About 15 minutes north from where we live, in the middle of beautiful green rolling hills lies a farm whose values about the land and animals are right on point for what I believe in. Tara Firma Farms is the name and their slogan is “Grow the mind to grow the soil to grow the food that strengthens the community.” To have a slogan like that is an easy indicator that they truly care about what they do. They are the only farm I have found who does not feed their chickens soy. To me, that is one of the most important qualities a poultry farmer should have. We use a lot of eggs in our household and soy is something I try to keep my family away from.
Sustainable farms usually have free farm tours because they are proud to show you how they farm. Most industrial farms will only allow an inspector to visit their farm for short periods of time. Never will you find an industrial farm welcoming people to come visit. They probably know that if people came to see the nasty, unhealthy, unnatural living conditions they would immediately lose business especially since word of mouth travels fast.
|Daddy & Andrew waiting for the tour to start|
Ever since I found out Tara Firma Farms does free farm tours I’ve been urging and hounding my husband to go- plus I thought it would be fun for Andrew to see all the animals. I think it’s important to start teaching and showing him how to appreciate the animals that will end up feeding his little belly. It’s good for him to see animals out in their natural habitats- the way they should be! I believe this will help build the fundamentals in which he will live by. I want Andrew to grow up knowing how important it is to treat every thing with respect and gratitude and which of course includes the food he eats.
That being said, we FINALLY got to go on the farm tour yesterday and what a beautiful day for a tour it was! It was a nice little group of about 10 people and we started off by all saying why we decided to visit the farm. Then we headed off to the first little shed where they kept their little chicks! They were sooo cute!
|little boy getting to hold the chick 🙂|
We then headed off towards the back side of the farm and walked a dirt path in search of the cattle. They use a rotational grazing pattern which means they rotate the cows to new grass to graze every few days. This is a very intensive type of farming as you can imagine having to round up around 80 cows 3-5 days and guiding them to a new patch of grass (about an acre of land). They do this so the cows only eat the tops of the grasses which helps regenerate the grass into a more lush field and prevents overgrazing. Not only that, the newer grass is higher in nutrients and easier to digest! Rotational grazing also offers benefits to the land because of reduced waste, better distribution of manure, longer grazing seasons and reduced weeds! More time being able to ruminate on grasses means less time supplementing their diets with grain. Less grain = healthier, nutrient dense meat. Unfortunately, the cows weren’t very visible so we made our way to the chickens.
One of the cool things I’d like to add about Tara Firma Farms is they use a slaughter house that is only about a mile from where the farm is. They believe in keeping the cows as calm as possible. You can only imagine how a distressed a cow can be traveling to a slaughter house 5 hours away in a confined space on a truck with a bunch of other cows. You can actually taste the difference between a cow who has been distressed and a cow who has lived the remainder of the lives peaceful and in a calm state. They also don’t keep their cows in any kind of feed lot prior to the slaughtering process. This is also another way of keeping the cows calm.
|heading to the chickens|
The chickens are also on a 3-5 day rotational type grazing pattern. Once the farmers move the cows to a different pasture, they then move the chickens onto the pasture the cows were previously on. This lets the chickens eat the bugs out of the manure to help with the fertilization process. As you can see in the photo, they use these mobile houses for a place to lay the eggs and for shelter. Chickens are meant to be in the sun light and munch on bugs so as you can see, this is the best method of farming for both chicken and farmer. They don’t really worry about the chickens wandering off because they like their home and the sense of protection it gives them. The volunteer who was giving the tour stated the chickens laid about 1 egg a day. She also mentioned the chickens we were looking at were only for laying eggs as the chickens that were farmed for meat were in a different mobile coop. The cool thing is most of the egg laying hens they had were heritage breeds and were taken from shelters.
After the chickens we went on to the pigs. My goodness, they were so cute! I got a couple of great photo opportunities because they hurried over to me once they saw I was super close. Unfortunately because I was more focused on taking photos of the pigs I wasn’t really listening to what she had to say about them. One thing I do remember her saying is they used the pigs as help for removing rocks out of the area they wanted to garden in. Pigs like to uproot rocks which makes the farming easier for the people working. They also try to keep the pigs socialized and happy.
We walked back to the farm store where they showed us the room they use to keep all the CSA boxes. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In tomorrow’s blog I will be talking more about CSAs.
All in all I was extremely happy we finally made it to the farm. Obviously just by their slogan you can tell they are passionate about what they do but it’s always nice to be able to ask questions directly and see first hand what type of sustainable methods they use. We signed up to be CSA members and we can not wait to start getting meat delivered to us!
If you can, I encourage you to go on a local farm tour! It is fun for the whole family and there is so much to learn.
Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul