A quiz

We upcycle egg cartons, so we see a variety of farms’ packaging, names, and claims about their practices.  And we know a few other local farmers who raise their own eggs with practices similar to ours.

A fun game:

…match these farm names/descriptions with their google maps picture.  Here are the farm names & descriptions.

1. Archer Farms (Target store brand):  Cage Free, Organic Eggs

2. Hillandale Farms : “Organic Eggs from Free Roaming Hens.  100% organic feed, no hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides.”

3. Naturally Preferred Eggs (Kroger store brand): Cage Free, Grain Fed

4. Redwine Family Farm: Free range, pastured, farm fresh eggs.  About 200 laying chickens.

5. Phelps Family Farm: Free range eggs.  About 1000 chickens.

6: Farming Engineers: Eggs from pastured chickens, fed certified organic grains. About 150 chickens.

Farm A:

Farm B:

Farm C:

Farm D:

Farm E:

Farm F:

Place your guesses in the comments.  I have a dozen free eggs for the local person with the most correct guesses, for pickup here or at one of our markets.

Need help?  The Cornucopia Institute has an interesting Organic Egg Scorecard.



What’s in an egg?

One of the most common questions from market shoppers, especially at our not-all-natural-&-organic-market, is “Why do your eggs cost so much?”  Our current price for a dozen eggs at the market is $5.00 a dozen. (We do offer some discounts to folks who order large volumes of eggs.)

If the person is willing to listen, I am willing to engage them in a conversation about the difference between our $5.00 per dozen eggs and other eggs costing $4.00, $2.00, or even $0.99 per dozen.

Our eggs come from chickens that live in mobile outdoor housing on pasture, and they are fed certified organic grains in addition to whatever they forage on they own.  We feed the chickens organic feed for their entire life cycle, from when they arrive as newly hatched chicks until they leave our farm.  It takes about 6 months to get them up to laying age, so this is a substantial investment.

Some of our other friends at the market sell eggs that are raised in a similar manner, but don’t use certified organic feed.  Feed is a major component of the expense of raising laying chickens, so that cost is reflected in the eggs.  Our fellow market vendors who aren’t organic generally use high quality feed that’s free of animal byproducts, and some of them explicitly state this in their packaging or even mix their own feed on their farms.

Out along the county roads where I live, “free range eggs” or “Farm Fresh Eggs” are frequently offered for approximately half the price of what my other farmers market vendor friends are selling them for.  My guess is that one or more of the following is true of these eggs:

1) The chickens are being fed the cheapest available chicken feed from our local big box rural products store, which contains pork or other animal byproducts (I’ve read the label.)

2) The folks selling the eggs are not accounting for the cost of their time/ labor in raising the chickens & gathering the eggs each day.  Their egg business is more of a hobby and less of a business.

3) The chickens are sometimes raised in confined situations in a building or in cages.  If you don’t ask, or if you don’t see chickens running around, you don’t know.

In the grocery store, of course, you can find the cheapest eggs of all.  As some people know, and as some people ignore, the cheapest eggs in the grocery store come from caged hens who spend their lives in a space a bit smaller than a sheet of notebook paper, crammed up to 100,000 in a building.  Producers using these methods certainly use economies of scale to create a cheap product.  The animal welfare consequences are, of course, horrible, and the eggs themselves are pale imitations of ours.  “Cage Free” eggs at the grocery store are most likely from chickens raised in these same confinement buildings without the cages, and with just a tiny bit more space.  Conditions can be better, or can still be fairly awful.

How about “outdoor access?”  I’ve been seeing this phrase on grocery store egg cartons lately, too.  The Cornucopia Institute has a nice video about this.

Finally, I’d like to point out that we are not getting rich on these 5.00 per dozen eggs.  We hopefully can pay our feed bills and maybe pay ourselves minimum wage for taking care of the chickens.  Our friends who raise the 4.00 per dozen eggs are most likely in the same situation.  The people who raise the 2.00 per dozen eggs are definitely not getting rich and are probably losing money.  And those 99 cent eggs in the grocery store?  I don’t even want to think about how many cents on a dollar go back to the farmer!

Open house!

Our beef went to the processor yesterday.  It went pretty smoothly, didn’t take long to get them in the trailer.

We’re going to be looking for a few more calves over the next few months.  It’s nice to take a break, and it’s nice to work.

I’m working hard on getting ready for our open house this weekend.  It’s going to be too warm for garlic planting, but there are plenty of other projects if you just have to get your hands dirty.  Work isn’t required, though- there will be food, there’s lots of room to walk around, the chickens will be doing all of their chicken things, and we have acres of nice flat ground for flying kites.  The corn was harvested on Friday, so you can run for a long way without going out of sight!

2010-10-open house directions

Clue, barn cat edition

The Victim

Young Master (or Miss) Fox recently moved to the neighborhood, and didn’t know his way around town. He ended up in a bad part of town* (for foxes) and…. well, now he’s six feet under.

* – not actually near any town.

The Crime Scene

The victim was found in the old red barn. The crime may have been committed in the barn, but it could have occurred near the fox’s home, in the ditch by the road.

The Suspects

Stripey: a young adult female cat. Normally very passive. A loner, she doesn’t like to eat with the other cats. Though she is missing eight teeth, she does have all of her razor sharp claws.

Pudgy: a middle-aged female cat. Very belligerent, she picks fights with other cats on a regular basis, especially when food is in sight. She is also equipped with razor sharp claws.

OC (full name “Orange Cat”): a neutered male with orange and white fur. Usually stays pent up in the barn. Still has razor sharp claws.

BBK (full name redacted): a neutered male with black fur. Though his meow is unintimidating, hunting transforms him into a ferocious predator. His black fur may indicate his stealthy habits. He is also equipped with razor sharp claws.

Boots: an unaltered male cat. Despite his natural condition, he is very tame. He was not originally included in the suspect list, until he was observed in the environs of the late Young Master Fox’s abode. He, also, is equipped with razor sharp claws.

Naturally, none of the suspects have responded to questioning.

On the farm this spring..

A few folks have been kind enough to send photos, and we’ve taken some of our own. For starters, here I am at the market a few weeks ago:

at the market in June 2010

Here are the cows.


And the chickens!

chickens, eating

Finally, the garden.. this was about 3 weeks ago.

Garden in June

Going Rogue

One of our Araucana hens has “gone rogue.”  She avoids the rest of the flock, and sleeps by herself on the top shelf of a shelving unit on our porch instead of in the house with the other chickens.

The weather is a bit rogue, too.  We got another inch of rain last night, and the ground was still quite wet from the 2.5 inches on Monday.  30 – 40 % chances of storms all week don’t sound too terrible, except that COULD mean “rain every day,” which would be quite an unwelcome boost for the weed population.  Stay tuned!

A familiar face

I was walking through the dining room this morning when I saw a familiar face looking at me through the window in the front door.  It was a fuzzy, black and white face- the face of one of our heifers, standing on the front porch.  She stared at me for a minute, then bolted away as I moved toward the front door.  

We hadn’t had any cows escape since one particularly bad day in June, and I was not looking forward to repeating that experience in the winter.  This same heifer had led the way on that day.  

Since I was home alone, I had to spend some time thinking about how to handle this.  I peered out the front door & didn’t see any other cattle.  Went upstairs and, to my relief, was able to see that the 4 others were still inside the fence.  

With a bale of hay, some herd psychology, and about half an hour, I was able to get her back inside the fence.  She was ready to rejoin her friends.  There was no running madly through muddy fields this time.  

A little investigation revealed that she had probably stepped over the wall of our cow stall in the barn, and just waltzed out the front door.  Mr. Burke is presently outdoors, nailing a few more boards to the stall wall to make it higher.  I’m especially glad that it wasn’t something like a breach in the field fence, which is a very annoying thing to fix in the winter!

Also, I’m very glad that our work with taming the cattle has paid off so much.  The heifer that escaped today was the least-tame of all our cattle, but she still tolerated my presence and responded to what I wanted her to do MUCH more easily than before.  We strongly believe that tame cattle make better beef, since they will have produced fewer stress hormones.  Food is a great motivator!