It has been a busy spring! The sun stays with us a lot longer now, and that allows us to get more accomplished with all the new things we are taking on this season. I always look back a year and wonder what I was doing on this day last year...We didn’t have any goats, or any thought of getting goats. We never planned on getting pigs, and our chicken flock was rather small. We were running around like crazy taking care of all the broilers (meat birds) that we were growing for a restaurant. If I would have known all the things that would happen over the course of the next year I would not even believe it. Alicia and I move at a pretty quick pace. We don’t waste time and don’t wait around until the best opportunity comes. We create opportunities by actively pursuing goals. I hear more people talk themselves out of doing things just because they are unsure about the outcome.
We got the Aquaponics system back up and running outside, and we already have the grow beds filled with new plants! It took about a week to rebuild the system I had originally put inside one of our buildings. My plan is to have a much larger system for growing fish, and this is going to be the starting point for all of our fish!
Some of you may know that we are always low on eggs! We can’t seem to keep them on the shelf. In some ways that is a good thing for us to be able to move the product, but we are getting a lot of people asking for eggs and we just don't produce enough! We ordered another 100 chicks to add to the flock so that we can increase our production. Hopefully everything works out well and they don’t get eaten by predators. You never know if a cat will come into the barn and decide it thinks these little peepers look tasty.
A few weeks ago we had our first baby goats born on the farm. Blackberry had a boy and a girl, and Licorice had a girl. We still have 2 more pregnant goats that aren't due until July! I had fully expected to have to assist in some way during the birthing process. We came home from work one day, and there were baby goats running around, and Blackberry had this look on her face like, “What? I got this!” Licorice had her baby the next morning and I got to be present for this. It really wasn’t that long of a process. I think what took the longest was passing the placenta, which the chickens disposed of rather quickly. She had the kid in a matter of minutes, and was immediately licking the baby clean. I am just blown away by these instincts that the animals have to take care of things. The new kids have been bouncing around all over the place just playing and having fun. We make sure to hold them daily to keep them familiarized with human interaction. The baby goats will now jump on your lap if you sit down in a chair near them. They are going to sell themselves with that sort of attitude! We have been getting about a quart of milk a day since we have to share half of it with the babies. Once they are weaned we should easily get 2 quarts a day. The milk is absolutely amazing. It has a subtle sweet flavor and almost tastes just like ice cream. Goat milk is universal milk. Any mammal can drink it and gain from its many health benefits. Cow's milk on the other hand is much harder for our bodies to process, which is why some people are lactose intolerant. If you are lactose intolerant you can drink goat milk and will have no negative side effects!
On another note, we picked up some more piglets for this fall’s pork harvest! We got 10 Hamp/Duroc Cross piglets that are pretty darn cute! It has only been a couple weeks and I already have them eating out of my hands! They really enjoy hardboiled eggs. Every day we get some eggs that have small cracks/imperfections so we take those eggs and hard boil them to feed to the piggies...they go nuts for them! We are working on getting these guys sold! How can I reserve your own pig you might ask! How it works is: someone reserves a pig with a deposit, and when the pig is ready I will take the pig to the butcher. The customer then has to fill out a cut sheet with the butcher, which will tell the butcher how many steaks/brats/pork chops/bacon etc. they want and how much they want to be ground into pork sausage. Once the hog is ready to be picked up, we give the customer their total for what they owe us. For example if their hog dressed out at 235 pounds then they would owe us $3.15 per pound which is $740.25. They already paid a deposit which is subtracted off the total. The butcher then charges the customer approx. $0.50 cents per pound to process it into bacon and other cuts of meat. Imagine having 235 pounds of pork in your freezer! We filled an entire deep freeze with a pig. Over 25 pounds of bacon was produced! You may ask yourself, gosh that is a lot of money to spend on food! I went to the grocery store yesterday and saw Pork sausage for $4 a pound, and bacon that was thick cut bacon (we order our bacon to be thick cut) for almost $9 a pound! When you purchase pork from us you get everything for the flat rate of $3.15/lb! This allows us to recover our costs for expensive feed, and to ensure we have enough left over to grow more hogs! This is the best pork I have ever had. The bacon was to die for, and the pork steaks had minimal fat, and what fat was present was not gristly like the pork from the store! I ate the whole steak, no throwing away nasty fatty parts. We grow a lot of our feed using a fodder based system. This just means we are sprouting grains for the pigs to eat. It is much healthier for them, and they love it! We don't feed a “slop” of random ingredients to our pigs. They get a very diverse diet along with all of the tasty treats they dig up while out on pasture! Our animals are treated very well, and we go through a lot of effort to provide them with an excellent life free of stress. Just look up commercial hog operations and see how they do it. The animals never go outdoors, they are overcrowded and stressed. They never get to root around in the dirt to find treats. It is a sad sight to see ourselves supporting a system that treats animals with so little respect. We treat cats and dogs like family members, but we force other animals to live in CAFOS (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)? How does this make any sense? If people start supporting farms like ours we can change the way animals are treated. We ensure that the highest quality of food is brought to your table! One of my many goals in life is to be proud of what I produce. I don’t want to be the mystery meat in the tubes on shelves in supermarkets. I want to have something that people have to reserve ahead of time.
