Schedule for the morning...
- 10:30: Tasting of Cheeses from Sequatchie Cove Creamery and we will be cooking up some meat from our pastured pork and beef.
Jeff Poppen (the Barefoot Farmer)
Sequatchie Cove Farm
Saturday - February 11th 2017
Jeff will lead a discussion and farm walk on his way of biodynamic farming and gardening
Starts at 1:00 till 4:30 central time
WHAT: Jeff will talk about - Farming and Gardening - from the heart and give you lots of thoughts and tips from his life as a farmer - how he does it - what he does- why he does it - and why you should do it to. Jeff is a Great Teacher and if you want to get started farming or gardening or want to take it the the Next Level - you will want to be at this workshop. You will also have a chance to see and hear how we do things at Sequatchie Cove Farm
WHO: Jeff Poppen - http://barefootfarmer.com/ one of the foremost biodynamic farmer’s in the region. Jeff has authored several books, and is a widely sought after speaker and has hosted many conferences and workshops on Biodynamics. He has been farming and growing vegetables for many years and makes growing accessible to everyone. This will be an unique opportunity to learn about Biodynamic gardening, farming, soil, plants, animals, or life on a farm here at Sequatchie Cove Farm.
WHY: If you farm or want to farm - If you have been wondering what does Biodynamic Agriculture means -- if you have questions about gardening or if you just want to walk around Sequatchie Cove Farm with Jeff Poppin, the Keener’s and other farmers and learn what farmers talk about in February - this is your chance -------Biodynamic agriculture https://www.biodynamics.com/ is a farming method first taught to farmers by Rudof Steiner http://www.anthroposophy.org/ in the 1920’s. It aims to treat the farm as a living system that interacts with the environment, to build healthy, living soil and to produce food that nourishes and tastes delicious. Want to learn more?
WOW: The whole event is free and open to all with an interest in gardening, farming, or just wondering what biodynamics is all about: (Donations will be appreciated to help make the whole thing work) This is a unique opportunity to learn from the best - you will want to be here for it this Saturday. Jeff does lots of farm consulting and has helped many folks start up their dream farm - if you would like him to come to your farm this would be a great time to get that started
Carolyn Hoagland the Farm Director at the University of the South will fill in the gaps about the world of Soil and soil Micro Biology
Please RSVP or if you have questions:firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Keener - 423-942-9201 home
Sequatchie Cove Farm
Will be in Birmingham
Thursday - February 2nd 4 to 5:45 At
Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Please order from the web site- for whole or half beef,pork, or lamb and special orders please email me
We will send more information soon on specials and other items to order Thanks so much and see you soon
Mark your calender
Bill Keener email@example.com
This weekend we went to a wedding and stayed with some friends and talked ‘chicken’ all weekend. Brooding chicks, raising pullets, feed, grains, grass, Urban chickens and uber chickens. Chickens eat grass, weeds, seeds, bugs. They scratch the ground, they add valuable fertilizer to your garden and they lay eggs - amazing.
We have a whole set of devotees who will eat only the eggs that our chickens lay. So what do we attribute this predilection of great taste to? I will now let in you on the well kept secret passed on from antiquity to raising chickens so they lay the most amazing eggs - it is quite simple “Think like a chicken”
Chickens love to get up at first light and run out and scratch, eat, drink and start laying. I let the laying flock out in the dark of dawn and the flock is already tuned up to a melodious hum as the crepuscular rays begin. Most of the hens flutter out and start scratching and pecking however there are 4 or 6 that are ready to lay, they can’t wait, and with due celerity they pop around the corner, cock their head, study the nesting boxes for a minute, swoop in and start laying. The flock stays busy all morning, all day scratch, pecking, investigating. By about 11am or so 90% of all the eggs they are going to lay are laid. Jim gathers the eggs and Emily sorts them. In the evening Jim goes out at dusk and tucks the flock in to bed and locks the door so the varmints can’t have chicken pot pie. We have learned many times over that their are many creatures that love chicken sandwiches. We move their ‘house’ every couple of days so they always have fresh grass and bugs to nibble on. We also supplement them with certified organic grain - the flock has settled on a mix of, organic corn, organic field peas, organic flaxseed meal, organic sunflower meal and minerals, - Organic means all the grains were raised with no pesticides, no herbicides, no fungicides, no cides of any sort, no gmo, no antibiotics nothing synthetic, just soil full of life.
