Today reminded me of just one of the many reasons why I love having my kids enrolled in their Charter School. Our Family Support Coordinator, with the help of one of the other parents, arranged for a tour of a local farm that is certified organic. They produce beef, chicken, eggs, butter and raw milk, all organic of course. The family has lived on the homestead for five generations! The farmer, Ed Shank, gave us the tour along with his youngest son and the family dog Dingo who “is not a wild dog from Australia.” One of the buildings on the farm was built in 1853. They think the rear part of the house was built about the same time. I would have loved to have seen the inside of the house but really, I don’t think they need that level of an invasion of privacy. So, we got to stop by a small area where they keep the calves. They are working on developing a system where these little ones could actually run completely free. For now, they do keep them leashed to their individual houses. Mr. Shank did let one out to run around with us and he let her stay with our group as long as she liked. Once we actually started walking away from the other babies, she turned around on her own. But not before she tried to get milk from several of our hands (mine included…can you say slimy? They put the cows out onto the field in 4 acre sections, moving them each day. The cows get exercise by walking to and from the field areas twice a day for milking. The areas of the farm only get grazed about once every three weeks with the rotation and they move the chickens around in a similar fashion. I was actually surprised it didn’t smell worse than it did but KitKat wasn’t too sure about walking around in a cow pasture! I found it interesting to learn that clover is actually a legume and it produces nitrogen. So, it’s actually important for them to allow the mix of this and grasses in the fields since they don’t use chemical fertilizers and of course, nitrogen is hard to come by naturally without something like the clover. We then walked out to actually see the cows get moved to a new section of grass. The more they eat, the more they produce, and they can get very ill if they actually get an empty stomach. They don’t normally move them in the middle of the day, but he wanted the kids to see how excited the cows were about ‘new’ grass. They started bellowing and moo-ing like crazy! Then we moved on to the chickens. Since cows are herbivores and chickens are omnivores, this rotation helps keep pests down in the fields along with providing lots of natural fertilizer. The little chicken houses are actually on wheels so they can just drag them along when rotating fields. They are using a fence mainly to keep predators out. He said he lost about 200 chickens out of the 800 total before implementing the new fence system. I’m sure the local fox population is disappointed in the changes.
Meanwhile, after walking around, collecting eggs and generally goofing off, KitKat got up the nerve to hold a chicken. Now, mind you, she did not actually catch the hen, she just held one someone else picked up. When she was done obliging me for a photo, she said, “I think I need a shower.” Don’t worry sweetie, mommy agrees! Before we could go home to get girly again, we walked back to the front of the farm to see the milking area, tank system and store.
We will definitely be getting milk and eggs from them as often as possible. If you are local, they are located just on the corner of 81 and 997 across from the mall. They are open 8-6 Mon through Saturday and the milk is YUMMY! They are about to start working with Whole Foods and already supply the milk that Trickling Springs Creamery uses (but they pasteurize it first there).