Turkeys

BRIEF INTERLUDE OF GRATITUDE

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Moon Dancers, snow and the wonder of having animals

A moment of appreciation

We’re on the cusp of a big holiday which celebrates abundance. Harvest is over, and with this blizzard, it really really is. We loaded our turkeys up last night for today’s big life change… butchering for Thanksgiving. Yes, we raise animals for meat and that is part of it.

I wanted to take this moment to breathe thankfulness to all of the Good Life Farm animals- those who only stay a season and feed us at the end of it AND those who live here year in and year out. On our farm we emphasize a regenerative system that combines pasture with the care of trees. It is a cycle of fertility, pest control and joyful expression of each creature’s animal-ness. We seek biologically appropriate designs and integrated systems for maximum health throughout the lives of those in our care.

And today is a change for some, and next week many families will share this gratitude with us. Thank you to our perennial animal family (Leo, Polly, geese, Goose, Reepicheep, Wally, Suss, Ria…) and to those who stayed this summer and fall- the turk mclurks.

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Sweet 2017 Send Off from Finger Lakes Cider House, Kite & String and Good Life Farm

The year draws to a close... 

We say thank you.

It’s a bit early for us to be drawing conclusions about 2017, but we have the honor of working with incredible people whose reflections are powerful insight.  Jeff Katris created this video comprising the lush seasons at the Cider House and the farm, and we offer it to you as our sweet goodbye to the year.

I recently heard a song in which the lyrics speak to the ever evolving farmer soul- “tell me how trees are planted and all the things I never studied, let me learn them now.”

My rewrite... “remind me to plant trees each year and to ask for help when I don’t know the way.”

Thank you to all of those who have worked to make the Cider House, Good Life Farm and Kite & String Cider what we are, and for all the help on the way.  

Cider House Blog Share... Resting To Reignite A Sense Of Curiosity

Seasonal Interlude With A New Friend

For the past two days- Wednesday and Thursday- I've been swept away by what I've come to call a core-mission experience. Simran Sethi came to town to share her book "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love", which we carry here at the Cider House with pride.  Simran's book focuses on agricultural biodiversity and how this affects flavor, sense of place and food stability.  Among other things.  There's a lot out there to read about both Simran and her wonderful book, and my aim is not to repeat that necessarily, but to continue to share with the Finger Lakes Cider House and Good Life Farm communities how this kind of reading, writing and discussion circles back to spark our passion for what we do here.

Please do check out Simran, "Bread, Wine, Chocolate..." and find her where you are!

Listening And Contemplating Amidst Much Doing

First stop- Simran's lecture on Wednesday night, brought to us courtesy of the Cornell Plantations Fall Lecture Series.  Sitting in the audience was the first time in 2 months I'd sat and sustained a quiet, listening pose.  September-November in the cider world is pants-on-fire, between the bookends of FLX Cider Week (Oct 1-9), NYC Cider Week (Oct 21-30), and all the harvest, pressing, fermenting, tasting room hosting, etc that goes on at our farm in a busy Finger Lakes fall.  These times are critical to our business and we do our best to keep up and provide our customers and employees with a truthful and rich experience to keep us all grounded.  It is a time to say "Yes" and take every opportunity to get out into the world with cider, with ginger, with beef, before we all hunker down for a northeast winter.  In the midst of all this comes Simran and her rejuvenating message, and so back to the Statler Auditorium. 

I find a direct and essential connection to Simran's work in the frequent decision making here at Good Life Farm, and continue to be reminded just how far we've come on the strength of our belief, our willingness to compromise and our youthful naivete. 

