Not my rural


rural

Over the past 30 years we’ve heard comments about how we live a rural lifestyle. Some people envy what they consider a “simpler” lifestyle, others wonder if by increasing the number of businesses will detract from the ruralness that we experience.

Mostly it depends on how a person defines rural versus what rural really means.

My comments here are based on the article “Where is ‘rural America,’ and what does it look like?” by Kenneth Johnson, Professor of Sociology and Senior Demographer, University of New Hampshire and my personal experience of living and working on our farm.

Rural means agriculture

If you think of open fields when you say rural, those fields better be planted with crops Montana Highriseor be home to cattle. We look longingly on pastoral settings as calm and almost devoid of life. But pastoral is really the life of a sheepherder who lives with and for his herd, moving them from place to place in search of food and water. And the “Amber waves of grain” that we sing about in “America the Beautiful” need to be harvested and processed if anyone is going to eat.

Cattle, sheep, pigs, hens, all need food, housing, and care. All of which mean a lot of work and machinery; none of which are cheap.

Rural mean low population

Another draw to country living is the population. There are several different ways to determine if an area is considered rural or urban. The easiest is to measure the number of people in a square mile. The Census Bureau states the urban areas have at least 1,000 people in any given square mile where highly-urban areas have less than 7 people living in a square mile. Anything between those numbers are considered rural.

But even in a rural community, there are still areas of dense population and places where you can neither hear nor see your closest neighbor. If you want a rural setting but like neighbors, you will have to look for a more developed area within that municipality.

Rural means industry

Bottling plantA rural area cannot be devoid of industry. Factories billowing smoke should never be part of a rural community but, areas where the food is processed, stored, and then shipped, would certainly be part of the community. Some rural communities remain rural (low population) because of the industry that supports that community. Coal mines come to mind as well as other ore mines.

Trees are an integral part of home construction, furniture manufacturing, flooring, and paper. It only makes sense that timber and pulp mills dot the landscape of the rural forests. The trees are harvested and milled on site, then shipped to the manufacturing companies.

Rural – a place that many urban dwellers dream of, but rarely understand all the aspects that encompass the rural lifestyle. So if you are looking for a place with open spaces, few people, and nothing else, you may be thinking of a ghost town – and that’s not my rural!

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.
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How do these hens live?


hens cer

People often ask us if our hens are free-range hens. To them, it means the hens are allowed to come and go as they please. But, when we look at the government and Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) standards, free range is not as free as you think.

Caged

No need to expand on this – most eggs that are produced for the grocery store are from caged hens. They have a minimum amount of room and are primarily fed a corn or soy diet.

Cage-Free

Don’t let the word “free” sidetrack you. These hens are not confined to a minimum area, but, they are still in a cramped facility and do not have access to the great outdoors. So they are not as “free” as the term suggests. They, too, are primarily fed a corn or soy diet.

Free-Range

This is where it can get confusing. USDA requirements standards state that the hens must be given access to the outdoors. They do not determine how much or how often. HFAC standards state the hens must be outdoors, weather permitting, for at least 6 hours a day. These hens may still be fed a corn or soy diet.

Pasture-Raised

This classification has been added by HFAC and it means that the hens are outdoors year-round. They are allowed to go inside at night for protection from predators BUT they should not be housed for more than two weeks a year due to inclement weather.

Hens that are Free-Range or Pasture-Raised are usually healthier and produce better eggs. One reason behind this is the hens have a better choice of food. A hen’s diet should consist of insects and other seeds, grains, grit that are found in nature.

Although we always keep pelleted food available for our hens, they do not eat as much of it when they are allowed to roam as when we keep them in the coop.

So, are our hens Free-Range hens? For the most part, yes. They are allowed outside or at least in the barn during the day and return to their coop at night. However, we do not let them out mid-June to mid-July as this is when our resident fox is teaching the kits how to hunt. And although hens make a tasty meal, we would rather not supply the fox with ours. During the summer they do have a fan to keep the heat down in the coop. We also keep them housed in the dead of winter because they can get frost-bite. Again, a heat lamp in the coop keeps the temps within range for their health.

Will we ever get “certified” for our eggs? Probably not. But rest assured, our hens are happy and enjoy roaming the pastures with the goats, cows, and horses.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.