If you haven't gotten out to tour a farm yet this spring then get yourself in gear! Spring on a farm is a fantastic time. The weather is nice (but not too hot, so the animal smells aren't overwhelming), the vegetables are pretty (but not overgrown) and best of all... there are baby animals everywhere!!
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill, OR and this week I got to visit Pokrov Farm outside of Sandy, OR. I met Genevieve, one of the farmers, through my local Weston A Price Foundation email list when she advertised that her farm had CSA shares available for the summer. I jumped on board and am eagerly awaiting my first CSA basket - it comes next week! I happened to be driving by her place last weekend and stopped in to meet her family and tour the farm.
Their farm is set on a hill outside of Sandy, OR on the flanks of Mt. Hood. They are leasing 35 acres of some of the most beautiful farm land in western Oregon. They have green meadows, big trees, a creek and a pond, a couple barns and a lovely farm house. I pretty much want to move in with them. Genevieve is deeply inspired by Joel Salatin and his farming methods and attended a workshop in Southern Oregon last fall that led her to find this farm for her family. She is now homeschooling her children as well as running the farm along with her husband and two housemates. They've only been on the land since November but already have a lovely vegetable garden, about a million chickens, a milk cow and a couple happy pig and goat families.
One of the housemates (forgive me, I've forgotten his name - though I'll probably learn it next week at the CSA pick up) is a certified Master Gardener and in charge of the vegetable patch. It looks like it's growing great with a wide variety of veggies, herbs and even some flowers growing. Have I mentioned that I can't wait for my first basket?
They are using some old fashioned labor to till and fertilize a new extension to the garden - pigs! They've got a pair of pigs and this year's piglets fenced into an area that was weedy and dry just a couple weeks ago. As you can see the piggies are enjoying their mud baths as they dig for roots and insects and enjoy fresh air and sunlight. That is going to be some vitamin D rich lard! I found it really interesting when Genevieve mentioned that another farmer asked about renting her boar to breed with their sow. Apparently it is virtually impossible to find old fashioned pigs to make baby old fashioned pigs because most pig farmers use artificial insemination to breed in "new and improved" characteristics into their herd. Genevieve, with her everpresent optimism and openness said, "Sure! Let me research how to do that!".
Pokrov Farm seems to be crawling with chickens. Happy, outdoor, bug eating chickens! They have two big barns that both have adult chickens in them as well as a big room full of baby chickens! When we were visiting the two housemates were working on a Joel Salatin style chicken tractor so that the babies can move out into the field as soon as they get their feathers. Genevieve was saying that they got hooked in with a Southeast Asian community that wants a couple hundred live birds a month so that they can butcher them themselves. What a great things for a small farm to have such a standing order.
In one of the chicken houses they have a Joel Salatin style rabbit set up with the wire bottom cages over where the chickens are. The chickens scratch the rabbit droppings and keep the area clear of insects that might bother the rabbits. One of my favorite parts of the tour was getting to see the brand new baby rabbits. One mama rabbit had kindled her kits a couple days earlier and the other had kindled the night before I was there. The babies were like little pink blobs with bunny ears.
The other babies I got to see at the farm were baby goats, baby geese and baby turkeys. Genevieve ordered a mixed pack of turkey hatchlings so she doesn't even know what breeds they are. I ordered one for my thanksgiving dinner.... I'm not sure how I would feel about raising them from these tiny fluffy babies into dinner, but I'll be happy to eat them when they come my way! The geese were possibly the cutest things ever, but I didn't get a good picture. They were fuzzy and yellow, like cartoon ducklings. Genevieve is keeping a couple pygmy goats for milk and they had just kidded that week. I picked up one of the kids and it was tiny, like a puppy!
Genevieve's pride of the farm is her Jersey cow, Ella. Ella is producing milk that Genevieve is drinking and selling raw, as well as making cheese. She is planning on holding cheesemaking classes through the summer as well as other workshops. Genevieve was commenting on how they have been having a fly problem with Ella and are having a very hard time finding advice on how to treat external parasites without chemicals. She doesn't want to put poison on the animal that provides milk for her children. She did eventually find a method using pine tar and has the supplies on order.
Genevieve and her family are an inspiration to those of us with homesteading ambitions. She says she had been an urban homesteader in Portland, keeping chickens and digging up her lawn to plant vegetables. She and her husband saw an opportunity to move up a notch and have a real farm and have taken it. They are working hard and have lots more to go before they are assured a financially profitable farm, but they are supplying themselves with most of their own food. I am very proud to be able to support them this summer and have them support me! I can't wait to go out for a cheesemaking class or to harvest apples or fish trout in their pond. On top of it all, Genevieve is one of the most welcoming, optimistic and just plain sweet people I've met in a long time.
Now it's time for you to find a farm to go visit! Buy a CSA share, find someone producing raw milk or free range chickens! Go out there and meet your meat and veg with your veggies!
For more posts about REAL FOOD like the kind you get at small family farms check out the Real Food Wednesdays and Food Roots blog carnivals!