News

Jack's Winter CoatThings we like

Books:

  • Out of the Earth & Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield
  • Omnivore’s Dilemma & Cooked by Michael Pollan
  • Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Videos:

  • Temple Grandin (HBO Films)
  • Food, Inc.
  • Dirt! The Movie
  • Rebecca’s Wild Farm (Link TV)

Periodicals:

  • Stockman Grass Farmer
  • Acres Magazine
  • Lancaster Farming

Bee Balm and Zinnias

Please visit our Prospect Farm Facebook page to receive updates about the farm and see current photos:  Facebook.com/ProspectFarm

Change in Focus

Hello everyone.  For those of you who were trying to keep up with this “farm news” page, we wanted to let you know that we have changed  to posting most of our news on our Prospect Farm Facebook page. The demands of running the farm, improving the pastures, harvesting our animals, etc. ultimately turned this news page into a summary of events, rather than real updates. Although some folks don’t regularly like to use FB, you can set up an account without having a presence (photos, personal info, etc.) which would allow you to see all our latest information and pictures of what is going on at Prospect Farm. But we wanted to leave this page open so you can take a look at past postings and get a sense of where we’ve come from and some of the challenges we’ve faced. Thank you so much for your interest – and we hope to see you on Facebook!

Summer News

July 2012: Full-scale drought now – only 1/4″ rain in the last month and combined with over 100 degree days means the pastures are burned up. Began feeding hay in mid-month, so will not be harvesting any steers until they are back on grass. We just don’t think the beef would taste as great while they are eating hay. So far, the drought this year has been worse than 2012, based on the plants. Hoping it will turn around soon!

June: We have harvested our first Angus-Devon steers and their beef is the best we’ve ever produced! We are so happy that our “grand experiment” of combining these two great breeds has worked as we had hoped. The steers are slightly smaller than the Angus, as we expected, but they are so healthy and their meat has wonderful marbling (tenderness!) We’ve had very little rain so far, so we are heading into another drought . . . not even many thunderstorms to help the Bermuda and clover and 100 degree days really takes it toll on the pastures and animals. Because of the mild winter, ticks and flies are also a problem, but we do what we can. Carlton quotes the old line, “farmers are always optimistic” – wish I could be more, but it looks like a hard summer ahead.

Spring News: Well, we are finding it hard to keep up with all the news from the farm . . . we tend to post more photos and updates on our Facebook page, especially when we are so busy. What a gorgeous spring, with clover in all pastures coming in so thick with flowers, the herd and the bees are loving it! The cows aren’t as happy about the suddenly 80 degree+ days – too hot when they have not lost their winter coats yet, but they are making do, as they always have. The bugs never died back due to the warmer winter, so flies are a problem early and lots of ticks to harass man and beast. Cooler nights in May have helped. Last fall’s calves are growing apace and we decided to keep them on their moms longer before selling the extra heifers . . . they just seem to do better overall that way. We harvest our first Angus-Devon cross steers in May – they look wonderful and we are sure they will taste the same. Good boys, all, with laid back temperaments and calm personalities. We work the cows this month to give them all pinkeye vaccine, give the calves booster vaccines, and check to see what cows are bred.

January-February News: What a temperate winter we had . . . so easy on the cows compared to normal years with snow and ice. We had a major problem with local hunters running their dogs at the end of hunting season in January, when they got into a paddock and the herd stampeded to try and protect the calves. One of our best cows fractured her leg and was limping badly. We got her and her calf into the corral with another pair to keep them company so she wouldn’t have to walk far for food and water and maybe heal. After a month she was getting around better and taking care of her calf, but the vet said she will never fully recover. We took Big Red out of the herd at the end of January so we’ll have a 60-day calving season in the fall. And the weather was so mild, the steers had some green grass to eat all winter from our stockpiled pastures! Hoping that this summer will be as nice as last.

November-December: November saw the end of a successful calving season with 20 beautiful new babies, courtesy of Big Red and our good herd of momma cows. The black buzzards finally gave up after we harassed them every day, thank goodness. The fields have been so thick and the weather so warm that we have not fed any hay except to extend the grazing into January and February (easier to put out hay now rather than in freezing rain and blowing winds in the dead of winter!) We are definitely not cutting hay next spring to let all the fields grow thick and have a wide variety of legumes, forbs, and grasses. We have enough hay in the barn for the next two winters, barring unforeseen circumstances (a given on the farm!) and another serious drought. But after seeing the results this year, we are convinced that rotational grazing and not cutting hay is the way to go. We end the farming year happy with our business, thankful for our customers, happy with our cows, and eagerly looking forward to 2012!

