The things we've done, the goals that we have set & the dreams that we work to make a reality. 2021, you were a long hard year. You taught us so much about the business owners that we are & all of the small things that truly matter most. Things don’t happen to you, they happen FOR you. Our farm had an amazing year & we have you all to thank.
We opened our farm store.
This one is still a doozy for me to even think about. I truly still can't find the words to explain what we went through for the last 11 months no matter how much I have tried. We spent countless hours fixing up an abandoned property to open a store & support our local food desert. We fought tooth and nail to have it, paid an unfathomable amount of money in attorney fees to keep it open & lost more sleep than we could ever regain. With that, we learned so much about being business owners & the grit that it takes to stand up for what you believe in. This has been my favorite fight to ever win. Although Jesse & I still struggle finding the positive in it all, it was worth it. We know that 2022 is going to look very different for us and for our customers but we wouldn't trade this last year at this location for the world. We met some incredible people along the way & for that, we will always be grateful.
Our Greenhouse Brooder
In 2021, we were able to expand our flocks greatly. Sometimes it's hard looking back to realize how far we have come in such a short amount of time raising meat chickens. We started our pastured poultry season with a new greenhouse brooder that allowed for us to give our chicks plenty of space, warmth & sunshine during their first 14-21 days on this planet with very little inputs.
We passed off processing to the professionals.
When it came to scaling our poultry business, we knew that we were never going to be able to keep up and find the man power to process hundreds of chickens every few weeks. Jesse & I made one of our best choices & passed this duty off to a USDA inspected facility that specializes in poultry. With that decision, we gained so much. In 2021 we were able to start selling parcelled cuts, ground chicken & chicken sausages that you all know & love. Selling out time & time again, the product speaks for itself.
In June, we were able to plant five acres of a 10 variety mix of sunflowers & with the help of an expert, host our very first sunflower maze. This event lasted the entirety of August & brought people in from all across the tristate. Not to mention, it was beautiful to wake up to every morning and to stroll with my boys with a hot cup of coffee in its stillness. We have already begun our planning for the 2022 sunflower season & look forward to making this an annual event at Hidden Creek Farm.
We got to see the efforts of our hard work pay off right in front of our eyes.
While we know that not everyone cares about the benefits of anything other than putting yummy food in their bellies, we care a whole heck of a lot about the health of our soils. For Jesse & I, it is just as much about the ground as it is what is living on top of it. We ran a little test run on ground that was traditionally row cropped/cover cropped & let a batch of chickens finish their season on this field. The lush, densely green & honestly stunning pasture to the right is all thanks to those little guys. In 2022, for the first time ever, a large majority of our ground will be dedicated strictly to mimicing natures systems & allowing our livestock to rotationally graze in a synergistic way.
Forest Raised Pork
One of my favorite accomplishments this year was the decision to begin raising our hogs in the woods. We knew the benefits of pasture and thought, man, how about all of the benefits of the forest? Our pigs have exceeded our wildest expectations in the woodlands & have naturally cleared so much space for future 'pasture' & paddocks while minimally disturbing the land. In 2022, we will be continuing this operation & slowly making our way through the 18 acres of woods on our property, along with introducing them to pasture in the summer. The taste of this pork is truly unbeatable & that's coming from customers mouthes, not mine. Though I strongly agree!
I invested in myself & began to see a bigger picture.
I spent an amount of money that was incredibly scary, & I definitely left out of the dinner conversation, on myself for the first time since college. Through Five Mary's M5 Mastermind, I began to see a life out there for our business that was bigger than my hometown. It was the most incredible & rewarding experience. Something that I will be still be grateful for when they put me in the ground. While Jesse's jaw still slightly drops when he sees our 'education costs' in our profit & loss statements, he is always the first to tell me that it was the right decision for us & our business. Connecting with customers all across the United States has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined for us. I was able to say goodbye to corporate America and the mundane 9-5 desk job, which would have never been possible without this expansion.
Jesse got to do what he loves.
While hauling grain pays the bills & earns a decent living, it's not his passion & we both know that. This year, I got to watch my husband do what he loves & what he excels at. He spent more time on the farm focusing on building our future & allowing us room for expansion. He doesn't give himself nearly enough credit, so I often have to do it for him. My husband loves his animals & his crops fiercly, but not quite as much as he loves his family. While sometimes I have to reign him & his ideas in, the legacy that he wants to leave for his children is nothing short of inspiring. Watching a grown man get so excited over dirt is fun to watch.
Lastly, our Speckle Park.
The story behind these animals making their way into our lives still makes me shutter but I will never stop believing that things happen exactly when they are supposed to. In 2022, we will breed & calf our first Speckle Park cattle. While there is more information on our journey to this breed on our social media channels, they are nothing short of amazing creatures.
I had been harassing Jesse for years about bringing heifers on to this property & he always insisted that I needed to slow down and wait until we found what we truly wanted. On our property we have very little infrastructure besides our home, an old commercial chicken house that is now used as an equipment shed & a small barn where we keep our feed, daily equipment & materials. This meant that there were no room for animals indoors or on concrete. What once seemed like a major problem to operate a cow/calf forced us to change our mindset & methods.
In 2022, we will be diligently with experts & professionals to continue to become a more self-sustaining farm from the animals that we raise & what we feed them to the lumber that we utilize to solve infrastructure problems. While I can't speak to all of the details just yet, they are exciting & promote regenerative agriculture practices here in New Jersey.
As for our Speckle Park, I think that they may be my favorite piece of 2021. They represent new beginnings & not being afraid to be different. In both lab analysis & blind taste tests, their meat have beat Wagyu in just about every category. We can't wait to see their performance.