Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Feeling Thankful for Great Customers

Thank you to all you Parents that make thoughtful and deliberate food choices by purchasing high quality nutrient-dense food from local farms like ours. I have something important to tell you. You are raising your children to appreciate and enjoy good food, but you are also raising them to respect the land and the hands that produce it. We get a number of letters like this, and they never get old. Keep going the extra mile to provide your family with the best food available, in doing so you are supporting the local economy and your local farmers. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Unexpected Surprises

On the Farm the idea of unexpected surprises is not a good one.  We like for farm operations to be predictable and routine, almost mundane. Dairy cows are creatures of habit, and possible through osmosis, Dairy Farmers are much the same. I mean, we milk cows at 4a.m. and 4p.m. every single day, regardless of holidays, birthdays, or the weather, and have since 1946. You can probably see why someone with a bias toward predictability and dedication would flourish in this world. 
So now picture this. Im sitting in my office writing this email like I do every Monday Morning (notice the routine). Not many employees are here because it's early, and there's not a slammed schedule for today (slammed schedule starts tomorrow). So It's me... alone... when I get this call. You have 4 cows in the road headed away from the farm, toward the highway.  So I left the email, hopefully to auto-save itself while I tend to this unexpected surprise. I dart out, down the drive, and toward the direction of the rogue bovines. All the while, trying to reach by phone any help that might be available, but to no avail. I spotted the creatures, broadside in the road from one white line to the other. They had not reached the highway, but they were in a curve. I quickly drove past them and set up the truck beyond the curve with flashers on as to alert oncoming traffic. I turned the beasts around, and headed them back home. Because I was still alone, I couldn't direct them as precisely as I normally would. So, we visited all the neighbors and the creek before we finally made it back to the appropriate pasture. I'm happy to report that all parties involved are back home safe and sound. I said we didn't like unexpected surprises, not that we didn't have them.  
UPDATE:   Moral of the story: electric fences do not work well when turned off : (  This weekend someone, turned the fence off to tend to the pasture raised broiler chickens that are in the same pasture, and forgot to turn the fence back on. #ourfault #notthecowsfault    

Monday, June 19, 2017

Supporting Local Farms

When I first started delivering our farm products into Atlanta, over ten years ago, one thing stood out. The people that I met had to travel many miles to purchase the various locally grown items that they wanted. It would typically go like this: A customer would come get milk from me, then say they had to drive to the other side of town to get their beef, and 5 miles the other way for eggs,  and the opposite direction for good vegetables. To me it seemed like we should be able to make this more efficient. For one, we needed to produce more stuff in order to make the deliveries make more sense. So we added eggs, then beef, then pork, then turkeys, and now finally chickens. There were still other things that being requested that I didn't produce, and we didn't feel like we could maintain the quality we wanted if we spread ourselves to thin.  So, our thought was, lets work directly with other farmers in the area that do things that we don't do. We quickly developed relationships with several local farmers that are excellent in their own right. We at Carlton Farms still provide the Meat, Milk, and Eggs. But, it is with great pleasure that we offer Honey, Cheese, Butter, fruits, vegetables, cultured products, nuts, olive oil, and wild caught fish, seasonings, grits and deodorant from other vendors that are all striving to produce the best products possible. In fact we are so proud of working with these folks that we created a "Producers" page on our new website. Please take some time to read about these good folks that we work with. We are all working hard to bring you the best food available. We are also happy to say that eating local is much easier that it was ten years ago. Now we can even deliver it to your doorstep. From all of our producers and from Carlton Farms, thanks for supporting local farms. 

Beans at Beech Creek Orchards

Monday, June 12, 2017

Growing Up a Farm Kid

One of  the pleasures of my life is being able to watch my children grow up on our farm. There are certainly things about farm life that make it more difficult than a "normal" lifestyle. However, sometimes they have the opportunity to go to a  birthday party or similar function, but choose instead to hang out under the pecan tree or play in the creek. It's those times that I can feel their roots just sinking into this land. Throughout their life, they will get to see the ups and downs that farm life has to offer, but I pray they will always have a deep respect for the farm itself. They will see the hard work and dedication that is required everyday to nurture the land and the animals. They will also see the harvest that the farm provides as a result of our care.  Yes, they have some space to run around, but a farm is more than just open space.  A farm is a place where you plant seeds, seeds of work ethic, seeds of responsibility, seeds of hope, seeds of innovation, seeds of creativity, seeds of wonder, seeds of science, seeds of integrity, and seeds of humility. Even with all that seed planting going on, there's still time to hangout under the pecan tree or play in the creek. 
Jersey & Atticus Carlton having sibling time under a pecan tree
All the Carlton Farm Kids
(Left-Right) Ty, Wren, Atticus, Jersey, Box & Sarah

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Change

It always amazes me how life is in a constant state of change. In our little family, the addition of each child has changed the whole dynamic of the household. As each of us grow and change, that dynamic continues to evolve. Each step is unique, so we must constantly adjust our sails to be able to capture and enjoy the essence of the moment.  It's such a pleasure to get to spend time with these children and watch as their lives unfold before our very eyes. I hope we are able to teach them that change is inevitable, but by using a solid foundation, they can chart their course and still adapt to any change that comes their way. 
Wren Carlton (15 Months)

Running a farm is not much different than running a family. It sometimes feels like another child, and often demands time that you would rather spend with your spouse. The change on the farm is everpresent. It not only comes in the form of changing seasons, and the cycles of life that are all around us. It also comes from the evolution of the farm over time. My Grandfather started milking cows in 1946, and he made home deliveries with his fresh milk. He soon went away from that model, and sold his milk to a creamery. Over the next 60 years, the landscape of the industry changed. Selling to the national co-op was no longer feasible, so we adjusted our sails. Here we are, over 10 years since we started selling milk directly. Today we announce that we are now making home deliveries. I guess sometimes change brings you right back to where you started. 
All the Carlton Farm Kids(L-R) Ty, Wren, Atticus, Jersey, Bax, Sarah


Monday, May 29, 2017

Slowing Down

Flag at Carlton Farms
Life on the farm never really stops. Most of the time that's no biggie. However, on holidays we sometimes long for a giant pause button that we could press. In this imaginary world, the animals would be comfortable and happy until we unpaused the farm. Then we could, with much less stress, spend leisure time with family and friends.  My dad always said, "If I could invent a 5-day /week cow, I'd be able to retire." He was joking, but like many jokes there is some truth to be extracted. This job/lifestyle is demanding, relentless, and exhausting. Don't get me wrong, I chose this life and I love it. Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything.  But I can't help it if my mind wanders every now and then to explore what a 2 week vacation would feel like. (insert beach emoji)
In the meantime, we slow down. On days like today when we should stop and remember the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, we slow down. We take these slow days to acknowledge holidays and to nurture those family relationships that sometimes get strained by the neverending work. Today we slow down to say thank you for protecting our freedom to the over 600,000 that paid the highest price. 
Jersey and her doll at Carlton Farms
with the flag in the background. 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Eggs Abound!

If you have been a Carlton Farms customer for a while, you are aware that sometimes we have a shortage of milk or eggs, and sometimes we have an abundance. Let me use this space to help you understand what causes these peaks and valleys.  
Our laying hens follow a pretty consistent pattern. Interestingly, it is mostly based on photoperiod. Photoperiod simply means the length of daylight in each day. As the days start to get long in the springtime, the hens start laying eggs as regular as clockwork. Of course this coincides with moderate temperatures and plentiful forage and bugs available. Most importantly there is a natural correlation also to the best time of year for chickens to be raising baby chicks. It wouldn't make sense for them to lay lots of eggs in the winter, when it would be devastatingly difficult on a newly hatched baby chick.  It makes perfect sense for them to lay lots of eggs in the mild springtime when food is plentiful for a baby chick.  Knowing this gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to eat seasonally, the way the natural world provides food. Eating seasonally goes farther that the vegetable harvest. As livestock farmers that work with nature, we have seasonality too. 
During spring we are likely to find eggs in the strangest places.
This is a flower pot right beside my front door, only steps from the kitchen. 
As for the milk, there are many moving parts to the dairy business. Time of year is important. The dead of winter is a challenge due to temperatures and no lush grass. The heat of summer is also a challenge due to temperature and also very little lush grass.  We are having pretty good luck evening out the milk production with the use of our fresh grown fodder that I have written about in this space before. Unfortunately there's not much we can do about the extreme temperature swings here in Georgia. Another factor that affects milk production is the lactation curve.  Each cow starts producing milk after having a baby. The milk production is pretty high as soon as the calf is born, but then peaks a little higher in about 100 days. Production then tapers downward over the next few months. Most cows produce milk for around 300 days during each lactation. After the lactation ends, they get a break for a few months, called the "dry period". During this dry period, the cows aren't asked to do anything, just rest and get ready for the next lactation.  Why does the lactation curve cause problems in managing milk production throughout the year? It's because cows have babies all throughout the year.  We milk about 50 cows, so for a moment just imagine overlaying 50 different lactation curves over the top of each other. The aggregation of all those lactation curves represents your daily milk production.