Friday, June 14, 2013

A Full Belly Experience

Wrapping up their unit on farms and farm workers rights, my son's class took an end of the school year camping trip to Full Belly farm. This was my first visit and, oh, was there ever so much to see.  Full Belly is a 300 acre working organic farm in Guinda, CA, started 30 years ago by a Mom and Pop.  They are known to most east bay area foodies for their popular CSA boxes and their flourishing farmer's market stands.

Over the two days we were at Full Belly I captured some pics of what peaked my interest the pastured poultry set-up that runs through the orchards. 

I appreciated the effort they are making to transition out of imported feed and grow all their own grain and hay for their livestock.  

An educator explains the different sprouted grains fed to the flock, particularly milo.

Bottle feeding the bummer lambs was the favorite activity
The combine harvester was, might I say, p-r-e-t-t-y cool!  There must be some country girl in me because I get really excited about farm equipment.  This massive beast both harvests the grain heads and threshes them, then makes a second pass through the field cutting the stalks and baling them into hay.  The farmer was kind enough to allow one of the girls in our group to drive.  

Acres of golden barley, wheat, and milo
The most exciting event over the course of the stay was having the children package 300 CSA boxes.  They made an assembly line and went to town putting together boxes and packing lettuce, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and more.  These boxes were particularly special since the next morning they would be delivered to our school drop spot!

Finished boxes ready to be loaded for delivery
New silos for grain storage
Fodder tray system sprouting grain for livestock

The Full Belly educators emphasized the importance of treating farm workers fairly.  For them this means employing their workers year round, providing full benefits, and having a policy where all workers can take home as much produce as they like for free each day.  Below the drying room stores the gorgeous remnants of the flower harvest. This room was created for the women who harvest flowers to extend their jobs year round into the winter.  The flower ladies craft bouquets and wreaths from the perfectly dried harvest.  

It was spectacular to get an inside view of Full Belly!  I feel challenged and inspired to scale down some of the new ideas I took away and implement them here on our few acres.  It was also so valuable for my son to see that we are not the only ones who do so many of the things we do.  Making butter from your own cow's cream is actually not such a strange thing after all!  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meat Chickens and Integrative Pest Management

meat chicken set-up under the walnut tree

We have a serious mob of broilers that we've been raising under the huge English Walnut next to the barn.  Trying out some integrative pest management, our goal is to have the meat chickens scratch and peck all the insects around and under the tree.  This particular walnut has been infected with the walnut husk fly for the last several years.  Each year the tree produces an amazingly prolific amount of fruit which looks healthy and ripe on the outside but on the inside is a black mush.  Our hope is that these ravenous birds will stop the cycle of the husk fly by eating all the larvae which burrow into the ground to pupate.  This season we are raising both Cornish X broilers and heirloom French Freedom Rangers.  It has been interesting comparing the two breeds.  The Rangers are true to their names in that they are better foragers but we have found the Cornish X to be pretty good foragers too, especially when we don't give them free access to layer pellets.  In three-four weeks they have taken waist high grass down to dust.  We feed them once in the morning and let them hunt around for the rest of the day.  Their growth rate is a bit slower this way but the feed bill is much lower and the birds seem healthier.  We have also been mixing in about a gallon of whey each day into their feed making a sort of mash, as well as, feeding sprouted grains such as wheat berries, oats, and milo.  They definitely seem to like the extra protein.   Can't wait to see if we get some viable walnuts this year!