It’s no secret that running a farm is hard work. It a very physical job that involves long hours working in both good and inclement weather conditions. From tending to crops to feeding cattle, countless tasks need to be completed each day. Despite what many may think, the pay that farmers receive does not always reflect the hard work they put in. This can leave many of them feeling under appreciated and tempted to try a different career instead. However, there are ways that even the smallest of farms can maximize their profits. So to keep the lifestyle you adore and to make more money from your farm, consider these exciting ideas.Read More
There are many people out there who believe that agriculture now makes up only a minute fraction of the world’s labor. That farms across the world are disappearing by the second. Replaced by food-creating machines that spew artificial food products into the world by the truckload. It’s true that the agricultural life has been largely eclipsed by post-industrial, city-centred businesses. But an eclipse doesn’t mean that the eclipsed object has ceased to exist. It merely means that it’s not so easy to get a look at.Read More
Well hello there, gorgeous!
We're very excited to introduce Matilda, the newest addition to Better Farm's cast of characters. This little pot-bellied piglet is just 5 weeks old, and joins us because an injury to her back leg soon after she was born means she needs to live in a forever home where she'll get lots of attention and physical therapy.Read More
Never having been outside, these girls are enjoying the fresh air and eating green grass every day. The hens are starting to get color back in their crowns, and they also are starting to grow their feathers back (several are now sporting furry butts covered in down). When we first got the hens they were really quiet. But after just a day or two, they started talking to each other and clucking away.
|Spent-hen rescue committee.|
Right now we have the hens in a big, fenced-in area where we are working on getting the new hens to go up into the coops every night. This is still work in progress, but once they understand to go up in the coop every night we will let them walk around freely. Twelve of the hens will be adopted off once we get them in a bit more rehabilitated—probably in the next week! The birds are so happy to have gotten a new lease on life. Here are few photos of the rescue operation:
|Washing one of the hens—a very, very dirty job.|
|Checking out grass for the first time in her life.|
|In time, this chicken's crown will turn from this pale pink to a bright red.|
Almost three months have passed; and with the strong coyotes in the area and the recent start to hunting season, it's been questionable as to whether a baby deer raised by people and dogs would survive.
But yesterday, a neighbor was sitting in his tree stand a few hundred yards up the road from us. A small doe came out into a clearing. Our neighbor recognized the markings on the face, the shape of the head, and the movements. She began to bleat in an unmistakable way. When our neighbor answered the bleat, the small lady deer jumped, started. Then she pressed herself low to the ground. Our neighbor called out to her again. She jumped straight up into the air and bounded around in circles as we've only seen Star Wars do. She danced through the fields, circled back around, then was gone.
Editor's note: If you ever find a wild animal in need of care, please make your first option a wise one and contact local authorities, shelters, and rehabilitation centers. Baby animals are surely adorable—but they are meant to be wild! Without careful, round-the-clock care, the results can be disastrous for everyone. Give every animal the space it requires to behave as it would in the wild. Animals you find are not pets!
Jefferson County's first Harvest Tour Weekend is slated from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and 12-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30. Those interested in learning more about agriculture in the North Country—and sampling some great, local food—will have the opportunity to visit dozens of farms and agribusinesses to tour facilities, meet the animals, sample the wine, buy fresh produce and homemade goods, and see exactly where their food comes from.
The fall season is a beautiful time to travel our country roads, look at the great colors of the season and purchase a vast variety of fresh produce. Gather the kids, grab a cooler and hit the road! Your neighborhood farms will be ready to show you around, answer some questions and help you learn more about agriculture in the North Country.
For more information about the harvest tour and other agritourism opportunities in the North Country, visit www.agvisit.com.
There are roughly 280 million egg-laying hens in the United States confined to battery cages.
Scratch that—279,999,980. Better Farm's team yesterday rescued 20 such hens from a local egg farm.
Commercial, egg-laying birds are stuffed into small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside warehouses. In accordance with the USDA's recommendation to give each hen four inches of 'feeder space,' hens are commonly packed four to a cage measuring 16 inches wide.
Because egg-laying chicken breeds have been genetically selected exclusively for maximum egg production, they don't grow fast or large enough to be raised profitably for meat. Therefore, male chicks of egg-laying breeds are of no economic value, and they are discarded on the day they hatch.
The female birds' confined space doesn't allow the ladies to stretch their wings or legs, and they cannot fulfill normal behavioral patterns or social needs like scratching in the dirt, chasing bugs, and taking dust baths.
As you can imagine, constantly rubbing against the wire cages means these birds lose a lot of feathers; and it's not uncommon for the ladies to have lots of bruises and abrasions. In order to reduce injuries resulting from excessive pecking—a behavior that occurs when confined hens are bored, stressed, or frustrated—the front of most laying hens' beaks are cut off.
