Taste sausages – choose your favourite, eat some of Ottawa’s finest street-food, learn about what is happening with Grazing Days – join us on April 10th!
Who: Everyone is welcome. Anyone who is a Grazing Days customer or a farm supporter. The only catch is that the room’s capacity is 80 people – reserve your ticket(s) early.
Where: Centretown – exact location will be shared when you reserve your ticket(s).
Please reserve your ticket(s) by completing the form below. Tickets are priced to help cover the cost of the catering: $13 per full portion and $5 per kid portion and are payable at the door.Sorry this event is now sold out
6:30pm Sausage Fest! (Did we mention Gluten Free Sausages?!)
Since we have moved to our new farm, we have started to work with a local-to-the-farm sausage maker: Ferme Moreau. For Sausage Fest, they have prepared 5 different kinds of Gluten Free sausages with Grazing Days beef for all of us to sample. The favourite sausage of the evening will become the standard sausage in the Grazing Days beef boxes.
These 5 sausages will be going toe to toe for the honour:
(We will have extra packages of frozen sausages for sale at $10.00 per package if there are any sausages you would like to try cooking at home…)
- Beefeater Sausage
- Farmers’ Sausage
- Fine Herbs Sausage
- Mild Italian Sausage
- Tomato Basil Sausage
7:00pm Gongfu Bao meal!
Our good friend Tarek at Gongfu Bao (http://www.gongfu.ca/), the source of some of Ottawa’s tastiest street food, is kindly working with us to cater the event. He’s cooking up some tasty Grazing Days beef for his steam buns to go along with the Sausage Fest theme. (Vegetarian and / or Gluten Free options are also available). Tickets are $13 for Full portions – which includes 2 steam buns (or similar) and a side and $5 for Kid portions – 1 steam bun (or similar). Drinks will be sold separately.
As a side note, in the past, Grazing Days has often opted for the potluck, as the way to share a meal at our events. Our hunch is that some of our customers chose not to come to events because of the potluck component. We’re excited to see if catered food is a more appealing option.
8 :00pm Grazing Days Annual Meeting
We’ll cap off the evening with a quick review of the Grazing Days 2014/2015 season, a peak at Grazing Days’ finances, and some musings about what we are looking forward to and thinking about on the farm for 2015/ 2016 and beyond.
We’ll have some Twister-type activities to keep the younger (and older) crowd occupied during this part of the evening.
In the last edition of the Grazing Post, we had an article about beef cattle prices being on the rise in recent years. The price of cattle has continued to rise since the last newsletter. The graph on the right (updated weekly through the Beef Farmers of Ontario) shows the price of 600-699 pound heifers (which tend to be about 15 cents a lb more expensive than the 800 lbs heifers we purchase). We purchased at about week 20 last year for $1.75 per lb. Based on this chart, we are guessing that we will be paying about $2.20 per lb for our heifers this year.
The unfortunate part about this cattle price increase is that we too need to increase our prices this year. Last year, we purchased 40 yearling heifers, averaging 800 lbs at $1.75 per lbs for a total of $56,000.
This year we will be purchasing 40 yearling heifers, averaging 800 lbs at $2.20 per lbs for a total of $70400. That is an increase of $14,400. We sell between 310 and 320 lbs of beef per animal for a total of between 12,400 and 12,800 lbs. If all of our other costs remain the same, we would have to increase our prices by $1.13 to $1.16 per pound to cover the increased price of these yearlings. As such we are raising our prices by $1.15 per pound this year, from $8.75 per pound to $9.90 per pound. We realize that this is a 13% increase over last year, but unfortunately we have very little choice. We hope you understand.
Our pricing formula for 2015 works as such: we charge $9.90 per pound of beef to cover our cost of production and wages and then $10 per delivery to cover the cost of packaging, storing, handling and delivery. For example, the half share costs 40 lbs X $9.90/lb + 4 deliveries X $10/delivery = $396 + $40 = $436.
If all goes well, this is the last year that we will be purchasing stockers. The calves that were born on the farm this past summer will be ready to be butchered in the fall of 2016. Our goal is still to peg our annual price increases to Canada’s annual inflation rate.
Grazing Days has just released the second edition of its semi-annual newsletter, the Grazing Post. Read all about it here: http://grazingdays.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/the-grazing-post-issue-2-FINAL.pdf.
If you have an existing farm business and are looking for land, we invite you to submit a proposal to join Ferme Aube aux champs land management co-op.
Who : farm businesses looking for land and who have a desire to farm collectively
What: Move farm operation to Ferme Aube aux champs and join a co-op that manages infrastructure and land resource base.
When: Spring 2015.
Where: Saint-André-Avellin, Québec.
Why: To facilitate young farmer land access, to increase biodiversity, to grow quality food.
La Ferme Aube aux champs is a small family farm, purchased in early 2014 with the intention of growing our existing farm business, Grazing Days, and of setting up a collective farm with other compatible farm businesses. We are now actively seeking other experienced farming units to join us.
2. Ferme Aube aux champs background
2.1. The land and the farm
Ferme Aube aux champs is a farm in St.-André-Avellin, Québec, that is owned and operated by Josée Cyr-Charlebois and Paul Slomp and their 2 year old child. The farm is currently 270 acres which is made up of approximately 30 acres of rock and bush, 20 acres of permanent pasture with shallow and exposed bed rock, and 220 arable acres.
The home farm, which is owned by Josée and Paul consists of 100 acres, most of which is tile drained. Ferme Aube aux champs has an accepted offer on the neighbouring 170 acres of land (not tile drained), pending provincial government approval. Until the sale of the 170 acres is finalized, Ferme Aube aux champs has a registered lease on the land which expires in December 2018.
The farm is about 2 km long and about 0.75 km wide with heavy clay soils on the Southern tip and in the middle, loam soils in the South and sandy soils in the North. Most of the farm has deep clay sub-soils.
Josée and Paul acquired the farm in May of 2014. Prior to their acquisition, 50 acres had been used to make hay and 180 acres had been used for cash crops (GM soybeans in 2013). All of the arable land has been seeded to a legume and grass mixture and is currently used on a hay / grazing rotation.
Soil samples have been taken on most of the farm, and soil amendments have started. The aim is to be certified organic by the fall of 2017.
1 house, 1 old garage, 1 heated shop, 3 hay sheds, 1 barn, 1 machinery shed.
65hp tractor 4wd, loader, cab (JD 2007), disc bine, rake, tedder, round baler, 2 hay wagons, swather, combine, generator, post pounder, plow, S-tine, grading blade, forklift forks, quad, wide variety of tools.
7000ft buried waterline (pressure system), corral, electric fences, 2 walk-in freezers (8ft x 11ft), 1 walk-in cooler (8ft x 10ft).
2.2. The market
Saint-André-Avellin is an hour outside of Ottawa and an hour and a half outside of Montréal. It is near Mont-Tremblant and has a vibrant organic farming community, which includes a local Marché de solidarité 15 kilometres from the farm.
2.3. Grazing Days
Currently the only enterprise on the farm is Grazing Days. Grazing Days intensive-rotationally-grazes 45 cow calf pairs on the farm and each year delivers the meat from 40 grass-fed cattle to approximately 250 households in the Ottawa / Gatineau area. For more information visit www.grazingdays.ca and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75nwvIK2AMs
2.4. Josée Cyr-Charlebois
Josée grew up in the city of Ottawa. She has a Masters in political sociology, and has worked doing social justice advocacy for research institutes and community based organizations. Her first summer on the farm involved setting up a quarter acre family garden, tending to laying hens and growing a small plot of wheat. In the years ahead, Josée will focus her energies on building the wheat plots to launch a processing business and find ways to incorporate her background in community development here on the farm (community spaces, day programs, farm camps/retreats).
2.5. Paul Slomp
Paul was raised on a dairy farm in central Alberta. He studied civil engineering and after university, spent four years working with smallholder farmers in Ghana, Zambia, Malawi and Rwanda. He realized that smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are facing the same issues as farmers in Canada (getting goods to market, getting paid a fair price for these goods, rising input costs, access to capital and control over input and market prices). Paul started farming in 2010 to demonstrate alternative ways of growing food than the prescribed industrial style of agriculture and to advocate for policies that acknowledge existing differences in power and the undeniable bonds between farmers, eaters and the planet— in Canada and the rest of the world.
