What You Don’t Know About Farmers

If a picture is worth a thousand words then the message a film can convey is simply amazing.  Which is why you need to see this movie.  You might be amazed what you don’t know about farmers.


FARMLAND Teaser Trailer 2014 from Farmland on Vimeo.

It’s available for purchase at Wal-Mart tomorrow, March 3, 2015.  You can also get it from Netflix on DVD (not streaming) or upload from iTunes, youTube, Amazon, and several other stores.

This is how food is grown in America.  FARMLAND documentary

I highly recommend it.

The documentary follows the stories of six young farmers and ranchers of all shapes and sizes.  There’s the “One Woman Farmer” growing produce in the northeast, an organic farmer handling everything from seeds to bar codes in the southwest, a poultry producer, a cattle rancher, hog farmer, and a row crop guy.  And their stories are real.

Really, really, real.

These are the problems we face.  These are the decisions we make.  This is what our life looks like.

This is how food is grown in America.

That’s not something you don’t want to know about.

Categories: Animals, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There Should be Something Wrong with my Cat

My goats are fine.  My chickens are healthy.  There isn’t even anything wrong with my cats.  But there should be.

Why GMOs won't kill you

If you know anything about GMOs you probably know about the study done in Europe where the mice that ate GMO corn all grew horrible, appalling tumors.  For a thousand reasons that don’t matter for this post, this study was bad science and worse journaling.  But from the sound of that article you’d expect anything that ate Genetically Modified Organisms to be dropping dead of cancer constantly.

So it might interest you to know, they are not.  Dropping dead I mean.

Happy, healthy chickens eating GMO feed  {}

Why should they be sick or dying?

Well, thanks to the Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow program (ALOT) I am now part of, I recently heard that in 2014 nearly 90% of the corn, soybeans, and cotton produced in the US is genetically engineered.  A vast majority of that corn and soybeans don’t go directly to people for eating, but to animals as feed.

Animals have been eating genetically modified feed for 20 years.

Happy, healthy chickens eating GMO feed  {}

And none of mine have tumors.

In fact, Forbes recently reported that farm animals have eaten over a trillion GMO meals.  And there are no farmers reporting an increase in tumors.  The article’s title even states that the debate about GMOs is over.  If they were harmful we would be seeing it.  And we’re not.

My guess is the debate is nowhere near finished.  The fact that the journal which originally published the previously mentioned mouse article retracted the study won’t get press.  I’m guessing you didn’t have any idea it was poor science, much less that it was torn apart until they actually had to say “never mind.”

Meanwhile, perfectly healthy animals all over the country are eating a safe, affordable food.

They’re probably even glad to have it.

Categories: Animals, Food | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Meet a Turkey Farmer!

This post ranked in the top five of last year’s favorites, so today I’m revisiting the guest post written by a friend who raises turkeys!  With Thanksgiving just around the corner don’t forget to be thankful for the farmers who grew what’s on that table!

Hello! We are Josh, Jackie and Zane Witte. We raise cattle and turkeys. We raise approximately four flocks of 16,000 turkeys a year. Today, we are going to be telling you how the turkey that you eat on Thanksgiving is raised.

Meet a turkey farmer! This family shows you how they raise turkeys on their family farm!

We raise turkeys for Cargill Meat Solutions. In the grocery store you can look for the label Honeysuckle White.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

The operation is a little confusing. We own the farm and barns that the birds are raised in but we don’t own the turkeys. Cargill supplies us with the turkeys, feed, and other needs, while we supply the labor to take care of the birds. We have a brooder house where the baby turkeys- or poults, stay for the first 6 weeks of their lives. From there, the birds are moved to our grow-out barn where they remain until around 16 weeks of age. At that point, Cargill comes to get the birds for processing. Our turkeys can become anything from ground turkey to your typical Thanksgiving Day turkey. Let’s look at the process a little more, shall we?

