In March, at the beginning of this pandemic, our farm made the decision to LOWER our chicken prices. We did this because we sourced non-GMO feed closer and for much less money. We lowered a whole chicken from $22.99 to $13.99. Some people criticized us for not capitalizing on the fear of our friends and family who support this small farm.
We also ramped up our production. Because the bottleneck in the food supply chain is processing, we've seen farmers talk about euthanizing animals. It truly shows that some consumers have no connection with their food when they say "I'll buy a cow or a pig from the farmer". The sentiment is sweet, but they are ignorant to the process. What they would get is a LIVE ANIMAL. Most farmers, do not have the equipment, tools, skills or ability to butcher and process an animal, much less the USDA certification required to sell individual cuts of beef, for example.
So we worked backwards.
We talked to our butchers and processors, small businesses themselves and terrific, loving and caring people. They told us what they could handle, and we filled the farm with that amount. That included starting hogs, over a year earlier than we planned.
We more than doubled our chicken production. We doubled our beef production and did more individual cuts then we typically do.
This didn't come cheap or easy. It meant hours up at night, trying to make sure if we sank every last penny into livestock, would we have enough money in fencing, tools, etc., to still get the job done. Could we literally put in every extra penny and still pay our own mortgage? Feed our five kids (they do eat things other than meat, afterall!)? And still have a little in savings, just in case Giana lost her 'real job'? Then there was the actual work that it takes to more than double chicken and beef, add in turkeys earlier and pigs for the first time. That takes new pastures, more fencing, new feeders, different equipment, more fencing, more time spent moving, feeding and carrying for animals and did I mention, MORE FENCING. Kencove Fencing Supplies know us so well, they greet us with "Hey Blue Dog" when they see our number pop up on their phone. **sigh
And marketing and selling. It has been overwhelmingly humbling to meet so many people who are interested in pasture raised meats! And there have been some interesting encounters too. Phone calls like this:
Blue Dog: Hello!
New Customer: I need a half a cow today. I want to pick up at 2pm, how much does it cost and and what is included.
Blue Dog: Normal shhhhpeeal about how it takes us 2 years to raise an animal, our animals are all grass fed and grass finished, and ....
New Customer: Interrupting.... "Ok, so you are sold out for two years?" *nasty tone
Blue Dog: No! Absolutely not! In fact, we have some individual cuts in our online store now. But for quarters, half and full animals we take a deposit to reserve your month and then....
New Customer: Oh I understand all that, so I can't get a cow today?
Blue Dog: Not unless you want it moo-ing....
Ok, ok, ok, well we don't really say that, but that's what we think.
So, we've ended up with a lot of new customers who are complete gems. Jewels in the friends of the farm club that we want to keep forever, but this pandemic thing has us thinking....
Will YOU be with us?
Did we ramp up too much? Are all these people going to decide since they can walk into Giant, Weis, Wegmans and Walmart that they don't need our small, family farm anymore? Were we only a back up for when people were panicked about food? And is all our work in vain?
Or are you moving to #shoplocal for life? Are you interested in what we do because you want to support a local, veteran, family farm and know how your food was raised and by whom? Have you tasted the difference?
Have you seen the hard work it takes, the love and care we put into caring for animals and being good stewards of the land? Have you seen us agonize about how to feed more people? Or how to feed people in need? Have you asked for advice with your garden? Keeping your own hens?? The difference between turkey and chicken eggs or tractor questions?
Do you know who we are what we are doing? In case you don't or if you'd like to know more, we put a few fun facts here!
1- We raise all natural, only grass fed and grass finished beef. Our beef is never given growth promotants, or hormones, never fed antibiotics and never given grains or silage. We provide minerals, like salt, clay and our own apple cider vinegar for animals to eat as they wish on demand. Our cattle are moved to new pastures daily, called rotational grazing to maximize the healthy eating of the herd and also properly care for our land.
2- We run goats and hens around the same pastures as our cattle. The hens act as a natural harrow, scraping up the poo and eating the bug and larvae. Goats are natural weed eaters, and graze the stuff that the cows won't, down so the pasture comes back stronger and healthier.
3- We raise only natural, non-GMO fed, pasture raised meat chickens. These chickens are tended by our eldest son, every morning as the sun comes up. They are rotationally grazed and have move-able shelters with places to get out of the sun and rain, and also to be protected from predators. A guard goose, named Gustav patrols the flock and keeps airborne predators from having a quick snack.
4- We raise broad breasted, all natural, pasture raised and non-GMO fed Thanksgiving Turkeys. They are available to be reserved with a $20 deposit in late summer and will be ready for pickup around Thanksgiving.
5- We raise all natural, non-GMO fed, pasture raised pigs. The feed is custom designed by an Amish friend to Dan's exact specifications to ensure they are the healthiest and happiest hogs around. We intend to do this twice a year moving forward, but for now there are only one or two left in November.
6- Dan works full time on the farm, usually with twin 6 year olds and a 12 year old in tow. Giana works full time in the city (well from home during the pandemic), because farming won't pay our bills. Frankly, we put every extra penny we have into the farm to continue to bring you the most delicious pasture raised meats around.
7- Dan is not the veteran. Giana is a veteran of the US Navy, and although she doesn't talk about it frequently, serving our great country is something she deems one of her greatest accomplishments.
8- Each of the Van Nice kids have big jobs to do every day with the farm; but when we are butchering and processing meats, the kids are even more heavily involved. It's an all hands on deck evolution and each of kids has an appreciation for what it takes to get that burger on the dinner table.
If you've read all the way to the end here.... WOW.
If you are long term friends of the farm, thank you. Thank you for talking about our farm with your friends and family. Your referrals are truly humbling and keep us going. Thank you for being with us through it all!
If you are a new friend of the farm, welcome! We promise not to write like this too often. We hope you will stay with us awhile, share us with your family and friends and get to know the family that farms together better!
For all of you, one easy way to learn more about the farm and support us is to leave reviews, follow us on social media and share what we are doing to your own social media and with your friends and family. See below for some options:
*Check us out on YouTube where you can watch us farming, moving animals, chasing animals, fixing equipment, building fence and more.
*Follow and Like us on FaceBook, where we post our most recent sales and what is available.
*Look for great foodie pics and the best photos from the farm on Instagram
*Follow us on Twitter where we don't say much because we don't get tweeting.
*Write a Google Review and let the world know about our amazing pasture raised meats
*Check out our website, and subscribe to our BLOG to stay up to date with what is going on.
*Email us, Call Us, Text Us! 717-814-2744
So, are you with us? Is this sustainable, local farming thing more than a fleeting trend? What do you think? We'd like to hear from you, but for us, we plan to be around for a long time, working to feed our friends of the farm the best pasture raised meats around!
THANK YOU for trusting us to grow your food!
-Blue Dog Farms