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.

One choice at a time

Last night Christine and I were talking about how we, as humans, in this day and age, use our time.  So much of what we do centers around the “manufactured” and “processed” – tv shows, processed food, paying mortgages on houses constructed with manufactured products, driving to work, driving to entertain ourselves.  The real tragedy here is for our children and our environment.  The environment suffers due to the by-products of consumption – exhaust, and depletion of natural resources.  Children suffer from being educated in a vacuum – learning theory in schools but, in general, minus a feeling that they are really needed by their family and community.  When people have something to care for, to live for, there comes a purpose in life.

I heard a quote a long time ago from someone who asked a teacher accusingly, “Do you think a women’s place in the home?”, to which he replied, “Yes, certainly! and so is a man’s”.  We so often forget about home-based food production, learning, and building.  However, when we talk about what really matters to us, its the simple things, and the things we find in the home that truly matter.   This is contrary to what we spend most of our time doing– running around, driving, and working all hours.  We’re a long way from where we really want to be, but in the meantime, we’ll continue making choices one step at a time… do we eat out or cook a meal at home?  do we stay up watching a movie or do we get up early on a Saturday to clean the house to make it a friendlier place?  At any rate, i think these choices about where we spend our time and focus our energy is really the way to work for peace for all humans, slowly change our military-industrial society, and change the world… one person at a time, one choice at a time.

2012 Farm Photos

Photos say it all.  We had a great year in 2012 and following are some of my favorites from the farm …

Farrowing and piglets took off in 2012.

Elie, Elia, and Ella graced us with their beauty this summer 🙂

Late summer grazing with the land-ark egg palaces and beef herd in the back-ground.

Sunflowers were a big hit during their bloom. The sunflower seeds were cut and fed to our chickens in the fall.

Dog culture is alive and well.  Bear on the left looks on while Lucy and Salim discuss rodent chasing tactics.

Here is the farm staff for a group photo, from left to right: Maria, Lucy the dog, Brigid, Stacy, Tenzin, RJ, Ella, Alex Eddy, Shanti, Chris, John, Chelsea, Matt, and Raul.

Turkeys in the Shade

We raise our heritage turkeys on pasture.  This requires some housing to keep them cool and give them a place to roost.  We created a portable turkey shelter out of an old flatbed trailer, long sticks from the woodlot to perch on, cattle panels bent into an upside-down U shape and tarps over the top.   It is important to secure the tarps well so they don’t flap in the wind… this makes them last much longer.  The space for the turkeys is ample and the cost was reasonable.  The whole structure can be moved periodically with a truck or tractor.

Speaking of Turkeys — as of today, we have some left for home purchase before Thanksgiving.

Summer grass!

The cows approved of our 15 acre experiment this year with Sorghum/Sudan Grass.  We planted this grass, along with volunteer white clover in this paddock as it is does well in warm weather and can thrive in our draught-like conditions typical of Western Oregon for the months of August and September.  
Photo by Gentiana Loeffler, Market Manager for St. Johns Farmers Market. 

Guided Farm Tours

[NOTE: Farm tours have moved to the First Friday of the Month at 10am beginning in October.  Please call before-hand to RSVP]
We are happy to announce that beginning this Saturday, August 11th, we will begin offering regularly scheduled guided farm tours. After this weekend, tours will be held on the first Saturday of every month. If you would like to join one of our tours, please contact us to sign for the next available date. All tours will begin at 10:00am.

Our tours are an excellent opportunity to see sustainable, responsible agriculture in action. Feel free to ask us questions and to find out about the way we raise our animals and produce food for the region. We take our duty to educate just as seriously as our mission to raise livestock the right way.

Come and visit us. Bring your family; your children will love seeing the animals and climbing on the hay.

Contact us and get signed up for the next tour date!

Local Food Economics

I recently was a panel member at a Local Food Economic Roundtable, hosted by the Co-Intelligence Institute, and part of the Lets Talk Eugene Series.  Patrick Maxwell hosted and copied notes from the event onto the web.

Lots of good dialog at this event.  Here is what i took home from this meeting:

  • Impact of local agriculture on young, old, homeless people, and all people cannot be understated
  • Small acts go a long way.  For example, posting photos of farmers market produce on Facebook
  • Need to apply economic principles/studies pertaining to food at the local level, especially accounting for the negative externalities of corporate, multi-national food production and factoring positive externalities of local food production.

Deck Family Farm
Willamette Valley Pasture Raised Meat

Late Spring 2012 Newsletter
Summer is Here!
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the garden is blooming, and the new baby animals are frolicking – it would appear that summer has finally arrived out here on the farm! We’ve made good use of the winter’s remnants and compostables, which is evident in the flourishing of the vegetable garden – potatoes, tomato, onion, squash, and much more.

We are also home to a number of new additions – calves, chicks, and piglets galore! To top it off all this cuteness, we have managed to foster an unlikely friendship between a group of orphaned piglets and the brooder hens, who have all but adopted these little piglets. With so much life and color our here, now would be a wonderful time to come out for a visit and see it all for yourself!

Earthsong Waldorf Farm School
we don’t just have baby animals running around – now that the Earthsong Farm School is getting into full swing, we also have little children exploring the farm!

Upcoming Farm Events
On July 7th we will be hosting an all day event which includes a catered lunch and refreshments. We will be demonstrating how to slaughter, butcher, and package a hog and you will leave with your share of the meat. This event has a limited enrollment of twelve participants, so please sign up well in advance. To sign up please contact Tenzin at
Deck Family Farm 541.998.4697 or by email:
We are also hoping to host a farm dinner sometime in the not so distance future, in which all proceeds will be contributed to a local cause. Details have yet to be determined – stay tuned as the plan develops.

Farmer’s Market in Full Swing
And our weekends are jam-packed! Come see us at one of our many Saturday booths located at the Lane County Famer’s Market, PSU Market, Hollywood Market, or St. John’s Market, or stop by on a Sunday at Montavilla Market, King Market, or Woodstock Market in Portland. We have a lot of exciting new developments taking place, which include a complete revamping of our booth displays. Picture iced “ready-to-go” display tables, new display freezers, banners, and digital photo displays! We have also been working with Cousin Jack’s Pasties to create Deck Family Meat pasties which we can serve at Markets. They will be made available hot and ready to serve at Hollywood Market in Portland beginning June 30th. Frozen pasties will be made available at all other markets. Our feature pasty is a “Steak and Ale” creation, featuring our 100% grassfed Oregon Tilth Certified Organic Heritage Galloway steak and Ninkasi Ale. Yum! *Special: Mention this newsletter at any of our market booths and receive 10% off your purchase!

New Products!

We are also pleased to introduce you to our newest lineup of hand-crafted meat products designed especially for Deck Family Farm by local artisan chef Brad Burnheimer of Burnheimer Meat Co. (BMC). Brad has taken his passion for locally-sourced, high-quality meats and created our Artisan Series of fresh sausages and pâtés, along with cured salami, whole muscles, bacons, and more. We currently have Fresh Breakfast Sausage, Toulouse Sausage, Tesa Bacon,

Liverwurst, and Country Pâté – many more to come!
Furthermore, we are currently offering two variations of seasonal lamb sausage – sundried tomato and pomegranate. Both flavors are wonderful on their own, but also serve well in stuffed mushroom and/or pepper dishes.
In addition, we are now selling chicken by the piece – breasts, thighs, and wings – as well as by the whole bird. Place your order now, and see what all the fuss is about!

Have you Heard About Our Creamy Cow Cooperative?
Now it is even easier for you to enjoy the yummy goodness of pure raw Jersey milk by becoming a co-owner in The Creamy Cow Cooperative Dairy Herd. Becoming a part owner in the Creamy Cow Herd means we will board, care, milk and deliver your raw milk and raw milk products to drop site in your neighborhood. You own the herd and we do all the work! For more information, give us a call at 541.998.4697

Deck Family Farm Takes Top Certification
It is our great pleasure to announce that our beef herd has received top animal welfare certification from Animal Welfare Approved. We were informed yesterday, and

couldn’t be happier about it! We strive for excellence with our animals and products, and it feels wonderful to have our hard work recognized. Get the full scoop at

Become Friends on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter
We are currently working on our social media outlets, and we need your help! Find us on Facebook and Twitter in order to receive streamlined
information about the farm, our animals, and our products. Who
knows – you may even get some awesome promotional deals!