Poults require a certain type of care to get the best start possible. We set up cardboard pens that will keep the birds close to the ‘brood stoves’ (heaters). If the birds get too far from the heaters and get cold, they will huddle together to get warm and accidently smother each other. We have to keep the barn at 90 degrees for the poults so we use a lot of propane! The heaters are the small circular shapes hanging from the ceiling.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm

The poults are delivered on a climate controlled truck, mostly in the early morning and at night. The truck is filled with boxes of turkeys. We load the boxes off the truck and onto our pickup trucks. Our brooder house is 440 feet long so we use the trucks to drive down the center of the barn.

turkey truck 1

turkey truck 2

Then it’s time to get the turkeys settled in for their stay on our farm. Remember those boxes of poults? The yellow boxes hold 100 baby turkeys each.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

We have to carefully take each turkey out of the boxes and into their new homes. We are blessed to have great family and friends who come out to help. Aunt Jess and Zane are unloading the poults by hand.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

When the poults are adjusting to their new life, we have to sort of teach them how to eat. You know the old adage that turkeys are dumb? Well, guess what, they really are. Josh’s grandparents used to raise range turkeys, and the birds would actually drown themselves from looking at the sky during a rainstorm. (Which is one of the reasons barns are used. Being free-range isn’t all its cracked up to be by commercials!) At any rate, we have to trick them into eating and drinking.

Fun Farm Fact: Turkeys are attracted to the color green. Thank me later when you win lots of money on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? So we put green colored feed on top of their normal feed and their water comes out of a green nipple. The turkeys instinctively peck at the green and then get the taste for food and water. Pretty cool, huh?

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

As the poults get used to their surroundings, they spread out a little but for the most part like to stay close together for warmth. (The big red thing in the middle is another type of waterer that they use when they get older).

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

They also have to get used to our little turkey wrangler.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

When the poults get older and bigger, we remove the cardboard pens and let them have free run of the barn.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm

Eventually, the turkeys run out of room in the brooder house so we have to move them to the 770 foot long grow-out barn. The barns are connected with an alley that the birds will walk through. This is the turkeys’ new home until they are big enough for processing. Our birds weigh around 22 pounds when they leave our farm.

This family shares how they raise Thanksgiving turkeys on their family farm!

After the birds leave it’s time to clean out the barns. I didn’t photograph this because it’s a nasty job. We take out all the old litter and manure and spread it on our cattle pasture. Turkey manure is an excellent fertilizer so whatever litter we don’t use, we sell to local crop farmers. Then it is time to start the whole process over again!

I hope you have enjoyed your peek into the life of turkey farming. Be sure to remember where all of your Thanksgiving meal comes from and thank a farmer! Happy Thanksgiving from Witte Farms!

Categories: Animals, Food | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Disaster

Last spring I ordered meat chickens, thinking that filling my freezer with delicious, home-grown chicken would be a fulfilling and useful endeavor.

the chicken disaster  {}

I was wrong.

We’d planned for a while to get a fridge for the basement for the extra eggs (they can be stored forever) and then the freezer could host the meat chickens when the time came.  Expect the time came long before we actually purchased the fridge, so the huge birds have been eating us out of house and home, literally going through a bag of feed in three days.

But the fridge finally is in place and now all I had to do was butcher 22 roosters.  Brian came home early to help, since wrangling 3 kids and a large knife is not a safe practice.  I am very, very grateful for his help, since he ended up killing more than half of the birds while I plucked.  And plucked.  And plucked.  And plucked.  Until almost midnight.

I did everything you’re supposed to do.  I dipped the birds in hot (not boiling) water to loosen the feathers.  I started with the wing tips since they are the hardest.  I tried not to cry when it got dark and I still had a pile of birds at my feet.

To add to the disaster I will add that I also lost the photos of the event I took for the blog.  That would be more upsetting in and of itself expect that I lost the photos because I’ve lost my fancy DSLR camera.  And even that is put in perspective because I took off my wedding ring to butcher the horrible creatures and it, too, is missing.

I should also clarify that we only butchered 12 of the birds.

Which, I suppose, gives me a second chance at taking photos.

If I find my camera.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

I’m a Farmer and I’m Voting Yes on Amendment 1 Part 2

Follow the Butterflies.  Um, no, that’s not it.  Follow the… paper trail?  I’ve got it!  Follow the money!  If you really want to know what’s going on, follow the money.

