting outside every day for a week, sort of guarding the maple tree, but mostly just watching everything else get ripped up, and trying to adjust our eyes to the new views. pg. 28

But the machinery's past Barry's house now. The trees are gone and so is what Eddie calls brush - all wild cranberry, bittersweet on the fenceline. pg. 32

Maggie told Arthur the red blinking light was as bad as his eye tick, he winking he did in meetings. It wrecked the scene. The lost dark was the worst, but daytime wasn't much better. In sunlight, the eye winked silver. pg. 43

Tatia would have said those words, too, tread lightly. She who treads lightly is kin to the sea. pg. 72

The livestock operations that surrounded my Midwest town, Hudson, Michigan, still call themselves farms. Most are dairies, and they're all huge, all built within the last few years. In the language of the law, they're CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) with more than one thousand "animal units" - that is, seven hundred or more confined cows - and open-air waste pits that hold millions of gallons of liquefied feces and urine. pg. 79

Despite the CAFO's wishful claim of "zero discharge" to surface water, we've had more than 140 discharge "events" and violations between 2000 and 2006 - animal waste over-applied, drained, dumped, or sprayed onto frozen ground, polluted liquid that flowed into drains and streams.
During one discharge, E. coli bacteria in a county drain reached 130,000/100 ml, a contamination level 130 times the acceptable level for partial body contact. pg. 95

...the idea that tillable ground should all be tilled - and idea that is clearing jungles and "bringing life" to some deserts today and causing desertification elsewhere. We have an arsenal of ideas about land use clearly as dangerous to human life on the planet as the use of nuclear arms. pg. 106


Jeanne said...

I keep reading books like these, thinking that ignorance is dangerous. Guess I need to read this one.

Lori L said...

You're so right, ignorance is dangerous. The confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, should concern everyone.

Jane said...

There is a CAFO of pigs just about 3 miles down the road from us. It grosses me out. It is down wind of us, but when the wind does change course, it stinks. There's also a big chicken CAFO as I drive to town. I think it's for perdue chicken. And then there's a huge hog CAFO on the other side of town. It's gross. It's been in a lot of trouble over the years. Got shut down once, but I think it's back in business. Some folks came over from GERMANY to run that one!!!! Talk about being from out of town!!!
We still live rural enough that there are lots of grass grazing cows around here. No, really. Just down from us (going the other direction from the pig place), about 4 miles away, is a small family farm that raises black angus cows. They are always in 1 of about 4 different fields. They have a big auction every year & the little country road is crammed with cars parked alongside it. It's good beef.
And, thankfully! My newest babysitting baby, (she's 8 months now!) they live on a farm, & they raise cows! And yes, they are in a field, in grass. :) I buy my hamburger from her now. She told me to never buy from the store again, as they have over 700 pounds of hamburger in their freezer! I pay her $3.00 per pound. Maybe this is too much info, but I even know the cow's history. LOL! It was her husband's 4-H cow. He loved her. But they had to put her out of her misery after a tree got struck by lightning & fell on her. Instead of having her cut into the different cuts, they had her meat all ground into hamburger, so it's a high quality meat (think ground steak).
There is also a big goat operation on the same road as the black angus cow farm. They have giant barns, but everytime I drive by the goats (a few hundred) are out in 2 grass fields, being gaurded by 2 herding dogs. :) I'm thinking it's a milking operation or maybe they make goat cheese.

Lori L said...

Jane you offer great testimony why CAFO's are not at all like what people picture when you say the word "farm". They can be so nasty. Top it off with the fact that they have problems and yet still seem to go back in business.... Yuck s right!
Hey, I'd buy the ground beef at $3 a pound knowing exactly where it's coming from!