Open for visits every Monday thru Saturday – come see where your meats are raised!! 

BBQ Cuban Style

My Mom sent this photo to us while visiting Cuba recently. No (or very little) shipping/transportation costs involved, no USDA or state inspection, no plastic packaging, the ultimate food transparency, consumer verified, and farmer-direct experience, and my guess is amazing flavor if the farmers took decent care of the pig in question. Now that Cuba is opening up to America, will they be able to retain their distinct local flavor and production efficiencies in the face of NAFTA and the lure of selling to more lucrative (and restricted) markets?

A Delicious New Addition

Meet your Meat: Deck Family Farm’s newArtisan Series

We are pleased to introduce you to our newest lineup of hand-crafted meat products designed especially for Deck Family Farm by local artisan chef Brad Burnheimer of Burnheimer Meat Co. (BMC).

Brad has taken his passion for locally-sourced, high-quality meats and created our Artisan Seriesof fresh sausages and patés along with cured salami, whole muscles, bacons and more. Please join us as we explore the parameters of the palate with these, small-batch delights. We are working together to produce the best locally sourced (from forage to finish) meat products available.

We strive for simple elegance—embracing traditional flavors that let the meat speak for itself. As with all forms of artistry it is a balance and the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, please try these products and let us know how what you think. We appreciate your patience while we wait for our Salami and Coppa to finish curing, and as we develop our packaging and labeling. It will be worth the wait.
–What’s currently available–

Fresh Breakfast Sausage: A simple classic. Use it to enhance your favorite breakfast or brunch. $15/lb

-Toulouse Sausage: Robust, lively and piquant. This sausage has become an instant family favorite. $15/lb

-Tesa Bacon:Italian style, as beautiful as it is delicious. “It’s like bacon for grown-ups,” Chris Hansen, Mosaic Farms. $15/lb

Liverwurst: Those who know, know. Those who don’t, have only to try this smooth, rich and deeply satisfying snack. Spread it on crackers or toast as a delicious crowd pleaser. $8/lb

-Country Paté: Hearty, yet delicate. Savor each bite of this sweet buttery treat, try it with your favorite hard cheese and wine for a perfect picnic. $12/lb
Ingredients:Fresh Heritage Breed Pastured Pork (including heart and liver in Paté and Liverwurst), (Red Wine in Toulouse, Bacon, and Paté),Salt, Curing Salt, (Black Pepper in Toulouse and Paté),(Sugar in Breakfast Sausage), and Spices.
–What we’re looking forward to–

-Dry-cured Salami, Canadian Bacon, Pancetta, Coppa, Speck, Turkey Sausages, Rillettes, and more. The meat will be our guide, and the possibilities are limitless. Let us know what you’d like to see.
–About Brad–
Brad Burnheimeris the sous chef  at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon. Working under head chef JC Mersman, Burnheimer has learned and developed a passion for charcuterie, sausages and all things meat. Burnheimer’s focus on fresh, quality farm products, and his desire to constantly evolve as a chef, translates to simple products filled with richness, depth and brightness.

This year, Burnheimer begins offering fresh sausage and other meats for sale through his business, Burnheimer Meat Company. “We eat for nourishment and for enjoyment. I want people to know that the meals they’re eating are prepared with attention and respect both toward the food, and toward our shared community.”

This is an unusual place…

At a time when Big Ag is trying to outlaw photographing any step of the process of getting meat from the animal to your mouth, it is awesome how open and public the Decks are with their operation. When I’m out there I frequently take pictures to send to my family and friends or just to share with the world at large.
Snow at sunrise, right as I arrived on the farm.

