Active Animal Systems

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goats, chickens, and pollination

Leafhopper Farm has been hosting animal systems in regular rotation around the property since its possession of the land in 2013. South African Boer Goats came with owner Liz Crain when she moves in around August that year. Shortly there after, poultry arrived and chickens have been on farm since the spring of 2014. Both animal systems have been working to build fertility in the land and offer meat and eggs to the farm as a tradable commodity.

Goats are not an easy animal to have on a farm, but they do great clearing of bramble and put on meat while they chew. Tethering systems have worked best to keep the goats in place, but electric fence works with younger kids, as long as they don’t learn to jump out, and you rotate them to fresh pasture often enough. In future, Leafhopper Farm will transition to a milking breed that is smaller.

Chickens are the easiest starting animal for an aspiring livestock owner.  The birds are inexpensive and require little beyond shelter, food, and water. They can be egg layers or meant birds, or both if you enjoy duel purpose breeds. Leafhopper Farm is still deciding which breeds fit best with farm needs, but all forms of chicken have been used for fertility and gleaning, as the chickens in the above photo are doing. When I find aphids on my veggies, I throw the infested plant to the chickens and they make short work of the pesky bugs and also enjoy the fresh greens.

In the foreground, Bee-balm flowers encourage pollinators, both avian and insect to help in the garden with reproduction. These hot pink flowers are also edible, as well as a colorful pleasure in the garden. They are perennials with self seeding and rhizome spreading abilities to spread without much help. Our winged and creepy crawly animal friends are a foundation of healthy habitat, and should be supported by a rich environment of diverse flora and fauna.

Managing these systems has been a great evolution, and a lot of trial and error to hone these living parts into the whole farm of 2016. There are still many challenges with solutions still developing to manage these systems on a larger scale, for commercial production on a viable level for economic thriving conditions. But the focus on what works has brought the farm to a manageable single person system. Now, these systems can be expanded to include apprentices, interns, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, private classes, and continued hosting of renters who live on the land in the farmscape.

The cultivation of good soil continues as Leafhopper Farm works towards growing enough food to sell at The Duvall Farmer’s Market within the next two years. The animals bring necessary fertility to the land as they move over it, consuming the pasture and sewing manure directly back into the soil. Within their shelter, concentrations of manure can be collected to further enhance more focused garden spaces where animals cannot freely graze. The cleaning out of these manure hot spots also keeps animal habitats healthy and enjoyable for the livestock living there.

In the next few years, as animal numbers grow, a more intact total manure processing system will be implemented using as of yet to be built storage bays off the green house planned for 2020. At that time, hopefully timber frame barn of modest size can be added too, as a solid shelter for livestock and future animal endeavors. This is far down the road from the picture above, but seeing these parts coming together so clearly, as the plants and animals in the scene above, I am encouraged to know the farm is moving ever closer to its goals.

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