Last Thursday, Bowers Farm had the honor and pleasure to host Rev. Dr. Faustin Mahali from Tumaini University Makumira and the South Western Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. The ELCA SC Synod has a partnership with the South Western Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. It is one of our three Companion Synods.
Faustin is here in South Carolina for a few weeks and was very interested in seeing local farms on his visit. In the beginning he talked about how he had seen that farms in the US are filled with large mechanizations to help them run. What was so beautiful about his visit to Bowers Farm was he quickly realized that's not what we use here. How we raise our animals is easily replicated with minimal materials. It's all about keeping it natural and simple and keeping it healthy for the earth, the animal, and the human - all of God's creation! And God saw that it is good!
This past weekend my wife and I along with two of my cousins attended the Mother Earth New Fair in Asheville, NC. It was amazing! I have to give a huge thanks to Brad and Dana from Gypsy Wind Farms for inviting us to go to the expo and for hooking us up with free passes.
Mother Earth News started in 1970 as a magazine that embraced the revived interest in the back-to-the-land movement with a combined interest in the ecology movement and self-sufficiency. Mother Earth News sponsors 6 fairs in locations around the United States including Asheville, NC. This was only the third year that Asheville has hosted the fair and it was great to see how many people attended. The fair had areas dedicated to sustainable living, renewable energy, livestock conservancy, homesteading, cooking, and much more. There were more than 150 workshops from the leading authorities on organic gardening, food preservation, homesteading and livestock, green building, and natural health. Vendors and exhibitors were there from all over the country to show off their newest items.
There were more than just farmers at the expo. In fact I would venture to say that the farmers that were in attendance were actually a minority group. There were people interested in sourcing more sustainable home products including their food, people wanting to learn more about the environment, people that are considered foodies, chefs and home cooks, and many more. We found it very nice to be surrounded by such an incredibly diverse group of people and know that there are so many people in this region that took the time to attend this fair. It was encouraging to know that so many people are interested in these things.
Well, enough about the background and more about what our take away was. I have realized that sometimes even though I know farming is my passion and my mission in life, it gets hard. We lose animals and things don’t always go as planned. We feel beat up and pushed down. Sometimes it is just hard to get up and farm not knowing if the market is there, not knowing if we will be able to sell all of our products. That is when we need a little pick me up and that is exactly what I got this weekend!
We attended workshops all day Saturday and Sunday and listened to many keynote speakers. All of the presentations were great, but there were two keynotes that really got me excited. Of course one of them was Joel Salatin. He is the man! He is an inspiration to so many all over the world. There were people from all over the area that came to hear him speak. He has always been a huge inspiration to me and is one of the reasons that I ventured into the Grass Farming and the Local Food Movement. I always knew that I wanted to do something with raising animals, but I also knew I didn’t want to be a conventional farmer. I didn’t want to add to the world’s problems. I wanted to raise animals humanely and without the many additives that conventional farms give animals now days. Salatin tells people how to farm the ethical and right way!
This weekend his first presentation talked about Salad Bar Beef, which is one of the main things that we are trying to expand on at our farm. We are also working on expanding our sheep flock as well and that falls right in with the Salad Bar Beef. He talked about movement and coordination. He talked about timing and rest, which we could always use a refresher on. He talked about anyone can throw a few cows out on pasture, but if you don’t work on the management of the cows and the farm that you aren’t helping the environment out. One quote he used about this was, “Land development with redemptive capacity” and that really speaks to what we try to do. We try to make our land better than when we first received it. We try to increase the amount of species that can thrive on it and the water retention that it has. We keep the cows and sheep moving to mimic nature and the herbivores that are always on the move in the wild. We were reminded that one of the main reasons we raise herbivores is because, “the herbivore is one of the best land healers on Earth!” We want to heal the land and in doing so produce the most amazing meats that we can so we eat healthy meats and in turn become healthier humans.
His second workshop was about Benchmarks of Truth and the questions we should all ask ourselves before we venture into the next business model. He talked about making sure that our decision is going to be the best for the environment. We took extensive notes on this workshop, but we know you don’t want to read through our notes. Just know we will be making these notes a permanent part of our business plan and we will reference them very often.
The second person that really excited us at the expo was Meredith Leigh. She is a butcher in the Asheville area and she talked us through the process of cutting up a lamb. We talked about the highly sought after cuts as well as the ones that most people would toss out. These cuts are often thrown out because they aren’t well known and people don’t know how to prepare and cook them, but they are still great cuts of meat. Her main point is that we as humans (not just farmers) owe it to God’s creation to treat it ethically. She told a story of what all a one year old lamb can contribute to the Earth and pointed out that it’s contributions to creation are greater than most humans!
