Monday
Jun272011

Appreciating Where Food Comes From

It wasn't long ago that I bought, with trepidation, my first whole chicken.  Prior to that, breasts and tenders were the mainstay of our chicken intake.  You can imagine then, what a leap it is for me to take a chicken from farm to fridge.  As Jeff posted in Farm Visits, we recently visited a local farm to process chickens.  It was with a bit of hesitation that I went.  Even though I had watched chicken processing videos online, I didn't know what to expect in real life.  I didn't know what would be expected of me and I didn't know how I would feel being a part of the process.  Honestly, I was uncomfortable.  Buying chickens at the local grocery store is much more comfortable.  However, that doesn't ensure the chickens led a healthy life nor a natural one (I've seen those videos, too).  My comfort with the process takes a serious backseat to the chicken's quality of life.  I would rather be a part of the process and be able to fully appreciate where my food is coming from, than to cheerily buy the prewrapped chickens from the store.  So, since I choose to eat chicken, I was glad for the opportunity to be a part of the process of taking a chicken from farm to fridge.  If you also choose to eat chicken, I heartily suggest that you search out a local farm and offer to help on processing day.

 

 

Friday
Jun242011

Galloway All the Way

Laura Looking at Galloway cattle

 

What do you do if you are chomping at the bit to start farming but you don’t have the land yet to get started?  Well one thing you do is you drive hundreds of miles to go stand in a field and talk grass fed cows with someone. Surprisingly, I don’t often see this listed in any of the “stay”cation brochures I’ve read.  Regardless, that is what we did on Thursday when we visited Renaissance Farms in Emporia, Kansas – and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Judy Decker, the main cattle runner at the farm, was incredibly hospitable as she spent the afternoon with us discussing her experience raising grass fed Galloway cattle.Galloway cattle grazing  She has a herd of about 60 total animals (cows, steers, heifers and bulls) that she rotationally grazes on natural forage in the Flint Hills.  Judy sang the praises of the Galloway cattle, which she has exclusively grazed on her farm for over 10 years.  Some of the real benefits she has noticed form raising Galloway cattle are:

  • Great tasting beef that finishes superbly well on grass—no need to back the grain truck up to the farm every week with these beautiful cows
  • Gentle temperament – easy to work.  We had no fear of our daughters being inside the pasture with them.  As a matter of fact, the cows were more scared of the little girls being in their pasture
  • Fantastic foragers – graze well on variety of forages even the nasty, weedy forage the Flint hills is known for.  When the region you are raising cattle on is named for the rock that lays under the soil (FLINT hills)– you know you need tough cattle
  • Hardy in sometimes harsh winter and summer climates of the Midwest
  • Good mothers who calf easily and then mother and nurse their young well – so you don’t have to
  • Moderately framed cattle that lead to great efficiency – these are not the Arnold Schwarzenegger of cattle that need unnatural and unhealthy supplements to be at peak condition.  Instead, these cattle grow wonderfully nutritious and delicious meat on natural pasture

Judy told us stories about how her cattle had been put on some newly leased land a couple winters ago and were able to get an incredible amount of forage from unimproved pastures well through the winter saving her a lot of money on hay, but more importantly ensuring she had healthy cows despite harsh conditions. Wimpy cows wouldn’t of stood a chance at doing nearly as well.

Galloway cattle have become one of the top breeds I am considering raising on our farm for all of the reasons above and because I feel strongly that many of the old agricultural breeds should be conserved – and somewhat ironically – this means we have to eat them.

I have done some research on the Galloway breed and find them to be a fantastic breed for our purposes – growing amazingly nutritious and delicious cattle in a natural pastured-based environment.  The breed originated in Europe 100s of years ago in a place not surprisingly called Galloway, which is now Scotland.  Generations of breeding in this area produced an animal that is very rugged and is well adapted to harsh conditions.  It has a thick coat and deep body to do well in cold weather that then sheds for the summer and allows them to do well in the summer heat.  Galloway cattle first came to the United States in the late 1800s and had some popularity, especially in western ranges, until about the 1960's when feedlots began to take over and America's view of the ideal cow began to change to be better suited for industrialized meat production.  According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy there are around 10,000 Galloway cattle in the United States right now and are considered a rare heritage breed of cattle worth preserving. 