Walking The Right Livelihood Path: Every Decision A Compromise

When it came time for Eric (Redbyrd Orchard Cider) and me to talk, I realized that despite being there ostensibly to talk about cider and preserving apple varieties, I could easily discuss many farm conundrums, and chose to illustrate the painful decision around turkey breeds we faced each year.  Quoth one of our mentors regarding heritage breed turkeys "they will ruin your high tunnels, they will ruin your marriage, they will ruin your life".  And so, uncharacteristically, we chose NOT to take on the challenge of breeding and raising only heritage breed turkeys.  In actuality, the minute the broad breasted whites and bronzes hit our farm we found them to be active, curious animals who didn't at any point become catatonic on their way to processing weight.  When holding up the permaculture ideal and trying to carry this biodiverse torch, each compromise that involves a nod back to industrial breeding seemed like a huge burden to bear.  Except, it was really hard enough.  On the agricultural side organic, day-range turkeys moving throughout an orchard and asparagus polyculture is a beautiful, productive system.  On the financial end, the intense labor and high grain prices produce an endless series of question marks, so many that this year we took a turkey-raising break.

Luckily for me, I wasn't at Simran's talk to problem solve these issues as much as acknowledge and contemplate.  On Thursday, we followed up the Wednesday Plantations lecture with an intimate Community Writing Circle, Discussion and Happy Hour here at the Cider House.  This workshop was among a few we've held that are small, free, and content-rich without having a sales focus and they truly light my fire.  We sat in a circle, sipped hot toddies of sweet cider and Pommeau, and followed Simran through her process for writing about food (read, love) and were challenged to write our own food story.  Precious time spent in a more restful and thoughtful period that I could have wished for in this hurly burly season.  Again, I found myself writing about the food aspect of Good Life Farm and our challenges in growing food in such an idealized bio-extensive system.  I continue to realize how this farm is intended for the second generation of farmers here, who will enter into a land base of well established trees, a solid herd of cattle, and maybe some clarity around raising poultry. 

Til Next Time

At this moment, a lot seems unclear and in flux.  The Cider House has made it possible to run this as a full-time family operation but still entails 80-90 hr work weeks, which leads me to wonder where that second generation is going to come from.  Instead of just worrying, the past two days of reconnecting to my personal "why" for all of this provides me with a tool for analyzing and discussing it with myself, with Garrett and with our team.  And, in the midst of the exhaustive season of harvest and cider sales, I am awake!  Thank you for the visit, Simran.  Looking forward to sharing more on this topic.

Good Life looking towards fall. On beef, fruit, ginger and this crazy year

How's the Farm?  Drought, Frosts, Cider Houses, Herds not Flocks

Looking back at our last newsletter- May- I find myself wondering "what's news, farm-wise?".  It has been a heck of a year to be a farmer in the Northeast.  We've recorded the hottest months for several months on end.  This heat began with unusually high and sustained winter temperatures, little snow fall and continues to be aligned with drought every step of the way.  We said goodbye to our peach crop during a 50 degree temperature flux in February, and goodbye to much of the apple crop and part of the asparagus during the late frosts of May.  After all that loss, we found that turkeys were not in our budget this year and we buckled down on what we could offer and found that the beef, ginger, fruit and cider remain.  

We continue to find ourselves in a state of identity crisis between the Cider House and the farm.  As Garrett and I analzyse our enterprises, we are increasingly reminded that our major crop systems are really for the 2nd or 3rd generation of farmers to work this farm.  Growing a beef herd with excellent genetics and an orchard of drought-reslient, deep rooted semi-dwarf trees- these things take up to 20 years to yield fully.  It is hard to find a farm like ours without a secondary or matching source of off-farm income.  In 2015, the Cider House became that for us, and we've continued to pile our eggs in this vertically integrated basket. We are asked, regularly, whether this is "working".  


What IS working?

On one hand, I can see that after 7 years of continuous cover, our soil seems to have the ability to bounce back a pasture, even in drought years.  We are not yet feeding hay to the cows, but still rotating on a rapid basis and seeing regrowth in our wake.  This, and the ability to grow trees, are the reasons I farm in the Northeast.  

While waiting for it to rain, praying for it to rain... we accept the losses of this year, and do have some Good Life to share with you all!

Things we have to offer this year

  1. 100% Custom Cut Grass-fed Beef!  More info here.
  2. Organic, baby ginger.  Starting October!  Order info here.
  3. Pending info on organic apples and asian pears.  Info will be posted here.

