Monday, November 20, 2017

A Thankful Heart

I have received many cards, letters, notes, comments, and online reviews over the past several years thanking me for farming the way we do. Each one touches me deeply. They always motivate me to do more and to do it better than ever before. It always strikes me though, that I should be the one thanking you. Our farm was on the verge of going under when we made the transition to producing raw, grass-fed, natural products. It was you, the customer, that was ready for a change in the food supply. At that point you were fed up with the status quo on the grocery store shelf. So much so, that you were ready to commit your support to farms like ours. We have tried to reward you for your support by striving to produce the very best meat, milk, eggs possible. We strive to make our products available consistently and through the most convenient delivery methods that we can imagine and sustainably implement. We do all of that because we are thankful for you, our customer. You are the ones that enabled us to keep doing the job we were called to do. You are the ones that allowed us to keep producing food on our family farm that will be 100 years old next year. During this week of Thanksgiving we would like to give a heartfelt Thank You to all our customers that have believed in us and have allowed us to feed your families throughout the years. It is truly an honor to be your farmer. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

An Unfortunate Overcorrection

Well, it was a busy weekend on the farm processing turkeys. The personality of the farm itself changes when the turkeys are gone. The purring and putting sounds that we grow accustomed to during the late summer and through the fall are noticeable missing after the last Turkey is harvested. I'm not sure that anyone else notices this void, but I sure do. In my internal clock this signals the end of the busiest season, and the beginning of the dormant winter season. I take comfort knowing that everything on the farm is a intricate cycle. After a few cold months, I'll be ready to fill the pastures back up with free ranging turkeys and chickens.  Watching the dance take place between growing grass, grazing cattle, sheep, Turkeys, and chickens is one of my greatest pleasures. As a farm manager I get to coordinate this dance, which is sometimes a great challenge. We coordinate this dance by deciding who grazes where and for how long and then which species follows behind, and how do we protect the venerable, while allowing them the freedom to exhibit their natural behaviors. A lot of decisions go into this dance, one of which is how man of each species to incorporate. This is were I dropped the ball this year. I over produced turkeys last year, and this year I over corrected, resulting in not nearly enough turkeys to go around. I'll do better with the next cycle. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Space Camp

I took a couple of days last week to chaperone a class trip with Jersey to the NASA Space Center in Huntsville Alabama. We made paper rockets, learned about the history of the space program, and got to do several space themed simulations. Best of all I got to watch my girl interact with her classmates and teachers. I'm so proud of her kind, respectful, and generous personality. Even though the Space Camp bunk bed mattress was less than optimal, I enjoyed being a dad away from the farm for a couple of days. Lest you think I got soft while away, I got to process 75 chickens on Sunday.... welcome home.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Rainy Fall Day

I baled the last 50 rolls of 2017 hay yesterday evening, baling well after dark to get finished.  The reason I worked so late on a Sunday? Because rain was predicted to start overnight. I couldn't help but think about last year. 

***insert harp music to indicate a memory ***
Oct. 2016 we had already been feeding hay for 2 months. A practice that we usually do not start until Early December. The Hay that we thought would get us through the winter was dwindling quickly before Halloween.  Fall is usually dry, but in 2016 the rain stopped in July. We did end up with a mild winter, especially January. Some rain in Early January and very mild temps allowed the grass to grow a little. We had better grazing in January than we had since June. The break we got in January was enough to give us some hope. By the end of 2016 the cows were starting to get thin, and the hay supply was exhausted. 
***harp music - back to current time***
As I was riding around and around on the tractor yesterday, several thoughts kept coming to mind. (btw, the tractor is a great place to think) 
-It was Sunday. I don't usual work much on Sunday. We do what needs to be done and try  to rest some.
- I was missing my family. I would have rather been playing with the kids and spending time with Julie.
- Then I thought about last year, and it changed my perspective. I suddenly became thankful that all of our animals were still grazing lush green grass, and had been all summer. I realized that  we will have ample supply of hay, even in the event of a fairly bad winter. 
All of a sudden, that rain shower in the forecast made me thankful instead of anxious. 
Life moves fast these days, even on the farm. It's tough to find time to reflect, and analyze, and internalize our surroundings. There is great perspective to be had when we do so. For me the tractor seat is a good spot for such thoughts. Where is your spot? 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall Activities on the Farm

Each Fall we take the opportunity to open our farm to the public. We welcome anyone that wants to spend a nice fall day navigating a Corn Maze, Enjoying a hayride, and Visiting with all the Farm animals. The hayride goes out into the dairy cow pasture, where you will get a up close encounter with the Cows of Carlton Farms. Along the way you will learn about the history of Carlton Farms and what we do on the farm today. The Corn Maze is 5 acres and over 1.5 miles of trail. Each year we create a new design and cut it out ourselves. The Maze presents a new challenge each year. In the Animal barn you will get to hang out with some of the youngest members of the family, including baby calves, baby pigs, baby chicks, goats, sheep, and chickens. If that's not enough, you can spend some time in the activities area, where we have a corn cannon, giant slide, ball toss shed, hay bale maze, corn play bin, and hay jump. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Speaking at Local Elementary School

Each year I get the opportunity to speak to some local elementary students about farming in general, as well as specifically what we do on our farm. I never really feel like I have the time to do this kind of thing, But once I get there I really enjoy it. I walk the kids through the process of growing and harvesting crops, making feed, feeding chickens, and producing eggs. We are in a unique situation where we can show examples of the complete process, since we do all of those things. Its cool to see those connections being made inside those little minds. They seem pretty engaged with me... until the chicken steals the show ;-)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Turkeys on Pasture

It looks like we may be in for a rather warm week. You didn't think a Georgia summer was gonna go quietly into the night did you. Summer around here usually doesn't end without a fight, so I thought a picture of our growing turkeys out on pasture would be a good reminder that Fall is just around the corner. Once they are big enough to go out to pasture, they only need shelter from the rain and sun, and a roost to sleep up off of the ground. We built these mobile turkey shelters a few years ago, and the turkeys love them. We can hook to them and pull them to different areas of the pasture, giving them a fresh portion of pasture each time. Unfortunately we lost one shelter due to a wind storm last year. (not during the growing season, so no turkeys were injured). That's why you can see the orange straps in the picture anchoring this one down.