All posts by Barrows Farm

Travelling down the bumpy and twisted path of life learning more everyday about how much I enjoy the simple things in life, hard work and standing up for what is right. I am proud of my heritage (fourth generation farmer) and mutt mix of English, Native American Indian and Irish. I have worked hard over the past years to develop my farm, an ag-based biomass business and ag-mentoring. I don't have much more than a passion for the farming life...and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world!

Weaning and Training

Well, life sure has kept me busy lately. I think I’ve eaten more breakfast for dinner lately than I ever thought possible. I have been super busy trying to keep up with my son’s wrestling tournaments, photography work, a new writing job, the farm and filling in for another farm while the owners went on vacation. It’s been a rough few weeks to say the least.

Now as we sit, discussing upcoming changes and events, there is so much to get done for 2014 on our farm. My head seems to swirl in a hundred different directions at just the thought of it all. Dividing animals, separating bulls from cows and last years calves from their momma’s, is next up in line. I’ve had a few people asking me lately what we do, how and why. So I guess it’s time to discuss it. First off, our beef breed (Irish Dexter) are really good mothers. We like to leave the calves with their mom’s as long as possible. It helps the calves continue to grow good and gives them the availability of having fresh warm milk from their mother through the cold of winter. Normally, we start pulling calves away from their mothers just about the time spring comes in March. This year, spring hasn’t even showed any signs of arriving anytime soon, unfortunately. That being said, we are still going to need to take the calves out of the paddocks. They will be shifted to the calf pens.

I know this sounds cruel but it isn’t. Once calves hit a certain age, they really don’t need the milk anymore and the majority of their diets come from the hay or pasture grasses. A good cow will reproduce every year but in between each calving, she needs time to rest and gain a little peaceful time. This helps her build her body stores back up and gets her in shape to provide for the next calf. This is very, very important to give cows this rest cycle or as I like to call a vacation from kids ūüėČ

The calves are typically between eight and ten months old when we wean them from their mothers. This is when they hit what I like to call the adolescent stage of their lives. Any parent knows that teenagers can drive a mother insane. It’s no different for cows. Half the time, the calves are about 50-75% the size of their mothers and way too big to continue nursing. We have only ever had one calf that didn’t need to be “removed” from the pen with her mother. She weaned herself, amazingly enough.

Here we sit, right now, on the verge of separating animals. We have paddocks set up for housing just the calves and we do what is called “fence line weaning”. The divider between the mother and calf is a 5 strand high tensile electrified fence. It is rather noisy but is the least stressful way to separate them. They can still see their momma’s and talk back and forth. They still have the chance to get licks through the gate too. Most people outside farming don’t understand the bond between a cow and a calf. It’s an important one. The cow teaches the calf how to graze, what to eat and how to act. Sometimes, this results in animals passing on habits we really don’t want but that’s how it is until they are separated.

After a couple of days, the bleating starts to calm down and everyone transitions into the quiet they are used too. Once the beef calves are inside the calf pen, we start working with them to break some of the bad habits their mothers have instilled in them. The original dexter cows are the only ones who really have this issue and that’s really only two of them. Each year, we have one calf that is a little more “friendly” than the others. Not always from the same momma either. When we start working with them, it’s basically to get them used to having someone human upfront and in their face on a more regular basis. This happens because the barn they go into is a much smaller area and they are forced into the area each end of the day. It takes weeks before they stop running from one end to the other. As time progresses, we shrink the area they are allowed to move around. We sit with a hand out, allowing them to smell us or lick our fingers. Once they settle down and stop running in fear, then we attempt to get a halter on them. Sometimes this takes several weeks or even months. Once they are haltered, they get a collar. The collar makes it easier for us to reach out and grab them. The halter training continues until they are used to it…most of the time. Some never become accustomed to it.

Why halter train? There are a great many reasons to halter train a calf. One is that it’s easy to move them from one location to another without the exhibition of a typical “cattle flight mode”. Other reasons include being able to move them for vet visits, physical exams, potential pregnancy checks, and even transportation. Halter trained animals are much easier to handle. It’s builds their trust in you and teaches them that YOU are the boss. Halter training isn’t typically something that happens overnight either. Some do pick it up quicker than others but typically I would say it takes roughly 15-20 minutes daily for about two weeks before they really start grasping the whole concept of not pulling, tugging or attempting to run. The beef breeds seem to be a little more pig headed and stubborn than the dairy breeds too which doesn’t help. Some of the calves have picked up halter walking within the first two attempts. Others, well…let’s just say that when they see the rope come out that flight response goes into overdrive.

