The last time I submitted an article I had figured out that going largish and getting a farm loan to build a barn to raise chickens and vegetables was not my path nor was it financially smart. Another element was looking for government grants and funding for new agricultural operations.
What I discovered: Government loves to fund the study of new operations. They want to gather everyone together, pay a mediator a healthy sum to organize everyone in a fashion that looks like their helping. While doing research for available grants I would hear lots of different sources make statements like, "there is lots of money available for farms". Loans are available, nothing else. Now a loan is not necessarily a bad thing, but I already have enough debt. If there are grants available to get a wanna-bee farmer started, I could not find, access, or uncover such moneys. Maybe thats a good thing. One could say that I have lots of learning to do before I deserve any granting.
I also determined that I could not raise 10,000 broiler birds on my 3 acres of pasture. 10,000 was an arbitrary financial number that I made up with my calculator. How many I can actually raise is still to be determined. Even though this is ALR land we live on, I still need to keep my neighbors happy and most importantly I do not need to pollute our environment any further. So my field will have a maximum healthy yield that it can handle. What that yield is, is still to be discovered.
Last year we started with 52 broiler chicks and 11 turkeys. We successfully raised and processed 46 broiler chickens and 5 turkeys. Those numbers seem quite small in retrospect but to get even there was quite a task. This year we are starting with 152 broiler chickens and 21 turkeys. So far 4 chicks have died and that is all.
One very positive element. The BC government has altered the meat regulations for the better. In the past 6 months here on the Sunshine Coast and other rural areas of BC the concept of small scale open air processing has been accepted.
I am one of a dozen small farms on the coast that are applying to become Class D or E processing facility. I need to submit a plan and display a system to go from live animal to the freezer. This includes: culling, processing, composting of left over bits and mortalities. My farm must show a safe water source is used and last but not least display control over bacteria and contamination of the meat as well as the land and surrounding waters.
The authorities recognize that open air processing for small scale operations is in many ways better than enclosures if properly administered. With that in mind the Ministry of Health decided to assist and guide small scale farmers in providing local food. This legislative change of heart came about because many people others like myself made a stink. This agitation along with MLA's like Nicholas Simons and Corky Evans presented our case to the legislature, and they seemed to listen. Either that or late in the night guys in black masks will come and all of us will simply disappear.
Once all of the basic areas of concern are met I will be legal to sell my meat farm gate or to local restaurants & groceries. I am only legal to sell to my local market. I cannot take my meat to Vancouver and sell it there. The restriction lies in the fact that we do not have a class A processing facility available to us. To be economically viable we must do our own processing. In the big picture this is way better. Yes I and others must kill, gut, cool and freeze our livestock but that is the reality of eating meat. I fully respect people who choose not to eat meat. Some days I question it myself. In the meantime if I am to eat meat I as a member of society must become more related to my food. Hopefully in the process I can also make a living, or at least a partial living.
I am a week away from my broiler chickens going into the field. This means they will live in moveable pens for the duration of their lives. This time frame will be for the next 6 weeks. During this time they forage the ground, live in fresh air and sunshine. Putting them in the field toughens them up. Like us if we are kept inside with a temperately controlled environment we become soft and semi healthy. Stick us out in the elements and we become durable. Our system toughens up and we become way healthier. That in a nut shell is the philosophy.
So my to-do list is as follows: cut the field grass, re and re the pens for chicks, build a compost for entrails and morts, purchase remaining gear needed for processing. I will have my inspection some time mid July from the Ministry of Health.