We researched like crazy to find what is considered to be the best tasting pork on the market. We found an organization that is trying to change the future of food, and they are called “Slow Food”. Look them up and you will be amazed at all the cool things they are doing around the world to bring healthy and sustainable food to nations across the world. They put together a catalog of the best foods in the world under the name “Ark of Taste.” On this list was the “Mulefoot Hog” being the best pork! The American Mulefoot Hog is a heritage breed hog that has been bred for its excellent foraging capability, and its hardy tolerance to illness and weather. It produces a meat that is red and looks identical to Beef. There is marbling in the meat, and it is raved about among chefs all over the world as being the best tasting pork. It is also on the critically endangered species list with only a few hundred registered in the last couple of years. Naturally I read this and thought, “This is what I want to grow!” I want to help bring a species out of the critically endangered status, and the best way to do it is to create a market demand for it! Commercially Mulefoot hogs are not grown because it takes almost twice as long to grow as a commercial breed. I had a ton of questions, and no one to answer them, so I decided to dive in head first. We drove for over 10 hours to 2 separate farms to pick up a boar from one and 2 females from another. It is important to diversify genetics with a breed that is so scarce. The two females just so happened to be pregnant, so hopefully all goes well and we will have a large set of breeding stock! I left the house at 6 A.M and didnt get home till around 9 P.M. We had to load these animals on a trailer and take them back to the farm all in one day so that they didn’t have to be cooped up in the trailer for long. We have had them for a few weeks now, and it is amazing how much different they are from the 10 pigs we have on the farm. The mulefoots care little for corn or soybean, and they love to walk through the pasture just munching on all of the green growth! I have never seen a hog turn down corn and soybean meal for clover and amaranth weeds. They do love the fodder that I grow for them. They are always waiting at the gate for me to bring them more sprouted fodder. The boar was pretty small when we got him, and he was a little bigger than the 10 pigs we already had. Now the 10 pigs have all passed him up in size and he looks like the little guy! I can see him turn down the corn and go for the fodder while the 10 pigs are fighting over who gets to eat the corn. I just can’t believe how we as humans have bred pigs to turn away forage. The 10 commercial hogs that I have are healthy because I limit what types of food they get for their own health, but I can’t imagine having an animal that had no interest in eating the healthy food that is on their plate! Maybe that is part of the reason why our society has a lot of health issues? The meat that we eat is coming from a CAFO somewhere that feeds their animals mystery food that could be ground up chicken and cow parts mixed in a nasty slop. It may be a stretch, but I can tell you that anytime I have caught a fish or went hunting, I always passed on the animals that looked unhealthy. It is natural to look at something and say, gosh that thing looks rough...maybe we shouldn’t eat it. Today we leave that decision up to companies who are only in the food industry to make as much money as possible, its all about quantity not quality. It is to their advantage to feed their animals growth hormones and antibiotics from BIRTH so that their animals grow as fast as possible and don’t die from the horrific living conditions they are forced to live in. Is this how you would raise an animal you planned to eat… or feed your children?
We have had a bunch of people out recently to see the farm, and they all say, “Wow, it doesn’t smell that bad out here.” Well that is because we understand what it means to have too heavy of a concentration of animals in one place. If you can smell manure you need to move your animals to a new fresh spot!
The 2 pregnant Mulefoot girls are starting to warm up to me now that they know I am the guy who feeds them. I walk out there and toss a couple of trays of fodder over the fence and they come running!
We need your help to grow this farm. We are in this to preserve and respect where our meat comes from. I am proud to walk through what we have done to show off our progress. Commercial Operations don’t allow you the customer to check out their operation. They are afraid you will see the truth behind your food. I know that we all live busy lives and it is tough to search for better food options, but it is not hard! There are small farms everywhere that are trying to restore a broken food system. We are proud to be those farmers!
And for all of you goat loving people out there, here is our "goat in a bucket!"