December 27th 2019
Hey Everyone. We’re Saving The Best Email Of The Decade For Last. So Guess What?
So Guess What?
Our little farming family is growing. We are looking forward to our new addition in May of 2020. The next chapter in our lives will be filled with new hurdles and experiences as we see how I learn to stretch my time, my patience and continue to grow to be the person I wish to be.
We’re Having A Baby!
Kim and I have been doing all the fun things that expecting couples enjoy doing. Like picking out names that might fit, setting up medical appointments, working on scheduling birthing classes, and getting the baby’s new room all ready. There is certainly a lot of joy in the house over the thought of our own baby, especially since we have made it out of the first trimester. That period of time had me questioning the direction I’ve gone in life. Now that we are out of the woods, I’m much more comfortable and I feel reassured that family life is a life for me.
Ava is turning 16 next week and has been wishing for a sibling for her entire life. The wishful thinking in me says that Ava will be a huge help with her new brother or sister. However, the realist in me recognizes that a 16-year-old is probably not going to pass on hanging out with her friends to help watch her sibling on a regular basis.
Although our house is going to get a lot more chaotic, I am going to press on and continue to grow our farm. This next season will be bigger and better as we continue to expand production in the areas of our farm that have been thriving. We will continue to grow our cow herd and increase the number of pigs and chickens that we will produce.
My intentions are to follow through on my 2020 plan throughout the summer as I have written it. The one item that may fall off the table is our garden space. Kim had been such a huge part of the garden over the last few years. With her time being much more limited and her physical ability at a minimum, it is going to be a challenge for sure. To be honest, this is one of our least lucrative ventures on the farm, so if my family needs me, it won’t be hard to walk away from that endeavor.
We’re very excited to share this news with you as your farmer and as your friend. Having you share this journey means much more than some words on the screen… Thank you for being part of this farm and part of our family.
December 20th 2019
The Camo Co-Op
The Camo Co-op.
The Camo Co-op is a project that a handful of veterans and families of veterans are working on together. Our goal is to share a retail space somewhere in the Appleton area. We are in the very beginning of the process, but we are inching forward. Most of the credit for the work being done to this point goes to my friend Jonathan.
What were trying to do.
Jonathan has been on the Appleton VFW (Veterans of Foreign War) board and has seen the popular Friday Night Fish Fry go to the wayside. The VFW is now entertaining ideas by the board in order to determine the fate of the building and parking lot. One of the ideas is to utilize the space to help veterans with small startup businesses by giving them a shared retail space and a shared workload to run it. The VFW would just be renting the space to the co-op, so it would all be nice and clean as the two entities work side by side both helping one another and the veterans they serve. Another space the co-op is looking to rent from the VFW would be the certified kitchen. This is often one of the barriers to entry when a small business is looking to produce a product fit for consumption.
We have done some pro forma income scenarios and have the belief that this could be a financially viable option. We look forward to continuing to show and share with the VFW our co-op potential. However, if we are not able to work out an agreement with the VFW, we will continue to seek out a space that fits our needs.
Luckily the internet has infinite space for us. So, without further ado, our first co-op offer is a box of goodies from our farm alongside a few other veteran producers and artisans. This first box has a few types of meat from our farm along with duck eggs, winter squash, coffee, Himalayan pink salt, and pizza seasoning. The larger option also comes with a living green plant. For all the details visit the link below. From there you can also sign up for emails directly from the Camo Co-op and be sure to like us on Facebook or Instagram.
I promise I am not going to go on and on in future emails about this. You may, however, find our sales noted at the bottom of our emails when future boxes become available. If you know of anyone that is interested in participating in any capacity, lives in Outagamie county or the 5 surrounding counties, please have them contact me and we can begin a conversation.
December 13th 2019
We Want You To Grow With Us!
I’d rather be looking at it than looking for it.
We love when we have guests stop out to the farm and visit our farm on Saturdays and Sundays to pick up some items, but we know you are busy and can’t make it to the farm on a regular basis.
That’s Why We CSA
We produce a wide array of products and everything we produce we have a hand in producing, most of the time the lion’s share. We don’t cut corners and we are fully transparent, so if you have questions, we’re here to help answer them. Our farm’s production helps the air, soil and water right here. The animals are helping transform this property into a full-blown self-propagating ecosystem. We are seeing changes each and every season that will continue to promote diversity across the animals and plants. This is why we are truly a regenerative agricultural system.
If you love what we are doing on our farm the best way to support us is to join our Monthly Meat CSA. This gives us the stability to help manage our growth. Our deliveries are made directly to your door on a monthly basis. Your payments are made seamlessly through PayPal. If at any time you choose for whatever reason to cancel, it is easily done just as well.
We have two share sizes – an 8 lb. and a 16 lb. package. These can come with eggs as an option as well. The Tuesday following your payment you will receive your goods. It’s that simple. We do our best to keep a variety of products in each delivery and across all deliveries. We will also take notes if you and your family truly do not or cannot eat a specific item. I can’t cut out one of the three meat varieties (beef, pork, and chicken), but if you don’t use something, please let us know and we will take note.
Granted we do sell each individual item online as well. We know you get busy and life happens so getting them ordered can be a hard habit to form. When I’m in the kitchen, I cook with the foods I have in front of me. So, keeping the foods in your kitchen will help you use it. Well, that’s my logic. I hope to see you in the next few weeks.
December 6th 2019
Things That Haunt Small Farmers’ Dreams
Things that haunt small farmers’ dreams
In the niche market of butchers and meat processors, the choices for small farmers is few and far between. If you were to call today to schedule an animal to have processed it would likely take at least a month before you could get that animal in. So, when it comes to getting your animals to where they need to be, it’s a good idea to be there when you are supposed to.
I make all my ordering dates and processing dates in the beginning of the year. I start by putting my farm calendar together and plan on what I need and when I need it by. I then start the process of calling and scheduling each of the pickup dates, processing dates and online orders for all the year’s production. This calendar is what rules my decision making and my life for the rest of the year. I do have a few places I can edit and adjust but I try to let the plan run its course.
I have literally lost sleep waking up in a cold sweat with the thought of not having animals into the processor when they needed to be. With that in mind, I am particularly careful to ensure I have our animals ready to go. This takes a little training and familiarization with the pigs and cows of our stocking trailer. We can’t just roll it out in front of them and expect they will just get in. The pigs get fed from the trailer for about a week before they go in. The cows each get moved into and onto the neighbor’s farm with the trailer a few times per year. This and a system of gates help to organize and sort the cows to put the right ones on the trailer.
Last month I did not show up on my scheduled date for the processing of 10 pigs. I take full responsibility for this. I was very upset with my planning and my reaction when I learned I was a day late. What also upset me is that I didn’t receive a call or a notice. When I left with the 10 pigs I decided to call around and ask if there was any way I could work something into the schedule. I was relieved when I was accommodated by a processor with whom I’ve been building a better relationship with since the start of the year. I had to find a new chicken processor going into 2019 and found Quality Cut Meats.
There are a few negatives with them though. It’s farther away, I have to put pricing labels on myself and the processed foods do have a different flavor. I’m not entirely sure how that will be so maybe it will be a positive. The processed meats will all be clean, and that’s a major positive no matter where I take it. Another positive I am recognizing at Quality Cut Meats is that they do some other product selections too. This is what is most exciting to me in this mishap. The product they produce that has me the most excited is rendered lard. This is a great replacement for all the non-stick sprays and is just good to cook with too.
In the end, all is well. I will certainly pay even more particular attention to my calendar as I plan 2020 in the next months.
November 29th 2019
Sharing How Some Oranizations Have Helped Us Grow.
Thank You To Those That Have Helped.
