The Story of the Incredible, Edible, Locally Sourced, Organic, Corn, Soy, and GMO Free Egg

It’s almost summer and that means a few things here at the Deck Family Farm — the grass is growing and the farmer’s markets in Portland and Eugene are in full swing. You can find our tasty, Animal Welfare Approved meat and pasture-raised eggs at our booths.

Intern Lisa Beneman chats with a customer at the Eugene Farmers Market

We love the market because it gives us a chance to personally connect with our customers and vice versa. We are always answering questions and sparking conversations about local food and it’s no surprise that folks love our eggs.

We are always fielding questions about why our eggs cost so much more than eggs in the supermarket. As it turns out, the answer is anything but simple so I’ve decided to save myself the breath and paint the big picture here — along with some pretty pictures of the farm.

We don’t have any ‘cages’ or ‘ranges’ on our farm. Just lush green pastures

When you buy ‘organic’, or ‘cage free’, or ‘free-range’ eggs in the store you are the victim of clever marketing and fuzzy regulations. To you, a free-range chicken conjures images of a hen on a lush field of grass with half a million or so of her BFFs laying eggs and pecking dirt to their hearts content. To the USDA it means a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feed Operation) with a little door to a concrete chain-link pen. Their exact definition reads: “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

That’s it?

The sad truth is terms like ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ have been hijacked by conglomerate agro-giants to snare a growing demographic of consumers who believe the welfare of the animals they rely on for three meals a day should be better than a convicted felon. Unfortunately, the only true way to know how your eggs are produced or your meat is raised is to know exactly where it came from.

I encourage you to give a conventional egg farmer a ring and spark a conversation about his “cage-free” operation and I’m sure he’d love to tell you all about it.

In the meantime, let me show you how our eggs are raised.

The Organic Flock is hungry. Everyday we feed them pellets and collect their eggs from the nesting boxes located in the chicken trailers.

The Deck Family Farm eggs that you buy come from hens born and raised on our pastures in the Willamette Valley, 7 miles West of Junction City, OR. Our ladies live on our Owens Valley Pasture, where they have the freedom to roam in and out of their chicken trailers, which they frequently do, and lay eggs in the nesting boxes, which we collect by hand every day. The chicken trailers allow us to move our flocks twice weekly.

Farm Manager Raul Lopez moves the Soy Free trailer from the winter pasture to their new home

The reason for this is two fold — their manure is especially nitrogen rich and we’d prefer it to feed our pastures, not burn them. Moving them regularly enriches the life of the hens as well by allowing them to constantly peck through fresh grass.

We hear a lot of questions regarding the feed we give our gals. The short answer? Certified Organic chicken feed for our Organic flock and soy free pellets for our “Soy Free” flock.

We have two different flocks for a couple reasons.

“Layers need a balance of protein and amino acids to regularly lay high quality eggs. Most people use corn or soy in their layer feeds,” farm owner, John Deck explained to me one day during our lunch break.

Soy in particular has 44% protein, soft white wheat has 9% peas are 23% and corn is just 9%. But corn and soybeans are two of the big 5 — the highly subsidized, monoculture kings that soak up pesticides and blanket the Midwest. Soy is also one of the most common food allergens and many folks with sensitivity to industrial eggs, enjoy our soy free eggs just fine.We pride ourselves on doing whatever it takes to avoid these crops in our chicken feed.

Farmer Girl Shanti Deck perches a young Rhode Island Red pullet. These ladies will start laying eggs this summer.

“If we want to feed the chickens year round and we wanted to do an organic, no soy, no corn feed all sourced locally from the Willamette Valley, we’ve now set ourselves a bar that is really difficult to achieve, “ John says. Owners John and Christine decided to mill their own feed  because it gives them the ability to utilize grains grown in the area, the flexibility to use grains seasonally and it’s much cheaper in the long run.“We’ve been milling locally sourced wheat, barley, oat and pea for the pigs for a long time and we’ve done pretty well on that.”

