Archive for the ‘East West Farm’ Category

No More “NON-GMO” Feed

As of 2018, we will no longer be feeding feeds that are NON-GMO. Oh, we’re not switching to GMOs if that’s what you’re thinking, we’re switching to Organic.

Some folks make the mistaken assumption that because Genetically Modified Organisms aren’t permitted in certified Organic products, on equates (or comes close to) the other. That’s far from the truth. I’ve recently learned the truth and it makes me sick. I have long believed that organic feedstuff contains far superior nutrition and would be the best choice for our animals, namely the ones we would be eating. We actually fed organic feed several years ago and suffered a financial loss when one of our freezers that was packed full of organic fed, pasture raised chicken quit working. We estimated that we lost about $3000 and for a very small operation, that was a huge loss. It was a loss big enough that we became hyper-cautious with our budget and sought out an alternative.

When I found Non-GMO feed from Tucker Milling, I thought I had found the holy grail. Well not holy but I believed this was the answer to all of our feed problems, but not just ours, this could be the answer for all small livestock producers. There’s no gmo corn, gmo soy, gmo cottonseed, gmo rape (canola) and it was so much more affordable! I thought that I would never look back, but here I am. After feeding it for several years, I can definitely say that it does not deliver anywhere close to the nutrition that an organic feed does. First of all, the birds we raised did not perform as well as the organic fed birds we raised in the past. They seem to be much more susceptible to environmental extremes and were not as robust. Plus, I have been able to do a near side by side comparison between the birds we raised this year and the ones raised by a friend who feeds organic.

Now when I first made the decision that we were not going to use feed from Tucker, I initially considered other Non-GMO feeds. Both Hiland Naturals and Resaca Sun Feeds are certified by the Non GMO Project. I was speaking with a friend about this and she shared with me an experience she had while picking up feed from Resaca’s feed mill. While sitting in their parking lot, she observes a tanker truck pull in, on that truck is the name  Monsanto. This tanker is delivering Glysophate (Roundup) and she watches as they fill the tank of a spay rig on a tractor, which then goes out into Resaca Sun’s fields and starts spraying. After hearing this, I called the Non GMO Project to ask if they certify products regardless of pesticide/herbicide use. Their answer, “Yes we do.” So even though they certify a product as being GMO free, it very well could (and probably does) contain grains that were sprayed with Roundup prior to harvest. Here’s a video I did on our YouTube channel about this.

So what are we supposed to do? How can I feed something I now know to be poisonous? I can’t. There is no other choice but to go Organic.

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New Pickup Site 

We are now offering a new pickup site for our pasture raised, soy free, non GMO fed chicken as well as our pork, which is raised to the same standards. To place an order, go to our products page, fill out an order form. 

The new pickup location is 2559 HWY 138 SW Conyers GA 30094. 

All dates and times can be viewed on our events calendar. 

Pallet Projects

Pallets are awesome and scoring any in usable condition is like an unexpected payday. Here is how I built a gate to the new Rabbit/Chicken/Piglet/Calf house. Continue reading

Metamorphosis

If you follow us closely on Facebook or subscribe to our emails, you’ve heard the news that we are moving. This is due to a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is financial and physical exhaustion. When we first chose this location 3 plus years ago, we believed we could make it work by renting the small house that was also on the property and renting a portion of our pasture to board a couple of horses. As far as growing food goes, our primary focus was going to be on feeding our family and then selling our excess. After putting in 18 hour days for several weeks fixing up the house, replacing all the walls and the complete floor system, we offered up the cottage (as we call it) for rent. After a few potential tenants fell through and then a brief stint with a tenant from the netherworld, I realized that the caliber of person who was willing to live in such a small house might not the type of person I would trust around my family or our animals. Sure there’s plenty of folks who are moving into tiny houses, but they are few and most are wanting one to own, not rent. I also abandoned the prospect of pasture boarding horses as I met with those interested and found it wasn’t going to be compatible with our pasture based farming.

With these developments, we realized that we needed to farm more than homestead. At the time, the common pastured chicken practice was to raise commercial hybrids in chicken tractors, fed on a conventional feed of GMO Soy and Corn. The best thing we could say about the feed was that it was customized to not include antibiotics. The birds grew great and we made a decent profit selling them for $15 each. Then I started to learn. People started asking about the feed ingredients and if we would raise chicken without soy. The only way to do it was to mix our own feed or to feed a Soy-free organic feed. I found a Co-op that ordered bulk feed from North Carolina. When I spoke with the farmer who coordinated the orders, he talked me out of feeding organic saying he no long fed it because it wasn’t profitable. He was almost right. There is a number of folks who WILL pay the price of an organically fed chicken, we just couldn’t find enough of them.

I always wanted milk cows for my family and myself. I knew that if we were going to start providing milk to those who seek it, we would have to be 100% married to the farm. Milking a cow solely for one’s self and family allows for once a day milking and letting the calf take care of the rest.  The only way to get a break or to be able to tend to other family business, if milk is going to be a product offered from the farm, is to have deeply loyal friends who want to farm one day and are willing to take care of the farm and milking duty. Fortunately we have been blessed with such folks as Tiffany and Korey Wood, Sandra Walker, Amanda Conner, Jill Hutchinson, and Mary Jo Beck who have also been die hard regulars for nearly every single chicken day as well as relief milkers. But it’s not just the milking of cows every morning, every evening, rain or shine, sickness or health. It’s learning about nutrition, breeding, training and buying appropriate milk cows. Just the search for a milk cow is arduous and time consuming. They’re not exactly being offered for sale on the Marietta Square.

