Back to Berks

I was in the vicinity of Fleetwood and Lyons in Berks County one Saturday and came across these scenes:

Grain silos near Lyons, PA.
A farm raising up some calves.
A peek through the trees at this lovely barn.
I love the stone barn here.
That actually looks delicious … for grass.
I took this photo because I liked the rooster weather vane.
Another lovely Berks County farm.

The Lovely Cumberland Valley

Nestled between South Mountain and the Blue Mountain ridge line lies the Cumberland Valley, an area known for fertile farms, world famous fly fishing, and an annual classic car show. I explored the farm country in the northern part of the valley.

The farms are nestled into the backdrop of South Mountain.
Love the goats in the small pasture.
Best cow shot of the day.

The Valley is not all about farms, however …

The Williams Grove Speedway.
I don’t know what this house used to be, but it looked like a great renovation job.
The ducks and geese at LeTort Spring Run Park in downtown Carlisle.
A Mallard couple out for a walk.

Good News about Milk

It is well recognized that milk is a great source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin D, potassium and other essential nutrients that can aid in bone growth, heart health, building muscle and warding off cancer. Recent research highlights some additional benefits of milk you may not be aware of.

In a recent paper published by researchers at Scotland’s Saint Andrews University, skim milk topped a list of common beverages when it came to providing oral hydration. Milk beat out water, sports drinks and oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte. Electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, contribute to better hydration. Calories in beverages result in slower gastric emptying and, therefore, slower release of urination, resulting in better hydration. The thirteen beverages tested, listed in order of hydration, were skim milk, oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte), full fat milk, orange juice, cola, diet cola, cold tea, tea, sports drinks, still water, sparkling water, lager and coffee.  While coffee ranks lowest for hydration, adding milk to the coffee may counter some of coffee’s diuretic effects.

The reason why milk is so effective compared to water is because of its combination of sugar lactose, protein, and tiny fat percentage. These substances slow down the rate at which fluids are emptied from the stomach which provides longer-lasting hydration. Moreover, milk contains electrolytes like sodium and potassium which helps your body retain the fluids in your bloodstream for a longer period of time rather than quickly processing it into urine.

This information may be especially important for individuals who dehydrate rapidly, such as athletes and those doing strenuous labor. The body relies on hydration to fight infections, carry nutrients throughout the body and lubricate joints. It appears hydration should be added to the list of the superpowers of milk.

Chocolate milk also received a special notice for its role in helping high school athletes outperform peers who did not drink chocolate milk in a study done by the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers in that study highlighted chocolate milk’s carbohydrate to protein ratio compared to beverages such as sports drinks. The research was conducted in 2018 and published in the 2019 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It showed that, in strength tests, high school athletes drinking chocolate milk lifted 3.5% more than before the study while the adolescents drinking a commercial sports drink lifted 3.2% less than before.

Drinking chocolate milk within 30 minutes after a workout rehydrates, repairs and replenishes the body. The naturally occurring electrolytes and 90% water content rehydrate, while the 8 grams of protein helps repair muscles. The carbohydrate to protein ratio in chocolate milk was shown to be more beneficial than carbohydrate only sports drinks in improving athlete performance as part of a strength and speed training at a high school level. Previous studies all looked at adults, but never at before at high school athlete for whom nutrition is especially critical.

Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, as well as water and electrolytes, which may be ideal for post-exercise recovery. The evidence regarding the efficacy of chocolate milk compared to either water or other “sport drinks” on post-exercise recovery markers was also reviewed by researchers in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition who conducted an analysis of twelve different studies on it effects. They concluded that “chocolate milk provides either similar or superior results when compared to placebo or other recovery drinks. Overall, the evidence is limited and high-quality clinical trials with more well-controlled methodology and larger sample sizes are warranted.”

So it seems we have even more reason to drink up.

It’s That Time of Year

I love Fall. Not just because I hate hot weather but because I love all the other things that go with the season – colorful leaves, cozy fabrics, hot beverages, and fairs. I had to check out the Unionville Community Fair in Chester County. The fair was set on a old farm property adjacent to the high school.

Well kept barn on the property.
A view of the farmstead.
I’m not sure what this platform is but I think it has to do with steeplechase or jumping horses.

It was well worth a visit. It is rare in this area to find a festival with livestock. This aspect makes this fair unique. The lamas and goats were adorable. There was an opportunity for kids to get to milk a goat. I just wish there had been more dairy cows in the large tent.

An inquisitive goat.
Three lone cows in the big tent.
Llamas are so cute.

There were the usual fair food trucks, vendors, and activities for the kids. Polish food followed by funnel cake is a win in my book any day. While I was eating, the kids participated in a sing a long with Elsa from “Frozen.” I also bought some awesome local honey at one of the vendors. I don’t don’t normally love honey, but this stuff was great.

Time to “Let it Go” with Elsa.
The Vendors
Yummy, hot funnel cake on a rainy day.
I really liked the look of this old mill building on the way home.

What You Need to Know About the Pennsylvania Farm Bill

Pennsylvania’s first ever Farm Bill was recently signed into law and provides $24 million in funds to support the agricultural industry. It is designed to increase opportunities in areas such as dairy, hemp and organics and remove barriers for young farmers’ entry into the profession. The bill also decreases some regulatory burdens on farmers. 

The bill is comprehensive, so I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the areas that might be of most interest or immediately helpful. Here are some of the most interesting parts of the bill:

  • Funding for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to serve as a resource to help  farmers create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan. 
  • A realty transfer tax exemption for any transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer will be available. 
  • Funding for the dairy industry in the form of  research and development, organic transition assistance, value-added processing, and marketing grants.
  • Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence funding to support the animal agriculture industry by expanding processing capacity, technical assistance, providing resources for food safety compliance, and assisting with the establishment of hemp as an approved animal feed.  
  • A program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs and subsidize the first-time purchase of equipment needed for federal compliance to access to new and expanded markets for small or new producers will be established.
  • Agriculture linked investment program to re-establish this low interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices.
  • Resource enhancement and protection tax credits to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.
  • Expansion of the allowable width for the use of implements of husbandry on roads, such as farm tractors and combines, from 16 feet to 18 feet. 
  • Farm Bill amends the Ag Area Security Act to allow for subdivision of preserved farms.
  • Funding for agricultural and youth organizations.
  • Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to allow for a quick response to agricultural disasters, including utilizing animal or plant health officials to contain an outbreak or threat, or providing an immediate response to a food borne illness.
  • Increasing market opportunities through funding of the PA Preferred Organic Initiative to make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state, the PA Preferred Program to support the overall program and to bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes Program, and the State-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops, and hardwoods. 

There is a lot to take in with this bill, and we will see what the future brings in terms of implementation. In the meantime, more information can be found here:

Governor Wolf’s statement on the PA Farm Bill

Information from the PA Department of Agriculture