Thanks all that have complemented this newsletter. I'm glad to be a part of the campaign. After receiving the last issue, many of you requested more photos. I can try to meet that request with each letter.
Farm GatheringTime and Things to Bring
The first farm gathering of this season will be on June 26th! The gathering will begin at 2:00 pm. After the potluck, attendees will be invited to tour the farm. Please bring your own table setting, cup, and an entree or desert to share. If it's possible, bring a folding chair as well!
This link will show you Eater's Guild on on google maps, just put your location in the "from" field to get directions. Do beware, google puts the Eater's compound almost a quarter mile further North than it is in reality. The actual location is much closer to Hastings road. If you prefer to do your own search, their address is: 26041 County Road 681, Bangor Michigan.
Notes from the FieldDusters
Every few days we hear helicopters and airplanes droning in the distance. We can't see, but do imagine that over the vast blueberry, corn, and soy fields that neighbor our oasis, these mechanical insects release a misty tempest of noxious fluids. One site tells that about 350 million acres of the continental United States are used for cropland. According to the USDA, only 5 million acres of the US are used for organic cropland. It's just over one percent of farmland land that is wholly free of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides...that means it's also just over one percent of food that's pure.
As we're kneeling in the radish row, wriggling our hands through the plants to find the right leaves, to pinch, to pull, to evaluate, and to bunch, we talk about the engines we hear. Lee notes that the whole bed of radishes we're working through would be "considered a total loss by conventional farming standards." If a real person even needs to come out and look at it, it's not worth harvesting. Who'll have these skills later when they are needed if no one practices them now?
Is that so? I can't imagine. I brush the soil off of a radish now and again, as the hours go by, and enjoy the burst of peppery fluid. The poisons that the drones are releasing, Lee informs us, are so dangerous that people are restricted from entering the fields sometimes for days after. Moreover, for fruits like blueberries, farmers call in for extra doses of fungicide right before the harvest. If not for the extra air-strikes, the crop would never last through the complicated, time consuming shipping and shelving system on which our big-chain groceries rely. For what reason are we unable to share the land with other species?
I'm grateful for the support of CSA members like you, who make the healthful farming that we do a possibility.
Travis Meier and Lee and Laurie Arboreal have teamed up this year to raise chickens. I interviewed Travis, the principal caregiver, to learn more about the operation.
What variety of chicken are they?
They are known as Cornish Crosses. That's an F-2 hybrid for anyone who remembers their lessons on Mendel's genetics. Cornish Crosses are the “standard American” chicken. They are one of the best at growing breeds, maturing in eight to nine weeks, and also converting feed into meat very efficiently. Chicken was not really a popular source of meat until these birds came into the scene.
What kind of housing do your chickens live in?
The housing can be referred to by many different names; I use “mobile pasture pens”. They look like small greenhouses but have tarped roofs to create shade. They have an open area of pasture that is enclosed by electric poultry fencing, which is a screened wire fence that is intended to keep them in. It gives them a lot of space to run around, and frequently, they run out, too.
Do you move the mobile pasture often?
Oh, yes. Many times during the course of the chickens lives. How often they move varies with the weather and the way that the chicken are acting, but basically, when I see that the ground has been nicely spread with manure, it's time to move them.
A lot of the moving that's done within the electrified fencing is done simply by moving their feeders around and that kind of changes where the gravitate. Once I've run out of area to move the feeders to, and the whole area is well spread with manure, I just shift them down one more unit.
So the chickens have a symbiotic relationship with the plants?
Yes, their principal relationship with the plants is to spread manure. The whole of the topsoil and the plants in it get to respond to that huge boost of manure, making the ground more fertile in future times for vegetable farming.
They also eat some plants. Some of their feed sprouts little protein shoots, which puts more nutrients into the bird that are returned to the end user, humans.
Chickens are their not like a rabbit or a cow, sole source of food for which is salad like items. The plants that they eat are considered “low calorie feed”, which helps them digest other food and helps them be more nutritious.
What are some cool things about the chicks?
I don't know. They're just really cute. For me, the amusement of watching three hundred chicks in a sort of small area must be similar to what other people feel when watching fish in tanks. It's kind of exciting watching them all chase a fly or have staring contests with each other. I probably do too much watching them, but I call it “observation” to make myself feel better.
What would you tell a potential customer that is not accustomed to free range chickens?
Well, I would say that, because my chickens are let in the field and ingest a feed that is heterogeneous, that is, made up of many kids of seed, they are more healthy to consume. Generally speaking, the more diverse the nutrients a chicken eats, the more healthful it is for a human to eat. In factory farm situations, the food type is whatever is cheapest, which means that it's also usually all the same type.
Also, I've noticed that the chickens taste great. They taste more “chicken-y” than the average, factory farmed animal. I'm not saying that they are more “game-y” like wild animals, they simply have a richer chicken flavor. They are even more moist than a big-chain chicken. I grow the best tasting chickens I that know of.
Where can people expect to find your chickens?
That's a good question. Right now they are at the Holland Market, South Haven Market, Texas Township Market, People's Food Cooperative, and Salt of the Earth. The more I can expand that list, the better. I'd like to arrange to a few more wholesale accounts. Serving a few restaurants really appeals to me right now.