Leigh had a four point saying that she went over extensively. She said that every animal we take for meat should have a, “Good Life. Good Death. Good Butcher. Good Cook.” We talked about how many farmers end up having to pass the animal off after just the first quarter of that saying. We can do everything that we possibly can to ensure that animals have the best life ever and is never stressed out or doped up and yet when we take it to be processed we have to just hand it over. People told horror stories about some processing facilities and butchers and we were able to realize how lucky we are with Williamsburg Packing in Kingstree. They do all of our processing and they are amazing! The first time I ever took our chickens down there I asked the manager if I could see the facility and he brought me in without hesitation. He showed me around the whole plant and talked me through every step. He is an amazing person and manager. We talked about how certain aspects are taken care of and I left happy to know that we had found an great place. During Meredith’s talk I realized that indeed our animals are given the respect of a Good Death and a Good Butcher. That only leaves one quarter of the puzzle - The Good Cook. So she talked about the way that we can encourage and educate our customers to be the best final step that our animals could ask for. She gave us a lot of really good advice and information and we are excited to get started implementing it as soon as possible.
All in all we had an amazing time this past weekend and are so glad we took the time off farm to go. Sometimes it is really hard to justify time off farm during some of our best working days, but I do know already that we will be scheduling this expo into our calendar next year!
Over the past year or so we have been looking into many different options to allow us more flexibility with our laying hens. We have been using floorless shelters (chicken tractors) to move them around daily, but that doesn't let the be as free range as we would like for them to be. We have also tried electric netting that allows for free range to an extent, but this model just doesn't let us move them from one side of the farm to the other as easily. That is why we decided to build a egg mobile. Our idea for our egg mobile came from wanting a safe and protective place for our hens to sleep and hide, but allowing for easy movement and allowing them to free range outside of the egg mobile. The following pictures are pictures of our egg mobile as we were building it.
We have had our chickens in the Egg Mobile for about 4 days now and everything seems to be going great. For about the first week we will not let them out of the Egg Mobile because we want them to become very familiar with their new home. Then we can move them all over the farm because of the flexibility of having their coop on a trailer. Then at night after they have gone onto roost we can close the door and then in the morning before we let them out we can move them to a new location. We are really excited about what this is going to do for our Pastured Chickens on our farm. We love the ability to try these new things and see how they work. We are sure that this model won't work without any flaws, but we do know that we will enjoy this one and learn a lot from this experience.
We will keep you updated on our Egg Mobile as we continue to use it through this coming season!
Joel is amazing man and a leader in the Local Food Movement. He is a very successful farmer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where his farm, Polyface Farm, has multi species of animals working in a symbiotic relationship to not only produce off the land but to heal and revitalize the land so that it will still be usable for our grandchildren in the future. He is really on to something in his article "Six Key Messages for Consumer Outreach" that was published in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A. which we subscribe to and love reading. His six key points are Safe, Suitable, Seasonal, Simple, Symbiotic, and Seamless. To find out more about these key messages for you the Consumer read his article found here.
The full web address of the article is
What came first the chicken or the egg?
At Bowers Farm the answer to that question is the chick! When we got to the point that we were trying to produce more and more eggs as a viable product on the farm we decide that we needed to raise our own laying hens. We had done this before with some chicks that we incubated and hatched, but on a larger scale it is more difficult for us to do that now. When you incubate eggs it never seems to come out to have more hens than roosters. Sometime we would have 60% or more roosters and they weren't doing us any good. We began to look into options of buying all hens from a hatchery. That is when we found that although it cost more per chick it was really nice to know from the beginning that we were putting all of our efforts towards hens and not roosters. We knew that this was the way to go.
Over the past couple of years we realized that other people are looking for the same thing. A chance to buy all young hens and raise them for egg production. We also realized that most all of our backyard chicken farmers just weren't set up to brood day old chicks. They could do it, but if the opportunity presented itself they would much rather get them when they are old enough to start out on the ground. So a market was there and an enterprise was born.
Every year we are already raising laying hens as replacements for our egg laying flock and while we are doing that it doesn't take us that much more time to raise nearly twice as many. We started out 4 years ago with only 100 hens and now this year we received 300 hens. that means that we can raise a large enough flock for our replacements, but still offer plenty of hens to backyard chicken farmers that want to raise their own eggs.
Our chicks start out in the brooder from day one and they typically stay in there for about 5 weeks. By that time they are fully feathered and ready to withstand the elements. The chicks in the pictures below are this year's flock of laying hens taken yesterday. They are going to be 5 weeks old this week and are getting ready to leave the brooder to go out onto pasture today! We always love this time in the process, because now is the time that we begin offering them for sale to the public.
This year we have raised Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds. Both of these two breeds are hardy breeds and are great egg layers. They even do really well through the winter months without forcing them to act outside of nature's boundaries. Below you will see some pictures of our laying hens from the past few years as they get larger through the process. If you are interested in any laying hens of your own just contact Bowers Farm and we would be glad to help you.
