Category Archives: News, etc.

Turkey update! They are coming Tuesday now.

Our chicken/turkey farmer just contacted me and said that she now plans on bringing the turkeys on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Some sort of SNAFU on her end but good news for those of you who are looking to get your turkeys sooner.

Lucy is going to open the store at 3pm on Tuesday so that she can meet anyone that wants to come a day early. Otherwise we’ll see you between 2-6pm on Wednesday as originally planned.

Results from our survey about new store hours/days part 3

Sometimes, I run out of things Saturday or Sunday and can’t wait until Wednesday afternoon to get stuff for the week. It’s poor planning on my part.

If I had to wait till we were open, I’d never have anything. We are open 24/7 for me because I just walk over here. This too gets to the heart of the question we are asking. Again, we’ll get to this in a later question.

There are probably 2 reasons. 1 – when I come by I stock up. I have a large freezer and the meats keep perfectly well. Secondly for the meat we eat the most of (chicken) it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for us to buy it at your store for $12/lb when I can get antibiotic free/free range chicken from fresh market for $4/lb. however for other things like whole chickens wings etc. the price is competitive enough. We just don’t eat that as much.

I didn’t call Fresh Market to check their prices. I’m going to take this customer at their word that the price comparison is correct. I think they know their business and I trust my customer. I’m not the chicken farmer so I’m not the expert on this part of the business. But I do buy chickens, and sell chicken meat, so I do have some experience beyond the norm.

There are two details I want to point out on this comment. Antibiotic free and free range.

According to the USDA, antibiotic free means that the chicken has not received antibiotics through its withdrawal period. So if the withdrawal period is seven day (typical) then the chicken hasn’t been fed antibiotics for SEVEN DAYS! This does not mean it didn’t receive antibiotics every day of its life prior to those seven days. In fact, you can bet your bottom dollar the chicken received antibiotics from the day it was born until the last minute before the withdrawal period. Actually I think we can even get antibiotics in the egg before it is hatched. And if pharma comes up with a 4 day withdrawal antibiotic, then that will get used instead.

Sanderson Farms had a marketing campaign recently taking advantage of this rule.

So by law, “all chickens are antibiotic free.” So buy our regular chicken or you are a dope. Except antibiotic free doesn’t mean what we (and what Sanderson would have us believe) would think it means.

Free range is another misnomer. It is a legal definition and a producer cannot utilize it unless they meet the federal guidelines. Those guidelines state that the chicken must be given access to an outdoor area. That area doesn’t look like this.

What we think free range chicken means
What we think free range means
What free range actually looks like
What free range actually looks like

In my previous career, I’ve walked through these chicken houses. The “free range” area is a small door which lets the chicken go outside onto a small concrete, wire enclosed area just a few feet across and long. There is no food, no water, no grass, and no bugs on this piece of concrete. There is literally no reason for a chicken, should they actually locate the door in a barn like the above, to actually go outside. And standing in the barn, I can tell you that the chickens do not, in fact, go outside. They pretty much avoid the outdoor area completely. Saying this is free range is the equivalent of saying you or I could go walk on the desert if we need to get exercise. Inside is food, water, and a breeze from the coolers that keep the chickens from dying of heat stroke. But they are “free range” according to the USDA.

Are these chickens in the second picture cheaper to raise than the first picture? Absolutely! Are they worth the $4 you are paying at Fresh Market vs. the non-free range chicken which is cheaper still? Nope. Same thing, different marketing. If you really want to help your budget, buy regular chicken from Sanderson Farm, or Tyson, or whoever is in the mega mart cooler. It’s tasteless, pumped full of saline to make it appear juicy (and sell you salt water as part of the paid for weight, salt water is cheap), and has lived a horrible life, but it is affordable… That sounds terrible, I’m not trying to shame you. Look, we all have budgets to live with. What I’m trying to say is, sometimes you can eat the meat that is better for you, and sometimes you just need to get dinner on the table. On the days when the budget is priority, don’t be fooled by “free range, cage free” at the mega mart or Fresh Market. Just buy the chicken that is on sale. If you want to try and stretch the budget, or have a better quality chicken for a special event, then go see your local farmer. The stuff that is marketed to you as better for you, isn’t. That rule pretty much applies to every aisle of the grocery store.

One last tip, the comparison of prices was unstated as to the cut, but it was for boneless, skinless chicken breast. That is the MOST expensive cut of meat on the chicken. For the price of one pack of boneless, skinless, you can buy the whole chicken. One whole chicken is three meals from one bird if you do it correctly. That’s how your grandmother did it and it REALLY helps the budget.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle some more comments in part 4.

Results from our survey about new store hours/days part 2

Today we continue to address the awesome write in responses from our customers on our survey.

I’m still part of a CSA that’s winding down, but supplies most of my meats right now.

I don’t try to compete with other farmers. I don’t want to take their customers. We have lots of customers who say, “I’m so glad I found you, we were driving to (insert far away place here) and you are only minutes from us.” That customer, I’m glad to help. But stealing other farmers customers isn’t why we get up every day. I think a rising tide floats all boats and we’ll be better off helping each other so I’m perfectly happy for this customer and their CSA. And I thank them for what they do buy here. When the CSA shuts down, we’re happy to help them. When the CSA starts back up, we’ll be glad to see them when we can.

Though it is not really too far to drive to your store, there is nothing else out there that I would go to. So your store is out of the way for me.

I have this same issue with other people I do business with. We can’t do much about it from our end, other than to make our destination as pleasant as possible. In a few years, we’ll be inside of 540 so maybe the drive will be easier, and the destination will include other things.

More grocery stores are now selling grass fed beef; it seems to be a little cheaper. I do prefer to buy directly from you though. Just can’t do that all the time. Plus, I eat mainly vegetarian, so I don’t need that much meat.

This was an interesting quote for two different reasons. We had several vegetarians who answered, and many more who shop here. When we first started the farm, we were worried the vegetarians would boycott us since we sold meat. Instead we’ve found them to be wonderful customers. It’s been eye opening for us, especially when our peers told us we were crazy to let a bunch of people off the street onto our farm. That PETA would be here protesting. We’ve found the opposite is true.

The other point is that grocery stores are carrying more grass fed beef. That is true. Lowes has built their brand on local food these last few years. Wal-Mart, the king of running local businesses out of business, now features grass fed beef in their store. However, there is a caveat. Grass fed doesn’t actually mean anything. It is not a defined term by the USDA or anyone else with regulatory authority. What they don’t tell you when they say grass fed, is they mean grain supplemented grass fed and/or grain finished.

So they say grass fed and you think. 

But what they mean is.

Is the grass fed beef better than pure feedlot beef? Sure, probably. Is it what you think it is? No. Is it grass finished beef, like we sell? No. Trust me, we are looking at offering another farmers grass fed, grain finished beef ourselves as a lower cost option for our customers. Not everyone wants grass finished beef due to cost, or due to flavor and tenderness. I’m fine with it because I’m trying to please my customers and save them the trip to the grocery store. At least I will know what grain the cow had, how long they had it, and how much grass went along with it. At Wal-Mart, you have no idea.

We are keeping our cows on 100% grass though because that’s what my family eats. If you know what you are buying, then buy away. Just don’t be fooled by a pretty label.

Rush hour on old stage road is awful!

Now we have a comment that gets to the heart of our question. We are open 2pm – 6pm. That was an idea for a time that Lucy originally proposed. It worked well for her so she could still get dinner on the table and gave people a chance to get here after work. But this commenter is right. Traffic is awful, and it’s only getting worse. We’ll talk about this more in a later question we asked.

In part 3, we will continue to address the write in responses from our customers.

 

Results from our survey about new store hours/days part 1

This is going to be a multi part series about what we’ve learned, and what changes we think we’ll make as a result. I don’t know how many parts there will be to this series, I started writing just one part and it’s already obvious it will be considerably longer than that.

