Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Welcome to 2016!

Wow. So much has transpired over the last year. We are entering 2016 with a newfound enthusiasm thanks to some really great things. I (Malinda) have been working full-time on developing the business for 6 years now and I feel like we're really "coming into our own" now. We had many landmarks in 2015 and over the winter and I'm excited to share some of our highlights with you:

We started raising pastured poultry in 2011 when the small-farm exemption law took effect. Each year it has grown and this year the jump is huge! Last year we raised 425 broiler chickens and this year we've jumped it to at least 600 with 300 already reserved in January. ***THANK YOU!!!*** We may add more to our schedule pending spring reservations. Turkeys are much the same, each year we roughly double production and this year is no exception; last year we raised about 30 and this year we plan for around 60! Again, they've sold out each year with rave reviews. We feel so grateful for the support our customers have given us in this facet of the business. It's an honor to provide your families with meat that was raised with kindness and sunshine. We hope to build a chicken processing shed this summer which will greatly help our efficiency behind the scenes and make harvest days a little easier on us. Did you know? We prefer to harvest our birds on-site, ourselves. It's emotionally draining and hard work but it's important to us that they are treated as kindly as possible and sparing them the trip down a highway and to a foreign place that is stressful is our final gift to them. Our first chicks are already in the brooders so if you're thinking about ordering this year don't delay.

I'm very happy to announce that we have finally caved to your requests: we will offer a CSA in 2016! We've always favored markets as our retail outlets for many reasons but we've heard your voices and have decided to cut back on the number of markets we attend and offer an on-site CSA to take their place. I'll be honest, it's a TON of work packing, hauling, setting up, selling at, tearing down, hauling home, and putting away a market booth and I've usually done it solo. While I do love markets, I found myself with nearly no time to actually work on my farm beyond bare essential tasks. Thank goodness we're a family team effort which kept the product flowing. In my heart, I'm a gardener and farmer. It feeds my soul to have my own hands in the soil but running a business demands that I spend more time elsewhere like market booths or at my desk. The CSA not only answers the requests of our customers but takes a big step to realign my schedule in a way that puts me back on my farm doing the things I love most. Of course it also is a 'win' for our customers as they get to come along on that journey and spend some time on my farm with me in addition to the other many benefits of joining a CSA. The first sprouts of the year are up and I'm so very excited for good things to come.

More Help!
My mom Polly has been an important help to me over the last few years especially since our son Dylan was born in 2102.  She likes to be behind the scenes mostly but she's also helped me at a lot of markets, usually in the role of Grandma chasing my little guy while I sell. When we bought the Adams farm in 2012 she joined us in a much more committed way as co-owner of that property; she lives with us here and enjoys going back to her rural roots growing up on a farm as a kid. This spring she retires and is looking forward to being around a lot more and I'm very much looking forward to having a little more help as well! (She's going to whine about me focusing on her publicly though so... Sorry mom!) She's too important to our business to let her hide in the background all the time!

As always, my mother-in-law Silvia and I are showing little to no self-control with seed orders and we have sprouts popping up like crazy. More and more though, we are leaning towards heirloom seeds that I save myself. Every year we add a couple new varieties that we kept from the previous year. It's a lot of fun and feels good to take control of the entire cycle.

I'm actively working on increasing our drip irrigation and redoing my main garden plot on the Adams farm this spring; we already have a big load of straw for mulch and 10 lovely new peach trees to provide a lovely and delicious windbreak for that plot.

Our young orchard has over 30 new trees & varieties added over the winter and we should have the first grapes off the vineyard this year while I continue to add new varieties to it. I love preserving old varieties and growing novel and heirloom ones in addition to common ones and each year I attend "scion swaps" where I get twigs of all sorts of cool things. I take these home and either root or graft them; this is where most of my new stock comes from. It's a slow process but I really enjoy it.

If you have a favorite variety of something that you've longed to see at markets (or in your new CSA box, *wink, wink*) now is the time to drop me a note!

Work is simply never done on a farm; before you even get your current project finished several more needs present themselves and the backlog is eternal. We are no exception to this rule and there are a couple notable ones I'm excited to tackle this year:

Turkey Tractor: It's not secret that I have a deep love for things on wheels around here. It's important for us to be able to move critters and structures around to rotate field use and provide the best environments for our plants and animals. Our chickens have long had wheeled structures for shelter and protection but the turkeys are very different creatures that always have preferred to sleep on top of the chicken shelters. Not the greatest situation especially as the local coyotes found us last year. We were able to avoid any losses but our "turkey fort" aka dog kennel with a tarp left some things to be desired and doesn't offer room to double our production like we plan to. This coming year we simply must improve our protections for our flock so we procured an old travel trailer frame that we'll be building a mobile turkey trailer for them.

Pantry & Walk-in Cooler: This project is a two-part-er. When we moved onto the Adams farm we combined two estates and there was a lot of stuff to find places for. We've gone through a tremendous amount of it and progress continues but one component we've lacked was a pantry. This isn't some little cupboard I'm talking about, rather it's an entire room to store the 1000+ canning jars and other basic supplies that I amass to support our family both on a daily basis and as preparation for an emergency such as a major earthquake or severe storm aftermath. Since this property didn't have such a room I still have boxes of jars staked in the barn area we call the "retail barn". Our goal for this area is to fix it up with a much needed walk in cooler and nicer displays for folks who would like to shop here onsite. For that to happen the boxes of jars need to leave and an organized space needs to be built. So, two big projects with big payouts are on our horizon.

Breeding Turkeys: This winter we retained 4 turkeys as a breeding group. They are Midget Whites which is a heritage breed that finishes out at around 12-15#. We are anxiously awaiting eggs from them that will hopefully give us lots of babies to raise for customers that prefer smaller, heritage birds. While we much prefer our birds to be out on grass and roaming this group is currently hanging out in a large stall because they were naughty and free-ranged right off the property!

Cross-Fencing & Pasture Replanting: When we bought the Adams farm it was a horse boarding facility and virtually everything had been severely overgrazed. We are working on cross-fencing pastures and each year we completely plow, reseed, and rest one field. It's a slow process but last year's field is looking nice. Of course with grass being the foundation of a pastured meat operation we are actively working to increase the health of the forages. I look forward to having lots of smaller fields that we can allow animals access to one at a time while grazed areas can recover and the chickens and turkeys move through fertilizing as they go. We now own everything we need to cut our own hay which is very exciting and the higher quality fields have even more importance for future hay crops.

Until Next Time!
PHEW! There's so much more I could ramble on about but if I don't quit, this will be a book and not a blog! Besides, it's much to gorgeous outside to stay stuck at a computer. Have a great day and thanks for reading!