TURKEY UPDATE: No Good Life Turkeys This Year

Why, one might ask?  Each year I tout the glory of an integrated animal and plant polyculture, wherein the turks do all the fertility work for the following year's fruit and asparagus crop.  While this is still true, organic grain prices continue to outpace the price we can sustainably charge (and pay up front for grain delivery) for a finished turkey.  We decided, after seeing the other 2016 farm losses coming down the pipe, to take a year off from turkeys to regroup, rebuild our financial stability.  In the weeks to come, we will have a set of recommendations for where you might find this year's Thanksgiving bird, so please feel free to ask!  And please do consider us in the future- turkeys have been an important part of Good Life Farm, and we hope to bring back this enterprise.

Thanksgiving is Nigh!

A Guide To Stocking Up and Getting Down...

Come to our Thanksgiving Market on Monday, Nov 23rd in our Tasting Room!

Prepping the bird...

Good Life turkey birds had a great year!  We ended up needing to process the last batch early, so all our birds are frozen this year.  Please let us know if this changes your order!

To help make this all easy as... pie... Early Morning's Tracy McEvilly and Chef Emma Frisch teamed up on receiving, thawing, rubbing, brining and generally prepping for the big day.  See their Guide to your Good Life turkey, below.

Click here for RECIPES!  Apples, ginger, cider, turkeys, oh yes!


What Makes A Pastured Turkey's Meat Moist? A re-post from Stockman GrassFarmer

We feel no need to reinvent the wheel or good writing, so unabashedly re-share this great article (that we could not find on the internet so transcribed and paraphrased here) from the November 2014 Edition of the Stockman GrassFarmer... by Joel Salatin (p. 10).  Whom else?!

"What is it that makes a pastured turkey's meat moist?"

Answering the question specifically  brings up numerous general issues about texture, taste, and eating quality.  The universally tasteless, dry and cardboard-like texture of industrial poultry is axiomatic. ... Differences between herbivores and omnivores extend far beyond diet.  Behavior, group size and exercise play a large role in flesh quality.  As a context, let's see what the industry has done to diminish firm and moist meat qualities.  First, group size increases.  Second, exercise decreases.  Third, diets are simpler.  Fourth, air is filled with fecal particulate.  Fifth, the salad bar- or any fresh greens- are no longer ingested.  It stands to reason that if these five big changes are the culprit, then changing them would be the cure...
Group Size: In nature, turkeys group into a convenient size of  somewhere between 20-100 individuals.  You will never see a group of 1,000 wild turkeys.   In the 20-odd years we've been raising pastured turkeys, about 400 seems to be the maximum number for one group without seeing aberrant and overly aggressive social behavior... Turkeys like to flock together, regardless of how big an area they have.  The size of the flock carries social implications.
Exercise: Properly toned flesh is more moist and tasty. ... Turkeys need to roam.  As a flock, they tend to move en masse from one area to another.  
Complex Diets: In nature, poultry feeds on a wide variety of foodstuffs.  Few things are as entertaining as watching a turkey chase down a June bug [or vole].  Amazingly, more often than not the turkey plucks the beetle right out of the air.  I believe scavenging a healthy supplement of insect protein to the feed grain ration is a key to creating moist eating.
Fresh Air: This is where pastured poultry systems shine.  And when I say pastured, I'm not talking about dirt yards.  I am talking about green grass.  ...texts say that deep breathing and fresh air affect blood flow and cleanliness, which affect(s) taste and texture...

Thanks Joel and Stockman, for an incredible and right-on article!  Good Life turkeys have these quality-of-life considerations in spades, largely because mimicking  natural systems is the foundation of our farm design and crop and livestock selection.  We believe 100% in fresh air, green grass and exercise... take a look at our daily chore video if you want to see how this half lives!

Multi-species working... easy-going Randy and Leo are taking the Turk Ark to greener pastures by turning a corner in the Orchard-Asparagus fields... and the turkeys really enjoy it! http://www.thegoodlifefarm.org/