In my last post I told you why I’m voting Yes for Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1.  And before I continue I should probably tell you where the money comes from on the “Yes” side.  Here ya go:

Missouri Farmers Care, Missouri Soybeans, Missouri Corn Growers, Missouri Farm Bureau, MFA Incorporated, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Pork Association,  Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Columbia Chamber of Commerce, FCS Financial, Missouri Grocers Association, Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, Missouri Dairy Association, MFA Oil, Missouri Egg Council, Missouri Equine Council, HUNTE, Missouri Family Network, MoFed, Missouri Sheep Producers, Southwestern Association, United Producers Inc., Missouri Electric Cooperation, Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association, Mo Ag, The Poultry Federation, American Soybean Association, St.Louis Agribusiness Club, Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, Missouri Association of Meat Producers, United All Breed Registry  

Plus a whole host of private individuals I will not be typing out.

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

The Gerkes own a vineyard and winery and they will be voting Yes on Amendment 1!

Want to know who is supporting the “No” side?  I like this graphic.

Vote Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

But HSUS? Aren’t they the Human Society of the United States?  Don’t they help puppies or something?

According to their own financial report HSUS took in $169,900,291 in 2013.  Again, according to their own report they helped118,328 animals.  Sound odd yet?

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

This Future Farmer of America will be voting Yes (or at least her parents will!).

Almost 6 million went to “management and general,” and 25 million went to more fundraising.  Just under 55 million went to advocacy and public policy!  That’s one third of their budget, in case you forgot your calculator.  And what are they advocating for?

The end of puppy mills, they say.  The end of factory farming.

But if you follow the work they’ve done you’ll see it’s much more than that.  They want to be rid of farming all together.

Don’t believe me?  Then take it from the horse’s mouth.  In a speech in 2006 the vice president of farm animal issues said “We don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed… unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we have the opportunity to get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry.”

The director of Animal Cruelty Policy (that thing they spend 55 million a year on) once said “My goal is the abolition of animal agriculture.”

HSUS isn’t a human society that takes care of abandoned kittens.  Last year they sent about 1 million dollars to local animal shelters.  Out of nearly 170 million.  They are a lobbying organization with millions to spend– against farmers.

So that’s where the money leads you.  And maybe, if you thought the wording was too open ended or the proposed amendment was too extreme, maybe you’ll understand where we as family farmers are coming from.

Maybe you’ll support us.

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

The Kelleys raise cattle on their family farm. They are voting Yes!

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

The Hursts are a muli-generational farm family whose grandkids love helping in the greenhouses. They are all voting Yes!

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

Help make sure this little guy can come back to 8 Story Farms someday, join his family in voting Yes!

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

The Gregorys are voting Yes on August 5th as well!

Family Farmers are voting Yes on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1

This little guy is already planning to come back to the Whitt family farm, so his parents will be voting Yes!


Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

For the Fun of It

It’s almost like a baby kitten hissing at you.  Or a little lap dog barking like the vicious attack dog he thinks he is. But somehow a mostly-grown bantam rooster learning how to crow is much funnier than any of that.

You can really hear it at the 17 second mark when one of the “regular” roosters and a bantam crow at the same time.  Makes me laugh every time.

The bantams (or banties as we call them around here) were hatched in April, so they’re pretty much the equivalent of teenagers.  They won’t get much bigger but they will likely fill out a bit more and it won’t be long till they begin laying eggs and being grown-up chickens.  They are, however, about half the size of a regular hen.  And everything small is adorable.

bantam chicken on Marshall Farms

Really. cute.

And funny.  Just thought you should know. 😉

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

6 of the Cutest Chicks Ever!

So our project is still working and you’ve got to see these pictures!

So.  Stinking. Adorable!!!

Baby chick with Mama hen

Gives new meaning to “Mom’s Taxi Service.” BTW, this chick does this all the time!!

Baby chicks under a mama hen!

So warm and cozy under here!

Baby chicks under mama hen


Baby chicks under mama hens

This pic makes me laugh; it’s such a “big” chicken face for such a little girl!

Baby chicks underneath mama hens

The mamas spread out their wings for the babies to huddle under– these two hens have been working together to make one big mama blanket!!

Baby Bantam chick

At two weeks old these banties are still so tiny!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Oh My Goodness, It’s Working!

I’m so excited!  Knock on wood, so far my newest experiment in backyard farming is WORKING!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should, @daddystractor) you’ll already know we received an unusual-looking package in the mail yesterday containing baby chicks!  When they arrived we took them downstairs to the brooder and settled them all in with drinks of water and some chick feed.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

They come in the mail– how crazy is that!

But then last night I got a little crazy. 😉

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

We use this cattle feeder as a brooder. It works for the first few weeks anyway!

We ordered 40 chicks this time around.  25 are “pan-fry” chickens I plan to raise to feed my family.  The other 15 are assorted bantams, destined to be pets for the kiddos.  I said yes to this idea because if you think baby chicks are adorable, well, you have to see a bantam chick.  They are a third the size of a regular chick.  Need I say more?

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks

They are all so cute, but why is it tiny things are even cuter!!

These bitsy chickens will someday lay tiny eggs, which we don’t really need since my other 28 chickens are laying hens and we currently get almost 2 dozen eggs a day.  So they are basically useless as far as livestock go.  (But again.  So. cute.)

Really they are just here to eat expensive food and take up time and energy.

So I came up with a plan to cut down on the time and energy, if not food.

Two of my laying hens have gone “broody.”  This means they keep setting on eggs, trying to hatch chicks.  Broody hens aren’t great on a farm because they tend to be more likely to peck and they stop laying new eggs in their attempt to hatch the ones they’re sitting on.  Conventional wisdom is to keep a broody hen away from the nesting boxes until she gives up on the idea, OR… get her some chicks to raise!

An experienced mama hen is a pretty amazing animal.  She will sit on her eggs for 21 straight days, getting up just once a day to eat and drink for a few minutes.

However, my hens are not experienced mamas.

Actually… they’re not all that bright either.

I gave a mama hen some eggs to see if she could hatch her own (how fun would that be?!) and she couldn’t keep track of which box was hers.  She’s been sitting on different eggs for almost 4 weeks.

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks!

The nesting boxes are a busy place!

Which makes my plan of putting bantams under these two chickens unreliable at best.

Last night Brett and I slipped the banties under the two hens–you can handle chickens more easily after they’ve gone to bed.  This morning I got up early to be out there just after the sun popped up and both mamas were sitting on 15 very quiet chicks.

I created a separate space for the new families in the part of the coop designed for storage, giving each mama a milk crate and straw nest on the floor.  (The nesting boxes are on the wall and the babies won’t be able to get in and out to get to food or water.)  I was really nervous about having to move everyone so soon after the introductions, but oh my goodness, it’s working!  As soon as they saw the chicks in the new nests both mamas moved right in and took charge of their little broods.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks!

So far, so good! Yay!!

Quick, knock on wood!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

There’s a Sheep in a Minivan

Actually it’s my sheep, in my minivan.  And while we’re clearing things up, I put her there.

That's a picture of a sheep in a mini van

Not that it was easy to get her in, mind you.  In all fairness, you might say it was pretty difficult.  But it had to be done for two reasons.  The first was a stop at the vet clinic for some gooey medication for her eye, which we think was scratched.

That's a sheep in the back of a mini van

Getting her out was easier. Much easier.

The second was a trip to the farm where Lizzie was born to have her sheared.

A few days ago it was 80* and the poor thing was so uncomfortable with that wool coat!  Of course, two days later it snowed, but warm weather is coming (or so I’m told) and little Lizzie really needed a hair cut.

If you have a large flock you may a trouble finding a qualified “barber” to do the highly specialized job of shearing sheep.  If you have a small flock you WILL have trouble, and if you have one, lone little lamb, well, you’re out of luck.  I knew my best bet was to find a friend who wouldn’t mind throwing my sheep into their group when the shearer came.  Thankfully the family who gave us Lizzie is just the friendly sort who happily help a neighbor out.

They were also the sort to smile indulgently while I stood amazed at the whole thing and took tons of pictures to show you!

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan

She squirmed at first but Lizzie settled down and didn’t put up much fuss once the shearing started.

To begin he set Lizzie on her tail and held her back up like she was sitting up.

There's a sheep in the back of my mini van

Mailman by day, Mark is also a sheep shearer by night!

You can see the cutting shears in Mark’s hand; follow the cord back up to the frame that allows the cord to swing freely but not get tangled around the sheep.  There is an electric switch on the pole that allows him to turn the clippers on and off.  Right under the switch hangs a little device that keeps track of the number of sheep sheared.  A toolbox on the floor holds supplies and all of this sets on a board for the fleece to fall on.

There's a sheep in the back of my mini van!

He started on her front legs and stomach

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan!

then flipped her over to do her back

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan!

and finished with her backside.

It probably took about 10 minutes, start to finish, but I still can’t get over what that 10 minutes did to my fluffy little lamb!

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan!

It won’t take too long for a little wool to start growing again, thank goodness!

Yeah, not her best look.  Pretty sure not even french-tipped nails are going to help this outfit.

We loaded a lighter Lizzie back into the van (it was getting easier now, the third time) and drove my shorn sheep home.  The forecast predicts 80* again by Wednesday and her eye already looks better with the medicine.  I just hope my van makes a full recovery…

Categories: Animals | 5 Comments

Why I Gave My Goat a Pedicure

My goat is currently styling the latest in white painted hooves and my lamb is showing off a french manicure.  I’d like to tell you it’s because I follow all the current fashions, or maybe because I’m using some great home remedy to protect against disease or something.  But actually it all has to do with the black mold in the bathroom.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure.

This color really goes with her outfit.

Our back bathroom has been disintegrating since the mid 60s, so the surprise was from the shock of actually falling when the shower tiles I was leaning against collapsed into the wall.  This led to the discovery of black mold behind the tiles and the complete destruction of that bathroom.  After much sanding, scrubbing, and bleaching we began replacing everything from the wall studs on out.  We put in a new shower, flooring and tile, added wiring for more outlets, and put up bead board.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

The finished result!

We picked bead board that needed painting.

Yup, wait for it, it’s coming.

On one of the rare, few days that has felt like spring my mom and sister came over to fly kites with the kids.  There was lots of going in and out of the doors with Fanny, Harriet, and Lizzie leaping for joy to have company in the yard.  My mom and I were talking in the front yard when Brett came bursting out of the house to tell us all three animals were inside!

Why I gave my goat a pedicure.

Don’t let that innocent face fool you.

We followed Brett through wide open garage and back entry doors, to find Lizzie the lamb standing on my newly tiled bathroom floor, front hooves in the still-wet paint tray.  Of course as soon as she saw me Lizzie jumped up from her half-finished spa day, scattering newspaper in all directions.

I managed to get ahold of her collar, but this “little” lamb weighs close to what I do.  The best I can do is to pull her as quickly as I can off the back entry and out into the garage and slam the door behind her.

The goats were nowhere in sight, but I finally discovered them at the other end of the house by the bedrooms. They, too, were rather skittish so it didn’t take much to convince them to move.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

She thinks she’s cute.

Moving in the right direction was a different story.  First we ran the circle that is the office and living room.  Next mom and I had to take opposite sides of the island to get them back to the entryway, and then, if you can believe it, we hearded them right into the closed back door and on into the bathroom!  Fanny managed to avoid the paint tray but Harriet not only stepped both front feet into the deepest part, she also skidded enough to slosh paint all the way up her hooves, completely covering both of them in primer.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

She did such a nice job. I always think its harder to paint the right hand…

Thankfully Harriet is smallest of the three animals and I was able to pick up her front end and walk her to the re-opened back door and deposit her in the garage before running for a rag.

Fortunatly, all’s well that ends well and the back bathroom as well as the animals are all fine.

But the garage will never be the same again.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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