Planning 2016

There has been a lot of debate around the farm lately about whether or not to continue raising chickens for meat. We have gone through the pros and cons list in our own individual minds and in conversation around the dinner table.  Cornish Cross or Rangers? 800 or 200? Build new chicken tractors or patch up the old ones? Use the same brooder house set up or repurpose an existing building to fit the needs of the little baby chicks?

Of all the things on the farm, meat birds are the highest maintenance. They require a lot of attention. Feed, water, moving the chicken tractors and fencing each day... and then there is the processing. It is an emotionally and physically tasking day to load up, slaughter, package, and organize the freezers. Child care needs to be arrange, requests for days off from town jobs, and of course someone needs to be on farm throughout the day to care for all the other animals.

If you had asked me last week if we would have chickens available this summer, I would have told you flatly, "No, it's just impossible." Then I sat down to dinner with my family over a big pot of roast chicken, potatoes and turnips and I realized that if I was to ever eat roast chicken again, I would have to raise it myself.

So this morning I sat down and planned out our 2016 chicken schedule. I ordered a few hundred chicks and noted on the calendar their ship date and approximate slaughter dates. After a third cup of coffee,  I looked out the window at all the work that needs to be done before the first batch arrives on March 23rd. I suppose there is no changing my mind at this point, so yes... we will have chickens available this summer.

--Carla

Get your hams downtown.

We will be at the Market Pavilion this Saturday, December 19th from 10:00am - noon with freezers full of pork, chicken and a cooler of fresh eggs.  We will take a break for the holidays on December 26th, so stock up for a few weeks.

 

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Food Privilege and Food Stamps

We happened to be downtown Frankfort last night. I was wearing a short-sleeve dress and sandals while the KSU marching band occupied the street and the town prepared for the lighting of the big tree on the Old Capitol Lawn. It was weird. It has been a strange season. All of the seasons have. I do wonder what this winter will bring and what the temperatures will mean for our next growing season.

I keep considering the risks we are taking up here on this lonely ridge. Thirty or so minutes from any kind of pizza place does not sound like much, but there are days when it feels like too much. I have been hesitating about writing this post because I think that farmers are not supposed to talk about their hardships.  Maybe adults aren't supposed to talk about hardships. I am still learning how to be an adult, too.

Thoughts from a girl trying to be a farmer:

-Farming is not just physically isolating. I feel at times like an FBI agent who isn't allowed to talk about her job. Animals get sick, they get hurt, and they die. This is never easy. It is always painful to witness no matter how many times you see it. The fox is so well fed, we have lost nearly half of our flock this year... the unfortunate and unspoken side of letting chickens free range on pasture.  Day old chicks most often die within their first 48 hours of life. Baby piglets are crushed under the weight of their 700lb mother because we don't hold her in a gestation crate, not ever.  I know it is a little difficult to read,  but it is extremely difficult to pick up those dead tiny bodies and carry them to the burn pile.

-Farming is listed as 1 of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in our country. Let that sink in for a minute. Every single day I am in pain. My body has not adjusted to the workload. There are cuts, bruises, tears and twists to tend to throughout the day. The end of the first year of farming was celebrated with surgery on my spine from a fall that nearly left me paralyzed.

-Farmers, especially small family farmers, have a very limited and unreliable income.  Our family operates under the Federal poverty guideline. (Family of 5 making less than $28,410.) We work part-time jobs to pay for things like gas in the car, sports for the kids, dog food, car insurance, etc.

-Farming relies on experience (something we definitely do not have).  The expertise in knowing when transitioning pullets to a new house, it is best not done when there is even the slightest chance of rain. One of many lessons learned the hard way. When we mess up, living things die.

-Is sustainable farming smoke and mirrors?  I know what it costs to raise and slaughter a hog in a thoughtful, humane way. When you make the decision to buy those chops, you support us and encourage our style of farming to continue. I'm so grateful for this, because I like treating animals well. But, this decision alone is a privilege. We often take the ability to make a decision for granted. I want our pork chops to be available to all income levels. How do we make that kind of shift as a society? As farmers we already operate in the red. Cheaper feed? More land for more livestock? More SNAP benefits for local foods?  Competing slaughter-houses that offer much lower fees or even a sliding-scale fee for small producers? Lower vendor fees at markets and credit card processing? No bank fees for micro-business? Tax incentives for growing your own vegetables or small flock of chickens? I'm getting on my own nerves now. I should STOP.

These are some of the perils I have been mulling over the past few weeks. The big obvious risks like unpredictable weather patterns and the market economy are secondary in comparison to the hazards of this life and the quality of it we experience.

 

-Carla

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Workshops

October has been a busy month on the farm. We are closing down the garden, prepping hoop houses for winter, moving hogs from one pasture to another and creating new spaces for next years growing season.

In addition to regular farming life we have had our first ever birthday party on the farm. There was a scavenger hunt into the woods to seek out a snitch from Harry Potter, a pinata filled with spooky spiders and a table filled with pumpkin juice, fire whiskey, elf wine and every flavor jelly bean. It was a beautiful day to share with family and friends.

We are so very grateful for the opportunity to have our history documented by the very talented Laura McClintock. The Mountain Workshops were focused on Frankfort this year and many of our farmers at the market were followed for a week to document everyday life in Kentucky. The significance of this project is not lost on me. I look forward to the day when my children scan the images and remember their childhood as seen through the eyes of a passing visitor. 

You can view our story and many others here: Mountain Workshops.

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

The benefit and the curse of raising livestock is that we farm year round. We will still have eggs, chicken and pork throughout the winter months to provide for our community. It is a wonderful option for those who are committed to eating locally.

Most of our animals are heritage breeds that have adapted well to pasture life. While we still carry buckets of feed and water to the pastures through the mud and snow with a bit of a chip on our shoulder, they don't seem to mind at all. We still collect eggs, deliver piglets, and milk the cows. They still forage, play and snooze in giant piles of straw. Farm life doesn't stop for us even when the tomatoes do.

The Franklin County Farmer's Market season ends around Thanksgiving, but we will continue to show up on Saturday mornings.  Starting in December we will be at the pavilion from 10:00am to noon. We highly encourage folks to pre-order online or purchase one of our CSA Memberships to make the pick up process smoother for everyone.

The high demand for eggs, and our personal love for the amazing taste, led us to order some more laying hens for the upcoming months. 50 baby Golden-Laced Wyandottes joined the farm this week sending a little thrill of excitement through all of us. They are so fluffy and warm. I really enjoy it when new babies join the farm family. 

Next week we will be introducing a new option - SHOULDER BACON! Most bacon is cut from the belly of the pig, this bacon will be cut from the shoulder (picnic roast). It will be sliced and naturally cured just like our other bacon, but will be less fatty because of the cut of meat. I am excited to try this out on a BLT alongside a big bowl of spicy squash soup!

If you haven't already signed up for our newsletter, now is a fantastic time. We will let folks know weekly about our Saturday schedule and offerings as things sell out and the weather becomes more unpredictable.

Hope you are all cozied up under a warm blanket this evening. 

 

New Online Store

We streamlined our online store this week to make things cleaner and simpler to use. It's still pretty new for us, so if you see any little mistakes shoot us an email so we can promptly fix it, please!

Hope you are all enjoying the cooler weather.

Carla

 

archived 7/28/2015

07/28/2015

The Business of Our Business

 

 

I am a farmer, but I'm also a freelance content specialist (fancy talk for writer), which means I get to interact with corporate culture more than some of my fellow sharecroppers. While office chairs and tractor seats are worlds apart in terms of ergonomic comfort and shelter from the elements, I can't help but notice that there are more similarities between working the land and working 9 to 5 than one would assume at first blush. Here are a few ways in which farming and cubicle-dwelling are kind of alike.

 

The Marketplace

Corporate culture is beholden to the marketplace. Beneath all the buzzwords and boardroom meetings, a corporation's bottom line is simple: They need to exchange a product or service for dollars. The model upon which capitalism stands tall hearkens back to open-air markets where merchants hawked wares to townsfolk who needed but couldn't produce said wares themselves.

If you've visited a farmer's market recently, you've observed a marketplace operating in its most basic and timeworn form. Behind our plastic table, offering freezerfuls of pastured pork and chicken and never enough eggs (I know, I'm sorry) between an artisan baker and mushroom specialist, I and my family members participate in the very history of our modern economy. 

 

About Those Buzzwords

I have an uneasy relationship with corporate buzzwords. On the one hand, I love words and the multi-layered tapestry that is the English language...but on the other hand, I've composed my share of corporate copy and have typed clunkers upon client request. I'm no buzzword apologist, but I do recognize that many of these tired terms do represent solid business concepts that are as applicable in the pasture as they are in project management meetings.

