Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Duck, duck, goose!

So, what's next for Treffynnon Farm? We have been discussing the future of the farm lately and trying to decide what to do. Of course, we want to make money at farming, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one. The way our economy and food-belief system works, farmers almost never make money at what they do. They do it for the love of the land and animals, and because they MUST farm. I feel that way about theatre. Heaven knows there's no money in that, either. I'm hoping we can make enough to cover our expenses and our own food costs. Even at the rates we charge we are NOT going to get rich, no matter what people might think.

We had a great success with raising a few broilers this past summer. We took the standard 'supermarket' chicken, the Cornish Rock and raised it on pasture with organic, soy-free feed. We grew them for 12 weeks, which is double the time the 'big barn farmers' do, plus ours are outside the whole time. The chickens were super easy to clean and pluck (a major consideration, honestly), and they have big, juicy breasts and good-sized legs. But the big difference is the taste: ours are delicious! They have that 'what chicken is supposed to taste like' flavor. The meat is not dry and tasteless like most of the chicken I've had in restaurants. I stopped buying supermarket chicken years ago. I didn't see the point in paying that much for cardboard. We are looking at the less overbred broilers out there, but they just don't meet the requirements of a good-sized breast and tasty meat. But whatever we choose, we are going to raise more chickens this year, and believe it or not, almost half are already claimed! We have a few dedicated customers (many thanks!!). The other half will probably sell before we butcher them, or we'll eat them ourselves. Nothing like a good, home cooked chicken we raised ourselves. Did I mention I made chicken fricassee with one? Julia Child would have been so proud!

We have also come to adore our ducks and are going to raise a few more, mostly for the eggs, but also for meat. Our original gang of five (1 Indian runner, 2 Khaki Cambells, 1 Pekin) will have the run of the place forever, but the new lot will either lay eggs or be eaten. I can only let the warm heart go so far. The turkeys will, hopefully, breed over winter and we'll have some babies for next year. We feel like they were a success this year, so want to continue with them again. We want to also add Geese to our menagerie. Geese are very popular in Great Britain as a Christmas bird, and from all accounts are much more tasty than our national thanks-bird. I have never had goose, but look forward to trying it. To help our costs and make what we grow our very own, we are looking into buying an incubator for eggs. While I would love it if our birds could raise their own young, that is not the best solution for a farm trying to pay bills.

We still have thoughts of adding milk goats or cows to the farm but recognize that that will add a lot of time and effort that we aren't ready to commit to yet. I want to make artisanal cheeses and have our own raw milk, but goats are a big step up from chickens. We are also looking into Alpaca or maybe Llamas for fiber and (in the case of Llamas) guarding. The Alpaca are a huge investment, but perhaps it could be our way into making money at farming. I'm leaning toward Llama, myself, because I want animals for guarding as well as companionship and income. Llama aren't even a shadow of the cost of Alpaca, but I think the output matches the input. I wish we could win the lottery.

I am reading more and more about 'back to the landers' and 'urbanfarmers' lately. I'm so happy more people are recognizing the need to grow their own and re-connect to the land. Much of it is hard work, so many of those might fall by the way, but many will continue and pass along this new ideology to their kids. Good for them and for all of us. For those reading this who can't or don't want to farm or even have a garden, good for you, too, but remember that you get what you pay for and pay your farmers as much as you can truly afford. Skimp on the cable and the cell phone--it doesn't feed you or your family, but don't skimp on your food.

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