Egg share reliability
Your egg deliveries in this past year have been sporadic. Over the past two years, our pastured flock was reduced in size by 80% by predators: bobcats, coyotes, skunks, and owls to name the main culprits. That kind of loss is not acceptable, so to prevent further losses, we decided to try running our remaining layers in more secure pasture-based pens that protect them from predators. That strategy worked for the most part to eliminate the predator losses, but the labor required to move the pens daily, and the environment for the layers in the pasture pens was not ideal.
The persistent predators were still able to visit the pens, stressing out the chickens. Just the presence of predators can stop the chickens from laying. From a distance one day, I watched a bobcat reach under a gap between the ground and the pen, hook a chicken, and walk off with a meal, and he also mortally injured two other chickens in the process flailing for the one he captured. I have more stories about that bobcat, who seems to have some kind of mystical protection shield around him, but you can hear those stories when you come visit your farm. With winter approaching, all the laying hens have returned to the greenhouse on comfortable deep straw bedding and we are rethinking our overall egg production strategy. Lights, non-GMO wheat in the rich Mosaic feed, and security from predators will keep them laying through the winter. We have new pullets that are starting to lay, and we will purchase some chicks soon that will start laying in late spring. With all that, we have already seen the egg production rising. So I think egg share holders will be happy with a steady supply of eggs soon. And we will extend shares or otherwise make up any missed egg deliveries. By next spring, we will have an outdoor egg production strategy that works, keeps the flock protected, and keeps a steady supply of "the perfect food" nutrient-dense eggs flowing into the hands of our farm share owners. We appreciate your patience as we develop a strategy that fits with this land and our wildlife mix to create year-round egg production from happy and secure laying hens.
Let's Talk CSA
Helios Farms is a unique CSA, in that we focus on livestock shares. CSA is an acronym for "Community Supported Agriculture." It's usually associated with vegetable boxes, where you subscribe with a local farmer early in the spring, pay up front, and then see what kind of vegetables the farmer can produce for you with your early investment through the spring, fall, and into the winter, getting a box of vegis each week to incorporate into your meals. The CSA spirit is that the local community, those receiving the food, shares the risk for the farming process needed to grow the vegetables. Some CSA's ask you to contribute labor or help in other ways. People who join CSA's are usually interested in participating in alternatives to the government-subsidized industrialized agriculture that has become the unhealthy foundation of our nation's food supply.
Helios Farms is a year-round milk, eggs, and meats farming community, and the largest population of our community is our farm share owners. We don't have customers, we have shareholders who own our livestock and participate in the farm. Here at the farm, we currently have five adults and a 7 year old and a 5 year old. Soon we will have two more farmers joining the core team. This team is running the show, but the overall performance of this milk, egg, and meats supply community is also fueled by the labor resources from our community, the financial resources, distribution resources, and gratitude and feedback for the healing foods that we are figuring out how to consistently and reliably produce and deliver to more than 200 families between Roseburg and Portland.
We are building a new dairy/creamery facility, because the raw milk dairy is the centerpiece of the farm. We are also finishing the butchery, and will have it functional (outside of the house, yay) within a couple weeks. We already processed meat chickens in the chicken wing of the butchery and it works very well. We are installing the refrigeration units this coming week, and steel rails so the sides of meat no longer have to be shouldered through the house to chest freezers on the porch to cool, but instead will roll on rails into our on-farm meat locker.
If you show up here on any given day, it can look and feel like we are behind schedule, over-committed, over budget, overworked, disorganized, and, well, a little crazy. Sometimes we are not good communicators about delivery changes, sometimes technology fails us so we can't communicate with folks at all. Nevertheless, we are following The Plan to better, and the team here is committed to getting the best foods and information out to our community. We have amazing farm share owners who run our drop points, communicate with farm share owners, help show up for chicken harvest, drive deliveries, help at farmer's markets, and support the farm building effort financially and otherwise.
It is the right way, new-old way to get the healthiest, local, milk, eggs, and meats to the people who are participating in our farm community. Working as a community, we have accomplished amazing things in the last 7 years, persisting through all kinds of internal and external resistance. The community is sharing "the risk", recognizing that things go wrong sometimes, and rolling with it to progress the farm forward. Working as a community, we will see huge improvements over the next few years as we start turning a profit and moving toward realizing the full Helios Farms vision.
Thank you for your participation in Helios Farms.