3. Ferme Aube aux champs in the long term (the vision – collective farm/ land management co-op)
Success in sustainable ecological agriculture depends on biodiversity. Traditionally this biodiversity was reached by having mixed farms with many different farming enterprises existing on the same farm property and working in symbiosis with one another. The manure from a livestock enterprise was used to fertilize the soil of a vegetable enterprise. In return some of the unsellable or damaged goods from the vegetable enterprise were fed to the livestock. Having many farming enterprises on the same farm makes sense biologically. Unfortunately, to be successful economically a mixed farm requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill in vastly different subject matters, a huge amount of work, and large investments in land, marketing, and tools. These requirements make mixed farming very difficult to be economically viable with single farm operators.
We would like to run a mixed farm on Ferme Aube aux champs to maximize the biodiversity and the ecological sustainability of the farm. In order to accomplish this while making it economically viable, we would like to set up a co-operative of two or three different farm units farming collectively on the farm property. Each farm unit would be an economically independent business responsible for one or two of its own farming enterprises and responsible for its own financial viability. At the same time each farm unit would share in the long-term vision of the farm, contribute to the biodiversity on the farm, and lend knowledge, skill, time and investment into the long term success of the farm. Each farm unit would have its own housing.
We are farmers who care about the long term sustainability of what we do. We think about how the food we produce influences those around us and contributes to shaping a food system that respects people, the societies they live in and the planet. We are looking to build a co-operative of farm families to share a land base, tools and infrastructure, as well as marketing efforts.
4. Ferme Aube aux champs : Next steps – selection of a new farm enterprise(s) / farm unit(s)
We are looking to select farm units to join us on the property. We are looking for compatible farm enterprises such as market gardens, beekeeping, mushroom growing, nuts and fruits. The process we have set up to achieve this goal is as follows:
4.1. Release of the Call for proposals. Proposals should include a detailed business plan, relevant farming experience, a short bio of the members of the farming unit, the reason why you’re interested in the opportunity and where you see yourselves in ten years.
4.2. Information Day at Ferme Aube aux champs. To be held on January 18th 2015.
4.3. Proposal submission deadline. February 1st 2015.
4.4. Second round conversations. We will get back to applicants by February 8th 2015.
4.5. Final selection of farm enterprise(s) / farm unit(s). By February 15th 2015.
4.6. Trial growing /harvesting/ processing season. Spring , summer, fall 2015.
4.7. Launching of Ferme Aube aux champs co-op . If the trial is successful, we start the conversation about setting up of the co-op in the fall of 2015.
The season has confirmed that we want to build community and farm collectively. The land and its farmers are craving it. If you are a farmer looking for land and interested in farming collectively, we invite you to submit a proposal. We look forward to hearing from you.
We have an old cow (a cull cow) who’s losing weight and quite old. We bought a herd this spring and have been surprised by the advanced age of some of the cows. When animals aren’t doing super well after a luscious summer on fresh pasture, it doesn’t bode well for them for winter. Our vet said there wasn’t anything she could do for the animal and the best thing for us to do would be to ship her to auction. Animal auctions are part of the mainstream meat industry and we would have no way of knowing how she would be treated by whomever buys her.
We care deeply about our cattle, but can’t afford to feed an animal who will deteriorate during the season and cost a fair amount to have her body removed from the pastures should she pass.
Since she hasn’t spent the bulk of her life at our farm, we can’t guarantee that she is entirely ‘grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free’ as we do our yearlings, but she has been pasture fed since her arrival in May. Our 5+ year plan is to have a closed herd, with all animals born here. At that time, our older cattle would be turned into ground beef and we won’t have to deal with this issue of auctions and of how to recoup costs without sacrificing our ethics.
In the meantime though, I feel we have an unspoken agreement with the cattle here. They get all the fresh pasture they can eat, move about freely, have water aplenty always, their young with them for as long as it is feasible, and they are not shipped to feed lots (or to any place where we feel they won’t be treated with the same respect and care they receive here).
