Blogs are nice in that they have all the past entries, so those who are interested can read a lot about the past year if they want to just from previous entries. So, a "year in review" blog entry doesn't make sense, and it would probably not serve any of our farm share owners. What's happening NOW on the farm is better, with some glances back at what we have achieved...
Summary: Abundance of Milk and Eggs
The summary for the quick reader is that our production in eggs and milk is way up. With a team of people engaged and making sure cows and chickens get what they need every day, we finally have a handle on winter milk and egg production. Our hogs are more comfortable this winter in hogmahall. We have milk cows calving in the next week or so, which will make for even more milk production (and the hogs and chickens are happy about that).
Stop the Insoynity!
As a Helios Farms Farm Share Owner, you are participating in a local food revolution. The Standard American Diet (SAD) food supply is heavily subsidized, which puts silly price pressure on local farms that make quality foods. Our farm share owners recognize this dynamic and are willing to pay for uncorrupted foods. In 2014, the US Government Soy Subsidies were $1,394,975,640. That's a lot of tofu paid for by your tax (or share of the US deficit) dollars! In fact, if you type "insoynity" into Google, it gives you the results for "insanity." Coincidence? I think not.
With all this subsidized soy, the result is that just about everything in our food supply has at least a little soy in it. You got your soybean oil, you got your soy lecithin (also makes a great industrial lubricant, yum), you got your soy flour, animals all eat tofu (actually soy). Even the sacred food chocolate usually has a shot of soy for you. And soy, being an inflammatory food and endocrine disrupter, ain't really that good for you in the long run. They even include soy in vaccines. More yum.
If you pay taxes (remember the thing about death and taxes?), you are unwittingly contributing to the insoynity. Fortunately, you can neutralize the insoynity by going out on a limb and "subsidizing" local farms that support soy-free approaches to food. You can subsidize local farms by buying their products, even though they cost more when you ignore your health costs, and making sure your friends hear about the insoynity and how they can stop it. A good way to say no to soy is purchasing livestock shares from Helios Farms, where there's not a soybean or soy product on the property.
Lard from hogs that are fed soy looks a lot like soybean oil under an electron microscope. We like our lard to look like lard, so we don't feed soy to our hogs. Some kids who are allergic to soy and eggs, are actually allergic to the soy properties coming through the eggs from hens fed soy. Our hens demand a soy-free diet. The roosters are soy-free too. They don't like their mojo disrupted. By purchasing hog shares and egg shares from Helios Farms, you and all your friends and family can stop the insoynity.
Our cows eat grass, just like they did in the beginning. The cows born at Helios Farms have never tasted a soy bean...no natto, no tofu. If it's up to the cows, grass will be the basis of all food supply. Think about it. You have the power to subsidize that movement. Subsidize grass!
Sell Shares of Your Farm
We know you hold back when our production is light, deliveries are irregular, quality is shaky. Some of you admit to wanting to preserve your source of the goodness for yourselves, not really talking to your friends and family about the farm for fear they will join and there will be less for you. Some of you have mentioned that you see us working so hard and you're just not wanting to stress us out more.
Whatever the reason you have been holding back, now is the time to yell out a YOPP! in support of your farm. Share our info with your friends. Let them taste it, or let us get them samples through you. Knock on your neighbor's door and offer them a glass of lab-tested Single-Moo milk. Get them to sign up. Let us know how we can help. We have all the elements in place for rapid growth this coming year, and grow we will! We are steeped in heavy winter production with spring just around the corner for a local abundance squared. If our farm share owners become our sales people, then we have a hundred-fold sales force, and grass wins big.
Hogs and Beef
Now I'm going to get to the meat of this farm update. We finished the hog harvest this year nicely and distributed all of the hog shares to farm share owners prior to the holidays. We really enjoy the on-farm butchery, and our team's skills at humane harvest and our hog butchery offering have become highly refined since we started here more than 4 years ago. Kira and her team can cut and package a half hog in under 20 minutes record time. When farm share owners are participating, it takes longer because of all the interaction and education that happens (the best part), but usually is less than an hour. Bacon, hams, and sausage happen consistently and heavenly.