When I began the farm dream I personally poured thousands and thousands of dollars into the farm. This was my initial investment. It is my full belief that the longer I can grow the farm before I take out any of that investment, or now revenue that it is generating, the better off the chances are that this farm and my dream will come to fruition.
I have a calendar date next to my desk that reminds me of my goal to farm in the not too distant future. I am hopeful that I can achieve that, but if not, I am certain that it will not be long-off. Most of my waking hours are devoted to getting to that point, and when that day is in front of me, I am sure I will squeeze more time out of my day to ensure I don’t fail.
Along the way, I have asked for financial help from organizations that have a shared vision. They want to help people looking at agriculture as a way of life. These organizations often have the financial resources to help small farms get started so in the cold months, I prepare and plan grants that can help alleviate some of the financial burdens in building the farm. These are non-profit organizations that work hard to fund farms they see the best potential in. I am thankful to the organizations that have chosen to help me and also thankful to the people who in turn help those organizations.
Please consider helping one of these organizations this Giving Tuesday so that the next farmers making their way into the difficult world of farming has a better chance of reaching their goals too.
Angelic Organics – I have been a part of several veteran courses here sharing my knowledge and journey into farming with other veterans looking to start their farming paths. I have also participated in what is called the Farm Asset Builder. Here I participated in a year training exercise to help manage cash flow for the farm thought the year. This group is very dedicated to continuing to educate and help small farmers grow throughout the greater Chicagoland area.
FACT – Or Farm Animal Concerns Trust is a great group that helps fund small farms doing amazing things in agriculture. I was very lucky to receive an award in 2018 that had helped us put up additional fencing to protect new space in our silvopasture. Keeping the cows off of the trees, bushes and other plants we have added to our farm for the long term success is going to be key to the overall vision of our farm. If humane farming methods is an important factor in your eating decisions this is the charity for you.
Farmer Veterans Coalition – This program is for Veterans. They need very little explanation due to the inherent understanding we all have for the community of service members. The Farmer Veteran Coalition had helped me fund our walk-in freezer at a time when we were about to harvest our first years’ production. We did not have freezer space that was adequate and we got this in place in the nick of time. The spectrum of farmers is very broad across farming methods, but they certainly have a narrow group of individuals they are helping in Veterans.
Oshkosh Food Co-op – This group has not given me any assistance at this point but the future potential is there and is certainly worth a mention. The Fox Valley has long awaited a food co-op. Oshkosh and great communities of team members have been pushing forward a vision of local food in the downtown area. The outward expansions of cities have created a food desert in the city and the Oshkosh Food Co-op is stepping in to bring healthy and local foods to the community. If keeping it local is your most important value in contributions, the Oshkosh Food Co-op is your space. Visit the link to donate and type or scroll to “Oshkosh Food Co-op Fund” in the “Fund Title” section to ensure the donation is directed to the Co-op
The best way to help us is to support through the purchases of our products. We certainly appreciate any and all business. We are a for-profit business and I fully trust that the exchange of the goods we produce through the marketplace is best for both you and I. I would add that we do work very hard for those dollars and put them to great use here on the farm. We are building one heck of a farm of the future for the future.
Thank you for following along as we grow.
November 22nd 2019
Fall Calves Bring Something New To The Farm.
If you have been out to the farm store lately you might find our ground beef box empty and the rest of the freezer without a few other popular cuts.
In the first 4 years of having cows on the farm, I’ve had a few varying strategies in having the cows bred. The year after I purchased them, they were already bred having had been with a bull that summer before. The second-year I had the cows and heifers bred by bringing them over to a neighbor’s farm to use their bull for services. I’ve also borrowed a bull and brought him onto our farm for a few months. Last year was the first time I’ve had a bull on the farm full time.
That brings changes to our farm that I’ve not had to deal with before. If I want all the cows to calve at the same time, I would need to keep the bull away from the cows most of the year and put them all tougher mid-June through the end of summer. If I just wanted warm weather calves I could keep the bull with them between January and June. So in order to maximize our production in calving and ease my management of the herd I’ve decided to keep our bull with the herd year-round. With the bull having access to the girls year-round so too will come the calves.
I think that making as many babies is the best thing to help grow, whether they are sold off to someone who can handle the winter calving or dealing with it myself. Until we have too many cows to count, I’m going to maintain the bull with the herd for maximum growth. I do have some optionality through the growing season having two separate spaces to graze. That means I can strategize a little.
Earlier this month we had our first fall calf. He was born by surprise at the rented land. Not surprised like we didn’t know a calf was on its way, surprised as in, that was the day it happened. I was unaware of this until the day after I moved the herd back to our farm for the winter. At work on a Monday morning, I received a call letting me know there was a calf looking for mom. I abruptly left work, picked her up and brought her back to the home farm to reunite them.
A second calf was brought onto the farm in a less conventional, or should I say a more conventional manner. I purchased one off Craigslist. In early October I saw a post that I couldn’t resist. It’s very common that dairy operations these days breed their dairy cows to beefers to freshen their cows and to find a secondary market they wouldn’t find otherwise. My thought was to bring a calf onto the farm, keep it in a pen until it was strong enough to be introduced to the rest of the herd. Last Saturday was her lucky day. At 6 weeks old she was released into the herd and has been with them ever since.
This is a very different experience as well. This big girl is dependent on me for sustenance. She needs to be bottle-fed twice a day and is subsequently in love with me. One thing I’m always fearful of is when I leave the pasture and hop the fence that she will follow. She has learned that the fence is not something to be played with and understands the boundaries. Since being out on pasture she is also learning from the other cows how to graze and has been doing so to some extent for sure. Two hurdles I will have with her over the next few weeks it to ween her from the bottle and convince her that the water trough is the way to go. The other challenge is to get her to start eating hay as opposed to the fresh grass our heard is still enjoying. We will inevitably run out of grass and hopefully, she will catch onto eating hay with the rest of the herd.
I can’t express to you enough how much I enjoy our cows and seem to find new things to learn about them every day. It’s such a joy to share our experiences with you and bring you the highest quality food directly to the dinner tables of you and your loved ones. Thank you for supporting small farms and joining us to discuss the trials and tribulations of growing a modern-day family farm.
November 15th 2019
Action, Action, Action!
This week I stepped out into some terrain that I’m not too familiar with down in Madison. I teamed up with some great eaters and fantastic farmers who were all on board to help the small family farmer here in Wisconsin.
What’s going on down there.
A few weeks ago, I shared a post on our Facebook page that had information on a proposal called the Wisconsin Rural Revival Act. In the post, I said that “I fully support it”. I did and still do. This past Wednesday I went down to Madison to lobby and let our state reps know how and why I feel this is a good idea.
In this proposal, several items that are restrictive in our current laws would be altered to give the small family farm more opportunity to produce and scale. This also strengthens the bond between farmer and consumer in our direct to the consumer market.
First is the sale of raw milk. This is a big issue by itself and kind of stole some thunder from the rest of the ideas in the proposal. I’ve written about my desire to sell raw milk straight from the farm but the way I read our laws it seems to be illegal. Yet one caveat in the law reads “incidental sales are legal”. What the heck does that mean really? In the proposal, the word “incidental” would be struck out and would blatantly be allowable by the state. Some farmers do take the risk to sell their raw product, but most of these farmers do not have the milk contracts that allow them to farm at a financially viable scale. For our farm, just having a few cows would be great. There are plenty of opportunities to purchase used milking equipment and produce a safe and clean product. This would give you all the beneficial enzymes and bacteria that a raw milk contains without having killed them through the pasteurization process.
The next issue the proposal addresses is that a laying flock can exceed the current mandated size of 150 for a hobbyist. The proposal passes this right through to 3000 laying hens before a license is required. This is particularly of interest because my flock is currently at 150 and if I were to increase the size, which I am looking to do, I would need to find a certified space on the farm that meets the requirements set forth to clean eggs. It also requires grading and washing standards both of which will cost upwards of $4,000 for me to meet.
Third on the list is the proposal increases the on-farm butchering of broiler chickens from 1,000 to 20,000. This is great for the long-term growth of the farm, but not so much today. It costs almost $6 per bird to have it butchered by a certified processor today, but when I have time, or if I made time by eliminating my day job, this might be something I would get into more. This year we raised 1,000 broilers and I can’t imagine processing that many without a team of help.
There were some other items that were listed and detailed all of which you can learn more about by going to the website at the bottom of this article.
One of the goals in going to Madison was to find a bold representative that would list their name first as a sponsor. Once that is achieved we would more easily be able to find additional co-sponsors and supporters.
Aside from my arguments on why these proposals can help by giving the farm more leeway to grow and expand without the oversight and imposed costs of the state, I argued that this would help dairy farmers who are at their wit’s end. Farmers who have all but lost their farm from the plunging prices of milk might stand a chance of making some changes. Adding fuel to the fire this week was Dean Foods who declared bankruptcy. It might be more viable for a farmer to make a switch to raising chickens on a farm if they were able to scale appropriately. Transitioning from dairy to a measly 1000 chickens is almost laughable. While looking at 5,000 is something that they may be able to consider.
I’m not going to ask that you do anything to help move this along. We all have our own fights that we are facing and issues that are important to us. I just wanted to let you know that I am doing what I can to improve the state of small-scale family farms for those that may come after me. I believe wholeheartedly that more small farmers are good for our health, economy, environment, community, and the list goes on.
As far as the outcomes from my meetings, some were good, others were not so good and were more of a learning opportunity. I will put in a good word where one is due to thank my representative Dave Murphy for taking the time and leaving the door open to discuss this issue further if we were to make a few changes to the proposal. Representative Murphy was a co-sponsor of the raw milk bill that was working its way through the senate in 2013.
Thank you for all of your support,
November 8th 2019
Challenge Coin For A Highly Rated Vetern-Led Buisness
It’s that time of year again. The day we recognize all our veterans for the time and service they gave to protect our country.
This week I was surprised when I received a challenge coin from Google. They recognized The G Farm as a highly rated veteran-led business on Google search and maps. They have given me a challenge coin with the challenge of recognizing a fellow veteran that has helped us grow. Jon at Breadbasket Farm is a great human being doing many good things for veterans here in the Fox Valley. Thank you for your service and continued encouragement!
After receiving the coin I was reflecting on some of the other coins I had received while I was on active duty. One that stuck out more than any other was the coin I received from our Command Sargent Major. This was awarded to me after my time in Iraq. I was the command center’s voice, well half of it. David Buck was the other half. I sat at a radio and transmitted commands for our leadership.
The chair Buck and I sat in was always filled, one hundred percent of the time. The regular and mundane work was our hourly checks to all the perimeter guards to make sure that our radios worked. On occasion, things would get hairy and one of the perimeter guards would alert me or Buck to what was going on. I then, in turn, told our commanders and they, in turn, made decisions and gave us direction when needed.
My call sign while I was at the TOC (tactical operations center) was Support 71 Delta. Buck was justly called Support 71 Bravo. When we returned, our Sargent Major, whose name I can’t recall, had given each of us a coin, along with a few other awards. What I value most out of this is the recognition.
One thing I would like to clarify is that this is the appropriate time to thank a veteran. Sometimes someone will say something on Memorial Day. Memorial Day is not a day honoring myself or someone that is living. It honors all those that gave everything in their service, someone who we lost. The third and least recognized day of military observation is Armed Forces Day. This is the day that we thank those that are actively serving.
Lastly thank you to all my fellow veterans for your service as well. If you see a service member this Monday, be sure to let them know that they are appreciated.
Support 71 Delta
November 1st 2019
Fake Meat Is Not Impossible.
It’s Not Impossible.
I’ve been asked on a few occasions for my thoughts on the Impossible Burger at Burger King. My initial thought was that I wouldn’t try it and that it was everything opposite of what we’re doing here on our farm. Was I wrong? Here is what I’ve learned in my first dive into the world of fake meat.
Most imitation meat is a mix of plant proteins and/or wheat glutens. There is no shortage of veggie burgers out there to choose from. If you go down the grocery aisle you will see the wide range of choices.
One of the companies producing a meatless burger is Impossible Foods Inc. Founder and CEO, Patrick Brown has been growing Impossible Foods since 2011. The impossible burger is made mostly of soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil and heme. Heme is the difference maker when it comes to the Impossible Burger. When heme is uncooked it is red. It is what gives blood its color. When it is cooked, it turns a dark brown and has a distinct smell. The smell you sense when you cook a nice juicy burger.
One of the challenges Patrick had was to find a source of heme to meet his production needs. Finding heme in plants is possible but a bit more of a challenge. He found that soy and other nitrogen fixing legumes had a rather large amount in their root nodules during peak growth in the summer. The problem with this is how to harvest it. In the end this idea was shot down and another method was discovered.
When each homestead was responsible for producing a bulk of its own food for consumption, it was not uncommon to cull a calf each spring for the rennet that is found in the young cow’s stomach. The rennet was then used to curdle the milk when the farmers would make their cheeses. Today to keep up with demand in the cheese industry another method is used. A yeast protein was genetically modified to create the rennet enzyme in a fermentation process. This same method is now being used to produce enough heme for Impossible Foods.
A second type fake meat production is called cell-based meat. It’s not plant based. It’s grown in a lab. Its cells are grown from fetal bovine serum. This is extracted from a slaughtered pregnant cow and is a big obstacle in scaling this fake meat option in industry at this point. The extracted cell is then grown on a dish and harvested when it is grown to its maximum size. Then it is processed down into a burger, chicken nugget or whatever other piece of meat they are replicating. There are two problems with this. First, there is still a cow that is culled in order to produce the meat. The second is not my problem. It’s the industry’s hurdle to become cost effective. These companies are spending millions just to produce each helping. This may be due to the age of the industry and the expenses in having such high paid scientists working on the project. Ultimately this option is not something I’m comfortable with if it were to come down to eating a bite from my plate.
If you line up the concerns and issues Patrick is looking to solve with his company and stack it up against ours, you would have a hard time determining the difference. His vision includes caring for the earth by reducing the amount of carbon emission, reducing the amount of water contamination and improving the health of the consumers of his product. Obviously, these are great goals and ambitions. If you could, in a blink of an eye, remove all cattle from pastures and feed lots and leave that space vacant for the natural world to take over and sequester carbon by itself, he argues that we would have more biodiversity than keeping cows on it.
The first issue I see with this is that the pasture land and feedlot being used are for business and in business we are looking to make a profit. If that land is not being used for retaining animals, I would expect that it’s going to be used for something else. Maybe more corn, soybeans, or spaces closer to cities will become populated due to urban sprawl with lower land prices.
The second issue I have with Patrick is his misunderstanding of regenerative agriculture. I fully agree that a confinement operation for any animal is wrong for the animal and bad for the environment. With proper management of a pasture I believe more animal wildlife is possible and at a faster rate than leaving it untouched. Intensively managing these spaces and propagating plants that produce a calorie like fruit and nuts, we can have a productive ecosystem that is good for our animals, for nature and for us.
This was a huge topic to undertake and my take on it is relatively brief in perspective. Having spent some time digging into the fake meat industry I have a better understanding of how it will change the market and the ecosystem, which at this point is just a drop in the bucket.
Thanks for following along as we grow a fully diverse ecosystem to improve our local food shed.
October 25th 2019
How Were Improving Our Egg Operation.
More Laying Hens Ahead.
Finally, I have time to get to work at building the farm. This time of year is incredibly difficult to find time to get some things done. The days are short and far too few have any decent weather. Yet, that rarely stops me from getting done what needs doing.
Lets keep improving.
We were happy with our egg production this year and recognize that we have too many chickens for our coop. It’s not that the coop is too small, it’s really that there are too many chickens concentrated in the space outside the coop when they range. There is too much chicken pressure around the coop, and they are over-fertilizing the space.
The two options are to reduce the chickens in the flock or to start moving them around the farm. Since we usually need more eggs, we’re going to build a mobile chicken coop. This next spring when things start to warm up, we are going to move them out of the greenhouse and rotate them around the farm behind our cows. They will be part of what’s called a leader-follower system. They will trail behind the cows by about 3 -5 days, picking through cow pies and pecking out fly larva. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but couldn’t justify building the mobile coop without knowing that the eggs would all be sold. So, in our case, the chicken came before the egg.
With the combination of the short days, cold weather and freshly culled flock we’re in a very low production period of the season. Our current laying flock has about 75 laying hens. Of that, we’re getting about 21 eggs a day. These hens remain in the coop, then in the next few weeks, they will be getting moved into the greenhouse. This will give them lots of garden scraps and weed seeds to clean up before our next growing season.
I’m hoping that the greenhouse warmth will help give the chickens a boost in production. They will also be introduced to the baby chicks we started this fall. All in all, we have to keep our flock under 150 to stay compliant. This is the same size flock as we had this year, but we should get better production out of this next season flock after removing some older hens that had been here on the farm for more than a few years.
The next step is to get our egg production license, a cleaning facility and egg equipment for washing. That will all have to wait until next winter.
Thanks for your continued support,
October 18th 2019
It’s Time To Start Moving Some Cows Back Home.
A Good Start.
In the last month the cows over at the rented land have made their first full pass through the pasture. They took a whopping 84 days to make it through the 16 acres. Now it’s time to start bringing some of them back home.
Gets a little Hairy!
There are 3 separate fenced-in areas for the cows on the rented land. They are situated on 3 sides of another owner’s property. They see me as I move the cows every other day around their land. It’s usually pretty boring, as they move from one space to an adjacent space. On the 84th day the move was much farther, and the neighbors were watching. They moved with ease from one of the 3 pastures all the way over back to the first pasture. I hope to get one more go around over there. In order to do that I am going to move a few of the cows back to the home farm to give the pastures over there some rest time to keep caught up while the interseeded grasses and clover get established. I told the neighbors as I walked by that the cows don’t always listen to me like that… She replied that hers don’t either.
This past weekend was quite different and actually a headache. The cows are making their way into winter and with the season’s change, they are looking to fatten up. During this they can get a bit ornery and pickier about the grasses they have in front of them. They are currently going through the hayfield to the east of the farmhouse. Sunday morning when I woke up to do my chores, I was surprised to see the calves running through the front yard and the cows were nowhere to be seen. When I found them, they were in the pole shed mulling around.
This is a great opportunity to get Baker involved in the action to help herd them back to their space. The problem is that when Baker helps, Otis tries as well, and he’s not very good at herding. He just chases cows.
I can imagine what it looks like to the people on the highway. The cows running with the dogs chasing them and me chasing all of them. What a weird way to farm…. After a little while I got them all back in place without Otis’s help, but I was exhausted and with my only full day of on-farm work that I can find in a week. It was 9 am and I was ready to be done for the day. Unfortunately, the cows didn’t stay put, they were after something and It took me a while to figure out what they were up to. The turkeys are in an area very near them and the grass and grains that we feed the turkeys are all there too. That stuff is like sugar to the cows, and they are looking to put on the pounds before winter. This was all observed as I fixed the gate that they plowed through when we were all chasing one another.
Now with the grain out of sight, a new gate and a new perspective, I hope the next week goes a little more smoothly.
October 11th 2019
A few months ago I wrote about Fishery Chicken. The cause and effects of using Cashton Farm Supply’s Non-GMO Soy-Free Feed. Their recipe calls for twice as much fish meal as I had used in my farm-made feed in 2018. Now with the feed problem worked out I still had one issue to fix. What to do with the remaining chickens from that batch.
Making the Bad Turn Good
My 2019 goal was to raise and process 1250 chickens. We came up a little short of that. I called and canceled my 5th and final batch of the summer reducing the final production to 1000 chickens. We made a snap decision to reduce when we identified our problem with the feed.
My first summer on the farm I thought I would be able to raise and sell chickens like I was Cornel Sanders himself, but it didn’t go as planned. Building a market for any product takes time, time to build credibility, time to learn the process, and time to make adjustments. Any farmer knows that its fun to turn out the product, but, it’s not so fun when you don’t have anywhere to go with it.
I believe that the decision to go with Cashton’s feed is overall a good one, but the first batch of feed I used did turn out less than ideal. I think that if I were a new customer trying a chicken for the first time may pass on doing business with us the next time they saw me. I am sure I lost some customers. Hopefully, they decide that they should give it another shot someday because I don’t think that is a good representation of our true potential.
We, of course, needed to make a change. I started by calling down to Cashton and working on building a formula of feed that they could make at a cost-effective rate and still meeting the rest of my requirements. Then I ordered the specialty feed and began using it immediately. Now that we have had the rest of our flocks harvested we believe that our feed problems are behind us.
The one problem I was still looking at wash the rest of the batch that was still fishy. I decided to hand them off to Becks processing and have them put in their smoker. These are, of course, nitrate, nitrite, and MSG-free on top of being pasture-raised and fed a certified organic, soy-free, GMO-free feed. We hope you like it and can appreciate my mistake and the new item on our menu. We think it’s great. I put some on a few cold cut sandwiches and i would imagine its a nice snack tray item at a party that could go along with some chips and cheese.
Thanks for following and trusting us as we continue to grow, learn and build a lasting family farm right here in the Fox Valley.
October 4th 2019
Ive Got A Little Favor To Ask Of You. Please Don’t Tell John I Told You.
A Hallmark Moment.
For the last two years, I’ve been vending at the Future Neenah Farmers Market. The vendor next to me is John Zeinert. He is 92 years old and has been vending at the farmers market every year since its inception. That’s a total of 27 years.
Until Saturday October 19th
Twenty-seven years is as long as the “farmers market” trend has had legs. Long before that, when John was a boy, he and his father had raised rabbits and sold them at the market in town too. I imagine at that time, it was more out of necessity than the nostalgia that our farmers’ markets have today.
This last week all of the vendors received a little slip from our Market Manager, Melony. It had a few simple questions on it asking about our thoughts for next summer. John quickly wrote his reply to the questionnaire and asked me if I was done and that he would turn our replies in. I told him I didn’t know what to write. He certainly did. John has decided that he’s throwing in the towel and is no longer going to be attending the market.
Over the years John has collected a lifetime of pictures all of which he has taken, mostly from our area. He has some from his back yard and a few from trips that he’s taken, but most of them had been taken right in Neenah. They are all wonderful. He takes those pictures and places them inside the card and then sells them at the market for us to share with our loved ones. Cards are endearing and show the recipient that you care, that you’ve taken the time and effort to pick out, purchase, personalize and send through the mail. Its a lot more work than a facebook message and they are great to put on the fridge as a reminder of that love.
My favor of you is that you stop by his stand and help sell him out before he’s through. I would also ask that you don’t mention that you know his little secret, and especially that I didn’t spill the beans. John thinks that I’m a very busy guy and am always up to something. What he doesn’t realize is that I share all of my secrets…
Thank you for supporting local of all kinds!
September 27th 2019
A Laying Hens Life On The G Farm
Our Laying Hens.
