Monday, October 26, 2009

Farm School at Nature's Harmony....

This is Jethro helping let the chickens out.

This last weekend was extremely exhausting for us. Nicole had signed us up for farm school at Nature's Harmony Farm in Elberton, GA. So the plan was to head up after work Friday and travel to Athens, stay there overnight so the drive wouldn't be so long Saturday morning.

The drive to Athens took almost two and a half hours because of the traffic and rain. It was ugly.
We pulled up to the Hotel around 7:30pm and decided to get some dinner. Our first choice, because it was walking distance, was The Last Resort restaurant. By the time we arrived it was already a 2 hour wait, so there was no way that was going to happen. We walked back to the car and drove to 5 & 10 restaurant about 5 miles away. It was a nice experience but since Nicole and I can't hang anymore past 10 pm, we had to get to bed.

Saturday morning we got up and on the road to Nature's Harmony farm, which was about an 1 hour and 20 minutes away. As we pulled up, it was just as we expected, a beautiful pasture lined on one side with chicken tractors and on the other a fenced in area where they kept turkeys. There were already about 15 people there when we pulled up. Liz greeted us and we put on name tags. A few minutes later, Tim explained how the day would flow and we split up into groups.

Nicole and I decided to go with Liz and an intern named Mario, to let the chickens out of the cotton trailers, check on the pigs, and test the electric fence for proper voltage. That was a good experience to see how they had the cotton trailers built and where the nest boxes were located on the trailers. It was also our first time seeing an Ossabaw Island boar and sow. Very nice. That is one of their hot sellers. Apparently they can't keep the meat in stock and have to turn people away. Amazing!

These are Berkshires, playing in the woods.

This is one of the escape artists.

Next we walked down to the other pig pens and saw the interns trying to separate the boars from the sows by corralling the pigs into a trailer. Tim wanted to stop unwanted breeding of the younger sows as they are not ready to be mothers. It was actually pretty funny as some of the pigs had jumped over the electric fencing and were running all over the place.

The other pen had the Large Black pigs, which we are going to do. They seemed laid back and friendly eating grass and just puttering around. While we were standing there, one came to close to the electric fence and got shocked. Apparently the fence was in good working order. Nicole and I were happy with what we saw and it just gave us some excitement looking forward to the future.

We walked back up and Tim wanted to take the group down to see the dairy. This man is going to be busy. The dairy was built some years ago but needed some work and Tim and Liz were in the middle of refurbishing everything. What's cool is by next year they should be making cheese, butter and who knows what else. It was a very nice set-up.
The group headed back up and Liz was ready to start processing chickens. Tim had about 125 Cornish Cross chickens in cages ready to go. Since I had already experienced first hand the killing cones and plucking, I thought it might be best to eviscerate the chickens that had already been plucked. I have to say, coming from a restaurant back ground, cleanliness and sanitation are very important to me. Well, I wasn't disappointed. Liz was very adamant about the whole sanitation process.

As we got going on the chickens, I started to feel very comfortable with the process. Nicole got the camera out and recorded the beginning and then jumped in to learn the process for herself. I think we ended up processing 80 chickens. I could feel it. My back was crying and so was Nicole's. It reminded me of when I used to cut meat for 3 hours every morning. It takes some getting used to, but eventually you build up stamina.

Nicole and I took a walk down to the cows to see the new calf and enjoy the farm for a few minutes before we had to pack up. There is something very calming about looking at a herd of cows chewing on grass and not having a care in the world. We took a few pictures and headed back to the group.

As we were getting ready to head out, we were fortunately able to buy some meat and eggs from Tim and Liz. That in itself was quite a treat. Liz let us go first and we bought steaks, chicken, ground beef and eggs. Just enough to fill up our cooler.

We headed to the car to pack everything up and Tim came by for a minute to chat. I'll be honest, I didn't know what to expect from Tim and Liz before we meet them. Some of the farmers I have meet have been so guarded that I have ended up wondering whether they have helped or hurt with the information they gave. Tim and Liz were the total opposite. After speaking to Tim, I felt he truly wants to help folks like ourselves who are very like minded. He was not threatened by us but encouraged us. He wanted to share information that would help us succeed as farmers which is very admirable since he really didn't have to do anything but sell his product and call it a day. He is strong on his values and seemed to be a man of integrity.

I can't imagine how many people they will ultimately influence but I would guess it will be many. Thanks again to Nature's Harmony for an outstanding day on the farm!!

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
~Sir Winston Churchill


  1. Nice blog today. Looks like a great place to learn. I wish more farmers had that attitude. Keep moving along!


  2. Well they are good folks. You're right, I do wish more farmers had that attitude.

  3. Glad to see you're a little more regular with your blogs. We were worried about you. (3 words with a "w" in a row!)
    Thanks :)

    Don and Judy

  4. It was a pleasure having ya'll out at the farm, and we really appreciated you sticking it out and helping us process so many chickens. The other apprentices and I agree that you guys are awesome and we wish you the best of luck with your adventure.

  5. Thanks Kerry. I was a little out of shape. Nicole and I both had sore backs all the way home on Saturday. It stinks creeping up to 40! I haven't stood at a table like that in some time.

    We are very focused on getting this thing up and running before spring 2010. Thanks for the support! We enjoyed meeting and working with you all.


  6. Hi there - I was standing next to you for about two hours working on chickens before I had to opt out for a while. You were a trooper!

  7. Thanks Denna. I'm glad Nicole and I got to meet you. It definitely gave us a workout. To bad I won't be able to process chickens for a while. At least I'll have a clue of how to do it when we start.