As a result, we would feel better about sending her to the abattoir and selling her meat, knowing that she lived well and that she won’t needlessly endure hardship. However, the cow is older and skinnier and we have no way of knowing the quality of the meat (i.e. steaks wouldn’t be great but ground beef should be alright). So we’re brainstorming.
We are wondering :
Would you be interested in buying sausages, salami or ground beef from this and other such animals? Or meat for pets?
Alternatively, do you have any other ideas of ways to transform and market this meat?
With fall well underway, we’re working on getting winter-ready, ironing out details with the local (and federally inspected) abattoir that is processing our meat, and keeping on top of the everyday work of running the farm.
We decided to harvest 9 acres of oats that we planted — underseeded with grass — in the spring, in order to get some straw for bedding for the winter. We don’t yet have a combine and it was hard to find someone who could do the work for us; most contract workers in our area own machinery that’s suited to combining hundreds of acres in a go, not a few handfuls. A real downside to the push to “go big or go home” when you’re in agriculture is that small scale farmers, who don’t want to go big, nonetheless have a harder time accessing machinery that is suitable to their scale.
We ended up harvesting four tons of oats, much more than anticipated. As we hadn’t expected such yields, we also didn’t have a place to store the grains. Paul stayed up late to build two massive wooden crates on pallets, which he then lifted onto one of our grain wagons. Unlike our old grain silo, it was a good height for the combine. (P.S. Anyone want to buy feed oats?)
With meat deliveries starting this weekend, we’ve also had to make sure we had the freezer space to hold the meat. Paul and Danny started by giving the barn a deep clean, removing years’ worth of cobwebs, removing some of the walls and a hay rack, digging out old manure, and trucking in some sand. We then built two freezers and a cooler in our barn and have been working with our local electrician and refrigeration experts to get everything up and running.
We ended up buying the bulk of the hay we need to feed the cows and calves throughout the winter. Paul filled the hay shed and then built a pair of pyramids and covered them with the biggest tarps we have ever owned.
At this point, we’re also working on installing close to 7000 feet of water pipe to get water to the animals during the winter. The creek that has fed our pasture pumps in the spring and summer won’t do at all during the winter, so we’ve had to apply to the municipality to dig below a road, and find contractors who can do the work. The pipe needs to be between 5 and 6 feet below ground to prevent freezing, and needs to be in the ground before we have daytime frost.
We have also found the logs we need to build wind breaks for the cattle, for shelter from the winter winds. More on that once we manage to secure transport to get them to the farm.
Despite the busyness of this great winter prep, the two herds get fresh pasture every day, fences get moved, pasture pumps are moved from pasture to pasture with the herds, and the animals are counted and their health monitored.
In the next post, we’ll talk about the new abattoir we’re working with, our new sausage makers, and hopefully, we’ll have progress to report on the pipes and windbreaks.
To those receiving the first box of their share this Saturday, enjoy !
The Grazing Days team had a great time at the Open House over the weekend. Thanks to all those who came,
who asked questions,
who trudged through the pastures in the pouring rain to see the cow-calf herd and the back acres,
and who broke bread with us.
Maybe one year, the open house will fall on a warm, sunny day. Until then, we definitely appreciate how hardcore and interested our CSA members are.
One should make hay when the sun shines, so in a fencing lull, with our eye on the weekly forecast, we went about making plans to cut, ted, rake, and bale a few pastures. We figured we’d need around eight hundred bales to feed the cow-calf pairs through the winter and both Paul and Josée were getting pretty anxious seeing the neighbours hauling cart after cart of luscious golden hay, so the time was ripe.
We were hoping to harvest at least a hundred bales and needed at least four consecutive days of sun and warmth to get the job done. The thermostat was to be in the 30s for a solid mid-week and the sun was set to shine. We embarked. Hay making means long 16+ hour days, endless hours bumping along in a tractor, and being quite obsessed about listening to weather reports.
When Paul started talking about « entering hay season », the team* was pretty stoked to partake in this true farm experience. Turns out it’s a lot of taking over someone else’s house chores (cooking, milking, etc.) and not that much excitement. Regardless, all of those who wanted tractor shifts got a kick at the can.