A few weeks ago, we received our next fleet of laying machines. These gals came in on a mail truck from McMuray Hatcher in Webster City, IA all the way to our farm in Larsen. They package them up in boxes of 60 or so per box. Each box is divided into four sections to prevent them from huddling up and trampling each other. They are boxed up the day they are hatched and sent out immediately. Their next day is filled with travel. They make their way to Oshkosh in the early am of the second day and then to the Larsen post office. I get an early call from the post office letting me know my shipment has arrived. Then I head out with my truck to get them warmed up under our brooder.
Their life on our farm is a blissful adventure.
Our brooder is an old outfit that doesn’t work as it was intended. I use it as a hood to keep the warmth down low next to the chicks. I retrofitted a few 175 watt red heat lamps to heat them while they stay in the brooder. This entire area is contained in a corner of the barn and has two floor to ceiling partitions that keep the cats out and the chicks safe. They spend their first 4 – 5 weeks in here and are fed a high protein chick feed that helps gets the off on the right foot.
From this point they will be moved outside to a larger area. They have a few places they can continue to grow and it has varied from year to year. It depends on the weather and how our production and grass is growing. One option they have is to put them into a chicken tractor for a few weeks while its warm out yet. The other option is to put them into the green house. This is where they went last year right out of the brooder, but it was a bit later and a bit slower in the green house as it was the first year having had it built and there were no crops in it yet.
They will overwinter in the green house when that time comes and be combine with the laying hens that I select to keep for a second year on the farm. Over the last few years we have been working to build up our flock to the 150 “hobby” flock limit that the state allows for. And to keep within that limitation we will be culling a few old hens and putting them into our freezers to sell as stewing hens for this fall.
The adult hens we started last year as chicks will continue and have already slowed down as we lose daylight. We are currently right in the middle of a drastic drop off of production due to what is called molting. At the beginning of fall, each laying hen, not chicks, but chickens over one year of age will lose their feathers. They take an extraordinary amount of energy to reproduce their new feathers. This reduces their production down to nearly nothing and usually lasts about a month.
The hens will continue to lay through winter at a lower rate. Some farms will add lights to simulate longer days for the chickens. We just let the natural cycles play out. We farm seasonally for a reason. When you produce foods outside of when Mother Nature intends, you must work harder to simulate an environment that will allow for that production. It stresses the animals out, it takes more energy, more money and is ultimately less healthy. This means eating seasonally is important as well. Keep that in mind as we make our way through fall and into winter.
The chicks will continue to grow and will mature into hens through the winter. When they are about 7 months old they begin laying eggs. This means spring is back and they will be moved out of the green house and back into their summer coop. Their coop has an automatic door that opens each morning 3 hours after sun rise and closes a half hour after sun set. They are given free range of where ever they would like to peck and scratch. At this point their next change will be when the new chicks arrive and whole cycle will run its course again.
September 20th 2019
Winnabago Co Land & Water Conservation Followup
Meeting of the Minds.
Last week I prefaced my invitation to sit down at the Winnabago land and water conservation committee meeting. The goal of this sit down is to help shape the county’s next 10-year plan.
My Opinion on Food Production
This was a brainstorming meeting that had farmers of all shapes and sizes alongside some conservation groups in the county working to help contextualize the concerns of the attendees. We each rated our largest concerns down to our least concerns. Which were all concerning but to help our Land and Water department identify what us in the fields see and worry about the most.
As I mentioned last week one major concern I have with most farming practices is the continuous use of the plow. I believe that this creates erosion, kills the microorganisms that would naturally live in soil and crates a layer just below the depth of the tillage that becomes compact and reduces the surfaces ability to infiltrate water and roots.
Farming is inherently damaging to the earth’s ecology. To take nature and reduce it to turn over the soil to maximize food production is not a sustainable way to produce healthy calories. We need to mimic nature, eat seasonally, locally and in moderation is all helpful.
There have been two potentially helpful programs that have been implemented by our neighbors in Minnesota over the last few years. The first one is called the Minnesota Buffer Law, which requires a vegetative buffer of up to 50 feet along lakes, rivers, and streams and 16.5 feet along ditches. This helps filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediments. This one was brought up in the meeting and was met with crickets. I am a fan of the practice, but imposing a practice onto anyone without their free will is something that I am uncomfortable with. The second one is called Lawn to Legumes. This program helps those in the urban areas remove their lawns and reduce the needs for applications of fertilizers and herbicides. It replaces them with beneficial bee pollinators. Unfortunately, I learned of this program after the meeting, but I will send the idea over.
Neither of these is directed at the farmers and a majority of the land use in our county is managed by farmers. I think that food production on the whole needs to be changed radically. Even the concerned farmers in the room were a far cry from regenerating and improving our land. They were just slightly less problematic than those that don’t use cover crops. So, again as I stated last week, it is YOU who can make the most impact on our local environment. Each and every choice you make, what you buy, what you eat, how you live will have a ripple effect in our community.
I want to be clear, I understand that we are all doing our best. I am not telling you these to put fear into you, I am only trying to share my views and understanding of our food economy. I believe that farming with nature in mind and replicating her is the best way to improve our planet in all senses of the word.
Thank you for listening to my rant.
September 13th 2019
Winnabago Co Land & Water Conservation
Water and Land Care.
One effect of managing the land in the way that we do is that our grass starts growing sooner each spring and grows longer into the fall. One benefit of this is less water erosion, more water absorption and cleaner drinking water in our water table. Unfortunately, not all farming practices are managing in this manner. We can help make that change.
You are the Key
I’m not going to dig into all of the ways conventional agriculture is harming our planet, (pun intended) but tilling our soils does not help the problem. There is more weight in eroded soils lost from each field than is created in weight of corn. The way we eat simply influences the way your farmers are making food. Potato chips and processed foods, corn-fed beef, soda and all of the things we know we shouldn’t eat do to their negative implications in our diet are bad for mother earth as well.
It shouldn’t be a secret that I think that we can each influence mother earth’s trajectory faster and with more force by adhering and living the changes you want to see in the world. If you appreciate and need clean food, you should support a local farm that is doing so. You should do your best to use and reuse all of the material items you have in your life. Buy used goods and fix what is broken. Recycling, composting and sharing are all caring! To sum that all up, you make a difference. Each and every choice makes a difference.
The world that we live in does have a governing body, for better or for worse, it is the system that we are living and breathing in. To make changes there I think things will be a little more ambiguous. I am looking forward to my new side challenge to.
This summer I was invited onto the Winnabago Co Land & Water Conservation advisory committee. I am honored to be invited onto a position that can help some of the decision making going on in our little corner of the world. I am sure I will learn on a much deeper level in a much larger scope some of the issues we are dealing with here in Wisconsin. I am happy to share my thoughts with the governing bodies. The farm has certainly given me credibility. Your support helps strengthen that credibility.
Thank you for choosing to eat clean, for your support fiscally, for your sharing our story and the messages we share.
September 6th 2019
Happy Anniversary – One Year Of Merriage
I’ve learned a lot in my first year of marriage. Not every day has been easy. Not all adjustments have been seamless, but the time and efforts we have put in together to work through have helped to build our relationship and our family.
Working as Partners
Just one year ago Kim and I became wed and we had our day on the farm. I remember vividly the moment Kim walked out of the tiny house and took her first steps towards the altar, the pond and me. Ava was teared up and still in denial about it. I was grinning ear to ear. Kim had a calm, collected and peacefulness about her.
My grandma told me once that the longer you wait to get married, the more set in youre ways that you will be. Kim and I have both had to make adjustments and our ability to work together has been an important factor.
On the farm, I feel that Kim has come a long way in seeing the farm as a business. She has also taken on responsibilities. Kim cleans and sorts the eggs each day. She also puts together all of our online orders and meat CSA deliveries. She is also accountable for all of our inventory and keeps the on-farm store stocked, clean and ready for our visitors. It’s really Kim’s farm store. You are more likely to see her when you visit then me. Another area Kim takes ownership of is harvesting and keeping up with our vegetables.
