June 26th 2020
Where Have All Of Our Ground Squirrels Gone?
This week we hosted a pasture walk which is kind of a farmers equivalent to a show and tell. Farmers from the area came to see our system and our management. As we walked around, I was able to discuss the positive aspects we bring with our multiple species system. It is much more common that farms have one or two species on the farm, but not so much to have the full spectrum that we do.
One of the highlights was showing off our new egg mobile and explaining how we move our chicken behind our cattle by about 3 days. This helps to reduce the fly population that can come with just cattle alone. The chickens pick apart the patties and peck and scratch each area they visit. As we were walking through the pasture someone had asked how and what I see this farm turning into in the next few years. I love that question because it was clear to him that the pasture was in the beginning stages of a major transition.
Its been apparent to me and as I think about it, we have not had ground squirrels on the farm lately. We have seen an increase in rabbits, and an increase in birds, bluebirds particularly, and in the evening we have a much greater number of fireflies. The difference is in the soil. It has become less sand dominant with each pass of our cattle. This is by design and proof that the system is improving. The cattle eat the grass, the roots slough off and add to the organic material below the surface, then defecate on the top to add more organic material for the birds, bugs, and worms all to enjoy. The bugs and worms both bring the manure below the surface and the whole process reduces compaction making it easier for water to absorb and gives the soil more propensity to hold the water for the plants we’ve planted.
To answer the question, I see the future of this pasture improving more over time as the trees and vegetation continue to come in. When the fruit and nut trees begin to produce, I believe that it is going to be the ripe time for our pork production to reduce its dependency on the grains that we ration to them. The grasses grow better beneath a 40 percent shaded canopy. For this reason we have decided that we will focus on Idaho Pastured Pigs on our farm for the future. We love our Hereford pork and will continue to bring feeders onto the farm to raise them in addition to our own stock, but to reduce the dependency on grain we must match our animals with the system we have been building.
This is a bit dreamy but if I get to live my life my way, I may be bringing on a few dairy cattle and have that as an added operation on the farm. These hand full of cattle will move around the south and east side of the farm. The beef cattle will continue to be part of our ongoing production, they just may have another space to roam, and a new space to improve. This is years out, but if I’m being honest, I think that having milking cows on the farm is a necessary component to a family farm. We will figure out the legality as that time comes.
Thank you all for your continued support. We could not build a farm without a community of eaters willing to work with us for a share of your diets. You mean the world to us!
June 19th 2020
Identifying The Problem… Cow.
Summer begins with the Sumer Solstice
When you work by the light of the day, these are the longest days of the year. This year we’re not making hay, were buying it.
Oblivious to the trouble ahead.
This leaves more pasture for grazing and in the long term, our pastures will become more resilient. They will grow faster, earlier, and with more diversity with each year of our practice. We are nearing the first complete rotation of our farm. As we have been nearing that point, we’ve taken on the task of moving a good number of our herd over to the rental land down the street. Last weekend as the cows moved to the farthest point from our fence charger, I was growing frustrated with the yearlings who continued to escape under the fence and begin with their own grazing plans. Baker our red healer does a good job helping but this wasn’t fixing the problem for the long term, just the instance that the cows were acting up. So, I decide to move them ASAP as the fencing down the road will renew their respect for the fences. The fences there are HOT – don’t touch them, you will feel the impact.
So I moved them into the corral, loaded up the animals that I planned on moving, and took off to drop them off. A second load was necessary and after I was all wrapped up, I headed home to work on the projects I had there. Later that evening I received a phone call from Derrick, and he informed me that one cow was out and that the boy scouts camping at the farm were taking care of it. That was a relief until the next morning when I received another phone call from a neighbor over there telling me that the police were over there due to the same problem animal.
It took all day to get it straightened out and after containing the 8-month-old steer, I loaded it up and brought the problem child home. I put him in a pen where I knew he would be well secured. As I was going to sleep at about 11:30 I heard a terrible sound and then passed out. As I woke up in the morning, I looked out my window and didn’t see the steer.
You know those things that you really don’t want to do and don’t want to know about? Just thinking that if you don’t look or don’t recognize that the problem is there, and that the problem just doesn’t exist. That’s where I was. But as a semi-responsible farmer, I stepped outside and looked around the corner where the steer should have been resting peacefully. He was gone. My next step was to see where the bugger went, so I intuitively went to check on the other cows to see if they may have bellowed at one another and could have reconnected. Thankfully, there he was, resting soundly after a terribly long and stressful day.
The way I was separating the animals was by cow-calf pairs. Unfortunately, through the winter, the steer’s mother had deceased. That said, I had no inclination there would be a problem. One of the cows I kept back on the farm is super friendly and has been known to allow other calves to nurse off her. So, all the commotion and running around was due to the steer and his connection with his stepmom. It is really quite amazing to me the relationship dynamics within the herd. We hear it in the bellows, the moos, and the unsubtle expressions that they all make.
We are happy to have this all sorted out and we have once again found peace on the farm. We hope that you are all in a good place as well. To all the fathers out there, we hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day. To everyone else, I hope you have a wonderful Summer Solstice, and we thank you for following along as we work to build a local food culture to be proud of.
June 12th 2020
A Family Field Trip To Milos Poultry
As a farm we currently run under the “hobby flock” parameters for the state’s egg production laws. That means that our flock has less than 150 hens. Trust me, it is not a hobby to keep 150 hens, it is farm work.
An eggselent plan.
Our “hobby” means that we are not required to have our eggs inspected or graded when we sell them. We are also not able to have our eggs sold from a grocery store and they are also not able to be used in a restaurant or other food business. That’s ok when we’re selling all of our eggs, but when we are falling short, it is necessary to have some of our eggs sent through a processing facility to give us new opportunities.
The idea came to me when I was looking to have some of our eggs pickled. Reality hit me square in the face when I was told that they needed to be processed before Wayne would touch them. So, this year I put together a plan to have a portion of our eggs to be processed at Milos Poultry. I am thankful they took me on as a small account. We are small potatoes compared to many of their producers. They process some 50,000 dozen eggs there each week. I bring in about 80.
At the end of the day, I was able to realize my goal of having some of our eggs pickled and we now have them available at our on-farm store. They are also available at The Green Tomato in Appleton if you would like to buy from Hippy Wayne himself. The remaining eggs are being sold at The Garden in Neenah. They have a good clean vegetable operation and have a growing number of other local producers they are working with to diversify their selection. I recommend you check them both out.
Without further ado, here is my family’s little field trip to Milos Poultry.
June 5th 2020
Did You Know The Grass Smiles When It Rains?
Here comes the rain.
I was sitting on my porch this week when the storm moved in. It’s quite enjoyable to watch the lighting as it makes its way from the west to the east. The lighting is not the part the grass likes. It’s the rain that makes it smile.
A few years ago, a storm was moving in and I was watching it from my bed as I was falling asleep. I saw a bright flash and an immediate crack. The lighting struck my electric fence. The electricity grounded out through my waterline and made its way down to my well. It ended up busting my well pump and forced me to bathe in the pond for a few weeks while I attempted to fix the well myself. In the end, I had to pony up and pay for a professional to get it done, but money was very tight, and the few extra weeks made a big difference. As much as I enjoyed the pond, it was very nice to shower again.
