Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Become a Farmer of Choice

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This is not a commodity!
I recently read an article from Ag Web titled "Make Yourself a Farmer of Choice."

When I saw the title I was intrigued as this particular website is focused on industrial agriculture and commodity products as far as I can tell.

I thought "this should be interesting, how do you become a farmer of choice with a product that is a commodity?"

The author started out saying "how you position yourself as a farmer will determine your success with suppliers and buyers."

Ah so we're talking about the relationship with our "suppliers and buyers."

What about customers?

Well as a commodity farmer you don't have customers. At least not a customer as the small farmer who sells direct has customers.

I mean you go down to negotiate your grain sales, how much negotiating power do you really have?

Or you take a load of cattle to the buyer, and you get what the market says you get. Many people don't realize it but almost all commodity cattle is bought "on the rail."

That means your cattle are slaughtered and hanging on the rail before a price is decided.  

Um, what if you don't like the price? Do you load up your carcasses and take them elsewhere?

The author also said

"Ask yourself:

  • What do we do best?
  • What is our target customer?
  • What needs do we fulfill for them?
  • Who is our competition?
  • What makes us different from them?"
All really good questions but as a commodity farmer I'm still left wondering how you would have much of a direct impact on these issues.

I'm certain you would have some impact but not nearly what the small farmer who is selling direct to consumers would.

The article went on to say “You need to know what sets you apart from your competitors. Your competition is anyone that farms around you.”

Huh?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the authors intent here, but how could you be in competition with your neighboring commodity farmer?

The very definition of commodity defies it.

Commodity - A basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type. Commodities are most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services. The quality of a given commodity may differ slightly, but it is essentially uniform across producers.

I can't figure out how you make a commodity competitive. From where I sit the commodity farmer has the least control over his products value in the marketplace.

The local commodity buyer doesn't care about how you raised your cattle on grass and never gave them hormones etc. They want to look at carcass quality and that's the end of the story. They are looking to get the price down not find ways to pay you more.

And grain? What kind of story can you tell the grain elevator and get a better price? They look at a few factors of quality and test weight and it is what it is...take it or leave it.

The best advice I can think of for a commodity farmer is start transitioning away from commodity sales with the intention of moving as much of your products to direct sales as you can.


Until next time....
 
 

Ever See a Tamworth Pig Like This One?

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Purebred Tamworth Barrow
Several years ago I was surprised to have a pig that looked more like a Oxford Sandy & Black pig from England. I was surprised because it was the offspring of a registered pair of Tamworth!

It was my when I first started breeding Tamworth Swine so I thought "wow you mean a breed this old doesn't always breed true?"

According to what I had read and in talking to other breeders they had all said Tamworth pigs always breed true.

The Oklahoma State University website says: "It is one of the most prepotent of the breeds in fixing its type of offspring."

I inquired around to some other breeders online and showed them picture and not a one had seen a Tamworth pig like this.



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Spot with some of his littermates
I suppose there are all kinds of theories that could be discussed such as perhaps maybe some Gloucestershire Old Spot blood was mixed in long, long, ago while improving the breed and it surfaced by breeding this pair.

Another theory, which is the one I ascribe to, is this is what some Tamworth looked like (as far as coloring) when the breed was first improved.

I have read some old texts indicated some very early Tamworth swine had a sandy color with black spots.

Whatever the case we bred that particular pair of Tamworth five times and every time she had one and only one that looked like that.

Anybody else ever see a Tamworth pig with this coloring?

 

 

 
 

The votes are tallied and we have a winner!

I wanted let you know the winner of the "Name our new program."

And the winner is......"Hogs on Hold", Congratulations to Morgan B. for submitting this name and winning a 10 lb box of pork!

Many thanks to all who submitted names and voted!

 

PS:

If you have no idea what I'm talking about you can read about it here: http://www.springhillfarms.us/hogs-on-hold.html 

 

 
 

More Evidence: On the Edge of a Food Shortage.

I recently posted I felt food and grain prices would remain high throughout 2011 and beyond.

Reading Lester Brown's book, WORLD ON THE EDGE he points out some interesting statistics about grain. You can read them in the document posted on my site.

While I'm not doing a book review here, I will say the book has some good points, however some of Brown's ideology about the world cooperating on some of these issues is looking through rose colored glasses.

When reading books or listening to others ideas I try to keep an open mind, at the same time, I try to use the sense of an old cow, eat the hay and spit out the sticks! 

The main point I want to bring out is Brown isn't necessarily against genetically modified seeds, but he doesn't seem to think they are the big magic bullet that many would want you to believe. As far as I can tell his reasons are fairly sound.

Which brings me to my next point. Ray Bowman was recently asked on Consumer Ag connection about the future of agriculture he said "Frightening" he then pointed to our young people as a possible source for answers although he pointed out that there isn't nearly as many young men and women interested in farming today as when he was young.

The segment ended with Pam Fretwell asking him if he thought they would "be allowed to do what was needed" to solve world hunger. Since this radio program focuses on mainstream agriculture I'm sure they are getting ready to talk about bio-tech answers for world hunger.

And so as the debate heats up, you can bet one of the answers coming from mainstream Ag is more and better genetically modified seeds, better chemicals, more bushels per acre etc. 

My thoughts are you better plant a garden this year and find a local small farmer so you can stock up.

Until next time...
 
 

The Story of Junior: The Kidnapped Pig

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Junior cuddling his foster mom
I was digging through some photos today and came across Junior. Junior was orphaned in the winter of 2006. Actually my wife was outside and heard a piglet squealing as if in distress.

She went to investigate and discovered this little guy had somehow climbed out of the farrowing hut. He couldn't get back in to join all his brothers and sisters not to mention mama who had his food!

Of course the sow was distraught because he was screaming so the Mrs. was afraid to get in the pen and help the poor chap.

In the midst of all the commotion, the sow came tearing out and stepped on Junior's head as he was attempting to climb back in the hut.  The only thing that saved him was the ground was soft enough to cushion the weight of the sow.

Now we had two mom's worked up into a frenzy. The Mrs. weighs a buck ten soaking wet but you get her wound up like that and she is fearless. She sprang into action and attacked the mama sow and grabbed the pig, jumped out of the pen, and dashed for the house.

I wasn't here but it had to look like a UFC heavy weight verses light weight match.

So I guess that means Junior was kidnapped technically. Or would it be pignapped?

Anyway the rescuer, or pignapper however you see it, takes Junior inside to examine his wound.  The situation looked grave. He had a huge lump on the top of his head and was having trouble with his motor functions.

New mama finds a baby bottle and tries to feed him. She finally lays him in a box wrapped in a warm towel.

When I arrive home of course mom and both boys are trying to tell the story all at once. I look at the piglet and after careful study announce that he "wouldn't make it through the night."

We went to bed that night with the somber feeling of having to deal with a dead Junior in the morning.

I was up first the next morning and to my surprise not only was Junior alive he was attempting to climb out of the box!

The moment he realized I was there he started squealing. I grabbed a baby bottle as the rest of the family piled out of bed to see Junior.

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Taking a nap
After a while with everyone of us trying to get him to take the bottle, mom got him settled in with at least a half full tummy. I was off to work and mom was in charge.

Over the next few days Junior became pretty lively and mom was making comments about how cute he was and how could we ever let him outside at that young of an age. This was coming from someone who lets no animals in her house PERIOD.

Junior seemed to figure out mom had a soft spot for him because he was doing his best to be her favorite child. He began following her around the house and begging her to sit down on the floor so he could climb into her lap.

He would lay on a stuffed animal and sleep by the wood stove til it was time to eat.

I reminded the Mrs. he could not stay in the house and she knew it was true so she began bracing herself for the inevitable.

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Favorite stuffed animal

Lucky for her Junior was becoming a spoiled brat. He was demanding full time attention and rooting his feed pan from one corner of the back porch to the other. Of course this meant feed was getting everywhere and I admit I didn't do much to remedy the situation. 

My wife has booted humans from her house for failing to take their shoes off so I knew Junior was on thin ice!

Finally he was eating feed like mad and definitely well enough to head back out to the barn. I slipped him out when the Mrs. was gone for a few hours and even though she was sad she new it was for the best.

Junior never forgot his foster mother. Anytime she would get near the pasture he would come a running. He knew her voice the moment he heard it.

Junior had a destiny though and it wasn't to be in the pasture indefinitely.

So one fine day in June of that year Junior was the guest of honor at a hog roast. And so it is... the life of a pig and a farmer's wife.

Until next time...
 
 

Help Us Choose a Name For Our New Program

I recently introduced a new program for our customers and potential customers. 

I took submissions to name it something a bit more snazzy then the "New Program" and now it's time to vote on the submissions.

Get some information on the program here and then cast your vote. The link to vote is near the bottom of the page.

 

Thanks!

 
 

Is Your Web Hosting Eco-Friendly?

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Wind Power
Ever since Spring Hill Farms has been on the world wide web we have used Hypermart as our web hosting service. We have always been happy with their service and pricing. An added bonus is they are wind powered!

We feel this in keeping with our sustainable philosophy. By hosting with HyperMart, springhillfarms.us is helping Hypermart prevent the release of 2,660 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. As a result, our company's energy efficiency is equivalent to planting approximately 2,390 acres of trees, not driving 6.1 million miles, or removing 510 cars from the road.

 

 

 

Host your Web site with HyperMart!
 
 

Why Every Child Should Spend Time On a Farm

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Helping hold pigs
One of the reasons I started farming again was I wanted my kids to experience the life I had as a child.  I believe there are many reasons why kids should spend time on a small farm. Heck they should visit a giant factory farm also. Matter of fact I think everyone should visit a factory farm. It would change the way you buy your food.

But lest I digress...

Let's just zero in on kids for now. Children need to know where their food comes from. They need to understand that farm animals have a noble calling of supplying the human race with meat, eggs, dairy, and fiber.

All that aside, there are so many things children can learn from farming. Take for instance, my two boys. Early into our farming adventure I began to share with them that not only did we supply other families with food but they paid us to do that.

Then I showed them a batch of gilts (young female pigs) and asked if they wanted to pick one to have babies and they could raise them, care for them, and be responsible for them. If did that they would get a cut of the profits when we sold them.

The oldest was quick to ask "how much money?" My youngest was thrilled to have a pig he could name and call his own. They both did pretty well at taking responsibility according to their age and knowledge.

My oldest son had figured up how much each pig might make him. After several discussions about how I had to purchase the pig, supply the feed and do all the marketing, we struck up a deal that I would gift them the pig but feed would have to be paid for out of the proceeds.

This gave me a great platform to show them the importance of controlling your costs and looking for ways and methods to reduce inputs while still producing a good, quality product.

They now had a vested interest in working the farm and caring for animals. I had to remind them many, many, times they would get paid for their hard work. It was teaching them patience, delayed gratification, and responsibility. I think these are all excellent traits kids should learn as soon as possible.

Contrast this with many of the kids today who demand material things and act like the world owes them. I strive to teach my boys the world owes them nothing and will pay them only based on the value they provide others.

I was tempted to over pay them for their hard work or give in and front them some money when they really wanted a new game or gadget.

But the truth is that wouldn't be helping them, it would only make me feel better. That is until it was time to pay them and I had to deduct the money or worse yet they didn't have any left.

When it came time for the pigs to have piggies, my oldest son's pig was a horrible mother and lost all her pigs in the first twenty four hours. He was crushed. I explained to him that it was a risk that we take as farmers and I know it stinks but that was life...not always fair. I used it to teach him things happen in life that we can't always control.

I made him a deal, since this was his first time, I would trade him for another pig and he could continue on and I would take the loss.

When it came time to sell the pigs we sat down and had a short lesson in math and paid them both what was due them. We also explained they needed to open a savings account and deposit half of the money to start a savings.

They didn't care for that but agreed. We then helped them decide how the money would be spent.

Since then both of my boys are actively involved in the farm. Some work they get paid for and some things are just a requirement of being part of the team here.

We remind them no one pays us for cutting the grass or doing laundry etc. Those are just part of life. Part of being a family and caring for one another.

