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Archive for the ‘Farm Business’ Category

bratwurstFor some time now, we have been big fans of Noack’s Meat Products of Meriden, Connecticut. We send our hams and bacon there for nitrite-free smoking. If you have tried our smoked meats, you will agree that the results are amazing. Now, we are pleased to announce that Noack’s has made some nitrite-free beef hot dogs, beef kielbasa, and liverwurst for us, as well as nitrite-free pork hot dogs, pork kielbasa, bratwurst, sweet Italian sausage, hot Italian sausage, and breakfast sausage—all with our very own 100% grass-fed beef and pork!

In addition to sausages, the freezers are fully stocked with beef, chicken, and pork (yes, bacon is back!).  So stop by the farm store (note the new hours Tuesday and Friday 3-6, Saturday 9-1) or check us out at the Bedford Farmer’s Market (Tuesdays 3-6) or the Derry Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays 3-7).

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Soybean chart Corn chart

The organic feed that we feed to our chickens is a significant part of our costs, so we have been searching for a way to control it. The price of commercial feed (mostly composed of corn and soy) has been on the rise for the past three years.

It sure would be great if we could grow our own feed grains. But the equipment required to do that is not available for hire in our area. Although chicken farms were once plentiful in New England, now they are mostly gone and so is the infrastructure for supporting them.

In fact, our kind of small-scale agriculture is so unusual in the United States that nobody here makes a combine harvester small enough to load on a trailer and drive from field to field (the way you have to in New England, where farm plots are relatively small and scattered). If we want to buy a small combine, our options are antiques or expensive imports.

Nobody knows whether grain prices will continue to rise. Many are predicting lower prices ahead. For now, we will keep buying from the feed store–at the mercy of the markets.

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As you can see from this video, feeding 146 head of cattle in the winter uses a lot of labor, equipment and fuel. Even more fuel is used shipping the certified organic hay down from our supplier, Jeremy Smalley of  Transfiguration Farm in Brandon, Vermont. Where we farm, cattle eat about five times their own body weight in hay every winter. So, it would be significantly cheaper for us to truck our cattle up to Vermont and back than it costs to truck the hay one way. We have talked to Jeremy about this. If we brought the herd to the hay for the winter instead of the other way around, his farm would no longer have to buy manure to fertilize his fields. That would be a more sustainable system for him and a lower carbon footprint all around. On the other hand, his place is now a pristine paradise with no fences, no cowpies, and no muddy hoofprints—and tourists spend good money to vacation there. It is unclear what bottom-line impact the cows would have on that business.

While I had the calculator out, I did this math: If you take the total amount of money we spend on the hay plus the shipping, we could afford to ship our herd about 1,250 miles and back each winter. That just about gets us to spending our winters in Orlando, Florida. All we need is a free 150 acre piece of land to graze. Now that sounds like a plan!

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Land Ho!

For some time, we have been searching for more land to expand our cattle herd. And we are very excited that we finally found some. Peter Nash has agreed to lease some of his nearby land to us. The new land is “under transition” to organic certification. This means it has not been farmed organically in the past, but we will be following organic practices, and the land will be eligible for certification in three years.

We will be very busy in the next few months–there are a lot of new fences to build, and we have to figure out how to deliver water where no water sources exist. But we are delighted that we now have a chance to keep up with increasing demand and to build the farm into a self-sustaining business.

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Today was the first day of chicken processing, which is normally not my favorite chore. However this year, Craig Fournier and Omar (my farming partner) are starting a chicken processing business, and they are taking the entire job off my hands. Craig has converted a camper trailer into a mobile chicken processing facility that he tows from farm to farm. And Craig and Omar plan to establish a fixed base operation as their business grows. This is a much needed service for farms in southern New Hampshire. I am rooting for them to succeed.

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I can remember the exact moment when, to be a “real company,” you had to have a fax number. (It was in 1989, and yes, I am THAT OLD!) Now, it seems, nobody uses faxes any more, but you gotta have a Facebook page. So, now we do! If you love us in real life, please help us spread the word by visiting our Facebook page, and “liking” us there! And, if you aren’t hip to “liking” pages on Facebook, just let me know—I can fax you the instructions. 😉

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Our fall beef processing season has finally arrived! We have more bulk orders than ever before, and bulk orders mean filling out the dreaded “cut-sheet.” The cut-sheet is how a customer tells the butcher exactly how to cut up a side of beef. They are famously incomprehensible to the first-time buyer. So we spent the past week developing a new cut-sheet aimed at making the process as clear-cut (sorry!) as possible. Please let us know if you think we hit the mark.

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