Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Anger Management

We are a humane farm, which means we treat our animals with kindness, care and respect.  This philosophy extends to the chickens own community.  We think there should be peace and harmony in our chicken flocks.  They all grew up together; they are in the same pasture together and roost in the same houses together.  We have them living in plenty of space, more than four square feet per bird when housed and much greater than that when out doors.  We do keep them in moveable fencing to keep predators out and them safe.  Sometimes it works; unfortunately, we have learned that sometimes it does not.  Our chickens have plenty of access to food and water and we provide shade and fans during the hottest parts of the season.

If a chicken pulls up lame, everything we have read points to management as the problem.  Like excessive pecking is caused by competition for resources such as food, water or space.  Soft egg shells indicates there is a calcium deficiency in the food source, which correlates to us not getting the feed mix right; and too cold or too hot and egg production drops and so on.  Fortunately, the problems we do create we find quickly and fix, but what we read was right.  Most problems we have had with chickens could be traced back to our management or lack of attention.  You look for consistency in all facets of their existence.  If anything is inconsistent, it usually is an indication of the start of a problem.

Every so often, a fight breaks out or one chicken will start pecking another, which is their nature.  There is a pecking order but we discourage this behavior from the time they are chicks.  We only have about two hundred birds at any one time.  We do not de-beak because that is cruel and it works against the chicken and the goals of raising chicks.  A de-beaked bird will spend more energy eating and wasting food than a bird with a full beak, and that energy could be going toward laying eggs or gaining weight.  We do not clip their wings either; we let them fly as much as they can.  Once they get to a certain weight, their wings cannot sustain them in flight but they try to fly just the same and it is a fun thing to watch when they all get going.

How we deal with pecking and rough housing is to yell.  This startles all of them but it is directed at the antagonist, which usually gets her attention, and given the attention span of a chicken is long enough for the tormented one to get away.  Seldom is there a prolonged problem.  I yell" HEY," usually followed by "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" with a loud voice, deep timber and baratone measure.  They hear the volume, timber, tone and that gets their attention.  The combatants, stop briefly enough, look towards the sound and forget what they were doing.  They do have chicken brains so, once distracted they go on to something else. 

My neighbors on the other hand just hear me yelling.  Not knowing what I am yelling at or why but, they too hear the volume and tone.  It does not help that we are on the top of knoll and there is an echo.  I have never been asked by a neighbor but, I cannot help but speculate that my neighbors must be thinking, "man, they need anger management classes.”

Buy Local: When you do, you help your community and what are we without community?  

 

 
 

Natures curve ball

We have a hen that has taken to, let me see, how to say this so I keep a "G" rating.  We have a hen that has taken to being the rooster.  I kid you not.  She has taken on the roll of the fertilizer or pretend fertilizer.  I've said before we've only been raisng hens for three years going on four.  So I might think I've seen it all, but apperantly that's not true.   My wife read a book that said hens can change gender but we never took it seriously.

We thought it was one of those things, except we have this chicken that doesn't really fight the other hens as much as she gets on their backs.  A rooster when he is in procreation mode will grab a hen by the back of her neck holding her down so he can do what a rooster does.  My wife said she thought she saw this behavior in one of our hens, but me being me, I wouldn't believe it until I saw the event for myself.

We were all eating lunch one day sitting outside in the shade and enjoying a slight breeze.  I was facing the pen of the second generation hens.  Their numbers have dwindled due to a neighbor's errent dog, but the ones that survived have rebounded and they are pretty good layers.  It was a Saturday and we had picked corn for taste testing.  We feed our help most times and its always a good time when breaking bread with them.  No matter what I cook they always seem to like it.  Of course when you work on an organic vegetable farm you tend to work up a big appetite.  Male or female they can all put food away.  So I cooked the corn for everyone and we were sitting there enjoying the sweet taste and the respite.  

If the hens start fighting or going crazy I usually yell at them which startles them and is enought to return the flock to some sort of harmony.  I heard a commotion and looked up to see a hen on top of another hen biting and holding her down while seemingly girating like the rooster does.  I looked at my wife; she gave me a look and just shrugged.  I yelled, then got up to get closer and yelled again.  That broke the hovering hen's concentration and her captive scurried away.  So, once again I think I've seen it all.

We kid ourselves by thinking we've got a handle on things.  Then we discover that the learning curve just seems to keep bending upward. WE learn sometimes nature throws a curve ball..

Buy Local - from a farmer, not from a chain that advertises "Local" 

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These Times They Are a Changing

A New York Times columnist wrote an article about how the grass fed grazing model is not sustainable.  I grew up in an era when Edward R. Morrow was retiring and Walter Cronkite was becoming America's uncle.  Journalistic integrity was paramount in all mediums of news back then.  Yes, there was the National Enquirer and people would sneakily purchase it as a guilty pleasure. 

What I see today is that the National Enquirer model has become the standard-bearer for news in general.  What is particularly galling about this article is that the reporter did not have his facts correct nor did he try to make it a balanced article.  He went as far to attack Polyface Farm and Joel Salatin.  Yet, I derive great pleasure from this article.  You see it indicates to me that the industrial food complex is becoming concerned.  Buy local and sustainable agriculture are making headways into American consumerism.  Judging from the backlash and furry that I see on internet posts we are pro-sustainability.  I ask myself; why else would this reporter tout concentrated animal farm operations (CAFO’s)?  He blatantly or conveniently leaves out the suffering of animals in these CAFO’s and does not even begin to address the pollution and environmental degradation caused by them.

Study upon study points to increased endocrine problems including hormonal imbalance, anti-biotic resistant bacteria, cancers, food allergies and other maladies caused by the exact object he touts as being the proper way of feeding Americans.  He goes so far as to say that animals reared outside using management intensive grazing (sustainable techniques) actually adds to the methane levels and global warming. 

We have known for years that governments use fear and misinformation as ways to sway public opinion.  Look at our last leader and yellow cake uranium.  Yellow cake was used as the reason to start the Iraq war.  Only after CIA agent Valerie Plame was outed, did we find out that they knew the analysis was wrong.  Fear (WMD’s) and misinformation (yellow cake) caused public opinion and congress to sway in the desired direction.  I think it started after the “War of the Worlds” incident; someone saw the general widespread panic and learned from the experience.  Phsyops or psychological operations are an integral part when trying to sway public opinion, not the facts.  Fact has become a casualty in modern society, as has integrity in most aspects of public discourse. 

I think Mr.’s.  Marrow and Cronkite would be appalled and ashamed at the standards of today’s reporting.  The Times article was so skewed towards the IFC to be a blatant endorsement of all that is evil in CAFO’s and its known detriments.  To say the least it did nothing to stop the proliferation and use of GMO’s, or Atrizine that castrates and feminizes predictor species or the rise in food born allergies, contamination and resulting recalls.  The reporter conveniently leaves out or is ignorant to the pollution and huge carbon footprint needed to generate all these quality CAFO meat products.  Joel Salatin responded to the Times article and he addresses the misnomers far better than I ever could.

Lastly, but most importantly the reporter does not even begin to talk about recalls and the devastating affect that contaminated food, supplied by the IFC, has on the general consumer.  I have asked this before; have you ever heard of a recall from a local small farmer or a local butcher?  Why not?  I think it is because your local small farmer or butcher has everything to lose if someone gets sick or dies from his or her product.  Besides that, they feed their family and friends.  The IFC companies can simply change their name, re-incorporate and keep operating.

The NY-Times article is so biased it leads you to only one conclusion and that is the IFC is the only true food source.  What they failed to realize is the breadth and depth of the buy local and sustainable agriculture movements.  It is pathetic to say the least but it is an indication to me that the IFC is feeling the affects of these movements.  They must be concerned about local food and the fact that you are supporting local small farmers.  Maybe the article was a shill for the IFC I do not know and maybe I am to close to the issue to see that the article was balanced and not tipped in anyone direction.  However, the logical side of me thinks it is an indication that these times, they are a changing. 

Buy Local:  We all can and do make a difference, which is an investment for future generations.

 

 
 
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