December 21st, 2018
One person I have been listening to a lot lately is Gary Vaynerchuk. He is an enthusiastic entrepreneur that is well known for his aggressive marketing. Gary is authentic and a relief from most of the farming podcasts I listen to, but he’s a Jets fan.
My first sale ever.
In one of Gary’s more recent posts he discussed how he was an entrepreneur at age 7. He didn’t only have a lemonade stand, he had an empire. He hired some of the neighborhood children to work the stand while he walked the neighborhood, posted signs and directed customers to the stand. He said that he stood and watched the eyes of drivers as they drove by to see if it was more advantageous to put a sign in one spot or another.
When I was a kid, I sold plants to the neighbors. I walked around my neighborhood in Manawa and sold indoor plants out of a little red wagon. Each summer my Grandma would split her indoor plants to make space for the main plants in her thriving bay window. She took the much smaller plants out and put them into tin cans she saved. She saved everything too. I remember that every can of vegetables or soup she made she pealed the label off, washed and put away for some day down the road. Somehow, she kept it all organized too.
Gary also travels across the world and gives presentations, motivational and inspirational. He recently went to Poland. He said that he had always wanted to travel there. He said that he looked up from his phone for a grand total of 13 seconds from the time that he left the airport until the time he made it to the convention. His point in this was not that he was glued to his phone. It is that his phone has everything that is needed. He goes on to explain that the cost of marketing online is grossly underpriced. I looked at renting a billboard this summer to drive more traffic to the farm store. It was several thousand dollars. People don’t even look up from their phones at them.
You may see that I have sponsored ads on Facebook from time to time. I target the Fox Valley and do my best to find local eaters that have a need and want for our farm products. My good friend said last week that he’s been meaning to stop out and buy something, that he sees my posts online and just hasn’t done it. I told him that it is not his fault. It’s mine. I haven’t enticed him to do so or made it easy enough for him. I hope to make it clearer and easier for locals to buy their food online through the website.
One thing that could help me in my marketing strategy going into next year is if I could have a few testimonials written up. They don’t need to be long. Just a few direct and specific comments. I would also like to use your name in the post. Thanks in advance
Remember, by supporting our farm you’re doing so much more than eating healthy, delicious foods. You are healing the planet through regenerative agriculture, supporting local family farming, and ensuring that humane treatment of livestock will continue here in Wisconsin
Making A Change To The Colony Garth For 2019. Rabbit Management
December 14th, 2018
Found this in the rabbit hole.
I am pretty excited to deploy a new strategy for rabbits next season. It’s called a Coney Garth model.
Rabbits are a healthy treat and a great alternative to chicken on the dinner table. In fact, in World War II it was common to see a rabbit on the dinner table to help with the meat shortages of the time. Rabbits are fast growing, grass eating, docile and easy to manage. There are two main systems in keeping rabbits. One way is to keep each rabbit in its own independent cage. When it 30 days you have 8 or more little rabbits, or kits. Another month and they are ready to be moved into their own cages.
A second strategy is a colony system. All the rabbits have one cage and are kept together. You can keep the bucks out of the colony to manage the population a little better. But each time you have a new group of kits, you better remove the boys, or you will have a lot more in a hurry. I like the idea of all the rabbits living together on the ground, but I don’t like the idea of a large stationary cage. It is important that each space on the farm has multiple uses. Overgrazing will be an issue, it’s just a matter of time.
The Colony Garth is not popular and hardly heard of. It resembles the rest of the animal systems I use in grazing groups of animals across the pasture. It is very much like the chicken tractors, in that it has a caged-in area, is on the ground and is moved regularly. What I have read and seen on YouTube is that 6 cattle panels, 16 x 2 feet, are moved along the pasture with a few garden carts. The panels are propped up with stakes and bound at the corners. The carts are actually hutches for the mother rabbits to keep their young and a space for the rabbits to stay when they are hiding from predators. This allows the rabbits to eat grass all day long and when the grass is depleted, you simply move a few panels around, move the carts and then the colony is ready for the next few days.
In this new system the rabbits will go out on pasture in April. The cage will continue to move through the pasture until the rabbits reach their processing day at the end of summer. The cage will have to be moved more frequently as the colony grows and as late summer grasses slow in growth. This should be a very low-cost system.
Here is a video of Julie Engles sharing her management system with SARE. Julie received funding to help her with her project and I intend on being a beneficiary of her wealth of knowledge.
The picture above is from the inside of our greenhouse. It keeps the rabbits and next year’s laying hens warm as they pick seeds and fertilize the beds. This is how Joel Salatin keeps his hens and rabbits in the winter.
This past season I would move the offspring into the rabbit hutches that I move around daily. I moved the 30-inch by 6-foot cages with slotted bottoms through the nursery, around the gardens and across the rest of the lawn. I am very excited for the year ahead. The only worry that I have is if a rabbit gets out. I have had that problem before and chasing a rabbit is not much fun.
A Reason For Concern? The Source
December 7th, 2018
The Source Closes.
I was sitting on the couch late Monday evening and Kim yelled “No Way” while she was checking her Facebook. Then she told me that The Source Public House was closing and was very sad about it. We went on our first date there, and it was one of our favorite places to dine.
All of this has me wondering why
If you’re not familiar with The Source, it was a restaurant over in Menasha that sourced most of its food from local farmers. This means small farms, food aggregators and brewers. They supported my efforts on a past Easter Sunday purchasing some large hams. I had hopes that one day as I continue to grow that more product would move in their direction, but that dream has now passed. I suspect that the farms that were working with the restaurant will feel the loss.
I have to keep in mind that this farm is a business and not a hobby. I have to make money doing what I’m doing, and if I’m not financially sustainable then I am not truly sustainable. I read in the Post Crescent that “The business was simply no longer financially sustainable,” owner Dennis Long told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. Could it have been the overhead costs, a lack of clientele, incompatible hours of operation, too much music that distracted from the eating experience? I hope that it is not indicative of a lack of interest in local foods here in the valley.
Many factors are different in my farm business than a restaurant. I am banking on the consumer to take the products and cook it themselves. I do as much to reduce costs and keep the product affordable and suspect that you do too. Kim and I do not go out to eat that often as I’ve mentioned before, and a major reason is the added costs that go along with having someone else prepare our food. I hope that I know you well enough to know that you are looking to get as close to the food’s beginning as you can and that removing the cook in the kitchen from the middle is just one step closer and one less expense.
My scope and overhead are completely different too. My fixed costs are less. I operate without employees. I have built this farm so a party of one can manage and maintain it. There is plenty of flexibility built in too. I have been doing well with the subscription model and can see opportunities in having several layers of CSAs through the year. Something like a “you pick fruit” CSA model. You would be welcome to come to the farm and pick whatever you wanted at several points during the season and harvest as much as you would like for you and your family. I could bring back the Vegetable CSA (pick-up only). And a dream would be to have a raw milk CSA where a family would receive a gallon or two each week from mid-April through mid-November. Of course, that would be a pick-up on farm only too. I need far fewer regular customers than a restaurant too. I see 50 to 60 members being a number that can put me and my family back on the farm in a full-time capacity.
I do have faith that the closing of The Source is not due to lack of demand of quality foods. This does mean that you will have to try a bit harder to support the small farmer here in Wisconsin. With one less outlet and revenue source for farmers, commerce is a little more difficult. Please do your part and continue to show your support of our shared values of local sustainable foods here in the Valley. We thank you!
A Bank Barn And New Farms Don’t Build Them.
November 30th, 2018
What our barn does for us.
Our countrysides are loosing its history as the iconic farming barns burn, rot or fall over from wind.
Looking at how we use ours.
I can’t stop thinking about Inga’s barn burning down. It is difficult to farm and even more difficult when things don’t go as planned. I am sure Inga has insurance and things will work out over time, but the extra burden and stress this winter will be a big test for her.
The time and energy put into raising an old wood barn barn is absolutely astonishing. The trees were shaped and measured cut and spliced to fit togheter without any heavy equipment. Neighborhoods would come together to help raise the barn after it was lied out.
Bank barns are helpful for some of us that use the old barns as they stand in our operations because both the lower level and upper level are accessible. After the hay is baled I drive the wagon to top of the hill and unload the hay into the top of the barn. This year I put up about 700 bales of hay, much less than in the past few years. As winter passes along and as the cows need the hay, I toss the hay down the chute into the center of the barn where all the cows line up and eat. In the spring the cows move out onto pasture and the pigs move in. They turn the manure and find little cornels of corn that have fermented over the winter. The dark truth about these old barns is that they are cold, moist and are not efficient. They only reason I use it is because it was an existing building.
Barns now days are more in line with the pole sheds that stand tall and open. They are much easier to clean out, much easier to put up and are equaly as versatile. The old barns biggest benefit to me is that it has the farm name and website scrawled across the side. A billboard of the same size goes for as much as 4000 dollars a month. So that has paid for it self in a hurry.
Last month I spent some time working on the barn getting it ready for winter. When you drive by you may see that the old manure track has been removed. It was a long pole that extended out over the barn yard that was used years ago to assist in removing manure from the barn. These old tracks held a drum that lowered to the ground with a hand crank, then the farmer hand scooped manure into the drum and pushed the drum out to the barn yard on the tracks. After it was out of the barn it was either piled up or dropped into a manure spreader. The equipment seemed to get in my way more than anything else. I bumped my head on it regularly. While removing that from the barn I also made the stanchions a little more study for the rough and tough beef cattle vs the dairy cows that it had been built for.
Happy Thanksgiving From 41 To 500 And Growing.
November 23, 2018
Thank You for following.
Very few farms have such a close relationship with their customers. The most effective way I keep in contact with customers is through this email list. Many of you found me in a Post Crescent story featuring when I decided to take this crazy leap. Many of you found me at the farmers market or when you passed by my farm on the highway. Even more of you recently found me as you saw me on Around the Farm Table. No matter how you found me I am glad you did.
In 2015 just before Thanksgiving I was on my way to Menards for some supplies. On the way I had been thinking about all the things that my family, friends and neighbors had done to help me. Over the summer I had collected 41 email addresses. I am sure it was mostly friends and family at that point but that’s who the first ever farm email was for, expressing my appreciation for them. Now three years later I am still thankful to them and all the rest of you that have supported this farm.
Here is what I had to say on that November day in 2015 to all 41 subscribers:
I am thankful for this farm, this opportunity and all the help and support that I’ve had so far. It’s been just over one year since I decided what to do with my life. Since then I started with an idea and a direction toward becoming a farmer. I created the business entity, used my past experiences in business and tax preparation and took a leap. I’ve sold my house. moved in with my Mom and gave it one more year for preparing taxes. On April 30th (2015) I closed on my farm and the fun began. After a long summer of preparation for winter I have a year’s worth of work under my belt and 7 cows in the barn. It’s been expensive in more ways than one. I’ve taken time that I use to spend with my friends and family and put every waking second working toward making farming a lifestyle. I am thankful to All of my family for your relentless support and help. Thank you to my friends for being there to help and to keep me sane. Thank you to the supporters I don’t even know for giving me the encouragement you have. Thank you to my neighbors, new and old, for the warm welcome and help you’ve given as well. A man I admire, Joel Salitain, shared in a story how remarkable it feels to have people around you who want you to succeed more than even you yourself.
I hope you all have a special Thanksgiving!
So I Guess Ill Keep The Pigs
November 16th, 2018
This past Tuesday was a busy one. I had to load up some cows and pigs and get them ready for the freezer. It’s a lot easier to get an animal to move when they are familiarized with it. It’s just like everything else. Practice makes perfect.
Last winter I made my plans on when to butcher animals for the season. Keeping animals into the deep freeze of our Wisconsin winter was not part of it. I want to keep the cows until the grass is no longer growing and the pigs until the water freezes. I think the plan worked out well for the most part. Execution is where I fell short.
I added complications to the matter by trying to reduce the amount of work. To save time, I had planned one day for two cattle and 6 pigs to be brought in. The trailer is plenty large enough and there is a divider to keep animals from moving and swaying the trailer as we drive down the highway. Last year I had a very similar plan, moving the cows onto the trailer first and closing them into the front. They are a little more skittish and the pigs are pretty inquisitive. I was thinking that since it had been so seemingly easy to move the pigs in the past, it would be just as easy this time around. I was wrong.
There are several ways to get a pig onto a trailer. The method I use is best for me because I don’t have a crew of people to help load them. If the pigs are being fed from the trailer for a couple of days to a week or so before the move then they become familiar with their new surroundings. The day before they need to go they will get less than the normal amount of feed. On move day they get the normal amount of feed, which makes them eager to get on the trailer to eat. This past Tuesday the cows were not helping the cause. They were moving around and the pigs were unfamiliar with them. It just wasn’t my day, or the pigs’ day, either. So now they are rescheduled for November 28th and we have begun training for their next date with the freezer.
As I am sitting here lamenting about the difficulties in farming, I have just heard that Inga from Around the Farm Table had a far worse day. Unfortunately for her, the barn and creamery on her property had burned down. Her and her cows are all ok, but if you would like to help by donating there is a go fund me page that has been set up for her.
Thank you for supporting local craft farms.
Butchering On The Farm. Not For The Faint Of Heart!
November 9th, 2018
The End is Tough.
I love the fact that we raise our own meat on the farm. A few weeks ago I discussed different levels of obtaining food, starting with growing it yourself, moving to buying local, onto buying organic and lastly buying any old retail item. Well part of growing our own food means buttering the animal too.
Respect and Gratitude
This doesn’t come easy, and the first time I butchered a backyard chicken definitely took the most mental fortitude. This would have been about 5 years ago when I had four backyard hens laying eggs just for myself. Like most processes I’ve come to learn on the farm, they begin with some instruction on YouTube. The video I found was simple and much like the way my grandfather use to butcher the chickens on the farm when I was a kid. I took an axe to the head and decapitated the bird. After the birds nervous system had run its course I dry plucked each and every feather by hand and put the chicken into a slow cooker for dinner. It was tasty but not the meaty bird I was hoping for.
Today I fully understand the difference between the egg laying variety and the meat variety that go into the freezer. The process has evolved too. I use a much less traumatic and more humane way to let the life out of the chickens. The process involves what is called a kill cone, where the bird is placed into a cone shaped metal trap where its wings are restrained and the neck is loose beneath its body. This rushes the blood to the head and after a scratch of the neck to agitate the area and damper the impending nick of the sharp razer across each jugular. Moments after the blood has left the body the bird passes out and the pain is gone. This is the one bad day on the farm that the animals experience. My justification comes from the countless bad days most conventional livestock are raised in throughout their lives. To help remove the feathers I place the bird into a scalder. ( a tank where the water is held at 155 degrees for about 10 long seconds) Then the bird is put into what is called a whiz bang chicken plucker. ( this is a home made 55 gallon barrel that is hooked up to an electric motor and has chicken plucking fingers that remove the feathers.) The bird no longer looks like the animal on pasture and looks like the product that goes into the freezer. At this point any loose feathers are removed, the head and entrails are discarded. I am careful to keep the gizzard hear and liver.
I do take into account which animals I do butcher. State and local laws alow me to butcher any animal for my own household and our consumption. Chickens and other poultry have a cap of 1000 on farm birds to then resell, and that has to be done directly from the farm. Larger animals, like our pigs and cattle must be done at a state inspected facility. So this is where Becks procesing comes into the picture. I do take many or most of the chickens we raise to the butcher as well. I do this because of the time limitations and the fact that I attend the Neenah Farmers market along with some resturaunt sales as well.
To be clear, I had not butchered any chicken on the farm this season. I do however process all of the turkey and have each of the past seasons. This next weekend I will be making decisions on cutting back some of the roosters that have grown out over the summer as they have served their pourpuse on the farm and will make a great stew for some family. I hope you can appriciate and understand the dignity and levity I place in managing a financialy viable farm. I have to make tought deciesions as this is not a petting zoo or an animal sancuary. Thank you for your continued support as we work together to keep your families food and environment clean.
A 1890’S Farm… A Glimpse Into The Past… Buy Bulk Beef
November 2nd 2018
Finding a farm even when Im out of town.
Kim knows I love farming, and I know she loves free stuff. So while were down in Illinois for my friend Joes wedding, we made our way over to Volkening Heritage Farm.
Farming in 1890.
Kim found this farm online while she was looking for places to visit while we were waiting for the wedding festivities to begin. First I would recommend this farm to anyone looking into agriculture or history and of course walking. They have 140 or so acres in the middle of Shaumberg IL. They are well hidden but after you take a few paths into the woods you find a 1890s farm that is fully operating as a German homestead.
This farm would take a lot of work to maintain. And the pay would probably not cover a family’s living expenses. The farm simply is not efficient enough in most of its production. They have four milking shorthorn cows, a few halves, some pigs, chickens and two horses that would work in the fields. They use the horses to plow seed and harvest all of the crops they grow.
I did have a good conversation with a man milking the cattle. He was doing it by hand and made pretty quick work of it. I asked what happened to the milk and he quickly answered the pigs. I had expected that would be the case and would like to have a milking cow just for that purpose alone. The pigs can grow up in a hurry with the high butter fat of the spring and the overabundance of milk you get when the cows freshen will grow out a pig with ease. I’ve heard a story of a farmer who said that you can grow a pig on nothing but cow’s milk. Volkening Heritage Farm does add the cow’s milk to the pigs grain each evening for dinner.
The farm did use grain to help supplement the cattle’s diet too. They buy that feed from off the farm, mix some grains together and feed the cows as they milk them. The 140 acres had so much woodland, prairies and other natural landscapes that it was hard to imagine there was a farm in the middle of it when you pass down the street.
The vast knowledge that is needed to run and operate a farm in that day is incredible. I would see value in stopping there sometime when they host one of their other regular seasonal events. It was quite an impressive and beautiful place.
Veterans Day 2018
October 26th, 2018
An Army Vet.
Armed Service Day is for those that are serving. Veterans Day is for those that served in the past, and Memorial Day is to honor those who have lost their lives.
An Overview of My Army Service
Some of you know I am a Veteran. My close friends would tell you that they would have never expected me to join the military and those after are surprised that I was in the military. Maybe it’s my personality, or maybe it’s that I just never talk much about it. This weekend I am going down to Chicago to stand in one of my Best Friend’s weddings. His name is Joe. We went through training together, we were stationed together, we lived together, and we went to war together. So, to say that this weekend is important is an understatement.
Joe likes to share the story of when we first started talking. It was right after basic training while we were in AIT (Advanced Individual Training). I had just gotten my first tattoo. It was the words “Dude” and “Sweet”, from the movie Dude Where is My Car. He got a kick out of that and recited the words each time he saw me.
In the Army our MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) was a 92 Romeo parachute rigger. We packed parachutes for the paratroopers, for the cargo that we drop out of the C130s and restored the parachute equipment when broken. This was our primary function in the military. In an all hands-on deck situation, we are all trained to preserve our lives and those around us to complete our military mission. So, to say that I’m not well rounded in training would be misleading.
When I went to Iraq my specific duty became a TOC radio transmitter for our Battalion. This put me in a pretty unique and informed position. I was the “Voice” of a pretty high commander at the airbase we held a position over. I disseminated commands and returned intel to the commander for most of my tour.
My full tour took 9 months of my 3 years of service. Ultimately, I wanted to find my way back home when those three years were up. I did not enjoy getting disciplined for the mistakes of those that could not keep out of trouble. When I transitioned out of the military, part of my plan was to go to school. So that’s where I began with my civilian life.
Happy Veterans Day to those that have served.
October 19th, 2018
The 2018 Farmers Market.
