3/13/2023 0 Comments
The Animals are Out
Currently we have our largest sheep group, the ewes, on our pasture adjacent to Chapel Road. If any of you have been driving on that road for the last couple of weeks, you probably have noticed those little babies out there.
Well, have you noticed that they have been moving around? They do not stay in one paddock for more than one to two days. Soon enough they will be out of that field entirely, on to fresh forage.
And you might be wondering how and why we do this. It would be much easier to simply leave all the animals in one designated spot. That way we could just build a permanent fence round them, maybe even have a water source right there. Which would mean no more lugging around those hefty 5 gallon buckets.
This practice in the regenerative agriculture sphere is called rotational grazing. And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. We rotate the animals around on the pastures constantly. We do this with movable electric fencing. We utilize two kinds: net fencing for chickens and sheep, and reel-based fencing for cattle and pigs.
Rotating the animals is important for their health because they will always be given fresh grass to eat (well not so much in the winter months when we supplement with hay). Also, since they move often, they will not be exposed to their own excrements which can harbor parasites and cause illness.
But providing fresh forage to our livestock is not the only benefit of this technique. It is vital for encouraging thriving land. This is because it gives the land time to rest and regenerate after the animals have munched down on all the plants in any given paddock.
As the animals are on the move, they will not have the opportunity to overgraze the pastures. When pastures are overgrazed, they become weaker and more susceptible to erosion. This is because they have fewer leaves to capture sunlight to turn into energy and help encourage thriving root systems. On the other hand, when pastures are optimally managed and given time to rest, the plants are ready to sequester more carbon, develop strong roots, and resist erosion.
Another benefit of this system is minimizing costs for us farmers. There is no need to spend exorbitant amounts of time or money on installing permanent fencing systems. Although, I’m not going to lie, sometimes I wish we had some permanent perimeter fencing for those times when the animals escape.
The moveable fencing has many advantages but it also comes with the risk that we may fail to dot all our I’s and cross all our T’s when setting them up. When this happens, animals escape. And they can be a pain to corral back in. You all remember what happened with Mildred, right? She booked it through our net fencing and ran all the way to Route 40.
Rotational grazing also saves money on inputs that conventional farm systems rely heavily on. This includes herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer. How is that possible? Well, rotational grazing increases the overall productivity of the land and when Mother Nature is healthy, she can take care of herself. For example, grazing various species of ruminants (which many different animals are on any one piece of land in the wild) on the same pasture is a good approach for weed management because they find different plants palatable. So having a combination of these animals may help minimize many weed species.
Finally, the animals are healthier overall because they are eating what their bodies are designed to consume, not being fed grain. They also get to move around much more than they would in a factory farm. They live happy lives. And, of course, their time at Third Way is limited because all those little piggies do make it to market. Since they live happy, healthy lives, the meat we eat is more nutritious than conventionally raised meat.
You could dive deeper into the importance of rotational grazing, but I just wanted to share with you a basic overview of why it's such a vital component of regenerative agriculture. I encourage you to read more about it and support farmers who are committed to this way of raising animals.
Be on the look out when you drive by the farm next time and see if you notice the animals moving around.
Until next time,
2/13/2023 0 Comments
Rue: A Tribute
Life is fleeting. Seasons come and go, different interns rotate through the farm, change is ever present. Some changes can be tough to accept, especially when they come suddenly.
We have just been faced with a major change at Third Way that has all of us heartbroken. Our little lamb, Rue, has just passed away. For the last two weeks he seemed out of sorts, staring aimlessly into the distance, not coming over with the rest of the flock when we brought out hay, and ultimately just not being himself. With this drastic change in disposition, we knew something had to be seriously wrong.
It was important for us to keep a close eye on him; however, it was tough for us to see his health continue to go downhill, especially for Michelle and Muriel. Rue was sadly rejected by his mom when he was born, which meant he had no one to nurse off of. So Michelle and Muriel bottle fed him multiple times a day for many weeks. They both formed a strong bond with the little guy and gave him a new nickname, Baby, to exemplify the love they had for him.