ROI (Return on Investment): We recently phased oats out of some handmixed feeds because the price increase didn't translate to significant weight gain. This is a basic ROI issue.   

Value Added: Honestly, I only know this as a farming phrase, but I understand it gets tossed around in office suites quite a bit. For us, cut-up chicken breasts are value-added products, as are cucumbers in pickle form and a pork belly carefully processed into bacon; certified organic is a huge value-added concept. This is a key term to own when applying for grants.

Low-Hanging Fruit: As a corporate buzzword, low-hanging fruit is unchallenging, uncreative problem solving. On the farm, it's actual fruit and it's delicious.

 

Marketing

What? Marketing? Gross!

I get as tired of car commercials and full-page drug ads as you do, but these are crass examples of an important concept: Customer communication. I never formally studied marketing, but I have provided written content for a variety of marketing campaigns, and I've come to understand that smart marketing communicates a company's values and product benefits.

When we stand behind our table and talk about the benefits of pastured pork, explain the taste differences in chicken raised on fresh green grass, we're marketing. We're 100% truthful, which isn't a natural assumption of marketing, but the communication serves the same end. Farm tours are important marketing opportunities, and ones we heartily enjoy. Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram pictures, even this blog--these are venues for customer communication and interaction we've participated in since the beginning of our farming endeavor and, if I'm being honest, I think we do better than some of the corporate giants in your social media feeds. 

While I can't speak to the motives of corporate marketing managers, I know why we take the time to produce this content: We want you to try and enjoy our stuff. It's rare that we see a profit from our farm products, so money doesn't drive our marketing; rather, we firmly believe the world needs sustainably-raised proteins and have taken it upon ourselves to provide it. If we have to convince folks to try it, then we need to be up to the task.

 

Stakeholders

A corporation's stakeholders encompass everyone from CEOs to stock owners, contractors to customers. It's largely a huge group of people who stand to benefit from a business's success.

Goldfinch Farm has stakeholders too.  We utilize the services of local, family-owned butchers to convert our animals into legally-sellable meat products. Our weekly visits to the grain mill up the road support a neighboring community and century-old business. We bring specialty meats to market where conscientious customers can purchase the products they seek. I even consider the animals our stakeholders, as they benefit from the high quality of life we work to provide them. 

Where things get a bit different is in the human resources department. As a small, family farm, we have four people doing everything. On any given day, one of us may write a blog post, mix a bin of feed, run lines of electric fencing, and repair a damaged stanchion. In a corporate office, they laud this practice as "cross-training," but we just call it being handy.

 

Webinars

Just kidding, we don't do webinars. Rural internet is a notoriously bad bargain, so I doubt we could even if we wanted to. We don't even have Netflix.

 

There are numerous differences between corporate culture and operations on our small, sustainable farm--CEOs rarely wear overalls to address the board--but I firmly believe we're not as different as we seem. And I feel it's worth stating because, in general, farmers don't get society's respect the way a CFO or HR manager does. Things are certainly getting better, and nothing brings us more joy than a customer's gratefulness for our hard work, but on the whole, agrarians don't enjoy life's perks the way some of our more gainfully-employed friends do. Farmers tend to be okay with this, but next time you're stuck behind a rusty old pickup struggling to haul a few cows down the highway, just remember the driver in the feed company cap's workload really isn't all that different from yours...and your whole office.

--Rodney Wilson

- See more at: http://www.goldfinchfarmky.com/my-blog/2015/07/old-school.html#sthash.qJelqddg.dpuf

archived 5/5/2015

05/05/2015

Market Stand Now Open

If you happen to be in our neighborhood tomorrow, stop by the farm for our first official on-farm market opening day! We have pastured pork, whole chicken and eggs available from 10am-7pm.

archived 4/19/2015

04/19/2015

Kentucky Fried Chicken

We are a few days away from processing our first round of Cornish Cross chickens. It takes some mental preparation to slaughter animals you have raised from their first day of life. There is an almost mechanical instinct that clicks on and the birds that we have fed, water, bedded, warmed and pastured every day for the past 7-8 weeks turn to food.

