I have to be honest in that there are countless blog posts left unpublished. Poor internet connection, a lack of patience with said connection will also run me ragged. So here is to hoping that this one gets posted. I (Josh) have become a bit of a zealot on the farm. Alicia does an awesome job putting up with my goal oriented state of mind. Since the Bean was born, life has changed for us quite a bit. Not only have we started to focus more of our time with him, but we have reduced our efforts in many different aspects of our lives. We have focused our core efforts for the farm on Pork, Eggs, and Milk. Chicken is available for short periods, and when we sell out we wait for the next small batch of birds to be done.
I do quite a bit of reflecting. I am constantly asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Not for the purpose of talking myself out of farming, but to re-affirm my goals and my passion. The task of maintaining drive and motivation is something that is constant. I am very grateful for my family and their support they give without even a seconds thought. At the end of the day I still come to the question of “Why am I doing this?” Even the most altruistic and self-sacrificing of people are doing the things that they are doing because it makes them feel good to help others. So the short and quick answer to that question is that it makes me feel good.
Good God that was a long lead up to an anti-climactic ending. You may ask, “Why is it that you are so dead set on recovering the American Mulefoot Hog?” Yes it is endangered, and yes it is on the verge of extinction, but the main reason it means so much to me is that it is a reflection of myself and my profession. There are less farmers in the US than there are prison inmates. Farmers are an endangered species. I see small farms go for sale, and the land bought up by big AG. The land becomes part of the industrial agriculture system where food is grown in one place and shipped across the country or across the world to be processed and then shipped again to people consuming it in some strange form. People are losing that opportunity to be connected with their food. They are losing the connection to the very people who grow it, and take pride in their product. As a small farmer I am less interested in growing a multi-million dollar corporation and more interested in building relationships with the people who enjoy our food. I see this pig and relate to the struggle of existence. Our fate is tied together, and the more you eat, the more we grow. The people who I turn away at the market when they hear they are eating an endangered breed of pig don’t understand that their decision to walk away from the experience is actually more damaging than if they just ignored it. This is a failure on my part for trying to connect with people through their hearts instead of their pallet.
When I ask myself, “Why do I enjoy farming?” Now that is a super deep response that now dives into my very reason for existence. I do it because it makes me feel good! I enjoy the stories people tell me of how the meat, eggs, and milk have helped them to change their diet and improve their health. It makes me feel good to help people. It also makes me feel good to cook up some Jowl also known as “Face Bacon” by some friends of ours. When I stand there at the counter and bite in to that savory slice of meat that just melts in your mouth I feel the flood of dopamine that fills me with a wonderful sense of satisfaction. The months and the years that we have put into this farm working our rear ends to the point of exhaustion all boils down to this visceral experience that helps to build my appreciation for the whole farm to fork experience. I will find myself just sitting there with my head in the clouds slowly chewing on the wonderful egg and bacon sandwich that I made with homemade bread not realizing that I probably look like some drugged up patient after having their wisdom teeth removed. I have so much respect for food that I turn my nose up to things that are empty or wasted calories. I have become a snob. No longer feeling the need to eat some 25 cent baggy of noodles and salt. No longer interested in eating hot pockets or those weird mystery meat TV dinners that everyone throws in the microwave for their lunches at work. I want something that I can mold into the most amazing meal possible. I want to learn how to properly prepare the food from an expert chef.
I can’t forget about the animals! Part of building a good food experience is knowing that the animal suffered very little. Suffering taints the flavor, and meat from an industrial plant just tastes funny to me. You may not notice it, but I do. Your experience with food may be much different than mine. That is the beauty of being a “foodie”. All I am focused on is making sure that our family (customers included) has an excellent food experience that transcends all other mediocre options. When my 1 year old rushes to my side and pulls on my pant leg pointing and grunting at that delicious piece of Jowl I am about to munch on, I will give him a piece and watch as his wonderfully exuberant reaction changes the way he experiences food for every day that comes.
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?
It is crazy how time flies. It has been awhile since I have had the chance to sit down and write. This is supposed to be the slow season! Naturally everything on the farm is in winter hibernation mode. We have had egg production slow down a bit and now it is just finally starting to improve. In early December we picked up another 250 chicks to help get our egg production ramped up for this spring. They are “straight run” barred Plymouth rocks. This should mean that we will get approximately 125 males and 125 females. If we can increase our flock of laying hens by 125 than we will be in good shape for all of our egg buyers this spring! This means I am taking care of an extra 250 birds right now, which is pretty taxing on our feed bill. This is an investment for our egg production though, and I feel like it is the right move since we are always out of eggs. With the baby here we have had a lot of extra chores to do.
For the sake of anonymity we will be calling him “Bean.” There is no need to divulge his ID on the internet when privacy is so hard to come by. Alicia has nicknamed him Bean since the day she got her weekly email telling her about where she was in her pregnancy. The message said he was the size of a Bean and that is when she started calling him Bean. He wasn’t supposed to be here until January 8th but decided he was done being in Utero. So for 3 weeks Alicia stayed with him at the hospital and I commuted back and forth to spend what little time I had with them. Even though Alicia was in her third trimester she was still doing quite a bit of work around the farm. She was taking care of watering most of the animals, collecting eggs, cleaning nesting boxes, moving bedding in for the goats so they were nice and toasty. My evenings during the weeks she was at the hospital were insane. I had to get feed typically once a week and unload it along with all of the other chores. The chickens had started to pick back up from their fall slump which meant I had to wash quite a few eggs in the evenings. Here is a picture of my egg washing setup.
I created a PVC bubbler that fits inside a 5 gallon bucket and hooks up to an air compressor. The bubbling hot water helps to remove a good amount of surface material on the egg making them easier to wipe clean. We don’t use any detergent just hot water. We don’t want the protective coating to be harmed by chemicals like they are in commercial operations. This is about 15 dozen worth of eggs and it takes over an hour to wash, candle, and package them. I would say that the egg business is the most time consuming of our operation, but it is definitely the most sought after product we have!
So far we have been able to maintain the farm animals and keep them alive. I have lost a few chicks to them crowding around the feeder, but I always say that there are some weak birds that need to be thinned out. I am crossing my fingers that the goats are all pregnant this year. I haven’t had much time to “get involved” with their mating rituals. I just hope poor bubba didn’t get beat up too bad this year while trying to make some babies. The goats were eating square bales daily and that was getting to be a pain to have to feed them daily so I decided to build a nice bale cradle out of some pallet wood and some 4 by 4’s. Low and behold this pallet bale cradle was not capable of supporting the weight of a 1500 pound round bale and it broke after a couple bales. So we decided to weld one together from scrap steel and see how well that would hold up. Now they have a nice big round bale to eat from and it has been over a week and they are still working on it!
The Pigs seem to be enjoying the 8 or so acres of pasture that they have to forage. I only feed them a small ration to maintain their winter fat stores, but other than that they seem to be going to town on the pasture!
I always wonder why things always end up on the insane side of the spectrum when it comes to our luck. I am not saying we have bad luck, but some force out there is just looking to find ways to create obstacles that completely bypass our plans. We had no idea that we would be taking care of a baby so soon. We figured that we would at the very least only have to spend at most a week at a hospital. Alicia had been living there sleeping on a couch for 3 weeks. Bean and Alicia were an hour away from the farm and I rarely had time to come up and spend time with them between work and the farm… I quickly snap out of it and remember that things could be a lot worse…Both of them are in good health and I am very grateful for that. We just have to work through the cards we are dealt and make the best of every situation. The second I get home from work I put my boots to the ground and get working. I can’t imagine how life would be if this was the busy season…I imagine all of the extra chores I would have to do and I shudder at the thought. I just remember to tell myself, “Great-Grandma was able to farm with 11 children; we can do this with 1.” She has many wonderful stories about farm life, and I always learn something new when I go see her. Bean got the chance to meet her a couple of weeks ago, and that was a fun experience! He fell asleep right in her arms.
I am amazed at how her memory is just spot on. She remembers things from 70 years ago like they were yesterday. I can barely remember things that have happened 3 or 4 years ago. I guess you could say that this is a good reason for me to write. This is a good reason for you to write too! To keep track of events that we are experiencing right now in life, because they may one day become forgotten memories. I wish I could trap every experience so that I can look back on them and remember what I was thinking. Pictures bring us closer to the memories, but writing brings us back to our mind; to our very thoughts that we were experiencing during those pictures. It is funny that I am so busy that I can only write in pieces. I have no time to document memories and thoughts to the point where I get ahead of myself and I end up having to make up for all the unwritten blog posts! Well here I am to bore you with the slow months of the year. Yes! This is somehow slow? People say to me, “Your life is going to be pretty crazy from now on.” They are right in that I’ll be teaching a child how to pluck feathers and gut a chicken. I’ll be teaching him how to set traps for predators so that we can protect our flock! Things will be crazy all right. Crazy awesome!
Today’s post will be a little different from my everyday farm rant. I want to start this blog entry off with a short little personal story. When I was in 8th grade I had a history teacher; Mr. Wielgus who assigned us a project to complete over Christmas break. I of course was not happy about the idea of having to do a project over Christmas break, but I bit my lip and pushed through it. The project was to put together a sort of “History” book of my family tree. I gathered up information regarding names and basic knowledge of who my ancestors were, but the biggest accomplishment I had was interviewing my Great Grandparents Roland and Genevieve. My Great-Grandmother was born in 1920 and had an incredible story to tell. I recorded the audio on a little cassette audio tape and I can’t for the life of me find the darn thing. I sat at the table in front of my great grandparents as they told a story of their childhood and life. They talked of being in a classroom full of multiple grades of kids and how they had to make sure they worked hard on the farm so that they could go to school. Christmas would come around and Santa would show up at their house and hand all the kids fruit. Fruit was pretty hard to come by especially during the winter. The kids loved it and were so grateful to have had such a wonderful present. I remember her saying that she had gotten a writing pad and pencil for Christmas one year and that she was very excited to get it. Grandma had to fetch wood for their wood stove in the house during the winter along with feeding animals and making sure there was plenty of straw and hay in the barns for the animals. Every so often her dad would pay her 50 cents for all of her hard work. Another memory she had of her father was when he had gotten angry with her because he thought she was using too much paper at school. The cost to produce paper back then was pretty high. It’s hard to believe that soon paper will become obsolete. Instead we will have “throw-away” computer tablets or something. I sat at the table stunned…totally unable to comprehend how little they got for Christmas while able to still enjoy it! She continued to talk about living on the farm and making sure that all the work was done before anyone got to have fun and play. She walked 5 miles to school every day and attended mass daily before school. She got her 8th grade diploma, which at that time was the highest offered education where she lived.
The Homestead. Washington, Mo.This is the House Great-Grandpa grew up in. Great-Grandma moved in when they got married and they had their first 3 children here!
She said that she admired her mother so much by her ability to handle stress. She cooked on a wood stove for my great-grandmother’s wedding and there were 150 people there! She remembers the wedding being in the morning right after morning milking so that there would be time for festivities before they would need to milk cows in the evening. Animals don’t just stop for you when you need a break. Farming was 7 days a week without any vacations! We have a small set of dairy goats that we have to milk twice a day, and I can attest to the amount of work this is. You absolutely cannot skip a milking. The animals can get ill and sometimes even die. She told me that her first “vacation” was when she was 60 years old when she flew to visit her daughter in Colorado. This is pretty incredible. She also mentioned that her favorite invention was indoor plumbing. No more trips to the outhouse in freezing cold weather!
