Home Organic Farming Frog Tune Organics – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

Frog Tune Organics – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

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Frog Tune Organics – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

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Balancing Act: How Frog Tune Organics Integrates Livestock and Crops

When John Bitter and his spouse Amy began Frog Tune Organics on 5 acres in 2011, a imaginative and prescient of methods to rigorously scale-up the farm was lengthy within the works. They each had a number of years’ expertise working with farms within the space, and every knew close by markets properly sufficient to know that they had alternatives to develop. Trying forward, that they had additionally spoken with the proprietor of neighboring land about leasing further acreage sooner or later. 

Quick-forward 12 years, and Frog Tune Organics is a 62-acre operation with about 30 full-time workers and 20-40 acres in manufacturing at anybody time. Situated lower than a 2 hour’s drive from a number of markets, Frog Tune gives natural merchandise year-round to 4 farmers markets and wholesale accounts in Gainesville, Orlando, St. Augustine, and Tampa, and thru an online-order, customizable-box CSA program. 

At this stage, John is pleased with the dimensions of the operation, and centered on enhancements to the general farm. “Now we’re simply attempting to fill within the effectivity of what we’re doing. We don’t actually need to get loads larger however we need to get extra environment friendly and extra worthwhile, having the ability to do extra with much less assets, primarily,” he mentioned. 

Frog Tune is a extremely diversified farm producing greens, herbs, flowers, orchard crops, pork and poultry merchandise, and legumes. For John, balancing the livestock and crop enterprises is essential. “One thing to consider is how all this scales,” he mentioned. From his perspective, scaling “must match the fertility, the planting, and the advertising and marketing…and if a kind of is method out of whack, the enterprise would possibly fail.” So whereas Frog Tune might produce much more pork and eggs, holding a system that’s balanced, the place the quantity of livestock matches the crop techniques, is John’s really useful technique. “Individuals are taking a look at by some means, like ‘I’m going to be a pig farmer or a rooster farmer’, properly, that’s 1/eighth of what you do, or 1/twelfth of what you do, and also you base the remaining on what grows very well in your space and what assets you have already got obtainable reasonably than attempting to usher in an excessive amount of of the assets that can find yourself driving you out of enterprise. When you rely an excessive amount of on different assets, finally, when the costs of these assets change, your enterprise mannequin must change, very quickly, or else you gained’t keep in enterprise.” 

Why combine livestock with crop manufacturing?

Talking about why John and Amy determined to incorporate animals from the onset, John says, “The first cause we combine livestock is to show a legal responsibility right into a useful resource.” For Frog Tune, which means pigs are introduced into candy potato fields following harvests to assist clear up 

‘seconds’ and bits left behind that may in any other case harbor pests. Within the heat of the southeastern area the place Frog Tune is positioned, a candy potato weevil thrives. The extremely cellular bug can spoil inventories and crops in fields. Non-organic controls embrace herbicide purposes to candy potato fields following harvests, or soil fumigants. As an natural farm, Frog Tune needed to discover different strategies. “We determined pigs had been the easiest way to plow over the land with out utilizing loads of diesel. So the pigs will take candy potato scraps and switch it into one thing that’s a really high-value product: natural bacon. Higher than natural, it’s truly pasture-raised and on natural pasture!”

One other liability-turned-to-resource may be seen within the orchards. Chickens are ranged underneath established (2 years outdated or extra) stone fruit timber after fruiting. As they scratch and peck across the timber, they successfully cut back plum curculio, millipedes, cutworms and different lepidoptera pests. To take advantage of the advantages of the chickens’ manure, feed is concentrated across the base of fruit timber to maximise the time they spend scratching weeds and abandoning manure. 

Cowl crops and livestock integration

On farms with built-in techniques of crops and livestock, cowl crops can present worthwhile forages. At Frog Tune, cowl crops are planted year-round, and virtually all the time embrace a multi-species combine. From November to February, winter rye, coker oats, and wheat are planted. Buckwheat, 4 kinds of millet, and sorghum-Sudan grass go in from March to October. And from April by way of August, John vegetation Sunn Hemp as a stand-alone. All of those crops, along with sure money crops just like the candy potatoes, are finally grazed by animals. 

Sunn Hemp is planted as a stand-alone cowl crop in a pear orchard. “This may be an excellent time to graze it down by pigs, for those who wanted to. Sunn Hemp is sort of our backup plan for pig grazing. We attempt to have sufficient millet and sorghum and buckwheat after the candy potato crop, and if we fail at any time, then we’ve got acres and acres of the Sunn Hemp that will be a good forage for them.” John recommends grazing sunn hemp solely till about 20 inches tall. At about waist-high, it turns into too robust, excessive in a specific acid, and the pigs “simply gained’t eat it,” he says.  Additionally of notice: for grazing pigs on this space, the fence could be positioned to exclude the pigs from the pear timber. 