(* At this point, the farm team had grown to welcome Thulasy and Graham, good friends visiting from Alberta. For a glorious month we were five adults and two toddlers on the farm.)
Here’s the hay tedder. The teeth spin to aerate and spread the grasses out, or to « wuffle » the hay, to expose more of the cut to sunlight, air and wind and thus speed up the hay-making process.
And here’s the awesome warning sticker on the tedder. The words, if there were any, have rubbed off, but that twirly body says it all.
All kidding aside, farm fatalities due to entanglement in machinery are real and frequent. Between 1990 and 2008, 1,978 accidental agricultural deaths were recorded in Canada. 70% were caused by machinery. 48% were caused by rollovers, runovers and entanglements (see report here).
Despite five solid days of heat and sun, the humidity and stillness of the air did us in. On the sixth day it poured. It rained like it hadn’t in months. Paul managed to bale 30 solid bales of dry stuff, 50 of moist, and the rest is still (rotting) in the fields a week later. Quite deflating. In cities, you just don’t have that sort of experience. Prior to living on the farm (and as an urban worker and dweller), Josée’s closest experience is probably when a day or two of freezing rain in February ruins the ice on the Rideau Canal and the city closes the skateway for the season despite an upcoming cold snap. It had never been about livelihood for her. And these failed bales totally are.
Here’s Paul rolling in with the dry bales in the pouring rain.
We’re going to be giving it another go in September and undoubtedly buying hay for our first winter.
You know what’s a lot more fun than it sounds : pouring concrete floors.
Given the number of outbuildings and the amount of space we now have, we decided the thing to do was to buy a walk-in freezer. We’ll save on the cost of renting freezer space, spare ourselves the inconvenience of getting to and from the warehouse, and we’ll be able to pack beef boxes as we go, and for shorter periods of time (as opposed to Paul freezing his hands off packing boxes in the freezer for eight consecutive hours).
Here’s our freezer, all in pieces. We’ll put it together once our own chest freezer is full (of sweet blanched garden goods!) or as the abattoir season draws nearer. An electrical professional will do the rest.
We bought sand, rebar, and some insulating foam. We made the form with 2 x 6s, shovelled in sand, laid the foam, put out the rebar, and used a level and some sidewalk chalk to mark the wall.
The guy backed in the truck, snapped the chute panels into place and let er rip. We all froze when it first started pouring out, I’d say, but the shovels got busy pretty fast. Wet cement was pushed into corners, along the wall, and shovelfuls were chucked to fill indents left by boots. Paul grabbed at the rebar, to try to centre it within the layer of cement.
Moving a long board back and forth, we started smoothing out the cement.
We smoothed until we got to one of the beams and started shovelling anew.
Plank and shovel. Plank and shovel.
Turns out that « washing the kitchen floor » trick, whereby you don’t trap yourself into a corner with nowhere to go but wet shiny floor, also applies to laying cement floors. Mopping and cementing, who knew.
Quick word to the wise : due to the caustic nature of wet concrete, skin can be burned by the contact. To prevent these chemical burns, it’s really quite advisable to wear gloves. Since Josée’s hands are still raw and about as soft as 80 grit sandpaper over a week later, she’s decided that, when working with new tools or materials in the presence of professionals (in this case the cement truck operator), she’ll do a quick scan of their own safety gear before jumping in. He was, for the record, wearing work gloves.
Paul smoothed over the area using a bull float (a big swiffer like tool). We’re hoping that the barn will eventually be able to house a bit of an on-site store. This was a solid first step at occupying the barn, which is remarkably full of strangely shaped, unusable nooks.
As everyone else was washing up tools, Danny tried out the mechanical float we rented, and proceded to propel himself off the machine and into the fresh cement surface. No pictures, unfortunately.
Not only is there a sizable mound of leftover sand,
but we also had extra cement, so a sandbox is in the making, and we poured and smoothed a bit of a basketball court at the back of the barn.
We all forgot to sign our names into the floor, so the true barn residents went ahead and did it.