October 2017 Newsletter
What's Going On at the Farm
For October 2017
Every year we look forward to the Family Day on the Farm. It takes a lot of work preparing for the event with us starting several months in advance with planning, lining up the participants, getting the food that will be served processed, and making the farm a safe place to walk around, especially for the young children and older adults. We are busy the week before the event running to the processing plant to pick up the meat, mowing all the open areas of the farm, doing any last minute clean up, and getting the tents, tables, and chairs that will be needed on top of our normal daily chores and handling the normal weekly delivery schedule. Every year we tell ourselves "this is the last one" and by our December farm meeting we always begin discussing what we will do next year.
Why do we continue hosting the Family Day on the Farm when it takes weeks of preparation? Its the children! Anyone that has seen the face of a little child holding a baby chick or seeing a baby pig knows exactly what I'm talking about. Most families are 3 to 5 generations removed from a farm. This provides little opportunity for children to see cows, turkeys, hogs, and chickens. They see pictures of tractors but never get the opportunity to climb up on one and sit behind the steering wheel. In our eyes, this is one of the most important and fun days of the year.
As we have in the past, all doors were open and all buildings were available for inspection. People could see our operation up close and insure that we do what we say we are doing. One customer told me Saturday at the Summerville Farmers Market that she had been told there was no way we did what we have been saying we do, she was happily surprised when she visited and saw that what she had been told by others, was totally false, we do farm as we say we do. Hearing comments like that and having the opportunity to show people another, more sustainable, way to farm makes all the extra work worthwhile.
This year we also asked for our visitors help. We asked them to encourage their children to consider being farmers just as they would encourage them to be doctors, lawyers, business executives, truck drivers, and carpenters. By the year 2050 the world will need to double its food supply. We will need farmers to grow the food and land to grow the food on. Neither of these will be available if we don't encourage our children to consider farming as one of their career choices. Without farmers to purchase land when it is for sale, the land will be bought and used for other projects instead of being used to raise food. Without land or farmers to farm the land, we could face serious food shortages or extremely higher food prices in upcoming years. Personally, I would much rather eat food grown here in the US than eat food imported from other countries. I ran into a mother that brought her daughter to the Family Day on the Farm and she told me her 12 year old is asking her how old she needs to be to become a farmer. I call that success.
With Family Day on the Farm behind us, our focus turns to the projects we need to complete during the fall, winter, and early spring. This week the 4 new frames were delivered that will be turned into 4 new free range chicken houses. This will bring the total up to 14 of the 17 needed but we still have 4 existing houses that need to be modified and our original "test" house that needs to be modified to meet our current model. We can build out one of these houses in less than a week if we can get the time required to concentrate on the project. Time seems to be a constant problem but we are hoping that having Ian handling most of our restaurant deliveries will provide us the extra time needed.
We have pushed the farrowing house back a little further once again. We still need to finish the sow pen alleyway and decide on the final plans for the farrowing house. Like any building project, we are finding some additional things we need and are doing away with somethings that aren't necessary.
The sow alleyway has worked so well that we have decided to modify our hog grow-out lots and use alleyways to move hogs from the grow-out lots to a central loading shoot; we currently use individual lots each with its own load out area. This will make this process less stressful for the hogs and the farmer and make this process a little safer for both. We plan on turning one of the turkey lots into 3 or 4 grow-out pens that will use one alleyway. Each pen will be designed to hold 25 to 30 hogs, have a shelter, a permanent water system, mist system for the summer heat, and a large round hog feeder that we can fill once a week to handle their feed requirements. Our biggest issue now is finding a way to bring equipment in that can disc and plant a small area to provide some grazing for the hogs. Our goal is to allow 2 to 3 months rest between each group of pigs raised in the lot. This will require several grow-out lots like this to be constructed which we will put on our planning board once it is determined how well this model works in our system. Lots that are "resting" could be used to grow vegetables using the manure left behind by the pigs as fertilizer. We still don't have plans on becoming vegetable producers but it doesn't hurt to plan ahead or look at all options.
We processed the first group of turkeys from our friends in NC a week ago and the second batch this past Monday. The first group dressed out between 11 and 15 lbs with the bulk being 12 to 14. We had more damaged birds in the first group probably due to mixing groups of birds from different farms (pecking order) and travel distance from the individual farms to the meeting place and from the meeting place to the plant. Most of the damage is bruised wings which the inspector will cut off and some missing skin caused from a scrap or scratch, again the inspector will cut the skin off. We haven't heard from the plant yet with what our weights are or the condition of the second group. Even with the extra damage, we are blessed to have friends that care enough to help us when they were informed of the loss of a large number of our Thanksgiving birds. We still have 140 or so turkeys left on the farm that will be used to meet our orders for larger birds. I can honestly say that we will be glad to see this Holiday turkey season come to an end.
The loss of the 255 turkeys from the dog attacks has gotten us thinking about the future of our turkey enterprise. Turkeys are some of the hardest animals that we raise. Everything has to be just right for the first 8 weeks or flock mortality will be high. We have done a great job of keeping birds healthy for those critical weeks and have very few problems once the birds get to pasture. But the area around the farm is developing and its getting harder to protect these birds from neighbors dogs and other problems outside of our control. We do have a flock of 3 week old birds in the brooder now that will be used to make ground turkey and turkey sausage early next spring. During our winter meetings we will discuss what we will do with turkeys in the future and decide if we will only raise seasonal birds, continue to raise birds year round, or discontinue raising turkeys all together. Not raising turkeys will be a hard sell since these are Annies favorite.
If you aren't following us on Facebook please consider doing so. We use Facebook to inform people on what is happening on the farm, any changes in our market schedule, and what is happening with agriculture on a broad scale. The last few posts have been on local processing and a big issue overseas with JBS the worlds largest processor of meat; JBS USA is the 3rd largest meat processor in the US. Upcoming posts will continue to discuss the benefits of buying local and what can be considered a product of the United States, I found this interesting and think you may also.
Most people are unaware what the calendar is for on our website. We use the calendar as a way of reminding our customers when our on-farm market is open, when we will be at certain farmers markets, when dairy orders are due, and when our meat share drops and home delivery will take place; the calendar is updated monthly. When in doubt, check the calendar on our website.
We are looking forward to the cooler fall temps to help us work on our projects more comfortably. As in past years our winter project schedule contains more than we can possibly complete but it does provide us a game plan to bring the farm closer to what our vision is. Those of you that visited the farm in past years and came out again this year have seen how the farm continues to transform with our goal being focused on both animal comfort and us being more efficient.
We thank you for your continued support and welcome any comments on how we farm or suggestions on how we can better serve you.
Annie, Marc, Amy, & Jesse