Another large roll Kim holds is product testing. By that I mean Kim is the head chef and keeps us all fed. We eat what we produce and are certainly big fans. We are also our toughest critics. We also buy from our farming friends and neighbors. We want to be sure we are on the right path to proving you with the best quality meats. I believe that the most important factor is the management that we raise our animals with but not all breeds are the same. When we try our friends and neighbors meats, we are looking for a flavor difference along with what variations the processor might have done differently.
Ava has also had her hand in helping on the farm too. Her big highlight this summer was working as a server during our farm to table dinner. She is almost 16, and driving with her temps now is a big step. Hopefully, these experiences help her find a job that will carry her through to her next adventure.
It’s been exciting to see the farm expand in its reach and production. We are very fortunate to have all of you as friends, followers, customers, and family. We look forward to many more years of growth and can’t do it without you. Thank you all.
August 30th 2019
Our New Breed Of Pigging Out On Grass
Our New Breed of Pigging out on Grass.
This spring when we were getting ready to bring pigs onto the farm we were caught off guard with a message from our pig producer that said they had sold their whole herd. This put us into scramble mode and we had to get a plan together quickly.
Our Grass Eating Pigs
I started on craigslist and began talking to someone that had a mixed litter of herford and a few other breeds. In our conversations about how they were raised and what they were fed, I felt that there had to be a better option.
In my second attempt on craigslist, I found an old post that had listed Idaho Pastured Pigs, called IPP for short. Idaho Pasture Pigs are a relatively new breed. They are a mix of Duroc, Old Berkshire, and Kunekune but have become a registered breed. The Kunekune pig is a lard pig. It is certainly a different type of pig than most breeds a farmer would raise to put into the freezer. The Kunekune takes about 2 years to grow to its butcher size and is much fattier than it is meaty. I have not had one but I do appreciate the fact that you can grow one solely on grass. This is due to their upturned noses giving them easy access to the pasture. It also reduces the amount of rooting they do. Lastly, they are just the cutest little pigs. They are furry and have a matching personality.
The Duroc and Old Birkshire is what gives the IPP its size and meat texture. The IPP is a New Registered breed and they are gaining popularity. I have not had one of these on my plate yet either and this makes me a little nervous. We have 12 of them, making the change from Herford pigs to the IPP a little bit of a risk. I do have one little secret. It’s not so much the breed as the way we manage our animals that give them the added flavor.
When a pig is raised in confinement and it’s not getting the blood flow and exercise it should, its flavor suffers too. This is why it is considered “the other white meat”. It was really a marketing ploy to separate pork from the beef market in the US. In reality, pork is a red meat. Our pig’s diet consists of some added grains as well as the grass. They are without herbicide and pesticides. The feed mix is also soy-free. To be completely clear, the corn we use is produced locally and is a GMO seed. However, it is cultivated and not sprayed. That may be off-putting to some of you, but I am confident that it is still top-notch.
We have a few months left until these piggies are ready to go. Two have a bad day scheduled in late October, and the remaining is scheduled for early November. Both batches will take a few extra weeks at the processor to finish the bacon, ham and other meats. They are finished without nitrates, nitrites and are MSG-free.
Thank you all for taking an interest in the fine details of how we operate our farm.
August 23rd 2019
Field Notes: Observations From Two Seperate Fields
A world of difference.
Our cows eat grass and a lot of it. Each morning when I move the cows, I use what is called the “Grazier Eye” to determine how much space they will need for the next day’s consumption. This is calculated by taking the number of cows in the field, their weight in total and measuring that up against the amount of tonnage the space has in grass weight.
My simplified method.
I don’t really get out my calculator and add these things up. I simply use my experience and my best guess to make sure I don’t force the cows to overgraze, while still giving them the ability to put enough pressure on the space they have. This practice helps force the cows to eat things they may not wish to eat or would not choose to eat first. One challenge across the farm is that each field is not created equal. Some of the fields or grazing spaces will have more dense and taller grasses than others. Some of the grasses are more filling than others, and each season different grasses grow at different rates.
This year I’ve made some huge strides in understanding the true state of the soil on The G Farm. While it’s getting better each year, it’s still well behind what would be optimal. I began grazing some rented space this summer. After the fences were put up in early summer, I moved 6 cows onto this pasture. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this field’s regrowth rate is much faster than the pastures on our farm. It didn’t take long until I brought 3 more to help keep up with its growth. At this point, we have 3 cows and 3 calves at our farm. The rest of the herd of 9 is at the rented space. I may still bring the remaining 6 over to give our farm a break before fall. This will help us graze longer into the season and reduce the amount of hay we will need to feed through the long winter ahead.
The reason for our poor soil condition is due to the fact that when highways 10 and 45 were constructed, the DOT worked out contracts with many of the highways’ neighbors to have fill removed for the project. The previous landowner participated, and when the DOT was done what was left behind was glacial subsoils. I am happy with our progress so far, but this newly rented space will surely help facilitate our growth and the needs of our herd. Overgrazing is one of the most common mistakes and we will avoid that at all costs.
If you keep supporting the farm, we will keep improving our fields, management practices, and soil.
Thank you for that!
August 16th 2019
Fishy Chicken – What To Know And How To Cook It.
How and Why.
Two weeks ago, I was in a whirlwind when I tried one of our chickens from this year. It came to my attention when Kim mentioned it tasted a little fishy. That was the case with that meal, but the same chicken was used at our farm-to-table dinner and we had not heard that feedback from our customers. It may be the case that it is a bit fishy but there is a rhyme and reason for everything. There is also an antidote. That responsibility lies in the hands of the cook.
Cooking it the right way makes a difference.
This year as I have mentioned we are producing double the chicken as we had last summer. With the added work that comes with bringing more chickens onto the farm, something else has to give. The way I’ve found to balance that this year was by purchasing pre-milled feed from Cashton Feed. Last summer I milled all the feed for the animals on farm. This allowed me to be very particular about the ingredients. We are still doing the milling for our pigs. This is because we buy corn right off the field from another local farmer. I have also tried to find someone to do the same for the field peas. This has not worked itself out yet. There are farmers in Minnesota that do produce the field peas but not so much around here. I think it is a testament to the growing local food movement in the Western part of WI and the Minneapolis St. Paul area. I have considered driving out to pick up some field peas off the field, but the drive is over 6 hours and hauling that kind of weight on my truck is a recipe for disaster. I would also like to find some oats in the area as well. It’s not that I can’t find oats here in the Fox Valley, it’s that the producers here don’t keep the herbicides and pesticides off of their fields.
In finding Cashton Feed and having their product delivered I went ahead and used their GMO free, Soy Free, Certified organic blend. This is close to the recipe that I was using last year for the birds but not exactly the same. One thing I noticed in growing the birds this year was how fast they were growing compared to the results I found last season. This must mean that there is more protein in the feed than what I made myself.
Another fact that needs consideration is that we have decided not to use soy. Soy has very high protein content and when we take that out and replace it with the field peas, added protein sources are necessary to get the weight gains that are needed to harvest these animals as they are intended. To do this last year I began using fish meal and crab meal to bump up that protein level. The result of first batch this year was that it tasted different. We were unhappy with this to say the least. I immediately called the co-op to find out what kinds of quantities need to be purchased in order to have custom batches produced. To my surprise, we are well within the quantity of feed to have that done. Now the feed recipe is not exactly what I had for last season but we did reduce the amount of fish meal in the feed and that is a step in the right direction as I see it.
If you have found the chicken this year unpleasant, please understand that this product is not a fair representation of all of the work we are doing with our poultry. I assure you that the quality of the product is second to none. Our birds are raised on pasture, giving them a better ratio of omega 6 to omega 3’s that are so important to your brain function. Also, the vitamin A, D and E are also in higher levels than that found in the store.
