Farm Animal Extravaganza
Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
March 9, 2012
Spring is nearly here: fruit trees are blooming, asparagus is sprouting, and baby animals are arriving. This week we’ve compiled an adorable farm animal slideshow to give you a peek at what’s happening with the furred and feathered residents of our farms.
Massa Organics may be the farm most engaged with social media among all those at the Ferry Plaza, and founders Greg Massa and Raquel Krach have been documenting the farm’s adventures on Facebook—including a lot of “awwwwwww!” moments. But these animals are more than just cute; they play an integral part in the farm’s ecosystem. In the rice paddies, ducks keep weeds at bay (a big challenge in organic rice farming) and are later harvested for meat.
Massa and Krach brought in a few Gloucestershire Old Spots heritage pigs from another farm just over a year ago, knowing they would scarf down the farm’s excess wheat, which is a rotation crop for rice but is difficult to sell in the direct market. They soon started experimenting with using the pigs as weed control, as well. The pigs have been especially adept at decimating cattails, a pernicious weed in rice fields. The pigs not only eat the green stems, Massa explains, but also root out the underground rhizomes, which allow the plant to keep resprouting. “And we like having the pigs around,” he adds. “They’re kinda fun.”
Last fall, the farm adopted 25 Dorper sheep to graze the weeds in their almond orchard, in hopes of reducing the thousands of dollars they spend on mowing and flaming, a costly method of organic weed control that involves using a propane burner to torch weeds. “It’s a lot of fossil fuel,” Massa notes. “So far, the sheep are doing a great job keeping the weeds down. The only problem I have now is that our new sheep dogs are chewing on the sprinkler heads!”
Keeping the various parts of the farm working in sync is tricky business, but Massa and Krach gladly take up the challenges and rewards of farming with animals. “Our background is in ecology,” says Massa. “We’re both trained as tropical biologists, so we’re trying to look at the farm as an ecosystem. The rice fields are essentially ponds, and the orchard is a woodland. We’re trying to make these different ecosystems get services from the animals.”
We appreciate the transparency, education, and fun that Massa Organics’ Facebook page provides, and our slideshow pulls heavily from his images. We’ve also included photos from a couple other Ferry Plaza farms, Marin Sun Farms and Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Cheese, which have had their hands full with plenty of cute calves and kids this season. Without further ado, let the farm animal extravaganza begin!
View the slideshow >
Pigs, sheep, and duck photos courtesy of Massa Organics. Goat photo courtesy of Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Cheese.