Round Here

The fact that it is almost August is a little bit mind-boggling yet also not, considering this is just how the busy season goes. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you know that a lot of our free time has been spent finishing out our new farmstore.

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We cannot thank my dad enough for helping us tackle this project (as well as my mom, our friend Dave, and my aunt and uncle for loaning us lots of tools and consultation!) Not only do we want a nice spot for our customers to come out and pick up their CSA shares or other products, but we needed a dedicated space in order to meet our licensing requirements, and between day jobs, daily chores and all of the other farm demands, I don't know how Scott and I would have done it without their help. We are so very thankful, excited and extremely proud of my dad's work, and can't wait for all of our customers to  see it. As such, we now have regular farmstore hours on Saturdays from 4-6pm. C'mon out for a chicken, lamb and, starting next week, pork!

All other free time in July was spent pulling tansy and hacking thistle. We are seeing firsthand what years of overgrazing does to the land and it ain't pretty. We've spent countless hours pulling tansy, but seems like we've barely made a dent. That is hard for a perfectionist {like me} and a notorious project-completer {like Scott}. But something is better than nothing and we'll continue working on it next season.

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July was also a bit nutty, due to the fact that Scott was in Texas for nearly a week for a funeral, directly followed by me being gone for a week for work. With just the two of us doing all of the farm operations, needless to say this made for a tiring two weeks. Admittedly, it was the first time that I've been completely on my own during the busy season and I have to say I was proud of myself! Also made me appreciative of Scott taking care of the farm every time I have to go out of town for work.

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August is always a fun month, as we get our poults (baby turkeys) and our last batch of broiler chicks for the season. An added excitement is that we put in an order for some laying chicks, which we'll get one week from today! We are starting out with just a few barred rocks, black australorps and aracaunas. They won't begin laying for a while, but we are already looking forward to the delicious, vibrant orange-yolked eggs that they'll start providing this winter.

It's hard but rewarding work and we wouldn't trade it for anything. The days can be long, but the weeks fly by so we're trying to remember to take moments to stop and take in all the beauty and goodness around us.

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The Big Move

I think of all the things we had to move over to the new farm, the number one thing I was dreading was our broiler pens. As most of you know, we raise our chickens in bottomless, moveable pens. This keeps them safe from predators, while affording them the ability to do plenty of foraging. These pens have been thoughtfully engineered to be perfect for moving birds across the pasture 12 feet at a time. But moving from one farm to the next, notsomuch.

My brother and sister-in-law came down for Easter weekend, and graciously offered to help with any farm projects where we could use extra hands. So Easter morning, we started moving the pens from the top of the hill down to the bottom gate where they could be loaded up. Thankfully it didn't take too long to come up with a pretty efficient way to do so.

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Another huge thank you goes to my aunt and uncle who not only loaned their flatbed but also helped us load and drive them over. I'm sure we were a sight to be seen. I felt like we got a few quizzical looks from people wondering what we were hauling.

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God willing, this will be the first and last time we move these pens down the road.

In other news, we got our spring lambs on Saturday. They are now grazing alongside the cows, who have reluctantly accepted their company. Once they finish grazing down this pasture and move to their next paddock, Scott and I will move the broiler pens to this field. This practice of "stacking" is one example of how diversity beats a monoculture. The ruminants first mow down the grass to make it easier for the chickens to move through and eat. The chickens help spread out the manure and decrease fly and other pest populations, while naturally fertilizing the grass so it's even more lush and delightful for the cows & sheep next year. It mimics the natural pattern of how birds follow herding animals in the wild.

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Depending on the weather, we'll put the first batch of chicks out to pasture in the next week or so. And with that, it is safe to say our season is in full swing!

Looking Forward, Part II

2013 Animals

2014 started off with a bang when we purchased our new farm home and it continued to be a whirlwind of activity as we prepped to move, contended with the big freeze and juggled the normal off-farm job responsibilities. But after much ado, we are (mostly) moved over to the new property and could not be more excited as the 2014 season approaches. I happen to love planning and making to-do lists so I could not be happier in this time of projects, projects and more projects. With the growing season just around the corner, I thought I’d do a quick post to keep anyone who might be wondering what some of our plans are for the year.

2013 Animals

Our primary objective will continue to be raising healthy, happy animals in a responsible way that improves that land whilst doing so. We will continue to offer our products in three ways:

-          Through our CSA program

-          By the quarter, half or whole

-          At the Fairmount Farmers Market (chicken, lamb and pork only)

As you may have read in our most recent newsletter, the current demand for grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and poultry is growing by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately in the short term, we have been struggling to keep up with the demand. We are currently planning on doubling our CSA shares for the upcoming session (July – Dec 2014) so we can add as many people who are patiently waiting on our wait list as possible. We will be sending out an email in April to our current members as well as our wait-listers asking to confirm if you plan on participating in the summer/fall session. If you are hoping to join in the next session, we recommend you go ahead and sign up for the wait list.

Along with the CSA, we will continue offer pork, beef and lamb by the side. There will be limited availability this year, so sign up as soon as you know you are interested.

Lastly, we are planning on having a selection of pork and lamb cuts in addition to our normal chickens at the Fairmount Farmers Market this year. We thank our Fairmount Market customers for their patience and understanding last summer having only chicken and look forward to providing a larger range of products for you this season!

New in 2014

We have a few new ideas brewing for 2014 as well. A few of those are:

-  We are looking forward to expanding our Portland CSA drop site this year. Although we will miss our monthly brewery/brewpub meet-ups with our very exclusive (read: tiny) PDX CSA group, we look forward to expanding the group and building more community up North.

-  Customer Appreciation & Field Day – this summer we hope to have a farm party celebrating our customers as well as the land and animals that help sustain us. As soon as we have a date for this celebration, we will share it and hope that you’ll be able to come out to see where and how your food is raised.

-  Work Parties – A few brave souls have asked about possible work parties and / or volunteer opportunities on the farm. We hope to have a few work days over the course of the year, so if you are looking to get out of town and spend some time outside, keep an eye on our Facebook page for work days.

-  Pasture-raised eggs – We hope to add a few laying hens to our farm in the coming months in order to add pasture-raised eggs to our lineup of healthy and nutritious offerings.

So that's a little look ahead at what 2014 has in store. I am still trying to convince Scott we need goats, but he's not buying it (yet...) ;) Thank you for continuing to opt out of the factory farming system, instead choosing local, pasture-raised meat and poultry!

Looking Forward

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The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope. - Wendell Berry

As most of you know, we have been leasing pasture land where we raise our animals. It's about three miles down the road from our home and is nothing more than a fenced field. No barns, no corral, not even a storage shed available to store our four wheeler. If you read my last post, you know that we spent nearly all of 2013 working toward purchasing a permanent home for Fair Valley Farm.

Just when we thought that it wasn't going to work out and that we'd need to wait on this dream, everything fell into place, due to the amazing generosity and support of a couple of individuals who whole-heartedly believe in the local, pasture-based farming movement. Needless to say, we are feeling extremely grateful and blessed, and are eagerly awaiting the day when we can pay this kindness forward to another young/beginning farmer.

We could not be more excited and thankful to have purchased this property and think it will be a wonderful home for our farm. For about four years now we've worked and improved the land of others. Don't get us wrong, we were ecstatic to do so - first at Jolie Vue in Texas, then Afton Field in Corvallis and then at our farm on leased land in Eugene. But gradually the urge to steward our own land grew. And meanwhile, our farm grew - to the point that we didn't think our leased acreage would be sufficient next season. We also started feeling hindered by the lack of outbuildings and living off-site. As we made these reflections, we came to realize that there is no "perfect place", but there is a "right time" and we feel that time is now.