I just sit here and ponder all of the advances that have occurred in her lifetime. She went from outhouses to indoor plumbing, Dirt roads to paved ones, expensive paper to inexpensive computers. The list could go on and on. I would venture to say the she has experienced the greatest technology jump that anyone has ever experienced to date!
When I asked her about the great depression, which would have been from when she was 9 until she was 19. She looked at me kind of puzzled like she was trying to think whether that time frame was significant. She said that they had no clue that “The Great Depression” was even going on. She laughed, and we all laughed till I realized that she wasn’t kidding. Grandma, how on earth would you not know that the great depression wasn’t going on? Everyone lost all of their money and no one had any work! She said that they had everything they needed on the farm. Life continued on just like it always had. They were producing food that their family ate, and whatever they had extra they sold. They didn’t live a life of luxury with fancy cars and fancy clothes. They were farmers, and when they woke up they had a responsibility to get things done so that they could eat and make a living.
I think that this was one of the most influential things that anyone has ever told me. Grandma and Grandpa had much more to say of course, which I accounted for in my project. I loaded up all of the information in a binder and when I got my “A” I handed it to my mom and she stored it! The point of this little story is to explain what it takes to live a happy life. I am sure they had their ups and downs, but she has had a pretty eventful life while being a farmer! I go and see her every few weeks to bring her eggs and to chit chat about things. On a recent visit I went there to tell her that my wife Alicia is pregnant. My mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother were the first people I told on my side of the family. I told Great-Grandma my plan was to tell these three women first, so that way everyone would find out rather quickly! I told her how I look forward to taking a 5 generation picture once the baby gets here. Can you believe it!? My mom will be sitting there with her grandchild while also sitting next to her own grandmother. That just blows my mind!
This is a picture of my younger sister, my mother, my grandmother, and my great grandmother. I look forward to a five generations picture coming in January!
Great-Great-Grandma the farmer holds the newest addition to a generation of farmers. I want my children to experience all the wonders of farm life that she experienced. My Great-Grandmother had 11 children, which I am not sure if I could handle. Not to mention I am not sure Alicia would be up for it either! I want my children to understand what it takes to bring food to the table. I want them to respect all of the work and care that goes into raising animals. I don’t want them to know what a chicken nugget is. I want them to ask what part of the chicken does that come from!? I will answer…nobody knows. I want them to know how important it is to respect animals and to care for them like they are their own flesh and blood. I want them to know why it is important to feed them healthy food. People think that we need to shield our kids from the processing of an animal for food. I think that they need to see it to know that food doesn’t just come from a box or a bag. They can learn early on what is humane and what is not humane. They will know to stay away from commercially produced meat because the animals are unhealthy and treated poorly. I don’t want to pull a veil over their eyes and tell them that everything is all lemon drops and gum drops here in farmland. This isn’t a Facebook game. Animals die, and sometimes unexpectedly. It is up to us as farmers to do everything we can to provide an excellent life to these animals and ensure that the people who purchase our food know what it means to eat a product that was humanely raised and fed a healthy diet.
We are having a little boy, and Alicia has already nicknamed him “Bean”. We decided that we like old fashioned names and that we wanted to keep the name in the family. I’ll let you guess what his real name is!
To wrap up this short post, yes this is our announcement to the world about the baby. We waited long enough to be comfortable sharing this information, and we are not about to just throw up a short Facebook post with a picture of the ultrasound. Our lives revolve around our 18 acre farm and this next phase of our lives will bring on the future of our farming adventures. Bean will be thrown into this crazy world of farming without knowing any different, and I can’t wait to show him the way.
“Wow!” Is all I can think of saying after experiencing Swine and Dine. This event surpassed my expectations so much that I almost felt like I was in a daze the whole time. Mac, Alexis, and I worked like crazy to create an awesome experience for everyone. I think that the event just blew my expectations out of the water! The best thing to do would be to recap the whole event from start to finish so that all of you who missed it can understand how incredible this experience really was.
I picked Toby and Bryan up from the airport the Wednesday before the event weekend and we spent the evening meeting with all of the chefs that planned to attend. Toby and Bryan travel all over the country spreading the tradition of a Cajun Boucherie. We spent all of Wednesday discussing what equipment we still needed and getting to know all the chefs who would be running various stations. Thursday we spent the day/evening working on finalizing the equipment/materials list and we built the butchering table! The butchering table is designed to allow for carrying the pig around to where you need to process it. The height of the table is important to ensure that everyone is working at a good height while processing it. Toby has spent years perfecting the design. Friday was go time! We had to have everything in place so that Saturday we would be ready to process.
The smoker we used to smoke all of the food was designed and built by my dad, which we easily wheeled over to the spot where it would sit for the Boucherie. I cut down a Bradford pear tree to use for smoking the meat.
Friday was also the day where we loaded Bertha the pig on to the trailer so that we could move the trailer in place for Saturday morning. She loaded quite easily with the use of some whey that I produced from making a batch of Chevre. Bertha can’t pass up a meal consisting of goat’s milk and whey. The next thing we did on Friday was to catch dinner! Toby and Bryan wanted to cook Coq au vin. This is “Rooster with wine.” We used some homemade apple wine and 3 roosters that I caught that day. I ran around the farm with a large net chasing each rooster. They seemed to figure out my ultimate plan for them rather quickly. It was a sight to see I am sure.
The food that night took at least 4 hours of preparation. People would ask, "Toby, When will it be ready?” He would respond with, “It’s ready when it’s ready brah.” You do not rush a meal around these folks. You wait for perfection, and boy was it good!
We set up all of the stations for making Hams, BBQ, Gratons, Backbone Stew, Frasseurs, Head Cheese, and Boudin. All the meat was smoked after it was cut off of the pig to prepare it for each station. I am sure most of you know what Hams and BBQ are, but I should probably explain the other stations. Gratons are a version of Cracklins. The little chunks of the pig you see on the smoker are parts of the skin/fat and belly. These were fried in lard, and served as tasty crunchy morsels. These were absolutely awesome! The backbone stew was pretty explanatory whilst utilizing the butterflied pork chops in a stew that was served over rice. Frasseurs is an organ meat stew, which was exceptionally good! I had never felt comfortable eating liver until I tried this dish. Head cheese is made from leftover parts of the head that is slow cooked in a pot until it falls apart and is easy to shape into a pie. The Boudin was amazing! Boudin uses pork shoulder that is shredded along with some liver, rice, peppers, and onions all chopped up together and stuffed into casing that is smoked. All of these dishes may seem strange to you, but these are recipes that were utilized to stretch a pig over multiple meals during times when food was hard to come by. Toby and Bryan specialize in utilizing the whole pig so that nothing is wasted. It is a form of respect if you think about it. We live in a society that is so wasteful with food. If a piece of fruit has a slight blemish it is considered sub-par and thrown away. We need to remember that not long ago people used to starve to death and that every piece of an animal needs to be utilized.
Saturday was the funeral. Early in the morning, Boo Radley said a blessing, and Bertha passed quickly with little to no idea what was going on. I learned so much that day. I am humbled by this experience, and I will remember it forever. I have processed animals before, but rarely ever one that I had named. I understand why people want to close their eyes to this sort of thing. It brings us to a primal state and takes us out of our comfort zone. When you have processed animals as much as I have you start to look at a burger differently, and wonder where it came from. Did it come from an animal with a name, or did it come from an animal with a tag on it listing some random string of numbers.
Here is a picture of Toby and Bryan prepping the pig to be scraped. They use the burlap to help maintain the heat so that the pig scrapes nice and easy.
We had an awesome team of chefs working with us. I especially want to thank Josh Galliano, Tommy Salami, Brendan Kirby, Adam Lambay, Ryan Mcdonald, David Sandusky, William Volny, Andrew Jennrich, Nate and Victoria Weber, Brian Hamilton, Boosiph Radley, Mac and Kelly McKenzie, Romain Montes, and Alexis Tucci for all of their hard work and dedication. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it is to see a bunch of talented people get together and create something wonderful. After we all cut up the pig it was time for brunch! Alexis and Mac made some pretty awesome brunch Saturday morning by whipping up some of our eggs, and using some veggies from the greenhouse. Mac had brought some pork sausage as well that added to an awesome breakfast burrito! These two saved the day with providing breakfast in a pinch. We had originally planned to bring in a food truck to cook breakfast for us, but last minute the truck broke down and couldn’t make it. Mac and Alexis saved the day on that one! We all prepped the pork and started smoking the meat Saturday afternoon. Once the work was done we began to celebrate. We had a party like no one has ever seen! We cooked 2 hogs this evening, one over an open fire pit, and the other in a la caja china box. Here is a picture of the la caja china box for those of you who do not know what it is.
We had a great time eating these two pigs from Circle B Ranch while also listening to some awesome live music by The Scandaleros. My cousin Josh Galliano and I had a fun time frying a bunch of things in some of the lard we had on site. We of course fried a lot of pork belly, and also tried frying some cornbread. Both were absolutely amazing. People walked away saying, “I didn’t know that something could taste this good!” You would be surprised at all of the cool foods you can fry in lard. Someone told me I should check my cholesterol the next day and see how I was doing…I check my blood pressure reasonably often, and I am doing just fine!
Sunday was the main course! All of the chefs went to work finishing the final touches of their dishes so that they would be ready for everyone to try. The Gratons were absolutely amazing, and I think my favorite dish was the Backbone Stew. All the food was delicious and we ate quite a bit of it all day long. It wasn’t as much of a sit down style of eating. It was focused more on eating some of the dishes as they were done cooking. We spent the whole weekend working our butts off so that we could provide a fun filled weekend while feeding a ton of people while we were at it. I had a great time connecting with a lot of people and learning a lot about the food we were eating. Someone mentioned that this event reminded them of Woodstock! I am pretty sure someone has probably already coined the event named “Porkstock” but I can assure you that this was in its own league of its own.
I can’t wait to do this again and I look forward to bringing everyone back together so that we can have a blast all over again. We had a ton of sponsors for this event, and here are a few of them that provided everything from side dishes to craft beer for the event:
Circle B Ranch, Old Vienna, Beast Craft BBQ, Companion Bakery, The Civil Life Brewing Company, The Roasterie Kansas City Air Roasted Coffee, Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands Brewing Company, 2nd shift Brewing.
These sponsors helped us create an awesome event with tasty dishes and beverages out of this world! If you missed out on it this year don’t be sad. We are going to do it again. Keep posted on the next Boucherie. It is going to be a blast just like this year.
Here is a picture to end it. This is the crew that put this event together. We worked for months planning and organizing people/gear. Each person here did an incredible job, and I am very fortunate to call them friends and cohorts. Thanks Alexis, Bryan, Toby, and Mac. I hope that we can do this again in the spring!
We have some cool new plans for this fall and I wanted to make sure that all of our blog followers got first wind of the news. Many of you know that I am very passionate about animal wellness. I feel like we have separated ourselves from the truth of animal farming (husbandry). Our meat was once a living thing that was more than likely mistreated and abused. We have lived our lives with eyes closed and it has been easy to do. Some people are perfectly fine with being in the dark about food production, but I feel as if it is a “calling” to bring the truth to light.