The selection of which cowl crops to plant for grazing facilities round three questions for John. One, will the animals eat it, and at what stage is finest to begin grazing? Two, how a lot does it value to ascertain, in each time and bills, particularly on condition that the price of cowl crop seeds can differ from yr to yr? And three, how does the crop slot in with the rotation? The reply to that third query, for Frog Tune, has particular implications for legume cowl crops. Since certainly one of Frog Tune’s money crops is legumes, they want no less than 3 years within the rotations with out legumes with the intention to keep away from increase illnesses like white rot. Sunn Hemp appears to be a distant sufficient relative that it stays within the cover-crop combine at Frog Tune, and doesn’t contribute to buildup of illnesses affecting legume money crops

The swap to on-farm breeding

For years at Frog Tune, piglets had been bought off-farm, however after a while, John determined it was finest to breed their very own pigs on-farm. “After being in enterprise for some years,” he explains, “generally the piglets aren’t there if you want them to be there, in your cycle.” Since starting on-farm breeding with Pink Wattle Hogs, the animals are bred and obtainable at instances that go well with the farm, and the animals “stayed in good well being and stayed productive.” 

To take care of wholesome genetics, just a few sires from totally different traces are introduced in to dwell on website. A number of sows cycle by way of the “Honeymoon Suite” to breed with them, after which are launched to farrowing pens, that are “good spots on the farm…mainly giving the sow one of the best of what there may be in that second of the yr,” with loads of shade and high quality forage. Inside 7-14 days, the piglets have begun to graze the forage and are studying the cycles and techniques of Frog Tune. 

“Sure animals may be just about hooked on grain,” John defined. “They gained’t go forage for themselves, they’ll simply look forward to when the grain comes, then they get actually nasty to should battle out their siblings or bunkmates for that grain. In our system, we’re searching for the pigs who simply need to go plow up any a part of their block, go discover their very own candy potatoes, and there’s actually no method {that a} bully pig can dominate that system: they’ve all obtained loads to eat, they’re stress-free, and by the point they get to the tip of the block, there’s a brand new block ready for them.”

Variations in infrastructure for livestock

Two of crucial items of infrastructure for livestock at Frog Tune are electrical fencing and animal housing. Coaching staff so that every understands how electrical energy flows by way of a whole fencing system has been key to having the ability to troubleshoot issues within the area rapidly with out slowing different components of the operation down. And to maintain a cautious eye on the electrical techniques, John recommends having one one that is chargeable for checking techniques no less than as soon as a day. At Frog Tune, handlers test the techniques twice a day. Electrical fencing is essential to the paddock techniques on the farm, usually arrange as block-paddocks which are fractions of an extended, rectangle-shaped area. The animals transfer throughout the sphere into a brand new paddock each 5-7 days. 

For livestock housing, one vital adaptation has to do with the clay soils on the farm: John has moved away from something with wheels, akin to rooster homes on trailers, as a result of clay will get into tire seals, ruins them, and the seals must be changed typically. New housing buildings are custom-built utilizing 2-inch metallic tubing, in a design that may be picked up with a front-end loader and simply moved with a tractor.  

Dangers of elevating animals and crops collectively

Understanding the dangers of elevating livestock is easy, however it’s of the utmost significance. John explains, “How do you develop greens and lift animals on the identical time? This can be a actually vital half to speak about. That is the place the farm can go actually incorrect for those who don’t acknowledge your dangers. However the dangers are easy: you don’t need to get manure within the product in any method attainable!”

The plans for coping with this easy threat are taken significantly. With a view to know the place the dangers lie, the farm identifies the place manure is touring, from paddocks to packing shed or plantings. These “Essential Management Factors” (CCP’s) are a part of the farm’s HACCP plan (Hazard Evaluation and Essential Management Level Techniques plan), which implies they’re “recognized, verified, and validated” so all of them get met. With animals transferring across the farm typically, John begins occupied with the place the manure will go the second he begins designing the structure of fields. 

Meaning occupied with the stream of water. “I’d say, begin there, as a farmer,” he suggests, “you have to take a look at ‘Which method does each drop stream?’ Because it comes out of the sky and hits your farm. Then you have to know the place your paddocks are, the place you’re going to boost your crops, and how much crops you’ll increase (low or excessive threat).” Having employees skilled in secure dealing with and protocols for visiting anyplace on the farm with manure or coming into packing areas can also be a essential a part of managing the CCP’s and dangers of manure. 

Advantages you may see: soil fertility

Regardless of the dangers, workload, and infrastructure wants, having pigs and chickens is an integral a part of what makes Frog Tune profitable. When requested about the advantages of the 12+ years of crop-livestock integration on the farm, John spoke about one key indicator of soil well being: the well being of the quilt crops. Within the first few years, some fields barely sustained a canopy crop. Different fields with extra clay had massive incongruencies in progress over the world and in how water moved by way of them (areas with poor drainage and enormous puddles). Now these identical fields produce uniform, lush patches of canopy crops, and as John displays on a decade-plus of integration, he says, matter-of-factly, “yearly sure blocks are getting higher.”

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