But including layers in the milling program has been a struggle from the start. Farming is an economy of scale — corn and soybeans saturate the market making them readily available and cheaper than alternative protein sources. Today, fewer farmers are growing crops like peas and barley because the return on their crop is far less per acre than if they grew corn or wheat.

“Four years ago we had an organic, soy free feed but at some point you couldn’t buy organic peas in the valley,” Christine Deck explains. She told me there wasn’t a market for soy free feed when they started asking around. “It was really frustrating because we were trying to work with the local mills and they told us soy just is the protein.”

That’s when the Decks decided to split the flock and scrap the milled layer ration. One flock would get organic pellets, the other would get soy free pellets. But as more and more folks demand soy free chicken eggs, the supply follows. 

The next time you crack a Deck Family Farm egg consider what it took to get to your dinner plate

This year we are proud to be returning to our own personally milled, organic, soy and corn free layer ration. Our solution to the chicken feed debacle is a wet mash the hens won’t be able to pick through and that we can create from resources as close to the Willamette Valley as possible.

“Since we have milk we can use that as a component in the wet mash which allows us to use a little bit lower protein feed,” John says. The freedom to close the loop to your own system is of the luxuries of having a diversified operation.

We can’t thank everyone in the Willamette Valley and all across this big green state for supporting us in realizing the potential of a truly local food economy. We wish it was easier to bring wholesome, sustainable food to your table but anything worth doing isn’t easy. We pride ourselves on being your source for Animal Welfare Approved meat and eggs. See you at the market!

Gardening with the Gods

It’s been just over a month since we finished grazing the pigs in the garden area and I can’t believe the change it’s undergone. Last year’s garden was quite a success and I’m excited to be undertaking a little vegetable production this year in my spare time. All the interns have been a great help in planting, mulching and watering when the spring rains are absent.

The garden as it stood in early March just before the pigs grazed through. Death and rebirth.

Not the same exact angle but still pretty incredible. We planted annual rye grass for Ella and RJ’s wedding in June,
potatoes and broccoli in the corners and onions/carrots/radishes along the edge. Instead of rows we’ve decided to plant in little circular pods throughout the garden plot.

But the real hard workers are the pigs. Those little guys sure can work the soil and it’s a labor of love. I grazed them over last year’s garden for about two weeks and I captured it with a little timelapse video. It’s nothing special but it’s fun to watch…

It’s incredible to watch them as they munch down the old cabbage and onions — they pull and tear the roots and break up the soil with those incredible snouts. They’ll inevitably find some black walnuts to munch on and plenty of earthworms. Happy pigs make a happy garden. Sure, we may lose some organic material along the way but the pigs enjoy a veggie smorgasbord while taking care of our dirty work and we’d like to think they thank us for that.

But where the pigs’ work ends, ours begins. Lately, we’ve been doing our best to carve out chunks of time between collecting eggs and milking cows to plant the early season stuff — potatoes, onions, carrots, radish, cabbage, broccoli, peas, and of course, kale.
Intern Alex Prediger weeds the potato/broccoli bed on a gorgeous day. We were lucky enough to receive a bunch of broccoli starts from our friends at Horton Road Organics.
Transplanted cabbage under a bed of fresh mulch.
After some much needed renovation work and a little sheet mulching, the little greenhouse on the property is ready to house our tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers and (eventually) melons. 
This patchwork greenhouse is made out of straw bales and rotting 2x4s, but strength isn’t the only measure of character. RJ and I framed some windows in it with lumber milled from the property and it may even have doors soon! 
The tomatoes, sweet potato and peppers inside don’t seem to mind a little breeze. I can’t wait to seem them turn this little house green

