Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Staright Talk from a Young Farmer

Ever wonder what a 13 year old female farmer has to say about farming, food and finances?

Shelby Grenbec recently spoke out about her experience raising chickens, selling eggs, and gardening in an article in the Denver Post.


I loved the article! It is an honest assessment of where the sustainable farming movement is right now as well as the realities of marketing direct to the consumer.

She says things like:

"If you want sustainable, wholesome, pasture-raised organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free food, you have to support it. You can not get these things by talking about it and not paying for it."

If you read between the lines you see a girl who is wise beyond her years about people and money. I applaud her parents for teaching her these fundamental truths about life.

Shelby is getting a great head start in life by farming and earning money from the free market system we have here in the United States.

It reminds me of my boys. They have a good understanding that money doesn't just show up in the bank. It takes work. It means offering something of value to the market place and working to get the word out so folks will want to buy what you have.

I was disappointed to see she says she will not continue farming when she gets older. As Joel Salatin so eloquently pointed out one time, we have to have new, young farmers coming into the industry or the old ready to retire farmers can't leave. And when they do the big Ag model gets to fill in the gap if there isn't enough young farmers.

Perhaps Shelby will change her mind in the future but even if she doesn't, I wish her all the best and admire her honesty and hard work!

Read the entire article here: The Denver Post It's a great article.

Until next time...

Spring Hill Farms



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Farm Kids Stand Up and Take Notice

Picture I recently read the story of the youngest farmer to receive the Animal Welfare Approved certification.

Meet 12 year old Shelby Grebenc of Broomfield Co.

According to the article in the Animal Welfare Approved newsletter, she has 130 laying hens. She has named her farm Shelby's Happy Chapped Butt Chicken Farm because she says since folks can see her farm from the road people sometimes drop off chickens. She found a an empty box one day with chickens running around. They had no tail feathers and looked pretty sore so it seemed fitting.

Shelby started her farm when she was 10 years old by approaching her grandmother for a $1,000 loan to start a pasture raised egg business.

This stemmed from the situation at hand, her mother Nancy who has multiple Sclerosis was in a nursing home and Shelby wanted to expand the family's income. 

Shelby, my hat is off to you and I wish you well in everything you endeavor to do at your farm.

To read the Animal Welfare article go here.


 

 
 

Hard Core Sustainable Farmer or Lunatic?

In my never ending quest to reduce inputs from outside sources (like the local feed mill) I have been widening my research on ways to increase the amount of green foodstuffs I can carry through the winter for the animals.  [Read More]
 
 

Tamworth Pig or Funny Looking Chicken?

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Tamworth Gilt
I promised I would update you on the Little Tamworth Gilt who thinks she is a chicken.

A few weeks ago I noticed a pig running through the yard. I watched as she zipped down past the house and disappeared. I was sure she belonged to our oldest sow Droopy. But how did she get out?



Over the next few days I noticed as soon as we were all in the house she would sneak out and head for the laying hens which were being fed outside. She would charge right up and take her place at the trough!

Since the troughs have a bar that runs through the middle it was hard for her to get feed so she began upsetting it and eating the feed off the ground.

This became her daily ritual. Watch us feed the chickens and then run over and start eating. As with any bad habit (or so I'm told) it kept getting worse. Pretty soon she was waiting with the chickens when we went to feed them.

The boys would chase her back to the pasture and she would squeal as loud as she could to let them know she was not happy.

A few days of that and I caught her sneaking out of the hen house! Turns out she wasn't laying eggs she was climbing into the bottom box and eating eggs.

I resolved to fix the fence the next day and put a stop to her antics. I got up the next morning and went to the garden to check things out to find little pig had beat me to it and rooted out a bunch of sweet potatoes for her breakfast.

My next stop was the barn for some fence wire and thus ended the pig who only wanted to be a chicken because they roam around and get all kinds of goodies.

Until next time...


 

 
 

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]

 


 
 

Freedom Ranger Chickens as Laying Hens

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Freedom Ranger Laying Hens
In August we were pulling broilers from one of our movable pens on pasture in the pouring down rain. Two pullets ended up escaping into the nearby brush.

Since I wasn't really in the mood to chase two fugitives in the middle of a downpour, we let them go thinking "they will be lucky to make through the night."

The next day dawned bright and sunny. By mid afternoon I hadn't seen hide nor hair of them errr, hide nor feather of them so I assumed a fox or some other varmint had scored a midnight meal at my expense.

The Mrs. wasn't happy about it but what can you do? I asked. Besides they were going to be dead anyway.

The second day to my surprise one of them showed up at the edge of the trees! So one of them did make it. I watched to see if the other would show and after an our or so and only one chicken I thought well one of them didn't make it and tonight will be the end of this one.

The next day they both were out in the grass pecking around in the grass. Wow wrong again, better give'em some feed and water and see if I can get close enough in the next couple of days to catch them...if they make it that long.

I wasn't taking into account that these birds are from heritage breed genetics. These aren't the Cornish cross birds we used to raise. These suckers roosted that night in an old stump about six feet off the ground at the edge of the field.

Hmm they just might be around awhile as I start to catch on. (it takes me awhile sometimes) I mentioned to the Mrs. the birds were still here and showed her out the kitchen window where they had perched at dusk. She looked out and saw them and promptly announced "then they're staying here since they made it this far."

Any of you who know my wife outside of gracious host when you come to visit the farm, know when she lays down a decree it will be that way or else!

After a couple of weeks they got more comfortable and began to venture up to the barn and the front porch and anywhere else they felt like going. And as if by some built in knowing they always made it a point to come see the Mrs. anytime she was outside and even began running up to her car when she pulled in the driveway like she was their long lost mother!

Trying to justify keeping them verses admitting I had to keep them per the Mrs. I began to wonder if they would make layers. Sure enough at about 17 weeks (I kept track of the time) they began to go into the goats pen in the corner and lay their eggs.

They are almost 100% on an egg a day... not bad for birds that are designed to be meat chickens. I've even started making sure the "girls", as the Mrs. calls them, have a bit of feed since the weather is turning cold.

If you're wondering if Freedom Rangers will make decent layers I say yes they will!

I eat two medium brown eggs for breakfast every morning and remember how two pullets escaped on a rainy day in August. 

till next time!
 
 

What's Wrong With Cornish Cross Chickens?

Cornish Cross are the industry standard for meat birds in the United States. I recently mentioned I had switched to Freedom Ranger chickens and had several people ask why.

Cornish Cross birds are a lazy bird by nature with an insatiable appetite.

They basically sit, eat, and get bigger. These are admiral traits if the only goal is to produce a bird that grows very rapidly and produces a lot of breast meat.

However, if you sit back and observe this bird for very long you realize these cleverly select traits come with a price.

Research shows that these birds can gain weight at a rate faster than their skeletal system can bear.

This shows up as lameness and even broken legs. Another trait of these birds is they suffer heart failure.

You go to tend the birds, and find one stone dead for no apparent reason. More than likely it suffered heart failure.

Because they are so selectively bred for certain traits it can lead to a compromised immune system.

They are a fragile bird that was designed for huge agri-business to stuff in a confinement barn and feed sub therapeutic antibiotics to keep them healthy.

The hatchery told me to limit feed them so as to slow the growth rate down and help curb these health issues.

I did limit their intake of feed, and to a large degree it worked. But I came to the conclusion you were basically starving them to slow them down!

They are genetically designed to have an insatiable appetite. I raise Tamworth pigs on pasture and these birds make them look polite when it comes to feeding if they have ran out of feed for any length of time…even on grass.

Which brings up another observation: Freedom Ranger chickens are a far more aggressive forager of green material then Cornish Cross.

One of the health benefits touted by pastured poultry farmers is the opportunity for the birds to graze on green grass and bugs.

It made sense to me to use a bird that gets the most out the environment in which you raise it. Cornish birds were designed as an inside bird with no thought of foraging, that burns calories!

Contrast that with birds from the Label Rouge program in France (such as Freedom Rangers) and you see some distinct differences.

 

  • They are a healthy robust bird
  • Freedom Rangers grow slower without the problems associated with Cornish Cross.
  • They are much more active foragers.
  • Customers in taste test when compared to the Cornish Cross prefer Freedom Ranger.

I chose Freedom Rangers because after examining the facts I felt they were better suited to my model of farming and welfare standards.

Why take a bird that was bred for big business and put it in an environment that it was never designed for?

I realize pastured poultry farmers while minimizing the problems outlined here can raise Cornish Cross birds.

 

But for us at Spring Hill Farms, we think there is a better way.

 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Chicks on the Way

I ordered our first batch of chicks Friday morning. We have pretty much quit using Cornish Cross birds and went with birds from the Label Rouge program.

We have always had good luck with the Cornish, but I've never been happy with the amount of foraging they do.

By genetic nature they are lazy birds. They don't scratch like a heritage breed bird does either. 

I have not ran them in poultry netting only movable pens because they don't seem like they would go very far in a open pen type arrangement.

All of the stock we select at our farm is based heavily on their nature to forage on grass.

That was why I went with Tamworth pigs. Then worked with them through selection to eliminate as much grain as possible and still get a nice finish.

Around here it's eat lots of grass or you're off to another farm or the processor.

Hopefully when these birds are ready to come out of the brooder we can get them on pasture, but who knows with two feet of snow on the ground now!

Guess we'll have to wait and see!

 

Until next time...

 

 


 
 
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