‘Beyond organic’: Amonite farm, Heritage Hills Farmstead

By AMY HENDERSON, The Cullman Times

CULLMAN, Ala. (AP) — Heritage Hills Farmstead’s Karl and Karli Amonite began growing their own meat and eggs on Karli’s family farm years ago as a way of providing their small family with better quality food. Then their organically-grown produce operation began to grow, well, organically.

Karl, who studied exercise science/kinesiology in college, and Karli, a nutritionist, knew the importance of eating healthy foods, especially because Karli has an autoimmune disease. “We know the value of consuming the highest quality, nutrient dense food possible,” said Karl. “We’ve kind of figured out what’s best for our bodies.”

But they had a hard time finding what they were looking for. “We took matters into our own hands,” he said. “We set out on this adventure, just doing it ourselves.”

Karl came from an agricultural community but had no actual farm experience, but Karli grew up on her family’s farm in Northwest Cullman County and that’s where they began their operations.

After several years, and multiple inquiries from friends and neighbors, the Amonite’s began marketing their produce — eggs, chickens, turkey, hogs and beef — to the public in 2017.

They’re now shipping produce across the country, and delivering to homes in North Alabama, along with some in Tennessee.

“It started kind of organically happening,” said Karl.

The couple shuns the term “organic” when it comes to labeling their produce, noting that under the official USDA designation, some additives that meet USDA standards can be used.

“We rose above the label ‘organic.’ We feel its a term that’s been overused,” said Karl. “We like to think of ourselves as beyond organic. In our sense, it means the original state without anything added to it.”

At Heritage Hills Farmstead, the laying chickens have free-run of the farm; the cows graze on hundreds of acres of pasture year-round and the hogs forage in the woods for their food.

“We provide great habitats for species of all kinds,” said Karl. The result, he said, are happy animals. “We want to make to make sure our animals are humanely raised, so they’re not stressed.

“We feel like overfeeding is a huge problem – for humans and for farms,” he added. “Our practices are more slow growing, it’s a lengthier process. We feel there’s more of a health benefit to our products.”

While the chicken and cattle are grain-free, the Amonites do provide supplemental grain to the hogs to help them through the winter, but stay away from soy and corn. “The hogs right now are in acorn and hickory and walnut heaven,” said Karl.

He said he and his family, which includes 4-year-old Klaire and 8-month-old Kate, love the animals and are grateful to them. Knowing how the animals were raised, what they ate and that they were happy animals also makes the Amonites and their customers feel better about what they’re consuming. “We say to them, ‘thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice for us, so we can eat healthy,’”

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India’s capital chokes on ‘severe’ smog as farm fires soar

New Delhi was blanketed in noxious haze Friday as air pollution levels in parts of the city soared to “severe” levels, hours after US President Donald Trump described the air in the vast nation as “filthy”.

Smoke from agricultural burning, vehicle fumes and industrial emissions — combined with cooler temperatures and slow-moving winds that trap pollutants over the city — turns air in the Indian capital into a toxic soup every winter.

The air quality index at Delhi’s 36 pollution monitoring sites — which monitors tiny PM2.5 and PM10 particles that get into the bloodstream and vital organs — was between 282 and 446, pushing levels into the “severe” category, the Central Pollution Control Board said.

The “good” category is between 0-50, the government’s environmental watchdog added.

A “significant increase in stubble fire count” to 1,213 in Haryana and Punjab states was the highest of this season and made up 17 percent of Delhi’s PM2.5 levels, the state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research added Friday.

“Further deterioration of (air quality) is expected for the two days,” SAFAR said.

This season’s burning started earlier because of advanced sowing and harvesting by farmers amid fears of labour shortages during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The worsening conditions came as Trump complained that action on climate change was unfair to the US.

“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia, look at India — it’s filthy. The air is filthy,” Trump said at his presidential debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Scientists warned this year’s pollution season would make Delhi’s 20 million residents more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“Air pollution increases the risk of noncommunicable diseases — the same underlying conditions that make people more likely to experience severe illness or death from Covid-19,” epidemiologist Sumi Mehta from global non-profit Vital Strategies told AFP.

Healthcare systems, stretched by the pandemic, could be further stressed by more hospitalisations from pollution-related illnesses, researchers added.

“There are serious worries that during winter when higher air pollution levels in any case worsens respiratory illness and increases hospitalisation, the vulnerability to Covid-19 may be further enhanced,” Anumita Roy Chowdhury of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment told AFP.

The chief medical officer of Gurugram city near New Delhi, Virender Yadav, told The Times of India Thursday some recovering Covid-19 patients were experiencing a reoccurence of respiratory conditions triggered by the heightened air pollution.


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Cow-hugging, an alleged wellness fad, has people cuddling farm animals to relieve stress

In the increasingly hectic and stressful year of 2020, people are seeking calm wherever they can find it — from frolicking through the fields to adopting plants. But now there’s another natural way to restore your cortisol levels: cow-hugging.

People in several parts of the world have begun to embrace the alleged wellness trend, which reportedly originated in the Netherlands, where it is known as “koe knuffelen.”

According to the BBC, the practice of cuddling cows is supposed to reduce stress in humans by releasing the bonding hormone oxytocin.

Cows are chosen specifically for their warm body temperatures and calm demeanor, the outlet reported.


“Cows are very relaxed animals, they don’t fight, they don’t get in trouble,” a farm owner who promotes the practice told BBC. “You come to the fields and we have some special hugging cows and you can lay next to [them] — people think it’s very relaxing.”

A 2007 study suggested that the practice, which is catching on in the U.S. and Switzerland, benefits the cows as well as the humans.

A 2007 study suggested that the practice, which is catching on in the U.S. and Switzerland, benefits the cows as well as the humans.


Farms in the United States and Switzerland have also adopted the wellness fad, which, according to a 2007 study in the Applied Animal Behavior Science journal, also benefits the cows.

The researchers found when the animals are rubbed, massaged or pet, they experience relaxation and pleasure as well.

“This suggests that cows may in part perceive human stroking of body regions often-licked similarly to social licking,” the researchers write in their study.


Though, if you’re not near a farm, petting smaller domestic animals has also been shown to lower blood pressure in humans and provide relaxation effects.

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