I’ve often been inspired by Wendell Berry.
As a dug my fingers into the soft dirt and pulled back the soil I remembered what got me into all of this. It really comes out of a love for the soil and growing plants. Last year without having the infrastructure or tools needed to scale up production in vegetables I had to let that go of vegetables and focus on quicker return of investment enterprises and less labor intensive ones as I was doing most of the work. And while I’m passionate about poultry, and love doing it I am first a gardener and then a livestock farmer.
I actually think that’s really important. What goes on in soil and plant life directly affects the animals grazing over them. So it’s vitally important to understand soil health, how plants grow and work and what makes them do what they do.
I don’t plan to turn the farm over to trying to do large scale veg production for a while, maybe never. But I definitely don’t plan to stop gardening. There’s so much to be gained from gardening and it’s very therapeutic. It’s grounding, and brings its own clarity and vision to life.
This year I’m putting in a few hours in our communal garden, shared between the families living here, and I’ll use some for the farm dinners too. But most of my time and money for gardening this year has gone into my high tunnel.
Yesterday we got plastic laid down and drip tape irrigation setup and planted tomatoes in the soil. It only holds about 150 plants with the spacing I’m doing this year. I was only planning to do a few different varieties but some things came up and I’ve got a paste tomato, three or four slicer tomatoes, and about three cherry types. All heirloom, so we’ll see how production goes.
I’m all about heirloom but also open to hybrids if they are better suited to my situation. This is very much a test year with it. I’ve been gardening for about 10 years now, but first time in a high tunnel with the kind of setup I have now.
So here’s to another season of growing! Using our gifts and talents to better ourselves and one another! Let’s get in touch with the ground, the people around us and who we are. I’m looking forward to that first tomato of the year!
Continuing the topic of Pastured Poultry today, I'm going to discuss what on farm processing is, as well as why we do it.
On farm processing is how we butcher or slaughter our broiler chickens. It means getting up at 5am and loading chickens into crates and taking the 5 min drive to our on-farm-processing site where we have everything set up. We have kill cones, a scalder, a plucker, and counter space with plenty of coolers and ice water.
The birds are humanely killed in the kill cones, and quickly go from to the scalder that loosens feathers. From there we place them into the plucker. After feathers have been removed we evicerate them, cutting out the organs and checking for defects. After a rinse and passing inspection we quickly chill them down to below 40F in our coolers filled with ice. After all birds have been processed we clean up, disposing of feathers, guts, waste water etc. Wipe down and sanitize all surfaces, and then do the remaining packing and cut up.
This year we offer 8pc cut up, or whole bird, at a set price of $22/bird within our chicken club. For individual sales the cost of a cut-up chicken is $4 more ($26/cut up bird). We will experiment with chicken cuts, those will be priced per pound based on demand. Cuts we will experiment will be your basic cut list for chicken: breast, thigh, wing, drumstick, organs and bones for broth.
The basic cost of getting your chicken processed in a facility is anywhere from $2-6 per bird and quickly eats up your small profit in a pastured chicken. The savings of on-farm-processing is something we pass on to our customers. For now we are happy to perform this task, something we take seriously and use not only sanitary practices but seek animal welfare and humane handling through all of it. Processing is a necessary part of life in a world that involves meat, so we encourage people to take it seriously and know where your meat comes from. Maybe you need to buy less meat, but buy higher quality meat.
Consider supporting a local farmer and vote with your dollar to become a part of the change in regenerative agriculture. We want to be a part of the farm community where everyone involved is benefiting. The land is restored, the customer gets a quality product, and the producer (us) can make a living by providing quality product and using sustainable practices.