Why Raise Livestock on a Produce Farm?

We mainly raise vegetables, but we have been expanding livestock on the farm.  For the past four years, we have raised broilers (chickens for eating, not laying) along with laying hens and a flock of sheep; last year we even tried our hand at a few pigs.

Why?  Meat is tasty and allows us something else to offer CSA members and other customers, but one really big reason is manure.  Veggies need a lot of fertility, and, when raising produce organically without high-powered manufactured fertilizers, you almost have to have livestock manure.

We keep experimenting with ways to create good compost out of manure.  One thing we have been trying is doing a slow composting method where we let the manure pack break down under a roof and out of the rain for 6 months + which keeps more nitrogen in the compost instead of leaching out in the elements.  

Tools of the trade – a manure fork and a grain shovel

Last week I shoveled out the chicken shed in preparation for this year’s batch of 200 broilers.  We let last year’s chicken litter break down since last August and we’ll spread in a windrow in a shady spot on our hill to break down some more for fall spreading on the fields.    

Filling up the manure spreader
The finished product – half-complete compost
Shed ready for new birds!

What Keeps us Busy in the Spring?

Before we start planting outside and really firing up the greenhouse, we try to take care of some items we won’t have time to do when the vegetable season starts in earnest. We take care of jobs related to the sheep like trimming hooves and shearing (I thankfully hired this out this year).
For the last three years we’ve been out sugaring in April, tapping trees and waiting, waiting, waiting for sap to boil down in to syrup. Here’s a picture of Maree and Graham finishing off syrup at the end of the process:

The finished product:

Ever wonder what happens to old laying hens? It’s called canned chicken and broth. The chickens are cut up, put into mason jars, and processed in a pressure canner. The final product is kind of gross looking, but the flavor is great. It’s pretty convenient when you’re making a pot pie or chicken soup and you have pre-cooked chicken on hand. The backs and necks get boiled for broth and then processed in the pressure canner. 4 chickens yielded 14 quarts of broth and 7 quarts of canned chicken:

CSA Week 10: High Season Harvest

Well, we’re over halfway through the season. High season is coming in and those tomatoes are ripening up big time. It’s that time of year when it’s tough to keep up on all the harvesting that needs to take place. In some respects this is a tough time of year, but it’s also really exciting…really what we’ve been waiting for for the last 3-4 months. Nothing get me going like going out and finding ripened melons, jumping around from one to another, knocking them, lifting them, checking out the tendrils to make sure they are ripe (even after all that, they can still be a dud).
Enjoy the heat.

In the box:
Bi-color Seneca Dancer corn
or some Silver Queen white corn
Japanese Eggplant or Some Calliope Eggplant
Cherry Tomato mix
Beans (tri-color mix)
Syrian Pink Tomatoes (Yes, they are ripe when pink)
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
A Red Tomato
Specialty Carrot Mix (purple haze, atomic red, satin white)
Kale or Collard Greens
Fresh Thyme
A melon or two (some got a canteloupe, others watermelon)

Chickens, Chickens, Chickens

We got our first set of fryers in from my friend and fellow grower, Karen Terry of Fergus Falls. About 3 lbs in size, they are young and tender birds raised entirely on pasture with all organic feed. $6 each, click here to order at the local dirt site.

We’ll have these available for delivery or pick-up at the farm until they are gone (I have only 24, so we’re not talking a lot of birds here).
Karen will also be supplying us a set of larger birds in a couple weeks…more of a roaster size. While on the local dirt site, you can also arrange for other food for delivery or pick-up like cheese, butter, or extra produce like canning tomatoes or peppers. Frost has to be around the corner, so don’t wait too long.