With one week left at the Future Neenah Farmers Market you still have a chance to go out with a Boo.
When I was young my Mom vended at a few craft fairs a year. I remember going along to some of them and seeing all the goodies that Fall has to offer – pumpkins, hot chocolate, scarecrows and of course witches. Fall is one of my favorite times of year. I love the autumn air. I love going into the woods and escaping from the hustle while waiting for a big buck. I love that the farming season is winding down and that I can put my nose in a book and snuggle up as opposed to dragging my achy body into bed for a few hours of rest before I go at it again. Oh, and the candy. I can’t forget the candy.
This week the Future Neenah Farmers Market is hosting its last market of the season. I will sadly say farewell to my neighbor John who sells cards and my neighbors who moved halfway through the season to a higher traffic area in the Burch Jones Candle Company. I look forward to seeing them again next season.
With this last week upon us and Halloween a few weeks away, Future Neenah amply calls this week BOO FEST. Many of the vendors will be dishing out candies to the kids that come through. Kim will be attending this week too as some of you have yet to meet her. This also means that we will not be open at the farm. We are sorry for that inconvenience.
Until then feel free to order online at our website, or even better visit before January, as we will be closed for the winter – January, February and part of March. Yet, we will be available by appointment.
Sizing Up Where You Buy Your Food And The Labels They Come With.
October 12th, 2018
Work worth the effort.
Today I will go over some different methods to obtain food. We are going to detail from the most intimate to the most passive food options for you and your family. The scale will also become less work as you follow down the list as you become less confident in its content origin and nutrition.
The tiers of enrollment and concern.
When it comes to knowing where your food comes from there is one way that trumps all the rest. This is the best way to know and understand exactly how and what has gone into the production of the food you have on your plate. This starts in your backyard. Growing your own food is a sure-fire way to know exactly what is going into your food. This involves getting out into the dirt, planting in the spring, pulling weeds and watering and finally harvesting in the summer and fall. Not only is this work, but now you have a raw vegetable that must be processed. Sometimes you can get off easy and eat it raw but storing those calories for the winter will take a lot more work and time. Space can be a factor as well. Animals need room to graze and grow and need attention daily. In the end, the pleasure of eating a fresh carrot from the ground or a chicken from your backyard is truly special even if it is just a few times a year.
Hand in hand with self-produced food is wild foraged food. Nothing produced in any system is of the quality as that produced from nature. Whether it is from the forest, the rivers and lakes or the sky, eating from nature is always a very high quality.
The next best option is to buy Local. Drive over and see firsthand the management of the fields and the living environments of the animals. Ask questions face-to-face and learn about the methods that that farmer implements. It is not only important that you CAN do this, you need to get up and actually do it. Local does not imply that your standards are being met, unless buying proximity is your only standard.
The third best option is from small producers and suppliers. Some examples could be online retail stores like Butcher Box and Primal Pastures or butcher shops like Becks Meat or Hanes Meat. These options give you some of the story. The online retail stores share the story of how the foods are produced and raised, however they are not local. The butcher shops are Local and purchase meats from local farms but you probably would not find out which farms they came from.
Organic food is set to a standard. Organic food producers are required to meet those standards in their production model and are audited to ensure that they are met. This is great if you can follow along with what those standards are. Organic does not mean without sprays and without tilling. It simply is a bar that is set by the USDA and varies with each product. A quick little interjection. This summer I purchased 30 additional laying hens from an organic farm in Amherst. I was surprised and disappointed that they had their beaks trimmed. The location we meet up at was not the location that he had farmed his chickens. These birds do not roost as the birds that grew up on this farm do, they do not travel out as far as the other birds and are clearly hampered by their start at the Organic farm. So, my standards are above what the organic standard has set for its egg producers.
Last on the list is the retail option. When all else fails and I have nowhere else to go I head to the grocery store down the street. Sometimes it is not a matter of where but when. When we are making a dish for dinner and it calls for a can of beans, and at that moment we are out of beans, the gas station down the street has some and for convenience that is the best option.
What Was Learned By A Young Man On The Farm This Year.
October 5th, 2018
Learning a Life Lesson early on.
This summer’s projects were mounting up and time was short. As the farm has begun to become more defined, there have been some tasks that have been more easily transferred to someone who was willing to learn and begin to make an income for themselves.
Zach The Farm Hand
I was milling feed for the pigs, chickens, and turkey and thought to myself, why don’t I try to find someone who would be willing to do this for me. So while I was working I hopped online to see if i could find someone looking for work. On the Facebook Marketplace a young man by the name of Zach had a listing that said he was looking for odds and ends tasks around the neighborhood. I replied to the listing and worked out a schedule for Zach to come to the farm twice a week all summer long. I felt this was a good route to take as he was willing to fill in and take care of some of the work. A bulk of that work was set to be milling the corn, field peas, wheat and oats. We are doing this on the farm because buying organic feed without soy has been cost prohibitive. This was an effort to use traditional organic feed to keep the costs down and help other farmers make it into the organic standard. A field takes three seasons without sprays to become certified organic.
After the first day with Zach on the farm, I was thinking to myself, is this going to work? Is he up to the tasks I’m asking of him? I took the next few days to think and decided it wasn’t him that needed to do better. It was managing my expectations of what he could handle. So, I simplified the chores and did what I could to mix up what he was helping me with to keep things interesting from his prospective. Through the summer Zach helped bale hay, or more so stack hay. He did a little weed pulling, some chicken coop clean up and before Kim and I got married, Zach helped set up for our big day.
Now that summer is all said and done, Zach is back at school and has visited a time or two since. He clearly liked being part of the farm this year, and I am thankful for his efforts. This week I received a letter in the mail from Zach’s Mom thanking me for teaching and inspiring her son to enjoy work. Until then Zach had the understanding that work was something that you had to do to earn an income, not realizing that you can love what you do.
What a great lesson! I am proud that a young worker on the farm learned something so valuable so early on in life. If I only had that knowledge as I began my high school education. Thankfully I found what I wanted in life and had the courage and ability to go after it. Thanks for supporting the farm and giving us the ability to give back to our community in such a positive way.
I Love The Food We Produce.
September 28th, 2018
Dinner with the Family.
There is no doubt about it, I love the food that we put into our bodies. The nutrient dense and flavorful meats are a staple on our dinner table. We think you would love it too.
Through my lenses.
When it is dinner time, it is our farm’s meat that’s on our plates. We absolutely love the quality and flavor of our products. We eat it all. I should say I eat it all, Kim chooses to stay away from the rabbit, but the rest of the freezer is fair game when it comes to filling the table. Just the other night Kim cooked up some chicken and she joked that it was from Costco. She said this because Ava doesn’t know what she’s missing. She has a stubborn bone in her body or something against the fact that the animals are raised here. The fact of the matter is that she is missing out, and I have tried to explain that to her as she eats her packaged strawberries and Nutella. Someday I hope she understands and appreciates the quality of food that we produce.
