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Egg Update

Posted 8/18/2016 10:30pm by Reuben DeMaster.

Dear Friends & Members of the Farm,

This chicken update is overdue and I apologize for not communicating sooner.  I have two reasons for not writing sooner.  First, I have been very tired after working in this heat every day.  By evening, I have trouble concentrating on anything but cooling down.  Second, this is not a pleasant topic.  It is enjoyable to talk about the farm's successes and difficult to talk about the farm's failures. 

On any given year, I expect to be surprised by successes in some areas and to be discouraged by failures in other areas.  I try to be transparent about our efforts in the hopes that people will form a stronger connection with the source of their food.  This means that people will be more aware of the process that is needed to produce healthy food and will come to value it even more. 

In the case of our laying hens, I made a mistake.  The flock was healthy and was laying 10-11 dozen eggs per day early in the summer.  However, some people coming to the farm were disappointed to find that we had sold out of eggs before they were able to get any.  I realize that people put forth a lot of effort to get here.  In order to get more eggs, I added 40 chickens to the flock in July.  Within a week, the entire flock stopped eating and stopped laying eggs.  As in zero eggs per day.  They also looked sick and started dying.  I quickly located a lab that tests chickens for disease at the University of Pennsylvania.  (Who knew?) The person was able to test several chickens and determined that they had mycoplasmosis.  It is a respiratory disease that the new chickens were carrying even though they were not showing symptoms.  There is no cure.  The only treatment is to give antibiotics which is not an organic practice.  Even if I gave the antibiotics, the chickens would not return to a high level of egg production. Furthermore, I cannot butcher them for meat since even that is not good to eat.  At this point, it looks like a total loss. 

In hindsight, the mistake was adding chickens to my healthy flock.  The alternative treatments that we have tried are not working.  I cannot replace the flock in the middle of the year.  The chicken shelter is full of the harmful bacteria and I may have to replace it for next year. Finally, I cannot use the meat and cannot afford to feed chickens who do not lay eggs.

The CSA model, Community Supported Agriculture, also helps me as a farmer to be sustainable in the midst of farmings inherent risks and challenges.  CSA customers agree to pay up front for our products and share in the risks of farming in order to benefit from local, superior food.  My commitment to my members is one I take seriously and work hard to not disappoint you. 

As a result, we have to consider other options to fulfill my obligation to my egg share members.

#1  I can purchase eggs from another source that will be somewhat close to the product that I want.  This is difficult because very few farmers are committed to feeding pastured chickens organic, no-soy feed.

#2  I can give you a credit for a certain number of dozen eggs next year.   


Finally, I apologize for this disappointment and inconvenience. My family even has to purchase eggs elsewhere for the season.  But, as in everything, we learn invaluable lessons from our mistakes, enabling us to continue farming with increasing wisdom and perseverance. 

Please let me know what is your preference for your egg share for the remaining weeks of the season. I intend to stock eggs at my farm store from other sources for the remainder of the season. 

 

Sincerely,

Reuben DeMaster
Willow Haven Farm

 

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Willow Haven Farm, 7686 Herber Rd., New Tripoli, PA 18066

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