The more I read on pastured pork, the more I want to raise pigs. I struck up a deal with my mother to keep a boar and sow at her place where piglets would be born and then I would grow them out. This just proved to almost be too much for my mom as these hogs grew to be several hundreds of pounds and while very tame, if they got it in their head to roam, roam they did. Sadly, early one morning, they made it into a neighbor’s yard who shot first and asked no questions whatsoever. We did raised up one litter and this past week we harvested the feeders and I see a much better profit margin than raising chickens or milking cows but we shan’t quit either. We’ll raise fewer chickens and for the time being, we aren’t going to add any more cows to the herd.

So we find ourselves very much at square one due to the loss of investment in breeding stock, a new cow who just had her first calf and has yet to let us have any of her milk, a change in ideals on how chickens should be raised, and then just realizing the fact that family has to be considered first. My amazing and incredible wife never dreamed of a farm with cows, chickens, rabbits, and certainly not pigs. She’s already a mother, teacher, and care giver to three children and she does it all on top of farming single-handedly every third day I am working a 24 hour shift at the fire station. I fear that I’ve asked too much of her.

So the news is we’re moving 30 miles west to family land, we have someone to lease the Cobb County farm for vegetable production and we will still be able to use it as a drop site. Our current farm members who choose to may still pick up just as they have been, or they may choose to pickup at our new location. While the winter is usually a time for slowing down and relaxing before the busyness of spring, we’ve much to do to get everything ready to move.

So there it is. We’re changing. We’re still the same, but we’re a little different. We’ve matured. We’ve undergone a metamorphosis.

 

Metamorphosis

Final Chicken Day and Veggies!

Click the link below to read our latest email.

 

Final Chicken Day and Veggies!.

 

 

Fresh Veggies From the Garden!

You can now get fresh Kale and Radishes grown right here on the farm. We are now working with Jeff and Tammy of The Family Farmer to make these chemical free veggies available. Bok Choi, Swiss Chard, lettuces, broccoli  and more will be coming soon! You can place an order at Marietta Locally Grown or just drop by the farm Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Radishes

Kale Salad

What it takes…

So what does it take to grow the best food possible? What goes into raising a chicken from a day old chick on organic feed on pasture until it is large enough 9 – 10 weeks later to be converted into food?

Well here’s a run down in a very condensed nutshell. First we map out the schedule for the entire year to pick the weekends that we will process the birds. We borrow some of the equipment from another farm so we plan around their schedule. I work every third day at the fire department and so we plan around that schedule. Next we have to take into consideration any holidays such as Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. which might render farm members unable to pick up their birds. This generally leaves us just a couple of weekends a month to choose from for processing our birds. Also in all this planning, we have to consider the time frame in which we are going to grow out each flock of birds and ensure that we allow for enough time between flocks. Oh, and each batch of chicks must be ordered 4-6 weeks in advance. Then we have to decide just how many chicks to order. We don’t want to order so many that we have a load of birds that don’t sell but, we don’t want to order too few that we don’t have enough to sell when a new member joins.

Next we have to put together our feed order. In order to make organic feed as affordable as possible, we order it by the ton. One ton of chick-starter feed and grower feed costs between $1300 – $1400 which is a substantial investment before we put the first chick in the brooder.

Then we get the call from the post office that our chicks have arrived. Yes, that’s right, the chicks are sent via United States Postal Service. But they don’t deliver them to us, we have to finish up whatever project we’re in the middle of and get to the post office and pick them up.

The chicks are then placed in the brooder where they will live for the next 3 weeks until they are big enough to live on pasture. Every day they are fed and watered at least 2x’s. We also must monitor their temperature to ensure they are warm enough. Once we move them to pasture in the chicken tractors, we no longer just feed and water them twice a day but we are also moving them to a new patch of pasture twice a day. For 6-7 weeks we maintain this routine along with all the other farm chores and family commitments. All of this then cumulates on that fateful day when these birds are converted from living animal to food to nourish bodies. On that day, we rise an extra hour early to complete the other farm chores and choke down a quick breakfast. We set up the processing area, giving all the tables and containers a final scrub down. We make sure the scalder is heating so that we have hot water for loosening the feathers. When the ice is delivered, we hand unload 1500+ lbs of ice for the warm up to all the activity the day has in store. We then take to the pasture to catch the birds and place them in crates or cages for hauling them up to the processing area. Then the real work begins.

In order to make a chicken edible, it must be killed, plucked and eviscerated. Performing this task on 100 – 150 birds takes around 6 hours if we don’t take a lunch and we have 4 or more volunteers who come to donate their time and labor. After the last bird goes on ice, cleanup begins. All equipment that was used; tables, buckets, knives, killing cones, scalder, & plucker must be cleaned of blood, feathers and other parts. Because I am the slaughter-man, I am covered in blood and other excretions and I make for the shower before any members show. Now we are waiting on folks to come during the two hour window we set for them to come get their birds. After the designated time is up, we now have all the same chores that we did once already this morning. After all that we remember we have kids to feed.

And so ends one phase, but there’s another flock of birds on the pasture and in a few short weeks we will convert them into food.