PS (pre-script, in case you don’t make it to the post-script). Farm Party May 20. There are still 15 tickets available. Put it on the calendar and buy your tickets now (on this website) for an afternoon and evening of fun, drinks, tours, spring splendor, herb potting, and outstandingly good Farmcraft rotisserie chicken.
There is plenty to report from Sheboygan County’s Favorite Farm, so let’s get to it:
We are getting cows! Well, not really cows. Heifers. 3 of them. (Heifers are lady bovines that haven’t given birth yet. Ours will be pregnant and about 18 months old. They’ll be “cows” after they’ve had their first calf.) This is the start of our cow/calf beef herd, which will hopefully grow through births and purchases of additional cattle. 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef take 2 years or a bit more before the butcher, so the soonest we would have any beef for sale that was 100% Farmcraft born-and-raised would be Fall 2025. To speed up that timeline a bit, we will also look for some “stockers” or other beeves that we can raise for just a growing season before taking to the butcher. Eventually, though, we would like to have a closed herd of cows that supplies all the calves for our operation, both for raising to market weight and for any replacement cows. We are starting with “lowline angus” aka “Aberdeen angus”, a smaller black angus breed with gentle disposition, outstanding growth on a 100% grass diet, and exceptional meat quality.
We plan to raise 500 meat chickens again this year. The big change is taking them to a USDA-inspected processing facility 2-hours away, instead of using the on-farm poultry exemption to process them on farm. We are trying off-farm processing primarily for the increased market access provided by inspected processing. On-farm processed birds can only be sold directly from the farm – no farmer’s markets, no grocery stores, no restaurants, no institutions. This is pretty limited and difficult as a new and relatively unknown farm. We are quite excited for the additional opportunities that inspected processing will provide to get high-quality pasture raised Farmcraft chicken on more tables in our community. If this season goes as well as we hope, we will be in a position to scale up our pastured poultry production big time in future seasons.
Turkeys! We hear that turkeys are excellent grazers and thrive in a pasture-based setting. We’ll raise about 20 for our first venture into pastured turkeys. They’ll be for sale as whole birds to provide a superior Thanksgiving or Christmas meal centerpiece. It strikes me as ironic or disappointing to celebrate our time with friends and family and another year of prosperity with $0.80 a pound confinement house raised, bland, drugged-up turkeys that provide nothing but problems for the environment and for the employees that raise and process the birds. It seems like we can do better. Farmcraft is excited to foray into providing a more delicious, ethical, nutritious and positive top-to-bottom holiday meal centerpiece.
Eggs are the hot topic to start 2023, with grocery store prices for any egg rising to meet and exceed the price of ultra-high quality actually-raised-on-pasture farm fresh eggs. We sell eggs for $6 a dozen. It costs our Farm around $3 for dozen eggs in the carton before any labor, and it takes plenty of labor to tend to the hens with food, water, bedding, movement, protection, egg collection. Thankfully, we are not trying to build our business solely or principally on egg income, and the hens provide a dozen other benefits – among them, compost, directly applied fertility, pasture sanitation (less flies), stewing hens after a couple years, eggs for the farm family, eggs for gifts, gentle clucks and purrs, endless entertainment. This winter we started our farm’s synergy between hoop house vegetables and hens. We are excited to further expand our hens’ utility with the natural relationship between birds and grazers. We are building an eggmobile right now for on-pasture mobile housing so that we can manage the hens and beef cows in close proximity this summer, to the benefit of both the hens (they eat the high protein fly larvae) and the cows (they don’t get bothered by flies).
Piglets!? They too are at Sheboygan County’s Favorite Farm! Goldie birthed 7 beautiful piglets, all by herself, in the deep of night on April 4th. I walked out in the predawn gray light at 6 AM and was wonderfully surprised by 7 clean, dry and on their feet new piglets. Goldie has been an outstanding mother and the colorful piglets are thriving and growing fast. It seems likely that our other darling female pig, Peppa, will have piglets in early- or mid-May.
Pork!? Yup, we’ve got it! A few beautiful pasture raised Farmcraft pigs just went to the butcher. The pork is succulent and juicy, far surpassing, not even comparable, to your childhood shake-and-bake pork chops and rivaling the flavor, unctuousness and melt-in-your-mouth beauty of any beef steak I have ever had. I am exceeding excited about the quality, and customer reviews to-date are very high praise for this Farmcraft Pasture Raised Pork. We will be selling the rich and succulent meat by-the-cut. Like poultry, we are going the route of USDA-inspected processing for benefits including off-farm sales and by-the-cut sales. Bacon, brats, chops and more will be available soon on our website.
Speaking of website, we hope to transition to Barn-to-Door, an internet store hosting service more tailored for our specific wants and needs. The name says it all. Barn-to-Door. Maybe Barn-to-Freezer, or better yet Pasture-to-Freezer-to-Table, but you get the point. Compared to our current website, the most important feature will be better facilitation, flexibility and communication for customers to pick up products from the farm on the customer’s schedule.
Finally, major farm infrastructure continues to be built. We need a winter “frost-free” cattle waterer, additional surface-run and buried water “pipeline” throughout the farm, and workable fencing for our beef and expanding numbers of pigs in both summer and winter. We are excited to build and use some more permanent infrastructure and the costs should be tenable by doing the labor ourselves.
Oh ya, last thing. We’re doing a farmer’s market! We plan to be at the Sheboygan Farmer’s Market every Saturday this summer. We will have smiles, chicken, pork and, if the plants and soil continue to cooperate, deep-organic cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and full-size tomatoes.
PS Farm Party May 20. There are still 15 tickets available. Put it on the calendar and buy your tickets now (on this website) for an afternoon and evening of fun, drinks, tours, spring splendor, herb potting, and outstandingly good Farmcraft rotisserie chicken.