Pasture raised poultry is the largest enterprise on the farm. We raise Cornish Rock cross chickens seasonally from May till mid November. Chickens are raised from day old and are processed on the farm. Starting at two weeks of age, chickens are moved onto pasture and housed in moveable pens that provide full access to pasture while protecting the chickens from predators. Every morning each pen is moved to allow for access to fresh forage. The chickens receive a grain ration consisting of corn, soy, oats, fish meal, limestone, Fertrell Nutribalancer, and kelp. The chickens never receive any medications/antibiotics or grow stimulants/hormones. Processing occurs on the farm to minimize stress due to transportation. Chickens can be delivered fresh or frozen. We process every three weeks during the season. References can be provided upon request.
If you are in West Virginia and are looking for somewhere to try our delicious chicken we suggest: Historic General Lewis Inn, Stardust Cafe, and Stella's all in Lewisburg, West Virginia. We also supply the Greenbrier Sporting Club.
For historical reference...
Our first and second batch of layers were a variety of heritage breed straight run birds. Of course with straight run a number of roosters developed, and thus our need for poultry slaughter emerged. Since we had only processed a little over 30 birds, a primitive method of butchering was all that was necessary. The hatchet was used for beheading, we scalded in a large pot that constantly needed warm water replenishment, we hand plucked the birds clean (easily the most labor intensive part), and finally we eviscerated with dull, all purpose knives. In 2011 capitalizing on a perceived market for local poultry, we are implemented a pastured poultry system based off a model developed by Polyface Farm. We use the commercially used meat breed (Cornish X), but instead of confinement housing we pasture these birds using movable pens.
To accommodate this greater volume of birds, we improved our processing ability. We built a plucker (the Whizbang plucker) that is capable of plucking 4 birds clean in less than a minute. Also, build a scalder that can regulate its own temperature, ensuring a good scald and taking the labor out of manually regulating temperature with the addition of hot water. Instead of the hatchet, we made a killing cone station and slaughter using the Kosher method of slitting the jugular, allowing the birds to bleed out in a more controlled manor.
We sell the majority of our birds fresh on farm on the day they are processed or to restaurant and retail customers. Frozen chicken is also available. For information on buying pastured poultry, visit our FOR SALE page.
We raise Golden Comet hens on pasture in a mobile coop. The coop is located in our hay fields to provide free fertilizer to the grass, and is moved weekly to provide access to fresh forage. In addition to the natural forge they seek out daily, we provide them with a gain ration that consists of corn, soy, oats, limestone, kelp, limestone, Fertrell nutribalancer, and fish meal.
We have been told by multiple people that we have the BEST EGGS AROUND, but you can make that decision yourself. We sell our eggs weekly at the Lewisburg Farmers Market (Saturdays, April-Nov., 8am-1pm), but come early because they sell out quickly. Or you can contact us if you are interested in buying eggs any other time.
All of our produce is naturally grown. We do not use pesticides, herbicides, or commercial fertilizers on our vegetables or on the soil in which they are grown. Taking this approach to food production has both its advantages and disadvantages, but we feel the pros far outweigh the cons. Our motivation to this approach is multifaceted; we want to provide the highest quality produce to our consumers in the most natural and safest way possible. Unfortunately this does not always coincided with the easiest, fastest, or cheapest way possible, but we are willing to take the extra effort to provide a safe, sustainable product.
We are constantly working to amend our soil to achieve the appropriate pH, nutrient balance, and consistency that is optimal for vegetable production. We fertilize with a local source of horse manure mixed with sawdust, we turn in organic matter (leaves) to help loosen our dense clayey soil, and we mulch heavily with hay, paper, and grass clipping during the growing season to keeps the weeds at bay.
We sell our produce as locally as possible, generally within 40 miles of the farm. In our opinion, the less fossil fuels that go in to our products the better. Also, the more we spend locally, the more money funnels back down to our community. Plus, why ship veggies picked at the peak of ripeness?
