I just finished reading a book called:  Brain Maker.  It is an excellent book discussing the health of your gut.  It is based on studies in medicine focusing on determining the different effects our micro-biome has on the rest of our body.  It can affect everything from depression and anxiety to diabetes and cancer.  I have been a proponent for pro-biotics and fermented foods/beverages, but I never knew that it was so much more important.  We have been growing our own kombucha for quite a while now, and it has helped to maintain a healthy digestive system.  It also has helped by alleviating the uncomfortable side effects of Alicia’s heartburn.  I know that kombucha is sold in the grocery store and that it is pretty darn expensive for something that you can grow yourself!  I have some “lessons learned” from this book if you are interested in the topic, but don’t feel like reading all of the medical research.  Lesson number one:  Eat more green veggies.  The fiber and the nutrition of these vegetables are extremely important in the health of your gut.  When you look at your dinner plate you should have 2/3 of the plate covered with green veggies, which leads me to the other third.  Meat, eggs, and dairy can be on the other third of your plate, but the researchers are stressing the need for these products to come from animals that have access to forage (pasture).  They consume the natural plant population that contains the short-chain fatty acids (Omega-3) that your body and brain need to function.  The fats (Omega-6) from commercial operations promote inflammation in the gut and arterial lining, which leads to heart disease and a poor gut health.  Fat is essential to your diet!  Stay away from vegetable oils unless they are olive oil or coconut oil, there are other good oils to eat like lard or tallow from pastured animals, but these are the best.  The protein that you eat should have fat in it, so don’t be afraid to eat that dark meat from pasture raised poultry (more on this subject later in this post)!  You don’t need any more than 4 ounces of meat per day in your diet, but it is an important source of your B vitamins and short-chain fatty acids.  Our country has been demonizing healthy fats for quite a while, and this lack of fat can lead to brain degeneration diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.   Stay away from low fat or fat free foods; this isn’t why people are overweight.  The problem that we face resides in all of the carbohydrates that we eat.  Sugar is the worst possible substance you can put in your body, and all of the fake sugar substitutes will equally promote weight gain.  If you need to sweeten something use some honey or stevia.  Stay away from grains unless it is quinoa and rice, but eat these things sparingly.  Oats can be beneficial due to the high amount of fiber in them.  Consume more fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha, Kefir, yogurt, and fermented pickled items.  Make sure all of these things have live cultures in them.  The pro-biotics in these foods are essential to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.  Some of the best food for your gut bacteria is Garlic, Onions, and Leeks, so eat more of these veggies to help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut!  Make foods from scratch and avoid processed foods like TV dinners, hot pockets, pizza rolls, and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pizza roll, but the fact remains that it is slowly harming us.  I like to make large batches of vegetable curry so that I can eat it throughout the week.  I suggest cooking big meals and saving leftovers for the week.  I am going to confess and say that I like to eat homemade sourdough bread, but I feel better about the fact that it is lower on the glycemic index than most carbs.  I also use a lot of oat flour.

    Only take anti-biotics unless there is something that is infecting your body that can cause permanent damage.  It can take months and sometimes years to recover from the effects of anti-biotics.  Don’t get me wrong, the book talks very highly of antibiotics as long as they are used sparingly.  4 out of 5 Americans use antibiotics at least once a year the CDC is fighting a losing battle against the constantly mutating bacteria that are resistant to anti-biotics.  Oh and last but not least, make sure you guys are exercising in some way.  Staying active is important for maintaining a healthy micro-biome.  I suggest for you to read this book if it interests you, but be prepared for a ton of medical research.
On to the happenings on the farm!  We have been spending our winter taking care of the baby and all of the necessary farm chores.  The pigs and the chickens are eating quite a bit more now that there is less and less for them to eat out on pasture.  A chicken will consume an incredible amount of bugs during the warm season, and they produce high quality eggs and meat as a bi-product!  There is no better solution to a bug problem.  We are working on a spreadsheet to plan for the 2016 year.  Determine what projects need to be completed sooner rather than later and determine how much time we are willing to spend on these projects.  I still have quite a bit of fence building to do which never seems to end.  Even when I get the border fence finished I will need to start setting up rotational paddocks to move the animals around so they don’t stay in one place for very long.  The movement of your livestock is the key to a healthy farm and pasture.  Keeping the animals in the same place all the time can lead to illness and just a plain old mess.  We are not about to destroy our land by not moving our animals.
    Another big winter project involves moving more mulch into the greenhouse with the chickens.  The smell of nitrogen is a quick sign that more carbon needs to be added to maintain a balance, and as you can see by this picture, the mulch is very full of organic matter along with bugs and worms even in the middle of winter!  The second I dump a load of mulch in the greenhouse the chickens swarm it to eat all of the bugs and worms out of it.  We are working as best as we can to provide them with their natural diet as much as possible.
     Something that seems to frequently come up when customers call is the question of whether or not we will only sell them chicken breast.  For example, “Do you guys carry just chicken breast?”  Here is what I would like to say, “Why yes, we grow chicken breasts.  We plant chicken breast seeds at the beginning of spring and we can typically harvest a bounty of chicken breasts every couple of months.”  Or here is another fun response that I have jumping around in my head, “Why yes, we just got a shipment of baby chicken breasts and once they are a little older the 3 week old chicken breasts will head out to pasture and frolic with all of the other chicken breasts.”  I imagine the thought of chicken breasts just hopping around in the pasture all nice and neat.  If I could seriously do this I would be rich.  We grow and process whole birds.  Yes, I could cut them up and separate parts, but that would add labor on to the process not to mention I would have quite the left over parts of the chicken that no one seems to want.  I know other farms charge more for the chicken breast to compensate for the loss they take from selling the unwanted parts, but I just don’t have the time or the man-power to focus on this aspect.  It costs a lot to feed chicken a healthy and nutritional diet, and I already have to charge $4.30 a pound for broilers.  If I were to run the numbers to justify parting out the chicken so that people can only buy chicken breast it would cost upwards of $15 dollars a pound for chicken breast!  I know this seems like a rant, so I want to take the time to educate on Pasture Raised Poultry (PRP).