The onion bed with little baby carrots just popping up. We planted radish as a marker crop but it basically became sacrificial food for the cucumber beetles. Radish fans are sparse on the farm so the jokes on you beetles!
Growing food is a vital necessity for life. We owe more than just full stomachs to our ancestors who learned to work in accordance with the dynamics of nature, to put down their spears and pick up the spade.  While some folks may point to agriculture as the progenitor for great imperfections in our modern world, I disagree. 
In the mythologies of the world, the act of growing food from seed is a deeply symbolic endeavor that unites the duality of life and death — every year in the garden death nourishes life. Last year’s broccoli stalks and cabbage leaves release their energy into the soil for the coming fall harvest. We bury seeds like loved ones and care for their graves with a religious vigor. 
I love the ancient symbology of growing food. I wish our culture was still inspired by the simplicity of life the way our ancestors were. The plants and animals were our brothers and sisters — the mountains and rivers the source of our nourishment.  
But all things must pass. In his great book Eaarth, Bill McKibben argues that this planet is so thoroughly altered from it’s origin, one can hardly call it by the same name. I suppose that’s true. There’s no senses wallowing in nostalgic grief for a time and place forgotten, but in this chaotic, contemporary world man has few sanctuaries left to relish his role in nature. The garden is the great microcosm of the universe where all things intersect and man stands in the center. Perhaps that’s why growing good tomatoes makes you feel like a god…

Spring Has Sprung

“Behold, my brothers, the spring has come;
The Earth has received the embraces of the sun
And we shall soon see the results of that love!

Every seed is awakened and so has all animal life.
It it through this mysterious power that we too have our being
And therefore yield to our neighbors,
Especially our animal neighbors,
With the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.”
-Sitting Bull

This little guy is no more than a few days old. His mother is glad to be out of the barn where they spend the latter part of their pregnancy eating grass hay.

Holy Cow it’s almost April! Time flies when the company you keep don’t carry watches. The grass is green, the sky is blue and that means one thing — it’s calving season here on the Deck Family Farm. We’ve had our hands more than full getting acquainted with all the new faces popping up around the farm and I’d like to introduce you to some of them.
Farm intern Lisa Beneman and I just took this calf out of the barn (pictured behind Lisa) where he was born so we can tag and band him. 

Looks like this little guy was born just a few hours ago. His curly calf-fro lets us know his breed is Galloway and Angus — all our calves are sired by heritage Galloway bulls.  The Galloway’s thick, coarse coat  helps shed the Oregon rain and keep them warm through the winter. Galloway cattle are the heirloom tomatoes of beef — top notch grazers that tend to be less picky than other breeds of cattle, they take up to 32 months to finish but they have excellent flavor and great marbling. As a heritage breed, they are one of the more ancient breeds — their name is derived from the Province of Galloway, a region in Scotland where they were a popular breed from at least the 16th century.

William McCombie — a pioneer Scottish breeder and a delightful old chap said, “The Galloway undoubtedly has many great qualifications. On poor land they are unrivaled, on land so poor our Aberdeens could not subsist upon it. There is no other breed worth more by the pound weight than a first-class Galloway.” Jolly good. 

In a matter of moments, the happy calf is reunited with momma.

Watching them buck and run when they hit what we call the “Maternity Field” is gosh darn adorable.

Just because we feed them everyday, doesn’t mean they trust us.  J11 peeks out from the safety of his mom’s udder.

It’s always nice to see the farm creatures co-mingling on a foggy Oregon morning.

The sun rises on the “Maternity Field” 
Jack is pretty cute I guess. He nurses from his mother AND gets a few bottles a day. Spoiled for sure.

Roro loves the bottle 

Spring is an inspiring season on the farm. New life is springing up everywhere as the winter frost loosens its grip and the sun peaks its timid smile around the clouds. Immersing myself in the calving process is not unlike watching the early season daffodils bloom in the morning sun, only daffodils don’t have yellow diarrhea or fight over bottles like they’re in Thunderdome.

The Deck farm is teeming with life and it imbues the air with an unmistakable energy that glorifies the beauty of the present. Like every moment, every calf is a gift unto us, milk slobber and all, and I feel blessed to be able to watch life in all forms, nurture and grow.