We are holding an event on October 3rd and 4th. We are holding a traditional Cajun Boucherie at our farm! You may ask, “What is a boucherie?” Well let me tell you! It is an event originating down south where communities would get together to butcher a hog for everyone to eat. It’s meant to be very organic; everyone gradually eats when something is finished... No announcements or lines to stand in, word spreads on its own. No one sits down at a table at the same time or gets served. Participants walk over and visit with a chef, the chef serves them a portion of what they cooked, and a lot of people eat around the pot while talking to the chef... Some people walk off in small groups, sitting, eat and conversing. It's real casual, grazing at its best. You may ask what the difference is between a Boucherie and an everyday hog slaughter. A Boucherie is an event to show respect for the animals that provide for us. It’s a Funeral. It’s a Festival. It’s a celebration of congregation. It’s a Cajun Boucherie!
This is our effort to expose, educate, entertain and offer the opportunity for folks to witness the harvest of an animal. We will be processing, butchering, preparing, cooking, and finally serving the entire hog. Nothing goes to waste. This is what a Boucherie is all about. We are teaming up with Mac’s Local Buys to bring you “Swine and Dine 2015.” We are flying in Toby Rodriguez (pictured above) from Lache Pas Boucherie in New Orleans to perform this amazing event. Toby has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” as well as “Top Chef.” Assisting Toby during this 2 day Cajun Celebration and Feast, will be a lineup of local chefs led by St. Louis’ very own Chef Joshua Galliano!
The following ticket prices are as follows:
$65, Farm & Feast Pass
Check In Sunday (8am - noon)
Full day of Family Festivities, including whole hog cooking demonstration by Chef Toby Rodriguez and staff of 10 local chefs headed by Chef Josh Galliano. Six course, All Day Grazing Menu. Art & Farmers Market. Live Music. Local Craft Beer.
$15, Kids Pass
Farm Tours, Face Painting, Petting Zoo and Bratwurst Lunch for the kids (< 12 years old)
$100, Swine & Dine Pass
Check in Saturday (noon-6pm)
Includes everything in the Farm & Feast Pass plus:
Double Hog Roast, Bonfire & Barn Party! La Caja China Box & Spatchcock whole hog roast and cooking demonstrations by Chef Josh Galliano & Chris McKenzie. Live Music by the Scandaleros. Local Craft Beer. Onsite Camping.
$125, Boucherie Pass
Check In Friday evening (5-10pm) or Saturday (6am-8am).
Includes everything in the Swine & Dine Pass plus:
Hog Harvest and Butchering Demonstration with Chef Toby Rodriguez owner of Lache Pas Boucherie, in New Orleans, LA. Sat morning Farm to Table Harvest Brunch.
A few important things to note:
- Festivities start each day at 7-8am.
- Prepare like you would for a camping trip - propane grills, tents, chairs, sleeping bags, food, liquids etc.. BYOB is welcomed. Local craft beer, coffee & water will be available at the farm Sat & Sun.
- Need more ice? Need more beer? Forget your toothpaste? We've got you covered. Guests will have access to the Millersburgh General Store/Gas Station/Restaurant/Saloon. It's 4 things under 1 roof. Honestly, this is one happening spot in Pocahontas and is located right next door to the farm.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions. Here are some FAQ:
1.) What is the bathroom situation?
a. There will be porta-potties and wash stations to maintain sanitation.
2.) Are Kids invited?
a. Kids are welcome to the festivities on Sunday. They will be served a bratwurst lunch with sides. There will be a petting zoo, face painter and farm tours. Please be respectful of the animals.
3.) Do we have to camp or can we leave on Saturday and come back on Sunday?
a. You do not have to camp. Onsite camping is an option (included in ticket price) for people who want to drink and enjoy without having to worry about driving home and getting back for the next day's events. We want the guests to enjoy a stress free event.
4.) What time will the event start?
a. We will harvest the hog around 7 A.M. Saturday and begin scalding and processing the animal, this will take a good part of the day. We will eat dinner around 5 or 6pm and the band will start around 7. Something to note about a Boucherie is that things are very casual and we are here to learn and have fun with friends. Sunday we will begin more cooking around 7 A.M.
5.) How many meals are covered in the each ticket?
a. Boucherie Pass gets you a Farm to Table Harvest Brunch Saturday morning, whole hog roast dinner Saturday night and Grazing Menu Sunday.
b. Swine & Dine Pass gets you dinner Saturday night and Grazing Menu Sunday
c. Farm & Feast Pass gets you Grazing Menu Sunday
6.) How does the camping work?
a. You will check in and you will then be shown where to park and setup your tent. If you have a small popup you can bring this, but no huge RV's we need to make sure everyone has room to setup camp. If you are leaving before the end of the day there will be separate parking for you to ensure you can easily get out.
b. There will be a bonfire Fri & Saturday night, so feel free to bring some s'mores gear or anything you like to roast on a fire.
7.) Will there be games/entertainment provided during the day/evening?
a. There will be a band Saturday night (The Scandaleros) and live music Sunday (TBA) & an Art & Farmer's Market (Sunday) with local producers, farmers & artists.
b. Yard games like washers/yard golf/bags are welcome.
8.) Can I bring my dog?
a. We ask that you don't bring any pets. We have animals that are sensitive to dogs and we don't want to risk their wellbeing.
9.) Is this event smoking friendly?
a. DO NOT THROW CIGARETTE BUTTS ON THE GROUND our goats/pigs/chickens can get very ill from this and we do not want to hurt the animals. Please dispose of them in receptacles provided
10.) Can I bring my own drinks/food?
a. Yes we encourage you bring your own drinks/food. If you forget something you can walk a 100 feet to buy any liquor or beer or food that you may want from the Millersburg General Store/Gas Station/Restaurant/Saloon. We will have Red Wattle ground pork and eggs available for sale on the farm.
b. GLASS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED ON THE PROPERTY. We cannot have animals or humans hurting themselves on broken glass. We are a farm and our animal's welfare is very important to us, so please do not bring any glass.
c. Dispose of your trash in the proper receptacles.
d. Please drink responsibly. We are here to have fun and learn.
