A Year in Review

A Year in Review

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."
- William Blake

Another Year Older, Hopefully Wiser

This time, right now, has to be my favorite of all year. Partly because it’s the only time of year when I can actually be working on this newsletter at a reasonable time; midday on a Monday as the fifth inch of rain within the last 24 hours pours down from the skies. Normally a weather event like this requires vigilance, especially with the pigs, who like to use such conditions as an opportunity to get sick or escape past the fence. Today, however, those pigs are tucked under a deep bed of hay and wood chips, staying dry and warm. They don’t have a care in the world, and neither do I (well I still have several, but not regarding them). Instead I write from the couch amidst the burning logs in the wood stove, damp boots and clothes drying next to its radiant heat, and a Christmas tree lit with hope, illuminating the long nights of advent.

Moments as such, when the farm demands nothing but the morning chores and any other work would simply be an exercise in futility, are when I can look back through the whirlwind of a first full year of production on our land and reflect. Remembering all the mistakes, the beauty, the bloody and sweaty times and even the moments of tears— many accompanied by potentially unhealthful levels of cortisol flowing through my veins as I manage small disasters around the farm, or look down the barrel of a gun with the forehead of a steer in the crosshairs. From standing in a trench for four hours trying to plug a leaking pipe while battling the groundwater seeping in on a cold February night, to dunking my head into a bowl of ice water on a hot July afternoon in effort to mend a third degree burn on my face. Some of these situations may have been avoided by a smarter, more careful person than myself, and thus are some traits I hope to more readily acquire in the coming year.

There is a temptation to draw a parallel between farming and something more relatable for most folks who aren’t so farmilar with agriculture— “It’s like having 100 pets” or “It’s like having a newborn baby”— but, as someone who’s had some pets and who has fathered a newborn, they are more different than they are similar. Farming is like nothing other than farming. The sweat and dirt combined with seven days a week responsibility. The multiplicity of the will of man and animal trying to cohabitate in a way that benefits both. Loving something whose death you have written in a calendar, whose heart you’ll literally hold in your hands the day after you were petting its chin. A life-work balance is more of a life’s work balance. Its unique.

Food Stuffs

Though our work as a farm is never truly finished, we did reach the “finish line” in terms of our goals of feeding people this year.

In 2023 we successfully produced 39 Tamworth and Tamworth-cross pigs for slaughter that have landed in the bellies of local families, along with growing and retaining five breeding stock that will hopefully multiply itself into 80 pigs within the year 2024.

These pigs were by far the largest challenge for us as a farm. Having come into the business with several years of raising beef under my belt, I foolishly went into raising pigs thinking that many of these skills would transfer. Though many did, the pigs revealed a whole new layer of intricacies and frustrations that I had never experienced before. Many skills we had to develop and learn on the fly as we attempted to steer the potent force of 45 pigs around the farm with nothing but fiberglass and conductive strings, impacting land with equal parts of intention and chaos. They have added more fertility to our farm this year than any other force— by being the destroyers they are, they were also healers and builders.

Now to the more gentler cousin to these animals. Our small, slow growing Kune Kune drove, is still small and slow growing, but we look forward to turning five of them into charcuterie in the fall of 2024 and having more litters of piglets on the way.

We have also produced 10 beeves this year from our mostly Red Devon herd. Amounting our total meat produced from our farm this year to be roughly 15,000 lbs— 7,000 lbs of beef carcass and 7,800 lbs of pork carcass. This makes over 16 million nutrient dense calories from fat and protein. A bountiful harvest, indeed.

A Future to be Had

We are still very young as a farm, and have yet to feel our heads are quite above water. I’m not sure I’ll ever not feel that way. Yet the thrill of having so much to learn and improve upon is mighty, and the future is exciting. Our frontier for 2024 has never been so clear. This year we’re hoping to improve and expand upon the systems of the livestock operations that are already in place. Making these enterprises more efficient, easier on the farmer, and more profitable are all on the docket. We feel fortunate to go into our second full year with many challenges and goals to reach, all of which are a blessing.

We have our customers to thank for this. Without you, none of this could happen. Either in your brilliance or foolishness (I’m not sure where I land on that spectrum either), you made the choice to take your hard earned dollar that will get you less today than any other point in history, and purchase something that you could get for half the cost in the store, in a far less convenient manner. We’re either all really onto something here or we’ve lost our minds.

It’s astonishing when I think about it, that there is a willingness, let alone an eagerness, to buy our product. Why do it? For better health for you and your family? To eat in a way that respects the planet that feeds you? To support a family farm instead of a corporate headquarters? If you’re anything like me its probably a combination of those factors and more.

Perhaps our biggest reason is hope. After all, no matter how well you eat, there will always be illness and death. The Amazon rainforest is still getting destroyed by the hour and land is still eroding by the millions of tons per rain event, despite us building up our soils here. The corporations setting out to feed the world are still expanding and growing their massive margins while we fight for our small ones. We are just small people after all, often gasping for air in the sea of corporatocracy— yet hope remains.

We continue to build slowly right here, even though someone else is taking it down at warp speed elsewhere. This work matters because people matter, and without people, this would not be a farm; and without farms, there wouldn’t be people.

Despite the long nights and short often sunless days, there is fire and light filling our homes. There is important work waiting to be done, and if not us, then who? There is bright and illuminating hope. One that even the coldest days and darkest nights cannot overcome.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

If you ever have any questions, want to chat, or are interested in seeing our operation first hand, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email!

  • Bennett & the Northaven Pastures team

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