I know, I know, stop the spam- please
Sorry for the long delay in the newsletter…some times I don’t know what to say…and then time passes and I think I should have even more to say. But there comes a time when I just need to sit down and let you know what is going on….that time comes around about every 18 months or so!?!?
We do have plenty of news- so let’s get to it. First off, we are excited to enter the world of e-commerce and have started an online store. We have done this for a couple of reasons….the main one is security. We would like to shift our model from growing to processing then peddling to a new process of peddling first, growing the animals and then processing. We kicked around the idea of a meat CSA or some sort of subscription system but never came up with something that had enough flexibility for the consumer and security for the farm. What ended up making the most sense was a larder system (we still need a better name). A larder is basically a stock of items that you will use over time. The thought here is let us know that you will need 20 chickens for your larder and we will have them ready for you. For example, in a couple of weeks we will announce our first broilers of the season. The store will list Memorial Day Chickens and you can put a deposit down for as many broilers as you would like. This way we will know how many to grow, have the deposit money in hand to off set some costs and you will be sure to have the larder you need until the next butcher date.
In order to encourage the use of this system we will be offering much better pricing online. One of the most disappointing things about farming is the cost of selling. This is one of the reasons we just can’t make SSM work anymore. Delivering orders is entirely different…we already know what has sold and bringing it to the Bend Downtown Market or the Salem Public Market will be a piece of cake. Of course, we will still be stocking both markets with retail cuts- but really hope the online thing works out and becomes our primary outlet.
Right now we have a couple of hog half shares for sale on the site. You can check out the process of reserving a half or whole hog and several ways to have it processed. You can have the butcher do the work, you could take a class and learn the work, or we could deliver your hog whole and you could process it on your own! Check it out!
We have thought a lot about this. This is a long, complicated story and I will try and make short work of it. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has really flip-flopped on chicken processing. When we were going through the licensing process the ODA had a firm line….to sell a single chicken, anywhere to anyone, you had to have a fully compliant and inspected slaughterhouse. Recently, the ODA started allowing the folks to process 1000 birds without a slaughterhouse…but all birds had to be sold from the farm that processed them. Sounds great! But what about farms that wanted to sell at farmer’s markets but do not have an approved slaughterhouse. Enter the co-processor. As a consolation prize to farms like ours who put the time and money in to a slaughterhouse, our license was expanded to allow us to co-process birds for other farms. Okay….except we don’t want to. But others did. Now things got confusing. Now farms without a slaughterhouse could take their birds to a processor and then to farmers markets. But the ODA never got around to writing labelling requirements for processing houses. So regulating what could and couldn’t be sold at the farmer’s market was left to market managers. So, when a farm applies at a market and plans to sell chicken they just have to say they are using a co-processor and then process at home and there would be no way to tell the difference. A tough, difficult, and awkward position for the market manager. And an uneven playing field for vendors. This is part of the reason we are taking a break from the SSMarket. So far, we have seen at least three other processors around the state close up shop this winter. Like I said, messy situation.
In light of all this, we are seriously considering processing birds for other farms this year. While not overly excited about this, it may be the best option to keep the lights on. Let us know if you, or others, might benefit from this service.
Feed- Or what we like to call ‘Rational Rations’
Lots of folks, over the years, have asked about our chicken and hog food. This year we thought we’d bring pre-ordered bags of feed to the farmers markets. You can order a 50-lb sack of Hog, Layer, or Grower from the website. Those in Bend can order as late as Tuesday to pick up at the Wednesday downtown Bend farmers market, while those in Salem will need to reserve feed a couple of weeks in advance.
The Experimental Acre
Those of you who travel past the farm may have noticed a neatly tilled acre along the highway. We have always had trouble irrigating this spot with its gentle elevations and distance from the source. With flood irrigation, we create ruts for the water to travel by which is beneficial and efficient when growing grass but detrimental when trying to raise plants from seeds. Thus the experimental acre will feature a drip line system that we hope will support a variety of row crops, some annuals and some perennials. Cross your fingers (toes and eyes, too) and if all goes well you may see produce added to the Great American Egg’s offerings. . . . .