It rained all day long and hardly a stitch of clothing I had on was dry by the end. February may not have been the best time to move a farm, based upon the weather. But with spring right around the corner we didn’t have much of a choice. We knew that it would take awhile to finish this project.
There are always hang-ups no matter how well you plan things, and we definitely had some. What we had hoped would take roughly a day to move the livestock turned in to a long day and night. We started at about 8 a.m. and finished at about 9 p.m. To top off this cold, muddy day, the horse trailer that I had forgotten to reserve was rented when I tried to pick it up. Frustrating, to say the least. The only trailers that the rental company had that would fit all of the sheep was a short-sided gravel hauler. And well…. I’ll take it.
After moving the living, breathing aspects of our farm, it just came down to moving the accumulated junk and equipment. Who would have known that we are pallet hoarders! Despite being the easier task, it still took another 2-3 weekends to move all this stuff. Moving has that tendency to drag in to the light all the useless things we accumulated over the years. Making moving my least enjoyable task. Fittingly, I put it off to the last moment.
The past couple of months seem to have just slipped by like the snap of the fingers. Wasn’t it just the holiday season? Well we had better share with you what we have been up to.
This is a quick overview of some projects we are working on right now. We will post more in detail about these projects as they move forward.
Our sheep have been enjoying this dry, mild weather and have decided to have some lambs! A little unexpected but no complaints here.
We are also working on creating a locally adapted flock of chickens. This way we can help in a small way to protect of some of our national birds.
And most importantly we are moving our farm from Ashland to Talent! We are extremely excited about this move.
I had hoped that the transition from a hobby farm to a commercial venture would go smoothly. But, unfortunately for us, we failed to protect our farm’s name and another farm snatched it up. But after some deliberation we have settled on a new name: Pradaria Farm.
As long as I can remember I have wanted to farm. It began when I was only a couple of feet tall, watching my cousins chase and catch chickens on my uncle’s farm in Utah. On this ranch the horses where huge and wild, my cousins rough and ready for anything, and the cattle were placid and content to munch grasses. The experience was profound, even though at that age I couldn’t have expressed it in words. I knew I needed it.
Grassland in Portuguese (Pradaria) encompasses all that our farm is- simply livestock, pasture, clean air, and water. This simple approach to farming is the root that drives our growth and dedication to producing only clean food. Our mission statement is: “Premium food that’s grown with integrity, placing quality of life and taste to the forefront of production.” This is the way food was raised in the State of Jefferson by the early farmers who settled this area. This food heritage and our own emigrant heritage, Portuguese farmers who settled in this area intertwine to create something new that I hope my family would be proud of- Pradaria Farm Clean Food.
“Nothing is guaranteed in life.” This statement really became clear this season with all the challenges we have had to face. Between the skunks killing everything in sight and the mistake I make when buying feed this year, I couldn’t help but wonder if we could take much more. We haven’t taken out any loans to start Able Farm, but instead we pinched pennies and saved up the capital to start-up and most of this capital is tied up in the animals we raise. This created some real stress when animals started to turn up dead.
In January I bought 1,000 pounds of organic feed and had assumed it would be the same price in May, five months later. I didn’t know this but the price of corn was on its way to making history as the highest it has ever been (I’m told by the local feed dealer), pushing it out of my price range. What to do? I had chickens and turkeys coming in the mail any day. I decided to buy what I could afford. In an attempt to reduce food costs and circumvent an ongoing frustrating relationship with our local feed distributor, I bought the feed in bulk (which comes in a giant 1,000 pound sack). I brought it home and unloaded it into our storage containers and started to feed it out to the chickens and turkeys. Little did I know that the food had antibiotics mixed into it. No one mentioned this to me when I bought the feed; instead I found out three weeks later when I happened to notice a small tag stapled to the sack , and right there on the tag it read “medicated”. It also spelled “the end of our season,” since all of our capital was tied up in tainted feed.
As if the feed disaster wasn’t bad enough, suddenly I started to find broken eggs and dead chickens every morning and evening. I couldn’t figure it out because the perimeter fence is electrified and let me tell you it hurts! One night as I was walking through the pasture, with grass up to my chest, I came upon a little black and white…. something. Oh crap! A skunk in the middle of the trail staring me down! Now no one I know wants anything to do with skunks, let alone trying to kill one. But something had to be done, before the little devils killed all my chickens. I guess the skunks don’t care if the chickens have been eating antibiotics.
