Looks like 2007 is starting off GREAT.
Thanks in large to Faith Middleton Ct Public Radion Food Smooze), John Charlton (Ch 61) and Tom Dudchik (Hartford Courant) we have been overwhelmed with orders:
We are sold out of Pork until probably Nov/Dec 2007
We are almost sold out of Turkey pre orders
We have orders for ducks
We do have chicken still available so you may want to get that order in soon.
Just yesterday I ordered all of our Chickens and Turkeys from Murray McMurray's hatchery, and then I ordered our ducks from J.M. Hatchery in Pa, we will drive to Pa to pick up the ducks as they don't ship well.
Our biggest blessing though is that we heard on tuesday that the Connecticut Deptment of Agriculture Farm Viability Grant we applied for to increase our production was approved. Now we wait to get the contract signed and then we can get going so that next year we will be able to serve a lot more people and just about be at our peak production. We do have a cap on how big we want to get, we NEVER want to loose the chance to put the product in the customers hand and have time to visit with them.
I have pasted the main part of the grant request here so those who may wish to apply for a grant themselves can see how we did ours, I have also pasted the information we submitted for the SARE grant we applied for. We don't expect to hear from that grant until feburary.
Ct Dept of Ag Farm Grant
Our mission or purpose at Footsteps Farm is to follow farming practices that our ancestors followed in the 18th century with rotational grazing of our Humanely raised heritage breed pigs, chickens, turkeys and cattle, therefore producing quality grass supplemented poultry, pork and beef. We believe that because they are giving their lives for us, we owe to them to see that they lead happy, stress-free lives. We do not give our animals antibiotics or hormones. We consider this method of raising livestock to be “beyond organic” which we interpret as Certified Naturally Raised Products.
Our strategy has paid off as we are finding that many consumers do care about not only what the animal is fed but also how the animal is raised while it is alive. We fill a market for customers as another choice to organic products that care about how their meat is raised and processed and the nutritional bonus that grass fed products can supply.
We are currently on the Certified Humane list of farms to be approved for the elite “Certified Humane” label .
Present status of Project____________________________
A visit to our web site www.footstepsfarm.com
will give you seven pages of journal material which tells our story from start to date.
But to put the status in to as few words as possible:
We started farming in 2003 and have been busy clearing land, building houses, adding to our herds of Pastured Heirloom breeds, and developing a great customer base.
The initial plan was to get the farm started and well under way before Craig retires from the Postal Service which will be in 2008. Our success is far above what we had planned, it is clear that the consuming public is finally starting to understand the importance of locally grown products, the humane treatment of animals and we are finding that we can fill a growing niche market.
We have a solid customer base and a working farm with a growing income. Now is the time to increase our production to 1000 fowl (combining pastured chicken, turkey and ducks), 200 hogs and 30 beef cattle.
We have established a working relationship with a USDA certified processing facility so we can sell individual cuts of pork along with bacon, sausage etc.
The media has given us tremendous publicity. Local papers have written several human interest stories about the farm and our philosophy. Just two weeks ago Channel 61 filmed here for five hours for a four minute segment to be aired the day before Thanksgiving and Faith Middleton of Ct Public Radio’s Food Shmooze has had us on the show and has generated more business for us.
The Certified Humane Organization came to inspect us on Nov 2nd 2006 and we should hear the official results by the end of November on being the first “Certified Humane” Farm in Connecticut. Unofficially the Inspector told us we passed with flying colors.
We now await approval for funds so that we can take our farm in to the next phase which when complete should insure a full time salary with no off farm employment.
v Pastured poultry- These Delaware and Cornish cross birds are raised in “chicken tractors” which are portable pens that are moved daily to fresh patch of grass. The chickens come to market weight in approximately 12 weeks with the exception of the Delaware which takes about 16 weeks. We process 20-25 of the birds on site here at the farm on Saturdays May-November for pick up by customers on Sundays.
v Pastured turkeys- Presently we are raising about 65 heritage breed Bourbon Reds, Narragansetts, Royal Palms and Blue Slate turkeys for the 2006 Thanksgiving holiday. These turkeys are also raised in tractors moved daily. We process these birds on the farm the day prior to customer pick up. All 65 turkeys were pre-sold as of August 2006.
v Scottish Highland Cattle- We have 1 bull, 4 cows and 4 calves that will be raised for grass fed beef. Currently, we have not yet sold beef as we are still in the process of expanding the herd and improving our pastures.
v Pastured pork- These Tamworth hogs are an older English breed that is currently on the endangered species list. They produce a high quality lean meat without fat marbling common in many breeds. They were originally bred for their bacon in Tamworth, England. Our pigs are raised in pastures and are able to forage and root as nature intended. We have been using Hilltown Pork a USDA certified processing facility in Cannan N.Y.
