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Rhode Island farm harvests deer antlers for medicine

February 19, 1997

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (AP) _ When things get tough on the farm, a smart farmer usually looks for a new way to keep things going. For John Barnatowicz, the answer is deer antlers.

When the deer on his farm in Burrillville get old enough, he and a veterinarian will tranquilize the animals and remove their antlers. But the antlers won’t be mounted above his fireplace. He’ll sell them whole or grind them into a powder for homeopathic medicine to treat arthritis, high blood pressure and other ailments.

Barnatowicz has started the first deer farm in Rhode Island. He owns about 20 male bucks and plans to buy 20 pregnant does to build a herd of about 300 males on the Granite Acres Red Deer Farm.

He’ll harvest the antlers while they are soft, when they contain a special combination of nutrients used for homeopathic medicines popular in many countries. Some practitioners claim that soft antler strengthens the blood, reduces stress, protects against liver damage, promotes bone growth and improves sex.

``The biggest market for us would be South Korea,″ says Barnatowicz, a carpenter whose family has owned the farm since 1929.

He said he got the idea from a newspaper article about the growing deer farming industry in Maine.

``The taxes on the farm were just extraordinary. They tripled last year. I didn’t want to lose the farm. I wanted to do something to at least pay the taxes,″ he said.

After the antlers grow about 60 days, they are removed and shipped to retail markets whole or ground into powder, which is then packaged in capsules.

Asians prefer to slice pieces from the whole antler and use them to make teas and soups, while American consumers prefer the capsules, Barnatowicz said.

Barnatowicz said he’ll be paid between $80 and $100 per pound of antlers, which average between 10 and 11 pounds.

He said no deer would be hurt in the process. Antlers eventually fall off anyway after they harden, Barnatowicz said.

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SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. (AP) _ Thanks to last month’s torrential storms, the quality of California’s fresh navel oranges is up while the price consumers pay is down.

The rains that damaged many other California crops added nourishment to the navel orange crop and allowed the fruit to stay on the tree longer and get bigger and juicier, experts say.

``This is the best eating crop we’ve had in a decade,″ said Joel Nelson, president of Visalia-based California Citrus Mutual. ``Mother Nature was kind to us this year.″

Extra-large oranges equal 25 percent of this season’s crop, compared to 11 percent a year ago, according to Sherman Oaks-based Sunkist Growers.

Meanwhile, prices are as much as 17 percent lower because lots of large oranges are available, the cooperative added.

``Usually, consumers have to pay outrageous prices, but this year they’re so abundant,″ Sunkist’s Gee Winands said.

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