Water management on the farm is a critical aspect. It’s critical in every climate really. Here in Wisconsin, we receive 30 plus inches each year. This is relatively high compared to some places. Cutting our precipitation in half would make a huge difference and our growing season would certainly be affected.
Designing a farm to keep water on the farm is a good idea with such a critical resource. The go-to book that covers this in great detail is called “Water for Every Farm” by P.A. Yeoman. It explains how to set up a perennial crop system just a smidge off of contour to allow for water to flow slowly over the entire system.
Mark Shepard and New Forrest Farm, down in southern Wisconsin has set up a very sophisticated system that is his own spin on P.A’s contour farm. The point is, if you go to great lengths to save and use as much of the rain that falls onto a space, the better your farm ecology will be. Mark is the author of the book “Regenerative Agriculture”, a book that helped guide me into farming. He has recently written another book on the topic of water called “Water for Any Farm”. I will certainly get my hands on this sometime and see what else I can absorb.
On The G Farm, we have a pond at our lowest point. This is great because we do not lose our rainwater from the property at all. The trick then becomes, how we get the rainfall to soak in before it pools, sheets and takes all the silts and sands down to the pond with it. On the east side of the farm, we have an agroforestry system with several rows of trees in a NE to SW line. This works out well for me because it gives the water a slow and long path to soak into our soil. The slope naturally leads water to the NW but when the water makes its way to a row of trees, the design does its work to soak it all in. We also have sandy soils, so as compared to clay soils our space absorbs water extremely fast.
We will see over time how well our design pans out. When the system is fully expressed, the trees should cover about 40 percent of the space. This is because grass that is in direct sunlight does not grow most efficiently. It does much better when it has some shade and rest. That coupled with the direction of the rows should help to provide an extremely productive system. So far, we are happy with it.
Next time that you see the rain coming in, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do on the farm. Just know that we’re all smiling about it.
May 29th 2020
We Welcome Our Baby Girl To Our Family Farm.
My lifes most fulfilling adventure.
This was the week, the day, the event of my life that I’ve been waiting for. I am so proud and excited to have our little Ember Eden in our home and on our farm.
It was everything I could have imagined. There is one part that was so very special and not something I was note expecting. First, Kim decided that she was going to be a trooper and go without an epidural. So when the clock was counting down and the contractions were getting closer together, we called in a nurse to see if there was anything that we could do to subside some of the pain Kim was having. Then in an instant, her water broke and the room grew warm with the lights and the nurses and doctors. The process of active labor was fast. About 45 minutes fast.
It was 2:25 am when Kim’s water broke. Our doctor was not yet at the hospital so by the time everyone was in place it was 2:40. It seemed like about 10 big pushes and Ember was in our arms. But on push 9, Kim had her hand tightly wrapped around mine. Her face was expressing the sheer magnitude of the situation and in that instant; I felt my heart fill with love and joy. I see what a beautiful and precious life is. Everyone has a mother and you are all special. I am so thankful for Kim to graciously share life together with our new baby girl.
We are home and learning our new schedules while we keep as many balls in the air as we can. It’s becoming quite clear that a baby needs time and attention, Kim needs rest and Ava won’t be willing to watch Ember for the whole summer. I am also proud of Ava and it feels so special to be part of her life in a new way. Being responsible for helping her see one of her life long dreams in making her a sister is an honor as well. Ava was not able to be at the hospital due to Covid19, but she was desperately waiting for our return to meet her new sibling.
Next week we will return to our normal discussions on all things agriculture, but I can’t ignore the most important things in life.
Thank you for supporting small local farms like ours where we believe that we are not only building soil, growing healthy food, and building a great community. But we are creating a space for a family to live off the land and regenerate our philosophies to pass these values onto a new generation.
May 22nd 2020
Do You Hipcamp?
Camping with the cows.
Over the course of covid19, our farm has doubled its CSA members from 15 to 30. This is enough to keep me busy through the summer. Unfortunately we are not going to be at the Future Neenah Farmers Market this year, and our on farm store has not opened back up yet. We haven’t been selling much around here lately. Not because we don’t want to, it’s just that we are that depleted of our inventory. We will have chicken available in a few months but until then, I will be spending time with our daughter who just is not ready to come into this world.
But not the only way to see the farm.
One of the things that are keeping us busy around here is our tiny house. We share our campsite on a host site called Hipcamp. It gives guests an opportunity to stay at the farm and camp with the cows. It’s pretty fun. We have guests that are just traveling through on a long road trip and we are a fun alternative to a hotel. Then others stop out to see us as a destination.
Know too, that you do not need to stay on the farm to get a nice tour of our operation. If you are following our emails, I am sure you love to support local farms like ours. We would be happy to show and share with you our operation. The best time to do this is during our store hours, Saturdays and Sundays from 9-1. It is important to me that you have the ability to see with your own eyes how and what goes on here. Your participation and support allow us to continue our dream and build an ecosystem of plants, animals, and people.
PS. Next time I write to you, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a Dad!
May 15th 2020
How To Buy A Whole Or Half Cow For The Freezer.
So, you have a big freezer and you want to fill it with a whole or half a cow. Where do you start and how does it work?
We have been asked many times over the last two months if we sell whole or half cows. The short answer is no. We would love to, but we have also gone through the process of being licensed and selling our cuts in a retail way. Mostbeef farmers do not do this because it is easier to sell to one person than a slew of customers. The farmer also does not need a license to sell their product wholesale.
How it works.
A few reasons we sell retail include but are not limited to the fact that we sell chicken. We can and do raise a great deal of chicken and we need customers to come on through to purchase these products. We are very different from many other small farms because of our chicken and we feel that it is an integral part of the farm. The chickens are dropping nitrogen and improving the soil quality and helping to grow our grasses. After we start out with chicken, we add pretty much everything else to help bolster the sales and to drive customers to the farm to help keep our chicken production moving in the right direction. Pork is also a hard to find item that we feel we do a great job on and are very different in the way we raise our pork from other producers. But again, there are a lot of farmers who raise beef and to do it on all grass is not all that different or difficult.
Finding it may be. This is the starting point after you decide that you would like to fill the freezer. I would recommend watching Craigslist. I think that this is a tried and true marketplace that helps to bring farms and consumers together. Facebook has not been a place for this due to some of their policies…until covid19. Search for the group called “Farm Direct Wisconsin”. It is filled with producers selling and sharing their farm for what it is and what they can help you with. Once you find a farmer that meets your holistic expectations, it is time to contact them.
First find out if they have any availability. They may be sold out. It’s happening in a hurry this year as everyone including all of my neighbors are asking everyone they see with a cow, if they can buy one for their family.
Next you might want to ask a few of the following questions:
Do you have processors lined up? We have two processors that we use. We like each of them for different reasons. Some processors will follow steps to keep Nitrates/Nitrites and MSG out of their recipes. Some do not. You may want to call the processor that the animal is lined up for to get a better understanding of what they can provide. Not all processors use the same recipes, have the same equipment, have the same experience and you will not get the same cuts from each processor. Some butchers have very traditional cuts, some are a bit messier. Not that a poor cut will cause the taste to be off,but some are just better at it than others. The packaging the processors have available and the costs of all their work are all things to keep in mind.
When is the processing date? It’s not uncommon that a grass farmer will have their date sometime in the latter part of the year. The grass growing season is the time of year that our herd packs on the pounds. Sending an animal in during the spring is sometimes the right time but more often than not, it is best to be done in the fall. Also, processing dates are hard to come by. With so many large processing plants operating at less than full capacity, small farmers have found opportunity in buying from large scale producers and setting up dates with small processors. This has flooded their books and made it very difficult to get into their door.
Do the farmer use antibiotics, feed corn, run the cattle through a drench or some other question on what and how the herd is managed? This is a major reason you buy local. So that you understand the management practices that you are supporting. I have been looking to expand the herd and finding animals that fit my criteria is difficult. I recommend not wavering and waiting for the right opportunity.
It may not be a bad idea to ask for a reference to find out how they have done with their product in the past. It could help to prevent you filling up your freezer with a tough as leather cow. I’ve learned a lot about what animals to make into steaks and what animals to make into ground beef. You don’t want to mix them up. An older animal is best to be ground while an animal up to 2 – 2.5 years is plenty tender and will make a great steak.
After all your questions are answered, it’s time to make a decision. If you are looking to go forward you will be asked to make a down payment. It is usually something like $200-$400. The total price you will pay the farmer will be based on the hanging weight of the animal. You won’t know this until the butcher has the meat up on hooks. When this is figured out, you pay the famer the rate that you agreed on, times the hanging weight, minus the down payment. You can send this off to the farmer whenever you are ready. You will also have a bill for the butcher based on how and what you want done with your portions. It would be a good sign if the farmer had a contract that they could give you. It’s nice to feel secure about your purchase and having a contract is a good way to do business. When it comes time for the processing date you will be given a cut sheet. If you don’t get one, make sure you call in to the butcher to let them know what you want. The more processing that they do, the greater the cost.
After your whole order is put together, you will get a call from the processor tolet you know that your order is ready to be picked up. This is the time to pay them. Just like any other store, after you pay, you will receive your product and will be on your way.
A few tips:
If you haven’t eaten processed product from the meat processor, you may want to keep the quantities you order down to a minimum.
Ask to have the cuts put into paper packaging. Plastic looks nice to sell from the farm or at the store. But, paper costs less, is less wasteful and can keep the products in the freezer longer without getting freezer burn.
It’s not the cow, it’s the how. Another popular question I get is what kind of beefwe raise. It’s a fine question and I’m happy to talk about it but I believe that how the animal is managed is much more important than the breed when it comes to the flavor.
Thank you for choosing to work with small farms like ours. I believe that now is the time to help decentralize our food system. By reducing the distance between you and your food we can break that system, more small farmers will find a space to thrive and our food future will be better off for it.
May 8th 2020
Let The Fun Begin!
Let the fun begin!
Our winter grazing regime has ended as well as our few week stay in the sacrifice pasture. The cattle are off hay and onto the green grasses of our pastures.
State of the herd!
Today we have 17 cattle on the farm. The leader of the herd is a 3-and-a-half-year-old bull named Dante. Adding to that we have 6 cows, five of them have a new calf by their side. Then there are 4 yearlings that were born last spring. Lastly is a 2-year-old heifer. As compared to the herd size and quality of the past few years, I believe we are in a stronger position with more cattle overall and a group of cows that meet our size and profile that is most desirable. There are a few outliers and over the next few years, I hope to improve those weaknesses. Also, Dante had grown horns after we had selected him from an either-or scenario choosing between him and his twin brother. I often wonder if choosing the other would have had a different result.
Our herd is primarily Hereford with a few that has some Black Angus in their genes. We will be adding four more cattle to the herd very soon as well. We found 2 cows that each have a calf on their side that will be joining us any day. They are Black Angus as well and have been raised on a farm with the same standards that we have for our animals. There have not been any antibiotics applied to the animals, they are not raised with any growth hormones and are not given any grain. As a side note, I sometimes see beef being advertised as Non-GMO. That implies that they are being fed grain, but it is not a GMO based grain.
It is my belief that we need to feed animals a diet that reflects what they would eat in the wild. Cattle are like the buffalo that once roamed the countryside and they would eat grass and keep moving on. They did not have grains; their stomachs are not designed to ingest the high protein feed. They are designed to draw out the nutrients they need from nothing but grasses. It’s quite amazing and I marvel at these animals as they consume grasses and grow to their massive size. It is also what makes the finished product a healthier alternative to a grain fed cow.
With our pastures just greening up we have begun to rotate them daily. Each morning as I do the morning chores, I move a fence line giving the cattle a new space to graze for the day. It’s the most enjoyable chore I have on the farm. Through the winter the cattle are bale fed and given access to round bales that are out in the pasture. As spring approaches, the cattle are then brought into the sacrifice area near the barn and are stuck in this space until the pastures green up and the soil dries up after the frost has left.
The space we have fenced in on this property totals 18 acres. It is not enough to keep our herd feed on grass, so we have found a farm nearby where we are able to rent land. The additional pasture we manage is about 16 acres. The owner understands and appreciates our farming methods and invited us to rent the space due to the benefits it brings to the migrating birds that pass through on their property. We are able to help provide nesting habitat with our rotational program and are thrilled to have such a great partner.
Thank you for supporting small family farms like ours and taking the time to learn about the extra mile we go to provide the best quality food we can in the most convenient way we are able. We hope you are all safe and able to make do in the current situation as best as possible. We miss you all and look forward to seeing you out on the farm again someday soon.
May 1st 2020
Welcome To The G Farm, My Name Is Farmer Justin
How I Got Here.
I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself. Some of you have been following our farm for years and some of you have been part of my life for much longer. With all the changes we have had in our lives, there are so many new faces that have discovered this farm for the first time. We welcome you to be part of our farm.
We have only just begun.
I purchased this farm on April 30th, 2015. The last five years have flown by. Before farming I was preparing taxes and paperwork in a family business that was centered on retirement planning. I was financially doing very well, but I did not enjoy what I was doing, and I daydreamed of greener pastures. It was a podcast with a guest by the name of Mark Shepard that changed the course of my life. That podcast shared a farm management system that worked with nature. Instead of tilling fields and harvesting crops, the simple rotation of animals across the pasture improves the soil and can be done in a more economical way without having to buy all the heavy equipment.
Over the next year, I picked up Mark’s book Regenerative Agriculture and read it cover to cover. After that, my mind was made up. I packed up my belongings, moved them into a storage unit, sold my house, moved my chickens to my Dad’s house, moved myself and my dog into my Mom’s house, and continued to prepare taxes and work in the office through that Spring. While I was living with my mom, I was waiting for the farm’s owners to tie up any loose ends and move into their new place as well. Finally, the day came when I was able to move onto the farm myself.
That first day I moved my pillow into the house and then went outside to start planting some apple trees I had purchased for the property. A little later that year I purchased 50 broiler hens and began to learn the ropes of how to raise a chicken. In continuing to feed my hunger in building a regenerative farm, I found that Mark Shepard was part of a class that was taught each summer. It was a 10-day course called a Permaculture Design Course or PDC. It gave me the opportunity to visit Mark’s farm and get a glimpse into a 20+ year old farm that replaced corn with chestnut trees and soybeans with hazelnuts, focused on perennials over annuals, and managed animals to help build the soil’s diversity over other manufactured inputs.
