I’ve been wanting to write a post about my interest in small scale, sustainable agriculture since I started this blog (a whole week and a half?) but I wasn’t quite sure where to start…But today I feel like the words are just typing themselves, so here it is..
This morning, as I drank my life juice (aka coffee) I stumbled upon this post regarding a learning series called Learning AgriCultures: Insights from sustainable small-scale farming. I know it is focused towards educators, colleges, and vocational schools, but after reading the module previews, I’m seriously considering ordering it for myself!
Although I get great hands on experience here on the farm, having an education to back that up would help eliminate some of the trial and error I’ll have to go through on my own.
One part of this series I find extra interesting is the section on Livestock. I always favor heritage breeds over commercial, not just for their obvious strengths compared to commercial breeds, but because 9 times out of 10, they are more beautiful and far more interesting. That being said, Farmer B does not agree with me. He’s starting to come around, but for a long time his theory was that the breeds we produce today have stuck around because they taste better. Not true dear husband.
In fact, todays breeds are purely based on what grows the biggest, fastest. Taste might be on the list of desirable traits but it sure isn’t at the top. Without going on about the evils of commercial livestock farming (inhumane living conditions and treatment, small gene pools that could be wiped out by one bug, the use of antibiotics and hormones, I could go on FOREVER) I’ll instead focus on the positive aspects of heritage breeds.
Back in the day, when everyone had their own little farm in their back yard, animals HAD to be bred to live outdoors and be hardy, to thrive on the land they were raised on, be easily handled by everyone (because in those days, don’t forget, kids did a lot of work around the farm too) and to taste good. This is also a topic I could go on forever about, but unless you’re hardcore interested in the pros and cons of commercial vs. heritage, I won’t bore you.
Long story short, my goal for next year is to open an on-farm store dedicated to providing naturally raised, free-ranged (for the poultry at least) meat and eggs. I plan on concentrating my efforts towards specific breeding to better that breeds standard, while raising healthy, happy livestock and providing it to the public for a reasonable price.
This year, I nailed down my choices for egg layers-
the French Black Copper Marans, who lay an amazing chocolate brown egg,
the Ameracuana, who lay blue eggs
Another great thing about the Ameracuana is that it has a very small comb so theres little worry of frostbite during our super cold winters.
and last but not least, the Plymouth Barred Rock
This breed is also hardy to our climate.
Next year I’ll be adding pigs to our program. We have had pigs before. In fact for 25 years, my in-laws raised commercial breed pigs. Last year, we had just a couple pigs (commercial breeds) and I’ll tell you, those pigs would NOT go outside. I tried everything to get them out of the barn, even feeding them sweet watermelons outside couldn’t persuade them. The poor things would step one foot out the door and turn back and run inside again. So, I have decided to go with the English Large Black.
These beauties live up to the name “large” reaching between 600-700 lbs for a sow, and up to 900 for the boars. They’re docile, good mothers, and have good fat marbling (which means great taste!) But they are rare so purchasing my first reeding sow will be an investment.
My choice for cattle still needs some research but as soon as I decide I’ll be sure to post it.
I have big hopes and dreams for the next few years as I try to learn all I can about small scale livestock production, and hopefully Farmer B and I can combine our passion and knowledge to increase our farm business and, hopefully, play a part in the conservancy of our very important heritage breed animals.
I could write so much more, but I hear a little boy bouncing around in his bed…time to put my mommy hat back on!