Table of Contents
Listen on your favorite player
How to make money homesteading is this week’s topic of conversation as we join Nicole and Joel Salatin, farmer and author of many books including the new title soon be published; Homestead Animal Happiness.
What You’ll Learn
- How To Make Money Homesteading even on a small acreage.
- How a solarium and rainwater catchment lower your overheads and help your homestead be more profitable.
- How to make money homesteading with the power of perseverance!
- The animals should you first add to your backyard hobby farm?
- How to use synergy in your homestead to increase your output and decrease your input
- How to use deep litter bedding to reduce animal odor and make fertilizer.
Joel Salatin is a self-described Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer! He is a second-generation farmer and farms full-time with this family in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley at their aptly named Polyface Farm.
Polyface Farm is a multi-generational pastured livestock enterprise raising beef, pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, sheep and also has a sawmill which adds value to their forested acres. The farm supports about 20 full-time salaries, offers educational seminars, and germinates new farmers through a formal stewardship and apprenticeship program.
Polyface farm delivers and ships to some 6,000 families, 50 restaurants, and also services on-farm customers.
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Polyface Farm Website
- Polyface Farm Facebook Page
- Polyface Farm Twitter
- Polyface Farm Instagram
- The Stockman Grass Farmer Magazine
- *You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise
- *Pastured Poultry Profit$
- *Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating
- *Beyond Labels: A Doctor and a Farmer Conquer Food Confusion One Bite at a Time
- *Your Successful Farm Business: Production, Profit, Pleasure
- *Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
- Polyface Intensive Discovery Seminars, July 26-27 July 30-31 Aug. 6-7 2021 Registration is handled by The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine: Tel: 601-853-7755
*Denotes affiliate links
Support the show
Your support helps us continue to provide the best possible episodes!
- Get behind the scenes on Patreon
- Shop Backyard Bounty Swag & More
- Follow us on Facebook and Instagram
- Join our Hens & Hives Facebook Group
- Join our VIP Text Club
- Leave a question or comment on our podcast message page
SIGN UP FOR PODCAST UPDATES IN YOUR EMAIL INBOX!
Welcome to the Backyard Bounty Podcast from HeritageAcresMarket.com, where we aim to educate and inspire you by sharing practical information to help your homestead thrive. And now, here's your host, Nicole.
Good morning, everybody. And thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole, and today we are joined by the one and only Joel Salatin. And if you're not familiar with him, he's an amazing human. He's a full time farmer at Polyface Farm and the Editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer, also the author of 14 books with a new one coming up. And one of his most popular titles is "You Can Farm", and today we're going to talk about how to make money on a homestead, which is really important, especially if you're looking to maybe make the transition from a typical nine to five into the homesteading lifestyle. And it's an honor to have Joel here to talk to us about that today. And so Joel, thank you so much for joining me.
Thank you, Nicole. It's a real honor and delight. Happy New Year!
Yes, Happy New Year to you, too. Hopefully, you know, we can get 2021 on a better, better foot pointing than 2020!
Isn't that the truth?
Absolutely. I think we're all ready for the change. And you know, I think that 2020 really probably pushed a lot of people into becoming interested in the homestead lifestyle, which I'd like to talk about more in a minute. But in case there's somebody that for some silly reason hasn't heard of you yet, can you tell us a little bit more about your farm and just how amazing you are?
