Max Here... so I saw this sign several months ago as I was driving back home one day. I slowed down the car, and thought, "Boy that would be cool. No way we could do that though! Too busy, and I don't know how to grow olives!" ...and kept driving home.
Fast forward a few months.
Yep, we leased the orchard! Long story there, maybe we'll tell that one another day. But on March 1st, we signed a 1-year lease for 5 acres of olive trees about 15 minutes from our house. Some of the trees are almost 200 years old! I have spent hours reading about olive tree care lately, and Deirdre and I are excited to try our hand at producing olive oil at the end of the year.
What really sold us on the orchard was that our new landlords are allowing us to raise chickens on the orchard property. This is something we have done in our backyard for the last several years, and this was part of the original farming dream. The only reason we don't have chickens on our first farm was a "no-animal" requirement of our landlords. Joel Salatin's "Pastured Poultry Profits" book was my original inspirational model that got me wanting to farm. Just today, I took the first batch of 50 broilers up to the property! We started them at home, and they will be ready to process just in time for Easter.
Egg layers will follow shortly, as soon as we can build a mobile pen for them, and buy chicks to start a flock.
We are incredibly excited not only to be able to eat our own meat again, but also to sell it and share it with others! We are so tired of finding it so hard to source genuine real food, especially meat that does not come from a factory system. There are certainly good growers out there, but real meat grown outdoors on real farms can be quite pricey. Our goal with these broilers is to offer the best quality bird possible, make a profit for ourselves, but at a price that more people (especially families with kids) can afford, if they really appreciate good meat.
The birds we are raising are absolutely unparalleled even in health food stores selling pricey packaged birds. Raised outdoors, on grass, eating bugs, green material, organic feed, and sprouted whole grains! Their pen pictured below is pulled to a new spot every day, so they move away from the last day's manure, and have new ground to eat. This also spreads their manure out evenly as a fertilizer for the orchard. The hope is that they will also help disrupt the pest cycle of the olive fruit fly, the main pest we have to deal with in the orchard.
If you are local, head over to Ojai Valley Farmstand to pre-order chickens for Easter! If not, then just enjoy the beautiful photos!
About the Authors
Max and Deirdre Becher farm together on First Steps Farm in Southern California. They love farming, raising their kids, playing music, contradancing, cooking, and working together to create a vibrant culture of celebrating life. See it all unfold right here!