April Newsletter

We’re just about done with lambing with a single ewe left. The goat kids have begun to arrive and we have 10 kids out of 5 does so far! The lambs are bashful and shy when they are born, while the goat kids come into the world willful and independent.

We give all our newborns a shot of BoSe, a selenium and vitamin E booster commonly given to goats residing in selenium deficient areas. Selenium is necessary to maintain muscle tone in adults, and prevent “white muscle disease” in newborn animals, read more. These shots are given under the skin and take less than a minute. However, in that time the average goat kid will emit 2-5 blood-curdling shrieks. Keep in mind these babies are roughly 4-6 pounds, half the size of lambs, which can weight between 10-15lbs. Size can be deceiving when it comes to these little ones!

Our first batch of broilers arrived on Thursday which to me is the OFFICIAL start of the season. We plan to start having chicken at market by the end of May with weekly processing through the summer. Part of our expansion plan includes having a walk-in so we are aiming for fresh chicken at both Tuesday and Friday markets. Stay tuned for a post on our processing schedule or follow the farm’s Facebook page where we’ll announce where you can find fresh chicken.

Our first batch of goslings also arrived! They are the sweetest of creatures. These are the only babies who are visibly excited to see US! These Emden goslings will be raised alongside our broilers this year to protect them from the avian predation we’ve experienced the last few years. A fellow farmer shared with us the tip to start them off together so that the geese learn to appreciate the chicks from an early age, otherwise some bullying occurs. We will be offering holiday geese again this year. Like turkeys we will start the reservation list in July and you’ll be able to choose when you’d like your goose in either November, December or January.

We have 10 DAYS left on our crowdfunding campaign. Our thanks for the donations we’ve received so far. We love growing happy, healthy animals and appreciate your recognition of our work. Your continued support means a great deal to us.

The funds we raise will be used to purchase a hoop house, nest boxes and related lumber and supplies for a larger and improved winter house for our hens. A year from now we aim to have 500 hens laying which will mean more of our great eggs and expanded availability at Morning Glory in Brunswick and as an “add-on” share to a local vegetable CSA. There are many benefits to be derived from this expansion. We’ll be using 4 moveable houses to rotate our hens through pasture which will add a tremendous amount of fertility to our soil. We’ll need it as we open up our new land and to ensure the continued productivity of our current acreage.

Please support our campaign and share it with your networks of friends, family and neighbors who are excited about new farmers and local, organic food. No pledge is too small and we’re glad to accept pledges at farmers market and answer your questions about the project. We created a detailed post about the farm’s expansion plans and in coming weeks we’ll share how the changes we’re planning will improve animal health, streamline management and allow us to grow the farm while maintaining the same high quality of products & our sanity!

We know that crowdfunding isn’t for everyone and we’ll be launching a Market Share CSA later this month. This will allow you to purchase a flexible sized “share” and give you a cash bonus based on the size you choose. Much like a CSA this will help us have operating funds during May and you’ll have the flexibility to use your share to purchase whatever you like throughout the 2017 season. Look for details at market and in the next newsletter where we’ll also talk about outdoor markets- just 4 weeks away!

Hatching An Eggs-Pansion!

 

Yellow Egg Spansion Instagram-2
Update! We reached our funding goal!

Thank you so much to those that contributed, shared our campaign and let us know of their support for our farm’s growth. We are so appreciative.

IMG_3852 Though our hens produce more than 100 dozen eggs each week we are often sold out within the first 2 hours of our farmers’ markets. Our eggs, produced by free-roaming and adventurous hens are in high demand because of their golden yolks and unparalleled freshness.  We love our animals and want to provide them with the best possible living conditions. Through this project and others detailed in our “growing out” plan we can both improve animal well-being and create efficiencies. These changes will enable us to grow our business to provide more local, organic meats & eggs to the great Brunswick area and support us as full-time farmers.