So we started, I'm the second generation here, we, my parents came and bought this place when I was four years old in 1961. And it was it was the most worn out gully rock pile in the area, very, very cheap land. And so they bought this place, Dad was an accountant, Mom was a high school Physical Education Health teacher. And like so many, the first 10 years was taking every penny you could grab from the off farm jobs and paying it on the mortgage. So by the early 70's, the farm was paid off, and working town jobs, it just was difficult to make a lot of income on the farm, but you know enough to make taxes and things like that. But dad was a visionary way ahead of his time. And we knew we wanted to be non chemical, we knew we wanted to be perennial base as opposed to annual base, of course, Dad was an accountant. And so I get a lot of my sharp pencil pushing from him. And he understood very early that we were a small producer like we were, you can't compete at the commodity level, because the commodity is all based on volume and low margins. And if you're going to compete in the marketplace, as a small farmer, you have to increase your margin and wear more of the hats in the value added chain. You know, the retail dollar is divided into basically production, processing, marketing and distribution. If you think of it as a four legged stool, the average farm in America generates income from only one of those legs: production. Somebody else does the processing, the marketing and the distribution. The problem though, is that it is only those production dollars that are subject to the vagaries of weather price, pestilence and disease, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And they're the things that all the farmers that are, you know, lean against their pickup trucks and complain about: weather, price, pestilence, and disease. So the point is that when the grasshoppers come, they don't eat your Wi Fi connection to your customers in marketing. When you know, when you get a drought, it doesn't destroy, you know, the stainless steel processing vats for your chicken processing. And so there's a value, there's a huge value in loading more of your income dollars into those other three legs if you will, not only to spread your income base, but as a small farmer, you can't beat it on production. But if you take every production item or pound or thing to its greatest possible retail value, you can actually earn a full time living on a very, very small acreage by wearing those notorious middleman hats all the way up the value chain. I had my first chickens when I was 10 years old, and started selling eggs to the neighbors in the church and stuff. And by the time I was a teenager in the early 70's, you know, I was supplying a couple schools, a couple restaurants. There was a curb market in the area, I peddled them on my bicycle around the community. And I always had spending money, you know, from these chickens and it proved that this direct marketing concept actually worked, you know, a branded product. And so I shut everything down, went to college, came home, and worked in town as an investigative reporter at the newspaper, living at home. And we kind of relaunched things, and began some direct marketing. And in September 24, 1982, Teresa and I had been married for two years at that point, left that off farm job, came home, we had enough money in the bank that we could make it for one year. And I decided that I would jump off the cliff with that one year nest egg. Because, you know, one of the epiphanies for me during that time, was realizing how employable I was, and not being too proud to do anything. So even though I had a college education, I wasn't above washing dishes at a restaurant, mixing mud, they call it concrete, you know, for a mason. And that reality, that "Man, you know, anybody would love to hire me, because I show up on time, I think, I'm dependable." And suddenly, I realized, if we run through this nest egg in a year, and I have to go back to work, I'm not gonna have any trouble finding a job, because everybody would love to have me. And so that allowed me the emotional freedom to give that two week notice and step out of that, that paycheck. And as it turned out, we never... I fully expected to go back to the town to do a town job at some point. But we never did. And what we found was about being here all the time, we really stopped a lot of slippage. So I was here, every time the green beans needed weeding, I was here for every calf that needed birthing assistance, I was here. And by being here, all these little, these little slippage points that used to happen. I was here for those. And not only that, but we didn't have to wear good clothes. And we went from filling up the gas tank in a car weekly to monthly and we just came home, you know, our whole life revolved around here. And we started, you know, some some direct marketing. And so anyway, fast forward to today. Today, you know, we have a staff of, there's 20 of us that generate a full time income from the farm here, 20 full time salaries, we supply about, you know, 6000 families, 50 restaurants, several institutions, we do a formal apprentice program, we leased 12 properties in the area, we run a thousand head of cattle, raising, you know, 45,000, pastured broilers, close to 1000 hogs. This is not a backyard deal anymore. But that's where I started. That's where I started. And I had no desire to make something like we have today. But it's just been, you know, God's just honored the faithfulness. And I don't know what else to say except, you know, to weep in gratitude this is where we are.
Well, I think that's really amazing to see how you were able to, with your family and everything along the way turn kind of nothing into something and then not only into something but something really significant, where not only are you able to stay home with your family, but now you've been able to help several employees earn a suitable income as well as support your community with being able to provide them with, you know, high quality produce. So I think that that's really great and inspirational.
