2019 Farmers Market Kick Off!

Are you ready?!? We sure are and we’re so excited to be coming to Enterprise on Tuesday April 16th! This is a brand new market for us this year and we hope to be able to come out on a regular basis. Of course we won’t be by ourselves. Bain Home Gardens will be joining us too!

The Spring season has just started so that means it’s egg season. Pick up a dozen or more along with fresh organic produce, jams, and a few bath and body products.

Our farm accepts all forms of payment including vouchers and EBT.  So don’t be a stranger. Shop, say hello, or just pick up a card for later. Hope to see you there bright and early at 7am.

Dreams Realized!

Lately we’ve gotten an increased number of inquires from people who are interested in starting their own farms. The fact that someone took the time to reach out to us for advice is amazing and it definitely inspires us to do more. We feel like we are in a constant state of learning and growing. The sharing of knowledge is how we continue the cycle of clean farming. So although I can’t take you by the hand, what I can do is give you our story to follow. Maybe then your dreams can become a reality.

You guys have heard me say that everyone should have access to fresh organic food locally. When we moved here we thought we would. Really had we, I doubt that Hawkins Homestead Farm would even be necessary. We were content being supporters of local farms.

Of course we’re here now and we don’t plan on going anywhere, so no worries there! What did it for us was a need. A need to eat the way we had become accustomed to before moving to this area. A need that could not be filled at the grocery store, but one that was very necessary. Not just for my health, but for the health of my family as well.

So what did we do? We prayed. We researched. We read books. We watched videos. We joined forums and groups. We asked questions. We made ourselves very familiar with the local laws and requirements. We found out how important it is to pay attention to the weather and to keep good records. We learned all that we could about soil health. We researched what was being grown in this area and how. We found what specific chicken breeds we wanted to raise for meat and for eggs. We wanted to stand out…to be different than the norm. We educated ourselves on what would make us successful at feeding our family. This was our first goal.

So what happened? Well OUR need turned out to be a need a lot of others had as well. I remember when Shena, of Bain Home Gardens asked me if I planned on selling our eggs when we first got chickens. My answer was no. I would have gladly shared, but sell them…..no. That slowly evolved into well I guess I could sell some, but I need more chickens. Our tag line really says it all. “What started as food for our family, has blossomed into food for yours.” This one statement is literally how Hawkins Homestead Farm started. Just by growing our own food, we found family, friends, friends of friends, and others also had a need and a desire to eat fresh clean healthy food.

What’s HUGE for us is access to LOCAL, fresh, chemical free, organic food. Having the satisfaction of knowing that we planted, watered, and weeded while God made it grow is awesome to say the least! Over the last few days, the start of our Spring Kith & Kin CSA season started and as I was pulling carrots out of the ground I was super thankful for each one. Thankful because every carrot was proof that we CAN do this. We ARE doing this! We are the local that we have supported all along. It’s crazy to type that out, but true. We are feeding our own family and many others!

Something else that is super exciting for us is the education. I have always been aware of how I choose to spend my dollars, but once you start farming the knowledge you glean is unreal. The learning never stops. You just have to be willing to take it all in. I have books, magazines, newspapers, websites that I’ve bookmarked, etc. I just love learning.

Raising animals is definitely a bonus. The joy of learning about, watching, and caring for our birds is fascinating. I could talk about chicken breeds, genetics, egg shell colors….. for days! Chickens are such funny creatures. They have attitudes and personalities. Some are snobs and picky eaters. Others are just plain greedy. Chickens always want to be in the know. I haven’t quite figured out if it’s curiosity or just plain nosey, but I’ve had chickens jump up in my lap and others who just plop themselves right next to me. They want to be seen and heard.

I used to say that all roosters were going to the freezer, but after buying some on accident, I fell in love with them. Their colors, their stature, and what they bring to the farm as a whole is just wonderful. I have yet to have a favorite hen, but roosters OMG! Sadly, some didn’t like me as much as I liked them, but that’s alright too.

Of course there are cons to farming. For us, more than anything they are due to things that just come along with being a farmer. Like HOT weather, bugs, and losses.

