Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring is Coming FAST...

Well two days ago I went out and took a picture of our Serviceberry in full bloom. We have some family coming this weekend so I have been trying to some cleaning and finish some outdoor projects. I just made two sheep hay feeders out of old hog crates. I will have to get you a picture. I also have been continuing to clear trees and trying to get the other 200 trees we ordered in the ground (we have about 130 left to go).  The chickens are coming along well, we have lost 3 so we are down to 339 chickens, but our brooder loss is less than 1%, so I am very pleased with that so far. They have almost tripled in size already, and next week I will have to start repositioning and repairing pens (I have to build one, but it is a pretty easy design). So a busy week ahead.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Production Season 2009

I have been thinking about starting a blog regarding our small farming operation for some time, so here goes. It is my goal to blog four times a week during the production season to keep folks informed about what is going on and to provide some insight as to what it is like to tray and get a farm operation moving.

First some back ground: Janice (my wife) and I (Ryan Marquardt) started this operation (Wild Rose Pastures) in 2007. We started by going through a business development class (Grow Your Small Market Farm), then filling our LLC paper work, renting a farm, and ordering chicks. We raised 100 broiler chickens and 30 turkeys that first year. It was a huge learning experience. We got the basic idea of how to go about doing things and work through our fair share of mistakes. In 2008, things got crazy and we went in with both feet. Janice and I purchased 40 acres between Newton and Pella, we ramped up production to 500 chickens and 120 turkeys. It was grueling, trying to get a house set-up, bring a derelict farm back into production, and try to maintain my sanity. I think I barely made it through all of that. We are taking what we learned from last year (fewer, but larger batches) and (better customer communication) and trying to run with it all this year. We are also trying to keep-up with an aggressive wildlife management plan, which includes planting down our marginal crop land to grass, tree clearing, and tree re-planting. To add an extra layer of complexity, I am also trying to clean-up our retail space, put in fencing and water systems, and maintain some consulting business on the side to help pay for all of this. That is this years plan, and here is where we are so far.

I recently added 3 more older ewes to the sheep herd, bringing us to 8. Here is a picture of all the ladies out grazing. 

I have been reworking the old barn structure that we have.  So we now have nesting boxes, real nice ones from my families farm by DeSoto. Before the birds laid their eggs on the ground and still do. I am hoping that will change here. 

Last but not least, 341 chickens just arrived at the farm yesterday. I have their brooders set-up in the same outbuilding. Our one building has to do a lot, brooder, chicken nests, storage, and sheep loafing shelter.  We shall see how it all goes. It has begun and there is now looking back on production season 2009.