Footsteps Farm Journal, Page 10
Early Summer, 2008
Our apology for not having written something for our journal in so long, so much has happened good and bad that I don’t remember what I have written about and what I have not. We want to keep this journal up but we are doing a lot on our blog.
Turkeys: Put your order in NOW for a 2009 thanksgiving turkey. Yup, NOW or we will run out, our turkeys are in such high demand. We will be hiring help during the processing period so we can provide more customers with the turkey that Marta Stewart said is the best she ever had.
Grants: We are way behind on our SARE grant for the air chill system and now I don’t know if it is even worth the effort. The latest blow was when I went to pick up the cooling racks that were being specially made for me—I was told that due to a medical emergency the company would not be able to complete our order. Now I am at a standstill yet again as one facet of the system was to have stainless steel racks inside the fridge so that the birds could hang and drain while they cooled. Guess I will have to do a plan B. When Andrew moved away we lost a major helping hand here, then Jeff was deep into sports and spent very little time on the farm so our extra hands were gone, customers were increasing, so we were processing a lot with little help which really ate up our time.
Being lucky enough to get a Farmers Grant we spent a lot of time expanding and therefore never touched the air chill system, so now I need to put the finish on it, get the paperwork in and send a apology for not being able to complete what we started.
We have feed bins now although one is not yet finished. They will hold an average of 4 ½ tons of grain each. They are made from plywood that sit on a concrete pad and each box is 4 X 8 X 8 with two trap doors on top. I climb in and scoop the grain out with 5 gallon paint buckets. It really works well but had we been able to afford three of those Brock steel bins it would have been so much better. The difference in price is $400.00 for the wooden bins and $1800.00 for the Brock to hold the same amount of grain.
Speaking of grain, the price has doubled—yes folks, doubled! So we have changed what we are feeding to all our animals, and remember that we are not feeding grain to the cows. So on the first day we feed whole corn, on the second and third day wheat mids, on the fourth day we give our broilers a 26% protein mix called Meat maker 26. The protein percentage in whole corn is about 9%, in Wheat mids it is 18%. Our birds in the broilers get the 26% every day to get them really started.
We got our road put in. Greg Henderson did the back hoe work to get just the big rocks out of the way, and now thanks to Andy Spinner from Affordable Tree service we are spreading wood chips along the road to fill in the ruts and cover the stone. We can’t drive all the way around the road yet but should be able to by this winter.
Press: Before I forget here is what a really nice lady had to say about us lately:
Mr. Floyd -
We spoke on the telephone a few weeks ago about Adele Douglass and Certified Humane for an article I was writing for The Erickson Tribune. Our conversation stuck with me so I wrote about it.
Thanks for the inspiration!
The Erickson Tribune
The text is below, but please go to her blog and post comments to support Ms. Harris.
The Human Side of Farming
July 10th, 2008 dcfilm Posted in by Michele Harris
What did you have for dinner last night? There’s a pretty good chance your answer is chicken. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans eat chicken an average of 4.5 times every two weeks.
If you did answer chicken, do you know what that chicken was fed? Most Americans probably don’t know the answer and it’s not a subject most people want to start delving into – especially since the answer is most likely less than appetizing. Beyond what that chicken ate, how was it raised . . . or even how was it slaughtered?
The answers are hard to come by (and usually pretty grizzly) unless you have gone out of your way to purchase chicken that’s Certified Humane. That seal is the best assurance that an egg, dairy, meat or poultry product has been produced with the welfare of the farm animal in mind. It also assures consumers that the food they’re buying was raised under conditions that animals are supposed to be raised in.
While working on a profile of Adele Douglass, the woman who created the Certified Humane seal (www.certifiedhumane.com), I had an opportunity to speak with Craig Floyd of Footsteps Farm in Stonington, CT. Floyd, who retired from the US Postal Service to pursue farming, is full of enthusiasm for what he does. He and his wife Sheryl are passionate about resurrecting the farm that’s been in the Floyd family since 1712.
