regenerative farming

Moving Day(s)

Here’s the thing about raising animals with rotational grazing methods… you have to keep MOVING everyone!

All the time!

So, yesterday was moving day for the layers and the piggies. Everyone is always so happy to have new pastures - turns out the grass really IS greener on the other side!

We are trying something new with the broiler chickens. They are in mobile “tractors” that we move every morning, giving them fresh grass to eat and bugs to catch. This is the standard method for pastured broiler chickens. But we’ve been thinking that maybe they could graze on a larger paddock and go into their tractors at night, similar to our laying hens. So Brian set up electric net around the tractors and we opened up the doors and let them out. Reviews are still mixed. Many of them came out and wandered around delighted with the extra space and sunshine. Others are perfectly happy to stay in their familiar surroundings, thank you very much. Stockholm syndrome comes to mind - they’ve been in those tractors for a month now. Bringing their feed troughs outside encouraged the hold-outs to venture forth.

We did find that mixing birds of different ages was a no-no. The one tractor of 15-week birds was doing some serious bullying of the younger birds. So we rounded up the bullies and put them back into their tractor. No pasture for them! Come back…. uh never…. it’s well past time for them to go to freezer camp truthfully!

So we will continue to monitor this experiment and see how it works!

Cheers,

Jennifer and Brian

So What is Regenerative Farming Anyway?!

Regenerative Agriculture is the application of farming and grazing practices that rebuild soil organic matter and restore degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in increased carbon sequestration and improved water infiltration.  Too much science?  Basically: we grow soil!  We are always looking at what we can do to build healthy soil using methods that mimic nature.  A few ways that we do this include:

  • avoiding synthetic fertilizers and using compost instead (we generate a LOT of that!)
  • seeding in deep-rooted forage plants for our pastures - deep roots build deep soils rich in organic matter that are able to soak in and retain a lot of moisture.  This helps with drought tolerance and it prevents runoff and erosion problems.
  • using rotational grazing practices to avoid over-grazing and maintain healthy pastures
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So, why is healthy soil so important? Soil is actually a living thing.  It is teeming with millions of little micro-organisms and fungi that are all interconnected.  They increase the nutrition of our food in ways that we can't even begin to understand yet.  When soil is healthy and can support all of these little critters, it is able to draw vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lock it up in the soil.  This is a big deal for fighting climate change.  

Image courtesy of the Carbon Cycle Institute

Image courtesy of the Carbon Cycle Institute

In the U.S. there are millions of acres of farm land right now that are NOT managed with regenerative practices.  Most conventional farmers don't allow their fields a fallow (rest) period with a cover crop to protect the soil and rejuvenate it with organic matter and nutrients.  They farm cash crop after cash crop, robbing the soil of nutrients without replenishing them.  Left with infertile soil, they turn to cheaper synthetic fertilizers in order to grow their crops.  Often these fertilizers are high in salts, which are deposited in the soil, causing further harm to soil health.  Additionally, many conventional farmers use herbicide-resistant GMO crops which allow them to spray herbicide on the crop which kills weeds, but not the crop.  This kills off the beneficial organisms in the soil as well, disrupting its ability to naturally keep harmful pests and diseases in check.  Conventional farmers are stuck in the endless feedback loop of applying pesticides to kill off weeds, insects and disease, which also kills off the good organisms naturally found in soil.  The end result:  poor soil health that is unable to draw down that carbon from the atmosphere and lock it up.  Additionally, most of our conventional food is loaded with glyphosate, which is a known carcinogen and just all-around not good idea to eat!  I mean, have you ever considered putting RoundUp on your Cheerios?!  

We all have the opportunity to vote three times a day with our fork!  

Eating is a moral act.  What kind of world do you want your food dollars to support?  You decide how food should be raised every time you put something in your shopping cart. Shop at your local farmers market. Talk to the farmers there about how they grow their product; most are happy to engage with the public and talk to you about their work. 

We are working hard to implement regenerative farming techniques here at Where Pigs Fly Farm!  We think our food tastes great, and our pastures look beautiful!  They are teeming with foxes, birds, insects, frogs, lizards and snakes!  We love watching it all at work!

Cheers,

Brian & Jennifer

Welcome to our Farm!

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Brian and I are very excited to launch our website and blog!  It's been a long spring and summer of hard work getting infrastructure in place to bring broiler chickens and pigs onto the farm.  I never realized when I decided to become a farmer, that I was really signing up to be a construction worker!  So many times, as weird, interesting and amazing things happen around this farm, we have said to each other: "we really ought to have a blog!"  And then we would laugh because, as every farmer knows, all 24 hours of each day are currently spoken for!  But, the universe always provides, and yesterday I sat my fanny down and 7 hours later: a website was born!  Let me introduce you to the team:

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Where Pigs Fly is home to 4 Ossabaw Island Hogs: Dixie, Peaches, Penelope and Lucille.  They are 7 months old, and when they are old enough, we will breed them and raise their piglets for meat.  

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We have 200 Red Sexlink laying hens, which provide delicious brown eggs!  Red Sexlink chickens are known to be very reliable layers, averaging one egg per day.  

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Our Fancy Flock of 27 young hens and 2 roosters contains several different breeds, including Ameraucanas, Orpingtons, French Marans, Olive Eggers, Easter Eggers, Brahmas and Crested Cream Legbars.  They are all beautiful birds and we are waiting patiently for them to start laying a rainbow of colored eggs!  

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Currently, 248 broiler chickens are grazing out on pasture and another 124 chicks are cheep-cheep-cheeping in our brooder.  We raise our broiler chickens from day-old chicks until they are 11-12 weeks old.  By that age they are 4 -6 lbs and ready to become roaster chickens.  We process our chickens here on the farm, not in a scary factory.  They have a good life here, and we make sure their last five minutes are as free from trauma and pain as possible.  

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Where Pigs Fly Farm is also home to the Eco-Goats (google them, they're famous!)  Our herd is made up of 13 Nubians, 1 Boer, 1 Pygmy and her 3 Pygmy-Nubian kids (we are still in amazement over how that could happen!)  When they're not out on the road, they keep the invasive vegetation under control here on the farm.

We hope you will enjoy reading about our farm and the life we are building here.  Most of all, we hope you will learn new things about where your food comes from, and gain an appreciation for local regeneratively farmed food!  Please join us for the ride!

Cheers,

Jennifer