So when you do your next egg degustation you will know the flavor is all about the whole karma of the hens and their life (and ours) - the pecking, the laying, the gathering of eggs, the sorting of the eggs, the movement; the energy of all this the hen bundles up in the shell and we deliver it to you in cartons weekly at the Main Street Farmer’s market or here at the farm. They always sell out so be sure to get there early. So think twice before you compliment someone for having a the ‘brain’ of a chicken - we ‘think like a chicken’ every day here. Bill
Off to the New Year 2017 - 2016 was an absolutely Amazing year for the Farm and for the families working with the farm and we are really looking forward to 2017.
Our neighbor Derek got a new smoker for Christmas and was itching to cook something for us on it. So we took over a ham, from a Mulefoot/Guinea hog cross, for him to slow cook for us. Unlike commodity hams which are dry and taste like cardboard, these hams are riddled with intramuscular fat - fat from all the extra acorns and whey consumed over the past months. As it cooked the fat seeped into the meat tenderizing, moisturizing and flavoring it - We had a New Year's day brunch with our friends Trae and Laura and their 2016 model baby Rudy ( there are countless amazing things that happened in 2016 and she is one of them) - Along with the ham we had collards I picked in the morning cooked with a ham hock on the wood stove, corn bread and cracklins, and yellow eyed peas that Ashley cooked - a more emollient meal could not be found to ring in the New Year - no wonder these foods are known to bring good fortune - for they are good fortune.
We have a few of these hams in the freezer so if you would like one - just email me back and we will bring it to the market Wednesday for you - they are $4.50 a pound and weigh around 12 to 16 pounds.
Because most folks are not out grilling at this time of year we have a small stock pile of steaks - and have put together a special steak package for you - 10 pounds for $10 a pound ($100) -(Sirloin,Ribeye, Ny Strip and a Filet or 2, we have just a handful of these so be sure to pre order by emailing me.
We have plenty of pork, beef and lamb and now is a good time to stock the larder with a meat package or a half of side, for the next few winter months of the year - slow cooking and meat loafs on the menu -
Also Miriam will have - plenty of our pullet eggs and an assortment of vegetables this week. See you Wednesday Bill
Emily Wright's Pumpkin Pie Recipe. We cooked several of these up this past Farm Day for sampling and my were they ever delicious. Great way to use some of those Tennessee vining pumpkins we grew this year. One of the larger pumpkins will make around 10 to 12 cups of pumpkin puree which is at least 5 pies worth:). Freeze what you don't use right away and you'll have pumpkin pie whenever there's a craving.
Pork, Pumpkins, and More....
Farm Day this Saturday from 9-11ish central!
Schedule for the morning...
- 9am: Farm Tour - Bill Keener will lead a walk around the farm. You will see our pastured heritage breed pigs, check out the garden, shitakes mushrooms, blueberry plants, see the milk cows out in the pasture, see where we make raw milk cheese and milk the cows, see the chickens, and more.
- 10:30: Pumpkin pie tasting, a little cheese sampling, and rumor has it we have some apple fritters frying in freshly made lard.
The Trading Postwill be OPEN where we will have Pumpkins, Butternut Squash, Pastured Beef, Pork, and Lamb, Cheeses, Seasonal Vegetables and More for Sale. Miriam will have a few native plants for sale. Also, you are more then welcome to bring a picnic lunch and sit in the grass or on the trading post porch.
We sure hope to see some of ya'll this Saturday!
- Sequatchie Cove Farm
Sequatchie Cove Farm
Farm Walk and Guided Tour
Saturday October 1st 2016
9:00 am Central time -- Guided farm walk - explore the dairy cows, the Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, the laying hens, the gardens, the bees, the dairy and how we raise the animals and work with the farm
10:30 Cheese and Chops tasting -- Padget Arnold of Sequatchie Cove Creamery will lead a cheese tasting and we will also have pork, and lamb chops to taste as well.
The trading post will be open to purchase meat, vegetables and cheese.
Franz Kafka one of the most profound writers of the our times said: “So long as you have food in your mouth you have solved all questions for the time being.”
Franz Kafka one of the most profound writers of the our times said:
“So long as you have food in your mouth you have solved all questions for the time being.”
He captures why we farm, why we work daily on raising amazingly tasty food for you. Here at Sequatchie Cove Farm we operate under the impulse that:
Food is Culture
Food is Community
Culture grows on food, food feeds culture, food feeds families, families grow on food, food feeds community, community grows on food - The only way to take this is Literally
No food - no community - the quality of food consumed is inextricably linked to the quality of culture that is created by the community.
All people eat, every culture that has ever been - is built on food. The building block of community is sharing meals together. We strive to create community by providing individuals, families, friends, with a path way to connect, to share life stories - around a dinner table.
We want you to eat better food, to live better lives, to create a better community.
More people wake up everyday and realize that food quality matters and that it varies Wildly! Our food is Simply better - we know this - we taste it viscerally daily; the soil, the compost, the farmer’s intentions and integrity, the diversity the ecology all make up the food you eat. I know you know this and that is why I am writing.
So come on down to the Main Street Farmer’s Market this Wednesday from 4 to 6 http://www.mainstfarmersmarket.com/ and buy some pork chops, apples, winter squash, vegetables go home, cook it eat a meal together with family and friends and Grow your Culture and Community
If you can't make it Wednesday we will be open on Saturday so come on out to the farm and see for yourself and buy your lunch, dinner and breakfast
ps - did you know that after millions of research studies the number #1 indicator for a happy, full, successful life - was that a child grows up in a family where that share at least one meal together - - not all the other stuff -politics, economy, education - - just eating meals together - creates - --- ----you fill in the rest ------
Let us know what you think -need or want - send me an email or facebook/instagram post anytime.
How we came to have Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs on the farm - Again.
What’s time to a Pig?
Fifteen years or so ago we were into Heritage Everything. Some of you might remember. Bourbon Red Turkeys, Ossabaw, Large Black and Old Spot pigs, Milking Devon cows and more. Well when we started milking cows and making cheese we got way too busy and sold off the breeding stock of pigs. One of the folks we sold the Old Spots to was Teddy Gentry in Fort Payne Alabama. Teddy is not only one of the leading country music musicians he is also a leader in breeding cows here in the south east. He even developed his own breed of cows called the South Poll http://southpoll.com/
In 2004 we entered an Old Spot pig into a Southern Foodways BBQ event in Birmingham, AL. It was to determine which breed of pigs was the most delicious when barbequed. Our Old Spot pork’s immense taste from the slowly smoked and heated fat overwhelmed the pallets of the judge. Teddy and John T. Edge being 2 of the judges. Teddy soon thereafter bought some breeding stock which he has kept going to the present day. He has been breeding and selecting these pigs now for 12 years to thrive on pasture and in the woods. He subsequently has sold off some of the sows to a group of farmers in the north Alabama area and we get our piglets from these farmers and raise them up for you. So another amazing benefit of eating this delicious pork is that it is not only helping to keep the breed growing, it is helping farmers stay on the land and helping to keep land in agricultural production - It is a much better value than any land trust or state park - just eat more pork and the countryside stays green, profitable and prolific. And another great thing is that because of diet and exercise the tenderizing fat of this pork is not only delicious and mouth watering by some counts it is also as healthy for you as olive oil.
I have eaten and enjoyed pork all my life and this pork is the best by far - it just melts in one’s mouth and the flavor is stupendous. As a young boy I was first seduced by cured country hams in Dillard Georgia. We had been rafting with family and friends on the Chattooga River and went to the Dillard house for lunch. This was still a time when a country restaurant like that really did still raise their own food. The fresh tomatoes and the smoky, salty funky mix of flavors in the cured ham still resonate on my palate. While there, eating food they had raised and cured the whole world of fresh delicious food took on many new layers of meaning. My father knew Earl Dillard and he took us to the family smoke house down the hill. It was a small old smoky wooden log cabin building with a sweet musty odor and a low ceiling with hams hanging in the darkness. I have been hooked every since.
Part of dream is not just to have our swine live outside eating hickory and walnuts and acorns and persimmons, and grazing grass and plants of all sort - in short living a life on the fat of the land - it is also to capture these flavors and textures and keep them alive for this and the next generation.