Cat behaviour

2 nights ago we setup our new brooders and placed some fancy wire tops on the back of the brooder to let in natural light and air.  We woke the next morning to find one of the tops pulled off and some chicks missing.  To fix the problem we placed two 16′ long 4×4 posts on the wire lids.  Assuming the culprit would return to the scene of the crime, we placed a motion-sensing infrared camera in the brooder area to see if we could determine who was responsible. What we found was our cat Chorcy, pictured below:
In fact, the surveillance camera took a total of 131 images of Chorcy during the hours of from 11:03pm to 6:51am.    Chorcy visited 9 times during this period staying for 2-4 minute intervals.    The following was his schedule:

Time Minutes Visited
11:03:00 PM 2
11:19:00 PM 2
11:25:00 PM 2
12:21:00 AM 4
1:52:00 AM 3
4:12:00 AM 2
4:32:00 AM 2
4:53:00 AM 4
6:51:00 AM 1
Glad to say the 4×4 posts have done their work and the chicks are safe and sound.  Also, we have a sense of the persistence displayed by a common house-cat.

Moving Sheep

One of the great things about raising sheep is the opportunity to graze them in novel places.  In the last month we have moved our sheep to pastures in Monroe, Root 36 farm (at Highway 36 and 99 in Junction City), and pictured below is us moving our sheep this last Wednesday, March 12th, across the road to Rambling Rose Vineyard.   All the lambs are big enough to follow the lead of the older Ewes, who know the drill about moving from field to field.  Pictured in front is Intern Lisa Benneman and Alex Deck is in red blocking the road.

Hazelnut-Finished Pork — Or How to Make Happy Bacon Happen

“The Earth is not a dead body, but is inhabited by a spirit that is it’s life and soul. All created things, minerals included, draw their strength from the earth spirit. This spirit is life, it is nourished by the stars and it gives nourishment to all the living things it shelters in its womb. Through the earth spirit received from on high, the earth hatches the minerals in her womb as the mother her unborn child.”

— Basilius Valentinus

 The pure pleasure of being a pig photo by Katelyn Black
On the Deck Family Farm, bacon is one of the four main food groups alongside sausage, steak and butter. Before moving on to the farm, I wasn’t much for pork and pork-related products, having tussled with a nasty, unforgettable bout of food poisoning at it’s hands, but working alongside these animals every day will make you admire their capabilities with undying resolve. Transparency is the key to creating and sustaining a market for earth conscious meats, so I’d like to show you how the Deck Family Farm raises our signature Hazelnut-Finished Pork and give you a little background into the makings of a happy piggy.

Can’t beat some fresh hay straw
photo by Katelyn Black
Upon domestication, pigs were bred and utilized for two different uses: lard types and bacon types. Lard pigs fattened quickly and efficiently for use in cooking oils, lubricants, soap, lamp oil, cosmetics and even explosives, while bacon types grew lean, muscular frames from a diet of grains, garden scraps and dairy by-products — feeds that are high in protein and low in roughage.

As technology increased and petroleum-based products flooded the market, the lard hog declined in use and farmers began selecting breeds that could quickly turn corn and other cheap feeds into delicious, pork chops the size of your head. Today’s swine are the result of years of Dr. Moreau-ian genetic selection to suit our desire for tasty, cheap meat. However, today’s industrial pig operations miss out on a few things a pig desires deep down in his/her little piggy heart — open pastures.

A Hormel or Jimmy Dean raised pig usually doesn’t get to see the light of day. Their most valuable asset (their nose) has a ring promptly shoved through it to keep from rooting and their tails are clipped to thwart nibbling due to close quarters. Mother sows are held in gestation pens with little room to move, let alone turn around. Because of this, the meat suffers and most industrial pork is injected with up to 12 percent salt water to make up for lost flavor and tenderness.

