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.

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!!