Thursday, September 3, 2009

Field Day!

Thursday was Field Day for our farm. Mike gave the tour to a group of about 20 farmers and representatives from the University of Maryland Ag Extension Offices from our county and neighboring counties. Below are some of the photos. It still cracks me up that in less than 1 year Mike was asked to do a field day. And that people showed up! What an honor! The guy who grows up living in an apartment building across from Wrigley Field is now a farmer and folks decided to see his farm. His grandfather (who was a farmer) would be so proud of him.

I think Mike got more ideas from these knowledgeable folks on what to do with our 3rd pasture area to transition it to grasses over the next year and lots of other ideas than they got from him (this was my take).

They did think that the mobile processing unit was a good way for 5-10 local farms to share in processing equipment for chickens. So that seems to be the highlight of our farm. It's pretty simple economics. We bought the poultry processor for $9,000. To transport your chickens somewhere else and pay to have them processed costs about $4/chicken. So lets say we use ourselves as labor (which we do plus a few friends who love to eat good chicken) and the other little items cost $1/chicken then that's $3/chicken. So after we process 3,000 chickens we've paid back the processor.

If we rent it out to someone who wants to process themselves, then it just makes the payback faster so my example is conservative. It'll probably take us 3 1/2 years to process 3,000 chickens but that's ok. It's a good enough payback for us and we also like knowing that our birds aren't too stressed from a trip to a processor. And when it's just Mike doing the work and the family helping out to gather up the chickens... the stress on us is less as well because if something comes up unexpectedly, we just wait and process tomorrow. Now I realize that we haven't paid ourselves for our time to process in the above equation, but it's a really fast process and to drive to a processing area and back twice (once to drop off and once to pick up) is likely close to the amount of time it takes to process the chickens. So I'm calling it a draw.

Mike has rented out the unit to 4 different families/farms. After trying it out, some people don't care for processing themselves and others said they'd be renting the unit again. For those that didn't like it-- it's a cheap way to find out if you want to process yourself before you invest in even a small scalder or plucker, etc. If you got 5 farms to buy the equipment to share, then you can easily do the math and see that this is a viable option to consider.

So that's the scoop on the MPU (mobile processing unit). We bought it from Eli Reiff up in Mifflinburg, PA if you want to buy one yourself. Eli is the Vice President of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA). We belong to this organization.

Here is the meeting area. I love the bales of straw as the seats.

The group walking the pasture.

Notice the guy on the fence taking pictures! He-he.

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