Thank you Judy for sharing your afternoon with us.  My only regret from the afternoon was that we didn’t get to buy a steak to enjoy when we got home.  Hopefully I will be back down soon and can pick one up.

Galloway Cattle

 

Wednesday
Jun222011

Farm Visits

 

One of the things we have been doing as a family to prepare for transitioning to a life of farming is visiting farms that have similar farming models to our own.  It is very important to me that everyone in the family at least have a vision of what farm life could be like before we committed to  changing our entire lives in the pursuit of growing great food for our family and others.

One of the farms that we visited is Stony Ridge Farms in McClouth Kansas. Bernie Antes runs the farm and it is where we have bought our beef for several years.  He focuses on selling grass fed beef to customers direct from the butcher as halves and wholes.  

When we told Bernie we were considering starting a farm of our own, he was very open with sharing the positives and the negatives of his experience with farming.  Hearing this was very useful. Bernie even went a step further and invited us to come help process chickens with him. So that is what we did last weekend.  He raised 30 Buff Orpington chicks for us on his farm and then we went and helped process them.  It was a great learning experience to see how he did his setup from killing the birds, to scalding and plucking and finishing by eviserating and cleaning the carcass. 

I was amazed at Mr. Antes' openness and willingness to help us learn.  He has given a great amount of his valuable time talking with us about his expereinces with farming. I appreciated his generousity.

If you know of any natural sustainable farms in the Kansas City area that we should visit please let us know in the comments section below.

Monday
Jun202011

How do you start a farm?

Yesterday was Father's day -- it was a great day that I got to spend with my family.  In the afternoon, we hosted a family cookout at Shawnee Mission Park.  It was a fun and exciting time - everyone was doing lots of activities.  I was grilling hamburgers for the family and talking with a group of guys.  Someone asked --- How do you start a farm?  The question struck me because it is one of those that the actual answer is often not the expected answer.  The person asking the question was probably expecting an answer about buying livestock, setting fence and finding equipment, but my answer was different.  I said, you start a farm by deciding what your Core Values are.  This will be your compass from the very beginning in every decision you make - about livestock, about equipment and even about fencing.

While it is certainly true that our core farm values are emerging as we learn more and more about farming -- in reality -- it is our core values that are drawing us into farming.  

Synergistic Acres Core Values

  • We want to restore health to people by bringing them the most healthy, natural and nutrient dense food that we can provide.
  • We want to restore health the land by being intentional stewards for future generations and ensure that every action we do that affects the land will make it stronger and better in the future.
  • We want to restore health to the animals that we raise.  Healthy animals make healthy foods so we will ensure that our animals are as healthy as nature will allow. 

Each of these values is quite loaded and will end up being an entire discussion in itself. However, by knowing from the beginning what our values are makes starting a farm much easier.  

 

 

Thursday
Jun162011

Welcome to Kansas City's Newest Sustainable Farm

Howdy! Synergistic Acres is a new farm located near Kansas City that specializes in raising grass fed beef, pastured poultry, and free foraging pork -- or shall I say -- will focus on providing these to people around Kansas City.  That's because right now, Synergistic Acres is a farm not yet realized for the Hamons family.

We are in the process of wrapping up our comfortable suburban lifestyle and moving someplace where we can focus our attention on growing great nutritious and delicious food and sharing it with others.  This will be a major life change for our entire family as we learn how to be self-sufficient and wonderful shepherds of the land.  

Our ideas of what it means to be a farmer may be a little out of the ordinary.  We plan to raise pork, beef, and chicken on a relatively small amount of land by mimicking nature.  Through honoring the animals instincts and capitalizing on the natural systems already present in nature, we intend to harvest food while improving the land.  We will then deliver food directly to local families -- making the trip from pasture to plate as clean and short as possible.  

This is where the name Synergistic Acres comes from.  A synergistic relationship happens when the interaction of elements combine to produce total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.  In this case, by following natures model and using ruminates (cows), poultry (chickens) and foragers (pigs), we will be able to create a sustainable system of production on our farm.  In addition, synergy is created as local and sustainable food is grown and consumed.

This blog will chronicle our journey through this transition. We will share the good with the bad and the funny with the serious -- all with the hope that you will feel more connected with the food you eat each day.

 


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Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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