Eggs from Pastured Hens
Like all other farm animals, chickens too benefit from fresh air and foraged food. With access to pasture and garden plots, chickens get to eat foraged greens, seeds, and insects.
We currently have a flock of about 125 laying hens living on pasture out of their eggmobile. How often we move the eggmobile depends on the time of season and what task we are having the chickens work on. Sometimes we move the eggmobile every few days to a week when we want the chickens to just forage and fertilize the pasture. Other times we leave them in a place for a few weeks, adding hay and vegetable scraps and letting them till the existing vegetation and prepare the area for a new crop to be planted. In the winter we give them access to deep-bedded areas which then become springtime gardens.
We grind and mix a custom soybean-free feed made up of non-GMO corn, non-GMO wheat, non-GMO barley, organic non-GMO field peas, flaxseed, and supplements (mineral mix, fishmeal, crab meal, argonite, kelp meal). They have free choice access to oyster shells for calcium, grit for grinding seeds in their crops, and kelp meal.
Eggs from pastured hens are truly a delicacy and a nutritional powerhouse. You can tell the difference in the rich, orange yolks high in omega-3 fatty acids. If you haven’t had one yet, you’re in for a treat. We currently sell our chicken eggs from the farm and at The Lion Potter in Gettysburg.
We also have a small flock of Ancona ducks that free range in our yard and help manage pest populations in and around our garden. They eat the same high-quality feed as our chickens, plus tons of bugs. Our duck eggs are especially rich with very orange yolks. They are tasty on their own, scrambled with chicken eggs, or used for baking. We sell a limited quantity from the farm.
We grow a variety of produce in our large raised bed garden using organic practices. This year we are expanding to additional growing space in our field. The nutrition in vegetables and fruits arises from the soil in which they are grown, so we put a lot of focus into building soil health to help prevent issues with pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiency. This past fall we did a full soil analysis and amended our garden with a spectrum of minerals according to The Ideal Soil handbook. We are upping our composting operation utilizing on-site resources such as chicken manure and bedding, duck bedding, hay, leaves, wood chips, and garden refuse in an effort to eventually supply all of our own compost needs. In 2017, keep an eye out for a variety of greens, root vegetables, squash, peas, beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucs, and more.
Shiitake mushrooms are just as much medicine as food. Medicinal properties include: antibacterial, antitumor, antiviral, blood pressure and blood sugar moderator, cholesterol reducer, immune enhancer, kidney tonic, liver tonic, and stress reducer. But health benefits aside, these mushrooms are damn tasty and versatile. Our favorite uses are stir fries, soups, stews, gravy, pizza, and omeletes.
To boot, these shiitakes are different than most you can find in a store. That’s because we grow them outdoors on oak and maple logs. The result is enhanced nutrition and flavor. Our biggest harvests are in the fall, so stay tuned because they’ll sell (or we’ll eat them) quick.
Perennial Fruits and Nuts
We hope to eventually make trees and shrubs a staple element on the farm. Some products to expect for the future are strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, paw paws, elderberries, currants, hazelnuts, persimmons, chestnuts, and pecans.