The next big change in my life was when I was fired from the family business. I was not even on the farm for a year and my adopted dad, Sam, sat me down and discussed with me his business direction and how its plans did not include me any longer. It was a hard day. The pressure of turning the farm into a full-time operation going into a second growing season was a lot to handle. But my mind was made up and I was going to try to make farming work to pay the bills.
And to keep this story short. I worked hard but it did not pan out. Growing a community of supporters and quality of product takes time. So after a full summer of giving it my all, my bank account could not handle any more abuse and I had to find a new job to help pay the bills as I continued to spend all of my free time executing on the farm plan.
As part of my attempt to bring in more income, I took my tax preparation skills to a firm in Menasha for a little seasonal work. In preparing my very first tax return in this new office, I met my wife Kim. With that my life and farm have continued to evolve and grow. Although I do not prepare taxes in the spring any longer, I am still working a day job. I am thankful that it is a flexible position and they are willing to work with my crazy schedule and understand that unplanned things happen on the farm. Sometimes I have to drop everything and take care of a loose end. But the goal of deriving a living off the land is still something I am looking to achieve. I am certain that it will someday become a reality. My stated goal as of right now is just about two years away.
This next month will have another life-altering moment in store. We have a baby girl on the way and whether or not I am able to manage meeting the financial goals on the farm, my family goals are weeks away from being achieved. Raising children on a small family farm is the green pasture I’ve been looking for.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and this farm over the years. If you are new and have just found us, as my wife likes to say, “we have only just begun”. We hope to see you soon!
April 24th 2020
IMPORTANT -Be A Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem. It’s Time For A Victory Garden!
What are you going to Eat?
What the heck is going on with all the major meat processing plants contracting covid19 at such an incredible rate? And what is this going to do to our global demand and availability?
How I think this may play out.
I want to preface today’s message by reminding you that I am not an expert in this, and the views are strictly my own. These are my beliefs and how I see the current situation affecting the agricultural sector going into the next few months and years.
Over the last two weeks we have seen a handful of meat packaging and processing plants shut down or cut back due to their workers contracting covid19. Maybe it is from the close proximity of the workers. Maybe it is because of the plant’s air circulatory system. No matter the reason, it is becoming a huge problem. The plants in Iowa are major pork producers and their closure accounts for about 10 percent of the pork consumed in the US. Another area I see being affected is the egg production industry. Some egg production farms have tens of thousands of hens on a farm. The owners of these operations have huge staffs of people that allow them to feed and manage these huge operations. Without a staff some of these farms are euthanizing half of their flock to allow them to manage what they have while others are doing away with whole thing. In Green Bay, JBS Meats is continuing to keep its doors open while they try to control the outbreak in the plant. Although I think I look at issues with positivity, I do not think this is going to fair well and I do believe that the plant will close for some duration.
Dairy farmers across the nation are being forced to dump milk. There have not been shortages in dairy milk in the stores and the farmers producing milk for drinking has not had stoppages. The milk being dumped in large part is for cheeses and other processed products.
None of this is good and a compounding problem with these processing plants closing is the backlog of animals ready to be sent in. This has caused a decrease in value for each one of the animals. Last week the price dropped by 30 cents per pound for beef. If that continues, the question I’m asking myself is how long will it take before these ranchers decide that it’s financially in their best interest to euthanize their cows? They all need to be fed and how long can the ranchers continue to afford the feed bill? I expect this to cause the breeding and replacement of the herd to have a shortage in the years ahead.
When you look at the fields of produce in the south, they are filled with veggies ready to be picked and a lack of workers harvesting these crops. Many of these workers are undocumented and it is hard to really measure the loss of work being done in these fields. The important piece to understand is that this is all a problem. It’s a problem for the farmers, it’s a problem with the logistics, it’s a problem for the process, and a problem for the distributions.
So where does that leave us? What will we eat? As a nation we have reserves of cereal grains. Things like corn, soy, wheat, oats and rice. These can all be processed and turned into all kinds of breads, pastas and other processed foods. I believe that eggs will have a lag for the next 6 to 9 months. Chicken for meat will be affected for 2 to 6 months. Pork may have a lag for up to a year and beef may be behind for up to 2 years. There are other geopolitical issues that I expect will impact this. China has been having issues with African Swine Flu and has lost a significant portion of its pork in the last few months as well.
With all the uncertainty and problems I see in agriculture, I hope that going forward we can count on you to be part of the solution. To do this it comes down to food independence. We need to do all we can to reduce our dependence on our grocery stores. Planting a seed in the ground, watching it grow, tending to it and eating it at your dinner table not only helps us each as individuals, it helps reduce the burden we put on the food system. If you can, find some chickens to provide eggs in your back yard. That is a huge step as well. We know you are supporting your local farmers or you wouldn’t have made it this far into reading my weekly email, but I’m in no position to scale in one season to begin to produce enough to provide for as many families that have turned to me or will turn to me in the next few months and years. We are here to help you as a resource and also have feed as an option to feed your flocks. I have plenty of years of experience and started in my own back yard so please reach out and ask me if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading this important message and I hope you consider a victory garden this year to help alleviate some of the stresses this current pandemic is causing.
April 17th 2020
Our Eggs Are Out Of This World.
Our laying flock has come a long way. It began in a little chicken tractor at my home in the town of Menasha and moved out here to the farm with me as I reached for the starts.
Why do the extra work?
The problem I’m trying to solve with our laying hens came to fruition when the flock grew over 50. Chickens can be downright destructive. They scratch and restrict grass growth in the areas they frequent. They manure and leave messes behind. When they are free-range, which they were for the last 5 years, they have free range to the garden, flower beds, the farm store and everywhere else you don’t want them to go. I can really deal with them everywhere outside of the garden, but the point is they can be a menis.
To remedy the problems of the growing flock, which is now at 150 hens, we have built a new mobile coop. The intention will be to move this around the farm behind the cows at an interval of about 3 days. They will do a lot of clean up behind the all-mighty cow. They will peck many of the larvae out of the cows’ manure. This will reduce fly pressure all over the farm. They will spread and scatter all of the cow manure to prevent it from suffocating out the grass it lands on.
This added movement of the chickens around the farm will give a huge boost to the pasture. It is going to be a good deal of work and time moving the electric fencing, but the work will be well worth the reward. The eggs will be better too. In the past, the chickens would not venture all around the farm themselves. They have spaces that they are comfortable with and get into a routine. This caused them to hang out in the same space day after day. Mostly because they felt safe in those areas. There are no trees or brush to give them the sense of protection they need and if a hungry hawk were to swoop down. It would have been the end of that chicken’s story. This new management method will not allow for any chicken to stick to one space or routine, and they will always have the protection of the coop to run under if there is an overhead predator lurking above.
Here is a video I put together of the construction of the space ship. I’m quite impressed with how it turned out.
Thanks for all of your support. I hope you and your families are all staying safe and healthy in this unprecedented time.
April 10th 2020
I’m Not Tone Deaf…. How The G Farm Is Handeling Covid19
I’m not tone deaf….
Early on I was overwhelmed by reading all the coronavirus emails and I didn’t want to be part of the white noise. I hope that I was part of an escape from the consistent reminder of a pandemic over the last two weeks.
How were doing overall!
