Preparing for Thanksgiving

Guest Writer: Kayla Batty

Although it feels like the holidays just got over, for farmers, it’s just time to start thinking about it again. We will order our first set Heritage Turkeys will show up in April, with the broad-breasted arriving in July and August. If you live in Utah and are interested in purchasing a turkey, please fill out and follow the instructions on THIS FORM, and we will get you on our list.

Strutting Tom

Tom is 1/2 of our newest venture: Heritage Turkey Breeding Program. He’s been strutting his stuff since he survived last year’s Thanksgiving.

Heritage Turkeys take twice as long to raise. They require about 20% more feed per pound of growth compared to their broad-breasted counterparts. Because they cost us more to raise, they cost more for consumers. Last year we lost money on about 25% of the heritage turkeys we raised, and broke even with the rest. Because we want provide our customers with what they want, we will continue to raise them, but, for now, have to raise the price to $8.50 per pound in order to cover our costs.

Heritage Turkeys ordered after May 10th will be at additional $0.50 per pound. So be sure to order now!

The broad-breasted turkeys are what you often find in the store. They have been bred to be heavier birds, with up to 4 times more meat. They grow quickly, and can gain a pound for every pound of grain they eat. Last year we had our biggest turkeys average 34 pounds dressed out. This year we will be ordering them to arrive a couple of weeks later, in the hope of driving that size down to a more useable (and cookable) size. Have you ever tried to cook at 35 pound turkey? We have for the last 4 or so years, and even with a giant roaster-pan, we have to get creative and build our own lid. And even with our rather large family, we still have weeks of left-overs! These turkeys are easier and faster to raise, so as of right now, they price will be $5.25 per pound, but if everything goes well, could possible drop before Thanksgiving.

This year we are also adding a service charge for fresh-delivered turkeys the weekend before Thanksgiving. While we understand that many of our customers want fresh, never frozen turkeys, our small processing crew and transportation options limit our ability to provide this to everyone. To increase the probability of the meat staying good for the days preceding Thanksgiving, we have to move our Processing day from the usual Wednesday to Thursday. This might not seem like a big deal, but it means that our crew, who work around other jobs, can’t all be there. It also means a very early morning bagging birds on Friday with an even smaller, skeleton crew, so that the trailer can be packed and ready to go by Friday night. The first 100 turkeys reserved as “fresh for Thanksgiving” will be an additional $20.00 to help us pay for added expenses, stress, and hopefully extra help.

Anyone who just wants a good, clean, tasty turkey, but doesn’t necessarily care if it is frozen, we will be reducing the price of all the turkeys delivered the last weekend in October by $5.00.

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Old Home Place Overview

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Farming on 2News this Morning

We might not post very often, but that’s just because we are way too busy! We had a crazy busy Thanksgiving season, selling a lot of very large turkeys. In fact, we were featured on 2News this morning at the Downtown Salt Lake Farmer’s Market the week before Thanksgiving.

You can also read the whole article on the 2News webpage. Farming on 2News. Learn a little more about why we do what we do and meet the brilliant master-mind behind the whole operation!

We are actually really looking forward to our off-season. That doesn’t mean that we don’t still have lots to do, but it’s hard to raise pasture-raised poultry when the pasture is all covered in snow! We’ll keep raising our beef, pork, lamb, and llamas, and we’ll keep our laying chickens going so we’ll still have eggs, but we won’t raise any more pasture-raised meat poultry until early next spring.

We will be at the Downtown Salt Lake Farmer’s Market at the Rio Grande Hotel the last weekend of every month through the end of the Winter Market and then every other week at the summer market in Pioneer Park. We will also continue our monthly meat deliveries to Heber, Park City, and Salt Lake. Through these you will be able to order what you would like and we will have your order ready for you to pick up when you show up to the delivery point. We will get the dates posted on our “Events” Page, so don’t miss us!

