Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
[ Member listing ]

Joel Salatin - Folk's This Ain't Normal

Love him or hate him, Joel Salatin is leading the charge when it comes to small farms.

 I can't wait to read his new book coming out in October. I love the fact that Joel has got the ear of a portion of America that is big enough to help bring about change. 

 Watch the video to get a glimpse into what he'll be covering. While you're at it if you don't know about the Farm to Consumer Legal defense Fund check them out!

 until next time...


 

 


 
 

Become a Farmer of Choice

Picture
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....
 
 

Why Every Child Should Spend Time On a Farm

Picture
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.

Picture
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...
 
 

A Secret Ingredient for your Water Trough

Picture
Clean Water

Water. A crucial element of life. We spend hundreds even thousands of dollars to ensure we have clean pure water for ourselves and our families. It makes up 75% of our bodies.

What about our livestock?  How clean is the water you provide for your animals?

In the past I've been guilty of looking into a water trough and thinking "wow that might need a good cleaning!"



Hogs are constantly washing their noses off in the water and dropping feed into the trough. If left unattended it's not long before you'll have some sort of anaerobic bacteria growing in the water.

This spells trouble for livestock. A good question to ask yourself is "would I drink out of that?"  

One of the major battles in keeping any type of farm animal healthy and growing is managing the "bad bacteria" levels in the animals system.  This is one of the reasons that sub-therapeutic antibiotics are used so heavily in modern agriculture. They help keep the animal healthy and promote growth through the reduced bacterial load in the animal's gut.

Of course antibiotic over-use is fraught with side effects. Two that come to mind are residues in the meat and manure and they wipe out most of the good bacteria with the bad.

I posted about how we introduce good bacteria into our animal's system here.  In this post I only gave a part of our system to manage bacteria...how to introduce new good bacteria.

Let me pause here and say I'm not a veterinarian nor am I a chemist. Please study out these concepts for yourself and make your own conclusions based on your study of the facts.

If all we ever do is kill bad bacteria, as in the case of antibiotics, we end up with a very compromised immune system. So much so that if the antibiotics are stopped there is a huge risk of illness until the good bacteria is re-established. If you are taking antibiotics personally you might want read the previous post.

Aerobic versus Anaerobic

Good bacteria is aerobic. In other words, they flourish in high oxygen environments.

Bad bacteria is anaerobic and cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.

So, when we study the natural order of things we find laws at work to to help us keep our animals healthy. The closer we can mimic nature the better. That's the essence of natural farming.


Picture
Food Grade Peroxide

I was first introduced to the idea of using hydrogen peroxide (H202) for something other than dumping it on a superficial wound more than 20 years ago.

Peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule attached to it. H202 - notice the extra 2? Now think back to our aerobic vs anaerobic bacterias.

What if we could foster an environment that encourages the growth of good oxygen loving bacteria and discourage bad oxygen hating bacteria?

Hydrogen peroxide has been touted to cure almost everything known to man. Does it work? I have no idea. I encourage you to study for your self and draw your own conclusions.

Remember the watering trough way back in the beginning of this post? Let's go back there.

When we need to clean and disinfect things around here such as watering and feeding equipment we wash it with a solution of peroxide.

Most folks would stop there. It's clean, now put some fresh water in and go about your business.

We hopefully killed all the bad bacteria in the watering trough but what if we could encourage it to stay dead and encourage the growth of good bacteria if there is any present?

That's where hydrogen peroxide comes in. We use a solution of 35% food grade and add a tiny amount to all our watering troughs on a regular basis. (Roughly 25-30 ppm)

A word of caution here: peroxide in concentrated amounts is caustic and will take the hide off your fingers on anything else you dump/spill it on.

Using peroxide as a water treatment is not new and you can find studies around the net on both poultry and swine.

Here's a link to a site about well water and hydrogen peroxide.

Other sites have information about health benefits from hydrogen peroxide.

Here are some of the claims.

When hydrogen peroxide has been used for cattle, an increase in milk production and an increase in butterfat content have been reported. Farmers have also reported less mastitis in their herds. Hog farmers have reported their hogs using less feed and a shorter growing time (as much as 30 days less). Turkey and chicken growers reported increased weight per bird using less feed. A man in Wisconsin said he has had the best reproduction rate of his buffalo by using hydrogen peroxide in their drinking water.

Some animal research indicates that when hydrogen peroxide is given orally, it combines with iron and small amounts of vitamin C in the stomach and creates hydroxyl radicals. The rule of thumb is adding 8 oz. to 10 oz. of 35% hydrogen peroxide to 1000 gallons water. Chickens and cows have remained healthy by using 8 ounces of 35% Food Grade hydrogen peroxide in 1,000 gallons of drinking water @ 30 ppm. Hydrogen peroxide application into well water, or city water can best be accomplished by a metering device / injector, which keeps the application more constant and thorough, although manual application works just as well. If you do not have an metering device, start out by using 1 teaspoon of 35% hydrogen peroxide in the animal's drinking water. This same ratio is used for all farm animals: cows, pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, rabbits, birds, etc. http://www.drinkh2o2.com

While I believe hydrogen peroxide is working on our farm as another way to keep all our livestock healthy, I can only tell you our experiences here at Spring Hill Farms.

Study it, try it, and make your own judgment.

Until next time....

 

 
 

3 Lies Big Food Wants You to Believe

Is it really cheaper to eat discount food from the grocery? I've always said "no". If you evaluate it strictly form a dollars spent at the 'regular' store, verses with your local farmer, you may erroneously come to that conclusion. 

 However there is many more pieces to the puzzle...[more]

 
 

What's Wrong With Our Food System - Speech by 11 yr old boy.

Excellent speech by Birke Baehr an eleven year old boy.

 

 

 
 

Joel Salatin - Eco-Agriculture Can Feed the World

I read this article yesterday in Acres USA by Joel Salatin. As always, he makes a very compelling case for sustainable agriculture.

This piece will help any eco-farmer help answer the question folks ask that goes something like "Do you really think we can feed the world using all these old methods of farming?"

 

This is a pdf file you will need Adobe Acrobat.

 Read it here.

 
 
RSS feed for Spring Hill Farms blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader

Calendar


Search


Navigation


Topics


Feeds


BlogRoll