Pathogens in the News….what to do?

With the recent E Coli and Salmonella outbreaks across the US, the safety of eggs and produce is perhaps in question. While we assume our food is safe, whether from farm or grocery store, the risks of pathogens is impossible to rule out. So how do we at Feather’s Farm mitigate risk as much as possible? We’ll get to that, but first the facts…

How do eggs and produce get contaminated?

The CDC says this about egg contamination:

“Poultry may carry bacteria such as Salmonella that can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Eggs can also become contaminated from the droppings of poultry through the laying process or from the environment (e.g., contaminated poultry feed or bedding).” read more here

And concerning produce? Any number of things can be the source: contaminated soil, water, compost, wildlife, and even domestic animals. While reading up on the recent romaine case, I found a case from a few years ago where they were considering birds carrying dust….yes dust from one location to another. I’m sorry……how do you go about controlling that!

Now then, what are we doing to mitigate risk? First the eggs.

 

  • Pasture Raised – By pasturing our hens they have plenty of space, fresh grass, and bugs to go around. Unlike typical free range the pasture, or range, we graze theimg_5758 hens on is controlled and therefore not over grazed like typical free range hens. That said, we move our hens at least every two weeks to fresh pasture. This frequent movement definitely gives us much healthier birds and is thought to minimize parasites.
  • Clean Coop – The egg mobile has slats on the floor to reduce dropping buildup. Nest boxes are cleaned regularly and any moist bedding is replaced with dry. Our boxes are equip with rails that flip-up, this prohibits the hens from sleeping in the nest boxes which helps the nest boxes stay clean and dry.
  • Frequent Egg Collection – Eggs are collected three times a day; noon4 PM and dusk. Doing so gives us cleaner eggs.
  • Washing – All of our eggs get a bubble bath with a natural enzyme cleanser. Like it or not, Illinois requires graded eggs to be washed. We use an enzyme cleanser rather than bleach.
  • Packing and Storage – Eggs are promptly graded, packed, and refrigerated after being washed. Any dirty or cracked eggs are discarded.

Now the produce.

  • Compost – Our compost is OMRI listed plant based organic compost. While we have access to lots of chicken and rabbit manure we don’t use this in the garden.
  • Row Covers – Reduce the chances of wandering wildlife like deer or rabbits to leave droppings in our beds. img_5454
  • Water Quality – Tested and safe.
  • Washing – Produce is washed prior to storage. Note: egg washing/packing is completely separate from produce washing/packing.
  • Packing and Storage – Produce is promptly sorted, packed, and refrigerated after being washed.

After purchasing produce or eggs you should:

 

  • Refrigerate produce and eggs
  • Don’t cross contaminate
  • Wash your eggs and produce again

 

According to eggsafety.org “On average only 1 of every 20,000 commercially produced eggs might contain the Salmonella bacteria, so you might encounter an infected egg once every 84 years…. So be aware, but don’t lose any sleep over this:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 Tour with Feather – the egg mobile

In this video, Keith gives you a brief tour of the egg mobile and how it works for us.

This was a project last year for our chickens. This year, Keith is adjusting the nest boxes and the way we water the chickens. The egg mobile worked great being moved around our yard last year. We had plenty of grass to go around and only needed to move it once a week or so. This year is more up in the air with some additional chickens and year two on the grass. Hoping for the best! If it appears worrisome, we’ll move them across the field to grandma and grandpa’s pasture and give our acreage a break.

 

 

Day 2 Tour with Feather – Garage Work Space

So funny thing: we both grew up out in the country without having garages. All of our lives, the cars (multiple cars due to so many siblings in our families) sat outside. When we got married and moved into town, we moved into a house without a garage for 7 years. Then, we moved out here in the country again and lo and behold, it had a garage. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves ……so we still parked our cars outside lol. While I would love to add an addition to our house and convert that space into a larger living room, for now it has become our gardening work space! Keith did a great job recycling materials and using the space efficiently for our purposes this summer.

In this video Keith shows us his garage conversion from a regular garage into a gardening/egg storage, work space, cleaning, and packaging area.

Day 1 Tour with Feather – the nursery

In this video, Keith gives you a tour of our nursery set up this year. Since last year, we have added 3 more lights and are still tight on space. As the weather warms we will move a lot of the plants to our small greenhouse.

If you love gardening, but always buy your plants, give using lights a try! It is easier than you think and pretty affordable. You can buy these lights on Amazon. We’ve had really good success with them!

Sign up!

If you would like to get on the email list for produce bags, please send your email to betsyjones@feathersfarm.co

Produce bags will start May 1st and run through October. A la carte produce and eggs are available year round.

Winter greens, business start up, slacker chickens, and too many projects!

The title about sums up our winter. While we thought we would get some downtime this winter, we have not! All the things associated with starting a business as well as the equipment we have needed to build has kept us busier than we would like. Keith has finished building a post harvest area that includes a greens washer, spinner, dryer, wash table for root vegetables, egg station, packaging station, and walk in cooler. We still have a few loose ends to tie, but it should be ready for our spring bounty. We’ve already used the washer and spinner for greens and it’s been great!

Our Greenhouse produce has been harvested all winter for our egg customers and Bean Tree Cafe. We couldn’t be happier with the quality of greens. We made a lot of errors and found a lot we will do differently next winter, but for the most part it has been a success. Here’s a short video showing the equipment Keith built and the status of the greenhouse in January.

Keith also finished building the greenhouse for the chickens. They are much warmer and happier. We moved our rabbit hutches in the back section and gave them an area where we can let them out to run around. We are back and forth on whether the rabbits are worth our time. Since I want them the most, I have to do this chore. Not having to feed and water them in the snow, rain, and wind has been wonderful to say the least!

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This year was the first year we have went through molt with a larger amount of chickens and it was rough. We went from around 90 eggs a day to as few as 23. Our egg customers were not too happy either! They are wonderful though and completely understood. We will plan to order new birds each year to help counter this problem.

In January, we visited All Seasons Organic Farm in Carbondale, IL. Jill, the owner of the farm, welcomed us in and walked us around the whole property answering all of our questions. It was a very beneficial experience and we will hopefully dodge a few mistakes this year by gleaning from her wisdom. Here is their website: http://www.allseasons-farm.com/

 

We’ve also been working on some marketing projects. The new website is getting built, hats are ready, and we are about to place t-shirt orders. We’re also stoked about the sign my brother built for us; it totally exceeded anything we had planned (more pictures on that later)! It will be nice to see all these things come together in the next few months.

 

 

The girls are busy with their first year of 4H projects including meat chickens, meat rabbits, art, and sewing. We have some Holland Lops and Lionhead bunnies on the way. They should be ready for new homes by Easter. We have placed our seed order and are now going to have a couple weeks of down time before all the craziness really begins!

Thanks for checking out the update!