We like mooers more than mowing so the whole Steak Maker thing just makes sense for our family!
I got a baby and a 4-Her in the same winter. I know how the baby showed up, but I’m clueless about how the little farmer got to third grade already? He bottle fed two Holstein calves that are two months old. We are working on training them to walk with us.
#Troubleshooting #Maintainence And then I over heard one brother say to another brother, “Even an IDIOT trucker knows that.”
Lately I’ve been really excited about finding more farmers to share pictures and stories about life on the farm on the internet. Yet I live on a farm, have pictures and haven’t done a great job at sharing myself. Let’s see how long this lasts 🙂
We kicked off our visit to Joe’s family farm with a delicious birthday cake made by his mom. In the background you can see some of our stuff. We are at the stage where packing and unpacking may take as long as the trip.
I’m often asked questions about farm size. People want to know are large farms or small farms better?
We have a second grader in the house. While I certainly understand that some education standards require comparing and contrasting to learn to recognize differences, comparisons also make me uncomfortable. So, we’ve had many discussions in our house that bigger, newer and shinier isn’t necessarily better. In my job I want to have the same conversations and share that bigger, new, shinier isn’t necessarily worse.
There are pros and cons to every size and type of farm. I’m blessed to live near my parent’s farm. They have about 20 mother pigs (sows) in a birth to market (farrow-to-finish) pig farm. I’m also very blessed to be married to the Turkey Farmer who also grew up raising pigs, 3,000 at a time. While we were dating he also worked in the purchasing department and tested ingredients at the feed mill that made food for his family’s turkeys and pigs.
I’ll begin by sharing how my family makes feed for our pigs. My husband helps my parents now, so he is pictured here with the feed mill. I went to the local feed mill and picked up bags of supplement. The Little Farmer and I helped untie the bags and move them to the back of the truck.
The Turkey Farmer and a helper dumped the supplement (primarily soybean meal with two paper bags of vitamins and minerals) into the feed grinder.
Next the tall, blonde and handsome man backed up to the grain bin (filled with corn grown in the surrounding field) and filled the grinder with corn.
A batch of feed is two tons. The hammer mill in the grinder worked hard to crush and grind the corn while the mixer stirred the corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals together for 15 to 20 minutes as the corn trickled in. Including the trip to pick up the ingredients it took about an hour to make this batch of feed for nursery pigs (age four weeks to 50 pounds).
This is the feed mill where the Turkey Farmer worked in Fort Recovery. The large silver bin stores the corn. There are other silos, bins and containers to hold bulk versions of the soybean meal, vitamins, minerals and other ingredients at this mill.
Here is a picture inside his office where (he had Margarita Mondays) or tested batches of feed to be sure that they had the protein, fat, fiber, and moisture levels that the nutritionists expected each batch to have.
Here, feed is made in 6 ton batches. The mixer was loaded in a few minutes and there was a 6 minute mix time (1 minute per ton). The capacity of this facility is several thousand tons of feed per day. There are many more recipes that change frequently as animal size and nutritional needs change.
There are several employees at this location including feed truck drivers, maintenance people, administrative roles, technology support, clerical jobs and general labor needs. This farm doesn’t grow any of its own feedstuffs; they purchase all of their inputs from local farmers and companies when possible.
The bulkiest input is corn which is grown by local farmers in these fields surrounding the mill and beyond. Several of these farmers are contract growers (like my in-laws) with hogs, turkeys or egg laying chickens for Cooper Farms.
Making pig food on different scales is like shopping for our own food at a warehouse store versus a smaller grocery store. When you buy in bulk you typically save money.
In his previous job my husband focused on details. He repeated and perfected a handful of tasks. In his current role his schedule is far more varied and he has to know a lot more about a lot more stuff. He’s really smart, so he’s good at whatever he does (as are most farmers I know).
I’ve shared the highlights of making nutritious feed for pigs on a small farm and large farm. Both farms focus on feeding a quality feed product to their pigs so that they can make a quality food product, pork, for you!
The highlight of my year has been marrying Joe, aka the turkey farmer.
He grew up in western Ohio where he often helped his mom in their turkey starter house. His dad worked off the farm until Joe was about 14. Part of his dad transitioning to full-time farming was taking care of turkeys in a couple finishing barns. Even though I’ve grown up on a farm I’ve never been around turkeys, so I have embraced the opportunity to learn.
My first visit into this barn was in November of 2013. I remember walking in through a utility room that has a large sink, water heater, paperwork and storage for supplies. Then a door was slid open to the large area where the turkeys live.
Poults arrive in the starter house when they are one day old. The barn is kept a toasty 80 degrees for these young birds. The barn holds a group of 6,000 turkeys that are all the same age.