Alabama is hot! You guys know this! Would you believe that we’re still trying to adapt to the humidity and heat here? One thing we learned quick is to get out early and go back late. We water the garden and the animals early in the day. We check in mid day for refills on the animals and of course to collect eggs. Then we go back in the evenings to finish out farm chores for the day. This is what works for us.

Of course the bugs are a big one. I have to remind myself that they need to eat too and when you’re growing food pesticide free, bugs will come. The problem is when they try to stay and make families. That’s a no no! Sometimes we’ve been too late and either everything has holes or it’s completely gone. Like overnight gone! Then there are those times when we’ve learned what to expect and when. With organic farming bugs may be difficult to manage, but not impossible. Often times nature works within itself. It’s up to you to figure out how to make nature work for you.

On to losses. They definitely happen. It’s just a part of farming that you have to accept. Sometimes plants don’t grow. Or some disease, like powdery mildew takes them out. You can do everything right and the weather changes suddenly. Then bam, your crop can’t handle the shock and it dies. It could be that maybe your dog who you’re training decides to taste a few chickens instead of protect them. Or a hawk who has put your chickens on his menu. It could even be that you have an aggressive bird who attacks. Although you want to keep him, and may need him to keep up your genetics, he has to go to the freezer and that’s not how you planned it. You could go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning to chaos. These things are all a part of that constant learning.

The best advice I could give anyone who wants to grow anything is to pray about it. There are days where I’m out in the gardens or with the animals just talking to God. It’s important to our family that we do things the right way, so who better to talk to than the one who created all of it?

Then get to work!  Do the best you can to have a quality consistent product. Be honest and safe in your practices. Never become overconfident. Have fun. Take time to enjoy what you’re doing. Hopefully you will find more pros than cons and create something special of your own. Maybe then you can realize your dreams. Hope this helps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Now! (April)

Well hellloooo Spring! Thank you for finally arriving! We were a bit worried with all the low night time temperatures, but now that you’re here it’s time to get our grow on!

This is the time of year that Brandon and I take some time off to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Since we’re both so busy we look forward to having time to relax. We don’t talk about the farm, bills, or any of our stressors. We focus on each other and having fun. Fun for us looks like just about anything outdoors, music, and great food! So just in case you missed our announcement, we are closed until April 2nd.

This year April marks the beginning of Kith & Kin CSA . This means we have planted just about EVERYTHING! We need to make sure our members have a great selection, that we can feed our own family, and have food for all our loyal customers.

April also marks the beginning of Farmers Market Season as well and we’re kicking it off in Enterprise! More information to be announced soon. We couldn’t be more excited to get to all of you who have been waiting and asking us to come out that way!

You may have noticed that we are using part of our “growing now” segment to keep you informed on not just what we’re growing here on the farm, but also to keep you informed on our family life. We want you to get to know us as people, not just farmers. We love when we are able to put names with faces. So we want to make sure you have the opportunity to do the same. We invite you to check those inboxes if you’ve signed up to receive our emails or follow us on Facebook which we try to update daily.

Now onto the plants……Did I say we were growing everything? Well I meant everything! Fall, Winter, Spring, and even some of Summer are all happening on the farm right now.

From Fall we have brussel sprouts, lettuces, and others.

From Winter we have collards, onions, and spinach.

img_2606Spring has brought us peas, potatoes, and many more root veggies.

For Summer we having been transplanting Summer greens and others too!

All in all we are gearing up and should be ready with lots of fresh organic produce for everyone.

In poultry news all the turkeys are gone. Thanks everyone for your orders. We have another batch on the way and will be taking orders for those soon. Our chickens are “growing now” too and we will be working our list for those who have birds on reserve.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for all your support and we’ll see you next month.

 

 

Strange Things!

You guys know the struggle with the hawks we’ve been having here on the farm right? Well the first chicken enclosure was completed and we moved the birds into their new home as planned last weekend.

We thought we would give them a couple of days to get back to laying since they had not been doing so well with all the stress from the attacks and being on lock down. Plus they needed to get acclimated to their new environment.