Both the fence line weaning and the halter training can be very dangerous. You can get run over by a calf that is running the fence line. You can get angry mothers who get rather nasty when you take their calf. You find out where every crack in your fence line is too. Halter training an animal that weighs in somewhere around 400-500 lbs and you weigh in less than 200 can be a trip too. I’ve seen one of these calves drag a full grown man like a rag doll on the first attempt. Staying calm but understanding the reactions of the animal are crucial. It isn’t recommended for the weak of heart. You have to be calm but just as stubborn and pigheaded as they are. You also have to understand that not every animal will be successful every single time.

As we go through this process, I will attempt to take some videos. I will forewarn you, it is rather difficult to get video when you only have two working hands operating the farm. I am going to see if I can enlist the help of a teenager who is showing some extreme interest in farming, even if only to video record. It would be a great learning experience for him and would benefit me with a video.

Until then, I need to start preparing for our first calf heifers to start having calves the end of the month. We keep praying that the weather will break and we will start getting some warmer weather by then. I’d hate to have calves come in this bitter cold. It’s below zero right now. I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen if it’s that cold when the calves come. I don’t think Mr. Farmer will like it much if I bring three calves in the house to keep them dry and warm. So, now I’m off to plan the “just in case” to ensure the calves get off to a good start, no matter what the weather.

I’ll update when I can. Sorry about no new recipes lately…. unless you want to know how to make toast, sunny side up eggs or oatmeal, I’ve got nothing new and exciting to share.

Winter Grazing

We’ve been posting some photos on our Instagram and Facebook pages about the cattle and their winter choices and preferences. I’ve had various people from all over the world comment about their cattle and if they go outside and graze or stay inside to just eat and lounge around.

Here is what we have discovered over the past couple of years in our attempt to gain more days of grazing throughout the year.

Fall Grazing
Here the cattle are grazing (not an intensive grazing) in late October

1. We had a field that was going to be used for hay that didn’t get cut due to many days of rain and an over abundance of shale rock sticking out of the ground. This is the second year we had this issue and decided fairly early in the year that our new seeding fields would produce enough hay crop for our animals over the course of the winter. We allowed the grasses to grow over the entire growing season and created a stockpile of grasses in the field. Late in the year, starting toward the first of October we started grazing the animals in this unmowed paddock. The grasses were of various heights, many of which ranging between the 8-12″ mark. Some was taller and had died off while the bottom was a thick carpet of new growth. ¬†The cattle stayed in this paddock until we got a heavy rain in November that caused some severely muddy areas that were starting to freeze and creating a hazard for the cows. They were shifted out of this paddock on November 27th.

Day One of Winter Grazing, November 27th, 2013

2. Cattle that have been raised to graze WILL graze when given the chance. The Irish Dexters we have here are natural grazers, so it makes sense to us to run all the younger cattle (yes, even the dairy breeds) with them as much and as often as possible. Cattle learn from repetition and by example. The older cows teach the younger cows what to do. Sometimes, this has additional woes to consider when it comes to animal handling but that’s another topic. Here is a link to a short video, taken on December 30th with about four to six inches of snow on the ground¬†Post by Barrows Farm¬†of one of our dairy cows grazing.

3. I’m slowly learning that weather issues that bother me might not actually bother the cattle much at all. Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say:

Snowy Cold Weather? These cattle are having a blast on their “snow day”
Older cattle teaching the younger to eat "grassicles"
Older cattle teaching the younger to eat “grassicles”

4. It isn’t only the cattle that prefer to eat something out in the pasture. We have chickens that refuse to eat the “rationed” diet provided by the feed store, instead the forage for their own food.

Look at those chickens go out and get goodies!
Look at those chickens go out and get goodies!