Also note that the fishy flavor is stored in the fat of the animal. The fat on the chicken is the skin. So, if you were to remove the skin, you will have less of this flavor. Another suggestion I have is to avoid cooking it naked as I call it. Do not just put a little seasoning on it and cook the bird. Chicken is a meat that absorbs flavors best. So, if you just fry it or roast it, the fats from the skin will be absorbed by the rest of the meat. I would recommend cooking it in a recipe with tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Maybe something more Italian to add to some pasta might be a good dinner too. Maybe some barbecue chicken with some corn and mashed potatoes sounds good too.
This week on the farm we brought in our second batch of chickens to the butcher. These are the Freedom Rangers and if you have been following along with the farm for more than a year, you will know that these are our preferred breed. They are darker overall and eat a little more grass than the Cornish cross we started this year with. These birds grow a bit slower and eat a bit more grass. With the added week on the farm vs last summer and the higher protein level of the feed for 80% of their stay on the farm, they are a bit larger than last year too. Just to be clear, we did finish these on a feed that had the lower level of fish meal and we expect that these will be more in line with our birds from last year.
We hope that this does not deter you from being part of our farm, but gives you confidence in our desire to be your farmer and to trust us in our efforts to produce the highest quality, best tasting and most honest food in the Fox Valley.
August 9th 2019
What Is The “G” Farm
The G in the The G Farm.
This is a personal subject and is grounded in my life’s path. It is the name and brand I’ve been building for the last 4 years and it comes down to family and the dynamic I’ve been raised in.
Duell – Gartzke
I was born on a small dairy farm in Manawa Wi in 1983. In each of the two preceding years, I had my family infiltrated by two younger sisters. So as they are now part of the story we all grew up with cows, chickens, dogs, cats, and a goat. We also had a large garden. This was the farming way. When I was about 8 or maybe 9, my parents became separated and divorced shortly after. My mom moved to town and brought us along with her. For a few years, we lived in an apartment. During that time, my mom began dating and met Sam. After that relationship took a foot, we moved with our mom and then stepdad to a duplex in Darboy. With the added distance and turmoil between my parents (mom and dad) and the stresses that we all encountered with that, it was determined that what was best for us at that time was to have our Step Dad, Sam, adopt us.
With the adoption our last name changed to Duell. As the years passed, I graduated from Kimberly Highschool then joined the Army. When I finished my duty as a parachute rigger, (I packed parachutes for the 82nd Airborne) I moved back to Appleton and began college at UW Fox Valley. Not long into my stint there my Mom and Dad, Sam asked if I would do taxes for the retirement clients at Futures So Brite. (Now called, Duell Financial Strategies). Of course, I was intrigued and was happy to jump on board. It was a few years after this that my Sisters and I began a new relationship with our biological Dad, Dave. The family farm had sold and he was just beginning to pick up some small farming equipment to get back into the fields he loved so much as a younger man.
When I started the farm I was employed by Duell Financial Strategies. It was tumultuous and I was a thorn in the side of my dad (Sam) and everyone else working there. Ultimately I was not happy. The desk work the family dynamic and the idea of self-empowerment infected my mind. My heart was on the path to building a new beginning at Gartzke Farms LLC. This is the Family name and farm I was born into. I then decided that I was not going to change my name for any reason as it was who I was and the journey in life I’ve navigated.
After a year of doing business as Gartzke Farms, it became very apparent that the name is not easy to remember. I began brainstorming and fooling around with logos, other more traditional farm names based on my location, the animals I saw and heard, and felt that to keep it simple I would just use the letter G. It is direct, easy to remember, and easy to build a brand around.
From there I came across a G image that had a grasshopper on the flat part of the letter. It was part of a child’s book that helped them learn the letters. I dropped a little farm on there and updated my 34 Facebook followers with my new vision. About an hour later one of my best of friends sent over the logo I use today. Mind you I had spent days working on mine. To sum it all up, the G is for Gartzke bringing my family farming heritage directly to the consumer.
Thanks for following our family farm as we continue to grow and work to produce high-quality food that is good for you, the environment and emulates a more natural animal ecosystem.
August 2nd 2019
Don’t Be Deceived. Visit And Ask Questions.
Knowing Your Farmer.
Id like to take the time to explain what to look for and how to detect fraud in the small world of farming.
Seeing Is Believing.
First and foremost the most critical piece of advice I can give you is ask questions when you make a scheduled visit. If you go to a farm and you see the plants, the animals and the methods the farm is managing their farm with there will be a lot less left to the imagination. While your visiting be sure to ask question that are direct and specific to your needs and expectations of your farmer. If GMO’s are your concern, ask to see their feed bags. If the humane treatment of the animals is important, ask how and what they do to ensure the animals are comfortable. If you have environmental concerns, Look to see how they are addressing those issues.
One aspect I think you should ask about that you may not think of is if the animals that are being sold were truly the animals that were raised in the environment that the farm is providing. The carring capacity of the land helps determine the quantity of animals the farm can produce. If the farm is like ours, 27.2 acres has a maximum amount of animals that can be raised in a year on this space before I deem it damaging to my holistic approach in management of our environment. Our carrying capacity is increasing with each season due to the grasses growing in thicker, with deeper roots and regular rest periods between each grazing.
It is normal and necessary for farmers to purchase new stock to help build and grow our operations. It is also much cheaper to purchase pigs from a confined area, or beef from a farm that feeds grain than a farm that is pasture based. This is because the aforementioned management styles have less input costs to grow these animals. I feel that the true cost of raising animals in confinement is our environment and our health. Purchasing animals that meet or exceed my holistic approach means that I have to pay the piper for the work they put into those animals. Then the quality and honesty behind the sale of that animal is congruent with the farms bill of goods.
One of the most useful tools we have today in the age of the internet and social media is our ability to share what we are doing on our farms with the masses. I believe that if you have a business and you sell directly to consumers, there is no question you should be posting about everything. Sometimes we share education about a product or management style, but really what we are doing is being as transparent as possible. It would only take one customer to come by and see that we are misleading you. My word is my bond, and if anyone sees something being miss represented it is their responsibility to the other supporters of that farm to correct that problem.
Another tell tale sign is having a product out of season. We live in Wisconsin, its cold, rainy and difficult to time appropriate plantings. With the help of a hoop house and aquaponic systems, some of these challenges can be mitigated but not by leaps and bounds. We just began using a hoop house this summer for our first season extension. By season extension I mean, plants can be planted sooner and then picked sooner on the front side of the year. Then on the backside of the season, we gain a little more time while some plants are suffering from frost. This does not mean we can have tomatoes in May. I even have a difficult time believing that they would be ready in June, but you don’t have to take my word for it… Ask your farmer to see their operation and find out their truths.
Remember, by supporting our farm you are doing so much more than filling your plates with high quality, nutrient-dense foods, you are supporting a hard-working family farm with values built on restoring our water, our earth, and our community.
Thank you for following and supporting such efforts. We can not do it without you.
July 26th 2019
Hemp No I Wont Go.
One of the world’s most useful plants is now legal to grow in Wisconsin. It’s been over a year and a half since it’s been legalized and it is all over my Instagram feed. It seems that small farmers everywhere in WI are growing it.. Did I miss the boat?
The Watch and Wait.
I am a hemp friendly kind of guy. I appreciate all the benefits it brings as a textile, to someone in pain and the potential for farmers to build a new income source. As a holistic farmer, I see a never-ending spiral between bad food and the pills that are prescribed by our doctors. I am pro-CBD and see this as a gateway to new alternatives in the medical field to replace some of these medications.
With the flood gates open and hemp legalized, there has been a rush of small farmers who are also hemp friendly getting into this as a new income source. I am excited for these new farming entrepreneurs, but I don’t think it’s the get rich quick scheme that many of these farmers are hoping it will be. As with any other investment, there are risks, hard work and a steep learning curve that may cost them financial heartache.