That's right. And along the way, this gullied rock pile has turned into arguably the most, you know, productive, verdant piece of land in the community. And when people ask me, you know, what really floats your boat? What gets you up in the morning? My quick answer is that to be able to step out on that back porch, and realize that I can be a visceral hand, a visceral participant in caressing creation into abundance. That's a powerful thing. Sometimes things happen when you're a child, and you don't realize they're significant. So you get older and you look back, you start looking at those kind of signposts in your life that why did I end up where I am? or Why did I end up with the passions that I have. And when we came here, we came in from Venezuela, South America after losing a farm down there in a junta, we're not Venezuelan. Mom and Dad were Midwesterners, but dad saw the developing world as a place where a broke young guy could get started, and so went to Venezuela after World War Two. He flew Navy bombers in World War Two and he was in Venezuela for 12 years, Mom was there for 10. And my older brother and I were seven and four, when in 1959, when Perez the Menace in a junta threw the country in the anarchy. And as Americans, we got whatever, fingered if you will, in that whole anarchical, anti American kind of thing. And so anyway, we fled the back doors and machine guns came in the front door, and lost everything. Returned to the U.S., to this rock pile. So here we here we are, you know, the garden plot by the old farmhouse, you know, is is such hard clay clods that, that, you know, it's like you're like you're trying to garden in bricks. You know, this is 1961-62. My grandfather, my dad's father was the charter subscriber to Rodale, organic gardening and farming magazine when it came out in whatever, 1948-47, something like that. And when we go up there to visit Grandpa, Grandma in Indiana in the summer, his garden was just, you talk about backyard bounty. It was, it was true backyard bounty, he had an octagonal chicken house, he had great big compost piles, he had these beautiful garden beds laid out. And and, you know, I don't know how big it was. Now. I mean, things look great, great big when you're a kid, but it was probably, it was probably a quarter acre. I mean, it was it was a serious, big backyard garden. I mean, he sold extra produce down into, you know, in the community. And what I remember my most poignant memory, is this whole garden was surrounded by a tea trellis grpe arbor of Concord grapes. And, of course, we could never go up there until we were finished with hay. So we always went up there and like, you know, late August, and before Mom had to start teaching school. And so we're always up there in the late summer, right when the grapes were ripe. And as a child, you know, I could walk under these T-trellises, and the, the yellow bees, you know, that are attracted to the sugar in those grapes. And I could reach up and get those grapes and just walking under that abundance, and seeing his garden abundance and the grape abundance, contrast it with our rock pile and, and dirt clods here, that, that memory that, that strong, the smells, the sights, the just to be able to feel like I'm nested in this abundance, it had a profound effect on my life trajectory. I want to nestle in that umbilical of abundance, if you will, you know, and, and it formed, you know, who I am today.
Now, I think that is really a wonderful story. And it's funny how, as an adult, you know, he seems like we just pine to go back to our childhood days, and not everybody gets to make that a reality. And I think that's really great that you were able to take, you know, some of those wonderful childhood memories and then make that your life now and kind of make full circle of the, of your life there. Yes. And I think today, you know, a lot of people are wanting to go back to that simple life or that family oriented and self sufficiency. And I think that's really been spurred on by this whole COVID thing. Has the way that the world is today, has that changed your outlook at all on farming? Or, you know, the backyard even type of homesteading?
Well, it has it has made the message more relevant than ever, for sure. I mean, this spring, we had numerous people come from the city to buy two or three chickens, I'm going to get at least some chickens, you know, in the backyard. And we'd never had that kind of run on, you know, ready to lay pullets or anything like that. We had just a tremendous interest in in everything renewed interest, like we've never seen before. And yes, I think tough times like this, you know, empty store shelves. For the first time in my life. I think there was a national, you know, kind of come to Jesus epiphany, if you will. Oh, you mean those great big factory farms and those great big centralized processing facilities. And those great big supermarkets? You mean? They have fragilities? You mean? You mean, you know, they have weak spots? And I think for the first time, our culture, the average person realized that the emperor has no clothes. And, and that was an exciting thing to just watch kind of develop in the culture. And so now of course, it's manifesting itself in the urban Exodus, the work at home, I mean, this whole thing, as bad as it's been, has created a home centric outlook from people who would have never considered it a year ago. And that's a very, very hopeful thing for resiliency in the future. And I mean, for the first time this summer, we had more backyard garden square footage planted than there was in the victory gardens of World War Two. That's truly remarkable. I think it bodes well. The question is, how long will the tail be, you know, will we go we go back to the old ways, and certainly many people will but many people won't many people, this has been a wake up call, you know, we have this new "woke" culture. Well, there's nothing like being "woke" to realize that, maybe I'd better take some charge over the foundations of my human existence.
Yeah, I think it definitely shook some people when when you can't just go down to your grocery store. And I think one of the other good things from it, you mentioned, like the factory farms to but I don't know that people really put a whole lot of thought into where their food came from. So I think that it's really kind of initiated that farm to table sort of thought process of, you know, food doesn't just show up in the grocery store, like it actually comes from somewhere. And not only does it actually come from somewhere, but I can actually do this myself. And I think that's really empowering.
Yes, that's for sure. So I, I think you and I, and and those of us, in our tribe, we're gonna... we're in a tsunami right now, we're gonna, we're in a wonderful we've been, we've been trying to catch a wave. And the wave, you know, they say they say that catastrophes never make cultural movements. They simply accelerate movements that are already occurring. And I think that there was a latent growing concern about things. I mean, you know, for whatever climate change to soil loss to whatever economic bubbles and things, and there was a growing concern. But I think the COVID experience has simply accelerated the awareness, and it turned our little our little wave that we were riding, it's turned it into a to a tsunami. And that's, that's really cool.
Yeah, I absolutely agree. So for folks that are wanting to make this lifestyle change, whether it's, you know, just adding some food to their backyard, or completely quitting their day job, and in going full in on this, you know, obviously finances are a concern and making money from your homestead could either supplement your income or replace it completely. So what's kind of the first step? How would somebody get started on this?
Yeah, well, I'm a big believer with Wendell Berry that the place to start is to feed yourself first. Because remember, every dollar that you don't have to earn is worth about a buck 40 because you don't have to pay taxes on it. So if you can drop your income, instead of trying to increase your income, if you can, through self sufficiency, especially food, if you can cut your food bill by 75%, that will go a long way in giving you some freedom to cut some of your hours, to not be beholden to the, you know, to the career ladder, it gives you options. And so the first goal is to turn your abode, your domicile into an asset and not a liability. And so what you do is you start growing your own food. And that also includes putting a solarium on if you're, you know, if you're north of Alabama, which is most of the US, you're gonna want to put a solarium on the south side of your house for you know, unseasonal production. We were in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, you know, zone whatever zone five, I think we're in the same zone as South Dakota, for you know, for frost day. We're in a house built in 1790. It's an old log cabin. But we have a state of the art you know, cedar built solarium kit on the south side, and we can grow greens throughout the year without any supplemental heat. We can't grow beans and corn but we can grow you know, lettuce and and you know, green leafy vegetables, the cool hardy stuff throughout the winter without any supplemental heat whatsoever. And when the days are warm, we open the windows in the house and get passive solar heat added to the house. So you know these are things that you can do to turn your current living situation into an asset and not a liability. If you want to go farther than you know you catch all your rainwater, you know in a 30 inch rainfall area every square foot of roofspace generates over 20 gallons of water per year. So you know even a modest house of 1000 gallons and a 30 inch rainfall area is going to generate 20,000 gallons of water. So if you catch that and use that instead of the city water, and then you do you do a grey water return system so you're not putting your potable water and your toilet, but you're putting your, you know, you're flushing your toilet with a washing machine water and bath water. Now suddenly you've, you've cut your water needs by about two thirds. And then when you use that, to water your plants in your solarium and water your garden, and you catch all your water off your roof, you can turn off the water meter from the city, and you're not putting any water back into the city. And so, so, you know, gradually, you drop your utility bill, you drop your food bill, and you turn this thing that's normally just a, I got to pay taxes on, keep the roof up. And you know, it's a, it's a liability in your life, you turned it into a $20,000 shift of an asset. And remember that $20,000 that you save is worth $35, because you don't have to pay taxes on it. And so even though you might not, that money might not jingle in your pocket, it is a major economic shift in your life that buys you some wiggle room, in decisions with your job with, you know, with what you're doing, it buys you some wiggle room, not to mention, you eat healthier, so you don't have as many, you know, headaches and health problems and involves your kids, so they're not sucked up on, you know, electronic media all the time, and actually act like people.
So these additions of like a solarium or the rainwater capture the gray water. Is this something that's expensive? I mean, it sounds like it would obviously pay for itself in the long run. But what kind of overhead is related in something like that?