Early in the season we specialize in loose leaf greens, spinach, chard, and kale. As the season progresses we sell produce ranging from potatoes and onions to tomatoes and beans. Late season squash, pumpkins, and greens top off the growing year.
One of the first items on our order of business, even before we permanently relocated to the mountains of West Virginia, was to get some fruit established. It seems to us that nothing says, "I'm here and I'm staying" like planting and cultivating fruit. There is a similarity to the financial system in this regard - the more that you put in early, the more you are likely to reap later (with care).
After discussing our options, we decided that apple and cherry trees would be the easiest way to start with fruit. Fortunately, Jim and Ellen Webber were able to install the trees in early 2009. The apples are a mix of Cortland, Honeycrisp, Delicious Golden, and Wolf River varieties. These are all semi-dwarf trees. The cherries are a mix of standard and semi-dwarf; Lapin and Bing are two of the types. All together there are 40 trees in our starting orchard.
In March of 2010 we planted 100 blueberry plants covering four different varieties. We chose to plant this crop largely based on the success others in our area have had with it. Our soil is naturally acidic; this should certainly aid in their development.
For now we are waiting to see how these crops progress before expanding and/or diversifying. Fruit has such value both commercially and on the farm that it would be difficult to imagine NOT expanding. As a note, we purchased all of out fruit trees/bushes from Groundworks Nursery, located in Hinton, WV.
Our apples appear to be doing well, and in 2 years we have no losses yet. However, some varieties are certainly doing better than others. We've found that the Wolf River is out performing any of the varieties by a large margin. That may have something to do with the fact that this apple is native to West Virginia. The Cortland is 2nd in line, with good size but not nearly as much branching. Honeycrisp and Delicious Golden are bringing up the rear; the trees are much smaller. Perhaps these trees are more needy as far as fertilizing goes? This spring we are going to dress all the tress with a healthy dose of goat barn mulch - hopefully this will perk them up.
The cherry trees are hurting, and it is likely our fault. Two years in a row the Japanese beetles have ravaged them during the middle of the summer. Amazingly enough, both years they have come back. After the wave of beetles subsides they throw out new leaves, but this certainly takes a toll on them. All in all, we believe we have lost 2 semi-dwarf trees. This year we will definitely put out a number of beetle traps to cut down on their population (chicken food). Of course these trees will also get a dressing of goat manure to mulch them and give them some much needed nutrients.
These plants are doing great! We have been keeping them well mulched with raw pine and hemlock sawdust; the soil is already very acidic, so we're thinking that they'll keep doing well. In 2011 we will likely give some sort of an acidic fertilizer to keep them fed with what they can't get from the soil.
Rainbow Farm took on its first goats in January 2010 and currently has 20-25 breeding does. The initial intention was for field maintenance, but the potential to tap the meat market in our area quickly became the primary motivation. Most of our goats are Boers and are registered with the American Boer Goat Association (ABGA). We have a variety of percentages from 50% up to full and purebloods.
We have lots to learn in all aspects of goat husbandry, and in the coming years we only expect our herd to become better. That isn't to say we don't have quality now.
Starting in the spring of 2014, Rainbow Farm added pigs to the mix of farm life. The pigs serve as a more active form of composting, turning chicken offal and farm scraps into salable piglets and pork. Additionally they have been able to turnover areas of land that were unworkable with machines and caused these rocky areas to grow vegetation and serve as future pasture. Piglets are raised during the spring, summer, and fall in order to take advantage of the natural forage and readily available farm scrap. We use no chemical wormers or antibiotics on our pigs in an effort to maintain the highest quality of pork available.
Our breeding stock consists of purebred Berkshires, which are said to make optimum eating quality pork. We raise piglets to sell live at eight week old and by the half and whole for freezer pork. If you're interested in piglets or pork, contact us for more information on availability.