Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Organic Transition

We are in the process of transitioning our farm to feed our animals organic feed. We will not be able to be certified organic until the transition is complete +3 years after that.  So it will be a while before we can claim we are certified.

We are doing it for ONE main reason - to get GMOs out of our food, and support agriculture that doesn't use chemicals. We are also doing it because our customers want us to, for the same reason just stated. People care about their food and what is put in their bodies. Therefore, we care what is put in our animals' bodies.

Why aren't we just switching overnight? Because it's expensive. I just purchased 2 tons of layer feed for my chickens at over $2000. Those are going to be some expensive eggs. I recently purchased 2 tons of non-organic feed for some of our meat birds at less than $800.  The price difference is ALMOST 3x.

Some of our customers don't balk when I tell them that an organic chicken is $7/lb, or a duck is $7.5/ lb. I haven't priced my eggs yet, but it'll be up there. That's partly why I still raise some meat birds on non-organic feed. Many people can't afford the price difference, or choose not to. Many justify that the bird being happy and living outside and eating grass is enough for them. That's totally fine with me.  It's why I still offer a non-organic bird.

But for many other reasons, I want everything on my farm to be organic. I don't want another penny of my farm's money going to Monsanto. I don't want GMO grains in my feed. I don't want my grains sprayed with round-up, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides. I don't want these things sprayed on my chicken feed because those things kill bees and beneficial creepy crawlies living in the soil. I don't want this stuff.

But this year, the farm is suffering due to the price. What have we done so far?

All my egg layers are now being fed organic feed. It took them 6 weeks to eat $1000 worth of feed. And guess what, THEY AREN'T LAYING EGGS YET. There is no income coming in while they chow down on some very expensive food.

My ducks are also eating organic. Not as much, but one 5 gallon bucket a day. They, also, are not yet laying eggs, or old enough to be butchered. No income coming in for them either, yet.

My meat chickens were about 25% raised organic this year. I will raise more. They pay their feed back much more quickly. But I will still raise some on conventional feed for folks that can't handle the price. Eventually we will switch away and go all organic.

It does require managing 2 types of feed, segregating flocks, and working a little bit harder to keep everyone organized. Which isn't fun. And we were unable to separate any turkeys this year, since they can fly, they would be swapping groups and I would actually not have very many truly organic birds if they kept flying in and out of pens.

So the organic transition has been rough so far, financially. We lost a lot of money this year, as I have been feeding egg layers for 6 months, with no income to compensate for their expensive feed. We'll have to feather it in slowly on the meat birds until we make the full transition, and until our customer base can handle the transition.

So that is our plan, hopefully in a few years - maybe even the demand for organic feed will go up, and the price will come down. Or really, what we need is the government to STOP subsidizing GMO corn production, and get feed pricing balanced. It shouldn't cost 3X MORE to grow grains without using chemicals and patented seeds. Don'tcha think?