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Business changes, Passion doesn’t

Baker's Green Acres Farm - Beyond Organic Michigan Farm

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

So the saying goes.  Did 2017 bring change for you?  Maybe 2018 is the year those changes are really felt.

This year is our year of change.  Our business model is changing.  But our passion is still the same.  You won’t be able to get a pork chop from the online store any more.  Or a couple pounds of bacon.  The powers frown on keeping a freezer of meat for sale without their permission.

HOWEVER, we still have pigs.  We are still ordering chicks.  We are happy to be your farmer!  We can still sell whole and half hogs for butcher.  You can get a whole pile of pork cut the way you want it!  In some cases you even get cuts and seasonings that we, as a commercial business, couldn’t offer. We can also custom raise chickens for you.  They are your chickens; we’ll be your farmer.  You can read details about the Chicken CSA here.

ANYONE CAN FARM: our passion for bringing you good food and good information has not changed.  We’ll continue to make videos, write the occassional blog, answer the phone.  We’re planning a Hog Harvest class this fall, the first weekend of November.  We’re still custom processing your chickens so you can raise your own birds even if the final step isn’t for you. (Check out this post about us doing custom processing, including the kids’ input on the job.)

Mark tells you a bit more about the whys of the change, and how we’re staying the same:

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Little’s Fate: even a used up boar is useful

mature boar, pasture raised heritage pork

What do you do with a mature boar pig?  (“Boar” meaning an intact, fully functional male as opposed to the breed of pig.) We have met people who claim they taste good, but our experience has been that they have a smell and taste that is…well…unappealing.  “Boar taint” is the term for that unsavory taste, and it comes from the testosterone in an intact male.  Cows, goats, and sheep don’t seem to have the same problem, but pigs do.

So, our options were:

  1. Sell him.  (We tried.  No one wanted him.)
  2. Take him to the sale barn.  (We would get less for him than the cost of the gas to haul him, and he’d likely go to slaughter anyway.)
  3. Castrate him, wait 2-4 months, then harvest him.  (We did that once.  One boar got infected and died.  The other one turned into a massive couch potato, lost the “taint,” and made fabulous steaks.  But the process was traumatic, and with only a 50% success rate, we didn’t feel it was a great option.)
  4. Shoot him and bury him.  (Not the best use of resources and a waste of his life in our farm system.)
  5. Make a heck of a lot of raw dog food.

We chose option 5.  The dogs don’t mind the taint, the raw food is good for them, and it gives purpose to the boar right to the end.  Plus, our son got a chance to learn some more about harvesting hogs.

Here is Mark’s commentary:

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You can farm! Order your custom raised chickens today!

Keith moving beyond organic whole chickens on grass in chicken tractors on pasture.

Anyone can farm!  You may not have enough space or the ability to raise your own chickens or Thanksgiving turkey, but you can be a virtual farmer by having us custom raise your birds for you!  Let us know how many you want, and we’ll raise them for you, using GMO free feed and raising them out on pasture just like we always have.  We’ll do our best to raise them to the size you want, whether Cornish, 3.5-4.0 pound fryer size, or 4-5 pound roaster size. You can order any quantity of birds from 5-20 or more.  You are purchasing live birds and will need to arrange for processing.  You can take them to the processor of your choice.  If you choose our custom processing, we will process them as a courtesy.  We can cut them for you so you receive cuts if you want us to, though some fees may be added–the birds are custom raised for you, and you can get them the way you want (though some limitations apply).

Check out your options here in the store.

Here is some more information on how we raise our chickens:

Pasture plus Chickens

Taste the Love, or Why BGA chickens taste better than Tyson’s

You can check out the options in the store.  If you don’t see what you want, contact us!   Here are a couple of places to start:

Fryer Chicken Bundle

Family size Broiler chicken bundle

Reserve your chickens TODAY!

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Farming for Fun and Profit: a farmer’s winter thoughts

Mangalitsa pigs in the winter

It’s been a while since we’ve posted, but the farm continues to be busy.  The winter is quieter, more of a maintenance time, a reflective time.  So, is farming worth it?  Is it for fun, or for profit?  Hopefully the answer is “both.” Mark talks in this video about what we’ve learned about marketing and what it takes to raise Mangalitsas for both fun and profit.

Mark’s been making videos and you can check them out on our Baker’s Green Acres YouTube channel.

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Homestead Hog Harvest

Keith moving beyond organic whole chickens on grass in chicken tractors on pasture.
Farming is a very seasonal operation.

While that seems like an obvious statement, I wonder if that’s so.  Are fresh tomatoes or strawberries ever not available at the grocery store?  Does the milk change flavors or creaminess as winter melts to summer?  Is the meat stocked at the meat counter different in July than in November?  We eat very out of sync with the seasons, as a culture.

Yet, strawberries are only really ripe in June and July.  Beef only marbles well in the fall.  And June butter from grass fed cows is prized for it’s nutrient density.

Fall on the farm: pastured chickens, pastured hogs, hog harvest time

So, now that the leaves are reds and yellows and falling from the trees, it is hog harvesting season.   November/December is really prime time for harvesting, but October is good, too.  The grasses have dried.  The roots are sweet and are very nutrient dense as the plants prepare for winter.  The animals (pigs and cows) are packing on fat and storing it in their muscles (marbelling) against the cold.  The flies, pesky varmints, are gone.  If you plan to salt and hang, or cure, any pork (like proscuitto or coppa), the natural heat/cool cycle and dryness of fall is the perfect primary cure condition.

Harvesting is seasonal.

It’s Hog Harvest time.  We always do a couple of hogs on the farm every year just for ourselves.  We want to scald and scrape the hide so we can use it.  We want to hang a few legs of proscuitto and a few coppas.  We like our own bacon (here’s a quick video about that) and sausage recipe.  The only way we get the pork we want preserved the way we like is to do it ourselves.

We learned this cool skill (how to make bacon, how to make a bunch of different sausages, how to make proscuitto).  We think that if you value the best tasting pork, if you consider food your art medium, if you want to live more in sync with natural cycles and the universe, or if you simply want to know how to procure calories in a tough situation, this is an invaluable skill.  We want to share.  That’s what life is about.

We are seeking folks who want to learn these skills.  We plan to share more on the blog about living well, living in sync with the world around us, and how to eat in a healthy manner.

Farming is seasonal.  Soil is seasonal.  Planting is seasonal.  Harvest is seasonal.

You can watch our videos on YouTube.  Follow our facebook page.  And come to the farm for a class (you get the farmers and the farm for a time, plus the specific information of the class).  Come join us!

P.S.  The Anyone Can Farm: Homestead Hog Harvest class for 2017 is around the corner!  Sign up while there’s still space in this opportunity!