Here are the numbers I understand. One seed is between 1 and 5 dollars. That one plant can gross between 30 and 35 dollars in CBD oil. If you plant out one acre at 1000 plants per acre which are manageable you have yourself a pretty solid operation. The one acre of CBD hemp is expected to produce about 30,000 dollars. That is if it grows to its full potential. This is also the expected market, these could and will decrease over time as innovations and efficiencies are brought to the for front. The next issue I have with this is if you have one acre of CBD hemp, what else is planted there? A monoculture is a monoculture. I’m more interested in a diverse multi-species operation than trading a cornfield in for a hemp field.
Another downside I see is all the legal obligations and checkpoints that go along with growing the crop. Each crop needs to be tested to ensure the potency of THC is not exceeding the .03% limitation. If it does, the whole crop is reduced to ashes. The crop must be kept safe. Scavengers and thieves may think they found a marijuana plant and take it home to try to use it. With the market stream that we have developed, we sell everything directly to our customers. We don’t have middlemen. We do have some companies that are there to help us process and package our goods, but the bulk of the work is being done by your farmers. This maximizes our profit margins and pays us for the labor we love.
Maybe someday, when the farm has developed into a Garden of Eden. Until then I will sit back and wait until the whole market, processing, and distribution of CBD hemp are sorted out.
July 19th 2019
This Year Making Hay Has A Few More Twists And Turns.
Last week I was on WTAQ and for the most part, everything went well. There were a few questions I think I could have answered a little better… The more that bothered me most was “What are you doing differently?” I felt this was a lob pitch and I whiffed.
So to answer my radio question, I should have explained how we are using our animals to regenerate the land. How we encourage diversity across the farm as opposed to the monocultures you will find in most fields. Not to mention that we sell directly to the end-user.
Over the last few years, we have been transforming our open fields into a pasture. Just to the East of the farm is our silvopasture. Last fall we planted fruit and nut trees right in the middle of this pastures. We are planning for the long term and maximizing production on our small farm. We planted raspberry, blackberry, apple, mulberry, pawpaw, oak, butternut, pine nut, and lilacs. Quite a mix but the idea is to mimic the edge of the woods. These will feed, shade and protect the animals here on the farm. We will continue to add more small plants to this space as the trees grow and even add some vine vegetation to fully use the space.
But cutting hay in this space is a bit of a maze. In my first attempt, I did make quite a few extra turns and second passes to get what I needed to be done. I can’t ignore cutting the hay from this space; it’s another bad year for making hay. Farmers across the Midwest came into this year with low quantity and the cold spell that came in late January depleted an already low supply. The colder it is, the more hay is needed for the cows to keep warm. Just like any diet, calories in and calories out. Keeping warm consumes a ton. So we will make as much hay as we can.
They hay shortages make it tricky to grow a farm. I certainly don’t want to run out of hay. This spring I was forced to move the cows out into rotation due to having emptied out the hay barn. Going into this fall I would like to purchase a few more cows, but with the hay shortage, that might be a pricey endeavor. Maybe waiting until someone needs to sell at a low price to keep their operation going is a good strategy. We are all going into the next few seasons with skepticisms. Just know and understand that all of the markets for beef can be affected and stem from the weather we have each year.
July 12th 2019
A commotion has begun.
Many of you have heard of Joel Salatin. He is most broadly known for his appearance in Food Inc, the documentary that shared how food is produced. He shared how Polyface farms produces its foods and how his system is more ecological. Joel has built his farm on morals and ethics above everything else. One of the fundamental positions he has had is producing food locally.
Joel has what he calls his foodshed. It’s an area that extends a 4-hour drive from his farm in all directions. When the movie Food Inc came out, Michael Pollan explained his interactions with Joel in trying to get some of Joel’s chicken shipped out to Michael so that he could sample it. Joel simply replied, we don’t ship, you will have to come out to visit. And so he did.
I have been working to build this farm on similar principles. I have a food shed that includes all of the Fox Valley and will continue to do so. However, you’ve probably noticed this little company called Amazon that can get you just about anything directly to your door in two days. That’s incredibly convenient and as a consumer, if see the benefit. I almost exclusively order from Amazon when I need something tomorrow and not right now. Well, that’s about to change too.
Uber is working on a new service that will destroy the two-day mark. In the next 12-18 months, Uber will have an app that will be available in the 40 largest cities that will pick up anything from the local brick and mortar store and deliver it to your door in 5-7 minutes. No farm is ever going to meet those marks but if you can’t see the trend in the market and understand how our world is changing, you will be left in the dust.
Last weekend, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed where I follow Polyface farms. It had a picture of their shipping boxes fully equipped with the farm logo that will be used for delivery. Polyface farms has opened its doors to delivery across the continental US. I don’t know about you, but I am ecstatic that I can order some of their product. I can’t wait to compare and enjoy some of the product Polyface produces. Many small farms fail to see the changes that we will all have to follow in order to stay current in the marketplace.
There has been many sour words that followed in the comments of that Instagram post. Some producers are scared that they will not be able to compete, and some feel that Joel has compromised his morals. In Joel’s blog post, he goes into details on how hard of a decision this was. The change has taken a year of planning but still some of these farmers were blindsided. So, it wasn’t an abrupt and erratic decision. Even though there are so many that are upset, I do stand with Joel. The thing of that is, we are 40 years down the road from the point where Joel proclaimed his stance on delivery and his food shed. We now have a logistical infrastructure that is much more efficient than we did, well even before computers.
The G Farm is not in a position to make any kind of a change like this yet, but we are well aware of the benefits that we would capture in having a larger market. I don’t believe we have saturated the Fox Valley at this point, and I will continue to grow here for now. As you may have seen on our Facebook page, we have been growing in size and pasture this last week, and more opportunities will present themselves. There will be a point where shipping our products will save the right amount of time, money and service than our current system.
Your support is fully appreciated. It allows me and my family to grow our future, build our soils and feed us all in a more ecological, sustainable and humane way.
July 5th 2019
Fox Cities Food Review
Fox Cities Food Review
A few weeks ago we had two guests stop by the farm. They prefaced their visit by letting us know they were going to be writing a review of our farm for their blog. Kim was excited to show Lindsay and David around the farm.
Their Farm Tour
After a few high-level questions, Kim asked for my attention to help find the answers. One of my hidden strengths and superpowers around the farm is showing and sharing how and what we are doing. I am obviously super passionate and interested in the work we are doing. After our thorough walk around the farm, I left to help some other customers and let Kim wrap up their visit.
After they had left we got a chance to dive into some of their work. What I learned is that they are relatively new into this but have been consistent over the last year in posting and sharing their experiences at some of the local eateries. A few weeks passed and we hadn’t heard or seen anything, so I reached out and asked how things were going. They let me know that they had been doing some of the formative writings and would have it done in another week or two. Well the time has come, and here is what they had to say:
http://foxcitiesfood.com/ (if it’s not posted yet, it will be soon)
As much as I love that Lindsay and David came out to write about our endeavor, I am most excited about what I can do in return. I remember starting out the farm on social media several months before I even had a farm to put the chickens, cows, and pigs. The beginning stages are grueling. The work you put in is hardly recognized except by friends and family, and new followers are painstakingly hard to find. While it took a great while to amass my social following I’ve learned that we can all help each other out. It’s fun to share pictures of my day to day on the farm, but if it’s not bringing you any value, it’s not worth posting. I hope Lindsay and David continue to explore restaurants and now farms in the fox valley because each and every experience they have has great value.
Thanks for following me and my family as we continue to grow our farm and our network of health conscious, welfare concerned, and earth-friendly entrepreneurs here in the Fox Valley.