We have 18 head of cattle right now and we are still feeding hay. We feed 2 bales that measure 4 foot x 5 foot every two to three days depending on how much the cattle graze. We’ve done some rough estimates and we are figuring about 25% of their diet is still coming from pastures every month. Hard to imagine but it’s happening. We do want to increase the amount from pastures but after dealing with the harsh reality from this winter, I don’t think we are doing too bad since I think we have had two or three days in the past three to four weeks that have been above 15 degrees. The cattle go out everyday to walk the pastures and nibble on grass…all by choice, not force. They always have hay available inside the barn. Sometimes we do roll bales out in areas that could use some additional organic matter…

Bale grazing on January 27th
Bale grazing on January 27th

Overall, I have to say that this has been an experience for me. Each generation seems to be more adaptable to the winter grazing. Maybe we are just noticing it more but I can demonstrate what I mean by viewing the photo below. All the calves are doing great and at six to seven months of age are developing well.

A Dexter cow and her 2013 calf at 8 months old

We will continue to monitor and push for more “grazing” days. Of course, every day the cattle graze here but we want to get more of their diet from the grassicles (frozen shards of grasses) than the current percentage. There will be some additional trials into the paddocks themselves to increase the winter fodder coming for many years to come. One thing is certain, we aren’t afraid of change or adaptability. I will keep you all as up to date as possible on the happenings…and don’t forget to stop by and like our Facebook page to stay more current on details. I try to post a couple photos every week of what’s going on around the farm. “See ya soon”

 

 

 

Tasty Thursday #4 – Donuts

It’s been a rough week around here with freezing cold temperatures, massive sinus issues (Doreen) and major organization (aka spring cleaning with a twist). ¬†Since Mr. Farmer had Monday off from work for MLK day, I decided to make an extra treat this week full of goodies that I’m not really meant to have in my diet.

It’s rare that you will have me share recipes that include so much of these ingredients, but these are too good to not share!

Ingredients:
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp dry active yeast
2 cups all purpose flour (actually you will want slightly less and I recommend starting with about 1-1/2 cups then add a little until you get the right consistancy of “sandiness” when mixturing with butter)
3 tbsp of sugar
1 egg
1/4 stick of butter at room temperature

Oil enough to cover a few inches in the bottom of a deep pan or a deep fryer.

Directions:
In a large measuring cup, combine milk and boiling water. Add in one teaspoon of the sugar and yeast. Stir gently to combine and then leave in a warm place until the yeast mixture foams.
In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry blender until it looks like crumbles.
Add in the egg after a quick beat (I do this with my finger or fork right in the flour butter mixture prior to mixing it in) and add the yeast mixtures. Mix until dough is smooth. This could take a little time, so be patient.
Turn the dough onto a light floured counter and knead for 5-10 minutes. You will notice a springy texture and air bubbles forming in the dough when it is ready. Place it back in the bowl, allow to raise for about an hour or it’s double in size in a warm location. After it has doubled in size, you can either flatten the dough to cut into round donuts or just form balls for holes. Once you have the desired shapes, set them on a baking sheet, again in a warm location and cover with a towel. Let donuts raise while you are heating the oil to 375 degrees. Fry for approximately 2 minutes per side.

Glaze:
I use powdered sugar and a liquid (I will discuss the further in just a second) until it forms an running sauce for applying. There really is no need to measure this. Start by adding powdered sugar into a bowl, add a little bit of liquid and stir with a spoon. Keep adding a little liquid until the mixture is able to be poured from a spoon.

For the liquid to go into the glaze, you can add just about anything. To give your donuts a little pick me up kick, you can use orange juice or lemon juice. Want a little alcohol, you can add in a little tequila (works perfect with lime zest inside the donut and all you have to do is mix it in with the yeast) or even bourbon. You can even use melted butter for a creamier glaze.

So there you have the treat this week. Granted it’s not all that healthy but hey, it’s homemade! Hope you enjoy!

Tasty Thursday #3 – Thimble Soup

Beef Stuffed Dumplings

For a little background, I found this amazing recipe over on Give Recipe while doing an internet search for ravioli. Boy am I glad I did!

She calls it Thimble Soup or it’s¬†called¬†y√ľks√ľk √ßorbasńĪ.¬†It’s actually a popular wedding dish in Turkey according to her blog. We sure didn’t celebrate a wedding but the marriage of ingredients made my mouth very happy. I did have to change up the ingredients from her original recipe due to some dietary restrictions…so here is what I came up with.

