If there's one thing that no one tells you when you start and operate a farm, it is that you need more hours in a day! Unfortunately, blogging doesn't always come out at the top of the list and I apologize for not keeping everyone updated. With it being summer time, I have been trying to spend a lot of time outside with the kids and on top of farm chores, renovating the house, marketing, etc, I don't have time for the computer. Unless it's 2am like it is now - yikes lol.
Since the last time I wrote a blog - 2 months ago - we have come SO FAR! We have harvested our first batch of Cornish Cross chickens, and they are absolutely delicious! They were beautiful naturally grown birds. On the left, I've posted a pic of one of our Cornish Cross and one of our Freedom Rangers. On our very first blog post, I used stock photos from our hatcheries website because our birds were just tiny babies... I might be a little biased, but our birds that we grew look amazing in comparison!
We are about to process our first batch of Freedom Rangers, and I'm sure that they will be amazing as well. I find that they have a "chicken-ier flavor" - the meat is definitely more flavorful - and I am excited to throw some of them on the grill for the 4th of July! The next batch of Cornish Cross is currently out on the field alongside of our ready to harvest Freedom Rangers as well... They're eating grass, bugs, and loving the sunshine; enjoying chicken life and growing as nature intended. Our pasture looks amazing after being completely covered by chicken manure from the first round of birds! It's SO green and I am so proud of it! (It's the photo on the home page). A little patchy, but we'll fix that as we pull the next round of birds through. I can't wait to clear more of our overgrown pastures and run more chickens through to revitalize all of our land. We plan on utilizing the KuneKune pigs to help us clear the land as well - everything has a job on our farm!
I have several whole Cornish Cross chickens left in the freezer at the farm that we need to move ASAP to make room for the Freedom Rangers as soon as possible. The Cornish were a bit bigger than I anticipated at 7-8lbs each and are taking up a bunch of space - a good problem to have I guess? So please place your orders today! Message, call, text, email, whatever works for you! I have a card reader through PayPal - it's this cool little gadget called Zezzle - so I can take credit cards now. And if I don't answer my phone - or you hear a tiny little voice - it's because one of my kids has snagged it and I apologize in advance. Keep calling please lol. Bulk orders (3 or more chickens) will receive a 20% discount while supplies last to get these birds moving.
My butchering skills (eek, never thought I'd say that!) are coming along, and I am pretty handy at parting out a chicken now. The wings are by far the hardest part - if yours look a little wonky give me grace - I promise they'll still be delicious but I'm not a machine! Our farm will be offering chickens parted out into breasts, thighs/leg quarters, wings, and everything else leftover (necks/carcass) for bone broths!
We have been expanding and have added KuneKune pigs, Ameraucana egg laying chicks, and Guinea Fowl to the farm. We have also hatched some itty bitty Quail chicks (my sisters project)! Our KuneKune pigs will be old enough to come home in just a few short weeks, and we are incredibly excited to add them. The Guinea Fowl continue to roam the lawn in our tractor, as we are trying our best to keep them ON THE FARM. We have not had a lot of success with this with a few adults that we rehomed to our farm, and I've heard it's pretty impossible unless you clip their wings (which I'm simply not willing to do with our predator load at the farm, it seems so cruel!)
So we are looking for a farmers market... A lot of the markets seem saturated with meat producers already, and I'm a little late to the application process to be honest. So if you run a market, have been to a market where there isn't any poultry, or just think you know where we'd be a good fit - please let me know!
If you've reached this far, I'm so glad you're invested in our farm journey. Please let me know how I can help you! I know a lot of farms offer tutorials, checklists, planners, etc... What can I offer to you that would be helpful for you in your day to day life?
Til next time!
The lack of blog posting has been due to us absolutely working our butts off! We have been building chicken tractors, and researching, ordering, and putting up solar powered electric fencing (bears, raccoons, coyotes, etc will get zapped by strong fence and stay away!) We have also been planting our seedlings and getting ready for the garden. We are simultaneously trying to work on the farmhouse and clean it out, to make it livable before this summer when we are scheduled to move in! Unfortunately this leaves very little down time for me to sit and write a blog (add in a 2 & 5 year old who need constant attention too). I need to schedule time to blog in the future -- sorry folks!
We are going to be building a greenhouse in the upcoming week or two, once all four chicken tractors are built and up and running. This will turn into our brooder house as well, as the current building just doesn't have the best air flow and isn't the best location for the chicks. The greenhouse will be next to our garden, which will make it immensely easier to move the chicks compost into the garden. I will do my best to post a video of this, and will most definitely post photos! We will also be processing our first batch of Cornish Cross broilers during the last week in April! We are so excited to finally show everyone our final product, and also have everyone taste the difference of a homegrown natural pastured chicken!
Even though all of this has been a huge undertaking, I am loving that my kids get to see how their food is grown. They are growing an appreciation for the amount of work it takes to get something from the farm to the table. They are spending so much time outside exploring as we are cleaning up the house and outbuildings, taking care of the chickens, building the tractors and different structures... They're really living their best life and I'm so thankful that we've been given this opportunity.
Freedom Ranger chicks in the brooder, almost ready for pasture... fresh grass, bugs, and sunshine!
Part of the process! Chicken tractor sides, and hardware cloth ready to get stapled on.
Zander & Zoelle exploring the woods, finding treasures to bring back to me.
We have been working super hard on the farm to get ready for the chicks! We have been doing a lot of cleaning up. I've been working on a lot of research, compiling information, and finishing business related tasks. We have ordered lots of seeds for the vegetable garden, and ordered lots of equipment. I plan on vlogging while we build the brooder this upcoming week. We decided to go with brooder heat plates that the chicks can climb under to stay warm. I've read so many things that say heat lamps are dangerous and I just couldn't risk it by using it as a heat source. We looked into propane powered canopy heaters that hang above the brooders, but they consume such a huge amount of propane that we just would not be able to justify the cost.
Along with the brooder heaters, we will be using an automatic PVC waterer system with RentACoop cups to provide constant fresh water for them. Typical waterers end up full of woodchips within minutes in brooders. We will be keeping them in the brooder for about 3 weeks, and then placing them out on pasture so they will have access to all of the fresh grass and bugs that they can eat.
We will be using a Justin Rhodes style "chick shaw" to provide them protection from the sun and the rain, along with a high powered electric solar poultry netting fence to keep them in the area they need to be in and all of the predators out.
Behind the scenes, I have been getting all of the business tasks done and the farm up and running. We obtained an EIN and a bank account. I have been creating spreadsheets, budgeting, researching the best options for organic/non-GMO feed, researching fences, processing equipment, etc. Most recently, I have been working on paperwork in order to obtain a farm number and an agricultural evaluation that will lead to USDA farm grants and assistance to help us fulfill our Regenerative Agriculture journey. I'm thankful for farmraise.com and their app that has been helping me apply for grants and keep track of my expenses on their app FarmRaise Tracks.
Not one. Not ten. Not twenty... I bought 200 chickens tonight, y'all. 100 Freedom Ranger Broilers and 100 Cornish Cross Broilers.
I thought my 26 egg layers was a high number. Nope!
I was researching breeds and prices of broiler chickens tonight for our pasture poultry program, and discovered that they are being bought up QUICK. Like some places are sold out until July quick! I had to make some quick decisions...
I did a lot of research on breeds, food, prices, and then saw which hatcheries semi-close to us had availability for the breeds that I wanted. I was pretty limited... It seems like NYS has no hatcheries for broilers! I went with two different hatcheries in PA. I'll be getting these birds in Late February/Early March, so I wanted to make sure they'd be in the mail for as little time as possible.
First I decided to go with Cornish Cross. They provide lots of meat, but they're kind of lazy and they're not the best grazers since they are bred to grow quickly. They are a cross between a White Plymouth Rock and a Cornish Hen, giving the visually appealing look of the Cornish and the large size of the White Plymouth Rock.
Freedom Rangers are a cross between four heritage breeds, and grow at a little slower of a rate than the Cornish Cross. They say they're super energetic and great foragers (which is good - I want them to eat every tick in this pasture!) Plus, I wanted some variety, so I decided to go with them!
Now to research their feed and put it together... If I can't find an appropriate feed, I plan on researching all of the ingredients and ordering them separately from an organic supplier and putting them together myself. I've been wanting to do this for my egg layers anyway.
What a few days it has been!!! I have been doing research since the end of last year about becoming a business, and did not know whether to become an LLC or a corporation. There is hardly any information online! So, I did what I always do... I wing it! I pieced together information from Google searches, tried to navigate the NYS website as best as I could, and talked to one of my friends who has a business background. In the end, we decided to become an LLC, since it is the least difficult option - especially tax wise - and offers the same protections as all of the more difficult options (when we surpass $40k in income, we will become a corporation). So I filed online and submitted the application. Zan & Zoe Farm Co. LLC. officially became a business on 1/23/23. Kind of a cool date too!
How to become an LLC in NYS? Something I wish someone would've typed up for me...
1. Come up with a name, search the name, make sure that that name doesn't exist with the secretary of state (google "secretary of "NY" business name search" and it'll come up), and that no one else has any connection to it.
2. File the Articles of Organization with the NYS gov website. $200. There's a thing called a registered agent on there - you can be your own as long as you don't mind the world knowing your address. But - your probably going to advertise your business address anyway, right? You can hire a bunch of places to do it for you, but I didn't feel the need. Several websites tried to scare you about the cost of publishing (step 3) to get you to assign them as the registered agent and pay them, but I decided to email newspapers and get prices myself - they're all crazy.
3. Publish your Articles of Organization in one weekly and one daily newspaper that is distributed in the county where your registered agent (yourself, unless you assign someone else) resides for SIX WEEKS. The daily newspaper was $65, and the weekly newspaper was $35. NOT the $1500 the websites suggested! But a newspaper... how antiquated y'all! NY is one of three states who still requires this.
4. After the newspapers run your publication for six weeks, they'll send you an affidavit. You have to send this affidavit to the state.
5. They also suggest that you come up with an operating agreement for your business... I'll get around to this, but I don't think I'm going to do it right away. There are lots of templates online though!
It truly wasn't very difficult, but the anxiety that the internet caused made it way more difficult.
We became an official business! An LLC!