Week 29 – Warning…Grocery Store Soap Box!
Bales, bales and more bales…that is the theme here on the farm for the next week or so. We have hundreds of round straw and hay bales still dotting our organic, and soon to be organic, fields both here at the home place and the farm next door. Somebody has to move all these…8 to 10 at a time with our bale mover attached to the pick-up truck. At 4 loads per hour, and say 250 bales to move, that’s about 8 hours. I may have to que up some of my favorite podcasts or catch up on phone calls to make the most of it. If only I could find a way to write my blog or return emails as I bounce down the field in the skid loader. I do have to say, and I know my father mentions this often, field work and tractor jockeying is great for thinking…deep, deep thinking…about life, food, family, community health and how we manage our way through this complicated world.
We had a late planting of transition oats to combine yesterday and Ryan said a part for the steering column shit the bed. (sorry Mom, it just doesn’t sound right to say crapped the bed) After an hour drive to the “tractor and combine graveyard”, they couldn’t find this particular part on over 60 retired Case combines. The junkyard parts guy said he is hardly ever stumped and they usually have the requested part. I guess his streak ended and Ryan returned to the farm empty handed…lucky us. If we can’t get the local welder and repair shop to come up with a creative fix, we may just bale the straw with the oats still attached. These will be set aside for the pigs. We often throw them golden straw to keep them super cozy and clean and they love it. Add in the goodies of grain and they’ll lose their minds….should be fun to watch.
Julie’s report from the lush hills of Wallace Farms-East are very positive, minus one sore bull. She and Kenny weren’t exactly sure how it went down, but I’m guessing two bulls were fighting for the same lady friend and as one was “in the act” the other bull thought a good head butt would end the mating session. Well as you might imagine, when one is “in the act”, a certain exposed part can be bent in the scuffle. I say bent as in best case and broke as in worst case. Many a bull have been put out to pasture because of a broken “unit”. When I say “put out to pasture”, I mean “hot dogs and sausage”. I’m not sure why that saying exists. No farmer puts an old or useless bull out in the pasture to eat grass for free. That is good for bull but not farmer, or at least his bottom line. Bulls are expensive and a crucial part of cows having great calves. This bull was in his prime so we hope the swelling subsides and he’s ready for action next year when coach signals to the bullpen it’s game time.
Allow me to grab my dusty soap box right now. I’m been stewing a bit lately on how to explain what grocery stores are doing in regards to their “grass-fed beef” offerings. I often hear that we may be a little higher priced than grocery store options. I will probably make a separate post and go into greater detail on this subject but here are the key points to think about when you see “grass-fed beef” in the grocery store. This is the process and or layers involved to get beef into a major grocery chain. 1) grass-fed farmer has to raise an animal, carry the cost of cow or buy a calf, pay for or raise hay and forage, graze pasture, buy and repair equipment and pay labor to create an artisan beef product 2) distributor has to buy the animal, pay the processing for the cutting, packaging, labeling and shipping to their warehouse. 3) Retailer has to pay the distributor for the product and have it shipped to each store or to their warehouse for distribution. 4) Retailer has to mark-up grass-fed beef and display it in their brick and mortar store. These margins are usually pretty steep and more than what you might expect.
I am telling you with 100% confidence that there are corners being cut to create this pipeline of cheap grass-fed beef in the store. I probably know over 20 producers of artisan grass-fed beef. None of them can afford to market and sell their grass-fed beef to a distributor. We all try to connect directly to you…we have to in order to capture enough profits to keep the lights on and keep moving forward. I just want you to be aware that not all labels are created equal and that there is little to no oversight on these labels.
On a cheerier note, be sure to check out our summer sale that is still in full swing. Maybe tell a friend or a neighbor about us, who we are, and what our mission is for farmland across the country. It’s important and we appreciate you being in our corner!
By the way, I would be totally ungrateful if I didn’t mention how lovely the weather is this week. It reminds me of the summer I spent out in Oregon. Good dry heat, no humidity, and full sun with blue sky. This farmer is very thankful and I bet the animals are too.
Have a great week and weekend and think of us the next time you see that “grass-fed beef” label in the grocery store. It should make you go hmmmm?