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Proud of the pumpkins
Visiting a farm and spending time there gives kids all kinds of opportunities to learn how life really is. If things don't go well you can't just re-boot the game and start over.

On the other hand when the boys have had friends over they are always required to help with chores. Some of them are glad to help and others not so much.

But one thing I have noticed from every single boy who comes here and helps on the farm. When we are done and I have encouraged them to do something they might be a bit uneasy with such as wading into a pasture full of hungry pigs and dumping feed in the feeder, they strut to the house like they just won a medal. To quote Joel Salatin in his latest book, THE SHEER ECSTASY OF BEING A LUNATIC FARMER, "one of the reasons our young people have such a poor self-image is because we aren't letting them receive adult praise for worthy work accomplished well."

I guarantee you the next school day they are bragging to their buddies that were feeding pigs on the farm and telling every other adventure they encountered while here.

The farm is a great place for kids to learn new skills and feel like they accomplished something worthwhile.

When I first started insisting the boys help on the farm it took longer to get things done than if I just did myself. But little by little, they began to catch on to what I call basic life skills. I see so many kids today who don't have a clue how to do anything with their hands. They cry and whine about having to be outside because it's hot or cold or they are hungry.

When the boys would complain about being hungry I told them I was hungry too but we would stop when we are at a place that made sense to stop not because we were hungry.

Same thing with being hot or cold or whatever they were complaining about. I stress to them stop listening to your body cry and whine and set your mind to get done.

This past year many things "gelled" around here at chore time. What used to take hours now takes minutes. Many things I had to tell them over and over they do without even thinking. They chide me for standing around when something needs done. I hear them repeat back to me things I thought they would never learn.

They think ahead and work smart not wasting time or energy.

You may be getting the idea I run a boot camp here at Spring Hill Farms. But don't be alarmed. My boys have all the games and gadgets and time to play and be crazy as most other kids their age.

But the older they get the more of a blessing they become. They are generous, caring, responsible,  and have a strong work ethic for their age.

Children will be a blessing or a curse. Parents are the key ingredient in determining which they will be. 

Visit a farm, offer to help, let them get dirty. Start a small garden at home and give your children a part to play in it. Not just the work, but the reward as well. Use it to teach them basic life skills and character.

Don't make the mistake of thinking someone will influence your kids more than you will. You hold the key to your child's future use it while they are still young and willing. What you teach them now will be part of their legacy, and yours.

Until next time...
 
 

Poison-Free Poultry: Why Arsenic Doesn't Belong in Feed

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Snow Bird!
I have been talking about how unhealthy chicken is from the conventional store forever it seems like. Just in case your not convinced, here is yet another report on just how bad it is.

Spring Hill Farms pastured poultry is not fed roxarsone or any other type of growth promoter, or disease killing poison.

  U.S. poultry farmers have used drugs containing arsenic, a known poison, to control the common disease coccidiosis for decades. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the arsenic-based drug roxarsone as a feed additive in 1944. The chicken industry discovered that roxarsone promoted growth, increased feed efficiency (pounds of chicken produced from each pound of feed), and improved flesh pigmentation as well. Between 1995 and 2000, 70 percent of broiler chicken producers used roxarsone feed additives. [more]

 

 
 

More Proof - The FDA is Out to Get Farmers

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Tamworth Duroc Cross Pigs 2005




In yet another move against farmers, the FDA recently took a "no holds barred" approach to being adversarial to farmers. They attacked one of their own.

If you were wondering if the FDA was your friend as a farmer...it looks like 'no'. The move  looks to be an attempt to rid the agency of anyone who might be sympathetic to farmers.



FDA Memo Threatens Agency’s Farmer Employees

http://www.lancasterfarming.com/results/FDA-Memo-Threatens-Agency-s-Farmer-Employees


12/25/2010 2:00 PM M.P. Taylor

 

 Maryland Correspondent

Just months short of his January retirement from the Food and Drug Administration, Lonnie Luther received word that his employer deemed his part-time farming operation a conflict of interest. He had, the memo said, 60 days to either sell his farm or quit his job.