Dough for dumpling wrappers
4 cups flour
3 eggs
2 cups water (I need WAY less, so I recommend adding about a 1/2 cup and then a little at a time until it balls together)
2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients, by hand mixing and kneading (wet hands to prevent sticking) until the dough doesn’t stick to you hands. Divide into 4 big equal parts.

Filling
Chopped Onion
1 lb Ground Beef
Parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

Now flour the counter and place a dough ball. Flour the top and flatten with your hands. I used a rolling pin to roll it out, dusting with flour to prevent sticking until I got it very thin. I could almost see through it at this point. You can now use a knife or pizza cutter to cut squares or you can use a small 2″ biscuit cutter. Now place a small bit of the meat filling into the center. Pull up edges and combine corners. There are many different methods to choose from. I like the referenced one in the link above or even small half moons. I actually have a tart crimper that would work perfect for this task! One sealed, set aside on a tray with a small space around each one.

Now that you have ¬†your dumplings built, it’s time to boil them in broth. Use a large stock pot for this.

Broth Bath
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chickpeas (I used home canned sweet corn instead)
1 lemon (juiced)
4 cups water

I actually did 6 cups of beef broth instead of the broth and water since I also altered away from the chickpeas.
Bring to a boil, slowly add the dumplings. As they begin to float, in roughly 10 minutes, remove from heat and add one cup of cold water.
*Since I had several pots full because I made all of the dough and filling instead of cooking them in the oven for a later date, I would pull them out of the broth bath and submerge into a bowl of cold water with just enough to cover them until the pot was refilled. These have very good flavor at this point and could be topped with just about anything or eaten plain, as is (I had to taste test them at this point). I then added them into the sauce base after draining the water.

Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pepper paste (I used 1 tsp of red pepper flake)
1 tsp dried mint
Paprika powder to taste
2 grated tomatoes (I used stewed tomatoes we had canned up this last year)

Once the sauce is heated and the tomatoes are just pulp, remove from heat. This is the stage that I just added the boiled dumplings. Once all of your dumplings are cooked, then go ahead and add in 1 cup of water to the last batch of boiling dumplings after removing from heat. Stir in your sauce base and pre-cooked dumplings and it’s all ready to be served.

On the page I pulled this recipe from, I noticed that she also tops with a yogurt and garlic cream. It’s 1 cup of yogurt with three mashed cloves of garlic combined. I think sour cream would work just as good or maybe even a cream cheese and garlic. For those that can’t have dairy, I recommend using mashed cauliflower and garlic.

So there you have it. The best overall meal I think I have ever experimented with. Not too overly spicy and perfect for subzero temperature days!

A steaming bowl of yummy goodness!
A steaming bowl of yummy goodness!

Tasty Thursday #2

I have been waiting for a couple of reviews to come back on this sauce. But the overwhelming majority love it…with a few minor tweaks to the original. When I first made the sauce, I just kept adding ingredients until I thought it tasted right…never did get it perfected but I knew I was close to have a really good all around sauce that could be used on beef, pork and poultry.

The original recipe is:

3 cups Ketchup
1-1/2 cups Chive Vinegar (follow the link for instructions)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
3-4 tbs. black pepper (use less for fresh ground)
2 tbs worcestershire sauce

Blend all the ingredients over low heat and allow to simmer until the sauce thickens. Once it starts to “stick” to a wooden spoon, it’s done.

The feedback is that it has a little too much vinegar (which you could allow to cook out for a little longer) and that it’s a got a little too much pepper. I think it depends on what meat you are applying it too. I like a little more pepper when dealing with beef, but ultimately, the taster (you the cook) can decide.

All feedback is always welcome! Enjoy!

Illnesses and Injuries

I don’t feel good today and I am battling through some sinus infection, sore ears and just a general overall feeling of blah. Being sick gets me thinking though about 40-hour per week jobs, calling in sick and being able to lay in bed all day. Something that farmers don’t have the luxury of doing. Who should I call when I don’t feel like braving the elements with a pounding head, ringing ears and snot running out of my nose? I don’t think the calves, cows or chickens are going to care. They want their food!

