Monday, December 2, 2013

Turkey Update

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Yes, we still have turkeys, though less than half are left.

As we mentioned in a previous post, we were able to find a USDA inspected processor that was also Animal Welfare Approved. Their name is Garner Abattoir Meat Processing and they are a family run business located in Van Buren, Arkansas.

On Wednesday, November 20th, Debbie, Danielle, and Elizabeth rounded up turkeys and got 3 Tom's and 5 Hen's into two cages (the 3 Tom's and 1 Hen in one, and 4 Hen's in the other). When Donald got home from working out-of-town, he and Adam loaded the cages up in the truck, and Donald and Debbie got up at 4:30 am Thursday morning to take them to the processor. They were picked up late Friday evening.

USDA Inspected
We processed 8 turkeys ranging in weight from 8 pounds to over 14 pounds. We originally dedicated three turkeys for the Heavener First United Methodist Church, and also gave a close friend that has helped with the farm one of them. On short notice, we sold two, and kept two.

As we generally get a 22 pound turkey from the market, we kept the 8 pounder and a 14 pound Tom. Debbie cooked the 8 pounder the day before Thanksgiving just in case we needed it, and cooked the 14 pounder Thanksgiving day.

The turkey definitely looked good, and initial taste tests indicated we were in for a treat.

Cut up Turkey, ready to eat
After cutting up the turkey, it did not look like much, but the dark meat was dark, making the dark meat on a store bought turkey look almost white.

The turkey was extremely favorable, rich and very tender. Part of the processing technique used included "air-drying", which eliminated any water weight. As a result, our 14 pound turkey provided essentially the same amount of actual meat that a 22 pound store bought turkey would have provided. Needless to say, we still have turkey left over.

Reviews from all of those that got some turkey (church, friends, customers) were very good, and we plan to sell 4 or 5 of the remaining 6 (yes, we had 15, but one is crippled and we will keep her for awhile) for Christmas. They will travel to their final destination (the processor) on Thursday, December 12th.

We have only good things to say about Garner Abattoir, everyone is very friendly and helpful (even their long-time customers), they are quick and efficient, and deliver a very high quality product. They are a blessing to the community.

We will most likely not be raising turkeys in 2014 (though this may change), but will probably revisit the subject for 2015. If we do raise them again, we will most likely not be able to call them free-range, as we will probably clip their wings to keep them under control.

In our area, non-organically raised heritage breed turkeys will bring over $4.40/pound. If you check Ebay, whole turkeys are bringing between $180 and $240 per bird, plus shipping and handling. This means that raising turkeys can be profitable (we sold our for $30 and $40 per bird, though we will most likely sell them for $40 - $45 per bird for Christmas).

In the meantime, the turkey operation has proven to be another success for our farm.

From farm,

to table,

to stomach,

Farm fresh, all natural, heritage breed turkeys from Baker Heritage Farms - the only way to go.

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what you're doing is work or play." Warren Beatty

Chicken Update

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

As promised, this is the first of two updates. This update is about our chickens.

Egg production is down. At our peak, we were getting upwards of 15 to 16 eggs per day, sometimes as many as two dozen. We are now (as of today) down to 12 hens, having lost the others (including Red, our rooster) to our local fox. The fox is getting more daring and has taken at least 3 hens in the last week (in the past, the fox was taking 1 hen about every 7-10 days) and is even coming into the yard to get the hens. In fact, he actually tried to take one when Donald, Debbie, and Danielle were in the front yard today (he came back and got one anyway). As a result of feeding the fox, as well as colder weather setting in, we are now getting between 6 to 8 eggs per day.

Because the eggs are so good, and in high demand, we will most likely keep raising chickens, but will not add more until we can make some changes. While our intent was to be cage-free and free-range, we will no longer be able to offer free range once we ramp up our chicken operation again.

We are currently considering converting our small barn (right by the chicken pen) into a hen house and putting a roof (netting) over the pen so that they cannot fly out. We will be limited to a smaller area (the area that is currently fenced with permanent fencing) so will raise fewer chickens (probably about 10 - 12 instead of 25 plus). We will also work on the breeder pen so that we can raise our own.

The major change will be that, while they will still be "cage-free", we will not be able to call them "free-range" as they will not be able to leave the pen. This will also require us to have an ample supply of hay and supplemental feed available on the hill, which we will supplement in the summer with small garden crops that can be moved into the pen to provide a natural food source.

In addition, we will have to get another rooster, which is always a gamble, but well worth it. The chicken operation is a fairly easy operation to maintain, but we will need to work on curtailing feed costs.

We hope to start working on converting the small barn into a hen house the first of the year. We will partition off one-half of the barn for the chickens and will include nesting boxes and an area that they can occupy in cold weather. The other half will be left for feed, supplies, and equipment (candling, scales, egg cartons, etc.). We also hope to be able to run electric to the barn to provide for heat in the winter. We will need to purchase strong netting and build a "roof" over the pen to prevent them from flying out (they cannot get out under the permanent fence, nor can a fox get in). We may also add electric fencing around the pen just in case.

This is the one operation we will continue during the next year.

Our next blog will provide an update on our turkey operations.

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created b the individual who can labor in freedom." Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Catching Up

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms:

It has been several weeks since we last updated our farm blog, but we have not been totally inactive.

Over the past two years we have planned, executed, and delivered some farm operations, and other farm operations have withered on the vine. We have learned a lot and have had both successes and failures.

Our first year was spent planning and included the planting of a test garden for produce. Overall, the test garden was a success and taught us that (1) we can grow produce, (2) we need to do better planning, (3) we need to include a total time plan into our lives and operations if we want to be a success, and (4) we can beat the weather if we have a good plan and follow the plan. Most of all, we have learned that farming is not for the weak hearted or the lazy.

Our second year was, in part, a failure, in that we did not learn about the need to include a total time plan into our lives and operations until it was too late. Family emergencies, full-time and part-time off-farm jobs, family needs, and weather will all join together to make farming a challenge. While we suspended crop operations after two failures (cabbage and tomatoes and peppers) due to time issues, we did continue our chicken and turkey operations. Both our chicken and turkey operations can be considered a success.

We have learned that it is very hard to meet the high standards that we set, and that those standards resulted in a lot more labor then originally anticipated. Our standards included growing heirloom crops and heritage chickens and turkeys. The need to maintain organic standards in the growing of our crops required much more up front labor then we anticipated and much better time planning as well as contingency planning. The standards required for raising free-range chickens and turkeys increased our daily chores as well as increasing our loss to predators (chickens). We felt that we would not really be offering "free-range" turkeys or chickens if we clipped their wings or enclosed their pens. This resulted in losing chickens to our local red fox and having to constantly put our turkeys back in their pen (they have a very large pen, but still tended to wander several times a day).

We know that, if we were to operate our farm using crop seed that has been genetically modified and processed with stacked insecticides and herbicides, we would have been very successful. We also learned that if we had caged our chickens and turkeys, they would have been much easier to raise and manage. Neither of these options were available when we started this project, and we do not feel that they should be used in future operations.

We plan to spend the next year re-evaluating both our crop and poultry operations to make them less labor intensive and more productive. We plan to put to use all of the lessons that we have learned and hopefully be able to begin 2015 with a more manageable and enjoyable farm operation.

Over the next several months we will be completing our evaluation of what went right, what went wrong, operational costs, potential income, and many other aspects and will report our results on this blog as promised.

The next several entries will bring you up-to-date with our chicken and turkey operations over the past few weeks.

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

"People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get." Frederick Douglass

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

We are still here.

We have had several "events" since the last posting in October, so we will try to bring everyone up-to-date.

First, as you know, we have been losing chickens on a regular basis. About 3 weeks ago we lost "Red", our beloved (yes, we loved to hear him crow, though we could do without his attacking us) rooster. Red was grabbed very quickly. Debbie had been outside and had just come back in when she heard a ruckus in the backyard. Sure enough, there were lots of red feathers but no Red. Donald went into the woods looking for the perpetrator, but found no sign of Red. He did, however, find two areas with piles of hen feathers (from our first two hens that were taken). No bones, no blood, nothing but a few feathers. We finally determined that our local red fox is grabbing them and taking them to his (or maybe her) den. Since then, we have lost several more hens. Adam saw a ruckus in the backyard about a week ago and scared off the perpetrator; however, since he is from the city he could not identify the suspect. He was sure that it was not a dog (or coyote). We lost another one this morning and Donald tried to track it into the woods, but he was in the wrong attire (he was on his way out to his other "work"). Our chickens are "free range" and "cage free" so we are going to have the problem until we determine how involved we will be in raising chickens.

We have actually been selling eggs wholesale (though we try to give most of them away to those in need). We even had an order that took all of our stock and we still were unable to meet their full request (no promises were made).

The turkeys are still being a problem - but not for long!!!!! We have finally located a processor that will do turkeys. They are a USDA processor (we are not getting USDA certification, though) and are Animal Welfare Approved. Unfortunately, they are located in Van Buren, Arkansas and only take turkeys on Thursday mornings - before 7 am. Donald will have to be up and on the road by 5:30 am or so, and, as he will not be here the day before, Debbie and Danielle will have to get the turkeys caged up by themselves, before they go to the trees to roost for the night.

The processor is Garner Abattoir Meat Processing and are great to work with. You can access their web site at It took us forever to find someone that would do the turkeys, in fact, Donald was about to just let them loose in the woods.

We will be processing 8 turkeys this month and 6 next month. We are donating 3 or 4 turkeys to Heavener First United Methodist Church for the Thanksgiving dinner that they provide the community each year on Thanksgiving Day. Two have been sold to friends and business associates, and we will need at least one.

We are in the middle of some life changing events that may result on our putting the farm (at least the commercial aspects) on hold during 2014. However, we have learned a lot and hope to post the results of the various projects on this blog by the end of the year. We had a very productive crop year in 2012 and what is turning out to be a very productive poultry operation this year. We made a lot of mistakes, but hopefully have learned from them all.

We will continue to keep you updated as we wrap up 2013, though updates may be sporadic due to our schedules.

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls." Thomas Edison

Monday, October 14, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Farm operations are slow ... as we were not as active on the farm this year, we are slow right now. As not much is happening, we will only be posting every couple of weeks - at least until we get active again.

THE FARM HAS NOT DIED - just going through reorganization. We hope to be more active in the months to come as we start preparations for 2014.

This year has not been good for us. With personal emergencies taking up key time frames in any farms operations, we made a conscious decision to cut our losses in 2013 and backed down from farm operations. We are praying that 2014 will start off right and that we will once again be "farming".

Not only did we neglect the farm this year, but we were also negligent in keeping the property maintained. Our first step for the New Year is to get the property cleaned up and back into shape. This means that, once the leaves drop, we will start cutting brush, dead trees, and clearing rock. We also need to clean up trash that has gathered around the houses and barns, as well as get our roads back into shape. If we can get our schedules stabilized, we hope to have this work well under way by year-end.

We will also be working on cleaning out both barns, getting our tools and equipment properly maintained and/or repaired, and organizing our barns for better efficiency. It is amazing what a year of neglect can do.

We are actually looking forward to getting the farm back up and running. We are always amazed how, even with the hard labor involved, the farm relieves stress.

Our chickens are doing great, though we have lost another one (they seem to disappear on a regular basis), and are now down to a total of 21 chickens and a rooster. Donald went out into the woods this past week but did not find any sign of the missing chickens.

We are still averaging about 20 eggs per day. We have not been able to wholesale any recently as Debbie is starting to bake, and she uses quite a few due to their small size.

When Donald asked Debbie what was going to happen when we have to go back to store bought eggs, there was no hesitation in her answer - get more chickens. I guess we will be in the egg business next year. Ordered, and received 125 egg cartons so that we can legally sell our eggs. Now all we need to do is build a candling box and then we will be able to grade and sell them (we will have to apply to the State of Oklahoma for a permit, but do not feel that there will be any problems with that, as we are 100% organic).

Red, our rooster, has taken over the back yard. He is now a "watch rooster" and does not like anyone trespassing, including us. It makes it fun when we are feeding the chickens and turkeys, chasing turkeys, or trying to get chickens back into their pen. Red attacks out of nowhere when you least expect it. He only flies into you, he has not learned that his bite will hurt yet (and we hope he never does).

The turkeys are still being difficult, but that is not their fault. If you are going to raise turkeys, think about what you want to accomplish. In order to maintain organic, free-range, cage-free, turkeys, you will need a lot of property free of predators. If you do not cage them, you will most likely need to clip their wings. When you clip their wings, they will not be able to get into the trees to roost and will be open prey for predators. We chose not to clip wings and we do not have a fully enclosed pen, so they get out frequently. They have damaged our trucks and generally make a mess of things. In terms of our farming operations, we are calling this the experiment that failed, and have no intention of raising them again until we can safely raise them somewhere away from property they can damage.

All in all, we are still happy with the farm and anxious to start farming again. The break, while unexpected, probably was a good thing. We are better prepared, have a better outlook on what to reasonably expect, and know what pitfalls to be aware of.

It will be "back-to-nature" when we start back up. We will take our time, do what we can, and learn to live within our means.

For now, Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms. Keep checking back for updates.

"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'. For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean".) Mark 7:18-19

Monday, September 30, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

No, we did not forget to post last week - nothing happened so we took a break.

Due to scheduling, nothing of substance happened on the farm last week with the exception of normal maintenance.

Normal maintenance consists of:
  • Letting the chickens out in the morning and feeding them;
  • Getting the turkeys back in the pen each morning and feeding them. They usually need to be put back in their pen about 5 times each morning, otherwise they climb on the trucks and make a general mess of things;
  • Each afternoon food and water containers are checked and filled if necessary, and all birds are fed once again (feeding consists of spreading feed on the ground, as the chickens seem to like this better then eating out of their containers, the turkeys are not so particular);
  • Rounding up the turkeys in the late afternoon. Again, they usually need to be put back in their pen about 5 times each afternoon;
  • Getting the chickens back into their houses and getting the turkeys back in their pens when they fall out of the trees trying to get settled in. If we do not get them back into their pen so they can get back into the trees, they will get on the carport and house roof and make a mess (or into the trees in the chicken breeder pen).
Special maintenance is done every couple of weeks and includes cleaning the pens and chicken coops, adding or replacing hay, cleaning waterers and/or feeders, and general maintenance.

A never ending task.

Donald cleaned under the chicken coop this past weekend and cleaned several of the waterers and feeders. All were filled.

We are averaging almost 2 dozen eggs daily, not counting those laid in the nests in the breeder pen. We ordered 125 egg cartons this morning and plan on building a candler in the next week or so. Once we have received the cartons and are candling the eggs, we will be able to grade them. We may also start including those in the breeder pen as we will be able to determine if they were fertilized. We have not yet determined if we will start selling them on the open market yet or not.

Red, our rooster, has now learned what is on the other side of the fence and is getting out of the breeder pen on  regular basis. This is a problem as we do not want him to socialize with the other hens.

We are looking forward to the holidays - we have decided that we will enjoy eating the turkeys whether we like the taste or not. We will eat them knowing that we will not have to mess with them every morning and evening - what a joy that will be.

The weather is finally changing and we are all looking forward to fall and winter. The trees just started changing this past weekend, and Donald noticed yesterday that one tree had already changed colors. By this morning the leaves were all brown, so it may be a quick season.

Until next time, blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

"But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." John 4:32

Monday, September 16, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Other than adding hay to all of the chicken and turkey pens as well as to the hen house, very little was done on the farm this past week. Of course, feeding, opening and closing up the hen house, and rounding up turkeys at various times throughout the day are the normal course of business here on the farm.

The chicken eggs are getting bigger and we are starting to see a slight increase in production (the chickens are now 6-months old). We reached a milestone this past week - we are now selling eggs wholesale to Heavener Feed in Heavener, OK. While Donald was in picking up feed this weekend they asked how egg production was and told him they were out of eggs. They were looking for brown eggs (which ours are) and he took them 5-dozen to see how they sold. They suggested we bring more in when we had them (we have them on a regular basis) so this may be the beginning of a new business relationship (though not very profitable).

Our immediate goal is to get back on a schedule and start preparing for next year. Our intent for 2014 is to get the farm cleaned up, catch up on all of the work we have put aside due to schedules, and start over with the farm. We have decided that we will not be raising livestock in the immediate future, and will limit poultry to the chickens on hand. We will be restarting production crops, but will start with just one plot next year.

Our production plot will be either the test garden or Plot 3A (closest to the water source). Rather than try to do too much, we will be concentrating on establishing a kitchen garden in 2014, and expand from there. We need to ensure that we are fully utilizing the few resources we have before expanding and want to be sure nothing goes to waste. The first step will be to get everything in order this winter and see what we can get started for next spring.

We also will be preparing to purchase a limited number of fruit trees in early spring. This means digging the holes this winter and back filling them so we are prepared.

Until next time, blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." 1 Timothy 6:8