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Spring 2014 Update

It was a busy spring here at the farm.  It is amazing how just being a grass farmer how dependent we are on the weather.  Spring started out cold and wet making it hard for us to get out and do out pasture set up.  The grass took so long to grow enough that we didn’t get the cows on it till the 10th of May.  That is the latest we had gotten them out since we started farming in 2001.  Then the heat came and the grass grew so fast that the cows can’t keep up.  Bob as had to clip the pastures after the cows have gone through since they won’t eat all the tall grasses.

Four calves have arrived thus far and are doing great.

The laying hens are happy to be out on pasture as well.  We have to lock them in their wagon every night due to predators.  The ONE night we didn’t due to thunder and lightning we lost to many to count.

The decision has been made to NOT raise meat chickens this season here at High Point.  Several factors came into play for this decision.  Labor, feed costs, problems at the hatchery to delivery when we wanted them, our chicken butcher deciding not to butcher for customers anymore and of course predators!  Do not worry, we will still have chicken for your dinner table: Our friends at Autumns Harvest (who also raise our pork) will be raising them for us.

Meat Sales:

Our Summer Meat CSA is underway. June to August.  Pickups in Brighton, at the Farm and Ithaca Bakery.  We will be making some changes to our Fall CSA with sales starting in late July.

Our on Farm Store is open every Saturday from 11-2pm.

T-burg Shur Save has placed our meat and eggs in a great location after their remodel.

Brownies Produce, Rt. 96, Jacksonville, NY is now carrying some of our beef and our eggs as well.

Our newest locations for Beef sales: Green Star Market on Buffalo Street in Ithaca and the Busy Bee Market in Sheldrake (right on Cayuga Lake Shore)

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Farm News and CSA Sign ups

Greetings from the Farm!

After a few teasing nice days and then another cold snap we hope we are on the upswing and Spring will finally come! After a long cold winter of planning and reading about farming we are ready for Spring.  The list of things to do is long, but we got an early start with the return of our beloved handy man Jason!  He is back with us to help with the odd jobs and heavy things I cannot do and Bob doesn’t have time to do. He is a life saver!
First on the list was to remodel the egg mobile to make egg gathering more efficient and to meet Animal Welfare approved standards. It now has wings and the tire that went flat last season is all good to go! Our new batch of laying hens should arrive in just a couple weeks! Next on the list:  Get the current batch of laying hens out of the barn (with outside access) and into the garden.  Getting the natural fertilizer on the garden before we till is a great thing! We had to wait until most of the nights won’t be too cold and get past the long stints of cold weather. Now we can tear apart the old hen house area and prepare to make it larger for next season.  We were awarded a grant from Food and Animal Concern Trust to do this.  The concrete has to be poured and set by May 1st!  We also use this space for our starter meat chickens and that is when the first batch arrives! We are really looking forward to getting the cows back onto the lush grass of the pasture.  It costs us about $60-80 a day to feed them hay and balage.  Price varies throughout the winter depending on if the mothers are nursing how many steers we have (most have been sent to the butcher through the winter) and how cold it is outside.  They eat more when it is cold! This weekend we have to run last season’s calf crop through the handling system to be weighed. They will go through again next month for another weight check and to be ear tagged for “summer camp.”  Our deposit has been made for our summer pasture rental. This group will go off to “summer camp” around the 15th of May. Our first early calf of the season was born. First time Mom “Pretty” did a great job and her baby is doing great.  The rest of the calves are due about mid May through September. More waterlines have to be put down, fence lines  cleared of brush, a new fence area made and lots of other miscellaneous jobs are on the list! With all of this to be done we still have more marketing of our CSA and regular day to day farm chores to do!
We are now taking sign-ups for our Upstate CSA that runs June to November.  We have pick up locations in Ithaca, at Sweetland Farm in Trumansburg, at our Farm and in Brighton/Rochester area.  All pick ups are ONCE a month.  Part of the share is chosen by the farm (this helps keep our inventory rotated) and the balance of the share is chosen by members through our on-line store.  More Info and to Join _____________________________________________

Our NYC area CSA ( which is really a Buying Club) still has memberships available with 3 pickup locations: Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn/Williamsburg and Manhattan’s East Village.  We deliver through Regional Access to these locations about once every 3 weeks. More Info and to Join Being part of our CSA helps our farm stay sustainable and makes it so we can continue to farm and provide high quality pasture based healthy meats to our members.

