MARCH ON THE FARM
What a difference a month makes! In the February newsletter we talked about the new grow lot we
were nearly completing, moving cows into some fields that we planted winter grazing on back in
October, and talked about a USDA grant we were applying for. Well the cows are still on the winter
grazing, the hog grow lot is complete and a group of 32 pigs has been put on it. Another new grow lot
has been started and is a few weeks away from being complete and the grant has been finished and was
turned into the USDA office earlier in March; we should know if our grant application was successful in
Here we are in March and nothing that is happening now could have been conceived of just a few weeks
ago. On March 17 th , the State ordered all restaurants and bars closed in an attempt to stop the spread
of the Coronavirus. They were allowed to provide takeout orders but all in-house dining was prohibited.
Most of the restaurants we serve are fine dining and aren’t set up for takeout service. Some tried it for
a few nights and stopped while others switched to a quick menu with few items, and others just
shutdown completely. With restaurants comprising 80% of the farms business, this was a serious blow.
To make things worse, restaurants pay on an account and left us holding a large amount in accounts
receivable. We kicked ourselves for this for several days but then realized that restaurants don’t work
on a COD basis, if you want to sell to them you have to set up an accounts receivable account. Also, no
one could have seen this coming and no one could stop it. It wasn’t a fault of anything we or anyone else
did, it just happened. Now we have to figure out how we are going to adjust, make a plan, and move
Something we didn’t see coming was the influx of phone calls and emails we would receive beginning a
couple days after the restaurants closed. The posts we made on Facebook were being shared by a lot of
people and we were getting requests from a lot of people to join our Facebook group. I think in the last
couple of weeks about 200 people have joined our group. We have been seeing a lot of new faces
coming out to the farm on market days, placing orders for home delivery, and Port Royal Market pick
up. This upcoming week Jesse and Amy have 110 or so stops to make over a 3 day period for home
deliveries. Our home delivery business has been good for the past few years but we never would have
imagined this kind of demand.
By now most of you probably know that the Port Royal Farmers Market has been closed by the Town
due to the Coronavirus. What we have started to do, and hope to continue as long as we can, is to take
pre-orders and deliver them to a group pick up point at the end of Paris Rd in the Village of Port Royal.
The location is a large vacant lot which allows the farmers and customers to spread out and maintain a
lot of distance between each other. The orders need to be placed on our website before noon on
Thursday for Saturday morning pick up. Once we pack the order, we will invoice you through Square.
You pay prior to Saturday using your credit card and we meet you for pick up. By pre paying, things will
move faster and there is no money to touch which makes things safer for everyone. We have put a $25
minimum order in place for any pre order to the Port Royal meeting place. The meeting time has been
set for 9 until 11 every Saturday as long as we are allowed or are able to be there. Sorry but we are not
allowed to bring extra items to sell while at the meeting place, doing so would make it a farmers market
and not a pick up point. Please monitor our Facebook page for updates.
If you are interested in ordering milk and other dairy products, please check the website calendar, it lists
the dairy order due dates. Please place your order prior to the due date and we will add it to the farms
dairy order. The dairy is experiencing some shortages in cheese and is producing only limited amounts
of chocolate and buttermilk. We are bringing in very little extra for our market sales so please pre order
if you want dairy.
The virus has us all nervous and rightly so. Seeing the news reports and talking to people in the medical
field, tells me that this is nothing to play around with. Even if you get a mild case it isn’t pleasant and if
you get a severe case, it is one of the worst things you can imagine going through, if you survive it. We
are taking all the precautions possible to try and keep our customers and ourselves safe. Jesse and Amy
don’t want to see you when they make a delivery; they’ll leave your order in a cooler or on your porch.
This is the safest for you and them. At the farm we are asking for pre-orders whenever possible to allow
us to take your order to your car and provide minimum contact. At the market on the farm, we have
stopped allowing people to go through the freezers, tell us what you need and we’ll get it for you. You
are all important to us; we don’t want to get anyone of you sick. We also know that we can’t operate
the farm and provide our products to you if we were to get sick.
Something that we didn’t expect to happen was to get calls from other farmers wanting to buy some of
our animals. This past week we took 14 hogs to the processor for a couple of other farms and have
been taking a few chickens for a couple more. I hadn’t thought about this until we started getting calls,
but we are one of the only pastured chicken operations that raise chickens year round; most only raise
them from March through November. We also raise hogs year round and normally keep the same
number in the lots whether its winter or summer. Other farms only sell at farmers markets and most
markets don’t open until April or later so those farmers don’t have hogs or chickens that will be ready
until it’s time for the markets to open again in the spring. We helped the ones we could and hope it
covers them until their chickens and hogs are ready to process in a couple of weeks.
During the colder months we raise a lot of chickens to larger sizes that we have processed into parts.
Normally we will try to build a 3 month or so inventory of chicken parts to help carry us through the hot
summer months when it’s almost impossible to raise a chicken to the large size required to cut parts. In
just 2 weeks, we have blown through almost 2-1/2 month’s worth of chicken inventory. During the
same time frame we have gone through 2 steers which is normally a month’s usage. The same can be
said for pork and almost of all or turkey inventory has been sold out.
We still have over 2,000 chickens running around the farm and 200 or so hogs and pigs. Our plan is to
continue to process 200 to 250 chickens weekly and as many hogs as needed just as we have done for
the past 15 or so years. We are seeing a large increase in demand for chicken parts and will probably
have to hold back a processing to allow the birds to get large enough but will go right back to weekly
processing after that. We temporarily stopped our chick hatchery orders but will resume getting
shipments on May 5 th . We continue to farrow hogs monthly and are continuing with our current
breeding schedule. This should keep us well stocked in chicken and pork for the foreseeable future.
Steer processing is getting tough to schedule. The plant we normally process beef at in North Carolina is
booked up but is trying to see when they can squeeze us in. The plant in Kingstree is booked out for 2
months at least, and a plant I called in Georgia couldn’t give me a processing date before May 25. Farms
I’ve talked to in the South are seeing the same processing issues in their areas. We have 2 steers in the
freezer but will be out after that. We are hoping the North Carolina plant can get us in this week or
next; we normally take 6 or 8 steers at a time for both our partners and our farm.
Even though the farmers markets are all closed, we can expect to see processing in Kingstree becoming
booked out for both chickens and hogs beginning in the next couple of weeks. We have a standing
processing date for every Wednesday, year round, and don’t expect any hog and chicken processing
We did receive a small batch of turkey poults about 3 weeks ago. In another week they will be ready to
move out to one of the pastures. We had an additional 3 or 4 hatchings scheduled from the hatchery
for April, May, and June but have cancelled them. Turkeys are expensive to raise and process. Due to
the current situation, we decided it was best to invest our money in maintaining our current chicken and
hog inventory and handle the immediate needs of our customers. We will continue to discuss the
turkeys and make a final decision in upcoming weeks on whether or not we will raise more for
Thanksgiving. We might just have to sit this year out on turkeys.
A lot of people are signing up on the website and placing orders. Please check your preferences and
click on order reminders and newsletters. Several people have complained that we aren’t informing
them on order due dates. When we ask if they allowed order reminders and newsletters, they said no.
During this time, the order reminders and newsletters are one of the only ways we can get important
information out to you. Please make sure your settings allow these reminders.
The outpouring of support the past few weeks has been overwhelming. I really think that as bad as this
pandemic is, there is a lot of good coming out of the tough times. People seem to be more patient, kind,
and generous. Every day I’m hearing of a group of people that are working together to help a
community that is less fortunate than they are. I talked to someone last night that has a group helping
the Hispanic community and another that is supplying bags of food to out of work restaurant workers.
On the radio I heard of a group of BBQ competitors from another state that is sending money to closed
restaurants and asking them to cook meals for first responders; normally they go to towns after a
disaster and do it themselves but can’t during the pandemic. There are countless other stories of giving
and paying it forward that have been heard these past few days and prove that American’s are some of
the most giving and compassionate people in the world.
Everyone here on the farm is working long hours, some are working 6 to 7 days a week. We’re all
getting tired and can be a little grumpy. Please forgive us if we seem a little short or preoccupied, there
is a lot going on and sometimes the pressure almost becomes unbearable. There is a big difference
between filling 20 or 30 restaurant orders a week along with 30 or so home delivery orders, and
overnight seeing the restaurant orders disappear and the home delivery and farm market orders triple
or quadruple. We’ve had to modify the way we do things to try and accommodate our changing base
and still have some bugs to work out. We know that in the end, everything will work out; the virus will
subside, and we will all go back to some sort of normalcy. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like
but am hoping it includes a strong sense of community and an unshakable desire to change the things
that need to be changed to make things better for everyone.
As I finish this newsletter, it’s now the Holy Week and Easter is just a week away. For us, we will spend
some time thanking Jesus for dying for our sins and praying that everyone stays safe and healthy. We
also want to thank you for allowing us to provide your family with our products. Hang in there, together
we’ll make it through this pandemic. It may not be next week, or next month, but if we support and
help each other, we will make it.
Annie, Marc, Amy & Jesse