11.). There are no fire-arms allowed on the property.
A portion of proceeds will benefit Slow Food St. Louis. If you haven’t heard of Slow Food than you need to look them up! They hold events all over the place showcasing local and sustainable food practices. Here is a blurb of information from their site:
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat where it comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food is good, clean, and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good, that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or our health, and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work. We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process. The Slow Food St. Louis convivium is a lively group. We actively work to support the Slow Food philosophy and mission in and around the St. Louis area. Please check out our events page for information on educational and social events happening around our area. We invite you to attend any of our events. Get to know us. Consider becoming a member.
Here is a shot of the camping area and the general store.
Here is a picture of "HousePig." We named her house pig cause she was the first pig of this batch to come up and say hello to us and be all friendly. She will be the last pig to leave the farm and will more than likely be candidate for the Boucherie. She sure does like to be out on pasture rooting around for tasty treats. I like to see happy and healthy pigs.
This was a lot of information in a short amount of time!
We hope to see you all out at the farm event.
There are a limited number of tickets we have to offer so don’t hesitate to reserve yours!
Here are some links for the event: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2214367
I have quite a bit of time to sit back and let my mind wander while I am working alone building fence paddocks and enjoying the sounds of the animals around me. There is not a lot of 2 way conversation going on when you start talking to the pigs or the goats.
The goats have a routine that they follow due to the over grown size of their udders once milking time is upon us. They start congregating near the gate to let them on the porch so that they can hop up on the milk stand impatiently waiting to be milked. A goat waits for no one. They are incredibly stubborn creatures and when they want something they will vocally let you know. They hop right up onto the milk stand and start eating. That’s when they get cleaned down and the milk machine gets hooked up to them pumping the milk out into a glass jar. This is a very clean method that does not allow the milk to come into contact with the outside environment reducing the possibility of contamination. Once their udder shrivels up into an object that closely resembles a raisin they get cleaned up again and sent back out to forage for the day. This routine happens every 12 hours of every day, rain or shine.
Goats are very affectionate creatures. As I wait for a goat to finish eating I’ll get visited by the little tiny goat babies. They want you to give them attention. They come up and jump up with their front legs leaning on you requesting to have their necks scratched. They are like dogs, starting to fall asleep when you scratch their necks. I have wasted countless minutes just sitting there playing with the baby goats. I am always telling Alicia, “Ok we are definitely going to keep this one, she is such a sweetie.” Alicia gives me this look of concern stating that if we kept every goat baby we would have over a hundred goats in a few years’ time. The thought does not concern me, but the money flow would definitely be concerning! Goats are much less expensive then dogs in the sense that they graze for most of their food, and only need a small amount of purchased hay. However, the goats that produce milk have to eat 4 times as much to maintain production.
I talk like owning goats are the most wonderful thing, but I’ll have to be honest and say that they can be a pain in the ass. I have one goat that is relentless when it comes to messing with the porch furniture. We have chairs that we set out for people to sit on, and she is adamant about wanting to wear these chairs as a hat. She will walk up to the chair and duck her head under it attempting to get it stuck on her head somehow. Once it is good and stuck she will walk around with this chair attached to her head like she is the queen of England. it is legitimately one of the strangest things I have ever seen a goat do. They also know their own names. I can call out a goat name and that goat will respond with a “Mah!” They each have their own unique quirky personalities. One of our younger does, Bonnie, will come up to you and tug on your shirt until you start petting her/scratching her neck. If you stop she will nudge you repeatedly and eventually tug on your shirt some more until you begin scratching her again. They need a lot of attention! One customer of ours came out to the farm and sat down on the ground in the driveway and Blackberry walked right over to him and put her head in his lap wanting to be scratched.
If you thought goat babies were cute, you should check out piglets. I go in to feed the sows and I can see the piglets running all over the place outside of the penned in area. Their little chubby butts can squeeze through the fencing allowing them free access to the pasture. They always come back to their mommas, but I sometimes worry that a fox could easily lurk outside the fence waiting to snatch up a little slice of bacon. The mommas come right up to me looking for the food I brought them. They are not shy at all. The babies however will just look at you and start sprinting. NEVER try and pick up a piglet while momma is nearby…she will legitimately try and kill you. Pig mommas can be very protective, and it is a good sign if they are good mothers.
As you can see in this picture, Bo likes to bite down on the water hose in order to make a nice little pool of mud!
I work in the evening until dark and I come inside to take a cold shower to unwind. This is my daily routine. Shower and get ready for bed so that I can hopefully get to sleep by 9:30. The routine starts in another 8 hours and sleep is precious. I sometimes look at how I used to get home from work, and I would have no responsibilities and nothing demanding my time, and I’ll admit that it looks appetizing at times. I know that if I live like this for a few days I would get extremely bored. I would miss the quirky little dances that the baby goats would do on the porch in the morning. I would miss being greeted by a goat army in the morning. I would also miss the little snorting conversations I have with my piggies. It is no wonder that I have such a short attention span and that endless bouts of eclectic ideas fuel my daily tasks. I just don’t see myself living any differently. I would get thrown out of a subdivision HOA faster than you can say “Goat Mower”. Not to mention I would never sign such a silly restrictive document.
If you haven’t seen all the posts about our blackberries than you are missing out! We planted Triple Crown Blackberries in October of 2012. I started with about 50 saplings, and now the patch is so huge that it is tough to navigate through. Triple Crown blackberries are thorn less and can produce a heavy amount of blackberries once they are fully matured (5 years). The patch is around 2500 square feet and can put out a large amount of berries. It would be nice to one day have it better organized, which is definitely on the list of things to do. Speaking of things getting over grown! Our greenhouse is so overgrown with tomatoes and peppers that we are going to need to get somebody in there to harvest and organize it. Anyone that wants to sort through it all and help maintain the jungle can pick as much as they want! I would rather someone be able to use the produce instead of it being lost to the mysterious beyond. The purpose of growing the produce is to help draw the nitrogen out of the soil so that when winter comes it is ready to support chickens and other animals. We knew going in that we would barely have time to mess with it.
