August 2016 Newsletter
What's Going On at the Farm
For August 2016
The beginning of school and football signals to us that fall is right around the corner. We know that our last cutting of Coastal Bermuda hay will be around the middle of September and that our Sorghum Sudan hay will need cutting around the end of August and again, hopefully, in early October. At that point we have either cut enough hay to meet our steers needs for the winter or we have to start looking for a source to purchase hay from. With fingers crossed I will tell you that we haven't had to purchase much, if any, hay in the past 10 plus years and don't think that we will have to this year either. Both our Bermuda and Sorghum Sudan fields look very good and should produce some nice quality hay.
Last month I think I mentioned that we may lose the 26 acre farm we call the "new ground". This land has been in the family since the 50's but may be sold in the very near future. With all of the uncles passed, a lot of their children no longer farm or even live in the area; that is the case with the cousin that owns this particular farm. For the past several years we have farmed this land and raised our Sorghum Sudan hay there. The farm is 5 miles from the home farm which does cause us some problems transporting or moving equipment there when we need to work that farm. I personally love working that ground. For some reason I can almost see and feel Uncle Junior on the tractor when I'm discing or planting those fields. As far back as I can remember he planted corn there and would either cut the corn with an old 1 row corn picker or have Mr. Jamison bring his old International Combine over to harvest the fields. A lot of time was spent getting the combine to run or keep it running but it sure would harvest some corn when it ran. We really hate to see the land sold, for sentimental reasons, but completely understand all of the reasons behind it. If we could afford to buy it we would , but realize that too much debt will quickly put a farm like ours out of business. We currently are still paying for 2 pieces of land we have purchased in the last 10 years and will have to pass on the new ground. For now I'll be content knowing that I still have a few more trips to make around those fields baling this years Sorghum Sudan crop.
Expecting the loss of the new ground has us revamping a few things at the home farm. The 10 acre Bahia grass field at the back of the property will be killed and taken out of permanant pasture. We will disc the field in mid September and plant the land in winter rye or oats for cool weather grazing. In late spring we will again plow the field and plant it in either Millet or Sorghum Sudan to provide some additional warm season grazing. The rest of our fields and hay field will be bush hogged very short and planted in winter rye. Our goal is to minimize the amount of hay we will require and to provide as much "green" gazing as we can year round. This should also allow us to increase the number of steers we can graze on our land and may allow us to do somethings that we have only dreamed of in the past.
The continuing hot weather is taking its toll on the animals. Like us, the first week or two of warm weather are ok with them but they soon begin looking forward to some relief. During the day all of the hogs are under shades or laying in the wallows; all eating takes place at night for the most part. The chickens spend their day laying around in the chicken tractors and are eating most of their food at night also. Our feed bill has dropped for the last several weeks but so has the growth of our chickens, turkeys, and hogs. The growth of our chickens is running about 1 week behind and our hogs are running 4 to 5 weeks behind. This is causing us some concern because we are entering a busy fall season and will need everything to run as scheduled if we expect to meet our demand.
Hunter began working full time on the farm a few weeks ago. She is helping with morning and afternoon chores and continues to help with packing orders, meat shares, and helping with the Summerville Farmers Market. She has worked for us part time for the last year or two and is familiar with what happens here daily. She is a welcome addition and has already make an impact on what we can accomplish daily.
We also hired 4 high school girls that are enrolled in the ag program at Colleton High School. So far we are happy with their performance and ability to pay attention to details. Their job is moving the chicken tractors daily and making sure everything has feed and water. Originally we planned on having them do afternoon chores but were quickly reminded that a high school students schedule was a lot different than ours. With after school activities, FFA meetings, tennis, vollyball, and a host of other "unforeseen" commitments, we felt it best to cut their daily work load to allow them time for these activities. We have put the weekend chores in their control to allow us time for farmers markets and a little down time every other Sunday.
