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.

 

 

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!

 

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.”

 

 

Growing Now! (January)

Can you believe it? Tomorrow we will be in 2019! The whole year flew by or maybe it washed away with all the rain that we had. This January marks the official 1 year anniversary of our website and of this segment. We are excited to announce new ventures, sales, and upcoming events.

What will this next year bring? Well we can’t speak for the weather, but we will have ALOT to offer you. For now, here’s what we’re growing in January:

Arugula! If you guys have been following us then you know that I am in love with this peppery green. I often find myself checking it twice….really I’m just picking and eating it. It’s so good!

Cabbage! We have a few different varieties of cabbage growing. It’s one of those versatile vegetables that can be used in so many areas so we planted quite a bit. We’re hoping to try our hand at fermenting by making sauerkraut, we love coleslaw, sauteed cabbage with smoked turkey (which we also have growing now) and cabbage stew.

Celery! This is something that is brand new for us for 2019. We like to call it our “celery experiment.” When we planted it, we weren’t even sure it was going to grow, but we are super excited to see it start. Celery takes months to grow so it will be a long time before we see if our experiment works or not. It loves cool weather like most green vegetables and so figuring out when to plant it was our first challenge. Our second one will be protecting it from the heat come Spring. Hopefully we timed it right!

Cilantro! Our only garden herb for Fall and Winter is cilantro. We have tried to grow it in the Spring, but it hates heat, often going to seed quickly. We had given up when we realized that it had reseeded and voluntarily grew on its own in the same spot where we kept a pot for it. Last year there wasn’t enough to share, but this year it’s growing like crazy, so we hope you get it while it’s available.

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Peas! With all the weather changes, Our peas are growing very slowly. We think they’re a bit confused and don’t really know what to do, but they have the most beautiful flowers in various shades  of purple and white. For now we will enjoy the flowers and keep tending to them while we wait on the pods to fully come in.

Of course there is always more……………..

We thank you for keeping up with us each month and as we progess into this new year, we look forward to being your choice for fresh, sustainable, clean produce and more.

Don’t forget! Voting starts tomorrow for Cultivating Change. If you haven’t taken the time to register, please do so here. Remember you can vote daily! Thank you and we will see you next month.

Education- “cage free”

To finish up this educational series originally posted in the Market at Dothan Newsletter, today we’re going to talk about “cage free.

When you hear those words the thought that may come to mind is one of birds who are living their best life. You know outiside, cage free, and happy.

FACT: “Cage free” does not mean outside access.  A label can read “cage free” and simply mean that birds are housed with many other birds in the same space.

You know those thousands of birds we spoke to you about before? They may have access to nesting boxes and even roosting bars, but all be crammed up and live in terrible conditions.

Many farms use cages and other methods for their birds all while allowing the birds to live naturally.

On our farm we use a variety of methods. From complete outside access, to mini coops, hoop houses, and others. What’s important to us is their safety, that they get to be birds the way God intended, and that their quality of life is preserved.

For our meat birds that are ready for harvest, we move them to a caged holding area. This is complete outside access and allows them to still excercise their natural instincts.

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The above picture is one of our hoop houses as a work in progress. We use these to move our meat birds to fresh grass, house broody mama chickens, breeder pens, quarantine new flock members, and also to allow baby poults and chicks who aren’t quite ready to be outside permanently safe outdoor access.

This series applies to ALL growers and producers. Whether you’re a grocery store, farmers market, or a direct farm. As consumers and people who grow and eat these birds and their eggs giving them the best quality of life means that we practice and support a clean, safe, and natural environment. Not just for our animals, but  for those that we purchase from others. If this matters to you, then this education is important.

For example, now is the time of year when local farmers, us included have little to no eggs. So as we branch out to get our eggs from elsewhere, please read the label carefully, ask questions if possible, and choose wisely,

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and found it to be informative and educational. If you have questions or would like more information, we would love to hear from you.

We Need Your….

HELP!

We are almost at the start of a new year and this year has been great because of all of you!

Let’s stroll down memory lane at what 2018 brought us.

We grew food!

And lots of it!

SO THANK YOU! 

2018 was a year of growing for us! We grew more produce than ever. We had highs and lows and even some failures in between, but we grew food. We fed our family and some of yours and we made sure that what we all ate was of the highest quality and chemical free.

So in 2019, we are asking you to come grow with us! How? Well we are participating in a Grant Program that will allow us to grow even more IF we win. BUT…

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

The program is called Cultivating Change and it helps farmers do what we do best, grow food. Our goal is to get clean food out to as many people as possible and if we win, we have the opportunity to do just that.

Our farm has specifically asked for greenhouse funding. This is something that will allow us to extend our growing seasons by starting earlier and producing late.

We are looking into so many different avenues this coming year and partnering with other growers who are growing clean food. We want to fill up the Wiregrass with food that is safe and delicious, but we can’t do it alone. Just as we could not have come this far without all of you, we need you now even more. So we ask that you please vote for us.

By taking the time to register here, you can vote daily for us. We hope you will!

Thank you for all your support in 2018 and we look forward to providing you with even more in 2019.

Is Bigger Better?

As an urban farm the key for us to sustainability is being diverse. People are often surprised by how much food we produce here. To be quite honest, sometimes so are we, but through crop rotation, companion planting, intensive gardening, soil health, composting, and the use of cover crops, we’re able to grow enough food to feed our family and many others.

The video featured in this blog post was taken in the Spring. For most people the stand out is the corn, but if you really scan the video, you can see how many different foods we have growing in this small space. This is just one of our garden areas.

The other day, our 21 year old daughter, Brooklynn was watching as I packaged up a few orders of Asian Stir Fry Greens and she and I had a conversation about what we have growing.

This exchange led me to reflect on how much food we actually grow. Now I don’t keep track in numbers or weight, but I definitely keep records. So here’s what we’ve grown this year alone.

Spring/Summer

Herbs: Basil, Lime Basil

Produce: 4 types of tomatoes, 3 types of cucumbers, 3 types of potatoes, 3 types of peppers, 2 types of corn, 8 varieties of beans, green onions, 3 types of peas, squash, 3 types of cowpeas, cantaloupe, 2 types of zucchini, 2 types of okra, mulberries, green beans, pears, sweet potatoes, eggplants, onions, carrots, 3 types of radishes, a few lettuce varieties, strawberries, cucamelons, and pumpkins.

Flowers: 3 types of sunflowers, edible marigolds, and edible violas.

Protein: Chicken and eggs.

Storage: Jams, jellies, preserves, salsas, peppers, relishes, pickles, pesto, and frozen veggies.

Fall/Winter

Herbs: Cilantro

Produce: 4 types of radishes, beets, carrots, 3 types of peas, green beans, 2 types of broccoli, 3 types of cabbage, 3 types of mustards, collards, arugula, 2 types of spinach, potatoes, Swiss chard, several lettuce varieties, 3 types of kale, 2 types of turnips, rutabagas, and endive.

Flowers: Edible nasturtiums

Protein: Chicken and eggs

So with all of the food produced here the question is how much space do you have? Our answer…..enough for now! Eventually we would love to expand to bigger livestock, but for now we’re content with poultry. We would love to add on a structure that gives us the ability to expand our growing season and we hope that we can one day.

If we asked you the question is bigger better with what you now know about all the food we produce what would you say?

The truth is that a lot of space isn’t required to produce high quality food. You can be diverse on any level. So whether you have a small stoop, a patio, or a container garden, what matters most is how you use the space you have.

Bigger does not equal better!