November 20, 2013

It's Already 2014

The last of the 2013 chickens have been butchered and the pasture pens have been winterized. That's it. That's the end of the season for us.  Everything else falls into maintenance mode and we can start taking on all the projects there wasn't time for previously.  For us, 2013 is over and 2014 has started.

Planning for the 2014 season began a couple months ago and will continue into the winter.  We will continue to offer the same core meat products we offered this year: rabbit, Cornish hens, broiler chickens, turkey, beef and pork. We are working on some new developments for our CSA customers next year and know you will be as excited about them as we are.

Turkeys and Cornish hens were new products for us this year and we are very pleased with how they turned out.  The turkeys were a delight to raise. They were very gentle and sweet. They were rather ditzy and sometimes outright dumb but they were easy to raise and we'll gladly do it again.  The Cornish hens were the biggest surprise for us as they sold out ever time we butchered, usually before we even processed them!  For those unfamiliar with Cornish hens, we use the same chicken as our broilers and grow it the same way as our broilers - on pasture with non-GMO feed. However, we butcher these birds much earlier so you get a very young, tender and juicy bird.  Typically, they average 1.75lbs each.  We cook two of them to feed our family of five with no leftovers. We get rave reviews from everyone who tries them.  They will definitely remain on the menu next year!

A few Cornish hens freshly butchered and packaged, ready to go in the freezer.

This was also our first year offering pork and beef cuts for on-farm sales, at the markets and as part of our CSA.  In the past, Greg has dealt with selling whole, halves or quarters. We feel that offering cuts has given our customers flexibility in choosing the pieces they want for their meals.  We don't have a firm plan yet for beef next year, but it will remain grass raised and grass finished.  This produces a low fat meat that is absolutely delicious.  We were concerned that such low fat content would be detrimental to the overall taste and texture of the meat.  We no longer have that concern. The steaks we pull off the grill are better than any we have ever had in any restaurant.  The ground beef cooks with so little fat that it doesn't need to be drained but remains moist with a great texture.  Yep, we'll keep the same formula for the cattle next year.

With our pork, we purchased Ossabaw-Tamworth cross pigs. We've heard a lot of great things about these two breeds.  We definitely enjoyed the meat but not enough to stay exclusively with these breeds.   While we do enjoy using heritage breeds, we're not married to the idea and want to keep experimenting to find a breed or mix that will grow well in the woods, not carry too much fat, and give us a good favor to the meat.  We really like that the OTs are foragers and have kept two sows for breeding.  We'll be breeding them with boars of different varieties and see where we land. But the bottom line is that no matter which breed we raise and butcher, the pork from our farm is light-years away from the taste and quality of what you find in the grocery store.
Greg with two of his best girls

We made great progress with our pasture-raised rabbits this year. Our herd size has increased as has demand for rabbit meat.  We found natural methods to combat certain illnesses that are often the result of living on pasture.  We'd always much rather treat naturally than when chemicals. This winter, we're hoping to move our rabbits to a fodder system. This would be a big step in self-reliance as well as a way to remove GMO grains from the rabbits' diets.

Baby bunnies

Will we produce pheasant and quail next year? It's hard to say. We have offered this as a possibility for special events to our restaurant contacts but no one was motivated to try it. If we have a request, we'll definitely look into the viability. We're always open to trying new things if we can work out the logistics.

Now we are in planning mode for 2014.  We're working out orders for chicks and poults, rabbit breeding schedules, construction requests for more rabbit pens and farrowing shelters for the sows. We are researching farmers markets for next season to decide where our time will be best spent. For us, it's already 2014 and there's no time to rest.

And here you thought that farmers get the winter off.

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