As we welcome the new year, excited and nervous for the first full year of our farming enterprise, we’re taking some time to plan and think about where we want to go in 2017. Our farm is founded on the resolutions that we hold all year round: sustainability (including never using GMOs, rotating animals so there isn’t a buildup of waste, reusing and repurposing things wherever we can), allowing our animals to express their natural behaviours (in a way far beyond “enhanced” commercial environments) and creating high quality, delicious food that we are proud to sell because it’s what we want to eat ourselves.
Let’s get a little more specific and talk about what we have coming up this year: on Saturday we are artificially inseminating our Large Black pig, so fingers crossed we will have some adorable piglets in the spring. We are so excited to have pigs that live their whole lives here on the farm. Our Jersey milk cow, Tiny, was inseminated a few weeks ago, so later this month we’ll find out if she is pregnant, which is very exciting. We won’t be selling our raw milk because the legalities of it are such a headache, but it will be great to be self-reliant for dairy products, and all the leftover skim milk and whey will be an awesome protein source for our other animals, meaning we don’t have to buy as much commercial feed.
We’ve been using the pigs as living tractors, turning their natural urge to root in the soil to our advantage by letting them till some land so we can have a much larger garden this year. They’ve done a great job of cultivating and adding nitrogen to the soil, and soon we’ll be moving them back up into the woods to start our garden. We have big plans for the garden (as ever) and are hoping to grow lots of stuff to feed the animals (dent corn, amaranth for the chickens, rutabagas for the pigs) plus they’ll get all the extra cabbage leaves, split tomatoes, and other garden detritus. We also dream of eating lots of our own vegetables, putting some up and dramatically reducing our grocery bill. Maybe we’ll even get some apples and peaches this year!
On the business and marketing side of things, we are hoping to start selling our forest-raised pork, creek-swimming duck’s eggs, free-ranging chicken eggs, and pastured meat ducks and turkeys at one or two farmer’s markets. We are also planning to approach some of the wonderful farm-to-table restaurants in Asheville to see what they’re in need of, and if there are any gaps we can fill.
We’re going to be hatching chicks (hopefully with some broody chickens rather than incubating them… after all the chicks and ducks this year it would be nice to have a break from being in charge of tiny baby birds), mostly dual purpose birds so we can eat the boys, and the girls will join our laying flock.
The biggest thing we’ll be doing this year is gaining skills and experience. As my dad said the other day “you can live in a city for a year and get the hang of it, come live in the country for ten years and you’re just starting to learn”. Setting up any business has a steep learning curve, and establishing one with so many moving parts, live animals who depend on you and working every day whatever the weather is extra challenging, and there isn’t one project we’ve done on the farm where we haven’t learned lessons about what (and what not!) to do next time. More than anything, we’re looking forward to many more lessons in 2017.
Happy New Year to you all!
Jessica & Henry