I had set out their old nesting boxes, but they weren’t adhered to anything. This meant pine straw and the boxes were all over the place. It also meant empty egg shells in the coop and only a few eggs. My first thought was oh no….we have an egg eater on our hands! Then I thought well maybe they’re flipping the boxes over and cracking them then eating them. Either way, it had to stop!

I  needed a solution! Since they WERE laying, I needed to be quick about my business. It was easy to see from the colors that just about everyone was laying. So what was a chicken lady to do?

We happen to have a million, well ok not that many…. but a bunch of totes that we use around here. So I decided to use one of them to make a “temporary” nesting box. Of course I enlisted my favorite helper, Joshua and he and I set it up.

The next step was to watch. In the event that there was an egg eater, I would just keep my eye out to see who went in there when, and what the outcome was.

So throughout the day I kept checking ……

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TWO girls in the box at the same time……that’s strange. Chickens like privacy when laying and if they’re disturbed they will let you and EVERYONE else know that they don’t like it.

Well I will just give them some time……

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And I thought….wait are these two going broody? No this breed has never gone broody. I will check back later……..

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THREE hens in the box?!?! This is too much. These girls haven’t been eating their eggs. They were waiting on a nesting box so they could lay them in a safe place. All the cackling and box sharing was because there was only ONE box.

So what was the outcome?

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EGGS! Lots of them!!

That is great news and it is also good news that we have no shortage of totes!

The bad news is that I’m not sure if we will eat these eggs, sell them, or incubate them. I will have to keep you guys posted on that one.

One thing for sure is this “temporary” set up may become a permanent one! I will be making more tote boxes er um…nesting boxes tomorrow. The eggs are back and we could not be more thankful! The girls are safe. They’re comfortable and the laying season has begun.

 

 

Spring Starts!

This year, just like every year around this time our local stores stock up on Spring plants. You’ve seen them and they look so perfect! There was a time when we as home gardeners even purchased these plants! Yes, it’s true. We didn’t research. We just went with what everyone else was doing because we were interested in growing our own garden. Thankfully, we have educated ourselves on plants, seeds, and the importance of soil health. There is no way we would touch those plants now….even if they were free!

We have found that more and more people are educating themselves on how what they feed themselves and their families affects their health. If you’re one of those people then this article is for you.

Many of you ordered compost from us over the winter and now that Spring has nearly sprung it’s time to get those gardens going. But where do you start? Well for us, Spring planting starts in the Winter. Each year we learn more about the weather patterns here in Alabama, what to plant, and when to plant it. These things are so important!

The health of all plants begins in the soil. Can you honestly say that you know what type of soil is used in those plants that are mass produced? You may know the name, but what about the history? Is it really safe? So many news reports would say no.

Here’s what we do: Our plants are always started with an organic soil mixture. There are no chemicals in our soil. We always use true seeds. Those that are organic means that we’re saying no to GMO’s. In order to stock pile our seeds, we’ve had to purchase many, but having done this over the years, we are proud to say that quite a few of our plants are growing from seeds we’ve saved.

If this matters to you. You have options! Last year we purchased some of our plants from Gaucho Farms and those plants were beautiful. In fact, we even saved some of those seeds too!

So this year, we along with our sister Farm, Bain Home Gardens decided to not only start some for us, but for YOU TOO!

As of today we have a variety of tomato plants, herbs, peas, and a few perennials, but be sure that we will be offering even more as the season goes on. Grab one, grab two! Grow your own garden and enjoy the satisfaction of eating something you grew for your family! It’s so worth it!

 

Hawks!

After living in our house for over 3 years, we never had one single hawk attack until recently. We’re not sure, but we believe that it is just one who continues to come back looking for its next meal.

Our chicken area is under tree cover and our birds are mostly various shades of black, brown, red, etc. They pretty much blended in with their surroundings, even when the trees were bare. So we’ve never had a problem. We used to let them have use of just about the whole property, but as our organic produce offerings grew, we had to section them off.

