I have often fantasized about owning a working farm; waking up with the roosters, milking the cows and feeding slop to the pigs. But, after touring Tara Firma Farms in California my dreams were shattered because I realized that….FARMS ARE A LOT OF WORK!!!
A customer of ours recommended that we try the meat products from Tara Firma, so we set up a tour to see exactly what was so different about this working farm. We learned that this farm is committed to offering healthy chemical-free, all-natural produce and raising grass-fed, pasture-raised and humanely treated pigs, cows and chickens.
Pulling into the parking lot, it appeared to be a typical Sonoma County farm. Though, I was still taken aback by the vast beauty of the land. There were approximately 12 of us participating in this outing, a third of which were under the age of 5.
The owner, Craig Smith, was making small talk with the group as we arrived and to our delight was going to be our guide. We started by visiting the baby chicken shed where dozens of these yellow puff balls were fighting for the heat of the lamp in their pen. I fought my way through just to get a glimpse, can’t I act like a child too?
We then headed uphill to check out the adults that these tiny chicks turn out to be. There were several of these colorful creatures roaming free from fences or any other barriers. Their movable home had the doors open and housed several hens laying eggs. At night this is where all of them automatically take shelter to protect themselves from the dangers of the dark. All livestock should ideally have a shelter similar to this so that they can escape the weather and keep themselves safe. When running a farm, it’s important to make sure that these buildings are suitable enough for livestock to be living in. This can be done by customizing the buildings when ordering them from companies like Armstrong Steel for example. By doing that, farmers can ensure they’re the perfect size for whatever animals will be using them. For these chickens, they didn’t need a huge building. However, this steel building that they were living in was rather large inside. The farmer said that it’s important that livestock have enough room to move around in their shelters. We could all fit inside the building and a participating youngster had the pleasure of plucking a fresh egg from it’s mother to bring home. Damn…how I wish I was 5!
We noticed that there were only 4 cows on the entire 260 acres of this working farm and were informed that in previous months there were over 100. They had to be removed because they were doing too much damage to the land and it needed time for repair and regrowth. That’s all part of the “being kind to the land” and becoming a sustainable ranch.
I was surprised at the amount of turkeys pecking around. They were roaming their space fearless by the fact that they made it through Thanksgiving. I am not sure they are going to be so lucky this Christmas!
I was anticipating the visit to the pig pens ever since Craig said there were babies. Unfortunately, we were not able to hold them…there goes the perfect photo op! Nonetheless, they were the highlight of the tour, poking their snouts out from their mothers breast. What could be better than seeing a big, fat rollie-pollie covered in mud?
The vegetable gardens were lush and green, yet still not at capacity. I had an uncontrollable desire to step right in there and pick my dinner, but was kept at bay by the barbed wire fence. The feeling passed anyway, as soon as I walked past the smelly compost pile. Lost my appetite.
After all is said and done, I loved spending an hour petting animals, learning about sustainable ranching and organic farming.
Have you ever dreamt about having a working farm?
TIPS ON STARTING YOUR OWN WORKING FARM
1. Decide on what your farming goals will be. Do you want a large producing farm, would you like to sell just to the local farmers market, or is providing for your family meals enough? What types of farming equipment will you need?
2. Decide on animals, crops or both?
3. Research! Research the best way for you to achieve your farming goals. Access your land to know the acres necessary for each of the animals/crops you have selected.
4. Learn about your finance options for starting your farm.
The average cow produces 46,000 glasses of milk in a year (2,100 pounds).
RESOURCES & FUN PRODUCTS
Organic Farming: Everything you need to know. This book covers the basics, from getting started to developing a marketing strategy.
John Deer Sign: Parking Only. Save your tractor’s parking spot with this fun metal sign.
Hobby Farms Magazine: The ultimate owner’s manual for enthusiasts.