We're Hatching AnLast week we launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $12,000. The funds are specifically to build housing to double the number of hens we keep from 250 to 500. We also see this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the farm, our products and kickstart the farm’s expansion. At present we lease the majority of our farm buildings. Over the last 3 years our business has grown, fueled by local demand, and we’ve outgrown our leased barns. We’re ready to begin expanding the farm to land we own in order to build the larger barns, processing areas and the cold storage we need to farm long into the future.

Donate-2

We have great markets, unparalleled products and a love for our work- with your support we can make this vision a reality. Please pledge & share our campaign. 

facebook_-1554629396In the agriculture community the idea of “scaling-up” – whether it means getting big or “right-sizing” your operation- is frequently discussed. What “scaling up” commonly refers to is a farm diversifying its market channels to include not only direct to consumer sales (CSA, farmers’ markets, farm stands) but also wholesaling products to local foods stores, supermarkets or distributors.  I think many readers will be familiar with the phrase of Earl Butz, “Get Big or Get Out” which became the rallying cry for commodity agriculture and large scale farms. I worry that this “Scaling-Up” idea may be construed as the same idea with just updated marketing. It also concerns me that by simply saying we are scaling up our farm, our customers would think we’re just getting bigger, not getting better. So, I began to mull over how we might clarify increasing the size, scale and efficiency of our farm.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 11.30.54 AMOur aspirations include marketing some of our products through wholesale channels, hiring apprentices or other help while providing an income to both of Jake and I to work full-time on the farm. But our pressing concern is supplying our existing markets in Brunswick. To do so, over the last three years we’ve been “growing out”- increasing our number of ewes and does for breeding, adding a 100 or so more broilers to our poultry. We’ve done this to such a degree that we’ve also grown out of our existing barns!

Between 2014 and 2017, all of the farm operations were based on land leased from Jake’s family.  In 2014, as part of our future farm vision, we purchased an adjacent 70-acre property that we call “North Ridge”. This property is where, this year we plan to build a hoop house for our chickens, a large barn for our sheep and goats, a hoop barn for equipment, hay and feed storage and our farmhouse. These plans also include renovating our existing two-car garage to include a farm store, egg processing room, walk-in freezer and cooler. Over the last year we worked with The Resilience Hub in Portland to design a site plan illustrating our vision.

Plan Including Bowdoin
Our entire property which is split between Bowdoin and Bowdoinham
Site Overview
Site Overview
Perm Plan Detail
Detail of Site Plan with buildings and labels

This plan is an extremely helpful tool, so let’s talk about what is included:

  • A clearing project that will remove trees from two existing, fenced paddocks as well as the sloped areas located along the road frontage. This will create additional grazing areas for cows, sheep and goats.
    IMG_4082
  • A Hoop house will serve as a winter shelter for our chickens. At present, we are limited to just two portable coops (pictured below) which house 125 birds each. Building the hoop house will allow us to increase our flock to 500 hens. This means more eggs at market (HOORAY!) and the ability to supply new markets such as CSA and local food stores.  The hoop house will include such amenities as running water and electricity so that we can provide water indoors without having to carry 5-gallon buckets of water over mud, ice and snow. We are launching a crowdfunding campaign through the platform, Barnraiser to kickstart this project. To view the project in full please visit: http://www.barnraiser.us/projects/apple-creek-farm-hatching-an-expansionCopy of Egg Spansion 940x700
  • A Barn will provide more space for our breeding does and ewes. We need this to separate groups for flushing, breeding and lambing. As you can see in the photo above (Detail of Site Plan) there will be several paddocks where we can sort animals by their body condition, age or other factors. The new barn will allow us to feed everyone under cover which is particularly important as the Spring and Fall tend to be longer and wetter. Winter has come to include wider variations of temperature which are tough on the animals and making feeding outdoors (without wasting grain in the rain or wind) rather difficult.
  • A Hoop barn will create storage to keep our tractors, balers and other equipment out of the weather, stack round bales of hay under cover to reduce spoilage and work on equipment out of the rain.
  • A Farmhouse is a key component of having the farm infrastructure move to this location. The house will be modest and designed with aging in mind.  We look forward to having a guest room for friends & family to come and visit!
  • The Garage renovation will create space for a farm store, which we plan to open in Fall 2017. The store will be modest, open once a week and be the meeting location for farm tours and on-farm events (coming in 2018). We’ll also build an egg processing room where we can wash, grade and pack eggs. Perhaps my favorite addition to this space will be a walk-in freezer. Presently we rent very affordable and reliable freezer space in Bangor. Over the last three years we have used this space to store and build our inventory for Brunswick Winter Market. Though inexpensive, it has taken an increasing amount of time to manage inventory and transport product to and from the facility. Building a freezer on-site will help us spend more time on the farm and more storage for our products. A walk-in cooler will be used to store fresh product which is frequently requested at market. Building a walk-in will mean we can sell fresh chicken at both farmers’ markets during the summer and direct from the farm. It will also mean all Thanksgiving turkeys can be picked up FRESH!You may be asking, “what about the land you’ve been using?” We will continue to lease 70 acres of land from Jake’s family, the land that we call “the home farm.” Located there are the sheep & cow barns where we will continue to house our finishing lambs and kids and our cow/calf pairs. Since our farming methods won’t be changing we will still be using all of the land on both “the home farm” and “North Ridge” as well as leased land off the farm.