    PRP consume a feed ration that is high in protein and vitamins and minerals.  They also consume quite a bit of green material out on pasture including bugs.  These birds will metabolize the green forage to help balance out the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats.  You want more Omega 3’s which is found in the green pasture, and less Omega-6 which is consumed from the grains that we feed to provide protein and calories.  You need more Omega-3 fats for many benefits to the body including Gut health, Heart Health, and Brain function.  It is for this very reason that people should be eating meat and eggs from animals that consume the pasture.  Chicken breast contains very little fat.  All of your beneficial fats that your body NEEDS are completely bypassed when you only consume the breast meat.  I am not saying that you should stop consuming chicken breast; I am saying that you need to consume the entire bird all the way down to the bone broth you can make from the bone marrow.  Please, Please, Please start balancing your diet and stop vilifying healthy fats.  I am not coming up with this information based on my own opinions, I am simply stating the information I have absorbed through books that are based on medical research.  If you are interested in some really good books just let me know.  All of our animals including the Beef, Chicken, Goats, and Pigs consume the pasture to metabolize the well balanced products we sell.  I want to be able to sustain-ably produce the products that we have and grow as a farm.  It can be a lot of work to add the various levels of complexity to the products, and we are already spread pretty thin.  Maybe once Bean can help slaughter chickens we will be able to part out birds.  Until then we are going to package them whole like we have always done.    

    We have been working on producing a better mission statement and vision for the farm to help maintain our direction for growth.  I am not going lie, this is incredibly hard.  I could write/talk for days about how I want to make the world a better place through changing the food system, but to try and sum this all up into a 10-15 word sentence is excruciating.  So when people ask me why I do what I do, I say, “I want to build relationships with people to help them live a healthy life.”  How many grocery store owners walk around helping the shoppers get what they need?  How many consumers go directly to the farmers and ask them for a product grown a particular way?  I would be willing to bet that this sort of thing is rare.  How many farmers are interested in educating themselves enough in health and wellness to understand the need for food that is grown to heal instead of cause harm to the body?  Wow, that is a mouthful.  If we could be a not-for-profit business I would be totally down with that.  I want to build a business that is focused on improving the lives of others.  Our products are not as cheap as your commodity grocery store products, but we are a business that is growing 100% based on the support of the local community.  Every dollar that passes to the farm is immediately invested into our livestock to create a healthier and happier product.  You see how many bad ass sentences I can come up with to describe what keeps me going every day? 

    Along with this mission and vision, we have been working out our goals.  Our 20, 15, 10, 5, 3, 2, and 1 year plans are in the works.  This has been a very eye opening experience for me.  I feel like I have learned so much about myself in the process of building out these goals.  I have recognized the need to be self-sustaining, so that I can focus all of my efforts on improving the lives of others.  I would like to wake up every day with the drive and determination to introduce positive change in the lives of others.  Our farm is too young to be able to pay all the bills and support itself, but we have plans to get to that point.  I never want to retire from farming.  I know I say this after 5 years of owning my own business, but I feel strongly about doing what you love so you never work a day in your life.  I got this saying from my cousin Josh Galliano.  His father had said it to him, and it is a saying that resonates with me.  Why would I retire from something I love to do?  I feel like this is an important aspect to living a long life.  Staying active and mentally involved in something you enjoy doing.  If you could quit your job today and never have to worry about money what would you be doing?  



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    Alicia and Josh started Green Finned Hippy INC. as a Tilapia Hatchery.  Strange right?  How does one just wake up one day and decide they want to start a tilapia hatchery?  Simple!  Josh started dabbling in Aquaponics in 2010 and it became a really fun hobby.  He purchased 50 tilapia online and ended up breeding the fish for fun.  We ended up having a TON of baby fish with no place to go.  So we registered with the state to become a hatchery.  Years have gone by and we evolved into a full scale farm with many different types of animals and products.  


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