Our first hawk attack happened on just a regular day. I looked out the window as I often do and saw a strange bird perched on the coop. I went into the kitchen and upon further inspection I instantly knew that this bird was a hawk. I then had the sad realization and sinking feeling that we probably lost some birds.

I immediately went outside to asses the damage and once I got closer the hawk turned its entire head around to stare at me. It was eerie and fascinating at the same time. It then flew into a nearby tree.

I was definitely too late. It had attacked one of our newest birds. We raised this bird from a chick, but it, along with its siblings were just integrated into the flock. This new batch of birds are mostly white with a few brown feathers here and there. We think their coloring allowed the hawk to see them as literal fresh meat. I was so sad!

Thankfully, my son came home at that exact moment and rushed out to see what happened after he heard my screams. He then put all the chickens into a caged area that we normally have at the ready for meat birds who have reached their harvest. I didn’t want to lock them up, but they were safe.

Fast forward to the second hawk attack….we were outside working  and decided to let the chickens roam. We both went inside and thought the birds would be safe for a little bit, but almost immediately there was a commotion and this time the hawk took out one of our original layers! I was just so angry! I posted up with a bebe gun at the ready to dispose of the bird the minute it came back. I didn’t know it at the time, but hawks are protected by federal law. So it was a good thing that the bird never returned.

There was one more attack, this time on a rooster. I am happy to say that he is fine, but as you can imagine to keep the birds safe they have been on lock down. If you follow our Facebook page then you’ve seen the work being done to ensure the safety of our birds. We know other farmers who free range their birds and as such thought we were safe. In actuality, it seems that we have been very fortunate to have not suffered a hawk attack before now.

We have some really good friends who raise chickens as well and they gave us some wonderful advice about how to protect our birds. Since this happened I’ve spent some time thinking about hawks and really whether it’s one or four, they’re just doing what their God given instincts tells them…..hunt and eat!

The layers were already getting a new coop. We just had to revamp it and make sure it included aerial cover. The sad thing is that they don’t like being cooped up so they’ve almost just about stopped laying eggs. They’re just not getting the sunlight they need and being in a new surrounding is stressful to them.

The good news is that our projects are nearing completion. The coops and runs are in their final stages and this means all birds will get back to what they do best. Work should be completed this weekend!  Then everyone, including us can enjoy fresh eggs again!  Well we hope……you guys know our chickens are pampered and so they may hold a slight grudge.

Growing Now! (March)

It’s that time again! You know when the weather warms up and the rain comes. Wait….did the rain ever stop? Maybe a little, but you know there is always more. Anyway Spring is upon us and that means lots more vegetables are on the way. If you’ve signed up for our Kith & Kin CSA, you’re in for a real treat. If not, then tomorrow is the last day.

Here at Hawkins Homestead Farm along with our sister farm, Bain Home Gardens we make it our aim to grow a variety of produce that you would not normally see in Alabama. Of course we all need our staples like cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. So we do grow those, but both farms have and will continue to offer things that are new and exciting.

Last year we started an Asian Garden and the feedback we received was wonderful. Bain Home Gardens had a Thai Garden and they’re doing it again this year, plus there will be so much more. So please stay tuned.

Ok I know you’re waiting on what we have growing right now right? Well the real question may be what don’t we have growing? For starters we got our potatoes in the ground earlier than last year and we are prepared to succession plant them during the entire growing season.

SURPRISE! This mean you get potatoes. YOU get potatoes! POTATOES for EVERYONE…..in my Oprah voice and we are happy to report that they have already began showing their lovely heads through the soil.

In keeping with our Asian theme we are growing this beautiful garden green that we hope you will love as much as we do. It’s a keeper for sure!

New for us this year will be onions. We have grown them only for our family in past years, but this year we’re growing them for everyone. We are constantly researching, learning, and growing. Thank you for being right there with us!

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Carrots are in season and you can see their beautiful tops in the photo below. If they’re half as pretty on the bottom, we’re in business!

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We have started tomatoes, peppers, and a few herbs, like our basil. This basil has become a customer favorite and it will be ready a lot earlier this year. First to our Kith & Kin members, then to all of you.