That is the point of all of this. Food. Good food. I am ready to warm up my cast iron pan, toss together some herbs in cornmeal and flour and fry up one of our pastured birds. The flavors are so rewarding. I love watching everyone's eyes fill with pure delight when I place a bowl of hot crispy chicken on the table. Dinner is an event, especially when fried chicken is on the menu. I throw on a colorful tablecloth, set out the plates, forks and napkins. I pick out my favorite pyrex bowl and I wrap up the piled high thighs, breasts, and wings in a cloth napkin like the precious gem it is.

It has only been a a few years since I started frying chicken at home. I didn't know how to cut up a whole bird or what temperature to heat the oil to. I had no clue what ingredients made a recipe special or secret or what would make my own breading taste fantastic. Trial and error turns out to be the best way to learn how to cook the food you like to eat. My own family did not fry chicken. I don't remember ever eating chicken at home that wasn't put on the table in the form of a red and white bucket. With every single pregnancy I craved fried chicken. I would pull through the colonel's place and order a few pieces with a side of slaw and drench my buttery biscuit in the watery mess that was leftover in the little paper cup.

I'm 35 years old and now I know how to make biscuits and slaw better than the colonel. I learned what size chicken feeds my family and what spices taste really good and what just doesn't do much of anything in the way of flavor. My hope is that when my children grow up and start lives of their own, cooking will not be a mystery to them. I would rather them not know what to do at a drive-thru than not know what to do with a whole chicken.

I used to grow food because I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to know what was going on with my food from beginning to end.  While that aspect hasn't gone away, now I grow food more so because it taste good. I want to enjoy the things that I have to do every day in order to survive. I have to eat, it might as well be an enjoyable experience, right?

 

archived 4/13/2015

04/13/2015

CSA Sign-up Now Available!

We are going to try out something new this year. We are offering CSA Shares to our community for the market season, April 25th-Sept. 19th. (or 20 weeks)

 

 

archived 4/2/2015

04/02/2015

Spring

The weather is magical lately, isn't it? The perfect balance of sun, wind, dry ground and daylight hours. Like many folks this is my favorite time of year.

We are in constant motion. All of the projects that were laying on our shoulders throughout the frozen season can finally come to fruition. I feel as though we are running again, as fast as we can, to beat something... I don't know what exactly. Maybe I am anticipating the scorching heat of summer, the soggy soil and tick checks that come with the joy of tomatoes and sunflowers. At any rate the farm is transforming into something new all over again.  Our once milking barn has become the farrowing house for our newest additions. Our campsite is now a pasture for our milk cow as we wean the calf. And the big project we are undertaking as of late, is an on-farm market stand.  We hope to have something together in the next few weeks, and much like everything else, it will be a continually evolving experiment.

 

This week we will be at the Franklin County Farmer's Market pavilion with some other great vendors from 9:30-11:00am. We are having an Easter special this week too!

archived 3/6/2015

03/06/2015

All of the snow

I fear we brought the winds of Northeast Ohio with us when we moved back to Kentucky. I apologize if it was me... But at least maybe you got a day or two off of work, right?

We will not be able to make it down to the market pavilion this Saturday, but since our refrigerators are overflowing with beautiful pastured eggs and our freezers are packed to the gills with roasts, bacon and chops we will be making deliveries in town through the week. 

 

You can order here on our website, give us a call 859-334-0622 or send us an email and we will schedule a delivery date and time that works well for everyone. Hope you all are staying warm!

 

- See more at: http://www.goldfinchfarmky.com/my-blog/2015/03/all-of-the-snow.html#sthash.fF8AidSx.dpuf

archived 1/16/2015

01/16/2015

It is one way...

"I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my inheritance and destiny, so be it.  If it is my mission to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.  I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts, and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing, and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven's favor, in spite of the best advice.  If I have been caught so often laughing at funerals, that was because I knew the dead were already slipping away, preparing a comeback, and can I help it? And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not be resurrected by a piece of cake. 'Dance, 'they told me, and I stood still, and while they stood quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.  'Pray', they said, and I laughed, covering myself in the earth's brightnesses, and then stole off gray into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.  When they said, ' I know that my Redeemer liveth, ' I told them, 'He's dead', And when they told me, 'God is dead,' I answered, 'He goes fishing every day in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.' When they asked me would I like to contribute I said no, when they had collected more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had. When they asked me to join them I wouldn't, and then went off by myself and did more than they would have asked. 'Well, then,'they said 'go and organize the International Brotherhood of Contraries,' and I said, 'Did you finish killing everybody who was against peace?' So be it.  Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what I say I don't know. It is not the only or the easiest way to come to the truth. It is one way."

 

The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer, Written by Wendell Berry

From the book The Mad Farmer Poems

- See more at: http://www.goldfinchfarmky.com/my-blog/2015/01/it-is-one-way.html#sthash.pv0VyWJG.dpuf

archived 10/31/2014

10/31/2014

Negative Nelly

I have not had anything nice to say so I abandoned this blog for a while. Who wants to hear from a Negative Nelly? Also, I really don't know how much to share with the internets. But for the sake of answering many questions all at once, I will let down my privacy guard and tell you why I am a pissy little punk.

It has been a rough go for me lately. It all started... I don't even know when it started. The shit really hit the fan in July. We got sick. We don't know what, some kind of awful thing. Then in August I fell. I fell bad and tried to be tough about the whole thing and just keep going, until I couldn't keep going. I couldn't feel my leg. I had a herniated disc pressing on my L5 S1 nerves in my spine. I required surgery. I went in for surgery, came home, and immediately returned to the hospital, this time via the emergency department. I was unconscience for somewhere between 24 to 48 hours. I almost died.

I have Type 1 Diabetes. I had no idea I had diabetes. After, or maybe before, the surgery I went into diabetic ketoacidosis.  I am genetically predisposed to develop diabetes and that virus in July, well it was just enough for my body to attack my pancreas so violently that it no longer wanted or wants to produce insulin.

I am insulin dependent for the rest of my life. Finger sticks, injections in my stomach, carb counting, planning... so much planning.  I am pissed about it. I was a normal healthy person walking around thinking about life and adventure and now I am perceived as a sick disabled person with limitations. All of my conversations now are about how I'm feeling, what my blood sugar numbers are like, have I met with a specialist, have I considered alternative treatments. It's all very exhausting and doesn't make me feel very cheerful. 

So just ignore me for a while. There will be wonderful posts soon... Probably written by Rodney, while I sulk.

I need to end on a high note. So here goes: I am so grateful for my husband, who saved my life, and continues to be some kind of superman. He can tuck in the kids, muck out the barn and write article after article to pay our bills.  I will tell you that the farm is more beautiful this year than last. We have met some patient and kind folks that have welcomed us into this community despite our many flaws. Our freezers are full to the brim with chicken and beef and soon, more pork. Our children are healthy. I am a lucky girl.

 

 

 

archived 8/21/2014

08/21/2014

Some things will never change

We've been curing our garlic for the past few weeks. It's the same variety we have been growing for4 years, German Extra Hardy Garlic. We started with 25 bulbs, all lined up in a perfectly weeded row in our pristine little garden we first started in Kent, Ohio. We have slowly grown our seed every year. Eat most, plant some. There never seems to be enough for eating or planting. This batch of garlic was almost completely neglected. I think I weeded around it once. The chickens, the dog and the kids knocked over more plants than I want to think about. There was no time to weed or think about the garden this year. It has been all about chickens, pigs, cows, market and homeschool.

Last October was my mom's first and sadly, her last visit to our farm. We planted these garlic cloves the day she was here. I have been thinking about that day a lot since we harvested the garlic. We seeded some red winter wheat. I lassoo'd an escaped pig that day. It was so hot still. My mom died just a few weeks later.

I will always grow this garlic. I will save it every year until it just quits on me. It reminds me of the first garden we planted as a family just a few years ago. It reminds me of my last real moments with my mom. I want to fill up the pail they are stored in one day. I want to grow this garlic crop to a ridiculous amount. I want to know that in some way, that day in October wasn't wasted doing unimportant things. I don't think I will ever stop trying to impress her. I certainly don't feel finished trying to make her proud. So I grow garlic, I will always grow garlic.

 

 

If you've never planted a single thing, I recommend starting with garlic. It is such a rewarding little crop. You plant it in the fall when the chaos of summer is winding down. You throw some compost over it... and forget about it. In spring it shoots up scapes as a little teaser of things to come, and then in the boiling sun of July and August it's ready to come out of the soil and hang to dry for a few weeks. I love it because it is ready when all the other wonderful things that like to be roasted are ready too. To me summer is a vase full of black-eyed susans and a plate of roasted garlic, tomatoes and red peppers. Hope August is treating you well.

-Carla