Three Exciting, Money-Making Opportunities For Small Farms

Three Exciting, Money-Making Opportunities For Small Farms

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.

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More Efficiency in Farming: Why the World Needs It ASAP

More Efficiency in Farming: Why the World Needs It ASAP

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.

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Better Farm Welcomes Matilda The Pig

Better Farm Welcomes Matilda The Pig

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.

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Rescued Chicken Update

Rescued hens!
Two weeks ago, we saved 27 "spent hens"—or, what the egg industry considers spent hens. 

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.
We will keep you guys updated on our new hens. In the meantime, you can get involved by sponsoring one—or several—of these lovable girls. Click here for more information.

Star Wars Update!

Back in June, an orphaned baby deer called Star Wars was delivered to Better Farm. Only a few days old and without a home or shelter in which to stay, we adopted the baby and raised her on special formula until she could go out on her own to forage in the wild.

For almost two months she lived with us inside the main house (much to the dogs' delight), resting on couches, chewing on houseplants, and overnighting in laundry baskets, under beds, and on doggy blankets. We gave her as much time as possible outside so she could learn how to be self-sufficient and find her own food—as tempting as it was to just hold her and snuggle all day!


She cuddled, and explored the yard and garden, and bonded with people and dogs alike.
Then, one day, she went out on her own. The interns worried. The artists fretted. But Star Wars kept coming back—first she came by a few times in a day, then once a day to suck down a bunch of formula, then every other day, until we didn't see her anymore. A few times we saw her bounding in the far back if we crooned on a kazoo or otherwise mimicked her bleats. Then, nothing.

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.

Stay tuned for photos...

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!
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Harvest Tour Weekend Sept. 29 and 30


 


































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.

At Better Farm, our farm stand will be open, featuring fresh produce, handmade items, and T-shirts. Our gallery and studio space will also be open with art for sale. Kevin Carr, this month's artist-in-residence, will have his completed work on display throughout the weekend. We will additionally be offering tours to the general public of our gardens, outbuildings, and studio spaces.

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.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Spent Hens Rescue Mission Complete!


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:

Before setting the birds free, we had to get them good and primped like proper ladies. Pedicures, massages, bubble baths, and fresh water were all musts (watch video at top to see that process). And, drum roll please, here are the birds (mostly cleaned up, it's a process!) seeing grass, bugs, and sunshine for the very first time:



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.

Work Day: Operation Coop Construction

We've been gearing up for a few months now for an influx of animals at Better Farm: clearing out a shed on the property so we can welcome a couple cashmere goats next month, making plans with the Clayton Co-op to provide them with organic eggs from here on out, and doing research into new coop designs to house a flurry of rescued hens and baby bard rocks.

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:

















The second coop was started, and will be finished next week—stay tuned! You can see the complete album here.


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 info@betterfarm.org.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Farm Scores a Spot on the 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour

Better Farm has been invited to take part in this year's 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour, a project undertaken by the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council that maps and compiles information about local farms in a free brochure. Visitors can follow the map, listen on cell phones to an audio tour, and stop in at the local operations. Similar to historic buildings tours or wine trails, the 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour allows you to sample local wines, veggies, fruits, honey, cheeses, ciders, and more—and visit with unbelievably adorable barnyard animals, alpacas, horses—and now, all the diverse, creative creatures calling Better Farm home.


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.
Farms and agricultural businesses interested in participating can go to www.agvisit.com or www.comefarmwithus.com to download a participation form.  The application deadline is March 30. To order a free brochure of the farms included in the tour, click here.

Our Visit to Home Again Farm

On Saturday Gail and Daryl Gleason over at Home Again Farm in Theresa, N.Y., invited our intern Shani and me to stop in for "Herd Health Day", a monthly occurrence when the couple checks the weights of their alpacas, and gives each animal the once-over to check for any evidence of illness, disease, or mite.

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:
Check out this mop:

In the wintertime, alpacas can grow up to six inches of fiber. The Home Again Farm alpacas are sheared once a year and their fiber is sent to the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP). This is a cooperative where Home Again Farm's alpaca fiber is sent in, and the farm can in turn purchase garments and items crafted from their own American alpacas. The farm's store also offers yarn made exclusively from Gail and Daryl's own alpacas. Every Skein comes with a picture of the alpaca from which the yarn was made. Home Again Farm also sells items handknit by women in Peru. Gail and Daryl are proud of this relationship because it promotes a greater standard of living for them and lovely items to offer at Home Again Farm.

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.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.