Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Return from Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is well known amongst healthy food and healthy farming circles. He's been a crusader for the grass fed meat industry in America. His family own and operate a business called Polyface Farm. Polyface Farm - the farm of many faces, is about growing and direct marketing pasture raised animals. It's about healthy farming and grazing practices and not only using all the land, but layering enterprises so you use more than you would with only one enterprise. This concept means that more people can be supported by the farm than would otherwise happen on a conventional farm. It means that farming is a worthwhile occupation for the kids to come home to!

He has built the health of his farm over many years, from a very degraded block of dirt through the use of animals. He believes that animals are an important link in rebuilding soil and regenerating degraded land. He and his family and other associates, grow and sell beef, pork, chicken, rabbits, eggs and vegetables. These are all integrated, with some enterprises using the same bit of ground, but at different times. For example, he calls his egg laying chickens his hygene and sanitation committee. They follow after the cows to scratch the manure around and eat any bugs, flies and parasites. These paddocks are then rested so that any that get missed don't find another host.

Joel has taken cell grazing to another level. He calls it Rational Grazing because the cows get one days ration each day - they are moved every day.  We have set paddocks and move the cattle depending on their mob size and the size of the paddock. Polyface work out how much the mob will eat in the day and then put a temporary electric fence up.

Farms need people and that to keep farming families on the farm, we need to create salaries for the family coming on. The idea is to add another enterprise to provide another income. So what are our layers going to be when I give up my full time job? I need to find my own income. We'll be looking at that to see what might suit best - maybe eggs or ducks, or fruit trees or nut trees. Maybe beef direct marketed along with the pork - or lamb (that's my favourite!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Joel Salatin

I'm starting to get excited! Kim and I are heading to Gaton tomorrow to go to a Joel Salatin workshop. Joel is a farmer from the US (Polyface Farms) who has developed a way of farming and making a living off small acreages. He's a lot more than that, so if you don't know who/what about him, you will find him here. We went to one of his workshops a couple of years ago and he's very invigorating - an odd word, but he just gets you excited about farming the right way.

He has pigs, cattle and chickens (and rabbits, but we can't do them here in Queensland). He markets these as meat products, so it's a whole paddock to plate enterprise. We are looking forward to getting some tips in improving what we are doing.  It's difficult to make a living off a small area, so by producing the end product it makes us more viable, as well as providing healthier food for people!

Will hopefully report back on it when I get home!

This is something that court my eye on his website.....

"EARTHWORMS: We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business. Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food"

I couldn't agree more.......

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why we farm

I had one of those phone surveys today - I only responded because she said it was about our local area. It ended up being about a new mine proposed for Springsure area, which isn't too far away.

Before I knew this, she asked me what were important issues to me. One was that the Mining sector seems to have total disregard for agriculture and the value of the land that they destroy. So it was interesting that it ended up being about mining. I know that mines bring jobs and revenue to an area, but I can speak from authority, as I have a coal mine about two kilometres from our house....they don't really do a lot for a community. Yes there are jobs for some locals, which is good but brings up another issue I have, which was my second concern, that we as food producers cop ever increasing costs of production, without a corresponding increase in price received. To me, it appears that the mining jobs subdise food production. Just about everyone on properties in our area, has a job in the mine. They work so that they can continue to farm! Without the support of outside income (and that includes me, because I work off farm) most farmers in Australia would not be able to continue to produce food.

In America, the government pays subsidies to their farmers to assist them, over here, we have to work off farm to subsidise the farm. So next time you go to Colesworth to do the shopping, please consider our Farmers before you buy the $1/L milk or $1/kg vegetable! This sort of thing just puts another nail in the coffin of Aussie Farmers. We need support from the Townies to keep us going - buy our food and be prepared to pay for Good Quality Food. Cheap imports will only be around while we have an Agriculture industry. Once our farmers are finished, the cheap imports won't be so cheap!

Sorry, I went on a bit of a rant there, but it really does bug me when I see people I know that only want to be farmers and they have to work off farm so that they can stay farming. But, we all continue to farm, because we love farming!

This is part of the latest Slow Food Newsletter - I thought it was interesting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is a Thermomix really that good?

I've known a few people that have had a thermomix and they go on about how good they are and I think "can they really be that good?" I wondered whether they were justifying in their own minds the expenditure. And they are very expensive! Well, so far, I'm a convert! It is an amazing machine. I haven't been too adventurous yet, but am slowly working my way throught the recipe book that came with it. As well as converting some of my own! I really like the fact that it makes cooking from scratch a lot easier - it makes "slow food" fast food! Some of the things I've done and like:

  • Mashed potatoes - cooked in milk and then mashed so smooth and creamy. You can cook them while the greens get steamed above it, but I'm still trying to work out how to get the greens to actually cook, instead of just heat up - any tips are welcome!
  • Flourless chocolate cake is YUM - grinding the almonds to a meal first means not having to buy ground almonds - that would have to save money surely!
  • Butter - making fresh butter from cream is simple - not sure whether it's better butter than in my standing mixer, but a lot easier and less messy! Having my own cream to make butter makes it even better!
  • Jam - I've made a few small batches, which is a great way to make use of fruit when it's in season and cheap - a great way to make organic jam.
  • Relishs - once again it's easy to make a small batch.
  • Palm sugar syrup - I love this - it's a great inexpensive alternative to Maple syrup. I use the method from here http://yummysupper.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/palm-sugar-sypup.html (sorry don't know how to do fancy widget things!!) Grating the palm sugar blocks is simple in the thermomix - then add the water and cook - all in the Thermomix.
  • Grinding wheat to make bread - it would be a pain to do everytime, but it's really nice - I was lucky enough to get given some chemical free wheat by a local a couple of years ago and it's been in my freezer waiting for me to buy a grain mill!
  • Smoothies, slushies, quick frozen mango and yoghurt icecream
  • Grating cheese, chocolate, citrus rind
  • Cakes, biscuits etc!
  • Cooking rice
  • Polenta - it makes it so easy!
  • Custard, mayonaise, icecream.......
  • I've also been told that you only need to buy whole spices, as you can grind and toast them in it! Will get around to that one!
It really is a most versatile machine and if anyone wants to add some things to do, that would be great. And yes, it really is THAT good!