A New Chapter

Chicken Farmer 1

Chicken Farmer 1

Jeremy and Clara Sherer called us one morning last summer…and so a new chapter began.

It was a conversation we have been having more often as the dangerous realities of our food system are becoming clearer to a greater audience, and more people are making the decision to capture control of what they feed their families. There were a few things different about the conversation with Jeremy and Clara however. Yes, they had read the books and watched the documentaries; they were becoming little hulk-a-maniacs like so many these days. But they were more than inspired. They were motivated. They were more than well read. They were opinionated. They were more than the mom who wants to get 300 chickens so her kids have something to do in the summer, or the young man who wants to make a quick $25K as Joel Salatin suggests in his book Pasture, Poultry, Profits. They had a plan. They were an organized team. They were poised for success.

A lot of business owners might see a scenario like this and feel a real sense of competition emerging. We are not those people. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Lane County has approximately 350,000 people. If Our Family Farm raises 3500 chicken a year, that is enough for 1% of our beautify county to eat one chicken, once a year. Not enough good chicken.
  2. We need more smart farmers, close by, raising healthy meat products.
  3. A network of smart farmers raising healthy products helps to promote the important message about what is happening with our food system in American, and instigate a necessary change.

All this to say, we were very happy to meet Jeremy and Clara and invite them into our entire process. They took our invitation and ran with it. They signed up for our CSA, the toured our farm with their charming daughters, they visited our home to discuss our successes and failures of running a farm business, they volunteered on our butcher days, they helped with chores…they were motivated!

R. Sherer, Chicken Whisperer

R. Sherer, Chicken Whisperer

Amanda and I were in a unique spot with our lives where I had received a promotion at the day job and the farm was really starting to take off. If you have ever had a foot in two places you understand the torture of doing two things you enjoy, but doing neither as well as you would like. This was us, and we had a decision to make as the season moved full speed ahead into summer. In truth, we needed help.

To put it simply, we had grown to respect the Sherer’s motivation, appreciate their help in navigating the busiest time of the season, and love their philosophy on food. Amanda and I seriously entertained the prospect of a transition. And then we made the Sherer’s an offer they didn’t expect.

Our Family Farm would transition to the care and management of Jeremy and Clara, and Havurah Farm. We were excited at the prospect of what we had worked so hard to create (a brand, a business with traction and a community of really cool people) would be received, nurtured, and taken to a whole new level! When we called the Sherers to propose our idea, there was a short silence on the other end followed by giggles and YESes. And so a new chapter began.

We would love to tell you more of the details of the transition when we bump into you at the open house this coming Sunday, March 24th from 1-3PM (8048 Thurston Road), or on our front porch as you pick up your CSA order starting in May and running through October.

Jeremy and the Girls

Jeremy and the Girls

For now, we are fortunate to be the recipients of a great graciousness from Havurah Farm. Not only have they extended an invitation for us to play some kind of role in the success of their farm, but in addition to all of you, our family has received a new family into the fold of amazing people we call friends.

If you would like information about Havurah Farm you can find what you are looking for here, and you can email havurahfarm@gmail.com. We would strongly encourage you to reach out to them and introduce yourself as you continue to pursue good food and good people.

And we would encourage you to stay in contact with us, mostly because we like you. We hope to see you on our front porch again this season.

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The “Lily Stamp Of Approval”

It was a perfectly wonderful May afternoon. The sun was on the decline bringing out some of the cooler hues of green from the pasture and surrounding oak trees. Ephraim Payne had called us several days earlier because he was working on a CSA story for the Natural Choice Directory and wanted to visit our farm. Not only was he interested in gathering intel for his story, but his wife Leeann and their family were considering joining our CSA for 2012. We were honored to be considered a source of credible CSA information (we have the best CSA customers!). But the biggest honor came from something unexpected of Ephraim’s visit.

Deciding which chicken to have a conversation with.

You see, the Payne’s are thoughtful consumers, working to keep their carbon footprint as small as possible. They capture rain water to keep their vegetables and laying hens in whetted whistles. They compost, they recycle, they buy locally. But the coolest part of all their efforts is how Ephraim and Leeann share their experience with their daughter, Lily, and encourage her to have her own opinions and make up her own mind about her consumption. This is really where this story begins.

When Ephraim and Lily arrived at the farm, Lily seemed like your average Eugene pre-teen. Nothing ‘brand name’ about her clothes (no AE or A&F to be seen), a tease of azure tint lingering on tucked away bangs, headphones dangling from ears, easy steps in an unfamiliar place. The three of us exchanged hello’s, and I asked Lily what she was listening to. To my pleasant surprise it wasn’t the latest Coldplay album (nothing against Coldplay) or Gotye hit, but an audio book. She didn’t know it yet, but we were already friends.

It’s a good place to be

We took a casual stroll around our farm, looking at our chickens at the different stages of their development. Our birds that were one week old just getting their first wing feathers but still mostly yellow puff balls, the three-week old birds in that weird adolescent stage (half bald, half covered in feathers) and then our 5 and 7 week birds on pasture, in their pens enjoying the warmer afternoon. Lily helped move the pens, feed and water the birds, and even had a heart-to-heart with one of them. I imagined the unspoken conversation to have gone something like this:

Lily: Hey chicken friend. You look good. How is this Derek guy treating you?

Chicken: Hey girl friend. I like your hair. You know, we have it really good here. All the grass and bugs we can handle. We are safe and warm in our pens (we like to flock, but an electric blanket would have been nice last week:). Big D plays some Michael Jackson for us every once in a while. It’s all good.

Lily: Cool. If you were me, would you eat you?

Chicken: Darn straight. Nothing fake about us. We are the best you’re gonna get. Make it happen.

Ephraim and I spoke some more about CSAs, he shot a few photos, and it was time for them to get back into town. But before they left Lily and I exchanged a few precious words which left quite an impression on me. This eleven year old shook my hand, stepped back, looked down at the ground to collect her thoughts and choose her words wisely and spoke these words, “You know, I like what you are doing here and… I have to give you the Lily Stamp of Approval.”

My heart smiled and so did my face. I was honored, proud of our birds, our farm, us, Lily, her parents, the Willamette Valley, that May-day.

They loaded up in their Subaru and drove away down our dirt road. In the words of Lily’s new chicken friend, it really was ‘all good’.

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Here We Go

Our Mobile Processing Unit nearing completion

There are so many wonderful things that have happened in the last 6, not-as-quiet-as-we-hoped months. We want to tell you about all of them, and you will hear about a few of them. But we have to prioritize at this point. So telling you about the lessons we learned from last year (which are humbling and good), describing for you our pilgrimage from pasture #2 to pasture #3, our move from home to new home, and really unpacking the final chapters of our MPU (Mobile Processing Unit) will have to wait for another day.

Right now we need to tell you the story of today.

Brooder in Snow

The story of today resembles most any small farm in the heart of a booming Spring. Life is everywhere. The pastures are growing fast, like memories of your grown children (when did THEY get so big?) In the air are scenes and scents of things fully awake from Winter, and finding some play in their spirit. Bugs buzz. Blossoms have given way to disclose their secret packages that will some day soon fill our now empty canning jars and cupboards. Muddy puddles have receded and dried, leaving behind the scars of early passes though the soft soil, now giving us access by way of vehicle again (try lugging lumber on foot 200 yards to reassemble 5 brooders…yikes). Speaking of brooders, we can’t forget about the lovely sounds of chickens that fill our ears every morning and night! We wish it could be more right now, but we need to prioritize…so we move on leaving you this quick and colorful chapter of the Our Family Farm story in the Spring of 2012.

A farm like ours extends to us a welcomed balance to the rest of the excitement life throws our way (more stories). So before we publish the little post and allow ourselves to jump back in to other excitements we need to talk business with you, quickly.