Origin : England
Status : Threatened, Fewer than 1,000 registered in the US
Temperament : Docile, Lazy
Known for : Sweet, Creamy Fat and Bacon
Flavor Profile : Creamy, Buttery, Complex, Fruity, Marshmallow, Stone Fruit, Sweet.
Gloucestershire Old Spot : Developed in England, the Gloucestershire Old Spot is a threatened British breed. Nicknamed “orchard pig”, these white pigs with big black spots were developed on fruit orchards, where they gorged themselves on fallen fruit and other treats. Their backyard grazing lifestyles led to the development of their oversized floppy ears, which protect their eyes during foraging and enhance their sense of smell. While this makes the Old Spot excellent foragers the negative impact on their peripheral vision causes the breed to be especially dependent on humans for protection from predators.
Old Spots became rare after World War II, when the shift to intensive pig production reduced interest in outdoor pigs. The breed almost became extinct in the 1960s but is experiencing a renaissance. Their lazy and gluttonous lifestyle yields pork that is fatty, delicious and succulent.
Gone Hog Wild
Well not quite
We are continuing to raise full blooded exceedingly rare Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. Click here on their English hometown website in Gloucestershire England. http://www.gospbc.co.uk/ to find out more about them. Back in the early history of the British Isles pigs either arrived or were there when the Anglo’s and the Saxon’s and the other Celtic peoples arrived. Out of these ancient pigs, sometime just after the middle ages the various counties and towns in England started to have and breed very specific animals to their local. For example in Gloucestershire they had their own cow, pig, sheep and probably other animals as well. These distinctive animals we now call Heritage Breeds. All over the world these animals are in dramatic decline (this is another story which I will share with you at a latter time). We along with you are doing our part not to just keep these animals in existence but to make them a thriving part of our world again.
We started raising Gloucestershire pigs again about a year ago now, and this is our third batch. It is hard to comprehend why more people do not raise this pig as they are amazing to work with and are wonderful foragers. Gloucestershire England is an apple growing region and the pigs foraged under the apple trees for the fallen apples and in the fall the pork was said to have a sweet cidery flavor and was sought after by the royalty of the time. Old Spot pork is riddled with fat and fat is where the flavor is and this is why it was an easy choice for us to focus on exclusively raising Old Spots - for the Flavor. The pork is simply better than any you have ever had - its flavor is nothing short of superlative.
We are feeding them certified organic corn and barley, whey from the cheese making process and extra milk and cheese that doesn't make the grade, squash and tomatoes from the garden and of course nuts and roots and whatever they find in the woods. We are using the pigs to root and clear a small area of woods that we hope to turn into a sylvan pasture. So the great thing is - that because of diet and exercise the tenderizing flavor sizzling fat is not just outrageously delicious it is perhaps as healthful for you as olive oil.
The meat from the Old Spot is something very special and it's not just an hyperbole statement from Sequatchie Cove Farm saying this - everyone who has ever eaten this pork says the same thing - check out this Guardian article. tttp://www.theguardian.com/life and style/wordofmouth/2010/jun/21/gloucester-old-spot-protected-status
Or as one of our customers recently said “this pork is the best meat I have ever eaten in my life.”
You should give this amazing pork a try. Hurry as we only raise these pigs in small batches and stay always on the edge of being out of pork - order our whole or half hog package and put it in the freezer. By ordering a half or whole hog package you get the excitement of trying your hand at cooking and sampling all the cuts and you save money at the same time.
We always have pork here at the farm and at the Main Street Farmer’s Market http://www.mainstfarmersmarket.com/ on Wednesday from 4 till 6 at the Sequatchie Cove Farm booth.