 

 

Posted in Farmer's Markets, Farming, Meat Production

Bacon Seeds

Guest Writer: Kayla Batty

Farming is more than just a hobby. For those who love it, those who were raised doing it, or those who have found a passion for it over time, farming is a way of life. It is a way to instill in our children an understanding of where food comes from. Earlier this year we had a local on-farm butcher come slaughter a pig for us. My little four-year-old niece wanted to see what they were doing. She had seen this pig raised from infancy. I walked over with her and explained what was happening as the butchers raised the pork into the air and removed the organs. As we walked away, she ran a continual commentary on what she had seen and her thoughts on the matter.

Finally, curious to how she was emotionally processing this new development, I asked her “Why does Grandpa raise pigs?”Girl kissing baby pig

“FOR  BACON!” She exclaimed.

Slightly surprised by this answer I asked, “And why does grandpa raise cows?”

“For MEAT! Hamburger and steak! And he raises chickens for eggs and for CHICKEN! And turkeys for THANKSGIVING!”

This made me very proud, not just of her mother, but of the common sense that life on the farm has instilled in this child.

For her, farming has taught her some of the realities of life. She knows, at age 4, where her food comes from. She knows that with life comes death. She knows that animals have a purpose, that although she can name them, she will also one day eat them. She knows there is a cycle, that the little pigs she loves so much will grow up and become bacon. She is not upset by this. It doesn’t send her into a fit at the loss. In fact, she is much more able to handle all types of loss, because she knows that everything has its purpose.

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Poultry Production

Guest Writer: Kayla Batty

Wow, what a year it has been. Many of you know that we have spent the last couple of years fighting with UDAF to be able to slaughter chickens under the Federal 20,000 Chicken Exemption. In collaboration with another farm in the Valley, Boothill Farms, we were able to get approved to build and use a slaughter plant and begin processing chickens and turkeys.

We don’t want you to think this means that we won’t keep fighting for the Food Freedom Act—we believe consumers should be able to choose for themselves what is best—but we are excited to be able to continue supporting our way of life, as well as supply those in our area and on the Wasatch Front with quality meat grown and processed locally. If you ever have the chance to try one of our chickens, you’ll find that it’s cleaner, with less feathers and less slime than you will find on commercial birds, even if you are buying organic. Unlike commercial birds, ours are never injected with saline solution, so when you buy a 4-pound bird, you will be buying 4 pounds of chicken, not 3 pounds of chicken and 1 pound of salt water.

turkeysMeet Thanksgiving Dinner. We’re starting small, with just 200 turkeys this year. But they are some of the most fun animals to raise. They’re so curious and sometimes rather naughty. They’re always getting out of the LARGE  protection fence we keep them in.

chickens

The chickens are back as well. We will do several batches of 150-250 birds throughout the summer and fall. We won’t be doing them during the winter–there’s no grass to raise them on. If you’re interested in ordering some processed birds, please contact us!

Please send us a note to oldhomeplaceutah@gmail.com if you would like to be added to our email list. This list is only used for updates and order information for our customers, and will be kept confidential. You can opt out at any time.

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The Food Freedom Act: The Political Games

Guest writer: Kayla Batty (Dale’s Daughter) 

This was my first opportunity to be on Capitol Hill fighting for a bill. To be honest, I’ve never been more horrified or concerned for the state of our government. The games that were played to keep this bill from being heard were ridiculous. The lies that were told to cover up these games, even worse. The fact that the Chairman of the Agricultural committee car-pools an hour to work and an hour home each day with the Commissioner of Agriculture (who opposes the bill) seems like a conflict of interest to me.

Twice the bill was placed on the agenda only moments before the cut-off line, in the hope that supporters would not be able to make the trek from the far-reaches of the state. On the day the bill was supposed to be heard, Representative Roberts was approached by a representative whose constituents were strong supporters of the bill. Rep Noel needed to head home for a memorial service. He was one of the required “yes” votes and had the ability to sway other members of the committee who might be on the fence. The following quote is from an email sent to me by Rep Marc Roberts regarding the Gong Show that took place that day.

“After much consideration I decided to go with what Noel was asking and pull the bill from the agenda. It was a tough decision especially knowing how many people were taking time out of their day to be there but at the end of the day it’s the votes that count.

“I notified Lee Perry, the committee chair, that I wanted to pull the bill from the agenda. He wasn’t very happy with it and said that he had a lot of people coming (which is another story to tell) but ultimately said ok. From there we were working under the assumption that he would pull the bill from the agenda, which happens all the time, and that we would hear it another day.”