Living the farm life isn’t for everyone. We farm through broken ribs, flu season, broken toes, dislocated bones and everything in between. I’ve cared for animals in casts and splints. I’ve cared for animals through pounding heads and aching backs. Farmers who deal with livestock are care givers. When you get sick, you still have kids who need caring for or a dog that needs to go for a walk…it’s really not that much different for us. It would be much more convenient if the cattle were in the house so I wouldn’t have so far to go…but it doesn’t work that way.

Being a farmer takes grit. I’m sure you’ve heard that before but it’s true. We have to push ourselves to work through an illness or injury to get the job done. We don’t get sick days, we don’t get days off. It doesn’t matter, 365 days a year you will find me in the barn caring for calves and feeding the animals.

I’ve learned a lot about pushing myself to get the job done since I have been diagnosed with MS. You need to push but not overdue things. Even if a chore takes you ten times long than it normally would, do it anyway. When it gets done, you can sit down with satisfaction knowing that you ¬†accomplished the job. Besides, if your dealing with livestock they will find a way to make you smile.

Now, since it’s raining outside and more extreme cold weather is coming…I think I’ll tackle some paperwork and housework! Wish me luck in finalizing my plans for 2014 and getting my entire life better organized!

Tasty Thursday #1

It’s snowing like crazy here in Upstate NY today. The roads are slick and I sure don’t have any desire to brave the snow, the cold or the wind to go anywhere. I’ve spent the day preparing myself to get better organized for 2014, so I can stay on top of things and give myself some budgeted time to blog more often.

As part of that “planning”, I decided to add in a menu planning section too! You see, someone is HORRIBLE at remember to take food out of the three full stocked freezers to prep for the evening meal. Oops. I’m going to explore some new recipes in these age old cook books I have and maybe throw a little of my own flair in there too. Since almost everything I cook comes from scratch, I decided that maybe it would be good to share my favorite recipes via this blog page. Once a week, I will share my favorite recipe or food good I made! Tasty Thursdays we will call it!

So for my first Tasty Thursday, I’m going to share my good old chips! This year on New Year’s Day, these were a huge hit and I couldn’t make them fast enough!!! Ahem, I was the only one eating them but hey, they were good!

I just used regular white potatoes. I scrub them clean and use a mandolin to slice them nice and thin.

Next I put them into the fryer at 350 degrees for about three minutes. Flip them a couple times with a slotted spoon. Once they start to brown (do not brown them all the way this time), remove from oil. I preheat the oven to about 300 degrees and line a cookie sheet with a paper towel. Place the sheet into the oven to keep them hot. I do a couple of batches this way (about two whole potatoes). I turn the heat up on the fryer to about 375 degrees and refry the chips. Keep flipping them until the center of the chips turns a nice golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. I like to sprinkle a mixture of salt and garlic powder on as quickly as possible. Shake them around and dump into a bowl. Serve hot or cold! Simple, easy and delicious. I’m sure that you can mix up 1,000 different things from the spices you have that would taste excellent.

Homemade Chips

Saying Goodbye to Ring in Hello

2013 is now gone and in the record books. As the old saying goes, ¬†today is a new day! A new day to the start of a brand new year full of hopes and dreams. I’d like to take a minute though to review our year of 2013 on the farm.

We have so many things to be thankful for that happened in 2013 but it didn’t come without heartache, stress and tragedy. We have suffered through the stress of planning, budgeting and financial woes. We have had our hearts broken over the loss of Belle, the rescue cow and favorite “mother” within the herd. We’ve had bad times through illnesses, aches and pains but we still keep pushing and we still keep going.

Farming isn’t for everyone. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s dealing with the tough times and take the good along with the bad. We did have some absolutely amazing things happen in 2013 that completely out weigh the bad.

After much personal discussion about financial woes and our own morals and ethics, we filed for a grant in November of 2012. In March, we finalized the paperwork on an EQIP grant that helped us reseed a field back into pasture, relieved financial stress of fence building and will even assist with a water project in 2014. The grant didn’t come without it’s own stress issues though. Budgets and monitoring, differences in opinions, and even clashing mentalities on timelines came with it. Yes, it’s been stressful but it’s also been a very rewarding adventure. Now that it’s past, we have a newly established 24 acre pasture planted with a wide variety of plants (18 or so were seeded) for grazing. We ended up with about 110 acres of perimeter fencing that was 5 strand instead of the USDA-NRCS recommended 4 strand. There are nice gates and hot wires to keep cattle in line and under control so they aren’t wandering the neighborhood anymore! These are major accomplishments!