Yeah, well, I mean, you can do you can do everything from poor boy to, you know, to expensive. Now, you know, a solarium can be as simple as a home panel, what to look for a concave, you know, just anchored at the ground, and anchored to your side of your house and covered with plastic. It can be that simple. I mean, that's, that's simple. Okay, now, you know, does it look weird, might look weird. Neighbors might, you know, fuss a bit, but I wouldn't worry about, you know, complying with codes, I would just do it and tell them, this is food security, you know, "You're gonna take food away from me?", or you do whatever argument that you want to, but, so it can be that simple. As simple as some, you know, cattle panels aren't over to your house with a, you know, those are 16 feet long. So you can bend them into something that can come out, you know, eight feet or so from your house and, and bent up, maybe, you know, 10 feet, walk in it, and cover with plastic, and you're up and running all the way to, you know, vacuum panes, the state of the art stuff. So, all this is like everything else it can have expensive or inexpensive, you know, a gray water return. If you just put some tees in strategic drainage pipes, you know, then you can capture I mean, your sink and toilet don't run together immediately. So if you put a tee in and capture that early, you don't have to send your sink down the blackwater sewers what I'm getting at. And so and same thing with with rainwater. I mean, you've already got a roof. You already got that. So you just have to have a decent gutter and a cistern you know, you can dig it with a backhoe you can dig with a pick and shovel over time. I mean, I've made little ponds to catch water for you know, cattle water systems with a little pick and shovel. It's amazing what you can do we just become we don't appreciate I think as a culture anymore. What simply persevering for a while on a project can do. Sure, you know, if I'm gonna dig a hole, half the size of a swimming pool, I'd love to do it with a backhoe. And most people could. When I was in college, one year we had a our solarium here is actually goes way down. It started as a way, like I said, we live in a log cabin. We were getting some rot in the bottom logs because dirt had built up around the house. And so one summer off of college, I spent a month hand digging a hole that was 30 feet long, eight feet wide, and six feet deep.
Oh my goodness.
And I dug that by hand with a wheelbarrow. And I just spent whatever two or three hours a day on it when I had a chance and in a month I had a six foot deep, eight foot wide, 30 foot long hole on the size of a swimming pool. So don't underestimate what just faithful staying with a project can do. And if you don't have money, just turn off the TV and take out your little iPhone and earbuds and listen to podcast and start digging. And you know, it is faithfully, pretty soon you're gonna have a big hole.
I think people get overwhelmed by kind of the big project, but you really can make things simple. Maybe maybe some creativity or just some simple hard works involved.
Yeah, a little bit, a little bit of creativity and elbow grease goes a long way. Sure does. I'm thankful that, you know, when we started, we didn't have money. And being poor and hungry, makes you really, really creative. And so I counted as a real privilege that we came to this with without money, because it made us hungry and creative.
So what about the addition of of animals? You know, you mentioned solarium for vegetables. And I think that most people are pretty familiar with, you know, growing their own food, at least. But what kind of animals do you think are the best for this sort of backyard or initial hobby farming income process?
Yeah, well, in my view, nothing beats the laying chicken. The laying hen is small. So you don't have to worry too much about your kids being hurt, like you might with a you know, a cow or something. And they're, they're pretty utilitarian. I mean, they'll eat anything. They'll eat all your kitchen scraps, and they give you eggs. So they take this trash and turn it into treasure. And they're fairly easy to keep. And they make wonderful manure. That's way better than, you know, dog manure or cat manure. And they're common. I mean, a lot of chickens, you can you can find chickens. You go trying to buy a calf or a milking goat or something like that. That's a little different ballgame. But, but chickens are ubiquitous. I mean, they're they're all over the place. And so, so I'm really partial to the chicken to start. Of course, if you're in a very urban setting, there's a lot to be said for the rabbit. From a protein standpoint, rabbits, the beauty of rabbits in an urban sector is that they're quiet. And they make less noise than a chicken so you could have those and nobody would even know that you have some rabbits and rabbit manure is a lot like horse manure. It's it's real high in carbon, most manure. I mean, the hottest manure is chicken manure is because chickens don't pee. So since birds don't urinate, the highly ammoniated urine is mixed in with manure. So you have like a seven to one carbon nitrogen ratio in chicken manure, whereas rabbit manure like 25 to one I mean, it's so cool that you could actually take fresh rabbit manure inside dress, Swiss chard in the garden and you know, it's