June 2018 Newsletter
Whats Going On At The Farm June 2018
Sometime around February 2004, Annie told me she heard of a year and a half old female lab named Macy that was needing a home. Seems Macy was living under a mobile home and spending her days running around the neighborhood and exploring the swamp behind their house. The owners were nice people but were way to busy to spend anytime with her. She was really sweet but was afraid of men and petrified of thunderstorms. We decided to bring Macy home and make her a part of our family. Once home, Macy quickly adapted to her new home and her new family. She loved sitting on the couch, head buried in your chest, while you put your arm around her and scratched her chest or head. She could sit for hours this way watching tv. About 5 years ago Macy was one of the three dogs we had that got bite by the Cane Break Rattle Snake and was by far the one in the worst shape from the bite. The vets didn't think she would make it and suggested we not use our finances for her but put them in the other 2 dogs that stood a better chance of survival. There was no way that we could just let her go and decided we would do whatever we could to give her the best chance possible; she fully recovered.
In May of 2004 we added Goldie, a 9 week old yellow lab that we adopted from the Jasper County Animal Shelter. Goldie had parvo and almost died 2 days after we got her home. After her parvo treatment Goldie became the alpha dog and protector of any vehicle she was in. Annie used to bring Goldie with her on restaurant deliveries because she knew no one would bother her or the truck as long as Goldie was in it.
A month or so after Goldie we were contacted about a litter of 8 choclate lab puppies that someone didn't want; they were threatening to drown the pups in Lake Marion. With the help of a few friends all of the pups got homes and we ended up adopting Coco. Those of you that came to the farm or bought at the farms market would have seen Coco laying in her spot behind the counter or following Annie while she did chores. Coco was also biten by the rattle snake. After her treatment for the snake bite, Coco became diabetic and required daily insulin shots. We never realized just how bad a snake bite could be or the long term effects of the treatment.
Over the past 13 months all of these girls have passed leaving a big hole in our family. Coco was the first passing away in May of 2017, Goldie had to be put down this past Easter Sunday, and Macy passed away on Saturday June 3 while Annie was traveling back from the Summerville Farm Market and I was driving back from the Port Royal Farm Market. Thankfully Jesse was here and was with her.
All of the girls lived beyond the average for labs; Coco and Goldie were 14 and Macy was 15 pushing 16.
I guess one of the biggest lessons they taught me was that rescued dogs need a forever home and can make some of the best pets you will ever find. No amount of money that we could have ever spent would have gotten us any better pets than these three girls; they were truly a large part of this family. If you are considering a pet for your family, please consider a rescue.
The weather this summer seems to be hotter than normal for June. Several times a day a water hose will soften and split, due to the heat, forcing someone to spend time trying to find the failure and repair it. Along with keeping feed in the large outdoor chicken feeders, we have to fill feeders inside the chicken houses daily because the chickens will only come outside in the early morning and late evening when its cooler. Filling the feeders is taking over an hour a day but its the only way to get the chickens the feed they need to grow. For the next several weeks, until the heat breaks, you can expect us to be low on chicken and possibly even be stocked out. As of this newsletter we are totally out of whole chickens and expect to be so for at least 2 more weeks. Our chicken parts inventory looks good today but will quickly be depleted if the chickens growth doesn't allow for processing into parts.
We really like the chicken lots that we built last year but are not enjoying the extra work they demand throughout the summer months. All of the chicken poop left behind by the broiler chickens, and the spring rains we have been getting, force us to spend roughly 2 days weekly mowing the 17 chicken lots we currently have. The mowing is being done using 2 Craftsman lawn mowers with large mowing decks. These are not commercial mowers but one of the old ones we used to mow our lawn and the new replacement we bought 2 years ago. Hopefully we can afford to buy a diesel lawn mower that is more suitable for mowing large amounts of grass by next spring.
The heat has been tougher on the hogs than any of our other animals. Since a hog can't sweat, they will spend most of the day under the shades and out of the sun. We have let some of their waterers drip which creates a wallow and helps keep their water cooler. Annie has suggested that we put sprinklers inbetween 2 hog lots and run the sprinkler for an hour or two daily. The idea is that we can get the ground good and wet, keep the water in the lines cooler, yet not create a wallow which can also provide a few health issues to the hogs. We plan on setting a couple of trial sprinklers up this week and seeing how it works out.