Summer Food Bounty
To Be Found
Sequatchie Cove Farm
Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Okra, Green Beans, Watermelon, Squash, Cucumber, Garlic, Onions, Corn, Basil, Blueberries, Blackberries
Beef from our pastured steers,
Pork from our Old Spot Pigs raised in the woods and given daily treats of whey from Creamery and certified organic grain,
Lamb from Kelsey’s pastured flock,
Eggs from our hens on pasture also treated with certified organic grain,
Raw Pet Milk from our dairy herd,
An assortment of Raw Milk cheeses from the Creamery
Job Opening at Sequatchie Cove Farm:
Sequatchie Cove Farm is looking for a full time or part time worker. Theprimary duties will be to assist with the dairy. We start milking at 4:45amand start the afternoon chores and milking around 2:30 or 3 pm. We milk cows 7 days a week so the ideal candidate will occasionally be able to work on weekends. There is flexability in scheduling work hours. The job includes working with cows, milking cows, lifting buckets repeatedlythat can weigh up to 45 pounds, cleaning and scrubbing the milking barnand milking equipment, feeding calves and taking care of cows and calves, some tractor driving and truck driving, moving cows to fresh grass. Periodically there will also be a wide range of other farm work including: feeding and moving pigs and chickens, working in the garden, doingbuilding work and building maintenance, equipment maintenance, checkingon grazing herds on leased farms, fence building and other general farmwork.
If this sounds like a fit for you please email: firstname.lastname@example.orgOr call 4238834380
ThanksBill KeenerAnd the Sequatchie Cove Farm team
Farm Day April 23rd!
Come on out Saturday the 23rd for Farm Day!
- Farm Tour starts @ 9 am central time
- Cheese Tasting @ 10:30
Farm day will be from 9-12 central time. Bring a picnic lunch, your family, and friends and enjoy a farm tour and cheese tasting! Come see the pigs and cows out on fresh pasture, chickens roaming around, all the beautiful flowers blooming, and chat with the farmers and cheese makers! Our Trading Post will be OPEN and we will have Beef, Pork, Lamb, Eggs, Pet Milk, Cheese, and some Vegetables for Sale. Also, there will be some Native Spring Ephemerals and Native Ferns for Sale from Dancing Fern Nursery!!!
We Hope you can make it!
The Sequatchie Cove Crew
Biodynamics Workshop at Sequatchie Cove Farm
with support from Chattanooga’s Harvested Here Food Hub
With Presenters Jeff Poppin and Hugh Lovel
Saturday February 13th 2016
How farms maintain and build soil fertility and increase organic matter is the core of all agricultural discussions. This past Saturday’s workshop at the Keener’s farm with Jeff and Hugh was no different. There were over 50 folks in attendance about 25 or so farms were represented and lots of other gardening enthusiasts were present. They came from Alabama, Chattanooga, North Georgia and Nashville area to hear the speakers, and network and learn more about the practice of Biodynamic farming.
Jeff began by talking about how he began farming and the journey to discovering how to build fertility on his farm. How since he didn’t have much money did he buy anything and how the search for resources on the farm led him to Biodynamics. Each farm should be seen as a living self-contained organism.
Hugh followed up by talking about how important it is as a farmer to observe are the biological processes taking place on the farm, the dynamic movement from one state to another of mineral and organic substances.
Both Jeff and Hugh covered many topics: soil building, soil cultivation, the use of tractors, grazing, composting, biodynamic preparation making and use, cover crops, soil testing, supplementation with minerals and rock powders, humates, nitrogen, silicon, soil food webs and how to increase the biological momentum on farms to create healthier food.
The topics were so pertinent to the attendees, and the presentation of the two speakers so varied and interesting that the 4 to 5 hours of the workshop flew by and all felt more time was needed to go into further depth on many of these topics. - next time - . Some of the farms in attendance were Hoe Hop Farm, Tant Hill Farm, Alexander Farm, Honey, Day Spring Farm , Wildwood Harvest Farm, Wheeler’s Orchard, and many other farms
Sequatchie Cove Farm
Saturday - February 13th 2016
Jeff Poppen (the Barefoot Farmer)
A discussion and farm walk on biodynamic farming and gardening
Starts at 12:30 till 4:30 central time
Biodynamic agriculture https://www.biodynamics.com/ is a farming method first taught to farmers by Rudof Steiner http://www.anthroposophy.org/ in the 1920’s. It aims to treat the farm as a living system that interacts with the environment, to build healthy, living soil and to produce food that nourishes and tastes delicious. Want to learn more?