September-October: Calving season has generally been very good, with 18 healthy and beautiful babies as of October 30. Meanwhile, we have been scaring off black vultures every day that are trying to prey on the newborns – they will actually kill a new calf while the mother and baby are vulnerable, so we have been standing guard to prevent any problems. Sometimes there have been as many as 40 of them circling the fields. The forage this year has been spectacular: tons of clover, fescue, Bermuda, chicory, and weeds that the herd likes to eat. The weather has been incredible and the cows are so happy to have good grasses to eat this fall.

In July-August: We had a moderate amount of rain this summer, maybe .3 to .5 inches every week – not much, but enough to keep the Bermuda grass growing well so the herd had plenty to eat. In the pastures where we did not cut hay, we let the fescue grow and go to seed so it shaded the clover and Bermuda so it didn’t cook in the heat. It also limited the weeds like horse nettle that spreads like wildfire after we hay. That was so successful that we don’t plan to cut hay next year in any of the fields. Face flies were non-existent this year, but horse flies were worse than last summer. Hard to tell what the cause is for these ebbs and flows. The girls are getting big as they get ready for calving season that begins in September.

In June: June was hay month, since we received so much rain in May we couldn’t cut and bale “on time” (like most years!) but the hay finally got into the hay shed. It looks as though we will have plenty for the winter. We continue to be blessed with nice rain showers and the weather pattern seems normal for summer: afternoon heating and then thunderstorms that drop 1/4″ or less, but enough to keep the Bermuda grass, chicory, etc. going, so the herd has plenty to eat. Lots of goldfinches, mockingbirds and meadowlarks making music around the house. Twin fawns were born inside the fence of Selkie Point field and are too small to jump out . . . but there is plenty of tall grass there and woods for them to hide in, so they seem to be doing all right.

In May: This was a super busy month on the farm – our vet checked the herd and gave booster shots to the calves, and we sprayed all (except for the steers that are going to be harvested) for parasites and horn flies. We use the de-wormer that doesn’t harm dung beetles, since they are so important to the health of the pastures. Consistent rain on and off throughout the month prevented hay harvesting, so the grass was overgrown and the hay doesn’t have as much nutrition as it should – but, that’s the way it is. We were very fortunate this month to sell our extra heifers to an organic cattle farm in Albemarle County. They are now part of another Devon-Angus herd and will be momma cows next year. The herb garden has grown like crazy and is attracting hundreds of butterflies, bees (honeybees!) and hummingbirds.

In April: The herd is completely on fresh grass now with the blessing of timely rains and warm days. Everyone is doing well, including Jack, who received his shots and had his hooves trimmed by a local farrier. In the herb garden the pineapple sage and catnip are attracting honeybees, which we love to see, and the mockingbird has made a nest in a boxwood. Our beef is now available at Farm to Family Market in Mechanicsville, and at Belmont Butchery in Carytown.

In March: Spring has finally arrived and the grass has turned green, although is slow in growing since it didn’t have a lot of root energy stored last year because of the drought. But it is enough to get the herd excited and have something fresh to eat along with the hay. We purchased a refrigerated Chevy van this month so we can deliver halves to two of our customers in Richmond (they wouldn’t fit in our big marine coolers). It will also be great once we begin going to farmer’s markets. Two Canada geese are on the pond, seriously thinking about nesting there . . . we hope the foxes and bobcats will leave them alone. Meanwhile, the hyacinths, daffodils and forsythia in the yard are blooming and the turkeys in the woods are singing every morning. The earth is breathing a sigh of relief.

In February

    :  This February was so much easier than last year’s “longest month.” The herd has actually been putting on weight from eating good hay and not having to contend with snow cover and freezing winds. We took Big Red out of the herd after his 60-day visit with the girls and he’s now relaxing with the 11 steers that will be ready to harvest this year. This month we are also hand sowing red and white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and chicory in all the bare spots in the pastures to improve the forage. It is a very labor intensive job, but can be successful if we get some good rain. It is unusually dry for winter – we’re hoping that doesn’t mean we are headed for another drought. We are happy that Farm to Family in Richmond has begun to carry our beef. They deliver local, healthy food to urban areas in a converted school bus –  a unique effort to help change the food system for the better.

In January: Libbie Market in Richmond (formerly Joe’s Market) at Libbie and Grove Aves. is now carrying Prospect Farm beef. We are so pleased that we have such a nice store as our Richmond outlet. The New Year has started off much better than the last – the weather has been more normal and the herd has been comfortable and happy. January is the time for taking care of maintenance projects such as repairing outbuildings, putting more gravel down around the waterers, and cutting up downed trees that died during the drought last summer. We’re also getting ready to take the bull out of the herd at the first of February to join the steers. We don’t believe in isolating our bull – as a herd animal, we think he is so much happier staying with the steers when he isn’t with the girls. His calm, docile behavior bears this out. Can’t wait until Spring!

In December: Calving season ended this year with a total of 21 beautiful calves – all are doing well and were trying to eat grass within a week or so! We worked the herd this month and gave everyone their vaccinations, then we put Big Red in with the girls. We had some great help from our neighbors and family and the herd was calm and not stressed out at all. We are working on getting our beef into a retail outlet in Richmond so our customers there can have easy access to our products. Carlton and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy & healthy New Year.

In November:

      Prospect Farm was nominated for the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council’s Forage Producer of the Year award. This award is given to a farmer who has implemented conservation practices that improve the soils, water quality, and wildlife habitat. We were very honored to be considered for this statewide award. Calving season continues . . . these are the first Angus-Devon crosses and we have been so impressed with their vigor and health. Some are black, but some have the rich, red coloring of their purebred Devon bull father. We awoke one morning this month to hear the herd making a ruckus down in Copperhead Corner field – upon inspection, I chased away a coyote that had gotten into the field and was hiding in a copse of trees along the fenceline. Jack the guard donkey was standing on the top of the hill, protecting the two newest calves, so I hope that will be the extent of our coyote problem this year.

In October, Lemaire restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel held a sold-out wine tasting with our short ribs on the menu. And the hotel’s TJ’s restaurant has also served some of our roasts, beef sliders, and oxtail as specials on it’s menu. We appreciate that business very much. Much needed rain arrived and the grass is finally green after the long drought of June-September.

September news: First calves of 2010 – TWINS! One of our first time heifers had twins September 15th – a relatively rare event for cows. There were no problems and both little ones seem to be doing fine. We leave mom and babies alone to bond so we don’t know if they are heifers or bull calves, but they seem bright and alert & mom is feeding both of them. Usually one twin is rejected, but since she is a heifer we figure she doesn’t know that not everyone has two babies!

We are so pleased that TJ’s Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond featured Prospect Farm beef at a beer tasting & dinner this month. Chef James Schroeder made short ribs as a part of that menu and the banquet manager used our chuck for pot roast for a brunch – Chef Schroeder said everyone loved the beef. We also now have some of our beef on sale at the Real Goods store in Mathews Courthouse, Virginia.

Summer 2010: The act of eating good, nutritious food from a known source fortifies our bodies, bonds us with the people with whom we share the meal, and connects us with the seasons and the natural world.  More and more people are trying, to the best of their ability, to pay attention to where their food comes from, how it was raised or grown, and how far it had to travel to their table.

It’s not an easy task.

The current food system in our country is primarily in the hands of a few large multi-national corporations, which makes it difficult to seek out healthy, local food that is easily accessible and affordable. It takes some effort. And, because of the costs inherent in a small farm production system like ours, it usually costs a little more. We all do the best we can.

Rainbow Over the FarmhouseOur goal is not to get preachy about why you should only eat healthy, locally grown food . . . it’s just to offer you one option. We stopped eating commercial beef ourselves because of what we know about how the animals are treated and what they are forced to consume in the feedlots. But we love a good hamburger and a steak on the grill! So, we decided to offer a more natural, healthy alternative that we can all enjoy even more because we know where it came from.

Prospect Farm cows are raised on our own pastures and the beef you purchase comes solely from our own animals raised in a diverse and natural environment. And when the time comes for them to fulfill their destiny to provide food energy for us, we make a special effort to insure that their transition is as calm, stress-free, and quick as possible.

Storm Over the MountainIt takes a lot of time and hard work to do it the “old-fashioned” way, but we feel it is the right way.

We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to comment or ask questions any time on our Facebook page or send us an e-mail.

Thanks,
Constance Ober and Carlton Brooks