Deck Family Farm has nothing to hide. Because they strive to farm responsibly, there are no dirty little secrets on their farm. They are welcoming of visitors and are more than happy to show off the operation.
And it is worth showing off. The animals are all living as you would expect animals to live. Outside, moving around, being lazy, being playful, mostly just eating, it’s hard to imagine a place where they could really be happier. A couple of days ago, the pigs were running around in the sunshine. They too seemed to enjoy the rare sunny weather this time of year. They are so floppy!
The goats surprised me too. I’m used to seeing goats in petting zoos or at the fair. They are always stinky and kind of dirty. These goats are beautiful. I was pleased by how soft and clean their fur looked.

When they saw me approach, they all came clodding
into their feeding structure. They must be the easiest
creatures to herd, they’ll follow you anywhere.
I enjoy working for Deck Family Farm because I can respect the entire endeavor. I am proud of the work we do at the farm and the impact it has locally.

Holiday Turkeys 2011

The Turkey Story 2011

They hatched out a little earlier than we expected and traveled up the I-5 corridor in a pickup truck nestled together in boxes lined with straw. When the owner of the hatchery showed up, we put the chicks in warm safe homes with plenty of food and water.

As soon as the chicks were old enough to move out to the grass, we set up turkey tractors so that they could safely be moved around the pastures. They spent their lives eating fresh grass and helping us fertilize for the cows, sheep, chickens, and goats who all graze on rotation. This pastured life is what gives our turkeys such incredible flavor, the omega 3s that are so good for us, and puts their waste right where it belongs, on the land to support the next growth cycle.

Pastured life is not perfect, and some turkeys succumb to the weather, others make a meal for raccoons and hawks. Predation is a problem we are constantly addressing, but is also just part of living outside. The fluctuation in temperature and the rain does affect some of the weaker birds, but also means that only the strongest and healthiest birds survive, resulting in fantastic flavor.

Why Pay so Much?

Many of us have to be price conscious when we shop and every purchase is a calculated choice. Here at the farm we frequently hear the question, “Why are your turkeys so much more expensive than the same thing I can get in the grocery store?”. We also hear, “Why are your turkeys so much better than the same thing I can get in the grocery store?” from those who have served one of our turkeys in the past. The answer to both of those questions is simple. It isn’t the same thing.

You will not find pasture raised turkeys in the grocery store. Low price means an economy of scale that cannot be met by grass-eating birds. Federal law does not require that Cage Free, Free Range, Farm Fresh, and Natural, mean that the birds have spent a single day outside or on fresh grass. These marketing ploys are used to appeal to our desire to be healthy.

As with all of our products, our prices cover our growing costs and our marketing costs. Pasture raised meat is labor intensive, expensive to raise, and cannot be done on a massive scale. The difference in flavor and benefits might be worth a smaller bird and more side dishes this year, or a generous gift to your guests.

Stewing Hens Are Here!

From this:
To this:

Our Laying Hen flock has been evolving for the past 3 years and we just processed 260 of our older hens that had stopped laying. These “stewing hens” are full of flavor and make some great soups, shredded chicken, good for stir-frys and salads as well. We’re selling these birds for $3.50/lb starting the weekend of Nov 5/6 at all of our markets. They are about 3 lbs per bird.

Some cooking ideas for these stewing hens:

Chicken and Dumplings
Coq au Vin (if you’re feeling elaborate!)
Bryan Horton’s Basic Stew Hens
Basic Stewing Hen Recipe from

Finally, there is chicken broth & chicken & rice. I’m going to send this post to my loving Mother, and hopefully she replies with a comment on how to make our famous leftover Turkey or chicken & rice recipe! I want to also dedicate this post to our kids, who spent nearly every day for the past 2 years collecting eggs from this special flock.

Pasture-Farmer Guidelines for Farmers Markets

Farmers markets feature all manner of food products coming direct from farmers to consumers. In theory, this marketing avenue supports transparency in the food system, connects consumers with farmers, and supports local food production. In practice, however, these goals often fall short due to ineffective or non-existent guidelines for producers. The following guidelines have risen from our 5 years of experience direct marketing our products at 7 different markets in the Eugene and Portland area. The purpose of these guidelines is to help farmers market boards and consumers identify and select appropriate meat providers.

1. Farmer Raised: Does the farm entity produce its own products, or is it primarily a reseller for other farms? In meat production, it is a simple matter to purchase animals from outside sources and label under one’s own brand at a slaughterhouse. Or, another tactic is to purchase particular cuts from outside sources and re-label under one’s own brand. While this is common practice in the meat industry and allowed by law, it is questionable when it comes to farmers markets that are promoting food system transparency. Can a farmers market verify that its vendors have the capacity to produce the product under their label? For example, a 10-20 acre ranch cannot possibly produce enough beef product to supply 5 different markets in the Portland area (unless it is operating a feedlot). Or, a farm with 20 hens on site cannot provide enough eggs to sell 50 dozen at a particular market every week.

Some market managers may decide it is acceptable for farmers to source product from outside sources. However, they will still want to know what those outside source are. Is this product coming from neighbors with common growing practices, or is it coming from out of the country? What are the standards by which producers are considered if this is a growers cooperative? Finally, is vending preference given to vendors with a more direct connection to their production?

2. Local Production: Local production is defined by the USDA as all aspects of food produced within a 400 mile radius from its point of sale. The most obvious example of this requirement is the physical distance from the source ranch to the point of sale and the distance of the slaughter house to the point of sale. Less obvious examples are the source of day old chicks (e.g. out of state hatchery), feed products (e.g. Midwest grain), and location of further processors (e.g. location of smoker). Further, it is entirely possible to buy live animals from out of State and finish them for a short time on specialty rations in a local facility and claim local. Is this really considered local production? To what extent are local producers favored or not for a particular market? Are the farms’ claims of “local” consistent with their actual practices?

3. Further Processing: Many markets feature vendors selling meat products (smoked, dry-aged meats, food vendors) that are not produced by a farmer. For example, what are the rules about a Charcuterie sourcing feedlot pork raised in Canada, but smoked and cured in a local shop and distributed at a farmers market? Is this a valid product to be sold at a farmers market and how is the actual meat product different than what is sold commercially in grocery stores?

4. Is it Grass-Based: A big question in the meat industry is not just whether something is organic or conventional but whether it is grass-based or grain-based. This matters a lot because grass-based farming is intrinsically local, since it is quite difficult to ship grass (or hay) large distances. Grass-based farming means animals are raised outside, and inter-cropping is emphasized to establish fertility. Grass-based products mean better types of fats as well. While beef, sheep, and goats can be 100% grass-based, chickens and pigs can also be grass-based with grain supplements.

5. Is the farm itself open to the public: Many small farmers welcome the public any day or offer tours. Vending at a farmers market is a form of transparent food marketing and having a closed, off-limits farm (or offering no farm to visit at all) is questionable.

6. Certifications: Organic certification offers the assurance of an outside investigation process into the organic claim itself and greatly limits the feasibility of supplementing production with cheaper sources of product. Thus, the claim of “organic” in the case of a farmers market product can enhance the credibility of any of the other factors claimed in this list. Does a market consider organic production material in the selection of vendor products? Other certifications that enhance the credibility of farms are Salmon-Safe, AWA, and Food Alliance.

7. Economics: Our experience in running farmers markets is that they are only sustainable if average revenue is over $700 per market. This figure will pay for cost of goods sold, booth help, site fees, transportation, and some leftover to pay for indirect expenses on the farm. However, we have found that in recent years, our revenue has been decreasing as additional markets in the Portland Area have been added and more vendors have been invited. Confounding the problem of the glut of meat market vendors is that many vendors have been pressured into cutting corners to produce product at a lower cost to sell more product at farmers markets–and have been allowed to do so by farmers market boards. Over-booking vendors at farmers markets may give some short-term buzz and price-competition but in the long term tend to favor those vendors mimicking commercial producers (outsourced production, imported feeds, and mono-cropping).

Deck Family Farm on Permaculture TV

Tune into the Eugene Community Cable Access Channel 29 on Monday at 7pm or Wednesday or Wednesday at Noon to see Deck Family Farm on Permaculture TV— We don’t know the exact date our segment will air— likely in the next 2-3 weeks but i’ll keep the time posted here once we find out.

I’ll post some YouTube clips of the hour long show on the blog when they come available as well.