What do USDA labeling claims for local farm products really mean?

Are the farm raised products your eating really what they say they are? Is the USDA really helping consumers with food labeling?

Greetings from the Farm!

Bob and I recently received our AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) certification for our eggs and our beef at High Point Farms!  (The pork we sell comes from another farm that also has AWA certification for its pork.) This FREE certification is a time-consuming paperwork process each year on the part of the farmer.  We believe in these standards and feel it is worth it; especially for those customers who are unable to visit the farm.  This certification adds to the level of comfort for a consumer.   The standards are for the humane treatment and feeding of farm animals raised for consumption.

The Animal Welfare Approved program audits and certifies family farms raising their animals humanely outdoors on pasture or range. Farmers who earn the AWA seal benefit from having a third-party verification of their high-welfare practices and consumers benefit by knowing that the humane label means what it says. Animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range on true family farms with the “most stringent” humane animal welfare standards according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Annual audits by experts in the field cover birth to slaughter. AWA is able to offer this certification and technical and marketing services to farmers at no charge. Because AWA is not financially dependent on farmer fees, the program is unbiased and completely transparent.  To learn more visit: http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/

So, after receiving final approval and reading the other materials provided I got to thinking:  Do our customers really know what they’re eating??  You want to trust your butcher or your restaurant you’re supporting, but what do the claims on the meat labels really mean? Note: All descriptions given for the USDA use of these terms come from AWA guide: Food Labeling for Dummies.  Here is the link if you care to read more: http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Food-Labelling-for-Dummies-screen-v8-10-26-12.pdf

The term GRASSFED by definition of the USDA:

100% of the diet of grass-fed animals consists of freshly grazed pasture during the growing season and stored grasses (hay or grass silage) during the winter months or drought conditions. This term refers only to the diet of cattle, sheep, goats, and bison. It does not indicate if an animal has been given access to pasture, or if it has been raised in a feedlot and/or given antibiotics or hormones. The USDA definition goes on to state that “if for environmental or health of the animal reasons supplementation can be used if the producer logs the type and amount.” Hence, feedlot cattle could be fed harvested forage and supplements.

According to the USDA the animals can be raised in confinement, given growth hormones and antibiotics and the loose-term supplements.   Is that what you would consider grass-fed when you purchase it from an unknown source?  How many grocery stores and restaurants are selling/serving this product and the consumers are none the wiser!?

Another HOT term is ORGANIC. ORGANIC /CERTI FIED ORGANIC as defined by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: All products sold as “organic” must meet the USDA National Organic Program production and handling standards. Certification is mandatory for farmers selling more than $5,000 of organic products per year, and is verified by an accredited certifying agency. In general, organic production limits the use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other inputs. However, it does not strictly define production practices related to space per animal or outdoor access requirements – for example, confinement areas are permitted to fatten organic beef cattle. For information about the National Organic Program and use of the term “organic” on labels, refer to these fact sheets from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service: The cost for this is around $800 per year. Not a certification we believe in when according to the definition, confinement of animals to fatten is acceptable.  To us confinement is NOT acceptable. Is that what you think when you think of organic?  Don’t get me wrong, not all organic farmers use this practice; you just have to know your farmer!
PASTURED/PASTURE-RAISED
No legal or regulated definition. Implies that animals were raised outdoors on pasture. However, since the term is not regulated or certified, there is no way to ensure if any claim is accurate.

On to labeling of eggs.  Many terms are used in grocery stores to get you to buy their product.  Free-Range, Cage Free are just a couple terms used for marketing.  Here are the USDA definitions:

FREE-RANGE /FREE-ROAMING (Eggs) (for any species aside from poultry meat) No legal or regulated definition. Buyers should be aware that the type of outdoor access provided (such as pasture or dirt lot), the length of time animals are required to have outdoor access, and how this must be verified is not legally defined and therefore varies greatly from facility to facility. There is no requirement to demonstrate to the USDA that birds and animals have even had access to the outside, let alone any reference to other management practices. Also, there is no independent third party verification. CAGE –FREE (EGGS) No legal or regulated definition. This term is most often applied to egg laying hens, not to poultry raised for meat. As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are raised without using cages, but almost always live inside barns or warehouses. This term does not explain if the birds had any access to the outside, whether any outside area was pasture or a bare lot, or if they were raised entirely indoors in overcrowded conditions. Beak cutting is permitted. No independent third party verification.

