Words by: Tom Piper
What’s your favorite first sign of spring? Crocuses? Robins? Fresh-picked asparagus? Here on our small family farms, early spring means – well, mud. That’s just how we like it. Mud means we can finally get out and do what needs to be done, and there’s a lot to do.
The 30 family farms that produce eggs for us are diversified, meaning that they aren’t just egg farmers. Many also crop-farm or raise livestock, some grow vegetables to sell to neighbors. Most are also raising children and keeping family homesteads, just steps away from their hen houses.
Producing eggs for Pete and Gerry’s allows our farmers to have a life that’s “100 percent farmer,” says Chris Pierce, who helps our Pennsylvania families manage their farms.
Here’s what you’ll find our farmers doing now:
– Planting seeds. Right now, the organic soil around our hen houses looks pretty muddy, but we’re putting down organic seed so there will soon be a carpet of fresh green pasture for “our girls” to peck and scratch in. There’s also land to till for crops and vegetable gardens, and “home-grown” manure to spread–naturally enriching the soil while following strict conservation land management practices.
– Spring-cleaning, big time. Some of our farmers are scrubbing out their barns to welcome new flocks of pullets (16-week-old hens) to a safe, clean new home. Keeping things spotless is extra important, since we never give our hens antibiotics.
– Bringing other babies into the world. For those of our farmers raising cows, sheep or goats, now is prime time for calving, lambing, and kidding (yes, that’s what birthing baby goats is called). They’re extra busy keeping their newborns healthy and happy.
– Watching the thermometer. This time of year, you can wake up to freezing temperatures and be sweating in a T-shirt by midday. (Of course, it’s great weather for maple syruping—as some of our New England farmers are doing!)
Our farmers keep a close eye on their heating and cooling systems to make sure the barns are always comfortable. Until conditions allow our girls to go outside in the elements, they’re scratching and dust-bathing in protected outdoor “winter gardens.”
It may be muddy work this time of year, but our farm families don’t mind getting dirty. After all, life on a real family farm isn’t glamorous living. It’s a good living.