We focus the animal energy of the farm on three critters: cows and beef, pigs, and chickens. All of our animals are raised as part of the farm system. The roles they play in cycling and recycling nutrients, eating insects, mowing grass, tilling the soil, and providing us with hours of entertainment (as if we just sit around and watch them!) are just as important as the products they provide.
All of our animals are raised on certified organic feed (hay, pasture, grain and cull vegetables from the farm). Our meat and eggs are certified organic. Our cows rarely need any grain and are raised on pasture in the summer and hay in the winter. Pigs and chickens, however, do need grain regularly in their diet. Even though the cost is significantly higher, we only feed certified organic grain. We feel strongly about raising our animals on organic grain. Organic grain does not contain genetically modified corn and soy which is something we feel strongly about not supporting. When you purchase meat that was raised on any conventional grain at all, you’re supporting GMO corn — sorry, it’s just the way it is right now in modern big agriculture and it’s one of the things we hope to help change.
Cows and Beef
We started our herd of cows with a Jersey named Ellie and a Milking Shorthorn-Jersey Cross named Eva. Eva was the grand dam of our current herd. Sadly, she passed on in the spring of 2009 at the age of 20.
Ellie’s daughter, Val, was a Herford-Jersey cross and was the mother, grandma, and great grandma of many of our animals. Our cows have evolved from a herd of two family milk cows to a predominantly beef herd over the years.
The dairy quality insures that the mothers have plenty of milk for their calves and the beef bloodlines supply the blocky body characteristic for good meat production.
Newer additions to the herd are some registered Milking Devon cows and a bull. Milking Devons are an old breed of smaller cattle that use pasture efficiently and provide both delicious beef and milk. This breed is now considered rare, but in the past several farms in the area raised Milking Devons. Our Nona is related to a cow that was raised in Tunbridge many years ago.
Our beef is available by the cut at the Norwich, Hanover, and Royalton Farmers’ Markets, as well as right here the farm. When we have enough, you can also find it at the South Royalton Market, the local coop food store here in town.
We can also sell animals by the whole, half or quarter cut to your custom order. Our meat is now also available through our Meat CSA (see Our CSA page).
In addition to the Devons for meat, we currently have one Jersey cow named Sweetheart whom we milk. We sell our raw milk directly from the farm. In addition, we use the raw milk ourselves to make yogurt, cheese, butter, and a variety of other dairy products for our own consumption. We like to think of her as a bit of another pet. She is very easy to handle and it’s hard not to love her when you look in to her big eyes!
Jerseys are great to have for raw milk because of the high butterfat content of their milk and their relatively small body size for ease of handling. Sweetheart grazes with the rest of the other cows, which is also why her milk is so delicious and nutritious.
Pigs are smart and piglets are cute. We now have three sows on the farm: Flo (Florence), Randy, and Shmandy. Each sow has two litters a year so we have a steady supply of pork on the farm and will be able to supply other farms with certified organic piglets to raise.
Our pigs spend their lives outside in portable house and help us recycle produce leftovers and re-till fallow vegetable field areas.
We are one of a few organic pork producers in Vermont. In addition to food scraps, they eat organic grain. The reason that organic pork is so rare is because of the quantity of grain that pigs consume compared with other animals. Organic grain is significantly more expensive than conventional grain and its main difference from conventional grain is that it does not include GMO corn.
In addition to the farmers markets, we also sell our pork through our meat CSA. We can also sell pork by the whole or half animal from the farm.
Our poultry is all organic and raised free-range on pasture and fallow vegetable fields. The chickens help us to improve our field and pasture fertility, and the bugs and worms they eat foraging makes healthy and happy birds. In addition to the foraging, we feed our chickens organic grain daily.
We get our day-old chicks in the mail and provide them with a warm, dry place for their first few weeks. As soon as they are hearty enough, we put them out on pasture in movable pens.
When they get a little bigger we put a nice big flexi-net fence around them so they have plenty of room to explore and forage. The electrified fence also helps to keep predators out and the chickens away from growing gardens (perhaps that means our chickens are not completely free . . .). In addition to eating bugs and worms while foraging, we feed our chickens a daily ration of certified organic grain.
Our eggs are available for purchase at farmers’ markets and through our CSA Egg Share. From May to October we often sell out of eggs early at the farmers’ markets, so in season, our CSA members have an “egg access advantage”!
Our chickens can be purchased fresh or frozen from the farmers’ market, through our CSA, or directly here at the farm. We have a discount for purchasing ten or more chickens and we appreciate advance orders.
If you want to know when we are bringing fresh — never frozen! — chickens to the farmers’ market, I recommend you like us on Facebook — we try to post there when we’ll have fresh chickens, so you’ll be sure to see our announcements.
Typically we process a few times in June, July, September, and October, and this year we will also have at least one processing in August.
And one last thing on the chicken front . . . we can only sell whole chickens. Sometimes people are hesitant to buy larger birds when we have them, but I say “don’t be afraid!” Larger birds are great! More meat for the amount of bone. And when you buy them fresh, you can always cut them up and freeze pieces . . . have a wing party over the winter, use a chicken breast in stirfry . . .
Here is a great video showing how to cut up a chicken (hat tip to our pals at Sunrise Farm for finding this). Very clear directions and demonstration. It really is not that hard… even I can do it! Take a look and bookmark it for the next time you buy a fresh, organic, free-range chicken from Luna Bleu Farm: