Tag Archives: pasture

Ultimate Test of Sustainability?

Will Your Operation Succeed to the Next Generation?

It’s been said that a farm or ranch is not truly sustainable unless it employs at least two generations. I believe it’s imperative that as producers we recognize that even if we become both ecologically and economically sustainable, but fail to pass our mission and work on to the next generation then we’ve failed the ultimate test of sustainability.

According to the most recent census of agriculture: from 2007 to 2012 there was a decline of over 95,000 farms in America. A quick look at the current trends tell us that most of today’s family farms and ranches will not succeed to the next generation.

I believe there is hope for a bright future.

This hope is not based on wishful thinking but rather a ground swelling of innovative farmers that are indeed beating the odds and are building thriving operations. A few names you may recognize are operations like Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Virginia, Gabe & Paul Brown of Nourished By Nature in North Dakota, as well as Will Harris’s White Oak Pastures in Southern Georgia. These are just a few of the many operations that are shining a bright beacon of hope to the greater agricultural community.

If you visit any of these operations there is a very obvious, but all too often overlooked, common thread of success. Each of these operations spring forth with a multigenerational team of people that bring intellectual diversity to each acre of their land.

Most of us in agriculture are at a road block because we’re too narrowly focused on a production mindset and we’ve lost sight of people and relationships. We must make the critical distinction that people create profits – profits don’t create people.

Those of us pursuing regenerative agriculture understand the value that biological diversity brings to our land, but we often forget about the value that human creativity and diverse intellectual capital can bring to our land.

At Seven Sons Farms we’ve stacked multiple enterprises on only 550 acres. By creating synergistic relations between our land, livestock and people, we are able to employee over 10 full time people as well as several part-time positions. We refer to our team as our intellectual human polyculture:

Human Pollyculture

Any successful leader knows that their organization’s most valuable asset is having the right people in the right place.

Zig Ziglar offered this belief: “You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build your business.”

If the above statement is true then it begs the question – how is agriculture as a whole doing at building people? The graph below shows a plummeting decline in the number of human minds in agriculture.

The erosion of human capital:

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SOURCES: Agriculture in the Classroom, 2014; BLS, 2014; NASS, 2014a,b; U.S. Census Bureau, 2014a,b; USDA, 2012

Over the course of time we have eroded much of our land’s precious resources in the form of minerals and soil organic matter. But no greater erosion has taken place than the depletion of human minds from each acre of our land. In the early 1970s we reached a critical point – for the first time in the history of American agriculture the number of human minds per acre involved in agriculture fell to a negative ratio.

Interestingly, it was around this same time period that the farmer’s share of the food dollar began to plummet as well.

The erosion of the food dollar:

There are many factors at play but it only stands to reason that if we want to capture a wider diversity of the food dollar, it requires wider diversity of intellectual talents. This is exactly why at Seven Sons Farms we have sought to foster synergistic relationships with people that enable us to capture a greater diversity of the food dollar.

To sum up the past half century of agriculture, one could say that in pursuit of production, we’ve attempted to trade people for profit. In the end we’ve yielded neither profit nor people.

At Seven Sons we believe that the people connected to the land represent the most valuable asset a farm could ever possess. To illustrate this point, imagine for just a moment if you were to remove Joel Salatin, Gabe Brown, or Will Harris from their respective farms. These farms would look nothing like what they do today without the creativity and vision that each of these leaders bring to the land that they are called to steward. The same holds true for your farm as well. The beliefs you operate from, the vision you put forth and the people you inspire to join you – these are the game changers that will empower your operation to beat the odds and succeed to the next generation.

There are unprecedented opportunities ahead of us…

I believe we have unprecedented opportunities ahead of us when you consider many of the recent breakthroughs in regenerative agriculture as well as the rapid shifts we’re seeing in our food culture.

So if you’re looking to exchange new ideas and be challenged to think outside old paradigms then I encourage you to join myself and hundreds of likeminded people at this year’s Grassfed Exchange in Albany New York.

The very mission of the Grassfed Exchange is to catalyze the exchange of practical knowledge, ideas, and strategies that you can take home and begin applying on your operation. Bring a family member, friend or budding young agripreneur who is looking for their way forward in agriculture.

What The Grassfed Exchange Is About:
Click here to register for the 2017 Grassfed Exchange

Reprinted from Grassfed Exchange

Getting Ready

One would think you could just pull in and start with tillage for planting crops as part of my fescue elimination project.  Alas, that isn’t true in my case.  Since i had subdivided the 120 acres into 6 paddocks with 2 wire hi-tensile electric wire, all this had to be wound up and stowed for replacement after 4 years as per my plan.  Old fence posts and wired had to be pulled up and stacked for burning when time allows and entrance gateway had to be widened.

 

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There’s been a 16 foot gate here for longer than i’ve been alive, although this is a new gate i had installed about 5 years ago.  But, 16 foot opening is far too narrow to pull in comfortably with big equipment, although you’d be amazed at what a skilled driver can get through!
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So, this is the new look – set two new corner posts and hung two 16 foot gates.  Very professionally done by Jim Fitzgerald.
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HUGE thank you and shout out to North Central Missouri Electric Coop for quickly removing, not only the lines from the transformer to the meter pole, but also my farm lines from the meter pole to windmill pump. About an 1/4 of a mile’s worth. While i did the ground work of chaining the pole to the front end loading, Dallas pulled the posts. Afterward, i dragged them to a burn pile with my Gator.
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The electric company removed the wires from two tall poles which were on my property.  Our little tractor had to shove a bit on the pole, then really hunker down to get these poles pulled up.  As you can see, they are buried quite deep.  Instead of burning these poles, they were cut to length and used as the corner posts for my new gateways!
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Old fence left over from who knows when still across the pasture with wire buried and tangled.  What a mess but at last we prevailed.
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Here are half the posts from that fence.  These will all burnt in a pile.  Would make good firewood if they weren’t full of staples and wires.  The corner posts were too heavy for me to lift into the bucket, so we just used the tractor to pull them ’round to the burn pile – it wasn’t far.
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An old home built load out chute we drug up out of the middle of the pasture.  
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With most posts pulled up, Dallas is building me a low water crossing while I pull the remaining posts to burn pile and roll up another half a quarter mile of hi-tensile wire.  Weather is perfect for working but I’m about out of steam!

 

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I bet you were wondering how I can roll up 12 gauge hi-tensile electric wire.  The key is this spinning jenny from Powerflex Fence.  Don’t do this without a spinning jenny  Notice the rolls of wire I stored nearby; ready to roll back out after the 4 year renovation.  All told, I rolled up a bit more than 2 miles of hi-tensile wire and pulled some 140 fiberglass posts.  Many were 1 inch and were easily pulled by hand.  I hauled them all home and have them stored on a pallet in the barn.
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Here you can see the old hand strung electric line from way up at the barn down to the electrified pump.  It used to be run only with the windmill, but there is not enough reliable wind to make that very viable.  Anyway, those were the posts Dallas and I pulled up.

Dallas and I did this in a couple days of remarkable weather in November!

Cheers

tauna

Time Management Lesson

Too many times I engage in projects which end up as time wasted. Case in point this 12×12 chicken tractor. After spending time and money on it, I’m now faced with more time wasted disassembling it. I have no intention of raising layers on pasture again and it’s too awkward to move very far and a waste of space to store it. The high quality tarp from Troyer Tarp will be stored, however, since it is a $100 item. I’m learning, albeit slowly and with the wisdom my children bestow upon me, to utilize my time more wisely.

Cheers!

tauna

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Deviled Eggs

While i’m making devilled eggs for Refuge Ministries in Mexico, MO, this is a great opportunity to not only share my recipe, but also talk about food.  Like most real food, there is little NO waste when preparing eggs.

For the meal today, I’ve hardcooked 5 dozen eggs – that’s a total of 60 eggs and of those 17 ‘failed’ which is to say there is some reason they don’t qualify for use as a devilled egg – might be the shell split, the yolk busted free, or it’s just misshapen.  Whatever the reason, even when the eggs are sufficiently aged (eggs peel better when they are at least a week old), sometimes they just don’t serve this purpose.  But don’t throw them away!

 

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Here’s those ‘failures’ perfectly suited for chopping and using for roast beef, tuna, or salmon salad.
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Normally i use organic brown mustard and organic lemon juice, but i was out.c,xms

Egg Drop Soup for Liquid Diet

Home made egg drop soup:  (Tan Hua T’ang)

3 cups of chicken stock broth.

1/2 teaspoon salt (use Real salt or something that is 100% salt – check the label)

3 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon tapioca flour (cassava)* or cornstarch

2 eggs slightly beaten (farm fresh from pastured hens is best)

Heat broth and salt to boiling.  Mix cold water and tapioca flour; stir gradually into broth.  Boil and stir 1 minutes.  Slowly pour eggs into broth stirring constantly with fork, to form shreds of egg.  Remove from heat; stir slowly once or twice.

You can also make this without thickening it with the tapioca flour or cornstarch if it needs to be absolutely thin liquid.

For best medicine, you need to find a local farmer from whom you can purchase healthy pasture raised spent hens or broilers.  You may have to butcher them yourself.  Cook them down bones and all, pull off the meat bits, then throw the bones and cartilage back into the water and simmer another hour or so.  The goal is to get as much of the chondroitan out of the cartilage and minerals out of the bones and into your broth.  Once done, strain out the bones and let the broth cool.  Chicken fat is quite soft, so if you want to skim it off, you’ll eventually have to put it in the frig or other cool spot so that it will harden on the top of the broth so that you can remove it with a slotted spoon.

Buying chicken broth in the store is NOT the same product as what you are making here.

As always, find certified organic or organically raised ingredients.

This was a big hit with my father-in-law who is recovering from hernia surgery, is very weak, and really doesn’t have an appetite.

However, it’s quite good even if you aren’t sick or in recovery.

Cheers

tauna

*my friend Francoirse raises cassava in DRC!

Find a local producer near you using a handy website search, here are a few:

Localdirt.com

Eatwild.com

Localharvest.org

 

Brown Broth for Liquid Diet

So, why the liquid diet postings – well, my father-in-law just went through terrible pain and finally surgery to pull his stomach down through his diaphragm so that it was no longer in his chest cavity!  There were a lot of problems this caused, so we all hope that he will be able to heal now.  To start, however, he is on a 2 week liquid diet, so the challenge is to provide high calorie, palatable liquids so he can gain enough strength to keep going.  Especially when he doesn’t even have an appetite.

We had just butchered a beef and i had asked the butcher to throw all the big bones in sacks for the dog, but now I’m cooking them for bone broth before letting the dog have at them.  I  pack a 3 gallon stock pot with beef bones and fill with water.  Bring to a boil (be ready because this full pot will boil over and make a mess the minute you turn your back!), then turn down the heat for a slow boil about 5 hours.

Using tongs,  I remove the bones and place in one of those big popcorn tins.  The stock will be reduced to about 8 cups.  Let this cool overnight, so that the fat that hardens on top can be removed easily.  I’m not completely sure that removing all that fat is good, so i typically leave few tablespoons.  It sure is extra calories, which are needed, but sometimes too much fat can cause indigestion and i certainly want to avoid that.

Once this stock is made, it can be used to prepare different flavors or use it as is with maybe a bit of Real salt (which has minerals) to taste.

Here’s what i added to one quart and Jerry really liked it:

8 peppercorns

1 tsp powdered or 5 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp powdered celery

1 tablespoon Real salt

1 large onion, quartered

Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer about an hour.  Strain through doubled cheesecloth into a heat proof jar.  I use a regular canning jar which makes it easy to transport up to his house.  This way, he can pour out what he wants to warm up each time he feels he can eat something.

The report this morning was that he really like this combination!

Cheers!

tauna

Note that this broth is a far cry from broth purchased in the store.  When this broth is cool, it is very gelatinous indicating its source is more than water and flavour.  Our cattle are pasture finished with no grain or antibiotics.

Bright Sunshine!

That forecasted rain hit about 9:30 pm and just poured for about 5 minutes – storm over.  The Mizzou game in Columbia, MO, however, looked like miseryfor a LONG time – it didn’t help that the hometown team lost badly.

Today dawned clear and bright and i managed to clean the frig, wash a load of laundry, feed the calves, wash windows, and start the oven cleaning before the day got started.

Paperwork has been gathered for my trip to Chillicothe in the afternoon to the license bureau.   Allen and I had planned to purchase the pickup through bartering, however, i found out at the license bureau that that can only be done throught a dealership!  No private transactions.  That doesn’t sound fair.  So, of course, i had to pay sales tax after all.  The inspection for the pickup resulted in a $600 repair bill!!

I took some photos of an old McCormick International seed drill that I listed for sale on Powell Seed Farm, Inc facebook page.  It is old and small by today’s standards, but it would be perfect for someone starting out or for use in grass paddock improvements.

Stopped in Meadville at my friend’s house and we had a serious heart to heart visit.  I cannot imagine going through life without a close friend with whom each can share our joys, concerns, and heartaches.

Slow late afternoon since i’d allowed plenty of time for the license bureau, yet i was in and out in less than half an hour!  Fed the calves, worked on my chicken tractor (this is my 9th design and build of chicken tractors and eggmobiles).  I’ve been at the chicken tractor for months, but it’s the lowest item on my priority list, so I seldom have time to piddle around with it.  Had hoped to have it done before i butcher our last 14 hens so as to see if it works, but that may not happen.  Might get chicks next spring, but might not.  I may just enjoy not having extra chores, but it’s fun building stuff – it just won’t get used.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna