Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Hopes of Spring

Happy Spring Everyone!
Ok, so maybe it’s not really spring yet. Nor does it even feel like it outside, but the first signs of spring have already started happening here at A Little Morr Farms. The first one happening in January with the birth of our first heifer calf! Very exciting!  

Other signs of spring are the goat kids I have in a muck bucket here in the office with me as I type this. I’m in a t-shirt while I type this because we have it set to 90* in here! The kids much prefer that to the -5* wind chill we have going on outside as we speak.

So, the point of this newsletter is to keep our loyal customers up to date with us. We will share are hopes and dreams, our struggles and successes. We don’t want to be a faceless farmer. We want to be your friend as well. Why? It promotes integrity. If I know you and you know me, we can take care of each other. I can provide you with healthy food you can feel good about eating and you can help provide me with a decent living. Can you get food somewhere else for cheaper than what I can provide? Sure. But will you feel good about it? The faceless farmer who is pumping out as many hogs as his operation can handle. They don’t see the light of day, they don’t get the chance to root up the rich soil, lay it it, smell it. The sows are kept in crates they can’t turn around in. The feeders have their tails and teeth cut out so they can be packed in tight to a pen and not hurt each other. And the poor farmer? He’s not making a decent living. Government subsidies are helping him pump out more and more pork and making it ‘cheap’ enough for grocery store sales. What you don’t realize is that, through your taxes, you are paying way more for that pork than you thought possible.
I’m not going to go to the government for a handout. I don’t have to ship my pork all over the country. I don’t want to. I don’t even want to go state wide. I want to keep our food local. Keep building our local economy as we take better care of our health and take better care of our animals.
You know, someone once told me, “Animals don’t understand QUANITY of life, but they do understand QUALITY” and I whole heartedly agree. So, even though, compared to our much longer lives, a pig, and cow or a chickens life seems short, as long as they are happy and living life to the fullest an animal can, their life is complete. What makes an animal happy? Fresh food and water would top their list. I don’t mean fresh as in, it’s topped off everyday. I’m talking fresh as in, verity!  Do you want to eat the same thing everyday? Do you even think it’s healthy to eat the same thing? I don’t. Even if it was our ‘favorite’, it would get old after eating it day after day. Well, the animals think so too. So how do we fix that? Well, for chickens, it means free ranging or a tractor like enclosure. A ‘chicken tractor’ is a mobile pen with no floor that gets moved to a new location every day or every other day. This gives the chickens a buffet of fresh grasses (yes, chickens love grasses) bugs, grubs, seeds.. anything they can find. This makes for happier chickens and much healthier eggs!

So now that you know a little about our philosophy, let me explain where we are now, and what we want to do this year.

This year we are feeling the growing pains in the Hog part of the farm. We are on the cusp of either really making a go of it and failing miserably. Last year was our biggest year for pork to date. Of course, it was only our 3rd year of doing pork. The first year, we only raised pork for ourselves and some family members. Those family members came back, wanting more pork so we did it again the next year, and sold to some friends as well. This year is make it or break it time. The last few years, our prices weren’t quite right, or our pigs were too small at the only time the butcher could take them…last year was pretty good. We didn’t LOSE money. We want a replay of last year, on a larger scale. So, instead of hoping to find decent piglets at a decent price in a decent time frame, we decided to raise our own little. Daisy is our Yorkshire gilt. She’s about 500# of love and is pregnant with her first litter. We don’t own a boar, and really don’t have plans for one soon, so I had to learn how to be a Daddy. Luckily, I had friends learning with me and that helped to make our failed attempts, at least funny memories to look back on.

So now that I don’t have to be looking high and low for piglets, I now need to figure out where to put an entire litter! Some will be sold as piglets for fair or other people to raise themselves, but most (hopefully, if we get enough orders *wink wink*) will be staying here. They will need to be separated from their mother so she can rest and then raise another litter for spring hams. I have the ‘Piggie Pasture’ staked out and we bought 2 bulk feeders. One for Daisy and one for the porkers. This way, they can eat as much pasture or grain as they want. They choose what they feel like their body needs at that moment. I feel this will make for healthier, happier pigs. However, this is where we start feeling the growing pains. All these things take money. We’re taking a leap of faith that we sell enough pork this year to cover it. 2013 is the year of Sink or Swim.

Beef! We bought our first cows last year with the hopes of having lots of milk for ourselves and the pigs and have some beef to raise. This year, our first jersey steer will be going in to the butcher. After him, we have a Jersey/Angus cross, a Shorthorn/Normande cross and a Shorthorn/Randall Lineback cross. I want to save a steak from each one, and compare. We’ll do a blind taste test of some sort. The winner, will help us determine what breed or breeds we want to raise here. Other factors include temperament and health. Not all breeds of cows are meant to live a life with minimal grain supplements. Not all breeds are heat and cold hardy. We are already finding that as far as being raised souly on grass and hay, the jersey is not fairing as well as the others. The jersey crossed with Angus, seems to be doing fine, so we will take this into account. If the Jersey wins the taste test, we will probably start working towards a cross that will work better for us. Because we have yet to put any beef on anyones table, we’re not really sure where we’re going with it. I do know that I like having the milk around. So it’s a sure thing that at least one cow will be staying into the next year to keep us stocked with milk and at least one calf for beef for our own family. You will decide if we start a brood cow herd and supply YOUR family with beef or not. How will you help decide? Simple, just order beef. Or don’t. If there isn’t a market for it, I see no reason to slave away with multiple cows for such low return if I end up having to take them to a sale.

Our last goal for this year is to have an EPIC Garden. All or most will be heirloom varieties, raised organically as possible. Why so epic? 4 different tomatoes, 3 kinds of cucumbers, 5 peppers, at least 6 different types of winter and summer squashes… not to mention the 2 pounds of beans and corn that will be planted…We want to sell started plants and ripe vegetables at a few local farmers markets. Either Mount Vernon or Chesterville…If you are interested, you could even call ahead, tell us what you want, and we can have your veggie order ready for you to pick up right at the market. You can’t get much fresher than that!

As far as poultry goes, unless I drastically raise the cost of my eggs, the eggs don’t cover the cost of raising the chickens. My eggs would have to cost $4 a doz at least. I’m not sure there are many people who would pay that much for eggs, enough to justify me keeping as many hens as I would need.

Meat chickens…The jury is still out. Tell us what you think? What is a free range chicken on the table worth to you? Can you order more than 20 birds at a time? Do you know friends that will? We haven’t tried selling our birds, so it would be totally new to us. Turkeys as well. Turkeys would be seasonal. But unless I get at least 20 orders for turkeys, I can’t justify it for only 5 orders. Again, let us know.

If you think or know that you can help us out, please message me. I don’t want to be the faceless farmer. Ask me anything! Make suggestions! We are open to comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment