Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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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.


 

 
 

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...
 
 

How to Make a Chicken Catcher

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Buckeye Rooster
While catching chickens to be processed this last time my brother and I were having an ongoing discussion about who could make the best chicken catcher.

We laughed about how as kids we would make one and then snag every hen in the barnyard a couple times each. And if you caught the rooster it was a huge deal. (we had educated him after just a few times of catching him)

This was way before the internet, video games, and a million channels on TV.

It brought back the time a few years ago when the boys were getting old enough to help, which means they could walk a few steps without falling down, and I declared we needed to catch all the broilers in the next few days to butcher.

They ask "how we gonna ketch em'?"

I'll make a chicken catcher I exclaimed. Of course they were on point then! Especially my youngest as he wants to know how to make everything or at least "see how it works."

Picture

Home Made Chicken Catcher
So we went on the hunt for the materials which consist of a piece of number 9 wire and a pair of pliers. I explained how as kids we would rob a wire coat hanger from the closet (without mom seeing us of course) and use it to make the catcher. This sparked a whole new line of questions about how could you bend a hanger? So I explained how clothes hangers used to be metal wire not the plastic ones you see now.


That was almost as weird to them as making a chicken catcher.

So with both of them following along behind I grabbed a pair of pliers and cut a piece of #9 wire about three feet long or so.

I then bend a U shape in the end. I then send the boys after a stick about the size of a chickens leg or a bit bigger and place it inside the U making sure it is against the bottom of the U shape.

Taking the pliers I squeeze the U almost shut up against the stick which leaves a long tail.

I then make a few fine adjustments based on years of making chicken catchers and then promptly losing them after one day of use. (I should find three with the mower this Spring)

I flip the now finely tuned instrument around and bend a handle on the other end and say there we go!

The boys both look at the wire and then look at me and say, "how do you catch a chicken with that."

So off we go to demonstrate. I open the movable pen, reach in with the wire, and before they know what has happened I'm pulling a bird to me by the leg...and my youngest is screaming "let me try!"

And so it goes on the farm. I am always amazed at what I learned as a kid on the farm. Some things I have completely forgotten until one day I'm doing something and think,  "I know what I need! I need to make a.........."

Until next time!

 

 
 
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