Here it is, February 3rd and we are just getting around to posting the annual update to our “vision” for the year. We have had a few moving parts that we were waiting to line up. We have found that when we put our goals down on paper and share them, they are more likely to manifest themselves. My daddy told me this for years and finally I am a believer. Thanks Pop for this important life lesson. So we are sharing this with you, our people, because we need you. We need your prayers, your support, your encouragement, your kind words when we have a bad day, your shares of our posts and your business if that makes sense for you and serves you and your family well. So here goes!
Chickens; Last year, we raised about 3000 chickens. One year ago right now, we were building our 600 sq ft brooder and purchasing our first schooner. A year ago, we had our first meeting with Grass Roots Farmers Co-Op that literally changed our lives. We are so grateful for Aaron at Grass Roots, Kerry at Natural State Processing and to Christina at Heifer USA for your mentorship, advice and encouragement. We absolutely could not be where we are without you. This year, we plan to raise 2400 chickens. We expect to sell about half of that wholesale and the remainder to our loyal customers through our delivery program. We will be adding ground chicken this year as well. We get our first batch of chicks in March and we will finish up in November.
Hogs: In our first year on the farm, we raised 5 hogs and sold about half of them in shares to some of our best customers. Last year, we raised 17 hogs and sold our first retail pork. Our customers blew us away with the support. We sold out almost immediately and quickly made a plan to raise more in 2021. We had to decide this early because processing dates at USDA facilities require reservations 12-18 months in advance. Thanks to Rodger at Grass Roots, Andy at Cypress Valley Processing and again to Christine at Heifer USA for sharing your knowledge and helping us not only with our strategy, but also with how to handle specific situations with our pigs. We also met Perry McChesney who now farrows our feeder pigs and has been a fantastic partner and resource for information. In 2021, we will raise 90 hogs. We plan to sell several wholesale and as halves and wholes and the remainder in retail cuts. We have about 50 pigs on the ground right now and our first hogs go to process in April. Then our freezers will be restocked at that time. We will harvest hogs almost every month until October. We are already planning for expansion in 2022
Turkeys: The first year we raised turkeys, we bought 24 of them. We ended up getting to the processor with 11. We learned A LOT that year. We learned that the first few weeks of a turkey’s life are the most critical. We learned about temperature and we learned about temperament. Last year, we decided to try again and apply all the lessons we learned. We raised 100 turkeys and wished we had raised more. We did our first ground turkey and discovered that we could sell a lot of it and that we loved raising turkeys. They are the friendliest animals and they are super easy once we figured out what we were doing. In 2021, we will raise 900 turkeys. Our first poults arrive this week and will be harvested in June. We will do 600 of the 900 in ground turkey and sausage. We will have whole turkeys available in October for the holidays. If you want to purchase one, get your order in early because we sold out last year.
Beef: We really don’t have enough land to raise cattle here on our farm (maybe someday) but we are so fortunate to partner with Perry and Colby at Providence Farms. You may recall that this is where we get our baby pigs. They raise beef the way we raise our animals..naturally. We are selling beef raised there this year. In December 2020, we started offering shares of beef and in March, we will be able to sell USDA retail cuts of beef like your favorite steaks purchased from our web store and delivered to your door. The quality and flavor is incredible and most importantly to us, they raise their animals right. We believe that happy animals just taste better. We are honored to offer our customers meat raised at Providence Farms. We are also thankful for Benny at Cypress Valley Processing for helping us navigate those cut sheets and working with us to ensure the best cuts for our customers.
Hatchery: When we started the farm, we knew we wanted to be able to sell day old chicks and eggs of our specialty breeds. We finally have built Chicken Ranch which we are finishing up now and will be host to multiple specialty breeds of chickens that we will breed and sell this year. Special thanks to Scott Stewart in Mountain View for designing some beautiful and unique coops that will be a fun place for people to visit. We bought a 400 egg incubator from Andy, a good friend of ours, and we will place our first eggs in February. This year we plan to sell Black Copper Marans, Golden Cuckoo Marans, Splash Marans, Olive Eggers, Cream Legbars, Appenzellar Spitzhauben, Red Jungle Fowl, White Crested Polish, Golden Sebright and Ayem Cemani. We are especially excited about a line of Black Copper Marans that we hatched from Shane Hardy’s stock. They are beautiful. Steve is super interested in the genetics, so I’m confident that, like last year, he will create some additional new breeds that we can build upon.
We have some other dreams that we are not quite ready to put on paper yet but we are ever hopeful that God will lead us in the direction we are meant to go. We have learned so much on our journey so far and one of our main takeaways is the value of connections. We’ve had support from people like Kevin from The Mighty Rib who didn’t even hesitate when we asked him to try our products. We offered to give him a full sampler but he refused to take anything gratis and insisted on purchasing. He’s now a wonderful customer and advocate. We have had so many of our customers write reviews, share Facebook posts and tell their friends about us. We are ever grateful. We are thankful for organizations like Heifer, Grass Roots, Cypress Valley and Natural State who support small farmers. We have been blessed to be a part of several online groups where we have generated business. The best for us has been Arkansas Farmers for the People on Facebook. If you don’t follow them, you should.
We are thankful for St Joseph’s Farm stand for carrying our products and we look forward to our continued relationship. We are also excited about a new partner, Me and McGee, who will be carrying our products in their market and serving it in their food truck, The Southern Standard. Their level of transparency and willingness to work with us gives us hope for the future of small farmers.
We are thankful for family and that we have all survived this pandemic. I’ve never gone this long without a hug from my mom and dad. I hate Covid but we are hopefully on the back side of it and I can’t wait for big family meals and lots of hugs. We also can’t wait to open the farm up to the public. We have high hopes for the summer and mark your calendars for the big Hootenanny on October 30th featuring David Adam Byrnes.
Our mission was, and will continue to be to bring joy by sharing our life here on the farm. We will continue to actively engage on social media. We expect to continue doing Goodnight Goat, our weekly storytime for the kids. And we WILL launch our YouTube channel.
The other night we were sharing some of our future dreams with my parents, who have been our biggest supporters this year, and my mom closed out the conversation with this thought, “What I am looking for is looking for me”. We believe we are right where we are supposed to be and we look forward to this year of growth and connection. We appreciate your continued support and can’t wait to get to work today!