SEPTEMBER ON THE FARM
September is a month of change. We’ll see a few cooler days and normally will see a few nights go down into the mid 50’s. The grass growth will slow down and will only need cutting every other week by the end of the month. By month’s end we will be starting to get the chicken houses ready for cooler
temps by replacing any tarp that is worn out and fixing anything that needs repair on the structure. Hopefully we will dodge any tropical storms or hurricanes which, at the very least, could set us behind on completing these tasks, and at worse, cause extreme damage that would force us to make radical
changes and extensive repairs. After being affected by tropical storms and hurricanes for 5 straight years, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we are spared any tropical activity this year.
Starting around the middle of the month, Jesse and I will begin mowing pastures for the last time this year. Permanent pastures, that will be over seeded in winter rye grass, will be bush hogged and then be bush hogged a second time a week later. The second cutting will be close to the ground and will allow
us to use our old John Deere grain drill to over seed the rye. We learned this technique from Tom Trantham owner of Happy Cow Creamery. Tom has used this method to plant his fields and provide his herd of dairy cows a fresh pasture every month for years.
The Sorghum Sudan field will be bush hogged this week, weather permitting. Once bush hogged, we will run the disk through the field a couple of times, level the field, and be ready to plant a combination of winter rye grass and Ram forage oats. We expect to begin planting all of our winter grazing beginning
the first or second week of October depending on the weather and the extended forecast. Plant too early and the heat can kill the winter rye, and plant too late and the frost could stunt the young growth. The timing of any planting, whether its grasses, corn or soybeans, plays a big role in the yields the farm
This past Sunday Jesse and I moved a sow into the farrowing house and will move in another in a week or two. These are the first sows that will farrow since early July. During this same period we should have farrowed 6 sows and will only farrow 2. This could have a major impact on what we will have
available for sale in February and March. The major reason we have experienced fertility issues was the heat. Unlike the large confinement operations, our sows are subjected to whatever Mother Nature throws they’re way. We provide them shade and shelter from the elements, but even a cool mist falling
on them or a wallow to lie in doesn’t help much when the heat index is over 100 as it was for several weeks this past summer. Some of the fertility issues are due to our boars which are a little older and heavier. It’s harder for them to keep cool in the summer as well and the result is lower fertility. We will
be taking our old boars to a friend’s farm this week and will move in our 2 new boars next week.
Cooler weather also means it’s time to get on to our winter projects. This year we have decided to not do any major building projects but will concentrate on some needed repairs. The chicken brooder houses that we built 4 years ago need to have some wood replaced and some insulation installed.
We’ve decided to replace the wooden sides with tin which will provide us years of maintenance free use. We are also looking at installing Styrofoam insulation sheets that will help hold in the heat in the winter and keep out some of the heat in the summer. We have 2 brooder houses, each with 2 brooder pens. In a few weeks we will be running a test in one of the houses, and if it works, will be converting the other house before spring. In our test house we will
be pouring a 3” concrete slab that will become the new floor. Over the slab we will lay 4” of wood shavings and continue changing the shavings out between each group of chicks. The concrete slab will allow us a better opportunity to disinfect between flocks and provide a solid level base to spread
shavings. The propane heaters will heat the slab which will provide the chicks a nice warm bed to walk and lay on.
One of the areas that we really need to improve on is equipment maintenance. Over the years we have rebuilt some of our equipment like we did with the old manure spreader a couple of years ago, but mostly we’ve done the minimum like oil and fluid changes. This year we have scheduled doing complete
maintenance on all of the tractors and will do major work on our hammermill. The tractor maintenance will include flushing all the hydraulic, oil, and fuel systems, replacing all filters, and replacing any fuel injectors that may be fouled. This will be a major task since we run 4 tractors on the farm but is well
worth the time and effort. The tractors might not be new models, but they all still have a lot of years left in them. We also feel that the older tractors are best on this farm since they aren’t depending on all of the computer technology that is used in the newer models. We like to keep it simple around here.
The hammermill that we use to grind all of our hog feeds on the farm is a 1970 International 1150. This model hammermill was discontinued in 1972 but parts are still readily available. In July, while putting out feed in the sow barrels, the discharge auger snapped. We ordered in a new auger and replaced it. A
couple of weeks ago we started hearing a bearing squeal letting us know that it has worn out. Being that the mill is 50 years old, we decided rather than replacing the one bad bearing, we’ll tear the mill down and replace them all. Jesse has ordered all of the bearings and expects them to be here this
Friday. We are hoping to grind enough feed to fill all of the hog feeders and allow us time to tear the mill down and replace the bearings. This is a major tear down, with a large number of bearings, sprockets, and chains that will be replaced; Jesse’s order form was almost a solid page of individual parts. We’ll do one shaft at a time to insure that we can quickly put the mill back in operation if we have to. A home delivery customer turned good friend, Alton, will come out and work on the project with Jesse and me. Alton can fix just about anything, and Jesse is pretty good with a wrench himself, which is a blessing to someone like me that is mechanically challenged. I can swing a hammer and can do a good bit of carpentry but give me a wrench and a broke motor and I’m lost.