Kim on the other hand is a big fan. I find myself infrequently going out to eat, not just due to the added costs of having that kind of service, but I have ethical dilemmas that cause me concerns. The quality is less than ideal and usually lacquered with some substance that is filled with sugar or some other adhesive that attempts to improve the palatability. There are a few restaurants that I will go to where I don’t have the same problem. But overall in the grand scheme of things I love eating at home in our kitchen with my wife while I watch Ava suffer through each meal trying to get filled up on food that she believes is healthy but comes from some over-processed facility where quantity and additives trump quality and nutrition.
Why is our food a notch above? It is because we mimic nature. The foods produced here have grass as a mainstay in each animal’s diet. It is important that we eat animals that eat foods that we can’t eat. We do not eat grass. All the animals here have a good dose of it and the cows have a full diet of grass. This gives a healthy balance of both omega 3’s and omega 6’s in the final product making our bodies healthier and less susceptible to ailments. On top of that, when you crave a particular food it is your body telling you that you’re lacking something that it is high in. The reason we crave sugars is due to the lack of natural sugars in nature. So, other than that anomaly, you should listen to your body. To fully meet your body’s needs eating craved food that is dense with the nutrients from a natural living environment will help you eat less and keep from becoming obese and still give you the energy to feel good all day long.
The Real Dirt On Farmer John Answers Some Questions For Me.
September 21, 2018
Asking Farmer John.
A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon teaching veterans at a workshop in collaboration with Angelic Organics Learning Center (AOLC). During the workshop we discussed opportunities and resources with veterans interested in starting a farm. AOLC is the non-profit branch of Angelic Organics Association which also includes Angelic Organics (farm) a 2,500 member CSA that provides vegetables to the Chicagoland area. After the workshop I asked Shelbie, the workshop facilitator, if we could take a peek at the compost pile which was across a very long field. She agreed to make the trek. Once we got there I had so many questions for her, questions she wasn’t able to answer but said she could ask Farmer John for me. All the questions I came up with would easily be found online with a little bit of research, so I let her know that it was not necessary.
Sharing Johns Reply.
Last week I decided to email Shelbie and ask her to pass a few questions along to Farmer John that I still had about his farm and the future of farming. John’s messages appear in red below.
Angelic Organics is able to utilize on-farm composting by including animals in the farm ecosystem, therefore closing the loop, which benefits everything in their local food web.
We truck most of the manure in from neighboring farms to make the compost. We have not closed the loop. To generate enough manure for our 35 acres of vegetables would require a sizable livestock operation and much more land.
This model has got me thinking more about scale of agriculture. On The G Farm we have about 1/3 of an acre in vegetables and last season we produced enough for about 12 households out of 220,000 living in the Fox Valley. For our farm this was an immense amount of work, just to provide a dozen CSA shares to our community, mostly due to inefficiency. (Thinking about the amount of work to supply the 220,000 plus people in the Fox Valley sounds exhausting!) In small scale vegetable production, I see huge inefficiencies due to lack of equipment and infrastructure. My question for Farmer John and for those of you reading this is — to what scale and scope do you see farming in the future?
It is becoming more and more technological and capital intensive. Search the internet for videos of futuristic equipment that is making its way into the vegetable business. This sort of technology will continue to lower the price point at which crops can be grown and marketed.
What logistical problems do you think need to be addressed? How can small farmers or farmers outside the state of California be competitive in these markets to overturn the status quo and feed the world?
This is a great question. Food is for most people a commodity. The warm ideas oflocal and know your farmer do not harmonize with the idea of commodity. Look at almost anything advertised on the internet today—it’s discounted. People want to buy things on sale. We have had to discount our shares more and more to get people to buy them.
I traveled for 5 years with the documentary film The Real Dirt on Farmer John. I realized more and more that people wanted healthy, organic food cheap, that many of them felt entitled to it, that they were not going to pay the extra cost needed to make it possible, and that food was more important to most people than farms. My focus more and more in the film discussions was the farms that grow the food, and it was clear to me that this was not the primary focus of the most members in the audience.The Real Dirt on Farmer John was a story primarily about a farm, not about food. I love farms. Food is the surplus—what occurs on a well-cared-for farm. Put the farm first, and the food will follow.
When I see photos of a farmer carrying an armful of kale, I think that kale cost a lot of money to grow. Someone somewhere else is growing kale for much cheaper than that person. Almost everything today comes down to scale, efficiency and economy. People might prefer local, might prefer that their food comes from a small family farm, but how many people will pay extra for that, orenoughextra for that? Read my most recent issue of Farm News: https://angelicorganics.com/2018/09/10/farmer-john-writes-mystery-and-miracle/. It addresses what people are willing to pay for their share, when given a choice.
For several years, farmers’ markets and CSA’s were entry points into farming for those with little capital. This is not so much the case today.
I don’t usually find time to engage questions like this. I got an early start this morning, hence my reply.
I like your questions and concern, Justin—good things to ponder.
We Are Going To Finish The Year Strong!
September 14th, 2018
Well the wedding went off without any surprises, I cried first. Kim was beautiful in her dress and the weather was great. Our family friends and neighbors were all there to support us in our commitment to one another and we are thankful for all of it.
Now the work begins.
With less wedding commotion and a dwindling season, I need to refocus on some farm projects that have deadlines on the horizon. Last February I received a grant for the purpose of fencing around 8 new rows that will be planted yet this fall. It also included extending water irrigation pipelines to help facilitate rotational grazing of all the animals on the farm. This spring we received a laundry list of trees and bushes that will continue to revegetate this property with edible landscaping. These plants will help feed our community for years to come.
We filled our nursery with about 20 black locust trees, 60 apple trees, 30 oak, 60 mulberry, 80 pawpaw, 30 raspberries, 2 blackberry, 15 lilac, 25 butternut, 25 pine nut, one hardy kiwi and 2 hops plants. Most of these will go out onto pasture while a few were planted around the house.
This is the one last big project of the year that must be completed. Aside from this project most everything else revolves around getting ready for winter. I will have to put the round bales out onto pasture at some point. This will happen when the ground freezes. I may try to get a winter waterer installed to reduce the daily chore of breaking ice and filling the tank.
I will have to bring in the last of this season’s animals. The chickens, turkey, rabbit, pigs and two more cows. This will clear out the farm of everything but the laying hens, cattle herd and a few breeding stocks in rabbits.