A couple of weeks ago we announced on Facebook that we had begun selling our products to Furman University. This is something that we have been working on since mid June and was just completed in mid August. Its strange how things like this happen. Selling to a university is something we never considered, in fact, we thought it would never happen. Most institutions have their dining halls staffed by an outside firm, the 2 largest are Sedexo and Aramark. These companies purchase all of their products through Sysco or US Food and normally purchase the lowest priced items to keep their food costs down. At Furman, the students, facilty, and staff wanted more. They wanted a higher quality product that was raised in a sustainable manner and that promoted growth of the local economy. When their food contract was over they hired a firm that was dedicated to sourcing as much as possible from local sustainable farms. One of the chefs on their Furman team had been a sous chef in Charleston and was very familiar with us and our products. With Furman he is one of the chefs in charge and immediatly contacted us to see if we could be one of his purveyors. The rest is history, as they say, and we are now making bi-weekly to weekly deliveries of our pork, chicken, and turkey. We have our fingers crossed that our old trucks hold together and allow us to make this 7 hour round trip delivery without too many breakdowns.
Every year we open the farm and invite everyone out to see how their food is raised. In the past this has taken place in early March, the Sunday before the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. A year ago this past March was the last time the event was held. We had over 300 people committed to come for the day but the weather was cold and rainy and only a little over 100 showed up. We decided that March was not the time of year that was best suited for this event and moved the date to October. Along with moving the date we wanted to change the event up some and use the opportunity to give back to the community. We decided that hunger was something that was intolerable in this country, especially hunger in children, and called the Low Country Food Bank to ask if they would like to partner with us on this event; they quickly agreed and began making plans. We contacted several of our chef friends and quickly got commitments from them while the Food Bank worked on securing tents and support staff.
Our annual Family Day on the Farm will be held Sunday October 2, 2016. We will have the gates open at noon with food being served from 2 until 5. You will enjoy our chicken, turkey, and pork prepared by 4 of the finest chefs in the Low Country. Cooking for us will be Chef Brian Waters from Saltus River Grill in Beaufort, Chef Penn Ten Eyck from Sweet Grass on Dawtaw Island, Chef Craig Deheil from Cypress/Artisan Meat, and Chef Josh Keeler from Two Bouroughs Larder. There will also be chefs from the Food Bank and Culinary Institute here to help out along with some culinary students working directly with the chefs.
During the event we will have all of the buildings open and manned for you to walk through and ask questions. The chicken brooder room will be open and someone will be there to get a chick out for your child to hold and let you get a few precious pictures. We are hoping to have a litter of pigs or two in the farrowing house for you to see; you won't be able to hold a pig but they are still fun to watch and are some of the cutest animals on the farm. There will also be a field or two of turkeys running around and preparing themselves for Thanksgiving. We will provide informative hay rides through the farm and discuss how we farm and why; this will also be a good time to ask questions and try to stump Marc. There will be a pumpkin patch for the kids to go in and pick out a pumpkin of their own. During the event you are encouraged to walk into the fields and look at everything on your own; the farm is yours for the day.
Tickets for the event are $25.00 for adults and $15.00 for children; children under 5 are free. Tickets can be purchased on line at www.lowcountryfoodbank.org/KFFestival. We will also have a box set up and ask that you bring a can or 2 of food to put in the box. 100% of the proceeds of this event along with all the canned food collected will go directly to the Food Bank. Please plan to attend and purchase your tickets early. Lets show the children of the Low Country how important they are to us and help us support the Food Bank.
The store at the farm will also be stocked with our chicken, turkey, pork, and beef for you to purchase during the event. Stop by the farm store and see the changes that we made last winter.
There's a lot to do around here in the upcoming weeks. Preparations have to be made for the farm event, we have to get ready for colder weather and make sure all buildings are in good shape and we have enough hay put up. Fields have to be prepared for planting of winter grazing and the last mowing of the season has to be completed. All of this is on top of a full schedule of daily chores, trips to the processing plant, restaurant deliveries, and farmers markets. Oh and we can't forget that the days are getting shorter making the daily work schedule even tighter. You can follow our busy week on Facebook. We try to post a few times a week to keep everyone informed of whats happening on the farm along with announcements and farm market changes.
Thanks for your continued support of our farm. The things we are trying to do to support our community wouldn't be possible without the support of each and everyone of you. Thank you just doesn't cover how much we appreciate you all.
Annie, Marc, Amy, & Jesse