I sometimes take for granted knowledge that is common sense for me, but not for those who do no live on a farm. The biggest of these is the knowledge that livestock can be dangerous. Thankfully I've never taken for granted the damaged a pig, cow, or even a goat can do. But as more and more people start keeping a couple pigs or cows to raise for their own use, there are people owning livestock that may have never owned livestock before. So here is my general rule. Pigs and cows are not puppies. They can kill you by accident.
This year we are raising over 300 Freedom Ranger chickens free-range here on the farm, and they are almost ready to process! The chickens are getting big and we will start processing the end of July. They will be $4/lb and be sold only as whole birds. If anyone would like a fresh bird, before they are frozen, send us a message and we will let you know the date and time to stop on buy the farm to pick one up.
Market Season is here and boy do we have a busy schedule. We also have a new look! My wonderfully talented husband, Jeffrey, built us a little rustic barn to sell out of at the Farmer's Markets. So look for us at the following markets!
Spring is in the air... kind of. While there is still snow on the ground here we are getting ready for the warmer months. A big Thank You to Marcus Edwards for helping us get started raising honey bees. We already have most of what we need, and the bees are ordered to arrive in May. Keep reading to find out what else is happening around the homestead.
It's heading into fall and school is soon to resume, but we still have plenty of weeks left at the summer farmer's markets. Our sweet corn is ready and we have a batch of pasture raised rabbits heading to the processor at the end of the month. Sweet corn is $4/dz at the farmer's market or $3/dz if you stop by the farm. Visit the rabbit page for pricing on whole and cut up rabbit.
I am very excited to announce that For Peate's Sake Homestead's pigs are now almost completely off commercial grain! It's just another step towards becoming more sustainable. The pigs' diet are now almost completely made up of food that would have otherwise ended up in the trash.
In the US alone we toss nearly 40% or the equivalent of $165 Billion dollars of food away EACH YEAR. So we decided to take advantage of this and approached a few of the area grocery stores and a cheese factory. From the grocery stores we have been getting scraps and produce that would have been otherwise dumped in the trash, some of which looks perfectly edible. We had been getting whey from the cheese factory for a while, but we discovered that not only were they tossing the whey they were throwing away a great deal of perfectly good cheese as well.
Besides hay and a bag of feed here and there for our lactating sows, we are no longer purchasing feed from the feed mill. Also, on occasion, we get bread from a local bakery and spent grain from a local brewery. In the fall we have an arrangement with a local pumpkin farm to get the squash that don't sell after Halloween. By utilizing all these sources we are now feeding more pigs for less money, while also helping to reduce the amount of organic material ending up in landfills.
It's a win-win for everybody, especially the pigs. They are loving their new and varied diet. It will be awhile until I know how this will effect the pork, but I've noticed a marked improvement in meat quality just since we started feeding whey last year. Jeff doesn't seem to taste a difference, but I find the meat sweater and more tender... or maybe I'm just biased. I guess I will just have to wait and see what our customers have to say.
When we first started our farm I believed the best way to raise the healthiest pigs was to do so organically. After some trial and error and a great deal of research I've come to a different conclusion: that in the long run it's best to fall somewhere in the middle. We feed conventional pig feed, scrap produce, whey, hay, and eggs to our pigs. There is no way for us to be certified organic because of our pig's varied diet. If we wanted our pigs to be raised organic we would not only have to purchase organic feed from a mill over an hour away, we would need to stop feeding whey and produce, have our pastures certified, and find an organic source of hay. Not only is this cost prohibitive, but it also increases our carbon footprint because of how far the organic feed would have to travel to get to us (not to mention all the gas it would take to grow the grain). By feeding the pigs what is considered waste products, I am both reducing my feed bill and preventing tons of perfectly good food from ending up rotting in a landfill.
There is also the fact that if I farmed organically it would restrict the kind of medication I could give to my animals. I use chemical wormers and antibiotic on an as needed basis. This is because chemical wormers are just more effective, and while I do try and use all natural methods such as garlic and pumpkin seeds, sometimes the best thing I can do for the animal is give them a dose of ivermectin (which was originally developed to treat people) or another equally safe and effective product. This is how both products should be used. The problem with large scale confinement livestock operations is not that they use wormers and antibiotics, but that many places over uses them creating resistance.
The finale reason we've decided against becoming organic is largely a belief that the organic movement has become too anti: anti-GMO, anti-pesticides, anti-science. There is more of an emphasis on what is "natural" instead of what is "sustainable." Unfortunately, organic in it's current form is not sustainable, requiring more land to produce the same amount of conventionally grown crops (although some crops perform better than others).
We are devoted to trying to be sustainable, and the truth is organic is not. For our food production system to move towards sustainability we need a mixture of the organic and conventional methods. Wiser uses of technologies like GMOs and pesticides, not the outright rejection of them.
We've had a tough time with piglets over the winter, but now the piglets are coming one litter after another. It's also time to start putting down deposits for whole and half pigs, and we should have pork packages available in a week or so!
We had an overwhelming response to our pork products. Because of that, we are now sold out of pork for the foreseeable future. We only kept back one piglet from the last batch for ourselves and our boar seems to have quite doing his job. Right now it looks like we won't have another boar until later this months, which would mean piglets born either late December or early January. This will mean we will have market sized hogs ready the summer of 2015.
We are very thankful to all who have called or emailed inquiring about buying pork from us. Next year we are sure to keep more piglets to meet the demands of our customers. This was our first year raising pigs to sell for pork and it's been quiet the learning experience. All four or the young boars that were processed were free of taint and produced deliciously lean meat. Although, because there are those who refuse to eat boar meat we will be taking pre-orders for barrows (castrated) or gilts (females) come this winter.
We also want to thank Joe at Coffaro's Custom Butcher for being patient with us as we figured out how to go about meeting the wants of our customers. We are lucky to have found such an understanding and knowledgeable butcher to work with.
Kayla lives with her family in South Dayton, NY. She along with her husband Jeff and daughter Tanner run a small farm raising all sorts of animals.