When you think of Cage Free or Free Range don’t you assume the birds have outdoor access???  I guess we shouldn’t assume; especially when we don’t know the farmer.

Chicken for Meat: To be true to our customers we must tell you our meat chickens are NOT Animal Welfare Approved!  We meet all the criteria right up to slaughter.  We raise Freedom Ranger birds; not the highly genetically modified Cornish Cross. We have proper growing standards with them being free to roam with lots of grass.  The way we transport them to butcher is humane.  Where the criteria falls away is with our Amish butcher who does not use a stun gun prior to butchering.  This device costs almost $2000.  A cost neither the Amish nor we want to absorb.  The AWA feels the bird suffers less at slaughter if they are first stunned.  We are not sure we agree, but that is the requirement to have chicken AWA certified.  Therefore, we do not have approval for our meat chicken.  Also, Kosher standards do not allow stunning.  Something to remember.
Here is the USDA approved terms:
FREE-RANGE /FREE-ROAMING (Meat Chickens) Definition by USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (for poultry meat ONLY) Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. Buyers should be aware that the type of outdoor access provided (such as pasture or dirt lot), the length of time the birds are required to have outdoor access, and how this must be verified is not legally defined and therefore varies greatly from facility to facility. Crowding is not uncommon. No independent third party verification.Beware when you see the aforementioned  terms.  They may not really be pasture raised after all!  And because you don’t know the farmer you may never be sure.

If we paid for these certifications our products would be considered and viewed the same as those products that were fed and raised to standards most consumers wouldn’t consider correct or humane.
We encourage you to visit the farms you buy from!  If you can’t physically go there at least visit their website.  If farm visits are not allowed I would say BEWARE!  They may not be a farm at all!  Some “farms” are just a distributor!  However, not all distributors and sellers are bad.  Some have contracts that their farmers must abide by and they follow up with regular visits to be sure the farms are abiding by those standards. You just have to cautious.   After all, this is food you’re feeding yourself and your family.

Summer Farm News

Greetings from the farm!

We have not gotten any significant rain for a VERY long time!  The cows have eaten all the pastures down and we have had little re-growth.  Two weeks ago we had to start feeding the hay we purchased to get us through the winter. It is an unexpected expense we did not anticipate.  The worry now is that we won’t get enough rain for there to be another cutting of hay to replenish what we have used already!

The extreme heat has been a problem as well.  The cows must have shade so we have to keep them near our wooded areas.  The meat chickens are so hot they aren’t gaining weight like they should so they are taking longer to get to finish weight thus eating more grain.   The egg layers lay smaller eggs when they are hot.   All a vicious farming cycle!

twins

We now have 15 calves! We even had one set of twins, the first ever born at High Point!   All are doing well!  We still amy and babhave 2 more cows left to have calves.

freedom ranger

The chicken predator problem has slowed down.  So far we have caught: 4 grey fox, 11 raccoons, 2 skunks and a mink!  Total chickens lost to predators: nearing the 300 mark, a hard hit!

The concrete was poured in our new barn we put up in 2011.  Upon its completion Bob was able to move his tools and things from our garage to the barn and set up his shop.  With the garage cleaned out we decided to move our farm storstoree and CSA making station in there.  It is almost completed and looks great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link

Winners Cookout NYC

Winners Cookout NYC

Two years running we won best burger!!!!!

How Many Steaks in a cow??? Chops in Pig??

For this month’s csa newsletter I will be talking about meat cuts.   As a sustainable farm we do NOT send animals to the butcher every week.  We only grow so many and if we become a  larger farm and have too many animals we would be losing sight of our goals.; which are to raise animals in a safe, humane manner without the use of growth hormones and antibiotics.  We want to keep the farm small enough so we can run it ourselves through our retirement years and not have to hire a number of employees. We need to use/sell the WHOLE animal to stay sustainable.  Review the chart below to get an idea of what few high end cuts are in a cow.  This explains why these cuts are more expensive.  We may not have certain cuts in stock from time to time, since we need to sell the bulk of the meat before we butcher more animals.  We send 2 to 4 animals at a time depending on if they are full grown or not. Per cow: 18-20 NY Strips OR          6-8 T-bones    10-12 Fillet Mignon OR         8- 10 Porterhouse

