Welcome to the farm!
This weekend, we had friends of ours from church over for a farm visit. The afternoon had been more than a year in the making, what with dodging bad weather and Omicron and all the other crazy things that happened through last year. But, Eraldo and Allyson are possibly interested in starting a sheep operation on their farm and wanted to do a little bit of hands-on research.
Our farm visits start with the same warnings: the white fence is electric and it will hurt a LOT if you touch it, this is a working farm so be careful where you step, and we have 2 very large and very friendly (to people) dogs.
Although their young son Yuri was overwhelmed at first with the alpacas, he quickly warmed up to the baby goats and chickens.
And he ESPECIALLY loved our darling bottle baby Little Miss Frisky Biscuit. She even let him hand feed her grass through the fence!
We talked about the progression of our farm through the years, and how we got to where we are now.
And even though we’ve answered variations of this question many times before, it was never worded with quite as much eloquence as when Allyson asked what were the hardest days on the farm? Without hesitation, Brian answered “loading the trailer to take to the processor.”
Easy days vs. hard days
You see, yesterday was a wonderful example of one of the “easiest” days on the farm. It was perfect weather, the animals were happy, green grass is now starting to grow, and the sun and wind are helping to dry out the muddy areas. Our visitors were happy and excited to be there, the animals were super receptive to them, and Brian and I both had slept well the night before and had eaten a delicious and filling lunch! (Don’t ever count out a good night’s sleep and full bellies as contributors to whether your day goes well or not!! hahahhahah)
But the days aren’t always so easy. Our answers were surprising to our guests, though – because selling the goats or ewe lambs outright? It really is ok – we know they will be headed to new homes where they will be loved and cared for. We meet their new owners, we offer tips and suggestions in addition to every bit of our contact information to use if they have questions. Not that we know all the answers! But we know enough to at least help direct them to where answers could be found.
The hard days are when the weather is uncooperative. Or the animals are uncooperative. Or the equipment is uncooperative. Or heck, when *I* am uncooperative (hey! It happens!). But loading our lambs and goats up to take to the processor is always the hardest.
And then the question is “but how can you do that?!?!?!?” From conversations, it seems there isn’t so much as a backward glance when someone raises cattle and loads them on the trailer. But I am guessing the smaller size and stature, in addition to the friendliness of our animals, makes our trailer loading an incredulous concept. The answer starts with “this is a business for us.” I plan to do a post this year to show what happens for us on processing day.
There’s a disconnect between farmers and packaged food
The Covid shutdowns made supply chain fragility very apparent. I remember seeing completely empty meat cases at the local Kroger, and Facebook alerts from friends when a new shipment of hamburger was delivered. But do you know where there wasn’t much supply disruption? The local Farmer’s Market.
We’ve been steadily growing our processed lamb sales over the years, and in 2020 we took more lambs to market than we had in years past. We completely sold out our entire stock of lamb from April to July 2020, and our market continues through the end of October! Although I would like to think it was solely because customers recognized a superior product, I also know that panic purchasing was a lot of the reason. Lucky for us, in 2021 as things started to get a bit better – we were able to retain some of those new customers.
But what is the difference between seeing a live animal on the farm, and seeing a vacuum sealed package of meat? In my opinion, it is just perception. It wasn’t that long ago when families would slaughter a chicken from their backyard and cook it for Sunday dinner. Or kill a deer and process it themselves. Now that we are away from that time and place, and are spoiled by not having to hands-on work for our meat, it’s a completely different thought process.
We love our animals
We share so much love for our farm. It’s evident when we have visitors, it’s evident when we sell breeding livestock, but it’s also evident when we sell our USDA processed meat.
After the answer of “this is a business for us,” I always quickly follow up with this sentiment:
“Wouldn’t you rather eat something that you know was loved and cared for every minute of its life? That was nurtured and protected, instead of just another animal in a feedlot? We strive to make every day of their lives wonderful – and then they only have 1 bad day.”
But some days are really good…
And if you spend your day with alpacas, and dogs, and goats, and sheep, and then end with a climb into the hayloft – I would say that’s a pretty good day indeed!
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