We were already in Salt Lake and stayed for a press conference with Ms. America that had been arranged previously. After the press conference there were messages coming through to Rep. Roberts and others saying that the bill had been left on the agenda! Representative Noel said not to stress about it, since they wouldn’t vote on it without the sponsor of the bill there to present it. He said we would be able to get the bill back on the agenda later, and not to show up. He even said he would call the committee chair to explain it. One of the interns for a Representative who opposed the bill came in at one point, saw us all there, made a show of rolling his eyes before getting on his little smart phone and typing away on it. We never imagined that Rep. Perry would still hold a hearing on the bill and hold public comment without the sponsor being there, but that’s exactly what he did. That has never happened before, it’s possible to do, but is unprecedented.

Representative Perry began the hearing of the bill by verbally criticizing and abusing not just the bill but Rep Roberts. It was so bad that Rep Perry had to publicly apologize in the next meeting for what he had said in order to avoid official censure by the House leadership. Unfortunately the damage was already done. Many of the representatives were convinced of Rep. Roberts didn’t care enough about his bill to show up. This will be a new battle we have to face

The bill was eventually heard, by barely enough members of the committee for it to be sent to interment. This means it will be retained in committee and be studied it through the following year.

We have to keep at our representatives. They are there to represent us, not to choose what they feel is best. We must do to each of our representatives what Kanab did to there’s. They need to know, as Rep Noel did, that if they goes against the bills that we support, they will find their political careers ended shorter than perhaps they hoped. Don’t let them follow their own agendas. They are there to represent us; that is the standard we must hold them to. If we want our bills to pass, we need them to know where the thoughts and feelings of the majority lie.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people in our conservative state who would choose to have extra government involvement in our every-day decisions.

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The Food Freedom Act: The Bill

Utah State Capitol

Several years ago, a state legislature in the state of Wyoming began pushing a bill that would allow for the legal sale of farm-fresh produce, milk, eggs, and meat directly from producers to consumers, without government inspection and regulation. Just over a year ago, after seven years of fighting for it, this law passed with the support of the Wyoming Farm Bureau. Similarly, there was a bill passed in Virginia. Opposers of this bill were delighted when many supporters became ill after the bill was passed, laying blame upon the raw milk that was used to celebrate. The milk, however, was found clean, and the real cause was laid appropriately at the proverbial foot of a virus that ran rampant that week. However, this hasn’t stopped the opposition to these bills from trying to blame every bad thing that happens in these two states upon the shoulders of un-inspected farmers and producers.

In 2016 Representative Marc Roberts sponsored a bill similar to the one passed in Wyoming. This would allow the direct legal sale of raw milk, raw chicken, eggs, produce, and home-processed products from the producer to the consumer.

This bill saw a LOT of controversy and a ridiculous amount of political bull—I mean, game-playing. But we’ll get to that in a later post.

Here are some of the arguments, supported and pushed by the Utah Farm Bureau and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, that we heard throughout the process.

Opposing Claim: Consumers may accidentally purchase these products, unaware of possible danger.

Fact: (Quotes from HB 144)

1 – Sales can only occur “between a producer, or producer’s agent, and an informed end consumer.”

2 – Sales can only occur “at farms, ranches, farmers markets, homes, offices…”

3 – “Food or food products may not be sold to, or used by, a restaurant or commercial establishment.”

 

Opposing Claim: This bill would open the whole food system to de-regulation.

Fact: (Quotes from HB 144) While the bill will reduce the involvement of the government in the way of regulations and inspections, the end consumer:

1 – “Are to be informed that the product is not certified, licensed, regulated, or inspected by the state.”

2 – Are “the last individual to purchase product.”

3 – Purchase products only “for home consumption.”

4 – Cannot “resell the product.”

5 – Products sold in stores to common consumers will still fall under all state and federal regulation, certification, and inspection requirements.

 

Opposing Claim: This bill isn’t a food freedom act, it’s a “Food-Safety Freedom Act” (UDAF).

Fact: Large corporations are more dangerous than small producers.