wonderful, it won't burn anything, it's doesn't smell it's just beautiful, like horse manure in that way. Cow manure is kind of in between, about 18 to one, pig, manure's maybe 15 to one. So all the different manures have different C/N ratios. So you know, rabbits are quiet. And you know, they're herbivores. So you can feed them a tremendous amount of forage. And you know, they're easy to process. They're not filthy to process like a chicken. A chicken, you gotta cull and pick the feathers and all that stuff. A rabbit, yeah, you just skin it and gut it and you're, you're on a clothesline, it's simple, doesn't take any special equipment, just a sharp knife, and you're good to go. So there's a lot to recommend domestic rabbits as a great protein source, if you got your if you got your laying hens for eggs, you got your rabbit for protein, and the chicken eats the kitchen scraps, the rabbit gives you a wonderful manure for the garden. So there's, uh, you know, you start seeing this cycle this this whole, you know, cyclical stream, so you get synergy, rather than competitiveness you get complementarity as opposed to competitiveness You know, that's like the, you know, the Holy Grail in homesteading to, to not have any waste loops that aren't leveraged fully into the next input for the next thing. And so you see your homestead, not as a linear thing, but as a circular thing, where you minimize inputs, and you literally have no outputs, because any output is the input for the next animal thing or whatever. I'm right now writing a book about all this. So, you know, we're not going to get it all covered in a podcast, but I mean, there's there's all sorts of related issues of sanitation and basic hygiene. This is a big problem on homestead, you know, probably some of the smelliest filthiest animals I've seen in the world have been on very, very small acreage in dirt yards, filthy conditions. And so if I could explore one area that I think is probably the most lacking in homestead, it's an understanding of the carbonaceous diaper in a housing situation, especially in an urban setting. If you've got animals in an urban setting, you might not be able to pasture them on extensive pasture because you just don't have enough grass or if you have a tiny yard, you don't want chicken manure all the yard and the kids, you know, tracking in chicken manure to the house all the time. So there is often a time and place of inclement weather. If an animal's sick needs some doctoring, whatever, or if you have a postage stamp yard, and you just don't have space, there are reasons to house animals is where I'm getting to, you know, and half a dozen small animals does not a factory farm make it does a toilet make though because animals don't. They're not potty trained and they don't wear diapers, they don't flush. So that brings up the whole "How do you house an animal for whatever reason? How do you have an animal and not have it stink to high heavens and create a hygiene issue for the animal?" And so the answer there is a vibrantly decomposing bedding, essentially, you want to put the animal on a compost pile, a compost pile, is generating its own antibiotic exudates. It's generating nematodes has its own community where the good guys beat the bad guys. So it was both compost pile knows that there is a minimal size required in order to have enough mass to maintain a viable internal microbial community within the compost pile, you can't make a compost pile, 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches is too small, you got to go to you know, like like three feet by three feet by three feet in order for core temperature and microbial activity to actually function. So if we take that idea to an animal housing situation, it means that we need to design our structures design our housing situations to accommodate a deep bedding. And by deep bedding, I mean at least 12 inches, preferably 24. And even up to 36. We have our hay sheds built so we can accommodate up to four feet of deep bedding, the cows start rubbing their backs on the rafters of the barn, you know, going out. And what this does is it creates a carbonaceous diaper to absorb all of these volatile and diffusible nutrients so that they're linked up with the carbon and there's no odor, there's no smell, and it gently begins decomposing, and is a sanitary, hygenic soft bed, if you will a bedding pack underneath the animal. The problem is that most homestead housing designs are not built with this in mind. If you get more than six inches deep, you're up on the sill plate, you're starting to rot out walls and things like that. So there's a there's a very definite design need to design whether it's a three bird chicken coop in the urban sector, or you know, a more expansive cow shed in a in a eight acre homestead to design our housing structures. So they can accommodate this 12 to 36 inch deep bedding. And that is the key the answer to not only have the animal health, but also the noxious odors and things that are commonly associated with keeping domestic livestock.
Yeah, I think most people are familiar with the deep litter method with chickens, which is, you know, effectively what that sounds like. But I guess I didn't realize that you could do that with with larger animals too. I would never have thought about doing something like that in a cattle barn.
Yes, absolutely. We do. And we generate hundreds and hundreds of tons of material. And of course, you know to finish out for cows where it goes real real deep like that, you know, we add corn to it. The cows don't scratch in it like chickens do. So that bedding pack is static and it's anaerobic. So it's actually fermenting rather than aerobically, you know, decomposing like a row of compost. We add corn to it. The corn then ferments in that bedding pack. When the cows come out, we add pigs, pigs then seek the fermented corn and aerate it, inject the oxygen and it converts that that deep bedding pack from anaerobic fermentation to an aerobic compost. And then that of course, is our fertility program. So we don't buy "fertilizer". What we do buy and invest in is carbon and this composting system that's turned by the pigs, not us. We call that the heart and soul of the farm. That's the greatest cycle, the carbon economy, the carbon cycle, if you can get symbiosis in the carbon cycle on your homestead that's like, that's like the ultimate cycle of all the cycles. I mean, it's great to cycle the kitchen scraps, the chickens, for example, that's, that's one good cycle, there are numerous cycles, but the ultimate is to really get a handle on this whole carbon cycle. And let that drive your fertility and your, you know, your soil development.
So obviously, you know, there's a lot of really great ways to turn your homestead or your backyard into something that can really work for you, whether it's making that transition out of the full time job, or just the increase in self sufficiency. And then, you know, this, this concept of the bedding and all these other nuances that you talked about, which I think are really important to not only the operation, but the health of the animals as well. I know I'm familiar with your book starting and succeeding at farming, the you can farm book and you've got several other books coming out. But can you tell us more about any upcoming books or where we can find you and your website and all of that to get more information?
Yeah, sure. So I'm working on a new book now. And hopefully it will be available, you know, mid summer, if not at least late summer of 2021. And the working title, I think this will be the title, but it's one I'm using right now is a "Homestead Animal Happiness". And it's a little subtle title, you're not sure whether I mean people are happy or animals are happy. And I like the subtlety. That's fine. But I write based on questions on needs, on what I feel like, what do people need to know? What are what's, what's the need of our culture? You know, 40 years ago, when I began speaking, we were you know, we had 15 cows, we had 100 chickens, we, you know, we did a couple pigs. Yeah, it was pretty small potatoes farm, but I like to call it just a glorified homestead, basically. And, you know, we sold some firewood and we, you know, we have big garden. And so, I'd get done doing my presentation. And people would say, Oh, that's, that's cute, and nice and warm and fuzzy, but how does it scale up? How do you really, you know, feed the world make this commercially viable, you know, replace Tyson? And so then, of course, you know, we began to grow and scale up and and now when I get done, people say, Oh, my goodness, that's awesome. But I've only got 10 acres, how does this scale down. And so that's what I'm hearing more and more and more, is, I've just got a real small acreage. So for me, I can seamlessly move between the small scale and the more commercial, large scale, the math, the finances, the, you know, the nuances, I can move pretty seamlessly between the two, the average person can't, the average person needs a roadmap and a coach. Most people don't jump into new territory without a roadmap and a coach. And you would like to think, "Oh, come on, you know, just just just go do it". Well, those of us that have done it, we say that cavalierly, you know, like, Oh, you just just got a chicken? Well, if you've never, if you've never had a plucked chicken on a table, looking at you, you know, got the chicken is a pretty intimidating thing. And so, so most of us are intimidated by something new, unless we have a roadmap and a coach. And so I have finally realized, that's what homesteaders need from me. They need me to size it down and talk about, you know, three cows, not 1000. They need me to talk about, you know, 20 chickens, not 5000. And so that's what I'm doing. And I'm really excited about it. I'm, I'm enjoying the process, like I always do when I get into these things. Because when I write I visualize, you know, two or three people on the other side of the desk, and I'm just having a conversation with them. This book doesn't give you chicken rations. It doesn't tell you how to build a chicken coop. It doesn't tell you how to build a hay barn. What it does is it talks about broad concepts for success that I don't think I've ever seen in other, you know, homestead livestock type writings. And so the theory the philosophy behind everything is what I'm trying to capture in this You know, water systems, access links, how do you build a road? How do you get where you want to go? How does an animal think what's going through an animal's mind? How do you load an animal into a trailer? Again, not, I'm not telling you what kind of trailer to have. I'm not even telling you what kind of corral to have. But I want you to know, I want you to know what the animal what's going through the animal's mind. What are they thinking? And how do we leverage that to come alongside as caretakers, and you know, and touch them in a beneficial way.