I didn’t want to use a live trap because what would I do with the skunk? Let it go down the road for some other poultry owner to deal with. Nor did I want to use a killing trap (inhumane) and I can’t use a gun–the skunks come at night and I could hardly imagine running around in the dark trying to shoot skunks. This wouldn’t exactly engender neighborly affection. I resorted to one of the very best friends of farmers everywhere the shovel! It makes quick work of any situation. One by one the skunk population began to decline, but not before they ruined my turkey season by eating ¾ of my young turkeys.
This summer growing season was hard and costly and one I will be happy to put behind me. But that’s part of the risk of farming. Growing food in an environmentally responsible manner is the right thing to do. But it isn’t always easy.
In our excitement about our new blog, we forgot to give ourselves a proper introduction for those of you who are not familiar with Able Farm. Able Farm is the collaboration between myself (Jake Hayes), Jessica Ward, and our landlords, Richard and Joyce Stanley. On pasture, we raise chickens, turkeys, and eggs. I have worked in and around the restaurant industry as a chef for a number of years. I found that my love of food and the outrage I feel about the way in which the animals we eat are treated, and the poor quality of the meat produced has led me down the path to clean, authentic, small family farming.
Jessica Ward is my fiancée, and although she is not always farming (she has a career of her own as a teacher), she helps with many of the details I miss.
Mr. and Mrs. Stanley are the owners of a non-profit organization called Legacy Foundation (www.legacyfound.org) and they lease the land Able farm is located on. Their support of local agriculture has helped make Able Farm a reality. If you meet the Stanley’s, please thank them for making local, clean, food a priority.
To create a really good meal that is exploding with complex flavors and is visually inviting, one needs to think of all the details involved and get the perfect balance between each flavor. Attention to balancing the relationship between grasses, clovers, soil, and livestock health is central to my farm practices and vision. This vision is what it takes to create clean, healthy, flavorful food. Able Farm’s mission statement is as follows: to create premium food with integrity, placing quality of life and taste at the forefront of our production.
Food helps to bring our families and loved ones together; we nourish our relationships over steaming bowls of soup, laugh while enjoying the spring crunch of salads, and tell stories as we savor a chilled wine. The food on our plates should be just as nourishing as the company. Crazy I know!
Unfortunately very often this is not true. 99.94% of all meat chicken raised in the US is factory farmed (from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer). This is a depressing and sad statistic that we have all contributed too. But this is changing; we at Able Farm are proud to be a small but important part of this change.
You are taking the power back with when you choose to opt out of the system by voting with your dollars. Feel good about your choice- which is a choice for Freedom from processed foods and for health and Sustainability. Able Farm=Clean Food.
We have recently sent out our most recent newsletter If you would like one please contact us.
The farm store will be closed the first week of May. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Spring is FINALLY here, and we couldn’t be happier! Even though the weather is still a little inclement, the grass is growing, the flowers are blooming, and the peas are ready to be sown. Oh, happy day! Okay, so maybe we’re waxing a little optimistic (there have still been more rainy days than sunny), but we’re not the only ones who are happy to have things growing. Our first batch of broilers have gone out to pasture and are having a wonderful time scratching in the fresh new grass.
New pea shoots
Additionally, the winter garden that we planted last fall is exploding with growth…including weeds! It seems that every time we turn around there are weeds in every inch of the garden. And not just small easy to pull weeds but 3 inch tall invaders. Annoying as this is, it’s still a much needed change from the winter hibernation.
We’re excited, here at Able Farm, to introduce our new blog! We hope this will be a great way for us to keep you all up-to-date on our current news and information.
And speaking of news, our first batch of chicks arrived on this last cold, snowy Friday. Amazingly, they’ve all adapted beautifully to living in our cozy garage and have been actively eating and peeping and bustling around. They really make it feel like spring, though you wouldn’t think so to look at the weather!
Otherwise the farm has been rather dormant in the winter months. Daily chores are quick and easy (though bracing ourselves to brave the elements is not as easy). But the coming of the chicks has breathed new life into our activities. From here on out we’ll have our hands full, but for now it’s nice to bring a cup of tea out into the garage and watch the chicks scurry around the brooder.