The results from our survey were very interesting. In my previous career I used to conduct surveys quite often, mainly as a tool to try and convince corporate that the dealers weren’t in favor of whatever hair brained idea they were planning on doing next. I’d avoided conducting surveys of our customers up until now because I figured it was too intrusive I guess. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t do it really now that I’ve done one. I really like getting the feedback.

In our survey, we asked five simple questions. We received about 50 responses from customers, plus one really nice email sent as an addendum to the survey.

The first question was to gauge who was answering the survey. We see thousands of people through here a year so it mattered if the person answering was a one time visitor who took a tour or someone who is here every week. The results were telling.

I assumed some people would take the survey who actually don’t shop here. At least, they’d start the survey so question one, answer one told them to just click out of the survey and thanks for playing. However the survey records if you skip an answer and zero were skipped. So nobody who doesn’t actually shop here even attempted the survey. Either my title was descriptive enough or they don’t read our emails anymore either. Hmm.

Also, we’ve made an effort this year to be more of a grocery store. To have complimentary items to our meats like sauces and rubs, to have milk and cheese, things like that. The largest category of customers come less than once per month so maybe every few months? Every three to four maybe? That would jive with what we see anecdotally. We see people, who RAVE about our products, but then we don’t see them again for several months. When they come back, they tell us about all the customers they’ve sent our way (which we SINCERELY appreciate) but we wonder where they’ve been all this time if they are so positive about the experience. Interesting result. It’s nice that the survey results match what we see, it tells me to pay close attention to the rest of the survey.

We also had a good group of regulars represented. It would make sense that our regulars would be interested in this survey since it affects them the most. We are paying a lot of attention to their answers as well. 

This was question two. The graph and the answers couldn’t fit on one screen so I just captured the answers.

The question was, why don’t you shop here more often? There were three winners for answers. It’s too hard on my budget, you aren’t open the days when I can get by, and you aren’t open the hours I can get by (which was number 1, by a slim margin).

I expected that the budget issue would be a topic. We don’t sell cheap products, I know that. If I sent SWMBO to buy groceries, from her household budget, what she grabs “for free” from the store, she’d be more hesitant to purchase all the meat we use. I get it. There is a cost to raising the quality of meat we produce, everyone knows it. I certainly understand if it can’t be a daily staple for everyone.

What I didn’t expect was the quantity and the quality of the write in answers on this question. Almost 1/2 of respondents wrote in a comment.

Here are some of the standouts.

Sometimes I prefer fresh rather than frozen, especially if it’s last minute.

This is something we deal with routinely, especially from first time customers. This is a two prong issue.

One, what is fresh? Grocery store meat? It is frozen meat, that has been thawed at the grocery store and sold cold rather than frozen. Some people believe that it’s “fresh” and never frozen. That simply isn’t true. It’s been frozen, in a warehouse, a distribution center, and on a truck. It’s thawed, butchered from a primal cut to the steak you see in the case, and presented to you. And there is nothing wrong with that. But some people request that we get our meat in never frozen like they are used to getting it at the grocery store. That perception is wrong.

Two, I need steaks tonight! I think that’s what that comment is referencing. “I need to stop by on the way home, grab some steaks, and have dinner tonight. There isn’t time to thaw, prep, cook, and eat before breakfast is being served.”

This one, I totally get. Sometimes SWMBO runs into the same issue when plans go awry and she can’t do her meal prep like she wants. What she does is:

  1. Have BBQ that night, the steaks tomorrow night. BBQ cooks right in the bag from frozen. Takes 20 minutes.
  2. Have flank/skirt/ranch/etc steaks tonight. They are thin and thaw in about an hour in water. Have the roast/brisket/hamburger/etc. another night.
  3. Have sausages tonight. They thaw very quickly and frankly will thaw in the pan. Bratwurst cook in boiling beer anyway and they can’t really over cook at that point. Put them in frozen and cook them a bit longer. They’ll be fine.

You get the idea. There are choices for dinner tonight.

Part two will continue to address the write in answers.

Pants around his ankles?