That leads me to today where I am going to discuss how and what is going on here on the farm in these new and unusual times. To be frank, our sales are through the roof and it’s all being generated from the two revenue sources I value the most, online sales and through our meat CSA. Our sales online are up over 300 percent while our CSA subscriptions have taken a large leap as well.
If this worries you that we may be running out of a product we are not at the point of concern yet and we have more animals on the farm being raised to replenish our supply. This is one of the major differences in the way we operate our inventory versus a grocery store. The model that stores use is called a (JIT) just in time inventory system. Stores value the shelf space they have and want to see product turn over quickly. If products don’t move, they find something else to put in its place. While that makes good common sense and is probably the same for any business looking to keep customers, it also values the space that they warehouse items and store items for the shelf. The inventory is not very deep. Our operation does not value space and efficiencies of moving product in quite the same way. We produce product while the sun is shining and have a large walk-in freezer that we fill on a seasonal basis. Through the amazing innovation of freezing product, we are able to hold items for a much longer shelf life.
While we are planning for a bright and vibrant future, we may have some extra time on our hands and less product to move. That might mean that I don’t attend each and every Farmers Market. Or I will have limited inventory to keep our CSA members, who have committed to us on a reoccurring basis, with as much variety as possible while the rest of our production catches up to our demand. What I mean by that is, we may only have chicken available. Again, we are not to that point and we don’t want you to worry or make a run on our other products. We have a growing farm and we are excited that we have been granted an opportunity to serve our community in this time of need.
We are all healthy mentally and physically. Kim’s off work until August with a baby on the way and the work conditions at St Elizabeth’s, she has been granted an extended leave. I was off for two weeks and am now back to work at a half-time capacity. We are an essential business and will work enough to ensure that we are able to stay afloat through this turbulence. As much as I would love to move to an all farming career, I still need the day job to pay the bills and give us the lateral mobility to reinvest our farm dollars back into our operation.
The best part of this entire situation is that Ava has been “forced” to hang out with Kim and I. She is bored out of her mind as a 16-year-old only child… for a few more weeks. If you have ordered from us in the last few weeks, you would have seen Kim and Ava tagging along for deliveries. They both went up to the woods to collect maple sap…. in the rain!
While we accomplished a huge amount of work here on the farm in the last few weeks and things have been very positive, I also recognize that not everyone is in the same boat. We hope you are all doing well, staying safe and finding the positive side of the twists and turns life throws at us all, this time, all of us at once.
April 3rd 2020
Maple Syrup 2020
Our 2020 maple syrup season was a success. We had about 100 taps and boiled down just about 800 gallons and came out with about 20 gallons of syrup. Our sugar content was at 4.5 Brix which is down significantly from 6.5 from last year.
Working with the Fam
When I was a kid, my friend AJ and his family took me up to see his grandpa’s operation. Our operation is small potatoes in comparison. There are sugar farms that run lines from tree to tree and have collection tanks and boilers that are just huge. It can be quite a process. I would expect that most of that syrup is sold off in barrels as it would be a bit difficult to sell that many bottles one at a time. It’s not my ambition to sell any product we produce to anyone but the consumer so until you start drinking syrup as my grandpa does, I will have to wait a little longer to get a larger evaporator which is the bottleneck of our operation.
As an added note, Ava has been spending a lot more time with us on the farm. We have restricted her to the house because of the pandemic. She has taken an interest in going out and doing things with us that she wouldn’t ordinarily participate in. She even came out into the rain and collected sap with us as you can see above.
I hope you enjoy seeing how our sugaring operation works.
March 29th 2020
Did You Miss Me?
The Camo Coop Works Delivers Too!
You may have seen over the last few months a thing or two about the Camo Coop. It’s a project that I and a hand full of veterans and veteran families have been collaborating on. With the current norm of “Safer at Home” were trying to make things as easy as we can on you.
So what we have come up with is a weekly email with some select items from a growing number of veteran businesses in the fox valley. The Camo Coop will send out an email each Sunday which you have until Wednesday at midnight to make your selections. We will put your orders together and make a delivery to your doorstep on Friday afternoon of that same week. Then the next Sunday, you will get a new email with new selections from many of the same vendors and new vendors that come on board as we grow.
Below is our first offering. Please take a look and sign up for another great email next week. Some of you may have noticed that this past Friday I had not sent out an email. I did not miss this on purpose. It’s been 3 plus years since I’ve gone a week without an email. I will be back on my regular schedule this coming week and I look forward to continuing to share with you all of the events, farm happenings and important details that our farm experiences as we grow and feed the need of our community. Thank you for all of your support.
March 20th 2020
Content For Days… What To Do When There Is Nothing Else To Do.
Finding Something To Do.
When I was working for my Dad, Sam doing taxes and paperwork for clients, I was always impressed by how much my dad knew about the business of retirement. It seemed so boring to me. It was apparent to me that he just lived in that world. He read all of the investment magazines, blogs and im sure that’s all he talked to his friends about. It all seemed so boring to me.
The world of farming / homesteading seems so much more interesting to me. The content I divulge into includes survival skills, raising small animals, gardening, all of the things we’re doing here now were all learned through some very interesting and informative podcasts. Over the years I’ve compiled a list of most of those content producers. While we seem to have a little extra time on our hands, I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe you can find your way down a rabbit whole or two that I’ve found me running down all of the time. You will have to do a little google work yourself to find them but I assure you, they are all entertaining.
The much less boring content of Farming!
Mark Shepard – Restoration Agriculture
-my introduction into a world of agriculture that restores land using animals and strategic farm design
Jack Spirko – The Survival Podcast
-a regularly published podcast that helped lead me to a way of life that included entrepreneurship and farming
Diego Footer – Permaculture Voices
-an introductory podcast to the world of farming using alternative methods of agriculture
Acers USA magazine
-a month publication in print that covers current events and applies natural farming through well-produced articles
Rodger Wasson – Farm to Table Talk podcast
-a regularly published podcast discussing all types of food production, topics range from the field and farming to the kitchen and the fun part, eating
Chris Blanchard – Farmer to Farmer podcast
-the late Chris was a regular podcaster discussing primarily vegetable production
Joel Salatin – The Legend
-read his books, his blogs and follow his well-established farm to find the keys to your own successes.
Darby Simpson – Simpson Family Farm
-is often a guest on Jack Spirkos’ podcast and Diego Footers podcast detailing his experience in farming chicken pork and beef
Gary Vee – Entrepreneur
-a brilliant entrepreneur that is always on the cutting edge of marketing and details how to keep you and your brand in front of your customers
Paul Grieves – Primal Pastures
-a poultry farmer who is growing his business very fast in southern California
Curtis Stone – The Urban Farmer
-has brought farming into the yards of big cities utilizing crop rotation and fast turnover
-a resource for education and financial stability for farmers on their way onto their land
Living Web Farms – YouTube
-a demonstration farm that shares its knowledge and practices on YouTube
Richard Perkins – Ridgedale Permaculture
-an ultra-diversified farm that has leveled up the full spectrum of plants and animals on the land
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin – The Main Street Project
-a poultry farmer that has a new spin on poultry production, less grain and more grass in a perennial production farm
Justin Rhodes – YouTube
-a diy homesteader showing and sharing how to improve your own local food by making and managing animals and a garden
Moses Organic Farming Conference
-an organic farmer resource
Stefan Sobkowiak – Permaculture Orchard
-orcharding done diversely without spraying harmful chemicals
Peter Allen – Mastodon Valley Farm
-my mentor and permaculture design course teacher farming in SW Wisconsin holds courses annually and is a disciple of Mark Shepard
JM Fortier – The Market Gardener
-maximizing production on a small acreage with big yields in the garden
March 13th 2020
When You Google The Farm!
