Dear friends of North Mountain Pastures,
Thank goodness for snow days. The time to reflect on one’s priorities and spend time with loved ones really helps to bring perspective. Thawing frozen water lines, plowing, and hard to start engines come with it too, but we’ll keep it positive!
2018 was our toughest year to date. Our tenth year farming was the wettest year on record in central PA, and more of our farmer friends hung up their muck boots than ever before. The bulk of our pastured poultry season was spent in a constant deluge of rain with mud beneath our feet. In the past, we’ve been able to work around periods of rain. But non-stop water meant free range birds in mud, inability to move shelters, transport grain, and sometimes unable to move birds from the brooder to pasture. A job that was difficult at best was impossible much of the time.
The Chicken News
Of course, we could change our systems to be able to raise birds better in unexpected weather. The truth is that even with 10,000 birds raised in 2018 and annual improvements to our systems, we haven’t been able to afford to pay an employee to assist with production. We also have not been able to raise enough chickens to fulfill the demand of the CSA for the whole year. Meaning, we would have to continue to scale up production that is probably not profitable and of questionable feasibility with changing weather patterns.
On a positive note, we feel grateful to pay our mortgage with our farm business (our sole income), and even be able to hire a CSA employee. With the winter comes some clarity and an ability to look at what’s working instead of lamenting failures.
We really enjoy raising pigs, sheep and turkeys. Chickens have never really been the goal primary product for the farm, though they have morphed into our largest seller. Interestingly, Anna and I pulled out our “10 Year Maps” of our farm that we envisioned when we first moved to the farm we bought. Neither one included chickens!
So, it is with mixed feelings of failure and anticipation that we announce we will no longer be raising chickens; at least not for the foreseeable future.
Future of North Mountain Pastures: Focus on Pork
This will allow us to focus more on pigs and our farrow-to-finish systems here on the farm. This means increasing health, efficiency and scale of our pastured hog production here on the farm. We will also get more into our specialty of custom sausages, bacon, and possibly other cured meats.
Staying the Same
We will continue to raise lamb and turkey this year, and we will continue to have 100% grassfed beef available from Wild Rose Farm.
We will continue our open farm days so you can see where your food is raised.
We will also continue to be honest and transparent with you about our production practices so you can know your farmer and know where your food comes from.
What to Expect for Meat CSA Members
We are changing our CSA shares to match this availability, and as of today will switch you directly into the share that best matches your current purchasing. We understand this may be a deal-breaker for you, and understand if you need to purchase elsewhere. We are sorry that we can no longer offer chicken meat at this time. As always, you are able to change your membership options through your member page or cancel your membership by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vision of North Mountain Pastures
Our hope is to survive as a farm and farm business dedicated to quality, health, and sustainability. We’re still working toward certified organic production, and will take this year as a chance to build better pork, turkey, and lamb systems. We’ll be moving toward using shipping for delivery, to make buying locally more convenient for you and less vehicle/labor-intensive for us. We’ll be returning to quite a bit more sausage, bacon, and ready-to-eat products over the next year. So if the CSA doesn’t fit into your purchasing right now, please stay tuned for the move into home delivery. We hope to be shipping later this year!
That said, the piece of sustainability that we never overlook is you. We quite literally will not be able to manage our piece of the Earth sustainably (ecologically, economically, socially), without customers who believe in the mission of good, healthy, appropriately farmed food and appreciate the work we put into our products. None of us has it easy, and we appreciate the sacrifice you make to feed your family food that has been raised with respect, care, and love. We hope we can continue to meet your needs well into the future.
Thanks for supporting local foods,
~Brooks & Anna