Chickens

The cat's out of the bag...

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Sometimes when everyone else is zigging, you've just got to zag. We've done this a few times in our business, but probably never as dramatically as we did last week when we shared about how we won't be raising any more organic broiler chickens next year.

No matter how sure you are of the decision to zag, there's always a level of doubt that settles into your mind and rattles the nerves. We've definitely had a lot of these rattled moments over these past few weeks as we prepared to let the cat out of the bag.

But your responses last week absolutely blew our mind. You shared in our mutual disappointment (a couple of you even cried!), but then you cheered us on. You told us that you understood and then you encouraged us to keep following our hearts.

We had a lot of fear about sharing this major change with you. But your grace and kindness not only touched our hearts. It gave us peace of mind. Knowing that that we can pivot and that you'll still have our backs is the greatest gift you could ever give us.

We want you to know that we've got your back, too! We've had you top of mind as we put the finishing touches on the Ginger E-book that we'll be releasing in a couple of weeks. The Book includes 5 of our all-time favorite ginger recipes and it's coming to you first next Wednesday. We hope it helps you find some extra inspiration in the kitchen this month.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

The scary change we're making on the farm.

Before he took the plunge and decided he was going to become an organic farmer, Greg would often talk about farming in "someday" sort of terms.

Midway through his PhD program, he eventually realized that life's just too short to NOT be doing the thing you love and he decided to make the switch and become a farmer.

We're now in the middle of our fourth season here at Stonecrop and I can tell you that without a doubt, this work fills us up more than anything else. You walk around the farm and you can see the dedication pouring out into every crevice of this farm - from the reconstructed barn, through the pastures and all the way back to the pigs. We love this farm and we love this work.

But here's the thing we're dreading to tell you. Ever since we started this farm, we've continued listening to our hearts. It's almost never led us astray. And over the last year, our hearts have been telling us that it's time to make a change on the farm.

We've wrestled with the decision for a while, since this is something that has become such a big part of our business. And more than that, it's something that we're known for in the community. But we know it's true... we don't want to raise broilers (chickens for meat) next year.

We have lots of good reasons for making this decision, one of them being that our fields are not ideal for rotationally grazing these types of birds (our land is very hilly!) and the daily labor of moving the birds, as well as processing these chickens, is too strenuous for our bodies for the long-term. But even if we could overcome all of this, it still wouldn't be right for us.

This means that while we're going to finish out this season strong and keep bringing fresh chickens to market through the middle of October, next year, we can't be your organic chicken farmers anymore.

The upside to all this is that because we're saying no to broiler chickens, we can say yes to other things that we love. This means that we're raising more pigs and expanding our laying flock next year! And we're going to keep on rolling with our ginger and Thanksgiving Turkeys, too.

We know that you might be feeling a little sad about all of this (we are too!). But, we're excited about continuing to make this farm into something special and making decisions that are sustainable for us for the long-term. And that means following our hearts, even when its bringing us into unchartered territory.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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People often ask us about predators on the farm. Especially when they realize we don't keep our animals in barns and they see our piglets roaming the pastures and the laying hens searching for bugs beneath the snow. The truth is, I'm not exactly sure how we do it, but we have a few stories to share that might help answer this question. 

In our first year here on the farm, we had a large family of foxes living across the road. They were cute at first, until the mother fox started traveling across the road daily to teach her kits how to hunt with our laying hens. During our absolutely back-breaking first summer as livestock farmers, we were losing chickens right and left to these guys and it made us feel terrible.

We considered a variety of solutions. Traps, guns, guardian dogs, you name it...none of them felt right. We talked to farmers, we consulted our farm books. And eventually, we realized that the best option wasn't to rid ourselves of this family of foxes but to strengthen the preventative mechanisms we already had in place. 

Enter a stronger electric fence charger that increased the current 6-fold, and voila! Problem solved. My original farming mentor always said that a hot electric fence stops anything on four legs, and he was right. We've never had another fox-related incident on the farm since.

Unfortunately, the hot fences do not stop the two-legged predators that roam the skies. Hawks torment lots of farmers and homesteaders we know and have been known to kill entire flocks. But as you probably guessed by now, we've developed systems to minimize the impact of these predators, too. We keep large animals like the sows nearby the small animals like the chickens and this seems to keep most of the ariel predators away. Along with shelters and hot fences, and we are happy to report that we have only rare run-ins with hawks. 

Knowing this, you can imagine why I was so flabbergasted to see a large hawk tangled up in one of the electric fences this past summer (check out the picture below to see the photo proof!). I approached the bird to get a closer look. Even though I knew full well that he might someday be my greatest nemesis, I resolved to set him free just the same.

I spent a whole hour trying to untwist the fibers that were wrapped around it's leg and wing. Eventually, it became clear that in order to free the bird, I needed to cut the fence. A couple of quick cuts with the knife and the bird was untangled. And, within a few minutes, the hawk was gone soaring through the sky again. 

We've learned that coexisting with predators is part of what it means to be good stewards of our land. Someday, we might need to set a trap or move toward guardian dogs, but for the past three years, we've established a nice working relationship with our local wildlife and we do hope it lasts...

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg