Valley Oaks Steak Company, LLC, located on 50 Highway just three miles from Powell Gardens and about the same distance from downtown Lone Jack, is currently in the planning phase of expanding their confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). The expansion they have proposed will include housing and processing of cattle and will increase the number of cattle on their 400 acres from nearly 900 to 6,999.
***UPDATE: The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has approved the Valley Oak’s expansion Permit.***
Statement from Powell Gardens CEO/President, Tabitha Schmidt: “We are disappointed that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has made such a detrimental decision against the interest of our natural resources and public health. We will be pursuing all available recourse to protect our public treasure.”
Powell Gardens has filed for an injunction and will be filing an administrative appeal in response to the Missouri Department of Natural Resource’s issuance of an operating permit to Valley Oaks Steak Company for a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO).
What can you do?
If you were adversely affected by this decision, you may file a written petition to the Administrative Hearing Commission before July 16, 2018.
In your appeal:
- List the Valley Oak’s permit number MOG010872
- State you are filing pursuant to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section § 621.250
- State the reasons for why MDNR should not have issued the permit
Contact information for the AHC is: Administrative Hearing Commission, United States Post Office Building, Third Floor, 131 West High Street, P.O. Box 1557, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
You can support opposition to this expansion by BECOMING A MEMBER or make a donation to our operations.
What are we protecting?
Powell Gardens is a 970-acre facility with 100 maintained botanical acres, housing a living museum of plant collections, architecture designed by world-renowned architect E. Fay Jones and offering events, classes, and respite to an average of 100,000 visitors each year. The land, purchased by the Powell Family in 1948, was incorporated as the non-profit cultural landmark it is today, in 1988.
An Aerial View of Kansas City’s Botanical Garden
The acronym stands for “confined animal feeding operation,” a modern agricultural practice of raising livestock in a confined space, such as “a lot, building or complex.” The animals are not put out to pasture; instead, the cattle, hogs or chickens are fed grain to “finish,” or fatten rapidly for slaughter.
For cattle, there are four CAFO classifications, based on number: Class 1A is 7,000 head or above; a Class 1B is 3,000 to 6,999; a Class 1C is 1,000-2,999; and a Class II is 300 to 999.
The CAFO is located three miles west of a botanical natural resource of pristine beauty with 6,000 plant varieties. The gardens and its attractions, including a chapel built by a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright where 50 weddings are performed each year, and more than 100,000 visitors each year.
CAFOs are a concern due to the unknown impacts of human health and wellness and environmental impact, including odor, air quality, ground and surface water contamination, potential pest infestations, wear and tear on rural infrastructure with substantial increases in truck traffic and a decrease in home values.
The Valley Oaks CAFO is unprecedented in Missouri because it would be the largest in the state and includes a slaughterhouse, rendering plant and retail sales on a tract of land within the boundaries of an established community, including a regionally significant botanical preserve marking its 30th anniversary and more than 880 homes.
Most are located far from densely populated communities. Valley Oaks Steak Co., is seeking to serve the Kansas City metro area. The site is located within 15 minutes of Lee’s Summit, part of the Kansas City metro area.
A family farm is owned and operated by a local family. Some of the family farms in the Lone Jack area are further classified as Centennial Farms, farmsteads settled 100 years ago, or more, and owned through the generations by the same family. Valley Oaks is a LLC, or limited liability corporation.
A CAFO is referred to as a factory farm because it confines animals outside of their habitat, an effort to streamline processes and maximizing output, often at the expense of the animal’s well-being. Confinement means the cattle do not have access to pasture. Confined animals are often stressed animals. Close quarters also can create conditions for disease to spread, often requiring the use of artificial hormones, steroids and antibiotics to maintain the health of the animals. Huge amounts of waste – including manure, urine, feces, plus blood and carcasses – must be disposed.
A facility for holding feces, urine, blood and bedding. The lagoon may be lined or unlined. If not well-managed, lagoons are subject to leakage, groundwater contamination or overflow that may contaminate nearby water sources.
Rendering: A process that converts animal wastes into usable products by separating the fat from the proteins. Bones and lard are by-products of rendering, but Wikipedia also notes that the job of renderer has appeared on ABC News’ list of “The Seven Dirtiest Jobs.”
Sprayfield: Land that is fertilized with liquid manure, releasing airborne particulates that effect air quality, water quality and human health conditions such as asthma.
Based on the numbers contained in the permit application submitted to Missouri Department of Natural Resources by Valley Oaks Steak Co., our experts have calculated that 6,999 cattle will generate approximately 221 tons of feces, urine and bedding per day or 1,547 tons per week.
The waste will be contained in earthen lagoons, applied to the surrounding fields as manure and trucked to undisclosed facilities. Land application means odor-causing particulates will be dispersed in the air. Odor is an unavoidable by-product of such an operation, a Valley Oaks spokesperson has told the media and state officials.
Powell Gardens is actively opposing the expansion, as is the citizen group Lone Jack Neighbors.
In April, a hearing regarding the permit application drew almost 1,000 letter writers who submitted objections to the DNR and nearly 600 who traveled to Warrensburg, Mo., to voice their concerns.
The Kansas City Star editorial board also opposes the expansion and Kansas City chefs who practice farm-to-table dining have severed ties with the company.
Throughout the state, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center is working to return local control to Missouri farmers instead of agribusiness interests. The Sierra Club and other environmental protection not-for-profit organizations also oppose CAFOS.
The Garden Conservancy in Garrison, New York, has joined a growing number of Powell Gardens supporters citing it as “a part of our cultural heritage and an asset to the people of the greater Kansas City region and as such, it is worthy of protection.”
Did you know you can vote for sustainable food choices with your fork?