We had five calves born on the farm in 2013 and brought in three more! Our total herd has expanded to 20 today with eight calves expected to be born in 2014!!!! It’s so hard to believe that in 2009, we had just one steer! My, oh my, how things have changed!

We held the first annual party in the pasture in May. I (Doreen) was so overwhelmed to have people I haven’t seen in a decade come to spend time on the farm with their children, letting them get to know what a cow is. We’ve had folks come visit for just the cattle kisses that are often shared on the farm. We’ve had visitors come from both near and far, made new friends, hosted a video crew and learned so much about what you enjoy about what we do.

We raised our first animals for meat to cater a wedding. Granted it was Rich’s sons wedding but who cares…well, maybe the bank account but hey, it’s all for a good cause right? We bbq’ed 200 quarters for that wedding! We raised them, butchered them and then the fun began around the bbq pit. It was a whole lot of hard work to make it all happen but the response from the guests was what made it all worth while.

Through all the stress and hard work, we managed to make some big changes in 2013. All of those changes will be allowing us to do even more in 2014! We are now preparing to work with another local farm to pasture their heifers in the grazing months. We are planning for more meat bird production, more eggs to be produced and even more Rose Veal to be raised! 2014 will also be a big transition in our marketing and we are expecting to start setting up stands once the markets open around May! We are also planning a second annual Party in the Pasture too! The water system will be started in April/May and will be completed during the summer of 2014 too.

All of these changes are because we are dedicated to our passions in life. Yes, it takes a lot of money and a lot of hard work. Yes, we suffer through heartache and stress. But…in the end and looking at everything big picture, we know that through all the struggles and trials we are doing just what God meant for us to do! Expect to read more about us as times goes on. Now that things have “slowed down” to a more regular pace, we will have the time to share more often.

In closing, our wish for you on this day of new dreams and hopes.¬†“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.‚ÄĚ‚Äē Ralph Waldo Emerson and¬†¬†‚ÄúGive me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.‚ÄĚ ~Minnie Louise Haskins

Happy New Year to you all!

A new day, a new year...new hopes and new dreams. Follow your own star!
A new day, a new year…new hopes and new dreams. Follow your own star!

Classes

It’s hard to believe but I have started taking classes as part of the 2013-2014 Holistic Management Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program for women in the Northeast. I wish you could all understand that this is an honor for me to be accepted into the program and become part of such a great group of women from all over the world, not just the Northeast.

I wouldn’t have even filled the application if not for a couple ladies encouraging me to do so. I know that many people have different opinions on what is the right way and wrong way to live life, run a farm or business but I have my own ways. Since 2006, I have been forced to continue looking forward and at the bigger picture. The Holistic Management training will help me do all that with new key insights and with better tactics.

Life has been floundering. Two different people involved in farming with two different aspects. One who has been around farming and ran a day to day operation in the past and another who may have grown up on a small dairy but has no clue about grasses, soils, fertilization, etc. I’m the second. One area that I handle is the cattle and small animals around the farm. I work with them to be friendly, halter trained and care for them. Sometimes, I have felt disconnected from tasks that I just don’t understand. My opinion is kicked to the curb because I just don’t know what I need to know to make a viable choice. These classes will not only give me a crash course in some of these steps but will also help us plan better for open communication and planning.

I have been reading and studying Allan Savory’s book titled Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making¬†since January of this year. We have been actively putting these management practices to use since 2012. We just didn’t know it until a copy of the book was borrowed from the library. I think I have been using the same concept of planning and life choices actively since 2009 on a regular basis. Was it done right or with an intention of doing so? Nope, it wasn’t. Could/can it be refined to use and help eliminate planning issues, work issues and more? You bet it can! That’s why I’m taking these classes.

In section One, the topic was how to enhance success, meeting challenges effectively, addressing environmental issues and how all this works together inside your “toolbox” of management. The key is knowing who’s involved, what you are managing (an inventory of what you already have) and then knowing what quality of life you want and what you need to have or do to get there. The key is to PLAN-IMPLEMENT-MONITOR-CONTROL.