The following are excerpts from the article on the World's Healthiest Foods website. The whole article can be found at http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=116
Health Benefits Broad Nutrient Support
Chicken is perhaps best known for its high protein content, but it is a food that actually provides broad nutrient support. With respect to protein, one 4-ounce serving of pasture-raised chicken breast provides about 35 grams of protein, or 70% of the Daily Value (DV). Included in this excellent protein content are plentiful amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine and methionine, as well as branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that are important for support of cardiac and skeletal muscle. All B vitamins are present in chicken meat, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and choline. (There remains controversy over the biotin content of chicken meat, which appears to be smaller than the average 10-microgram amount of biotin in chicken eggs and which seems more sensitive to the chicken's dietary intake.) Chicken is a particularly helpful food for obtaining vitamin B3, since it provides about 98% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) per serving and ranks as an excellent source of this B vitamin. Four ounces of chicken breast also supplies 40% of the DRI for vitamin B6 and over 20% of the DRI for choline.
In terms of minerals, chicken is richest in selenium and provides about 57% of the DRI in a single 4-ounce serving. Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron are also provided by this food.
Other Potential Health Benefits
Many people wonder about the potential health advantages of switching from beef to chicken, especially in the context of colon cancer risk. A first important piece of information to remember in this context is that studies on beef consumption and colon cancer typically find increased risk from high consumption (5 or more ounces per day). We're not aware of any research showing increased colon cancer risk from consumption of 3-4 ounces of beef several times per week. At this higher intake level, however, the increased risk of colon cancer associated with beef does not appear to be associated with chicken. In a recent study analyzing risk of colorectal cancer in more than 20 studies involving chicken, turkey, and fish, researchers found was no evidence of increased colorectal cancer risk, even when chicken was consumed four to five times per week. In addition, as chicken intake increased on an ounce-by-ounce basis from a very small amount (less than one ounce per week) to 4-plus ounces per week, risk of colorectal cancer was not found to increase.
It is possible to increase the omega-3 content of chicken meat—including both light and dark meat, as well as chicken skin—by feeding chickens supplemental amounts of fish meal or fish oil.
Regardless of the amount of chicken you choose to include in your meal plan, we recommend certified organic chicken that has been genuinely pasture raised. By "genuinely," we mean that it is often important to go beyond the labeling claims of "pastured" or "pasture-raised" or "free range" and ask the grocer or the chicken producer about the actual lifestyle circumstances for the chickens.
Chicken provides omega-3 fatty acids, including both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). With the exception of biotin (which is still somewhat controversial as a component of chicken meat), chicken also provides measurable amounts of all B vitamins. Chicken is an excellent source of niacin and very good source of protein and selenium. It is also a good source of protein, selenium, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of choline, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B12.
Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling."
Nutritional Differences Between Pasture-Fed Chickens Vs. Non (including most Organic)
by Dawn Walls-Thumma, Demand Media
Left to their own devices, chickens will forage for grass and seeds, like many other livestock, and supplement their diet with a hearty portion of insects. Animal welfare or environmental considerations often motivate consumers to seek out pasture-fed poultry, but increasingly, they can look to nutritional studies of pasture-fed chicken.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's labeling for meat and poultry products can be misleading. For example, the labels "free-range" and "free-roaming" chicken simply require producers to demonstrate that the birds had access to the outdoors (see References 1). Regulations do not state how much space the flock must be given or require that the chickens have access to a pasture diet. A 1999 study funded by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and two 2008 studies published in "Poultry Science" found health benefits from eating pasture-fed chicken meat. All three studies compared the nutritional quality of meat from birds raised conventionally -- indoors in poultry sheds and fed a grain-based diet -- to those raised on pasture, not merely granted outdoor access, as required by USDA regulations. When purchasing chicken, select birds labeled as pasture-raised.
In 1999, using a grant from the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, chicken farmer Barb Gorski compared the nutrition of her chickens to USDA data for conventionally raised poultry. Her pasture-raised poultry contained 21 percent less fat than conventional chicken, and 30 percent less saturated fat. (See References 2)
Gorski's study also revealed 50 percent more vitamin A in her pasture-raised chicken meat when compared to conventionally raised broilers. Removing the skin from the meat equalized vitamin A content between pasture- and conventionally raised birds, however. (See References 2)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Two 2008 studies out of Portuguese universities and published in "Poultry Science" found that pasture-fed chicken contained significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than chickens raised without access to fresh forage. One study found significantly higher levels of eicosapentaenoic acid, one of the omega-3 fatty acids. The second study found higher levels of four different omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed birds (see References 4 and the Link in Resources).
In this article published on eatWILD.com we found a lot of scientific information that point to the reasons that Grass-Fed Products are better for your body. From more Vitamins and Good Fats to less bacteria and things that can make you and your family sick. We really like to see these types of articles as they are filled with information about why raising the animals that we raise in the manner that we raise them are indeed making people healthier. You can find the article at http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm
On this page we will be posting things that are happening around the farm as well as articles or information that we found interesting. They will hopefully help you make a more informed decision about purchasing the food that you and your family eat!