Last week the vet came because Rue was not seeming to improve. They suggested that they take him to the animal hospital since there was not much they could do for him on the farm. Now, from a business standpoint, we wouldn’t normally take an animal to the vet simply because of the steep cost. But Rue was more of a pet for us due to the bond we all formed with him.
Without going into too much detail, Rue was in pretty critical condition. He had a hernia that had created other complications which would have unlikely been successfully corrected with surgery. Ultimately, Rue was put down.
We lost a friend when we lost Rue. And again, it was an especially tough loss for Michelle and Muriel. This is just another reminder of how fleeting life is. We don’t know what’s coming our way and we cannot predict the future. It is sad to face loss, but it is also something we need to expect as farmers.
Unfortunately, we are facing another challenge with one of our pigs. He has been very lethargic for the last two weeks. I noticed him one Monday morning when I was doing the daily animal chores. I walked into the pig paddock and was bombarded by all but one of the pigs when I came in with their breakfast. Seeing that this little guy was not interested in the food I immediately knew that something was not right.
I let everyone in our farm group chat know that this pig could be sick and to keep a close eye on him. When he wasn’t getting better or eating much by the afternoon we got worried. The vet came the next day and she thought the pig had a respiratory infection due to the changing temperatures we have been experiencing. Apparently this has been a common issue with pigs this winter.
After that visit, we thought the pig was improving because he started showing a bit more interest in food, particularly apples. He was up and moving a bit more and we were hopeful. Sadly, he is regressing and we will take further measures to help him out. He is still struggling and we are praying he gets better.
May you all as our loyal readers, customers, and friends please join us in our prayers for Rue and our little pig as well as the rest of our animals so that they remain healthy and strong. God reminds us on these tough occasions that life is short and to stay grateful in the present moment. We never know what challenges or good fortunes may come our way.
Until next time,
12/1/2022 2 Comments
Tis the Season
The holiday season is upon us. I know, I can’t believe it either. The year has just been flying by and we are already approaching the end. It’s now the season of slowing down, visiting with friends and family, and reflecting upon the countless blessings that abound. But there is something about this time of year that I personally grapple with. That is consumerism. So much attention is directed towards scoring the best deals at the mall, making wish lists, and buying everyone in your life a materialistic item they may not even need or use. The culture around the holidays, especially Christmas, feels stressful and overwhelming to me. So I am working on shifting this paradigm, starting with myself and hoping it will spread to my family and friends, and trickle out into my community.
The first step I have taken, and have been practicing for a couple of Christmases now, is alternative gift giving. This is a simple first step because it does not deviate too much from the norm. It still involves the giving and receiving that people are used to, but it shifts the focus away from the fleeting trends that color the usual exchange of material items. This way, the spotlight is on the thoughtfulness of the gift and how it can help cultivate a deeper relationship between the giver and receiver. For example, I spent numerous hours over the summer canning tomato sauce and dehydrating herbs for my parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. On Christmas they will open a thoughtful, homemade gift that they know I put much love and care into. Now they can taste the freshness of Summer in the dead of Winter. If you ask me, there is not a much better gift to receive than that.
In this day and age, everything is at our fingertips. If we decide we want the newest Iphone or a popular new outfit, we can access it very easily without even having to leave our houses. With the advent of online, same-day delivery shopping, how can we expect to get someone a gift they will love, appreciate, and not already have? Honestly, it's a struggle for me. Which is why I make farm goodies as gifts because it's personalized and unavailable at the store. I know my family will love whatever I prepare for them because it's a reflection of my passion and eagerness for farming. My free time is limited, so when I spend multiple weekends over the Summer in my kitchen with mason jars all over the counters, tomatoes coming out the wazoo, teary eyes from all the onions I’ve chopped up, stove tops going all day, and overall just making the biggest mess imaginable, I’m bound to finish with a delicious tomato sauce made with love that will absolutely bring smiles to my family’s faces.