Currently we cater to a growing list of about 20 regular customers and approximately 30-40 first time customers in 2006. This list is comprised of local people and people from many different states who have sought us out through word of mouth, newspaper articles and internet.
We have very little competition in this area. As a NOFA farm we cater to customers from differing incomes and educational backgrounds who as a whole are concerned about the food they consume. With Humane treatment being the number one concern we provide what no other farm in the State does with our pending “Certified Humane” label.
In addition our pastured animals and birds we provide a clean, healthy and superb tasting end product, which is high demand with our customers.
Our web site lists many of the newspaper articles and will soon include streaming video of Television broadcasts about our farm.
We currently participate at the Denison Society Farmers Market in Mystic which runs from June 1st to the end of October. We take advanced orders for chicken at the market and fill the following week. We have had such great success that we must again double our chicken production for 2007. We also have a growing customer base for pork. We currently sell individual cuts and ¼, ½ or whole pigs.
We plan to participate in a farm co-op called Fiddleheads which has acquired a building in the New London area and should be in operation for 2007. Our goal is to provide Fiddleheads with pastured pork, ie. bacon, sausage, etc.
Our current marketing strategy is working better than we had ever hoped for.
Internet: Pastured Poulty, Pork, Turkey and Duck order forms are downloaded from our website: www.footstepsfarm.com
and mailed to us. Our site meter which is located in the lower left hand corner of our home page will confirm we are visited an average of 42 times per day. Over 44,000 page views have occurred in the same period and prior to joining site meter we had over 1800 visitors.
Newspaper and Magazines: We have had several articles written about our farm and our products including Yankee magazine and The Hartford Courant among other local papers. We have received many phone calls from the readers who were directed to our web site for ordering.
Farm Market: Our presence at the local Denison Farmers Market allows local people to meet us and get a better idea of what we are promoting. We have sold many chickens through the “week ahead order form”.
Radio: Craig was interviewed by Faith Middleton on the “Food Shmooz” on National Public Radio. She has since been up to the farm to pick up chicken and pork and wants to interview him again this year. New customers have joined our list of first time orders received.
The cost of our advertising is limited to designing flyers, signs and business cards. We purchased a Connecticut Grown tent for the market and would like to purchase a banner for next seasons farm market. Paper, ink cartridges run approximately $400.00 per year, the tent was $260.00 and a 6 foot banner will cost about $150.00.
Total for 2006 was $660.00 and projected for 2007 will be $850.00.
Pastured Poultry is processed approximately every Saturday, May thru October by us here on the farm. We pay our two sons, our Niece and Nephew to help in the processing. The labor cost is $.75 per chicken processed by each child. Normal processing number is 20 birds.
Pastured Pork is driven to Hilltown Pork about every 2 to 3 months. Usually 3 pigs are taken, the cost for the last load of three pigs was just over $900.00.
Pastured Turkeys are processed the two weekends prior to Thanksgiving by our whole family, the only cost is a great lunch each day and a free bird to each couple who participates.
All of our birds are purchased from Murray McMurray Hatchery on the internet.
Approximate cost per chick: $2.00
Approximate cost per poult: $8.00
All of our pork is from our own breeder stock of one registered Tamworth Boar, 2 registered Tamworth Sows and 4 unregistered Tamworth sows. Each sow is bred twice a year and provides us with about 5 piglets at each farrowing.
Financial Position and Projections________________
Because of our “start up” nature we still are growing, building and incurring many one time start up costs, our “quick Books” reports are included to give the reviewer a better understanding of our expenses.
Our income has increased over the past 3 years and we fully expect to be in the black once the projects included in this grant request are complete and we are in full production.
See the attached Tables and Graphs.
April 2007: Build five new “Chicken Tractors”
April 2007: Build 3 more brooders
April is chosen because we won’t need the tractors until April. We already have five so we won’t need the extra until production increases. Same goes for the brooders, although we could use them sooner, we don’t plan on monies being available until late march
May 2007: Build 3 storage boxes
This start date in all hinged on when the money becomes available. Also it is about may when our trips for grain increase a lot due to bird size.
June 2007: Finish fencing in the 9.75 acre (Called the Ox Pasture) area
This fencing project will only take an estimated 5 days to complete and will probably start much sooner but we are trying to give ourselves some lee way for the unexpected.
July 2007: Purchase 6 hog huts, and 10 50 gallon stock tanks
This does not need to be done until after the area has been fenced, and the area will not be fully operational until the first phase of the road is complete.
