Can’t believe we are wrapping up the second month in 2023 already. We’ve been extremely busy handling the daily chores, trying to get a few smaller projects completed, and handle everything required to move Amy and Jesse’s plan forward. We’ve had meetings around our kitchen table, meetings off- farm, and even more round the kitchen table meetings. We’ve run financial projections to see if everything floats, made changes to the plan and run the projections again; I really don’t think you can spend too much time looking at all possibilities and pitfalls. I’ve always been sort of a stickler when it came to writing a weekly task list but now I’m writing a weekly task list for the farm and another task list of things we have to do to keep Amy and Jesse’s plan on track. The process has been tedious and exciting at the same time. Whenever I get tired or aggravated I just stop and think about how blessed we are to all be working on this project together. Hopefully these will be memories that Annie and I can cherish for the rest of our lives and that Jesse and Amy can think back on after we’re gone.
We are finally ready to reveal the first phase of Amy and Jesse’s plan and I think it is something that you all will be pleased with.
For over 10 years we have offered a product line to our restaurant customers that we called Palmetto Pork and Poultry. These items were not raised here on our farm but were extremely high quality and surpassed what the chefs could get off the Sysco and US Food trucks. A few years ago we expanded this line to include a few items that we would sell here at the farm and through home delivery. Though less expensive than our pasture raised products, our Palmetto products were still fairly expensive and were, at times, difficult for us to keep in stock; Jesse and Amy felt there had to be better ways of handling this and made this a priority in their plan for the future.
Say goodbye to Palmetto Pork and Poultry and hello to Palmetto Provisions. With Palmetto Provisions, Jesse and Amy have secured a dependable source of high quality chicken, beef, and pork that will be sold at prices that rival the grocery stores with the quality that our chef and family customers have demanded for years. No, these products are not pasture raised, and are not raised here on our farm, but are a great alternative for families on a budget or families that prefer the taste of grain-fed beef over 100% grass-fed beef. Don’t worry; Keegan-Filion Farm isn’t going anywhere. We will continue to raise chicken, hogs, and beef on our farm in Walterboro and sell the highest quality pastured chicken and pork and 100% grass fed beef available around the Low Country.
By the time this newsletter is sent out you will find a host of new Palmetto Provision items listed on the website. They will include boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, boneless thighs, and tenders, thin cut pork chops, butts, baby back ribs, and bacon. They will also have rib eyes, New York strips, filets, 80/20 ground beef and will be adding more items in the near future.
All of the Palmetto Provision items can be purchased here at the on-farm market or on-line and delivered through Pastured Pantry. These items will qualify for free-home delivery for all orders over $100 (can be mixed and matched with our Keegan-Filion meats and other products), and will qualify for our loyalty program. If you’re not familiar with our loyalty program, all orders and purchases of $100 or more will give you 1 point. Accumulate 5 points and your 6th order gets a 20% discount.
This is just a small part of what Amy and Jesse have planned for the future. We will share more with you as things are finalized and the plans move forward; 2023 is going to be a very exciting and challenging year for us here on the farm.
The boar we brought to the farm in late summer is starting to hit his stride. We have several sows bred and just had him breed 4 new gilts with 2 additional gilts we want him to breed shortly. Once the 2 new gilts are bred we have another 7 or so sows for him to breed before we start the rotation over with him breeding sows that have completed farrowing and weaning. We plan on keeping our sow herd at around 23 to 25 for the time being but may increase it if demand warrants.
We weaned off 2 litters a couple of weeks ago and moved them to one of the remodeled nursery pens. With this being the first pigs to go into the remodeled pens we we’re nervous about how the pens would work out. So far, we couldn’t be happier with the results. The “resting” area of the pen which is covered in shavings has remained clean while the “patio” area is being used for eating, drinking, and pooping. The patio is easily cleaned off daily with the manure being added to our compost pile. Once a week or so we hose the patio off after scraping up the manure to insure a clean environment for the pigs. The pigs are all doing great, are healthy and growing. It will take several more groups to determine how good this set up really is but early results are promising.
