I recall my first farmers market several years ago; It was a muggy Missouri day in the parking lot of the mall. I was interning for the summer on an organic farm, and still recovering from painfully deep sunburn on the tender sides of my head (an impromptu mohawk in the middle of the blistering summer. No sunscreen. The stinging was almost as awful as the haircut). The experience wasn’t exactly inspiring - we didn’t sell much of anything. As I recall, the vendors who did the best were the Mennonite folks with their Walmart-grade baked goods, which did not live up to the “genuine fine-crafted” image their suspenders and moustach-less beards demanded - I ate one of their strawberry tarts, which I immediately regretted...
Given my less-than-impressive experience in the midwest, I was excited to see the thriving farmer’s market community here in the northwest; the Vancouver/Portland area alone is home to over 50 markets. Two of which we had the pleasure of joining on for the 2013 season. We had a great time working alongside other farmers and producers, and getting more connected with the local natural food community.
While we did have fun and made some great friends, being a meat/poultry vendor at a market could be a bit challenging... Here’s a couple things we learned:
Firstly - Farmers markets don’t quite work like grocery stores. Even in the natural-food epicenter we live in, people who shop at farmers markets still buy a relatively narrow list of products - this is changing fast, but unprepared meat is still hasn’t quite made it onto the shopping list for the average farmers-marketer. Less than half of the markets in the area have meat vendors, and it’s not because there aren’t suppliers.
Secondly - markets aren’t a hugely profitable endeavor for many producers - especially when you’re selling a more specialty product like ours. So if you’re considering joining a farmers market, I’d suggest doing what we did and consider your time and money investment at a market as primarily a marketing expense - that way, if you attend a market all summer and you’re still not rolling in the dough, you won’t be disappointed or burn out. As a marketing venue, farmers markets are great! Local food buyers love to support farms that are interested and involved in their communities - so it’s a great way to get connected. But if you’re not there to have fun, and make friends with your customers, you may be a little disappointed to find that the cash doesn’t always just come pouring in ;)
For some time we have been interested in ways to utilize waste streams for beneficial use. For example, we currently utilize waste wood, coming to us in the form of chips and firewood rounds from local arborists, to provide winter bedding for our cows, sheep and chickens. A similar interest is the utilization of waste food, or even manure, to raise black soldier fly larvae. Lord willing, this is an idea we will be experimenting with and improving upon for many years to come. Black soldier fly larvae can be used as a natural feed supplement for chickens and pigs, reducing our dependence on grain. Because grain prices have fluctuated pretty wildly over the years, any action that can insulate the farmer from the grain market without compromising animal health and food integrity is worth pursuing.
Brief History and Background: The black soldier fly is a part of the much larger soldier fly family (stratiomyidae) and has been identified as naturally occurring as far north as the 50th parallel. The black soldier fly is largely cosmopolitan; meaning that it is found on almost all continents. Up until the 1990s, they had largely been ignored, but were then recognized as a means of disposing of animal manures and now food wastes.
Facts: Black soldier flies can eat through material faster than any other insect. In fact they can easily consume in excess of their body weight on a daily basis. The fly’s excrement, a liquid, can be collected as it is a highly fertile as a soil amendment and plant food. After several days in the larvae stage the black soldier fly matures to the prepupae state and will seek a safe place to turn into an adult fly. At this stage the mature larvae will seek soil so that it can dig in and cocoon itself. This makes the larvae self harvesting as they try to crawl out of their food bin and can be captured in a bucket or similar device. Obviously, it is necessary to select some out for reproduction and the rest can be used for chicken feed. At optimum temperatures, the time span from eggs to adults is a little over two week.
Nutritional Attributes: The black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) is also high in nutritional value. These little critters contain over three times the normal protein of layer feed and twice that of poultry feed. Not only are BSFL high in protein but they contain important fats, amino acids and minerals, which are not available in most animal feeds. The natural protein source for chickens and pigs is mostly from insects and grubs, but in conventional poultry and hog feed this protein is supplied almost exclusively from grains, legumes or fish sources. By using a insect protein source we hope to reduce our dependence on grains while increasing the nutrition of our animals.
Black Soldier Flies Farming Potential: The world wastes an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food every year. If only a small portion of that was converted into fly larvae think of the tremendous volume of highly nutritious animal feed and fertilizer that could be created. On our farm, the BSFL would go directly to the chickens we have on pasture, whose enriched manure would go back into the soil. The BSFL liquid could be processed into a manure tea and sprayed on the pasture to increase soil health and plant growth. This will create an increasingly more nutritious and vibrant pasture which makes for healthy eating for both animals and customers.
Hi! My name is Naomi and I'm 10 and my sister's name is Evelyn and she is 8 and we are Botany Bay Farm's egg washers! Want to come egg washing with us?
First we walk (or ride our bikes) down to the shop to the egg washing room. When we get there we get all of our supplies out before we start washing eggs! We wash about 125 eggs a day! For one basket it takes us about 1 hour. We wash eggs everyday (except Sunday), so we have double on Monday! I do the scrubbing part and Evelyn does the drying and sticking in egg cartons part. When we are done washing eggs we put them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.
There are down sides to egg washing and one of those is, chickens don't stop laying on Sundays and Holidays! :) But there is a reward for egg washing! Evelyn's and mine is that we get to listen to Bible stories while we wash eggs!
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