Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crane Dance Farm Tour

It's been a little over a week since I attended the first of many Local Farm Tours put together by Farms Without Harm.

The tour was of Crane Dance Farm in Middleville. Crane Dance Farm is a sustainable, regenerative, pasture-based farm.

I haven't ate meat in many years, but I have been buying my eggs exclusively from the local farms, and mostly Crane Dance, for a couple years now. So even though they have beef cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and turkeys, I still wanted to go and see how a small organic, cruelty free farm is run, and where my eggs come from.

It's pretty much amazing. This farm is ran by 2 gals, Mary and Jill. They own the farm and live there and do most of the work all themselves. When they talk, you can tell that they believe animals deserve to live a happy and healthy life.

There are 2 sections to the farm. On one side of the road is the pigs, cows, sheeps, and goats. The other side is where all the poultry are kept.

The pigs are kept in a large fenced area outside and they have little shelters to get out of the sun and take naps. There are also lots of shade trees. These babies were running all over the place!

This was their mom in a mud pit.

The farmers, Mary and Jill, explained that in a normal farm setting these piglets would have had their tails cut off at birth and kept in gestation crates. They would be so stressed because they would not be able to do anything but stand up and sit down, that they would gnaw on each others tails due to stress. The adult pigs have their noses pierced to make it painful when they try to root into the ground, something that they love to do. The adults would have no room for walking either and would only be able to stand and sit all day long for their entire life.

Then we saw some really cute cows.

This hairy one's name was chewbacca :)

You can see from this picture that these cows have lots of room to roam.

This is where the sheep and goats are kept.

Then we crossed back across the street to see the birds.

First up was the turkey house.

These turkeys come and go inside their house, but there is an electric fence around them to keep predators out. They are locked up at night to keep them safe from owls.

Here are some of the chickens:

The eggs you get from these guys are not only brown and white, but some are greenish/blue, some are grey, some are speckled. It's because of the genetic diversity of the chickens. And let me tell you, you have not had an egg until you have tried one of these. They are delicious. The flavor is so much more intense than any store bought egg. Ask anyone who has ate my cupcakes or cakes! :) They make your baking taste awesome!

They also have ducks. I bought some duck eggs, but was a little leary of how I was going to cook them and how they would taste. On Saturday morning I woke up to the aroma of breakfast and got up to find that my husband made french toast with them. It was delicious.

It is important to not be fooled by grocery store free-range eggs, like I was for years. The US Government will let an egg producer label their eggs free-range if the chickens are not kept in battery cages. This DOES NOT mean they are outside basking in the sunshine (like the picture you see above). Often times, these chickens are still crammed inside warehouses with very little room to move around in, they still have their beaks cut off, and they are still very unhappy and treated inhumanely.

After the tour Marie Catrib's gave everyone chorizo hash that they made on site along with some local tomatoes and local cheese from Steve-N-Sons Grassfields Cheese located in Coopersville.

If you would like to sign up for the farm tours, visit Farms Without Harm. The next tour will be on September 22 in Montcalm County at Heritage Acres, an 80-acre Mennonite farm who uses sustainable practices to raise a variety of animals and crops.