Please don’t inject me with salt water. I swear I’ll be delicious if you just love me

“Finishers”  renovating a winter pasture on the Deck Family Farm. Some of these are Yorkshire and some are Red Wattles, while others still are a piggy blend of both breeds. The ‘wattles’ visible on the necks have no known function. They are a characteristic usually passed on to crossbred offspring.
The hotwire set-up. Good at keeping hogs in and interns out. Or maybe the other way around..
Saint Filbert, the patron saint of nuts
Seasoned intern Sarah Gocek feeding out a bucket of hazelnuts to some eager mouths
Fourth down and ten more yards to go. Our linemen work just as hard to get to the endzone, only their salaries are only slightly less inflated.
Every day, without failure, one of the interns tending the “finishers” feeds them several bucketfuls of hazelnuts and bumps the hotwire up 5-15 feet. This allows the pigs to root around in our pastures to their hearts content, tilling the great soil for us and nubbing any roots or goodies they may find below the earth. It’s an incredible process that benefits the pig, the land, the farmer and the pork.
These paddocks were finished by the hogs in November. The pigs worked day and night tilling the soil for us, never charged overtime and provided us (and you) with plentiful pork when it was all said and done. In the spring these will be planted with an annual rye grass and another grain crop providing us with reliable feed for our animals.
I’d like to mention as well that this is our strategy for wintering the pork. Because of the rainy Oregon winters and the hogs’ impact on fragile winter pastures, we choose paddocks for them that are well-drained highlands over soggier, sunken pastures that would be nearly destroyed by the pigs impact. 
For this reason, the wintering paddocks will rotate semi-annually. After the pigs renovate a paddock, we’ll follow with an annual crop such as triticale, turnips or cara wheat to stabilize the soil. The paddock pictured above was planted in sunflower and wheat. In the fall, the chickens tore through it, reveling in fresh sunflower seeds and wheat grain. Most of the wheat fell of the stalk, replanted itself and provided yet another bump of feed for the chickens in the form of wheat sprouts making our chickens healthier than most vegan, gluten-free hippy conform-ovores.
When the weather cooperates, we’re going to graze the pigs through the garden. They’ll knock down all the sunflower stalks and other vegetable matter that would take much longer to compost, till the beds for us, and add fertilizer out the back end.

My Little Corner of the Universe

Shanti Deck and Intern Sarah Gocek feed out the lambs on a beautiful foggy day

Today is the end of my first week on the job but it feels more like
the beginning of the rest of my life. It’s only been a few years since
I got it into my head that I wanted to be an organic farmer and I can
still hear my mom in the back of my head telling me I need a real job.

“It’s time you get your own udder free-loader”
Plenty of people have “real jobs”. Too many, in my opinion because it
isn’t easy to get big-boy job straight out of college nowadays. It cost me $30,000 and four years of college to find out that a degree still don’t make you smarter than a pig but it might
make you just about as ornery as one.

My name is Derek Schroeder. I’m a 23 year old from Wyoming and a fresh

intern to the Deck Family Farm. So far I have learned how to milk (and

artificially inseminate) a dairy cow, I’ve herded pigs and sheep,

nursed baby lambs and found a few dead ones. I learned how to mill

grain, castrate lambs, dock their tails, and that you won’t make it

through an Oregon winter without a good pair of Muck boots. I go to

bed every night with weak muscles but a heart brimming with

exuberance. I’ve been humbled by the kindness and generosity of not only the Deck’s,
but my fellow interns as well and the knowledge I’ve already gleaned from them is still processing in my brain.

Feeding Bambi the day after she was born

But most memorably, I made a new friend. She has long, delicate
features with a soft, auburn coat. I found her before the sun rose
last Wednesday, comfortably nestled at the feet of her mother, Beauty.
Her name is Bambi and she is part Jersy, part Angus, part adorable.
She is smart, patient and always hungry. Most newborn calves struggle
being taken from their mother’s and put on routine bottle meals but
Bambi senses the connection we have with her. She knows that we mean
to take care of her because she will grow to take care of us. We
provide for her as a means of establishing the relationship of
fecundity between the grass we feed her and the milk she feeds us.

We would be nothing if it weren’t for the animals we keep. Not just on
the farm, but on this big, blue ball of chemicals and elements we call
home. It’s the great calling of our race to use our abilities to
nurture and care for this planet in a way that provides not only for
us, but for the other inhabitants as well. That is what initially drew
me to farming. It’s a microcosm of what humanity should be doing with
its abundance of free time and energy – a distillation of the lucidity
we seek, clambering around in our big monkey brains. I learned a lot
in college, but no human will ever be able to teach you what a dairy
cow, or a pig, or a stubborn ewe can: you be kind to me, provide for
me and nurture me and I’ll do the same for you.

I’m sorry mom. I don’t mean to disappoint you. I know I may not have a
real job or any motivation to get one. I’m less than broke and my best
friends are farm animals but when I lay my head down at night my
spirit is content with the gratification that my little corner of the
universe is just a little better today than it was yesterday. 

Lamb+Intern Selfie

Making an appearance in the above photo, in addition to farm intern Sarah, is our own Benjameena Frankleena (who made an appearance in this video several weeks ago).  Benjameena is doing swell with a triple-dose daily of love and affection, and warm milk in a bottle.  

Feeding hay

The above photo was from this morning, Friday January 10th.  Pictured on the trailer are Shanti, Lucy, and barely visible behind them is Sarah, driving the tractor is Raul.

Some items of note about what is going on in this photo:

  • The hay is going from our main barn to the back barn to feed cows on our remote hillside.
  • There are three bales of alfalfa perched on the front-forks going to feed sheep in the fields.
  • Lucy, our faithful golden retriever, is going along for the ride.  In fact, as soon as she sees someone even looking at the flatbed trailer, she will jump on and wait for hours for the moment that it will be loaded up.  She lives for trailer and truck rides.

Sheep plus broilers

Just going through some photos that my mom sent during her visit in October.  The one below features some lovely green grass, chickens, and sheep.  Most folks may feel warm and fuzzy looking at this shot, but it makes me a bit irritated as it reminded me of some low-shocking electric fence that failed to keep the sheep out of the broiler pasture that day.  Typically, we separate the sheep from the broilers using a few strands of polywire so the sheep do not raid the chicken grain. What we were going for is using the sheep to graze the pasture down to a low level so the chickens could follow the sheep and scratch through the sheep manure plus not be soaked through with taller grass and its associated dew.

Feeding the World

I’ve come across the question of whether small-scale, organic agriculture can feed the world several times in the last month.  The argument goes that we need GMOs and/or large-scale corporate agriculture in order to feed the world’s 7 billion people.  Certainly, our growing population presents a number of environmental and social issues aside from the simple measure of how to feed everyone: for example, supplying fresh-water and implications for the planets environmental health.  I offer here some thoughts on this topic, not definitive answers, and only musings that are related to our experiences at Deck Family Farm.  
False comparisons: Better information and networks of small-farmers have led to increases in production using new techniques and tools.  For example, high intensity grazing systems have largely been enabled through the development of better electric fencing and poly-wire that can easily be moved and can easily contain many thousands of cattle per acre and practical to move on a daily basis.  Based on communication from members of a local grazing group to which we belong, ranchers have seen at least a 50% increase in available forage by practicing management intensive grazing.  Are we taking into account advances in small-scale agriculture while we go on comparing food production to advances in large-scale agriculture? 
The network effect: Agriculture benefits hugely from not only government subsidies but from networks of growers working together.  Current distribution networks are geared for shipping food long distances, with produce from Chile and meat from New Zealand appearing in grocery stores where local producers could be selling, and many times when a local option is in season.  In fact, local producers, by definition, do not have the luxury of shipping long distances.  Based on our own farm’s current distribution model, I see a big drawback in the inefficiencies of distribution and concur with critics that “local food” in current practice has a bigger carbon footprint than corporate agriculture.  However, we haven’t even begun to give local food a chance, as of latest counts direct to consumer sales of agricultural products is still less than 1% of overall food produced – we need to build networks in order to achieve the same efficiencies that large-scale agriculture has gained.  
Local economies:  On our own farm, we hire alot of help to work with animals, market product and distribute directly to our customers.  We also work extensively with interns, training the next generation in practical farming aspects on a human scale.  We do this so we can live a meaningful life, have a hand in food production, and attempt to restore balance to a system in favor of people over corporations.   When we look at local producers selling locally, we see a positive economic impact through the local multiplier effect.  Currently, America only spends 6% of its income on food, lower than any other country in the world.   Is it no wonder that rural America suffers economically while cities become more and more crowded? 

