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Frog Music Organics – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

Balancing Act: How Frog Music Organics Integrates Livestock and Crops

When John Bitter and his spouse Amy began Frog Music Organics on 5 acres in 2011, a imaginative and prescient of the best way to fastidiously scale-up the farm was lengthy within the works. They each had a number of years’ expertise working with farms within the space, and every knew close by markets nicely sufficient to know that they had alternatives to develop. Wanting forward, that they had additionally spoken with the proprietor of neighboring land about leasing extra acreage sooner or later. 

Quick-forward 12 years, and Frog Music Organics is a 62-acre operation with about 30 full-time workers and 20-40 acres in manufacturing at anyone time. Positioned lower than a 2 hour’s drive from a number of markets, Frog Music gives natural merchandise year-round to 4 farmers markets and wholesale accounts in Gainesville, Orlando, St. Augustine, and Tampa, and thru an online-order, customizable-box CSA program. 

At this stage, John is pleased with the scale of the operation, and centered on enhancements to the general farm. “Now we’re simply attempting to fill within the effectivity of what we’re doing. We don’t actually wish to get loads greater however we wish to get extra environment friendly and extra worthwhile, having the ability to do extra with much less sources, primarily,” he mentioned. 

Frog Music is a extremely diversified farm producing greens, herbs, flowers, orchard crops, pork and poultry merchandise, and legumes. For John, balancing the livestock and crop enterprises is vital. “One thing to consider is how all this scales,” he mentioned. From his perspective, scaling “must match the fertility, the planting, and the advertising and marketing…and if a kind of is approach out of whack, the enterprise would possibly fail.” So whereas Frog Music may produce much more pork and eggs, conserving a system that’s balanced, the place the quantity of livestock suits the crop programs, is John’s really helpful technique. “Individuals are taking a look at in some way, like ‘I’m going to be a pig farmer or a rooster farmer’, nicely, that’s 1/eighth of what you do, or 1/twelfth of what you do, and also you base the remainder on what grows rather well in your space and what sources you have already got accessible fairly than attempting to herald an excessive amount of of the sources that may find yourself driving you out of enterprise. Should you rely an excessive amount of on different sources, ultimately, when the costs of these sources change, your enterprise mannequin should change, very quickly, or else you gained’t keep in enterprise.” 

Why combine livestock with crop manufacturing?

Talking about why John and Amy determined to incorporate animals from the onset, John says, “The first purpose we combine livestock is to show a legal responsibility right into a useful resource.” For Frog Music, which means pigs are introduced into candy potato fields following harvests to assist clear up 

‘seconds’ and bits left behind that may in any other case harbor pests. Within the heat of the southeastern area the place Frog Music is situated, a candy potato weevil thrives. The extremely cellular bug can wreck inventories and crops in fields. Non-organic controls embrace herbicide purposes to candy potato fields following harvests, or soil fumigants. As an natural farm, Frog Music needed to discover different strategies. “We determined pigs had been the easiest way to plow over the land with out utilizing quite a lot of diesel. So the pigs will take candy potato scraps and switch it into one thing that’s a really high-value product: natural bacon. Higher than natural, it’s really pasture-raised and on natural pasture!”

One other liability-turned-to-resource may be seen within the orchards. Chickens are ranged below established (2 years outdated or extra) stone fruit timber after fruiting. As they scratch and peck across the timber, they successfully scale back plum curculio, millipedes, cutworms and different lepidoptera pests. To take advantage of the advantages of the chickens’ manure, feed is concentrated across the base of fruit timber to maximise the time they spend scratching weeds and abandoning manure. 

Cowl crops and livestock integration

On farms with built-in programs of crops and livestock, cowl crops can present useful forages. At Frog Music, cowl crops are planted year-round, and nearly all the time embrace a multi-species combine. From November to February, winter rye, coker oats, and wheat are planted. Buckwheat, 4 varieties of millet, and sorghum-Sudan grass go in from March to October. And from April by August, John vegetation Sunn Hemp as a stand-alone. All of those crops, along with sure money crops just like the candy potatoes, are ultimately grazed by animals. 

Sunn Hemp is planted as a stand-alone cowl crop in a pear orchard. “This could be an excellent time to graze it down by pigs, in case you wanted to. Sunn Hemp is sort of our backup plan for pig grazing. We attempt to have sufficient millet and sorghum and buckwheat after the candy potato crop, and if we fail at any time, then we now have acres and acres of the Sunn Hemp that may be a good forage for them.” John recommends grazing sunn hemp solely till about 20 inches tall. At about waist-high, it turns into too robust, excessive in a specific acid, and the pigs “simply gained’t eat it,” he says.  Additionally of word: for grazing pigs on this space, the fence can be positioned to exclude the pigs from the pear timber. 