Laying more than 250 eggs in one year, a laying hen's body is severely taxed (whose wouldn't be?!). They suffer from "fatty liver syndrome" and "cage layer fatigue"; and, percentage-wise, after about a year most hens in the egg industry are considered "spent" and sent to slaughter. The hens who did nothing but lay eggs usually end up in soups, pot pies, dog food, or similar low-grade chicken meat products.
But the truth is, these hens don't have to be spent! They can still make loving pets, wondrous mini-tillers, voracious composters, initmidating bug-eaters, and (if you're into this sort of thing), lovely egg-layers. And besides—doesn't someone who's worked so intensely day after day deserve a nice retirement?
We drove out to pick up the birds yesterday. The farm we adopted the hens from is a small, family farm that by all accounts is considered a hygienic, high-quality operation. Even so, the birds were kept indoors in very cramped conditions. They had never been outside, never walked on the ground, never known a breeze, or a floor that wasn't a mesh cage.
Standing outside the large barn where the birds were kept, we heard screeching and yelling coming from the chickens inside. And we just weren't prepared for the sight of these birds when they came out. Their beaks had all been clipped, rendering their mouths into a puckered shape uncharacteristic of any bird. Their toenails were so long they had trouble getting around (a few couldn't walk at all). Many had open wounds, all were filthy. They were all missing feathers on their bellies and butts and backs from rubbing up against the cage and each other, and their undercarriages were horribly swollen.
Our hens were looking pretty shabby when we picked them up (that chicken in the bottom left can't walk because of her toenails, leaving her subject to the trampling of the others):
But, enough of the sadness! Here we are unloading the ladies from the truck, about to be introduced to the outdoors for the first time:
...their new digs:
Two short clips of them checking out their new surroundings:
They got a great night's sleep last night, and this morning were making normal chicken noises, scratching and pecking in the dirt, preening themselves, and stretching out those glorious wings. We couldn't love these ladies any more, or be happier to see them get that retirement they so well deserve.
So yesterday, a whole slew of Better Farm volunteers showed up to construct two chicken coops, each of which can house up to 25 hens. We bought plywood to protect roosting boxes from predators, but the entire rest of the operation drew from discarded scrap wood, metal roofing, an upcycled egg-laying box, and anything else we could find on-site.
Here's the set-up:
And our inspiration: a classic, mobile, rectangular box at left, and a larger coop design, at right, utilizing discarded screens and windows:
Here are some shots of the first design being impletmented:
Thanks to: Erin Fulton, Brian Purwin, Holly Boname, Jon-Michael Passerino, Bob Laisdell, Susan Kerbel, Matt Smith, Nick Bellman, Carl Frizzelle, and Joel Zimmer for their help on these projects!
Want design plans or coop-construction advice? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you visit the ag tour's website, be sure to check out our page! And don't forget to order a brochure—the weekend-long ag open house is slated for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and 12-4 p.m. Sunday, July 22. That event, open to the public, is designed to promote the agricultural industry throughout Jefferson County. It's a great chance to visit a number of local family farms, including but not limited to dairy, livestock, fruit and vegetable farms, wineries, butcher shops, and farm supply businesses. Each location will have a special, weekend-long feature going on especially for that event. Not to be missed!
For those of you who haven't stopped by Better Farm yet, that will be a perfect weekend to see what our synthesis of sustainability and creative expression looks like. The open house is supported by Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corporation, the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, and the Jefferson County Chapter of Adirondack Harvest.
Home Again Farm was established in 1831 by Gail's family as a dairy farm. She grew up on the property, and is now the sixth generation of her family to work this land. The couple graciously welcomes visitors to their farm, and have one of the coolest gift shops ever—lots of alpaca products, from fuzzy socks to warm sweaters to spools and spools of alpaca yarn.
The animals are totally sweet and appropriately pampered. Their living conditions are immaculate and cozy, they get plenty of space to run around and play, and they're extremely good-natured. Happy alpacas make happy happy yarn—a mass-produced, factory wool shearing operation this is not. Gail and Daryl love the alpacas—each is named, each is loved, each has its own goofy, lovable, irreverent personality.
Home Again Farm hosts a local 4H club, “Fiber of Life”, and has an annual open house. Gail and Daryl take the alpacas to schools and community events, as well as host such events on-site at the farm. They've also started growing grapes, which will be sold to one of the local wineries in the area.
Shani and I arrived on Saturday, were greeted by Gail and Daryl, and taken into one of the barns to learn all about the health of the herd. Here's Daryl with three male alpacas:
One by one, the alpacas are taken over to a scale so Gail and Daryl can record their weight. Then they're moved into a holding crate so Gail can clip their toenails:
Mover over Cover Girl—here's an up-close shot of Tommy Girl's eyelashes:
...and Shani communing with one of the young boys:
We're proud of our relationship with Home Again Farm, and can't wait for this summer when the interns make regular trips out to visit with and help care for the alpacas, assist on the vineyards, and lend a hand anyway they can.
To learn more about our sustainability internship program, click here.