When the poults arrive there are ten cardboard rings dividing the barn into smaller sections. The rings keep the birds closer to feed, water and heaters. As the birds grow they need more space and the cardboard rings are removed.
For the first week the waters are cleaned every morning, and the turkeys are fed by hand twice a day.
There are 40 bell waterers that hang in the barn for the duration of the turkey’s stay and an additional 40 fresh-flow waters that are used in the cardboard rings to help the turkeys get acclimated to drinking water. Initially 6,000 turkeys have access to 80 waterers that are cleaned out daily. That’s 75 birds per drinking fountain. There are about 320 students in my son’s school and they all share 3 drinking fountains.
Once the cardboard rings are removed the waterers are still cleaned every day, and the automatic feeding system is monitored and maintained as needed.
The turkey food is made of corn, soybeans, vitamins and minerals. Turkey feed is very nutrient dense which helps them grow quickly, efficiently and naturally. No hormones are fed or administered to growing turkeys.
Another chore is tilling the coop. The birds live on a layer of clean, fresh wooden shavings or sawdust. The farmer works to ensure that the sawdust stays as dry and clean as possible so that the turkeys can maintain healthy feet. The coop is tilled or turned up to help keep the litter (or bedding) dry on an as needed basis.
At five weeks old the turkeys leave the starter house and move to a finishing barn. The finishing barns are much bigger because the turkeys need more room to grow. These barns also have curtains to allow for more airflow because an older, heartier bird can handle slightly cooler temperatures.
Animal care is similar across all species. The farmer must spend time each day making sure that animals have clean fresh feed and water and a dry place to rest.
The feeding system is automated in the finishing barn, so daily checks and regular maintenance ensures that turkeys always have access to feed. The waters are cleaned every day and moved between a series of hooks to help keep the litter as dry as possible. The coop is tilled as needed, about weekly.
Tilling the coop
Joe’s family only raises male turkeys which are called toms. The toms are full grown and ready to be harvested at twenty weeks old and 45 – 47 pounds. So these turkeys are raised for deli meat because a forty pound bird wouldn’t fit in very many ovens.
I enjoy the enthusiasm and care that my turkey farming in-laws put into growing our turkey. They are a big family and welcome all hands to help. My little farmer and I were quickly recruited to help clean waters and feed baby birds. We worked our way up to helping till the coop and even clean out barns. We have enjoyed learning more about turkeys and the people that raise them!
Dear mother-in-law and father-in-law,
Thank you for the poop. I understand that your hog manure made our corn yield far better than it could’ve been without the crap.
You have a wealth of valuable organic nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potash that you shared to make our crops and income better. The corn needed nutrients to grow and your hog poop provided like commercial fertilizer can’t.
That’s really special how you applied the manure to the field and made sure to mix it in the soil right away. We respect that you work to manage these nutrients responsibly and spread them out over different farms from year to year.
I read about people on the internet that call manure waste, but thanks for being responsible and sharing your wealth to benefit us.
My job at the Ohio Pork Council has led to good things like access to many meals of properly cooked pork, a bi-weekly pay check and my recent marriage to Joe, aka the Turkey Farmer. He is amazing!
We’ve had some differences to work through, like living two hours apart, as in who would move and change jobs and food preferences like turkey versus pork (just kidding, we NEVER fight about protein, we just eat it). Another topic of much discussion is we’re both Christians, but one of us attended a Protestant Church and the other a Catholic Church.
The two of us made the moving decision on our own; this was a big decision, but one that we were equipped to work through together. The protein drama is purely make-believe. Making a decision about church for our family has taken study, time, thought and prayer. We spent a lot of time reading while dating and learning from others whom we trust and respect.
I can draw so many parallels between much of what I’ve learned regarding church to a person who has suddenly become more interested in food. Circumstances in people’s life change, possibly health status changes, or family size changes, or someone develops a hobby or interest in food and cooking. These reasons might prompt a person to study and learn more about their food and the food system in the United States.
An unexpected relationship sparked a great deal of honest inquiry in my life into a very personal topic.
We’ve asked questions and listened. We’ve worked to actively listen and understand the new acronyms and how different study group opportunities (outside of regular worship) work. After doing some homework the next step was a meeting to learn with church staff to learn more.
The meeting was held. There was brief and calm sharing, some questions were exchanged and some concerns were shared.
A response was given that included a suggestion that one of our past upbringings was “unfortunate” and “incomplete”. There were also misconceptions addressed that neither of us harbored.
Discussion resulted in confusion. That conversation did not grow our interest in participating or supporting this group. We had done homework, we’d genuinely tried to learn, and the meeting was held with the intention to put effort into learning more. Yet, this conversation did not bring any more clarity to our lives.
I’m grateful for the deep rooted faith and personal experiences that we each have which were not swayed by a single conversation. We’ve learned and grown in our faith, I wish the same for you.
I could look back and critique every aspect of my life and find many faults. Being wrong often, has been part of my human experience, so I’m not upset at this person. I truly believe this conversation became tough because of deep personal beliefs that could’ve been better communicated to bridge the gap between us and them.
I think many of us can really feel empathy and wonder how this happened. How could someone called to love people come across so cold and disconnected?
How often do we as farmers, confident in what we do, why we do it and how we do it inadvertently talk to our customers just to leave them more confused? How often do we as farmers so often unintentionally come across as cold and disconnected to the people that buy our products? When the answer to a question is so obvious that it’s just silly, how do we respond? Do we invest enough time to really think through a sincere and honest answer? I’ve found the people asking (the same people that buy what we grow) just honestly want to know what we’re doing and why and how that may affect their body.
There was no personal harm meant by disagreeing in our discussion, and there’s rarely that intention when food is the hot topic.
I’m writing this for the purpose of learning. We’re all human, and we all have opportunities to improve.
Here are some tips that could improve our future conversations about food and farming:
-Know what you do on the farm and be able to talk about it in very simple terms
-Know what you believe and be able to share from your personal experiences
-Think of each person as valuable and worth the time to talk or type with
Those of us involved in production agriculture have heard that we are less than 2% of the US population. We know that we need to do more to tell our story, the story of our food, our family farms, the land, etc.
My hope is that the non-farming public would feel good about eating after talking to a farmer.
I’ve worked to improve how I share my personal story. I’m nowhere close to having all the answers, but I truly believe having genuine conversations is worthy of our time and beneficial for our future.
The Turkey Farmer grew up in western Ohio, and he moved to central Ohio after we got married. His parents have asked that he continue coming to western Ohio to help on the farm in return for the use of their equipment to plant and harvest his crops on his farm. This is a pretty good deal.
We picked the Little Farmer up from school yesterday and headed west. Harvest has begun! The turkey farmers made a big upgrade to this New Holland combine.
Last Christmas the Little Farmer wanted a toy replica of their old combine, I wonder if this purchase is going to affect my pocket book too?
There are computer sensors everywhere on modern farm machines. Sometimes that can be very helpful to have more information and sometimes, if there’s a glitch it can shut things down unnecessarily. There was a glitch earlier in the day with a sensor on the transmission, but some good trouble shooting and a couple trips for parts by Mama O, my mother-in-law, and the problem was fixed.
By the time we arrived things were running smoothly. Farmers were farming and it seemed as though everyone else was watching high school football. We opted to change the tires on my car.
Conveniently for me Papa O, my father-in-law, is a mechanic by trade, so he’s got some cool machines. The best part, he’s taught his boys how to use them.
I’m grateful for access to tools and time to hang out with a multi-talented turkey farming family!
We have been so blessed! We want to say thank you to our family members and friends that worked together to make our wedding celebration so beautiful. With God at the center of our union I think everything looks brighter and more joyful!
Our decorations were truly a collaborative effort and I wanted to share them with you!
I love the head table back drop (which we rented) and covered with strips of cloth. I chose several different neutral colors and ripped strips one to four inches wide and tied a knot around a piece of sisal twine.
I made the Mr. and Mrs. banner by printing letters as large as I could on my home printer and then cutting them out to use for the template. I placed the paper template on pieces of burlap and painted the letters black and strung them on another piece of twine.
The turkey farmer found small trees which he made a base for and lagged the trees to the base. He spray painted them white and family and friends wrapped the trees tightly with white Christmas lights that I found on clearance for $1 per box! Just remember to take some white extension cords along with you, for they can be hard to find at crunch time!
And how about that cake?!? I’m so proud that my mom made that beautiful cake for us! She also bought the wood stand and servers that I will always keep and treasure! Great cake and memory. Thank you mom!
The mason jars have been in our family and I borrowed some of the more modern pieces of glass to vary the height. We did purchase about four bunches of baby’s breath to sprinkle throughout the hall on Friday before the wedding.
These girls wrapped cardboard boxes with burlap and used long pearly pins to hold the burlap and lace in place. I like how the boxes gave the table height variation. That also allowed us to put more cookies on the table. Access to more cookies more quickly is important people. These girls didn’t drive from one side of the Midwest to the other for nothing. They had purpose!
I used the bucket milker from our families dairy farm along with some branches and glued burlap flowers onto the branches. Our guest book sat on the table along with the man-style scrapbook that the Turkey Farmer and Little Farmer used to propose.
Thank you to so many people that helped with ideas, made decoration, food, helped set-up, tear down and pray and support us in many more ways. We are truly grateful!