We have an open invite to anyone who wants to come out every Saturday and we have gotten to know a lot of repeat customers over the years. We enjoy the conversation with customers about each other’s plans and new adventures. This sort of connection with people is something that I feel is lacking when you go to the grocery store. You are there to get in and get out as quickly as possible after purchasing all your food that comes from who-knows-where. The grocery store is supposed make it easier for the human to have access to food. It puts up a barrier between the producers and the consumer. The producer never looks the customer in the eye and says to himself, “I hope this food is healthy for you and your family”. I want to make sure that you are getting the best quality you can have for your family’s health and happiness. Over half of the world’s tilapia is produced in China; do you think they care whether or not they are providing a healthy product for you and me? Of course not, they are in the business of making money not food. When you bring people to the farm where their food grows they can see for themselves whether they are getting a healthy animal. They can see that the cow is eating grass on a nice open pasture full of forage. They can see the pig digging up tasty treats in the pasture. There is no smoke and mirrors, and there is no marketing strategy to get you to buy the product by labeling it “Fresh” or “Farm Grown” or “Natural”. There is nothing “natural” about a chicken nugget or pizza rolls. We need this level of accountability in a world that is moving farther and farther away from real life interaction.
I want you to enjoy the food we produce and I want it to be healthy. That is a mission statement I can stand by. There are many other farms out there that stand by that same statement. Support them, and you will see a food revolution like no other. We are out here to make a living just like everyone else, and we have the most to lose when a product does not meet perfect standards. Listeria outbreaks in commercial ice-cream or E. Coli outbreaks in commercial beef operations are common due to these large businesses not being able to maintain their ability to function on such a large scale. We need smaller businesses to come in and help these guys out. Take away the burden of providing for the masses. Farms popping up in local suburbs that help to supply the local area with food and reducing the amount of fuel burned to transport. This is something that needs to happen in order to maintain that level of accountability and safety.
You have just read a super long rant, and I applaud you for sticking around for it. July is a tough month because of the heat for animals and humans alike!
To wrap up this blog post, I suggest that you all come out to our farm! J Or go to a farm close to you and check out what they have growing!
Here is a silly photo of a lazy farm cat:
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!"
It is crazy to think that winter is over and spring is already here! Time flies when you are having fun. Today was a bitter sweet day. We took the 4 pigs to the processing facility. I really did get attached to their crazy little quirks. Every day when I went to feed them, I would lift the lid off of the barrel and start filling a bucket of feed. They would be on the far side of their pen and somehow hear me rustling around getting their food ready. I would here a big grunt, and they would all come sprinting in as fast as they could to see what I had for dinner! If you have never seen a pig run, you are missing out! It is hilarious to see such large bodies with stubby little legs running around. The pigs would wait at the gate for me all grunting and snorting till I finally went inside to fill their troughs. I would stand there for a few minutes and scratch them behind the ears, and their little piggy tails would wag like crazy. They would turn to me and see if I had any treats that I was somehow holding back from them (like Christmas cookies perhaps?). They loved it when I would scratch their snout and scratch under their chin. They were super smart, and they even would come to me when I would whistle! They each had a unique personality that I really enjoyed. They really were like dogs! When I loaded them onto the trailer, I did it without causing them any stress or harm...(normally they are loaded with electric cattle prods that they zap them to get them loaded onto the trailer). I just set the trailer up at the edge of the pen and started feeding them from inside the trailer. On the day we took them to the processor I just fed them in the trailer and closed the door. No stress involved there!
I unloaded them at the processing facility and they weighed them in at 320 pounds a pig! That is a big animal. It is a good thing that dogs don't get to 320 pounds in 6 months or I am sure we would be eating them too! Why do I keep referring to them as dogs? I guess I see all animals differently now. Horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats...there are laws in place that don't allow you to process dogs, cats, or horses. So how did the other animals get the short end of the stick? These animals have personalities too. Do I eat pork? Why yes I do, but I don't think I can look at a piece of bacon the same as I did when I thought it grew on trees. Believe it or not, there are people out there selling bacon plants. You put the bacon seed in the ground at up comes a bacon tree!
I had someone look at me like I was crazy when I said that we were going to take the pigs to the butcher. "Those are your pets! how can you eat your pets that you named?!" I would rather know that the animal I am raising has had an awesome life. That I made its time here a luxurious stay! They were fed well, got to have special visitors come to see them every weekend (our farm tourists!), and had nose scratches daily! They ran around on pasture and jumped around and played with each other. You can Google some pretty nasty images of how animals are raised commercially and that just makes me cringe. This person I talked to said they would much rather not know anything about the food they eat so they didn't have to feel bad about it. This is a pretty irresponsible way to live ones life don't you think?
On a lighter note, check out this fat pregnant goat! She is super clingy right now. She will waddle right up to you and expect snuggles. If you stop, she will nibble on you until you start petting her again. Ever since she has gotten close to popping she has gotten really super needy. Alicia goes in the pen and sits with her quite a bit to give her some snuggles. We expected her to be due in June, but we may have misjudged when the buck got to her! Stay tuned for baby goats, and we hope you will all come out and hold them!
Speaking of goats, here is a picture of Alicia sitting with the goats and having a snuggle fest. I still can't believe that people eat goat. They are even friendlier than some dogs, and they couldn't hurt a fly! If we get any baby bucks I think we will end up selling them to the sale barn or to people needing a buck, instead of having them butchered. We will see... there are A LOT of people wanting to eat any male goats we produce.. but aren't goats cute! I'm not sure we can do it!
