Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More drought news

It's June, and once again, our irrigated pastures look like a little green oasis among all the gold hills. We have our cows on the dry standing grass, supplementing with hay, but the sheep are all on irrigated pasture right now. We are very concerned about wildfires this year. Hoping that anyone who is camping this summer does not light a campfire or drive over tall grass!

Here are some photos we took of our cows right before the grass began to dry up, around June 1st.

Amaranth and her mama

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Drought

We are doing our best to stay positive about this season's lack of precipitation. While this recent storm was encouraging, it dropped less than an eighth of an inch in the west side of the Sacramento Valley. We doubt that it will do much to grow the native forage as the soil is so depleted and dry on our rangelands. We continue to irrigate our pastures and have already begun grazing paddocks that were not ready as the ability to buy forage that fits the requirements of our grass-based feeding program is now almost impossible to find at any price. We know of producers bringing in truck and trailer from Arizona, and the dealers out of Oregon have become elusive as hay is being tied up by dairies and beef producers in their frantic search for feed. One of the last local stockpiles of last year's alfalfa at the Gnose Farm in Woodland was sold for dairy producers which are also in desperate straits to find feed. Our own family's field of alfalfa is currently being irrigated in January via the well. My father-in-law's three-way blend also had to be irrigated, or he loses $8,000 in seed. These are crops that historically do not receive any winter/spring irrigation.

With that said, we will be culling 20% of our sheep flock. We worked very hard to get up to the numbers we are at and these sheep have been through a lot with us so it is a very hard decision to make. We accepted a lease on 30 acres that could potentially be irrigated, but it does not start until May, which doesn't allow us to get anything planted for this year's demands. We may not be able to raise steers this year, instead sending them direct to auction at 500 weight. We have 4 finished steers remaining, which will be allocated across our three farmer's markets. We also will not be raising any poultry this year. Our focus is to keep our existing pastures irrigated, our tree crops drip irrigated, and there is not much left for growing additional forage as we had planned. We have made some efficiency improvements on our wells this past year, including converting one of our wells and warehouse to solar power. This well irrigates our tree crops. Our larger 5 HP well is functioning very well for its age, but we would like to convert a portion of it's energy use to solar as well. Unfortunately, with all the unforeseen costs to buy hay and the loss of income from loss of production, we will not be able to make any large capital improvements this year.

The changes we must make on the marketing end are:
We can no longer sell any beef or lamb freezer specials.
We also will be terminating our CSA.

Current CSA members, your support has been wonderful. But we feel we cannot offer you a diversity of meats nor can we be reliable in our supply. Because it is so difficult to get into a good farmer's market, we must divert any meats we can produce this year to the markets in order to preserve our space and reputation. We will continue to participate in the Capay Valley FarmShop MeatShare with our beef and lamb. We encourage our current CSA members to sign up for a MeatShare. I think you will be pleased with the diversity and quality of the products on offer. We may also be offering individual cuts through Good Eggs as part of the Capay Valley FarmShop portal, but prices will be much higher than at our markets.

We hope that these setbacks will only be temporary and that we can once again expand our business instead of contract. But for that, we must wait until the hills turn green again. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and buy local as much as you can. In order to compensate for the prospective loss in available domestic beef, the FSIS has allowed Brazilian beef to be imported for the first time in many years. Please don't buy foreign beef. The new farm bill did include the controversial COOL (Country of Origin Labelling) so you soon should be able to tell where your beef product was produced. Thanks for your support and we hope the rain comes.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013-2014 Olive Oils Now Available

Our 2013 season is a wrap. We have in the tanks our 11/23/13 Arbosana/Koroneiki Blend, our 11/23/13 Koroneiki, and our 11/12/13 Tuscan. All our oils were sent to the lab for testing and we are certified extra virgin. Please ask for a copy if you are interested.

We hope to launch a new online store to display our offerings better, look for changes as 2014 progresses. For now, we have available:

11/23/13 Arbosana/Koroneiki Blend, Organic Olio Nuovo (available only until March 15, 2014)

2013-14 Arbosana/Koroneiki Blend, Organic, 375 ml, 500 ml, 1/2 Gallon, Gallon
2013-14 Koroneiki Single Varietal, Organic, 375 ml only
2013-14 Tuscan (Frantoio, Lecchino, Pendolino) 375 ml, 1/2 Gallon
Infused - Garlic, Lemon, Basil, Mandarin Orange 375 ml only

Our new Tuscan label design

Sunday, December 8, 2013

As we begin the season for fresh pressed olive oil, we at Casa Rosa Farms would like to answer a common question among olive oil connoisseurs: how do I know it's really extra virgin and not fake? We'll make this very simple and cut to the chase. All true extra virgin olive oil should have a lab test done on it. True extra virgin olive oil will always be lab tested and test results should be made available upon request to anyone interested. That's what we have always done. Here is a link to our test from last year's pressing. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0aWKh6RGd5cMzdyV2JUOVB5VGc/edit?usp=sharing We are currently waiting for this years test results for our Classic blend and our Tuscan blend. We have some more info on how to read extra virgin lab tests on our website page tab to the right. Basically, you want to see a Free fatty acid count below .8, a peroxide count below 20, a delta K count below .01, and a K232 count below 2.5. Every legitimate producer should have this available if given enough time to produce it, otherwise, they are too large or to shady to buy from anyway - if you really want to pay for true extra virgin that is.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Good-bye, Geese

Gray Geese Grazing Grass with Glee
We spent the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving day processing our geese and chickens. In the time that I was able to finish one goose, we were able to do 5 chickens. If you are lucky enough to eat a goose for Christmas this year, when you give thanks for your meal, also thank the many people who pulled out all those feathers for you. Even in the processing plants, much of the the down has to be pulled out by hand after they go through the pluckers. We found that the plucker didn't work well for the geese anyway and ended up bruising and breaking the skin. It also didn't do much for the small feathers. We used a pot of wax and plucked by hand.

So, in summary: raising geese- fun and fairly easy. They are hardy, self-sufficient and only seem to want a small amount of grain. They eat weeds and grass and coexist well with chickens, which preferred rotten fruit and bugs over grass.  Their main need was a wading pool full of clean water. They stayed together as a group and self-trained to go into their shed at night, only needing someone to close the door once they were inside.

Processing geese for sale- not fun, not easy and not profitable. Two people, working for free, made $590 dollars for two days work. Subtract $200 for rental of equipment, $350 for feed, gas for delivery and the initial investment of $6 per bird leaves us $60 in the hole for our small scale geese experiment. Each goose weighed about 7 lbs, which was smaller than we had expected. We're not sure how we could have gotten them heavier, as they weren't too interested in gorging on our sprouted organic wheat and they are fairly athletic birds, wanting lots of space to move around and even flying for short distances.

Like everything else farming related, you don't get paid for your time, and it only makes sense if you can get your volume up to a point where you can enter into the commodity food processing system. If we raised 300 geese, our initial investment would drop to $5 a bird. Organic grain costs per bird would stay about the same @ $23 per bird, but we would need to add in an amount for irrigation as they would need dedicated pasturage than the small orchards where 15 geese could graze comfortably. Processing cost would be $12 per bird to send them through the line at a poultry plant, which would leave us with $25 per bird over costs. $25 x 300 = $7,500. Still no labor paid.

But you and your neighbors have to deal with 300 geese honking, and boy are they loud!