My google analytics tell me people are searching our farm to purchase rabbit. Unfortunately, we have not had rabbits on the farm for almost a year and I don’t think anyone noticed.
Is there something you would like us to raise locally for you?
I believe that rabbit meat is one of the healthiest foods I can produce on the farm. They devour grass, they grow quickly and the finished product is fantastic. The issue is that in the end, the rabbits just are not selling.
Without support in purchasing them, there is no reason for us to continue to raise them.
They are a good item to bring into restaurants and they sell pretty well in that market. However, we do not want to put all of our eggs into one basket like that. Even if I could keep up with the 10 plus rabbit that it would take for me to supply a restaurant each week, it would only take that one restaurant to close to put me as the farmer in a world of hurt. It takes months of planning and preparation to produce any volume. In keeping it small I depend on individual customers. But again that had not worked because I think that most customers do not know how or maybe just decline to cook a rabbit up for dinner. One hundred years ago it was a staple, but with the improvement of the chicken and the increased speed and size that a bird can grow, the rabbit market seems to be all but closed.
I’ve also considered getting back into raising ducks. I am currently working on designing a mobile chicken coop that will follow behind the cattle on the farm. They will peck and scratch up the cow patties to help keep the fly population down. This also means that the space that was set aside for the chickens last year is open. I had tried to keep ducks before but the trouble was that I could not get them to flock back to the coop at night, or lay their eggs in a consistent space. I’ve learned from another farmer their methods of keeping the ducks in line and it seems that feeding them after dark might be the trick. I will have to keep a close eye on their rations and then give them access back to the feeding area as duck comes. Then after they all get into the nesting area, the door is shut and everyone is safe.
Another consideration has been lamb. I wouldn’t keep a full flock year-round. I would begin by seasonally raising them. I might buy a hand full of lambs that have been weened and then keep them on grass until the fall when I can put them into the freezer.
This all comes down to you. Let me know if you are looking for something and would be a consistent buyer of that something if we had it. I am honored to be your farmer and part of your conversations around the dinner table. Thank you for all of the support and we look forward to seeing you again soon.
March 6th 2020
Getting Our Little Ducks In A Row…
Last week I spent some time doing some training at Fox Valley Technical College. It was the beginning of a class called Innovations Initiative. This class is filled with military veterans and each of us are coming to the table with business plans. Some are new ideas and others have established businesses that we look to refine.
Keeping me busy.
This class started out by asking us to define our BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. My stated goal is to derive my full income and living from the farm. Not that I might not find some alternative things to do with some spare time, but I would love to have the flexibility to have some of the time I spend at my day job with my family.
The 3-day program started off with some intense work and an in-depth dive into the workings and functions of the operation. My particular business was easy for me to explain and more difficult to put into the confines of the material being taught. After the first two days of putting those thoughts onto paper, we had time to share our business ideas and strategies with the class and other local business experts. Then the fun began. The class got to pick apart and help identify weak points in the business and shared ideas on how to strengthen them.
Over the next 10 weeks, I will be attending weekly classes to put numbers to the model we have structured. It will help to define or maybe better yet, refine our business. One consideration I have is that not everything I do on the farm is necessary for the immediate financial benefit. There are foundational idealistic pieces of the farm that help to define our overall goals. It may be cheaper or easier to bring in compost than to make it ourselves, but dealing with the waste streams of the business on-site meets our holistic goals which are sometimes more important than the financial ones.
One of the factors Kim and I need to consider is our quality of living. As I am writing this, I am interrupted by some loud bangs of some hammers. We have a new carpet being installed. This is probably something that we could live without. However, with a newborn on the way we feel that our ripped and tattered carpet could be upgraded.
One thing will continue to ring true. We could not do this without you. Your support and continued interest in having a farmer on call to provide a portion of you and your family’s calories is what keeps this train moving forward. Each dime you spend here is helping to build the soil, grow the trees, clean the water and further diversify our operation. Thank you for being part of our dreams and we look forward to a bright and healthy future with you.
February 28th 2020
I Dont Talk About It Much, But It Helps Me Make Ethical Decisions.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been given the floor to speak to several different groups – a group of vets down in Madison, a group of entrepreneurs at FVTC and most recently in Oshkosh to help a group of farmers on their journey to farm. I’ve received some great feedback and am finding more comfort in front of groups. One of the comments I received was in requesting more information about permaculture.
My introduction to permaculture was through some podcasts I listened to before I was farming myself. Mark Shepard referenced some pieces of permaculture in his book “Restoration Agriculture”. This was a key piece of literature that helped me from my ideas and concepts in designing my own agricultural system.
The creator of permaculture in large part is Bill Mollison. He had some major contributions from a student of his at the time named David Holmgren, both of whom passed away in the last few years. Together Bill and David wrote several books on the topic. The largest voice in permaculture today is Jeff Lawton, who was another student of Bill and stuck around through to the end of Bill’s life absorbing as much as he could. Mark Shepard is another student of Bill’s and had attended one of his PDC’s (Permaculture Design Course) at some point early on, probably the 80s or something like that.
Permaculture is not how I farm. It’s not a methodology. It is a design system and it helps to make decisions. There are 3 ethics which are Care of Earth, Care of People and Fair Share. The Fair Share ethic is not a communist idea or a notion and has been stated in several ways. Another way to state it would be the return of surplus, but that lacks the rhyme and rhythm of fair share. It means that we should practice moderation. A simple agricultural example would be after an apple tree fruits, not to take every single red and delicious apple off that tree. Leave some for the little critters that live in that ecosystem. The birds, the squirrels, the mice are all an integral part of a healthy ecosystem and to forget about their needs is not an ethical practice.
Permaculture also has 12 principals. Each one has a use in helping me make decisions and helps me and the farm obtain what some people recognize is “sustainable”. These principals make me a better person and if more people would practice them, we would be left with a better world.
In 2015 just after I bought the farm, I attended my own Permaculture design course. It was put on by Peter Allen. He was going to school at Madison and only had a few steps left before he obtained his master’s degree, mainly his dissertation. While talking with some of his friends about a vision of farming he had not seen, Peter’s friend asked if he had heard of Mark Shepard. What Peter was explaining sounded eerily similar to the model Mark had employed on his farm. So, Peter drove up and took a tour of Mark’s farm. One thing Peter noticed is that he did not have a farm full of animals roaming and grazing as he thought there may have been. It was noticeable that Mark spent a lot of time on his tractor mowing down the grasses as opposed to grazing them. Mark’s reply was that Peter should get the cows and graze them across his farm so that Mark did not have to mow. Peter went back to school, talked to his girlfriend, grabbed a tent, crowd sourced some money from his friends and bought some cows and stayed in the tent with his now-wife Maureen for something like two years. They finally ended up buying their own farm. This is who I learned and earned my PDC from.