So about the farm - it is a 70 acre farm just west of Eugene that used to be... wait for it... a chicken farm. That would be a confinement chicken farm, and as such it has two very long chicken houses on it that we'll eventually take down. DSC_0115 In addition to the chicken houses, there is a hay barn and a large livestock barn, which we can use (one day) for wintering our herd. There is a very functional corral and holding pens that will make our lives about 10x easier when it comes to tasks like hot-wire training and slaughtering.

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There is a good-sized pond in the center of the pasture and about 10 acres of woods where we can raise our pigs. DSC_0148 There is a pretty nice shop, which we plan to convert into our farmstore. DSC_0035 And lastly, there is a modest, but livable house where we can live, merely steps away from our animals!!

In general, it needs quite a bit of TLC. Some buildings need tear down, others repair. The pasture has been overgrazed, but nothing that a little rest and rotational grazing can't fix.

DSC_0174Tansy pulling party coming this summer!

We'll have our fair share of blackberry hacking and weed-pulling (but thankfully not a single scotch broom in sight!) DSC_0166 It just needs someone to steward it and breathe some life back into it - and we are thrilled to be those people. It won't happen overnight, but most good things take time.

DSC_0235 Bonus: it came with a farm cat! Welcome to the family, Porter!

We absolutely could not have made it through this process without the support and encouragement from many dear friends and family members, and for that we feel grateful, humbled and very blessed. Not to be overly dramatic, but at times the weight of it all felt like an overwhelming load to bear, but others helped lighten that load through their positive words and listening ears. And every single customer has played a part, as there would be no reason to buy such a farm if there wasn't such a demand for wholesome, clean food from happy animals that improves the land, rather than depleting it.

We can't wait to have a big farm party, but given the time of year we'll probably resist the urge until springtime. That said, the door is always open to come look around / pick up your CSA share or some chicken! One of the biggest motivations for moving closer to town and on-farm is so it's that much easier for our customers to see where and how their food is raised!

Needless to say, we have lots of big dreams and plans for this place. But right now we're going to turn it back down to reality and continue to focus on raising the very best pastured pork, poultry, grass-fed beef and lamb we can :)

ps- thanks goes to my bro Rob for taking these photos!

A Turkey Story

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Your turkey was hatched on August 6th in Tangent, OR by Jenks Hatchery, a family hatchery located just a few miles north of us. We picked up the poults (turkey chicks) that morning and brought them back to our farm where they joined some broiler chicks in the brooder. They stayed in the warm brooder for a few weeks until they were feathered out and hardy enough to move out to pasture.

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For the first few weeks on pasture, they stayed with the broilers in bottomless, moveable pens. This protected them from any predators while still allowing them to forage for grass and bugs in the pasture. Every morning they moved to fresh pasture to maximize their foraging and optimize their impact on the pasture. As a result we have a beautiful green path going around the pasture due to the natural fertilization their manure provided. In addition to what they forage, they were fed a corn-and-soy free feed ration, milled locally in Brownsville by Union Point Feeds.

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Once the turkeys were about 7 weeks old, they had grown big enough that they were ready to move out of their moveable pens. At this point they were large enough that aerial predators wouldn’t bother them. They moved to a feather-net set-up, which consisted of electrified poultry netting (to protect from larger ground predators) and a cozy shelter (made from repurposed materials) to sleep in and hang out in if it was raining. This set up was also all portable so that the turkeys could be moved every few days to ensure that they always had fresh forage and didn’t over disturb any section of the pasture.

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At 16 weeks of age, the turkeys were all grown up and ready to fulfill their turkey destiny. The turkeys were processed Monday morning at an ODA-licensed facility. We are so thankful for the sacrifice the turkeys have made for all of our Thanksgiving dinners.

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We take great pride in knowing that our turkeys had a wonderful life that allowed them to fully express all their natural instincts. We thank you for choosing to support pasture-based farming – we really do believe it is better for the mind, body and soil!

Thanks again,

Scott and Jenni Fair Valley Farm