First batch of birds on pasture

Some noteworthy things:

  1. We have changed our pricing for 2012. This is something we were trying not to do, but the increasing prices of everything, everywhere are forcing us to do the same. We hope the small increase is something we can count on to stay the same for the next few years. Please see our  2012 Pricing page for current information.
  2. Our first few batches of chickens have been thwarted with epidemic scale losses.  We belive to have identified why some of this has happened and have taken all the steps we can to prevent future loss. Warmer weather will help significantly. With this said, if you want chicken in May, place your order as soon as possible.
  3. Picking up your chicken this year will lead you to a new address. We have moved and we look forward to seeing your smiling faces at our new address: 2194 Carmel Avenue, Eugene (Ferry Street Bridge area).
  4. We are working to confirm two other pick up spots around town. One down town in the Whitaker neighborhood, and one directly on Coburg road at Vanilla Jills. If you live in another neighborhood of the Eugene/Springfield area and you would like to host a pickup site, please email us.

That about wraps it up for us, for now. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Give The Gift Of Good Food

Cousin Eddie

"My part just ain't gonna look right" without Our Family Farm meat in the freezer

It won’t be something to stuff in the stocking. It won’t be a parcel to unpack from under the tree. It won’t even offer the immediate gratification we have grown accustomed to during this time of year. BUT IT WILL BE GOOD!

Our Family Farm has put together some neat packages that will allow you to “give the gift of good food” this holiday season (Why does Cousin Eddie comes to mind from Nation Lampoon Christmas Vacation, “You know Clark, that’s tha gift that keeps on givin’…”?)

How does it work? Simple…

  1. Consider anyone in your life whom you would like to share in your discovery of the best meat products in the Willamette Valley
  2. Make a list of those people
  3. Check it twice
  4. Pick a package that best meets your gift giving needs.
  5. Contact us to make the arrangements at ourfamilyfarm.info@gmail.com.
  6. We send you a certificate to give to the lucky person/family
  7. They redeem the certificate with us to start eating the good stuff (we are happy to deliver to the PDX area, and anywhere in between)

This year you can choose from several options:

  1. The “Aunt Bethany”- 2 of Our Family Farm pastured raised, grass-fed chickens  $25
  2. The ‘Cousin Eddie”- 5 of Our Family Farm pastured raised, grass-fed chickens  $60
  3. The “Clark Griswold”- 10 Our Family Farm pastured raised, grass-fed chickens  $110
  4. The ‘Ellen Griswold”– 30 pounds of grass-fed and finished ground Angus in 1lb, double wrapped packages, ready for pick up between December 26 and December 31. $100

We hope these options are something to tantalize your holiday gift giving. May your days be tasty, and bright.

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Cash, Check or Plastic

Remember the still, sunny evenings when you would eagerly approach our front porch with anticipation of viewing the treasures in our white coolers; beautiful, whole chickens with plump legs nicely tucked, little packages of vibrantly colored livers and hearts, and big ol’ bags of chicken feet for world-class soup stock? Remember picking the perfect bird for your Friday night family dinner, the one to accompany the fresh green beans you picked from your own garden? And remember having to run to your car to find a quarter and three pennies because you were $.28 short on the total? Well all of this is about to change (pun unintended)…at least the part about rummaging through the center consol for pennies.

Our Family Farm is now able to receive your credit or debit card as a payment option for whatever your weekly menu may demand. We’ll slide it for those delicious, rich eggs. We’ll run it through for that grass-fed and finished ground beef. We’ll swipe it for the chickens you want to fill your freezer, or the turkey you want to fill the holiday platter.

So leaved the change for the parking meter, and keep the check book in the desk collecting dust. We’ll see you soon for some good food and maybe swap a story and a smile.

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Curious Chicken

Curious Chicken

A friend of Our Family Farm, Kelli Matthews decided to have a little fun with us on the farm during a perfect summer evening a few months ago. Kelli and her son met  us on pasture, ready to wrangle chickens and shoot some photos for a project we are working on together. In addition to all of the cuteness of  kids having conversations with baby chicks reassuring the little yellow fluff balls of their safety in little hands, Kelli captured this photo of our “Curious Chicken”. Actually, she grabbed a bunch of really nice photos we hope to share with you soon. But the reason to share our “Curious Chicken” with you is because there is a bigger story happening with it right now.

Kelli, on a whim entered her photo in the Lane County Fair agriculture photo contest. “Curious Chicken” won honorable mention! (We’re so proud of our lil’ chicken, and Kelli). Relishing in the excitement of ribbon winning, Kelli decided to take “Curious Chicken” to the next level, the Oregon Cultural Trust  photo contest. 

If you like the photo and care to vote it up in the ranks, check out this link to vote for it, and our chicken:) Otherwise, enjoy a really cool photo of a humble bird.

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A Revisit To “Reinventing Your Holiday Dinner…”

After rereading our 2010 post about tracking down local fare for your holiday meals, we decided that it was worth reposting. We hope after reading it (or maybe rereading like us:) you feel inspired to do something new and adventurous with the dinner feasts to usher out Autumn and welcome Winter.

Enjoy!

Purchasing and eating local, natural, and seasonal foods is a growing reality for many people, perhaps even you. And why shouldn’t it be? It is exciting to provide food for your family this way; perusing colorful displays of root vegetables staring back at you from the local farmer’s market stands, and short drives out of town to visit the farms and meet the farmers raising the meat that will fill your freezer for the year. It is a healthy lifestyle that has potential to be easier on the wallet than one might think. For now, let’s unpack what is exciting about the realization of eating naturally raised, local and seasonal foods.

The cold months have arrived, and that means the excitement of the holidays has arrived as well! In whatever fashion your family gathers and celebrates, food is likely the centerpiece and if your family is lke ours, there is always plenty of it. But before great-grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe, before the hand crushed cranberry salad, before the cornucopia can cover counter tops and tables, tracking down a turkey and the rest of the holiday feast’s usual suspects needs attention.

Add Excitement to Your Family’s Holiday Food Experience

  • Take advantage of the modern map and compass…the Internet. And I don’t mean to research whatever delectable delight you can dazzle your guests with from the Barefooted Contessa’s website. I mean, find the farms in your area that are working hard to raise the ingredients you will need for your menu. You might be excited to find your turkey and cranberries can be found at the farm, just past the other farm where you found your pumpkins and pecans for pies.
  • Reinvent your menu to highlight the delicious abundance in your area. For us in Oregon’s ripe Willamette Valley, ‘delicious abundance’ is an understatement. Cork a host of local wines for before, during, and after the meal. Challenge yourself to find local producers for a cheese and charcuterie platter. Kick the excitement up a notch by moving your stuffing away from a Stovetop version, toward something like a chorizo and cornbread stuffing with that spicy sausage from the farm over the river and through the woods.
  • “Meet your farmer. Meat, your food” was the title of a field day we had at our farm last year. Plumes of people came to visit with the intention of getting to know us, the people who raise the food, and to witness the practices by which we raise our animals. We had a big BBQ featuring our pastured poultry, and we received a ton of turkey preorders because people came, saw, ate, enjoyed, and believed. We believe we eat the food our food eats, so it is important to us to know what our food eats. With this said, take some time to go to the farms in your area and visit with the farmers (call ahead because we can be busy with chores or various farm projects). These are passionate people, experts in their craft who can open up a world of excitement with the placement of a baby chick in the hands of your child, or expose the delicate and brilliant integration of the animals on the farm.
  • Understand that Butterball Turkey is neither fresh nor local. Plan your holiday feats with the understanding that local fair is on a very different timeline than the food in your grocery store. When gathering the ingredients for your holiday menu, it will require connecting with a local farmer earlier than the Friday before the big event. Turkeys are best preordered as early as July. Ask your farmer, “Why?” when you pay them a visit. Other meat products for that charcuterie platter or chorizo stuffing will need time to make as well. The produce you will want may be in high demand. Calling the farm ahead of time will let you know what is in stock and allow you the option to reserve what you will need. In all cases, planning ahead helps your farmers give you the best possible experience with their products. There is nothing like the excitement of knowing you have the items on your menu accounted for, well ahead of time, with the fresh turkey to be picked up from the farmer a day before Thanksgiving.

Gather the troops together this holiday with the deep satisfaction and quiet excitement knowing you walked the path of an American Pilgrim by:

  1. Reinventing your menu to highlight the delicious abundance in your area.
  2. Finding the farms in your area that are working hard to raise the ingredients you will need for your menu.
  3. Take some time to go to the farms in your area and visit with the farmers.
  4. Planning for the ingredients on your holiday menu well in advance.

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