In past newsletters we’ve mentioned the fact that we had been working on a grant application and that we had turned the application in back in march. This was a USDA Value Added Grant which specifically targeted our pork products. We have been notified that our application was accepted and we will be
awarded the grant. We have completed all the forms required to receive the grant and expect to be contacted about signing the final forms later this week or next. Without a doubt, this grant will be a game changer for us.
While working on the grant application, we had to write a business plan outlining what we would do with the grant money. We wrote a plan that we felt was so good that we would go ahead and put it in motion even if we weren’t awarded the grant. Part of that plan included the white oak smoked bacon, sugar cured and smoked hams, and the smoked sausages that we began producing in late May or June. Since then we have run a trial on Boudin and are in the process of working on other sausage flavors and several new pork items like the boneless country pork ribs we had cut a few weeks ago.
Speaking of our smoked products, we have heard from some customers regarding the ingredients used to make some of the new products, specifically MSG and Nitrates. We had never used this small smoke house before and they didn’t know us from Adams house cat. Though we talked to them about our
farm and what we do, they didn’t know if we were all talk or if what we were telling them was real. Keep in mind that this is a small plant that is not in located SC and that they had never heard of us. They were reluctant to change their practices since their customer base isn’t concerned with the same things
that our customer base is concerned with. During the past several months they have gotten to know us better and are willing to change practices when producing our products. We will supply them with the items needed to remove MSG and Nitrates when curing and making our farms products. Any item
produced at the smoke house, after September, will be produced without MSG or Nitrates. Any item that is produced in Kingstree, has been, and will continue to be, free of MSG or Nitrates.
When Annie and I stopped selling hogs in the commodity market, and started farming in a more environmentally sound manner with the goal of selling direct to families, we couldn’t have dreamed things would turn out the way they have. In 2005 we never thought about selling to restaurants. We
just wanted to sell a high quality product to local families. Somewhere along the line things changed and local chefs wanted our products. It wasn’t a bad thing, it allowed us to raise more animals and brought our revenue up enough that we could farm full time and concentrate on the farm and not worry
about having to go to work on off-farm jobs. Selling to restaurants taught us valuable lessons regarding meat cuts, the effect of fat on taste and how marbling makes the perfect pork chop. Talking to chefs gave us insights into how our pastured chickens performed in the kitchen and how commodity chicken couldn’t hold a candle to the flavor they got out of our birds. Many of our chef customers became close, personal, friends and readily gave us reviews on our products. When we started selling direct to customers at farmers markets in 2005, not many people felt safe in buying meat at a farmers market and most weren’t comfortable buying direct from farmers. It wasn’t until 2011 or 2012 when we really began to see the growth in our sales to families. In 2016 we were recognized by the Charleston Wine and Food Association as being pioneers in the local food movement. As big an honor as that was, our goal was still to provide our meats to local families. If there is a silver lining in Covid-19, for us it’s the fact that we are once again able to focus on serving the families of the Low Country. The past 6 or 7 months have been tough, but it has been a blessing to work with local families and seeing them excited when they’re weekly or bi-weekly order arrives. Thank you for your support of Pastured Pantry and your weekly attendance to the Port Royal Farmers Market.
In a few weeks we will be sporting a new label on our chicken products along with a couple new chicken cuts. We will begin offering deboned chicken leg meat in 1 lb packs. This dark meat is perfect for grilling and topping a salad or using to make chicken fajitas or even chicken salad for sandwiches. We will also
begin cutting all of our chicken wings into a 2 piece wing that we call “party wings”. We should have these products in stock and on the website by the first of October. We will soon begin using new, matching, labels as well for all pork items processed in Kingstree. The labels currently in use for our beef and smoked pork products will remain the same.
As if we weren’t busy enough, we decided to bring home a 9 week old chocolate lab puppy we’ve named Buddy. This is something that we said we wouldn’t do but the house just wasn’t the same since Moose passed away in June. Buddy has added a new spark to the house, running around, wanting to
play with all the other dogs, and then crashing when they’ve worn him out. So far he’s a pretty good pup and has settled into his new home. I know this sounds weird but he likes to lie on the same mat, under Annie’s feet like Moose did, when she’s working on the computer. He also likes to lay in the exact
spot, in the kitchen in front of an air vent, where Moose laid, and he likes to carry around a shoe, not my shoe but one of Annie’s just like Moose always did. It’s about time to start training him to sit in the front seat of the truck and go with me to get corn or to the feed store. In a few months he’ll be ready to
make trips to the processing plant with chickens or hogs. This week Annie had him with us while we loaded chickens for processing. Not once did he try to go after a chicken. I think he’ll be a good farm dog and will live up to his name, Buddy.
We hope you enjoy the upcoming fall weather. If you’re in Walterboro on a Monday or a Friday, stop by and see the farm and meet the people that work hard every day to provide food for your families table. They always enjoy meeting our customers and getting to put a face with a name. As busy as everyone is
right now with virtual school added to the normal daily routine, don’t forget that you can take some of your shopping burden off your shoulders by ordering through Pastured Pantry and having your order delivered direct to your door. If you want to keep up with the routine of the farm, make sure to follow
us on Facebook.
Thank you for your continued support of our family farm. Be safe and be healthy.
Annie, Marc, Amy, and Jesse