Magda Farm Newsletter - July 2009

What's in Your Freezer & What's Happening on the Farm

Firstly – on the Farm… It's Canada Day!
... AND we're sending you an update about the availability of fine product from and happenings at Magda Farm.

As usual, we have had our ups and downs, but in general things are going well. We have instituted some changes on the farm that we are quite excited about. The major one is that we are now using a pasturing technique called intensive management grazing. This involves moving our cattle every day to a new patch of pasture and not allowing them to re-graze the previous area by back fencing. This allows them to have lush fresh grasses every day and is much healthier for both cows and land as the manure is more evenly spread and there is an elimination of overgrazing. We have always rotationally grazed, but this is a step beyond that and the results are amazing. Going into July, in places we have grass up to our heads or the cow's backs and lots more to come.

We have implemented a similar process for our piggies, in that they also have a multiple of runs that allow them exciting exploration and nourishment. Once they have happily rooted through one lane, another lane is available to them in which to forage and the previous one is re-seeded with a fast-growing crop. We are currently using buckwheat for the re-seeding but will likely be switching to rye when the buckwheat seed is gone.

Speaking of nourishment there are two changes on the farm. Though we have looked into removing genetically-modified (GM) feeds in the past we have now found a new supplier (thank you Ahren Hughes) that can provide us GM-free feeds at a reasonable price. We implemented 100% non-GM feeds some time ago for the cattle by removing corn and soy from the ration but this is more difficult for the other livestock because of a higher reliance on bought-in feeds – the cattle are primarily grass-fed and the grain comprises only a small portion of the young animal's diet. The pigs are now consuming a GM-free hog ration and the chickens are about to follow – this week in fact.

In addition, we have recently begun supplying a local restaurant, Borealis, which has a strong focus on locally-sourced foods, with ground beef and have also been receiving vegetable kitchen scraps from them to supplement our swine ration. They, the pigs, are very happy when they get their buckets of kitchen scraps each morning. We also gave a farm tour to some of the owners and staff of the restaurant to explain our methods of production. It is always exciting to us to have people interested in the methods used to raise their food.

And, the final livestock change we will be making in the near future is the pasturing of our meat birds. With this method, the chickens, like the cattle will be moved to fresh pasture every day. Currently, all our meat birds have access to an outdoor run, but this new method will provide them with new, fresh grass each day. We are told the grass can comprise up to 30% of their diet, with the remainder coming from a grain ration. We began building the first of our chicken movers this past week (pictured at left) and intend to start by experimenting with raising 50 to 75 birds this way.

Our vegetable garden is flourishing with the ever-loving care that Vera gives to things botanical. We trust that your certified organic plants (for those of you who have them) from her company, Trout Lily, are also doing well despite the wet and cold start to the growing season.

Finally, we seem to somehow have convinced our newest canine addition, Oscar, that killing our free range layers and eating eggs is simply not appropriate behaviour. He is occasionally of service in moving cattle, where he exhibits a fierceness that only lasts until one of our heifers begins to chase him.

So, that's a brief synopsis of things on the farm.

Secondly – what's in your freezer… Ahhh yes, the final bit of information….. our first batch of meat chickens is almost ready and will be available for pick up late afternoon on July 18. We will also have some soup birds (old layers) available for sale. We would much appreciate distributing from the home farm to give us the time to continue with our many (seemingly unending) tasks to keep the agricultural ball rolling. Once again we plan to have some of the meat birds quartered, but this year will try to use bigger birds for this purpose. Pricing is $ 3.10/lb for whole birds and $ 3.25/lb for quarters. The soup chickens are priced at $8.00 per bird. Our next meat bird slaughter date will be in October.

The swine are fine and (almost) ready on which to dine. They are scheduled to be shipped on July 27 and will be ready about 2 weeks thereafter, after smoking and cutting. Should you be interested, please fill out the attached order sheet and return it to us. Pricing is $2.65/lb base price, with an additional approximate cost of $.65/lb for smoking and $.50/lb for sausages. In addition, if we get significant interest, we are considering the possibility of selling pork in 20 to 25 lb boxes (price as yet undetermined). Because we only have a limited number of hogs available for this butchering, we may not be able to sell in boxes this time around, but would like to know how much interest is out there. We will be producing another larger set of hogs for ordering in the fall (late November/early December).

Finally, we also have a significant amount of ground beef (@ $ 3.15/lb) and some pre-made patties ($7.20 per pkg of six) available for the barbie, plus a few short rib roasts . Our likely slaughter date for beef (quarters, sides, and 30lb boxes) will be late November.