If you're not confident in your homemade gift making skills (even though anyone can find something they are good at making. Look up a recipe for Christmas crack and all your relatives will be begging for more), supporting small, local businesses is a great option. The farmer’s market always has cool vendors selling things like candles, jewelry, and specialty food products like olive oil. This is great because you are connecting with your community and not just buying gifts that are from a big box store. Other alternative gift ideas include giving someone an experience rather than a material item. This could be going out to eat, purchasing tickets for a concert or a day at Longwood Gardens, for example. This will create memories that people can cherish forever, a wonderful gift.
Another way to shift the modern mindset regarding the holidays more towards one of community, love, and friendship is simply to spend quality time with your loved ones. Now that I am older and on my own, I have to make an intentional effort to devote time to seeing my family. And when I do go home I want the time we have together to be meaningful. This holiday season I have been and will continue to extend an invitation to my family members to join me at church. We were all raised Catholic, but my twin sister, older sister and I are the only ones who continue to attend mass regularly. This is a great time of year to remind people of the beauty and peace that comes from cultivating a relationship with God. When we take the time during the holidays to be thankful, it's hard to forget that God is always with us. Even when we face tremendous obstacles, God continues loving us and being with us through those lows. Expressing my own faith and helping my family rekindle theirs puts the focus on the true meaning of Christmas, which is to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
On Thanksgiving, my siblings and I all went to church together. It was such a nice occasion. I pray my little siblings especially develop a deep devotion to their faith as us older sisters encourage them on this journey. I urge any of you who are practicing Christians to offer this same encouragement to your friends and family and reignite the sacredness of Christmas in their hearts this holiday season.
Lastly, giving to charity and volunteering in your community is an exceptional way to unite all the suggestions I mentioned above. It is an opportunity to give to those less fortunate with a gift of the materialistic kind such as food, clothing, or a toy for a child; or, it may be simply a gift of your time, which we all know is often limited in our hustle and bustle lifestyles. Giving your time to someone else is also an experiential gift for yourself and the receiver. Whoever you are supporting in your volunteer work will be thankful for your efforts and happy to see a welcoming face. You may also choose to bring your family along and create the space for developing new friendships within your community. This is especially valuable if you have young children as it will teach them the importance of doing things for others. Finally, volunteering your time to a worthy cause is a reflection of the ministry work of Jesus Christ. Walking in solidarity with those who are struggling is what Jesus calls us to do. What better time than the season we celebrate Christ’s birth is there to carry out this mission? All in all, giving back to the community reminds us of all the blessings in our own lives and spurs an attitude of gratitude within our hearts.
I hope you accept my invitation to challenge the status quo this holiday season and try out one or all of my suggestions. You definitely will not regret it! And if you want to support us on our calling to feed our community nutritious produce, eggs, and meat consider donating to our Pay it Forward Program. This is a project of ours we have started to get our customers involved in helping distribute food to those who cannot afford it. You can make a one time donation or recurring ones, whatever you are willing. We would greatly appreciate your support.
And thank you to all who have been supporting TWF this year and years past. I have only been here for 10 months, but without all of you I would not have the opportunity to work in such an amazing place. I hope you all enjoy your holidays and spend lots of quality time with friends and family.
Until next time,
The Return of Robinhood
Nestled into a hidden woods on Robinhood Road, in Havre de Grace Maryland, exists a picturesque farm community; a place of green pastures, beautiful woodlands, and colorful fruits and vegetables. And in this thriving place, a place called Third Way Farm, there is also a community on a mission to build a better world through a holistic and regenerative approach to agriculture; a mission grounded in our faith and our belief in a world where all have a place at the table. Where, when we give back to the land, and to one another, all of creation thrives.
We are farming on land that was once inhabited by the indigenous peoples of the Piscataway and Susquehannock tribes. We recognize that this land was unjustly taken from them without their permission. We hope our lives upon and care for this land will honor their legacy and wisdom in living harmoniously with this place.
Third Way Farm
Barn Store Hours
601 Robinhood Road
Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078
Barn Store Hours
601 Robinhood Road
Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078