The way the Floyds farm is different from most working farms. They follow many of the same techniques his ancestors used before chemicals and industrialization turned farming from a way of life into a big business. He told me how he proudly wears his Certified Humane apron when he goes to farmers markets, joking that a lot of people mis-read the apron and ask him what it means to be “Certified Human.”
The thing is, Floyd is actually a fitting example of the word human. Used as a noun, human means a person – which of course, he is – but so is everybody else. However, when used as an adjective human describes the “characteristic of people’s better qualities, such as kindness or sensitivity.” Craig Floyd represents the human side of being a farmer – yes, even to the point that I would say he should be “Certified Human.”
“We do things a little bit differently here on our farm,” he says. “We treat all of our animals with respect.” Floyd says his animals are like family and he even names all his livestock (and some of the chickens).
“Our personal belief is that the Lord put animals on this earth for our consumption but it must be done with respect. We gather our chickens on Friday night in a trailer and we try to keep them calm. Anytime you stress an animal you change the flavor and the tenderness of the meat. Saturday morning is when it’s time for them to go. We give thanks to the Lord for giving us these chickens and we give thanks to each and every chicken for giving their lives for us.”
In addition to chickens, Footsteps Farm raises pigs and cows. They have a wonderful website (www.footstepsfarm.com) that includes both a journal of their farming experiences and a blog. It’s a great place to visit, especially if you’re interested in the human side of farming.
Newt scratching his back
Tours: We have had a lot of tours with the biggest being the North Stonington Lions Club annual farm tour, those folks are well organized and they did a great job I would guess we have 300 or more.
Changes: I found out that with the help of our pigs I could dig the pond out with the bucket on the tractor. It dries up in summer so I got to it just as it was turning from water to mud to dirt.
It isn’t done but it will be a lot deeper for next year. Salatin uses lots of ponds and if we had the hills we would also but we will have to be satisfied with the one we have and consider building another in the umbrella tree lot.
I have asked my brothers if I could fence that lot in as it is mostly oak trees and we want some acorn finished pork.
The east end of the ox pasture is now all fenced, thanks to help from Cody and Shawn. We have had the cows in there and then the pigs, but currently no one is in that area. So now the ox pasture is completely fenced. That is just at 10 acres and we have 7 “paddocks” for pigs or cows.
We have to get rid of our old turkeys. George has turned mean, especially to me;, I guess he feels we are a threat to his ladies, one of which just hatched a half dozen poults. SO now we have all our adult turkeys except for the new Mom in a pen waiting for the next time we process. Looks like lots of turkey soup is in order.
New Equipment: We bought a Five foot brush hog mower deck for the Kuboda and man does it work nice. We got one with a slip clutch due to all the stumps and rocks. The idea is to keep all the weeds down and then mob graze the cows by fencing off all but a small area then after some training they will think, “well if I don’t eat that now it will be gone this afternoon” consequently they will eat more weeds.
Also this year we bought a disc harrow and disc’d most of our pastures which has made a great improvement. And we now have a York rake.
Improvements: This year we ordered 500 pounds of a special pasture mix for the pigs, containing Oats, Pea’s and Turnips we first disc’d our pastures, then borrowed a seed spreader for a 3 point hitch from Ed Learned and seeded our fields and then ran the York rake over them, it has made quite an impressive difference and instead of putting the pigs right on it we are letting some go to seed to increase the density of plant material.
In August we will over-seed with rape for the pigs. I have been told they love this but it tends to give them somewhat of a foul air…
All of our paddocks in the Ox pasture are now full and thick and green. We just moved the pigs back in there and they are in heaven.
Babies: We have had ducks born much to Sheryl’s dismay, the ducks sleep on the porch and poop all over the place so when she goes to work the first thing she sees in the morning is a porch full of duck poop. I have been trying to catch the last of the batch, about 6 so that I can give them away.