1 – Wyoming and Virginia have both already enacted a food freedom act. There have been no reported food-recalls.

2 – In 2015 alone there were thousands of recalls from large-corporations nation-wide. -FDA Archives.

3 – In the unlikely event of a foodborne illness outbreak caused by food from a local source, the outbreak will be localized and easy to treat and address. (And then the producer will likely go under because of a poor reputation).

4 – Pete Kennedy at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund provided a letter for a bill going before the Indiana State Legislature stating that nationally there are no recorded cases of foodborne illness from exempted poultry [local uninspected producers running under a federal exemption UDAF doesn’t accept] in the nearly five decades the law has been in place.

 

One state representative commented that we cannot trust our neighbors to not find themselves short of funds, run out back to slaughter a chicken, and run it across the road to sell it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who are willing to slaughter a chicken (it’s not as fun or profitable as it sounds) and I don’t know that many consumers who would be willing to buy a random dead chicken that the neighbors just brought over.

However, UDAF and our state senators and representatives are certain that the average consumer cannot be trusted to choose healthy options. Although we were smart enough to elect them to office, we cannot be smart enough to know how to vent our own food sources. Isn’t it comforting to know how much faith they have in us?

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A Changing Agricultural Paradigm (Part 2)

As I stated in last week’s post, the industrialization of American and, increasingly, world agriculture has had both good and bad consequences. As tillage equipment and fertilizers became bigger, more powerful and more easily managed the average American farmer has been able to supply food for more and more people. However the quality of that food has often suffered as there have been more and more distance and middlemen between the grower and the consumer. When the consumer knows the producer, both have a vested interest in helping each other. Even if the consumer and producer only know the middleman, everyone involved has accountability. When the producer is several times and thousands of miles removed from the consumer it becomes merely a business transaction. In spite of what our government food police would have us believe, the best food quality is when there is a tie between the producer and the customer.

Environmental degradation has been one of the unintended results of large mono-cropped fields. When a farm consisted of both pasture and tilled crop, land erosion tended to be controlled by the firmly rooted pastures catching the soil from the crop lands. Mono-cropped, tilled-row crops have lots of open soil for falling rain drops to start to run off causing both erosion and surface water loss. A good tight pasture sward breaks up the rain drops, catching them and providing a catchment which allow the water to enter the soil profile.

In the past, most farmers rotated their crops which helped control weeds, as most weeds tend to be specialists and are either weeds of pasture or weeds of row crops. Rotation between pasture and row crops then suppresses the weed crop. My high school agriculture teacher taught us that nature abhors a vacuum. A well-cared for, diversified pasture has very little open space for errant plants to enter, whereas most mono-cropped, tilled systems have large open spaces between plants offering opportunistic weeds plenty of place to enter. The industrial model has been to find weed-killing chemicals; many, if not most of which, have had environmental and human health problems. The standard model for the diversified farm is to plant a pasture and suppress the row crop weeds. Then in a few years the pasture would be planted to some kind of tillage crop which would suppress the pasture weed thus reducing or even eliminating the need for chemical herbicides. But to make pasture use financially effective there is a need for animal agriculture.

Posted in Farming

A Changing Agricultural Paradigm

With the cold from winter and the dark from the time change upon us, I find myself in the house earlier in the evenings. As a son-in-law asked me to write a little about the kind of alternative agriculture we are practicing and why, for better or for worse, you as well as he get the benefit (if that is what it is) of my thoughts.

I might point out that what we are doing has been the normal for many centuries and only recently has the industrialization of agriculture brought about what we consider the norm today. As recently as the 1940’s most of the farms in the United States were operated on a diversified, more self-sustaining basis than today’s standard mono-cropped standard. Modern, large-specialty cropped farms were brought about by a combination of cheap oil and the transportation industry’ desire to increase their business. In this time of rapidly changing oil prices it’s hard for most of us to believe that there was a time when the oil companies had a glut of very cheap oil and a lack of customers, but in the early twentieth century that was the case. One of their solutions was to produce cheap fertilizers; another was to encourage transportation of agriculture products from one place to another. Up to that point in history there was a need for most farmers to keep animals. The animals were used to work the farm, to transport the produce to market, and to feed the farmer and his family. Not only were the above needs addressed by animal culture but so were the replacement fertility needs of the cropped acres. On a well-run, efficient crop farm about thirty percent of the acreage was needed to supply feed for the draft animals providing the motive power for the operation. Henry Ford once said that he thought that one of his great contributions to agriculture was that a farmer could raise enough potatoes on an acre to supply the alcohol fuel to run the machinery to farm ten acres. Rudolf Diesel actually designed the original engine which carries his name to run on vegetable oil and envisioned a farmer raising and producing all the fuel needed to power their agriculture machinery needs. Both of the above mentioned individuals had the idea of reducing the acreage used on farms to provide power needs.

And then there was the need to keep replacing the fertility taken away by crop production and sales. Essentially there were two ways to keep crop production up. Clear the ground, produce a crop until the nutrient needs of the crop were depleted in the soil and then move (What we today call “slash and burn agriculture”). Or raise some sort of livestock, save the manure, hopefully mix it with crop residues and put it back on the soil. The oil companies, recognizing an opportunity, started to promote what they called artificial or chemical manures. Many wells were coming in only hundreds of feet deep and many under pressure, hence the term “gusher”. With a glut of cheap oil, nitrogen fertilizer was cheap in every way: cheap to produce, in collusion with the railroads cheap to ship, and in terms of labor cheap to spread. With much of the soil in the United States deficient in nutrients because of depletion, the resulting crop increase was spectacular. An up and coming farmer could expand his crop production acreage without the problem of decreasing the fertility in his soil if he didn’t take on an increase of animals also. All that was stopping him from expanding was a more efficient power source. And there, once again, the oil companies were ready to help, they had gasoline to sell cheap and with just a little tweaking the diesel engine could run on the petroleum byproduct which was named after the engine. Even with the relatively primitive engines and tractors of the time one man could now do the work of several working with draft animals. And when they weren’t actually working, the machines needed less maintenance than the animals. A tractor could work twelve or fourteen hours a day while a team of draft animals couldn’t work more than eight or ten day after day. They also needed a couple hours of rest and a feeding at lunch time. Not only that but now that farmer could use every acre to produce his main or most profitable crop. One more factor entered in, the time and sheer manual labor of hand shoveling, storing and spreading all that manure. Farming has always been hard work and the new technology promised to help relieve that labor.

Now I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m joining in the game of ” let’s gang up on the evil oil companies”. They were, at least at that time, legal companies producing a legal product which truly was of enormous help. As with almost all technologies there were both good and bad consequences from the new fertilizers. Many of which helped the American farmer to produce the most abundant and cheap food at any time in history. And as I advocate for a new agricultural paradigm which I truly think is better I still do not deny the above fact. However, there were also many unintended and even unknown problems. While science at the time knew about the need for the big three plant nutrients, namely; Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium there was little or no knowledge of the micro nutrients, many of which animals and people ingested in their diets either through plants or meat. As a result most American soils have been depleted of these nutrients over the last sixty or more years. One of the results of this depletion has been agriculture products which lack or have reduced levels of many essential minerals and vitamins. This applies both to plant and meat products.

Posted in Farming

Do we raise our animals humanely? – Hogs (part 2)

Along with our hoop houses, a few years ago we found a new system for the hog shelters. A coworker found access to an old water slide. Serendipity struck, the person who had the tubes wanted them off his property and we found a great recycling use which should last for many years. The tube of the water slide was two halves bolted and sealed together. One of the tube halves turned with the open side down makes a small Quonset-type shed which is large enough for even a five hundred pound sow or boar to get into. The tubes are made of fiberglass and are thus water and wind proof . They are easily picked up and moved with a tractor front loader.

With a deep straw bed soon the ends of the tubes were producing steam from hog body heat and decomposing straw. Even at fifteen or twenty degrees below zero Fahrenheit the warmth is clearly discernible, as soon as you or a pig is inside the tube a couple of feet. I know this because several times I have crawled inside to add more straw. The sheep also liked them and the cows often bedded down by them as they cut the wind. They also make great farrowing huts.

Posted in Farming