July 2007: Upgrade our existing poultry processing area
Processing really will start in June however we want some extra time to finalize our planes to apply for a Voluntary Custom Slaughterhouse Inspection Program
August 2007: Start the first phase to install a dirt road
We want to be sure the area is dry and we aren’t working in mud in the event of a rainy spring.
· We have the experience:
We fully believe that this project will succeed because except for the road work all of the segments are to be completed by us, we have already built and implemented most of what we require more of: Chicken tractors, huts, fences, processing facilities.
· We have the customers:
From “Fiddleheads”, to “The Denison Farm Market”, to “Online Ordering” we have already built a good customer base, one which grows almost daily.
We have the advertisement and recognition:www.footstepsfarm.com
, are but five web sites that contain our farm information, we are also “hit” by many “google” searches.
We have been in many local newspapers, on prominent “foody” radio shows and Television news broadcasts.
· We have the product
Our animals and birds are already in high demand and highly sought after. They are established and need but the means to increase in numbers.
· We should be supported and we shall succeed
It is clear that we are serving an ever growing customer base here on the shoreline with a growing broader customer awareness through out many other parts of Connecticut. We are now hearing from potential customers across the country who want us to ship frozen products to them.
In short, the demand is huge and our supply needs to meet this demand, with your help we can do it sooner than later. The approval of this grant request will take years off our time table.
· Expect to hear from us again
Phase two will begin next year when we will seek monies to improve our pastures and add to our grazing availability. We thank you for considering our grant request.
This next grant is a SARE grant what is included here is only the answer to the questions and does not show the budget or any of the other information that we did on publisher.
What would you do?
The problem is that there is not an inexpensive way to air chill a broiler chicken, therefore a water chill tank is used which increases the chance for cross contamination.
To my knowledge no one has ever tried to develop a air chill system that can be used by the small producer (less than 1000 broilers per year) and can be built for less than $1,000.00
I posed the question to Dale Riggs and here is her response: “ I do not know of anyone that has worked on an air chill system like you describe. It sounds like it would be a very good project for a farmer grant proposal, especially if as part of the project you develop plans that other farmers can use to build their own system, and include some economics on the total cost of the project.”
My project is different in that this has never been done before.
My project will include:
a. Drawings of the system and step by step written and photographic construction plans.
b. A price sheet.
c. Suggested suppliers of parts and equipment.
d. Documentation of chill system temperatures in varying outside weather conditions and temps.
e. Documentation of time duration experienced comparing the water chill system to the air chill system in order to reach optimum internal temp of the chicken.
f. Tests for Campylobacter, listeria and salmonella will be performed by the Micro Biology Lab at Uconn.
g. Taste test results conducted by Johnson and Wales Dept Chair Maureen Pothier to compare the difference between air and water chilling.
h. A test of ease of construction, following our plans would be performed by a collaborator farm to include building a whole new system to insure completion is possible from our report.
This system should allow the small producer to process up to 1000 birds in a 23 week season.
2. How will your project fit in with your farm operation:
In 2006 we processed and sold 600 broiler chickens and 60 heritage turkeys using the water chill method, this project would eliminate that system and enable us to provide what we feel will be a cleaner and healthier chicken.
In 2007 we will increase our production to 850 broiler chickens, 75 heritage turkeys and 50 Muscovey ducks, all of which will pass through the air chill system.
Our web site (www.footstepsfarm.com
) has been a great source for marketing, after appearing on Connecticut public radio our “hits” went from 245 to over 6700. We have been in the Hartford Current, The Mystic Times, The Stonington Times, The Resident, and Fox Channel 61 did a 4 minute clip of us the day before Thanksgiving. We even sold Martha Stewart her 2006 thanksgiving turkeys and we delivered them in person.
Of the 4200 farms in Ct we are the first and only Certified Humane” farm in the state.
We sell Pastured Heritage Tamworth Hogs, Pastured Heritage Bourbon Red, Narragansett and Blue Slate Turkeys, Pastured Cornish Cross Broilers and Delaware chickens. These are sold though our web site and at the Denison Farm Market.
My family has farmed here since 1712 but we started farming 4 years ago with Highland Cattle, we are still waiting for our pastures to improve so as to obtain the 1.6 pounds of daily weight gain to make good tender grass fed beef.
Since the latest consumer reports article available at http://tinyurl.com/yehuec
finds that 83 percent of supermarket chickens harbor some form of salmonella and/or Campylobacter contamination, our system will greatly enhance our appeal to the public:
Pastured, saving endangered species, humane, air chilled, beyond organic, no hormones, no antibiotics.
What will your methods be:
I will purchase 3 used refrigerators, two which will be in working condition and one which will not, all will have bottom freezers.
The three refrigerator units which will set side by side will be connected top and bottom by dryer pipe, each pipe will contain it’s own dryer motor, each motor will have a separate on/off switch. 4” holes will be drilled in the sides of the refrigerators in which the duct pipe will be inserted.
One refrigerator unit will have an adjustable outside air vent with a filter.
Each refrigerator unit will contain 3 hand built, stainless steel multiple bird shackles which will allow the chilling of 15 broilers per refrigerator. These shackles will be made on a home made jig which will allow us to manufacture a shackle to any inside dimension of any refrigerator. We intend to sell the plans or the completed shackles.
Each unit will include 3 thermometers to monitor the temperature on the top, middle and bottom of the unit. A mobile air speed indicator will allow is to check internal unit air speed in any part of each of the three units.
A internal thermometer will track the internal temperature of a chicken from the time it enters the water chill or the air chill system to record the time required to obtain optimum temperature.
Once completed the system will work as follows: The system will be turned on (Both fans running, refrigerators running and internal unit temp reached) a eviscerated, clean and wet chicken will be hung on the top shackle of a unit, the air temp and air speed will quickly cool the chicken to desired internal temperature. Once the chicken has reached temp it can be removed, cryovac packaged, labeled, weighed, priced and stored in a separate holding refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours before sale.
In order to conduct a fair and complete test we expect to run the program over our entire 2007 processing season which normally runs June through October.
The estimated construction time of the three unit system is approximately 40 hours, recording and documentation each step is what dictates the extra time.
Once a system is done it should require about 20 hours to construct another.
The entire system will be built be the project Leader, the testing as described in paragraph 4 will be conducted by our collaborators and consultants, along with the project Leader.
How will you measure your results:
During the processing session each week we will measure the following:
(1) The internal temperature of 2 chickens from evisceration to total cool down using the water chill system and 2 chickens using the Air chill system.
(2) The internal temperature of each refrigerator unit in three separate locations during the duration of the processing session.
(3) The air speed inside each unit
(4) The humidity inside each unit
Each month one chicken from each chill system will be tested for taste, tenderness etc by a consultant at Johnson and Whales.
Each month we at least one chicken from each chill system will be tested for listeria, salmonella and/or Campylobacter contamination. The chickens involved in this test will be tested for listeria, salmonella and campylobacter PRIOR to insertion into either chill system, and then again after they have reached optimum internal temp. Testing will be done at the Micro Biology Lab at Uconn.
The total cost incurred for the construction of the three unit system will be recorded and included on the written construction plans.
A final report consisting of costs, construction techniques, construction procedures, weekly and monthly test results and final finding will be provided within 90 days of the close of our processing season.
A complete set of plans along with a CD will be given to a collaborator farm
who will then try to duplicate our air chill system. This will effectively test
the readability and understanding of our instruction materials.
How will the results of your project help farmers in the Northeast:
Our findings will not help just the farmers in the Northeast, it will help all pastured poultry farmers across the country and even world wide.
If a reliable air chill system can be built through a self help program for less than $1,000.00 by any farmer who is currently raising or hoping to raise pastured poultry, it will improve his/her end product thereby increasing the demand by the consumer.
If the common water chill system can be effectively done away with, it will improve the cleanness of the end product, drastically reduce cross contamination, provide a more tender and tasty chicken and eliminate any weight gain and possibility of fecal soup absorption.
In addition the use of a air chill system will also eliminate the extra water that appears in the bagged bird, it will improve the visual appearance by eliminating any “pink water” , and it will provide a more honest weight of eatable meat.
Besides such labels as Certified Humane, Certified Organic, Pastured etc
farmers could claim “AIR CHILLED”
More importantly this will allow farms to actively seek the “Label Rouge” Certification.
What is your outreach program:
A final report will be forwarded to The American Pastured Poultry Association for inclusion in their newsletter.
A final report along with copies of test results, the cd, the construction plans, parts lists etc will be sent to SARE.
The same final report will be made available on our web site with downloadable plans for the system, construction plans etc.
A consultant from the American Pastured Poultry Association will be hired and be made privy to on site tests.
Our Technical advisor who is Mr James Rock Uconn Extension Educator Emeritus Poultry Science, will be in attendance during our final out brief and at other times as he chooses.
A CD containing all test results, photographs, construction plans, cost sheets and parts dealers will be available for a small fee through our web site.
A collaborator farm will build from our plans and with funds supplied by SARE a complete new system to test the effectiveness of our instructions, this farm will then write a report which will detail the experience and that report will be included on our web site.