March toward Spring

March is always a busy month on the farm with lambing being our primary focus. This particularly March though we find ourselves in the midst of several really exciting projects.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.00.54 AMWe’re helping MOFGA spread the word about a survey to better understand why Mainers choose to “Buy Organic” and what can be done to increase the amount of Maine grown organic food on plates around the state. We’d love for your voice be heard! Follow this link to complete the short survey.

After spending some time in the fall writing grants and we are thrilled to report we will be receiving funding from Northeast SARE and from (FACT) Food Animal Concerns Trust’s Fund-A-Farmer Grant program.

food-animal-concerns-trustFACT awarded nearly $41,000 in grants to family farmers across the country to help them transition and/or improve access to pasture-based systems. Seventeen farms located in 11 U.S. states received grants through FACT’s Fund-a-Farmer Project. This innovative project awards grants up to $2500 and facilitates peer-to-peer farmer education to increase the number of animals that are raised humanely in the United States. Since 2012, FACT has awarded 67 grants to deserving family farmers across 26 states, directly impacting more than 54,000 animals.  At Apple Creek we will be installing above ground water lines in two of our of our primary pastures. This will help to increase soil fertility through more grazing (particularly by poultry) and provide fresh water more consistently and with less labor ensuring animals stay hydrated and healthy.

SARE_Northeast_RGBWe’re really excited about our SARE  Grant. The project titled, Using Forage Radish to Combat Compaction in Hay & Pasture Land will evaluate the impact of applications of manure and forage radish on soil compaction in an established hay field and pasture. The project will include on-farm-research conducted over two growing seasons to to understand whether using forage radish to break up hardpan,“mop up” excess nutrients low in the soil profile and increase organic matter can improve the productivity of the farm by reducing costs for mechanical tillage and increase the farm’s net income through improved forage production. Included in the grant are several outreach components including an on-farm field day to share our findings with other Maine farmers!

new-banner-22-940x198
We’ll be talking about the farm at the Slow Money Maine Gathering on Thursday March 17th, 12-4pm at Christ Church located on Dresden Ave in Gardiner.
Regular gatherings (1-4pm ) AND focus groups (12-1) are free, require no advance notice to attend. The Slow Money meetings are a favorite of this farmer as they include a wide cross-section of the “Good Food Movement” from eaters to investors. The conversation is lively, the networking unpretentious and the snacks are delicious! Abby & Jake will be sharing the farm story, plans for expansion and what the farm will produce in 2016. We hope you can attend!

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 8.53.57 AMFor several years Maine biologist Gerri Vistein has been organizing talks and events around the state to help farmers better understand often under-appreciated members our ecosystem- carnivores. Through Vistein’s work Apple Creek farmers have learned how to manage the presence of local coyotes, fox and even great horned owls. This information is now available through the newly established Farming with Carnivores Network. The network, made up of farmers from the Northeast like us is designed as a space for sharing the opportunities and challenges posed by farming with carnivores.