We were awarded a grant recently from Slow Food STL to put in a Permaculture Orchard. We planted Apple, Pear, Plum, Peaches, and Persimmons. All trees chosen were varieties that are rare and not often seen in this area. We are excited to start producing this product for the chefs in St. Louis! We enlisted the help of a company known as Regenerative Landscaping to help us plan out and install some of the plants around our orchard. Around each tree we planted 3 comfrey plants to harvest minerals for the trees. Comfrey is a shrub plant that sends a deep tap root down over 10 feet to harvest minerals for the trees. It pulls up these minerals and makes them available to the shallow roots of the fruit tree. Comfrey is also a really good leafy green to feed to the goats! We are putting in mulch to keep grass from growing up around the trees and starving them of nutrition. The plan is to fence this area in so that we can keep deer and escaped goats out of this orchard. We wouldn't want anything to happen to these trees!
Now that the chickens are all out on the pasture we will be focusing on getting the greenhouse ready to plant in! We dug out some rows and brought in some of our compost to help get the plants started! I brought a few tractor loads of compost over and could not believe how many composting worms were in it! Every shovel full that I dug into had almost a hand full of worms! That is a sign of some healthy compost. We plan on using this wonderful compost to grow mostly tomatoes with some peppers mixed in. Since the greenhouse will be getting pretty warm this summer we need a crop that will do well in the excess heat. The composted bedding that the chickens lived in this past winter will help fertilize everything and keep things growing super well (or so we hope!). We planted over 200 tomato starts...that is a LOT of tomatoes to transplant! This year we will be focusing on selling at farmers markets so we will see how well this goes! One thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment around here!
How many of you saw this picture and said, "Awwww!!" We sure did. This guy is a cutie! We picked up these 4 pigs back in November, and we couldn't be happier! We have had people tell us,"Don't you dare get pigs...they smell terrible and I won't come out to your farm anymore!" We had bought into the theory that all pigs are...well...stinky! This theory couldn't be further from the truth. Surprisingly we have not had any trouble with nasty odor, and that is greatly affected by the amount of space these big babies are given. I also add quite a bit of bedding for them in order to give them something to snuggle up in on cold winter nights, but mainly to absorb the nitrogen from their manure and urine. Inside their barn they have a nice little enclosed hut where they go to escape drafts. It is pretty darn cute to walk in and see them all curled up buried under a pile of hay. I call it the pig pile. These little guys are super smart, and some people say they are even smarter than dogs. They like to be scratched behind their ears, and they also like it when I tickle their snouts (I think they are just seeing if I have any cookies for them!).
Here is another cute shot of the "HAMiltonians" with Alexander HAMilton being the larger black pig. He is their leader and always is the first to approach people to determine if they have snacks. He is definitely a proponent for a monarchist government, and would like to ensure there is a strong central bank of cookies. If I was good with Photoshop I would show you a 10 dollar bill with his cute little piggy face on it and suggest a mass print. You can see they have done a number to the round bales I put in their pen...
This shot better shows the size of their pen. This pen will serve as the training ring to teach the pigs how to mind electric fencing. There will be a electric wire at snout height inside the will serve as the teaching mechanism. A pig's natural instinct when scared or "shocked" in this instance is to run forward. If they run forward out in the pasture they will learn that they can force their way through electric fencing. Pigs are super smart, and they need to be well trained in order to keep them contained in the 4 acre pasture they will have. In this training, they will attempt to run forward and hit the fence. They will learn that when they are shocked they need to back up. It does not take long for them to learn.
One thing is for sure...they like to till up the soil and look for goodies. Just yesterday I saw this pig pull a huge root out of the ground and eat the whole thing. He looked so happy! Once the pigs are trained they will leave this pen and the soil that they tilled up will be ready to be planted with a cover crop. They will be rotated on the pasture making it so that they don't spend too much time in one place. That is why pig farms smell so bad...the pigs exist in one place at too high of a concentration for way too long. If you forced any animal to stay in a building or a cage they will eventually smell...This model allows for the land to heal and regenerate. I will no longer need to use an engine driven tiller when I want to plant a garden...Ill just fence in the garden and let my pigs till the soil for me! I should offer my tilling services to other people...that would be a sight to see! Alas! These pigs are all boys, and males don't last very long on a farm.
If you have never seen one of these before it is because they stopped making them after WWII. I picked up this trailer a couple years ago back when we decided we wanted to raise cattle on our farm. Let's just say I got a really good deal on it. Tucked into this crazy looking trailer are 6 cute little cows:
We took them to be weighed and prepped for a wonderful life out on pasture! They are all girls so hopefully this will be the future of my breeding stock! Cross your fingers! I won't know how many will be good moms until next year, so we have plenty of time to wait. Beef is really expensive right now, and it is especially expensive for the farmer...I am hoping that these girls will be able to drop some calves in a couple years which will greatly offset the investment. It is not cheap nor easy to get into farming unless you have support. We have chosen to only accept support from consumers, which makes our job even harder!
Stop here if you don't want to hear an (educational!) rant.
Cattle are an excellent start to a good healthy farm. The grass converts sunlight into consumable energy, and the cow (multi-stomached animal) converts this grass into meat and milk. We have been harvesting solar energy since the beginning of time! The cows and goats create manure and urine for the ground to absorb and start the cycle over again. By introducing grain into their diets we have disrupted that natural cycle. We have more sick cows and dangerous levels of harmful bacteria is introduced into the system making it unsafe to consume. The milk has to be pasteurized now that the animals are not healthy. We have a whole new strange food system that is based 100% on the consumption of fossil fuels. It doesn't have to be that way. I am not against the use of machinery and technology by any means. I love having a front end loader on my tractor to move compost and mulch, but I don't rely 100% on machinery to grow food. If I had to do without the tractor, I would be just fine. Would our food system be fine without the large machinery? I'll let you answer that!