The selection of which cowl crops to plant for grazing facilities round three questions for John. One, will the animals eat it, and at what stage is finest to begin grazing? Two, how a lot does it value to determine, in each time and bills, particularly provided that the price of cowl crop seeds can range from 12 months to 12 months? And three, how does the crop slot in with the rotation? The reply to that third query, for Frog Music, has particular implications for legume cowl crops. Since one in every of Frog Music’s money crops is legumes, they want at the least 3 years within the rotations with out legumes with the intention to keep away from increase illnesses like white rot. Sunn Hemp appears to be a distant sufficient relative that it stays within the cover-crop combine at Frog Music, and doesn’t contribute to buildup of illnesses affecting legume money crops

The change to on-farm breeding

For years at Frog Music, piglets had been bought off-farm, however after a while, John determined it was finest to breed their very own pigs on-farm. “After being in enterprise for some years,” he explains, “typically the piglets aren’t there if you want them to be there, in your cycle.” Since starting on-farm breeding with Pink Wattle Hogs, the animals are bred and accessible at occasions that go well with the farm, and the animals “stayed in good well being and stayed productive.” 

To take care of wholesome genetics, a couple of sires from totally different traces are introduced in to dwell on website. A number of sows cycle by the “Honeymoon Suite” to breed with them, after which are launched to farrowing pens, that are “good spots on the farm…mainly giving the sow the very best of what there’s in that second of the 12 months,” with loads of shade and high quality forage. Inside 7-14 days, the piglets have begun to graze the forage and are studying the cycles and programs of Frog Music. 

“Sure animals may be just about hooked on grain,” John defined. “They gained’t go forage for themselves, they’ll simply look ahead to when the grain comes, then they get actually nasty to must battle out their siblings or bunkmates for that grain. In our system, we’re on the lookout for the pigs who simply wish to go plow up any a part of their block, go discover their very own candy potatoes, and there’s actually no approach {that a} bully pig can dominate that system: they’ve all acquired loads to eat, they’re stress-free, and by the point they get to the top of the block, there’s a brand new block ready for them.”

Variations in infrastructure for livestock

Two of crucial items of infrastructure for livestock at Frog Music are electrical fencing and animal housing. Coaching employees so that every understands how electrical energy flows by a complete fencing system has been key to having the ability to troubleshoot issues within the subject rapidly with out slowing different elements of the operation down. And to maintain a cautious eye on the electrical programs, John recommends having one one who is liable for checking programs at the least as soon as a day. At Frog Music, handlers test the programs twice a day. Electrical fencing is vital to the paddock programs on the farm, usually arrange as block-paddocks which are fractions of an extended, rectangle-shaped subject. The animals transfer throughout the sphere into a brand new paddock each 5-7 days. 

For livestock housing, one essential adaptation has to do with the clay soils on the farm: John has moved away from something with wheels, equivalent to rooster homes on trailers, as a result of clay will get into tire seals, ruins them, and the seals have to be changed usually. New housing constructions are custom-built utilizing 2-inch metallic tubing, in a design that may be picked up with a front-end loader and simply moved with a tractor.  

Dangers of elevating animals and crops collectively

Understanding the dangers of elevating livestock is easy, however it’s of the utmost significance. John explains, “How do you develop greens and lift animals on the similar time? It is a actually essential half to speak about. That is the place the farm can go actually improper in case you don’t acknowledge your dangers. However the dangers are easy: you don’t wish to get manure within the product in any approach potential!”

The plans for coping with this easy danger are taken significantly. With the intention to know the place the dangers lie, the farm identifies the place manure is touring, from paddocks to packing shed or plantings. These “Essential Management Factors” (CCP’s) are a part of the farm’s HACCP plan (Hazard Evaluation and Essential Management Level Techniques plan), which implies they’re “recognized, verified, and validated” so all of them get met. With animals shifting across the farm usually, John begins fascinated about the place the manure will go the second he begins designing the structure of fields. 

Which means fascinated about the circulation of water. “I’d say, begin there, as a farmer,” he suggests, “you want to have a look at ‘Which approach does each drop circulation?’ Because it comes out of the sky and hits your farm. Then you want to know the place your paddocks are, the place you’re going to lift your crops, and how much crops you’ll increase (low or excessive danger).” Having employees skilled in protected dealing with and protocols for visiting wherever on the farm with manure or getting into packing areas can also be a essential a part of managing the CCP’s and dangers of manure. 

Advantages you possibly can see: soil fertility

Regardless of the dangers, workload, and infrastructure wants, having pigs and chickens is an integral a part of what makes Frog Music profitable. When requested about the advantages of the 12+ years of crop-livestock integration on the farm, John spoke about one key indicator of soil well being: the well being of the quilt crops. Within the first few years, some fields barely sustained a canopy crop. Different fields with extra clay had giant incongruencies in progress over the realm and in how water moved by them (areas with poor drainage and enormous puddles). Now these similar fields produce uniform, lush patches of canopy crops, and as John displays on a decade-plus of integration, he says, matter-of-factly, “yearly sure blocks are getting higher.”



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