Eating the whole animal:  Our customers typically only consume white muscle from a chicken and typically do not show an interest in the heads, feet, liver, heart, gizzard, bones or blood from the chicken.  My off the cuff guess is that these foods easily represent at least 30% of the nutrients of the overall consumable portion of the chicken.  If everyone made use of a whole chicken (or beef, pig, sheep) we would be able to produce much more edible food without changing a thing with our current production practices.
Waste in the system: Grade 1 food selection practices, at least in the United States are overly picky, resulting in grains, fruits, and vegetables being tossed to the compost heap in alarming amounts.  Our experiment in growing flax 2 years ago resulting in a nearly 50% loss in the final product due to cleaning and re-cleaning to achieve perfection.  Is that necessary?  Simply relaxing some of the USDA grading requirements by fractions of a percent for weed seeds would create a dramatic increase in consumable food.
Teasing out the answers to the question of whether many small-scale family farms can feed the world is complex and crosses many disciplines: environment, economics, politics, social welfare, and health. Solving our resources challenge on the planet does not mean we need to blindly accept GMO, massive industrial farms, and sacrificing animal welfare.  Rather, we can look to some of the simple solutions we discussed here, such as utilizing the whole chicken and supporting local farmers while building local economies.  On the regional level we can support building food distribution networks that look for trading opportunities between counties and states instead of countries and continents.  On a national level we can look at where we spend money on farm subsidies and crafting laws that are more favorable to smaller growers.

Benjamin Franklins #1 and #2 plus Benjameena Frankleena

Bummer lambs are those that are rejected by the mother including triplets that can’t be fed, or other lambs that have trouble coping outside for one reason or another.   The Ewes are in full swing giving birth to baby lambs and so we have our share of bummers.  Right now, they’re ending up in the house. Shanti has found some good names for this set of trouble-makers. 

Check out the video for some lamb-action fun!

Rogue Farm Corps Article in the Register Guard

Deck Family Farm and interns are featured in an article appearing in the Eugene Register Guard on December 16th.   The article talks about the Rogue Farm Corps program, which works with farms and interns to provide educational opportunities on sustainable farms in Oregon.  There are many great shots of the farm, which were taken several weeks ago, and feature photos of our interns doing chores.

Screenshot of the Register-Guard Article. Click here taken to the Register Guard site to read more.

Some egg deliveries cancelled for this week

We have had to cancel some egg deliveries for this week.  The reason for this is due not only to lower than usual production due to the winter season, but that most of our eggs were freezing and cracking in the nest boxes before we had a chance to pick them up on Sunday and Monday (when we had the coldest temps).  We’ve found generally on the farm that -8 deg. Fahrenheit is very cold weather for all sorts of things: water pipes, eggs, and people.  The livestock, however, seem well adapted to the cold since they are dry and have food and water.

The photo below some of our chickens surrounding their trailer.  Typically they roam further away from the trailer but during the cold snap they’ve preferred to either stay in the trailer and roost or roam around under the trailer itself.

Snow & Freezing Delays Some Deliveries / Cancels Markets

Due to the snow and freezing we will not be attending some of our markets this weekend:

  • Hollywood Market has been cancelled.
  • We are not going to the Eugene Market on Holiday Market on Saturday the 7th (but will be returning the following week)
  • We are not going to the PSU Market on Saturday the 7th (but will be returning the following week)

We WILL be going to the St. John’s Stock-up market on Sunday the 8th and doing milk-drops and other deliveries in Portland on the 8th.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of the farm from Friday the 6th, where he had temps in the 20’s and 6 inches of snow.  The previous day we had a low of 10 degrees, which for our climate is very unusual and thus tested our outdoor plumbing systems!