I thought having a dead body on the farm was enough. But yesterday I was making my rounds to my various farmers and one stopped me to ask if I’d seen the news.

“No, I didn’t. What happened?”

“They guy they found dead on your property was naked!”

“Wait, what?!”

It turns out this was a quote from the recently released 911 tape from the original caller. Now this was an eye-witness, which are notoriously unreliable. And apparently this person was driving by when she saw this. But apparently the guy had his pants around his ankles?!

Then I remembered that Miguel had actually seen they guy after he was discovered.

“Hey Miguel, was that guy naked?”

“No!! He was wearing a coat.”

“What about his pants. They were around his ankles?”

That part was apparently covered up by then, which makes sense. If I’m ever found dead with my pants around my ankles, I’d thank the officers for covering me up as well.

So, we’ve upgraded from a dead guy on the farm, to a dead naked guy on the farm. I’m frankly at a loss for words.

Turkeys will be here on Wednesday

2016 turkeys, fresh and ready for the ovenI talked to our chicken farmer, Christy from Brittany Ridge yesterday, and she will be delivering turkeys Wednesday so that we have them for our normal store hours of 2-6pm. If you have a turkey on pre-order, plan on being here 2-6 on Wednesday to pick up your turkey. They are fresh, never frozen, which means we need to keep them in the fridge.

Also, we still have two turkeys available (I sweet talked Christy into letting me have a few more after we were cut off. We are getting calls regularly so no idea how long these will last but if you still need one, we’ve got it right now.

A dead body?

Yesterday when I went to leave the farm with Wildflower in tow, I noted some police cars at the road, just down from our entrance. We used to have wrecks there all the time so I figured someone had had a fender bender and I said a quick thank you to the man upstairs that I was heading the opposite direction and wouldn’t have to go through the wrecked area.

As I was driving down the highway towards Johnston County, I received a phone call. The guy asked for Dan, but then said he had the wrong number and hung up. Weird. Oh well.

Then Miguel texted me. The Sheriff was going to call me, they’d found a body on our property?

Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow looking confused
Huh? A body? 

What? A body of what? Water? A dead deer? Huh? So I called Mr. Wrong Number back and said who I was. “Oh yeah, this is Deputy SoandSo. We’ve got a body here and we wondered if it was yours.”

Or something to that effect. I don’t really remember what he said exactly but it was pretty matter of fact. At that particular moment they didn’t have a lot to go on. I asked what the description was. White male, mid 30s, lots of tattoos. I assured the Deputy we weren’t missing any white men currently but if we came up short I’d let him know, and hung up. (No my sense of humor isn’t only for the internet.)

Lots of my friends are in law enforcement. I went to college to be in law enforcement. I know what a dead body on the ground means. It means no traffic moves for 4-6 hours. Lucy had already opened the store and before I could even get to JoCo, I had customers texting me asking if we were open, could they come tomorrow instead, etc. After finally getting all the texts answered, texting back and forth to the Mrs, the neighbors, customers, Lucy, Miguel, and actually doing what I went to JoCo for, I texted Lucy to just close up shop and put a note on the door. The day was over for us.

Until it wasn’t. You see, SWMBO and the older two rugrats were in Cary at a school thing. I was in Johnston County with the wee one. It was now 5pm meaning traffic is a mess regardless. Add a blocked off Old Stage Road to the mix and it would be a disaster. Some more texting to SWMBO and we elected to eat out and let the craziness die down.

We made it home about 7pm, to peace and quiet. I still have no idea who the guy was or what happened. Or even where the body was found on our property. They had to look twice before they found it, which tells me it wasn’t just on the side of the road. Since my fence line is pretty much on the side of the road that means it was actually inside of our boundary, I assume. I’ll get the skinny from Miguel today when he arrives (he was here) and update any pertinent details. I’m also linking the WRAL article about what was going on. I assume they’ll update that as information comes out.

So after all of that. To our customers. Sorry we were closed yesterday. To say it was events out of our control would be an understatement.

Man, they never wrote about this in the “Learning to Farm” coloring book I used for my farming education.