Tucking It All In
It was a morning blanketed in pre dawn darkness; a mid-October sky peppered by night’s fading constellations. Amanda and I, with our partner, Kyle, and friend, Hans wrangled the last of our chickens into crates for an easy transport to Afton Field Farm in Corvallis where they would be butchered later that morning…business as usual for our first summer raising pastured poultry in Oregon’s agriculturally rich Willamette Valley.
Our Family Farm’s growing season was coming to a sweet end, and many of you were excited enough to come alongside us for our first year in this agri-adventure, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have shared in it with you.
This final news letter of 2010 will attempt to capture some of our highlights, talk about some of the things we learned, and unpack what you can look forward to in the coming months, and especially what you can look forward to next year.
8 tons of feed
153 new friends
It’s been one heck of an adventure! What started as ‘The Experiment” has quickly gained momentum (due to a lot of support and enthusiasm from you), and is turning out to be the catapult positioned to shoot us into next year. After reading the books, watching the movies, and talking to wonderful people in the Ag industry doing awesome things, the spring of 2010 proved time for us to do something…but there was still some hesitancy to do anything. The final push out of the proverbial nest came from 8 simple words.
Joel Salatin, a farmer by all intents and purposes, raises animals (cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, rabbits) for meat. But Joel calls himself a “grass farmer”. He deeply believes the ultimate health and care for his pastures will lead to the overall health of his animals, the overall health of his customers, and bringing it full-circle, the optimal health for his patch of the planet. While Joel was attending a field day of one of his former interns, he shared those 8 simple words to an attentive audience that would be the push we needed to fall into “The Experiment”.
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”
And off we went!
What You Can Expect For Next Year
Excitement! Next season will be filled with it!! Our Family Farm will have a new home for our operation, an operation we are going to grow by at least 100%. This is a huge spurt for us, but one we are committed to making because we can manage the growth. Some of the highlights we are working on this winter to make next year more successful than this year:
Nailing down the location of our new operation– This has been an inevitable reality as we operated on a temporary basis in Harrisburg with our dear friend, Kyle of Pristine Farms. We have been in negotiations at different points throughout the summer, but nothing was quite right. Currently we are having conversations with a wonderful family in Creswell. We look forward to reporting back to you all once we have a new home.
Mobile Processing Unit (MPU)- This is perhaps the most exciting off-season project. Our Family Farm, as well as two other farms in the Willamette Valley are collaborating to realize Oregon’s first MPU. This project has the potential to aid many small farmers working to provide healthy and safe poultry options to Oregonians. This will only happen with the blessings of the Oregon Department of Agriculture of whom we have had several productive conversations around regulations and expectations. We are confident these conversations will end in an Oregon first. This project will need funding, too. If you are a person who is excited about what we are working on, and interested in discussing investment opportunities, please email us so we can begin this conversation with you.
Building more pens– We will accumulate a small fleet of pastured poultry pens between now and the end of next season. We have found a market for pastured poultry in Lane County, and when I say ‘market’, I mean MARKET! These pens will help us meet the demand from people like you, restaurants, and grocery stores and meat markets. Cool stuff.
What We Need. Can You Help?
Butcher Crew- This is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in getting an up close and personal look at where your food comes from. We are working to assemble a crew of committed persons who will be available to assist on our butcher days, next season. It is our goal to butcher every other Tuesday, from mid May through mid October. If this sounds like something you would be interesting in learning more about, whether for the whole summer, or part of it, please email us at email@example.com
Funding- We will have many projects that will need funding, from now, up until spring when we start. If you are a person interested in discussing the details of small-scale investment opportunities, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Freezers- With our expected growth, we will need coolers and more freezers to keep our birds. One of the things we hope to do it offer birds later into the year, and that will only happen if we can freeze them. If you, or anyone you know has a freezer in good condition that can be donated, or purchased, please let us know.
Work Quad- With the expected increase in birds, feed, and water, we will need a work quad to help us move things around. If you or anyone you know has a quad that could fit this bill, please let us know so we can discuss the option to purchase, rent, or be gifted.
We want to take a few lines to recognize our friends who were willing and able to support us above and beyond buying our birds.
Jeff and Alysha Maib ‘pimped our chickens’ every restaurant experience they had. Jeff also designed and hand pressed our business cards on an old press from the early 1900’s. If you haven’t seen, or felt our business card, just ask us and we will give you a few for yourself, and your friends. Please connect with Jeff at email@example.com if you want amazing business cards or invitations.
Tyler and Alecia Jones of Afton Field Farm. Tyler was generous beyond belief to share his experience as a farmer with us, as well as a few other fledgling farmers. He gave us all the learning opportunities we could handle to butcher chickens, refining that art, as well as learning the finer details of what a first class butchering facility should look like. Alecia was the perfect host, making sure we always had hot coffee and snacks to get us over the hump, and hot, farm lunches to wind the day down.
Tom and Jane Hastings, and Kristi Ephriam were extremely generous in donating freezers to our efforts. If you have ever butchered 580 chickens in one day, you know the value of having the storage capacity to keep a lot of those birds until they can be delivered a week or more later.
Hans Grasshauer, Amanda Hvass, and Eric Vegh were eager enough to volunteer during some of our butcher days this year. Each was very interested in takeing a bold step in learning where their food comes from. Thanks to each for their early mornings, carting chickens (in the dark sometimes) and bagging the birds they had already handled 2-3 times.
Nate Cortez and Luis Romero took the ‘building value’ step to a whole new level. Our Family Farm has many customers because of their deductive questions to build phone, and chicken value. If you are ever at AT&T, look these guys up. They are very good at what they do. Me gusta pollo.
Kirk Ball has a big, beastly truck he let us use, quite frequently. We really liked how farmy it looked with its multiple colors, and big bench seat. Kirk is responsible for helping us with our first shipment of feed.
Kyle Witham is a man among men! without his invitation to share the space we leased in Harrisburg, Our Family Farm would be in a very different place today. because of Kyle’s deep generosity in spirit and labor, Our Family Farm was able to realize the kind of success start-ups dream of. We could go on and on about this young man, but I will refrain and say one more thing, If you are in the market for a world-class son-in-law, email us and we will put you in contact with Harrisburg’s most eligible bachelor.
Dale and Valerie Dick were kind enough to let us stink up their tool shed, use their water, light our brooder bulbs, feed a chick or two, house a big freezer, open their home to a field day, let us use their shop to build pens, loan us a trailer to move birds up and down Peoria Highway, and move an occasional pen. Thank you Dale and Valerie.
Amanda has been amazing through it all, challenging me to refine all the parts that a great business should exhibit, that I am fighting to learn. Thank you Amanda! “Even though we ain’t got money…”
And the rest of you… you know who you are. You are our friends who were willing and able to share the good news with family and friends. You were the people who were willing to let us put our business cards in your businesses. You were, and are Our Family Farm raving fans, and WE APPRECIATE YOU!
Thank you all, a hundred times over, thank you.