'If you aren’t uncomfortable with what you are doing, you are not trying hard enough to change.'
- Rick Clark, Organic No-till Farmer, Indiana
With another year coming to a close, I thought it was time for a recap-blog from the Green Beach. 2021 was quite the year on the farm; we had some challenges and a number of firsts but, looking back, I think we can all say it was a pretty good year. One thing is for certain, we continue to make changes to our management, moving outside of our comfort zone in order to improve profitability and farm resiliency. With that in mind, I thought it fitting to kick this blog off with the quote above – change can definitely be uncomfortable!
Calving season at the Green Beach kicked off with one surprise calf coming a bit early. He was a nice little bull calf from one of our favourite cows, so we decided to keep him as a bull and he was given the name of Jamison. We are excited at the prospect of using a Green Beach born and bred bull next season! As spring progressed, the rain didn’t come as often as we would have liked, which led to a very dry summer on the farm and throughout most of the province. However, from talking to other farmers around the province, I think we were in a fairly good area for moisture relative to some so we are very grateful for the rain we did get. Our feed crops did suffer a bit from the dry weather, but it appears we will have enough to get us through the winter.
Summer of 2021 was our first year raising meat chickens. They were in the barn for 4 weeks, then on
pasture for 7 weeks before heading to butcher at the start of August. We had very few losses, fertilized some pasture with our portable coops and have had great feedback from our customers on the quality of the meat! We butchered just over 280 birds this summer and plan to raise 600 next summer. Believe it or not, pre-orders are already full, although if we don’t have many losses, there will be chickens available in the fall so keep us in mind! Shortly after the chickens were gone we started in to harvest at the Green Beach. The rye & clover did fairly well with only a couple of challenges swathing and combining… This was a bit of an experiment, as I no-till seeded the fall rye into sweet clover that was already growing in August 2020. With no herbicide applied, it was amazing the lack of weed pressure in this intercrop. Next up to harvest was our feed grain, which didn’t perform as well as 2020 as far as yield but the quality of the barley-oats-peas intercrop appears to be quite good as the pigs have grown rapidly this fall. We also harvested some peas & oats to sell, which I am in the process of separating now. Harvest was done fairly early for us and our fall seeded cover crops grew very well with a bit of rain at the end of August. The early harvest and nice fall weather allowed for some fall projects, including moving some steel grain bins to the farm that we got from a neighbour. We did manage to find some leisure time down at the original Green’s Beach on Salt Lake’s east shore this summer. We decided to resurrect the old Gamey cabin on our property at Salt Lake. Although still a work in progress, we have already reclaimed a lot of the beach area and got the cabin cleaned up and the woodstove going. Fall 2021 also saw our first shipment of Green Beach grass-finished ground beef go to local food store Preserve on Portage Ave in Winnipeg. We have really enjoyed working with Kim at Preserve and have already sent a second shipment to the store, this time with our Honey Garlic Pepperettes in addition to more ground beef.
November seemed to be a hectic month for us! I had the opportunity to speak at the Regenerative Agriculture Conference in Brandon as part of a producer panel that fielded questions about grazing multiple species of livestock in Manitoba. The conference is put on by the Manitoba Forage & Grasslands Association annually, and included speakers from around the world – it was a great event with a lot of knowledge shared. Shortly after the conference, Kenny & I got engaged and are planning on a Green Beach wedding in the summer of 2023! The wedding will be at the farm – we are all very excited! Still in November, we attended our first market, the Apple & Pine Christmas Market at the Keystone Center in Brandon. We had a great time meeting new customers and managed to sell a considerable amount of beef, pork, chickens & eggs. We plan to attend more markets in 2022.
The last few weeks on the farm have included setting up the bale graze for the cows, weaning the last of the calves and separating the peas & oats. Bale grazing has worked out very well for us – reducing chore time in the winter, rejuvenating pastures and of course cutting costs. The calves get their own set of bales for bale grazing and have also performed very well in this type of winter feeding system. As the colder weather settles in, we will spend more time indoors prepping for the next growing season, including crop plans & grazing plans, marketing our beef, pork & eggs and enjoying the reduced workload of the winter season. We look forward to what 2022 holds, with a bigger summer of meat chickens, more cows to calve and our first year with all grain acres under Organic Certification. With a little luck, Mother Nature may remember to send us a bit of rain this year! Hope everyone had a great Holiday Season and enjoys a great 2022.