Monday, June 4, 2018

Growing Farmers

Being a farmer is hard and the hours are long, but the work is rewarding. Its one of those jobs that you have for the lifestyle as much as anything else. I always try to go about my business in a way that my kids will be able to see the virtues this profession. Like when we are able to witness the birth of a baby calf, or play for hours on end with baby chicks, or feel the gentle nudge of a cow that wants some affection,or see the look on the face of a customer as they purchase a product with our name on it. Likewise, I never try to hide the hard part. Like the long hours, the unpredictable weather, the shared sacrifices of our family, or the inevitable hollow feeling when we loose a precious animal. Even though they see the ups and downs, our children are definitely drawn to the lifestyle. Right now its not our job to guide them toward a career path. Rather, we are trying to raise strong, smart, responsible, respectful, confident, and courageous humans.  If the road of life brings any of them back to the farm for their occupation, then I will be happy to work alongside them. If life takes them in other directions, I will be their biggest supporter. Acknowledging all that, it sure did make this daddy smile to see what my boy wanted written on his sign at preschool graduation. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Meeting New Processors: Part 2

Julie & I left early Friday morning to bring chickens to a new processor that we are trying out. I had talked to the owner several times and he was a very nice gentleman. I did notice that he was missing some of the typical electronic signatures of the modern world, no social media, no website. Some people don't like that kind of stuff, no problem, so we loaded up our chickens and headed to the Kentucky address he provided.  As we got closer and closer to the address, we couldn't help but notice that we were in beautiful country. Well kept farms one after the other. I may be a little slow, but when we had to decrease our speed to 10 miles per hour because we were behind a horse drawn buggy, I realized we were in the middle of an Amish community. Julie, with her keen awareness, said "I bet this processor is Amish, that's why we didn't have a website."  As usual, Julie was right. As we got even closer, we encountered more buggies, farms, bicycles, and bonnets. The simplicity of the lifestyle we were witnessing was refreshing. At the processor, the young boys unloaded our chickens, and the women and girls in their long dresses were dong the packaging. I hope to see more of the process later as I am about to leave to go pick-up the birds.   
As I said last week, we are constantly working to be better at what we do, and trying to find new people to work with to make us better.  I think the recent discovery of this Amish processor will benefit us, them, and you. Those are the kind of relationships we are always looking for.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Meeting New Processors: Part 1

The email was late this morning because I left early to deliver pigs to a new processor that we are trying out. The meeting was good, and this will give us the option to offer linked sausages and a few other cuts. This weekend (Friday) we are traveling to a small poultry processor that we are trying out. There have been good early conversations with these guys also. A good relationship here will allow us to offer chicken on a much more consistent basis. We are constantly working to be better at what we do, and trying to find new people to work with to make us better.  I have been excited to see the local food environment grow over the last 12 years. A lot has changed  and we are proud of the small part we have played.  

Monday, May 7, 2018

This Field

When I returned home from deliveries on Friday evening my dad and brother were baling and hauling hay from the field across the highway from the dairy. I paused for a few minutes to enjoy and appreciate the beauty. More so than the current beauty, what came to my mind most was a reminder that we are getting very close to being century farm. The Carltons ( my great-grandparents) bought this property in 1919, so next year we are planning a big 100 year birthday party. The field where they were making hay was part of the original farm. I couldn't help but wonder how many miles we had traveled in that field over the years, I'm sure it's many thousand. I started thinking about my childhood memories in that field. I wondered how they compared to my dads childhood memories, and even his dads childhood memories. I made a mental list of memories and stories about that field, I'd like to share a few.

-My first tractor driving experience- My dad needed a tractor driver to drive (very slowly) through the field while they (manually) threw hay bales onto the trailer. My mom objected unless the tractor had a seat belt ( legitimate objection since I was 6 years old).

-Triplets - Most cows have one baby. Occasionally a cow will have twins. Once in 105,000 pregnancies a cow will have triplets. We had a set of those triplets in the early 90's and we had the mom and her three babies in that field when the newspaper came to do a story about them. 

-Alfalfa - in the early 1980's my dad grew alfalfa on that field. Most of the experts of the time said alfalfa couldn't be grown in the south. But we had a successful productive stand for many years.
-Broken Records- we have newspaper clippings from the 1950's - 1960's with a write up of my grandfather breaking corn production records on that land. 
-School Cloths & Shoes - My grandfather always told me a story about growing cotton. As a young boy his dad would let him and his brother pick out one acre of land to grow cotton on during the summer. When they sold the cotton in the fall, they would use that money to purchase school cloths and shoes. Those clothes and shoes would have to last until next fall. He always told me he vowed to never be a cotton farmer because of that. haha. 
- The House - My grandfather must have liked that field also. He sawed timber from the farm and milled the lumber to build a house in the corner of that field. That house reminds me of him humble and modest, but strong and solid. I'm thankful that currently my brother has the opportunity to remodel that house and will be living there with his family soon. 
I really do love that land. I love the dirt and all of its physical attributes. My true fondness however, comes from the memories, experiences, and and stories that come from living on the same dirt for 100 years. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Moving Chickens

One of our chores this time of year is moving chickens to fresh pasture. These broilers are young, fragile, and not particularly smart when it come to survival skills. That's why a system where they are free to explore an entire pasture would lead to many well fed predators. I designed this housing system a few years ago and it works quite well for us. The shelter had to accomplish 3 goals which were:
1)Allow the birds to be moved to fresh pasture daily. 
2)Protect the birds from predators.
3)Protection from Georgia weather: Shade, Ventilation, Wind 
The daily move takes two people. One to drive the tractor in super slow gear, and another to walk behind the chickens to be sure they move forward and nobody gets hurt. Each house contains 200 chickens and can be moved to fresh pasture in about 10 minutes. The first batch of 2018 chickens has a mid-May processing date scheduled and will be available for delivery the week of May 21. We will go ahead and make them available online to pre-order for that week. Enjoy!
An enjoyable view, watching the chickens explore and
graze on there newly allotted section of fresh pasture. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Scratch and Sniff

It is not uncommon for us to spread the manure from our animals onto the fields and pastures. What is uncommon is for that field to be situated right beside my house. I really wish I could make this photo a scratch-n-sniff so you all could enjoy the aroma of that evening. The smell endured for a day or so, but the nutrients will be available for veggies throughout the summer. Short term pain for long term gain. We will enjoy eating the produce all summer, even if this activity did foil Julie's plans to make smore's on the back porch that night. ;-)

Spreading Chicken Manure, oops... I mean organic
fertilizer on a future vegetable field. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fowl on the Farm

A few months ago we were able to purchase a small farm that we had been renting for many years. I'm sure I will post lots as we clean up that property and bring it into the fold. We have ran cattle on in for several years, but there is a limit to the amount of improvements you can make to rented land. Soon it will be fully integrated into a intensive rotational grazed oasis of pasture, with layered multi-species seasonal production including cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
That's where this picture comes in. We now have in the brooder the ducks that will eventually live at the pond on the new farm. 125 Khaki Campbell ducks will be providing duck eggs for your enjoyment.  These things are very cute, so I'm sure more pics are sure to follow.