We had raised 50 to become the world’s first Certified Humane Foire Gras farm but I just could not kill the ducks so I gave away almost all of them. Those that were left have no reproduced which is what we have sleeping on the porch with the two dogs.
Piglets are running everywhere around here, just about every pasture has some and they are the joy of the day. I love watching them and wish I had more time to just sit and watch.
We also had two nice calves this year, lots of baby chicks, some new guinea chicks, some new cross breed Bourbon Red/Blue Slate poults, and a ton of wild rabbits.
Of our two calves, the first is Anna (shown here), who was born on Earth Day. Her Mom, Penny kept pushing Anna out of the electric fence. I rescued her 5 times and finally gave up and brought Anna to the pen that we built for the pig’s blood test. We have been nursing her with a bottle and very much enjoying Anna’s affection. Soon she will have to go out on pasture with the rest of the cows.
Selena the cow had a baby boy late in July and so far he seems to be doing fine. His name is Allan and he looks exactly like Anna (his picture is at the top of this page). Wouldn’t they look cute as a oxen team?
We have been inundated with calls for our piglets, it seems that the Tamworth breed is catching on again as they have called from as far away as Texas. We will sell some out of the next litters but for now we want to keep what we have to meet the pork demand.
Here is a letter we just sent to our chicken customers.
July 22, 2008
Good Morning from Footsteps Farm,
In an attempt to improve our communications with our customers we have started a e-mail newsletter.
Please do not reply to, nor share any of these e-mail addresses.
If you wish to be removed from our list please do let us know.
We have a couple of dozen “soup” chickens we will be processing over the next few weeks, these birds while too tough for broilers make THE BEST chicken soup, they are a flat $15.00 and will range anywhere from 3 to 7 pounds. If you would like to reserve a soup chicken please e-mail us at this new e-mail address for farm business: email@example.com to be honest it would help our broilers grow another week if some of you opted to take a soup chicken this month instead of a broiler but that is your call. I would estimate that our broilers will weigh around 2.75 to 3.50 pounds by this Saturday.
We currently are catching up on our orders, we had gotten 150 birds from the hatchery and then they could not ship us any for 3 weeks which has us yet again behind the curve. We are slowly getting back on track with four brooders full of 50 babies each and three chicken tractors being full of growing birds.
This week I hope to finish a new “egg mobile” this is a moveable structure which will be moved around the pastures along with special electric netting to keep the layers in and the bad guys out, this will improve our egg quality and quantity.
We just returned from a visit to the nation’s leading farmer who farms as we do, this guru of sustainable farming , Joel Salatin, has been written about in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Joel opens his farm to tours every 3 years and this year he had 2000 in attendance.
The visit has given us a much needed boost to continue to grow and expand our operation so that we may provide our growing customer list with better service, better communication, less wait time for products and more to choose from.
In the next week or so we will have ground pork, hot and mild Italian sausage, 100% beef hot dogs, hamburger, hamburger patties and lots more items. We are excited about our new processor and the increase in our product line. Currently we are thinning our Highland Herd which is what is allowing us to have beef.
One of the improvements we have on our long list is a Fridge set close to the driveway to allow you all to come and get your products even when we are not here.
I am working on a new installment to our journal on the web site and as always keep an eye on our blog for fast updates.
We will e-mail you with changes to processing dates, weekends that we must skip etc but for now we will continue to call you in advance when we intend to do your birds.
We have been blessed with a good number of piglets this spring and those are being signed up for fast as our list of pork customers continues to grow.
What we are hoping for is to get far enough ahead that your wait for a pork order to be filled is just a few months instead of a year.
A big improvement will be the fencing of another 10 acres this fall as we make this oak tree filled lot available to our pigs once a year to finish on acorns. This will be simply the finest pork available anywhere and equal the black hog’s in England whose hams sell for several hundreds of dollars.
We have suspended tours and will only do them once a year now, this will allow us more time to get work done and on tour day it will allow us to really educate you and feed you a sample of our bounty.
Until next time, eat healthy and support your small farm,
Craig & Sheryl