The freeze we had around Christmas has really shown up in our grazing. The field that we ran the disk through and planted in winter rye and oats faired a lot better than the 3 fields we over seeded with winter rye grass. In the over seeded fields we experienced over 50% kill which really showed up as the temperatures moderated and the grass began growing. 2 fields that we should have been able to graze for 4 to 5 days provided 2 days of grazing before the cows had to be taken off. The third over seeded field, 11 acres, is still 2 weeks or so away from being capable of being grazed and will provide 3 days max for the cows. We feel that the shallow root system of the grass in the over seeded fields were killed off from the cold while the deeper root system in the disked field prevented them from damage. We probably have only a week’s worth of hay left before we will have to buy more; we originally thought we would have roughly 25 bales left over at the end of the hay season. As we are constantly reminded, we can’t control the weather and when we see “average temperature” it means there is as many days above and below the average. It’s just all part of farming.
Late February or early March, depending on the daily temperatures, we will bush hog the old hay field and begin preparing it for spring green-up. By getting this field out of the way it opens up time that we can spend taking care of the other fields when the cows are rotated out. We will be glad for spring green up and moving into several months of just moving cows from field to field rather than feeding hay. We’ve done a lot of work on these fields over the past several years and have begun a foliar feeding program that should provide the cows with the best grazing we’ve ever had.
Those of you that follow us on Facebook might remember a post we did last July where we showed a part of the farm that constantly stayed muddy and provided a hazard for the cows when they went to the area to lie down and get out of the heat. The area was lower than the rest of the property and acted as a drainage area for the higher fields around it; there were a few underground channels that were sending water trickling into the area creating the mud hole. After looking at the area for years, and trying to find solutions to the problem, we decided to remove some of the trees, build a dike at one end, and dig a few holes down until we hit water. Today the area has flooded into a half acre pond that is anywhere from 6” deep to 20’ deep in spots. The runoff from the adjoining fields continues to come in through the underground channels to help fill the pond with the final pond size expected to be around an acre. We have seen wild turkeys on the field adjoining the pond and around the side of the pond as well as having found several deer tracks where the deer have come to the pond to drink. For Christmas Annie asked for some wood duck boxes which we will hang somewhere in the area with the hope of drawing in a few ducks; we already have a good number of wood ducks in the swamp at the back of the farm. This week we will add 100 bream and 100 shell cracker fingerlings with plans to add more in the fall as long as the pond continues to grow as expected. If all works out, we will be able to take the grandkids and nephews fishing before the end of the year.
As the kids get older they will be expected to do more work on the farm along with a kid’s normal chores. Free time for a farm kid can be very limited; we feel it’s important to provide them things to do right here on the farm whenever they have time to enjoy them. Sure we can always get them go karts, 4 wheelers, and dirt bikes but we also want to provide them opportunities to enjoy the quiet parts of the outdoors. Several years ago we put in an above ground pool to allow them a place to swim, now a pond that will provide them an opportunity to fish or catch frogs. We have areas on the farm that we have managed for wildlife that will provide them access to deer, wild turkey, ducks, and even dove if they take an interest in hunting. Life can’t be all work and no play; hopefully they will remember their time on the farm favorably and want to raise their families on it also. The farm has provided so much for Annie and I and the generation that came before us that we want to do everything possible to help the farm do the same for the next generations.
March is right around the corner. Soon we will be getting the mowers ready to start weekly mowing, the planter ready to plant sorghum Sudan or millet for the cows to graze, and the sprayer ready to begin bi-weekly foliar feeding of the pastures. We’ve been busy this winter but nothing in comparison to what we will be doing once all threats of frost pass.
We hope you enjoy the last few weeks of winter and the beginning of spring. We thank you for your continued support of the farm and invite all of you out to the farm to see where your food comes from; the market is open Thursday and Friday from 9 to 5, closed 11 to 1 for lunch.
Annie, Marc, Amy & Jesse