What breed of pigs do you raise?
We purchased our first set of feeder pigs from an Amish farm in NE Iowa. The pigs were a Berkshire and Duroc cross. As we continue to grow our herd from the first set we purchased, our goal is to continue the Berkshire/Duroc cross to carry the best attributes of both breeds. Some of our pigs are crossed with a Gloucester Old Spot/Berkshire cross boar, named Stevie.
What breed of chickens do you raise?
We raise a red ranger chicken bred for pastured living. They have strong legs so they can run quickly from predators, roam the pasture, and scratch for bugs. We also raise a cornish-cross chicken, bred for a larger a breast. And yes, they can forage!
Can farm fresh eggs be white?
YES! This is a common misconception. The breed and color of the laying chicken determines the color of the egg. We have a cross of a white leghorn and a California white, thus a white egg. Their eggs are just as delicious and nutritious as brown eggs. Our customers always tell us how brilliant orange our yolks are and how flavorful they are, in comparison to store bought eggs.
How are your pigs and lambs killed?
Unfortunately, we are not allowed to process pigs or lambs on farm according to federal law. So, we bring pigs and lambs for cuts of meat to a small state inspected facility 30 miles from our farm. We sometimes bring pigs on shares to a small custom processor 40 miles from our farm. We have toured both locations and have witnessed their killing procedure and are comfortable with the job that they do. We ask that they never use electric prods to move the animals. They are humanely killed one at a time, so the next animal does not see what happens. We do not take the killing of animals for food lightly. Before they leave our farm, we bless each and every one of them with a small prayer of gratitude for their life to nourish a human who will use that nourishment to do good things on earth. Every animal is fully respected during his or her life on the farm, and that includes a respectful death.
How big is your farm?
Our farm includes 4 acres of buildings, 10 acres of pasture, and 30 acres of cropland. We utilize every inch for raising healthy, outdoor raised animals and grains.
Why aren’t you certified organic?
We are currently seeking to gain USDA organic certification in 2016 on our 30 acres for grain crops. We are unsure if we will seek organic certification for our livestock. We admire Sugar Mountain Farm and their practices, among many other farms around the U.S who do not certify their livestock as organic. Jóia uses them as a very valuable resource and follows their farming practice methods.
This is what organic means to us:
• Locally produced and consumed
• Use of organic farming methods
• All animals are treated humanely and allowed to do what is natural to them
• Diverse animal species, each doing a job for better soil health
• All animals are raised outdoors in the fresh air and sun
• Sheltered from the elements
• Part of an organic crop rotation
• Fed Jóia Food Farm and local non-GMO grains
• No synthetic fertilizers in our fields
• No pesticides or herbicides on our crops
• No commercial grain based feeds
• No routine antibiotic use
• No added hormones
• No crating
• No ringing of noses, docking of tails, clipping of teeth, clipping of wings
What do you feed your pigs and chickens?
What we feed our animals is a big deal to us. We live by the motto “you are what you eat”. Pigs are omnivores, they like a variety of foods and their stomach can handle a variety of foods. So that is what we like to feed them. As diverse a diet as possible that is healthy and wholesome, just like how we should eat. They get a balanced diet of greens and non-gmo and organic small grains and legumes. Their diet is considered low soy/low corn with peas, lentils, oats, alfalfa, and wheat.
Depending on the season, they also get greens from the garden, pumpkins, squash, gourds, turnips, apples, and other green plants that they enjoy to eat that grow naturally on the farm. They also sometimes get chicken broth made from our homegrown chicken’s bones, eggs and milk.
Our meat chickens eat a diverse NON-SOY ORGANIC grain mix along with all the foraging for bugs, grass and seeds they can find. Our meat chickens are a seasonal animal on the farm and they day-range on the pasture following the sheep in our rotational grazing system.
Our layer chickens currently eat a non-gmo corn and soy grain diet in addition to their bugs and greens. In 2016, we plan to move away from corn and soy and create our own feed ration with small grains and greens. Why, you ask? We follow The Piggery laws of synergy.
1) Almost all small grains are GMO free. There are no commercially available genetically modified strains of barley, rye, oats, and triticale so we can be certain that the grains are GMO-free.
2) Small grains have low amounts of the Omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which many health professionals feel are in excess in the American diet. When pigs eat less Omega 6′s the pork is lower in them, too! On the opposite end, small grains are high in Omega 3’s, the good stuff, the American diet needs more of.
3) Small grains have good levels of protein that are able to be supplemented with pasture and whey, minimizing our reliance on soybeans, which are frequently genetically modified and use a lot of chemicals to produce them.
4) Small grains are a low input grain, requiring less fertilizer and weed control than corn and other summer grains. They also fit well into the type of long crop rotations that we are trying to establish where legumes and manure from grazing take the place of commercial fertilizer and management takes the place of commercial weed killers.
5) Small grains breed true generation after generation. This means that farmers who grow them can save their own seed and are not beholden to large seed companies.
What are your farm goals?
We hope to be a fully self-sustainable farm, utilizing everything with very little waste, and practice permaculture. Everything goes back to the Earth, just how it was intended. We want to practice what nature practices. We want the healthiest soils, soils that can produce and be resilient to the torrential downpours and the month long droughts. After all, it is soil that all life comes. We want to feed the livestock that live in our soils by giving them the natural nutrients that they need and the activity to keep them healthy.
We want to grow, but grow slowly, as to not disrupt the natural balance. We want to keep our animal stocking density balanced with our available land space. Too many animals in a small area can lead to disease issues and other problems.
We plant trees! Our style of farming requires trees for shade and the fruits and nuts they produce. We are currently planting trees every year to not only help reduce our carbon footprint but to grow food for ourselves and our animals. 20 years from now, our farm will look very different from what it looks like now, because it will have more diverse ecology within it and TREES!