I'm really excited for that book, I think that that's going to be really helpful because like you said, there's, you know, 1000 resources out there on how to build chicken coops, we have that on our website, but you go into such a different level that that is not as well documented, but is exceptionally important, if not more important. And so I definitely think that's going to be a wonderful resource and a complimentary resource to some of these other things that are out there.
I'll give you one example if I could just pick one of the biggest problems on the homestead is dirty eggs, right, you know, dirty, dirty eggs. And I've seen so many chicken coops, I mean that you can buy that are that are supposedly professionally made chicken coops. And they have nest boxes, six inches from the ground, six inches from the floor, and they don't close up. And so what happens is the chickens sleeping there. And of course, every chicken sleeps, she poops, and where she poops gonna lay her eggs, you're gonna lay your eggs in the poop. And chickens can look in there all day long. And loiter. So one of the most important principles of clean eggs, is to always have your nest box higher than eye level of the chicken. So the chicken standing on the floor, she can't look into the nest box and be tempted to go in there and scratch around and peck around and poop around and, and soil things. So you put these nests up high enough so that the chicken has to actually hop up on a perch board in order to get in. Or suddenly you reduce loitering. You reduce mischievous interest and you reduce access. Then when you gather them in the afternoon, you flip that perch board up block off the nest box. Now the chickens can't sleep in there. That is such a simple principle. And yet, I'll tell you that one in 10 commercially available like you can buy them backyard chicken coops honors that concept, the exposure for evening. And you know, the above eye level, you know for the nestbox simple yet really profound.
Yeah. And I know that especially because I'm sort of in the the chicken and beekeeping. That's my little happy space. So I see lots of people that are having that in that problem. And that's such a simple solution. I love it. And then of course, your website has some really great information. And then you also, if I recall correctly, have produce available for people in your area.
Yes, yeah. So we have Polyface Farms, if you just "P-o" if you get to about "P-o-l-y" it'll usually pop right up. So Polyface Farms, and there's a lot of information there I have a blog, "Musings from a Lunatic Farmer". And of course, you know, the website contains my speaking engagements. In March, I'll be doing a two day seminar actually in Missouri. I used to travel and speak a lot. But with COVID, I'm not doing as much. We are planning this year to host some events here at the farm where we do our two days, six meals school, which is normally in July. So you know those are available, as well as our food. I mean, if you're in the area come out to the farm, or we have 31 urban drop points within four hours that we deliver to. And we ship nationally as well. Interestingly, when we started doing that a couple of years ago, we took a lot of flack from people, "Oh no, you know, now they're building the empire". They're gonna take business away and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What's happened is that because of our whatever, our footprint, if you will, some people buy from us, we ship to them, and they've never tasted this kind of food. And so they taste it. "Ooh, I've got to have this but I don't want to pay that shipping cost, so I'm going to look around my area and buy it here locally." And so for what we've been able to determine the shipping thing has actually stimulated, brought customers to local smaller outfits that wouldn't otherwise have been there. So we're, we're totally, you know, into local, that's our heart. That's our place, but we also are very aware that with COVID the contactless retail has really become almost, so this has become a juggernaut. And so we realized as a business, we have to flex with the times. You know, nostalgia is great until it's obsolete. And so yeah, you have to stay current with marketing trends, or you you become obsolete.
Absolutely, well I guess I didn't realize that you guys ship. So that makes it even more accessible to everybody. So that's, that's exciting, too.
Yeah, and there are things too, that we have that you might not be able to find locally, you know, Jerky Sticks, for example, a wonderful snack, you know, snack sticks. So you know, there might, there might be something that that you might want that is not available locally. And we'd be glad to glad to send it to you.
Perfect. And of course, we'll put the links to everything in the description, so if somebody's not able to look for it right now, then they can find it there later. And Joel, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. You know, we had some issues connecting and you are one of the most humble and kind and patient people I've ever met. And I appreciate you personally, and I appreciate you sharing your information with others and helping others live a more successful, and healthier life. And thank you so much for your time today!
Thank you, Nicole. It's been a delight and a pleasure.
And for those listening, thank you so much for joining and we'll see you again next week!
For more from Backyard Bounty, text the word "Podcast" to 719-292-3207 or visit HeritageAcresMarket.com/podcast. See you again next week.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Edited by PodSugar Audio Production & Editing