The greenhouse and garden will need a little clean up and late season compost applied. Tarps will need to be put down and water irrigation will need to be picked up.
All of this would be a lot easier if I had my tractor. Last month it was taken into the shop. I haven’t heard back at this point. I feel the time ticking away and I will make one more good push to wrap up the season.
Progressive Insurance Is Paid
September 7th, 2018
Its hard before it gets easy.
This is a story of hard times and my personal struggles and poor decision making when I was just getting started on the farm.
Progressive is now paid!
In February 2016 I was working at the retirement planning firm my dad owns. I’d worked there for 10 years and when I looked ahead at the future ahead me, I didn’t like what I saw. I did taxes for the folks that had accounts in the firm. Each of the 10 tax season I’d worked at the firm became more and more lucrative, but my enjoyment in the office did not exist. As a result, my attitude was less than ideal for an office and I got the boot. In losing my job I agreed to stay on for a few months to teach my replacement. Not to do taxes but to do the other workload I had in filling out paperwork for new accounts and managing those existing accounts.
This brought me to the end of March. I had one week left in the family practice and I was set on being a farmer from that point on. My season plan was set, and I would have the time to begin a path in which I found joy and a sense of accomplishment. With a dozen pigs on the farm and a low feed supply, I made a call to the small farmer that I purchased local feeds from. He was in Suamico and I didn’t have a trailer yet. There are pains in growing any business and inefficiencies are one of them. At this point I had two trucks, a big F250 and a little Ranger. For some reason my F250 was not ready for the trip. I don’t remember if I was working on it in some capacity or if it was full of other equipment. So, I was left with the little Ranger. First, I had a day of work, so I drove the Ranger to Appleton, finished my day and headed to pick up the feed. On the way home there was a little snow that was accumulating as I got closer to the farm. My little truck was weighed down pretty heavily. To that point in my life my driving record was clear. No accidents with just a speeding ticket or two. As I came over the hill heading south on M towards the intersection in Medina, my full truck slid right through the stop sign. I t-boned a large black truck, and consequently hit another little Prius sitting on the other side of the intersection.
I rushed out to check on the other vehicles in the collision and it seemed that everyone was OK. Just a little coffee was spilled in the truck. Not to mention the huge dent in the side of the nearly new F150 Harley Davidson edition, along with a scratch in the Prius bumper.
The big problem that I had in this accident was that I didn’t have insurance on the little Ranger. This cost me huge, about $16,000 in total. I don’t make excuses and I work with what’s in front of me, never behind me. I worked with Progressive Insurance for the last few years to pay $300 a month after a large sum of money was paid up front. Last week I finally made my last payment and I am now in good standing.
With this obligation behind me coupled with two last payments on my personal vehicle, life on the farm is about to get a lot easier. Kim will be happy and working hard with me to continue to build our personal wealth and our farm.
Speaking Is Not What I Do Best, But My Passion Bleeds Through.
August 31st, 2018
I was a bit nervous.
It is much easier to speak to someone when they are listening. Those on the receiving end seem to hear you better.
Just a warm up for the Wedding.
This last week I spoke at two events. The first engagement was at the Future Neenah farm to table dinner. It was great, the crowd was fantastic, the food was top notch. The main course for the dinner included chicken from The G Farm. I was thoroughly impressed with how it came out. While it was being served my friends at Green Valley Acres began telling the attendees how they got into farming and all about their vegetable production. They are one of my favorite vendors at the Future Neenah Farmers Market, and I fully support their efforts. When they wrapped up their discussion, I was at center stage. In sharing my own journey, I felt very welcomed.
The second event was at Angelic Organics Learning Center who hosted an event for veterans. The day-long event is centered around getting into farming for themselves. What better way to spend an afternoon than with some veterans sharing and discussing life after the military and life moving onto a farm. Hopefully my presentation was helpful to someone. I certainly learned a lot from the other speakers. I measure the success of the work I do by the quantity of farmers that I help influence. Some are new farmers, and some are old, each making a step to improve their own management systems.
I take time out of my busy schedule to talk when I can to bring awareness and a better understanding of how food is made on a small-scale farm. To share and show how transparent a farm can be and should be. To explain how and when changes are made to the management system so that you can value and appreciate the food you and your family eat. The reason I talk is to educate, to teach and bring conversation to the important subject of food. We eat three times a day and the impact we can make to improve the world is drastic when we choose to make educated choices with our conscious.
We can make a more sustainable world by sharing these discussions with folks that are unaware of the ramifications of our current food system. Sometimes the will is there, and all they may be missing is the how. Technology is making it easier and more convenient for small farms, like the ones featured at the Future Neenah Farm to Table Dinner, to reach your own dinner table.
The Greenhouse Is Just In Time For Fall. Not Quite As Planned.
August 24th, 2018
Greenhouse = Hightunnel = Longer Growing Seasons.
For a couple years I’ve been interested in building a greenhouse. With our expanding gardens and livestock herds, flocks and colonies some extra cover can certainly be helpful. Utilizing programs from the NRCS it became a reality this summer.
Building a Greenhouse
Each year the US government allocates a certain amount of funding to the farm bill. This process begins in the House of Representative by the Appropriations Committee. Then it must get voted on and pass both the House and Senate.
The funds that funnel down to the Farm Service Agency are the dollars that are then passed onto farmers. These subsidies surely get used each year. I feel that if I can participate in the programs while managing the farm in a way that is helpful and not harmful, it is better than the dollars being in the hands of those farmers that do not manage in such a positive way.
Last fall I applied for funding to help build the high tunnel. Early in the year I learned that my project was granted. This specific program is with the NRCS or Natural Resources Conservation Services. The program is called EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program). These programs can help a new farmer establish fencing, water systems, silvopastures, wind breaks, bee and butterfly pollinators and hundreds of other programs.
These programs do not choose me. I have a grand plan, a master design. I pick and choose the programs that are applicable to my design and work with the NRCS to see if there is a fit.
This spring I ordered from Zimmerman’s High Tunnels. In my research I felt that it was the most sturdy and economical product that met all the NRCS requirements. It is 48 x 30 feet and came on a truck. It felt like a long wait for the truck to make its way up here, but I finally got going on the construction.
My prediction was that the whole project was going to take about 100 hours to put up. In farming it is always a good idea to plan twice as much time as you need and expect to pay twice as much as you think you need. Then when you start to get your return on investment, you got it, you probably will get about half as much as you planned there too.
The 100 hours was probably closer to 160. I did most of it myself in the evenings and on the weekends. A few of the days were blistering hot, but I had an incentive. Only when the project is completed do you receive the funding from the NRCS. This is important in cash flow and making sure that I have liquidity when I have another project planned.