Sequatchie Cove Farm and Harvested Here Food Hub of Chattanooga http://www.harvestedhere.org/ are teaming up again to bring you:
Jeff Poppen - http://barefootfarmer.com/ one of the foremost biodynamic farmer’s in the region. Jeff has authored several books, and is a widely sought after speaker and has hosted many conferences and workshops on Biodynamics. He has been farming and growing vegetables for many years and makes growing accessible to everyone. This will be an unique opportunity to learn about Biodynamic gardening, farming, soil, plants, animals, or life on a farm here at Sequatchie Cove Farm.
WHY: If you have been wondering what does Biodynamic Agriculture means or if you have questions about gardening or if you just want to walk around Sequatchie Cove Farm with Jeff Poppin, the Keener’s and other farmers and learn what farmers talk about in February - this is your chance -------
WOW: The whole event is free and open to all with an interest in gardening, farming, or just wondering what biodynamics is all about: This is a unique opportunity to learn from the best - you will want to be here for it this Saturday.
Please RSVP or if you have questions:email@example.com
Bill Keener - 423-942-9201
Brine for ham roast
-1 cup salt
-1/2 cup pepper corns
-1/2 cup sugar
-heaping tsp cloves
-heaping tsp alspice
-bring to boil then cut off and cool totally - Brine fro at least 24 hours
Cook at 325 degrees - use a meat thermometer - take out around 140 and will end up at 155
save drippings for gravy
- slices - Sequatchie Cove Creamery - Cumberland cheese (or other)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 6 minced garlic clove
- heat these 2 togeher
- add 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- tsp salt
- tsp pepper
- tsp cumin
- cook quickly
put ham slice, cheese, pickle, and Moho sauce in sandwich - heat in skillet with butter and press - turn -add more butter press - done when heated and toasted
From the beginning of farming here in Sequatchie Cove we have wanted our work to stay focused on, and in sync with the seasons. In Tennessee the seasonal change of weather moves at a subtle yet steady pace on its solar journey. The wet, barren cold of winter gives way to an early ephemeral epigenetic spring. A spring whose numerous glorious days awaken into the dreamy warm mist, andhumid sweltering abundance and abandon of a Tennessee summer. Then the transitory light of August - a light gleaming in from some ancient cultural past of clearer skies strikes through about the 12th of August every year, bringing news of the coming autumn. The hardwoods of the Cumberland Plateaustarts to change it’s leaf colors from green to yellow, red, gold and brown. Winter arrives. Axial rotations and a cosmic solar sojourning of our earth bring about the season changes.
The activity of light in the world of growing plants is to create the ferment needed to move plant life along - chlorophyll is the substance that allows plants to organize themselves to utilize all this sunlight. It is the substance through which a plant receives light in order to do its photosynthetic activity. Lots of light = lots of activity. Low light = low activity; to none when cold. We farm by choice and by necessity with these seasonal shifts guiding us. We transform our work, and the pace at which we engage in work, along with the weather, with the light, with the seasons.When the days shorten, the weather cools, the chlorophyll cycle slows, the grass stops growing, we are now stopping milking. A lactating cow needs the highest quality grass creating the most photosynthetic energy with its chlorophyll to stay in good condition and to give the highest quality milk.
The ebb and flow of working with the cycle of the year, the seasons feeds our emotional and physical life. In spring and summer we are racing around working as if in a dream, never ‘getting it all done’. In the fall we slowly wake up day by day and often wonder where we have been. We start to slow down a bit and once again are able to see the sky, the clouds above us the trees and plants around us, the animals and humans next to us. In the winter there are the cold wet days, where we might step outdoors to simply go on a walk, or to get the most basic needed chores done. Content to read, write, talk by the wood stove.
Many of our agricultural, business, even life decisions of what we do, how we work, are based on these four distinct seasons we have here in Tennessee.
So this year we are diving a little deeper. In the low light, low photosynthetic part of the year (starting November 21st) and during the months of December, January and the early part of February we will not milk cows. We will give the cows, the pasture, ourselves and the creamery a ‘break’. No cheese will be made and the pets that imbibe our milk will patiently wait until mid-February when the grass starts to green up and the cows start calving and giving milk.
We are excited at the thought of drying off the whole herd.(To dry off means to stop milking the cow, she then stops lactating. This is how cows have always been managed for health. A cow lactates for about 9 to 10 months and then is dry , not lactating for 2 or 3 months. During this time she rebuilds her vital energy reserves ready to have another calf and start the milking process again. And we are just as excited at the thought of lots of calves being born in February and March and the increasing workload we will have then and throughout the rest of next year. Next year we hope to have 40 to 50 milk cows grazing our pastures. This way of dairy farming is called seasonal calving, seasonal milking. All cows going dry at one time and all the cows calving at one time. This is contrary to the modern, more industrial model of keeping the factory going year round, night and day.
The dairy and the creamery will take these 2 months to make improvements on the facility that they could otherwise not make during the hurlyburly days of milking 2x a time and making cheese every day.
I hope youhave a wonderful autumn and winter and if you have questions or ideas for the farm, or would like something to eat from the farm please write, call or stop by.
Seasonally yours Bill
Our recent beef price increase is due to world commodity prices. Many people would like to think that farms like ours are immune to industrial price fluctuations, but just like no one individual is an island, neither is any farm an island.
In 2013, the world inventory of beef cattle dipped below the number in 1950. Think about the world in 1950. China. India. Africa. At half the population and half the wealth, that was a different world. The beef cattle inventory has returned to that level, creating
an unprecedented shortage.
Right now, today, we would make more money selling our finished beeves to the industrial food system than direct marketing to our customer families. Think of that. The price spike in the 2 last years has moved the value of a 1,000 pound steer from $900 to $2,000. Supermarket prices are creeping up, but the ones that are taking it on the chin are the feedlots and processors–those notorious middle men. For the last 2 years, many feedlots have been losing $200 per head, but each is hoping the next
guy will go out of business first. The deepest pockets will win. Shallow pockets will go out of business as the industry consolidates due to financial pressure.
We work closely with neighbors and buy cattle from them. These farmers and their families have no desire to take less for their calves than the market will bear. They’ve been waiting a long time to be in the driver’s seat like this. The result is that what we paid around $1200 for a year ago costs us $1600 and more now. That’s a minimum of $400 per beef more.
If an average carcass yields 350 to 400 pounds of usable product, that’s an average of $1 or more per pound increase just to stay even. But even that is not really even because the value has also risen on the pounds after calf weight–those other 500 pounds we’ll put on in the pasture. To really stay even, we need yet another $1 per pound increase. Why should we get less for our grass finished beef than the industry gets for hormone-drug-grain feedlot beef?
Why is the world inventory so low? I think three things have caused this perfect storm. First, some huge droughts have literally depopulated areas in the Dakotas and the southwest. Australia is in significant decline after a series of historic droughts. Many cows, the breeders (mamas) went into ground beef because farmers had no grass for them.
Second, the aging farmer is slowing down. With the average age of cattle owners now approaching 70 (average for all farmers is nearly 60) these farmers and ranchers aren’t willing to expand at any price. Rather than responding to price increases like normal, the tepid response indicates life cycle fatigue. Millions of acres of farm and ranch land have simply been abandoned in the last 15 years due to the aging out of livestock operators.
Third, huge areas of the world previously devoted to grass have been converted to crops for both people food and fuel production (biodiesel and alcohol). Argentina, bastion of pampas and grass production, is converting millions of acres to GMO corn and soybeans. Ditto for Uruguay and Paraguay, both historically significant contributors to the world’s beef supply.
This spring saw the first significant response to the high prices: farmers began retaining heifers to become mama cows and produce more calves. But that created the current firestorm because all of those heifers that would have gone to abattoirs and entered the beef trade have been kept alive. They’re all out walking around rather than being in tray packs at the supermarket. It appears that this extreme world wide shortage will last for at least three years. That’s how long it takes for a heifer to
breed, birth a calf, and for that calf to grow up to processing weight. It’s a long cycle.
We are responding like many other farmers–retaining heifers and working towards expanding our cow herd. That means we won’t have to buy as many calves, but it also means we won’t have as many to sell in the short term because our grass, rather than fattening finishing animals, will be carrying mama cows. We’re looking at our own shortage that is simply a microcosm of the bigger world issue. Just 20 years ago I remember buying 500 pound calves for $300. Today, those calves are bringing $1,200.
A big thanks to all who came out for our grazing conference, what a wonderful group of folks. Here are a few photos from the past two days compliments of the talented Luke Padgett!