Be on the look out for our announcements as we are filling up our calendars and can’t wait to meet new faces and see familiar ones again.

Be sure to check out the “For the Garden” section in the next few weeks. We will have something to help all of you home gardeners get a head start on your growing season. In watching the weather we may be in for at least one more freeze so we will keep it under wraps until after the last frost date, but I think you may be able to figure it out.

For those of you who pre-ordered a turkey. You are in for a special treat this month. Brandon (husband) fractured his foot a while back, but he is all better so poultry orders are being filled now. Thanks everyone for your patience!

All in all we have a busy Spring and Summer season planned. Sorry though we we can’t tell you everything. We want you to be as excited as we are! So see you again next month.

 

Growing Now! (February)

It’s February (well tomorrow) and that means Spring is on the horizon here in Alabama. We have a few more cold days to go, but overall we are pushing through to warmer weather and Spring produce.

Here on the farm, we’re in the planning phase. We’ve gotten out our seeds along with our journal to see exactly what this years Spring gardens will look like. This is important because in order to keep the soil healthy and focus on being sustainable crop rotation is key. Over the Winter we planted a cover crop so this month it was recently tilled in to add those nutrients to the soil.

We have gotten some seeds started indoors. Produce like tomatoes and peppers having a extremely long growing season so it’s imperative that we start them early and transplant them once all danger of frost has passed.

Our peas have come in abundance. We love peas around here and have succession planted more to be able to offer them for a long time to come. We grow a few different varieties that are delicious and pretty too.

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Collards will be back this month along with plenty of lettuce. You can find these in our Winter Greens and Salad Mix. Both are available on our shop page. Collards will also be listed separately later in the month.

In keeping up with our Asian theme we have a variety of greens and cabbages growing that we’re excited to try. The one pictured below is just a sneak peek of what’s to come.

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Last month we shared that with you guys that we’re growing celery for the first time. With the temperatures becoming unseasonably warm we’re hoping to keep it cool and shaded. Here’s a picture of what it looked like a few days ago.

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There is so much more, BUT we have to keep some things under wrap for now. All in all this month will be one where we work. So much to do, so much to plant. Stay tuned to see all the action as it unfolds. See you again next month.

 

 

The Birth of Kith & Kin CSA

Recently our farm along with Bain Home Gardens participated in a competition for grant funding. As the competition comes to a close we can tell that neither farm will win, but in a way we kind of feel like we have. Seeing the community support, listening to the feedback, and watching how many people shared our posts made us realize just how important having a clean reliable food source is to all of you.

We wish we could list every single voter for every vote. We wish we could name all the people who advocated for us and the businesses along with other farmers who helped us. At last check we had over 500 votes! That may not seem like a lot to some people, but for us it meant the world! So we say thank you! Thank You! THANK YOU!

We want to take what we’ve learned from everyone and give back! How?!? Well although we didn’t win the competition, we received so much feedback throughout the whole month. This was especially true after our story was featured on WTVY. This helped us realize that the idea of a CSA is something we CAN move forward with.

So through many prayers and family conversations, Hawkins Homestead Farm and Bain Home Gardens joined together to create Kith & Kin CSA. Together, we are ecstatic to bring this to all of you. We thank you for your support and we want everyone to know that we’ve listened!

We heard you ask for specialty items. We read the emails and the comments on social media. We even spoke with some of you by phone.

One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams.” There is a voice throughout the movie that says “If you build it, they will come.” Everyone thinks the main character is crazy for what he’s doing, but he has faith and his hard work and dedication paid off. Building this CSA, forming this partnership between friends, and bringing you produce from two farms is our way of building “it.” The “it” is the need we heard loud and clear through every single vote, like, share, comment….even some apologies when you missed a day.

Shena Nicole, who manages Bain Home Gardens and I have talked about this for months. Now that we’re here and official, it’s a prayer answered and a dream come true. So we welcome you to the birth of Kith & Kin. We hope you will consider joining our Spring CSA. It is truly our pleasure to see how “what started as food for our family has blossomed into food for yours.”