Luther wasn’t alone. In fact, every FDA employee with any interest in farming received the same memo. And while FDA officials have put a hold on the order while the ethics rule on which it is based makes its way up the bureaucratic ladder for top-level reconsideration, employees fear the worst.

“I feared they might strip me of my retirement annuity” for refusing to sell or quit, and for going public with the memo, Luther said. “I still have anxieties and fears about what they might come up with.”

An FDA official, who would not speak to Lancaster Farming specifically about Luther’s case and could offer only background information on the policy, said the agency’s ethics rules are no different from those of any other government entity, although clearly they have never been enforced.

At issue is a new interpretation of the 10-year-old Supplemental Standards for Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Department of Health and Human Services. Should an “FDA regulated product” apply to farm crops and food animals?

Vincent Tolino, the ethics and integrity director who wrote the sell-or-quit memo, decided it did, although he told the Maryland Gazette newspapers that “there was really no exact point when an interpretation changed.”

But change it did and, in his memo to Luther, Tolino stated that “because the ... operations you are involved in are significantly regulated by FDA, you are prohibited from retaining this financial interest.”

Luther, a special assistant to the director of the FDA’s Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation, has been with the agency since 1974 and the owner of a Damascus, Md., farm for almost as long. He said that every year he has filed papers declaring his interest in the farm, where he and wife, Mina, raise corn, soybeans, hay, beef cattle and show chickens.

Where, he asked FDA officials, is the conflict of interest? It was a question to which he said he received no satisfactory answer.

He has never, he insists, attempted to parlay his position with FDA into an unfair marketing advantage for his small farming operation. He owns the farm “because this is how I want to live. I grew up on a farm and wanted to continue that lifestyle.”

Katherine Weld, a colleague of Luther’s who is nowhere near retirement, raises meat goats on her 26-acre farm just outside Frederick, Md. She admits to being “off the deep end” over the memo and is planning to leave the agency if it ultimately becomes necessary.

“I’m not going to give up this lifestyle,” she said of the farm. “I like the hard work and satisfaction of raising an animal, and I have started to look for jobs.”

Like Luther, she sees no conflict of interest in her farming operation and job.

“I’m not saying the meat is FDA-approved, and I don’t tell anyone I work for the FDA,” she said. “Using that information for marketing would be a problem, and it would be wrong.”

However, she said the ethics rule has been bent so far that “you can’t sell a tomato out of your backyard garden,” and she also believes it would bar children from participating in 4-H activities.

“This isn’t Enron,” she said of the alleged ethics violations.

Although Weld doesn’t personally know of any employee who has sold a farm, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened since the memo was sent to FDA employees nationwide.

While they wait for the bureaucracy to work its will on the ethics rule interpretation, they all live in “fear the ax is going to fall,” she said.

Since so many of the agency’s most valued professionals may choose to quit, she thinks the agency is making a big mistake in beefing up its ethics rule interpretation.

“If they’re afraid of losing their institutional knowledge, pushing people out the door is not the way to keep them,” she said.

Luther is far less diplomatic in his assessment of the situation, calling the agency’s ethics staff “a bunch of idiots who have decided to exercise their intelligence. It’s just nonsense, unbelievable stuff.”


 


 
 

Hogging Off Corn - One Man's Story

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Tamworth Pigs
I came across this old account of hogging off corn recently. Since I was already thinking this might be a good idea as I blogged about a couple of months ago it seemed a good addition to my previous post.

HOGGING OFF CORN FIELDS - J.M. MILLIKIN, in the National Live Stock Journal 1897

"I am aware that the people who reside in the East, where grain is high, will be greatly shocked to think that any one would presume to say anything in behalf of such a 'lazy, wasteful, and untidy' mode of using a crop of corn. Indeed western men can be found who will denounce the unfarmer-like proceeding in unmeasurable terms. But let us see if something cannot be said in support of what some may regard as a very objectionable practice.

"In managing our farming operations, there are two things that should not be lost sight of:

"First - We should aim to so manage our affairs as to realize a good profit on our labors and investment; and
"Secondly - To so cultivate our land as to maintain, if not to increase, its productiveness.

"If you have a field of corn of a size suited to the number of hogs you intend to fatten, supplied with water, there is no plan you can adopt of feeding said corn to your hogs that will produce better results than by turning your hogs into the filed, where they can eat at their pleasure. As a rule, the weather is generally good in September and October. If so, there will be no loss of grain, while the saccharine juice of the stalks will contribute somewhat to the improvement of the hogs. The expense of gathering the corn, and in giving constant attention in feeding, is quite an important item to any man who has other pressing work to perform. Besides hogs turned into a field for fifty or sixty days are likely to do better than they will do under any other ordinary circumstances.

" There is no plan of using the products of a corn field better calculated to maintain its fertility than the hogging off process. Everything produced off the ground is returned to it; and if the proper mode is adopted of plowing everything under in the fall, the soil will be improved rather than impoverished. This is my theory upon the subject, which is sustained by  my experience and observation, and which I have occasionally urged on the attention of others.

"A very few days since I was in conversation with some farmers upon this subject, when a very reliable, careful, and excellent farmer gave this account of his own experience, which I give, with the remark that his statements are entitled to the fullest confidence. He said: 'I have cultivated one field eleven successive years in corn, and every fall turned in my fattening hogs, and fed it off. My crops of corn rather increased than diminished. In the spring, after feeding off the corn for eleven years, I sowed the field in spring barley. I had a crop of forty bushels per acre. I plowed the stubble under, and sowed the same field in wheat. The next harvest I had a crop of wheat of forty-two and a half bushels per acre'

"Thus you have the theory, the practice, and the result, of the hogging off process." 

MY COMMENTS

A couple of Mr. Milikin's points stand out to me. He brings up the fact that if the pigs are hogging off corn the farmer doesn't have to concern himself with harvesting the crop or the daily chore of feeding the hogs. That almost convinces me right there!

He also points out the value of manure as fertilizer. This is one of the factors almost never taken into account in modern agriculture.   

With both fuel and fertilizer prices on the rise it looks like a "no brainer" to me!

Until next time...
 
 

Smaller Livestock Producers May Get a Fair Deal

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It's all about the money
Several years ago I was reading something, I don't remember what now. I was shocked to find out that there has been a law on the books since 1921 that would stop a lot of the "sweetheart" deals that exist in the corporate livestock industry.

You may not know it, but much of the deals that take place in the meat packing industry keep all but the biggest players at a serious disadvantage in the marketplace.

As the outbreak of World War I occurred and the cost of living rose, president Woodrow Wilson ordered the FTC to investigate the industry from the "hoof to the table" to determine whether or not there were any "manipulations, controls, trusts, combinations, or restraints out of harmony with the law or the public interest."

The FTC reported packers were manipulating markets, restricting flow of foods, controlling the price of dressed meat, defrauding producers and consumers of food and crushing competition. The FTC, in fact, recommended governmental ownership of the stockyards and their related facilities. (source)

Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act on August 15, 1921 as H.R. 6320 and the law went into effect in September 1921.

It has never been enforced to any degree of effectiveness and the same things and worse are still going today.

Recently the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has proposed a bill that would establish rules to enforce the act. This is a major move in the right direction.

The Center for Rural Affairs has the details [more]

 

 

 
 

Learning to Farm the Old Time Way

Ohiofarmgirl has done it again! She posted a link to a video series on youtube. It's two different shows from the BBC called Victorian Farming and one called Edwardian Farming. 

I started watching them and now I'm hooked...[more]

 

 

 

 


 
 

What 2011 Holds and Five Steps You Should Take

Buckeye Rooster 

 

What does 2011 hold for you? What does it hold for the United States? It would be really nice if we could answer those questions definitively. However, we all know that's impossible. No one can tell the future with certain accuracy. We can tell the season though [more]

 


 
 

Cheap Meat: An Accident Waiting to Happen

You might remember a few years ago the big scare with tainted pet foods. Many animals died and practically every kind of dog food you could think of was pulled of the shelves until it could be sorted out.

It turned out to be a poison called melamine was added. The pet food contamination was widely publicized but what many people didn't know was it also affected the livestock industry as well. [More]

 

 

 

 

 
 
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