Our hay field was looking better than it ever has until the really hot temps hit. Some rain and cooler temps will get it looking good again but we need to bale it soon or the quality will be diminished. New cutter blades have been ordered and will be put on once they arrive. We hoped to begin cutting hay next week but the forecast is for showers every day. Once the field is cut and baled, we will let the cows graze it the rest of the summer.
I'm sure some of you will remember Ian who worked with us at the Summerville Farmers Market last year. Ian was also handling a lot of our restaurant deliveries for the past several months while he worked on a few of his own projects. Ian left us a few weeks ago to take a job with the Colleton County Museum and to manage the Walterboro Farmers Market. We have been advertising and interviewing for a replacement and hope to have a new driver in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, Jesse and Marc are handling all of our deliveries along with their normal duties.
When Farm To Table Delivery closed their doors in December, we decided to move Pastured Pantry from delivering only our meat shares to doing all home deliveries. This new venture has been a success for the farm but has greatly increased the farms workload and had us looking for additional labor to help pack orders, help with weekly farmers markets, and possibly work to expand Pastured Pantry by adding more delivery days. We have been looking for an extra person for almost 4 months with no luck. Because of the labor issue, we are working on plans to allow us to handle everything with our current staff. This may have us changing some of our schedules but should allow us time to grow Pastured Pantry and possibly add additional delivery days.
During our recent farm meetings we have been having some frank discusions about our participation in local farmers markets; we currently participate in the Summerville and Port Royal farmers markets. For the past 3 years nationwide farm market sales declined 30% a year and are experiencing greater declines this season. Locally, our Summerville market sales have declined around 25% to 30% each of the past 3 years while Port Royal has grown until recently. So far this market season, Summerville sales are off by over 45% and are considerably below sustainable levels. We think there are several reasons for this including too many farmers markets in the greater Charleston area (at last count there were 17), too many vendors selling like products at each farmers market, farmers markets taking on a carnival type atmosphere which tends to keep serious buyers away, attempting to make existing markets too large which spreads customers purchases out over too many vendors, and customers deciding not to shop at farm markets because of "farmers" reselling produce rather than selling what they grow. This year the Daniels Island market didn't open and last week the Carnes Crossroads market closed its doors. Other local markets are having trouble attracting vendors because of low sales and several of the vendors have dropped out because they could not afford to continue participating. Just this year we have been contacted by several markets asking us to participate after existing vendors left.
Farm market participation is a big investment for a farm; both in money and in time. We have figured the cost to participate in a farm market to be in excess of $200 per market. This cost includes packing, loading, travel time, set up and tear down, time at the market, market fees, and time required to unpack the unsold items. We based our costs on a minimal $10.00 an hour basis and didn't add anything in for meat that unthawed or had seals that broke and could no longer be sold. Profit margins are low on pastured meat making it very difficult to break even or generate a small profit on a good day never mind the slow sales days we are experiencing this market season. We have decided to begin participating in the Summerville Farm Market on an every other week basis while continuing to be in Port Royal weekly. We are hoping that this schedule change is temporary and that we will begin to see things improve once school starts, vacations end, and cooler weather returns. We will update the calendar on our website on a monthly basis to make it easy to find what days we will be at the market.
Pastured Pantry will continue on their normal schedule and will make monthly deliveries to both Zone 1 and Zone 2. Participation in Pastured Pantry has been well beyond our expectations and continues to grow monthly. You can contact us with any questions about Pastured Pantry and can place your home delivery order directly on our website. Sign up with Pastured Pantry for all updates and the delivery schedule. We would also love to hear any suggestions that you might have that would make this service better.
The market on the farm will be closed on Friday July 6th for the 4th of July holiday. We will also NOT participate in the Summerville or Port Royal Farmers Markets on Saturday July 7. The market at the farm will resume normal hours on Monday July 9th and we will be at both farm markets on Saturday July 14.
Over the past several months we have solicited comments and suggestions for our new website that is being designed. To date we have had no response. We are still several months away from being ready to roll out the new website but would truly like to get your comments on our existing site and suggestions for the new one. There is considerable work being done to the on-line store but we would also like to change other parts of the site in hopes of providing more information about the farm along with other information that you might find interesting. We have considered adding a blog, recipes, and more pictures or videos.
We thank you for your continued support of our farm and look forward to our visits at the farm markets or when you visit the farm. When eating out, please thank the restaurant for their support of local farms as well.
Please have a safe 4th of July holiday and drive safely if on the road.
Annie, Marc, Amy, and Jesse