I did not know when we married that the love of my life was destined to become a butcher and bacon maker, and a very skilled one at that, so it is a sweet life indeed. She has many sharp knives and is treated with increasing honor and respect by everyone around her, especially me.
The breeding hogs are all tucked away for the Winter in a blue-tarped "greenhouse" we call Hogmahall. We have a new boar, Tex, sows Missy and Ella, and four new gilts soon to be sows which we haven't named yet, so we expect a great hog year next year. Out of the rain with lots of warm dry straw, lots of milk-laden food, and a host of renegade chickens on their backs picking off any lice and pesky things, and they are very happy and comfortable hogs. Always a fun bunch to hang out with if you're up for a visit. Bring your back scratcher.
Where's the beef? We have had bad experiences sending beef out for custom butcher services, so we will only harvest beef on farm from now on, starting this spring. We have to own the experience and resulting product like we do for pork.
Beef cows have been multiplying here, and we have harvested some beef on the farm for our own use, but we are not yet fully equipped to age beef in a cooler for two weeks, so we haven't started our full beef harvest offering. Our Tool Barn has a roof on it, and half of it is not occupied by dairy cows, so we are setting it up as a temporary butchery facility. Soon it will have power and a walk-in cooler will be installed for hanging beef. Once that is done, we will start harvesting beef here, inviting farm share owners to participate, just like with the hog harvest. Steers are ready. No bull.
We are working on becoming certified by the Global Animal Partnership. This is an animal ethics group that advocates ethics standards for livestock raised for meat. The highest level of certification goes to farms where the animals spend their whole life, birth to harvest, on the farm. We are striving for that level certification and are working to get set up in that way.
Winter Eggbundance (Yes!)
Every year that we have been here, there has been several months pause in egg production due to our lack of facility and difficulties in layers-union negotiations. This year, we finally patched together facilities and fine feed, and a convincing message to the layers' union, and it kick started production before winter solstice actually arrived. We went from about a dozen a day, grumbly workers, to hundreds of eggs per day from happy cackling hens.
But now it is just too much. We just can't eat all the extra eggs. Remember that scene in Cool Hand Luke ("no man can eat 50 eggs"). It's like that here. Everyday.
Now that we have proven we can produce, and eat, lots of eggs, we are getting our egg label ready with all the text that is required. We will probably be getting an egg-handler's license soon so we can sell them wholesale through co-ops, etc. Right now, as they stack up in the cool outdoor storage, we would like you to help us find some more egg share owners. Talk us up and get us names. Find all the egg-eating groups on Facebook and put in a good word. For every egg share that you sell for us, we'll give you at least one extra dozen eggs, probably more. If you're successful at egg share sales, soon you can try the Cool Hand Luke scene at home.
Since we've been at this farming thing, we kept getting these hints from the cows that if we fed them more, they would produce more milk. It finally sunk in. We have a team here that is making the feeding and milking more regular than ever, and the cows are responding in kind (burp!).
We also have them under cover, occupying half of the Tool Barn that we are working on finishing. They are rude and messy companions when you're working on the tractor, and they never put the tools away, but it is a huge improvement for them over previous winters when they were more exposed to the elements. It will be even better when they have their own dairy barn next winter, and their half of the Tool Barn can be used as it is intended (as a shop and tool barn).
With chickens under control, we are bracing for a culling and sorting of chickens in the greenhouse. We will harvest old hens and unnecessary roosters. Catching them for sorting and culling is night work, so we have to get ourselves motivated to stay up late, which is difficult in the cold winter, but we'll do it. We know you're counting on us.
By spring, I plan to roll out breed-specific egg mobiles, including one filled with our meat breed chickens. I want to try our hand this year at growing a large batch of Helios Farms' breed of pasture foraging meat chickens. If all goes well, we will be offering chickens for meat once again in late summer, and, the following year, we will include them once again in our full farm share...most likely at an unsubsidized price.