organics

The Dancing Farmer: Honor System

 

Welcome to part II of our blog post on our road side farm stand.  We hope to share some insights into effectively running an unmanned roadside stand to sell your produce, meat, preserves, wood crafts, or any other item fit for roadside commerce.  Our roadside stand has been a blessing to our small diversified family farm operation.

Our roadside stand runs on the honor system.  We do not hire anyone to stand and exchange money, rather we trust our farm supporters to pay the asking price into an honor box, which is under lock and key.  When your hunger for vegetables grown without the use of pesticides,  herbicides, and chemical fertilizers brings you to The Dancing Farmer farm stand at MacCurdy Farm the first thing you will notice is the absence of any workers in it.  Do not be alarmed, we have a system in place.  The honor system.

The decision to employ the use of the honor system was born out of necessity as we needed to allocate money towards infrastructure and operating costs for the first year of small fruit and vegetable production on the farm however, charity is very much an aspect of the system because we want to see people eating well as well as make them feel trusted.  At the moment we employ pickers and farm hands when needed but we couldn’t justify paying someone to work the stand 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  After a little research online and some conversations with food conscious people about the honor box system use in other parts of our country, we decided to go ahead and try it out.  We had nothing to lose.

chalkboard-price-list

Our prices are listed on the chalkboard on the wall as well as marked on any packaged produce items.  A customer simply has to do the math.  Time to put those math skills you told your middle school math teacher you’d never use to work.  To keep things simple, our prices go to the 50 cent of a dollar.  We use competitive pricing bearing in mind that we charge a premium on most of our products as they are all grown according to organic principles.  However, we understand that times are tough in our economically challenged area so we try to keep our prices affordable so that everyone can eat healthy in our region.  You can always pay more if you feel the prices are too low but we ask that everyone please honor the asking price.  From time to time we have talked to people who were a little short on change.  We’ve told them to simply pay the difference the next time they pass by.  On a couple occasions patrons have brought the money they owed to our booth at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  That’s honesty! We love it.

built-in-honor-box

Honor Box Code

Pay the asking price

If you are short on change, pay the difference the next time.

Cash only.

Place unwanted greens/bad veggies in compost pale

Spread the word.

Feel free to leave comments.

We’re watching you, just kidding, we trust you.

This year we stocked the produce stand with the following items: Strawberries, lettuces, spinach, rainbow swiss chard, radishes, tomatoes (different varieties), hot peppers, green peppers, carrots, beets, kale, dill, field cucumber, English cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, yellow beans, pickles, assortments of herbs, and hanging wave petunia baskets.  Everything sold well with little waste.  Any waste (swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuces) went to the pasture turkeys and chickens as an added source of nutrients.  Minimizing nutrient loss is essential.  Given the location of our farm stand at the base of the farm lane, we restock, empty the honor box, and check the shelf life of the produce periodically through out the day.  We plan on expanding the variety next year.  After a few conversations we made note of some regional culinary favorites that we will grow next year, which included potatoes, onions, zucchini, squash, and corn.  Regretably we only grew some of these items for family consumption this year.

Although work takes us many other places around the farm we always take time to stop and chat with customers especially if we feel they might have questions or have some confusion over how it all works.  A small diversified farm has a steady stream of jobs and tasks, much like the old time homesteaders, but much of our operation is set up within sight of the stand so we are always handy unless we are on our hay, garden, or woodlot acreage.  Availability of produce items is indicated in hand painted wooden signs attached to the exterior of the stand.  As items come in to season, the signs go up on to the wall.

As with any new venture, there is always room for improvement.  Next year we will increase our signage on the sides of the building.  We will have to level off the site with pea gravel as mud and wet became an issue this year.  Improved shelving and a double bi-fold door will also be an upgrade.  Currently, we stock the stand in the morning and bring back into store every night.

For more information on the story, you can check out an article by Bridget Yard of CBC on the Dancing Farmer.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Bay of Chaleur, family farming, farming, Food Awareness, four season farming, organic agriculture, organics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Egg-wagon: Restricted free range laying hens

Our egg-wagon is up and rolling.  After two years of planning, preparation, and construction we finally put our egg layers out to pasture.  With built in nesting boxes and roosting space, the 7′ x 12′ egg-wagon is built to house up to 60 birds.  Given that this is our test phase, the birds currently have around 1700 square feet of salad bar to feed on, exercise in, and express their species specific behaviors.  At present, we are moving the egg-wagon to a new section of greenery every 7 to 10 days when the grass is eaten down and fertilized by chicken manure.  We’ve had success with fertilization by chickens using our chicken tractors so I am curious to see the rate of grass growth after one pass on a chicken grazing quadrant.

I'm free, free rangin'.

I’m free, free rangin’.

Our set up includes our egg wagon, waterers, feeders, free choice grit, calcium, and kelp meal, electric poultry netting, and an s17 Gallagher solar energizer.  The s17 is not recommended, however, if one mows the perimeter of the fencing before installation, there is lower impedance that allows for a fully functional and electrified poultry netting.  In one week, one bird jumped the fence and made her way back to the chicken barn.  To date, it’s been successful, but we’ve found that egg production dropped markedly over the first 3 – 4 days while they acclimated to their new surroundings.  White egg layers, who have a tendency to lay in the grass, stain their eggs making an egg unappealing to customers.  I am thinking of adding cut out milk crates for portable nesting boxes as well.  A brief search on http://www.backyardchickens.com should produce some creative ideas for extra nesting space.

In for the night, I just might.

In for the night, I just might.

I can truly share with you that it is very rewarding, aesthetically pleasing, and peaceful to sit and watch the birds run around their mobile enclosure, safe from predation and free to be chickens.  I can’t imagine a bird of such activity being stuck in a cage to lay eggs for the duration of their lives.  Can you?

Double decker nesting boxes

Double decker nesting boxes

Given that the egg wagon is built on a single axle frame, we stake all four corners and strap down the hitch with dog t-screws.  During the second move, one side of the fence remains in place, while the other lengths are moved to a freshly cut strip and staked to establish the next grazing quadrant.  This can be done with one person, but two is preferred.

Keeping chickens in a restricted free range egg laying system requires letting them out of the coop every morning.  Filling waterers as necessary and feeding birds their daily layer mash ration.  It is important to keep a pan of grit, calcium, and seaweed available as well.  Supplementing these things may help to deter heavy scratching on the grass bed.  Nothing is more tedious than willing chicken ruts in your fields.  Every week I clean out the nesting boxes, putting down new straw.  I also shovel out poop inside the egg-wagon onto the grass between moves.

Solar power

Solar power

Roosting space is incredibly important as well to maximize space inside the coop for night time roosting and also provide a place for hens to get away from the roosters and other bossy hens.  Remember to provide ample width for the birds to place their feet on the roost. A two by four is suggested and it’s what we use for all roosts.

Restricted free range eggs have arrived on MacCurdy Farm.

Categories: farming, organics, pastured poultry | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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