ABOUT THE FARM
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.
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.