20 Delmonico’s OR  4 Small Prime Ribs

15 Sirloin Steaks  

 3 Briskets  

3-4 packs Skirt Steak  

 2 Flank steak  

 8-10lbs Short Ribs  

Pork is the same way (per animal): 2 Whole tenderloins ,  2 Baby back rib racks ,  2 St. Louis Rib Racks OR   2 Spare Ribs ,20 Pork Chops,   15-20lbs Bacon  

Now, to talk about the “other” not so high end cuts in a cow.  There are the chuck, round and the ground beef.  Chuck (front end of animal) can be used for roasts, stew meat/kabobs or ground.  The rounds (top end of the back end of animal) are used for roasts, London broil and minute steaks.  That leaves almost 200lbs of ground beef per cow!  With this, other than burger, we make beef chorizo, Italian sausage, hot dogs and NEW this month German summer sausage.

For the pork there is the shoulder, hams (back end) and ground meat.  Shoulder can be made into Irish bacon, roasts known as pork butt or pork shoulder or ground up.  The hams are made into hams or ground up.  Depending on the season or the stock on hand we have 30 to 80lbs per pig to make into Italian sausage, chorizo, andouille, breakfast sausage or ground pork.   Near Christmas and Easter we have the “hams” ground for sausage, closer to the holidays we save them for hams.

As long as I am talking about the beef and pork I might as well touch on the chicken.  As most of you know, we raise Freedom Ranger chickens for meat.  Not the HIGHLY genetically modified Cornish cross.  Freedom Rangers take 12 weeks to reach maturity, not 5weeks like the Cornish Cross.   They can only be raised outside in New York State from May to (if we are lucky) October; they need warm weather. We want them to have fresh air and grass, not confined in a barn, so this is our time frame for raising them. We raise as many as we can, but we only have so much land and time so there is a limit. We have to transport them to a processor which  puts limits on the amount we can do as well.   New York State Ag and Markets makes it very hard to do on farm processing so we use a licensed local Amish processor. Birds have to be sold whole, due to Ag and Markets regulations.   For 2012 we are raising 1500 freedom Rangers.  We are having some MAJOR predator issues this season!!!  We have lost over 200 birds due to mink, raccoon and fox.   We have a friend trapping, we can only hope we get this under control!!!

Review our cooking tips page for rules of thumb for cooking grass-fed meats.    Cooking Tips Link: http://cookingwithhighpointfarms.wordpress.com

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Spring Farm Update 2012

Greetings from the Farm!

We have had a busy spring here at High Point.  I will just touch on some of the high points!

Our Summer/Fall Meat CSA is underway! Space still available for Ithaca, Rochester, Trumansburg pickups!

We still have shares for our Brooklyn and Manhattan CSA’s as well. 

To learn more and Join our CSA go to our website.  (LINK)

The end of May Bob had foot surgery.  After slipping while moving the turkey coop last fall he fractured his foot.  It did not heal correctly so in May he had 2 ligaments reattached and some bone fragments removed.  So far he is healing well.  He will be on crutches for 2 then in a walking cast for 3 weeks.

Even with him laid up the farm does not stop.  So far we have 4 baby calves with 11 more expected.

Here are so snapshots and video:

Flower’s Calf 2012

Just before Bob’s surgery we sent half of our cattle herd off to summer camp.  Bright and early in the morning we loaded them onto the trailer for their trip.  We rent a 66 acre pasture from Hector Grazing.  It is about 6 miles from our farm.  They will stay there until late Oct.

Bob said they were having a great time playing in the pond when he left.

Our first Batch of Freedom Ranger Chicks that arrived in April will be ready for processing mid June.  We have been having MAJOR predator issues!  Of that batch of 200, we may have about 50 remaining!!!!  Our friend has been helping us trap.  So far we have gotten a mink, a raccoon and a skunk!  The geese do not seem to be deterring them one bit!  We can only hope we get them all as we just put out the second batch of 500 chicks on pasture.

Our new laying hens are really laying well now!  We have plenty of small eggs.  CSA members will be see them in their shares this month.  Our older hens have now retired and are in the freezer ready for your purchase. They make the most excellent broth you have ever had, or on a cool week like this, make some chicken and biscuits, I am.

Video of the Freedom rangers from 2 days old to 8 weeks old.  Free Ranging like they are supposed to!