Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's not always pretty.

The conference yesterday was good, it gave us some things to think about in terms of accessibility and food. We both have had experiences in childhood and as adults where the phrase 'money is tight' would be gentle. So making our CSA something that anyone can afford is a goal. That's a big part of the reason that we don't have product limits, and why we have such a liberal installment plan. But we learned yesterday that there are ways you can even set up your CSA so that folks can use EBT food stamps to pay. There is some serious paperwork, and we won't be able to launch it until next year- but I think it's a must-do. Someone from Columbia County mentioned that 1 in 5 people in this county use EBT. And where our farm is located is a food desert. I'm looking forward to thinking about ways we can be part of a solution.

Farming isn't always the promise of growth or new life. It's also about the by-products of living (of the poop variety), and death. Everything that lives, dies. Unfortunately, sometimes it's livestock that you weren't counting on dying. I would say that of all of my farming experience, I'm most confident about my poultry abilities. I have been raising chicks for years, and have an exceptionally low mortality rate in my own operation. I've been known to nurse baby chicks back to health.When our batch came in this time, I knew right off the bat that they weren't nearly as hardy as they should of been. The Cornish-crosses, which we grow for meat, were fine. But the array of egg layers looked drowsy and on the small side. We dosed everyone with electrolytes/minerals and wrote in a previous post about the modifications to the brooders for heat. The temperature has held steady in the brooders even in whipping winds and snow. But the layer chicks are pathetic. Despite high quality organic feed, despite middle of the night temp/water checks. We have lost a few, more than I've lost in previous batches, well, ever. I finally emailed the hatchery and they are reimbursing us for the cost of the chicks we've lost, they believe something happened to them in shipping. I'm hoping that the most recent dose of electrolytes/minerals will help the remaining birds, who do look perkier today. If this were my first round, or I knew that we hadn't done everything we could, I would have never emailed the hatchery. But sometimes, you just know when something isn't right. We will order more layer hens, and now a few started pullets too, to ensure we have enough egg production for the CSA members.

It's tough to reconcile the death of living creatures in your care at first. But it's very much a part of farming, especially when you are dealing with just-born or the birth of animals. It's certainly a part of produce, crops fail and die too. The best we can do is learn from it, make changes as needed and strive to reduce loss. And be thankful for what we have.

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