Building Community Around Our Farm
August 30, 2021
This week I want to share some improvements we have made recently with our pastured chicken production. But, first a bit of background to catch up new customers who may not know our story here.
I'm sure most of you have hear of Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in VA. In addition to being one of the foremost spokesmen for small family farms he has written many books to help & inspire beginning farmers. Well, one of those books is titled "Pastured Poultry Profits".
After reading this and several other books by Joel, Beth and I decided to visit his farm during one of his every other year gatherings - we were two of two thousand paying ($100 each) guest. This was July 2011. By the Spring of 2012 we were in the pastured chicken business!
Frankly, the first year I thought we would be doing good to sell maybe 500 of the state imposed 1000 limit that a small farm could raise and direct market to customers. Much to our surprise we received commitments for all 1000 chickens from existing beef customers. What a blessing.
After repeating this for several years we had greater demand than what the state would allow us to produce. People really like our chicken!!!
With the help of Sen. Hudson & Sen. Hill we were able to generate interest in changing the state law as well as the department of agriculture regulation so we could do more - the target was 20,000 which is the Federal limit for small farms to direct market. However, after 18 months it was not to be.
Then in 2019 we learned about and built a very small USDA poultry processing plant which was completed in August 2019. Now, we can do as many chickens as we care to (or have the market for).
Since then we have been limping along with marginal at best brooder space and chicken tractors as we were really wanting to see where this business was going. Finally, it was time to make a decision and move forward.
As you know, material cost are very high which killed the decision to build from scratch. So, we decided to find a used 53' Reefer trailer that we could make into a brooder. In case you don't know, a brooder is key to the baby chicks life. This is where they need a very controlled environment to include temperature, humidity, and ventilation. Something we could not provide in our existing setup.
Here is our first batch that arrived Wednesday. They are doing very good.
We received 158 and they are all doing great.
Here's the key! We can now raise them based on the growers best practices. This includes turning on/off the white lights, the heat lamps based on the temperature (that changes the older they get) and operating the fan for ventilation.
And, since the trailer is a reefer trailer, it is vey well insulated and helps hold the temperature. I did put a door in the side of the trailer and made two brooder areas. These chicks will receive roommates next Wednesday.
To go along with our new brooder we upgraded out pasture tractors to make them more sturdy and predator proof. The metal roof gives them much more shade as well as the shade cloth on the ends. In the winter time we will be able to replace the shade cloth with plastic to help keep them warm.
So, let me see if I can connect all this with the email subject - "Building Community".
Earlier last week a contractor brought me some dirt and rock so I could fill in some low areas around the plant. And, we did a little bartering on the dirt for chicken. A few days later he called me to say that his wife had cooked one of those whole chickens in a gravy and that it was "mighty fine"!
And his wife Jamie was kind enough to share her recipe as follows:
Nature's Gourmet Farm Whole Chicken
Stick of butter
One white onion sliced into large slices
2 cups of water
Pack of brown gravy
Pack of Aus Jus
Cook in slow cooker for 8 hours and serve over rice
All this got us to thinking - since our website supports recipes why not ask our customers to share their (or families favorite) recipes.
I know that a lot of our customers are great cooks because we hear about some favorite dishes all the time. So, if you have a "bragging" dish that you would like to share let us know and we can add to our website so others can enjoy as well.
This week lets focus on chicken.
As always, we thank you for rewarding our hard work with your trust and support.