There were a few occasions a handful of friends and family helped too. Mostly towards the end when putting the plastic on the frame. Thanks to all of you that participated.
A Picture Encapsulating Rotational Grazing On The G Farm
August 17th, 2018
A perfect display of Multi-Species Rotational Grazing.
One of the most productive and regenerative practices in farming is simply moving cattle across the farm. The more often they are moved, the more beneficial it is to the pasture. Adding additional spices to the mix adds to the benefits by distributing various nutrients to the soil and emulates nature. If you walk into a woods, you don’t just find deer running around.
The concept is relatively simple, Move cows, then pigs, followed by turkey and chicken across the pasture, one after the other. In general by size and other pieces such as sheep could be incorporated as well. Each animal has a desired flora that they will consume. The cows pallet is different than the pigs and the chickens and so forth. A cow has a wide mouth and will tear the grass from the earth. They eat mostly grasses but will nibble on some trees and shrubs too.
Moving the pigs across after the cows gives the pigs a cow pie treat. Discussing… well maybe but a perfectly edible leftover from the cows. They will also eat at some grasses, other weeds and if there are fruits nuts or anything else left on the ground, they will clean that up as well.
Following the large animals with the poultry is fantastic because they act as a clean up crew. They will pick apart the cow pies, eat the larva and other bugs crawling around them. The chickens also leave a healthy supply of nitrogen in their wake.
An important effect of the animals moving through each pasture is that they each create their own unique disturbance. The plants respond and grow in more densely. The cows hooves leave little depressions which hold water. Pigs wallow and push the ground with their snouts, the chickens scratch the ground moving dead grasses. Keeping the animals densely populated in each paddock simulates a lion prowling around a heard of cape buffalo in the Sarangeti. The herd keeps moving but stays together.
All of this is done out on the pasture and that means I do not have to clean up after them. Nature does all of the work for me. Now this sounds all good and but the problem I have is that I do not have enough chickens to move across 19 acres in the same amount of time as it takes for the cows. The pigs do not have adequate fencing to keep them from running out into the road and making a scene. So for now each animal moves along their given space at their own rates. This is working well as they all help build soil.
This picture was taken this past week when each of the species was occupying a part of the Silvopasture. (Rows of tree crops with pasture in between for grazing) The farthest pasture was unoccupied, followed by pigs, then unoccupied, then turkey, unoccupied, cattle, unoccupied and lastly chickens. The obvious pattern was fun for me.
Hey Aaron, Want To Stop By Our Wedding?
August 10th, 2018
Just less than a month before our big day.
Our guest list is complete, invites are made and are in the mail. The food is arranged, beer is lined up and some local live music is scheduled. We are all but ready for a new beginning together as we plan to share the rest of our lives together.
Aaron Rogers, PLEASE stop out and show some support to a hard-working local small-scale farmer. My Bride would be appreciative.
We do have one invite that we could use a little help to get into the hands of the recipient. Kim let me know that she would like to invite someone that would put a cherry on the top of the wedding cake. So, we are reaching out to Aaron Rogers to see if he can spare a little time before the 2018 football season begins. I can’t imagine Mr. Rogers needs much time to rest the evening before he picks apart the Chicago Bears. So, if you or one of your teammates would like to join us you will be welcomed with open arms. The big day is Saturday, September 8th, and we will be hosting our family, friends and neighbors as we unite.
Aaron, we are hard to miss. We are located right on Highway 10 and 45 just about 20 minutes west of Appleton. Our neighbor’s barn has been on ESPN several times. They own the barn that says “12 is #1″, and we couldn’t agree more.
If you can make it down, we would love to share a photo under the barn and share some farm raised pork right off the smoker. The pigs are being smoked by Aftershock Smokers and you and your guests are more than welcome to stop by for a bite of goodness
If you can attend, we have sent all the wedding details to Lambeau Field. We wish you and the rest of the Green Bay Packers a healthy and successful season.
As Charlie Berens of the Manitowoc Minute proclaims,
Go Packers and F*** the Bears,
Fish Farming 101 – Defining The Ponds Plan.
August 3rd, 2018
Had a plan, but it keeps changing.
Have you ever heard that there are as many ways to farm as there are farms? One reason I may be finding it hard to define a management system in fish farming is that there are far fewer farmers in fish, than in cattle. Now on my third rendition of the ponds plan I think that it is becoming more clear how it will ultimately look.
What I learned
The process of obtaining the fish farming license had taken longer than I anticipated. After receiving it I can now stock the pond with perch and walleye. Ive sent a few messages out to a few hatcheries and waited….. And waited… After waiting a few weeks I received a phone call and found some direction. First John from the fish hatchery was specific in asking a few question about my online order. I asked for 50 walleye and 2 or 3 hundred perch. He then told me that he does not run his business that way and that timing was an important factor. I was definitely taken back and interested. Now, ive seen sales strategies that bring you in and push you to ask for more, and I bit hard.
In our conversation I shared what my plan had been and what problems or difficulties the plan had. I also let John know what my long term goals are.
The main problems being that I have way to many undesirable fish. He confirmed that this is because I do not have any predators in the pond. No, walleye, and no bass. Just a few muskrats and snapping turtles. With walleyes in the plan, it was highly recommended that I add bass to the equation to help remove the hybrid bluegills. These guys have little to no value. The problem with adding the bass is that they can ultimately create the same problem. A pond full of bass and nothing to balance them out. So thats where I come in. I will have to fish them all out. Keeping the equilibrium. The walleye are a night feeder and will not eat as many of the hybrid bluegills as the bass so John feels it is necessary.
John added that I could probably use some irritation to help increase the ponds holding capacity. He also thought that I should add some fertilizer in the spring to help the phytoplankton. What he does not understand is that the cows walk around the pond and as they manure and the rain washes it down into the pond the same but a more natural process occurs.
The main point I walked away with was that I first need for bass. My approach is going to be a longer term process that will build up the ecosystem to help balance it. That way the inputs, ie perch fingerlings, walleye fingerlings and fat head minnows to keep them all fed, fat and healthy.
I hope I am done talking about it and finaly going to get going on this project.
The Dog Days Are Upon Us. I Mean Puppy!
July 27th, 2018
Three years in the making.
As a single young man with a quiet house all to myself I was looking for an unconditional friend. I found him in a loving lab from the Chilton Humane Shelter. He was about one year old and made his way into my car, home, and even into the office I was working in at that time. He became an office mascot and worked hard for a treat from every person who came in and said hello. In the evenings and on the weekends he gave me love and entertainment. Jack lived a special dog life that was shared with so many friends, family and clients.