I learned a ton and made a lot of great friends while at this course. Ten days in a holler waking up to dense fog, birds chirping, and pure serenity was pretty magical. I would encourage everyone to look deeper and see if this is something that may help you on your own journey. There is simply no way I can divulge anything close to the volume of information to explain and express permaculture as they would be able to obtain in a course. And yes, there is always YouTube too!
February 21st 2020
How To Fact Check The Farms You Think You Know
Check it out yourself.
I receive phone calls, emails, Facebook messages on a regular basis asking all sorts of questions, but the one question I receive more than all the rest has something to do with requesting to see the farm. I believe customers are looking for reassurance. It’s certainly a good idea to stop out and see it with your own eyes, but you don’t have to leave your house to get a good scoop into how an operation is managed.
How I source check a farm to see if they really add up to your expectation.
So how do consumers plow through the BS to find the truth that they seek? First and most importantly you need their address. Most Facebook pages have an address incorporated on them, but that’s not always the case. If the farm is a corporation, the address you find is probably of their office, not the space they use to raise and care for the animals that you are concerned about. Knowing the address, you can take a peek at an overview of the farm on google maps. An even better map to use has an acreage calculator that helps determine the size of the farm. Seeing the property boundaries can be a bit tricky. You have to use your eye and instincts to see how the land is managed. Pairing this information with images that the farm has on their website or social media will help to identify authentic pictures. It also helps to look at plot books. These are used to identify who owns plots of land. They are usually produced by the county, but some hunting apps have this same technology built into them. Most often I find the property by looking up tax records on a property through the county website.
The next step is a bit trickier. You need to have a sense of the volume of production the farm is doing. To do that you should start by considering the retail outlets that you know the farm utilizes. Are they at Festival Foods or a local co-op? Do they sell in some other local niche outlets, online, at one or more farmers markets, or on the farm? It will also help to know how much meat each animal yields to give you some perspective. A 1,000 lb. cow will yield just over 400 lbs. of packaged meat and a 300 lb. pig will yield about 160 lbs. of packaged meat.
With that information, you need to consider how much feed is needed to meet the expected volume of product a farm is selling. Compare that with space you feel is adequate for an animal. I have some rough numbers, but it is very dependent on the property’s soil condition and the number of frost-free days at that location. One thing I watch for in the overview of a farm is open soil or spaces without grass. This is a sign of overgrazing and less than ideal management.
The reason it’s important to understand the true volume of production is that it could be very easy to sell some product that is not raised or grown in the system that you claim it’s from. I do not mean that an animal has to be exclusively on a property in order for a farmer to sell it as theirs, but it should be under a farm’s management for a reasonable amount of time before it is fairly considered raised by that farm.
One other consideration when looking at a farm’s website is to source check the images they use on their web page. You can do this by saving the image and doing a google image search with that picture. You should be able to find that image source. If you see that multiple farms are claiming it as their own, somebody is being dishonest or misrepresenting their farm with some stock images. I’m not judging, but if you want to know, sometimes you need to get your hands dirty.
The picture above is our farm taken by our drone. The bare area to the right of the pond is due to the pigs. They can be extremely tough on the ground, especially when you are trying to keep it green. The space just to the south of the pigs was tilled to help even out some of the ruts and wallows the pigs left behind when they had access to the area through the summer in 2019. I just want to mention this and even remind myself that without having my own boots on the ground, I do not fully understand the intentions or the specifics of any given situation in the management of another farm.
If you don’t know by now, I have some opinions. Although I have considered sharing publicly who I feel passes my own expectations of proper care and who does not. I will not be naming farms by name. I have no authority to do so.
One last note before I am finished. You do also have to keep in mind that the name of the farm may not actually be the name of the farm’s business. For example, we are The G Farm. However, you won’t find us in the corporation search below. That is our “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. We made that change early on because it was difficult to market Gartzke Farms LLC.
Here is a list of some of the tools I mentioned. I hope you find them helpful. If you have any questions in any of your own searches, reach out and I will gladly share with you what my perspective is in private.
I may say this too often, but I sincerely mean it. I value each and every one of you. Your support means the world to me and I am honored to be you and your families’ farmer.
February 14th 2020
Farming For A Country Rock Star!
Work on the farm hardly feels like work. Last week was a blur, and it was all due to the support of one Brantley Gilbert.
Farmer Veteran Coalition
A few months back we received an email detailing a potential purchase from a caterer working for the Brantley Gilbert camp. We have a good amount of chicken yet and I thought letting them know that we had chicken would be a good help in moving some of that product.
Winter has been moving along and all of a sudden last Monday I received an email from the catering team. They wanted to warn us that the concert is coming up and that someone may reach out to see what we had available. When I received my phone call, I let them know we had chicken, beef, pork, and eggs. The next question was what specific cuts and quantities. So, I emailed them what we had on a spreadsheet. A few hours later they replied with a list of some of our beef, pork, and eggs, but no chicken. Which is fine, I just think it’s funny.
Then the fun began. Kim put the order together. Then on Thursday morning I drove it up to meet the caterer and gave him all the goods. After things were in order, I took off to work. The afternoon seemed to take forever as I was ready for the fun to begin.
Part of the deal in helping to provide food for the staff was that we received tickets to eat with the staff, meet Brantley himself, and to enjoy the show. It was all so much fun and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity.
The rhyme behind the reason is that I am a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. This organization is a national group that has a great network that helped make this happen. I am very thankful for the work they do to coordinate events like this. I believe that farming is a great place for any veteran to engage in after they leave the service. The structure, ingenuity, persistence, independence, resilience, and grit that a veteran possesses set up a great and fulfilling career.
February 7th 2020
Its Feeding Time. Our Dogs Diet.
It’s feeding time.
A moA movie I watched more than a handful of times when it came out was called Road Trip. If you have not seen it, that may be because you are not a Tom Green fan. He certainly was a point of contention for my parents while I was in high school. Although it was full of laughs, one part sticks out to me more than the others. In the movie, Tom Green had a large pet snake and the highlight of the snake in the movie is “Feeding Time”.
We have four dogs on the farm. Two little wiener dogs named Thumper and Dieter stay inside the house. Then we have two outside dogs, Otis and Baker. The two outside dogs eat on the porch where we keep their dish and water. They have as much access to kibbles as they would like for the most part, and on top of that they get some raw meats. In the video below both Otis and Baker get to split a bag of chicken necks. This is one of their favorites and it doesn’t take long for them to devour it. It’s fascinating to watch, even after seeing it on a regular basis.
We feel that raw meat and bones are a valuable part of our dogs’ diets. It keeps their teeth clean, their coats shiny and their bowels moving properly. It also keeps the nutrients that are absorbed by the farm livestock here on the farm. Each time we sell a steak or a chicken we lose some of the nutrients that we have here. The more we can close this gap, the fewer inputs we will have to replenish in our ecosystem.
Some things you may want to try for your pets might be chicken feet, chicken necks, ground liver and heart or even pork neck bones or the beef soup bones. Another good idea is to feed your pets some vegetables. Carrots are a great treat and help your dog’s diet immensely.
Thank you for your support and for following our farm as we grow and continue to feed families across the Fox Valley.
January 31st 2020
We’re Now Part Of The Appleton Winter Market
I came across an article recently that had an obnoxious title like “Stop with all of the *bleeping farmer’s markets”. It shared a story from the farmer’s perspective and the inability to make each and every farmer’s market that was in that farmer’s local town.
