This Week ‘Round The Farm
I’m so thankful these amazing ladies call me mama
I’m so thankful these amazing ladies call me mama.
At this moment we have over 500 chickens on the farm. A new record 🏆.
Photographic evidence that we do occasionally leave the farm.
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After months of “coming soon!” banners and lots of “how are we going to manage this many birds?”, we finally have Pastured Poultry! You’d think such a small animal would be the easiest of animals to manage on the farm. We’ve found the opposite is quite true, but we’re glad they’ve finally arrived!
When we started our farming journey, our first purchase was ~ 20 birds for laying eggs and 30 birds for eating (broilers). It was our foray into farming if you will. We raised our broilers to eight weeks of age and processed them ourselves. Yep, they’re 5-7 lbs at eight weeks of age. Once processed, we loaded the freezer with some for ourselves, sold a few, and gave some to family and friends.
Why did you stop raising them, you ask? We’ll, part of it was due to the labor. Our birds are raised in mobile houses without a floor (chicken tractors) to allow them to forage on pasture while having protection from the elements / predators. They have to be moved daily which means food and water have to move with them. As a husband and wife team, it meant a lot of time devoted to these birds. Part of the reason was also insurance. Like any business, you have to have insurance (or should have) for unforeseen problems. We found that no one wanted to insure our birds unless they went through a USDA processor. The nearest one at the time was in South Carolina! Well, that wasn’t happening. Finally, to scale up meant a large financial investment in more chicken tractors, non-gmo feed, processing equipment, etc and the amount of chickens we’d need to raise to break even was wayyyy more than we could manage (at the time).
What changed? Mostly, we grew as a farm and learned that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Also, we found a USDA processor here in Virginia (the only one we’re aware of) within driving distance. Put those together, and Pastured Poultry is here!
Our birds are raised on pasture (Pastured Poultry). This differs from any chicken you’ll buy at the supermarket in that those birds are raised in buildings. Being on pasture (literally) means grass, insects, forbes, and so many things natural to a chicken’s diet that are not available in conventional systems. They also receive non-gmo feed as another part of their diet. We’d love to have them eat on pasture only, but chicken today has been bred over the years to put on weight really fast, thus supplemental feed is a necessity for their health. That doesn’t mean excluding their natural diet though and that’s why raising them on pasture is the way to go. We’re offering whole birds great for roasting, parted cuts for roasting or grilling, and back / feet / organ packs for soup and broths. Try out some Pastured Poultry and taste the difference!
Whats Happening ‘Round the Farm!
First off, apologies for the long delay in communications. It’s been a busy summer on the farm and in keeping up with all that is going on, my writing time fell behind a bit. Working to fix that so no worries. Time is flying by this summer it seems but that’s what happens when you enjoy what you do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when we’d like to be at the beach or heading out on a camping trip, but at the end of the day, farm life provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that is hard to put into words. Some days are laid back and those we spend on family outings and hobbies, or starting new projects, haha. Some are morning to night, 100 mph and we’re treading water.
What’s a typical day like at our farm? Usually it starts with waking up to coffee and fighting the urge to hang out in our PJs and be lazy. The girls get a little TV time (PBS Kids usually), then it’s out to do chores. Our youngest always goes with us because, well, she’s three and has too, but also because she loves going. I love her little go-get-em attitude. Our two older girls are now getting an allowance, and farm chores are tied to that so it’s hit or miss. We never force them to do chores as that’s the quickest way to turn them off of farming. It’s always their choice but for the most part, they’re right there with us.
Chores in the morning include moving, feeding, and watering the broilers. They have moveable shelters that are moved daily to fresh pasture. In the beginning, it’s typically once per day. The last couple weeks, it could be 3 times per day as those birds can eat. Next come the pigs. They have large feeders that are filled every 5-7 days depending on weather, temperature, and how many we have. They have a large waterer as well. Some days take about 5 minutes just to check them, and others take an hour or two. Then it’s on to the cattle. We rotate them between pastures to promote grass production and give them fresh grass. This summer has been tough because the lack of rain has forced us to leave them in places longer and give them bigger pastures due to the lack of grass growth. That’s changing now that the rains are more frequent and the grass is growing again. They also have large shade structures (12’x24’) that we move daily or every other day to keep them distributing manure around the pasture. Then moving their mineral bin and they’re done. Last come the egg layers, but we usually don’t address them until the afternoon once everyone has had a chance to lay. They are moved frequently as well via their “Egg Mobile” (Livestock trailer converted to chicken house) so ensure they always have fresh pasture.
Beside chores, there are always fences to fix, grass / pastures to cut, corrals / stalls to build, watering systems to improve, and the list goes on and on, and that’s just the outside stuff. At night when the girls are asleep, that’s usually the time I reply to emails, balance the books, work on the website, enter data into spreadsheets (I love spreadsheets!), and research farm ideas / plans.
That’s our chore routine for the day in a nutshell. Mid-day consists of projects, getting ready for markets on Wednesday (Farmers in the Park) and Saturday (Charlottesville City Market), Wednesday deliveries, and farm pick-ups. Outside of farming, we also homeschool our girls so that happens around lunch time for a few hours a day. They’ve had the summer off which means we’ve had the summer off, but the farm is always providing lessons and we’re always turning farming and play time into learning opportunities. We’re always very conscious to not let farming or work keep us from being active parents in our children’s lives.
Outside of farming and parenting, I (Jason) also work as a Physician Assistant (“PA”) a couple days a week with a Neonatal Practice in Richmond. Lexi works as an RN at UVA and coordinates their Cleft Palate Team. People ask why we don’t just farm full time, and I tell them we do. We just have Healthcare jobs as well and we love them. We’re in a unique position in that we didn’t start farming to quit our day jobs. We started farming because we wanted healthy and responsibly raised food for our family and wanted to share that with others, while still loving the healthcare jobs we have. It’s a balancing act sometimes, but we make it work.
That’s a glimpse of life around here at Longbottom Farm. We hope in upcoming updates to share more about how and why we do things here on the farm. You buy from us because you want to know how your food is raised and where it’s from, and we want to share that with you. We love sharing the farm life and how small farms work, so if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Lexi is also very active on Instagram, so if you love lots of pics and stories, follow us there as well. Thanks for reading and talk to ya soon!
Thanks for following us and allowing us to serve you. If you have questions or would like to share your thoughts, give us a shout! Stay cool out there!
With Our Appreciation,
Jason, Lexi, and Family
Want to pick some Longbottom Farm beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and coffee as well as other locally produced goodies. These are the places to do it.
Charlottesville City Market – Every Saturday from 8am – 12 noon. Now open to in person shopping. There is also a preorder drive through if you prefer to not leave your car. Just go to Charlottesville City Market To-Go.
Farmers in the Park – Every Wednesday from 3pm – 7pm – In person shopping with food, arts, crafts, and lots more.
A great way to stock up on some local food and treats while enjoying some fresh air. Thanks to all those that have come out to support local farms and artisans in our area. Hope to see you there!