Friday, April 12, 2013

farmers from Germany

The other day we had a couple dozen visitors on the farm. Students at an agricultural college in Germany, they are touring the east coast visiting a variety of farms, with a variety of growing practices. After their time here they went to the historic gardens of Williamsburg, VA.

At arrival, we introduced our farm and farm practices, giving a quick overview. We heard from them about the varieties of farming they are involved in. Then a walkabout.

A number of the group were fluent in English. Questions flew from them as the less fluent peppered them, and translations happened between everyone. How things work, regulations, costs, prices, equipment design, efficiencies.

What struck me most was the timeline they told us it takes to get a chicken from peeper to finished bird. 32 days. They looked at our first flock, out on field in pens, and told us they were the size of a 12-14 day old bird using their growing practices. A bird, full size in 32 days, means that each chicken house can be filled and emptied almost 12 times a year. The houses on their family farms hold 40,000 birds. Filling and emptying 11.4 times each year is a lot of chicken.

While here, they took a soil sample and performed an analysis. They unpacked, from the tour bus, a metal tube with a handle on one end, a point on the other, and an open side running the length of it. They also had a mallet, and with it drove the 5' tube into our ground, and then ran a series of tests on it. They had a small chemistry set for this. We were told the ph of our soil, the mix of the soil, and the fact that we are very iron heavy here, probably a result of the wind. They said the long roots of what grows here are a good match for our soil type.

And then they produced a framed photograph of our group, which included us! They had taken a photo here and incorporated it into their commemorative photo. Also photos of their school, dorms, and what is grown in the area: a heather.

Then more presents: a jar of honey and a bottle of booze. The honey from bees in their area, the booze distilled (and only made there, no where else in the world) that incorporates the heather and many other plants that grow there. When asked how it should be consumed: like wine, on the rocks, mixed with other things, the language barrier was broken, as many of them shouted "shots". Ah. Now we know.

A great group. Inquisitive, note taking, curious. Fun to meet them and exchange learnings.

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