Intern Sean Slyes filling up waters in a bucket for our Sows in the barn.
Even though our pigs have shelters, they usually choose to play outside in the snow!

Short Thanksgiving update from the Farm

Folks in the office are busy arranging Turkey orders.  We are mostly sold out but I’ve been told there are just a few larger Turkeys left (bigger than 20lbs).  Call the office very soon if you’re interested.  

Here are a couple of shots to keep you stay at home farmers satisfied with the happenings out here.  The first one below is a shot of our Turkeys out on the pasture, you’ll see some sheep in the background.

And another shot here of the pig-o-tillers at work:

Layers on winter pastures

We just moved our layers from the summer pastures to their winter pastures (up on a hill, sitting 50 feet above the bottom fields, offering better drained soils).  The winter pasture was grazed by both chickens and pigs last winter and then planted with wheat and sunflowers in the Spring.  We brush-hogged the field last week and were left with a variety of wheat/sunflower seeds whole, sprouting, and sprouted.  The photo below shows what the field looks like.

You can see some clumps of wheat that has dropped and begun to sprout following some early fall rains.  Also visible is alot of straw stubble and straw chopped up on the ground… this was left on the field to stabilize the field during the winter months where the chickens and chicken trailers will have some impact.

I’m generally pleased with the outcome of this crop-rotation experiment.  The wheat yield was somewhat low and wild turkeys/squirrels and various birds harvested most of the sunflowers.  Next year, i’ll sub-soil the field since i suspect compaction from years as a sacrifice pasture impacted growth. However, right now, the soil has a nice mulch layer and should stabilize over the winter, allowing us to keep the chickens outside and there is a decent quantity of feed on the ground for the hens, supplementing their usual ration.

Summer update from the farm

Thanks to a grant from Animal Welfare Approved and support from our Credibles customers we have started work on our egg handling / chicken processing clean room.  We are renovating our old cattle chute area for this purpose and moving the cattle chute to a different location, which will also make working the beef and sheep herds easier.  The photo below shows Allie who is working on this project.

The following photo is a just a small tragedy, a cracked mainline.  This has stopped our irrigation for a few days while we fix this crack.

Finally, the cows are enjoying this years summer annual grass crop, moving into this field on July 15th, 45 days following initial planting.  This is a sudan grass that thrives in the heat.  Sudan grass also does well with minimal watering, allowing us to limit the amount of irrigation we need to apply.

Long Tom Watershed Council Project Tour at Deck Family Farm

The Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC) will be holding a tour on Tuesday, May 28th at 5:30pm at Deck Family Farm.  This tour is free and open to anybody who is interested.  Speakers will be John Deck, Pat McDowell (University of Oregon geomorphologist), and Jed Kaul (LTWC fish biologist).  Topics will include landowner goals, how improving stream habitat coexists with the goals of a working farm, how the project improves the migration for native fish, and why the Bear Creek basin is important for cutthroat trout.  

Questions should be directed to Rob at LTWC 541-338-7060 or visit the LTWC website for more information.

View of bridge that replaced an under-sized culvert.

Spring Lambs

Lamb season is full upon us which means we also get to enjoy some of the “bummer” lambs– triplets or other orphans that we care for near the house.  The crew of four you see below provide us with hours of amusement with their frolicking antics.

Baby Chicks and Attempted Thievery

Recently, we received our first batch of 480 chickens.   We revamped our brooder this year to give more room, better heat, and better ventilation.  The chicks seem to love it!  They’ll live in the brooder for 4 weeks, at which time, we will put them out onto pasture.
Unloading chicks into the brooder.  
2 nights later, our wildlife cam caught our farm-cat Chaurcy, attempting entry into the brooder in the wee hours of the morning.