ABOUT THE FARM

 
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this ain’t grampa’s farm

One of the farms we have learned a lot from is Polyface Farm in Swoope Virginia. Joel Salatin is a pioneer in the pastured livestock world and has coined this phrase to make the point that this style of farming is not a step back in time but a steady progression made possible by new technologies and methods.

One of the cornerstones of pasturing is rotational grazing. This involves moving the livestock around a pasture while restricting them to small areas at a time rather than giving them access to a large area at one time. This allows the forage to grow to near maturity before being grazed which maximizes the amount of forage production and root growth creating huge benefits for soil health. This is a relatively recent development and has been made possible by the increased portability of electric fencing and watering systems.

The trend in modern agriculture has been toward large scale specialized farms for a variety of reasons.

At 5 Chicks and a Farmer we raise a variety of livestock-chickens, turkeys, pigs and cattle as well as some crops. This is called mixed farming and has a number of benefits including cycling nutrients and improving soil. It also allows us to offer a variety of products to our customers.

Although this type of operation has an ‘Old Macdonald’s Farm’ feel to it there are a lot of modern technologies and methods being used.

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where are we heading?

We are fairly new to this business and we are learning every day. Thanks to the internet and people willing to share their knowledge and experiences we now have access to an endless, ever-changing wealth of information.

One of our goals is to incorporate the livestock grazing into our cropping system. This will pass on the benefits of rotational grazing to the crops and improve overall soil health across the farm.

One of the farms we have learned from on this front is Brown’s Ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota. Gabe Brown and his family have been taking this approach for years. They have seen the benefits of using rotational grazing, cover crops and no-till planting and are travelling the world to pass on the message.

We are planning to incorporate these methods in our operation one step at a time with a vision of less reliance on external inputs, involving our family in the operation and greater community involvement.

progress through innovation

Over the years, people raising poultry outdoors have had to deal with several challenges, including protection from predators and preventing free range areas from becoming over-grazed and contaminated with too much manure.

Farms like Polyface have developed methods for dealing with these issues and that is how we have arrived at the ‘modern’ chicken tractor. This is a lightweight, portable, floorless hut that is moved by hand everyday to give them access to fresh grass, bugs and worms. The manure they drop helps fertilize the soil and we don’t have to stockpile or spread it!

It also makes great tasting, healthy chicken!

We also use polyethylene piping to get water to our livestock in the fields. This has been around for years but as time goes on more products are being developed to reduce labour and make it more viable. This makes it more feasible to have livestock of all kinds on pasture.

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Chickens

We receive our day-old chicks from the hatchery starting in April. They are placed in an enclosed brooder which keeps them warm and protects them from predators. We use a ‘hover’ which is a coffee table like cover with heat lamps underneath it. This way the chicks are protected from drafts and chills and have access to fresh water and non-GMO feed.

They are kept in the brooders for 3-4 weeks at which time they are moved outside to our pasture area.

Once on the pasture our chickens are raised in moveable, floorless huts called chicken tractors .

They are moved to a fresh patch of pasture every morning where they feast on a fresh salad bar of grass, alfalfa and all the worms, grasshoppers and other bugs they can eat. This supplements their diet of non gmo grain.

We have whole chickens frozen in winter, and fresh in the summer months, as well as chicken quarters and halves, boneless skinless breasts, drumsticks and thighs.

We also have chicken carcasses available for making your own delicious broth.

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Turkeys

We receive our turkeys from the hatchery as day-old poults in mid June and mid August. Right away they are placed in an enclosed brooder where they are kept toasty warm and safe from predators. We use a ‘hover’ which is a coffee table like cover with heat lamps underneath it. This way the poults are protected from drafts and chills and have access to fresh water and non-GMO feed.

They are kept in the brooders for 3-4 weeks at which time they are moved outside to our pasture area.

We rotate them across our pasture using a portable light weigh electric fencing called electro-netting. They thrive in this environment with access to grass, worms, grasshoppers and other bugs. This allows their natural curious, quirky personality to come out.

They are very personable animals and always greet us with a loud chorus of ‘gobbles’ when we go out to move or feed them.

We process them to have fresh for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also have sausage, ground turkey and smoked drumsticks available frozen while supplies last.

 

We're often told that these are the best turkeys people have ever eaten!

“We purchased a turkey from 5 Chicks And A Farmer and it was DELICIOUS. It was the best turkey I have ever made, and the broth and soup from it was DIVINE. The service getting the turkey was AWESOME - I had my 3-year old son with me and Mr. Farmer took us around to meet his animals. It was my son's best day yet! We are so shopping with you fine folks again!! :) THANK YOU!”

– Mrs. Mills, Cambridge


Heritage breed Pigs

Heritage breed pigs include several older breeds that have not been bred for the commercial market.

Hence they have retained characteristics that have been bred out of commercial herds. They are known for superior marbling, juiciness and rich flavor and are on the menu of many up-scale restaurants. If you haven’t already tried heritage breed pork you are in for a treat!

We get our weaner pigs in at about 60-80 lb from a neighbouring farmer who breeds and raises them. Our pigs are also outside in several areas on our farm that aren't suitable for other uses. They are able to utilize these areas for foraging so it is a win-win. they are allowed to disturb the ground a certain amount so they can dig up roots, grubs and other bugs that supplement their diet of non-GMO feed.

We use 2 strands of electric polywire fencing to keep them where they are supposed to be. They are smart animals and it usually doesn’t take long for them to get to know their boundaries.

Our pork comes cut, wrapped and frozen.

Depending on your preference and family size you can choose from a whole pig, half, or 30lb box of cuts as well as individual cuts of chops, sausage, bacon, back bacon, hams and roasts.


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cattle

We buy in beef stockers at approximately 6-8 months of age. The cattle rotationally graze our pastures during the grazing season. This means that we systematically move them around the pasture giving them access to small areas at a time, rather than giving them access to the whole area.

The cattle are moved ahead of the chicken tractors to mow the grass down and make it more suitable for the chickens. This process is essential to improving the soil health in terms of organic matter, water holding capacity and biological activity.

In the fall the cattle are fenced in smaller paddock and given access to a mix of hay and grain until they reach slaughter weight. The process of finishing them this way produces excellent tasting beef that people come back for!


laying hens

Last but certainly not least are our laying hens which also roam on fresh pasture seasonally, resulting in thick yellow yolks full of nutrients. Eggs are available year round.

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