HAPPY NEW YEAR! A LOOK BACK AT 2020
I think I can speak for everyone here…what a year! The many changes this year revolved around the same constants we rely on in this industry: we have to get up every morning, care for our animals, grow crops, and put in the work to keep it all moving forward.
We tripled our livestock numbers and made numerous upgrades to farm infrastructure, meat store, storage. We laid the ground work for more growth in 2021 to continue supplying our community with a high quality, trusted, local meat source. Here are just some of the highlights…
We began expansion on our health department inspected freezer space to add a walk-in freezer and packaging area.
We had the opportunity to start planning where to invest to meet the ever growing demand for our farm raised meats. We decided to spring for larger freezer storage, and so David and some hired help began the renovation process. Our meat freezer storage/retail area is an old milk house and milking parlor. The retail space customers walk into is the old milk tank holding room. (There is a hole in wall where the milk tanker would pump the milk through!) The long narrow area used to be a storage and prep area. There was a “heifer wheel” hanging on the wall where the dairy farmer would have check to see what cows needed to be bred based on dates and tag numbers. We sealed off a closet at the end of this room and built our custom sized walk-in freezer in front of it. We took a risk of not sending a single animal to sale and instead, went to a custom butcher to keep all of the meat to sell direct to consumer. I was nervous we would be stuck with all of this meat! It turned out to be one of the best decisions we could have made!
February was a flurry of preparing for March. I invested in courses to learn how to better market our meats. We had an entire year of projects and goals planned out. Little did we know just how much we were going to need to adapt and what we were going to be preparing for!
Just as we finished the freezer expansion and filled the freezers with beef and pork, the demand for local meats sky rocketed. In a matter of three weeks, we serviced over 200 families and had over 80 people come through the yard in just one day alone! Not to mention, we also began our first group of calving. There were many times I would have a cow in the chute helping a calf nurse and see a customer come in the driveway. They would have to wait for me to let the Momma cow out of the chute so they could get their meat. Talk about a true farm to table experience!
The juggling act of full time jobs and a growing demand for our meats kept us continually on our toes.
We welcomed our first group of baby chicks to the farm that would eventually offer our customers with farm fresh eggs. We continued calving with the added challenge of a more mobile little helper. Seeing the demand for our meats was not going any where any time soon, we made infrastructure updates such as more hand built gates, a larger feeder, and nipple watering systems to start another group of piglets.
As the weather gets warmer, the to do lists get longer! May is always an exciting time on the farm and this year was no exception.
We moved the baby chicks out of their brooder and into their mobile coop/chicken tractor of sorts. It was a free shed we placed on skids and David made it so I could move it around with the skid loader, giving the girls fresh forages to graze every few days and eventually ever other day as they grew. We used an electrified poultry netting to protect the flock from ground predators. David also planted non-gmo field corn that we would harvest and store in our large grain bins. This gives us the ability to use our own crops to grind into our own feed mixes for the cattle and pigs every few weeks, in addition to selling some when the markets prices were more pleasing. We also planted cover crop mixtures that have dual purposes of regenerating the ground and also have grazing value. These multi-species mixtures are often combinations that David makes up and mixes in the planter on his own. They supplement our ground while feeding our cattle at the same time. This reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and added input costs. Just allowing mother nature to do her thing! We also partnered with Salem County business, Billy B’s BBQ Sauce and Bee Crop Honey to offer our customers kosher, gluten free BBQ sauces and local honey with their purchases.
June in bloom! The beauty of many of these cover crop mixes began to show.
Preparation for feeding our livestock when the grasses are dormant begins early and only a couple of months after the last bale of hay is fed for the winter. Crimson clover, hairy vetch, and sunflowers are just some of the beauty that was blooming in our fields this time of year. These flowers are not just for show and all offer very valuable grazing and regenerative elements to our ground. At the end of June, I designed a sunflower ball cap in honor of my favorite blooming cover crop. This hat is now available on our website for purchase.
We harvested rye, began our second round of calving, and were honored to represent NJ in the Beef Checkoff’s “United We Steak Campaign.” David began construction to upgrade our old livestock building.
Thanks to many helping hands, we accomplished some major projects in September in October in addition to crop harvest and the end of calving for the year.
Construction on the mono slope livestock building was completed in September. This building is crucial in decreasing our environmental impact, eliminating runoff into the local water shed, as well as giving us the opportunity to better serve our livestock in the finishing phase before the go to harvest. We started getting our farm raised pork back from the processor in the beginning of September as well! Many of the pork went into large shares and we sold some in individual pieces as well. Needless to say, it was a hit! We harvested a sorghum, pea, and soybean mixture that was planted as cover crop on one of our fields and stored it in large white bags called an “ag bag”. This system ferments the moist forage into a palatable silage for the cattle and is what we will feed this winter. To round it all off, we started and finished combining corn. The second to last picture you can see David emptying the tri-axle into the grain auger which carries the corn into our grain bins for drying. Promptly after harvesting our fields, David planted a multi species cover crop.