Section Two takes you from principles to practice and really starts digging into your Holistic Goal, defining what you manage and testing your decisions. It makes you take a look at who are decision makers and what human assets you have. It makes you look at the “stuff” you already have, including equipment and money.

If you want to test yourself on creating a holistic goal, it’s also important to know how you want people to see you. By people I mean your neighbors, vendors, suppliers, customers, etc. You also need to think about how you want the environment around you to look and how you want your community to be. I will admit, this task was rather daunting for me. I spent time talking with my advisor and one of the key things for me was to develop not one, but two holistic goals…maybe even three now that I think about it. Having the farm and knowing that this is something I am extremely passionate about is one things, but my own personal goals and even my photography have overlapping goals but ultimately, they are very separate and on very different levels.

Costs of Products

I was part of an interesting conversation today about the prices of Organic Food versus Other Food. I’m going to attempt to break it down so non-producing people can understand.

Each farm does things differently, each step costing a different amount. In a traditional business, we call this production. In farming, the consumer associates that word with assembly lines of animals or parcels of land providing goods at the expense of those who care for it or them.

As a farmer, each thing I do has a cost associated with it. We call this the cost of production. It covers everything from seeds, fertilizers, wages, marketing and feed. It also covers taxes and fuels and every other thing in between. Businesses call this overhead. Small farms are like those boutique shops where everything is done on a smaller scale and products are limited. Larger farms are like chain stores where they get discounts for what we call “purchasing power.”

With these comparisons, just why is Organic more expensive if it doesn’t involve costly fertilizers and spray chemicals? It’s actually rather simple to do the math. For example purposes, I am going to use the terminology of convention and organic with no line drawn in the sand between the two. I am not a supporter of either system for various reasons.

Let’s take a look at things that are the same for both systems:

1. Land taxes – Yes they vary from town to town, county to county and state to state but each acre of land has an associated cost of using that land.

2. Insurance – It doesn’t matter what type of farming you do. Building insurance, farm machinery insurance and auto insurance all have fees associated.

3. Electricity Consumed – Unless a farm is providing its own electricity through wind, solar or capturing methane gases, there is always a cost for fences, lights, milking pumps, water, etc.

Here’s where things start to drastically vary:

1. A Consolidated Feeding Operation (CAFO) will utilize more harvested and stored materials while Organic utilize more pasture based systems.

  • CAFO have high costs associated with planting, maintaining and harvesting materials. Organic has high costs for fencing and electricity to charge the fence.
  • Most farms purchase supplements grains. Let’s say Conventional or GMO corn is selling for $4.25 per bushel¬†provided, Organic Corn for feed is selling for $10.00 per bushel. Most Organic farms do not have the “buying power” discussed about to play the market futures for corn commodities either, which results in slightly lower price structures. On these market based reports, Organic corn for feed costs 242% more.
  • On CAFO operations, the overhead costs of lights are at a lower input rate on a per head basis. If you are comparing at 100 cow dairy to a 1,000 cow dairy the prices to provide lights, heating/cooling, water and other associated costs are normally close to the same cost per month. So if that monthly bill is $200, it’s a $.50 fee per cow on the small dairy and $.20 fee per cow of the larger farm. It works the same with fuel to provide feed.

2. It isn’t that Organic farms don’t use fertilizers, sprays or chemicals. It’s that what can be used is limited. With any other “specialty” market, we expect to pay higher prices for these goods. You can do some research via the internet and discover the differences in pricing structures and what’s allowed for organics according to the USDA.

As you can see, Organic is in my view-point a much costly endeavour due to feed costs alone. Organic farms also deal with different commodity brokers or do much of their own marketing on smaller farms. No answer is ever simple and it’s difficult to express the real differences in costs. Again, this is another reason I suggest you purchase from a farm you can talk too. Boxed goods on the shelf, unfortunately, do not tell us the real story behind the scene.

If there is anyone who would like to sit down and discuss our pricing structures, we always welcome you to come look over the books. Here on our farm, we do not fit into the brackets of conventional or organic. We base our choices on economic, environmental and animal benefits. The system we use isn’t a marketing tool, but instead a sound decision based off those three aspects. I will keep all opinions on both of these productions to myself today. If you want to know more, feel free to comment or send us a message via twitter or Facebook.