Jack my Best Friend
After handful of years in that house we moved out onto the farm, with big dreams and little experience, we started making hay even before we had cows on the farm. I make hay with a sickle mower and that can be dangerous, obviously in hindsight it was an awful idea to bring jack, but his face that day was pleaing to go out into the field and to avoid being sent to the house. We ended up in the hospital with a very difficult decision to put him down after the accident. It was unbearable as any past dog owner knows. I spent the next three days in bed and thought that I would never bring myself to get another dog.
Baker winning my Heart
Well time passes and the farm grew. Without a dog, it is easier to go on vacations, but the cows already put a dent in those plans. So I have been looking for a dog to help with the herding of cows and other animals. I was specifically searched for an Australian Cattle Dog. Just like as I found Jack in a shelter so too was I looking for a dog at a humane society. Unfortunately, each time I found a good fit, by the time I’d completed the paperwork for that organization, the dog I was looking for had already found a forever home. This led me to craigslist.com. On a whim I did a search and found a litter of pups just about an hour away. I called them up and gave them the run down.
Thats when Baker found a new home. He is just old enough to leave his Mom and Windy Acres Kennel.
So far its been lots of training. He knows his name and understands when he did something wrong even though he’s not sure how to fix it yet. He is usually unleashed and follows me about the farm. His diet is all raw meat. This is an adjustment for him. Going from nursing, to kibbles and now to meat. In the long run I think this is an affordable option for us and we will reduce waste and clear out some of those less wanted cuts and offal. For the most part he is going potty outside, but thats because I take him out almost every hour. Last week he was at the Future Neenah Farmers Market with me. He was a major draw into the stand as you would imagine. Its been a fun week with Baker so far and we look forward to many new adventures on the farm.
Chickens Available, Now SOY FREE!
July 20th, 2018
Chicken in the freezer No soy in the chicken.
Raising chickens this year has gone fantastic. First comes good planning. In past seasons April was a bit of a bear. So, I brought chicken onto the farm a bit later this year. Next, I milled my own feed picking and choosing the ingredients that are most appropriate.
Why No Soy
Soy became popularized from Oconowa Japan, called natto soy. This soy is eaten after it is fermented. Fermenting food creates and builds good bacteria in our gut and is high in vitamin k2. We have a different kind of soy growing in our American fields and our conventional soy contain phytoestrogens.This can cause men to have more feminine characteristics. In women it can cause an increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and other hormone imbalanced related disorders.
Soy is not digestible by any livestock in its raw state. It needs to be heated up to change the compounds inside of the pod. As an alternative I use field peas. These peas are not as high in protein so I have to add something to it to help the animals preform better. I use crab shells. This is a byproduct of the seafood industry and were obtainable and recommended in several recipes I hade found online. Making this feed is more expensive that purchasing the feed in past years, but clearly the quality is much better.
Many children are allergic to soy as well. Symptoms include rash, hives, itchy mouth, nausea, and several others. Though they often grow out of it as they grow. And if someone hasn’t grown out of it, you have a local source of quality meats right here in the Fox Valley.
Remember, by supporting our farm you’re doing so much more than eating healthy, delicious foods. You are healing the planet through regenerative agriculture, supporting local family farming, and ensuring that humane treatment of livestock will continue here in Wisconsin
Paying attention to the rules.
July 13th, 2018
Keeping up with Government.
I am no watch dog, but I do follow what’s going on in DC. This last Saturday I found some interesting ideas being proposed in the House. I took a little time to let my Representative know how I feel.
This is what I came up with.
Dear Congressman Gallagher
I am writing you this evening to voice my opinion on H.R.2657 the PRIME Act. Moving this forward would create a positive impact on local food meat production. I run and manage a small farm and raise beef, pork, chicken, turkey and rabbits. I sell directly from this farm to my customers and they love the product. The food is healthier, more nutritious and at the same time regenerates the land to a more natural state.
The fees associated with having an inspector on site for the processing and handling drive up my costs unnecessarily. I believe that large producers hold these guidelines over the heads of small producers to keep their share of the market protected making the small producer margins less obtainable. It is my goal to bring these high quality foods down in price to feed our community a healthy diet while still affording me and my family a reasonable living wage.
The State of Wisconsin has a long and storied history in farming. Please vote Yes to continue the story of local food meat production for the sake of…. well everyone in my eyes.
The G Farm
July 6th, 2018
This year I started with a plan to build a pond for farming and raising fish. The purpose of this pond was strictly for the production of perch. However, something just didn’t feel right.
Raising fish in a pond and feeding them feed that I buy at the mill would absolutely accomplish the goals of production. The problem I am running into is what is in that feed? I do my best to be as natural as possible with all the systems in place on the farm, and to feed these fish the byproducts from chicken that I am certain were not organic just seems wrong.
I pondered how I would raise fish on the farm for weeks even while I started to acquire some of the material to build the new pond to house these perch. I asked my friend Lindsay Rebhan a teacher and farm designer in Minnesota for her thoughts.. She simply said, ” Justin, you already have a pond”. The problem I was facing in the existing pond is how exactly do I get the fish out of a 3.5-acre pond, and if I’m buying feed for these perch, how do I ensure they are the fish that are going to eat the feed designated for them? So, after sitting on that for a few weeks, I found a way to look at the problem differently. One reason the fish are small in the pond is because the competition is steep. I do not fish it enough and ultimately there are no predators. I have found a solution for that. I have decided to introduce walleye into the pond. That will help give balance to the pond and will help stabilize the population and give room for other fish to grow.
Without feeding the fish the junk food, I am going to have to do something to continue to add protein to the pond for the fish to eat. One solution may be a bug zapper. Placing this at the end of a dock will surely give the fish a natural diet. It is said in permaculture that the problem is often the solution. With the overall farm health improving, so do the living conditions of the mosquitos, and I surely won’t miss any of those that turn into fish food. Another method to feed fish naturally is a little less appealing but still very effective. This method places a dead animal, or animal byproduct onto a floating raft of some kind. Fly’s larvae find their way on to the animal however they won’t make it far. A fish will find a tasty treat when the larvae fall from the raft.
As far as harvesting them. This is a little more manually intensive, but without having the cost into feed, hiring a few kids for a few days to fish the pond might do the trick.
Lastly, I need to discuss the tribulations in getting the license. It took almost 4 months, a little longer than I expected. Just this last week the papers arrived, and I am now able to purchase the walleye and add some fathead minnows to the pond to give it a little boost.
It is going to take a little more time to get to the point of harvesting due to the new strategy, but it is still in the works none-the-less. I feel much more confident in this natural model and feel that it is congruent with the rest of my holistic design.
I will still work to get some fish into the CSA this year, but it will probably be all sorts of pan fish, not just the perch the initial plan included.