Archive for the ‘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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Why Would You Get Your Food From Us?

There are a variety of reasons to get your meat from a small family farm such as ours. Here’s a list of of our standards and values.

No subsidies, grants, or other tax payer funded “freebies” for us. Corporate welfare is rampant in agriculture which creates an illusion of low prices. Typically, the larger the “farm” (think Tyson, Pilgrim, Smithfield) they greater their tax breaks and handouts. Sadly many small farms get suckered into participating in government funded conservation programs in order to get their own slice of the pie. While conservation efforts are commendable, and we strive to have as positive an impact on the environment as possible, I don’t believe that we should be seeking to take hard earned money from fellow tax payers to do so and further contributes to a national debt that continues to spiral like a never ending whirlpool.

Speaking of conservation and the environment, we seek to be the best stewards of our natural resources that we can be. Just because we have opposable thumbs and the gift of being at the top of the food chain, does not mean that we can rape and destroy the ecology for our gain. We do not apply chemical fertilizers to our soil, we do not spray any insecticides, and we do not use any herbicides on our farm. A farm should also serve as a sanctuary to all manner of insects, birds, and other wildlife. Don’t get me wrong, we do use measures to control vermin such as rats and mice or else we would be overrun but poison has no place here.

We believe in raising food as naturally as possible for the utmost in nutrient density. When we work within the design of nature, high yields of nutritionally superior food is possible. We fertilize only with compost and and animal manures. We allow our animals to demonstrate their inherent behaviors and instincts. Cows are ruminants and should only feed on forages such as grasses and legumes. Chickens are omnivores and should be allowed to hunt the pasture for bugs. Pigs are also omnivores and should not be housed in barns on concrete but should be outdoors with access to woods and pasture. Biodiversity is of the utmost importance to a healthy ecology and it’s elimination by the modern food system is causing untold damage.

We’re local and support local. We do business with other local businesses so when you support us, your dollars stay within your community rather than supporting the bottom line of a foreign corporation or to fund the dividends of Wall Street investors. We also do business with other small farms and even work with them at times.

We believe in animal welfare. It is our duty to care for them and treat them with respect and dignity. Just because they are destined to be our food, does not mean they should be denied compassion and humane treatment. When price and convenience are your sole standards for your meats, you are supporting a system that subjects animals to cruel, indecent conditions.

It is up to you the type of world future generations will inherit.

NoWeirdStuffNatRaised360

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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

Once a Day Milking

Back when I was dreaming about farming, we were visiting a local farm where we bought our milk. It was milking time and the cows were filing into the milking parlor, what luck! I asked if we could observe the process and after noting our three young children, we were given a nod and warned to be quiet. The parlor echoed with the pulsating hiss of the pump. In the center was a pit for the worker, it was just deep enough to put the cows udders at chest height while standing. Cows would come in one door, stepping into one of the four stalls just vacated by one of her herd mates. From the pit the farmer could manage the cows by pushing and pulling levers to open and close gates. As each new cow came in, a hefty scoop of grain was deposited into a trough which the cow enthusiastically devoured. The farmer would quickly dip each test with iodine, wipe them off and attach what I now know (and very familiar with) as inflationary. We sat for a while watching in uneducated, uninitiated wonderment and awe from an observation area above the pit opposite from the milking stalls. I asked as many questions I could with being too much of a nuisance (I hoped) and they were answered with the same polite tolerance that I display when asked about farming. “Do they need to get grain?” A: “That’s what brings them in and distracts them for milking.” Q: “Do they kick?” (One cow was throwing a hoof around until the inflationary were attached) A: with a grin “sometimes” Q: “How often do you milk?” A: “Twice a day, every day, 4am and 4pm no matter what.” This final answer was delivered almost as a challenge/boast/complaint. It was that final answer that stuck in my head the most and kept me from considering getting into milking until I couldn’t ignore the demand any longer.

Twice a day (TAD) milking is the most common milking schedule dairy farms adhere to. Some even milk 3x a day to get the maximum production from the cows. But there’s a slowly growing number of farms adopting once a day (OAD) milking. The farmers who chose the OAD schedule cite that while there is a 15-20% decrease in production, this is offset by lower feed cost, reduced stress, and time freed up for other farm duties. I’ve toyed with the idea of adopting this schedule and now after a few days of solo farming/parenting/homeschooling while the wife was out of town cemented my decision to switch.

I am married to one incredibly gracious and supportive wife who did not share my dream of farming. We work together with the kids taking care of the critters with milking time being the hub that the schedule revolves around. But every third day, I get up and put on a uniform and report for a 24 hour shift at a fire station, leaving her to take care of everything. After two days of managing the farm, the kids, & the house I realized that we were switching to OAD milking.

One other factor is our up coming move. While we will have a much nicer barn to work in, the pastures are a walk away and the cows could be any where on 60 acres as opposed to the current 7 we are on. So here we go on yet another learn as you go lesson in farming.

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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

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

Sustainable Farming. Myth or Partial Truth?

Sustainable farming has become one of the most sought after methods of food production, and perhaps most overused term in the last few years. But what does that mean? Initially, there is an image that pops into the heads of most green minded people in the know. It is usually one of cows/goats/sheep that live on pasture harvesting their own fodder, chickens foraging behind said grazers, pigs roaming freely through a forest, and crops of fruit/vegetables grown in soil teaming with life from animal inputs and compost. This soil would be so rich and friable that all one would need is a broad-fork and no tilling or plowing would disrupt the intricate, delicate network of soil life.

Ideally, this pastoral utopia would not include any motors fueled by petroleum, because there isn’t hardly anything sustainable about petroleum. There could not be any electricity because even “green energy” sources depend on some truly unsustainable materials, such as 12 volt batteries. This means water would have to be hand drawn or come from a fresh spring and piped in and pumped via a hydraulic ram pump since all the other methods of water delivery depend on a municipal source or an electric pump.

Yes, I know there are well pumps that can run on solar, but those solar panels still have to be manufactured and I would be surprised if the manufacturers of solar panels (not to mention wind mills) are producing their products using only sustainable energy. So there goes the argument for electricity to light, refrigerate, and wash dishes/clothes. Sure diesel engines can run on bio diesel (not truly sustainable btw due to the chemicals needed and finding a source of oil). Actually, most older diesels can run on pure vegetable oil as a matter of fact, Rudolf Diesel’s first engine ran on peanut oil. So alas, this notion of ideally sustainable farming is but a myth. Or is it?

You can find such a farm though. The only people (this newbie farmer is aware of) producing food as sustainably as possible, are a group of folks who call themselves the Amish. The Amish are the only ones that I know of that are wholly self reliant without dependency on a power-grid, petroleum, or third-party. Their saws and drills are hand powered. Their machinery is powered by horse, mule or ox. They are still producing food the way it was done 150 years ago. If there is anything unsustainable in their methods, it would likely be that tillage is commonly practiced to grow crops. But hey, at least they’re plowing with animal power.

So why all this talk about sustainable farming? How many times can the word sustainable be used in a blog post? Are you tired of that “S” word yet?

My buddy David Hammond over at My Dad & Me Family Farm wrote a thought provoking post he titled,

My Four Hundred Dollar Crosscut Saw… Or Questions About Sustainability.

David’s Saws

Ever since I read it, I’ve given over to pondering the meaning of the “S” word and in what ways it applies to what we do here at East West Farm. Now you can likely guess what the next blog post might be about.