Inspired by the various fun activities and field trips organized for our permaculture class this spring, I decided to see if I couldn't organize a few fun outings for the kids and our unschooling friends.
Last month, we had the opportunity to work on a local cob cottage and a behind the scenes tour of Wheatsville Co-op. Then over this past weekend, we took a Permaculture Home Ec class with Jenny Nazak over at our CSA, Green Gate Farms. I hadn't previously thought of scheduling outings on the weekend, but it was nice to have dads, partners, and other friends who we can't get together with during week along for the fun.
This past Monday, we visited Fresh Pastures Farm, out in Taylor, TX. I haven't spent too much time out that way, so although it was an hour's drive away, I was looking forward to checking it out. The kids seemed okay with the drive too...well, until my little boy suddenly decided that a crucial toy had been left at home, five minutes before we reached our destination. This was long enough to get quite worked up, and once my boy is worked up, it takes a long time to bring him back down. He didn't want to walk, or see the chickens. Even the Great Pyrennes dogs guarding their flocks didn't change his mood, or the adorably waddly Basset Hound who'd found himself conscripted into service. No, my boy wanted to be carried, where he could periodically thrash about in the loving arms of his sweaty, sun addled mama (who had, once again forgotten her hat).
When we reached the furthest reaches of the property, to visit with the pigs, he finally let me set him down for a few moments.
And then I had to pick him up and haul him some more.
Wait, I haven't really said anything about the farm!
I was struck by how simple their set up was. Fresh Pastures is a small 30 acre spread farmed by a homeschooling family. The infrastructure for their pasture raised poultry involved portable electric fencing, simple hoop houses for shade, and a guard dog for each flock. The heritage Old Spot pigs get to roam a brushy area down by the creek, also enclosed by portable fencing. This allows the family to move the fencing for all of their animals regularly, so none of the pasture areas get over-grazed. The family also has a small number of cattle, also on a pasture rotation program.
What I've appreciated most about visiting small scale family farms is the emphasis on sustainability. On all three cattle operations I've visited this spring, the answer to "How many head of cattle do you run?" has been a variation on, "Well, it depends on the rain and how the grass is doing. We only run as many cattle as the land can support."
Owing to my hauling a small angry boy around, I didn't get to take any photos.
I really appreciated an honest look at all aspects of a working farm. In addition to cooing over the baby chicks in the nursery, we visited Fresh Pastures' small onsite processing facility. Farmer Brie explained every detail of the processing, even inviting us back to observe and participate in a processing day. Think any industrial meat processing facility wants you anywhere nearby to see what's going on behind their closed doors?
Afterwards we picnicked with the family on the shaded back porch of the farm house, and had the opportunity to purchase pasture raised meats and farm fresh eggs. You can bet I remembered to bring a cooler and cold, hard cash along.
Our freezer is now fully stocked with nothing but the good stuff - no hormones, no anti-biotics, and I know exactly what kind of lives those animals lived.
One of our friends asked Farmer Brie how much they planned to expand their operation. They've only been farming for a little under a year. The family has no plans to expand. Their dream is for every city to have 200+ little farms just like theirs, doing their share to supply sustainably farmed meats or vegetables. I love this vision, and love how Austin is well on the way to fulfilling the collective dream of a local food economy.