Welcome to our Holden's Hide a way farm

Holden's Hide-A-Way Farm is a diversified farm that produces a wide variety of meat product, in much of the same manner as a farmer would have 100 years ago. Our ideas on how to raise livestock come directly from mother nature. We raise grass fed beef and lamb because that is what mother nature intended. Our pigs are free to root and roam through out the warm seasons. Winters are spent in a barn with ample space and lots of hay to eat and root around in. Poultry is raised on pasture where they get lots of fresh air and can do the things poultry likes to do.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

This week on the farm

Mild weather and mid winter blues have everyone thinking about the garden. Seed catalogues have been ordered, supplies are being listed, plans are being made. We are expanding our garden this year. Last season we plowed down an acre of pasture land in preparation for our next expansion. Up until now our mission was to provide "natural" meat products to the public. Without all the antibiotic residues, growth hormones, unnatural feeds. Growing the stock in a way that is sustainable, environmentally friendly and animal friendly. This year it is our goal to provide the same people with fruit and vegetables. The research we have done through our journey to become full time farmers has taught us allot about all areas of food production. While livestock, cattle in particular, have received allot of media attention regarding how taxing they are on the environment. Vegetable production has stayed below the radar. However conventional vegetable production can have devastating effects on the environment and the health of our families. Mass amounts of chemical fertilisers and insecticides are only two of many issues. Conventional vegetable production means crop specialisation. Huge specialised machinery for tilling, planting, spraying, and harvesting means farmers can only afford to grow one or two types of vegetables. Large scale potato farming for instance involves equipment that can add up to 1/2 a million dollars. These large mono crops lead to soil depletion of certain nutrients that have to be put back with chemicals, and disease infestations lead to huge amounts of chemicals being added to combat the disease. The soil provides nutrients for the plants, which in turn provide nutrients for the consumer. When you continually harvest the same crop, you drain the nutrients in the soil. Conventional farming only really tracks nitrogen(N), phosphorus(P), and potassium(K). A study we read last year showed a comparison of a grocery store tomato and a tomato from a small organic garden. The grocery store tomato had 12 measurable nutrients, the garden tomato had hundreds of measurable nutrients. I can not remember the exact number, but the difference was huge. The same holds true for other naturally produces vegetables. They may not be as pretty as the grocers store vegetables, but they are by far more nutritious.
We are not an "organic" farm but we do our best to produce food that is chemical free, working with nature instead of fighting. My wife had an experience a couple years ago that has pushed us in this direction. While out at a local berry patch picking she realised there were no black flies. At home the black flies were so bad she could not remain in the garden for more than 30 minutes. Just about the same time she saw the 60 foot wide crop sprayer heading out on an adjacent field. Strawberries are very difficult to grow organically. Everything loves straw berries.
We plan on growing a little bit of everything. Rotating crops, growing the soil with composted manure and cover crops, and utilising modern tools and old fashioned know how to grow nutritious family friendly food. This is a learning process so it will be a couple years before we are in full production.
The longer we farm the more we realise we are not just selling food. We sell nutrition.

On another note our livestock guardian dogs are almost ready to go to their new farm. One is going to a local sheep farmer, the others are going to three different sheep farms in Quebec. These dogs have been used for centuries to guard livestock from predators. They live with the sheep and consider the sheep their "pack". There are many breeds from all over the world. We prefer the Great Pyrenees. As the name implies they originate from France. Lambs are a favourite for many people, as well as coyotes, wolves, bears, bobcats, foxes..... There really are not very many carnivores that don't like lamb. Predation is one of the biggest issues in lamb production across North America.

We have had great success with a combination of electric fencing and dogs. We have never lost a lamb to a coyote, wolf or bear. They offer a non lethal way to keep predators away. They rely on the fact that wild animals do not want to fight. When a predator shows up at our fence Jack and Jill (the dogs)meet them. I have witnessed on several occasions a silent meeting at the fence. You can almost read the minds of the animals as they stare at each other. Then the coyotes wander off to eat the lambs of another local farmer. Many of which think we are crazy for feeding these big dogs. I have told them that all the dogs have to do is save three lambs per year to earn their keep. Old farmers tend to be stuck in their ways. In our opinion they are one of the best investments we have ever made. As far as the dogs are considered, they live the dream life (for a dog). They have access to the entire property, but usually stay inside an acre or two of fenced  land. No kennels, no tie out stakes. They eat a balanced dog food, with the addition of extra eggs and meat products produced here. They work for a living, but spend most of their time lounging on top of a hay pile in winter or under a shade tree in the summer.