Sunday, July 29, 2012

Factory Farms: An Issue of Scale

Factory farm or family farm?
As a concerned mother, wife, and fellow consumer I can understand how the idea of a “factory farm” can scare, anger, or even confuse the general public. However, as a farmer’s wife and pork producer I must ask what is a “factory farm” anyway?

I have found through reading blog posts, tweets, and FB comments that the biggest defining factor for “factory farms” is an issue of scale. The bigger the farm the more likely it will be categorized as a “factor farm.” Technology also plays a role in people’s perception. The more we utilize technology the more we are all lumped into a corporate farming pile.

But does a larger scale of farming make you a factory/corporate farmer or a successful/sustainable farmer?

We raise 26,000 pigs over the course of a year plus several hundred acres of corn and soybeans. We utilize modern farming techniques to make us more efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly. Because we are larger in scale and have modern techniques does that make us factory farmers or successful farmers?

Fertilizer--knifing hog manure
We also participate in contract farming. We contract pig space and have manure spreading agreements with local farmers. This means that we “rent” pig space in our barn and—as a family—raise company owned pigs in our family owned and operated barns. The manure spreading agreements help fellow farmers reduce fertilizer costs while still putting needed nutrients into the ground in the form of a natural fertilizer. By farming in this way our farm has grown large enough to support four separate households—all of which are family members. So, are we factory farmers or family farmers?

I suppose the biggest issue here isn’t scale, technology, or even technique; instead it seems to be a matter of perception. The original 50 acre farm with a few dirt hogs wasn’t enough to maintain a growing family and by utilizing modern farming practices we were able to grow in size and support four separate family households.

To me this says successful farming because it is done responsibly; however, many don’t agree with that. It would seem there is a double standard in farming. If any other business grows in size over the course of years and is able to employ more people it is seen as a successful business and the business owner is considered to be living the “American dream.” However, if we place a farmer in this same scenario the farmer is considered a “corporate sell-out” or “factory farmer” instead of being seen as successful. Why is this? Why can’t farms be large in scale but still maintain family values and ownership?

So I ask again: What is a “factory farm” anyway?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Post-Fair Finally

The ham sale was a success. Miss Kylee made out like a bandit (a very grateful bandit). A big THANK YOU goes out to Bob Cope with Mid-MO Truck and Trailer.


Curing of the HAM

The 4-H county fair is here again and this year is no different from last year...we country cured a ham. It is amazing to think that our grandparents had no choice but to cure hams (that is if they didn't want them to spoil) but we now only do it by choice. We truly have come a long way but despite all that I believe that curing hams is still a valuable skill and a great reminder of how good we have it.
Kylee worked hard on her hams.

She trimmed them with loving care.

And smoothed down fat with a smile.

Adding the cure it is always her favorite part. She needed a little help from our friends over at 4 Quarters Perry Locker but once she saw Kristen do it she remembered how to stuff a hock.

And stuff she did.

She enjoys stuffing the hock a little too much but that's just my opinion.

After a good trim, a lot of cure, and some pretty wrapping paper the ham is ready for least 5 months of hanging.

It is amazing how this bloody, fatty, hunk of meat turns into...

This blue ribbon deliciously smokey country cured ham.

It smells so good she can hardly contain herself...goofy girl!

Tonight is the big sale. Wish Miss Kylee luck. Hopefully her ham sells well.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pig Care Priority

Pork producers are always looking for ways to better their farming practices and pig care is on the top of their list.

Several producers gathered for a pig care meeting. This meeting was not only a refresher course but it also introduced the producers to some new ideas to improve their practices.

The meeting focused on the importance of individual pig care despite the large numbers being raised in hog barns. Some creative methods were suggested to help produces with this task.  

No pork producer meeting would be complete complete without a pulled pork meal. Yum!

The whole Windmann crew was there, too.

Farmers are constantly changing and improving their techniques and pork producers are no different. We strive to take better care of our animals because we care about the product that we produce and the animals that we raise.