At restaurants and in grocery stores, consumers are increasingly bombarded with terms like organic, local, sustainable, natural and clean. Dive deeper a bit deeper into how your food is raised and you’ll find an alphabet soup of popular and scientific terms relaying how cattle is raised and processed.
The USDA offers “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Compass,” an introduction to stewardship and local food: https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/KYFCompass.pdf
We’ve focused on defining some of the terms that you need to know to better understand where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised, but the best way to understand what you are buying is to know your farmer, the location of the ranch and ask questions.
We’ve been asking a lot of questions lately and here is what we have learned:
Biodiversity in food: A wide range of native organisms existing in a habitat adds diversity to a sustainable food system and has benefits for long term public health and food security.
Clean eating: A popular eating philosophy that champions whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats. It also includes the avoidance refined grains, pesticides, additives, preservatives, sugar and salt.
CSA: An acronym for “Community Supported Agriculture.” A CSA is a direct-to-consumer farming model that focuses on a share of local, seasonal produce and items in return for a guaranteed consumer willing to take on some of the risks of growing along with the farmer. For example, in a season of drought, the amount of produce delivered will be less than a year of plenty. Most CSA’s focus on vegetables, although some include fruit eggs, meat, dairy and assorted sundries. The Powell Gardens CSA includes vegetables and fruits from the gardens as well as assorted value-added specialty items made by a local chef.
GMOs: An acronym for genetically modified organisms, such as plants or animals that have had their genes combined with genes of another species.
Farm-to-table is a descriptor often used to define a movement started in the United States by a California chef named Alice Waters. Waters had traveled to France, where she was impressed by the fresh ingredients she tasted. In the early 1970s, she created a restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., called Chez Panisse. The restaurant, which is still in operation, serves only fresh produce and meats raised on small, local farms.
Waters became a model of the values that a generation of American chefs seeking to create sustainable and ethically responsible food adopted. As early as the 1990s, local Kansas City chefs were beginning to seek out menu ingredients sourced directly from small, local farms and adding the names of farmers to menus.
One of the main criticisms of farm-to-table ingredients is they generally cost more, both due the time required for the chef to source an ingredient passed on in entrée price. But many consumers are willing to pay a premium for food they consider fresher, humanely raised or sustainably grown, attune to the seasons and in-sync with the rhythms of nature, unique in taste and, ultimately, traceable from a food safety standpoint.
By 2009, The American Medical Association recommended transitioning to local and organic diets to improve health. First Lady Michele Obama planted an organic garden on the White House grounds and made healthy eating and fitness the top of her agenda. U.S. Department of Agriculture began to promote production and consumption of local food through “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign.
The interest in farm-to-table has spurred awareness and a trickle down of a once-fringe movement into the consumer mainstream. In 2015, the National Restaurant Association found in a survey that four of the top 10 trends were related to an interest in local food.
Nearly a decade ago, leading farm-to-table advocate Michael Pollan, a University of California-Berkley professor and author of the best-selling and award-winning “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (Penguin Books), visited the newly installed Heartland Harvest Garden, a 12-acre culinary-themed tract at Powell Gardens, and the news made the front page of The Kansas City Star.
Powell Gardens continues to support fresh, local and sustainable food production through a series of expanding educational and culinary initiatives, including seasonal barn dinners featuring farm-to-table chefs, a consumer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable subscription service, a pilot Chef CSA and a developing chef-in-residence program that partners restaurant professionals with our horticultural staff to grow healthy food for the surrounding community.
Finishing: A term used to denote what the animal ate during the last three to six months of its life. Animals can be grass finished, but grain finished is more common in the United States where Americans have developed a taste for corn and a fattier finish.
Pasture-raised (beef, lamb, goat): An animal allowed to roam, eating grass during most of the year. The animal may also receive supplemental organic grain.
Grass-fed (beef, lamb, goat): An animal allowed to roam freely and consume grass, the food it evolved to eat. Grass-fed beef tends to contain higher quantities of “good” fat and contain less overall marbling. Some grass-fed beef is finished on grain. A label of 100% grass-fed means the animal was fed no grain to finish.
Natural (all-natural, naturally raised): A marketing term used for foods that have not been processed or treated with preservatives. It is a marketing word, not a government-regulated definition. Some all-natural products follow the same standards of organic sustainable farming but do not carry a USDA certification seal.
Organic: Food grown through a farming system that avoids man-made fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, feed additives, GMOs, irradiation, industrial solvents or synthetic food additives. Standards vary worldwide, but for a food to bear the USDA Organic seal, it must be a product that contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients and undergo a certification process.
Seed-to-plate: A popular phrase used to denote non-factory farm food products nurtured from beginning to end by sustainable farm practices.
Sustainable food system: A form of agriculture, food processing and distribution that feeds the planet yet maintains current natural resources without damaging those reserves for future use. A sustainable food system considers equally the socio-economic and environmental impact of the food operations.
Vertical integration: A large company that owns the means of production from beginning to end, inception (or conception) to distribution to cut cost and increase profits. The American beef industry is a highly consolidated industry that relies on vertical integration. Vertically integrated operations place a priority on profits over the human and environmental costs.
After hundreds of questions and concerns regarding the expansion permit were submitted, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing, in April 3, 2018, at the Warrensburg Community Center to allow further public comment. The capacity of the room reserved by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources was 200, nearly 600 community members were in attendance. The video below highlights select comments from residents of the Lone Jack Community and supporters of Powell Gardens. Links to media coverage of the hearing are also provided.
Public Hearing Coverage
Hundreds Showed Up To Weigh In On Proposed Cattle Feedlot Near Powell Gardens