2022 at the Green Beach
Wow! Hard to believe another year is coming to a close on the farm. This rounds out my fourth year on the farm since finishing university – hard to believe its been that many years already! 2022 was definitely a wild one at the Green Beach – from some wild calving weather, to the first summer in several years with decent precipitation, to the latest harvest dad has ever been a part of. We managed to stay busy and try some new things this year, learning lots as we try to become better observers of nature and use this knowledge in making management decisions that we hope will continue to improve the health of our agroecosystem and the profitability of our operation. All in all, a pretty good year! Here is a look at some of our highlights.
Last winter was a really tough winter – extended 30 below C temperatures, howling wind, a fair bit of snow and deer! The cows definitely had their work cut out for them dealing with the elements – we did start bale grazing earlier in the winter than we had the previous two winters to help them out. Again, we were surprised at how tough these animals are, and they came through the winter just fine. The local deer population did not fare so well – with the deep & crusted snow, they were unable to forage, and so ended up gathering in a huge herd of 200 plus for most of the winter, helping themselves to our winter feed supply. While the deer did consumer a number of our bales, we did not run short – thank goodness we had extra bales!
Spring seemed to be a continuation of the winter – we had 2 substantial blizzards in April just as we were starting to calve. Although it made for some sleepless nights, we didn’t lose any calves to the elements – just a couple had to spend a few hours in the stock trailer to get out of the wind and get their first drink. Along with new calves, pigs & chicks, we also welcomed a new member to the Green Beach Team in spring – Sparrow Berg from Elphintsone, Manitoba. Sparrow worked for us half time through spring and summer. She was a big help keeping animals fed and on fresh pasture! Spring also marked the start of a new business relationship with St. Leon Gardens Market in Winnipeg. We supplied Green Beach grass-finished beef & pasture-raised pork for their store all summer long. We and the market both received great feedback from the Winnipeg customers, and we look forward to continuing this relationship next year! Seeding was drawn out due to the wet spring, with our last field sowed in the first week of July.
Summer was busy as usual – cows & calves were moved to new pasture daily, to improve nutrient distribution on the pastures & lengthen rest period; we tried something new with the pigs, pasturing them in a bluff with a slough so they had natural shade from the trees and access to water to cool off; our flock of laying hens grew to well over 100 while our flock of broiler chickens doubled from last year to 600. With significantly better moisture in 2022 than we have seen in 3 or 4 years, the pastures exploded with growth, more grass than we have ever seen in many parts of the farm. We are confident that our 3-4 years of better pasture management through shorter grazing periods and longer rest periods played a big part in the plants being able to capitalize on a good moisture year and really put on some growth. With all of the extra forage growth we saw this summer, we are looking to expand our grazing enterprise to include some yearling heifers as well as a small flock of sheep in 2023. Despite the late & very wet start, the garden did very well this year – most things produced at least as well as the last 3 or 4 years. The chickens were in the garden in full force – keeping weeds down & adding fertilizer throughout the summer. Off the farm this summer, Kennedy & I took a road trip holiday west to camp in the mountains & visit some family in BC. We had a great 2 weeks! Thanks to the rest of the Green Beach crew for picking up the slack! When we returned, haying season was in full swing and it was time to begin filling our chicken orders. We managed to get 562 of 600 to the butcher this year – not bad for a second try! We sold out without any trouble, and it appears we will increase the flock again next year with the number of orders we have already received.
Fall saw a fairly late harvest due to a late start in the spring – our winter wheat & hairy vetch did not get combined until the first week of September! Dad even mentioned he has never run a combine in October before – something we did this year, finishing up our final piece of grain on October 14th. We even had mom running the new-to-us John Deere combine! We did several intercrops again – some for grazing and some for harvesting. Our oats/flax/peas intercrop worked very well, so we plan to do this 3-way intercrop for all of our cash crop acres next year. We were also very happy with our green feed mix of oats/hairy vetch/ryegrass, so plan to have more acres of it next year and add some flax or buckwheat to further increase diversity in this mix. Due to a late harvest, our fall cover crop season didn’t go quite as we had liked. Following the winter wheat & hairy vetch, we sowed a mix of ryegrass, vetch, buckwheat, peas & radishes. Although we didn’t see any rain in the fall, the field greened up nicely and we hope to see the ryegrass, vetch & some volunteer wheat next spring when the snow disappears. We also sowed some rye & hairy vetch shortly after Thanksgiving – guess we will see what manages to come up in the spring! Post-harvest we tried yet another set up with our grain cleaners – separating wheat & vetch first, then moving into separating flax & oats. The cleaning went much smoother this year and it appears we are closing in on a final set up that will allow us to separate intercrops very efficiently. Throughout all of this, we managed to host three different farm tours this fall. It was nice to share some of the new things we were trying on the farm this year.
As we settle into winter, we are getting more time for indoor jobs, fixing in the shop & planning for next year. All animals are now into their winter homes – birds in the barn, pigs back to the yard, cows & calves each on their own bale grazing site. The winter chore schedule isn’t nearly so demanding at the Green Beach as the cows are moved every 2-3 weeks instead of every day, and the pigs & chickens aren’t moved at all until things start to warm up. This allows us some more leisure time – Kennedy & I are off to Maui January 1st, Mom & Dad are off to Vancouver Island at the end of January. As we look back at the year, it has been our biggest year for meat & egg sales yet and we are so thankful for the support of all of our customers! We appreciate your interest in supporting a local regenerative farm & knowing where your food comes from. We look forward to keeping your freezers full in 2023 and hope you have a great holiday season!