May on the Farm
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT WITH OUR FOOD CHOICES
By Peggie Griffin
I’m sitting here writing this article in April – thinking about what is special about the May growing season – I immediately had visions of red juicy strawberries. There are already little green berries on the strawberry plants in our garden. I covered them last night, as it was an especially cool night. We just used the last of the strawberries from the freezer and are ready to get those fresh farm strawberries in the freezer for the next year.
Now is the time to find out who is growing strawberries near you. You can go to localharvest.org or to www.fma.alabama.gov/ and click on UPick farms.
Farm of the Month: Deer Field Farm
Many of you have seen pictures of this lovely farm, as it was the setting for two of our Wild and Rural Art Show postcards. Deer Field Farm is owned and operated by Mike and Alison Bailey in Ashville, Alabama.
The Baileys had lived in the suburbs, but had really yearned for a place in the country. One day Mike was going fishing at Neely Henry Lake with a friend, and they drove by this lovely farm – with a “For Sale” sign. It was love at first sight – beautiful fields with a nice big barn, a house to live in, and surrounded by a mountain view. Mike took Alison to see it; she liked it also – and they were soon moving in. They were eager for the privacy and a healthy, safe place where their five children could grow up.
Next came the farming. Mike had been interested in organic farming since he was a teenager. When his dad had cancer, the family became more educated about their food and eating better. His dad was able to prolong his life through natural healing and a healthier diet.
Now Mike says he believes in the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” They are trying to raise good food for their family. Now people come to them and want good food also.
They started out with a couple of cows and a few chickens and began learning how to do it. Mike began reading books by Joel Salatin*, a well-known Virginia farmer and author who works to promote sustainable farming. Mike especially found Salad Bar Beef and Pastured Poultry Profits to be helpful “I try to do it his way first – then tweak it for our local growing conditions,” commented Mike.
When asked about special growing techniques, Mike replied, "We don't put 30,000 chickens together - we put our 75 broilers together in floorless pens which are moved daily. They have access to fresh sunshine, grass, bugs and dirt." The Baileys grow white Cornish Rock chickens for meat – mainly because that is what the public is used to. They are big and have a broad breast for meat, while other varieties have very thin breasts. Our laying hens are in a very large, portable, fenced area on the pasture and moved weekly. This allows them to roam and forage along with their daily rations of food and fresh water.
For processing chickens, they have tables, a plucker and scalder that they built themselves.. They use open-air processing. We go get the chickens live, process them, and put them on ice. They don’t have to use chemicals. Processing by hand is a much cleaner process than by machine.
The Baileys also raise all natural beef: no chemical fertilizers on the pastures, no herbicides or pesticides, no hormones or wormers. “To counteract problems, they move their cows to fresh grass everyday. That way we don’t get the problems you would have in a feed lot,” added Mike. They believe that keeping animals clean and fresh makes them way ahead of the game.
Deer Field Farm is a true family farm. The children are involved in feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, cleaning the eggs, and putting them in cartons, as well as processing the chickens. They also help with the daily moving of the cows.
Word of mouth is their best advertisement. To buy eggs or processed chicken, one can call 205-594-4984 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Processed chicken takes 8 weeks. The chickens are raised by order.)
*Joel Salatin is also one of my favorite authors. One of his books that I recommend for all of us consumers is Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food.
Recipe of the Month
Alison Bailey says, “This is a family favorite taken from the Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader. Our five children gobble this up! We like to serve it with green peas from our garden.”
Puny's Chicken Stock
1 (3-4 Pound) chicken, rinsed and giblets removed
2 large onions, quartered
2 large carrots, sliced thick
3 ribs celery, sliced thick
10 black peppercorns
2 t. salt
3 springs fresh parsley
4 quarts cold water
In stockpot, combine all and bring to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Remove chicken, strain liquid, and pour into small containers. Let cool to room temperature. Cover a refrigerate overnight. Skim any hardened fat from the surface. This can be frozen. Pick meat off the bone and refrigerate until ready to use.
Puny's Chicken and Dumplings
2 cups White Lily Self-rising flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. sugar
1/3 c. shortening
3/4 c. buttermilk
4 1/2 c. Puny's Chicken Stock (this makes the difference in the recipe!)
3 T. butter
4 c. cooked chicken meat
1 c. milk
Combine flour, salt, pepper and sugar. Cut in shortening. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until dough forms a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface, about 1/8 inch thick and cut into 1-inch squares.
In a large pot bring chicken stock to a rolling boil, add the butter and continue to keep it at a boil. Gradually drop the dumplings in, one at a time, stirring to prevent sticking. Place the chicken meat on top of the dumplings and pour the milk over all. Cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not remove the cover while dumplings are cooking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.