Monday, July 22, 2013

Increasing Sustainability; Managing Unintended Consequences

In conjunction with our last post on the woes of hot summers, we are no doubt on high alert to set more plans in motion to deal with an increase in summer temperatures. Can you say "New Year, more of the same, maybe even more?" For the end of July, things around here look eerily like mid-August. And our grazing critters know it, too.

We are feeding more hay and grazing less again this summer. The pastures are taking a pounding when hungry grazers are filtering through dormant pastures looking for their favorite plants. Dormancy coming 3-4 weeks early. AGAIN. Animals coming back to the barn way before August peeks in to our routine. Feeding hay costs more. But we have to do it to save our pastures and grass. Nub anything to the ground it takes a LONG time for the plant to recover. So, we must not let the grass get grazed down too short. The grazing season is shorter this year. AGAIN.

Chickens are stressed in heat and lay fewer eggs and produce less meat. A loss in production costs us in many ways.

So, costs are up. And we needed to react by raising prices. We kept the increase lower on products we feel are a better value for you- ground beef, sausage and our economy steaks and whole chicken.

The harvest window for optimal quality grass- either by grazing or by machine- is shorter and much sooner in the season. We are really scrambling to either get it stockpiled as hay or into the bellies of grazing critters as fast as possible. BEFORE the quality and quantity hits the bottom of the barrel.

Talk about unintended consequences! Grazing is best for the animal...and then in turn for us as consumers. But grazing animals need a constant supply of high quality grass to thrive. But lately, that window of quality and quantity shows up earlier in the season and it is an increasingly small window. So, we must put people and machines to the task of harvesting the grass when it is the best quality. Harvesting from pastures and dedicated hay ground both. Then when the heat comes barreling in and the rains stop then the grass stops growing and we must pull the grazing animals off or else they'll stunt the grass so badly that we can kiss the rest of the grazing year good bye!

We can irrigate our pastures- we are indeed thinking about it- but it takes investment. We can add extra fertility into our grass lands to help them stay productive and of high quality. That takes investment, too. We also need to harvest our grass when the grass is ready.....not necessarily when it is best for us. New and specialized equipment can help us here. Again it takes an investment. And in the dog eat dog world of business and agriculture we may need to turn to the USDA for help. And we'll look at MA state programs, too. We're too small to get great loan rates like Facebook or Goldman-Sachs. The great consolidation and credit crunch of the post 2008 world has produced other unintended consequences- an unfriendly world for small players. At a time when we need them to help pull a load and spur innovation.

So, the caboose to this train of thought? Keep buying local clean foods! We feel we produce wholesome food and we do it in a sustainable fashion. We aren't dumping tons of pesticides and herbicides on our land. We don't use antibiotics. We don't use lots of fossil fuels either. In essence, our footprint is pretty small. Your support of this system can help show others that we hold important answers to producing food for a burgeoning population in an increasingly hot and dry world.

There's an unmistakable knock at the door.........

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