Here we go Fox Cities
The problem is not that there are farmer’s markets or that they shouldn’t be around. The problem is simply that there are too many. It has diluted the time and energy of the farmers at the market. With so many markets for customers to choose from the time spent at the markets become less profitable. The next problem is when can the farmer actually do the things they need to do on the farm. It’s well known that we must make hay when the sun is shining. Not spending adequate time at the farm is surely detrimental to the business, the farm, and the family life that the farmer has.
With that being said I want to remind you that I’m not a huge advocate of farmer’s markets in the first place. It’s not my intention to be at one forever and as soon as I can afford to step out of that market I will, and that time will be spent on the farm. We have our on-farm store and a delivery system that has been becoming more and more popular. Hopefully, that trend continues to grow.
One of my favorite and most successful farmers Joel Salatin does not attend a farmer’s market. I have heard him state that it’s not worth it unless you can pull in $2,000 of sales in that time. I am not close to that, but I am still growing as a small business and the exposure makes sense to me.
That is why going down to the new Appleton Winter Market is a great fit. First, it is only being held once a month. That gives me time to continue to recuperate and enjoy my family life. The exposition center is also large enough to facilitate 150 vendors. That’s fantastic because I would hope that we can all help to draw a large crowd to participate. I hope you can make it down to show your support and see the new, or new to me, expo center.
January 24th 2020
Check Out Our New Winter Chicken Chores Video
Watch with your own eyes.
We have an open-door policy and want you to have a unique and close relationship with your food. We try to accomplish this through our weekly emails. We also welcome guests who stop by for a tour around the farm on their first visit. That shouldn’t stop you from asking if you are curious about one aspect or another. Again, that is part of our mission. This year I am opening a new can of worms with videos depicting our operation. This week we are going to show you how we care for our chickens in the winter. We hope you enjoy.
Winter Chicken Chores on The G Farm – YouTube
January 17th 2020
What I Know About An Artichoke
Artichokes in Wisco.
First, this might be a quick email because I don’t really know that much. But that isn’t going to stop me from trying it out.
What I do know is that they are a perennial plant and do much better in the warmer parts of the south and into Mexico. They have however been selected for fast growth and high tunnel planting here in the north. We just started ours this week and will be keeping them in our basement growing under the new LED setup. They will be kept there until the end of April when there are just a few cool days left. They are going to go out into the greenhouse, or high tunnel as it’s technically called. Hopefully, the few cool days that they experience before the warmer May weather comes will trick the plants into thinking they are beginning their second year of growth.
The high tunnel is currently housing our laying hen flock of 150. At the same time as the artichokes move in the chickens will move out into the outside garden and the new egg mobile that will carry them around the farm trailing the cows by a few days.
Artichokes are a part of the thistle family and have a good amount of foliage that grows before it starts producing fruit. Each plant will try to produce 20 or so seed heads. Of that, I will only keep about 5 to allow to fruit. The rest will be sacrificed. This will give the energy the fruit needs to grow to be edible in our climate.
This is the plan and I am so excited to see how this is executed throughout the year. Hopefully, it doesn’t go out with a fizzle fast and early before they even make it to the garden.
Stay tuned for updates on how they grow. I have had artichokes from the store and from what I’ve heard they are like asparagus or a fresh carrot from the soil in that they are something to be cherished when they are picked fresh from the garden. We will see.
We hope to see you soon,
January 10th 2020
Don’t Be A Chicken – Cutting Up A Whole Bird And Parting It Out Is Easy And Economical
Be a Part of Your Food.
Raising chicken on our farm is inefficient. Not just a little bit inefficient, it is laughable how awful the numbers work out versus our commercial chicken producer counterpart.
They don’t bite.
A commercial chicken operation may have upwards of 40,000 birds in each building. We have 250 birds divided up between 3 “chicken tractors”. Then we move them each day. We have to bring feed and water out to them and when they are all raised up, we bring them to our chicken processor. Our processor is much different than the commercial counterparts too. We use Quality Cut Meats down in Cascade WI. There are only a handful of operations here in Wisconsin that process chickens. Jennifer is the butcher there and she gives us one great service. One highlight and glowing review I would give her is due to the cooling process they use to bring the chickens’ temp down before they bag them or cut them up. They do not use vats. They air cool them in totes. This minimizes the potential for contamination. These types of measures are not taken in the large-scale processing plants. They use water tubs and bleach water, dunking countless birds into the same water.
I am charged nearly $4.50 a bird to have it processed and inspected so that I can sell them as we do. The charges increase as we ask to have one bird cut into several pieces and put into several bags. Not to mention we lose the frame of the bird which has significant weight. Therefore, we sell our bone-in breasts and drums and thighs all for a higher cost per pound.
This leads me to encourage you to do the extra work in your kitchen. It’s not very hard to take a whole chicken and break it down into parts you can use in the kitchen. Yeah, roasting a whole chicken is easy and you use the whole bird, but you are certainly limited in the variety of meals you can prepare.
We are continuing to grow and evolve how we communicate with you. I’ve felt our weekly emails have begun to become a bit stale and to add a new element to our weekly content I’ve started to work on creating videos.
For the first video of the year, I visited my friend Dan Solberg who catered our 2019 Farm to Table Dinner. He has plenty of experience in the art of cutting up a chicken. Maybe not as much experience in front of a camera but he has some experience there too. Before I met Dan, I saw him in a movie called Polyfaces. It is a documentary about Polyface farms and was in production when he was working there.
We hope the video is helpful to you.
January 3rd 2020
Here We Go 2020. Pigs And Chickens!
The New Chapter.
We’ve turned the page into a new and exciting year on our farm. We’re very much looking forward to the new addition to our family but there is still farm work to be done. I still have a goal to be a farmer in a full-time capacity and I will still be planning for a year of continued growth and increased production.
The years goals.
We will be increasing our production of both pigs and chickens here in 2020 while our beef production will be similar to 2019. Our garden will have more variety and I’ve decided to continue to work at raising turkey effectively and efficiently. Over the last two years, I’ve had poor results. I hope that the kinks have been worked out and my lessons have been learned.
The pork production will increase from 12 to 16 pigs. I have had a difficult time deciding on the breed going forward here on the farm. We primarily have raised Hereford pigs until 2019 when we took a go at the Idaho Pastured Pig, or IPP for short. The reason we went to this relatively new breed is to reduce the grain need that the Hereford thrives on. The Hereford is also very hard on the pasture. By that, I mean that they dig large wallows and tear up the ground with much more aggression than the IPP.
To help us grow our pigs and increase our summer sales, we are going to be bringing the Herefords onto the farm much earlier than we have in past years. This will help us fatten these guys up during mid-summer when the grass is flush and will replenish our freezers to help keep up with demand. Then the IPP can have the farm and pastures to themselves as the season winds down and the grass growth slows.
Our 2019 goal for chickens was 1250 but we fell short when I decided to skip the last batch of 250 birds. This year I will meet and exceed that goal by raising 1350 pastured birds. I am sure that this is an achievable goal this year. We have a few events for which we will be furnishing products that will help meet these goals.
Thank you for supporting us as we grow and build a regenerative farm here in the Fox Valley.