Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garlic Workday this Saturday

We will have a member workday this Saturday, July 11th to harvest the 2009 garlic crop. Please join us at the North Farm/CSA Barn location around 10:00 am. If you arrive later look for signs to tell you where to find us. We will have a potluck lunch around 12:30 pm so please bring a dish to share, your plates, and utensils. Wear old clothes and shoes that can get dirty and bring your sunscreen, water bottle, and gloves. Members of all ages are welcome for an hour or the whole day. Hope to see you there!

Photos from the farm

This is the new corral and handling system to help us move the cows with less stress on both the animals and the humans.

Week 5 Newsletter

This season we are managing more animals than in past years. We will be finishing eight steers on pasture at the South Farm. Jody’s 50 ewes produced about 80 lambs that are pastured on the North Farm. The two sows had large litters but, unfortunately, one of the sows wasn’t too careful and stepped on quite a few, reducing the number of butcher hogs this year to 15. That sow was brought to the butcher a few months ago (we constantly cull animals with bad mothering instincts or ones that are mean). The butcher hogs and the single sow live in a seven-acre forest at the North Farm. The sheep and pigs are kept in by a high-tensile, 13-strand, woven-wire fence; it keeps both the predators out and the farm animals in.

With the increase in the number of animals comes the need for good handling systems. When the steers are ready for slaughter, we need to maintain a stress-free environment (for both people and animals). Getting an animal into a small trailer in the middle of a field without a handling system is hard on the animal and frustrating for the people trying to chase it. Unless you are a hunter, there is little point in chasing animals.

Our steers have a 30-by-36-foot corral that moves with the pasture. It consists of a bunch of interlocking gates that are easily taken apart and put together again. They have grown accustomed to this place, as we have placed the water tub and salt box in the corral. During the extreme weather of the past few weeks, the steers have come to view the corral as a sort of barn they can use as a refuge. If we need to move the steers to another pasture, we first lock them inside the corral. In the beginning, they freaked out when we locked the gate behind them. But, despite their thick brains, they have realized that the reward of this temporary restraint is new lush grass - lately they passively wait until Mike and I have set up a new fence.

If we want to load them onto a trailer, we have another setup that moves the steers through a crowding tube and alley, which allows us to sort them. For some reason I don’t understand, cows and other animals are less frightened when they are forced to move through a curving aisle with walls that restrain them on both sides. Giving the animals too much space allows them to hurt themselves, as they respond to the illusion that they can flee; restraining them has a calming effect.

We have a similar sorting system for the sheep - the trick here is to get them all in the barn. Sheep have a strong herd mentality and, unlike the steers, the sheep stick together. That gives a sheepherding dog a great advantage, as he/she can move the herd as one flock. Once inside the barn, it has been a challenge to get the first sheep to move through the sorting chute, but when you get one in (sometimes with a little encouragement) the rest are more likely to follow.

The nice advantage of sheep and steers over pigs is that they make us completely self-sustainable in our food supply; they eat grass, which especially after all this rain has been in plentiful supply. For the pigs, we used to buy in pig feed from a local grain dealer that purchases his grain from local farmers. That has changed; this year he couldn’t guarantee that the grains he purchased were GMO-free. As a result, we have secured another source of pig feed from Green Mountain Organics that will guarantee the feed to be free from any GMOs. Unfortunately, the cost of certified organic feed is much higher - the cost per ton went from $310 to $590. So, my dear pork lovers, you will notice an increase in the cost of pork this fall. If that means that we have priced ourselves out of the market due to our set of high standards on both animal ethics and feed source, we will be happy to give the forest back to the gnomes.

On ethics: We are expecting a visit this month from the Animal Welfare Approved organization to label our meat as certified humanely raised and handled. Our main obstacle to certification had been that our butchers were initially a bit shy in getting certified (it takes both the farm and the processor to obtain the label) but, after their facilities and handling systems were approved, we were able to complete the process. The requirements for certification are reasonable and greatly consider the welfare of an animal from the animal’s perspective. Good pig, cow, or sheep farmers should be able to get into the psyche of the animals they raise; once you do, you can’t do a fraction of the things we typically expose our domestic animals to these days.

Not everyone enjoys eating meat, and neither should we consume a lot of it; but when we do, it’s great to know that the animal made a contribution to the environment by keeping more land in grass (a very good remedy against global warming) and that we did everything to assure you it led a stress-free life. ~Jean-Paul

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Garlic Harvest Workday and Farm Update

Dear Roxbury Farm Members,
The Garlic Harvest Workday will be on Saturday, July 11th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Members of all ages are welcome for the whole day or a few hours. Please meet us at the North Farm/CSA Barn Location. We will share a potluck lunch around 12:30 pm. Please bring a dish to share, a plate, and utensils. The farm will supply beverages. We also recommend you bring work gloves, a water bottle, and sunscreen. Wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty. We hope to see you there!

On another note we have experienced another week of rainy weather. Fortunately the fields were dry on Monday so the crew worked until 8:00 pm to get all of the transplants and seeds in the ground that needed to be planted last week and this week. Monday night it started to rain again and hasn't stopped since. After three weeks of this weather the crops are beginning to suffer. You may notice that over the next two or three weeks the shares may be lacking a few items because of the weather. Over the last week we have only harvested about 1000 summer squash and zucchini. Usually by this time of year we are harvesting over 4000 summer squash and zucchini a week. The squash and zucchini need lots of sun and warm temperatures. The peppers and tomatoes are starting to fruit so we are hoping for some hot, dry weather to ripen them for your shares.