When you choose to get your chicken straight from the farm, you would think your choice of a local farmer is a good one for not only your community , but the environment. The chicken is produced not too far away from where you live, so your reducing your carbon foot-print by purchasing direct, right? As it turns out, before you even make that hour drive out to the farm, your chicken already had a few miles on it!
Here is the equation: Source + Processing + Delivery= Total Miles
Source: Where does your farmer get the chicks from? Many people think that farmers that raise chickens for meat also produce these chicks from their own fertile eggs. This however is not usually true. Running an operation to breed the best chickens and then collect the eggs and hatch them is a job onto itself. Most poultry farms have enough to do. So they get chicks from an operation that specializes in this very thing. Wouldn't it be nice if these chicks came from a neighboring farm? But they usually don't. Their shipped in from other states that are mainly located in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa and Maine. If you're the Midwest, that's a lot of miles just to get started.
Processing: Where does your chicken meet it's end? In a perfect world, the farmer that cared for her bird would be the one to ensure that it is processed in a manner that is humane and swift. This is an act best carried out by the farmer or someone under the farmer's tutelage. However, the majority of chickens are sent off to USDA processing plants which can be a few hundred miles away! The average chicken travels 150 miles by truck to the processing plant.
Delivery: How does the chicken get to you? From the farmer, to the processing plant, sometimes back to the farmer but sometimes to some distribution point, the chicken is now making it's way to you. From here it just depends on where the farmer is shipping to. It doesn't take a mathematician to see that mileage on chicken can really add up!
Our City Farm has taken steps to ensure that our chicken is your most sustainable choice. We source our chicks for a local hatchery and pick them up. This reduces the travel stress on the chick and allows us to see where our chicks come from. Our chicks enter the world in Troy, Missouri, just 51 miles from the farm. We then raise our chickens on Organic pasture in Ferguson, Missouri. Our chickens are then processed on-farm, by hand, requiring no additional travel, 0 miles. From the farm to you, it's just 16 miles.
Below I've gathered numbers using the closest and most popular source for chicks, the closest processing plant and closest chicken farm. The delivery point is Tower Grove Farmer's Market.
Average Local Farm: Source + Processing + Delivery= Total Miles ( 405 + 256 + 155= 816 miles)
Our City Farm: Source + Processing + Delivery= Total Miles (51 + 0 +16= 67 miles)
We'll there's the math. While there may be some other great local options for you, I believe Our City Farm is the most sustainable choice for your chicken. Just do the math.
Most of the customers that come to us have been searching for soy-free eggs and/or chicken for months or years due to dietary restrictions or food allergies. However a growing number of people are electing to eliminate (or at least regulate) soy in their diets. When people ask me why I've chosen not to feed soy to our hens and broilers, my response is usually simple, "Soy is in everything anyway, at least this is something I can control." It's very simplistic and really more of me avoiding the soapbox. However, I think it's important that our customers and potential customers know why we've opted to provide soy-free eggs and chicken.
Soy is higher in a plant based hormone that mimics estrogen in our bodies. It is called phytoestrogen. Many studies have linked high levels of estrogen for ailments such as breast cancer, endometriosis and infertility. We been contacted by many local nutritionists who are working with families that have young girls (as young as 6 years old) experiencing early puberty. If you think it's hard to explain to a pre-teen about the changes their body is experiencing, just imagine having the same discussion with your 6 or 7 year old! Not only are little girls blossoming into womanhood at a young age, middle-aged men have also reported having the same issue!
What about weight-gain? Did you know that soy suppresses your thyroid, making it harder for your body to get the iodine it needs. When your thyroid can't do it's job, one result is weight gain. Additionally soy can alter or suppress the absorption of other vital nutrients.
Soy is not the "health food" that the food industry is marketing it as and subsidies are making growing soy big business for factory farms. For more information on the dangers of soy, please visit the following sites:
We are proud to be able to provide soy-free alternives for our community though it requires some extra effort, it's worth it. You can purchase our soy-free eggs and chicken through our CSA or at Tower Grove and Old North Market.
We've finalized our list of produce offering for the 2013 season and we are really excited about the upcoming season!
- Sweet Basil (large leaf)
- Lemon Basil
- English Thyme
- Fernleaf Dill
- Rainbow Carrots (Atomic Red, Amarillo and Satin)
- Chard (Golden and Rainbow Chard)
- Albino Beets
- Bulls Blood Beets
- Red Round Turnips
- White Flat Turnips
- Brocolli Raab
- Bordeaux Spinach (Short season)
- Lacinato Kale (Dinosaur Kale)
- Purple Desiree Podded Peas
- Golden Yellow Podded peas
- Romaine Lettuce (Speckled and Cimaron)
- Head Lettuce (butter and Red)
- Lettuce Mix
- Yellow Pear Tomatoes
- Rose Potatoes
- Purple Viking Potatoes
- Onions (Yellow, Red and Green Bunching)
- Eggplants (Orange Turkish, Black Beauty, White)
That is the official list of what we are growing this year. Additionally, we are working with an organic grower to provide our farm with exlusive organic heirloom tomatoes and a few other great specialty items for our CSA baskets.
Additionally, we are producing even more of our delicious pastured poultry this year. Chicken will be not only be available as part of our CSA, but also available via pre-sale online and at the farmer's market.
Our layers are due to be moved to the city farm this Spring, pending the installation of the fencing required. It will be so good to have the girls near again!! This is an exicting season. And we cannot wait to get started. We'll be starting seeds on the 15th and the hoop house is still in the 50's. Looks like we'll get an early start this year.
One more exciting change...We'll be back at Tower Grove this year! That means, we'll have a South City Pickup! We look forward to growing for you again!
It's been a while since we've posted on the blog but in the background we're making a LOT of changes. This past session really showed us how we should adapt to our changing client and build in a few failsafes. We hope for the best but plan for the worst. So, in that spirit, Our City Farm has made a few changes to our CSA for the upcoming session and we are very excited to tell you!
Change #1: 26 Week "Extended Season"
Instead of our usual (2) 22-week sessions, we've decided to offer a single season that begins an entire month earlier. This will allow us to focus our resources on providing a great experience for customers during a single term without the stress and confusion of coordinating the end of one session one week before the next session begins.
Change #2: Farm-Pickup Only
While we liked offering multiple drop-off sites for our customers, we feel that on farm pick will allow us better quality control and more efficient issue resolution. We really enjoyed the one-on-one interactions with our customers in previous sessions and really missed that with having drop-off points. We never saw 40% of our customers. This made communication via email and Facebook our only real option and that's really no fun at all. While we enjoy communicating with Facebook Fan or answering emails, we also think that it's important for you to get to know the people that are growing your food. So now, you will have that opportunity!
Change #3: More Variety
With the extreme heat and drought conditions we experienced this summer, we felt it is necessary to increase the number of varieties of produce we offer to ensure that crop loss doesn't effect the size of our weekly produce baskets. While we have space limitations at our city farm location, we will have an additional site to provide even more produce!
There will be a few subtle changes to the way we operate to ensure that we continue to meet our customer's needs as we grow. We will do our best to keep you updated as to changes and progress as things occur!
This was a wonderful interview which aired July 19th by STL TV.
The house I grew up in had a room in the back of the basement, a step down from the main basement. I never knew what this room was really for. This room was our root cellar. This special room was design for storing vegetables over several months without refrigeration. By the time I came along, that room was used for storing winter coats and items from the World War II. This was not a great place to store these precious items as the humidity in the room was extremely high. High humidity helps the vegetables keep longer without spoiling (yet caused a WWII bomber jackets to mildew and fall apart). Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, cabbage, apples, turnips and beets can be kept for several months without refrigeration. In the correct conditions, beets and turnips can be stored for up to 6 months.
Today, with refrigerators in every home and the prevalence of supermarkets, most homes do not have root cellars. Even without the root cellar, you can create the same environment on a smaller scale. With these everyday items, you can have your own mini "root cellar":
- Dark colored Food grade plastic bin with lid (dark-colored Rubbermaid-like container)
- Peat moss or sand (enough to fill the container 2/3 full)
- Spray bottle of clean, potable water
There are different ways to store different vegetables for long-term storage. This post will focus on storing turnips and beets.
- Wash and dry the container you will use for storage.
- Collect the vegetable you will be storing. There is no need to wash or remove any dirt from the roots of the vegetables.
- "Top" the vegetables by removing all the leaves. Simply cut one to one and a half inches from the top of the root leaving an inch or inch and a half of stem with no leaves. In the case of turnips or beets, if you do not remove all of the leaves or enough stem, the turnips/beets will start to shrivel as water is drawn to the leaves and away from the edible root.
- Fill the container with enough sand/peat to cover half of the vegetables.
- Spray the sand with the water bottle enough to dampen it but not soak it.
- Set the turnips/beets in the sand straight up and down.
- Cover with the remaining sand/peat completely and spray again with water.
- Repeat this layering process until the box is 3/4 full.
- Place the lid on the container.
You will store the container in a dark, cool location. Protect the container from fluctuating temperatures, sunlight. Keep your box around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The mist of water is to maintain about 90% humidity. Check your box every couple of weeks for the correct humidity and spray the plastic as needed. You may also use a cardboard box and follow the same process, however you will need to take extra care to protect the box from rodents and insects that will likely find their way inside the box and destroy your vegetables.
Here is my mobile root cellar:
Our albino beet after 3 weeks in storage:
Now, you can stock up on your root crops over winter and save room in the fridge.
Last November as we made plans for our city farm expansion, we launched a Kickstarter to help fund the expansion project. For 60 days we tried to raise $20,000 towards the total project costs and in the end we got close yet fell short. We made it to $17,558, just $2442 from our goal. With the crowdfunding source Kickstarter, almost doesn't count. If you you fail to meet your project goal, you don't receive any funds and your backers are not charged. This was a dissapointing lesson to learn, however it gave us an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and find a way to implement our plans despite not receiving the funding.
As you may have seen, we've already working on the city farm. We've set up beds and planted them and will continue the planting to have produce for our CSA. We've made such great progress, yet there is something that must be done to really kick this project off in the right direction. We need to close on the land. We decided to launch another Kickstarter focused on simply the funds needed to close on the city lot. The lot costs $7,500 and our Kickstarter project goal is $6,500.
24 hours after we launched our Kickstarter project, we were already 50% funded! We still need to get to 100%. We are very hopeful that we can get there in the 26 days remaining. Please visit our Kickstarter page and watch our video and share it with others. The more visability our project receives the better chance we have to get funded. If you are so moved by watching our video to back our project, we would really appreceiate it!!
No one wants to nurture a plant through the seedling stage, put it in the ground and just when it starts to bear fruit, it basically disintegrates before your eyes! But, it happens. We are dedicated to using only organic practices at the farm from seed selection to all stages of growth. We do use OMRI certified sprays that are natural soaps, but outside of that we use beneficial insects.
Whenever we get overloaded with a pest, we find a natural enemy of that bug and if there aren't sufficient populations of the insect, we'll either plant something to attract more or we'll buy more insects. Yes, I said buy some! We did just that very thing as we were overwhelmed by aphids in our growing room. It was a strange thing since the room is indoors, thus no natural predators were around. So I moved the seedlings into our hoophouse and purchased 1,000 lovely ladybugs to feast of aphids.
In two days, thousands of aphids have been removed from my plants! It is pretty amazing. The ladybugs got a great meal and I get healthy plants again. This process of using beneficial insects, trap crops (planting other crops that pests like and they'll hopefully leave your good stuff alone) and natural applications (enzymes, bacteria's, etc.) is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). You may see this term used by organic farmers.
Here is a photo of our aphid buffet:
We've been growing year-round inside, however there is just nothing like fresh air, sunshine and a little dirt under the nails. We've been starting seeds for planting in the field and growing what I call "test plants" of new varieties in our hydroponic system. We are new farmers and I like to see what the plant is really supposed to look like during all phases of growth. Our hydroponic system is in a clean, pest free environment so that we pretty much get an idea of the "best case senario" of the the plant's growth cycle. This has been quite helpful in growing our Freckled Romaine. It is absolutely beautiful and a joy to watch! I can image rows and rows of this gowing...bright green, long, leaves with rich, burgundy spatters. It's so stricking. I look forward to the taste test.
We are growing 99% heirloom produce now and I'm truly amazed by the varieties. You will surely expect green broccoli , but how about a deep purple broccoli? We got podded beans in beautiful range of colors:green, yellow, purple and an outstanding purple with cream splashes. Can you imagine getting your kids to eat their veggies!! Dinnertime is a lot of fun at our house. The kids think our "mixed up" colored veggies are silly.
When greenbeans are in, let's have a greenbean casserol receipe contest! You can you any variety of "green"bean and we'll taste-test them all!! Yum.
Villarreal Family Farm is Certified Naturally Grown for our poultry, eggs and recently produce. We feel that Certified Naturally Grown embodies the values and practices that are a part of our daily farming operation. That is not to say we are not going to work on attaining additional certifications. We want to ensure that we only get certified in areas that we believe matter to our customers. We believe that our customers care how we treat our animals, how we grow our food and what we do to keep our consumers safe. While I'm sure the egg cartons with more stamps than an international business man's passport may look impressive, I believe it is confusing to consumers and lessens the worth of noteworthy certifications out there.
When deciding what certification is important to us, we look to our mission statement: "...provide and promote high quality, naturally-grown and local food production in an urban environment...while using sustainable principles and practices". We believe that the certifications we seek should speak to that mission should embody and promote high quality and sustainability.
In addition to Certified Naturally Grown, we are working on our GAP (Good Aggricultural Practices) certification. We believe this certification will signal to our customers that we are committed to quality and safety in every aspect of our food production. We have a documented Safety Standards Policy and as we grow in staff, we will continue to enforce complete compliance with our documented Food Safety Pocedures. This is the first step to certification and we look forward to the day when we are certified in GAP.
Another certification that is down the road is Animal Welfare Certified. We will be working to see how we can implement and adhere to these standards in our small farm, urban environment. We are striving to meet these goals as the care, safety and welfare of our animals for us directly equates to quality products that our customers can feel good about purchasing.
So, don't expect to see a colorful array of stamps on our packaging. However, the certifications that we do embrace will be proudly displayed!